Saturday Sunrise in the Smokies

Saturday Sunrise in the Smokies

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On dogs and building fences

 Kate has always wanted all the toys.  Nothing makes her happier than to be in the center of a pile of chew toys, unless it is being in the center of a pile of pillows on the bed.  She is always a little pouty when R is gone, but she has done pretty well this week.  She perked up last night when I told her only two more days and he would be home.  He has decided to return on Thursday because ice is predicted for the weekend.  Great, just what I need when I have spent a week preparing for the new fence building.
 It has been pleasant here this week, so I took advantage of it and worked on getting fallen limbs and leaves out of the way of where the new fence has to be built.  Friday afternoon, all day Saturday and Sunday, and much of yesterday were involved in the giant task, but I am almost done with it.
I knew there were pieces of concrete under a pile of leaves in one section, so I had to figure out which pile of leaves that would be.  They have only been there for 12 years.  R had piled them up so as not to run over them with the lawn mower.  Yes, I know most folks would have piled them in a wagon and hauled them somewhere out of the way, but R is a short-cut man when it comes to heavy lifting.  By the time I found them and got them out of the leaves, I was about heavy-lifted out myself.  Still, it was satisfying to complete so much of a gargantuan task.  This last little pile of leaves and smaller pile of rocks ain't nothin'!

Monday, November 23, 2015

With love to the future...

The letters to future self were part of our ongoing training in working with groups, and using a strengths perspective, and understanding growth and development, with the second year students.  Today's class was the first year students, and it is their first semester.  It is daunting.  I well recall my first year in my MSW program, while working full-time and commuting 6 hours round trip, spending 8-10 hours at the university on top of that commute time.

There were many outcomes in class today that I believe reflected their learning, and their desire to learn.  I continue to attempt to understand how to be a more effective educator in what I believe is the most important thing I can do: prepare students to practice social work.  Sometimes, I wish I could take all that I have learned in my life, my practice, my education, my experience, and just capsule it so they could see what I see.  And then, I remind myself of what a limited view that would be if that was all that they had.

We had 15 minutes left, which is 12 minutes longer than Elizabeth Kubler Ross would give people to draw her a picture of what they thought, but it was just about right from my perspective.  I still had the materials from our class last week so I laid them out on the table and offered the first year students the same opportunity...sort of.  The goal last week was in recognizing and understanding where they were at this moment in time compared with where they were a year ago when they began, what would they say to their future selves?

Today, the option was what do you want to say to your future self to help you to achieve the goal you have set?  Today, we are doing visionary work: what will enable you to get there?

What are the important "take-aways" from the message above, from the student last week?
  • You are not alone; we are all in this experience called surviving.  In the big 'ole lifeboat off the shipwreck, how much you have or do not have is not the issue.  What can you bring to the solution of the problem?
  •  It is okay to make mistakes while learning; we are always learning.  If we are learning, we learn not to keep making the same mistakes.  We want to learn how not to make those mistakes again.  Not knowing is okay; not learning what you do not know might create some problems.
  • "You are not your grades."  Let me repeat that: You are not your grades.  We have so conditioned our students to believe that their learning lies within the numerical score that they do not see other possibilities.  I have had students who were D and C students who demonstrated more learning than their B and A counterparts.  Why?  They learned something; they wanted to learn something; they put the hard work into learning something, even when the numerical score would seem to indicate that they did not.
  • Trust yourself
    • Trusting yourself is not the same thing as ignoring anything else.  It does mean listening to your own voice.
  • Trust the feedback
    • Who can tell you what to do?  From whom will you accept help?
  •  Trust the process 
    • Life is developmental. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Your Perspective Matters

 Have I said before how much I love this class?  How much I love these second year students?  There is a saying When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  These students became the teacher and I, the teacher/student, was ready to learn.  The circle has opened and closed and opened.
 Together, we co-created a journey that has unfolded and evolved over the course of the weeks through a parallel process.  It feels a little bit like being in a parallel dimension and looking at your self from both within and outside of yourself.
The topic was later stages of development in the group: endings and transitions.  Transition is exciting: walking where a path does not yet exist.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

When things are not very clear

 You know how we all have those times when things are just not very clear.  There is too much "noise in our head" as one of my friends puts it. 
 Although there have been many times in my life when my vision lacked clarity, I think perhaps the most useful fog was my experience on St. Paul's Island, in the Bering Sea--literally and figuratively.  Due to the frequency of the fog, mist, rain, cloud cover, if one did not know what was in the immediate distance, one would not know what was in the immediate distance.  But somehow, even while the reality often was veiled in the fog, I would find clarity.  I believe it came from seeking, earnestly, to understand and to know and to use that understanding and knowing to be a more effective human being at that point in my life.
Sometimes, perhaps closer to 'home' both of those are more difficult for us to achieve.  Do you ever feel like you are warring factions of self?  That one part of you earnestly seeks to understand and know and use, in order to become a more effective human being in the only thing that matters: relationship with others.  And at the same time, one part of you just wants to raise your hands in surrender and kneel down with your hands behind your back, waiting for the handcuffs and unjust arrest and subsequent unjust punishment.
When those moments occur, my desire is to focus on not what is the lack of clarity, but what is clear.  When a student took the above photograph a few years ago, she labeled it "scary."  I do not know why she thought so when she sent it to me, but I think about it now in the midst of all that is transpiring, and agree.
Scary.  Things are obscured behind me, to the side of me, below me, above me.  I am on the edge with little separating me from the abyss.  I am not even looking where I am going.  And yet, there is a peace, a serenity.  It will be okay.  Others do not define my reality.  That is up to me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Little River at Elkmont

 Little River at Elkmont, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The bridge was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, completed 1936-1937.  You can read more about the Elkmont Bridge at Suzassippi: Red Shutters.