Priority tasking

Priority tasking sounds simple in theory, but in reality, it is hard to implement. This type of ‘tasking’ allows you to identify how you should actually be spending your time, and where. A deep analytical look at your to do list will help you do this. One essential component of priority tasking is understanding that your to do list will never be achieved. This sounds hard to comprehend, but you should create a to do list that you know you can not complete or check off completely. However, I also recognize that I am human, and I hate having a to do list that is never completed. If you can not relate to me, take five minutes to write everything you CAN do the next day. Do not create a list that is achievable. The to do list must have at least 10 tasks. I will say that on average, your to do list might look somewhat similar to the one below:

A average to do list:

  1. Go to class
  2. Do Homework
  3. Assistantship/actual job, the required hours
  4. Asssistantship/actual job, unpaid hours(Lets be honest, we all work more than what we are supposed and are not paid for it)
  5. Cooking/ eating out
  6. Meeting (with your assistantship supervisor or advisor)
  7. Meeting with classmates
  8. Meet your friends
  9. Meeting (that could/should have been an e-mail)
  10. Netflix or another form of procrastination
  11. House (accommodation related) chores
  12. Run errands
  13. Housemate/ Family member duties or responsibilities (If you live alone, replace this with self-care or whatever is pertinent to you)

If your to do list looks different, please feel free to create one in the comments section. I would love to see how they differ.

Like most people, I believe that I am able to multi task at a relatively high rate. I believe that I am able to watch Netflix, listen to spotify, and complete my 15 page paper while having six tabs open with literature to read. This is multi-tasking at a rather modest term. I do recognize that I am also in denial. The article, Technology: Myth of Multitasking, identifies me to be a serial tasker. I will not deny this truth. Also, in reality, I usually have about 10 tabs open. However, I will be honest and say that this is how I used to think, that I was a multi-tasker. I now believe that it is far better to priority task.

Priority tasking is somewhat similar to multi tasking in the sense that we still have many tasks to complete. However, it takes the idea and motivation behind ‘single tasking’ and forces you to choose the most pressing task. Is it possible to do more tasks? Yes. As human beings that are thirsty for success, we always want to do more with our time. But should we? In addition, your supervisors will only remember the one important task you didn’t complete. It does not matter if you completed 98 other tasks, that one important task will be the one that is remembered. And at the end of the day, what do you want to be remembered for?

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

I have been tasked with writing a blog post around the topic of inclusive pedagogy. This is a difficult task Diary. Diary, you have seen my thoughts on inclusive work and the things I try to do each week to include everyone in everything. From ensuring that every one’s voice is heard in staff meetings, to actively challenging students when they have not considered all perspectives in a particular incident. Diary, this is tiring, this is hard, and I sometimes wonder why I do this?

Yes Diary, that last sentence is my faithful friend, doubt and fear (DAF) talking. DAF is one of the most loyal friends I have Diary (but you are the most loyal Diary). See, unlike confidence and certainty, DAF will always be there, whenever I need them or not. DAF often present all the negativity about inclusive work and why we shouldn’t do it. DAF often tells me that the world doesn’t care about creating safe spaces, brave spaces, or any space where all students can be their authentic selves without having to hide any part of their identities. DAF also remind me that for every inclusive action I make, there are three more exclusive (and oppressive) actions being done by someone within a 3.14 mile radius of me. One time, DAF told me that solving racism is as easy as pie. Can you see why I don’t wary of DAF and their presence in my life? And do you know what the worst part about this Diary, this is not an exhaustive list! DAF are always reminding me about the difficulties of inclusive work and pedagogies. And yet, I persist.

I persist even when people assume me to be an expert on diversity because I happen to be the only minority in the room.  Dismantling racism in education mentioned this idea and this resonated with me as I have had a similar experience. By no means am I an expert on diversity, but I am an educator that wants to create environments where we can all learn.
I persist even when students are experiencing or acting out micro-aggressions, without being aware of them. As difficult as it may be to a participant or observer of a participant, as much as I am able to, I will try to make it a teachable moment
I persist even when VT’s POC are not being honored. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that students or the general public will adhere to these community guidelines. What I can do, when able, is to speak up when I have a platform
I persist because of the oppressive systems that plague our reality and that I am entrenched in
But most importantly, I persist, because I must. As a future professor, I must be held to higher standards of inclusive practice. I must be aware of the students I am teaching and the various life experiences they are living with. I must recognize that my identity, and I formulate it in the classroom, will affect how my students learn, and if they will learn. Just like my student’s identities are important, so is mine, and I need to be aware of that.

