Toxic Culture No More

I’m reminded this morning of how much a life can change in 5 months.  Liz Ryan posted an article to LinkedIn which drew my eyes because of the word ‘toxic’ in the title.  Ten Unmistakable Signs of a Toxic Culture. Just a few months ago, I existed in that type of environment. It is soul-crushing …

Lack of smiles.  Negativity. Dark energy. Titles. Hierarchy. Status. Rules. Policy. Fear. Separation. Aloof management. Changing management. No give and take.  Unhappy employees.  Whisperings. Gossip. HR off-site. Focus on infractions not recognitions of merit. Impossible goals. Changing goals. Instability. Fear of failure and repercussions. Fear of speaking up. Informal grapevine. No latitude. No autonomy. “No one is safe and everyone is on edge.”   

No longer in that place. 

Today, I’m up and looking forward to work.  It is a pleasure to be there, to walk among smiling people, to give and receive warm handshakes, and to have the autonomy to make a difference in my working arena/classroom – to be trusted to excel in the tasks laid in my hands. 

My soul is revived! 

I tackle each day. 

I walk with my head held high and laugh at what comes to me as hard or a challenge.  It will pass and it will be accomplished.  What a beautiful thing to ‘work’ in an environment where work is not drudgery but a cohesive movement toward all-encompassing success! 

Cheers to Ranken Technical College! It is an honor to be on board. 

Omg! Vulgar Talk? 

I hear it all day, everywhere I go, and all I can continue to think is what a bunch of hypocrites we ALL are! This “shock” going around the country over some Trump guy speak is unbelievable to me.  Omg.  Get a pair.  Grow up.  Take the log out of your own eye while you point fingers at another’s eye speck! He’s a guy.  Most guys I know say those exact things … the one-upping they do.  It starts in middle school if not before … but now? There is *gasp* shock! Whatever! Oh my word.  Utter pretentiousness.  Everyone was fine with Bill’s indiscretions and treatment of women not to mention too Hillary’s retaliation on said same women … but let Donald Trump, 11 years ago, drop the P word off mic talking to another guy … oh my word – Hell’s gates swung open.  Upside down. Backward. I do not get it.  

It boggles my mind that this country can be so ridiculously divided … on everything.  The hypocrisy is mind blowing. Double standards.  Wow. 

This woman just said on the news that Donald Trump has insulted the entire country.  Then … why am I not insulted? 

Oh the media.  Ugh.  Just ugh. 

Still gonna watch the train wreck …

Oh …. he’s morally unfit to be President? And she’s clean as a whistle. Oh please.  

What a circus.

Mrs. Dacia, You’re a Black Girl … ❤️

Best compliment ever.

One of my former students said this to me after our times together in the English course I taught at a trade school. Learning, laughing, growing.  Finding that differences aren’t that different when souls connect and humanity blares its presence. We are people. Alike. Yet not. And those words from my student impacted me forever.  We connected at a human level and these were the student’s words to tell me just that very thing.

Race discussions became inane in my classes in an urban area of St. Louis because we, in that classroom space, we’re human. (That’s my Randall in the pic.  My heart-adopted son.  Cool dude.  Check him out on Instagran @skate3hard ).

Human with beliefs, thoughts, ideas, opinions … and all accepted, discussed, and respected.

Today when I hear Rob Reiner state that Trump supporters are racist, I roll my eyes and shake my head.

According to Rob Reiner and potentially his fearless leader, the HRC herself with her basket of deplorables comment, I am a racist.

I’m no racist, Mr. Reiner.

Somehow though deplorably in possession of my own thoughts and opinions which guide the way I live, I, as a respecter of persons, generally keep my political leanings to myself and private conversations … to you I state, I am not what you lump under a header of hate.

Major BY THE WAY ….

Still here, I will not launch into a political diatribe for one side or the other, but I will state to lump a person or groups of people into any grouping with a negative label shows short-sightedness, disregard of differences which create a world of beauty, and ignorance.

