Category Archives: Education

A Universe of Dots.

by Paul Koidis Jr.

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What do you see when you look IN?

It takes some time, I know, but you can do it. You may need to re-adjust your stance, back up, inch forward, bend your antenna, slide the exposure a little, twirl the focus, even change the camera, but you will get there, eventually and at last, and finally see it. Continue reading

Resistance: The Documentary Intent on Opening Your Eyes

Medical journals are filled with stories of men, women and children losing their lives to bacterial infections, infections which came to them via going about their daily  lives. The alarming thing is that these stories didn’t stop happening after the arrival of penicillin.

We read today that every year, 2 million people acquire antibiotic-resistance infections in the US alone. If that’s not cause for concern, we don’t know what is.

This week we got to sit down with filmmaker Michael Graziano and screen his new documentary “Resistance”. We’ll be sharing our interview with him on health, bacteria and living in the US tomorrow, but today we wanted to share the teaser to his film:


Continue reading

An Intent for Education

As someone who was blessed with good schools in my hometown, the education needs of others has often slipped my mind. Sure, living in cities after college had made me aware of multiple teacher strikes, as well as the calls to reform public schools. Still, having gone to public school myself, and afterwards a four year college, I wondered if perhaps it wasn’t the schools, but the neighborhoods, family units, and other factors that were more responsible for young students’ struggles.

That mindset, however, was entirely changed after aimlessly turning on DirecTV’s Audience Channel to discover the documentary, Commonwealth. The documentary follows the plight of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s oldest city, after 24 of their public schools were shut down in 2013. Educators, parents, and students themselves go on to discuss the disturbing fact that Pennsylvania spends an average of 400 million dollars per year in order to build and maintain their vast prisons (a number which is only growing). Students and teachers alike claim that in essence, the prisons are built for the youth of the city, who are given little to no chance to avoid incarceration as they are shuffled through the public education system. Horrifying details – such as a test administered to third grade students help determine which children are more or less likely to become criminals – emerged as I continued to watch the program.

Soon enough, I found myself investigating education not only in Philadelphia, but in my own city, Chicago, and elsewhere across the country. Documentaries such as Teach, which discuss educators in public schools, their triumphs and their struggles, and David Guggenheim’s first groundbreaking documentary, Waiting for ‘Superman’ were added to my list. Though Waiting for Superman has come under criticism recently, all of these documentaries at their core raise awareness for the cause of improved public education.

Education reform should be a much discussed issue, even for those who aren’t yet worried about their own children’s school system. In a country where many, widely different and uniquely talented students are subjected to standardized tests and curriculums that leave little room for exploring fascination and grooming each student’s interests, and where much emphasis is placed on acquiring a college education (which is often too expensive or leaves students in years of debt), we seem to be hanging our youth out to dry. Too many times we’ve heard others comment that they would hate to be graduating from college with the current job market, or they’re concerned about the economic troubles our future youth will be handed upon entering their adult lives.

So, for the sake of both my own and young students’ futures, I have made the intention to focus additional efforts on educational needs. Of course, one of the first steps is participating in local elections and concerning myself with the education platforms of politicians running for office. Many education decisions are made at the state level, meaning choosing a president with a focus on bettering schools is not nearly as effective (though it helps!) as voting for officials closer to home who have the interest and the ability to more quickly enforce changes within the schools closest to you.

Beyond that, I plan on opening myself up to the opinions of others – not just lawmakers and enforcers, but the teachers, students themselves, and administrators who face education struggles on a daily basis. It seems clear to me that these are the people who would have the clearest ideas regarding what education policies work, and which are leaving students to struggle. Supporting those educators, through better pay, better supplies, or whatever else they may require, will only benefit our young students and future workforce in the long run.

Finally, I intend to guide my own philanthropic efforts toward volunteering with after school programs and other activities that given students the opportunity to explore passions that may not be emphasized, or even available, within the public school system. You can too, it’s not as time-consuming as one may think! Whether it’s assisting with an after school sport, offering to help raise funds for your local school’s art and music programs, or even speaking to students about your own unique career, and how you got there, your efforts could inspire and help cultivate a young kid’s dreams!

 

Back To School Intents

shutterstock kids
Last week, after dropping Leela off to her first day of 4
th grade at school, I came home and a wave of exhaustion, relaxation, elation and depression all hit at once. My 7th grader, Tara, started a new Middle School two weeks earlier.

Back to school bliss or back to school blues?! I couldn’t decide. 

We had had an adventurous summer, with lots of friends and family visiting us. But we also truly relaxed, enjoying days with no schedules. My summer intent for my kids was to let them get bored – rather than sign up for camps, we did a few classes and they spent the days at home figuring out what to do. They read, they watched television, played video games, painted, wrote, and hung out. I let their minds wander, aimlessly, happily, with no agenda.

Yet, within hours of them back in school, I was on my calendar, scheduling after school activities, logistics of two different drop offs and pickups, work commitments. I found myself mentally scheduling time to relax with our new Fall schedule! Why does it seem inevitable that our modern life gets us busy again? I find that despite trying not to get my kids too busy, the homework/music lessons/sports/friends life balance already seems an untenable goal.

As I begin the Fall, I decided to set some Back To School intents for me and my kids.

So here goes:

My intent is to meditate regularly.
This is top priority for me. And if I can commit to it, and show my girls through my example its value, I believe they will want to do it as well. I love meditating with my girls. We sit together in our favorite spots in the living room, we cuddle a bit, talk about the day, close our eyes, meditate, and then set intents for the week or day.

My intent is to make sleep a priority in our life.
My girls are growing, and need their sleep. For the last few months, we have been able to sleep without waking up with an alarm clock. I know the health and emotional benefits of good sleep, and don’t want to compromise on this for our family. We have an early morning schedule now, so if it means compromising some activities, that’s ok. Sleep is more important.

My intent is to focus on nourishing foods.
I just completed a two week cleanse, and for the first time since I can remember am feeling good without my cookies, ice cream, brownies, and heavy carb-filled pastas, pizza’s etc.

Also, while writing my book, Living With Intent, I was more mindful of my eating habits and why I was choosing the foods I consume. I realized that I am passing on my own eating habits to my kids. Once again, if I can guide them through my own example and through the changes in our meals at home, I hope I can teach them better habits.

My intent is to be flexible.
If we need to adjust schedules, skip a dance class, drop tennis, forgo doing extra math homework, I need to let go and know that it’s ok. Together we can figure out schedules and think about “time management”, but at the end of the day our journey is about love and service. I do believe flexibility is one of the keys to finding joy, and want to embrace that idea fully this school year.

My intent is to cherish the love of learning.
My kids are learning so many incredible things in school this year. I want to celebrate the love of learning, and engage in conversations with them about new ideas and discoveries.

My intent is to express gratitude every day.
Early mornings, new schedules, lots of homework – its easy to fall into the back to school blue mode. Instead I want to focus on gratitude, and incorporate it into our daily conversation. I want us to share at least one thing daily that we are grateful for.

 I’d love to hear your intents for the Fall here in the comment section. 

Please do share them on www.intent.com as well, so we can keep the dialogue going!

Student Eloquently Points Out What’s Wrong with Education System in Five Minutes

It seems you can’t go five minutes without hearing about how apathetic today’s youth is about education – that they only care about getting famous or doing things that make them happy rather than learning. We are consistently bombarded with statistics about lower test scores, op-eds on why today’s college students aren’t ready for the demanding rigor of the current work force and the reminder that the United States is constantly slipping in rank when it comes to world education.

One Knox County, Tennessee student is going to tell you why. And you know what? It’s not because of apathetic students or lazy teachers. In five short minutes he breaks down the history of the “common core” and why it is failing America’s students, its teachers and the overall system. He explains the problem with treating education like a fortune 500 business and how a student’s success and quality of learning can’t be accessed by the percentage score of a scantron test. He stands up for his peers, their desire to learn, and for the hard working teachers that try to give them that opportunity to do so against seemingly impossible odds.

I come from a family of teachers. My mother just retired from teaching second grade. My father has been teaching at a community college for over 15 years and this fall my brother started his first year as a fourth grade teacher. When I go home for the holidays I will spend most of my time listening to conversations about lesson plans, parent teacher conferences and a rundown of all of the tedious paperwork that has to be filled out just to get a student diagnosed with ADD. When my mother was teaching she would often be at the school until 6pm, and when she came home she would be up until 10 or 11 grading papers, tweaking lesson plans or responding to parent e-mails. Every child of a teacher knows that it is a 24/7 job and that as the years go on it becomes more and more impossible. As the video points out, our teachers today are graded by percentage points on quarterly standardized tests rather than the desire to learn they inspire in their students. It doesn’t measure the important things like the amount of time spent helping struggling students or thinking outside the box. For the sake of their own jobs teachers today are forced to teach their students how to think like a multiple choice question rather than creating their own original ideas.

If we fail our students in learning how to think for themselves, how do we ever expect them to succeed in life?

If you know a teacher that could use this video as encouragement, share it with them to show your support! Or tell us what you think about this student’s speech in the comments below.

Arizona Teen Believes Positive Peer Pressure Could End Bullying

Drum roll please… What started out as a crazy idea has manifested. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We’re so excited to unveil our first hero to you!

The Be O.N.E. Project

Who: Matthew Kaplan, 16-years-old

What: Peer-to-Peer Anti-Bullying Program Targeting Middle Schools

Where: Phoenix

Why: It’s cool to be kind!

The Catalyst: Bullying is a topic of concern in schools across America. With convenient access to digital devices and social media, hurtful messages are multiplied and spread like chicken pox. Adding to the angst, kids can post harmful messages with anonymity, ease and without a real-time reaction from the victim.

Two years ago, when Matthew Kaplan’s kid brother Josh was bullied in middle school, he decided he had to do something. “One day, he came home from school and his self-confidence was shaken,” Matthew said. “He started to withdraw and wasn’t himself anymore.”

Josh said he received dozens of hurtful text messages, like “you suck”. What made things worse — he discovered that his friends, disguised behind blocked phone numbers, were sending the messages. It may sound benign, but at that age, friends are your world, so when you get several messages, you start to think there really is something wrong with you. “It felt horrible,” Josh said. “I probably cried every day in the 4th and 5th grade.”

Big brother Matthew took advocacy to a heroic level by creating the anti-bullying peer experiential program, The Be O.N.E. (Open to New Experiences) Project.

The Act: Through this journey, Matthew discovered his passion: Building community and fostering a positive school culture.

But how? He researched anti-bullying programs targeting middle schoolers, but could only find high school programs and believes that “the damage” is done by that age. “It’s been ingrained, become habit. You have to get them in middle school — that’s when they’re figuring out their sense of self,” Matthew said.

Without an example, Matthew decided to create a middle school anti-bullying program using peer pressure in a positive way. “What if it were cool to be kind?” he preaches enthusiastically. “What if peer pressure could be used as inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness? When they have this tool, they could either be supportive or disruptive. I want them to recognize that they have the power.”

The Be O.N.E. Project is a “positive peer pressure” program. It starts with fun exercises, like holding hands in a big circle and passing a hula hoop around without letting go of hands. There’s joy and lots of laughing. Kids get to know each other and make connections.

The day progresses with focused, serious exercises when kids are asked to sit in a circle and have 90 seconds each to finish the following sentence: “When others see me, they think _____. But if they really knew who I am _____.”

“The Be O.N.E.” challenge is the last activity. When Matthew, who delivers self-defining statements with the passion of an older brother and conviction of a minister, describes a situation, kids are instructed to stand in a line and “Be One” to cross an imaginary line, if the description resonates with them.

At the end of the program, there is a noticeable change of enlightenment and compassion in the kids. Many have tears.

Grab a tissue and watch how every single kid has “crossed a line.” Be inspired to take action — you will discover that you have the power to BE ONE person that is the change-maker in your community:

The Ripples: Matthew has inspired more than 150 Arizona teachers and high school students to be team leaders during the day-long middle school program.

We spoke to students who participated and asked them how it changed their lives. Their answers were mature, candid and give me hope.

“If I was going to send a text that would hurt their feelings, I would think about it
and delete it and say something nice.”
-Sam, 14, 8th grader

“A group of 6th graders that didn’t go through the program, they’re like the popular
kids, now they’re bullying a bunch of the 5th graders. But all the kids that did (go through the program) are trying to stop it. Really helps to go through the program. It changes your ways.”
-Kayla, 11, 6th grader

“I look for people who are eating alone (at lunch) and I talk to them. I made many new
friends this way.”
-Anonymous

Matthew’s goal is to get “The Be O.N.E” program in every Arizona middle school. We believe he will reach this goal. Join in on the fun and be the one who inspires kindness in your community. After all, it is cool to be kind.

What can YOU do?!

Take Action:

1. Support The Be O.N.E. Project

2. Be the O.N.E. to change your school culture. Invite Matthew Kaplan to come present at your school: thebeoneproject@gmail.com

3. Learn more about what YOU can do!

For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.

Join us & Go Inspire Go…

Video of the Day: A Teenager Brings His Class to Tears with a Few Words

Today Upworthy shared yet another hear-warming gut-wrenching story of what happens when love, kindness and patience mix with ingenuity. Musharaf “Mushy” Asghar had faced school years filled with bullying and isolation due to a speech impediment but with a little help from the movies, he is able to give a goodbye speech that brings everyone in the room to tears.

It just goes to show the power of educators and the spirit of children who want to learn! Be kind. Inspire.

What do you think of the video? Share with us in the comments below! 

VOD: The Ohio State Marching Band Will Blow Your Mind

People in band have never had the reputation of being the coolest kids in the world – but the Ohio State University marching band may have changed all that. During half-time at the Michigan vs Ohio game they performed a montage of “blockbuster hits.” Watching this video you are going to find it hard to believe these are real people doing this instead of digital pixels. They go from Superman to Harry Potter to Jurassic Park and each transition is more awing than the previous. Trust us, it’s worth a few minutes to see this.

