Friday thought: remembering 911

This photo was taken of Port Authority Police Officer Christopher Amoroso shortly before he went back into #2 World Trade Center and was killed in the collapse. (Photo by Todd Maisel/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)  

This photo was taken of Port Authority Police Officer Christopher Amoroso shortly before he went back into #2 World Trade Center and was killed in the collapse. (Photo by Todd Maisel/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images) 

I saw this photo earlier this week and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Obviously, the gravity of the situation and the memories of this tragic day has been on all of our hearts and minds. But what struck me most about this photo, however, was the specificity of this man's actions, of this man's story.  I don't know about you, but I've never had to make such a decision, to put my life on the line or risk serious injury for another. But that doesn't mean I haven't thought about it and wondered how I would respond in such a moment. Would I rescue those nearby? Or protect myself first? Not only did Officer Christopher Amoroso save the woman who needed his help, which clearly was a dangerous situation (his bruised eye), he returned to the scene and tried to save another.

This type of decision, this type of action, does not happen in a single moment. He didn't wake up that morning and decide, "I'm going to die a hero today." Instead, he probably woke with the same mindset he had the day before and the day before, and before, and before. Instead, he went about his day, acting similar to the many days before, routinely serving, thinking of others, and doing the right thing. How do I know that? Because conflict reveals our deepest truest selves. Because fear reveals what we care most about - ourselves? Or others? And when Officer Christopher Amoroso was confronted with one of the greatest conflicts our American soil has ever experienced, he chose to serve and protect others. He chose to be brave.

"Bravery," I tell my kiddos, "is not acting without fear. It's acting in spite of it, while you're surrounded with it, while you're immersed in it." I can only imagine how terrified Office Christopher Amoroso must have been. Yet, he still ran back to the burning towers, in hopes of saving another. Because he made that decision many days prior as he built himself into a routine of sacrifice, service, and bravery.

Doing the right thing - doing the hard thing - is a daily choice that becomes a habit, a reaction, and a lifestyle that allows us to do - when the time comes - the seemingly impossible. This is why small things matter, why character and integrity matter, and why holding that string that connects us all is so important. Because when we begin to falter, when our weaknesses begin to rear their ugly faces, we can look around and see our brothers and sisters holding us up inspiring us to stay strong, to do what is right and - if needs be - head back into burning buildings. 

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NINE things a woman couldn’t do in 1971, or later!


“The following list is of NINE things a woman couldn’t do in 1971” Robyn, aka sunsong23 writes “a woman could not:

  • Get a Credit Card in her own name – it wasn’t until 1974 that a law forced credit card companies to issue cards to women without their husband’s signature (via).

  • Be guaranteed that they wouldn’t be unceremoniously fired for the offense of getting pregnant – that changed with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of *1978*. Despite the act, pregnancy discrimination is still a major issue in woman’s sports (via).

  • Fight on the front lines – admitted into military academies in 1976 it wasn’t until 2013 that the military ban on women in combat was lifted (via).

  • Serve on a jury - It varied by state (Utah deemed women fit for jury duty way back in 1879), but the main reason women were kept out of jury pools was that they were considered the center of the home, which was their primary responsibility as caregivers. They were also thought to be too fragile to hear the grisly details of crimes and too sympathetic by nature to be able to remain objective about those accused of offenses. In 1961, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a Florida law that exempted women from serving on juries. It wasn't until 1973 that women could serve on juries in all 50 states (via).

  • Get an Ivy League education - Yale and Princeton didn't accept female students until 1969. Harvard didn't admit women until 1977 (when it merged with the all-female Radcliffe College). Brown (which merged with women's college Pembroke), Dartmouth and Columbia did not offer admission to women until 1971, 1972 and 1981, respectively (via).

  • Take legal action against workplace sexual harassment. Indeed the first time a court recognized office sexual harassment as grounds for any legal action was in 1977 (via).

