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?











My Mid-College Crisis

By: Nicole Bates

I always heard the cliché: “College is the best four years of your life.” However, since arriving at college, I have become skeptical of this statement, because if college is the best four years of your life then I guess life is just downhill from here!

Now don’t get me wrong- college is fun! I love getting drunk with my friends on the weekend and having very little responsibility, but I think to myself: “There must be something more to it than this.” I know I’m getting deep here, but seriously! When you think about it, that cliché does not make sense. College may be the most reckless four years of your life, or the years where the most change happens, but is it really the BEST four years of your life?

I wonder to myself if that cliché has been spread as a means of control. They tell you that, so you are motivated to get good grades in high school, get into college, and get a degree. Then you can “contribute something meaningful” to the world. But sometimes I find it is easy to lose sight of why you are really here; to learn and grow as a human being. And in that case, you are really just following a socially constructed path: you graduate, get a boring, well-paying job, start a family and live in the suburbs. Before you know it, you’ll be just like your parents!

I am letting my cynicism take over a little here. I don’t necessarily think that lifestyle is a bad one. For some people, their goals revolve around stability and family. However, I feel as though the system doesn’t really allow room for students, who may not necessarily fit that mold, to explore other options.  So, now that you have some idea of my stance on college, let me tell you about the mid-college crisis I experienced when I arrived at school this fall.

I have never felt truly settled at UMass, but I think coming into my junior year, I went into full-on crisis mode. With two years in and two years left I thought: what am I actually doing here?

I’m starting to get antsy because now the novelty of being away from parents and going out to college parties has worn off, and I’m left to think about what I am actually getting out of an education that is costing me (and my parents) tens of thousands of dollars every year, and will leave me in debt for years after I am finished.

So, there I was a few days into the semester, sitting in my dorm room, having a BREAKDOWN. I was questioning my major, questioning my intelligence, and most importantly realizing I had become completely disillusioned by my education.

I called my parents and told them: “I know I’m a junior but I think I have to change my major.” Coming into this year I was a communication primary major with a theater secondary major and a minor in French. But I wasn’t fully invested in what I was learning; I missed reading challenging books in English class, I missed learning about animals in biology, and I never thought I’d say it but- I missed math. I discovered I actually love learning, and if I am going to be paying for this education, I want to feel like I am being educated.

My Dad’s solution to this crisis was to drop out. And I’m not going to lie; I seriously considered that as an option. But when my roommate heard me on the phone and gave me a worried look I knew that wasn’t a serious option.

I would be sad if I left.

Because as disillusioned as I had become at UMass, I knew I still had some good things going for me. I have amazing friends, in-state tuition and access to university resources I would not otherwise have access to.

Realistically, looking back at my life decisions, I think I would have really benefitted from a gap year, and I wish that was presented to me in high school as a viable option. But there’s no point in dwelling on the past, so I decided I needed to pull myself together and figure my shit out.

So, I acted.

I changed my secondary major to something where I felt I would be more intellectually engaged, and now in my four years I will come out with a double major and two minors: talk about making the most of your time here!

If you are anything like me and college isn’t what you hoped it would be, don’t get discouraged. And if you are younger than me and already questioning your major, DO NOT HESTITATE to explore your options. Because in the end, your undergraduate major won’t really matter, so you might as well study something you are passionate about.

A cliché I do agree with is “everything is what you make of it.”

No matter what kind of college experience you are having- make the most of it. Because though I don’t think it is necessarily the best four years of your life, it is definitely an influential period in a young person’s life, and you should be stimulating your mind in classes, in conversations with peers and in exploring everything the world has to offer.


Letters to Pat

The Letter:

Dear Pat,

I have been following you for quite some time now and want to first commend you on your impeccable wit and internet suaveness. For these reasons, I figure you are the best person to give advice about all things college.

I am an incoming freshman and my mind has been racing trying to figure everything out. What should I know about parties? What clubs should I join? Is the whole thing even worth it?

I know you’re probably spending the majority of your time fending off beautiful co-eds but if you can spare a few minutes to reply I would greatly appreciate it.


Concerned Freshman

The Response:

Dear Concerned Freshman,

First and foremost, thank you for your generous compliments. It is not easy being the voice for college students but if I don’t do it- who will?

As far as the specifics of your question:

Partying (If you’re a guy):

When I was heading into school last year I was ready to turn ‘Animal House’ into a modern reality. But after deciding not to rush a fraternity, I failed to study the ancient questions of “What’s your ratio?” and “Who do you know here?”.

Big mistake. (look for open windows)

Partying (If you’re a girl):

You’ll be fine.


If you’re a nerd:

Daily Collegian

If you’re a dummy:

Amherst Wire

If you’re a little bit of both: (Contact if interested)

Is the whole thing really worth it?

UMass mission statement:

The University’s mission is to provide an affordable and accessible education of high quality and to conduct programs of research and public service that advance knowledge and improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world.”

Let me start by saying; I have loved a lot of things about college.

I love meeting all different kinds of people, I’ve taken some interesting classes, the social aspect is fun, and getting the opportunity to use a sweet radio studio is second to none.

But the price is outrageous.

Right now I’m looking at around $50,000 dollars in debt post graduation (and I’m lucky enough to have my parents helping me out).

