Tag Archives: School

  • Good Luck Out There: Simple Solutions for Getting into the School Swing

    In the first of our Back to School series, author Andrea Olive offers simple tips on tips on how to keep your “first-day-mojo” going – at least until you can hit that snooze button in late December.


    Your first day. This is probably peak college. Today you are organized, and you are ready to learn. Your clothes are clean, you remembered your lunch, you got a parking space, and you found the right room. This is exciting.

    Unfortunately, it is likely all downhill from here. Actually, it will be uphill – steep and Sisyphean for a lot of you. If you don’t get that reference, look it up – you are in college after all.

    Did you Google it? I am waiting.

    It sounds terrible, right? Knowledge is just one big rock that has to be pushed uphill repeatedly. College is meant to be challenging – but this is exactly what makes it meaningful.

    Luckily, I have a few tips on how to keep your “first-day-mojo” going until you can finally hit the snooze button in late December. And these tips are pretty simple.

    First, let’s cover the bare-minimum basics: sleep, water, and nutrition. These apply to college and pretty much every day after that. Sleep eight hours out of every twenty-four hours. Drink water regularly (but not before sleeping). Take a vitamin. Seriously, just take a vitamin because I know you don’t eat healthy now (I’ve seen your food selections at the cafeteria) let alone when you are cramming for an exam between the two jobs you have decided you have time for this semester. Leave bottles of water (in reusable containers, because the planet is a whole other problem) and your vitamins in a visible place – your desk, your car, at the front door, in the bathroom… I don’t care. Just make it easy for yourself to see them because that makes it more likely you will use them.

    Now that you are healthy enough to make it to class, you should shut off your phone. (No one in the history of the planet uses their iPhone to “take notes” or read scholarship. Just no.) In fact, shut off your phone right now so that you can focus long enough to read the rest of this. Unless you are reading it on your phone, of course. (The off button is on the right – just hold it down and the phone will ask if you are really serious about turning it off. Swipe to off.)

    Oh, you brought your laptop to class, didn’t you? Sneaky. You think you are going to take notes on it. You are actually going to Google fact-check something and then before you know it, you will be on Instagram looking at photos of your ex’s sister’s wedding from two summers ago.

    I would recommend that you download an app that can prevent you from going down this road. Use an app like Freedom or Anti-Social to prevent you from accessing the Internet. This isn’t permanent. Just set it for the duration of class. And then use it while studying.

    The struggle is real. You probably googled “Freedom App” and found yourself on Reddit. It happens to the best of us. This is why we need help. Consider it.

    Better yet, leave your computer in your bag. You do not really need it for class. You just need paper and a pen. (We professors like to say: In university, the pen is always mightier than the keyboard. Hahaha.) But this might be too radical, and it probably makes me sound 100 years old. Besides, deforestation is a serious problem and every kid can’t just be using paper like it grows on trees.

    Okay, open your computer again. Take notes on it. But you have to save the file to your desktop. And then you have to save it to the iCloud. (I actually have no idea how that works so maybe don’t trust me on that.) But the point is, you need to create backup files. Your dog isn’t going to eat your homework if it is on the computer. But your house could burn down. That happens in real life. So, email the files to yourself.

    Come to class a few minutes early and make time to linger around after the end. This is how you meet friends. And class friends are so important. You can study together. You can share notes. You can complain to each other. And you can just talk about a mutual interest – namely, the course content. (Yes, you should be interested in the classes you take.)

    Thus far you are healthy and attending class. That is pretty much how you succeed in college. That is the big secret. But if you want to totally rock it, I would recommend a few other things in no particular order:

    Correctly spell your professor’s name in emails and on assignments. That is just good manners. And it will go a long way in earning their trust and respect. Never call your professor “hey.” Titles are confusing and names can be hard to pronounce. But you will never go wrong with “professor.”

    Do not post your class notes on the Internet. You think you are helping friends, but it turns out that you misunderstood something and now you have misinformed the planet. The world has enough problems already. Just keep your notes to yourself.

