Monthly Archives: March 2016

I want to be a scuba diver!

I love to read. I love books. There are few things that bring me such joy as getting lost in the “sea of words” where characters are of my creation and I grow attached to fictional places. I have even mourned the loss as I ended a book series. The book itself is wonderful, but I am slowly crossing into the technology world by reading some electronically. The point of it all is that I enjoy the depths of the written word, pondering over the meanings of things, or finding how what I have been reading works into the things I already understand.

Then I read an article by Nicholas Carr called Is Google Making Us Stupid? which discussed how technology is changing the way we read, process, and absorb information. He used the analogy about how he was once a scuba diver in a sea of words, but now is more like a person covering a lot of area skimming along quickly on a jet ski. That is something that resonated with me in a deep way.

Before I started working on my PhD, I asked those in the program how difficult the work was and how that work impacted their daily lives. Everyone seemed to be in accordance, that “it is a lot of work, but it is manageable”. This loosely translated to the work was at a doable level, but just LOTS of it you have to do in a short amount of time. So now that I am nearing the end of my first year, I find out that the work is training me to be a jet skier.

I say this because I constantly feel like I’m not reading the material deep enough and having enough time to really process and consider what I’m reading. Which makes me sad. As much as I adore reading and learning, it is not feasible to invest the amount of time I feel necessary to each subject. So, alas, I jet ski. I read for the information I need to, process at warp speed (I am a slow processer naturally), and churn out my work. In my heart, many times I do not feel I am producing my best work. But it is the best I have at the speed in which I must go and I have found some balance in it as well as acceptance.

Nevertheless, I am a scuba diver at heart. I am looking so very forward to being able to find the time to read for pleasure and at the slower pace and depth I wish. Perhaps many things I will read again with some free time, as I found I did following my master’s program. Until then, I will keep my scuba gear close by in case I have the extra time, where I will eagerly leap from the jet ski and dive deeper!

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They led me to the well…

There is a quote from Albert Einstein which came to mind after doing some of this week’s readings. His quote is: “I never teach my pupils, I only provide the conditions in which they learn.”

In my early education experiences, I was fortunate enough to have teachers who allowed me to learn at the rapid rate at which I needed to consume it and truly created the conditions for me to learn. In Kindergarten, I was the only one reading when starting school (chalk this up to sibling rivalry as I have an older sister who had been going to school and got all the neat school books…so I learned to read early to swipe her stuff!). My public, city school teachers, worked with me independently to help me learn and challenge me. This continued in first grade with another wonderful teacher who worked with me independently, pushing me gently to reading at higher and higher levels and giving me individual spelling lists.

Second grade was a different story and I got lost in some bureaucratic stuff I did not understand at the time. Fortunately, I was having part of my days with a third grade class across the hall (for reading and English) and that teacher then was my advocate and champion. Because of the individualized needs I had and the willingness of the teachers to create fertile conditions for my learning, I was able to get to a place where I was matched intellectually. That happened in my second/third grade year.

As I said, I was very fortunate to have such excellent advocates and champions at that stage of my learning. Thankfully a lot of my desire for learning was fostered during this time, so when I did come across teachers who were there to impart what they were required to the student masses I was able to learn what I could while still maintaining my desire to learn; regardless of the teacher’s outlook on how they were teaching.

Reading some of Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, when he describes some education like the knowledge was “a gift bestowed by those by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing” made me recall those kinds of teachers with sadness. Because of my early education experiences, I felt valued and that I had this knowledge deep inside myself, only I did not know it yet. My teachers were the ones helping me discover it. When I encountered the teachers who poured out information in class like water and we, the students, were the cups.

I am so thankful for all of those teachers I had over the (so very many) years of my education who did not simply pour out the water; rather they led me to the well and showed me how to draw the water. What really stands out in my mind, as I look into my near future, when I am at the front of the class, is that I want to be like the teachers who inspired me to learn. I want to be the one to create the environmental conditions for my students to learn. I hope to lead them to the well and show them how to draw the water themselves. For I hope that they, like me, will become life-long learners. Learning because they want to, have the need to, and the know how to learn in formal and informal ways. Even on their own.

