Archive for the 'Life' Category

Critical Engagement on Both Sides

This is my third Faculty Academy (I can’t believe it!) and even in the three short years I have seen a progression and trend in thinking.

I see both professors and students thinking even more critically about the integration and intersection of technology and pedagogy. There is classroom implementation of amazing projects and idea in all disciplines and students are responding in awesome ways; it is making my head spin. There is bold experimentation, failures and successes, creativity and numerous other adjectives that can describe the work Mary Washington faculty, staff, and students are doing. This is a wonderful place to be and I feel incredibly lucky and honored I get to learn from and be a part of such a wonderful community.

It gives me great joy to see professors being so thoughtful and innovative. It gives me even greater joy to see students come to a new understanding of their learning and actually caring about it.


Teach Me Meaning Making

“We’ve got information in the information age. But do we know what life is outside of our convenient lexus cages?”
-Switchfoot ‘Gone’

All of this is a plea, a desire, a timid question, and confession.

Why has it taken so long for school to teach me meaning making? The how of pulling at information and weaving it together in a deeper understanding.

I have grown up in a world that is over-flowing with information and has taught me few skills on how to filter it all. Maybe I was born at an inconvenient time, a point in history where the world is working out what it means to have almost the whole world at our fingertips.

Post-Katrina School Bus by <a href=Through years of excessive information I’ve grown an intolerance and my palate for the rich taste of knowledge has grown dull. Yes, there can be too much of a “good thing”. Even when information is served in a unique way I’m often too jaded to savor it or care. This is not intended to be an excuse or a whining cry of a “net-gen” student, but an attempt at an honest confession by one 21 year old. I’ll admit to being an under-achieving student, the bane of some professors existence and yes I do regret not working harder in some classes. I’ll also admit I often don’t care when a professor tests me on pure information, on my ability to regurgitate, because those tests are almost always easier than other options and require little engagement from me.

How do I reconcile my belief in education and real school and my praxis that seems to rarely reflect that? Why do I even care when I could slide by? Why do I want to take the “long way around”? It makes no logical sense in the setting of school. I do not play by the rules of the game and suffer for it.

I do not want to conform to the patterns of this world, I want to be transformed through the renewing of my mind through a different model of thinking and learning. Teach me meaning making and I can go forth and do more than just be a passive observer. I can’t do this on my own though, this adventure was never meant to be a solitary journey. I am meant to be a caravanista traveling through time with you, measuring time and being measured by it. I want to do something of value in this short time span we call life. Is that too much to ask for?

Begin Again

I’m sure thousands of blog posts about the Inauguration will be going up soon and are being published as I type. They will be posts brimming with joy no doubt, as they should be. Comments on Obama’s inspiring speech and inspiring it was.

But don’t forget that the hard work begins now. Our new President cannot do this alone and I urge us to take advantage of the sense of unity and love that overwhelms us all now. I challenge us all to think and speak out loud what we will do to make this nation and our world a better place. Not just fleeting ideas on how we have to do something about global warming or about world poverty, but concrete actions you will personally take. It doesn’t have to be anything large, but the small little things put together with others makes a difference.

So in the coming days I will put up what my plans are at the advent of this new administration. We all have different interests and passions, let others know it and tell them what you are doing and how they can help. Lets keep each other accountable about this and put aside fear about offending people when we call them out. Please call me out if I forget to blog  about my plan of action.

Lets make all those times we said, “Yes We Can” mean something!

The First

Happy New Year everyone! Here is the first post of 2009 on the first day of 2009.

Last years resolution to blog daily failed spectacularly around February I believe, but I got a lot out of it for the time I did. It pushed me to be creative and put those half-finished thoughts out there, make a mess.

I have more to say, but right now I am battling a cold that won’t let me go.  So there are resolutions to come and more thoughts that have been in pieces in my brain that I hope to get out there.

For now I am drinking my tea and watching old home videos. It is a good life.

Breaking the Silence

This semester my blog has been fairly silent. A lot of the silence stems from the embarrassment and anger I felt over losing my campus job at DTLT. Its a long story but because I did not meet satisfactory academic progress for campus employment this past semester; I could not work or receive federal financial aid. So it has been a tough semester financially and my ego took a bruising too.

After losing my job I was forced to reflect on my reasons for being at college. I’ve known for some time now that I have very little interest in academics and have a tough time motivating myself to do work in classes. The question, ” then why am I at college?” has been asked many times. And truthfully I don’t know how to answer that in a non-complicated way. But there are a lot of things I do enjoy at college and I have learned a lot. So for the moment that is just alright.

I learned a lot this semester about doing things you don’t want to do (and the consequence of not doing such things), but I’ll admit that this might be the semester when I learned the least about the course material. I was stressed about getting good enough grades and about being a student that I lost interest in actually learning the material in favor for old methods of playing the system that would help me just get through. As it turns out I didn’t really have the fortitude to go through the motions the whole way through and just ended up sputtering to the end of the semester. Yeah, a terrible idea, I know. So I spent most of the semester feeling like a fraud and any motivation I had to write in this space was just gone.

