The Diversity of “Funds of Knowledge”

Charlotte Perry (’23) reflects on an important Skyline Writing Center value: funds of knowledge. “But the part of it that I think a lot of students don’t consider when they first join the Writing Center is that your fund of knowledge can be your people skills, ability to make people laugh/feel comfortable, and being able to rephrase questions.”

When I first joined the Writing Center one of the biggest things that stood out and kind of made me nervous was the whole “we welcome all funds of knowledge” thing. I remember thinking “oh no,I’m not very good at punctuation” blah blah self criticism blah blah. But that’s not what “funds of knowledge” actually means; sure it can mean you are skilled in punctuation and grammar or analytical writing etc. But the part of it that I think a lot of students don’t consider when they first join the Writing Center is that your fund of knowledge can be your people skills, ability to make people laugh/feel comfortable, and being able to rephrase questions. Those are all very important funds of knowledge that don’t necessarily have anything to do with academics but traits like those make great tutors when they are taught that those traits are something to be proud of. 

I used to feel pretty insecure about my tutoring abilities because I felt I wasn’t “qualified enough” to be a tutor at times; before I realized that not only is it perfectly okay to ask for help from other tutors and be vulnerable and say “I’m still learning how to tutor assignments like this” and that in itself is another form of….a fund of knowledge! Advocating for yourself and others is a skill that isn’t inherent for everyone. Everyone in the Writing Center and who comes into the Writing Center are all works in progress. We’re all still learning and no one is perfect and no tutor is going to have all the answers. 

Growth mindset. Shared vulnerability. Funds of knowledge. Community collaboration. That is the Skyline Writing Center.

The War of Paper and Digital

Michelle McGuinty (’24) outlines the pros and cons of digital versus print books. She asks, “Which is better,” inviting readers to draw their own conclusions.

1993—the longest war in known history was born, e-books as the match. They’re classic. They’re modern. They’re reliable. They’re accessible. They hold history. They made history.

Digital books were first created in 1971 but weren’t sold until 1993. Long after the estimated start of words on parchment around 500 BC. But which is better has always been the question.

E-books started just like digital books but grew with the explosion of the internet. There are now countless platforms to use, from professional and peer-edited to unedited and written by a young student. Digital books have an endless variety, customizations galore, and settings for a wide range of ability. Not only that, but without hundreds of paper pages, it’s lighter and better for the environment.

On the other hand, physical books are just that—physical. They can be signed, have more designs, and hold a higher value. Paper books also have to go through the publication process, meaning they are fully edited and finished pieces. Lastly, many people prefer physical books because of the feeling they get from the smell, the turning of the pages, the bookmarks, the aesthetic overall.

When it comes to the question: which is better? The answer lies with the reader. Both media types hold mystical tales that come to life in your mind, and any way you want to immerse yourself—is valid.

People Watching

Avivah Mitchel (’23) reflects on the power of people-watching to elicit empathy and connect with those we tutor. “Discomfort can appear differently in each person, but it is so often recognizable. Happiness, people can’t seem to hide it when it radiates off of them.”

I love to people-watch.

I love to observe people doing people things and wonder about their lives 

It has always been bizarre to me that each person I meet – and the billions of people that I’ll never meet – have just as many, if not more, thoughts, aspirations, likes and dislikes, talents and struggles, and emotions as myself. Not in the way that I don’t believe it, but in the way that it’s fascinating and difficult to wrap my head around, but it puts things into perspective and helps to get out of your own head. 

I find solace in people-watching.

I sit in a seat surrounded by windows in the coffee shop on the corner, observing all who walk past. I came here to work on my college essays, some of which are due in less than two weeks and I haven’t begun writing them. But like I often am, I am distracted by the individuals around me.

All I can do is people-watch. 

