Trying to Be Better

” …we don’t match, but we don’t need to match to be a family and love each other” – Lauren Jordan

People are speaking up. Black lives matter. Human rights matter. Injustice can not be tolerated.

I haven’t blogged or otherwise posted on social media recently not because I’m trying to ignore the events currently happening in the US, but simply because I haven’t known what to say. I respect, appreciate, and support everyone calling for change, but at the same time in some ways it’s felt better to just take the time to listen rather than try and say something and accidentally say the wrong thing by mistake.

Even with the “#BlackOutTuesday” campaign where theoretically you would think, “You don’t have to come up with anything to say, just post; it’s so simple to show support.” But again at the same time I read a lot of posts talking about negative side effects of this trend for how it was unintentionally blocking the distribution of a lot of resources, so even that seemed controversial. I also fear for many it was a hollow post and I didn’t want to post out of fear it would be a hollow post myself and also for not being convinced any message I share will reach anyone new.

As one of my friends put it: “I think what’s so frustrating to me as a white person it that I’m sharing information and resources and expressing my own support for BLM but I’m screaming into an echo chamber. I have no followers or friends who don’t support BLM (that I know of) so who am I helping by sharing? I want to help, but don’t know the best way to do it.”

So instead of posting, I spent the past day trying to better educate myself. My work on this journey is not comprehensive nor is it complete, but it’s a start, and it’s an action. To me actions often speak louder than words, so I don’t have any reflection or takeaways to share – I’m still processing and some of that requires internal thinking-  but I wanted to say that I know where I stand and want to do something about it, so here’s what I’ve done thus far as I try to personally be better so we can make a better future together:

Watched “13th” on Netflix

Read and signed 10 petitions.

Read the following articles:

END THE WAR ON BLACK PEOPLE

First, Listen. Then, Learn: Anti-Racism Resources For White People

“MOM, WHY DID GOD CREATE MATCHING?” A mom’s conversation with her adopted 6 year old about racially mixed families.

100 RACE-CONSCIOUS THINGS YOU CAN SAY TO YOUR CHILD TO ADVANCE RACIAL JUSTICE FOR OUR WHITE FRIENDS DESIRING TO BE ALLIES

FOR OUR WHITE FRIENDS DESIRING TO BE ALLIES

Responding to Racism Anti-racism tips from the NZ Human Rights Commission.

Discourse and Debate: Is performative activism inherently bad?

This Is What Black Burnout Feels Like

A Good Smile

Today was a very Disney inspired day.

I started the morning on a video chat with some friends and old teachers playing some Disney Trivia, which I’m honestly shocked to say I won – it’s probably the only trivia topic I even have a chance at winning. Then I watched the ABC Disney Family Sing-Along special which aired last night in the US, and it was absolutely amazing!!! It even included a High School Musical cast reunion with a beautiful mashup of Disney stars singing “We’re All in This Together” – a very appropriate song for right now. Plus lots of kids of your favorite stars made special guest appearances which were absolutely adorable.

At this point, I found myself officially in a Disney rabbit hole which continued with watching lots of various YouTube videos related to old Disney stuff. It was very nostalgic and heartwarming. I feel like I was probably smiling all day, but I mean who doesn’t smile when listening to Disney songs?!

Looking back to some of the classics of your childhood is truly a great way to stay positive during all the chaos going on in the world. Watching old movies, looking at old photos, talking to old friends – I’d recommend doing all of the above if you’re also in need of a good smile.

Boring But Good Rest

Two days ago I challenged myself to take a real break – “No meetings, no school work, no gym work, and I’m not even going to blog.”

Well, the break is over and I can honestly say: It was really boring.

Turns out watching TV and reading all day get’s old after a while – maybe it’s because even though the last few weeks haven’t been a full-on break, it’s been enough of a break for me to have watched far more shows and movies than I ever would in the past.

