Grateful

Grateful

For a while this year, I was writing down two or three things I was grateful for every day. I haven’t done that in a few weeks, but of course, now is a time to pause, look around, and recognize the things we have, the circumstances that might have contributed to our good fortune, and the people who support us. Here are just a few things I’m thankful for in this moment. Time off. I’ve been going at a breakneck pace the last few months, which I find energizing and invigorating, but it’s time to come up for air.  I’m grateful that I have a job that allows me a few days to spend time not doing much of anything, to reflect, read random things on the Internet, cook, and spend time with family. I’m keenly aware that not everyone has this luxury, that, in fact, some people will work tomorrow […]

Beyond “Book Learning”

I’ve been a strong advocate of the idea that “book smarts” will only take you so far. Since the beginning of my teaching, I have always built my classes to incorporate skills other than the direct ones I’m teaching. I put students in groups to learn to work together. I set up assignments that have students trying to find their own information and directing their own path. I want students to not just learn writing or programming. I want them to learn empathy, resilience, and how to come up with their own creative solutions. Research has continually backed up this approach. The OECD is continuously assessing the kinds of skills students need to be successful: These days, schools need to become better at preparing students to live and work in a world in which most people will need to collaborate with people from different cultures, and appreciate a range of […]

Women in the Maker/Tech/Computing/Engineering/Gamer Culture

A couple of weeks ago, the Internet blew up about Maker Media CEO Dale Doughtery’s comments about Naomi Wu, a “maker” living in Shenzen, China. I’d never heard of her until this whole thing happened. Basically, Doughtery claimed she couldn’t possibly be actually making the stuff she claims she is because she’s beautiful and Chinese. This is not an uncommon reaction from men when faced with successful women in male-dominated fields, especially if they are also attractive. If you’re a woman in any of these fields, this is not new. In fact, this is not the first very public incident like this in the last few months. There was the James Damore Google memo incident earlier this year. His memo: women weren’t meant to program. There was #gamergate a few years ago, same basic premise. And every day, many women go to work and have their skills undervalued or ignored […]

Rethinking Failure

At our monthly leadership seminar for our seniors led by the head of school, we considered failure and what it means and what success means. Failure, we decided, was how one learned, and that to be a leader, one needed to fail and learn from it.  If you’re not failing, many of the students said, then you’re not taking risks, you’re not really trying. You’re keeping in your comfort zone. I failed my first computer science class. And yet, here I am teaching computer science. I learned from that failure what I did and didn’t like about computer science, and, although I avoided classes for a while, I eventually started learning on my own, then took classes both online and in person. I explored some other areas, which I now connect to my Computer Science work. I may not be an expert programmer, but I’m good at teaching CS, and […]

Creative Connections

Creative Connections

One of the things I’m most proud of is my interdisciplinary approach to computing. Ironically, this used to be the thing I was most ashamed of. The academics among yoh will understand as academia is all about specialization. Take a narrow field and know it deeply. I did my master’s degree in renaissance literature, and while some scholars focused on a particular author, what I was most interested in was how literature intersected with religion and science and sociology. Literature, for me, was often where the confluence and conflicts of the day got expressed if not worked out. So when I came to think out composition and rhetoric in the digital age, and it was barely the digital age then, I considered that study not to be a narrowing of focuz, but a way of expanding how we think about each area. Technologies are influenced by who creates them and […]

What Support Looks Like

“Tell me what’s confusing. Explain what you’re thinking.” This is in response to “I don’t understand anything.” It elicits a solid question about the difference between one kind of parabolic equation and another.  “Yes? Keep going.” This is in response to a hesitant comment on Jane Eyre, coupled with a gesture indicating the soft-spoken student should speak louder. In a Chemistry class, every student has given an answer. Every student has heard, “That’s good. Great job.” These are just some of the interactions I see regularly, and it occurred to me that in combination, they represented a great support system. Students are regularly encouraged to speak out, to share their thoughts, however tentative. Incorrect answers are gently corrected or better yet, turned into questions to the student to help them discover their error and fully understand the material. We often think of support as something that happens outside the classroom and […]

Defining Balance

A few days ago, some colleagues and I were joking about what we’d had for lunch the last few days. Pretzels, cheese sticks, a diet coke.  Last weekend, a colleague texted me to say, have a relaxing weekend. What relaxing? I texted back. I’m at a conference. I’ve had more than my fair share of days that begin at 5:00 a.m. and don’t end until 9:00 p.m. I called my husband around 6:00 one day last week to apologize for being late and asked if I could pick up dinner for him. Late? he said. I wasn’t expecting you until 7:30 or so.  I laughed and said, let’s just assume 7:30 from here on out, and if I’m home earlier, it’ll be a surprise. No, this is not balance. Almost every woman I know that is invested in her career works like this. Is it a bad thing? Why do […]

Assumptions

You know that saying about assumptions? Yep. I’ve been seeing assumptions everywhere lately, and I find it interesting. Over the last several years, I’ve worked really hard not to make assumptions about people, situations, anything, in both my professional and personal life. When I think someone is making an assumption about me or a situation, I try to point it out. Just a couple of nights ago, I pointed out to my husband that when he asks about dinner in a certain way, there’s an underlying assumption that I’m expected to have a plan and not the other way around. Pointing that out can be painful in the moment, but helpful in the longer term. I think people make assumptions for a couple of reasons.  One, they are sometimes afraid to ask. If their assumption is wrong, their ego might be bruised, hopes might be dashed, or worldview shifted in […]

What I Learned from Music Class

Yesterday, I visited our chorus rehearsal.  I’ve seen our chorus perform many times, but I’ve never seen how it all comes together. When I arrived, they had been working for about 10-15 minutes.  Projected on the screen was the timeline for the day: 10 minutes on this, 10 minutes on that.  Cycling through 3 really different pieces of music in 1/2 hour. One might think that chorus is different from other classes. Everyone has to be on the same page, literally. If one person is off, it messes up everyone else. One might think that in other classes, it’s okay if not everyone is together or on the same page. But, in a way, it’s not that different for other classes, too. As a teacher, you really are conducting, in a way.  It was clear, for example, that the music teacher had set expectations for how things were to be […]

Leadership 101

Leading and leadership is something I think about a lot, and have thought about for the last probably 15 years. I have, I think, always aspired to be a leader, but not in the sense most think about, that is, being in charge of something.  Leading is more than that, and there are plenty of people in charge of things who are not leaders and plenty of people not in charge of anything who are.  Back on my old blog ten years ago, I wrote about how I perceived my own leadership: I see myself in a quieter, smaller role, leading a smaller group of people. I see myself doing what I did as president of the GSA: having conversations, guiding people, offering advice, saying what I think to people in power. I hope in some small way that what I do inspires and motivates others. I see some evidence […]