Jun 30, 2015

Random Thoughts pt. 8

Not every idea is worth a blog post. For a myriad of reasons, some ideas just don't have the fortitude to stand on their own. It's not always their fault; sometimes I don't give them the space in my head needed to grow fully. I like having a theme in my random thoughts; doing so imposes some sort of organization, a starting point, if you will. Not today. I think the lack of theme is reflective of how scattered my thoughts are of late. Here are some of the better ones to dance across my cognitive stage.

My sister, the Lawyer
My sister becomes a lawyer officially.
Earlier this month, my sister was read and signed into the official books as a practicing lawyer in the state of Massachusetts. There was a ceremony and everything. I understand the pomp and circumstance of it all, and while an affair like this had the potential to be dull, the Master of Ceremony, Maura Doyle, kept things light and funny. All in all, it was cool to watch several years of hard work and determination pay off for my sister when she signed the book and made it official; I am the least educated person in my immediate family...

Life Changes
In other news, a childhood friend recently got married. The ceremony was beautiful. I hadn't seen this friend in several years, a product of growing up and growing apart, I suppose, but being there for his nuptials felt special because of all the good times we shared growing up. From sleepovers that were all-night video game sessions, to trying to decide which 90s action film was our favorite, we spent a lot of time together. We even had a "secret handshake" that came springing back like muscle memory when I saw him. Of all the games we played as kids, my favorite will always be "Ninjas." As adults, we share the occasional Facebook message, but it's obvious we're not as close as we used to be. Sure, that's a little disappointing, but I appreciate the fact that he invited me to be there on one of the most important days in his life and I wish him all the best as he begins this new chapter in his life.

Marriage =
Speaking of marriage, the Supreme Court of the United States made a ruling last week that fundamentally changed the way marriage is and will be viewed. I posted a link to the New York Times story on my Facebook page because, let's be honest, this is a huge f'ing deal. I can (and probably will) write a post about the actual decision as well as the dissenting remarks, but right now I want to push past that to the human level of ruling. A co-worker, on the day of the ruling, got married. He posted photos of the event on his Facebook page to not only commemorate the affair, but to also share it with his friends, many of whom were unaware of the sudden "Life Event." I found his posts to be deeply emotional and touching. Ask my friends and they will tell you I'm not the "sensitive" one (that would be Kris), but what struck me was only a few weeks after I watched my childhood friend make a commitment of love and responsibility to his now wife, I got to see the same commitment made between two people who feel the same way but until that morning were unable to express it in the same manner. Their moment was just as beautiful as my childhood friend's. Another friend of mine put it best as a reply to my original posting of the NY Times story, "it is kind of surreal when the world operated one way when you went to bed, and is totally different before lunch the next day." He's spot on.

Perhaps there is a theme after all, random or otherwise...

Jun 29, 2015

The Importance of Education or, Writing for funsies.

A new thing that I have been doing with my Writing Center colleagues is 15-minute writing challenges. The rules are simple; take a basic essay prompt (we usually use Texas Success Initiative  prompts) and write an essay in fifteen minutes or less. A panel of three other Writing Specialists judge which essay is the best. Prizes range from candy and other snacks to pints of blood from defeated foes. It's a lot of fun, intellectual, and very nerdy. Things that more or less describe me and my co-workers. I've re-printed my winning essay below:


            Although many agree that education is an important, there is much debate on the details of that importance. Some argue that education plays a crucial role in the overall development and maturity of individuals in terms of bringing out the best of their native intelligence while others contend that education, of any kind, increases, expands and creates new native intelligence. Despite their differences, both sides of this argument agree that education is important because it cultivates a desire for knowledge, a natural curiosity and, most importantly, critical thinking skills.
            Knowledge is a never-ending desire that encourages people to learn more about topics this know as well as add information about new topics. Whenever a person is in the process of gaining knowledge there is a point where suddenly “it” clicks and understanding is reached. That initial moment of understanding is the driving force behind the never-ending desire for knowledge. That moment drives people forward as they attempt to learn more. This is a key aspect in education because it creates a craving for more knowledge. Ideally, this need becomes insatiable which allows for an open mind that is always receptive to being educated and the process of learning new things. This process also leads to another important part of education.
            The natural curiosity produced by the educational process is critical because it allows new information to be received and seeks out environments in which learning can take place. This is seen easiest in the formation of social groups that meet to partake in a specific activity. Social groups of this nature tap directly into peoples’ natural curiosity because they offer an opportunity to try something never done before while learning about the activity from those who have some level of mastery. This is important because education is not relegated to classrooms or formal settings. These social groups create a learning environment wherever they take place which solidifies the idea that education can take place anywhere, allowing for natural curiosity to flourish. While natural curiosity is important, it is not the most important aspect of education.
            The development of critical thinking is the most important aspect of education. Critical thinking is the ability to think deeply and directly about any subject by applying previously gained knowledge and experience to the subject. It is a skill that is developed through constant application and usage that enables a person to come to proper and well thought out conclusions by taking into account everything they know. It is the single most important aspect of education because it is a skill that transfers to every part of life. Critical thinking helps with decision-making which is the quintessential facet of life. The only way to increase critical thinking ability is through education which makes education of the utmost importance.
           In conclusion, a desire for knowledge, sparks a natural curiosity in all people. These two parts of education combine to form the basis of critical thinking, the most important part of education. With solid critical thinking ability, the various challenges of life are easy to overcome. Because of this, it doesn’t matter whether education develops native intelligence or increases it.

