Sunday, September 26, 2010

MAC – Month 11 – Week 4 - Comments on Jeff Kohls’ Blog


Most times it is so much easier to initially place blame on something outside of us when things don’t go the way we had anticipated. This stance most often relinquishes us to being like a cratered moon, constantly being bombarded by space debris crashing into it. Putting ourselves into the game as the activity builds an atmosphere around us, letting most small issues to dissolve before reaching us.

On Saturday, September 25th Jeff Kohls wrote:

Be the Board?

It's quite a concept to remove oneself from the game as player, and establish oneself as the board. Especially the board on which the whole game is being played, taking the problematic aspect of any circumstance from the outside world and bringing them into the boundaries of yourself.

Much of the reading of Practice Ten, Being the Board focus on the diffusion of the personal ego, which can be very difficult to any individual to do. As humans, I believe we possess traits that cause us to place blame, compete, and remain in number one position. These are intrinsic to our ego.

According to this practice, the first step is to self-declare, "I am the framework for everything that happens in my life." What a radical, and difficult concept to adopt. But in order to ensure that we experience a peaceful journey through this life, we must adopt ourselves as the board, remain on track, be present without resistance to the way things are, and act effectively. Experience a graceful journey. Some things happen that are definitely beyond our control, but to experience them in this graceful existence can leave our spirit whole, and leaves us free to chose again.

The analogy of identifying oneself to the chessboard, and not the chess piece or strategist, allows us to better interpret the concept. By becoming the framework for the game itself, we give ourselves the power to transform our experiences of unwanted situations into ones in which we want to live. When we begin to see things differently, other changes can occur.

Step two of this practice is contemplating for the self, "how did this get on the board that I am?" This practice allows us to see the obvious and then not-so-obvious contributions of our calculating selves, or earlier decisions that we may have made that landed us where we are.

Being the board is not about blaming oneself, however. Self-blame follows the rules of the game in which we, as humans, divide fault and place blame.

Zanders indicate that when we are the board, we present no obstacles to others. We name ourselves as the instruments to which we make all relationships into effective partnerships.

Many of my colleagues have expressed gratitude for the assigning of this book. I would like to share in that sentiment, and offer that this is a book that I will share with my high school leadership students so that they may explore their Art of Possbility.

You can find Jeff Kohls' blog here.

MAC - Month 11 - Week 4 - Blog Post Comments on Scott Legere's Blog

Hi Scott,

I am so glad to hear that you have “seized the inopportune moment” and looked at all of the possibilities in your morning commute, instead of focusing on how it could be an inconvenience. It is true that our reactions to change paint a reality that is not always optimum, but we always have a choice in the way we deal with it. This is a great example of perfecting this exercise. Congratulations on your new teaching opportunity!

On Monday, September 20th Scott Legere wrote:

I now ride the bus. Every day, I walk 7 blocks to the Downtown Minneapolis 5th Street Station. From there, I catch the 94Express and ride into downtown St. Paul. If I'm a little early (a rare feat), I'm able to grab a seat by the window and sit relatively distraction free from the chaos that can be indicative of public transportation in a major metropolitan area.

I wasn't excited about being a commuter. For the last few years, I've tried to maintain a strict rule of living within a short bike ride or walk from the workplace. Still, when I received an invitation to teach Media Economics at the McNally Smith College of Music, I couldn't refuse the offer.

And so I commute. Initially, I was pretty against the idea. It was going to be inconvenient and take too long. On good days, the trip usually takes about 30 minutes. Yet, come January, I can only assume that a brief snow flurry will easily extend the trip to over an hour making the ordeal even more excruciating.

Yet what I've learned to do is to take this unique opportunity and reframe the experience into an opportunity. This new daily ritual is a break. A breath. And even a chance to read, prep for class, and watch the world go by. As it stands, only two weeks into the school year, I'm enjoying the bus.

In some ways, this process is akin to what the Zanders describe as "being the board"- readjusting your perspective regarding the systems of cause and effect that create specific situations. In this simple case, I've found that over time, this strategy (and the others already prescribed in the Art of Possibility) is real. We can pause, reflect on a situation, and draw from it a more positive conclusion or perspective than we had first held.

In one brief paragraph of analysis, the Zanders spoke of the strong reactionary powers that we have adopted as human beings. It is true, biologically and physiologically we have developed an extremely perceptive ability to sense potential danger. Clearly, this adaptation was instrumental in escaping predators and protecting early communities from danger. However, today, these same powers are likely a contributor to the negative feelings we can harbor towards new situations and events.

Without question, it is imperative that we avoid letting these receptive powers lead us towards a "downward spiral" of behavior or attitude. And, if we take a broader view towards the seemingly seismic changes happening in our schools, workplace, country, and world, our students especially need to be reminded of this concern.

Honestly, I think an excellent title for a teacher today could be that of one who "creates frameworks for possibility". I can see no greater nobility to extend to our young learners. The world is complicated. It is scary. And, being left to one's own devices without a roadmap, support, or self confidence building feedback, I'm sure today's students could develop severely negative opinions of the future and their place in it.

I'm really enjoying reading the Art of Possibility. It is refreshing, and I'm able to bring ideas and quotes straight from my reading into the classroom minutes later… after getting off the bus.

You can find Scott's blog here.

MAC – Month 11 – Week 4 – Reading – “Being the Board”

My sensei told me once that the difference between work and play is locus of control. If you choose to engage a challenge, you are able to have fun and express yourself. If you feel like the task is a burden and something that you have to do, it will always be work. Chapter 10 of “The Art of Possibility” seems to reflect this in the concept of “Being the Board”. It is often very easy for us to place ourselves at the mercy of the universe instead of saying that we are a part of its creation. Universe literally means, “one song”. It is this one song that we are all notes in, and doesn’t it make more sense to be in harmony with the music than to be in discord? Being willing to engage every challenge brings the control back into our hands, to the point where we are creating the beautiful music of the song.

This book has really given new context to some valuable life lessons. Just the idea that anything is possible is such a brighter outlook to take than saying, “if this and that changed, then I could be happy”. This is placing the control into something outside of you, which can make everything seem bleak and dismal. By giving you the power to choose to engage conflict, it then becomes a fun game to play. Being the board allows us to be creative in overcoming challenges that other players have introducing into the game. It would seem absurd to tell your opponent that they are not allowed to sink your battleship, the fun part comes in when we ask, “What strategy will I use now that my battleship is sunk?” It becomes much less about winning or losing, but how you play the game.

I am reminded in this reading of a passage from the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, where the main character responds to a potential employer’s asking of his qualifications. “I can think, I can fast, and I can wait.” This outlook of oneself is incredibly empowering. It states that no matter what is on the path ahead of us, we always have the ability and choice of how to deal with it.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

MAC - Month 11 - Week 4 - Publishing-Leadership Project - Part 2 of 2: The Reception

Now that the Media Services website has had a few test runs, and the majority of the bugs are worked out of the system, the first place I would like present this work is at the Keystone College Administrative Council meeting. This monthly gathering serves as a forum for members of the College to communicate information about current policies and explore new ideas. It also provides an avenue to voice development initiatives to the executive committee of the council, which in turn acts as a liaison to members of the Cabinet, and the President of Keystone College. I will inquire about sharing this presentation at the November 9th meeting.

The presentation will consist of an explanation as to how my Action Research project was created to address the need of instructional technology support at the College, and how the work created through the project could provide a solution. Keystone has a growing online program, and a non-traditional program that meets on weekends. Providing this technology support infrastructure in an online format would help students and staff who cannot be on campus during our face-to-face support hours. I would then like to present the MS website, and give a short demonstration of the functionality and how to access it.

In addition to a live unveiling to the administration of Keystone I will also present the system to the campus via our daily newsletter, the K.C. Morning E-Notes. This information could be publicized at several times throughout the academic year, primarily nearing the start of each semester. Since it is sent to every email inbox on campus, there is a high probability that the website will get noticed.

This project could also be presented in two Keystone publications; The Chronicle, and the Keystonian. The Chronicle is a monthly newsletter designed to keep students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni current with Keystone events. The Keystonian is an annual publication that concentrates on letting the community know about new developments at the school and its intended growth for the future. Both of these publications would be another great way to broadcast this new support system. You can find the archives to these publications here.

This system is custom made for Keystone College, so I feel that the initial venues to approach are ones that can function to disseminate the information to the rest of the school. For the future of this project I could see this support system helping our online program grow to offer more degrees, and make a Keystone education possible for a larger body of individuals for whom traditional education is not possible. I am excited for the possibilities.

MAC - Month 11 - Week 4 - Publishing-Leadership Project - Part 1 of 2: The Broadcast

I can envision taking the work complied throughout my Action Research journey to facilitate the growth of our hybrid and distance education programs at Keystone College. The Media Services department serves in many roles at the College, but the primary function is the integration of instructional technology into the educational structure. The first step is to find a means of broadcasting the existence of the support materials available on the Media Services website to the campus community. This would include redirecting links from the main Keystone website’s technology and support pages to the MS website. Also redirecting the support links within each of the various management software systems utilized and supported by the MS website.

In addition to the virtual networking and linking to the MS website, I would like to publish a quarterly announcement in the K.C. Morning E-Notes. This is a daily email publication containing current events, campus news, and upcoming activities on campus. It has proved to be a very effective way to communicate information to the entire campus community. I feel that rebroadcasting the link and function of the MS website prior to the start of each semester will promote learning of our various course management software systems, and allow users to realize the potential of these educational tools.

There are also several organizational meetings of faculty and administration that would also be a good opportunity to announce this project. This way the background behind the project could be presented and a live demonstration of the websites functionality could be shown. I hope that this would inspire several established initiatives in the realm of our online and distance education programs to use the MS website as a tool to support the growing number of students in these programs.

This will be presented in three steps. The first is to provide the physical connections between the software systems and the support website. The second is to tell the campus where the website is and what it can do. The third is to show the community how it works. This process would at least ensure that the campus is aware that these support tutorials are available to them.

Here is a link to the Media Services website. Be advised, the site is in a live working beta stage and there are some links that are not working.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

MAC – Month 11 – Week 3 - Free Choice

This month’s readings have really inspired me to rethink my approach to life. I think after almost a year of highly intense and often stressful study in this program I have forgotten some of reasons why I started it in the first place.

1.) I want to become a more effective teacher.
2.) I want to inspire students to be as fascinated as I am about the subject matter I am in teaching it.

I think it is very easy for us to take our perceptions of reality as reality, and allow what we think is going on to color how we feel about it. So many times throughout this year I have become stressed and felt that I wouldn’t be able to see this endeavor through. Every time this happened, it would send me in a downward spiral of blaming myself for not being able to do it under the conditions, or blaming the program for being too difficult. This is like saying that in order for me to succeed there can be no obstacles in my path, and that the competition must throw the fight so I can be the victor. I have been allowed to remember this month that it is pressure that turns carbon into a diamond. The more difficult the challenge, the stronger one will be when they survive it.

So how do we survive the immense pressures that are placed on us daily? It may seem too easy to say, “Just don’t let it bother you”, but in essence this is what we must do. The more time we spend not accepting everything for the way it is, the more weight we add to our already very heavy lives. This in turn can make us focus on the weight we are carrying instead of where we are walking. This always makes us fall.

I am glad we had the opportunity to read “The Art of Possibility” at this point in our journey. It made me ask the question, “Why am I doing all of this?” Remembering that I am here to inspire others, has given me the inspiration to forge ahead.

MAC – Month 11 – Week 3 - Comments on Sharon Jones’ Blog

This is a great application of the ideas touched on in this week’s reading. So often we expend a lot of energy trying to break a barrier down with our fists, when if we took a step back and looked at the whole terrain we would see that we can simply walk around it. Perspective has everything to do with it, and the more narrow our view of a situation, the less likely we will be to “see” other possibilities.

On Saturday, September 18th Sharon Jones wrote:

What an interesting and enigmatic reading this week! Would that I had read this prior to posting to the discussion prompts! The first chapter assigned this week dealt with “the way things are.” The discussion prompts dealt with our experiences with introducing new ways to do things into the school (or business) setting. The second topic dealt with the reason educators seem to be so resistant to change. Both of these topics spoke to me immediately, and I jumped right in and began cataloging all the difficulties I have had and PLACING THE BLAME for the resistance I had met. Reading chapter 7, though, reminded me that there are two things I must consider. One is “the way things are” and the other is “the way I perceive things to be.” As Ben Zander has said, “How fascinating!”

Obviously “the way things are,” the resistance expressed by our administration to the use of technology with our students, exists. I even understand many of the reasons our particular district has set the standards that are currently in place, and I can continue to disagree with them, and work toward the development of a more enlightened policy. I may or may not be successful, but the primary reason for engaging in this program has been to arm myself with the skill set needed to help move education into the 21st century. After reading chapter seven, I asked myself what benefit my students or I gained from me blaming the administration for the current status quo. The answer, of course, was “none.”

What “is” is. What needs to be changed, needs to be changed. Instead of placing blame, I need to be looking at a much bigger picture. It is not enough to know why something is the way it is. I must also look at what small steps can be taken to facilitate change. In much the same way as the example story of the father who felt his son was uncommunicative and walled off, even though this same son had requested and gained counseling for his family, I must look at the walls and barriers I am creating through my interpretation of the situation in which I find myself.

You can find Sharon Jones' blog here.