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Changing Education One Post At A Time

Yesterday on Facebook I shared a small experiment someone else had shared.  A person I don’t know had posted about going to Hillary Clinton’s Facebook page and then Donald Trump’s Facebook page and seeing how many of your own friends have “liked” each of those pages.

This particular person had so many more Trump supporting friends than Clinton that he came to the conclusion only voter fraud could help her win the election.  (A conclusion I do not share, by the way).

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 5.33.58 AMSo I did my own.  You can see the results in the image embedded in this post.  I, too, have about twice as many friends that have “liked” the Trump page than I do those who have “liked” the Clinton page.  I added a third choice candidate, Gary Johnson, to my findings just to be thorough.

Now, to be sure, this poll is completely unscientific.  Some have offered comments on my post that Democrats are “quieter” online than Republicans.  Or that many of the Trump “likes” are just people hoping to see what he might say next without truly supporting him (kind of like watching a train wreck).  Both of those could be layered in an aspect of truth, I suppose.

But to me, the questions raised are larger than any attempts to try to make sense of the data.  Here are a few that bother me, and that could lead to discussions with older students in your classrooms (not necessarily about the election). And remember, I don’t support or follow either of these two leading candidates, which is why these questions are important to me:

  • If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, does that say anything about your own life choices outside of this experiment?
  • If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, what does that say about the kind of information you are exposed to on social media on a daily basis?
  • If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, do you find yourself agreeing more with what they post than what the other groups post on social media?
  • If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, do you find yourself thinking differently about the people in the smaller groups when you see what they post on social media?
  • If one group of people in this experiment are at least double the number of any other group, is it important to you to try to remedy that by finding other social media connections that would even out the results?

Bias is an important question for me in social media at all times.  I try to look for bias in the news (its pretty easy to find).  We can find bias in the interviews done on late night television.  We even find bias on the websites we visit.  The algorithms of social media are such that every website you join is trying to find “more of what you like” to make your experience as pleasing as possible. By doing so, they are, by default, minimizing your contact with those who think differently than you.  And what does that do to you?  How does that change you?

Do we even know who we are online?


I Refuse to Choose

Posted by Tim under Personal

This election cycle is one like no other in history.  Well, at least no other in my lifetime.  In my country.  For president.

We have one candidate who is the 2nd most untrusted person in the history of presidential polling.  And she is only 2nd behind her opponent who is the 1st most untrusted person in the history of polling.  And yet people are yelling “I’m with her!” and “Make American Great Again!” at the top of their lungs like they have no choice in the matter.

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.31.01 AMTo me, it might be a good time to change our voting results to the one with most votes is President and the one with the 2nd most votes is the Vice President.  But that’s never going to happen.

When I talk on social media about going with a 3rd party candidate, I’m often told that is a waste of my vote.  That a vote for a 3rd party is actually a vote for her.  Or a vote for him.  (I have diverse friends).

I think differently than that.

To me, the only wasted vote is the one where I abandon my own conscience, give up my own moral compass, or cast a lemming vote that leads us all over the precipice.

The education movement has been overtaken by the maker mindset.  And this is a good thing. In the maker movement, students are not limited to A or B. Standardization of work is seen as detrimental to the overall learning of individual students.  In the maker spaces we create, students are limited by their own imaginations. They are encouraged to try and fail and try again.

If the maker movement works in the classroom, it should work in the real world.

If enough of us vote for a 3rd party candidate, we may pay the price this go around in the White House, and we may pay the price again in the next round, but believe me, over time the national parties would hear our voices and wake up.  We will try, and fail, and try again.

The two party system is broken.  It has been hijacked by big money, wealthy candidates, super PACs, elitist billionaires, and more.

This post is not a recommendation for a particular candidate.  I’m leaning toward one, but my mind is still open.  But when it comes to this election, I have created my own slogan for the idea that I am limited to only two seemingly corrupt candidates and their equally seemingly corrupt parties:

“I Refuse To Choose.”


Are You With Me Or Against Me?

Posted by Tim under Leadership

It used to be, in a more polite (read cloistered) society, that people did not talk politics much.  Our leanings were our own.  The time in the voting booth was sacred and holy as an inalienable right.  Many times husbands and wives didn’t even discuss it together.

