Re-Purpose – Part 2

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I didn’t plan to think and write so much about purpose, but I keep coming across interesting related reading so I pick up the thread again…. (“Part 1” here)

An HBR article, You Don’t Find Your Purpose — You Build It, discussed 3 misconceptions about finding purpose in life and each one presents good reminders.  I liked the message that our lives will have multiple sources of purpose that will also provide multiple sources of meaning to our lives.

I read another article that lists 11 myths about finding your purpose.  The author posted a subsequent follow up article that lists 11 Ways to Know When You’ve Found Your Purpose.  I found this statement from the list somewhat encouraging,

And when you find your purpose, when you find the thing that you’ve been preparing for your whole life, you will look back and realize it wasn’t a waste of your time and effort at all.”

Maybe many people are doing “the work” of finding purpose without realizing and without any pressure or stress.  Do we dwell on it too much?  Is it “oversold”?  At what age do we start to worry about our life’s purpose? At what age should we?  How many different stages or repurposes are there in a lifetime?

I thought this was a good article for parents with teens and young adults, Adolescence and Repurposing One’s Life.  I hadn’t thought about stages of growth and independence in terms of a “repurposing” before.  From the article,

So, at both the outset and end of adolescence, interest, meaning, direction, and challenge may need to be altered to redefine and reinvigorate sense of purpose for the next leg of the journey through life.”

With recent news again of another mass shooting at a school, it leaves me with many questions about how an individual may come to believe that their purpose includes such violence.  Complicated and very sad.

I have noticed that the words meaning and purpose are often used interchangeably in regards to one’s life and choices.  I found this 11 min. video thought-provoking about the past and the future:  30000 Days – Living Life with Meaning & Purpose.

I welcome your thoughts on my questions, or links to other related reading on this topic.


Not in Kansas…

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I am extending a conversation started by Lisa Noble on her blog and a response by Doug Peterson on his blog.  Both posts have further comments and responses that extend this “not in Kansas anymore” theme.  I think the conversation is a good one in light of the many on-going discussions about “kids these days” and the concerns about their resilience, independence, and mental health.

Lisa, through her post, reflects on past experiences and travels away from family and compares them to the context of today with technology impacting those experiences and the connections made with others.  Her “not in Kansas anymore” experience (I will refer to it as NIKA from here on in) was a continent away from her family.  Doug’s “NIKA” experience was his time away at university.

I think many of us can recall our own “NIKA” moment:

From Lisa’s post,

That “out here on my own” thing we were all experiencing together, with no opportunity for helicopter parenting – no cell phones, no e-mail, no Skype or FaceTime. I sent a couple of postcards, but my parents were very far away – literally and metaphorically.”

Lisa’s questions:

What was that defining experience for you – when you knew that you weren’t in Kansas anymore, and that you were okay with that? Who were the people you shared it with? Are they still part of your world?”

And also,

Do those opportunities still exist for our students and our children in this ultra-connected world? Do we encourage our students and kids to take them, and then get out of the way? How might the technology that enriches our lives be getting in the way of this kind of adventure? How do we help our parent/teacher selves let go?”

Doug shared about two NIKA experiences in his post — away at university and later returning to his home that had changed.  This part made me giggle, but well said,

No matter how tired and tough the day was, we had to cook and clean or go without.  How can people live like this?  And raise kids?  My parents were saints.”

Doug answered the rest of Lisa’s questions on his post with references to current issues of travel and added this point about technology,

Why wouldn’t we use the available technology to ensure a certain level of safety or, in this day of the selfie, fully document the experience?”

It all got me reflecting on my past and now my children’s lives.  I will extend the discussion to a parent perspective as well.

I had a few school trips away from my parents:  3 nights in a cabin for outdoor education in Gr. 6, a trip to Toronto in Gr. 8, and a trip to BC for about a week in Gr. 11.  I have no idea what my parents worried about, but I am sure they did.  I don’t recall having much worry or apprehension about the trips and I only have memories of the fun.  Maybe such shorter trips also help parents prepare for even more natural separation that will occur as their children grow and mature.  I am trying to imagine what it would have been like for my parents — there would be no contact from me and if there was, it would be an emergency or for a serious reason.  As a parent now, I haven’t had to go through that with my own children.  They haven’t had that many trips away, but texting easily provided assurance and helped put worries aside for all.  But do we come to rely on that too much?

