Friday, October 24, 2014

What's Going on in 205

This week has been an absolute blast. It has been the very definition of #livingthedream. Here is why -

 In Lit & Lang 9R we have wrapped up our short story unit. We have banged out the reading skills of facts, main idea, inference (always difficult), and the most difficult one of all for this group, sequence. This week I took them down to the media center to find a book that interests them to read over the next week in class. They will have to annotate the book with a minimum of 25 Sticky-Notes. Their final project will be to create a blog for the book where they will post their chapter summaries, character lists, creative assignments, and their final review of the book.

 Here is my example - How We Got to Now.


College Comp 1 -

We are wrapping up our theme #3, a how to essay.

The first essay was on how to improve LHS.

The second essay was on how to survive college.

I usually then have a third essay where students can devise a how to on any topic they wish, but we were running out of time this quarter, so I had to go with only two different topics for this theme.

To help model the process and how a writer thinks and works, I wrote my own how to improve LHS essay with the class and shared it via Google Drive along with comments in the margins about what I was trying to accomplish with each paragraph and even specific lines.



 College Comp 2 - On Monday I assigned a chapter from Steven Johnson's Everything Bad is Good for You on the complexity of modern pop culture, specifically our films and TV shows. The chapter analyzes how directors use multiple plot threads and lack of "flashing arrows" to purposefully confuse their audiences. Think of shows like Lost, American Horror Story, 24, SUV, or films like Gone Girl, Pulp Fiction, Shutter Island, or Crash.

Maybe at first blush those don't seem so complex. However, contrast those shows with the most popular shows 30 years ago: Three's Company (every plot of that sitcom is absolutely the same. One member of the house hold misunderstands a conversation and that drives the plot forward until the misunderstanding is resolved), The Brady Bunch (again, nearly every plot is identical. They certainly aren't sequential.  Each episode is a stand alone episode. Just try watching an episode of 24 or American Horror Story out of order), and one of my favorites, The Rockford Files (again, their idea of complexity back then was to have a two part episode that ended with a cliff hanger!).

So to drive this point home, this week I have my students watching the Sci Fi classic, Inception.  Students are analyzing its multiple plot lines, story threads, lack of flashing arrows, and various characters to prove how our modern culture is actually more complex - or if you prefer - intellectually complex than the past.

One thing that has been so great about this week, is that I've been able to actually write and create right along with my students.  I'm trying to be the guide on the side here for a change.

Here is my APA paper on Inception -




That is not a bad way to earn a living at all!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Favorite Horror Stories - 2014 version

In honor of Halloween, I'll revisit my list of my all time favorite horror stories.

10.  "The Playground." Ray Bradbury. I struggled to include a Bradbury piece. Certainly, "A Sound of Thunder" is classic sci fi. "The Crowd" is a great horror story, but it didn't thump me over the head with horror - as the other stories here do. A horror list just needs to include a Bradbury piece. But most of his work is mild . . . even among the mildest of horror writers. Then I remembered this little gem in the original hardcover copy of Farhenheit 451 that I read in high school. Now this is not mild. It's horror and it's Bradbury at his best. It involves a father who so loves his son - who is bullied at school, especially on the playground - that he is willing to switch spots with him. Even if it means going back to that most awful of places - if you've ever been picked on - the playground. That last scene in the final paragraph has stuck with me at least 25 years since I've read this. 


9.  "The Gentleman's Hotel" by Joe R. Lansdale.  Several, I bought the anthology, Curse of the Full Moon at the Georgia Tech bookstore in Atlanta.  However, it wasn't until this fall that I finally read this story from the collection.  I have not read anything by Lansdale since his phenomenal The Nightrunners when I was 16.  That novel has stood out as one of the most violent and brilliant horror books of my youth (right up there with the work of Thomas Harris (The Silence of the Lambs) and Clive Barker (The Books of Blood).  This is actually one of the better werewolf stories I've come across.  And the main character, Reverend Jebediah Mercer, who is one of the most interesting protagonists I've come across in some time.  This both made me think twice about going down stairs in the middle of the night and made me laugh out loud.

8.  "Re-Animator" by HP Lovecraft.  Probably not Lovecraft's best story.  That likely would go to "The Rats in the Walls" or "The Color out of Space."  But this, for my money, is his most horrifying.  And if you get a chance to see the campy B grade movie, see it.  It's that great.  I saw it on KBRR when I was still in junior high and it freaked the hell out of me.  I'll never forget it.  And the story is even better.  This is a staple of my Sci Fi class.