New-Election-Day-2016jpgToday is different.  With the onslaught of the twenty-four hour news cycle, the proliferation of social media, and the ubiquitous dissemination of mobile devices, we are quick to speak and slow to think.

Disclaimer: As I use the term “we” in this post, it most definitely includes me.

This year for our main dish of presidential candidates, we have the 2nd most non-liked candidate ever, Hillary Clinton, competing against the number one most non-liked candidate, Donald Trump.  It doesn’t matter who you are for or against, in polling numbers this fact is true.  People don’t even trust the candidate for whom they have committed to vote.

I’ve made it pretty clear that I cannot support either of these candidates (although I will support them, and hold them accountable, if one should become president), but that’s not really the purpose of this post.

I’m concerned on social media by the way educators are handling this election.  Educators, those people who are supposed to be the supreme example of how an education can broaden your mind so that you can appreciate the opposing views of those who align themselves to the other side of the political spectrum.  Educators, those people who are supposed to be accepting of all regardless of race, gender, socio-economic status, or learning disability.  Educators, you know, those friends of mine from around the globe and those I don’t really know that well.

I could care less if my friend is on the extreme left or right.  I could care less if they claim to be Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, Socialist, or other. I could care less if they are straight or LGBT.  I could care less if they are black, white, red, yellow, or blue.  I could care less if they are union, non-union, or something in between.

But I do care when I see educators openly attack one party, or one candidate, or even another friend of mine on social media.

I get it.  Educators are tied of being attacked and vilified.  We are tired of the accountability lines between redrawn every year.  We are over standardized anything.  We are over being attacked by parents, school board members, politicians, and the press. We are exhausted.

And we are the last hope for our society.

Now, I’ve made plenty of fun at the expense of both parties and both main candidates.  To me, the stakes are so high, and our prospects with either of the two leading contenders are so low, that humor is my escape.  So maybe I’m being hypocritical here.  If so, I’ll own that.

But teachers, your students are following you on social media.  Administrators, your students are following you on social media.  They are looking for direction.  They are looking for a calm voice in the midst of their chaos.

And when the election is over, whether your party/candidate is in power or not, hold your head high and remember you have a job equally as important as the religious leaders of our society.  You are guiding young minds and lives.  Including those whose names you may never know.

Practice peace. Practice restraint. Allow discourse but not arguing.  Allow thoughtful processing but not name calling. Be the adult in the room for the students who may need that in their lives right now.

All of our schools have students who strongly support the Black Lives Matter movement and those who want to wave the rebel flag in protest.  All of our schools have straight students, gay students, and transgender students.  All of our schools have high functioning and low functioning students. All of our schools have a broad range of socio economic backgrounds.

And here is their question as they look at your  social media posts: “Are you with me or against me?”


Trying Again

Posted by Tim under Personal, Spiritual

Hi everyone.  Its me.  You know. Me.  The guy that used to blog here.

I have allowed life and my own laziness to get in the way of keeping up.  Lately, I’ve found myself posting rather long thoughts on Facebook, and when I hit “post” I think, “I should have made that a blog post on my website.”  And then something shiny catches my eye, and I’m gone.

A lot has happened since my last post.  I’ve lost some weight.  Gained part of it back.  Lost a part of the gained part again.

I swore this summer was the time I would get out and walk.  Maybe learn to like jogging. Maybe use the weights I purchased to work out.  Or use the app I downloaded to do a quick 7-Minute Workout. But I was determined to lose that last 15 pounds before school started.  Yet here I am needing to lose 20 instead.

This was the summer I was going to hang pictures in my office.  You know the ones.  They’ve been sitting in the floor next to my desk for 4 years.  Well, the summer is not quite over yet, so hope springs eternal once more.

This was the summer I was going to get back to blogging.  No comment.  But I’m here now.  And, hopefully, I can make it back to doing this a lot more.