The woman on the corner in a bright yellow vest on top of a winter coat is holding a clipboard, with worry in her eyes. I imagine she is registering people to vote as the primaries are next month, only a few more days for people to register to vote and be eligible to vote in the next election. She lifts her chin and eagerly asks people questions – most of whom ignore her, or avoid eye contact and shake their heads. I can’t quite see what she is asking them, but she appears to be feeling defeated. A boy in a red crew neck nervously checks his phone 3 times as he crosses the street, he could be anxiously awaiting a message from someone, or maybe some sort of test result. His nervous demeanor transports him to the other side of the street –  where he once again, checks his phone. A boy in a Michigan baseball cap carries himself with certainty and confidence, his shoulders back, chest puffed out, backpack open and his jacket unzipped. He smiles to himself as he walks with a bounce in his step. I wonder if he had just heard good news or is on his way to a date, or perhaps he is just feeling good today. A couple peacefully hold hands as they slowly make their way down the block. Content smiles fill their faces as they turn to look at each other, the smile that doesn’t leave when they turn away. To me, they seem to be a new couple. Maybe they started dating a month ago. They look happy and full of warmth amongst the cold of the fall day.

These are just judgments and assumptions, I’ll never know the reality of the strangers on the other side of these windows, or even the ones 3 feet away from me at another table. But I won’t stop wondering. You may approach interactions differently based on what you observe about people. 

It’s quite easy to make negative judgments about people. It’s in our nature. Negative judgments are based on people’s appearance or clothing, assuming their situation. However, positive people-watching is about positive judgments and curious inquiries. To wonder about people’s lives, and approach those thoughts with good intentions, and empathy. 

I notice that most people who walk alone have headphones in, whether they are listening to music, a podcast, on a phone call, or just have them in to avoid interaction. Some people walk alone. Others with a friend, or partner. Some people walk in groups. Some people get pushed off the sidewalk in their group or have to walk alone slightly behind. Some people walk with emphasis on their heels, or toes. Some with long, slow strides, others with quick short steps, or somewhere in between. Some people look at their feet as they walk. Others pay clear attention to their surroundings. Some people are highly conscious of the way they walk, maybe that’s because of a past experience that stuck with them. Some people walk with pride radiating off of them, almost as if they are dancing. Others take timid steps. Some people roll themselves down the road in an electric wheelchair. While some get pushed by someone else. Some people drag their feet when they walk. Or keep their toes turned in. Others walk with their feet turned out and barely bend their knees. 

These people that I watch, are on their way to something or from somewhere. Each person picked out their outfit. Some may have retrieved their clothes from their floor, the same outfit from yesterday, and maybe even the day before. Or maybe they took time curating their outfit to represent and express themselves. One girl appears to be wearing handmade or vintage jeans with different colored patches. Another wearing a golden goose coat. I marvel at the variety. Someone else wears a t-shirt, they don’t seem to be shivering, though it’s the coldest day of the year so far. 

I am curious about each person’s story, family, opinions, and interests. I wonder if they participate in class, or have a favorite teacher or professor. I wonder if we’ve ever crossed paths before or if we will ever again. I won’t remember either way. Through the window, I can’t tell who is an exchange student from another country, who is from Michigan, or out of state. 

At school, I people-watch every day, in the hallways, out the windows of my classes, and even within my classes. But it’s different at school. The faces and backpacks are familiar. I see the same bunch of students on my walk from class to class each day, but I could name maybe 15 of them, the ones I walk with and a few others. I watch people’s body language. One day the person whose outfits I always admire walks alone today, with their head down. I wonder if something had happened.

Each friend I make, or classmate I get to know, has a story. They have joyful memories and heartbreaking trauma – of course some more than others – they have music they like, concerns, passions, and the things that build their identity; the ways in which I perceive them, what they chose to share, what they don’t, how they perceive themselves. Each person is full of value. I learn so much from people’s body language. Some body language is universal. Discomfort can appear differently in each person, but it is so often recognizable. Happiness, people can’t seem to hide it when it radiates off of them. 

In the Writing Center, people-watching and body language reading are some of the most important parts of being a writing tutor. A quiet student comes in, clearly, they had to find the courage to step in and sit down next to you: don’t bombard them with information about yourself and an intense amount of energy. A student takes a seat next to you and inches their chair away from the edge of the table, they need some space, don’t comment on it, just give them a little bit of space. A student comes into the writing center, introduces themselves immediately, smiles at you before you ask, and sits down with excitement and passion written all over their face, returning that energy. Every single interaction that you have with people in the Writing Center, and beyond, can be enhanced by the way your ability to be aware of and receptive to people’s body language. 

You should people-watch more often. You don’t have to be able to read body language. Just sit. And watch people being people. 

