NEW YORK – Hundreds of New York City public school teachers accused of offenses ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct are being paid their full salaries to sit around all day playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet or just staring at the wall, if that’s what they want to do.
Because their union contract makes it extremely difficult to fire them, the teachers have been banished by the school system to its “rubber rooms” — off-campus office space where they wait months, even years, for their disciplinary hearings.
The 700 or so teachers can practice yoga, work on their novels, paint portraits of their colleagues — pretty much anything but school work. They have summer vacation just like their classroom colleagues and enjoy weekends and holidays through the school year.
“You just basically sit there for eight hours,” said Orlando Ramos, who spent seven months in a rubber room, officially known as a temporary reassignment center, in 2004-05. “I saw several near-fights. `This is my seat.’ `I’ve been sitting here for six months.’ That sort of thing.”
Ramos was an assistant principal in East Harlem when he was accused of lying at a hearing on whether to suspend a student. Ramos denied the allegation but quit before his case was resolved and took a job in California.
Because the teachers collect their full salaries of $70,000 or more, the city Department of Education estimates the practice costs the taxpayers $65 million a year. The department blames union rules.
“It is extremely difficult to fire a tenured teacher because of the protections afforded to them in their contract,” spokeswoman Ann Forte said.
City officials said that they make teachers report to a rubber room instead of sending they home because the union contract requires that they be allowed to continue in their jobs in some fashion while their cases are being heard. The contract does not permit them to be given other work.
Ron Davis, a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers, said the union and the Department of Education reached an agreement last year to try to reduce the amount of time educators spend in reassignment centers, but progress has been slow.
“No one wants teachers who don’t belong in the classroom. However, we cannot neglect the teachers’ rights to due process,” Davis said. The union represents more than 228,000 employees, including nearly 90,000 teachers.
Many teachers say they are being punished because they ran afoul of a vindictive boss or because they blew the whistle when somebody fudged test scores.
“The principal wants you out, you’re gone,” said Michael Thomas, a high school math teacher who has been in a reassignment center for 14 months after accusing an assistant principal of tinkering with test results.
City education officials deny teachers are unfairly targeted but say there has been an effort under Mayor Michael Bloomberg to get incompetents out of the classroom. “There’s been a push to report anything that you see wrong,” Forte said.
Some other school systems likewise pay teachers to do nothing.
The Los Angeles district, the nation’s second-largest school system with 620,000 students, behind New York’s 1.1 million, said it has 178 teachers and other staff members who are being “housed” while they wait for misconduct charges to be resolved.
Similarly, Mimi Shapiro, who is now retired, said she was assigned to sit in what Philadelphia calls a “cluster office.” “They just sit you in a room in a hard chair,” she said, “and you just sit.”
Teacher advocates say New York’s rubber rooms are more extensive than anything that exists elsewhere.
Teachers awaiting disciplinary hearings around the nation typically are sent home, with or without pay, Karen Horwitz, a former Chicago-area teacher who founded the National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse. Some districts find non-classroom work — office duties, for example — for teachers accused of misconduct.
New York City’s reassignment centers have existed since the late 1990s, Forte said. But the number of employees assigned to them has ballooned since Bloomberg won more control over the schools in 2002. Most of those sent to rubber rooms are teachers; others are assistant principals, social workers, psychologists and secretaries.
Once their hearings are over, they are either sent back to the classroom or fired. But because their cases are heard by 23 arbitrators who work only five days a month, stints of two or three years in a rubber room are common, and some teachers have been there for five or six.
The nickname refers to the padded cells of old insane asylums. Some teachers say that is fitting, since some of the inhabitants are unstable and don’t belong in the classroom. They add that being in a rubber room itself is bad for your mental health.
“Most people in that room are depressed,” said Jennifer Saunders, a high school teacher who was in a reassignment center from 2005 to 2008. Saunders said she was charged with petty infractions in an effort to get rid of her: “I was charged with having a student sit in my class with a hat on, singing.”
