Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nice people

I just wanted to say "hi" to Bud Jeffries and his wife and Jason Ferrugia. Not only were they kind enough to take time to check out my blog but they also put out excellent fitness materials that are helping me fight off middle age.

High School Reality

We're now up to 48 students! They are refugees from different places and different things. There was an interesting study in Britain that linked increased truancy with an increase in bullying. Our students know that they will be safe and respected. It's tough for me to turn anyone away - even the 16yr. old with five credits. I know that I should maybe counsel them to get their GED but might it not also be true that with even a year of "real" school under their belts they are more likely to complete some kind of degree program? The 16-24yr. old age group is now the one that many people are concerned about as far as dropping out.

I didn't feel like working out yesterday but I did a bodyweight circuit of burpees (with a pullup), jumping jacks, grasshoppers, and mountain climbers. It worked my muscular AND cardio systems. then I finished with yoga. Who needs running!

Monday, September 18, 2006

A new school year

We've got another group of 18 students. We're up to 36 for our second year and it's a good mix of young people. This will not be a school where we worry only about what's "covered" - we're interested in depth more than breadth. This will not be a school where our major focus is on "student achievement" - because those of us in the game know that this only means higher scores on standardized tests. Our mission is to create an elite. They will not only save themselves but they will do their best to save the world. Our motto is "To Know, To Care, To Act."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

World Travel

They're here!! Our international students are arriving. Alexandre is from Brazil and Ka Ho Cheung ("call me Kenneth") is from Hong Kong. Nine months is now beginning to seem like a long time. There will definitely be no vacation and food costs get doubled. There will be a lack of privacy and I'll have to be more sociable than I'm normally used to. The payoff is that we'll be learning about two new places, picking up some foreign language, my children will have begun building their international network at a very early age, and we can have at least a couple of people out in the world with an even more positive impression of Americans and America.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Counter Terrorism

James Fallows makes the argument that the United States should declare victory in the"War on Terror." He says that this wouldn't change the new reality facing us but that it would allow us to change our focus away from paranoia and knee jerk spending on security. Without a strong liberal arts education and an emphasis on leadership, our "victory" will be short-lived. Our schools need to prepare young people to direct their own personal growth throughout their lives; they need to prepare them to be active participants in a democracy; they need to prepare them for the world of work. Even if all students do not go to college, it needs to make them college-ready. There need to be a focus on leadership - few entities outside the military do a good job of training for this. There needs to be an affirmation and desire for physical and mental toughness.

"The best education for the best is the best education for all."

Thursday, July 27, 2006


I do a pretty thorough review of reference materials that I hope will help me do my job better - Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, etc. I read Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Malcolm Gladwell, Seth Godin, and others. I didn't think I would get a great lead from a strength coach - but I did! The lead was "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni. I had a tough week confronting some dysfunction in my organization and I'll be using the book as a roadmap for providing a new direction with the management people here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


My plan is to add Judo to my high school curriculum. Judo's founder, Jigoro Kano, felt that Judo's educational benefits were the most important. Like so many things at the school, if I want to get it done I'll have to do it myself. That will mean that I have to go back to Judo myself on a regular basis. The education for me will be one of dealing with my fear. I have fear of injury, fear of proof that I am aging, fear of being inept, fear that I will quit. Once I get past all this, I can only be a better teacher.

Activities and Coverage

The world of school too often determines success by the number of activities a teacher can provide or by how much breadth and coverage is accomplished. What is ignored is the ability of students to transfer knowledge, the ability to think critically, the ability to answer the question, "so what?"

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Children Are Our Future?

I hope I'm able to avoid the accountability trap that has school success solely dependent on standardized tests. We measure what is easy and relatively cheap to measure. I'm tired of arguing with people about how it's not just about cute activities or whether we've covered the material that's required for the Regents exam. Facts are important and creative activities can bring facts to life but what about understanding? What about the big ideas that allow students to answer the question "so what?"

Aging and Exercise

It's taken me a while but at 48 years old I think I've gotten smarter about my exercise routine. I now know that I really should do some kind of dynamic mobility routine everyday. Mark Verstegen, Martin Rooney, and Steve Maxwell have all put out good products on mobility. I go back and forth about using yoga, particularly after my chiropractor told me how much of his practice is made up of yoga and pilates gone bad. I will probably do more of a flowing "vinyasa" practice.