A lot of advice from adults in terms of uncertainty around a career path entering college is “Oh don’t worry about it! You’ll figure it out!” followed by the all-time cliche “These are the best four years of your life!”. The latter part of the first quote is true; you will figure it out. The question becomes whether or not you will be facing $50,000+ of debt before you do.

I’m not saying this to be a debbie downer but rather because it is a harsh truth of the world we’re living in. I’m also not putting the blame on adults who say this because as we all know it was a “different time” when my parent’s generation went to school. I spoke with a UMass alumni this summer who told me tuition cost him $1,200 .

He’d be lucky to get textbooks now.

I honestly believe that if you take the “These are the best four years of your life!” advice then they will be; and that scares me more than anything- cause life can be pretty damn long.

So my sage wisdom with one whole year under my belt boils down to the four words so eloquently stated by modern day philosopher Wiz Khalifa:

“Work hard, play hard”

And hopefully things will work out.









The Case Against Minimum Word/Page Requirements for Students


As I write this headline, I can do nothing else but picture the thousands of teachers shaking their fists in the air and saying something along the lines of “Oh stop complaining! Kids these days are just lazy!”

And for the most part? I actually tend to agree.

But with that being said, a small piece of me dies inside every time I see an assignment handed out with a page or word count requirement attached to it.

Trust me (or don’t but keep reading- it’s good for you) I understand the motivation for doing it. From a teacher’s perspective they probably assume that if they don’t give a required amount of pages/words then they will be swamped with responses lacking any critical thinking and/or insight.

An understandable line of thought? For sure.

Jesus, then what’s the big deal?!

Well, the big deal with minimum page/word requirements is that doing so encourages bullshitting to the tenth degree (in my not so humble opinion).

Instead of students asking themselves “How am I going to write a great paper?” the focus instead becomes “How can I fill X amount of pages?”. Also, I feel compelled to question the logic of encouraging students to write more just for the hell of it. Think about a person you know who takes 15 minutes to spit a 5 minute story out. Don’t you wanna just smack them upside the head and tell them “T-t-t-today junior!” ?

I know I do.

So why is it that we encourage students to make what could be a compelling, intelligent, and to the point 3 page paper into the infamous 10 pager? Is it so we can say we’re challenging them? Is it because educators want to read 3 sentences of information that could be sufficed with one? Is it because it’s fun to watch the students suffering?

The reality of the situation is that by the time students reach university they have had the question of “How long should it be?” programmed to be their first burning question when an assignment is distributed. It’s an issue that starts developing as early as elementary school and it’s not going to change overnight; but we can sure as hell start today.

I honestly could go on forever but I guess I’ll leave it at that.

Cause I just hit the minimum word count.


Presidents Day Extravaganza Blog

Presidents Day is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a day to remember all the wonderful leaders of our country, their remarkable achievements, and of course I am completely making all of this up but thank not only God but Jesus for this day off.

The real reason for this post is whilst meandering through old files on my 15 inch MacBook Pro (to brag) I stumbled across some gems in the form of high school video projects.

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Talking about high school still? What a pathetic loser!

And you would not be wrong in doing so.

But if you have nothing else to do on this fine Monday holiday sit back, relax, and enjoy:

U.S History Junior Year

Back in my day, it used to be pretty commonplace for teachers to give homework over break with the reason being to keep student’s brains from turning to complete mush. Needless to say; I despised this. Luckily, parents started to complain (as they do) that kids were doing too much work over their vacation prompting our school to a no homework over break policy. I thought it was smooth sailing from that point on but one cunning teacher of mine assigned a project the day before the last day of break.

“Oh, start it tonight and I guess whatever you don’t finish…..”

“You’ll just have to do over break!”

I like to imagine this was the reaction in the teacher’s lounge at the telling of that move:

Long story short, I blew off the assignment until the last weekend before heading back to school. It was then that my Dad told me we would be going on a trip to New York to visit Times Square and I could bring along a friend I wanted. It took some convincing but I finally got the one and only John “The Brow” Agnitti to come with me. Unfortunately, (and my selective hearing may or may not have played a role in this) we didn’t wind up in New York.

We wound up in Newark, New Jersey

I have nothing against the fine people of Newark but now I was stuck in a worthless city, with someone who was questioning the decision of friendship, and a full-blown project due the next day.

It was the polar vortex of Sunday Scaries.

But, with the help of Victoria Justice’s “Make it in America” it culminated in one of the finest works of production in modern-day media:

Anatomy Workout Senior Year

This project was about filming a workout and using scientific nerd language to describe the muscles in the body. I figured doing this for ten minutes or so would be boring as hell so I dragged my little brother down into the basement and threw him into the raging storm of swoleness and masculinity that is:

“Synergy Bodybuilding™”

“Bad Bones”

Another doozy from Anatomy that had me considering dropping out of school to pursue a career in “Anatomical Rap”:

Your bones protect your organs, your bones let you move, your bones make all your blood cells, and your bones support YOU!”


Vice Presidential Campaign Video

After conquering what many called “The Everest of Suburban Mass” I cruised into an unopposed victory come election time.

Fun fact: this was actually filmed by my Mom.


Was the whole purpose of this blog to brag about how cool and edgy I was in high school? No. The whole purpose of this blog was to let people know I am funny, cool, and was edgy back in high school.

Enjoy the day off and let’s have ourselves a week.



It came to my attention that I forgot the project that started it all. This video had zero to do with what we were singing/learning about but it was a class favorite.

“Dime Dime Cual!”

Spanish Sophomore Year:


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