Pre-semester Prep – Optimism or Realism?

As I prepare for the start of the Spring semester, I have become acutely aware that I have been overly optimistic in previous semesters about what I can cover in a class-period and/or a semester.  So, this semester, I have decided to ground myself in realism.  What can REALLY be covered in a semester-long class?


That picture comes from this post on Learning Objectives and their importance.  One of the colleges I work at just recently began a focus on learning objectives.  At first, I was annoyed by the whole thing.  “Of course I know what my students are supposed to learn in my classes.  And that is what I’m teaching them!” is what I thought.  But, as we went through to identify assessments for each of the learning objectives, I began to understand that although I may be sure in my head that I am teaching them those things, I have no real way of measuring the effectiveness of that teaching.  It was very eye opening, to say the least.


So, I am concentrating on those learning objectives when planning my semester this time around.  I always have an overly optimistic idea of what I can get through in a semester and I end up rushing some things and letting go of others completely, and that isn’t always something that is part of a serious and compelling plan.  But, this semester, I am approaching with realism instead.  I am making some decisions about what to cut out BEFORE the semester begins and I am making those decisions based on the learning objectives.  I am going through the text to see which chapters are tightly connected to the learning objectives or even which parts of chapters and those will be my focus.  Everything else is going to be purged.  I am thinking of it as decluttering my classes!

I am hoping that this helps (1) keep me on the planned schedule better (2) allows me to spend more time on more meaningful learning and (3) gives me a clear idea of HOW to get students where I want them to be by the end of the semester.

It is a whole new world to this “old” teacher!  Again, it isn’t that I think I was NOT teaching the students according to the objectives, but now I will have a much better idea of how well they are absorbing that material.  And, I should have time to review when needed, rather than just rushing on to the next thing immediately.


Speech Teach Returns!

Although I had not “forgotten” about this blog, this blog had definitely been forgotten.  I can’t believe it has been almost eight years since I last posted on here.  Life has changed in a myriad of ways, but I’m still teaching speech and coaching speech and debate and I have some great ideas for making this blog a valuable resource for speakers and speech teachers.  I thought of starting a brand new blog, but decided that I already had this one and liked the original thought behind it, so why not just bring it back?  So, here is it.  Back in action! In honor of my 6 yo DD, here’s Pinkie Pie to tell you just that!


So, why am I back?  Well, I have things to say.  Things about speaking and teaching speech.  Things about using speech to advocate and persuade.  Things about teaching people better advocacy and persuasion.  My plan is to post a few days a week to start.  And we’ll see where it goes from here.  I hope some of you are still out there and I hope we’ll find many more to join you!


I’m baaaaaack…

It has been a really overwhelming few months.  Actually, the last five months have been really overwhelming.  But, I’m trying to get back on track and hopefully post more regularly on this blog.  I’m not sure that anyone is out there still listening, but I suppose even if there isn’t, someone may come along in the future. I haven’t even had time to keep up with reading other blogs.  And I feel like a hamster in one of those plastic balls, so I am walking and running and I’m getting places, but I can’t accomplish what I want to when I get there because I’m stuck in the plastic ball.

As March comes to a close and April brings in the Spring, I will view this week as my personal Spring Cleaning.  I am trying to get rid of the clutter, organize things and clean up the messes that have been left behind during the last few months.

Although there have been many snags in the past few months – and really, a few of the incidents have been full-fledged rips – there is a lot for me to be grateful for.  We have found a roommate so our financial situation is better.  I also have a two week gig petsitting to bring in some extra cash in May as well.  In addition, I got a puppy back in late November who is doing quite well.  I got a good review in my performance review yesterday.  I finally have some weekends off to get caught up with stuff.  I just won an award from the national organization that I do a lot of work with.  I have some exciting projects that I’m looking forward to working on in the coming year or so.

I am looking forward to a successful spring cleaning this week and a fresh start on growth starting in April!

Living a Dream…

I have a Dream poster

 (poster available at

It is Martin Luther King Day here in the US and I was doing some thinking about MLK, my life and the community around me.  I think that MLK was a hero for the ages.  I was lucky enough to visit the memorial for him in Atlanta a few years back and it was truly meaningful.  I respect MLK for his many great qualities of leadership and humanity and public speaking.  But, I also was thinking about how it would be to live your life like he lived his – with almost singular purpose, with tenacity and believing in a dream.  I think today we lack leaders with these qualities.  It seems that so many of our leaders – whether politicians or businesspeople or sports figures – have so many different things on their plate, and are so easily deterred from taking action or taking a stand and are living in “reality” without considering how believing in a dream could change the world. 

Then I thought about myself.  I am suffering from these things as well.  I have so many things going on in my life and none of them are really priorities for me.  I just flit from one project to another without considering what it is I REALLY want to be doing.  This age of multi-tasking has almost made approaching life with a singular or narrow focus something to look upon with disdain.  I really feel the need to figure out where my focus should be and then to simplify my life based on that focus.  What do I REALLY care about?  If I could only do ONE thing for the rest of my life, what would that one thing be?  What about you?  Are you moving through life without any focus?  Are you simply riding the current along downstream or are you planning your path and focusing on where it is you want to end up?

I am also easily deterred.  I used to approach things with some tenacity.  But, now I give up easily on things.  If challenges arise and things don’t seem to be moving along smoothly, I’ll just change direction and move somewhere else.  So, to continue the metaphor, I seem to be drifting down river with no destination in mind and when obstacles arise in the river, instead of figuring out a way around them, I simply change direction and catch the next current to whereever that is going.  The problem is that I don’t necessarily get to experience what I want to experience because I am easily deterred.  Part of that is because of the first problem.  Without a specific destination or plan in mind, there is no reason to struggle or fight when the obstacle arises.  Why not just change direction and take the easy way?  With a destination and a plan, you have a reason to struggle and fight when those inevitable obstacles arise.

Finally, I too am trapped in reality.  I don’t really have a dream for which I’m living and striving.  I have some things that I may find interesting or appealing or frustrating, but I don’t necessarily have a dream for what I want my life and the life of my community to be.  That is what I am taking away from this MLK day.  MLK had a dream – a vision for society that was a good one.  He used that dream to make a plan and establish a destination he wanted to reach.  He then had the tenacity to overcome the obstacles that arose in his path.  And, even in death, he was able to motivate and inspire thousands, perhaps millions of others to make the world a better place.

 So, what is it I want to pursue to make the world a better place in some small way?  What about you?  What is it that you think you can do to make the world a better place in some small way?  What is your dream?  What can you do to make it a little more real?  I’m going to spend some time thinking about that today…I hope you will join me.

Rough Start to 2008 – Nowhere to go but up!

 Our Fat Cat - May she Rest In Peace...


Well, I have definitely been inactive on this blog as of late.  Sorry about that.  I was traveling for work when the new year began, came home just in time for one of the worst storms in California history (with hundreds of thousands out of power for multiple days, including me for 38 hours), a cousin dying of lung cancer (after successfully fighting breast cancer over a decade ago), a sick cat who held on for a week, but had to be put to sleep on Monday, and a financial mess because our rental’s check didn’t get to us until almost a week after we are supposed to get it…ah, 2008 – what a way to begin.

But, on the bright side, we can only go up from here.  I have a week and a half before school starts up for the Spring and I am bound and determined to (1) get my life in order and (2) make the most of it.  My in-laws are coming to visit this weekend for my MIL’s birthday, so we’ll do some fun, cheap, local touristy stuff and then next week I’m going to try to get away for a couple of days to see my college roommate (who is also going through a rough start to 2008) and enjoy myself in the City (San Fran).  We’ll see if that pans out or not.

In the end, even though the last month or so has been totally overwhelming for me both physically (too much travel) and emotionally (too much loss), it has also been a time of realization.  I have learned a lesson from these trials.  First, life is short and I need to start spending time with people I care about and organizing my life in such a way that priorities are given the time they deserve.  Second, even when things seem totally unbearable – funerals, sick and dying pets, etc. – there is always some good that is slipping through around the edges.  My cousin’s family showed me what being close and truly caring can mean to others.  My puppy and other cat remind me that even though it seems unbearable when they get sick or die, pets truly are worth it.  My college roommate reminded me that even if we don’t have money to pay for extras, we have each other (she has just gone through a divorce).  And through it all, life goes on with my brother’s girlfriend having her baby (little Wyitte, who is a real cuties). 

So, even though we’re off to a rough start, I’m still looking forward to this year.  After all, what would make us appreciate all the great times if we didn’t have a few trials along the way?

I hope the rest of you are off to more uneventful start to 2008.  I also hope that I can get caught up reading all of my favorite blogs and commenting along the way! 

Feed your brain and feed the people!

free-rice-banner.jpgA great new website allows you to do something for yourself and others while having a good time doing it.  You can click on the banner to access the website where you can test your vocabulary.  For every correct answer on the multiple choice vocabulary questions, they will provide 20 grains of rice to the UN World Food Program.  It would be a great tool for studying for the SAT or the GRE, but its also a way to do some self-improvement while also helping out those who need it most across the world.

I was happily surprised that my score was pretty high and I did well enough to have 100s of grains of rice donated.  I also think it is something I will go back to again and again.  I will encourage my students to participate, as they always can used an improved vocabulary.  Plus it can be a source of challenging friends and family.  So, I challenge you all.  My vocab was rated a 36 – what’s your score!?!?  And remember, you can go back to make improvements!