In class on November 15th, we discussed correctional facilities and prison reform. I posed the following question to my students: Are correctional facilities designed to “correct” behavior or character? Most of them said “both,” but some said neither. What do you think?
As we go about our holiday season, I think of those who are unable to have food, family, and fun – at the same time. Needless to say, there are individuals who have committed crimes unthinkable, yet there are some who have not. Are their lives being changed while on the inside of confinement? Are our lives being enhanced while we are captive to our vices? The truth is if we were caught in our everyday violations of malice, greed, and pride, we would be incarcerated right along side of our brothers and sisters.
So, I pose these questions to you… What are you chained to? What mental or emotional prison are you in? Is your “facility” correcting or enabling the behavior that got you there?
When you come to my class, you’ll learn one thing… I love to have fun, but I don’t play. I want students to change the game of their future professions. I don’t train robots; I train thinkers. Critical, comprehensive thinkers. I mentally condition my students to problem-solve, not memorize. It’s a superpower, I guess… to train the mind. So, you could say that Tuesday, November 14th was training day.
The scientific method was on deck for psychology and public issues were on the menu for speech. Their brains were squeezed a little bit, but they left the room with more elasticity than they arrived with.
In both classes, I assisted students in solving problems in their future career field. After all, shouldn’t that be the goal? I don’t want them to graduate and simply fall into the status quo of complaining about everything around them. I want them to think of solutions and be daring enough to try them. That’s how the game changes; that’s how progress is made. It’s made by people saying “What about this?” and “Let’s try it this way.” Enough of sitting down and waiting on someone to magically fix all of our problems in the industries we love. We are the fixers. We are the thinkers.
I call them Birmingham’s Finest every day for a reason – because I truly believe they are. They can do anything the world needs.
On Wednesday, November 8th, the topic in my communication class was relationships. I always ask my students how they can improve their interpersonal communication. This is one of my favorite topics to discuss because no matter how introverted some students may be, this chapter always gets head nods and contemplative facial responses.
One of the chapter concepts was social exchange theory, which I truly enjoy demonstrating. To introduce it, I use banking as an example. One student has an imaginary balance in her/his account and as the scenario continues, each student has borrowed money from the account holder for various reasons. Somewhere between these transactions, the account holder experiences a couple of “pay days” and receives a direct deposit into their account. We calculate the total of the withdrawals and the deposits – what was lent to friends/family and the balance we could have had if little to no lending took place. Usually, students have voiced their opinions by this point about how the account holder shouldn’t have been so giving and how in “real life,” they would never lend out so much money. Then, I pose the following –
“If we are so careful with our money to monitor what is coming and going, why aren’t we just as careful with our relationships? You can give of your time, energy, and resources, but if that person does something you like, it’s like a pay day and all’s right with the world and you forget about their offenses. What if the deposits and withdrawals don’t balance out relationally? How do we determine whether the cost is worth paying? Before we are offended, how do we communicate our needs to the people we love?”
It’s generally quiet in the room after that spill with a grunt or two. I love it. It means they are thinking.
One of the corollaries of social exchange theory is that if the perceived cost is higher than the perceived reward, we will continue to remain in the relationship. It doesn’t matter if it is familial, platonic, professional, or romantic – we will stay if the cost of leaving seems too high. So, I am asking you, Sweetheart, what are the costs of your relationships? Do you do anything that perpetuates low benefits and high costs? Relationships will never be equitable at all times, but are we monitoring the costs of our exchanges like we monitor our money?
When the cost is worth it, it is called an investment. Let’s try to keep the costs low and the investments high.
I just wanted to tell you that the best is yet to come. And it doesn’t just float your way and chase you down. It stands in front of you and challenges you to reach and experience it.
On Tuesday, November 7th, I felt my best coming through. I was excited to teach and even more excited to empower. My body didn’t want to cooperate that morning and I was nauseous from sinus drainage. My face felt like someone had blown up a balloon under behind my eyes and nose. Nevertheless, I slayed the day. Learning took place. Tough love ensued. Encouragement flowed. Anyone can tell you that I rarely miss teaching class. The thought of staying home in bed that morning sounded sexy (as it does on most days), yet the best of me beckoned and I rose to meet her.
That day, I thought of you, my Sweetheart Reader. What is the best part or version of yourself? Have you seen her/him in a while? Where does her/him reside? What is s/he doing when the passion finds its jet stream of purpose?
