A decision to learn how to juggle over 20 years ago turned into a relatable, lesson-worthy opportunity for Elgin Community College Professor of English and Honors Program Director Jason Kane.
“I was home from college one summer and decided I wanted to learn [how to juggle],” said Kane. “I thought I’d give it a try but failed miserably the first day—out in public, alone. I gave up after being frustrated, but went back the next day and was amazed that I could do it on my first try.”
Juggling requires one to practice, pay attention, interact and find connections—all things that Kane encourages his students to do.
Kane uses his story of struggling to juggle to explain a process he calls “ORIBAHA!”. “ORIBAHA!” (pronounced or-eeb-aha!) is an acronym for the five stages of the creativity process; over-determination, release, incubation, breakthrough and “aha,” the celebratory moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight or comprehension that keeps one going.
“I always ask students who don’t know how to juggle to try it for the class,” said Kane. “We [the class] give them tips first. I also encourage students who refuse to give me reasons why they won’t try—classic fear and negative mindset stuff—to try.”
We caught up with Kane to learn more about his life and his work at ECC. Here is what he had to say.
What year did you start at ECC?
What is your greatest accomplishment since you’ve been here?
I am most proud when I see a student clearly improve by the end of a semester and know why he/she has improved. It’s great when students begin the course as reluctant writers who may struggle with generating and developing their purposes for writing, but by the end have learned how to engage in the process, become open to feedback, and genuinely become invested in their writing projects.
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
Enjoy the break from reading and responding to student writing and take a nice, long lunch. If I could also assume that any act done on my day would be everlasting, I would probably make college free. If I didn’t quite have that kind of power, I might shut down any cellular signal so students would (maybe) then put their phones down and talk to each other a bit more.
If there was a movie about your life, who would you want to play you?
For whatever reason, this was the last question I answered. My wife said “it has to be someone tall,” so I googled a list of tall actors—found a list, but it didn’t help much. So, I’m going with a recommendation from my wife, Tom Cavanagh, who is more of a TV actor, so it might have to be a Lifetime movie. He’s on “The Flash” now, I guess, but when he was the star of the TV show “Ed,” I did occasionally hear from folks that Ed reminded them of me.
What’s on your “bucket list?”
I’d like to take my kids/family out of the country somewhere. I don’t have a specific destination in mind, but maybe Spain, where I studied abroad as a student, and around Europe.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
You mean that there’s stuff outside of work? I most enjoy spending time with friends and family and having good conversation over food and drinks. I do enjoy writing but rarely get to do any. I enjoy reading too but tend to read just before bed, which means I may only read a few pages at a time unless I’m not sleeping well, which, unfortunately, happens more often than I like. College basketball season makes me happy—long time Michigan State Spartans fan.
Where was the best place you’ve traveled to? Or, where would you like to visit?
One of the best experiences of my life was studying abroad in Segovia, Spain, during my junior year of college—now over 20 years ago. I bonded with the place for sure and enjoyed walking along the stone streets or sitting by the 2,000 year-old aqueduct while writing. It was a great time to learn another language, about other cultures, but also about myself and the ways others may see us.
What’s one fact we should know about you?
Public education has somewhat been the family business. My father was a teacher before becoming a high school principal. My mother was a high school English teacher. Her three sisters, my aunts, were all teachers. Two of their late husbands were both professors at Mott Community College in Flint, Mich. My two oldest cousins and their wives are in education, one cousin a math professor at Northwestern Michigan College, and a younger cousin is a lawyer who works with the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
What’s something about your job that others should know?
I read and try to respond meaningfully to just about every word that the students write for class because no matter their ability level, all students have insights about their lives and the world around them. Although it may seem that students do not always follow the feedback, they do appreciate that their ideas are valued and most often respond to the challenge.
With the Honors Program, many of our students don’t necessarily begin in Honors already confident about their academic abilities or focused primarily on achievement. They grow to develop their critical abilities, get inspired to engage on campus, see themselves as thinkers, and they develop a deep approach to learning.
What would be your “theme song?”
Oh, maybe “Have You Ever” by The Avett Brothers, a cover of a Brandi Carlile song. The first lyric is “Have you ever wandered lonely through the woods? And everything there feels just as it should. You’re part of a life there. You’re part of something good. Have you ever wandered lonely through the woods?” And later, “Have you ever stared into a starry sky? Lying on your back, you’re asking, why? What’s the purpose, Lord, I wonder, who am I? If you ever stared into a starry sky.” Moments of quiet, solitary reflection are sort of my thing.
What was your favorite class in school?
I would have to say my Honors freshman communications class that was team-taught and combined writing and speaking. As a student, it was the first time I began to read, to think, and to write in ways that developed my own thinking rather than just show understanding of others.
What quote best describes your philosophy?
“Be good. Be smart. Be kind.” This is what I tell my boys every morning before they go to school.
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
There is an ongoing sense that we need to and that we can improve; this is the writer’s mindset, and I’m glad to work with people who are willing to try to do better for all students.