Processing, 28 January 2016

It’s been a busy (and sometimes difficult) month. Swim meets, band concerts, family visits, emotional meltdowns, and school holidays. I’ve been struggling to get back into a routine with this project. I’m hoping that processing my ideas will help. The following ideas come from my green writing notebook.

On Being Stuck

I’m trying to revise/revisit my statement of teaching philosophy. I have the start of a good draft but now I’m stuck. I’ve taken lots of notes (10+ pages), but I can’t quite figure out how to write this document. The only other time that I’ve felt this stuck in my book project, like I was writing in circles, jotting down the same ideas over and over again, was when I was writing about the point of being a professor. I guess I’m experiencing some resistance to taking on this role again. Or apprehension? Am I still a teacher? What do have to offer? What can remember about my time in the classroom? After all, it’s been 4 years since I formally taught.

The idea of being stuck, being unable to know or write, is not a failure of willpower. It can signal resistance to ideas that make us uncomfortable or that haunt us. Ideas that, if taken seriously, can transform how we understand and act in the world. In my own version of feminist/queer pedagogy, these moments of being stuck are valuable and a big part of my classes involved creating space for them and finding ways to work with and through them.

Yesterday, while trying to work through my “stuckness,” I composed a list: How to Get Unstuck, some suggestions. I think I want to add to the list with something about embracing stuckness?

21st Century Skills

What skills do students need for the 21st century? In my green notebook, on page 97, I mention how I need to discuss 21st century skills in my teaching philosophy statement. On a practical level, you need to know how to: navigate the internet, use a blog, code a little, tweet, look stuff up. On a more conceptual level, you need to learn how to: experiment, explore, find things yourself, sift through a ton of conflicting perspectives, manage and harness your curiosity in effective and ethical ways. These are digital literacy skills. I think that the Academy could help students a lot, but IFF (if and only if) how/what/why they teach is transformed. I should say more about this idea and how it was one of the reasons that I left higher education.

The Troubling Hour

At the beginning of January I wrote Early Morning Encounters on my TROUBLE blog. In the midst of writing it, I realized that I was creating another category/concept to use in my pedagogy: the troubling hour. A time and space that you inhabit on a regular basis to reflect, critique and be curious.

For the past year or so, I’ve gotten in the habit of getting up at 6:15 AM, before anyone else in my house is awake. I make my extra strong coffee and sit on the couch, scrolling through my facebook and twitter feeds. Usually I’m looking for something that sparks my curiosity and inspires me to get into a critically reflective (troubling/troubled) space.

Sara Puotinen

Shifting Strategies and Techniques

While looking through past assignments, I decided that it might be interesting to trace my shifts in strategies and techniques, like how my “critical response” assignments changed from a notebook to direct engagement blog posts. Paying attention to these shifts might enable me to trace my undisciplined teaching path, just like I traced my unofficial student life?

Processing, 14 January 2016

It’s 2016. Coming back from winter break has been a bit challenging. Getting back into the flow of planning and writing. Adjusting to the ridiculously cold weather. Coping with a child who is staging a powerful display of resistance (physically and emotionally) to going to school. Even with these challenges, I’ve managed to continue working on my book project. Here are some of my thoughts.


From the start, I’ve been jotting down lists in my green notebook and I always envisioned that I would include them in this project in some way. Over the past week, I’ve realized that they could be central to my format. Yesterday I spent more time adding resources to the “list” category on my Undisciplined Stories page and posted a list on my Trouble blog. And this morning I read and thought about how lists work and why we create them (Umberto Eco’s ideas are particularly compelling).

In the midst of this thinking, I made some connections between lists and the syllabus:

  • the etymology of syllabus is Late Latin syllabus or…”list”
  • syllabi include many different lists: reading lists, assignment lists, expectation lists, rules lists
  • both the syllabus and lists in general are designed to create order out of chaos, to give us focus and create boundaries and direction
  • both the syllabus and lists function as a sort of “account”…and giving an account is one of my purposes in this project

How do I want to format my lists? How pithy should they be? What is the point of lists? With this last question, I’m thinking about different types of lists and their origins: treatises/manifestos, to-do lists, top ten lists, how-to lists, etc.  Random thought/question: If lists create order out of chaos, do questions create chaos out of order? I see both of these things (lists and questions) as central to my pedagogy and this book. How do they function beside each other?

A List of Lists that I’m thinking of including:
  • How to Read, one Strategy
  • What is an Education For?
  • Toxic Academic Values
  • Healthy Academic Values Made Toxic
  • Academics who resist the Academic Industrial Complex from within
  • What’s a Teacher?
  • What I am NOT giving; What I AM giving
  • Troublemaking Teaching Techniques
  • How to be…some useful virtues
  • How to be…a troublemaker and trouble-stayer
  • Be like a…
  • How-to guides: How to…cite, (not) think, tell stories online, pay attention, engage; ask questions, write, watch tv
  • Rules
  • Healthy Habits
  • Troublemaking role models
  • Ideas generated while reading in the bath

Wow. Spending more time thinking and writing about lists is fascinating and (over?) stimulating.

Super-hero Sara

For my birthday last year I asked for a super-hero version of one of my favorite pictures of myself (it was created by Sam Smith of Replace). STA didn’t have time to tweak it until I finally forced him to do it this past weekend. I really like how it turned out! I’ve already added it to my TROUBLE blog. I want to incorporate her into this book project.

Original Picture
Original Picture
Super-hero Sara
Super-hero Sara

Trouble, the Syllabus?

Speaking of my trouble blog, I’m thinking of creating a syllabus for reading/using it. This syllabus, which will also be included in the second section of my teaching portfolio for this book project, would be on the front page of TROUBLE. Will this work? Has anyone created a syllabus for reading/engaging with a blog?

Swimming Studies: Analysis

Swimming Studies





  • Series of chapters with stories/sketches related to swimming.
  • Interspersed with drawings, photo gallery of swim suits, catalog of pool smells, various photos.


  • Moves between past experiences as competitive swimmer and present experiences swimming in pools/bodies of water around the world.
  • Big focus on small details of pool life (smells, feelings of aching muscles, articles of clothing, swimmers’ hair, light and steam as it hits pool deck and water) and on the mundane repetition of her experiences.
  • Underlying theme, woven throughout book, of love and relationships–romantic and familial.
  • Photos of swim suits on mannequins with descriptions of where each was purchased and worn.
  • Catalog of pool smells.
  • Sketches of swimmers she remembers, pools she’s visited, swimming in the ocean, the view from her hotel window.


Shapton documents her connection to water and swimming while trying to figure out what her past life/training as an elite swimmer could still mean to (and for) her. She writes:

Do I have a long term goal? If anything it is figure out what to do with something that I do well but no longer have any use for.

The one thing I’m formally trained at is swimming. I’m aware that I rely on this training when I’m working, that I know when to push through and when to rest, that I’ve figured out the equivalent of drills, interval training and performance when I’m on deadline or trying to realize a project. But I don’t know where to put the old skill, if I can, or even want to, incorporate it into my adult life (250-251).

Leanne Shapton

Useful for my book?

I love this book. I love how Shapton shapes her stories about swimming and training around sensations and repetitive, mundane practices. She provides a different sort of story about being an athlete. I also love how she focuses on struggling with how to make sense of her past and present relationships to something that matters so much to her: water/pools.

Specifically, I like her (somewhat) experimental format. I like her gallery of swim suits and how she tells the story of her love of collecting swim suits through it. Her inclusion of sketches and a catalog of smells is creative and allows her to tell stories through the senses.

For this book project, I think her chapters on practice (she discusses the discipline/habits/repeated practices of swimming and art), and goggles (she contemplates what to do with her training) are especially useful. I also enjoy her scattered reflections on the limits of her own memory, especially when she wonders how she can remember dodging a glob of spit in her lane at one particular practice but not how she told her coach she was quitting or any details about swimming at the Canadian Olympic trials (Quitting, 3-6).

I am also drawn to her catalog of suits. Are there any teaching-related items (maybe marginalia/notes) that I could turn into a gallery with stories. I like the idea of using objects to tell stories.

Learn in Public

I want them to constantly think and reflect upon their creation and their process of creation so that when someone comes to their site, what they see is an amazing curation of a process for thinking, learning, and being as a person in the 21st century.

Jim Groom

I love this idea of making visible/public the process of creation. That’s what I’m trying to do on this site. My goal is to archive my process of thinking, learning, being…and feeling in the 21st century. Cool.

Here’s what I wrote in my first post for this blog (originally called “The Process” and created specifically for documenting process of working on my Farm project):

While most of the focus is usually on the finished project (the final product), I’m a big fan of making visible the process that goes into that product. I see tremendous value (for me and my readers/co-collaborators) in paying attention to the processes we go through as storytellers in order to engage with and make sense of the memories, experiences, artifacts, ideas, understandings that we’re trying to craft into stories. In fact, I see those processes as important as the product that we ultimately create.

Sara Puotinen