Waffles or Spaghetti?

My husband and I have redefined what is considered a “date”. Why? Well…

  • Five days a week
  • Four grandparents who still live in Ohio (who used to help us with our crazy lives at any given point)
  • Three growing children
  • Two careers with daily commutes into NYC
  • One pet Goldendoodle, turtle & bunny

Nowadays, a date is pretty simple. A quick coffee or glass of wine at one of our favorite Westchester establishments, a movie (on Netflix…let’s be real the last time we saw a non-Disney produced movie in a movie theatre was in 2009…maybe), or a trip to Home Depot to get new covers for old, beaten up light switches. This morning we went on a “date” to the grocery store. Our daughter was hanging out with our boys so we ventured out into the snow before any crowds or lines formed. As we were walking in to begin our weekly grocery run, my husband said to me, “You know, some people may not get you because your ideas are like spaghetti.” Spaghetti? Really?

I won’t bore you with how our conversation unfolded as we walked through the produce, cereal, and dairy isles. But, I will tell you that while picking out ham (I don’t even like ham!) in the meat department I realized something. My husband was trying to teach me something…something about myself and something about other people. He was trying to give me a nibble…something to ponder and put into action.

For those of you who know me, you know that I pondered our grocery store date conversation all morning. I even came home and did a little research on ideas that unfold like spaghetti. The idea was familiar to me, but I needed to put it into action in my own mind. You know…gathering a bunch of interconnected ideas just like a plate of spaghetti. I read a lot of ideas, but some written by Bill and Pam Farrel intrigued me. They say that:

Men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti.

Their ideas are interesting because they compare men to waffles. They say that men process life in boxes, often a collection of boxes that become “convenient holding places for information.” They claim that men only really focus on one box (or issue, topic, problem) at a time. They explain, “When men are at work, they are at work. When men are fixing something, they are fixing something.”

On the flip side, they say that “women process life like a plate of spaghetti.” There are noodles that flow all over the plate and most, if not all, touch, interact, or intersect with others. The Farell’s claim that if anyone can multitask by loading the dishes, talking on the phone and making a grocery list all at once, it is women. They believe women think of their thoughts, actions and life as “connected to other issues in some way and that life is much more of a process.”

This whole idea – waffles and spaghetti – gave me things to ponder. Is this notion just about men and women?   I don’t think so. For me…it is about our work in schools, the ways in which people learn, the ways we construct deep learning. Learning? Now, I know, I’ve lost some of you because I’m talking in ways that only other pieces of spaghetti can appreciate – taking one idea and thinking about its connectedness to other things. I move all over, twisting and turning, to get to some clarity about what matters…what makes sense to me.

In a very concrete way, this experience made me think about the learners in our schools. What do they need to make some gains? What stepping-stones do we need to create for them? I don’t think what I am referring to is gender specific, at least not exclusively. I think it is person specific. I think it is learning specific. Some things to consider:

Do the kiddos in your care think like waffles or in boxes?

  • Do they need to compartmentalize nuggets of information before they can do something with it?
  • Do they need to think separately before thinking together?
  • Do they need to understand one piece before moving on?
  • Do they think, act, design, or talk in part to whole ways?

Do the kiddos in your care think like spaghetti or in interconnected ways?

  • Do they take a bunch of ideas, sifting and sorting through them and then make something new?
  • Do they need to think about ideas related to other ideas and then put them all together?
  • Do they need to understand all of the pieces and parts and how they fit together before moving on?
  • Do they think, act, design, or talk in whole to part ways?

I’m going to continue thinking about these ideas because keeping them in my front pocket will help me support those around me. I will be asking myself if my teachers need smaller bits of information (scaffolded over time) or if they need to simmer about a number of ideas connected to one another? Understanding how someone thinks, learns, or creates understanding will help me design experiences and coaching conversations that will support them. It will directly influence how I design my next coaching moves. I can’t wait!

I’ll keep you posted. Until then, think about yourself and your students – waffles or spaghetti? Both are really important!



Together We Go Far!

Can you imagine walking two hours a day to retrieve fresh water to drink?  Can you imagine what that must feel like?  When I think about that type of hardship, it makes many (if not all) of the challenges I face each day seem so very simple.  So very doable.

It’s funny how sometimes ideas, themes and patterns surround us at just the right time.  If we pay attention, they can “feed” us in new ways.  Here was my path over the last six days.

I was observing a model lesson  where 7th graders were wrestling with a NYT article about Niger children missing school because they were searching for water.  It was interesting to listen to the students process how difficult that would be.  They were surprised to learn that the article was written in 2012, not many years ago. All of the students agreed that they sometimes think their life is hard until they think about other people who (like these children) have it even harder.  The next day, I saddled up to one of my 8th grade lovebugs to listen to her read out loud.  She was working hard to map her way through her independent reading book, A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park.  This bright, thoughtful 8th grader said she had a hard time imagining not being able to go over to her kitchen sink and turn on all of the water she wanted and needed…whenever she wanted and needed it.  She also said she knew there was a boy in the story who also had struggles that she didn’t have in her life and she felt bad for him.  This weekend, my husband and I were flipping through movies and we came upon The Good Lie (2014).  This movie, coupled with the connected learning experiences from last week that I mentioned above,  provided for a reason to pause.  This, especially true, as I literally pushed pause at the end of the movie because it ended with the following quote:

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 10.19.43 AMIf you want to fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.  I read it several times.  Of course, if you’ve read about or done work with the Lost Boys of Sudan, you know that this African Proverb has deep meaning to the ways in which the thousands of orphaned boys (children) worked to escape the Sudanese Civil War.  They worked together in order to travel unimaginable miles to escape unimaginable pain that most cannot even begin to wrap their heads around.

I started thinking about how this proverb, while not comparable to the importance of the meaning to the Lost Boys of Sudan, can serve as an anchor in the work we do in education.  I asked myself some questions about my work and thought about the results related to going fast or going far.  Some questions I have looming in my mind (I am going to add to this inquiry over time) that I want to ponder include:

  • How does aligning our beliefs about what matters most help us match what we believe to our actions?
  • What practices/actions give us the biggest take-aways to support students who are struggling to read, write, talk, and create?  How do those practices/actions push students to deepen what they know and are able to do?
  • Are we living within content (simmering, developing, making meaning across time) OR pushing our way through it too fast?
  • How does looking at student work guide us to know what to do next with students?
  • How do we know…really know…when students are successful?  How do we create criteria for success that matches what we believe about assessment of and for learning?

I’m in an inquiry that has my mind continually thinking.  One of the ways I live within my inquiry is to use my notebook as a place to hold my thinking.  I started a chart in my notebook that looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 3.21.38 PMDo you have questions or ideas that you are wrestling with that you believe will push you and/ or others to go further as long as you work together?  If so, please consider sharing.  I’d love to hear your ideas!