I enjoy writing. I really do. You wouldn’t know it by looking at the last date I wrote here, but it is a passion for me. I don’t like editing. And I don’t like deadlines. And I don’t like people telling me where I made a mistake in my grammar or spelling. But I like writing.  And all of that tied together probably means I will never “be” a writer.  I’ll just write.

And even now, as I am typing these words and thinking about what has come before them, I realize there are two spaces after some periods and one space after others.  I’m as conflicted about the use of those spaces as I am our elections right now. But that’s a different post for another day.

Its good to be back. Even if just for a few minutes. This is a sacred place that I have missed for far too long. But I’ll try to be back soon. Promise.

At least I’m trying…again.


Enjoying Florence

Posted by Tim under Personal

After leaving Assisi, our group headed north to Florence.  Florence is much different than Assisi, not only because it is a large city (approximately 600K), but because it is a booming trade city.  Florence had no choice in the matter, really.  Several centuries ago, the Medici family “invented” marketing.  They decided to make Florence an attractor of fine art, and that has stayed true ever since.

We arranged to meet as a group around The Duomo, a large dome cupola located at the rear of the Cathedral of St Mary of the Flowers.  Curved roads and tall, narrow alleyways lead from square to square, each with its own purpose.  We had a lot of free time to explore in Florence, and it was a great decision.  We were each able to pursue our own interests.

Florence-91The Cathedral sits across the square from the Baptistry.  The Baptistry is generally placed inside the church, but the church was still young in Florence when the Cathedral was built.  As a result, they were baptizing many adults as well as infants.  Baptisms only occurred twice a year.  Those baptized would walk out the “Doors of Heaven” (named by Michaelangelo, built by Giotta) and across the square into the welcoming arms of the Church.  A symbolic act of both new life and community.

As a side note, it is the rituals of the Catholic church that hold such a place of awe for me personally.  It was something I came to appreciate while spending time in England.  And the thought of the Church, the family of God, Christ’s body here on earth, welcoming new believers into its arms in this fashion was not lost on me.

As a group, we took a guided tour of downtown Florence that led us through the streets from the Cathedral to the Old Bridge and back.  Every time we turned around, something new and exciting was standing before us.

We walked the Old Bridge on the Arno River, the only bridge not destroyed by the Germans in WWII as they tried to cut off the tanks of the American troops.  Looking downstream we saw the Ponte Santa Trinita Bridge.  This 14th century bridge was destroyed by the Germans in WWII, but was later rebuilt by the people of Florence who dredged the river, pulled up all the original stones, and put it back together like a puzzle.  An amazing feat!

One of the highlights of the trip, of course, was going through the Accademia Gallery in Florence where the statue of David stands.  Perhaps the greatest sculptural creation of all time, it was certainly ahead of its time.  Originally hired to create a work of art for the Duomo of the Cathedral, the church leaders expected a statue of David standing in triumph over Goliath with Goliath’s head in one hand a sword in the other.  What they got was the idea of Goliath’s impending death with David’s sling over one shoulder and a stone in his other hand by his side.  What they also got was a statue of David in all his glory, and the church leaders refused to place it in the Duomo for that reason.  Instead, it stood outside the Old Palace of Florence (a replica stands there now).

A large part of our group decided to take the 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo.  An interesting trek to be sure, but well worth every effort to crawl up stairs in one of the most claustrophobic areas ever.  The views were spectacular (as the picture with this post can attest).

We stayed at the PLUS Hostel of Florence.  As hostels go, it was a really great place to stay.  The bed was comfortable.  The shower was hot.  Our breakfast was rudimentary.  But the wifi was horrible. (Priorities, right?).


Assisi and the Wonders of St. Francesco

Posted by Tim under Personal

Yesterday we were in Assisi for most of the day before boarding our bus and heading farther north to Florence.  It was a fantastically beautiful day!

A few of us started the day with a quick walk to the Papal Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels.  It was only about 15 minutes from our hotel.  The Basilica was absolutely beautiful outside, but inside was even more amazing.  Inside is the original chapel built by St. Francis (Francesco).  It is just big enough for an altar and about 12 Brothers to sit in desks (six along each wall) that look remarkably like our old wooden school desks from decades ago.  St. Francis is so beloved in Italy (and especially Assisi) that they built the entire Basilica around the chapel.  You have to walk around the chapel to get to the main worship area.  At 6:30 AM the bells rang a call to Mass, and we were privileged to listen as a traditional Latin Mass began.

