Friday, December 30, 2011

It's A Jolly Holiday With Buffy

Christmas 2009
Growing up Christmas was a time when my family got together, exchanged gifts and shared a nice meal. We aren't Christian so this holiday lacked any significant spiritual meaning. As I got older Christmas meant less and less in my family but that’s okay. We have our own traditions and great times that we spend together outside of this holiday.

When I married Diana the question of whom we would spend Christmas with was an easy one to answer. Where my family didn’t hold too much importance in this day, Diana’s family did. So we would spend a day, sometime before Christmas with Diana’s dad’s extended family and then on the day itself we went to church and spent the afternoon with my mother-in-law’s extended family.

Christmas 2010
Over the years, the holiday and the traditions associated with it have begun to make more sense. While at first, I felt like an outsider when it came to Christmas I now feel fully included in this holiday and look forward to it every year and a lot of that has to do with Buffy.

Buffy is part of all of our Christmas traditions. She comes with us to pick out the tree that we cut down by hand every year. She sits under the tree waiting patiently for Santa to come. Of course when Santa does finally comes she excitedly greets him.

Of course Buffy gets presents,

Some of which like Christmas sweaters she’s not a fan of. . .

Buffy comes along with us to Diana’s family celebrations and proceeds to chase around Diana’s little cousin’s and give Grandma a hearty lick hello. It’s cute how Diana’s relatives not only check to see if Buffy will come but expect her to be there and often greet her first when we arrive.

Christmas 2011
Buffy brings excitement and awe to all of the parts of Christmas. She doesn’t care how cheesy things are or the silliness of cutting down your own tree in sub-zero weather. Buffy doesn’t have a clue about any tension or drama between family members, she’s just happy everyone is there.

The shopping, the commercialism and the stress of this time of year can kind of put a damper on Christmas cheer but I’m quickly reminded of what Christmas really is about when I watch Buffy run and down the aisle of Christmas trees and strain against her leash to enter Grandma’s house.

More than anything in the world, Buffy simply wants to be around the people she loves and share with them the adventures of life.  For me, that’s the greatest about Christmas and Buffy is a beautiful reminder of the magic of this holiday.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Foolish Games by Jewel

Yeah, it's been weeks and I'm still listening to Adele's "Someone Like You" and it still sound fresh. Today as I listened to this song for the fifth time in the row, Jewel's "Foolish Games" came to mind.

Is this as good as Adele?  Maybe, all I know is that when she sings "breaking my heart" towards the end it touches a similar place that Adele reaches. This folky feeling of Jewel someone reminds me of Roy Orbison's "Crying."

ah man. . . this is getting brutal. I need something happier. How about the theme song to my favorite new TV show this fall?

 . . . though I could really go for some Adele right about now . . .

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Road Less Traveled: Looking Back At The Beginning 9 Years Later

There are many important dates that we remember in our lives. When I think about my wife Diana of course July 12th, 2008 jumps out as the day we got married. This was a beautiful day and the memories from that event I will always cherish but the day date that means the most to me when I think about Diana is December 26th, 2002 the day that Diana and I began our relationships as boyfriend and girlfriend.

After meeting earlier in that fall and fast becoming friends we came to that point in all relationships between men and woman when they have to choose which road to go down: Road A-the going out direction or Road B-the friend path.

With almost all of my female friends we went down Road B. Most of the time there really wasn’t a discussion needed, we just kind of got a friend vibe and we built off of that.  However for some reason I wanted something different with Diana.

As we got closer to Winter Break, we were talking every day and hanging out, not really defining our relationship as one thing or another. Then the night before Winter Break when I was going to fly back to Seattle we kissed for the first time.

I still remember the magic of that moment. There was a singularity of being, a mutual expression and a shared moment that felt so pure and so right. Instead of clarifying our relationship it only made things more complicated and as I left for home the next morning my mind was in a whirl about what this all meant.

During that Winter Break, from December 14th to January 4th, Diana and I e-mailed each other every day. I have all of these e-mailed saved on a single 71-page document (38,818 words). The e-mails are cute to read and really aren’t that different than the conversations we have now.  Most of it is sharing daily events and pondering random things, not really talking about our relationship until an e-mail I sent Diana on December 15th, subject: the road less traveled. . .

