I recently began a new facebook page. It is called, “Really Beautiful Music.” Really beautiful music is a gift to all of us throughout our lives. It can uplift us, inspire us, relax us, or help us to think. Such music can help us to face challenges, to soothe us, to deal with grief, to urge us to ask questions, to recall special times in our lives. Really beautiful music can help us to remember the love of our family and friends. It can make us smile, or laugh, or cry–or fill us with wonder! Most of all, it can profoundly move us in ways that are ever-growing and ever-changing. I hope to post at least one or two beautiful songs every week–songs that many of you will know or remember–songs from today, from the recent past, and from long ago–songs that may have had an impact on your life or may yet have such an impact. I hope that you will enjoy and “LIKE” the page, and also share it with others. I encourage you to comment on the song. Tell us where you heard it last, or why it holds a special place in your heart–how it is meaningful to you or to a friend or family member.
Please click on the link below to get to the “Really Beautiful Music” page.
Rest in Peace, Leonard Nimoy! Few things make me feel as old as the passing of an actor who was so much a part of my childhood–my teen years and beyond! We have lost an extremely talented, very good man.
Spock’s famous quotes go well beyond his iconic “Live long and prosper” and his raised eyebrowed “Fascinating . . .” You might recall his “Change is the essential process of all existence” or “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one” or “Insufficient facts always invite danger” or “Without followers, evil cannot spread.”
Yes, I certainly am fully cognizant that in just the past year alone, a number of people have passed away who have likely had a far greater impact on our world; yet with Leonard Nimoy’s passing, a part of my childhood goes with him, and I am confident that many share that feeling.
From William Shatner: “”I loved him like a brother. We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love” and from George Takei ”
The word extraordinary is often overused, but I think it’s really appropriate for Leonard. He was an extraordinarily talented man, but he was also a very decent human being. His talent embraced directing as well as acting and photography. He was a very sensitive man. And we feel his passing very much. He had been ill for a long, long time, and we miss him very much.”
In his role as Spock, Leonard Nimoy once said, “You have been, and always shall be, my friend.” I turn this very phrase back on this larger-than-life yet all-too-human man whom I viewed only on a television and movie screen. May your kind and gentle spirit not only speed to the heavens, but may it also imbue each one of us every day!
“It all comes down to the choices you make!” Over the past 40 years in education, I have made that statement or ones like it thousands of times to students and to my own children as elementary principal, teacher, and parent. I have said it to them in the classroom, in my office, in the cafeteria, out on the playground, and on the soccer field. And I have had a great deal of company in saying that. So many teachers, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals, school nurses, and parents have their own versions: “Take your time and make the right choice” or ”Be careful not to make a bad choice” or “Life is all about choices.” Sometimes I tell children (as my wife has always said that SHE was told) “When you have a choice to make, pretend that your dad (or mom) is perched right there on your shoulder” and think “What would my dad or mom want me to do?” or finally “What is the RIGHT thing to do?”
These thoughts are especially relevant and close to my heart this week as the news reverberates with reports on the cases of two very different media stars–one a darling of television’s Food Network–Paula Dean, and the other a New England sports hero–Aaron Hernandez.
In Mrs. Dean’s case, what has her food empire in hot water are the reports of her using the “n-word,” making racist and anti-semitic jokes, and singing the praises of a hypothetical plantation-style wedding with Blacks dressed up in tuxes and waiting on Whites. Thus far, these reports have resulted in her having her contract with the Food Network terminated after eleven years. She also lost her very lucrative contract as spokesperson for Smithfield Farms. All of this from not thinking carefully BEFORE repeating a racist joke—from making a poor choice in what stories to tell or what words to use to describe a group of people. It apparently doesn’t matter that many of these offenses may be years old. Many people may believe that she continues to feel and/or speak this way. Many more may wonder if there are still additional people to come out of the closet who can report on offensive language she has used more recently. Choices have consequences.
