Sheryl Sandberg TED Talk: Why we have too few women leaders

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. She has made big headlines this week with the IPO of Facebook, making her  the “1.6 billion dollar woman.” I say good for her and good for Facebook in general. I’m sure everyone has different opinions but you cannot deny the powerful influence Facebook has on so many people in the USA and in the world. It’s a big deal.

Not sure if this is an embarrassing confession, but I hadn’t heard of Sandberg until this week. She is a big supporter of getting more women to pursue those top management positions in companies. Her talks are well known and they have even been included in the syllabi of some business classes at Harvard and Stanford. I just watched this talk, from December 2010, for the first time this morning. I loved it and thought it was worth sharing for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

The video speaks for itself. The only thing I would mention is Sandberg discusses how her generation will never have a 50/50 balance of women to men in leadership positions. Sandberg is just a few years younger than my parents. I would love to see my generation be the one that creates that balance. We’ll see!


Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and other concerns)

 I am almost done reading the Steve Jobs biography… so close that I’ve already read about the release of the iPad 2. But that book is huge and it added some considerable weight to my commuting bag each morning, so I opted for a lighter choice last week and finished this book in about 4 days.

Mindy Kaling is a writer and an actress (Kelly Kapoor) on the American version of The Office on NBC. The Office is one of my favorite shows on television. I was introduced to the show my freshman year of college and I caught up on the first two seasons. I’ve been watching it pretty consistently since. For a while I thought the show was going downhill but the current season is amazing. My opinion probably differs from many when I admit 1. The American office is 100% funnier to me than the British version and 2. I enjoy the show more without Steve Carel. He’s a great actor and he made the show for a while, but eventual Michael Scott was just too crazy to watch.

Anyway, Mindy is one of the writers and creates a lot of the brilliance I love on the show, so I really wanted to read her book. I read Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” this past June (I’m a huge 30 Rock fan, another one of my favorite shows) and I really enjoyed it, so I thought I would enjoy this book as well.

I did enjoy the book. Mindy comes from Indian parents that raised her in that stereotypical Indian-American way: respect adults, don’t complain, work hard. Her childhood was hilarious and I especially liked reading about the 2 year period of her life right after college where she lived in Brooklyn, struggling to pay rent with jobs that had nothing to do with comedy writing/acting. She also writes many funny essays about a variety of topics from movies they are creating now in Hollywood (she claims board game themes are in-demand) to narcissistic  photos she took of herself on her Blackberry. One criticism I have is that she spent so much time talking in great detail about her childhood and life after college, but the book fast-forwards and all of a sudden she has a writing job at The Office and its present day. The Office has been on for almost a decade, so that is quite a considerable amount of time in her 20-something year old life, but she only devotes perhaps a 3 page chapter plus some random bits here and there on her experiences working at The Office.

All in all the book was a great quick read for my commute. However, I don’t believe the book would be nearly as funny for people who do not watch The Office and don’t know her character Kelly. If you do like the show I would definitely recommend this book as a quick laugh and enjoyable read.

Some things I’ve been doing and creating.

I believe 2012 is really going to be a big year for me somehow. Things are going to change but at the same time things will fall into place. At the beginning of this year I started two new internships. Now I’ve been at them for almost a month and I wanted to share what I’ve been working on with you.

I currently work 4 days a week at World Wide Workshop. WWW has a program called Globaloria, which is a curriculum and learning network in 4 different states across the country. In the class students build an educational game using Flash Software. Students design the game from start to finish, creating a paper prototype (just ideas for the game on paper) in the fall, and eventually develop a game demo by mid-year and a final playable game by June. The main office is in NYC and the team is very small. I’m enjoying my time and I find this work to be meaningful and interesting. I’m thankful I have many different tasks to do when I come in… I hate doing the same thing everyday. One of the projects that has been assigned to me is maintaining the Globaloria Spotlight blog, which highlights exceptional student work throughout the year.

I also spend a few hours a week at Hot Bread Kitchen, a not for profit bakery in Harlem that aims to help women from low-income backgrounds receive a decent income and gain valuable food service skills. I’m working to bulster their Social Media presence over the course of the next 3 months.  I’ve mainly just been scripting out some interactive/ interesting content for them to post. I’ve been working on this project for less than three weeks and their followers/”likes” have already increase pretty significantly which is really encouraging.  I also created a foursquare page which has over 35 tips at different Greenmarkets and Shops throughout the city. It took a while but I really like how it turned out. I’ll eventually incorporate some tips at cultural locations that fit well with the mission of HBK.

