(Image credit: http://advancedrestorativedentistry-tmj.com/)
Happy Administrative Professionals Day to everyone out there that makes the world run smoother. You book our travel, listen to our whines, hand us the tylenol, get us shiny new toys when we break our old ones, organize our schedules, stand in for us when we can’t show up, and support us in every way possible. Thank you. You’re the reason we can do our jobs. You’re the reason that anything actually gets done. We have an advanced society built on the talents of amazing organizers, planners, coaches, therapists, travel agents, all rolled into one thing…administrative professionals.
Throughout my life I’ve encountered so many administrative professionals who held things together and kept the ship on course. I’ve never forgotten everything you’ve done for me, for the office I worked in, and for the institutions we’ve served, so a big thanks and much love to:
Sandy, my mom’s administrative professional who always put me through to her when I was a little kid or annoying teenager trying to get ahold of mom at work.
Jinky, words cannot express how much I miss you. You were an amazing lady. You kept the halls of MHS filled with laughter despite your battle with cancer. We miss you.
Michelle, Nothing. Would. Happen. Without. You. Miss you tons.
Kim, you are amazing and talented and you crack me up. Thanks for always being my go-to for literally everything I needed.
Teresa, thank you for being a bright start to every one of my days in UAA.
And Melody, you’re invaluable and we couldn’t accomplish all that we do without you guiding the way.
So whatever you do, stop and think about who has helped you, find your administrative professional and thank them. They deserve that and so much more.
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At a recent staff meeting, I presented my colleagues with a variety of evaluation terms. I was interested to see their reaction to the terms in order to open up a dialogue about evaluative practices in our office. Evaluation culture is something that fascinates me and I thought that perhaps starting at the most basic level, the words we use when talking about evaluation, could give some insight in to how people view evaluation practices in my particular workplace.
I instructed my non-evaluator work-family to write down whatever came to mind regarding the term on the card I had given them. The evaluation terms I had chosen were:
After a few minutes we went around and discussed their thoughts on the words. Not surprisingly, there were several negative connotations surrounding evaluation terms. But let’s focus on the positive for a minute.
The most “friendly” evaluation term seemed to be “Performance”. Responses to this word included “Evaluation”, “Artistic”, “Scale” and “Skills”. I wouldn’t necessarily classify these terms as positive or negative, however this was one of the only cards without the perception that evaluation was a threat.
Regarding “Monitoring” the words that came up were “Fiscal duties” and “Transactions”. Monitoring appears to bring up more financial and budgetary thoughts within my group.
“Assessment” had a lot of writing and a lot of discussion. A few of the concerns that came up regarding this term were academic freedom and accreditation. Within the realm of higher education, this word tends to have more of a threatening connotation than does “Evaluation”. Other terms associated with this word included “Measurement”, “Process”, “Formative/summative”, and “Accountability”.
The first thing written on the card for “Evaluation” was “Sounds better than assessment” which did make me laugh. Other responses included “Not sure if it is the same as assessment” and “May scare some people”. Although this term was decidedly less threatening within the group discussion, there was still a lot of worry and concern surrounding the word.
Somewhat unsurprisingly the term “Judgement” was almost completely negative in perception. Responses included “Criticism”, “Evaluation”, “Unfair” and “Picking sides”. It is easy to see how this term would be threatening or negative to most people, but seeing the exact parallels drawn is really interesting.
After reading over the responses from my colleagues and listening to their thoughts on their language of evaluation I have begun to rethink how I approach conversations with my group. Understanding what each organizations “evaluation language” is can help an evaluator to gain footing with organization members. Perhaps by slowly introducing evaluation terms in a non-threatening way, we can change the perception of some of these more negative terms.
I may even consider doing this activity with a new group of stakeholders when starting a new project or working with a new organization. I think that it would also provide insight for ECB and evaluative thinking work. If nothing else it may be a good icebreaker for new groups. As a field we have to work to show the positives than can come from evaluation, and in many cases we also must demonstrate how evaluation is not a threat. In order to develop a culture of evaluation and a dialogue around evaluative practices it helps if you start off speaking the same “language”, or at least understanding the meaning behind the words that you share.
Have you discussed appropriate evaluation terms in your workplace or with stakeholders? Do you find “Assessment” or “Evaluation” to be more acceptable in your particular field?
Dissertation defended. Edits done. ETD submitted. Done. (Oh, and I passed, by the way)
For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been working and dissertating from home. My assistantship with my department ended, and although I did secure some part-time employment, it was all computer based so I worked from home. Every day I had to find the motivation to get up and do some actual work, whether that was writing my dissertation or doing work-related items, I had to force myself to get into that mindset.
Working from home…and being motivated every day was hard.
There were days when I wanted to lay in bed all day. There were days when I wanted to binge watch all of Netflix. There were days when I didn’t want to shower or put on real pants. There were days that those things happened. But how does that help me? Aside from the fact that everyone does need some down time…doing those things didn’t move me any closer to my goal of graduating. But I pushed through, and while it wasn’t easy, I did learn a lot, and I did finish. Finally.