After three pages commented on the idea of perfection and the different types of friends we had, I laid out my feelings about the direction of our relationship:
You are not going to lose me as a friend through this.

If you say "Kingsley, I like you a lot, I care about you, but going down Road B is not what I need right now, and I'd rather just stay friends." then I'll be ok, I'll need some time to get over it but after that things will be just how they are now. Things will be fine.

Let's just get Road A out on the table and what that means to me. If we decided that being together, going out, is what we really need right now, I see that as a close friendship where the emotional closeness is reflected is physical intimacy. I believe the physical intimacy allows for a level of emotional intimacy as well. People, who I've never been physically intimate with I've been very close to emotionally but there is a kind of barrier.

If we go down Road A, there's a lot to gain but there are some risks, and yes, Road B is kind of a steadier road. . .I'm ready for Road A, right now. I just feel like I'm in that point in my life at the moment. I'm not sure of a lot of things, but I'm ready to take the chance.

I feel grateful that you took a chance with me and opened yourself up to me, and I hope I made you feel that the chance was worth taking.

Whatever happens to us in the future, it won't change we shared for the last quarter at all. That will always be there. If last quarter was all I got to experience of Diana Oleszczuk, I'd be very sad, but I'd also be very happy and very grateful for the time I had to share what I got to share with you.
After further e-mailing and phone calls Diana on December 26th, she decided to take a chance with me.

Why I did I want Road A with Diana when I had been okay with just being “friends” with other girls?  Well, there was something different about Diana.  There always has been.  I wanted to love her, to share everything with her.  She used to more colorful clothing and I found that as a reflection of her inner strength and passion.  Diana loves what she loves without apologies no matter what other people think and I admire that about her.

People say that couple start looking alike the longer they are together, which if you know Diana and I is a hilarious thought.  The biggest change in me in the past nine years of knowing Diana is how I embrace the things that I love.  I don't know if I knew Diana was going to be the one to teach me that nine years ago, but I sensed something about how I knew she would be a positive force in my life.

Diana wasn't attracted to me because of the jokes I made or the fact I was a composition major.  She saw in me the man that I'm still becoming and that's I liked about me and I knew I needed to hold her as close to me as possible.

It's hard for me to articulate how I felt nine years ago.  Maybe it's just my memory or maybe it's the fact that like the most important moments in life, words fail to articulate the depth of the human heart.

Diana, I know it wasn't easy to take a chance on a relationship with me, and I thank you for believing in me and our future together.  So much has changed in the past nine years of our lives and I can honestly say that I love you more than I ever have.
Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
-Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2

Friday, December 23, 2011

Year 2: Winter Break-On Not Being A Teacher

One of the most liberating feelings is walking through a store and seeing a kid misbehave and do absolutely nothing.

When I walk through the halls of my school and I see a student misbehaving it’s my responsibility to intervene even if that student isn’t one that I teach. It’s part of the being a member of a educational community and creating solidarity with other teachers so that students understand expectations in a consistent way.

When I’m not at school it’s a completely different story. Not only is it not required of me to intervene when some kid throwing a fit in the store, it’s inappropriate and fantastic. Why? Because sometimes it’s nice to not wear my teacher hat.

I am very proud of being a teacher but that’s simply part of who I am and I would like to think that if you talked to me outside of a professional context that it would not be completely obvious that I’m a teacher. It’s not that I don’t want people to know it’s that I'm a teacher, rather I would like to think there’s more dimensions to me than my profession.

This does get a little tricky sometimes. Being a teacher is a job of passion and it’s hard to not talk about things that you are passionate about. When people start talking about issues dealing with schools in parties a lot of times I just bite my tongue. First off, most people aren’t bringing these things up to really have a discussion and anyways most people don’t appreciate in a social situation someone opening up a can of “deeper understanding of knowledge” to disprove something someone is casually talking about.

There are times when I can’t hold it in and I show my colors as a teacher because I do represent my field and it’s important that I advocate not only for my profession but the experience of my students.

Once in a while teacher things pop out. Sometimes I give someone a teacher look without thinking about it, which can be kind of awkward (especially when it’s to my wife). This almost always is followed by an apology. Then there’s times when I just start teaching.

