Students and “Thank You”

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Approach learning (& life!) like she approaches snow

Approach learning (& life!) like she approaches snow

Faculty Focus recently ran a lovely piece, “Engaging Students in a Habit of Gratitude,” which explains how one professor opens class by encouraging students to list things for which they are grateful in life.

Says Prof. Deborah Miller Fox,In an effort to address the sense of entitlement that prosperity and comfort breed, I decided to call my students into a posture of humility.” She also points out students (like the rest of us) “cannot learn when we are crippled by arrogance.”

The observation that one must be humble in order to learn is an astute one. Even students who come from modest economic means or troubled family backgrounds (characteristic of a number of students I’ve taught) have good reasons to be grateful, or as the article discusses, have blessings for which they are “indebted.” For one, they are enjoying higher education (mark: they are sitting in a college classroom!). Many are on some kind of financial aid or scholarship – another gift. It’s the saddest thing in the world to see students with potential let those gifts deteriorate for lack of motivation and, sometimes, a negative or defiant attitude.

Such students hurt themselves, of course; and I do wonder how many of them would improve themselves and their lives by first recognizing and then being grateful for their many blessings. I do hope the message of gratitude reaches them and inspires them to realize their good fortune and, instead of feeling entitled to high marks and preferential treatment, become more gracious and dwell in possibility.

Where to begin? One way to cultivate gratitude is to, of course, say “thank you” more often, and mean it. Another wonderful method is to start keeping a gratitude journal. I’ve done this myself just starting in the new year, and have found it truly life-changing. For more information, see “Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal” (from the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center – an interesting resource to browse).

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Relaxation for Students

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nature and dog

Pause to enjoy your surroundings . . .

As we came out of a long Labor Day weekend, I reflected on the importance of rest and relaxation to a balanced, healthy individual. That includes the often-frazzled, sleep-deprived college student.

The fall semester’s just begun, but soon students everywhere will feel the pressure of an increasingly difficult workload, and they’ll seek outlets for their stress. Naturally, not all such outlets are healthy or advisable; and while I’m not a doctor, I do think it behooves students to keep, up their sleeves, a few healthy ways to relax . . .

*First, familiarize yourself with the campus counseling center in case you ever need it. I’ve referred to counselors a number of my own students who’ve told me, mid-semester, about hectic and stressful lives, traumatic situations and sudden personal loss. Students should keep in mind that generally they have access to professional help in these kinds of cases. Some colleges’ counseling centers may have companion websites, as well, addressing topics of concern.

*Try exercise. Working out always seems to help let off steam. So many campuses are so lovely, I’d suggest starting with a nice walk. Then, consider taking a fitness class of your choice, or as the weather cools, take advantage of the gym.

*Unplug. A 2010 study at the University of Maryland found college students who “unplugged” from their gadgets for just 24 hours experienced significant anxiety. I don’t have trouble believing this, and I find it hard to see how such a so-called (or maybe bona fide) “addiction” is healthy. (Are addictions ever healthy?)

Scents of addiction aside, though, consider that your time spent, say, texting and checking Facebook may seem to be joyful; but time spent on those tasks is taken away from something else that probably needs to be done, such as studying – and that does end up causing stress.

So to unwind, “hang up,” so to speak. Take a walk sans headphones or cell phone; notice your surroundings; people have written very good poems on birds, you know, and that composition had to start with observation. Be present in the world beyond the world of the machine.

*Search for relaxation advice. You can find other ways to relax on the web – one place with good tips is the “Stress Help Center” from helpguide.org. Or if you’re still in your unplugged mode, go to the library and check out a relevant book.

Image via mrg.bz / hotblack

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