Weekly Roundup 3-31-13

School: A British education expert writes that children need to be given the opportunity to be bored. Constant stimulation – via video games, television, smartphones, etc. – hampers creativity and reflection. Dr. Teresa Belton says that instead of letting children find ways to occupy themselves with down time, our society has “developed an expectation of being constantly occupied and constantly stimulated.”

And here’s another psychologist who supports letting children get bored. She even offers suggestions for shifting responsibility for “entertainment” to the child in the form of a Boredom Jar full of ideas for activities to engage in – and none of them involve a screen!

Psychology: A wonderful profile in The New Yorker delves into the story of a teenager who had transgender surgery (female-to-male) at the age of sixteen. It’s a sensitive exploration of the experience of a transgendered child/teen, with attention to both the positive aspects of society’s recent openness to gender exploration as well as parental concerns about when it is appropriate to pursue permanent body modification.

The article itself is locked unless you are a New Yorker subscriber, but it’s worth knowing about in case you can access it at your local library. A shorter online piece accompanying the original article is openly available, however; it shares the author’s exploration of transgender video diaries posted on YouTube as she researched the topic.  

Scholarship: A recent study finds that the older and more experienced a therapist is, the more likely he or she is to cry in therapy. Of the 684 U.S. therapists polled online, 72% reported crying in therapy “in their role as therapist.” Women therapists were no more likely to report crying than their male counterparts (although they reported crying more often in “daily life”). For a more detailed breakdown and analysis of the data, read here.


“Once You Learn Something it Never Leaves You”

A little school humor for my cohort. It’s been one of those weeks where you know you know what you know, but you can’t translate that knowledge into statements that make sense to anyone.

Someone told me we’re in what’s known as the “March Doldrums.” Tensions are flaring, moods are fragile, and stress is high. I guess it’s just part of the school-year cycle, but I’m hoping it’s over soon – if only for the sake of our collective mental health. A lot of schools have spring break next week, so that may be the cure. In the meantime, enjoy this clip from The Andy Griffith Show.

The “Toy Stories” Project

Enea - Boulder, Colorado

Enea – Boulder, Colorado

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti spent 18 months taking photographs of children around the world posing with their most prized possessions. The project is called Toy Stories, and you can see a nice sampling of it here. 

All of the photos, along with a longer essay about the project, can be viewed on Mr. Galimberti’s website, here.

What a beautiful and thought-provoking project. As someone named Graeme Stuart writes in the comments section of the feature shoot article: “…It certainly highlights the differences in standard of living – but not necessarily quality of life.” How true.

Arafa & Aisha - Bububu, Zanzibar

Arafa & Aisha – Bububu, Zanzibar

Cun Zi Yi - Chongqing, China

Cun Zi Yi – Chongqing, China

Davide - La Valletta, Malta

Davide – La Valletta, Malta

Kalesi - Viseisei, Fiji Islands

Kalesi – Viseisei, Fiji Islands

Ragnar - Reykjavik, Iceland

Ragnar – Reykjavik, Iceland

Abel - Nopaltepec, Mexico

Abel – Nopaltepec, Mexico

Virginia - American Fork, Utah

Virginia – American Fork, Utah

The Process


For second-year Ed.S. students in Illinois, this coming Friday is a big day. It’s called Decision Day, and it is the day we are officially allowed to accept or reject offers of employment as interns next year. Most of us have been interviewing since about January, and some of us have even received offers, but none of us are technically allowed to accept any offers until this Friday, March 15th.

So as you can imagine, this is a week of great anxiety for many of us. And of course there will be some who receive no offers, or not the right offers, and will have to keep submitting applications. This is not too unusual, as there are always schools that haven’t even posted their internships yet because they are still working out their budget situations for next year. I’ve heard that it is not outside the norm for students to accept internships into April and even May. So it is an ongoing process.