When you don’t feel at your best, remind yourself that the best is yet to come… if you go meet it. You can do it. I believe in your best. I believe in you.
It’s B2S time and man, do I love the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, the colorful display of dry erase markers, and the inspirational notebook covers. *sigh* I love being an educator and a nerd. It’s such a beautiful combination. *smile* Being in this profession means that I see a lot of preventable mistakes from students and that I’ve made some of my own.
Someone who is like a little sister to me asked for advice as she embarks upon her freshman year of college next week. I thought about my response later and decided to share it #ontheblog to aid others who are transitioning to higher education. Some come from the perspective my teacher’s desk and some from my student experience. Needless to say, I wish I had these reminders when I began, so I hope they help. Feel free to share your own as well!
10 Things Every Student Should Know
“Go in there, get what you need, and get out.”That’s what my grandmother told me when I began my freshman year at the University of Alabama at Birmingham(also known as UAB; #GoBlazers). You literally don’t have time to do anything that isn’t accomplishing that goal. Have fun, but get your work done.
Enjoy meeting new people and understanding different cultures. College is where life-long friendships can start. Just be selective.
Everyone doesn’t believe in God.Don’t be easily offended. Be firm in what you believe and stay focused. Listen closely to the heart of people and you’ll hear the truth in their voice. See the person, not the religion and love accordingly. We can all learn something from each other. From the Buddhist, I learned how to be still. From the Jehovah’s Witness, I learned determination. From the atheist, I learned how to think critically. From the Muslim, I learned devotion. And I’m still Christian after befriending them all.
Make an appointment with your instructors at least twice during the quarter. Before midterms and after midterms is a good practice. It’s easier to give an F to a student you don’t know. I tell my students the following every quarter: I don’t give grades; I give opportunities. What you make is up to you. Don’t suck up, but make sure s/he knows your name.
Be open to discovering more of who you are.Everyone starts out thinking they know everything. You’ll quickly find out that you don’t. Soak in as much as you can and watch your back along the way.
Your name will be the only name on your transcript, not your friends, “friends,” or family. So, do what you have to do to maintain your character and your grades. If your best effort is usually on point, then a slip up is not detrimental enough to forfeit the instructor’s grace. But it’s hard to ask for mercy when all you have projected is laziness and absences throughout the quarter/semester.
Be in charge of your own learning experience. Don’t wait for the instructor to give you information. Seek it yourself then show them what you’ve found that matches what they taught. This will also help you remember course content long-term instead of just memorizing information for the test.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask them early.Just be careful what they are because most professors hate repeating themselves. Instructors don’t want to overextend themselves at the end of the semester when you had ample opportunity to gain understanding for months.
Study smartly!Study content weekly instead of cramming. Ask how the tests are constructed (multiple choice, essay, etc.) and if it will be timed. Then practice… just like you would at a rehearsal). This of the test as an opportunity to show off what you know, not a way to crash and burn. It’s just a big worksheet, not the apocalypse. Reframe the way you approach the exam and watch yourself shine!
Count your losses and let them go.I’ve walked out of a class before with the truth of failure tapping me on my shoulder. I’ve turned in a test where most of the questions were unanswered. I’ve lost hours of work due to technological problems and couldn’t reconstruct the masterpiece I wrote in the computer lab. I’ve failed a pop quiz. It’s not the end of the world. Chalk it up to immaturity, poor time and energy management, go get yourself a smoothie, and make a plan. And, keep your old notes for next quarter.
Peace & Thanks for listening! Have an awesome fall quarter/semester!
Got some hardknock lessons you can share with new students? Share the wisdom below!
The following events happened within a 8-hour time span. Crazy.
Lunch with a beautiful twist
I had lunch with someone that I didn’t know as well. She had experienced a death in her family and I had given her some time before encroaching upon her grief. I was in mourning as well and we discussed our journeys toward the sunlight. We left the lunch spot laughing and vowing to meet again before the year ends.
What I heard: You never know who’s in it with you. Somebody gets it.
Somehow, with our nightlights, we found each other and embraced the space we were stumbling in because we knew there was a way out. That day, lunch was so much more than a meal.
Tutoring with a beautiful story
I left the lunch with a beautiful twist to tutor a pre-teen. He had a book report due in a few days and his father asked for my assistance. He and his father were frustrated in the process of creating a rough draft. I love those kinds of challenges. As we talked about the book, the student revealed the storyline in a way that made me want to check it out. Then, I asked him about a part of the story that I didn’t understand. His response? “Well, memories don’t die with the person.” Not knowing anything about my state of heart, this young one pierced it with an arrow of truth. I am so grateful that memories don’t die with the person’s body. I can feel sad forever, but I have memories. I can’t say the same about my biological father as I only have two memories of him, but he lives in the stories I’ve heard from those with whom he spent time. Memories have a funny way of sneaking up on you and grabbing you out of your current world. Sometimes good, sometimes in a bad way. For me, that tutoring session was a good moment… a reminder that I can enjoy the recollections gifted by the person well after the lifetime expires. We finished the rough draft, I consulted with the client, and all was well in their world… and in mine.
Rehearsal with a beautiful message
So, now it was time to be creative. It was time to put flesh and bones to a song that my performing arts troupe would record and post online. It was inevitable that this would be a joint effort and as the leader of the team, I was determined to let their minds run free with ideas as I did during the brainstorming session. Rehearsal can get gritty and your mind and body can take a beating, but it’s all for a good outcome.
There was a part of the song where we are on our knees in humility, but spiritually, it depicted where I had been for the past couple of weeks. I felt helpless and pressure-squeezed like fruit in a winepress. I knew something sweet and refined would come out of everything, but I couldn’t see it and all I could do is say “Whatever You want to do, just give me the strength to do it.” Instead of leaving rehearsal drained, I left encouraged. Encouraged to minister the piece to myself and anyone else who needs a thy will be done in their spirit.
Sometimes we think that beauty comes upon instantly beholding something, not realizing what it took for the artist to create what we see. It’s beautiful because it was first messy. Cloudy. Muddy. Confusing. It was beautiful after the work and the darkness.
I experienced a beautiful surprise that began as not-so-pretty moments. All with a similar theme. Who knew?
“We keep changing the chefs never noticing the oven is broken.” – T. D. Jakes, Sermon: Destiny Flocks Together
This isn’t a political piece. It’s bigger than that.
So, since you’re here, you might as well come on in and keep reading. *smile*
I was teaching my Introduction to Communication class today and something flew out of my mouth like a free bird. I can always tell when the Holy Spirit takes over because the faces of my students look like someone punched them in gut and the echo of my words surprise me when I hear them.
We were discussing conflict resolution and communication styles. The students’ conversation turned into how the value of the relationship and a person’s stage in life can affect conflict resolution strategies. Then, I said something that made the environment change. I’ll paraphrase below since I don’t remember the exact wording.
“Sometimes, you have to admit that there are no more band-aids in the box and it’s time to agree to do the surgery. It may not be a pretty quick-fix, but if you have placed a high value on the person and the long-term health relationship, you have to agree to do the work and have a common goal of achieving a shared understanding.”
I felt it. It was a slight shift where my students thought about their personal situations. So, I gave the “pregnant pause” before continuing my lesson plan.
Depending on the value you both have placed on each other and the relationship (whether platonic, familial, or romantic), the conflict resolution outcome will vary. And just because the outcome isn’t a win-win (which isn’t nearly as feasible as people think in most cases), it doesn’t mean the issue was not resolved. Perhaps you have extended every option in your emotional storage and the other person is stuck on fueling the fire. The resolution is to accept the loss of the relationship type and get used to a new normal (lose-lose). The outcome doesn’t always have to be rosy to be the best option.
Let’s take this communication theory further. In the case of our most recent presidential election, I found Pastor T. D. Jakes’ quote most fitting. At times, we place too much responsibility on one person to fix our problems. Just like a surgeon has technicians and a team of doctors to consult, so does anyone that sits in the president’s seat. Unfortunately, just like in a medical situation, we put an unrealistic divinity on one human to heal our diseases. As Pastor Jakes said, we never put the microscope on the systemic leaks that need to be addressed. We simply change the person in the seat. On a personal level, instead of surgery, we opt for the band-aid of another partner, another friend, another job, another state, and all the while, the best option is to dig deeperfor the source of the problem and attempt to resuscitate our lives.
Since we’re all created by the same God, shouldn’t we all get along? Shouldn’t everything be perfect and no surgery be necessary? hmph. Take into account the following verse:
1Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:1-6
Everyone is living in a tainted shell; therefore, we have to do the work to keep peace abounding in our communication…and in our country. Diligence is necessary. Patience is a prerequisite. Tolerance is essential. We’re in a time where the band-aids are peeling because the problems are too great and the blood is running freely. Let’s do better and choose wisely in speech and in our political footsteps.
No matter the political climate, I always get a natural high on voting day.
