Tag Archive: education

Decision for Excellence



The vision statement for our School of Education, Health, and Human Services at SUNY Plattsburgh contains a goal of our graduates modeling excellence in their careers. The path to excellence is not about perfection, but about continuous improvement and striving for excellence; walking this path is a decision that conveys a chosen attitude.  Achieving excellence happens during class time, during advisement and mentoring sessions, and during opportunities for leadership training. The path to excellence has many obstacles, including mediocrity, fear/anxiety, and lack of self-discipline. Here are a few topics and quotes you can share with students to help them manage these obstacles.


  • Help students define clearer short-term and long-term goals.
  • Make sure there are no mental health issues impeding motivation; ask about depression and anxiety and seek appropriate supports is necessary.
  • Ask, “In what ways are you currently accepting mediocrity in your studies?” “What is one thing you could do to overcome this?” Adapted from Randy Gage
  • Share with advisees that each semester they learn new skills to be successful, greater potential is possible for the next semester. The skills build on each other and evolve to make greater success in each new semester a possibility. Ask, “What are you doing now to develop these skills?”

Fear and Anxiety

  • The greater the distance between the “real self” and the “ideal self,” the greater the anxiety. Help students focus on acceptance of the current “self” with well-defined steps for meeting short-term goals.
  • Help students reframe some degree of fear or anxiety as a normal feeling if they are growing; we don’t grow when we are comfortable.  Discuss the difference between non-productive anxiety and productive anxiety.
  • Talk about expanding comfort zones, as described by Susan Jeffers, by “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” Courage is the key, a great topic for discussion.
  • “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” Eleanor Roosevelt


  • “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” Jim Rohn
  • “The most valuable form of discipline is the one that you impose upon yourself. Don’t wait for things to deteriorate so drastically that someone else [or a policy] must impose discipline in your life.” Jim Rohn
  • “Self-discipline is the ability to do what you think you should be doing rather than doing something based on how you feel.” Brendan Baker
  • In our society, things happen at increasingly faster speeds with greater connectivity. A conversation about delayed gratification is important (e.g., shutting off your phone and focusing for 30 minutes, not allowing yourself to check social media or email for 30-45 minute periods when studying, etc).

There are additional obstacles students face when they have made a decision for excellence such as roommate issues, financial concerns, and family problems; however, addressing mediocrity, fear/anxiety, and self-discipline during advisement and office hours provides a clearer path to success. Help students make a decision for excellence and let them know some lessons that have been on your path. As Sheldon Kopp once remarked, we are not gurus, we all are pilgrims on this path together.


EHHS Shared Values Highlighted

  • Excellence in Teaching
    • Helping Students Achieve Goals
    • Lifelong Learning/Growth

Image (n.d.) Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: http://refe99.com/quotes/excellence/

Gage, R. (n.d.). Fighting mediocrity. Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from:  http://www.randygage.com/fighting-mediocrity/

Jeffers, S. (2007). Feel the fear and do it anyway: Dynamic techniques for turning fear, indecision and anger into power, action and love. Santa Monica, CA: Jeffers Press.

Kopp, S. (1980). If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him: The pilgrimage of psychotherapy patients. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

Rohn, J. (n.d.). The Key to Getting All You Want? Discipline. Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: http://www.success.com/article/rohn-the-key-to-getting-all-you-want-discipline

Second Image (n.d.). Retrieved on March 18, 2017 from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/ralphmarst104215.html

EHHS Mission, Shared Values, and Vision


Mission describes our purpose and our why;
Shared Values describe how we fulfill our mission and “provide guidelines for our choices and actions” as we fulfill our purpose; and
Vision inspires and “continues to provide guidance as goals are achieved.”
                                                                   (Blanchard & Stoner, 2011)

School of Education, Health, and Human Services (EHHS) at SUNY Plattsburgh

EHHS Mission

The School of Education, Health, and Human Services cultivates inclusive, dynamic learning environments that prepare students for professional careers to serve the diverse needs of others.


