Fuzzy Thinking: Fragmenting Us in Pursuit of, Well, Us.

No fewer than three times today, my brain was tickled into considering the question that I’ve buried at the end of this hurried post. Let me recap:

1. In a few Google+ conversations about sharing1, I’ve seen folks state that the advantage of things like circles2, is that they can help you to narrowcast rather than broadcast noise.

2. During #edchat today, I caught a rather odd notion that we should be taking care to separate our professional conduct from our academic conduct. I still don’t know what that means. Strikes me as silly. More on that in a sec.

3. The prompt of this evening’s #edchat was this:

Tech won’t change a teacher’s basic pedagogical practices. How do we promote needed change in methodology?

I wondered aloud in response that perhaps it’d be more important3 if we instead asked what was worth doing, and what wasn’t – basically, what was the change that needed to happen?

And I didn’t see a good answer. But, I couldn’t stick around to see the chat, so perhaps it surfaced and I missed it.

In each of the above cases, the problem of lots of little purposes, rather than a few big ideas, arises. In the first example, an assumption that I’m interested in one piece of you, rather, than, perhaps, the person that you’re working to be, is present. In the second, the idea that our professional selves and our academic selves should be distinct and separate selves – that ourselves as teachers should so differ from ourselves as learners that we need to tell the difference – emerged. And in the third, we’re skipping the essential questions to focus on the sidelines. Let’s get to the changing before we know what’s worth fiddling with.4

Before I ramble too much on this, at a time when I can tell my brain’s only beginning to emerge from vacation, I’ll pause with a question, probably a poorly worded one, but perhaps you can help me fumble to better language –

Is it better to have lots of selves and goals for lots of situations, to fragment ourselves intentionally in the pursuit of the right self for the right situation, or is it better to have a few guiding principles that transcend our selves and help us to be better us-es in all of our spaces?

I say the latter’s the way to go. Be kind in all spaces.5 Always be curious. Share what you learn as you’re able. I’m sure there are more principles that I could tease out across the contexts and shards of my self.

Certainly, a first draft and fuzzy response to something I want to come back and play with later. And I see at least a couple of problems with my own leaning. Let’s tease them out in the comments.

  1. Actually, in most Google + conversations about sharing – it’s a new space, and folks are figuring it out by comparing it to what they’ve known before. I get that. []
  2. The organizing principle of Google + – one that one doesn’t have to use – but, because it’s there, people do. Tools and they way they’re structured affect our use of them. []
  3. And certainly more useful, although I don’t think I said so at the time. []
  4. Okay. That one might not fit – but it does in my head somewhere, so I’m leaving it in. For now. []
  5. Or at least, strive to be. I’m working on this one. []

8 thoughts on “Fuzzy Thinking: Fragmenting Us in Pursuit of, Well, Us.

  1. Hey Bud. I would have to agree with you on this one (not that I don’t agree with you on other ones). My life is overly stratified as it is. Wife, kids, family, church, work, friends, bills, groceries, laundry…and so on. To think that I should have a different “me” for each one of those would instantly provide substantial cause to commit me to an asylum. I’m me. I’m not perfect and I don’t always think before speaking/acting/stepping. There are many aspects of “me” that are more prevalent in different circumstances, but they all reflect back on the core “me”. I have adopted a handful of principles, core believes and values, a faith that guides me in what I do each and every day. I try to stay true to them; whether it’s in politics, parenting, procrastinating, etc. My “social me” is very much the “real me” that you would get face to face. I hope that those you have met me would agree. I perhaps hold back a bit, until comfortable, but in the end everyone gets “me”.

    Perhaps it’s not a question of having different “me”s but a question of context; social norms; how to act accordingly. Or maybe I missed your point all together.

    Either way, it was a good read. Made me think. We all need to think about our “me”; how many “me”s we should have; or if it should just be one “me” that understands social/professional/familial contexts.

  2. I don’t think it’s fuzzy at all. The only way I fragment myself at all across any of my “selves” is that I’m slightly more open in person (and maybe on Facebook). If I try to split myself into different roles across social networks, at school, or anywhere else, then I’m not being entirely honest anywhere. Not sure I could handle managing al, those personalities… Could you? Good post.

  3. I am more open about personal stuff (kids, etc) on Facebook. Twitter and G+ I use for academic pursuits. Not to say that my personal life doesn’t affect my professional life (it does very much so); however, most of my friends on Facebook wouldn’t even know about anything about my professional interests. It’s easier that way.

    The emergence of G+ has be thinking about if this separation will end as more and more of my friends join G+. To have it all in one place would be great, but I would still separate those two purposes.

  4. I’m not sure either why we would want to separate the professional and academic aspects of our lives. Shouldn’t these two go together hand in hand? As in, now and forever? Also leads me to wonder, does one actually have a professional life if a solid academic life doesn’t exist? It seems like so many other professions require a strong academic life in order to maintain a respected professional. Doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, and the like. If we as teachers (and as districts) are doing all these things, shouldn’t our methods and pedagogy automatically evolve almost naturally? Lots of question marks here. 🙂 Thanks for the post Bud.

  5. Your question carries its own answer and that focus should be central in our minds as we teach our students and encourage them as learners and in particular, as civic members in an online world.
    And I have no idea what keeping our professional activities removed from our academic activities means, in this circle (normal meaning). Aren’t most of us teachers?
    another good post,
    thanks.

  6. I have a seemingly-fragmented comment: I think everyone is right and yet no one is right. Think of our self as a pie chart. Depending on what motivates you or how you decide to allocate sections (time, efforts, thoughts, training, etc.), your pie slices may even change with the day, week, month or year (or events within each of those time periods).
    The professional slices definitely change as we age, enlarging as we are learning, narrowing with family concerns overriding and (possibly) expanding when we are alone again. But then retirement or job change happens, and our pie slices must begin again, organizing by immediate needs and concerns and falling into place when we re-establish routines with which we are happy.
    Our professional selves are part of us, and we just decide how large a part of us those are. When we choose to have a family, the professional is in there – how else to manage children’s demands on our time, their behaviors, and helping them become their best self? The academic self is also always with us because we originally had interests that drove our educational experiences. Sometimes those interest change or become more intense, so we take more courses and learn more. Expanded learning may or may not change the size of our academic slice. Again, we decided how large that self is.
    Some part of us is what you may be addressing: the personal, essential self. This is the self that has: the beliefs and values; the moral characteristics; the psychological states or conditions; the emotional and social skills. These all guide us and shape our behaviors, responses, thoughts, intents. That essential self is what drives the professional and academic selves, what integrates those selves together into a seemingly coherent “overall-self” that we present as who we are.
    Each of us organizes our selves differently and at different levels of effectiveness. I, for one, have a mind that constantly chatters and asks, “Why?” That is what has driven me in my teaching approaches – why a child demonstrated (or not) a particular behavior or skill. The answer to the question determined my response or another query: “How?” The how’s were how to teach better, how to prevent, how to include, how to….
    I look for the patterns in children’s behaviors, in events in my life, in social conditions and those either answer my questions or drive me to investigate some more. I have relied heavily on my child development courses, but what I was taught differs greatly from what I have learned over time. Like you, I was taught theory, but learning what that theory looks like on two feet drives and actually integrates all my selves to be who I am in the classroom.
    My essential self rules with compassion and structure, my professional self rules with watching for those cues that tell me what is happening within the child, the academic self is probably the smallest slice in the classroom because it is the skills or tools I use on a daily basis.
    Does this analysis actually matter? I think not, because no one will change as a result of my awarenesses of self. Changes will come when others see how successful my students are.

  7. I really like Jennifer’s analogy of the pie slices and I agree with her. It
    makes even more sense than the old adage about the different hats we wear because we are many things at once. But I would say that the analyzation and self reflection actually extremely important and need to be evaluated consistently. We as professionals need to be aware of and promote the academic slice of our life in order to bring the respect that doctors and other professionals enjoy to our own profession. It is sorely lacking right now. Real change in a profession comes from within and others will follow where we lead. But we also have to be careful to demonstrate the slices are still part of the whole — we are still ourselves matter the place or time or media and need to hold true to our essential core values. The artifacts of our lives should reflect who we are be they digital or otherwise because almost everything is permanent anymore and can be traced back to you. Students have a hard time grasping this. I use FB to share my day with family and friends so that purpose
    makes the part of me I share there more personal but I never forget the professional part of me there. I dont friend students there. Not because I am trying to create dichotomy between my professional life and my personal life ( which is not truly possible on a public venue like FB anyway) but because I dont use it to communicate with students. Some of my colleagues do and that’s fine. But if I changed it’s purpose and audience I would have to change my register and FB would not be enjoyable for me anymore. But everything I do and say has purpose and meaning and reflects me. It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes but I own those too. Students make sometimes dangerous distinctions between different selves in different contexts instead of maturely adjusting for different situations and staying true to themselves. It is our job to help them learn to do that.

  8. I’d say it’s certainly better to have a few guiding principles to guide you along the way. I’d have to agree with the other Melissa, that it’s almost impossible then to keep track of the personalities you set for yourself, so why not just let those few guiding principles guide you everywhere. Otherwise, how genuine are we really?

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