Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who else is sensing a theme here?

Exhibit A :  I don't know the answers, but it turns out the experts in the field don't either. Not because they haven't tried, but because it's that complicated and messy.

Exhibit B : Just don’t make this about some magic set of rules that are going to make your classroom perfect. Guess what? That will never happen. Stop looking. Education is always going to be ugly.

Exhibit C : Let it be clear that there is nothing magical that I am doing. There is no algorithm. I don’t woo them in with some charm and they are all of a sudden amazing students.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Union

This summer I am very purposefully avoiding thinking about work. A break seems crucial and necessary. I can't really explain why. I can't think about work. I don't want to think about work. My brain and body rebel at the notion of thinking about work. When people on Twitter start talking about the minutiae of their grading systems, I have to close the laptop and leave the room. This is the first time I've begun summer feeling like this. Maybe I will understand it better when I come out the other side.

One of the things I've been doing instead is attending Bikram yoga practice. The executive summary of Bikram is: very hot room, an hour and a half, same difficult 26 poses in the same order every time, lots of sweat. I've gone every day. I am shooting for thirty days in a row. My everything hurts.

But as you've probably guessed, despite my determination to think about other things for six weeks, aphorisms from Bikram apply without editing to a teaching practice. This is just me writing some of them down.

Everything matters. At yoga, which direction your fingers are pointing and where your eyes are focused matter. At school, where you stand, how long you pause, and the numbers you choose for every problem matter.

...but don't be too serious about it. Wink at yourself in the mirror.

Many teachers is better than one teacher. At yoga, I haven't had the same instructor twice. They lead you through the same poses, but the individuals are all different and equally awesome. This one told me to point my tailbone at the floor so that I really felt my spine lengthen, that one told me to press my chin into my chest. At school you can and should engage all the students in helping teach the course. This goes to deep, philosophical methods by which you approach instruction with collaborative problem solving, and the surface of how you structure practice activities.

Push yourself, try your best, and aim for perfection. At yoga, you can move a half inch deeper into the pose on the next breath. You can inhale another sip of air when your lungs are full up. At school, you can pick one student in each class you haven't talked to this week and ask them about their sport/hobby/pet.

...but be gentle and forgiving, and kinder to yourself than you think you deserve.

...and then let it go. Did you fall out of standing bow? Twice? It's over now. Let it go. One of the instructors says this and it's awesome: "Exhale...set you free." Did something go down at school you could have handled better? Acknowledge, learn, let it go.

If you are doing something mentally and physically demanding, don't forget to eat and drink enough water. Or you will feel like crap.  At school, sometimes I am feeling cranky in the late afternoon and realize I haven't had any water all day.  The consequences are a bit more extreme at Bikram: dizziness, nausea, feeling faint.

Finally, I took a picture of their poster, which might make a cute WCYDWT. What are they trying to maximize or promote with this pricing scheme? You'd probably want to hide that bottom part at first.