Saturday, June 14, 2008

(Re)Learning to Think

After nine years out of any formal schooling, I began to work on a second Masters degree this week. I realized about the second day of class that never in my life had I gone so long outside some organized education. Those nine years have taken a real toll on my thinking processes.

In the interim there have been numerous professional development sessions and various conferences, but they were one-offs and usually did not require more than a few hours at a time. I’ve grown into the habit of critical, academic thinking in sprints rather than marathons. My mental stamina over the last few years has diminished to the point that I would compare it to the physical stamina of a sixty year old chain smoker. My mind periodically demands a walk break during the seven-hour class marathon.

Actually, in the last nine years, my mind has developed the habits of multitasking. Those habits make a single source focus nearly impossible. I find myself in class with my mind trying to get three steps ahead. I’m wondering how the lecture being given now is going to connect to a concept from the text later.

I spend so much time with sense-making an connecting various pieces of my department with one another since they do not often connect in an obvious way under older visions of public education. Some of my programs are process based while others are knowledge based. As a result the two do not often appear to have a direct connection to one another other than the ultimate outcome of getting student to take advantage of the postsecondary opportunities available. Still, fundamental math skills do not have much connection to completing the resume portion of a college application – at least in the eyes of a middle school math teacher.

I work to find that connection and also to present ways for delivering it through best instructional practices.

And so in the past week, I have had to reshape my thought processes to consider how to do pure academic study. I have always been a reader and a writer, but my academic and grammar habits have become increasingly sloppy over time. In my mind, just like in my home and office, I am picky about some things while letting others go.

We all have our clutter somewhere.

As the academic study becomes more intense over the semester and I actually have to start using APA style for writing, I’m going to have to relegate my mental clutter to some closet; I now have to find the right size closet to manage all the piles I have stacked in various places throughout my head. All that “stuff” does not go away it just gets stuck somewhere. 

I should know the answer to this question, but is it possible to have a mental garage sale and pass on the clutter to someone else at a discount? I could post signs up and down my street:

Get your used mental mess! Saturday from 7:00 until it’s gone. Reasonable prices – negotiable.


And is it ethical to sell the junk left over from (former) friends or should I just donate it all so some poor soul? Too many people have not lived enough to develop clutter of their own so they can have some of the wilder thoughts I’ve had over the years. Maybe they could stand to have a bit of a jumpstart and thus begin to develop their own. As with sourdough, all it takes is a bit of starter.


Really though, I don’t want to part with anything floating around in my head, but I could stand to come up with a better organizational system. I can learn to encrypt it and put it on a jump-drive for later recall. While I’m giving the MacBook another shot at the moment, I think I will use a Windows filing system – unfortunately my brain was wired by Bill Gates not Steve Jobs.

All my metacognition over the past week has begun to pay off. I successfully managed to not study for four hours while sitting at a coffee shop! I thought about studying and the reading I needed to do. I transferred my calendar entries to the new calendar that spans the time I need now.

And I wrote this post. (Re)learning to think is much more fun than I thought it would be.

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