Friday, August 21, 2009

What Rhymes with Orange

Today marked the completion of our week orientation to the Clinton School of Public Service. To commemorate the occasion, to demonstrate class unity and to appreciate Alex Thomas, the Director of Admissions who was instrumental in bringing us together, we all wore orange (his favorite color). Coincidentally, today also marked his one year anniversary of working at the Clinton School. We are all very grateful for the opportunity to work together for the next two years.
Special thanks to Ben Beaumont for taking the picture.

It's A Pleasure to Meet You

It's been a busy first week here at the Clinton School. Early in the week I intended to blog about every single significant event as it happened. By late Wednesday it was clear to me that too many significant things were going to happen this year for that to be possible. Here's an incomplete list of events that were significant to me:
~Met the faculty, staff and incoming class of the Clinton School, as well as several members of former classes
~Met Vic Snyder, Arkansas congressman
~Had front row seats for a spirited Town Hall meeting in which Congressman Snyder addressed the concerns of his constituents related to the proposed Health Care Reform legislation
~"Met" the city of Little Rock (i.e. were given tours to help us get to know the community in which we'd be working)
~Met one of the former mayors of Little Rock, Jim Daley
~Met Ginger Beebe, First Lady of Arkansas
~Began discussing Public Service
~Got assigned teammates and the organization, TOPPS, that I'll be working with throughout the year

One of the lessons that I'm taking from the first week is the importance of understanding the community in which you'll be trying to Make a Difference and developing a network of contacts that will continue to help you understand the community.

Networking has never been one of my favorite activities and is pretty far outside my comfort zone. Frankly, I viewed it as an act of insincere selfishness. It seemed like the purpose was to be nice to someone not because you cared about them but because they could help you get something you wanted. I've developed more of an appreciation for networking this week because the common thread that tied together all of our meet-and-greets was Public Service. Helping others help themselves (to borrow a motto from the PAL program) is one of the goals of all of the people I've come in contact with this week. I'm not sure I'm any more skilled at small talk yet, but at least I dislike it less when it's purpose is to benefit others.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rural Students Reap Academic Gains from Community Service | Edutopia

One of the questions I'll be trying to answer during my time at the Clinton School, and beyond, is How much service-learning, as described in the linked article, is happening around the country and around the world? How much are students given the tools and support, through their school system to do good works in their communities?
My current theory is that it isn't happening as much as it could be and one of the reasons is that teacher training programs don't prepare teachers to be service-learning leaders.

Rural Students Reap Academic Gains from Community Service | Edutopia

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Two Commandments

In some ways the Technology Specialists, at least in schools, have becomes the religious leaders of our time.
My first full day of school was yesterday and my classmates and I got to meet our technology guru. Also, as a result of No Graduate Student Left Behind legislation, we received our very own laptops, which we will be using for the next two years.
Students, I want to reassure you that in the computer lab we are all equal. It's not that you're being treated like children when you're told not to bring drinks into the lab; you're being treated exactly like every other human being, regardless of age, who enters a computer lab. Yesterday, before entering the lab to receive the Two Commandments my classmates and I were told to leave our open containers outside the lab.
Once inside the lab we were shown how to establish our email accounts and passwords, where the school's server is located, how to create electronic business cards and begin to establish our contact lists. And then we were shown it again. And again. Our technology guru could do all of those things in roughly three clicks of the mouse button, which means that it will take a group of people approximately 30 minutes. Invariably someone, and I'm not naming any names here because it might have been me, blinks and misses one of the clicks and has to ask "How did you get to that screen?" Once everyone was caught up our guru delivered the Two Commandments which shall not be broken on penalty of death:

1. Thou Shalt Not Play Games.
2. Thou Shalt Not View Porn.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

First Impressions

This afternoon marked the first gathering of all members of the Clinton School class of 2011. I was excited and nervous prior to the event. Now that it's done, I'm awestruck and humbled. For the next 2 years I will be surrounded by 35 extraordinary people. What an incredible gift I've been given.
There are too many thoughts flashing through my brain right now and they are moving too fast for me to catch them and put them on the page. I would like to introduce you to my two teammates. We'll be working together with the TOPPS organization in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I know many of my students had difficulties with their groups, so I figured karma would do its thing and give me a challenging group. I must have had more positive karma stored up than I expected though because I have nothing to complain about. I have a great feeling about working with these two ladies.

Hot Diggity Doo Dah! Dress Code?

Today is the day! It's our first day of school, sort of. Even though it's Sunday, we have a short afternoon schedule that is an orientation to our orientation week. It's a little bit like Hot Diggity Doo Dah at ISA (which is next Saturday by the way), with one great exception: a dress code?!

Ironically, I will be required to dress "nicer" as a student than I did as a professional teacher. Granted I dressed a tad more casually than most teachers on most days (personal motto: Putting the Casual in business casual since 1992). My most common uniform while teaching was cargo pants and a school-related t-shirt. My mandated uniform at the Clinton School will be slacks and a dress shirt and sometimes a (shudder) tie.

I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they haven't thought the whole dress code issue through. Below is a short explanation which proves why my dress code is superior in every way...

1. Pants with side pockets are more useful. They allow one to carry a wide variety of useful items: cameras, small notebooks, and snacks for example. And they allow one to carry these items unobtrusively and without the need of an extra bag, like a backpack or purse.
Pants without side pockets (might as well call them curtains) require one to buy and carry or wear extra items to act as pockets, like the abovementioned backpack or purse or, worse yet, sport coat. Blech!
When all of the labor and marketing costs of creating those extra items are factored in it's easy to see them for the terrible drain on our world's resources that they really are.

2. T-shirts allow one to support a cause other than the Monetary Distinction Between One's Fellow Humans.
The t-shirt is almost the lowest common denominator. It is the step closest to and moving towards the clothing proposed and modeled by Gandhi. That's right, you wouldn't catch Gandhi wearing a button down and a tie. According to the movie, he made most, if not all, of his own simple clothing from local materials. I recognize that as too radical a step for most folks, so I propose the t-shirt as a happy medium. In addition to being a more simple article of clothing it allows one to support causes. Some of the causes I regularly supported during my free-wheeling, t-shirt wearing, professional days were Heifer International, Invisible Children, PAL, and The Fund.

I could go on and on, but I feel certain you are already convinced and I don't want to delay you any further from going to purchase your very own pair of cargo pants and t-shirt.