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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Adventures in a Pressure Cooker

After 4 contracts and months of consulting prior to my official hire, I am saying goodbye to the Lower Yukon. I have had some wonderful adventures and met many special people. The communities I serve are kind and loving, accepting of new-comers and generous to a fault. I may not agree with educational goals or the value of basketball in the lives of their children, but I share a love for and dedication to their children that runs deep. Hoping to share a few highlights and entertaining stories, this post is in many ways the closing of a beautiful chapter in story of BushSam.

The first thing you need to know about living in the Bush is that travel of any kind is never predictable. Two phrases come to mind: “Hurry up and wait” and “It’s a beautiful day to be weathered in…” Our pilots in Western Alaska are talented and hard working, for sure, but the weather patterns and regulations often put a kink in even the most thoughtfully made plans. I can’t tell you how many times I have overnighted in a school or had to cancel a trip at the last minute with sunny skies overhead. Different airlines have different rules, so sometime the icing on the cake is a plane taking off without you from a different airline or on a different flight plan. It’s not just the planes either. Sometimes you get dropped off and forgotten and have to wait 30 minutes in -30F windy Hooper Bay for a ride, only to be told there is no room on this trip. I look at the positives though: this particular event was a chance for a local man to offer me, a complete stranger, his snow mobile to take to the school. This is the Bush. It may not always happen on your timeline or the way you imagine it, but good things will come your way if you have an open mind and flexible attitude. Sometimes it just pays to bring your bedroll and food for two days no matter what the weather looks like.

Getting out of doors is the key to sanity in the Bush, too, and it often plays into my statements above about the speed at which things happen. Plans are meaningless, but planning is everything. I’m not sure where I heard this, but it describes my success in every aspect of life in the last 4 years living in Western Alaska. Sometimes an invitation to go hunting or fishing includes non-descript language such as “sometime this weekend.” Translation, you should be ready to walk out the door with all your gear in less than ten minutes. Have your weather appropriate outwear ready, your line strung, your ammo packed, and “go-box” sitting by the door. You don’t want to get left behind, after all. Never put off a fuel up until the last minute either, you never know when the gas station might need the pump replaced. I always kept 10 gallons on hand. 

These truths are universal to the Bush, but certain areas have specific needs as well. Life in Mountain Village, for example requires 50-100 gallons of water on hand in my experience. The winters of 2013-2014 had only a few weeks with water flowing throughout the village, after all. Every flush, every glance at dirty dishes in the sink, every splashing bath from a bucket was weighed and valued carefully. Not filling reservoirs when the water was on or when the local spring was flowing meant filth and discomfort later.  Wet wipes come in handy, too, you cannot truly appreciate that “clean baby smell” until you go without a shower for a week.

Someone once told me that living in the Bush is not the time to diet. I think this is good advice to new teachers, but not necessarily as a general statement. I think there is something Thoreau-ish about life here. The pace is slower here. The weather or state of the river ice is always going to be more important than the academic performance of a given classroom. There is a peaceful simplicity to a subsistence-like lifestyle (there really is no such thing as actual subsistence living here). Enjoying pleasures you never have time for in the humdrum western world is what I will miss the most in the coming months. Reading incessantly will become a distant memory. With nothing better to do, I work out daily and for hours on the weekends. Living a clean life is actually quite easy here. There is an appreciation for fresh vegetables unlike anywhere else I have ever visited that is certain. Precious cargo of Full Circle Farms and the totes carried in as luggage from Anchorage are devoured and selectively shared with friends. Avocados and delicate fruits are among the most valuable commodities.  

People who are not from the Bush who have lived in the Bush for some time develop certain oddities. Do not challenge, question, or judge these character traits, they are just doing what they have to do to survive. If a man wants to run the halls of the school at 6:00am barking like a "husky", let him, maybe he just needs the exercise. If a teacher wants to sleep in her classroom because they do not wish to have a roommate, don’t judge, after all, grown-ups shouldn’t be forced to live together. Awkward conversations are par for the course out here, and let's just end it there... There is no doubt in my mind Rural Alaskan districts attract a few strange folks, but it’s part what makes working out here all the more interesting. There are some great stories I just can't share here, of course, but I'd be happy to share over a cold beverage some time if you are interested.

