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Category Archives: Technology

Teach me to live in a biosphere, which is real, not a global economy, which is not.

Sat on the chaise lounge and watched the bumblebees work over the raspberry blossoms in a sea of green. After three days of warm, sunny weather I felt confident in my decision to put away all winter coats, turn off the pilot light to the gas fireplace insert and switch off the main furnace. I’d seeded another round of four inch pots in lettuces, peas, onions,herbs, and a few flowers, and sowed beans and chard in the new garden plot off the patio, reclaimed from another corner of lawn. The air was turning cool, with rain expected–perfect for the seeds, though the tomatoes would slow down a bit. Almost time to put a bird net over the cherry trees, and the gangly limbs of the apple trees definitely needed some training and support–they were loaded with baby fruit.

I was thinking about the ways in which some of my students, maybe even a decent body, had been brought to understand something of the laws of nature–the ones that we humans ought to stop trying to ignore–such as there being finite resources on Earth that needed to be continuously recycled, that evolution is a constant and inevitable process, whatever religion says, and that there are fascinating miracles to explore at every turn, as well as inexorable forces we must reckon with, organism among organisms as we are, perched on this spinning rock blasted with radiation more powerful than thousands of nuclear bombs.

I have a mental space full of faces, ever expanding as I go through these years of teaching. Names may fade, but I will never un-know these young people, the 35-odd students I taught last year, the around eighty this year, counting middle, high and third graders. For once I get to teach at the same school–another novelty I look forward to. Ninth graders I’ll see in Physics and Algebra 1 next year, this year’s group will move on to the next math and show up for physics, too. Could be teaching some of the younger ones, though mostly high school. All the same colleagues with the addition of a new teacher–I hope I like her, bet I will.

Dan O’Neill, writer I sublet my summer office space from gave me his book, The Firecracker Boys, to give to my father, and since he’s all the way across the continent, I’m reading it before I send it there along with my son when he goes to college. It tells the story of how the Atomic Energy Commission started a group that was eager to test “peacetime uses” of nuclear power, and their first project was to be blasting a new harbor into the coast of Alaska. Their ignorance about the systems of the Earth and the disastrous effects that would result from their plan is astounding, and even though I know how the story ends, with the killing of the project and all similar ones due to the newly birthed environmental movement that arose there, I feel sick just thinking about how it might have been.

In environmental science we discussed why humans can have, want to have, even, such an outsized effect on the Earth’s systems, and yet do not seem essential to any of them in comparison to other organisms, such as, say, ants or eelgrass. The students were in agreement that if all humans suddenly vaporized, nothing would fall apart. We also explored the question of why humans, of all organisms, deliberately flout ecological principles, and what effect that might have, long term, on our species, on society. And, could there be a way to reconcile our ambitions to discover, build, and create, with the limitations that scientists are discovering that we must live within? Not to overly credit scientists–it took them hundreds of years, two steps forward, one step back (or vice versa) to catch up to some of that instinctive body-knowledge, that innate genetic wisdom, of our pre-historic ancestors.

The Fall–when and how did it happen? Was it the dawn of agriculture, or just agricultural commerce? Did it derive from the spread of the expression of new genes of cognition and self awareness? Was it accelerated by symbolic language and institutionalized ancient religions? Or was all that, really, progress?

Nowadays, just like the real estate bubble, we are talking again, in education circles, economics, science and technology, as if trends, what is happening, are the same as vision. “It’s a global economy–it’s an information age, so let’s get with it.” As I asked a mom I confide in periodically about my doubts about the value of schools systems, “Who’s driving this train and why should I get on–just because it’s going somewhere?”

My younger daughter shared with me how stressed she was about school–with the drive to maintain good grades, the pace, the hours, the lack of joy, the social pressure. By all appearances, she’s a successful student, but here she was in tears, wondering what the purpose of it all was. Her teachers were part of the problem, just because they had bought in. Their success wrapped up in rigor and performance-based assessment, not impact, enlightenment, and empowerment. I thought about the pressure I put on my Monday/Wednesday high school students, how as the test approached, I accelerated the pace of content exposure, started giving them testing tips and practice (while advising them, as the testing websites claimed, that success did not come from “test practice”  or extra study.

