Friday Feedback Loops

I know- I’m tired on a Friday afternoon too so there will be no 2,000+ word think piece on the history of America today.

Thank God.

Just a quick little piece to pontificate about over the weekend.

*deep exasperated sigh* alright, let’s just get this over with.

Let’s talk a little bit about feedback loops.

One of the reasons I’m starting to get so fired up about about education is due to the simple idea of a feedback loop. I’m not in the mood to go about making graphs and shit so I’ll just use arrows to show it.

Personal factors -> Behavior -> Environmental influences

I was given an example in class the other day that went a little something like this:

Personal factors: student with low self esteem

Behavior: student gets bad grades

Environmental influences: teachers/parents scold student for getting bad grade

And the loop continues.

It’s a fairly easy concept to understand. Personal factors lead to certain behaviors and then those behaviors are either reinforced or corrected by environmental influences.

I think it’s ridiculous to try telling a student with low self-esteem “Hey… stop that” and expect to witness any change. Similarly, a teacher giving a student a good grade purely out of sympathy and not the quality of their work is not setting them up for the phrase we hear all too often:

The real world (which, by the way, doesn’t saying “the real world” imply that we live the first 22 years or so of our lives with some sort of distorted fantasy view of life? Sorry, I digress).

For those reasons, I think the best option for dramatic change regarding struggling students is to alter the environmental influences around the student.

If a kid is struggling in class and getting bad grades maybe the best option isn’t to scold them and say “You didn’t study hard enough” , “Try harder”, or the ultimate shitty teacher cop out of “I don’t give grades you earn them” (we know, but as a teacher you’re expected to- um- how should I say it? Teach).

Maybe the best option is to… oh…I don’t know…

Provide some positive feedback that focuses on the reality of the negative behavior  but takes into account personal factors in order to determine a method of improvement best tailored to that student going forward.

I know- it’s a crazy concept.

You might think that most schools already do this but I disagree.

The smart kids are smart and the “dumb” kids?

They’re just not trying hard enough.

A teacher doing this just one time is not going to be enough to inspire change. It has to be a daily effort for every student in their classroom.

But Pat these teachers are grossly underpaid- why should they bother going the extra mile?

Did they think education was a gold mine industry going into it?

If you’re a teacher and you’re not giving total effort to every student in your class please do everyone a favor and just stop teaching. I would hate to think that you went through all those years of schooling and got all those fancy degrees only to hand out a worksheet and scroll through Facebook the rest of class.

If I don’t say it; who will?

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Should I Believe in Social Darwinism?

Even if you sleepwalked through every biology class you ever took I find it nearly impossible that you’ve never heard the phrase:

“Survival of the Fittest”

It’s a phrase that was tied to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution that those with the best traits for reproduction success (sex…nice) will be the ones who survive and carry on the species going forward.

That is pretty much a universally accepted belief because it makes sense. Those who have all the desirable traits to reproduce are going to be the ones who continue to live generation to generation and those who don’t will slowly fade away.

But somewhere along the way people decided to add a word before “Darwinism”.

Social Darwinism

What’s that?

The theory that individuals, groups, and peoples are subject to the same Darwinian laws of natural selection as plants and animals.

Well Pat, that doesn’t seem like a crazy belief. Is it so wrong to think that the most qualified and skilled people will inevitably rise to the top of their profession and start to accumulate wealth? Sounds like you’re getting a little too woke again.

Imagine this:

There are two children who decide to play baseball for the first time ever. Considering neither of them have ever played before, let’s assume they have equal skills at the game.

On paper this is fair.

If only the world were that simple.

There is a big difference I forgot to mention about these two children.

The parents of child #1 have accumulated massive amounts of wealth and are able to provide private lessons, the best available equipment, as well as total emotional support along the way.

The parents of child #2 come from a low-income background despite both parents working full-time. They can only afford low level equipment and make it to a couple games a season due to their demanding work schedule.

When child #1 inevitably achieves greater success playing baseball than child #2 should this be viewed as:

-“Survival of the fittest”

or

“Survival of the most wealth and resources”

Alright Pat, I get where you’re coming from. But life is not fair- get over it.

I completely agree; life is not fair.

Let’s stop acting like it is.

