Monday, November 26, 2012


It's different from inattention, at least in the common usage.  Inattention usually means that I am not paying attention, especially when I should.  Un-attention means unlearning attention patterns that cause us to miss important parts of what's right in front of us.

If your interest is piqued, you can read more in Cathy Davidson's Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will  Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century.  According to the packing list conveniently tucked inside my copy, I ordered the book in September; I'd forgotten when I ordered it, as it somewhat took up residence on my desk.  Today, while I should have been attending to a long list of other things, I picked it up and started to read.  I know it's going to be a good read when I start reaching for a pencil to mark up my copy, then turn to the computer to research related topics...and to write.

As is my custom, I'll note here that the concepts aren't new, though the application is.  An example:
The more you concentrate, the more other things you miss.
This is both the reason why eye witness accounts are the least reliable versions of what actually happened...and why a dear friend reminds me frequently that things are often more clear when I don't try so hard to see them clearly.

I am looking forward to paying just enough attention to finish the book, as the rest will likely take care of itself. And did I mention that Davidson is an English professor?  It just keeps getting better...

Friday, November 16, 2012

In search of...

The day after I wrote about struggle, Seth Godin wrote about the value of effort:  "The work of an individual who cares often exposes the grit and determination and effort that it takes to be present."  His conclusion is that we may be searching for--and unable to find--the person behind the perfection.

Monday, November 12, 2012

In praise of struggle

This morning, part of the class discussion was "why would anyone want to be a CEO, given the stress and pressure?"  After class, a student stopped me to ask whether I was familiar with how (differently) Japanese companies approached leadership.  Later, I happened upon an NPR story about how Eastern and Western cultures tackle learning. Now I'm wondering about cultural and individual approaches to success--to how we learn and to how willing we are to struggle.

While acknowledging diversity within each of the cultures, as well as the existence of "counter-examples," the NPR article states that "(f)or the most part in American culture, intellectual struggle in schoolchildren is seen as an indicator of weakness, while in Eastern cultures it is not only tolerated, it is often used to measure emotional strength." Think about that for a minute.  The implication is that, in our Western culture, success should appear effortless and easy.

The article suggests that equating struggle with strength (rather than with weakness) means that we are more likely to demonstrate the very persistence required for success. And I'm sure I've heard this somewhere before:

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge understood the value of struggling, of persisting, of pressing on, of just not giving up.  It may be one of the most important--and most universal--lessons available.

Perhaps easy isn't really...or shouldn't be.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cycles and seasons

Change is the only constant and yet we often resist it with everything in us.  When we have a perfect moment, we want to hold onto realize later, as T.S. Eliot wrote in The Dry Salvages, "we had the experience but missed the meaning."

The changing seasons are, perhaps, the best reminder for me that all things change.  Though I have my preferences regarding weather and seasons, I will admit (in my more honest moments) that I appreciate the beauty of the cycle and the reminder of my relative importance within it.

When semesters end, elected officials change (or don't), or milestones arrive, change looms large.  So do our natural tendencies to resist.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Electing to participate

Voting is a right afforded by citizenship in my country.  And, regardless of the rhetoric that my individual vote does not matter, my decision to vote does matter.

I am an educator.  I have a responsibility to think, to challenge my own thinking, to encourage others to think, and to engage in respectful, substantive discourse about issues that matter.  Participating fully in both my rights and my responsibilities is part of being a parent, a teacher, and a citizen.