Saturday, May 30, 2009

University Politics…

University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.
Henry Kissinger
US (German-born) diplomat & scholar (1923 - )

Quote Details: Henry Kissinger: University politics are vicious... - The Quotations Page

I subscribe to a quote of the day via Google Reader and this one resonates with me deeply.

The institution I work for is breaching contract with a partner entity and shutting down our entire office. We serve ten thousand or so children, teachers, and parents across the country, providing them with real school improvement and a different way to teach and learn that focuses on the emotional as well as the intellectual.

Yet, that is not noble enough a reason to continue our program through 2010, as agreed upon in contract, but rather due to a whole slew of poor decisions, bad planning, and complete lack of will and effort on the part of some, our hard work comes to an end in 30 or so days.

Why? The program has been labeled as ‘not central to the college’s mission’ and that it would be fiscally ‘irresponsible’ to support such a program in these economic times.

And so we are cast into the breeze and free to flit about aimlessly, the collateral damage of recession, lack of vision, and poor planning.

What irks me is that this is clearly a financial decision. Solely a financial decision I would be willing to bet, particularly given that our office’s goal is to bring the liberal arts mentality into the K-12 school system, something that is directly aligned with the mission of a small liberal arts college.

And the reason for the quote, you ask? The politics and sideways glances surrounding this botched and butchered transition reek of closed door meetings, fear, and a focus on what has always been done, not what could and should be done in the future.


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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Health Update

Hi all; after a particularly lousy night’s sleep Thursday I succumbed to my wife’s urgings and went to the doctor. I’ll get to that fun time in a moment. I have a wicked awesome lumbar sprain and a cocktail of drugs to treat said sprain that is strong enough to sedate Mine That Bird.

A muscle relaxer to curb the spasms that I had from my bum to my head (which was a particularly weird sensation), vicodin for the pain, and prescription strength ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory.

I also had the fun of nine x-rays and scheduling 21 physical therapy appointments. AWESOME!!!

What does all this mean, loyal readers? Why, that when I do post entries I’m likely to spell every other word wrong and generally ramble on and on and on without getting to any substantial point. It’s not my fault, though – it’s the pills!

As for the Doctor, there I am, sitting in the examination room with him and he asks me what I have been doing to manage my pain thus far. I decided to be honest and tell him I’d been popping motrin like they were skittles (taste the rainbow) – and his response? He scolds me for taking more than I should have been taking. Did I need a scolding? Not right then I didn’t. Maybe he missed the tears in my eyes caused by all the pain, or how shallow my breath was because the muscles around my lungs were tightening up into my back, or maybe he overlooked how I couldn’t even stand or sit properly without grimacing.

Granted, he may have been having a bad day, but how about a little empathy pal – do you *really* think I wanted to fall down the stairs with my two month old child? Or how about this doozy – he asked me, ‘so just how many stairs did you fall down?’

Oh, right – so sorry, Doctor, I guess I failed to count them on the way down WHILE HOLDING MY CHILD TO PROTECT HER AS BEST I COULD! So I gave what I thought was a good approximation – 15 to 20, whatever is between one floor and the next.

And he retorts with, ‘There are usually only 13 steps per floor.’ If you KNOW that already, just put that down, dammit! Get to writing the prescription so I can maybe wipe my bunghole without groaning all the while!


So, from sunny Pennsylvania, I and my new best friend, Mr. Heating Pad, wish you nothing but good fortune!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Quick update

I’m not ignoring this blog – forgive me for not writing this last week. I’ve been busy making the transition from a last week of busy busy work and four weeks of parental leave. I am trying to get as much time in with Madison as I can before they lay me off at the end of June. So, long story short, most of everything I had to accomplish by the end of June had to be finished by last Friday.

Add to that a nasty fall down the stairs here at home and the resulting aches, pains, bruises, and sore ego, and I’ve been more prone to pill popping than blogging; Motrin is my friend.

I’ll be back as soon as Madison and I figure out a schedule together and I master the best time to write on here without missing stuff around the house or with the little Peach (what my wife and I have taken to calling her).  Well, we also call her Peachkins Jones, which is a pseudo Psych reference (the TV show on USA). If you watch Psych you’ll know that James Roday’s character, Shawn, always introduces his partner, Gus, played by the super versatile Dule Hill, with wacky aliases like, Ovaltine Jenkins, Lavender Gooms, Schmuel Cohen, Longbranch Pennywhistle, Scrooge Jones, and so on. As great fans of the show, Madison somehow became Peachkins Jones.

Anyhoo, I’m off to go make nice to the Motrin. Ciao for now.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The small scroll

I found this in Revelation, 10:9 today:

‘So I went up to the angel and told him to give me the small scroll. He said to me, ‘Take and swallow it. it will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.’

NOTE: This is a very early sketch at meditation on this subject, so by no means consider this my final view on the subject (I just read the passage over lunch a few minutes ago so this is very much a free-write)

Exegesis tells us that the scroll was bitter sweet because although God’s victory was near at hand, the suffering of his people would be a bitter and trying affair.

