Saturday, October 3, 2009

It doesn't get much better than this..........

This past week has been one filled with a lot of activity, excellent classes, re-connections with former students and a re-affirmation that this thing we call education IS worthwhile. Logan Thurnauer just stopped by my office on this rainy Saturday morning to say hello. He graduated this past May and is in a Master of Science program in Education with an emphasis on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. This is a one year program which will lead to a Ph.D. program in Higher Education. Logan was actively involved with our Residence Life Program here and he just finished telling me about this new program and how much he is enjoying it. I asked him if he felt that Saint Michael's College had prepared him well for his graduate work and his response made me laugh. He said "I was not expecting this Dave but I am ahead of many others in my program BECAUSE of my experiences and my education at SMC." - now THOSE are nice words to hear. He said that he has a great deal of reading to do every week and the classes are challenging but he has done well so far and he attributes this to the Liberal Arts background that he obtained here. Some of his peers are from much larger educational institutions and they seem amazed when he tells them of his close relationship with many of his former professors here. This is foreign to many of them. Another former student stopped by yesterday just to say hello - John lives in Montana and is living HIS dream of skiing as often as he can - he is back East for his sister's wedding next week and he took a train from Montana to Boston. He had a chance to see several of his other professors during this brief visit but he simply HAD to return to campus just to re-connect. Brendan Rynne called me from California last night as we have been playing "telephone tag" for a week now. He and his wife and now TWO children are doing very well and he just wanted to re-connect and to fill me in on how they are all doing - connections - re-connections - this is one of the things I love about working here.

On Monday afternoon one of my former students came to my Practicum class to talk with us about her experiences as a therapist, a writer, a consultant and a wife/mother. Kim Quinn-Smith graduated from Saint Michael's College in 1989 with a double major of biology and psychology. She then went on to Boston College and received a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology. She and the love of her life Tom Smith ('89)were married and they now have five children. She has been a therapist working with teens, families and youth as well as the chronically mentally ill. She has written three books and is now a consultant presenting workshops around the Northeast on such topics as teens, young adults and gender. I wanted Kim to speak to my class because I happen to have sixteen WOMEN in this class and I thought it would be important for my students to hear what it was like to be a wife, a mother, a therapist, a writer AND a consultant - sometimes all at the same time. My students seem to have appreciated Kim's honesty and since her presentation skills are so open and engaging, it was a wonderful class. Three of those students are also in my Theories class and so the next day, they couldn't wait to tell me that they had all called their Mom's and had talked about Kim's presentation and in fact, a couple of them are going to get one of Kim's books Striving for the Purple Heart: Mothers in the Universal Pursuit of Honor for their mothers.

On Thursday (I have two classes back to back on Tuesday and Thursday) my Sports Psychology class finished up their presentation from Tuesday on the impact that advertising and marketing have with regards to sports and athletes/athletics. We look at the psychological impact of all of these factors and I was impressed with the students' presentation AND their ability to think critically about an interesting topic. We then had a "come to Jesus" moment as I confronted them on their writing skills or lack thereof. Much like the rest of their generation which has become addicted to Facebook, Instant Message, Twitter and cell phone communication my students made several careless errors in their first papers. I hold students accountable for their errors - I warn them the first day of class that they are either blessed or cursed to have a former English teacher as their psychology professor. I show them typical errors and they all assure me that THEY won't make the same mistakes and, of course, I know that they will - I do suspect that they won't be making near as many in the future. BUT, it was a good class. My second class of the day is my Theories of Counseling class. We study material from our textbook on Tuesdays and then on Thursdays we use the Developmental Lab (a large room divided into two sections separated by a one-way mirror) for the application of what they have learned in the text and classroom discussion on Tuesday. I create counseling scenarios and have one student serve as the "counselee" and provide that student with the issues I want them to present to the student "counselor." I then select another student to serve as that counselor and the "games" begin. With fifteen students on one side of the one-way mirror and the other two sitting and counseling on the other side, this laboratory is an incredible teaching tool. It IS intimidating. It IS stressful. It IS education at work. Several of my former students who are now in graduate school have emailed me about how grateful they are that we have this laboratory at SMC. These students, now in programs of study all over the country, are most often the ONLY ones in their graduate programs who have had this experience as an undergraduate. Thursday's class was exceptional as all of the student "counselors" were right on target - they were good listeners, showed the appropriate level of concern and understanding to the "counselee" and provided the right amount of empathy, encouragement and structure to assist the "counselee" to continue exploring the issues that I had created for the scenarios. This is one of those classes where all of the sudden it is 4:10 and class is over - we were able to have four students practice their counseling skills and then as we process the experience all together they showed how well they have been able to apply not only what they are learning in this class, but also what they have learned in their other psychology classes - as I titled this blog - it doesn't get much better than this.

take care, be well and please keep all of our veterans and the current members of the military (and their families) in your thoughts and prayers.


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