I realized that one of the nice things about working is that it distracts me from the fact that I don’t have daily interactions with people. Perhaps had I been taking my break with other people it would have been more amusing. Day two of break I had a video chat with my fam and my best friend and that definitely made day two more interesting than the TV all-day approach. I even tried pulling an all-nighter because I realize I never had before and this was a no-risk environment, but around 5am I realized there was nothing actually motivating me to stay awake because it wasn’t fun and I didn’t have to be awake so instead I went to bed and slept till noon.

I will say though, the break was good for one thing, because I took a mental break all weekend, I was far more motivated to actually be productive today now post-break. After I woke up and ate breakfast I had two meetings, family game night, updated gymnastics files, drafted the flow of a three-hour workshop, choreographed a gymnastics routine, and found seven new songs that have potential to become routines. Getting bored made me want to do work, even the work I don’t normally enjoy like researching for various papers I’m in the process of writing so I suppose that’s a good thing. (I didn’t get to those papers today because other things were more time concerning after my meetings, but I thought about wanting to during the weekend when I accidentally opened a tab one was on.)

And at least at the beginning of the break it felt nice to just do nothing and try and accept that work could wait. And I definitely feel well-rested physically and mentally, though this isn’t normally a big issue for me.

So overall I’m a bit undecided on the whole “true break” thing. It had nice moments, but I really don’t like being bored, but again I feel like my experiment was potentially compromised by the scenario of quarantine. Alternatively, maybe it would’ve been better just to have one “do-nothing day” rather than two.

I’m kind of sad there weren’t bigger takeaways, but that’s about all I got on the subject of taking a mental break – boring but good rest.

Living in the Chaos

Somehow I managed to forget to blog every night last week. Well I would typically remember, but not until it was almost 1am at which point I decided it just wasn’t going to happen.

It’s been kind of a crazy week looking back. I was at a wedding in North Carolina; ran a SlackChat for the Pioneering Education community (kind of like a Twitter chat, but on a project management platform called Slack); had my first test of the semester; performed an acro routine and had the kids I coach perform group routines I choreographed at what ended up being a huge event which ended up going well despite my stress on how they were looking up until the performance; had my first advanced tap class and got whiplash from the combo to a song from Hair the musical; joined an intermural ultimate frisbee team and won our first game; and that leads up to now pretty much.

Some weeks are just so busy you don’t always get the chance to stop and look back on all that was accomplished. There was an unusually large amount of stress and chaos last week, but looking back on it, I think everything turned out pretty well in the end.

In particular, I’m really proud of how the gymnastics performances went. The routines performed last Spring were not so great, especially compared to the year before, so I really wanted this show to be better. It was a challenge because we never really had everyone there on the same day many times between breaks and the Taylor Swift concert… So the girls maybe had 4-6 practices total with me and some were as short as under 30 minutes. Then to add to the chaos I found out on Tuesday that we had one of our top level girls hurt her arm the weekend before, so I had to fill in for her with one practice before show day to work out.

In the end, there were obviously parts that could have been more in synch (especially the endings) but the routines turned out really well under the circumstances and all of the parents and other members of the audience seemed to really enjoy them. It was also the first time in Jump Start Gym’s history that we had every team girl present at the same time for a show. It made my job so much nicer because I could choreograph for specific groups and kids without having to tweak things depending on who had to fill in from my original vision. Plus it meant we could have 4 different routines, and even though it made my life harder trying to divide my time between groups, it meant that we had a much more fulfilling show overall oppose to having to just do one routine and then basics which aren’t exciting to watch.

Sometimes the hardest expectations to live up to are your own. Not sure that these routines fully lived up to those expectations, but I was happy with how they turned out and proud of the performance from our gymnasts.

If you care to watch them, I’ve added the videos below:

Honor the Rest

I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve been told, “Honor the rest,” on one hand. The first time I heard this was in band because there are times when the music calls for a rest or even just a breath mark is included, and if it is included, it’s there for a reason. The composer took the time to write that pause into the music and it needs to be acknowledged for its entire amount of time. If you skip the rest or don’t hold it for the right amount of time, it can completely change the song.