But I’ve been receiving some anecdotal reports of what it’s like out there in internship interview world. The most frequent sentiments are that it is exciting, confusing, and stressful. The flip side is that there is also a lot of secrecy and usually gregarious peers are playing their cards very close to their chests. So with the exception of your closest friends, it’s kind of hard to know where everyone is in the process at any given moment.

“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

– United States Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

So without knowing specifics, I just wanted to offer a general show of support for everyone in my cohort. Maybe also a little encouragement and distraction. So…

One way to put your situation in perspective is to look at others who have been there. A recent article in the NY Times explores the trials of people who have been called back to 3, 4, 5, 6 and more follow-up interviews – yet are never offered a job. I actually found the comments section to be the most interesting part of the article. Scroll down to read the comments from people who share their job interview horror stories. Here’s a sample:

I was given a third interview at a major retailer and told to bring a strategic plan for a particular issue they were facing. I prepared this plan. On the day of the interview, I got horribly lost and called the interviewer to apologize and say that I would be late and being late is unacceptable and a terrible first impression, so it was completely okay if she did not want to interview me. She said it was okay and that I should come ahead anyway.

We had what I thought was a good interview. She told me about the next steps that I would be asked to take and who I would next interview with. She said she would call me next week.

Long story short, there was no fourth interview. When next we spoke, she told me she could not hire me because I had not prepared what she had asked for–and then named a completely different assignment that was never mentioned to me. And then added, “And you were late.”

Sometimes it helps to be reminded that even as you’re going through a stressful experience, someone else has gone through something worse – and came out the other side.

So hang in there, everybody. It will work out, and one day we will look back on all of this and have a good laugh (remember: comedy = tragedy + time).

Weekly Roundup 3-10-13

School: A new study indicates that when children exercise, it sparks hormonal changes that help reduce their cortisol levels, and, in turn, their stress. “In a school, a child who gets more activity on a daily basis…will respond better to everyday stressors like tests and social challenges.”

Psychology: “Psychologists have an aversion to some essential aspects of science that they perceive to be unexciting or less valuable. Historically, the discipline has done almost nothing to ensure the reliability of findings through the publication of repeat studies and negative (“null”) findings.”

A recent article in the UK Guardian suggests it’s time for psychologists to get their collective research house in order. The author even includes some shocking results from a 2011 study of nearly 6,000 American psychologists:

“The majority” admitted to:

  • …being guilty of selectively reporting studies that “worked” (67%)
  • …failing to report all dependent measures (74%)
  • …continuing to collect data to reach a significant result (71%)
  • …reporting unexpected findings as expected (54%)
  • …and excluding data post-hoc (58%).

“Remarkably, 35% indicated that they had doubts about the integrity of their own research on at least one occasion and 1.7% admitted to having faked their data.”


Scholarship: Once again, Vaughan Bell delivers the goods with an excellent post titled “The History of the Birth of Neuroculture.”

Doodle 4 Google Drawing Contest

Did you know that Google is hosting a drawing contest for kids? Apparently they’ve been doing this for the past six years, but I just found out about it yesterday. Okay, so I’m a little late to the game. But there are still about 2 weeks left to submit entries so I thought it was worthwhile to post about (plus, now you’ll have a heads-up for next year!).

It’s called Doodle 4 Google, and it’s open to all K-12 kids in the U.S.

This year, we ask students to exercise their creative imaginations around the theme, “My Best Day Ever…” One talented student artist will see their artwork appear on the Google homepage, receive a $30,000 college scholarship, and a $50,000 technology grant for their school along with some other cool prizes!

Here’s a short video about it:

Want to see how many submissions your state has entered so far? Check out this interactive map. Looks like North Dakota is still in the lead, while Illinois isn’t even in the top 10. We’ve got some work to do!

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 12.09.13 PM

Parents can submit their child’s art, and teachers can submit their students’ art. The only limitation is one drawing per child, but, for example, a teacher could submit a drawing by each child in her class. Good luck, and let’s all get doodling!

