Surviving the Next Two Weeks (and Beyond)

I have to admit, coming back to work this week was a struggle!  I spent my Thanksgiving break not working, which was great, but it made returning to work on Monday harder for two reasons:

  1. I spent my Thanksgiving holiday week shopping for Christmas decorations and decorating my house.  I had a great time, but in my head, I was on Christmas break, so waking up on Monday morning to return to work felt wrong – even if we only had three weeks until our real Christmas break.
  2. Because I wanted to take a real break over Thanksgiving (as opposed to a “fake” break which I spend working on work items at home), I didn’t even look at my planner or calendar.  Upon opening my inbox Monday morning, I suddenly remembered that I had planned on researching my Lyceum picks over break since they were due December 1.  Since I had forgotten about them, I had to squeeze that task into my already busy schedule.

Now that we are back, I am consoling myself with the knowledge that in two weeks (as of today) I will officially be on a real Christmas break.

In the meantime, I found five items this week that have made me pause and reflect as I begin thinking about next semester.

  1. Dave Stochowiak’s Coaching for Leaders podcast episode 273 focused on “Essentials of Adult Development” and featured guest Mindy Danna.  She explained Robert Kagan‘s five stages of development which I’m adding to my To Research list.  The podcast gave a brief overview of the stages, and I think learning more about them will help me as I work with students and colleagues.
  2. In this same podcast, Danna explained the difference between “informing” (she used the metaphor of filling an empty vessel) and “transforming” (reshaping).  I think this is an important distinction to make when working with students.  We often think about informing them about a topic or issue, but what we should be thinking about is transforming how they think.
  3. Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life podcast was a special edition episode entitled “The One Essential Quality for Reaching Your Goals (Plus 5 Proven Techniques to Get It).”  One point I remember clearly is that he prefers the term perseverance over grit.  This has been the topic of conversation a great deal lately here at VC.  We want our students to persevere when things get tough, and our students face a lot of challenges.  I want to research this idea a bit more to hopefully discover how I can teach my students to persevere in the face of challenges.
  4. Another key statement in Hyatt’s podcast was that people lose focus when they lose the “why.” I’ve wondered why my students are attentive and in attendance the first eight weeks of classes and then start missing more, talking more, etc. during the last eight weeks.  Now I realize that it might be because they lose the “why” of why they are attending college.  As I plan for the spring semester, I want to try to help my students remember the “why” all semester long.
  5. At one point in the podcast, Hyatt likened challenges to marathons.  It’s always easy to begin a marathon because everyone is happy, excited, and encouraging at the beginning.  And, according to Hyatt because I don’t know this personally, it’s always great finishing a marathon because everyone is clapping and congratulating the runners.  However, the middle section is where it’s the hardest because there’s less support and encouragement along the way.  If we apply this to our semesters, I think we will find the same situations.  There’s a great deal of support and encouragement in the beginning and at the end of each semester; however, it’s the middle stretch where our students struggle.  They may have lost their family’s support or may just be lacking in encouragement.  Hyatt suggests building in periodic milestones of celebrations, and I think this is a great idea.  I’m hoping to build in celebrations of my own to help me, and my students, complete the challenge of spring semester.

I encourage you to listen to these podcasts yourself as I know I did not do them adequate justice here.  I hope you find them as thought-provoking and as helpful as I did as we wind down fall 2016 and begin thinking about spring 2017.

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