Emailing is one of the most pervasive forms of professional communications, and yet, no one ever actually teaches you how to send a professional email. You're just supposed to know how to send professional emails, cold contact people you've never met, and ask for favors in writing. And we can all agree that hidden expectations are bullsh*t, so let's discuss this one. If you're pretty sure that you already send emails like a pro, you can skip this blog post. But if you're not 100% certain, please read on.
There are two types of mentorship - mentorship between you and a person who is older / more advanced in their career or life; and mentorship between you and people who are in your same position in life (aka peer-mentorship). I have written about peer mentorship before. This post is about the other type of mentorship - the kind between you and someone who is more advanced in their career. This kind of mentorship is very useful when you want someone who can shine a flashlight up the dark road ahead, describe the lay of the land, maybe give you a road map. Bear in mind, of course, that their road map might not perfectly match your eventual map. They might be walking in different shoes, have different advantages or disadvantages, or whatever else - I think I'm belaboring the metaphor. So let's get to a few FAQs about mentors:
I got a student request this week for advice about how to manage stress and anxiety around classes. I feel like it is important to say, up front, that I am not a therapist or psychologist. I am most definitely not an expert at managing stress and anxiety. However, most universities offer counseling services for students and I absolutely encourage you to take advantage of that if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, whether that is school related, or over other things. That being said, I'm happy to give you some general advice for managing anxiety or stress around school. Understand that these are tools for your toolkit, but they are not a substitute for actual help when you feel like you are drowning.
This post is the second part of a series, aimed at making online education more approachable. If you missed the first post, you can find it here.
Previously I noted that, when talking to college students, a few themes emerge regarding the particular challenges of online learning:
“When everyone in the classroom, teacher and students, recognizes that they are responsible for creating a learning community together, learning is at its most meaningful and useful.” ― bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking
In other words, there can be no classroom community without engaged students who are willing to take responsibility for their own education. Professors can hold office hours, create discussion boards, and encourage students to get to know one another, but ultimately only the students themselves can take the final step.
Students can help create community in their online classrooms in both large and small ways.
As we have all been thrown abruptly into the world of online education, both professors and students have floundered. While online classes have existed for some time, few of us were prepared - mentally or emotionally - to suddenly move entirely online. As zoom and asynchronous classes have over taken higher education, we all find ourselves needing to suddenly adjust our strategies and metrics for success. What does it look like to be a successful college student when libraries are operating with limited hours, study rooms are restricted, and your professor only holds online zooms instead of in-person office hours?
Talking to college students, a few themes emerge:
All of these concerns and challenges are very real, and frankly, they suck. But there are a few things that you can do to make them suck less, or at least lessen their impact and succeed in spite of them. I'll tackle these challenges in a short series of blog posts, aimed at helping make online classes just a little less painful.
First, I'm going to tackle the challenge of staying organized in online classes, and I won't bury the lede. When it comes to keeping track of assignments for online classes, the key to success is actually exactly the same as it was for in-person classes. Read the syllabus. Print the syllabus and hang it on your wall. Frame the syllabus and hang it over your bed.
Here's the problem: professors are not necessarily any better at online classes than you are. Many professors have no experience, no idea, and no help with setting up an online class. They do not necessarily understand the user experience. Some professors might be putting discussion boards in one place, assignments in another place, and readings somewhere else; while other professors reliably use modules. Every class you take may be structured differently, according to how well or poorly the professor understands the learning management system and how much experience they have taking and teaching online classes. You cannot control any of this. But you can look at the syllabus, figure out what assignments are due when, and keep track of what you need and when you need to do it. In this sense, nothing has changed from when you took in-person classes. The syllabus is still God, and you can still put those deadlines on your personal calendar, keep track of readings, and find the class materials exactly the way you did before everything moved online.
If you are taking four online classes, and each class has a different method of online organization, posts assignments in different spots, and readings are scattered across hell and back, then don't rely on the LMS (canvas, blackboard, whatever) to tell you what to do.
Take charge! Here's how
I haven't written many blog posts recently because, like many of you, I've just been trying to keep my head above water and get through the end of the semester. But here it is, we've made it through. Whether you passed or failed, are exhausted or invigorated, you are here. At the end of every semester, no matter the circumstances, I like to spend a few minutes taking stock of the last 4 months.
Did you know you can nominate yourself for things? You can nominate yourself for awards, scholarships, fellowships, grants, etc. When it comes to scholarships in particular, you can, and should, actively seek out options and apply. Awards can be a little more specific. There are some university awards, for instance, that require a faculty member to nominate a student. You can ask a faculty member to nominate you for these. Your professors may absolutely love you and think that you deserve every award in existence, but perhaps the specific awards or deadlines aren't on their radar. It does no harm to bring it up with them. That being said, let's talk about how to ask a professor for a recommendation or nomination.
I got really behind over the last two weeks, it doesn't matter why. The point is, this week I needed to dos some damage control and get back on track. There are two types of recovery that you may need to do when you get really off track or behind. The first type is the practical recovery of re-focusing and getting back on track. This involves many of the same steps as we've discussed previously regarding goal management.
If professors were brave enough to get forehead tattoos, just about every single one of us would choose to have "read the syllabus" emblazoned across our faces. But, I'm not sure that everyone knows exactly what we mean by read the syllabus. Are we just asking that students look over the syllabus at the beginning of the semester? No.
"Read the syllabus" involves much more than just glancing through in August / January, and you'll find that there are significant benefits to having the syllabus available throughout the course of the semester. For most professors, the syllabus functions as both a class calendar, and as a kind of contract. The syllabus contains most of the information that you will need to be successful for the class. Every professor writes their syllabus a little different, but almost all syllabi share some common components. Here's what to look for.
Getting started on writing an essay for class, or anything else for that matter, can be incredibly challenging. Having the confidence to share your writing or knowing that it is ready to submit is even harder. Below are just a few resources that can make the process just a little less intimidating.
Clare Brock is a professor of American Politics and Public Policy at TWU. She works primarily in the areas of food policy, lobbying, and money in politics.