The second case continues to unfold in the headlines today as the police have arrested Mr. Hernandez–star tight end for my own beloved New England Patriots who recently honored him with a five-year 40 million (yes, you read that correctly) 40 MILLION dollar contract. As I gaze past my computer towards the television news at this very moment, I see that Aaron Hernandez has now been charged with first degree murder and five weapons charges. Whether he is guilty or innocent of such charges, one does not have to wonder how many opportunities he had that evening to make a choice–either a good choice or a bad choice. It seems that he must have made some incredibly poor choices that night–choices that have resulted in his being released from the Patriots and much more seriously, being charged with murder.
Unfortunately, these are just the two most recent cases of famous people making the worst possible choices—choices that impact their lives in the most negative and destructive of ways. Dan Levy of Bleacher Report points out that just in the NFL, ”Just this year there have been more than 30 players arrested for myriad offenses, ranging from driving under the influence to assault to carrying a loaded gun in an airport.”
The following is a very partial list of just some of the hundreds of famous athletes convicted of crimes in the past few decades: Ray Lewis, Plaxico Burress, Dexter Manley, Art Schlichter, Donte Stallworth, Rae Carruth, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Ryan Leaf, Mercury Morris, Bam Morris, Lawrence Phillips, O.J. Simpson, Michael Vick, Marion Jones, Steve Riddick, Barry Bonds, Lenny Dykstra, Dwight Gooden, Denny McLain, Pete Rose, Daryl Strawberry, Ugueth Urbina, Allen Iverson, Charles E. Smith, Sly Williams, Trevor Berbick, Riddick Bowe, Esteban de Jesus, Mike Tyson, Tonya Harding, Craig MacTavish, Boris Becker, Roscoe Tanner, Oscar Pistorius (Wikipedia). Most of these you recognize from American sports leagues, but there are many other names from countries and sports all around the world which are listed on this wikipedia site: Please feel free to check out crimes committed by athletes in soccer (world football), bodybuilding, Canadian football, cricket, cycling, darts, diving, figure skating, Greco-Roman wrestling, competition fishing, horse racing, rugby, motorsports, sailing, skateboarding, snooker, surfing, swimming, and martial arts.
Outside the sports arena, the list of celebrities who have had problems (some minor and some major) with the law goes on and on: Chris Brown, Kanye West, Roman Polanski, Joyce DeWitt, Phil Spector, T.I., Sam Shepard, Coolio, Katt Williams, Coutney Love, Amy Winehouse, Lil Wayne, Charlie Sheen, Britney Spears, Mel Gibson, Tobey Maguire, Soulja Boy, Andy Dick, Rick Springfield, and Big Boi (thanks to Wonderwall) R. Kelly, Kim Delaney, Yasmine Bleeth, Carmen Electra, Dennis Rodman, Barron Hilton, Robert Downey Jr., Jennifer Capriati, Daniel Baldwin, Mickey Rourke, Steve-O, Lil Kim, Ozzy Osbourne, Fifty Cent, Vanilla Ice, Axl Rose, Christian Slater, Marilyn Manson, Lindsay Lohan, Eminem, Hugh Grant, Kiefer Sutherland, Paris Hilton, Kobe Bryant (thanks to AllWomenStalk???)
Politicians making bad choices ( in the past decade) which resulted in charges or convictions or resignations included the following: Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner, Elliot Spitzer, Tom DeLay, Jim McDermott, Jim Traficant, Dan Rostenkowski, Buz Lukens, , Ronald Blackley, Scooter Libby, Jesse Jackson, Claude Allen, Jack Abramoff. Of course, Bill Clinton’s choices in the way he conducted his personal life–while not resulting in a conviction or resignation–greatly tarnished his presidency and impacted society and families in inumerable ways.
