Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Asian, American, Asian-American, ADD

Yesterday I "went" to a presentation given by a clinical psychiatrist, Justin Chen, from Mass General Hospital on supporting international students in the classroom.  In this climate of Asian hate and overall insensitivity, I've been to several of these talks recently.  I suppose it is good that we can discuss these topics openly, and as usual- a lot of people are shocked to see that Asians have been getting bullied and targeted for racially motivated hate since we are after all "the model minority"

But aside from the racial aspects of the lecture, what I noticed was the different educational system starting at an early age between the East and West.  The glaring difference between the two when seen from this image:  the stark difference between the kindergarten classroom in the US verses Japan.  



The US classroom is literally a chaos of colors, shapes, and randomness.  It is hard for any child to land their focus on any one thing for too long.  I remember when I was 4 or 5 years old attending school in Japan, we had to wipe down the floor with a wet rag every morning in unison before our day began.  This was not only for the purpose of getting the room ready for the day and cleanliness, but also gives the children a bit of stretching exercise and a sense of ownership of the space.  

In opposition to that mentality, I remember the first time I stepped foot into the large cafeteria space where my son was in kindergarten at PS150.  I was there at the end of the day to pick him up.  He was going to an afterschool program for an extra hour or so, and basically the children were all housed in a large unruly loud echo chamber.  I recall the shock of how dirty and disgusting the space was.  I saw children eating oreos and just throwing the trash on the floor without any consequence.  

And I think about the quote "with freedom comes responsibility". At the age of 4 or 5, if you give children too much freedom, what the hell do adults think they will do with that freedom?  I look at the images of two different style classrooms and wonder what is the rate of ADD in Asian countries?  Do they keep such records?  Looking at the way a child is educated in this country, I think that it's not a shock that so many children in this country have deficiencies focusing on anything for too long.  They were never taught to focus from an early age.

Children need to be taught EVERYTHING.  Sure they discover things on their own, and that is great, but as adults and educators, you need to facilitate that discovery, not have it as a free for all.  Our son  started getting an allowance of (something like) $1 per week at an early age.   I gave our son a wallet as a Christmas present so he would have a place to put the money when we went shopping.  (A reason for doing this was not only to teach him the value of money but to stop him from pestering us when we were at the grocery store.  If he realized that he had to buy junk with his own money, he stopped begging us for everything he passed in every aisle).  Anyway, back to having to teach children everything:  The first time we went shopping together after he received his wallet, I noticed he had a huge bulge in his coat pocket, and I asked him what he had in there.  

"my wallet" was his reply.  

Anything else?  toys? 

"no, just my wallet"

"can I see it?  how much money have you saved up that you've got such a wad in your pocket?"

And when he produced his new wallet and opened it, I saw that he had balled up each dollar bill and had tossed them into the pocket of the billfold, instead of having the the money nicely flattened  and folded. It took me about 5 minutes to show him how he was supposed to use a wallet.  

The Japanese classroom image may seem a shock to the non-teacher centered classroom of the west, where 4 year olds call their teachers Sarah instead of Ms. Durer.  But the order, hierarchy and organization gives teachers less work. They don't have to teach the children where to look and focus every second of the day.  No wonder the elementary school teachers in this country are exhausted.  

I agree that the Japanese classroom may feel a bit stifling to children's creativity and communication skills, as they are seemingly in a situation where they are being lectured to, instead of interacting with the content (active learning).  But there must be a middle ground between these two classrooms. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Following, Stalking and getting Inspired

 For the past few weeks, (or has it been monts?  who even can keep track anymore??) I've spent a few hours clicking on links sent by friends or reading everything on a list of "goings on" sent by friends in their monthly updates.  Last week I got absorbed in the world of George and her amazing projects.  Today I started with one of my favorite design bloggers which somehow lead me to the times video collaboration between Dominic Fike and Paul McCartney, finally ending up watching a short documentary of the young singer/songwriter.   I could spend hours doing this every day, but I realize I need to get back to work and use my computer to grade student assignments. 

TGIF


Friday, March 5, 2021

5 Card Garfield

I love books

I love book art

I love opening presents

lids and covers

and cracking the spines

to discover the magic contained inside. 

