The Very Spring and Root

An engineer's adventures in education (and other musings).

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December 2012

Resolutions

Resolutions for 2013:

  • Write something everyday... even if it’s just a paragraph. And I don’t mean writing that I have to do anyway, like academic writing for a class or writing a lesson plan for my teaching — those don’t count. I’m giving myself the option of journaling, correspondence (letter or in-depth personal email), blogging, or fiction. I find that writing helps me immensely, in that it forces me to organize my thoughts and solidify my understanding of what I observe and believe. Blogging is especially good for this. I write for myself and don’t particularly care who reads my blogging; but the fact that it is public and reflects on me is good pressure to be reasonable, coherent, and responsible with what I write.
  • Meditate regularly.  I’m setting a target of at least 20 minutes per day, at least three days a week, and just installed the MeditationHelper android app to help me track it. Starting with my move to Boston last summer, I lost my regular rhythm of meditation, always telling myself that I would resume a set schedule once things got more settled. Well, now is the time. I think my attention, memory, and focus suffered some degradation in the stress of the fall; being a naturally scattered person, the lack of meditation really didn’t help my personal stability. Here’s to a more contemplative spring.
  • Become conversant in Spanish. I’m working toward dual licensure in ESL, so this is something I have been working on already anyway. I am currently halfway through Level 2 of the Rosetta Stone Totale, and plan to have completed Level 5 by August. I’m also watching Destinos over on the Annenberg Media site, and have a few Spanish-speaking friends recruited to help me converse.
  • Deactivate my Facebook account. I already did this a couple weeks ago as a test. The only thing I really miss so far is the social events postings from my BTR Cohort. However, I will just have to be more proactive about staying in touch with then socially via other means. The account is deactivated, not deleted; so, while none of my information is visible or actionable online, everything can be restored simply by logging in again. The goal here is to keep it deactivated for at least the entirety of 2013.

In addition to the above lifestyle tweaks, I’m holding myself to the following two projects as creative deliverables:

  • Jamaica Pond, Month by Month. At least once a month, I’m going to take my camera to the little lake in JP just a block down from my apartment and do some photography. At the end of every month I’ll post my favorites here. Later on, maybe next year, I have vague plans of taking the best photos and compiling them with notes and essays into a sort of online (maybe print) publication.
  • Complete a First Draft Novel. Sounds ambitious, just throwing that down there. But every year I do NaNoWriMo, trying to finish a short novel (50,000 words) in just 30 days. Shouldn’t finishing one in 365 days be a much more doable goal? I hope so… Despite four years of trying NaNoWriMo, I have yet to actually complete one in 30 days. Maybe this year-long goal is the more reasonable way to finally get it done. So let’s say… 75,000 words on the same coherent storyline by December 31st, 2013.

Too ambitious? We’ll see. Anyone up for a few walks around Jamaica Pond? ¿O hay alguien que quiere hablar conmigo en español? It’s going to be an awesome year… saddle up.



Looking Forward to Spring

So, long time no freaking update. November and December were absolutely crazy, and it’s been wonderful to be back home in California for the holidays to rest up and recharge before the plunge back into the spring. Looking back on the fall months, I can’t believe how much has happened. In some things, my core beliefs, particularly related to what I am doing, have been strengthened. In others, it seems that my perspective on things has changed and grown.

Foremost things on my mind:

1. Passing my Gateway.

I didn’t quite make full proficiency on my Fall Teaching Gateway, which is a difficult thing to deal with. The up side is, I got concrete, specific, and actionable feedback on aspects of where I was that were getting in the way of becoming the best educator I can be. It’s amazing what you don’t even notice about yourself except with careful self-analysis and feedback from others. I’ve been getting a lot of support in working on these things, and I already feel as if I have improved.  So, this is a good process, despite the increased stress level.

2. Philosophy of Education

The final paper prompt for our Language, Power, and Democracy class reads as follows:

In our positional authority, teachers consciously (or not) make a myriad of curricular, procedural and moral decisions that have significant implications for our students’ learning. These decisions are deeply informed by our educational philosophy, which is strongly shaped by our (fluid and often shifting) social location, life experiences and our political analysis of these.

For this assignment I invite you to clearly state your philosophy of education and analyze, through a
personal, intellectual and political lens, how your social location influences your beliefs around schooling and your role as a professional teacher in addressing systemic inequity.

This written work provides the space for you to continue articulating your philosophy of education
particularly as it pertains to questions of inquiry, equity, language, power, and democracy. You will also conduct an intellectual, political and personal analysis of your philosophy of education. Grounded in a clear reading of the historical forces, structural context and institutional practices that have contributed to the current status of public schooling, you will continue unpacking your personal histories to identify your own social location, how it fits in the larger context, and how your social location shapes your philosophy of education.

Finally, the assignment aspires to help you draw explicit connections between a teacher’s philosophy of education and social location on the one hand, and classroom practice, student learning, and knowledge construction on the other to ultimately shed light on the possibilities of creating, sustaining and nurturing democratic classrooms that contribute to delivering the promise of quality education for all.

Yeah, no pressure right? It sounds imposing, but actually, doing the readings and preparatory writings for this assignment has been one of the best experiences in BTR for me (at least on the academic end of things). I’ve been exposed to very powerful writings by intellectuals such as Paulo Freire, Henry Giroux, Jonathan Kozol, and Sonia Nieto which have built on my per-existing core beliefs while profoundly changing how I view those beliefs in the context of my life. I am now in the process of connecting these new thinkers with the ideas already in my personal canon — from my own thinking and also informed by my exposure to John Dewey, the Dalai Lama, Carl Sagan, Immanuel Kant, John F. Kennedy, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nelson Mandela, and my own grandfather to name a few.

Condensing all of that into something concise and coherent to say about what I believe about education, particularly science education, is a daunting challenge — but one in which I am gladly immersing myself right now.

Maybe I’ll post some draft excerpts from that paper as I start getting my thoughts more solidified.



A Psalm of Life

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solenm main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us then be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

— Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



Momentum Supplies… Check

While planning for our unit on momentum (hopefully starting Tuesday), it suddenly occurred to me that I don’t need to use YouTube videos… there’s a toy shop just down the street! Behold my first direct purchases for my classroom as an educator:

Marbles in three different masses and a Newton’s Cradle! Weeeeee for conservation laws. Playing >> Watching any day. Will post the lesson plan when I have something presentable…




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