Archive for work-life

God bless Linda Tirado …

… who was shot in the face by a cop in Minneapolis last night. She lost an eye.

Linda’s a truly wonderful writer. Her book Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America needs to be read by everyone and then read again. Her twitter-feed is incandescent and is the only reason, really, I’m still on that platform. I admire this badass without reservation.

Feedback

A theme in all my orientation classes is the primacy of feedback in communication: how you give it, how you receive it.

When you gratefully welcome feedback into your life from colleagues, you grow as a professional, because you learn. When you usefully provide feedback to your colleagues, they get better as professionals, because they learn.

That’s why defensiveness and unfriendliness are killers when it comes to the work of communication.

A short while ago a friend forwarded me a short memoir written by Phil Mott, a mutual friend from our university years four decades ago. It covers this theme:

My girlfriend encouraged me to write and set me up with the Prodigal Sun editor [Bob Basil], the entertainment section of the paper. He assigned me a rather harmless assignment of reviewing the movie American Gigolo.  I wrote the review and sat down with one of the editors to review the article. Bob was a kind-eyed soul with a talent for writing and an affection for the spirit of Jack Kerouac. His stories took him on wild trips riding rails and visiting the less fortunate of the world. He sat next to me with a red pen and wrote more in red than I had double-spaced typed. I was crestfallen. He wrecked me in ten minutes and crushed any dream that I ever had of writing anything but a to-do list ever again. He then looked up at me with a smile and told me “looks pretty good. I like it. You made some nice observations”.  His support was greatly appreciated and kept me from jumping out of a window. He passed the review on to the copy department, red marks and all, and, just like that, I was a writer.

In giving me permission to reprint this passage, Phil wrote, “I would love it if my addled brain remembrance is of some use. Take it as a grand compliment that your advice stuck with me all of these years. It helped me give feedback to my own college students.”

“Intimate supervision”: Surveillance on campus

This Washington Post report – holy crap:

Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health. …

Instead of GPS coordinates, the schools rely on networks of Bluetooth transmitters and wireless access points to piece together students’ movements from dorm to desk. One company that uses school WiFi networks to monitor movements says it gathers 6,000 location data points per student every day.

School and company officials call location monitoring a powerful booster for student success: If they know more about where students are going, they argue, they can intervene before problems arise. But some schools go even further, using systems that calculate personalized “risk scores” based on factors such as whether the student is going to the library enough.

The dream of some administrators is a university where every student is a model student, adhering to disciplined patterns of behavior that are intimately quantified, surveilled and analyzed.

cross-posted from nocontest.ca

h/t Clarissa

Friendship

I love this detail:

The commentator Fran Lebowitz, a longtime friend of Toni Morrison’s, recounted times when Morrison would comfort her after a bad review. Morrison herself was impervious to criticism, Lebowitz said, so she “assigned myself the task of holding Toni’s grudges for her.”

(PS: I wonder how *author* Lebowitz feels about the word “commentator.”)

Waiting for it to start, waiting for it to end …

I like my friend Jonathan Mayhew’s recent insight into procrastination:

Procrastination is the avoidance of a particular emotion associated with a task. It could be boredom, frustration, fear or dread, shame or guilt. The avoidance of the task, though, does not mean an avoidance of that emotion, but it’s prolongation. You are essentially carrying around that emotion with you all the time. Completing the task, then, is a release from that emotion, not its prolongation.

So there must be some positive benefit to procrastination: one could become habituated to that tension and release of emotion, or thrive on the adrenaline of almost missing deadlines.

Professor Mayhew’s been really good on this theme over the years.

Be Wary of Praise

When I asked my mom if she liked anything about my first book, she said “the copyright page.”

Simpleness: A Sequel

Last week before I headed off to teach back-to-back classes at my university, I stopped off at a McDonalds for a breakfast sandwich so that I wouldn’t faint in front of my students; it was gross but I was starved and I gobbled it down. I sat on a stool that faced the sidewalk on Davie Street; a bedraggled fellow was fiddling with his bike in front of me.

When I was done with my sandwich I walked to the bus stop. The fellow was on his bike riding toward me in the lowest gear. He was laughing but in a growling timbre.

As he passed by, he said this to me: “Look at how fat you are – and now look at me! Eat a salad, motherfucker!”

I had stuffed my face in front of a homeless man.