N Stuff

MFPE Conference 2019: A few takeaways


There’s a scene from my favorite movie, Liberal Arts, where the main character is trying to encourage a young genius but potential dropout why college is so important. “It’s one of the few places where you can read and write poetry, and no one will punch you in the face” (or something like that). I never really understood those that line, but what I think it means is that college is a place where one can experiment, try out new ideas and ways of living, say and do somewhat radical things, yet still be safe. Because their in college, and that’s where one is supposed to try and do new and somewhat radical things.

The same could also be, should also be, said about teacher conferences. At least, that’s my goal anyway, which is one of the main reasons I love presenting at them. And this latest conference, in Belgrade MT, was one of those moments.

I hosted a two-part presentation entitled, Social Media: The Library of our Time which was a fleshing out of a post I’d written about a year ago, Entertained to Death. The second part of the presentation was a hands-on workshop where we watched the following music video/short film:

For almost an hour, a room full of educators (English, history, math, music, art teachers and a few college students), we disected the hell out of this video, and it was truly awesome. Truly. And was a manifestation of all I had written about in Entertained to Death.

One of my takeaways, however, is this:

Student involvement: Because there isn’t much written about the videos/art, we the audience - the students - are responsible for the interpretations. We cannot rely upon another more “trusted” opinion on the matter. Our interpretation is the interpretation. We just need to defend it.

In the discussion, we had a great time coming up with possible interpretations and meanings, all of which were purposeful and deep - super deep, and a strong affirmation that this needs to make its way into our classrooms and cultures.

Goal: Get this into a short, more condensed written version for possible publication. Also, submit more workshops for next years MFPE Conference:

  • Autonomy with Standards

  • Social Media as Content: A Library of our Time (2 parts)

  • Prove You’re Alive (a sort of injection to inspire and encourage teachers)

  • Stories Matter: How stories can make us better people

  • PDP Notes: A possible note taking strategy

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Creativity  :  Inspiring Art

Friday Thought : Leave it at the door. be Awesome.

My friend, Ron Hardy

My friend, Ron Hardy

I was in my third year of teaching, I think (maybe fourth) when much of my life was far from where I'd hoped it would be and I was beginning to struggle with confidence, joy, and purpose. Unsurprisingly, it began to impact my teaching, my classroom, and my students. Only, I didn’t notice.

Then, I somewhere around Christmas, I received an anonymous email from a student that was written from an anonymous email account informing me that I was not doing a great job, that my teaching was sub-par, and that he (I think it was a he, at least) and his classmates deserved better. Luckily, I received that email on a Friday so I could spend the weekend sulking, arguing, excusing, then finally accepting that he was right. I needed to do better. Because he and they and my colleagues and my family deserved better. And because I was better.

The following week I started writing, "Leave it at the door. be Awesome." on the bottom of every lesson plan. A few weeks in, I made it the footer to my lesson plan template which I have used ever since, reminding me each and every day I sat down to create a lesson to leave whatever struggles, issues, and frustrations I might have at the door and be Awesome.

I wasn't perfect after that, nor did I always leave everything at the door. In fact, every now and then I would gather it all in my arms, squeeze it through the door, then drop it right in the middle of the floor for all my students to see. Like the day I spent sharing memories of my childhood best friend because the night before I had discovered it was the anniversary of passing. He had been gone for almost six years, and I never even knew. We had lost touch over the years, and when I discovered he had passed away six years prior, I felt terrible, guilty, and at a loss.

I didn’t sleep much that night.

So I wrestled through it with my students, I shared some of my favorite memories, talked about how the night before I could only see so much of Ronnie in my son that I ended up holding him for almost an hour while I talked about my childhood friend, and I talked with them about loss and life and the struggle in between. Then I had them share memories of their friends and families and write brief notes to those they mentioned. It wasn't all that academic of a class, but kids referenced it for years as one of their favorite classes and, ever since, I have committed to sharing his story with whomever I can during the month of October, the month he so abruptly left this world.

Sometimes life and circumstances seem more than we can bare. Or, as Bilbo Baggins said, it can make us feeling exhausted and "thin . . . stretched, like butter, spread over too much bread."

In those moments, for me at least, it is healthy to remind myself that I am needed - by my students, my colleagues, my family, and my community. That I am bigger than my circumstances, better than what some might think or say about me, and that I am able to help and serve and do great things, even when I don't feel like it.