Like Doug, my own NIKA defining moment would have been going to a different city for university.  I don’t think I thanked my parents enough for driving 2 full days to drop off their youngest in a city they had never been to (not to mention their drive back to an empty nest).  I was eager and felt ready for the experience (did Gr. 13/being 19 help?), so I don’t recall too much sadness on my part.  My contact ahead with my parents would be letters in the mail and usually a phone call on Sunday nights (cheaper after 6 pm 🙂 )  I did get a landline in my residence room and my phone cord would stretch into my closet to get some privacy from my roommate.

And so, for Lisa’s question, I was okay with this defining experience — no regrets.  As for people who I shared it with, some connections have faded away.  Two close friends from my program travelled to my northern hometown for my wedding a few years after graduation.  Unfortunately, I have kept contact with only one of them over the years (Christmas cards, Facebook.)

Fast forward 30+ years to the experiences of my own grown children away for school in other cities.  We often have discussions about the impacts of communication technologies and the many differences of life experiences — then and now.  The capacity now to stay in touch is great, but it can also feel like “too much” at times.  It also sets us up in a way, as now when a check in or confirmation isn’t received by text, it can be easy to worry the worst.  The convenience of technology to stay in touch can ease worries and create them!

I believe that the some NIKA experiences can help independence, maturity, and confidence.  Families will “scaffold” supports in different ways for each child, with or without technology.  Ideally, I think it would be good to have a few NIKA experiences during a time when one knows that they can return to “Kansas” as they knew it.  Life and hometowns can change fast.  Similar to Doug, I recall how I struggled with my parents selling our family home while I was away for my 4th year of university.

I haven’t really come up with any definitive opinions about “today’s” NIKA experiences vs. the past, but I suppose there are many ways to nudge the independence of children, teens, and young adults.  The process will have its discomforts for parents as well, but the confidence building and letting go can go both ways.

Whenever I came to write a bit more on this topic, I would find myself humming the song by Melanie called Kansas.  I found a cool video created for the song.  As the description says, “Trippy little rocker…”.

Twitter Lists

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Did you have a new year’s resolution regarding social media?  I noticed a few posts and articles related to making changes in the use of social media when the new year started.

I still see value in social media, but I continue to feel dismay at how it is often used to put things out of context and/or to push a particular agenda.  Critical thinking and careful consumption of social media has become so important.

I still find value in using Twitter because of the way I set it up to be more manageable about 8 years ago.  Although I use Twitter a lot less and differently now, I still find useful content and people who continue to share respectfully and thoughtfully.

A recent post by Doug Peterson reminded me how important “lists” can be for Twitter use.  I think the lists I started to create soon after I started a Twitter account are often what still ensures my continued interest in visiting my Twitter timeline.  Doug’s discussion about his lists provides some good ideas for managing Twitter use.  He states and asks,

Twitter lists are indeed one of the best ways to keep tabs on diverse things.

Are you using them to their fullest potential?”

Doug’s post also nicely clarified the “subscribed to” and “member of” lists.

My “Subscribed to” Lists:

A few lists that I created (“subscribed to”) also have followers (subscribers) — I thought that was cool when that happened.  They might not even check those lists, but maybe it is a good alternative to creating one if someone else has already created a public one that might be useful to follow.  Like Doug, I also have one list set to “private” (12 are public).  It was on a suggestion from a friend to create a list of people whose tweets you never want to miss.  No one can see or subscribe to that list but me.  I have also subscribed to 3 lists (Education Leadership, VoicEd authorsInvolvement) that others created publicly, for a total of 15 “subscribed to” lists.

When I started Twitter my focus of interest was Ontario education.  I was also interested in comparing and knowing about education initiatives in other provinces, so I created more lists.  I visit those lists less now, but I will still check them out here and there.  If anyone else would like to look for new connections in a certain province via my lists (but sorry, I only got as far as Ontario and western provinces): ON-ed,  BC-ed,  AB-ed,  Sask/MB-ed.

I have a few more specific education lists:  ed-news (mostly Ont. focused), ESL/resources, Parent/Ed advocates, and online tech.  I will often add someone to an appropriate list before deciding to follow them back.

I have a “local” list, but I will also just check out the popular hashtags for my city and region when I want Twitter to be my “local” feed of news and happenings.

