Category Archives: learning

Finding the Flow

Inspired by Donna Donner’s post 12 Month Human at Four O’Clock Faculty which I found on Twitter via Tamara Letter:

I write a fair amount about living a life outside the traditional workforce. One lesson I continue to learn about living this life is that it flows and living in rather than fighting the flow is the way to move smoothly and calmly even through the rapids.

I was the road warrior in June: just take a look at my reading log. I hit a high of 13 books because I discovered The 39 Clues series on Audible. Each book takes about 4-1/2 hours of listening, which just happened to be the average length of each of my car trips. Every day was planned to the minute as each task had to be completed on time if events and trips were going to be successful. There was no time for procrastination. Within that strict regimen there was “work” and “life” as even my garden was part of the to do list. Weeding had to be done before I was gone for ten days. That meant a daylong marathon with shovel and cart. My husband shepherded me inside at dusk, handing me two ibuprofen as I walked up the steps.

And now…it’s July, and for the first time in many years, I am home. No traveling, no training, even very little “work.” My mother was worried that I was going to be bored and suggested I could use the free time to house clean. I’m thinking more Scratch programming and Raspberry Pi exploration along with early morning hours in the garden and long afternoons floating in the pool with a book.

Donna Donna got to the heart of my life when she wrote that her teaching life is “entwined with all the other cycles of my life.” She goes on:

As my summer rolls on I will honor my love of learning, my love for my family, my love for my profession and my curiosity of the world. My life cycle flows with this balance all year long. You see, I am a 12-month mother. I am a 12-month wife. I am a 12-month friend.  I am a 12-month teacher. I am a 12-month human. I never take a vacation from any of those parts of me. Some parts just come out a little stronger at times but all contribute to balancing me as a whole.

I think the struggle is figuring out which part is stronger at any time as I tend to want to always focus on the work I do for others first. I resonated with Donna sitting on the porch with her hummingbirds–mine are at their height right now, buzzing me as I head out to fill the feeders–reviewing her notes from a summer workshop. For me, it would be planning ahead for my fall courses and events.

Then, I sat down at the laptop this morning prepared to put in a full morning of work and realized I didn’t have to…I could browse Twitter and that led to Tamara’s tweet and Donna’s post and some writing. It’s a different kind of work this personal reflection and community connection, and who knows where it might lead. The emails will wait; the preparation for an October workshop will wait; it’s time for the focus to be on my own learning and growing and flowing.



To Everything, There Is A Season

This song from the Byrds is based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, verses from the Christian Old Testament that remind us that there is a time and season for all things in this life.

I was reminded of these verses this weekend: I had gardening to do, finishing up a large section of a shade garden addition to my road side beds. I had been working at the bed in free hours throughout the week, pulling up the weeds in preparation for planting. The forecast for the weekend was not promising as tropical storm Bonnie was threatening a washout. So, early Saturday morning, I headed down with shovel, spade and plants. A few frantic hours of work and the bed was mostly finished.*

And then the rain came. There have a been a few moments of clearing but by now, the bed would have been too wet to do much work.

As I weed and dig and plant, I think about the lessons I’m learning that might be applied to education. One that resonates lately is how, as an independent, mostly at-home worker, I am able to work more in rhythm with the time and season. I don’t have to be at a desk by 8 AM but can start my day in the garden and then may find another hour or two later in the day. Or, I can work for 12 or 14 hours on a rainy day and then spend the next day in the dirt. This flexibility allows me to at least sometimes find that seemingly elusive work/life balance.

Meanwhile, schools have very specific schedules and right now, when it would be wonderful to have the kids outside planting and harvesting, they are in the midst of the testing season. Teachers can’t decide to ditch the testing to head outside or squeeze the testing into a rainy afternoon or let kids take the tests at home in the evening.

It just seems sad…

*I say mostly finished for, as those of you who garden know, it is never really done. There will always be tending.


Being Honest About the Levels

As part of my attempt to balance work with life, I have added yoga to my day. I’ve dabbled with yoga in the past but decided to go ahead and start with a beginning video. My experience with yoga videos in the past have been that they have really been for intermediate practitioners and then offer ideas for how beginners can modify their poses. The instructors don’t look anything like me and seem able to stretch in impossible ways. I struggle to keep up and end up feeling pretty defeated.

Finally, however, I have found a series of videos that really are for beginners! Short bits that focus on specific areas done by a woman who at least sort of looks like me. She doesn’t have to talk about modifications because she is instructing at my level. No struggling to keep up as it moves at a slow pace.

Another lesson for educators: we need to meet our students where they are and not where we wish they were.

Making Time For…

Somehow, my March Raspberry Pi and Python adventure got lost in April and May. Work, travel, semester end, all those things took up my time. Learning Python was not a priority, and once it fell off the to do list, it stayed off. It was easy to ignore the Raspberry Pi, too, since the huge monitor was gone.

It happens often, doesn’t it? The things we would like to do get pushed aside for all the things we feel like we have to do. I think it’s even harder for someone like me who works independently. I can just keep working, maybe with the sense that I could actually get through the WHOLE to do list and then have some free time.

Let’s face it: that isn’t going to happen. Just as I am checking off the last item, an email shows up with some non-urgent request. Might as well answer it so it won’t be lurking around tomorrow. And, if I worked on the newsletter now–even thought it isn’t due to go out for four days–then it will be done. And, and, and…you are getting the gist of it, right?

So, at some point in the last couple weeks, I started adding non-work, non-priority activities to my to do list including Python programming, piano playing, blogging and yoga, all activities I enjoy but that often got lost in the fog of work. Just having them written down along helped a bit. And then there was the advice of Zed A. Shaw, author of Learn Python the Hard Way in his “Note on Practice and Persistence” in the introduction:

If you break the problem down into small exercises and lessons, and do them every day, you can learn to do almost anything. If you focus on slowly improving and enjoying the learning process, then you will benefit no matter how good you are at it.

And that’s really become my strategy: do a little each day. Sometimes, the few minutes at the piano or on the yoga mat turn into a half hour or hour. One Python exercise becomes two or three. And here’s the blog entry for today: no major lessons but a reminder to use all that if something is important to us, we need to make time for it. In a 24/7 world, we can work all the time…but that, as we know, makes us all dull people.


Not “Just” Attending

I am looking forward to participating in EdCampNova tomorrow. The organizing team has done a nice job a getting the party started early with some daily twitter suggestions and I’ve already been learning and participating. It’s a great idea that I may borrow for future events. (Plus, I’m a little excited about picking up my t-shirt.)

Besides bringing some swag, I am “just” an attendee at this event. As someone who is normally in charge, that feels good. But, as I thought about that attitude, I decided being an attendee may be an even important role than that of organizer especially with an edcamp event where attendee participation is what makes the whole system work. Passion and inquiry are the foundations, and if you show up expecting to let others do all that work, I think you’re going to be disappointed. The questions this week mirrored the philosophy: what do you have to share? what do you want to learn?

But, that philosophy of attendee participation should extend to all events, even more traditional face to face conferences. It’s like most things in life: you get out what you put in. So, if you want to sit and absorb, that’s fine, and you’ll certainly learn lots. But, if you want to fully experience the power of a face to face experience, you need to step beyond that comfort zone and interact. Share ideas, ask questions, brainstorm solutions. There is no “just” before attendee: the organizers have taken a lot of time and energy to create a learning environment; now, go explore that environment and see what comes from it.

And, as EdCampNova has demonstrated: there is opportunity for community and learning to continue around the face to face event. If you haven’t checked out the hashtag #edcampnova lately, take a look. Even if you can’t get to the event, there’s plenty of learning and sharing going on.