7.  "The Signal Man" by Charles Dickens. I'm not a huge Dickens fan, but this one is creepy all the way around.  A classic ghost story.

6.  "The Pattern" by Rasmey Campbell.  This has the most disturbing resolution I've ever seen since I saw the movie version of Stephen King's The Mist.  Every time I read it, the most disturbing I find it. But the slow build up to that resolution is amazing.  Don't read it alone.  Or in the woods.  Or at your cabin.  In fact, if you're faint of heart, you might want to avoid this story all together.

5.  "Crouch End" by Stephen King.  This is King's ode to one of the greatest in the field of horror: HP Lovecraft.  When our husband and wife cross over to the "other" side where the elder gods hold sway, this story is one of the most vividly horrifying I have ever read.  This one is an absolute staple of my Sci Fi class.

4. "N." by Stephen King.  This was directly influenced by the #3 horror story.  King takes the concept of the evil elder gods made popular by HP Lovecraft and blended it with a patient's OCD for one of my all time favorite King stories.  And I think it's his most frightening, which is saying something.




3.  "The Great God Pan" by Arthur Machen.   Stephen King calls this work the greatest work in the genre of horror.  I have to agree.  It's not so much overt horror that makes this story so powerful.  Rather it's the horror that is suggested or occurs "off screen" (so to speak) that leaves such an impression on the reader.

2.  "Pig Blood Blues" by Clive Barker.  Up until I read Martin's "Skin Trade," this was my consistently ranked #1 horror story of all time.  I still remember the first time I ever read it, way back in 10th grade in high school when the Red Lake Falls library final got a copy of The Books of Blood for me through the inter-library loan system.  It has stayed with me all of these years. It's just as haunting (and horrifying) as ever.

1.  "Skin Trade" by George R. R. Martin. I read this a few months ago after seeing it mentioned in one of my favorite werewolf anthologies.  I Googled it, and, sure enough, I found a free on line version.  It didn't disappoint. It might be the best werewolf story (or novella) I have ever read.  It has everything - humor, horror, and great details.  I've read it three times now, and it gets better each time.

Today's Reads, Views, and Links

So much has been stockpiling in my email that I have about 60 messages to read.  So here it goes:

5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Every Monday Morning

I am blessed to have a job I absolutely love.  So here are my answers to those questions -

1. Am I excited to dive into the challenges that I have lined up for the week?
Of course!  And every week brings more challenges.  I'm working with teenagers, after all.  How many more challenges could I expect?  Actually, the students really don't offer the challenges.  My biggest challenge is trying to challenge them and to keep them engaged.
2. Am I looking forward to engaging with the people I am meeting or working with?
Of course! I work with an amazing department.  We bring out the best in each other and we aren't afraid to ask for help when we need it.   Just now, I'm listening in to one of my colleagues teaching sonnets to her class.  She is using modern songs that have their lyrics turned into sonnets.  This is brilliant.  Why have I never thought of this? 
3. Am I going to my dream job?
This isn't my job. It's who I am.
4. Am I being compensated fairly for the value I bring to my job?
Yes. I'm not one to complain about my paycheck.  In fact, since we married, Kristie handles all the bills and I don't even look at my pay stubs. I actually do not know what my exact monthly check is.  That's wonderful.
5. Do I feel energized, rested, and confident?
Great question.  Yes.  Usually.  I admit now that I have fourth block prep, when fourth block rolls around, I'm exhausted.  But I am also eager to get to work.
******
Mr. Zutz sent this one around to us via a link in our staff weekly: A veteran teachers turned coach shadows 2 students for 2 days.  

As soon as I began reading this, I thought, I have to use this in my classes.

How cold would it be to actually do something like this?  Plus, we could have students shadow teachers to see what our world looks like too.  It's always been a pipe dream of mine to have this type of thing for parents and teachers.  A parent could come in and take a day worth of their kid's class while the kid goes to work in place of the parent.  Don't tell me that wouldn't be an eye opener!

As far as the article about the teaching shadowing two students for two days goes, here were the big take aways:
1.  Students sit all day; sitting is exhausting.