Last weekend I had some friends over and we decided to play a board game that not everyone had played before. Someone asked me to explain the rules and without thinking about it the tone of my voice changed and I turned into “Mr. Tang.” It was kind of eerie because I immediately started with a “hook” and explained the rules in a way that related to a main point to focus on and back around to the “hook.”

I guess this is kind of like a mechanic who is with some friends when a car breaks down and fixes the car. I can “teach” in a second.

Am I a teacher all of the time? I guess so. I would like to think that I’m not but I see my life through the lens of a teacher and that’s not such a bad thing. When I meet people I think about ways that I can connect to them, when I face situations I think of what I can learn from them and when I reflect back on my day I consider how these past experiences can help me in my future.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Winter Break Films To Watch

Ok, it's Winter Break, which means I've watched a couple films and thankfully, they've all been fantastic.  This is what I've seen in the last couple days:

Jackass 3D

This is exactly what you expect it to be.  It's disgusting, over the top and gross on many different levels.  And no it wasn't the guy covered in poo that was the hardest thing to watch, it was super-gluing a hand to someone's chest and ripping it off that was the most disturbing.

Missions Impossible: Ghost Protocol

So what happens when you have Brad Bird, famous for directing Pixar films do an action film?  You get  a delightfully funny, but not too silly actions movie with ridiculous action and a plot makes just enough sense to seem interesting but not distract from the action.

Reel Injun

This is one of those "what it means to be American" films.  It talks about how the stereotypes of Native Americans developed throughout film history.  It reminded me of the Celluloid Closet, which does a a similar thing with homosexuality.  This is really powerful stuff that is important for all Americans to think about.

Page One: Inside The New York Times

This film is not so much about the Newspaper industry but the revolution in all of media we are experiencing.  All of the founders of current media sources are brought together in this documentary to discuss the changes in the way that we consumes media.  We've all heard a lot of these conversations but it's fascinating to see them put in one film and presented so well.

The Best Worst Movie 

This film takes a look at Troll 2, considered by some as the worst film ever made, which has become a cult phenomenon. Like many great documentaries this film is about the human experiences and how people deal with events in their lives.  It's amazing how such a great film was made about such a bad one.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Gift Giving For The Opposite Sex

One of the challenges for men and women this time of year is buying gifts for the opposite sex.  This is one of those lists of tips to be applied generally. There are exceptions to every single one of these tips/rules for gift giving. In no way am I implying that I’m an expert in gender roles and the developing relationship between women and men in the 21st century. These are simply good guidelines that if you follow them, more likely than not you will observe a sincere smile when your gift is received.

1.  Avoid giving things that imply that your significant other needs to be more organized, like wallets, bags and organizers. You may think that he wants to replace that wallet which is currently more duct-tape than leather, but he doesn’t AND he doesn’t want you trying to “fix” this part of his life.

2.  Don’t get some kind of bobble or key chain that is really feminine that you expect him to carry and keep with us all the time. It’s a nice thought, but more likely than not other guys will make fun of him for the “I love you” dog tags you had made.

3. Unless you are 100% sure of the style and size of an article of clothing that he wants, don’t buy it for your man. One of the biggest fears guys have is of girls who try to “change” them. I agree, your man needs to actually learn how to dress for work but gifts aren’t the way to do it. Then we feel pressured to like the clothing and wear it and it’s a bad vibe. Go shopping with your man and show him a bunch of stuff he should wear, that’s fine, but don’t spring it on him on Christmas morning.

4.  Electronics.  This one is hard because most guys buy electronics they want and are very picky about things like video games and iPhone cases.  We're oddly particular about brands and specifications.  A lot of guys really like researching this stuff.  Maybe you can green-light one of these kinds of purchases, but don't do it yourself.

5. Some Good ideas:

  • CD box sets
  • Nerf Dart Gun
  • miscellaneous licensed products (i. e. Simpsons’ Duff Beer Can) from TV shows, movies and video games 
  • comic books: everything from Superman to Calvin & Hobbes
  • stand-up comic albums
  • humorous t-shirts featuring cultural references from his childhood
  • sports and film memorabilia
  • Food: Bacon, sausage, popcorn, beverages, potato chips, salsa, steak. Guys like food. Food as a gift is a great idea that is under-utilized. I’m not talking about cookies and chocolates, we get plenty of those during the holiday. Get your guy some real food.
  • Books: Guys actually do like to read. We just aren’t really into The Notebook. Do some research into what your man is into and find a fun, easy to read novel that reflects their interests. Don’t buy a book that is “good for us,” find a book that we would really like.

1. Don’t buy a girl a purse. This is a highly personal purchase. It’s just like how you are happy with your old wallet and you don’t want a girl to buy you a new one. Leave that one alone.

2. Unless you are 100% sure of a size and a style of clothing that she likes, don’t buy a girl clothing. What you buy sends inadvertent messages about what you think about her body, the kind of woman she is and the kind of woman that you want her to be. It’s thoughtful, I agree, but it’s a big roll of the dice. Maybe once your married think about doing the clothing thing, but before then, bad idea.

3. Woman don’t care about TV size, how many megapixels a digital camera has or the memory in a laptop. They want electronics that are functional, easy to use and are in cute colors.  If you are going to buy electronics for her, bring along another woman and really listen to the questions she asks the salespeople.

4. It’s a good rule of thumb to not buy things as gifts that remind woman of chores associated with being a housewife. Vacuum cleaners, dishtowels, pots, and irons, probably will not go over well. Cooking stuff can be a great gift, if she like to cook, otherwise, it sends of message of trying to get her to do something that she’s actually not that into.

5. Some good ideas:

  • Stuffed animals
  • Picture frame with a picture of you together
  • Photo album:especially in this day and of age of digital photos, getting some photos printed and put together means a lot
  • Calendar of cute puppies
  • Coupon not for 10 minutes of your “affection” but for you to do a certain chore that is usually her responsibly,
  • Jewelry (keep it simple)
  • A DVD of her favorite film that you might think is a “chick flic” and a promise that you will watch it with her.
  • My Little Pony
  • Potted plant: these last a lot longer than a bouquet of flowers

Men & Woman
Probably the best gift you can give this holiday seasons is a hand-written note.  You don't need fancy stationary, a piece of notebook paper will do.  Just speak from the heart.  Write about how grateful you are for all he or she has done in the past year.  Write about how much you cherish your partner as a person.  Tell about the meaning that their presence brings into your life and express how much you are looking forward to your future together.

You attach this note to any gift, even a toilet plunger and I promise you''ll see some tears welling up in your loved ones eyes.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Year 2: Week 15-The Best Of 8th Grade Girls

When people think of 8th grade girls more often then not they think of these young women at their worst: catty, self-absorbed, immature, irrational and melodramatic. While this age and gender group has the potential for all of these things, so do people in almost every stage of life.

Do 8th grade teenagers have stronger tendencies towards these negative traits? I guess so, but more of this has to do with their physical and emotional development far more then any mean-spiritedness. When these traits emerge they are annoying, but they don’t really bother me because their potential for good is so much greater.

Over and over, my 8th grade girls have shown me great maturity and understanding as young adults, like this last week when three of my them visited my 3rd grade music class.

Because of a change in schedule my 8th grade Band met at the same time as one of my 3rd grade classes (I teach 3rd & 5th grade general music and 6th and 8th grade band). I saw some of my 8th grade girls earlier in the day and I mentioned this conflict to them and how they were going to have a substitute in band. They asked if they could come to 3rd grade music instead of band. I hesitated because the 3rd graders were preparing for their holiday performance. At the same time, I figured this might be fun, so I told them to come join me with the 3rd graders.

My school is a JK-12 school. There’s a Big Brothers and Big Sisters program which assigns high school seniors to different classrooms as a community building activity. This is fun and both the younger students and the seniors do really well with this and I was hoping that my 8th grade girls would bring that same positive energy to my 3rd graders and they really did.

When my 8th graders came in, my 3rd graders were very excited and they all wanted these guests to sit with them. We did a couple activities. One in which we went around the circle and had to come up with an animal and food as a call and response exercise. We practiced some instrument parts and went through the song for the upcoming performance.

Throughout all of the activities the 8th graders participated happily and engaged in a positive and appropriate way with my other students. They listened carefully to things the 3rd graders were saying, they didn’t any level of “I’m too cool for this” and showed a genuine interest in not only the class but the 3rd graders as people.

