Exploring Through Reading

One of the many joys of preparing to be an English teacher is the vast amount of new texts to which I am exposed.  Within the past several months, my favorite new text would have to be The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, written by Junot Diaz.  The plot and characters were enjoyable enough, but the aspect of this novel that sets it apart from many others are the humorous, introspective footnotes provided by Yunior, the novel’s macho narrator.  These footnotes included a more detailed history of the Dominican Republic than what I learned in Global or U.S. history.  This point is not missed by the narrator as he scolds American teaching of his native land.


The Dominican Republic has lengthy and rich history.  Civilization existed before European interests began colonizing the Americas and several European nations (France and Spain to name a couple) colonized the Dominican Republic.  In the early 1900’s, under Teddy Roosevelt’s direction, The United States occupied the nation and maintained control until resistance from both the Dominican and United States populations led to President Wilson withdrawing the troops.  The heart of the Dominican History addressed in the story lays at the feet of one of the most notorious dictators in history: Trujillo or “El Jefe”.  Much of Oscar’s family’s fate was influenced by the ruler himself.  Thus, culture and history make their way into the English classroom.  What’s more, this novel does not feature only U.S. culture, but also addresses the relatively unknown history and culture of the Dominican Republic in a classroom long ruled by dead white men.



The novel features both flashforwards and flashbacks (prolepsis and analepsis).  That way, readers are exposed to the horror of Trujillo’s regime and also the more modern Dominican Republic.  The modern portrayal of the D.R. as it is affectionately referred to throughout the text is difficult to miss.  Fast food chains and skyscrapers are depicted as invading the prime real estate in the Dominican Republic, while more rural and local areas of the nation are portrayed as ruinous and in plots of land that hold little to no value.  Highlighting the greedy nature of capitalism and the fact that it is impossible to stop its spread.

This book encourage me to study another culture, delve into another type of lifestyle with many similarities, but also many differences when compared to my own.  I highly recommend this text to enthusiastic and casual readers alike.  For more information regarding this novel or the history of the Dominican Republic, check out these links:

1) History Channel on Trujillo

2) Brief History of the D.R.

3) Diaz Interview (Warning: explicit language!)

4) Dominican Republic’s Embassy Page

The Education of Futból

Sport can be an amazing teacher in the lives of young children and adolescents. Throughout the world, youths learn cooperative skills, leadership, dedication and responsibility through the context of play. Yes, at its very basics, any type of sport it still a game. Yet, undeniably, some nations appear to be better at playing than others. Because the world only truly shares one game (sorry basketball, it’s not you), this blog will focus on futból.

Quick, think of the five best international soccer teams you can think of….

Likely, regardless of recent World Cup events, Spain made your list. Why is that? What is the key to their success?

As a teacher, I am more than likely biased, but I will go out on a rather sturdy limb here and attribute Spain’s success at the great international sport to their great leaders, instructors, facilitators, or any other synonym for teacher.  The supply of positive leaders is a major selling point in attracting more students to the academy. Check out this video from EduKick, a youth soccer academy in Madrid.



Below, I have laid out the typical schedule of a student at a different academy, the juggernaut FC Barcelona’s youth academy:

Late next month, La Masia will close its dormitory, and all youth academy activities will be moved to Barcelona’s training center in the nearby village of Sant Joan Despi. The daily routine, though, will likely remain for the academy’s residents: During the week, they rise at 6:45 a.m., eat breakfast and leave for regular school in the city at 7:30. They attend classes from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., return to La Masia to eat, rest and attend mandatory study groups. Training is held from 7 to 8:45 p.m., followed by dinner and some free time. Lights out for the younger players is 10:30 p.m., 11 for older players.

What strikes me the most about this schedule is the relative freedom provided to these young individuals.  Their school days are somewhat similar to that of students here in the US, however; the free time in the afternoon, as well as the mandatory study sessions provide students with a form of agency not always seen on our side of the pond.  The instructors and coaches alike appear to be in agreement that students do benefit from regimen, but need independent time to socialize as well as collaborate on homework.  In essence, these youth soccer programs are more similar to college than they are a public school.