Friday classes were different, with only “delight-directed” activities (such as we could manage), no grades, no homework. That too appears to be about to be corrupted by the managers of the system, with a drive toward more “accountability” and record keeping. Hearing this fact at the staff meeting, I expressed my displeasure, tried to voice how dear are the values, to many homeschool families, of freedom and flexibility, as they are to teachers and students. Yes, it would drive away some families, it was acknowledged, this change, but it was what the state needed for financial accountability. Yes, families should drop out–they should save themselves, I thought. Funny how this whole parent partnership started to rope back in some of those opted out families with our flexible.part time program, and now that they’re hooked on the funding and free curriculum, we change the rules.

I sanctioned some respite for my daughter, called in and excused some skipped classes without giving clear reasons to the voice mail recorder, ignored the alarming-sounding letters citing the Becca Bill and mentioning court. She explained why she was skipping–the others were doing standardized testing she didn’t have to do and there was a sub; she’d already done the work and they weren’t learning anything new; they were playing soccer instead of having a lesson; she wanted to spend a few hours on her ceramics project. The ceramics studio, and its teacher, being the sanctuary so many students needed, a kind, blind eye turned and no questions asked. Refreshing subversion.

School is definitely part of the problem. We only need school because we’re a modern industrial society on a crash course with our destiny of ecological disaster, and it takes a lot of rigor to learn all the techniques that have got us into this mess, let alone the ones that maybe could get us out without sacrificing any modern luxuries–the ones we need at the end of our twelve hour labors. The future is coming. Let’s get there first.

Or, we could learn contextually everything we really need to know, like a cub from momma lion–how to get food and water, defend oneself without unnecessary energy expenditure or excessive harm to anyone else’s system, key social norms and boundaries (with the option of challenging them), how to play a musical instrument, and never to poop  in the water hole.

 

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Earth mama is getting wired

I eat granola I made myself with yogurt (I made myself). I make my own juice from berries I grew (myself), and the other day, I used up the last of my 2016 potatoes (with some of my frozen red peppers and herbs I dried and hung from my kitchen light fixtures), then went out and planted some more in my hand-cultivated beds, making room by pulling up some overwintered kale for this week’s salads.

As I casually mentioned today to the piano teacher after serving him some of my dried mint tea –rain water brewed–in the mug I threw and baked in a kiln I built, it was difficult to have to kill a rabbit I’d snared as a teen, but I’d got it done. The fact that I never ate them (Dad did, being raised in subsistence, partly), and that I then quit snaring, I regarded as an inconsistency, a weakness.

Did I mention I can sew, knit, and do macrame? Macrame is useful for hanging planters, and all you have to do to get a plant is pinch off and root a spider plant section, keeping it wet long enough. The more you stress a spider plant, the more likely it is to bud offspring, hopeful for a new life for its genes. This explains the declining birth rate in Western nations, and makes it likely that evolutionary favors the offspring of the resource-poor, stressed, and fundamentalists.

I can’t shoot a gun, though I have thought of taking lessons. Bow hunting would be better, as I think I could get away with bagging a few of the urban deer, if I kept quiet, and in theory, I could build my own hunting gear that way. I’m not into defending my property so much, or shooting migrants–they have as much right to survival as I do. I hope we can all work it out peacefully. They’re all the more likely to add some traditional skills back into our community, so hooked on tech. I bet a lot of them just want to pull out their seeds and plant a garden, just like me.

Sounds like the last, loud wail, death cry of the seed of culture I carried all this way. I am desperate, like the stressed spider plant, to pass on my memes. I have tried to root them,  but all my children are interested in careers in tech, because human services doesn’t pay. If I teach for my remaining few decades, I don’t know if anything will stick, and I am getting tired.

I watch Netflix now, relaxing into my (writing) chair after work, door closed on my family members, who want to watch something else. I log in, click, and let my mind drift, and consume. I thought I was strong, since I used to be little tempted to binge watch, or web surf, or download the usual apps (after reading the privacy policies). Nover even cared to master the art of the remote control, of which we have three. I thought I was an informed, enlightened user, selectively online for the information, the music and art, inspiration for my own creativity, and a little remote banking routine I started while overseas. I scoffed at those who scoffed at me for not upteching, (inconveniencing them in the process), thinking, someone has to be the remnant–I want to stay in the real world, be a producer, not just a consumer.

