Sunday, September 4, 2011

Three Beautiful Things 09/03/11: Brain Pickings and Motivation, Crossing Into Chard Land, Jeff!

1.  I spent a lot of time looking at posts on Brain Pickings.   It's my favorite website.  The posts are cogent and well illustrated with graphics, pictures, and videos and point readers to books and lectures covering a variety of subjects including Mad Magazine, typography, the history of cities, capitalism, graphic design, psychology, and culture.  My list is hardly exhaustive.  My favorite video today was an RSAnimation of Daniel Pink's lecture, here, on motivation in the work place.  He explains how monetary incentives can actually deter productivity, unless the work is material production, and that people in the workplace are most motivated by the desire for self direction or autonomy, the desire for mastery, and by with a sense of larger purpose, of making a contribution to the betterment of one's world, of the lives of others.  It wasn't the gaining of new insight that made it my favorite today.  In my work, it's been some variant upon these three motivators that has driven my best work and I've known it for many years.  In fact, for as long as I can remember, when I've been asked what I value most in my workplace, my immediate answer has been, "Autonomy".  

But, I've been discouraged in my work over the last few years.  My autonomy as an instructor has eroded as the institutions that govern my work, especially at the state and local level, as well as the entities that accredit our work, place more and more emphasis on program concerns, on coherence and consistency spelled out in shared outcomes, leaving fewer decisions about what to teach (especially, in composition) and how to go about it to the instructor.  We are less self-directed.  This limits the range of mastery I work toward in my instruction.  The sense of purpose I once had as an instructor, especially when it comes to helping students write fearlessly and developing a love for writing, has been hampered by mandates from the state and the institution I work for. 

I'll reduce my comments down to the categories Pirsig explores in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance".  My approach to instruction is more romantic than classical.  Institutions are rarely romantic and since the institutions have imposed themselves more into my syllabus and dictated more explicitly what they want my courses to accomplish, my sense of self direction, mastery, and purpose has diminished.  It's not gone by any means, but I did better work when I was left to my own devices.  And my students wrote better papers.

2.  Until today, the Deke has always been our chard chef.  That ended today.  I brought home chard from the Kiva, got some instructions from the Deke, and succeeded.  I added zucchini, mushrooms, spinach/feta sausage, and broccoli to the chard.  It's a great meal and got even better with cold sliced tomatoes and cold beets, the ones I had boiled a little earlier in the day.

3.  I was reading Brain Pickings, looking at videos, keeping an eye on the score of the Univ. of Oregon football game when suddenly, in my Facebook chat box, Jeff S. appeared and we had a great conversation about longtime friends, colleges, and the mysteries of spirituality. 

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