It's time for a move.
Please use the following link for the new location of Wear the Cape!
Thursday, January 8, 2015
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Okay tootsies... it's time to get down with some philosophy up in the blogosphere.
As I reach the almost halfway mark of the Abecedary of Cape-Wearing with the letter L.
L is for the Law of Unintended Consequences
Here are some quick definitions:
--events and/or actions that result from the implementation of a law of rule that the makers of the law did not expect (link here)
--unintended consequences (sometimes unanticipated consequences or unforeseen consequences) are outcomes that are not the ones intended by a purposeful action (link here)
--actions, particularly those taken on a large scale as by governments, may have unexpected consequences. These “reactions,” may be positive, negative or merely neutral, but they veer off from the intent of the initial action (link here)
How does this apply to the Abecedary of Cape-Wearing? Here is my thinking (and the thinking of these folks that wrote this cool and totally geeky book)... Superheroes dwell exactly in the middle of a world of large-scale, high impact, life-altering change. They save lives, lasso meteors, thwart world domination. Even the smallest action in the world of a superhero is... well... super. It is a super action that leads to a super consequence.
When my kidlets and I were in the throes of discussing what makes a superhero, they noticed that all of the truly heroic superfolks wrestled with their own powers at one time or another. At first they scoffed at this idea--why would Superman even pause for thought if he could do all of those super things? Why didn't Batman just stop with the tortured-soul act and get on with it? What could possibly have possessed Hal Jordan to even consider NOT becoming a Green Lantern?
One of the kidlets had a big thinking thought, "Because sometimes people died."
Big thinking silence ensued. What if your heroism killed people? Is it worth it?
"Yes, if it saves other people."
"What if it kills the wrong people?"
"Is it ever worth it if someone dies?"
"I bet you still feel bad even if you didn't mean it."
"It doesn't matter if you meant it or not--it killed people."
And they looked at me for the answer--hoping I could wrap it up in a nice package that would feel better than the abyss of uncertainty that was, at that moment, staring them in the face. They waited... I waited... realization dawned on their spongy brains. There is no right answer to this question. Large-scale actions lead to large scale results--a spider web of consequences that can't be planned or controlled.
After this conversation the lovies were subdued for a few days. They noticed unintended consequences for their decisions more and more. The learning on this one was deep and personal. I wasn't sure if they would make the connection, but I didn't want to make it for them--this was deep learning and not to be rushed.
About a week later the light shined down--they were reading about Martin Luther King Jr in their social studies class. I heard them arguing as they walked in to my room,
"He was a pacifist. He was peaceful."
"But people got hurt and maybe died."
"He didn't mean for them to do that though. It wasn't his fault."
"He gave speeches and told them to take action--he should have known."
"How could he know what would they would do?"
“That’s what you have to do when you make big decisions. You have to decide if it’s worth the consequence.”
And lo' the light shined down as they made the connection.
"Hey Boss, this is that law of the consequences thing!”
Why yes my dears... yes it is.
In education we must be aware of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Our words and actions have power. We may not be able to control each resulting ripple, but it is our responsibility to think it through, consider it, be intentional in our work.
What are your thoughts about the Law of Unintended Consequences? Where does it apply to your work, your planning, your best hopes?
Monday, December 22, 2014
What is a superhero?
Their conversations during the various phases of this discussion were awe-inspiring. They thought deeply about heroism, super-heroism, humanity, the forces of good and evil, and their own belief systems.
Each time they thought they had a clear answer to the question; another facet would rise up creating more layers of questions and fewer answers. One of my favorite unanswerable questions that came from this ongoing discussion was:
Is Kal-El a superhero?
Kal-El was a boy on the planet Krypton without special powers. Due to a brief ride through space, and a shift in gravity, he was graced with incredible strength and some laser vision and became what we know as Superman. But as Kal-El—is he a superhero? If one characteristic of a superhero is that she or he have super powers, can we count Kal-El? If we can’t count Kal-El until he lands on Earth and becomes Superman, can we say he is a superhero?
The beauty of this question for my students at the time was the possibility of either answer.
If Kal-El was superhero because of his potential on another planet—then aren’t we all superheroes just waiting for a new planet?
