10/26/12

Social Media Allows Us To Be More Genuine, Honest, Congruent

                           I love social media. Social media has forced a shift in humans that I feel is for the better; it has forced people to be one person to all people at all times, and this is awesome! No longer can one successfully juggle various narratives of ourselves and be one person to one set of people and then present quite another face to a different set of people. This duplicitous aspect of humanity is not possible in the world of Facebook. In Facebook, for example, you are thrown in a wild whirlwind of people from all stages, ages, and periods of your life and everyone gets to see you the same way at the same time. This ladies and gentlemen is HUGE, it's absolutely revolutionary if you give it a second's thought. Where else in humanity's history has there been a forum when you can have your exes, your past high school teachers, your nieces and nephews and your elementary school friends all comment on, say, a picture or a link you just posted? The answer is NOWHERE. Because of this miraculous new form of communication we are forced to be more genuine, more one with all, more honest from the start. I love this about Facebook. 

                             If you believe in something, never hide it, never be shamed of it, put it out there for all to see, for all to comment, and openly judge. Puzzlingly, I have often heard folks say to me they purposely hold out being 'political' or 'controversial' on Facebook in fear of offending their 'friends'. That logic makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. When I hear this I immediately wonder if they are this way in person as well. Are they only about pleasantries and talking about the weather in person as well? I can't help but to be turned off by people who feel that FB is not for politics. If not on Facebook then where else would you speak out (or shout) about dumb rape comments made by stupid politicians, where else can one state that they support gay marriage to all their family members, or express disbelief at the ridiculous tests kids have to go through in school, or show support for any cause for that matter? This IS the forum to be exactly who you are in your brightest sense, no bars held, let the chips fall where they may. (With some limits of course, but I assume we have all had FB long enough now to know how to behave on it appropriately)

                  Hiding something in the name of 'not offending' comes across as you feeling ashamed of it, as if there were something wrong with having an opinion, or believing in a cause, or showing passion for ideas. Only in being who we are around others can we encourage others to genuinely express their own ideas, passions and true selves and that makes for a much more interesting relationship, a much more genuine interaction.  In addition, I openly welcome people to 'unfriend' me who feel I should be posting less politics and more...who knows what on my page. 

                     In many ways Facebook is a wonderful metaphor for life. The most obvious metaphor here being, accept yourself and others as we are, with our many gifts, our many quirks.  Life becomes infinitely more interesting as a result of this 'allowing'. Trying to manipulate and restrict genuine communication through fear only makes for fake relationships and reduces them to what I call, 'pleasantries relationships'. Pleasantries relationships never venture past 'talkin about the weather' carry very little impact for no one learns anything, no one is impacted, changed, inspired by such hum drum relationships. 

                 We can't change the world, make an ounce of impact, or even begin to do the work we were placed here to do if we don't show others who we truly are from the very beginning.  
                                 

                               

                         

10/25/12

Running, and why I love it so much.....

   I have been trying to figure out why it is that I love running so much. In my attempts to unravel this small personal mystery I have been watching all these movies about running and following people online who run, read articles, magazines...on and on. In one of the movies, I don't remember which, one runner hit the nail on the head. She mentioned how in today's world, there are very few true feelings of triumphs we get to experience on a daily basis and she added that to her, running a long run and actually completing it brings out that feeling of triumph each time. After hearing this, it all made sense and I was then able to clearly understand why I love running.

          To me, running is a metaphor for life, yet, one that's encapsulated in a tiny microscopic hour's run. Life in a bottle is you may. No doubt the run somewhat begins as a struggle. At almost 40, my knees complain as I begin my runs, my ankles take a few blocks to adjust and not feel so achy. Yet, the feeling of triumph experienced after the run has ended far surpasses any struggle experienced during the run that it makes it all worth it 1000%. This feeling has been so incredibly powerful that I don't see myself ever not running again. This thing, this habit, this tool is now mine and I am keeping it as part of my life as long as I live. In fact, the other day, I had gone two days without running, things got busy and life took hold of all free time. I did not worry for I knew it was not gone. Soon, I began having this incredible urge to run that came from deep inside and would not let me off the hook. The feeling could only be likened to a nagging craving for something you can almost taste it. This craving won't go away unless fulfilled. It's become a bit of an addiction I'd dare say, for it only takes for me to even see another runner to again feel the need to go out there myself and feel the pavement beneath my feet. I have never been happier and more balanced than these few months of (almost) daily running and most of it has to do with the benefits running has brought forth in my life. I feel strong, healthy, awake, alive.....who would want to go back to anything else?

10/6/12

An excellent article that explains exactly why great teachers are leaving the profession

Excellent article in the Texas Tribune about great teachers leaving education
.


