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personal reflections

Why I Blog

I recently read an article in Studies in Higher Education titled “Why Do Academics Blog?” It got me thinking about this blog and why I do it.

Three Principles for Cultivating Excellence in Academic Life

In the October 3rd issue of Faculty Focus, Maryellen Weimer underscores the idea that faculty need to take care of their instructional health and recognize the importance of emotional rejuvenation. She ends the post by asking readers: What are some things you do when you feel your teaching may be growing “tired?”

Enough Time to Make a Difference in Students’ Lives

It’s that time of the year when students leave us. Some graduate and we celebrate their growth and intellectual accomplishments. We are sorry to see them go. Others cross the stage and their parting is no cause for sweet sorrow. Some leave without ever crossing the stage. And some temporarily leave, returning in the fall or for a summer session.

Sacrifices to Attend College

I’m cleaning out my Dad’s apartment and found a letter from the President of Washington State University addressed to my grandfather. The letter tells him that his daughter Barbara (my much loved aunt) has made the All-College Honor Roll for the sixth time and that no student does this without being “thoughtful” and “earnest minded.”


Dad died on July 31. He was 98 and it was time, although I don’t think that makes the empty feeling any smaller. Dad was very religious, attending the same small Bible church for 65 years, and he preached there regularly until just a couple of years ago. The elder who delivered the message at

Learning can be Frustrating

It’s good to remember how frustrating learning can be. It’s even better when you experience the frustration firsthand.


The capacity to learn and to use what we’ve learned is one of those things that makes life worth living. When the mind delivers what we need or helps us understand something new, we take it for granted, unable to imagine its absence. Like so much else in life, learning is a gift to be used and enjoyed. But it is also one of those gifts that sometimes wears out.

Holiday Best Wishes

Here are my best wishes for your holiday season. May there be peace, joy, giving, and thankfulness as you celebrate with family and friends. We’re having a quiet, white Christmas at our farm in Pennsylvania. I’m giving the birds extra seed and the neighbors the Christmas cookies my Mom used to make. Thanks for reading

Oh Those Students. . .

Even with the holidays upon us, it’s hard not to think about those students who did poorly in our courses this semester.

Some of them just didn’t make the effort. They tend to be the ones who don’t really know why they’re in college or what they want to do with their lives. At this moment, it’s the social life — meeting new people, the parties, games, and the myriad of “fun” things college kids can find to do.

'A Teaching Life'

On a fairly regular basis, I reread what may well be my all time favorite essay on teaching—Christa L. Walck’s “A Teaching Life.” Walck’s essay draws heavily from one of my favorite books, Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, in which Dillard describes how writing creates her life. Walck wonders if teaching does the same for