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This Too Shall Pass

Difficult Situations

I served as the GCC Professional Staff (PS) President for a couple of years and sat in many meetings with PS employees and HR to discuss difficult situations. I always maintained a professional demeanor, which helped me in these often uncomfortable and emotional situations.  I put myself in the employee’s shoes to do what was best for them. I supported them and ensured their rights were met. I spoke up to managers a couple of times which wasn’t easy, but I did it for my colleagues which made it easier.

I believe putting the best interests of the people who need help really gives me the backbone and courage I need to endure difficult conversations and situations.

For me, 1983 was the best and worst year of my life. The very best things and the absolute worst things in my life happened that year. It was then that I learned the mantra “this too shall pass.”  I realized that I could get through anything that year. I learned that for better or worse, time passes and everything flows down the river, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It all becomes history. I think back on times when I would obsess over something, usually a negative thing and the hours and energy I would waste in  worry. A few weeks later I recalled being very upset and agitated about something, but couldn’t remember what caused all of the angst. This too shall pass.

Sometimes just knowing this is enough to get me through.

 

 

Building Relationships

Fostering and sustaining healthy relationships is one of the greatest skills and challenges in the workplace. Ask a person who leaves or retires what they miss about the place, and the answer is always the people.

We spend the biggest part of our lives at work. Work consumes most of our time, so the people we work with are some of the most critical relationships we will ever have. There are many kinds of relationships and some are unhealthy. I need to honestly evaluate and analyze my work relationships to see how they sit with me. Am I OK with them or do some require work and remediation? Are some relationships unhealthy and require my taking steps to protect myself or to fix them, or do I learn to let go and form a polite truce?

I like to think I have formed some good, healthy, and productive relationships with my colleagues at GCC. I try to be that person who says she will do a thing, and then does the thing, preferably in a very timely manner. I try to be kind to people, because really, what does it cost me? I used to do telephone registration during peak enrollment periods and it was a stressful time for the students and for me. My goal was to somehow, someway, lighten every conversation I had. I was polite, cheerful, and efficient. I wanted to hear a smile in their voice by the end of our conversation. Most students responded positively to my attempts, but every once in a while I would get someone who wasn’t having it. I never had a really grumpy person, but I could tell my plan wasn’t working. In those instances, I would quickly process their transaction, wish them a good day and send them on their way. I guess I learned in the few minutes I had with people that I was there to fulfill their needs and did that to the best of my ability.

I try to do this with everyone I meet. I don’t have a lot of interaction with students, but when I walk across campus I try to make eye contact and smile or say hello. I don’t always do this, I try to be alert to non-verbal clues, but again, what does it cost me to be nice?

I find the old adage “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is so, so true in relationships with my work colleagues. I also find the practice of going out of my way to help another comes back to me ten-fold when I get on the phone to ask for help.

I don’t go to other colleges very often, so I find that is my next frontier. My plan is to build bridges and relationships with employees outside of GCC. Who knows what future friends are just waiting to be found?

 

Reason, Season, Lifetime…

Maybe you’ve read the Reason, Season, Lifetime piece. It’s a rather cutesy idea about why certain people come into your life. When I thought about work relationships, the Reason, Season, Lifetime thought came to mind.

Let me start by saying that I don’t buy into the over-simplified idea that everything happens for a reason. But after re-reading the Reason, Season piece and thinking about work/friend relationships over the years, it is sort of a cool concept.

Read Reason, Season (click below) and then think about people in your life that fit each category.

Even more interesting – think about yourself and what categories you fit in according to your experiences with family, friends, coworkers, and students. In addition to all the great people who have impacted your life, think about those who presented a struggle. Sometimes difficult experiences move us to grow or change. At the very least, we can re-frame our intentions in tough relationships as an opportunity to practice patience, tolerance, or model acceptable behavior for others.

So now you’ve had your daily dose of sugar-coated philosophy. Best wishes to everyone for a fantastic spring break.

 

You Have to Dream Big, Amiright?

(Sorry I’m so late with my entries, life is getting cray cray!)

If we are talking dreams, I have to go big, right? I am working on my Master’s degree, acquiring better writing skills that I hope to use to GCC and MCCCD’s benefit. I would love to be in the position where I could promote and facilitate staff workshops and events. I believe if done right, they will help build staff engagement in the GCC community. There is a lot of good work happening across campus and district at the student and faculty levels, and I would like to play a bigger role in promoting staff engagement.