But historically books were a teensy bit elitist.  No, actually they could only be enjoyed only by the haves…not the have nots. Not everyone was able or allowed or had time to read or could afford to buy books.  Once upon a time books were so expensive to create that one volume could be worth the equivalent of a house.  Books were held under lock and key.  They were stored in vaults. They were chained to bookshelves. They were reserved for a small population. Some were created for a soul user and not to be shared. Holding secrets between you and god.  Over time printing presses, xerox machines, home printers and the internet changed all that of course, and we have access to books even if we can’t afford them. We can read without touching paper, enjoy stories without knowing how to read.

This past year I’ve been consoled by reading books, playing games and sending letters.  I’ve been thinking about Ray Johnson and Mail Art as well.  I love the idea that anything can become mail art once the postman has delivered it for you.  This still does not solve the problem of creating art for the masses, but somehow it feels much more democratic.  

I’ve been creating small editions of artifacts to mail out and letting serendipity play a part in who receives them. 

I mailed them out on Tuesday, and by Wednesday I got responses.  The post office is very efficient!

5 Card Garfield is a riff on 5 Card Nancy, a game invented by cartoonist Scott McCloud.  Apparently, the comic strip Nancy (drawn by Ernie Bushmiller from 1946 and after) is the ideal comic strip for this game but since we only have stacks of Garfield books in our home I’ve substituted this Dadaist card game with everyone’s lasagna-loving cat.  The game is essentially an exercise in collaborative storytelling, played with a deck of cards. Each card in the deck features a single, panel taken from Jim Davis’s syndicated comic strip beginning in 1978, and according to the Guinness Book of World records, is the world’s most widely distributed comic strip.

I’ve recently created an assignment for my students to make “Stories in Boxes”, akin to Duchamp’s  BoĆ®te-en-valise, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the shape of fables, fairytales and folktales.  I show them Kurt Vonnegut’s entertaining lecture “The Shape of Stories” where he graphs the different rise and fall of a narrative.  On a chalk board he makes a line from “The Beginning” to “Entropy” filling the scenes in between
Three stages of a narrative

Beginning                    Middle                    End
Introduction                 Crisis                    Conclusion
Exposition                Development          Recapitulation
The Set up                Climax                        Satisfaction
Invitation                   Response                        Party 
      Birth                        Life                           Death

This is why I decided there should be three frames to build a narrative in the game of 5 Card Garfield.  In the spirit of “choose your own adventure”, you can use Garfield as your doppelganger to tell simple-or theoretical stories.  

Life is simple, so tell simple tales.
Life sucks, so make them all eat lasagna
Life is beautiful so have fun while you can telling stories with games. 

In graduate school, I took an architecture course taught by Frank Fantauzzi, who’s work I admired. He used buildings as installations, similar to cuttings done by Gordon Matta Clark (who btw was the godson of Marcel Duchamp’s second wife Teeny).  I spent the majority of my time in his course reading postmodern literature and creating small editions of objects (mostly in boxes) that I shared.  These editions all documented time in one way or another.

Two examples: 
A box that contained 200 minutes: which consisted of a small cigar box with 20 cigarette butts enclosed identified with time/date/person’s name.  They were each indexed with a 10-minute conversation that I had with various people while smoking each one. 

A laminated map of I-71 from Columbus to Cleveland which catalogued roadkill with longitude/latitude and time of discovery.

These were the two projects I remember the most.  Documenting time in different ways.  This is where my head is at the moment.  Creating objects to create a moment in time, used to create stories.


Instructions:  
Number of players: 2+
Age: 2+
Game Set Up:
Shuffle the cards and deal 5 to each player.
Place the remaining cards face down in the draw pile.

Game Play:
To choose the first player, begin with the youngest person and go around the circle to name types of pasta.  The person who can name the most pasta types goes first.
First player will select a single card from their hand, and place it face up in the left black box- Beginning. 
This card will serve as the first panel in the collaborative comic strip that will emerge. 
 The next player places a card to the right of the first card- Middle.
The next player places a card from their hand to end the narrative- End.
The round is concluded at 3 panels (or cards).  
Then the next round may begin.
The next person (after the person who placed the concluding card from the last round) places the Beginning card and continue making stories with 3 cards.  

