Archive for April, 2008


Final Exam Care Packages for Your College Student

April 16, 2008

Throughout the nation — and perhaps around the world — college students are preparing (or preparing to prepare!) for their final exams. Though I’ve been a college professor for two decades, this is the first year that I am also the parent of a college student. To help my son with this stressful time in any student’s life, I’ll be sending him a Final Exam Care Package. Here are a few of the items that he’ll find when he opens this box next week.

My plan is to put this package together myself after a trip to the store and post office today. However, if life intervenes, I may “cheat” and order a pre-packaged one from Tiger Surprise, which caters specifically to Auburn University students. Either way, my son will receive a tangible reminder that his mom and dad want him to take care of himself and do well on his first college finals.

Though I know he’ll be appreciative of the goodies in his care package, I know my son, and I bet he won’t call to tell me it arrived. This gives me the excuse to call him and see how he’s doing. I won’t grill him with tons of questions about his finals; instead, I’ll provide a listening ear and lots of encouragement. . . and a few of my best study tips.

Note: Parents can find the overall final exam schedule for most universities at the school’s website. However, you’ll probably need to check with your students to determine exactly when their finals are based on their class schedules.

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Listening Matters by
Barbara B. Nixon, Ph.D. (ABD) is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


Listening Vultures

April 9, 2008

We moved to Georgia last summer, and one thing I noticed right away was the beautiful birds that soared in the sky, catching updrafts of wind and floating, rarely flapping their wings. Must be a raptor of some sort, hawks or eagles, I thought. Maybe even condors! 

Beautiful, I thought. Simply beautiful.

That is . . . until I saw what they did during the other part of their lives, when they weren’t flying. These were no hawks or eagles or condors. Instead, they were turkey vultures. Ick!

Today, while driving down a back road, my kids and I came across about thirty-five turkey vultures on the side of the road. I slowed the car so the kids could see. The birds stayed right where they were, almost frozen into place, until I got out of my car to snap a photo. Then they flew up and roosted in some tall trees.

Listening Buzzards

This got me thinking . . . I think I’ve met a few “listening vultures” in my life. You’ve met them, too. They’re the ones who hang out in the hallways or at the fringes of a party, eavesdropping on people’s discussions. But as soon as anyone tries to draw them into the conversations, off they fly (metaphorically speaking). They don’t often go far. They’ll circle around until they think no one is noticing them, then they land so they can go about their business.

At their best, listening vultures are simply shy. At their worst, listening vultures feed off the words of others, then fly off to spread their disease with unsuspecting other people, gossiping about what they heard (or thought they heard).

So what can we do about the listening vultures that we meet? I’d love to hear your thoughts.