To that end, I am exploring grant writing. I believe adding that knowledge and skill will go hand-in-hand with my dream of project managing workshops. My dream is to find many small grants to help with the fabulous work done at GCC and to create events and workshops for any and all, students, staff and faculty. I don’t believe professional development is a high priority for staff members at Maricopa. A lot of attention falls on faculty and “MAT” employees to attend conferences and increase knowledge, but I feel we staff members do ourselves a disservice when we are content to punch in, do our jobs, and punch out. Day after day of doing the same work gets boring and monotonous and leads to apathy. Most professional growth occurs with employees completing higher degrees, which is admirable, I take advantage of this myself, but I see a larger group of employees who don’t participate in professional growth or development activities.

I’ve had the luxury to work on many wonderful events like the Human Library, Human Trafficking Week of Awareness and Call to Action, and the Junior Gaucho outreach events. I have learned a lot and become more engaged with the campus and its future. I would like to promote this among our staff and to the rank in file employees. I know we have a district training and development office, but I would like to explore some different, creative ideas and opportunities.

Let’s see what dreams may become realities.

 

 

Cheers!

Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came . . .

That’s how I feel when I come to GCC every day.  I’ve been building relationships here since 2003, and I value them deeply.

I like feeling known.  I like feeling that I’m on a team with like-minded people.  I like to feel that we’re all solving problems on behalf of our students.

Anyone who knows me knows that I build relationships around food and exercise.  One of my mentors told me about the psychological impact of offering a snack.  She said that it hearkens back to stone-age times.  Offering something to your guest sends the signal that you have your own food; you won’t eat them.  Ha!

The biggest barrier to relationships for me is time.  If we stay busy being busy, we don’t have time to listen to each other.  I’m always looking for ways to add breathing space to my day so that I can connect with someone.  Exercising with colleagues allows me to do that.  Want to brainstorm?  Let’s take a walk!

Cheers!

 

Can we talk?

Does any phrase strike more fear in our hearts?  Our brains immediately go to the deepest, scariest places to imagine what terrible news or problem must be addressed.

Decades ago, I used to think that if I were only in the right job or the right relationship that there wouldn’t be any problems.  Time changes everything.

Now I know it’s not “if there’s a problem” but “when there’s a problem”, and I’ve tried to develop some tools.

This article from Harvard Business Review focuses on actions we can take to prepare for and engage in hard conversations.   From all of these, my strong suit is #2:  lead with bad news simply and clearly in the first sentence.  My experience has taught me that this helps scare away the monster thoughts that inevitably fill our minds.  My growth area is to find the best time and place for these conversations.  For example, I used to close my door, but I found that seems to scare people.  I used to make appointments, but the anticipation can leave a person too worried to process information clearly.   Now I try to be in person and immediate so that there are no lingering doubts about a situation.  Almost always I find that the person I’m talking with “knew” something was coming and is glad to have the open dialogue.  Notice that I said almost always?

My advice to others is to find a strategy that fits your personal style and allows you to feel that you are being your most authentic self.

Of course, before doing anything, be sure that it’s really your problem to solve.  Remember the monkeys!

 

 

To dream the impossible dream

My dream is to have flexibility with my nemesis, time.  I want to continue to learn more about technology and scheduling options so that I can support learning 24/7 for my students and myself.  I don’t want to be locked into class periods and semesters.  I want my courses to be responsive enough to support continuous student growth.  Google docs is one of my  strategies now, but I’m looking for more ideas.  Until then, I’m dreaming the impossible dream.

 

 

When you wish upon a star

From a young age I was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  As with most, my answer changed regularly.  Then high school came.  At this point, I had to decide upon a dream.  Then college started, I was encouraged, maybe even expected, to make my dream a reality.  At this point, I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor.  I grew up in a small town.  I loved school.  I was a certified nursing assistant in our small rural hospital.  I started college by majoring in psychology with the intent to apply to medical school.

Then life happened. College started.  I joined clubs, continued working to finance my degree, made friends, and my interests changed.  I stuck with my dream of going to medical school through the end of my sophomore year.  This is when I learned I could work in a college for the rest of my life.  Somehow this dream took priority over my dream of being a doctor.  Some may say I gave up on my dream.  Others know dreams change as we change.  So did I give up?  Did I find a new dream?  I’m still not sure.

