Trying to find math inside everything else

About two weeks ago I watched the first three episodes of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt with someone, and the very next day I watched the whole rest of the season. Yesterday and today I blew through 14 episodes of House of Cards (though I think I’ll end there). This kind of consumption has always appealed to me; I’ve often told friends that I don’t want to watch some show or read some book until it’s completed, so that I can intake it all as fast as possible. When I read a book, I often stay up late into the night because I can’t put it down. This way, I’m able to just dig down deep and fulling engage myself in the material.

On the other hand, for the past few months I’ve also been listening to Welcome to Night Vale. Because I can only focus on a podcast when I’m walking and not doing something else, and because I used the other podcasts I listen to as spacers between episodes, it’s been a much more drawn out process than the binge-consumption that is typical of me.

The thing is, though the former is more typical and what I say I prefer…the latter way is much better. This was most evident for me from my time in the Harry Potter fandom. Before the 6th or 7th books came out, there are a ton of activity, most of it powered by feverish speculation and thinking about what the future could hold. After the last book came out, though, a lot of it died down. And I realize that think about what the future could hold is a lot more interesting than dissecting what happened in the past (for me).

When I first started teaching, my school, like most schools, had its classes meet every day of the week. The second semester, we tried something where we met four days a week, but one of those days was a double period. Then my second year, we switched to an alternating day block schedule, which persisted for the subsequent 2.5 years.

The introduction of the block schedule felt like such a relief to me. Finally, we could dig deep into the material: I didn’t have to cut a lesson short because of time, there’d be less wasted time on coming into class, clean-up, warm-ups, etc. And I really believed this, until one time I talked with Elizabeth Statmore about how there are time periods during a lesson that are key for learning, but during a double period we don’t actually get double the amount of those time periods. She also talked about how, when they have a class every day, the repeated reference to the content reinforced ideas better than when classes were more frequent.

When my then-new principal wanted to switch back to a daily schedule, I resisted, but mostly because she wanted to switch mid-year instead of waiting for the next year, and as the programmer I would have to figure out how. But by then I was on board. I was okay with letting a lesson end in a cliffhanger, and drawing something out over multiple days. Because I knew it was better this way. And spiraling things together, leaving little bits in each lesson and bringing it all together into a climax – well, that’s the Welcome to Night Vale way.

Those things I’ve binged on, I consumed them and then moved on. It made me happy at the time, but they didn’t really stick with me. But the things that were persistent, that I drew out over time, those were a lot more sticky. And that’s as true for learning as it is for reading and watching TV.

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