(#366) Why Not You?

May 28, 2017

Speaking and writing does not belong to some elite group of individuals.

Have you considered publishing or speaking to broaden the powerful impact and reach you already have on those around you? It could be for a small local audience or something larger. You might do it for money—or for the sheer passion you have for a particular topic.

Later today (May 28, 2017), I will have the opportunity to facilitate a workshop at the annual NISOD Conference in Austin, Texas.  I will pose a simple question, “Why not you?” If you don’t share your talents, who will?

I hope to encourage participants to consider sharing their accumulated wisdom through publishing and/or speaking. I will be talking to college professors, advisers, and administrations. But whether you manage a retail store, teach students, serve customers in a restaurant, nurse patients in a hospital, coach a little league team, manage a household, or lead your community, you have experiences to share.  Speaking and writing does not belong to some elite group of individuals.

Take a moment today, and consider all that you have to offer with respect to your accumulated wisdom.

To be sure, just because you want to write or speak, does not necessarily mean you should write or speak.  And just as assuredly, not everyone has the talent or temperament for speaking and writing.

Before you brush aside the idea, though, consider what you have that others may be interested in learning.  From parenting, to surfing, to gardening, to home renovation, to mentoring young minds, you make a difference in your world. Here are a few questions to help you sort through your thoughts to share your wisdom. I encourage you to work through these with someone who will give you trusted feedback.

  • WHY do I want to publish and/or speak? Is it for ego, profit, passion, or the need to share an important lesson?
  • WHO cares about my work—and why should they? Huge question! If you decide to speak or publish, who will be interested enough to listen?
  • WHERE do I find opportunities? Local community organizations? Regional and national conferences? Letters to the editor? The community newspaper? A national magazine? Self-publishing?
  • HOW do I develop a supportive learning community of associates to help me develop your writing and speaking talents? And, how can I help others to find their voices?

When we start examining these types of professional and personal growth opportunities and questions, we identify and clarify our inner desires, strengths, and challenges. And we increase our chances to connect and form collaborative, supportive networks, and create community.

Rather than saying, “I’m not a writer or speaker” I hope you will consider (and act upon) “Hey, I can write and speak, too…just never thought about it.” Find a mentor to help you begin your journey.

In fact, you may find yourself saying, “Hell, yeah, that is for me!”


Video recommendation for the week.

Your story has power!


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#327) Structures for Organization: Implications for Teaching and Training

August 28, 2016

Just because it was tossed, doesn’t mean it was caught.
Just because it was talked, doesn’t mean it was taught.

How do you define “learning”? And, what causes it? How much of your schooling exposed you to a stream of firehosed arcane knowledge with little connection and relevance? Do you consider that learning?

One measure to consider is whether our thinking or behaviors have changed in a sustainable manner.  “Learning” isolated facts that are promptly lost after the test, is not learning.  That’s memorization.  Or as one teacher so aptly noted, such an exchange is nothing less than “bulimic education”—take it in; then spit it out. A tumble of facts in and a tumble of facts out.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Even engaging in a well-articulated conversation or debate has questionable learning value if there is no change in one’s mental mindset.

Whether we teach a classroom full of eager (and not so-eager students), orient new students to the university, train staff in our organization, or teach a young girl to play guitar, we look for some level of change. Some type of movement.

Calling it “teaching” does not mean the student experienced “learning.” Or as I’ve proffered on occasion, just because it was tossed, doesn’t mean it was caught.  Just because it was talked, doesn’t mean it was taught.

The inimitable Truman Capote reportedly said, “That isn’t writing; that’s typing.”

The spin for  me would be, “That’s not teaching; that’s talking.”

If you leave with the exact same mental model—no adjustments—then can we say anything was “learned”? Nothing has changed and there is no sustainable difference.