Ditch the Hustle Mentality: 3 Tips for Students Struggling with Self-Care in an Academically Grueling Environment

Salsabeel Hodge (’23) reflects on her own self-care journey and gives some practical tips to balance academic success and happiness and health. “…students need to take a step back from the noise and learn to care for themselves, so they can show up fully for the important people and areas of their lives.”

Self-care, a word that usually invokes images of a warm environment, lighted candles, and soft music. It’s a way for people to get relief after a tough day. The more adversity someone faces, the more self-care they likely need. 

In an environment like school, which is challenging not only academically, but emotionally, and potentially physically, self-care is vital. Most students turn to instant gratification as a means of self-care, likely because it’s easy, and they might not know better.

However, this can be useless or even more damaging, because instant gratification doesn’t allow you to examine your needs, and determine how to meet them in the future, but rather provides a short temporary fix to turmoil. 

So before I get into suggestions for upping your self-care game, we first need to understand what self-care is. 

Care as defined by Oxford Dictionary, is providing sustenance to maintain someone’s health, well-being, and protection. Self-care, as suggested by the name, is providing that for yourself; Which is not an easy task.

We live in a world, where we’re encouraged to pursue our goals with a ruthless passion, regardless of the effect. Even if that means inflicting pain on ourselves. 

For many students, that means doing anything to get an A, even if means neglecting their health. 

However, this mindset leads to a path of destruction. And to prevent this, students need to take a step back from the noise and learn to care for themselves, so they can show up fully for the important people and areas of their lives.

For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to implement this practice in my life. I haven’t figured everything out yet, but I did want to share what I’ve learned so far; in hopes of helping others get to a place, where they can achieve their goals, and prioritize their well-being. 

Tip One: Redefine Your Goals

Do well on all your assignments, in order to get good grades, in order to maintain a high GPA, in order get into a good college, in order to get a good job. 

Now when I write this out, it sounds absurd and ridiculously ambitious; but this is the sentiment of many students, even if they don’t want to admit it. 

And regardless of how you look at it, this harsh mindset is damaging l to your well-being. 

Now, I’m not saying to do badly in school; you should strive to do your best work. But what I am saying is this perfectionist mindset is impossible to achieve. 

There is no way you’re going to be able to do well on all your assignments, no matter how hard you try. And if you make the above description your goal, you’re implicitly tying your worth, and likely your confidence to outcomes outside of yourself. 

And if that’s not enough to convince you then consider this. Extrinsic goals, tend to be less fulfilling and decrease your happiness.

I’m sure at some point, we’ve all thought “If I get an A in *insert class* I’ll be happy,” or something along those lines. But after you achieved that goal, you were satisfied for a hot minute, and on to the next goal. And then the next one. Chasing happiness in things that are outside of yourself.   

What you need are intrinsic goals. Goals that are personally related to you, and whose success only you can define. And bonus, they’re are a lot more fulfilling extrinsic ones. 

For example, some of my intrinsic academic goals are:

  • To become a more efficient and skilled problem solver than I was at the beginning of the year.
  • To be able to hold an educated conversation about as many topics as possible. 
  • To build relationships with people I wouldn’t normally talk to in my classes

As you can see, all of these goals are related to things that I value and can carry over in many aspects of school, not just one class.

And even though they’re not outcome-based, I’m still succeeding academically. One, because I’m actually enjoying the process. And two, because these are all goals that are motivating me to learn, and therefore become proficient in my various classes. 

Another bonus is that I get a boost of confidence when I make progress toward these goals. Meaning how I feel is determined by me, and less so by a Powerschool notification.

Because let me tell you, letting external sources define your happiness can lead to a roller coaster of emotions. It might even put you in a state of constant stress, fight or flight mode, which is horrible for your health. 

That’s the opposite of self-care. It’s self-destruction. 

Tip Two: Take Care-Centered Action

Now, let’s say you’ve changed how you frame your goals, first of all, congratulations! You’ve taken a massive step towards becoming a healthier student.

But here’s the hard part: you have to take care-centered action toward your goals.  

Tough love if you will.

This comes back to the instant vs delayed gratification conversation. Are you willing to do the hard things that will benefit your future well-being?

A strategy that I use, albeit a little odd, is thinking of my future self as her own person. 

I ask myself, would future me be seriously irritated, stressed, or have to sacrifice sleep if I didn’t do these assignments now? If the answer is yes, then I’ll begrudgingly complete the assignments, sending love to my future self. If not, then I’ll usually break down the assignment, into smaller parts, setting a “due date,” for each part, so I can complete it in a timely and less stressful manner.

