School Shootings

As an educator, I see school shootings differently than the polarizing NRA vs Mental Health advocates.  I work one-on-one with teens every day.  I hear about their studies, their families, their friends, and their fears.  They’re inundated with information.  Receiving over 100 texts per day, they don’t have the bandwidth to engage in conversations, dig deeper to learn more, or reach out to friends/family who need them.  Our teens are lonely.  Yes, technology interferes with healthy, and much needed, human-to-human interaction.

Today teens have the attention span of a gnat.  Seriously, if you text more than a phrase, they’re not going to read it. They won’t read magazines, newspaper, or books because they want the condensed version – no more than a paragraph-long description.  In my family, we call it the “10-second rule” – if you can’t say it in 10 seconds, don’t bother!  What’s worse, teachers only require students to write short essays, not research papers (that require extensive reading and editing), which will create a new generation of adults without the depth and breadth that we need to lead the world. 

My students tell me that they spend more time alone than they do with friends and family.  Most friends are superficial and convenient, and very few of them have true friends – the ones they can confide in.  But, these same students who are lonely have social media popularity that would make you believe that they have dozens of BFFs, hang out with friends every day, go to all of the parties, and have more fun than anyone. The sad part is that teens bottle up their disappointment in their friends, and in themselves, and don’t have a healthy outlet.

When our media glorifies these murderers (mass shooters) by posting their photos and telling their bios, they humanize the shooters.  Then other teens who share these same frustrations, fears, exile, and bullying, identify with the mass shooters.  Playing violent video games, watching gory TV shows, and even reading news clips normalizes brutal killings.  When teens don’t have real friends to talk to, sadly they won’t have friends to talk them down when they have crazy thoughts and to find other ways to deal with their pain.

Having a smartphone 24/7 is like being enveloped in cyber bubble wrap. They can’t have a conversation because it’s difficult to communicate.  They can text a few words but certainly not sentences. They can ask, “How are you?” but they really don’t have time to read or learn about anything other than “fine.” They scan the social media of choice (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter) because it’s fast and easy.  Feeling left out – a social loser – they turn to YouTube to watch something to take their minds off of everything.

I don’t understand why anyone would need a gun intended to kill dozens of people in few seconds. Given how short-circuited individual people have become as technology reduces face-to-face interactions, I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg with mass shootings.

Let's reel back technology and let's bring back get-togethers, phone calls, and letter writing. Reach out to others and connect... then maybe we'll see more kids with empathy and less school killings. 


Save Your Seeds!

I remember when my grandmother used to let her beans “go to seed” and dried them in a cool, dry place until the following season.  She had the best vegetables.  Her green beans were sweet and crisp.  Her tomatoes were flavorful. 

Over the past 20 years, I’ve found that the veggies we buy at Safeway and large grocery stores look beautiful but taste bland.  Monsanto has created genetically engineered fruits and vegetables that are bigger, last longer than their organic counterparts, and made rubbery to resist mold.  They have genetically engineering these plants to produce seeds that won’t grow – Yup! – to ensure that they can control all seed sales.

When I first heard this, it reminded me of “FernGully” – you know the animated children’s movie with Robin Williams about big business clear cutting all of the rainforests. But, there is hope.  The Global Seed Network has organized a program uniting seed savers to create an independent and diverse seed supply. 

Check out the Global Seed Network to see how you can share your seeds and get seeds that are favorable to your locale.  

We can beat Monsanto!  Save your seeds! Share your seeds!

Thinking About Getting An MBA? Think Again.

Considering getting an MBA?  Think again.  Many full-time MBA programs are changing the direction of their programs, and MBA grads are giving these programs low rankings. Although the international MBA programs are continuing at major universities, domestic programs are scaling back their executive MBA and MBA markets because of these 3 reasons: (1) employers are reluctant to pay higher salaries; (2) many MBA programs offer online courses; and (3) grad students are losing interest in the MBA programs. Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and Simmons College have closed their MBA programs and that seems to be a new trend, but full-time MBA programs at the most elite colleges will continue.