Like all of the churches we entered in Assisi, there is no photography allowed inside.  One of the main disappointments of my day!

Later, we took the bus up the mountain to the city gate for old Assisi.  We began our guided tour with the Basilica of St. Claire.  St. Claire (or Chiara in Italian) was very close to Assisi.  She was a noble woman who wanted to start her own order of nuns.  She took on the “privilege of poverty,” which was a statement totally out of character for both someone of nobility and a woman in those times.  When the Pope gave them his blessing, he added that they would be a cloistered group of nuns.  To this day, the convent stands next to the church, and the nuns who enter stay inside their entire lives.

When St. Francis died, they brought the body near a window of the convent in order that St. Claire might kiss his body one last time.  Now, each year as they celebrate the death of St. Francis, a gate is opened that leads into the convent and the nuns come to kiss the statued body of St. Francis as it passes through their Basilica.  After that, it is closed for another year.

The story of St. Claire, and her great love for St. Francis, brought tears to the eyes of many of us, myself included.

After leaving the Basilica of St. Claire, we walked the streets of Assisi to the Basilica of St. Francis.  Again, a totally amazing adventure back in time.  In American we think of St. Francis as the Patron Saint of Animals.  This is largely due to the fact that before he was granted to permission to preach, he would preach to the animals in the wild and ask them to carry his message to the Church.  But in Italy, this is not how they think of St. Francis.  Here, he is the Patron Saint of Italy itself.

At one point our tour guide apologized for talking so much about Catholicism.  She said she was not intending to offend anyone who was not a Christian, but in Italy it is impossible for them to separate their culture from their faith.  This struck me as particularly poignant in our current political climate.  Many in the Evangelical movement have don’t just that, and that is quite sad to me as an Evangelical.

The tour through the Basilica of St. Francis was another amazing journey through time.  After his death, artisans from all over Europe came to work on the creation of the Basilica.  In fact, part of the town we walked through were the original houses built for the artisans to live in while the shrine was completed.  It is a beautiful hue of pastel colors throughout; something not seen before in religious works if I understood correctly.Assisi-43

There is a painting that was pointed out to us in the basement of the Basilica.  It was of Mary with the infant, Jesus.  To the right is the Apostle Peter.  To the left is St. Francis.  It was interesting for two reasons.  It was the first (or one of the first) times that Mary was depicted in her maternal role of the infant rather than at the cross of her Son, the Christ.  The second is a detail that is up for interpretation.  There is a look in Jesus’ eyes as if asking a question.  The question could be, “Which of these two is the greatest?”  Mary holds Jesus with her left hand, and with her right she has her thumb extended toward St. Francis as if to say, “He is.”  (Our tour guide was quick to point out that as an Italian mother, she liked the notion more that Mary was pointing back at herself saying, “I am your mother. I am greater.”

Our time in Assisi was a wondrous experience as we walked through buildings from the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries.  It is a place to which I hope to return some day.  I have made a connection with St. Francis that is deeper than ever.  His prayers for peace have made Assisi the global home for peace, as it hosts religious leaders from all faiths each year for a conference on creating peace in the world by creating peace between religions.  It is a noble goal.


When in Rome….uh, Amsterdam

Posted by Tim under Personal

Well, our trip has taken an interesting turn for the 30 or so kids, parents, and teachers on our flight.  We left Atlanta knowing we were going to be too late to make our connection in Amsterdam.  Sure enough, we did.

image_1 (1)We are sitting here in a fairly deserted part of the terminal. There are many fairly deserted parts of many terminals here in Amsterdam.

We were supposed to leave at 9:55 local time and arrive in Rome around noon.  Now we are leaving Amsterdam at 4:25.  Not really certain what that means for meeting up with our other two plane loads of people yet, but it’s going to be interesting.

