Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to get through a class that does not interest you

A student recently asked me for advice on this topic -- how to get through a class that doesn't interest you.

Five suggestions:

1. Figure out what you need to know. If you are taking a class that you aren't interested in, chances are you landed in that class for one of two reasons -- either it's a requirement or you needed an elective and this was the only one that fit your schedule. If the class is a requirement -- seems likely that there is something that you need to know as you move forward. So review the syllabus carefully and try to figure out what is important here and work hard on that material knowing it will matter later. Better yet, try to stay focused through the course and look for the connections -- how does this relate to what I need to know/want to do later both academically and professionally.

2. Connect the material to what you know. This will be more obvious if you are in a pre-professional program. For example if you have to take a leadership or ethics or organizational change class -- you will be able to connect it to your work experience, even if leadership or management isn't your field. If you are taking a humanities requirement or elective, this will be more difficult, but is still doable. Are there themes in the course that might serve as metaphors for challenges that you face in your daily life? Might this course help you understand the world just a little bit better?

3. Explain it to someone else. Talking through the material will push you to engage with it and make more sense of it.

4. Grade challenge. I'm not a big fan of this approach, but it works for some. If none of the above suggestions help you engage, then give yourself a grade goal and work hard to meet it.

5. Post-class or post-assignment rewards. Set small goals and rewards such as upon completion of the week's reading, you take a walk, or after handing in a paper you go to a movie.

I hope these suggestions help. Cheering you on in your work.


Photo by HLS

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

The writing process -- sometimes it is dinner for two, and sometimes it's a wrestling match

My colleague Melanie Booth, host of the higher ed blog Prattlenog, has just published a post about a challenge she is having in her writing process. She is working on a chapter for a book and is having trouble with one particular paragraph. I invite you to read this post and get a glimpse of her process and how she views it.

I love:

* the respect she shows for the process itself

* the drive she has to "get it right" to clear up the one paragraph that she and others say isn't working

*and the humor she employs to persevere and not be defeated by this writing challenge

If you are working on your thesis or dissertation, read this, it will give you a boost:

Cheering you all (and Melanie and Polly) on in your work!


photo by HLS

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Editing/proofreading tip - Begin in the middle

I've been doing a lot of editing recently. One strategy that I have found to be tremendously helpful is this... at least once when you are editing/proofreading, begin reading the paper in the middle. Read to the end and then go back to the beginning and read the first half of the paper. You are likely to catch some things in the second half of the paper that you might miss otherwise.

Happy Reading!

photo by HLS

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time and relationships -- when friends don't understand

A student recently asked for advice regarding how to maintain friendships while in graduate school. Here is a post from last year, that I hope will help:

I visited a grad class recently and asked for blog post ideas. A few students noted that they struggle with friends who are not in grad school and don't understand the associated time demands, thus pressuring them to get-together and so on. This can definitely add another layer of stress to the already challenging journey of graduate school.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Send a note to all of your friends and set a boundary. A very close friend of mine in my PhD program sent an email to all of her friends explaining that for the next few years, she would be making school her priority, asking them to understand that when she turned down their invitations, her decision was about her focus on school and not a comment on their friendship.

2. Plan a get-together after the semester. Again, tell your friends that during the semester, your focus is school, but that you'd love to see them when you are on break. Having a get-together planned shows your friends that you value the connection and allows you to feel better about not seeing them while you are busy with school.

3. Find new friends. I don't mean for that to be as harsh as it sounds. I'm all for doing the work to keep old friends (and I mean this - I'm not encouraging you to ditch your old friends!). I'm really suggesting that you find a new friend or two as well. Developing a strong friendship with at least one person in your grad program will, I believe, make your journey richer and less stressful -- having someone who "gets it" and knows the players and is engaged in the same work will be a tremendous source of support.

4. Believe in yourself. When those around you don't understand, remind yourself why you decided to go back to school. Remind yourself of your goals and dreams and know in your heart that you can do this.

Cheering you on!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stress management - ask for help with one thing

You are now well into the semester and I imagine you are feeling the pressure of competing demands. You are trying to keep up with work, school work, and quite possibly family. If you have a partner and/or kids, have you asked for help? If not, ask for help with one of the things you are currently doing -- laundry, cooking, after-meal clean-up, If you don't think that will work, perhaps a smaller request -- perhaps you can ask for help during particularly stressful times of the semester -- when big papers are due, or big exams are near.

Has anyone had any success with getting family to pitch in?

Cheering you on in your work.

photo by HLS

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stay on track -- even when others don't get you

Hi All,

I know that some of you have doubters in your life -- folks who don't get why you are back in school. Maybe they don't value education or maybe it's about their own insecurities or un-pursued dreams. Regardless, you made this decision with intention -- nobody goes back to school without thoughtful consideration and I'm sure you were no different. So, when those around you express doubt, or question that you are in school, or make little sarcastic comments, hold on to what you know in your core -- you are doing this for good reasons.

In addition, be sure to connect with people who "get it". Whether it's classmates or faculty in your program, or other friends or family, keep in touch and keep talking with people who will support you in this endeavor.

Any thoughts? Who has been supportive for you?

Cheering you on in your work,

Photo by HLS

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