Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bucks County thoughts

The terrible tragedy in Bucks County has taken up most of the front page of the Philly papers for the past couple of weeks.   It’s an awful story.   Four young men are dead and two young men are going away for a long time.

Questions I’d like answered:

How many other murders has the city experienced in 2017 where one person involved with drugs shot another person involved with drugs?  I can see that there are 166 murders as of July 15, 2017.

Have there been other individuals who have acted in concert to rob people attempting to buy drugs who have ended up killing them?

How many murders in Philadelphia have had this kind of extensive (and basically inept) cover-up by the perpetrator?  Is this a common thing or do we just know the details because of the reporting?

How many other murders have been on the front cover of the Philly papers this year?  How many of these murders received coverage over multiple days?  How many of the victims received this kind of coverage, detailing their successes and past lives?  All four of these young men were attempting to buy drugs.   Let’s say they had never dealt drugs before, that they were truly great kids, and made a single, tragic mistake.   How do I teach my own children, my own students, that you only get one chance, that there’s no margin of error for them, that anything that’s too good to be true probably is too good to be true?  How do I teach them to run away from anyone making an offer like this?




What we’re after

This article details a new business that has an elegant solution to a complicated environmental problem: desertification.

Money paragraph:

The cocoon is a bit deceptive in its seeming simplicity: a good deal of high-tech thinking went into it. “Everyone likes biodegradable,” Ruys said, “but it’s actually a tricky concept. You want a thing to work over a period of time, then completely disappear. It’s hard to do, which is why, as consumers, we still buy plastic.” Ruys solved the problem with a particular kind of wax coating that dissolves at the right time. He also spent a lot of time developing a wick that would precisely feed water to the plant.



Circle: 05172017

Thinking about habits and motivation.  Reading Charles Duhigg’s follow up book to the Power of Habit this weekend and took these two quotes as a starting point for today’s discussion:

If you can link something hard to a choice you care about, it makes the task easier…Make a chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will emerge.   

Moreover, to teach ourselves to self-motivate more easily, we need to learn to see our choices not just as expressions of control but affirmations of our values and goals.   That’s the reason people ask each other “why” — because it shows them how to link small tasks to larger aspirations.  

Good student thoughts later…

Duhigg, Charles. Smarter faster better (New York: Random House Books, 2017), pp.30-31.  

Two questions

Our evil genius program evaluator had the students complete a survey; responses from two questions below. (N=17, which is all but two of my advisees).

I thought the result from Column I was particularly interesting given that my advisory all passed Gateway and half of every day is taken up with a project they choose and that they design.   I would hope that the result from the first column would look more like the second column, i.e., I feel like I’m taking their input all the time but maybe I’m not.

Am I giving them enough space to design and work on their own? Is my understanding of the structure necessary to complete a project being mistaken for actually overwhelming what they want to do? Is it a question of students working hard and me not appreciating it?  Or is it a question of students misidentifying activity as actual work?  Are my expectations too high?

Given that feeling, I figured I had to build a circle activity to hear what the students thought.  Two writing questions:

How much freedom should an eleventh grader have in terms of their education?
Should there be any limits or restrictions?



Defending your work

Defending your work

Bit of a teacher jackpot this week: it’s the week before spring break and the first week of fourth quarter. The energy is all over the place. There’s some funny things being said: “I’m going glamping during spring break… that’s glamourous camping.” There’s some residual restlessness as the year draws to an end and seniors start coming to terms with their imminent departure.

So I’m trying to frame this week as defend your work week:

One, you have to defend, with evidence, your choice for next year. Are you going to continue to take college classes, pursue an internship, or work in the shop?

Two, you have to defend, with evidence, your goals for your fourth quarter self-designed project. What shows that this project is viable for a fourth quarter completion?

Three, we’re doing a combined investigative journalism and playwriting unit for fourth quarter. You will have to be able to defend your chosen story, be it the Phillies victory or a spate of overdoses, as worthy of exploration and of a play.

I like the idea of defending your work as the kids get it quickly. In a project-based school you have to be able to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. The kids understand challenging each other on the relevance of their projects and most of the time they’re able to challenge in a respectful way.

The problem with the idea of defending your work is that it relies on students actually engaging in the defense; you can’t defend something you don’t care about. Similarly, if you don’t care about the process (or the outcome) then defending your work will be a hard road. I also have to tread carefully with making sure that kids understand that you’re not defending this to the death; that the goal is to go through a rigorous process that allows your work to improve.

Anyway, it’s the best way I could think of to frame a crazy week from the school calendar.

Snow day: What’d you make?

One: A phone call to my cellular provider. Nausea at what I was paying. Cut bill significantly.

Two: Compost tea. Will be ready in thirty-six hours. Did not add molasses. Hope this can be fertilizer for plant starts.

Three: Bracket for FIFA2016 Champions League. Played three games. Barca won Champions League after two Bayern players sent off in last match.


Four: Ribs, KT style, Eight hours in oven at 250 degrees after extensive rub and refrigeration.