Ken Bain’s work What the Best College Teachers Do reminded me of a teaching and learning strategy I used with my history students.  Rather than bombard them with minutiae, I did my best to introduce them to “structures” of United States History.  Rather than memorize an endless array of isolated dates, battles, names, I helped them identify patterns. These patterns formed the structures of the course.  Here are five of the structures I used with my students:

  • Establishment of a national identity
  • Challenge to authority
  • Evolution of mass-based politics
  • Demand for minority rights
  • Evolution of governmental power and reach

Think of these structures as buckets into which information (the facts, events, and issues) of United States History can be placed.  These containers help the students to see patterns and evolution. This does not condone fuzzy teaching.  The students still need specifics to construct the whole from which to make sense of the world.

The flight attendant who just rolled her drink cart down the aisle and stopped at my seat (14C) has a structure. She did not spit back a memorized list of all items and where they were located on her cart to me. To be sure, she is well versed on the cart inventory. But she focuses on the pattern of what to do at each seat and how to fill each drink order. Imagine if she had no idea where anything was located on the cart. And at each seat, she rattled off her memorized list of every item on the cart.  Would you be impressed? Doubt it. You want a drink, not a recitation.

Then why are we so enamored with filling students’ minds (children and adults alike) with long lists of stuff that, by themselves do not help them? Why not help the person form meaningful and useful patterns?

What are the implications of focusing on patterns and structures for your workplace? Do you want your team members to remember isolated facts or would you rather they connect those facts in a meaningful pattern so they can be successful for your organization?

Do you want to teach facts or people?

Or as Ken Bain, so eloquently stated, “You don’t teach a class. You teach a student.”

Amen.

Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcast (about ex-offenders and resilience).  You can find my podcast series at The Growth and Resilience Network (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#321) The Nudge: Everything Sends A Message

July 17, 2016

We take chances, we fail, we learn, we grow,
and we move forward.

 Listening to a TED Radio Hour (June 24, 2016 show) piece reminded me of the power of words and self-talk.  The theme of the show was that to change habits or make changes sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge in the correct direction.  The form of that nudge is critical.  More specifically, how the nudge is presented will have an impact on results.

One of the interview guests, Carol Dweck, noted researcher and Stanford University psychologist, pointed to her research on mindsets.  She emphasized that when we want to encourage (nudge) people to improve and continue to grow we need to pay attention to our words and actions. Sounds simple but the subtleties are immense. Leaders, parents, and teachers would do well to remember that everything we say and do sends a message.

For instance, she cautions that we need to praise the effort not the intellect of a student or employee.  Praising the intellect can (according to her research) cause a person to avoid risks. Why? Because if I fail then what does that say about my intellect that I’ve been praised for? So, I take the less vulnerable route and listen to that little voice on my shoulder that advises me to remain perfect and not bring question to my intellect.  This, Dweck says, is the stuff of “fixed mindsets.”

Image: amenic181 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: amenic181 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

She found that when we praise the process (the strategy, the grit, or the progress) that nurtures growth mindsets. We take chances, we fail, we learn, we grow, and we move forward.

Early this week I was speaking to a community activist who shared her dismay with the obsession in Florida with testing school children.  Everything is about the test and getting the right answers to the test.  Either your right or your wrong—and the consequences can be immense for our children.

Rather than marking something “wrong,” Dweck suggested using the words “Not Yet.”  It does not excuse the error. It actually points out the error—but with hope for a better future the next time the problem or task is attempted. Positive and powerful rather than demoralizing and demeaning.

Think of the impact on leaders and employees when we focus on a “Not Yet” as opposed to a dismissive response to an error. Such a mindful approach helps our capabilities to grow.  This is not fuzzy talk saying we have unlimited capabilities. Rather, this approach helps us to better know our capabilities.

Video recommendation of the week.  In this short clip, Professor and Author, Richard Thaler, connect the notion of the nudge with being a “choice architect.”

Don’t forget the power of words—to others and to yourself.  Everything sends a message. What message do we send ourselves….and what messages do we accept from others? How can you be a choice architect in your life and the lives of others?

Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcast (about ex-offenders and resilience).  You can find my podcast series at The Growth and Resilience Network (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#303) Give Your All Stars the Spotlight

March 13, 2016

Find a way to let your colleagues share what
they are proud of and how they do it.

