Happiness and Gratitude

I recently watched a TED Talk, actually watched it at least five times and counting. Brian Doyle, a The George Washington University social justice student, gave it. In this inspiring talk he discusses how a near death experience made him realize that life is fragile and limited. He then thought about the nature of relationships he had with his family and friends. The ‘Thank Yous’ never said and the appreciations never shown. So he decided to start an initiative; he started to say ‘thank you’ to at least one person, who has helped him both past and present, a day for 365 days- a year. He so far has reached his goal, as of the TED Talk, and he is still going on with this.

After watching this TED talk, again many times, realizing that time is limited, I looked at my life at the present moment; I wondered where did I stand with relationships in my life. Did I say thank you to people that helped me? I would say, most of the people that have helped me. I am a pretty polite person if I say so myself. However, not all of the people that helped me. Perhaps, the few I didn’t thank, I thought were minor characters who really did no big favor, and thus deserved no thanks? For example, I didn’t thank the graduate student who was proctoring my final exam. She did nothing but sit there so we won’t cheat; she also provided us with the time and such.

Let me take you back, I met her couple days before the exam; we were both at the same room. She was friendly and opened a conversation about apples [as she was eating a big one] and we also talked about our majors and career goals. Fast forward final exam, when I saw that she was in the room, my anxieties dropped and remembered more class material because I saw a familiar face; it wasn’t a tight and cold environment but a cozy one. I got an A- for the first time in that difficult class. Or is it because what they did was ‘expected’. I didn’t say thanks when my mom brought that dinner dish to me. She could have easily told me to grab it myself or when she drove me home from the auto shop when my car was due in for service. I wonder that.

Inspired, now I am just like Brian and am saying thank you to at least one (or more people), who has helped and is helping me, a day for 365 days. I call it the #365thankyouchallenge. I hope you would take the challenge with me too! Hey, what could possibly go wrong, but you brightening some one’s day? Thank You!

PS: I would like to also thank Brian Doyle for this inspiring, uplifting, and perspective talk. I learned a lot.

Here is Brian’s Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNfAnkojhoE


Do Grades Define You

Does Learning Trump Grades

If you are like me, grades are always on your mind. You are obsessed with them; you want to get that A and settle for nothing less. You’ve also heard from your professors and other people you know that grades are not important compared to what you learned; in fact a Dean of College stated, “I’m mostly interested in whether you felt you really learned something important and pushed yourself to go beyond what you thought you could do.” Trust me, I have learned more and more every semester. You’ve probably also heard that a 3.0 student may be smarter than a 4.0 student. Trust me, I have been on both ends of the spectrum and it’s true.

I’ve struggled with these statements, knowing these statements are true; yet, they are false at the same time. Yes, learning is more important and yes, grades don’t define your smartness. Here’s the problem, life in the post graduate world doesn’t work that way. It’s sad, but it doesn’t. Here is one thing you should know, and you probably do.

Higher Grades Means Employers are more Likely To Hire You

Yes, employers are more likely to hire you if you have high grades. In other words, employers do care about grades. In fact, according to four career service directors, at schools like at NYU and Brandeis, said the employers do care about grades[1]. They don’t want employees to not put forth the effort. Furthermore, the career service directors say that employers put the cut line at 3.5 GPA- in other words, those with a lower than a 3.5 probably won’t get the jobs they applied for.[2] Yes, they are exceptions, if the person with a lower GPA has higher qualifications than a person with a higher GPA- like being class president or being a president of a club- then they may get the job.[3]

Final Thoughts

If the above is the case, then why do people say learning trumps grades? Does learning more about oneself and learning how to improve oneself, improve one’s grades? I would like to end by posing this question to you: Do you think it is more important to earn an excellent GPA and learn minimally or have an average GPA, but learn tons?

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/12/06/do-employers-really-care-about-your-college-grades/

[2] ibid

[3] ibid

#SOS: The Art of Help and Questions

I watched a TED talk by Michael Stevens about his channel VSauce and why adults don’t ask questions as often as children. As we get older we ask less questions and don’t ask for help as often as we do when we were younger. Why? As I watch younger children, especially those in Pre- K all the way up to 8th grade, ask questions. So curious about everything, but it seems when they reach high school and ultimately adulthood they stop asking for help or questions anymore. Why? I think I have identified the main reason.

