Small Groups in Classrooms & Conferences

This is a special shout out to Amma and Sue because the I’s really do have it.

I recently returned for my second and final semester in the CUNY School of Professional Studies where I am finishing a Graduate Certificate in Adult Learning with focuses on Program Design and Facilitation.It has been a very eye opening experience that leaves me to believe that even without a graduate degree in higher education specifically, much of this material and research isn’t discussed in college-aged adult discussions. This coming of course from the one course I took junior year that was on student development theory (Hi Chickering!).

In any case, in my capstone course that is requiring us to do 12.5 hours of in class facilitation (love it!) we had an interesting discussion about how educators work a room and engage a crowd. The professor posed a question that immediately led me to think of Sue and Amma, as well as my other self-proclaimed introverted friends.

The professor said, “Okay. How many have been in a classroom or a conference where the presenter suddenly says, “Now turn to your left or your right and discuss this with the person next to you” ?

Side bar: I hate when presenters do this. It makes me feel as though the presenters couldn’t fill the allotted time slot so let’s fill some time with the audience talking amongst themselves. I get it. I know there is value in it. If I come to your session, I want to here from you first. I’ll follow up with the person sitting next to me afterwards!

We all groaned and sighed as a response to her question. She then gave me something that I will forever take on to any conference or presentation I give should I ever see the need for small group discussions.

“What if instead we said, “Okay, now turn to the person to your left or right and discuss this with them or if you prefer to, take a few moments to your self and write out what you think about this,” what would happen then? 

Mind blown. Why hadn’t someone thought of that before? I’ve never heard of such a concept. I’ve heard of free writes sure but never offered as an alternative to forced group discussions.

I’m an extrovert 80% of the time but I think when I’m prompted to speak to my neighbor in a session, I’m going to opt for the pen and paper and spar with my thoughts.

The self-awareness, capability, and talent to make powerful use of time to reflect whether it is in writing, doodles, or drawings on the paper is something that we all could use from time to time. And that, my friends, is what the I’s have.

Isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery?

Suedle by

Suedle by

There is no hiding the animosity, awkwardness, sibling rivalry like behavior between members of two of the largest professional associations in higher education. If anything, the latest convention plans only solidified each other’s members into some form of, “We thought of it first!” “Yeah, but we will do it better!” type scenario.

Knock it off.

This type of bickering and comparing is absurd. You know what isn’t absurd? The fact that both organizations are now taking risks and changing their practices (FINALLY) to reflect what today’s higher education professionals need as professional development.

I don’t care who came out with an idea first or what has a better website for their conference/convention. Some siblings are good at things that the others aren’t and vice versa. What matters…what really matters is as we get to watch the two biggest associations battle it out trying to out do each other or keep up with each other, we are going to benefit.

You know what would be even better than trying to make the next conference or convention the coolest, most innovative, most adaptable, most unconference-like? Racing to lower the prices. Too many professionals are shackled in their professional development opportunities because their professional development funding depends on their presenting at the conference. That’s the reality. You know what? The reality sucks. How are professionals, who are trying to become better professionals by networking and meeting people at these national meetings, suppose to get any better without the luxury of these opportunities?

I applaud the two associations for their efforts and this little competitive spirit they have going on or at least the members seem to. Keep in mind however; I’m clapping in my seat. Neither gets a standing ovation.

You want me to stand and clap your efforts?

Show me an association that is going to lower their prices.

Show me an association that is going to find a way to offer online-passes at a discounted rate to live-stream select presentations (or why not any presentation?).

Show me an association that is going to meet the members where they are at developmentally, financially, regionally.

Show me an association that isn’t going to over think everything.

Show me an association that is truly member-driven.

In the meantime, I’ll keep getting involved in each association as much as I can so that my words go ahead to push my actions and hopefully changes can happen.

Just don’t tell me change can’t happen because a small-dedicated group of people is the only thing that ever created change in this world and I know each association has that group of people within it.

If changes don’t happen because everyone gets caught up in the bickering and the competition and the comparisons, there is a small group of people who are going to create an alternative that will lead to standing ovations.

We are committed.

We are curious.

We are creative.

We are…you.

Thoughts on “passion”

These aren’t my thoughts, these are Daniel Pink’s thoughts on passion.

“Of course, passion isn’t bad. But business can be a bit like love. When people first fall in love, they experience that woozy and besotted feeling that verges on obsessiveness. That’s passion, and it’s great. But as couple bond more enduringly, that fiery intensity can give way to a calmer warmth. That’s true love – and that’s where the magic is. 

So next time you’re on either the giving or receiving end of advice, skip the hot and steamy passion and go for the calm and deeper love. Ask questions like: 

What did you do last Saturday afternoon- for fun, for yourself? 

What books do you read or blogs do you visit, not for work, but just because you’re interested in them? 

What are you great at? What comes easily to you? What would you do- or are you already doing- for free? 

As it happens, I can testify to the power of de-emphasizing passion and re-emphasizing doing. Beginning about two decades ago, I worked in some very demanding, intensely stressful jobs in American politics and government. But throughout – on the side, usually for no money- I wrote magazine articles about business and work, and formulated ideas for books. At one level, it was foolish. I lost sleep, sacrificed leisure, and probably distracted myself from my paid employment. 

But after many years, it finally hit me: This- not politics-is what I did. And now, as a result, that’s what I do. 

Am I passionate about it? Sure, I guess. Maybe. Some days. But passion isn’t something I much ponder. 

I’m too busy doing what I do.”

Given that student affairs seems to throw the p-word around a little too often without really much thought, I took Daniel Pink’s words to head. It was a great refresh and different perspective. When I look at his questions, my answers aren’t student affairs specifically. They are education related. Does that mean I don’t have passion for student affairs? Probably. What I do have this passion for, this instinctual desire that never ends is, creating, solving, building, breaking. I’m not so much of a student affairs practitioner as much as I consider myself an education engineer. It just so happens that as an education engineer, student affairs provides me with the lab space and tools to create, solve, build, and break things; often with great results and little risk associated.

Having read the Flip Manifesto (see below) and digested Pink’s thoughts on passion, I’m curious. What are your thoughts after seeing this excerpt of his on passion? Don’t think too hard, just write what comes to mind.

Read more of this type of mic-dropping writing from Daniel Pink his Flip Manifesto. Available here: