Messy: The Power of Disorder to Change Our Lives by Tim Harford, was sitting there on the "new" books shelf in the library. Now given that I struggle with a large degree of messiness, and I am the neatest person in my home, I just had to read this one. When I brought it home I placed it on my husband's pillow, hoping he'd find validation in his piles of stuff, but he thought it was a not so subtle hint that maybe he should clean up a bit. He clearly didn't flip through the book, yet, I'll see if I can get him to do that. I think he'd enjoy it and I think that many of the readers of this blog would enjoy it, so that is why I am writing this.
Maybe it is confirmation bias that made me enjoy it so much, but maybe not.
The book explains why my vertical filing system actually works, and how my messy desk can provide links to creative ideas, how seeming disasters can lead to leaps forward that wouldn't have otherwise occurred. It talks about how students who set monthly goals and plans actually do better than one who write daily plans, which connects to how I used to plan eight week units of study for my classes by immersing myself into the material, finding art, science, mathematical and historical connections along the way. I'd then make a checklist of the activities that needed to be covered over the quarter, some writing, additional types of reading...and then I would provide my students with lots of materials, books on every reading level that I could find, art materials that connected, science books that connected, and then gave them time to preview the materials before we began the unit. The direction the unit took was chosen by the questions the kids asked after looking at the materials, not by me sitting at the kitchen table filling out a plan book on Sunday evening. It was messy. It was different every year. It was rich. It was hard. It worked. The kids scored well on the tests. I could never do this today, messiness is not allowed.
The book validates, my messiness, my nest of books next to my bed. The contents of the pile give a reflection on where I am at the moment, several weeks ago the contents were extremely different heavy on environmental stuff, but then, the election happened. There are several on foods around the world written for children, a book on character, a Korean cookbook, a book on small press books, a book on trails, a book on Roger Williams(8x great grandpa)/separation of church and state, a social history of American art, two novels, one for a book club, several seed catalogs, journals and notebooks. Now how I will create my future with all this messiness? We'll have to wait and see, just don't eat the stuff in the back of my fridge, read the book, you'll understand.