I’ve heard this again in theater. There are moments when it may be written or it may not be written in the script to pause for a moment, and it’s important to not just skip over that moment. A lot can be said in the silence. The pause provides emphasis. It draws attention to the bigger moment happening around the pause.

Even when working within the Innovation Diploma we would talk about pauses and silences. Whether we were giving a large presentation or just interviewing someone, we would often say, “Don’t be afraid of silence.” Sometimes we need a minute to think or to let an idea sink in, but if we try to fill the space up instead of letting it be, then the moment becomes washed over and cluttered and lost.

All of these activities are connected by the fact that they are modes of storytelling. Music, theater, presentations, interviews; there are all sorts of different stories being told within these arts.

I believe books can also share in this art of honoring the rest. I find that it’s natural to read a book and feel all the little moments happening. The moments where you catch yourself holding your breath because you’re in such shock, or you don’t know what will happen next, or you’re so excited you just don’t how to react.

Really I believe any art form values the ideology of honoring the rest. However, I think some storytellers do a better job at this than others and it makes a big difference.

For example, I often struggle with watching movies that are adapted from books because I don’t think they honor the rests and pauses built into a story nearly as well as the story did in book form. It’s hard to take a 500 some page story and tell it all in two hours. Things have to be cut, and often an easy way to shave off time is to cut the little moments; the pauses, breaths, and rests. It’s unfortunate though because those moments add so much to the story in terms of character development and how characters interact with each other.

The rests matter. They should be respected. Movies based on books can still be good at times, but it’s always unfortunate to watch those quiet moments skipped over.

The Independent Project

The past few weeks I have been conversing with Mary and Cali Ragland, two seniors from Perkiomen Valley High School in Pennsylvania. These two are are currently taking an independent study course around the essential question: “How might we design an educational system that best meets the 21st learner’s needs by valuing curiosity?” They reached out to me after having been introduced by a teacher to some of my blog posts and learning about my work in the Education Transformation Movement. Furthermore, my work designing the AP Lang Collab Course last year, where I co-developed an AP Language and Composition course, was intriguing to them because they wanted to learn about how to push through the “dark night of the soul” in the life of an self-guided project.

These two have been doing some great work interviewing teachers and students and pulling away key insights about the role of curiosity in education. I especially love the quote that they describe as really encompassing what made them interested in education transformation:

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – W.B. Yeats

I would definitely encourage reading more about their work on their blog:  Curiosity in Education. Personally, talking to these two has been great because it’s reminded me of how far I’ve come in the past few years, and reminded me how important it is for me to always go back to where I started- this blog.

Senior year has made blogging very difficult because I have spent most of my “non homework writing time” working on college essays and scholarship applications. Then when I kind of have “free time” (which basically just means I have finished homework and have no planed activities or meetings at the time) I find myself wanting to savor the moment to take a break from intense mindfulness. However, I know how important it is to blog to not only share my story with others, but to reflect for myself and capture my learning journey. After all, I started this blog for me -not because I wanted hundreds of followers or felt like my voice was something that just had to be heard by others- I started it because of what I thought was a silly challenge to observe and reflect on the world more intently.

In fact, I haven’t blogged in so long that I haven’t yet reflected on the fact that I was approved to embark on another curriculum creation opportunity by designing my own Independent Project!!

For my last semester of high school I am exploring the connection point between film, change theory, and education which will also apply towards my last needed half of a social sciences credit. Often times social science credits are just assumed to be a history course, whether it be world history, US history, economics, US government, etc. However, social sciences by definition are “social” meaning, about human society and social relationships and how they function, which does explicitly mean just IMG_6689.JPG“history.”

I say “just history” because I believe everything involves some understanding of history, because everything has a history and thus History is Everywhere. An essential question to all learning is, “How can we use the knowledge we have gathered over time (the past) in order to better understand and design for our present and future?”

So yes I believe you could call my course a “history course” because I’m definitely researching the past. However, for my particular project, I really wanted to explore society from the perspective of how we create change in society to then apply this knowledge in the world of education. The final product of this work will be a high quality documentary video focused on the Innovation Diploma and the moment that I call the “clicking moment”; that moment when students realize that the world is changing and education should be too, and they start to take ownership of their learning in order to make a difference now, not “when they are grown up.”

