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Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Good Belly Laugh

So it has been well documented here that I love the NBC show Community. It is one of the most creative comedies I have ever seen, and has provided me with some great laugh out loud moments. Then came last night. I watched the episode "Pillows and Blankets" from season 3. The episode parodies a Ken Burns' Civil War documentary and traces the pillow war between Abed's Pillowtown and Troy's Blanketsburg.

There is a scene in this episode where Abed releases his secret weapon. I cannot explain to you how hard I laughed. I completely lost it for about 10mins. Below is the scene that made me laugh so hard, but I recommend you do not watch it. To truly get that great belly laugh, you need context and thus you need to watch the entire episode. Luckily below is the link to the entire episode. But watch it quick, it is only up until 8.6.12.

Full Episode

A Great Scene

P.S. I link because I do not want to spoil anything.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Batman & Robin: Ice to See You

In honor of The Dark Knight Rises release this week, I am continuing my series of reviews of bad superhero movies. The question I am asking is, "Are they truly as bad as I remember?" Today's entry is the Creme de la Creme. The movie that almost destroyed the Batman movie franchise, Batman & Robin. Much has been said about this film, but does it deserve the reputation it has?

First a little back story. I cannot wait for The Dark Knight Rises, so in order to prepare myself for the awesomeness that is to come, I thought it would be fun to watch one Batman movie a week until July 20th. I began with the original 1966 movie Batman, starring Adam West. I then worked my way down the list until I arrived at this 1997 film, in which the dynamic duo take on the dastardly Mr. Freeze, the seductive Poison Ivy, and the meat head known as Bane. (Side note, Bane will not be a meat head in Dark Knight Rises.)

So what were the conclusions I came too? Drum roll please....

Short answer yes, it is absolutely one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my entire life. Long answer, no, it is kind of a fun cartoony ride. Let me explain. The main problem that Batman & Robin faces is that it takes itself seriously. Very seriously. At the same time, the schemes of the villains are like the schemes of villains you would see on Saturday morning cartoons. I mean come on, Mr. Freeze turns a telescope into a freeze gun, and then our heroes, after a quick costume change, unfreeze the entire city of Gotham by using sun light. This is all accomplished in about 8 seconds.

Additionally, George Clooney is quite possibly the worst Batman ever!!!!! He talks in his normal Bruce Wayne voice when he is Batman. So much for a secret identity I guess.

Now I could go on and on about the utter crap of this movie (the dialogue anyone), but there are some redeeming factors in this movie too. The Alfred dying story arch I found to be very heart felt, and brought out a side of the Batman character we have never seen before. As a fan of the Batman universe, I for one never think of Alfred actually dying. I see Alfred as always being there, providing wisdom and guidance to Batman. But what would Batman's reaction be to his closest confidant's death? I find this to be a really interesting question. If this story arch was done seriously, it could be the driving force for an entire movie that would be different from every other Batman movie we have ever seen.

Secondly, Uma Thurman's performance as Poison Ivy. Given the material to work with, and the universe that her character resides in, Thurman's Poison Ivy is pretty menacing. And brings out a long brewing feud between Batman and Robin. In the comics, Ivy is known using sexual charms to manipulate individuals, and to enact her plans against our heroes. Poison Ivy does actually that in this film. Not only that, I do not believe any red blooded American male will complain about seeing her in tight green leather.

So ultimately my conclusion for Batman & Robin is, if you are looking for a film to watch with your friends and crack jokes about, Batman & Robin is your movie, and you will have a lot of fun doing it. When you watch this movie, think of it as a continuation of the Adam West Batman or as a Saturday morning cartoon. If you view it like this, you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for a serious Batman movie, DO NOT WATCH THIS!!!! Watch The Dark Knight or Batman Begins or Batman Returns. These would make a far better choice. Until then, three day until the epic conclusion!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Grad School is Over!!!

