The space between

Many years ago I learned a definition of the word happiness and a definition of the word joy that made clear the distinction between the two: happiness is focused on the self, joy is focused on the other. As someone who hangs onto words, I have always kept these definitions close to my heart. And especially for what follows: that in the space between the two — where one person’s happiness becomes another person’s joy — the feeling echoes and strengthens, making joy the more powerful of the two.

In the years since I learned that, I have wondered if there is a similar distinction with the word pride. Is pride in the self the same thing as pride in another? Too much pride in the self becomes the hubris of Greek tragedies, but too much pride in another becomes a proud parent adoring their child. Shouldn’t there be another word for that kind of joyful pride?

In the last few months I gave up looking for a word that captures “joyful pride” and focused instead on something much more important: the echoing, strengthening space that comes between.

On July 7th my mentor/ hero/ “Uncle” Ben died. The following remembrance is a variation on a theme: Margaret, when she was asked to speak at his memorial service, came up with a motif and we each wrote our own reflections separately and simultaneously. This is my take on the many lessons Uncle Ben taught me and my best attempt at understanding how I might be able to teach those lessons and hand them down myself someday.

In loving memory of Benjamin Morrison Quigg, Jr. 1917 – 2013

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Cultivating more fertile soil

I have never seen myself as a gifted math student. I have always thought that I am better with letters than numbers.

So when I recently found myself hungry for a math equation — and when the rush of discovering and understanding that math equation kept me up to the middle of the night — I knew something special was happening.

My week at NuVu

I spent the last week of June in Cambridge, MA at NuVu Studio attending a week-long professional development session for K-12 teachers. NuVu is an alternative school that takes an interdisciplinary approach to learning: instead of subjects and classes, students engage in two-week design challenges thematically arranged around topics. With the guidance of teachers, coaches, and industry professionals, students explore ideas, create amazing projects, and learn by doing. In some ways it makes me think of the STEAM program at my school on steroids.

I had finished reading Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom (you can see the similar themes already!) just before heading to Cambridge, which primed me to enter into my week at NuVu with the goal of answering one question: is the learn-by-doing approach capable of developing depth as much as it develops breadth in students? Put another way, would a student graduating from the NuVu experience be accepted into MIT like the PhDs who now run NuVu?

I discussed this question with the founders and got a few different responses. But my middle-of-the-night-math-equation experience turned out to be just the answer I needed.  Continue reading