Things I’ve Picked Up from Hanging Out with / Being Facebook Friends with College Professors

I have a lot of teacher friends.  Not colleagues or coworkers – friends.  I hang out with them on weekends and watch Packers games with them.  Some are related to me, some by blood and others by marriage, so we share in family gatherings.  And, yeah, we’re Facebook friends.  Like anyone, they post about the joys and frustrations of their jobs occasionally (within reason – no name dropping or boss bashing).  And some of these friends teach at the college level.

This post is directed at my younger readers – the teens who are not yet in college and the young adults making their way through higher education now.  Kids, when I say I know what you need to do to get ready for college, it’s not just because I’ve been there before.  I may also be friends with your future professors.  They tell me things – things that probably should be common sense, but apparently isn’t since they’re dealing with this stuff on a daily basis.  So consider me your inside source on college professors and take this well-meaning advice, both for your sake and theirs. Keep reading!

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It’s Not Just Me

I had a chance to catch up with a high school friend yesterday. What started as a few random texts and an accidental butt-dial turned into an hour-long conversation catching up on major life events and commiserating about the challenges of adult life. At one point she commented on how nice it was that, even though we haven’t talked in years, we could still be on the same page and vent about similar topics.  The mark of a true friendship, right?

(For instance, here’s one complaint we had in common: Unless she brings up the topic first, please don’t ever ask a married-but-childless woman if/when she’s planning on having kids. While the question seems innocent enough, the answer is often far too private and intimate for casual conversation.  It opens the door to personal, financial, and medical issues – all of which are emotionally charged topics.  After fielding that question for seven years myself, I more than understand my friend’s frustrations.  Dear world, unless we broach the topic first, please stop putting us through those awkward conversations!  OK, sidebar rant complete.)

After we finished comparing stories of uncomfortable conversations about family plans, the topic shifted to the working world. Keep reading!

Failure and Flexibility in Intentional Young Adulthood

A friend recently sent me a book recommendation with the comment that she thought of me when she read it because she knew I had “a passion for intentional adulthood.”  I don’t think I’ve ever used that exact term before, but it is a good description.  Growing up doesn’t just happen.  Careers, education, and success don’t accidentally appear in someone’s life – at some point people need to act, choose, and pursue the kind of lives they want.  Those words all imply intentionality.  Yes, opportunities come unexpectedly, and new interests surprise us sometimes, but only if we’re out living life instead of sitting back waiting for it to happen.

Passive education doesn’t even look realistic. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

For students, this means engaging in active learning and taking personal responsibility in their education and maturation.  For adults, this means pursuing a goal with purpose.  We can and should be intentional in our careers, communities, and families.  Make the decision to achieve something, and then take the steps necessary to make it happen.

However, the problem with intentional living is that we can’t do it in a vacuum.  We live among other people, and what they do impacts our lives, too.  What happens when life isn’t all smooth sailing?   Keep reading!

Young American Restorations

American Restoration

American Restoration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My husband and I recently began watching our way through the first two seasons of American Restoration through our Amazon Prime account.  For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows the work of Rick Dale of Rick’s Restorations.  He and his employees take old pieces of Americana that are rusted and falling apart, and they restore these artifacts to like-new condition.  My husband likes the work and the craft of the show, seeing the process of restoring old, rusted, broken items into gorgeous pieces that look brand new.  The attention to detail, the mastery, and skill in their work is pretty impressive.  However, I find myself just as engaged with watching the relationship between the father and the son on the show.

Keep reading to see what makes these guys so special

Someone Other Than Miley

Alright, I’ll take the bait.  I wasn’t going to write about Miley’s and Robin’s infamous VMA performance, because quite frankly, I didn’t want to give it an ounce more recognition than it deserves.  I realize I live in a world where I can’t walk through a grocery checkout line without learning something new about one of the Kardashians or the latest member of The Bachelor cast.  What I haven’t figured out is why I should care about that stuff.  But this particular event has crossed the bounds of gossip magazines into even my pop-culturally-ignorant consciousness.  And so, since this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge is about this topic, and since I’ve built my platform on the potential for greatness in young people, here I am, adding my two cents to a topic that I’d rather let slip quietly into oblivion.

Miley Cyrus left a mark on the world with her performance that day.  She made people notice her and talk about her.  It may not be positive attention, but no one can deny that the eyes of the world are fixed on her for the moment.  In America’s outrage, they’ve plastered Miley’s twerking body all over the news and in front of my eyes.  I didn’t watch the VMAs, and yet I’m still inundated with her tongue-wagging image.  But to those outraged at her performance, I have a request.

Keep reading, and I promise to only say Miley one more time!

The Facebook Generation

I’m 28 years old, and Facebook belongs to my generation.