People are people are people are people.

Who wants to live in a world where we are all the same? Not this girl.

It is a beautiful thing to live in a country where the right to an opinion exists … though this is arguable in some areas of academia.  Still.  To choose to be a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, or an Independant is a right. It is a freedom. To express opinions is a freedom and therefore good.  But so also is the recognition of humanity and that to hate is unfortunate and ignorant. To conversate is good and right, true and noble.  Honest. To learn what others believe and allow for differences to exist is beyond beautiful.  Differences bring about the Compromises that make differences and bring about change! Finding the space to agree to disagree and make cohesive decisions … this is utopian … desired by all who understand what it is to treat others as self wants to be treated.  To love others as self.

Be kind.

Be respectful.

Never do I overtly state political leanings on social media, but this season is reaching ridiculous heights of name calling and toss-the-topic off course at all costs behavior. Ignorance abounds on both sides and the issues cloud over.  We jump on bandwagons without full information … becoming the Ignorant.

Thus starts the ebb and flow of name calling and prejudice.

Some of my closest friends and I have differing political views. We do not allow these to be points of contention. Rather, we have stimulating discussion.  Encouraging critical thinking and respect given when it’s hard.

Come on, folks, let’s see humanity.  After all … God is not a White Man.(Do yourself a favor and watch that video).

In all of this, no, I will not vote for Hillary Clinton.  My conscience will not allow it.  I have my reasons, my opinions, my long-considered thoughts because I listen when people talk on both sides of the aisle and I know what moves my heart.  This is my right and my freedom as an American.  I’m not going to shove it down throats.

All I ask is that we think before we speak. See humanity in its larger scope and embrace differences of skin color, religion, education level, gender, thought and opinion.  Let the beauty of life sharpen you and stretch you to service for others … for that is where all of our answers lie.

Be beautiful.


God is Not a White Man by Gungor
God is not a man

God is not a white man

God is not a man sitting on a cloud

God cannot be bought

God will not be boxed in

God will not be owned by religion

but God is Love,

God is Love,

and He loves everyone

God is Love,

God is Love,

and He loves everyone

God is not a man

God is not an old man

and God does not belong to Republicans

God is not a flag

not even American

and God does not depend on a government

but God is good,

God is good,

and He loves everyone

God is good,

God is good,

and He loves everyone

oh, oh, duh, duh, duh, duh

athiests and charlatans,

and communists and lesbians,

and even ol’ Pat Robertson

Oh God, He loves us all

Catholic or Protestant,

terrorist or president,

everybody, everybody loved, loved, loved, oh

God is Love

God is Love

and He loves everyone

la la la la la

la la la la la

stop the hating, please just stop the hating now

’cause God is Love

oh, oh, oh
la la la la la
la la la la la

la la la

“You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, GOD, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; Then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me.”

Psalm 119:7 MSG

This is a wow for today. The verses that smack you in the face like an ice-packed leather glove … you know how that happens. The Holy Spirit saying “Hey, Doofus, do you hear me now?”

Stay the path, Girl. Stay on the path.

How to Not Feel Verklempt Whilst Writing a Cover Letter

It is not necessary to feel verklempt about writing a Cover Letter.  In fact, it is more than unnecessary – it is irresponsible to sit in front of the computer screen nervous about words and language and being chosen for the interview based off of those anxiety-driven word choices. Unnecessary and Irresponsible. This is my firm stance on the topic.

In mid-August, the company for which I’ve wanted to teach for years posted an opening for an English adjunct instructor late on a Saturday evening.  A friend of mine who knew of my desire to work in said facility of technological learning sent me a screen shot of the ad. My fingers hit the keyboard of my computer – found the ad for myself and crafted my cover letter, attached my resume, and had my application sent in less than half an hour to Ranken Technological College. Monday morning, I received a phone call for an interview. Hired, pending all paperwork and etc., on Tuesday.

