Self-Reflection in the immediate gratification age


Art credit- NicktheRat

Art credit- NicktheRat

In this new year I can’t help but to absorb the reflective mood, the mood that aggregates and reviews various experiences and events. From the top movies to the top books, to the most defining political moments. As people chronicle their every moment, over-reporting, at times over-sharing from the quotidian – facebook status updates of what one is imbibing over dinner to the most recent birthday/wedding/anniversary/baby birth etc. (insert default milestone here) they feel compelled to “share” moments constantly. With the immediate gratification provided as others comment on what you share, providing explicit validation, it becomes challenging to discern where reflective energy should be directed -to those
“E-Z insta-moments ” or to impactful moments that are meaningful in the greater life trajectory.(but may not fit the framework of the social network model of tweeting, instragraming etc.)

Can you get lost in a whirl of reportage of the everyday and forget to reflect on those times that may not fit into a certain social norm yet still hold intimate significance?

Amidst the zeitgeist of self-reflection I stumbled upon letters that people wrote to themselves. A letter that a woman writes to her child-less self or the letter that Susan Sontag wrote to herself as a twenty-something, imagine reading that years later.

Here is a recent favorite:

Immediately before turning 24 on January 16, 1957, Sontag produces the following list, a blend of the pragmatic and the aspirational:

Rules + duties for being 24

1. Have better posture.
2. Write Mother 3 times a week.
3. Eat less.
4. Write two hours a day minimally
5. Never complain publicly about Brandeis [University] or money.
6. Teach [SS’s toddler son] David to read.

Then, several weeks later, Sontag resolves:


1. Criticize publicly anyone at Harvard –
2. Allude to your age (boastfully, mock-respectfully, or otherwise)
3. Talk about money
4. Talk about Brandeis


Shower every other night
Write Mother every other day

Ok my turn:


1. Be prepared with fun games and songs when picking up your toddler niece from day care. They become little people so fast with all these questions and requests.

2. Plan on building out a team of mentors/ board of directors who can share their career experiences with you.

3. Be honest with yourself and your responses even when it reveals a weakness/vulnerability in you.

4. Institute a “day-off”, (or at least a time block, 3 -6 hours) with the sole objective of focusing on your own pursuits. (no work or school work allowed only what truly makes you happy.) Thank you Adaptation, favorite quote from the movie was ” You are what you love, not what loves you.”

5. Travel with friends. There are many new things to learn about the people you thought you already knew well when put in a novel context. Going to Mexico with my friends in 2013 felt like I was building a deeper relationship and revealed more common interests while enjoying some of the best conversations I have had this year.

6. Documents the memento moments, those times that will never quite be the same way again, even if it feel cliche or cheesy in the moment. Marvel at the magic of photography. ” To collect photographs, is to collect the world.” – Susan Sontag

7. Keep up with friends during busy periods by having regular dinner dates.


1. Leave a Final Research Paper or studying to the last minute.

2. Develop age-o-phobia and fall into the age trap of youth being valued in society over many other things.

3. Be so grumpy in the morning that smiling is off the table. Marf.

4. Miss out on going to the Banya for more than 4 months.

I am inspired to develop mine more as well but for now the things that I have taken note of.


Final Research Paper and Reign of Error






On Monday September 23rd, 2013 I went to see a discussion with Diane Ravitch hosted by The Century Foundation. I was super excited since last time she spoke at Bank Street college earlier this spring I ended up missing the presentation.

Though this post is long overdue (Research papers and various essays as required by my public affairs professor, statistics homework that overstayed their welcome from saturday well into Sunday night, work, general exhaustion of the mental faculties etc.) I feel it more relevant because of two reasons.

1. I finally had the opportunity to read the long awaited chapter where Diane outlines a clearcut vision for how to improve the charter school arena thereby mitigating the effects of the “corporate reform movement” aka the private ed reformers.