The rubber rooms are monitored, some more strictly than others, teachers said.
“There was a bar across the street,” Saunders said. “Teachers would sneak out and hang out there for hours.”
Judith Cohen, an art teacher who has been in a rubber room near Madison Square Garden for three years, said she passes the time by painting watercolors of her fellow detainees.
“The day just seemed to crawl by until I started painting,” Cohen said, adding that others read, play dominoes or sleep. Cohen said she was charged with using abusive language when a girl cut her with scissors.
Some sell real estate, earn graduate degrees or teach each other yoga and tai chi.
David Suker, who has been in a Brooklyn reassignment center for three months, said he has used the time to plan summer trips to Alaska, Cape Cod and Costa Rica. Suker said he was falsely accused of throwing a girl’s test sign-up form in the garbage during an argument.
“It’s sort of peaceful knowing that you’re going to work to do nothing,” he said.
Philip Nobile is a journalist who has written for New York Magazine and the Village Voice and is known for his scathing criticism of public figures. A teacher at Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill School of American Studies, Nobile was assigned to a rubber room in 2007, “supposedly for pushing a boy while I was breaking up a fight.” He contends the school system is retaliating against him for exposing wrongdoing.
He is spending his time working on his case and writing magazine articles and a novel.
“This is what happens to political prisoners throughout history,” he said, alluding to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “They put us in prison and we write our `Letter From the Birmingham Jail.
By KAREN MATTHEWS, Associated Press Writer Karen Matthews, Associated Press Writer – Mon Jun 22, 5:20 pm ET
There are some obvious factors that add to stress levels, such as increased workloads, intense deadlines or a demanding boss. But there are other stress triggers that may be less obvious. These “hidden” triggers add to an employee’s negative experience at work and eventually lead to burnout.
Measuring your stress level
In his new book on workplace stress, “Overworked, Overwhelmed and Underpaid,” author Louis Barajas identifies several signs you may be nearing burnout:
- You frequently work more than 40 hours a week.
- You’ve seriously considered quitting your job or finding a new job at least once in the last month.
- You’ve missed at least one major work deadline in the last six months.
- You postpone visits to the doctor because you have neither time nor money to go.
- You feel more stress and less security about finances than you did five years ago.
The “hidden” stress triggers
Some hidden factors that contribute to stress are not as obvious to co-workers or managers as, say, having a tower of untouched files on your desk. But these unseen elements have just as much of an impact on your stress level.
Barajas has identified some “secret” stress instigators that may have a negative impact on you at work:
Taking work problems home and letting it affect your personal life. You may struggle with defining the boundary between work and home. When work gets more hectic, your professional responsibilities can bleed into your personal life. If that lack of balance spills back over into your work environment, it can also become a vicious circle.
Not having time to take a vacation or working while on your vacation. If you can’t completely disconnect from work, you are unable to reap the benefits of rest and relaxation. And if your company has weathered a consolidation or downsizing, your workload may not permit you to take a vacation.
Office competition and gossip. It can be challenging enough to meet the goals and deadlines for your job, but if you have a competitive work environment, you must also keep an eye on your co-workers. If you are the target of office rumours or in the centre of a power struggle, your stress level can soar through the roof.
Feeling underappreciated. Many workers simply don’t feel that they are appreciated for the work that they do. Sure, compensation and benefits are considered recognition for work performed, but a simple “thank you” or personal display of appreciation is often missing, which makes workers feel that their efforts are futile.
Four ways to manage stress triggers
Managing the demands of your workday and home life may seem impossible when you are in the burnout zone, but it’s important to restore balance in your professional and personal life.
In “Overworked, Overwhelmed and Underpaid,” Barajas talks about people who have a “dual-centric” outlook. These people assign the same priority to their work and home lives, and, according to a 2002 survey from the Families and Work Institute, they experience less stress. Barajas suggests four strategies to help workers strike this dual-centric balance.
