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In praise of great teaching

It’s so important, I will say it again:

Great teaching, the right tools, experimentation, willingness to get it wrong to get it right, perseverance, and the pull of a challenge are essential elements of the learning experience and lead to success!

The Back Story

Acrylics, with and without Flow-Aid on raw linen, 33″ x 36″

I am venturing into new creative territory—color mixing. I have been playing with all different kinds of paint (acrylics, fluid acrylics, high-flow fluid acrylics, and gouache), additives (water, Flow-Aid, and mixes), and substrates (mixed media and watercolor papers, raw canvas and raw linen) for the past six months. While I loved taking a class in watercolor decades ago, I found it very challenging and lost patience with it (or maybe with myself?). The work and play this past half year have been (mostly) a delight!

Now I am in the process of learning color mixing with watercolor to make my work with acrylics (and the rest of the paints) more consistently successful—meaning achieving my desired results with greater ease. 

I started an online course over the weekend and discovered a few key factors to my success and happiness with my effort:

  • A great teacher makes a HUGE difference! I love learning from someone who goes step-by-step—the mark of someone who teaches with learners in mind, who can step out of their own level of expertise to meet us where we are.
  • The right tools are very important—from the light (a simulation of good daylight), the right paper and paints (I have several sets of watercolors and it took a bit of playing Goldilocks to find the one that worked best), and the best brush for the task (easier said than done).
  • I had to let go of a desire to get it right the first time—I know (in my mind/logically) that it’s critical to experiment AND there are only so many hours in a day so I want to get “there” fast. My heart needs to be involved in this journey as I want to enjoy—and not just learn from—my results). Experimentation and “stick-to-itiveness” is essential. 
  • Ensuring that I use my new skills consistently, so they become second nature is critical. The teacher I am learning from has developed a 14-day challenge in which we use our new skills—I LOVE it! It’s a great investment of my time and money.

Whether I’m focusing on training, facilitation, or coaching, these same concepts and practices are foundational to growing my knowledge and skills and those of my clients. While my example below is a deep dive into the world of visualization skills, if that’s not your world, how would you adapt the ideas to your work and your clients? I would love to hear of your modifications and expansions upon my ideas—I hope you will be in touch!

Aha! Drawing the Connection to Our Plorking* with Visualization

As you reflect on your journey with bikablo—whether you have completed the Basic course (Days 1 and 2), the Advanced course, Extraclasse or coached with me to elevate your work—what are you doing right now to consistently broaden or deepen your skills?

In thinking about visualization, most recently, I am thinking of my practice and my clients through:

  • offering the students in the Gonzaga University course, “Visualizing Meaning and Purpose,” a list of prompts for every day of the week—we share our drawings on our Miro board.
  • working from a list of prompts with several of my Drawify colleagues, to add to the platform (working in .svg format/Concepts)
  • reviewing a beautiful card deck over the weekend and being inspired to create new drawings based on the figures in the deck
  • being part of an international graphic recording team—and brushing off my sketchnoting skills to make “mini-stories” to capture key points shared during presentations at the Stanford University-sponsored Me2We conference last month.

* plorking—playing and working

Here’s a Query!

Are you interested in consciously and consistently improving your visualization skills? If so, how will you do it? While there is a world of possibilities, which is the right match for you at this moment in time (or planning for the future)?

  • Are you seeking a live class—in-person or online? 
  • Would meeting up for 30/45/60 minutes once every two weeks or once a month be the right fit for your style of learning and schedule, based on daily prompts? It could be a place to share your work, ideas, questions, and challenges.
  • Do you like the intensity of a 10-day Challenge—with the opportunity to post your work, see others’ work, and receive encouragement and/or feedback?
  • Is the new Procreate Starter Set package from bikablo the direction you’re moving? What interests you about it? What questions do you have?
  • Is one-to-one coaching a better use of your time and resources?
  • What other ideas are percolating for your professional development?

I hope you will consider the questions I raise in several ways: 

  • answer them, if building your knowledge and skills in the bikablo method is part of your professional or personal development plan—and let me know if I can be helpful as you design your path
  • re-write them to meet your needs and desires. What are you dreaming of learning now (and how does it fit into your plans for the remainder of the year or longer)?
  • tell me what you’re thinking about what I have shared and your plans. I find sharing my plans with the world (wisely, to those who will nurture nascent ideas) brings a different level of commitment from me.

I hope to hear from you!

The Delights of Teamwork!

Mere words cannot express the fun, the collegiality, and most importantly, the impact of the work we accomplished at the #StanfordLEAD #Me2We2024 event last week. (Perhaps that’s why I’ve included a visual to represent my gratitude for the experience of being a member of an international team, in which each individual contributed something unique to the dynamics of the team and the event.)

The team, assembled by Drawify founder Axelle Vanquaillie, included Alexandra Oporto d’Ugard, Ben Crothers, Erin Nicole Gordon, Filippo Buzzini, Olina Glindev, and me. We hail from six different countries, yet we were on the same page, bringing the impact and influence of visualization to a conference already brimming with big names, big ideas, and participants hungry for engagement.

While we all played several different roles—as grocery shoppers, chefs, dishwashers, errand runners, schedulers, graphic recorders, presenters, and illustrators—I will say that I felt luckiest. The conference committee, h/t to Raphael Auwerkerken for his work in bringing us to the event, and to the conference committee that provided us with a gorgeous space in which to set up our array of analog recordings, were true partners throughout the experience.

As host of the table and showcase space for the first day of the event, I had the opportunity to meet so many of the attendees, share information about Drawify—our purpose and intention for being at the event—and encourage them to share their appreciation for their professors in their program. (They wrote on file cards, which were made into a gift for each of the professors in the program.) As you can imagine, people were curious. I loved sharing my passion for visualization with those who wanted to have a conversation.

Digital graphic recording has become a go-to practice of mine. The four sessions I attended were a pleasure to capture. One of my favorite memories is attending a workshop on improv, sharing my recording with the two presenters immediately afterward, and seeing their delight. They had no idea I was recording the event and were astonished to receive the visual summary. Kesinee Angkustsiri Yip told me that they had just incorporated three days earlier and she was going to print out the digital recording, frame it, and put it on her desk. It was a gift to have the time to connect with Kevin Weinstein and Kesinee after the session.

 

While I had never created tags with snippets/key phrases from the sessions, I loved it! The opportunity to capture a key idea for a session, draw and letter quickly on the Neuland Tag It, and offer it to others as a remembrance was a kick!

Perhaps the highlight of the three days (for me) was my presentation, Re-envision Yourself and Design the Life You Desire. I am dedicated to infusing Appreciative Inquiry, into every aspect of my work. The room was bursting at the seams— there were close to 100 people in a session that was meant for 80. Everyone was all in. We learned together—sharing thoughts, questions, plans, and insights. My role was truly as a facilitator, creating the environment and offering an experience that each individual would make their own. I felt almost guilty that my colleague Erin, who was graphically recording the workshop, had huge swaths of time in which participants were talking with each other. (Maybe a pause during a graphic recording is a blessing?) Of course, she became very busy as they offered up their thoughts. I was thrilled when one of the participants said, “This is exactly what I came for!” Participants left with plans for their immediate next steps for the future they desire.

These new experiences stand out for me (and may provide a few ideas, for graphic recorders, facilitators, and event organizers): 

  • a mid-size international team brings diverse, fresh energy to an experience
  • professionals from different backgrounds and with various skill sets enliven the processes used and the final products
  • hosting a space—being available to explain our work was an amazing opportunity for participants and increased engagement
  • space for showcasing the work, and enabling people to engage with it easily increases the impact on participants 
  • the creation of mini-stories/meaningful takeaways was an additional opportunity to connect with participants—we were surrounded by interested people, and some requested key phrases be “sketchnoted” for them live and in the moment
  • having my session graphically recorded was a gift I don’t often receive—give that gift to all presenters 
  • offering the opportunity for the students to show appreciation for their professors and to give the professors a gift was heartwarming and impactful.

My thinking? Let’s do this again—the results were tangible!

PS: If you’re curious, I posted this piece to LI with the use of Gemini (AI) and a little light editing afterward… Check out the differences

 

Rituals Create a Rhythm

This time of year, the late fall, and the beginning of the holiday season has a different rhythm and feel to it. What do you think?

I start to plan differently, make space in my schedule to slow down, to shift the balance of work, studies, play, and connection—areas which are really overlapping circles in the Venn diagram I imagine.

I easily slip into rituals of baking, shopping, and making gifts, choosing a photo for the holiday card (I am a paper and pen gal), envisioning my yearly drawing that will accompany our card, and more.

What rituals and habits support you?  What has become second nature and comfortable?

What new traditions are you creating in response to your changing circumstances?

These questions are equally relevant to our work, wouldn’t you agree?

What practices do you bring to your work to create and hold space, build rapport, increase connection, and nurture success?

I considered this question, “How are working in person and online similar and different?” with a new lens last week at an in-person training (an event that remains relatively rare).

Here are a few of the methods I use in my training and facilitation work.

  • When I’m online I ask people about where their feet touch the ground, to learn where people are coming from at that moment —literally—to create greater awareness of who is in the room. And I share that I live and work on the land of the Munsee Lenape and the Schaghticoke, in New York.
  • When in person, I’m relating to where folks are from yet making that connection in a different way. Last week when I was in NYC with participants from the five boroughs, I shared where I lived in the city, on the land of the Lenape on the Upper West Side, during my years in graduate school, and saw nods of recognition around the room.
  • Rituals in my work include using methods and practices that will create a warm and welcoming environment by recognizing people’s individuality and their group affiliations.
  • I plan for co-creating the learning experience. I endeavor to ensure that participants are fully engaged not merely consuming content, which means making the time and space for participants to think, question, practice with real-life applications, reflect, capture their knowledge, and plan for using it.
  • Asking for their written feedback about their learning and experiences is a sign of respect (from me to the participants) and an opportunity for me to learn what was new, important, interesting, perhaps puzzling, and what can be improved.

In your work, what are rituals, routines, habits, or practices that serve you and others?

What needs to be explored for its continuing efficacy, as people and circumstances change?

What is your North Star/the values or principles that guide your assessment?

My approach for all design and re-imagining/re-design—whether for change and growth in my personal or work worlds—is the 5D model of Appreciative Inquiry, because it:

  • is supportive/grounded on a positive foundation
  • exploratory
  • invites experimentation
  • flexible, and
  • results/success oriented.

I seek to create rituals, habits, and practices that support my own growth and that of everyone with whom I work.

I’d love to learn what you think and feel as you take a step back to reflect on the habits and practices that support you. Perhaps you will even share one or two with me!

Feeling Gratitude & Being Appreciative

Off the top of my head, and in less than 5 minutes, I generated all these ideas—big and small, specific and general of people, relationships, and experiences that fill me with gratitude.

As I breathe in the crisp, cold, early morning air as I walk Gus, a sense of gratitude washes over me. I start to explore that feeling.  A cascade of experiences and names of people start tumbling through my mind— the training courses I have attended, the courses created and delivered, the people met, the new relationships formed, the books read and listened to, the places traveled, times with family and friends, and the list goes on. And these are very specific memories I’m thinking of—like snapshots in my mind.

Honestly, there have been challenges this year too. Life is full of ups and downs. In my world of family and friends—sickness, chronic conditions, and death—to the state of our country, the ever-present scourges of racism, misogyny, lack of adequate food, healthcare, and housing, gun violence, immigration atrocities, unequal educational opportunities, our class system, the reality of climate change, unstable geopolitics, and more.

I have had to develop ways to effectively work with and handle these realities. In essence, I am particular about the sources of information I choose to consume and conscious of the “right” amount of information. I seek to be informed and engaged without becoming overwhelmed as this is the way I move forward.

What are the tools and resources you use to re-balance?

Who and what support you in your efforts to live in a state of equilibrium?

I want to be sure that I’m being clear that working to achieve equilibrium through:

  • eating well
  • hydrating
  • exercising
  • connecting with family and friends
  • learning
  • creating art consistently
  • and reading books that challenge me

enables me to volunteer my time to organizations/causes I believe in and pursue my (rigorous) studies in chaplaincy. I’m not talking about ignoring the world and our challenges to sit and eat bonbons on the couch (but you knew that). I am talking about ensuring that I have the energy to pursue change in my personal and the larger world.

Here are just a few books I’ve read over the past few years that support my mind, body, and soul. Perhaps you will find one or more of them interesting.

I’d love to hear from you about the resources and practices you turn to on this journey. Please share them!

I realize what a very full year I have had…   I am reminded of how much there is to appreciate in my life. With that in mind, I was thinking it’s time to offer another Appreciative Living Learning Circle. It seems fitting to start before the end of this year and continue it into the beginning of next year. If you’re curious to learn more, check my Calendar page.

Quick, name your recent, best learning experience!

Oh my gosh! The past two weeks have been a deep dive into training—expanding my knowledge and giving me opportunities to practice my new learning. I have revisited material from a new perspective, (Nonviolent Communication), faced the challenge of working with emotionally difficult material  (the reality of homelessness in the US), explored hope with Valerie Brown (Hope Leans Forward), and tangled with new patterns and materials from dawn to dusk (okay, a slight exaggeration, 9:30 am-6 pm) with my Certified Zentangle Teacher colleagues).

It became so clear to me, once again, that content and engaging in deep processes (time for reflection, powerful questions, discussion with others, and more) must be integrated into my learning experiences, as they are essential for me. These elements are more than preferences. I do my best learning when I have an opportunity to engage with the material in ways that are meaningful to me—and I am clear about what that looks like.

What about you? What are the components of your quintessential educational experiences?

How do you compensate for the instances in which the teacher/trainer/professor/speaker/expert doesn’t measure up? 

If I’m presented with new facts and concepts, then learning about them through working with them is more interesting and fruitful than a didactic presentation from the speaker. The opportunity to ask questions, to hear others’ queries, and to be prompted to further discovery through thought-provoking questions makes for a rich experience. 

For me, “less is more”… meaning, I’d rather have a deeper understanding of less material than an overview and little depth. The phrase, “A mile wide, and inch deep,” comes to mind. 

When the task is conceptual and psycho-motor, (visualization, drawing, tangling), I need a clear, logical, well-paced approach, and some time to reflect on my work as I am doing it. Playing with the materials is also a factor — what pens, markers, pencils, and paper am I using? How familiar am I with the inner interaction of the different variables?

Sharing what I have learned in a cohesive manner, through organizing my thoughts, writing papers, and/or teaching classes requires me to engage with my learning experience (my notes, and/or my drawings). That process brings me to a greater understanding and brings me to a higher level of knowledge and skill.

As I reflect on the different ways in which I learn and then share my learning, I envision a path or steps in a process:

  1. Listening for enjoyment and understanding
  2. Sharing my visual notes with someone (talking through what I have learned)
  3. Clearly and concisely articulating the essence of my learning in a conversation, paper, and/or visual
  4. Teaching the material to colleagues and/or students

What opportunities exist—or can you create—to broaden and deepen your knowledge and skills? 

What will you learn next? How will you integrate your learning? I hope to see you on your journey!