The Archive Project

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I was looking for some information in my archives. I’ve written and kept a lot: Workshop descriptions and agendas, decades of report card comments, professional letters, application essays, you name it. In the process I have come across some documents that remind me of what’s important still. Here are a couple of brief examples.

This is from a workshop introduction I did in 2014. The topic is trust.

 If the members of a large organization are surveyed, among the most common wishes expressed are those for better communication and greater trust. Not surprisingly these two aspects go hand in hand.  As members of an organization and community, we seek belonging and purpose. We join forces, bundle our resources, commit our energies, share our results and take pride in our accomplishments.  When our channels of communication are clogged, crossed or even haywire, we suffer.  Our contributions may be squandered, go unnoticed, never reach fruition.  What is our response? We doubt our leaders, withhold our best efforts and bemoan our organizational dysfunction.  In short, we lose trust in the very organization and community which we sought support and improve.

So often we wait for our organizations to finally change. We find new leaders. We restructure our staff. We announce sweeping reforms and initiate widespread training initiatives. And once again, the critical ingredient of trust remains outside these bargains, and the desired change almost never takes hold.

I also found this gem in a letter about professional development to an author educator, not sure that I even sent the letter, though.

The more I think of it, the more convinced I become that we only improve our educational offerings at the rate at which we improve ourselves by becoming students – struggling students, in fact. We need to spend more time not just attending PD, we need to be creating, reinventing, challenging the very notion of PD. Frankly, I’m tired of sit and (for)get. I’m in for get up, get busy and take charge of your own experience. That’s the direction we need to be moving as educators and our kids are already paving the way a million times over.

What sorts of treasures are in your archive? Just because it wasn’t written or created last week or last year doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

Think about this with me. Dive into your archives and find out who you were, what you prioritized, how you’ve grown. Share out on your blog, in a reply, on Twitter or anywhere else. I wanted to give this idea a more formal kick-off because it’s been rattling around in my brain for a while. This will have to suffice for now. It probably needs a hashtag. Maybe #ArchiveProject?

The hard part

Planning is something I do with varying degrees of success.

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I’m scheduled to race on the track at the weekend. I have planned and prepared. My goal is to run fast and not get hurt.

As a fellow at the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute in Vancouver next week I have the honor of being able to give a workshop. I am planning and preparing. My goal is to provoke some fresh thinking about games and what they can be good for. It is also my goal to not waste anyone’s time.

At my school I serve as the new teacher liaison. Because we’re an international school, new teachers are not simply taking a position in a new school. For most it means adapting to a new country, a new apartment, and a new language on top of a new job. My assistant and I meet people upon arrival, help them settle into their apartments and run administrative and shopping errands with them. It’s a wonderful way to get to know new colleagues and it requires some planning and preparation on our part. My goal is to make life a little bit easier for folks coming in and to not lose track of the rest of my life at the same time.

I have experience in all of these things. I have run plenty of track races before. I have successfully designed and delivered workshops before. I have welcomed cohorts of new colleagues to Vienna before. But planning and preparation offer no guarantees. The outcomes are probable in most cases but not entirely predictable. Stuff can come up: Delays, missed appointments, illness, sudden brain freeze… And my job is to work with and around those hiccups and glitches.

The point of writing all this… is to say that I am nervous and watchful and also distracted and temporarily overwhelmed. And maybe that’s the hard part. Being in this space of having planned and prepared but staying flexible enough to accommodate the unanticipated and still leave space for wonder, beauty and serendipity.

Tall order. Top delivery.

The hard part is right there in the middle. Must be where I am about now.

 

image via Pixabay.com CC0

 

A ‘What’ or A ‘Who’ Struggle?

Struggle.

I have used that word quite a bit as an educator, as a parent, as a committee member – most often to describe other people’s experiences. I’ve probably even written about what struggle can be good for, how it can shape and grow us. I believe all that. I don’t always enjoy it so much when it’s my turn, however.

Currently I’m struggling with focus – having it, maintaining it, holding it steady. Confidence is another area that’s feeling a little wobbly these days. Not yet crisis worthy, but also not A-OK. There’s more than one struggle going on.

While I was away on vacation last week I felt an expanse of the imagination. I got curious about the mountains I have always driven past, around and sometimes over. Once you travel an hour south or two hours west of Vienna, foothills show up. Add on another hour in either of those directions and you are in Sound-Of-Music style Alps. I have known this set-up for a very long time. But I’m not really a hiker or camper or skier, for that matter.

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Look at those spaces! Feast your eyes!

This trip I made it a priority to investigate the surrounding hills. To get up a few more hundred meters and see what I could see. I was amazed, delighted and humbled by the intricacies of the journey, the variety of the landscapes, the views from below and above. All of it was there all along but I had not yet felt the need, or the calling to find out what these spaces held for me.