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2017 in Places & Experiences, Technology

 

End of summer regrets and anticipations

I’m going to try to get at the root of my feelings here. I’ll have to part the complicated net of stress about various things–starting a new teaching job, not having done enough planning for the time I have left before classes start, wondering whether I will make some new friends there, if the commute will bother me much. Put aside my sense of regret at not having the time I wanted for concentrating on my two youngest children’s journey and growth, or my own projects. A sense of loss at having had to say goodbye to the school I so enjoyed working at last year.

I’ll have to brush away the awareness of my diminished energy as I age, the early signals of impending menopause. Have to put aside the sense of sadness about saying goodbye to my two oldest children as they head off to college, and the sad changes in my extended family that have begun to occur more frequently. The awareness of a need to process with my mate some of the conflicts and negative patterns that we have developed so that we can head into this new phase in the right spirit.

And now, just as I have come to place where I should start the paragraph about why I am motivated to teach after all, restoring my sense of purpose and vision, I have succeeded in disheartening myself. I have created a picture in which I am turning my back on the duties, delights and calling of my own abode to serve other families’ children in the “greater society.” And so ultimately I reveal my bias that deep down I feel that charity begins at home. But apparently I also believe if that charity is hard to muster or is not received in the way I am able to offer it, or if one has to lay up a bigger nest egg or refine marketable skills, then it’s time to go out and get a job. It’s good for a home maker to get out there and broaden her horizons, to see what she can do, to be recognized, paid for once, for her skills and service. To meet new people, try new things. And, they say, it’s good for the kids to see that you’re not just a mother, wife, home maker, domestic engineer. That you “have a life” outside raising them.

Yesterday afternoon my husband helped me put together the new cider press I bought. It sits in the living room, a handsome classic in wood and cast iron, ready to grind and juice the harvest of apples I have grown or got permission to glean.

On the floor in the kitchen sits my canning pot and two boxes of jars and lids, ready to hold sauce made from two large bowls of fresh tomatoes on the counter. Outside the basil is ready to pick and dry, the savory and onion seedlings ready to plant.

In the garage I have stored the parts of a chair I refinished and the pillows I recovered, needing a few day of labor to finish up repairs and reassemble. Also there is a laundry plunger, which I had planned to use to set up a non-electric laundry system that would get our things much cleaner than the half-hearted tumbling actions of our handsome new front loader from the big box store. My sewing and craft supplies are stored there, too, not used except in cases of necessity.

I have ideas for a writing project, a yard redo, a bicycle storage shed, an organic permaculture expansion. Somewhere I stored away my daughter’s partially finished quilt, and fabric for projects I was going to do with the kids to teach them to sew.

Out of my office window (I have to vacate in a few weeks) I see a father and small son heading past the dock on a standup paddle board. I bought one of those, too this spring, and have not yet found the time to use it. Since my foot and knee started complaining, I have been hoping to transition to more water based exercise and cycling. Last week my husband was urging me to shop for bicycles now that they are on sale, knowing mine is shot and that I’d wanted to ditch the car for a good commuter bike when I had the chance. I had to tell him it’s still not practical, since we have no bike storage, and now my job is twenty miles away up a busy route.

Outside in the boat repair yard I spy a woman sitting on her dry docked sail boat taking a break. She drove here to be by herself and decided it’s better to sit on a boat in a parking lot than wait months for the time and money to repair it and get it on the water. It’s a Sunday, and I think she expected to have privacy, to be able to feel the sea breeze, hear the lines snapping and gulls cry while she collected her thoughts, or let them go.

Let them go. Let it be. See the positive. The medicine for my soul’s illness I can find within. God is in control, and in all things he works for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Look on the bright side. Stop it, in other words.

I can do that. I have this sad ability to switch off certain emotions if I decide that they are processing badly. Not sure where they go, but I can suddenly stow them away and apparently move on. It’s been good to get them out there, and maybe that’s part of the coming to terms.

On to what I hope to accomplish this year, so as to begin with the end in mind.

The teaching of math part really doesn’t grab me, I’ll have to admit. So in my math classes, other than to help the students get the grounding and practice they need, I just want to help them get along and to know that they are valuable and important, part of a community, responsible for their own success. My job is to stay a few steps ahead, come up with various ways to teach to various students, and have a management system in place that helps them pace themselves as they get the work done at school and at home.