I love how the former teacher reflects on what they would change about this

If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately change the following three things:
  • mandatory stretch halfway through the class
  • put a Nerf basketball hoop on the back of my door and encourage kids to play in the first and final minutes of class
  • build in a hands-on, move-around activity into every single class day. Yes, we would sacrifice some content to do this – that’s fine. I was so tired by the end of the day, I wasn’t absorbing most of the content, so I am not sure my previous method of making kids sit through hour-long, sit-down discussions of the texts was all that effective.
2.  High school students are sitting and listening quietly during approximately 90% of their classes.

Again, here is what they would change 

If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately:
  • Offer brief, blitzkrieg-like mini-lessons with engaging, assessment-for-learning-type activities following directly on their heels (e.g. a ten-minute lecture on Whitman’s life and poetry, followed by small-group work in which teams scour new poems of his for the very themes and notions expressed in the lecture, and then share out or perform some of them to the whole group while everyone takes notes on the findings.)
  • set an egg timer every time I get up to talk and all eyes are on me. When the timer goes off, I am done. End of story. I can go on and on. I love to hear myself talk. I often cannot shut up. This is not really conducive to my students’ learning, however much I might enjoy it.
  • Ask every class to start with students’ Essential Questions or just general questions born of confusion from the previous night’s reading or the previous class’s discussion. I would ask them to come in to class and write them all on the board, and then, as a group, ask them to choose which one we start with and which ones need to be addressed. This is my biggest regret right now – not starting every class this way. I am imagining all the misunderstandings, the engagement, the enthusiasm, the collaborative skills, and the autonomy we missed out on because I didn’t begin every class with fifteen or twenty minutes of this.

3.  You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.

If I could go back and change my classes now, I would immediately:
  • Dig deep into my personal experience as a parent where I found wells of patience and love I never knew I have, and call upon them more often when dealing with students who have questions. Questions are an invitation to know a student better and create a bond with that student. We can open the door wider or shut if forever, and we may not even realize we have shut it.
  • I would make my personal goal of “no sarcasm” public and ask the students to hold me accountable for it. I could drop money into a jar for each slip and use it to treat the kids to pizza at the end of the year. In this way, I have both helped create a closer bond with them and shared a very real and personal example of goal-setting for them to use a model in their own thinking about goals.
  • I would structure every test or formal activity like the IB exams do – a five-minute reading period in which students can ask all their questions but no one can write until the reading period is finished. This is a simple solution I probably should have tried years ago that would head off a lot (thought, admittedly, not all) of the frustration I felt with constant, repetitive questions.
Now doesn't that make me think differently about how I approach teaching?

*****

When I saw this on yahoo news, I was totally geeking out.  I love real stories like this: The First Spacewalk.  

The Soviet space program has fascinated me. Maybe it's because for so long it was shrouded in total secrecy.  Maybe it's because they were so ambitious to beat the US into space that safety wasn't always the #1 factor, as we like to believe it is in the US.

This story perfectly illustrates that.  I mean the first man to walk in space almost didn't make it back!  It also illustrates the power of human ingenuity in the "good old days."

Part of me wonders how these rugged and ingenious individuals would handle the Ebola debacle that we are mired in today.

BTW, the internet article on the first spacewalk is beautifully done.  Let's hope this is what all web pages and stories will look like in the next decade.

*****

Here is a TED Talk on one of my all time favorite subjects - following your passion.  Eunice Hill has a unique take on it, Don't Just Follow Your Passion: A Talk for Generation Y.

She even alludes to one of the books we read in College Comp 2, Be So Good They Can't Ignore You.



Here is another TED Talk along those same lines.  I could listen to these all day long.  In fact, whenever I have to do work around the house, I listen to these on my iPhone.

This one is again on one of my very favorite topics - How to find and do Work you Love.

His story about swimming from Alcatraz to the California Coast is worth the watch alone.


*****

Speaking of favorite topics (and one I blogged about last week), here is another interesting read: Where Millennials Went Wrong and How They're Paying the Price.

****

Mr. Zutz spoke to my Teaching and Learning 250 class at UND last week.  He did a fabulous job!  What a great resource to share with my students.

He was so great that when we packed up to leave, two students lingered to thank him.  Why thank him?  Her words were: "I just want to thank you for giving me hope.  As a future teacher all I ever hear about is how little it pays, how little we are respected, how bad students are, and how there is no hope.  Thank you for proving that wrong."

Today he sent me this video to share with them.  We all should have a teacher like this.

Every Student Deserves a Truly Great Teacher




****

This title is sure to entice some debate: Why I Now Friend My Students on Social Media.

