Thinking about this:

In order to get this one needs to understand a bunch of things: democracy, weak ties, and automated and profitized.

I don’t have the academic will or energy to go through and define and contemplate or unpack these pieces. I’m looking at the whole composition though and I understand that as others have said, written, and shouted from rooftops: Democracy, and what we think we mean by that term, is in danger.  And Facebook (along with other platforms) – its fundamental architecture, business model and incentive structure – packs enough of a corrosive effect for its users, unwittingly or not, to dissolve citizens’ trust in democratic institutions or even the desire or need to maintain such political practices.

In a nutshell, we are living in dire times. But it will all be captured on the internet. And sold. And sold. And sold again.

I’m very afraid that Tressie is all the way right.

*Cough, cough* Is this mic on?

Once upon a time, I was a runner. I rose each morning filled with thoughts of what my workout commitment was and how everything else fit around that. Work, child care, housekeeping and all the rest were all set up to insure that my running time was secured. I was focused on achievement and I experienced, for my standards, reasonable success. When it came time to shed this blanket identity, I struggled to find a replacement. When I could no longer call myself a runner, I felt somewhat adrift. For a while I became a seeker without a title.

I discovered new interests. I invested in education, became a frequent-flyer at personality seminars and coaching workshops. Within a few years, I arrived a new identity: coach.

*Reached this point in the post, looking for a possible exit*

*Blah, blah, blah, coaching… passionate…blah, blah…*

Part of me hates telling these kinds of stories: I did this, learned that and became this. Introduction, build-up, (there’s rarely a climax), and resolution. The stories make a circuitous path seem like a neat and straight trajectory. Such stories are so incomplete and flattened that they undermine whatever truth remains in them.

*Decides to continue with flawed narrative format anyway.*

The reason I started all this was actually to make sense of where I am now: conflicted, overwhelmed, strung out on identity finding, making, affirming, doing. Without question this inner dialogue turned outward, made public for consumption by strangers, friends and loved ones has a lot to do with it. Since I have chosen a path in social media, in the blogosphere, that has consequences; benefits and costs which I continually weigh.

Sorting myself, my thoughts, my identities in public is a choice that is fraught, fraught, fraught. Knowing that feels like a win, though. So cognizant of this tension between being and performing, telling and dramatizing; seeking and shunning attention at the same time, I’m writing to say, I am tired and I’m still here.

Because while I arrived here (online) as an educator, coach and former runner, what I’ve become is a writer who sometimes struggles to live up to the all the other pieces of me that ultimately are on display. I go to sleep thinking about the read and unread, the writing completed and the writing ahead. I wake up with new ideas and old ones. I walk through my day immersed in composition of one kind or another, forming images that beg to be recorded but for which there are not enough hours in the day. My day is awash in words I want to use and bend to my will.

For now I have stopped denying myself the mantle of writer. Perhaps that will offer some relief. My privilege in this respect stretches far. I can do and be many things at once and few will contest my claims.

(Many, many thanks to @hypervisible for introducing me to my new favorite GIF which I plan to use as often as possible, even incorrectly.)

Me and #BlackPanther

Some topics feel too big, too complex, too unwieldy, just too dang difficult to write about. You may laugh but that’s how I feel when it comes to taking on Black Panther – not even as a movie or particular narrative but as a social phenomenon. More than ‘a thing‘,  Black Panther currently informs my jokes, several social interactions both online and off, my wild imagination and continues to impact my spending choices. (Yes, Disney, take my money!)

The evidence: Here’s what comes up on Twitter in a search for “@edifiedlistener + #BlackPanther”:


I’m writing this based on the assumption that you already know what I’m talking about when I say Black Panther. If that assumption is false, feel free to fix that.


I have seen the movie three times so far and I’m ready for the 4th, 5th and 6th times. I am smitten, charmed, enchanted, and awash in this peculiar pop cultural wave. I feel celebratory and buoyed, animated and emotional. Here’s some of what I think is going on:

The whole production is a giant shout-out to Black folks all over the world.

I not only feel addressed, I feel welcomed and embraced to claim that shared identity in a way I have never experienced previously. Before the film I don’t think this was on my radar as a distinct need or desire. My emotional involvement since tells me a different story.

The women in the film are phenomenal and I’m thinking maybe I could be that, too.

Identifying with characters is one of the reasons we can enjoy and participate in fiction at all. The women of Black Panther are exceptional because as one fan so aptly put it:

“I want to take a second to thank the Black women, too, because they were so strong on their own terms and answered to no one but themselves. They weren’t strong because they were angry, they weren’t strong because they were hurt, they were strong because they were strong. And that meant the world to me. Thank you.” (at 4:50 in video)

I could not describe it any better. I have watched this video a couple of times and hearing Black folks like me talk about what the movie has meant for them, I feel both understanding and also understood.