This – accomplished via something I teach to each and every group of students I have an opportunity to infect with my passion and pursuit of excellence. It is my greatest joy to turn my students into believers of their own abilities … to create them to be effective job seekers.  To teach them a cover letter is not an overwhelming and fearsome task.

In January of 2011, I discovered my students lacked insight into effective job-getting skills, so I researched cover letters, resumes, anything I could get my hands on to make a difference for them. To have them write a cover letter to a specific company ad – based upon research in an argument driven class – Composition II – then became the thing. After scouring job ads across Craigslist, I came across an ad that did all that I needed it to for the betterment of my student’s understanding.  It was posted on January 20, 2011 by Harster Heating and Air Conditioning there on Craigslist for two service installer personnel.

The lesson included posting the job as part of the Cover Letter and Resume PowerPoint presentation – which aligned with Causal argument in the text to my thinking. Cause – poor cover letter – Effect – no job.  Cause – poor resume – Effect – no job.  So … the greatest of cause and effect in Argumentation … effective skills in achieving desired results … the jobs of dreams.  Careers. Callings.

Over the years, adjustments happened to the presentation, but the effect always the same – students hired for the jobs they desired.

The ad?   Here it is.


The plan – I read it through once aloud, then read it through a second time for dissection, taking each portion, each sentence and digging deeper.  Looking ad nauseum  for all pertinent information with potential for effective attention-getting-ness on upcoming cover letters and resumes.

After four years of using this ad in the classroom, conviction told me I should contact the writer of said ad and thank him for the unbeknownst to him, numbers of students he’d assisted through the years – not only from his ad but from his website.  Here is the letter I wrote to Dave Harster of Harster Heating and Air Conditioning … (in it I lay out how I use the ad in the classroom … and yes, I have a thing for dashes and ellipses).


From: Dacia Wilkinson     
Sent: Thursday, June 26, 2014 2:45 PM
Subject: Re: Ad for HVAC Service Installer dated 1/20/2011 (Yes, 2011)

Dear Dave,

This is a thank you letter concerning the ad you placed on Craigslist on January 20, 2011.  Yes, it’s been a few  years.  That ad is imprinted in my brain (seriously, I have it memorized) because I use it to teach my students how to use a company’s ad and their website to better their own cover letters and resumes.

My name is Dacia Wilkinson and I’ve taught English Composition at ******** College in Berkeley, Missouri for nearly 4 years. This class is so much more than writing an essay, it’s training in soft skills.  We spend hours working on effective cover letters, resume writing, and interview skills – things most of my students have no working knowledge of how to do well.

Since you placed that ad in 2011, and I stumbled across it while looking for a good study for my class in how to read an ad, YOU have inadvertently helped hundreds of students to achieve success.

The sentence, “We have not had to lay any off since 1988” helps me discuss reading between the lines.  I teach my students to read to believe, but also read to doubt.  When they first hear your sentence, they all say, “Wow!” and I say, really?  Think again.  What else might that mean?  High turnover?  (I doubt it very  much! Your growth in just 3 years is phenomenal).   We also discuss the word “try” when it relates to “we try to work everyone a minimum of 40 hours per week …”  I ask them, do you need to understand this could be more than 40 hours at times and less than 40 at times?  Absolutely.  Read the ad thoroughly.  It’s brilliant to discuss with the students.  I use an ad from Glideaway too … but yeah, so not as good as yours.  I’m not writing them a thank you note.

Again, thank you for writing an ad that was both informative and human.   From a discussion on the ad, we move to your website – where I show the students how to read to adjust their cover letters and interview readiness to the company.  Several things on your website are superb (all of it is, but what I use in class …)

•         On the services tab – you say 24/7 service is available.  I ask the students, was that mentioned in the ad.  They all say, No.  So, I say, well then, do you want to let Mr. Harster know on your cover letter that you’re available for 24/7 service then?  To which we all agree – YES.  The key being to stand out in a sea of resumes.  ☺

•         On the history tab, where you state your philosophy … I tell my classes that this is gold and then I read to them, “the customer is always right and to do good work and charge a fair price.”   From here, I explain that in any job-getting situation, to look for and find the company’s philosophy and/or mission statement is key.  Use it.  State that you agree with it, that you understand it in your cover letter.