1. Set strict boundaries between work and the rest of your life. Barajas says it’s important to define where the line is between home and work. “When dual-centric people are at work, they focus on work. When they leave the workplace, however, they leave it behind completely. They rarely take work home in the evenings, and they do not make themselves available for work questions or communications outside of working hours.”
2. Focus on whatever you are doing in the moment. “Being physically present does little good unless you are mentally and emotionally present as well,” Barajas advises. “When you put your full attention on whatever you are doing and are physically, mentally and emotionally present, you will find that you can give, and gain, the most from the task or relationship.”
3. Take time for rest and recovery. It’s great to be able to meet or exceed goals at work, but it’s important to remember that in the long term, taking care of yourself is an investment that pays off professionally as well as personally. Barajas suggests that workers create an atmosphere where this can happen. “Give yourself permission to spend time doing whatever helps you renew your energy, even if it’s doing nothing at all,” he writes.
4. Be clear about your priorities. “When you feel overworked, the reality is that you have lost track of your priorities,” Barajas says. “You must get clear about what’s important to you. One of the best ways to do so is to create a life blueprint of your goals, roles, values and key relationships. When you design a blueprint and live it to the best of your ability, you’ll feel less stress and more fulfilment — not just on the job, but your life as a whole.”
Patrick Erwin is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
Copyright 2008 CareerBuilder.com. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.
Story Filed Friday, October 10, 2008 - 10:06 AM
Many people assume they aren’t rich because they don’t earn enough money. If I only earned a little more, I could save and invest better, they say.
The problem with that theory is they were probably making exactly the same argument before their last several raises. Becoming a millionaire has less to do with how much you make, it’s how you treat money in your daily life.
The list of reasons you may not be rich doesn’t end at 10. Caring what your neighbors think, not being patient, having bad habits, not having goals, not being prepared, trying to make a quick buck, relying on others to handle your money, investing in things you don’t understand, being financially afraid and ignoring your finances.
Here are 10 more possible reasons you aren’t rich:
You care what your car looks like: A car is a means of transportation to get from one place to another, but many people don’t view it that way. Instead, they consider it a reflection of themselves and spend money every two years or so to impress others instead of driving the car for its entire useful life and investing the money saved.
You feel entitlement: If you believe you deserve to live a certain lifestyle, have certain things and spend a certain amount before you have earned to live that way, you will have to borrow money. That large chunk of debt will keep you from building wealth.
You lack diversification: There is a reason one of the oldest pieces of financial advice is to not keep all your eggs in a single basket. Having a diversified investment portfolio makes it much less likely that wealth will suddenly disappear.
You started too late: The magic of compound interest works best over long periods of time. If you find you’re always saying there will be time to save and invest in a couple more years, you’ll wake up one day to find retirement is just around the corner and there is still nothing in your retirement account.
You don’t do what you enjoy: While your job doesn’t necessarily need to be your dream job, you need to enjoy it. If you choose a job you don’t like just for the money, you’ll likely spend all that extra cash trying to relieve the stress of doing work you hate.
You don’t like to learn: You may have assumed that once you graduated from college, there was no need to study or learn. That attitude might be enough to get you your first job or keep you employed, but it will never make you rich. A willingness to learn to improve your career and finances are essential if you want to eventually become wealthy.
You buy things you don’t use: Take a look around your house, in the closets, basement, attic and garage and see if there are a lot of things you haven’t used in the past year. If there are, chances are that all those things you purchased were wasted money that could have been used to increase your net worth.
You don’t understand value: You buy things for any number of reasons besides the value that the purchase brings to you. This is not limited to those who feel the need to buy the most expensive items, but can also apply to those who always purchase the cheapest goods. Rarely are either the best value, and it’s only when you learn to purchase good value that you have money left over to invest for your future.
Your house is too big: When you buy a house that is bigger than you can afford or need, you end up spending extra money on longer debt payments, increased taxes, higher upkeep and more things to fill it. Some people will try to argue that the increased value of the house makes it a good investment, but the truth is that unless you are willing to downgrade your living standards, which most people are not, it will never be a liquid asset or money that you can ever use and enjoy.
You fail to take advantage of opportunities: There has probably been more than one occasion where you heard about someone who has made it big and thought to yourself, “I could have thought of that.” There are plenty of opportunities if you have the will and determination to keep your eyes open.
by Jeffrey Strain/ 011008
Whether you’re on the playing field or huddled with coworkers in a pivotal meeting at the office, this old maxim holds true: There is no “I” in team.
Robert Half International recently asked senior executives to name the most critical characteristic of being a team player. Forty percent of respondents said “meeting deadlines” is vital to team play, while 25 percent believed avoiding office politics is of the utmost importance. “Is pleasant to work with” (20 percent) and “supports his or her manager” (13 percent) rounded out the list.
Become your office’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) by keeping the following teamwork-related tips in mind.
Keep your eye on the ball.
Scrambling to wrap up your part of a group project as the clock winds down hurts both your team and your professional reputation. If you’ve been called for “delay of game” because of blown deadlines, it’s time to develop a new strategy. Help yourself and your colleagues by identifying and prioritizing your most pressing demands each day. Then, avoid the urge to multitask and focus on tackling the assignments that have the biggest impact on team initiatives and the bottom line.
Punt the politics.
Gossip exists in nearly every workplace. But that doesn’t mean you have to play the game. Rise above the fray by avoiding the rumormongers at the water cooler. While it can be beneficial to be aware of the political undercurrents at your organization, skip the mudslinging sessions in favor of open communication, respect and diplomacy.
Don’t get into the blame game.
Nobody likes a Monday morning quarterback. If a colleague makes a mistake that affects the entire team, don’t jump on the bandwagon. Instead, put your energy into helping correct the problem so that everyone can move forward. Moreover, when you fumble, be accountable for your actions and own up to the error.
Share the glory.
Play fair and give credit where it is due. If your manager singles you out for stellar work on a project, be sure to offer public kudos to those who helped you. There’s no better way to build rapport, foster goodwill and gain allies than by honoring the unsung heroes in your group.
Finally, be willing to take one for the team. Whenever your schedule allows, score points by pitching in to assist overworked coworkers. By maintaining a can-do attitude and consistently going the extra mile for your teammates when they are being blitzed, you’ll ensure there is no shortage of helping hands available when you need backup.
by Doug White, Robert Half International msn 310708
Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com. For additional workplace articles and podcasts, visit www.workvine.com.
You know the type.
The guy who takes full credit for a job well done – albeit any help he received along the way.
The “one-for-the-taking-and-focused-on-quick-ways-to-get-ahead” cougar lady.
The hot-headed jerk that jumps down your throat at any sign of question or disagreement concerning his latest project.
While most of us share a common goal of achievement and success in the workplace, we also know that there are ways to accomplish this ambition – and ways to fall short.
“Success in the workplace doesn’t happen ‘on a wing and a prayer,’ but rather by knowing what specific job promotion pitfalls to avoid in working toward that heavenly pot of career gold,” says John McKee, business coach and author of “21 Ways Women in Management Shoot Themselves in the Foot.”
To avoid becoming the once-respectable, often-humble guy who got a promotion but lost his wits (and gained an ego), follow McKee’s advice on the seven deadly career sins to assure career advancement and move you on the path to paycheck promise land:
Despite any help they received along the way, time and again, people take full credit for their accomplishments in the office, thinking that personal success will fast-track their career.
The sin: “What often goes unrecognized is that people around, and especially below, the serially solo-successful resent the ego-centricity, and may actually begin to actively undermine that person’s efforts in the future.”
The salvation: “A dose of acknowledgment of and appreciation for one’s peers and subordinates, so they may share in some of the glory, can go a long way to foster one’s long-term success.”
