Make An Inquiry: June 24, morning

Another wondering on my mind has to do with balance and priorities. This came to mind during my spring break, when I found myself trying to catch up on grades while my wife and I were visiting Joshua Tree and San Luis Obispo. I realized that I needed to change the way I live and work; if I couldn’t take a week off to recharge and spend time with my wife, then I was probably putting my health, my relationships, and my effectiveness at work at risk.

Counting itself isn't bad, but what we count matters.  Photo courtesy
Counting itself isn’t bad, but what we count matters. Photo courtesy

When #Rhizo15 rolled around (spread around? connected around? extended in all directions around?), the week 2 prompt brought up the idea of counting. I realized that I was spending hours and hours counting up points and making marks that didn’t help my students learn. I want to count less and teach (and learn) more.

My balance hasn't been quite this good.  Photo courtesy
My balance hasn’t been quite this good. Photo courtesy

If I am considering how to improve my balance – between school and home, rest and work, self-care and caring for others – then I also need to consider my priorities. The passage of Fast Track approval for the Trans Pacific Partnership has brought this into the forefront in my mind. The world is in danger – from climate change, mass extinction, massive inequality between the haves and have-nots – and I don’t think I’ve been doing my part to fight for the world I want to live in. Or perhaps, more charitably, I’ve been working hard, but probably not focusing on the most important areas. There’s a song by the Fall where Mark E. Smith sings of paying “highest British attention to the wrong detail” – and perhaps this is what I’ve been doing by taking on too many responsibilities, or by assigning too many grades and not writing enough formative feedback.

I have wanted to become more politically active for some time, but I keep telling myself that I’m too busy, wait till summer, wait till I finish with this project, and so forth. In the past month, it’s finally hit me – am I really making a difference if we improve our school but don’t improve the larger society? Put another way, if I prepare my students for college but stand by while the state triples tuition to the UC, am I really helping the community I want to serve? If I prepare my students for a career but fail to act against a disastrous trade policy that could put the final nail in the coffin of the New Deal, what is the point of all my effort?

I know that the work I do at my school is important, but I’m starting to see – in my slow, clumsy fashion – that I need to consider the larger picture. I need to fight for expanded financial aid for undocumented students as I work in my classroom to help these students improve as readers and writers. I need to work on growing more of my own food at home, for as I work to support the journalism students who want to start a campus garden. I need to keep my eye on the connections between making our school a place for the community to thrive and creating a more just world for our community to take part in.

So, since this week my focus is on loving the questions themselves, my questions are:

  • How can I live my life with better balance?
  • How can I re-prioritize so that my energies are directed toward actions that will help bring about significant and lasting change for the community I serve?
  • What are the needs of my community? How can I engage with students and families to learn more about what they believe is important?

UPDATE:  Pictures added June 25, 2 pm Pacific.


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