Marica's meanderings

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Questions

For a while now I have been grappling with my growing unease with traditional education and my own role within it. I know that the systems and processes behind it all have good intentions but somehow their translation into reality doesn’t seem to work so well for the learners of today. Or is it simply that the wheels of change don't move fast enough to meet the needs of a world undergoing change at rather a dramatic rate?

As an educator I feel I spend more time trying to ensure my learners complete their course, because funding is dependent on it, rather than focusing on the learning and my own “teaching”. None of this is new – there is always some pressure that takes you away from what you really want to spend your time and energy on. Yet there seems to be a widespread dissatisfaction creeping in everywhere. Everyone around me is stressed and so am I. I keep wondering about how to change this? We are led to believe the answer is to create a work/life balance. Have you tried to do this? It certainly isn’t as easy as it is made out to be and is this necessarily the answer. Doing the work you love isn’t work and yet how many of us can truly say we love what we are being paid to do.

I love being a part of the process of developing people to be more than they believe themselves capable of being. Do I manage to achieve this in my practice? Do my learners feel excited and engaged? Do I inspire them in any way? Are they motivated in their learning because of their love of what they are doing or is it merely something they are required to do for their work or to please other people?

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about flow as:

The state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

I am currently grappling with how to live and work on a daily basis in a state of flow.

The other night I read Jay Cross’s blog entry entitled Natural Learning. This is an extract from it:

this learning comes from deep inside
it makes you feel right with the world
you're thinking without thinking
your mind has a mind of its own
it knows what to do
you let it do its thing

it's making connections
traveling new paths
matching patterns
putting things together
learning

you can't force it
you must simply be open to it
there's no secret formula
it comes when you merge with everything around you

enlightenment comes
when you're ready

I strongly recommend taking the time to read the full version of Jay’s reflection. I found his final comment particularly significant:

I asked my son if he ever stopped to smell the roses.
"I don't have the time," he replied.

This spoke to me on so many levels and I really identified with Jay’s ideas on learning at this most basic level – in connection with nature. Let’s face it, nature has been around a lot longer that we have. I know when I need to de-stress I seek out the sea. I am fortunate to be surrounded by sea. I look at our stunning harbour as I drive to work every morning and it always inspires me. Everyday it is different. Some days I am blown away by its beauty. Other days it is like a raging, angry beast.

My husband, Lynsey Gedye, took some wonderful photos on a recent visit to the beach where we walked, pondered and refreshed our weary bodies. We both feel so battle scarred by the daily grind.

Stacking stonesLynsey writes an interesting viewpoint on Stacking rocks.

Someone else that I read regularly who is also feeling the pressure is Danny Gregory. You will need to scroll down to the entry dated 11 August Refreshed by Jobs.

I am exhausted today. I feel too many wheels spinning, too many things for me to do all of them as well as I'd like, too many things I am too deeply into to walk away from, too many possibilities for failure. I decided to stop long enough to sift through email I hadn't gotten around to. It just seemed like something concrete to accomplish, checking off something. Anyway, a few emails down, I found the following, sent to me by Frank B. It made me think and feel a little rejuvenated. It may do the same for you.

He then provided the text of a commencement address given by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computers and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005. I suggest you read the whole speech but here is a snippet – I certainly found it motivating.

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Lots of food for thought.

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