Saturday, August 15, 2020

Roll with it

Day 4 of the school year has been completed, with Maddy and Teddy navigating distance learning. Due to our essential workers' status, Grey and I enrolled both kids into a learning pod at their school for the morning instruction followed by a pod for aftercare, leaving me to cover school instruction post-lunch. There have been so many balls in the air just with navigating how distance learning is happening for these kids  (Google Classroom, Zoom meetings, and Seesaw), so adding in this learning pod arrangement has also been another level.

Never mind the fact I've been teaching from 10 pm -12 am my time for the past 2 weeks, developing curriculum, running pilots, and managing the panicked state/lack of attention from my learners.

It would be logical to be insanely anxious about all of this, but looking at the schedule on Sunday and after having a short cry due to a house being in utter chaos, I found the Id part of my brain took over and the theme became "roll with it."

Yes, both kids have missed a couple Zoom meetings. Yes, we've been missing worksheets during lessons (which I've had to recreate on the fly). Yes, we're all exhausted and need a weekend to recharge. But the beauty of rolling with it, accepting that "good enough" is the hero in the story of what should be utter chaos and that recognizing how much the teachers, both at school and in their learning pods, are giving to make this work, is seeing the potential of what can be done and recognizing the changes we're long overdue to be made.

For the past 2 weeks, I've been taking a Virtual Trainer course with my coworkers. And what we've been confronting through the absence of in-person instruction is the recognition that many things we thought were working actually weren't working as well as we thought. It has been hard to see curriculum and practices that have been the labor of love for so many literally getting tossed in the waste bin, and I can confess I've had my moments of panic seeing things I thought were done going back into draft mode. But what's been coming out is something that wouldn't have been possible before; seeing the budding of projects and curriculum that was previously dormant.

A year ago, a paper was published about how paradigm shifts occur when star scientists die. The argument made by the authors is that change can't happen when those dominating a field or thought process are still occupying the stage. I for one am going to argue that the pandemic has ushered in a new form of death, shifting so many perceptions about life and how the world functions. The rules that existed for so long, with certain practices being best are in direct contradiction with keeping people safe. Survival means listening to the outsiders in order to find a new way.

I'll confess, I still have my moments. A midnight training on software really didn't go the way I hoped, leaving me in a bit of a panic. Sending Maddy and Teddy to learning pods leaves me with a since of guilt as others talk about how they are making the decision to keep their kids home (I commend them; it's not an option for us). And it's been a week of adjustments for all of us. 

But the beauty of rolling with it, accepting that there isn't a perfect, has allowed for so much good to come about even after 4 days. To hear the kids are better with masks and social distancing than most adults, to be learning new tricks for Zoom from them (they found the emojis for the chat function), and to be able to take what they are doing and incorporating with global training for a biotech company that is on the front-lines of this pandemic and learning that we're actually training better than before, has been something to hold onto. All of it "good enough" instead of "perfect." I'm starting to see the value in that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


I remember the first time I had to tread water while holding a 10 lbs brick. I was 15 years old, enrolled in Lifeguard training, and we were going over all the requirements needed to pass certification. Distance swimming wasn't a problem for me (still isn't) and mastering all the holds, maneuvers, and First Aid was something I knew wasn't going to be a problem. But sitting in the deep end of the pool, looking at the bricks, which were meant to simulate holding a human head,  I remember wondering how in the world I was going to keep my nose above water for more than 10 mins.

Full disclosure, there was a failure in those first few attempts,  including me sinking like a stone after 10 seconds on that first day, but with trial and error I eventually figured out how to kick, position the brick on my body to stay afloat and push through the panic of feeling like you're about to sink. But another thing I learned is how to hold just enough air in my body combined with spreading out my body on the water, allowing me to bob on the surface enough to hold that brick well beyond those 10 minutes.