There is still about a 2 1/2 hour bus ride after we get to Rome.  We will miss our scheduled dinner time as well.

image (3)Oh well.  It is what it is.  Everyone has adjusted well.  No one is complaining (well, I may have a bit, but I’m over it).  I feel a little like Tom Hanks in The Terminal.

As a result, I went to find some authentic Amsterdam coffee.  Turns out Amsterdam coffee looks just like Starbucks.  At least in the airport.

At least I’m getting the opportunity to get some steps in and synced to my FitBit.  It is about a half mile back to the shops area.  And while there are moving walkways to help with speed, there are no trams or shuttles from one terminal to another.  That means I walked from somewhere around D42 all the way to B31 only to find out I should have stopped at T2 to get my transfer ticket and then go back to D83, which is our new gate.

Yep.  Fun times!


We’re Off!

Posted by Tim under Personal

3:30 PM –

We have successfully navigated our way out of Knoxville. Well, almost all of us anyway. Sarah’s plane took off about 30 minutes ahead of mine. Just as we were boarding the one of the teachers who planned the trip came up to tell us their flight from Knoxville to Philly had just been cancelled.

image (2)As I’m writing this at 17,000 feet, I’m not sure what their status is. I do know that our tour company, EF Tours is not new to these setbacks and will figure out a way to get all of our group to Italy…eventually.

The 35 minute flight to Atlanta is nearly over. I’ll update more while we are waiting at the airport for our International leg to Amsterdam.

4:45 PM –

We are at our next gate waiting on our flight to Amsterdam.  Already exchanged some dollars for Euros.

Got word as we landed that our group whose flight was cancelled was able to get another plane and will be arriving in Italy on time as planned.  Woohoo!

The kids on the trip are pretty excited about the possibilities of all they will see and experience in Italy.  Looking forward to a week of fun and learning (and fun learning!).


Today is the Day

Posted by Tim under Personal

Today is the day.  Our tour group of nearly 70 students, parents, and teachers will board 4 separate planes and take off for the magical land of Italy.  It still hasn’t quite hit me.

While each plane has a different route, we all arrive in Rome sometime tomorrow.  My flight leaves Knoxville a little after 3 today.  Our trip goes through Atlanta, then to Amsterdam, and on to Rome.  Sarah will head to Washington, DC, then to Frankfurt, and finally to Rome.  Our flights are scheduled to arrive at exactly the same time.  Fingers crossed!

And what time is that?  Oh, about noon. That’s 6 AM here.  Fifteen hours of travel.  But we’re not done yet!1024px-Assisi_San_Francesco_BW_2

Once in Rome, and all bags and passengers are collected, we board a bus and head almost 2 1/2 hours north to Assisi.  Not at all certain what we are doing on Tuesday, but Wednesday morning will see us on a guided tour of the Basilica of St. Francis.

This walk through such a beautiful place in an even more beautiful location will be slightly marred by the fact that 7 months ago the Basilica was damaged from an earthquake.  Watching news reports on YouTube it is believed the structure might not be able to withstand another.

All in all, it is going to be a great trip.  We will learn a lot, experience a lot, and create lifetime memories both for ourselves and our students.

Today is the day.  Buckle up!


Packing for Italy

Posted by Tim under Personal

In 24 hours from the time I’m writing this post, Sarah and I will be in the car driving up to Knoxville to wait on our flights to Italy.  We are both extremely excited!

Packing LightAfter my walk-about, Megabus trip to DC and Philly last year, I realized even then I was overpacked.  So I have attempted to get down to the bare necessities for this trip.  One carry-on for clothing.  One for camera equipment. One is not necessarily larger than the other.

In this photo you can see how I’ve tried to pack.  A couple of pairs of jeans (in addition to the ones I wear on the flight), a couple of button down shirts, a sweatshirt for cooler evenings, several t-shirts (a couple with our school logos), and an extra pair of shoes (not pictured in the top photo).  Add to that various toiletries, and I’m good to go!

I purchased a new carry-on with 4 wheels instead of 2.  They seem to go through airports easier, and I won’t be hitting the back of my heel from the short handle that forces the bag too close to my long strides. And I should be able to just keep it with me on the plane, so no chance I will lose my luggage.

I guess we’ll see how it works in a few days!


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