Monthly Archives: April 2018

Enjoy Your Summer—Science Says It’s Okay

By the end of the academic year, most of us are counting the days until we can get a little R and R—and it’s no wonder, considering the intellectual, emotional, and physical demands of teaching. Between class prep, administrative duties, needy students, and relentless grading, summer can—and should—be a time to rest, relax, and recover, so that we can recommit to our jobs come fall.

Too often, however, we end up using our summers to catch up on research or writing. We meet with colleagues to compare notes and occasionally grouse when we should actually take vacation time much more seriously.

Science backs this up, and it all has to do with stress. Stress builds up over the course of the year and can be so toxic that it impedes the body’s ability to resist infection. It can even lead to poor digestion, anxiety, depression, and irritability. Sound familiar?

Multiple studies show that vacations ease stress by removing us from the people and environments that cause that stress. Getting away from it all breaks your usual pattern and allows you to rejuvenate yourself. Research indicates that vacationers come home with fewer headaches and backaches. Taking time off even appears to prevent heart disease, heart attacks, and death from a cardiac-related event. Better sleep is yet another result of vacations—because vacations change up our habits, they reset our sleeping patterns, so we sleep better when we return home.

Aside from physical reasons to stop and smell the roses, research shows that taking time off actually improves productivity back at work. Constant working at peak capacity (or close to it) ironically hinders us from doing our best work. The Boston Consulting group found that employees who vacationed were happier as well as more efficient workers than their counterparts who stayed home. Frequent vacationers tend to remain at their jobs longer, too, the researchers found.

One of the problems with vacations, however, is that they often become another source of stress. The following pointers can help your vacation do what it’s supposed to.

  1. Plan ahead. Research your destination so you can choose activities and reserve tickets.
  2. Know laws and regulations. Be aware of other countries’ laws and regulations. Learn your rights about airline-related issues, too.
  3. Enjoy yourself. Let go of guilt about leaving home and those who aren’t with you.
  4. Check e-mail…if you must. Many people feel stress about the pile-up of unanswered mail when they return home. If you’re one of them, check your e-mail when you’re away. It’s better than worrying about it.
  5. Try new activities. Challenges that take you out of your comfort zone will help you feel replenished.
  6. Plan for contingencies. Bring medications, sunscreen, extra glasses, and whatever you need to feel comfortable while away.

As teachers, we don’t work traditional hours. We can be responding to student e-mails at midnight on a Sunday or preparing a lesson at 6 a.m. for a 10 a.m. class. Summer is the time for us to take advantage of time away from the academy, so that we can return fresh and ready for the next batch of students.

So, happy summer!



Listen Up: The Right-Ear Advantage Is A Thing

In a crowded room with multiple conversations competing for your attention, it’s often difficult to hear clearly. However, if the words you’re trying to decode filter to your right ear, you have a much better chance of understanding what’s been said. It’s called the right-ear advantage, and scientists have proven the phenomenon is verifiable.

The reason is the way information is processed by the brain. Sound received by the right ear is relayed to the left hemisphere of the brain where speech is interpreted. However, when the left ear hears speech, the sound must travel to the right hemisphere and then back to the left. That delay is responsible for the right-ear advantage.

Although this phenomenon affects young children in particular, scientists recently tested the impact on adults and found that the more difficult the listening situation, the more the right-ear advantage persisted.

The implications to those entering the workforce can be critical. Listening closely to new colleagues is especially important when learning unfamiliar concepts, tasks, and information. Likewise, observing—which of course involves listening—can be key to understanding the corporate culture of a workplace.

Awareness about how your brain takes in information can make the difference between being a quick study and valuable asset to an organization, or a confused, inattentive, and clueless new-hire. So next time you want to make sure you absorb what’s being said, you might want to lean to the right.

From The Wall Street Journal


  1. What are some reasons for developing good workplace listening skills?
  2. Why might interrupting a speaker lead to poor communication?
  3. What are some ways you can communicate that you are listening without interrupting?



Smartphones Are Making Us Dumb… Unpaid Internships Are Baaack… The Selfie That Won’t Die

Smartphones Are Making Us Dumb

People are so attached to their smartphones that over half surveyed in a Gallup poll say they couldn’t imagine their lives without one and psychologists say that’s not good. Research is showing that the phones ferret their way into our psyches so the brain actually becomes dependent on them, in turn weakening our intellect.

Scientists have known for years that just the sound of a smartphone ringing causes distraction, poor concentration, and even a rise in blood pressure and pulse rate. Worse, the anxiety of being unable to answer a call reduces the owner’s ability to solve problems. Some researchers call this “brain drain,” which negatively affects learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, and creativity.

Social skills suffer from using the devices, too. Even when talking face to face, smartphone users are itching to check their newsfeeds on their phones, making the actual conversations less meaningful and unfocused.

The phones’ appeal—constant availability of information, portability, and entertainment—is the very aspect that makes them what one cognitive psychologist calls a “supernormal stimulus” that can unduly commandeer attention.

From The Wall Street Journal

Unpaid Internships Are Baaack

After years of progress making internships fairer to young people seeking workplace experience, the US Department of Labor has issued new guidelines making it easier for companies that want to hire interns for no pay. The change reverts to rules that favor employers who can once again hire interns as free labor.

Previous rules required internships to meet six criteria that prohibited employers from taking “immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.” The new rules say an internship does not have to meet any threshold; it merely needs to be justified on its own merits.

The updated guidelines allow an employer to argue that even if an intern is completing low-level tasks with no supervision, that individual benefits from learning about how an industry works, thus making the unpaid internship legal. However, many employers are taking precautions and are paying interns minimum wage to avoid possible legal repercussions.

From Los Angeles Times

The Selfie That Won’t Die

Those temporary selfies, the ones that disappear? Not so temporary, it turns out.

The entire purpose of apps such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories is that they only allow viewers to see an image for a few seconds before it disappears. However, researchers are now saying that once those not-so-professional images are seen, they’re hard to unsee.

Because the so-called disappearing selfies are considered safe, people sending them tend to take more risqué snaps or other photos they wouldn’t send if they knew the picture would be more permanent. The researchers explain that viewers of these images can’t seem to forget them, leaving a lasting impression of the sender’s poor judgment.

The addition of screen-capture software compounds the problem, which becomes most dire when potential employers see the photos. At best, says one researcher: “[Prospective employers] might just think if you look uninhibited, you’re an idiot, and they don’t want to hire an idiot.”

From Harvard Business School