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Jun 13, 2021

My so-called one-armed life

On Wednesday, I was starting my short pathetic jog with the dog, tripped over nothing, cracked my arm, and sprained both wrists. “Happens a lot,” – reassured the friendly ER nurse. She did not have to say it: her quick, habitual moves to encase my broken arm said it all. The guy who got out of my Uber before I got in had an identical cast on his arm. The universe never fails to remind how not special you are.

It is not the pain; pain is bearable, especially with the very serious drugs for which a pharmacist wants an ID and a little interrogation. It is the host of little indignities that the injury brings along for a house party. For example, it is absolutely impossible to make a ponytail with one hand’ just try it. I even googled it; one brave girl figured it out and shared in YouTube. I could not repeat the maneuver no matter how hard I tried. Or how do you take out the dog if neither of your hands can hold a 100 pounds of muscle with only a small but excitable brain, intrigued by every turkey and squirrel he meets? The answer is – tie the leash to your belt. It works great (minus the neighbors’ looks) until the belt breaks and a dignified bearded gentleman with splinted arms and bad hair has to make it home while also preventing his shorts from falling down.

The opioid gives you very vivid dreams, like in the movies. However, you pay with a tremendous hangover, worse than the $8 vodka in plastic bottle from my youth. The headache is OK for e-mails, but not for writing a book of any value. Dictation works instead of typing, but it actually slower. You must formulate a whole sentence in your mind before writing it down. And say “period” and “comma” all the time. It is not like normal speaking; it is more like writing with your mouth – needs getting used to. I cannot take a pot of soup out of the fridge; instead, I need to take the bowl and the ladle into the fridge and do the whole operation inside.

Of course, human beings get used to anything, anything at all. We learn, find new tricks, invent workarounds, accommodate, assimilate, adapt. That is what we do. I am still thinking of that girl who lost her arm in an accident and had enough compassion for others to record a video on the one-handed ponytail move. I am grateful – to her and to the universe for my inconvenience is just temporary. Let’s think of those who cannot just wait their disability out. If you have any sympathy for me, give it to them instead.

Jun 8, 2021

Relation-Centered Education Network conference

Last weekend and on Monday, I spent some 30 hours on Zoom, attending the first full conference of the relation-centered education network (RCEN). It started out as a conversation. Ann-Louise Ljungblad, a Swedish researcher and I were having lunch in Oslo in May 2019. Both of us were interested in educational relations. It occurred to me that there are hundreds of other people around the world that are interested in the same thing, and we never talk to each other. Very few pleasures in life compare to turning an idea into reality. We all secretly crave creation.

Two years later, here we are, a conference with 47 presentation by people from 18 different countries. When you meet an old friend, there is a way of skipping the chitchat, and going straight to real things that matter, like life, love, and loss. That is how this conference felt to me. There is a tribe out there that is just coming to self-awareness. We all share the assumption that education is more about human relations than about anything else. Sharing basic assumptions improves the quality of conversations.

I was also in awe of the great arch of scholarship made visible. It had philosophers with their power of abstraction, along with a psychometrician discussing the Cronbach’s alpha. The conference included qualitative researchers, an art presentation, and several practitioners talking about their work with youth. At an interdisciplinary conference like this, you can see how concepts turn into stories, stories into studies, studies into practices, practices into measuring instruments, instruments into policies, etc. There is a great comfort in discipline-based scholarly communities. Interdisciplinarity may be annoying for we all have different conventions and standards and conventions. However, it also provides a wider view. The great arch of knowledge is rarely visible; we tend to see out small slice of it. But it does exist.

Scholarship can be much more influential in public discourse and public policy if scholars and practitioners were better organized. For that we need a big common project, like affecting the direction of the great ship called education: from job-worthy skills toward well-being and a meaningful life.

Barbara Stengel called us (approvingly) a ragtag band rather than a proper scholarly society. That’s what we intend to remain for some time.