The other piece of relating to these strong women characters is seeing myself as also strong on my own terms. After opening night I was on my way home and had to stop for a moment and shed a few tears. I was shook. I had so much going on inside. It was heavy. We say, “representation matters,” but when it is still so rare and rarely so nuanced and complex, we just don’t realize what a difference it can and does make to individuals, to groups.

Watch this. It may help you see what I’m talking about:

For once, I am part of the in-group.

I’m not much of a movie goer so my range of popular character references tends to be limited. I am also celebrity-recognition challenged. I don’t retain the names of recent or past stars very well either. I did however follow the pre-release hype on Twitter and once I saw the movie I joined the club. I understood the jokes, I could echo the praise, gobble up all the extras.

Black Twitter has always been central to my social media involvement and diving into the #BlackPanther #WakandaForever stream, feels like a new rite of passage. I’m swimming in the stream and the water is just fine. I’m living my blackness a little differently and relating to blackness wherever I find it a little differently. Fiction can grow us if we let it.

I typically hate fight scenes. Seeing powerful women warriors in this movie changed my tune.

It’s not that I’ve become a new fan of cinematic violence. But after over 40 years of watching men fist fight, hold shootouts and the like, I understand why suddenly I could watch some of the battle scenes in Black Panther with protracted interest. It was those women warriors entering the fray with incredible finesse and savvy that caught my interest and held it. That and recognizing how this in no way diminished their femininity. And my favorite character has turned out to be Okoye, T’Challa’s general (it took me 3 viewings to decide). She is fierce, principled and of a distinct physical grace to which I can only aspire.

My 10 y-o and I have a whole new source of shared jokes, plus a wealth of conversation topics to explore.

I was not entirely prepared for the host of thoughts and questions seeing Black Panther with my 10 year old son would spark. But wow! it has been a revelation. We’ve been twice so far and his take-aways are so interesting. On our way home we debated the merits of identifying with Killmonger (his favorite character “Hey, Auntie”). He has also stepped up his humor game:

OK, there I’ve said it. I loved Black Panther and I’m excited to be living in this moment. Many thanks to so many friends and family members I’ve been able to share this ride with. Who knew?

I’m so glad I joined when I did.


Five Days in Cairo


I’ve spent five days in Cairo and I feel nearly speechless
Because I am so full of emotion,
So amazed at my experience,
So humbled by ALL OF IT.

Yes I visited the Pyramids and the Sphinx,
Toured the museum of Egyptian History,
Rode on a camel’s hump
Without tumbling off.

But the joy of seeing the people
I call friends
Is unmatched.
To hug them directly,
To look in their eyes,
To ask all the funny questions,
To share the relief that
No, we were not mistaken:

The care is real,
The warmth is genuine,
The trust is grounded,
The love is what we thought it could be.
Yes, it is.

With love and gratitude to Maha and Paul.

Inclusion again


I’m thinking about inclusion again. Now that diversity has been shunted as the desirable term to describe the aspiration of drawing people together who reflect the variety of identities and backgrounds which more closely represent society at large, some (myself included) have said what we really need, seek and should be working towards is inclusion. Opening doors, offering invitations, seats at tables, a mic on the stage, a space on the panel –  centering those in prominent public forums from whom we have traditionally, historically heard less. OK, I can get with that.

I read a post in response to the #EngageMOOC: Engagement in a Time of Polarization which is happening for two weeks now in the middle of February.  Kay Oddone argues that we can in our own small and sometimes larger circles, insure that marginalized folks who are at the table experience true inclusion, rather than serving as placeholders for someone’s good intentions.

The rest of the above quote speaks even more to me and my experience: ” …comfortable enough to join in with the conversation that is happening at that table. And knowing, when the talking stops, and the faces turn expectedly, how to share one’s opinion in a way that makes it able to be heard.” (emphasis mine) Those expectant faces, yes. How they turn to you as the one brown face in the room (or the only queer, native, or poor person), hoping that you will grant them both grace and an easy way out of whatever discomfort may have arisen in the conversation.

Putting it succinctly:

Allow me to broadly generalize: It happens all the time.

Kay Oddone’s post reminded me of what is at stake for marginalized folks who come to the table:

We have the power to counter the ticked box form of diversity, we can and need to practice real inclusion wherever we are. For us as educators, we can begin by incorporating more student voice and choice into our practices. We can listen to our young people when they tell us what is working for them and what’s not. We don’t give them voice; we learn to ask and listen and act on what we learn as a result. That’s what inclusion looks like. It’s responsive, open, ready to learn.

We tend to think of engagement in terms of output, as external actions that are readily observable, measurable even in some cases: speeches, reports, demonstrations, coursework. I want us to also recognize the power of staying quiet when someone else finally finds the courage to speak; for stepping aside when a leadership post comes open and nominating the better candidate who might easily be overlooked. Those are forms of behind-the-scenes engagement we need more of.

Maha Bali writes compellingly about the dilemma of reproducing marginalization even in our attempts to be inclusive:

In open online spaces, opening doors is not enough.

In open online spaces, an open door means easy exit just as it means easy entry.

In open online spaces, we are not there on equal footing.