For Some Teachers, Strain Runs Deeper Than Budget Cuts


When Liz Peterson became an educator 14 years ago, she thought of teaching as a form of social justice. She entered the profession because she wanted to help close the achievement gap between poor students and their peers from more affluent backgrounds.
But in August, as the new school year began, the Teach For America alumna found herself somewhere she had never imagined: a private school classroom.  
“I never ever, ever considered teaching at a private school,” Peterson said. “That was never a thought in my mind.”
Since the Legislature eliminated more than $5 billion in funding from public education in 2011 some early results are easily quantifiable — like the approximately 25,000 employees shed from the state’s schools and the more than 6,200 additional elementary school classes that have more than 22 students.
Other potential consequences of the budget cut are not as easily measured. Several organizations — some with a stated agenda, like the Texas branch of the American Federation of Teachers, and one from the nonpartisan Houston-based advocacy group Children at Risk — have conducted studies that investigate the impact of budget related changes, like the loss of one-on-one time with students and teacher planning periods, in which educators have reported a loss of morale and increased stress levels within the classroom.


But anecdotes like Peterson’s point to a strain in Texas public schools that has more complex origins than 2011’s reduction in state funding. If the issues are not addressed, they could further hinder efforts to attract and keep top teachers in public schools.
Peterson taught for 10 years in the Houston Independent School District at Johnston Middle School, which serves primarily economically disadvantaged, black and Hispanic students. For much of that time, she said, she considered the district a place that rewarded good teaching and leadership in its principals. Then policies changed, she said, and raising students’ standardized test scores became the goal that overrode any other aspect of their education.
“What mattered was the test scores of the students in the classroom, not the impact that people were having on students as a teacher,” she said. “Frankly, that’s super demoralizing, spending all this extra time doing what you know is best for the kids, and no one cares.”
When it came to the point that Peterson felt like not only was she dealing with a miserable work environment but also being asked to teach in ways that did not address students’ needs, she said, she accepted a position at a private school in Houston.
“I had other options and I took them,” she said.
Gary Dworkin, a University of Houston professor, has studied teacher morale in Houston metropolitan area districts since the 1980s. He measures burnout — which he defined as a feeling of isolation that produces a sense among educators that their work does not matter — as well as the level of trust teachers have in colleagues, administrators, students and parents.
Dworkin said the factor that has had the biggest impact on teacher burnout over the years has been attempts to raise teacher quality and educational standards through the accountability system, whether through changes initiated at the state or federal level.
For example, in 2002, the first year of the No Child Left Behind Act’s application, he said burnout levels among teachers spiked. But by 2004, they drifted down because although No Child Left Behind was in place, it was not affecting teachers’ jobs in a large way because many of its measures, like forced school closures, were not happening on a large scale.


Texas is currently in the midst of such a change. In addition to the budget cuts, the 2011 school year was also the start of the state’s transition to a new accountability system based on more rigorous student assessments that for the first time will be linked to graduation requirements and students’ final grades.
Many educators welcome the higher standards and the standardized tests that are more closely aligned to state curriculum that come with the new system, but its rollout has been marked bywidespread confusion among school districts about how to apply some of its new rules, and there have been unforeseen complications of the new retake requirements. The state's implementation of the new system along with the budget cuts is also the subject of a lawsuit against the state that will go to trial in late October.
Dworkin last collected data in March. He found that teachers in 2012 were almost twice as stressed as those in 2002. Teachers’ level of trust in colleagues, parents and students has dropped from years past, he said, and for the first time, their number of years teaching or their level of trust in their principals, usually factors that would cushion against feelings of stress, had no effect.
“It’s a homogenous level of anxiety,” he said, “and especially now schools are saying it’s going to get worse.”
A lack of planning for the new system has placed unnecessary stress on teachers, said Eastman Landry, who teaches high school physics at HISD’s fine arts magnet.
He said external pressures like district and state mandates about student assessments frustrated teachers when they interfered with their ability to instruct students. But Landry, a graduate of Rice University who has been teaching for four years, said he did not sense that most of his colleagues are ready to give up on the profession just yet.
“The tone at the end of the conversation isn’t ‘I can’t wait to get out of here,’ it’s almost like this accepted feeling of being overwhelmed, and not being in control of what we want to accomplish,” he said. “Then again, we aren’t dealing with products — we are dealing with students, and there are going to be challenges.”
He said the state budget cuts had resulted in staff reductions at his school and a heightened pressure to do more with less. But he added that simply putting more money into public schools was not the answer. He said focused, effective planning, like with the institution of the accountability system, was more important.
Like Eastman, Peterson described a nerve-wracking spring as her colleagues waited to know the extent of state budget cuts. She said she did not view them as the root of issues that prompted her to leave public schools. That happened because she wanted to work with “better adults and better leaders,” she said. At the private school where she teaches now, she said, teachers are treated like professionals.
“The number of unreasonable schedule changes or administrative tasks, or paperwork is nonexistent,” she said. “The majority of my job is teaching and providing leadership opportunities for students, and that’s really great.”