I can feel the panic in every teacher over 30 right now.

But hold on.  There's a madness to her method, and some pretty damn good reasons for her claim.  Here is one example.

I’m convinced that we’ve isolated students in a world without teachers on social media and every day we are reaping the consequences. We need to rethink this now so we can move forward to a better tomorrow.
Sometimes unpopular, uncomfortable things need to be said and positions should be reversed in order to do the right thing. Ultimately, my students said that I needed to give this one. I had at least eight kids who came up to me afterwards who said it was what educators needed to hear.
A teary eyed young man moved me most:
“My Mom died this year, I had a teacher who helped me get through it. I couldn’t have lived without my teacher. Literally. We students need our teachers and sometimes we need to talk to them on social media. We need a way to do that sometimes.”
Yep. These kids are worth fighting for and if the only casualty is my own ego in the process, that is indeed a very small price to pay.
This is truly an issue where both sides are right. We have to face the truth of the consequences of what we’ve done. We have to come out with some sort of workable answer in the middle.
****

Another one of my favorite topics is creativity.  Here is an interesting read on why experts tend to reject it.

You have to love the opening line: "Science advances one funeral at a time."

The same could be said for educators.

*****

I'm totally geeking out over Steven Johnson's new series on PBS (as well as the accompanying book) called How We Got to Now.

Now PBS has release a website that coincides with the show, How We Got to Next.

If you know me, you know how passionate I am about the Bengals (unfortunately).  Well, if Johnson ever teamed up with one of my other favorite writers, James Burke, I think I would take that book over the Bengals actually winning a Super Bowl.

*****

An interesting read on the differences between Eastern and Western Cultures.

This reinforces what Diane Ravitch noted years ago.  Ravitch told John Merrow on the Merrow Report that in America, parents tend to believe that talent is really all that counts.  They push their kids into things they are already gifted at.

Chinese parents, though, realize that we all start at zero.  We might have a little more natural talent here and there, but the bottom line is work.  As Amy Chua, the infamous Tiger Mother, observed: "nothing is fun until you're really good at it."  The bottom line for the eastern cultures is that their kids are willing to put in the struggle and hard work (or grit) that it takes to be really good.

In America? Parents are likely to complain to teachers or coaches instead of making sure their kids works.  It's all about natural talent, not work.  This is just what Carol Dweck talks about with her concept of "The Growth Mindset" vs. "The Fixed Mindset."

****

Finally, these are hilarious.  Some are more true than others, and some are totally false but still funny.


Even I remember this one from high school.


Guilty as charged.


I've seen this first hand.  Sad.  But hilarious.


ha ha.


Guilty as charged.


This is the damn worst!


Ha ha.  This brings me back to high school.


I've done this!  


Amen!


My students said, when we were discussing ways to improve LHS, that this happens a lot.  Wow.  Then we should be evaluated every day.



Friday, October 17, 2014

It's never too early for Halloween

Here is a video I shot two weeks ago.  It's never too early for Halloween in Kenzie's world.  We ordered Cash his Stormtrooper costume.  Of course, he played with it for a day or two and grew tired of it.

Leave it to his older sister to use it to create her own blend of heroes and villains.  Here she is with a Stormtrooper mask, Snake Eyes' costume, and Bob Fett's gun.  Oh yeah, the music was her idea too!


TIES 2014



I cannot wait for the TIES convention this year.

I first learned of TIES back in 2010.  That's when one of my favorite people on earth, Sir Ken Robinson, was going to be the Keynote speaker.

I wasn't able to go, so I had to eat my heart out of jealousy.

Then a few years the Keynote speakers were none of than Simon Sinek and Tony Wanger, both of whom were also some of my favorite people in all of education.

I was lucky enough, though, to be part of the TRF cohort who travelled down to the cities for the TIES convention last year.  The Keynote speaker?  Again, one of my favorites, Marc Prensky, whose essay, Engage me or Enrage me, has been a staple in my College Comp class for years.

This year the Keynote speakers are again, two of my favorite people (I'm sensing a theme here): Yong Zhao, whose book World Class Learners, I read two years ago, and Jane McGonigal, whose TED TALK on gaming has fascinated me for years as well, and who is also one of the best follows on all of Twitter See the video below.


In doing a bit of research on these two, I found two other excellent resources -

McGonigal on the Colbert Report -



Yong Zhao



And his hilarious TED X Talk




Zhao will be the Keynote on Monday and McGonigal will be the Keynote on Tuesday.

