Waiting for Superman

I am flying back from Geneva to DC. I have a long list of work I was going to do on the plane, a long list of various things to “think about” (I love to think in the air…). But, somehow, the personal video screen has kidnapped me. Somehow, I started to watch “Waiting for Superman.” It seemed the perfect movie to watch, as I have been thinking about education a lot lately.

My best friend is moving back to DC, and thinking about where she is going to live based on the school options; her daughter – and one of my goddaughters – is not even 3 years old. One of my sisters recently left Georgetown University after two years, without a degree. At 14, one of my future nephews is at an important turning point in his Swiss public school curriculum. Two weeks ago, one of my colleagues decided to leave DC (and Alchimie) and head back to Missouri because she was offered the chance to pursue an MBA for free. And, most vividly, my father told me yesterday, while we were talking about my 18 month old niece Sasha, that an adult’s responsibility in life is to teach his or her kids and grandkids about the world (in this case, he was teaching her about the elusive and temporary nature of snowflakes). Of course, over the last two years, I have also followed the rise and fall of DC ublic Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Somehow, however, I had missed this movie. Thank goodness for trans-Atlantic flights.

I don’t pretend to know anything about how we should educate our children; I certainly don’t pretend to know more than the thousands of professionals dedicated to education. I don’t even pretend to know if I would choose a public over a private over a charter school for my child. But, I do know that I agree with Bill Gates when he says that the economic success of the country, of a country, depends on the education of its people. I do know that education is a right, and should not be left up to chance or up to a lottery. I do know that parents should be involved in their children’s education. And I do know that my father (who was the first in his family to go to college, let alone obtain a medical degree) was right when he made me study when I didn’t want to; when he told me that As were the only option, not because he liked As, but because they would get me into college; when he told me that education was the most important thing in the world, and that especially for a girl, more degrees is always better. Thank goodness for Dad.

I am a pen and paper kind of girl

I am a pen and paper kind of girl. I have always known that about myself, but this week was reminded of that fact by my girlfriend Anne. I started to wonder about why nice notebooks, specific colored pens (of specific thickness of course), and a paper calendar are so important to me. I owe it to Madame Menegay…

When I was in middle school, she was my favorite teacher. She was super strict on everything and on one thing in particular: how we took notes and how we underlined our notes. She taught us the hierarchy of note taking (roman numerals, numerical numbers, capital letters, small letters). For example:

– Football

1. AFC

A. East

a) The Patriots

b) The Miami Dolphins

B. West

2. NFC

– Baseball

I am sure you all see how the hierarchy works… of course, back then she was teaching French, History, and Geography… We had to underline our notes – that was the process to be used to review class material before exams. We had to have different colored pens, underline with a ruler (the Roman numeral categories were underlined twice), and underline particularly important points with a squiggle line.

This might explain my obsession with paper and colored pens. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Blackberry, but for calendaring, I can’t bring myself to replace my At-A-Glance calendar. I have been using them since 2003 (and of course keep all of the old ones). I love being able to see my week on two pages – it gives me an overview that I can’t get on a screen. I color code my appointments and at the end of every week, I do something I learned from Deborah Szekely, founder of Rancho La Puerta. At the end of every week, she looks at her calendar and color codes various activities retroactively. I have three different colored pens to group the week’s activities and meetings in three categories: the meetings that contributed to your professional development or development of your business, the activities that contributed to your personal enjoyment, and the tasks that I should do less of. That enables me to visually get a sense of how I am spending my time, and if there is too much of the “do this less” and not enough of the “personal enjoyment” then I shift things around the following week. How would all of this visualization and color coding work on an electronic calendar?

I was at a luncheon with Anne a couple of weeks ago, and the subject of paper / pencil versus electronic preferences came up. I told her about my complex calendaring process, and she seemed surprised… yet intrigued. This week, she emailed me and wrote that she had been mulling over my system, and was considering going back to paper, and would I let her know what type of paper calendar I use, and next we get together would I show her my color coding system. Yes and yes!