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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Future of Our Schools

Safety is a key component of Maslow''s hierarchy of needs. For those readers unfamiliar with Maslow, he created a hierarchy of needs which pinpointed specific needs students need to learn at their optimal level. The hierarchy starts with physiological needs (basic needs) such a food, water, etc. Safety is the second level, followed by love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. All of these factors are necessary for students to learn at the optimal level. Now our schools fail to provide students with many of these needs, but that is a topic for another day. The main topic in discussion recently has been that of safety.

Think about Maslow's hierarchy in your own life. If you are trying to work, but you do not feel safe in your office, how much thought actually goes into your work? Our students needs to feel safe in order to spend their mental energy focusing on what is being taught in front of them. Recently, a heinous act of violence has all left us wondering how safe our schools actually are. The effect, in my opinion, is focused on the parents. How safe do the parents feel about their children being in school? The main issue, in my opinion, is how safe do the students feel being in the school. Oftentimes we fail to realize the impact our media has on our students. Children, of many ages, are aware of what happened. Children, of many ages, are fearful of what happened.

Many schools have now begun to adopt a buzz-in system where the main office or front desk have cameras to see who is asking to enter the building. They then must buzz in the person at the door, or not buzz them in if they feel something is not right. It is a precaution that is necessary. No one should be allowed to enter our schools willingly without the office knowing they are entering. I have seen this system work in many schools.

My fear for the future is this; at what point will our schools begin to resemble our prisons? Already they share many similarities; organized lunch, classes, recess in a designated area. These similarities mean nothing to us nor should they. However, at what point does protecting the safety of our students make our schools more similar to prisons?

To be clear, this is not a criticism of any school. Our school leaders and communities are doing they best they can to ensure our children safety.

I guess it is more a criticism of the society we live in.

 A society where we find it very difficult to feel truly safe anywhere we are.

A society where one days our schools may be as hard to enter as a prison.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Biggest Concern

I have been going back and forth about writing this blog post. One reason is because I would never want others to think I had a negative view of the world. Also, it is more of an opinion, but I feel it is an opinion many people may share. I hope you like it...

A thought has been rummaging around my mind for a few years now, but recently it has been brought to the surface. The uproar over the NYC marathon was the first incident that made me think it was an issue that needed to be addressed. We all have different opinions and whether or not we agree or disagree about the marathon decision is unimportant. What is most important to me is the reaction that took place. There were reports of runners getting verbally harassed and even being threatened for planning on running the marathon before it was cancelled. As a runner I couldn't understand the logic behind taking any anger out on the runners. What did the runners do? They paid money and trained hard to run a race that (at the time) was still going on. What did the runners do? They were not in charge of making the decision to cancel or hold the marathon. So, my last question is, why would any anger be taken out on the runners.

Then the election came along. Anyone who knows me knows I HATE social media statuses during the election. I'm sure a lot of people do. Why is that? It isn't because people put statuses saying they voted or even because people publicly state who they voted for. The statuses that disappoint me are those that attempt to impose their opinion on other people. It is the status that says one candidate is stupid or voting for one candidate is stupid. It is the status that says whoever voted from someone is ignorant. It is the status that called someone a communist. It is the status that implies the world will be over if someone ends. The reason these statuses disappoint me is because somewhere in the course of history, we forgot that other opinions make the world work. Somewhere along the line we developed the notion that if someone did not agree with us then THEY were wrong, abnormal, or just stupid. Somewhere along the line we decided that because we disagreed with ideas we clearly have to hate the person who has these ideas. Somewhere along the line we forgot that multiple opinions help us see the truth, multiple opinions help us see from others perspective, multiple opinions help us learn.

I didn't want to write this blog post because I didn't want to give the impression I do not commit these acts. I am sure I do, but I am trying desperately to stop. We cannot live in a world where other opinions  are put down. We cannot live in a world where we are incapable of understanding that disagreeing with someones IDEAS does not mean we have to HATE the person. We cannot live in a world where we use social media to trash others opinions or choices.

I understand that standing up for our beliefs is a noble cause. There are times when such a cause is necessary. However, there is a difference between standing up for your beliefs and IMPOSING your beliefs.

All I ask is that we all try and see that.

All I ask is that we all try and understand that other opinions are not necessarily wrong, but just different from our own.

All I ask is that we lean to distinguish someones IDEA from their worth as a person.

The only we can get better is if we force ourselves to be better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Good and The Bad

We tend to take a lot from our great experiences. We treasure them, remember them, and credit them for being major reasons we became the people we are today. These good times will continue to shape us throughout our lives. In fact it is easy to acknowledge the growth, change, and learning curve that comes from good experiences. It is much harder to acknowledge that the same can happen from our bad experiences.

When we experience negative situations we generally try to push them from our minds and forget they ever happened. Maybe we struggled through and eating disorder and don't want to remember the pain we went through in the process. Maybe we struggled with coming out to our family and want to forget all the people who abandoned us when we needed them most. Maybe we are simply in a place where we are unhappy and if we question if we are truly suppose to be where we are. Regardless of the situation, we need to take a moment to think about where our growth, change, and learning actually comes from. 

I learned today that we dwell on the things we learn through our positive experiences because we fail to see how our negative experiences are helping us grow as well. Think about a time when you struggled with something and fought your way through to emerge at the other end. Now think about how much you learned about yourself throughout the process. You see, we forget that learning what we like, what makes us happy, and what makes us successful isn't the only learning we do. We also need to learn what we don't like, what makes us unhappy, and what make us fail. It may not be pretty and it may not be easy, but it makes our life balanced. If we never knew what we disliked, what made us unhappy, or what made us fail. would we ever really know what made us happy or successful?

It is a balance of the good and the bad that keep us growing, changing, and succeeding. Sometimes we just fail to acknowledge that the times we struggled the most where actually the times we learned the most as well.

From now on, we will embrace the good and the bad in order to learn who we truly are.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Little Red Lighthouse

It has been a long time since I last posted a blog post. To be honest there are two reasons. The first is that the summer usually flys by very quickly, leaving me wondering where it all went. The second reason is that I have failed to find that burst of inspiration that I felt the readers of this blog deserved to read about. Well, here is that inspiration...

There is a little red lighthouse on the West side of the Island of Manhattan. It is one of the few, if not the only, lighthouse on the island. In the days before the George Washington Bridge was built this lighthouse was needed to navigate boaters in the fog and at night though what use to be a dangerous part of the river. As time passed, the giant George Washington Bridge was built making the little red lighthouse look truly "little". The community fought to keep the lighthouse standing and were successful. Although the lighthouse is no longer in operation, it still stands in the same spot underneath the bridge. There is actually a children's book written about the lighthouse which is properly titled The Little Red Lighthouse. It is a book about how a lighthouse was so important to boaters navigating the Hudson river. Then, a giant bridge is built directly over the lighthouse, drowning out its light. The little red lighthouse begins to feel inadequate until the bridge explains to the lighthouse that even though his light is small, he is still important to the boaters navigating the river. The moral of the story: Even though the lighthouses light was small, it was still important.

I know this information because I read it at the sight of the bridge and lighthouse which I discovered while running around my new home city, NYC. Please do not quote me on the book as I am working from memory here, but the general moral of the story is pretty accurate. On today's run I began to think about the past couple of days I have had. To be honest, the past two days I have had. For me, the past two days have seemed overwhelming. I not only am learning how to live on my own in a new city, but how to start from scratch at a new university. A university, that at times I question whether or not I am worthy of attending. In two days I have questioned my ability to succeed in such a huge city at such a prestigious university. I questioned it all day today until I passed a little red lighthouse on my run. You see, the lighthouse reminded me of myself. I began to see myself as the lighthouse and my new environment as the giant bridge. I, like the lighthouse, am simply intimidated by the giant bridge. I was comfortable where I was and I felt my light was important. Now, I feel overshadowed. By passing the lighthouse on my run I was able to remember the importance of the story. It does not matter how big or bright the bridge is that is overshadowing me. I still have my light and I still need to shine it until the day it is seen. I realized that like the lighthouse, I have the ability to succeed as long as I do not give into the intimidation of the large bridge. Like the lighthouse, I know who I am and what I need to do to be successful. All I need to do is keep shinning.

I feel this story speaks to a lot of us. How many times have we felt intimidated by a situation? How many times have we forgotten who we really are, only to blend into the crowd around us? We all have had situations like this. However, it is our responsibility to ourselves to understand how important our light is. We need to learn that in these intimidated situations we cannot turn off our light. Instead, we need to make them shine brighter.

If we were successful enough to get to where we are now, we will be successful enough to progress further.

Keep your light shinning and I will do the same with mine.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

1 Year

Today is a special day for me. Today marks the 1 year anniversary of #brianswordsofadvice. I know it is nothing amazing, but I like to think there is something to say about lasting 365 days without missing a daily post. The #brianswordsofadvice started as a thought a little before June 14th of last year (2011) when my good friend and fellow O-leader Colleen Meenan said she pictured me being very insightful with my tweets. That one comment turned into an idea and that idea turned into #brianswordsofadvice.

Today's advice is what I would consider the most important advice I have given throughout the year. It is not only something to remind others, but also to remind myself.

You miss 100% of the life you never live.

This advice came from two different sources of inspiration. The first is my good friend Meaghan Neary who yesterday tweeted "I'd rather swing and bat a zero then not swing at all." Both words of advice have a similar concept.

The second inspiration for today's advice came from my good friend and former teammate Ryan Brown. Ryan is on a journey across America on his bike. He tweeted a quote from Michael Jordan which read "I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something, but I can't accept not trying. " I had texted Ryan wishing him luck and telling him I was very impressed. He responded that there was nothing to be impressed about because he had not accomplished his goal yet. I feel this is a typical runners response (I would have given the same one). However, I also feel there is much to be impressed about with Ryan so far. Mainly, we should be impressed with the fact that he even attempted to accomplish his goal.

These two people made me think about the relationship we have with our lives. I believe all relationships are a two way street. Yes, sometimes we have to give more than we take, but other times we take more than we can give. No relationship is perfectly balanced at every moment, but over the days, weeks and months everything balances out. We rely on others at times and they rely on us at different times. Well, I began to realize our relationship with life isn't much different. With our lives we have a lot of giving and a lot of taking.

Life has a lot to offer, however the only way we can experience everything it does offer is if we start living our lives. Life gives us opportunities that we need to take and by taking those opportunities we are giving back. Ryan took an opportunity and whether or not he succeeds or fails he is still living his life to the fullest. Just as Meaghan's quote mentioned, if you never step up to bat you'll never hit the ball.

We miss 100% of the opportunities we fail to take. We miss out on 100% of the life we never live.

Let's live our lives.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Senior Week

Many schools have a week in between the end of finals and graduation where seniors are allowed to stay on campus and enjoy they're last week in college. It is called senior week. At first you would probably think about your time in college and realize that if you experienced such a situation you would probably drink the whole time. Yes, you are right to think that. The week does have a lot of fun parties and activities that seniors can partake in.

However, senior week stands for much more than one giant party. Many college seniors struggled to make it through this last year with major  papers and internships taking up a majority of their time. Our last semesters are very face-paced and can be very stressful. Even in life we find that we are constantly running around moving from one task to the next without stopping in between. Senior week is our opportunity to stop. I did not say it was our opportunity to stop and think (because, well, we aren't really doing much of that). We are just stopping. We are taking in all these last moments with friends and simply enjoying what life has to offer.

Senior week can get a bad reputation, but really it allows us to do what so many never do. Senior week allows us to simply do nothing. It allows us to sit outside in the warm sun and not care what time it is, or be thinking about when that research paper is due. It allows us to sleep in to 10, 11, or 12 and then lay in bed for an extra hour just to relax. It allows us to play volleyball and wiffelball while blasting music so all our neighbors can hear. Senior week allows us to enjoy our lives without a worry in the world.

Why is that so bad?

Isn't that what we all should do every now and then? Once college seniors graduate they are thrown into the real world where break time doesn't come all that often. We all can learn a few lessons from the example this week sets. We all need time to sit back and enjoy life. Whether we are 50 years old and trying to put children through college, or 16 years old trying to graduate high school. All of us need time to ourselves. We all need time to sit back and stare up at the sky for hours. We need time to cherish our loved ones. We need time to relax.

In this fast paced world we need to learn to slow down.

Forget the watch. Forget the cell phones.

Enjoy your life before it speeds by.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


It is a word that many enthusiasts frown upon. It is a word that many people don't think belongs in our vocabulary. I am here to tell you otherwise.

You see, even champions fail. Everyone fails. The problem occurs when we let our failures take control of our lives or when we are incapable to seeing our failures as a learning experience. Somewhere along our life timeline we forgot that failure was OK. We forgot that sometimes failure leads us to success.

When we were growing up we learned so many things. We learned how to speak, how to walk, how to ride our bike and so many other things. Was it easy? To be honest, none of us probably remember when we learned how to speak or to walk, but I can almost guarantee you we failed numerous times. Think about when we learned to ride our bikes. How many times did we fall? Probably many. Not only did we fall, but our falls varied in intensity. One day we riding for a few seconds before we stumbled off our bike and caught ourselves before we went face first into the street. Another day we couldn't even get the bike moving. Then one day we fell face first off our bike and scraped up our face, arm, and knee.

We've failed numerous times before, yet as we grow older we seem to forget that. As we grow, we tend to let our failures define who we are and who we are going to be. We dwell on the mistakes we made instead of the choices that left us happy.

Each day we will fail but, like riding our bike, some days these failures will be so trivial that we simply brush them off our shoulders. Other days we will feel like our day has been ridden with failures that we struggle to get through it. Other times our failures will knock us face first into the pavement and cut us up.

What is the point?

The only way we can move forward is if we acknowledge that our failures don't define who we are. When we failed ridding out bike we got back up and tried it again. That is the most valuable lesson we ever could have learned. When we fail we need to brush it off, learn from it, and keep living. Instead of letting our failures eat away at us and remind us of our weaknesses, we need to learn from them and attempt to prevent them from happening again.

Failures happen. We need to raise above our failures and learn that they do not define us. We are defined by how quickly we can get back on that bike and continue to learn.