In the US, opportunities such as the ones in Barcelona and Madrid are much fewer and far between.  Youth soccer players often find that participation in elite high school teams followed by participation on college teams, specifically Division 1 college teams, is the more prevalent path to professional soccer status.  In other words, sport and school are kept in their own separate bundles in high school.  In college, mandatory study hours begin to reflect some of the Spanish thinking seen in youth futbol academies, yet at a much later age than in Europe.  Click here to follow Duke Alum Andrew Wegner’s take on his American soccer experience.

All is not bright on the horizon for Spanish Futból however.  As I alluded to earlier, this year’s World Cup has been a blemish on Spain’s soccer credentials.  Perhaps their great side finally just proved to be too long in the proverbial tooth, or perhaps Spain’s youth’s are becoming disenchanted with the once beloved sport.  This study, while nowhere indicative of the entire Spanish population, does support the notion that participation in soccer is not as prevalent as it once was.


The question remains however, should sport and education remain largely separate entities?   Or, do the two in tandem, as seen in the Spanish futból academies cases, provide students with an educational experience that provides them with real life skills and experiences sooner, therefore, preparing youths more ably for their professional careers?

Blogging with Brewer: A Timely Review

This semester, I became a connected educator.  Not only being a blogger, I have learned so much about my own pedagogy. I even created a website, which will serve as a portfolio for my graduate degree. Check it out: web portfolio!  As a preservice English teacher, I have seen how much blogging has helped me learn how to problem solve in ways that I never knew were really possible.


What did I learn?
I learned about how to incorporate the kind of personal learning network that I have blogged about into my own life. I definitely have learned a lot about problem solving. Collaboration has become a regular part of my life. I have adapted to some of the 21st Century literacies that I expect my future students to incorporate in their own learning.  Although technology has not been something that I felt would add to my education, I come out of this semester with a new outlook.  Beyond the classroom where I am a student, I see technology as more than just a fun social past time.  I don’t necessarily know if I wil continue blogging, but I see other avenues for connecting as an educator for futhuring my own personal education with professional development, networking, and joining professional learning communities.

Personal Learning Networks

This past week has helped shed a lot of light on the student afterlife.  So, once we can check the Master’s Degree, Certification and Student Teaching off our to-do list, we’re done with all the books, theories, technologies and discussing our (future) trade with our peers.  Right?

Nope.  I think I’ve heard somewhere in this class that learning never stops.  We are supposed to be professional learners and in fact, model learning for our students.  Furthermore, teachers in New York State need over 125 hours of professional development in the span of 5 years.  How are we supposed to do that?  Conferences?  Workshops?  Twitter?!?!?!

That’s right.  Technology can facilitate the learning of educators as well.  Think about this.  If one teacher goes to a conference, they can tweet out different events, exercises, new technologies, or even instructional strategies they learn about.  Then, their technicapable colleagues can search out the designated hashtag, and they transcend time and space to benefit from the conference almost as if they were physically present.   Furthermore, personal learning communities can be created utilizing other Web 2.o applications that we have studied and utilized in our graduate classroom.  Want to share an idea with your peers, but want more than 160 characters to do so?  Try creating a Ning for your school.  Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost instructors a dime, but the school district might have to pick up a small tab for yearly usage.  This fee is likely still much smaller than the total bill for sending educators to these conferences or workshops.  Technology allows us to work smarter, not harder, by exponentially increasing the wealth of knowledge available to instructors and making it accessible anytime, anywhere.

Teaching, Technology and Language

In today’s schools, a large issue that schools deal with is bullying. Especially on the technological front, cyber-bullying is hard to monitor, but the ramifications are endless.


When students are confronted with issues of bullying, the best case scenario is that students report the issue.  Teachers and administrators should confront these issues as they happen, and hopefully (as I’ve experienced), they handle them with patience and sensitivity.

