December 30, 2014

October 7, 2014

My Pedagogical Creed

ped·a·go·gy
ˈpedəˌɡäjē/
noun
  1. the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.
    "the relationship between applied linguistics and language pedagogy"




    My Pedagogical Creed

    1.) What Education is

                I believe education is a lifelong, ongoing endeavor for all people of all nations, and is at the center of the human experience.  Education is the long-term, sustainable solution for what ails our world, and the transmission and building of collective knowledge is critical for the prosperity of our species. 
                I believe the educational process begins at birth and over time becomes more complex through the intersection of ones environment, ones natural attributes, and human interactions.  I believe teachers have a moral responsibility to act as stewards of this knowledge-process and help stimulate growth in the child.
                I believe education is a process of psychosocial and physiological development by which children learn the tenets of citizenship and civic duty.  I believe education and citizenship are inseparable: an educator functions as agent for the state, ensuring that both critical content and thinking skills are developed and understood by the child.  The young child is a citizen-in-training, and must learn the process by which an engaged citizen must live.

    2) What the School is

                I believe that the school functions as a embryonic model of the greater society, wherein students and teachers collaborate in the process of education.  I believe the school is the focal point of the community, the place where the most critical processes of humanity occur.
                I believe the purpose of school is to augment and challenge the experiences of the child at home and in the community.  I believe that the school, the home, and the community at-large are inseparable as they relate to the educational process.  In these places, I believe that the collaborative support of parents, educators, and community members is critical in the success of the education of a child.
                I believe that the school as a physical place is a critical component of education.  I believe that the use of technology and field experiences should only be used to enhance and not replace school as a place.  I believe that school is the place where experiences are shared, thoughts stimulated, questions posed, and children acquire knowledge through rigorous examination of these elements.
                I believe school has been traditionally a passive environment for the student, and should be a place of ultimate synthesis of knowledge.  I believe in the thoughtful struggle by which real learning occurs and new ideas are formed.
                I believe that disciplinary philosophy in school should have the student at the center, and should foster learning opportunities as opposed to punishments and retributions.  I believe this discipline must also be reinforced in the home and community.

    3) The Subject Matter and Education

                I believe every student should have a differentiated pathway to access curriculum that best fits his/her own needs.  I believe the school, home, and community have a shared responsibility in providing appropriate resources for the child.  Therefore, I believe the center of any curriculum or specialized area of study is the child and his/her own experiences.
                I believe in a diverse and rigorous curriculum, exposing children to a diverse array of opinions, experiences, and techniques for engaging in society.  I believe in challenging traditional narratives of history, offering alternative voices to children for consideration. 
                At the center, I believe the formation of critical thinking skills to be the most important goal in education.  The ability to think critically about ones world is the vehicle by which inequality is challenged, standards examined, and systemic problems of society can be potentially mended.
                I believe in the power of social studies to foster engaged democratic citizenship.  Social studies offers an interdisciplinary approach that combines the fields of history, economics, geography, political science, language arts, civics, and environmental research into a purposeful blend through which students can examine critical themes of humanity.  Exposure to this information through social studies teaches children to think critically about their place in an ever-changing world, and what role they will have in society.  Borrowing from Dewey, history is at heart a social experience. Social Studies goes beyond this, where children understand the complex interplay of environment, self, and community, and the movement of resources between these elements. 
                I believe social studies as a discipline carries with itself a moral responsibility.  Social studies educators must be stewards for silenced or quieted areas of society; they must be the mirror through which society can see itself.  Moreover, they must be the mirror through which the child can see himself/herself.
                I believe in the power of science and mathematics to explain the ways our environment interacts with humans and itself.  I believe in language arts to arm students with the linguistic tools and understanding needed to engage in proper civic discourse.  I believe in the role of physical education for providing fitness and health awareness, for sharp minds and bodies.  I believe in the value of music and art education, and these subjects offer depth not otherwise graspable in other subject areas and insight into the human experience.
                I believe that at present, school is too often teacher-centered, and only a fraction of all possible learning actually occurs.  I believe that today most often the biggest impediment to meaningful learning is the teacher.  I believe too often standards and expectations of students are lowered dramatically, and student performance is not challenged.  I believe this contributes to a culture of doing just enough in schools on the part of students.  This occurs for many reasons, but I believe the biggest factor is the overemphasis on test performance as a means of providing teacher performance evaluation. I believe an engaging curriculum, effective teacher, and proper resources from the community can help change this culture for a learner.

