The Final Discussion

The Final Discussion

G is for Guidance and S is for Support

In my PTE401 course I have been introduced to a number of Guidance and Support issues for students. Part of my responsibility as an instructor is to provide Guidance and Support to my students and to direct them to the proper resources when the issue is outside my realm.  In the following post we will touch on the major points with a few resources to help with these issues. The links will point you in the right direction at South Seattle. Even if you feel you don’t need all these resources you might know a fellow student who does.


The oldest, most reliable, and familiar student resource is the library. books_748x330Whether it is to research, study, or access tutors you will use it repeatedly during your education. It contains not just written resources but a very knowledgeable staff whose job is to assist you. Some individuals even consider a trip to the library as a form of entertainment! Familiarize yourself with how it works before your classes start and you will have a big advantage over those who wait until an assignment ends them there.Library/IRC But what about the other resources on campus?

This page can help you find every service available to students from Health to the Student Veterans Office! Student Resources . Treat this resource the same as the library and familiarize yourself with it before the school year starts. The offices listed here exist to help you in your quest for an education. All the Support and Guidance you need are there for the asking. Before you give up on a situation stop there and look for guidance to a solution.


They are there for a reason. We live in a society based on the rule of law. We can question them all we want but we still have to live by them. How do we live by them? First you have to learn them. This is a link to your states WAC Student Activities, Rights , and Discipline  learn it and live it. When you want to know how it applies to your individual institution stop here Policies and Procedures. If it seems like a lot it is, but it will prepare you for the bigger rulebook you’ll have to live by in your future workplace.


From email etiquette to APA format you will be required to develop and improve your writing skills. Start with a good .edu website for style and format like this one Online Writing Lab . Next buy a copy of “A Pocket Style Manual” and never let it leave your desk. When you are ready for face to face training head down to the Writing And Learning Lab . Develop these skills early and you will save yourself  time and trouble with writing assignments. Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with any shortcuts your software might have, like an APA format button.


I’ve heard there are people who enjoy math, I don’t believe them. If you are anything like me in your learning personality, math is hard and you need all the help you can get. It is good to study with other students, but that was never enough for me. Take a trip to the MALL ! The Math And Learning Lab is there to help with just the kind of calculating brains to guide you towards success.


Everyone has goals, big and small. The people who accomplish those goals do so with a plan. Goal-setting Know your destination and have a map to get there. Maybe you aren’t sure what your goals are yet or you have a goal but are not sure if it’s realistic or even how to get there. This office can help you with both of those questions before you get a red card Advising and Counseling . If it’s a goal they can’t assist you with planning for they can direct you to someone who can.


Accommodations are a way an institution can create and maintain diversity. Everyone has different needs and some of those are quite specialized. Rather than exclude student with these needs from an education our institution wants to include them through reasonable accommodations. diversityAs an instructor I have a responsibility to provide or assist with reasonable accommodations within the law. I also have a responsibility to the rest of my class to do this in a fair equitable manner across the board. Knowing what accommodations are available is the first step to helping yourself and others towards the goal of institutional diversity. These two resources are a good start Disability Support Services and Diversity and Retention.


The very word can cause a tightening of the chest in the best of students only rivaled by the words “pop quiz”.


Pursuing an education is a stressful endeavor and even the best students experience anxiety at some point in their studies, often it is associated with tests. The best way to minimize anxiety over tests is to prepare properly and these good people can assist you with that Assessment/ Testing Services . While there are numerous methods utilizing diet,exercise, and meditation to offset the effects of anxiety sometimes that is not enough.   Whether it is anxiety over a test or another issue regarding your emotional and mental health there are counselors here to guide you to the support you need Health and Wellness Resources.


Presentation skills are difficult to acquire and intimidating for many students. They are necessary in almost any field or endeavor, gaining these skills early on in your education will turn stressful public speaking into valuable learning experiences. These skills will assist you in the workplace too from your first interview to your retirement speech.images-1 But how do you gain these skills? The gold standard in presentation skills is the Dale Carnegie method helping people become effective public speakers since early in the last century. Take a look at what they have to offer here Dale Carnegie .

C illuminated Largeareer

Most of us have at least a vague idea of the career we want when we enter the college system. Along the way we need to develop the soft skills that lend us the air of professionalism that employers crave. That includes a situational awareness of how our actions and speech are affecting those around us. Emily Post had a lot to say on that subject from basic manners to appropriate dress for different social situations. Maybe you have already mastered these skills and watch Ted Talks just to poke fun at the rank amateurs displayed there. How do you get from your educational path to your chosen field?images-2  Start with researching your chosen fields HR departments. Learn what they want from you and be able to provide it. Get the skinny on who is a good employer at sites like Glass Door . Be courageous and make an appointment with a recruiter to discuss what they are looking for and what you can expect in their institution. Document every possible act of volunteerism and experience building act you can. WorkSource has an office right on campus that can assist you with your resume to career transition online and in person WorkSource .


