31 December 2008

Goodbye 2008

Since today is the last day of the year, I thought I would look back on some of the highlights. This year was definitely not my best year and had its share of struggles. In fact, I'm kind of glad to see it go. However, there were some positives that I want to remind myself of, so here no particular order.

- Most of my family enjoyed a 10 day vacation to Hawaii. I'm planning another one for next year, in between Christmas and New Years.

- I completed my first 1/2 ironman.

- I ran the St. George marathon in the rain and I HATE running in the rain.

- I found out I'm going to be an auntie again in May.

- I started getting used to being called Dr. Hansen.

- I PR'd in one of my races.

- I won 1st in my AG twice.

- I learned that I've made a difference in some of my students' lives.

There are probably more, but I think I'll stick with those for now. Good bye 2008 and hopefully 2009 will be even better.

27 December 2008


I looked up the definition of excellence and came across several meanings, including: the fact of state of excelling; superiority; or eminence; or an excellent quality or feature. I think that everyone should be in a state of excelling. I'm not so sure that anyone should be in a state of superiority or eminence, but I truly believe that every person should be trying daily to become a better person.

In "Force of Nature," Laird Hamilton discusses the essentials of being the best. He actually made a list that I thought was pretty good and I thought I would share it, so here goes...

- "You've got certain basic strengths." - He says that there are some things that you can train and some things that you can't. I think that's what separates average from above average from excellent. Some people have innate strengths that allow them to push harder and longer than others.

- "Distractions don't phase you." - He encourages the reader to use distractions to your own benefit. I think the example he gave was that if you can't surf because of the weather, than you can find some other way to train that will enhance your surfing.

- "You're tough." - He discusses mental and physical toughness. My parents and I watched the IM World Championships (mostly because I bugged them to watch it with me) and my dad said that he thinks (and I happen to agree) that endurance sports require much more (like 90%) mental toughness than physical toughness.

- "You're sensitive to everything around you." - I loved it when he said, "Ignorance can be bliss, but it doesn't add up to greatness." In fact, I think that I'm going to use that one in class for my students. He talks about being aware of what's going on around you and taking that information in so that you can be prepared to make the necessary changes in order to be successful.

- "You sweat the details." - I'm so not a details person. I'm more of a see how it goes sort of person. However, when I stop to think about it, I'm pretty good with details when I want to be. Perhaps, I need to be more focused on the details during my training and racing this year.

- "You don't indulge the voice of doubt." - In the book, he said, "You decide what you want to believe." I love that. I think it's another quote that I'm going to use in my teaching. I already blogged about negative self-talk, so I won't get into that, but I do believe that statement. There is power in self-confidence.

- "You can operate hurt." - This is a weird concept for me to embrace because as an athletic trainer, it's in my nature to take care of injuries. However, he says that "when the subconscious part of your brain kicks in, you're in a more efficient and more powerful frame of mind." I'm not sure I get that, but I do think that our mind is very powerful and that we can overcome our natural inclination to stop doing something when it hurts.

- "You're solid." - In this section, he talks about integrity, which is so important to me. In fact, I'll have to write a blog entry about it sometime. Anyways, he asks the question, "who are you?" and suggests that we should all be able to answer that question. Being solid implies that you know who you are, what you stand for and where you're going.

Anyways, I certainly wouldn't describe myself as an excellent person. I do try to strive for excellence. I'm not the best at what I do in my job or in my racing or whatever, but I do try my hardest to be the best that I can be, which I think is really all that we can do.

I actually just had a thought...perhaps, I could use some of these points in my goals for the year. Hmmm... Actually, I probably just need to start writing down my plan and then making the necessary adjustments as I go.

Goal Setting

It's that time of year again...that wonderful time when we decide to make our New Year's Resolutions. I always do this and have done for a really long time, like since before high school. Each year in January, I write out my goals and keep them in the front of my journal. Throughout the year, I revisit my goals and check in to see how they're coming along. This year, I sort of forgot about my goals and when I looked back over my list, the only one I accomplished was completing a 1/2 Ironman distance triathlon and that goal didn't actually go as planned.

It was a tough year for me and I really didn't do well at all with focusing on my goals, which is out of my character. Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking alot about my goals for next year and I have a few that I know I'm going to do. However, I've discovered that I have a commitment problem. I'm struggling with committing myself to my goals, partly because I did so not good last year. Anyways, I will come up with some goals and I will post them on my blog and I'll use that for some accountability. In the meantime, I would like to share some tips on goal setting from "Force of Nature."

