Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Title is "Mister"...until familiarity is earned

Ever have a teacher that told you to call him "Mr" even though your brain said to call him by his first name? Here's a story that will help put the respect back into the title and remind us all to use these titles unless given permission to do otherwise.

Respect for teachers that gave respect and made the class interested in their subject. This happened to be science in both cases. My hobby outside of school was paid for by my paper delivery and fruit delivery both on bike and foot. I came across the Radio Ham shop and bought the parts, tools and circuit diagram for the crystal radio sets. I connected one end of the circuit across a 5V battery and the earth to the water pipe, next placed the headphones across the other end. This allowed me to hear stations from all over the world. Then I asked my science teacher about transistors and he lent me the Mullard Red Book on Transistor Circuits which I built over the next three years. The last science teacher was the first Indian teacher to teach in Edinburgh, Scotland and his test was if you could jump onto the 3foot high science table. You could then call him by his first name. Until then it was mister.. He managed to get everybody to pass their science exam.


Eric Sutherland
T/A Trog Associates Ltd
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Beware of the Evil English Teacher?

In my freshman and junior year of high school, I was blessed with the same English teacher, Mrs. Starke, the most feared woman in all of Miramonte High School . Not known for my reading and writing skills, I cringed at the idea of her freshman course and even went so far as to try to switch teachers. When that failed, I knew I was in for the long-haul. Through fear and public humiliation, Mrs. Starke taught me the art of writing, including the names for every word in a sentence, and strategies for public speaking. A few students failed her class, an extremely uncommon occurrence at my high school, but the majority carried on to become stronger writers and speakers. Today, I can’t write a sentence without thinking -- “appositive…followed by a subject…then a verb…and concluding with an adverb clause.” After two years of Mrs. Starke, she made me into a “grammar fanatic,” and even to my surprise, I find enjoyment in dissecting and reconstructing sentences in new ways. I am endlessly thankful to Mrs. Starke, who I never dared thank in high school, probably due to fear. Today, I attribute much of my success in business to her teachings. In May 2007, I started a public relations company, Elm Publicity Inc., and employ the lessons of Mrs. Starke every day!

Beth M. Cleveland Principal Elm Publicity Inc.
415.283.7333 Elizabeth@elmpublicity.com

Organizational Skills and Time Management

Perhaps the most valuable lesson which I ever learned in school was to keep track of books, crayons, etc. In my personal as well as my professional life, that talent has translated itself into organizational skills and time management opportunities.

Another learning point I remember realizing in 5th grade was that there are favorites in every class; the favorites are the ones that generally get off easier than others. Isn't that true in work life as well? I think the earlier a child instinctively learns this, the better he or she will fare in life.

I actually had a teacher with a philosophy: Some get it sooner, some get it later, and some don't get it.

Alan Guinn, Managing Director/CEO
The Guinn Consultancy Group, Inc.

Oct 1st - A Day Made Better

Dear Readers,
What have you done to show appreciation to those who have mentored you -- either educators or business leaders? Below is what OfficeMax is doing for teachers on October 1st.

“A Day Made Better” is a company-wide community initiative founded by OfficeMax in partnership with Adopt-A-Classroom. This annual, one-day event was created to provide teachers with essential classroom supplies—supplies that they often purchase themselves – and garner national support for teachers in tough economic times. Teachers spend about $1200 out-of-pocket on classroom supplies each year to offset budget cuts, according to the NEA’s online survey of 3.2M members. This year on October 1, OfficeMax and Adopt-A-Classroom will surprise and honor more than 1,300 teachers at 1300 needy schools across the U.S. with over $1,000 worth of classroom supplies (printers, cameras, supply carts, leather chair, etc). Plus, schools will receive Adopt-A-Classroom startup kits to continue giving on a local level, and OfficeMax discounts from its MaxPerks teacher rewards program. Through “A Day Made Better,” OfficeMax hopes to educate and motivate the public to support and partner with schools in their community via Adopt-A-Classroom.

For more info, you’re welcome to check out the event announcement and “A Day Made Better” video from 2007 at www.prnewswire.com/mnr/officemax/34614/.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tests to Toilet Cleaning, Do it with Integrity

Recently, several people were asked what positive life lessons they learned in school that have gone on to serve them in life and help them be successful in their careers. Here is one response:

"I attended a private school in Danbury, CT that was a self-help school. We had not janitors. We, the students were given chores to clean the school at different time throughout the day. I learned how to mop a floor and clean a toilet! Very useful!

