Thursday, October 30, 2008

Your name on TV!

While you may not be able to get on your local television station teaching a math lesson (like the one I was videotaped doing yesterday), you can get your name on TV, along with an ad about climate change. All you have to do is go here: It actually costs less than $20 to get an ad on some channels, and you can also get it onto some regularly viewed channels like CNN. The challenge is, you have to figure out where you want your ad to play, and sadly there aren't too many cities available at the moment. I just thought it was a cool idea and wanted to share!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

satisfaction vs. resource use

Saturday I had a wonderful day of not-work, which was exactly what I needed. After a stressful week last week I told a friend that I needed a day of fun, so we headed to the city. I took the train in and we bought half price tickets for a show that afternoon. Then, we walked and enjoyed the weather. Got lunch and ate it in the park. Walked more and took the train to the Institute of Contemporary Art. Explored the museum, marveled at the interesting sculptures one woman created out of everyday objects (like a 3' cube built entirely from a whole lot of toothpicks, no glue) and enjoyed the view over the harbor. Then we went to see the show November, highly recommended, quite funny, in a pleasantly small theater in the round at a YWCA. Following the show we had dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant with a very authentic atmosphere. Finally, pleasantly exhausted, we headed home. Overall resource use- food (which would have happened at home too), train emissions (which happen whether we're riding the train or not) and the energy required to open the buildings we visited (which would have been open whether we went or not). Basically, we spent the day enjoying the public resources and making the most of everything available to us. It was a perfect day of ease, intrigue and amusement. I hope to start spending many more leisurely days in the city, making use of everything that is open for me, and allowing my apartment to remain dormant for extra eco-benefits. Not to mention the emotional benefits of spending time with other people and laughing at a brilliantly acted satire!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

bursts of productivity

Yesterday was an excellent day. It started off very lazily, with a morning of falling back asleep, finding patches of sun to curl up in and lacking any and all motivation. Then, around 2:00 I decided to get going, I cleaned the entire apartment thoroughly, did laundry and cooked with a vengeance. Around 7:00 a friend came over, my brain shifted into low gear and things got done, but at a much slower pace. This weekend my kitchen produced: dal with rice, cheese panini, 2 quiche, spinach balls, tomato sauce, tortillas, salsa, black beans with cheese, ice cream, pancakes and latkes. My fridge is more full than I remember it ever being, and the freezer is filled to the brim as usual. Apparently it finally feels cool enough out that I want to cook again!

I've learned that habaneros are very small, but extremely potent. I made enough dal for several dinners with just one pepper, and my entire apartment became permeated with spicy air. Crazy. Those things are super effective at what they do. I'm a little scared to try the salsa today, after it's had time to really blend overnight.

I'm really pleased that I managed to create enough food in two days to last me at least the week. Having had a weekend burst of productivity like that will help me out a lot as I have a very busy week coming up! Now I just need to get some motivation to attack the large pile of papers that need correcting, organizing and writing. Or, I could curl up in that patch of sun over there that looks really nice.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Unnecessary technology

So I work at a brand new high school. It just opened last year and has all sorts of amazing technological advances. Some things, like computer labs, are absolutely necessary in our changing world. Others, however, are entirely unnecessary, and even cause problems we never before had. Today, for example, the power went out in the neighborhood. This means that only emergency lights were on, which is fine since my classroom has plenty of windows. It meant that I lost the play I was typing with my advisory students, but we could write it out on paper, no big deal. The big problem was that our bathrooms work entirely by sensors. Want to flush the toilet? Sorry, the sensor can't see that you moved so it won't flush. Want to wash your hands? Sorry, the sensor didn't notice any motion near the sink, water is staying inside the faucet. So, we went an entire day only using one particular set of bathrooms in dire emergencies. First of all, that's gross. Second, there was no reason for it! Toilets flush and faucets run perfectly when the power is off, that's the beauty of a pressure system. Not to mention, a power outage isn't the only time these sensor based systems malfunction. I've frequently had the toilet flush when I move an inch but am clearly still sitting. Sometimes that idea "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is far too appropriate.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

education overload

I'm drowning in education. I forgot how busy fall is, and how quickly it goes! A month ago school started, which means that I began teaching high school classes and began taking graduate courses. This weekend I'm going to a conference which will educate me on how to educate others. I spend my free time talking about my students and curriculum. If I remembered my dreams I'm sure I would tell you that I'm dreaming about school. So, education is my life.

