Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Goodbye Atlanta

Ok so I have been horribly remiss in updating this site. I survived institute at Georgia Tech and have moved into my new place back in M-E-M-P-H-I-S. Couldn’t have imagined how challenging TFA’s Institute training would prove to be. In addition to learning an entirely new skill set full of lesson planning, scaffolding, scheduling objectives, designing assessments, and executing in front of a class for the first time I found myself pushed to change my mindsets and work with others closer than I have ever done before.

I was hardly perfect in my outcomes, my planning, or pretty much any aspect of my time in Atlanta. It was so odd to fall flat on my ass for the first time and be genuinely crappy at something I put so much effort into. My behavior management started out rocky, I was challenged by the math content I was tasked to deliver, and oftentimes I found myself curling up in my CMA room after lesson to nap because I was physically exhausted.

About half way through my experience I got to the point where I could reasonably control the class but the achievement piece wasn’t there at all. I am not a naturally reflective person. Generally I can just try something else or out work an issue. This experience required me to diagnosis tiny behaviors to find underlying faults not with the students but with myself. For the first time in my life I think I understand what it means to be accountable for something really important. It is on my if these kids don’t pass the CRCT (I hear the scores are in and can’t wait to hear how my 8th grade Math scholars fared).

In honor of the 2012 TFA application opening this week let me set the record straight on about institute. Institute is hard as hell and you will be pushed harder and challenged more than you have ever been in your life. However, if you got into TFA in the first place you can handle it. The thing that kept me going was the fact that I hate to fail and I hate to lose. With that in mind I didn’t mind looking silly in front of my students doing crazy lessons, I wasn’t too proud to ask for the help I desperately needed, and I got through the days I wanted to leap from that 2nd story window. You go into this trying to change the world for the better but after Institute I realized you stay in this because of the individual kids in the classroom and not some abstract notion of equity. The achievement gap sucks but more upsetting than any statistics are the 8th graders who can’t read or add. Thats gonna be my inspiration for being the best teacher I possibly can, the kids I taught this Summer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quote of the Day 6/8/11

Men are governed only by serving them; the rule is without exception - V. Cousin

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Institute in Atlanta

So I arrived in the ATL this week to begin five weeks of intense teacher training Teach for America calls Institute. Complete with 5am wake-ups, collaborative teaching groups, and four years of education instruction condensed into just over a month I hear that I am in for a long Summer.

Today was my first day of instruction at BEST Academy Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia and next Monday I will be in front of an 8th grade math class all my own. Math should be interesting for me because it definitely wasn't my favorite subject and I think I will be able to relate too and anticipate some of the pitfalls some of my Summer School students may be facing.

The biggest takeaway thus far from my first day though had to be the DRA session I attended this evening. DRA is a reading diagnostic tool that allows a teacher to determine what level a student is reading on. I will be helping to administer these very test this week so we can establish a baseline for the middle school students taking remedial reading course. It was incredible to see how this tool worked and to put it firmly in my figurative "academic toolkit." I was am really excited to get down to the business of teaching and develop the skills that will enable me to have a major impact on the life trajectories of my students. For the first time I felt really "teachery" and it surprised me how pumped I got about it.

During Institute I will be doing a quote of the day here on my sites as well as on twitter.

Quote of the Day (1): In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia- Unknown.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Movement, Not a Job

Tonight we went to the National Civil Rights Museum which is housed in the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The entire exterior of the building has been kept in the state it would have appeared on that fateful evening, right down to the classic cars outside. Inside is a history of the movement in the 1950's and 1960's and culminates in a reproduction of the room where MLK spent his final hours and the view from the balcony where he was gunned down by an unknown shooter.

Ok time for some honesty. I never truly felt connected with the realities of the civil rights movement. I remember covering the struggle for African-American equality in U.S. History and reviewing for the Advanced Placement Exam. I certainly never thought of myself as an active part in this movement, that is easy to view simply as history. I grew up in a town that wasn't very diverse and ditto for the University I attended. This doesn't make them bad places, in fact I love North Attleboro and CUA dearly and would never apologize for them. But there is something about standing behind the site of MLK's death, literally in the path of the bullet that claimed his life reminded me that I have huge shoes to fill and that the fight to ensure people are judged "by the content of their character" rather than anything else is far from over. In a weird way Teach for America here is Memphis is my way of ensuring that the equality of opportunity the United States was founded upon is available for all children, regardless of the zip code into which they were born. This really goes beyond a black or white issue, its an American issue and ending educational inequity is one of the logical successors to the work begun by MLK.

Looking at the my forthcoming classroom experience not simply as a means to a paycheck of closing the achievement gap, but rather as a mission to continue the work of change agents both black and white is truly inspiring to me. I am unabashedly in love with the United States and one of the best jobs I have ever had was opening mail in the shadow of the Capitol Dome for Rep. Mary Fallin (unpaid). Tonight was a huge reminder that you don't have to be in Congress or the Armed Services to fight for your country. There is work to be done everywhere and my spot will be here in Memphis.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Romneycare and the Politics of States Rights- The Politicizer

Arguably the highest profile GOP Presidential candidate to not have announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination in 2012 is former Governor Mitt Romney. Early polling from the democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling indicates that Romney is leading in the early states among most groups likely to make up the primary electorate, with the notable exception of “very conservative” voters. This trend is problematic for Romney because the primary voters he is courting tend to come from the most conservative sectors of the party. One of the biggest liabilities for Governor Romney with conservative voters is the healthcare reform package he ushered through the Massachusetts State House. The plan, endorsed by Romney, contains an individual mandate similar to the mandate included in President Obama’s healthcare reform package. This provision requires all Massachusetts residents to purchase healthcare insurance from a variety of plans approved by state regulators but provided through private insurers. Those who cannot afford a plan are able to receive treatment at any hospital in Massachusetts, however if it is determined (via tax information) that someone could afford a plan they are ascribed a tax penalty.

To read the complete article please click here

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Alternative Vote is Wrong for Britain- The Politicizer

On May 5th the people of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will go to the polls for local elections and be asked whether they support undergoing the largest change to parliamentary elections in the history of the United Kingdom. If the referendum is passed Members of Parliament would no longer be elected under a first-past-the-post system but instead by a form of alternative voting that forces voters to rank all of the candidates on the ballot in order of their preference. If a voter’s first choice is eliminated then their vote is passed along to the next indicated preference still in the running. This continues until one candidate has at least 50% of the total vote. Proponents for this change argue that this will ensure that MPs have the support of the majority of their constituents as well as make the main parties to compete for fringe voters even the safest districts. Currently whichever candidate receives the most votes is elected.

The proposed move to the alternative vote is not the right medicine for the electoral issues in the United Kingdom. In reality, this referendum was the main price paid by the Conservatives to their partners in Government, the Liberal-Democrats, in exchange for their support. Ironically enough alternative voting is actually the black sheep of electoral reform proposals in that the Liberal-Democrats originally preferred a proportional representation system (similar to the one utilized for elections to the European Parliament) and the Lib-Dems are not actively campaigning in favor of the switch to AV. The Labour Party leadership has officially endorsed the AV system. However, over half of the Labour Members have signed onto the No to AV campaign in a show of defiance against what many consider ineffective reform and a political win for Liberal-Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. The Conservatives are united against the alternative vote and have been aggressively pushing to keep the first-past-the-post system.

See the full piece here

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Going (and making) Green- Internships.com, Eye of the Intern

Going green isn’t easy. At least it wasn’t easy for me. Recycling, trying to conserve water and driving less are not things you can do cold turkey; it takes time to mold these actions into habits.

Last fall, equipped with my new found environmental awareness, I started an internship with a digital communications firm in Washington, D.C. Things were going pretty well, and I really liked everyone I worked with.

