Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ordinary, Extraordinary --Away from incessant busyness

I’ve been drawn back and again to Barbara Ganley’s recent post, “On the Cusp: Learning to Pay Attention to the Extraordinary in the Ordinary”. Her words have resonated with me on so many levels as her “slow blog” post seamlessly weaves events from her personal life with the importance of slowing down in learning.

On a personal level, my father is also dying, although I sense not in the same way. Daddy’s Alzheimer’s slowly pulls him farther and deeper into a world of his own, and with that descent, I find myself remembering the articulate and loving letters now in my cedar chest that always spoke to me of beauty and love and finding the ordinary extraordinary. With that remembering, I’m finding that I’m far more apt to take time to notice and appreciate the sparkling snow, the call of the geese and their flight across the wintry sky, the fun of digging out of overwhelming snow— away from incessant busyness.

As Barbara so beautifully writes:
It has taken slowing down, going deep, having some time for thoughts to bubble up and rise slowly--to look around, to feel the power of the ordinary instead of just talking about it. ..Even with this reflective blog and my posts about blogging as letter-writing and slow-blogging, I know I moved too fast, glancing at the books piled high, at the road, at the world around me, at the colossal problems in my community and the world.
For years I have been guilty, I believe, of what David T. Hansen describes in his introduction to the outstanding John Dewey and Our Educational Prospect:
"The explosion of information in the world today, the rapidity of interaction via contemporary modes of communication, the continued blurring of the lines between providing education and offering marketable degrees and diplomas: these and other forces conspire to push educators into a mode of incessant busyness, with increasingly scarce time for solitude and the conversation so indispensable for thoughtful study and reflection."

The new rituals .. plunged me back into the pleasures and significance of unexpected informal learning, the importance of paying attention to the local, of learning to look at the road every week and see it, really see it for the first time in twenty-five years, instead of listening to music or zoning out into thoughts of my teaching, of my blogging, of my parenting, of all the things I have left undone.
Her words carry me to another time, referenced here, when silence and listening and thoughtful reflection had a profound influence on my life and my learning. A vivid picture of that meeting room, windows open, birds singing, in its simplicity – a moment in time-- to which I yearn to return.

And on yet another level, her words are so articulate she relates to learning:
In our classrooms we have for so long woven pretty pale, stiff excuses for richly hued, complex, textured tapestries of a group's time together thinking, listening, talking and creating. We can do better. I can do better, by honoring the personal and informal and ordinary within the confines of formal learning, by slowing down, by messing around…

How do we help our students How are they expected to slow down if we don't? How are they supposed to have time to think creatively or mess around outside if even the playgrounds we build are managed?

I'd like to explore other kinds of unscripted moments in my classes--slowly-- the personal and ordinary, turning them over and over in our hands, connecting them to our formal learning experience and to each other in our pursuit of deep learning about ourselves and the world and how we want to live..

Barbara’s words resound as I return to my work on my current project, an online mentoring course for entry-year teachers. Yes, how indeed can I create an environment in which “unscripted moments” abound, where entry year teachers exit their mode of “incessant busyness”, and explore and reflect upon the personal and ordinary? How can I create an environment that honors the personal and informal and ordinary within the confines of formal learning-- a model for learning within their classrooms where their goal is as Darren’s:
I will continue to try to make them feel as though "the ordinary in our class is extraordinary."
so youngsters in turn can revel in those unscripted moments of discovering and power of the ordinary--

1 comment:

Anne Davis said...

This post is extraordinary and one of the best I have ever read. It is indeed a post to keep reflecting on so "youngsters can revel in those unscripted moments of discovering and power of the ordinary--.....". What incredible writing, Lani! Thank you.