Don’t Dismiss New Technology

If you aren’t utilizing Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, you are missing out and you are unnecessarily aging yourself.  As an instructor of working adults returning to college, I learned many were too quick to dismiss these “newer” tools as irrelevant. 

It is always difficult to understand why something new might benefit you when you’ve gotten along without it. Consider cell phones as an example.  How about digital photography?  Remember life before the Internet? Change is inevitable and when you fail to embrace change, you are often left behind. These social networking tools are not exactly new, but they are so increasingly popular that there has become yet another form of digital or cyber divide. 

While you aren’t on Facebook, you could be missing out on important connections with family, friends and coworkers.  While you aren’t utilizing Linkedin as a networking tool, your colleagues and competitors are.  Not embracing Twitter means you may not learn about upcoming work-related discussions, appearances by your favorite celebrities or the answer to a problem you are unable to solve.

Boosting Employee Morale

In today’s economy, there seems to be a never ending supply of bad news.  If you aren’t careful, you can let all this negative news overwhelm you.  When it comes to the workplace, it has become increasingly important for employers to boost employee morale.  Bad attitudes do not help business.

What can employers do when the economic situation doesn’t allow for salary increases and can often times necessitate a decrease in employee benefits or even pay cuts for those lucky enough to keep their jobs?  

These are tough times.  Businesses are forced to cut back in all those areas and employees must do more with less.  That doesn’t mean your employees aren’t valued, however.  Communicating that is critical and it will generate a level of goodwill that will carry us through this recession. 

How can struggling employers do that?

It requires a little creativity, but often little to no money at all.  Consider the following:

  • Employee of week/month/quarter (gets a free, close parking spot for a specified period of time)
  • Reward accomplishments (biggest sales, highest customer satisfaction ratings, etc., gets a half day that month, free lunch or some other small acknowledgement)
  • Allowing employees to leave an hour or two early on a Friday (or making it regular would be even better, if employer can afford it) This works wonders!
  • Ice cream social (three different flavors of ice cream, then do-it-yourself toppings)
  • Raffles for baseball or other sports tickets
  • Personal recognition by CEO of birthdays or work anniversaries
  • Potluck lunches
  • Mailbox treats (the university where I teach put microwave popcorn in each mailbox with a note attached saying, “Thanks for all you do to keep us Popping!”)

Employees are people and they desire what we all want—respect, recognition and reward incentives.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  This recession will not last forever.  Together companies and employees can tough it out and will emerge much stronger.

Morning Blend Clip

Keep Standards High

Why should we care about Maureen Dowd’s plagiarized paragraph in Sunday’s New York Times? 

As we all know, journalism is rapidly changing.  Newspapers across the country struggle to survive and far too many fold.  The instant access to information on the Internet is both wonderful and scary.  It’s great to get news about a situation as it is happening and often in the form of first-hand accounts.  In this rush to be first, there are often many inaccuracies reported and the editing process seems to be all but obsolete. 

Perhaps, Dowd really did inadvertently use the paragraph from Josh Marshall’s blog.  Failure to attribute properly is plagiarism, however.  A quick check using Google would have caught this “mistake” and it’s hard to understand how Dowd and the New York Times editors didn’t catch this.  After Jayson Blair’s very public firing in 2003 for admittedly much more flagrant ethical infractions, one would hope the New York Times would do more to safeguard its integrity. 

The message that must be shared is that stealing another’s work and attempting to pass it off as our own is wrong and it is intolerable.  This is the primary message I teach my college students in their first writing course. 

Note:  This was published as an editorial in the Milwauke Journal Sentinel on May 21, 2009.

Why We Opted to Leave Cumberland Elementary School

Despite repeatedly being told that the public schools in Whitefish Bay, WI were excellent, we opted to send our daughter to a private school instead.  During the year a half our child attended the school we met wonderful families, made great friendships and enjoyed working with some talented staff. There are many reasons why Cumberland was not a good fit for our family, however.  Safety considerations, ineffective reading program, lack of easy access for people with disabilities and nonexistent school lunch options top our list. 

The safety consideration for drop off and pick up procedures failed to meet expectations. Petitions and parent concerns were repeatedly ignored by administrators.  Pick-up was an unsafe nightmare.  Due to no procedure and limited street parking, parents often were forced to arrive 45 minutes before dismissal in winter months just to secure a spot.  Other cars often parked illegally—blocking fire hydrants, homeowner’s driveways, crossing paths, etc.  This forces children to climb over mounds of snow, walk in front of, behind and even in between cars.  Teachers of the youngest children wait with students until their parents are spotted and the child says goodbye.  It is quite difficult for teachers to keep track of all children and there have been a few cases where children have been temporarily “lost.”

Cumberland uses the Waterford Early Reading Program for its students and this is not an effective teaching tool.  According the U.S. Department of Education’s website review of Waterford’s program, the program “was found to have potentially positive effects on alphabetics and no discernible effects on comprehension.”  It only passed What Works Clearinghouse standards with reservations. 

 Under Title III of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, all schools should be readily accessible to people with disabilities.  Yet Cumberland has no wheelchair ramps in 2009. When necessary, the school has used a freight elevator at the rear of the school, but requires special coordination on the part of parents and administrators.  The lack of access for children with disabilities sends a message of intolerance. 

 Unlike most public schools in the nation, Cumberland has no school lunch option. President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act in 1946. While many consider this a luxury in our community, others across the country and even in our own state consider it a necessity.  What about children who forget their lunches?

 There appeared to be a complete unwillingness to change on the part of the administrators.  The response, “This school was built in the 1940’s as a walking school” was used far too often.  It is 2009.  Next year it will be 2010.  It will never be 1940 again.