misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Being Present for Our Students

By on May 12, 2018

Bed of Flowers

Being present for our students is a true gift we can offer and these experiences with students are one of the reasons why I’ve loved teaching and being part of an academic environment my entire professional career. As teachers, we have the capacity to change lives in ways that we may not always be fully aware of in the moment. I’m certain we’ve all experienced that moment when a student returns to share some action or word we said that had a deep impact. Our engagement with students can be a big responsibility that can be fostered in many ways: a kind word, a thoughtful smile, a note of encouragement, and even a criticism that comes from a place of wanting to push a student to learn something new.

For those who have taught classes in person, we may have an easier time being in touch with our students and the energy of the classroom. I may notice when a student is having a difficult day or week or even the entire semester. I can linger after class, arrive early, or have a student crying in our office. In those moments, my hope is I am able to practice with empathy and with understanding.

Beginners’ Mind

This being present for students may come naturally for you, and for others it may take some effort. But I know we all have this capacity for empathy and understanding. In my life, I have found cultivating this for myself first has allowed me to extend this more easily to my students. It has been through 25-years of meditation practice, allowing for a deeper understanding of my mind, that I’ve been able to bring this directly into the classroom. And just like our students, a beginners’  mind in myself can keep things fresh and help me to discover new ways to work with students.

How does this all extend into my online classroom? Do I know my students in the same way I might as if we are spending three hours per week in person? Am I able to identify a student in need or crisis through the work posted online so that I might reach out and connect to the student? And, within a primarily written medium, how am I being present for my students? We can create the conditions in our online classes that allows us to know our students better and be tuned into their overall learning experience.

Creating the Conditions for Learning

It’s the humanizing work. It’s the touchy-feely stuff that can help the student feel connected to the course material, to me, and to the college as a whole. The classes I’ve taught online – library science, technology, social media and marketing – are not necessarily touchy-feely topics. But as the teacher, we set the tone. In the online environment we need to offer a little bit more of ourselves explicitly. With in-person  classes, students know I have a deep sense of humor, that I always wear black, that I like to pause in class and listen to student sharing, and that I like using the white board. These characteristics are part of my character. Online students don’t easily get this part of me, but these characteristics are critical for building a classroom relationship for our semester journey.

Creating a space where communication can be open and responsive to both student learning and student needs is key to building instructor-student relationships online. This means taking risks, and it certainly means taking more time. I write about myself, I share photos or videos so they know who I am as a person, and I incorporate personal life antidotes into the learning materials. More importantly, I create as many opportunities for students to interact with me so that I know who they are as humans. This can achieved through  discussion, writing assignments, or video posts. I encourage students to share content they find that is exciting for them. Anything we, as instructors, can do to bring regular, meaningful student interactions into our online class is valuable. And we can build on this foundation to create a learning environment that is grounded in communication and trust. Creating an online classroom that is similar to how I spend 3-hours a week engaging with my students in a classroom is what I try to cultivate. My goal as an online instructor is to foster these human connections to inspire learning. In the end, when I support, guide, and inspire my students, I am nourished by our deep connections as they experience life’s difficulties and joys.

Originally posted on @ONE: Online Network of Educators

An Antique Rocking Chair

By on April 9, 2018

This year I wanted to cultivate more reflection and inspiration in my meditation practice. For the past several months, I’ve been reading a few poems by Wendell Berry each morning (from A Timbered Choir). And though I’ve been married to a poet for a quarter century, it’s not a source of material I often turn toward.

A few mornings ago, these words arrived as I sat with my morning coffee. Looking to capture it here.

Trees and forest. Oh
the many days and nights.
Of cold, of rain, of sunshine.
The birds and squirrels. Hands and
vehicles. Sawmill and finisher.
Restored with love.
To hold me each morning.
With coffee and reflection.
An antique rocking chair.
In the morning darkness.

Trying to have fun and not be to serious.

Pictures from a Commute – After a Fire

By on February 24, 2018

As many of you know, the Ojai Valley and areas toward Ventura and Santa Barbara experienced the largest wild fire (The Thomas Fire) in California history during December, 2017. For those who didn’t lose everything, life has mostly returned to normal and we are the lucky ones. Although things feel more normal, I am reminded on a daily basis of the fire thanks to my commute from Ojai to Santa Barbara. More recently, with just the one rainfall in January, some green and plant-life has returned. Nature is certainly a wonder! I offer this pictures as a reminder to everyone and to show a little snapshot into what I see on my way to/from work. We begin with a short time-lapse followed by stills. All photos taken along Highway 150 between Ojai and Carpinteria near Lake Casitas. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License by Kenley Neufeld.

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Returning Home from Santa Barbara

By on January 19, 2018

Feeling blessed, with a clear acknowledgement of my privilege. The mudslides of Montecito have clearly taken a toll on the community. And yet, the kindness and generosity of everyone has been significant. Each step of the way, people have been offering to help and assist. And yesterday, we had children from Montecito Elementary arrive at our college campus to continue their classes since they can’t get to their own campus. They’ll be here for up to six weeks.

This week I’ve been living in my office and today I was scheduled to return home. My plan had been to drive the long way around back, but with snow in the forecast, I was concerned. Trains were sold out. Boats weren’t running due to high surf. And I definitely didn’t want to spend the weekend in my office!

And so, I asked my work community for snow chains to help make the 5-hour drive home. Within 15-minutes, dozens of responses came back. One in particular surprised me because it was an offer to fly me home.

And now, that work colleague may have saved my life.

About the time I would have been driving, a fatal accident occurred on highway 166, closing both directions. If not for this generous colleague, I would have been on that highway at that time. Instead, I was flown home in a private plane and am now lounging at home with my family.

It’s been a tough week. Friends and neighbors are without homes. And worst of all, lives have been lost. Next week I will take the train back to Santa Barbara and hope that 101 will reopen, bringing some relative safety and ease to my commute. And our community can continue to heal and rebuild. I’m definitely excited to have the students back on campus.

I wish everyone a safe and peaceful weekend, wherever you may be.

Getting to Santa Barbara during 2018 Mudslides

By on January 15, 2018

We begin the second week with the 101 freeway closed in Montecito due to flood and mudslides. It’s an awful situation. Not for me particularly, but for the people living in the community.

Last week I worked from home in Ojai, but this week I needed to be in Santa Barbara. The trip from Ojai usually takes about an hour but now the options are limited and long. We have Amtrak, but they’ve been running an hour or two late all week and at maximum capacity. The boats that usually do whale watching have switched to commuter boats, but I’m not to keen on spending 120-minutes at sea each day. The last choice is to drive around.

Today I made that long journey around. I figured in a typical week I spend 10-12 hours on the road so the 4.5 hour drive (one-way) seemed reasonable.

Leaving at 3:30am, only 15-minutes earlier than my normal wake-Up time, I was able to be at work by 8am. The traffic was heavy, but not unbearable. The hardest portion was definitely the 100-miles of two-lanes on highway 166. Even at 5am, it was pretty much one long row of cars and semis. We did maintain 45-55mph through all that. The other portions, highway 126, I-5, and southbound 101 from Santa Maria we’re all pretty typical traffic.

I’m not sure if I’ll do the drive next week, even if the freeway remains closed, but I’m here at Santa Barbara City College now preparing for the spring semester. Next week we’ll have an additional 1500 students trying to get from the other side of Montecito to campus. Not to mention all the other 100,000 vehicles that traverse this route on a daily basis.

I wish CalTrans good luck getting the water, mud, and debris off the freeway. And healing for the Montecito community.

Happy People Read Books: My 2017 Book List

By on December 28, 2017

As a history major in college, I read a lot of material for each class. And with my college being on the quarter system, that meant a dozen or two books per quarter. Unfortunately, this material wasn’t all something I’d choose. I’ve always been an avid reader, but as life went on, my reading scaled back due to family and work obligations over the decades.

This year I thought it’d push myself a little and set a goal of reading thirty books this year. I feel accomplished in a couple of ways. First, only 34,529 of 3.1 million Goodreads users who pledged a goal actually met their goal. Second, because I exceeded my goal by reading a 36-books in 2017. My reading interests are primarily science fiction, fantasy, spirituality and Buddhism.

The list intentionally included people of color, women, and non-binary authors. I also don’t necessarily stick to current-year titles, so I can’t give you a “best of…” for the year’s releases but I can highlight a few books to pick for yourself.

But first, here’s the list:

Science Fiction and Fantasy

  • California Bones, by Greg Van Eekhout
  • The Gunslinger, by Stephen King (my first Stephen King!?!)
  • The Drawing of the Three, by Stephen King (my second SK!?!)
  • Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  • Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, by Theodore Goss
  • A History of Bees, by Maja Lunde
  • Helliconia Spring, by Brian W. Aldiss
  • The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
  • The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
  • A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin (re-read)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (environmental theme)
  • Nemesis Games, by James S.A. Corey
  • The Hum and the Shiver, by Alex Bledsoe
  • Gateway, by Frederik Pohl
  • The Salt Roads, by Nalo Hopkinson
  • The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisen
  • The Three-Body Problem, by Liu Cixin (hard SciFi)
  • The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
  • Everfair, by Nisi Shawl

Nonfiction

  • What Does it Mean to by White?: Developing White Racial Literacy, by Robin DiAngelo (twice this year)
  • Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do, by Claude M. Steele
  • Trans* in College: Transgender Students’ Strategies for Navigating Campus Life and the Institutional Politics of Inclusion, by Z Nicolazzo
  • The Gandhian Iceberg, by Chris Moore-Backman