On top of that, another one of the phenomenal guest speakers from last year, and one of my favorite bloggers, George Courus will be again speaking on Monday.

Can't wait to soak it all up.

As if that wasn't enough, though, I am actually privileged to be presenting two sessions on Tuesday.

One of my breakout session is entitled, Digital Classroom: Create a Dynamic Social Media Platform.

If you know me at all, you this topic is not just near and dear to my heart, but it's actually entwined in my very DNA as a teacher.

Here is the long description

LONG DESCRIPTION:

Meet the Millennials (and now Generation Z) where they live and thrive: on social media. Teachers must make social media work for them. After all, our students are talking about us and our classrooms on their social media platforms. This is inevitable. The only thing we can control is what our students have to say about us. Are students venting about esoteric subject matter that has no connection to lives? Are they ranting about tedious Powerpoints and lectures? Are they objecting to apparent busywork that has no value for them? Perhaps, our students have a point. If teachers embrace social media, though, they can transform not only their teaching, but they can also market their teaching as a brand. Teachers can use social media to show students how our subject matter actually connects to their lives and pop culture. Teachers can use social media as part of their traditional classroom to make Powerpoints and discussions more relevant. Teachers can also use social media to give students a voice in crafting content in our classes. Most importantly, social media allows teachers to transform themselves into digital role models to show our students what it is like to leave a positive digital footprint and to be a life long learner who actually has a personality and passions outside of school. This allows teachers to connect with – and market to – students like never before. This session will focus on forging an interactive, supportive, and irresistibly engaging digital classroom culture via these social media sites: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Blogger, Youtube, TED Ed, and Twitter. This session will focus on the works of John Merrow, Don Tapscott, Michael Hyatt, Ruben R. Puentedura, Mike Lanouette, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Seth Godin.
The main focus will be on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Blogger, Youtube, TED Ed, and Twitter. There will also be mention of Storify, Infographs, Tweet Deck, and QR codes.
I. Intro to social media II. Explore how schools have changed (using John Merrow's work from The Influence of Teachers here): school used to serve three functions: knowledge repository, social, and in loco parentis. Today, the only one still relevant is in loco parentis. III. Exploration of what it is like to be a 21st century student (using Don Tapscott's Grown Up Digital here). IV. How to engage the millennials/Gen Z (using Mike Lanouette's 10 Traits of Highly Effective Instructors) using social media. V. Explore how building a personalized classroom brand via social media is key to developing a positive culture (using the works of Seth Godin here). VI. Share my personal story as a digital immigrant and my conversion to social media proponent. VII. Explore the pitfalls of social media to show how they pale in comparison to the benefits of social media to transform teaching (using Michael Hyatt's Platform: How to Get Recognized in a Noisy World, Gary Vaynerchuk's Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook! and Ruben Puentedura's concept of SAMR) VIII. In depth exploration of how I (or our school and other staff members) use Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Blogger, Youtube, TED Ed, and Twitter to develop a positive culture.
My other breakout session is Flipped Classrooms: Lesson Plans for a 1:1 School.

Here is the description

LONG DESCRIPTION:

Attendees will witness the teaching and learning methods of how to create an engaging and interactive flipped classroom. I will emphasize how I use Google Docs and Blogger as my base platforms to flip my high school English classes. I will illustrate how we use Google Docs to draft, revise, and, ultimately, submit assignments. Then I will walk attendees through how we use Blogger for discussions, to publish and distribute student work, and as a platform to embed the main tools I use to build many of my lessons: TED Ed and Storify. Attendees will leave with a clear idea how to use Google Docs and Blogger in their own classes. They will see first hand how I use Google Docs to make my classroom as paperless as possible through a real-time submission process with my class back in Thief River Falls. I will model my two classroom blogs for College Comp I and II. I will focus on how I use Blogger as an online base for nearly everything we do in class. I will also share student-generated blogs for various projects in my class. If attendees are interested enough, they may even choose to create a blog specific to one of their own classes. Attendees will also leave with the ability to build specific lessons unique to their classes using TED Ed and Storify. Attendees will see how they can use TED Ed to modify not only TED Talks but also any video on Youtube (or any video they choose to upload to Youtube) to their individual units or lessons. Likewise, attendees will see how they can use Storify as a way to stockpile resources unique to their own units or lessons and then distribute them to their students.
We will explore Google Docs (namely Drive), Blogger, TED Ed, and Storify.
I. Intro to my flipped classes II. Explore the benefits and negatives of Google Docs and Blogger III. Show my blogs and student generated blogs IV. Google Docs as a way to make my classes as paperless as possible V. Blogger, my base platform – allows for engaging and interactive content. VI. Sample lessons for TED Ed and Storify. VII. Time to create a blog for attendees classes or time to create individual lessons using either TED Ed or Storify.

