Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Props to McElroy and Villanova

In an age where the "student athlete" is eroding into privileged employee, stories like Greg McElroy or the recent actions of Villanova remind us that some individuals and institutions are truly concerned with holistic education; academic, interpersonal, and athletic.

Greg McElroy defined living life in balance because while at Alabama, he completed his undergraduate education in three years with a GPA of 3.86 and is currently working on a masters degree, was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to the 2009 National Championship, and qualified for the final round of the Rhodes Scholarship.

Villanova recently suspended a star freshman from its basketball team without any prompting from the NCAA because, "Pinkston is receiving the same treatment any Villanova student would under similar circumstances." Unlike Auburn, Villanova is ignoring that Pinkston was the second highest rated recruit out of the state of New York and reminding us all that no one should be above the law, no matter how talented they may be. Villanova won't be as talented this year, but it's better to hurt a little now so that we can become better athletes and better people in the long run. Hats off to the 'Cats and Mr. McElroy.

A link to the Villanova article if you're interested in reading more: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/news/story?id=5890891

Monday, December 6, 2010

Five Month Anniversary

I have been in Indonesia for over five months now and in preparation to return to the States for the holidays I've been doing a lot of reflecting about my time abroad this year. First of all, I cannot say enough great things about the people I've met! Indonesians on the whole are extremely hospitable (and forgiving of my horrendous Bhasa), personable (and eager to strike up conversation), and exhibit an incredible joie de vivre! Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoy my job: the kids are incredible and a lot of fun, my co-workers are fascinating people, and determining ways to make higher level math (at least from a 6th grade perspective) relevant to teenagers lives is quite intellectually stimulating. (and below is an example of how we used frame by frame animation to provide a more tangible context for matrix manipulation)

Furthermore, these past five months have been incredible in how much I've learned about myself. I love the quote "You've got to go away to come back" and previously used it in reference to sports, but having time away from it all has provided greater overall clarity regarding who I am and where I want to go in life.

On top of all of that, I'm spoiled with all of the different sights I've been able to see since being over here; from places throughout Indonesia (the the mountains near Bogor and the rice patties of Bali) to Angkor Wat and the country-side of Vietnam and Cambodia. While traveling and instead of watching TV I've been able to get through a number of great books. The top shelf represents those I've read while the bottom contains those still on the reading list.

Overall, I am extremely grateful for these past few months and am looking forward to what I will continue to learn!

This picture is of Matt, Ab, and me at the Soiree last Friday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Internet Trouble

For some odd reason, it seems like whenever it rains, the internet goes out at the homestay. This weekend the internet didn't come back on after the rain ceased and so my video chat with Jillian was relocated to school. It was a little less than ideal because the internet connection isn't as fast, but it's great that the school provided me with an alternative! Also, not having internet connection allowed me to be more productive in working on the mammoth amount of work that goes into completing report cards. I was talking with Matt, my co-worker from Canada (not Mr. Williams, the Canadian enthusiast :) lol), and we both said that the comments section is great, but we can only do 5 - 10 at a time to make sure they don't turn into the same comment for each kid :). I'm done with one class and hope to have 2 more done tomorrow! I hope everyone is doing well!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Defense of Shannon

College football is at a tipping point. Television contract, corporate sponsorship, enormous BCS pay-outs and "professional" high school athletes are rapidly eroding the student athlete, replacing it with profit-generating employee. While none of these individual aspects are new to the sport, their effects are having an increasingly detrimental affect.

On by-product of the current culture of college football is the hasty firing of good coaches, exemplified by "the U" firing Randy Shannon. When he took over the program at Miami, disarray would be a courteous description; academic issues, disciplinary problems, and stagnation on the field. In four years, Shannon has turned Miami into an exemplar for student achievement, a feat wish is too often under-looked in college athletics where, as the NCAA advertises, "over 90% of us are going pro in something other than sports." It should also be added that those lucky few who are drafted and play in the NFL, they won't be there long (average tenure is four years) and thus all student athletes need their degree throughout the rest of their adult lives. Furthermore, the news has been notably devoid of stories of athletes doing things they shouldn't be, despite all the distractions that come with attending college in Miami. Finally, a great culture has been established within a team that has gone to three straight bowl games.

Unfortunately, Shannon didn't win enough for Miami standards. Miami has been lulled into a false sense of believing they have a great football program, when in reality a few outstanding coaches created a history of winning without necessary support structures (outside of the pipeline of talent that comes out of South Florida). "The U" lacks offices, meeting rooms, weight rooms, or practice facilities that would put them on par with the rest of the ACC, needless to say a premier national program. Additionally, they play their home games off campus in a NFL stadium, not exactly the best environment to build an atmosphere for a strong "home field" advantage.

In the discussion on Shannon, Lou Holtz brought up a very interesting point, you make the most mistakes in your first head coaching gig. He referred to his esteemed days with the Tribe as a time when he learned a lot about being a better CEO of his program and was able to use those lessons that the higher level, more exposed programs. We've seen the results with Gene Chizik at Auburn compared with Iowa State and if I were the AD of any university looking for a new coach, I would be thrilled with the successes and character of Randy Shannon and vault him to the top of my prospect list.

Monday, November 29, 2010

TCU to join the Big East

Apparently after all of the postulating, the worst case scenario has come true for Big East basketball simultaneously with the best case scenario for Big East football, TCU is joining the league in all sports. By adding TCU and having Villanova move up from FCS, the Big East will have 10 teams in football, making it a more legitimately sized league. I still think the Big East should look to add some football only schools (UCF, Houston, or ECU) to get it up to 12 because with 12 schools there would be significantly more league security, the opportunity for a championship game, and some other very large TV markets for its next television rights contract, but that may be difficult to pull off. Regardless of how good this move is for the football side of the league, trips out to Fort Worth for schools like Seton Hall, Providence, and St. John's will seem a little silly (yet all of this also begs the question of why DePaul was added back in 2005...). It will be interesting to see how this all plays out...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Homeroom Challenge Closing Ceremony

Right after the "Fly on the Wall" challenge, we transitioned into the Closing Ceremony. As a part of this, there were a total of four individual awards handed out (to work out that one person from each grade got an individual award). The awards were "Best Dressed" - for the best costume from Book Character Dress-Up Day, "Most Photogenic", "Most Memorable Moment", and "Most Team Spirit."
It goes without saying that Hanif won "Most Photogenic" and also fitting that this is an amazing picture :) A sign that the Homeroom Challenge was successful in bringing the classes together and increasing overall school spirit was that 6th grade Hanif got the loudest cheers during the closing ceremony :)
So as I've made abundantly clear throughout all the posts on the Homeroom Challenge, 9B worked extremely well together and this is Tania, Calisha and Eca helping me hold up the spoils of our victory :) (and explanation for what is on my head. The homeroom teacher of the winning class was the wear a golden motorbike helmet with tassels on top designed to look like a Roman General. I, naturally, decided to keep it on)
Total Bro.
Eca got most memorable moment for his domination in Island Hopping and ingenuity during the Marshmallow Challenge. Bro. Also, when Eca went up to the stage to get his award, he decided to jump through the frame... and fell off the stage. Very fitting for "Most Memorable Moment" award.
Left to Right: Rayhan, Eca, Arsyan.

