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)'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 ( 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:

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

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 ( and the fact he totally bros it up with James Taylor (

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 :)