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


Superintendent Colt Gill’s Response to My Open Letter

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


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

A Vision Non-material: Abandon and dismantle the machine of possession culture.

This post is dedicated to Thea and our incredibly challenging, fulfilling conversations. Thea, you’re right.

Ubiquitous mobile phones are a product of possession culture. Obviously there is the desire to possess the new shiny product of the moment. But, more than that, there is the desire to possess other people. The cultural norm of always having your device nearby and of prioritizing it allows us to be possessed by the people that may cause it to ring, to buzz, to jingle-jangle.

What if we abandoned possession culture? What if we abandoned capitalism. What if doing and being became more important than having?

What would the world look like? Continue reading

2013: Relationships, Education, Writing

While I don’t care much for typical New Year’s resolutions, I do think the beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect and refocus on my priorities. Looking back, I spent a lot of time these last several months putting time and effort into pursuits that weren’t actually very important to me. Areas of my life that are important to me suffered a bit for it. As I roll into 2013 I want to focus on the facets of my life that I neglected: people and relationships, learning and education, and the written word.

I prefer to have a few very close relationships. My connections to other people are a major part of my identity, really, so I’m only truly happy if those relationships are healthy. Much of my attention will be put into maintaining and growing my friendships and to more clearly communicating my love to those people I am closest to.

When the rest of my life has been uncertain and even disappointing, my friends have always been constant, supportive, and my home. I’m going to pull people close and make sure they know that I need them in my life.

I have bounced back from my failure with DC Teaching Fellows. I’ve established myself as a well-liked and much asked for tutor in the Eugene area. I worked over a year at a local sustainable farm. All of that has allowed me to rebuild my confidence. Now it’s time for me to start looking forward again. I feel more prepared for the GRE, so I will be retaking the Mathematics Subject exam and the Analytical Writing portion of the general GRE. Graduate school is again on my near horizon. I’ll be applying to a number of schools this time. This is my primary education focus.

I have some other areas I want to focus on, though. I want to develop a portfolio to demonstrate my ability to design and implement algorithms to solve problems and my understanding of numerical analysis. The implementation portion will allow me to learn and explore different programming languages. A secondary goal is to familiarize myself with a variety of languages.

Other than those two primary focuses, I am just going to read more. This includes everything from more science articles online to non-fiction books and also catching up on the fiction books that my friends have recommended to me. Then we can talk about them which will help me grow those relationships.

Focusing on relationships and on learning will give me a lot to think about and when I have a lot to think about I write. Writing is the third area of my life that will be getting most of my attention. I claim to be an enthusiastic writer, but the amount I write does not really reflect that. I have aspirations to release a collection of poetry, but I have not produced enough poetry within the last several years to find enough pieces worth pulling together.

Distractions will not force my relationships, education, or writing to the back burner, as they have this last year. Instead, I will maintain my focus and let the distractions wait until their proper time and give them no more than they deserve.

A Faith Unshaken

click image for source: Amnesty International

On October 9th Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old girl living in Swat, Pakistan, was shot in the head by members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Malala has already become celebrated in Pakistan for speaking out against Taliban rule and for fighting for education for women.

That morning, as I drove to work, I listened to an NPR broadcast about the shooting and I was sickened and angered and scared all at the same time. Still am, really, when I see her story trickle up in my various feeds.

She has such huge strength. And she was shot with deliberate intent. They stopped her bus, asked where she was, and shot her. Then left her. It is one of the most cowardly, evil acts I have ever heard of.

And yet, my faith is not shaken. It is not the Taliban’s evil that we should focus on, but on Malala’s courage and determination in the face of their terrorism. This story strengthens my faith in humanity because Malala exists and her spark is one that will never be stifled.

news sources:
Aljazeera, NPR

Where I Am and Where I Am Going

Teach for America did not invite me to a final interview.  I’m disappointed because I think I could have done very well in their program.  Thanks to my wife, Leah, I have been asked to interview for NYC Teaching Fellows and I am awaiting a response to my application with DC Teaching Fellows.  They are like localized versions of Teach for America.

I am in the process of making sure I get myself to New York City for the interview with NYCTF.  I am very excited about this prospect.  This is such an incredible opportunity for me to make a difference and improve the chances of success for both Leah and I while she finishes her final two years of pharmacy school.  This little bit of hope has got me thinking more about my future and what I really want to do with my life. Continue reading