Tag Archive for 9x9x25

The Words Will Come

These past 9 weeks, once again, have renewed my appreciation of the joy of writing. I never considered myself a writer. My wife on the other hand, is a published author, who uses words in a most eloquent fashion in writing the stories she writes. I, on the other hand, usually write whatever comes to my mind. Sometimes I get lucky and it translates pretty well, but sometimes it may give the reader a glimpse of a cluttered mind, with random ideas and thoughts. But the opportunity to write these last weeWrite-1000-Words-In-Less-Than-30-Minutes-–-Writing-For-The-Webks has given me the encouragement to reclaim my appreciation of writing and also has given me the appreciation of my own style of conveying my ideas and thoughts onto paper.

In my Psychology 101 class, students are given a final assignment titled, “Reflections and Insights.” I ask students to write about what they have learned about themselves that reflects a topic or subject that was reviewed in the course. To examine their thoughts and feelings about themselves and reflect it in psychological terms. I encourage them not to think too much about what their writing, just allow the words to flow. It’s kind of becomes a free association of writing, (Freud would have loved that). Students initially get a little anxious at first, but when their final paper are submitted for grading, well, I am in awe when I read them. You can see a differences in the style and manner in how they express themselves when they just “let it flow.” This is how my wife writes, she sits at her computer and creates a vision with words that portray a story and seems to do it effortlessly. When I ask her how did you do that?, her reply is “I just go with the flow and the words come”. Hmm, going with the flow, allowing the words to come?  At the risk of sounding new-age with well-placed crystals on my computer, it makes sense of writing in that fashion. We are taught early in our school years that writing should be done in a style that aligns itself proper structure, complete sentences, and of course, words that are used in an appropriate fashion.  I wonder how my writing style would have been if someone told me early in my schooling, “just go with the flow and the words will come.” Probably more enjoyable and less time searching for the right word or the perfect way of expressing a thought.

This 9x9x25 challenge has given me opportunity to experience that joy of the flow. I found myself typing an idea and the words came. I admit, sometimes I get stuck, but I found if I just allow myself to pull back until  the words return, well, it seems to all come together.  This must be the joy writers’ talk about, the synchronicity of ideas on paper, or most likely, the computer screen. Writing not only gives us the opportunity to express ourselves, but it also gives us the encouragement and confidence to express feelings and thoughts in more creative ways which touch the essence of who we are.  I once read somewhere, “writing about yourself is like biting your own teeth.” Having something to write each week has given me a taste of who I am and the confidence to express that more effectively.

So here’s my final submission for this year’s 9x9x25 challenge. Simply an acknowledgement of my appreciation for having the opportunity to “bite my own teeth”, to prove to myself that I can write in the fashion I feel most comfortable with and I even like the results.

My wife is right (she always is), “let it flow and the words will come.”


I Find It Difficult To Be Sarcastic Enough Anymore

The Internet is the great global connector and often that’s good, but it sure is hard to be sarcastic enough anymore. When I’m in class, often I’ll dance a little jig at certain climactic moments. If you know me, all six feet four inches of me, and my glorious white lankiness, you can imagine that my little jigs are scary. You’re right. After the steppity-steps which might or might not culminate in jazz hands, I used to say things like, “I’m sooo sorry about that amigos, I know that you can’t ever un-see that." I don’t say that anymore, because usually, someone already beat me to some snide sarcastic remark, like, “I actually want cataracts now" or “that dance actually gave me conjunctivitis". The Internet and it’s far-reaching sarcastic zingers has infected us all with a dry sarcasm that even the most dull among us can pull off with aesthetic wit. Even the British are starting to concede that Americans, after all, do have a sense of humor. I don’t do jigs much at all anymore. It’s sad. The Internet, with its widespread blanketing sarcasm, has made almost everything I used say hackneyed.

