Category Archives: Newsflash

Reflecting on this week

This was a good teacher week.  It was a good teacher week because I felt that there was at least one lesson that really hit the kids.  It was a good teacher week because we ended positively.  It was a good teacher week because I slept a lot.  It was a good teacher week  because two different people from my childhood showed me they cared because they saw an area where I was needy and provided.  It’s things like that — not advice, not suggestions — just physical funds, resources, or labor, that really speak to me as a teacher, right now. 

Today, I also happened upon THREE DIFFERENT teacher-related links that were all so good.  I think these are good for everyone to read.  It speaks to me, as a teacher, but should also let people know a bit of what teachers experience.

How To Be a Teacher for More Than 5 Years Without Killing Yourself

I’m working on different parts of this list written by Justin Stortz, a former teacher who is incredibly vulnerable in his posts.  Last year, I was thisclose to burnout, and I wish he had written this post sooner.   And I’ve already learned the hard way why it is important to stay humble and not “set yourself and your class up for failure by letting your ego get in your way.” :-/  Also, this year, I’m trying to maintain a hobby (working out and writing), trying to cook more, and I put myself on a sleeping schedule.

The Hardest Job Everyone Thinks They Can Do

Inspiring kids? Inspiring kids can be downright damned near close to impossible sometimes. And… it’s downright damned near close to impossible to measure. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s test scores. You can’t measure inspiration by a child’s grades. You measure inspiration 25 years later when that hot-shot doctor, or lawyer, or entrepreneur thanks her fourth-grade teacher for having faith in her and encouraging her to pursue her dreams.

Maybe that’s why teachers get so little respect. It’s hard to respect a skill that is so hard to quantify.

Fellow teacher friend and HGSE grad shared this link on Facebook.  Dennis Hong, a molecular biologist – turned – teacher shares a few tidbits on what teaching is and why it’s so hard.  A short, thought-provoking piece from an apologist for teachers.

First They Came for Urban Black and Latino Moms (For Arne Duncan)

A few months ago, I walked past a “successful” charter school here in Harlem, NY, speed-walking to get my school supplies for the coming school year. I noticed a huge crowd of mostly Black and Latino families all waiting to pick up their children when a taut, pony-tailed White man came out with a clipboard and yells, “Alright, parents, we need everyone to line up!” My inner voice yelled “What!?” at the entire scene. No one protested. A few snickered and rolled their eyes. They all got in one straight line, parallel to Malcolm X Boulevard to pick up their children.

This would have never gone down at a suburban school.

Jose Vilson, hits on a piece of white privilege that we so often ignore.  Also, coming from a successful charter school, I see this all the time.  It’s articles like this that reminds me that it should not be so normal to witness this kowtowing as schools begin to own the children.  I rage about families that don’t support their children, but in the same sense, we should be helping families support their children, not just forcing our parenting upon the families.

George Zimmerman Charged: Not a night of celebration

I was on my way to Washington DC, taking advantage of JetBlue’s free TV when I saw Breaking News: George Zimmerman Charged with Second Degree Murder.

I watched bits of this news segment and below is one thing a pastor with Trayvon Martin’s family said that really got to me.  While saying that what they hoped for was a fair trial, I was struck by their lack of this push for retribution.  I was also struck by the humility of allowing the judicial system (that in a sense, initially betrayed them until they rallied media support) to continue its work.  I am glad that they reminded the world that this isn’t a viral hype, but the start of a movement that requires sober discernment.

“There are no winners here. There are no high fives tonight. They have lost a son. We will not be gloating around here. We are still mourning with this family. We will monitor this trial every step of the way. This is not a night of celebration, it is a night that should’ve never happened in the first place.  We are trying ot make sure that something happens so that this will not happen again.

Personally, I am not very “PC.”  I get irritated when people don’t give others the benefit of the doubt or too quickly label something racist or culturally-insensitive.  I wonder if instead of hollering about race, why not just shrug it off, keeping living, and respond to ignorance gently?