I've been having flashes of bobbing over the last month as my manager has returned from maternity leave and we're in the thick of trainings. Her first week back was basically someone throwing her into the deep end with cement blocks strapped to her legs as the pandemic has scuddled any in-person trainings, but the demand for virtual trainings is at an all-time high. It's been rocky, with both of us trying to figure out how to navigate everything, especially since she came back to a whole new program that she didn't have much say in building, but I've been surprised that things have been progressing in the direction that I've hoped for. A silver lining in all of this.

But as I've been sitting in professional trainings for me, geared towards eLearning design and delivery, I've witnessed how many have been struggling with this new reality and are finding it difficult to adjust. Part of this comes from a lack of guidance and structure, with no direction from their leadership on how to pivot into the virtual space and making teaching more effective. But there's also been roadblocks in mindset around this adjustment, with the assumption still that online learning is a poor second option compared to in-person training. What few are exploring is why this mindset exists, how it can be adjusted, and whether it's masking something that has actually been limping along and not working terribly well despite these assumptions.

I have so many thoughts on change and how humans see the world. There's been so much of it recently, all sparked by a novel virus that we are still learning about every day. And while it's easy to blame everything on SARS-CoV-2, what people are slowing coming around to is the fact that we were living under a false sense of security that everything was fine and working well. Never mind that racism is very much alive, Rich Asshole syndrome is a huge problem and at the root of many of our societal ills, and we as a global community have our priorities wrong as tax-cuts are pushed to the collapse of community and social issues (*cough*cough* public education *cough*cough*). 

All that without talking about the Elephant-known-as-Trump in the room.

All said and done, though, I have been witnessing people who truly have no other option, learning how to bob. My manager demonstrated this today as we sat through our training together, with the facilitator repeating a lot of the same principles and guidance I've been talking about over the past month. There's still resistance to change and I'm still witnessing old assumptions, but I'm also seeing signs of shifting as the messaging is coming from multiple sources. I've also been seeing this in my community too, with people finally venturing away from the echo chambers, being willing to listen and seeing the value of community. "Us vs. them" is becoming very unpopular.

In short, though I'm exhausted, I'm still somehow afloat while desperately treading water with cement boots. I'm seeing this from others too. May we all continue to bob.

Monday, June 15, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Follow

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

Friday, June 12, 2020

When the blinders come off

I remember the first time I was accused of being racist. I was new to the condo board and Cyrol and I had begun to battle over his treatment of other people. In a rage, after I pointed out that he wasn't being fair about a situation involving the property manager, he responded that I was being racist and not respecting his cultural viewpoint. The goal of throwing out "racist" was simple: it was meant to shut-down the conversation and allow him to win, but at that moment I remember being horrified that a label I found so abhorrent was being applied to me as that was not how I saw myself in the world.

The past few weeks have ripped the blinders off so many, forcing them to confront their privilege and racial viewpoints. The response has been mixed on this front. One camp is hearing the call to begin educating themselves, focusing on listening and approaching the situation with curiosity despite being painfully uncomfortable with the truth. Then there's the other camp, where the focus is on justify their stances, fighting to maintain the labels and self-identification that allowed them a level of comfort in the world. What been interesting about this camp is watching to see how their fear drives them almost to the point of absurdity; maintaining their arguments even when it's clear that doing so is harming others. And that one very easy way to win this argument is to distract, playing a card about victimization or being harmed themselves.

It's no secret that humans struggle to talk about unpleasant truths. Racism definitely falls into that category, but so does gender identity and sexual preference. But this problem is more pervasive than these topics, present in any community where some hold power (social or political). Substitute "racist" with "radical," "judgemental," "sinner," or "oppressor," and you end up with a similar outcome, where those doing the screaming hide behind some moral justification they have for why they are threatening others. What it really is is an exposure of fragility and an awakening that what they hold true is in danger of being proven wrong.

One truth I learned to embrace is that being called "racist" isn't the worst thing that can happen to me. The worst thing that can happen is that I allow my fear of being labeled to prevent me from removing the blinders and finding learning from what's happening around me. True learning involves pain and failure, making mistakes, and stumbling. It means having to apologize for not knowing better and being embarrassed while being corrected. True learning means looking incompetent and weak; feeling like one is failing despite efforts made to do better. It's often an uncomfortable and demoralizing process, especially when the stakes are so high. And yet, not doing this work and leaving the blinders on is far more destructive. I believe that it's generationally hazardous.