At times, the execution of appropriate recognition can move from the sublime to the ridiculous.  I remember years ago sitting in a school auditorium during a student awards assembly that dragged on and on and on.  It seemed everyone got an award for something.  I remember a colleague turning to me and wondering when we would start calling people in from the streets for special recognition.

You probably have seen or heard of endless compliments and praise given for even the tiniest deeds (or misdeeds). Everyone is special and everything deserves special recognition.

Social media sites give “badges.”

Ridiculous? Possibly. I don’t think it’s sublime.

On the other extreme we can find the total lack of recognition. There are managers (definitely not leaders) who don’t take the time or don’t see the need to give a shout-out to their people.  Ridiculous—and worse.

Every workplace has All Stars. I don’t mean the egocentric-look-at-me-strut All Stars. I mean those who go about their calling with meaning, authenticity, and caring.  They make a difference in their work space and for the people they work for or with in that space. They lead the way. How do we recognize these folks—and share their strategies and achievements? How do we recognize these folks?

Photo: Steve Piscitelli

Photo: Steve Piscitelli

When I have the chance to work with an audience, I have the fortunate opportunity to stand in front of an auditorium full of people and “show my stuff.” I, also, like to share that opportunity with the audience in front of me. Each time I do it I am amazed (but not surprised) at what happens. Take my recent keynote on reflective practice to the faculty at Wake Technical Community College.

The organizers of the event requested I end my presentation with a fifteen minute Q + A.  I suggested to make it a Q + A + S session. Question + Answer + Sharing. I would gladly entertain any questions the audience had and I would also open the floor to the audience to share how they already incorporate reflective practice strategies in their classes. What occurred was energizing and validating. In the fifteen minutes (that could have easily gone longer), everyone who stood up in the audience shared their bright spots. Proud and full of energy they had the spotlight in front of their colleagues.  Unscripted. Unrehearsed. Unabashed. Proud! They represented the All Stars in that room.

David Castillo Dominici @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

David Castillo Dominici @FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have done this elsewhere as part of training programs. Department Chairs identified their All Stars. I then incorporated them into a small piece of the program. In an upcoming program for a corporate audience I will facilitate a similar exchange.

Leaders can set aside time for their All Stars to deliver an Ignite Session. Five minutes. Quick. Poignant. Team member affirming. Team building. I saw students do this effectively at a faculty convocation in Virginia.

And if you work for a manager rather than a true leader—someone who does not get the importance of this type of genuine and authentic recognition and professional development-then do it yourself. Hold teaching circles, clearness committees, or Ignite Sessions. Tony Hsieh of Zappos speaks of encouraging collisions to foster innovation.

Video recommendation of the week: Tony Hsieh encourages “collisions” to spark innovation.

Find a way to let your colleagues share what they are proud of and how they do it. They want to hear from you as well. Time for you and your colleagues to shine and grow.

Now, that’s sublime.

Make it an inspiring week as you pursue your authentic “hell, yeah!” goals.—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#296) Not Us. Them.

January 24, 2016

“A building is not just about itself, but the place where it resides.”-Craig Dykers

Did you hear the one about the college president’s view of how to handle struggling students? Reportedly his suggestion was to “drown the bunnies.”

No, that’s not the setup for a bad joke.  According to a recent article in Inside Education that is what a college president said (though, the president says he can’t remember his exact language) when discussing ways to increase retention numbers for his institution. One such method put forth: Encourage those who might fail to withdraw early in the semester—and protect retention numbers for the institution.

Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Where does one even start with such a sentiment? Let’s hope in this case the president was incorrectly or inaccurately quoted. If not, is this what happens when the institutional management thinks they have become the institution?

Students bring their academic and non-academic challenges with them when they step on campus.  Any college is more than its bricks and mortar. The college is the community it serves.  Of course, not all students will be successful. Colleges (like community colleges) that have open admission policies agree to take on 100% of their applicants.  Some will not be successful–and many will. And it often takes longer than one or two semesters for students to find their footing and transition into the ethos of higher education.

