Do you percolate?

I have a confession.  I am not a procrastinator, well, not all the time.  I am a percolator.

In my writing classes, we spend the first couple of weeks of each semester thinking about who we are as writers, exploring all that we have to write about, and learning that we can tweak and mold our processes to work for us in college.  We explore how we write, when we write, and why we write.  We write then write some more.  We have deadlines and discuss what it is like to write our way to a deadline.  Deadlines are something writers approach in different ways with different levels of success…or not.

I make confessions.  I confess that I do not like to write.  Well, this is not entirely true.  Writing is like cooking for me.  I love to bake when I want to, meal plan when I want to, and cook when I want to.  I hate to bake when I have to, meal plan when I have to, and cook when I have to.  Do you see the difference?  I like food.  I like to cook.  I love to bake.  I hate deadlines.  I like to write when I want to.  I like to write well when I want to.  I like to craft my writing when I want to.   I hate deadlines.  If I think about it, I realize that this distaste for deadlines can be applied to just about every area of my life.  Deadlines create stress for me and not always the good kind of emotional stress.

Deadline stress should be avoided, but it is not likely that deadline stress can be avoided.  Sure, I could stop giving myself deadlines, but my job and business will always have deadlines.  And, I have to ask myself if I am looking at this in all the write, I mean right, ways.  Is stress bad for me?  Not according to Dr. Kelly McGonical.  Her book, The Upside of Stress, is on my summer reading list, so I will get back to you on this one.

If I do not have deadline stress, will I ever get anything done?  I have evidence that says no.  My home is much cleaner right before company arrives.  The girls and I have been spending our Sunday morning grading sessions, okay, coffee and gripe sessions, at a new health food market for the past month.  My Sunday-get-this-house-cleaned-up-quick deadline has fallen by the wayside.  No deadline means the kitchen island is not a mountain rather than flatland.  Hold on.  I need to add this mess to my to-do list.  Without a deadline stress, I have created a new stress. Sigh.

Can deadlines be good for us?  Do we set ourselves up for deadline stress?  Can deadline stress be harmful?  Yes. Yes. And, yes.  If I want my kitchen island to be clean, I will just have to put my deadline back in place and have the girls over on Sunday morning. I know this deadline motivates me and that is not a bad thing.  If I receive a custom order inquiry and notice the studio schedule is already full and say yes anyway, I have set myself up.  If there are far too many deadlines on the calendar and one overlaps another and most are job imposed, or family imposed, or imposed by some other outside source, then, yes I believe this stress can be harmful to me.  My response to imposition is most often negative.  And, my go to negative response to imposed deadlines is procrastination.

Procrastination is intentional.  When I procrastinate, I am making a choice.  I put things off, intentionally, until I absolutely have to do the task.  In fact, I spend a great deal of energy putting an imposed task off.  I think about it, but not about the process of doing it, or the goal, but about the fact that I don’t want to do it.  I negotiate with myself about the task, bargaining if you will, thinking about just how long it will take me to do this task so I can formulate a plan of when the last possible moment to start will be.  This is exhausting.  Why do I do this?

When I ask my students to raise their hands if they are procrastinators, the topography of the room changes as the air fills with finger tips.  I then ask if they are sure.  Hands begin to fall from the air when I ask if they think their procrastination is intentional.  We discuss this.  It is clear that they think that procrastination is something that happens to them rather than something they choose to do.  I give them a quiz:  Do you think about the task while you are not doing it?  Do you make other plans that make it hard to meet your deadline even though the deadline is on your mind?  Do you choose to focus on the task at the last moment on purpose?  If you answered no, then yes, then yes…you are procrastinating.   Right? But, maybe some of us are not.  Maybe we are something else.

If your quiz answers were yes, no, no, then you might be like me…a percolator.  Deadlines make me think about the tasks, the process of the tasks, the completing of the tasks.  I plan in my head, and often on brain dump lists, I stress and worry the task, and I complete the task in my head in a variety of ways over and over again.  This is busy work and uses up a good amount of brain energy.  I write in my head which I know sounds impressive, but truly it is not.  It’s simply a form of worry which is far too big a topic for this post.  We can work on worry later.