Even if I have lived in this Alpine country for the majority of my adult years, I never forget that I’m that skinny black girl who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.  I speak the language here, at times well enough to be mistaken for a native (by a non-native, mostly) and yet …

When I walk in these familiar unfamiliar places it’s as if I’m walking beside myself – not just looking, but gawking shamelessly – with an expression that says: “How on earth did you get here?” And the question is really about How and even if I deserve to be here – under whose auspices do I deign to claim these spaces as part of my story, of my becoming?

But I hiked up the mountain and experienced the spectacular view. And I’ll do it again because I can and because it was a missing piece and I didn’t know.  The struggle was never about the ability to climb. It was instead about me deciding to become and be the hiker; she who hikes up and down the mountain. Not an ability question, an identity question. In fact, an identity doubt.

Those mountains calling, the lake singing, expanding my imagination. And for a moment I had a bubbling wealth of creative ideas. I had new projects I wanted to explore and consider. I put out feelers for help and got some great responses. The fire was hot! The engine was running!

I’m back home now and hunched at my laptop producing very meager results if any. I came down from the mountain, left the expanse of the open water behind me. My brilliant ideas began to shrink and acquire dust at an alarming rate. Focus has felt hard to muster. Any sense of flow seems wildly distant. Struggle. It’s clearly my turn.

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On our last day I also did this: Stand-up paddling. You have to really zoom in to find me. I didn’t just do it, I loved it! I learned it by watching others, most notably my extremely confident 9 y-o.

That’s what I need to remember: I succeeded by trying. I endeavored without knowing the exact outcome to follow. Seeing, trying, testing, going ahead, succeeding. Sounds like a process. Sounds like a learning process.

So back to my struggle; it’s mine to hack. I’ve got some strategies and a little slack to work with now. Hiker, paddler, doer – I am the learner from Cleveland, here to slay.

Guest Post On Charleena Lyles

In a recent family correspondence, my Uncle, Dr. Thaddeus Spratlen, a long time Seattle resident, shared his thoughts on the recent killing of Charleena Lyles by police in her home in front of her children. He kindly gave me permission to post his letter here.

 By now you probably have seen some reference to last Sunday’s police shooting here in Seattle of Charleena Lyles, a 30-year old, pregnant and mentally ill African American, mother of four children.   Two White officers were responding to a reported theft of an X-box and jewelry at a public housing complex for previously homeless people. There had been previous calls from the victim regarding burglary or other disturbances that resulted in two officers being assigned to respond to the call for help.  On previous occasions the victim had been armed with some sharp shears. On Sunday she was holding two knives.  In the verbal exchange between the officers and Charleena, she mixed phrases that were incoherent with others that reflected the need for help. It has been suggested that she was experiencing hallucinations.  Details on why the interactions became life-threatening and violent are not clear.  But one of the officers shot and killed Charleena when she apparently was moving toward them and would not drop the knives.  Voice interactions are not clear as to whether any of her other behavior was physically menacing to the officers.

 

Why guns and deadly force in a situation that did not appear to be life-threatening to the officers?  As the law requires there is a Police Department investigation underway.  Tragically, there have been no convictions in the 13 or so nationally-reported cases in which police officers have been charged with wrongful death.  Charleena’s death is likely to be another one in which police who kill are exonerated.  It has just been revealed that cameras outside her fourth floor apartment recorded no entry or activity during the time when she was away from her apartment shopping before she called for  help.  The officers were not wearing body cameras.  So except for the voice recordings we are left with the officers account of  what happened.

 

This is likely to be a worse case than the deadly encounter between St. Paul, MN police and Philando Castile.  Recently, his killer, Jeronimo Yanez, was found innocent of second degree manslaughter.  In this instance a standard of “culpable negligence” was the threshold for conviction. In video footage it seems clear that the officer was negligent and created avoidable risks.  They did not require the victim or other occupants to get out of the car.  There seemed to be negligent disregard for the a child and Philando’s girl friend who were in the car.  The officer fired several shots into the car. Philando was shot three or four times.  Miraculously neither the child nor Philando’s girl friend were hurt. This trauma and tragedy started with a stop because of a broken tail light on the car that Philando was driving.

 

In the case of Charleena, the responding officers did not have tasers with them (despite having information from previous responses at this address).  So far it has not been indicated why they did not use pepper spray or their batons. Also, it is not clear how far away Charleena was from the officers when she started moving towards them.  According to Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large, the likely standard for conviction for the killing of Charleena would be “evil intent.” And so it goes for one more tragic tale of White police officers panicking in the face of carrying out their responsibilities of providing protection or help from crime.  The police officer ended up being  a killer instead of protector. Grim statistics also reported by Jerry Large were that for 2017 there are almost three police killings per day in the United States! As he put it, Charleena was the 451st person killed by police in the United States during the first 169 days of 2017.  That should be a national disgrace for violence against people that police are being paid to help and protect.

 

Sadly, Philando, Charleena and thousands of other victims of police killings could not stay out of the way of the police. Back to my starting point, the nation must find more humane and effective ways of dealing with mentally ill people and the use of deadly force by police.  This is another instance in which we lead the world in infamy.