Judging:
A judge or judges (usually the other players) then vote on the appropriateness of each particular panel (card) to unfold a narrative with a thumbs up or down. If majority opinion favors the proposed panel, it becomes a part of the strip, otherwise it gets put at the bottom of the draw pile and player must pick up another card from the top. If the card is accepted by the judges, the player does not have to pick up any cards.
Move clockwise (unless its Wednesday) around the table, each player adding their card to the storyline. If the player feels they do not have a good card to add to the story, they can discard to the bottom of the draw pile and get a new card from the top. 

Winning: Continue play until one player has run out of cards and wins.

Ties:  If there are ties in the voting process, in the spirit of Dada, make up a silly challenge to break the tie.
Some examples can be: 
Person who can stand on one lag longest
Person who can sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in the highest key.
Person wearing the most articles of clothing.
*If you foresee ties in your future, write down a few tie breakers on scrap pieces of paper and put into a hat to draw from later. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

JEDI aka Equity, Diversity, Inclusion + Justice.

 I was at a conference years ago (well actually it was right before Covid so it feels like years ago) where during a happy hour type mixer, cocktails in hand, a group of academics discussed Equity and Inclusion at our respective colleges. One professor who teaches in Los Angeles said,  "Our school calls it JEDI training- adding Justice to the mix".   Cool acronyms can go a long way.  

Education is so much more thoughtful and overall different than when I was in school; elementary, where there were only a handful of Asian kids and we were all derogatorily called "chinks" no matter that you were from Vietnam or Japan; where the majority of the black kids at my snooty white high school got bussed in from outside the suburbs of St. Louis county.

Since I began teaching remote from home Zoom, I have two distinct sets of students:  The American Domestic section full of excuses and time management issues and the other one.  The Asian class who are disciplined beyond imagination, and where not understanding the language does not hinder their learning. I see the stark differences between the two and it's all about the education.. Not because of the student's race or ethnicity.  The American Asian students are not as disciplined as the Asian students from Asia.  The freedoms of democracy is harming our children's education.  We have too many rights and too many excuses. 

I've been wondering about the stark differences between the education system here and in Asia and realize that we spend so much of our time and brain space trying to get to square one and leveling the playing field.  Where as in Asia, where there is a homogeneous student body, they don't have to deal with these issues in their curriculum- thus leaving more space for academic learning not just social/emotional topics.
There is a lot of problems and solutions that are hard to implement here- 
For example, it's crazy to think that one standardized test when you are  4 or 10 or 13 years old can determine which school you will go to.  Instead why is it not possible to have all schools be at the level of the testing to get into schools?

I am glad we worked our asses off so my kid could go to a school where the principle is open and approachable. But we had resources not everyone has.  They are discussing changing the entrance criteria for admission, but think it will be a long long time before it can change.

A little snippet of the email from our principle:




Friday, January 8, 2021

Happy Holidays!

 

Credit...

I just read that PeeWee Herman has over 3000 people on his holiday mailing list. Wow, I think as I sit and  print and glue and cut and seal and stamp my mere 300 cards.  He's supporting the postal service 10 times more than me!

As the last of my end of year task is stuffed into the blue metal bin on the corner, I think back to the dark, bleak card from last year...when we didn't think it could get any worse.  As I constructed my card this year, it seemed to be taunting me, saying...."guess again sucker!  it's get worse, Way WORSE!!!"

last year's card

I really did think it was going to get better last year at this date, hoping for  rosy outlooks after the upcoming November elections, where things would get back to "normal". That card was composed before Covid, before the lock down, before the insane, greedy, unethical behavior of not only the asshole in the white house, but all his followers refused to see facts and follow ethical, moral behavior.  But taking moral high grounds and thinking better of ourselves, in the blue bubble is where we tend to get disappointed over and over. 

this years card.
So instead of going darker and bleeker, as this year has been, I thought I'd go a bit of the parody route with the image on my card. LIFE IS A FUCKING CIRCUS!- (and by the way the reason I was a week late in getting my cards out this year was because I was trying to decide if I should use the F word in the first sentence of my Holiday Card, vacilitating back and forth...and decided it might not be a good thing to do.)

