Get Ur Grammar On Peeps!

Check out Grammarly. As a creative writing student, adverbs were the revered as the most naughtiest of no-nos. So that’s why I find it funny that a grammar-checking app is adverbarial in nature. The name aside, this tool is way too cool for school.

I think it functions as one of those “Web 2.0” tool thingies. It is a two-way communication between what you’re writing and/or uploading and the app. Grammarly checks your grammar while you write. So for a writerly type like me (har, har), it’s super-funtastic to use.

Check course outlines before handing them out to those keener English students or make sure students’ grammar is Grammarly next time you have to read a twenty-page paper. 😉


Be A Zero

Have you ever been to space?
I have.
Okay, that’s a lie.

Even though I haven’t been to space, I have learned a lot from astronauts. Well okay, that’s a lie. I learned one very important thing from one super-cool Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield.

In his book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Hadfield said that whe4YahBXk68P-2never you’re starting a new job, “be a zero.” I’m paraphrasing here, but his advice is to try not to contribute much until you have your head around what the team is trying to accomplish. There is a lot of wisdom here. I am currently imbibing this wisdom with every pore while I navigate space (a.k.a. my new job).

Picture this:
You’re in a new environment. Maybe they gave you a fancy office. You’re used to being busy. You know the answer when you’re asked a question. You’re confident when you make decisions and take on projects. You get tons of positive feedback. Over the years your head has grown as big as an astronaut bubble head. You go into a new gig thinking you’re some kind of visionary spacewalker, but guess what? You’re SOOOOO not. Take a breather. It’s going to take a year before you can even think about super-spacewalker status again.

My advice? Listen to your new team. Don’t try to contribute too much at meetings. LISTEN! Did I say that again? It’s because you weren’t listening. This in itself is one of the most difficult yet most useful strategies. Ask a zillion questions. Get your head around the shared vision and get a sense of what the team is trying to accomplish. Then and only then, humbly make your contributions from a place of understanding. 😉

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Transitions Can Be Fun

Transitions are fun when you think about them from the safety of your current safe-zone siac50d856cbb58aebd1b1cd4c071bf5f7.jpgtuation. You know, like when you think about all the things you don’t like about your current situation and think, wow. Good thing I can transition the heck outta here. When you don’t actually face the icky things and just think about escape pods all day, you can neglect to consider the things you do like. And when I say consider, I mean enjoy. You can neglect to enjoy the good things that happen. Yep. I guarantee you there are definitely some good things too. Look. There. It’s the coworker that know’s your Starbucks order. Or I dunno, the fact that you always get Sundays off. Your good thing is there. I promise.

And…when all you think about is escape pods and mysterious sink holes that lead to Palm Springs or whatever, you’re not actually enjoying this sometimes arduous, often more arduous in your head, fantastic journey you’re on called life. 😉


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Transitions Are Hard Part 2

Yup. So, I said in an earlier post. I’m going to name this the, Transitions Are Hard series.

One of the main focuses of my new job is to help students from Aboriginal Communities transition to post-secondary. So, I’m grateful for this reminder about how difficult transitions are.

Disclaimer: I have it easy as far as new jobs go. I’m working with a team I’ve known for a long time, we’re doing things that are just a side step away from what I was doing before…so why does it still feel so weird?Change_860x440

I’m letting go of the old. New space, new projects (alone), new schedule, new opportunities. While all that is good, I’m mourning the loss of the old stuff too. It’s like I’m in a white room. There are decorations all around me and I can put them up wherever I want to make the place feel homey. I might try a few things and then re-arrange what I’ve done.

Yup. It’s weird. And that’s okay. And everything’s going to feel weird for a while. And guess what? That’s okay too. 😉

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Check Yourself

So…do you do it? Do you do it in the privacy of your own home or in public? Do you do it while eating ice cream or while you’re trying on that new dress at the mall? How do you do it if you don’t know you should do it?

I’m talking about your assumptions, of course.

We all have assumptions about things that we feel absolutely sure we know. How do we know to ask questions of ourselves if our assumptions are never challenged? One way to check yourself is to surround yourself with people who challenge you. People who aren’t afraid to ask hard questions and make you unpack your claims to the very bottom of the suit case.

If you’re like me and have people like this in your life, you probably don’t like them much. Even though you don’t like them, you probably value them more ice cream. You probably even value them more than the new dress you just bought at the mall.

Sorry…thinking about food and shopping again. Dang distractions.

So…these people who challenge you…I bet they constantly want you to go into detail about claims that you make. Oftentimes they task you with doing things you say you can do or will do or should do. These pesky folks are worth their weight in gold though it may seem like they are the ankle weights you put on when you do your Jane Fonda workout tapes.

The value of “friends” like these is that they make you a better person. Even when you think you’re already pretty great, a sideways glance tells you there’s still a long way to go. Roll on, Jane Fonda, roll on.