I wonder about George Zimmerman. Is he a product of racism or ignorance?  Both?  Does the latter breed the former?  I don’t believe he is an anomaly.  I don’t think humans are naturally good and Zimmerman is just a bad egg.  I wonder what the outcome would have been if Trayvon Martin’s story didn’t become viral.  Perhaps because the nature of the death was so violent and because the actions so blatantly stared us in the face, we were forced to take action.  But so many things like this happen every day (albeit at a milder part of the spectrum).

I still have plenty of thoughts but I’m rambling, and I’m trying to learn to cut myself short.  I will end with a few words from Trayvon Martin’s mother.

I want to speak from my heart to your heart because a heart has no color. It is not black nor white, it’s red. So I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart.

In all this pain, I am amazed and encouraged to see this family glorifying God in their responses of grace and trust.  We can know that even in this, God is still good.

Just another day for thinking and creating

Today was an inspirational day.  I met up this morning with Dr. Reimers to discuss a class project and some personal ideas.  He is seriously one of my favorite teachers here.  Then, in my Charter Schools class,  there were a slew of great speakers with practical advice.. it was so jam-packed.  And then, oh, Mike Feinberg (cofounder of KIPP) decided to swing by.  Regardless of my personal feelings about KIPP schools, it’s times like these where I am amazed and thankful to be at HGSE.

Today I’m working on my Business Model Canvas since tomorrow I’m meeting with a friend to discuss a nascent business plan for The Mind Garden.  Wheeoo wheeoo.  Should’ve started this earlier!

I’m also eating Mike’s Pastry, Ben & Jerry’s Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack Ice cream, and Haagen Dazs five’s coffee ice cream.  :)

Just read the following article to pump myself up.  An oldie but a goodie.

Disruption is coming, there is no doubt of it! Will it be soon? Will it be virtual? We have little idea at this time as to how it will eventually turn out. What is also clear, however, is that the technology revolution taking place means that when disruption does come, it will be more than mere operational rearrangements; it will be profound and revitalizing.

- Disruption: Coming Soon to A University Near You []

Trayvon Martin.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s so late at night, but I just got very emotional reading this article.  I think growing up in California, I was rather sheltered compared to the rest of the USA.  Sure, I had my share of racial slurs, but they didn’t bother me too much.  In California, I felt people were so overly PC that I used to get really annoyed.  But for some reason, this year, I’m seeing the full effect of ignorance when taken to its logical ends.

It makes me sad.  To quote Charles M. Blow’s tweet, “Even if you remove the racial element from the Trayvon case, it’s just as outrageous: a grown man killed an unarmed kid holding candy.”

Amen. With that said, I want to include an excerpt from an article that I read today (Facebook rec from a friend).

“Nineteen years ago, on a frigid December night in Waco, Texas, what was intended to be a quick stop at the convenience store turned into a two-hour lesson on the racial history of America. A teenager, I was wearing a large jacket with a hood. As I readied myself to exit the car, my grandfather, with whom we were visiting for the holidays, proclaimed, “Take that hood off your head before you go in that store or they will blow your brains out!” Such sudden outbursts were uncharacteristic for my rather mild-mannered grandfather. I found his proclamation of the possibility of my abrupt and violent demise rather upsetting. And it was difficult for me to comprehend. I was simply going to buy some sodas, a rather non-hostile action in my opinion.

For what felt more like an eternity than two hours, my grandfather, grandmother, mother, and uncle awakened me to some troubling realities: 1) That my dark skin, then embracing a 5-foot-10-inch, 13-year-old frame, was a considerable threat for some people, and 2) that some people would not be patient enough to judge me based on the content of my character but rather would be fixated on the color of my skin, and that the color of my skin, viewed through the lens of their own prejudices, meant that I was the physical embodiment of their greatest fear (a big, Black man), fears reinforced daily by mass media. Ever since that fateful December night, I have lived life in full view of these realities.”