    Buy the books. Yes, they cost money and I understand that money is hard to find in this day and age. But I also see you at Starbucks three days a week. Grown-up life is all about priorities. So, get in line at Tim Hortons (bring a reusable mug because those cups are not recyclable) and save your pennies so you can buy the books.

    Oh, and read the books. Even the boring ones. And the long ones. And the ones with no pictures. It will build character and help you on the exam.

    But if you really don’t have the money, that is okay too. The university has a building called “Library” and there are literally thousands of books in it. It is generally a huge building. Often times, it is where the Starbucks is on campus. If you go into the library, really nice people work there and can help you find the book for your class. They will also let you sit down in a quiet place and read the book. For free. Yes, for real. Try it.

    Read and follow the instructions. Your professor isn’t trying to pull a fast one on you. They genuinely want you to succeed. The test isn’t a trick. The assignment isn’t a scam. You are too young to be this cynical.

    You aren’t going to read the syllabus. I have pretty much given up on that. But look at that one section that explains the due dates for all assignment and tests. Put all those dates into your phone and computer calendar. Or download an organizational app that can help you with that.

    Bring a sweater. I think that is self-explanatory.

    Ask questions. That is the whole point. You’re not in college to get a job. Okay, that isn’t the only reason you are in college. You also have the opportunity to learn stuff. I was a political science major (don’t roll your eyes, it is super interesting) in undergrad at the University of Calgary. I took an astronomy class where I was able to see the Milky Way through a 1.8m A.R. Cross Telescope on a cold night. I got to ask some of the most important minds in the world about variable stars. It blew my mind. I didn’t become an astronomer, but the class made me a more well-rounded scholar and introduced me to new ideas and friends. Don’t just study what you already know – and never be afraid to ask questions about the things you don’t know.

    Good luck out there.

    (You can turn your phone back on. Just hold down the button on the right and it will come back on, I promise.)


    Andrea Olive is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Geography at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and the author of The Canadian Environment in Political Context.

  • UTP Titles for Back to School

    The start of the school year is just around the corner, and while all of our scholarly books and textbooks are certainly school-appropriate we have few titles that we would like to highlight for the return to the classroom.

    For the stressed professor:

     Berg&Seeber_Jacket_5065_R2.inddThe Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy

    By Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber

    If there is one sector of society that should be cultivating deep thought in itself and others, it is academia. Yet the corporatisation of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency from faculty regardless of the consequences for education and scholarship.

    In The Slow Professor, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber discuss how adopting the principles of the Slow movement in academic life can counter this erosion of humanistic education. Focusing on the individual faculty member and his or her own professional practice, Berg and Seeber present both an analysis of the culture of speed in the academy and ways of alleviating stress while improving teaching, research, and collegiality. The Slow Professor will be a must-read for anyone in academia concerned about the frantic pace of contemporary university life.

    For the (almost finished) PhD candidate:

    harman_thesisandthebook2-cThe Thesis and the Book: A Guide for First-Time Academic Authors

    By Eleanor Harman, Ian Montagnes, Siobham McMenemy, and Chris Bucci

    The academic caveat Publish or Perish is not a new one, and for over a quarter of a century, The Thesis and the Book has come to the aid of graduate students in their quest for publication. The doctoral dissertation, usually the first book-length study completed by a scholar, is, however, only rarely publishable as a book. Understanding the differences between the two forms is a crucial part of one's education as a scholar and is equally important in appreciating the endeavours of scholarly publishers. The Thesis and the Book: A Guide for First-Time Academic Authors, revised and expanded in this second edition, will continue to provide the best overview of the process of revising a dissertation for publication.

    Drawing on the expertise of the contributors, all of whom are editors, publishers, and scholars themselves, the chapters present the rudimentary differences between a thesis and a book (including matters of purpose and audience), give guidance on the necessary stylistic, technical, and structural revisions to the dissertation, and offer advice to first-time authors who must not only revise their work to satisfy prospective publishers, but also learn a good deal of the ins and outs of scholarly publishing.