So your goal is within sight and the quest is nearly over.

image1The last thing you want to do is stumble now. At this point you should be having regular meetings with your advisor. Make certain you are following the correct procedure for all the degree requirements. You don’t want that missing two credits to pop up unexpectedly at the end of your last quarter and prevent your timely graduation. Follow the degree planning sheets the advisor gave you and ask about any aspect you are unsure on. Then ask again about what you think you are sure about. This is an example of degree requirements using my programs list PTE BAS Degree Requirements. You can’t talk your way out of a requirement so do yourself a favor and follow the degree plan. You’ll have your sheepskin before you know it.

That is an overview of the major points of Support and Guidance for PTE 401. We covered a lot of minor issues too and you can refer back to my earlier posts to catch those. The class brought me around to the enormity of responsibility I hold to assist with these issues.  It also showed me where many of the lines are I should never cross, even when I might feel I am doing the “right” thing. The doctrines of fairness and inclusion were well stressed and I now have a framework to base my guidance and support of future students.





Be Nice and Clean! Creating and Maintaining An Atmosphere of Professionalism

Be Nice and Clean! Creating and Maintaining An Atmosphere of Professionalism

The word nice has several meanings but in this case I am referring to only two: politeness and accuracy. Professionalism requires both, and living by example is the best way to impress that on your students. Maintaining that professionalism requires an application of vigilance every working day and occasionally on days off too. Being clean is a bit simpler to explain and a lot easier to do.

Be Nice!

Be polite to your students and coworkers or really anyone you encounter. The vast majority of social problems in the classroom or workplace can be avoided simply by showing respect and minding your manners. The next aspect of professionalism is not so common or popular today, but I think it still has a place and a use. Familiarity breeds contempt. On this coast most of my employers, superiors, and instructors have preferred to be addressed by their first name. While this does have a social benefit it also opens the door to overfamiliarity, disrespect, and contempt.

I try to hang my ego on an invisible coathook  as I enter the classroom and keeping my first name interferes with that. It’s an unpopular opinion but I feel it interferes with my objective delivery of the product (education) to be friends or create an atmosphere of assumed friendship with students. I have a fairly high standard for friendship and it would be unfair to expect that from students. That doesn’t mean I can’t be friendly or promote a friendly atmosphere. It means I behave in a polite and respectful manner and expect the same from my students in their behavior towards me their peers and my coworkers. It means that I am addressed as sir or Mr. McCawley and they are addressed by their last name or a consistent pronoun of their choice. The ideal is to promote a friendly atmosphere while maintaining mutual respect with the goal of preventing innocuous interactions from becoming actionable incidents.

Being accurate is also important. My ideal is to be accurate and consistent with all I do in my institution, and in that encourage the same ideal in my students. It will help them in all future endeavors and it makes a level playing field for both of us in a disagreement.

Be Clean!

This too goes against the current cultural grain, but it is still an important lesson for students and educators to show respect to all entities involved by maintaining a high standard of dress and grooming. If you shave do so daily, and if you wear a beard keep it trimmed. Wear clothing that shows you are ready to do more than surf channels on your couch or attend a slumber party. Keep your language clean and avoid the Forbidden Four Topics : Sex, Religion, Politics, and Sports. That goes back to your ego and that invisible coat hook.

Shave Everyday and You’ll Always Be Clean!

My first time in college was successful only in the amount of credits I earned. I left before graduating and part of that was my inability to be accurate in my interactions with staff and instructors. I was really more focused on being part of a subculture than a student body and made a lot of noise and tribal signaling. I wore clothing that was more appropriate for the night club than the school that sent out more signals.  As a result my interactions with instructors over issues were confrontational and usually ended with me dropping a class. I wasn’t accurate about what I wanted or needed and I wasn’t polite. My instructors returned the favor and made my experience there a difficult one. Neither end of the social contract was fulfilled but they kept their jobs and I lost my education. Just because you are in the right does not mean you get to abandon your manners.

All of these are imitate able behaviors and positive ones at that. Lay the groundwork from your first interactions and that will bear fruit in the future. Be consistent and that will maintain those behaviors. It may not make for the best party but it does make for a professional atmosphere conducive to learning.

Don’t Own the Red Stapler BE the Red Stapler!

Don’t Own the Red Stapler BE the Red Stapler!