I think it's important to prepare your body to pick up heavy things from the ground and put them overhead but I no longer feel that it's important to exhaust the central nervous system. Bodyweight calisthenics are going to make up more of my regular routine. A weight vest and plyometric elements will maintain the power I need. Isometrics will also make up more of the work. Deadlifts, military press, bent-over rows, and occasional flat bench will make appearances. Power and strength endurance will help me more with fighting, outdoors activities, and life than will maximum strength. If I can stick to this, I know my joints will thank me.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Plight of black boys

Recently, there have been a lot of news stories about the plight of young black males. Abysmal high school graduation rates, unemployment, incarceration rates, special education referrals, all point to a depressing state of affairs. Mentors, rites of passage programs, job training, school improvement, alternatives to incarceration, are all part of proposed solutions. I believe that the plight of black males is reflective of a similar sad state of affairs for boys generally. Whether you are looking at boys in a farming community in Nebraska, a reservation in Utah, a fishing community in Maine, or a housing project in Newark, there will be large groups of "lost boys." I believe that a large part of the problem stems from society's blindness to differences between the sexes. Boys look for challenge, risk, and danger. If these are not provided in controlled environments, then drugs, gangs, premature fatherhood, etc. will serve as substitutes. This country also has to decide that there are some cultural norms that need to be instilled and can't be left for teenagers to discover.

I have a "rites of passage" program that I am developing that will address some of these concerns. If boys are allowed to be tough then they won't have to be afraid of also being gentle.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ivan Hageman

I returned from a desert survival course in Utah to find out my brother was finally getting his wish - he was going to tear down the building that has haunted him for his adult life. It also happens to be the building where I grew up and where our parents helped hundreds of people to beat drug addiction. I learned the truth about redemption and the importance of second chances there.

I started a small independent school in that building, took care of my sick parents, and raised my oldest daughter. My brother has sought to bury all this. He's also burying his neglect of our mother-neglect that lasted all the way until her death. He hopes he can bury the original mission of a school that started out working with children that no other school wanted. This is now a place that has turned into a boutique experience where more than $20,000 per student is spent on upper middle class children. The effort has been supported by a weak cast of staff and board members that includes a high profile convicted criminal.

Ivan has hurt a number of people with his cruelty. He counted on political correctness to shield him as he went about his "angry black man" schtick. I rescued kindergarten class pictures, my parents' wedding pictures, my mother's paintings, my father's library and other things that he was prepared to have anonymous demolition workers throw out in the street when the building is brought down. I hope it allows him a clear path to seek his own rescue and redemption.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Working out

Staying fit has a number of benefits for me. It reduces my stress, improves my confidence, provides certain presumptions in my interpersonal interactions, and, hopefully, buys me some more quality time on the planet. I have to set a good example for my students, so every time I'm tempted to take an unscheduled break, i remember my function as a role model and get off my butt. I have a much better feeling about working out than I did even just a few years ago. Now I train more for function and less for vanity.

Today I'm going to do an Olympic lifting program and possibly some yoga. tomorrow will be more of a conditioning/metabolic routine.

Theodore Roosevelt said his father taught him to be both "manly and gentle" and if he was manly enough, people would not attempt to take advantage of him for also being gentle.

Friday, May 26, 2006

What a week!

It's been quite a week at work. As an old dog, I'm selective about what new tricks I want to devote my energy to. A lot of my energy goes towards working with the kids but the adults are always demanding my attention. The wilderness survival trip to Utah will be a welcome break. I'll get to do a bit of a run through on my rites of passage program.

There may be an opportunity to do some youth work in the Oakland area and I'll have to look into that. High school, rites of passage, international programs and some replication. I just need to bring in some like-minded talent. When I get back froom Utah, I'll need to focus on real estate issues, and student and teacher recruitment.

I've got my first tumbling class tomorrow. I want to enhance my kinesthetic awareness for judo and life.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

morning workout

It's taken me all these years to realize that I don't need two hours to get my workout in. Walking to work, 20 minutes of yoga, four sets of deadlift, or a circuit of pushups, pullups, and no weight squats all get the job done. I watch my diet and make sure I move everyday. It's off to Utah in about ten days on a survival course with some students. This will also have an effect on body composition!

India travels

Here I am in February at the Sulaxmi School for Girls, that my wife and I started.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Here are some of my high school students with some of our new friends in Ghana this past March.

Social networking

During a conversation with a man I had never met named Klaus, I learned about the concept of "social marketing." It's apparently been around for twenty-five years and has to do with marketing efforts aimed at changing people's behaviors. After getting off an elevator with a whole family of obese people the other day, I'm thinking that I need to leverage my knowledge of fitness and nutrition for the people of the Harlem community. At 48 years of age, my understanding of my own mortality has pushed me to learn about things like blogs and social marketing. I intend to wear out, not rust out!