EHHS Shared Values

  1. Excellence in Teaching

Helping Students Achieve Goals

Lifelong Learning/Growth

  1. Professionalism





  1. Inclusion /Culturally Responsive

Respect and Empathy

Social Justice



EHHS Vision

Our vision is to graduate ethical and culturally competent professionals who thrive in their careers and model excellence by championing the education, health and personal growth of our global citizens.


EHHS Shared Values Defined

The descriptors detail how the shared values are engaged with students and with colleagues in EHHS.

1. Excellence in Teaching

  • Engage students
  • Recognize and respond to students’ needs
  • Timely feedback
  • Clear expectations
  • Model passion and professionalism
  • Effective assessment tools

          Helping Students Achieve Goals

  • Reach out to struggling students
  • Challenge students to create connections, follow passions, and think critically
  • Empower students to realize goals
  • Provide real-life professional experiences

          Lifelong Learning/Growth

  • Provide students exposure to professional experts within the community
  • Participate in professional development (inclusive of student participation)
  • Create an environment in which active engagement and learning are valued, respected, and expected.
  • Inspire critical thinking that challenges the way things have always been done
  • Require applied assessment of student learning


2.  Professionalism

  • Demonstrate ethical decision making/behavior across all settings
  • Earn respect of students, colleagues, and area professionals
  • Positive attitude
  • Dependability
  • Be present
  • Appropriate boundaries
  • Make time to share and collaborate
  • Exhibit a strong work ethic


  • Follow through with our campus commitments: students, colleagues, college
  • Transparency
  • Openness about our limitations


  • Draw on diverse perspectives
  • Divergent thinking
  • Creativity
  • Team-teaching


  • Service/applied learning
  • Model for students
  • Help and support for local agencies
  • Contact with the public – education and resources


  • Announce achievements
  • Celebrate success
  • Make time to celebrate success in the School of EHHS


3.  Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Culturally responsive teaching for our students
  • Self-reflection
  • Demonstrated awareness, knowledge, and skills
  • Caring attitude
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes
  • Courage to discuss sensitive issues and “sit with discomfort”

         Respect and Empathy

  • Demonstrate compassion to evoke potential in students and colleagues
  • Embrace diversity of opinions and perspectives
  • Listen to each other
  • Seek to understand before being understood
  • Trust
  • Communicate with the person, not about the person, when there is conflict
  • Enter into differences of opinion and conflict with respect
  • Open-mindedness
  • Share our challenges as well as our successes

         Social Justice

  • Recognize social justice issues
  • Advocate to enhance social change
  • Enhance community responsibility/social responsibility


  • Embrace multicultural perspectives
  • Evolve
  • Be non-dogmatic
  • Take a creative perspective
  • Out-of-the-box problem solving



Image (August 23,2016). Retrieved on February 25, 2017 from: http://almaaspioneer.com/category/about-us/

Blanchard, K., & Stoner, J.L. (2011). Full steam ahead: Unleash the power of vision in your work and your life (2nd ed). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Excellence in Teaching


Excellence in teaching requires us to ENGAGE students in the learning process.  It also requires a lifelong pursuit of knowledge, a pursuit that deepens the knowledge we can share, as well as deepening our knowledge about approaches for helping students learn.

There was a time when PowerPoints were engaging because they were “bright and shiny” compared to overheads; however, the phrase “death by PowerPoint” is common in our vernacular these days for a reason. I remember when I was an undergraduate student and “dyed in the wool” lecturing professors would bring in their notes that had yellowed over the years. Back then, I used to wish they would at least put some Liquid Paper around the edges to make the notes look new; this was before computers when a fresh set of notes could be printed with the click of a button. PowerPoints don’t yellow, but if sound effects occur when text appears on the screen, that’s a hint of yellowing. If slides are still being read to students in class, that may be a technique that is yellowing if overused.

When I taught a graduate voice disorders class last fall, I experimented with a flipped classroom model. Students read assignments and slides before class. Clinical cases were presented in class and in the voice lab and therapy techniques were practiced. The students helped me find my balance by requesting I review highlights from slides they had access to on a course management system, Moodle in this case. After 25 years of teaching, this felt like one of the best classes I have taught. Students were engaged more deeply with the material and feedback was positive.