    4) The Nature of Method

                I believe in multiple preferred learning styles, and believe there exists a link between a preferred style and certain cultures and upbringing of learners, in a broad sense.  Having said that, I believe that all students have the ability to learn in many ways, but there exists certain modalities they may be more in tune to than others.  I believe it is the teachers responsibility to provide multiple modalities in his/her methods so that diverse students can access the same curriculum.
                I believe that history is best taught through the same processes by which historians study the past: sourcing, contextualization, and corroboration of primary and secondary sources.  I believe the skill of historical thinking is crucial to the deep understanding of the past as it relates to the numerous disciplines contained in social studies.
                I believe in student-centered, group-based learning, peer-to-peer education, and the use of technology to effectively teach curricula.  I feel these methods create a classroom of action, not passivity, and foster real learning and meaningful exploration amongst children. 

    5) The School and Progress

                To borrow from Dewey, I believe that education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform. I believe education is the only way through which social inequalities related to race, gender, income, etc. can improve.  Our collective knowledge as humans, coupled with new syntheses of information by a learner, are the vehicles through which we as people can improve our world.
                I believe sound educational policy is inspired by hard data, with the student at the center.  Laws around education should be informed by all the other principles set forth above, and should serve the needs of educating the learner only, and not another agenda. I believe there exists deep problems related to equal access to resources in society tied to ones socioeconomic status, and education should offer all people the opportunity to better himself/herself regardless of background.  I believe school is the fundamental agent of change in a society, both positively and negatively, and all the problems that plague our education system currently are inherently solvable.  

July 23, 2014

Joe Rogan on War: "It makes me sad"

From the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast #525, 7/21/14
My number one thing about war, the number one thing is, on an individual basis… take out the context of the situation, the culture they live, the language they speak… these people don’t know each other. Why are they fighting to the death? They don’t even know each other? You’re launching missiles at people you’ve never met. They’re shooting back at you! It’s crazy, the fact we still do it in 2014. I don’t give a fuck whose side you should be on or what it represents. It represents the fact that we’re still retarded. It represents the fact that we still can’t figure out our differences in other way than shooting missiles at each other or dropping bombs, or setting up IEDs, or shooting at checkpoints, or whatever it is. Whatever method they choose to show that we are still in some way barbarians. And that’s what it is, we’re still barbarians with way better weapons; it’s fucking crazy.

I understand that sometimes there’s acts of aggression and you need to protect people from people more barbaric than us, but it makes me sad. That’s the only way I know how to describe my feelings about anything that happens with war in the news. Anytime violence breaks out, anytime like this Gaza Palestine thing, I just get depressed at my core. I can’t read about it; I’m not going to pick a side. I’m not. My side is the human side. I’m on the human race side, and the human race is not benefiting from this fucking shit. I don’t know what it would take to cause Palestine and Israel to be cool with each other, I don’t understand it. I don’t know how you could hate each other for so long, how you could have so many different points of view, how you get a guy like Dennis Prager who says:

“Palestine will not be happy unless Israel is dead. There is no negotiating.”

Oh come on, they’re fucking people! They’re people! I don’t know how they’re communicating, if they understand each other’s language, I don’t know how much of this is just deep-seeded ancient shit that these people have carried with them forever, but my position on it, I’m not taking any sides. The whole thing is completely fucked. The whole thing is fucked. It’s fucked that people still do this.

Until we recognize that it’s fucked...and maybe if I lived in Israel I would have a totally different state of mind. Maybe if I lived in a place that was regularly attacked I would be more harsh and more closed off to it, I don’t know. I don’t know. But for people who want my take on it, who keep tweeting me about it, that’s my take. I’m tired of living my life… I mean look, I’m 46, I’ll be 47 in August - at what point in time... as a person, I've grown and matured and I understand myself and how I interface with myself and society and culture much better. I’m much better at it. But when I look at human beings in general, I don’t necessarily know if I see that much growth when it comes to international relations, when it comes to war, when it comes to the way we react to each other. I keep seeing these same fucking patterns repeating themselves over and over, whether it’s in Iraq or this idea that we’re supposed to invade Syria. Or you have Dick Cheney going on the news the other day and he says his number one regret was that he “didn't invade Iran the same time they invaded Iraq.”