  • Decide not to have sex if their husband wanted to – spousal rape wasn’t criminalized in all 50 states until 1993 (via).

  • Until a 1972 Supreme Court case, unmarried women in some states were prohibited from purchasing birth control pills (via).


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9/6/19 : Friday's Thoughtful Thought


I don't know if you experience themes in you daily life, I know I do. Often actually. Almost weekly, an idea or truth or topic will somehow align itself perfectly and continually show up randomly throughout my days. Sometimes the themes are large and heavy, like the concepts of justice and humanity. Other times its something simple, like the importance of Hamlet being performed in prison. Other times it is something dark, like the role hate plays in our lives and surrounding society. My favorite "week of themes", though, was the one when Russia continually invaded my space and I was then fortunate enough to learn how three Russian men, at different times, prevented all out war against the US, saving thousands of lives.

This week was another one of those weeks, with the theme being, "You are the sum of the five people you hang out with most." It started with an email from my boss, Mr. Thompson, and ended with an early morning conversation with a fellow colleague, Mr. Truax, when he shared how most all of his teaching accolades can be traced back to his early years and the mentors he surrounded himself with. Between the two bookends, this theme continually crept into my thoughts through podcasts (Your Weird, by The Minimalists), my current morning reading (The Art of Gathering: How we Meet and Why it Matters, by Priya Parker), conversations with my son about whom he chooses to hang out with, conversations with some of staff about whom they decide to hang out with, and a conversation with my big sister about whom we decide to "let into her arena" (a phrase from Brene Brown and her brilliant Netflix special, A Call to Courage).

I appreciate the concept that we are the sum of the five people we hang out with most, largely because it’s true! Think of students and how the groups they cluster with are greater than the any of the present individuals, how it encourages kids to act and think in ways they may never do on their own (negative and positive). Think about the people we go to when we're tired or scared or hurt and how the advice they give, and the direction they point us toward greatly impacts the kind of people we are and will become. We are, most often, the sum of the five people we hang out with most.

But it isn't just the people that impact us. It's also the stories we surround ourselves with. News stories, the novels and non-fiction we choose to read, the movies and TV programs we binge or watch on a nightly basis, the podcasts we listen to, and the music that entertains us. These also play a crucial role in the summing up of who we are, how we interpret life and the world around, and how we choose to interact with that life and the world around.

This notion, this truth, that we are the sum of what we CHOOSE to surround ourselves with is deeply comforting to me because it means that although we are greatly susceptible to our surroundings, we are also in complete control. WE CAN CHOSE WHO WE LISTEN TO AND THE STORIES WE SURROUND OURSELVES WITH!!!

Who or what kind of stories are you surrounded by? Do they encourage you to sit in the stink and muck of the situation? Or do they sniff once and then move on and toward a solution? Do they feed frustration or hope? Are they healthy? Or are they toxic?

Because we are not water, simply following the path of least resistance, completely characterized by our immediate surroundings. We are human - we’re alive! - and therefore have a choice on how to respond, how to think, and how to ensure we are healthy by purposefully surrounding ourselves with people and ideas and stories that, as Kim Chambers says, "normalize greatness."

Who are your five that make up the sum of who you are? And perhaps more importantly, what are they - and you - making?

The answer to these questions has been on my heart and mind a lot this week.


May we all work and play and live like Calvin. And then inspires others to do the same.

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8/30/19 : Friday's Thoughtful Thought

We moved into our new home almost three months ago, and for almost three months I have been putting off two simple tasks: fixing the back door to the house and fixing the bottom shelf in my closet. This last weekend I finally got to them both, and it took me less than 5 minutes to complete the task. Seriously. What was strange, though, was that it wasn't until after they were fixed that I realized just how annoying they truly were. Even now, when I walked near the back door or into my closet, there is a noticeable missing of anxiety that I wasn't even aware was there. With their broken presence gone, I truly do feel a lot better!

I don't know about you, but I tend to do this often. I ignore a simple task that nags at me everyday for little reason other than I just don't want to do it, or because I have other "more pressing things to do." But in reality, taking a literal 5-10 minutes out of my day to fix whatever it is that needs fixing truly relieves me of unneeded anxiety or annoyance, providing more space and patience to deal with the bigger, more pressing things.

Do you have something like this? Have you already noticed a broken or misunderstood teaching procedure? A squeaky or jammed drawer? The grumblings of a possible disruptive student or behavior? Or is there something else either in your classroom or home that, every time you see it, use it, or think about it brings even the slightest discomfort ? If so, make time this weekend to fix it, now, before the year gets into it's groove, and relieve yourself of the little yet constant annoyance that will surely pester you for the rest of the year.

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Islandia : unparalleled beauty

Islandia — is a Latin name for Iceland and relative to the old language since this film portraits primordial and rough nature of Iceland. For the short duration of the film, you will be transported to a place that easily could be a million years ago. From unbelievable landscapes and vast valleys to painting-like terrain and majestic waterfalls and lakes - this film shows the unparalleled beauty of Iceland and its unearthly glory (via)

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When: the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink


“We simply don’t take issues of when as seriously as we take questions of what” (pg. 92).

“mental keeness, as shown by rationally evaluating evidence, was greater early in the day. And mental squishiness, as evidenced by resorting to stereotypes, increased as the day wore on” (pg 21).

The most unproductive moment of the day is 2:55 (pg 55).


“hourly five-minute walking breaks boosted energy levels, sharpened focus, and “improved mood throughout the day and reduced feelings of fatigue in the late afternoon. These ‘microbursts of activity,’ as researchers call them, were also more effective than a single thirty-minute walking break - so much so that the researchers suggest that organizations ‘introduce physical active breaks during the workday routine.’ Regular short walking breaks in the workplace also increase motivation and concentration and enhance creativity” (pg 61) . . . So if you’re looking for the Platonic ideal of a restorative break, the perfect combination of scarf, hat, and gloves to insulate yourself from the cold breath of the afternoon, consider a short walk outside with a friend during which you discuss something other than work” (pg 63).


The most powerful lunch breaks have two key ingredients - autonomy and detachment. Autonomy - exercising some control over what you do, how you do it, when you do it, and whom you do it with - is critical for high performance, especially on complex tasks. But it’s equally crucial when we take breaks from complex tasks. ‘The extent to which employees can determine how they utilize their lunch breaks may be just as important as what employees do during their lunch’” (pg 65).

Adolescents who get less sleep than they need are at higher risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, and car crashes . . . ‘Evidence also links short sleep duration with obesity and a weakened immune system’” (pg. 90).


“Temporal landmarks interrupt attention to day-to-day minutiae, causing people to take a big picture view of their lives and thus focus on achieving their goals . . . The implications of the fresh start effect, like the forces that propel it, are also personal and social. Individuals who get off to a stumbling start - at a new job, on an important project, or in trying to improve their health - can alter their course by using a temporal landmark to start again. People can strategically create turning points in their personal histories” (pg 96).


This made me think of FedEx days that Mr. Pink talks about in Drive. “Groups didn’t march toward their goals at a steady, even pace. Instead, they spent considerable time accomplishing almost nothing - until they experienced a surge of activity that always came at the temporal midpoint of a project” (pg 126).


“People are willing to override a relatively long period of one kind of behavior with a relatively short period of another just because it occurred at the end of one’s life. This ‘end of life bias’ suggests that we believe people’s true selves are revealed at the end” (pg 155).

“Every Pixar movie has its protagonist achieving the goal he wants only to realize it is not what the protagonist needs. Typically, this leads the protagonist to let go of what he wants (a house, the Piston Cup, Andy) to get what he needs (a true yet unlikely companion; real friends; a lifetime together with friends)” (pg 163).

“The best endings don’t leave us happy. Instead, they produce something richer - a rush of unexpected insight, a fleeting moment of transcendence, the possibility that by discarding what we wanted we’ve gotten what we need” (pg 164).


Synching Fast and Slow:

“Groups must synchronize on three levels - to the boss, to the tribe, and to the heart” (pg 181) . . . after individuals synch to the boss, the external standard that sets the pace of their work, they must sync to the tribe - to one another. That requires a deep sense of belonging” (pg 189) . . . which “boosts job satisfaction and perfomance” (pg 191).

Thinking in Tenses:

Nostalgia is a “bittersweet but predominantly positive and fundamentally social emotion. Thinking in the past tense offers a window into the intrinsic self, a portal to who we really are. It makes the present meaningful” (pg 214).

Grade: A+

On the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast, Daniel Pink claims that out of all his works, this book is the most influential on his day-to-day life. I would have to agree.

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Gladwell owes Atticus an apology : An Open Letter to Mr. Gladwell

Dear Mr. Gladwell,

Sir, you are one of my favorite minds of the 21st century - or any century for that matter - and I have used your words and ideas in countless conversations, student assemblies, and writings. You have inspired and encouraged my thoughts and actions beyond quantifiable measure. However, you have also challenged the character of Atticus Finch. And for that Mr. Gladwell, I think you owe Atticus Finch an apology.

So do my 10th grade class.

After reading How to Kill a Mockingbird to my 10th graders, Mr. Gladwell, we listened to your podcast, Stave vs Johnson. It’s a great podcast, and not because of its content, but because of, well . . . yes, because of its content. What I mean is this. The story of Tom Robinson is abhorrent and terrifying and absolutely shameful, I think it obvious that you would agree on that. So too would anyone who reads TKAMB. But from my experience, what often times happens is that once the dull pages of the tattered and worn out book are closed resting comfortably on the shelf, so too does the story of Tom Robinson, Atticus Finch, and the rest of the TKAMB characters.

Then comes your podcast and the story of Nathanial Johnson, a black man accused of raping a white woman, and suddenly those fictional characters and places and hard discussions are in our current lives and colorful living rooms. Suddenly, they cannot be easily closed or quickly forgotten because they are disturbingly real. My students were appropriately shocked and horrified with this discovery and we had some deep and truly meaningful conversations around it.

But then, Mr. Gladwell, you make a critical assertion, that Atticus may not be a racist but he is indeed a sexist, and my students were once again appropriately shocked and horrified. Me too. But because I trust and respect you, Mr. Gladwell, and because it only made sense for my students to practice their critical thinking and analytical skills, we decided to hear your accusation and put Atticus Finch on the stand. “Is he a sexist?” I ask, “Or does Mr. Gladwell owe him an apology?”

Mr. Gladwell, you did not fair well.

Here’s why.

#1: He has Integrity

When asked by Scout why he was defending Tom Robinson, even though there was “high talk around town to the effect that he shouldn’t”, Atticus responds with, “. . . if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again” because his word, his character, and his moral ground would be compromised. For his kids to grow up to be the type of men and women he wanted them to be, he had to be the type of person he expected them to be, even when - especially when - it was hard.

What we say and believe about ourselves from the comfort of our living room chair or the safety of our internet lives does not reveal our true selves. How we treat those who cannot defend themselves or provide us any gain does.

#2: He is Honesty

“What’s a whore-lady?” Scout asks her Uncle Jack.
In response, Uncle Jack “plunged into another long tale about an old Prime Minister who sat in the House of Commons and blew feathers in the air and tried to keep them there when all about him men were losing their heads. He was trying to answer the question, Scout believes, “but he made no sense whatsoever.”

Later, while sitting with Atticus in the living room, Uncle Jack admits that he didn’t answer Scout directly.

“Jack!” Atticus responded, “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ‘em.”

No matter how difficult the situation or the answer, Atticus always tries answers his kids as honestly and straightforward as he can. Which is why they keep coming to him for answers, because they trust that he will tell them the honest answer. Even if it isn’t pretty.

