Archive for ‘current events’

December 5, 2013

RIP

by stryson

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela

You will be respectfully remembered and sorely missed, sir. Thank you for who you were, and the impact you made on this world.

“‘I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” – Nelson Mandela … may you find rest now, and let us resume the long walk on your behalf.

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October 25, 2011

Technology and Life in General

by stryson

I have a major love/hate relationship with the role that technology seems to consistently take in my life, as well as the lives of others. I’ve been reminded of this profoundly on several fronts recently.

The first came in the form of a blog post that can be found here. The short version of this post is that a teacher in England was targeted by local media and portrayed as inappropriate to the extent of being a creep, entirely based on tweets that were taken entirely out of context, apparently. Provided I’ve gotten a well-rounded enough picture of the situation from what I’ve read, her plight is deeply disturbing to me. We now live in a world where it’s very hard to keep anything private, particularly when the internet is involved. There’s some degree of common sense that must be followed in regard to one’s own conduct on the internet, but it appears that this teacher did, in fact, take precautions to make these tweets private, which should have theoretically made them inaccessible to outside parties. However, these news sources got wind of them and found ways to obtain (and exploit) what they managed to dig up. This is absolutely infuriating to me! The complacency with which many people now handle blatant breaches to one’s privacy completely baffles me.

A parallel concern of mine in regard to this situation is that teachers are not saints. The expectation that just because one has a certain profession they’ll never swear or say things in an uncensored manner is just completely unreasonable. Yet, in the age of Google, our lives outside of school are easily on display, not just for our coworkers, but also for the parents of our students… and our students, themselves. I caught a fifth grader searching my name on Google – during a class that I was teaching at the time – a couple of years ago, and I completely read him the riot act about privacy. I was mortified! There’s nothing terrible that comes up with a search of my name (I check on this now and then to be sure), but the principle of it bothered me deeply. Growing up, I lived up the street from my first grade teacher. I didn’t go snooping through her yard or peering in her windows. This feels like the modern and remote equivalent.

A key difference may be the lack of consequences. People are almost encouraged to have inappropriate curiosity. There’s no way for someone to “catch” you looking at their information, so why not? That same invincible attitude fuels the barrage of emails that I (and teachers in general, from what I can tell) get daily. As a general rule, people are way more willing to say things that might be considered rude, harsh, or irrational in an email than over the phone or in person. There’s no risk for the sender to get immediate negative feedback, which they might receive in the form of a verbal retaliation or a more subtle reaction through body language if they were communicating in person. Sending an email also takes less effort than the former ways in which parents contacted teachers. They’re no longer obliged to leave a message with the school secretary, or to hand-write a note and hope their child gets it to its destination. This is not always a bad thing! I can think of many instances where I’ve been able to help a child who struggled with his or her homework because a mother has sent me a quick note via email, or I’ve been made aware of a social problem going on among students in my class that I might not otherwise see. However, the dark side to this is that there are people who take advantage, sending an abundance of emails about issues that may not be important, or that might be better dealt with in person. Emails are also often sent impulsively; I get many “while I’m thinking of it” emails – sometimes even from Blakberries or iPhones while they are waiting to pick up their children outside of the school.

Today was a light email day; I count 9 message threads in my Outlook box. Yesterday, I had 20. Friday was 17, Thursday was 16. I counted 7 emails in the first hour of the school day on one day last week.

It’s a double-edged sword; the ease of communication can absolutely be used for good. It’s incredibly frustrating to realize how much of my planning and reflection time is consumed by reading and writing emails, though.

Anyway – I digress.

I’m not the only one ruminating on the effects of technology in a social context this week. Sarah Weaver’s sermon this week, which she posted here, dealt partly with the divisive nature of our technologically heavy lives and the basic notion of loving one’s neighbor. Much of the text struck home with me, and I would encourage anyone to give it a read, even if you’re not Christian or religious at all, because I feel she’s definitely got her finger on the pulse of this same issue I’ve been grappling with. I particularly like this quote:

And it is so easy for us to stand behind the mask of anonymity that the Internet gives to us when we disagree with someone.  It is easy to strike back without thinking or even being prayerful when all we have to do is type a few words on a keyboard and hit enter without seeing the reaction our response might elicit.