It’s OK to acknowledge other’s achievements, but lamenting “what should have been yours” can be destructive and adversely impact your own ability to focus on current job tasks, McKee says.
The sin: “Allowing yourself to be overly envious of others in the workplace can sabotage your self-esteem, which is one vital characteristic every successful business person shares.”
The salvation: “Rather than being envious, let the accomplishments of others become motivational fuel for your fire in working toward your own successes.”
Anger doesn’t benefit anyone in the workplace – it only damages your reputation, credibility and professionalism.
The sin: “Those prone to angry outbursts rarely get promoted; they are seen as being poor leaders who cannot inspire or motivate others.”
The salvation: “It’s fine to feel passionately about your job or a project at hand and to disagree with others, but learn how to channel those emotions into actions that will work to your benefit in the eyes of others – especially your superiors – rather than against it.”
An employee’s selfish desire for “more, sooner” is what motivates many workers. While these folks may do well in the moment, they won’t be prepared to take things to the next level, McKee warns.
The sin: “Taking this notion to the extreme can and will be self-defeating as core values become misguided and life becomes unbalanced in the process.”
The salvation: “The road to success requires a long-term approach in all aspects of one’s job duties. Those laser-focused on quick, short-term gains may do well in the moment, but will be ill-prepared to take things to the next level.”
Indolence gets you nowhere in life – especially in corporate America. Laziness in the workplace will have you sitting idle, watching others surpass you in success and authority.
The sin: “Simply put, complacency and laziness have no place whatsoever in the workplace – especially for those with high aspirations. Expecting one’s past achievements and successes to carry them forward in their long-term career is imprudent.”
The salvation: “Treat every work day and every project as if your job, and your future at large, depends on it. It very well may.”
Too much focus on only one facet of life, like work, is a recipe for overall failure. Make sure you’re ready – professionally and personally – to take on new and bigger challenges, for which expectations are also bigger, McKee says.
The sin: “Many individuals move up the corporate ladder so fast that they actually end up failing as a consequence. More isn’t always better – especially if you’re not ready for the challenge at hand.”
The salvation: “Achieving career success also includes maintaining a life balance, and a misplaced professional desire can create a backlash both at home as well as amid peers for your perceived obsessiveness.”
The old adage, “the grass is always greener” applies to the workplace as well. Spending your time focused on others’ work achievements rather than working to further your own is a “sure-fire career killer,” according to McKee.
The sin: “Spending an inordinate amount of time fixated on what you don’t have rather than what you do will foster a bad attitude and negative overall demeanor.”
The salvation: “One’s overall ‘presence’ in the office plays a big part in who gets promoted and who doesn’t. No matter how ambitious, it’s prudent to be ‘present’ and make the most out of your current position at this moment in time.”
By Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com writer
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
Politics in the workplace can get vicious – and we’re not talking about the governmental kind. Rather, office politics, or how power and influence are managed in your company, will be a part of your career whether you choose to participate in them or not.
Some workers say they don’t want to get caught up in politics at work, but most experts argue that playing the game is crucial to your career success. By not getting involved, you may find your talents ignored and your success limited, and you may feel left out of the loop, says Louellen Essex, co-author of “Manager’s Desktop Consultant: Just-in-Time Solutions to the Top People Problems That Keep You Up at Night.”
“Politics get nasty when an employee is out for his or her personal gain alone,” Essex says. “Think of playing office politics as a game of strategy through which you are able to get the resources and influence you need to accomplish your goals. Most often those who are diplomatic, respectful and build coalitions with effective people win.”
Here are Essex’s nine tips to help you win at office politics and still gain others’ respect.
1. Observe how things get done in your organization.
Ask some key questions: What are the core values and how are they enacted? Are short- or long-term results most valued? How are decisions made? How much risk is tolerated? The answers to these questions should give you a good sense of the culture of your organization.
2. Profile powerful individuals.
Pay attention to their communication style, network of relationships and what types of proposals they say “yes” to most often. Emulate those traits by drawing on the strengths you have.
