Education Inspiration

I was listening to a recent TED Radio Hour episode on Rethinking School. The four chapters of the episode inspired some observations:

How do we get kids hooked to science? Start with stories, and use the right level of details. It’s okay to not be 100% accurate and it’s okay to leave out details, because it’s more important to get someone to understand the concepts before they can go deep on the details. Your approach to educate a 13 years-old should be different from talking to a PhD researcher.

What can we learn from comparing education systems around the wold? There are places where teaching is a coveted and prestegious profession. Students are more likely to succeed if they have a growth mentality toward their learning, rather than one where success is only possible for those gifted at specific subjects. With so much information available, focus on how to creatively use concepts rather than regurgitating them.

Sal Khan’s approach to a physical school: Focus on progression and advancement, mix students from different ages rather than separating them by grade levels.

Empowering students in poverty Linda Cliatt-Wayman uses several slogans to get her message across to students and teachers.

  • “So what, now what” rhetorically encourages them to take ownership of their future regardless of their unfair and unfortunate circumstances.
  • She also reminds them her unconditional love toward them and of her belief in their ability to succeed. Every day on the PA system, “If no one told you today that they love you. Remember that I do, and I always will.”

That last part reminds me of the Radical Candor framework. The person you are trying to help won’t be receptive until they see that you actually care about them.

It takes a lot of work to create a safe learning environment, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced it at schools, at home, and at work. Four years ago, I posed a similar question to consider what our learning environments could look like after we graduate from school.

On Should

I’m not sure the origin of this thought, what inspired it, or where I was when it happened, but here it is.

The word should is loaded. It carries the weight of implied expectation that can be detrimental to relationships. When we say something or someone should exist or be some way, we are communicating our expectations on how the world should be, but isn’t.

Should is the bridge between ideal and real. It is the gap between potential and not yet or never. I should; you should; we should; they should. Embedded in that word is an expectation that imposes my view on others. I am asserting a desired or expected state of the world, and I communicating that the world has failed to meet those expectations.

  • They should… is projection.
  • They should have… is judgement.
  • I should have… is regret that comes from hindsight.
  • I should… is external expectation that I don’t believe in or want yet.

The next time you hear should, figure out the embedded expectation and where it stems from.

Recent Urban Planning Books

I’ve been reading about urban planning recently.

I’m drawn to them as a designer because people are at the center of them, and there are a multitude of complex systems that influence each other.

Our quality of life is affected by how our cities are designed. Building zoning and transportation options affect where we work, live, and commute. It affects how we relate to our neighborhood and our neighbors; what we perceive to be desired and undesired parts of the city and transportation options.

Recent Urban Planning Books

  • Happy Cities: Explores the tension between our need to have a lot of private space and how that conflicts with our preference to be close to the attractions and conveniences of a city.
  • Street Fight: A first person view of Janette Sadik-Khan’s work in changing the street layouts of NYC. If you live in NYC, you will look at a crosswalk through a new lens. There are also glimpses into the cost of maintaining infrastructure and how bike sharing was introduced. Janette explains the methods her team used to gradually test and introduce changes to the streets.
  • Bowling Alone: A dense view of the changing attitudes toward civic participation and how it affects our communities. Robert Putnam dissects a range of possible causes and explains how they are interconnected.

Cities are messy. They are a series of overlapping snapshots of our culture. It’s container for all the things we value, aspire to, and are willing to tolerate.

The Three Life Pillars

A few years ago, I categorized the things that affect my life into three giant groups. The idea is that I could use these groups to see where stress and unpredictability was happening in my life.

The stress could come from work, family/friends, and health.

Each vaguely represents what I do, who is around me, and how I am physically and mentally.

The observation around these three pillars is that life is mostly okay when any single one of them is off-kilter. If my health is in a bad place, but I still have the support of family and friends and can work, then I’m still okay.

When I have two pillars that are off-balance, life is more challenging. I am handling unexpected challenges in two different areas. If I have some sort of stress happening on all three pillars, things are very real.

I frequently keep a temperature check on how I’m doing in all three areas. Am I too comfortable at this moment? Are there too many things that need my attention? Should I try to stabilize one while I continue to work on another pillar? They are a set of questions to balance long and short term challenges to make sure that I don’t burn out.

Two Weeks of Staying Connected

Staying Connected

For the past two weeks, I made an effort to reach out to folks that I haven’t talked to in a while.

I went through all my contacts and made a list of people that I miss talking to. While I didn’t succeed in talking to an old friend every day, I got a lot out of each chat and learned how integrate this new habit into my days. Here’s what I learned about the process:

  • It’s not hard, but it needs to be a conscious effort. If someone isn’t in my day-to-day, it’s easy let too much time pass in between chats.
  • It’s worth it. I get as much out of it as I do from reading, writing, and working on side projects. It’s a different lens of reflection and inspiration.
  • Everyone’s schedule is different, so it’s easier to pick up conversations with some than others.
  • Phone calls and video chats are easier logisically, and they can be just as rewarding as in-person conversations.
  • It can take up a week to coordinate time to chat.

Things to try next

  • Move the conversation over to text message as soon as possible. Coordination is faster over text than in email and other forms of direct message.
  • A more realistic goal for the near term is to talk to a couple of people a week, rather than someone every day.
  • Take notes and send them out afterward so both sides can build on the conversation next time. At the risk of being too formal, it might be worth trying this to see how it affects a series of conversations.