Lessons from Clothing Donations

notice the restless bag of clothes by revecca on Flickr
'notice the restless bag of clothes' by revecca on Flickr

I have had bags of clothes sitting in my apartment waiting for me to donate them for something like a year. Maybe longer. And last week, I finally donated them.

It was one of those unfortunate tasks that was neither important nor urgent but that would take more than a few minutes.  So I just sort of stopped seeing the bags of clothes being slowly shredded by my cats.  When I did occasionally notice them, it was never a good time to dive into such a big project (?) so I left them for “later.”

Lessons learned:

The factor that started me tackling this silly little project with its surprisingly large impact on my living space was a conversation that became a plan.  Those things are powerful.

Starting My Source List

Katie left a comment asking:

Also, how did you go about generating the list of reading materials for the course?

It’s been an ongoing process.

Books by Svenwerk on Flickr
Books by Svenwerk on Flickr

I started by searching my local library’s catalog for “teaching adults.”  I reserved several books that looked interesting and relevant and put them on the syllabus.  This way, even if they’re not The Books on the subject, I had somewhere to start after only 10 minutes of pursuit.

Actually, speaking of easily accessible, the library had several electronic resources that I emailed to myself and forgot about till I wrote that last paragraph.  There, I just popped them onto the syllabus.  Writing really does help me think.

From there, I looked at the resources referenced in the books, particularly in Renner’s The Art of Teaching Adults.  Renner wrote a great first chapter outlining what cannon of work informed his book and what it had to say – it’s basically a readable and engaging annotated bibliography.

One of my volunteers also just happened to mention an article he’d been reading about teaching adults basic reading skills, and when he offered to give me a copy I gladly accepted and added it to the syllabus.

Craning For A Book by *Your Guide on Flickr
Craning For A Book by *Your Guide on Flickr

I also realized that my learning center has a bunch of books, some of them teacher references, so I grabbed one I’ve been curious about (thoughts on “English from A to Z” here) and can definitely grab more.  This brought to mind how I’d love to LibraryThing my center’s books so that my volunteers, students, coworkers and I could know exactly what’s there and sort through it all in meaningful ways.  Right now I’m pretty much the only one who knows what we have, and that’s a waste of a pretty handy collection!

It’s kind of fascinating how even one or two sources lead to a huge number of sources.  Identifying them was definitely not the hard part.  All I had to do was start!

Other material-finding resources I considered but haven’t really tapped yet:

  • syllabi from Adult Education courses at leading colleges and universities
  • recommendations from experienced teachers (I haven’t really talked to any yet)
  • Wikipedia, used specifically for a list of other (reputable) resources

The beauty of the 5-week project is that another can start quite soon.  The sources I don’t get to can always go to a future project.

Being Web 2.0 Brokers

It’s extremely busy “season” at work the past few months, and I was recently explaining Google Reader to my office mate.  She looked at me blankly and said that if we did any more talk about new tech stuff that day her head would explode.  

Cut to a scene about 1 hour later at a staff check-in meeting.  Coworker A says, “Emily, what’s so great about wikis?”  Right on cue, Office Mate makes an exploding noise and a little mushroom cloud motion with her hands.  The room goes silent and she and I try not to giggle.  Other coworkers are mystified, lengthy explanations ensue, and universal amusement is eventually achieved.  End scene.

The point of relating this mini-drama is that there are so many awesome tools out there, it’s almost funny.  It’s not surprising that so many people are overwhelmed. 

This is where I’ve found it important to be a Web 2.0 broker (with thanks to Mary Pipher’s “How To Be A Cultural Broker”).  In unfamiliar territory, people often need a little guidance.  You don’t have to be the most qualified or knowledgeable person around to help; you can share what you know and then learn the rest together.  It is about getting people connected with tools (therefore information, therefore power), and also a great excuse to build relationships with people you might not work with very often otherwise.

I’m excited that the handful of Web 2.0 brokers in our organization have put together a wiki (thanks Coworker S!) to let us support the personal verbal conversations with a small “sandbox” to play in.  We have a place for meeting notes and a brief, hand-picked list of resources.  It’s local, limited, and simple, and I can’t think of a better way to start.

How have others helped ease their coworkers into the Web 2.0 waters?  What tips would you share with other would-be brokers?