Friday, February 19, 2016

On Getting Accepted to Grad School.. Again

So I was accepted to graduate school. Again.

Earlier this academic year, I'd looked into some doctoral programs. The idea really excited me, but being the mom of two teenagers is an expensive proposition - especially on an educator's salary. So I figured I'd scale back. That dream can wait a little longer...

I finished my Masters' when my youngest was one. He' about to turn 15, so that was a while ago. And now I shall get another one.

Yes, I learn all day. Yes, I actively seek new knowledge from colleagues, students, parents, mentors, conferences and Twitter. I read all the time. Ask questions. Wonder. Ponder. Think. It's a good life.

But I would be lying if the schoolgirl within - who always dreamed of being a teacher and loved being a student - isn't jumping up and down today. She knows the value of being in class, of asking questions, stretching her thinking and muscling through required readings. It was for her that I decided to do this. And so, today, we both are glad.

Friday, February 12, 2016

I Have Something to Say

My oldest son is on the autism spectrum. For the first several years of his life, he had no language. We communicated through signs, pictures, pointing, crying and codes. It was hard and there was a lot of guessing on my part. But as frustrating as it was for me, I am certain that it was torture for him. He had something to say - always - and no opportunity to say it.

This post, however, is not about my family's journey through the delights of autism. Whether or not we are verbal or non-verbal, we all have something to say. Sometimes our somethings are funny. Sometimes they communicate need. Often, we have something to say that lets other know what and how we are thinking. Having watched my boy struggle to say his somethings has taught me the value of voice. Whether our something is insightful, ridiculous, mundane or meaningful, we all must have the opportunity to say it.

Last night, I was at a parent meeting hosted by the school district that my younger son attends. It was very informative and shared with parents the importance of allowing our children to make mistakes and fail. The meeting was mostly leader directed, with a few opportunities for sharing and discussion. After the content and research were covered, the leader opened the floor up for questions. Nearly every hand went up because we all had something to say. I had hoped to be home by 8pm, but the discussion kept us there for much longer - so long, in fact, that I wondered why more sharing time had not been built into the agenda.

As educators, we know that value of providing students the opportunity to say something. While there are still students in many classrooms who lack the opportunity to speak and discuss their ideas, our basic models of education are moving in better directions to allow individuals to say something.

As a teacher and facilitator of adult learning, I know the risk of allowing people to say something. People make off-topic comments, they try to change the subject, they don't always take the opportunity to listen to other because they are too busy formulating their next comment - I get it. There are pitfalls to an open forum.

Even so, last night I was struck by the powerful need of parents to ask questions, make connections and share experiences. These are the ultimate goals for saying something: to connect with others and to have your voice be heard.

In my house, our lives changed for the better when we ALL could say something. Instead of pointing, crying or guessing, our voices were heard. No, we don't always say wise, kind or meaningful things. Sometimes we repeat ourselves or change the subject. But always we have the opportunity to say something and have it be heard.

Is it possible to give more people in the school community greater opportunities to share and be heard? Without question. The challenge is for us to relinquish our control and offer chances for others to speak, lead and be heard.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Intuition or Unconscious Bias?

About 18 months ago I overheard an idea at a work event. Without going into the gory details of the comment, the idea surrounded the sustainability of the school at which I was working. I found the idea terribly uncomfortable and couldn't wrap my head around it. My intuition led me to believe that the speaker's slant or bias was coloring her comments.

Unsure of how to process this info, I consulted with some folks - our head of school, a donor, some colleagues and a few students (disguising the idea as a hypothetical situation, of course). I received a variety of different ideas and opinions, but was still fairly stuck in my own thinking. Despite what I gleaned from others, I was pretty sure this idea was a bad one.

Recently, I had a reversal in my thinking. In the process of changing my mind, I realized something important: Even though I was going through the motions of evaluating the idea, I was clinging dearly to my own opinion. Call it arrogance, stubbornness, close-mindedness or a combination of all three.

This was a good lesson for me. I have always claimed to be fairly open minded and willing to consider diverse ideas, but in this case - and perhaps many others - I was seeking information, but adhering to my own ideas and relying on my "intuition."

This raises a few questions:

  • How often do we think we are relying on intuition when we are actually letting our bias get in the way of clarity? 
  • What is the connection between intuition and bias? 
  • And if we rely too heavily on our own "intuition," how are we expanding our own thinking?
As we maneuver decision making and progress, it is essential that we evaluate the ideas of others while at the same time we are being honest and reflective about our own thinking. Are we holding fast to our ideas because they are valid or because our we are thinking narrowly? Do we allow our "intuition" to be influenced by our unconscious bias? And - most importantly - how to be minimize the connection between intuition and bias?