Teaching and Imagination

Easing back into the RW practice after some time away. . . . This quotation, from an article worth reading in full, is challenging me in all the right ways as I prepare to head back to the classroom next Tuesday.

As instructors, our challenge is to try and imagine how people learn who are different than we are. In all likelihood, most of our students are not going to learn, think, and engage in exactly the same ways that we do. Our goal is to try and be prepared, as much as we possibly can, for students who have different lives than we do. (Jenae Cohn, PhD, and Courtney Plotts, PhD)

H/T to Eric Hudson for sharing this, in my world, first.

A Wish in a Pond in the Rain

I just read the first paragraph of A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, a book in which George Saunders presents and unpacks short stories “in which four Russians give a master class on writing, reading, and life.” The opening paragraph is so good that I stopped reading and immediately shared it with some of my colleagues, a former student, and now all of you. May you have someone in your life committed to helping you achieve your iconic space, to helping you become defiantly and joyfully yourself.

February Klingbrief

As you (may) know, the content in Klingbrief is not pre-arranged. Instead, it traces the zeitgeist of independent school education. What are educators reading and thinking about? Perhaps more important, what do they care about enough to read, think about, synthesize, write about, and submit to our editorial board? This month, you’ll find our typical random spread along with a tight focus on podcasts trying to help educators and students make meaning of the final days of 2020 and the first few days of 2021 — a dark and strange time in American (recent) history. The February issue is here, the archive is here, and the submission portal is here — all best viewed on a computer of some sort rather than a phone.

The Car Buying Theory of Communication

A decent sized part of my job most weeks involves writing. I’m often teaching writing, editing writing, or helping others develop strategies for communication that involves writing. A common question from most people, whether spoken or implied, is, will my argument succeed?

People hope to be correct. They hope to convince everyone with whom they communicate. And of course this never fully happens. Of course our arguments fail, at least a little, when they meet real ears, real minds, real hearts. A word is out of place, or worse, offends. A phrase is overly complicated and leaves a jumbled mess in the listener’s mind. Sound and meaning clash. On the diamond of language, there are so many ways to swing and miss. (For example, that last sentence. Its wrongness began when I didn’t specify that I was talking about a baseball diamond. As a reader, your mind likely went one way — perhaps toward marriage or at least toward jewels — until the image of swinging and missing jerked you back, like a curmudgeonly dog owner, toward my intended meaning.)

I call this process — of failure — the car buying theory of communication. The second you drive a new car off the lot, it loses value. The second you press send on an email, the second you begin speaking at a microphone, the second you publish a book, your intended communication begins to degrade.

But you’ve read Refreshing Wednesday before (all six of you), so you know there’s a silver lining, an invitation, call it a silver invitation because it’s Friday and the sun’s out. At the point of failure, at the point of the degradation of your communication, your opportunity as a communicator begins.

Talk and you’re going to learn about what people don’t understand. Write and you’re going to learn about what people fear. Propose and you’re going to learn about what people would prefer to ignore or the ways they are absolute geniuses at avoiding change or discomfort. Speak and you’re going to learn about people, in general, and your audience, in particular. Communicate and, best of all, you’re going to set the stage for something more important than your own outbound marketing, your own pushed notification, your own needs, your own knowledge. You’re going to set the stage for listening and learning.

The car loses value once you drive it from the lot, sure, but you get to drive it. You get to experience what it feels like to have actual wind in your actual hair. To move with someone from point A to point B to point C. These are good things, deeply human things.