The campus is not about the president, professors or custodians—it’s about the community. To be sure, all of those people (and more) make up the community.  We need transformational leaders and effective faculty.  But we need to examine the mission.  Has it come to be directed by and for retention numbers on an Excel spreadsheet rather than the human lives that cross the threshold each day?

I know first-hand that colleges across our great nation have a plethora of resources available for student success. Colleges like San Jacinto College have an interest in the student as a total person.  Florida State College at Jacksonville has a program  to steer students toward important resources during the critical first semester. Northern Virginia Community College “is committed to helping students reach their goals with a network of support services.”  And the list goes on and on around the nation.  These higher education institutions definitely see more than “bunnies” to be quickly dispatched.

A concomitant question: What admission criteria do colleges and universities use?

As presented on CBS News last week, according to a recent report titled “Turning the Tide,” colleges and universities are starting to review their admission criteria.  Traditional benchmarks (ACT/SAT, for instance) are being questioned for their efficacy. This conversation eventually connects to retention of students from one semester to the next.

cbs

Perhaps the unfortunate wording and/or sentiment of one college president may help to further the meaningful conversation about who the college admits, under what circumstances and with what promises for assistance and chances for success. Access without opportunity is hollow. What markers spot potential and which ones don’t?

I read the quote that opens this post in the February issue of Fast Company. The issue is the magazine’s 2016 leadership issue.  I believe it applies to our college campuses across the nation where our students depend on effective and meaningful leadership and teaching.

It’s not about us. It’s about them.

Make it a wonderfully successful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#294) Benefits Of Remaining A Continual Learner

January 10, 2016

It can help us fill in gaps between assumptions and realities.

A few months ago on this blog I posed the question, “Do we take time to experience what our customer, client, or student is experiencing?” Regardless of your profession or calling, do you remain a constant learner from the perspective of the people you are serving?

We have all heard (what can become) the cliché about the importance of “life-long learning.” At one level, that can mean staying current with reading, new trends, and updated content in your calling. Important for sure.

I’d like to dig down a little deeper on this; go beyond “staying current” by reading an article or two. Let’s move to learning from the perspective of the people you are serving.

Stephen Brookfield puts forth a simple reminder in his book Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.

brookfield

Teachers need to remember what it is like to be a learner in a “foreign” (read: unknown; difficult; demanding; uninteresting to them) field.  One way for those of us in “front of the class” to stay in touch with our inner learner is to take a course in a “foreign” field. Perhaps a history instructor enrolls in a chemistry class or the English teacher signs up for Algebra.  I did this sort of learning when I participated in an 8-week improv workshop this past summer. I’m doing it now as I participate in an online writing Master Class by James Patterson.  Experiences such as these can bring us face-to-face with feelings of anxiety, boredom, irrelevance, and vulnerability—just like a student has to do when sitting in a required core class.   It can help us fill in gaps between assumptions and realities.

Ph.D. candidates may face the same feelings as they complete the required coursework for the degree. I know I did when I had to take M.Ed. and M.A. classes that I had absolutely zero interest in taking. I had to find ways to soldier through—and that kept me in touch with my students.

Video recommendation for the week:

Brookfield aptly points out that when teachers, in particular, take on the role of a student in an area/class in which they have no or limited skill/knowledge they will have a better chance of understanding the trepidation that their students have in front of them.

Maybe the college administrator teaches a full semester course (not just one or two sessions) to acquaint (or re-acquaint) herself with what it’s like to be the classroom teacher who has to, each semester, “learn” the dynamics of a particular class/group of students. This includes facing these students each class day of the semester and dealing with the human drama that comes in the door.  That is a lot different from reading the latest research about a pedagogical breakthrough.  And the experience can remind the administrator of the joys and frustrations of teaching.  A similar argument can be made for a teacher participating in an administrative training class.

I had a colleague who taught French. During the summer, he would immerse himself in learning a new language. I seem to remember Chinese was one summer’s undertaking. This could help the teacher see the perspective of an online student.

