How do you prepare for work each day?

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”

I value positivity and a sense of security in the classroom, above all else.

For it is only when students feel safe, supported, and uplifted are they motivated to learn.

Creating a harmonious classroom atmosphere happens long before the school bell rings.


Which is why my preparation for teaching psychology includes both energetic and intellectual preparation.

Ultimately, the more relaxed and happy I am, the more calm and content my students will be.

I am grateful for every student I teach and I want to make sure that they get the best of me.

Energetic Preparation for Teaching = Exercise


Intellectual Preparation for Teaching = Textbooks 

How do you prepare for work each day?

Work hard. Rest. Repeat.


To All Nursing Students, including my own:

If I were to assign any homework this weekend it would be to take a break.

10 minutes at a time.

5 times a day.

Because you have all worked exceptionally hard the past two weeks.

And a good rest is half the work.

Although things may not have gone your way.

Not exactly as you had planned.


You are still here.

This is something to celebrate.

Because showing up and being fully present is the essence of being a spectacular nurse.

And training to be a nurse is as much about the journey as the knowledge itself.

Take a breath.

Take a rest.

Give yourself credit.

For ALL that brought you here.


Focus on the ENTIRE process.

Not just one paper. Or one test.

Because the only way to finish a marathon is to take the water from the sidelines, eat the food along the way, and most importantly celebrate every step in the journey.

No matter how small.

No matter how challenging.

And if you need motivation to take a break, see this post:


I am sending you all good vibes.

All day long.

Every step of the way.


Dr. D. 😊

Strengthened by adversity.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” C. S. Lewis


When was the last time you had to start over?

This was a big week back at St. College College — and all colleges across Ontario. Students were returning to school after a 5 week province-wide strike.

An arduous situation that was well beyond student control.

So it was essential that I foster a safe space for students to transition back onto campus and into my psychology classroom. To help them begin again.


My intention was to bridge the gap from stress to strength.

To remind them of times in their lives where they had experienced the stress of starting over. Including the strike. And triumphed despite all the suffering.

For it is in our dark times that we discover our light. And it is in our pain that we find our power. Difficult times force us to dig deep for courage and reach out for support.


And ultimately discover a strength far greater than any adversity.

This week I have never been more proud to be a college professor.

This week students taught me.

What strengths have helped you through challenge & adversity?

Related: The Paradox of Strength.

5 Tips to Help Students Focus Better.

This post was inspired by the one question students ask year after year:

“How can I focus better when I study?”

Focus has as much to do with what happens before you study as what happens while you are studying.


1. Remove ALL distractions.

  • Shut off your phone. Better yet — put it awayJust looking at it takes up mental space
  • Research shows the mere presence of a smartphone on your desk impairs intellect and reduces brain power.
  • And if you can’t trust yourself to hit the switch – lock your phone in the trunk of your car and give a trusted friend the key until you are done studying. No kidding!
  • You’ll miss it for the first 20 minutes of your study session, then you’ll forget all about it.
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time.

2. Be an ACTIVE studier.

  • Do not passively read the textbook – you will fall asleep, I guarantee it!
  • Instead, engage with the material.
  • Get active. Make the chapter come alive!
  • Have a classmate or friend quiz you.
  • Do end of chapter tests.
  • Read the textbook chapters out loud.
  • Teach the subject to someone, anyone!

3.  Clear out MENTAL CLUTTER.

  • Empty your mind of your to do lists, worries, and what ifs before you study.
  • Write them down and put them in a worry box to be tended to once exams are complete.
  • Repetitive thoughts running through your head could be your biggest distraction.

4. Take frequent MOVEMENT breaks.

  • Burn off pent-up, restless energy during study breaks.
  • Get up. Walk around.
  • Do not grab your phone.
  • Move your body!  Sing a song.
  • Draw a picture. Clap out loud! 
  • Open a window. Smell fresh air.
  • Go outside. Hug a tree!

5. REWARD yourself… eventually!

  • Use the Premack Principle to reward yourself.
  • Delayed gratification can be an excellent tool for sustaining attention and motivation.
  • Make a list of all the things that are distracting you from studying and use them as rewards once all your studying is done.
  • Go to Starbucks as a reward for studying, not as your location to study. (Too many distractions!)
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time and you’ll have a special treat to look forward to when all your hard work is done.
  • Your success is worth the wait!


Related Post: I believe in you.

Who motivates you?

Students, past and present, motivate me!

“The future of the world is in my classroom today.”

One of my first year BScN nursing students (Mona on the right) asked if I would sign the psychology textbook that I co-wrote and take a photo with her after class this week.

She said that an encouraging note and a picture with her professor would give her the motivation she needed to stay focused, work hard, and study throughout the semester.

Of course I said yes! It was a full circle moment. For my students are my motivation. And everything I do is with their success in mind.

Also pictured above are Sarah Ryrie (on the left) and Justin Fox (in the middle) – two St. Clair College alumni and former student representative council presidents who continue to inspire me today!

Related Post: Staying motivated in the midst of a challenge.

Your Turn: Who motivates you?

Are you left brain or right brain dominant?

Left and Right Brain

Understanding Individual Differences

Have you ever wondered how your best friend lives so freely “moment-to-moment” while your mind is imprisoned by thoughts of past events and/or planning of future events (so neatly) written in your (overly structured) daytimer?

Brain Hemispheric Specialization provides insight into why some of us are more present focused and able to “go with the flow” (Right Brain dominant); while others are busy planning their days with the step-by-step precision of a NASA engineer (Left Brain dominant).