3. Determine strategic initiatives in the company.
Update your skills to be relevant to company initiatives. For example, don’t lag behind in technology, quality or customer service approaches that are crucial to you and your company’s success.
4. Develop a personal track record as someone who gets results.
Style without substance will not gain others’ respect, especially in today’s organizations that focus on outcome.
5. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn.
If no one knows of your good work, you may lose at the game of office politics — when you really deserve to win. Let others know what you’ve accomplished whenever you get the opportunity. If you don’t know the fine art of diplomatic bragging, you might get lost in the shuffle of your co-workers.
6. Treat everyone with respect.
Don’t show preferential treatment or treat co-workers badly. You never know to whom someone might be connected, and rude behavior may come back to bite you.
7. Don’t align too strongly with one group.
While an alliance may be powerful for the moment, new leadership will often oust existing coalitions and surround themselves with a new team. Bridging across factions may be a more effective strategy for long-term success if you intend to stay in your current organization for some time.
8. Learn to communicate persuasively.
Develop an assertive style, backed with solid facts and examples, to focus others’ attention on your ideas and proposals. Good politicians can adjust their messages for their audience and are always well-prepared.
9. Be true to yourself.
After analyzing the political landscape in your company, if you decide the game is one you can’t play, prepare to move on. It’s not typical, but some organizations actually condone – even promote – dishonest, ruthless or unethical behavior. The game of office politics in this situation is not one worth winning.
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
By Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com writer
Every boss wants employees who do their jobs well. But even among highly competent employees, there are distinctions. Here are 10 tips for making sure you’re on the boss’s A-list:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Especially at the beginning of your relationship — that is, when either you or the boss is new to the job — err on the side of giving your boss too much information and asking too many questions.
“There’s no such thing as a dumb question,” says Marianne Adoradio, a Silicon Valley recruiter and career counselor. “Look at it as information gathering.”
Don’t keep up the constant stream of communication unless your boss likes it, though. It’s best to ask directly whether you’re giving the boss enough information or too much.
2. Acknowledge what the boss says. Bosses appreciate “responsive listening,” says John Farner, principal of Russell Employee Management Consulting. When your boss asks you to do something or suggests ways for you to improve your work, let her know you heard.
3. Collaborate. When your boss has a new idea, respond to it in a constructive way instead of throwing up roadblocks.
“Be willing to brainstorm ways to get something done,” says Michael Beasley, principal of Career-Crossings and a leadership and career development coach.
4. Build relationships. You’ll make your boss look good if you establish a good rapport with your department’s customers, whether they’re inside the company or outside. Bring back what you learn — about ways to offer better customer service, for example — to your boss. This is also helpful for your own career development.
“Everybody wins in the long run,” Adoradio says.
5. Understand how you fit in. Is your boss detail-oriented, or someone who keeps his head in the clouds?
“The boss’s personality is just incredibly important,” says Norm Meshriy, a career counselor and principal of Career Insights.
Equally important is understanding what your boss wants in an employee. It may be, for example, that a boss who is detail-oriented will expect his employees to be as well. But a boss who has no time for details may actually appreciate an employee who does.
6. Learn the boss’s pet peeves. If your manager has said repeatedly that she hates being interrupted first thing in the morning, don’t run to her office to give her a project update when you first get in.
7. Anticipate the boss’s needs. Once you have worked with your boss for a while, you should be able to guess what information he will want before approving your purchase order, for example.
If you provide it ahead of time, “that’s a gold star,” Farner adds.
8. Think one level up. You still need to do your own job, of course. But when managers consider who deserves a promotion, they look for people who understand the issues that their bosses face.
9. Open yourself to new ways of doing things. When your boss comes to you with a new idea, don’t simply dismiss it. If you don’t think it will work, offer to discuss it further in “a mature, responsible, adult-like way,” Beasley says.