Since teaching that class, I’ve been reading a book loaned to me by the Chairperson of Expeditionary Studies entitled, Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel (2014) that details better ways to help students retain material over longer periods of time. There are approaches to learning I would change the next time I teach based on information in this book. For example, I would place exercises on Moodle that required more retrieval of course content and I would increase quizzes and formative assessments in class. A few key points from the authors include:

“Practice at retrieving new knowledge or skills from memory is a potent tool for learning and durable retention”

“Effortful retrieval makes for stronger learning and retention.”

“After an initial test, delaying subsequent retrieval practice is more potent for reinforcing retention than immediate practice, because delayed retrieval requires more effort.”

“Repeated retrieval not only makes memories more durable but produces knowledge that can be retrieved more readily, in more varied settings, and applied to a wider variety of problems.”

Life-long learning by instructors and a willingness to try new approaches to engage students while teaching are crucial to achieving our highest shared value of Excellence in Teaching. It’s no coincidence that someone from Expeditionary Studies loaned me a book on learning so I could explore new territory for supporting students’ success. I am grateful to be in a community with colleagues who embrace this ongoing work.

Ask a few colleagues to share their most engaging teaching techniques with you this week. I suspect it will be an enlightening conversation.

Bonus: “Trying to come up with an answer rather than having it presented to you, or trying to solve a problem before being shown the solution, leads to better learning and longer retention of the correct answer or solution, even when your attempted response is wrong, so long as corrective feedback is provided” (Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel, p. 101)

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
• Excellence in Teaching
• Lifelong learning



Brown, P., Roediger, H., & McDaniel (2014). Make it stick. Cambridge, MA: The Belkbap Press of the Harvard University Press.

Image (n.d.) Retrieved on February 12, 2017 from: http://www.newspakistan.tv/high-fructose-diet-harms-brain-genes-study/


Growing up on a farm in the Midwest, the sun would rise and set with life-giving energy to seeds in a rich soil that were planted and nurtured with the sweat of my father’s brow and the faith in his heart. Faith that the sun would not bring days that were too hot and faith that passing clouds would release gentle rains. There was an optimal environment for growth that led to a bountiful harvest. There were years when drought or violent storms would destroy crops and bring times of sacrifice and rebuilding.

Over the years, the environment has changed and farmers have had to adapt with different types of seeds that grow disease resistant crops and irrigation systems that combat drought. Generations-old traditions have changed and creative adaptions have been embraced for farms to survive. This “way of the land” is similar in many ways to our academic environment and how we must adapt.

As we work with our students, we plant the seeds of knowledge and provide experiences that will result in optimal growth. The environment we create for growth requires the sweat of our brow and faith in our students as we inspire their best efforts. We nurture inner souls and challenge growth of the mind. Our collective efforts will make a positive difference for our students, their families and for our society if we do our jobs well. The students and our society are not the same as they were years ago and we, too, must adapt in order to survive.

The number of opportunities before us are endless as our adaptation results in revised and new curricula, new programs, and new delivery models. We cherish learning in our students, but also in ourselves as periodic storms in the education system come and go. These storms are represented by changes in enrollment, in budgets, regulation, and some might even say in pedagogy. These present opportunities that strengthen our will for the love of learning.

Over the last week, I attended three events where adaptation and change were focal points in the discussions. One was a gathering of North Country Thrive leaders along with Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY and Mary Ellen Elia, Commissioner of Education in New York State. The discussions targeted how our community can come together in better ways to support cradle to college/career development of students.


Another event was a regional gathering of teachers, principals, superintendents, college faculty, and administrators who were lead by the Chancellor and Commissioner in discussions to address local challenges and opportunities, as well as improvement in our education system at the State level.

Finally, I attended a How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion that was hosted by Black Onyx where deep and meaningful discussions were held about improving relationships between racially diverse students and students and faculty who are white.  Creating the best environments for education for everyone at all levels of the system will require new neuronal pathways to be developed, something that happens best with collaborative models, deep relationships, and persistent effort.

Each of the aforementioned events was powerful and transformative with ongoing work that will lead to positive changes; each event was attended in its entirety by President Ettling.

 Evidence of Success: SUNY Plattsburgh Alumns

There was evidence of great success over alumni weekend when I spoke with recent SUNY Plattsburgh graduates. Annette Romano (’86) National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT), teacher at Niskayuna CSD and Co-Director, National Board Council of New York, was at the regional event with the Chancellor and Comissioner.


Annette Romano (’86) on the left.  Also pictured is Amanda Zullo, NBCT chemistry teacher at Saranac Senior High School and recent recipient of an atward at the Whitehouse from President Obama for Excellence in Science and Mathematics.

Lateef Wearrien (’16), who is working on his Master’s degree at University at Buffalo in Student Affairs and Higher Education, led the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion.


Edmund Adjapong (‘12) graduated with a degree in biochemistry and is currently working on his Doctorate at Teacher College, Columbia University; his words of leadership in the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion were powerful.  He also uses Hip Hop in the classroom to engage learning.


Josh Modeste (’16), graduated with his BA (Biology)/MST in Teacher Education is currently teaching in New York City, was at the How Do We Become More Comfortable panel discussion too. Seeing the success of these former students was rewarding beyond measure and represented a harvest that feeds the masses.  Each is a powerful agent of positive change in our society.


Speaking with Josh Modeste is Randi Randi Weingarten, President of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers.  She visited Sarah Hackett’s class last year.

As we work collaboratively to meet the challenges and opportunities before us and to create optimal learning environments for students to become positive agents of change, we do so with sweat on our brows and faith in our hearts for the bountiful harvest that is students’ success. Be the sunshine and the gentle rain.

Bonus: Here is an abstract from an article recently published by Edmund Adjapong:


chancellor-an-maria                          Maria Veloz, Teacher Education major, with Chancellor Zimpher


EHHS Shared Values Highlighted:
–  Lifelong Learnning/Growth
–  Inclusion/Culturally Responsive
–  Helping Students Achieve Goals
–  Collaboration

Generational Footsteps

Windmill 3

When I tell people I grew up on a farm in Kansas, there are a number of reactions from Wizard of Oz jokes to curiosity about the path that led me to my current role in higher education as a Dean.  The thread of education has been woven prominently throughout the generational tapestry of my family.  In this respect, there were many footsteps to follow.  My great, great grandfather from my father’s side came to the United States with his wife from Ireland in the 1880s and moved to Kansas from Boston.  The land he purchased contained apple orchards and he sold the apples to buy lumber for the house in which I was eventually raised; I was the fifth generation to grow up in the Kansas farm house.  I am privileged to have deep roots and a rich knowledge of my family’s history, some of which came from watching very old movies of previous generations living in the house where my parents still live.

Kansas Farm House

Amid the family stories are ones that focus on education, stories that dispel some people’s preconceived ideas about growing up on a farm.  My grandfather and his two siblings were born in the farm house and grew up working the farm in ways that were even more difficult than when my immediate family had that responsibility; a strong work ethic was another prominent theme in my family.  My grandfather, his brother and his sister all went to college as did all of their children years later.  My grandmother and my mother, both of whom grew up on farms, also went to college.  Correct grammar, whether speaking or writing, was a requirement growing up in my house.  My sister and I never doubted we would go to college because it was an expectation, not a choice.  My grandmother, valedictorian of her high school class, told me many times growing up, “When you get an education, no one can take that away from you.”

The day I graduated with my undergraduate degree, my parents were in my dorm room and made reference to all of my books.  While many of the books I read and the classes I took set a strong foundation for my eventual profession in speech-language pathology, I turned to my parents and said, “Most of what I learned in college did not come from books.”  The professors challenged me to grow as a person as much as they challenged me to gain academic knowledge.   Two additional degrees and a career that now spans 23 years at SUNY Plattsburgh have only deepened my commitment to the value of education.

A number of students coming to SUNY Plattsburgh each year are the first generation in their family to attend college.  The student-focused approach we have at SUNY Plattsburgh creates a great place for all students to learn and grow, but especially for first-generation students.  I know our students will learn a tremendous amount of academic knowledge in the years they are in college, but I also know they will develop into strong citizens through mentoring and through participating in campus activities.

We have the privilege at SUNY Plattsburgh of being in positions that can have a powerful, positive influence on the lives of young adults.  We challenge them to push beyond their comfort zones and to explore who they can be in this world.  Our Shared Values, along with clear expectations in a supportive environment, provide students with challenges to develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that will positively influence their generation as well as future generations.  No one will ever be able to take these things away from them.

The picture below is of a young woman who graduated from the Teacher Education program last semester.  It was a touching moment when the audience realized there was a little soul in yellow regalia walking in the footsteps of her mother.  This touched the hearts of all who were watching.  There were cheers from previous generations.  Future generations will be inspired by the stories of this time and will have footsteps to follow.


When Cliques Go Clunk: Conflict Management


Clique Clunk

We place a high value on community and our ability to come together with diverse perspectives to achieve common goals.  There are natural affinities some have in communities because of similar experiences and/or viewpoints.  In a healthy community, there also is an appreciation and acceptance of diverse viewpoints.  This type of group energy can be a strong force for good and can provide a positive environment in which to thrive.  High-functioning groups have a positive approach to conflict with procedures for doing it well.

Other groups still need to develop better approaches to conflict.  For example, there are times when feelings and words lead to reactions and levels of upset that are less than positive.  Kern Beare (2010) said, “…disputes always arise from conflicting perspectives…different assumptions about, and ways of seeing, the world.”  In groups that do not have a common understating about how to have conflict, the road can be treacherous.  When disputes occur, there may even be those who seek others to help champion their perspective.  Cliques can form around various issues and even around conflict; it’s unfortunate that some groups don’t know how to function without the presence of conflict. This requires a paradigm shift with greater knowledge about conflict management.

The word “clique” often has negative connotations based on conditioning from youth.  It conjures up thoughts of possible behaviors such as starting rumors, disparaging remarks, marginalization, or discriminatory actions. These behaviors and others like them reduce the feeling of safety in a community, something that is crucial to functioning well.

Dr. Linda Black, a licensed, Mental Health Counselor, presented a two-day workshop in 2008 for the Teacher Education Unit entitled Guidelines for Managing Crucial Conversations where she went in-depth into the issue of creating safe environments for communication.  Her words of wisdom will resonate with those who attended the workshop and will provide insight for those who were not there.  Dr. Black brought deeper perspective to the concept of what damages the feeling of safety in a community.  She spoke about paying attention to whether people in groups or small groups of people were moving toward silence or violence.  The following helps re-frame these concepts:

  • See if others are moving toward silence or violence.
    • Silence
      • Purpose is to withhold information
      • Masking – understating, sarcasm, sugarcoating, sucking up
      • Avoiding – steering away from sensitive subjects, storytelling, diversions, inappropriate humor
      • Withdrawing – pulling out of a conversation by physically or emotionally exiting.
    • Violence
      • Controlling – forcing your views on others and into the pool of meaning, cutting others off, speaking in absolutes, changing the subject, directive questions, laborious storytelling.
      • Labeling—putting people or ideas under general stereotypes to dismiss them or distort their ideas
      • Attacking—belittling, threatening, bad mouthing, gossiping

Most have not thought of silence and violence in these ways or thought about their culminating negative effect on the feeling of safety in a community.  Dr. Black also emphasized the importance of not having “back hall conversations” that erode trust in the community.  When these behaviors occur, others don’t feel safe and the goals of the community are not reached.  Instead of moving forward smoothly, there is a perceptible “clunk” in the atmosphere of the community and in the movement toward goals.  The clunk occurs when any of the behaviors mentioned by Dr. Black are displayed or even when someone is a bystander to these behaviors.

