Sunday, 20 April 2014

I want to be wise

I am at that stage in my life where my goals each day line up fairly well with how I decide to spend my time. Not perfectly of course – there is ALWAYS laundry and dishes. I am a married 60+ woman and did not do the proper significant-other vetting on these topics 40 years ago. 

And, as far as I can tell, there is never enough time to read all the books I want to read.

I chose a kind of semi-retirement to spend time with my grand-daughter and my years have shown me how to do that well, better than I did with my daughter and son. The “new” word describing this is intentional. These are the lessons of parenting we get to improve on when we grand-parent.

Recently, Brain Pickings sent me a piece on Barry Schwartz’s Practical Wisdom. This is an excerpt of the six core qualities of the person endowed with telos that Schwartz and Sharpe outline:
  1. A wise person knows the proper aims of the activity she is engaged in. She wants to do the right thing to achieve these aims—wants to meet the needs of the people she is serving.
  2. A wise person knows how to improvise, balancing conflicting aims and interpreting rules and principles in light of the particularities of each context.
  3. A wise person is perceptive, knows how to read a social context, and knows how to move beyond the black-and-white of rules and see the gray in a situation.
  4. A wise person knows how to take on the perspective of another—to see the situation as the other person does and thus to understand how the other person feels. This perspective-taking is what enables a wise person to feel empathy for others and to make decisions that serve the client’s (student’s, patient’s, friend’s) needs.
  5. A wise person knows how to make emotion an ally of reason, to rely on emotion to signal what a situation calls for, and to inform judgment without distorting it. He can feel, intuit, or “just know” what the right thing to do is, enabling him to act quickly when timing matters. His emotions and intuitions are well educated.
  6. A wise person is an experienced person. Practical wisdom is a craft and craftsmen are trained by having the right experiences. People learn how to be brave, said Aristotle, by doing brave things. So, too, with honesty, justice, loyalty, caring, listening, and counseling. 
Awhile back, I was approach to provide feedback on survey items for the type of program that is so near and dear to my heart. I was flattered because it made me feel “known”. The package arrived and I eagerly opened it. I was a little taken aback by the heftiness, but I thumbed through the forms. Each survey item was stapled to a long feedback form; 49 items in all. As I thumbed, I could feel my jaw tighten and my forehead furrow. I drew in my breath and set them down on my desk. Better get myself into the proper space; I had to pick Anisha up in ½ hour and this would take some time.

Something that has increased with my semi-retirement is my ability to procrastinate. I plunge into stuff I enjoy and leave things I am less enthused about (laundry and dishes and recently taxes). These papers sat a few days and then I touched them again. I had two hours and it seemed a perfect time to begin. Once again I decided to do a read through before writing. I had probably misjudged the nature of the activity and just needed to get my brain to the right spot. As I read, I realized I did not know enough about the program. So I did a little online research – deadly because I went from there to my favorite website to catch up on those ideas I know I will find there and love. Then a quick look at Twitter (there is rarely a quick look at Twitter for me). The time was gone and my work was not done. I fired off some emails to get some more information before I tackled it again.

Now the calendar is beginning to become a factor. The researchers want these back, the Easter long weekend is a week away, my Mom 300 km away is sick and needs help and if truth be told, I don’t really like surveys. 

I examine this feeling about surveys. I remember my days as a classroom teacher administering student surveys for Edmonton Public Schools to my class and filling in the teacher version myself. The teacher edition had, for years, the words "fairly much" as a choice on the scale - it drove me NUTS. I pick at the scab of resentment and displeasure with the results which I knew did not accurately reflect my or my students' “attitudes and feelings”.

So I go online and read about Likert scales and chat with some colleagues. None of this helps. Instead my resent grows (what a useless emotion).

When I know the calendar will allow me no more room, I select a morning time block and plow in – I will just get through them. I hate each item, can’t form any constructive criticism, the time drags and I seem to get nowhere. Why can’t they just use the kids’ journals or talk to them? Why is it not enough for a teacher to say what they think because of what they see? The survey is looking for program support of the boxes of subject areas. 
This is the antithesis of type of learning week-long, site-based programs so effectively do - sending student brains to a deep place of learning where neurons do not follow pathways to brain sections marked math or science or art. Neurons just build connection after connection between the stimuli from the real world and those connections form understanding.

This survey does not get IT!! Man, if I get this distraught it is a good thing they are not asking me to administer it.

I finish while Anisha is napping that afternoon. I know I have let down the folks asking for my “wisdom” but I push the forms in their pre-paid postage envelope and toss it in the mailbox on our way to a cleansing visit of the Muttart Conservatory. The new feature pyramid display has roses and Anisha’s middle name is Rose and we can hardly wait to get there.

Based on the six core qualities of a person endowed with telos, on a Likert scale of 1 indicates no wisdom to 5 indicates wise, I have to score myself 1L