Now the main reason I haven’t mentioned this project yet is because it was a last minute project that got put into double time in order to come to life. At the end of last semester I knew I wanted to devote more time second semester to exploring and contributing to the education transformation movement. However, I’m always so busy and yet their is a finite amount of time in the day. I had to figure out what in my daily schedule could give a little time. What I realized is that what I wanted to work on would likely hit a lot of social science credits, so we thought, “What if this was my ‘history’ class?”

I worked on overdrive with my mentors in order to put together a document to pitch the idea of an Independent Project to our administration. The end of the semester though was a very crazy time for me both in and out of school, so I got approved with the intent of needing the first few weeks of second semester to still work on the planning details.

 

One of the first tasks I had was to figure out how I would devote my ID time, especially after the reMoVe10 design brief gained so much momentum after first semester. The design brief given to us by the Mayor of Sandy Springs, was designed to be a project we worked on during a single semester. However, our school admin, representatives from the Sandy Springs Council, and our new partners at Georgia Commute Options all got so fired up about the work we’ve been doing, that we realized this project needed to continue. 16387341_10154593513538277_4820722959124524604_n.jpg

Because of this decision to change the scope of the project, our team had to look back at our team roles and norms and decide how best to continue based on plans that were already set for second semester. I already had plans to work on my Independent Project work, and another team mate was already in the process of another design brief opportunity. Therefore, we added a new member to our team, and I used the month of January to waning out of my position as team leader to make a smoother transition for the new team. My plan is to continue to work with the reMoVe10 team, but more as a consultant for them to help give feedback and provide assistance at specific events.

{Small necessary tangent: This last month was honestly really hard for me, because I naturally find myself in a leadership role in the sense of “project manager,” so it was challenging to work on stepping back and being a leader by pushing others to take a leadership role. However, I think it was something important for me to work on because part of a leaders role should always be to coach others to lead.}

IMG_6691.JPGWhile continuing to work with the reMoVe10 team this past month, I used 4th period (my Independent Project time) to start further brainstorming what my video will look like, while getting a Film Course 101 tutorial from a mentor, and continuing to find ways I can discover and experiment with changes in education specifically in regards to the role of student voice. So far I’m diving deep into essential questions such as “What motivates people to learn?” “Where does ‘passion’ fit into education?” and “What gives students agency?” as my design drivers, though I believe as I start to interview people the story line will become even more clear.

I’ve learned that with documentaries one of the best things to do is to just press record and start filming. So now that I’ve officially had my last day full time with the reMoVe10 team (last Wednesday) I’ve been gearing up to dive all in on this Independent Project using my 8 hours and 40 minutes a week (between ID time and my new Independent Project specific time) to research, film, and synthesize information about the social science of education change. We pushed “purchase” on some new awesome film equipment yesterday, and now the fun (and intense) work is about to really start!

Growing Passions

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We did it, we made it to Thanksgiving break!!! So far this break I have created and taught about 4 gymnastics routines, practiced lines, discovered they are creating a new Lion King movie/TV series about Simba’s son (premiering tomorrow night on Disney channel at 7), seen the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (which was an amazing movie!!!!!), stayed up late watching Gilmore Girls with my sister, slept in, was reading a ton of stuff online about disney, and also did some work on my latest challenge: going through all of my old blog posts and tagging/categorizing them as well as summarizing each post in one sentence.

Considering that this will be my 471st blog post, I have my work cut out for me, but so far I’ve gone through about  30 of them. It’s been kind of fun to go back through all of my old posts from when I first started blogging. It’s amazing how I can see the change in my writing over time.

My earliest posts were fairly short and about a wide variety of things usually about some simple observation like seeing how water got stuck in an outdoor table with holes in it. Over time I can see my posts grow in length and detail and they also become less random.