1. Visualize - "Imagine your goal in every detail. Use your imagination and let it run wild."
2. Make it challenging - "Don't underestimate yourself. A goal that's a stretch, but maybe you could do if you approached it right - that's the one to go for."
3. Improvise along the way - " Sometimes you have to go backwards to get a goal, or sideways, or around an impediment. Adapt the plan to avoid frustration."
4. Accept that there will be obstacles - "The nature of aiming high is that the road will not always be easy. No one enjoys a struggle, but it's a necessary process. Face reality. Avoiding something difficult now just means that you're going to meet it again later."
5. Allow satisfaction (but keep your edge) - "It's worth making an effort to savor what you've done. Let yourself enjoy a moment of satisfaction."

Perhaps while you're setting your goals for 2009, these tips may come in handy.

2009 Race Schedule

January 9 ~ Animal Kingdom 5K ~ Orlando, FL
January 10 ~ Walt Disney World 1/2 Marathon ~ Orlando, FL
January 11 ~ Walt Disney World Marathon ~ Orlando, FL
January 24 ~ Chilly Chili Run ~ Lake Bloomington, IL
March 8 ~ Princess 1/2 Marathon ~ Orlando, FL
April 4 ~ Lincoln Memorial 1/2 Marathon ~ Springfield, IL
April 18 ~ Race with Your Heart 4 Mile Run ~ Eureka, IL
May 2 ~ Indy Mini Marathon ~ Indianapolis, IN
May 16 ~ Women of Steel Triathlon ~ American Fork, UT
May 30 ~ Rigby Lake Triathlon ~ Rigby, ID
June 13 ~ Ironman 70.3 Boise ~ Boise, ID
June 20 ~ Cache Valley Classic Triathlon ~ Hyrum, UT
June 26-27 ~ MS 150 ~ Logan, UT
July 4 ~ Patriot Run ~ Lewiston, UT
July 11 ~ Echo Triathlon ~ Echo, UT
July 18 ~ Twin Falls Triathlon ~ Twin Falls, ID
July 25 ~ Spudman Triathlon ~ Burley, ID
August 1 ~ Pocatello Reverse Triathlon ~ Pocatello, ID
August 15 ~ Railsplitter Triathlon ~ Petersburg, IL
September 5 ~ Great Illini Challenge 1/2 IM ~ Mattoon, IL
October 3 ~ Run the Woods 5K ~Mahomet, IL
October 17 ~ ISU Town and Gown 5K ~ Normal, IL
October 31 ~ Race the Dead 5k ~ Towanda, IL
November 1 ~ Marshall University Marathon ~ Huntington, WV
November 26 ~ Miller Park Turkey Trot ~ Bloomington, IL

23 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

I hope that you all have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy this wonderful time of year. I hope that you are able to feel the spirit of Christmas and I hope that you are able to spread peace and joy to all of those around you.

My family has a few traditions that we do each Christmas. While we were all growing up, my parents focused on the service aspect of Christmas and encouraged us all to take part in the many opportunities for serving our fellowmen. This year was no different. I won't discuss all of our projects, but I would like to share an experience.

This year, my little nephew John is 4 (almost 5) years old. We decided to include him in a service project and I wondered if he would actually understand. After some discussion on the best approach, my mom and I decided that we would help him pick an angel from the angel tree and then take him shopping. He was so excited and thoughtful in his purchase. He seemed to understand that he was buying a gift for someone less fortunate and he was totally okay with it.

I also decided to take him shopping for his parents and sister. He picked his sister's gift out right away and also his dad's. We had to go into Bath and Body Works to pick up another gift and he asked if we could buy his mom's gift there. He was so particular and thoughtful about picking out stuff for his mom. He wanted to choose things that she used and liked and it was so cute to see how much he loves his mom.

By taking my nephew shopping, I was reminded of the wonderful opportunity to share and give. I was also inspired by the generous spirit of my little nephew. I'm so grateful that my parents gave us the opportunity to learn to serve others and to enjoy the giving part of Christmas more than the receiving.

So, like I said earlier, I hope that you all enjoy the spirit of giving and feel the spirit that surrounds Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

17 December 2008

Lessons from the Ironman World Championship 2008

Last weekend, the Ironman World Championship in Kona was televised on NBC. For most people, watching this documentary may be their only exposure to triathlon. However, for me, it is definitely one of the highlights of my year. I have watched it twice already and will watch it a couple of more times for sure. There are so many lessons to be learned from watching this, not only about triathlons, but also about life. Here are a few things that stuck out to me.

