“One flesh” is the biblical definition of marriage in two brief but freighted words. This expression names marriage as one mortal life fully shared. The word one bespeaks a life fully shared, and the word flesh suggests the transient mortality of this life.

Raymond Ortlund, Jr., Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel

Weighted Blanket

For years I have been complaining to my wife that I don’t get to sleep with heavy Korean blankets. I am, I don’t know, haptically stimulated, responsive to physical intimacy, and I need an emotional-support blanket. One that feels like a person sitting on top of me.

She has always retorted, validly, that she does not want to sleep next to me wrestling with my blanket all night long, kicking it off and then wrapping it around, sweating under it, drooling on it, tossing it on her and grabbing it off her — and she does not want to have to sleep with it herself.

For Christmas my wife got me one of those weighted blankets that’s all the rage. It’s not exactly an overstuffed quilt, but it’s a pretty darn good compromise. It’s got the weight without the bulk, and so it’s easy to contain to my side of the bed. And it’s got a nubby slipcover that I can take off and launder easily.

No link: just do a search on your favorite shopping portal; I’m sure lots and lots of options will come up.

The Importance of Memory in Instruction

Education Next has a good interview with Clare Sealy about the importance of semantic memory in instruction. This is a good reminder and corrective for those who favor more progressive pedagogies, which tends to focus more on experiential inquiries while neglecting the actual assimilation of content.

I do think Sealy under-appreciates episodic memory moments, which often rev up motivation, expand neural associations, and rejuvenate semantic memories, but she makes an excellent point that they are wasted if used unthinkingly. 

  • Two forms of memory: Episodic & Semantic
  • Episodic
    • Autobiographical episodes of life
    • Automatic
    • Usually easily forgotten
    • Highly contextual
      • Bundled with sensory experiences & emotions
      • Goosed by novelty
  • Semantic
    • Requires effort & practice
      • Taking notes, review, recall, synthesize
    • Longer lasting
    • Better at enabling transfer of learning to new contexts
      • Not dependent on contextual tags
      • Essential prerequisite for creativity & critical thinking
    • Lots of semantic memory gives you “an augmented reality, everything [you] see is overlaid with additional layers of meaning and possibility” (Ian Leslie)
  • An experience can be “memorable” without us remembering much about it
    • Episodic imprint of emotional significance
      • Recall of contextual tags
    • No transfer into semantic memory
    • Therefore, an engaging instructor may actually not be effective
      • “Fun” lessons makes us think about medium of lesson, not message
      • A science experiment may cause lots of thinking not so much about the content  but about the preparation, protocol, monitoring, etc.
        • More effective to teach concept first & use experiment to consolidate/confirm learning
      • Similarly, researching a topic might teach more about doing research than the topic itself
        • If concept important, extra time needed to think about it before or after the research
      • “Rich tasks” in math instruction
        • “Discovering is seen as more creative, requiring more imagination, more interesting and therefore much more likely to result in children really understanding the math conceptually, rather than just regurgitating a procedure.”
        • “Counter intuitive as it may seem, children do not become independent problem solvers by independently solving problems.”
        • Need to teach necessary math to solve problem first
    • Illusion of learning when it might actually be highly contextual
      • Recall drops when context (class, school) changes
  • Research on effective teaching (Principles of Instruction (Barak Rosenshine), What Makes Great Teaching (Coe et al), What Works Best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW performance (Centre for Education and Statistics of New South Wales, Australia))
    • Explicit explanations in small, carefully thought-out steps
    • Lots of opportunity to practice before going onto next small step
    • Esp. in early knowledge acquisition phase of learning
    • Spiraling back to review previous material
      • In different contexts, less tightly cued
        • Moving from performance (cued semantic memory practice) to learning
  • Possible to overstate separateness of episodic & semantic memory
    • Hard thinking can reach into both
    • Episodic highlights can complement semantic learning
    • Kids who don’t have rich episodic memories benefit from exposure to life experiences, expanding horizons
      • Including very young kids

In the clearing stands a boxer

And a fighter by his trade

And he carries the remainders

Of every glove that laid him down

And cut him till he cried out

In his anger and his shame

“I am leaving, I am leaving”

But the fighter still remains

Lie-la-lie . . .

Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, “The Boxer”

The Repair Shop

My father passed away recently. The last week or so of his decline, I found myself binge watching The Repair Shop on Netflix. It’s a British show where people bring in old and broken family heirlooms and a TV guild of craftspeople and restoration experts fix them.

I began to watch these episodes regularly, one (or more) a night. At some point, I began to wonder why I found the show so appealing. There’s a bit of history education vis a vis Antiques Roadshow. There’s a bit of skill admiration, like watching elite athletes or chefs on competitive cooking shows. The mutual admiration and cooperative friendship within the shop is heartwarming, too.

Ultimately, though, I think the fundamental premise of the show is what gets to me: it’s the about the loving restoration of things to former (and future) glory. What a redemptive premise for our ramshackle world!

Postpartum Depression

I’m not sure how accurate this is, but I’ve generally observed that pregnancies in organizations, including my church, tend to come in waves. Perhaps it has to do with menstrual syncing (although that might not be a thing) or perhaps it has to do with a more general syncing of social seasons and moods. Anyways, there seems to be times when our church is suddenly busy following up and providing meals for newly (or re-newly) minted moms.

This has been on my mind because of an NPR Lifekit episode (yes, another one) that I’ve recently listened to, this one on postpartum depression. The linked article itself provides a pretty good summary and outline of the episode, and the audio is worth listening to. The issue has gotten more awareness in recent years, but I don’t think it’s still dealt with openly by most women who suffer from it. I recommend also giving a listen to this episode of Other People’s Problems where therapist Hillary McBride shares a bit of her session with a mom suffering from postpartum depression.

I wonder if our follow-up ministry to moms can provide some rudimentary training to gently probe whether PPD is an issue.

Our children need to understand that they are not the greatest love of their parents’ lives, but that God is…. It is a strange thing to desire that our children love someone else more than us, but this is right so long as the object of their affections is their heavenly Father.

Timothy Sisemore, Our Covenant with Kids.