The classy pic (pun intended) of 9B.

9B gone wild! Left to Right: Janis, Erik, Dika, Abi, Rayhan, Eca, Arsyan, Nadine, Calisha, Dimy, Natasha, Karinta, Tania and kneeling are me and Nada (who from this picture still looks traumatized from being the "fly") Not pictured: Syafi

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fly on the Wall

"Fly on the Wall" was the last event of the Homeroom Challenge because it was the most anticipated. The rules were that you had 5 minutes to use 3 rolls of duct tape to secure one member of your class to the wall. The "fly" that stayed up the longest won.
Albert was the "fly" for 9A and shown here was the general strategy for most teams, our strategy (once again noticed by Eca) to come later...
8B thought it was necessary to secure Dipra's head to the wall... :)
This was the other fly that stayed up the longest.

So now on the 9B (can you tell my bias? :) lol) Initially we were in the "first heat" because there were only 5 spots to tape people to the walls and there are 10 classes. About a minute into the taping process, Eca noticed there were some nails sticking out of the wall just above Nada. Consequently, we used the nails to create a sling to support under her arm-pits. Most flies fell between 20 and 50 seconds up on the wall with the 3rd place fly falling at 1:40. The picture below is of Nada 4 minutes in. In watching it, I was convinced Nada would stay up until the nails came out (and at the four minute mark you could see they were showing signs of stress) and so in the interest of getting the second heat started Matt called for Nada to get pulled down.
After the first heat, the rule that you couldn't use any nails or other aspects of the wall was added for "fairness," and so I told 9B that I would proud that they had re-written the rules, it was like the invention of the forward pass in football :)

However, the ingenuity of 9B was not appreciated by all and there was talk of our class getting disqualified. Like I said in other posts, throughout the Homeroom Challenge I gave my full support to student-driven ideas while offering minimal input, but at word of this I did speak up to Matt and the principal that it would be exceedingly unfair to 9B because they didn't violate any of the previously stipulated rules and it would send a terrible message to the kids that intellectual progress could be stunted if it created an "unfair advantage" as determined by the powers at be. Well, the argument for entrepreneurialism at least allowed us to reach a compromise where 9B would do it again, but this time without use of nails. Since some of my students weren't exactly pleased with this compromise, I decided to take a significantly more active role in the second taping to ensure that Nada would be able to stay up for at least 1:40.
The second time around, even without using the nails, Nada stayed up for over 4 minutes again and was taken down before she fell down. This experience has been a good lesson in how to respond to seemingly unfair adversity though I don't think Nada's skin appreciated it :)
You have to show your team spirit for your homeroom:


Black Friday in Indonesia

Black Friday did not have a noticeable affect on the stores in Indonesia :) I did put it as the "date" on the board today and used it to explain a little bit more about American culture, though I may have gone a little too far by having Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is You" as the background music during the 'Warm Up' :) The kids are prepping for semester finals which makes me feel almost like I'm back in a college mindset. I'm also very excited to return to the States and hopefully see as many of y'all as possible! Nanti

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Marshmallow Challenge

This is another sixth grader who is friends with Hanif and his excitement for this event exemplifies how awesome the entirety of the homeroom challenge was in getting students excited about being in school and working together to achieve great things. Back in August I had done this challenge with some of my classes, but wasn't able to find marshmallows and so we put Tim Tams on the top. Tim Tams are heavier than marshmallows and from that experience my students learned the most complicated aspect of this challenge, supporting the weight on top. Additionally, in preparation for this challenge while some students were preparing for later events (such as the Book Cover design or Door Decoration), others worked on creating a model tower and experimenting with different design elements.
This is the general design for our tower on the day of the event. My only contribution was the best way to create a strong base (the triad coming from each leg and supporting the other two) while the general design, ideas to increase height, and further supports were all student generated during our practice session.
Intricacies of working with thin spaghetti demanded many hands to support and secure the tower (principle builders were Natasha, Arsyan, Eca, Eric and Dika- see working below while the 10th grade supervisor, Kiki, regulates - though never mounted up!)

Great action shot of Eca doing his thing.
My favorite picture from the event and potentially from the challenge overall. I love the sheer joy in the faces of the builders with the success of their tower, notably Dika and Natasha.
Measuring the winning tower. Notice the support brace that Eca implemented in the middle of the challenge when he noticed the marshmallow was listing to one side, pure genius and the reason the tower ended up standing and becoming the tallest (hence why I tried to contribute as little as possible so that student inspiration would be the highlight!)


This was one of the earlier events in the Homeroom Challenge. It was a normal game of telephone where the "goal" was to "accurately" pass messages through the entire class as fast as possible. Every error between the message at the end of the line with what the 10th graders provided was a 5 second penalty for up to five errors. Consequently, 9B talked it over and realized that since the messages were going to be tongue twisters, that it would be faster to just pass along one word of the message and accept the 25 second penalty. There were a total of 5 messages to pass and even with 125 penalty seconds we still won by over 5 minutes...LAWYERED! lol

The 10th Grade facilitators are ready to start the telephones!

Hanif, the 6th grader who won most photogenic of the week (for pictures exactly like this one:)!), with both sixth grade teachers, Dennis and Cris

Grades 8 and 9 ready for it to begin.

9B ready for it to begin...well almost, Abi's not quite ready...or is he meditating on our strategy?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Character Dress Up Day

Even though this was close to a month ago, I just got the pictures from the Homeroom Challenge activities from Matt today and thus want to share!

This is my with my homeroom (the potential for greatness in the homeroom challenge as evidenced by our 100% participation rate in costumes including two sumo wrestlers...though I'm not sure what book that was from... :) lol)

I love the next picture because of how much of a bro Eca is. He reminds me a lot of myself (because who else would look off like that during a picture while being dressed up like Sherlock Holmes...actually, that's more bro than I would be. Props. Additionally, the pose reminds me a lot of the family pictures sans Evan Brown, great success!)

From left to right: Tania, Natasha, Eca, and Nada

Eric and Daniel, just walking down the hallway (two of the best costumes from the day, plus as a big fan of 'The Three Musketeers' I thoroughly enjoyed Eric's choice)

And lastly (due to the internet connection and Blogger it takes awhile for these pics to load)...it's too cute that they're dating:
Lee and Sherine (and I also really enjoy Lee's expression in this picture...another bro)

Monday, November 22, 2010

We Choose to go to the Moon

"But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon, we choose to go to the moon in this decade not because they are easy, but because they are hard!" -John F Kennedy, 12 September 1962 at Rice University

I shared this clip (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqokqE5dRmM&feature) with my kids to reinforce the importance of hard work and determination in character building. While I think the biggest take away was the thick New England Kennedy accent (which is most notable on "hard") it enabled us to joke about the Semester final (Why are we making mock exams and working for an entire period on solving 4 problems? Because they are haaard! :)!)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

"...I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order..." -'Breakfast of Champions'

After being completely blown away with "Slaughterhouse Five," I wanted to read other Vonnegut works asap and while "Breakfast of Champions" didn't match the quality and depth of "Schlachthof-funf," this quote frames the novel and by using this as a lens in which to view the rest of the book also makes it a giant. Another quote from it that I really liked was:

"But some of the nonsense was evil, since it concealed great crimes. For example, teachers of children in the United States of America wrote this date on blackboards again and again, and asked children to memorize it with pride and joy:
The teachers told the children that this was when their continent was discovered by human beings. Actually, millions of human beings were already living full and imaginative lives on the continent in 1492. That was simply the year in which sea pirates began to cheat and rob and kill them."

Next up on the reading list, Sun Tzu's "The Art of War."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Slaughterhouse Five

This book lived up to the hype that it was one of the best anti-war books ever written. As I described it to Ab last night, the book subtly hits you over the head with its ideology because the way Billy Pilgrim is constructed as a character gives Vonnegut significant freedom to in both dialog and timing. I anticipate reading this book multiple times and the first pass through I don't want to make a fool of myself trying to provide great literary insight, but the striking thing in just having finished the book is the beauty in the book's ending. It's abruptness highlights how human made war is and that there often isn't a climax, it just is, or as Billy Pilgrim would say, "So it goes." Additionally, as I recently got a classical guitar (so that I can play a bit now that apps are in) I've been perusing the interwebs and come across some great stuff and here is one of my favorites: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNw3KkhkopA&feature

Monday, November 15, 2010

Daylight Savings

A difficult part of transitioning to life in Indonesia was the difference in daylight. When I moved in July, I was accustomed to the very long days of New York's summer and consequently, adjusting to a consistent 12 hours of daylight per day was difficult. Now that it's turning from fall into winter back home, my body seems to have naturally calibrated itself to EST and I'm surprised that it's still light out around 5:30. I have no deep insights about this, but just find it interesting. Powerpoint and handouts are prepared for Thursday, I may be going all out, but I've truly enjoyed preparing for this :) and in fact as a part of my preparation, I researched powerful oratory (and thought Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a dream" speech would fit that category and was more blown away than I expected, check it out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Juror Incentives

A recent chapter also in the book by Steven Landsburg has to do with changing the incentives for jurors. Yes, it is a complete travesty that on occasion innocent people are sent to jail and guilty people go free and consequently there should be changes in the system, however, Landsburg didn't look at the whole equation. While he focused on doing things to change the incentives of jurors to guarantee they maximize their performance (from providing 'mock' trials where the outcome is already determined - i.e. the defendant readily confessed or the defendant has an air-tight alibi - to provide the potential for financial incentives for jurors determining the correct outcome, to creating some sort of 'penalty' for jurors delivering incorrect verdicts or getting rewards for verdicts that are later substantiated by further evidence) these suggestions seemed overwhelmingly impractical (it's unnecessary to go deeper in the proof that these wouldn't work beyond 'judicial gridlock') and, more problematically, only focused on one piece of the problem. Changing incentives for the evidence gathering body and prosecutors (judged based on conviction rates, not 'truth' substantiated) is just as critical and even though the precise 'prescriptions' provided by Landsburg may fall short, they do shed light on the problem and encourage creative solutions to our problems.

Lastly, this weekend I've been falling in love with Yo-Yo Ma; the articulate manner in which he discusses music, the amazing way in which he plays the prelude to Bach's Cello Suite 1 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JysJGTUASrQ) and the fact he totally bros it up with James Taylor (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAkoYcfDmrk)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tall Presidents bend the Constitution

"Most presidents have been several inches above the norm for their times, with the five tallest being Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, Thomas Jefferson, and Franklin Roosevelt - suggesting incidentally, that height predicts not just electoral success but perhaps also a propensity to subvert the Constitution. (This statistical anomaly works in the other direction as well; the shortest of American presidents was James Madison, who largely wrote the Constitution.)" - Steven Landsburg

This is in the chapter regarding why beautiful people earn, on average, 5% more and also how being tall is as important a determinant of wages as race or gender. While the defensibility of such a position is pretty ludicrous (especially given the extremely small and unrepresentative sample size of American presidents responding to specific needs of the time - i.e. I doubt Lincoln was thinking to himself after the 1860 election, "Alright! Now I finally get to suspend the writ of habeas corpus for a little while, yes!") but does highlight the entertainment that can come from analyses commonly used in economics. Lastly, during our professional development days this coming week (we have 2 days with no kids), everyone who went to a conference or other form of professional development is giving an "echo" talk to have a time where some of the main ideas from the conferences can be shared and discussed by the staff at large. I think this is an amazing way to increase the effectiveness of PD dollars and am very intrigued to see how these will go! My "echoing" of the Solo Conference is going to be a discussion on increasing student investment and so any best practices would be appreciated as I'm putting together the workshop! I hope everyone is doing well!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Population Growth

I enjoy reading books that challenge my views on the world and that has happened tonight as I just finished a chapter advocating unfettered population growth in a book that is similar to Freakonomics. I've long advocated zero population growth for reasons to Warren Buffet; we have no idea how many people the planet physically support, but quality of life on earth would be better for the smaller population. A fault in this argument is that is assumes a zero-sum "happiness" level of the world when in fact happiness may be a compounding factor that actually grows at a rate greater than that of population growth. Furthermore, the greater the population, the great the number of geniuses who can develop the next big thing; agriculturally- to support the great population, technologically- to invent the next wheel or personal computer, medically- to develop the cure for _. Additionally, population growth is a key contributor to economic growth and thus would help sustain the unprecedented levels of economic success experienced over the past 150 years. These are the most robust of the arguments made throughout the chapter, but my optimism is much more guarded because of drastic assumptions made by the author. Foremost is the ability of the family to afford the extra children. There is no better argument against population growth for those who cannot afford it than to analyze the affect it's had on terror cells. In the words of Jed Bartlet, "they weren't born wanting to do this!" That is in reference to the fact that a baby is not born wanting to become a terrorist, but at some point, its innocence is lost and its potential for good is transformed into a potential for evil. Secondly, while things like happiness or wealth are not zero-sum commodities, there are some very valuable commodities that are; land and non-renewable resources (and yes, there is the counter argument that the increase in number of geniuses will solve that problem, but at what point does the earth become completely devoid of all resources?). I'm not completely sold either way, thus may wend my way towards moderation with continued family planning support.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

TFA Mission Statement during Political Philosophy Class

Tuesdays after-school, I have been hosting an after-school class. Initially the class was going to be a Model U.N. team, but there weren't enough participants at first and so I transitioned it to a Socratic-style, class on Political Philosophy. Throughout the past few months we've discussed current events, the pros and cons of various forms of government, ways to inhibit corruption, and are currently setting the political agenda for a made-up administration. Today we were ranking the priorities of our policy initiatives, and during the discussion on education, Aldwin said, "No no no no. It should be a right for every kid to get a great education! We don't know where the leaders of tomorrow are going to come from, so it's only fair to have great schools for everyone!" That quote is extremely close to the actual words he said because I was so touched by it, I wrote it down as soon as I could. Hearing this sentiment from a student all the way across the world from where I was last teaching and promoting the importance of amazing public schools gives me great hope for our global future. And that is why I teach for Indonesia :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Homeroom Challenge!

Last Friday officially started the Mentari Homeroom Challenge and yesterday my class, 9B, became the inaugural champions! I was extremely proud of the way in which they worked in unison and bonded throughout the week and exemplifies the multi-faceted nature of school. Yes, it is important for us to teach content (obviously), but it's equally important to teach team building, peer negotiation, random problem-solving (because the problems of the real world never have "nice" textbook solutions), and support positive character growth. The closing ceremony was a great way to bring us all together at the end as the 10th grade (who organized and facilitated the challenge) handed out individual awards (and at least one student in each grade earned an award, to maximizes the breadth of success) and presented the "free party" certificate to the winning class. It was apparent that the challenge was a success when the student who garnered the loudest applause during the individual awards was Hanif, a 6th grader :). I'm going to buy a bigger USB drive this weekend so I can get the "official" photos from the 10th grade photographer so get excited for some great pics of my students :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

250 Take 5 - Mistakes

At the urging of Shawn, I've prepared a fifth potential 250 word statement. Once again this one is also rough and plays off of some of the ideas in 'Take 2.' The statement is bracketed below to differentiate it from the rest of the post.

[Mistakes are my favorite part of teaching. I love to tell my students this principle because many of them are so afraid to make a mistake when they are solving a problem that they inhibit their intuition and other creative problem-solving ideas. Freeing students to make mistakes, but to learn from them, is a great facet of being an educator because it empowers students' thoughts and ideas by putting them on an equal footing with all other ideas presented in the class. Too often are students hamstrung by trying to regurgitate knowledge, and so through highlighting the advantages of making mistakes I try to get students to think more deeply about tasks at hand.

Additionally, examining student misunderstandings and following their unique processing skills to determine the best way to guide their future work is extremely demanding. I have to understand various elegant and some inelegant, yet still logically valid, solutions to each problem to help students approach their work in a way that is mathematically sound and in line with their thought processes. Furthermore, to guarantee long-term conceptual understanding, these next steps must be presented in a way that will be meaningful to every student. Over my three years of teaching, I have been academically challenged in ways that I never expected given my "easy" middle school curriculum, but the process of learning to think like others has been exciting and enriching and will forever affect my critical thinking by encouraging increased breadth and depth of thought.]

Word Count: 248

Doug Marrone = Bro

It's hard to describe what Doug Marrone has done for Syracuse football. Despite having great tradition, Syracuse has been irrelevant for most of this century and under Greg Robinson became a perennial homecoming opponent. Once a tradition of losing has taken root, it is very hard to a) recruit b) match funding with other schools due to lost ticket revenue and fewer bowl and TV appearances and c) change the minds of 18 - 22 year olds they can win and will win. Reading interviews with current seniors talking about winning more games this season than they have over their entire career at Syracuse and what that has meant for them emotionally and psychologically highlights the purpose and impact of college athletics. While Marrone cautions that there is a lot of work still to be done, if the players continue to buy in and work hard, I have guarded enthusiasm for what the rest of the season may bring. At this point, no matter what Syracuse's final record is, these players, and especially the seniors, will never forget what it meant to turn around a program; what it took, how hard it was, and what it felt like to accomplish an ambitious goal is something they'll carry with them throughout every other endeavour. Stories and experiences similar to what Marrone has done with the Orange are why I love sports and think they are an invaluable part of educating our youth by giving them tangible opportunities to witness a sense of possibility, meaningful peer leadership, and the importance of hard work in one's performance. ORANGE OUT :)

Book Character Dress Up on Friday

As a part of "Reading Week" and the "Homeroom Challenge," Friday's event was to dress up as your favorite character from a book. The homeroom with the highest percentage of participation 'won' the event, which I'm proud to say was my homeroom with 100% participation! I'm extremely sad that I neglected to bring my camera on Friday, but I'm going to see if I can get copies of the pictures so that they can be shared. Overall, I was very impressed with the number of dual costumes (i.e. a guy dressed up as Mickey Mouse and a girl from the same class dressed up as Minnie Mouse, we had four Flinstones in my homeroom, etc) Prior to Friday, I told the homeroom kids that I would go as whatever they got me and so I was Zorro, however, the chinos, boat shoes and aviators (instead of the hard to see out of Zorro mask) were my contribution to the costume. I feel as though even on Halloween it was important for me to continue to maintain proper frat-tire as a part of my cultural exchange with my students :). After the first three of ten events in the homeroom challenge, my homeroom is tied for first. While this means there is currently a target on our backs, that just means we'll continue raising the bar! "Car Stuffing" is our event on Monday, the camera is already in my bag :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

E-mail to Ivan Maisel

As is clearly demonstrated through many of my posts, I am a big fan of college football, but the incredible time difference and lack of interest in American football abroad has made it more difficult to follow. Fortunately, Ab introduced me to the world of ESPN podcasts and so I've been able to listen to senior writers for the company discuss the major topics each week. Ivan Maisel hosts three of these each week in addition to writing multiple articles for ESPN each week and I've truly enjoyed his commentary. Not only are his articles typically very well written (the fact that he is a Stanford grad is routinely evident), but his passion and excitement for the game as a whole is contagious. Consequently, I felt inclined to submit an e-mail to him this week, some of which will be in the 'mail bag' that is discussed on the Wednesday podcasts (not looking to get my e-mail commented on, but more to have an active role in all the fun!). Here is what I sent:

"Hey Ivan,

First of all, I want to thank you for your podcasts throughout each week because they are a fun way to stay connected to college football despite living 10,000 miles away in Jakarta! As I have been listening this season, a couple questions have continued to nag at me and given eight weeks of sheer chaotic entertainment, the answers seem more veiled than ever, thus I was interested in your (and your co-hosts) expertise.

I grew up in Upstate New York, what I affectionately refer to as "the heart of Big East country," and have been a supporter of the league since the days of our relevance in football, i.e. when Miami, VT, and BC were still in the conference. Given the current underwhelming state of mediocrity, my first question is whether or not the Big East, with only 8 teams, will ever be relevant in the national title discussion again? The Northeast is one of the weakest areas of the country for recruiting talent and even though South Florida technically "opens up" the fertile ground of talent in Florida to the rest of the league, just as your pointed out regarding the Northwest schools and their newly limited access to Los Angeles, it only occurs every other year.

My second question involves your boys in blue; if Boise State played in the Big East, solely for the sake of argument, would their membership in the weakest AQ conference provide them enough legitimacy to put them in the national championship game if they ran the table? Given the current formula, it is foreseeable that a one-loss SEC Champion (i.e. Alabama) could play a one-loss Big 12 Champion (i.e. Nebraska) for the national championship if there are not undefeated teams in the other AQ conferences despite Boise and TCU or Utah potentially having unblemished records. Even though Nevada, Hawai'i, and Fresno are probably better than the best (whoever they turn out to be) in the Big East, would the fact that, as you said, "They (the Big East) got there first," be enough for Boise to clear this final hurdle?

Thanks again for helping to shed light on the beautiful mess of this season, it's a lot of fun to see hints of parody and some of the big boys take a backseat to the little engines that can!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

River of Dreams...aka the Great Flood of Kemang

Today's artist of the day was Billy Joel and his album-titled song currently describes one of the major roads between Mentari and home. It started pouring around 3pm and rained harder for a sustained period of time that I've seen since I've been here. The torrent continued until close to 5pm when it tapered off to a constant drizzle. It was well after 7 before the rain stopped completely and consequently there was flash flooding throughout Jakarta and parts of Kemang are especially vulnerable to flash floods. Word from those out and about (thank goodness for after school tutoring and thus staying at school instead of trying to wade my way home!) is that the water was waist high on Kemang Raya (a major road on my commute). Fortunately the home stay is on the top of a hill and so I'm fairly confident that things are okay back home, but I'm still camped out at school until I hear the water has receded enough to make it back. This will certainly be an experience I will never forget because of 1) the impressiveness in how hard it is possible for it to rain (it redefined what it meant for me to see rain coming down in sheets) 2) the effect water can have in an urban setting and 3) the rapid return of a city to normalcy (or at least receded water and people continuing on) after such an impressive natural event! I honestly cannot get over the shear quantity of water that came down and am beyond impressed that the grounds of the school are pretty much back to "normal."

Math Pedagogy Ruminations: Urgency

Throughout my Teach For America training, we were continually reminded of the importance of having a sense of urgency. The intention of this is to focus on maximize learning within classtime, but as I was thinking about the implications of this being too urgent can be a bad thing in the math classroom because it promotes the memorization of math rather than the discovery of the intrinsic logic of math to solve the problems of the world. This process of discovery must be methodical and enable every student to approach problems in ways that make sense to them. Consequently, whole class lectures can inhibit individual thought and leave concepts shrouded in mystery to those student's brains that don't work in sync with the teachers'.

To solve this, math teachers must promote individual thought on a daily basis and in a variety of contexts as every student will excel in different situations and success in one area can be used to promote successes in others. The discovery of concepts should not be limited to formal mathematics, but should also include logic philosophy, and generic problem-solving questions. These various disciplines demand similar thought processing skills and moving between them all can increase student investment and promote cognitive flexibility. Finally, writing must be the act that permanently cements these concepts in students' minds. Taking time for students to write what they notice, what the next step should be, other ways to solve similar problems, and what they learned can highlight individual learning at critical points in the lesson and promote higher order thinking skills.

While the idea of a timer is a good one (and is a good idea for the teacher to have timed out each portion of the lesson for themselves to have in the back of their head), a noisy timer can disrupt student thought and increase anxiety to finish before the bell instead of being completely devoted to the problem at hand. Math takes time to digest and so our sense of urgency needs to be translated into a steady, disciplined, and directed thought process that focuses on depth and not so much breadth.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


Last night I intended on getting to bed at a reasonable hour, but then a strange thing started going on in Morgantown, WV. Not only did the Syracuse Orange jump out to an early lead, but they also responded to recapture the lead thanks to an opportunistic defense; aided by a WVU team that kept shooting itself in the foot with turnovers, penalties and sacks, but we're focusing on the positive here! Even though I am not officially associated with Syracuse, growing up near the Carrier Dome during the Paul Pasqualoni era has endeared me to the Orange and, especially being abroad, it's nice to have a "hometown" team to strengthen the connection back to the area. Syracuse football has not been good for a while, but with Doug Marrone now leading his alma mater during a down year for the Big East, the 'cuse could be bowl eligible for the first time since Pasqualoni's last year in 2004. They're currently at 5 - 2, but they need to win two more games to become bowl eligible thanks to having two FCS teams on their schedule. The final 5 games of the schedule are Cincinnati (who look very average now that Brian Kelly is gone), Louisville (who have also been resurgent in Charlie Strong's first year and will be a very interesting game of two programs returning to prominence after a few embarrassing years), Rutgers (and who knows how they will be based on having to deal with the continuing tragedy of Eric LeGrand), Connecticut, and finally Boston College (who also look very beatable but definitely shouldn't be taken for granted). Of these five games, BC is very winnable and so we just need to pull one more out in the remaining Big East schedule. I know Marrone won't be satisfied with saying that bowl eligibility is enough as Pittsburgh exposed major issues with the team, but it's exciting to have something to cheer for prior to Jim Boeheim's annual genius or lacrosse season!

P.S. I love Jim Boeheim's description of the Syracuse area, "It's beautiful eight months out of the year, the other four we play basketball."

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Even though it is not always the favorite time for educators, I actually really enjoy Parent-Teacher Conference time. Meeting parents is fun, you're able to play a little politics, and the meeting can sometimes shed light on the actions of their children both positively and negatively. By far the best conversation was with a dad who wanted to know what he could do to best help his daughter get into her dream school of Stanford. I hope that's me down the road (very very far down the road, but you know :) Also, I love the way he initiated the conversation, essentially saying that he just wanted to be supportive and based on his daughter's research, she really wants to go to Stanford and he wants to do whatever he can be make sure she's prepared and will excel there - i.e. how he could promote her earning a spot at the school and rising up through academic meritocracy. Great stuff)

In general, I apologize for not having a post up here recently, but as soon as the internet was functional again at the homestay (it's still very hit or miss, mostly miss, at school) it went back down for a while. I guess it's the inconsistency and having to cross my fingers every time I turn on my computer that is most frustrating. It has promoted a lot more reading of "Tender is the Night" and reflecting on my teaching - to be detailed in the next post.