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The “Cool” Kids

By Nicole Bates Instagram: @nicolebates_

When I was a freshman in high school, I remember looking up to the seniors and thinking they were so cool. I thought they had their lives together, they knew who they were, and they knew what they wanted. At the time, I was just a small 14-year-old who hadn’t experienced anything yet. I was shocked to learn people actually drank, smoked weed, and had sex!

As high school went on, I kept waiting to get to that point where I was the “cool” senior who knew who I was and what I wanted.

But when senior year came around; this feeling did not.

I thought back to how I revered those seniors as a naive freshman, and I did not think I could ever be in a position to be viewed that way.

I used to agonize over how I came across to other people even though I knew that was something I couldn’t control. However, how I felt I was being perceived always provoked anxiety. I felt that people saw me as the weird, quiet girl standing in the corner. I felt I rambled on to the point where my words made no sense. I felt like a nerd, like a freak, and I even felt boring.  I was nervous that because of how I acted, another person would not want to be my friend.

Now I would say that my natural inclination is to be shy and quiet.

If you know me well- you may see my chatty and outgoing side. But in large groups or around strangers, I tend to be timid.

I’ve always hated this about myself.

For years, I would look up to my extremely extroverted friends and try to be more like them. However, in this quest to find my inner extrovert; I always felt I was failing. My friends would overshadow me with their loud antics and unabashed personalities. I was so jealous of them because they could talk to whoever, whenever, and they were so comfortable doing so.

My freshman year of college was a lot like my freshman year of high school.

I would look around at people and think they were so “cool.”  But it wasn’t just the seniors, it was everyone. People doing their thing and living their independent lives as college students!

I continued to try to level up with the loud, outgoing people who I thought had it better than me but it was exhausting. Then, I started to awaken to the reality of things. I looked more critically at these friends and saw they too expressed some of the same social anxieties I felt.

This hardened “cool” front people seem to have is usually just that- a “front.” And as you get to know these “cool” people; you discover everyone has their own anxieties.

Cool means something different to everyone, and in my lifetime, its meaning has changed immensely.

In high school, “cool” was literally the “popular” kids who had parties and big houses and were for some inexplicable reason deemed better than everyone else.

I’ve also seen “Cool” as people who go through life seeming like they don’t give a fuck.

Like the people who listen to underground music acting like you could never possibly know all the music they know. Or people who are just so interesting because they walk around barefoot or know everything there is to know about astrology.

I have decided that being “cool” really just means doing what you find interesting and what you are passionate about. Yes, here I am whipping out some more clichés, but really when you are able to just be yourself- I think you will start to attract the people that are “cool” to you.

I have come a long way in squashing these all-consuming social anxieties since the days of shutting myself off alone in my freshman year dorm. Rather than trying so hard to be like the outgoing friends I had always been jealous of, I’ve settled into myself, and I’ve allowed myself to be a little more introverted without beating myself up about it.

Once I allowed myself to be myself, I found that I was much more comfortable in most social situations. I have become attune to if I am going to vibe with someone or if that connection will just never really happen.

Now I know who I want to surround myself with.

When I was trying to project someone else’s personality onto my own, I always seemed to be around people who I didn’t have much in common with. But at the time, I couldn’t recognize that was the root of my unease.

I have since realized I need to relinquish some of the control I desire to have over how people perceive me and let myself be free of worry. This means I may not get along with everyone; but that’s ok.

Because the relationships I do form feel more genuine.

Although I still experience social anxiety (it doesn’t ever completely go away), I have learned to try and push myself to get past it. If I think someone is “cool” and I want to hang out with them, then it can’t hurt to ask! What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t like me and don’t want to hang out.

 I’m ok with that now.

I’d rather feel free to ask then to let my anxiety stop me from even trying to hang out with someone who I may be able to develop an honest relationship with.

Most of the time I have found that I am able to tell whether or not I am going to vibe with someone pretty early on. If I feel a connection, they rarely turn me away if I try to hang out.

Because most people are feeling a little nervous about how you perceive them too, they might even be just as excited to find out that you want to hang out with them!

So, tell the people you appreciate how much you appreciate them and that you think they are “cool” more often- because I think that is something everyone can benefit from hearing.

NNNN

Editor’s Note:

First and foremost; great piece by Nicole.

Just wanted to add that I always found it fascinating how those who deemed themselves the most popular tended to be the most despised by those around them.