The 3rd graders were absolutely adorable as they tried to teach the 8th graders how to play and sing the songs. They were very interested in explaining how things in the class worked and their desire to involve the 8th graders showed a positive instinct include others and share what they knew.

Looking at my 8th graders interacting with my 3rd graders, I felt very proud.  Every time I looked at one of my 8th graders working with some 3rd graders I couldn't help but smile.  It wasn't just at the cute-ness of the situation it was the fact that these girls got it.  They understood what this opportunity could mean for the 3rd graders and their instincts were to connect and be positive.

I'm not claiming that I understand 8th grade girls, but I do know that there's something special about this group and if you look at them with open eyes expecting the best, sometimes you'll be amazed at what you see.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Seven Nation Army by White Stripes

How to teach "Seven Nation Army" to your beginning band.

Step 1:  Transpose the bass line to concert D minor.  The baseline conveniently fits within the first 6 notes almost all band method books teach.

Step 2:  Teach the base line to the band with some simply thumping percussion.

Step 3:  Teach some countermelodies.  Focus on using the notes in the bass-line.  For example they can play off beats on concert F.

Step 4:  Have the students try to figure out a rhythmic ostinato that works over the baseline.

Step 5:  Go crazy have different students play the bass-line and then layering countermelodies and student composed ostinatos.

Good times.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Area Codes by Ludacris featuring Nate Dogg

Sometimes music is meaningful because it speaks emotions that we feel deep inside in a way that no other form of human expression can. “Area Codes” is not one of those songs. It’s meaningful because our reaction to it tells us about ourselves.

Ludacris’ chauvinistic dedication to the many “hoes” that find him irresistible around the country provides a reflections, a kind of Rorschach test. Our reaction to this song reveals our own views on promiscuity, romance and the illusions that unfortunately too many of us have about the meaning of sexuality.

Ludacris isn’t the first artist to write a song boasting about his conquests. The earliest one that comes to mind is “Travelin’ Man” by Ricky Nelson.

Nelson in this early 1960s hit sings about five different girls who he is in love with. While this song has a more romantic spin it doesn’t feel great. He talks about owning girls hearts and uses cultural allusions to characterize these woman.

Ludacris takes this approach further describing forty different women he is involved with.

Forty. Let that sink in for a second, forty different women.  Maybe a list of all the area codes will help you imagine what we're talking about here.

770 - Atlanta, Georgia
404 - Atlanta, Georgia
718 - New York, New York
202 - Washington D.C.
901 - Memphis, Tennessee
305 - Miami, Florida
312 - Chicago, Illinois
313 - Detroit, Michigan
215 - Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
803 - Columbia, S. Carolina
757 - Tidewater, Virginia
410 - Baltimore, Maryland
504 - New Orleans, Louisiana
972 - Dallas, Texas
713 - Houston, Texas
314 - St. Louis Missouri
201 - Jersey City, New Jersey
916 - Sacramento, Califonia
415 - San Francisco, California
704 - Charlotte, N. Carolina
206 - Seattle, Washington
808 - Hawaii
216 - Cleveland Ohio
702 - Las Vegas, Nevada
414 - Milwaukee, Wiscounsin
317 - Indianapolis, Indiana
214 - Dallas, Texas
281 - Houston, Texas
334 - Montgomery, Alabama
205 - Birmingham, Alabama
318 - Monroe, Louisiana
601 - Meridian, Mississippi
203 - New Haven, Connecticut
804 - Richmond, Virginia
402 - Omaha, Nebraska
301 - Silver Spring, Maryland
904 - Jacksonville, Florida
407 - Orlando, Florida
850 - Tallahassee, Florida
708 - Northern Alberta, Canada

While Ricky Nelson gave each girl a couple lines, Ludacris limits the references most of these women to simply a number. Ludacris describes a sense of innocence about his circumstance like a guy in an Axe Body Spray commercial. As Nate Dogg sings, these woman just won’t let Ludacris be, what is he suppose to do about this?

I don’t full understand the cultural etymology of the use of the word “ho” to describe women. All I know is that in my circle of friend that’s not really a term we use to describe woman, ever. We’ll use prostitute to describe well, someone who actually is one, but “ho” eh. . . no. The different that Ludacris uses this word adding it on as a prefix is kind of entertaining, I’ll give him that much. My personal favorite “hor-derves.” Are these like snacks that area really easy to make or something? I don’t know, and I guess that's what makes this song so . . . ludicrous.