•         On the FAQ page, which I tell them to never ask any of those in an interview – like do you offer worker’s comp? Because you say you do, right there.  But my favorite phrase is … “Technicians paid on commission are always trying to sell you something. Our guys just do their jobs.” And I ask my class – do you see his heart here?  Do you understand what this company is about?  Do your job.  Simple.  Good stuff.

We talk about many aspects of your website – and to that, I want to say … Thank you for creating a website that is easy to read, understandable, creative, and community oriented.  With it, I have been able to teach the importance of company research in the job search periods of life.   So much remains to know about a company beyond an ad.

I’m so happy to have stumbled across your ad over 3 years ago and I’ve enjoyed watching your success grow as I’ve shared your website with my students.  It’s been most beneficial to so many. For a while, I’ve had a nagging to thank you.  So, today, I’m taking that time.

Thank you, Mr. Harster, for your pleasant website and descriptive ad.  I challenge my students to look for ads like yours – that give just the right amount of information, enough that the companies can be researched.  You have assisted me in teaching my classes on resume and cover letter writing … and you had no idea.   ☺

For kicks and grins, I’m including the cover letter template we write to “you” that, of course, I never mail.   If this lengthy letter has not pestered you, I’d love your thoughts on the template.  I’d like to be able to tell my classes that I’ve communicated with you and that either yes, it’s a good template, or no … it could use this or that.

Thank you ever so much.


Dacia Wilkinson

Enc. Cover Letter Template (Originally composed by a student, edited by myself)


Cover Letter Template:
Dear Dave Harster,

I am writing in response to your ad dated January 20, 2011 and posted on Craigslist for the position of Service Installer.

Confident that I would bring value to Harster Heating & Air Conditioning, I’d like to give you a brief overview of my skills and experience.  Here’s how my qualifications meet your company’s goals and needs:

Your Needs:
•      5 years field experience
•      Saint Louis City/County License
•      Positive Employees with a “Customer is Always Right” Attitude
•      Availability for 24/7 Service

My Qualifications:
•      7 years field experience
•      Saint Louis City/County Licensed
•      Positive Attitude/Neat Appearance
•      Training in Soft Skills/Working With People
•      Good Driving Record to Take on the Road for 24/7 Service

Thank you for your consideration.  Available before 10 o’clock each morning, I look forward to hearing from you.


Dacia L Wilkinson
General Education Instructor * ****** College


Imagine my delight when I received a response back from Dave Harster!  Wowza!  That response is not, with his permission, an additional part of the PowerPoint presentation on Cover Letter & Resume Writing.  You will see why.  Look for the golden nuggets of amazingness straight from the lips of an industry employer … who is simply just writing and not trying to impress anyone.  Genuine, he is.  Genuine and pointed.

Dave Harster replied …


From: Harster Heating and Cooling []
Sent: Monday, June 30, 2014 8:03 AM
To: Dacia Wilkinson
Subject: RE: Ad for HVAC Service Installer dated 1/20/2011 (Yes, 2011)

Ms. Wilkinson,

Thanks for the email and all the feedback on my ad. Yes, you’re right. I had no idea I was making such an impact.  I like the template you have come up with for the cover letter. Cover letters are usually all the same  or very similar stating that “I would like to further my skills with a good  company”. Just once though I would really like to see the statement, “I love to work, I was taught to work hard, to be productive and  make a difference where I am employed”.  I would interview that person even if I didn’t have a position open for them and keep their resume for the future.

Thanks for all the time you spent emailing me. That is a long email. 

