A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Monday, December 31, 2012

What is family?

Just before winter break, I did something highly predictable, according Made To Stick: I heaped generosity on a single flesh and blood child, rather than donating to some charitable abstraction. As Chris's impending move to Guatemala over the Christmas Holidays approached, as a challenge to a 3rd grader who hates to write, who avoids writing by wandering the room and generating little disturbances, I offered to give Chris a camera if he promised to send pictures and become M-19's pen pal, if he promised to share his story of meeting his grandparents in Guatemala for the first time, if he promised to send lots of pictures. I originally intended to give him an old digital camera, which I never use, but as the day of transition approached, I had forgotten that I had left my old camera hanging on the work station divider I use to hide my desk in my basement. Having made a promise to a 3rd grader on the cusp of a major life change, I did the only thing I could: I wrapped my newer digital camera and told him to not tell anybody about our secret, and had him promise not to open his present until he got home and his mother was present.

When I teach "the writing cycle," my primary goal is to teach young writers, "you are the author." To those who are able to understand, I tell them, "if you aren't the author of your own life, someone else will write your story for you, and you might not like the ending." For me, teaching writing is all about empowerment. Even if putting words on paper are difficult for Chris, at least he has the option of taking photographs. I wanted to challenge Chris to figure out how to download the pictures, how to find our school, and how to contact M-19, because I believed if he had a strong enough reason to write, and that's what he wanted to do, he would find a way. We will see.

Teachers often require students to write about subjects for which they have zero background knowledge or interest. For students with executive function challenges, the lack of interest or background knowledge discourages engagement in a task that requires high levels of focus. Is it any wonder why so many students with Learning Disabilities despise writing? One symptom of avoidance I often notice is a focus on surface level characteristics such as spelling or handwriting, to the exclusion of a focus on more important things such as ideas and feelings.

My first writing lesson was how to generate an interests list. The following day, I asked students to use their interests list to pick a single topic, and then hung up large Post-It chart paper around the room so that students could collaborate in generating ABC lists, to help students develop a list of subtopics for a few popular topics. There was a buzz as students collaborated, helping each other out in fleshing out ABC subtopics.

Food and family were not the most popular topics, but as a master writer, my intent was to guide students to stick to things they care about and know about intimately, so one day I asked students to write about a family tradition. One 6th grade boy described with great pride how he was finally allowed in the kitchen to help prepare chicken for the Thanksgiving feast. As he was planning, I asked him to draw a birds-eye map of his kitchen, had him picture who was there and what each person was doing and saying. As the break approached, I challenged students to pay close attention to family traditions surrounding the holidays. To prepare a model, hoping to find creative ways to engage students in the writing process, I made it a point to pay close attention to family over the holidays.

Tonight, Joe, Mabel, Karen, and I went to an annual New Year's Day Eve feast at my parent's home in Arlington. With my new toy, a Samsung Galaxy Rush, I began photographing the food preparations, for their cultural significance.

In Japanese culture, visual presentation of food is critical. My mom never serves a feast on paper plates or uses plastic utensils. Typically, I gorge myself on appetizers, but tonight I used my new Perfect Portions scale and was entering calories on my food log, which slowed me down, and forced me to be mindful of what I was eating. Joe was persuaded to taste the brie on a cracker with fig relish!

Mom broiled the lambchops to marinaded crispness, leaving the insides moist, meaty, and red. Even Joe ate one! Joe polished off much of the asparagus. Afterwards, Joe kept asking for slices of lemons and limes, so we had him cut up his own. He needed to be shown how, but he was receptive.

I fed Mabel wild rice and lamb scraps under the table.

Mom has always used food to attract and hold family together. Karen and I have been going to Arlington every New Year's Eve since even before we were married over 17 years ago. Seeking cultural artifacts, and armed with my new toy, looking for a story to tell, I focused on some of the artifacts.

The dollhead survived the Internment Camps, including Tanforan Race Tracks, Topaz, and Tule Lake. Somehow, my grandmother preserved it through postwar Japan, and the move back to the United States. The photo was from Tule Lake, after my grandfather was reunited with his family.

Mom showed Joe the Fortune magazine that I found one day in somebody's trash as a wandering teen. After Joe looked at the Fortune magazine, Dawn's husband Rowland was reading it intently, eyebrows raised, marveling about how incredibly preserved it was.

