Monday, September 20, 2010

Unforgettable Empowerment

Its difficult to say what I am moving toward in terms of objectives within this organization. I am looking for a goal which is more "creative and ambitious"; A personalized strategy for the empowerment of future generations. I have felt the potential for this vision in the classroom with all different age groups but have yet to really grasp it. "Grasping it" in my mind is about inspiring others to push for their dreams and fight for the entitlements of their communities. An individual's dreams/goals and the empowerment of a community are intertwined either simultaneously or imminently. With resources at our disposal the question is whether we are using them to our greatest benefits to reach our potential to work and care for our communities like we do ourselves.

As a teacher and mentor to many of the students I see I must remember to engage them from a socratic perspective. Asking a lot of questions especially about their dreams, what they know needs to happen in order to get to their goal, and how they are going to put those steps into practice.

The classroom is especially useful for these conversations because I can bring to the forefront the resources available to the students and the reasons for pursuing goals of community and self empowerment. In a world of innumerable choices and tools, very few of them see the way to attaining more and better entitlements/rights. They may be able to program their phone to play a new song that came out on the radio just yesterday as a ringtone, but they don't know how to use their phone as a tool for empowerment.

Communication has undergone great revolutions and evolutions technologically but not interpersonally. We still look to people for honest and compassionate words and if we do not get them we will suffer because the consequences. No machine will ever substitute the need for genuine human contact, therefore, it is our responsibility to fulfill those needs by connecting community (which has many implications on its own) and technology. Then and only then will we have the unforgettable empowerment we all seek.

The question we as educators must address is how to spur long-term retention amongst students to recall and care about the health of their bodies. Now, the easy part is dispensing the information to the young people who see us as the only break from the school-day monotony, but it is another effort entirely to create a situation where they feel empowered to care about their health and the health of their family. A lesson that empowers is a long-term and sustainable lesson that will benefit far into the future. An empowering lessons changes the culture to one of wisdom and community. Our challenge as educators is to teach young people not to forget how to be wise for themselves and the future of their communities.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Real-World Hope

In the effort to perfect my delivery of my "student content creative" activities I will be implementing one tomorrow to three classes of teenagers with the hope that they will find them engaging and relevant to their lives. Now the idea of perfecting implementation should conjure thoughts of students discussing, thinking, and planning with only slight input from me. If I can reach a point where classes of students are spending the time I have with them presenting on all of the interesting ideas they worked together to form I will consider that time as perfectly implemented. Now, not all young people are in the right frame of mind to accomplish this challenging task (Hell, most adults can't do this) but with an activity that pushes them to create content in the classroom based off of real life experiences, there will be much to discuss.

I understand my job as implementing engaging activities and then framing dialogue rules or structures (like brainstorms, debates, or presentations) to create opportunities for genuine discussion amongst the people who just thought deeply about the real life implications of the subject matter.

It has worked in the past and I anticipate it will work in the future. What I need especially are allies in the classroom and out willing to help me empower the students to see their real-life contexts as able to be changed and not hopelessly stagnant and oppressive.

A Tribute to the Joy of Freedom

Freedom is so sweet
It flees when I come too close.
It flees when I'm too loud.
It flees when I'm too intense.
But freedom has another side
It arrives just in time to relieve
the pressures of a formal life.
It shows my love a creativity needed to survive amongst the many.
It inspires my body to dance when music begins.
And it raises my head to the horizon on the grayest of days.
Thank you to the free-willing poetry that gives me the courage to be myself
and no one else.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


"Deep thought matters when you are considering things that matter"
-Liz Coleman, Ted Talk 2009

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hot Button

An advanced tactic to improve the chances of my strategy with the young men I work with has just occurred to me. I was thinking about the few things I have tried with the teenagers I teach nutrition "literacy" (this might be the best way to put it) to create dialogue and interest in the issue of their health. On a number of occasions I have had little to no success because the conversations I tried to start or the activities I tried to implement were not controversial enough. Now, I don't mean controversial in the sense of judging a celebrities outfit while trying to eat healthy, what I mean is piquing the interest of the students by posing questions about issues that really matter to a male audience. (This shouldn't suggest that the following issues don't also matter to women, but men in particular react strongly to these themes.) Loyalty, Manhood, Justice, Crime, Love, Hate, these are the themes I have come up with thus far. I believe that spurring conversation about these themes will lead to serious discussion of relevance to them. Once they come to something close to a conclusion I can redirect the ideas they have regarding those "male-oriented" themes to nutrition and health. Creating such a dialogue is important to improving their critical thinking skills and group relations skills, all of course, while improving their nutrition literacy skills.

The exact format is still a work in progress. I will probably use a traditional brainstorming routine; just with a twist. Hopefully the young men will react to these words with the kind of passion I can imagine them exhibiting in a typical social situation where any of these themes were at question in real time. Indeed, only time will tell.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Office Politic

With a promotion coming soon to the ranks of nutrition educators here in my office many strange things are brewing. I have never experience a play for power so covertly except in high school. The only option for those caught in the middle is to demand transparency. With transparency comes the impossibility for fraudulent activities.

Fraud in the office must be countered with honest demands for inclusion and transparency. As a check to forces of corruption, the demands can be difficult to make, but their necessity is not to be taken lightly. If the move is not towards transparency it will move just as far in the direction of fraud until it is a culture rather than a rare custom.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Building on a Friend's Momentuum

"So please, go out and do something good for your friends and neighbors!"
-Excerpt from Jeff Chen's blog post on the PUA website.

Working within the nutrition education industry it is sometimes difficult to imagine proactive ways to fight for the health of others on a daily basis, but I'd like to think that the same kind of rational idealism is as possible as Jeff Chen of PUA makes it out to be. So, here are some practical ideas for doing some good for your friends and neighbors relating to their health whenever you have a minute to do something charitable:

1. Plan a potluck where all meals are homemade (theoretically homemade food is healthier because the cook would never add the preservatives and stabilizers added to most processed foods.
2. Get a younger person to help you plant some flowers. (
3. Ask a friend if they want to go on a trash walk (pick up garbage as you walk around the neighborhood--count how many food wrappers you find littered).
4. Get friends together to play an outdoor game.
5. Cook and deliver healthy dessert for an unsuspecting neighbor (this kind of kindness is less unusual the closer to a holiday you do it).
6. Create a neighborhood cooking group.
7. Create a neighborhood gardening group.
8. Create a compost pile in your backyard where you can discard your food waste.
9. Volunteer at a local school and bring healthy snacks to a class of young people.
10. Do something selfish and eat some delicious fruit (peaches are my favorite).

For all the talk about "getting our country" healthy there are very few convenient ways to work within our communities to get active and learn healthy cooking together. This is a huge problem. The lack of community engagement on the issue leaves the individual without a support system. Do yourself a favor and get together with some friends and build the momentuum.