My recent Pecha Kucha presentation "Turning Learning Inside Out" is up online at the international PechaKucha website, so check it out! It's an opportunity to learn more about Integral Education and my path to it from a very (one might almost say naked) personal perspective.
I also put together an article for this month's local Asheville publication WNC Parent focused for parents of children going into the early grades, and what recent research has to say about social and emotional skills in young children. We're lucky in Asheville to have lots of education options that aknowledge the importance of social/emotional intelligence in our children, and dare I say it, the program at Odyssey Community School is especially innovative and cool and focused on cultivating these important skills.
And just for fun, here are a couple of interesting education articles on Metacognition in children and how it affects their growth. Teaching kids to be self-aware, self-organized, and reflective (and helping them know how they learn) offers tools that will remain with a child for his or her whole life's journey. I recently saw the quote below in my Facebook feed and given the recent attacks on Beirut and Paris, these skills seem especially relevant and important.
When I feel scared or sad or just depressed, as if there is no way through the anger and hatred present in our world today, I remind myself how many people are doing good work in the world, sometimes in the ugliest, hardest places, but sometimes in other seemingly insignificant places, like this small, sleepy North Carolina town.
And in preparation for Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the faculty at Odyssey and their many gifts and for the time I spend in my own life and in my workplace creating the peace I want to see, not just for my generation but for the generations to come.
This is a year of first chapters. I started a new book. I have a new job, and my new role at Odyssey, as Director of Operations, involves focusing on more nuts and bolts issues than I have in past years. And turns out--I love it. The opportunity to create and review spreadsheets and think strategically about where an organization is at and where its headed, is a great adventure. I do more details, while bringing my writer's mind, my creative self, to the forefront to problem solve. It's a connecting leap that is new to me, and dovetails perfectly with the Integral Education model that is at the heart of Odyssey--"both/and" thinking.
Design Education marries the science mind and the art mind, creating from start to finish while meticulously testing results. I love it. I'm so excited by it, for the students at Odyssey, and for myself. The process of coming up with an idea or creative vision and testing it out, revising along the way, falls directly in line with my own process. Maybe that's because I have a messy way of making my way toward my goals. Maybe it's just how life works. It is definitely how my life works.
Recently, I picked up a copy of "The Web of Life," by Fritjof Capra somewhat haphazardly, intrigued by the water cooler discussions at work. Systems Thinking is heady stuff, absolutely big picture thinking and involves making connections across vast areas of difference. Bridging gaps and making inferences, while letting large ideas sift down. At the center of Systems Thinking, insomuch as I understand it (probably not much), is a cultural and economic shift from hierarchy to web, dynamic power flowing in a more graduated spiral via the network.
In this new world, collaboration is the way things get done. I am working with that element of collaboration in my own way too. Certainly with my husband, who is a writer himself -- negotiating the daily realities of two creatives in a family is complicated (and absolutely worth it). And also with my Co-Director Megan McCarter at Odyssey. Partnership represents the paradigm shift that is happening all over our country.
The challenge in all of this is how to bridge realities, right? That's a new world challenge. When I look through my mental rolodex of twenty-thirty-forty something-year-old friends, I see a sea of folks building from a series of identities: one a comic/improv/graphic designer who occasionally waits tables, another who manages a film company and is a part-time stay at home mom, a third who owns a restaurant while working on the Board of a major non-profit. We are working hard, people. (Great Job!)
Occasionally, I see articles on Facebook about how idealistic and narcissistic the younger generations are, and of course, there is truth (little t) in that. And the deeper truth is that our American cultural shift, from superpower to dying empire, forces us, as adults, to seek new options and build new opportunities. Hello, Etsy, Ebay, Netflix, AirB&B, countless other, better, new examples. The reality is I haven't had the experience of a single career, and I'm old (Generation X!). I got married in my mid-twenties, had two kids, and have worked through the last baby-making decade, four different jobs, constellated in different ways.
At thirty-five, I'm starting to think more strategically. I'm starting (maybe a bit late, but better late than never) to do some Design Thinking about my life. To empathize, define, ideate and test a way to work this weird, broken system I've inherited, and as an educator, I've realized that virtually every young person I see walking the halls of Odyssey will face these realities and probably harder ones. That reality keeps me awake some nights, feeling both exhilarated and scared for my children and my children's children.
We are writing a new chapter, as a culture. We are designing a new way of life.
P.S. I'd love to hear stories from folks about how they use the Design process in their own creative work, and I'm curious how others see power changing and shifting in their communities. Drop me an email if you feel inspired, email@example.com.
Coranna Adams is a writer, filmmaker, and educator from Asheville, North Carolina.