Developing Professionally

My coworker said to me today (after I had a four-day weekend) that she was concerned about me. I hadn’t been on social media for a few days.

Young son going to the career fair

Young son going to the career fair

“I wondered if you were still alive.”

I was.

My son had been in town, and my husband gives me more than enough grief for being online. Sometimes, I take a forced break, but I really miss it.

I’m kind of proud of my social presence, and I do try to cultivate it, make it more meaningful than a bunch of basset hound posts and pictures of food. At the same time, I don’t mind if my personal life crosses with my professional life crosses with my fantasy life. It’s all me, and to see all of that is to know me and to love (yes?) me. 🙂

So, one of my goals is to blog more. To reflect on things I encounter, and that’s a really tall order. Too often, I’m caught in a whirlwind of messy and I can’t even digest my breakfast, let alone my thoughts. We are going through the staff review time at Penn State and I was told that, in fact, I had ‘too much professional development.’ The time I was spending on me was way too much. It’s crazy, I’m developing myself about 90% of every day. I am reading something, searching for something, learning something, actively thinking ‘how can I do this better?’ The moment I stop that, I think I’ll probably die.

I try to read–all the time–whether it’s on the internet or in a magazine or a book. If you haven’t heard, I believe the biggest perk of being a Penn State employee is the fact I can check a book out and renew it indefinitely–that is, until someone recalls it. I think I have had a couple of books checked out for over eight years. Right now, I have an active rotation of about four books going–things I read late into the night or during lunch with my puppy on the back porch (In sum, I have about 40 books checked out). My professional development time is not limited to 40 hours per week.

My most recent–and most focused endeavor–is reading “Brain Rules.” Someone just recalled it back to the libraries today, so I have two weeks to finish it. It’s an intriguing book on brain science and how we learn. You can’t help but think that it’s all basic common sense. I’m only through the first two chapters, but I wanted to share the essence of it, just in case you want to check it out.

The author, John Medina, says that there are 12 things we know as facts about the brain and how it works.

The first rule is that exercise boosts brain power. We used to exercise all the time. Early man had to walk at least 12 miles a day just to get around and find food. We think better because when we exercise, we increase the oxygen flow to the brain and neuron connections increase. Aerobic exercise at least twice a week has been shown to cut the risk of dementia by half, at least. The takeaway from this is to get up and get your butt moving.

The second rule involves the evolution of the human brain in relation to survival. Our brain is composed of three smaller brains: the lizard brain–for basic functioning, the mammal brain–for our animal needs, and the human brain, which provides our cognitive functions. As humans, we had to adapt to change because of rapid changes in our environment and food supplies. Our evolution to two-legged status freed up our bodies and energy to develop a more complex brain. The diversion of energy to the brain and its growth allowed us to increase our symbolic reasoning and the ability to anticipate and understand another’s intentions and motivations and function in a group. Apparently, in World War II, they learned a lot about the brain from injuries incurred from shrapnel, which is good for us, bad for the poor victims.

My goal over the next 10 days is to read the next 10 rules over lunch, relaxing on the porch with my puppy. I hope you don’t mind a few food and/or puppy shots as we move along. If I get off track, I expect you to poke and nudge me to move forward and share what I find. We will all be the better for it. Here’s to more professional development!



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