Left and Right Brain

Your Brain and Behaviour

Despite being identical in structure, the two halves of the brain specialize in how they process information (e.g., Past vs. Present), and how they function (e.g., Verbal vs. Nonverbal).

Time ProcessingPast vs. Present

  • Left hemisphere – processes information sequentially, one bit at a time
  • Right hemisphere – processes information globally, considering it as a whole

Brain FunctionsLinguistic vs. Spatial

  • Left hemisphere – includes verbal tasks, such as speaking, reading, thinking, and reasoning.
  • Right hemisphere – includes nonverbal areas such as the understanding of spatial relationships, recognition of patterns and drawings, music, and emotional expression.


Neuroscience in Your Life

  1.  Complete the Left/Right Brain Dominance Test to find out which brain hemisphere currently dominates your life.
    • Personally, I obtained a score of 10 on this test – indicating that I am equally Left and Right Brained.
      • Which didn’t surprise me as I often “lay the table” with outlines, organizers, etc. (Left Brain) and the moment I feel safe, grounded, and prepared, I sit back and watch the ideas fly! (Right Brain)
    • What about you? How did you score on the Left/Right Brain Dominance Test? Was it what you expected? Were the results consistent with how you live your life? Did you learn something new about yourself?


2. Watch the following 20 minute video to: a) learn firsthand about L-R brain specialization and b) discover how Neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor turned her real-life tragedy into an awe inspiring “Stroke of Insight“.  I am still moved to tears by her story! I hope you are too. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is resilience personified.

The more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemisphere, the more peaceful our planet will be. Jill Bolte Taylor

Psychology Class ↔ Psychology Blog

This post is a summary of this week’s psychology lecture and Chapter 2 of my psychology textbook. If you want to learn more, you can download a free PDF of my neuroscience and behaviour chapter by clicking on this link.

What side of the brain do you live on?

What’s the best thing that happened to you today?


Shifting students positive.

So many students come to class anxious and stressed out. The last thing on their minds is learning. Which is why I start each class by asking students what’s the best thing that’s happened to them today.

Reflection ◊ Connection ◊ Motivation

Their answers fascinate me. And give me insight into what motivates them. From simple to profound. From food to relationships. From money to purpose. From grades to destiny. And everything in between.


Less stress. More learning.

Interacting with students in fun and uplifting ways brings laughter and lightness to the classroom. It doesn’t take a lot of time. Yet it creates a significant shift in student stress and comfort levels.

Students need to feel safe. Students need to feel heard. Showing them you care (while having fun) works every time. Only then can the real learning begin!


 Shifting students from stress to empowerment.

One question. One conversation. One class. At a time.🍎

Back to school!

Today marks my 15th orientation with BScN nursing students at St. Clair College.

No matter how many years I attend Fall orientation, it feels like the first time.

No matter how many times I work with students, it never gets old.

Their first class is my first class.

Their struggle is my struggle.

Their victory is my victory.

Students are my reason why.

And so today marks the beginning of something great.

Another fresh start.

Another set of dreams.

Another opportunity to change (student) lives for the better.

Related Post: Shifting Positive on a Stressful Day.

Positive psychology on campus.

What is Positive Psychology?

“While traditional psychology focused its attention on pathology and problems, in the relatively new field of positive psychology, researchers strive to explore and understand the strengths of individuals and communities that contribute to their flourishing.” Source: Psychology Guide

Strengths first.

I am passionate about what positive psychology can do for students and educators in and out of the classroom. By first focusing on what is right, before examining what is wrong, students are motivated to move beyond, and in some cases, be transformed by their current limitations, history, and circumstances.

Link to: VIA Character Strengths Inventory

Balance is key.

Positive psychology is not about being happy and successful all the time. Instead, happiness is aspirational like a delicious meal at a 5 star restaurant. Wonderful but not to be expected, at every meal, all the time. (Otherwise, we set ourselves up for disappointment on the Kraft Dinner days.)

Instead, the field of positive psychology helps bring out the best in us. In a balanced way. The ebb and flow of life. Negativity is to be expected. The question is – how long do you stay there.


Safe uplifting atmosphere.

As a professor, I believe it is paramount to create a safe and uplifting atmosphere in the classroom. A secure and consistent milieu where students know what to expect class to class, week to week, semester to semester. A place where students are encouraged to build upon their existing strengths, while feeling supported enough to share their current struggles.

Link to: Broaden & Build Theory of Positive Emotion

As I teach mostly nursing students, it is critical that I practice what I teach in and out of the classroom. Nursing students will also be responsible for creating an encouraging and safe space for their clients one day.

The yellow t-shirts are from the Yellow Umbrella Project, an Ontario wide college campaign for battling the stigma of mental illness on campus.


 Positive psychology and student empowerment.

My highest goal is to work with young Canadians in a way that empowers and encourages them to become the best version of themselves. Cultivating success in a way that is unique to them. I believe that interactive lectures combined with warmth and real-life stories is the best approach for achieving this goal.

Link to: The Optimism Project

The photo below is from a leadership conference for college students where I discussed the connection between optimism and student success.


Celebrating students every chance I get.

Ultimately, I hope to remind students of their gifts. While encouraging them to embrace their challenges. For we are the sum total of all that is powerful and vulnerable – within and around us. And it’s this extraordinary combination of strong and weak, good and bad, light and dark, that makes our world (and our classrooms) such a fascinating place to live (and thrive).