Seems that grad students are preferring the master’s programs that can be completed in just 9 months and at about half the cost of an MBA.  These programs are more specialized so students can focus on finance, accounting, international business, management, marketing, economics, or business analytics.

Hmm. Sounds like you might consider avoiding more student debt in lieu of gaining specific business skills for half the cost.  Or, apply your knowledge and skills set where you’re currently working and reap the financial rewards and bonuses.

[Source 1] [Source 2]

If You Missed The May 1st College Decision Deadline, You Still Have Options

While May 1st WAS the deadline for most private and selective public colleges, there are plenty of colleges still recruiting students for Fall 2018.  Only 36% of the thousands of colleges in the US have filled their incoming classes by May 1st.  Yup.  So BREATHE.

There are over 400 colleges that still have spaces for fall undergraduate enrollment according to the National Association for College Admission Counseling.  Check out which colleges have openings using this easy-to-use list:

And, if you don’t like any of these 400 colleges, you can always go to a community college and transfer into your #1 college junior year.  You do have options!

Smartphone Pouch Can Improve Study Habits

I get annoyed when people respond to smartphone texts and calls while I’m talking to them.  Call me old school, but it sends me the message that whatever or whomever is tugging at that person is far more important than me.  It could even be a wrong number – and our conversation was awkwardly disrupted. But when parents pay for their children to work with me and their children still check their phones (even when it’s on vibrate!) during our meetings, I find that downright disrespectful!

If these students are doing this during my meetings, imagine how many times they check their phones in class? While doing homework? Or driving?  I just read an article about the Yondr pouch that eliminates smartphone use that concert venues, courtrooms, and doctor’s offices are using to prevent people from recording activities.  Wouldn’t it be great for teachers to have all students put their phones in these fabric pouches during class to keep the students focused on lectures and discussions? 

Take this a step further and imagine how students could finish homework, study for tests, read with better comprehension and generally improve their learning – and grades – if parents had these pouches at home.


Guidance Counselors: Not Available To The Students Who Need Them Most!

When high school students at public schools in wealthy areas have access to better classes and better college advising than others, we are increasing our divide between the haves and the have nots.  Some public school students have engineering, robotics, speech and debate, over 20 AP courses, and excellent introduction to high-paying careers in STEM, while students from inner city ghettos don’t have basics like AP classes, honors courses, and the breadth of courses that selective colleges require for eligibility to attend.

The average high school counselor works with about 450 students, while counselors in poorer districts can have upwards of 1,000 students. These students from low-income families rely on their school guidance counselors to choose the necessary courses to meet minimum requirements for college but when their counselors are struggling to handle the sheer volume of students, they don’t have time to offer the support the college-bound students need to look at majors/careers, GPA and SAT/ACT averages, and financial aid. 

It seems unfair that students who attend public schools in wealthy areas have smaller counselor/student ratios and better courses offerings than students who attend schools in poverty-stricken areas.  Wouldn’t we want those underserved students to get more help?  After all, wealthy students work with private college advisors and most only meet with their guidance counselors for class schedules.  Hmm.

Video: Tim Niemier's TEDxMeritAcademy Talk

In August, Merit Academy hosted TEDxMeritAcademy at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz.

Tim Niemier was a featured speaker, and his TEDx Talk is embedded below.

How do we stop the flow of plastic pollution into our oceans?

We need healthy oceans, but we can’t give up our plastic. Maybe there’s a way that we can have healthy oceans and still use plastic. If we create value for recycled plastic as a new resource, we can prevent it from harming our life-sustaining oceans. Tim will discuss a clever way of combining great worldwide designs with an inexpensive local recycling process that can stop the flow of plastics into our oceans.

