On the outside looking in

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Ever feel like you’re on the outside looking in?

 

This is the first time since 2004 that I haven’t been a part of an opening of school and a new academic year, and it’s weird. In some ways, I imagine it is what it feels like to go through detox or to lose a limb—feeling things that aren’t there anymore.

The anxiety is ramping up. Butterflies are fluttering in my stomach. I am trying as hard as I can to make use of every available free second I have. I find myself still dreading the changing of the leaves, and the prospect of the crazy opening of school schedule with endless faculty meetings in which everyone is glued to either their phones or laptops, the faculty party in which everyone asks what I did this summer (I worked, dammit!), and the arrival of students excited to see their friends again after the summer break.

My body seems to still be anticipating exhausting travel to sometimes awful and sometimes awe-inspiring but mostly mundane corners of the globe. Shouldn’t I be spending much more time on Delta’s and Marriott’s website? Shouldn’t I be calling my travel agent? Shouldn’t I be calling my counterparts at other schools trying to coordinate some crazy trip around the world?

And yet, none of that is coming for me this year. I’m watching others go through it—friends and past colleagues—and I keep asking myself, “Will I miss it?”

Will I wake up in the middle of some October night wondering where I am as I have done many times each fall?

Will I wake up one morning and momentarily panicked, wondering if I’m supposed to be on a plane, headed to some unknown country?

Will I scan my brain wondering how to say, “Thank you” in the native language while ordering my latte at the coffee shop down the street?

“Will I miss it?”

No. No, I don’t believe I will. But old habits and rhythms take time to run their course.

 

Tidbits from old notebooks

Last week I posted about my collections of various notebooks while I was on a crazy trip to Houston, Texas for a school fair. Part of the inspiration for that post were the four notebooks I brought along with my in my carry-on. I’m not really sure why I brought all of them. I could have easily left two of them behind, but I brought them none-the-less.

I’m glad I did too. One of the notebooks was an older one that I had filled a while back with a whole collection of random notes. I did stumble upon some gems from conferences I had attended in the last year. I also had some good notes from Jim Collins’s, Good to Great and Stephen E. Ambrose’s, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier and President. Below are some of those:

“You have only 11 seconds to make a first impression. Make it count.”
This is from a conference presentation about tour guides given by the admissions team at Maderia. Good advice.

 

“In your first 90 days as a new director, you should force yourself to be uncomfortable and do not allow yourself to regress in the comfortable.”

“Focus your energy on the things that only the director can do.”
“Never check email in the morning.”
These were from a webinar for new directors of admission given by Ben Douglas of St. James School and Andrew Weller of Ridley College.
I don’t have a direct quote here, just some of my handwritten notes I took while reading Jim Collins’ Good to Great. I feel like the power of that book might be diminished a bit after the recession and the fact that a bunch of the companies he references in the books were total criminals, but it still does have value. I particularly like his use of a bus as an analogy to staffing. He describes the importance of getting the wrong people off of the bus, the right people on the bus, and the right people in the right seats on the bus. Once you do that, then your organization can reach its potential.

And finally, from Stephan E. Ambrose’s biography of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Soldier and President: “…only a man that is happy in his work can be happy in his home and with his friends. Happiness in work means that its performer must know it to be worthwhile, suited to his temperament, and, finally, suited to his age, experience and capacity for performance of a high order.” 

My Notebook Obsession

I’ve become rather notorious for my notebooks. I have one with me constantly, and I take notes in every meeting in which I am a part.  There’s something satisfying about putting pen to paper rather than just plucking away a keyboard. For me, there is something in the motion that helps me to remember.  Regardless, I figured I’d share my current notebook methodology here.

photoMoleskine
Black, medium-sized and squared. This is my primary note taking notebook. It goes with me to every meeting, conference, or any other opportunity where I need to take general notes. I go through about one or two of these a year. I like and the portability of it. I prefer squares to lines because of my doodling habit. It also helps if I ever need to map something out. The pocket in the rear is perfect for storing receipts from travel. I never throw them out and will often go back and review my notes, especially from conferences.

Continue reading “My Notebook Obsession”

Happy Birthday!

Every time I see a birthday notice in my Facebook feed, I make sure to write them a little birthday note .  This is a 180 degree turn for me.  I used to ignore them, and even took sort of a Scrooge approach to it.  I have no idea why; I just did. I’m also at the age where I’m not longer psyched about birthdays.  They’re just one step closer to 40.

I decided to stop being a jerk and start doing this soon after my birthday this past year.  I usually get annoyed by those little red notices alerting you that someone has posted on your wall, but it rocks seeing a bazillion well wishes on your Facebook page on your birthday. I’m kind of on this whole, let’s be more positive and less critical kick as well (let me know if it’s working).  I now figure that if I can push those birthday well wishes from a bazillion to a bazillion-and-one, well, why not be part of the awesomeness.  If I’m Facebook friends with you, then we’re close enough that I can give you a little birthday love.

So if I’ve missed your birthday, (those helpful little notices don’t show up on the mobile) then here’s a happy belated birthday to you!