Preparing to teach biology (two classes) and environmental science (one) are absorbing much more of my time and energy. This is where I’d like to make a long term impact. I hope to instill/nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity about life, a good understanding of how living systems work and how science works, what questions we should pursue and how, and how useful science can be to help humans make decisions about how we live personally and organize our economic, social and industrial activities on this planet. I want them to understand that technology has no merit in itself, that it is how we adapt, whether poorly or well, to the realities as we understand. I want them to see the big picture, to get a sense of the possible philosophies that can drive scientific inquiry and technological innovation. I want them to choose quality, equity, justice, love, whether they go into agriculture, nursing, journalism, or management.

And so, writing this out was helpful after all, and has sort of a happy ending, all things considered, some more than others.

 

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Fallow ground and growing things

One can rent a Simple Box, buy Old Fashioned Rice Crispy squares. Flameless candles and heatless fireplaces for ambiance, pre-ripped jeans, distressed furniture for the I-have-lived look. One can be “hosted” at a restaurant, pay for a mentor, hire a companion (or buy a responsive robot), have counseling covered by insurance. Why bother being real, putting one’s hands to work and service, putting oneself out there at all to build a community of neighbors, friends, layers of acquaintances based on various exchanges? No need even to find a youth to help with yard work–there are apps that will match you up with the local chain, complete with 1-800 number, 50% markup, and worker wages that will never add up to college tuition.

I feel the pull of that commercialized, professionalized touch-free world–I like anonymity, clear cut expectations, don’t mind being a customer account number with no obligations beyond timely payment, and if things aren’t to my liking I cut off services; nobody’s feeling get hurt when the customer is always right. I’ve beyond that generation that did community building as a matter of course, before it had a tag. I want it, but don’t lift a hand much, especially in the winter. i want it to just happen, preferably in not too messy or uncomfortable a way, or with much of a need to make sacrifices.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if things fell apart for someone in my network–would there be enough of a protocol of caring personally for one’s neighbor? I’m ashamed to say that beyond a few basics I don’t really know what my neighbor’s current needs, challenges, fears are. Nor do I share my own with very many–not family, not friends, not church, even when I was more regularly involved. At times when I lose my way someone comes along to draw me back to the land of the living, but what if they didn’t? I wouldn’t even have the will to look through the phone book for a therapist, or make an appointment with the only therapist I remember–the one who got visibly excited when she thought most of our family was exhibiting the same symptoms as she, and maybe needed the same medication! A bit of library research ruled that out, but it was one more thing that fed my distrust of professional therapists.

Maybe it’s a personality thing. Some need to talk it out, and if they don’t want to burden a friend, might be wise  to hire someone. I think I’m more like the character in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, who gets healing, and the strength to face her crisis, by withdrawing for a time. In the novel it’s seen as natural and called a fallow state. She just sits, sleeps, moves around a little, and doesn’t talk to or appear to hear anyone, as if she were in a waking coma, or a cocoon, waiting for no one knows what moment to come out. People help her with basic needs, let her be without avoiding her, but she is choosing by default to withdraw. Something is going on inside, a kind of reordering of memories, layers of personality, a healing and restoration that takes all her energy just then.

So I take my little breaks, not just the times out for rest, reading, writing, exercise, and time with friends, but sometimes just to zone out. I do this without the aid of mind-altering drugs or any particular meditation technique. It’s like taking a nap, but shorter, above the waters of real sleep, but refreshing. And I always, after fifteen to thirty minutes, wake suddenly with a drive to accomplish something. In fact if I don’t wait for that and try to drag myself back into my duties before the right time, I end up crashing worse. As long as I don’t let negative judgments of myself for needing that retreat, I can actually get to a kind of balance again.

Right now I get away in the pool for a few hours a week, in my empty classroom for a few hours on Saturdays, and for five minutes between staff lunch and students coming into class. All the other teachers seem to be fine hanging out until the bell, but I need that five minutes, and the quiet hour or two after school, or I don’t think I’d make it through the week.

Still, it’s been a better week than of late, I know how to plan better, have a better relationship with my co-teacher, feel more confident, relaxed and seasoned. My last period class has been transformed completely by the departure of four students, all of whom took so much of my time and energy the others lost out and I was often frazzled. I got four new students in that class whose struggles, some of which I know, some not, aren’t the kind that create disorder and distraction for others, and require from me less disciplinary management and more relational connection and intuitive communication. I can be myself, and we are all enjoying that more. There is already a growing sense of trust and community, rather than the tension and awkwardness I was told sometimes happens in these quarter transitions. Still a week to go for open enrollment, so maybe things will get more challenging.

