Too Busy to Blog

too busy to blog
Lately, whenever I think to myself, “I really need to start blogging again,” the mental response has been instant and consistent: I’m too busy.

The revelation here is that while I do lead a full (borderline overflowing) life, it’s not actually scheduling that makes me “too busy” to do some of the things I’d really like to do. In fact, for me, “busy-ness” doesn’t have much to do with time at all.

Busy, for me, is a mind game. Come to think of it, last time I had this revelation I think I called it “cognitive white space.” (yes, I am apparently an exceptionally slow learner)

Feeling “too busy to blog” is less about the time to sit at the computer and write and more about the mental state to come up with something worth writing. When I feel “too busy,” what I’m really experiencing is a mind too cluttered, too frantic to process my life. When mentally too busy, I can’t step back and take in the big picture, make connections and weave meaning out of my somewhat schizophrenic interests and engagements. The peculiar corollary is that with a “free” (that’s the opposite of “busy,” right?) mind, I seem to develop an astonishing capacity to take what we typically think of as “busy-ness” (the calendar variety) in stride.

And just like the kind of busy-ness that has to do with blocks of time on the calendar, this kind of “busy” is entirely up to me.

[Ir?]Relevance.

Been ruminating on this one for a while (isn’t it funny how deep personal understanding of a word can make it at once more crude and more perfectly appropriate?) anyway, I’ve been ruminating on relevance. And I’m becoming convinced that more than interest, more than engagement, more than challenge or even feedback, relevance is the key to motivation in education.

rel-e-vance : relation to the matter at hand : PERTINANCE

per-ti-nent : [from L to reach, belong] : to belong to something as a care or concern or duty, to have reference to, to be appropriate or suitable for application.

Relevant material is suitable for application to the matter at hand. Relevant instruction carries with it care and concern, a duty to relate to the matter at hand. So, what is the matter at hand? I think it’s deceptively simple. In that way that makes it really easy to answer that question in a workshop (or a comments section) and yet still be baffled when it comes to actually doing it. I think the “matter at hand,” for students of all ages all over the world is simply LIFE. Continue reading

#75 … Check.

We incorporated the Tipping Bucket as an official non-profit in UT sometime around 10pm this Wednesday. I didn’t actually even realize I had another check mark to add to the list until my sister Molly congratulated me on crossing another one off. Several reflections on this:

First, and rather simply, how grateful I am for people who keep me in touch with my dreams!

Second, and slightly less simply, how important it is to be patient with dreams. Now, in now way am I qualified to extolling the virtues of patience. But there was a little lesson in this experience for me. See, I started the list–wrote the first 60+ items–as a gawkish 13-year-old in Mr. Maddox’s 8th grade science class. I’d capped it off at 100 before high-school graduation.

I haven’t the slightest idea how I’m going to accomplish most of the items on my list (reading all the Caldecott, Newbury and Pulitzer prize-winning works since 1900, for instance). But that’s never bothered me.

Far more vexing have been the times I’ve been tempted to “revise” my dreams. See, I no longer wish to have anything to do with purebred Persian cats (#4) nor do I particularly relish the idea of #52 (Watch all the Star Wars movies in order) after literally plugging my ears through the last half of episode 3 so as to be spared any more of the tortured dialogue. Continue reading

“Ye Have Need of Patience”

I’ve been vexed all week. Really, vexed.

Here’s a selection of the blog posts I didn’t write this week: “Why Open Education Won’t Save the World,” “Lurking and Ignorance in Qualitative Research” and “The Malignant Delusion of Educational Assessment.”

Like I said… vexed.

I don’t know how to take the mass of largely useless lecture notes that is open education today and turn it into something that will create intrinsic value for universities AND actually contribute to the self-actualization of a micro-entrepreneur in Mozambique. I don’t know how to get useful instructional direction from formulaic “objective” statements or how to write a test item that actually taps higher-order thinking (heck, the textbook can’t even do it!) Let alone how to change the morally and logically bankrupt system that says standardized tests somehow indicate the worth and quality of schools, teachers, and children. All the problems just seem too complex, too convoluted, too entrenched, too intractable, too freaking HUGE.

David told us a story this week about a time when everything got to be too much and Stephen Downes just sort of disappeared for 6 months. He got choked up talking about how it changed things, how he needed that foil, that critique. I haven’t struggled with these problems long enough, let alone come up with any ideas or opinions significant enough to be needed or missed, but I was vexed this week. And sad. And already tired.