So I want share some of my tips on managing the work/life balance when work and life are happening in the same space. Whether you are working on your dissertation or just working from home, the struggle is very real! These tips are what got me through the last 6 months.
Tip 1: Dress the part! You’ve heard this. I know you have. We all know we should do it. Get up and get showered and get dressed like you’re going in to the office. Or at least put on jeans. Or real pants. You can do this. It will cue you to be in “work-mode”. It sets the tone for the day. Sweat pants are for watching TV and being a bum on the couch. Yoga pants are for yoga. Put on your big-girl-work-pants and do work!!
Tip 2: To-Do list your day. Write down what you want to accomplish. Use a planner or a schedule or just a piece of paper, but set some goals for the day. It will help you become focused and it will also feel really awesome when you get to check off an item. Start with little things like “Shower” if you have to. I use the Bullet Journal system (more on this in another post) and instead of putting a check in the box, I fill it in. This way, if I’ve made progress on an item I can halfway fill it in, to show that I worked on the task but didn’t complete it.
Tip 3: Have a designated work space. Again, you’ve heard this. Don’t work where you sleep. Don’t work where you relax. Don’t work where there are distractions! We know this. It’s easier said than done. Fortunately, I do have the space in my home to have a designated “office”. Technically it also serves as a craft room, but I keep the desk fairly clutter free so I have space for my laptop, books, and of course my To-Do list. Wherever your space, make sure you set it up for your work each day. Even if you are using your dining room table, make sure that you’ve got things cleared away, and your workspace defined so you can focus.
Tip 4: Time yourself! No, I don’t mean work as fast as you can. After reading a lot of news articles and blogs on productivity, I decided to try working in increments. The advice is to work for around 48 to 90 minutes, and then take a 12-17 minute break (This depends on which article you read.). Using the timer on your phone or any other timing device can help you break up your day and keep you from getting super-bored. I used the 90/15 minute ratio. It also allowed me to shift from doing my work-work to working on my dissertation. I didn’t feel guilty for watching a 5 minute funny video on youtube…because I’d scheduled that break. Find the ratio that works for you and stick to it!
Tip 5: Leave the house. Seriously. At least a few times a week, leave your house. This could be to go outside and exercise, putting on real clothes and going to the grocery store, or my favorite, going to work in a coffee shop. By nature, we are social creatures. Being home alone, by yourself, all day long, all WEEK long, is not good for the long-term. Even if you don’t talk to anyone, go outside. Switching up your environment will also refresh your brain and generate new ideas, moving you closer to your goals with work or with your degree.
For me, working from home is coming to an end as I am getting ready to start my post-doc. I’m excited to join the real world again on a daily basis, but I’m glad I did have this opportunity to work from home temporarily. I learned a lot about myself and my work habits. A lot of these I will carry over into my new job. Especially the Bullet Journaling and the timed breaks.
Do you work from home? What do you do to stay focused? What roadblocks have you found when trying to stay focused? Share your tips in the comments!
SoMe [That’s Social Media, folks!] Tips and Tricks
This blog is posted in conjunction with our poster at the NACTA conference.
Tanya and I are in the CALS GTS program together and have a mutual love for teaching excellence, (me in Ag Ed, her in Nutrition), social media (need to track us down? Check our Twitter feed, blogs and email, info linked at the bottom), lifting weights, and coffee!
So without further ado, here are some of our favorite Social Media tips!
- Check the #!
- Ok guys. I’m (Courtney) going to own up to this one. I was posting a picture to Instagram of my awesome tomatoes that I grew in my container garden. I was super proud of them and naturally I wanted to add some #’s and share the gardening love! I used #’s like #virginiagardens #gardening #containergarden and…. #growyourown. FYI…one of those is not for vegetables…I’ll just leave it at that. But the point is, check the hashtag. If you’re going to engage with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media that uses a tagging system make sure your tag is representative of what you intend it to be. You will probably be fine with hashtags you generate for your specific course like #ENG2040 for an English class, but still it would be a good idea to check first! It’s possible another tech-savvy educator is already out there and tweeting away!
- Write SoMe objectives using Blooms Taxonomy.
- Want to assess understanding, while also having students work on being concise? Have them summarize a journal article in a 140-character tweet. It’s certainly not an easy task to do!
- Need a refresher or Bloom’s Taxonomy Action verb cheat sheet? Several exist, but to help you get started, here is a link to one: http://www.teachthought.com/learning/249-blooms-taxonomy-verbs-for-critical-thinking/
- For some really amazing tips, check out Techbytes who makes AMAZING graphics like the one seen here
- Don’t assume your students are familiar with the SoMe platform(s) you are asking them to use. Take the time to walk them through setting up an account, learning the lingo, and posting to the platform before the official “grading” period begins.
