Playing Catch Up

Thanks to Tim Stahmer I’ve managed to keep my tabs somewhat under control by keeping all the posts I want to remember to share in Instapaper. That’s a good thing, but it also means they are out of sight and easier for me to ignore. (I’ve also just been trying to keep my head above water as school ended – and then took a vacation – so I’m working on some catching up.)

That means I’m going back a ways to share some things I’ve saved. First up, Science Goddess always pushes my thinking about data – how we collect it, how we use it, what we can learn from it. And this post is no different. She’s taken an Amazon IoT button and programmed it to collect information. What information? That’s up to the user. The concept is amazing. Brilliant. I haven’t given it a try yet (shocking, I know, given that it’s taken me months to even write about it) but I think I’ll order a button to force myself to prioritize this during the summer. She makes it seem doable…

You can configure each button to communicate over wifi. It can receive and transmit data related to a single, double, or long click. Slip one in your pocket. What are the kinds of things you might like to track? How many minutes in a class period the teacher is talking…or how many boys, girls, or non-binary students s/he calls on? What if you gave one to a student and asked him/her to push a button every time an adult in the building greeted him or her by name? We could even go bigger. What if you put a set in the office with a different question each week and asked visitors to respond?

So many possibilities.

Peter Anderson hasn’t been writing as often since his daughter was born (a far better excuse than any I currently have) but when he writes I’m ready to read. This post is titled, Be Curious, Not Furious and explores how we respond to kids and why we do so. I was really struck by his thinking around all the options we have for supporting students in schools today and why all those supports and tools might actually be a challenge for us.

In a way, the availability of these resources can make it harder to respond to a child with compassion. You can have a million different hammers, but you’re still out of luck if you have to do anything other than push in a nail. And with students like James and Kelly, it’s obvious there’s more there than a kid simply choosing to ignore their studies.

I hadn’t considered the idea that we turn to the tools and options we have and implement them without realizing that we may be solving a problem that doesn’t exist and ignoring the one that does.

I saved a few tweets that spoke to me (something I don’t do too often but might be worth doing – I’ll have to think more about this because tweets often hit me in the moment and then are gone and I don’t hold on to them in the same way as I do blog posts and articles).

Matt Kay is one of my favorite people on twitter because he is brilliant, thoughtful, and genuine. This tweet totally captures something I do often, when I’m lucky. When I’m not lucky I chastise the kid without realizing they were actually doing something great. Sigh.

Another tweet is from Yamil Baez. Yes to all of this tweet, but I think it really struck me because of the “It is up to us to become more informed…” I have been thinking about that a lot lately as I try to read books and articles from people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community and as I try to follow such folks online. People are out there doing the work of teaching us white folks and it is on us to learn and do that work. “It is up to us to become more informed…” That is a mantra I think we need these days.

In college I was an RA for a couple of years. Senior year the head of our building (and my direct boss, of sorts) sat down one-on-one with each RA once a month. She wanted to check in with us and it was great. She always asked how we were doing with the job, school, and our social lives. All three mattered and she wanted to help us balance, if we needed it. I can remember telling her school was not going as well as the rest and she was shocked. Apparently I presented as a strong student with great grades, regardless of the reality. It took me a while to realize that I did really well in college when I was invested (my education classes mostly). Otherwise I felt I was learning as much or more through things I was doing outside of the classroom. (A bit ironic that education classes preparing me to be in a classroom were going well but otherwise I was focused outside of the classroom…) So this tweet from Michael Doyle struck me.

One last tweet came from Franki Sibberson. Franki is such a role model for me. She is a classroom teacher who has written professional books and articles and is now the president of NCTE. When I think I can’t do things because I’m ‘just a classroom teacher’, I remember Franki. Her tweet got me thinking about one of the reasons I love hosting pre-service teachers in my classroom. Having someone else there, watching me, learning about being a teacher from me, pushes me to be the best version of myself. I like this idea that we can imitate that best version and it will help us.

A few years ago, at NCTE’s annual conference, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo was on the opening panel. I was not familiar with her but immediately wanted to read her books and learn more. I’ve done so and am even more awed and amazed by her since then. This post, for Nerdy Book Club, was written when her book Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution was coming out.

A few weeks ago my novel Fat Angie: Rebel Girl Revolution, the sequel to the Stonewall Winning Fat Angie, released. A word that came up in an online review was “uncomfortable.” There is a negative connotation often associated with the idea of being uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable is not necessarily a bad thing. Rarely, do we grow from a place of comfort. As much as this book, like my others, are about humor and hope, they are also about those moments that make us uncomfortable, and what we do with them.

I don’t like being uncomfortable but I am learning the importance of it. My husband, a college professor, says he wants his students to be “uncomfortable, but not paralyzed.” That’s where the learning happens. When we’re comfortable we can’t grow. I am so grateful for e.E. Charlton-Trujillo for her words, in books and elsewhere, as she can make readers uncomfortable while being too engaged to walk away. And so the learning happens.

There are at least three more posts worth of items saved in my Instapaper. The goal is to get caught up in the next week. Fingers crossed.


4 replies on “Playing Catch Up”

  1. Tim Stahmer says:

    I forgot to mention that Instapaper only works well if you remember to read the posts that you’ve saved. That’s why I have the app front and center on my phone and tablet, making it easy to have something good to read and annotate when I’m waiting for a certain someone to finish her shopping.

    But I’m sure you never have to wait for Jeff and the girls. 🙂

    • jenorr says:

      Definitely good advice. I think I need to sort out the two ways I am using Instapaper – one for things I’ve read but want to share and the other for things I want to read. The ones I want to share require that I return to them when I have the time and brain space to share them. That seems to be the point of failure right now…

  2. Lots of good stuff here but I’m going to focus on that word uncomfortable. I am about half way through I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and that is the exact word to describe what I am feeling. The main character is so angry and unhappy. She is dealing with the death of her sister and finding it difficult to navigate life with her mother. Her friendships and school work are suffering, but she refuses to reach out for help. She can be rude and obnoxious, even to strangers. I keep wondering if it is going to get any better for her, waiting for that moment of uplift, but then I think it is just my own discomfort as I live this realistic character. She does not sugar coat her life or her feelings for the benefit of anyone, including the reader.

    • jenorr says:

      Interesting. That is now added to my to read list (and I’m more likely to get through it with this information ahead of time – thank you).
      I don’t expect, or even want, to become comfortable with discomfort but learning to accept it and, possibly, even lean in to it sometimes, is a goal for me. I know it is the point at which I can learn but my powerful gut reaction is to avoid it.

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