Now, this might seem like a basic strategy for being a productive student. However, sticking to a general deadline, is what makes this an act of self-care. 

Emphasis on general deadlines, because strict deadlines can make you feel guilty for not achieving them, and don’t take into account the need to rest, which I’ll talk about later.

However, it’s important to differentiate between a lack of discipline and the need to rest. 

For example, I tend to fall prey to scrolling on Instagram for hours, instead working on the hard assignment I’ve been dreading all day. This is not needing time to rest, but rather prioritizing the good feeling of scrolling over the better feeling I’ll get from completing the assignment. 

It’s not care-centered, because I’m willingly harming the well-being of my future self. When I should be taking care of her.

That’s why, whenever I don’t feel like doing an assignment, I just try to start it. And usually, once I do that, I’m more likely to finish it, as the assignment becomes less daunting.

This is care-centered because I’m doing what’s best for my future self, even though it’s slightly painful in the moment. Because, no matter what, I’m still going to have to do the assignment. And the struggle of doing it in the moment is usually less than the struggle of doing it in the future.

Tip Three: Know When and How to Rest

There are sometimes, however, when it’s better to do something later and rest instead. So when are these times?

Unfortunately, that’s not a question I can answer for you. It’s something that you need to figure out. 

I suggest becoming mindful of your body. Ask yourself, are there periods of time that you need more rest than others? What type of situations leave you drained? At what times do you function best? Worst?

Once you identify these situations, look at your schedule, and see if you can prioritize this time for rest. Continue to check in with your body, and use it as a guide for this schedule.

It’s important to note though, that rest doesn’t always have to be planned; it can be impromptu. We’re all human. 

Some days your body might feel like giving out. Or it might be emotionally drained. Whatever it is, listen to your body, especially when it’s stressed, and honor it.

Remember, resting is also an act of self-care, and it can do miraculous things for your well-being.

Taking time to rest, however, is half of the battle. How you rest is the other half. 

Before I learned how to rest, I would notice I was exhausted, and decide to take a break. But then, I would spend that time scrolling on Instagram (can you tell this is my crutch?), Only to still feel drained, and overwhelmed, regardless of how long I spend scrolling.

I needed to figure out good ways to recharge, because hint hint, social media is not one of them.

So what are activities that will help you recharge? For some, It could be exercising, for others, it might be talking to a loved one, sleeping, meditating, listening to music, or doing something creative. 

A quick note: self-care doesn’t haven’t be something extravagant. It could literally be sitting in silence for five minutes, and allowing your thoughts to wander. You’d be surprised by where your brain goes without the noise of the world.

Anyways, the key is to do something that puts you in a relaxed state and makes you feel energized. Again, listening to your body can help you figure out what the activities are. 

While resting, however, you may notice that you feel guilty for not being productive. I know I struggled with this a lot. So how do you get that pesky emotion to leave you alone?

For me, it was realizing that resting is actually productive. 

For example, recently I noticed that whenever I do homework for hours on end, I start to get unfocused, or even a little sleepy. In the past, I would push through this, in order to get through my long to-do list. However, more recently, I started taking breaks and I noticed that I worked through my to-do list even faster.

It seems counterintuitive, especially since I believed resting was a waste of time and would slow me down. But it actually allowed me to work more efficiently. 

I would implore you to think about what beliefs make you feel guilty for resting. Is it that hustle mindset, that equates being a workaholic with success? Is it the idea that you don’t have time to rest? Is it pressure from people around you to always be “productive”?

I suggest journaling, meditating, or some other reflective practice to get to the root cause. 

It’s important to realize, though, that you won’t stop feeling guilty right away. But rather, it’s a process. And eventually, you’ll get to a point where you can rest without any guilt.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this post allowed you to see that it’s possible to achieve personal well-being and be academically successful. 

Intrinsic goals will allow you to control your happiness, even when you have to face a little adversity to achieve them.

And most importantly, you’ll know when it’s time to call it quits, and how to make the most of this time. 

This process is not a linear one. But the best thing you can do is to continue to show up for yourself, every single day. And hopefully, with time and effort, you’ll be in a better place than where you started. 

I wish you luck on your journey.