Adult 650, Reflection four

How is everyone doing on your case studies? I will admit to being very overwhelmed in class when this checklist was given to us—it’s so much to cover and I thought I didn’t know that much about my event (filling out a travel authorization form at VCU). But shortly after getting the assignment, Caitlin came over and we sat on my floor with our laptops and within two hours I had written five pages! I didn’t know I had so much to say about TAFs (this acronym is not really a “thing” at VCU but using it in the paper was better than writing travel authorization form over and over again). There are so many layers to all these tasks that we perform every day–I remember it took me weeks to learn all the policies to do the TAF correctly, and add to that a new computer system and there is so much going on.

I’m with you, J Lo–this project is not giving me “goosies” yet!

The only thing is that the paper, to me, reads really boring. Maybe that’s because I have such a long and complicated relationship with the TAF. I didn’t even enjoy writing that part, as it was pretty tedious and I am sure I forgot a step or two, even after rereading the paper. I cannot see how someone who doesn’t work at VCU would want to read the technical bits of filling out one of these things in Chrome River. But I suppose that is Dr. Muth’s problem—drink some coffee before you read my paper, please!

I am told by everyone in Capstone that this is one of the best projects in the program so I am hoping I wake up when I research and start to talk about the power dynamics that are a part of this literacy event!

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Adult 650, Reflection three

While reading the articles, which discuss critical theory, power and literacy, I was reminded of a wonderful book I just finished—Americanuh by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanuh tells the story of Ifemelu, a young woman who leaves Africa to finish her schooling in America, whose position as an outsider allows her to write a blog (that is basically critical theory) about African Americans in the US.

“It helps us to understand that reading the word cannot be separated from reading the world” (Janks, 13). Even though Ifemelu knew English—it is the official language of British-colonized Nigeria, after all—she experienced a new kind of literacy when she moved to the United States to read her new world. It was fascinating how she was able to read people’s interactions and make critical deductions from it that were foreign to her a few years prior when she was in Nigeria. The literacy she experienced was slow, but through her blog, she was able to cause social change because she understood the power differential of groups in the US.

I am not really sure where I am going with this, but this course was definitely in my head while I was reading Americanuh. To me, it’s important to have a real connection to theory that is a part of your everyday life, as reading fiction books are to mine. As I was writing my 123 paper, I was thinking about how uncomfortable I am making judgments about the power struggles in my place of employment (it’s kind of depressing, plus I have zero power to actually change anything). I much prefer to see those in my fictionalized worlds.

Gif from here from Adichie’s first TED Talk.

Adult 636, reflection five

I haven’t been doing much public reflection for the Capstone project–I’ve been taking notes on the data and themes in a document and coming to some personal conclusions. I’ve also been creating some informal solutions. While I wanted to use technology for this (voice recording/video), it’s so convenient to use Google Drive, which I can access at home, on my iPad/iPhone AND at work. Sometimes I can’t control WHEN I get inspiration and it’s nice to know I can access the work I have been doing anywhere.

Bring it On 2

I feel like I am totally failing at my role this week, which is cheerleader. I did OK Thursday, despite my crappy mood. But Sunday I could not make it happen, even with all the coffee and donuts in northside. Maybe I’m suffering from SAD, perhaps I should have put on music… I don’t know. I did send the ladies some clips from Bring it On. If I had some rhythm I would have done some “BRR! It’s cold in herrrrrrrreeee!” for them.

I wish my job was finding gifs to match with blogs. I am SO good at that.

 

Adult 636, reflection four

I have helped to conduct nine interviews, and while I am learning a ton about the organization, I am also learning a lot about myself.

I have known my whole life that I am an introvert. I am not secretive about it. I work in a profession (HR) that is very customer-service focused. During my busy contract season, fifteen or more different faculty members could come to my office or call me. I am ok with it–I like talking to our instructors and hearing what they think of the university, the students, and Summer Studies. A few of them have been here for years and have so many interesting stories. There are about two months out of the year that I am super tired all the time and I thought it was just the gigantic workload, but I also think it’s the amount of people and interaction. Doing these interviews, I am talking a lot, listening, taking notes, reflecting, and it’s exhausting. I am ready to take a week off work, drink several bottles of wine and watch a whole bunch of crap TV alone.

The Office gif 1

Even though my supervisor has been through this program (she is also doing a very similar project at VCU right now, GEHLI) and is understanding of how I have to be gone so much doing these interviews I kind of feel like it’s affecting my relationship with her and my job. Maybe she’s finally realizing that I am definitely on my way out and she is sad I am leaving. I’m likely reading too much into this and her change in attitude is not even related to me but I can’t help but think that. I am also very emotional because of all the interviews I’ve done.

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One of the things I have been able to reflect on with this project is how I tired I am of my job (though I cannot stress enough how much I love the people I work with) and how I do not want to be in this role anymore. I think seeing another organization, and knowing that there are other jobs I can actually do that are not at VCU or are in Human Resources (Carmen’s job comes to mind), I am ready to move on.

The Office gif 3

* I think the double shot of working for the state and in HR is giving me paper/form overload. There are so many levels of approval for every little thing and it is totally exhausting.

* I have zero agency over my position. I cannot affect change. I pretty much do whatever people tell me. I have been in roles like this for over ten years and I think with my experience and educational background that I can do something else. I was never confident enough to go after non support staff positions but I think that is changing.

