Archive for August, 2019

I make a mean peach pie.

So I’ve been thinking about hobbies for a while. Even though as an administrator I am a 12-month employee, summer is still different and a time for more hobbies. One of my summer hobbies is making peach pie. I only do this during peach season and prefer to make the pie in the evening and then eat it in the morning for breakfast with bacon or sausages. I see you shaking your head. Have you tried it? Unless you have something against breakfast meats (or meat substitutes) there is no way around the fact that it is a perfect breakfast, just add your favorite breakfast beverage; I prefer very milky tea.

Anyway, I really got thinking about the idea of hobbies last year after reading a post by Austin Kleon from his weekly newsletter. I followed the link to Austin’s earlier post about hobbies and read Ann Friedman’s post about them that he wished he had written. Feel free to read each post yourself, none of them is long. You will be glad you did.

Ok. You’re back. What did you think? I had and continue to have many thoughts.

Here are my a few of them:

  • We would we all be a little better off if everyone had a hobby, other than trying to take away the rights of people who don’t look like they do.
  • I reserve the right to have very odd hobbies that no one else likes and to not like the hobbies of my nearest and dearest friends and family.
    • Sub-point 1–I love that they have their own weird hobbies and interests.
    • Sub-point 2–I love that they know and appreciate my love for my hobbies that do not actually interest them.
  • I know people better when I know their hobbies. 
  • I can see that my personal kids also know me better through my hobbies, especially the ones they do not share.
  • Again, yay for general craftiness. I would appreciate more of that. I am baffled when a house/apartment/family doesn’t have a hot glue gun. (I mean this is America and the word gun is involved.)
  • Hobbies are also a privilege as they require some amount of time and freedom. 
  • Hobbies are meditative too. 

In the past two years, I have carved out more time for my hobbies and interests. I haven’t slacked off at work; I don’t ignore my family. I do spend more time doing some activities that are appealing to me, make me lose track of time, give me satisfaction, make me feel better for having done them. Since I don’t have an unlimited amount of time, I have had to make some trades. Some of these trades are win-win; the thing I was spending my time on before wasn’t worth doing, and now I have a better option. Some of my trades have been more about priorities at the moment. My blogging definitely took a hit. However, for the most part, I’m comfortable with my choices.

I recognize that in some ways this is a luxury to have time. When my kids were smaller, I didn’t find much of this time during daylight hours, which, it turns out, is when I prefer for my hobbies and interests to take place. And, I also developed some bad habits of wandering the interwebs unnecessarily. That’s a quick way to have no time for other activities.

I also sometimes find myself in a place where everything needs to be very purposeful, but I don’t really believe that. Only my “I have to be busy” self belives that, and she is no fun so I don’t talk to her much. My current hobbies are not that purposeful to anyone else. They neither make the world a better place, nor contribute to counteracting climate change. And, my family surely at times shake their collective head and say, “you and your hobbies…” I just shake my head right back.

 

So, I’ve been thinking about modeling thought and making it visible. I’ve always been a big fan of the mindmap, web, chart, whatever you want to call it. The less linear the better. My brain does not like a straight line (unless it’s the edge of a picture frame on the wall, and then I will make that things straight). But in thinking, straight lines are boring to me and lonely, nothing connected to it, all organized and cut off from other ideas.

And, I am ALWAYS trying to get my students to do the hard work of thinking about something before they write about it. Seems obvious that this would be a good idea, but it’s a tough sell in some situations. 

This past spring I decided to demonstrate, again, how I do this. My YA fiction class had finished the first unit of three books. I chose the books because they have things in common, talked specifically about those things in class, and was prepping everyone for writing a paper on that topic. However, students had the option to come up with their own topic.

Writing about multiple texts is not something we do a lot. It’s hard, and I think it’s not only worth doing but also more realistic in terms of mirroring the way people usually think about books. Whenever I ask students about a particular book, invariably a second or third book enters the conversation by way of comparison. So, I think it’s really important that we practice serious thinking and writing about that. It may not surprise you to know that there was some whining about this. In particular there was a lot of talk about how there wasn’t enough to say.  I kept encouraging more thinking rather than starting writing and continued to meet with some resistance.

I went home and decided to do what I was encouraging the students to do. I sat down and  started thinking about these three books and things that stood out to me. I didn’t want to plan an essay about a topic a student had already chosen, so I came up with something else that I actually had noticed as I we were talking about the books in class, but that we hadn’t been able to focus on much. I started one web what you see in the diagram in purple. (Follow along in the order with the gray numbers) I moved on to the second book and took more notes about the general topic. As I was thinking about it I realized there was a connection to the third book. Great! I jotted down some more notes. Finally on that diagram I added a question that I had that applied to all the texts. I kept going. Made a pretty straightforward list of commonalities, transferred that to more of a few sentences that began to form an idea. The last step was a draft of what might be able to be worked into a thesis statement. I spend maybe 20-30 minutes on this.

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I brought all of this to class the next day and showed it to my students piece by piece. I tried to recreate my thinking in words to go with the diagrams to model how the ideas evolved and grew. I wanted to show them that I didn’t have all these ideas before I start thinking; I came to the ideas through thinking. There was some silence and looking at the web and then one person said, “you made that look so easy.”

I’m so glad she said that because that was certainly not my intention. I wanted to make it look doable, I wanted to make it look productive, I wanted to make it look like the result of effort. My student’s comment gave me the opportunity to say yes I did put in time, but I didn’t spend a long time doing this,  and I think it will be so valuable and speed up the writing process because it gives me a road map of exactly where I am going. I tried to reiterate the fact that it’s not easy so much as it is the inevitable result putting in thinking time. 

I was also trying to show was that my ideas changed, that a bunch of stuff was going to get left on the cutting room floor, and that I got somewhere that was interesting to me. I could totally write about that! 

I’m not sure why my initial demonstration missed the mark, or even if it totally did. Certainly for some, the webbing is just too disorganized, which I can respect even if I don’t think that way. I will definitely do something similar again, maybe frame it a little differently. Any suggestions?