Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Wolves and Sheepdogs

The 6'3" 250lb. man shouting at my female students - shouting that if they didn't kiss him, he would punch them in the mouth.  My 17 yr.old male student, afraid to come to school because after a physical altercation with his previously absent ex-con father, he was threatened with death.  Bullies flow through the lives of my students.  I'm 51 years old and feel like I may be the only thing standing between them and further chaos.  So I train and pray that when/if these times come to action, I am quicker, more violent, and better.  I hope to go home to my own family and wish that these children break the victim hold and use it as fire for the forge that can harden them into warriors who will one day fight for the children coming after them.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chicago Hope Academy

Providing under-served children with real school choice is something I am passionate about.  I was fortunate to have a visit last week from a guy named Bob Muzikowski.  He is the founder and head of Chicago Hope Academy.  This Christian-based school has done amazing work in its brief existence.  They are clear in their mission and character education flows naturally through the curriculum.  Their athletic teams are successful and represent what team sports are supposed to develop.

This is a life mission for Muzikowski and he has put his bucket down in a difficult part of the United States. I wish more people did the hard work and looked for the elements that make for a complete education and I wish there were more "workers" like Bob Muzikowski because "the harvest is plenty."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Web 2.0 and Teenagers

I remain concerned about the sad state of public education in this country.  My high school students do not have enough background knowledge.  This is something they will have to work on for the rest of their lives.  We try to build on their non-cognitive strengths - which are often considerable compared to their better off peers.  Well, now I have a new concern.

As a 50+ year-old guy, I have taken on the challenge of moving into "the Cloud," participating in the world of Web 2.0.  My education has been frustrating but addictive.  My parents gave me the incredible gift of curiosity and the belief that I could learn anything.  I don't know too many people my age who can engage in a cutting edge, or any other kind of discussion on this stuff.  I thought my high school students would be the perfect conversational partners.  After all, aren't they incredibly connected?  Unfortunately, the new technology, tools, and territory of social media are lost on them.  They are consumers and not producers.  They are unconcerned with creating community or grabbing hold of this unprecedented opportunity to create content.  I guess this will be just one more thing I will have to evangelize about.  But I really wish I was ten years younger.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Police and work/life integration

Last week, I was fortunate to be able to do some work with a group of sergeants from the Baltimore Police Department.  I was helping them put together training in the areas of coaching, motivation, and leadership.  These were veterans who had 10, 15, and 20 years in the Department.  They worked on homicides, robberies, gangs, and on the SWAT team.

We talked about various coaching methods and their frustration with the lack of motivation on the part of a younger generation of police officers.  What surprised me was how they moved into talking about the need for harmony in their work, family, and community roles.  This is a place I had originally wanted to go to but I thought it would be too "touchy, feely" for police officers.  I look forward to continuing these conversations and helping them to train others to find balance among all their roles.  I think a discussion around developing intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation will also be useful in helping these guardians do their jobs in a way that supports them and the communities they serve.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Crazy Monkey

I have been having some very good conversations with Rodney King, the creator of the Crazy Monkey Defense system.  Our talks have centered around teens and their desire for danger, adventure, and challenge.  If these things are not properly guided by responsible adults, then the young person's behavior will manifest itself in destructive ways.  We are looking into a collaboration on a  Rites of Passage program for young men that pays attention to traditional models that include real challenges for the mind, body, and spirit.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Isometrics and over 50

My wife(see the accompanying photo) and I have been experimenting with isometrics. I really do believe that they are underrated. I used to do them as a preteen with the Exergenie that I had begged my mother to buy me. I rediscovered them a year ago during my knee rehab. After doing some more research, I am going to make them a regular part of my workout. They do not put undue stress on the connective tissue and they seem to make significant inroads on the neural system and its role in strength development. If you do the movement in three different positions then you take care of the problem of the 20 degree range of strength improvement. I do deadlifts, military press, and curls - 3 different joint angles for ten seconds each. For three weeks, we have experimented with "long duration isometrics" with holds of approximately three minutes. These work strength, flexibility, focus, and mental toughness. One of the things that also recommends them is that they even out strength imbalances and the resulting compensation patterns.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Life Fitness

The next few posts will be on the topic of "life fitness." This is, in part, an effort to avoid ranting about my current professional situation. More importantly, I want to share some of the strategies that have kept me sane during a tumultuous career.

