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My new (academic) year’s resolutions

A dear colleague/friend just told me that I seem “depressed;” that my “joy and enthusiasm aren’t present much of the time” that we are in the same room.

How’s that for a wake up call?

Needless to say, I’ve been doing some soul-searching since reading that and will continue to do so. At this point, I believe that I’m not “depressed” (at least not in a clinical sense). However, I do think I’ve become frustrated and even angry. Having spent the better part of the last 12-18 months engaged in conversations at the intersection of educational technology, leadership and reform and seeing very little change beyond small pockets of “innovation” has caused me terrible frustration. If you believe most of what I’ve read/seen/heard over the last year or so, the entire P-20 system is headed off a cliff, and only those with great foresight and agility will avoid the cliff dive. “Foresight” and “agile” are not characteristics of most schooling organizations of which I know.

That said, surely there is more to my psychological state than my frustrations with the P-20 educational system. So, since the new academic year is upon us (our first full-faculty meeting is next week), I thought I’d make some new (academic) year’s resolutions.

First and foremost, I’m going to make it a point to be more “present,” to live more “in the moment.” That’s always been a problem for me, even before the digital age and the era of continuous partial attention. I live in my head a lot and I’m always thinking about what I have to do, want to do, etc. My generalized anxiety largely prevents me from being truly present. I don’t know that social media and other forms of technology have exacerbated my inability to be present, but I’m certain they haven’t helped.  I intend to revisit the works of Jon Kabat-Zinn who writes/speaks about mindfulness. I was introduced to his work a long time ago by my wife and one of her psychologist friends. Before our first child was born, my wife bought me a copy of Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. I read most of it, but not closely enough; ironically, I wasn’t able to really be present with the text.

I don’t know (yet) if being more “present” and more “in the moment” necessarily means disconnecting/unplugging and/or “going off the grid;” that’s something I’ll have to interrogate. But, I know that unless it’s necessary, I’m not going to open my laptop during meetings, conferences, etc. I’m pretty good about doing the same during time with my wife and kids, but I’m going to make it a point to be truly with them during family time. Also, I’m going to try to rid myself of negative influences and to avoid interacting with people who don’t add value to my life. One step in that direction is to significantly reduce the number of individuals I follow on Twitter. Too much of what I read/see there causes me to wince and I can’t afford that right now. In general, I need to significantly “prune and tune” (I credit Howard Rheingold for this terminology, but I can’t find where he said that) my network.

My second resolution is to really pursue my passions. I hope this doesn’t sound too selfish, but I have to learn to say “no” more often and pursue the sort of work that I really want to do. I feel pretty confident that some of my frustration/anger comes from having to do so much work that is important, but just not that interesting to me. I’m fortunate to be in a position where I *can* say “no” if I need to and in a place where I *can* pursue my interests. There’s no question that I get lost in my head and in various social media pursuits because I’m bored with going through the motions related to certain parts of my professional life.  There’s also the lingering reality of having to apply for tenure relatively soon, and I’m not going to get there by agreeing to do too many things that don’t advance my own individual agenda.

So, this (academic) year will be guided by two “P”s: presence and passion.

I may add to these resolutions in the next week or so. We’ll see.

What are your new (academic) year’s resolutions?

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