If the children are our future,…

This is (from L to R) Kyle, Beatrice, and Nina. They are 5th-graders in Mrs. Leath’s class at Bishop Elementary in Sunnyvale.

Y! has a number of great community outreach programs managed through the Yahoo! Employee Foundation (Y!EF). One of them, in which I participate, is called Classroom Buddies. EmC and I *try* to make it to Mrs. Leath’s class once every other week. Unfortunately, the nature of our jobs makes it very hard to keep a regular appointment like this. Sometimes we go over a month without being able to make it to class (as if we don’t feel bad enough about it, then the kids say stuff like, “we thought you forgot about us”). When it is 11pm and you are still bogged down with work, something like this can seem like just one more chore you don’t need, and the guilt just compounds the pre-existing stress. I have more than once thought about how my life would be just a little easier if I didn’t have this hanging over my head. But, then you actually go…and WOW, does it feel good! Each time, we walk out of there talking about how great it was and how we need to come more often.

Today was a particularly good session for me. The kids have a math test coming up, and Mrs. Leath gave Em and me 3 kids each (mine are the 3 above), who she thought needed special attention. What is most interesting is how varied the kids’ levels are, especially since they have all been sitting through the same lessons. Em and I both agree that there is still a lot of work to be done in educational science, and even more work to be done in our public schools. You hear about the importance of class size in every public education discussion, but it really doesn’t hit home until you see what just a little bit of individual attention can do.

First of all, neither of us were encouraged by Mrs. Leath’s understanding of her students based on the groups she assigned to us. From 1 hr of working with the 3 kids, my assessment was: Beatrice understood everything, but had some minor self-confidence issues; Nina was pretty comfortable with the concepts, but had never paid enough attention to try to apply them; and Kyle had been so conditioned to being treated as dumb, that he didn’t even bother to try anymore. I think I made progress with all of them, but I think I made the biggest impact on Kyle.

When we started, he was completely oblivious…I had to keep calling him out to get him to even look at me. He had no idea what he was doing with any of the stuff, but was too ashamed to admit it. Long story short, with just 1hr of individual attention, he demonstrated a real grasp of the concepts. We talked about ways to approach the problems that made them less intimidating. And most importantly, I think he began to believe that he could do the work, where he had been previously resigned to failure. While I am pretty proud of myself for helping with that change (he thanked me 3 times on my way out), I am disheartened that a kid who is actually capable of doing the work has slipped so far through the cracks that he feels totally disenfranchised by the 5th grade.

But, we who have declined to become teachers and instead sit back and bitch about property taxes are really in no position to judge those who are at least out there in the trenches. While I don’t think our current crop of public school teachers are necessarily the best we can offer our kids, they are there and they are handicapped by a lack of resources. I have no plans to quit my job and become a teacher, nor am I going to be endowing any charter schools anytime soon. But, I have volunteered to tutor Kyle after-school in addition to the regular program. I would encourage anyone who is reading this (so, that’s probably all of 2 people) to find some time, even (especially) if you have none to spare, to share yourself with kids (your own kids will do). I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Here is the reply to my email offering to help tutor Kyle:

“Hi Jonathan,
The offer to work with Kyle is fantastic, but the problem with him is his absences. That is one of the main reasons he is so far behind. I am afraid that if you set up a time to work with him, nine times out of ten he’s not here.
Thanks
Mrs Leath”

Dude. Seriously disheartening.

Ian Rocks!

Am I using too many exclamation points in my blog post titles?…oh well.

Ian is a cool ass dude. I have known this on a number of levels for some time now, even though we have only actually met once. Chock another one up to the power of the internet to connect people of like mind. Anyway, Ian had this great post on his feelings about film, which really articulated something that I, especially as a child of Hollywood, had been kinda ashamed to admit:

“And there are so many things I’d rather do than watch a movie that it’s really hard for me to devote two+ hours to something I rarely find the least bit fulfilling.

I love LA!

I have been meaning to post this for a while. The above picture was taken at the Spider Club (had to use a Citysearch link, cuz Y! Local don’t got a listing) in Hollywood last Wedensday (April 13). I got off the plane from San Jose and pretty much went straight here…great way to start a vacation. I had never been to this place before, which should be no surprise, since I don’t live down here anymore (and even when I did, I was pretty clueless about the club scene…unless St. Nick’s counts as a club). Of course, Mich hooked it up as she always does. I really liked the decor– Moroccan themed with vaulted ceilings and an atrium– especially the stage with the stripper pole (pictured). The photo doesn’t really capture the enthusiasm of the young ladies who chose to make use of the pole, so you will just have to take my word for it (however, I will say that enthusiasm is no substitute for rhythm).

