Tuesday, September 28, 2010
I love writing. I need to remind myself of this after spending several hours on technical academic writing, because for better or worse this type of writing is devoid of some of the authentic spark that I find the most exciting about the art of writing. Perhaps it is particularly challenging for a former want-to-be creative writing major and real world theater geek and closet poet to be forced into restrictive writing boxes. I truly love writing authentically and meaningfully. I am a self-proclaimed renaissance woman, a scholar in the big picture sense of the word. I seek to find connections between various domains and various contexts. I am a seeker of truth and higher understanding of the world around me. In order to communicate this knowledge with others in my chosen profession I must write in a strict formulaic fashion that I am bound and determined to accept with grace and gratitude, but some days I need to vent a bit about the confines of such a box. The voices of scholars in today's society are often over shadowed by far less informed voices in the mass media and in the broader digital media world. It is important that the informed and hopefully thoughtful voices of the scholars be heard authentically and clearly by the masses. We must be the loudest and most informed voices in order to counter-act the potential for scientific and artistic experts to be silenced by the din of the screaming radio hosts. So here in this blog and as much as I can as a scholar and citizen I want to work on having my voice heard in the discussions critical to my work and my life.
Monday, September 20, 2010
So sometimes I have to go into very dark places in my psyche in order to find clarity and make real progress. Perhaps out of a sense of perfectionism or a sense of general anxiety some of us need to enter the darkness of what if...and face the reality that the worst case scenario would not after all be the end of the world. Having to re-write something from the ground up is not the most terrible fate of anyone on the earth, it just can feel that way at times. Now instead of getting bogged down in the potential mental health implications of this phenomenon, I want to look at some of the potential benefits of such a process. By facing our fears and entering these dark places we are able to find clarity on our given situation and often regain perspective in general. The Yin and Yang of the universe dictate to us that their is always light and dark in any situation and in every day on earth. It is often in the dark hours that we are most motivated to seek out connection, the most willing to ask for help, and the most open to the synchronicity that the universe has to offer. I have confronted this in many circumstances in the past year of my life and I have finally come to a place of deep reflection about this phenomenon. In the past I might have been sucked down into a cycle of anxiety and doomsday thinking when waters in my life got a bit dark or rough, but life has offered me some beautiful opportunities to have support and a need to walk through (or swim through) the dark waters and find that there was in deed a rainbow at the other side that is often more colorful and dynamic then I could have possibly imagined. Rainbows are a great metaphor for what I am trying to get at, you need the water of the rain and the light of the sunshine in order to create a rainbow. The more the rain and sunshine are able to merge together the brighter and clearer the rainbow is to our perception. So instead of running away from the rain we find on the darkest hours of our lives sometimes walking into the rain allows us to see the rainbow that life has to offer. The rain is still wet, the night is still dark, but the possibility of literally finding a silver lining if we are willing to face the darkness is phenomenal. This lessons has come to me in many forms and in many places in my life, I just finally feel like I get it and the deeper spiritual purpose in it. We live in interesting times and this can be a curse as the ancient Chinese cure goes, or it can be an incredible blessing.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
So I was reading the cover story in this weeks Chronicle of Higher Education about why teaching is not the number one priority at institutions of Higher Education and it struck me that there is a whole lot missing from this and other media coverage of this topic. Having taught now at two institutions of higher education that do put teaching at the top of the priorities for faculty, I have some major concerns about how we define good or great teaching. As someone who believes in Action Teaching, Action Learning, and Action research I do not always win popularity contests with students who are expecting a lecture and exam model of college classes. As someone who makes mindful choices about my pedagogy and often selects critical and feminist pedagogy over anything close to traditional classroom structure it is not uncommon for me to have students feel off-balance for part of the semester, especially when they are asked to be agents in their own education. Having proven in two empirical studies that my students were learning as much or more in a general education class then students in the same class taught by an award winning professor who lectures and gives exams I wonder what it really is that we hope from higher education. I hope that colleges and universities are a place for critical and creative thinking. I hope that institutions of higher education are about expanding students and faculty horizons. I think and hope that Colleges and Universities are about creating thoughtful, well rounded, and innovative citizens. As an Educational Psychologist I have no problems with appropriate and dare I say authentic assessments of higher education, but I strongly disagree with standardizing higher education in terms of curriculum or assessments. If I happen to be teaching the "same" class as a colleague and their goal is to make sure the students memorize certain facts for an exam and my goal is to transform them as human beings, how in the world could we assess the two sections using the same metric. Many who are seeking more standardization and assessment of higher education would be more comfortable with my colleagues goals around concrete measurable outcomes, but I would argue that higher education at its best has the potential to transform the world we live in. So I hope there are enough of us who are passionate and idealistic enough still left in higher education to fight for the meta-level of powerful institutions of higher education that are driven by a dedication to transform lives and less about cranking out cogs for some metaphoric job market. Again I sign off by saying we need to be the change we want to be in this world (Ghandi) and I for one of dedicated to being a change agent who believes in the transformational power of education at all levels.
Friday, September 3, 2010
I have long said that I would not become a cynic. In fact I recall my freshman year at Oberlin College I had this long conversation with a senior at Oberlin who said I could not graduate from Oberlin without becoming a cynic about the world and the future. I remember telling him that I was a hopeful optimist who believed that there was the potential for the world to change for the better if more of us followed the lead of greats like Margaret Mead when she said "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." He countered that he firmly believed that my naivete would be shattered and I would become a cynic by the time I graduated. I promised him that I would find ways to remain hopeful and optimistic about the world and the potential for change for the better. I succeeded at maintaining that optimism and hope that I had as a starry eyed first year college student. I have seen my share of heartbreaking things in my life. I have had my heart broken several times personally and professionally. Yet I stand firmly by my belief that if those of us who are educated and idealistic can strive to "be the change we want to see in the world"(Ghandi) we can actually create a better world. One act at a time, we can create the momentum to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. I hope that the young man who was so convinced it was impossible to become well educated without becoming a cynic has found some ways to create a world he believes is more worthy of his hope and optimism. I have the same wish for so many of my idealistic and jaded friends I have met along the path of my journey. We all can create a better world if we work together and believe that there is potential in humanity for real change.