Well, I did it. Grad School is now officially over and I have a Master's Degree in Education. This is a pretty remarkable thing when I think about it. Ten years ago, I would of never dreamed of obtaining a Masters and now I have one.

It was a very rewarding experience, and thankfully you never have to hear me discuss the Graduate Experience again. So in honor of this fact, I would like to share my final Grad Assignment for my last posting on Grad School. The assignment asked me to write a reflection on Grad School Experience and how it changed me. Enjoy!!

            Well, it has finally come to an end. After 25 months, and about 198 assignments I have reached the conclusion of my Graduate School experience at Saint Xavier University. When I first began the program, I really did not know what to expect. Now that I am at the end of the program, I can safely say that my outlook and philosophy of education have been completely changed by my time in the program, the professors who taught me, and the students/peers I met. It was the very definition of peer-to-peer learning. This radical changed I experienced has been for the greater good; it has made me a more informed educator, a better listener, and an advocate for social justice. In this reflection paper, I will review some of the courses that changed my perspective, my overall experience, and where to go from here.
            I began my graduate school journey in May of 2010. At that time it was safe to say that my views and philosophy of education were pretty mainstream. It had been about two years since my student teaching experience, and I had focused my attention away from the formal world of the classroom to the Student Media experience of running a college radio station and newspaper. At that time, I viewed the classroom in the same light in which I was taught for most of my educational life. The teacher was at the front of the classroom, lecturing, writing notes on the board, assigning reading assignments in the textbook, passing out worksheets, and occasionally showing a video in class. This was the way I was taught, that is how the students of today should be taught. I could not have been more wrong.
            Two years does not seem to be a long time, but it really is. And in that time I forgot the most important rule my corporating teacher, Mr. Mike Doyle had taught me. Mr. Doyle always told me that: “A good teacher always relates the classroom learning experience to life outside of the classroom. This will then cause you to adapt to changes in society.” It was not through any purposeful action on my part; I was just focusing on something else, and had inadvertently fallen into the black hole of apathy that most Americans are in, regarding education. Thankfully, by participating in this program I awoke from my slumber and reignited my passion for teaching and helping young people.
            The course that really started me on my path of self-discovery and change was the EDUG 509 course. It focused on Educational movements of the 20th Century and was taught by Dr. Wolf. If you approach any individual and ask them about their school experience, more than likely they will remember those few teachers that change their life forever. We all have them. They are those individuals who challenged us, guided us, and were always there to give life advice. For me, Dr. Wolf was one of those teachers. It was Dr. Wolf who introduced me to the writings of Mortimer Adler, the Paideia program, and the Great Books Foundation. It did not take me long after reading these texts to become an advocate for this style of education.
            At its most fundamental level, Adler’s educational philosophy tried to return education to the style of the ancient Greeks. Where reading, writing, rhetoric, and physical activity were the centerpieces of education. In this methodology, the ultimate goal of education was not to help the students get a “good job”, but to become virtuous and engaged citizens with a desire for life-long learning. This meant that no matter what professional an individual chose, whether it was working for McDonalds or law professor at Harvard University, the individual would be a virtuous person and work towards the common good and social justice. These are actions that we desperately need in our society today.
            For the first time in my educational life, I felt like I had found a philosophy that I could stand behind completely, something had finally made sense. Before I was introduced to Adler and the Paideia program, all of the formal education philosophies (Dewey), felt a little off to me. In Paideia I found an ideology that I was completely in line with. Paideia helps the students experience the world through literature, art, music, religion, and discussion. Science and math are no longer tied to worksheets, and boring textbooks, but the actually writings of the brilliant men and women of their respective fields. I truly believe that the Paideia program lays the foundation for life long learning. It shows the students how we are all interconnected, and makes the subject matter jump off the written page. At its very heart it is student centered which leads us into the second class that had a profound impact on my journey.
