Category Archives: Write6x6

Helping Those in Need

I read with hilarity that our fearless 6×6 leader had to cut a workout short, at Orange Theory, of all places, in order to salvage Ben & Jerry’s ice cream from a melt down in her car of disastrous proportions.

I am devoting this post to help someone in need. So if this resonates with you, consider this a gift!

Fortunatley for me, I am lactose intolerant and I generally give up sweets for Lent anyway.  So, I am donating my ice cream prize from last week to anyone who is daring enough to share a time lapse video of themselves completing a 20-minute workout!

I am also taking a poll to see if our dedicated Write 6x6ers would prefer a whole-food snack as their award for completing their weekly challenge.  The results of this poll will be shared next week! Please choose your poison and submit!

People will generally eat what is put in front of them and a sweet reward is always welcome! But if you are trying to make a positive change in your eating habits, my guess is that you will appreciate having a reward that contributes to your health!

I was going to file this blog in the never-to-be-published archives, but have been egged on by our fearless moderator, as it seems that she might be up for the time-lapse video challenge. Who knew?

In the spirit of Valentine’s day, take care of your heart with healthy eating and exercise so you have the energy and strength to send your love to the world.




Learning to Pronounce ‘Siobhan’: Success Is All in the Context

In order to gain energy and inspiration to write this blog, I sat down with the second half of my pint of delicious Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream that I earned last week.  And while it inspired my taste buds, little else happened until I thought long and hard about what made this week successful. At first, it wasn’t obvious.

I have to agree with Beth Eyres on this one.  Week 4 has been tough. Papers are coming due and need attention.  I have had an ear infection all week, and although it arrived without pain, I feel like I’ve been living in a cross between a cave and a wind tunnel that comes with live amplifier feedback directly plugged into my brain.

On top of that, my son has had the flu–a pretty bad case of it.  One day he slept for 20 of 24 hours. He can’t get the flu shot because it’s made in egg shells, which causes a strong allergic reaction in him. I get the flu shot in case he comes down with it.  I didn’t expect to get the ear infection instead.  Happily, today he’s pretty normal again.

At any rate, knowing that by the week’s end I’d have a blog to write, I have been going about my week trying to think of a student success story, or any success story, to share.  But my success has simply been making it through this week.  My success has been that on the Friday in the fourth week of classes, I was to teach 48 students, and 44 made it to classes between two different sections.  I think that’s a pretty good turn out given the types of viruses and bacteria that are clearly running rampant.  My success was also that a (small) handful of students appeared unexpectedly at the GCC Reads meeting that I facilitated this afternoon. Last week, only two people appeared, and only one said that she’d be able to come back. I fully expected to walk into an empty room today. Instead, I was met by four faces, three of which were smiling and excited to discuss the love of reading, pets, and autism. (And the fourth person wasn’t sure why he was there, but that was okay, too.)  Together, as a group, we learned how to pronounce the Irish woman’s name, Siobhan, who is one of the characters in the book.  A student was that interested to ask how to say it, and I was grateful to him for making me look it up on the spot. I quickly learned that I had already read the entire novel once mispronouncing the name in my head.  Apparently, it is said, “Sha-vonne” with an Irish accent, to wit:

My final success of today was that I filed a group travel form for the MEChA nationals conference next month *using the new system* and it worked!

Today’s realization: successes are small and contextual. What makes me feel successful today may not be nearly as thrilling in a different week.  But this week?  Cursed week four?  Well, I’ll take it!


Mistakes are expected, inspected, respected

The title of this post came from an Arizona K-12 Teacher of the Year.  She has this slogan posted in her classroom.  It is something that I’ve been working on with my classes.

The most influential reading I’ve shared with my students over the past two years deals with growth mindset.  THANKS to my counseling colleagues and teaching partners, especially Aracely Barajas.   I share Carol Dweck’s work with all of my classes, and most do Cornell notes on it within the first ten days of class.  They also take a self-assessment to find out if they are mostly growth or fixed mindset.  We regular start class community meetings with “who has learned something this week?”  That’s code for who has made a mistake?

The hard part of learning is sometimes accepting our “failures” .  Jose Antonio Bowen shared an acronym that I thought was so good:  FAIL = first attempt in learning.

To make this all genuine, I have to model making mistakes, often doing a think-aloud to model problem solving and learning from it, and show how to accept and move on from it.

I also have had to change my grading practices to support their attempts.  As I teach the process of taking Cornell notes, for example, I don’t give less than full points.  If students haven’t done a good summary or reflection, or if they didn’t capture the key ideas, their paper has an R for rewrite.  (Thanks, Joy Wingersky!)

