Category Archives: My Opinion

Walking with Leashes (I <3 Simpsonville)

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These should be everywhere!

Everyone knows how much I love the Simpsonville Farmer’s Market (ICYMI: here’s a post that explains just how much and why).  I also love downtown Simpsonville.  The dogs and I like to go for walks down there.  We’ll park at City Park and then walk past First Baptist and the old Simpsonville Elementary School.  We’ll walk through downtown, past the clock tower and across main street, down to the old cotton mill.  I call it the “historic dog walk” because we pass multiple historic markers on this route–as well as a few different pet waste stations (these should be everywhere, FYI!). City Park has them as does the Cotton Mill, which now houses some loft apartments–presumably for residents, but I figure they don’t mind if we, who bring our own bags, make a deposit in one of their conveniently located receptacles.  And we do bring our own bags because we are responsible pets/owners. In fact, it’s because I’m a responsible pet owner that we prefer to go downtown over walking in our own neighborhood (time permitting).  Because despite the fact that Simpsonville does its best to encourage responsible dog ownership, our neighborhood, like many, contains a number of very irresponsible dog owners.  Heck, there are irresponsible dog owners everywhere.

Downtown, we don’t run into unleashed dogs like we do in our neighborhood.  This is important because Penny does not play well with other dogs.  Bonnie doesn’t really either at this point.  So we don’t go to the dog park.  We don’t even walk past the dog park.  We stick to the sidewalks, where my dogs are perfectly fine with people–or even passing other dogs on leashes who are well controlled by their owners.  I really do enjoy walking with my dogs, and I know they love nice long walks, too.  But sometimes the potential for running into an unleashed dog takes all the fun out of it.wpid-wp-1430073403623.png

I thought about heading over to the local nature park today. We’ve been before, and it’s nice.  But even then we ran into an unleashed dog–despite the fact that the park has clear rules about leashing your pets.  Those rules are in place for the safety of everyone–your pet, other pets, wildlife, people.  And yet people always think those rules do not apply to them or to their own pets.  Guess what? Not true–the rules apply to everyone. And for good reason. Just this month, a dog at the nature park was bitten by a copperhead snake.  Luckily he’s ok, and although sometimes snakes are on the trails, the likelihood of being bitten by a snake increases significantly if you’re off trail–as this unleashed pet was. On the Facebook page, others echoed my frustration with unleashed dogs in what should be a very nice dog-walking area (click to enlarge):

Like Christine above, I too am really over the “my dog is friendly!” thing (people with unleashed pets are always calling this out as their pet descends upon us). Newsflash: so is mine. Unless she thinks your dog is going to attack her or Bonnie or me.  In that case, she’s Kujo. But you don’t know that.  And I don’t have time to tell you as your dog is bounding over to us. Further, despite what you think, you can never be 100% sure what your dog is going to do off leash.  Even well-trained dogs (although most we run into off leash are not in fact well-trained dogs) can go off script based on circumstances.  And if you’re unleashed “friendly” dog doesn’t listen to commands, well…it doesn’t matter how “friendly” she is.  You screaming, “Princess, come back here!” repeatedly is not going to keep her safe.  You know what would? A leash–of the 3-foot nylon variety sold at most pets stores.

Luckily, I love downtown and I love history, so the historic dog walk route will keep me and the girls happy.  I just hope irresponsible dog owners don’t ruin that for us.  Because I’d hate to lose this kind of joy:

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On Greek Life

Have you read my disclaimer? If not, now’s a good time.

Note: I actually wrote this post about 2 months ago and never published it; however, in reflecting on the horrendous stories about Greek organizations currently in the spotlight, I revisited it and decided to go ahead and post it. Because, obviously, it’s still relevant.  Just insert “OSU and Penn State” alongside Clemson University as necessary. 

