Sunday, December 27, 2015

Proud, silly, and profound


Three moments stand out over the past couple of months around my delight and amazement at having found my calling as a teacher of string games. I made a deliberate choice to transform myself from a technologist to a teaching artist, and I credit that intentionality with the greatest influence in making it happen. I've had a lot of good luck and warm support along the way. The first moment was largely negative--I was trying to help my wife order sunglasses online, using a tool in the web browser where one is supposed to see how any frame you select would look on by seeing them superimposed on the photo we had just uploaded. All we saw was grasshopper-like bug eye frames that appeared two to three times bigger than any normal sunglasses would be. I just gave up. It seemed clear to me that no amount of tweaking or redoing was going to make this tool work so as to give a very picky artist a satisfactory view of her glasses. This refusal to proceed on my part was frustrating to my wife, who really needs sunglasses to drive safely. But we were not saving anything of real value by spending our time and energy with this alpha-level software, and we were losing a lot of time. If the tech's not easy, I no longer feel any obligation to figure it out. All I ever do for trouble shooting is to re-start the device. If it fails the second time, I'm done.

The next moment was overhearing the school district's site technician for our site talking a staff member through how to fully shut down an application, instead of just closing its open windows. I remember how long it took me to understand that lesson, and thought about how many times I'd passed it on. I felt a bit of pride that there might never have been technicians who would take the time to give such instruction without the work I did pioneering technology training for teachers, not just for administrators. When I started using computers with students for them to connect with a global community of learners, it was revolutionary to think that these devices had uses outside of the financial and administrative realms, and to assert that teachers deserved support for using the computers that way did not fit in with the plans or budgets then being considered. It was a struggle, where for a few brief years we made some headway. By the time I abandoned technology in 2011 or so to focus on string figures, it was clear that all opportunity for students to use technology for creative and communicative purposes was gone, and the tech was now only for testing-related tasks.

The third, profound moment is not a single one, but many, spread out over the past months of launching this new career as a teacher of string games, a Teaching Artist, a movement and graphic and visual and performing arts teacher, and a singer, of all things! It's liberating beyond my wildest dreams to think that I can sing in public, with relative strangers able to hear me. I've never felt comfortable doing that before. It's still not exactly what I'd call comfortable, admittedly, but I'm doing it... And still shiver with amazement each time I get to share with someone that I went back to work full-time in order to be able to realize my dream of teaching string games in the public schools.