Diary, that is why I persist, even when DAF are nagging at me, I must persist. I must persist because as educators, we need to catch up with the students we teach. Students today are learning in a different environment with students from different backgrounds. Can I really be a future professor if I ignore the complex student identities in my classroom? And show any awareness, respect or recognition of that?

Diary, I have realized that teaching is hard. The way I teach might favor students of a different background than others. I might not realize this but it does. Some students will benefit from the way I speak. Some students will benefit from my values of respect and ideas on what a good student looks like. These have been influenced by the teachers and professors who taught me, and the various identities and cultures they showed me in the classroom. I can’t predict who will be in my classroom and how best to include everyone. What I can do, is be aware of my biases (because we all have them) and teach in a way that allows everyone to be successful.

My thoughts on authentic teaching

My authentic teaching self would have to be a teacher that aims to empower the learners within the classroom, I want them to be teachers as well. My goal is for there to be a transfer of information rather than depositing. I do understand that I will have the formal title of lecturer/teacher/professor, and that there will be a power dynamic that I can’t easily remove, as mentioned in  The Authentic Teaching Self and Communication Skills. However, I still believe that the students and I can both be learners in my classroom.

As well as appreciating the role that students play in the learning process, it would be unwise to ignore my role as the teacher. I need to know what my role is in the classroom, and to do so, I need to be confident in my approach to teaching and myself. No matter how prepared one can be, students in the classroom have a way of turning all your lesson plans upside down in a matter of seconds. This is where confidence plays a key role because you will be able to devise a ‘plan e’, after plans a,b, c, d have all failed. This skill doesn’t come overnight though, it comes with practice and failure. However, failure is a powerful learning tool that we cannot ignore, which is why I also welcome it in the classroom, with myself and my students.

So, then the question becomes: what kind of authentic teacher do I want to be? I want to be a teacher who ignores titles and sees my students as equals in order to empower them to be agents in their own education with my support. My goal will be to teach them how to learn so that even when I am not in the classroom, they can teach each other because I have given them the tools , strategies, and independence to do so. Whenever possible, I will let them teach each other by challenging them in class to be creative and come up with the answers to their own questions, with my guided support. However, I will also ensure that they experience structured failure, where their failures allow them to still learn even if they fail to see it immediately. I believe for this to be my authentic teaching style, and I will continue learning until it becomes my defining characteristic.

Wait, I get to choose my final grade?


This year, for the first time in my life, I was able to have a say in the final grade I achieved. In the Spring and the summer, I participated in two classes that allowed us, the students, the ability to give ourselves a final grade for the class. This was new territory for me because it has usually been my lecturer’s final decision on my grade. This is a concept that is mentioned in the article Case for grades. Going through this process, of having a say in my grade, and having to defend it, was difficult. It was difficult because I didn’t know where to start, how to be successful, or even what it was supposed to look like. Yet, it has been done, and I noticed a few things that I would like to talk about.

The first thing I noticed was my disbelief. I couldn’t believe it was real and in all honesty, I thought we were part of a semester long prank. Even though we had our 2nd years who told us about the experience, I still couldn’t believe it. Lecturers were trusting us to make informed decisions about our learning experiences and final grades? In graduate school? To say that this required some adjustment would be an understatement. Though, I slowly bought into this idea because it allowed me to hold myself accountable for my own learning, which I appreciated.

In order to avoid coming off as biased I will also try to look at the process from two different perspectives. Two perspectives that are negative and positive in order to provide an overall perspective that is more balanced. One small negative I noticed was related to accountability. What was hard to digest and to come terms with was the fact that I had to defend why I thought I deserved a certain grade. I found it weird to defend why the mountains of homework that I completed, countless times I participated in class were not enough evidence. In addition, it felt as if I had to prove that I did in fact do the required readings. It made me question why homework was given at all. I would have understood it if the course went further and made homework optional from day one, but it was not. (Now that I think about it, wouldn’t that be great? ) I will admit and say that I am probably being nitpicky in my attempt to provide a balanced perspective. But can we truly be reflective and mindful human beings if we don’t consider all possible perspectives?