Contest information.
Entry forms.

Archive of all Google doodles since 1998.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Screen shot 2013-03-08 at 9.50.51 AM

Happy International Women’s Day, everybody! I celebrated by filling out an application to volunteer for a Girls Rock! camp this summer. As a (semi-former; haven’t played in a few years) drummer, I volunteered to teach girls how to play. I still have my kit, and am looking forward to dusting off the ol’ skins.

Do you have anything planned? Check out the links below for ideas and more information.


What is International Women’s Day?
How is it celebrated around the globe?
IWD website.
Chicago events to celebrate IWD.

Around the Town

Screen shot 2013-03-07 at 8.53.56 PM

Photo credit: Hilary Eiden

NPR played a story this morning about repairs to a bridge in downtown Chicago. It just so happens that this bridge is right outside the building where I go to school. We’ve all been navigating the construction and the closed streets and suspended train service for weeks now, and overall I think we’re holding up well. But it was really interesting finding out more about the project, a little Chicago history (always a bonus), and just exactly what it is they’re doing out there. (And, purely by coincidence, a friend happened to take the above photo this morning on the way to class).

This also reminded me that my stepmother’s sister’s husband (my step-uncle?), who lives in Chicago, is something of a city bridge hobbyist. He has a website, with lots of historical and engineering information plus great photographs of downtown Chicago’s “moveable bridges.” He also offers tours and presentations for school and non-profit groups.

Lastly, for the locals, check the CDOT website for the most up-to-date news about the city’s “bridges, viaducts, and waterways.” Apparently the Kedzie Bridge is the next big reconstruction project; it just started this past Tuesday.

NPR story about the Wells Street Bridge project on Morning Edition.
Link to Chicago Loop Bridges website.
Link to CDOT Bridges, Viaducts, and Waterways information page.

Meanwhile, In Edgewater…

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed for students at Chicago’s Swift Elementary School on Monday. Can you imagine a better start to your week than watching Yo-Yo Ma play the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in your school’s auditorium?!

Here’s a link to a video in the Chicago Tribune that shows the kids’ reactions. And not only did Ma make them cheer, he made them laugh. It was, to quote one of my favorite children’s authors, A Good Day.

Weekly Roundup 3-3-13

School: An NPR story explores the use of technology in schools. Schools across the country are spending billions on technology initiatives, despite a lack of evidence that technology furthers education in any measurable way: “In some districts where schools have invested heavily in computers and e-readers, test scores have remained the same or fallen.” Without a specific plan for how the technology will be used, the benefits of its use are not exactly clear. Put another way: if your school’s plan is just to put an iPad in every child’s hands, then you’d be better off investing in spiral notebooks.

Psychology: We all know neuroscience is the white-hot topic of the moment. And while genuine scientific progress towards understanding the human brain has been made in recent years, there is also the pitfall of “folk neuroscience.” Vaughan Bell’s recent article for The Observer talks about how Folk Neuroscience has led to lots of popular misconceptions about the brain. I’m going to coin my own phrase for this phenomenon and call it Urban Brain Myths. Bell cites examples such as:

  • The “left-brain” is rational, the “right-brain” is creative
  • Dopamine is a pleasure chemical
  • Low serotonin causes depression [this one he attributes solely to pharmaceutical companies’ advertising in the 80’s and 90’s promoting Prozac]
  • Video games, TV violence, porn or any other social spectre of the moment “rewires the brain”
  • We have no control over our brain but we can control our mind

Scholarship: A new study describes the most effective learning techniques in a school setting. Specifically, 10 learning techniques are discussed, as well as their “relative utility.” The techniques were designed to be easy to use by the average student, thus easily adopted. The original paper is dense, and at 54 pages I doubt many of us will be clamoring for a personal copy. But here is a nice visual summary of the data, as well as a description of each technique (neat graphics, too!).