It’s funny because I haven’t even gotten far enough into the posts to be past that first summer of blogging, but as I read the posts I find myself talking about education and things that school could be doing differently.

ID hadn’t really begun yet. I had not idea what an “iVenture” was. No one had really used language like  “what’s your how might we?” or “what are your passions?” around me before. I had maybe 20 followers on my blog max. I didn’t even know how to tag or categorize. I had no idea who Grant Lichtman was. I had never been on twitter.I couldn’t tell you the 5 characteristics of an innovator’s DNA.  I didn’t even really know about the Mount Vernon Institution For Innovation. However, even back then I can see little snippets of what would eventually become my iVenture.

It’s kind of cool to look back and realize that it shouldn’t have really been a surprise that I ended up so passionate about education redesign. Passions don’t all of a sudden appear out of no where, they develop over time. Since I have been keeping this blog, I get the joy of being able to look back and see how my passions developed over time.

Secrets

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Today was another day of lots of reading. (And also comparing schedules.)

I read over 100 pages, and for me being a relatively slow reader, that was really good. Then later in the night we went to see Planes: Fire and Rescue because my siblings got back from sleep away camp.

While reading The Kite Runner and watching the movie, I realized that the main characters of both had a lot of issues with image.

(I don’t want to spoil anything so I will try to be very vague.) Both characters have secrets about themselves that they won’t tell anyone about because they are scared of how it will affect other people’s image of them. However, both of these secrets put the people they love and themselves in harms way.

Eventually they realize that they have to tell someone, and it makes their life a lot better to talk about it.

You need to have someone to tell “secrets” too, and it’s okay to ask for help. That way you don’t tear yourself up trying to deal with things on your own.

Last Night Logic

(If you have ever seen Psych, the title of this post was inspired by “Last Night Gus”, which was one of my favorite episodes. Also, it would be highly helpful to have read my last post, The Magic of Story Telling, before reading this post.)

I stopped. I thought. I pondered. I wondered.

I stopped. Last night I was kind of writing on the spot in a sense. Before posting, I had read it over, but I didn’t really process and “imagine all of the little behind the scenes things happening”. Therefore, when I was going to bed I stopped for a moment.

I then thought about my post. Last Night Logic suggested that movies take away some of the magic of stories because they are always the same each time. I then thought, “Aren’t books the same way though?” Books also are always the same each time you read them. You may notice new things each time you reread a book (if you reread books, I don’t usually), but the words are the same.

I then pondered this for a little. (I was having difficulties getting to sleep last night, and this wasn’t helping. “The sky was awake, so I was awake, so I had to think!”) “Did I really mean what I said?” No. Not completely at least. It is called “movie magic” for a reason, isn’t it? And books are often better then movies, and I have read some pretty magical books.

That’s when I wondered: maybe movies don’t take away some of the magic, maybe movies just have a different type of magic, and books too. I like to believe magic is everywhere in everything. (If you made this into a syllogism this would also prove that math is magic because it is everywhere and in everything; thus, “math magic”.) Because there is something incredible about movies and books, and they wouldn’t be possible if the story was always different. However, I also think the classic story telling by word of mouth is also magical and that is partially because it is always a slightly different story.

And that is where I ended. (Where I fell asleep in this case, and once I woke up it was no longer tonight logic, it was officially last night logic.)

I ended with the conclusion that people like different things because it is all about what type of magic you prefer most.

Now I feel bad because this post is mainly about a first realization, and I didn’t get to the point where I figured out what these different magics are. However, I hope to eventually. This will go on the list on blogs that need to be done, but need more time to be developed. (There is an actual list by the way.)

It has to do with one of my theories that I call The Full Circle Theory. This is the idea that thoughts don’t usually happen all at once, and there isn’t a beginning or an end. (In some cases it may even be an infinity sign.) You often have a thought, then later your brain realizes why you had the thought and then has a new thought after that.

This is likely the last post for a few weeks, as I have said, but I am planning on writing down what I would blog so that I can go back and post them. (Hopefully.) The funny thing is that my last post has a lot to do with my after thoughts of my post form the night before.