More than that however, was the school's honor code. After every test, we were required to write on the back of our papers 'On my honor I pledge that I have not give nor received any information on the test.' and then were were to sign it. What this taught me was integrity in my work whether that was mopping a floor so that it shined or being rigorously honest about my answers on a pop quiz. Today, I have brought that integrity to my own business and I can tell that my clients truly respect that. This honesty has helped me to run a successful business and for that I am very grateful."

-Peter Pamela Rose
Master Life/Career Coach,
Chiropractor for the Mind

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mentors Required

For people to achieve what they have dreamed, they need  examples of other achiever, and a road map to get there. It is infinitely easier to stay with the norm and not grow, but tremendously powerful to achieve what your heart desires. This holds true for all of us, from the youngest student to the most senior executive.

Who is a Mentor?
We all are. Anyone who has achieved anything can mentor someone who has never done that same task, climbed the same ladder or earned the same recognition or skill level. As my friend and colleague Dr. Carolyn Brightharp of Virginia College, Greenville, SC, campus likes to say, "Each one -- teach one." 

Where do you find a Mentor?
Look to someone who has done what your heart desires. Want a PhD? Ask several people who have earned their degree in a field you are interested in. Don't stroke their egos so much that you make them sick, but honestly say, "I want to achieve what you have. Can I buy you lunch and ask you questions about it?" Many times you won't need to buy lunch, and I have found usually the best and brightest give of themselves freely in this manner all of the time. Those who are curt and stingy usually have issues you don't want to be locked into dealing with.  In the end, find a mentor you trust, whose ethics match yours and with whom you feel comfortable asking questions. You'd be rewarded and can then pay it forward to those who need your expertise in the future.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Power Point is Killing Us All

There is an insidious disease called powerpointitis it affects the creator and the viewer. The creator doesn't know how to do a presentation without this slide show beast and the viewer is doomed to watch slide, after slide, most often being read to them, with no graphics that illustrate a point, but instead endless bullet points, cheesy sound effects and stock graphics that any elementary child can learn to master. 

Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, this scenario seems to be life as normal for many school rooms and far too many corporate cultures (although I hope once someone gets to the board room they're more savvy by that point). What can you do about it? 
1. Not use Power Point at all.
2. Use the software but don't use the stock templates, images and sounds. Instead, opt for putting some effort into the process.
3. Swear on your mother's (hopefully future) grave that you will never, ever, under any circumstance READ a PPT presentation to your audience. 
4. Have your slide show include the marketing and sales elements that we all know work -- list the uniqueness of your idea, the benefits of knowing it or acting upon it, and the rewards of following through. Leave everything else off the slides and save it for discussion (if you must bring it up at all). 

With a little luck, on all levels, the bad habits of Power Point usage will not plague schools or corporations any longer. Let's kill powerpointitis once and for all!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Silence is Golden

Ever have a classmate or peer who wouldn't be able to last five minutes into a meeting or course session without adding a comment? What reasons do you feel this person had for incessant chattering, even if it was with the teacher or manager?

As an educator, in the school room, I had several students over the year that I actually had to say, "You have three opportunities to talk during class today. Make those comments and questions your most important because you are as important as your classmates, but not more important." It usually worked, especially when I would said, "Okay, this is your first comment. You'll have two left," and so on. 

What does an effective manager do in the board room or training room? Say that you can visit that idea later and move on? Sometimes. Yet others allow their employees to totally monopolize a meeting or training session. We can't always blame the students or employees for breaches of etiquette. Sometimes the person in charge is equally to blame for not stopping it, and peers make it worse by grumbling about it or laughing every time the offender speaks up again, and again. 

The bottom line is, don't be the offender and don't let it happen in your office or classroom. Nobody is worth 90% of the team's time and effort and repeat offenders my find their feet hitting the bricks because they're not a team player.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Randolph-Macon Academy Grads Realize Success from School Lessons

Recently, several professionals were asked by School Room to Board Room (SRTBR) to cite lessons they learned in school and how those lessons made them a better professional or led to their success as an adult in "the real world." These responses begin appearing here today. When possible, the person to brought the response to SRTBR is noted in addition to the responders themselves.

Celeste Brooks, Director of Public Relations at Randolph-Macon Academy, asked alumni to respond and some very strong examples appear here today.
(Thank you to Celeste and to all who participated! Your experiences are invaluable!)

