To dream the impossible dream

 

My dream is to have flexibility with my nemesis, time.  I want to continue to learn more about technology and scheduling options so that I can support learning 24/7 for my students and myself.  I don’t want to be locked into class periods and semesters.  I want my courses to be responsive enough to support continuous student growth.  Google docs is one of my  strategies now, but I’m looking for more ideas.  Until then, I’m dreaming the impossible dream.

 

When you wish upon a star

 

From a young age I was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  As with most, my answer changed regularly.  Then high school came.  At this point, I had to decide upon a dream.  Then college started, I was encouraged, maybe even expected, to make my dream a reality.  At this point, I thought I wanted to be a medical doctor.  I grew up in a small town.  I loved school.  I was a certified nursing assistant in our small rural hospital.  I started college by majoring in psychology with the intent to apply to medical school.

Then life happened. College started.  I joined clubs, continued working to finance my degree, made friends, and my interests changed.  I stuck with my dream of going to medical school through the end of my sophomore year.  This is when I learned I could work in a college for the rest of my life.  Somehow this dream took priority over my dream of being a doctor.  Some may say I gave up on my dream.  Others know dreams change as we change.  So did I give up?  Did I find a new dream?  I’m still not sure.

In America we grow up being told we can be anything we want to be.  In reality, our choices lead us closer or farther away from our dreams.  We make choices based upon what is important to us.  Some days I know I choose work over learning sciences.  Other days I think I did not have this choice.  If I gave up on work, I would have been homeless.  I, like so many college students, financed my own college education.  Thankfully I had a scholarship to cover tuition.  I needed money for housing, food, and books.  Some may ask, “well why didn’t you just borrow money?”  I can honestly say that I thought I would need to wait to borrow money once I got to medical school.  So I didn’t want to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a high level of debt.  So my dream changed.

Looking back, I know that my story is not much different from others.  We can dream a good dream.  We are told to dream big.  Dreams provide hope and inspiration.  When we reach our dreams we develop a sense of satisfaction, confidence, and pride.  Letting go of unattainable dreams is hard.  It is especially hard when we are raised to believe anything is possible.  The reality is that each dream comes with choices.  Sometimes we do not realize the sacrifices that we will have to make along the way for our dreams to come true.  I’m incredibly grateful for the mentor who allowed my dream to change with grace.  When we change dreams it shows strength and courage, not failure.  I’m so thankful that I did not have a mentor questioning my capacity to become a doctor.  Rather I had a mentor that recognized my interests changed.  Today I’m grateful that I made this change.  Now I get to see students live their dreams and change their dreams.  I hear stories about persistence, success, and change.

So far, I have talked about big dreams.  Dreams, wishes, and goals can also be small.  I see this regularly in Testing.  We have students who are coming in for the third time to get reading exemption or the student trying to qualify for the presidential scholarship or a student wants to reduce the number of college-prep classes they need to take.  It is a good day when we get to celebrate these successes.  These little dreams help them move closer to achieving the big dream.  In this moment, we get to be a part of the journey.  It is through my story of the big dream that I understand the value and importance of little dreams.  I need several little dreams to happen for me to reach my big goal.

 

 

“Miss, did I do OK?”

 

“Miss, did I do OK?”

This my least favorite question, not because I don’t want to give feedback to my students, but because the question itself often reveals that the student has not yet connected with the purpose or the outcome of the work we’re doing.  I see this especially from my dev ed English and reading students.

My goal is to help students understand the assessment tools we use so that they can gauge their own success and understanding.  Without such independence, they won’t be able to increase their reading and writing proficiency to the level demanded by our college courses.

Two tools I use are the SPUNKI prompts and a self-assessment checklist.

The SPUNKI prompts are used to help students talk and write about what they read.

  • S I am surprised that . . .
  • P I’m puzzled by . . .
  • U I found it useful that . . .
  • N It was new learning for me to know . . .
  • K I already knew . . .
  • I It is interesting to know . . .