So here it is, and the text in its entirety with a different F word up front: 






 








Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Adopt a Homeless person

 

As I ride along all the outdoor restaurants resembling greenhouses in the cool autumn chill, I wonder how long outdoor dining will continue.  Today the city will begin indoor food service but with 25%
capacity, the restaurants will have to continue their outdoor dining to make ends meet. 

At the same time, I heard on NPR that DeBlasio has caved into the UWS wealthy lawyered-up contingent and removed over 300 homeless residents from the hotels turned shelters in that neighborhood. 

This is where everyday math comes in!

Here is the equation in the form of a word problem:

NYC restaurants are struggling.  Nearly 10,000 restaurants (documented which means more in the outer boroughs) have set up an oasis of outdoor dining. 

+
Soon the temperatures will start dipping below 40 degrees and the posh well to do neighborhoods especially will continue outdoor seating with heat lamps.

+

The homeless population will continue to be tossed around by the city from shelters to hotels and end back up on the streets, where it will continue to get colder and colder.

UWS neighborhoods do not like their hotels being used as shelters because they bring crime and drug use.

+

1 in 10 NYC public school students are homeless.

Most people would agree (even people who don't like homeless people in their neighborhood) that children need homes (or at least a safe warm place to sleep) in order to do well in school.

=

The city should create a program where restaurants can "adopt" a homeless family.  Where after the restaurants close at 8 or 9pm, they take in a homeless family until the next morning.  They would feed the family with left over food that would normally get pitched and give them a warm place to sleep outdoors. The city would give the restaurants huge tax breaks and pay them for every family they house.

The families would be registered and background checked, etc...and have protection from the cold, food insecurities and storage for their belongings during the day. 

People need to get creative with problem solving...

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Fantasy Non-Fiction of Steinbeck

 

We just returned from a week of "camping".  I put camping in quotes because it was not camping in the truest sense.  We were car camping, sometimes pitching tents on friend's parent's summer home's yards.  We had lovely drives though on uncongested highways and back roads, stopping at Amish farm stands, and all the while I read my book club pick out loud to my fellow travelers for entertainment, since we were never organized enough to download any media for the ride.  

So after almost a year of being in a book club, it was finally my turn to pick a book!  I initially chose Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which was a book I'd been wanting to read for a long time...but since the libraries were not open and the book has a total of 588 pages, it was nixed and so I searched for another shorter book, with lighter summer reading on my mind.  At the same time, I was putting together Hiro's summer reading list, combing through, library lists, and Hunter High School lists of the past, and somehow, all the lists became jumbled up in my mind, and thus John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley was chosen.   

So as I read this genre I call Fantasy Non-Fiction, I had my own rambling thoughts on traveling, subtitled: Travels with Harley: reconfirming the shithole country that we call America.  (btw, Steinbeck's travel book is a fantasy for anyone who is not a white male.  There is no way anyone but a white male could have traveled in this manner back in 1960, rambling leisurely along in a truck, no matter what type of dog you had as a companion. And this guy's research  and subsequent book, found Steinbeck's book to be fiction as he retraced his route in a Toyota Rav4-which coincidentally is our car)

Steinbeck's book was published in 1962, and in a sense, he already saw the shithole-ness of what was happening to our country: the necessity for trailer park living, greed, planned obsolescence, death of cities, and overall trashing of the environment by people disguising it as progress.   We saw this everywhere we went.  In one camp site, we were the only ones in an actual tent.  Everyone else was in huge trailers, hooking up their RVs to every imaginable "luxury" of electricity possible.  Just 3 hours outside of NYC we passed signs put up by delusional people that said things like "GUN OWNERS FOR TRUMP!" and "Trump 2020, make America Great".  I did see one huge banner on a farmhouse that said "Biden: Truth overLies", which made me a bit hopeful.