No one could possibly take this song seriously. Actually let me try that again. No one should ever take this song seriously. If you think that you will travel to different cities and find woman who drawn to you without you doing anything you clearly have never interacted with a woman. And while it may be “okay” to carry on with forty different woman when if it’s clear to all these woman your intentions to treat them like a “ho” and they are ok with it, it’s still disgusting. C’mon, people that’s unbelievably gross. I understand guys bragging about their sexual conquests. Once upon a time I was a teenager, but there’s limits.

Is “Area Codes” offensive? Taken seriously, yes. To describe a woman by a number and imply a level of sexual servitude is a statement not only about the woman who is a “ho” but also a statement about our mothers, grandmothers, aunts and daughters. If you think about think this song seriously and get that out of that reflection. Good for you.  If you don’t and feel a level of respect for Ludacris and enjoy the fantasy of his conquests and are over the age of 16, you seriously need to seek some psychological help.

Taken as a novelty song, "Area Codes" has some clever lyrics, but even as a joke, it still makes us questions the way we feel our own sexuality and what it really means to share one of the most meaningful parts of ourselves with just one person, or more.

Our reaction to art sometimes reveals things we are proud of and other times feelings that necessitate reexamination.

What does your reaction to "Area Codes" say about you?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Year 2: Week 14-Positive Capital

“Y’know, I ask this particular students to be quiet when we’re walking in a line and then he’s quiet for like a minute and the he starts talking again and I tell him to be quiet again. This seems to happen every day.”

One of my teaching colleagues told me about this student she was working with and her issues as you can see above with getting a student to follow directions. What I told her had to do as much with what she was doing but also what she wasn’t.

Being told to do a correct a behavior repeatedly is like being yelled at constantly. It’s really easy to tune it out. How do you get someone to really listen to? You talk really quietly and vary your tone and loudness. The same goes for positive and negative interactions. If the only interactions you have a student are negative he or she eventually tune it out. If you hear mostly positive things through interactions with people and then once a while a negative comment is said, it has a much deeper impact.

Positive interactions with students are like money in the bank. If you want to really have an effective conversation about correcting a behavior, it takes some positive interaction capital. My rule of thumb is that for every one negative interaction, I got have five good ones. What’s tricky here is that these positive interactions can’t be phony. They have to be real.

Often the students who get the most negative reactions from adults are not as likable as other students. Well, that just means you have to work harder to find something about that student that you like. And if you can’t after talking to that kid for 5 minutes then you hang out with that kid everyday as much as possible until you find something about that kid that you genuinely like.

This can get really hard, but if you really want your interactions to mean something to your students they need to feel that you like them and that responsibility is on the teacher, not the students.

And yes, teachers do like some students better than others. We’re human, but where the professional challenge starts is being able look past this and focus not on what the students is doing but he or she can do to be a positive member of the classroom community.

I believe that every student has something to contribute and wants to be a positive parts of the community. This may not be true, but if I doubt that at all, then it leads to giving up on students which is a road teachers should never go down.

Difficult students are a fact of life for teachers and you may think that if that kid wasn’t there the class would be SO much easier to teach. The funny thing is sometimes when that students is absent, some other students take his or her spot as the annoying student.  But sometimes there is a moment when that student isn't in class and even though the class is easier to teach you miss him or her.  If you get that place with that difficult kid in your life, then you really are doing your job as a teacher.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Iran So Far by Andy Samberg and Adam Levine

Is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad harboring a secret love affair with Andy Samberg?

Now there's an important distinction to make with this video.  Andy Samberg is not making fun of Ahmadinejad for being a homosexual.  The implication is not that Ahmadinejada is an inferior person because he's a homosexual.  What this song is saying is that Ahmadinejad is horrible human being because of his hypocrisy, the deplorable way he treats his people and the lies that he continues to spread.

By making fun of his sexuality Samberg is saying that Ahmadinejad is hiding something from us and is a coward.  He deserves our scorn because of his inability to acknowledge the most basic of human rights and sometimes the best way to deal with this anger is to laugh.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What It Means To Talk About Politics-Part II

It is often said that you should not talk about politics and religion at social gatherings. Why is that?