...You know, I’m disappointed in human beings. I think there’s gonna come a certain time when we’re gonna have to get to the root problem - why do these things always have to end in unfathomable violence? Like what is it about human beings? And is it the way we’re being led? Is it the way we’re being governed? Or is it something about some fundamental aspect of us of what we are as a being? I don’t have the answer for that. But I do know that me, as a person who hopes for the best, who wishes for the best in human beings, I see this and it just makes me sad. There’s no other way to describe it. I know that’s a very limited way of describing things, and it leaves a lot open to interpretation, but that’s how I feel about it.

June 24, 2014

Shuffle Play.

"I have seen so much beauty it could make you cry"
You can say that again.
Sitting across from the Hudson for 5 hours will fill you
With inescapable awe
Humbled understanding
That life beyond my little sphere does indeed thrive
All the shrubs and trees
Prostrate towards Heaven
Soaking in our sun
Drinking our water

"Why are you shaking like a leaf / Come on, come talk to me"
If I have any takeaway from this life
To pass on to anyone who will listen
It's that silence, walls, refusal to speak
Are the absolute worst methods for all things
They are the source of all deep feuds
All estrangements
We need not all always stay in contact
But you simply should not one day decide to turn someone off
It serves no one, and only leads to deep wounds
That only build off themselves, compounding

"It's gonna be a big time in the Jungle"
My Father was drafted for Vietnam
But never had to serve
His generation was the last
To embrace the cause of civic duty
Of real democratic citizenship
And now he, in his illness and new phase in life
Is a shell of the man I knew as a child
His coldness replaced now with a more contemplative nature
I can only pray his body continues to hold up

"Believing I had supernatural powers, I slammed into a brick wall"
Two weeks ago, I thought I was perhaps turning a corner
With my heart, with my head
That for once 'things were finally looking up for ole Liz Lemon'
I don't really understand why it is always so difficult to connect with someone
Or why these matters are such deeply guarded secrets
Do we all have the pick of the C-team
Since A and B-rated people found each other?
And when did I make the C-team?

"I was playing my guitar, lying underneath the stars, thanking the Lord for my fingers"
I fear what my life will be like when I don't sing for my supper
When the mornings are early, and consistent
I miss playing guitar in Spain
Amongst my Brothers and Sisters
The yellow Spanish sunlight draping us all
In a profoundness, a gravitas to all our actions
The starlight, a chance to revisit imagination
Form our own Constellations
Our our mythology
In my sky, Cassiopeia sits right-side up
And her chair is more ornate.
We filled the Spanish sky with our deepest hopes
We shaped them into beasts, Great Men, Greater Women
Told their stories
Until it was time to sleep, time to dream
And walk the next day.

"As we beg and steal and borrow, life is hit or miss, and this:
I hope, I think, I know"

I hope that the next ten years will bring the end to much pain in my family
That we can move forward with the understanding
That the shortness of this life
And it's precious gift overall
Means that we simply "get on with it" with each other
There is no place for blocking one out.
You simply cannot, must not.
I think I will spend the next 4 months working hard
To get into the best shape of my entire life
And run my ass off
Run my heart out
Run until they tell me to stop running
As Jesse put it
I know that my life continues to be guided by grace
And I will work hard to maintain it.
I know that only hard-working people ever really "get" lucky.