Dave Harster


Do you see what he said and the golden nuggeted-amazingness?

“Just once though I would really like to see the statement, I love to work, I was taught to work hard, to be productive, and make a difference where I am employed. I would interview that person even if I didn’t have a position open ….”

I mean wow.  Just wow.  No more do we say “I would like to further my skills with a good company.”  No.  That is self-serving. It is mundane. It is dismally over-used.

We now recognize that the job hunting season is focused on the company’s needs and our desire to be productive and make a difference where employed.  Boom.  Mind blown – like that commercial where people’s stacks blow off into purple haze-tinted clouds.

I read this response to my students and pens jot notes furiously – each one eating the words like candy dropped from a pinata … like sticky-mouthed children scrambling to get it all.

Time and again, the words of Dave Harster combined with my own ever-learning researching as an instructor, get students hired.  Even myself … in a position I’ve dreamt of for some time. This works.

Always? No. But it’s a great jumping point.  This cover letter  is company focused and this is what employers desire – employees who will be productive and make a difference.  Do yourself a favor – find a way to incorporate these ideas into your own job-hunting season or rather let’s call it a career-hunting season.  We are folks on a mission to a calling and or a career path!  Always bearing in mind that we, as employees, are replaceable.  Positions are necessary – employees in those positions – not so much.

Start well … and follow through once the acceptance letter comes through.

What a week it has been – teaching this to my students. I’ll never know to what extent the information reaches – but I know that it does.  One person tells another and a thing grows … or, like I tell my students, don’t tell anyone else … keep it to yourself and let everyone else struggle to get the job while you sail on … Of course, that’s not very nice.

You know, I’ve never met Dave Harster.  Thinking of inviting him to class one day.  That’d be swell.  I know he’d be great in front of my classroom – talking to students about professionalism, soft skills, customer service, keeping a clientele list growing.  Know how I know?  I’ve read his website – multiple times over almost 6 years as I show my students how to research a company for their career hunting season.

Need HVAC?  Let me plug him to those here in St. Louis.  Super Service Award Recipient from Angie’s List and a John Goodman fan.  Your hometown service pro since 1950.





When you know you’re getting through …

Each week my student’s write a journal about class – what they’ve learned, etc.

I received this today ….

“This week’s lessons were simple and helpful. I would’ve never thought that learning how to write proper sentences was something you learn in college. Most people are taught how to write proper sentences in middle school, but the way Mrs. Wilkinson taught it this week was jaw dropping. She told me that writing in passive voice is weak. “Always try to write in active voice which makes your writing stronger.” Mrs. Wilkinson said in class Wednesday. I use to think that having more words will make my writing look better. It’s not about the number of words in your writing, but the quality of the words you choose from. Another thing I learned that will help me with my writing is not make announcements in my writing. An example of an announcement is, “I’m going to tell you about” or “This story was about”. Another skill I was taught was to take “you” and “I” out of the story. That’s not difficult for me if I’m writing in third person, but it can be a hassle. I was taught that when you’re writing you should always write according to your audience. You can’t write a letter to a group of Christians the same way you would write to a group of prisoners.

This week I can make improvements to my writing off the new techniques I was taught. My teacher Mrs. Wilkinson has made me strive to be a better writer. These new tools will help me with the book that I’m writing. Thank you Mrs. Wilkinson for this week’s lessons!”
And …. another one …
“This week in class was another exciting adventure. The class watched another set of interesting videos. Our teacher is wacky and full of surprises. I had no idea she would make us start watching videos about parodies of popular songs. I was really surprised to find out that there are English parodies out there. I really hope she continues to introduce us to new styles of writing via these videos. They really connect to our kind of generation. Normally after 10 minutes of boring lecture we tend to tune out, but these wacky songs hold our attention. This week we learned about passive and active voice. I was taught this back in high school but it never hurts to go over old terms.Our teacher put examples of passive voice on the projector and had us, as a class, change the sentence to active voice. It ceases to make me laugh when I watch our teacher have to go into the settings to change the volume. On Friday we spent a good portion of the day using an app called Socrative. It truly is an amazing app. It allows everyone in the class to participate together. The teacher can design a question and allow us to answer it individually. The best part and in my personal opinion is the fact that we are able to vote on which response we think is best. All in all i believe this week turned out to be quite successful. I look forward to what our teacher has planned for next week.”
Drop the mic.
It feels so good to help people see that WRITING is not the big bad wolf.   A pox on all high school English teachers who created droves of human beings walking in zombie-like states repeating “I hate English” and “I can’t write” … EVERYONE can.
We are only into week 4.   I LOVE what I do.  :)

