Timothy J. Bartik
W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research
Early Childhood Investment Corporation, Diversity Specialist
I am an admitted National Public Radio (NPR) junkie. I commute many hours every week and appreciate the thoughtful, in-depth, creative and quirky programming that is offered. One of programs that has truly moved me is produced by Story Corps. Story Corps is an independent organization whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.
I spent the first part of this week in Chicago attending the Build Initiative annual convening. The Build Initiative is a learning community of eight states, all of whom are actively engaged in early childhood system building. As you might imagine, there is no one way to build an early childhood system. Our diversity makes for some interesting conversations and presents lots of opportunity to question one’s approach or presumed “best practice.”
I don’t know about you, but I have loved “back to school” for as long as I can remember. There is nothing I looked forward to more than picking out new school supplies…the notebooks, unsharpened pencils, and most especially the 64 Crayola crayons. Looking at those 64 new crayons always made my heart beat a little faster, knowing that I could color the worlds I saw, and imagined, making beauty from a blank piece of paper.
Every Friday when I sit down to write this blog, I feel myself working hard to brush away all the clutter of the week. You know…the meetings, the conference calls, the deadlines, the worries, and my reactions to all of the above – to try to get down the essence of what matters.
Last Thursday family and friends celebrated my grandson’s first birthday. We were three generations, united by marriage and divided by divorce. We were in our twenties, our forties, our fifties and our sixties. Each of us has played a part in shepherding one precious being’s first year of life. And there we all were to admire him, in his toddling, smiling, babbling, glorious cake eating frenzy! His loving, friendly, curious, little scientist self is a reflection of our care for him and his mama over this year of great transformation.
I hope it does not age me too much if I tell you that a line of prose from Khalil Gibran has been on my mind for the last couple of days. I don’t see or hear too much about his work anymore but in the late 1970’s (there is the aging me part) and 1980’s his work was extremely popular, especially among young women wantabe poets. (Guess who?)
I have been trying to feel rather than think my way into a more effective way to work with paradox.
My thinking (rather than feeling) on this got started in a conversation with leaders from other states regarding a paper Charlie Bruner (of the Build Initiative) was writing on the paradoxes of system building. As soon as the title of the paper was shared it prompted one of those moments where suddenly something that I didn’t even know was fundamental to my work, was revealed, in one quick instant.
It’s been another one of those weeks where before I knew it, it’s whizzed by and I have barely had a moment to reflect on what I actually accomplished this week. Some weeks when I reflect, I really have to work at staying positive, telling myself yet again that change comes from that series of daily baby steps, hardly ever one big giant leap. I sometimes think I need new glasses, with much higher magnification, to see the size of the step we have been able to take in a week.
The ALIA Institute ended a week ago today and I am still pondering and stirring all that I heard, saw, felt, experienced, and learned while I was there. It feels a bit like when one pans for gold; a meditative, swirling, refining process that slowly, slowly reveals the gold nuggets. If I go too fast, I might actually miss the real gold and if I stop too soon, I might be satisfied with the fool’s gold. So as I step through the daily activities of my work, practicing mindfulness in my choices and interactions, I am noticing what is ri
Halifax, Friday, 2:00pm
Today is the last day of the ALIA Institute and as with all such endings, I am noticing the variety of feelings that I am experiencing as we complete our final module sections and move toward the closing session and evening banquet.