I’ve made wrote this other political discourse and what it means. This last post talked about how talking politics is of such importance that it should not be discussed the way sports are discussed because we are talking about people’s lives, not some inconsequential dramatic event for us to live vicariously through.

That’s just the first step.

Most political issues are not questions of absolute right and wrong. Take the economy for example. You can find experts in economics, people who spend their entire lives in the field who both support Obama’s economic policies and others who are against them. These people who understand the intricacies of our economy in ways that most of us can barely comprehend cannot come to a consensus, so how can we talk about this issues like we have it all figured it out? Are you really smarter about this issue then all of these people who disagree with you?

If you are holding an opinion about something that is highly debatable, then you really are holding an “opinion” which when discussed is a very different thing then arguing a “fact.”

The President Of The United States’ job is to make difficult and unpopular decisions. If something was a no-brainers and easy issue to address it would never reach the president’s desk. The decisions Obama has to make include information and subtleties that most people never understand, so is it fair to form opinions without knowing all of the facts?

Have you ever read a bill that that a president has signed? I got about two hundred pages into the No Child Left Behind Act before giving up. Try this sometimes, read a bill that you are passionate about and then you will really know what you're talking about.

I’m not saying that in order to have an opinion about a political issue you have to know everything about it and read all of the policy. What I’m saying is that when you discuss a political issue more often than not people who are smarter than disagree with you, you do not have all the facts and you probably haven’t actually read first hand what you’re even talking about. That’s ok, but what that means is that you can’t discuss a political issue with a “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality.

What about the other issues, the ones that are black and white? Let’s just say that you are actually have a Master’s in economics and have read the tax code. Or like me feel that the equal rights of homosexuals is about right and wrong. Well, just because someone is wrong doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk about it.

Are you discussing your opinion to help someone understand your side as being right or see their stance as being wrong? And yes, those are two different things.  Sometimes the best of us fall in the latter category and ti's really not a great place to be.

The strength of a political argument is in showing respect and understanding of the opposing position and starting with their perspective to help them understand yours.  Condescension does not change people's minds, but a willingness to listen and learn can change the world.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Year 2: Week 13 – To Be Liked

I’m not going to deny that I enjoy the fact that many of my students like me, but that’s really not the point of what I do.

It’s interesting. When I think back on the teachers who had the most impact on me some of them I liked a lot but some of them I didn’t. What was consistent was the fact that I respected their knowledge, their skill as a teacher and the fact that they respected me.

What teachers provide for students is not some kind of celebrity or idol, but rather a person who helps guide them and we often do not guide them in ways that they would like. No teenager is ever going to thank a teacher for providing them with structure and guidance but students often get frustrated with teachers who do not do this.

We work so hard for students and it gets frustrating sometimes when students express dislike about us. While these words can be pointed its important to keep in mind that they aren’t talking about us as people but as teachers.

Have you ever noticed when a student sees you outside of the school building they get kind of freaked out like they don’t expect that you could possibly exist outside of the school building? Even though you spend all this time getting to know your students, caring about them, working so that they can learn and be successful they do none of these things for you and in this way, this relationship when at its best really is not about being a friend or being liked.

I remember when I first started teaching I worried that I would teach students that I didn’t like. If I were to say that I liked all of my students equally that would be a lie. Remember, even though I’m a teacher, I’m human. But I’m very cautious about these feelings and for the kids I don’t connect immediately with I make a conscious effort to work with so that my feelings about certain kids don’t get in the way of me serving other students.  That being said, I have grown to care about all of my students no matter how they have treated me, because I simply choose to.

This is a hard thing to do especially when there are students who express disdain for you as a teachers but what’s important to keep in mind is that the fact that you have students who don’t like you mean that you are doing your job. Also, kids who seem to like you, don’t actually like you as a person so much the image of you as a teacher.

I can honestly say that I love it when my students are excited to see me in the hallways and want to tell me about their day. These kinds of interactions do help motivate me as a teacher but I can’t rely on them, because I know that they may dislike me in a minute when I give them a bad grade.  You have to be willing to give up any positive feelings they have for you to provide them with what they need.

Knowing that you did what was right for your students even if it means that they dislike you as a teacher may not make you smile but its the proof you need at the end of the day to know that you truly are a teacher.