Monday, September 16, 2013

The Present: Being Present

I am a little ashamed to admit this, but I love birthdays. I love cake, I love the way that a birthday honors one person’s becoming, I love the way that birthdays give us a chance to reflect upon who we are and to enter into a day of beginning each year. I love celebrating other people’s birthdays, and I love celebrating my birthday, too. Yesterday marked the final year of my 30s, and I spent my day celebrating and reflecting.

Bright morning on the trail...

Brian is new to Blacksburg (two weeks here) and still wrestling the alligator of finding lucrative and meaningful work. Because he is living somewhere in the application and interview process for more than five postings at Tech and countless others elsewhere, we decided that this would be a purchase-minimal birthday, which is fine with me. He did bake me a fabulous (and gluten free) cake, and, more significantly, he gave me the gift of a leisurely and solitary nine-mile trail run at Pandapas Pond. I feel blessed to have a partner who loves me enough to leave me alone when I need to be by myself. He was there, on his bike, but he was doing his own thing while I ran along the Poverty Creek trail.

The present that comes from trail running, for me, is the gift of really being present. A trail run is different from one on the road or paved path because rocks, roots, and other obstacles mean that I must be engaged and attentive to my steps and surroundings. I never listen to music on the trail—to do so means I am not prepared for bikers and bears, and I must be aware of what may be coming toward me or upon me as I move. Trail running makes me listen and look, feel, and be fully.

On the trail more than anywhere, I find myself a place of joy and play, where I can enter into a flow—mind, body, breath, and often, like today, a writing flow. So, yesterday, in a state of creative play, I began to make meaning, to problem-solve, and to compose.I wrote and reflected while running, “seeing things as if for the first time, seeing the familiar as unfamiliar, the common as uncommon”... and “bringing to that running, that play the attitude of the child, the perception of the poet. Being a beginner with a beginner's mind, a beginner's heart, a beginner's body” (Sheehan, 1998, p. 119). With my beginner’s mind and in the present, then, I was able to move forward—beginning again, reborn, on my birthday.

Sheehan, G. (1998). Running and being: The total experience (20th Anniversary ed.) RedBank, NJ: Second Wind II. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Creating a Podcast: This I Believe

The first major assignment in the English language arts methods course I teach at Tech is a little overwhelming at first glance. Students are to create a “This I Believe" Podcast (you know, like on NPR). ReadWriteThink has a fantastic lesson unit on creating and posting these podcasts. This unit presents a good way to get to know ourselves, to get to know one another, and to take a critical look at a unit plan, complete with instructional objectives, state standards, daily lesson plans, and assessment rubrics, as well as modifications for different kinds of learners.

Because I believe (See what I did there?) in learning by doing and also in being able to do what I ask my students to do, I created a podcast, too. I am including it here. I used Garage Band to record and edit (I think I could have done a better job editing--there are a couple of hiccoughs, but hey...), posted to Sound Cloud, and easily inserted the audio track as a widget. I was surprised at how streamlined the process was, all done through my Google account. Composing the piece (doing the writing, always) and keeping it under five minutes (doing the revision, always worse) was the hardest part. In spite of feeling initially overwhelmed, I enjoyed the process. I hope my students did, too. 

Anyway, I hope you’ll listen, maybe offer feedback (even measure my work against the rubric, if you like). I think it’s a good first try.