I’m continually looking for ways to support the learning (and making mistakes) process.  Do you have an idea to share?


Dr. Carol Dweck

Dr. Jose Antonio Bowen
President of Goucher College and author of Teaching Naked


The Curse of Week Four

     What is it about week four?  I arrived at work bright and early on Monday, eagerly anticipating the day.  But it just felt odd.  Stressful?  Already?  It’s only Monday, I thought, determined to figure out why this week had me on edge.

     There were a few pieces of old business hanging over from the previous week: the Write6x6 blog post (ahem), some work coming in from students, some planning I had not finished. And there were thoughts of what I had to do coming up, one item not until April that I was worried about. Then there’s that one troublesome student who seems determined not to learn from me all while I try desperately to learn from her in hopes I can actually find a sneaky way to teach her.  Maybe all of this unease is the settling in of the semester for all of us, students included. Yep, the semester really did start. Yep, weekends are now mostly about grading or doing homework.  Maybe now is the time to really work on balance. Yes, today I’ll work on balance and get rid of some of this unease.

     This plan might have panned out at some point had Wednesday, the day some refer to as hump day, allowed me to have the time to think about balance. Instead my wife texted me to say we were overdrawn in the checking account (we just got paid last week). “What happened?” I texted. “We’re supposed to be rich.”

     “I don’t know.  I lost track.  Bills.  Students loans.  I bought some clothes.”

     Dollar signs appeared before my eyes. I imagined trucks pulling up in front of the house, delivering racks of clothes. How much could someone spend on new outfits?

     This bump in the hump was just a bit of a slow down midweek, but it was not awful, just perplexing.

     Shortly after arriving home, later than usual, I greeted the animals with sweet talk and lots of pets. It was just a few moments later that I realized our cute and sweet Lila was having another bout of diarrhea. It wouldn’t be so bad if she weren’t long haired and if she didn’t curl her tail under herself in the catbox. I grabbed for some paper towels and then grabbed her tail–it’s never a good idea to grab a cat’s tail. She
tried to run, and she hissed. Her hind claws caught my toes which were only protected by socks, one of which has a hole in the toe I noticed.

     This was a job that needed more than just a dampened half paper towel. I grabbed and wetted a wash cloth and went in again. After much hiding under tables, running, hissing, and clawing–both of us–I got her to a spot where I could really hold down her tail and wash it, and surprisingly she let me do it. I think she was just tired. She’s having a week four, too.

     I’m not sure I’m the only one having a week four, but it is certainly my challenge to work out the rough spots this week. I need to find a way to sand down the edges. There are two things that sometimes work for me:

1.  Read a book that has a little depth.  Right now I’m reading When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions by Sue Monk Kidd. It feels a little heavy for what may just be a strange week, but books like this challenge me to wonder about the big picture and, in doing so, I can generally put into perspective the little things.

2.  Do a brain dump and prioritize.  There’s a formula I use for this. (I’ve had students do this at high stress times of the semester, too. Takes about ten minutes in class, maybe a few more if you talk about it.)   Here are the steps.  Math ahead.
   a.  List everything you can think of that you have to do that you can’t stop thinking about.  (Here’s where I’d make my list and actually put down that thing I have to do in April.)
   b.  Give everything a number from 1-4 based on when it has to be done (1=in the next day, 2= in a few days, 3=within two weeks, 4=long way off).  Rule?  You may not give everything a 1.  Rule?  Don’t put down eating or sleeping.
   c.  Give everything another number from 1-4 based on how serious the consequences are if you don’t do it (1=jobs lost, people die, you get the idea; 2=serious, but not life altering; 3=even less serious; 4=who cares?).
   d.  Multiply those two numbers together to give all items a new and final number.
   e.  Rewrite the items from 1-? and then cut the list in half.
   f.  Work on the top half.  Forget about the bottom half for now.

     This might seem obvious to everyone else, but I find it really helps me to focus, and maybe that is the key to conquering the curse of week four–to focus on what really matters and let the little things go.


Does trying count?

Making a difference in today’s world is easy, said no one! Well, maybe a few people have. I believe that in order to understand a question such as “how do you make a difference,” one must look inward. I believe that one must know the self before one can truly answer a question with such depth.

Anyone can come to the assumption of having made a difference in one way or another. That’s the easy part.

I find myself looking out my office window every now and again, watching everyone walking by and I wonder, have I made a difference in their lives? What have I done today that made a difference not only in someone’s life but for the benefit of society?

