The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the tag “teaching”

Insides Outsides…Reprised

Never compare your insides

@gapingvoid (swoon) http://www.gapingvoid.com

You know that saying, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides“?  It’s a great saying.  One of the best.  Right up there with “Fake it ’til you make it” (my personal favorite), the Golden Rule, and “Life’s too short to drink bad wine.”

The thing is, I thought I had really taken the saying “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides” to heart.  I am very comfortable with who I am.  My whole 47-year-old, BMI of 27 (is that good or bad? I’m not even sure), high-cholesterol, chocoholic self.  I’m comfortable with eating out alone (in fact a lot of times I prefer it, but that’s probably because I have a 4 year old).  I’m comfortable with going out in public without (gasp!) any makeup on.

This is not to suggest that I don’t have insecurities.  Several people in the last week have expressed surprise when I have mentioned being insecure about something (see “Fake it ’til you make it” – I must be doing that pretty well. Ha!).  But I’m comfortable having some insecurities too.  I work on them.  Some improve, some don’t.  Eh.

"Every child is different" Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.

“Every child is different” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know.

So imagine my surprise today when I found myself all the way back on square one with this issue.  I walked my 4 year old into his pre-K class and there he was–this other kid writing his name on a piece of paper.  Perfectly.  Upper case, lower case, beautifully formed letters.  And I cringed.  Because my kid writes an almost recognizable W…backwards.  And he does a decent 7, 4, and E.  But otherwise he’s all scribbles.  And the thoughts jumped into my head before I could stop them–“Why can’t my kid do that? Is he not developmentally on track? Are we not teaching him enough at home?”

Before you accuse me of being a Tiger Mom (or a Slacker Mom), you should know that I know that I have the coolest kid in the world.  And he has gifts–mostly athletic and social.  Writing is just not one of them.  But the kid can order a complete meal by himself, call a waitress over to correct something, eat a plate full of cooked broccoli (voluntarily), talk the ears off a cornstalk, climb a rock wall by himself and walk across the top of the monkey bars with perfect balance.  He just can’t write his letters yet.

And I happen to know this other kid (the show off…kidding) has three older brothers.  So he has probably been exposed to such things as writing for quite a while.  Still…I think after karate, we may practice writing some letters and numbers.  Then we’ll have pizza at our favorite pizza joint and kill some zombies in Plants v. Zombies. ‘Cause that’s how we roll.  And it’s ok.

Carpe insides!

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To Endings…and New Beginnings

This weekend I attended a college graduation.  It wasn’t my graduation.  And it wasn’t my first graduation.  As a professor (and serial student myself), I have attended a few graduations.  What made this graduation different is that it may have been my last.

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates!

I resigned from my professor job to move to the place where my heart is and has always been.  The place I call “home” even though I haven’t lived there in 20 years.  The place I grew up, learned to ride a bike, had my first crush, my first love, my first heartbreak.  My first prom, my first…well, nevermind.  You get the gist.

I resigned from my professor job because…well, I’m not really sure why.  My husband said, “Why don’t we move home?”  And I said ok.  We move about every three or four years at the suggestion of one or the other of us, so this wasn’t a shocking idea. But for the first time, we are moving for the quality of our lives and not for our careers.  And that makes it very different.  But home is the where of our happiness so it must be a good thing… right?

I have mixed feelings about this ending.  Although I’m excited to be moving “home,” I’m not sure what this new beginning means for me.  Sure, it means living at the beach (yay!).  And it means raising my son in the place where I grew up (yay yay!).  But what does it mean for ME, you know, professionally?  My husband teleworks, so he takes his job with him.  But I’ve been working at a brick and mortar university.  And now I’m…not.

Beach boy

Beach boy

People keep asking, “So what are you going to be doing?”  Some persistently believe I’m retiring at 47 despite my efforts to dissuade them of the notion (it probably doesn’t help that my flippant answer to the question is occasionally “be a kept woman.”  It’s a joke!).   Answering “I have no idea” seems to make people uncomfortable (including me) and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve gotten a few pitying looks…and a few envious ones.  🙂

My goal is to relax, get quiet, and spend a few months figuring out who I am.  I call it a self-imposed sabbatical, in keeping with the professorial mindset.  Marlo Thomas (whose awesome webcast I attended last week) would probably say It Ain’t Over and Jane Pauley (whose book Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life I am reading now) might call it a step toward reimagining my life.

Endings are difficult…but exciting, because they mean new beginnings.  New beginnings are scary…but exciting because anything is possible.

Carpe new beginnings.

Today I am Grateful…

I’m selfish.  And self-centered.  And I have (as Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy would say) a dark and twisty side that sometimes takes over.

And boy, do I complain.  I complain at work.  I complain at home.  I complain on social media.  I complain about my kid, my family, my work, the weather, how hot my office is, my weight.  I complain.