Response #1:"My classmates would be the first to agree that during my five years at R-MA, I rebelled against the military training. At the time, I considered the constant drilling, standing in formation, and protocol a pain. It wasn't until college, and later as I began my career, that I realized why our military trains this way. It is to teach each individual the importance of working together as a team or unit and how to take charge of a situation when necessary. In group situations, I immediately found that my instinct and training led me to recognize the goal, organize my fellow students or co-workers , provide the necessary leadership to make a plan and make assignments to get the task completed. At first, I was astounded why others did not do the same, but then I realized, they hadn't gone to R-MA. I had learned the power of leadership despite myself and I appreciate it to this day.

From a strictly career standpoint, the superior teaching and support I received from my English instructors at R-MA and my opportunity to write for the student newspaper gave me the basis for what has been an over 30-year career in writing for a living. I have written everything from advertising copy to film scripts, from news releases to magazine articles, from speeches for the Governor of Virginia to annual reports for major corporations and I credit R-MA for encouraging me to follow my talents into a successful and fulfilling life's work."

(Of course, the current students won't really believe any of this until they grow as old and "wise" as I am.)-
Jeb Hockman, R-MA Class of '69Manager, Member & Public Relations
VA, MD & DE Association of Electric Cooperatives
Post Office Box 2340, 4201 Dominion Boulevard,
Glen Allen, Virginia 23058-2340(804) 968-4070

Response #2:
My senior year English instructor, Ron McManus, worked very hard to help his students improve their writing skills. He pushed us towards writing excellence and even though it was somewhat painful at the time, he achieved his goal, at least with me. I've never forgotten a statement that he made in class; he said, "If you can write a good business letter, you can write your own ticket." Those words stuck with me through college; I managed to do well in courses that emphasized writing skills. Law school was made easier (if that's possible!) because of the skills learned in high school. I had a successful career and was able to retire before I turned 60. I attribute a great deal of that success to Ron McManus and to those words he spoke so many years ago.
Curtis Thomas, R-MA Class of '63,
Placentia, California

Response #3:
I was one of the few cadets who transferred into R-MA for his SENIOR YEAR of High School, 77-78 season. Having never been exposed to military protocol and regulations this was a major adjustment in mind and body! While in public school I always did well in academics and sports and found being one of the best an easy task without too much effort. My first English class at R-MA was with Colonel McFarland, whom I admire and respect to this day. I wrote a paper that would have easily been graded an 'A' in another school and turned it in to the Colonel. The next day in class I received the paper back with a huge red 'F' on the cover!! How could this be? I had misspelled three words in my outline and he went no further into my paper.....F!

After my surprise and anger wore off I learned a valuable lesson which has served me my entire life. Attention to detail and the "little things in life" are the most important ingredient to success! In addition, always strive to be the best you can be which is most probably better than you are!By the way, my very next paper submitted to Colonel McFarland was an 'A,' which I worked very hard to maintain. After R-MA I was the honor graduate from platoon from Parris Island USMC and served for four years. I spent the next 20 years as a Massachusetts State Trooper and earned my degree in Criminal Justice from UMASS while on the job.
Sgt. Daniel M. Clark USMC (80-84) MSP (85-05 ret.)
R-MA Class of 78

Randolph-Macon Academy, founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12. It is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and students in grades 9-12 participate in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. R-MA is located in Front Royal, VA.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Who To Blame?

This morning, on NPR's Morning Edition the guest was billionaire Wilbur Ross. For those who do not know the man, he's made a bulk of his living turning around companies and selling them and earned a handful of unpleasant nicknames for his mode of operations, including "vulture." Regardless of his mode of operations, in this interview, he makes a point that when things go wrong, so often people blame others or circumstances that they have no control over. For example, if a business is doing poorly, management might cite labor unions as the problem. Manufacturers might blame lower priced labor in China undermining the company. Rarely do people look at themselves and the actions they take on a daily basis as something they can improve upon to turn a company around.

Who do you blame when you do not get the results you were hoping for?
If you blame yourself to the point of being paralyzed by your fear, this is as big of a problem as blaming everyone but yourself. Instead, note what went according to play. Look at what factors you had an influence in and what factors you did not or could not anticipate. If there were problems within your control, what can you do differently next time? Is the damaged contained, or will more problems spring forth if you don't act immediately? By answering these questions, you can get a more objective measure of who is to blame, if anyone. Then, make changes in your behavior so that it never happens again. Learning from your mistakes is sometimes the most poignant lesson of all.