About Tim Niemier: Tim’s goal in life is to put “A billion butts in boats in healthy water.” He is the founder and designer/entrepreneur who introduced the sit-on- top Ocean Kayak to the world. These kayaks revolutionized all paddle sports because it made kayaking water-friendly. Bringing millions of people into the water makes them appreciate the delicate balance of our eco systems. Tim was 100% responsible for all post-consumer waste and pioneered product stewardship in the water-sport industry and other endeavors.  He also continues to lead many environmental organizations with creative and sustainable innovations. Tim enjoys finding solutions to cleaning the ocean using resource management and recycling.

Recycling Tips You Probably Didn't Know!

Being married to a “tree hugger” for over 30 years, you would think I’d know what is recyclable and what isn’t.  Right?  When in doubt, I’d just toss it in the recycle container so I wouldn’t feel guilty throwing into the trash…  A new report by Global Citizen states that there’s been an 84% increase in what is REJECTED for recycling!

Here’s what can be recycled:

- Recyclable containers that are NOT contaminated by food (wash out plastic bottles and tin cans)

- Cardboard containers (pizza boxes) need to be free of oil and food

- Plastic bottle tops (remove caps from the bottle)

- Recyclable coffee cups

- Cups WITHOUT a thin layer of polyethylene (use metal or ceramic reusable cups instead)

Here’s what CAN’T be recycled:

- Kleenex tissues

- Containers contaminated by food waste

- Toothpaste tubes

- Plastic toys

- Wrapping paper

- Mylar food bags (chips)

- Anything that is put in plastic bags to recycle

- Batteries (take to Household Waste Collection centers)

- Any food waste: eggshells, peels, compost

- Old clothes

Use reusable items when possible.  When you do need to recycle, do it properly.  Just be sure that no items that have been contaminated by food end up in your recycle bin!  Happy Earth Day!

5 Easy Ways To Stop Using Single-Use Plastic

It’s time to stop using single-use plastic. You’ve seen the photos showing tons of plastic washing up on the shores worldwide.  You’ve seen the harm plastics do to fish and mammals that get tangled in or ingest plastics.  Here are 5 easy things you can do to substantially reduce your single-use plastic usage:

1) Stop buying drinks in plastic bottles - buy in bulk and use refillable glass or metal containers

2) Stop using plastic wrap - use Tupperware or reusable storage containers

3) Stop using straws - use reusable straws or forgo straws altogether

4) Stop using Styrofoam - tell restaurants that you prefer compostable containers

5) Stop buying food in plastic packaging - buy food in bulk and use your reusable glass or metal containers.

This is actually easy to do and will save you lots of money too.  Stock your car with reusable bottles and containers so you’ll have them when you need them.  I use glass containers for my left-over food at restaurants.  I appreciate being able to microwave these treats in glass so the plastic doesn’t leech into my food.  After I wash the containers, I put them by the door so I remember to put them in the trunk of my car.  Just thought I’d post this as we approach Earth Day. 


Been Waitlisted? Check Out This FANTASTIC Table of College Waitlists!

If you’ve been offered a place on a college waiting list, don’t hold your breath! This year, colleges have offered more students on their waiting list than their entire freshman class size.  Brown University admitted 2,566 students to fill 1,719 spaces for their freshman class this fall. Considering this is an elite Ivy League college, they should easily receive deposits for all of these spaces.  Right?  Well then why did they offer an additional 2,724 students a place on their waiting list?

Brown isn’t alone.  Just about every college offers waiting list.  Not only do colleges want to unsure that they have a full class of freshmen but these waiting lists give colleges the stats to keep their admit rates low.  Many families rank their colleges choices by admit rates – the more difficult it is to get in, the more desirable it becomes.  Simple supply and demand.

Some of these colleges have waiting lists with over 3,000 students but they admit only 20.  Odds don’t look good.  But colleges do want to know if you would attend if admitted, so letting them know that you would accept their offer off the waiting list could improve your chances of getting in.  Good luck, and check out the source link below for a fantastic table of colleges with waiting lists, how many students are on them, what percentage are admitted, etc.: