“I should be working…”: Confessions from the cloud

I feel like I spend 99% or my life reminding myself of how much I have to do.  I know.  That can’t be healthy.  I blame it in part on my Jewish mother.  But at the moment, I know for sure that I should be working.

Most immediate are the folders of papers I have to grade, final presentations to attend, and loose ends to tie up with students I am advising.  Next, the family obligations up and down the foodchain.  From ailing older folks to needy wee ones, I’m a slave to others much of the day.  I’m heading out of town at the end of next week to attend my first professional conference in four years, and I want to prepare myself to make the most of my time with professional colleagues, but I also have to get the house and babe ready for my leave of absence.  This will be my first time on my own for more than a few hours at a time since Cora was born 2 1/2 years ago.  I’m excited, but I also feeling guilty.

Finally, there are all the things I want to be doing, like writing about things here.  And so, I should be working, but instead I’m blogging.  But what’s the difference anymore, really. So much of my life is happening in the cloud. So when is work work and when is it something else?  I find this line harder and harder to put my finger on as my home and work life continue to converge.  And I’m not alone, as this week’s stories about Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize for developing self-organized learning environments and Marissa Mayer ending Yahoo’s progressive work from home policy highlighted so well.

In many ways I agree with Mayer.  Sometimes I wish I could leave the house and go to work.  And I’m not talking about down the block at the coffee shop.  I’m talking about in a classroom, in a building, on a campus.  I long to be in the same physical space with my students and colleagues, to be having the kinds of casual conversations and unplanned interactions that happen best, for me, in person.

I do believe that it is possible to have such experiences online.  UFARTED (short for University of Florida Art Education, please don’t laugh) has a very active Facebook group for our program that feels a lot like a student lounge.  It is full of rich content and useful links.  Only, there aren’t any actual people speaking, instead are their comments, the traces of them, staring out at me from the screen.  All the same font.  All the same tone.  No matter how hard I try, it just doesn’t feel the same as face-to-face.

Which is not to say that I don’t value and cherish my job.  I feel appreciated by my students and colleagues, the work is fairly steady (or has been for the first 2+ years.  We’ll see if that remains the case after budget tightening.  Fingers crossed, but breath not held.), and while the pay isn’t great, it could be worse.  My position has allowed me to stay at home with my daughter these first few years as I maintained some sort of a professional life.  I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity at the time I found it.  But I’m torn.  I could always be doing more to make my classes more robust, to help students harness the power of the world of art and ideas that literally comprise our classroom.  But then I could also sit for hours and watch Cora play, clean up after her when she paints the floors of the kitchen with her watercolors, bake fresh bread, talk on the phone to my mom, sister, brother, friend Audrey, work in the garden…  You get the point.  There is a lot of freedom in working from home.  But there’s some fear too.

So, all I’m saying is, that like Debbie Mayer, I kinda agree with Marissa Mayer.  I recognize that Mayer’s speaking from a position of privilege about the joys of working from the office, which in her case includes a customized nursery for her infant (maintained by some high end-help, to be sure). But I’m just not sure that it’s really possible to have it all.

Now, back to work.

Another Teenage Art Project Goes Viral

Thanks to my colleague, Craig Roland, for bringing the story of Rosea Lake and her photograph “Judgments” to my attention.  This is a story much like the one I wrote about a few weeks ago when the Live Toy Story project went viral.  Since she posted it in early January, Lake’s concept-driven piece (which would have been impressive had it been created by a professional artist rather than a high school student), has captured the attention of people around the world.  Including, a British lingerie company that tried to rip it off.

I love this post about Lake’s story. It calls on me to think more about how to integrate the “open web” (I’m not really familiar with this term but I like what it implies) into my teaching and, in turn, how to inspire my students to do the same with their students.  My own blogging is demonstrating to me just how powerful the Internet can be for sharing ideas and feeling as if one’s voice is being heard.  I want my students, and their students, to experience that too.