Last night, I thought of that story, and I listened to this. I still don’t have any answers. Nothing is any clearer, brighter, or easier. But “we are not of them that draw back,” are we?

Nope.

Sensory Memories

I call them sensory memories because I don’t have any other word for them. They are moments engrained in me…not even memories really, because I don’t think about them…I don’t remember them. I smell them. I taste them. I hear them. They’re just irrevocably there–fixed on my senses like nuclear-etched shadows on the walls in Nagasaki.

I remember the first time I drove our three-wheeled ATV in 5th gear; pulling my lips in from an ear-to-ear grin over teeth that were suddenly dry…and cold, as created wind licked summer sweat from my hairline and the back of my neck, and knowing what it would feel like to fly.

I remember one crystal windchime of laughter that sort of shimmered in the air for stretched-out seconds after a piece of angel hair pasta had flicked my nose during dinner in a warm Italian restaurant…like that one magical laugh from the girl standing next to the white fireplace mantle at the beach house in All the King’s Men.

I also remember being smacked from behind by the explosive, wrenching, metallic scream of a minor fender-bender in our 15-passenger van—a sound utterly absent from the memory of an earlier accident that could have killed me.

I remember deep, un-crushable softness under my hands on my lap the first time I wore my velvet “baptism day” dress, and tiny needle-teeth squirming deep in the muscles of my right hand for days after the first (and only) time I disregarded Dad’s warning about fiberglass and gloves.

And I remember the taste of Mediterranean sea salt caramel gelato slipping over the different zones of my tongue the day we got Michael his first French-cuff shirt.

I’m intrigued that so few of these experiences are visual, tied to what I would consider my dominant sense. I’m puzzled that they can be so vivid, so visceral, without being connected to any particularly intense emotion. And I’m pleased that some of these memories are so recent—that my senses can still be stunned by bursts of wonder.

Those are a few of my sensory memories.
What are yours?

Here We Go Again!

In the first two days of classes Winter 2009, I have:

  • Added 16 books to my “to-read” shelf at goodreads.com,
  • Completely filled the last remaining “grace” pages in my 2008 planner with to-do lists, reminders and appointments; necessitating a trip to Franklin Covey this afternoon,
  • And started 4 more articles in my head.

In the first two days of classes Winter 2009, I have NOT:

  • Slept in my own bed. (my darling room-mate mixed up which lock I actually had the key to–oops.)
  • Slipped on the ice–despite 2 feet of new snow, 6 inches of slush and a laughably traction-less assortment of shoes and boots.
  • Eaten lunch.
  • Or decided whether I can actually finish my entry for the Social Venture Competition in 9 days, pass two overlapping classes attending only half of each one, or publish and launch my family’s book project by Mother’s Day.

#45 … Check

Check another one off the to-do list for my life. Perhaps not as charming as last time, but a happy moment nonetheless. Who would have thought I would pet a penguin in Africa!?

sj-penguin

Continue reading

“The more we sweat in peace…

… the less we bleed in war.”  Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900-1990)

Words of wisdom from the first women to hold a cabinet position in India, the first ambassador to the US from independent India and the first female president of the UN general assembly. Reminding me today that there are many ways to work for peace, for change, for progress in the world.

VOTE!

The lines may already be 45 minutes long at 6:15 in the morning, the poll worker may not even ask you for an ID [seriously disturbing…seriously], the amendments may sound like they were written by a 5th grader with a thesaurus but no dictionary, and you may not even be entirely 100% certain which is the lesser of two evils…but the democratic process–and the promise it holds– is still worth celebrating, worth defending, worth participating in.

Plus, you could probably eat for free all day with the rewards Starbuck’s, KrispyKreme, Chipotle, Chick-Fil-A and Ben & Jerry’s are offering for that little red “I voted” sticker.

Africa is Going to Break My Heart.

The Congo is on fire…again. Rebels and conspiracy and murder and rape. Thousands of refugees and counting. The footage is horrifying, but what got me was hearing the palpable exasperation of the aid workers being interviewed, and realizing that I’m starting to know how they feel.

I stood there in the middle of the hallway of the McKay building not sure whether I wanted more to scream or to cry. “Why can’t we stop this!?”

Perhaps the question is so vexing because the answer really is, “We could.”