Monthly Archives: October 2017

what’s your 3-foot sphere of influence?

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A week ago today, we met outside in the frosty morning to talk about how our 3-foot sphere of influence. Inspiration came from this blogpost by Sharon Salzberg on the On Being website (one of my favorites) and tells the story of a man on a subway who realizes that although he may not have the power to change the world–and let’s face it, most of us teachers get into the business because we want to do that–he does have power within arm’s reach, within that 3-foot circle.

So we wrote about that in correspondence with the badges on which we’re currently working. I’m not (officially) pursuing a badge, but I kinda sorta am because I’m involved in the Institute for Sustainable Teaching with the CSU Writing Project. This group of educators from around northern Colorado have lots of spheres to influence, but it’s rough out there for teachers. Changing the world for everyone means that you often leave yourself behind, and all of us in the group have felt that, are feeling that, even and especially because we’ve stuck with the profession way past the increasingly common 2-3 years of expected longevity.

But like I said, it’s hard, not just on us individually, but because we’re nested in contexts that seem to push back against our aspirations, for our students, ourselves, and our profession. It seems as if we’re doing our work “in spite of,” and it’s taking its toll. Our goal now is to build theory around this concept of sustainable teaching and practices that will test its efficacy.

All of that is to say that the symbols in my sphere reflect our current experiment with a handful of practices that might see us through, not just as individuals, but as members of a community that’s committed to our students, each other, and ourselves.

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how do I shut up? how do I get on with it? (and what is “it,” by the way?)

Well, some in my family might say I never do (entirely “shut up,” that is). Actually, that’s not so true. I like to watch and think about what others have said a good deal of the time, and then I like to “not shut-up” for a while. But I’m sure that’s not quite what Helen Simpson had in mind.

When I was working on my dissertation and on any giant writing project since, those voices, those evil little voices, pop into my head and say something along the lines of “Who do you think you are in your big britches, thinking you have something to say?”

The other big impediment is the allure of the library. I often think I have to read EVERYTHING before I’m entitled to say anything (see first paragraph–it’s basically the same syndrome).

So how do I ever shut up and get on with it? I sometimes set a word quota for the day (though this can trigger the evil voice, so I have to be careful here).

I sometimes set a timer. Often, once it goes off, my muscles are flexed, and I want to keep going.

Sometimes I try to have a writing partner who I can be accountable to and commiserate with as we try to just get on with it.

It’s not that the act of writing is hard, per se, just like working out isn’t really hard either. It’s the gearing up that makes the wobble and makes me forget I know how to flow.

Dear Me

Even though the prompt says that we should speak to ourselves as if we might comfort a writer friend who’s struggling right now, I must confess that the first thoughts that spring to mind are decidedly critical, so I’m going to try to talk to Cindy like I might talk to Cam.

Cindy, you know, you may not be writing in one very important particular genre right now, but you are showing up, and you’re writing this very minute. That’s a small thing, but it’s something. You know those Morning Pages posts that you keep writing with your students? Yeah, it’s probably time to the lead writer-wobbler in CO301D and get them out there. Is anybody reading? Anybody? Anybody? Well, maybe not, but you’ll have cast some ideas into the great void anyway. That’s a small thing, but it’s something.

And what about the theory-building you’ve been doing with the incredible teachers in the Institute for Sustainable Teaching? Write about our work that you’ve already started.

Also, your unfamiliar genre was intended to be flipping, right? You have ideas. Just write them down, whatever form that writing takes. You could be the guinea pig for open genre work if you wanted.

And what about that list of all those lovely words you’ve been collecting for a while now. Write your way into those a la David Whyte, or take the challenge of incorporating them in your work for that day.

The point is, it’s not that you’re at a loss for what to write. Sometimes that’s the most difficult thing. You’ve made some progress. Just trust it.

You can do this.

Love,

Me

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