Source: On Course Workshop  accessed June, 2016

The self-assessment checklist below helps reading students see growth in their own use of our literacy tools.

My Reading Report

Comprehension Pre-test _____ Comprehension Post-test _____              Gain  _____

Vocabulary Pre-test _____ Vocabulary Post-test _____
Gain _____

My TP vocabulary book ________________________

Highest Newsela Lexile _____   Average Newsela Lexile _____

My Reminders for Active Reading
(20 minutes a day minimum)

Before:

  • Predict
  • Activate prior knowledge

During

  • Summarize
  • Make connections
  • Check for understanding
  • Take notes

After

  • Evaluate what I learned
  • Revisit my predictions

Once students complete the checklist, they can participate more fully in a conference with me about their own learning.  This discussion is a precursor to a final reflective essay focused on their mastery of the course competencies.

By the time they’re finished, I want them to be able to say “Miss, I did well, and here’s how I know that.”

Dream It, Do It!

 

I’ve never had a problem dreaming.  I’ve had a problem doing.  Somehow, in some ways, my dreams have gotten placed in between never, never land and the land down under.  Oh, mind you, my dreams have been big.  Larger than life itself, perhaps.  But dreams they’ve been.  I’ve managed to hold myself spellbound as I set about doing the things necessary to untangle my intricately spun web.  Things like holding my head high despite several tries and remembering to take deep breaths before attempting to accomplish the next unnecessary feat.   Dreaming I love and dare to do, it’s the undoing of the not doing that I have trouble with.  It’s hard to remember the very necessary lesson of not being too hard on oneself and to be aware of encouraging and inspiring moments that occur in some of the most simplest moments of our lives.  Moments when we’re not dreaming but fully awake.  I’ve had to learn to listen with my head and now always my ears.  To understand that others see ourselves differently than we think they do.  That’s when I know my dreams are being realized and I’m fully awake.  When I hear the words of encouragement spill forth from the mouths of more than one person throughout a given day.  It’s the small moments that help me realize that my dreamy state of mind can be achieved just a little bit, slowly one day at a time.  That’s when I know that I’m dreaming it and doing it.

Dreams of Improving Maricopa Teamwork

a team huddles for a sync-up

OK, they’re all standing, but you don’t have to. This is what a Sync-Up looks like.

When I first accepted my job as an Instructional Media Developer at GCC, I was coming from a web development environment that had embraced the idea of the Daily Stand-Up. Nothing did more to help me feel like I was part of something bigger than myself than those daily, lightning-fast meetings my team held to check in with one another. In my new role, I immediately missed this sense of working together toward a shared goal. I felt alone in a silo.

If I could bring anything from the outside world into the Maricopa Community Colleges, it would be a regular Sync-Up. (Literally standing up is difficult or impossible for some people, so I don’t want to call it a Stand-Up. And for some of our teams or committees, daily is too much.) But being truly accountable to and in sync with your coworkers is something I still miss from my last job.

So what is a Sync-Up? It’s a very short meeting, no more than 15 minutes. The people doing the work are the ones who speak, though interested parties might attend as observers. Each contributing person provides 3 pieces of information when it’s their turn to speak:

  1. What they’ve accomplished toward shared goals since the last Sync-Up
  2. What they commit to accomplishing between now and the next Sync-Up
  3. Any obstacles they foresee that could get in the way

When not speaking it’s everyone’s job to listen closely. Specifically, to listen for points of connection to your own work, and for areas where you may be able to help. If you can help remove someone else’s obstacle you let them know, and then you’ll both collaborate after the Sync-Up – you don’t derail the meeting discussing the solution while everyone waits.

This is not a status report. Each person considers the audience – the rest of their team – and makes sure they discuss accomplishments, plans, and obstacles in a way that is meaningful to their team. The purpose is to assure that each team member’s activity is aligned and progressing the team as a whole toward successful and timely completion of their goal. In my experience, it’s empowering to Sync-Up daily when a team is working together on a well-defined project. 