Getting back to building community, in a sense the opening has happened for me to be proactive there through this job. I have this wonderful privilege of encouraging and challenging young people who needed this school, who convinced the folks in the main office that they wanted to be here and would be thankful for the opportunity to get off the waiting list, that trying to navigate the big high school corridors was taking them down. There they are, open, trying, needing support, but full of such interesting thoughts and carrying around talents, insights, knowledge, hopes, questions, wounds.

Today was awards day, where each staff member gets to recognize three students, and the new students got to hear, briefly, about students who had turned it around, never given up, showed exemplary kindness to others, striven for excellence. A good way to start the quarter, though some might naturally sink into feeling inadequate, as if they’d never be award-worthy.

One student, who never would have accomplished much if it weren’t for the patience and very direct support of the special ed teacher, was surprised to receive a Perseverance award. He had been constantly oppositional, complaining and resisting, using his smart phone, wearing his big earphones, off in unrelated conversations whenever he could be.  All his teachers knew that in his case, “perseverance” was a loose translation of “condescending to allow teachers to endure his prickly presence and walk on eggshells to creatively get around his defenses enough to help him get his work done so he could see a decent grade on his transcript and feel proud of himself enough to keep trying.” But he was touched–sort of partially melted, as I saw when I congratulated him later. Like he was starting to believe that other people, adults, even people in authority, might actually be on his side, and that he could accomplish something in academics. It’s hard to keep up the caring with a person like that, but I started to find the way through teasing him. Whenever I’d tell him to put away his phone, or change seats for being off task, he’d get his back up, look fierce and ask why I was picking on him. I would point out that I’d also spoken to so-and-so, and get drawn into a debate. Then once I had the sense to reply, “Because I like picking on you–it’s fun,” he actually smiled, and didn’t sass me, and from there the progress started.

Found out the teacher I am replacing while she is on leave has moved on, taken a job in another state, so next year this position should be open, at the same or possible greater hours, and then growing from there as the staff move into a new building. With natural lighting, creator spaces, a real science lab, a greenhouse, and seating on the roof!

 

 

“When you use Google services, you trust us with your information.”

Google privacy policy. Here I am again at the hurdle I have so far refused to jump, of, more aptly, the hoop I have refused to go through. Thought I could download an app from Verizon called Family Base which gives parents control over their children’s use of the internet and apps, allows them to turn access on and off, create a schedule, curfews, etc. All for the good of the children, to follow up on research that shows that too much screen time decreases their ability to concentrate, makes them read less, interferes with their sleep, and so on. The protections against cyber bullying and access to developmentally inappropriate or generally inappropriate content being a part of that, in case trust and integrity in those areas lags.

But to get the app, even for the free one month trial, I need to have and register a Google account, which means giving Google access to more information about me and everyone connected with me than I want. Always it comes down to that, and there isn’t an app to deal with it.

I share my dilemma and objections to my loved ones, who are in the living room watching a football game and the advertisements (which are now as entertaining as the game, if not more, so why bother with leaving to get a bite to eat or change over a load of laundry?). I get an annoyed look from my daughter, who suggests I drop it and get over it. My response is that smarter people than I objecting who have objected to what “everyone else” was doing had been told exactly the same thing, but they’d gone on to change the world, so why should I listen now? You can’t change the world, Mom. No, not by myself, I answer, but why not try, and see who might be interested in helping? How about coming alongside those who see the danger, and help them change the world for the better, or at least slow its slide toward chaos or bondage?

Back to the privacy policy. I’ve never read the whole thing before–never had to, before a blatant breech of privacy rights was named as part of the agreement. All in terms like, “We collect information to provide better services to all our users” and even “”like which ads you’ll find most useful [definition of ‘useful,’ please?], the people who matter most to you online [Celebrities? Candidates? Relatives? Political dissidents? Religious leaders? Thinkers, writers and activists who threaten the power of the corporations?]