- Post regularly
- Before taking your social media in to the classroom you need to be able to commit to engaging with social media on a regular basis. Lead by example for your students. If you’re having trouble remembering to post, set a reminder in your calendar or write it in your planner. Set a goal for how often you should post.
- Next, consider how often you expect students to post. Is it twice a semester, twice a unit, or twice a week? Set realistic expectations based on how influential you expect social media to be in your course.
- Post relevant articles or popular press
- If you’re not sure what to post, find an article or news release that relates to your course. Comment on an article you read recently. Find a blogger who discusses your topic and follow them. They certainly won’t mind you promoting their blog to your class!
- Be an example for your students
- In all that you do on social media, remember that you are an example for your students. You are also putting yourself in public, so consider your social media account to be an extension of your professional presence online. Show your students what it looks like to be a professional. You can even incorporate appropriate social media behavior in to class discussion, highlighting appropriate posts and emphasizing how many potential employers WILL look at your online presence and make a judgment accordingly.
- To help keep the posts and conversations professional, while also respecting your students’ privacy, we feel it is best to develop a social media policy up front. Create this document with your students. If your school has a code of conduct, use that as a starting point!
- Finally, we will all make mistakes as we interact on Social Media platforms. Your students may tweet inappropriately. You may publish an inaccurate blog post. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes keep you – and your students – out of the conversation. Acknowledge these errors, lapses in judgement, etc; learn from them; and move on!
- Network with other professionals
- Follow other people in your field! Follow The Chronicle and other academic accounts. Share their posts to your account! You can make some really amazing connections just by spending a few minutes a day on social media
- Tanya here: I have to admit, I was very anti-social media for quite a while. At one point I even deleted my personal FaceBook page because I just didn’t see the relevance. However, after getting annoyed with all of the misinformation on-line related to nutrition and exercise, I decided to start my own blog. From there, I began writing a nutrition column for a popular running blog and was quickly “encouraged” to GET ON TWITTER! So, I did. Reluctantly. However, this has been one of the best decisions I have made for my professional life. I have made connections with other dietitians, graduate students, and even some of the TOP researchers in my field simply by putting myself out there on social media. In 2012, my on-line presence resulted in an invitation to the Gatorade Sports Science (GSSI) Satellite Lab in Bradenton, FL as part of their Sports Fuel Expert Summit. Not a bad way to spend a few days! [Link to that post here: http://dinedashdeadlift.com/2012/07/26/gssi-lab-visit-new-product-alert/]
- Promote your own work
- What else is social media other than self-promotion? Don’t be shy! Promote your blog. Tell people that you’re excited about your conference presentation. Let everyone know your article is going to be published in the Journal of Awesome Educators!
- Maintain an online presence – Control what is out there
- The biggest thing for you as a growing professional and for your students is to control what is out there!
- Your on-line presence is going to build itself anyway. Deliberate and purposeful engagement on SoMe platforms lets YOU drive it. I remember as an undergrad when FaceBook first came out, administrators, faculty, coaches, all told us “Make sure nothing bad comes up when your name is “Googled”. I don’t think that’s enough anymore. Now, I think it is imperative that you be easily located on on-line searches, and are known as having a positive and professional presence!
- I’ll be doing a post soon about Google-ability. Stay tuned for more on this!
- Should social media use be mandatory in your course?
- Great question – and one you can probably answer better than us! Know that the likelihood of having students engage as much as you would like if it is NOT mandatory is slim. You’ll perhaps have some adopters, but don’t expect your students to automatically create a dynamic online community without incentive (e.g.- a grade) from you. That being said, think about the time you can devote to reviewing the SoMe contributions. If it is an integral portion of your class, then go ahead and devote the time to it and make it mandatory. If you’re just dabbling, or it’s ‘just for fun’, then spend less time with it and make it an option. With your purpose in mind, along with the realities of the associated time cost, you can then think about organization, tracking, and assessment
- Organizing, Tracking, and Assessing SoMe in your course
- Organization: Consider how you will organize your requirements for students, how the social media will be organized in the context of your course, and how you will utilize all of the data generated through these communications!
- Tracking: If you’re utilizing a platform with hashtags (Instagram or Twitter) several options exist for tracking that hashtag. (Here’s one example). If you’re having students blog, you may not have time to read all of their blog posts every week. This could be a chance to grade based on the bigger picture. Each week, browse the comments – if you see a student post that they are confused about another student’s post, go in and see what that student wrote about. Offer guidance as needed. If a student was particularly engaged in class, check out their blog post. Chances are they wrote something phenomenal, and you can comment as such – and share as an example with the rest of the class. Using Pinterest? This one may be better assessed at distinct time points throughout the semester.
- Assessment: Just like you have criteria –and perhaps a rubric – for other assignments in your course, create one that is specific to your purpose and platform of choosing so you can more objectively assess student’s use.
Want to get in touch with us? Here’s the info one last time:
- Tanya Halliday
- Courtney Vengrin