Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just for Fun

Considering all of the advice about academics and other serious topics that this blog dishes out, you might think that fun isn't an option for college students. 

Not so!  While college classes are always serious business, I can't think of anyone in higher ed who thinks that students should never look up from their work.  In fact, if you go through Nassau and never have a few laughs or light moments, you're missing a really important part of your college experience.

What better time to share this thought than the night before Halloween--absolutely one of the most festive days of the year.  Though Halloween is a regular school day at NCC, there'll be even more fun stuff than usual happening on campus tomorrow. 

It starts early in the day with the annual Halloween film festival (9:45 a.m.-4 p.m.) in the College Center. A nonstop horror fest featuring some classic horror films (as well as some truly ridiculous ones), the festival gives you a chance to gasp, laugh, eat some Halloween junk food (plenty on hand), and take in a film that you've probably never seen before.


If you get restless and decide you've had your fill of ghouls, zombies, and mad scientists, stop by the Student Activities Office (Rm. 150 in the College Center) and pick up a pumpkin to decorate.  Between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., there'll be two hundred pumpkins in the CCB just begging for faces.  You can decorate a pumpkin for a friend, a little brother or sister, or even yourself--and take it with you (no charge).  And while you're creating your masterpiece, you can also put away more chocolate bars and peanut butter cups than you probably should.

More into decorating yourself than pumpkins? Then come in your most outrageous costume to the Student Government/Programming Board/Student Organization of Latinos Halloween Bash tomorrow evening (8 p.m.-midnight) in the College Center. You can listen to a deejay, gobble down some food, and live it up with others in disguise. It's free--as long as you have a current NCC ID (which you ought to have gotten by now).

Photo: Halloween Costume Bash!  Oct. 31, 8 PM-12 AM, CCB MPR.  Free for NCC students with valid ID!

I know what you're thinking: life is busy, you already have plenty to do tomorrow, and there are sometimes just not enough hours in the day.  All true.  But Halloween comes only once a year.  And Halloween 2013 will happen only once.

Which is why you need to find time tomorrow to have some fun. 

Because now and then at least, fun really matters.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Need Some Inspiration?

Given the sorry state of American politics, it's easy for us to feel disillusioned, maybe even cynical  about the "system" these days.

But while some people in public life disappoint, there are plenty of others, in government and elsewhere, whose behavior is inspiring.  

One of these is Mukesh Kapila, who spoke at NCC this week about a disturbing topic: the genocide that began in Darfur, part of the Sudan, in 2003 and that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.  As the United Nations' Resident Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sudan, Kapila put his own life and career on the line to alert the world to the Darfur crisis and to bring to justice those responsible for mass killings. His message to his NCC audience: all of us must speak out against injustice and work to end it.

Kapila's talk was the first of several inspiring and thought-provoking presentations happening at NCC this semester. Another will take place this Monday, when Tim Wise, a nationally known anti-racism educator, will speak about the subject of race in America.  Wise's talk, scheduled for 11 a.m. and again at 2 p.m. in the College Center, is titled "Can We Talk About Race?"

The author of several books, including "White Like me: Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son," Wise will involve audiences in a frank conversation about racial inequality and the need for everyone, without exception, to address it.  An often no-holds barred speaker, Wise is above all else inspirational, someone sure to leave audiences with a lot to think about. 

Following Wise, on Nov. 4, will be another speaker with an inspiring message--Eric Greitens, author of "The Warrior's Heart," NCC's common reading for 2013-2014.  A Rhodes scholar, a former Navy SEAL, and the founder of an organization (The Mission Continues) that helps military veterans continue to serve their communities, Greitens will share his experiences bringing humanitarian relief to people in war-torn parts of the world. 

His talk, scheduled for 9:30 a.m, 11 a.m., and 2 p.m. in the College Center, will stress compassion, courage and commitment as the basis for a worthwhile life.  His emphasis on service and selflessness should clearly resonate with many in his audience, especially those realizing the importance of connecting to the larger world.

Different speakers, different styles, different topics--yet each encouraging audiences to get outside themselves and touch the world and make things better.  If you're weary of cynicism and could use a little inspiration and maybe even a wake-up call right now, come on over to the College Center and listen to what these speakers have to say.  The experience could be a life-changing moment.    

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Avoiding Siberia

Generally speaking, the classes at NCC are small, but there is still room to get lost.  Think of the layout of your classroom: There are seats lining the front row, many seats in the middle of the room, and a row of seats pressed against the back wall.  Where is one to sit?

