More About Mindsets

Three times this week, I’ve been asked the same question: Are you going to miss New York? It’s a normal question (since I’ll most likely be back in Atlanta next year), but I’ve had a very difficult time forming a coherent answer on each occasion. Of course I’ll miss my life here – my “job” is being a student, most every restaurant serves food that’s picture worthy, Central Park is three blocks from my door, I can see the sunset over the Hudson River from my apartment window, and on top of everything else, the Klingenstein kool-aid tastes delicious! However, while I revel in all things New York, I’m very anxious to get back into a school environment – back into the “real” world where I can begin to apply what I’ve learned and experienced in meaningful ways. I’m aware that I’m in an interesting place….caught between the theoretical and the practical with very few opportunities to marry the two in authentic ways.

As an example, I spent this morning delving into theories of organizational structures with the Klingenstein crowd during my Leadership of Private Schools class. Then, I hopped on the subway and traveled to my internship site (a private, all-boys, inner-city school in the East Village) where I spent five hours continuing previous conversations about writing (which will hopefully lead to a re-vamping/mapping of the 4th – 8th grade writing curriculum – read: my internship project). From there, I traveled back to Columbia for my Literacies and Technologies class to discuss how literacies can be “new” in two ways, ontologically and in their ethos. It was a crazy day, and I had to shift my mindset a number of times. However, in all of the traveling, shifting, and changing gears, I had a bit of an ah-ha moment.

Karen LaBonte, my Literacies and Technologies professor, challenged me with the idea that it’s the “ethos” stuff that can transform education. According to Lankshear and Knobel:

In addition to being made of different ‘technical’ stuff from conventional literacies, new literacies are also made of what we might call different ‘ethos stuff’ from what we typically associate with conventional literacies. For example, they are often more ‘participatory,’ more ‘collaborative,’ and more ‘distributed,’ as well as less ‘published,’ less ‘individuated,’ and less ‘author-centric’ than conventional literacies…The ‘stuff’ of what we think of as new literacies reflects a different mindset from the stuff of which conventional literacies are largely composed. They involve different kind of social and cultural relations, they flow out of different kinds of priorities and values, and so on.

As I continue to ponder ideas of new vs. conventional literacies, it’s also important for me to wrestle with the idea of “ethos.” How can I do the hard work of creating a highly participatory, very collaborative classroom/school where learning/teaching/leading is distributed? What work can I do now to solidify this “ethos” so that I can clearly communicate my new mindset when I enter into a new school environment?

The first thing I need to do is work to define my mindset (fully knowing that it will shift and change based on my experience and new learning). Lankshear and Knobel provides an interesting place to start (Mindset 1/2), but I know that ideas from Dweck and others in my PLN will help to further challenge me over the next few months. It’s one way I can begin to marry the theory with reality.


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