Just a little #FoodForThought

Happy Tuesday.

Love; Reflecting on New York

By: Taeko Gupta Instagram/Twitter: @taekogupta

Personal Blog: https://tgupta820.wixsite.com/taekogupta

Last weekend, my friends and I took a 4-hour bus ride to New York to get some good Instagram content.

But I came back with so much more.

At 6am when the bus pulled out of the design building; I had no idea what to expect from the trip. I thought I would come back tired and sick of my friends, but more importantly, I was thinking of my friend Loreta as I sat on the bus next to Nora (a random foreign exchange student who offered me Saltines at 7am) knowing I would’ve been sitting next to Loreta if she hadn’t slept through her alarm and missed the bus to New York. I wondered if her FOMO would overcome her and force her to buy a $50 ticket to meet us in the middle of Manhattan later in the day.

Right as we stepped off the bus, Constanza (our designated photographer friend) almost got hit by a biker who cursed at her as he angrily sped away. I watched him zoom off into the distance with a bouquet of wildflowers hanging off the side of a DIY bike basket. It was small but it put a dorky smile on my face. This young man was in such a rush he would have run over Cons in an instant but under that hard exterior of a mean, in a rush, New Yorker, was a big softie waiting to go home to give someone he loved flowers. Maybe he wasn’t (they could’ve been funeral flowers or “give me a raise” flowers) but when I saw that- I thought of love.

While we walked along the Brooklyn Bridge, we saw tons of little locks with initials and hearts hugging the metal caging of the bridge. The bridge itself was marked with people’s love- dates, initials, quotes, and hearts. On my right there were people on bikes yelling at me to get outta the bike lane. But on my left, my hand lingered on the bridge, tracing all the little indicators of love. I saw a guy riding a BMX bike and facing him was a girl standing on the little pegs laughing as they struggled to get up the bridge.

Everybody around me was in their own little world.

It was like living in a TV show where I was an extra for a scene where the actors take their love interest to New York. Everything in this episode was sepia toned and in the background there was soft soul music playing.

I was sitting on the bridge when I looked down and saw a heart outlining the words “Girls Trip 2004”. My mushy gushy heart leaped at the thought of some group of girls 15 years ago sitting in this exact same spot just like my friends and I were doing in that moment. It showed me that love is so timeless and universal, it doesn’t choose people to bestow upon, and it’s not hard to find. Love can be found anywhere between anybody.

And that’s what makes it so beautiful.

Anyways, remember my friend Loreta (girl who slept through her alarm, had grade A FOMO, and dropped 50 bucks for a bus ticket to come hang out with us for a couple hours in New York)? She made it! The four of us were finally together and on our baddest behavior (which basically means we lost the tour group four times).

While the sun was setting behind us, we ended up in a cute cafe on 34th St and 9th Ave. We were exhausted and our feet hurt but we sucked it up and bought a coffee so we could sit, pee, and of course- use the Wi-Fi.

The two girls working at the café decided to put on “Shallow” from “A Star is Born” and somehow our tired asses mustered the energy to belt out every line of the song. The cafe girls started harmonizing and dancing with us and we even got a man on a call at the cafe to sing along with us too.

In that moment it didn’t matter whether we were lost/late, if our phones were dead, or how much our feet hurt.

It was just a group of girls in a tiny cafe in the middle of New York singing.

It was euphoric to not hold anything except for love and joy; even if it was just for 3 minutes and change. It felt relieving to be fully in love with the moment, with my friends, and with the song. On the outside, New York is littered with shitty people who are mean, aggressive, and will run you over with their bikes. But the closer you look on the bridges or on the sidewalks- there is so much love dusted around. It’s so subtle and gentle that it almost goes unnoticed.

Almost.

25 dollars and two sore feet later, I made the trip back realizing how universal love can be; even in a place like New York where no two people are the same.

FU NY
Graffiti we saw while we got honked at for j-walking. New York baby!

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NNNN Episode #16 with David Noone

Great conversation today with David talking about:

-His atypical life path so far

-His experiences in education

-His thoughts on weed and vaping (referencing the current Massachusetts ban)

-Life

Hope everyone enjoys. (likes, subscribes, five star reviews encouraged)

#NNNN

https://anchor.fm/pat-labelle/episodes/NNNN-Episode-16-with-David-Noone-e5kv9f