I joined Facebook as a college student, when it truly was ours and only ours.  All the youth growing up now constantly connected to the internet are following in our footsteps.  In high school, we chatted on AOL Instant Messenger late into the night.  In college we experimented with various online connections (Xanga, LiveJournal, NationStates), but when Facebook entered the scene, all those other options fell away.  Oh, they still exist, but none of us use them anymore.  We still use Facebook.

College Roommates Freshmen Year.  One of the first photos I posted to Facebook, when posting photos became possible.

College roommates in our younger years. One of the first photos I posted to Facebook, when posting photos became possible.

I remember hoping and waiting for my college to connect to Facebook.  That was the day when Facebook belonged to the colleges and universities.  That’s why I joined, actually.  As far as social networking went, Facebook offered more security and privacy than other websites like MySpace back then.  We had to sign up with our college-assigned e-mail account, and there was no such thing as a public profile.  Our college network plus our friends from other schools was as “public” as we could get.  I chose a more private option, limiting my profile to only my friends and blocking out the rest of my college network.   Continue reading

The Question Marks of Life

Despite the fact that I normally like to mull over my posts for a few days before I publish them, this post isn’t getting that treatment.  There isn’t time.   In 48 hours I should know where I’m living next year.  In 48 hours, for good or for bad, the anticipation will be over and a giant question mark will be removed from my life.   And it’s the anticipation that I want to write about.  The venturing into the unknown, the bend in the road, the moments right before the moments that direct the course of our lives.

We’ve all felt it.  In high school it was waiting for the drama director to post the cast list for the spring play.  It was the waiting for SAT scores and college acceptance letters.  It was the road trip to a university halfway across the country and the moment right before meeting new roommates.  It was the intense emotions in the weeks leading up to our wedding and marriage.  It was standing in my first classroom, looking over the yet-to-be-filled desks.  It is jumping every time the phone rings during a drawn-out job hunt.

It’s the intense heartbeat and the conscious effort to breathe normally, wondering how your life will change.  It’s watching first a calendar and then a clock, but not being sure if you want time to speed up or slow down.   Continue reading

A Note About Professionalism

12th grade school play.  Ah, the memories...

12th grade school play. Ah, the memories…

When I was in 12th grade, I played a secretary in the high school play.  I thought I had done well picking out my costume.  I was wearing dress pants, a nice sweater, and my boots (the only closed-toe high heals I owned at the time).  My director, a fashionable young teacher, looked me over and approved everything but my hair.  I had pulled it back and secured with a green elastic band.  She told me to switch the elastic to a simple clip.  “The colored hair band is appropriate for you to wear as a teenager,” she said, “but I would never wear that as a professional adult.”

For some reason, that comment struck me pretty darn hard.  It was the first time I remember anyone pointing out the difference between dressing nice and dressing professionally.  It was the first time I realized that different things are appropriate at different times in life.  It was the first time I consciously considered what was meant by “professionalism”.

After that, I started paying more attention on my own to what was considered “professional”, but there were so many other aspects of professionalism that no one ever taught me.   Continue reading

Why I Won’t Give in to Learned Helplessness (and You Shouldn’t, Either)

I don’t know when I first heard the phrase “learned helplessness” to describe our students today.  I think maybe it was when I was teaching in Boston.  It doesn’t really matter, though, because ever since I was introduced to the phrase, I’ve seen examples of it everywhere.  I’ve learned to recognize the looks of the students who aren’t putting forth their own mental effort and are simply waiting for me to do the work for them.  That look frustrates me to no end and I never give in to it.  I refuse to hand out answers, even though that would be faster and easier for both of us.

Quite frankly, learned helplessness in the high school angers me, not because of the perceived laziness of the students, but because of the disservice a culture of learned helplessness does to our teenagers!  If you’ve read my About page, you know I think teenagers are amazing, powerful people; I definitely don’t believe they’re inherently helpless, lazy bums.  But under the name of “help”, sometimes young people are held back when they should be launched onto the world!  Instead of taking advantage of the unique teen years and practicing skills they need to take on the world, they’re learning how easy it is to be helpless!  Other adults will call it laziness or lack of motivation, but all too often, I simply see teenagers choosing to be helpless because they have learned that they can get away with it.  And why wouldn’t they?  Too many times, the adults in their lives enable their helplessness.   Continue reading

Why I Can’t Write a Letter to Me

I’ve always liked the blog posts in which authors write letters to their past selves. I like the glimpses of life experience, the nostalgia, and the lessons learned.  And I really enjoy Brad Paisley’s musical version of the same idea.  In fact, that song has inspired more than one writing prompt given to my students, and every time it comes on the radio it makes me think about my high school experience.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll give you a minute to listen to the song so the rest of my post will make sense (and also because Brad Paisley is just plain awesome).  Enjoy.

Continue reading