1. Class - Over and over again, I noticed several athletes exhibiting some serious class. In my world, being described as classy is a very high compliment, and is something I aspire to. The major example of this was when Rebekah Keat gave Chrissie Wellington (the overall female winner) at CO2 cartridge. She tossed a cartridge to her with no thought and was one of the greatest examples of sportsmanship I've seen in a long time. Another example was the guy (I have no idea who he was) who allowed Chrissie Wellington to enjoy her finish. He slowed up and let her bask in the glory of her second world championship. I was definitely impressed by his willingness to let the clock run and allow her a moment. The final example that I'll share occurred when Normann Stadler finished the race, in spite of dealing with some pretty serious cramping issues. I probably shouldn't be impressed by this, but in the past 2 years, he has had a total meltdown on the bike and then was ill, so I was inspired by the class he showed in finishing the race in spite of some significant adversity.

2. Karma - I believe in the principle of karma and that your actions will definitely have an impact. Last year, Rutger Beke (a professional triathlete) walked the marathon. He said that he wasn't going to disrespect the age groupers by having a DNF. That was one of my favorite lessons from last years race. This year, I think karma paid off because he came in third place. I think that he showed Madame Pele respect last year and that definitely had an impact on this year's race. Of course, Rebekah Keat is another example of karma. I'm so interested to see the impact that her very small action has on the world of triathlon.

3. Inspiration - Each year, NBC features one of the challenged athletes during the broadcast. This year, they followed Ricky James, a 20 year old paraplegic, who was injured in a motorcross accident. He's only 20 years old. He finished the Ironman. The Ironman is a tough event...period. The Ironman for a challenged athlete is that much tougher. The smile on Ricky's face when he crossed the finish line was awesome and will definitely have an inspirational impact on everyone who watched the show.

4. Adversity - You may have heard of the Kona winds. I haven't been to Kona yet, but apparently these winds provide a great headwind all the time. I have two friends who raced in Kona this year and they talked about the winds. I definitely believed them, but there was some serious reinforcement when I was watching the pros riding up on their hoods instead of down in the aerobars. I'm not sure exactly why this stuck with me, but maybe it was a reminder that even when things don't go as planned, life still goes on. We have to maintain our composure and make the changes in our plan to get where we want to go.

So, those were some of my takeaways from this year's world championship. I've decided that I absolutely have to go to Kona to both watch this race and to race this race. I'm not sure when it will happen, perhaps when I'm 72, like Harriet Anderson the oldest finisher this year, but it will definitely happen. In the meantime, I'll keep working my plan and living my dreams!

Cultivating Instincts

Yep...this is another post about Force of Nature. It really is a great book!

In the book, Laird Hamilton talks alot about cultivating instincts and about how to tune in to our instincts and use them to our advantage. I've been thinking about this and wondering how to go about doing this. Of course, he has some advice. He says, "Start by turning your senses on. The more you play with your senses, the more you're aware of them, the more you're in them. And the more you use them, the better you get." Apparently, I need to spend some time cultivating my instincts, but I'm not sure if I have any or if they ever get any use.

Because the Ironman World Championships were on tv last weekend (more on that later), I've been thinking about how attuned to their bodies professional athletes are. They know how and when to push themselves. They know how and when to make adjustments to their race plan if necessary. They are aware of their limitations and find ways to overcome them. They truly are aware of being in the moment and getting the most out of that moment. I'm guessing that's why they are so good.

As you can probably tell, I'm thinking about my goals and plans for 2009. I'm working on my playbook and I'm putting my plan on paper. I'm sure that I'll throw parts of my plan up on this blog and I'm thinking that maybe one of my goals will be to work on finding and cultivating my instincts. I think that's kind of a vague goal, so I'll have to spend some thought on how to approach it, especially where racing is concerned. I'm hoping that maybe I'll be able to figure out that whole tuning in completely during a moment and getting my very best out of that moment. I'm sure that you'll get to read more about that in the coming months.

14 December 2008

Dealing with Fear and Negativity

**I wrote this on the plane while I was flying to UT for the holidays, but didn't find time to put it up until this morning.**

Can you tell that this book really resonated with me? I love that its given me so much to think about and consider. If you know me well, you might say that I am a driven person and that I am very hard on myself. It's true. I do hold myself to a high standard which means that I often get to fail. I don't consider myself to be a negative person, but I can be and usually am pretty good at blasting myself and its definitely something that I'm working on.