What to write when you’ve got nothing to say

This blog, like many others I’m sure, tends to go through long periods of neglect followed by a short flurry of activity until neglect creeps in again.

Of course I don’ t do this on purpose. Keeping up content is tough. It’s hard to find the inspiration, time, and a good topic. But often times, it’s because I’ve already written what I’m working through; I’ve just put it down in my head, and not on paper. And there the idea sits, unfinished, in rough-draft, an idea, thought, or something I’m working through. I’ll spend quite a bit of time working on one. I’ll revise, restart, redact, and reword it over and over in my head, just as if I was typing. This is how my brain works. It’s how I wrote my best man speech for my brother’s wedding. I say wrote, although I never put a pen to a piece of paper. I just went through the speech over and over again for three days as if I was writing a paper in my mind.

Writing for me has always been therapeutic—a way to visualize my thoughts and gain a new perspective. I was had a former roommate give my then current roommate that “The only way Drew ca. Communicate is through writing.”.

I fear that by not putting these ideas down on paper, I’m not getting as much benefit from the reflective process as I should. For one, processing information this way requires a lot of bandwidth. It’s like trying to put the waterflow of a firehouse through a drinking straw. The CPU just gets maxed out. It takes an incredible amount of time and concentration to get thoughts out and process them this way.

Writing though, allows ideas to flow more freely and it’s much easier to extract examine ideas. It’s much easier to read, revise and rework a piece on your computer screen than it is in your head. I’m able to complete ideas in a way that I can’t to do by running through these ideas in my head all day long. It also takes way less time as by having pieces of the idea written down, I don’t need to revisit it from the beginning each time. This is, of course, all pretty basic stuff here, but maybe writing it down will make it set in and get me to post here more often.

So there you go. When you don’t have anything to write, write about writing.

LovEdu

I was reminded why I work in education the other day.  While up in Burlington, VT getting off campus for the weekend, I ran into some friends at a bar. It was one of those completely random encounters.  I saw them across the room at a huge table, and made my way through the crowd to say, “Hello.”

One of the people at the table was a student when I worked in the SMC admission office.  While a student, she was a summer tour guide, one of my bloggers, and after graduation became a colleague and mentee.  Now she has a kick ass job at a kick ass marketing firm.

We had a great conversation that night talking about blogging, brainstorming blog topics, and high ed marketing.  She told me all about her new company and I joked that she’d have to find me a job someday.

This chance run-in reminded my why it is that I love working in education.  It is because you get to observe young people as they travel down this path of self-discovery.  We’re all to some extent trying to figure it out, but in high school and college, the steps are bigger and the changes more noticeable.  If you’re lucky, hopefully you’ll be able to help that person out along the way.

There is no cooler experience than watching a young person get inspired, find a vocation, and absolutely crush it.

Seven months in. Almost eight.

Wow.

I am actually surprised that I’ve kept this up for as long as I have. Over seven months. Not bad. Longer if you count when I was posting once every six months (see 6 posts in 2006 vs. 81 in , but I’m not. It was that Integrating Technology into the Classroom class with Greg Thweatt that inspired me to get this thing going and keep this going.

It’s totally therapeutic for me to put my thoughts down on paper. Um, I mean the Internet. I always thought that it was the action of putting ink to paper that I loved (I even wrote that here).

Nah, it’s just the act of getting thoughts out of my head onto something I can read and reflect upon.

Has this blog changed since January? Yes.

It’s changed names three times at least.

The photo and crap on the sides has changed quite a bit.

Topics have changed from class, to work, to personal.

Pivotal moments/posts:

Florida Training Trip 2008 – I wrote a blog post about the new communication plan that I came up with because I was unsatisfied with our current e-com plan.

Integrating Technology into Curriculum – Got it started and built momentum. Loved that class. Greg Thweatt is an incredible teacher. This was my best post. I love that analogy that I made up all by myself!

Jay Peak
realized that I’m often more creative outside the office than in it.

New Media Douchebag: When I decided not to be a douchebag.

www.alittlespunk.com: Yeah I get the sexual inuendo. It’s my dad’s nickname. It’s on his business card. I swear. You should try calling him Spunk in a pub in England. That’s when it gets really awkward. And p.s. despite what my wife says, I’m totally bringing the nicknames back when we have kids.

EduWeb: Sitting in front of Brad J. Ward. Since eduweb, I’ve had some serious traffic to this site. For me, considering what I write about, I’m psyched that I have about 15 or so visits a day. 20 plus when I post. Thanks, Brad.

Other people started reading, and I started advertising. My url is on my gmail signature now. So what does that mean? Well, self imposed censurship. I know some people that I work with read this (Conor, get off your blackberry and stop trying to get me fired). I think webguy might. Others may too.

So say I didn’t want to work at SMC anymore. Say I wanted to get a development job at Dartmouth. I couldn’t announce that in my blog. I also can’t rant about change anymore like I did here or our support staff like I did here.

In someways I really miss that anonymity that I had before, but I also like the positive encouragement I get from people from time to time. So what to do?

Hang it all out there and hope I don’t get bit?

Or self censure? It takes me away from the original purpose of this blog. Vent and reflect.