5,000 Hours

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Click to hear her play

 

Malcolm Gladwell estimates it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to be world class at a skill. 

But a new study destroys that rule.

In any case, we’ve estimated that with regular practice, rehearsals, competitions and school orchestra, the girls have at least 5,000 of deliberate practice under their belt. 

In nearly nine years of playing, the girls have not once said they want to quit. I attribute that to the fact that they only play violin – they do not do any other extracurriculars. The upsides of “being good” at something are: self-confidence, self-discipline and optimism! 

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Click to hear her play

 

Slow and Sure

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Snail doodle

Tonight, our school will hold an Awards Night to recognize students for exceptional GPAs, Service Work and other academic accomplishments.

Not one student will receive recognition for work achieved in a day or a week. These kind of successes require dedication throughout the school year.

 

 

“Your” Children

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Dandelion Watercolor

One of the biggest lessons in life I’ve had to unlearn is that my children are “mine.”

Gibran’s words are plain and true:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Kahlil Gibran

Too many parents believe their children are a reflection of themselves. Our job as parents is to provide nourishment and safety for these souls. But they are whole people already – we do not – SHOULD not – impose our dreams on them.

 

Writing prompt: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Student: This prompt makes me sad. Because I don’t know. My parents tell me I must be either be an engineer or a doctor. I cannot have a job that pays less than that.

Teacher: Well, let’s say your parents tell you that you can pursue ANY profession that you want. What would it be?

Student: I don’t know…I don’t know, because I’ve never even thought of it.

Why do parents tell their kids how to live your lives when they have their own?

 

By the way, Gibran never had children. Maybe he could be this wise because he had the distance necessary to see the whole picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Basics of Happiness

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Jars (Watercolor)

 

“Happiness is a living thing. You need to feed your happiness in order to have happiness last. It’s like love. If you don’t feed your love, it will die. Understanding and compassion are the foundation to happiness.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Create, Don’t Criticize*

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Rose Doodle

*Theodore Roosevelt

“Do you create anything or just criticize others and belittle their motivations?”

Steve Jobs

You might not admire Steve Jobs as a person or even as an entrepreneur, but there is truth in this quote, as Kovie Biakolo points out.

Social media is a tool of communication. As with any form of communication, it can be utilized for productivity and education or noise pollution.

I’d like to add: it can also be used purely for consumption – for hours on end.

Something worth considering: What is your consumption/criticizing to creation/production ratio?

Maybe it’s time to praise and produce more, and criticize and consume less?

A Teacher’s Week

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Morning Run

I started going out for runs at 5:30am this week. It’s a phenomenal way to start my day.

It was Teacher Appreciation Week and I received very touching notes from students (as well as their gifts).

It’s allergy season and it seems just about everyone exhibits some symptoms. My classes have gone through many boxes of tissues.

A word of advice: When a student sneezes and says, “Oh gosh!” Don’t look.

Freelancing – Inspirational Words

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31 Day Painting Challenge – August Wren

 

Freelancers podcast from Seth Godin’s Akimbo – the Conclusion (last 5 minutes):

You need to deliver the product of difficult work. Solve a problem in a new way. If you had a great boss, your boss would understand and encourage you to keep doing it.

Be smart about how good you are, who you do it for and how much you charge. This is an opportunity to dig deeper and do the work. This is what you signed up for – not to work a lousy job for a lousy boss.

 

 

 

Working for Free (Seth Godin)

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Watercolor with August Wren (Creativebug.com)

…and now, for the continuation of my notes on Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast on Freelancing:

The world will ask you to do work for free and promise that if this is good, then maybe they will buy it.

Seth’s recommendation – “That thing you do…that you sell…you should sell it. You should find something else to do for free. Something you do to have people see you and understand you.” For example, Seth gets paid to fly to places and speak. But his blog is free. His speeches are expensive.

Differentiate what is free.

People will walk away. People will leave. But you’re work is so good, people will miss it. There will ALWAYS be people who will give away what you’re selling for free. Always. Your job, then: Build practices and skills that no one can give away for free because you are a category of one. Be comfortable advocating for yourself.

You’re the sales rep.

How does a freelancer get more? How to turn this into a career?

The alternative SEEMS to be that you have to work harder and longer hours.

Or, you need to hire people in order to get bigger.

The THIRD path (and Seth’s recommendation): Get better clients. Clients who trust you and want better…why pay better. What will happen? Word will spread and you’ll get better. Good clients lead to better clients who lead to the best clients.

