Monthly Archive: February 2009

Op/Education #4: Kid-Friendly Classroom Design

When I was in first grade, my classmates and I sat in small wooden desks that were arranged in five neat rows of six. I remember my teacher, Mrs. Sherwood, gently instructing me and the other six-year-olds to sit up with our backs straight and our hands folded primly on the desktop. Being a student who took authority seriously, I sat very still and remember being praised for sitting “the right way.”

The truth is, even though teachers tend to want kids to sit in the classroom without moving around, it goes against the nature of the child. In fact, it goes against the nature of adults, too. Just like other living creatures, people are biologically programmed for physical activity throughout the day, not just at 10-minute intervals decided by others. Whether you work in a cubicle or a coffee shop, I can bet that you get up and move around within any given hour more than kids are allowed to.


What I’m Giving Up For Lent Instead of Chocolate

Since I now live in a state that has very few Catholics, I’d forgotten that today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I haven’t seen a single person walking around with a smudged black cross on their forehead to symbolize repentance. In fact, Lent wouldn’t have been on my radar at all if it weren’t for having spent the weekend in New Orleans at Mardi Gras. You’re supposed to get all the sin out of your system by Fat Tuesday, so starting the next day you can give up something significant to sympathize with Jesus’ 40-day Biblical struggle in the desert.

I haven’t given up anything for Lent in years, mainly because I’m one of those spiritual-but-not-religious former Catholics who doesn’t realize that Easter is coming until it’s here. Even when I was a churchgoer, I never quite understood how depriving yourself of chocolate or video games made you a better person. This never became clear to me in Sunday school, or even at my Catholic high school and college. Wikipedia provides a better explanation than I ever found as a child: during Lent, you give up a vice that keeps you distant from God — or, as I see it, from evolving as a person. Giving up a vice makes a lot more sense to me than banishing the Nintendo Wii.


Video: Reschooling in Elementary School

If you’re curious to get a glimpse into my time in the classroom, I’ve posted three videos of me and the students at my elementary school, El Verano. They’re just super short clips and not edited, but they’ll introduce you to the kids I’ve written about and how they interacted with me. The first two are from the documentary shoot.

1) Competing against the third graders in Around the World, a math game that many of us played in class as kids (32 seconds):


Exteme Makeover: Reschool Yourself Edition

Today the RSY site got a little cosmetic surgery, a tuck here and an enhancement there.

Here are the changes, which should make the site more user friendly:

1) Sidebars

The challenge of blogs is that older posts get pushed down into the archives, even if they’re still relevant. I restructured the home page to make room to highlight the best of the blog.

  • Donor List: Because the list of donors continues to grow (thank you!), I moved it to the middle of the page.
  • About Reschool Yourself: Updated and condensed the project description.
  • Best of Reschool Yourself: Added my favorite posts from the project so far.
  • Most Popular Posts: Expanded the list, based on the number of page views. to show the Top 5.
  • Reschool Yourself Here: Added my favorite sites with reschooling themes. My talented friends are behind most of them.


Reschooling Tool #18: Personal Firsts As a Sign of Progress

“So how’s everything going?”

As you can imagine, I get this question a lot these days after making such big changes in my life over the last eight months. Last summer, I left my full-time job and moved home to Sonoma from San Francisco so I could return to my old classrooms. In January, I moved cross-country and into my boyfriend‘s already established bachelor pad. Now I’m developing a new career as a freelance writer, and I’m figuring out how to earn a living from it. I’m also learning to structure large blocks of time and figuring out how to design my desired lifestyle from scratch. In doing so, I’m rediscovering old hobbies and am trying out new ones, and attempting to lay to rest old habits of perfectionism, people-pleasing, and workaholism. Of course people are curious about how everything is going.


Op/Education #3: Invective for Social Change

I used to admire MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann for saying what everyone else was thinking. On 9/11/08, he wasn’t afraid to declare that the Bush administration was trying to profit from using “9/11 TM” as a brand. After listening to just a few of Olbermann’s Special Comments, however, I’ve gotten tired of his diatribes. They are so extreme that I don’t think they’re very effective, and they hurt my head. I think we can learn an important lesson from Olbermann when it comes to social change, including education reform: Yelling doesn’t get you anywhere.


Let the Muse Speak Through You

My mom has close to a hundred personal narratives sitting in dusty binders at home. I didn’t even know that she had even written them, over a decade ago for a friend sick with cancer, but one day I came across them and began reading. Every one resonated with an experience that I’d had and left me feeling inspired. I told my mom that she could publish these essays, because people deserved to read them.

“Ahh, no,” she said, dismissing the idea. “Those were just for John.” But as she sat there on the couch paging through binder after binder, I could tell that she was seeing the essays objectively for the first time, as if someone else had written them. And I think that she was stunned to realize, “These are good.”


Just Between Us Girls…And You

I have been so busy living life here in Jackson that I haven’t had time to document it. I think this is a good sign. This morning I was writing an update to my three college roommates and decided that it summed up the month pretty well. I invite you to eavesdrop on our (slightly edited) email exchange:

Photo courtesy of Marc Pagani

Photo by Marc Pagani

My little sister‘s wedding. A-mazing. It was such a meaningful event that I can’t capture it perfectly in words. The wedding week was one of the most fantastic weeks of my life. I was happy to arrive in New Orleans a few days in advance to help Gill through the wedding prep craziness with much red wine, laughter, and girly movies (I heart Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants).

Gill’s college friends are the most hilarious, creative bunch of people that you will ever meet. The wedding and reception involved eating lots of New Orleans food and closing down the open bar, then putting on any hats and wigs we could find and going out to the French Quarter til the wee hours.  Even the photographer said that it was one of the best weddings he’s ever been to. I have a not-so-secret hope that we (and my own close friends) will all build houses on a big plot of land together someday, or at least in the same neighborhood.