Monday, July 14, 2014

Process Thinking...process OF thinking...process the think-ing

As the calendar creeps closer to pre-planning days, I have been reflecting on my "summer" and the range of emotions it has unexpectedly evoked. I often say to my family that I wish my brain had an on/off switch. I spend all of my waking (and non-waking) hours analyzing, noticing patterns, consciously thinking, thinking, thinking. As a goal driven list-maker, I had specific intentions for my time away from the classroom. But one connection led to another, which led to another, and another -- interconnected learning never ceases. The Language Arts teacher in me is having a tough time letting that last sentence live with two dashes rather than the more appropriate semicolon or period, but it seems fitting given the intended meaning and visual imagery it induces.

I've experienced moments of great frustration that I feel the need to so fully embrace the CL world and the multitude of opportunities it presents. Another person might be perfectly comfortable merely to dip a toe in the water for now, then add a little bit later on, and so on. I don't seem capable of that behavior. Once I signed up, joined, registered, followed the chats and links, I was all in. This was an exciting adventure that I found easy, intuitive to explore. A new app? OK, I'll try it! A great web based tool for presentations? Sure, why not? I can give my students more options if I know they are available.

But then resentment set in.

Why would self-directed learning affect my emotions in a negative way? I'm a positive person, I think. No happy-go-lucky-everything-is-beautiful, but also not a Debbie Downer. Perhaps I feel I am being controlled rather than being able to control my precious time. I sense a pressure to "finish" before pre-planning so I can begin the year "ready".

Hold that thought and bear with me as I share a moment of beauty.

On my way to run an errand, I recognized Copeland's Appalachian Spring on Performance Today. I could name that tune in three notes! (If you understood that reference, I know how old you are.) 'Tis a Gift to be Simple touches me in some deep unknown place anyway, but just as the Aspen Festival Ensemble's notes swelled, a bird's flight path moved across my line of vision in perfect curve with the arc of the melody. It was as if it had been choreographed just for me. My thoughts, blessedly, took a different turn - from brooding about my to-do list, to thinking about curves and cosines, and the beauty of music and math, and the gorgeous lines of a bird's aerodynamic body, and the sweet notes that come from such a small creature. And, as often happens in the process of driving, or showering, or just before waking, in the alpha brain wave cycle, I made my most intuitive connection in learning.

I'm still ingrained in the "product" mode rather than the "process" mode. What a critical recognition this is! Therein lies my challenge. Once I acknowledged that the learning will never be finished, my shoulders dropped, and I began to relax (well, a little bit, anyway). I know that my students, too, are accustomed to the product methodology of "How we used to teach." It will be up to me to recognize that the discomfort in them AND me is coming from a place of cognitive dissonance with the paradigm shift. Whatever learning I have completed by the time those joyful, smiling faces arrive (I mean the students, not the parents who are dropping them off, but if the shoe fits...) will be enough. I have already packed an incredible amount of learning into these last 4 1/2 weeks. I feel accomplished, eager, and invigorated. I've also fulfilled my need as an artist to create during these weeks. I've created a variety of Zentangles in mandala form (great for unwinding)- slideshow below, as well as made other beautiful pieces of art this summer, both digitally and traditionally. I've made invaluable connections with other educators of all levels, and have read several books that have informed my thought processes.

Once again, I am glad that the teacher (me) has experienced what the students will encounter. I will be authentically honest when I say, "I know how you feel. Frustrating isn't it? But you know what? It is a good sign. You are learning."

Mandala Zentangles and Vision - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires