Here's our current model for the #HigherEdReads community. I've been thinking about next steps, and I'd love your feedback.
Here's an idea I've been chewing on lately:
Would you be interested in joining a Mighty Network for #HigherEdReads? If you're an author, would you be open to being interviewed for #HigherEdReads? If you're a reader, would you make time to read those author interviews?
What else would you like to see from #HigherEdReads? How can we make this community more inclusive?
You can reach out to me via comments or DMs on social media, or contact me HERE.
My second job out of college was working in a college access program in Rhode Island. As a college access advisor, I worked in various Rhode Island public high schools, helping my caseload of students gain access to college through things like FAFSA nights, essay writing support, college visits, and a ton of informal counseling and advising.
In my first year, we offered our students workshops around Steven Covey's "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens." The students were pretty game overall, and we made it fun for them. What I didn't realize is how many of the concepts taught in that workshop would stay with me for years...decades even.
Years after I helped run the workshops, I modified one of the lessons for the first year seminar course I was teaching at the community college where I worked. This is a cautionary tale of the lengths that a new teacher will go to in order to engage her students. Do not try this at home.
The habit I was teaching was around putting "first things first," and we used an exercise called "Big Rocks, Little Rocks." Basically, you take a container (I used an empty fish aquarium that I bought for this sole purpose) and you fill it up with a bunch of pebbles (I bought giant bags of the florescent rocks that you line the bottom of aquariums with). You fill the box, bin, aquarium (or whatever) nearly to the brim, and then you take three or four big rocks and place them on top. They, of course, extend past the edges of your container. They don't fit. Hmmm...
Next, you empty out this whole contraption, and this time, you put the BIG ROCKS IN FIRST...can you guess where this is going? You then pour all the little rocks on top, and guess what? It all fits! Ta-da! Magic.
The lesson is, of course, that when we're managing our time, it's important to focus first on our big rocks, or our priorities. The little rocks, or all the other stuff that fills our days and eats away at our time, will always find a way to get done. But if you do this in reverse, if you focus on all the little stuff, and then try to make time for your priorities, it won't work; you won't get to those big rocks because the little ones will have eaten up all your time.
After a few years of scrounging around in my backyard for rocks the night before teaching this lesson (why, Karen, why?) I surrendered. I found this video online that does a decent job of replicating this activity.
I lost some of the "wow" factor, but after years of carrying an aquarium and 20 lbs. of pebbles through the hallways on campus, I was okay with that. While I let go of the complicated parts of this lesson, I held on to the nugget of wisdom: put your big rocks first.
When I started to create my plan for how I'd meet my #HigherEdReads goals, I realized I had a big rocks situation on my hands. I had previously been trying to get my professional reading done after lunch, or later in the afternoon. It wasn't working. I'd either have fires that needed to be put out, or I'd be too tired to get over the motivation hump.
I realized that if professional reading was one of my big rocks, I had to put it first.
I made a small shift in my morning routine, getting up thirty minutes earlier on weekdays, in order to make time for my reading. The first week sucked. The second week started slow. By the end of the second week, the power of the new routine had taken over. Along with a few other important practices, I start my weekdays with fifteen minutes of professional reading. Alexa keeps the time for me, I put my phone out of sight so it's out of mind, and I am consistently able to read several pages, or sometimes even a chapter, in that fifteen minutes of focused time.
The fires still get put out later in the day. Those little rocks will always get their needs met. They're really good at wiggling in to your day. The big rocks don't have that luxury. If we want to get them done, we've got to put them first.
I'd love to know if anyone else has had this experience? Do you routinely put your big rocks first? Is your professional reading one of your big rocks?
I used to think that loving books and loving reading were the same thing.
There's overlap, of course, but I also think these are two, distinct passions. You can love to read and not accumulate books in a personal library that threatens to take over your home. I've found that I have both of these passions, and that I can tell if someone shares them with me if they have book piles. Book pile people are my people. There are few things that soothe me more than a nice pile of books.
As I've embarked on this journey to boost my professional reading through #HigherEdReads, I've noticed that the decision of what to read next, after I finished my first selection, was a turning point for me.
In January, I chose a book that I'd already started reading, but that had gotten away from me: Indistractable by Nir Eyal. It had been sitting on my desk, staring at me, and it covers topics that fascinate me (time management, distraction, attention), so I just went with it.
As I started to near the end of Indistractable, and February was nearly upon us, it was time to choose my next professional read. But what to choose?
I have a bookshelf overflowing with books, piles of books in various places of my house, and now an Amazon wishlist for #HigherEdReads, filled with selections by members of our community. How the heck do I choose just one?
And when choosing one path feels overwhelming, like many people, I start to shut down, a.k.a., experience analysis paralysis.
I was talking to folks online yesterday about the best options for designing your own website. I got lots of great recommendations, but the one that stands out to me was for Google Sites. My new friend said that while you don't have a lot of options in Sites, that can be a good thing, because it helps you to keep it simple, focus on your priorities, and prevents overwhelm. I felt that. Sometimes too many choices can make me feel like I don't want to make any choice at all.
Here's the good news: if I wasn't part of this #HigherEdReads community, that moment of hesitation and overwhelm could have very well shut down my professional reading goals. But because I have some public accountability, and feel some responsibility to this community to keep moving forward with this experiment, I went ahead and just picked a damn book, with the recognition that if it's not the right fit for me, I can just pick another damn book.
Transitions can be hard. They're hard for our students. I think we forget how hard they can be sometimes. People can get lost in transitions. Being accountable to a community can help us make it through to the other side.
I'm curious, how do you select your next professional read when there are so many wonderful books to choose from? How do you handle the transitions between your #HigherEdReads?
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I wouldn't say that I was on vacation because I went to the busiest place on the planet (or what felt like it) during the busiest travel days of the year, but I did take a week off from social media and a few days off from work. It cleared my head a bit, and I'm ready to SLOWLY and STEADILY finish up this semester on a positive note, rather than continuing to try to do one hundred things at once. Note to self: push reset on myself more often.
I thought that today I would do a post on the status of a new endeavor called #higheredreads before I sign off to go watch The Mandalorian with my homebound guys on this gorgeous snow day, our first of the year.
1. Some background
For the past couple of years, I've been posting on social media about wanting to create some sort of reading group. I've had tons of interest every time I post, but time constraints have prevented me from moving it forward. And yet, I keep posting about it because clearly it's something I really want to do, for myself and for our #highered community. I want to do this for myself because I have a big pile of professional reading that I just don't make time for consistently, and some external accountability will give me the structure that I need to stay motivated. I sense I'm not alone in this, and since I love #highered and the people who work in it, I want to help us to have a positive space to connect, learn, and grow.
I posted, yet again, about my desire to do this about a month ago. After tons of people expressed interest, I said, "Oh, what the hell," and decided to just do it.
2. #higheredreads is NOT a book club.
This is going to be a professional reading accountability group. This is not a book club. In a book club, members all read the same book and then meet to discuss it. I think that's great. That said, my sense is that book clubs can be stressful for a lot of us. Personally, I have so many books that I want to read that I don't want someone dictating my reading choices. I also know that while I want to have some structure around my professional reading, I don't want too much structure. Life is so active as it is, and we all have too much stress in our lives. I don't want to be part of something that adds more. If anyone out there wants to start a #highered book club, please, have at it. I think that's a great idea and will probably work well for lots of folks. But #higheredreads will be a bit different.
3. How will it work?
4. What should I read?
5. What else?
What am I missing? If you have any thoughts about this model, or how we can make this even more fun, positive, and supportive, please connect.
I took a vacation this summer. A real one. My first real one in many years. It was amazing. I spent a lot of time with family, and I read great books, mostly fiction. I decided that pretty much my favorite thing to do is to sit outside in the summer, or somewhere cozy in the winter, and read a novel. That's living.
One of the things that I hope to share regularly on this blog is my love of books. I'm thinking that will show up as a "The Last 5 Books I Read" type of post. For now, I'm going to start off by sharing my summer reading.
I'm going to highlight a few of my favorites, but I should mention that I don't finish a book if I'm not enjoying it. I used to, but then I had a kid. Time is too precious, and there are too many books in the world waiting to be read. If it's on this list, that means I liked it enough to finish it.
A Few Favorites
Thanks for reading about reading.
I write about higher education.