Finding friendship in the Bush is actually quite easy, despite the fact that you may be strange, smelly, and exhausted from work according to my descriptions above. Work in rural schools in a lot like a pressure cooker, bear with me on this analogy. When you want to make soups quickly and/or are using very tough meats, you use a pressure cooker. Intense exterior heat is compounded exponentially by the pressure building inside, forcing rapid changes inside. The hardest carrots and stringiest beef roasts are no match for this combination. The flavors are fused quickly and the ingredients become one in uniform taste. In short you have mixed numerous raw materials into a rich uniform soup in a very short time. This is every year in the average Bush school. You combine the meat and potatoes of traditional values and cultures with outsider veggies hoping the taste is delicious in the end. Curriculum, staffing, children’s behavior, etc are all ingredients of this soup.  Adding the of challenges such as domestic violence and substance abuse can sometimes feel overwhelming, too, but spicing the broth with the sprinkled character of dynamic educators and administrators can bring out the positives. All of this is in the rush of August through May, when ten to twenty-five percent of staff turns over, then you start a new batch of soup again in August. Friendships among teachers here accelerate quickly to deep relationships and often last a lifetime, no matter how short lived the shared experience. People you would have likely never “clicked” with growing up turn out to be some of your best friends. Others you likely could have worked well with normally (assuming the regular occasion of Friday apps and drinks to decompress) become archenemies of sorts…

All in all I love this "pressure cooker" lifestyle and I will miss it. I survived. I thrived. I loved most of it and hated some of it. I wouldn't be me without each and every team member, student, parent, and community member in LYSD. I will forever treasure this experience. I will be sad to go, but happy to start a new life. I have lived in the Bush 7 of the last 9 years or so, so I imagine BushSam will continue on in spirit if not in practice.

Thank you everyone,

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Digital Historiography: Part 2

I left off in my last note with a question. What do you see or what do you think about the way we interact with each other online? Here are my thoughts on the subject.


Clive Thompson "Smarter Than You Think":
Socrates might be pleased. Back when he was alive, twenty-five hundred years ago, society had begun shifting gradually from an oral mode to a written one. For Socrates, the advent of writing was dangerous. He worried that text was too inert: once you wrote something down, that text couldn’t adapt to its audience. People would read your book and think of a problem in your argument or want clarifications of your points, but they’d be out of luck. For Socrates, this was deadly to the quality of thought, because in the Greek intellectual tradition, knowledge was formed in the cut and thrust of debate.
I work in print journalism, and now in print books, because the “typographical fixity” of paper—to use Elizabeth Eisenstein’s lovely phrase—is a superb tool for focusing the mind. Constraints can impose creativity and rigor. When I have only six hundred words in a magazine column to make my point, I’m forced to make decisions about what I’m willing to commit to print.

Why write this in a blog then? Wouldn't I write more prolific, poetic, grammatically sound prose if printed in physical media? Maybe, but no one would read it and I would not journal my thoughts as regularly, not to mention the massive amount of trouble required to publish. I like the idea of regular people sharing their hopes and fears. Our perspectives are all so different and enlightening. I am in no way comparing myself when I say this, but I wonder what could have been shared if the great minds of Humanity had shared via social media... silly, right? 

Is it that silly to contemplate what Martin Luther might have blogged about or Martin Luther King's potential photos on Instagram look like? I encourage students of all ages to share their voices positively and respectfully online. The next Socrates may be poised to "cut and thrust" in the digital world, but fear of audience or longevity of text online may hinder them. I think it better to share, change, revise, and reflect on the past rather than bottle our thoughts. Don't fear permanence, embrace it. Your story can only be told by you.