10. Be engaged in your work. Arguing with your boss over every request is not a good strategy, but neither is simply shrugging your shoulders and agreeing with everything your boss says. “The manager would like to see an engaged individual,” Beasley says. That means both showing enthusiasm for your work and speaking up when you see room for improvement.
by Margaret Steen, for Yahoo! HotJobs ( msn 310708 )
Have you ever been surrounded by new people and been nervous about what to say? It’s easier than you think, and these conversation starters should help you on your way.
Making successful small talk with someone you’ve just met isn’t rocket science, but it does demand more effort than tossing out a tired opening line. The added pressure of a social situation — a date, a party, an encounter at a singles club — may tie your tongue into knots. The best thing is to ignore what’s going on around you and concentrate on the person at hand. If you show that you are interested, you’ll be surprised at how quickly people open up.To get the ball rolling, here are five practical principles for starting a conversation when you don’t know what to say.
1. Flattery will get you everywhere. Make with the compliments to begin on a positive note. People are inclined to think well of you if you indicate you think well of them. The trick is picking out what to compliment without including some kind of sexual connotation.
2. Props. Women work hard choosing their accessories, and anyone who notices wins points. “Those shoes are sensational. Are they comfortable?”Check out a guy’s tie, glasses and watch. Look at his feet. I have a mild-mannered cousin who indulges himself by choosing socks with wild patterns. Always carry a book or newspaper. Then, if your new acquaintance doesn’t have anything obvious to remark on, you have, “Have you read this?”
3. Redirection. People love to share their enthusiasm for their hobbies. If you meet someone jogging, see if you can spark some shoptalk. And vice versa. If you’re at work, try asking your date what he or she does to relax. Try to discover what is not obvious—the mind in the sexy blonde, the animal in the geek.
4. Ask more than yes/no questions. A question demands a response, which is the essence of conversational give-and-take. But a yes/no query can bog you down in a monosyllables. Think like a reporter: Ask who, what, when, where and why. Instead of, “Did you see the latest Robert Downey, Jr. movie?” try, “What did you think of it?”
5. Listen, really listen, to the other person. Shy people who have trouble making conversation are so anxious about what they are going to say next that they don’t listen to what the other person says. Every answer to your intriguing questions opens up new conversational avenues to explore. Follow up on those leads. As an added bonus, the more you concentrate on the other person, the less your palms will sweat, the fewer words for you to stumble over. And your new acquaintance is bound to be charmed by your astute appreciation of his or her own sterling qualities.
By Marcy Barack/ msn/0881008
v First Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day make my fasts the fasts of those who fast (sincerely), and my standing up in prayer of those who stand up in prayer (obediently), awaken me in it from the sleep of the heedless, and forgive me my sins , O God of the worlds, and forgive me, O one who forgives the sinners
v Second Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, take me closer towards Your pleasure, keep me away from Your anger and punishment, grant me the opportunity to recite Your verses (of the Qur’an), by Your mercy, O the most Merciful.
v Third Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, grant me wisdom and awareness, keep me away from foolishness and pretention, grant me a share in every blessing You send down, by You generosity, O the most Generous.
v Fourth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, strengthen me in carrying out Your commands, let me taste the sweetness of Your remembrance, grant me, through Your graciousness, that I give thanks to You. Protect me, with Your protection and cover, O the most discerning of those who see.
v Fifth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, place me among those who seek forgiveness. Place me among Your righteous and obedient servants, and place me among Your close friends, by Your kindness, O the most Merciful
v Sixth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, do not let me abase myself by incurring Your disobedience, and do not strike me with the whip of Your punishment, keep me away from the causes of Your anger, by Your kindness and Your power, O the ultimate wish of those who desire.
v Seventh Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, help me with its fasts and prayers, and keep me away from mistakes and sins of the day, grant me that I remember You continuously through the day, by Your assistance, O the Guide of those who stray.
v Eight Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, let me have mercy on the orphans, and feed [the hungry], and spread peace, and keep company with the nobleminded, O the shelter of the hopeful.
