Due to my teaching at LaSalle University, I often used the Gregoric Style Delineator when I taught methods classes. Gregoric set up two dimensions. First, how do we perceive information — concrete or abstract. Second, how to organize information — random or sequential. Crossing the dimensions, he developed four learning, teaching styles — concrete sequential (CS), abstract sequential (AS), concrete random (CR), and abstract random (AR). Through word choices, subjects plot their scores on the four styles. No one is 100% one style; no style is better than the other. But we learn (and teach) differently. CS is the most common; AS is the least common. Some of us may be very strong on one style; others balanced between several. CS people follow directions, how do you do this? What is expected of me? They plan, organize things in a logical order. They don’t like to get too personal. They are your typical math or foreign language teachers. In contrast AS people are readers, like authority, work independently, like to debate, always have the correct answer. Maybe a HS forensics coach? AR and CR types have problems with deadlines, following directions, following the plan. CR people like working together, sharing, projects and motions. Social Studies teachers tend to be more CR and AR.
You can check on line for a fuller explanation of each style. In my college class I sometimes established a CS group and an AR and CR group. Assignment: plan a trip to Europe. The CS group came back with a detailed itinerary, costs, times, places to visit. The Random types said they agreed to fly to London and then see what individuals wanted to do. No other plans. In another activity, an CS group kept asking directions, “What are we suppose to do? What does the instructor want? Is this correct?” The Randoms agreed quickly, who cared about directions, we just need to give some answer, it really doesn’t matter what we do. You probably remember both types from school. There is teacher who deducts points for a late paper (CS) and the teacher who says turn in the paper in when your done or it doesn’t matter if it’s late (CR). What I am; what are you?
There are experiences in my life that point to a CS type of person. My family ran an GE appliance store in Bristol Borough in the 1950-60s. The first job I remember doing (self initiated, I think) was to organize light bulbs. First those displayed in the store; later boxes stored in the basement. They were mixed up on the shelves, I organized them in neat rows from 25 watt, through 150 watt. Little soldier bulbs in a row. Some years later I worked in O’Boyles Ice Cream plant in Bristol. One of my main responsibilities was to help unload product in a freezer (20 below) from a conveyor belt — ice cream sandwiches, chocolate pops, pints, 1/2 gallons, and the list goes on. We had to organize and stack product so that the older product would be moved out first; every product line had to be accessible. Kind of a CS task, I think.
My first and last position at Holy Ghost Prep was librarian. You know, Dewey Decimal System, organizing books on shelves sequentially, in order, according to rules laid down by the American Library Association. When I first got the position in the early 1970s, the school’s library was pretty disorganized. Many books had been donated and just shelved. I spent quite a few hours my first summer (unpaid, no less) labeling and shelving books in Dewey order. This was before computers and programs, call numbers were determined by consulting a cataloging book and labels were typed out on a manual typewriter. Wonder how many of those books are still in the HGP library; does HGP even have a library?
My personal life may also exhibit some CS behaviors. In HS, I (on a typewriter) I began to catalog everything in my room — it may have started with books, but continued to collections, stamps, coins, LPs, soon it was everything, even clothes. I had a book that documented everything in my room. Practical? Strange? Not sure. For better or worse this activity was repeated when I was in my 30s. It started again with books — my local history collection, then all my books, then LPs and cassette tapes, collections, of course, clothes, everything. The HS catalog was lost, possible in a Yardley flood; the adult catalog was on a computer that became outdated and the data was lost.
I currently have have a very limited record of my things — several bibliographies of books, children, good reading in social studies, a DVD collection. More importantly I have a record of our art (paintings and other prints), good craft pieces, and some of Diane’s jewelry. There are investment and financial reasons for these lists, right?
Despite what seems to be a lot of CS tendencies in my life, when I take Gregoric’s inventory, I come up strong CR and AR (about equal). My attitude toward deadlines — I was thrown out of Temple’s doctorate program because my time had expired; my favorite card from a close friend, Susan Taylor, quotes Mark Twain, “Don’t put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow.” I like the 1960s, talk about you feelings, collaborative-cooperative education. My dates for student assignments are movable; I’ve never penalized a student for a late paper project (maybe the extra time produced a better product). This doesn’t sound like a typical CS learner-teacher.
This question of style — sequential, random, concrete or abstract — came up as I recently began my annual Spring cleaning and organizing. I am a collector, I like old things, I always believe there might be a use for something, better not throw it out (sometime I think I have 1930s Depression complex, don’t waste; or maybe it’s from the 1960s, recycle, think small. Some might call me a hoarder. We’ve lived in our Yardley house since 1978 — going on 40 years. I will admit, we (no I) have a lot of stuff. The Spring cleaning project is ongoing and repititive. Go through clothes, what can be given to Good Will or turned into rags. I refuse to get rid of the Harris Tweed sports coat I bought in Ireland in 1977. Maybe I will lose weight and can wear it again. Maybe Eli can wear my BC sweatshirt (it’s almost new), the red dashiki, or the off white-ruffled Nicaraguan shirt. These are part of history. This year, before finishing clothes I moved to several drawers containing rings, watches, pins, buttons, penknives, my father’s dog tags, Boy Scouts medals, assorted coins and other jewelry like items. Fortunately I save, buy, and collect a variety of containers and boxes. It can be a carved wooden box or a Prince Albert tobacco tin. Most of the jewelry items are now organized and collected in these containers. My justification for the containers is that my granddaughter, Vivienne, loves containers to save things in. She will inherit may collection, maybe.
I moved to the balcony office. There are 20 feet of floor to ceiling shelves. Most are packed with books. There is some space for what might be called knock knacks. Diane has a stronger name. I work to integrate some new books onto the shelves or into piles near the shelves. So many books have returned from my office at HGP (I am selling a few on Amazon and I sold 20 boxes to the Princeton bookstore, but that just the tip of the book iceberg). I try to group the books, local history, books I haven’t read, books I might want to reread, books that should be lent, sold or given away. This is a rough organization at this time. Another day I attack the dirt and dust on shelves and the floor. I remove all the non-book items, clean shelves and display some things on available space. A row of Mercer tiles, pipes — Sherlock Holmes calabash, hash, just an old tobacco pipe. There is a antique microscope, small framed photographs of family, ceramic statues that belonged to my mother or grandmother. It’s personal history. Most coins, stamps, postcards, political and other buttoms are placed in boxes or file drawers containing similar objects. These are collections to be organized at some later date. Remember, this is a rough go through.
The Spring cleaning and organizing has just begun. It’s a bit more intense since we are retired. What’s going to happen to all this stuff in ten, twenty years? We have a bedroom that is still filled with Jenny things. Rooms and rooms filled with our things. From the bedroom and clothes, balcony office, I plan to move to our shed and our ground level garage and workshop. These are areas that can flood. In the past year I have moved boxes and boxes of stuff from HGP (some moved to school during previous floods) and I recently brought many of my father’s tools from storage. There are hundreds of books, LPs, VHS , DVDs and CDs. And a wild assortment of teaching props, tools — you name it.
I’ve often invoked Socrates, ” Know Yourself.” Sequential or random; concrete or abstract. What am I? How have these dimensions influenced my learning and teaching? How will they influence my retirement? Not just how I organized the things but how I organize my life? How I spend my time? Maybe I am randomly sequential.
More later, maybe, when. . . .