Tucker Hipps’s parents have every right to speak out and warn other parents “of college students who want to pledge a fraternity.” After all, what happened to Tucker is completely unacceptable.  While it’s important to note that the official investigation is not yet complete, I personally accept the consistent stories of the students from whom I’ve heard on the matter. As anyone who went to college knows, there’s the official story, and there’s what all the students know to be true.  In addition, it is well-known amongst those close to Clemson University and its student population that Greek life at Clemson is out of control–and has been for some time.  Between alcohol-related injuries and deaths and accusations (often founded) of sexual assault and misconduct, it’s clear there’s a problem. With that said, I feel compelled to point out that what’s happening at Clemson is not indicative of what happens in Greek life across the country.  Hazing is bad. Hazing can lead to death. That much is indisputable.  However, that’s not the way it is in every fraternity or every sorority.  It certainly wasn’t my experience as part of the Greek system.  I pledged a sorority.  And at no time was my life in jeopardy.  At no time did someone ask me to do something that compromised my values, my integrity, or my safety.  I did not experience the sort of peer pressure that Tucker reportedly did.  Rather, I found in my sorority a support system of women who helped me navigate the college experience.  As someone without a solid familial support system, this was incredibly important not only to my survival in college but also to my ability to thrive in college.  In my sorority I also learned the value of giving back to the community and to those in need.  I learned to speak up for myself and for the things I believe in.  I learned not to settle for less than my best or less than what I deserved.  Certainly, I experienced growing pains as I matured into adulthood; my sorority affiliation did not protect me from that. Rather, it nurtured my development. It helped me become who I am today.  The women I met helped form the woman I am today.  Some of them are still my strongest supporters, my closest confidantes, and the people upon whom I call in difficult and/or challenging times.  I learned to accept that kind of love and support and to give it back.  “To give much is to receive much” was our motto. And I learned to live by those words of wisdom during my time in my sorority. I was not just a part of my own sorority while in college; I was also part of the larger Panhellenic organization that governed all sororities and fraternities at my school.  Our sorority worked closely with the fraternities within that organization, and we socialized with the men in those fraternities regularly.  We dated those men, befriended those men. We pledged in the same semesters as them.  We shared our experiences. Later, we shared in welcoming new members to our organizations.  To say that hazing did not occur at all would be a lie, but to say that it happened in the ways it does within Clemson’s fraternal organizations today would also be a lie.  I hear what my students and their friends do to join those organizations–the risks they take, and I advise them that compromising their principles or safety is never worth the friendships they may earn in so doing.  That’s not just part of my job; it’s a part of who I am–based on what I believe. And that is a direct result of my own experience with Greek life. What happened on that bridge–and the subsequent cover-up by members of his fraternity–is not ok.  There should be serious repercussions for all those involved–especially for the upperclassmen who forced a young man-via peer pressure–to do something that could potentially (and ultimately did) endanger his life.  Fraternities at Clemson should be held accountable for their actions and their consistent and flagrant acts that violate the very principles of the organizations to which they belong.  Because what they are doing is not what Greek life is about. It’s not what my sorority was (and is today) about; it’s not what the fraternities of my day/time/place were about. What happened to Tucker Hipps was unacceptable.  But it is not representative of Greek life overall.

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Plight of the Adjuncts, Part 4: It’s Wal-Mart Over Here

See…I have this disclaimer that you should probably read if you haven’t.

I’ve written already about the problem of office space for adjunct instructors. And I’ve discussed the problem of communication with students. I have also pointed out when adjuncts have been maligned in the media.

What I haven’t really talked about is the problem with adequate compensation. I think that’s really a given. But just for the record: according to the Adjunct Project, one of our local 2-year public institutions pays between $1,344 – $2,000 per course. Adjuncts are underpaid and overworked.  I have talked on multiple occasions about the corporatization of community college. And perhaps that corporatization is never more clear than when we look at the labor force.

Adjuncts (part-time, temporary employees) teach a majority of the classes at most institutions of higher education.

The parallels to Wal-Mart are obvious: not only are our instructors overworked and underpaid like Wal-Mart employees–but they are so underpaid as to be unable to make a living from teaching. Further, like Wal-Mart’s employees, adjuncts are not offered any insurance benefits. And like Wal-Mart, colleges have opted to cut adjunct teaching loads (hours) rather than face the possibility of having to pay for such benefits. Adjuncts at most institutions are now capped at 3-4 courses per semester. So if an institution is paying $1,344-$2,000/class, and an adjunct teaches 3-4 classes/semester for 2 semesters, he is making $10,725-$16,000/year. Notably, the federal poverty level for a household of 1 in 2014 is $11,670. For a family of 2 (some of our adjuncts have one or more children, in case you were wondering): $15,730.

