Friday’s Fast Five… 5 Links that Made Me Laugh, Question and Think

On Tuesday, I was publicly named the Teacher of the Year at Robbinsville High School–my adopted home for past 13 years. It was an honor reserved for only my best khakis.

award2
The pre-picture ultimatum… ” If don’t smile you don’t eat!”

Cindy and the three kids were in attendance. Cindy took pictures, Dylan begged for food, Chase picked his nose and Haley daydreamed and complained about the heat.

The Robbinsville Board of Education was there. As was my principal, some parents, some colleagues, some of my students and a shy 4th grade girl who wrote an award winning essay about the power of words.

It really was a great experience, one that I truly and sincerely  appreciated. However– between you and me– I feel a little weird receiving an award that announces my pedagogical prowess.

award1
Awesome pic…I look like a 12 year old being publicly shamed!

I don’t consider myself to be a master of pedagogical practices. I’ve been privileged to work with and learn from an array of teachers who have a much deeper database of “best practices” then I do.

My approach to every class, no matter the content, is a simple one. A simple approach built on three simple tenets (that may or may not have been pirated from a Kenny Rodgers song):

1. Make em’ laugh a little

2. Make em’ question a little

3. Make em’ think a lot

I feel that if I can get an angsty 17 year old to do those 3 things on a Tuesday morning in February then I’m doing at least something thing right.

Unfortunately money, politics and high stakes testing have deformed 21st century education into something I often struggle to recognize.  Education is now a complex collection of graphs and charts and diagrams and algorithms that make the art of teaching resemble an algebraic expression rather then a natural form of human interaction. And that breaks my apple-red heart.

Over the past few months I’ve learned that my 3 teaching tenets are the foundation of this website. Each week when I think about what I want to say to you, I start with my teaching tenets. For me, it just seems natural that good teaching and good storytelling are pillared by the same 3 tenants.

So this week– to honor ( what appears to be) the lost art of simply teaching– I would like to share 5 links I found this week in cyberspace that made me –and I hope make you– laugh ( a little), question ( a little) and think ( a lot). Hope you enjoy…

1. Dad Joke Tweets— These are hilarious and a well crafted dad tweet is dad tweetsomething I can only hope to one day master.

2. British Rock/Folk band Mumford and Son’s latest single There Will Be Time— This video rocks,especially at the 2:12 mark. In fact, if you don’t smile or tap afoot at the sheer aliveness that illuminates your screen at that mark–  maybe you’re dead and I suggest you tell someone. After watching the video the first time, I thought for a long time about Kurt Vonnegut’s great quote,      “Music is to me, proof of the existence of God.”

11 Things Everyone Needs You to Know–This article made me question every human interaction I ever had. Ever.

4. 12 Philosophers share Quotes on Happiness–I love quotes by smart people (not to undersell quotes by dumb people because dumb people quotes can be nietzcevery entertaining in their own right). But I especially love smart people quotes on simple things– in this case happiness. This one really got me questioning my own definition of happiness–Die Hard, a recliner and a pint of Guinness. It also got me wondering if anyone ever had the decency to talk to Nieitzsche about the brambly disaster swinging right under his nose.

5. The Psychological Benefits of Writing–“Getting important ideas down alleviates the stress of losing your thoughts to time or an overcrowded mind.”  This article made me think about how writing has psychologically benefited me. It also made me question why more people don’t write.

Be well,

Jay

wf3

 

 

 

Why Do You Write? With Lindsay Rosasco of It’s Simply Lindsay

In the Why Write series I ask writers of all ages and experience levels one simple question…why do you write?

In this episode, I ask Lindsay Rosasco why she writes. Lindsay is a mom, lindsayteacher, writer and curator of itssimplylindsay.com. On her website, Lindsay offers sage advice and insight on an array of subjects including family life, fashion and health and beauty.

So Lindsay… why do you write?

I write because I have to – it’s part of who I am. It’s the way I best communicate my thoughts and feelings; it’s the way I connect with others and tell stories; it’s the way I can get the word out about issues that are important to me. I write because I have something to say and hope to inspire or support others through my words. That is why I write.

Please be sure to checkout Lindsay at…

Friday’s Fast Five… 5 Things Ferris Bueller Taught Us

When I was 13 I was expelled from a weekend religious retreat.

Apparently, at this specific retreat,they frown upon politely excusing yourself to the bathroom, punching out a window screen, hopping out the window and spending the duration of the mandatory evening prayer service adventuring through a nearby woods.