2. Mayor- elect Bill De Blasio nominated Carmen Farina as the new NYC Chancellor:

Also we are a mere 24 hours until 2014 is upon us! (oh lord…)

Whilst spending 4 days of my winter break cranking out my final research paper for my Introduction to Public Affairs class at Baruch College (a core requirement that I initially was not excited about at all and so delayed until my 3rd semester) During my first attempt at taking this class I ended up dropping it when a professor was going to teach it as a lecture-style, rote memorization class- memorize all the presidents including their incumbencies and other AP History HS type approaches.This class I enjoyed, the professor was cynical and real about the policymaking arena, her sardonic tone and questioning demeanor always challenged the class.

The assignment for the final paper  was to choose a particular instance of policymaking formation ( a law that had been enacted for at least 5 years) and outline how it came to be. This was based on the central model of policymaking we had learned in class- Kingdon’s model which relies on the ” three P’s” Policy, Politics and Problems.

The framework posits that when these three meet each other during an opportune moment, a policy window, they couple and out comes a particular policy. So the central question is why do we have this particular policy instead of another? Its not that the policy we have is the optimal one produced by rational decision making – no, it is the one that is politically and economically feasible.I think of this a lot as I contemplate the education reform movement. I chose to look at how No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 came onto the decision agenda and which parties were excluded. Naturally, I cannot talk about education policy without consulting or pulling some quote or core idea from Ravitch. One of the most interesting ones

Ravtich outlines how charters can integrate into public education in the Chapter- ” Make Charters Work for All ”

“Solution No. 5: Ban for-profit charters and charter chains and ensure that charter schools collaborate with public schools to support better education for all children.

 “Is it possible to make them a productive part of American public education,rather than a disruptive force? The problem with charters as currently configured is that they have strayed so far from the original intention of their founding fathers… they saw charters as a way to empower  public school teachers to devise their own innovative curricula and methods to free them from excessive regulation and bureaucracy. Neither man thought of charters as a way to transfer control of public schools to private hands or to create profit-making enterprises for stockholders or to destroy teachers’rights and their unions.” 

This reveals how easily perverted a vision, a policy can become from when it is first legislated and /or envisioned till the time it is actually implemented (Because of the “3 P’s”) With DeBlasio’s policy of charging rent to co-located charters, what new problems will be created in the political arena when it comes to  cultivating a collaborative partnership between the Charter world and public school how will charter. Ravitch and the Kingdon model go so well together.


TFA Alum speaks out

A few months ago I read an impassioned piece written by a professor Mark Naison from Fordham University about why he did not allow TFA recruit in his graduate classroom. I shared it with a close friend who had recently completed her TFA fellowship to see what she thought of this. Unfortunately a bid to critically evaluate an organization’s mission and impact was internalized as an ad hominem attack. I have the deepest respect for her teaching and her commitment to stay in teaching unlike many of her colleagues. We straightened out our miscommunication but I was reminded about our discussion when I stumbled upon a video entry from a TFA Alum who came out with a dissenting opinion. His struggle reminded me of my own teaching fellowship in Newark, NJ where I often felt defeated and hopeless and was at a loss of how to help my students.

What do you think of his story? How representative is his view? What other alternative perspectives are out there that come directly from the source- the operating core of idealistic middle-class Ivy league educated millenials ? I would like to see survey data that shows the satisfaction of TFA alums of their Summer Training and their experience as a corps member from a neutral 3rd party.

I feel like he was speaking from the heart until the part about having insufficient access to books as a 7th and 9th grade English teacher. He  mentions that the school library had not grown in a few years and the student had read through the entire set. Upon submitting his 2 weeks notice, he had an exit interview.When asked why he did not reach out regarding obtaining more books he shifts the responsibility to the principal and (at 8:22) claims he does not remember if he asked the principal for more books. A bit absurd that you would not recall such an important factor. I think this weakens his argument as the burden of responsibility falls on him to request a resource necessary to lesson delivery and instruction. Also the part about now having a english curriculum was strange.



Insidious narratives

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The eternally contested purpose of education is something that most of us know well. Should education prepare the next wave of income earners into the labor market with a basic set of skills or is education meant to prepare all children for higher-level classical pursuits? Depth or breadth?