What is my point here? It is a simple one–or rather, simple to state, but much harder to put into practice. As parents, teachers, guidance counselors, principals, clergymen….we need to continue to help children—from the time they are very young through adulthood–we need to continue to help them to slow down, to think, to consider the available choices, to weigh the pros and cons and possible consequences, and to make good choices–the best possible choice in every possible circumstance. We need to consider hypothetical circumstances in which one might find himself or herself. We need to dialogue about choices available. We need to role-play. If a student DOES make a bad choice, we need to make sure that the students recognizes the choice the child had available to him or her, the choice which the child made, and the possible choices which would have led to a much better result. The problem? Good schools—like those here in our Athol-Royalston District and in many other districts in our state– are already practicing all of these strategies. So what is to be done? Do we just throw up our hands and assert that children, teenagers, and adults will continue to make poor choices? Hardly! Giving up is not an option–can never be an option. We need to dedicate more time to teaching both children and adults good decision-making skills.
How can we do that, however, when schools are already jam-packed with time on reading, language arts, math, science, social studies–as well as art, music, health, physical education, and other subjects? How can we do that when we need to continue to stress academics and time on learning so that we can compete with school systems in other countries, in addition to being competitive in the global market. How can we do this in the same 180 days of school we have had for decades?
One solution is to extend the amount of time we spend in the classroom. I have long been an advocate of significantly increasing the time that students spend in school to accommodate both the needs of students and the needs of a more complex and competitive world. Either increase the school day by an hour a day, or increase the number of days in the school year. Increasing the school day by one hour a day–every day Monday through Friday– adds 180 hours –the equivalent of 30 extra six-hour days to the school year. On the other hand, school systems could simply begin to increase the school year by adding additional days every year to the academic year. Next year would have 182 days, the year after 184, 2015-16 would have 186 days, 2016-2017 would have 188 days and so on–until we eventually reached 200 days per year. It is important to note that currently China has 260 days of school per year, Japan-243, Germany-240, Zimbabwee-225, Austrailia-220, South Korea-220, Israel-216, Russia-211, Netherlands-200, Scotland-200, Thailand-200, Hong Kong-195, England-192, Hungary-192, Switzerland-191, and Finland, New Zealand, and Nigeria all with 195. Of course, increasing the school day and/or school year definitely would require additional funding for salaries commensurate with the added teaching time, but that is another subject for another blog entry.
A very important final point, however: all the names mentioned above–all those convicted of bad behavior at least and serious crimes at most–are famous individuals. Of even more importance is the undeniable fact that every day, every month, every year there are people in our own communities–young people and adults–who make bad choices (all-too-often horrible and disastrous choices–with irrevocable consequences) and who end up in real trouble with the law-or even worse. Sometimes these choices end in serious injury or even death. Sometimes we see their names in the police news or the court news or the obituary page, and sometimes we may not. They are–all too often–our neighbors, our friends–sometimes even our family members or relatives. For their sakes and for the sake of our children and our society, we need to find a way to ultimately help children, teenagers, and adults to make better choices. It is the smart thing to do, and–more importantly–it is the RIGHT thing to do!
This is a blog I’ve been planning to write for some time. Now is as good a time as any–especially since it is hot and humid outside, and still relatively cool here–in front of my computer. The summer is winding down, and fall offers fewer moment of free time to reflect and share
There are more than enough media stories in which Facebook is derided, slammed, put down, mocked, ridiculed, and even excoriated. I offer a dissenting view. I really love Facebook. Oh, sure ; it sometimes occupies a bit too much of my time, but–in general–I control it rather than letting it control me.
It offers me the chance the converse–online-with hundred of facebook friends, colleague, associates, and friends of friends. Converse about what? Well, anything, but for me it is often about politics, photography, education, travel, and many other subjects. I enjoy reading about and reveling in the accomplishments and joys of friends and their families. I really enjoy seeing my cousins, nephews, and nieces grow up through their parents’ stories and photos. I love reading about the exploits of my former students–now all grown up, out of college and (hopefully) thriving in the world and doing their parts to help people and the world in which we all live. I have formed good friendships with former students who are now 25, 35, 45, or even 50 years old. So many are married. Many have children; some have grandchildren. They have become doctors, lawyers, electricians, company vice presidents, t.v. reporters, carpenters, politicians, journalists, salesmen, rock band stars, gymnasts, actors, professors, writers, store clerks, musicians, artists—and teachers! Most of all, they have become fascinating and involved adults!
