Teaching Resource – Parable of the Polygons

Parable of the PolygonsA few weeks back I came across Parable of the Polygons, a “playable post” from Vi Hart and Nicky Case. I’ve been pretty entranced by it since. This post uses simple, interactive cellular automata to demonstrate how preferences in each individual can affect the entire system. This is a metaphor, and a model, for how even slight individual biases can lead to segregation at the societal level.

The beauty of Hart and Case’s work is in it’s simplicity. Continue reading

A moment of reflection on my life trajectory

Today I watched Engadget’s mini-documentary Citizen Mars, which provides a glimpse into the character of five different Mars One candidates who have made it to the Final 100. Since I’ve finished it, I’ve been thinking about my priorities, my ambitions, and my goals. I’ve been focused on graduate school and my goal of becoming a math and physics teacher for the last few months. My attention has been on the day-to-day because I’ve had so many short-term commitments. I haven’t really thought about the overall direction of my life for a while.

When Mars One first put out the call for candidates to go on a one-way trip to Mars, I applied. Getting to Mars was my ultimate goal. It still is. As I watched the Citizen Mars videos, I realized that I feel just as passionately as those candidates.

Can teaching get me to Mars? Maybe. A true colony will eventually have children, and children need to be educated. What will education look like within a Martian colony?

I still have Ph.D. ambitions. I need to find a critical need of a colony mission and pursue solutions to that need as my graduate work. I need to make myself an obvious and necessary addition to such a mission.

In pursuing teaching now and Mars overall, I’ve chosen to leave behind other ambitions. Robotics and artificial intelligence are now merely hobby interests. My interest in user experience remains that. Even my further study of physics or mathematics has been halted. Yet, I cannot give up my drive towards Mars. I am not yet ready to cede this ambition to something more realistic or pragmatic.

Superintendent Colt Gill’s Response to My Open Letter

[This is a response to the open letter I wrote]

Ryan

Thank you for writing. I both appreciate and think I understand your perspective. Ryan, I’m not where all your open letter may be published, but consider posting my response as well.

First, I’d like to ask that you consider some of the limits of a news article and know that I would be happy to meet discuss this matter with you in detail. As to the limits of a news article…most articles tend to look at incidents in isolation, they do not always consider what has happened in the past and what continues to happen in the coming days and weeks. This is the case with the Register Guard article you referenced. And, while much information may be shared with a reporter, it is ultimately up to the reporter, editors, and publishers to determine what information they will include and what angle they will present. We, ultimately, have little control over the level of detail offered to the reader.

I am very proud of the work we have done in Bethel School District to welcome and respect each student, family member, and staff member. That statement of pride also reflects my bias. Regardless, my heart has been in this work for many years and I’d like to share just a few snippets of our leadership in the area of equity and inclusion: Continue reading

Open Letter to Bethel School District Superintendent Colt Gill Regarding His Response to the Genderbread Person Discussion

[Superintendent Colt Gill wrote a response to my letter. It can be seen in the comments and in a separate post]

Superintendent Gill,

My name is Ryan Brockey, and I am a teacher licensure candidate and master’s student at University of Oregon. In a few months I will begin looking for jobs teaching mathematics and/or physics. Based on the Register Guard’s report of your response to Bethel District parents regarding the classroom discussion of a Genderbread Person poster, I am going to be quite wary of applying to your school district. Would I be welcome there?

Your words say I will be welcome. Your words say that all sorts of students, parents, faculty, and staff are welcome. Here are three quotes attributed to you in the Register Guard where you emphasize this open welcomeness:

“We need to make sure that when people walk through the doors of our school, whether they’re a family member or a student, that they feel as welcome as every other student in that building.”

“They (need to) feel secure and free from harassment, free from threat or harm.”

[Regarding students who may feel different than their peers] “We want to ensure that they feel safe, and that everybody around them understands that they have value and are as free and appropriate to be in our (school) system as every other student.”

Those are excellent sentiments. Unfortunately, they don’t jive with your actions and policies. In the same Register Guard piece, it’s also reported that Principal Erika Case apologized that a discussion around gender identity took place. You are reported to have assured parents that they will have the option to opt their children out of conversations about gender identity and sexuality.

Here’s the issue: how can anyone who identifies as queer in any way feel welcome or safe in a district where it is optional to even learn about their existence? It is not welcoming, but rather othering, when your district apologizes because gender and sexual identities other than cis-hetero were acknowledged in a classroom. You have just told queer people that their existence, their identities are something that must be apologized for in your district.

Despite your words, your district does not seem like a welcoming place for me to apply to teach math or physics this coming year.

Ryan Brockey (pronouns: they/them)
Secondary Education, Math and Physics
UOTeach Cohort 7
University of Oregon Continue reading

To Be Better – My Vow of Constructive Silence

I am a hypocrite.

Yesterday, I failed to live the morals and ideals I espouse. In a spectacular show of self-righteousness I responded gracelessly to a family member’s comment on one of my Facebook posts. Based on my own prejudice against that side of my family, I assumed the worst about his meaning and intention. Instead of engage him in constructive, compassionate dialogue, I assumed I was smarter, more critical, more compassionate than him and asserted my voice over his.

In the Facebook thread I did apologize to him, but only on the heels of him calling me out. I’m glad he called me out. I needed and deserved it. I want to take this one more opportunity to unequivocably apologize. Steven, I am sorry for the way I treated you. It was inexcusable. You deserve better.

I want to do better. I want to be better.

I am both embarrassed and incredibly disappointed in myself. I realized that I’ve become self-righteous. I have not practiced the critical thought and compassion that I preach are essential to improving the world. I did not assume benevolent intent, a central tenant of my faith in humanity.

So, as penance and to strive to be better I am taking a one-month vow of constructive silence. I’m just making this up. Basically I will not insert my voice into conversations or discussions other than to ask questions of genuine curiosity and interest as I seek to engage more deeply with people. I will remain silent about my opinions, point of view, and feelings unless I am explicitly asked to share.

I will fail at this. I will try everyday, though. And, after a month, my hope is that the effort will have developed a habit of compassionate, curious dialogue.

Reflections on Discussion About the Charleston, SC Shooting

I’ve been reflecting on the tragedy that struck Emanual African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina the evening of June 17th. I’ve been silent in my reflection. What is there to say, now? Nothing can be done to lessen the heartache of the friends, family, neighbors of those nine people. We must support them as the mourn.

What can be done, what I can do, is learn from this event, to call it what it is. We can hold people accountable for the language they use to discuss it. We can insist that this atrocity be illuminated clearly so we can see all the ugly facets. We can hold the perpetrator fully responsible, and yet examine our own role as a society in which the perpetrator could go this far. Continue reading

Problematic Gender Politics in Jurassic World or An Argument for Its Own Sake

promotional image for Jurassic World featuring Bryce Dallas Howard

I just got back from seeing Jurassic World, the long-awaited successor to Jurassic Park. Movie-goers spent over $208 million in the US, giving the movie the most successful opening weekend ever. It’s not hard to understand why. It’s incredibly fun. Chris Pratt nails his role as a velociraptor trainer. Think of him like the most badass falconer that could possibly exist. Basically that.

Excuse my swoony digression. The rest of this post discusses plot developments from the movie. This is your spoiler warning. Continue reading