Part of me is terrified.  But part of me cannot wait for December 8 and 9! #livingthedream

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A very interesting read

Here is a very interesting articles about one of my all time favorite topics: millennials.

I am partial to them because I've spent my working life around them for the past 17 years.  Perhaps, even more so because I am more millennial than they are.

Here is my millennial score via this site.



 Where Millennials Went Wrong and How They're Paying the Price

This is an interesting read with some legit concerns.

The author starts out with these negative stats

  • They contributed $1 trillion to our national student loan debt [Bloomberg]
  • They are the most educated generation in human history, yet they have the highest share of people who are unemployed in the last 40 years [USA Today]
  • 48% of employed college graduates have jobs that do not require a four-year degree. [The Center for College Affordability and Productivity
  • Nearly 1/3 have postponed marriage or having a baby due to the recession. [Pew Research]
Student loan debt - When reading over this, I had to think, how is this the fault of any millennial?  If this had been true for my generation, would it have been Gen X's fault?

If you're a parent, are you seriously not going to push your kid toward college?  What kid (okay, I know of one, my nephew, but he's a rare, rare, rare case) who saves up diligently for college.  I would argue that is something parents of millennials (hello Baby Boomers and Gen Xers) should be held responsible for.

Maybe I'm extreme there.  But I just don't see how it's the millenials' fault that a university education is far more expensive than it ever has been before.

But the bottom line here is that I challenge a Gen Xer to tell their kids NOT to go to college because they'll have too much student debt.  I'd like to see the author of this article tell his kids that.

Did millennials take out students loans and then flunk out of college and thus rack up student debt. Of course.  But I know a significant portion of my peers in college who did the exact same thing.  It just wasn't as expensive to make the mistake now as it was then.  And I bet you had a large portion of Gen Xers defaulting on their student loans.  But do we blame them for that?

Unemployment - okay, I can see some blame falling on the millennials here.  Just get out and freaking work.  Even if it's flipping burgers, it's not beneath your dignity.  Don't sit at home in your parents' basement waiting for the "perfect" career.

But at the same time, how can millennials be blamed for the recession that sent companies scrambling to cut losses by laying millions of Americans off?   And thus a rise in unemployment.  That's like blaming the Greatest Generation for being out of work during the Depression.  And did any ever think of doing that?

But the bottom line here is that I think millennials have to get out and freaking work.  Period.

Jobs that don't require a college degree - I'm not sure this is the millennials' fault.  Go back to the start of the "college" for all revolution: the GI Bill.  Prior to that 10% of Americans had a college education.  But, then again, 90% of the jobs didn't require one.  

But when millions of young men came back from WW 2, the government, in a stroke of genius, realized that these vets needed somewhere to go.  Thus, they created the GI Bill will allowed them to go to schools that would never have been open to them before.  In fact, many Ivy League profs weren't thrilled about this at all.  You were devaluing their pressure degrees and education programs by letting in the average citizen.

The problem was that the industrial revolution and the fact that women in the work force were more efficient than the men who went to fight in WW 2, meant that the US needed fewer laborers.

So when all the dads got degrees and went to work in new upper blue class careers (that had not existed when they went off to Europe to fight), a new sector of the workforce opened up.  Plus, if a parent has a college education and realizes the benefits, is there any way they're not going to want their children to have the same?

Thus, Baby Boomers began going to schools in record numbers.  Not only that but more and more institutions of higher learning began to open up (MN alone has close to 100 now).  So that meant Gen Xers would be going to college in record numbers.  And their kids, the millennials, were expected to do the same.

Unfortunately, the job growth can't keep up.  Thus, there are more jobs that don't need a college education available now.  But because of their parents' expectations, the millennials have the college degree (or at least college debt) that their job doesn't require.

It's sad, but I don't know how this is the millennials' fault.