After bumping into one of the senior staff members in the kitchen I noticed that he threw his Coke Zero can into the regular trash and not in the recycling bin. My dilemma: Do I make a move for the can, switch it to the appropriate trash receptacle and save an otter somewhere? Or do I play it safe, and not risk being the trash-picking intern for the rest of the semester?

I went for it — and yes, my boss happened to turn around at the exact moment my hand was in the trash. Luckily however, he actually came back because he realized his mistake and was going to recycle the can himself (or so he told me). As it turns out, I didn’t have anything to worry about. My supervisor barely blinked an eye at my trash-picking ways.

For this spring, I started looking into internships focused on environmental issues and I was blown away by the number of positions available. Between government departments and environmental organizations, aspiring “greenies” have a ton of opportunities to get more involved in promoting sustainability. The only downside to these internships is that the vast majority are unpaid, and therefore not realistic for some students (like myself).

Even if a green internship isn’t your thing, you can have a huge impact in any workplace. Reminding people to recycle and turning off lights when people leave a room are small steps anyone can take to help the environment. No matter how skeptical of the movement, your employer will surely enjoy a smaller electrical bill each month.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Don't Count Cameron Out- The Politicizer

It has been a rough few months for British Prime Minister David Cameron. As if keeping the first coalition government in forty years united wasn’t hard enough, Cameron recently lost his Communications Director Andy Coulson amid scandalous allegations that he was involved in cell phone hacking while working at News of the World. Although the student protests of the Fall have subsided and Conservative Party Headquarters is no longer under siege from thousands of tuition fee crusaders, the effects of the deep austerity measures implemented by the government have begun to drag Cameron’s Conservatives down in the opinion polls. A Com Res poll issued on February 9th shows the Conservatives now trail the Labour Party by seven percentage points.

Less than a year ago the Conservatives won a plurality of seats in the House of Commons, besting Labour by over five percentage points. So what happened? Cameron’s “full, comprehensive” offer to the Liberal Democrats to join in an official governing coalition was met with concern from party faithful and the spending cuts promised in the Conservative Manifesto have proven tough for the nation to swallow. Several British commentators are already speculating that this is just the beginning of an even bigger slide in the polls for Cameron and one that will result in the Labour Party reclaiming their majority in the Commons.

Read the rest of this piece here

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Battle Over Education Reform- The Politicizer

Earlier this week President Obama delivered his State of the Union address and issued a clarion call for sweeping education reform. Giving an honest assessment of the challenge facing the United States of America, President Obama stated that public education simply isn’t making the grade and as a nation we cannot afford to allow our population to fall behind our economic rivals in a world increasingly dominated by technological innovation.

Currently bad teachers are protected by the same system the stops our most effective teachers from earning superior wages than their less competent colleagues. The feedback loop created by handicapping stops the most talented from even considering going into education. Union involvement in teaching contracts is ultimately costing more than the lost wages for our educators — at the heart of this issue are the millions of students across the country who will not have the skills to compete as well as provide the innovation desperately needed to drive our economy.

The full article can be viewed here

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Post Graduation Plans

Late last month I accepted a position as a 2011 Teach for America Corps Member teaching middle or high school Biology in Memphis, TN. I really cannot believe I now know what I am doing for the next two years, but I am excited to learn a new city and get to work with my students.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Aristocratic Founding of the United States- The Politicizer

The recent overthrow of the Tunisian government and the protests currently raging across Egypt are both motivated by calls for increased democratic participation by the citizens of those nations. The outpouring of support for the protesters and their push for open, democratic elections invite reflection on the United States’ own battle for a popularly oriented government. A closer look at the United States Constitution reveals not a wholehearted endorsement of democracy but a group of Founding Fathers with a deep mistrust of completely democratic institutions. Specifically, the composition of the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the Electoral College demonstrates the belief that government should be popularly oriented but not simply a rubber stamp for the fleeting will of the majority. Instead the Constitution established a system designed to, in the words of James Madison, “refine and enlarge” the popular conception of the common good.