You can make quite a few analogies between relationships and career. Many of the same rules apply and you can benefit from learning and applying them early on. At this point my career is being a successful student with the goal of becoming a certified instructor. This is my third career, like relationships they don’t always last forever.  I have worked now for over thirty years in three countries, three universities, one state agency, and more sales and other industry jobs than I care to count. Most of my early life I relied on instinct without planning and experienced life by the seat of my pants. I learned these rules the hard way and try to apply them now wherever necessary in my life.


Plan and Prepare

You need a structure to guide your actions. I  have found this book helpful in planning and also in navigating the day to day interactions of any workplace The Art of War. The title is militaristic but it applies to civilian life just as well. It would be loverly if every institution was an oasis of liberty, equality, and fraternity populated by rational thinking, logical adults. When you find that institution please contact me and I will apply also.

Be flexible with your career planning with a Plan A,B,C, and D. All the planning in the world can’t predict where you will end up and being flexible allows you to meet those challenges when they arise. Having alternate plans means a plans failure doesn’t mean yours.

Do Your Research

Research any institution or individual you plan to work with and the region itself. Beyond the arena you will be working in take a look at social media. Individuals reveal quite a lot of information when they think everyone in the room agrees with them. One academic I worked for had been “grandfathered” into the biological sciences without experience and that heavily affected our work together. See how your institution behaves in the worst situations like lawsuits. See how they treat individuals already in their employ. If it is an academic institution you might find something interesting here FIRE . In your chosen field research rates of pay and benefit across the board and compare to the cost of living in those areas. As the saying goes in old California “You can’t eat the sunshine”. Research HR blogs like HR Potential for current trends before you tailor your resume and CV to each institution. Finding out what potential employers are really looking for is key and leads to my next rule.

Be Employable

Don’t assume to know what an employer or institution is looking for, research and simply ask. Document every thing you do that might be remotely related to your field and maintain an archive of that documentation. I dragged around pay and tax records for over a decade that helped prove my experience when I applied to this program and for my AA degree. Get every certification, award, and degree you are eligible for. My biggest disappointment in civil service was being passed over for a permanent position because of my lack of a BAS. Know what your institution considers applicable experience and what they don’t. Be that person.

Practice Situational Awareness

Whether it’s an interview, performance review, first or last day on the job, you need to be there in mind, body, and spirit. Look your best, feel your best, and give the subject of your attentions  ALL of your attention. Arrive early so you can be calm and relaxed regardless of the situation. Know your qualifications by rote and be prepared for questions out of left field. Do your research and know the field of battle before you get there. Everyone gives off physical and verbal cues, including you.Be aware of them and respond accordingly. Recognize opportunities and grasp them before someone else does. My first posting in civil service came as a result of my administrator being so lazy he accepted the first applicant that returned his call.

Be Kind To All You Meet

Once you are in check your ego at the door and present the persistent sunshine of your smile wherever you go. When someone feels you have wronged them make amends. ASAP!

Develop a support network and be loyal to them. Once I inadvertently offended a coworker. Suddenly none of my documents were reaching their intended destinations and my work flow was at a standstill. I was unaware that she had no less than five relatives in the agency who were now actively sabotaging my work. When I was apprised of the situation, by my support network, I personally apologized and purchased two tickets in her football pool. Lo and behold the situation changed in a matter of hours. I can’t stomach football but I bought tickets in every pool after that.

Single out two groups for special kindness, experts and savants. It’s sometimes hard to discern between them and they are often difficult to deal with, but they make an institution run. Someday you will need them so make that extra effort where they are concerned.

Constantly Improve Your Position

Learn every skill you can, they are all around you, never stop learning. If someone offers to teach, you need to learn from them. Know what people need and have a reserve of it. Make life easier for other people and most of them will return the favor. You are always building your reputation, make sure it is a positive one. At my agency very department had a graveyard cubicle full of “outdated technology”, I requisitioned items from it at will. In a short period of time I had a stable of devices no one else had. An IBM Selectric was necessary for the occasional but required carbon  triplicate forms that still existed. My landline fax didn’t need the internet. My full size paper cutter was always in demand for special projects. Most useful personally was a rotary phone with a distinct ring I could hear in the middle of one hundred cubicles, yet was incapable of receiving rerouted calls from outside the agency. Serious time saver that. That extra time was well spent acquiring every certification offered and overseeing external projects while still maintaining work flow. If you can handle an extra responsibility, take it. Advancement doesn’t just occur after performance reviews.

Live Up To Your Responsibilities

You have a personal responsibility to advance to a career once you have completed your program. You have occupied a place someone else could have filled, one that society provided to you. You have an obligation to them and yourself to make the most of your education. Be the best you can be in your field, there are enough people with degrees and certifications honing their basket-weaving skills already. Don’t be another one.