These are some difficult questions. Each one of us possesses the right to define “making a difference” in our own way. I understand this and agree, we do define it in our own way. It can be a simple and pleasant gesture of saying hi. Or, going all out by sitting down with someone and having a conversation. Paying for someone’s meal, an invitation for a cup of coffee, helping someone with a flat tire on the side of road, simply put; paying it forward.

I like to think that we all want to make a difference but how many of us actually do? We can never really know if we have or haven’t. Unless these individuals give us some sort of affirmation, we would never be absolutely sure that we made a difference. As depressing and pessimistic it may sound, I believe it to be true.

But, let me get past my cynical sentiments.

“How do you make a difference?” I believe that the only way we can be certain that we are making a difference is to create a level of interaction between one another. This level of interaction cannot be just any interaction, but one that expresses an act of kindness. One that creates a positive relationship even if it is for just that moment. It’s hard! I will be the first one to admit it, having and conveying a true act of kindness is difficult. We are surrounded with so many distractions that we sometimes lose sight of the good. But, if we can understand this about ourselves, we can learn how to make a difference where and when it counts. If we can learn more about ourselves, we can then in turn, make the difference that others long for.

How do I make a difference? I try, try and try a little bit more. I mean, I would love to say that I have a go to difference maker but I don’t. I just try to do right and try to do it with everyone and in everything I do. I will continue to try because I believe that someday everyone will catch on and do the same. Just try!



Success Is Not a Grade

My class is The Art of Storytelling. My objective for the course is:

Students will recognize the power of storytelling, and will become aware of their own potential for using storytelling as a tool for communication.

I try to teach them both the mechanics and the art of how and why to tell stories.

Don’t just tell someone a “list” of all your feelings, but but share them…  by telling a story. Share your joy of wonder and discovery, and allow those around you to experience it too… by telling a story. Inspire someone, or even yourself… by telling a story.

Some students come to me every other class and want to know why they lost two points. They want those two points so badly. They believe those two points can make or break them.

And then, there are others who do the work and accept the fact that they may have missed a question here or there. Points are not on their radar, learning and understanding are. At the end of the semester, one such student wrote:

I would like to share a story with you! I needed to find a humanities class and as I was scrolling down my computer screen I found one, but it involved literature and poetry. Well, I am not into poetry at all. The word literature translates “you will be writing long, intense essays”. So I did what any student would do, I kept scrolling down…until I found “The Art of Storytelling”. I honestly laughed a bit and thought, what could I possibly learn from a storytelling class and why is it considered and art? Now, I was curious. And that curiosity caused me to enroll.

After the first day of class, I changed my outlook on storytelling. Each class became more interesting and I could not wait to hear more stories. As the semester went on, I learned the answers to my questions. I realized the importance of stories and how it can be used in many aspects of life. Storytelling is truly an art because the storyteller is an artist who crafts their story to make it more interesting, exciting, and appealing to their audience.

Storytelling has given me a little more confidence and passion, not only in class but to my personal life as well. I know that when I finally become a nurse I will be sharing stories with my patients, not only to comfort them, but to connect with them. I am a bit sad that this class has come to an end because it was such an interesting, exciting, and uplifting semester.

I have no doubt, that the one who wrote that will not only be telling great stories, but will succeed in all her endeavors!

Success is not a grade, either for the student, OR the teacher. Success for me is, “Did I do the best at my job? Did I possibly make a difference in one or two lives?” The paragraph below from one gal was the greatest gift I could have at the end of the course.

Storytelling and this class have affected my life in a positive way. This past week I used what I had learned in this course in one job interview that I had. They asked me to tell them about myself and instead of listing all of the things I have done, I decided to tell them a little story about myself. The best part is not only that I exercised storytelling outside of class (without being a class assignment) and that I was hired. I start next week!


What Have I Done!

I have been a part of GCC’s community for almost 5 years now. During my time here I have been a student, I have been a club and organization member and I have been an employee. As a student, I found myself going from class to class. Never wanting to involved myself into anything more than what was expected from me as a student. By the end of my first year I was spotted by an old friend on the way to the Student Union. She was helping out during an M.E.Ch.A. event and by the next week I was voted as their Public Relations Officer. Fast forward a few months, I was introduced to the Associated Student Government. From there forth I was fully integrated into this wonderful community. By the end of my second year, I was being asked to attend a retreat for the formation of our MEN (Male Empowerment Network) organization. Queue the amazing memory montage!