Of course, at 13 I found my actions daring, heroic and funny. The camp counselors didn’t think so. My parents didn’t think so. And if my memory is correct I was grounded for two weeks.

23 years have passed since my great escape and in some ways I’ve grown up– my pension and life insurance policy say so.

And yet as I tell you this– seeing the 13 year old version of myself, sporting a backwards Phillies hat, standing on a church bathroom toilet, sweating and panting like he’s some soon-to-be sacrificial suburban pubescent whose only means of escaping impending death is by punching out a window screen– still makes me, the 36 year old suburban with the pension and life insurance policy, shake my head and laugh.

Ask my parents–I was never a bad kid. In fact, mom often says I was the easiest of her three sons to raise. But there’s always been a twinge of cheeky curiosity in me. Nothing malicious or dangerous– just a desire to test limits, to have fun, to see what would happen– like tossing a few Baby Ruth bars into a hotel swimming pool or tailgating my friend going to work on a cold Monday morning. (This is a delicious venture I highly recommend. It’s simple– pack your car full of stuff you’d need to tailgate a football game–a grill, meat, cheese, beverages, a lawn chair, a radio and a foam finger– and head to your friend’s house an hour or so before they go to work. Set up a “hooray you’re going to work today” tailgate party outside their front door and cheer them on as they prepare for the daily grind  all while you enjoy bacon and eggs on their front lawn.)

So where did this cheekiness from? I’ve got to blame Hollywood on this one. ferrisParticularly,  Ferris Bueller. I will assume you have seen the 1986 John Hughes’ classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  If you haven’t shame on you. Seriously, your grounded– two weeks and don’t you dare go near that bathroom window.

Here’s  something — the iconic coming-of-age film that inspired my younger self to ditch religion camp  turns 30 years old on June 11. Which makes Ferris 47. Yes, the pool hopping, school ditching, sausage king of Chicago is now 47 years old!

So this got me wondering– what would the 47 year old Ferris think of the 17 year old version of himself?  Would he find his antics funny? The way I find the 13 year old version of myself punching out a church window screen funny.

I also wondered if the 47 year old Ferris lives with the same moxie as the 17 year old version did?

We can only hope.

In preparation for the article I did some research. Okay, I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off again. And you know what–it’s still funny and endearing and when I grow up I still want to be Ferris Bueller.  Why?

I think  Ferris embodies our best self. He’s daring, courageous, self-assured and knows how to have fun.

So to honor the 30th anniversary of the coming-of-age classic let’s look at  5 things Ferris Bueller has taught us…

1. Have courage to speak your mind

Ferris’ best friend Cameron, is a self-deprecating hypochondriac who is afraid of conflict, of standing up for himself. However, after their day off together Cameron decides to confront his greatest fear– his father.

“I am not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it.”

You go Cameron! Look, the grind of adulthood wears us down, beats us into submission. We quickly grow old and weak and passive and voiceless. Defending your ideologies takes energy and courage. But what Ferris taught Cameron (and us) is that if you don’t speak up, if you don’t challenge the source of your frustration you will be continue to be a prisoner of your fear .

2. It’s okay to take a day off

Adulting is a full time job. And sometimes we just need a damn day off. To recharge, to regain perspective. It’s surprisingly easy to forget that life is meant not to be won but enjoyed.  We get so caught up in this silly rat race that we often need to be reminded of Ferris’s most famous creed…

.Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

3. Have confidence

We were born confident. As little tikes we were unafraid to chase down what we wanted. Then we grew up and become self-aware. We endured criticism and quickly lost that in-born confidence. Adults are masters at second- guessing themselves for fear of being wrong, for fear criticism.  Ferris Bueller personifies confidence. He trusts himself and his ability to execute his day off. Ferris reminds us that if we can regain our self-confidence– our challenges become less daunting and the Principal Rooney’s  become less scary.

Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.

bueller24. Be spontaneous

The question isn’t “what are we going to do,” the question is “what aren’t we going to do?”

My favorite scene in the film is the famed parade scene. It’s here where Ferris decides to hop on a parade float, grab a microphone and sing Twist and Shout. By the end of the scene, all of Chicago is singing and dancing along with Ferris. I’ve learned that spontaneity is another thing adults don’t do well. We grow into planners and pragmatics. But if we can get past our fear (and our lameness) we can be spontaneous and experience great moments of aliveness.

bueller5. Be a righteous dude

He’s very popular. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him. They think he’s a righteous dude.

