21. Being wrong.

I’m wrong often and when I’m wrong I usually give myself a little negative reinforcement. “Jesus Carl, what the duck!” Something like that. It is a bad habit that probably stems from a deeper sense of self loathing our poor parenting or something that a Neuro scientist may be able to analyze. Given that I won’t actually make it to that doctor’s office, I have to deal the consequences of this reactionary approach to failure.

Where this is bad is how this affects the way I take feedback. I’m constantly responding with an aggressive tone that may or may not involve expletives, even if I agree with it. If somebody is like “Carl, this is wrong” I’m going to respond like “… Of shit, I screwed up..” which doesn’t inspire confidence. Worse, if I’m only 50 percent sure I screwed up, and I take that toner into the conversation with the person giving feedback, they will certainly take it as I’m angry at them, when I’m really angry at the failure, my part in it, and that I’m losing my yet more of my self esteem, or whatever the brain doctor’s would say.

Taking bad news, critical feedback, and my own mistakes in a different way is something that I need to get better about. It is far too easy for people to see my response in those situations and assume that is the real me. What is the me that I want to emerge in those situations?

  • Calm and steady? This may come off as ineffectual.
  • Happy? Then I look like a blissful idiot at best, or flagrantly unconcerned with the news and the person who’s bringing it.
  • Roll up your sleeves? This freaks some people out, especially when they are “just bringing it to your attention.”

There probably isn’t a good solution here, but instead a situation that involves a lot of tact. Certainly the first step is to use more love and care with my inner monologue to remove the aggression from my first response

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21. Being wrong.

I’m wrong often and when I’m wrong I usually give myself a little negative reinforcement. “Jesus Carl, what the duck!” Something like that. It is a bad habit that probably stems from a deeper sense of self loathing our poor parenting or something that a Neuro scientist may be able to analyze. Given that I won’t actually make it to that doctor’s office, I have to deal the consequences of this reactionary approach to failure.

Where this is bad is how this affects the way I take feedback. I’m constantly responding with an aggressive tone that may or may not involve expletives, even if I agree with it. If somebody is like “Carl, this is wrong” I’m going to respond like “… Of shit, I screwed up..” which doesn’t inspire confidence. Worse, if I’m only 50 percent sure I screwed up, and I take that toner into the conversation with the person giving feedback, they will certainly take it as I’m angry at them, when I’m really angry at the failure, my part in it, and that I’m losing my yet more of my self esteem, or whatever the brain doctor’s would say.

Taking bad news, critical feedback, and my own mistakes in a different way is something that I need to get better about. It is far too easy for people to see my response in those situations and assume that is the real me. What is the me that I want to emerge in those situations?

  • Calm and steady? This may come off as ineffectual.
  • Happy? Then I look like a blissful idiot at best, or flagrantly unconcerned with the news and the person who’s bringing it.
  • Roll up your sleeves? This freaks some people out, especially when they are “just bringing it to your attention.”

There probably isn’t a good solution here, but instead a situation that involves a lot of tact. Certainly the first step is to use more love and care with my inner monologue to remove the aggression from my first response

19 Multi-Tasking is a Drag

I think I need to be good at multi tasking. The opposite of multi tasking never happens at work. Today I put myself in a room and tried to make it happen, and for a few hours it did. I got to work by myself on program changes for some of the staff and it helped a lot. It was weird going from that back in to my office where there are parent meetings happening, interruptions, Handouts posted on flyers around the room and other things. The reality of my job is that I’m supposed to deal with a whole bunch of stuff at once, and so I had better be good at doing that.

When kids tell me they are multi tasking I till them multi tasking is a myth. Which it is. “All you’re doing is switching back and forth between things. Poorly.” would be the usual reply. In my situation now I spend much of the day switching back and forth somewhat effectively, but big projects don’t get done. Sitting alone in a room let’s you get a big thing done, and once it’s done you can save lots of other time, but until it’s done you have to fall behind on a multitude of tasks that must get ignored.

What I think I need to better to multi task is two fold:

  1. Identify tasks that I can switch in and out of, and try to work on those during the times of day when I know that there will be interruptions and other multi-tasking.
  2. Identify the tasks that I can’t switch in and out of, the ones that require total concentration, and don’t work on them during the times of the day when there will be interruptions.
  3. Figure out how to take tasks that fall into the 2nd category and turn them into tasks that fall into the 1st category.

17. How Do You Run Decision Meetings?

Today I met with the Registration committee. This committee was formed after a number of people had problems with our registration process and wanted to think through things that could make it better. How do you run a meeting with all the strongest personalities about something we all care about exactly?

Registration is a tradition that is specific to our school. Student go through all of the teachers and choose which classes they want to take based on their interests, their credit needs, and the availability of courses. Our 600 student need to take internships, so that means they need to sit with an internship coordinator for 15 or 20 minutes to establish which internship they will get, what project they will work on, and how they can get to that place. There are about 13 internship teachers, and kids typically sit down with 2 or 3 internship teachers. It doesn’t take much math to see that it’s a time-intensive process. We invest the time in this because we really want kids to find a good fit. Last registration a lot of kids didn’t have a good fit, for a lot of reasons.

This committee met and decided to focus on how to have kids find a good fit during registration. Today’s meeting was to agree on what exactly we were going to do in order to get the that fit. While we have only met haphazardly over the cycle, and we have only met as a whole group once before this, but we don’t have time to put off any decisions any longer. So how do you run a meeting like this?