Later, dad shared old photos. That's him, 3rd from the right, back when he was in Officer's training. Last year at this time, he had recently been given a year to live, but thanks to my mom's intimate knowledge of the medical field, thanks to some great detective work by his medical team, and a highly skilled surgeon, today dad is cancer free, still fighting the good fight for Social and Economic Justice.As we were preparing to leave, dad pulled out his ancient 1950's movie projector, and was pulling out movies had taken at Nakashima. The smell of burnt dust from the projector was overwhelming, my lungs were burning, plus Karen, Joe, and Mabel were ready to go.

On New Year's Day, we will be at my brother's house, as we always have done. There will be over 40 people there. My uncle Isamu's family will be there, along with 3 generations, and my newly married youngest cousin Scott. I have Thank You Notes and some Christmas Cards that I never sent out to send, plus I have lesson plans to write, and a job interview for which I need to prepare, but family comes first.

Tonight, I decided to follow Dr. V.F. Ramachandran, the noted neurosurgeon, on Twitter. I know it was Dr. Ramachandran because of the location, La Jolla. He recently discovered Twitter and was trying "to figure it out." One of his Tweets mentioned that the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs hit Bombay. As my first ever Tweet, I Tweeted him a question, why the curiosity about the extinction of dinosaurs?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Octane XR6000 Elliptical Trainer

What I like about Octane's XR6000 Elliptical trainer is the lateral movement, which differentiates it from a standard elliptical trainer, which only goes in a straight line. It makes sense to vary the kinds of movements done throughout the week so as to "even out the wear" on the machine. Back when G. Gordon Liddy was on 106.7 WJFK, Liddy reminisced about the source of his knee problems: he had been running around a track, always going in the same direction, while in jail. Another reason I like the lateral movements is to avoid boredom! The XR6000 is always a great workout!

Too bad, the data displayed on the screen doesn't automatically upload to myfitnesspall.com. I emailed this feedback to the company, and the service representative said that the data issue is being discussed. Oddly, none of the cardio machines at Audrey Moore Rec Center transmit workout data to Fitlinxx. Sounds like an opportunity to me, now that Smartphones are so ubiquitous.

After Christmas dinner, my niece, who manages a veterinary clinic in Burke, and I were talking about her efforts to persuade "Doc" to shrink their Yellow Pages advertisement and use the savings to get their business listed on the shopping center sign. The reference to the Yellow Pages led me to reflect: the Yellow Pages are going the way of the dinosaur. I then used the "Local" Google app on my new smartphone, and found their business listed with reviews, the latest of which was several months old, and there were a few other reviews that were over 2 years old, including some that were negative. To make a point, I then reviewed their business, a business that I love because they take such great care of Mabel!

The Smartphone is a highly disruptive technology. I smell opportunity.

Who knew that a "starvation" sized dinner was 580 calories!

Daniel Kurland

7:58 PM  -  Public
For my first trial on my brand new Perfect Portions Food Scale, I entered food code 0170 (ground beef, 90% lean, loaf, baked) for meatloaf. Apparently, while preparing a meal, a chef could get more precise data, but for my purposes, the display provided enough information to get me to pause before going back for seconds. I initially felt that I had been extremely conservative with my portion, so it came as quite a shock to see a readout indicating 460 calories! Another shock came when I saw the readout on my boiled squash: 120 calories!

A sticky idea, but why isn't it sticking?

I often get emails like this from my dad. Having worked for over 16 years for my dad's first client as Norman Kurland & Associates, Allied Plywood Corporation, even I get a little skeptical when I see articles extolling the virtues of Employee Ownership. The shares of stock I earned over these years dropped in value from over $100,000 just before I left the company, to less than half, still a substantial sum that I wouldn't have had had I not been a participant in an ESOP.

As I listen to the Made to Stick audiobook while pumping iron or working a cardio machine, ideas about how to make my lesson plans more memorable percolate, and my mind often wanders to daydreaming about how I might help promote a great idea that for some odd reason just isn't resonating in the minds of everyday Joe's and Jane's, who struggle with the same problems as I do with how to pay the mortgage -- forget about retirement!