But now the semester has passed, I have limped across the finish line and have decided to move on. More outlandish thoughts and more nonsense. Maybe I didn’t keep that new years promise to blog everyday, but perhaps in the last few days of 2008 I can overload everyones feed reader and come close to 365. Too much? You decide.

shattered memory” originally uploaded by millicent_bystander

Lifting My Head

Last school year, hyped up on new ideas and excitement, I took on my sophomore year with a new found fervor for learning. I spent plenty of time learning about subjects that interested me, often forgetting to do the work for classes I was enrolled in. Clearly the consequences of such a route are obvious and I was left with the bitter taste of failure.

Now it is junior year, another year to try again, another year to find balance.

This may be the year I learn a little bit of discipline when it comes to my studies. As it turns out you have to abide by some rules of the game to stay in it. Armed with this new found duh-knowledge, I’m in search of balancing work and play. In an odd way I’m curious to see what will come of learning to schedule myself and finishing work in a timely manner. This may sound strange but, it is something I’ve never had to do up until this point in my life, so I feel a little behind the curve.

But now that I’ve had my head down in the books for the first 5 weeks of class, I can finally take a moment to pick up my head. But like a student who has stared at a book for too long, my eyesight has yet to adjust to seeing farther distances. While I have been reflecting on course material and the seemingly myriad of connections between many classes (gotta love those serendipitous moments) I haven’t reflected much on a broader view of education.

If “education is a process of living and not a preparation for future living”*, why is it so easy to forget in college? I need not state the obvious answers, but I think something is deeply wrong with a system that separates education and living in the real world. And if students and employers complain that colleges haven’t prepared students for the real world, what has all this education prepared them for?

More thoughts as my brain gets back into the swing of this blog thing again : )

*Awesome quotage cred goes to John Dewey

I’m Leaving For Camp, or, They’ve Finally Sent Me to an Asylum

“It was when I was happiest that I longed most…The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
– C.S. Lewis

I’m getting ready to start my month long disconnection from the internet and cell service. I will be serving on the kitchen summer staff at a camp in NY and without the outside distractions I’ll have the whole month to focus on the task at hand. I’m very excited about this opportunity to meet new people and form a community around a vision shared by all those who are serving.

It will also be a time to mull over many ideas and work out problems that have needed closer analysis for some time. I suppose I will be journaling the old-fashion way too, where is that pen and paper?

At this moment I know something is not right and the forces of the universe are nudging me to listen closely for an answer. It is not that I am not happy, in fact I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time and I am learning to find that deep abiding joy – “satisfaction is a lowly thing, how pure a thing is joy” – and I have many of you to thank for that.

So what is this post about? Well to be honest, I haven’t a clue and I hope its not just me wanting to hear myself blather on into the vast expanses of the internet. I feel like there are questions I am supposed to be asking, but I don’t even know what they are and that makes it very difficult to find the answers. Maybe I am making an odyssey that will bring me right back to where I started and at the end of the journey Ithaka will hold a different meaning for me. Maybe I’m finally just starting to lose it. In any case I’m about to embark on a month long excursion mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

Now comes for the random part of the post where I ask a possibly unreasonable response that may lead many of you to believe I am losing it (which again may be true). Below I am going to put my address at camp and if you feel so inclined you can send me something and I will send something back. And while a well written letter is always appreciated I think it would be more fun receive letters that are outside the ordinary. Send pictures, poems, articles, or leaves I don’t really care! Maybe I’ll send you something back that someone sent to me, share the love, ya know? Make it crazy, fun, and playful – I want to see what if anything will come out of this experiment.  Maybe it is stupid experiment, but I feel life needs to be more random and unpredictable.

“No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of the planets.

Nothing in them is not particular,
and planet is dissimilar to planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity,
obscurity is not uninteresting.”

Camp Address:
Shannon Hauser
Summer Staff
Young Life’s Lake Champion
247 Mohican Lake Road
Glen Spey, New York 12737

The Long Way Around, or, One in a Series of Faculty Academy Posts

This year is my second time attending Faculty Academy and once again I am not disappointed. There is always so much information to synthesize and I find myself wanting to integrate it all and not lose any of it. I took copious notes from the various sessions and now I find myself swimming in a sea of information, where do I even begin? That is a good question so I think I’ll start haphazardly typing and see what happens. I have that feeling there will be multiple blog posts, especially once others start blogging their experiences there will be plenty to talk about.

In order to really understand how things have changed for me from last year I will have to talk about the year in between so bear with me while I recap, give some thanks, and reflect a little. As I began the fall 2007 semester I was excited (really really excited) for my new job at DTLT. I had no idea what I was getting into, I just knew that it was where I wanted to be. I learned a lot about myself that fall semester as I frantically tried to keep up with the pace of school work, my campus job, extracurricular activities, and my own personal demons. One place I could always go to to recharge my batteries was DTLT and I feel beyond lucky that they haven’t gotten sick of me yet. I don’t think many people can say that work is the place they get to feel re-energized and again I am blessed to work with some of the best people I have ever known.

