Sunday, October 23, 2016


Get off your grass,
You simple man!

You are not an ostrich
Hiding in its fears.

A circular posture
Crowned in darkness

Cannot get you what you need
Oh, useless muse

You sing songs of desire,
Loneliness, and starvation.

Get out of your cellar
Your lofty perch is the highest of the low

It's not about you.

You exist to serve, and in serving
You meet your own need.

Trust in the Lord or the Universe or
Something Greater than yourself.

Lose your ego and your self-defeat;
You will not be happy

Until you serve another.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Want a Faster Email Response from Your Professor? Follow These Four Tips

Email makes taking classes so much easier these days. Among other things, you can reach out to your instructors about an assignment or grade with a few keystrokes.

However, email can make users careless. Students sometimes fire off messages without putting much thought into them, leaving instructors scratching their heads as to what the student is asking and how best to respond.
You can give your instructors all the information they need by following four easy steps:
1. Tell us which class you are in.
Believe it or not, you instructor probably doesn't teach just one class. Full-time professors may teach anywhere from four to seven classes, or more, at a time. Adjunct instructors may teach several classes at different institutions. So, even if the instructor recognizes your name, he or she may not associate it with a particular class.
You can tell the instructor precisely which class you are in by including the course section number in your email.
Most college courses have a course number and a course section number (CSN). For example, the course number may tell you the course name and level, such as "English 101" or "Business Administration 250." But there may be hundreds of individual courses, or sections, and your professor may be teaching several at the same time. 
At some institutions, a CSN may look something like this: EN101-001 or BA250-327N. At other institutions, the number may be a more generic series of numbers, such as 32466. 
Where do you find the CSN? Try looking in the course catalog or the list of courses you are currently taking. If you are taking an online course, the section number can usually be found on the course home page or menu. 
2. Send emails only from your college email account.
In the modern world, people have many different email accounts, and sometimes those accounts are linked for convenience. But if your instructor receives an email from your personal or work account, she has no way of knowing if the sender is you or someone else. She also has no way of knowing who else has access to your account: your spouse, your children, or your employer.
Your college account should not be shared with anyone. Your instructor must be able to respond with the confidence that you and only you are receiving the messages.
For this reason, many instructors will respond to emails only if they are sent from the student’s school account.
3. Be specific about what you are asking.
“Hey, prof, I don’t understand the assignment” tells us very little. “Hey, prof, I don’t understand the Week 6 assignment” tells us only a little more.
If you really want to blow your instructor’s mind, write something like, “The Week 6 assignment asks us to write in third person, but I don’t know what this means. Can you show me some examples?”
The more specific you can be, the more specific a response you will get. 
Otherwise, you may receive a ton of information you don’t need. Even worse, the instructor may ask for clarification, which means you have to send another email with more detailed information anyway.
And while you can ask as many questions as you want, it may be more meaningful to focus on one at a time. Make sure you understand the instructor’s response before going on to another concern. You can always send another email later.
4. Be polite.
This one should go without saying, yet I sometimes receive emails which make demands or even threats—usually over a low grade.
No one likes to receive a low grade. If you receive one, it's okay to be upset. But this is also an opportunity to practice your readiness for a professional career by keeping your emotions in check. Instead of writing, “I don’t agree with my grade. I’m going to file an appeal,” write something like, “I was stunned to see I had received a D. Did I miss something?”
If, after receiving the instructor’s response, you still feel you have been wronged and have evidence to support your claim, by all means you should file an appeal. But making threats comes across as childish and can shut down communication with the person who is most interested in helping you succeed: your instructor.
Always practice the Golden Rule—treat others as you want to be treated. Even better, practice what Dr. Tony Alessandra calls the Platinum Rule—treat others as they want to be treated.
If you follow these steps, your educational experience will be immensely improved by helping us help you.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Thesis Statement: This One Sentence Can Make or Break Your Essay

Below is another of my posts on college writing. This post originally ran on the Grantham Blog in 2015.
Here’s a quick quiz.
Let’s say you are writing a paper for one of your college courses on whether or not colleges and universities should change their grading systems.
Which of the following would make the best thesis statement?
A. This essay will discuss whether or not colleges and universities should abolish grades. 
B. In my opinion, colleges and universities should do away with grades altogether. 
C. The traditional grading system of A-F does not adequately measure student achievement inside and outside of the classroom. 
D. Should colleges and universities change their grading systems?
Before you select an answer, let’s get a clear understanding of what a thesis statement is and what it is not.
Get to the Point
A thesis statement is the most important part of an essay. It is the central idea of the paper—the “thing” you most want to get across. In a persuasive essay, it is the idea you want your readers to accept.
In other words, it is the point of your paper distilled down to one sentence or twoat most.
A thesis statement must be specific. It does not leave room for readers to guess what you mean or for you to weasel out of a position by saying, “Well, it’s just my opinion.”
This can be a challenge because, in writing an essay,  you commit yourself to a position. A position in writing is like a position in baseball: you must be standing in the right place (or on the right base) to get home. If you are in the wrong place or too slow in getting to the next base, you will be “out.”
Unlike baseball, there are rarely winners and losers in writing. Writers try to express some universal truth that their readers can agree on. If you can get your readers to agree, we are all “winners.”
But in order to find that truth, you have to take a position.
Don’t Argue with Me (Well, Yes You Can)
A thesis statement must also be arguable, which means someone can, in fact, disagree with you. This, too, is a challenge because most people feel uncomfortable when others disagree with them. Who wants to be told we’re wrong?
However, a good writer prepares to take that risk. He/she does this by showing confidence in the position and welcomes the opportunity to address others who hold different views.
Don’t Just Lie There. Get Up and Move!
A thesis statement should propel the reader forward. It should make the reader curious about how the writer arrived at this conclusion.
These statements are active, not passive (“This paper will discuss …”). They engage the reader in dialogue, making the reader feel he or she has a stake in the issue.
Last, a thesis statement is never a question. It is by definition a statement. It ends in a period. Think of a thesis statement as the answer to a question.
Drumroll, please!
It should be obvious that the correct answer is C. It is the only answer that meets all of the above criteria: It is specific and arguable. It propels the reader forward, and it is not a question.
Does this mean that the thesis statement has all the answers? Absolutely not.
One can easily argue the opposite position—that grades provide students with easily identifiable goals and employers with a quick measure of an applicant’s academic record, for example.
Because this counterargument exists, the writer now has a clear job: to convince the reader(s) to take his/her side.
And the best part of a thesis statement? If you distill your entire paper down to one sentence, you now know where you're going and so does your reader.

Sneak Peak at My Answers for the Local Author Fair Panel

On Thursday, November 5, I will be one of four authors participating in the Local Authors Fair Panel through Woodneath Library Center, Kansa...