Monday, September 8, 2008

When the Boss is Away...

Yes, we know, the mice will play, but honestly, those who want to get anywhere in life, know where the limits are and what is appropriate behavior.

At Work
Example: Boss is out of town on a Friday. Who is to know if you slip out early?
Answer: Everyone still in the building, from the custodians on up. Unless you have a prior agreement with the boss that leaving early is fine, don't do it unless you're willing to deal with the consequences. You can bet your next raise that someone out there will work the full day and then either tell someone you left early, or find another way to make sure people knew...by doing something that you couldn't respond to because you were gone. In the end, you need to ask yourself, is it really worth the risk?

At School
Example: There is a substitute teacher in the room and a test is being given. You didn't study. Do you tell the sub the test is open notes when it shouldn't be?
Answer: Don't lie. You'll get caught. If it was supposed to be open notes and the regular teacher forgot to tell the sub, the burden of dealing with the fallout will belong to the regular classroom teacher. If you lie, it may be considered cheating and the consequences for that usually are an automatic zero with no chance to make up the test. Some school districts treat tests as major grades, and one zero can deduct 10% of your grade for a quarter. The risk just isn't worth it.

In the end, it goes back to responsibility. Do the right thing. Always.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Justifying Policies to Students and Employees

There seems to be a common culture of students and employees "questioning authority" instead of being intelligent and reasoning why rules and policies exist and abiding by them. I know as an employee, if I didn't like the culture of the job, I had the right to resign. If there was a serious issue, such as workplace harassment, I had a way to get the situation handled. If I had a personal struggle, there were employee assistance programs in place. Never once did I feel it was appropriate to become belligerent because I didn't like the rules or get into disagreements with my superiors as a student, educator or business woman about how stupid I thought the rule was.

Some rules are not fun. If a rule exists, it means someone, somewhere messed up and is causing issues for everyone else. If we were all respectful and responsible all of the time, there would be no need for rules or the law.

As a teacher, I continually remind students to do the right thing, but the big question is, what can we do with those who refuse? In the business world, before long, they tend to lose their jobs or quit. In school, students tend to fail, or worse, drop out altogether. Either way, retraining, re-educating and retention programs are costly on many levels. Wouldn't it be better for us all, especially with those who are frustrated with the system to find a better way?

Possible Answers:

  • Superiors should examine the rules and see if they're all necessary.
  • Employees and students should have handbooks of expectations and must agree to abide by the policies outlined therein.
  • Employees and students need to know proper ways to handle grievances and problems that are genuine.
  • We all need to stop whining and just do the right thing.
  • If there is a rule or policy that infringes upon the safety and well-being of students or employees, there must be a way to restructure or remove it in a manner that is constructive for all parties involved.
  • Remember, a job and an education, in most places in considered to be a privilege. In America, we consider equal education to be a right. However, educational systems cannot be all to everyone. The system should exist to benefit the greater good, and help everyone attain the skills necessary to leading a healthy, productive life. Happiness is a choice, not a promise. Rules and policies are to be followed as written (and enforced by those who are the gatekeepers) not by picking and choosing. Do the right thing, all the time. When you mess up, admit it, and don't do it again.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Technology Introduced In Schools for Future Success

Where did you first learn to use a computer? If you're approaching middle-age, you probably saw your first computer in school. If you're younger, you may have grown up with one on hand. The same goes for graphing calculators, projection televisions, Promethean boards and so on. Now, a public middle school in Chapel Hill, NC is introducing iPod Touches for all students and teachers.

Some people are up in arms over the expensive choice. However, those who support it understand that technology is a tool and to be competitive in the work force and with the global world, students must remain abreast of the ways these tools can augment performance, not undermine it.

I applaud the principal for making the call. She's obviously a savvy woman with an eye to the future.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Business before Personal Safety?

As Gustav approaches today, I read of accounts of business owners who are staying behind, some heavily armed, to save their business from the same level of looting their properties suffered after Katrina hit and the levees broke. If I ever learned anything in school, as educator or student, it was safety comes before routine or property. Take care of people first.
May all in the storms path be safe. May we honor those already lost to the storm. Most of all, may we reach out to each other as we would hope others would help us in the same situation.