Check out Hot Bread Kitchen on Twitter, Facebook and foursquare

I’ve also been helping the community manager at ShowMe work on some odds and ends since the end of last fall. ShowMe is a great iPad app that allows anyone to create lessons very similar visually to the style of Khan Academy. I don’t have an iPad, but I’m going to start spending a few hours a week working there (a new internship!) with them so maybe I’ll have time to create a lesson or two and post it on here. For some reason I really want to create a compare and contrast lesson on Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm  X. (I created a lesson about that last year with the 8th graders and they enjoyed it.) Until then you can check out a guest post I wrote for their blog here.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve been so busy I had to quit my retail job. My dad and I have a joke that I work for dozens of places yet I make no income. No worries though, its all about experience and I’ve definitely felt my confidence in myself increase over the past month. I’m getting involved in all my interests; ed tech, community management and social media management. I  suppose that is more valuable than money. 🙂

How to give your opinion value.

Does someone ever say something to you that immediately angers you, personally offends you, and you just want to SNAP at them with some clever retort? For about 20 seconds (plenty of time to embarrass yourself) you shove it to them. You know you’re right, you know they’re wrong, so you make your point so strongly and so aggressively that you know they heard you and they sure are an idiot now for even trying to cross you!

Not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s use Mitt Romeny as an example:

Romney knew he was right. He knew that guy was wrong… you could tell Romney was just WAITING for someone to ask him about that 99% of this country. But yes, at the end of the argument he did say, “America is right, you’re wrong.”

This is the first, and perhaps only time in my life Mitt Romney reminded me of myself (a version of myself I don’t like). I remember with my students they would do something and I would get so angered by it… i would talk to them sternly and very defensively, just like Romney does here. But in the end you wind up looking crazy, heated and frazzled. Any points you were trying to make with your stern talking disintegrate in your anger and frustration.

Here’s something  I saw while student teaching. We (my mentor teacher and I) reassigned the students seats but one student refused to sit in his new seat. Finally after some coaxing we got him to sit in the seat… nobody was stern, nobody was angered. If i was there without my mentor teacher I might have given him a long winded speech about disrespect, he was acting immature, it was a simple action to sit in his seat, everyone else was doing it. But my mentor teacher didn’t make a big deal about it so I took her lead… I thought that was that.

But at the end of class, when everyone else was getting up for lunch, my mentor teacher went up to him and privately told him “you can actually stay seated for the next 20 minutes, to make sure you remember where that seat is.”

He was caught in a trap. My teacher never was angered but she made her opinion known, this student would sit in his assigned seat. She never acted frazzled, angered, personally offended. If you want to make a strong point… if Mitt Romney had really wanted us to believe that we should unite as a nation and forget the notion of the 99%, then he should have said so in a cool, collected fashion. That is something I could have listened to. I might have disagreed, but I would consider his point a valuable opinion.

The next time someone says something to you that immediately angers you, personally offends you, and you just want to SNAP at them with some clever retort… don’t do it. Take a breath, remember its not a personal attack on you, you don’t need to become defensive. Share your opinion, you want to be heard, but do it calmly, and if at the end they still don’t agree that is ok. Because they might disagree, but they will consider your point a valuable opinion. I think Obama does that and it will be one of his attributes that takes him farthest in this upcoming election.

Note 1: This isn’t meant to be a political post.
Note 2: Yes, I did just give you all advice that I don’t always follow myself… we’ll work on it together 😉

The Value of Teachers

This morning a few people on twitter posted this NY Times Opt-Ed article by  Nicholas D. Kristof, titled “The Value of Teachers”. Articles like this help me remember why I wanted to be a teacher and how I still would like to teach. I enjoy these discussions about the “value” of teachers. We all know a great teacher is one of the most empowering and influential people in our lives outside of our family and friends. But the statistics of a valuable teacher even surprise me.

” A landmark new research paper underscores that the difference between a strong teacher and a weak teacher lasts a lifetime. Having a good fourth-grade teacher makes a student 1.25 percent more likely to go to college, the research suggests, and 1.25 percent less likely to get pregnant as a teenager. Each of the students will go on as an adult to earn, on average, $25,000 more over a lifetime — or about $700,000 in gains for an average size class — all attributable to that ace teacher back in the fourth grade.”


I watched Waiting for Superman recently and the movie talked about the same idea. A good teacher is so valuable and a bad teacher is so detrimental to our students, yet our Teachers Unions provide practically no way at all to differentiate between “bad” and “good” teachers. Both get paid the same amount of money and receive the same benefits. That doesn’t seem fair and it doesn’t make sense. Michelle Rhee, the previous Chancellor of DC public schools, wanted to give good teachers the opportunity to earn up to 6-figures per year with a merit-based pay system. This plan was immediately shot-down by Teachers Unions.

In theory we all like the idea that “good” teachers be rewarded with higher pay and “bad” teachers really should quit the profession. And although we can all rattle off names of a few nightmarish/amazing teachers we’ve had in our lives, in practice it is much harder than it sounds to weed out the bad from the good.