You can read the whole article from the Huffington Post here.

Thoughts on ‘Kony 2012′ Viral video

True to form, I first heard of Kony, LRA, and Invisible Children through the 30-minute video that I watched from start to finish after the fourth person on Facebook posted it within the 10-minute period I was on Facebook.  I was stunned, informed, and I “shared” it along with a quote that I thought was appropriate.  

Then over the next week, I watched as different responses poured in.  There was outrage on all levels.  From (1) lamenting how sad it is that it takes hype/celebrity voices to get people to pay attention to (2) raging that this is yet another “White Man’s Burden” venture to (3) warning that this is a thinly veiled attempt to popularize American militarization into other countries, many resulting concerns have also popped up into the web stream.  (4) Pictures  of Kony 2012 campaigners posing with weapons also drew public condemnation and today, I read (5) how one of the founders was arrested for sexual gestures in public.  (I read all these articles through Facebook, by the way.) **

So, obviously, this movement is far from perfect, and there are parts that are very disconcerting to me too.  But (6) protesting that the video is focused too much on the videomaker’s son or saying that this is (7) giving America an excuse to loot lands for natural resources seems like a stretch.  To relate to people, pathos is a huge necessity.  This video is not simply an informational watch, it is a call to some sort of action. There are many sources of information, I know.  But, because they were simply “sources of information,” they didn’t get very far.  The populace remained unmoved.  As “sad” as it is, people respond to things that grab their attention, and usually in order to do so, you need to relate to them.  Perhaps the “white-centric” nature has to do with the fact that the audience that needs to be reached is a more mainstream audience.  Furthermore, the narrator’s personal connection between him and his son and what Kony is doing when he kidnaps children adds not only a pathos angle, but draws on the power of human empathy as well.  Numbers rarely do the job. Anecdotes do.

Also, now that this video is out there and people have a limited understanding, the rest of the protests/issues/responses make sense.  If these people tried to post something earlier, it would have been swallowed up and lost amongst everything else.  How do I know this?  Well, Joseph Kony has been around for a long time, and I’ve never really heard of him – have you?  But now, after watching that video, I had some sort of basis to draw my opinions; the rest of the articles made sense.  I know I’m not the best basis for a generalization, but I think you understand my point.

Lastly, others bring up the issue that this campaign has weakened US efforts to capture Joseph Kony.  But I don’t believe that’s true at all.  There was a point when President Obama and others commended the group for their efforts.   If the US were truly on the verge of doing something, then why would the President support the campaign?  Let’s not blameshift.

Anyway, I’m not really on the Kony bandwagon.  I just think it’s unfair that every time someone tries to do something, people jump on EVERYTHING.  Can we get rid of conspiracy theories and give people the benefit of the doubt and add a healthy dose of compassion, please?  The infighting gets old/pretentious real quick.

Other interesting reads that shaped my thoughts:

  • Backlash aside, charities see lessons in a web video [NYT]
  • Kony 2012: A lesson in critical thinking [Forbes]
  • What Kony 2012 can teach us about ourselves [Forbes]

**EDIT:  Concerning issue #5 above, I just read this article from The Atlantic.  Jason Russell wasn’t being lewd in public, he’s suffering from a brain disease.  Don’t we all just looooove our media outlets?  If anything, it does show that we need to watch ourselves, lest we turn into lemmings!

The answer is yes.

From Yahoo’s 5 Most Controversial Parenting Stories of 2011.

(Yes, I read junk, and old, semi-boring junk at that).

3. The arrest of Stanford professor Bill Burnett and his wife Cindy for hosting a teen party where alcohol was present was also the ‘talk of the town’ for a while. The couple claimed they were not aware the kids partying it up in their basement were drinking. Ms. Burnett told The Today Show’s Matt Lauer she was just about to serve the kids the cookies she had made when the police arrived. While the Burnett’s tale may have received the most media attention, stories of similar arrests have been cropping up all over the country, all raising the question–are parent’s responsible for their underage teen’s behavior even if they are unaware of what their teens are doing?

