Tag Archives: relationships

The Calm Before the Storm

will return slowly sign

Upon returning from my vacation, I started to feel the anxiety building. I began to worry that a frantic storm of long hours of “catch-up” work were ahead. I started to fear that I had just experienced the “calm before the storm” by taking a vacation right before prep-work (orientations, meetings, etc) for the new school year was to officially begin (quickly followed by the first day of school!).

And then I stopped worrying. I started to think instead, about what I had learned while away and disconnected from technology and my work. I remembered the days of patiently watching waves, simply enjoying the sound of them cascading onto the beach. I thought of how lucky I felt to experience the care and compassion of family members who I rarely see. Then, I reflected on the power of patience and compassion, with and for ourselves and our fellow educators (and students). I realized that just because I had created a forced-calm by walking away from my devices and connecting with family and friends for a week, that did not mean that the calm had to immediately disappear. I could actually ease into things and be compassionate with myself by allowing time to readjust to a non-vacation schedule, time to get “back in the groove” of digital connectivity, and more time to reflect on what I had learned while away (and what I want for the upcoming school year).

I was surprised by how freeing this mindfulness of the need for compassion, patience, and multiple forms of connectivity (e.g., digital, personal, familial) felt. Which made me begin to think more about the applications of these traits and ideas for the classroom and the field of education. Have we placed enough emphasis on these “basic traits” when working with our students and colleagues? I know that to some, “compassion” and “patience” may feel like character traits that don’t have to be addressed after the early years but in our increasingly connected world, I wonder if we should highlight them more, regardless of age.

I think it could be beneficial for educators to remind one another to be patient and compassionate with themselves, especially as pressure builds with the start of a new school year. This feels particularly timely given that it’s Connected Educator’s Month. In addition to focusing on ways we can connect globally for collaboration and learning, we should focus on ways we can use our networks to support one another in being mindful of how much pressure we are putting on ourselves to set up the perfect classroom, prepare the “right” lessons, and create the ideal classroom community. I would love to see educators brainstorming ideas to help themselves and their students be patient and compassionate in their learning and communications, even if that means sometimes taking time to disconnect so they can reflect and relax.

How are you feeling about the start of the new school year? Have you connected with a supportive network of educators who can remind you to be patient and compassionate? Any tips you can share?

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Disconnecting … to Imagine New Ways of Connecting

During a recent web search, I came across the image below and something about it really caught my eye. Maybe it was because of all of the colors (I love colors!) or the way the data cables so clearly represented a woman but I think what really struck me was how the model was simultaneously so expressive yet seemingly weighted down.

“Connected” a self-portrait by Kasey McMahon. Photo by Kevin Rolly

The artwork and it’s name, “Connected,” prompted me to reflect on how tied down we become at times simply by being connected. With my last bit of vacation coming next week before the start of a new school year, the idea of cutting ties with technology for a little bit and being a little less “connected” sounds nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I love working with technology and typically spend most of the day on my computer connected with other educators, searching for global projects, learning from my Twitter PLN, and updating websites. Yet, sometimes it seems we’re so connected that we don’t converse with the people we’re with and we begin to alter our expectations of ourselves and others in interpersonal interactions. I know at times when I’m in the middle of conversing with someone I have found myself drawn towards my computer screen and the pop-ups telling me I have a new email. And when my phone beeps with a new text message, it can be surprisingly hard to ignore it, even thought I may be completely engaged out and about with friends or family.

I’m curious if our pressure to be connected is due to the concern about what we’ll lose/miss if we’re not online (e.g., emails, social media updates) or due to a literal need to be connected to do work, or because of a simple desire or idea that being digitally connected is an important and valued way of building and strengthening professional and personal relationships. Perhaps the pressure to connect is a result of all three factors and this is why, combined, they are challenging to overcome or put aside.

Still, I think it can helpful and refreshing to digitally disconnect at times during the year so that we can focus more on other connections and feel less tied to cords, outlets, and electronic devices. I’m excited next week to be traveling and to hopefully connect with some other environments and people, such as the sand under my toes at the beach, the fresh air of a summer walk, and the family I’ll see while on vacation. While I’m sure I’ll have to check email occasionally and won’t be able to resist skimming my Hootsuite streams, it will be nice to feel like I can or even should walk away from those sites and enjoy other types of connections.

I’m also excited to use the time when I’m less digitally connected to reflect more on being connected and on the technologies I use so frequently. By stepping away from them, I imagine they’ll be easier to examine. As my new summer book (Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer) suggests, by focusing less on on the specific digital connections  I have, I can give my brain time and space to make broader connections. I can allow myself to be more creative and think about new ways to use my connections in the coming school year and creative ideas about how technology does and can intersect with our daily lives.

What do other people think? Are we ever too digitally connected? Do you take time to disconnect simply so you can imagine new ways of connecting?