This is not a planning meeting where a team breaks down all the steps to complete a project. That type of planning meeting usually needs more than 15 minutes. But once you’ve laid out the tasks that need to be done to achieve a goal, regular Sync-Ups are magic for keeping your group energized and on task.

This is what regular Sync-Ups can accomplish (from Bill Hoberecht of Pinnacle Projects in his post The Daily Stand-Up Meeting – A Core Practice for Self-Organizing Teams):

  • An explicit reinforcement of the commitment by each team member to accomplish a goal
  • A means of dynamically adjusting the work by each team member to accomplish the goal
  • A daily synchronization between team members, informing team mates of work activities, progress and issues
  • A method of cross-checking progress with team mates
  • An accountability mechanism that has each team member accountable to other team members for their responsibilities
  • A visible demonstration of the ability of the team to self-manage their project responsibilities

The main benefit I experienced from the Sync-Up meeting style was confidence. I was confident I knew what was going on with my team and our shared goals. I was certain what I should be doing next. I knew who could and would help me out of a jam. I knew how my efforts fit into the whole. I was positive my workgroup would succeed, and I usually knew exactly when we’d achieve our goal. I knew my work was valued. I knew what my teammates needed and how I could help. 

I miss feeling this way every week and hope to find ways of recapturing this sense of shared purpose within my GCC community of collaborators. 

Simple, not easy

 

Since my hero Austin Kleon writes in bullet points, I think I will too. Here are a few thoughts about dealing with difficult situations in a positive way.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

  • The Four Agreements is a tiny book filled with enormous wisdom.
  • Take Away Message: Don’t take anything personally.
  • “Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.” Great quote from Chapter 3, page 48.
  • Avoid the urge to be right and make everyone else wrong.
  • Bottom Line: In a difficult situation, don’t take it personally because everyone lives in their own reality. Their anger is about them, not you. Even if they say something ugly, that’s their ugliness. Don’t make it yours too.

Unconditional Positive Regard, a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers.

  • Try to accept and support others without passing judgment.
  • Starting from a point of unconditional positive regard will probably improve any situation.

If all else fails, lighten your mood.

  • Imagine your current difficult situation is happening in a sitcom.
  • Think about a silly sign. Here are a few examples:

The Sleeper has Awakened

 

There are really two kinds of dreams, dreams we have for ourselves (personal goals and desires) and those we have for the world around us. But dreams don’t have to be these surreal or unobtainable goals, no matter how big they are. For those who enjoy viral internet trends, you may have seen a little gem with Shia LeBeouf giving an inspiring “speech” entitled, “Just Do It.” During the motivational and comically energetic rant he utters one very important line, “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.”

The dreams we have for ourselves usually involve work or family. On the surface they seem much more obtainable. For example, I often dream of working as full time faculty and finally being able to move on from ten years of working part time at multiple schools. I dream of raising a child with my wife and doing the best I can to provide the same support she has provided me ever since we started dating fifteen years ago. I’d like to think those are obtainable dreams. But dreams don’t come true if you fail to act on them, they require action. My adjunct work at GCC allowed me to start working towards some of my personal dreams. I have been given the opportunity (and even encouraged) to present at meetings, develop curriculum, and even help design entire courses. Those are all very real opportunities that serve as important and needed experience. I may not have reached my dream yet, but those opportunities acted upon are progressive steps.

The dreams we have for the world around us are usually far more reaching, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be acted upon just like personal goals. My far reaching dream would be to live in a world free from prejudice and bias. When I lived in Detroit I was able to see firsthand how horrible and destructive those forces can be. I may just be an adjunct English instructor, but even from that position I can act on my dream to create that better world. By encouraging critical thinking, healthy debate, and empathy in the classroom, slowly but surely, one student at a time, the world becomes a better place through my actions. I can’t have an impact on everyone, but each student I do have a positive influence on creates a ripple, and those ripples may be felt around the world.