Podcast for Artists and Consultants

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I’ve been following Seth Godin’s work for many years. He just gets better and better. This podcast episode got me jazzed. If you’re considering freelancing or being an entrepreneur (or if you believe they are synonyms(!)) this podcast is for you:

“Freelancers”

Here are notes from the podcast:

First of all, entrepreneurs are people who start companies, make money while they sleep and employ people. Freelancers actually create the work and usually work alone (might shop out aspects of their work, but mostly do it themselves). When he said this, I realized I am definitely not an entrepreneur! But being a freelancer resonated with me when it comes to my personality and goals.

Choose an industry that is glad to see you arrive.

Possess hard-earned skills.  You can charge a lot, but deliver more than what people pay for. 

Focus on the smallest viable audience – not a large one [This is the opposite of what so many failed businesses do!]. As a freelancer, you can only handle so much. This small group of people (your customers) will talk about you and wait in line for you.

Commit to the discipline of prospecting – you need to do your work and spend time getting work (building your business). Dedicate some time every day to honing your skills, finding new tools, spreading the word, earning the privilege of working for others (NOT networking parties).

Godin uses an example: He knows a photographer who shoots in a specific location at specific times and only those for clients. She

What gets you picked is you being in the Category of One. No one can substitute you. Get beyond being One of Many. Do quirky, unique, exceptional work – work that sounds like you, looks like you….the work that most people do not like. (Are you trying too hard to be liked by everyone?)

The Underdogs

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Cinco de Mayo is not about Mexico gaining independence. Instead, it commemorates the defeat of the French in an underdog victory during the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War.  It is celebrated to appreciate the Mexican culture and heritage.

Unfortunately, in many parts of the United States, commercialism has reduced it to a day of drinking and high jinks.

You can learn more about the Battle of Puebla here. *

*History.com

 

Dog Daze

 

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I should get up now….get some work done.

 

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I’ll hit the snooze button…just need five minutes…
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…ok, maybe ten..

 

 

 

 

Red4Ed Update 5/2/18 5:15pm MST

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Just now, I received this:

#RedForEd must act now. Call, text, or email your legislators. The Governor seems close to passing his partisan budget that we oppose. The House of Representatives is now on the floor with all sixty members taking the first official vote on the budget and debating the budget bills and amendments. The bill is expected to be heard in the Senate soon.

#RedForEd has friendly legislators who will be introducing amendments to the budget that support the #RedForEd demands. This is our chance, and you need to contact legislators now with a simple message. Tell them to support the four #RedForEd amendments:

  1. Cap class size at 25 students per classroom
  2. Defines “Teacher” as: any non-administrative personnel who teaches students or supports student academic achievement as defined by the school district governing board or charter school governing body including, but not limited to nurses, counselors, social workers, psychologists, speech pathologists, librarians and academic interventionists.
  3. Cap student-to-counselor ratio at 250:1
  4. Student support services personnel should receive a 10% increase equal to the teacher pay proposal, go into base level and be paid for by tax conformity.

Contact your legislators NOW to ask them to the #RedforEd amendments.

Here’s the “Problem”

To the teachers who do not support the Red4Ed Movement – the teachers who actively engage and complain with members of the community who hate us:

What do you tell children who say they want to be a teacher someday? That the job is awesome, but the pay sucks?

How do you reconcile in your mind that schools are using 20-year-old textbooks? What do you suggest I do when I have 37 students, but a computer cart that holds only 15 laptops, with 8 that work?

What is your solution to this?

A new teacher to our district makes $38,500 (gross).

She decides to opt for maximum take home pay, so let’s say she takes home $2,000/month (net). She wants health insurance (of COURSE) and health insurance for her kids. Here are her options:

HDHP 2500 (Cigna Choice HDHP 2500 Plan)

  • Employee Only:  $10.00 per month
  • Employee with children: $452.54 per month (actually, closer to $800/month because we get 18 paychecks, not 24).

These quotes are for a very high deductible – all the other options are more expensive.

And then there is the requisite retirement 11.5% taken out of each paycheck.

And food.

And shelter.

The cost of everything goes up (inflation). And yet, our salaries have been frozen for the past ten years, until this year, when we received a 1% raise. And guess what the Governor was planning on doing? He was going to give us another 1% raise. Gee, so generous!

You say, “Well, I agree with the grievances. It’s just that…I don’t like how it’s happening. We should have walked out just once a week until our needs were met.”

