It is about relationships and balance

I hope I can keep this short and powerful. In the past few days, I have experienced a number of thoughts that weave together for me – all about the interesting intersection of relationships, technology, and learning. Let me see if I can draft a thesis statement:

As a learner in the 21st century, I strive to find balance among face-to-face relationships and virtual-tool connections, and I realize that both can enhance or conflict with the other. I am the fulcrum for my balance, and I will be in a state of dynamic equilibrium, not static equilibrium.

Through 21st century tools (like Twitter, WordPress, Google Reader, etc.), I can co-build a rich network of “pen pals.” Yet, I need to be mindful of not having my nose pointed at a screen at the expense of those humans most closely situated around me currently. It is a balance. Picture a scale adjusting to equilibrium as different weights are added and deleted from each side – the face-to-face side and the virtual-tool side.

For almost all of my life, I have been a runner. [Sorry for jarring shift. I promise this is a connected thread of thought…at least to me.] Since I was 9 years old, I have run most days of my life. At various points in my life, though, I have experienced ebbs and flows…ups and downs. Like a balance adjusting. And it has felt cyclical. Some years, I have trained to the point of being super competitive (in 2007, I was the fourth ranked short-distance triathlete in the state of Georgia). At those times, a middle-distance run for me is about 15 miles at a pretty fast clip. But I teeter close to over doing it. And the time comes at the expense of other life pursuits. This week, I struggled to run a mile. Seriously. I have been neglecting my running life for several months – the longest bout of that I have experienced since third grade when I started running 31 years ago. My son wanted to run a one-mile fun run, so I dusted off the shoes last Monday morning. I walked for 12 minutes and ran for 8 minutes. That was the entire work out. I was sore, sore, sore the next day. I had neglected a good balance of exercise. And I ridiculously thought that starting “training” on Monday would help me for a Saturday event. Thank goodness it was a Kindergarten mile. But I learned a valuable lesson…again.

I am blessed to have a powerful memory of when my running has gone overboard and when it has been neglected entirely. SO, I know from experience that I can get back to longer distances with less soreness, but I have to practice and be consistent. I have trained on that route before, and there is an implementation dip (as Michael Fullan adeptly explains in a number of his books) when I start doing something new, or even relatively new. And I need to be mindful not to do too much, too soon. And I need to stay mindful of not letting running – or whatever the action is – become my single pursuit that runs my life rather than the other way around. I am the fulcrum. I decide when to run – not too little or not too much, but just right. Likewise, I decide when the mobile technology is turned on and turned off – not too little and not too much, but just right. I decide.

Several colleagues have written this week about the delicate balance of social networking and face-to-face relationship-building. I encourage you to read them – I am pasting them in below. The balance is like running. If we want to be healthy, we have to find a balance. If we do too much or too little of one activity, we will get out of balance. When we strive to get that balance back, we will experience some soreness – one way or the other. But the soreness helps us calibrate our efforts. It is formative assessment and feedback about getting that equilibrium just right – in this case, the equilibrium among building a PLN and enhancing professional practice AND sustaining and improving those face-to-face relationships that are essential, critical, and vital.

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What connections do you find? How’s your balance?

1 thought on “It is about relationships and balance

  1. Bo,

    My father and I walked together after our children were born. It was just a walk around the block, but those moments given our distance are rare. We began to talk about community, about politics, and about change. He made this observation: ” It seems to me the world works much like a pendulum swinging. It swings back and forth, finding center for a split second, and then swinging to the other side again. I doubt we’ll ever find that “center” and will likely swing to one side or the other ever in search of it.”

    For some of us, I think the angle is narrower, for others it is wider. And it often depends on what it is measuring. Typically, where my passion lies, there is great chance to go veering way off to one side, and then fully to the other. Bursts of great achievement maybe, and then burnout.

    Finding “center” is important. I’ve found myself challenged by the rich PLN and the energy of ideas and visioning versus quality time with family and friends face to face. What is real?

    I suspect what you are finding as you reflect is just what we hope our students will do– examine what technology is doing to us, and questioning whether we are leveraging it for its value and healthy incorporation into our lives…or not.

    It’s a struggle, but one that is worth the effort.

    From a runner…who is always trying to find the right balance.

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