September Tips: Soft Fascination, Single-Tasking & Swamp Tours

Sep 11, 2022

Dear Together Friends, Fans, and Family,

August was a strange month around here. I turned 45. I’m getting married (to my second and final husband, h/t Jennifer Weiner) in October. We got four kids to their first days at four different schools—on time and with shoes. I have a manuscript due in 8 weeks. Are you all feeling the Back-to-School Burn too?  Some of you have been back in action for six weeks and are ready for a fall break, and some of you just started school after Labor Day. I’m sure you all have been feeling a similar level of chaos, no matter where you are in the Back-to-School extravaganza.

While I have been recently yearning to feel more present—with all that is going on (see above)– I felt like I am walking around with extra heightened senses – or what I’m going to call extreme single-tasking — due a confluence of events. I’m trying to figure out the universe’s signals, but on the plus side, there was a lovely weekend in New Orleans with Dr. Together where we got caught in a torrential downpour during a swamp tour. Nothing to do but embrace it when you are stuck in a fan boat in the bayou with eight people you just met. Not the worst single-tasking to observe alligators floating around you, the rain on your face, and pleasant conversation with other tourist types.

On the less pleasant side, my colleague Ana and I spent 45 minutes on a shooter lockdown in a school bathroom with Together Teacher participants. Approximately 20 of us huddled together in the darkness, phones turned off so as not to make any noises, careful not to bump the automatic hand dryers. This was single-tasking at its worst.  All ended up being okay, and we – and our 100+ participants – were released safely and the school handled it beautifully, but it was again a moment of all senses heightened and nowhere to be but THERE. For those of you who handle this worry in schools on a daily basis, I am sending the biggest Together Hugs.

I’m working on some extreme single-tasking in other parts of my life that are less dramatic, of course, such as you know. . . doing the laundry. Kidding. I hate laundry; we all know that. But when the 15-year-old wants to tell you about her camping trip, the 12-year-old wants to show you how Snapchat works, the 10-year-old wants to show you the How to Train Your Dragon book, and the 9-year-old has yet another magic trick, it all keeps coming back to BE HERE NOW, Maia. I find myself saying that a lot lately, and trying to embrace Extreme Single-Tasking. To this end, I’m in the midst of some serious time-blocking, using 25 minute timers for the Pomodoro method, and blocking a lot of buffers. Wish me luck!

Be here now, Maia.

#togetherforever #clipboardsandclogs

PS I’m continuously fascinated by anything individual teachers or entire schools / districts are doing to help students keep it Together. We have written about it here, here, and here, but if you have any practices, artifacts, or anecdotes about what you have tried that has worked, we are ALL EARS.

PPS At long-last, The Together Group’s refreshed website has launched, and you can meet our expanded Together Team over here!



Together Treasure Box (From the Blog!)

  • Time for a Calendar Re-Set? New school year, new routines, time to re-do that calendar!! (And refill that fridge!)
  • Start the year off right! Speaking of new routines, check out these cleaning routines PLUS an example of how a teacher could employ this strategy!
  • Do you struggle with prioritizing all that comes with a new school year? Read here about 5 ways schools can set teachers up for success in this coming school year.



Top Together Tributes

  • Soft fascination for the win. Deeply agree that being idle is both hard AND rewarding. While I do not find “sitting on the beach a form of torture,” I definitely get ants in my pants with long stretches of nothingness. I did recently manage to embrace it during a 48-hour solo-cation on Tighlman Island here on the Chesapeake. I love the idea of soft fascination.
  • RIP Trapper Keeper founder. Of course, approximately 1000 people forwarded me this article. Blending the fun and functional may just be my life’s motto. And who would have imagined the name was conceived over a martini lunch?!  [gift link]
  • Cell Phone Hotel? Yes, please! My colleague Doug penned this about rewiring classrooms for connectedness and belonging – and the epidemic that is smart phone usage with teens (and adults). You can bet my rule about docking your phone upon arrival in my home is in use, but I may just need a cell phone hotel! (Though I did relent on Snapchat after my tween turned in a five-paragraph manifesto.)