One of the C's in the Heath brothers' SUCCESS acronym template for purposefully designing sticky ideas is "Concreteness." The Heath brothers cite a number of examples in CD 4 where a communicator developed an idea that stuck and went viral using concrete examples. In my case, for my lesson planning purpose, I thought about creating M-19 Molly and M-19 Mike as fictional characters who might personify how we are learning instructional objectives in room M-19. In the case of The Industrial Homestead Act, perhaps we might create a parable of The Just Third Way using a fictional Lincoln, to personify someone within a true "Ownership Culture," or Wage Serf Wally, who is treated like a number by his employer, like the rest of us.

My sister Dawn has raised a great question, despite a working model that seems to prove the point, why isn't anyone paying attention?

You'll appreciate Dawn's point after you read this story.

Own or Be Owned,

-------- Original Message --------
Subject:No Wonder the JTW is Being Ignored by the Establishment
Date:Fri, 28 Dec 2012 19:18:14 -0500
From:Dawn Brohawn 
Reply-To:Capital Ownership Group: Louis Kelso's Binary Economics Discussion Group

Rowland located a great article on Lincoln Electric on the Motley Fool website (www.fool.com). The author expresses his bafflement that this remarkable ownership culture has been virtually ignored by the media and academia. Here's a little excerpt:
The Cleveland-based manufacturer of welding technologies and No. 1 in the world since the 1930s, announced the 2012 bonus for its roughly 3,000 American employees.
Read the following five lines slowly.
The bonus has been paid for 79 uninterrupted years in a row.
This year, Lincoln Electric shared $99.3 million of pre-tax profits with employees.
The average 2012 bonus was $33,915 per worker.
The average employee earned $82,300 (including the bonus).
No one was laid off in 2012.
Do you find that impressive? How about this?
In 2011, the picture was essentially the same. Ditto for 2010, 2009, 2008... 1997... 1979... 1956... 1948...
The article concludes:
Corporate America is suffering from a near-criminal lack of imagination.
Lincoln Electric presents convincing and reassuring evidence that it is possible to run a very profitable, very large multinational business in North America by respecting your customers, employees, investors, and society at large. All of them.
It need not be a zero-sum game, the delusion embraced by too many of the nation's business leaders, especially in recent years.

They owe it to America to do better.
If this successful model of ownership sharing and justice-based management can be overlooked by the gurus of business, economics and the media, it's little wonder that our ownership paradigm and systemic reforms are being met with such deafening silence.
In 2013 let's all make a joyful noise for the Just Third Way and Capital Homesteading for every citizen -- and drown out all the naysayers!
Best wishes to all for the New Year,
Dawn Brohawn
Director of Communications
Center for Economic and Social Justice
P.O. Box 40711, Washington, DC 20016
(Tel) 703-243-5155 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            703-243-5155      end_of_the_skype_highlighting, (Fax) 703-243-5935
(Direct E-mail) dbrohawn@cesj.org
(Web) www.cesj.org

Highway Robbery

"We have one very powerful business rule.  It is concentrated in one word: courtesy"

These are the words displayed in front of the counter at Wells Cargo Bank, where I have been sitting for the past 15 minutes,  waiting for a manager to help close out my Essential Checking Account.  Today,  I actually sat down at my desk and begn going through a pile of mail that includes statements,  a ticket for expired tags,  and who knows what. I'd rather have been working out on Cybex machines at the Audrey More Rec Centre,  listening to Made To Stick, CD 5, but I knew I had unresolved business in my disorganized pile,  along with thank you notes and a few remaining xmas cards that I never sent after Karen asked me to verify the addresses. 30 minutes.  When I want to file away my statement, I happened to notice that the non-interest bearing account I haven't touched in 2  or more years had fallen below $500. Looking closer,  I noticed that the bank had started charging me $7 monthly fees. 40 minutes.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Jan Morrill's Doll in the Red Kimono

Finally, I have started to read Doll in the Red Kimono by Jan Morrill. Already, I have found a connection. My mom was interned at Tule Lake too, just like Jan's mom. Jan's novel is available on Kindle as an eBook, and contains links to her blog posts, including the mini masterpiece included here: http://janmorrill.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/rohwer-whispers/.

That  Doll in the Red Kimono is set in the South or at least begins there is also a connection, considering my love of southern literature, from Mark Twain, to William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, Eudora Welty, etc. I grew up in the South, albeit Northern Virginia. Part of coming to age was coming to grips with the vestiges of the Civil War, the unspoken attitudes, the subsurface racial consciousness, to which I was blissfully unaware as a child.