This month's carnival isn't about math education though (what I get paid to do). The APLS carnival for October asks "How do you educate yourself about sustainable living? How do you pass that knowledge on to others? Do you educate your family members and friends? Are you a member of environmental organizations? Do you do volunteer work?" These questions are surprisingly similar to asking any of these with 'sustainable' replaced by 'math.' I think the best way to learn anything is to do it. So, when I wanted to learn how to grow veggies, I planted a whole bunch. They didn't all produce, and I had to solve lots of problems as I went along, but I learned far more than I could have by reading about gardening. When I joined Riot for Austerity I started by calculating my current usage, and then opened my eyes to where and how I was using resources with every step I take. There were plenty of times when I got an idea reading a blog or newsletter (and I do subscribe to a lot of both), but I didn't really learn how it worked until I did it.

I pass knowledge on to others in many of the same ways I do in my classroom (and often I'm passing on sustainability info this way while in the classroom). I provide motivation (why should I do anything?) before throwing out random ideas. I lead by example. I acknowledge that I most certainly don't have all of the answers, but that's the whole fun of it. I provide positive reinforcement when I notice improvement. I seek opportunities to learn new strategies from others. And I offer direct instruction only when neccessary and requested. I'm not here to force my opinions on anyone, but I believe strongly in what I do, and I want to help people realize that they want to join in. I have been surprised by some peoples' willingness to accept what I do, or others eagerness to share their accomplishments with me. These are the shining moments in a teacher's life- when their students are engaged and proud!

The majority of my education comes through personal interactions. These are frequently the most effective ways to produce changes. I am certainly seeing us reach the tipping point where eco-conscious thought is becoming mainstream and what is expected. This has happened because there are enough of those 'weird environmentalist people' in the community to make it seem normal. However, there are still major changes that need to occur, and these will require mass effort to influence major corporations and government representatives. At this point, we need to get organized and send clear messages. This is where the glory of the internet comes in. Groups like Avaaz,, 1sky, Oxfam and ONE are bringing huge numbers of people together. I belong to many email lists like these, where I can take action and contact the leaders who they think have the ability to instigate major chages. It does make a difference if I email my senator about whatever issue is on my mind. It makes an exponentially larger impression when vast numbers of people all speak up about the same issue. Organized action to educate our representatives on the concerns of the community is yet another way I'm actively involved in my concern for the future of our world.

So, it's probably fair to say that everything I do is done through the lens of an educator. My brain is incapable of snapping out of teacher mode, and I think this is a good thing. I look forward to a lifetime filled with teaching and learning on a variety of topics, which will certainly always include sustainable living.

Friday, October 03, 2008


So, it's a new month; time has gone by and I am spending my Friday night doing work. I might have a lot on my plate this year, oops. My balcony is littered with the remains of my garden (what exactly do you do with dead plants and old soil without a big compost pile?) and my living room is littered with textbooks and papers. I'm in transition. It is no longer summer, school started before I was ready for it all and now there is a lot going on. The days are getting shorter, which I know from experience since the sun now gets up later than I do. Each week everything that has to get done does. I'm still finding time to get out and have fun but something always has to give. The articles don't get read as thoroughly as I might like, or non-urgent things pile up until I have time to address them. It is at this point when I wonder if that slightly smelly worm bin is really worth saving. Or I don't make it to the farm store and buy veggies at the grocery store. But then, the worm bin finds balance again (and I was a little congested so I didn't notice it in the meantime). And I have peppers that I grew myself (amazing!) so I didn't really have to buy many things at the grocery store which I could have gotten locally. There's still a lot of work to be done, but I can grade tonight and attack the balcony tomorrow when it is supposed to be beautiful out. Occasionally life gets overwhelming, but so many things will figure themselves out given enough time. And the rest? We always seem to manage. Robert Frost still says it best: "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."

Bostonites: This looks like a cool workshop about home heating for renters and homeowners alike. Because I know you need one more thing to add to your to-do list.