Obama’s Fan Club

I set the packet in front of the 2nd grade English Language Learners. We were studying grammar and linking sentences in the context of learning about some of the more well known presidents. They scanned through the faces until they came to our current president.

“Oooh, that’s our president.” they cooed in unison, spilling over with excitement. “Barak Obama. He’s our president.” The adoration was palpable.

It was hard to pull them back to the task at hand as the conversation drifted onto the topic of politics and a mutual dislike for Donald Trump. As we reached end of the packet, another photo of the president pulled out more bright-eyed cooing. Their task was to create a compound sentence about the photo.

“President Obama is special.”

“Yes, but why is he special? You need to add to your sentence.”

“President Obama is special because he is nice.”

In all of my interactions with students, I have never seen the connection with a political official before now. I have been in classrooms where students parrot dislike for a candidate, and I become a fly on the wall at their family dinner conversations. I have seen students’ confusion over the whole process. In second grade, their idea of president is pretty limited. This is the first time I had seen actual love for a president.

President Obama ran on a platform of hope and inclusion. It’s nice to know that message reached some young minds. There may be hope for democracy yet.

 

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Learning Styles

During teacher training, we had courses devoted to various learning styles. The premise was that we all learn through different modes, and those modes should all be used to deliver content in a way students could easily process.

One of the theories is that there are three different modalities or avenues for information to be delivered – visual, auditory, or kinesthetic. When planning lessons, we were charged with keeping these modalities in mind. Today I am in classrooms where the students learn vocabulary by gathering at the front of the room and reading a definition aloud while miming a related action, thereby hitting all three modalities. It’s a difficult thing to do with every subject.

The other theory we studied was that of multiple intelligences, which defines intelligence as not merely a product of reasoning and ability to understand complex ideas, but acknowledges that there are a variety of ways that a person can be smart that may not show up on our commonly accepted measuring tool, the standardized test.

 

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Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

This theory comes in handy when planning lessons. Students are more likely to learn when they feel a connection. Acknowledging that success on a standardized test doesn’t dictate success in life frees a student to reach his or her own potential. Gardner reasoned that it takes all kinds of people to make this world work, and by giving students freedom to interact with content in a way that is relevant to them, they are more likely to learn.

As a teacher, I see this on a daily basis. Students are more invested in something that is meaningful to them. A student who loves sports will be more inclined to read and work math problems that are related to his or her interest in the subject. Giving students research projects in a subject area they are interested in yields enthusiastic results. Offering students varied means to show knowledge of a subject allows them to own the learning process. A song created about the American Revolution that accurately reflects a predetermined set of learning goals is every bit as relevant as a multiple choice quiz.

Acknowledging multiple intelligences also give students ownership of the learning process, and our goal as teachers should not be to help students pass a test, but should be to create lifelong learners.

I was recently in a second grade classroom with a girl who was in every support group imaginable. She was not only low in reading and math, but had a hard time focusing on content the class was learning. At the end of the day, we switched to an art project. This girl threw herself into the project with an enthusiasm and focus that I hadn’t seen from her all day. She quickly completed a beautiful project and asked to do another. It was hard to pull her away when it came time to clean up. This kind of interest is what we hope for as teachers. In an era of focusing on the standardized test, we are leaving these kids behind. This particular school had done away with art in favor of more math and reading instruction, and this student was being left behind in spite of good intentions.

I understand this student. I was this student. Today, I can read and study difficult concepts, but I still reach the point where if I don’t have a creative outlet, all learning stops and pressure begins to build. I’m sure this is true for the active child, the musical child, the inter/intrapersonal child. Education favors the linguistic/mathematical model, but when it comes to the endgame of career and job selection, we need those visual/spatial, interpersonal, naturalistic students to thrive in their areas of interest. Education must support all students.

If you are interested in finding out what your learning styles are, there are plenty of online quizzes to help you out. I found that I’m pretty well rounded when it comes to the three modalities, and multiple intelligences. That probably comes from age and experience, and from providing my brain with many and varied opportunities to provide connections.

What are your strengths? Was there anything that helped or hindered your learning process?

Learning styles quiz

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences quiz 

 

What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?

Vaccinate Against the Hate


Photo credit: NIAID via Foter.com / CC BY

An illness is spreading in our society, a virus that’s propagating and mutating, diving deep within our cells and lying dormant until conditions are right, at which time it flares, infects, and proliferates, leaving disaster in its wake. The Black Death has nothing on this virus. This virus feeds on fear. This virus is Hate.

