Friday, May 29, 2015

The Myth of Multitasking

At the beginning of my senior year of college, I needed one more credit in my content area--world literature. I had avoided it during my other, more heavily-loaded semesters because Dr. Atkinson was tough, and I wanted to keep my GPA high so I could get into grad school. A couple of weeks in, after what he deemed a round of disappointing essays, the grave Dr. Atkinson stood in front of us, rubbing his temples: "If you are writing these essays while doing other things, stop. Research demonstrates that attempting to do two or more dissimilar tasks at the same time decreases efficiency for both tasks. So, stop it." WHAT?! Seriously? I had been attempting to multitask most of my life. Society told me, "Do more. More is better." I had watched my mother who, owned her own business, parent and talk on the phone with clients and cook and drive the dog to the vet, and put on her makeup, and sip her coffee . I wasn't supposed to do that? Really?
And, yet, as a teacher now, myself, I see students who believe that they must keep up with their friends electronically, play basketball, run track, participate in three choirs, be a part of two clubs, have a starring role in the drama, and make straight As, all while remaining sane, dedicated, and respectful. Their multitasking overloads their underdeveloped frontal lobes, and they lament about having to do homework, to which I respond: "Of course you cannot finish your homework! You are trying to live four lives simultaneously!" Their multitasking decreases their effectiveness and results in frazzled, thinly-spread, fractured teenagers.
Still, the second I tell my students that very thing, I become a hypocrite. I teach around two hundred students each year, lead the International Club, the nascent Debate Club, the Global Tours program, the Senior Thesis class, the Junior Girls Bible Study, my own business, and I attempt to maintain my marriage and a somewhat normal social life, and I am definitely NOT doing all of those things well. Whew. Just typing that made me tired.
I am a "yes" girl, and, a couple of months ago, shared this struggle with one of my students who has the same problem. She told me that her mother was reading The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst. I bought the book and began reading, but, that, again, was another commitment, and I had to drop it for prior commitments, such as sleeping.
I think what I am trying to say is that, while I plan to finish TerKeurst's book once the school year is over, reading such a book will only help the individual who is truly willing to let go. For, if God truly did not make our minds to multitask, we have to trust that the hours He has given us are, indeed, enough. We have to trust that the things that fit into our schedule are, truly, the best things. Otherwise, we will, like my students and myself, continue to chase our tails and become exhausted in the pursuit.
Ultimately, multitasking is bad because we were made to use our time wisely, to trust that it is enough, and to let the rest go. God's word says it best:
"He has showed you, O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." -Micah 6:8

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Love(s)

To set the mood for this particular post, I want you to turn on Justin Timberlake's "Summer Love." Despite each year's "song of summer" that disc jokeys insist on overplaying, I always go back to Justin. He's my perennial favorite.

That aside, this post is all about things I'm loving thus far this summer. So... here we go.

1. BEING OUT OF SCHOOL. Okay, in case anybody forgot, I'm a teacher. This past Thursday was my last workday, and I am SO EXCITED... but I'm also lost as to what to do with myself. I'm applying for part-time gigs like a crazy lady (NPR's Morning Report has an opening!!!), scheduling impromptu trips to see my parents (WHO LIVE AT THE BEACH--WHAAAATTT?!?!?), and catching up with all the friends who never get to see me during the school year because I am trapped in my hobbit hole made of term papers.

2. Classic summertime fashion--I've been trawling the interwebs for items to add to my Capsule Wardrobe (which is explained quite nicely at Project 333). Here are some of my faves:

     a. Roxy's Sun Dancer Cropped Scalloped Tankini is equal parts flattering, interesting, and, somehow, classically beautiful. 

      b. A good panama hat. Target's men's department has a great one--the brim is not too "sunhat," nor too "fedora." It's a nice medium width.

      c. A red pair of ballet flats, preferably from London Sole. Timeless perfection.
3.  I'm doing a detox that allows me to drink green tea (in addition to 1/2-1 gallon of water per day!) but no coffee. One of my favorite baristas told me that her favorite coffee sub was iced green tea with no water. I tried it and was instantly in LOVE.