Actions Dr. Black presented to encourage a safe environment:

  • We can talk about anything if we “stay in there”; emotional cut off is not the best approach.
  • Step back and explore mutual purpose.  Goals and mutual purpose need to be as clear as possible.
  • Get everyone around the table to have important conversations.  Build trust by respecting each other enough to not have back hall conversations.
  • Step out/pause when someone moves to silence or violence.  When safety is restored, go back to dialogue.  Ways of restoring safety include:
    • Check for understanding – When someone says something that results in a strong emotional reaction and threatens the safety of the group, pause and then explain how the words made you feel.  Then, ask the person if that is what s/he intended.
    • Pay attention to emotional bombs – Restoring safety requires everyone to pay attention to emotional bombs that get thrown into the group.  People need to be accountable for their words and the effect they have on the group.  Again, check for understanding.

One of the areas of need we have identified for our students is conflict management.  It is important to model positive collaborative approaches for working within a community of professionals.  We also must be explicit about helping our students develop these professional skills and dispositions.  Let’s do all we can to help each other and our students reach this goal.

Bonus:  “Disagreement is a gift. It’s an invitation to engage in the harder conversations that enable us to grow in understanding ourselves and each other.”  Rabbi Irwin Kula

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted in this blog:

Respect and Empathy

  • Seek to understand before being understood
  • Listening to each other
  • Share what is most important
  • Share our challenges as well as our successes
  • Trust
  • Open-mindedness, acceptance of perspectives
  • Embrace diversity of opinions

Inclusion/Culturally Responsive

  • Self-reflection
  • Caring attitude
  • Continued learning, challenging and changing of our attitudes

Beare, K. (2010)  Perspective, Perception & Response: Thoughts on Evolving a Global Mind. Retrieved October 19, 2014 from: http://globalmindshift.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/perspective-perception-response-thoughts-on-evolving-a-global-mind/

Black, L. (May, 2008). Guidelines for Managing Crucial Conversations. Presented at the Teacher Education Unit retreat.

Image (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2014 from: http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/social-networking/information/social-networking-cliques1.htm

Image (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2014 from: http://dunawaydietetics.com/the-water-cooler-overheard-at-the-gym/

Carpe Diem!

Flatiron 1

The east face of the Flatirons behind Boulder, Colorado. The Third Flatiron is on the left.

It was late in the afternoon during a beautiful summer day as my lifelong friend Bryan and I walked down Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado, a pedestrian-only “street” like Church Street in Burlington, Vermont.  As we thought about what to do that evening, it came down to a choice of going to hear Dave Brubeck, a jazz pianist or climbing the third Flatiron with a night rappel.  We chose the adventure of a climb and night rappel – Carpe Diem!

Before heading to the mountain, in honor of a recent movie at that time, Dead Poets’ Society, we went into a used book store and picked up some well-worn books that were filled with the writings of great poets.  We made our way to the base of the mountain located at the edge of Boulder and prepared to climb.  The setting sun cast golden and crimson rays between the peaks of the Rocky Mountains into the warm summer air.  The Flatirons are tilted slabs, the third of which is at an angle where ropes are not needed for climbers with intermediate skills.  I was more of an advance-beginner-happy-to-not-fall-down-the-mountain climber.  About half way up, the lengthening shadows were accompanied by a slight breeze and the sound of a jazz being played on a piano; it wasn’t Brubeck, but the person was talented.  The face of the mountain seemed to catch and amplify the notes from somewhere far below.  While Bryan climbed ahead, I sat there for some time listening to the music, appreciative that an earlier choice of music or mountain had both come true.

Flatiron 2

West face of the third Flatiron with Boulder in the distance.

When we got to the top of the mountain, it was nearly dark.  It also felt like we had dipped our heads into the jet stream, except this one was coming from the east at about 50 mph with occasional gusts that were stronger.  I was glad I brought my wind breaker, but it really did not live up to its name that night.  After looking out over the lights of Boulder and briefly enjoying the view, we put on our headlamps and made our way to the anchor for the rappel.  Thankfully, we were somewhat sheltered from the jet stream as we got to the back side.  Once Bryan was down and I was belayed, I edged over the west face of the mountain until my weight was fully on the rope and started my decent into the darkness.  I reached a point where my feet did not reach the wall and the ropes were sliding smoothly until there was an unexpected jerk to an abrupt stop.  I shined my headlamp on my gear and saw my windbreaker snaked through the belay device with the rope. There was a fleeting thought of being stuck on the rope with no easy way down.  My training from being a pilot kicked in and I did not allow myself to panic. Eventually, I was able to maneuver myself and the rope just enough to extract my jacket.  The crisis was resolved and I enjoyed the rest of the rappel.

As we hiked down the mountain in the subsiding wind, we came to an open area that overlooked the lights of Boulder and Denver.  It was like a dense starfield that blended at the horizon with the other stars.  In honor of the movie Dead Poets’ Society, where highly-engaged teaching had an indelible impact on students’ learning, we pulled out the books we bought earlier.  We sat for a long time in the glow of the starfields and our headlamps with the words of great poets like Whitman, Frost, Longfellow, Emerson, and Thoreau, echoing off of mountain’s walls.  It was a rich experience that punctuated the earlier adventure with deeper meaning.  Life’s possibilities were before us.  Education was a focus in our lives, even on that distant evening on the mountain.  This was long before we both became professors.

Lessons from the Mountain:

  1. The present moment is all we every have so make sure to take time to appreciate your surroundings.  You never know when you might hear jazz.
  2. It is never good to panic if you feel stuck. Too many times people complain when they could be using the same energy to resolve the problem.  Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
  3. Taking risks can make life more rich and memorable. Trust you can develop solutions to problems as you move forward.  If you don’t take risks because you fear problems, then you will most likely stay stuck.
  4. Embrace life-long learning in diverse ways.
  5. Make your life sublime and leave footprints in the sand – see the poem below.

Bonus:  My favorite poem from that night on the mountain.

 A Psalm of Life

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.


Image (n.d.). Retrieved September 28, 2014 from: https://www.fin.ucar.edu/ucarf/contact.html

Image (September 21, 2010). Retrieved September 28, 2014 from: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/106897990

Engaging Learning: What Students are Saying

Engaged Learning

Last week, I attended an event hosted by the ODK Leadership Honor Society.  The topic was education and the event started with showing a speech by Ken Robinson entitled Changing Education Paradigms that an animator illustrated as he spoke; EHHS faculty and staff watched a select portion of this video during our fall 2011 community gathering.  It was good to hear Ken Robinson’s talk again, but most importantly it was exciting to hear students’ responses.  There was some discussion about the pitfalls of standardized testing.  Most students didn’t feel standardized tests represented their true ability.  One student cited a study that found high school GPA to be the best predictor of college academic success.  I shared results from studies I helped conduct that showed GRE scores did not predict success of graduate speech-language pathology students unless scores were very high or very low (Ryan, W., Morgan. M, & Wacker-Mundy, R., 1998, 2002).  Given the rapid growth of information, a number of the students felt it was the job of professors to teaching them how to learn rather than just teaching them information.  Critical thinking and problem solving were discussed in contrast to educational methods that prepared this no-child-left-behind-generation to pass tests.  It was a lively discussion that touched on the core of students’ beliefs about their educational journey and expectations of employers.  

The discussion then turned to what constitutes a good education.  The students agreed that experiential work had to be part of a good education.  This is in line with employers’ responses for a survey in The Chronicle of Higher Education that showed, “employers prefer experience over academic record” (Berrett, p. A29).  One student stated that the worst classes are the ones where professors just lecture.  There was agreement that engagement is low and learning is minimal if students are only listening to lectures.  Engaging students’ learning is highlighted in a powerful video entitled 5 Steps to Overhaul Teaching by Dr. Christopher Emdin, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University (Dr. Emdin is a graduate professor of one of SUNY Plattsburgh’s former students, Edmund Adjapong, who sent me the video). 

I hope you click on the link to Dr. Emdin’s video.  He speaks passionately about engaging urban youth in their education, particularly in the areas of science and math.   I feel his points are valid for all youth.  He speaks directly to our shared value of Excellence in Teaching and our commitment to engage our students.  Chickering and Gamson (1987) stated, “Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves” (See Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.)     

