Idle is a Verb

Here’s a slide from a webinar Reshan and I recently delivered for Columbia’s Teacher’s College. I’m posting it in honor of the (almost) holiday break that many of us will be enjoying soon, I hope. The quotation* is chewy but rewards effortful reading.

*Source: “Rest Is Not Idleness: Implications of the Brain’s Default Mode for Human Development and Education” with H/T to Scott Barry Kaufman.

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.