#3: He is courageous

In chapter 11, Jem has to read to Mrs. Dubose for ruining her flowers. It isn’t until the end of the chapter that Scout and Jem discover why them reading to her was so important. Mrs. Dubose was addicted to pain-killers. She was also ready to die, but before she did, she made sure she was able to “leave this world beholden to nothing and nobody.” Jem’s reading was her way of weaning herself off the painkillers. couragous

“You know,” Atticus says to Jem, “she was a great lady.”

“A great lady?” Jem raised his head. His face was scarlet. “After all those things she said about you, a lady?”

“She was. She had her own views about things, a lot different from mine, maybe” but still a lady. “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.” Courage isn’t carrying around borrowed power, “It’s when you now you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her . . . She was the bravest person I ever knew.”

#4: He is reliable

“There are men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs. is one of them,” Ms. Maudie argues to Jem.

“I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that’s what they seemed like,” Jem responds, knowing full well his father is a great man but suffering under the weight of disappointment.

“We’re the safest folks in the world,” Ms. Maudie responds, “We’re so rarely called on to be Christians, but when we are, we’ve got men like Atticus to go for us.”

This, said by a woman. Wouldn’t she, more than Gladwell, know if Atticus was a sexist? And if he was, could she really say such a thing about him?

#5 : He is sacrificial

Bob Ewell is beginning to make threats against Atticus and the family, and Jem and Scout are scared. Atticus isn’t. Not because the Bob isn’t a scary dude who can do bad things, but because Atticus isn’t thinking about his danger or what might happen to him. He’s considering someone else. And that someone else, for now, is safe. Because of Atticus.

“What’s bothering you son?” Atticus asks Jem, shortly after Mr. Ewell took the stand.

“Mr. Ewell.” Jem replies.

“What has happened"?” Atticus asks.

“Nothing has happened. We’re scared for you and we think you oughta do something about him.”

Atticus smiles wryly, “Do what? Put him under a peace bond?”

“When a man says he’s gonna get you, looks like he means it.”

“He meant it when he said it,” says Atticus. “Jem, see if you can stand in Bob Ewell’s shoes a minute. I destroyed his last shred of credibility at that trial, if he had any to begin with. The man had to have some kind of comeback, his kind always does. So if spitting in my face and threatening me saved Mayella Ewell one extra beating, that’s something I’ll gladly take. He had to take it out on somebody and I’d rather it be me than that houseful of children out there. You understand?”

Jem nods.

This might be my favorite story of Atticus. Good God that’s good!

#6: He is Just

“The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into the jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”

Atticus was speaking so quietly his las word crashed on our ears. I looked up, and his face was vehement. “There’s nothing more sickening to me than a low-grade white man who’ll take advantage of a Negro’s ignorance.”

I believe he would say the same for anyone taking advantage of a woman too because the greater and deeper truth Atticus is explaining is that he has no tolerance or respect for anyone who abuses his or her power. Preying on the poor is what cowards do.

#7: He is Reliable

“I can’t say I approve of everything he does, Maudie, but he’s my brother, and I just want to know when this will ever end.” Her voice rose: “It tears him to pieces. He doesn’t show it much, but it tears him to pieces. I’ve seen him when - what else do they want from him, Maudie, what else?”

“What does who want, Alexandra?” Miss Maudie asked.

“I mean the town. They’re perfectly willin to let him do what they’re too afraid to do themselves - it might lose ‘em a nickel. They’re perfectly willing to let him wreck his health doing what they’re afraid to do, they’re -”

“Have you ever thought of it this way, Alexandra? Whether Maycomb knows it or not, we’re paying the highest tribute we can pay a man. We trust him to do right. It’s that simple” (pg 236).

It truly is, just that simple.

Mr. Gladwell, I have the deepest respect and awe for you and what you do and how you think. I love your books, podcasts, and mind. But on this, and perhaps this alone, I strongly disagree and I think you owe him an apology.