Earlier this week, after repairing shutters at my parents home, after mentioning to my mom all the books about brain science and motivational psychology that I have been "reading" audio books while working out at the gym, Mom reminded me that I should also be reading literature, to which I replied, "I don't have time for literature."

Jan has managed to "hook me," so I definitely will read on, because I want to know how the story ends. Already, I know I have discovered a master story teller, based on Jan's description of how it felt to drive down a country road in the deep South, with a gas tank nearly on empty, which captured a feeling to which anyone can connect. Considering my challenge of finding ways to hook students who hate to write, I can learn a few things about the writing process from how Jan has constructed her story, which perhaps I can share with a room full of reluctant writers.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Magic of Words

Words contain powerful magic. They have the power to shake empires from their foundations, sending towers tumbling into rubble, nations descending into anarchy, and the afflicted into a black hole of a personal hell; or, they can lift downtrodden spirits to the heavens on wings of angels.

The words "I believe" contain powerful magic. Simply repeating "I believe, I believe, I believe," and continually reinforcing that belief with action strategically aligned with that belief, can generate enough momentum to shift the course of the outcome of a sporting event on a single play, lift a nation out of a Depression, or change the destiny of child who has been told since his earliest days in school that he is incapable of learning or is unworthy of enriched learning experiences.

Regardless of religious affiliation, the "power of prayer" has been associated with miraculous outcomes for as long as people can remember, which is long as stories have been passed down around bonfires to rapt audiences, connected by a continuous conversation, heartbeats synchronized by focused attention. At the gym and while walking Mabel, I have recently been spiritually healing my soul to The Power of Intention by Dr. Wayne Dyer. Obviously, Dr. Dyer was an inspiration for Rhonda Byrne's The Secret, which expresses a similar philosophy, language, tone and tenor to The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, The Psychology of Winning, by Dr. Dennis Waitley, and Live Your Dreams, by Les Brown, some of my all-time favorites. Dr. Dyer's voice and Michigan style of speech reminds me of my dear family friend, the late Carolyn Mano, another product of Michigan, who worked some of her Jedi Mind Tricks on me 10 years ago when I seriously doubted I could continue pursuing a teaching career, which I feared was leading me on a path towards financial ruin and conflict with authority figures who expressed philosophies and behaviors more from a business mindset which I had walked away from, than from my developing vision of what a quality education should look and feel like.

The first "intention" expressed by Dr. Dyer was simply, "I want to feel good." He connected that intention linguistically to "I want to feel God," which carried with it a host of other powerful associations. So, I adopted that first intention, "I want to feel good." I texted a message to Yasmine, why became my study partner in Dr. Ball's class on Diagnostic and Corrective Teaching: "Something good is about to happen."

Just before the end of the first quarter, and immediately before grades were due, a young lady of about 30, Tara, told the other Special Education Teacher in her self-contained classroom, Jane, "I'm having some problems with my Baby Daddy and am going to need a few days off." She never came back. I happened to accept a half day a few weeks ago for a young 3rd grade teacher who exuded kindness in every word and gesture with her students. While preparing for the hand-off, like others, Ms. Park was wondering why I am still "just a sub," then suggested that I express my interest in the position to Anne, the Assistant Principal.

On Tuesday, I began working in the classroom that Tara used to share with Jane. Tara's children, categorized as Category B, had been doing worksheets for a few weeks, under the bored eyes of substitute teachers who had zero idea how to teach the neediest learners. After the first day in which I continued with the emergency sub plans which had continued for a few weeks, and saw the utter lack of value in the activities, I wrote concept building lesson plans for "regrouping", using the OPERA planning format that Dr. Melideo taught me at Marymount University, based on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), drew from my experiences working under the kind, but frustrated guidance of Kim Witteck, currently a Gifted and Talented Resource Teacher, who worked with me during my painful first year of teaching, as the Title I Math Coach, Responsive Classroom guru, and Mentor, borrowed from Raif Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair Is on Fire, and its recommendation of Marcy Cook's Math Tiles, applied the knowledge that I absorbed in a summer dissecting John A. Van De Walle's Elementary School Mathematics: Teaching Math Developmentally, worked the process described in Rick Smith's Conscious Classroom Management to teach two procedures per day, suggested by a classroom management coach, when I was struggling, and left Friday at 7 pm after "rebooting" the resource room.