Spreading Good Advising Wisdom to Beat Stress, Better Socialize, and Beautificalize Your Brain!

Spreading Good Advising Wisdom to Beat Stress, Better Socialize, and Beautificalize Your Brain!

By: Tim Murphey

A few days ago, I was scanning through my Facebook friends and ran across a mother’s concern for her potentially anxious child. As I read through the list of ways to CHANGE/HELP her child I regressed and realized that these would also CHANGE/HELP me, and other adults (who were, of course, once children and who might be hanging on to a lot of anxieties learned in childhood. Feel familiar?). And, of course, I thought of my present students and the many anxieties that they might have, and how everyone in these times has good reasons to be anxious as well. And I realized that I would be very comforted by many of these things myself.

Editors: original source hard to find, but might be Phoenix Place Inc.

The person who posted the colorful diagram on Dec. 1, 2021 (source, Peace Corps: Pinterest) was Satoko Watkins, one of the top student learning advisors at Kanda University Self Access Learning Center (SALC). Obviously, her work as a mother blends with her wonderful work at her advising job and reminds me of the many possibilities for changing for the better that flow between seemingly different environments in our lives.

I was intrigued with the diagram Satoko posted and an idea for using it in class hit me. I showed it to my university students (Dec 2, 2021). Then I asked my students which sayings might be effective for them, their siblings, friends, and even parents. I put all this into our Zoom chat box that day as an activity to do in breakout rooms.


(Correction: Satoko’s Son is a 5-year-old.)

The activity in breakout rooms was a great success as I saw in the very active rooms I was able to visit (and later in the notes that students sent to me), so I asked them to share these nine ways with their family and friends when possible. Students send me their class notes (action logging) after every class, which I read to know how to better manage my classes (Murphey, 1993; Miyake-Warkentin et al., 2020). I also make newsletters out of their comments, which I send to my learners so that they can see what other students have said (spreading and sharing community wisdom).  Below are just a few of the 20 or so comments on the “9 things” activity:

    1. My partner thinks #3 “Tell me about it” Is the most useful. It is simple but people get confused when they are worried.

    2. I think #9 “What’s something we could do to help you feel better?” is the most useful. If I had my family say this I would realize I wasn’t alone.

    3. We chose “I’m here with you. You’re safe.” Because these words gave us relief.

    4. My partner thinks if someone stays by his side, he will feel really safe and calm.

    5. I think breathing together works really well to calm yourself down. Also, if someone wants to think the solution together, I will think the person really cares about me.

    6. My partner had experiences of understanding children’s worries from their drawings, so “#5 Let’s draw it!” Was good for him. Children who can’t tell their opinions can draw!

Also, during the winter break, I ask my students to give someone a Christmas present based on things we did in our class. We go over research that shows that “teaching” others something is the best way to learn it (Murphey, 2017), so I ask them to choose something we did that semester and teach that as the present. Amazingly, many chose the “9 things” because they had enjoyed it so much. 


My friend-editor Curtis Kelly had the great idea for a follow up: asking students to create lists of other things that would relax loved ones in certain situations:

“9 things to say to anxious parents when you go out to a late-night party with friends”

“9 things to say to an anxious boyfriend or girlfriend who saw someone flirting with you.”

 “9 things to say to an anxious teacher when you are late to class, or late turning in homework”

From little acorns…


  • Miyake-Warkentin, K., Hooper, D., & Murphey, T. (2020). Student action logging creates teacher efficacy. In P. Clements, A. Krause, & R. Gentry (Eds.), JALT 2019 Proceedings. https://jalt-publications.org/articles/25989-student-action-logging-creates-teacher-efficacy

  • Murphey, T. (1993). Why don’t teachers learn what learners learn? Taking the guesswork out with action logging. English Teaching Forum 31 (1) 6-10.

  • Murphey, T. (2017). A 4-page condensed version of Tim Murphey’s book chapter Asking Students to Teach: Gardening in the Jungle available at Stanford University’s eNewsletter by Rick Reis, Tomorrow’s Professor, #1590  Mon, 2 Oct 2017 https://tomprof.stanford.edu/mail/1590#

Tim Murphey has a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland.

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