Bot

So, I met my first bot the other day.  

Twitter bot, that is.  I suppose it’s safe to say I’ve seen their work (if that’s what it’s called) before, but never directed at me.  It wasn’t a bad experience as that sort of thing goes, and I’m happy to say it actually gave me food for thought.

This is not in any way, shape, or form a political post, but a bit of background is necessary for the bot to make sense.  I almost always shun away from using social media to air my feelings about politics or other topics of the day.  It’s not productive and the replies cause my blood pressure to go up–not a win for me in any fashion.  That said, I said “almost always” which implies there are rare exceptions.

I’m not particularly thrilled about some current national events, so I tweeted a thought that started with, “I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that …” (if you need to see it, I’m @timgels; again, this isn’t a political post).

Within just a few minutes, I had a reply that read, “I fixed your tweet for you: I’m not a lawyer.” 

Okay, that’s cute.

Believe it or not, though, I get it.  Mind you, I still blocked the bot, but I get it.  I’m not a lawyer, but I know they regularly have to put up with people who fly off the cuff and pontificate as if they, too, had passed the Bar exam.  That’s got to be frustrating, so I get it.

However, while I’m not a lawyer, I’m a fairly well read individual who does his best to practice critical thinking, and I don’t think my tweet was too far off the mark.  For what it’s worth, an actual lawyer replied to my tweet, saying, “I think you just passed the Bar.”  

Take that, you bot.

The food for thought I mentioned earlier?  If that bot was a person, I’d reply along the lines of, “Look, I’m a teacher.  Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you they know how to do my job!” And, as with the lawyer who has the technical chops to put together that bot, I sometimes get tired of hearing about it.  When I think about it, though, sometimes critics from outside the field have valid points.  I believe I did, and perhaps they do too.

I can respect the views of others, but now I’ve got a new interest I’m pursuing: I’ve gotta figure out how to make my own bot.

Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes

I’m writing this on an Apple MacBook Air.  I’ve never been an Apple person (honestly, because during the early years I couldn’t afford to go that route and I became comfortable with the other mainstream alternatives), but here I am, stumbling through “command” instead of “control” shortcuts and wondering why the red X to close a window is on the left side of the screen instead of the right.  Why am I on a Mac?  Because “the district” gave me one to use, so I’m learning it through hands-on practice.  Why did the district give me one?  Because I’ve got a new position and I need a laptop to work as I move from school to school.  

Wait a minute.  I’ve got a new position?  I thought I was a third grade teacher!

You’ve heard it said, I’m sure, that one should never pray for patience.  Patience will come, it’s said, but only through experiencing more trials than any person should have to endure.  The last month or so has been like that for me, but instead of patience I’ve gained the ability to handle change.  Change.  

Okay, I’m gaining the ability to handle change.  I’m not quite there, yet, but I’m getting closer.

I’ve taught third grade (before I go any further, I really prefer to say I teach students who are in the third grade, but that sort of gets awkward to both write and read after a while) for 11 years.  It’s all I’ve ever taught, and I fully intended to do so until I retired in another 100 years or so.  As the last school year came to an end, though, two of my co-teachers found themselves making a change within the school.  One was happy with her change, and the other wasn’t, but as I tried to encourage them I found myself thinking that maybe I could also break out of my comfort zone if the opportunity arose.

And then it did.

A STEM coach position within the district was posted.  I applied.  I interviewed.  And just like that, I’m writing on a MacBook instead of my Chromebook.  This is only a temporary position, and I plan to go back into the classroom in a few years, but for now it’s what I do.

Change.  It’s new, but I can do this.  I’m not, by the way, praying for patience.  I’ve got enough going on, thank you very much.

Thinking

Thank you, Betsy Hubbard, for these words in your post announcing this week’s Slice of Life: “There is always something in our mind or on our heart that we can write about.”  This slice is just that: What’s in my mind and heart this day.

When I stop to think about it, the best example of personal growth I’ve seen since committing to writing on a regular basis is my ability to recognize the stories that go on around me all the time.  They’re everywhere, which, I suppose, is the whole idea behind the “Slice of Life” story challenge.  We live it–now we need to write about it and share our stories.

This week has been no exception.  I’ve experienced big stories that practically write themselves: Exploring wood firing kilns with my artist friend, taking my granddaughters (a wealth of stories, they are) to see the dinosaur exhibit at the local botanical garden, and surviving as a bachelor with my wife out of town are all worthy of writing about.  I’ve experienced countless small stories: Helping a friend through a minor crisis, purchasing a trailer through Facebook messenger, and any number of student stories all come to mind.  Okay, buying the trailer sight unseen might be a big story.

None of those, though, are resonating with me this week.  I wish they were…really, I do.  My mind, it seems, is spinning and I can’t get it to slow down (now that I think about it, wrapping up a school year might have something to do with this…).

As I go on, this isn’t a political post, though it has been inspired through the events of the last week.  Please don’t read too deeply, looking for a position on my part.  This isn’t the place for me to share that sort of thing.

I remember when I was a young junior in college.  Young, as in my late thirties (teaching is a second career).  I was floored by being introduced to the concept of critical thinking and critical literacy.  The ideas weren’t new, and I believed I’d always tried to practice both of them (don’t we all?); what was amazing to me is that they were actually things–things that some people did, things that some people didn’t do, and things that needed to be taught.  Objectivity, people, objectivity.

In the nearly 15 years since I’ve had this awareness, I’m regularly blown away by just how difficult it is for most people I encounter (me included, I’m sure) to think and consume information critically.  It’s hard to be objective; it’s hard to see the other side of any story; it’s hard to be empathetic when an opposing view is in your face.

Read the news lately?

Like many teachers, questions are a huge part of my life.  My two favorites, I tell my students, are “Why?”  and “So what?”  I regularly marry those questions with words that gain more and more importance as I continue to grow older.  Attributed to Mary Lou Kownacki and brought to me by Fred (Mr.) Rogers, they are, “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.”

As much as possible, I let those questions and words shape how I see the world around me, how I think and consume information critically.  They help me to stop and understand “the other side.”

May we stop.  May we think.  May we love.  Let it start anew with me.

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Note: Since posting this, I had someone ask me what I was talking about when I mentioned the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  Here’s a link so you can check it out: https://twowritingteachers.org/challenges/