The only real difference between our public colleges and Wal-Mart is that Wal-Mart is a big, multi-billion-dollar-making corporation. And public colleges are non-profit.

People who work outside Higher Education have no idea, usually, what it’s like for our adjuncts.  Heck, some people who work within institutions of Higher Education have no idea what it’s like.

This conversation I had this week is a good case in point:

Adjunct: How many office hours do I have to schedule?

Colleague: Well, full-time faculty are required to hold 8 regularly scheduled office hours per week, so it’s probably pro-rated…

Me: You are paid to do 3 hours for each class.

Colleague: Oh, so 3 hours a week.

Me: No. He’s paid to do 3 hours PER class.

Adjunct: 3 hours a semester?!?

Colleague: No way. That doesn’t make sense.

Me: I know, but yes–for each class, an adjunct is paid to do 3 office hours per SEMESTER. It’s on the contract.

Anyone who has seen our adjuncts squirreled away in closet corners, conferring with students between classes know that they do more than 3 “office hours” a semester. But that’s not the point: we already know they go above and beyond the call of duty. We already know they work harder and longer and more often than they’re compensated for. But just for the record: that’s how much we pay them to do: 3 hours a semester for office hours.

What message does that send about the value of our instructors to student success? Hmmm…

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Filed under Community College, Higher Ed, My Opinion, Teaching & Learning

Is this wrong? Yes.

So today on my ride into work, there was a discussion on the radio about this letter a teacher in NY sent home with her pre-K students.  The question offered to listeners/callers was this: “Is this wrong?”  The answer is yes.

The letter in question attempted to address the personal hygiene (or lack thereof) of children in the class. Here is a photo of the letter:smelly letter

If I were a parent who received this letter, I would write a letter back, and it would look something like this:

Dear Teacher,

I am writing this letter to inform you that you have failed–both as a teacher and a human being.  Allow me to explain why using a traditional scale: U = Unacceptable; NI = Needs Improvement; A = Acceptable; E = Exceeds. I have organized this from least important to most important for your benefit.

Professionalism: U

Did you hand write this with a marker and mimeograph it down the hall? How am I supposed to take you seriously? My (hypothetical) 4-year-old can use an iPad. You can’t use a computer? It’s 2013; if you’d like me to read something, type it up, print it out, and then send it me. I refuse to read scribble from anyone other than my child who just learned to spell his name.

Grammar: U

Unkept? You’re talking about my child, not my lawn. The word you’re looking for is unkempt. Also, you use a comma before a coordinating conjunction when it’s used to combine two independent clauses. You missed two of those. And one more–please proofread and edit before you send me or my child anything else. I really don’t want him picking up bad writing habits. (FYI: If you’d typed your document in Microsoft Word, spell and grammar checker would have helped you with your struggles to appropriately use Standard American English.) Also, periods. Enough said.

Communication: U

Did you really need to send this out to everyone (Consider reading my post on Bcc and Reply All and apply to this situation if you have the critical thinking skills to do so, which based on this evidence, I doubt.)? Don’t you think it might have been more effective to have targeted your message to a specific audience?  And is a generic handwritten letter really your best device for getting your message across? A more appropriate method of communicating to parents of children you think stink would have been a personal phone call. Furthermore, watch your language! “Enough said?” Really? Your tone is…self righteous and arrogant and…all around negative. It’s like you were hoping to start a fight, not resolve an actual problem. Also, for the record, despite the all-caps title, this is not actually an urgent notice. An urgent notice (!!!) would be something like, “There’s black mold and asbestos in our classroom, please only send your child to school tomorrow if he has a Hazmat suit!” An offense to your olfactory perception is not urgent.

