Matt Hanes

5 things to protect your sanity when starting the new school year

Blog Post created by Matt Hanes Champion on Sep 8, 2015

I'm writing this from the point of view of the person who gets all the emails and work orders about things in Canvas. I'm also the one that does Canvas training for employees.


  1. The "Groundhog Day" effect - There will be times in which you will swear that you have received the same question from the same person for the billionth time. Take a deep breath. Now let it out. My email responses in these cases can tend to be a little snarky. Since I need a job to feed my family, I like to have a pre-fabricated email (patent-pending) for each of the issues for which I receive multiple inquiries. Most of them contain simple platitudes and links to the relevant how-to articles in the Guides. It makes people think I'm nice.

  2. It's ok to be wrong - I'm wrong all the time. I may seem like an omniscient wizard to the end user, but I don't know everything. In my experience, people tend to respond positively when you admit fault and try to come up with another answer for them. I find that better than the "obfuscate the problem and confuse them into thinking they are the one who is wrong" approach.

  3. Sometimes, the Canvas Guides can do your job better than you can - There are certain people at our institution that will email me about everything that is even tangentially associated with Canvas. I use my patented approach (mentioned above) of sending them relevant guides from the Guides. Lo and behold, they eventually start searching the guides BEFORE they email me! I don't even have to be mean about it, they just kind of get the hint!

  4. People appreciate even just the attempt at humor - I don't like to take things too seriously, so I try to guide people in my trainings in (passingly) humorous ways. For instance, my fake course I use for training is "Advanced Conversational Klingon III" or sometimes I use "Principles of Unicorn Grooming". People appreciate the effort, even though I'm not actually very funny. It's the thought that counts. Plus, it amuses me to think up things that only other nerds would find funny. So that's more engagement for me too! When someone (usually only one) laughs at the Dr. Who reference I just made, our eyes lock, and we become Nerd Bros. It's a beautiful thing.

  5. Get yourself on friendly terms with a nerd programmer - Seriously, these guys can come up with amazing ways to use the API to make things easier for you. In my experience, they are easily bribed with Cheetos and Mountain Dew. I used to have to manually make a bunch of settings changes to some quizzes that we use at the District level. A very tedious task to do with 180 quizzes. Now I can just run a little script and make all the changes at once.