There’s something different in the air and I take it all in. Sure, people have putrid intentions and spew malicious words back and forth, but I walk in that designated voting location like a boss. Too many bodies hung on trees for this right, so I vote as I please.
I’ve taught students about the Trail of Tears and the Middle Passage and watch their immaturity show when I asked them to put pen to paper. At times, it made me angry. And yes, I’ve walked into a voting booth with a chip on my shoulder heavier than a cannon ball. I also must admit that I’ve secretly begged for someone to cross me sideways during any part of the voting process just so I could inflate my pride after marking my ballot.
Then, I got over myself. Prayer makes one do that, you know.
I asked God to make me smile with gratefulness instead of a scour and a side of gravitas. It’s a serious freedom to choose one’s leaders, but it doesn’t have to be muddy and grotesque. Everyone thinks they’re right and everyone gets the opportunity to say so. That’s a blessing (and a curse sometimes, but still).
When I look at my voting sticker, I instantly start beaming. I know what it took to get it, especially when I vote in the very spot where others were denied. I will never take that lightly. Their feet were blistered from marching and they obliterated sexist demands in order for me to hold my head high today. Threats didn’t shut their mouths, so why should the smallmindedness of others close mine?
It’s a blessing no matter who the candidates are and what are amendments are up for review. I have the right to choose. And it feels good. Impeccably good.
There are boxing gloves that can fit every hand for the fight against injustice.
Without the tempered pen of Phillis Wheatley and Ida B. Wells-Barnett… the beautiful creative prowess of Katherine Dunham and Debbie Allen… the cat eyeglasses and church shoes worn by civil rights activists, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do each day. So, I started thinking… if everyone fought the same way, something would go untouched. A collection of varied punches is the only human force that can defeat an enemy of this magnitude. The slobbering rabid dog that it is.
With the crimes that have transpired in the last 2 years (shootings and bombings and murders, oh my…), I decided to challenge myself by compiling a kaleidoscope of ways that people are fighting injustice on a regular basis. Could I do it? Could I come up with 50 persons that swing in the ring as differently as their fingerprints? Whew! What a challenge!
Though their gloves look different to the naked eye, their fight against what’s wrong in the world sends ripples through history. I made a point to also include people that you may not know, and some I didn’t know until this post. Their work isn’t always glamourous and may be overshadowed by their fame or “Clark Kent” 9-to-5 identity, but this list is comprised of some heavyweight champions… some, I am honored to know personally. They came to the forefront of my mind and I’ve included their method of fighting as a link within their name. If someone that you admire isn’t on the list, respectfully add it in the comment section below along with a link to provide details about their fighting strategy as it wasn’t meant to be exclusive. Just a segway for conversation and inspiration.
Wouldn’t it be cool if these names were in the history books
Be a youth/young adult mentor. Don’t freak them out by smothering them. Just love on them. Speak life into them. Mention their interests every now and then. Show up. Support goes a long way.
Go outside and be cordial to your neighbors. You can’t criticize who you don’t know. Also, if all eyes are watching for crime, the community creates a line of defense.
Learn the names of the officers that police your community. They’re people. Humans live behind that badge. All law enforcement are not bad, just like all vegetables don’t taste gross. Don’t let anything shade your perspective.
Read a book. Besides reading God’s Word, I love reading various materials. It helps to maintain healthy conversation when you know what you’re talking about.
Discuss a book with others. See #4. Can you imagine what this would do for us all?
Be excellent in your craft. Don’t be mediocre because of a paycheck. Be the best. You being your best will make someone else’s life so much better.
Excel at the small things. Little things count. Smile. Offer help. Call instead of text. Even if you’re sweeping the floor, remember the corners.
Give a compliment to a stranger. Lighten up someone’s load by giving them a smile.
Love the unlovable. I know they can be weird and mean. Love them anyway.
Bathe yourself in goodness before you go to work. It’s a jungle out there. Be prepared before you walk in. Clothe yourself in righteousness and be ready for whatever. That’s how you don’t flip out.
I hope those names inspire you as much as they did me. Some of them do not receive nearly enough accolades and appreciation, but they fight anyway. Everyday. Driving their best race in the passionate lane of their career path.
Click on every name. Explore them. If you can, reach out to them… honk your virtual horn and say “Hey. Thanks for fighting.”You may be just the boxer’s corner they need to keep regroup, clean up, and keep going.
Peace & Thanks for listening. *runs to ice fingers from typing*