"What a joy to walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the Everlasting Arms"
I walk in stride with my former self of a year ago
Step-in-step with he who walks the Camino on a loop.
You never see the transformation as you monitor by the minute
And yet you know that you walk into the Square in Santiago
Utterly Transformed.
I cannot live the same way as before.
I am a different soul, manifest through my mind, my body
Every day I could weep on account of the joy I received in those 4 weeks in Spain
And each day I draw from that well as I take on new challenges
My Father's illness
My family's division
My obesity
My heart
You walk two paths, always.
The spiritual one, where you are drawn close to the source of all
And the physical, where you filter the beauty you experience
Into energy, into rocket boost,
Into courage

From my book: "ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee"
My connections to all things, all sentient beings, is very clear
And my reliance on the great system of life is so apparent
The assumption that the sun rises tomorrow,
That so many other things I take for granted never notice
Is The Great Lesson
So if I am connected to all things, and when tragedy pings another
It therefore pings me,
Then how else could I live than for my brother and sister?
And how could the pursuit of riches, fine goods
Of impermanent desires, fickle conquests
Involving libido, pride, or acquisition
Ever be seen as anything else but a convenient waste
And ignorance of the true issue at hand.
The bell tolls for all of us, and someday it will toll in a much more tangible way
For me, for my divided family
My frail Father
For my nation
All of us
And if that end befalls us all
We must spend what time is given to us
Before that unavoidable tragedy and fall
Living together
Walking in communion
Creating our own Skies
Creating unity
So that there need not be any more
Lonely birthdays
Awkward Christmases
Forgotten Easters
Or days spent simply Dealing.

May 11, 2014

What, I ask,
On this beautiful,
Transcendent
Ineclipsible 
(Which I'm pretty sure is not a word)
Sunday afternoon,
What in the vast,
Uncompromising,
Unstable
Yet imperfectly perfect
Spinning World
Are we waiting for?

I realized today
That we are all floating 
Amidst Billions of Light Years of space time
And in this isolation
Or, despite this isolation,
We still have a way
To have each other. 

What, in this cynical world
Of meteoric rises and untimely deaths,
Of gradual ascents and patterned declines,
Of Manifest Destiny,
Where you Choose Your Own Adventure,
Are we waiting for?

To the woman with Red Curls
Staring at her own Reflection Pool
Resisting the urge to go asunder,
I remind you there exists
In all things not death or taxes
A Choice,
For fulfillment over fear
A happiness in choosing to start living 
The very things that make your heart
Practically leap out of your chest 
The things that fill you up
And cause the physical reaction:
The churning, the raised brow,
The blue blurry-eyed realization
That life is both fleeting and forever
In a single moment;
The fiction and truth merged into one. 
You can write your own meaningful narrative

And to the woman with Red Curls
Her own author of happiness,
Of fulfillment
Of success,
Knowing what and who lay at your feet,
What are we waiting for?

April 23, 2014

On William Shakespeare's 450th Birthday

Today Shakespeare was born 450 years ago.  It is also a special day in my life, as I remember my completion of the Camino de Santiago in 2013 today.

I wrote my song, "Ophelia" with the imagery of Hamlet and Ophelia from Shakespeare's play.  Take a second to give it a listen, and think of how The Bard has influenced your life.

Listen to "Ophelia" HERE

"Ophelia" by John Schmitt

Hamlet to Ophelia, "Adieu, love, adieu."
Echoes through millennia
"Adieu, love, adieu."

We play these plays, and say these parts
While we dance through all these issues in the dark
Feigning madness from the start
As we dance through all these issues in the dark

Hamlet to Ophelia, "Adieu, love, adieu."
Echoes through millennia
"Adieu, love, adieu."

I just can't take the stage and say these parts
While we dance through all these issues in the dark
Feigning madness from the start
We dance through all these issues in the dark

Because Kings will kill Kings
And marry their Queens
But love always seems
to be lost on me.

And so to my Ophelia, "adieu, love, adieu."
It echoes through my heart and lungs
"Adieu, love adieu"

Adieu, love, adieu, love love love love love

So Ophelia stepped out into the Great Divide
And decided she'd try to walk on water
Because Kings will kill Kings
And marry their Queens
But love always seems
To be lost on me
Oh, you're lost on me.

April 2, 2014

Project - Midnight Train to Georgia

The city ate her up and spit her back out 
And she waved her white flag at me, seething
She's leaving the left coast, limping and bleeding
She's leaving without ever really succeeding. 

