When “F” Stands For Fear

Note to test takers – a bandana wrapped around your face during a final exam will scare the crap out of your teacher. I’m not talking ‘jump scare’ freak out – more like an eight pound lump in your throat accompanied by excessive heart-pounding for a solid hour.  I say this from personal experience because last week a student took an entire exam with a black bandana covering their

I realize final exams coincide with allergy season. In fact, I think every blue book should be distributed with a wad of tissues and it’s not because you’re crying over your test. However, if pollen season has got you down and you have a choice between a bandana and a plain white tissue, pick the tissue. PLEASE!

If you’re wondering how I felt, imagine how you’d feel if your teacher proctored an exam dressed like a masked bandit. If you can’t conjure up an image of your 40- something teacher in full robber mode, I’ve posted one here.  


The obvious question – why didn’t I say something? You first.

I Want My Google Glasses!


I have no idea how Google selected the 8,000 people currently testing Google Glasses but I should have been first on their list. I am obsessed with how students take tests and what better way to detect cheating than to record students while proctoring an exam? 


Much to my dismay, Google did not select me to test their new product.  Hence, I have to rely on my
own 5 Step Cheating Detection Method.It’s not foolproof but it’s all I’ve got.


Here’s what I look for during final exam week.


1.     Feet forward, shoulders forward, head forward. A student in any other body position is suspect.


2.     Honest students wear fewer layers of clothing. The hoodie, the puffy jacket, the baggy jeans, the frilly scarf – too many places to hide a cheat sheet.


3.     Groaning and sighing.  Sounds of distress are a sure sign you haven’t studied which automatically increases your motivation to cheat.


4.     Excessive stretching.  You’ve been in a coma all semester and now you choose to move your body? 


5.     The class genius has a new friend.  Befriending the smartest kid in the class on the day of the final so you can snag the adjacent seat is a very bad move.



I’d like to finish off this topic by mentioning the worst cheater I’ve come across – the student who left his cheat sheet in the blue book. At least make me work for it!


Mystery Markings Continued…

If you’re just tuning in you might want to read the last post – “Is Your Tattoo Limiting Your Career Options?” We’ve christened ourselves the gatekeepers of your future and we will happily evaluate how much damage you’ve done.

You post a photo of your tattoo in the comment section and we’ll rate your mystery markings with a return comment using the criteria below. By popular demand, we are including piercings. Before you post make sure you read the rules – only markings exposed in an interview are considered for comments.


Judging Criteria


Box Seats – Forget the corner office. Your limited tattoo exposure will get you passed the corner office and into those high priced box seats where you’ll be cutting deals with the heavy rollers. Feel free to push up the sleeves of your custom made shirt or unbutton your silk blouse a bit.


Cubicle Purgatory – Although your exposed markings are not offensive and in some cases pretty delightful, you may be relegated to the confines of a 5 by 4 foot cubicle.


Mailroom Phantom – If 50% or more of your exposed body parts are inked or pierced, hit the “B” button on the elevator and head down to basement. Here’s the upside to working in the mailroom. You’ll have plenty of similarly inked friends to hang out with.

You post – we judge! If you’d like to follow along read the comment section in the last two posts.

Mystery Markings – Is Your Tattoo Limiting Your Career Options?

Is it possible a writer at the New York Times read my last post and followed-up with an article on the same topic? Not a chance in hell — merely a case of delightful happenstance that I’m going to shamelessly build on here.

The article in question, a great piece about people who cover up their tattoos at work for fear of career rejection, reveals the fact that most of us need to keep our work and personal life separate.  

Here’s my challenge. Post a picture of your tattoo in the comment section and my team of savvy advertising students will determine if your tattoo will impact your chance of employment or promotion. The rules are simple – we will only consider tattoos that test the borders of professional attire.  That would include the snake
sneaking out from the collar of your shirt or the gothic cross carved across your hand.  All other markings should remain a mystery. I repeat – do not send us anything that is not obviously visible to a potential employer.  If you are confused, see the NY Times article below.


This Week’s Mystery – Am I Hiding Behind My Words?

A recent comment on this blog asked “why not just say this stuff in class”? Uh? I can’t.  Suggesting that final exams be abolished and sleeping students can keep on sleeping are career limiting comments that need to be kept outside the classroom. This blog gives me room to speak my mind or empty my air bubble without getting called down to the principle’s office.