Big game on the Plains today; I think I'm rooting for Auburn simply because Les Miles has been beyond lucky and it's unfair to the kids on the opposing squads to continually have LSU pull out games that they shouldn't be winning. Lastly, the end of the Dan Hawkins era in 'rado would be a good thing, especially as they transition to the Pac-12, and upgrading Troy Calhoun or Gary Patterson into an AQ spotlight would be a good thing as both of them have definitely proved themselves at the slightly lower echelon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Internet Dependence

Since the lightening strike Sunday afternoon, the internet had been out at the homestay and the past few days at work the internet hasn't been working for the majority of the time. This has been both frustrating and humbling to realize how dependent upon an internet connection I've become. Granted, such connectivity has been essential for maintaining close ties with y'all, but I question things that I rely on so heavily (and honestly greatly increased my frustration level throughout the past few days) Tomorrow is the first day of fall Parent-Teacher Conferences. I'm very interested to compare these with past experiences, especially given the national and school-wide cultural differences. In general, I enjoy talking with the parents of my students and I'm excited to see how the next two days turn out! I hope everyone is doing well!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lightening Strike

Yesterday afternoon we had another thunderstorm (the brief, but powerful storms that are typical in more tropical locations - i.e. the reasoning for the Tampa Bay Rays to play in a dome, protecting themselves from having too many rain outs), but the notable part of this storm was that there was a lightening strike extremely close to the homestay. It's probably the closest I've ever been to a strike of lightening because the flash of light and the crack of thunder were pretty much instantaneous. Additionally, the electricity in the air didn't make my computer too happy and knocked out the internet connection. Since I was safe inside a building with a lightening rod, it was a fascinating experience, but I'm not sure I would say that had I happened to have been outside at the time :) All is well over here and we've started with a FISH! philosophy conversation during homeroom (good old R.A. training at WaM!) :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Today was a very relaxing Saturday. I got to catch up on the new episodes of South Park (and thank goodness the town was able to stand up and protect themselves from becoming West Jersey lol), work on polishing up stuff (ie the 250s), use the wonders of Google video chat to catch up with Jillian, and finish Outliers. I thought Outliers was a very enjoyable book and, while some of Gladwell's points are untenable, the overall theme is right on and quite encouraging. I especially liked the section on mathematics education (for obvious reasons lol) and may use some ideas and quotes from that chapter in my classroom. Lastly, while I've been pleasantly surprised with how Syracuse has started the season, I have wary optimism for today's game against Pitt and am not looking forward to having to read the events of the game (via the ESPN.com play-by-play) instead of getting to watch it, but I suppose we do what we have to do. Orange out! (not exactly like 'Lemon out!' but you know...)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Staff Meeting and Transportation

Yesterday's staff meeting surrounded the Respect and Tolerance campaign that Cristina and I had been working on. One of the important factors of this that we had failed to address earlier was the importance of framing the campaign. First of all, we're looking to have it be a long-term, peer mentoring program, and so while it started off dealing with helping reduce the instances of bullying, it will encompass so much more. That being said, there were some great conversations and positivity over what we hope to accomplish all in all.

As I was riding on the ojek to school this morning, I realized how much I preferred my current morning commute. It's not that I don't have to take the subway to work anymore, I actually miss the N train and hope Joe is starting to realize how awesome it is now that he's in Brooklyn :), but more that I don't have to shlep up the hill from the Prospect Park subway stop to MS 88. Walking up these four avenues every morning subtly changed my mentality every morning whereas getting dropped off at the front door of the school maximizes morning efficiency (and as a Goddard boy, mornings are arguably :) not our favorite time of the day).

Lastly, I leave you with a comment from a kid who usually isn't associated as one of the more academic students at Mentari but who has shown solid progress throughout the year as he left my classroom today. "Wow, my brain hurts! We did a lot today...and I think I understand it all!"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

250 Take 4 - Frat Boy

This is the roughest of the drafts, but it's been quite some time since I've written about my fraternity experience and thus struggled with how I wanted to present it. Additionally, I wanted to push myself to write about something that wasn't related to education.

[At nineteen, I led the third smallest business in a competitive market with a limited number of firms (14), relatively high barriers to entry, and strong brand loyalty. Despite these limiting factors, we became second largest in the industry in two years time. Not only had our firm grown, but our client-list had expanded substantially and we were able to build our corporate reputation through peer and national recognition. Much of this success was due to our internal re-focusing on the principles of our organization; fellowship, leadership, scholarship and service. This organization was the Nu Chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity at William and Mary and my experience as president highlights the importance, and even educational function, of fraternities. While they are labeled 'frats' with many negative stereotypes, social fraternities provide invaluable experiences not found within the classroom or other campus organizations. A fraternity is an incubator for management because of large membership rolls, constant and multi-faceted event planning, conflict and risk management, some of the largest budgets for student organizations, and routine reporting to regulatory bodies within the university and to the fraternity at large. Furthermore, through ad hoc and permanent committees, growth in organizational leadership is not limited to the executive boards of fraternities, but can be delegated and fostered throughout the members. This 'incubator' had led to such a high percentage of leaders in business and government with backgrounds of fraternal membership and overall I'm proud to be referred to as a 'frat boy.']

Word Count: 247

Day 1 of the campaign went extremely well. I'm so proud of the student leaders and the maturity that many of the students are showing throughout these discussions. My main concern is how to find useless products now that Billy Mays isn't telling me what to buy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Tomorrow we're starting the anti-bullying peer-to-peer campaign at Mentari. The older students decided that they preferred the teachers not be in the room while they were talking with the younger students and so this will truly be a test of their maturity and leadership but it's encouraging that they're so willing to step up to the plate. Take 4 is a little postponed because of internet issues throughout the day, both at school and home, thus I was unable to complete my Industrial Organization research yet. Other than that, keeping on trucking over here :) Lastly, Billy Mays and his fantastic new products, such as Chipotlaway, make the world go 'round.

Monday, October 11, 2010

250 Take 3 - The Other Side of the Equation

Introduction: This is similar to take two, but I felt it necessary to slightly change my argument after reading the following article from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/07/AR2010100705078.html

"The Other Side of the Equation"
[A growing number of major news agencies and school leaders are highlighting the importance of helping ineffective teachers transition into new careers, however, there has been an inadequate discussion of the other side of the equation; creating and molding excellent teachers. First of all, there needs to be increased recognition of the importance of great public school teachers and improve their prestige, pay and diversify the opportunities for promotion. Outside of the three "P"s, there needs to be a change in teacher education. A degree in teaching should be synonymous with the most arduous of majors. Increasing the rigors of these programs will help separate the wheat, those truly dedicated and interest in changing the lives of their students, from the chafe, those entering the profession for seemingly steady employment prospects and government-employee benefits. Furthermore, distinguishing the merit of a degree in education will promote the prestige of teaching and discourage the adage that "those who can't do, teach." Finally, there needs to be an overhaul for the continued development of teachers; no longer can staff meetings be considered "professional development." Administrators must make adequate, meaningful, and deliberate time for real development, both within teachers' daily schedules and during separate professional development days. Additionally, oversight and following through to ensure these sessions are effectively achieving the desired end of continued improvement is needed. Overall, improving teacher quality must be as central as the elimination of under-performers because otherwise public education will lack the necessary effective, long-term change.]

Word Count: 245

All the caveats given for the other two drafts apply to this one as well.

In other news, this past week I worked with one of the sixth grade teachers at the school, Cristina, to develop an anti-bullying program to be implemented by the older students educating the younger students about bullying, why it happens, its harmful effects, and how to change it to create a more positive school culture. Today we "trained" the older students in what their responsibilities would be for this campaign and to be honest, I was concerned with how this would "stick" with them. First of all, due to the difference in dismissal schedule, we needed to break the training into two sections: the 7th and 8th grade student leaders were led by Cristina and I had the 9th and 10th graders. I don't know many of the 10th graders and so I wasn't sure if a lack of a personal connection would inhibit our time together, but I was blown away in such a positive way by their response. I am intrigued as to how successful the program will end up being, but I am hopeful! I hope all are doing well!

My goal for tomorrow: 250 Take 4 - "Frat Boy" - get excited lol

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gracious Indonesia

According to the marquee, flights were supposed to leave from gate A2 every thirty minutes. Consequently, there were a lot of people around the gate waiting for their flight to take off. However, it seemed there were delays (typical airlines...some things change, yet some stay quite the same) and about five minutes before the scheduled boarding time for the flight to Solo, there was an announcement causing about half the people at the gate to clear out for A5. While I have gotten to the point where I can usually follow Bhasa, or at least understand the key information, the announcement was too fast and over a PA system, thus I wasn't sure if my flight or another was changed. Apparently my bewilderment was apparent to a guy near me who, as it turns out, works for Halliburton (or in his words, Dick Cheney's company...) He was there with his wife and two children and was gracious enough to synthesize all the subsequent announcements, talked with me about life, and made sure I got on the right flight. This experience has highlighted one of the best aspects of my time in Indonesia; the friendliness, hospitality, and genuine concern for fellow man by its people. The Indonesian way of life and way of being is something I will forever keep with me. Off to bed because the conference starts early tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Frank Sinatra = Bro

We're currently wrapping up midterm season at Mentari, throughout midterms, both grades have been working on projects. The past few days I've decided to play music during their work periods and came to the conclusion that Frank Sinatra is a total bro. His music provides appropriate background noise for a classroom setting because tunes like "New York, New York" allow you to smile and hum along while you work without being totally distracted. Furthermore, Frank is just so classy and definitely would've been a Kappa Sig at William and Mary :) - you can just hear it through the music lol. Also, today we (and by that I mean for the different classes, I needed to have a little variety in music for my sanity, so "we" many not necessarily be accurate lol) listened to a variety of a capella music and while it wasn't Buffers, it was pretty solid :). Tomorrow I'm going to a Math/Science professional development opportunity out in Solo. The actual conference will be taking place Saturday morning and afternoon, but rather than have a ridiculously early flight, the school is flying us out tomorrow afternoon. I hope everyone is doing well, I miss you all!

250 Take 2 - Improving Educators

[The George Bernard Shaw quote of "he who can, does; he who cannot, teaches" is a disastrous and far-reaching sentiment that, over time, has come to define public opinion of the teaching profession. However, if one does not have an in-depth understanding of the material, then one cannot teach the material justly to every student. Everybody approaches problems in different ways, and thus to teach with lasting understanding, one must not only comprehend a single way to solve a problem, but have mastery of multiple methods. These great demands are neither properly recognized by society, nor appropriately taught in teacher training courses. Learning to think like a classroom full of diverse-minded students, that is to constantly use multiple methodologies to problem solve, is difficult because of the high demands on educators' mental agility and ability to think on their feet. Consequently, undergraduate teacher training should be revered with the rigor equivalent to those in engineering programs or their peers who are pre-med. Education School needs to be an arduous rite of passage that distinguishes its graduates for the immensity of their calling. As a nation, we are at risk of losing our future generations and the full potential of our children without necessary changes in both public sentiment and teacher training. Education is too serious to be at the center of such a quip, we need to edit Shaw's words to meet the demands of our time: "only those who can do, can teach."]

Word Count: 243

Similarly to Take 1, this is equally rough, but I'm just throwing spaghetti on the wall until an idea sticks and merits a full editorial process. Let me know what you think (and thanks for the thoughts on Take 1, reading oratory is a little more difficult)

Also, I'm very intrigued in the Michigan/Michigan State game. I'm surprised that both of these teams are still undefeated, so this should be an interesting litmus test (or a continued coming out party for Denard Robinson) Additionally, given the quality of the Michigan spread offense and the incompetence of the Greg Robinson-led (yes, the same Greg Robinson who led Syracuse to a 10-37 record over 4 years...) Michigan defense, the shoot-out should be fun to watch!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

When Respect is Due

Dad, I now have greater expectations for your landscaping ;) This was from the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Amazing, ornate, and beautiful things all around! Respect! :) (yes, Dave, that was for you :) lol)

Now for a College Football Rant: (for those disinterested, this is your cue :) lol)

I don't know if it's a hold-over from Michigan being my second-choice for undergraduate, but I've never really been a fan of Ohio State sports. My dislike of OSU sports is probably also due to my pension for supporting the David's against Goliath's (where OSU has been a Goliath throughout the Jim Tressel era), but Ohio State deserves respect for continually putting themselves in a position to be in the national conversation in football. Yes, there is a lot to a program beyond scheduling, but it's definitely a factor (just ask Boise State fans). Over the past nine years, Ohio State has had 35 non-conference games. Of these, 29 of them have been played at home. In a given year there are about four non-conference games and of these four games, Ohio State schedules one game against another national power in a home-and-home series (recently USC, Texas, and Miami), but the other three are played in the Horseshoe against patsies (ie the football powers of Ohio, Youngstown State, or Marshall).

