Procrastination (But I Digress)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

So Let Me Walk My Way Through This

I'm taking a class about teaching (it's called Level II as opposed to Level I that I took three years ago). The instructor showed a video called FISH. It is a motivational video about a Fish Market in Seattle where all the workers go out of their way to have a lot of fun and involve the customers and passers by, in all the fun. They talked about how their choice of their attitude makes all the difference and who wouldn't want to go to "work" if it was really going to "fun".
At one point, one of the guys said, he feels so happy after he's gone into work.

When he said that, I flashed on that's how I feel after a Toastmaster's meeting. We have so much fun at Toastmasters. So I tried to think about how I could recreate that atmosphere for my class. The kids in my class are so out of control that it is getting embarrassing. Individually, I can connect with each kid and I think that they each have a great deal of potential. I can joke around and be friendly with all of them. There are two, maybe three who do not respond at all to my authority and I have kicked each out of my class--some on more than one occasion. I'm not sure why they come back, except that it is an automatic F if they drop.

In Toastmasters, we get a lot of work done. We have a fairly rigid format to the meeting and each person signs up for a job and most take their responsibilities very seriously. Some Toastmasters from other clubs or people who have attended other Toastmasters clubs have told us that our meetings are much warmer and a lot more fun than they have experienced at other clubs. So what makes our club fun? It isn't the specific people, because there is a huge turn over in members. Sure there are about six people who have been there all the time that I have, but the club is 20 people and not all of the six come to every meeting. I think the average time most people stay a member is six months to a year and we do meet every week, so familiarity might help.

One thing may be that we all have a shared goal to improve our public speaking skills and we all go in with a kindness to allow the other to make mistakes that are then learning experiences--mostly because we want everyone else to be kind to us when we make mistakes.

Another component may be that many times the speeches are about personal subjects or about subjects the speaker feels strongly about, since we are all busy professionals and it is easiest to prepare a speech about something you know.

There is also Table Topics, where we speak off the cuff to answer a question. Since you have no time to prepare, your response is often a personal statement which invites a little closer bond with the others in the group. It's just human nature. [As an aside, you are allowed to lie in your response to Table Topics and one of the guys was really good at it, but one time someone we didn't expect came out with a great response and after the meeting he told us it wasn't true. Wow. You have so little time to come up with an answer, it is usually something true and many times very personal.]

Part of our program in Toastmasters is to start with a joke. I could incorporate that into my class--let's face it there are plenty of lawyer jokes out there.

Another part of Toastmasters is Table topics. I'm not sure if I could do that every class (talk about a lot of work and the students might just stare at me and refuse to answer), but I could see having that kind of format to introduce each section. I usually try to introduce a section with "what would you do if you were the judge?" sort of thing to the different topics. I can usually get pretty good participation for that.

Then we have speeches and then we have evaluations. I could have presentations and I could have peer to peer evaluations, but again, I'm not sure the kids would buy into it.

I don't think that the speeches make our meetings fun. It is the camaraderie. How do you build camaraderie? Team building is a good method. When we do the mock trial, the teams usually become pretty close. I've been doing debates, but the teams rotate a great deal for debates. Maybe I could make the teams a little more permanent to build camaraderie.

Also, in Toastmasters we have a few or more than a few members who go out of their way to use the club to build their social skills. There's a little in the program about building social skills as part of Toastmasters, but since we are all there for a mutual purpose, none of us allow ourselves to be anti-social. It is almost part of the make up of the meeting, to greet each person and inquire about some salient aspect that we know about the person. We have one very quiet guy named Ed. He is traffic school instructor. At one meeting someone called him Drivers Ed--that name has stuck like glue. It has made him more a part of the group. He has volunteered for more jobs at the meetings and his last speech was really special--more personal and very inspirational. Of course, I get a lot of Lawyer jokes and anything legal, requires a shout out in my direction. We have a few people who work for the city and they get their shout outs too. Each person has some salient thing about them that is up for comment and pulls them in as part of the fabric of our meeting.

I wonder if I can make an oral presentation for the students to tell us their dreams and aspirations part of the course. The more the kids know each other, the more comfortable they will be sharing and participating in the class. Maybe I can assign an area of the law to each person so that when we are talking about that area or if it comes up in discussion, that student will get the equivelent of a shout out. I have to think about that one more.

My class is not fun and Toastmasters is so fun. I come to Toastmasters after my class on Tuesdays. My class is really awful this year. Last Tuesday I was so depressed after my class, that when I went to Toastmasters, I sat for about ten minutes without really talking to anyone else. After the meeting started, I brought my attention to the tasks at hand and gave my attention to the person speaking. That's why we are there. I was the toastmaster (and I was totally unprepared, so I was forming my part of the talk as I sat there waiting to be called to the podium). Part of the responsibility of being there is to bring enthusiasm and I take that responsibility seriously. Have you ever heard if you want to be happy, force yourself to smile and pretty soon you will forget that you are forcing yourself and you will be happy. That's how enthusiasm works. It might be forced for a few minutes, but after that it is pretty contagious. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I love the sound of my own voice, so I may not be a good measure, but... Everytime I leave Toastmasters I am uplifted. [I've even noticed that I start to sing when I get in the car after a meeting--that's kooky.]

So how can I get my students enthusiastic about Legal Occupations. One motivator that I have used and appears to have some effect is that I tell the students at the beginning of the class that they all have an A. If they come to class, participate and are engaged, they all keep that A. I will keep working with them until they master whatever skill we are learning so that they get an A in my class. That is a pretty big ticket item for some students, but the fact is that is the whole purpose of the class--to train students about working in a legal field to proficiency for an entry level position in a law office. Maybe I should have training cards with levels to achieve through activities. I have to think about how that would work.

Fun. I'm not having any fun right now, always yelling to try to keep order. The instructer in the Level II class said that we have to have five rules and consequences for violations of just those five rules to keep order. That sounds like a good plan going forward (although this class is a lost cause). I need to think of some good consequences, because I know me--I'm too kind hearted, so I'll be too lenient. The consequences have to be tough enough to get the job done, but not so tough that I won't impose them. I am so not getting paid enough. This needs to be a lot more fun.

Light bulb--everyone hates public speaking. Have I just found the perfect punishment? Public speaking is so fun to me--I can see me imposing that as a punishment and not backing down. I love it when a plan comes together.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Millions of Voices

It looked like all those people attending the inauguration were sitting on chairs. Still I was happy to be sitting in my cozy house to watch President Obama's speech on tv. Doesn't that sound awesome, President Obama. His speech was a little too preachy for my tastes--when the sentences start to click, I have an automatic meter in my head that sends up the red flag, but I'll take preaching over doesn't make any sense, anyday. His message is not all that profound, except that he's willing to say out loud what all of us know already--we have hard times and we all have to pitch in and work. Is anyone out there not in the choir? If so, then I hope this wakes them up.

Erika said it best in her blog this morning--finally we are able to hold our heads up high, proud of our leader. President Obama gave a thank you to outgoing President Bush for his service and in my head I sneered. I want to be thankful for his service, because you could not pay me enough money or glory to take that job, but I have no gratitude to spare for Bush. To my mind he has done more to undermine this country than a million terrorists could ever accomplish. I can't remember past inaugurations, but no matter how much we didn't like the outgoing president, I can't remember no applause at all for the outgoing president. Was it me, or did he even look a little guilty to accept Obama's thanks. It was probably me.

I am a little worried about how religious Obama appears to be. I have learned to be afraid of religion. I hope that he will make religion a good thing again, because at its core, religion should be a good thing.

Obama has so much work to do and he seems so competent and intelligent. I like how he is trying to lower our expectations of recovery, because he is such an attractive comodity that we can't help but expect miracles. I'm afraid we already got our miracle in that he actually wanted the job and is willing to do it. The rest is just going to be good old fashion hard work. My sleeves are rolled up. Good luck Mr. President and God Bless you and God Bless the United States of America. Oh wait, He just did. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

So You Know

How you shouldn't shop when you are hungry--you'll end up buying stuff you don't really need. You probably shouldn't start a diet when you are under a great deal of stress. The set up for failure is tremendous. That failure is it's own stressor, when you are already stressed to begin with. The never ending spiral never ends.

I have two trials set for next week. Not one, two. The first will be intense. It is a contingency case, which means, I only get paid if I win. I have already spent more time than I can possibly make even if I win everything. So I am basically working for free, but I have to work really hard to get what I've already invested. Of course my horoscope this week said "don't do it, if you
won't get paid" How could my horoscope possibly know??

I have to give my second trial to someone else, because I can't physically be in two places at the same time. Believe me, I've tried. While the other attorney is trying to be all nonchalant and insist that I take care of all the leg work before handing it over, I can tell he's excited to be going to trial. I would be too. I am. My last trial was more than a year ago and it really is the fun part of this job.

Still, I have little pouches on my face. Pouches right next to my mouth on either side. That has to be weight gain. I am opposed to weight gain anywhere, but on my face??? So it is drastic diet time, but I'm working on two trial briefs and I want them to be just right and that means reaching for the m&m's and cheese its as I search my brain for just the right word. In two weeks this will all be a memory. How much weight can I possibly gain in two weeks of eating whatever I want? Come to think of it, the stress of being in trial at court will stop me from eating at all. Maybe feast then famine is the way to go. Maybe I need those pouches to stock up for trial, so eating m&m's is part of my trial prep work. Hey, I'm a lawyer, I can argue anything.