But the most depressing part about our trek out in nature was that there was no nature. Not the type of peaceful , secluded, at one with Nature, nature.   I was on my Travels with Harley: in Search of Nature.  You cant go for 15 minutes these days without hearing man made noise, no matter where you are.  At our first campsite, as the 10pm curfew wound down the sounds of drinking, radios and streamed tv, we could still hear the rumbling of 18 wheelers tumbling down the highway.  And everywhere we went, even in the most remote areas, there was plastic.  At a campsite in the Adirondacks, as we looked for kindling, I picked up a usb flash drive, broken plastic bits of packaging, plastic wrap, etc.  When we went swimming in Schroon lake, Hiro got a plastic splinter in his hand.  On another day, when we went canoeing, we saw styrofoam cooler bits and plastic bags tangled up in the marsh, and nearby on a seemingly deserted shore, we saw a solitary loon dying.  We were not innocent either.  No matter how much we tried to adhere to the "You bring it in, you pack it out" rule, bits of refuse still fell out of pockets, a plastic cup blew out of our canoe and as we tried to retrieve it, it just sank, and no matter how much we tried to contain our litter, we seemed to be guilty of not leaving with everything we came into the woods with. 


Friday, July 17, 2020

Black Teachers Matter

As I impose the 39th week of school- aka Summer Home School, I am thinking a lot about remote learning.  As the school chancellor and his minions said last night in a technically challenged info session, no one knows what fall will really look like. Parents are being asked to make decisions about remote learning versus hybrid instruction without having any information to make these decisions.

But I solder on and force my kid to stay engaged with some type of instruction and other kids while we shelter in place before embarking on our next camping trip.  So far in addition to his regularly scheduled violin lessons (which sadly replaced the Suzuki institute in the woods) he has:

  • History of Composers (taught by his private violin teacher through BkCM)
  • Vote For Me! A free course on the workings of our political system through Varsity Tutors
  • Puzzling With Pythagoras- A 2 day fun math class  through Outschool
  • STEAM: Activism and Wireframing and Coding course sponsored by MoCADA.
  • SCAMP! = SCHOOL AND CAMP ROLLED INTO ONE: taught by an artist friend
Am I a tiger mom?  Probably...Well actually I'm making him take these courses so I can get my own work done, preparing to teach remotely this fall.  I don't lurk while he is "in class", but what I've noticed in passing is the stark difference of instruction between face to face school instruction and these new Zoom classrooms.  

The biggest difference is that there are black teachers and a diverse student make-up.  Of the five classes, he has three black instructors, and in one class, not only is he the only Asian student, he is the only non-black student.  He has NEVER had a black teacher in his 6 years of public school, which if you think about it, is disgraceful really.  Thinking back, the only teacher of color he's had were Asian ELA and Math teachers, and a black interim social worker who he never saw. We have a pretty segregated school system in New York City.  It took Zoom to create parity.  

Looking further back at my own K-12 education, my hazy memory can only name one black teacher- and she wasn't even a subject teacher, but my cheerleading squad coach.  WTF!.....oh and there is my fifth grade teacher Mrs. Jaworski, who I didn't regard as a teacher of color but see her only as the best teacher ever.  This is back when St. Louis decided to desegregate schools by bussing  black kids from the city to the white suburbs;  just the kids, not any teachers.  No white kids and teachers were bussed into the city, thereby making it a half-assed desegregation theory...

It is so important to have teachers of color, especially in the current awakening of the Black Lives Matter movement.  Yes, Black lives have mattered, and have since... always, but how can we teach our kids this, if they don't know any black teachers to look up to? I see my kid being exposed to different styles of teaching through these online classes and I'm also reminded of the inequity of the school system.

I've been preparing for my fall classes, and soon I'll be facilitating Remote teaching workshops to Faculty.  The scramble to remote teaching and learning back in March was a reality-check for those who have been using the old methods of Lecture based teaching.  Because faculty were so freaked out and needing new methods to use in an online platform, remote teaching started a much needed conversation about Equity, Inclusion, Diversity and Universal Design when it comes to student/teacher interaction.  We are now discussing trauma based instruction- a concept that would have been laughed out of the room if it came up 10 years ago.  Some, if not most, faculty who have been teaching for decades never had to think about these issues but now is forefront in every conversation. We are starting from ground zero through Zoom teaching.
 
This is why remote learning is a valuable instruction method, as we reflect on what we have been doing wrong and how to do it better.  I'm not saying we should all be remote 100% in the fall, but just saying that we should be using this technology to even the educational playing field.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Remote-Hybrid-Outdoor-with stadium seating.