Consequently, going into Big Ten play each year, they have created a setting in which they are pretty much guaranteed 3 wins, and if they get lucky (or every other year when it's a home game), they go into conference play undefeated. Part of the reason Ohio State can get away with this is due to a consistent strength of schedule in Big Ten games, but also because the one game against the national power creates enough positive press to forget about the other games. Furthermore, Ohio States' proximity to so many MAC schools (Ohio, Bowling Green, Akron, Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Miami of Ohio, and Kent State) provide a plethora of patsies for them to pay $250,000 a game to come into the Horseshoe (which has a capacity of 102,329, so you do the math whether or not they make out ahead thanks to that game lol) and get beat each year. These MAC schools, because they play in FBS and not the FCS, create significantly more legitimacy to their schedule instead of UMass, New Hampshire, or Colgate who offer about as stiff competition.

Either way, Ohio State has created a system that maximizes profitability, winning percentage, and national recognition. Florida State has the national recognition part down (as three of their non-conference games were against perennial powers Florida, Oklahoma, and Brigham Young - I include BYU here because they think they're national enough to go independent. I think they're drastically over-estimating themselves, but that's a completely different matter...) Needless to say, major conference ADs should take a page from OSU's playbook if they want to help their program continue to be profitable and gain national prominence so despite disliking the Buckeyes, I have to give them my respect. (Them and Brian Cashman, that dude is also a genius.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

250 Take 1 - 6th Grade Pep Talk

[Sixth grade is a time of transition and finding oneself. Inspired guidance and motivation can help students achieve both of these goals while smiling so this is how we start the year:

"Welcome to the first day of your new job! You graduated from fifth grade, but this is the Big Leagues; you have to move between classes, the material is more in-depth, eighth graders loom in the hallways, and you have one hundred new sixth grade friends. Middle School isn't easy, but we will all be successful here because "you work hard to get good, and then you work harder to get better." All of you, each and every one of you, are good, but we need to work harder to get better. We will be pressed for time and will have to work efficiently each day, but that's because we are working harder to get better. We will have this attitude every day in class because we are what we repeatedly do, and we are people with a purpose: working harder to get better. We are making excellence a habit; it is not something we can turn on or off at will. We play in the game like we practice because superstars don't form overnight so our practice is going to be excellent. Mistakes will happen, but we are at ease with mistakes because it is through mistakes and correcting them that we learn and don't forget. So welcome to the first day of your new job; let's become great together!"]

-Word Count: 253

Some of the phrasing isn't exactly how I want it yet, but further editing will wait for one of these to come out on top. Picture of the day: Ab's kids really liked how this picture shows the presence of lichen in Angkor.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Under the Weather

The frequency of posts has not kept up with the initial pace because upon returning from Vietnam and Cambodia, I got quite sick. Fortunately, two weekends of rest and relaxation have me approaching 100% again, but unfortunately, I haven't had the time to properly devote to my law school applications. Consequently, the next few posts will be aimed at fleshing out a 250 word essay, the theme of which I can't finalize and so I'm going to write up multiple and post them just so we can start to get a feel for the whole process. Today's 250 theme will be an analysis of a Paul Krugman article, but others will include SNAPing, a charter school quote about "one hundred, one percent reasons for success," and a classroom welcoming. Any other suggested themes are welcome. Below is a picture Ab really liked when going through my album of Angkor pictures.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Singapore, Part 2

I'm headed to Singapore at 5am tomorrow, well that's when I'm leaving the homestay, to officially get my work visa! Throughout the past few months I've learned a lot about the process (ie, the necessity of getting a multiple exit and re-entry stamp so I can go home for Christmas :) and whatnot) and honestly it's gotten me thinking a lot about international labor law. In fact, all of international law is rather interesting (albeit rather new) and I've become even more impressed with its immense complexities. I would weigh in more heavily on the topic, but I'm still pretty knocked out from whatever I had over the past 7 to 9 days. Fortunately, it looks like the worst is over and also for those who also have Facebook, I just uploaded the "Best Of" pictures from Vietnam and Cambodia, though I have yet to add any from Angkor Wat since that was a separate folder of close to 300 pictures itself. I think they will be a "Best of Angkor Wat" coming soon. Below is one of my favorites:
This is the top of the gate into Angkor Thom. Words honestly cannot describe.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I spent the weekend trying to recover from a pretty nasty cold. As a part of my resting, I saw both "The Pelican Brief" and "Serpico." I'd seen selections from both movies before, but they really are very good. Thank goodness for $0.70 movies allowing me to witness their full genius. Hoping tomorrow we'll be good to go because I have an "animation" project on tap for my 9th graders this week that should be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Images: Rural Cambodia

Back to School

Today was the first day back. It wasn't bad because Wednesdays are pretty easy on my schedule, but during the last few days of vacation I was feeling a little stuffy. Consequently, as soon as school was over today, I went immediately home and have been resting up and am getting ready to power out some hardcore sleep tonight. Back to the journal from vacation (I was going old school and writing my thoughts and observations in a real journal - like the crazy kind made from paper! - because I wasn't sure when I'd have internet and be able to upload things here)

This is from Thursday, 16 September 2010:

"Upon visiting Ta Prohm (pictured below), I could imagine what it must have been like for

Mouhot to have come across Angkor Wat in the midst of the rainforest. It eerily spoke of an ancient golden age, but also of nature's ability to perpetually create unparalleled beauty; sunsets, mountain vistas, or trees intertwined in temples. Visiting a place like Angkor highlights the fact we view our surroundings in snapshots. We can take Angkor at its present state, or we can delve into the history of the Khmer for greater understanding. However, we can forget to do similar analyses with the places we've made familiar; i.e. knowing New York now compared with where it was in the 70s and 80s, or before September 11th, or during the time of the Lenape when bears lived in Manhattan."

And from Friday, 17 September 2010:

"Leaving Siam Reap is bittersweet. The people have been incredible, the scenery has been breath-taking, and the prices hard to beat, but I'm excited to return to Jakarta because for as much as I've learned about these cultures over the past few weeks, I want to learn that much more about where I'm living and have similar conversations that I've had throughout my trip. One thing that has struck me has been Cambodians impression of the French. During my conversations with the high schoolers and other locals, they will always ask me if I've been to France, when I intend on going, and what I want to see when I'm there. I suppose the actions of the American during the Vietnam War and dealing with the horror of Pol Pot would help restore these relationships sooner, but it was something I wasn't expecting."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Images of Angkor

The two pictures above are of the Main Gate into Angkor Thom.
Some structures in Angkor Thom

The following pictures are of Temple Bayon:

The following images are of Ta Prohm: