Civility, Etiquette, Image

7 Things Successful Students Do

When I was first making the transition  from high school to university (many years ago now), I signed up for a summer “warm-up” program to help ease the anxiety of moving to the next stage in my life.  One of the workshops I attended was an overview of what to expect in a university class versus a high school class.  There were some valuable tips I picked up in the seminar that helped me survive as a student and I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t take it.  How did the other students make it if they didn’t attend that seminar like I did?  Many of those tips have stuck with me and I still practice them when attending professional development workshops and classes.  Here are some:

1.   Go to class –  For many, post-secondary is the first time living away from home.  Being regarded as an adult and expected to make decisions for oneself can be very exciting.  But choosing to party all night and skip class the next day can be a costly mistake.  It’s difficult to absorb information and get to know your classmates and instructors if you don’t make it to class.  Often, instructors will put questions on exams that pertain only to notes and discussions they hold in class.

2.  Come to class early There are a few reasons why this an important one.  Firstly, if you are early then you will have time to go over notes and feel prepared for the lecture.  Secondly, you can strike up a conversation with your instructor to reinforce understanding of class content and ask questions.  Lastly, even if you do not stand out as an early bird, it is better than standing out as a late-comer.

3.  Sit close to the front – As a student who often elected to sit at the back during high school, I realized a huge difference in my marks when I started to sit at the front.  I was less likely to be distracted since I was in proximity to the instructor.  I could hear better, see better and participate more when I wasn’t separated by several rows of students.  I also didn’t have any students to hide behind so I was more likely to stay engaged since the instructor could see me.

4.  Make eye contact with your instructor –  You will find when you make eye contact with the instructor and gesture that you are genuinely listening to what he/she has to say, they will start to look to you for clues of understanding.  This will help you build rapport with him/her and you will probably find you are more engaged when that happens.  It will also make it more comfortable for you to ask questions or approach him or her at another time should you have questions or need assistance.

5.  Be prepared – Do your homework and readings.  This will allow you to be engaged during class and contribute to discussions.  You’d be surprised how much easier it is to pay attention when you understand what is being presented.  If you don’t understand, you will feel more confident to ask questions if you have at least attempted to read or understand the homework.  You will also find it far  easier to build a relationship with your instructor when you show him/her that you are putting in the effort.

6. Participate – Nothing makes an instructor more happy than when they have a student who participates in class.  Ask questions, start discussions.  This is when the real learning takes place.  When you start a discussion, you not only let the instructor know that you have been doing the readings, but you are able to engage other learners and learn from them and their perspectives.  Not-to-mention, this will help to reinforce the concepts learned from class and homework.

7.  Be respectful – The classroom is not the place to snooze, text, listen to your favourite tunes on your iPod, change your Facebook status or tell the person next to you how great the party was on the weekend while the instructor is talking.  Some instructors may allow time for such activities but don’t take advantage.  Remember, you are there to learn and so is everyone else.

Civility, Etiquette

7 Things Leaders Don’t Say

In gaining momentum in my career, I have learned a thing or two about people and behaviours .  I’m no expert by any means but I have found there are certain phrases or attitudes that people in leadership roles never tend to say or use.  Do any of these ring true for you?:

1.  I told you so.  No one wants to be reminded that they were wrong.  A good leader understands that the person who made the mistake will probably have learned from it and will move on without saying anything.

2. If I need you to know, I will tell you.  Don’t insult people’s intelligence by dangling carrots in front of them.  If you have information that you cannot impart at a particular time, don’t even let on that you know anything all.  People will resent that you have information that they are not privy to.

3.  To get anything done, I have to do it myself.  Let go of the control.  A good leader will delegate tasks and have faith in his/her people to get the jobs done.  If it isn’t done to your standards then lay out your expectations and have them try again.  People can’t learn if you don’t let them make mistakes.  Besides, making them feel incompetent is not going to instill confidence or trust.

4.  You think that’s bad, this one time I…   Let people have their moment.  Perhaps you have a great story to tell but wait for another time.  You’ll steal someone else’s thunder by overshadowing their story with one of your own.  Appreciate what they have to say.  It will make them feel good and you’ll get the benefit of hearing a great tale.

