Education

Education

Writing and Thinking - Fiona's First Day at Simon's Rock

There were times around the dinner table when my eldest daughter would say, “I think I feel a blog post coming”. It was the world they grew up in, a world where we talked about life, education, religion, politics, music, poetry, and grasshoppers. These discussions helped shape all of us.

Now, my daughters are scattered. The eldest is currently working a doctorate at Doshisha University in Japan. The middle is building a community of artists around Boston and the youngest has just started at Bard College at Simon’s Rock at the other end of the Massachusetts.

Besides the discussions around the dinner table, we have sought to give all our daughters educational opportunities to nurture and develop a lifelong love of learning. They have been brought up in families where this lifelong love of learning is multigenerational. It is in their DNA.

At the break of day Saturday morning, Kim, Fiona, and I set forth from our home in Connecticut. I am working on a Masters of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific. So, as my wife and youngest daughter mostly slept, as I listened to The Vocation of Anglican Theology by Ralph McMichael on my Kindle. What is theology? How important is it for theology to be systematic or critical? What makes a theology ‘Anglican’? How do we think about other forms of theology? Reformed? Roman Catholic? Eastern Orthodox?

It isn’t so much about learning new information. When did St. Augustine of Hippo live? it is about being transformed by what we learn. What will Fiona learn at Simon’s Rock? How will it change her? How am I being changed by my studies at CDSP?

We went through all the check-in processes and then started moving Fiona into her dorm. We had a great lunch together and then headed off to the opening convocation. The sky opened up pouring down tears of sadness as parents prepared to say goodbye to their children and tears of joy at the prospect of the adults these students would become.

The students went of to their first writing and thinking workshop and the adults stuck remained in the auditorium. I whispered to my wife that the kids would probably have a better time that we would. I suspect that many of these students are apples that have not fallen far from the tree and their parents would love writing and thinking workshop.

To my pleasant surprise, the adults were given the opportunity to do a little bit of a writing and thinking workshop themselves. I thought and wrote about education. I will need to write a paper about this for the Postmodern Christian Education class I’m taking this fall. What is my theology of Christian Education? My current teaching philosophy? My learning goals for the semester?

These are great questions. Some I have clear thoughts on, others are more vague. I am influenced by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. My thinking follows the shape of a rhizome; interconnected without a clear starting point or endpoint. My goal is transformation, and I’m open to being transformed into something unexpected. I hope my daughters are seeking similar transformations.

Later in the afternoon, we all returned to Fiona’s dorm to finish off the unpacking and say our goodbyes. Fiona spoke about a poem they read, which Miranda immediately recognized, Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day which ends asking,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I look forward to seeing Fiona’s wild and precious life unfold at Simon’s Rock. It made me think of Robin Williams telling his students, Carpe Diem, Seize the Day. It is my hope that Fiona will seize the day at Simon’s Rock. It is my hope that Fiona will “live deep and suck out all the marrow of life” as Thoreau says in Walden.

At the end of the day, (yes, another metaphor our schedule gave us), after we left Fiona at college, we headed off to visit my father in a nursing home. Much of his short-term memory is gone and he’s had a rough few days. We got there and one of my brothers was visiting with him. Despite his health issues, he was lucid and coherent. We had a pleasant discussion, often returning to the same topic. In the background there was another patient who simply repeated “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” from Cinderella. It had the feeling of a strange absurdist play being performed at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

On the way home, we received a text message from Fiona about “Air Traffic”. We didn’t have the context and weren’t sure what to make of it. We found out it was a reference to the book, “Air Traffic: A Memoir of Ambition and Manhood in America” by Gregory Pardlo.

It is hard to face our mortality, even if it comes simply in the reminder to seize the day. It can be harder to face the mortality of our parents, especially if our relationship with our parents is complicated, like Gregory Pardlo’s was with his father. Do I see Gregory’s father in my father? Do my daughters see Gregory’s father in me? These are perhaps some good questions for us all to think about but may also be beyond the scope of this blog.

