Mirrors, Westworld and Hypocrisy

man_looking_in_mirrorPhoto: http://img.jillkonrath.com/hs-fs/hub/110248/file-22797243-jpg/images/man_looking_in_mirror.jpg

We seem rarely to see ourselves as we really are when we look in the mirror. This can be a good thing (as when we aspire to be better) or a very, very bad thing (as when we fail to see a fixable flaw that is obvious to everyone else). This election season I’ve found myself shouting at my TV screen at certain advocates — “Really?! OMG, look in the mirror!” These people spew hateful, bigoted comments while declaring themselves proponents of family values, defenders of the poor, and good Christians.

Why the disconnect?

I think that, when such folks look themselves in the mirror, they see what they want to see, as in the Mirror of Erised at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter novels. Why is it so easy to overlook what is objectively before our eyes? Part of the answer for me comes from the new Netflix series Westworld in which guests visit a fantasy western world populated by extremely lifelike robots. I’ll focus on just one aspect of the series: the creators debrief the “hosts” periodically, but calling them into a minimalist lab and asking them questions. The hosts (and hence the actors) sit naked on a chair and, if they go into cold storage, stand naked in lines. I can only imagine how vulnerable a person (or actor) must feel being so exposed. As a TV viewer, I find myself feeling uncomfortable on their behalf. Therefore, it seems to me that people easily tune out what they don’t want to see, either physically or metaphorically, when looking in the mirror.

We all need to be better, to acknowledge the reality of our judgmental natures. Only then can we begin to address them.



UHS Homecoming 2016

16uhshcspiritMy high school site is unique in its tradition of decorating entire hallways for Spirit Week. Each day all students dress up according to a theme, culminating in Spirit Night on Thursday where class councils bring in the decorations they’ve been working on all quarter. On Friday morning students tour around and a committee of staff have the difficult task of awarding points. This year the Seniors won, followed by Juniors, Sophomores and Freshmen. My few pictures here fail to do their amazing work justice. EVERY locker mural was outstanding, and many of the smaller elements such as Cinderella’s coach and  the working WALL-E robot were impressive. But below, from 12-9th grade are a few tastes of Homecoming 2016.

Seniors: Disney Princesses — Rapunzel’s tower, Beauty and the Beast mural

Juniors: Imagination– Peter Pan mural, Jolly Roger pirate ship

Sophomores: Lion King / Finding Nemo / Ratatouille / A Bug’s Life —  Pride Rock, Finding Nemo painting

Freshmen: Video Games — Sugar Rush mural, Wreck It Ralph model


October is Filipino American History Month

My parents came to the United States as medical interns from the University of the Philippines to the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, a suburb of Chicago. After having four children and establishing themselves at the University of Chicago as a PhD in pathology and a pediatrician La Rabida, a tertiary care facility, they became citizens. We moved to Northern California, and we children all pursued advanced degrees, becoming a lawyer/teacher, nurse/manager, engineer and human resources training consultant. 

Filipino American History Month celebrates the work ethic and strong family values that have produced similar success stories in the Filipino-American community for over 4oo years. I’m very proud that my family, my “calabash” aunties and uncles and cousins, my community (geographic and online)  have contributed so much to the immense mixed salad that is our diverse and democratic country. May it continue to strenghthen and grow!


Waxing and Waning Tweets

I’ve been disappointed in myself that I haven’t been as active on Twitter or in my favorite Twitter chats or Google+ communities since school began. Then I realized that I’ve had to develop different priorities. To everything there is a season. At least I’m still listening to education podcasts. And I’m confident that I’ll resume active participation in my online PLN (professional learning network) as I create a comfortable and efficient school routine. It takes time. 

Teachers constantly  shake their heads at non-teachers’ envy of our “summers off.” Ironically, my summers are even more packed with professional development activities than the rest of the year. This summer I presented at two conferences, attended two, put in 3 days of site and district learning, plus spent countless hours of thinking and planning and dreaming about the coming school year. Granted, I also attended San Diego Comic-Con and visited Washington DC. But I collected there ideas to share with my students.

My commitment to and enjoyment of growing in my profession remains steady even though my activities wax and wane. Twitter can wait.

The Opposite of “Play” is Depression


Photo source: sierrasourcemedia.com

Play – its opposite isn’t “work” but “depression.” I heard this in a TED Hour story on  NPR called “How Does Play Shape Our Development?”. Among other findings, Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, learned in his studies of the lives of murderers that they all lacked play in childhood. In interviews of thousands of people to catalog their relationships with play, Brown noted a strong correlation between playful activity and success. Play in both children and adults lights up activity in the frontal lobe, creating connections that help in problem-solving and risk-taking.

I also read a story today that “Science Suggests a Relationship Between Geekiness and Happiness.”  Recently, in February, educators around the world celebrated Global School Play Day. In American society, we understand that the “work” of childhood is primarily to play.

Yet a school on Long Island NY cancelled its annual kindergarten show so kids could keep working to become “college and career ready.” Given all these finding and reactions to standardized testing, perhaps it’s time educators insist on spending more time on what research shows is best for children and less time on excessive testing and test prep. It’s downright depressing.


You Can (Sort of) Go Home Again

image.jpegMy family lived here (155 Surmont, Los Gatos) for one year when we first moved to California in the 70’s. There were no bushes and only newly-planted trees at the time, and both the top floor (visible), the floor below it, and shrubs on the slope were open to the street. It’s located at the border of Los Gatos and San Jose, very near Union Middle School, where I attended EdCamp San Jose. Afterward, I took a nostalgic drive to the old neighborhood and my former junior high, now called a middle school.


I’m probably not alone in having less-than-idyllic memories of 8th grade. It was hard enough being an outsider at a school where everyone else had already attended for a year, but I was also an academic odd fish. I rewrote an Agatha Christie novel into a screenplay and performed it with half-hearted “volunteers.” I aced all the grammar tests. I read voraciously. My English teacher finally made me his “teaching assistant” to give me something to do while he delivered curriculum to my classmates.

Happily, teachers today are able to differentiate more effectively than back in the day. I love a motto that I’be heard but whose attribution I forget: “I want to be the teacher I needed at that age.”

Free PD: Priceless

image.jpegI’m back to blogging, energized by two great free professional development experiences in three days. Pictured here this morning are EdCamp San Jose organizers “building the board” of the sessions suggested by participants. I attended 20% Time Troubleshooting, Mobile Photography, and Minecraft. Get ready, students!

On Thursday afternoon I attended a mini-“CUE style” conference hosted by and for Irvine Unified SD teachers. I learned more about Hyperdocs and NearPod, and shared about Passion Projects and Google Classroom. It was also great to reconnect with techs colleagues from around the district, some of whom also attended the annual CUE Conference last month. Way to keep the momentum and connections going, IUSD!