But today I am grateful.  Today I am thinking about two friends roughly my age who have recently had serious health crises.  One had a double mastectomy after getting breast cancer for the second time.  She’s a single mother of two girls in and barely out of high school.  The other is a man I know professionally, but now feel like I know personally after following his journey through stomach pains that turned out to be a plum-sized tumor that now has surrounding blueberries, which is scary.  It is being taken out today (“fruit extraction”) and my thoughts are with him.

Today I am thinking about my mother, who died at 69 of cancer, six months before I got my son, the grandson she’ll never know.  (Although I’m convinced she does know him from wherever she is because I swear I hear her laughing when he does something that makes me crazy.  She loved the “payback” concept of her kids having kids.)

Today I am thinking about friends who have been through divorces–or worse–in their marriages.

How can I not be grateful every day for these two awesome guys?

How can I not be grateful every day for these two awesome guys?

Today I am thinking about people who have lost children, truly the most horrible experience I can think of.

And today I am grateful for things that I complained about yesterday.  Today I am grateful for:

  • Having so many opportunities to do work I love that I’m overwhelmed.
  • Having an energetic (and healthy) kid who runs me ragged.
  • Having a sweet and loving husband who doesn’t mind being portrayed as either “robotic” or “stable.”
  • Having students to teach (some of whom actually want to learn!).
  • Having the opportunity to live my dream when I get to move back “home” in six months to raise my son and be a multipreneur.
  • Having no answer (because there are so many possible answers) to the question, “What will you do as an entrepreneur?”
  • Having so many kind friends and family members that sent my son birthday presents and cards that I can’t find the time to write all the thank you notes.

Sure, I’m still hurt that my own father said “No, thanks” when I suggested my husband, son, and I come visit after Christmas visit (after 1,000 “Come visit us” comments from him).  But today I’m trying hard to remember to be grateful that between us, my husband and I still have one parent left.  Our son has one grandparent left.

And I’m impatient to move home to the beach.  But today I’m trying to be grateful that I have a job that gives me the chance to help (when I can) college students figure out their careers.  Because I totally dig that.

And I get frustrated at students who go through the motions and give me snarly faces in class.  But today I’m trying to be grateful for the ones who “get it” and who are making the most of their time in college.

So dark and twisty or not, today I am grateful.

Carpe gratitude.

Finding Meaningful Work…or Finding Meaning in Your Work?

I had an “aha” moment recently.  I was pondering why I get “itchy” every three years or so and change jobs (and usually, cities).  (To see some of the jobs I’ve held, see the post “A Bibliography for Job Hoppers Like Me.”)  It could certainly be that I am a Scanner, as Barbara Sher describes.  I have a lot of interests and the thoughts that constantly run through my head go something like this:

Oh! I want to be a caterer!

Now I want to be a lawyer!

Ooooh, let’s move to Las Vegas!

Let’s live at the beach!

Etc. Etc.

But my “aha” moment was this: I tend to lose interest in a job when it no longer feels meaningful.  I don’t mean (necessarily) like a ministry or saving the planet (I guess I don’t aspire that high).  Just feeling like my day is spent on worthwhile things.  Not TPS reports. (Office Space?  If you haven’t seen the movie, do.  Then you’ll get this reference.  More importantly, you’ll laugh.  A lot.  Hopefully.)

By Hugh MacLeod www.gapingvoid.com (genius, artist, and King of Irreverence)

By Hugh MacLeod http://www.gapingvoid.com (genius, artist, and King of Irreverence)

One of the things I love about being a college professor is the opportunity to help young adults (or not-so-young-adults) figure out professional and personal things that will help them live a meaningful and fulfilling lives.  I’ve taught at several different universities in my life.  The experience has been pretty much the same – I start off excited about the students, the opportunities to help them learn about what I think is a fun and exciting career area, and teach them information and skills they need to know to succeed.  The first year is fabulous.  I’m in hog heaven.  The second year is good, but I feel a little frustrated that I’m not “getting through to them.”

By the end of third year, I am downright depressed and worn down because SO many students don’t seem to be interested in learning.  Some don’t bother to show up in class at all.  Some show up, but sneer at me all through class [I’ve actually kept two students after class to ask them if they know what their facial expressions look like (both said they didn’t)…and explain that this may be a detriment in an interview or work environment.  Then again, they may just really not like me.]

In other words, I can’t find the meaning in the work any more.  I’m not blaming the students.  They are who they are and they do what they do.  And it could certainly be that I’m a lousy professor, although I have some kind former students who are nice enough to say otherwise (thanks, y’all!).  Plenty of professors stay in the job for years and years.  Clearly, they find something I can’t.  Maybe they find meaning in research (I don’t – not the academic kind, anyway) or administration (I’m a worse bureaucrat than sales person…and I’m a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sales person).  I don’t know.