In the book, there is a section that deals with how to deal with fear and negativity, which definitely gave me some food for thought. The author starts off by saying, "Make sure your own worst enemy doesn't live between your own two ears." I think we've all heard that or something similarly to that, but do we listen. I know that I struggle with negative self talk, so I'm guessing that's why this section hit home for me.

Before he gets into the negativity, he talks about fear. Over the past year or so, I've thought alot about fear. I've wondered why people fear certain things and why for some, that fear becomes paralyzing and for others that fear becomes a drive. Mr. Hamilton says that we should use our fears as an energy source to increase our performance and that fear can give us power if we learn to tap into it and use it constructively. So, how do we learn to use our fear. He says that you don't fight it and you don't overanalyze it. (I'm not sure if its possible for me to not overanalyze anything.)

The statement that resonated most with me in this section was "The flip side of fear is commitment." I can think of many situations as examples of this, but I'll share only share one. If you've followed my blog you know that I struggled with open water swimming, which is kind of a big deal if you're a triathlete. During my first triathlon, which included my first open water swim, I totally freaked out. I started hyperventilating and I remember flipping over on my back and seeing the shore and thinking, "I should swim back and be done. What was I thinking?!?" However, I am not a quitter. I do not give up on things when I have committed to them. So, I flipped back over and finished the swim. It certainly wasn't pretty, but it was an incredible feeling to know that I did it. It's very true, at least in my head, that fear is the flip side of commitment.

So, on to negative thoughts... The author says and I agree that negativity is part of being human. It is so easy for me to beat myself up inside of my head when I fail. In fact, I'm awfully good at it. I say things in my head that I would never ever say to anyone else. You probably notice this to some degree in my race reports. So, how do I change this? I'm not sure that its possible to completely get rid of negative self talk, but I do agree with the author's suggestion. He says that if we're feeling negative, we need to get out there and "Do something."

One last thought from this section that I want to share. The author says that quitting is easy, but daring to try is hard. This reminds me of something Jens Voigt said during the Tour de France. He said, "If in doubt, just go" and "If you try to win, you might lose but if you don't try to win, you lose for sure." It's very easy to be mediocre and I think that society does a great job of rewarding and encouraging mediocrity. It's very easy to walk away from things when they're difficult or scary. It is hard to set lofty goals and then to put yourself on a path to achieve them. However, I've learned that only when we challenge ourselves, do we see who we truly are and who we truly can become.

Risk and Its Reward

**I wrote this on the plane while I was flying to UT for the holidays, but didn't find time to put it up until this morning.**

Laird Hamilton suggests that we all need to take risks in our lives. In his book, he suggests that risks don't necessarily have to be dangerous or scary, but he believes that taking risks is what keeps us young and mentally alert. He says that our risks don't have to be life-threatening. A risk can be as simple as putting ourselves into unfamiliar situations.

After reading through this section of the book, I've been thinking about the risks that I take in my life. I think, depending on who you ask, I can be a completely stay in my comfort zone kind of person or a risk taker. I'm pretty sure that no one would classify me as an extreme risk taker and I think I'm okay with that. I also believe that risk taking is very relative, depending on your perspective. For example, I may be a risk taker to someone who refuses to leave their comfort zone, but I may be in a rut to someone who takes extremes risks regularly. Like I said, I think that there is some relativity when looking at risk.

So, I've tried to come up with the least risk that I've taken in my life and I'm really struggling to come up with an example. In fact, I don't remember the last time I took a risk, unless you count me sharing my magazines with the guy sitting next to me on the plane. I'm pretty sure that action wasn't a risk, just a polite gesture, although I really do avoid talking to strangers on a plane. Oh, and I was only a little uncomfortable in that situation. So, yeah, I guess I haven't been much of a risk taker lately (if I am a risk taker at all, which is still debatable). I guess that perhaps I need to start considering taking some risks...

Writing Our Own Playbook

**I wrote this on the plane while I was flying to UT for the holidays, but didn't find time to put it up until this morning.**

One of the first ideas that I noticed in "Force of Nature" was the idea of writing our own playbook. I have been thinking about this for a few days and while I'm quite certain that I definitely do not have the answer or insight into this idea, I do believe that it is definitely something worth considering.

Sometimes, I wonder about how much of our lives are "planned" for us and how much choice we have in determining how we spend our lives. I truly believe that we actually have quite a bit of choice, but I think that perhaps we don't take advantage of our choices. For example, I think that we allow our lives to just roll along without consciously making choices or decisions regarding our actions and attitudes. I also believe that it might be easier to let life happen than to take control over making life happen.