Anyway, I like to think that I’m less shallow than most guys, and I was more amused than arroused by the spectacle on stage, but I have to say that there is something to be said for hanging out with beautiful people. And that is something that I definitely miss about LA. The Bay Area has a lot of things going for it, but it just cannot compete in terms of hotness up in da club. Everyone has their own subjective prioritization of criteria when it comes to deciding where to live. But as a 24 year-old single guy, this is definitely up there on my list.

Check out some more pictures I found on the web from the Spider Club…now it wasn’t quite like that the night I was there, but I think these pics might help you better understand what I’m talkin’ about.

My Cousin Nathaniel :-D

So, this is too cool!!!  My younger cousin (he is now 11, I think…Nathaniel, don’t kill me if I got this wrong…there are a lot of you to keep track of), the one in the white shirt on the left in this picture from Thanksgiving 2 years ago (he’s bigger now, but still can’t beat me up), has launched his own website, asciiforever.com, using Y! Domains, and featuring AdSense (*don’t get me started*).

So, the website is too funny on a lot of levels…it has revealed to me a whole ascii underground that I thought (read, hoped) was long dead. Nathaniel has an excuse (he is 11, and his parents are mild technophobes, so he has been discovering the web on his own with a pretty crappy computer), and this guy actually did something pretty cool with ascii…but to the rest of you, get Photoshop! (Good thing this isn’t a public blog, lest I invite an ascii flame-war).

Anyway, I got Nathaniel to sign-up for Y! Messenger, and now 360, so I am doing my part for the stock. Now we can chat much more frequently, and I am getting a real kick out of watching him discover technology and become so engaged with the web. What’s really interesting to me is the fact that he has every videogame system under the sun, but is still spending time exploring the global community (albeit of freaks who love ascii) that the internet has created.

Keep up the good work buddy, I’m proud of you. And all you UED guys at Y!, watch your back, cuz this kid is coming for your job!

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P.S. Not to let Nathaniel steal the whole show, there is also a 9 year-old in this picture who speaks fluent Chinese (and thinks all white people look alike, but that’s another story). There may be something to be said for this whole genetics thing, but that probably would mean I’m adopted. Either way, I’m proud of all of my cousins…just especially of Nathaniel today.

My New Sandals

Forgot to pack my sandals for the trip to Vegas this weekend. And since Bally’s doesn’t have slippers in their rooms (like the Four Seasons), I had to actually buy some instead of wear the hotel slippers like I did last time this happened (Bushey was so proud to be seen with me). Crank, Melissa, and I found these at the Bally’s pool shop (which is *really* far from the lobby, especially when you are barefoot). They were marked down to $9 from $30, so who could resist…why lie, I would have bought them at $30.

I have linked to the photo album here (you can also get to it through my 360 page, see the photos section in the top-right hand corner). There is only one in there right now, but I will put a few more up soon.

In the beginning…

So, I finally have a blog! I guess now Russell has to acknowledge my existence. One of the primary reasons that I previously didn’t have a blog was the nature of my job at Yahoo!. I didn’t want people *mistakenly* attaching importance to my words, and then have the one-woman Corporate Communications gestapo (you know who you are…and you are gonna kill me if you ever read this) come give me a firm talking to. However, that problem is now (mostly) mitigated by the great granular access controls on 360. But,  I am not nearly deluded enough to think that the dissemination of anything I say in print (or otherwise) can be controled. So I will still reserve my ramblings to reasonably uncontroversial things.

So, what I was trying to say there is that one of my biggest problems with blogging has been solved, but only partially. The other main reason (and probably the only real one) that I didn’t blog before was my lack of leaisure time. While that hasn’t really changed much, I see 360 and this blog as potentially serving a need that is worth cutting into my already thin supply of sleep. I have many people I care about scattered around the globe, and I am *notoriously* bad at keeping in touch. Anybody who knows me well knows that this isn’t personal, I do it to everybody. But, I’m hoping 360 will change that (to some extent). Those of you who detest mass email updates, because they are impersonal, won’t be happy, because this is likely worse. But, it is better than nothing, which is basically what I was doing before.

So, stay tuned for updates, ramblings, and photos. And, please use the comments section or email me or start your own blog, so that I can find out what’s up with all of you.

-j