As a student, I was able to encourage other students to become a part of something bigger, a part of something more. I was able to stimulate the importance of joining and participating in clubs and organizations. GCC offers our students more than 50 clubs and organizations for our students to become a part of throughout the school year. How awesome is that? Reflecting on just that thought amazes me, not because I was a part of it but because I know that somewhere along the way I was able to help at least one student.

Throughout my involvement within these remarkable organizations, I was offered a job position through the Student Leadership Center. I started as a Game Room Attendant, and later moved up to an Office Assistant. Both positions opened up my eyes to what I like to call, opportunity! As an employee, I was able to hone my skills as a leader and develop leadership workshops. Following the guidance of my mentor, Connie Greenwell, I was able to explore my talents as a presenter for not only the clubs and organizations that I was a part of but on the national level as well. I have been blessed with the opportunity of presenting at the National Collegiate Leadership Conference and among other worthy conferences as well. When my time was done here as a student, I knew it was time to move on. Fortunately, some people here at GCC believed otherwise. I was offered the position of Program Manager for the SCALE Summer Program. Finally, something that can show what I can really do, I said to myself. Between the students that have attended my workshops and my students in the SCALE Program, I can say that I have helped in one way or another.

Now stay with me, were almost done! Currently, I am a part of an amazing team. You can find me sitting within the Testing & Student Success Services building. I am a member of GCC’s Gaucho 101 Academic Advising team. Here I get to do something that I have not seen done at any of sister colleges. We help our incoming students with nearly the entire process of becoming a student. Shortly after receiving their placement test scores, they migrate into our area where we sit down with them and have a conversation. We include the meaning behind their scores, which classes are either required or recommended for them to take within their first semester. We even go as far as discussing their future plans and academic goals. I could continue to list off everything we do here but I want to keep you entertained. But, I will add the most important part, well at least in my opinion. We help take away the anxiety, the nervousness, the feeling of not knowing, well at least parts of it. We help our incoming students realize that starting their next journey doesn’t have to be alone. That they have someone to come to for help and if we cannot help them, then we point them in the right way.  Now that’s awesome!

Now, back to the theme of this week, “How have you helped students or staff?” I personally can’t put the correct words together to give you a definitive answer or any quantitative data to support my claims. But, what I can tell you is that I have a passion for what I do. I love the opportunities that have been given to me and I love what I have gotten to do with them. I strive to help those in need, those that may be lost or alone. I strive to become a man of value. Being a part of this community, of Glendale Community College, has helped me become who I am. In return I owe my absolute best to our students and staff and that’s what I plan to give them. So, short answer, have I helped students and staff, yes. Not enough of an answer? Come have a cup of coffee with me, I’ll tell you everything!



Healthier, Happier and Smarter

Have you read Spark yet? It gave me goosebumps.

The book basically justified my persistence for the past 30 years in the field of Fitness and Wellness. Exercise is not just about getting fit, looking good, preventing heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and the like. It helps keep you smarter!

I finished this book on a plane flight to Dublin last summer, on my way to see my family, but more specifically, my ailing mother who is suffering from the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

The book highlighted many of the mental health issues we deal with, including Alzheimer’s, ADHD, stress, anxiety, depression and addiction. And guess what? Exercise outscores medication in every case. It may not replace it for every case, but it certainly is a great complement to treatment.

It turns out that exercise is like Miracle Gro to the brain. It promotes the production of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which causes neurons to grow! It was only discovered in 1990! Since then, neuroscientists have been studying it like crazy. Exercise lays down the foundation for our students to learn.

In his book, Ratey devotes an entire chapter to the “Learning Readiness PE” program in Naperville, Illinois. These high school students are outsmarting their Japanese and German counterparts on the TIMMS test! You can find out more in this video!

It is my intention to make a difference in the lives of our community college students, faculty, staff and administration by raising awareness about the importance of movement throughout the day.

Just yesterday, the following bill was passed in Senate (SB211). I read it excitedly to my students this morning! Positive change is finally happening at the national level!

“A program of physical activity (i) that consists of at least 20 minutes per day or an average of 100 minutes per week during the regular school year available to all students in grades kindergarten through five and (ii) with a goal of at least 150 minutes per week on average during the regular school year available to all students in grades six through 12. Such program may include any combination of (a) physical education classes, (b) extracurricular athletics, (c) recess, or (d) other programs and physical activities deemed appropriate by the local school board. Each local school board shall incorporate into its local wellness policy a goal for the implementation of implement such program during the regular school year.

…That the provisions of this act shall become effective beginning with the 2018-2019 school year.”