There is something to be said about rolling with the punches of life. I'm thinking of the proverb that says something about the trees that are flexible and bend with the wind, don't break during the storm. I absolutely believe that philosophy and agree that a necessary attitude of life is to be flexible and adaptable. However, I think there is a chance we can take this to far. For example, if we always take the easy route, like the trees that don't have to develop a deep root system blow over easy in a storm (apparently, I'm thinking about trees today), we can never truly develop and test our own personal strength and toughness.

I believe that we have an incredible opportunity to consciously decide to take control of our lives and develop them into what we want to become. We can set goals and make plans to achieve our dreams. We can make conscious, purposeful choices to be whatever we want to become. We can choose to be happy. We can choose to be successful. We can allow our passion to lead our lives and direct us to that feeling of satisfaction.

Perhaps writing a playbook for our lives seems a little silly, but to me it makes perfect sense. I was meeting with a student earlier this week who does a really great job of hearing what you say, but does an awful job at putting your advice into practice. She said that when she doesn't write things down she forgets about them in the daily grind. I think we're all like this to some extent, but in her case it's affecting her ability to pursue who careers. I kept thinking how sad this was because I think many people choose to live their lives in a similar fashion.

I know that we still have a few weeks before January 1 rolls around, but if you are considering making resolutions or setting goals, perhaps you might want to think about a bigger perspective. Perhaps, you might think about writing your life's playbook and consider how these goals will help you achieve your dreams.

Now that I've thrown this challenge out there, I guess I'll have to work on my playbook and I'm guessing some form of it will show up on this blog.

10 December 2008

Force of Nature

Recently, while flipping through one of my magazines, I came across an ad for a book by Laird Hamilton, who happens to be one of my favorite athletes. Of course, I was intrigued, so the next time I was at Borders, I checked it out and decided it was definitely worth buying. When I arrived home, I started flipping through it (because it's that kind of book) and was completely captivated. I ended up reading the entire book that evening and loved it!

While I'm giving final exams, I usually bring magazines to flip through to help pass the time, but this week I decided to re-read "Force of Nature" because I wanted to **NERD ALERT** take notes and do some pondering on the thoughts and topics that the author shares. As I've been doing this, I've come up with all sorts of new ideas for my blog, my teaching, my training and my life.

So, here's your warning...there are going to be lots of posts related to this book and how Mr. Laird Hamilton's life philosophies work for me! In the meantime, if you're interested in reading it, definitely check it out! I really enjoyed it and would highly recommend it!

08 December 2008

Highlights of the Fall 2008 Semester

While I was working on my last post, I started to think about all of the cool things that happened during the semester. I feel like I need to write them down because some of them are pretty good memories. I also want to share them in an effort to elaborate on why I love my job so much. So, in no particular order, here are some of the highlights of the 2008 fall semester.

Diversity in LinC

One of the activity/discussions that occurred in my LinC class was focused on diversity and our own biases, as well as tolerance for differences. Basically, the students were placed in small groups and were told they were going to create a society from their group, as well as choosing some participants from a list of people who came from diverse groups with some issues. One of the people on the list was a 60 year old male who was a retired mechanic and a nudist. He was also very promiscuous because of his religious beliefs and was considered to be very religious.

Anyways, in a class discussion, we were deciding whether or not to keep this man to develop our new society. One of my more vocal students said, "No, he's probably Mormon." Well, if you don't know and this student didn't know, I am a Mormon. I smiled and asked him why he thought this man was a Mormon and said something like, "Well, that's what Mormons believe." I smiled and said, "I'm a Mormon and that's not at all what I believe." Of course, the student was embarrassed and it was a little awkward, but because of this, as a class, we were able to have an amazing discussion on diversity, differences, and assumptions. We had a perfect example of what happens when we make assumptions and when we are ignorant regarding the beliefs of groups and individuals.

This was one of those light bulb or teaching moments that I hope my students will remember. We were able to see the principle we were discussing in action. I'm not sure that I could have created a better example of the situation in class, so I was pretty excited.

Muscle Contraction Presentations
In my A&P course, one of the assignments is to have the students creatively present parts of the muscle contraction. I've been doing this assignment for a few years and its always an enjoyable day in class for me, as well as a good learning experience for my students. I'm always so impressed at the creativity of some of the groups. This semester, I had a group of students who sat in the back of the class and who seemed less engaged during class. They were assigned to present the "action potential". I wasn't sure how this presentation would go, but this group far exceeded my expectations.

