All posts by Polly Laubach

Lessons Along the Way

“It took me nine years to get my Bachelor’s degree….needless to say I had a really good time in college.”    I tell this to every class I teach, and yes, it is true.  Interestingly this statement allows me to connect to many students for a variety of reasons:
• The dropped out/returning student
• The partying student
• The ‘I don’t know what I want to major in” student
• The I can only take 1 or 2 classes a semester because I am working multiple jobs while going to school student
• The student who is in a new relationship and instead of attending evening classes, spends time with their new ‘interest’
• The student with the crummy schedule because they didn’t register early
• And of course the “I’m never going to graduate” feeling student

I think I made just about every mistake I could make while going to school that prohibited me from graduating in a more timely fashion…

“Animal House” Toga Party

The “It took me nine years….” statement also allows me to talk about one of my biggest regrets from college, which strangely isn’t one of the reasons listed above.   My ‘If I could do it all over again, the next time I would…. “(drum-roll please)….. “realize college, in itself, has many valuable life lessons.”

That lesson that took me nine years to understand has strongly impacted how I help students learn today.

Going to college isn’t just about learning textbook content, there is so much more!   College is about learning how to do a presentation (dress professionally, strong visuals), not just the content of the presentation. It’s about learning how to write an email (complete sentences and a comprehensive message), not just emailing someone to ask a question.   It’s about how to work in groups (when to compromise, when to pick up the slack, when to allow someone else to lead), not just creating a final project.   And it’s about making lasting friendships with someone who has similar interests, not just exchanging contact information with the people who are in a group that you were assigned to.

These lessons are just a few of many; I’m sure if we all collaborated and generated a list of ‘what I learned in college that was not in a textbook’ our list would be quite lengthy.

Of course I help students learn about Pavlov and his salivating dogs, the stage model of memory, Schizophrenia and many other psychology topics.   And of course I am concerned about their level of comprehension on the curriculum that has been outlined for the class.   However, I  am also  concerned about those valuable non-textbook lessons that make college life more meaningful and memorable and our adult life a little easier.  So I help them learn those as well.

BTW-Ten years after introducing myself to a girl I was sitting next to in my cognitive psychology class during my last semester at UNM, she was the maid-of-honor in my wedding.


Time is My Opportunity

When I first agreed to participate in Write 6×6 I thought this would be a piece of cake….I could easily write one blog a week. I could write about Canvas, campus resources, assessment; the list went on and on. Then I learned the posts were to be personal and demonstrate self-reflection, and that is when I realized I was in trouble. I didn’t have time to put ‘deep thought’ into what inspired me; I am a busy person with a lot of things to do!

I read the suggested topics (note to self-“read the details prior to agreeing to participate”). and I thought I had an idea… then it was gone.  So I reread the suggested topics, and this time, absolutely nothing came to me.

I went home and got irritated at myself because I had not started my post yet, and I promised myself I would get serious and get focused first thing the next morning. Ten hours later I was sitting at my desk with my hands on my keyboard, but no keys were being punched.

Desperate for inspiration I took the time to peruse the posts of my fellow colleagues. I laughed and remarked how clever many of them were; I nodded my head in silent agreement with several shared thoughts, and I had a couple of ‘ah-huh’ moments.  Yet I still had nothing.  My ‘inside-my-head’ comments were a string of curse words, and I was getting desperate…my panic meter was approaching the red zone!

But then, I reminded myself of some advice that I recently started giving to my students: relax, be patient, don’t view this assignment as a task, but as an opportunity.

This approach/advice is new to me and has been difficult to incorporate into my own life; I love my to-do lists, and I love checking off those tasks! However since my mom moved to Arizona, the importance of my check lists has changed.

My mom has had multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years. While she is determined to live independently, she is physically limited and relies on me for help. For example once a month a Walmart trip is needed; my tasks are to drive, to lift heavy items into the cart, to retrieve items that are out of her reach, to load the car and to transport everything from the car back to her kitchen. This excursion typically takes three hours.

Now I could easily take her shopping list and zip through the busy Walmart aisles and probably have everything purchased and unloaded at her house in less than 45 minutes. However I would have missed an opportunity.  From these monthly trips to Walmart, I have learned that while the task of shopping is a necessity, I can choose to turn that necessity into an opportunity, an opportunity to spend more time with my mom.  So while writing five more 6×6 blogs will remain on my to-do list, I am going to embrace the opportunity to read the other posts and to enjoy writing my own.