On my end, my moments of misstep had good outcomes. With Cyrol, his accusation masked his own racism and bigotry, which ultimately lead to him stalking me for close to 11 years, ending with a judge warning him that his behavior was punishable (he would later be fired from the Seattle Public School District for racist statements inside the classroom). This week, I watched as other rallied around Samantha Francine as she refused to back down while being attacked by an aggressive man during a peaceful protest. And then there's been the outpouring of support for the transgender community on the heel of J.K. Rowling's essay denouncing the transgender community. Despite her claims that she is protecting women from becoming victims, people have been holding her accountable for her words.

My hope is that the good people are seeing will help convince them to keep the blinders off and take risks with learning and growing despite the fear of revealing some uncomfortable truths. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Shut up and listen

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

It's been a week of listening. From conversations with connections inside and outside higher education to reading about anti-racism, a lot of my free time has been processing everything I allowed myself to be blind to. It's been hard to confront, but already rewarding as I've been starting to fit pieces together that previously didn't have places in the puzzle. 

But with all this good, I've been frustrated by side conversations that have been happening about feminism. And though I consider myself a feminist, what has left me angry is listening to those who embody privilege within feminism trying to align their own experience with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

In 2018, Rachel Cargle, a black feminist activist, wrote a piece in Harper Bazaar about toxic white feminism and how it's drowning out the message from anyone outside the white feminist mindset. It's a hard piece, as is this follow up one, but what was striking is that the same thing that happened then is happening now, with co-opting and silencing of the message by those who see themselves in certain lights who are finding themselves challenged and the backlash that follows. Instead of listening, probing deeper, and exploring, the result is to drown out or attack. 

To those who are deviating from the Black Lives Movement message, adding their tangents on feminism, I want to remind you that Amy Cooper considers herself not racist and a liberal feminist. 

Sit with that for a moment. 

This woman, who wore a mask and embodies so much of what we believe feminism should look like, made a false police report on an African American man solely because he asked her to follow the rules and leash her dog. This same woman likely has joined in discussion groups about patriarchy and how suppressed women are, advocating for "leaning-in" and equal rights. 

One of the hardest things about confronting one's own racism as recognizing one's own discomfort and learning to shut up instead of drowning out the conversation. Is patriarchy real? Absolutely. But many who are writing about it at this time aren't risking their lives to do so. They don't give a second thought about whether they will end up dead from raising their voices. And they don't seem willing to understand why diluting the message from this movement is a problem. That white fragility is very real and damaging, adding to the harm those who are risking their lives to speak out face.

It's time to shut up and listen. Suppressing the urge to align your views of life with those who are raising their voices. I can guarantee that doing this listening and reflection is going to make you uncomfortable, making you face your privilege. But the work is long overdue. Remember that Amy Cooper never owned her racist act, choosing instead to hide behind the defense of "not being racist" and playing the victim. Frankly, I don't want to live in a world where this response is seen as okay, because Amy Cooper doesn't represent the type of feminism I want to support. It's time to give the stage to those who do.

Thursday, June 4, 2020


This past week has been filled with uncertainty. Living on the east side of the Bay Area means that we've had a curfew and been on high alert for potential violence and looting. My neighbors, many of whom have lived in suburbia their entire lives, have been experiencing a new level of anxiety as the protests have come into this place they have called home. It's been interesting to watch as being able to leave isn't an option and most have never experienced the reality of that.

On our end, both Grey and I have been conflicted. If Maddy and Teddy weren't here and still so young combined with the pandemic and us not knowing whether we've already been infected by SARS-CoV-2, we would be marching. In the absence of this, we've been donating to organizations that support this movement and making a point to support those in our community who have been harmed. All of it feels minimal, meaning we've decided it's overdue to begin looking outside ourselves and learning more.