Thaddeus Spratlen, Seattle, WA

What We Want and Don’t Want (at the same time, in the same breath)

An older brother shows his younger brother how to get out of his crib.

Watch this:

On the one hand, as a parent helping your children to be kind and loving to each other is something you strive for.  On the other hand, the expectation that the small child you put into the crib will stay there is always a kind of hope against hope until experience teaches you better. We want our children to love and help each other. We don’t necessarily want them to organize their own liberation quite so seamlessly (at that age).

My 9 year old is starting out in competitive sports. He’s ambitious, confident and keen to work at getting better. He also does not like losing. It’s a process. He will learn. The more he competes, the more he will know and understand about not winning. At this point, he certainly wants to compete. And he also does not want to lose (currently defined as not medalling).

I’m currently on summer vacation. I have whole days to myself to go and do pretty much as I please. I’m spending a lot of time at home. In front of my computer. On certain social media sites. Yes, I’m reading and writing and thinking and conversing. But I am also feeling somewhat lethargic and slow to attend to things that would benefit others in particular. I want and treasure this free time and space. I also don’t want to feel after the fact that I wasted it.

We want and don’t want. Want and don’t want. Want and don’t want. Literally, can’t get no satisfaction.

Irony: I’m a trained life coach. I know there are strategies, pathways, questions that lead out of this seeming conundrum. Yet my very human interest is fixed on the dilemma, the itch, the irritation. Surprise, no surprise – those feelings can be the most challenging to let go of.

I want to feel productive, useful, helpful.

Stop. I’m leaving out the second part.

I’ll do what I do and let it be what it is. Without guilt, without reproach.

A challenge, yes. And doable.

I want to enjoy the time I have and …

leave it at that.

Takes practice but I’m going to get better. Just watch.

Dear User/Supplier,

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Greetings!

We are pleased to inform you that your contributions to the greatest research effort ever on the confluence of human and machine learning into a single all-powerful source of knowledge, wisdom and capitalist domination are of the utmost importance and always welcome!

Making the world a better place for all is a massive undertaking and we would be nowhere without the generous efforts of you, your family members, colleagues, friends, business partners, classmates, pets, auto mechanics, health care professionals, insurers and personal assistants (Hey, Alexa! Hi, Siri!) to stay connected, to share and spread the wealth of your lives with our systems and in our spaces. Every day you empower us to dig deeper into understanding much more than just purchasing patterns and streams of demand; you help us comprehend the complexity of human desire; the content of long and short range bucket lists. Because of you and your unfettered thirst for more choices, better selections and unlimited access, we are able to tell you more and more about

  • who you are
  • what you need
  • where you can get it
  • why you deserve it
  • and why anyone who would counter that can climb under a rock, no love lost!

As purveyors of this bright new future, we value every click, keystroke and swipe you make. These seemingly simple actions help us to unlock the secrets to true human understanding and the consolidated wealth of a steadily shrinking class of digital overlords and provide us with the fuel we need to build the bridges of enlightenment for all and for much less than we ever thought it would cost! Your participation is vital and essential and we want to make sure you know how grateful we are.

You are the future we’re building for.* We see you.

Ever in your service,

Tech’s Top DOGS (Digital Overlords Governing Surveillance) 2017

 

*Some restrictions may apply. Full benefits in limited supply. First come, first served. May the better man win (literally). It’s a dog eat dog world. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Survival of the fittest, baby.  Smile pretty, we got you covered.

 

 

That Time Lightning Struck

THIS.

plus this:

Now that I have watched this video 4 times and have found myself weeping, I need to share a few thoughts:

Art can do this for us: go deep, unlock the floodgates of emotions and remind us that we are not here by accident.

This song has always touched me. I was about the singer’s age (15) when it came out. I never saw Dreamgirls live but I sure knew that song.

Tressie’s tweet was my alert. And #BlackGirlMagic means more to me than I usually say. As Sarah Ikumu begins singing I find myself taken aback, pulled deep into my feelings. There’s a connection to the tone, the richness of her voice, the tradition of singers and singing she is bringing to life with such piercing confidence.
Her facial expressions tell you she knows exactly who she is when she is singing. There is no doubt, no reservation, no hesitation. She is a woman who knows her greatness, full stop.

I don’t need to see the audience’s response to know how I feel during these precious 5 minutes. Watching Sarah and her command of the stage are mesmerizing. She holds me and does not let go until the very last exhale of that song. My tears and heart swelling are the only natural responses.

For me this performance has everything to do with belief and being our full selves. Because Sarah does this so forcefully, she invites me to do the same: believe – and be my full self. To believe and be great. To believe and floor the audience. To believe and know that #BlackGirlMagic stands for me too, at 5 at 15, at 50.

Thank you, Sarah Ikumu, for sharing your particular magic and rekindling mine.