Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's about giving all the love that you've got.

I can't say enough good things about Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed.

Let me give you a taste of how awesome it is:
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you'll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you'll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.” 
“Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can't cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It's just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal.” 
“Forgiveness doesn't sit there like a pretty boy in a bar. Forgiveness is the old fat guy you have to haul up a hill.” 
“Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your na├»ve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.” 

This is a book you will carry around with you. It's a book you will return to again and again. Read a bit of it and let it sink in. Roll it around in your head for a while and then think, "Yes. That's it exactly."

My favorite bits right now are The Human Scale, The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us, and The Obliterated Place. It's where I am right now, but I'm sure other bits will be my favorite at other times. That's the beauty of this book. It gives you what you need when you need it.

From The Human Scale:
"If I believed in God, I'd see evidence of his existence in that. In your darkest hour you were held afloat by the human love that was given to you when you most needed it."
"What if you allowed your God to exist in the simple words of compassion others offer you? What if faith is the way it feels to lay your hands on your daughters sacred body? What if the greatest beauty of the day is the shaft of sunlight through your window? What if the worst thing happened and you rose anyway? What if you trusted in the human scale? What if you listened harder to the story of the man on the cross who found a way to endure his suffering than to the one about the impossible magic of the Messiah? Would you see the miracle in that?"

From The Ghost Ship That Didn't Carry Us:
“I'll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don't choose. We'll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn't carry us. There's nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” 

From The Obliterated Place:
"I am so sorry for your loss. I am so sorry for your loss. Iamsosorryforyourloss."
“Small things such as this have saved me: how much I love my mother—even after all these years. How powerfully I carry her within me. My grief is tremendous but my love is bigger. So is yours. You are not grieving your son’s death because his death was ugly and unfair. You’re grieving it because you loved him truly. The beauty in that is greater than the bitterness of his death.”  
And two quotes that have become part of me, and will stay with me always:
“But compassion isn't about solutions. It's about giving all the love that you've got.”
and, pardon the french...
“The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.” 


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When and where have you been a part of a culture of thinking?

I am reading a great new book by Ron Ritchhart, Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools

The price of the book is worth it for the introduction alone: Demystifying Group and Organizational Culture. Have you ever been part of a group - a book club, a committee, a travel tour, a graduate course, a club, or a classroom? Then this book is for you.
"When and where have you been a part of a culture of thinking? That is, when have you been in a place where the group's collective thinking as well as each individual's thinking was valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular day-to-day experience of all group members?"
"Take a moment to identify a single instance from your life as a learner in which you were part of such a group." 

Do you have an experience of being in a culture of thinking in mind? Upon reflection, do you remember having a sense of purpose to the learning? Do you remember having a commitment to the task at hand? Was there a feeling of equity within the group? Was there a sense of engagement and an element of challenge? In recalling a time when you were part of a dynamic group of people learning and creating together, do you have a feeling of connection: connection to the task at hand, to the topic, to the learning, and to the group?
"It feels good to be a member of a culture of thinking. It produces energy. It builds community. It allows us to reach our potential. This is something we as educators need to remember. A culture of thinking is not about a particular set of practices or a general expectation that people should be involved in thinking. A culture of thinking produces the feelings, energy, and even joy that can propel learning forward and motivate us to do what at times can be hard and challenging mental work."

Like I said, the introduction is amazing! 

My favorite big question in the book was: "What do you want the children you teach to be like as adults?" How would you respond to this question?

Collective responses head along these lines:
"We are hoping for someone who is curious, engaged, able to persevere, empathetic, willing to take risks and try new things, a go-getter, able to problem solve, creative, passionate about something, a listener, open-minded, healthy, committed to the community, respectful, analytical, inquisitive, a lifelong learner, an avid reader, a critical consumer, helpful, compassionate, imaginative, enthusiastic, adaptable, able to ask good questions, able to connect, well rounded, a critical thinker..."

... and the list goes on. Include your own and you'll notice that there are few traditional, measurable, testable skills mentioned.

This is an awesome book and should be read by teachers and administrators... or  anyone interested in the tools needed for unlocking, understanding, and shaping powerful learning environments that get the best out of people. 

It even contains that amazing 2011 quote by Matt Damon at the Save Our Schools Rally in Washington DC:

"As I look at my life today, the things I value most about myself - my imagination, my love of acting, my passion for writing, my love of learning, my curiosity - all come from how I was parented and taught. And none of these qualities that I've just mentioned - none of these qualities that I prize so deeply, that have brought me so much joy, that have brought me so much professional success - none of these qualities that make me who I am...can be tested."