"If a story is in you, it has got to come out." (Faulkner)

Social Physics

Alex Pentland “Social Physics”:

Idea flow is the spreading of ideas, whether by example or story, through a social network—be it a company, a family, or a city. This flow of ideas is key to the development of traditions, and ultimately of culture. It facilitates the transfer of habits and customs from person to person and from generation to generation. Further, being part of this flow of ideas allows people to learn new behaviors, without the dangers or risks of individual experimentation, and to acquire large integrated patterns of behavior, without having to form them gradually by laborious experimentation.

Telling your story is incredibly entertaining once you really get into it. Think about backyard BBQs with a few cold beverages and close friends. Can you imagine all the wonderful stories and ideas shared there simply disappearing forever? To me it's more than entertainment, though. Perhaps there is a way to learn hiding in wait or an opportunity to expand our understanding by sharing and consuming information alike. I love to bounce ideas off of my family and friends, organize a defense of my position, and be challenged as a group on a particular topic. By sharing on the web, though, we can escape the echo chamber of our immediate social groups. We tend to surround ourselves with similarly minded individuals who often reflect own values. These echoes around us refine our opinions, narrowing our focus. Studies show that passive exposure, perhaps to blogging, tweets, or posts, can effect our habits more than direct interactions with others. We become less tolerant and less empathetic to others without the give and take of broader discourse.

History is Made of Stories

How does this all tie together: cyberspace, cloud storage, social media, and history? It's not a question we can answer now, of course, but one we can and should speculate on. Today's textbooks are based on commonly agreed upon historical events, though you would likely be surprised at the inaccuracies therein. James Loewan's Lies My Teacher Told Me will both shock you and disgust you, I highly recommend the read... The point is not the weakness of text, but the weakness of humanity in not providing more input. If the victor of every battle is allowed to rewrite history then we portray atrocities such as Manifest Destiny, the Aleut Evacuation, or the Inquisition in a less than negative light. The stories of Malala Yousafzai, the civil war bloggers in Libya, Sudan, Nigeria, and Mali, and ISIS commentators in the Middle East will be cited in the history of the next decade. The writers of these blogs will become Nobel Laureates, government officials, and perhaps world leaders! My local paper doesn't even publish stories in my favorite section of the website, just a blog from freelance writers. My, how the world of journalism has changed... and I love it. More than 20% of Americans get their news online, like political blogs, not TV. Even when I do watch TV, I prefer Jon Stewart to CNN...


ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: via medieval Latin from Greek historiographia, from historia ‘narrative, history’ + graphia ‘writing.’

The more we write, the more sources. The more sources, the more accurate the next generation's opinions and perspectives can become. This balance cannot be achieved without the input of all factions in a debate or conflict, however. The Pedagogy of the Oppressed depends on the availability of knowledge, access to outlets such as the media (or social media) and the internet. Only through literacy and connections to the the greater collective we can engage and empower the less fortunate. 

Write, journal, share... I'll read it, "like" it, "pin it," "plus one" it, or whatever else you prefer... After your post, I encourage you to read another. Who knows maybe we'll both learn something. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Digital Historiography: Part 1

Throughout humanity our species has adapted to its environment and attempted to better our interactions with it. We increase productivity, decrease labor requirements, and capitalize on the efficiencies of consumption. The yin and yang of our modern existence is held in balance by our self-reflection and philosophical dogmas regarding our role in the universe. The collective of humanity will grow and change, that is certain, but are we bound as individuals to follow? I say no. No, I do not want to depend on the internet. I refuse to teach my children to use calculators instead of mathematics. My computer will always be a place for storage and meant to increase my productivity, not a place to live vicariously in a virtual world devoid of morality functioning on alternate social rules and lacking humanity. 

Digitizing Our Collective Histories

It's not just the virtual existence that I fear, but it's effects on the real world as well. My memory is terrible. I try to train my mind as I train my body: rigorous exercise and avoidance of lethargy. Instead of mindless television I read, and when I want to game, I often play Lumosity or Nat Geo games. My forgetfulness is not unique, though. I see it in my generation and I see it in children. We cannot remember phone numbers (I have certainly shed a tear or two over a lost phone's contacts), keep up with schedule without numerous reminder apps and calendars, or birthdays without Facebook... Your memory isn't on trial here, though. After all with free online storage, cloud contacts, web calendaring, and thousands of other web-based utilities you don't need to... right? The information out there is out there permanently, though, and potentially shared with any/everyone. You can never get it back. As I tell students, never share anything you wouldn't want your mother to see (good Lord, would that shut down Snapchat in a heartbeat). I know calendar events aren't so important, but emails certainly are. I read every email 2-3 times and often have a colleague read the important ones prior to hitting send. I double check every Facebook photo's permissions after posting and carefully manage visibility and groups, but does this really matter? I think not. Think about the security breaches we hear about far too often on the nightly news. We put our faith in the IT good guys and pray they know more than the bad guys and that they will protect our social security numbers at risk on dozens of databases worldwide. I am not afraid though, it is the price we pay for being a part of it all; a part of the collective. There are benefits to the model after all. For example: I don't often delete email. This gives me the ability to search my sent and received folders in gmail for names, numbers, important messages, etc. Why not turn your inbox into a repository of searchable fields; Google does it. Google actually encourages it! If you don't believe me just take a peek at the banner adds on your inbox. Where else would they get that suggestion for a hotel in Cozumel... certainly not from reading your email to a friend about considering a trip to Mexico this spring... Don't sweat it, there's nothing you can do to stop it. Instead, shift your mindset to focus on the positives that come with the system.

More than databases and email, we insist on overloading every microchip in every device and perpetuating the backups of every minutia of detail for fear of... of... what? Think of the device you are reading this on right now. What is the oldest file you have? I have all of my assignments from undergrad classes back to 2001! "Why," my wife always asks, "would you ever want all that junk?" Believe it or not, I enjoy reading writing samples from my 2001 self. I see nuances of change in writing style and political opinions. I have come a long way and seen much more of the world I could ever have imagined in that small Louisiana town before 9/11, before Alaska, before life... The key is how I use the information. I reteach myself things I forgot about education, history, and sociology from those old essays. I refine my ethics and values through reflection on changes I make, updating them over the years. Every computer I have ever owned for work and pleasure is living on the solid state drive above which my fingers tap. This is an interesting observation and one the ancients would have considered Earth-shattering. I can cross-reference, search, and aggregate my entire adult life with a few simple clicks! This power is at my fingertips every second of the day... and it pails in comparison to the information on the internet. I feel smarter already.

historiography |hiˌstôrēˈägrəfē, -ˌstär-|
the study of historical writing.
• the writing of history.

So what we write, then, becomes part of our collective history. The process of filling up our Dropboxes, Drives, email inboxes, and iClouds is our input to the collective library of human ingenuity. Assuming someone could filter out all the garbage, we'd have a pretty interesting database to sift through. Some express a danger in the amount of information essentially making the use of the internet impossible. I don't buy it. I see a challenge while Google sees a profit. Governments see data and hackers drool at the possibilities (I think I'm more afraid of the former). What do you see? 

Friday, February 13, 2015

New Literacies: Smarter than you think

It's no secret I love to read and that my interests often surround technology and anthropology... surprisingly similar topics. I enjoy finding similarities between the old world and new, gizmos of the ancients and computers, innovations of any era. The world is changing quickly, so quickly in fact that I believe Moore's Law is no longer valid. Often the changes we see are not as easy to quantify, though. As an educator, I think there are also deficiencies in the acquisition of knowledge on the average. The idea that doing math in your head is faster than the calculator app on your iPhone is an example of negative changes we are observing which I believe to be detrimental to our society as a whole.

Making judgments on the effectiveness of a tool is not always as easy as we may think. Working and living in the Bush for nearly 10 years has taught me that sometimes the simplest innovations are the most effective and the fanciest newfangled device could cost you time, effort, and health. If you don't believe me, try ice fishing 50 miles from home with an ATV or snowgo with no pull starter. Creating rubrics to measure the utility of a tool is critical to our lives in the Bush or in the city. Mistakes like trusting in a battery powered GPS in the wilds of Alaska can cost you your life.

The interesting thing about Bush Alaska and comparing/blending old technology with new is how similar the efforts really are. I read the book Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson this past year. Mr. Thompson makes several great points in his book, but one I found particularly interesting was the comparison of the printing press and the internet. We find ourselves wondering how to teach youth with Google at their fingertips to answer any question they have and computers to do the heavy lifting of thinking for them. The internet is open and subjective in nature, though. It is built on the content of the masses with a framework of openness and equality. How do we go about picking and choosing what information to grant "academic credibility" to?

This is not a new problem, though, as Thompson articulates:  
The other thing that makes me optimistic about our cognitive future is how much it resembles our cognitive past. In the sixteenth century, humanity faced a printed-paper wave of information overload—with the explosion of books that began with the codex and went into overdrive with Gutenberg’s movable type. As the historian Ann Blair notes, scholars were alarmed: How would they be able to keep on top of the flood of human expression? Who would separate the junk from what was worth keeping? The mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz bemoaned “that horrible mass of books which keeps on growing,” which would doom the quality writers to “the danger of general oblivion” and produce “a return to barbarism.” Thankfully, he was wrong. Scholars quickly set about organizing the new mental environment by clipping their favorite passages from books and assembling them into huge tomes—florilegia, bouquets of text—so that readers could sample the best parts. They were basically blogging, going through some of the same arguments modern bloggers go through. (Is it enough to clip a passage, or do you also have to verify that what the author wrote was true? It was debated back then, as it is today.) The past turns out to be oddly reassuring, because a pattern emerges. Each time we’re faced with bewildering new thinking tools, we panic—then quickly set about deducing how they can be used to help us work, meditate, and create.

Thompson points out the faults of books in so many areas, faults that students in thousands of classrooms across the globe also lament, I am sure. I have talked for years and years about the power of iBooks and digital publishing tools. I cannot imagine a world where I could not search keywords in text or click through links of digital text. The simplest features of modern texts, though, were not available in early printed literature. Tables of content and appendices, much less copyrights, were never even a consideration in the early days. This is strikingly similar to the concept of the world wide web. There is a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, but we have no way of finding it, sorting it, or judging it. There is no table of contents for the internet. There are often no references to primary sources in blogs. "It took decades—centuries, even—for the book to be redesigned into a more flexible cognitive tool, as suitable for quick reference as it is for deep reading. This is the same path we’ll need to tread with our digital tools. It’s why we need to understand not just the new abilities our tools give us today, but where they’re still deficient and how they ought to improve." (Thompson) The internet is only a few decades old, hopefully we won't have to wait centuries...

There is hope and educators across the globe have recognized "new literacies" or "digital literacies." Reading credible sources, judging reliability of sources, and not simply copy/paste regurgitation of text are a few cornerstone skills. Reading, assimilating, and understanding, though, are only part of the process of learning, as any educator will tell you. Writing, expressing, and sharing information is critical to the process. Teaching something is the best way to master the subject; every kid figures that out in the first grade when they tie their buddy's shoes. In the 21st Century there are simply too many outlets for expression. The constraints of each are different and the expectations of each are different. One hundred and forty character tweets are certainly different than professional writing samples, though not so different that a text message via cell phone. The audience, the application, and the medium dictates the style, depth, and content of each. Blogging, for example, forces me to write down my arguments and assumptions with clarity and in proper form. It's different than a passing conversation about the topics you will find here, it is a concerted effort to stay on topic and be concise. Writing our thoughts forces us to listen to our own words and judge them as another would. This is the single biggest reason to do it. You have a lot of opinions. I have a lot of opinions.  I’m sure some of them you hold strongly, as do I. I don't always have the time, but I try to read the thoughts of others and I appreciate you reading mine. The interesting thing I observe in my experience blogging, which is the the basis of this conversation, is that my opinion usually becomes more complex when I post it for the entire world wide web to see. I become more skeptical of my own views and seek to defend myself more than I do in conversation. Think about all the conversations you have had with a racist, a bigot, or a "Debbie-downer." How would they articulate their thoughts if forced to post it to the web? Would they feel ashamed at their thoughts, their grammar, their language/vocabulary? 

Here is another excellent excerpt from Smarter Than You Think:
Stanford University English professor Andrea Lunsford is one of America’s leading researchers into how young people write. If you’re worried that college students today can’t write as well as in the past, her work will ease your mind. For example, she tracked down studies of how often first-year college students made grammatical errors in freshman composition essays, going back nearly a century. She found that their error rate has barely risen at all. More astonishingly, today’s freshman-comp essays are over six times longer than they were back then, and also generally more complex. “Student essayists of the early twentieth century often wrote essays on set topics like ‘spring flowers,’” Lunsford tells me, “while those in the 1980s most often wrote personal experience narratives. Today’s students are much more likely to write essays that present an argument, often with evidence to back them up”—a much more challenging task. And as for all those benighted texting short forms, like LOL, that have supposedly metastasized in young people’s formal writing? Mostly nonexistent. “Our findings do not support such fears,” Lunsford wrote in a paper describing her research, adding, “In fact, we found almost no instances of IM terms.” Other studies have generally backed up Lunsford’s observations: one analyzed 1.5 million words from instant messages by teens and found that even there, only 3 percent of the words used were IM-style short forms. (And while spelling and capitalization could be erratic, not all was awry; for example, youth substituted “u” for “you” only 8.6 percent of the time they wrote the word.) Others have found that kids who message a lot appear to have have slightly better spelling and literacy abilities than those who don’t. At worst, messaging—with its half-textual, half-verbal qualities—might be reinforcing a preexisting social trend toward people writing more casually in otherwise formal situations, like school essays or the workplace.

As an educator I have taught in the Bush for nearly ten years. We are blessed with a wealth of technology in the wilds of Alaska and to that end I have faced a number of unique challenges concerning literacy. I have struggled with learners reading at a 3rd grade level in the 8th grade, ELL (English language learners) students, and generally low performers. There is another type of literacy these students need to master, though no more or less important. That is digital literacy. “I think we are in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we have not seen since Greek civilization,” says Stanford University English Professor Andrea Lunsford

As a social studies teacher, I often found my classroom split on social and political issues. The healthy discussions generated in my classroom was engaging and powerful, shaping my own perspectives as much as my students. The spirit of debate, of rhetoric, of healthy argument, built us all up and educated us all in ways the text could never have done. It is possible that the internet could be this for the next generation. The danger, as Jared Lanier (I blogged about his views some time ago) describes it, is in the manner in which the discourse occurs. We must create systems that encourage positivity and safety online. We must encourage digital citizenship, respect each other’s differences, honor the authorship, work, and insights of others, and police ourselves to combat cyberbullying. This is the work of the new digital educator. This is our new, digital literacy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"Busy" is not an appropriate answer

How are you? Busy. How's it going? Busy. What's up? Busy

Is it me or is this more and more the answer you get when you ask a friend about their day, their life, or... well, anything? Even worse: are you like me and find yourself telling others "busy" when asked pretty much anything lately? 

I react to events immediately. Telling users when they lose connectivity at a site, not the other way around, lights my fire. I strive to be the best at what I do and hate getting caught goofing off! I never want to be seen as anything but the hardest worker on the team; maybe not the smartest, maybe not the most talented, but the most dedicated. I have worked hard to get where I am today and work harder still to be prepared for the next opportunity. I always try to give my 110%...

When is enough enough though? Am I working so hard just to do that: work hard? What's the end game, the outcome, the achievable goal? What matters to me and when will I succeed if I follow the right steps? Where does family come into play and how is my work/life balance? Have I celebrated my successes today, this week, or even this year?! 

"A high performer knows when to turn it up. When their number is called, they give everything they have. They don't buy into the illusion of 110%. They know that 110% is unsustainable. Instead they focus on increasing their capacity so that their 100% is better than the competition's 110%.

A workaholic thinks "turn down for what?" They hustle, grind, and go H.A.M. all of the time. They have difficulty prioritizing what's important, therefore, everything is important in their mind."

See where you stand after reading Julian Gordon's High Performers vs Workaholics.

The Buck Stops Here

I am the boss, though. I need to lead by example. It's my duty to work all night in a school hanging 3 SMARTBoards and then show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to a teacher's classroom to smile and nod about how slow the internet is. It's my job. Am I content at the end of the day to go home after attending 3 hours of meetings and endless chats about personal electronics, yet only accomplishing an hour or two of actual work? How many weeks do I put off programming the switch to link the main building with the maintenance garage, all while devoting massive amounts of time to developing strategies to video intramural sports or email others to plan to do so? The problem is that maybe the invitation to meetings and committees, at work or voluntary, is more of a boost to the ego than I'd like to admit. I feel important and, to a certain degree, pompous. As a society we are obsessed with resumes, skills, and self-worth. Achieve, achieve, achieve.

Getting things done in a hurry is often more important than getting them done right! 

We are surrounded by fast food, MVP security lines in the airport, and express lanes in the grocery store. I remember my dad leaving carts full of groceries in line because the line was too long. We'd shop somewhere else, he'd say, and he was right: in the dog-eat-dog world of American capitalism time is money. I was brought up with a strong emphasis on "hustle," diligence in all things, work ethic, and enterprise. These ideas shaped me, molded me, into the man who never dared let a coworker arrive earlier or stay later, produce greater numbers, or deliver a better presentation.

My problem isn't ambition, determination, or dedication, though. The devil is in the details. Making time to do real, meaningful, efficient work is the key. By allowing myself to take on requests from colleagues I build relationships and form bonds. I take and take and take, but fail to delegate. Eventually there is a point where I cannot accomplish what is defined as my job in a given day due to the number of "busy" activities accepted from others. Seconds lead to minutes, minutes to hours, and the next thing I know I am imaging computers at 3:00am instead of snoozing in the library of the local school. Without a trading of duties or delegation, the "yes man" model is unsustainable. As a manager this also means you must take on duties from employees who fail to complete tasks, doubling the workload as you juggle your own assignments, directives, and deadlines.

Diagnosing Real Workaholism

So how do you know if you are really in trouble or just buckling down temporarily? I moved to the Bush from Anchorage and thought I'd just get my nose to the grindstone for a while and focus on work. I devoted my energy, my life, to the job and thought I would see fruits of my labor in no time. I traveled extensively, visited tirelessly with teachers, and concentrated on impacting student learning like never before. When was that again? Oh, right, 4 years ago... The trouble is we don't always realize what is happening around us and to us without taking a step back every once in a while. The following is an excerpt form a favorite blogger of mine who describes a...

...seven-question test called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale (BWAS), modeled on diagnostic tests already used for traditional addictions.
If you have to admit that at least four of these statements sounds like you "often" or "always," the researchers suggest you might want to stop laughing about your overwork and consider intervention.
  1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, or depression.
  4. You have been told by others to cut down on work but you don't listen.
  5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  6. You de-prioritize hobbies, leisure activities, or exercise because of your work.
  7. You work so much that it has negatively affected your health.

**From The 7 Signs of Workaholism, by Jessica Stillman

Hello, my name is Sam and I am a busyness addict.
Step 2 - change.