We just returned from our "workcation", where we spent a week digging ditches, weeding, and roughing it in a tent with no plumbing.  We returned to discussions of will NYC Public  Schools open?  And it's not looking good....
I also went on my first bike ride since our return, and rode first, past lots of bars and restaurants creating outdoor spaces, some makeshift lots consisting of random pallets and traffic cones, and others much more elaborate with plants and matching decor.    


Then I continued on my Western bike loop around Flushing Meadows and Laguardia Airport and thought of an "outside the box"  idea about school...  Since Covid is transmitted primarily indoors in crowded spaces for prolonged amounts of time, why not take schools outdoors? As I rode past Citi Field, I wondered what is the seating capacity of that huge empty space? 


Answer: Citi Field capacity= 41,922

And that's just the seats in the bleachers, so if you set up seats on the field, a few schools could occupy a huge outdoor space like that until at least mid October when it starts getting cold.

Here are the numbers for other outdoor spaces which are currently not being used at least until the end of the year as most sporting events have been canceled: 
Arthur Ashe capacity = 23,771
Yankee Stadium capacity = 54,251
Icahn Stadium capacity = 5000
Forest Hills Stadium capacity = 14,000
MCU Stadium (Coney Island) capacity= 7,000

New York City is also a place full of parks and green spaces.  Here are the list of the largest public parks by size:
Pelham Bay Park, Bronx= 2,772 acres
Greenbelt, Staten Island = 2,316 acres
Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx= 1,146 acres
Flushing Meadows Park, Queens= 897 acres
Central Park, Manhattan = 843 acres
Freshkills Park, Staten Island = 813 acres
Marine Park, Brooklyn = 798 acres
Bronx Park, Bronx = 718 acres
Alley Pond Park, Queens = 655 acres
Forest Park, Queens = 544 acres.

and in addition to all these parks, every neighborhood has playgrounds and public parks that could easily be utilized- all with water fountains and bathrooms (probably cleaner than most middle school bathrooms according to Hiro).  If restaurants and bars can construct outdoor seating for 10-20 people within a matter of days, I don't see why the DOE couldn't do the same. 

There was a movement for creating schools in the great outdoors that began in Wisconsin in the 1920's and never really took off.  The children in younger grades can really benefit from learning outdoors, and as we dive more and more into technology, something this radical could be a refreshing change.  Perhaps we can rethink what education is and instead of adding more technology and hand sanitizers to the mix, retreating back to washing our hands with soap and water and engaging with nature could get our kids back to learning about what really matters.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Blurring Race

The first time I read "Snowy Day" to my kid, I thought- what a lovely simple story about snow falling in Brooklyn.  The second time I read it, I noted that the main character, Peter is a black boy and how the story had nothing to do with his race, which is one of the many reasons that this Ezra Jack Keats book is beloved by all, and even the post office made the snowy exploits of Peter into postage stamps.

I don't know why I thought it was Brooklyn, but the illustrations were so soothing, even when the children got into a snowball fight, and life seemed so sweet and simple. When the only conflicts and mysteries of life came from the disappearing of a snowball from his pocket. I must have read this book to Hiro a thousand times.

I always assumed that Ezra Jack Keets was black. He grew up in East New York. Even when he had a retrospective at the Jewish Museum, it did not dawn on me that he was not black.  Even when I saw a photo of him, I was still convinced that he was black.  There are black Jews right? The pictures we create in our minds with ingrained prejudices are hard to break.  But does it really matter if the author of all those books about Peter and Archie and Amy and Suzie and all the pets were black, or white or Jewish or not?

We live in Woodside Queens, where our next-door neighbors are Irish on one side, and on the other side is a Bhutanese Snooker Hall Bar and Restaurant. Also on our block are Mexican, Black, Columbian, Korean, Chinese, Greek, Italian, and Filipino families as well as families consisting of mixtures of several races and cultures.  As an Asian person, when I first moved into the neighborhood, I got spoken to in Spanish, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalong, and Japanese, when I entered stores and restaurants.  Every culture just assumed I was one of them, and immediately spoke to me in their mother tongue.  And even now, I cannot often tell a Columbian person apart from a Korean person, nor does it really matter. This is what a melting pot does, it blends and blurs racial markers and makes them irrelevant so we can see the uniqueness of every individual.

