Radical Compassion and Preparing for Class

In the Sunday paper, I read a bit in an advice column about dealing with difficult and unpleasant people. Instead of getting angry, frustrated, complaining, or trying to change them, practice radical compassion. What kind of a life must this individual have to exhibit these behaviors? You don’t have to like the person. You don’t have to agree with the behavior. And you don’t have to stand around taking abuse. Just remind yourself of what the other would have to go through, daily, in order for the unpleasant and difficult behavior to seem like the best option. Then see if you do not find it easier to deal with them in a healthy constructive manner.

That said, there are still a few people around that are above my pay grade. I can apply this principle and deal better, but boy … I would still rather not deal with them at all.


The semester started today, and officially starts for me tomorrow. I audited a graduate level statistics class on Advanced Stochastic Processes today (I bet I could scare someone with those words alone!), and the rest of the day was spent scrambling to prepare my own materials. I am teaching Linear Algebra this semester. I’ve decided to try an experiment in Team Based Learning, where I split the class into 7 teams (45 students so 6-7 students per team) and have them do some work together, some work in teams, and peer evaluate each other. I carefully wrote the syllabus so that if I find that I can’t hold this plan together, the 10% of the grade that would go to team, individual, and peer-review activities instead gets thrown onto homework, or the activity part of the grade gets reduced and homework gets increased.

The first team activity will be a think/pair (team)/share that has each team address a different topic, and hopefully will help the team members get to know each other.

  1. What does it mean to be fully present, whether this is in class, or with a friend, or simply by yourself? How can being fully present help you with with your coursework and grades? How can being fully present help you with making friends and with your relationships?
  2. What are the characteristics of your favorite challenging classes or team activities? How did liking the class or activity influence your actions and attitude?
  3. What are the characteristics of a least favorite class? How did disliking this class influence your actions and attitude?
  4. How do you think that I (the instructor) am a ffected by a class I really enjoy or really dislike?
  5. What are the characteristics of a good teacher? Make a list of actions and attitudes and rank these by importance. (Side comment: they will be giving me standards for performance of my job. These should correspond well to the characteristics of favorite challenging classes and team activities.)
  6. What are the characteristics of a good student? Make a list of actions and attitudes and rank these by importance. (Here they give themselves the standards for performance of their job. These should correlate with behavior in an enjoyed class or activity.)
  7. Identify 5-10 things it is important for you to know about the class from the syllabus or that you have questions about; rank these by importance. (Because so rarely do students actually read the darn syllabus that it takes so much time to put together.)

If we get good answers to those questions, I think we’ll all know what we need to do for the rest of the semester.

I do have some mathematics prepped for tomorrow too!