Reflections on the Spring Quarter

Reflections on the Spring Quarter

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting this Spring. Since no one asked I’ll start with the first post and the William Hogarth print that graces the cover of this blog. “Bathos ” or “The End of Everything” was the last work completed by Hogarth and preceded his death by two months. Like all his works it is loaded with small hidden jokes, what we would refer now to as “easter eggs”, a play open to the last page of the final act, a will made out with “Chaos ” as the heir, and every object broken excepting the gallows. Saturn the winged g-d of Death and Time breathes his last in the ruin of the “World’s End “Pub. So a morbid image that expels a lingering cloud of dark humor.

I think all students have felt “the end of everything” the unexpected failure and the certain, looming one. The g-d of time also weighs on all of us heavily. That is why I chose this image and the title. Most students, especially my generation, relate to morbid images and dark sentiment. Yet in all of this there is hope. The gallows is unbroken which means to me that even in the coming world there is still justice. Time, although broken here, is still with us and we all march on. So I hope to give some small amount of hope at least to my future students that they too can survive their education path with success as I will.

I have learned quite a bit in this cohort and of late in this course. One thing that has struck me repeatedly as I read our discussions is how much we all agree on regardless of our differences. There are several constants that keep popping up.

All students should be treated equally with concessions granted on a legal basis rather than an individual level of sympathy. This isn’t as common as you would think outside our cohort.

Education begins at home. I see all of us struggle with deciding how and how many hobbles placed on students by their parents we should try to remove.

We all empathize with the struggling student and want to assist them. Where we differ is on what is appropriate and what is fair.

As for myself I am in awe of the skills of my surrounding cohort and hope to become an educator as skilled as them. It’s not easy for me, my trade is not as familiar or well defined as theirs and it is sometimes difficult to put it in a context that fits the coursework. So I am envisioning a grindstone filling my vision for the rest of the courses as I learn to impart the best of my skills to my future students. Planning is not my strong suit so I try to learn from example with how the more experienced members of the cohort plan things out. I go over their presentations at home and see what I can adapt to mine.

The image above is a tree in my garden that blooms briefly in the spring. It is my favorite tree in the garden and reminded me this Spring of the last time it bloomed when I viewed it from a wheelchair. All things come to an end and hope springs eternal.



Managing Test Anxiety

Front-loading strategies for managing Test Anxiety can make your classroom a healthier, safer, and more successful place. Here are a few strategies you can present to your students. Take the time to visit the links and offices to get a feel for what your students will experience.

• Prepare yourself by developing good study habits. Begin studying at least a week or two before the exam, in small study sessions and over the space of a few days, not the night before. Take practice tests with the same time limits as the real ones. Study with a friend, make flashcards your challenge coins!
• Develop your test-taking skills. Carefully read and follow directions, answer the higher point value questions you know first, then return to the ones you didn’t find easy. Start essay questions with a quick outline before you write the answer.
• Develop and use a relaxation technique thats right for you. Controlled breathing, mindfulness, and meditation are all helpful relaxation techniques. Find the right one for you and use it!
• Stay on target and avoid distraction during tests.
• Maintain your health. Exercise, eat well, keep hydrated, and get enough sleep. Education is a full contact sport!
• Keep your chin up! Your class grade is defined by test scores, not you as a person. Reward yourself when you do well and investigate where you go wrong to do better the next time. Self recrimination is not your friend and doesn’t accomplish anything.
• Visit your counseling center, you’ve paid for it. Educational counselors can help you with strategy for success, time management, and study skills among other issues. If they can’t help you directly that can point you to the person who can.

We’ll need to make a new return card….

I stopped in the South Seattle Library Learning Center the other day. I’d been chasing a vacuum leak in my 1975 MB 450 SLC with no diagram and no luck. Both hands, flashlight, in the dark, you know the drill. I needed a diagram of the vacuum system to get me on the right track. The friendly librarian showed me a resource I wasn’t aware of, if you wrench on your car you might want to check it out.

First go to the South Library Guide then scroll down to Encyclopedias and Reference click Get Started with Reference Sources click General Reference click  and there you are All DataPro information guides and diagrams for most makes and models back to 1980.

Wait 1980? Thats no good for me I need 1975! This where conversational skills come in. The librarian asks if I drive a vintage car? Turns out he has a collection starting with a 1949 Dodge. We chew the V8 fat and he shows me the vehicle reference section. The shelves still don’t have it but guess what, theres an archive section. I walk out with a classic Chiltons manual and  an import repair manual for 72-81. Took a little longer to check out since they had to make a new return card for this century, but it was worth the wait. If you don’t ask you don’t get.Ford-1977-Granada-coupe-ad.jpg



go to General Reference
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