Students stair at me with blank expressions.  I then post a picture of a percolator on the screen in the front of the classroom and tell them this, dear students, is how your grandparents, or maybe great grand parents, made their coffee each morning.  It was a process, not a quick drip, and they stare in wonder of how slow coffee brewing used to be. A percolator crafts a well brewed cup of coffee as it cycles the water through the grounds, the process is more caring of the coffee and many percolator enthusiasts enjoy a richer brew.  It’s a process.  It takes care.  It takes time.  It is not easy.  It is not quick.  It is, often, better.

I compare the process to our thinking out a task until it is complete.  I tell my students if they think about the tasks more than the deadline, they are percolators, not procrastinators.  They begin to see both as motivators and choices.  Once they believe that this is a choice, they can begin to see the good, and the bad, in these choices.  Maybe they will consider, like me, that one choice is better for them than another, and can choose.

What’s good for you?  Percolating?  Procrastinating?


What Our Mothers Teach Us

Over and over again, I learn the things our mothers have taught us.  I sit here, today, at my mother’s kitchen table with a cup of tea in hand.  My mind has been drifting between the challenges that life is throwing me today and the challenges that lie ahead for our daughters and our sons.  Something big is in the air and I can’t help but think about the generations of women that have come before me and wonder if they sat at kitchen tables, thinking, sipping tea and watching, and participating, in the history of their present.  Did they feel it?  Was it in the air then?  And, then?  And, then, too?

During the first days of school, when we are all finding our footing and easing into our stride, students learn about me as we create classroom communities of learners, writers, and, hopefully, thinkers.  Often, I am asked about my political affiliation.  Affiliation.  It seems assumed that I must affiliate, fellowship, belong, agree with, partner with, union with…  That I must belong to one side or another without consideration of other sides or with consideration of only one side.  The one side.  Yikes.  There are more than two sides to every story and there is also my side.  I have a side and it matters.  Right?  I only reveal my independence and reassure students that I take my civil disobedience and allegiance to thinking very seriously.  I love to knit wool, but that does not mean I am a sheep.

During the first days of a newly elected presidency, I hope we are not just marching, but thinking about what happens after the march.  In pink Pussy Hats we scampered, gathered, and marched.  We were like brides marching toward our future and creating a world for our children to enjoy or endure or survive.  Like brides, we were sure of our choices, dressed for the role, and willing to take a risk.  The wedding is over, the needles have moved on to new projects, and now it is time to put the march into action, to recognize what is in the air, and finish the job our mothers bequeathed us.

Our mother’s bumper sticker proclaimed that we should question authority. Our bumper sticker promised we could have it all.  What will our daughter’s bumper sticker promise?

ELO – I Rant

rantsThis is a rant. Occasionally rants merit value. This is such a rant. This does not apply to the majority, but as is true in most cases, it is the few that ruin it for the many. If this does not apply to you, then now worries.
It may be unfortunate, but there are higher expectations of Writing II students. These expectations reach beyond student writing abilities which are truly expected to be elevated to the level in which you are learning. This course level allows me to afford you far more opportunities to grow as a thinker and as a professional. It is, therefore, discouraging, to notice that some students are clearly not ready, or mature enough, to handle the independence I can afford in Writing II.
I was discouraged to observe students spending valuable Writer’s Workshop enjoying the use of their handheld technology rather than staying on task. What I observed was not a quick check of information, but an engaged activity spanning the first quarter of class. No. I do not call you out as I would want. I hate being a high school disciplinarian. No. I am not insulted: although, I should be discouraged that you are wasting time and valuable space in this class.
You are not hurting me. You are hurting yourself. Of course, that is your business, but hurting yourself in my classroom becomes my business and I would rather you choose to be someplace else, the place you would rather be, if you do not want to participate in the day’s activity. It is a choice and I wish you would make it.
You are hurting your fellow students. You are wasting their time and their energy and, most importantly, you are being disrespectful. You are asking them to think thoughtfully about your writing but you are not willing to do the same for them.

I hope your future co-workers are as tolerable of your disrespect as your classmates seem to be.

Do you have rant of the day?  Share it here in comments for 5 ELOs.  This opportunity is available until mid-night on March 28.

Paradigm Shift

What will you do?

Each one of us is responsible for the whole of humankind. We need to think of each other really as brothers and sisters and to be concerned for each other’s welfare. Rather than working solely to acquire wealth, we need to do something meaningful, something directed seriously towards the welfare of humanity as a whole. ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Take Care

I think it is sometimes important for me to remind students that they need to take good care.  This is a good reminder for me as well.  As I am sitting here this morning, with cup of coffee in hand and the sun shining through the windows of my home office, my mind is racing in circles thinking of all the things I have to do.  Each role I play in life brings with it things to do.  What I have discovered is simple.  There are very few times when there is nothing to do.  This is a given.  Having things to do is a fact of life.  Managing those things to do is the key.

There are many things to do this weekend.  As a teacher, I need to tweak, revise, and proof for the next week.  I need to plan what is happening online and in the classroom.  There is also that new class, new material, and new beginnings this semester.  There are meetings and appointments to prepare for.

As a mother, there are bangs to trim, clothes to wash, meals to cook, shopping to do so the things I have to do next week are not as difficult as they might be without the shopping.  There is also some roller skating to do and Sunday bread to bake.

As a wife, I need to reconnect with my husband.  We should hold hands while watching a movie, fold towels together, and not forget to kiss goodnight.  Our schedules are opposite this semester to help raise a grand-daughter.  I miss him.

As a person I need to feed my creative spirit.  Make sure the last of Christmas is packed away and pull out the hearts for Valentine’s day.  Should I make cupcakes?  Sure.  My studio is a mess, so add this to the list.  Blog a little.  Take some pictures.  Work on that baby blanket as it is nearly finished.  This all helps me to stop and take note of the little things in my life that I love.

All of this is good – even the have-to-dos.  But, I can’t do any of this unless I take care of myself.  I need to move, drink water and sleep a little more.  I need to sometimes just stop. I need to take care so I am good at what I do and that is what students need to do, too.  Take care.  Take a day off each week not to work, not to do school, and not to check e-mail unless it is for fun.  Pick a day, an afternoon, a morning, or even an hour each day to just be off.

My day off from school is Sunday.  I won’t check discussion boards that day.  I won’t answer student e-mail.  I won’t.  If I do, I expect you to call me on it.  I might have a good reason, but might not, as I am a bit of a to-do-aholic.  I will help you and you can help me to take better care.

~Ms. A.

I Believe I Can Fly


Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

~Marianne Williamson

 Here is a form of writing invention that is often helpful when trying to find a topic to journal or essay.   Listing can take us to some very interesting places to write.

 Choose the very beginnings of a phrase and list all of the possibilities. Feel free to steal any of these to prompt your writing.   Here is an example from one of my own journals.

I believe… 

            …Kool aid makes me smile.

            …women, as a gender, are is pain.

            …men, as a gender, feel abandoned.

            …race is dynamic.

            …in good deeds done.

            …in good kharma.

            …there is a clown in every circus.

            …pizza is a food group and falls under chocolate on the food pyramid.

            …slow dancing sparks old feelings into new again.

            …the foam of surf tells a story.

            …divorce is too easy and infidelity socially acceptable.

            …my students do not know how smart they are or how smart they can be.

            …words are important.

            …time is artificial and should be deleted from life.

            …laughing is healing and hugs forgiving.

            …a good book, a hot cup of tea, and a rainy day soothes the blues.

            …to do lists can be good and can be bad.

            …starvation does not have to exist.

            …we, as a people, are selfish to the point of blindness.

            …the good ones do not run for President.

            …violence is a product of lost love of mankind.

            …children are worth it every time and no matter what.

            …love is enough.

            …beach bums know something the rest of us missed.

            …a look can make, or break, a child.

            …my students are insecure about their own potential.

            …there are people in the world who should be parents.

            …I believe we are all scared of one another.

            …believe in me.

Leave a comment including your “I believe…” statement.

~Ms. A