Also, because I like to hear myself talk, I was hoping that students outside our walls might want to tune in and join the conversation. If you’re reading this blog, and apparently 600 readers checked in last month, let us know if you are an ‘outsider’ because it would be so much fun to expand this conversation. I’d love a few teachers to unload as well.

Maybe this is also a good time to bring up the art of balancing you ‘at work’ and you ‘at home’. Since most of you are on the verge of starting a career, you’ll see that it’s important to have a respectable work persona that moves you swiftly up the ladder. That gets tiring but don’t fret – you can let it all hang out it after 5pm when you’re safely outside a ten-mile radius of your office.

So what am I doing on this blog because it looks like I might be walking a fine-line leading me back down the ladder.  I’m not quite sure but I’m having fun doing it and I think I’m old enough to handle the principle’s office.

The offer still stands. If you want to unravel the mystery of what’s going on in a teacher’s head, just ask and I’ll blog.

The Mystery of Multiple Choice

Can someone please abolish final exam week? Please? That’s what my air bubble is saying right about now. As a teacher, I really dread the5-day stretch where I’m required to beat my students into a multiple-choice coma punctuated by endless pages of blue book scribble.

Just so you know, I’m tired too and I feel your stress as you filter into the classroom, heads hung low from lack of sleep. I mean – we had such fun during our 15-week semester and this feels so impersonal and punitive. I especially hate the part when a student silently slides me their finished exam and in a barely audible voice mouths – “Have a nice summer” as if we were spies and our cover had been blown.

Here’s the deal. I love to see a student do really well on a final exam. I don’t care if your brain has been scrambled all semester. What I care about is that you put all the pieces coherently together in the final hour. If I’m grading you on what you learned, does it matter what day you learned it on as long as it happened during the time period of the course? Frankly, I’m just praying that the stress of exam doesn’t get the best of you and you can show me what you’ve really got.

So when in doubt – should you just circle “C”? No mystery there. Circle “C” only if it’s the right answer!

If you feel up to it, post your opinion on final exam week.

A 10 Step Strategy to Getting a Teacher Recommendation

I’ve been reading the comments on the last blog and it looks like the 10 Strategy is in demand. So, I’m posting it right in the AirBubble blog. If you’d like to subscribe to the AirBubble blog, please do and I’ll be sure to send you more helpful information as the topics arise.

1. Your Name is Your Brand

Within the first week of school, make a point of talking to each of your teachers after class. This should take no more than a minute and the purpose is to putyour name in their heads. Do not approach a teacher in the beginning of class – they’ve got too much on their minds and you’ll just annoy them. Wait until the end of class and use this trick.

Prepare a specific question for your teacher that’s easy to answer

Leave your books, bags and computer at your desk – make sure your hands are free. Then, lead with a handshake and say, “Hi, I’m Mary Smith. I was looking over the syllabus and I have a question about…”

The key here is not to look frazzled or confused but confident. Your teacher has lots of names and faces to remember. Make a positive connection with your teacher within the first week because it’s much easier for a teacher to remember the first 10 names out of 100 than the last 10 names.

2. Get to Class Early – as in before the teacher

Most teachers are at least a minute or two early to class. If you’re regularly at a desk before the teacher as well as the majority of the class, your face will start to stick out of the crowd simply because there are fewer faces to compete with. Especially in a large lecture auditorium, a teacher will start to recognize the early birds. Leave your phone off, lift your head up and smile. The only reason you’re there early is to catch the teacher’s attention, not to catch up on your text messages.

If you arrive to class late regularly, your teacher will also remember you. Unfortunately, it won’t be in a favorable light.

3. Sit In the Front Row

If you doubt this strategy, go back to the Airbubble blog and read the 5/12 entry – The Mysterious Game of Musical Chairs.

4. Put a Voice to Your Name

I hate to do this to you but you’re going to have to participate in class. The key to this strategy is quality not quantity. Pick a few lessons and arrive super prepared by reading ahead. You know the part when the teacher says – “next week we’ll be talking about…” Well, you’re going to take the time to read up on that topic so when you open your mouth it will be memorable. If you find it difficult to do this then talk to them after class too. You can talk about class or even better, find a way to make their lives easier by telling them about a resource that can decrease their workload. If you want to find out how to do this then Click here.