With the exception of Principal Rooney (and his sister who eventually comes around), everyone loves Ferris. Why? Because Ferris looks out and does favors for all people. He listens to all people (even freshmen), which in turn makes people feel valued and appreciated. It’s Peopling 101. Ferris gives everyone his best self, which requires two simple things–empathy and effort. Two things adults struggle with but the precocious, school skipping kid from Chicago continues to do exceptionally well.

bueller3Be well,

Jay

 

 

If you enjoyed this post please share it with your social media circles. Also, click here to sign up for WoFo’s free newsletter and never miss a post!

 

Why Write?

In the Why Write? series I ask writers of all ages and experience levels one simple question… Why write?

Rachel Wierzbowski of The University of Pittsburgh explained…

Writing is like listening to an exceptional song. It has the power to mend the soul, wf3toprovide an outlet of relief, to express oneself in a way that nothing else can. So, why write? When presented with this question, I thought the answer would be simple: we write because we have to in order to further ourselves in this world. But just like a song, writing does not just brush the surface. It prompts me to think on a deeper level and look at the underlying layers of a proposition. I write because I can find myself–find the layers of emotion internally; I write because I can expose myself–expose the layers of emotion externally to an audience. Like any exceptional song, I write to connect to an audience, but moreover to connect to myself. And, if I can relate my favorite song to what I’m writing, that’s even better. 


Friday’s Fast Five…5 Things I Learned from the “Art” of My Reinvention

My reinvention began in January 2014.

That’s when I dropped out of grad school– ending my pursuit of an administrative degree– and decided to commit to writing. That’s when I decided to forego a potential six-figure salary to follow my dream. (Yuck!… reading that sentence is like washing down a fluoride treatment with a glass of Tropicana.)

Over the past two years I have openly discussed and written about the art of my reinvention (Yuck again!…the “art” of my reinvention…someone is wearing their pretentious pants today).

Look, my reinvention is not really an “art”. It’s a circus, a frat party, a shit-show, a comedy of errors, a day old diaper. But lets go with the “art” of my reinvention because it sounds adult and professional. It sounds like the title of a weekend seminar held at a Holiday Inn Express presented by a guy sporting a name tag, cheap khakis and a questionable hair piece.

So over two years I have been asked a lot of questions– Where do I get my ideas? How do you find time to write? What is my writing process like? Since you write poetry and talk about your feelings do you like guys now?

But by far, the two most frequently ask questions about my “art” have been…

1. What made you decide to drop out of grad school and write?question-1015308_960_720

2. What have you learned about self since you began your reinvention?

Question 1 —  One of my favorite musicians is New Jersey born rocker Brian Fallon. In his song “Wonderful Life” Fallon croons ” I don’t wanna survive/I wanna wonderful life”. And that about sums why I decided to reinvent myself. I wanted a wonderful  life–not a complacent one, a settled one, or one fueled by the pursuit of money. I want a life that’s interesting, intellectually rewarding and authentic.

Question 2– This answer is a bit more layered. An answer I thought would serve as good fodder for this week’s Fast Five. And so I present the 5 things I learned from the “art” of my reinvention…

1. The power of social media

jay pic1
My friend Jen made this for me, probably when she should have been working.

As you know social media is the greatest procrastination tool ever created. (You’re reading my blog right now, probably on your phone,  and I’m sure you should be doing other things– watching your children, stirring the spaghetti sauce, listening to your boss). But from my brief time on social media, I learned there are a lot of interesting net surfers who are willing to help with your reinvention. (I also learned there are a lot of creepy, angry, fanatical, self-righteous and emoji obsessed people trolling for attention in the cyberspace). But through internet magic,  I’ve had the fortune to meet and work with (shameless name drop) author Jenny Schoberl and podcast host Jesse Jackson. Working with these people provided me with new insights and broadened my social network helping me meet more people who harbor the same passions as I do.

2. Do stuff for other people

When you are considering a reinvention I recommend asking–What does the world need and how can I help? And get this– helping out the world is rewarding and fulfilling. It reminds you that you are a part of greater community, one that is plumped with people struggling just like you. And here’s something else I’ve learned–when you practice compassion the world has a neat way of reciprocating it.

3. Be honest with yourself

We are all guilty of trying to live a life for the sole purpose of impressing people. That’s what I was doing two years ago. This ultimately leads to the art of your misery. You have to create a life that is true to who you are. And as I’ve learned there is a great sense of individual freedom that comes with living authentically.

4. Write about your reinvention

Of course I’m going to say this. But noting your changes and feelings and aspirations will make them more tangible, more then just passing thoughts.  This website has given my dreams real, palpable traction ( I’m sorry, it’s just one giant yuckfest this week).

5. Commit to your reinvention

Look there are some days I want to run away from this website. It’s work and it can be stressful especially when Thursday night sneaks in and I’m plum out of Fast Five ideas and my children won’t stop eating , fighting and crying. But here’s what I’ve learned–despite the difficulty of trying to improve myself while raising 3 rabid raccoons– the payoff has been worth it. And here’s something else–reinvention leads to more reinvention. Its a tremendously rewarding cycle. Frankly, I would rather have a few stressful nights then a life time of “what if’s” (Oh yuck).

Be well,

Jay

If you enjoyed this post please share it with your social media circles (just not the creepy people please). Also, click here to sign up for WoFo’s free newsletter and never miss a post!

WoFo’s Featured Writer- Sean Carr

Hey Everyone,

Leading up to next week’s Write-a-Thon I wanted to feature some of my senior student writers. Writers who have worked under my tutelage, endured my awful jokes and were forced to experience my literary pretentiousness.

 So since we are in the throes of Prom season, I’m featuring writer Sean Carr and his piece on the painfully awkward tradition known as Prom. Sean is… you know what, I’ll let Sean do the talking… Enjoy…   

8 Reasons Why Going to Prom with Me Will Be Awkward

Hello! My name is Sean Carr and I believe in miracles. I believe in miracles because–well– I somehow scored a prom date. This fact alone is enough to baffle even the likes of Stephen Hawking, Neil Degrasse Tyson or the brilliantly bowtied Bill Nye.

Seriously, I’m a dork. I’m definitely not the Valedictorian of the class. I’m not the captain of any varsity team. I’ve never been the lead in the school’s musical. I’m just me– too skinny, too tall, and always fresh outta luck.

sean1
Exhibit A

The tall, muscled, finely tanned, squared jawed, heart breaking hunks on Teen Wolf bare not even the slightest resemblance of me (See Exhibit A).

Prom season is a difficult time for nerds. The very idea of dressing in a bulky, itchy tuxedo and dancing with… (Gulp)… Girls… sends us scampering to our parent’s basements. Our safe havens where we dilute our social fears wasting hours upon hours playing Call of Duty.

Would I consider missing out on one of the penultimate high school events? One that has been mythologized by Hollywood as the most memorable night of your life?

Hell no!

In fact, I refuse to spend another night playing video games. I may be a nerd but I’m going to Prom damnit! And I’m going with a date. And it’s going to be especially awkward for the both of us.

So before we start fumbling over boutineers and forcing smiles I want to warn my date why going to prom, with a nerd like me, may be the most awkward night of your life…

1.I Have No Sense of Style

A sweatshirt, some track pants, and red converse sneakers. That’s my go to outfit. I actually own nothing else other than those three articles of clothing. Maybe once and a while I’ll wear some jeans to look formal but I tend to stay casual about it 99% of the time. Even though formal attire is supposed to make you look sharp and debonair, I still find a way to look absolutely hideous. My fragile frame makes sure everything is either too tight or too loose. There is no in between.

2.I’m Not Arm Candy

As I mentioned before, I don’t know how to look good and dress up for such an occasion like Prom. I look like a flag pole draped in a suit coat.

3.I’m Too Tall For Photos

I can assure you that in every picture the top of my head will be cut off. A step stool or a ladder (that matches your shoes of course) may be required.

4.I’ll Most Likely Forget To Pick You Up

Don’t take it personally but I’m just forgetful. I forget my keys, wallet and phone all the time, so there’s a good chance I may forget about Prom altogether.  You may want to have a Plan B.

5.I Can’t Afford To Buy Two Prom Tickets

I do have a job however, I make under minimum wage where I work because I “get tipped” for my services. Once I do get tipped, I’ll end up buying myself a full course meal from Taco Bell that same day. Then *poof* just like, that I’m broke again.

6.I’m Constantly Eating

Fries before guys am I right ladies? In fact, there is never a time when I’m not starving. In fact, I’m actually eating right now as I type this article. My current setup? Bowls of popcorn surround my laptop and I have to push Chocolate Hersey’s Kiss wrappers aside to reach the “O” key.

7.I Can’t Dance At All

I honestly cannot dance. If you’re looking for someone with the smoothest of slides, the most suave of steps, or the grooviest hips, then you better find a new dance partner. I’ll be spending my time in the bathroom searching YouTube for videos on “how to impress your crush on the dance floor” all evening.

giphy

8. I Have the Attention Span of a Puppy

Prom will be like a real life “Where’s Waldo” game. A game that you will never win. With so many cool things to see–the bouncing strobe lights, the buffet tables, heck, even the fancy little mints in the bathroom will be wildly distracting.With so many things to see in so little time, you may think about getting me a leash.

Fortunately for me, my date just so happens to be my best friend.

We’ve braved high school together and Prom is another check on the list of teenage calamities we have endured together.

sean2And hey, if things get too awkward we can call a cab, retreat to my parent’s basement, arm ourselves with digital machine guns and play Call of Duty until our eyes glaze over and we pass out.

 

 

6 Things Moms Worry About (And Humanity Is So Glad They Do!)

My mom worried that my youngest brother Kyle and I would not be close.

She worried that the 10 years that separated us would be too big of a gap to bridge brotherhood, to bridge conversation.

So mom decided that I, an innocent 10 year old, should witness Kyle’s birth, as a means of bonding us, so we would always have something to talk about.

“Hey brother, do you remember sliding down mom’s birth canal?”

“No.”

“Well I sure do! Can you pass the peanuts?”

Kyle (back) and I (along with my two sons- Dylan and Chase) taking in a baseball game, passing peanuts and talking about the miracle of natural childbirth.

I recall walking into the delivery room…

… ripe with innocent enthusiasm, expecting to see a smiling stork glide through an open window and present us with a freshly baked child.

Instead, I staggered away from the “miracle”, grizzled like a Normandy invasion survivor– through the double doors and into the waiting room–wide-eyed, shell-shocked and afflicted with a head full of visual shrapnel never to be plucked from my memory.

Despite this,  I’ve grown to appreciate my mom’s worry and concern. In fact, worrying is one of the many things that moms do really well, and get little credit for.

On this Mother’s Day weekend and I wanted to offer appreciation for moms. I want to thank my mom, my wife and moms everywhere for providing the world with some much needed mom worry. For having the selflessness to worry about things that help keep humanity alive, comfortable and prospering.

Mom and I rocking some serious hair in 1982.

Shoes

I love my children. I really do. But I have never thought to myself, “Self, your children’s feet are growing by the minute, maybe you should turn off the TV and get your kids some new shoes.” Moms constantly worry about their kid’s shoes. Are they too tight? Too worn? Are they crushing their little toes? Do they make my child look homeless?

 Germs

On the mom utility belt–the Purell hangs next to a travel pack of tissues which hangs next to a bottle children’s Tylenol.

Children are gross and it’s understandable that moms sanitize everything. From shopping carts to monkey bars to toothbrushes, if it wasn’t for the hyper-sterility of moms, the Black Plague would have eaten the world into oblivion.

Lice

Speaking of the Black Plague, lice and their little white eggs have been infesting children’s head and the nightmares of moms since the 14th century.

Clean and folded clothes

Moms always worry that everyone in the house has clean and wrinkle-free clothing to wear. And now that I have three children, I understand how much clothing these critters tear through each week. Doing loads of wash every Saturday is heroic, but folding all those clothes in neat, stacked piles is superhuman.

Birthdays

This needs no explanation.

School Picture Day

Moms worry about school picture day. A lot.  They worry about everything involved in picture day. Did I buy the right picture package? Is there enough wallets for Aunt Edna and Uncle Earl? Is there enough money in the envelope? Will my child smile? Is my child capable of smiling without looking psychotic?

My mom is the reason my picture graced the school yearbook every year. If it wasn’t for her concern, there may not be any visual evidence of me attending St. Ephrem Elementary between the years of 1986 through 1994.

Different hair styles but mom and I (and Dylan) are still smiling in 2015.

The problem is…moms just care too much.

They sacrifice sleep, go gray and entertain ulcers thinking and worrying about the welfare of others. Motherhood is a selfless odyssey. One spent catering to the needs, demands and grabbiness of children and husbands.

Frankly, I don’t know how moms do it.

But humanity and I are truly grateful that you do.

Much love to my wife on Mother’s Day! Thanks for all your effort, support, love and worry! We are better because of you.

And In case you’re wondering…

…Kyle and I are still close.  And honestly, our closeness has nothing to do with me witnessing his birth. We just both like baseball.