In open online spaces, we are not equally fragile.

It is everyone’s responsibility to listen and care and support marginal voices. Whether or not they wish to speak. Whether or not they wish to be present. Whether or not they like what we do.

It is everyone’s responsibility to recognize their own privilege and to use it with purpose.

I know, I know, we’re working on it. Sometimes it pays off to think small. Think next door, down the hall, at the next meeting. Act large in small spaces. Notice who’s speaking and who isn’t. Practice not knowing and being curious. Be kind. Welcome warmly and mean it.

We can do all those things and still run a meeting on schedule. Let’s try. It’s worth the effort.

image via Pixabay.com CC0

Unfinished Business


image CC0

You are not waiting for this post.

We’re only at the beginning and it’s not sure what it’s going to become. It’s a post. Words on a screen without a predetermined destination. There’s no requirement. No protocol. Rather, there’s a likelihood, a probability that something will emerge.

Sounds like a weather forecast.

My inbox is full of notices I will never read or even register. Announcements galore about products and publications, organizational milestones and upcoming events. They pile up under my radar and still I pay them no mind. They become a form of digital weeds that do no further harm than take up space.

At the same time, I still have a reasonable command of my attentional resources. I am capable of focus. I can read some articles from beginning to end. I can comment in ways that can help others make a decision “to click or not to click” in service to their specific interests. I try hard to respond to messages that matter.

Remember Dr. Seuss’s  Cat in the Hat and the way he begins showing off all the things he can do simultaneously? “‘…that is not all I can do,’ said the cat…” Of course he continues to add objects and feats to his performance until it all comes crashing down around him.

But the Cat in the Hat recovers. Quickly.

I feel a bit like the Cat in the Hat during his “Look at me” moment, scrolling through Twitter, “liking” this, retweeting that, heaping more think pieces onto my already massive stockpile – and (consciously or unconsciously) expecting it all to come crashing down sooner or later.

On the one hand, I experience the ego rush you get from multiple (almost exclusively positive and/or constructive) interactions, you know, feeling needed, wanted, and valued. On the other hand, I seem to be satisfying an internal ego drive to show myself what I can do – look at how I read that, see the way that ties into what I wrote last week? I’m active, engaged, contributing, consuming and producing – all the things. Both without and within – I look busy.

No crash so far. But certainly pressure points. Or pockets of depletion. Or a mixture of both depending on the day.

All this to say: You are not waiting for this post. Yet here it is. If I had the energy I would share some morsels from my bulging stockpile of resources, and recommend writing of the most extraordinary kind. But sleep is more important and you’ll be fine without more to ponder.


We can take breaks. We can put on the brakes. We can slow down. Do less. Wait. Stop. Breathe. Recover. Decide not to play the Cat in the Hat. For once, maybe we’ll listen to the Fish in the Pot who is really just trying to keep us all out of trouble. (Disclaimer: I identify deeply with the Fish in the Pot and always have.)

This is the end. I’m glad you weren’t waiting for this post. You have other things to do.

Team Time


It’s Monday afternoon. My team colleague and I have some time off together. Our desks adjoin in the arms of a L-shape. Down time, catch-up time, chatting time. We talk about some upcoming scheduling for an event we’re hosting. That reminds me of what I wanted to ask him about single balances in 3rd grade.

“Have you already assessed 3rd grade in single balances?” I venture.

Of course, he has.  – Here comes the good part: he explains how he did it and when I ask if he has some videos we could look at together, he pulls up a couple. We look at them together. We discuss the finer and weaker points and discover that we are pretty much in agreement about what constitutes a 3 or a 4 (on a 4 point scale).  He tells me how he used video to share with the kids to help them see where they might improve and what a difference it made to how they were able to perform and also enjoy their improvement.

Great! Now I feel all ready to tackle this bit with my groups.

Then I ask him for the dance video he was using in class the other day. We find it and look at a bit together and talk about why this worked so well (simple, easy to imitate steps, goes on for quite a while). I describe the options I’ve found and used on Go Noodle. He mentions a break dance tutorial he watched that was pretty cool. We have a look. And before you know it, we’re both on our feet practicing this basic six step, side by side.

Laughing, I leave the office to grab a hot chocolate before my last class.

Think about it: in my break time I had

  • an assessment consultation with my teaching partner,
  • a teaching resource exchange,
  • content-specific professional development, and
  • an end of the day energy boost.

We often talk about teaching as a lonely endeavor which it certainly can be. My greatest fortune has been sharing the load and the love of the work with four excellent partners throughout my 20+ year career. They have supported and challenged me, generously shared their expertise and welcomed mine, cared about kids beyond measure and always made space for fun.

While I am in my classroom with kids, yes, I am usually the only adult. And having team members who’ve got my back, who will share in my struggles and celebrations means I am bringing more than just myself to the party. I rely on and use the resources we’ve culled and created. We take each others’ ideas and build on them.

This is how teaching becomes sustainable. This is how we become better teachers.