I do spend some time in my main timeline and no “system” is perfect, but I think I have a good balance of serious and fun lists to follow as well.  I enjoy checking out my music list.  I have an “inspiration” one, but I don’t seem to check that one out much — maybe it is time for a adjustment.  I used to have one named, “Actors who say interesting things”, but I recently deleted it.  Not mentioning any names…

My “Member of” Lists:

On a quick count I discovered that I have been added to (“member of”) over 150 lists created by others.  This is not meant to brag, as I know that many of those lists are automated to add people as soon as they tweet using certain hashtags or words.  I doubt all the creators are checking my tweets or those lists.  There must be a point where creating and updating lists can get unmanageable as well.  Most of the lists make some sense as to why I was added — many of them include words in their titles such as education, advocates, and parents.  A few other lists sort of fit, for example, “wild life lover” and “people who love MN” (I occasionally cross the border to visit that state).

My use of Twitter (and lists) will likely keep changing, but I think I have made a good attempt to access diverse topics, people, and viewpoints by using created lists and checking out hashtags linked to topics.  I hope that it helps what I read and also what I share.  Politics will reach my timeline whether I seek out issues or not.  I remain encouraged by the way educators, advocates, artists, photographers and many other individuals use and share on Twitter.

Are lists a part of optimal Twitter use for you?  What works best for you?  Do you have suggestions for additions to any of my lists?

Twitter’s instructions for creating lists here

Memory matters


Sad, but true, I finally finished a novel this past summer that I had started reading the previous summer.  I have read most of John Irving’s novels, so I was determined to finish: In One Person.  (From a New York Times review:  “In One Person is a story about memory.”)  I can always count on Irving’s stories and characters to make me think deeply and differently about social justice and issues.  After I finish his novels, there are always a few lines or passages that stick with me.

The main character of In One Person eventually becomes a writer.  Written in the first person, this character quotes some of his own writing and thoughts on growing up (p. 259-260):

That moment when you are tired of being treated like a child – tired of adolescence, too – that suddenly opening but quickly closing passage, when you irreversibly want to grow up, is a dangerous time.”

Ambition robs you of your childhood. The moment you want to become an adult – in any way – something in your childhood dies.”

This bit about memory also lingered with me:

Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t. It simply files things away; it keeps things for you, or hides things from you. Your memory summons things to your recall with a will of its own. You imagine you have a memory, but your memory has you!”

It is an interesting reminder to me that while growing up is desired and (mostly) inevitable, it can come with a sense of loss.  We have our memories, but maybe some of the forgetting is important in the process of letting go of our childhood and becoming an adult.  Why do we remember certain things and forget other things from our past?  I have about a handful of experiences that I can recall from early childhood, a lot more as an older child, and so on.  It is interesting to think about the early memories that I have retained to this day, and yet they might also be forgotten one day.  I value the different things my memory has helped me with, but it is easy to take it for granted.

I know that memory is extensively researched and continues to be.  There are so many interesting aspects of memory to wonder (and worry!) about.  It intersects with the understanding of cognition, learning, aging, etc.  I recently read the article, Our Memory Quirks:  Are They for Us or against Us?  The author reviews a book about memory research and shares some good points to consider. For example:

False memory research, especially, should concern us in an era in which leaders often lie and fake news has flooded social media.”

And also,

Although some researchers suggest that education might evolve toward critical thinking skills over information memorization, in fact, there is a need for both. Critical reasoning doesn’t work on its own.”

I wonder if collaborative online sites like Wikipedia will become even more important in verifying facts ahead. Check out:  Once Reviled in Education, Wikipedia Now Embraced by Many Professors.

Does our memory have us, or are there things we should do (or should not do) to help memory (short term and long term)?  A very recent study by the University of Waterloo (Ontario), for example, found that reading information aloud improves memory.

I know that I should finish novels in a shorter time!



“Digital Parenting”: Struggles and Solutions

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I recently read this interesting post, On Retreating from Social Media, by Sonja Burrows.  The author, also a parent, discusses what she believes are the three most significant reasons to retreat (step back) from social media:  (1) Emotional Well-Being; (2) Vulnerable Data; (3) Kids.  She makes a good case in each area and I thought her “Kids” section offered some good considerations for parents.

A few points that stood out for me:

The parent generation is collectively navigating completely new terrain, attempting to guide our children through experiences we ourselves never had as teenagers and young adults. We cannot therefore fall back on our own adolescent trials to instruct us in our child-raising practices around digital tools and social media.”


Many parents find ourselves conflicted. On the one hand, we may wish to prevent our children from participating in social media for as long as possible. On the other hand, we may also acknowledge that stunting our kids’ ability to engage socially in these spaces could have harmful effects, insofar as we would be removing them from interacting in ways that most likely every one of their peers already does.”