She's wants to root near her roots
Make home near her home
She's leaving and she wants me to follow her down 
There's always another adventure to see
Another request being made of me
A time and a place she needs me to be
Chasing the girl that's chasing the dream

So here we go again
I'm buying in with money I would never spend 
Leaping without looking at the water's edge

We held a yard sale to sell off some stuff
We put our lives on the lawn 'til I'd had enough
These things still matter, so selling bits of us is tough
Time has taught me that this life is fleeting
And I'm happiest when I'm not kicking and screaming
So as the iPod on shuffle plays "Don't Stop Believing," I weep. 

March 15, 2014

Remembering Dee Dee and Donald

To me, it is Saint Patrick's Day, not Paddy's Day.  There is no green beer, Guinness, "Car Bomb" shots, green outfits with stupid sayings on them.  There is no fake jig dancing, hopping up and down and kicking, pretending to replicate the ancient skill of folk dancers.  

I sing songs this time of year about hunger strikes, about the the occupation of a people by another people, wrongful imprisoning, about gruesome war crimes, about terrorism, and about the love between families, between men and women, between men and God.  I sing songs about celebration, such jubilant celebration that men whimsically drank far too much and celebrated, because the stakes were so high and they had won.


Monday is about remembering.  It's for Delia Neylan Schmitt, my late grandmother, who was so proud to be descended from Ireland, and passed that nationalism onto her children, and her children's children.  It's about Donald Staszczyk, born on St. Patrick's Day, my grandfather, whose legacy and life looms ever larger in my own.  The loss of them both this time of year is palpable.  I can taste it, smell it.  


Saint Patrick's Day is solemn; it really is a high holy day.  On Monday I sing songs for men and women I have never met, but who stood up to oppression, fought and died for something greater than themselves, or just decided that they should give their families a better life.  Saint Patrick's Day is for all American immigrants, and we celebrate how similar we are.  The themes and struggles of the Irish people are transcendent to all peoples, and through their song, we can examine them in a closer way.


Shakespeare, it was believed, would always play the ghosts in his plays, and the characters often had the same general message, "REMEMBER ME."  That is the greatest honor we can have for any one person, to keep their memory alive, their legacy.  It's why we build statues, print faces on money, name institutions, and sing songs.  On March 17th, on the high holy feast day of Saint Patrick, the patron saint of the Republic of Ireland, we remember the ghosts of the past, both those from legend and from our own lives.


Now that's a holiday I can sink my teeth into.

December 2, 2013

Victoria

Victoria
(Don't you dare call her Vicky)
You have given me the space tonight
By your beautiful Smile
Your pleasant Southern Voice
and well-intentioned listening
To relive the most harrowing and best month
Of my life on earth. 
So while I may have left you with a small scallop necklace
It is I that is grateful. 
You have shone a fresh light
Into an otherwise routine set of anecdotes
You allowed exposition on ideas that are not easily
Deciphered in an elevator pitch. 
"Oh I went on this trip to Spain for a month"
"I walked the Camino de Santiago - have you heard of that?" (As I wince)
No, I got to speak of Joe
Of my family
My faith
Of that moment atop O Cebriero
When my life had a compass bearing again
I got to tell my story of Cristina
And seeing James' bones
I spoke of it all magnanimously
And with purpose
Because I'm proud of it all
So Vicky
Sorry I can't help it
Victoria - 
Wear the little shell close to your heart
It's travelled thousands and thousands of and thousands of steps 
since being found on the pathway
Touch it when you need a reminder
That you're already on your Camino
It started the moment the stirring began inside you
You can train by choosing to be the better version of yourself tomorrow
And do your best to believe in other people. 

November 29, 2013

Ultimately, I can't help but trace this back to you
More and more as the months drag on,
I arrive in the familiar and all-too-telling location
Next to your memory. 
I miss the place you had in my life
More than anything. 
How you let me take care of you
How we danced around the kitchen
While you cooked 
How you were someone I could miss
And someone I could love
How you could absorb all the giving
I was willing to give
I felt so deeply that I needed to outwardly show you 
How much I cared
To perform it in front of you
To tap dance for my lover
So she wouldn't leave. 

No ones ever shown me how to love
I've never learned what adult love really is
Or, if I have,
I'm terrible at it. 
Tragically and woefully terrible. 
So congratulations!
You've still managed to shine a Mirror
To Myself
I again see the Little Boy there
Ready to dance.