Our commitment to engaging students in deep learning is paramount.  Making the acquisition of knowledge and skills come alive in and out of the classroom requires deep engagement and planning with each other.  The quality of our work together makes the achievement of all other “standards” possible.   If you have ideas or need support from me to do this work, please let me know.



Berrett, D. (2013, March 8).  Internships offer tickets to jobs and lessons in unpredictability.  The Chronicle of Higher Education, pp. A29, A30.

Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 3-7.

Emdin, C. (2013). Retrieved March 10, 2013 from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SS85liJHVeo

Image (2011). Retrieved March 10, 2013 from: http://ni.oc.edu/2011/03/what-does-student-engagement-mean-to-you/

Robinson, K. (2010). RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms. Retrieved March 10, 2013 from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

Ryan, W.J., Morgan., & Wacker-Mundy, R. (2002).  Graduate admissions in speech-language pathology: Predicting outcomes from selected preadmission criteria. Texas Journal of Audiology and Speech Pathology, 26, 28-31. 

Ryan, W.J., Morgan, M.D., & Wacker-Mundy, R. (1998).  Pre-admission criteria as
predictors of selected outcome measures for speech-language pathology graduate students.  Contemporary Issues in Communication Sciences and Disorders, 25, 54-61.

Beyond Compliance

Standards and mandates are not the elixir for passion. In fact, once standards are in place, the seduction of compliance mentality can erode passion. It is easy to imagine small, dark rooms in Area 51 where people gather to create standards that they feel will change the future. In other areas of the country, organizations involve their stakeholders in the development of standards and respect the passion of individuals in those professions who will inspire, change, heal, or cure untold numbers of clients and patients.

When stakeholders are not involved in the development of new standards, articles are written, posters are designed, protests are held, and buttons are produced. One of the more popular buttons in the field of teacher education reads, “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, make education policy.” New standards may be perceived as having value by many, but the amount of value may not be proven yet with research. There is an increased risk of compliance mentality when standards are not developed with stakeholders – again, a psychological approach that holds little passion.

Personal beliefs, at times, may be in direct opposition to new standards. It is hard to comply with new standards when you don’t believe in them, a lack of belief that could be motivated by reasons other than a lack of research. This is when I think back to a statement from Dr. Linda Black, Professor of Counselor Education and Acting Dean of the Graduate School at Northern Colorado University, about the danger of dichotomous thinking; the truth does not lie on one side or the other. It also reminds me of the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald who said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

It is interesting to gain insight about standards and compliance from fields outside of those in the EHHS Division. Kirk O. Hanson, Executive Director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University stated, “If the ‘message’ to the organization is to comply, then it will often be understood as ‘do the least possible’ or even ‘don’t get caught not complying.’ Either message can undermine the effort to meet public expectations.” Kevin Jones, a consultant on workplace safety said, “Some who have felt the stick end of compliance might think some regulators believe their rules and guides are the only path to safety. But the fact is that even the best codes and regulations have flaws; they do change.”

In addition to standards for our professions, the EHHS Division is guided by values. We always have a choice to seek a balanced approach that brings the heart of our shared values to the head of our programmatic standards/requirements – this is where passion thrives for inspiring students. For professions that impose standards on professions that were not developed with stakeholders, researchers in the professions are afforded an opportunity to research the outcomes of new standards and to provide data that support changing the standards. For all professionals in the EHHS Division, the foundation of our shared values will support ever-changing standards in a way that brings passion to teaching and learning.

How do our shared values guide us through the rough seas of changing standards?

Hanson, K.O. (2011) Beyond compliance: Globalization demands more effective programs. In Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Retrieved October 14, 2012 from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/business/beyond-compliance.html

Jones, K. (2011). Compliance or confidence? In SafetyAtWorkBlog. Retrieved October 14, 2012 from http://safetyatworkblog.com/2011/05/19/compliance-or-confidence/

Photo. iCMIS.com 11 May. 2010. 14 Oct. 2012 <;http://www.icims.com/blog/post/2010/05/11/Following-Compliance-Easy-as-Pie.aspx>;

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