Uh yes. The answer is yes.  The italics of the last part is so stupid and unnecessarily sensational.  Is it really so crazy to expect parents to be responsible for their underage teen’s behavior?  Shouldn’t they be aware?  Isn’t not being aware called negligence?  Hey Yahoo!, I can play the italics game too.

"I'm not like a regular mom, I'm a cool mom!"

What exactly did Katehi authorize?

I laughed when I saw Occupy Harvard.  I thought it completely ridiculous.  I understand that these undergrads mean well, but actions rooted in good intent don’t really mean anything if there isn’t an effective plan.  If anything, I equate it back to 2004, when a bunch of us high schoolers drove to Sacramento to protest Gray Davis’s cuts to Basic Aid.  (“Hey Hey, Governor Gray, Basic Aid has got to stay!” – catchy!).  Misplaced zeal and passion.  We protested; we yelled, waved signs, gave demonstrations.  Probably not very effective though- Gov. Gray wasn’t even in the office that day.  (Great planning, guys!) It’s true that where there are numbers, people listen.  But in the same sense, I felt Occupy Harvard was just a bunch of undergrads who wanted to protest something but didn’t have a united vision or anything like that.  Furthermore, I felt like Harvard students have so much going for them in terms of resources that they don’t need to sleep out in tents (which is basically the front yard of their dorms anyway…).  If they really wanted to do something, they should rally their PARENTS to send letters of outrage, etc.

With all that said, I’m impressed by the actions of the Harvard administration because they are so careful and correct with everything.  They didn’t ban the students’ right to protest but they are restricting access to the Harvard Yard – only students are allowed inside.  The policemen are guarding student safety, but they aren’t attacking the students directly.  I feel like such actions also diminish the self-righteous “yeah! I’m protesting!” attitude of some of the undergrad too.. because honestly, they’re protesting in such a “cush” environment.  It’s almost like Harvard is simply accommodating for their “silly little protest” – a good tactic from their side.

California, on the other hand, is insane!  Honestly, no other state is going down the tubes as fast as this one is.  In terms of the UC Occupy movements, it seems like their complaints are legitimate (tripling budgets? hello!)  These people aren’t expecting to be coddled; they are engaging in civil disobedience to make a statement and they know the consequences of such action (arrest – not physical assault). It’s not like the UCs don’t have the means to respond peacefully or properly.  They have their own police force.  So, when civil servants then retaliate with violence, there is NO way ANY of this is right. [see: Colbert's Take on Occupy Berkeley]

Even if you disagree with the Occupy movements (and honestly, I don’t think I completely understand them because it’s really disorganized, nobody is defining what exactly they’re occupying, and some people are just “anti-capitalism”… which I don’t think will help anything), you can’t deny the fact that people are getting hurt, and it’s on the grounds of a republic, in a state that prides itself for revolutionary ideas and free speech.

The UC Davis incident is concerning not only because policemen sprayed pepper spray directly at the students, but they forced upon students’ mouths and caused internal damage as well.  It’s also suspicious that nobody is coming up to produce the orders from UC Davis Chancellor Katehi.  She could solve all this clamor for her resignation if she shows that she didn’t authorize this.  She probably did! Which brings me to another point: hello California; haven’t you learned that police force is never the answer?  In my short 6 years in the East Bay area, there have been so many “accidental” killings from police.  And these aren’t high-risk situations with masses of people. I don’t know.  I’m all for individual rights, but it’s hard to argue when the “good guys” lack judgment and act just like the “bad guys” do.  I say “lack of judgment” because obviously, who’s dumb enough to act like this when there’s camera’s rolling.  I don’t think our police force is insidiously evil – they’re just poorly trained or unprepared or something.

Personally, the reason I began to get curious and think more about this was when I was in Boston waiting for lunch with a few friends.  I saw a large group of “Occupy  Boston” and at first, I was a little frightened.  Then I heard them talk and yell and explain and I just thought “whatever.”  However, I looked up from my book and looked at the people in the crowd.  They didn’t look like “career protestors” (a la the tree-climbers of Berkeley, 2008) .  I read their signs.  These were your regular Joes and Janes.  Able to work, but jobless.  There is a problem, and when people start to take to the streets, it’s not because they have nothing better to do, it’s because they’ve exhausted all other options and are at the end of their rope. I am in grad school.  I’ll have a job.  Many of you guys probably have jobs.  Do you necessarily deserve it? Maybe I’m not the 1%, but I definitely won’t be in the 99%.  Isn’t this huge gap an issue?

Homeschooling: A Dark Horse

A week back, I read this fascinating article from the New York Times: My Parents were Home School Anarchists.  This semester, for my Introduction to Education Research class, I actually did a mini research project on the motivations behind home-based education.  As I wrote up the survey I used to collect data, I learned a lot of fascinating things and ran into fascinating people.

Random Things I Learned:

  • Unschooling — not parent-led but allows students to choose the direction of their own education
  • CLEP test- I met a girl whose brother was homeschooled, study for this test, skipped college, and went onto law school.  He passed the bar at age 21 or 22.  (My friend decided to make travel her college education, began traveling at around 16 or 17.. and is currently a licensed doula at the age of 22)
  • Internet schooling
  • Homeschooling is more widespread than charter schools
  • VARIED reasons for “homeschooling”
  • “Homeschool” is not a good word to describe the variety of alternative education.

Random People Stories

  • Okay, so I already talked about my friend Elizabeth and her brother..
  • One HGSE classmate was homeschooled thru her first year of college! And then transferred to NYU.
  • Another HGSE classmate chose homeschooling from 7th-12th grade (I thought homeschooling mainly took place when you were younger).  Granted, by high school, he was going to the coop classes.
  • Another family I know homeschooled their kids up until college.

Honestly, I’m just amazed and surprised that people successfully homeschooled their children THROUGH the secondary level.  I would think that would be so difficult!  (It is – hence many kids take classes at community colleges, neighboring high schools, or online).  Just the thought of considering allowing their child to continue with alternative education is amazing to me.

Obviously, this interests me, since the area of schooling that I’m interested in is alternative education.  It’s been interesting because with my time here, I’m realizing that the dreams I tentatively had actually have the possibility of being realized.

Anyway, switching gears, I really want to recommend the NY Times article I mentioned earlier.  In it, Margaret Heidenry reflects on her and her siblings’ childhood experiences of being homeschooled by their parents.  By no means were they a stereotypical homeschooling family – traveling from place to place, having a class schedule that included Yoga, learning to be poor.  Fascinating read; I highly recommend it.

My Takeaways

  • Homeschooling was even more stigmatized in the 70s (I thought homeschooling was a dying tred, not a growing one!
  • Children are resilient, sensitive learners
  • Homeschooling really doesn’t produce weirdo misfits :)

It’s been an interesting ride this semester. I met a surprising number of homeschooled kids and homeschooling parents. I reflected on my own brieft stint with independent study. I came across random research and articles concerning alternative schools.  This was all while I was in the context of learning about schools, education, and reform!  It’s a rich environment, my friends. Personally, I see homeschooling as a response to the lack in society OR the push that society may impose on families. I’m excited to see where my Mind Garden plans go.  It’s been a journey and I’m amazed at the number of positivity surrounding my ideas. It’s good to be challenged though – it helps me refine, tweak, defend, and ultimately strengthen my ideas.

Phew! What do you suggest we do?