My reply: There is never a good time for a walkout. Never. But if you act like a doormat, you get treated like one.

What will you say when you get a (much) bigger – overdue –  raise thanks to the Red4Ed movement? There are teachers out there demanding better for you, for the kids and for our future. Don’t disparage them.

 

 

 

 

 

Zzzzzs Are Good

Get 8 Hours of Sleep

“Sleep when you’re dead,” we say. Like it’s some badge of honor how little time we allot to it. Bullshit. The body needs its rest. Schopenhauer said that sleep is the interest we pay on the loan of life. Be glad to pay it. It’s what keeps us alive. Guard your sleep carefully, it’s an obligation. All the other habits and practices listed here become irrelevant if you don’t have the energy and clarity to do them.

Connect to Something Big*

 

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Daily painting challenge: August Wren Creativebug.com class

 

*From Ryan Holiday’s Thought Catalog:  Find a Way To Connect To Something BigMarcus Aurelius would look up at the stars and imagine himself running alongside them, he’d see them for their timelessness and infiniteness. Try that tonight or early in the morning and try to make it a daily practice. A glance at the beautiful expanse of the sky is an antidote to the nagging pettiness of earthly concerns, of our dreams of immortality or fame. But you can find this connection from many sources: A poem. A view from the top floor. A barefoot walk across the grass. A few minutes in a church pew. Just find something bigger than yourself and get in touch with it every single day.

Put the Day Up for Review*

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“30 Things to Paint with August Wren”

From Ryan Holiday’s blog “13 Habits to Try to do Every Day”

#11:  [*] Put The Day Up For Review — We prepared in the morning, now we reflect in the evening. The best way to improve is to review. So, each evening you should, like Seneca did, examine your day and your actions.

The question should be: Did I follow my plans for the day? Was I prepared enough? What could I do better? What have I learned that will help me tomorrow?

 

I write make a list of tasks (aligned with my goal(s)) on an index card daily. A quick way to review is to check my list. Did I get them all done? And then reflect on how I spent my time. I’ve definitely been checking news too much. Red4Ed affects me directly, so I check to see Ducey’s reaction. But then I fall down the rabbit hole and read irrelevant “news.” Reflecting this way helps me get back on track the next day.

 

 

 

Thanks to the Good and Bad*

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Sushi Watercolor – Creativebug.com class with August Wren
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In process. Sushi face!

 

First of all, sushi. Definitely a good thing!

 

*From Ryan Holiday’s blog, Thought Catalog:

[*] Say Thanks—To The Good and Bad — The Stoics saw gratitude as a kind of medicine, that saying “Thank you” for every experience was the key to mental health. “Convince yourself that everything is the gift of the gods,” was how Marcus Aurelius put it, “that things are good and always will be.” Say thanks to a rude person. Say thanks to a bungled project. Say thanks to a delayed package. Why? Because for starters it may have just saved you from something far worse, but mostly because you have no choice in the matter.

Epictetus has said that every situation has two handles: Which are you going to decide to hold onto? The anger or the appreciation? The one of resentment or of thanks?

 

 

#Red4Ed (Arizona) Update

The Red4Ed Walkout was a stunning success: 75,000 teachers, students, parents and other supporters marched from Chase Field to the Capitol.

But, of course, there are detractors and fear-mongerers. People who criticize and tell us we’re letting the children down. Who’s letting the children down? Governor Ducey won’t even meet with our AEU! The Legislators took TODAY (a FRIDAY) OFF!

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Chandler teachers were told to show up for work on Monday (4/30) or else (!)

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But when realizing that too many teachers were standing up for their students and education in Arizona, they backtracked:

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Seize the Alive Time*

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Ryan Holiday recommends seizing the “alive time.” You know, the moment in front of you – the only one that counts. Look into the eyes of the person speaking to you, don’t check your phone when at lunch with others.

Alive time.

“Face fears. Reach out and connect with someone. Do something you’ve been putting off. Expose ourselves to sunlight and nature. Be still and empty. Prepare for what lies ahead. Or just live because who knows how much time we have left.”

Ryan Holiday

Today, educators from all over Arizona are marching from Chase Field to the Capitol. We are working to create change. Change is uncomfortable. It’s not easy. But it’s necessary and unavoidable.

 

I march for Lily, who wants to be a teacher someday.

I march for my students, who deserve resources to learn and become critical thinkers and productive adults in our society.

I march for myself and my peers who deserve to have resources to get our jobs done and to feed our families.

I march for education which is the only antidote to discrimination, violence and inhumanity.

 

 

*9th Habit from From Ryan Holiday’s blog “13 Habits You Should Adopt Every Single Day” (Thought Catalog)

13 Habits* (#7 = Strenuous Exercise)

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First “Journaling” art entry

Make Time for Strenuous Exercise

“Scientists consider it the single thing closest to a magic bullet….and Richard Branson gives it as his #1 piece of advice for entrepreneurs” – do strenuous exercise!

Ryan Holiday recommends having a goal with your exercise (e.g., “I will do at least 10 pushups today.”)

Although I have never been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, I know for a fact that if I start my day out with strenuous exercise, my anxiety levels are greatly decreased all day.

 

*From Ryan Holiday’s Thought Catalog

The 13 Daily Habits (#6)*

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Leaf doodle

Find True Quiet

Disconnect.

Unplug.

Be unreachable.

Find calmness and peace.

Build this into your daily schedule.

Ryan Holiday likes to swim. (What a great way to combine Habits #6 and #7 (strenuous exercise))! I love to go running in the desert. Or go to a coffee shop and write. How do you like to create quiet for yourself?

 

 

*From Ryan Holiday’s Thought Catalog blog

13 Habits to Cultivate Every Day* (#5)

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Read. Read. Read!

I still oscillate from watching Hulu/Netflix to reading a good book. Reading ALWAYS provides me with more value to share and enriches my work and life in general. I’ve learned that being observant and having a good partner improves chances of success (Elementary). But going down the path of writing from one’s imagination (obsessively) to producing shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” with Shonda Rimes (Year of Yes) is priceless.

 

*from Ryan Holiday’s Thought Catalog

The 13 Habits* (#4)

 

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Do a Kindness

Practice a kindness every single day. If you’re already doing this, consider being kind to – yes – a rude person, or someone you are not particularly fond of. It’s challenging, but it’s important, if we’re going to change the world.

 

 

 

 

13 Life-Changing Habits to do Each Day (1/13)

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Watch Doodle

I enjoy reading Ryan Holiday’s Thought Catalog blog. He just published an article on “13 Life-Changing Habits to do every single day.” These habits will definitely lead to good things for you!

I’ll share them with you. Here’s #1:

Prepare for the Hours Ahead

Holiday refers to the stoics often. Here, he informs us that Marcus Aurelius used to keep a morning journal, where he connected with his intentions for the day and planned how he might react to people and events that were less than desirable. This helps us to prepare for potential setbacks.

 

 

 

 

Asian in Arizona

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I glance up and see him, pushing his shopping cart

he is sporting overalls and an enormous white beard

I’m sure he drives a white truck with flag (U.S. or Confederate?)

I’ve been accosted by his type before, in Iowa:

Hey Jap! Go back where you came from!

So I am wary

 

He’s speaking                    to me                    right now

They have a sale on bananas! A whole bag for just a dollar!

He points to a small paper brown bag in his cart

Your kids will love ’em!

 

I’m jolted – surprised – dismayed

How does he know I have kids?

And I realize that what is in my cart

are bags of suspicion, dread and cynicism

 

 

Succeeding

 

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Bikini Doodle 

This will complete my summary of Paul Tough’s book, How Children Succeed.

5. A Better Path

The author of this book, Paul Tough, did NOT graduate from college!

Tough does not fit the demographic of college dropouts: He came from a well-to-do family; and got admitted to (and briefly attended) Columbia University.

However, he was rebellious after high school (where he did very well).  Inspired by Jack Kerouac, he wanted to travel and do something uncertain, unsafe…something he felt uncertain if he could succeed at. Believe he would learn more on the road than on the campus.

Steve Jobs’ famous graduation speech at Stanford (2005): Job told graduates that dropping out “had been one of the best decisions I ever made.”

  • allowed him to take classes he was interested in (calligraphy, typography)
  • this led to his creative typography in personal computers – distinguished Mac from all other computers
  • Biggest failure – being fired from Apple – a very public failure
  • allowed him to reorient himself and his work that led to his greatest successes: buying and transforming Pixar, getting married, returning to Apple rejuvenated
  • “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything.”

Paul Tough: became a magazine editor and journalist. Twenty-four years after dropping out of Columbia, Tough quit the New York Times and wrote this book.

 

2. LG Parenting

Remember the high and low level Licking and Grooming experiment with rats?

Paul Tough thinks about that often now that he has become a new father.

Realizes that the most reliable way to produce and adult who is brave and curious and kind and prudent is to ensure that when he is an infant, his hypo-pituitary-adrenal his functions well. How?

  • Protect him from serious trauma and chronic stress;
  • provide him with secure, nurturing relationship with at least one parent, ideally, two.
  • provide lots of comforting, hugging, talking and reassuring;
  • also provide discipline, rules, limits, someone to say “no”;
  • help him to learn how to manage failure;

“More and more graduates from prestigious colleges are going into investment banking and management consulting and far fewer become artists, entrepreneurs and iconoclasts. Why? Because Wall Street decision is easier…they are driven by fear of not being a success than by a concrete desire to do anything in particular.” p. 184

3. A Different Challenge

Liberals and conservatives differ greatly on how the government should aid families in poverty, but just about everyone agrees we need to do something.

“The government should guarantee every citizen enough to eat and a place to sleep.”

In 2012, the child poverty rate was 22%. This means between a fifth and a quarter of American children are growing up in poverty. (From 1966 to 2010, the child poverty rate was 15%.)

Unsurprisingly, children who grow up in poor families in the United States do very poorly in school.

If we can help poor children escape the cycle of poverty, we can help them improve their academic skills and academic outcomes.

Conclusion: We could replicate on a big, national scale the accomplishments of the schools outlined in this book and make a huge dent on poverty’s impact on children’s success.

4. A Different Kind of Reform  p. 189

For a long time, educational reform was focused on teacher quality  and they way teachers are hired, trained, compensated and fired.

Whatever your stance, research on teachers remains inconclusive in some important ways:

  • we don’t know how to reliably predict who will be a top-tier teacher in any given year;
  • variations in teacher quality accounted for less than 10% of the gap between high and low-performing students.

The only official indicator of the economic status of an American public-school student today is his or her eligibility for a school-lunch subsidy.

If you qualify for subsidies, you probably can’t afford adequate shelter, nutritious food, new clothes, books or educational toys. Statistically, you are likely being raised by a poorly educated, never-married single mother.

5. The Politics of Disadvantage

The biggest obstacles to academic success that poor children, especially very poor children, often face: a home and a community that create very high levels of stress, and the absence of a secure relationship with a caregiver that would allow a child to manage that stress.

 

Character matters: grit, resilience, perseverance and optimism.

Perry Preschool – 128 children in poverty randomly chosen to attend high-quality preschool program. Experts believe that the school gave a return between $7 to $12 for each dollar spent.

The website displays data that starting quality education for the very poor at an early age has lasting effects (through the participants’ 40s)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Fruit You Should Buy Organic

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Strawberries recently became #1 on the Dirty Dozen list. The Environmental Working Group puts out a list annually of the top fruits and vegetables contaminated with pesticides. For the third year in a row, strawberries topped the list. In fact, 1/3 of all strawberries (non-organic) tested positive for TEN or more pesticides! One sample had 22 pesticides.

I know organic foods are more expensive. Although I care very much about what I feed my family (especially as a breast cancer survivor), I can’t afford – nor do I want – to purchase all of my food organic. However, something like berries, with all the pits and divots, contains too much pesticide for my comfort.

If you’re wondering about #2, it’s spinach. It is advised that if you purchase non-organic spinach, you should soak it in water and baking soda for 15 minutes. Then you’re good to go!

 

 

 

Feels Like…

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My teenage daughter and I had a conversation about her anxiety and panic disorders. She described it like this:

“It’s like wearing wet jeans to school. It’s really uncomfortable and smells bad and you want to take them off, but you can’t just whenever you want. You can’t take them off while you’re at school.”

Listening patiently and doing your best to understand are the first steps to alleviating the stress and anxiety of our loved ones.

Uh “Oh”…

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Read the article

Dang it.

I love Sandra Oh. She’s cool. She’s ultra. She’s crush-worthy.

I’m trying to cut down my screen time and now THIS!

I’m going to get hooked, I just know it. Damn.

If you’ve ever sold yourself short, you need to read this deeply compelling article on the show and Sandra:

Sandra Oh Assumed She Wasn’t Up For Lead In ‘Killing Eve’ Due To Hollywood Racism (Huffington Post)

If you miss the broadcast, you can watch full episodes here (you don’t even have to log in)!

Fortune

When I interact with my dog, I am always 100% present.

(While typing, I accidentally typed “god” instead of “dog.”  Is that a mistake, or kismet?)

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I’m so lucky to wake up to her each morning.

Be Bold

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“You’ll learn, as you get older, that rules are made to be broken. Be bold enough to live life on your terms, and never, ever apologize for it. Go against the grain, refuse to conform, take the road less traveled instead of the well-beaten path. Laugh in the face of adversity, and leap before you look. Dance as though EVERYBODY is watching. March to the beat of your own drummer. And stubbornly refuse to fit in.” 
― Mandy HaleThe Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass

 

 

The Laughing Experiment

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Lettering doodle

I’ve studied spiritual masters for years now. One (of many) common threads of assertions is that it is our thoughts that make us miserable (in fact, this might be the most basic tenet). Life is life. “Problems” – as we see them – are never ending.

But because most of us see the same things as problems, we don’t see an alternative way to interpret these events.

Your child didn’t get into the college of her choice;

your son accidentally demolishes your garage door with your car;

your husband loses his job;

you get a cancer diagnosis;

and on and on…

It does look impossible to see these as anything but problems. But are they? It’s just life.

Crying, moaning and complaining about them do no good.

Just handle it and, if you can, laugh at the same time.

Eight years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was fortunate: early stage I. But while I recovered from the first of six surgeries, my husband lost his job. His boss cried as he let him go, knowing what we were “going through.” Our two daughters were six and eight years old. We worried about money and their emotional states.

It did seem like the beginning of the end.

But it wasn’t.

I’m here, stronger than ever. Wiser. Fearless.

My husband eventually got his current job – the best one he’s ever had.

Everything happens for a reason. The fact that it is happening is proof.

Handle it. Address the situation without anger, without sadness and without stress, if you can.

The distress and depression come from fighting it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You’ve Got the Dream, but not the Drive…”*

 

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From Grease*

Here is my second to last installment of research notes from Paul Tough’s book “How Children Succeed.” It’s lengthy, but the last few pages were especially insightful and inspiring!

 

Chapter 3: How to Think p. 105

  1. Sebastian’s Blunder

6th grader, played chess and lost a game

Elizabeth Spiegel – his teacher

They discussed each game afterwards, including how long he spent thinking of each move. “Two seconds” receives a “If you make a mistake, that’s okay, but if you do something without even thinking about it, that’s not okay.”

Spiegel was featured in NY Times 2009 because her low-income kids were beating wealthy kids at chess.

The secret? Spiegel sat with them and reviewed every game, emphasized the need to slow down and think.

 

  1. IQ and Chess

1997 Deep Blue (a chess=playing computer program) beat Garry Kasparov world chess champion since 1985.

In 1997, Jonathan Levitt proposed a mathematical relationshipo between IQ and chess prowess:

 

Elo~(10 x IQ) + 1000 (Elo is a player’s tournament rating)

Therefore, an IQ of 100 would yield a chess rating of 2000, tops.

Jonathan Rowson, Scottish grandmaster, completely disagrees.  “Your ability to recognize and utilize your emotions is every bit as important as the way you think.”

Two of the most important executive functions are cognitive flexibility and cognitive self-control.

Cognitive flexibility = ability to see alternative solutions to problems, to think outside the box

Cognitive self-control = ability to inhibit an instinctive or habitual response and substitute a more effective, less obvious one.

“Teaching chess is really about teaching the habits that go along with thinking.” Spiegel

“It’s like psychotherapy, you go over your mistakes and you try to get to the bottom of why you make them.” Spiegel  

Spiegel’s blog: http://lizzyknowsall.blogspot.com/

  1. Chess Fever

Spiegel is top 30 of female chess players in the nation

Chess became an obsession

  1. Calibrated Meanness

Spiegel wanted to encourage her students, but her advice was based on “I know you think you did something right here, but you’re wrong.” She felt mean all the time and had anxiety as a teacher.

She told kids they were being lazy and making stupid mistakes. She considered stopping this message but then they showed dramatic progress.

“Perhaps what pushes middle-school students to concentrate and practice as maniacally as Spiegel’s chess players do is the unexpected experience of someone taking them seriously, believing in their abilities and challenging them to improve themselves.”  p. 120-21

Challenge students to look deeply at their own mistakes, examine why they had made them, and think hard about what they might have done differently. ——> remarkably effective.

Spiegel taught her students grit, curiosity, self-control and optimism.

She also taught social intelligence: had them think about their actions and consequences when it came to friendships and trust.

 

  1. Justus and James

Justus – started playing chess in third grade – showed great promise

James – also very serious about chess. Had a brother in prison for murder. James was below in school, but studied chess 6 hours a day.

 

  1. The Marshall

The Marshall Chess Club – most prestigious in the U.S.

Founded in 1915 by Frank Marshall, chess champion

Offers a few free memberships to Spiegel’s students

Games last 4 hours against far superior players

“Spiegel reminds her students that the best way to improve your chess is to play against the best, even if they take you apart.”

James won a game against a 30-year old international master – surprising everyone

 

  1. Mastery

Chess can be an antidote to ADHD

Jonathan Rowson, Scottish grand master: “When it comes to ambition, it is crucial to distinguish between ‘wanting’ something and ‘choosing’ it.” If you want it, you will not get it and you’ll have unpleasant experience of falling short. If you choose it, you will reveal your choice through your behavior and your determination. Every action says, “This is who I am.”

There is philosophical question of whether chess is “productive” when it literally produces nothing. But chess players say it is a beautiful pursuit, “celebrating freedom above utility” – a celebration of existential freedom.

 

  1. Anders Ericsson’s theory: “In order to truly master any skill, you must have 10,000 hour of practice under your belt.”

Gata Kamsky: born in Soviet Russia in 1974, by a former box father.

Kamsky practice and studied chess 14 hours a day

Never attended school, never watched television, played no sports, had no friends

Father was violent and temperamental during chess matches

At 22, Kamsky quit chess, got married, attended medical school and then law school but could not pass the bar

Returned to chess in 2004. Is now the top-rated chess player in U.S. and tenth in the world.

His 10,000+ hours over rode the 8 year hiatus

 

  1. Flow  p. 135

Is it better to be interested in many things a little bit or be a lot interested in one thing?

“Flow (Csikszentmihalyi) – moments when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile.” A feeling of intense well-being and control.

 

You only experience flow if you’re good at something.

Spiegel believes that people who are not really good at anything are missing out.

  1. Optimism and Pessimism

Psychologists studied chess players

It was not better visual memories or quicker analysis…

Their ability to perform one particular mental task: Falsification

 

The only way to test a particular theory is to prove it wrong (Sir Karl Popper)

Individuals don’t test theories to look for evidence contrary to their beliefs. Instead, they look for data to prove themselves right = confirmation bias

Confirmation bias is a big problem for chess players.

Better chess players are pessimistic.

At the same time, it’s best if the player is optimistic about herself.

 

  1. Sunday  p. 141

James was extremely nervous. Coach told him to think about the game: “play slowly, take your time, be confident.”

He won.

  1. The Test

 

“For more than a year, James studied, solved tactics, played, analyzed his games, confronted his own mistakes and misunderstandings, and he did not give up. In the last year he has played 65 tournaments and three hundred and one rated games. He plays in tournaments until eleven o’clock at night, and then gets up early every morning to do thirty minutes of tactics before school. He has worked so hard, so patiently, for so long.”  (Spiegel)

Believed James could ace the specialized-school exam, based on his dedication and success in chess.

They both got discouraged during study sessions. James represented for Speigel, a challenging puzzle. He clearly possessed keen intelligence. He worked hard and tirelessly. Yes, he was below average in standard academic prectors. She was angry for him for how little non-chess information he had been taught.

The test is difficult to cram for. It reflects the knowledge and skills that a student has accrued over the years, through school, family and culture.

James did not get into Stuyvestant, but still had four years of high school ahead of him.

 

  1. How To Succeed

 

Mid-1990s: American college graduation rate was highest in the world

But now, U.S. has fallen to 12th in percentage of 25 – 34 year olds who graduate from a 4 year college. (We trail behind UK, Australia, Poland, Norway and South Korea).

The data suggests a class divide: wealthy students are increasing in graduation rates, the the most disadvantaged Americans are DROPPING in graduation rates.

1945 – 65, thanks to the GI Bill, soldiers went through college

Even children of factory workers attended college

College was an instrument of upward mobility – every generation reached a level of education that greatly exceeded the generation before….until recently

The problem is not ACCESS, but COMPLETION

According to a study of 34 member countries, the U.S. leads the world in producing college dropouts.

Puzzling: at the same time this is happening, a college graduate with a BA degree makes 83% more than one with a high school diploma.

Why are so many Americans dropping out?

 

  1. The Finish Line  (p. 150)

Best answer comes from a book titled “Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities

Authors were able to gain access of data through 68 public universities, ACT board and College Board

For a long time, conservatives believed that “we push students to attend college when (some) are not smart enough to be there (low-income, low-IQ).