LinkedIn Recommendations – My Heart is Full


Keep in mind I am an INFJ.  Tears come easy and I’ve wiped a few. This morning, my former boss and I exchanged recommendations on LinkedIn.  It was my honor to write these words for Robert Donnell …

“If you could choose the person you’d work for a career lifetime, who would it be and why? If that question were posed to me, the answer is Robert “Bobby” Donnell. The “why” began in October 2010 when I first came under his leadership. Bobby is a strong man – emotionally, mentally, and compassionately. He leads with kindness and respect. In all of the five and a half years I referred to him as “Boss,” I did not hear one co-worker say a negative thing regarding him. He guides and encourages. He gives autonomy to employees and allows them room to grow. I bloomed under his leadership. It was in quiet talks in his office, and sometimes not so quiet because of laughter, where I gained confidence in my abilities as an instructor working in our specific – often challenging – environment. I watched him. Modeled my own behaviors after his. Lead with kindness and use a firm hand as needed. Bobby is the leader that commands respect without demanding it … and that is the greatest lesson I have learned from him … be the servant leader with a quick and ready smile. Speak with gentle words and maintain the dignity of all around. Use good judgment in working with people. Bobby is all of this. With alacrity, I’d jump at an opportunity to work for him again! He’s always got my vote!”

With all of my career-minded self, I mean these words.  Bobby is a Shepherd – and it saddens me to know that more than likely in this lifetime, I will not work for him again, though now I consider him a friend, a colleague, someone I can laugh with on a personal level.  It’s nice.  I’m so blessed to know him – as are the people he comes across every day.

Why tears?  Well … in writing those words, I found myself emotional, but then … he returned with the following and the sides of my eyes no longer acted as flood gates, but rather slip-n-slides.

“Dacia Wilkinson is one of the best instructors I have ever had the opportunity to manage. When a graduate from an Electrical Mechanics program comes back and tells an instructor from two years prior that he still takes 30 minutes each week to free-write because of how it makes him feel, you know that is a teacher who changes lives. This is just one of hundreds of accolades I have been witness to since 2010 when I hired Dacia. She puts her all into her class and her students, transforming them from “trades” guys and high school drop outs to successful college students and graduates – students who come to a “Gen Ed” class not because they have to, but because they WANT to. She is a pleasure to work with and leads a team even if she doesn’t have a leadership title. Other instructors look to her for guidance and she freely gives it. She is a true asset to any organization lucky enough to have her.”

I tell my students on the regular to use LinkedIn, because it is a holding place for all resume type information and reference letters. To be able to exchange these and let them sit on the internet as testimony to character is a beautiful thing.  Even more so … because of this idea I share when we discuss Interview Skills in class …

Do not just read the recommendations that are left by others for the candidate you research, but read those that the candidate has WRITTEN.  Get a taste of the writing style – what language choices does the person make?  What is the person willing to say?  Many words? Few words? Get an idea about who this person is from their writing.  Writing always gives away the author.

Love this twist.

So, the recommendations I compose … I intend them with care.  Always stating truthfully the character of the person and my interaction with them as well.

Thank you, LinkedIn for this feature.  Thank you for the smile and the tears brought to me today over your platform.   You rock!