Older than the fridge it's on, this relic list still satisfies and inspires
Older than the fridge it’s on, this relic list still satisfies and inspires

Monday and Tuesday found me and my colleagues in another “studio” style professional development. I can trace the evolution of this professional development to two species: one, where I used to do work off-campus with my mentor on novel units, and two, the desire we teachers expressed to talk to each other more, learn from each other, and visit each others’ classrooms. Somehow the District heard this as, “Let’s hire a consultant to go in and run professional development.” It’s been truly transformative, and I’ve learned so much, but can’t help but feel that once again there is a slight patronizing wash over the whole thing, that veteran and new teachers alike are not capable of learning from each other, or to be trusted with our own professional development.

To help the guest teacher, I always leave my district-issued laptop in my room, and bring my personal one. My personal one is cool, sleek, and just BUSTING with novel ideas, story starts, haikus, poems, and yes, the ubiquitous to-do list in the form of Stickies. The coach for our professional development noticed the stickies all over my desktop, and said something to the effect she used to have the same, etc. (sic: Perhaps become more organized, or is using a different method.)

Her funny comment made me actually look and read my sticky notes again. (We both mused at my different colors: there was a system at one point, but now it’s just for visual effect.) Everything from who’s in my current PSWP writing group, household projects, project ideas, and all the minutiae of teaching, parenting, and perpetual problem solving. But there are hundreds of things not on any sticky note or to-do list. I have two sons, very different, both brave, creative, and loyal to each other, but each have different paths I have to help clear and guide. My husband’s health and his volatile industry, with the life-span of a typical UX Designer (and he is a genius one) of about two-three years means I respond by taking root in a job so deep, with roots seeking the deepest aquifers to try to stay alive and sustain my soul. Sound over dramatic? Try my job sometime. My dog needs to go to the vet. The mammogram is a year overdue. The teeth haven’t been cleaned. And administrators need everyone to be all above average. Oh, and the legislators are considering pay scale based on test scores. 

Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.

Garrison Keillor

Then yesterday, Wednesday, I read John Spencer’s post on his lists. He is one busy man, and I know he’s been through his time of burn-out. And I believe that is what we creative types do: we write our way through it. Even to-do lists or a sticky note can empower.

Lists can buoy us or anchor us. The invisible on the lists drown us. If I actually listed all the nonsense that floats around in my brain, the ocean of mental trash generated by those who pollute my professional and personal life, perhaps I wouldn’t be able to do anything at all. See my list up there? There are some things I can cross off. And to be sure, there are some things I need to add.

It’s on my list.