I’ll tell you how I ran this meeting. We all just sort of started talking. It wasn’t really elegant. We went down the list of things that were important, and everybody talked about it until we made an agreement about and then we moved on to the next thing. At times it seemed like an argument. At other times it seemed like a bunch of friends joking around, but it didn’t necesarily look like a well-run meeting. I am aware of the existence of countless protocols that let you have well-run seeming meetings when you are doing things like brainstorming, or helping one person with a plan, or whatever, but what do you do when you need to come to consensus on a lot of things in a short amount of time? I’m asking this as a question because I genuinely don’t know.

I do know that we will have a much different and much better registration this year, and that’s exciting.

16. Thousandaire problems.

Imagine getting everything you’ve ever wanted? What would that be for you? New car? New house? Maybe a new relationship? Would it be a job that pays you will and let’s you contribute to the world while getting to challenge your intellect with real problems? Now if all that happened right now, you’d be really really overwhelmed! Imagine all the car maintenance and house maintenance you’d have to do. Don’t forget about the long hours that fulfilling new job will demand. And how are you going to make time for that special someone in your life?

My brother once said the reason some people aren’t millionaires is that they haven’t learned how to deal with all the problems that thousandaires have to deal with.

I’m really lucky in that I have as number of these problems right now. I have a new special someone on the life, a new bathroom, and a number of new tasks at work that bring responsibility and potential. So how am I going to handle it?

Well, I guess I need to figure out my priorities. Deciding what I should be doing at any given time is often a matter of who shows up with the loudest problem. I spent most of the morning figuring out one problem, veggie being reminded that a much bigger problem still was unplanned. This meeting I was aware of, I just figured the task at hand could be finished in time. Fast forward to the hours later and I am basically having to remove an important outreach initiative from the agenda because I didn’t finish it. In retrospect, I should have made that my first priority. Or, I should have made delegating it my first priority. Either way, it looks like I’m going to have to find a way to do this tonight and knowing I can’t help with the late night needs of the tiny new person in my life. I’m really lucky that I have so many interesting things to work on that I literally can’t spend a moment doing anything without missing out something good. Maybe these are thousandaires problems?

Getting out of the office

Here’s a sampling of my current to do list:

Admit the new students

Input then into jumprope

Set up the rest of the settings for Jumprope

Set up kinvolved to sync with jumprope

Build a database to support the attendance information from jumprope

Create reports based off of the attendance databases

Build academic codes for students in STARS

Build credit database based on data from STARS

Create student profiles based on the credit database

That’s a lot of stuff that requires me to sit at my desk and do things. So much so that I need to come up with a new policy. If I don’t HAVE to do a task at a computer, I will not do it at a computer. This is currently an aspiration and not a statement of fact, but it could build a number of positive habits. If I have to do this but tasks when I’m sitting at my desk, then I won’t get to my desk and answer emails or check Twitter or look up directions for the meeting later. I’m going to have to eat the frog and get straight to work.

It could even change the way I organize my computer. I would need to put together really organized drop box/Google drive systems do everything I need is quickly accessible when I’m away from my desk.

I’d have to learn how to work on the go. I’ll have to get good at responding to email on my phone. I could also get an iPad kitted out to allow me to do all the stuff I need quickly. This would keep me in the hallways and in the pulse of the school.

14. One last problem

Today is the last day before a three day weekend, which means most people leave early. I stayed late, with the hope of finishing all the work I need to do before the weekend. Tearing through my inbox and getting things done with no distractions is a gratifying and cathartic experience. This afternoon was nether. Why?

Firstly, I didn’t finish everything. As I walk to the train while writing this I know I’ll spend time this weekend doing work. Right now I’m thinking about two kids that are not scheduled for SETTS lab period 3 even though our schedule upload process worked fine. Is our whole system is flawed? Does our timeline for getting mid cycle grades need to change? What about all the other stuff i avoided while dealing with that? So yeah, I didn’t get every thing done and now I’m frustrated with all these big open problems.

This leads to the a larger problem that I’m thinking about, but instead of taking about that, I’ll talk about the math class that also had problems. Students were looking at a series of images, counting how they grow, and analyzing the pattern that they saw across the images. These patterns ask students to make sense of the original image, and visualize how it is growing so they can imagine it’s growth. That they all lacked the insight to really finish this visualization. What should happen is that they start to look at the image in different ways by working together. They need to take a step back and do some abstract thinking as they try to explain what they see to their classmates. Instead, kids didn’t do much talking, and didn’t do too much abstract thinking, and so the class ended with lots of half finished attempts and lots of frustration.

It seems like the kids are in a situation similar to mine. They waited out feeling frustrated because things are hard, and they have unfinished work with no clue where to start. At least I can say we’re preparing the kids for the jobs if the future.

So I looked at student work after class and realized that everyone would have benefitted from looking at the problem through other people’s eyes. If Janessa talked with Walter about their two approaches, they both would have thought about the problem differently, and both would have seen their isolated frustration replaced with a need to help the other understanding. Now that I’m walking out with all my problems, maybe I also need to get out of isolation. Maybe the insight for these problems will come when I spend more time focused in communicating and understanding and less time with my head down, alone, solving problems.

What if that last hour of my day was approached differently. Maybe instead of trying to sit down and complete a days worth of work, maybe I should have spent the time trying to communicate about the work with other people. Then, when we arrive back, I could focus on having conversations with people, consider their viewpoints, and ensure that I’m actually understanding the problem that I intended to solve. This would certainly bring a much broader, abstract view of the original, and probably a better solution. Perhaps I could focus less on whether I get the right answer, or the fastest answer but on being able to explore multiple answers and connections that could be made around the problem. Instead if avoiding others, I can seen them out and help them understand the situation in hopes of helping get a different perspective in the process.

This sounds like I should administrate like the way I want my math class to be taught. This also sounds like the best idea I’ve had all afternoon.