Over the year I have often had that feeling of being the little kid dressing up in their parents wardrobe, wearing clothing and shoes many sizes too big. I have also felt like that younger sibling who likes to tag along with their cooler older sibling. I work in an environment where I get to “dress up” and “tag along” and not feel foolish for being unsure or not nearly as knowledgeable. During Janet Murray’s keynote lecture at Faculty Academy she discussed the importance of imitation as a means of connecting and the pleasure found in shared pattern imitation. I know how valuable this has been for me as I watch the people I work with and see how they approach the world. It is not just seeing them perform their jobs and their demonstration of the skills they have, but how they live out their lives. In many ways I try to model myself after them and learn from them in whatever way I can, they have been an invaluable part of my growth as an adult this past year. I genuinely look up to the people I work with and as I am sure I have said on many occasions I am beyond blessed that I have the relationship that I do with all of them. I’m not just learning skills at my job, I am taking away life lessons. Have I mentioned how lucky I am?

Academically speaking it has not been an easy year, although the spring was much better. My freshman year I had the benefit of being relatively anonymous so making mistakes was mostly mine to dwell on, but as the year has progressed and my academic life has become more exposed, my failings and mistakes have become more visible. I have often been left feeling embarrassed and ashamed of my poor performance. I’ve had those moments of ‘impostor student syndrome’ where I feel that I am really not quite as good as people would like to think I am and by practically proving myself right in the fall semester I’ve taken a few knocks to my self-esteem. What has not changed though is my underlying faith in learning and “real school”, it has been a constant thread over the last year and has helped me keep focus when I got caught up in the dispair of performing poorly in a class. There is also many other people to thank for helping me not completely recede into the corner I am rather fond of and I hope I have made it clear to them their importance in my education and life.

I could give a lengthy dissertation on all the small and big things that have happened that have molded me this year, but this post is already getting long enough and it isn’t necessary to know it all in order to understand my mindset. Certain things have become clear to me over the past year and one of the most important (if not the most) is the community, the shared sense of play. Another is the importance of having the scaffolding of knowledge to build to greater heights and play in those really cool sandboxes. Third, is to “go boldly” and address those underlying fears that prevent me from being adventurous. Lastly, the importance of having the imagination and the readiness to be imaginative and make connections so that we make the best use of our community, build well in those sand boxes, and boldly take on our fears.

More to come of course and I suppose I will actually talk about Faculty Academy in those future posts.

Life Is An Interesting Narrative

As I was reading through new blog post on the UMWblogs site, I found this one titled “A Story Everywhere”. Right away the title has my attention and at the first line I am hooked:

“The simple truth of the matter is that people fascinate me.”

The post is a brief story about the author’s interaction with a cashier, named Dawn, at the Giant. I recommend reading it, it is not too long, and it manages to fit a lot into a short post. Here is just an excerpt:

I was thinking about Dawn, my Dawn, my fast cashier, and her life in New Mexico, and ’how did she end up here?’ and ‘why would anybody want 4 loafs of bread at once?’ In that moment I realized for the first time that Dawn had a story. She had hopes, dreams, fears; she became real to me, more real than our autopilot interactions of the past 6 or so months.

The author brings it home at the end with:

My experience today with Dawn served as a simple reminder that everyone has something to say, and perhaps something to teach you. We as artists(or individuals) can never stop learning. It is the single most fundamental and necessary part of our art; we must always find new ideas in people, and learn from them.

I love moments like this and when someone can put it into words well I soak it up in all its extraordinary ordinariness.

So in the spirit of ordinary moments I will briefly share something that happened to me a few months ago that I recalled while reading the previously mentioned post.

It was back in the fall semester when I was in a real deep funk. I went to my car to drive around and maybe stop at the store, but mostly I drove so I could have a private place to feel frustrated and defeated. While I was out I stopped at the Walmart and I silently walked the aisles looking for something I can’t remember. As I was standing in the the school supply aisle a lady approached me. She did not speak English very well, but she asked if I could help her find school supplies for her child. She pointed to the list that she held, indicating what she needed to find. Despite my mood, I willingly obliged to help her find the items. After I would pull the item off the shelf I would point to what it was on the list so she could diligently cross it out. When we had finished and we parted ways I could not help, but wonder about the women I had just helped. How long had she been in the country? What must it be like to struggle to find school supplies for your child because you don’t know the language of your new country? Many thoughts were racing through my head and because of that moment I felt grounded again. I was connected to the world around me, a world that is far more complex then my small little existence.


As I was strolling around the hallways of the internet I saw Barbara Ganley’s latest blog post. Her J-term class is experimenting with writing 100 words a day about a specific topic. And needing things to write about I thought hey, why not? This will also be a good lesson in brevity, which I am not so good at. So here goes my first attempt and if you couldn’t guess from the title the topic is furniture.

The day we rid the basement of the flower patterned couch with foam padding bursting from the seams, I quietly mourned the loss. The couch was older than me, full of memories of birthdays past. But no memories of sleepovers and parties were the reasons for my sentimentality. Its importance could be found in the latent memories of my father and the evenings we spent there, talking about the day and seizing the day. And that moment I realized he would not see the coming spring, he held me closely as I sobbed uncontrollably, the couch soaking up my tears.

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