It’s so strange. The Internet has this uncanny and unprecedented ability to create swirling virality tornadoes of trends, jokes, dance steps, health foods, craft ideas, (etc., etc., etc.) that are literally here today and gone tomorrow. There are micro-climates of trendiness that, like the weather, blow into and out of town just that quickly. It used to take years, at times, for trends to be disseminated, so, often, you might feel connected for a few years, hip, “today". Now, everyone becomes aware of trends in 1/10th the time and so, trends ship out just as fast, like a trendiness monsoon showing up at lunch, but gone by the time your Pop-tart is out of the toaster. It’s a sad way to live.

We live in a time where most of our lives are experienced first virtually, digested digitally, and then discarded before they ever really take hold in the real world. Of course this is a problem with your riding boots and your scarves and your business suits, but now it’s even a problem with people. The website that traffics in hawking not wares, but lives, Facebook, has made a fortune on the backs of making real-life interactions yesterday’s news. You don’t have to catch up with people at your cousin’s wedding, because you’ve already followed the whole scandal enough online to realize that the bride definitely should not be wearing white, and so, you see people and you avert your eyes. You don’t want to talk to those long lost family members, because you already know everything about them and you’re not sure if they really know how much you already know, and keeping track of what you should and shouldn’t really know is going to be complicated. So, you just hang out by the punch bowl and Instagram photos of aunt Linda showing everyone her hidden tattoos after too much bourbon. Our real lives have become cliché and hackneyed because your brother is a post-a-holic and your dirty laundry is already aired for all to see. Imagine two sisters at that wedding again, trying to find someone of substance with whom to sit and chat:

Sister one: “Oh, here comes John! Don’t look at him, you know he’s just going to use the conversation to rub it in your face that he’s already senior partner at his firm and you’re not. It’s all over his Facebook page."

Sister two: “Okay, let’s go talk to Reina, then. I love Reina."

Sister one: “No, no, no. Abort! Don’t talk to Reina. Didn’t you see her post last night? She’s going into rehab again on Monday."

Sister two: “Oh no! Really? I didn’t see that. If that’s true, we definitely don’t want to talk with her. She’s probably going out tonight with a bang and she’s a vindictive little thing when she’s drinking. She’ll bring up Jeff again, probably in front of Mom."

Sister one: “Oh sis, I’m so sorry. I saw your post about him last night. Let’s not talk about that two-faced rat".

Sister two: “In fact, let’s not talk about anything. Let’s just sit here in silence, pull out our phones and let ourselves fall blissfully into Facebook numbness."

Sister one: “I’ve been dying to pull out my phone for the last five minutes. I’ll be right here at the end of the table Instagramming. Text me if you need me okay?"

With our lives publicly displayed online, in our social circles, even the least of us become celebrities and like celebrities, our real-life, in-person, airbrush-free lives, are so much less exciting than our souped-up online lives. Our real selves seem boring in comparison. We can’t possibly be, in person, what that perfectly crafted pouty faced selfie was online, because that perfect selfie took 25 shots in front of the mirror with your glam makeup on before it was deemed acceptable to grace your profile page. We can’t live up to our own hype and so, when we’re live, with the auto-tune gone, we seem boring. Just like when you meet a celebrity in person for the first time, after years of following her movies and making a hero out of her in your mind, you’re crushed when she acts like a snob, or a jerk in person.

Pinterest is the worst. My wife used to walk into someone’s house and say, “Wow, I love that color scheme" or “that craft display". Now she says, “I saw that pumpkin photo tree on Pinterest too. I made the same one for my bathroom". Take that, ostentatious dinner host! You’ve just had your life clichéd by Pinterest.

But, it’s not just Pinterest, it’s everything! The impossibly beautiful versions of your girlfriend on Instagram make dates with her, in the raw, seem boring. A quick YouTube search for “people are awesome" eclipses all of your heroic descriptions of your brush with death when parasailing in México. Even your best and funniest stories about little known Disney facts that always kill at parties are debunked by a bratty little iPhone user with the Snopes app.

So, what am I getting at here? And how does this relate to this writing challenge. Well, if you think real life people are boring, then what are teachers? Students can go online and not only get all of my content off of the Internet for free from Kahn Academy and YouTube, they can also get it from a really interesting looking 24-year-old who wears a striking sombrero and sings with a ukulele. Is that fair? How can I compete with that?