Now, on to the positives! I appreciated the fact that I had some say in the grade I received. I was now at the grading table and had a voice. I could now describe the number of hours I put into the course that are always invisible to my classmates and lecturers. The countless social interactions I canceled in the pursuit of knowledge and genuine interest in the class could be described in full detail and hopefully acknowledged and rewarded. I could also detail the academic struggles I went through and connect them to my personal learning styles. Essentially, I was able to provide much needed invisible context that professors don’t have access to on a daily basis. Professors and educators, only have visible access to us in the classroom, and they don’t often see the struggles we go through to complete their assignments and learning endeavors. Having this opportunity to describe that gives us a voice and some power in what grade we deserve.

Despite the positives of this strategy, it is not enough. In the classes I took part in, we had a say in the grade we got, but I don’t know how much say. There wasn’t feedback as to how much my voice mattered or weighed in the final decision. The defense was mostly written and done at the end of the course which is why I am not sure whether it helped or not. One way to improve this, is to have a one on one conversation with the lecturer after the written defense is submitted. Almost like defending your thesis but hopefully in a much friendlier context and less stressful conditions. This conversation will provide both parties to hear each other out, and both agree on a final grade. I do recognize that this will be time consuming, but it is in the students best interest to do so. Isn’t that what education should really be about?

To have dessert or to not have dessert


The world’s most famous chef approaches you in an empty room. You are sitting on a chair and there is only a table in the room. Opposite you is another chair. The chef sits down and says, “Today is your lucky day! I will make your favorite dessert and for free! It doesn’t matter if you are allergic to any ingredients, I will work around your dietary restrictions, if there are any, and make you a dessert worthy of any five star restaurant! There are a few conditions though. One, I spoke to your best friend so I already know what to make. In fact, I have already made your favorite dessert and it is ready for your consumption. (The chef places the dessert on the table in front of you) If you can wait one hour, I will go ahead and make you two more. However, if you feel that you can’t wait, go ahead and eat the dessert in front of you. Remember, if you eat the dessert before the hour is up, that is all you get. I will be back in one hour, and yes, there is a camera in this room.


Given the information above, what do you think you would do? Feel free to let me know in the comments section, and of course, be honest. Before reading the remainder of this post, please decide, mentally of course, what you would do if you were to find yourself in the situation above.


Thank you for playing along. I will be honest in saying that the incident above is by no means original nor a future dissertation topic. The motivation behind the narrative comes from the Stanford Marshmallow test, and there have been many articles written about it. The study explored delayed gratification and I immediately thought of it as I read Mindful Learning by Ellen Langer. This isn’t the first time human beings have expressed a desire to understand decision making, mindfulness and delayed gratification. I did find it interesting to read about the experiment and to make the connections between those topics. What was also interesting to notice is not whether an individual will wait or eat the dessert, but what garners my attention is the rationale. I am interested in how we develop a rationale for the choices we make and how it relates to our overall decision making and mindfulness. Being mindful is about being aware of not only what you, but why you do it.


Given what I know now about making decisions and reading the article on mindfulness, I feel capable in knowing that I would be able to last the whole hour and maybe more. The question then is, am I more mindful because I can last that whole hour or more? The answer is no. I think the first mistake we make on our path to mindfulness is assuming that we are mindful. A truly mindful person will never acknowledge that they are mindful. Other people, friends and family may describe them as mindful but that should not serve as a confirmation. To be mindful is to operate under the assumption that you can never be mindful. This allows you to consistently find new ways of learning how to be mindful and developing your knowledge and practice of mindfulness.


I am aware that this appears to be a somewhat philosophical post. That truly was never my intention, but it is the perspective I have now. Being mindful is about a journey, not about the destination. Similar to education and learning, it never stops, and so should our quest to be mindful individuals. Being mindful should be seen as an act that is forever changing similar to education and technology. There are going to be new ways of exercising mindfulness and in order to take advantage of them, we as individuals should recognize the many possibilities that may exist. OK, I have talked enough about mindfulness, dessert anyone?