Hiro also makes colorblind assumptions. He thinks a classmate who has a white father and a Hispanic mother is Chinese because she is taking Mandarin classes...because why else would some kid be forced to take a language that was not her mother tongue?  He also thinks that an Indian classmate is Black because she has dark-ish skin.  I wonder if this colorblindness promotes raising an anti-racist kid, or the opposite?  The great thing about Ezra Jack Keats' images is that they seem so ordinary and that childhood "should" look like that. By sharing these books with children, the construct of a blended race neighborhood becomes ordinary. Black children and white children are in a world where a black teacher is in charge of a pet show, though if you were to watch the news these days, this seems like a fabrication from a children's book author's imagination.

The Game: 
Slow Looking with Peter
 
The Pet Show

I introduced this game a few weeks ago at our Family Friday cocktail hour, with this image by Ezra Jack Keats, after reading the Slow Looking books.  The goal was to get people to look closely and carefully at something and though a Zoom game session with drinks may not have been the perfect setting, it did slow down our time together to create pockets of interesting conversation. At one point, someone commented that a group of adults has probably never stared at this image for so long, which was probably true. 

It can be played in a Museum, through Zoom or anywhere.

Players: 2+

Age: old enough to be able to write the alphabet.

The Gear: an image of some type, pencil/pen, and paper, timer.

The set up: 
If you are playing from home with people in the room with you, find an image from a book or magazine.
If you are playing virtually with others on Zoom: find an image on your computer and share the screen so everyone can see it.
If you are in a Museum (do you remember those?), find a work of art everyone agrees on and sit in front of it. (I really miss going to museums even though most of them symbolize white looting...but anyway ....)

To start: write the alphabet vertically on the left side of your paper. Set a timer for 15 minutes or however long you want to play.  Ideally, pick a time and double it or add 10 minutes to the initial time, long enough so that your mind starts to wander. The point is to look at the image longer than you think you can.
When the timer starts, look at the image and write down things you see that start with every letter of the alphabet. 

The objective: 
You want to find things and write down items that seem obvious that everyone else might see.

Point system: If you want to do this as a meditative activity, you don't need to keep score.  But since everything is a competition in our house these days, after the timer goes off, take turns and report what everyone wrote down.  You get one point for every item that others also wrote down.  For example, if for the letter "A" you wrote down "Afro" and 3 other people also wrote down "Afro", you all get 4 points.  The object is to try to be in unison, not to be unique and cleaver. The goal is empathetic looking.
Everyone keeps their own score and is played on the honor system.

What was fascinating about looking for things that started with tricky letters was that several people saw things that were not there.  For example, for the letter T, three or four people saw a Turtle, which does not exist in the painting.  All four said the green hat on the boy who is popping his head into the frame on the left side was a turtle.  Or you really had to look at the picture's narrative to understand what was going on.  Both Philip and I said "Itch" for the letter I- what the boy on the left was doing.  

Friday, June 26, 2020

Do the Math

I was sitting at my desk,  Zoom-working when I heard from the other room;
"Ugh, guess what the idiot said now!?"

So I yelled back:
"I don't even want to know- but ok what did Trump say?"

Reading from the paper, Hiro continues, "the idiot has made five dozen false claims about mail balloting since April"

DO THE MATH- I suggest- so after looking at the calendar and counting how many days have elapsed since April, Hiro announces that the idiot has lied at least once a day since April .  And that's just lies about the Post office mind you!

The Math looks like this
12 days in a dozen
5 dozen x12= 60
30(ish) days in a month
2 months have elapsed
60 divided by 60 
=
one lie a day about mail in ballots.
_______________________________________________
***
I've been working on a games book for kids for a while (as some of you already know).  Most of these word games were originally written to be played on train or bus commutes with your kid but now that we are sequestered in our homes and staying away from public transportation, I've been rethinking these games.  The following used to be the preface to the Math games section:

I teach in an art school. Two actually—I’m an adjunct.  Many of my students hate math. That’s why they are in art school, where SAT scores do not determine their futures. But then, I teach them how to make stuff. I teach them how to make stuff stand up and sometimes hold not only its own weight, but an external weight. They get scared because deep down inside, when they have to make something that is constructed out of a rectangular cube or a truss system out of equilateral triangles, they know math is somehow involved.