In America we grow up being told we can be anything we want to be.  In reality, our choices lead us closer or farther away from our dreams.  We make choices based upon what is important to us.  Some days I know I choose work over learning sciences.  Other days I think I did not have this choice.  If I gave up on work, I would have been homeless.  I, like so many college students, financed my own college education.  Thankfully I had a scholarship to cover tuition.  I needed money for housing, food, and books.  Some may ask, “well why didn’t you just borrow money?”  I can honestly say that I thought I would need to wait to borrow money once I got to medical school.  So I didn’t want to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a high level of debt.  So my dream changed.

Looking back, I know that my story is not much different from others.  We can dream a good dream.  We are told to dream big.  Dreams provide hope and inspiration.  When we reach our dreams we develop a sense of satisfaction, confidence, and pride.  Letting go of unattainable dreams is hard.  It is especially hard when we are raised to believe anything is possible.  The reality is that each dream comes with choices.  Sometimes we do not realize the sacrifices that we will have to make along the way for our dreams to come true.  I’m incredibly grateful for the mentor who allowed my dream to change with grace.  When we change dreams it shows strength and courage, not failure.  I’m so thankful that I did not have a mentor questioning my capacity to become a doctor.  Rather I had a mentor that recognized my interests changed.  Today I’m grateful that I made this change.  Now I get to see students live their dreams and change their dreams.  I hear stories about persistence, success, and change.

So far, I have talked about big dreams.  Dreams, wishes, and goals can also be small.  I see this regularly in Testing.  We have students who are coming in for the third time to get reading exemption or the student trying to qualify for the presidential scholarship or a student wants to reduce the number of college-prep classes they need to take.  It is a good day when we get to celebrate these successes.  These little dreams help them move closer to achieving the big dream.  In this moment, we get to be a part of the journey.  It is through my story of the big dream that I understand the value and importance of little dreams.  I need several little dreams to happen for me to reach my big goal.

 

 

 

“Miss, did I do OK?”

“Miss, did I do OK?”

This my least favorite question, not because I don’t want to give feedback to my students, but because the question itself often reveals that the student has not yet connected with the purpose or the outcome of the work we’re doing.  I see this especially from my dev ed English and reading students.

My goal is to help students understand the assessment tools we use so that they can gauge their own success and understanding.  Without such independence, they won’t be able to increase their reading and writing proficiency to the level demanded by our college courses.

Two tools I use are the SPUNKI prompts and a self-assessment checklist.

The SPUNKI prompts are used to help students talk and write about what they read.

  • S I am surprised that . . .
  • P I’m puzzled by . . .
  • U I found it useful that . . .
  • N It was new learning for me to know . . .
  • K I already knew . . .
  • I It is interesting to know . . .

Source: On Course Workshop  accessed June, 2016

The self-assessment checklist below helps reading students see growth in their own use of our literacy tools.

My Reading Report

Comprehension Pre-test _____ Comprehension Post-test _____              Gain  _____

Vocabulary Pre-test _____ Vocabulary Post-test _____
Gain _____

My TP vocabulary book ________________________

Highest Newsela Lexile _____   Average Newsela Lexile _____

My Reminders for Active Reading
(20 minutes a day minimum)

Before:

  • Predict
  • Activate prior knowledge

During

  • Summarize
  • Make connections
  • Check for understanding
  • Take notes

After

  • Evaluate what I learned
  • Revisit my predictions

Once students complete the checklist, they can participate more fully in a conference with me about their own learning.  This discussion is a precursor to a final reflective essay focused on their mastery of the course competencies.

By the time they’re finished, I want them to be able to say “Miss, I did well, and here’s how I know that.”

 

Simple, not easy

Since my hero Austin Kleon writes in bullet points, I think I will too. Here are a few thoughts about dealing with difficult situations in a positive way.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

  • The Four Agreements is a tiny book filled with enormous wisdom.
  • Take Away Message: Don’t take anything personally.
  • “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.” Great quote from Chapter 3, page 48.
  • Avoid the urge to be right and make everyone else wrong.
  • Bottom Line: In a difficult situation, don’t take it personally because everyone lives in their own reality. Their anger is about them, not you. Even if they say something ugly, that’s their ugliness. Don’t make it yours too.

Unconditional Positive Regard, a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers.

  • Try to accept and support others without passing judgment.
  • Starting from a point of unconditional positive regard will probably improve any situation.

If all else fails, lighten your mood.

  • Imagine your current difficult situation is happening in a sitcom.
  • Think about a silly sign. Here are a few examples: