Hot Pants, Happenstance, & Perceived Exertion

I wish I had the energy to do the funky chicken all night long. Truth be told: I really need a nap. You see, I deleted this post after publishing it over a month ago. A few hours after I clicked Publish, I got a few unsolicited emails of advice about my career. Found some not-so-nice references to my ideas. Went to a meeting where my ideas got shot down. My inner coward took over, and I deleted the post titled “Hot Pants.” The stats revealed that a few readers stumbled onto it, but I didn’t think it was anyone I knew. Turns out, a good friend read it and I was shocked when he referred to my Hot Pants post over dinner. That encouraged to return to these ideas. In short, if I can teach a group of educators hopped up on wine an alternative to the middle finger using sign language, then I can finish this post. Let’s be clear about my blogging-style, such as it is, I’m not judging you; I’m judging me. My academy. Your academy. My academy.

My brain is so tired and full–I’ve been talking to educators nonstop this week. My jobby job allows me to do the very fun work of presenting my ideas to people who care about teaching and learning. Lately my world has connected to the ideas of people I’ve studied, read, and admired for years. For years. Now that I know how very cool and how very down to earth they are, I wish I had tried to connect with them earlier. It’s just beyond stupid that I didn’t reach out to these folks before I got this weird jobby job title. Here’s a bit how it feels to connect with people–to call people your friends–that you’ve admired, found interesting, fascinating, and beyond generous with their ideas. Let me tell you a little story involving some music and then I’ll connect this story to bike riding. I promise there is a point I want to make. Let’s see if you can make it, readers.

Let’s go back to circa 90s at a music festival in San Francisco. It was all night affair and I attended with two people were super straight edge. Like no party animal fibers in their bodies, but they had exceptional taste in music. These were not people who would drink with me until memories of the night fade away. Not my usual pals. So, I was a bit out of sorts surrounded by people doing lots of partying and drinking. Without me. I was going through a phase of trying to figure out whether I could be a total straight-edge-city-girl. (Failed Life Experiment filed under: Never Again).

So I love live music but I hate the crush of a crowd. I get claustrophobic and kind of weirded out. I’m short, so I end up looking at the backs of people; I’m more of a stage left by the wall kind of fan. But I was seeing Jane’s Addiction. Perry Farrell, for anyone under 30, was really, really cool once. I promise. The band came on stage with a burningly loud version of “Ocean Size” and wow, my friends, it was electric. Perry was in purple sparkly hot pants! Everything was beauty. Then the crowd surged. I got lifted off my feet. Pushed without walking. The very feeling that makes my heart race like it’s going to explode. Can’t stand it.

So I told my straight-edged music lover friends: I’m going back to the stage in the middle of the floor. They had used the center stage earlier for juggling and hoola-hooping (it was the 90s remember that context). I was safe again. Away from the crowd. My love at the time–who was very tall–kept throwing me the chin-up-flirt–oh my, it’s “Up The Beach,” hear the bass chords?–yes, flirty me too looks. Then the lights go dark. Blackness. Lighters up. The crowd parts at the back.

The band is suddenly on the stage right in front of me. Right into “Classic Girl.” Oh-my-heart-I’m-like-a-foot-away from Perry Farrell in purple fucking hot pants singing the song most cited on mixed tapes of romantic dudes. Suddenly I’m right there. Front Row. The crowd surges, but my ribs go into the stage instead of somebody’s lower back. I’m right there. I can brace myself. I’m right there. I can see a run in Perry’s panty-hose. I’m. Right. There.

By mistake. Not by design or intention. Not by planning. Serendipity. Silly random forks in the trail of my own madness I call life. No map got me there. A series of accidents. Bad choices. Good choices. Love. Friendship. Desire. Silliness. Happenstance.

So that’s a bit of how my career feels right now. Holy, Happenstance, Bat Man! I was just elected to be the Chair-elect of the eLearning Council for the SBCTC. What? Me? Wow. I need a few days to process this reality, because I’m still thinking about how I left one stage for another. The concert, so to speak, has shifted completely. Everything went from truly awful to a lot better. Really fun. Really cool. Being an adjunct in English was a horrifying experience that has left me a bit bitter. Being a waitress before that didn’t help me see the glass as half full  in life either. Yes, I know, it’s so gauche. So boring to hear me complain. When will I ever get over having a personal problem that I know is a public problem yet nobody wants to talk about it? Thankfully, there are other writers to take me out of my own head. This is where being an English major was actually good training for coping and dealing with the different stages of life.

Brittany Bronson in an Op-Ed in the NYT, asks Can You Be a Waitress and Feminist?

And yet, when I find a remark disgusting, or have my hands, shoulders and hips held for uncomfortably long periods of time by men I don’t know, I have to suppress my natural reaction. I try to ignore it, or feign amusement, all for the sake of the guest’s experience, my job security and the chance of a good tip. It’s easy to have ideals, but reconciling them with the need to pay rent is a more difficult task in a town with few professional opportunities.

I try to be funny about my waitressing days, but I just realized this morning while reading Bronson’s piece, that I still have a lot to process from those years. At one point, I thought that becoming a teacher would save me from the fate of being a 40 year old cocktail waitress, and it did. But now, I’ve given up teaching for financial stability, and I feel like I’m still paying dues. I still struggle with the terror that I’ve made a huge mistake.

Because I love. I mean love. Love. Love. Love. Teaching people. People who teach are my favorite beings on the planet. If I can make you laugh and make you think, then everything comes together like an outfit involving purple sparkly hot pants.

And I have to remember that I’m in a different field now. Part of a different crowd. It’s hard because some people in the English major field were/are so bloody pretentious. Full of themselves. Unkind. Really full of themselves and their ideas that nobody understands or reads. It was such an inhospitable community–if you could even call it that. It always felt like you were being weeded out instead of included. I did not make the cut.

The people I have met *so far* in Ed. Tech are the total opposite. Some of them have made it into this field by getting degrees in the Humanities, I’ve learned. It makes them smarter readers, writers, and educators who use/analyze/create technology. They are generous with their ideas, their thoughts, their ideas, their work. It’s endlessly shocking to me. A whole room of people said “Yay” without one “Nay” when they voted me into the chair position, and I was shocked. Honored. Fought the urge to get weepy. Fought the urge to not walk around the room and hug 33 people.

And that’s sad, right? What does it say about me that I am shocked by the kindness of strangers in higher education. But it’s true. English major types are the Perry Farrells who look down on you in his hot pants from the stage. Doesn’t look you in the eye because you aren’t worthy. Sings past you. Doesn’t acknowledge you.

Ed. Tech Perry Farrell says “Oh, you like my hot pants? Awesome, here take them. They might look better on you anyway. Come up on the stage take mic. You want to sing ‘Then She Did”? Why the hell not? Maybe you can rock it harder than me.  Add some lyrics of your own. I’ll watch. Own those hot pants. Have you heard about OER, btw? That’s how you really rock the hot pants.”

And that’s the spirit of these people for what they are passionate about–I’m truly inspired. And the spirit of the women who are a part of this field! All I can say is Wowwie Wow Wow. Can they hang the moon any higher for me? Bring it on, they say. That’s where it’s at. Tell me more. Take it to the bridge. (For the record, I know Brown was a womanizing sexist pig, but dammit, I have to separate the art from the artist’s life. I was an English major after all).

I have a dream to blast this song at the start of cyclocross bike race of all dudes. Someday. The lycra shorts of cyclists serve a purpose to eliminate draft and skin chaffing, but to a non-cyclists they look like hot pants.

Thank you, Marc Lentini, for reminding me of who I’d like to be and thus encouraging me to finish this post. (And thank you for reminding of the word, Pisan).

So now let’s fast-forward a bit while connecting some ideas from the past! I’m going to don some lycra today and get after it, but before I do, I want to connect the idea of Perceived Exertion and Jenny Ross and Amy Collier’s NotYetness with Lisa Chamberlin’s post suggesting a “continuum of emergence.” Lisa writes:

But Facebook, good ol’ Facebook, almost the grandpa of social media now, is a kind of “not-yetness” on my campus. (Not to mention it has a nearly flat-line learning curve which is important for a 10 week quarter). The idea of opening a class to social media of any kind is not-yetness here. The use of Facebookgroups is not-yetness here. The connectedness of letting outsiders participate with students in a class via Facebook is very not-yetness here.

It’s learning.

It’s connecting.

It’s kind of messy.

And it’s definitely not-yetness. Here. On my end of the continuum.

Okay. This is brilliant, right? My little corner of North Puget Sound has more in common with Walla Walla than Seattle–yet we get lumped in with the “west-side of the North Cascades” colleges. In reality, we have a huge spectrum of NotYetness in our consortium of community colleges. We’ve got a lot of NotYetness in this system. There is a lot of NotYetness everywhere in education.

Do you know that saying “This is an idea with legs?”

I think NotYetness on a continuum of emergence is an idea with legs wearing hot pants.

Recently, I met Amy Collier because she was one the keynote speakers of a conference, and during her talk, which I thought was so amazing, I realized that others heard a different kind of message. Because she’s from Stanford, some folks can’t filter the association with a Big Research School with the practicality of her ideas. And that’s the danger when you are affiliated with one of those schools. Somebody hears [enter R1 school here] and they instantly dismiss the ideas because of their budgets, their prestige, their grants, their initiatives, and they think, “they don’t understand my world. It’s different for me.”

Maybe I am bit Pollyanna here, but I think there is space for the R1 and the rural community college to care about the same things. If I have learned anything in the last year, it’s that folks at the R1 and the university level are frustrated by the same things. The truly good ones care about rural community college students making it to their schools.

We’re all jealous of somebody’s else hot pants. Desperate to wear somebody else’s hot pants. To do the funky chicken dance all night long. But there’s somebody above us saying no, we need to wait. We need more time. Data. Information. Policy. Money. Direction. This won’t work here. Not yet. Let’s wait and see.

Here’s the thing that holds us back: it’s all about Perceived Exertion.

The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a way of measuring physical activity intensity level. Perceived exertion is how hard you feel like your body is working. It is based on the physical sensations a person experiences during physical activity, including increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue. Although this is a subjective measure, a person’s exertion rating may provide a fairly good estimate of the actual heart rate during physical activity* (Borg, 1998)…

Try to appraise your feeling of exertion as honestly as possible, without thinking about what the actual physical load is. Your own feeling of effort and exertion is important, not how it compares to other people’s.

So whether you are doing Jazzercise (high-five, Amy, that’s rad, btw) or riding your bike up a mountain, conquering your own perceived level of exertion is how you improve. At the point when something is so hard your body is sending you signals to stop, you need to push harder. That’s how you get better. Stronger. That’s how the exercise gets easier next time. It’s an individual effort. It’s the body resisting the mind. It’s hard. Really hard. Subjective. Exhausting.

If you really step onto the cycling dork train, you can measure the data by tracking your hate rate. I’ve committed to a training regimen to see if I can trace the data of my actual level exertion and my own perceived level exertion. And I hate it.

Supposedly, I’ve been told, if I commit to some training discipline, then my race season in the fall will be better. I’ll improve. Actualize my potential. Honestly, the whole idea takes the fun out training and racing for me. Plotting lines on a chart to track my heart rate monitor feels like too much work. The whole time I’m riding hard, I don’t need the monitor to tell me how I already feel. My brain tells me enough to shame my fitness. The perceived level of exertion is what kills my momentum. I don’t need the weather man to tell me which way the wind blows.

Yet. I need to give the training a chance because I’ve seen other people improve this way. They’ve inspired me. I’ve been saying not yet about this kind of training for a few years. I need to step up and try it. Not yet, I’ve been saying. It’s too hard. I don’t like it. Too much work. Not yet. Someday.

And I think that attitude is the same thing that happens on the continuum of emergence of NotYetness in teaching and learning. Something that sounds like “more work” or “really hard to do” or “really behind the times compared to [enter school here]” or “not worth the effort” doesn’t  gain traction. Whether it’s technology or a certain pedagogical theory, there’s room on a continuum that’s worth trying. That’s worth plotting on a chart. That’s worth comparing. That’s worth fighting for. That’s worth talking about. My level of perceived exertion may be your easy. My messy may eventually be your order. Your R1 research may make my community college policy easier to write. My community college failure could be a data point on a larger graph of progress at your university.

My hot pants may fit you. Take them. Dig that mess. 

Greg LeMond once said about cycling. “It never gets easier, you just go faster.”

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
This entry was posted in All The Things and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Hot Pants, Happenstance, & Perceived Exertion

  1. Lisa Chamberlin says:

    I am ringing my tour cowbell while you cross the finish line in first place with this one. Love it on so many levels…and might I just say as an English major undergrad myself, “Pbbbbbllltttt!” to your critics.

    Anyone who can pull that circuitous route together into these wonderfully made and finely connected points can WRITE (in all caps), and needs to keep on doing it!

    You will never be happy in a jobby job that would require you to toe some politically-correct academic line, so t hell with the critcs trying to make you into something you aren’t. Your thoughts are valid and important and worth sharing. The crtics can’t shout academic freedom on one hand while using their other to email you nastygrams trying to quiet you.

    Passion and smarts.

    That is why the vote was unanimous, oh captain, my SBCTC captain-elect 😉


    • Thanks, Lisa. Your cowbell means a lot to me! I had a lot time to think with my five hour drive home. I feel your pain with these meetings! Once I got bored of my music and the radio about put me to sleep, I started to think about how I could connect that old post with the new ideas. I started to think about how jealous I felt when I heard of the cool things the schools with big budgets have going on.

      I feel really lucky to have so support from the eLC cool kids like yourself. It truly means the world to me. I’ve got some really great supporters at the home institution as well, but you know how it is. You know.

      I went for a long mountain bike ride today solo, and I hit this one part of the mountain and the frogs were SO loud. I thought of your awesome blog title and giggled a bit. Those mountain frogs don’t even know about the pan or the boiling water. They just have to worry about being eagle and raven snacks;)

      Lady on the magic box on deck tomorrow morning!


  2. Dig that mess. ELearning Council is in great hands and even one of the Dark-Side Administrators knows how cool that is. Congratulations.


  3. I’ve truly gone to the Dark Side now, huh? Ha! Love that re-quote of James Brown, btw. Thanks for reading:)


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