Info Google lists as collectibles (some optional, but required for enhanced access to services):

  • Name, email address, phone number, credit card information
  • Google profile with name and photo (Google may use face recognition on all posted photos and analyze associated info)
  • What you look at, how often, and for how long
  • What you search for online
  • Information about your device, including unique device identifiers
  • Whom you call, when, types of calls, locations, and duration
  • Your location, by using IP address, GPS, other sensors, Wifi network and cell towers used
  • Information on how you use your computer (by means of cookies, pixel tags, etc.)
  • Detailed information on how you use your device, including apps and online sites, by complex analytics programs (Google Analytics, etc.) that accurately infer more about who you are, what you think, how you feel, what is going on in your life, and how you are likely to or can be induced to think and act in the future. This information is sold to other customers for their own purposes, leaked by hacking, and/or yielded to government intelligence agencies on demand. Also may be published for purposes of advertising services and products of Google and/or its business customers, with your photograph
  • Contents of your emails

All information collected may be processed outside the country

How to limit the collection of this info:

  • By not using the internet for searches or viewing content
  • Not sharing information with others using your electronic devices
  • Not clicking “Like”

Google concludes, in large print:

“We keep you personal information private and safe — and put you in control.”

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2015 in Culture & Society, Technology

 

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Sub notes, and a bit about screen time

Summer already, and in a state of drought [This is a post started back in May]. Already I’ve been watering–not enough rain to keep the seedlings alive until they send roots deep enough, or to bring up the worms to chew up that compost on the top. How to convince my sweetheart that now is the time to divert the gray water from our showers and kitchen sink into the vegetable garden my current challenge. He can do it, no problem, he says, but he’s a busy man, and we have so many other projects on the go. I don’t want to pester, or to be shrill, as I feIt was sounding, a little, talking to the pool manager about how I wanted my kids to get summer jobs that didn’t involve fuel consumption–yes, it’s normal, but we have to make a new normal, or we’ll all be in trouble, I proclaimed.

The other day I suggested to another teacher that it might be a good idea for school districts to trade staff around to minimize commuting distance and hence fuel combustion. And add good staff showers to the next renovation plan, so it would be easier to bike in. I asked around before Bike to School and Work Day about showers, and no one seemed to know. It would have to be one not used by students after early morning weights–too awkward.

I load the clothesline each day–sometimes I go out at night and hang as I listen to the coal trains rattle by; sometimes I’m out early in the morning hearing the birds–a pileated woodpecker knocking on the cottonwoods, robins, crows, chickadees and sparrows, and the faint rush of freeway commuters. Aromas of roses, apple blossoms with the occasional touch of sea air permeate the blankets and undershirts, puffing back out as I gather them together in my arms to place in the basket the next day.

Today was my last day subbing for a traveling high school teacher. I had all four classes, three of which require a lot of effort to keep them working. Or to clarify that it is completely their choice not to do any work, knowing they have been offered support and options. I had three sign notes to that effect. All very professional, and they seemed to appreciate being released–catch and release? I would have liked to have sent them home to work on a better plan. These are young adults, and while I recognize that the years have given me wisdom and can justify me being in a position of authority to set requirements and standards, as well as some ways of trying to help them develop a vision, a purpose for all this study, I want to honor their capacity and right to make their own choices.

One student said she had been away for several weeks because she couldn’t be bothered coming to school. I asked her why she decided to come in, and she explained that it was due to the departure of a welcome visitor at her home, a relative. I guess she felt lonesome and came for the social life. Her table mate, before this having been on the edge between marginal effort and none toward the class work, decided she was going to play cards. Did they expect this to result in an escalation, and that they would have to exert their right to self governance? I’m not into that, at their age, with my limited understanding of them personally.

This morning the instructional assistant that’s been helping with some of the students in one class came in specially to tell me that one of the students–one I had urged repeatedly to try to do the work, and who kept making excuses and evasions and claiming I was picking on him, was “special ed.” She seemed like she had been sent to tell me, after, probably, having a conversation with someone downstairs about how my interaction with that student had not gone very well the previous day. It was humbling, though I was glad to have more information–if only a label. At the end of the previous day I was aware that I’d need to be more gentle and creative with this student. Ironically, I felt that this boy’s social skills were on par or above those of the I.A. in some ways, who said almost nothing to me the whole four days, not even looking at me or answering when I said hello as she walked by me on her way in on the second day. No introduction, no sense of us being a team, in fact, a cold avoidance from the beginning. Her interaction with students she was working with (she stayed at one table the whole time, not to my knowledge offering much to the “special ed” student I had had the minor conflict with, involved a kind of “coming down to their level” which included whining, sarcasm, complaining, and bickering. It was strange, and made me wonder about her, as I assume she had skills and training, and an interest in being there. As the trainer said, kids can learn from all kinds of educators’ styles, as long as they’re consistent. So I’ll try not to judge.