Arguably the most aristocratic American institution, the Supreme Court consists of entirely unelected officials who serve life terms with the ability (since Marbury v. Madison) to deem acts of the Congress unconstitutional. A check on the ability of even an overwhelming majority to pass legislation that violates the underlying governing principles, the Court also slows the legislative process requiring a constitutional amendment to overcome a negative decision.

For the complete article please visit The Politicizer here

Monday, January 24, 2011

Interning Internationally- Eye of the Intern Blog- Internships.com

Our generation has been called many things: Generation Y, Echo Boomers, Millennials, or Generation Next. My personal favorite comes from political pollster John Zogby; he chose to refer to people born between 1983 and the early 2000s as “First Globals.”
What the heck is a “First Global”? Zogby asserts that our generation is going to be tasked with renewing the American promise abroad and learning to thrive in a truly globalized world. So what’s that mean for you? Get comfortable working with a variety of people and develop international literacy early. Interning abroad is one of the best ways to develop international experience as well as make incredible memories.

I spent last spring in the United Kingdom working in the House of Commons and left with a new understanding of parliamentary democracy, and a new appreciation for our own system. In every job interview I have had since returning from my time in London, the first question I am asked inevitably relates to Parliament. Jumping outside of my comfort zone, adapting to a new environment, and demonstrating that I can thrive when challenged are skills that employers in every field respond to. Plus it makes for a great story and a unique skill on your resume!

So if you’re looking to beef up your resume and learn a lot about yourself in the process—keep these 3 tips in mind while searching for your dream internship abroad.

1.Talk with your campus study abroad office to make sure the program you are participating in is legitimate if it’s not run through your university.

2.Make sure you apply for your visa at least 6 weeks prior to your expected departure date.

3. Talk with your classmates who are headed abroad and ask about staying with them when you travel. This not only saves money on hostels but experiencing a city with the people who know it is always better than flying blind.

What about you? If you could intern anywhere for a semester, where would it be?

Check out the original post here

Where Did All The GOP Candidates Go- The Politicizer

As of November, 5th 2010 political pundits turned their sights from the “shellacking” taken by Congressional Democrats in the midterm elections to the impending presidential primaries. While most coverage focused on the unlikely possibility of a primary challenge to President Obama I was struck by the fact that not a single Republican candidate has formally announced a presidential bid. This lack of hats in the ring is compounded by the large number of prominent GOP officials mulling a 2012 run. Historically, presidential hopefuls have made some statement of intent by this point. For example, in the lead up to the 2008 race former Senator John Edwards announced in December of 2006. So as we approach the primary season, where are all the Republican candidates?

Presumed GOP Contenders
General consensus and recent polling courtesy of The Washington Post and ABC News indicates the top Republican contenders are Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, as well as Newt Gingrich, and Tim Pawlenty. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is also apparently prepping a long-shot bid with recent trips to Iowa and New Hampshire. Romney, Pawlenty, and Palin have begun the unofficial campaign through their respective political action committees (and in the case of Pawlenty a book tour as well).

Perhaps the annual Conservative Political Action Conference will reveal some of the GOP’s contenders. In addition to being a crucial audience for any potential GOP candidate to reach, CPAC also hosts its famed straw poll. Although none of the victors of this poll in the previous three years have won the nomination, each of the GOP heavy hitters could parley a CPAC straw poll win into a formal announcement later in the month. It would be very surprising if CPAC passes without at least one prospect officially declaring their candidacy for the presidency.

Visit The Politicizer for the full article.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The End of Single Player Video Games?

Recently the CEO of video game giant Activision made the claim that Call of Duty, the popular shooting franchise, was as significant as the rise of Facebook due to the online multi player it launched and largely popularized. While I won't take the time now to debate the finer points of that particular argument I do think the comment hints at something lurking on the minds of gamers everywhere: is the single player video game a dying breed. Games such as Call of Duty and the Halo series on Xbox are sold primarily for the online experience offered by each title. Although both possess compelling stories, any tale gets old after a few tellings...or playings. Online game play offers a much greater bang for than a game without the ability to play online. Further many of the most prominent titles are now requiring online collaboration in order to unlock all of the achievements offered by a particular game. So is the classic single player game dead?

