Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Back to blogging (but with more humility and brevity)

Happy New Year!

As I noted about this time last year, I really haven't blogged or tweeted much in the past few years. I have spoken up when an issue really, really mattered to me, but otherwise, I have been less active on social media for three reasons: 1) a year and a half ago, I started a full-time PhD program and part-time graduate assistantship in education (educational leadership and policy specifically); 2) A little over a year ago, one of my children was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes; and, 3) for the past three to four years, I have been very active in local education matters and in local politics.

This has all been. . . humbling:

My doctoral studies have opened a world of education to me that has served to show me how much I don't know and how much I don't know how to do. I might have been a medium to big fish in the education blogging world, but when I walked through the doors of VCU's School of Education, I was a little baby fish once again. This is what I wanted, but it has meant a lot of hard work. I am learning a ton and am mastering at least the basic of areas (like statistics) that I had no fluency in at all previously. I am older than most of my classmates, which means at times that I know a bit more about some things, and I came in a decent writer. However, at the same time, that mantra about teaching an old dog new tricks. . . Well, yeah, I'm swimming against the current there. Plus I have three children at home, and there is no way I am going to give them up the way I gave up blogging and social media, so sometimes I do not get to do some things that might put me in a better position career-wise.

Which leads me to humbling experience number two. You can be the perfect parent (and I am far from that) but there are always things that you can not protect your child from, like chronic, genetic auto-immune diseases. And in the face of those things, as a parent, you can do everything in your power to put your child in best position to lead the healthiest, fullest life possible, but you are still at the mercy of the limits of the human body and of medical science, and of what happens when you are not around. This experience has aged me a great deal and taught me a lot, and it's also made me nicer, more forgiving, and less likely to spend time judging--I don't have the time and I don't find it productive and you never know what people are going through.

Which leads me to humbling experience number three. Three or four years ago, local conditions were such that I decided to get involved. And you know what? I discovered that local is more important and that it also takes much more face-to-face engagement, much more listening and compromise, and greater understanding for and empathy with those with whom I might disagree. Outrage and anger won't get you very far--at least not where I live. And, while you must hold decision-makers accountable for what they say and do publicly, it's important to find out as much as you can about what has actually happened before taking action. The situation is often more complex than you realize. This work is immensely satisfying and interesting, but it goes slowly and requires dedication, humility, genuine kindness, and patience.

These are three qualities I am not sure I had in such great supply when I started this blog, but that was a different phase in my life. And I have missed it--the blogging, the tweeting, the thinking out loud and publicly, the dialogue, the conversation. So, I've decided that the way I can still do this is to leave the big investigations, solution-suggesting, and "hard-hitting" analysis for my academic work and to use the blog to share bits and pieces of the educational puzzle, as I have been doing on the All Things Education facebook page but with a little commentary. Stay tuned.

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