Saturday, December 10, 2016

NR 386 - The class called University Teaching.  Twelve PhD students who will end up teaching some undergrads in their careers and unlike most doc students, these twelve get to explore the world of university teaching with me.  We think about things they rarely ponder, things that are on the minds of public school teachers all the time - lesson planning, how best to introduce a lesson to get max student participation, how to close out a lesson so students hear what it was they think they may have learned (if they even have an idea!), and so on.

I was frustrated at the end of the class as I always am.  This is not a new thing to me.  After all my years of teaching, I know the best way to get these characters to think differently about how to teach well is to involve them in hands on action with the methods and ideas we talk about.  Mass practice, distributed practice, building relationships, wait time - strategies with proven track records vis-a-vis increasing student learning.  My frustration is I always run out of time in class and either I don't get to do what I'd planned to do, or I do and we have little or no time to process the activity.  Granted, I'm working with the cream of the crop but still, they are young, they are inexperienced, their models may not have been so great, and they don't realize that teaching and learning are actually connected and that they have as much responsibility for ensuring the latter as they do delivering the former.

So I thought I'd use this blog as a repository of 45 minute activities I could do in class that we could process using frameworks (UDL, Bloom) and teaching theory (mastery, inquiry, projects) to get the biggest bang for their buck.  So here goes... .  I'm hoping to do one of these for each class if I have the honor of teaching this course again next Fall.

1. Correcting crappy objectives.

2. Communicating with cartoons.  Above is one of mine, along with substantive comment from text.

3. Doing small groups with rules and norms, task and resource cards.  Assessing the impact of norms and roles on group processing.

4. Using the feedback sheets to assess their chapter presentations.  Perhaps even having them design their own feedback sheet, all based on substantive research of course.  We could start with critiquing mine.

5. Critiquing my syllabus using the chapter on beginnings, and then redesigning the syllabus.

Gotta go.  But this will grow.
Thanks for listening.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fun Pictures with the Moment Macro Lens

I love taking pictures with my iPhone.  For me, the accumulated albums are an authentic and personal statement revealing the life being lived around me.  Few of the pictures are "posed" in the traditional way and many catch unsuspecting moments in the lives of those important to me.  Sometimes I'll put the iPhoto file of my iMac on automatic play just to see if I can remember the details of my life that at one time or another were important to capture with the phone.

So last Christmas, my family gifted me with a Moment Tele lens.  Moment, a company of young millennial photographers produces a wide, tele, and macro lens for the iPhone.  They are quality products - these people have designed products that they desired to enhance their photographic endeavors and clearly, the rest of us are beneficiaries.  Because they are bikers, hikers, world travelers, and self-proclaimed photo nerds, their products are to be taken seriously.

My experiences with the Tele lens were good and I learned a lot about the interface between lens, phone, and my life in terms of what excited me photographically speaking.  I love shooting "interiors," literally and figuratively.  My usual mode of shooting is using a Pentax K-7 with the 18-55mm zoom.  The lens works for me, particularly shooting in the wide angle ranges.  I'm no pro, so most shooting is as much discovery and surprise as it is strategy and plan.  But with my abiding interest in the macro world, my interest in the Moment Macro lens just won't go away.  The iPhone is a great tool for shooting macro already so to be enhanced by its own especially designed Macro lens seems too good to be true.

I was sharing all this with a dear friend a few weeks ago in response one of those questions I prefer to duck, "What are you doing for yourself these days?"  (I can never come up with a comfortable answer as my inner voice whispers to me, "Not much!".)   So I told her about the interiors idea that I continue to explore and she mentioned that her younger son, Alden, has a Macro lens for his iPhone.  When she mentioned to him my interests he offered to share his Macro lens with me, an opportunity I just jumped at.  He also was interested in seeing some pictures that were taken using the lens.  So these are for you, Alden.  I'm posting five pictures and will add a bit of commentary to each one.

Picture One.
Rocky Neck Surface
This closeup is of a small section a painting.  The artist has a studio on Rocky Neck, Gloucester MA.  We try to visit her studio (called Imagine) every summer because there are such good vibes there and she does wonderful things with inks, paints, found objects, driftwood, etc.  This tiny section of photograph is part of her rendering of the word LOVE.  I'm drawn to the etching quality of the photo.  She uses blades of all sorts as well as brushes to put her paint to paper or wood or, well, etc.

Joekai 1.
My youngest grandson is six, almost seven years old.  He's just beginning to make the shift from scribble to concrete representation in his drawings.  I took several pictures of his figures - family members - because they are so darn cute and Happy.  His first picture is a self-portrait and yes, he does have curly hair.  I'm drawn to the joy that pops out at you when you get close to this character!

Joekai 2.
Another smiling fellow.  I was particularly happy to see the detail of pupils in this fellow's eyes, a detail I would never have noticed had it not been for the Macro capacity of the lens.

No, not science/tech/engineering/math;  Pomegranate.  This photo was taken looking down at the cut stem of said fruit.  Wow.  I saw things I'd never seen before.  The Macro function added a dimension to the real almost alive fruit I'd never observed.  Look closely.  It's almost like there are little mushrooms growing in the stem, which there weren't!

Living On The Edge.
I'd just finished slicing some parsley (flat-leafed) for something I was cooking when the phrase "living on the edge" drifted through my mind.  I kind of like living on the edge sometimes, but not all the time, that's for sure.  Sometimes, not so good things can happen to you as is the case for these parsley leaves, now separated from their parents, now fully consumed.  (Note the edge of the knife.  First of all, the Macro lens reveals it; secondly, it has regular marks on it from my sharpening stone.  Not sure that's a good thing.

In terms of favorites, I think "living on the edge" is my least favorite.  I've chosen the other three as favorites: two because of the detail in the smiles, one because of how the paint is arranged, and the other because of the small world (the mushrooms) revealed.

Thanks for asking, Alden.  And thanks for the loan of the lens.  It will be returning soon via your Mom.


Addendum: Picture 6.  Alden, I forgot about this one and it is perhaps my most favorite of all that I've taken with your Macro lens.  When I was a little kid growing up, my Dad had this humidor next to the big easy chair in which he spent many evenings.  On the weekends, he's smoke a cigar from this humidor.  It was always an odd object to me, he never explained where it came from though I asked.  I was always drawn to the little dog on the top of the humidor's substantial cap.  I took a picture of the dog using the lens and I have never, ever seen the detail in this little fellow.  It's pretty amazing craftsmanship given its size.  The origins are Chinese, I do believe.  Here he is.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Nina Simone - I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (with lyrics) - HD

One of my all time favorite jazz singers singing one of my all time favorite jazz compositions.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I was in Boston this past weekend, visiting family.  You've all had an NPR moment, right?  These are the moments Tom Gjelton or Terry Gross or Gwen Ifell make you pull over and stop just to listen to something that's captured your heart and mind; aka "driveway moments".  On the way down, I had one such moment.  Except I kept on driving and discouragingly I drove out of signal range.

I was listening to an "On Point" interview with Renee Graham and Jamilah King, Boston Globe and Mic News correspondents respectively, about the new protest moment we are in.  The conversation was brought about because of the pushback to Beyonce's SuperBowl "Formation" performance and Lamar Kendrick singing in chains at the Grammy's.  I found the podcast and it's worth a listen for sure.

I also want to draw your attention to the comments that have flooded the site since the program aired on Friday last.  There's some great music of the past mentioned and included.  And going back to the days when I was in my twenties, there's a great YouTube of Les McCann and Eddie Harris playing "Compared To What." 

I've remembered that message over all these years.  And, should you really be interested in these recent mainstream connections to BLM, here's an analysis and discussion of Beyonce's SB performance from the NYT.

 As some of you know, I am headed into surgery on March 1st.  An MRI in November 2104 showed I have a small, BENIGN, craniophyringioma on my pituitary gland.  Between then and now, the little bugger was unchanged, and the docs said I could have been carrying this since my early adolescent days.  In January, my 6-month MRI scan showed considerable growth in the tumor. Though I have been symptom free to date, considerable compromise to my vision and hormonal balance could occur with further growth.  Hence, the surgery.  I am well prepared for the surgery while I can't say I'm looking forward to it, I am ready.  If you feel called to do something as a result of reading this news, how about carrying out an outrageous act of kindness on my behalf?  The payback to yourself will be immense.  See you on the other side!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Anti-Racism Resource from UUSociety, Burlington

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, VT has an active task force operating focused on educating ourselves about the white privilege we carry with us by virtue of our skin color, those of us who identify or are identified as "white".  The task force has been meeting regularly and published the following action oriented ideas for members of the congregation and beyond.

How to Fight Racism Right Now 

The Racial Justice Task Force of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont, has created this draft of a document for the many in our community who are asking, “What can I do to fight against the evil of racism?” Though much of our congregation is white, our shared commitment to social justice leads us to stand up against the violence and injustice that continue to disproportionately harm people of color. We are honored to follow in the footsteps of those who have fought to bend the long arc of the moral universe towards justice, and saddened and angry that this is a battle that we have not yet won. We hope to make it easier for others to know how to join in, and welcome your participation. 


Join, participate in, and help publicize efforts of Vermont’s first official NAACP Chapter: the Champlain Area NAACP (contact Mary Brown-Guillory at mguillor@uvm.edufor more information) 

Join, participate in, and help publicize efforts of Vermont's BlackLivesMatter chapter.  See their facebook page.

Show up when local organizations serving people of color ask for the community to be present for demonstrations, public meetings, and press events. 

Contact and offer assistanceto community organizations working with black Vermonters, including the Islamic Center of Vermont, Vermont Interfaith Action (VIA) racial justice actions, Association for Africans Living in Vermont (AALV), and others. 

C h e c k o u t the Peace and Justice Center's Events page on their website to learn about upcoming workshops and learning events.
Join the Vermont Racism - Real Talk Facebook group to join an open conversation. Share your process, what you learn, and resources found there back on the FUUSB page (honoring confidentiality and privacy). 

Check out the Showing Up for Racial Justice Facebook pageto find ways to get involved.

Rememberthat just as white people are too often privileged and valued over people of color in the dominant culture, white voices can dominate gatherings that include people of color. Be ready to be quiet and listen, to tend to your own discomfort and pain, and let people of color have the space to lead. 


Challenge racism when you hear it around you. Though it can be hard to confront peers, friends, colleagues, and family, when we are silent around racism, we allow it to seem normal. Some people might find it helpful
to simply say, “I’m not sure what you mean by that,” when others around them use racist language in order to call it out without confrontation. 
Resist the temptation to marginalize people of color by referring to Vermont as “such a white state.” While Vermont may have fewer people of color than other states, racism and its effects are real, and a painful reality for too many who live here. 

Read and Learn
The New Jim Crowby Michelle Alexander
Between the World and Meby Ta Nehisi-Coates 

  • ●  Black Lives Matter
  • ●  Common Dreams TruthOut
    Also see reading lists at:
    Social Justice Training Institute
    Angry Black WomanRequired Reading(blog)  
  • Goodreads’ Undoing Racism Reading List
  • Give 
    These community groups and projects serve people of color (and, in the case of the Peace and Justice Center, address economic justice and environmental issues as well). They accept donations and rely on them to do their good work.

    Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity
    Vermont African American Heritage Trail
    Vermont Vision for a Multicultural Future
    Make Vermont an Inclusive and Equitable Place to Live Peace & Justice Center
    Champlain Valley NAACP
    Association of Africans Living in Vermont

Standing Up Against Racism

One of my churches, Christ Church Presbyterian,  held several Study Worships this Fall.  One was titled Standing Up To Racism: Black Lives Matter.  I had the privilege of organizing and facilitating the session.  What follows are a "baker's dozen" list of actions an individual might take if they wanted to move from study to action in terms of actually doing something about the reality systemic racism we live within.  I'm publishing it here to make it available to others.