This morning as I was preparing for church, Fiona messaged me asking my opinion about St. Augustine of Hippo. It is hard to go into details over Facebook Messenger, especially without knowing the context. I noted his important role in church history and his writings about grace. I am reading Christian Theology, An Introduction by Alister E. McGrath. McGrath focuses on Augustine’s view of grace, salvation, and original sin. He contrasts this to Pelagius in an either/or, black/white sort of way. It reflects a common view in Christianity that talks about Pelagianism as heresy. However, it seems like often both sides views are exaggerated. I think about the great quote from the Pope in Brother Sun, Sister Moon, “In our obsession of original sin, we too often forget original innocence”.

Fiona and I are also very interested in the Eastern Orthodox church and there is a lot we could explore on various Orthodox views of Augustine, but this is more than long enough already.

Now that my daughters are all off in different locations, I wonder to what extent we can have some of the old dinner discussions in longer form online posts. I am wondering if others want to join in.

What are you thinking? What are you writing about? What are your reactions to these thoughts?

English Spirituality and Mysticism

So...

I've signed up to take the online course English Spirituality and Mysticism.

I've taken online courses in the past, but this is the first one that I'm actually paying for since I took Grief in the Family Context back in 1999.

Things have changed a lot in online education since 1999 and I'm looking forward to this class, especially because I'm doing a lot with online education for my job right now.

Anyone up for joining me?

The Unexpected Rabbit

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Happy New Year. Recently, I asked my friends what they thought I should resolve for the New Year. I am facing great uncertainty this coming year, especially around my spiritual journey and our political climate. Will 2017 be a breakout year, in some unexpected way?

Kim, Fiona, and I have gotten tickets to go see Amelie when it opens on Broadway. So last night, we watched the movie. Will this be the year that I find an old tin box full of childhood keepsakes? Will it be the year that I set off to help others in my own quirky way? Will it be the year that I build up enough courage to let something truly wonderful happen to me?

I already have a wonderful marriage, a wonderful family, and a wonderful life (to bring in a different movie title), but is this the year that something gets added to that, in terms of life ambitions, the spiritual journey and the work (much more than my job), that I am to do?

I didn’t get a lot of responses to my blog post asking for suggestions, but one that did stick with me was a reference to #OneLittleWord. The starting point for me in thinking about #OneLittleWord is a blog post by Deanna Mascle whom I met through a community of connected learners. Last July, she wrote Write Your Future in #OneLittleWord.

What is my one little word? Perhaps, it stays with the blog post I wrote at the beginning of last year. Unexpected. 2016 certainly had some unexpected twists. It looks like more of the same may be in store for 2017.

Let’s hope for some unexpected joy this year as we, like Amelie, find the courage to let something truly wonderful unexpectedly happen to us this year.

#MakeItHappen #WhatIMake and Why: A Post Modern Secular Online Video Gospel

This summer, students and teachers at Amity High School in Woodbridge, CT read the book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope. The Facebook Cliff Notes version of this says:

A Malawian teenage, William Kamkwamba, taught himself how to build a windmill out of junk and bring power to his village. He then went on to build a second, larger windmill to power irrigation pumps. He did this all from books he read in the library.

A slightly longer version can be found in this Ted Talk.

This could be a great starting point for a discussion of colonial and post-colonial literature, perhaps starting with Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, followed by Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. This could then be followed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Half of a Yellow Sun”. Those looking for other forms of accessing some of this might want to watch the movie, “Half of a Yellow Sun”, or Adichie’s TED talk, The danger of a single story . Yes, I realize that Conrad’s Congo, Achebe and Adichie’s Nigeria and Kamkwamba’s Malawi are very different places, but I’m guessing some important things could be discovered.

Perhaps part of that lesson is that what we make matters, and how we make it happens matters. The bigger question is why. Perhaps it could lead to discussions of business ethics, or even deeper into existential questions.

I might start with Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

To me, this is what it all boils down to. The problem is, that in our post-modern secular world, if you start talking about the Bible, God, Prophets, and commandments, you are likely to lose a lot of people. What might this be like in today’s post-modern secular world?

If you were to choose a few videos that grappled with these bigger questions, that go to the core of your existence, what would they be? What would you want people to watch? Would it be some of these TED talks? Talks about creativity?

There are a couple that I would suggest. I might start off with the abridged version of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, This is Water. This challenges us to think about who are neighbor really is. Yes, it starts off with the privileged white college graduate as a neighbor and doesn’t get to issues of racism and post colonialism, but it is an important start.

Once you have started thinking about having a little more empathy for those around you, the next video I would watch might be Validation. We need to find out how the people around us need validation and start there.

With these as a solid base, then we can start looking at things like education with Sir Ken Robinson’s Changing Education Paradigms and Taylor Mali on "What Teachers Make"

We can move on to talk about the role of gaming, with Jane McGonigal’s Gaming can make a better world and The game that can give you 10 extra years of life.

We can learn from Brene Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability and Listening to shame.

Without really thinking about those around us, about loving God and neighbor, we may end up just building bankrupt casinos ruining the lives of customers and vendors as we try to make American great again.

What videos would you recommend? What do you make? How do you make it happen? Why?

#WhatIMake Connections #CLMOOC Continuous Connected Learning

Normally, when asked what I make, I would say blog posts, in addition to other poems like poems, or hard cider. Yet this is only my fourth blog post of the week, behind my average of a post a day, and it does little to catch up with a full week with no blog posts while I was out on Cape Cod, and an expected dearth of blog posts while I am at Falcon Ridge.

On our way out to Cape Cod, we stopped at the 2nd BIG Tiny House Festival in Concord, MA, that my middle daughter helped organize with her friends from Miranda’s Hearth. At one of the tables there were #WhatIMake cards and colored pencils. Take a blank card, draw what you make. Leave it in the box of completed cards and take a different card. Connect with other makers.

This week has been #BreakWeek in the #CLMOOC I’m somewhat participating in. Being offline at the Cape left me less connected or involved that I would have liked to have been and I was hoping to use #BreakWeek to catch up. There’s been a lot of talk about postcards in #CLMOOC, very much like the #WhatIMake cards from Miranda’s Hearth. At some point, when I feel like things are better under control, I hope to join the postcard project. I hope some of my friends at Miranda’s Hearth will too.

Some of the stuff in #CLMOOC has been about ‘Animator’ and various other tools for creating animated GIFs. People have talked about Paper by Fiftythree. Unfortunately that is iPhone only. Someone else mentioned Sketch on Android. I looked briefly at Sketch and similar sketching and animation tools for Android and for laptops. Sketch has the ability to collaboratively sketch, and I think it may have timelines as well. Seems like a nice digital parallel to the postcard and #WhatIMake projects.

Another project that has caught my eye is #CLMOOC #DAILYCONNECT: THE CONNECTED POEM. I would love to spend some time in the connected poem, or perhaps set up a few connected poems myself. It uses Titanpad which appears to be based on Etherpad. Both are worth exploring.

I typically leave pages I’ve been browsing up to come back to them later and perhaps write about them a little. Often I try to connect them to different themes. I’ve been trying to avoid getting too drawn into the political fray, but I have been wondering if “You have sacrificed nothing and no one” will be the “Have you no sense of decency left” line from the 2016 election. Various people have been writing about it. Ezra Klein wrote, Donald Trump’s slander of Captain Humayun Khan’s family is horrifying, even for Trump. The Washington Post had Backlash for Trump after he lashes out at the Muslim parents of a dead U.S. soldier.

I’ve been getting into some discussions about Trump and religion. On Facebook I shared Opinion: Denying the Imago Dei: The triumph of Donald Trump. It was written by Ian Markham, Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary.

We should always recognize that when we talk about human lives we are talking about men and women who are made in the image of God. People are of infinite value. This debased and coarse language is totally inappropriate; in fact, it is wrong; it is sinful; indeed it is evil.

I often also point people to 7 conservative Christians who are not supporting Trump. There are lots of good comments there. Another window I had open was TRUMP ANNOUNCES HIS DEBATE ESCAPE PLAN. Not a lot of content there but it voices something people are talking about. Also, If Politicians Had Man Buns has some funny pictures.

It is getting late, and I won’t make it through all the open windows, but I thought I’d highlight two last articles I have up. I was talking with my eldest daughter whose classmates are now hearing “weird dad” stories. I pointed her to Impression Formation in Cyberspace: Online Expectations and Offline Experiences in Text-based Virtual Communities in which I am a case study. There is also an article which I believe I originally found from my middle daughter, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett And Oprah All Use The 5-Hour Rule :

Top business leaders often spend five hours per week doing deliberate learning.

While I’m not keen on the business focus, I think it has an interesting point which expands upon nicely.

More continuous connected learning later…

Syndicate content