She offers this solution,

Social media has become a fact of life for the younger generation; therefore, I believe both parents and schools need to coach kids around safe usage of these spaces, rather than prohibit them altogether from participating. Part of educating youth in safe conduct on social media is first to raise their awareness about how platforms work as well as the consequences of different kinds of usage. We especially need to educate kids about the possible negative effects on emotional health and wellbeing, on the proliferation of cyberbullying, on the vulnerability of their data, as well as on social codes of conduct within these spaces. As always in guiding youth, parents and schools need to encourage kindness and empathy, and we need to establish trust so that kids involve us directly should they need hands-on support.”

I fall in the same category or “gap” that Sonja describes — parents who didn’t have mobile phones until after 30 🙂  While it is true that people becoming parents ahead will have had more direct experience with communication technologies, social media, etc., I wonder if there will always be new challenges.  I feel certain still that my “non-tech” teen experiences and stories that I shared with my children had value and nudged some reflection on their part in regards to their use of mobile phones.

I also enjoyed reading a couple of posts on this topic by Doug Belshaw, The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Digital Parent.  He makes a note in his post for readers that he was a teenager in the 1990’s. I appreciated his reflection in regards to that.  Some points/concerns that stood out for me:

The difficulty is that this generation of young parents are on the front line here. We’re the first ones to have to deal with screens everywhere. At the same time as we’re warned about the dangers, we’re also exhorted to prepare our offspring for jobs of the future.”

Another good point about conversations:

It’s difficult. I know that what we should be doing is sitting alongside our children, exploring the digital world together. But that’s just doesn’t seem possible sometimes. And, just as children tend to the question “what did you do at school today?” really tedious, so they don’t particularly want a conversation about what they’ve been up to on their tablets.”

I agree, this may not be discussed enough:

One thing that’s missed when dealing with digital parenting at a macro level is the issue of personality. I think there may also be gender differences too, but I’ve got too small a sample to be able to tell. Some people have more addictive personalities than others.”

I am glad to see more honest writing and discussions lately about the challenges of “digital parenting”.  I think these honest discussions are important.  Parents can have so many things to feel insecure and self-critical about.  Regardless of the age and experience of parents, supports will be needed to navigate technology and many other  things.  I hope shared stories from different perspectives continue to be a part of that support.  I would think even the most “tech-savvy” parent might still be caught off guard and frustrated by impacts on their own children.  The content coming through on phones and apps seems to be constantly changing, as are the features and privacy settings.  I appreciate Sonja’s message for schools and parents in her suggestion for this navigation.  How do schools create the spaces for support and collaboration, as well as encourage non-judgemental and honest discussion?  Do parents want this support?  What should it look like?  What would be most important and helpful?

**Thank you to Donna Miller Fry (@fryed) for her resources, questions and persistence with this topic.  Her questions and posts to Twitter prompted this post.

Some thoughts about “iGen”

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I recently saw a job ad with the following “skill” requirement listed:

“must have the ability to be off phone for more than 10 consecutive seconds”

I suppose that made a strong point to potential applicants, or maybe it was related to issues with past employees… It was a position that would require driving and moving stuff.

The ad made me think of a recent article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?.  In spite of the alarmist title, I still read it.  The article was an adaptation from a new book by Dr. Jean Twenge.  Soon after that article was posted on The Atlantic, I saw a few responses and articles dismissing the claims made by the author/researcher.  As I thought more about this topic, I decided to listen to the 50 min. segment from the BBC:  “Are Smartphones Harming Teenagers?”.  I thought the panel discussion was quite good and it included Dr. Jean Twenge.  This is the list of the participants:

Dr. Jean Twenge – Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University

Amy Orben – College Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at The Queen’s College, Oxford University

Tanya Goodin – Founder of the digital detox consultancy Time to Log Off, and author of ‘Off’

There were also two teenagers participating in the discussion as well.

It took me a few “sittings” to get through it, but I made a few notes of points from the discussion that made me ponder and reflect.  Here are a few that I thought were key:

  • it is important to consider what is on the phone, not necessarily the phone itself
  • if teenagers are spending approx. 6 – 8 hours of leisure time on their phones/screens, what does that “crowd out” of their lives?
  • social media/online time is very diverse/complicated — important for research to consider the “3 C’s”:  content, context, and connection
  • software is designed to be “sticky”, so how do we moderate effectively?
  • suggestion that more evidence is needed, but research always lags behind real world experience
  • should we do nothing then? What is the downside of doing nothing at all? “Guinea pig” generation?
  • differentiate study of the different social media platforms?

