Preparing for #NAISPoCC 2017

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This year I have a head start. A couple of days to adjust to a 9 hour time difference and some good solid thinking time before the start of the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference. The pre-conference seminars will be in session on Wednesday and the official conference opening will take place on Thursday morning. On the PoCC website and in the conference program there are plenty of tips about how best to get ready for three jam-packed days of workshops, affinity group meetings, informal networking and social events throughout.

Thinking about my own insecurities and question marks heading into this good-sized event that is not like any other education conference I attend, I came up with this alternative list of points to consider.

  • Expect to arrive more than once.  PoCC as an identity-based conference means that beyond managing the usual scheduled sessions and social gatherings, “showing up” takes on a whole new meaning. From one hour to the next, I have found PoCC to be flurry of shifting contexts which means that we can and likely will arrive multiple times in different ways in the course of the next days.

 

  • Consider your why before you jump into the stream. Try asking yourself some of these questions before you start your conference days: What brings you to PoCC (again)? What are you looking forward to? What kind of connections are you eager to make? What kinds of risks do you anticipate for yourself? How do you want to leave the conference? Any chance to reflect in advance can help smooth our transition from fresh arrival to fully engaged contributor.

 

  • Allow space for disorientation and emotionality. PoCC is designed to provide a crucial space for educators of color to look at who we are and explore what that means for our practice. The conference is a rare and precious opportunity to do this in community of various configurations. It also means that we may find ourselves touched in deeper ways than usual, that we see ourselves in a different light or that we share stories we don’t even remember holding. All these things are possible. And it is precisely in these moments that each of us makes the conference our very own. That’s powerful. And it may also be intense or draining or overwhelming at points, hence one final suggestion:

 

  • Carve out some alone time if you need it. Don’t feel that you need to make every session. Do what you can and when the time comes, rest. Walk outside or continue the deep conversation you just started. This is also critical to being at and creating PoCC – taking care of ourselves and each other along the way.

PoCC offers us so much and also demands a great deal of us professionally and personally. Liza Talusan who, like me, will be blogging during the conference captures the spirit of what makes PoCC a key experience for many independent school educators of color. She writes:

At PoCC, I get to be myself.

I get to be in community of other people of color who, too, are tired of making themselves smaller, invisible and palatable for others. I am surrounded by people who wait an entire year for PoCC just to be heard and to be in the majority. I am in the presence of brilliance at PoCC.

For me, attending a conference whose membership numbers more that a couple thousand produces more than a little anxiety. I love people but try as much as possible to avoid crowds; I enjoy talking one-on-one but tend to go silent when so many are gathered together. Even knowing that I am ‘among friends,’ the degree of isolation I can experience when we are all assembled in a large hall often surprises me anew. So as I post these ideas for others, I am also writing them very much for myself.

More than being at PoCC, I look forward to showing up, fully and unapologetically me, and building that crucial community, one connection at a time.

 

If you’re at PoCC and you’d like to chat about blogging, or Physical Education, or teaching abroad or digital privacy/security/surveillance or any other topic under the sun, please come find me. I’ll be presenting a session of building and sustaining community with the fabulous Min Pai on Friday 11:15-12:15  Room 209A. You can also find me on Twitter, @edifiedlistener

image via Pixabay.com CC0

The Unsettled Here and Now

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I’m going to get personal for a minute here.

Sometimes I can be particularly observant of what’s going on around me and also in me. At present it feels like my powers of observation are a little out of whack. And I think this has to do with my increased traffic on social media platforms.

Since the US Presidential election, I’ve delved more deeply into my online engagements. Twitter has become my primary news source as well as my go-to space for a sense of community in troubled times. As incredibly grateful as I feel for the tremendous wealth of good will, necessary political resistance, and human warmth I experience, I also recognize the slow drain on my attentional and emotional resources.

Every day and on every tweet that I raise my #resist flag, I know this is what I must do, at the very least. I have picked a side and it happens to be against the incoming administration and majority aggressively Republican legislature. Even though I am geographically very distant, I experience the sense of dangerous and targeted upheaval on a very personal level. I fear for individuals as well as systems. And as I watch a group of overwhelmingly white, straight, so-called Christian males parade before multiple TV cameras and announce their policy plans, I feel sickened to know how quickly the country will likely find itself flat on its back not knowing how it got there.

I fear for our individual and collective exposure through our very willing and often enthusiastic embrace of digital tools and platforms which offer us convenience, speed, and seemingly unlimited choice. We are, at the same time, in fairly constant danger of becoming hostages of all the data we give away daily. With our clicks and instrumentalized acquiescence, we have created our most sophisticated and unforgiving monsters yet, which still maintain a miraculously rosy veneer of being society’s new great helpers.

All told, I’m feeling a lot of fear.

At my core I am an educator. My dialogues with students provide some of the richest contours to my thinking and doing. I look forward to starting classes soon in order to get grounded again; to be brought back to my core mission of helping students “Get fit, get better, and get along.”  We’ll have conversations about how we include, nurture, challenge and respect each other. They will remind me about the importance of fair play and being kind to one another. They will remind me to keep working on being my best. Perhaps more than at any other time in my teaching career, creating a classroom where fairness, openness and care are built into everything we do is the most important work I can do – for my students and for myself.

 

image: Spelic/@edifiedlistener

Importance Resizing

I started to write a post about my wonderful winter break and how restorative it was for me. How nice.  Then I realized what’s really on my mind is this:  While I was away having my break of breaks from work, from compulsive expository writing, from shallow reading trying to pass as close reading, from competitive scrolling, from toggling between e-mail and twitter notifications to see which one is most up-to-date, I reached this searing conclusion: Twitter does not care if I contribute or lurk, go AWOL or stay glued to my screen.  Twitter did not miss me while I was away. And to my great surprise, I didn’t miss Twitter so much, either.

Let me be clear, I am not talking about a digital detox or full scale time out. I had internet access most of the time. However, being away from home and from my laptop and my typical online habits, I regained a distance to my work and my sense of self-importance. Because, let’s be honest, social media can be an amazing tool to help you inflate your sense of self-importance to improbable magnitudes. Not just your followers, but their followers and their followers’ followers – all have the potential to be touched by that clever witticism you tweeted that got retweeted 3 or even 5 times – now that’s reach!  My point here is that being away from the steady shower of critical thinkpieces, longreads, pithy commentary and swift actionable tips helped me appreciate that the parts of social media that I value can be enjoyed in smaller, more targeted doses.

I can also see that life’s other occupations: making good on my speedskating intentions, playing card and board games with friends and family, crocheting until the cows come home (looking for a new scarf), solving puzzles, staring out the window, taking pictures of fog – these are precisely the luxuries that social media cannot provide. They are the tangibles which in my case yielded significant intangibles: rest, recuperation, relaxation, renewal.

The ice, the fog, the peace...

The ice, the fog, the peace…

Social media has plenty to offer me and others. And this organic time-out helped me put things back into perspective. I have some thoughts to share. I look forward to continuing and expanding my learning with and from so many others. But I think I’ll be happier in the process if I leave behind the need to create and be a brand. I am not a commodity. My voice is not here to sell or be sold.  How much I share, in which intensity and tone, will vary. I don’t know exactly who my audience is or will be and that’s okay. I know what I want to write about, what I need and want to say and if that resonates with one or two or fifty folks, then great.

Being away from the keyboard gave me pause, both literal and figurative. And in that time I certainly did a more thorough appraisal of possible exit strategies than ever. Deciding to be here (or not be here) is always a choice.

Photo: Spelic 2015