            The class was EDUG 526, Literacy Issues in Curriculum, and Dr. Hilton taught the course. It was in this course that I learned the definition of a student centered learning environment and why it is so important. We had a long-standing question in the class, we never “formally” answered it, but it always guided our discussion, and assignments we worked on. The question was: “Why are we here”.  What is the role of the teacher? Too often in today’s modern classroom, the teacher is the center of the class. The teacher decrees the activities for the day, and all of the students are forced to adapt to the desires of the teacher. This is not a successful learning environment, and this will not create the desire in students for life long learning. In fact it will probably put a terrible taste in their mouth, and the individual will come away hating school forever.
            In this course we learned that to truly be a student centered learning environment, all activities need to revolve around the needs of the students. That meant that even if the teacher worked on a lesson plan for three weeks, if the students did not respond well to it, the lesson plan was thrown out. By making our classes’ student centered, we are tailoring everything to the current need of the students at that present time. By doing this, we would be in a greater position to better serve and engage their needs, and guide them through the wonderful process of learning. It also shows the students that they are apart of the process and that they are important. Too often students do not feel like they are important in the classroom. They will not feel that way in a student-centered classroom, because we teachers are always adapting to meet their needs.
            This segue ways into my final class that had a profound impact on my learning, EDUG 529, Leadership, Collaboration, and Change. Dr. Knight taught the course. It was in this course where I learned the importance of teacher adaptability. We heard it all the time in our undergraduate classes that every student learns differently. When we student taught we saw a very small sample of this. But for me, I really did not appreciate this aspect of education until Graduate School. I think it was because I did not fully understand the concept.
            Ever student learns differently, based on his or her own abilities. Some students can learn from listening to a lecture, others can learn from creating a diorama, while others need to be able to act out an idea. And this is the beautiful part; they are all equal, and all equally important to the educationally process. Too often we think that if a student cannot sit still and listen to a lecture and then automatically understand the material they are stupid. That is furthest from the case. Successful educators embrace all dynamics of education and incorporate it so that every student’s educational needs are met. This means that no two lesson plans should be that same, and diversity is embraced. Lessons need to be tailored to meet the needs of the students in each individual classroom. Now this does not necessarily mean tons of work for the teacher, it just means that the teacher needs to be observant and flexible with their units while instructing.
            The Paideia program, student centered learning environments, and teacher adaptability. These three concepts have completely changed my educational philosophy for the better. It puts the needs of the students as the number one priority and gives them the tools they need in order to be engaged citizens in our democracy, life long learners, and most importantly virtuous individuals. But to implement these concepts, our current educational structure needs to be completely overhauled. The over importance of standardized tests as the sole form of student assessment needs to be dropped. If our politicians and members of the department of education truly understood adaptability, they would see that standardized tests are the least adaptable form of assessment because it does not embrace student-learning diversity. If you ask the average young person why they attend college, it is met with the response of: “I want to get a good job, so I make a lot of money”. If we properly incorporated the Paideia program and making virtuous individuals, the goal of education would be to make a better and more just society. If we truly wanted to have student centered learning, the economic gaps between poor and rich schools would begin to close.
            So where does this leave us? There certainly is a lot of work to be done, and at times it can feel a little hopeless. But there are educators out there, who give teaching 110% everyday, who try and incorporate the above concepts into their everyday classroom. Hope should not be lost; in fact this should be a time of great hope. But in order to accomplish this great change, teachers need to stand up for what we believe to be right. I have met some incredible teachers in this program, that are terrified to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. This cannot be allowed to stand. As a doctor is an expert in medicine and the health of the human body, so are teachers are experts in education. If we stand together and say there is a better way to do this, and demand the respect that is owed to us, then we can change education for the better.
            This program has shown me the excellent teachers we have in the world, and it has given me the tools to be a student-centered teacher. It has challenged me in every imaginable way, and has made me a stronger and better-informed educator. The man that began this program 25 months ago is not the same man who is leaving it. I am better informed and ready to jump into the front lines.