Elementary schools and high schools will finally see the benefits of more movement on the brains of the students. I hope we can continue this trend at the community college level. It is critical to the success of our students.

Source: Ratey, J. J. (2012). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Little Brown and Company.


How I Make a Difference: A Reflective Moment with Some Self-Deprecation


These days, I mostly make a difference by reminding myself (constantly) that I am human.  Of course, I don’t have to make sure to do this, my subconscious, faulty memory, and non-linear nature do this for me naturally.  During office hours today, for example, I sat down to prepare a new assignment  for a creative writing class only to think, half way through writing the assignment This seems oddly familiar. Oh, yes, last week. It was already familiar because I had anticipated my poor memory and had already prepared the assignment. Wednesday, to be specific, I had already written the instructions, fully anticipating that Monday, one of my busy teaching days, I could do something else with that time.  Did I remember that?  No, not until I was half an hour into repeating my own endeavors.

This realization came after seven Canvas emails that I received while I was teaching my first class of the day informing me that the due date I had on an assignment was from 2015.

And then I received the gentle 6X6 email reminder, and I remembered that I forgot to post last week’s entry.

It is so hard to juggle everything.  And I have it pretty good: I already have my degrees.  I live close to work and don’t have a long commute. I don’t have a part-time job on top of my full-time job. I simply get to teach. Our students have such full lives: they go to school and work. They go to school and work and parent.  They go to school and work and parent and have extra-curriculars.  As the average freshman composition writer might note, “And the list goes on.”

As a big picture person, I struggle anymore to get the details right. I think that youthful brain cells used to compensate for my propensity for forgetting the little things. But now that I’ve been teaching for well over two decades, I just don’t have that option any more.  My young brain cells are middle-aged. They are forgetful, muddled, mixed up. They might not make it to the end of the paragraph in time to remember the point. That’s both a literal and figurative truth about my life right now.

My instinct is to be hard on myself. Other people (mostly on TV) make it look so easy. But I think to set a different example for our students. I admit my errors.  I can now even say, “My bad,” without wincing. And I do so in public.  In front of my classes or in conferences with my students or in emails with them.  I say, “I was supposed to set the date for the assignment on Canvas for 2016, but instead it came out A.D. 201, and now everybody’s paper is flagged as late. Who knows why this happened?”

If I see a student trying hard to juggle it all, and that student is willing to communicate with me, I will be flexible. I will be understanding, and I will also encourage that student to see that it’s impossible (at least for me) to remember everything, and it’s OK. I’m slowly learning that  forgetting details doesn’t mean the end of the world, and I try to share that new-found wisdom with my students. Last week a student emailed me, “I got the assignment done. I hit ‘save’, and in my head I was done two days early, and I could go on to my other classes’ assignments. I totally forgot to post it to Canvas though,” she admitted.  At this point, I easily remembered how quickly I, too, forget.  “Okay,” I wrote back. “Post what you have and remind me in the comments section of Canvas not to mark it late.”

Our students need encouragement.  I know this because I, too, need encouragement–that reason to push past the stress and the deadlines and all of the multiple tasks and responsibilities that demand out attention seemingly simultaneously.  While I seem to be forgetting most everything else these days, I can at least remember that.


Student Success Week 1

Well, the semester is off to a running start, just like every semester. Life in the Enrollment Center is back to a slow and steady stream of students, unlike the crazy rush that happens just before and after the start of any semester. A huge thank you to our colleagues and friends in the Enrollment Center, I often believe they are the unsung heroes on our campus. They work tirelessly to get our students processed and enrolled in classes. As a long-time member of the faculty, I never truly appreciated the amount of time, effort, and dedication of my colleagues in Student Affairs to get the student into my class. I was always just so happy to have a classroom full of students eager to learn mathematics…well, maybe not eager, but certainly willing to try for the semester. Of course, my greatest sense of accomplishment was always the student who would say at the end of the semester “You know, math isn’t so bad after all.” Mission Accomplished! I can retire with a sense of accomplishment. Now as a Vice President of Student Affairs, I see my mission in a whole new way. My goal is to encourage, inspire, and push my team in Student Affairs to do more, push harder, to think beyond the boundaries to find ways to serve our students to the best of our ability. Customer service is job #1 and how we serve our students is a reflection of GCC…so the goal is to help as many students as possible through the long lines, through the maze we call financial aid, and on a path that leads to a successful completion of their
goal. Truly, it takes a village to get our students from the Welcome Desk to the Classroom and across the stage at Commencement. Thank you for the amazing work you do, both in the classroom and out of the classroom, to push and inspire our students.