How to avoid teaching nightmares

Make no mistake, teaching is not for the faint of heart. The students we teach can be amazing bright individuals whose energy and hunger for learning can be the reason why we love the work we do and come in every day to teach. However, students also have the ability to throw all of the years you spent mastering your academic craft right back in your face. How is this done you may ask?  There is a long list of ways that this can be done but for simplicity, this has been reduced to three nightmare scenarios for anyone aspiring to be a faculty member and teaching. This can be done in three ways, students falling asleep in class, receiving blank, uninterested and confused stares to your questions, and of course, no one laughing at your ‘witty’ jokes that you swore were funny. As noted before, these do not represent all the nightmares that teachers may have, but they are a few.

The question then becomes, as a future professor and faculty member, how can I avoid having more nightmares to tell at dinner parties and luncheons? Well, I wish I could say that the answer is as simple as playing games in class but the reality is that it will take more than simply just playing any game. The games that are played need to have a purpose, learning outcomes and encourage creativity. As we saw last time in class, the thumb war game had outcomes and goals that were achieved.  The thumb war activity taught us that games can be an effective teaching tool. However, just like any tool, you have to know how to use it correctly and effectively.

Another way to prevent yourself from waking up late at night due to classroom nightmares is to intentionally think about the design the class. This can be looked at in many ways, but the way you teach your class will also depend on the physical design of the classroom. We all know by now that not all classrooms are created equal and conducive to the engaging learning that we wish to implement in the classroom. If a classroom is similar to our contemporary pedagogy class, then great! Teaching just became easier. However, if you have a classroom with dull tiled floors that are older than you, along with rigid wooden chairs, chalkboard, and small, chopped chalk to write on the board with, then may the force be with you(if you are unfamiliar with that phrase, then I say, “Good luck!”) While that may represent an extreme scenario, it is still possible to have that as a classroom, even today with all the advancements in technology we have experienced.

Even with the physical design of the classroom not being student centered or engagement friendly, it is still possible to make the classroom experience one that fosters and nurtures academic growth and creativity. This is where building lesson plans that encourage active collaboration between student and teacher, and incorporating tools such as games can be helpful. Games allow students to ignore the environment around them and focus on what matters, learning. Games put the power of learning back into the students control and gives them the ability to control their learning adventures. However, as noted before, we need to be careful and intentional about how we use games and when we use them. They need to be structured and with a purpose, and this is not to make the make the game boring. It is to help us achieve the overall learning outcomes we want for the students.

As a bonus, I have one more way we can avoid having teaching nightmares in the future. It will require a different approach and perspective towards facing the inevitable challenges and problems we will face in the classroom. When you see that students are not engaged for a particular reason in class, and they appear to find your class ‘boring’, approach the situation like a problem in a video game. As Dr. Henry Jenkins in New Learners of the 21st century, a video game at the end of the day, presents you with a problem that you need to solve in order to go on to the next level to win. The problem for you could be that your class is boring. That is fine, accept the problem and try to solve it, just like one would in a game. When you solve that problem, you will win, and the reward will be that your students are learning. What better reward is there as a professor?

Where does learning truly happen?

We tend to think that learning occurs inside and outside the traditional classroom. Inside the classroom is where a professor and students usually engage in learning. The type of learning that occurs will be influenced by the professor and the students. I included students because professors are not in a classroom to supply information and then leave once their time is over. Professors should be actively engaged with the students and their learning process where both can identify as being an educator in the classroom. Ideally, the professor is providing a supportive environment inside the classroom that supports and empowers students to make meaning of the content and to have control over their learning.


The next place where learning happens is outside the classroom, and this type of learning is more complex. It is more complex because it is not limited or bounded by traditional classroom walls. Learning can occur through physical face to face interaction with peers and strangers. Most importantly, technology and the internet has made it possible for learning to never stop. With new possibilities and opportunities, students have more power over their learning experiences. The professor should not see this as an obstacle to their classroom goals but see it as an opportunity. An opportunity for students to make further meaning from classroom material and to extend their learning experiences to take true control of their learning experiences. This will hopefully serve to empower students and allow them to truly learn anywhere.