I tell people that Facebook is different things to different people, and it meets the needs of so many. For some, it is like a diary; for others it is more like a journal or a blog. For some, it is a place to share recipes or family photos. For others, it is a place to share joys or heartaches.
I often compare facebook to (of all things) an online Disney EPCOT. Those who have visited EPCOT can–hopefully relate to this. At EPCOT, you are surrounded by exhibit of all sizes, themes, and styles. Just a few would be (in no particular order) the Universe of Energy, the American Experience, the Canada Pavilion, the China Pavilion, Mission Space, Journey into Imagination, Living with the Land, and so many others. If you are interested in the theme, you venture in, sit down, enjoy, and learn. If you are interested in Mexico, you drop my the Mexico Pavilion and you “Explore a towering Aztec pyramid featuring the Animales Fantastico folk art collection, a lively marketplace, the lagoon-side historic restaurant San Angel Inn and a relaxing boat ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros.” If that doesn’t interest you, why then you pass right by that exhibit, and perhaps you stop at The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion where you “Stare in wonder at a massive aquarium that holds one of the largest man-made ocean environments in the world, the innovative Turtle Talk with Crush show, a “clamobile” ride and other undersea-themed delights.” Not wowed by that exhibit? Well, then maybe you’ll stop by National Treasures where you can “Observe the rare historic artifacts of important Americans and U.S. events. You’ll be awestruck seeing Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat, Thomas Edison’s projector and the belongings of Mark Twain, Rosa Parks and others up close.” The point here is that you stop and look and participate in those areas in which YOU are interested.
Facebook is very similar. You go to the site, and are confronted by a plethora of possible stories competing for your attention. Interested in movies or music? See what your friend are viewing or listening to, and check out their opinions. Not interested? Pass right by. Interested in family photos? Check them out—hundreds are posted daily. Check out one or two, or ten or twenty. Not interested? Pass right by. Interested in politics? Want to talk about Obama or Romney or Scott Brown or Elizabeth Warren or Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner? Great! Stop in. Debate the issues. Not interested? Again, pass on by…….ignore those posts. Interested in food? Check out the recipes that people post, or the restaurants they go to, or the pictures of the “best meal they ever ate.” Love nature? or travel? or pets? Check out some of the gorgeous photography posted. Not interested in that? Just “walk on by.” Want some daily inspiration? Check out some of the lovely posters that people display that help you to start off the day right, or to put your own problems into perspective. Need some help with a problem.? Well, if you don’t mind sharing your problem, you can find many close friends, friends, or friends of friends who will offer their own solutions or just lend an ear and empathize with you. Not into sharing problems? Well, you don’t have to; nor do you NEED to spend time reading about the problems of others–if you don’t want to. But sometimes, it IS nice to be able to offer a helpful idea, a birthday wish, or a few words of consolation or condolence. But the key is that it is UP TO YOU! Stop by the areas that YOU want to, and walk right by those areas in which you are not interested or in which you can not spare the time to stop.
You can go on Facebook as little as once a week or once a month, and spend just 5-10 minutes on there reading and/or commenting. Or….you can go on it as often as daily or even several times a day. Sometimes I’m on for just 5 minutes or so–catching up on a little news that my brother or my nephew or niece –or my best friends–have posted. I click “LIKE” a couple of times on a few postings, and then I’m off. Other days I’m on for 15-30 minutes where I am reading and commenting on postings from others which attract my attention or interest. Then there are days like today, when I’m writing a long political post or an editorial-type post or when I’m sharing a series of my own photographs—days when I CHOOSE to be on for an hour or two or even three–because I ENJOY what I am doing—or because I am trying to make a difference in some way.
This is Facebook–many different things to so many different people. And here’s one person who really likes it, appreciates it…………and is not afraid to admit it!