Monday, 24 March 2014

Day 74: Scheduled

Today was intense! I was scheduled in stuff from 10am - 8pm with a 30 minute break, since I signed up for that extra credit opportunity for Buddhism:

Anyhow, I survived (thank you, coffee!) and still managed to get 3 hours of work done this evening.

What went well? 

  1. Got through the day without running out of steam! Caffeine is a wonderful thing.
  2. Got a blast from the past-type message from people in my Kidsline days. It was really lovely to hear from them.
  3. I felt really engaged during my sociology of education class today. I hadn't been participating as actively in the discussions in the past few weeks, but felt like I had more to contribute today. The discussion was on detracking, and neo-traditional perspectives on the "mediocritization" of the US education system.
  4. Had a good singing lesson - started Bellini's Ah! Non Credea, from La Sonnambula. Also had a nice conversation at the end about no matter how much we (in this generation in particular) want to plan things out and strategise, it's never fully within our control, and once you've done everything you can, then universe kinda a way of making things work out as they're meant to. I think singing teachers are so much more than singing teachers. They are mentors and sources of wisdom about life.

What did I learn? 

  • I would have saved myself SO MANY HOURS OF RESEARCH if I'd actually read about four articles in the special issue of Contemporary Buddhism on "Mindfulness: diverse perspectives on its meaning, origins, and multiple applications at the intersection of science and dharma" more closely (I'd only skimmed them) before I embarked on research. I mean, it's still fine, and useful to read them now, but I freaked out slightly when I realised that one of the articles (Gethin 2011: "On some definitions of mindfulness") had already said a lot of I was going to say, but then I thought about it and I am actually bringing in a bit more context, more tracing through various causal chains & conditions for its popularisation, and taking a more holistic approach, so it's really ok. It's definitely a useful article to point me to some leads to follow up on though.
  • Some academics are actually interested in pedagogy! My sociology of education professor always says that academics are rarely interested in pedagogy/teacher education and look down on it, the assumption being that if you're an expert in your field, ergo, you can teach it. But today at the Future of Theravada Buddhism symposium, a large part of the discussion kept coming back to the idea of how to best teach it - chronologically or thematically - and get the right messages across (like the idea that there is no single "Buddhism", encouraging critical and more complex thinking), and selecting the best materials (books, readings), and teaching for different students. It was very encouraging to see that some academics do care about how to teach! Of course, maybe it's not so surprising that they have this heightened awareness of how their teaching impacts their students' learning, given that they are studying Buddhism after all.
  • In Buddhism today, we heard stories about our professor's experience as a monk. And whoaaaaa, monkhood is so intense. That's an understatement. It's like military boot camp. They strip away your identity - take away your name (you get given a new one), your hair, your eyebrows (they define your face and express emotion), your clothes (then you get redressed with robes that you don't choose either), you follow a rigid schedule, you get given tasks to do, you follow over 200 rules, etc...all this is designed to take away decision-making and will, to help you break down the sense of the Self. And they went on alms rounds - the monks walk through the village with a begging bowl for food, once a day in the morning - where villagers can place food in the bowls. They're not allowed to acknowledge each other. So once you get back, you have to first look at the food for like 45 minutes, to experience what it's like to feel desire (you only eat once a day so you're kinda hungry by then), then you have to mush everything up in the bowl into a paste, and add water, and mush it up more. Mehhhhhhh. It's kinda :O as a Westerner to hear about just how intense actual monkhood (in very traditional Southeast Asian monasteries) would be.
  • According to Brewer et al.'s (pretty old) study, there are winners and losers when it comes to tracking (sorting students based on ability and educating them differently). Students in average & above average tracks do better than if they were not tracked, whereas students in the below-average track do worse. This was to debunk a belief that tracking is just bad for those in the below-average track, but makes no difference for average & above-average students, ergo, detracking is the obvious option. It looks like it's not that simple. Of course, there were a lot of limitations to this study, one of which was that the only outcome variable was scores on a 10th grade math test, and of course, there are many other outcomes that we may care about.

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