This is in response to an ongoing (every other week) livestream in which a friend and I are discussing Ursula LeGuin’s classic novel, The Dispossessed. It’s a work of science fiction set in a distant star system, on the planet Urras and its moon, Anarres. Generations ago, a group of political dissidents on Urras were offered the opportunity to become settlers on Annares and to run their society as they saw fit, in exchange for mining a valuable ore that had limited availability on the planet but was apparently plentiful on the otherwise nearly-barren moon.
The protagonist is Shevek, an Anarresti physicist who travels to Urras. He is simultaneously curious and also bewildered at the vast differences between the society in which he was raised and the one he is visiting. His own society aims to be stateless, classless, and egalitarian, while Urras is comprised of nation-states with rigid class and gender structure. Things escalate to full-out sexual assault in chapter 7, which was part of the discussion in the livestream. However, I woke up at two in the morning with further thoughts, which you can find behind the cut.
One of the books I read last year was Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender. An interesting point the author makes is that we often think that our biology influences what we do, and while that isn’t untrue, it’s just as true that what we do also shapes our biology.
Watching The Rise of Skywalker brought this to mind again. I didn’t like the director’s choice to return to the “Chosen One” trope after the saga finally seemed to be moving away from it in The Last Jedi. But what I did like was the concept that we choose who we become, but we are also responsible for following through on that choice with our actions.
So many of my students, like most of the people I know, get very defensive when they are told that something that they said or did is bigoted, or hurtful, or sometimes just incorrect. And that’s because it can feel like a condemnation, not of the action, but of the person.Continue reading →
If we as teachers do not read and write in our own “real” lives, how can we expect our students to value reading and writing as anything more than school work? – Kathleen Sokolowski
The current consensus among teachers of writing seems to be that it is necessary to be a writer, to write regularly, in order to be a good writing teacher.
One problem with this, for me, is that I really, really, really don’t like writing, at least not in the creative sense. I do not have the remotest urge to keep a diary, or a journal, or a notebook. I have notebooks. And I do write things down. Mostly they’re lists of things I need to remember to do. Lesson plans. Songs to add to my karaoke rotation. Movies to watch. Groceries to purchase.
Many writers describe the process of writing as a form of thinking.
Okay, so first of all, yes, they did, and yes, it’s so incredibly wrong and horrid and shameful. Let’s get THAT out of the way first.
However, in addition, I have a fair number of thoughts on the opposing mindsets shown. Buckle up, friends; I have some general idea of where I’m headed but I’m not sure how I’m getting there, so this may be a long, meandering ride.
We had professional development about Angela Duckworth’s Grit. Duckworth refers to “grit” as the combination of passion and perseverance, and claims that this combination is what leads to success. Based on her story about the West Point survey, it seems that she is defining ‘success’ as being able to achieve goals that you’ve set for yourself.
The discussion did not really examine this definition of success, which was a shame, as the ability to set appropriate goals is a skill in and of itself. A goal that’s too difficult to reach creates discouragement and frustration, while one that’s too easy doesn’t provide a sense of accomplishment.
Likewise, it would also be helpful to explore passion. Why are different people passionate about different things? What creates passion? Understanding that might help us identify and develop passion, not only in our students, but in ourselves as well.
We did, however, start looking at perseverance. Why do some students give up while others keep trying? We discussed motivation (intrinsic/extrinsic) as well as locus of control, and that brought us to the concepts of “fixed” and “growth” mindsets that Carol Dweck discusses. Students with a fixed mindset view success or failure as based on inherent ability, while those with a growth mindset see it as more connected to the effort they put in or the strategies they used.
And we also noticed that there’s often a correlation between the mindset a student demonstrates and what we hear from parents.
“Bryan’s got plenty of ability; he’s just lazy.” “There’s no reason Susan can’t get her homework done; she’s just lazy.” “I should have studied more for that test. I guess I was just being lazy.”
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard remarks like these about students – from their parents, from other teachers, and sometimes, even from themselves. The problem is, it’s a load of nonsense. And I’m not putting up with it anymore.
One of the things I hear often from my students, my colleagues, and sometimes from myself as well, is “I didn’t have enough time to ___.” Among teachers, this often comes up when we’re talking about curriculum and instructional design. I try to avoid using this statement, because I have serious issues with it.