The group consisted of about 8 guys who showed up for class in football jerseys and with a football. They created a football play that mimicked the steps of the action potential. This play included all of the steps in a very visual and memorable way. The students impressed me and taught their fellow students very effectively about the action potential. It was definitely memorable for me and I was so impressed by their ability to apply the principles we learned in class to a situation that made sense for them.

Early Exams
A few weeks ago, one of my students came to see me about taking his exams early. Usually the answer to this question is a "No," but this student had a pretty compelling reason. His story bears repeating, so I'll share it here.

Apparently, his girlfriend has been completing her student teaching or internship out in Colorado. My student wanted to propose to her, so he sold his boat, bought a ring, and started planning. Apparently, he wanted to fly out to Colorado, surprise her and propose on the last day of her student teaching. After making arrangements to take his exams early (how could I say no to that story?), he finalized his plans. Anyways, he took his exam last week and he proposed last Friday night and I'm fairly certain he's engaged. Before he left, he sent me a very nice e-mail thanking me for being flexible and understanding. He also thanked me for being a good professor, which was nice to hear.

Poster Presentation Acceptance
This highlight is really not such a big deal and I'll actually write more about it in February, but it does bear mentioning. During the spring, I submitted a proposal to present my dissertation at the NATA Educators Conference in February 2009. At some point this semester, I received a letter saying that my proposal had been accepted for a poster presentation, so I will be presenting my dissertation in Washington, DC in February.

Stem Cell Debate
Another one of the assignments and discussions I give my A&P course is a short paper on the stem cell research and use, followed by an in class discussion and debate on the topic. The assignment allows the student to gain some background information on the topic. Before class, the students are assigned to a "perspective" regarding stem cell research, meaning they need to look at the topic from a variety of perspectives that are usually controversial and generally don't line up with their personal views.

The discussion and debate is always interesting and a vast majority of the students participate and share their views. Towards the end of class, I always ask my students why they think I give them this assignment. I explain to them that I want them to learn how to develop their own views on controversial topics and that I want them to learn that there are always different perspectives and views from their own. I want them to be respectful of others' views and to have reasons for believing why they do. I always end the class by asking the students if they learned anything and if their views on the topic have changed or become more informed. I'm always pleased by the number of hands that are raised.

I always enjoy this activity, but this semester there were a few things that happened to make it especially rewarding. During class, a student expressed his views and brought up religion. He made several comments that helped to drive the discussion. Towards the end of class, he expressed his appreciation to his peers for being respectful of his views and for allowing him to express his views very candidly. I also had several students come up to me after class and thank me for giving them this assignment, for allowing them to discover more about the topic, and for having a civil discussion during class. I was so impressed with my students and their insight, respect, and willingness to look at their views critically. It was also cool to hear my students acknowledge that the assignment was a good one and that they enjoyed it.

Bowling with LinC
Because my LinC class finished back in October, we decided as a class to do an out of class activity towards the end of the semester. The students wanted to go bowling and since we have a bowling activity here on campus, we decided to get together on a Sunday evening in November. I was pleasantly surprised when about half of the class showed up to bowl and eat Oreo cake. The event was very kicked back and I was surprised that my students were happy to see me. I was able to spend some time with each of them and heard about their experiences during the second half of the season. They talked about their sports (they were all athletes) and other stuff that was happening in their lives. It turned out to be a fun evening and I think the students enjoyed it as well. Although, I really dislike bowling, I would definitely do this event again.

Thank You Note
Except for my course evaluations, I rarely know how my students feel about me as a professor. I kind of figure that they must like me okay since they do show up for class. I don't worry too much about it because I also figure that I would be hearing about it if I weren't doing a good job. Anyways, over Thanksgiving break, I received a very nice e-mail from one of my students. He said,

"I want to take this opportunity to thank you for being a really great professor. It is really evident in the way that you conduct yourself that you actually care about your students and the material you present. That means a lot to me, and I am sure I'm not the only person that takes notice. Have a great Holiday season, and thanks once again for everything!"

I was so surprised and touched. Apparently, someone thinks I'm doing okay.

Red Tassel Mortarboard Reception
One of my least favorite things to do is to attend award receptions or banquets. I've hated going to them since high school, so its nothing new. In spite of my dislike for these types of events, when my students invite me to attend, I say yes. Earlier this semester, one of my students invited me to the Red Tassel Mortarboard Faculty Appreciation Reception. I have known the student since she was a freshman and have had her in several courses. She was also involved with Team in Training and we have actually done races together.