The other I.A. was completely different–a tall, kind, bearded man who used a combination of goofiness and simple explanations as he circulated around helping struggling or off track students with their lab work. He kept an open line of communication with me, showed respect, and was a real sunshiny presence.

Today I finally confiscated some cell phones from students–should have earlier, maybe, but that’s a touchy thing to do as a sub. I didn’t want to physically touch the hones, so had each student wrap theirs up in scrap paper and put it in the drawer of the teacher’s desk, One had been repeatedly told over the course of the week to put her phone away, and was drawn like a magnet back to her screen again and again, oblivious to all else. She looked forlorn when it was gone–it was a case of withdrawal, I said, as I shared with her the science behind those feelings, loss of dopamine rush, as of an addict from a drug. She looked a little startled. Is no one teaching these kids the science of addiction, or that it doesn’t have to be about drugs present externally? I suppose we’re all scrambling to develop a philosophy, a policy, about something so powerful, ubiquitous, and sort out the elements of our ambivalence.

It might be a good idea to turn it over to the students themselves, this question of appropriate use of digital and/or web-based technology–let them research it, discover what the scientists have concluded, what’s being looked at, examine their own biases, teacher biases, parent biases,  try to be objective after all. I haven’t seen very much work on this, and it’s pretty important–at least as important as bullying. Maybe it’s not being addressed because it’s such a can of worms. Questions might arise such as, How does business influence students’ use of technology in the classroom? What student data is gathered by student use of district-adopted software and apps, and how is it used? How are web-based tests affecting students, and what do they measure well and not so well? Why is Microsoft eager to supply low or no-cost hardware and software to schools? And so on.

Flood ’em with information, theories, and opportunities to research and test. Put themselves in the place of an educator, a parent, a person trying to interact with them at dinner as they hold that thing in their hands. If the internet is really making them smarter, then they have to be responsible with that additional brain power, and use it to work it out on their own.

Meanwhile, I would like to use my students (among others) as subjects in an experiment of my own. I’d like to know whether there is a relationship between screen exposure and one’s ability to sit still without any direct stimulus, just to be still with one’s own thought and feelings. Somehow I feel this is an important question, and might provoke some valuable conversation about the brain. Maybe also the soul.

 

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Life on the rolling rock

Image result for planet earth line of sunrise
When the sun comes in I turn off the light. Amen. The round fruit is silently peeled and reflects soft morning light. Power usage drops suddenly as light switched are clicked off, across neighborhoods, cities, continents. A few variations due to mountains, valleys, tall buildings, heavy clouds, and people not paying attention or lacking windows. Exaggeration where solar panels feed direct into the grid.

At the utility, he holds his mug of coffee and sees it on the digital map: the drop in kilowatt usage all along the horizon of solar radiation. But soon the stoves are turned on, the computers, the hairdryers, and the solar rhythm is obscured again.

On Saturday a big storm ripped through and downed power lines, sending utility workers scurrying out with trucks loaded with chain saws and tools, and the customers tweeted from coffee shops across the county and generator powered devices that this was unacceptable–work was interrupted, kids could not go to school, entire apartment buildings had to be evacuated because of the dangerous dark. Please obscure our complete dependence we are uncomfortable with it. This is a developed country after all.

When a snow storm or hurricane cuts electricity to the outlets and water pump at the old timer’s house, his pulse quickens as he sinks into old home patterns. He does the circuit, fills the tub from the well, lights the kerosene lamp and a few candles, fries eggs and potatoes on the wood stove, and sits in the living room playing guitar as his wife knits in the firelight.

If I lived in a teepee or igloo I would get up as the sky lightened, do my work by the light of day, tidy up while I could still see and go to bed at dark. Except sometimes I would just start walking, listening, breathing in the sweet scents rising from the earth, seeing just enough by starlight.

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2015 in Beautiful Earth, Technology

 

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