5.  I am so great.  Or other ways of outright saying how nice, good-looking, well-spoken or good you are at something.  If you truly are as good as you think you are, people will notice it themselves and won’t need to be told.  And if you are fishing for compliments, this won’t work.  People don’t take well to gloating.  You may never hear how esteemed you are, you just need to have faith in yourself and others will follow.

6.  I hate the way things are.  Don’t complain.  Everyone has moments and situations that aren’t ideal but complaining about them just brings others down or promotes an atmosphere of frustration or helplessness.  We all need to vent at times just make sure you’re doing it to come up with a solution and not to breed misery.

7.  You wouldn’t understand.  Really?  Don’t assume you know the level of knowledge or experience of others.  Maybe they won’t understand but you’ll never know making this assumption.  You’re also not creating an environment of acceptance and trust.

Civility, Etiquette

Excuse Me, Excuse Me, Pardon Me, Excuse Me

Last week, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the “Hugh Jackman in Concert” show at the Princess of Wales theatre in Toronto.  (AMAZING by the way) My seat was in the middle section of the orchestra;  a couple of seats in from the aisle.  I was stuck in some traffic on the way in so I was entering the theatre later than hoped but still in plenty of time to get to my seat and settle in.  Many people were already there and seated.  When I came to my row, I had to inconvenience some fellow “Hugh” fans by slipping past them to get to my seat.  I once read somewhere that it was considered proper etiquette to face those who you were passing so you could excuse yourself face-to-face.  I’ve followed that rule for many years but have NEVER seen anyone else do the same.  Not-to-mention, it has always made me feel awkward.  But, believing that I was practicing the “proper etiquette”, my choice was to face those I slithered past despite feeling uncomfortable.

I’ve often wondered about that rule, however.  Why don’t others do as I do and look fellow audience members in the eye when they clamber to their position?  Could it be that I misunderstood what I read many years ago and it isn’t proper to face them?  I decided to post a question on one of the social networks that I belong to and I was overwhelmed at the response I received.  A few agreed with me, that facing people when stepping over them was proper.  It was easier to see where you were stepping and apologies could be more readily heard.  My favourite comment in support of my view was “who really wants a posterior in one’s face”.

Many felt the more acceptable practice was to apologize making eye contact and then to turn and face forward.  It was noted that it might be an invasion of personal space because of the proximity when passing over someone.  There were also mentions of the practicality of facing forward; one could hold on the seat in front and it was easier to feel for footing.   One brought up a great point – it wouldn’t be considered good manners to fall in someone’s lap or grab their knees if facing them.

The consensus, however, was to consider the culture and the environment one was in and use discretion.   Considering the audience on this particular night, was anticipating the stage arrival of 2008’s Sexiest Man Alive, I figured no one really cared how I got to my seat.    In keeping with the class of this most talented performer, however, I politely smiled at his audience members, excused myself,  faced forward and made my way to my position.  It was one of the most incredible nights of entertainment I have ever experienced.

Civility, Etiquette

Graduation Season

As the summer approaches, so does the season of graduation ceremonies.  I helped usher at one the other day for the educational institute that I work for . It is a wonderful occasion for graduates and their families to commemorate meeting the requirements of graduation and setting forth into the world with official documentation that shows they now know something about something. I love to assist with this event because the celebratory spirit that accompanies it is intoxicating. And it  is  so powerful to watch the sea of black as the robed candidates make their way in the processional, to their reserved seats at the front of the auditorium.

It was the perfect occasion to put on my “Civility” hat and take note of the behaviour of those around me. I’m always surprised at how courteous people can be but also at how much others still need to learn about it.  Respect should be the number one thing on everyone’s mind on such an occasion.  For graduates, you are the centre of attention.  People are looking to you with adoration and admiration.  Be excited but be gracious.  Rudely snapping at  officials who are trying to organize the processional line up, isn’t nice, nor appropriate.  Besides, you never know who may be scouting out talent for future employment and making a bad impression on such an important day may cost you more than you think.

For guests, respect the graduates hard-earned recognition by turning off the cell and leaving the business texting for  another, more appropriate time.  This is their moment.  Show your appreciation by being there for them, not only in body but spirit and emotion also.  And talking throughout an award winner’s acceptance speech is unacceptable.  Even though that student may not be the one you came to see, they are up there for a reason and should have your undivided attention.  You may be surprised at what you learn from him/her.