If Kal-El is not a superhero and Superman is—then doesn’t that mean we can all be come a superhero if the right things happen to us? Are we all just waiting for the right circumstance to reveal our powers?
If Kal-El isn’t a superhero and Superman is likewise NOT a superhero—then what does that mean for the definition of superheroes? Can we honestly say that Superman is not super-heroic? If we cannot, then what is super-heroism exactly?
Surprise, surprise, I am applying this teaching and learning. My students loved the idea of superheroes. They loved the idea that they could be a Kal-El waiting for a new planet, or a Bruce Wayne waiting for the right technology, or a Peter Parker in need of a mere spider bite to unleash their amazingness. Superheroes show us our potential to be amazing. Just add enough strength, enough flexibility, enough learning, and KaBlam! Superheorism all around.
This speaks to the eternal hope of possibility we need to have for ourselves as teachers and for our students as learners.
Why not believe that it is possible? Why not believe in the possibility of what we could be rather than focus on the limitations of what we’ve been told we are?
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Thanks to @shelley-burgess, @drjolly and the #satchatwc Saturday morning Twitter chat, I am determined to finish the Abecedary of Cape-Wearing within a year of having the brilliantly foolish idea of starting it. That means I have 17 letters to finish in 24 days. That's... (4 plus... 7… carry the 2...) a gabillion times more letters than I did previously. So wish me cape-wearing luck! Click here for letters A-I.
J is for the Justice Society of America. The JSA is referenced as the first team of superheroes in DC comic books—introduced in World War II alongside the All-Star Squadron. In case you’re curious about the history and the subsequent link to the currently-known JAL, the video below is pretty interesting:
I’m especially fascinated by superhero teams. I love watching strong characters with vastly different skill-sets work together to beat the baddies. There is always some sort of struggle—struggles about leadership, struggles about membership in the team, struggles about which baddies to fight and how—that’s the nature of a team. They always prevail in the end, though. And end up caring about the team as a whole more than their individual needs (almost always anyway—click here for a video of Batman going rogue with the JAL).
Teams of cape-wearing teachers have the same struggles and the same successes. Incredibly talented adults come together for a common purpose—to prepare children for success. The methods for achieving that purpose are varied and each path is full of pitfalls, but teams of teachers always prevail. While it is sometimes difficult to work within a team of such intensely caring, radically different, super-powered colleagues, the success achieved by a team of cape-wearing educators far out-weigh the successes of one individual.
Who is in your superhero team? How do you combine your powers to beat the baddies?
Thursday, December 11, 2014
I was Google-chatting with my sis this morning and had a remembery that gave me new perspective on the work I do today.
Waaayyyy back in 6th grade (think early 80's... acid wash jeans...leg warmers... neon sweatshirt with "Frankie Says Relax" emblazoned on it....) I experienced a pivotal social moment. Didn't we all?
I went to a small school in a small town. There were about 80 kids in my grade. Most of us started in Kinder together and would graduate together down the road. New kids were either celebrities or pariahs. M. was a celebrity. She was related to a D.--a popular kid, and she had a commanding presence. She had style, she had sass, and she was exotic. The girls in the three 6th grade classes followed her around, hung on her every word, did her bidding.
I hung out on the fringes--feeling like I should want to be in the mix, hampered by shyness, and not sure I wanted to be a full-on lemming. I watched, smiled when I was supposed to, and worked very hard to appear that I belonged there while I decided if I did. If the weather was acceptable (i.e. not frozen or hailing), we were outside. The group would go en masse to the furthest edge of the school grounds--as far as we could go without being called back. M. would stand in the center and hold court. At about that time each day the high school vocational classes would have to walk near us to get to their next class. Social norms would dictate that high schoolers walking by a gaggle of 6th grade girls would have the upper hand. They didn’t. M. was that good. One boy in particular struck her as a target and she honed in.
I remember that he walked alone--separate from the rest. He shuffled by each day with his head down. M. didn't like his hair or the way he walked. She altered the words of "Wild Thing"--directing us all to sing along with her as he walked by. I remember the boy put his hood up and tried get further away. This happened for a few days and I watched Wild Thing shrink and try new ways to avoid us each day.
This was before the tragedies of school violence reminded us to teach kids about diversity, bullying, and well… basic humanity. I'd spent my elementary years struggling with a bleeding heart sense of empathy--I knew it wasn't cool to care and I was trying to do what was socially expected as I entered middle school.