But in fact, this is NOT the case. Low-income, uneducated students went to colleges well BELOW their ability.  Undermatching led to dropping out.

ACT scores were not the indicator of college success. High school GPA was/is.

A 3.5 GPA from a rural high school vs. an urban one did not make much difference.

Duckworth found: standardized test scores predicted pure IQ tests and GPA predicted self-control.

THUS, a predictor of college completion is NOT how smart the student is, but motivation, perseverance, study habits and time management skills do.

Can we teach teenagers these skills?

  1. One in Thirty  p. 154

 

OneGoal, CEO = Jeff Nelson:  https://www.onegoalgraduation.org/  College graduation. Period.

When Nelson was teaching sixth grade, he told his low-income African-American students they could graduate if they just worked hard. And then he read the paper: Fewer than 1 in 30 black male high-school freshmen in Chicago would graduation from a four-year college by the time they were 25.

Nelson decided that teaching was not his true calling (despite being especially great at it)

Teach for America offered him an executive director’s role (national) at 24. He turned it down. Fell into a deep depression. His former students’ parents felt that they were losing all that they had gained with him. They asked what to do. He didn’t know how to help.

He prayed. He went into therapy. He wrote pages and pages of poetry. He was trying to find his mission.

 

  1. The Call

January 2007, Nelson received a call from Eddie Lou, a venture capitalist.

 

Lou had set up a non-profit with others called “Urban Students Empowered Foundation”

 

Afterschool program for juniors and seniors – tutored them to increase GPA and ACT scores

It was producing impressive results – all who entered the program made it into college

Nelson was offered him a job as executive director. He accepted.

Urban Students Empowered become OneGoal.

Nelson believes underperforming high-school students can transform themselves into high successful college students, but they need a highly effective teacher.

The second piece: A clear path to college

OneGoal helps students not just with their applications, but the entire college-admission strategy: choosing match schools (not undermatch), decide close or far away schools; write appealing application essays; finding scholarships.

Nelson realized they also needed help in staying in college.

He identified 5 skills necessary to offset any academic weaknesses for college success:

Resourcefulness, resilience, ambition, professionalism, integrity—leadership abilities

 

  1. ACE Tech

 

OneGoal introduced their new methods at ACE Tech, a rundown school in a slum area of Chicago

Some students were not convinced they would be successful and their families encouraged them to stay close to home and not shoot high.

 

  1. Test Scores  p. 166

 

Kewauna – no one in her family ever went to college – she was poor and struggling, but dreamed of going to college and having a job where she carried a briefcase.

Finished her junior year an almost-straight A student (A few A-s, but not a single B)

But she could not score higher than 15 on the ACT.

Nelson believes the ACT score reflects quality of education, NOT intelligence

 

  1. Kewauna’s Ambitions  p. 168

 

During her senior year, she got turned down by scholarships she had applied for

She felt depressed and discouraged, pessimistic

She recalled her two years in remedial school where she didn’t learn anything. “I could have been learning all this stuff that I needed for my ACT!”

At last, she got accepted by Western Illinois.

 

  1. Closing the Gap

1961, full-time college students spend 24 hour/week studying

1981, it fell to 20 hours/week

2003, it fell to 14 hours/week – with 12 hours hanging out with friends, 14 hours consuming entertainment and 11 hours computer fun and 6 exercising

For many affluent students, college is an opportunity to pledge for a fraternity or drink heavily or write for the student newspaper

 

Nelson sees it as an opportunity for his students to close the gap
Kewauna – introduced herself to each teacher, took notes in every lecture – wrote and starrred words she didn’t know and asked professors to explain – went to office hours frequently. Sat in the front (noticed other African-Americans sitting in the back and was disappointed); made sure she exchanged contact info witha couple people in each class in case she couldn’t get a hold of the professor.

When money on her meal card ran out, she didn’t eat for two days.

First report card: 2 B+, 1 A, and 1 A+

Open

Image result

I was inspired by the spring cacti in my yard.

So I began to paint…

IMG-1338

16-year old daughter: Whatcha painting?

Me: A really stinky cactus.

D: Oh yeah? What’s it smell like?

Me: Garbage and butt.

D: It looks like a monster on Monsters, Inc.

Me: (laughing hysterically)

D: Draw some arms and legs on it. Call it, “Open to Interpretation.”

 

Isn’t everything?