    The Thesis and the Book will continue to be of great value to graduating doctoral students seeking publication and to the faculty members who supervise these students. It will also be of value to acquisitions editors at scholarly presses, who must contend with the submission of revised dissertations for publication.

    For those interested in learning about or changing school policy:

    VanWynsberghe_AdaptiveEducationAdaptive Education: An Inquiry-Based Institution

    By Robert VanWynsberghe and Andrew C. Herman

    The obstacles that prevent the latest educational research reaching the classroom are daunting: few channels to communicate the results of educational research, fewer opportunities for teachers to participate in research themselves, and little support for honing a scientific approach to teaching.

    The solution, according to Robert VanWynsberghe and Andrew C. Herman, is radical but simple: transform the educational institution itself into a laboratory for continuous experimentation. Inspired by the pragmatist theories of John Dewey and Roberto Unger, Adaptive Education explains how schools and universities can incorporate research processes into their activities, institutionalize a policy of inquiry and experimentation, and make teaching an evidence-based profession.

    An audacious proposal to reform the education system from the ground up, Adaptive Education is a roadmap for creating an institution that empowers teachers, parents, and the community to innovate, adapt, and explore.

    Bosetti_UnderstandingSchoolChoiceUnderstanding School Choice in Canada

    By Lynn Bosetti and Diane Gereluk

    Understanding School Choice in Canada provides a nuanced and theoretical overview of the formation and rise of school choice policies in Canada. Drawing on twenty years of work, Lynn Bosetti and Dianne Gereluk analyze the philosophical, historical, political, and social principles that underpin the formation and implementation of school choice policies in the provinces and territories.

    Bosetti and Gereluk offer theoretical frameworks for considering the parameters of school choice policies that are aligned and attentive to Canadian educational contexts. This robust overview successfully shifts the debate away from ideology in order to facilitate an understanding that the spectrum of school choice policy in Canada is a response to the varying political challenges in society at large. This book is essential reading for those who desire a deeper understanding of school choice policies in Canada.

  • Making the Most of a New School Year

    What’s the ultimate purpose of university education? Why do we invest our time and money in intellectual pursuits? Every September, we return to our classrooms and lecture halls, energized for the new school year and determined to make it our best one yet. Amid all the goal-setting and prioritizing, though, we often forget the big-picture questions.

    Is the primary goal of education to shape the future citizens and leaders of our democratic societies? Author George Fallis compellingly illustrates how universities have long played an important role in protecting democratic ideals in his book Multiversities, Ideas, and Democracy, newly released in paperback. But will the academy continue to play this role as universities evolve into sprawling research complexes?

    Hold on, you say. Shouldn’t the academy also expand our boundaries as individuals, teach us to challenge our assumptions, and help us learn to think critically? To James E. Côté and Anton L. Allahar, this is increasingly not the case: as they argue in Lowering Higher Education, universities are positioning the liberal arts and science less as a path for self-exploration, and more as a form of job training. As the authors show, this perspective has led to inflated grades, lowered standards, and widespread student disengagement.

    But if universities are becoming more vocationally focused, why do new graduates continue to have a tough time finding steady jobs? According to the Globe and Mail, the youth unemployment rate in Ontario currently stands at a whopping 15%. Why are young adults having such trouble connecting their education with relevant employment? The collection Education and Jobs provides a thorough exploration of this ongoing problem.

    Though our opinions may diverge about the ultimate purpose of universities, surely you agree that they should be inclusive, safe spaces for all? However, despite mission statements and recruitment campaigns that emphasize diversity, various forms of racism and Eurocentrism persist within the academy. As noted by Joy Mighty of Queen’s University, the UTP book Racism in the Canadian University ‘exposes and critiques the prevalence of institutional racism in Canadian universities and the equally prevalent denial of its existence.’

    What are your goals for this school year? What perspective will you be taking on the primary purpose of education? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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