In high school we are expected to solve the questions by ourselves and not rely on teachers for help- except for absolute emergencies. Yes, this trains students to be independent for college or life beyond high school, but it also makes students believe that they should know everything- even when they don’t. If they start asking questions or for help, they feel ashamed they don’t know the material. So they don’t ask.

As a student and educator, I have definitely felt this way. In high school, I was trained to rely on myself and not ask help. This proved detrimental. For example, I was assigned a project in Sociology Research Methods where I had to write a lengthy paper by using data from The General Social Survey (GSS) and then using Soc Abstracts (secondary data) to support the findings the GSS presented. I then had to come up with three hypotheses based on my findings. It’s confusing, I know. I tried to finish the assignment by myself…to mediocre results. Our kind professor gave our class a retry. On my second try I enlisted help from a tutor and a fellow classmate. It proved to be fruitful and I got an A for the assignment and for the class. Likewise, during the second semester of my freshman year, I had this writing professor who for some reason was a tough grader and gave C’s… no it wasn’t that I was a bad writer, in fact I got an A in first semester writing. Well, when I realized my professor was killing my grade, I enlisted my friend for help. I ended up with a B.

In summary, asking for help doesn’t mean that one is stupid; after all learning is the goal of school and life. In fact, a Dean once said,” I’m mostly interested in whether you felt you really learned something important and pushed yourself to go beyond what you thought you could do.” Also, sometimes, actually most of the time, two is better than one. I would like to hear your thoughts on this.  

Highly Effective Educators

As both an educator and a student, I have seen my fair share of effective and not so effective educators. I had identified a few traits that I believe make extremely effective educators and facilitators. First, educations should be open to talk to students. In other words, they should have open office hours and invite students to talk to them. For example, I have this economics professor who has open office hours twice a week from 1-4 pm, but when we talk we usually talk until 5 or 6 pm- or when someone needs him. I also had another educator, a Dean of College, who despite his job demands was- and still is- willing to make time for me if I just wanted to talk or give him suggestions on how to improve the university’s rankings. He replies about 80 to 90 percent of my e- mails too- very good for a Dean!

Second, going along with my first point, opening themselves to students is not enough, but they must listen and not interject after every comment the student makes. Thank goodness, I have never experienced such an educator. Both the Dean and the economics teacher listened to me with out interjections.

Third, a good educator should adapt to the situation when conducting a one on one. Does the student want to vent and tell their sappy story, like I do sometimes to my economic professor? If so, let them vent and comfort them with kind suggestions and personal experiences to tell the student they are not alone. This trick will usually do. However, if the student wants some hard-core talk and advice, this is probably not the way to approach things. Perhaps try what a Resident Director, who happens to be one of my mentors, did. He gave me sound advice when I needed it. I learned from him to not to be afraid to fail, not it live in the past and wonder “what if”, and to expect and adapt to change!

Lastly, really good educators must have a ‘can do attitude’ and install that onto their students. In other words, they will encourage their students to reach for the moon and tell their students that they can pursue their passion and give them resources to do so. Though most educators I have had do install hope and positivism- I can tell you, some have just shot me down. I would love to end with a quote by the Resident Director mentioned above that sums up what a good educator is, “remember stay positive and focus on the present and future, you are a smart kid, so don’t let comparing yourself to others get the best of you.”

Silent Night: My Thoughts on Ferguson and Eric Garner

I have stayed silent following the recent events in Florida, Ferguson, MO, Cleveland and Staten Island that caused mass public unrest. It wasn’t that I didn’t have an opinion, everybody has an opinion about something; it was just I didn’t know how to express myself without sounding like ‘Mr. Bad Guy’ favoring one opinion over the other. Both sides make great arguments. But, after reading an article that my mentor posted on his Twitter account called “Breaking My Silence on Ferguson and Eric Garner” by Tom Krieglstein, I have also decided to break my silence.

I do believe that all lives matter, including African American lives, discrimination is still prevalent in today’s society, and these victims should not have died at the hands of the very people who protect us. However, as a critical sociologist and a religious person, I agree with Krieglstein, I do not believe that these police officers mean harm. The police officers did not wake up on one fine morning intending to kill someone.

Furthermore, I believe that sometimes the officers’ get caught up in the heat of the moment and become overly aggressive and inadvertently harm someone. I am sure you get into arguments with friends or your parent(s) and get caught in the moment and did not mean to harm that those people. In conclusion, yes, what these police officers did was inexcusable and I do not condone their actions, but remember police officers are humans and they do get caught up in the moment and harm someone by accident. All people are good people deep down.