The point is, teachers have always been trite. So are their subject matters, but now, we are “like so uber-over-the top" trite. No wonder students are bored in our classes and never watch the video lectures that we create for our online sections. Students have seen it all before. Or, at least, they think they have. And whether they have or they haven’t their boredom is real, one way or the other, and this boredom is a major learning impediment. You know what’s never boring though? Creating! We used to worry about fast downloading speeds for Internet. Internet download speeds were much faster than upload speeds, but now, consumers are, more and more, creators. We want fast upload speeds. We want to interact with other people online and be not just consumers of knowledge, but creators. We want to contribute to the conversation, not just passively digest it. If we want to be connected, hip, “today" we have to create something new, hip, connected and “today" and we have to encourage our students to do the same. So our role changes now. In today’s educational revolution, we are no longer pontificants, spouting-off information that we have produced ourselves or just consumed from other researchers, we have to encourage our students to take our lessons down off the shelf, manipulate, change, add to, and re-post them for the benefit of others. Are students ready for this? No. Maybe not at first, but our new teaching role is to make them ready. We help them in the higher order process of creating knowledge, not just consuming.

I read an article about break dancing not long ago. It was talking about how the genre of break dancing had stayed quite stable (cliché maybe) for a number of years. That is, until the advent of YouTube. Suddenly, interested young people the world over had access to a vast database of dancers from every style and every country who were trying their hand at break and posting their attempts online. A viral niche community formed. American students of break interacted through videos with Korean break dancers and meticulously began incorporating their unique styles and moves, to which they never before had access. The community was active. The instruction was ample. The practice time was intense and the feedback was frequent and timely. Their bodies spoke through the universal language of movement and in a very short time the genre of break dancing advanced further in just a few short years than it had in twenty.

This is the model of tomorrow’s education. Like the dancers, we use what’s out there, we learn, but then, we must push students to create, manipulate, modify and expand. We push the limits of what’s out there and through an awful lot of guidance and scaffolding on our part, we forge new territories. Since what students create is theirs, it has more meaning for them. They are emotionally connected and these deeper ties make their new knowledge much more resistant to forgetting. They’ve made it their own. We have to stop giving and start guiding. Like the dancers, they’ll need to work hard, practice like locos and get lots of feedback and guidance from us along the way, but what results will constitute a learning revolution, and a burst of new knowledge creation that will grow exponentially, provided that we post enough status updates about our findings. As teachers, we are the light of the world, a city set on a hill cannot be hid. We should not light a candle and put it under a bushel (or under a stack of other student work that will never see the light of day) but on a candle stick and posted to Facebook (Matthew 5:14-15)! Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development called not for MCC (more capable computers) but for MCP (more capable peers) to guide the learning process through dialectical interactions, feedback, scaffolding and lots of experimentation.

I have enjoyed the 9X9X25 challenge. As I go online to our community of educational break dancers on the Telswebletter and interact and rub shoulders with my YC “more capable pears", I learn and grow and I produce better and more enlightened work for my trouble. I like what this challenge does for me, both last year and this. The challenge to write helps me break-out, be less cliché, think deeper and begin to look, every day, for deeper connections and then write about them. It’s the looking for something to write about each week that has made me go to the break dancer level and not just the fact regurgitation level. I like the other me, but I love the 9X9X25 me!

Until Next Time…

There are many things to say about the participating in the 9x9x25 challenges. This year, I found two strategies that worked for me to efficiently participate in the challenge. One was to just go with what happened to be on my mind at the time (usually late Sunday night) that needed to be expressed in order to keep a healthy mental balance. The second was using the blogging ideas directly in my class activities. They complemented each other. Of the two, the biggest benefit I see from participating in this year’s challenge is student response to my blogs.

I wrote with my students in mind; choosing topics thinly veiled in academic importance but really making points I wanted them to read. It paid off. “Why Don’t Students Ask for Help” generated requests for help. The class and I expanded on the ideas of “Crosspollination” by relating what they are learning in biology to content in other courses. “How College is Different From High School” gave an opportunity to review the syllabus and course expectations. Stress and Learning opened the door for discussing that end of the semester crunch time and solutions to staying calm. So that is the self-serving aspect, perhaps benefitting students, too.

