Thursday, 6 March 2014

Day 56: Guest speakers are great

What went well? 
  1. Had a guest speaker in for Contemplative Sciences today, Dr Trish Broderick who designed the Learning to Breathe mindfulness curriculum for adolescents. Her insights into both the theory and the practicalities of implementing it were so valuable. It was the best class we've had so far for the course. I also got her to sign my book (manual) :P. Needless to say, I'm a fan of her work and look forward to seeing more research come out on this (there are a few published and a lot of ongoing research projects). This reminded me of something else Professor Duckworth mentioned yesterday in the guest lecture in positive psychology. One thing about being at Penn is that you get to hear from the experts themselves, rather than just a third-person summary of someone else's research. It's far more enlightening and nuanced this way.
  2. Got a message from a friend wishing me a lovely spring break. I really appreciated it :)
  3. I feel like I'm learning lots from research assisting. I've just started sorting through and organising a whole bunch of correspondence, noting details, questions, follow-up etc. relating to a measure of well-being that the post-doc I'm assisting has developed. It sounds mundane at a surface level, but the correspondence is actually really insightful. It reveals a lot about people's thought processes, what real-life research looks like, conflicts and good practices in research, what kind of information you should provide to people, and future directions.

What did I learn? 

  • Research in schools is MESSY. Trish Broderick was telling us about the difficulties of 1. getting into schools and 2. getting the data in a non-messed-up way. Really useful to know because I really do want to research SEL programs in schools, so it's good to have a realistic perspective of what to expect.
  • When getting school buy-in, it's really helpful to have something solid you can show them, like a physical curriculum/manual. Also, a lot of it is about understanding the school's culture and needs, and cultivating relationships to facilitate this.

Miscellaneous thoughts 

This is kinda from yesterday's Fellow's night, but also in general. Something that I've noticed is that professors, when asked how they ended up doing what they're doing now (at least 3-4 of them, anyway), seem to not really have a coherent "story" for how they got here. As in, they didn't seem to plan on it, it just kinda happened as a result of a series of events. This seems to be very different from the seemingly highly strategic approach that aspiring academics now take. Or maybe we're just kidding ourselves and the strategising and planning probably won't get us to where we think we'll be? Should millenials just drop the planning and go with the flow? It seems unlikely that that's a great idea that would actually work now, at least for academia.

Some thoughts on singing. I think it really teaches you a lot of things that are applicable to life in general.

For example, today I practiced after not practicing for two days, and eeeek it was not pretty or fun for the first 50 minutes, because the voice just needs a lot more encouragement after it's been asleep for even a couple of days. Despite having practiced every day last week. Anyway, I thought this was a nice illustration of the concept of karma. Karma isn't some mysterious spiritual force; it's just a natural law that certain actions will produce certain results. So, let's use singing as a simplistic example: lack of practice → sound like crap. However, this isn't a permanent state of affairs - it starts sounding less crap as soon as you start working at it again. So singing is an empowering practice in a sense, because you know that just as lack of practice → sound crap/not fun, practicing → sound good/singing is fun! 

Singing also illustrates impermanence, as well as the need to push through slumps and persevere. Some days (<5%) you're in really good voice, other times it's just good, average or even not that great. So singing is a lot about pushing through and learning how to sing through the average and below-average days, figuring out what you can do with the circumstances. It's not always fun! #grit

Thirdly, singing can help you get used to the feeling of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. That's something I'm trying to work on in singing and in life. But specifically, in singing, I'm exploring the full potential of my voice, as well as trying to add some stylistic features like operatic portamentos that feel a little weird/unnatural at the moment, like, "I'm not sure if I'm doing this right!" But hey, it's all about trying it out and giving it a go!

Finally, you can use your strengths to scaffold your progress in singing, as in life. For example, it's good practice to start with a "voice-setting song", a song that when you sing, just places your voice in the right position because it fits your voice so well and you've sung it with good technique so many times. This can help with subsequent songs. Can you think of an example of how you could use a pre-existing strength to help you meet another challenge/develop another quality?

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