I believe in you.

As a psychology professor and former school psychologist, I talk about mental health issues with students every single day.

My classroom is a safe place for students to be themselves.

Which is critical when working with youth (18-24) who represent the highest proportion of individuals with mental illness.

Education helps bridge the gap between fear and freedom.

And so does an open heart. And an open mind.

I believe in my students. In their potential. In their dreams.

I believe in their ability to overcome challenge, adversity, and self-stigma.

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Students need my support and encouragement.

And an educational community that truly cares.

Because self-stigma is real. 

And often more silencing than social stigma.

Because sharing our story is one of the scariest and most liberating things we’ll ever do.

Be it about mental illness or another vulnerable part of our lives.

Which is why the best place to open up the conversation about mental illness is to meet students where they are.

These are their words.

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 Ontario student mental health helpline ⇒ Visit Good2Talk.ca

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?

Strengthened by adversity.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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?

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.

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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.

Thriving Under Pressure.

How can two people experience the same stressful event and react in incredibly different ways?  What explains the difference between stress thrivers and non-thrivers?

Research shows that some individuals possess a set of resilience skills and traits that allows them to flourish in response to stress.

“Resilience is what gives people the psychological strength to cope with stress. They understand that setbacks happen and sometimes life is hard and painful. They still experience the emotional pain, grief, and sense of loss that comes after a tragedy, but their mental outlook allows them to work through such feelings and recover.” Source: Living Well

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Building Stress Resilience

Stress hardiness is a pathway to resilience – the ability to remain healthy and strong during stressful and challenging times.

Hardy individuals transform stressful circumstances into growth opportunities by reframing adversity and taking direct action in response to stress.

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Bouncing Back from Adversity

In the video below, I describe the 3 key components of stress hardiness:

1. Control

– Focusing on the things you can change and letting go of the things you can’t.

E.g., “You hold the key.”

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2. Challenge

– Reframing stressful challenges as opportunities for growth.

E.g., “Strength Training.

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3. Commitment

– Envisioning a higher purpose above and beyond the immediate stressor.

E.g., “Ask yourself why you started.

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Each component a critical factor in cultivating the ability to bounce back and thrive under pressure.

Can Stress Hardiness be Learned?

Yes! Research demonstrates that not only can stress hardiness be learned, it has wide-ranging applications in health and wellness, including:

1. Lowering test anxiety in high school students.

2. Reducing perceived stress in college students.

3. Protecting against war-related stress in Army Reserve forces.

4. Improving resilience and coping skills in stressed out professionals.

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Related Post: What's your stress threshold?

Enthusiasm is contagious.

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Photo from keynote at a College Student Alliance (CSA) student leadership conference.

I believe in the power of education. Deep down in my soul. And it’s this core belief that translates into a high level of enthusiasm and excitement for student success in my classroom.

I believe so strongly in the impact of enthusiasm on motivating students, capturing their attention, and enhancing their learning that I wrote my PhD dissertation on the topic.

Education + Enthusiasm = Student Success

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What core beliefs guide your work? Your life? 💫

There will always be critics.

Use their words as motivation.

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A glimpse of my psychology lecture on student motivation and success.

The world needs your unique kind of wonderful. So don’t let the critics get you down. Focus on your dreams. Not their doubt. Use their words as fuel for your success and empowerment. The sun always rises. And so will you. ☀️

Related Post: Face it - you're strong!

Summer school.

Bittersweet Ending

The end of a college semester is always bittersweet.

Summer school is no different.

The final psychology exam was just this week.

And I miss my summer students already.

Full disclosure: Psychology is my passion.

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A glimpse of my summer lecture on mindfulness, health psychology, and patient care. 

Pre-Nursing Psychology

I am grateful to have met so many wonderful St. Clair College students in the pre-nursing program this summer.

They worked hard. Followed their heart. And never gave up.

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Each student hoping to gain admission into the highly competitive four year BScN program starting in September.

(Summer school is a pre-nursing qualification program.)

New Beginning

Every ending is a new beginning.

Because of the program I teach in, I will have the opportunity to teach many of my pre-nursing students again this fall in the BScN nursing program.

Fingers crossed that they (all) get in to nursing! 🏥💉

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Just because the semester ends doesn’t mean the learning ends.  I am, and will always be, my students’ “Professor for Life“. 📚❤️
Related Post: What's your why?

What’s your why?

Shifting from Extrinsic to Intrinsic Motivation

We live in a world that rewards frivolous behaviour with fame and fortune, so it is no wonder that some students expect their motivation to come from the outside, in the same way that reality show contestants expect to win a million dollars, simply by “showing up”.

How can we change this? What impact can we have on millennial, tech savvy students expecting instant gratification in our classrooms?

We start by reminding students (and ourselves) that motivation begins on the inside. We show students why external motivators will never sustain them. The overjustification effect is just one example of this fact.

Better yet, we tap into students’ own life experiences to ignite long-term commitment and motivation. Students often forget the feelings of joy and anticipation they felt when they first opened their acceptance letters to school.

In the midst of going to class, applying for OSAP, juggling family, work, and school demands, and paying bills, students often forget why they applied to their programs in the first place.

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. William Barclay

Sometimes, igniting motivation is as simple as asking students “Why?” they are at college in the first place. Why?” exercises help students get to the heart of what motivates them, guides them, keeps them going. From early morning classes to late night study sessions to unexpected academic costs to making it through final exams.

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 How I incorporate “Why?” exercises into lectures:

  1. I ask students to relax, sit back, close their eyes, and take a deep breath.
  2. Next, I ask them to visualize the day they applied to college and ultimately received their acceptance letters.
  3. Finally, students are asked “Why?” they wanted to go to college in the first place – what’s their ultimate mission and motivation for getting a diploma in their chosen field.

Student answers to this simple, yet complex question of “Why?” is so varied, so unique to each student. Yet, each answer is united by the same ideal, the same belief: Hope

Students are searching for something better, to change for the better, to make the world better. They want to save lives as nurses, to design hybrid cars as engineering technologists, to help children who are abused as child & youth care workers, to inspire their own children by being college educated, to be independent and self-sufficient, to do what they love, and most of all, students yearn to make a difference in this world.

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Sustaining Motivation and Commitment

Once written down, I encourage students to carry their answers (in one word, if possible) in their wallets, post them on the bathroom mirror, on their phones, in their cars, and look to their “Why?” every time they need inspiration.

Their answers remind them “Why?” they choose to study for midterms, “Why?” they choose to write research papers, “Why?” they choose to attend class rather than do something that brings instant gratification.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how. Nietzsche

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I believe so strongly in using “Why?” exercises that I incorporated them into my psychology textbook.

Intrinsic motivation can be taught in so many ways. During “Why?” Exercises, students teach me. They teach me that hope is enough to sustain us through the hard times. Hope is enough to push us through life’s challenges. And the most important lesson of all is that hope mixed with drive, self-determination, and hard work changes lives for the better.

Students are my reason why.

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“Why?” do you do what you do?