But who knows the extent of the ripple effect, if any? I would have liked more discussion and commenting from online students. But the semester rolls on and we do have biology to “do.” My feeling is that students liked getting to know their instructor from another angle as I enjoyed learning about my fellow 9x9x25ers.

The project is awesome, very satisfying, and running well. A few thoughts I can contribute are below.

  1. Make a little shorter (5X5X20 or so).
  2. Provide some sort of indexing (key words?).
  3. Link to the original site. This would help us see our colleagues in their
  4. Give one week really off, if it remains 9 weeks in length.
  5. Create discussion threads. Wow, that might be really hard to manage. There is so much to read!

Thank you, everybody!

My 2014’s 9x9x25 Challenge Reflection

The 3 Things I added to dotcomYOGA.com

This year’s 9x9x25 Challenge motivated me to add 3 things to my website (dotcomYOGA.com) that I would have not added otherwise.

Number 1: I added a ‘Wellness Articles’ Section

During this Challenge, as I was writing about the behavior strategy SMART (How to Start a SMART Workout), I realized that some of the things I’m writing about for this Challenge are specific to wellness. So, I added a ‘Wellness Articles’ section. This section will be for my Personal Health & Wellness and Weight Management students at Yavapai College, for my Personal Wellness Concepts students at Tidewater Community College, and, of course, for anyone who can access the internet.

Number 2: I added a ‘Yoga Articles’ Section

During this Challenge, as I was writing about the new technological Yoga Smart Mat (Two Reasons SmartMat’s Second Promotional Video Ain’t Too Smart), I realized that I have a lot I want to say about Yoga specifically. So, I added a ‘Yoga Articles’ section. Now, before I added this section, I did a little research about the best length for online articles. And based on my research, and the type of website I have, I decided to have this section for Yoga articles that are only between 150 and 200 words in length.

Number 3: I added a ‘Yoga Poses’ Section

For years, I’ve wanted to add a ‘Yoga Poses’ section, especially for my online Yoga students. So, during this Winter Break, I will add a ‘Yoga Poses’ section that will have short videos of Yoga poses and modified Yoga poses. This section will be great for my online Yoga students who will be able to access these videos through their online Yoga course.

In Addition

In addition, I know this specific 9x9x25 writing is shorter than 25 sentences, but this is another thing that I want to mention in this Reflection. Sometimes a subject I’m writing about just doesn’t need 25 sentences. So, since this is my 9x9x25 Challenge Reflection, I will go ahead and make this point by stopping at 13 sentences.


My reflection. Well, I think I missed once week posting, so I feel a bit guilty.

I liked the writing; I found it difficult and interesting and enlightening. I got a bit more empathy for the writing that I ask my students to do. This type of personal writing about teaching left me feeling exposed to my colleagues, and I realize how scary that it is to be honest about frustrations. I think I used my posts to kvetch about some of the annoyances and troubles and to look for a little compassion, comradery, and guidance. I think as an instructor, I want to appear in control and in charge at all times, and admitting that some things are difficult feels awkward and wrong.

It was interesting reading what my colleagues wrote, but here’s where I have a suggestion. I’d like to write one week; then read and comment the next week. There was a lot to read, and I would find myself skimming when I really wanted to read, cogitate, and comment. I am amazed at the ingenuity and creativity of my colleagues. I was able to learn things in the posts that I could never learn in my brief interactions with colleagues.

So enlightening. I liked to watch the thought processes of other people as they played out in the posts. David Graser’s posts were works of art with so much energy. I’ve learned a lot from reading Laura Cline’s posts, and we’re in the same department and our offices are just a few doors apart. The thing is, in our daily interactions we’re cordial, but her posts have given me great instruction and ideas that we don’t have the room for in real time.

But this brings me back to my suggestion: let’s do one week writing, one week reading and commenting. I haven’t gotten through all the posts, and I want to. There’s gold in them thar posts! (<get it?)