What do you think of the video? If you have a suggestion for our Video of the Day column?

3 Young Adult Books that Will Make You a Better Grown Up

The third week of October is annually celebrated as “Teen Read Week.” Since young adult fiction is in a golden age and having a large impact on our mainstream media (see: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight, etc) we thought we’d take a look at the section of the book store you normally leave to teenage girls.

NYT Best-selling author John Green says he has no interest in writing about adults because they are too cautious with their emotions. By writing stories about teenagers Green is able to ask and answer the tough questions directly without having to duck around the bush – teenagers go all in when it comes to their hearts and their curiosity. Through those qualities we as adults are able to be more honest with ourselves as to the questions we have about life, love, and the world we live in. Hence the reason for this list. Actually, speaking of John Green, let’s start with him.

 

1.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.faultinourstarsbookcover

Story:  Hazel Grace Lancaster has terminal cancer. Though doctors have miraculously found a way to stop the disease from spreading she knows she only has a limited time left and her life is defined by being a cancer patient. That’s until she meets Augustus Waters. They fall in love, go on an adventure and break your heart in every conceivable way. Obvious warning: keep a box of Kleenex with you at all times while reading this book.

Why you should read it: If you think about it, we all have the same death sentence as Hazel, hers is just sooner than most of ours. Still, Hazel’s decision to live her life to her fullest capability no matter if she has a few months, days or weeks left is inspiring. TFiOS isn’t about cancer, it’s about life. It’s about lowering our defenses to allow the important people in our lives to <i>really</i> matter. It’s about letting yourself to feel – the good, the bad, all of it – because if you don’t it doesn’t matter when your terminal date is, you’re not living anyway.

Similar reads: “Looking for Alaska” – John Green, “Everyday” – David Levithan  & “You Know Where to Find Me” – Rachel Cohn

 

the-hunger-games-wallpaper-logo-2560x16002.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Story: To pay for the sins of uprisers 74 years before them, the citizens of the Panem districts must nominate one boy and one girl every year to participate in the Hunger Games – a sadistic, caged battle to the death for those unlucky enough to be chosen until only one “victor” remains. Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute for District 12 to save her sister Primrose from having to go in. As Katniss does everything she can to survive, she unknowingly sparks a revolution that could bring her entire system of life to its knees.

Why you should read it:  There is the obvious argument that by not reading these books (seeing the movies isn’t the same!) you are literally living under a rock. There is more to it than being pop-culturally relevant though. “The Hunger Games” is a story of human nature – how if we go unchecked humans have a disgusting habit of letting our egos destroy ourselves. By sparking the revolution Katniss has an inside look at how societies corrupt themselves, and has to find the strength within herself to stop the cycle from repeating. Most of us can’t relate to toppling governments or taking down dictators, but we can all learn something from breaking negative patterns and making choices to provide ourselves, and those we care about, with a better life.

Similar reads: “Divergent” – Veronica Roth & “The Maze Runner” – James Dashner

 

3.) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanorPark_thumb

Story: Eleanor is invited back to live with her mother after being kicked out by her abusive step-father for over a year. Every day she has to struggle to stay under the radar from his rage, while protecting her younger siblings and begging their mother to leave. Her life at home and her family’s complete lack of budget make it difficult for her to fit in at school – to the point Eleanor just wants to be invisible. Instead, she meets Park who shares his seat with her on the bus. It starts as a casual sharing of comic books so neither of them has to talk but inevitably they fall in love, and so starts the mission to save Eleanor from her hell at home and for Park to truly find himself.

Why you should read it:  It’s easy to be cynical of teenage love stories. They are too young to know better, right? “Eleanor & Park” proves that teenage naivety actually allows teenagers to fall deep enough into love to find strength and change the world, or at least the world around them. The beautiful thing about Eleanor and Park as characters is that they aren’t perfect. She isn’t a shy and clumsy, but strikingly beautiful damsel in distress. Park isn’t the smarter-than-he-wants-everyone-to-know athlete who gives a chance to the new girl. They have flaws, large ones. They have problems that are even bigger. There’s a quote that says “Love isn’t finding the perfect person, it’s seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” And these kids nail it on the first try. “Eleanor & Park” teaches us to love as deep as we can, no matter how scary it is. It’s a book about trust and inner strength and you find the people who will matter the most to you by being yourself.  By falling in love Eleanor and Park stop trying to blend in and allow themselves to really be seen for the first time.

Similar reads: “The Spectacular Now” – Tim Tharp & “Paper Towns” –  John Green

This is by no means a definitive list. What are your favorite young adult books? Was it “Catcher in the Rye” or something newer? Tell us in the comments below!

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