People need us. They need us to be great, to be better than we often feel and sometimes think. They need us to be their mothers, fathers, friends, counselors, encouragers, planners, champions, and safe places. They a need us to be Awesome. Which means, sometimes, that they need us to be vulnerable and open and raw. They need us to be human. Which is great! Because that is exactly what humans are. Awesome.

And because we are, we can also be.

Leave it at the door. be Awesome.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Open Thoughts  :  Friday Thoughts : Ron Hardy

The Peacock Wicker Chair : How it Became A Global Icon

I bet you never look at these chairs or those album covers or any concert where it might be featured the same way again.

I know I won’t.

But also, I just when artists have this sort of dialogue with other artists/historical figures. Not only does it show homage and respect to those people, it heightens their message, their purpose. If only I were smart or cultured enough to catch it on my own.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Creativity  :  Inspiring Art

An Island of Peace and Quiet

“You have to be at peace with the fact that something might happen, and you might not make it through,” says Alexandra de Steiguer, the caretaker for the Oceanic Hotel, in Brian Bolster’s short documentary, "Winter’s Watch." De Steiguer has spent the past 19 winters tending to the 43-acre grounds of the hotel, on Star Island, which sits 10 miles off the coast of New England. In the long, wintry off-season, she is the island’s sole inhabitant. (via)

Reminds me of The Light Between Oceans, the book not the movie (that was terrible) and really makes me want to visit the hotel during the winter months.

Can you imagine what you could do and think up with all that time?

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  :  On Living : Short Films

Friday Thought : A Boy and His Dog

I listened to a great podcast recently, about a Boy and His Dog.

The boy, who had fallen on hard times, was selling his dog - his best friend - for a hundred dollars simply because he needed to eat. Being a writer wasn't paying any bills. Little Jimmy didn't really care, though. He wanted the nice dog, but for a better bargain. So Little Jimmy took advantage of the man and his plight and instead offered $25. The skinny kid sighed, knowing he needed to feed his wife and couldn't afford to feed his dog, and finally accepting $40.

Two weeks later, when a screen writer offered to buy that same dog for $200, Little Jimmy once again took advantage of the situation and refused to sell the dog for anything less than $15,000 AND a speaking role in the man's new and upcoming movie! The man had written the screenplay in four days and sold it for $35,000 dollars, only a few days prior.

The dog was Butkus. The skinny kid, Sylvester Stallone (pictured above). And the movie was Rocky.

Whenever I come to work, I am constantly encouraged and inspired by those of you who have chosen to live a Sylvester Stallone sort of life. You work hard, endure hardships, then rather than sitting in the mess of life, you find solutions. Thank you for being that for me, for your fellow colleagues, and most importantly, for the students who have the privilege of being in your presence.

I promise you, they notice.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Open Thoughts  :  Friday Thoughts

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).


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  : History

The Memory Book

My grandfather didn’t leave me any journals, but he did leave me tools, and I cannot thank him enough.

I love these short videos - for a myriad of reasons. But what draws me to them the most is the idea of simple acts that carry with them great and lasting consequences. How we can live on beyond our days when we create or make something beautiful.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Open Thoughts  :  On Parenting : My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes

Ryan Gosling's cereal could make you cry

In 2013, Ryan McHenry created the video series entitled Ryan Gosling Won't Eat His Cereal. It was met with much acclaim, catching the attention of Entertainment Online, Huffington Post, even Gosling himself who acknowledged McHenry in a tweet, writing, “I actually love cereal” (via) even though his movie appearances prove otherwise.

Then, in “late 2013, McHenry started experiencing a painful lump in his leg.” He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and discovered that it had spread to his lungs. “He announced the news on his Twitter page”, writing,

"I got told yesterday that I have cancer. I would just like to let you all know I'm staying positive and I'm going to fight it. Fuck Cancer." (via)


Sadly, it didn’t work.

“After initial signs that McHenry had beaten cancer . . . {it} returned,” and on May 2, 2015 McHenry’s body succumbed to the deadly disease (via).

But not before one last comedic stand.

Two days before his death McHenry tweeted:

“Yesterday was my 10,000th day alive on this Earth and not one of you got me a card or anything..."

On May 5, Ryan Gosling posted this:

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Humanity  : Ryan Gosling