Teachers love students who participate but teachers really love students who are prepared for class

5. Safe Stalking

Find a reason to visit a teacher’s office – more than once during a term. The worst thing you can do is show up on a teacher’s doorstep having no previous contact and ask for a recommendation. You might as well cold call them during dinner.

Here’s a suggestion. Follow-up on your tests and papers in-person. Unless you’re a 4.0 student, there’s always room for improvement and a teacher will be impressed you made the effort.

6. Safe Stalking Phase II

Remember, this is a multi-month strategy. You now need to stop by the teachers’ offices you had the last semester and say a quick hello. This part is easy and even somewhat enjoyable because you’ve successfully laid the groundwork for a relationship with your teachers in the earlier steps. Poke your head in their office and say – “Hey Prof. Smith, good to see you!”

7. Connect Virtually

Teachers love an audience so give them one. Follow your teachers on Twitter and reach out to them on LinkedIn. Stay away from Facebook – no good can come of this. You may be living clean on-line but your friends’ friends may not be as virtuous as you. The last thing you want is your worlds to collide.

8. Do a Background Check

Find out what schools your teachers attended, companies they worked for, and programs they participated in. If you’re lucky, your teacher may be an alumnus of a school or program that is of interest to you. Here’s the key – alumni love to tell you about their experience and that’s your in to make a connection. Let your teacher know you’re interested in their alma mater. There’s nothing better than an alumni recommendation.

Here’s another strategy. Your school will have bios on teachers. Identify teachers who are alumni of the programs or companies you are interested in and then take their class or make a point to meet them.

9. Let Your Grades Do the Talking

If you’ve got a B+ or greater in a class, a teacher would be hard pressed to turn down a request for a recommendation. The reality is, however, that you may not be doing well in all of your classes. Therefore, you should target the teachers in your better courses. And when you make your request, remind the teacher of your current grade in the class. “I have an A- in your class and I really enjoy the material. I’d like to ask if you could write me a recommendation for …..”

10. Author Your Own Story

I’ve saved the best for last. Let’s assume you’ve executed the strategies above and application due dates are looming. The teacher you’ve targeted knows your name, your face and your exemplary level of work. But, you’re nervous to ask for the recommendation because it requires time on the part of the professor. To get over the hump, you are going to prepare your own professional statement with all the facts needed to write the recommendation.

When you ask the teacher, hand them a single page document. “I’ve prepared a professional statement so you’ll be familiar with my academic background.”

Congratulations! The last hurdle has been cleared. By handing a teacher your one page summary, you’ve now taken the last burden off a teacher. They know you, they like you and they are thrilled you’ve done the work for them.

The Narcoleptic Student and the Mysterious Case of the Weightless Words

Is there anything more soothing than the dry tone of your teacher’s voice as you drift off to sleep? Your eyelids lose elasticity, your jaw slackens. And those ear buds! Who knew they could muffle the sound of your classmates’ eager responses with such efficiency? Within seconds, you’ve achieved full REM state and it feels delicious.

Any teacher that tells you they’ve never had a student fall asleep in class is either severely nearsighted or sedated. There are enough sleep-deprived students in college to fill a stadium much less a classroom. Here’s what my air bubble says when the sandman visits my classroom.

“Forget the snoozers. How do I know the ones with their eyes open are actually listening?  From my vantage point looking out at 40 bobbing heads, my words often appear weightless, evaporating before they reach the front row. I need a Horton to hear to my Who.”

Well guess what? It happened this week but it wasn’t a Horton. It was an Omar. Apparently, while the rest of us were using the hours between 10pm and 6am to actually sleep, Omar Tejada was awake and applying a lesson he had learned that day in class. The result? – A website that positions Omar as the first Hispanic writer to succeed in American literature. Write on, Omar!

Let’s help Omar Tejada validate that his midnight inspiration and my weightless words were not a dream. Go to www.moretowrite.com and check out Omar’s short fiction pieces. Then, leave him a comment. When you’re done, you can rest your weary head back down on your desk and catch a few zzzzzz’s.

A Valentine’s Day Wish from a Guest Blogger

Finally! A guest blogger on the AirBubble blog. Meet Jamie, a Dodge Caravan driving, hockey coaching, college student with a sharp sense of humor. Read on for Jamie’s Valentine’s Day Wish.

“Will you be my …. mentor?”

With Valentine’s
Day approaching, it is important that we take a step back, and examine the
truly valuable relationships in our lives. As humans, we must ask ourselves
questions like, “Is it time to give my cleaning lady a raise?” or “Should I
drunk dial my ex?”  While both are deserving of a fair deal of thought,
there are other less obvious relationships that need examining.

I’m talking
about the relationships you have with your professors.

One of
great advantages of attending a community college is that the majority of
professors are accessible and caring.  With a little effort, they will take
a genuine interest in your wellbeing.  

You start
off the semester with a confident introduction, followed by some light
conversation. The semester progresses and you attend every class. A few weeks
in, he brushes by you.  You react with a smile. He gently flutters his
eyelashes. He appreciates the smile.  Eventually, you corner your
professor  during his office hours. You
shut the door and take a seat.  Sure, he probably doesn’t want to hear you
talk about how good Cornell colors look on you, but you talk his ear off for 30
minutes anyways.  

you can.

And let’s
face it, you love to hear yourself talk. Throughout the semester your
relationship flourishes into something beautiful.  Your B’s become A’s.
 You find yourself looking forward
to class.  And while his use of emoticons in grading
your paper has become borderline inappropriate, you are content. Because
that’s his thing….  ….  

suddenly its time to pop the question:

sweetheart…  App deadlines are approaching…

And, well….

I’m ready
to take our relationship to the next level…

Will you
write me a letter of recommendation?

He says
yes without hesitation and as a student, you have just experienced your defining
moment.  You attend college and someone knows who you are!!

While you
may have spent that first semester at Albany, partying away Mom and Dad’s
money, this letter signifies that you came back. And, -to quote my dad- “DID


 You are
setting up your room at the Cornell dorms and haven’t spoken to your professor
since finals.  You’ve moved on, but he can’t seem to take a hint.
 You guys just weren’t compatible long-term.  Besides, long-distance
is just too hard.  

What you
had was meaningful while it lasted.  You both gained perspective on life.
 Through the highs and the lows, you had someone to call your mentor, your
friend.  A guiding light in the sometimes pitch black environment that is
community college.  

he’s connected at Citigroup…  I mean, only if that whole musician thing
doesn’t pan out…      

So this Valentine’s Day, send a box of sweet-tarts and strike up a conversation with
your favorite professor.  You never know where it will take you.

Today, The Next Day and the Day After – the mysterious black hole called your future

Pick my brain, please! I gave my students 15 minutes to brainstorm topics for the Airbubble blog where I provide a running brain dump of what a teacher is really thinking. No holds barred. Ask it, and I’ll discuss.  Here’s what 15 minutes of freestyle thinking produced – a blog about careers.

Seriously? I was all primed to do some good old style teacher trash talking and the most common topic submission was resumes and interviews. Just like my students to focus on themselves. 

So here we go. I’m going to talk about a mysterious illness called the Pizza Delivery Syndrome. Or – what happens when the only thing on your resume is the low level part time job you’ve been snoozing through for the last few years? No mystery here – it’s going to be pretty hard to distinguish yourself in the crowd of recent grads when there is nothing on your resume that stands out. And no, you can’t say you went to Harvard if you didn’t. My suggestion – stop reading and start looking for opportunities that you can build a story around.

Here’s an example. Start something on your campus. You don’t need to cure cancer; you just need to initiate something. It’s the story that counts and the learning you acquired through the process of starting something. 

Let’s use the example of Student X.  For argument sake, I’ll call him Greg.  Greg approached me recently and asked if he could restart the Marketing Club on campus. I’m assuming that’s a rhetorical question because undoubtedly the answer is Yes! Yes! Yes! Why? – Because now Greg can regale his future employer with the steps he took to create something from scratch. It’s called leadership and employers love it.

By the time Greg is half way though his detailed explanation of how he petitioned the student government and secured a budget for his fledgling club, his future employer will have jumped on his desk in exaltation. “We love ya, kid. Here’s your offer letter!”

Bottom line, opportunity exists and you need to seek out opportunities that provide a platform to promote yourself.  And don’t forget the most obvious opportunity – your professors are creating an environment that will allow you to perform to your highest potential. That achievement is captured in a number less than 5 and hopefully greater zero – your GPA. Get it higher than a 3.0 and you’ll have something to put on your resume.