Spirituality / Buddhism

  • The Other Shore, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Happy Teachers Change the World, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • How to Fight, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Art of Living, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The Art of Communicating, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Silence, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Hermitage Among the Clouds, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • At Home in the World, by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Interbeing, by Thich Nhat Hanh (re-read)
  • Secular Buddhism, by Stephen Bachelor

Selection of 2017 BooksNow that I’ve written out the list, I’m feeling a bit challenged to recommend anything. They were all good in their own way, but some were certainly better than others. I totally enjoyed reading Ready Player One, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. All fun and quick. But I did pick up the second book in Becky’s Chamber’s universe so maybe I’ll recommend that one to you. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a very sweet and touching story. Great character development. Appreciate the philosophical digressions about life, ethics, humanity. Solid on describing different species. Keeps the story moving when it’s time to move on to the next scene.

From the nonfiction stack, I can easily recommend reading What Does it Mean to be White? (especially to my fellow white-readers!). It’s a bit academic, being written by a sociologist, but still worth the read. Get challenged. Think critically about racism. See your privilege and move in the direction of racial literacy.

In the last category, spirituality and Buddhism, I’m going to need to say Happy Teachers Change the World was my favorite. It’s a great textbook for mindfulness practitioners both inside and outside the classroom. Don’t let the “teachers” part of the title turn you off because this can easily be used by just about anyone. Great practices, guidelines, and methods for learning to breath and being more mindful and present for others.

Coming up,  2018 will likely be more of the same. You might want to get started with Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, originally released in January 1, 1818 by Mary Shelley. Considered by many to be the first science fiction book written.

Like what I read? Follow me on GoodReads. Questions about a specific title, write it in the comments.

Enjoy.

Power and Wired Capital

By on December 17, 2017

The print magazine industry is very much alive and well and has the impact of being quite an expensive hobby. As a avid reader, I enjoy all forms of writing from blogs, micro-blogs, newspapers, books, comics, and magazines. In addition to the five mainstream subscriptions I receive, I also subscribe to a handful of independent publications plus I have the opportunity to read a different independent publication each month thanks to my Stack Magazines subscription. I enjoyed almost all of the publications, even the ones I would never have picked up in the first place, and two of them rose to the top this year as my favorites.

2017 Collage of Magazine Covers

Weapons of Reason

The fourth issue of the Weapons of Reason magazine is focused on the theme of Power. It explores the world’s current hierarchical structures, “how [they] materialized, their current shape, and how they might evolve, or collapse”. Last year I enjoyed their second issue so much, on the topic of Megacities, that I ordered a copy for a couple of friends. So, when it showed up in the mail this past April I was excited to read it again. Great writing, super illustrations, and provocative content. One particular article reinforced my skepticism on mass protest. Even more surprising is millennials support of despotism. Want to learn more, here’s a brief interview with editor James Cartwright

Weapons-of-Reason---Power---Spreads---4
Weapons-of-Reason---Power---Spreads---15

Migrant Journal

The Migrant Journal, a six-issue project, looks at the movement of people and things around the world. In the second issue, the focus is on Wired Capital. Wired capital “studies the intricate migration of information, data, finance but also economic migrants – the exploited along with the exploiting ones. Want to learn more, here’s a brief interview with editors and publishers Justinien Tribillon and Catarina De Almeida Brito.

MIgrant Journal - Tax Havens
MIgrant Journal - Reindeer Herder

Runners Up

Racquet – all about tennis! Who would have thought I’d enjoy this publication so much. I know way more about tennis now.
Anxy – all about anger! I was super hesitant at first, mostly out of fear, but was pleasantly surprised by this in-depth discussion on mental health issues.

2017 Complete List

  1. Yuca
  2. Weapons of Reason
  3. Real Review
  4. Anxy
  5. Migrant Journal *
  6. Accent
  7. Racquet
  8. The Move
  9. Double Dagger
  10. Zoetrope
  11. The Gourmand
  12. Brygg Magazine
  13. Delayed Gratification *
  14. Drift (Mexico City)
  15. Mindfulness Bell *
  16. Buddhadharma *
  17. Lions Roar *
  18. MacWorld *
  19. Fast Company *
  20. Wired *

* regular subscriber

With the exception of the mainstream publications, most of these magazines cost between $12-$25 per issue. They are all very rich in content and worth supporting. For me, it comes down to time and money so I take what I can when they arrive and buy an issue here and there when possible. Let me know if you have any questions.

Enjoy.

Goodbye Airport Express?

By on December 2, 2017

My oldest regularly-used Apple product may be on its last legs. This 1st gen Airport Express has been a living room fixture for 14-years and I’ve had to reset regularly these last few weeks. I’ll be bummed when it fails permanently.

The Pot Shatters

By on August 21, 2017

When the precious pot shatters and all our valuables roll away like marbles on a table, reality as we thought we knew is disrupted and the game of contriving an ideal self is suddenly irrelevant. 
~ Pema Khandro Rinpoche