Tag Archive: Perspective

Meaningful Micro-Moments: Elevating Excellence


News consumption, whether through traditional means such as television and newspapers or more recent means such as news apps and social media, has been focused on many areas of conflict and strife within our country. There are multiple issues about which we care deeply. We can start to feel somewhat helpless in the face of circumstances over which we have little control; yet, your voice and contributions are important.  Regardless, you might want to consider a bad news diet.

Now, for the good news. Step back and ask yourself, “What do I have influence over during the next few weeks?” This perspective, one that is good to share with students, brings focus to the present moment where there is some “control.”  I believe this perspective is paramount as we move into the last few weeks of the semester, a stressful period in and of itself. There is a lot that can be done for yourself, your colleagues, and your students.

It is critical for you to take care of yourself so you have the energy to care for others. There are the common statements of eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep; that’s a good start. There also are micro-moments during the day that can make a big difference too.

  • Take a short walk with a friend.
  • Get out your headphones and listen to your favorite song.
  • Read some highlights you made on your e-reader in a great book you read (the app is probably on your phone and the highlights are only several clicks away).
  • Pause, close your eyes, and focus on a few deep breaths.

There is a common thread of humanity that is important to remember as we choose to thrive over the next few weeks. This commonality can be the foundation for compassion and allow you to be someone else’s micro-moment.

  • Ask someone how s/he is doing while making eye contact and really meaning it.
  • Let colleagues know why you appreciate them – say it directly, leave a note, or fill out a Cardinal Cares card.
  • Ask newer professors if there is anything you can to do support them in the next few weeks, especially if this is their first semester.
  • Share something inspirational with someone in person rather than posting online.

Our students have more responsibilities than they did even ten years ago. The demographic of our students has shifted significantly with a higher proportion of historically underrepresented students, first-generation students and/or low income students. There are meaningful micro-moments that can make all of the difference for these students and other students too as we approach the end of the semester.

  • Share the importance of getting organized and “setting the stage” for finals. Taking a few minutes each day to organize notes, study schedules, and responsibilities can put some free-floating anxiety to good use.
  • Speak with our students about self-discipline and focus. For example, encourage 30 minutes blocks of study without electronic interruption; neural pathways are better built when uninterrupted. Help them understand that now is the time to push what may feel like a personal limit around self-discipline, something that will result in new understandings of self and greater success in the future.
  • Students can push the boundaries of perceived capabilities, especially if you are there in an intentional way to encourage them. In addition to class, walk through the Flint Commons, the Learning Center, or the library and find a few students to encourage. All of our students must feel, on a deep level, that we believe in them.
  • Emphasize the importance of self care. Explain that the capacity for grit and determination can be increased with self care.

SUNY Plattsburgh has a caring community focused on students in excellent academic programs. This drew me here 25 years ago and continues to draw students and new faculty here too. Let’s take a few moments each day in the coming weeks to amplify our caring community because it will lead to higher levels of excellence.

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

EHHS Shared Values Highlighted
– Respect and Empathy
– Helping Students Achieve Goals
Image (n.d.) Retrieved December 4, 2016 from:


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/

Passion Yeats

Linking our mission of preparing students for academic, professional and personal success with our passion to do this work provides an amazing sense of purpose.  At the EHHS Community Gathering, our mission was examined along with perception, perspectives, multicultural competencies, conflict management, wellbeing, and passion.  We examined results from a study by Delaney, Johnson, Johnson, and Treslan (2010) entitled Students’ Perceptions of Effective Teaching in Higher EducationRegardless of face-to-face or online format, students said the most effective teachers were identified as being respectful, knowledgeable, approachable, engaging, communicative, organized, responsive, professional, and humorous.  It was rewarding to see that the majority of these characteristics are linked to our shared values and previous group work on reflective practice.

The passion for what we do and the effectiveness of our purpose deepen when mindful steps to promoting wellbeing are taken.  Better approaches to conflict management were presented and Information from Gallup on wellbeing was shared.  I asked you to imagine how the learning/work environment would feel and what we could accomplish if students and faculty were all happy.  To punctuate the moment, I shared a video that was made by Howard University students to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCD4gBNOD28

Building on the positive energy from the video, faculty member were asked to write answers to three questions about passion and then to discuss answers with other members of their program/department; a special thank you to the Counselor Education faculty (and a few guests) for embracing the spirit of happiness by dancing at the beginning of our group activity.  The positive energy in the room was incredible.   Below, everyone’s answers have been organized into common themes for each question.

What drove your passion for getting into your field?

  • Having an impact; helping people; making a difference
  • Caring for others
  • A Teacher (two were inspired to be better than bad teachers they had)
  • Experienced care from someone in chosen profession
  • Passion for children
  • Family influence
  • Life-long learning
  • Childhood dream

What drives your passion in your current position?

  • Seeing/helping students learn; grow; be successful;
  • Learning from or working with colleagues; collaboration;
  • Scalability (teaching a few who will have a positive influence on many)
  • Create positive change in students/clients
  • Strengthen profession
  • Share love of learning
  • Fulfilling a childhood dream

How will you best use your passion for the growth of our students?

  • Model it (sharing own excitement, encourage, engage, inspire)
  • Reflect/improve my teaching/ effective teaching
  • Nurture and challenge
  • Listen/be accessible
  •  Develop relationship/community
  • Respect students
  • Respond with care/caring

The responses above provide give a peek into the depth and breadth of foundational perspectives that created and drive the passion of professors in the EHHS Division.  The topics we addressed during the EHHS Community Gathering, if embraced fully, will allow us to create a dynamic and fulfilling learning and work environment where we can achieve our mission/purpose with passion.

Image (2010). Retrieved February 2, 2014 from: http://picturespost.blogspot.com/2010/12/incredible-fire-art.html

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