 

I have to build their confidence. First, I tell them that in high school, I was good at math and could have gone all the way through AP Calculus if I hadn’t been a slacker. I understood the concepts hiding in the Pythagorean triangles, but what is the point of proving that a shape that is obviously a triangle to be a triangle. I found geometry class to be asinine. I think my students relate better to someone who got a C+ in Geometry than a math whiz. Then I share that what I’ve learned in all these years of teaching is that being good at math is more than knowing equations and memorizing tables. It’s more important to comprehend the world spatially, to be able to recognize patterns. If you play music, you intrinsically understand fractions. If you can read a map, you understand coordinates. If you wait tables, you understand the value of money and calculating percentages. This is what math is. These games will hopefully teach these same lessons and be fun to play as you navigate around the city with your child.

__________________________________________________________

This is a game from that chapter:


The Math Curse

Our New Common Core Math has joined real estate and restaurants as one of the top subjects of party conversation for parents of public school students. No matter what grade your child is in—even kindergarten! —you will have to learn to do a lot of ridiculous word problems in a workbook called Go Math or something similar. This is where Common Core really enters your world. The week my son brought home the Go Math workbook was the same week we discovered Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s book The Math Curse.

 

From the same wacky pair who created The Stinky Cheese Man, The Math Curse uses humor to tackle the serious subject of math and entice children to focus on the trickiest of equations. The book’s fictional narrative begins when the math teacher, Mrs. Fibonacci, tells a young boy that “almost everything can be thought of as a math problem.” Thus begins the “math curse.” Mathematical questions are disguised in history, art, P.E., and even how to divide birthday cupcakes. Smith’s masterpiece of layout and design enhances Scieszka’s story. It uses surreal, collage-like illustrations combined with a dizzying variety of fonts to create diagrams, charts, and multiple-choice quizzes with the answers as silly as the questions. This smart and entertaining book is for every child who dreads math, and every parent frustrated by Common Core.

 

***

And here is another from that chapter specifically written to be played on trains:

Everyday Math

 

I was six when I moved to this country from Japan and I fit the stereotype: pigtailed with crooked teeth, bespectacled, brainy, and ahead in math by at least three grades. This was back in the day when you could excel with numbers even if you didn’t know how to speak, read, or write in English. Recently, I asked one of my Chinese students who had come to this country during high school as an exchange student if she was ahead in math when she entered high school here. She said she wasn’t. I realized then that the new math being taught in American schools is not the same as the math I grew up with. Now math is a whole new monster that has to be mastered through the English language. Math is not about memorizing numbers, tables, or equations. Math is dependent on how well you can read. This new emphasis on literacy puts math in the context of the everyday world. This game builds on that concept.



***

So now that we are avoiding going outside to find math equations, I've been looking at the newspaper where you can make-up thousands of games you can play with your kid. Just the number of lies told in one day can probably be contained in a math workbook for the entirety of a Go Math workbook. 

***
Another idea would be to make a math workbook focusing on social change with word problems using the messed up history of our country. An example problem might look like this:

Number of slaves kidnapped from Africa
and shipped to the US (between 1620-1866)
=472,381
Number of  slaves in the US (according to the 1860 census) 
= 3,953,762
Cotton made up 60% of the US export 
equal to $200 million a year (in the years leading up to the Civil War) 
Which equals $6,178,048,192. in today's amount.

How much back pay (in dollars) would each slave be owed today?
***

And finally...
The following graphs on current Covid cases caught my eye this morning:




Just at first glance the number of new corona cases seem pretty equal between Georgia, Illinois and New York.  However if you look at the numbers on the left, Georgia's cases is counted in 1,000 person increments, while Illinois is counted in 4,000 and New York in 10,000.  I'm not sure if this was an issue of space in the paper, but really they should have put all of the states on one graph to really show the proportion per state. 

So here's a Math exercise for the weekend: Change the numerical increments of new cases to 100 people per state, change the color of each state and overlay them on top of one another.  This could be an art project as well... full on STEAM ahead!



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