v Ninth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, grant me a share from Your mercy which is wide, guide me towards Your shining proofs, lead me to Your all encompassing pleasure, by Your love, O the hope of the desirous.
v Tenth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, make me, among those who rely on You, from those who You consider successful, and place me among those who are near to you, by Your favour, O goal of the seekers.
v Eleventh Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, make me love goodness, and dislike corruption and disobedience, bar me from anger and the fire [of Hell], by Your help, O the helper of those who seek help.
v Twelfth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, beautify me with covering and chastity, cover me with the clothes of contentment and chastity, let me adhere to justice and fairness, and keep me safe from all that I fear, by Your protection, O the protector of the frightened.
v Thirteenth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, purify me from uncleanliness and dirt, make me patient over events that are decreed, grant me the ability to be pious, and keep company with the good, by Your help, O the beloved of the destitute.
v Fourteenth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, do not condemn me for slips, make me decrease mistakes and errors, do not make me a target for afflictions and troubles, by Your honor, O the honor of the Muslims.
v Fifteenth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, grant me the obedience of the humble expand my chest through the repentance of the humble, by Your security, O the shelter of the fearful.
v Sixteenth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, grant me compatibility with the good, keep me away from patching up with the evil, lead me in it, by Your mercy, to the permanent abode, by Your Godship, O the God of the worlds.
v Seventeenth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, guide me towards righteous actions, fulfill my needs and hopes, O One who does not need explanations nor questions, O One who knows what is in the chests of the (people of the) world. Bless Muhammad and his family, the Pure.
v Eighteenth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, awaken me with the blessings of its early mornings, Illuminate my heart with the brightness of its rays, let every part of my body follow its effects, by Your light, O the illuminator of the hearts of those who know.
v Nineteenth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, multiply for me its blessings, and ease my path towards its bounties, do not deprive me of the acceptance of its good deeds, O the Guide towards the clear truth.
v Twentieth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, open for me the doors of the heavens, and lock the doors of Hell from me, help me to recite the Qur’an, O the One who sends down tranquility into the hearts of believers
v Twenty-first Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, show me the way to win Your pleasure, do not let Shaytan have a means over me, make Paradise an abode and a resting place for me, O the One who fulfills the requests of the needy.
v Twenty-Second Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, open for me the doors of Your Grace, send down on me its blessings, help me towards the causes of Your mercy, and give me a place in the comforts of Paradise, O the one who answers the call of the distressed.
v Twenty-Third Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, wash away my sins, purify me from all flaws, examine my heart with (for) the piety of the hearts, O One who overlooks the shortcomings of the sinners.
v Twenty-fourth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, I ask You for what pleases You, and I seek refuge in You from what displeases You, I ask You to grant me the opportunity to obey You and not disobey You, O One who is generous with those who ask.
v Twenty-fifth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, make me among those who love Your friends, and hate Your enemies, following the way of Your last Prophet, O the Guardian of the hearts of the Prophets.
v Twenty-sixth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, make my efforts worthy of appreciation, and my sins forgiven, my deeds accepted, my flaws concealed, O the best of those who hear.
v Twenty-seventh Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, bestow on me the blessings of Laylatul Qadr, change my affairs from (being) difficult to (being) easy, accept my apologies, and decrease for me [my] sins and burdens, O the Compassionate with His righteous servants.
v Twenty-eighth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, grant me a share in its nawafil (recommended prayers), honor me by attending to my problems, make closer the means to approach You, from all the means, O One who is not preoccupied by the requests of the beseechers.
v Twenty-ninth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, cover me with Your mercy, grant me in it success and protection, purify my heart from the darkness of false accusations, O the Merciful to His believing servants.
v Thirtieth Ramadan al-Mubarak
O Allah, on this day, make my fasts worthy of appreciation and acceptance, according to what pleases You, and pleases the Messenger, the branches being strengthened by the roots, for the sake of our leader, Muhammad, and his purified family. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.