I just received this email today, and I am so thankful that my program is only one year long.  I have no idea what the cuts are like for undergraduates, but this will definitely make a difference for many students hoping to pursue higher degrees.

Dear Student:

Like those of us in the Financial Aid Office, you may have been following the news regarding the debt ceiling debate in Congress over the summer.  In early August, the Budget Control Act of 2011 was passed into law.

Two provisions of this budget Control Act will have an impact on graduate students borrowing federal loans beginning with the 2012-2013 academic year. These changes will not apply to any loans borrowed prior to July 1, 2012.

  • Elimination of the subsidy on Direct loans made to graduate students
    • Direct loans to graduate students beginning with the 2012-13 academic year will no longer be subsidized.  While the total amount that students can borrow will remain $20,500 per year, the full amount will be unsubsidized, meaning interest will accrue from the time the loan disburses.
  • Elimination of the upfront fee rebate on Direct Unsubsidized and Grad PLUS loans beginning with the 2012-13 academic year
    • Loans borrowed prior to 2012-13 had an origination fee of 1% for Direct loans and 4% for Grad PLUS loans. However, .5% of the Direct fee and 1.5% of the Grad PLUS fee were suspended and were waived if a borrower made their first 12 monthly payments on time.  Beginning with loans for the 2012-13 academic year, these upfront rebates have been eliminated.

For students planning future graduate study, it will be important to understand the implications of these changes which will go into effect next year on your future educational costs.  For current doctoral students planning on borrowing in future years, you will want to make note of this important change.

This system is groaning.  I’m a firm believer in smaller government, and I think regardless of current policies, we as individuals can act in ways that correspond with our beliefs.  What do you think we (the people) can do to work around this?  Should we be changing our mentality concerning graduate school?  Should we be content with state school graduate programs?  Perhaps even, the whole mentality of preparing students for careers ought to be tweaked.  If we gave them marketable skills when they were younger, maybe that would prepare them better for the job market?  Does this mean we nix the liberal arts initiative?  DO WE THEN TURN INTO ASIA?  WHERE THEY FUNNEL THEIR CHILDREN INTO A SET CAREER STARTING FROM WHEN THEY’RE YOUNG?!  Okay, I’m starting to hyperventilate.  Maybe it’s better for me to take a nap and come back to this.

Admit it: TOMS are for YOU

When TOMS hit the market I thought it was a neat idea.
When I saw the price tag I was a little peeved.
When I saw the lack of quality, I was even more peeved.
Great, if “people in need” get these free shoes, they’re going to need another pair in about 2-3 months.

I mean, it’s a cool trend.  If you like the shoes, then wear them!  But don’t act like you’re wearing them for anything other than for the trend.  After all, there’s no arch support, they’re actually rather ugly (here’s a similar but prettier alternative), and it’s really expensive!  In other words, just admit it; you’re a lemming!

I used to say things along those lines but people would defend their choice of footwear. But now, I have a more knowledgeable backup source, “TOMS Shoes: Good Marketing – Bad Aid.”  Here is a notable excerpt from the article:

  • It’s quintessential Whites in Shining Armor.
  • It’s doing things “for” people not “with” people.
  • They allow people to pay to travel with the distribution trips as shoe fitters thereby promoting poverty tourism.
  • They promote the “awareness raising” activity – One Day Without Shoes – which is really just a marketing ploy. I’ve launched a counter-campaign this year, A Day Without Dignity.
  • They ship in goods for free that outcompete local goods, it’s a short-term solution that could create long-term problems.
  • I challenge anyone to find a single country in the world where there are not shoes for sale in the marketplace. There are many better and cheaper ways to get shoes on the feet of the poor.


PS: I got the TOMS article from this slideshow which also is good food for thought: Haiti Doesn’t Need Your Yoga Mats
PPS: I’m not trying to be overly critical (okay, TOMS is just a personal pet peeve of mine), it’s just, I wish people would be more strategic in their “Aid” mentality.