Standing Up Against Racism Ideas: A baker’s dozen
“Comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable.” Finley Peter Dunne, 1902 

1. Go on-line and slowly read aloud “Mother to Son” (or any other poem by Langston Hughes). Quietly reflect for ten minutes on the poem, the life of the Mother speaking, and your own life. Where do they touch? Where do they divide? What new feelings and thoughts did you have after this meditation? Share your thoughts with another person. 

2. Take a workshop at the Peace and Justice Center. Practice talking about racism in your life and the lives of others. Example...Saturdays, October 3rd and 10th from 3- 6pm, How To Talk To Kids About Racism (a two-part facilitated discussion group), at the Obrien Center, 32 Malletts Bay Ave. in Winooski. 

3. Speak up when you think someone has made a racist comment. Say what you think, say how you feel. Say how you think the comment would make the person or people towards who it was directed feel. 

4. Take a week’s worth of the Burlington Free Press. Cut out all the articles that you feel illustrate racial injustice. Mount them on a piece of chart paper. Cut out all the articles that you feel illustrate racial injustice. Mount them on another piece of chart paper. Cut out the articles for which you aren’t sure. Mount them. Keep the charts in a prominent place for a week’s time. At the end of the week, move any of the articles for which your thinking has changed. Why do you suppose your thinking has changed? 

5. Think about your growing up. What kind of teaching did you parents do with you about how you were to behave in settings with people who were “different from you”. If you didn’t experience this, why do you suppose that is true. How do you feel now about this question? How would you rate this question in terms of “life saving advice”? Is it an important question for all of us to consider? Why? 

6. Have a conversation with a white friend who has a child of color. Ask them about their experiences with racism in our community. Ask them what they’ve learned to do about it, with their children, and with their community. Ask them if your asking the questions will change your relationship with that person. 

7. If you are in a book discussion book, advocate for choosing a book that tells the life of growing up Black in this country. Example: Negroland:  A Memoir by Marge Jefferson, or Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. As your group discusses the book, try to identify comments that might illuminate an attitude of white supremacy. Talk about that as well. 

8. Find a small group of CCPrs and commit to attending the three part workshop at the Peace and Justice Center called Building Empathy and Addressing Racial Oppression, December 2nd, 9th, and 16th, 6-730pm. 

10. With a friend, borrow or buy The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Each of you set aside an hour where you can be alone with the book, a pencil, and a pad of paper. Separately, open the book to any page and read for 35 minutes. Then, draw your feelings about what you’ve read on a sheet of paper. Use drawings, diagrams, words, lines, arrows, anything to express what your are feeling and what has caused those feelings. Get back together with your friend and share what you drew, wrote, and thought. Each of you find two friends and have them repeat the experience. 

11. Support groups in Vermont that fight racism and serve people of color. 
• Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity
• Vermont African American Heritage Trail
• Association of Africans Living In Vermont
• Burlington Bicycle Project 

12. Sign up to read to kids in the Burlington Schools during Reading To End Racism week. Volunteer to read to kids on a regular basis. Volunteer to help with homework. Volunteer so you can have regular conversations with people who are different than you. 

13. Watch the next debates with a few friends. Think about how people of color might understand what is being said by the candidates. Together with your friends, publish a “watch-list” of perspectives from the debate that might be denigrating to people of color and their allies. Write to the candidate’s campaigns and share your concerns. 

14. Take a look at anti-racist street signs along 14th St. in NYCity. How might we incorporate this idea (signs or comments) to help us here at CCP focus an initiative to stand up to racism in our community, especially with a new Black superintendent of schools. How might we help this man be successful? Would we even want to try? 

cr 9-27-15