“Traditional modes of management work great for compliance, but if you want engagement, self-direction works better.”

Dan Pink TED talk on the science of motivation:

  • autonomy
  • mastery
  • purpose

Adult Literacy

When I told a friend recently about tutoring adults that read below the 5th grade level (one who barely knows his alphabet and who needs help learning how to sound out “pan”) at Literacy Austin, he asked, “How does that happen?” Well, many reasons. But some are immigrants, and others have passed through a United States public education system who has failed them by passing them (like the less imperative results of my Chinese school graduation).

Here’s the National Center for Education Statistics’ report on Adult Literacy in America. It says 21-23% of adults (40 million) “demonstrated skills in the lowest level of prose, document, and quantitative proficiencies defined (Level 1)” and another 25-28% are in Level 2. The individuals in these two groups were less likely to respond correctly to more challenging literacy tasks “requiring higher level reading and problem-solving skills” or that “required them to integrate or synthesize information from complex or lengthy texts.”

American Public Media’s The Story talked to Lucy and Kiasha Collins, a young mom and her grandmother taking literacy classes in Durham, NC. The interview goes into the adaptations they make in their lives for illiteracy and chronicles their new journey in learning how to read. Kiasha made it to the 11th grade without learning how to read:

They failed me a couple times. But kept on passing me because I was in a special class at the same time.

If you want to help, become a tutor or support literacy non-profits. Just a couple hours a week can make a huge difference in someone’s life. (If you have any questions or want to hear about my experiences, just let me know!) These are some local Austin organizations, and I’m sure volunteermatch or a quick google search will find you results if you’re elsewhere in the world.

There are also many tutoring and after-school reading programs for kids, which may help stem or prevent the problem for the next generation.

The Swell Season Tiny Desk Concert

Swell Season Tiny Desk Concert
Swell Season Tiny Desk Concert

The Swell Season (aka Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from the movie Once) on NPR’s All Songs Considered Tiny Desk Concert series.

AKA giddyness on a hot summer’s day. We went to see them in concert back when they were touring with the songs from Once. It was at Stubb’s, and it is one of The Best Shows I have ever been to. And I’m still kicking myself for inadvertently arriving late and missing some of it.

Anyway, check them out previewing some songs from their follow-up album, Strict Joy, coming out Oct. 27th!

P.S. I’m jealous if you were in that audience, and I know you!
P.P.S. I really meant to keep the
Class Divided post numero uno and top o’ the page for awhile, so don’t neglect to watch that, too!

A Class Divided

A Class Divided
A Class Divided

Very important viewing. Eye-opening look into prejudice, stereotype, racism. After MLK, Jr. was shot, one teacher decided to conduct a radical experiment to put her students into the shoes of an “other.” On Day 1, she split the class in two: the brown eyes were inferior, the blue eyes superior. On Day 2, the roles reversed. Did the class fall into line? How quickly do they believe their changed status, how does it affect their behavior, their friendships, their morale, their academic achievement?

The teacher now conducts workshops with educators and adults. The documentary shows one such workshop with prison employees. Do the adults exhibit the same behaviors as the children? How hard is it to disprove a claim with no basis which the society around you supports?

Everyone can spout the politically-correct statements: “no one is better than others,” “I’m not racist,” “I don’t discriminate,” “I don’t tolerate discrimination”…but how can we escape it if it is our history, our culture, our upbringing? We have even more difficult challenges today, what with most people not even acknowledging racism still exists — in society and within ourselves. We must be vigilant.

Please watch this Frontline Documentary, A Class Divided. It’s as relevant today as it was forty years ago, and our only hope is to keep working until its message is no longer necessary.

Donating Supplies for the Start of School

Found and last week. Whether you are in the middle of a purge like us or just feel like donating a few new supplies to help ease a child into the new school year, you can search for specific classrooms and teachers’ needs on those two sites.

I also just got this newsletter from BookPeople, who are collecting supplies for school kits and donating books to SafePlace:

Certain times of the year can be more difficult for families who have left abusive homes to live violence-free lives.  One such time is when children go back to school. Compounded by the violence they are experiencing with issues of homelessness or lack of resources, it can be exceedingly difficult for a parent to provide all the necessary school supplies for his or her children.

BookPeople is working with SafePlace to put together School Kits for children grades K-12.  Please bring one or more of the following items to BookPeople on August 22 or 23.  For every 5 items donated, BookPeople will donate 1 book to SafePlace.

School Kit list:

  • Tube of liquid glue
  • Package of glue sticks
  • Backpack
  • Supply box
  • Calculator
  • Packet of colored pencils
  • Box of crayons
  • Packet of pencils
  • 12″ ruler
  • Spiral notebooks
  • Compact pencil sharpener
  • Box of facial tissues
  • Package of markers
  • 3-ring binder
  • Package of notebook paper
  • Packet of ballpoint pens
  • Folder
  • Packet of dividers
  • Package of notecards

All items should be new, and can be dropped off at the School Kit donation box located at BookPeople’s information desk on August 22 and 23.

For more information on SafePlace, please visit


GamesPlusBlog, an endeavor of my brother and my boyfriend and their friends, launched their first podcast last week. Their dynamic as podcasters is pretty hilarious; even if you’re not a gamer, the first few minutes are worth a listen.

Mike was up late last night finishing edits for the second. I am jealous. I miss producing, editing, cutting sounds together, smoothing out transitions…it’s like putting together a puzzle. Producing and editing sound pieces satisfies the detail-obsessed part of the brain as much as it does the bigger-picture creative side.

GarageBand edits to GPC2
GarageBand edits to GPC1

It’s fun, and I miss it. That’s all.