Monday, May 19, 2008

In Training: Shifting Time Zones and Back on Track

Remember when your mom would comfort you by saying: "Well, tomorrow is another day?"

Today was a better day. I think I shifted time zones. I am tired enough to go to bed at a reasonable CDT hour, instead of retiring at what feels like 11 PM, but is really 12 Midnight CDT. This morning I had less of the feeling that it was 4:30 AM which is what it was in MDT when I woke up at at 5:30 AM CDT.

I actually enjoyed being in Chicago, even though it was not as clear as it was when this picture of the famous Chicago Watertower was taken. This is the only structure that survived the great Chicago fire.

Although I was still tired today, I managed my congestion with Pseudophedrine rather than Benedryl. And what a difference that made from Monday. I was tired but not foggy.

Training today went better as well. Our trainer put me into a different group--one in which there a fast talker and a slow talker, as well as two people who are more direct and two who are not as direct. I can see my opposites and learn from them, and they can learn from me. It is far more comfortable for me this way, as I know I can learn and I feel like I can contribute as well. And, of course not being in a fog makes that learning much more likely.

And I am getting the wisdom of IRD's very structured program into my head and gut.
I keep reminding myself, this is very scripted because it is not really my classroom this summer--as it would be if I were back teaching my gifted kiddos--but IRD's classroom.

They have worked very hard on the lesson plans so that the teachers need not waste a single word. One downfall of school teachers is that we tend to talk too much. This is especially true when we are nervous and have not yet gelled with a class.

But in the IRD programs, we have only five classes or ten hours to teach the skills we have agreed to get across to the students. The parents, with our coaching, tutor their kids at home for another 20 hours during the session, and continue over the next school year. This is not a lot of time, and yet the program, which teaches certain skills over four levels of reading development--from pre-reader to adult speed reading--is remarkably successful at helping people become skillful and passionate readers. Today I had a sea change in my thinking while listening to two other group members practice the lesson plan for parent coaching in assisted reading for 6-8 year olds. One of my fellow teachers is like me, quite wordy and I realized how snowed under parents must feel with this plethora of information. The other follows the script very well, presenting only the needed information. I said to her, "I just realized from you how much less is more!" That has become my mantra. Less is more.

Another important realization is that I am letting my perfectionist self get in the way of the good teacher I normally am. I let go of the lesson plan way too early, dealing with it like I would the much more free-from suggested plans in the science texts I used when teaching Physical Science, Biology and Chemistry. In those fields, I am very knowledgeable about the content, and have spent years honing my skill in teaching it. But I am a novice at teaching reading. And I know very little about the field. Oh, with my gifted kids, I taught literature--but that is different than teaching reading. So how ridiculous it was of me to think that I could perfect the skills of a good reading teacher in a day! So I let my perfectionism get in my own way. It was really quite painful yesterday, but today sans Benedryl, I can look at it for what it is and move on.

The Hasidic Masters say that the Eternal One endows everyone with a major gift and a persistent flaw. The gifts display the beauty of humanity and the glory of G-d; but the challenges created by the flaw are what drive us to draw near to G-d. Perfectionism is that flaw for me.

So tomorrow is still another day.

Having got myself into a more comfortable place as a student of reading instruction, I can now work on the skills the IRD program requires so that I can teach their curriculum.

I was impressed with the IRD program and philosophy on an intellectual level, but now I am beginning to make connections between the program on a more gut level. Like many Geeks, I tend to live in my head--and I definitely retreat to intellectualization when I am under stress. Getting something on a gut level is good. It means progress on my part.

Now that I have gotten myself out of the way,
I am ready to take on the mission I gave myself when I took this summer job. It is two-fold: to share my love of books with people who want to learn to love them too and to learn as much as I can about reading instruction.

I can see that this training is not only an intellectual challenge, and it is more than the opportunity to learn a new skill. It can also be for me a kind of spiritual boot camp in which I can see clearly the consequences of my perfectionism and develop some strategies for coping with it and growing towards a more gentle approach. (Notice that I did not say "eradicate it from my life." I have learned something in my nearly 50 turns around the sun).

Now, I can also enjoy Chicago.

This picture of the El coming into the Loop is one of my favorites. There is something so cool and unpretentious about a city that names its downtown after a noisy, bustling form of transportation.

I really do like this matter-of-fact city by the lake.

If I had to live in a city, I would probably choose this one.

But cities are not my first preference as a place to call home.

Chicago is a really nice place to visit.


Anonymous said...

Interesting reflections....Less is more. I've tended to throw out as many facts as possible. Which turns me into a mumbling rambler sometimes. I was just checking out the toastmaster site because I think I could use some of that.

I love Chicago too. Our oldest is on the north side and we've become familiar with some of the area and have our favorites for food and just hanging out (and cheap(er) parking). Using the public transportation is the way to go, for sure.

momof3feistykids said...

I am glad the training is going better and you're having some time to see Chicago!

denise said...

It is a fun city - just not in January (or August)! ;) I used to work pretty much across the street from that water tower.

I am similar when in different situations. When I read your post the first day, I thought that it would perpahs come around to where you are today. That is good to see. And benedryl knocks me out too. Don't like the fog.

Nice to see you are getting a chance to see the city! :)

ChristineMM said...

I love Chicago too and don't like cities, but always said if I had to move out of New England I'd like to be there!

One of my college classes was an architecture class. We went to Chicago for a trip and learned about the history of architecture, the styles and also the history of Chicago. We walked miles and miles. It was a fantastic experience.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Thanks, everyone, I really appreciate your support.
Some of you, my fellow perfectionists, understand only too well what happens when we pet it take over our lives.

I am enjoying the city. My first husband and I lived at Fermi Lab one summer in the 1980's. And I visit the city itself every now and then. But it has been about four years since I was here!