It was good to hear the input and insights from the two teenagers.  I also noted that they both attended schools that did not allow cell phones in class.  They also both reported that their own phone/screen use was reasonable and manageable.  They also didn’t think it was necessary for younger children to have smartphones in response to the finding that the average age of having a phone in the UK was 9.

It is a complex area to study but I find it hard to dismiss the new data and possible trends.  It is difficult not to have concern about the possible impacts on independence and mental health. The decrease in sleep at night is enough to concern me.  There seems to be multiple sources of stress now in the lives of teens and young adults.  I think we need to care about how smartphone access and use adds to stress and anxiety.  Both youth and adults have a role in getting smarter about moderation.  I still see my 20+ year olds struggling at times with the use of their devices and screens in practical ways instead of excessive ways.  It takes work and self-discipline for sure.

Dr. Twenge’s research pointed to some positive trends for teens as well.  I am now following her on Twitter and keeping an open mind about this.  My kids are grown up, but it is an area that I still care about.  I also recently read the article, In Praise of Mediocre Kids.  I thought the article spoke to valid pressures in the lives of children as well.  It doesn’t mention smartphones or social media, but I think technology has increased how much parents compare the “successes” of their kids and families to others.  I am not sure “mediocre” was the best word for the title — what about just well-grounded kids, or kids just doing their thing…?  Where do things start to get off track?

My thoughts as an “old” parent…

The School Down The Road

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A friend of mine does some excellent writing on her personal blog about life and growing up in Northwestern Ontario. A few years ago, I confirmed her approval to feature a couple of her initial posts on my blog. I am finally getting around to it! I grew up in the same township as “Little Monik”. It was a “township” at the time, but the area eventually became a part of the new boundaries of Kenora when it became an official city instead of a town. I still think of the area as the small town I grew up in.

This area of Kenora has been mentioned in the news more lately since Gord Downie’s Secret Path advocacy project. I got thinking again about Monik’s posts about living near “CJ School”, which we called it back then. She wrote about some of her memories and reflections in two parts:

CJ School Part I

CJ School Part II

My family also lived within walking distance of “CJ”. The children in our area attended elementary school for several years in the building adjacent to Cecilia Jeffrey Residence. I attended for Grades 1 through 5 together with a number of children who were living in the CJ residence during that time (late 60s/early 70s). I also had friendships with a few of the girls that Monik had mentioned. We played at school and occasionally in the community in the evenings. I remember a few of my classmates being invited into the residence to see their rooms. I am not sure why a number of children still lived at the residence during that time. I think they returned to live with their families on the reserve in the summertime, but I am not really sure. Through researching and reading a few documents online, I found closure dates for the residence ranging from 1960 through 1976. Monik mentioned the closure date as 1974 in her post. Maybe there were different dates for the residence and the school building itself and also a transition period. CJ residence was run by the Presbyterian Church. My report cards from the time have “The Kenora Board of Education” listed.

I don’t recall questioning much about why the children had to live at the residence and attend school there. As a child, I was only aware of this one residential school in our small world that was Kenora. I think I understood that their parents lived far away on reserves – but I didn’t know very much about reserves. As a child, I think I just accepted this as the way their children would be able to attend school. This would have been the time during the final years of First Nations children living in these residences in Canada. I don’t recall being aware of the previous history of residential schools at the time. I don’t think I was told much about it at age 6 or 10 during those years at “CJ School Block”.

In the summers, I remember attending large pow-wows hosted on the residential site. The experience was rich for the senses for sure. I still remember much about the site back then – the playground, the field, the baseball diamond and the forested area that separated it from Round Lake.  I visited the site just over a year ago.  An office building sits where the school had been – I think it is the same building. I took this picture of the monument that is now on the site where the residence building used to be:

I also located it on Google Maps as, “Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School Memorial Park”.

I just wanted to write down a bit about this time during my childhood – a statement that Monik wrote in a reply on her second post prompted me:

 Thanks, that was a tough one to write. Strange how my memory seems to get better when I write it out and then think about it more… I think it’s because at first I’m just remembering what the “little me” could process, but then on reflection I can understand more of what else was happening. Hindsight is a new perspective.”

I am still learning, listening, reflecting, questioning, and filling in the gaps too.  It is like we lived so close, and yet so far away…

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