Up Bloomfield and Left at the Light

Last year, due to the pure luck of habit and timing — after breakfast making, lunch packing, shower wrangling, traffic, etc. — I started to arrive at work at the approximate moment when a father and his son took their final steps up Bloomfield Avenue to reach our school’s crosswalk and the traffic light that controlled it. In my usual arrival window, I witnessed this walk more often than not.

Sometimes the light was red, so the son crossed left. Sometimes it was green, so he pushed the button and waited with his father a few more beats before leaving, left. Always these familial walkers seemed so genuinely and sweetly content — similar stride, similar height, similar mug. Always they parted with what seemed like respect and acknowledgement. A pat on the back, a handshake, a smile, or the escaped birds of a good shared laugh.

I can’t say for certain that they were happy. I can’t say for certain that they were agreeing or agreeable. But what I can say — with utter certainty — is that they spent most of the days of the son’s senior year walking alongside each other on the way to his school.

Somehow, for me, the story gained a layer when I learned that the father was an executive at a big, global corporation. On paper at least, he was supposed to be busy. Important. A tough negotiator. Accomplished.

Off paper, I have no idea — except for the last word. He was an accomplished father, for sure, just because he kept showing up, kept walking alongside his son, did so openly and publicly. School, for me at least, always started when I saw these two. The lessons as simple as showing up, putting one foot in front of the other, grounding relationship in ritual, rain, snow, sleet, or shine.

Spa cing O ut

With a H/T to Eric Hudson, here’s a nice article about the “spacing effect” by Nick Soderstrom. If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick synopsis (but come back later to solidify your learning):

There’s a simple, unintuitive way to study smarter. Simply by breaking up study sessions into smaller, manageable chunks and spreading them out over time, a lot more learning will take place. Researchers who study learning and memory call it the “spacing effect,” and it’s an incredibly powerful and easy way to enhance long-term retention.

Meeting Moves

Some meeting ideas to test in the coming weeks, courtesy of Steven G. Robelberg in HBR:

  • Assess meetings through a mix of self assessment (always) and surveys of meeting attendees (sometimes). Assume there’s a gap between how you see your meetings and how others do.
  • Break meeting routines: mix up the location, timing, seating, or mode.
  • Cancel some of your routine meetings but keep them on the calendar, reminding others that they have some found time to work or think deeply.
  • Think like a steward at the start of the meeting (welcoming people into the space and time) and a facilitator during the meeting (allowing others to speak and think out loud).
  • Give people time in meetings to read . . . or time to write before they share.

A Feeling for Learning

Today, during In-Service, my school heard from and met with Dr. Mary Helen Immodino-Yang. Wow . . . she’s an incredible presenter and capable of explaining deeply complicated ideas in simple and memorable ways. I wrote down a few big ideas.

  • Emotion is the rudder behind the boat that makes cognition go.
  • Young people show us what they need to grow.
  • We only know how to grow and become human through cultural learning.
  • Our biology does not know how to grow outside of human relations.
  • Emotions are the substrate of learning.
  • Kids need space and time to make things their own.
  • Kids will push themselves to do things that matter to them.
  • When you get good at a skill, you are shaping your brain . . . and this always has a tradeoff.
  • “Emotions may be automatic responses to a situation . . . but we need to lean how to feel emotions.”
  • Experts know how to feel about the work that they do. For example, a mathematician can explain why an equation is beautiful.
  • You only remember the thing about which you’ve had emotion. If, for example, students doing math only feel emotion about what they think their teachers think about them (e.g., “my teacher thinks I’m dumb”) or the result of the grade (e.g., “I’m going to fail and then I won’t get into college”), then they will remember those things, not the math itself.
  • “Meaningful learning always involves emotion.”

Approximately November

Over Thanksgiving, I’ll most likely wind down my spare time literary activities, so here’s a summary of November, approximately.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Seeing and Time*

I’m always on the lookout for productivity tips, but I find that many of them are mere retreads of classic works or ideas. Here’s one that felt slightly new to me.

Challenge yourself to figure out what meetings could be replaced by async communication or more transparent project management.**

Most people with whom I work are pretty good at “async communication,” though I feel that we could all improve in the area of “transparent project management.” It’s interesting to think that one way for me to reduce my time in meetings — and increase my time in really focused and concentrated work — could be to change the project management culture in my organization. I have control over this situation to the extent that I can model TPM in groups, committees, and teams for which I am responsible. Strategically, or in the long-run, I can make time by making certain information more visible to key stakeholders.

*Pardon the philosophy pun!

**Source: Postlight Business Insights

**H/T: Why is this Interesting newsletter from 11/22/19