On Sunday, we sat around table after sharing a meal and had a serious talk about the future. It was one of those difficult discussions that families sometime have to have. In this case, it was with my church family.
For several years, I’ve been attending Grace and St. Peter’s Church in Hamden, CT. I’ve served on the vestry and am now the clerk. At our annual meetings and at our vestry meetings, we’ve talked about how the church is facing a substantial operating deficit. It has been for years, and has had to rely on drawing down the endowment to cover these shortfalls.
Our rector pointed out that the two largest items in the budget is her benefits and maintaining the building, and it is a very lean budget. No one wants to see us move from having a full time rector. No one wants to see us have to give up the building, but we need to do something to address the deficit, and it is better to do it now, than at some point in the future with much more precarious finances.
So, we sat down on as a family, on the day of the bishop’s visit. We discussed how we could move to having a part time rector while continuing to be a growing vibrant parish. The bishop commended our efforts and expressed a desire that more parishes would approach changes that the whole church is confronting the way Grace and St. Peters is.
To me, there are a few things that Grace and St. Peter’s is doing right that other institutions could learn from. First, we are being proactively transparent. Yes, vestry meetings are always open and the minutes are always available, but rarely does anyone not on the vestry attend a meeting or read the minutes. The lunch with the bishop after church was part of the effort to have the whole parish informed about what is going on.
A second thing that Grace and St. Peter’s is doing right is staying focused on our mission. When we talk about our finances, the goal isn’t a balanced budget, a growing endowment, or other financial measures. These are tools to help us achieve the real mission. Borrowing from the Book of Common Prayer, “The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
Our vestry meetings are an opportunity to be restored us to unity with God and each other in Christ. So was the lunch we had. So are the many other great things going on at our parish.
Another important aspect of how Grace and St. Peter’s is approaching things is that we are talking about our finances and the changing world we live in well before we get to any crisis.
All of these things come to mind as I read Crisis-hit General Theological Seminary is being 'groomed for failure' because of its real estate value, letter alleges. It comes to mind as I read Sweet Briar says faculty lawsuit is attempt by professors to get a ‘financial windfall’.
We live in a challenging changing time. Boards, whether they be the vestry of local parishes, or boards of institutions of higher education, need to approach these changes, prayerfully, openly, and honestly. I don’t know what is going on at General Theological Seminary, or at Sweet Briar. I don’t know how much property values are getting in the way of institutional values, but it does seem like more openness, more honesty, and especially more prayer is need for these institutions, and I feel very honored to be serving on the board of an institution that currently appears to be approaching these changes in an exemplary manner. The most I can do right now for General Theological Seminary and Sweet Briar is to pray.
Yesterday, Lenandlar Singh posted a link to the Facebook Rhizomatic discussion, The quantified self movement: some sociological perspectives. It is a great article about measurement which relates nicely to the Rhizomatic learning discussion.
It is interesting to think of measurement as an effort to keep things under control. We can measure our exercise, our nutrition, how much sleep we get, and all kinds of different things. We can measure how many problems we solve. We can echo Brene Brown, “life's messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.”
Yet I go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We can measure the lower level needs, physiological and safety. We can measure our grades get into good schools, get good jobs that help us earn money to meet the physiological and safety needs. It might even bring us a little esteem.
But I go back to other parts of Maslow’s hierarchy. I echo Rent and Rhizo, “Measure in love” (and belonging). But how do you measure self-actualization?
Perhaps next I will tackle measurement and mystery, and the realm of part objects and the divine.
It has been a very long day, spending time in a setting with people who seem to approach life very differently than I do. When I got home, I looked online to connect with people a little bit more like me. Some of this was preparation for Podcamp Western Mass 7, which happens tomorrow. Will parts of my tribe be there? What will we talk about?
I haven’t seen much discussion online this year from people going to Podcamp or topics they are interested in, so we’ll see who is there and what they are interested in.
After this, I hopped over to some of the #rhizo15 discussions. We’ll see if there are folks at Podcamp who are interested in #rhizo15. I suspect there may be a few, which would be cool.
Lisa Chamberlin tweeted,
So how do we reconcile #freerangelearning (my term for "learning is not a countable noun") with reportable results (and funding)? #rhizo15
It turns out that a #freerangelearning has been a pretty active hashtag over the past few years. Perhaps it captures some of the ideas I’ve talked about when I refer to myself as a wandering autodidact. Whatever meaning people are attributing to #freerangelearning I’ll try to do some of it at Podcamp, some of it as part of #Rhizo15, some of it by blogging, some of it by following the hashtag, and, if I get a little free time, I might even do a little light reading of Deleuze and Guattari before bed time.
P.S. Fun tweet from my wanderings "I told them we could measure learning." pic.twitter.com/kf4yWebDe3
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
This week’s challenge for #rhizo15:
What can we measure that isn’t learning? Think about all the other facets of the human experience… can we do better? What about all the fancy tools we’ve seen… can they help? Should we throw it out all together? Can we help people measure themselves? Is there a better way of looking at it?
My first thought was about all kinds of things we can measure that don’t really tell us much. How many times was the letter ‘E’ used in Dave’s post? How many ovals does can a high school student properly fill in? Well, I guess some people think that the number of ovals that a high school student fills in actually tell us something about how much the student knows or how effective the teacher is, or something like that.
In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned or the way that she died
So let us step away from more academic pursuits. I work in social media. I measure hits on my website. For those who haven’t heard, hits is an acronym for “How Idiots Track Success”. These days, social media ninjas, I think that’s what they call themselves now, talk about engagement.
Many years ago, I was at an online marketing conference where the topic was Return On Investment, or ROI. That’s how people in the world of business like to measure things. I titled my blog post, OMMA: The ROI of a Smile. It is a long and tedious blog post, but it ends off
Too many are still trying to calculate the ROI of being in control, instead of the ROI of a smile.
I don’t remember if it was at that conference or some other where I tweeted the question, “How do you measure engagement?” I expected replies about the number of retweets, likes, or comments. But the best response was from a woman I know who was waiting for someone to pop the question who replied, “the size of the diamond”.
Measure in love
(Measure, measure your life in love)
But back to Dave’s question, “What can we measure that isn’t learning?”
There are things that aren’t learning?
Recently, someone posted in the #rhizo15 group on Facebook, that they were 60 years old and guessed that they were one of the older people around. Soon, several people posted about being in their fifties and believing that many of the people in the group were. I wonder what the demographics really are. I also wonder to what extent it really matters. As we construct our online identities, how much do, or should constructs like age, gender, or even species really matter?
I am, however, interested in a different demographic. I get a sense that most of the participants are academics who read Deleuze and Guattari for fun. I imagine the Venn diagraph of academics and people who read D+G for fun. I suspect that the subset of academics that read D+G for fun is pretty small, relatively speaking, and the subset of non-academics that read D+G for fun is even smaller. (Is there anyone else reading this who identify themselves this way?)
As I write this, I suspect that the closest I get to being an academic is being a teaching assistant in the school of hard knocks.
There is also a discussion about the relationship between connectivism and rhizomatic learning. This sounds like a discussion for the academics. For me, I’m curious about the learning that exists outside of academia, that might be rhizomatic, or might be done better rhizomaticly.
How do we learn about political candidates in the twenty first century? How do we learn about what is going on in our government? How does journalism fit into all of this? I’ve kicked around the idea of setting up a learning platform, like Moodle to learn about and discuss legislation being considered in our state legislature.