Empathy: U

Empathy, since you seem to have none, is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s (like a 3-year-old’s) shoes and understand how they likely feel and then behave accordingly. Did you even stop for a second to consider how these supposedly dirty and stinky kids might feel upon discovering that their teacher doesn’t even want to be near them? Or how their parents might feel upon receiving your letter? You should know this, but I’ll go ahead and make sure it’s clear: sometimes people do the best they can with limited resources. I read that 30% of the population in your area lives below the poverty line. Maybe they’re doing the best they can. You should at least consider the possibility.

Social Responsibility: U

Look, if some of the children in class are really a health and safety concern, you might consider that the appropriate action to take is reporting a case of possible neglect. Sending a letter like this home to an abusive and neglectful parent could actually make things worse for the child in question.  If you are that concerned, call DSS and let them know.  Had someone done that for my foster kids, they would have been removed from their abusive home years before they were. Speak up–you may be the only voice those children have, so instead of marginalizing (and dare I suggest bullying) them, be an advocate for them. Be a friend to them. Be a role model. It’s your responsibility as a teacher and a human being.

Enough has not been said here, but I feel like this might be a good starting point. I encourage you to reflect on your behavior, consider the ways in which you may have better addressed this issue, and make a commitment to do better in the future. Accept that this was a BIG mistake and make a plan to better yourself. In short, take this as a a teachable moment. Learn. Grow. And then maybe you’ll be able to rise from Unacceptable to Exceeds (or at least Acceptable).  Let me know if I can help.

Sincerely,

Parent of (a hypothetical) child in your class.

PS: Finally, please sign below indicating you have read this report in its entirety and understand its contents.

___________________________

(Bad Teacher)

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Ichabod vs. Modern America

Sleepy Hollow is an utterly ridiculous show—built upon a premise that requires quite a suspension of disbelief.  After all, the central plot point stems from the awakening of Ichabod Crane, last alive during the Revolutionary War, in modern times. Oh, and he has to do battle with the Headless Horseman, who, as it turns out, is one of the four Horseman of the Apocalypse and/or the Personification of Death.  But it’s also so much more than that—and last night’s episode really showcased that.

In last night’s episode, Ichabod was full of sass, which made me laugh. A lot. One of the things he got really fired up about was bottled water.  When Abbie pays for bottled water, he wonders why she doesn’t just drink from “one of the many taps around this town…or from the lake?”  She replies that the tap water is “full of chemicals” and “the lake water…well, you don’t even want to know!” Ichabod, disgusted, remarks that “The extent to which your generation has defiled this earth is truly mind-boggling.”  True enough, Ichabod.

He’s not done with bottled water, though.  Later, he and Abbie head to a museum, where he passes a museum employee, drinking from a bottle of water. He stops, looks at him, and asks incredulously, “Did you pay a fee for that water?” He then declares of drinking water, “That should be an inalienable right!”  Right on, man!

My next favorite part of this episode takes place in this same scene. Prior to seeing the water-drinking employee, Ichabod overhears a museum tour guide telling some children the story of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. He makes to correct him because he’s telling it wrong, but Abbie tries to pull him away to focus on the really important task of finding the Headless Horseman’s skull because…well, I don’t know…th He objects, though: “But what he’s telling those children is apocryphal!” Abbies tells him, “Let it go.”

Ichabod can’t though, so he momentarily abandons his battle against evil to return to the tour group, where he now hears the guide explaining, “And then Paul Revere arrived in Concord, sounding the alarm: ‘The British are coming! The British are coming!’.”  Ichabod interrupts to explain that, like the rest of the Patriots, Ichabod points out, would have announced (rather quietly, since he was on a secret mission), “The regulars are coming out,” not “The British are coming!” because “We were British, too. That would have been most unhelpful.”

At this point, Abbie appears and snatches him away, explaining to the tour group that “my cousin forgot his medication today.” To which Ichabod responds, “I am the only one amongst you who does not require medication!

This episode: quite the commentary on modern America—a place where we’ve destroyed our natural resources, everyone is (over- and perhaps unnecessarily) medicated, and the history we teach our children is dubious at best. At least as seen through the eyes of Ichabod Crane, who may or may not have fought in George Washington’s army and been good buds with Thomas Jefferson (who incidentally is not the family man Ichabod thought and also stole something Ichabod said and took credit for it.). Ouch.