Another example. I have been regularly working with a trainer in the gym over the last eight months.  Each session, I’m a learner as I pay attention to form, reps, weight and sets. And each session I come up short on some routines; and I excel on others. I am reminded about the need to be fully present in the class (my training) and do my “homework” in between sessions.

Besides staying in touch with the student’s, client’s or customer’s perspective, I think this type of intentionality helps to build resilience. Placing oneself in a difficult or vulnerable to failure position (not unsafe or unhealthy), requires and develops a certain amount of flexibility.

Where can you become a neophyte over the coming months? How can you better understand the perspective of those you serve?

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#285) Are You Relevant?

November 8, 2015

“The trap we fall into is trying to tell people
how life-changing our widget is.
If it changes their lives, we won’t have to tell them.”
–Bernadette Jiwa

Prior to working with any audience, I invest a number of hours in emails and phone conferences with the contracting institution or organization.  I ask a lot of questions about their expectations and needs. Having sat through my fair share of irrelevant speakers and inconsequential programs, I make it my responsibility to understand what my audience needs. Yes, I have certain programs, messages and themes that I am known for and that I “market,” but in order to be relevant to my audiences I have to be meaningful to the audience in front of me.  My appearance on stage has to be about the audience not about me. That means tailoring the message to their situation as best I can.

In her book  Meaningful: A Story of Ideas that Fly, Bernadette Jiwa drives home one main point.Start the innovation journey with the customer’s story and allow our customers to become not just our target, but our muse.”

Tydings Auditorium Hobbs, New Mexico

Whomever sits in our “audiences,” we would do well to consider Jiwa’s advice. What is the purpose of our talk (or service or product)? Is it to be relevant to us or the people we serve? If it is not relevant to them, are we truly serving them?

What comes first, the marketing or the audience needs?  Is your programming or product developed and then marketed to people? Or do you get the pulse of your audience and then develop what they need?

Video recommendation of the week:

Again from Jiwa: “What companies and entrepreneurs sometimes forget is that the purpose of innovation is not simply to make new, improved products and services; it is to make things that are meaningful to the people who use them.” It taps into a feeling.

The first day of the semester (in my student success classes) I started with my students’ dreams and went from there.  Yes, there was a course outline and the textbook—but the approach to the material had to resonate with and connect to the people in front of me.  I had to make an attempt to understand their story rather than force feed my story. I attempted to tap into their feelings and emotions. To them college was not simply about a degree. It was about a better life for them and their families.

My history students received my promise that each day they would be able to apply the assigned readings and class discussions to their lives beyond campus. If they could not, then why waste their time? To be certain, the students had responsibilities in this dance; they needed to pay attention to guidance provided.  However, as Jiwa pointedly proves with various case studies, “The best way to get attention is to give it unconditionally first.”

Relevance. Meaning. Connection.

Do we take time to experience what our customer, client, or student is experiencing?  Stephen Brookfield puts forth a simple reminder in his book Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.  Teachers need to remember what it is like to be a learner in a “foreign” (read: unknown; difficult; demanding; uninteresting to them) field. One way for those of us in “front of the class” to stay in touch with our inner learner is to take a course in a “foreign” field. Perhaps a history instructor enrolls in a chemistry class or the English teacher signs up for Algebra.  I did this sort of learning when I learned to play guitar, wrote and recorded songs, began blogging, participated in an 8-week improv workshop, and, most recently, started a podcast channel.

Each experience helped me understand not only how I learned (and how that has been tweaked over the years) but also what I expected of my “teachers” and myself in each new and challenging situation. This exercise puts us in the seat as the student, client or consumer.

Jiwa’s book reminded and reinforced for me that success is not what we make but, rather, the difference we make with our product or our service in people’s lives.  She challenges us to consider the following:

Before you/your product/your service came on the scene,
what did people do?
After you/your product/your service came on the scene,
what did people do?

“The trap we fall into is trying to tell people how life-changing our widget is. If it changes their lives, we won’t have to tell them,” Jiwa says.

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


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