I’m certainly no Luddite, and this should not be construed as a rally against all technology. It’s a lament for the fading of common sense, manners, and basic interpersonal communication. There must be a way to use this technology mindfully.

October 8, 2011

Cory Booker on Education Reform

by stryson

Good Saturday morning!

What better way to start the day than a hot cup of coffee and Newark Mayor Cory Booker discussing education reform?

http://www.dailymotion.com/swf/video/xjpx9r
Mayor Booker’s Passionate Plea for Education… by FORAtv

Edit: That link was supposed to be an embedded video, but I’m having technical difficulties. It should bring you to the proper video, though.

 

 

August 11, 2011

Berlin Wall

by stryson

Saturday is the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s construction. Reuters has a great article up right now about a bike trail that has been built in the midst of the pieces of the wall that remain. While a trip to this site is obviously unfeasible for many classes, discussion of the Berlin Wall could include this article. The link is below.

Berlin Wall Trail a Surreal Journey into City’s Past

August 9, 2011

NASA happenings

by stryson

I went away for a long weekend, and it appears that the whole universe went wonky while I was gone. Coming back to emails, tweets, updates, and so on after being completely out of internet, TV, and radio contact with the rest of the world is always a surreal experience. I have not completely caught up on current events, and I will sheepishly admit that I don’t particularly want to. All I know is that while I was swimming, reading, and playing a lot of skee ball, apparently the country’s credit rating went down, the stock market plummeted, and people in London were/are rioting. I can infer the reasoning for the former two, and I haven’t explored the latter. This at least will give you some context for my completely incongruous post, which ignores all the real-time chaos going on in the world.

One of the more blatantly “nerdy” things I do follow the various Mythbusters on Twitter. Today, Grant Imahara tweeted a link to an article that I found pretty interesting.  Apparently NASA has found the crash site of a spacecraft they downed on the moon back in the 1960s. The link to the article is here. Be forewarned, the comment section of this article, as happens far too often on the internet, is already starting to fill with nonsense. The article is not long or detailed, but it is an interesting development to note. I also had no idea that NASA was working on a more detailed map of the moon; I’ll be excited to see that as it develops.

April 18, 2011

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

by stryson

By and large, I don’t like to get into politics on here, or in real life, for that matter. My primary purposes in writing this blog are to catalog useful resources  for the classroom, to muse on educational theory, and to lighten things up with amusing student quotes.  However, things aren’t always rosy in the life of a teacher, and they’ve been particularly less than ideal of late. I teach in a private school, so my personal concerns are a little different than those of public school teachers, at least in specifics, but many of the same themes carry across. For me, yes, money is an issue. Yes, benefits are an issue. However, they remain secondary to my complete dismay at the lack of respect teachers receive. I have my own laundry list of theories as to the origin of this disrespect, but my lovely husband sent me a link today to a blog entry that examines this phenomenon more systematically and eloquently than I think I can from inside the fray.  The link is here: Teacher Bashing 101.  I must add a disclaimer, of course, that I have not yet read anything else on his site, so don’t come back with metaphorical pitchforks and torches if you find things you dislike. Respectful comments (even if they are from an opposing viewpoint), are always welcomed, however.

March 12, 2011

Japan

by stryson

I don’t get much time to stay up on current events “real time” during the day. I get the news when I head to school and when I head home. It’s amazing how much can change in that short period of time. Yesterday morning, I knew about the quake in Japan, but the news was still saying, “Wow, they were ridiculously well-prepared for this. It’s above everything they’ve ever experienced, but, you know, they’re handling it okay.” Satisfied, I went about my business. I knew of the tsunami warnings, so I checked on some relatives in Hawaii, and then I dove into teaching for the day.

I came home to a different world. The devastation in the aftermath of the quake – the flooding, the fires, the nuclear plant leaks – is overwhelming. All eyes will be on Japan in the coming days, weeks, and months as they pick themselves up from this disaster. The beautiful thing is, however, you don’t just have to watch. In this interconnected age, it’s easy to lend a hand from far away. A Japanese friend of mine from my days in California, Riku, has a blog post outlining your best info and aid sources here: http://www.rikuinoue.com/2011/03/japan-earthquake-relief-you-can-help.html

Japan, we are with you, in thoughts, hearts, prayers, and action.

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