The first time in my working life that I realized the importance of having meaning in my work was when I worked as a front desk clerk at a hotel during college.  It was a revelation to realize the effect I could have on someone else’s mood, just by being friendly.  After a long day of work, a flight, and a life-threatening taxi ride from one of the D.C. area airports, they would arrive at the hotel, bedraggled and tired.  And find me, a 20 year old college student, at the front desk.  If I gave them the key to their room, fine.  They went up and their day was no different.  But if I smiled and joked with them or found something in their profile to start a conversation with (e.g., “You’re from Dallas? My brother lives in Dallas!”), it sometimes seemed to make their mood better.  And I helped!

That’s how public speaking is for me.  When I do a good job boiling what I think is important information into understandable chunks and use those to ignite a conversation with and between the participants, it feels meaningful.  It’s information that will help them in some way.  And I was able to help give it to them.  Meaning.

Still I wonder sometimes…is there really no meaning?  Or can I just not find it?  Or do I stop looking for it?

How about you?

Carpe meaning!

A Bibliography for Job Hoppers Like Me

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life.  A LOT.  And I recently gave notice at my current J-O-B (a year’s notice – academia is kind of weird).  I love my J-O-B, but I love flexibility, freedom, variety, and the beach more (we’re finally moving back “home” to the coastal town where I grew up and my husband went to high school.  I’ve been trying to do that for 20 years).

Among other things, I’ve been a:

  • Travel agent
  • Cruise ship purser
  • Hotel front desk clerk
  • Concierge
  • Meeting planner
  • Catering sales manager
  • Tourism bureau sales manager
  • Association executive
  • Lawyer
  • Professor
  • Professional speaker

    Kind of makes me dizzy to look at it visually.

    Kind of makes me dizzy to look at it visually.

And that’s just since I’ve been an “adult,” so the list doesn’t include various restaurant and retail jobs I had in high school and college.  Here is my career path visually (including various periods of unemployment…which were actually great fun, but that’s another story for another day).  I worked my way through school (all of it), so those aren’t “breaks,” btw.

My life span in a J-O-B (by that I mean conventional employment) is about 3 years.  I’m going on Year 4 in my current J-O-B.  I must be growing up.  HA.  Just kidding (SO just kidding).   A lot of people think I’m crazy.  Or flaky.  I have a great J-O-B at a great university in a lovely small city, I love my students, I get summers off, and it’s as close to entrepreneuring-with-a-regular-paycheck as you can get.  I’m not crazy (well I am, but not because of this).  I’m not flaky.  I just know I’m meant to live a different way–and a different where.  Even though I’ve done a lot of things, there many more things I still want to do.  After all, I’m only in my 40’s and have many more working years ahead of me.

So I recently made a big decision: never to have a J-O-B again.  I don’t mean that I get to retire early.  I’m not wealthy.  And for better or worse, I married for love, not money.  (Just kidding, honey, it’s better!)  I have just realized that a J-O-B is simply not my style.  Instead I’m going back to “multipreneuring,” which is like “entrepreneuring” but doing several things at once.  For example, my last multipreneur gig had me speaking, teaching, and lawyering…in various proportions that fluctuated by day, week, month, year.  And doing other cool stuff when it came along like consulting and writing.

This idea is not mine.  I’ve been collecting books for years that talk about living this life style…er, work style.  And it fits me better than any J-O-B ever will.  I’ve shared this with various people in presentations and I recognize the kindred spirits when I see their eyes light up like lightning bugs on a summer night.  So I thought I would share a short bibliography of books to read if this idea interests you.  Enjoy.

Carpe your J-O-B, job, or whatever works for you!

Tom Gorman. (1996) Multipreneuring. (This one may be out of print).

Richard J. Leider & David A. Shapiro. (2002). Repacking Your Bag: Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life.

Barbara Sher. (2006) Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything You Love. 

Barbara J. Winter. (1993). Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love.

Cali Williams Yost. (2004). Work + Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You.

I’d Like to Thank the Academy…

When I do something stupid in my personal or professional life, I usually joke about it by saying, “Well, I guess I’m not going to be Mother/Wife/Professor/Employee of the Year this year.”  Only this year – I am!

I just got back from Orlando, where the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) was kind and generous enough to name me “2013 Educator of the Year.”  Complete with recognition at a big luncheon and a lovely award that I will proudly display in my office at the university (and reference on my faculty annual report, of course).

Difficult to see, but I am holding my lovely glass trophy-like award

Difficult to see, but I am holding my lovely glass trophy-like award

There’s something both humbling and gratifying about being recognized by my peers for something I love to do.  PCMA’s definition of “Educator” extends beyond those who “formally” teach in a university setting and includes those who provide education to industry professionals.  As time permits, I do both (I am considering cloning myself so I can do all the things I want to do all the time).  So I am doubly-grateful for this award for the recognition of the work I do with the next generation of meeting professionals and with novice to seasoned meeting professionals.