Admitting that my thinking is flawed is not something new to me. When it came to parenting, I knew from the beginning that I didn't have a healthy foundation given the abuse I suffered as a child. So from the beginning, I worked to reframe what it meant to be a "parent," actively working against the defaults and instincts and seeking help to restructure how I viewed children, not only my own but others around me. A process of leveling that meant debunking myths and half-truths with data, counterexamples, and information that has led to a healthy mindset. It's not been easy, given that there are 30+ years of programming I've had to mindfully confront and there have been many moments of extreme hatred I've felt towards my parents for not doing this work (another topic for another day). But the work has been important as I knew from the beginning that I couldn't continue the generational practices that were passing on harm. If I wanted things to change, it meant that the work had to start with me.

With this mindset, I've begun to actively explore anti-racism literature and teachings, with the goal not only to learn about also to begin this conversation with Maddy and Teddy. Ibram Kendi has long been someone I've read, but it's time to dive deeper into his essays and to expand to the writings of others. Similarly, we're overdue to find authors to help us with this discussion with Maddy and Teddy. Meaning I have a lot of homework to do.

The final component, though, is Grey and I need to explore our own racism. This means admitting some hard truths about what we were taught by people we love and trust and confronting the messaging we were feed for so long. It's not easy because no one wants to be seen in this light, but I also have experience with being on the other side of privilege and being forced into silence because the message that was harming me made someone who was benefiting uncomfortable. The memory of that trauma and pain is still very real, making it easier to empathize and be open to the realities of the privileges I benefitted from.

So begins the processing of leveling: of bringing to light the message that has been suppressed for too long and silencing those who have dominated the conversation. Of not allowing those who have had privilege to hide behind the myth that they have "earned" it, despite their blindness to the advantages they had to even begin earning. And to begin rebuilding.

It's not going to be easy, but as before doing this work isn't solely about me. That makes it all the more important.

Monday, June 1, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Noise

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

I grew up outside Minneapolis. As a teen, I spent many a weekend or summer day venturing into the city, exploring the Uptown area and Nicollet Ave. I have fond memories of walking around Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis. 

But as much as I loved this region, one thing I knew was odd was the lack of diversity. My high school and neighborhood were primarily white, with only a handful of kids who were African American. This absence of cultural diversity led to an insularity, with the naive assumption that racism was a thing from my parents' generation. It wouldn't be until I left home and began college that I would begin to see how wrong that assumption was. And it wouldn't be until I began working with under-represented populations that I would actually hear the stories first-hand, witness that damage of racism, and learn that the work is far from over.

Over the weekend, one of Grey's coworkers found himself being profiled after he had to evacuate his home due to the violence from the protests. Grey didn't hesitate to give him the day out to recover from the trauma of that experience, but it led us to reflect on the privileges we grew up with and how the teachings of "color-blindness" and "white silence" have exacerbated the problem. Adding to this conversation is that our town is in lockdown due to the violence only a few miles from us with a curfew in place to curb that violence. All the while I'm well aware that no one would bat an eye if I was out solely because of my appearance the color of my skin.

It's hard not to be angry with all of this. I'm worried sick for the people I consider friends who could easily be hurt if they say or do something that is considered "wrong." I have nothing by violent feelings towards the man-child who was elected to lead the U.S. But the thing I'm blind with rage over is that so many are trying to use this movement for their own gain, twisting a message that very much needs to be embraced, which is that no one, no matter their age, skin color, ethnicity, or creed, should fear for their lives simply because they are walking down the street or engaging in daily activities. 

So, despite how unpopular I know I will be, it's time to begin making noise again. It's time to start embracing the message of spreading anti-racism, acknowledging privilege, and focusing on the work needed to be done. It includes holding people like Amy Cooper accountable and making sure that those who murdered George Floyd are brought to justice. And it means being okay with uncomfortable silences. Because one thing is very clear after the pandemic and this recent round of senseless murders: it's time for change.
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