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Work in progress.

Work in progress 2011/2014.

One of the themes at the ADE 2014 Global Institute was “Changing Landscapes.” It made me reflect on the ways I’ve changed physically, personally and professionally since becoming and ADE in 2011. I’ve written about dieting before in my other blog and often say that I’ve been dieting since I was ten. That is not an exaggeration, sadly. If I’m not actively on a diet, I am constantly thinking about what I’m eating now or next or how I need to be exercising more. It’s an exhausting and oftentimes self-destructive thought process. I also don’t generally advertise that I am on diet* for a plethora of reasons, including fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being constantly monitored for what I put or don’t put in my mouth, et cetera. Oh, hey, I just noticed that “fear” is a recurring theme there. That’s the beauty of writing; I get to find out what’s going on in my brain.

I just passed the 33-pound mark and while I have a ways to go, I know I’m on a good path. I feel healthier and stronger, thanks to the Pure Barre, RIPPED and walking that I’ve been doing. I’m doing my second triathlon this weekend even though I haven’t done enough swimming this summer. Oh, well. I’ll have fun and finish the race regardless.

Personally (I played with the word “mentally” but that sounded weird), I’ve been practicing being in the present, slowing down my mind to appreciate what’s around me now. Letting go (of fears, assumptions, baggage), trusting (myself mostly) and surrendering (to experiences) are all ideas I’m working on this year. Jen shared this quote with me from Paradise in Plain Sight: “What a relief to accept that you will never get your act together. Then it is no longer an act” (emphasis mine). It’s hard to just be. Most times I like the idea of it more than living it. I guess that’s part of “the work,” yes?

Professionally, I’ve become a full-time administrator, rather than having two .5 gigs. Thank Jebus, because coordinating our IB Programme and being an assistant principal at the same time meant that I did neither job well. I’ve grown the most in approaching conflicts. I am conflict-averse and have to have many crucial conversations in my job. I have an awesome boss who handles conflict in a calm, direct, non-judgmental way, so my mission is to learn as much as I can from his example. Like the other areas, I still have a ways to go here as well.

*Vulnerability alert.

Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines

You know how you can buy orange juice concentrate? Having attending three ADE Institutes (2011 Phoenix, 2013 Austin, 2014 La Jolla) I can’t think of any other times in my life where I live in what I consider concentrate form: we spend a week with hundreds of other people eating, talking and traveling together. There’s little time for sleep! I’d hate to miss out on something cool (aka FOMO). It’s not easy to describe to others who haven’t experienced an Institute. I find that when I do try, I end up crying. Crying because I miss the constant laughing, the camaraderie of new-found friends, and the comfort of old friends that are family. There’s a hole in my heart when I have to say goodbye. No joke, it takes me a couple of weeks to recover. 

The week together proved that spending time cultivating and celebrating relationships is invaluable. (Side note: How can we expect kids to learn together if we don’t let them come together as people first?) As co-learners we explored new landscapes, uncovered histories and investigated mysteries like scientists might.  While studying languages is more my thing, it was good to be pushed beyond my comfort level, namely by being a citizen scientist and trying to sketch my learning.

A long way to go.

A long way to go.

Other learning take-aways for the week, in no particular order:

  1. While Drew Berry was specifically talking about science at the time, it holds true for any content: “Don’t dumb it down.” When I hear that classes aren’t “rigorous” enough, it may be because they’ve been dumbed down. Edit the tasks, not the content.
  2. Douglas Kiang spoke about coding in a way that opened my eyes to its secret power (I knew it was powerful but making it people-centered spoke to me): “What matters most is connecting with others.” 
  3. Process time is really important. We need to be sure to build this in for our students (of all ages).
  4. There is a difference between storytelling and lecturing. 
  5. Be present. I have to work hard on being present, in general. I conscientiously focused on the experience last week mostly because I didn’t want it to end and also I wanted it lodged in my memory. I tried to soak in the landscapes I saw with my eyes as open as possible and listen as intently as I could. It didn’t slow down the time, but I have clear memories of the sights and sounds of the week. 
  6. Jen and I had a lovely conversation with Rebecca Stockley the morning we were flying out. The term “witness” came up as we talked about the experience of the Institute and trying to take it all in, being present and remembering it all. That’s the beauty of the shared experience–we bear witness to the good and the bad and take that with us. 
  7. Related, Jen and I talked a lot after the Institute about the love and respect that was palpable in the ADE ballroom and around the campus. Last Friday afternoon when Rebecca asked us to close our eyes and think about being an ADE, I suddenly found the energy in the room emotionally overwhelming and had a little meltdown during the celebration, bordering full-on ugly cry. I love that ADE Institutes provide a safe place where I can be filter-free and goofy for a whole week with people I love and respect. 


Scripps Beach

Scripps Beach

“Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.”
The House on Mango Street 

The notion of letting go keeps popping up in the darndest places. I read about it and even hear it in songs. I heard about letting go at the ADE 2011 Summer Institute and again in November at an IB symposium in Denver. The contexts in both places involved the idea of educators letting go of practices that are not effective.

Several years ago I met with a woman who practices alternative medicine. She had a knack for finding the most tender pressure points in my neck, but would also talk about big-picture things like universal shifts. She told me that for the current shift, people would have to learn new ways of thinking and to let go of the old to prepare for the new. I keep thinking back to that conversation and all of the things that I still need to let go of.

I’m the eldest in my family (including both sets of cousins) and a Capricorn with a natural tendency towards stubbornness. Letting go is an unnatural and unnerving feeling for me. The words “control freak” may spring to mind. Letting go is scary and requires risk taking, something else that makes me a little queasy. I have a senior in high school. The idea of letting him go into the world usually brings tears to my eyes. He’s got a good head on his shoulders and will land on his feet no matter what he decides to do. I know that deep down. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

When I reflect on letting go, I realize that, while tough, it can also be liberating. Letting go involves a lot of trust. Trust that things will work out for the better. Trust that surrendering is often the best option.

I have followed Alan Levine’s blog and Twitter feed for a couple of years. I love participating in his #ds106 projects from time to time, as well. His dear mom Alyce passed away last week and it hit a nerve with me for a number of reasons-she reminds me of my sweet grandmother who turned 86 yesterday; my mom recently worried that her mom, my other grandmother, wouldn’t be here much longer; and Alyce and I share a love of baking for people. A couple of Alan’s friends declared today Cookies for Cogdog, or the Day of CookieLove, where readers were invited to bake cookies and give them out to strangers.

I set out the butter last night so I could make chocolate chip cookies first thing this morning. I use a recipe that I got from a dear friend in Brookings, SD. Her recipe comes out beautifully every time. I mixed up the batch then divided the baked cookies into three bags. I hadn’t thought about who would get them and started to get a little nervous about it. I talk to strangers all the time, but never offer them cookies.

On the way to my car after church I noticed that there was a man taking a break from working on the roof of the house across the street. As he was heading back toward the house I hollered an “Excuse me?” at him and explained that he was receiving cookies in honor and memory of a friend’s mom (it seemed a lot easier to say “friend” than try to explain the whole online Twitter/blog thing). He was definitely caught off guard in a good way.

At the farmers’ market a few minutes later, I wandered around looking for my next recipient. The gal at the java stand looked a little lonely since most folks there were after the fresh produce. After hemming and hawing a bit, I decided that I’d give her the second bag. I told her the same thing that I told the roofer but she asked me more details about the project and we chatted a bit. She thought that #cookielove was a great idea and, by the way, chocolate chip cookies are her favorite!

The last bag went to two ladies who work at the Good Sam house where my grandparents live. They spend their whole day giving care and I wanted to return some of that to them in cookie form.

What a great project to honor the memory of a kind woman, to treat people to some cookies and to get a little spiritual boost for myself!

Rest in peace, Alyce!

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