There are certain carriers, the Typhoid Marys of our age, who may not exhibit outward signs of the virus, but spread it nonetheless to unsuspecting victims. It taps through the tympanic membrane of our ears through radio waves, where it seeps into our brains, degrading synapses, hardening the soft tissue, and silencing the thought processes. It spreads in hazy waves through the ever-present screen to delicate eyes, scaling over the tender visual system and causing a type of blindness that is self propagating. It is transmitted from the podium, where it enters the bloodstream directly in a rush of adrenaline.

Once in the body, the virus starts to spread, seeking out an environment conducive to growth and replication. In the absence of these conditions, it enters a dormant state, walled off, waiting for the right condition to emerge. When it finds the right environment, it grows fiercely, transforming the host into a leprous mass of pathogens. In its final stages, this virus infiltrates the heart, causing it to seize up and shrink in size. This is when it is at its most virulent.

Sadly, once infected, there is little hope for the victim. He or she becomes a vector, passing the virus on to other unsuspecting victims. Family members are the first to be infected, children being the most vulnerable. Unsuspecting friends, if unvaccinated, are also susceptible to the contagion. It may even spread through places of worship. Bombarding the virus with high levels of antibodies may have limited results. Quarantine is often necessary.

Though news of the spread of the disease is distressing, there is hope. A vaccine exists that can filter the virus from the system before it ever gets a foothold. This vaccine is offered to everyone in the country, though sadly, some still deny its benefits. It is available at the local elementary school, where children learn how to work together despite their differences. It is available at the middle schools, where young minds are introduced to the great thinkers of the ages through the written word. Inoculation continues at the high school, where students are taught to filter subjective information through the scientific process. To receive maximum benefit, post-secondary inoculations are required, fine tuning the immune response. Further boosters may be self-administered.

The availability of this vaccine does not guarantee resistance to the disease. The virus may still creep in through lapses in vaccination or dilution of the antivirus. Resistance is only as good as the strength of the immune system. The ear needs to be attuned to diverse voices to maintain flexibility. The soft brain tissues need frequent stimulation through the written word and intelligent discussion to keep the synapses functioning. The tender eye needs reprieve from the harsh and confusing signals of the screen to be able to clearly see the path ahead. Most importantly, the heart needs nourishment and exercise in the form of love, friendship, and generosity to beat and grow. Of course it is always helpful to avoid travel to areas where the virus persists.

If the above conditions are met, there is hope that the virus that is infecting our country may be controlled. Vaccinate. Before it is too late.

This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Dwight D. Eisenhower

What Price for Happiness?

I recently answered a writing prompt that asked writers to imagine winning a billion dollars in the lottery. In reality, if I won a that much, I would probably be so stressed out by the magnitude of change in income that I would do nothing.

At least for a while.

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Beginning balance: $1,000,000,000

When the thought of winning money goes through my mind, part of me wants to be magnanimous and give some of it away. I’ve always had the dream to have the Oprah experience, pointing at people and shouting “You get a car! You get a car! You get a car” while everyone stands and applauds my generosity.

But who would I give it to? Family? I like the idea of giving everyone in the family a set amount. They would still resent me, but I would be off the hook with my own conscience. They would be on their own to figure out what to do with the money. I have a large family. Approximating 150 aunts, uncles, in-laws, siblings, children, etc., I could give each member ten thousand dollars and still have $998,500,000 left to figure out what to do with.

Remaining balance: $998,500,000

What if I were to spread it equally to everyone who is alive in the world today? The population meter is whirring upwards at breakneck speed, but at the time of this post it’s roughly 7,331,000,000. Doing my calculations, I would be able to give everyone in the world 14 cents. That’s not much, and it won’t make much of a difference even to the poorest of the world. In Afghanistan, it won’t even buy a loaf of bread. So that idea is out. How about dividing it equally among my fellow Americans? There are roughly 321,375,000 of us as of this posting. Each person would receive $3.11. Enough for a loaf of bread. On sale.

What if I decided I wanted to keep it, to become a “billionaire” and hobnob with the wealthy? I would still be snubbed by Donald Trump (but honestly, who isn’t?) whose net worth is estimated to be 4 billion. How about having lunch with Bill Gates, currently the richest man in America, who’s net worth is 79 times my new found wealth? Would he turn up his nose at me in the same way people who make over 100,000 dollars a year turn up their nose at people in poverty? The poverty level sits at about $25,000 for a family of four. That’s only a four-fold difference. Multiply that times times 20 and you’ll get the income disparity between the now-rich me and Bill Gates. Sorry, Bill, but Warren Buffet seems more approachable, and he is slightly less rich, at $72,000,000,000, although the difference between his wealth and Bill Gates is still seven times my new net worth.

So I’ll give up on the idea of entering the social realm of the über rich. I’m not really that into excess, anyway.

There’s the nagging feeling that I should invest at least some of it. I could invest $990,000,000 and still live very comfortably on my remaining 8,500,000. (Remember, I gave some to family.) I won’t even go into the stress of trying to figure the investment scenario out. I would have to use some of my remaining money on spa treatments and retreats just to recover.

Remaining balance: $8,500,000 (and that’s just because I cheated by shelving 99% of the cash.)

How many of us, when presented with the idea of coming into large sums of money, say they would like to travel? I am not alone in this desire. Yet my idea of travel is to experience the place as authentically as possible. That being said, my one change would be to upgrade those darn airline seats! First class, baby. No more being the last one on the plane, cramming my carry-on in the remaining space and my legs in the “space” between seats. In fact, I could probably buy my own plane and have an excellent pilot on retainer. (My immune system might suffer without having to exercise itself against all of those recirculated airplane germs.)

As far as location goes, I see no reason to travel if you go somewhere to experience the same things you would at home. I like to mingle with the locals, try the mom and pop eateries, and strengthen the local economy by taking home-grown tours. No all-inclusives for me. No high rise resort, gated-community living. To me that takes the richness out of life, and what’s the point of monetary riches if the emotional and psychological living becomes bland? You can only play so much tennis and drink so many mai-tais in an infinity pool. Every smile you are greeted with as you interact within a community creates an imprint on the heart and mind. Everyone you meet as a fellow traveler experiencing the world on a shoestring budget, all of the comparing and contrasting the local life to life at home, all of the ideologies mixed at local pubs and all of the shared experiences challenge long held beliefs and cause us to grow and change. These things are what strengthen our world and what create compassion for other people’s struggles and commonality with their joys. So I would travel the same way I travel now, but more often. I could budget $12,000 a year for the next ten years to travel and be completely satisfied. (Without the private plane.)

Remaining balance: $8,380,000 

I would give some of it away. Is there anyone who wouldn’t? I would support the Nature Conservancy in their efforts to shore up important ecological areas around the world. I would add to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and their important reforestation efforts in the cloud forest of Monteverde, Costa Rica. Emergency response organizations and children’s hospitals could always do with an influx of cash, so they would get a slice of the pie. I would create scholarships for highly motivated high school students to attend college. Honestly, the power to give back would be the greatest gift of so much money. If I gave 150 charities $10,000 each, I would still have an unimaginable amount of money in my pocket. Remember the bulk of the money is still tied up in investments, assuming my financial planner hasn’t run off with it. I’m just whittling down my measly budget of $8,500,000.

Remaining balance: $6,880,000

I would pay off my parents’ mortgage and make sure their health care needs were taken care of. I would like to say I would provide homes for my kids, but the struggle to create a home has such value that I don’t want to deprive them of that. I would make sure they had access to a top-notch education. Top private universities cost about $60,000 a year including room and board. I have 4 kids. That’s $960,000 total for undergraduate studies. If they want to go to grad school, that’s another $45,000 per year. I still have a little of my mad money to spend.

Remaining balance: $5,435,000 

When you are used to living on a shoestring budget, spending money like this doesn’t come easy.

For myself and my comfort level, I would buy a nice, modest-size, quality house in a nice location by the water in the Pacific Northwest. I would make sure it’s equipped with the latest environmentally friendly upgrades, like solar power and a wind turbine. (It gets windy up here.) I could get something on the water in the San Juan Islands for around a million. (But then I’d probably need a boat.)

Remaining balance: $4,435,000

I could go on and on, trying to spend the remaining one percent of my billion dollars, but you’ve probably already stopped reading. What this exercise points out is what an incredible amount one billion actually is. While it’s fun to play “what if,” it’s sobering to think that some people actually have their hands on this kind of money. Some will use it for good, creating foundations and supporting community building. Some will use it for themselves, walling themselves off from the commoners like you and me. Some will use it to promote themselves and their agenda, which to me is the most frightening use of money of all, because then we all become pawns in their private game of power.

I’m not a billionaire, but I’ve always believed the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword, or, in this case, the pocketbook. Money drives forces. It gets things done in the world. It greases palms. It buys elections. It subsidizes media, and filters the news on both sides of the spectrum. Critical thinking skills can not be purchased, but they can be snuffed out with the creation of enough mindless television shows and time wasting games. I won’t ever win even a million dollars in the lottery. I have more chance of being struck by lightning, dying in a plane crash (must rethink the whole travel thing), or hitting a deer while driving in Hawaii. I do have a real chance of having my country taken over by people who have the money to purchase air time, to manipulate the media, and to promote their agendas, most of which do not match mine. What power remains for us, the non-billionaires, is the power of the vote, and that power only works if people are educated enough not to be swayed by propaganda.


I originally wrote this when I first started blogging 8 months ago. It was an interesting exercise in financial relativity.