Image of water ripples
Surface Waves (c) wikipedia commons

So don’t just sit and dream, take action, even a small step. Let the sleeper awaken and watch the world around you slowly change into to the one you imagined and hoped for. Just do it.

Utopian Dreams

 

A perfect world.

Where everyone is happy, everyone gets along, laughter and smiles abound. Wine and chocolate everywhere.

Alarm clock blares.

Reality check. Life is not and will not ever be perfect. We will get sick or injured, family and friends will come and go, we will run out of money, we will see many failures.  And that is okay! So how do we make our lives most effective and efficient despite all of the distractions and barriers to success? How do we achieve the elusive work-life balance that everyone craves?

A long time ago in a professional development workshop, the presenter started with “fill in the blanks…I will be happy when ___________.” So everyone shouted things like degrees, houses, cars, kids, vacations, etc. But those were the wrong answers.

“I am happy now. ” That is the correct answer.

If your happiness is placed somewhere off in the far distant future, then you will never be happy, because you won’t reach it in a single day or week, and once you reach your goal, you will set another distant goal that will send you off into even more discontentedness.

So, if you have a special dream, smile and be excited for the process that will take you there. Be happy now, in your imperfect world, find the joy in little things, and learn to laugh at the obstacles, breathe, expect failure, laugh at that too, and when your dream does come true, you will have learned happiness in the process, intensifying the ecstasy.

I had a dream that this post would be a lot longer and more detailed, filled with inspiration for all. But seriously, who has time for that?!

Educational Dreams

Even though, “No Child Left Behind” legislation has formally left the American public school agenda, now there are the “College Readiness” standards, which all high school students must receive advisement. Now, every high school student is expected to go to college and secure a high paying, technological-advanced job. High school guidance counselors are doing their best to monitor between 200-400 students regarding their strengths and personality match ups with professions, which would not only be rewarding for them, but also pleasing goals.

The community colleges offers first semester college students a college preparation course, valued at three credits, to ensure that not only will the student have the time management, goal setting, and organizational skills necessitated for college courses, but also a clear direction towards declaring a personal strength compatible major. However, the question remains…where is the “dream” factor in this collegiate recipe? Are students going to reach for the stars and aim to achieve the near impossible during their lifetimes, or are they going to play it safe with a prescription academic path?

It is possible that the first couple of jobs which the students will obtain will be practical, and pay the bills. However, as one ages and seeks a deeper purpose in life, it may be an ideal time to explore careers outside of one’s comfort level and dream big. I would have never envisioned myself getting a PhD in Performance Psychology after retiring from elementary school teaching, but I am reaching for the stars, and I encourage others to do so as well.


Steal Like An Artist

 

 

I don’t know how I ended up with this idea, but I love it. Thinking about dreams for improving my job led me to one of my favorite authors, Austin Kleon. I found one of his books years ago while browsing at Urban Outfitters and I’ve been a fan ever since. He writes about work and the creative process in a fun, meaningful way.

  • He writes short chapters.
  • He draws simple illustrations that make sense.
  • His books are fun to read and teach life-changing ideas at the same time.
  • He writes in lists and bullet points.
  • I love reading his stuff.

I flipped through his book, Steal Like an Artist to find inspiration for this post. So now, I’m stealing from page 108 with the following idea: Write Fan Letters. Here is a loose quote, “If you truly love somebody’s work, write them a public fan letter. Write a blog post about someone’s work that you admire and link to their site. Write something and dedicate it to your hero.”

  • Who better to write about than the author of this idea?
  • Austin Kleon, this post is dedicated to you.

Check out his website:

http://austinkleon.com

Watch a video:

Read his books:

steal like an artist Show Your Work

 

  • Whose work do you admire?
  • Write them a fan letter.

Get Your Kicks With Write 6×6