Anyways, I was invited to this reception, along with other athletic training faculty members. The student who invited me was ill, so she wasn't able to attend. There was good food and a surprisingly good speaker on the history of mentors. Finally, the students had written a short paragraph about their invited faculty members, which was read to the group.

If you know me at all, you know that I really don't like being in front of people (in spite of the fact that I stand in front of a classroom every day) being praised or whatever. So, when it was my turn to stand up and listen to my paragraph, I was just hoping that the time would go by quickly and I could sit down. When my paragraph was being read, I was incredibly touched and I actually got goosebumps because it felt like someone had completely nailed my teaching philosophy. Because it was so cool, I asked the student for a copy of what she wrote. Here it is for your reading enjoyment...

"The first time I had Dr. Hansen as my professor freshman year for anatomy lecture, I had no idea of the impact she was about to make on the rest of my time here at Illinois State. Dr Hansen's passion and dedication to our education and success through the Athletic Training program and beyond is exposed both inside and outside the classroom. In addition, she encourages and helps others become more involved with the campus and the community. As she has watched us grow throughout the years, we in return, have had the opportunity to witness her evolvement from a driven doctoral student to a well-respected professor and a well-liked person. I know to Dr. Hansen it probably seems like I have been around forever after these past four years, but I am very thankful for the time, effort, and encouragement she has provided to help me excel and become a better person in all that I do."

I'm not really sure what to say after that, except that this was definitely one of the highlights of my teaching career.

Spring Race
When I raced in the ISU Homecoming 5k, I saw several of my students and was surprised that they were runners. While I was running, I remember thinking to myself that it would be fun to race with more of my students. A couple of weeks later, I raced with Katie and Carolyn on Halloween and had the same thought. So, in class and at the AT Club meeting, I through out the idea that maybe we should all do a spring race together. My students were surprisingly receptive and interested. So, we've decided to do a 5k that is walker-friendly. I'm sure I'll have more to write about this later, but I'm pretty excited about it and hope that we can pull it off.

So, those are a few of the highlights of this past semester. It was a pretty good semester and as I said earlier, I feel like I'm finally settling into a positive teaching experience. I'm hopeful that I'll continue to have more semesters like this and that I can keep improving my teaching and maybe even impacting my students' lives.

Ramblings About My Teaching

Finals week is here and while I feel like I have a million things to get done, I am doing the happy dance in my head. I have been walking around with a silly grin on my face because I have a four week vacation coming up in 3 days. Things are definitely stressful and hectic, but in general life is good.

For the past 25+ years (I sound like a really old lady), my life has revolved around a school schedule, meaning I have two semesters, a Christmas vacation, a Thanksgiving break, a spring break, and my summers are off. For the past year and a half, since I finished my doctoral degree, I have been able to focus only on my role as a professor, instead of balancing my role as a student. While I believe that being a student for so long has definitely informed my teaching, I would like to think that my teaching has improved tremendously. I'm fairly certain that it's not because I became "Dr. Hansen," but I do believe that by focusing solely on my teaching, I've made some gains or improvements.

One of the tasks I complete each year is a self- assessment or reflection of my performance over the past year. I will do this formally in January, but I have already begun to think about it, mostly because of a few experiences that occurred this semester. I'll write more about those in a different post, but I did want to mention that the formal reflection will probably look alot like this post and that maybe, by articulating some of my thoughts now, the formal paper might be a bit better. Anyways, on to why I enjoy my job.

Each semester, my students are required to complete course evaluations. My students have the opportunity to make comments about my course and my teaching and these comments tend to be the most valuable component of the evaluation. Sometimes I receive negative criticism, which I will admit is difficult to read and definitely affects my mood and ego. However, after I take a step back, I usually find these comments to have some value.

Sometimes, I receive very bizarre comments that provide laughs or head shaking moments. For example, I received a comment that said, "You look good in red." It was a nice compliment, but not very useful in my teaching and course development. I also received a comment once that said, "I wish you were my mom." Once again, not so helpful and really quite weird and creepy. I was actually glad that I didn't know who wrote this.