Since the formation of the Federal Department of Education all shades of the spectrum and schools of thought have enjoyed their proverbial 15-minutes of fame.

Despite varied perspectives at least we all agreed on the fundamental definition – that education was and always should be “public” in its essence and execution. Public, a “common good” in that the system of education was to serve the needs of the many instead of slavishly obliging plutocratic self-interest.

Was that part at least an indisputable given? I suppose not.

The beliefs contained in these two articles compose prevalent insidious narratives – the idea that  the move away from the ideal of a public education will close the opportunity gap and the belief that “we need better teachers”.

Exhibit 1 :

A recent Alternet article shows the economic priorities of our country- If you don’t invest well in the people who are responsible for shaping the minds of our next generation  with creative inquiry and intellectual thinking as a cornerstone of instructional methodology than the foundation begins to erode.
If we don’t respect teachers doing this important work than the message sent is we don’t value students’ education enough to invest in those providing it. High quality talent will opt for different careers that are better paying and come with a higher prestige- that is the bottom line.

Exhibit 2:

This article and Who’s Killing Philly Public Schools postulates the beginning of the end of public schools in Philadelphia, with 1/3 of of children now attending charter schools. Increased enrollment numbers coupled with the political cheerleading and economic bolstering of charter schools are harkening the continuing shift from public to private. Is Philadelphia and other die-hard charter school states a representative sample of where the nation is heading in the next couple of years?

This sentence in particular foreshadows the battle ahead and the practice of business as usual:

“The Agora Cyber Charter, which is run by the for-profit company K12, made $31.6 million last year from state taxpayers. It’s interesting to note that billionaire Michael Milken is an owner of K12 and that Mr. Milken was convicted of racketeering and securities fraud in 1989.”

Both are dangerous mainstream narratives that are targeting public schools and how the public views the quality of a public education.

As long as teachers are depicted as the villain, as long as the adage “those who can’t do, teach” pervades and the privatization movement is seen as offering a panacea from some kind of dystopia of public schools, then no student stands to benefit.


State test scores are released


Four months ago, I wrote about the insanity that was the administration of the standardized tests in Math & ELA. A few weeks ago on August 5th a DOE Memo announced the long awaited public release of the scores-

I would like to analyze the language in this memo:
What ever happened to positive framing? The first sentence of the memo concedes to the scores plunging yet praises that at least they represent a more accurate picture of our students. Oy vey-

“The State Education Department will soon be releasing the 2012-13 state assessment scores in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math for grades 3-8. As you know, those
scores are expected to be significantly lower than the 2011-12 scores. This change in scores — which will effectively create a new baseline measurement of student learning — is
largely the result of the shift to assessments that measure the Common Core Learning Standards, which more accurately reflect students’ progress toward college and career

Then the memo segues into the relationship between students scores, teacher evaluations and hiring practices:

“… these growth scores will result in similar proportions of educators earning each rating category (Highly Effective, Effective, Developing and Ineffective) in 2012-13 compared to 2011-12 on the State subcomponent rating category. In light of the new baseline in student scores set with the 2012-13 state tests, it is even more important for school district officials to consider all aspects of a teacher’s or principal’s evaluation when making employment decisions using the 2012-13 composite evaluations. Education Law §3012-c(1) states that APPRs shall be a significant factor in employment decisions. Employment decisions are made by local school districts, in accordance with law and any applicable locally negotiated procedures.”

The charter center has compiled reports that graphically depict that charters consistently outperform their district counter parts. What are your thoughts on how this data is gathered?             I’ll be looking into other reports and how the data is presented to compare against these results.

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Source: Charter School Center


Success Academy- pressing the eject button too often?

Cherry picking at it’s finest …I don’t support social promotion, where a student is pushed on to the next grade simply because they match that grade level developmentally.  However, most studies indicate retaining students does not benefit the student in any way.

Some agree that DOE school principals under-suspend students,  while charters are incessantly pressing the Eject button on students who are challenging.

Here is Juan Gonzalez’ article :

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College & career ready- so show me the money!

A recent NYT article highlights the pockets of  Common Core opposition while framing the CCLS in a positive light

“The standards, which were written by a panel of experts convened by governors and state superintendents, focus on critical thinking and analysis rather than memorization and formulas.The idea is to help ensure that students generally learn the same things in public schools across the country.”

    In an absolute vacuum of a country where access to healthcare , prenatal care, parenting practices and funding of school districts is equally distributed, yes it would be a positive ideological position to take. But in an increasingly segregated country, pressuring states to hop on the bandwagon leaving them alone to play the  implementation and the resourcing game is another story. Teachers expressed to me in Newark Public Schools that they cannot possibly go through a certain unit in the alloted time when many of their students are 3-4 years below grade level.

It’s like manufacturing a size small t-shirt, branding it as a “one-size fits all” design and expecting all the people in between to fit- join or die?

    Not only does this not set a foundation for a sustainable model its seems like a slippery loopholed slope, afterall the federal government may not regulate curriculum, but influencing states decision through RTTT funds doesn’t violate this law and is perfectly constitutional. The General Education Provisions Act- GEPA” bans federal departments and agencies from directing, supervising, or controlling elementary and secondary school curriculum, programs of instruction, and instructional materials.1 ” Hopefully, national policy can push back against CCLS, in the Road to a National Curriculum, Engage Volume 13, Eitel & Talbert eloquently profess :

   “Left unchallenged by Congress, these standards and assessments will ultimately direct the course of elementary and secondary study in most states across the nation, running the risk that states will become little more than administrative agents for a nationalized K-12 program of instruction and raising a fundamental question about whether the Department is exceeding its statutory boundaries. This road to a national curriculum has been winding and highly nuanced—and, as we will see below, full of irony.”

Related Links:



Fast times at Pearson High

What do you get when you place a sea of 450 overzealous education administrators in a Gattaca-esque, uber-hotel for 24 hours of instructional time across 4 days ?

PowerSchool University.

PowerSchool University” is a huge event that Pearson hosts 4 times every summer across the country.  Powerschool is a 23 -year old  school database system that is owned by Pearson and used by many school districts across the country for things like students transcripts, attendance and state reporting. The conference was geared towards a user’s technical practice to accommodate the increased amounts of state reporting that districts are accountable for.

I attended this mother of all conferences for 4 days in Atlanta, GA. Upon entering the hotel I felt slight vertigo which I never get. I was encouraged to attend, since I use the system at work. Until now, my view of Pearson was as a monopolistic test-based accountability proponent that partners with cities and states for massive contracts for online learning.  I suppose the thinnest slice of their profit comes Professional Development events like this training. The “tuition” for a few days at Power School University runs $2,200. Some school districts could only afford to send one person. Sure the fee includes 2 daily meals and an i-pad rental – but seriously? I learned that Pearson has strong partnerships with many school districts across the U.S- and Dubai- this overarching grasp will be interesting to follow as schools transition into virtual/online learning models.

A few strange/ interesting things that happened :

– Met a Pearson employee who will lead the implementation of Powerschool in Dubai
– I had my first taste of shrimp grits and fried green tomatoes.
– Touched slimy devil Rays in a petting tank and saw 30 foot long Manta rays in the Georgia Aquarium
– Got yelled at to “Move it”! by a rabid jogger and then almost got pummeled down while taking a stroll on a pedestrian sidewalk.
– Witnessed a Flash Mob of elderly folks to the 90s song “Macarena”
– Swam in a giant indoor/outdoor fish shaped pool.
– Took a class called “Object Report” where it took us 1.5hrs to generate a simple table with a few rows and entries. ( Hello Google/Excel Insert Table function, I have taken you for granted)
– Had a few drinks with a lovely lesbian couple from South Carolina who risk getting fired if their relationship were to be public.

My schedule:

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The Gattica Hotel