A series of posts concerning

the pursuit of education

Now You're Thinking With Labels!

Because at its worst, what we mean when we say “I don’t want to put labels on people” is “I haven’t actually stopped dating my ex.” It’s a relationship cliche that “I don’t want to put a label on this” is just another way of saying “I’m unwilling to commit,” or “I’m excluding myself from this label because I want the benefits it implies, but not the obligations.” When we refuse to add labels to who we are, we’re refusing to recognize any commonality—or at least, any nameable commonality—with anyone. When my son calls me “Dad,” he labels me. To deny the label is to deny something essential about who we are to one another.

The Phenomenology of Purpose

How do you negotiate … the conflicts/tensions between student purposes in their writing and the purposes we assume they have to learn about in academic writing?

Allow me to interrogate your slash. Does it stand for “or?” Does it stand for beziehungsweise? Does it clarify? Tension is not always conflict. Think tensegrity: impossible things stand tall because their tension balances them. Tension is sometimes harmony, or at least tension can sometimes be harmonized.

Better sorting with Keyboard Maestro Macro Palettes

As a teacher, I comment on a lot of student writing. I usually do this digitally, as my handwriting is so awful as to make doctors weep. And, because students in the same classes tend to be learning the same things at the same time, I often find myself needing to say the same thing over and over, to lots of students in lots of different classes.

Since I need to be able to inject these comments quickly, easily, and repeatedly, I’ve been trying to find a good way to automate them for some time now. In my last attempt, I’ve figured out a pretty good way to do this—solving a long-standing problem I’ve had with Keyboard Maestro in the process.

Things I Suck At

I fiddle around with a lot of things. It’s in my nature. I began listing my recent forays into configuring email as an example, and I realized quite quickly that the odyssey ought to be its own post. The reason I do this sort of fiddling, though, almost always composed of two intertwining mental phenomena:

  1. I know what I need, and
  2. I know the limitations of the thing I’m fiddling with.

Sometimes, when we’re talking about software or something similar, I know up front what the limitations are; often, though, I only find out by playing around with it. Likewise, I often know what I need up front; other times, though, I only find out what I need by finding out where my needs rub up against the limitations of whatever it is I’m trying to work with.

As I was listening to Back to Work 71, I started thinking about the problems that exist in organizations—things like the passive aggression that Merlin and Dan were discussing—as functions of that same pair of forces. More specifically, it made me think about the problems I have as a teacher with my students, the problems my students have with me as a teacher, and perhaps most importantly, the problems I have with myself as a teacher. All these problems—and perhaps all problems—come down to a conflict between one party’s expectations and another party’s limitations.