Generally, the student comments tend to reaffirm and provide some evidence that my abilities as an instructor are improving and that my teaching philosophy is shining through in my teaching. Usually my students say that I am hard but fair, that I make an effort to make difficult subjects practical and understandable, and that I make class entertaining and/or fun. Sometimes the students even say that my classes help them learn something new or lets them view the world from a new or different perspective. The positive comments remind me of why I love my job and sometimes I feel like I might be making a tiny difference in the world.

My favorite class that i teach is Human Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) and I'm lucky enough to be able to teach the class twice each semester, at least for now. Students in this course are usually majors from the School of Kinesiology and Recreation or from Health Sciences, and sometimes I'll have other students who are majoring in dance, marketing, business, or even criminal justice. Most of the students are required to take the course. I know this up front and I make a very concerted effort to help my students understand how the stuff we talk about and learn in class is useful for their professions. I even get to tell them stories about sports injuries or weird diseases or even funny stories about people slipping and falling on ice.

Each time I teach the class, I'm so amazed at the miracle of the human body and how incredible it is. I'm also very excited when I see my students start to nod their heads as they start to put the pieces of the muscle contraction together. I love watching the light bulbs come on and I'm so happy and excited when my students as the questions that show me that they are thinking about whatever I'm teaching them.

By the end of the semester, the majority of my students tell me that they've enjoyed my course and that they even learned something. Every once in awhile, I'll even have a student stop by and say thank you or even that they're changing their major because of my class. I always take that as a compliment because to me, that means that I have helped my students stop and think about what they want to do as a career. It's definitely rewarding and I look forward to teaching this class each semester.

I also have the opportunity to teach a couple of athletic training courses in the fall semester. I get to teach the introductory course that discusses the athletic training profession. I have the opportunity to watch my students visit their clinical sites and to see them navigate through the decision making process regarding their careers. I also get to introduce them to the exciting world for sports medicine and to share really great video clips of sports injuries.

The other athletic training course I teach is a senior level course on diseases and drugs. This is the last course I have with our senior athletic training students, so it is a chance to spend some time with them, while sharing some pretty cool (I know, I'm a nerd) information. This class had an extra component this year because we were able to spend some time discussing politics and health care, as well as have some pretty informative discussions on their decisions regarding careers, graduate school and how to take the next stop in their lives following graduation.

These students also have the opportunity (or assignment) to do a presentation on a disease of their choice. The students work in pairs and usually pick a disease that has impacted their lives. They share their experiences with family members or friends who have suffered from the disease. Those of us who are in the audience are able to learn about the diseases from a personal perspective which is much more valuable. I've taught this course for the past 6 years and I feel like this class finally came together for me this semester, which is definitely a good feeling.

The final course I taught this semester was a Learning in Communities (LinC) course that is for freshmen. The purpose of the course is to introduce new students to the culture of ISU, to spend some time discussing diversity and to encourage both civic and political engagement. I had 24 students in the course and we spent 16 sessions discussing those topics. We had several meaningful discussions about the historical 2008 election. We spoke about diversity awareness and appreciation, as well as the role diversity plays in our lives. We were also able to talk about friendship, how we make friends, opportunities for involvement in the university and community, and the issues that surround college students.

This was the first time that I taught this course and I really learned alot from my students. I learned about their perspectives on a variety of issues, and I had the opportunity to share my perspectives as well. Finally, I learned about myself and about my opportunities to help my students develop into concerned, active members of society. I hope to get to teach the course again next year because I have some ideas that I want to implement and hopefully improve the course.

So, the semester is ending and once again I have learned from my students and will hopefully be able to use what I've learned to improve and inform my teaching. I have a break coming up that is definitely much needed, but I'll be ready to come back to school in January feeling refreshed. The longer that I teach, the more I enjoy my job.

Being a professor is an amazing job. I am so glad that I have a job that allows me to share my passion for and love of learning with others. I love that I get to watch my students learn, grow, and develop into thinking and informed professionals. I love that I get to teach my students about the amazing human body and I get so excited to talk about how our bodies are designed and work. I also love that I get vacations for 4 months in the summer and 4 weeks at Christmas and 1 week at Thanksgiving and a spring break.

I'm pretty sure that I might have the best job in the world and I'm so happy that I get to wake up and go to a job that allows me to teach students and to share my passion. Oh and I'm really glad that my vacation starts in 3 days.

03 December 2008

Ironman Boise 70.3

Well, it's official. I just finished signing up for the Ironman 70.3 in Boise, Idaho. The race takes place on June 13 and actually starts at 2pm, which is unique. If you're interested in more details, you can check out the website at Training will start on January 26, 2008, so stay tuned...