So, I want to continue the cognitive dissonance discussion. When was the last time you walked down the street and spied someone in the throes of cognitive dissonance? Maybe they were doing a chicken dance to the sound of traffic or their mouth was twitching uncontrollably. Is that how you would know they were struggling with two opposing ideas in their head at exactly the same time?

“I don’t know.” You say. “I can’t see inside their thoughts, so I don’t know what they’re wrestling with.” You say.

Exactly. I think the only way we can determine whether someone is suffering from a bad case of cognitive dissonance is to communicate with them. Using our eyes and mouths and voices. Remember those? I suppose you can discuss issues via forums or text. Call me old-fashioned, but technically mediated discussion is not the same as a face-to-face debate. What about the fun stuff like body language and different tones of voice? Don’t those matter anymore?

My apologies. I digress. I suppose all I was trying to get at is that we can discover and work through cognitive dissonance when we talk about big ideas and issues with someone IRL. Tea-time chats about politics can usually tease out a little dissonance. Try it…let me know how you do with that old-fashioned “real time” chatter. I’ll be curious to know how you make out.

Do You Think What you Think You Think?

Do You Think What you Think you Think is the title of one of my fave books. It’s a lovely collection of philosophy puzzles that provoke higher-order thinking and discussion. They also provoke a little something called cognitive dissonance.

“What is that?” You say.

For those of you that are like, “puhshaw, I know what cognitive dissonance is dum dum,” you have my permission to read ahead. As for the rest of you…

Cognitive dissonance occurs when we try to hold two conflicting beliefs at the same time. It often leads to an unsettled feeling…or in some cases extreme anxiety. What ultimately ends up happening is that the dissonance has to be resolved. We either have to change our mind or stay in the limbo-land of “maybe this, maybe that…” forEVER. Sounds fun, right? Not to mention the party pooper paradise you’d create if you only surrounded yourself with people who thoughtlessly bought into your flawed theories even though you know they’re flawed. Sounds like a GREAT time to me!

So, get your ducks in a row. Be consistent and logical about your beliefs. Yep. It’s going to hurt, but guess what? Pain is just weakness leaving the body.


Notes Are Fun

Not only is note-taking a super fun way to learn how to learn…writing stuff down can improve your life in other ways too. Writing can help you process the big stuff rambling around in your brain. There’s nothing more satisfying than reading through an academic article with your trusty notepad at your side. Try it and see that you actually do understand the concepts!

Writing can be an outlet to express yourself too. You might think you’re not artsy…well give your pencil a whirl around the notepad and find out if that’s true. I may be a nerd, but I love the feel of pen to paper. Don’t you? There’s nothing more satisfying than taking an inky stroll over some high-quality art paper with an expensive pen. One of my students uses artist-quality tools to sketch out notes so that she has a visual representation of the concepts discussed in class. During her study time she re-energizes her doodles and adds flourishes that help her uncover layers of meaning, which she brings back for class discussion.

This medium has so many possibilities. Let your creative brain out of the cage and see where note-taking can take your class.



Do you hate tests? I sure don’t. I LOVE them. I love job interviews too.

I’m seriously serious. I think of job interviews and tests the same way you probably think of the Olympics or an NHL game. They are an opportunity to train your heart out and see just how much you can amp up your game. Not only that! How hard is it to come by honest and down right AWESOME feedback? Pretty hard, I say.

I realize not everyone loves the sweat-infused anxiety that tests and job interviews bring on, so I want to share something really interesting I learned about formative testing. Basically, it’s a way for students to check in with themselves and have those honest conversations with their teacher about how they’re doing. Get this: in a low-stress and positive way. Tests + positivity? Who knew it could be that easy?


Learning to Learn: Yes it’s a Thing

From what I gather, learning to learn is very much related to metacognition. Basically it’s about examining your own thinking and thinking practices and using what’s uncovered during those reflections to your advantage in learning situation. It’s also about knowing what kinds of study techniques and tricks will work for you. My impression is that this kind of self-knowledge is a process and will come with a few trial and error sessions and a lot of reflection. Having said that, I know that I’ve applied some of these techniques to understand my own learning and it has saved me a ton of time.

I was blown away by the concept of learning how to learn because no one ever actually taught me how to learn or how to examine my own learning style so that I could learn best. I wasn’t even aware of the concept during my undergraduate degree and this knowledge would have come in so handy! I finally stumbled upon learning to learn tips and other study skills info when my department at work helped create this learning commons site. Once I started applying some of the principles I found in this video, I was stunned at how fast concepts stuck in my mind and how I was able to transfer them across many areas of my life. Amazing stuff!

I invite you to take this learning styles test to see what you can learn about your own learning. Please share a short synopsis of your results!