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Finally Finishing the Desperately Optimistic L.I.F.E. Stuff

April 2, 2010

Each happiness of yesterday is a memory for tomorrow.
• George W.Douglas

Probably the most important piece of advice I have for any adult returning to school—or anyone, for that matter, who has children—is that adults are memory makers in the lives of children. As for the E of the D.O. L.I.F.E., there’s not much that I haven’t already said somewhere sometime. The rituals and celebrations I instituted as an undergraduate still serve me well now that my children are grown and I’m no longer in school. My friends might find it hard to believe, but I do take my nose off the grindstone and have fun. It’s just that sometimes it has to be spontaneous fun and that’s harder to make plans for.

I find it easier to just stop what I’m doing and take a walk or go to a movie or fiddle about in my studio than I do to make plans to be at a particular place at a particular time. I am often in the zone of work or creation when that time comes and dragging myself away is a drag.

This is related to an additional piece of E advice:

• Learn something about learning and share what you discover with your family. Talk about learning and life preferences and processes. Encourage your family to think about how they learn, how they prefer to interact with other people, and all kinds of things that are related to accomplishing just about any kind of task.

I was talking recently with colleagues at work and realized that a key issue when working with others is whether they are last minute folks or percolators like me. If I have a project to work on, I begin it months ahead. I am, for example, almost done with my summer syllabi. I have to be. I want to begin gathering materials, creating activities and opportunities, and allowing my teacher’s eye to look about for new possibilities. Some years ago I team taught with someone who liked to let things emerge and didn’t want to write our syllabus until the class met for the first time. I can understand this approach intellectually, but it doesn’t work for me. It sucks the fun out of the anticipatory creative processes of teaching.

ADVICE: An important question to ask anyone you’re working with on a project when you’re in school is how they like to approach the task. Make sure everyone’s being honest and not just saying what someone else wants to hear. Get clarity on what will be done when and by whom.

• In addition to being part of study groups related to specific courses/majors and to getting involved in school activities, create a support group for yourself comprised of people who face similar challenges and stresses. If you’re a parent, for example, and none of your friends/study buddies have children, it can be difficult. While I don’t recommend wallowing in misery, it’s healthy to have a place to commiserate.

If you were asked to provide advice for adult students, what’s the first thing you would tell them?

The important thing is not to stop questioning.
•Albert Einstein

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