Trust: The Gateway to Student Development

I have come to discover that every student has the ability to grow and improve as a learner. By developing a relationship of trust, an environment is created such that students can express their challenges and what they’d like to improve on.

Real growth and development comes from an intrinsic desire to better oneself. A helper can only guide students when that fire is kindled with a supportive, non-judgmental relationship.

Can Gaming Make a Better World?

As part of a Gameful Learning course I’m taking through the University of Michigan, I watched Jane McGonigal’s TED talk on how gaming can create a better world.

McGonigal argues that gamers are a great human resource. They have a quality of urgent optimism and a strong belief that they can solve virtual worlds. It follows that to solve real world problems, we have to make the real world more like a game. McGonigal believes that transformation occurs when you immerse people in an epic adventure.

It’s a fascinating idea. So what are we waiting for? Let’s immerse ourselves and let the epic adventure begin.

Beware the Smelly-Cheese Beard

Humans are very good at recognizing the emotion of disgust in a person’s facial expressions.

The other night I saw it in four faces: my wife’s, my daughter’s, my son’s, and my own.

There was a nasty smell in the house. Foul. Disgusting. Gross. Rank. It was bad.

I suffered the stench for two hours. It seemed like it was so close, yet for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out where the putrid smell was coming from.

Finally, it dawned on me. The fetid, rancid, putrid smell was right under my nose. The revolting odour was emanating from my own beard.

Imagine the shame I felt and still feel today. Even Brené cannot help me.

It could have been the corn on the cob or the garlic chicken or the Coors Light or the Staphylococcus hominis. It could have been a combination of them all. But whatever it was, I’m telling you the smelly-cheese beard exists. And if you succumb to it, like Mr. Twit and I have, your wife and kids will never let you live it down.

The Tendency of Power to Corrupt and How to Avoid It

I recently completed a massive open online course (MOOC) from the University of California, Berkeley.

One of my instructors of the positive psychology course, Dacher Keltner, really inspired me with his passion and research.

I picked up one of his books, Born to be Good, and I’m fascinated with the ideas presented.

Meanwhile, I was discussing the topic of mindfulness with my wife, and she picked up the Harvard Business Review’s Mindfulness book for me. Coincidentally, it contained a chapter written by Keltner titled “Don’t Let Power Corrupt You.”

Keltner writes:

My research has shown that power puts us into something like a manic state, making us feel expansive, energized, omnipotent, hungry for rewards, and immune to risk—which opens us up to rash, rude, and unethical actions.

To avoid succumbing to the downsides of power, he offers advice—backed by research—to individuals in senior roles. First, one must reflect and develop self-awareness. Next, Keltner stresses three practices (again backed by research)—empathy, gratitude, and generosity.

Couldn’t we all cultivate a little more empathy, gratitude, and generosity?

Imagine the jen then, my friend.

My Daughter’s Clean Drawing

“What should I draw?” my six-year-old daughter asks.

“Draw a turd,” her younger brother replies.

“Kids, you’re obsessed with pee and poo,” I say. “Why don’t you drawing something clean?”

“Okay, fine.”

So my daughter draws the following: bar soap, hand soap, dish soap, and laundry soap. Very clean, indeed.

A clean picture
My daughter’s clean drawing of different soaps.
Photo by M. Fleming

Columnist Contributes to Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness and Falls Short with Apology

I was disappointed to learn that a recent column in my local newspaper contained some language that stigmatizes people with schizophrenia.

“Winter is a schizophrenic psychopath out to get me” was the title of Neil Crone’s column.

Fortunately, many readers called him out on it. For instance, Shane Christensen of Oshawa wrote a poignant letter to the editor. Christensen, whose son deals with schizophrenia, was appalled by the title Crone’s column. Christensen notes that his son has been stable for many years, but believes—and I wholeheartedly agree—that his son will continue to suffer due to others’ ignorance and stigmatization.

Crone and his editors must have received a lot of backlash, and rightly so. As a result, the original headline was changed and a follow-up column, titled “Column’s intention was never meant to belittle or shame,” appeared shortly after the original column was published.

Although Crone writes, “It was never my intention to belittle or shame […] anyone dealing with mental health issues,” the fact is that by describing winter as a “schizophrenic psychopath out to get me,” he did indeed hurt many people. Whether intentional or not, nonchalantly using metaphors connecting schizophrenia with psychopathy is insensitive and contributes to the continued stigma surrounding mental illness.

And Crone’s apology falls short. According to Aaron Lazare and other experts on apologies, there are five parts to an effective apology:

  1. Express remorse
  2. Acknowledge offense / accept responsibility
  3. Offer empathy
  4. Undo harm; offer reparation
  5. Reassure that there’s a low likelihood of recurrence

Crone’s apology is lacking in a number of these areas. Instead of fully owning the mistake, he places blame on his editors and the sensitivity of readers. He also doesn’t reassure me that he won’t hurt readers again; in fact, he argues that he will continue to use metaphors at his own discretion.

As I read Crone’s apology, something didn’t sit right with me. Granted, that was my subjective response. However, looking at the apology using Lazare’s research on effective apologies, I could objectively discern why the apology was insufficient.

The columnist failed to make amends with me, someone whose life has been affected by mental illness. The consequence: his readership will decrease by at least one.