Monday, June 13, 2011

Saturday's child has to work for a living

There are defining phrases, songs, books, poems, etc. that provide almost-instant identification of age cohorts.  Princess Phone ("It's little...It's lovely...It lights"), to my peers, means the pink phone all teenage girls wanted.  Parents didn't really have princess phones and no self-respecting male would even use one. 

For my students, it means...well, nothing.  No point of reference whatsoever.  Same with rotary dial, party line (not the political reference), or "one ringie-dingie, two ringie-dingie".  The contextual meaning, the history, and the related life experiences--such as having grandparents whose calls were sometimes 'overheard' on their party line--are lost in the translation.

People under the age of 45 are slightly more likely to be familiar with the children's nursery rhyme from which the title for this blog post was taken.  The rhyme came to mind when I was thinking about the full-time working students who have been attending MBA classes for two years...on Saturdays.  I've joined them twice this summer for an 8:00 a.m. class, to which many of them have to fly or drive the night before.  And most have an afternoon class, making a full 8-5 day of lecture and homework.

These students are working hard, sacrificing family time and leisure activities for the MBA they hope will improve their career opportunities, make them 'more competitive,' or simply keep them employed.  In many ways, these students live and work in a world far different from the one of their parents and their grandparents.  The phones are different, but the work ethic seems refreshingly similar.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's a lot like life

One of my early lessons as a student of taekwondo has stood me well, both inside and outside the kwan (school).  As I was struggling to learn the traditions, patterns, and language of the kwan, I looked around me for cues and models, noticing black belts in the same row, taking the same lesson, going through the same patterns. When I asked one of the black belts (who appeared both competent and intimidating) why he was in  a class with beginner white belts, his response is one I often share with students:  When you achieve the level of black belt proficiency, that signifies you are ready to begin the beginning.

By the time children are ready to leave home, parents are figuring out how to parent.  By the time we finish a major work project, we are mastering the skills that would have helped us start.  And when we finish a class or course of study, we have the knowledge we needed to begin.

We live our lives simultaneously forward and backward.  It's an odd thing to advance in one direction while processing in another; moving forward while understanding backward.  It's not that we don't learn and take the wisdom or knowledge with us; we do.  But there is something in our make up--something captured in the differing languages of child psychologists and poets, some essentially human ability to think about thinking--that folds time, capturing both past and future in the present.

As each semester ends, I feel competent to begin, wishing I could incorporate what I've just learned into what I've just done.  In that way, as in so many others, each semester is--at least for me--a lot like life.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Food for the soul

I'm in the midst of another (new) course and find myself richer for the experiences I had and the risks I took with the phenomenal students in the Spring.  In Innovation and Creativity, for example, the final assignment was one of four options:

  1. Provide a course review (what I have learned, what was most/least beneficial, what I will use, etc.).
  2. Write a personal assessment (my Myers-Briggs type, my strengths/weaknesses, etc. and how/whether those attributes will contribute to or hinder my ability to be creative and drive innovation in my job).
  3. Create a presentation (Prezi, cartoon, poster board...anything other than PowerPoint) that expresses my view of (a) what it means to be creative and (b) the value of innovation.
  4. Research and package/present the best sources to nurture and support your personal and professional creativity.
I received things that made me laugh.  A few surprised me, either in content or in sheer creativity.  Some made me think.  Others touched me on a personal level:

Although many of the assignments were frustrating at first, as I was completing them I found that I actually enjoyed completing them. My favorite assignment was the “thinking about thinking” assignment. I honestly did not realize how routine and unnecessarily stressful my daily life was until I completed that assignment. By doing something different every day I found myself feeling more accomplished and comfortable with more creative efforts. It has motivated me to make a conscious effort to incorporate change in my daily routine, and aim to try new things whenever possible.
Similarly, despite the fact the class constantly forced me to work outside my comfort zone, the days when we sat on the floor or listened to music were among my favorites because it was a refreshing change from the typical class. I enjoyed the class session focused on design and the utility of Google reader and blogs. I have discovered a new love for blogs. I use Google reader on a daily basis, and I find that I know have started seeking and searching for information in a completely different way. I feel more connected to the world and informed about current issues.
The most important thing I am leaving the class with is that I have a need to be creative. I discovered that many of the class assignments were the only source and outlet of creativity in my life. After completing many of the assignments I felt satisfied, almost like a feeding a hunger pain. The class reconnected me with my creative side, which seemed to be buried underneath all the accounting curriculum and the “hustle and bustle” of everyday life. It has inspired me to start a blog and even extend my creative efforts to the kitchen. Being creative has become a release from the tasks that consume my every day, and it is necessary to my well-being and future happiness.
There's really nothing else to say...