This is one reason, at LHS we have instituted our RAMP UP curriculum to get students College AND Career ready.  I preach all the time that they're are excellent jobs available with great pay that don't require a four year college degree.  The two men who are currently working on our basement for Innovative Basements probably don't need a four year degree from NDSU to be sawing and drilling down there.  Do they need training? Of course! Do they need to be life long, active learners? Of course.  Are they making (as my students would say) "good money" right now? Yes.  God bless 'em.

But one thing I find ironic about our RAMP UP curriculum is that - like it or not - it is slanted toward getting kids to a four year degree.  The bias is built in to almost every lesson.  So the hypocrisy of this runs deep.

And I don't see how we can dump it on the millennials.

Postponing marriage and having kids?  To this, I say God bless 'em!  That's one of the smartest things millennials could do.  Let's just remember, the millennials are the largest generation of people in American history.  If they started producing early and as often as the Greatest Generation did when they got back from WW 2, we'd be in a world of hurt.

And if they millennials are such a nuisance, just imagine the void America (let alone the world) would have without them.  Who would buy all of our products?  The most successful company in the world, apple, would crumble.  What would happen to Amazon? Zappos? Netflix? Wal-mart? Target? Universities? The film and music industries?  What do people the age of 16-32 buy today?  Think of the void that would exist without them!

Here is an interesting passage from the article

Millennials went wrong when they ignored the unique opportunities in front of them in exchange for the opportunities presented to their parents.
As the Information Age exploded, along with it came the rise in technology, and your average Millennial missed the boat. Instead of pursuing a path in a growing field like computer science to develop a skillset that would open up endless career options, most Millennials have chosen college degrees and careers in business and liberal arts, both of which are degrees that are virtually worthless to employers today.
I don't know that I'd lay this blame solely on the millennials.  Were schools (led by Boomes and Gen Xers) preparing students for these jobs?  It's kind of hard to know you should go into search engine optimization when you don't even know that is a field until you're a junior in college!  

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that small businesses and entrepreneurs were the backbone of America?  Yet, students aren't supposed to go into business?  I think that's dead wrong.

And liberal arts?  As the president of Duke, Richard Brodhead, once said to a parent of a graduate who said, "What kind of job will my son earn with his degree?"

Now that's a legit question.  Brodhead didn't duck, he said, "whatever job he wants.  As a liberal arts graduate, he can think, problem solve, adapt, and learn.  What job doesn't require those skills?"

I think that having a liberal arts degree would - to use the author's words against him - "open up endless career options."

Okay, so the author and I are in agreement here -

Millennials were misguided by their parents, their professors and their guidance counselors. To no fault of their own these influencers passed on the path to success that worked for them. Unfortunately, they didn't anticipate how the world would evolve.


And ultimately, I couldn't agree with him more when he offers this advice for millennials - and I preach this every single freaking day in College Comp 1 and 2 -

For starters, Millennials need to establish a portfolio both online and offline. If you're not receiving the job opportunities or the salary you desire, you need to work for free. Take on some pro-bono project-based work in your chosen field, do an incredible job and get a reference letter. Rinse and repeat this process at least 3 - 5 times. 
Last but not least, you need to make sure you have skills for today's new working environment. To survive in the highly competitive environment of employment today, you must be a Jack-of-all-trades. 
As an example, if you're pursuing a career in business you need to learn basic programming, graphic design, video editing, photo editing, accounting, web design, etc. All of these skills can be learned online at your own pace and for free or at a very minimal cost. Lynda.com, Udemy.com and even YouTube are great resources.
All hope is not lost. Opportunity is abundant, but in order to qualify Millennials must be prepared for the unique obstacles that lie before their generation.

But what generation hasn't faced unique obstacles?  150 years ago when masses left the farms for the city, they faced unique obstacles.  When many of those jobs were lost to technology, they faced unique obstacles.  Later when those entire factories left for India and China, the children of the workers left behind faced unique obstacles.  And now that brings us to the millennials.  And this is where I think both a business background and a liberal arts degree and certainly a background heaped in computer science is vital: if you want a job, invent it.

Here are two videos that I love.  The first one tackles the lie that all students need a four year degree.  The latter video is a preview of the book based on the author's article analyzed above.  Both are wonderful resources.




And the other side -


Illusion of Safety

I am by no means a fear monger.  If anything, I'm a damn diehard optimist.  But the fact that a Dallas hospital exec is no apologizing in front of Congress for the errors they made in handling the first US ebola patient is alarming. To say the least.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but when a person walks into an ER with ebola like symptoms and admits that he had just arrived from West Africa!!!!!!!