The Office gif 2

* I need to “Peggy Olson” this place. If you don’t watch Mad Men (you should, Peggy is my favorite character on TV), Peggy began as a secretary in Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce) and worked her way up to copywriter. After several years, she realized SCDP did not appreciate her work, because they had seen what she had been. She left for another agency where she made more money and had a much more important role. I don’t think I can fulfill my potential at VCU, because my resume clearly shows what I have done and there are certain trajectories for people with my experience (more paperwork!) and I don’t want that.

Adult 636, Reflection three

I have encountered so many ways in which Action Learning would benefit the city this week! I have never thought about using this method of learning outside of a business or school but there are a few city projects happening.

Camp Takota gif

One, my friend Karen went to an brainstorming event at a local gallery to find ways to best use a small triangle park, which I read about on her blog. People split up into teams and brainstormed ideas. While I was reading her blog, I kept thinking about Action Learning and how tweaking the experience just slightly would result in learning and growth for everyone involved.

Second, my friend Hilary writes about music for Style Weekly. She came last night to my husband’s birthday party at Portrait House, a very small gathering of Richmond musicians and me and Caitlin (hey, we are in grad school!). She began telling us about a conversation she just had with several other musicians for next month’s music issue about the lack of a mid-sized venue for touring and local bands. With four of us left, we were all eager to talk about this with her and she turned on her iPhone (it actually didn’t record, boo!) and we had a really great conversation about how to improve the scene in Richmond. How necessary is a mid-sized venue? Is there a community to support it? How would it affect other clubs? Where should it be located? There is so much research to be done too, and there are definitely bigger problems at play here (VA liquor laws, Richmond leaders saying they support an arts district but they really don’t). I would love to see a project like this become a city-wide learning experience.

There are so many ways Action Learning could benefit the city–having involved parties brainstorm, ask questions and come up with well-researched suggestions about the music community, local parks, land usage, new baseball stadium…?

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Colbert CatsYesterday we had another meeting, and while things are happening, process on solving the problem seems slow to me. I don’t know if we need to meet more often or what. I would like to see more action and less talking in future meetings (we were all guilty of this). And Susan posted a blog about the experience as well! I do not think I am learning as much as I should because I am not spending enough time reflecting–the problem-solving is one thing, sure. But if I spent more time thinking about and reacting to the problem and my reactions to it on my own, but learning would grow AND I would have better ideas for helping UMFS. I would like to spend some more time this week reflecting and see how it affects the learning.

Sometimes when I get stressed out I just admire this gif of Stephen Colbert kissing kittens!

Adult 650, Reflection two

I am particularly struck by Fiore and Elasser and Nan Elasser’s (?) experience as a teacher in the Bahamas. In some of the theory we have been reading, we have learned that students creating the curriculum leads to an engaged population and the learning is more connected and deeper than traditional education. It is phenomenal to see that played out in this article. I am also reminded of Women’s Ways of Knowing, as they write about the phases the women are going through on their quest to learn. I really loved that book and the idea that learning is fluid—we move through phases of learning styles depending on the environment and what we are learning. I admire the constructivism the Bahamian women use to learn. Writing the papers in phases shows such a clear progression in their “ways of knowing.”

Liz Lemon Wedding

I am experiencing some of this in Capstone, since we are creating our own work for the semester. We read a few articles about how some members of VCU Adult Learning teams have done additional work on their own, even traveling to Europe to present on their project. When I first read that, I was a little shocked—how could someone be that into their learning? However, reading articles like “Strangers No More” reinforce the idea that if the subject is important to the learners and there are stakes involved (the manifesto), learners will spend outside time on their studies. Of course, this transformative learning was a huge part of Educating Rita, which we watched in 601. She became so passionate about books and studying that she became a different person.

While I liked the ethnographies, reading more theory-based pieces (I liked all of the ones assigned this week!) help bring the learning in the program full circle. More Freire!

Liz Lemon wedding gif from here.

Adult 636, Reflection two

Sometimes I wonder if this class is like vitamins. OK, hear me out. I don’t like taking pills (also I can’t remember to take them daily), so I stopped taking vitamins because I “didn’t feel any different.” I never took them very long and I certainly wasn’t doing any other healthy things at the same time. I keep expecting to “feel different” because of this class (that was such a major part of the presentations from other students), but it’s so early in the semester and I haven’t really done any work to reflect on.

We have been working on some documents on Google Drive and I have been sending a lot of “let’s do thisssss!” emails because no one else is right now (I love technology), so I suppose I am growing as a person. I just want some BIG revelation.

Of course, after doing the reading and thinking about all of it carefully, I can’t be passive to my own change. Change is an action and I have to do something.

Phil_Ochs-featured

Last week I immersed myself in folk documentaries  (thanks, Inside Llweyn Davis) and became enamored with protest singer Phil Ochs. He is probably to blame for how I have taken to the word change–but for him, it had a very different meaning. Everything he did was in response to something in society. He wrote “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” after seeing left-wing folks (those who actually bought his records) turn their backs on Malcolm X and more revolutionary politics. When folk music became popular and his “thing”, he put out a record of orchestral “baroque-folk” music. He was always trying to change the conversation. I will keep him in mind this semester as I begin my own personal revolution.