4. My detox also limits my snack options. Along with my green tea, I find myself choosing Evolution's Fruit and Nut Mix every time I stop at Starbucks; it provides me energy for a couple of hours and tastes delish.

5. Lastly, I've been LOVING my gel manicure. It makes me feel girly AND is durable. I am currently wearing a lavender-y color, but I want to do a hot pink once I've been outside a bit more (DO NOT WORRY-I WEAR A TON OF SUNSCREEN!). Anyway, I LOVE THEM, especially when the humid weather makes me feel anything BUT pretty!

So... what are your favorite things this summer? Would you recommend them?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Commonplace Books--My re-introduction to journaling

If it makes any sense to you, and maybe it doesn't, I think I had a lot more to say in my journal when I was in late middle school/early high school than I do now. I look back, and, man, was I a deep, though ridiculously idealistic, kid. Now? Psht. I have this habit of saying everything I would write in the traditional journal out loud. I know. Those of you who do not know me are probably scoffing. "No one says EVERYTHING they're thinking out loud." No. Honestly. Ask anyone who truly knows me. I do. Moving along. That said, I abandoned the traditional journal a long time ago. There were always so many wasted pages, and, very frequently, my ramblings had more to do than the boy over whom I was swooning than anything transcendent or life-altering. #Letsbereal They made for nice little love timelines, though.

After some encouragement from AND a workshop led by my department chair about Commonplace Books, I've decided to give one a try. For the uninformed (aka: me before Mrs. L told me about them), Commonplace Books are, according to Harvard University Library,

In the most general sense, a commonplace book contains a collection of significant or well-known passages that have been copied and organized in some way, often under topical or thematic headings, in order to serve as a memory aid or reference for the compiler. Commonplace books serve as a means of storing information, so that it may be retrieved and used by the compiler, often in his or her own work.
The commonplace book has its origins in antiquity in the idea of loci communes, or "common places," under which ideas or arguments could be located in order to be used in different situations. The florilegium, or "gathering of flowers," of the Middle Ages and early modern era, collected excerpts primarily on religious and theological themes. Commonplace books flourished during the Renaissance and early modern period: students and scholars were encouraged to keep commonplace books for study, and printed commonplace books offered models for organizing and arranging excerpts.
     According to Mrs. L's professional development presentation, a LOT of famous people kept Commonplace Books, including: Twain, Emerson, and Thoreau, to name a few. Many people whose Commonplace Books serve as modern examples were considered the great creative minds of their times--for good reason, I suppose. Commonplace Books are terrific ways to dump everything you're learning onto a page. In fact, we are *hopefully* going to require every student in the rhetoric (high) school to keep one throughout their four years. Imagine having pages and pages of the things that inspired your heart and mind throughout high school. Now, I would argue that's better than an enumeration of your heartthrobs. Yeah?
So, I've started my uber-simple Commonplace Book. It's just quotes now, maybe some reflections on quotes/ideas later? Who knows. I'm really enjoying it and encourage you to start. Every couple days, I'm looking back over it and actually RUMINATING on what I read days ago, something that, as a teacher who is required to read for work all the time, does not happen as easily as you'd think. Instead of just skimming over those little gems of knowledge or wisdom, I'm looking at them, writing them down, and then looking at them again! Glory be! I'll keep you updated. For now, I'll leave you with one of my Commonplace quotes.

Information washes over us like a sea and recedes without leaving its traces behind. Wrestling with truth, as the story of Jacob warns us, is a time-consuming process that marks us forever.
-Susan Wise Bauer, The Well-Educated Mind, p. 25

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Okay, I'm a little delirious. I've been grading off and on for about 10 hours. STILL, there are two things making everything seem a little clearer: my "Feelin' Good" playlist, which includes Mumford & Sons, Kid Cudi, Matt + Kim, and Jackson Browne #judgemeicandeal, and Mike Schmoker's book Focus: Elevating the Essentials to Radically Improve Student Learning. Schmoker's book looks all serious and boring on the outside but is, thus far, a down-to-earth, quick read that addresses the anxieties most teachers are having about the nature of public education today. And, let me tell you, it is helping me to NOT have a panic attack in terms of all the things we're facing. According to Schmoker,we can do it, guys, we just need to simplify... which I think is what Thoreau stressed a long time ago... but, then, he wasn't a public educator, was he? He was a dude who lived by himself, in the middle of nowhere, a dude who was NOT surrounded by constant chaos and mandates, so let's give ourselves a break for JUST now figuring it out.

I think the craziest thing about Schmoker's book, thus far, is that the suggestions he is positing for public education sound a WHOLE FLIPPIN' LOT like what we did when I was a student at a CLASSICAL school. *Gasp!* What?! Classical models are now moving to public school? We're just gonna read and read and write and write in a beautiful, simple way, and children will learn in the normal, not-so-new-fangled way? Maybe. According to Schmoker, we need to avoid all the glitz and glam that comes with new program and that new initiative. Can we keep our focus long enough, pedagogues? I might be too young to have this much cynicism towards the people who make decisions, but srrsly, these are the same individuals who have passed every other plan.

Now, if this were something that I could accomplish by myself, I'd just go rogue, read a bunch of books, and come up with my own plans. According to Schmoker, there is one teacher who made significant gains in his classroom following that model, but aren't we SO much stronger together than alone? So, we need to have each other's backs, to support one another--'cause heaven knows, this scatterbrained girl is NOT infinitely creative to the degree that she can come up with common this and common that all by herself. I'm re-thinking so many things about my approach to the classroom, and, if Schmoker's right, I might just be able to do what  love, which is just straight-up teachin', and be REALLY effective at my job---sayyyy waaaaaaat?! You heard me. That's what he has said in the first two-point-five chapters.


These claims sound really good. Too good. Look at me; I'm such a little cynic. So, I'm off to finish another set of tests and then read another chapter. I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

You know those unexpected moments of clarity, the ones that frequently occur when you're trying to do something else? I had one today. While trying to grade/plan, I wondered how I became a teacher. What got me into this whirlwind of a profession? If you're a teacher, you know what I'm talking about, and I KNOW this sentiment is not a new one, especially in the teacher-blogger world. On a typical day, I will make hundreds of copies (I did not want to be an office assistant.), email parents about how frequently their child gets up and wanders around a room like a cow roaming for food (I did not wish to be a micromanaging control freak.), run papers back and forth, all over the school (I do not get a cool bicycle like a professional messenger), and attend at least two meetings that determine whether or not there is a policy issue with a particular disciplinary action (...and I gave up my dream of becoming a Supreme Court Justice a long time ago.).

So... what is it? What is the draw? My mother has asked me many times. Well, in the last couple of days, I have received messages from two former students, both of whom were less-than-enthusiastic about reading, or exhibiting any academic effort, to be frank.

Message 1: "So, I am beyond late on the whole Teacher Appreciation Day... I just had to let you know, though, you were one of the absolute best teachers I've ever had. I hated English with a passion, but you changed me. In more ways than one. You gave me a wake up call. I love reading now! You really pushed me, and I owe you a huge thanks. So thank you, very much."

Message 2: "I got a 100 on my senior presentation!!!! I'm the only one to get a 100 (not tryin' to toot my own horn)..."

For now, that'll be enough. Hopefully some of the precious lambs who are currently causing me to beat my head against a figurative wall ('cause, hey, that junk'll kill some brain cells--no bueno--teachers need 'em all!) will send me similar messages.

Until then, I'm living on coffee and prayers.

FYI: There are nine days of instruction left!