There are over 400 comments on Kristof’s Opt-Ed piece, all of them bringing up some excellent points on the issue. But today I just wanted to share a few ideas that I’ve thought about after reading this piece.

1. I don’t like the idea of merit-based pay because like I said earlier, it is too difficult to measure the quality of a teacher. Certainly we don’t want test scores determining whether or not a teacher is deemed as “good”, but really what else could we go off of? How many students like the teacher? How decorated the classroom is? How many parents call and complain? It could maybe be an elaborate evaluation process, but eventually school politics would get in the way and good decisions would not always be made.

2. Instead of focusing on separating the “good”  from the “bad” teachers, our systems should and can work on making most teachers “good”. And in my opinion, the best way to get good teachers is to make all teachers feel valued. A higher salary is not the only way to feel valued.

Ways to make a teacher feel valued:

  • Allow them to attend a professional develop event of their choice each year.
  • Give them smaller class sizes (no more than 25 students) so they are not overloaded.
  • Give them the proper supplies and equipment they need to teach.
  • Allow teachers to pursue their more exciting ideas; fund class field trips, bring in exciting public speakers.
  • Provide Administrative support for the teacher when students are in trouble or parents come in ready to attack.
  • Allow time for teachers to collaborate and discuss lessons and teaching with co-workers in a positive setting. (This is not the same as complaining in the Teachers Lounge at lunch.)

We always talk about how students are uninspired in our current school system; It is because our teachers are facing the same problem! They are overloaded, disrespected, under supplied, putting up with tedious, irrelevant B.S. everyday. Schools are worrying about complaining parents and standardized test scores for state funding. They are not interested in creating an innovative and engaging environment to inspire learning. When schools do focus on that I believe we will see that many of our “bad” teachers actually have a “good” teacher in them somewhere just waiting to come out and inspire our students.

Being A Fan

In my family we love watching Professional Football. My Dad has been a huge Giants fan my whole life and every Sunday in the NFL season he’s by a TV watching the games. The Fox NFL Theme Song actually reminds me of my childhood.

For some reason my brother became a Detroit Lions fan in the past year. The Lions are historically the worst team in the NFL. As one of the oldest teams playing they have never won a superbowl and they didn’t even make it to the playoffs in 3 of the last 5 decades. They are a true underdog team. This season they were able to come out with a 10-6 record and make it to the playoffs (first time since 1999). Unfortunately after a close first half tonight they were destroyed by the New Orleans Saints. My brother was crushed and he said he wasn’t going to be a Lion’s fan anymore.

My brother is 12 and these things happen to you when you are young. But even when you are older it can be really hard to see you team lose. I’ve seen my Dad be a Giants fan through the really good and the really bad. From seasons without playoff participation, to a SuperBowl victory against an undefeated team. (Best Day Ever.)

Sure, its just a game. But it’s also emotional. Being a true fan of a team represents a little piece of who you are, a speckle of your true character. It means you promise never to give up, always have hope and always be excited to see a victory. It means that you can sit there and watch your team tear down every last shred of faith you had in them and immediately promise to be there rooting for them again next year. If you can promise to do that for a team then hopefully that means you promise the same for your friends, your family, and for yourself.

I hope my brother is able to stay a Lions fan (by now I am one too!) and he doesn’t give up on his team.  We all hit some rough patches and failures, but you always have to promise yourself that it’s part of life and you still are going to be there at the end of the day.

New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Not to be negative, but today is typically one of my least favorite days of the year. December 31st and January 1st are one day away, just like any other day of the year, but the idea of “saying goodbye” to 2011 makes me sad. 2011 was a year of change for me, it was the first year since I was 4 years old that I wasn’t a student. From January-May I student taught 3 different grades in 2 different schools. I would wake up early and go to bed late, created lesson plans and assessments at the same time that I was trying to enjoy my last semester of college with my friends. In June I visited Athens and the Greek Islands with my boyfriend, that was such a fun trip and it has put me in the mood to travel again. After the trip started my collection of different jobs to finish off the year. I worked my lifeguarding job for my fifth and final year, I was a Business Development intern at foursquare from August-October, I’m currently working retail, and I ended the year with two internships that start in January. I also applied to the Teachers College, so there are lots of possible opportunities in my future and I’m excited to see how it all pans out.

I rarely have resolutions for the New Year, but as this year draws to a close I wanted to mention a few things I plan to do next year.  Here are my goals for 2012:

These are simple tasks that I know I can do. I can’t promise you I will exercise everyday or have greater patience, but I know I can do these things.

So goodbye 2011, like all years there were some incredible events along the way. 2012 will be a huge year as well, the US presidential election just being one of the many things that will happen. I look forward to seeing how things pan out and I am so thankful for everyone that has made 2011 so special for me and for others. I hope 2012 is just as special.

A Matter of Choice

Remember several posts ago when I discussed how much I enjoyed Louis CK’s experiment with his new stand-up… selling something for a low price with no copy write restrictions? I loved this because it gave us the consumer choice. I love choice. I had the option to take Louis CK’s stand-up and post it all over every torrent site online, but I didn’t just because he gave me the option to do so (while politely asking me not to). This freedom provided me with respect for Louis CK and a desire to fund his art. I’ve even heard that people who have posted his stand-up online added a disclaimer asking you to buy it yourself. (Which doesn’t make much sense but still, that is more tact than you typically see from someone uploading torrents.)

Well, yesterday Aaron Klein posted a tweet and corresponding blog post that created some considerable buzz on the interwebs.

Aaron Klein@AaronKlein Dear Wikipedia, stop begging for handouts. A single ad + Amazon affiliate links = swimming in money. Capitalism won, try it.”

I have to admit, I saw this tweet and I immediately did not like it. After reading the blog post I better understood where Klein was coming from. In his view donations should be reserved for people who need money; charitable organizations, men and women with start-up projects (like those you see on Kickstarter), people without the means to create enough revenue to accomplish their goal in any way other than donations, or “handouts.” I agree with him to a point. Non-profit companies like TOM’s shoes and Hot Bread Kitchen are awesome because they have a sustainable business model that does not require donations.  And because Wikipedia is such a popular website, it could easily create a high revenue itself using an ad role of some sort.

But I like yummy bread and I like cute supportive shoes. I don’t like sidebar ads on facebook, I don’t like promoted tweets, I don’t like ads being forced upon me in my free version or Words with Friends (I disliked that so much I finally paid for the real version). I understand as a free service ads are something that I will deal with and I should instead be thankful these ads are keeping these programs free for me to use. But a few months ago after completely ignoring the donation banner for months, I decided to donate to Wikipedia. I thought to myself, I rather see a donation banner than an ad for bridesmaid dresses that I accidentally click and takes me to some crappy website. I also realized that I greatly appreciated the fact that Wikipedia had given me a choice. (I could donate, or continue to use Wikipedia for free with the risk that it will start publishing ads.) I also had the choice of deciding how much money to donate ($10) and the choice of disabling the Wikipedia banner from my wikipage altogether if it bothered me.

I like choice. Yes, I still use facebook and twitter, and I would still use Wikipedia tomorrow if it started publishing ads. And maybe Wikipedia is being silly trying to raise donations when they could make a killing off of advertisements. But I really appreciate the choice the company gave me to make a donation. I look at that “donation” as more of a thank-you payment for the service Wikipedia has provided me with for years and a thank you for putting the consumer first. Just like I had the ability to download Louis CK’s stand-up from a torrent site, I had the choice to use Wikipedia for free forever without ads. And because I had that choice I actually took the time to make a donation.

December 26th

My commute to Woodbury Commons typically takes about 15-20 minutes. The last stretch of the trip varies about 5 minutes due to traffic near the mall. I’d heard today was a busy day for shoppers and that I might want to ask a friend to drive me because it could be difficult to find a parking space. I drove anyway but gave myself 35 extra minutes added on to the typically commute time… I had now added over double the amount of time I typically needed to get to work.

Today that last 5 minute stretch of the trip took me an hour and 10 minutes. I never actually reached the mall, I finally parked off-site and walked to the outdoor outlet center. At first I though this disgusting amount of traffic had to do with Holiday commuters going home. But all the traffic was actually people trying to go shopping at the Commons. Once you got to the Commons you had to sit there for another hour (I heard) just to get a parking spot.

My mind was blown. Here were are, the day after Christmas, and everyone wants to go shopping to pick up sale items. Crazy, crazy, crazy. My words of advice to everyone: If you have December 26th off, stay home and enjoy time with the family for one more day. Please, I beg you… DON’T GO SHOPPING. And if you really need those sales,  just order online.

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Holidays! I will be busy tomorrow and I wanted to say so before Christmas. Regardless of what you celebrate I hope you have a fantastic end of the year filled with kindness and compassion, two things that are supposed to represent the Holidays season.

I have been working at Brighton but I also was just recently offered two different internships that will start at the beginning of January. I am really excited about them and I will talk about them with greater detail in the upcoming weeks. I feel like I’m getting back on track to eventually gaining a career in education/technology field and that feels really good.

A few days ago I exchanged presents with my boy friend who is going to be in CA/FL for the Holidays visiting family. Today I am going to bake cookies with a good friend who has been in Russia for the past 4 months studying abroad. Tomorrow some of my Dad’s side of the family is coming over for Christmas Eve and on New Year’s Eve I’ll be seeing my mom’s side of the family. I really love the holidays. I love decorations and festivities, seeing the family, and giving/receiving presents. I’ll write a post about the new year/2011 next week, so for now I just really wanted to wish everyone a great Christmas, Hanukkah, and just a good weekend in general.