Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A fission of givin'

A church raises $21 million within a 24-hour period. It's big news because of the recent public discussions over the amassed riches of organized religion, raising suspicion and alleging impropriety in the raising and disbursement of such monies by what are ostensibly non-profit organizations.

This story reminds me of the miracle of the five loaves and two fish recorded in the Gospels (Jn 6:5-6:15, etc.). The mystery of this miracle is in how limited quantities of matter (bread and fish) can be multiplied several times over to feed 5000 people, while leaving behind significant excess, without breaking the laws of Newtonain physics.

If that is the question, we are looking at the miracle in the wrong way. In a crowd of 5000, it is quite inconceivable that the only food resource among them is five loaves and two fish that only one boy had the presence of mind to take with him that day. If one boy could have packed a meal with him there'd be many others who'd have brought food along too. This boy, however, gets his place in canonical history because his offer to share his resources catalysed a mass movement of the "haves" to share their resources with the "have-nots". The miracle isn't about the violation of the laws of physics but in getting people to share what they have willingly with others, and that is no mean feat.

We can account for the excess gathered at the end of the feeding frenzy by the Principle of the Buffet Table. Because everyone has some they become polite and will settle for a little less just in case someone ends up with none. We can count this effect as either altruism or a sensitivity to "good form". Either way, the buffet table will always have left-overs. This effect is all the more likely to occur if the environment or event itself encourages civic consciousness or at least consideration for others.

Such an environment is palpable in CHC in which communal involvement is strongly emphasized among a very large and inclusive population base representing a wide range of mixed incomes. With the environment primed for placing others before self, it only takes a small catalyst to ignite a fission of givin'. $21 million in 24 hours? Is that all?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Celebrating us

In today's celebration of Education Professionals, the student body organized a concert tribute to us. All performances were dance items, including NYeDC's. Makes sense because in a large hall with poor acoustics the only things that will keep and hold our audience's attention are music, colour and movement. No one can follow a storyline under such conditions.

Our item was set to the Muppets' version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody' depicting various classroom interactions between students and different teacher personalities. Not strictly dance, more like mime and movement though we're still a bit rough at that.

The noobs who came on after us brought the house down, as I expected they would. They really showed that our staff aren't the stodgy no-lifers that we appear to be. They said they toned down some of the raunchiness from the staff dinner performance, but I don't remember seeing anything particularly tasteless then.

Spent the afternoon in good company. Lunch at Jones the Grocer where I finally found a place that offers pastrami sandwiches. Also ordered a cheese platter to share. The atmosphere here is very pleasant. Attentive wait staff always on hand with water refills and dish clearing. Expensive, though. Pastrami sandwich was more sandwich than pastrami. Though the bread was lovely and chunky and thick, I prefer the pastrami filling to be thicker than the bread slices holding the whole thing together. This is all Joey Tribbiani's fault for setting my expectations so unrealistically high!

In other madness, while Mel and Wendy A adjourned to parts unknown, the rest of us adjourned to Ben & Jerry's where we drank so much water Wayne had to justify the presence of so many shotglasses on our table. Here he attempts to build Dempsey Hill's tallest free-standing structure of dining crockery, setting the record at ten individual pieces in a stack. Amy's pix captures this historic moment (left). HP's wallet went missing; Josh displayed some dexterous sleight-of-hand in his vanishing act; To*ny displayed outstanding clumsiness in making said item reappear. Brilliant.

To all teachers working tomorrow on Teachers' Day... why?

Monday, August 30, 2010

The tiger in the tank

Some of the best teaching moments occur during individual consultation periods when the kids actually come with questions to discuss. I've learned my lesson about focusing my consults on content -- don't offer them any more than they themselves have offered already. Telling them what info they should have included here and there when they didn't have such info in the first place just demoralizes them and makes them feel like they're never going to catch up with the bar we keep raising.

More content isn't going to help, especially when it wasn't their content to begin with. My strategy from now is to focus on extending mileage on what information they already have, always with the caveat that in the interim between now and their finals there's still time to build up more content on their own.

I think that's the best strategy to take into the exam hall because that's exactly what they're expected to produce. The test is on maximizing what they have brought into the venue, that's it. There's nowhere else they can get more content from, not till they change the nature of the test anyway.

Some ground rules we established from today's discussion:

  • Absolute #1 rule: Always tell the Truth -- don't know, don't write.
  • Reasoning counts for more than content.
  • Broad-based content produces more mileage than focused topical content.
  • Content is flexible and can be used to respond to many questions
  • Good responses strongly link supporting content with question requirements.
  • Argument always precedes balance, and not the other way around.
  • Every question must be taken on its own merit. There is no "aren't I supposed to...?" If the question does not ask for it, don't.
  • Time taken to analyse question requirements is better use of time than planning (or worse, committing to) a response without first knowing what the question wants.

No particular order of importance, though. It's not a process but guidelines to keep in mind. Yes, very common-sense, but a guided-analytical approach is far better than the panic-vomit approach.

It was particularly enlightening when a kid asked me to analyse an Economics question because she didn't understand why her interpretation was deemed wrong by both her own mates and the Econs tutor. I told her to use the GP method of analysing questions on this one. She was dubious at first, but a lightbulb went on as she proceeded. Now she could clearly see what the question wanted and why her answer was so far off base.

Arby always remarks how the kids don't seem to think when they approach questions in his subject. Perhaps they didn't have the right tools and the know-how to use them correctly in the first place. Ladies and gentlemen, today we might have made a breakthrough! Hope this time it has longer legs.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Rambo and Friends Show

In 'The Expendables', Stallone rounds up the venerable action heroes of yesteryear and throws them all into his latest celluloid outing. Snipes is missing, though. Guess even they couldn't arrange a jailbreak for him.

The story is nonsense. Stallone's small group of mercenaries get hired to take out a Banana Republic Generalissimo for an offer of cash, but they find another reason to do the job for free like the true-blue all-American good guys they are. Even Li. The story, as we know, is just an excuse for pitting one action hero against another using fists and feet, blades, guns, vehicles and explosive ordnance, as far as the alliances between them can stretch the boundaries of credibility.

But there's the fun, isn't it? Who cares much about plot in a movie that promises action and delivers spectacle? On the cards: Lundgren vs Li; Stallone vs Austin; in a handicap match Statham vs a bunch of recreational b-ball players; Statham vs Rourke in knife throwing action; eh, and the other tough guys who are unfamiliar to me off-hand don't get all that much air time (maybe that's why they're called the Expendables?). Real big-time stars like Willis and Ah-nold show up too, though they get cameo roles in which they talk tough and leave.

In typical boy fashion, Stallone and Co take down an entire nation, ruining it's political infrastructure; internal security and air-defence forces; economic and industrial capabilities (main export appears to be cocaine); and it's primary imp-ex facility (a single docking pier). Why boy fashion? If Stallone had just asked nicely, I'll bet all this senseless destruction and mayhem and the occasional expendable (small 'e') disintegrating in a shower of gore and gibs could have been avoided. But then, with his mumble, even if he did ask nicely nobody would have understood him anyway. Out come the guns again.

Yeah, I needed to watch a mindless, testosterone-heavy, male-bonding action flick. It's marking season, don't you know? Let the blood-letting begin!

Expendables Body Count
Via: Term Life Insurance