I lasted about three days.
On the day I sealed my fate, Wild Thing had his sweatshirt hood up, his hands in his pockets, and he was slinking along at the furthest edge of the walkway. M- called out to him to take his hood off, to come closer to hear the song, to dance for us. I heard my own voice say:
There was a deafening silence. A sea of 6th grade, blue-shadowed eyes turned toward me. A few girls took a step back.
M: “…What did you say!?”
Me (much less forcefully): "I said stop it… that's mean."
M: "You stop it! Don't be bogus. Sing the song."
Me (seriously doubting my choice): "I just think it's mean..”
M (turning her whole powerful self toward me): "If you say that again I'll make everyone stop talking to you forever."
Me (after a pause where I heard audible gasps and considered my own mortality): "…I... don't care. Stop it."
M (shocked pause): "That's it. Get out of here. They’ll never talk to you again."
And they didn’t. She was true to her word. The girls of the 6th grade avoided me for most of that year.* I had a lot of time to doubt my decision. There was no undoing it, so I don't know if I would have if I could have.
And here I sit today--the Director of Student Services for a small school district (though over ten times the size of where I grew up). Apparently I knew exactly who I was that day. My over-empathetic heart decided for me that it was worth the fight to protect those that had a raw deal. I chose my side and while I didn't remember that until today, I see now that I am exactly where I intended to be.
Do you have a pivotal moment you may have forgotten? One that gives you a new perspective on where you are today?
*Lest you think I was entirely solitary, H. moved into town a few months later and was labeled a pariah due to her braces and her odd personality. We became friends of necessity.
Friday, October 17, 2014
For more of the Abecedary of Cape-Wearing click here.
I struggled with this one. I didn't want to go for the obvious. I wanted to pick something witty, pithy, or surprising. I even started writing a different post.
But here's the deal. The Hulk deserves a post. The Hulk with the incredible-ness, I mean.
A few years ago, while my hotten-tots were deciding what characteristics make a superhero, we got stuck on the Incredible Hulk for a good while. We'd made our own list of characteristics at the time, but even if you make your own lists, or look at the lists available online, Hulk is an outlier.
He's strong, true. He can beat baddies, absolutely, He hangs with other superheroes, and that's always good. But the kiddos were concerned that in reality, the most heroic thing about Hulk is how hard Bruce Banner works to NOT lose control and hurt innocent people. They felt that the Hulk himself was not as heroic as Bruce Banner, but they had a hard time coming to terms with that. Hulk is part of Bruce Banner that he has to control in order to be heroic. Hulk is the power and strength, but can also be the dangerous side.
They compared him to Clark Kent and Superman, Hal Jordan and Green Lantern, Oliver Queen and Green Arrow, Peter Parker and Spiderman. In each of these cases the alter ego has control over the powers to some degree. In the case of Bruce and the Hulk the need control becomes the story. His anger, the fear he might hurt someone, the need to control his strength—that is Hulk’s story.
And really, that is heroic. We all have a side to us that is not heroic. Sometimes that side starts to win. Sometimes it does win. As caped crusaders, we need to accept our inner Hulk, allow him to come out only when truly necessary, and strive to control it the rest of the time. So Hulk gets a slot in the Abecedary of Cape-Wearing for working so hard to NOT lose it.
Thank you Hulk, for showing us how.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Superheroes are helpful. It’s sort of their job. They help ladies in distress on a regular basis. They help save bus-fulls of innocent victims from certain death. They save folks who inadvertently fall off tall buildings. And they save cities and planets from evil-doers and imminent destruction.
Some superheroes wage an internal battle with their superhero status, but are convinced as they are continually called in to help and generally save the day.
Some superheroes wage a similar and equally internal battle to stay away from polite society in order to save folks from themselves. The Hulk for example. His main role as a superhero is to keep himself from hurting the wrong people--to try to be in the right place with the right amount of control to unleash fury on the baddies, but keep it away from the nice folks.
Either way, the nice folks get used to it. Metropolis, Gotham City, New York City, Smallville, Earth…the buildings collapse, the subway goes off the rails, the bridges break and the people call for their hero to help. At first they are there without a hitch and the crowd cheers. Later, they are waylaid by multiple and simultaneous disasters or nefarious evil-doers and the crowd questions their loyalty. Why aren’t they there right away? Why are they allowing this to happen? Why do the bridges keep falling down (okay, they don’t ask that last one, but I totally would)?
At this point the iniquitous, the vile, the power-hungry, the vengeful, the diabolical--the baddies figure it out. Make the people believe the hero doesn’t want to help, won’t help, can’t help, and they will turn on him. Hold him prisoner so that he can’t, threaten him with the death of his tortured love interest, convince her she is out of control, blow up his mansion--make it so they can’t help and let disappointment to their dirty work.
At this point you may be wondering where I’ve hidden the silver lining, and you are right to believe it is here. Each time this happens (and it happens so often you’d think they’d figure it out more quickly), our heroes come to a similar conclusion. One person can’t be the only helper. One person alone can’t save the city. The hero has to start helping the city help themselves. Rebuild the building, shore up the dam, support the good guys. That’s how to truly save the city.
There will always be political rhetoric in education. We have made the grand and important statement that all children have a right to a free and appropriate public education. That is no small feat. We as a whole have embarked on a project that will continually require every bit of our strength, stamina, and heroism to achieve. It can’t be done by one person, one agency, one program. Each of us has some level of experience in education--as a learner, as a parent, as a teacher, and we are all stakeholders.Education and education reform require a daily promise from all stakeholder to do well by our children. We are each superheroes in this commitment and we are equally responsible for saving the day.
Friday, August 22, 2014
This week I noticed myself drawn to things that helped me be precise. If you know me, you may know that I vacillate between precision and a chaotic sort of gut-feel driven decision-making. This was a week of precision.
I discovered What The Font? a little less than half an hour ago (said in Inigo Montoya voice--holla if you follow*). Honestly, I can't believe I didn't go looking for it before. When I am working with any sort of technology, I often think it should be doing more for me than it does. Typically, I Google the thing I want it to do and find that either yes, it can be done or I am a wee bit lofty in my expectations. In the case of What The Font? I was trying to identify a font as I do on a daily basis. I was mirroring a graphic from a website (not copying, honest) and wanted the exact font. I held a brief conversation with myself:
Me: Self, shouldn't the internets be able to figure this out?
Self: You are being too lofty again, dear. There is no way the internet can recognize random fonts.
Me: But don't you think it should?
Self: Well of course dear, check if you must*
I typed "font reader” in the search bar and viola!--the first hit was from a site called ilovetpyography.com. It was post from 2007! I was not being lofty! What The Font? can identify fonts for you! Huzzah!
Just after my font success I wanted to know an exact color from the same website (still not copying, honest). I searched "color picker", found a Google Chrome Extension, started to download it, and had another conversation with myself:
Me: I am absolutely sure I would have done this before now
Self: Yes dear, considering your strong feelings about color.
Me: I wonder why I didn't?
Self: Perhaps you did do, dear. Go ahead and check.
And there it was in my Chrome Extensions bar... ColorZilla. It does everything you might hope for and more. I was immediately gifted with the RGB numbers and full code for the color I wanted.
Washi Tape Planning Boards
When the to-do lists get long, I need to manage them in some way. This week a shiny new magnetic white board was installed on my office wall. Granted, I had planned a lovely book shelf quilt wall-hanging for that wall, but considering the size of the to do list, that has fallen to the wayside. I tried listing the to-dos by color, but was not feeling the result. I used washi tape to divide up the board and categorize the to-dos. I also made some quick color-coded magnets by using pre-stickified magnets and pre-colorfied flat-bottom marbles. Could I have marked something off the to-do list in the time it took me to do that? Most certainly. Would it have felt nearly as good? Not even a little bit.
I like to wear my wrist-band fit tracker, but it looks and feels clunky after a few days of constant wear. I've seen a lot of thread-wrapped bangles around and about lately, and thought I might be able to fancy it up a bit. I wanted it to stay smooth and unobtrusive, so I had to wrap it very carefully to keep it lined up. I wonder how long it will last and not become pill-y?
I read a blog post about Verilux light bulbs and think I might need to try one. Imagine the precision color-picking to be found with light bulbs like this!
*In case you wondered
**My self is kind of like Mrs. Doubtfire in these situations.