Our beliefs grow out of our experiences.

I’m working on writing a statement of educational philosophy and yesterday I was stumped. I sat down to write and opened with “I believe…” Everything I wrote after that felt simultaneously true and hollow. My writing process, which wasn’t going great anyway, was disrupted by some family medical issues. (Everyone is fine.) I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was trying to do.

I texted two friends to complain/reach out. Each of them offered some really good ideas that I’m pocketing for later. They weren’t what I needed yesterday. What I was struggling with yesterday was the why. I knew what I believed about learning and teaching but I couldn’t figure out how to articulate why I believe those things.

I was very tired.

I emailed W. He was out of town for the day. I told him that I needed to talk my ideas through, that for whatever reason, I couldn’t get this done via freewrite (which is what I normally do). I said, “Tomorrow, let’s talk about it and then you spend some time with the baby and I’ll write.” (When do I need to call him something besides the baby? I mean, I use his name, obviously. But he’s 18 months old. The toddler doesn’t have the same ring to it.)

W. got home from his travels late at night. As he got in bed, I asked him if my plan was okay. He said, “Maybe we can talk about it when we go for a walk tomorrow.”

“Good idea,” I said.

I highly recommend finding a walking partner and talking about stuff as you walk. It’s so good. So we went for a walk this morning. W. wrote a teaching statement recently and I asked him to tell me about it. As he spoke, I realized that the piece that was missing, the why, comes from my own experiences as a learner and teacher. And that I needed to work that into my statement.

It felt blindingly obvious. I don’t know why I couldn’t make this connection without the conversation with W., but I have it now.

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  1. Walking is great, as is having someone like W with whom you can talk things through.

    We spent so much time in our first round of education trying to avoid getting too personal in our academic writing, that we conditioned ourselves to do the same now. The problem is, sometimes our personal experiences are an important part of how we got to the point we are at. If you watch things like TED Talks*, it seems like academics are relating their fields of study to personal experiences and everyday things more and more. It makes it easier for those who aren’t in the field to relate to the information.

    *This comment may have been slightly coloured by the fact that this week I attended Amanda Palmer’s NinjaTed2018 event in Vancouver. Amid the talented musicians, writers and actors, were scientists who managed to engage the audience by humanizing the science and relating it to things non-scientists could understand. Also, Adam Savage played the Ukulele and sang a song about science (the Brain Candy Song).

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