So, from that little girl who felt that it was fun, exciting, and special to be learning, even when it meant being kind of separate from my peers, a heart felt thank you. Because of that desire for them to teach in non-oppressive and non-traditional ways, I had excellent role models all these many years later.

I have no class!

So this is my spring break week. No longer are they filled with thoughts of a beautiful holiday somewhere tropical or somewhere snowy where I have lots of fun, rest, and make amazing memories with friends. Now they are filled with thoughts of “sweet! I don’t have class this week so I can get caught up on all my assignments!” and I still have assignments.

Oh my assignments! An assignment reviewing an appraisal instrument, open coding for my research class, mid-term evaluations to complete for my supervisees, a sample syllabus for my pedagogy class :), and lots of reading. Plus, there are things to catch up on at home too. Laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, gift shopping for an upcoming wedding and baby showers. Then general daily chores like cooking, endless cycle of picking up dog/cat toys, and feeding pets and partners.  Meanwhile, the emails continue for responsibilities and I have some other projects (both school and home related) which need my attention.

I am hoping to juggle in a quick visit home to visit with my family and some friends. I am also hoping for a little more quality time with my medical student spouse (but he’s still in classes, so that is questionable!). My other replenishment joy will come with the additional time with my “fur babies”.

So this week, I have no class. But responsibilities still continue…such is the glamorous life of a doctoral student!

Warm and Fuzzy

WARM FUZZYOnce upon a time, a long time ago, Claude Steiner wrote a little story called A Warm Fuzzy Tale. It tells about how when people were born they were given small, soft fuzzy bags and anytime they would reach into this bag they could pull out a Warm Fuzzy. The small fuzzy was about the size of a child’s hand and would instantly grow a little larger when you would remove it from the bag. When given away, the little fuzzy would snuggle up to the person and give them a good feeling all over. Warm Fuzzies were given freely and were in abundance; but one day a bad (yet enterprising) witch stirred up jealousy and envy in the people causing them to become stingy with giving away their Warm Fuzzies. Eventually the witch even started giving out bags, similar to the fuzzy bags for free, but these bags contained Cold Pricklies. Eventually people started to give the Cold Pricklies away rather than the Warm Fuzzies. Even the children, observing the adults, began to change their behaviors on giving Warm Fuzzies or Cold Pricklies. The situation became quite complicated as people began doing all kinds of things for Warm Fuzzies. You can read the whole short tale here.

But what do the warm fuzzies and cold pricklies have to do with inclusive pedagogy?  Well, I believe we have experienced, at some time in our lives, feeling all “warm and fuzzy” (which is where this expression originates) when people treat us kind and with dignity. Just as I believe we have all felt “cold and prickly” when we are treated poorly or unjustly.  Surely we all want to experience the warm and fuzzy feeling most of the time, if not all of the time, like in the start of the story.

Our society has become much like the unhappy land described in the latter part of the story. A place where we are stingy with our warm fuzzies, feel guilty over sharing our warm fuzzies, and feel distrustful if someone is trying to give us a warm fuzzy because we are not all to sure it isn’t a cold prickly. It has even spilled into the lives of our children who watch the adults intently on how to treat others.

So, as an educator I have a choice to make, do I want to remain in a state of unsure and unease because I live in fear of getting a cold prickly? Have my classroom be a place of cold learning and fear of sharing one’s self freely and fully? Or do I want to be like the new character introduced near the end of the story, the Hip Woman who generously shares her Warm Fuzzies and encourages others to give them away as if there was indeed an endless supply?

I hope my classroom will be one which makes everyone feel welcome and provides a safe space for the freedom to be their true authentic self. I hope to operate with a heart drenched in  a strengths-based, relational-cultural theory and a focus of working towards a relational competency which can navigate relationships to promote the well-being of my self and others. I would like to create an environment where any student would feel welcome enough to discuss their thoughts, ideas, and feelings with at least me, if not the class as a whole.

I know that I can not change others; that is beyond my scope of control. I do know that change starts with one decision, one choice. Many of minds need a whole paradigm shift when the word inclusivity is mentioned. It is not about suppressing one to allow another to excel, rather it is about making room so we all can excel. Inclusivity is not a habit that needs to be changed, but rather a desire that needs to be fulfilled.

My wish now is for you to freely share a warm fuzzy with someone today!