What is even more gratifying is that this is the second award that PCMA has given me.  In 2009, the PCMA Education Foundation named me the Educator Honoree at the Dinner for Professional Achievement, a big, swanky black-tie affair (intended to raise money for the Foundation but otherwise much like the Academy Awards for meeting professionals).

A "red carpet" shot of my husband and I at the PCMA Education Foundation Dinner in 2009

A “red carpet” shot of my husband and I at the PCMA Education Foundation Dinner in 2009

I didn’t get to give a speech at the award ceremony this week, but if I had, I’d say something like this…

I’d like to thank the Academy (PCMA committee), my sweet husband for putting up with my special brand of crazy, my 3 year old son for accepting Mommy’s “trips” out of town as commonplace, my students for letting me share in the classroom what I think is important for them to know, and the meetings industry as a whole for letting me be a part of it.

Carpe education!

They’re Back! They’re Back! Students, That is.

Squeeeee!  They’re back.  The students are back.  Walking through the rain (without umbrellas) in their winter uniforms: exercise pants and a ginormous sorority/fraternity sweatshirt for the girls, jeans and a hooded sweatshirt of any ilk for the boys. (As I don my grown-up clothes for the first time in weeks, I’m jealous of their comfort).

This morning I’ve already gotten one excuse for missing class today, one request for directions to a classroom (not mine), heard of one student who registered for a course this semester that he’s already taken, and seen at least a dozen Starbucks cups.  And that was just driving in and putting my stuff down in my office.

Of course, I also had a nightmare about the first day of class last night.  Remember in college how you’d have that anxiety dream that you’d signed up for a class but forgot to attend until well over halfway through the semester?  (Oh, maybe that was just me).  For me, it was always a history class.  I’m terrible at (and decidedly disinterested in) history.  Unless it’s fictional history and involves murder and mayhem like my favorite book of all time, Devil in the White City.  But I digress.

Erik Larson's awesome book about the Chicago's World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Erik Larson’s awesome book about the Chicago’s World Fair as a mask for a murdering psycho.

Anyway, as a professor, that nightmare is usually that I was supposed to be teaching a class and forgot until mid-semester.  (I’ve come a long way, huh?).  But last night I had a nightmare about the first day of my meeting planning class.  The scary part is, it was probably a pretty accurate portrayal of what’s likely to happen.  So apparently I’m just scared of the way I’ve changed the course this semester.  They’re planning a real conference.  For a real non-profit group on campus.  And that terrifies me.  But that’s a post for another day.

It’s SO boring around here without them.  Students, I mean, not murdering psychos.  I’m glad they’re back.  All is right with the world again (nightmares notwithstanding).

Carpe the first day of school!

New Years Resolutions of a Teacher…and More

It’s almost New Year’s Eve here and so of course I’m thinking about my new year’s resolutions.  And all the resolutions that came before and were not achieved (or were – but mostly not).  Which makes me realize that I need to frame my New Year’s Resolutions a bit better.

So this year, I am not going to make my new year’s resolutions…

  • To lose weight (although I need to)

    G and TW

    My cousin G was kind enough to say that I was “the thinnest she’d ever seen me” on this visit. I’ve gained it back. Viva la chocolat!

  • To exercise regularly (although I need to do this too)
  • To be less stressed (although I desperately need to be)
  • To travel more (although sometimes I want to)

And so on…

Instead this year, my New Year’s Resolution will simply be this: to be a better me.

  • To be a better professor to my students. For any students reading this: that doesn’t necessarily mean easier or higher grader.  But it does mean trying really hard to come up with new and improved ways of conveying information with the end goal of helping you gain knowledge and experience that will help you in the “real world.”
  • To be a better wife. My husband is a saint and does far more than his share of everything…well, everything except shopping for our son’s clothes.  He hates that.
  • To be a better mother.  Everyone has gifts.  Patience is not one of mine.  Having a child has not improved that.  Fortunately, one of my gifts seems to be acting completely silly, so that helps.

    The greatest motivator of all for improvement.

    The greatest motivator of all for improvement.

  • To be a better friend.  I am not a great friend.  I prioritize a number of things (including all of the above, as you see) above being a friend.  I want to be a better friend, whatever that means.  I hope it means happy hour once a week with my friends, but we’ll see.

    Friends at PCMA Dinner

    Dear friends at a fancy pants dinner in 2012

  • To be a better professional.  I love the field that I’m in and I enjoying speaking, presenting, and training.  But after a while, it becomes easy to “phone it in.”  And that happens when I start getting bored.  So this year I’m going to figure out how I can provide something the industry needs and be true to my own interests, too.  No compromises.

Stay tuned for improvements to be made.

Carpe the new year.

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