It seems for some of us that we gravitate to the back.  I'm an English Professor, not a Psychologist, but I observe a lot of student behavior.  Now the following two points certainly don't apply for all rear-of-the-classroom dwellers, but for some of you, the rear maybe be more comfortable because:

  1. You won't get called on as much: If you stay out of the instructor's sight then you'll stay out of the instructor's mind.  The instructor will be so busy answering questions from the front and middle rows, so busy asking volunteers in the front and middle rows to read passages aloud from the textbook, that you can safely stay in your own cocoon.  Or, 
  2. You can do other things:  If the instructor is not calling on you to contribute in class you can sneak in some studying for the class after his in which you have a test.  Or you can, with your phone strategically placed next to your text book or resting on your lap (out of the sight lines of your professor), continue with texting, Facebook, Twitter conversing.  The class can stay a backdrop to what you feel are more important, interesting, pressing concerns in your life. 
I had a professor in grad school who had widely written about pedagogy and student engagement in the classroom.  He labeled the back row in his classroom "Siberia," a cold place where some students chose to sit because they knew they wouldn't be called upon to fully engage in the life of the classroom. He found much more enthusiasm generated in the front-end of the classroom and more disconnection in the back.  

I would challenge you to mix-up where you sit in the room.  And you can change things up at any time during the semester.  Try the classroom from different perspectives.  If you're a rear-sitter, move to the front.  You may find out that being so much closer enables you to become so much more engaged in what the professor/class is doing.  You'll get more and you'll miss less.  If you've ever been directly in front of the stage in a concert, you will know what I mean.  The performance becomes immediate and engrossing.  The difference between a great show, a good show, and a so-so show can relate to your vantage point of where you were sitting/standing during the show.  

The same can happen in a classroom.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Be Good to Yourself

Picture this: It's early December, just two weeks to the end of the semester, and you're sweating big time over your Math 102 (Statistics) class.  Though you've been struggling in Stats since September, you've been putting off going to the Math Center for extra help, hoping everything would somehow turn out okay.   

Now picture this: It's early December, the end of the semester just around the bend, and you're holding your own in Statistics.  Though you'll never be the world's greatest math student, you took yourself to the Math Center early in the semester (as soon as you started to struggle) and got the help you needed to learn the material.

Whose shoes would you rather be standing in?

As you've probably heard (several times) by now, Nassau offers a wide range of services--help centers, individual and group tutoring, even online assistance--aimed at helping students get the most out of their classes. Though the specifics of services vary from department to department, all are delivered by people who know their subjects--be it math, writing, biology, accounting, or whatever.  All services are also free, which, as anyone who's ever paid a private tutor knows, is no small thing.

But just knowing about these services isn't enough.  You have to use them.  That means calling or visiting their locations and setting aside time to get the help you need.  That may be a little inconvenient, especially if the rest of life is busy, but ask yourself this: Do you want to hit December knowing a) that you got help early on and are doing okay or b) that you did nothing and are now sinking and hoping for a miracle?

The answer's a no-brainer.

The good news: It's only mid October--still time to salvage that course that you feel is slipping away.  Act now and there's no reason you can't catch up and raise those disappointing test or paper grades. 

But the key word is NOW.  Not the day after tomorrow or next week or whenever you get a little free time to make that call or visit.  Right now.

You can probably find the help you need just by clicking the following link, which lists most campus services.  And if you don't see what you need, try the department that offers the course you need help with. 

But whatever you do, act--don't put it off.  Be good to yourself.  Don't leave your classes to chance.  And come December, take comfort knowing that you gave your education--and your future--your best shot.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

No, you're not being hauled away by the police and you won't need a lawyer to get you off the hook. 

But if sitting silently in class and never letting on that you have a good mind were a crime, some of you would have some serious explaining to do! 

Year in and year out I meet students in my classes who do their best to be invisible.  They never ask a question, volunteer an answer or opinion, or speak (when called on) for more than an instant.

Many of these students are smart and have plenty to say--something I discover when I read their first papers or meet them for conferences.  But until that "aha" moment, they're often a mystery to me and others around them.

Some students have told me that they're simply too shy to speak in class.  Or that they spoke up in high school but were silenced by obnoxious classmates or overly critical teachers.  Or that they're worried about giving a wrong answer or saying something someone might disagree with.

So they sit silently in class and let others do all the talking.

If you're one of these folks, you need to think about changing your ways.  While you needn't be the most talkative person in class, you clearly deserve to be heard when you have a question to ask or a thought or opinion to share.  Don't let the loud mouths of the world (and there are unfortunately a few in our midst) or the possibilty of a wrong answer (who hasn't been wrong at some point?) keep you from participating in the life of your classes. 

Remember: This is YOUR education.

In the end, you do have the right to remain silent in class, of course, but you also have the right to speak up and make your presence felt.

I cast my vote for the latter; so should you.