All posts by Polly Laubach

Learning by Living

One of the prompts for week two Write 6×6 was to address something newly learned and how that felt. I know there are many ways I learn, and I am not referring to the traditional learning styles of visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Instead I am referring to learning while living and below are my stories.

Just recently I was trying to remove the toilet safety bars from one of my guest bathrooms. I spent at least 45 minutes laying upside down under the commode trying to unscrew the bolts that held the rails in place. Determined to remove the bars, I did what most young adults and teenagers do when they need help with something, I Googled it! I googled “how to remove accessibility toilet rails.” I watched a 40 second video and five minutes later I was VICTORIOUS! Clearly necessity can lead to learning. 🏆💪🏆💪

Sometimes I learn things from my ‘brilliant ideas.’ For example, last week while spring cleaning I had the brilliant idea to wash my bathroom light fixtures in the dishwasher instead of washing and drying them by hand. I figured while the light fixtures were going through the wash/dry cycle in the dishwasher, I could be cleaning other things. Two hours later I learned two things from this brilliant idea. First washing light fixtures in the dishwasher is a horrible idea and second I’m never buying frosted light fixtures again! 🤣 😆 😂 🤣

I also learn unintentionally. Owning a couple of Parson Russell Terriers (commonly known a Jack Russel) requires house rules, patience and consistency. Everyday my dogs are always fed breakfast at 7:00 am., given a carrot snack at noon, and fed dinner at 5:00 pm. Through this consistent scheduling, I’ve unintentionally learned that my dogs now know how to tell time. 🤦🏼‍♀️Most pet owners understand exactly what I am talking about. 🐕😃😃 🐶

Yesterday Beth Eyres (CTLE Co-Director and Residential English Faculty) and I were casually discussing the amount of soaps, lotions, shampoos, conditioners and other hygiene products we have accumulated as gifts from friends. We both jokingly agreed that using the amount of products that have been gifted to us is not possible in two lifetimes… let alone one lifetime!  I told Beth that the cupboard below my bathroom sink is so full of such items that I am afraid to open the cupboard for fear of everything falling out, yet I did not want to throw it away. Beth, with her extensive wisdom of all things GCC, told me I could donate those items to the GCC student pantry, which is an absolute win-win solution in my opinion. Goes to show that no-agenda, casual conversations can be extremely valuable. 💝

Sometimes my learning occurs because I am truly intent on learning.  For example, last week I attended the CTLE AI playground hour and stated I wanted to learn about and how to use an AI image generator.  Thanks to Christine Jones (Residential English Faculty), within 10 minutes I had a free account with and generated an illustrative image with the prompt “jack russell terrier dog that is mostly white in color with some brown and black colors.” Within 10 seconds that image was populated.  When I changed the directions from illustrative to animation with the same description, the second image populated. 

So while I can’t say that all of my learning ended with a successful conclusion to my initial desired outcome (remember that photo of my light fixtures? and imagine dogs staring at me for 90 minutes prior to dinner!!!), I have benefited from my learning whether it was learning for a necessity, from a brilliant idea, through unintentional behavior, via causal conversations or for specific intent. Some of the learning brings me immediate joy and some not so much! However, while some of the learning might not bring me joy at that moment, it usually makes me smile when I recall the experience.

 If you have a ‘learning by living’ story you want to share, please post the experience in the comment section.  I’m very curious to hear your life lesson and whether it brought you immediate joy or the memory brings a smile to your face now. 


Just 1 Click!

My best tech tips are for our Canvas instructors to assist students with easy and organized navigation within a course.

First, streamline all course content into modules. Start the module with an overview explaining purpose and content of the module. Load lectures, discussions, assignments, etc. in the order you want students to move through the content. Lastly, end the module with a wrap-up/summary page where you highlight the learning objectives and other related content you think students might find valuable.

Watching students scroll through modules to find their current module is painful. So the third tip is about module movement. As the semester progresses, the list of open modules gets longer and longer. Even mid-way through the semester the list can be quite long. By having the current module on top stops the scrolling. Students can easily identify the module they should be working through. This tech tip is also helpful for faculty because they won’t have to scroll either.

A third tech tip is make modules the home page. Most instructors, myself included, initially have the home page set to a warm welcome for students. The welcome might have pictures, textbook information or even a meme. However, realistically students don’t need to re-read the welcome after the first week. After the first week of class I have modules as my home page and the current module on top. This translates to one click from the student dashboard to students being in the correct location of current module. The student logs into Canvas, clicks on my course card and the first thing they see is the current module.

A fourth tip is hiding unnecessary navigation features. If students can get to all content from modules, files, assignments and discussions do not need to populate for navigation. Also there are many other features that are not needed for course navigation so those options should also be hid. In the end students will be more likely to get where they need since there is only one direct path to take them there.

A final tech tip that goes with this series is adding the most recent announcement to the top of the home page. By adding recent announcements to the top of the home page, students can quickly see important messages you sent. As many as 15 can populate, but that is too many. I prefer only the most recent.

These tips facilitate one click transition from dashboard to the correct module (no scrolling required), and current announcements visible immediately after just one click!

A special thank you to Jenn Alton (CTLE Program Analyst) for filming the scroll video and converting the video to a gif.


Baby Bunnies, Butterflies & Rainbows

This is how I deal with difficult situations…

Just kidding!

I actually have a very simple approach for dealing with difficult situations; I ask myself “If this is the worst thing that happens to me today, how bad is my day going to be?”  Essentially I am putting the ‘difficult situation’ into perspective of the grand-scheme of things…things being life.

The approach works well for simple-difficult situations such as being late to a meeting, and for more complex-difficult situations like disagreeing with a colleague.   When I realize that a situation is not as difficult as I might have originally thought, I am more open to new ideas for problem solving, and I have a more positive attitude as well.

I teach a slightly modified version of this approach to students when I teach the Health and Stress chapter in Psychology 101.  I encourage students to rank their difficult situations/stressors on a scale of 1-10: one being ‘no big deal’ and ten being the ‘absolute worst thing that could ever happen in the world.’  Many students have testified that learning to evaluate and to put difficult situations/stressors into perspective is one of the most valuable lessons they learned during the semester.

Trust me, I know everyday in life is not going to be full of baby bunnies, butterflies and rainbows; life throws curve-balls.  However by keeping life events in perspective of the overall impact that event has on the quality of life keeps many difficult situations from being difficult at all.


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.