Notably, it wasn’t just the social commentary that made this week’s episode my favorite. This episode was hysterical, y’all (see above examples, which all made me LOL).

Abbie: “I have good news and bad news. What do you want first?”

Ichabod: “Is this a riddle?”

Getting ready for bed, I was still giggling to myself over Ichabod’s encounter with internet porn: “Thank you, ma’am, but I am afraid I am spouse to another!” and my husband asked me what was up.

Me: Oh, I’m just laughing about Sleepy Hollow.

Him: What’s that about again?

Right. So.

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Hulehan Says: E-Mail Etiquette “Bcc:” and “Reply All”

 Look, I know that e-mail is a fairly new thing…wait. No, it’s not. I accept that some of our non-traditional developmental students struggle with technology, but I think if you’re working in a professional setting in which e-mail is the primary method of communication, you ought to familiarize yourself not only with the technological aspects of it but also with the general rules of etiquette.  Maybe I’m hyper-sensitive to this because I actually teach e-mail etiquette to my students. I don’t know, but this is one of my biggest pet peeves: ineffective or inappropriate use of the Bcc and Reply All functions.

With that said, here’s what “Hulehan Says” about e-mail etiquette in regards to their use (Please note the disclaimer first!):

  • As a general rule of thumb, if the number of recipients exceeds 30, you should list all the e-mail addresses in the Bcc field, not the To field.

Here’s why: It’s simple. No one wants to have to scroll through 85 names to get to your message. This is especially true in today’s mobile age, where many people are frequently checking their e-mail on mobile devices with small screens. It’s just annoying. E-mail should be relatively short and simple in general. In fact, I always tell my students that if someone has to scroll to read your message, it’s too long. You should revise that message to read simply “Dear So & So, Can we set up a meeting to discuss X, Y, and Z?” Because if you have more than one screen’s worth of message, your message warrants a telephone call or face-to-face meeting.

  • If the message is purely informative and doesn’t require a response, use the Bcc field for your list of recipients.

For example, I often need to send reminders to my advisees (who have numbered anywhere between 50-100 depending on the semester). I need to simply convey information to them, not engage them in conversation. I just want to remind them of important advising information: the who, what, where, when, and why.  They don’t really need to respond to me, and they certainly don’t need to respond to one another.  And listing them all in the To field where they can see each other indicates otherwise, which brings me to…

  • If you do not want the recipients to Reply All to engage in a group conversation, pick the Bcc field instead of the To field for your list of recipients. Not doing so invites them all to start replying to the group.

The other day I sent a message to about 5 of our math instructors asking for their input. I wanted them all to share with one another, so they’d all benefit from one another’s ideas. So I put all their names in the To field, and even specifically wrote, “Please Reply All to share with the group, so we can all benefit from each others’ responses.”

In a separate situation last week, I needed to send a message to my entire department (over 30 people) to remind them of a particular piece of information. There was no need for response (see point 2 above), and there wasn’t any need for any of them to engage with one another, so all their addresses went into the Bcc field. In fact, I didn’t want to have any accidental Reply Alls, which brings me to…

  • Use Reply All cautiously because it can generate TONS of unnecessary e-mails.

Look, we all get gobs of e-mail every day (or maybe that’s just me), so the last thing we need is our inboxes getting bogged down with unnecessary messages. So some basic things to remember: No one needs your simple “I agree” or “I disagree” unless the sender has specifically asked you to respond with that…and chances are, even if he/she made such a request, she didn’t intend for you to share it with the whole group (unless she specifically asked).  If the message is strictly informative, do not Reply All.  If the message is not a specific invitation to engage in an on-going group discussion (see example of math instructors’ e-mail above), don’t Reply All. Ask yourself: does everyone in the list need to know this information? If not, for goodness, sake, don’t Reply All, just reply to the sender. If you’re not sure, default on the side of caution and reply only to the Sender; if he/she thinks everyone should know, he can share your response.