Why is that? At what point should we quit resisting suffering and embrace it as a gift? Doesn’t humility require we make that choice? If we accept suffering as inevitable, if we appreciate the opportunities proffered us by the unfair, unjust, abusive, are we more in tune with what it means to be a good person, to live out truth?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next person who gets frustrated and upset and worn down and plain old tired with suffering when it comes my way, but I wonder if that’s my doing, or suffering’s fault?

If a river’s current is carrying me inexorably away, why waste all my energy fighting it? That’s not to say that I lose hope of survival or redemption or justice, but rather that I use my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual strength to maintain hope in the future; that something better is coming.

I suppose some people view swimming against the current as that something better? That as long as they resist they are not conquered by suffering? Some sort of spiritual, ‘it’s better to die standing up than live a lifetime on your knees’ mentality?

At what point does that become prideful, though, the ceaseless battle against your suffering?

I suppose resignation to our fate is a bitter pill in some ways, but does it have to be such a trial? I feel like there’s something more, something missing from the concept that suffering must be bitter by its nature.

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 11, 2009

What makes me happy, redux?

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A brief update: Sorry for the delay in posting - I've been busy trying to get a personal web pageup and running to use as an online portfolio (allllmost there) and I've been meeting and gathering application materials for a return to the classroom. Ah, the delightful days of job searching. Yayrecession!


So, a few intrepid readers asked me what I need to be happy. Sneaky sneaky readers, using myblogthings against me, I'll getses them, my precious!!!!

According to blogthings, I need friends; that I feel lost and not quite right when not surrounded by others.

I do and I don't agree with that generalization. I need friends, it's true, and having gone through the last five or so years with a smaller than average (for me) entourage I have felt at times a little needy, maybe a little isolated. My wife and I needed that time, though. I was dealing with a bunch of things (I still am, but have a better handle on how to deal with them) and she and I worked hard on our marriage, which needed our attention.

The rewards have been great on both fronts - a healthier marriage, a brand-spanking new 8 week old daughter (our first), and greatly improved mental and emotional well-being. And, as she and I have had successes we are beginning to stretch our wings again and find some friends that match our life stage.

So, yes, blogthings was right, sort of, but it was wrong as well. As to what does make me happy - baseball, a well cooked prime rib smothered in au jus, fresh green beans, steamed broccoli, the sweat from a good day working outside, letting loose my uberdork and gaming to no end, kisses from my wife, my daughter's fart-induced smiles, spiritual enlightenment, writing, reading, speaking in fake foreign accents, movies, WWE wrestling (619!!!!!!!!), snuggling with two cats and an afghan crocheted by my Nana, random naps on the couch, bubble baths, the smell of freshly ground coffee beans, the caffeine buzz from said coffee beans, and the smell of a crisp summer night.

What about you? What makes you happy?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What do you need to be happy?

You Need Friends to Be Happy
You are a friendly, social person. You seek out connections and relationships.
Being close to others is very important to you, and you don't like discord.

You feel great when you're cooperating and working with others. You enjoy belonging to a group.
Nothing makes you feel worse that feeling alone or alienated. You want to be liked by those around you.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rain’s plea ~ draft

Luscious wet earth smelling of

wild onion, new grass and loamy hope,

invigorate me and chase away

the fog and clouds and draining rain,

soaking days and souls and minds.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Educational Philosophy

I’ve been banging out a new version of my educational philosophy in preparation for interviews and any potential consulting gigs. For the uninitiated, an educator should be able to concisely and concretely summarize what they believe is most important in teaching and learning. Their statement should be theory based and reference classroom practices.

It can be expanded upon in detail in other sections of a professional’s portfolio, but this is the meat, the center of what you do in the classroom. It should be only the best stuff; all the fat trimmed from the meat.

I’d like some feedback from you, if you don’t mind offering it. I’ll paste the first draft of mine below and if you’d offer suggestions and critiques in the comments it would be much appreciated. As a reward, I’ll insert a surreal clip from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, where Pink is reminded of his father’s death, mocked for writing poetry, and then fantasizes about how educational institutions destroy the souls and minds of children, by design.


Social studies classrooms are supremely situated to study culture, society, history, its leaders and peoples, and the controversial moments of time. As a social studies educator it is my duty to help students ethically and morally apply the lessons of the past to the challenges of today, empowering them to participate fully in America’s democratic society.

As such, I believe:

Ø In critical pedagogy

- that as a participant in the democratic process I am a teacher as learner and my students are learners as teachers, necessitating student centered instruction, assessment, and classroom management

- that schools are not neutral environments, but subject to political and social pressures and expectations, so I must help students gain critical consciousness about the impact on society of their, and others’, decisions

Ø In the inherent, individual nature of each student

- that learning requires assent, desire, action; it is characterized by discovery and surprise (Ayers, 6)

- that differentiated instruction and aligned assessment is the best way to meet not simply academic needs, but the specific needs, demands, hopes, desires, and potential of my students (Ayers, 2)

- that there is no substitute for authentic instruction and assessment to meet the varied learning styles and intelligences of each student

- that arts-based integration motivates students and increases comprehension and understanding regardless of cultural or economic background

Ø In the power of reflection to improve teaching and learning opportunities

- that reflection allows everyone to consciously choose who they are becoming, whether a teacher or a learner

- that the time to take control of my instruction, and my students of their learning, is now; that our growth and development is in our hands

- that I need reflection to best inform and guide my theory based practice