The Very Spring and Root

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

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Why Teach? – BTR Promo Videos

My teaching residency program, Boston Teacher Residency, has released a series of video interviews about the program and about urban teaching. Including my colleagues Randyl and Malcolm, as well as yours truly! Check them out below:

Randyl Wilkerson giving an introduction to BTR:

Malcolm Jamal King on being a male teacher of color and why he chose to teach:

And here’s me talking about why I chose to change careers from engineering to teaching:

BTR at Americorps Opening Day 2012

“Boston Teacher Residency’s 10th Cohort was well represented at the 2012 Americorps Massachusetts Opening Day in Boston. Juliet Buesing and Randyl Wilkerson sang “Lift Every Voice” (the Black National Anthem) and Malcolm Jamal King presented the introduction to what BTR does. Cohort X followed the ceremonies with an afternoon of service at Cradles to Crayons.”


I used to quote things like this all the time, and I think its been quite fashionable for progressive-minded people to do so for the last several decades, at least since the 60’s. What I see far less of these days is people actually doing something. Then I realized that I had been arm-chairing about nobody actually doing anything about anything for years without actually doing anything about anything. So then I decided to do something about something.

Counter-culture hipster attitudes and a veneer of non-conformity are everywhere, at least here in California. I see a lot of the other end of the spectrum too, religious conservatives who have somehow managed to interpret the New Testament to support the idea that repressive socioeconomic policies, massive corporate profits, rabid individualism, and resorting to force are ever good things. If there’s one thing humans are good at as a species, its reconciling the irreconcilable… keeping calm and carrying on.

The fact of the matter is that the world is broken. But the beauty is in the fighting of it. We can love truly when there are so many forces struggling to divide us. We can pursue a life dedicated to the betterment of one’s fellow human beings, even in the face of so many influences delighting when we look out only for number one. See, that is the bribe; the price of our silence and inaction is the hedonism of convenience, the drug of indifference, an opiate made of jaded apathy. Life is just so much easier that way. And they know it, and they make money off of it.

In fact, the world has been broken for millenia, and we certainly aren’t the first generation to find that out. What I think is different now is that we expect someone else to do something about it, or worse, convince ourselves that the world is not actually worth fixing.

I’m tired of it. I’ve traded in a comfortable secure income and almost everything I own for a proverbial lance and donkey. If you need me, I’ll be in the inner city, charging at windmills built of ignorance, neglect, suspicion, injustice, and an institutionalized hypocrisy armored with exceptionalist hubris.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

— Steve Jobs

Easy to blog about or tweet links. Now what are you doing about it? Saddle up.

quote from “The Sparrow”

Aside  Comment

I’m presently reading Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, and came across this passage that I really liked:

He was always working or laughing or studying, and his intensity and humor made him seem ageless. She knew something of his life, having worked with him, and recognized him as one of her own kind: an eternal beginner, starting over and over in a new place in new circumstances, with new languages, new people, a new commission. They had this in common: the continual rushed confrontation with change, the feeling of being hothoused, forced to bloom early, the exhausting exhilaration of doing the unreasonable not just adequately but well and with grace.

It felt apropos.

To Bear the Burden of a Long Twilight Struggle

After all the inspiration of BTR Selection Day, the very next day I visited the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. Many points of the visit were highly inspirational, and served to highlight my feelings from the previous day. However, two moments in particular stood out.

The second is harder to convey, as it involved watching Jacqueline Kennedy in a black veil watch her dead husband’s casket pass draped in a flag while bagpipes played.

The first was simply to watch JFK’s Inaugural Address in full, on a large screen. While many of the specific quotes from this speech were familiar, I had never before seen the speech in its entirety. I cried not only because of the power of his words, but for the sad fact that much of the evil and decay in the world that he decried is still here today, 50 years later, and in some cases even worse. Is this the best we can do? Where are the gunslingers like this man today? Is our idealism dead?

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do–for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

Now the trumpet summons us again–not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are– but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.