Flexibility, strength, the ability to reflect, and developing mental toughness, are some of the areas I have had to focus on to be at my best. I will be examining these topics in the next few weeks. I am a master Reiki practitioner, a student of hypnotherapy, trained in Transcendental Meditation, a brown belt in Judo and karate, a practitioner of Guided Chaos, a proud gun owner, a certified Sports Performance Coach under USA Weightlifting, a certified Level 1 USA Boxing Coach, and some things I'm probably forgetting. This is all a part of the preparation. I look forward to sharing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Over 50 workout

I realize that I've given a lot of thought to my workouts. I also realize that one of the benefits of getting older should be the ability to simplify. It's not a question of "not being that guy" anymore. While still competitive, I don't have to pay as much attention to linear versus undulating periodization; alactic versus lactic versus aerobic systems; converting max strength into power etc. These are interesting things for study and important to know for the teenagers I'm coaching. For myself, I need to be relatively pain free, to move with grace and power, to be able to fight or run when I have to, to play with my children, to hike, and maybe dod some cool bodyweight stuff that my students can't do. To do these things I need light plyometrics like low squat jumps or rope jumping, medicine ball throws, calisthenics, yoga, kettlebells for the posterior chain, occasional sprints, and isometrics. A lot of my programming is now random, like a lot of life.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Liberal Arts education and bullies

I'm glad I never looked on my education as an opportunity to specialize. As Robert Heinlein said: "Specialization is for insects." I had the benefit of a strong liberal arts education. My education, along with my parents' examples, allowed me to figure out who I wanted to be and not just what I wanted to do. I developed an understanding of my responsibilities as a citizen and a passion for social justice.

In the past couple of weeks I have come to the realization that I won't be saving the world but I am glad for the tools I have been given for fighting what Dr. Paul Farmer calls "The Long Defeat." I am currently dealing with people who maintain their arrogance in the face of complexity. They criticize my successful efforts at providing under-served teens with an education. They form their opinions on the basis of unexamined assumptions, whim, delusions, and lies.

My education has armed me against manipulation, coercion, demagogues, and bullies. I am grateful and I will be moving on.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Real conversations about education

I am finding it increasingly hard not to believe that there really is a conspiracy around public education in this country. I spend time around very wealthy people who extol the virtues of this or that charter school. They talk about standardized test scores, how quiet and cute the kids are, and how nice the halls look. It is clear that none of them would ever consider sending their child to one of these schools. I, too, as the fortunate beneficiary of an elite education have never considered the choices offered by the public system as real choices for my own children.

Tests can be used for feedback and a more reflective teaching practice but the more I do this, the more I believe these tests are used to weed out the drones from the oligarchy.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


Combat sports should be a part of the school curriculum. Things like wrestling and boxing can build character and they do an even better job revealing it. There is a connection between moral and physical courage. I have been witness to an amazing inability on the part of some of the people in my professional world to make decisions. This is more a result of cowardice than a lack of information.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Living Well

Robert Heinlein was correct when he stated that "specialization is for insects." I am distilling my educational philosophy more and more. I want my students to learn how to "live well." That will mean they need to gain education that is useful. They will need to develop the "barbarian virtues" at the same time they acquire the civilized ones. They must become servant leaders who cultivate self-discipline, accountability, frugality, good manners, curiosity, a sense of the possible, and the ability to be dangerous in pursuit of the good.

Developing a school culture that teaches these things has been/will be difficult in a culture that looks to imposed discipline, nice hall displays, and standardized test scores as the measure of a good school. It's not popular to point out that academic achievement often does not correlate to happy and successful living.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Indispensable Men

I think it was Charles DeGaulle who said "the cemeteries of France are filled with indispensable men." This quote has been playing in my head recently as I ponder the lines between being an advocate, being zealous, being grandiose, and being a martyr. I am guilty of being some or all of them. I look at the deck stacked against so many of our young people and realize the promise of "equal opportunity" is really just a joke to the oligarchs in my world. An economic status quo is now being reinvented and my students are odd man out. The education we are trying to provide is dangerous because it will make them useful. I have no interest in studying the replicability of my ideas. I just need a platform and some youthful volunteers who are interested in taking control of their lives and fighting "the Long Defeat."