How this happens is stupefying.

We screen - and almost grope (or so the new reports go) - little old ladies going through the airport to make sure they aren't toting bombs, yet the lack of foresight and care on the part of this Dallas hospital results in one man dead and two nurses infected . . . so far.

While reading this article, I can't help but think how before 2001, the thought of a hijacker taking a plane and flying it right into a skyscraper was almost too sensational for even fiction (though Stephen King ended his Richard Bachman novel, The Running Man, in the same fashion).  Yet, 9/11 happened, and we were all shocked.

For anyone who watched a Saints home game in the '80's and '90's, who would have ever imagined it would be the location for the homeless after New Orleans was flooded because of a hurricane. Yet, that is exactly what happened when Katrina hit and FEMA - just like this Dallas hospital - was woefully prepared.

And certainly the same kind of shock and confusion rippled through the American psyche when in 1957 our bitter rivals, the Russians, launched Sputnik into space when we thought they were hardly capable of farming their vast tracts of land and feeding their people, let alone being the first human beings to launch a man made object into orbit!

I think it's human nature to think we have an illusion of safety.  I mean how safe were the passengers on the Titanic . . . until they hit an iceberg.  How safe were the French behind their Maginot Line . . . until the Nazis went right around it!

Looking back on all of our blunders, the one positive sign is that we have the ability to learn from our mistakes.

I mean, after all, in little more than a decade after Sputnik, America was putting a man on the moon.  Of course, our government wasn't as divided by hatred for each party the way it is today.

How can we put a man on the moon in 1969 to counter the Russians puny Sputnik? Yet, is America any more secure today in 2014 than it was in 2001?  And I'm not blaming this on either of our presidents since then.  It just seems strange to me that it only took a little more time to put a man on the moon (Sputnik was in 1957 and the moon landing was in 1969, so 12 years) than it did to find and assassinate the man behind 9/11 (2001-2011).

But being the optimist I am, it's my sincere hope America (led by the millennials, who, thank God, are not like my generation, the Gen Xers, at all) can unite once again when a crisis arises and actually work together to solve it rather than blaming it on the opposing political party.

I like this story that author Steven Johnson tells about President Reagan going in for surgery after being shot in 1981.  As he was being prepped for surgery, the President looked at the doctors and joked that he hoped they were all Republicans.  The head surgeon, an ardent democrat, said something brilliant, "Mr. President, today we are all Republicans."

I hope in the name of saving US lives and preventing a pandemic in our country we can all be Democrats or Republicans in the name of securing or country and helping our citizens.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Halloween Poem

Each Halloween
  colossal oaks
    lurk along streets, parks, hollows.
Stripped of their yellow, brown, and red veneer,
    they shiver ever so silently
      in the October twilight.
They seethe among shadows,
    their twisted trunks grinning.

The squirrels
  usually scurrying and hoarding acorns
    have sought the safety of the pines.
The sparrows too
  have fled to the elms and maples.

A young boy - on a dare -
  takes the short cut
    through the darkest hollow.
He hears the branches shiver
  in the wind while he wipes
    the sweat from behind
      his mask.
He suddenly realizes
    it has been an Indian summer
      and there has been no breeze.

Each Halloween
   these colossal oaks -
       silenced since early settlers
        hacked and sawed
         them into submission -
    twitch in anticipation
      their thick roots
        reach out to trip
      their skeletal branches
        anxious to snatch
          a solitary
           trick or treater.

Ever so slightly, the boy shifts to the
  far edge of the path
    and clutches his bag of candy tight
      just in case.

     But all is silent.

     The movement must have been a trick of the twilight.

There is a tug
  and he turns to see a slender branch
    caught on the bottom of his bag.

It tugs again,
  almost 
   eager

    and the bag splits
      and his candy spills
        onto the path.

Then the boy stumbles on a thick root
  that had not been there before.
He slips into the tall grass
   beneath the trees.
He hears the branches shaking
    as if a storm is brewing.

It must be his friends playing a trick.

Then each ankle is snatched,
   each wrist encircled.
Dried leaves and foul bark
   fill his gaping mouth.
Dust and splinters
   clutter his disbelieving eyes.

The branches tug
   more eager than ever

     and the boy splits
       and he is spilled
         into the trees.

Now a storm is brewing
  the oaks creak and moan
    as their bases bend and
    their branches snatch.

This is no trick at all.

  The trees have their treat.