  • As a rule of thumb, don’t Reply All if you don’t actually know All.

Nobody wants a bunch of responses from strangers.  If you wouldn’t have been willing to independently e-mail these people, don’t group respond to them. To be blunt, they don’t know you and probably don’t care what you have to say. This drives me back to Bcc

  • If all your recipients don’t know each other, use Bcc instead of To

So here’s the thing: if you want to invite 20 of your friends to a get-together, and they all know each other (presumably because you all always go to the same get-togethers), put everybody in the To field.  They probably want to see who else is invited and even Reply All, so everybody can see who is or is not going and why or why not or establish carpools, share a babysitter, whatever. For the workplace, the same rule applies: if all your recipients do not know one another, put their addresses in Bcc instead of To.

Somewhat related (I would be remiss if I didn’t point this out): many of these same rules apply to group text messaging (or Facebook messaging even). Group text messages are only appropriate when everyone knows one another. And when you want everyone to engage in a conversation with one another.  If that’s not the case, be a good friend and send separate messages to individuals. When you send a group text, it encourages people to Reply All (many people don’t even know how not to Reply All and do so accidentally, which is why this is your problem). And your friends don’t want a bunch of texts from people they don’t know.  As my friend Russ points out, that eats up people’s text allowance. And also, to be blunt again, people don’t care about what strangers think/say–even if those unknown numbers happen to belong to people you know. Finally, if you get one of those inappropriate group messages and have a reply, be a good friend and don’t Reply All. Start a new and separate message and reply only to the sender.

I’m sure I forgot to mention something, but this is a good starting point. Just in case you need to know…not that you do–but maybe you have a friend who does…

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On Scary Movies

Much as my Twitter friends and I suspected, watching Stephen King’s It last night before bed did, in fact, induce creepy dreams. Oddly, enough, though, my nightmare nemesis was actually more like Michael Meyers (the 1978 one, not the lame 2007 Rob Zombie version). I guess that could be because I grew up on the Halloween franchise, and the 1978 version is still one of my favorite movies.

Thursday is Halloween, and my Reel Success class voted that we should watch a Halloween film to mark the day.  This was not part of my original plan (complete oversight on my part), but as an instructor, it’s important to be adaptable.  I told them this, though:

To be clear, when I say “horror film,” I am speaking of the horror genre designed to truly scare people—not gross them out. I draw a careful line here. I do not consider movies like Saw or Hostel appropriate Halloween fare. I just think those are gross. And filled with gratuitous violence, gore, and language. A truly good horror film needs none of those to successfully scare you. Also, the film clearly has to be related to something we’re learning in class, so it has to be something with substance.

Thus, I am currently debating between 1968’s Night of The Living Dead and 1959’s House on Haunted Hill.

I love scary movies at Halloween time (this is actually the extent of my participation in the “holiday.”). I enjoy seeing what AMC and TCM decide to show.  I also like pulling from my DVD collection to watch some old faves.

Last night, I saw that Spike was playing Stephen King’s It (1990), and I decided to watch that (hence the statement that began this post).  I read the book bazillion years ago, and it scared the bejeesus out of me.  I have since watched the movie a number of times (the book is WAY scarier, FTR).  Here’s the thing about It: Most people who watch the film get really creeped out by Pennywise the clown, and he is creepy.  But for anyone who’s read the book, it’s actually surprising how much screen time Pennywise gets.  In the book, It manifests more frequently in other ways that scare the children (Werewolf, Frankenstein, etc.). Because that is what’s scary about It. It is the embodiment of some evil we can’t really know or understand—and it feeds off our fears, our nightmares.  It takes the shape of whatever our greatest fear is.  Which makes It the scariest villain of all. And it’s what makes the movie so terribly frightening.

Here are some of my other picks for Halloween scares:

Halloween (1978) is frightening for much the same reason as It. This is why I hate the Rob Zombie (2007) version. Zombie turned Michael Meyers into a human being with a traumatic past that turned him into a serial killer. And in so doing, ruined everything that was great about the original movie.  Michael Meyers, like It, is the embodiment of evil (it’s why he keeps coming back to life—humans don’t do that!); he’s not a man. In fact, in the original screenplay, he’s referred to simply as The Shape.  We’re supposed to be terrified of The Shape because we don’t know what it is. I don’t need all the gore of the 2007 one (or the ridiculous back story) to be scared. Michael Meyers never runs, but he always catches up to you. You can shoot him, push him off a building, mow him down with a car—and he keeps coming. For no reason (no, not because he was traumatized as a kid)—no reason. He’s just evil—and undefeatable. And that’s scary.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a little gorier. After all, zombies, as we all now know, eat people, which is a little gross.  But in comparison to what we see today, this film is really tame. And, as with Halloween, much more of the violence takes place off screen. We know people die, but we don’t (always) see the details of it.  For example, a woman is dragged off by a group of zombies. We know they’re eating her—but we don’t see it.  Perhaps more importantly, this film is iconic in that it defined what zombies would be for…well, all the way until now.  They’re not even called zombies in the movie! And yet, all the zombie movies and TV shows that follow Romero’s original are based on the film’s “ghouls.” The concept of zombies as reanimated dead humans who feed on live humans is Romero’s invention.  And for that alone, this film is a much watch.  Also—it’s the unknown that frightens us again with this movie: we don’t know why the dead people are coming back to life or why they want to eat the living, and we certainly don’t know how to fight them and win. From an instructional standpoint (since it is one of the two I’m considering), I think my students are perfectly capable of culling some valuable life lessons from this film—particularly with a little historical research. Also, it only has one bad word.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) makes my list for a few reasons (I actually own the first four in the franchise and tend to put them on rotation for a day during Halloween. I let them play in the background when I do other things). Yes, it’s rated R, but let’s face it: the scariest thing about Freddy Krueger is that he exists in your dreams. And if he kills you in your dream, you die in real life.  It’s an actual nightmare come true. We get a little backstory on Freddy but not as much as we do in the remake (again, a reason I prefer the original). I actually don’t care why Freddy wants to terrorize the kids of Elm Street. He scares me because he gets you through your dreams. What’s scarier than a movie that makes you not want to sleep because sleep isn’t safe? (Bonus: it has Johnny Depp. So.)

Psycho (1960): I was actually just mentioning to someone on Facebook that I’m not really sure why I don’t own this. It’s a must-watch because Alfred Hitchcock is a master of suspense. And because you never want to take a shower again. Again, the remake has information I don’t really want or need…although I’m totally addicted to the TV show.

The Birds (1963) is another Hitchcock, but this movie is scary. Why are those birds so mad? Why are they attacking people? I have no idea! But I still look at groups of birds with a little tiny bit of fear. And Hitchcock didn’t need gore to do that to me. And that’s why this one’s on my must-watch list.

The Exorcist (1960): I grew up Catholic. Demonic possession is scary.

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It’s My Life

“You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” –Brian Tracy

The difference between people who succeed and those who do not really boils down to one thing: accepting responsibility. Successful people accept responsibility for the outcomes in their lives–regardless.

Like Tracy says, you may not be able to control what happens to you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t control your life. You can. You can control, as he says, your attitude about it, and you can also change your reaction to it. But if you don’t accept that responsibility, if you don’t take control of your life, you’ll likely never be successful, and dare I say it, never be happy with your life.

It sounds simple, but it’s actually quite difficult. It’s easy to say, “It’s my life! I’m in charge!” But it’s much harder to really begin to think and act that way.

I always teach my students that we change our behaviors by first changing our speech. Because the way we talk affects the way we think, and the way we think affects the way we feel, and the way we think and feel affects the way we behave.

To be successful, then, we must begin to embrace the language of success on a regular basis, such that we change not just our word choice but also our internal dialogue–the way we think. When we think like successful people, when we think like people in charge, we will feel empowered–like people in charge of their own lives. And then we will begin to take more and more purposeful actions towards success. We will behave like the successful people we want to be. We will behave like people in charge of their own lives, people responsible for what happens to them, people who can control their attitudes about the negative things in their lives. And we will see more and more success.

Of course, it’s much easier to surrender that control to someone or something else, to believe that life–the good, the bad–just happens to us, and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s easier to pass the buck, and in many ways, our society teaches us that’s the way to go. “It’s not my fault; it’s ” is a familiar refrain. But if we take that easier route, we shouldn’t be surprised to find we have difficulty achieving our goals, achieving the successes we want for ourselves.

If we’re ready to change, it starts with language: it’s my life; I’m in charge.” And making that language a habit. Because that’s how we’ll change the way we think from “there’s nothing I can do about it” to “I have options that include X,Y,Z.” That’s how we’ll change feelings of powerlessness to feelings of power, and how we’ll change the outcomes in our lives.

Easy-peasy, right? 😉

I always tell my students: ” If there’s one and only one thing you learn this semester, it should be this.” And I hope some of them do learn it.

And I try to embrace the lesson as often as possible myself.

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I’m Not a Black Man

I’m not a black man. Never have been. Never will be. I have never grown up black in America. I’ve never been raised by a father who lived through the 1960s Civil Rights movement.  I have never  sat on the knee of a grandfather who stood thirsty before a Whites Only water fountain or who had to give up his seat on the bus to a white man.  I have never been followed through a department store because I look like a possible thief.  No one has ever crossed the street to avoid me because I had a hood drawn up over my head. People don’t hit the lock on the car door when I walk by. Because I’ve never been a Black American.

President Obama, yesterday, in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict commented that “it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that that doesn’t go away.” He explained, “those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.”

I have my own set of experiences that have shaped my world view, made me who I am. Those experiences color my responses, reactions, and feelings to and about certain events and situations. I can’t know how I would’ve reacted to the Zimmerman verdict as a young black man or as the mother of a young black man. But I can imagine that my feelings would’ve been different because they would’ve been colored by my experiences as an African-American. And I know those experiences are different than mine as a white woman.

People all over social media and IRL are fired up. The “conversation” about this verdict is heated–and divisive. I see African-Americans declare justice hasn’t been served–and never will be for Blacks in America.  I see them expressing fear for the young black men in their lives. I see white people, in turn, defensively claiming that these fears are unjustified–an overreaction because this isn’t about race. “Why is it always about race with these people?” they ask each other, annoyed. Our justice system worked exactly as it should, they say. Black people, incredulous, respond: “How can you say this isn’t about race?! The justice system failed us.”

These responses illustrate very clearly the president’s point. They reflect the experiences of the people who make them. The president reminds us to take that into account. And we would do well to do just that. Instead of responding angrily or defensively when we don’t understand–instead of just arguing about it, we would do well to have a civilized conversation about it: “Why do you think the system failed? Why don’t you? Why do you think it’s about race? Why don’t you?”

We would do well to listen to one another, really listen. To try to understand, to empathize with one another, put ourselves in each others’ shoes.  To try to understand, accept, and respect that people have different ways of knowing, doing, and being. 

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Not a Factory

Today I was knee-deep in research for a project charter team I’m serving on when I stumbled across a report in which the authors concluded with a great analogy (see pg. 26), an analogy I just have to share.

According to the authors, the college completion agenda (which I discussed a little on Monday) implies that colleges are like factories, producing a product: graduates. But that’s not true. It’s just not how higher education institutions work. Rather, the authors said, colleges are like health clubs: they provide you with a lot of different tools to successfully accomplish your goal(s), but they’re not responsible for making you reach them–you are. If the tools are provided, but you don’t use them, you won’t succeed.

In other words, the college completion agenda may well be, as I previously argued, propelling us in the wrong direction–a direction in which the institution assumes responsibility for the education of its students rather than the students assuming the responsibility for themselves. And that runs contrary to our very mission (and is why employers are complaining about graduates who can’t think or write or do basic math).

Higher education institutions should provide the tools for students to succeed (quality educators, tutoring services, counseling services, financial aid resources, and so on)–but it’s up to them to use those tools to their advantage so they do. Anything else isn’t college. And it isn’t acceptable. And that’s just my opinion, not necessarily anyone else’s.

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