Jun 27, 2015

The Millett bros, my companions this evening, are talking Women's World Cup. I just scored free beer! I'm beginning to ramble, so I'll wrap it up. Nothing quite like a lazy Saturday evening.
The cool weather allows for more outside social activity than TX, and, in my humble opinion, the Summer Ale just tastes better in Boston....
I'm chilling in a beer garden, cold Sam Adams Summer Ale in my hand. Kanye's "Workout Plan" is on the jukebox. It's times like this that I miss Boston.

Jun 26, 2015

Cross Training

I love teaching. It is a unique and particular rush to give someone knowledge and understanding of something. I cherish those moments when the light bulb goes off over a student's head and they get what ever concept I am attempting to explain. There is a saying about family that states the best and worst thing about it is that it's yours. I think the same can be said for students. Ask any of your teacher friends and they will tell you that their students are great, and they probably are. Of course, there are those students who don't care, are unfocused, or are just lazy. These students make teaching a nightmare. If you ever wondered why teachers take sabbaticals it's because of students. I'm on a sabbatical of sorts currently. I am working outside of a classroom setting. It's been a while since I've done this, but I think it will be good for me. Let me explain.

I'm currently working as a Project Manager for a real estate company. It's an office job, a job type I haven't had for close to three years. The first thing I realized is how communal office jobs are. Sure, you have your personal work space, but you're surrounded by co-workers. There is idle chatter throughout the office and often questions can only be answered by someone else which means finding that person to complete the work you have to do. Being in an office really brought into clear focus how individualized teaching is. I have co-workers at my teaching job, fellow instructors and teaching professionals, but when I am in my classroom, I'm the boss. It is on me to instruct my students, follow up on their learning and move them as individuals and as a class down the path of learning goals I have set for the day, week, month, semester. It's all on me.

I don't think there is a direct matching position in the sphere of office jobs. I've seen teaching as a team event. Two teachers in a classroom, or a teacher and an assistant teacher helping to guide students as well as supporting each other with the learning goals. I think it's a type of teaching that can work if both people are on the same page, but that is only a link between two people. In an office there are multiple people to interact with, even in small office setting.

That being said, I'm rather enjoying my time as a Project Manager. It requires me to use skills that I don't usually employ while teaching. These other skills are rusty and stiff from lack of use, but as I get more comfortable in my role, these skills loosen up and become flexible and readily available. Much like physical cross training which shocks the muscles in the body to do things they don't normally do during a workout, the Project Manager position is like a mental shock.

I'm looking forward to returning to the classroom in the fall with these other skills fresh in mind and ready to be put to use along side my teaching skills. I'm excited because being a Project Manager will make me a better teacher. Like I said, I love teaching.

Jun 25, 2015

Here we Go

I enjoy writing, I really do. This blog has been a showcase of my love for prose in one form or another for quite some time, even if my updates have been sporadic of late. In the last two weeks I've had several interesting encounters. I had a conversation with my uncle wherein he asked me if  I was still writing. I said I was "on a break" as if I had been writing a ton and needed to cool off. Later that same week, I received and email from a complete stranger. Her message was simple. "How do I get updates of new posts of your blog?" My answer was appropriately vague, like I had something to hide when really I just didn't have a great answer for her question. A few years ago, I wrote a message to my father and published it on this blog. I noticed, this past Father's Day, that my father had framed that post and set it on display in the house. I took it as a sign. 

I'm working on being less sporadic. New content everyday, except Sunday. This counts. It will be the (one... two...) second time I've attempted something of this magnitude. It worked out pretty well before, so I am hopeful this time. So, here we go... again. Thanks for baring with me.