How can students handle such situations when they have bad media influences? Students who love football have this problem to face especially. This article discusses the issues surrounding the use of the n-word in locker rooms.  From different stances, the use of the n-word falls into both positive and negative lights.  Obviously, the word is loaded and has a highly contentious background. I do no suggest discussions of the term in the classroom, unless teachers approach such a discussion with kid-gloves and extensive sensitivity. The history and negative connotations of the term are extensive. However, sports and other activities that claim to be color blind have different approaches use the negative term subversively as means of in-group association.

What are your ideas? Is it ok to use such a loaded work to conotate in-group association beyond the classroom?

Telegraph Thursday

This was a pretty interesting assignment as it included the cooperation of three very busy graduate students.  Luckily, my partners happened to be Courtney Brown and Tori Corning.  They were awesome in regards to finding a way to meet in person in order to create and record our radio podcast featuring a historical spin, with a tabloid like journal style reporting on the American Civil War.  We met with one another at a variety of times and places over the past few weeks; our favorite spot by far being the lab in the teaching resources section of the library.  It featured a less than soundproof but private cubical with a couple of computers with the most important application, the GuitarBand only available on McIntosh.  and some comfy rolling chairs.

At the first meeting, we brainstormed a few different ideas for whattype of podcast we would create. In the end, we agreed on a Civil War format in which we performed interviews of some famous and then less than famous figures from the time.  Our interviewees featured Walt Whitman played by Tori Corning.  Courtney Brown was hilarious in her role as Mary Todd Lincoln, and I did my best to impersonate Orville Grant, brother to the famous American General, Ulysses S. Grant.  We asked some our guests some rather informing and educational, yet somewhat provocative questions. You’ll have to tune in if you want know just what we discovered.  Gossip, drama, style, we had it all.

First, we created three interviews featuring each of the three historical figures with an accompanying commercial.  This required a great deal of creativity, and a decent bit of research as a surprising amount of historical facts and speculation are embedded within our podcast.  After due diligence we thought of emulating a show with strong hints of tabloid style radio hosting.  Hoping to maintain a humorous tone, we also provided some factual evidence to prove that we could utilize this style of Web 2.0 technology to integrate an interdisciplinary approach within a classroom.  Tori was our main editor regarding sound effects and Courtney provided the vocals for some of our commercials.  I wrote a commercial myself; we all created bumpers.


My group members were outstanding and luckily, we created the project on time, if a bit longer than the requested length.  It was not perfect however, as there were some glitches and an annoying echo, however the project was a success in my eyes as this could be such an asset in the classroom.

What to Watch For

My childhood dream has finally come true.  Now, I too can be a Power Ranger, James Bond or, if we’re getting really nostalgic, a Jetson.  A watch that’s a phone.  A phone that’s a watch.  Yup.  Samsung has finally done it.  They’ve developed a package in which a watch has the capabilities of a smart phone.  I’m not saying that this would be the easiest device in which to play Angry Birds or whatever other app suits your fancy, but the potential for this product in the classroom is very intriguing.

Now, I know that I may not be Twitter’s biggest advocate at times.  Within the past two weeks, I finally started to embrace this social media application and am slowly opening my eyes to the potential benefits in the classroom.  One of my central theories regarding Twitter is that it would be a highly effective means of tweeting assignments or additional resources via links to my students.  Not the most original idea.  However, as a student, if I don’t want to deal with school for a moment, I can ignore emails or my agenda.

This is where Samsung and their new creation come in.  It’s hard to ignore a watch.  Sure, maybe students ditch the watch during gym class or practice.  Yet, accessories are in right now.  Our nation, in all its capitalistic glory, is clearly very concerned with accessories and materialism.  Perfect.  Essentially, this new creation, along with the use of Twitter, can be seen as the most effective assignment planner available.  Give it time for the price to go down, and other cellular companies to produce similar products, and teachers have an open line if you will into students lives.  We can be like Zordon, and our students Power Rangers.  Picture this scenario for instance.  A student is at home, being less than productive watching television or playing video games, and all of a sudden…….Beep beep beep.  They glance at their wrist and see that I, Zordon if you will, have just sent out a Tweet reminding students of an assignment due the next day.  Hard to ignore something wrapped snugly around your wrist.   Pretty awesome right?