Not a chance. While online games have and will continue to overtake traditional single player variants players still yearn for compelling stories and incredible game play. Two of the best examples of games that have defied the multi player trend are Batman: Arkham Asylum and Bioshock. I think the competition from multi player games will actually produce better single player options with increased online integration.

My Wishlist for the 112th Congress

So yesterday the 112th United States Congress was sworn in and John Boehner of Ohio became Speaker of the House as the Republican Party officially took control of the lower house of Congress. With the U.S. still facing tough economic times with unemployment inching towards 10% Congress must focus on the major issues facing American families or the new GOP members will be thrown out in 2010. So here is my wishlist for the 112th Congress and a few things I hope they don't do as well:

1. Replace Obamacare with a state based alternative- during the debate over healthcare reform the GOP offered 80 constructive amendments all of which were disallowed by Speaker Pelosi. Republicans and Democrats must work together to craft a more viable and less expensive alternative to government mandated care. This will become even more urgent should the Supreme Court hear Virginia's challenge to the individual mandate of Obamacare.

2. Extend the Current Tax Rates- Taxing job creators is a surefire way to stop employers from hiring new people. Lets get serious, raising taxes in a time a economic downturn puts the entire recovery at risk. The "Bush" tax cuts should stop being demonized and protected to ensure that companies can afford to create jobs (a role that government cannot accomplish).

3. Deficit Reduction- Washington takes in plenty of money, the reason we are facing a soaring national debt is that we are simply spending too much. If the United States is going to avoid major austerity measures like those occurring in Greece we need to get serious about cutting our spending. The cuts made by the Coalition Government in the UK under David Cameron can serve as a model the U.S.

4. Balance the Budget- Enough Said.

5. Push for carbon emission caps and create incentives for nuclear and green power- Also pretty straightforward.

Now for a few things I hope the new Congress will leave the hell alone

1. The DREAM Act- Extending benefits to the children of illegal immigrants and illegal immigrants themselves is a surefire way to encourage MORE illegal immigration. I do however believe that illegal immigrants serving in the Armed Forces should receive a fast track to citizenship.

2. Gay Marriage and Abortion- There are some things people will never agree on. Why waste the entire country's time showing how progressive or conservative you really are.

3. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan- It is time to get the hell out of Iraq and Afghanistan. We are shed more than enough American blood in Middle East hell holes. Neo-conservative wars for democratization are not worth any American dying for. I don't have the slightest interest in a "global democratic revolution." I want the U.S. to be secure and ready to meet the challenges of the next decades.


One of the most celebrated geek films of all time is Tron. Uniting computer programmers with nerd of all sorts this tale of an epic struggle in a digital world discovered by a brilliant video game designer. Although the original story wasn't anything particularly new the application of technology in 1982 was groundbreaking. Although the image below may not seem to live up to the description I have just given for the time this was a seamless union of the available digital technology with the promises offered by the incredible advances occurring everyday.

So naturally expectations for the sequel Tron Legacy were incredibly high. Simply put this film delivers. It is visually stunning and for fans of the original blends classic Tron mythology with an engaging story. One of the most impressive aspects of Legacy is the creation of digitally rendered younger versions of the characters played by Jeff Bridges (CLU) and Bruce Boxleitner (Tron) from the original film. As computer programs they do not age and they are incredibly life like. I would highly recommend that everyone goes out to see Tron Legacy for no other reason than it is one of the slickest films I have ever seen. Also, Jeff Bridges continues his phoenix-like rise (which for the record started with Iron Man!) and is excellent once again as Kevin Flynn (although it does feel like he is channelling his character from the Big Lebowski at times). If nothing else Tron Legacy continues the tradition of pushing the boundaries of technology further and questioning how far can we go with technology.