Archives For Education

Fulbright Skills

July 14, 2013 — 2 Comments

I received a lot of questions about the Fulbright when I decided to take the grant, many friends and family wanted to know what this would do for me, how would it help you I couldn’t answer those questions when I took the grant, but after months of living in Sri Lanka I have a sense of how the Fulbright has benefited my life.

The Fulbright has done a lot for me, in terms of personal development. Through the Fulbright I’ve become:

  • more open and honest in my communications
  • able to think outside of my life experiences
  • better at helping students learn and understand their strengths

I’m not positive how these skills will help me in my future, but I’m confident that the past nine months of living in working in Trincomalee will help me in my future endeavors. In his recent commencement speech, Dick Costolo spoke about his life and how he never could have put together the pieces going forward. When he reflects on his computer science degree and his time spent performing standup comedy, it seems obvious that he went on to become the CEO of Twitter. When Steve Jobs gave his commencement speech he cited a typography class as one of the classes that most influenced him – the class was not apart of his undergraduate curriculum. It’s easy to connect the dots when you’ve reached the finish line. It is not easy to see the dots when you’re still finding you way.


“We need students who can learn how to learn, who can discover how to push themselves…”
-Seth Godin
“Thank goodness I never went to school. It would have rubbed off some of the originality”
-Beatrix Potter

These quotes greeted my business English students at the Trinco Jesuit Academy, and they kicked off a discussion about what factors lead to quality education.

Over the course of the following weeks my students watched TED talks, read news articles, and debated the merits of different approaches to education. They then crafted letters to the Ministry of Education, expressing their ideas on how to improve Sri Lanka’s education system.

As a final class project, each student had to choose a part of their letter to record on video, these were then put together into one cohesive video.

I’m grateful for the Jesuit Academy of Trincomalee for letting me come up with creative lesson plans. My students could have worked out of a textbook for the month we worked on this, but instead they were forced to develop their own ideas. This project worked on critical thinking, public speaking, and writing skills. It also forced my students to address problems in their community.

I utilize my public library more now now than I have in the past eight years. This is especially surprising because I live over 8,700 miles away from it. I can’t recall ever checking a book out of the library while a high school or undergraduate student, but since moving to Sri Lanka I’ve checked out over a dozen books from my library’s online program. My downloads have ranged from Bill Clinton’s Back to Work to Haruki Murakami‘s Norwegian Wood, and I’ve read all of them on my kindle.

While at Fordham I was at the library almost daily, but I used it as a place to study and work – not as a place to look up information (isn’t that what the internet is for?). This seemed to be a pretty common practice, as my generation is more inclined to utilize google than the dewey decimal system.

The role of libraries is changing rapidly, just last week this shift was highlighted by the launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

The DPLA was launched by Harvard’s Berkaman Center, with funding coming from a variety of foundations. It is an open source archive that has partnered with the Smithsonian, the National Archives, New York Public Library, the University of Virginia, Harvard, Digital Library of Georgia, Minnesota Digital Library, Mountain West Digital Library and others. These collections are open to the world to be searched by place or time. Even in its infancy, its an intriguing collection. I expect it will become even more relevant and useful as the collection partners with more archives, libraries, and museums. 

One of the more intriguing things is that the DPLA has an API, so that developers can build off of their archives. I’m excited to see what new products come out of this partnership.

The function of libraries has changed rapidly over the past decade, and many local libraries are struggling to justify their cost to the communities. With resources like the DPLA being launched, local libraries will have even less relevance. Libraries need to revamp themselves, and they can learn a lot from coworking spaces.

Its estimated that by 2020 about 40% of America’s workforce will be freelancers. Coworking spaces allow freelancers and young companies to have flexible office space, that can scale cheaply. Libraries can be turned from stagnant spaces that foster an environment of silent study to engaging environments where creative thinkers can thrive. The content libraries can curate is constrained by their physical space, so they should embrace the digital era and help patrons to hack through the endless information available on the web. Access to the web, and data, should be the entire point of libraries. They should be spaces where community members can teach classes, in the style of Skillshare.

Our world is changing, and the old models need to be challenged and improved.

Costs of War

April 2, 2013 — 2 Comments

I’m continually surprised by the challenges of working in a post conflict area. Trinco, the town where I live and teach, was relatively unaffected by the war. By this I mean there were a few bombings in town, but they did not suffer from heavy fighting. Just a few kilometeres outside of the town there are areas that were really hard hit by fighting.

Over the weekend I had the privilege to travel to Mannar to celebrate Easter. On Saturday I went sea bathing with a friend and his older brothers. They are divers by trade, and collect sea cucumbers and conch shells.

Raj, the eldest brother, and I were sitting on the beach chatting. We were sipping on toddy and eating fish and crabs that we had cooked over a fire. His English is good, and he told me how he loves working outdoors. When the conversation came to my studies at university, sadness flashed across his eyes. Raj told me that he was supposed to go to uni for science, but due to the war those plans changed. He spoke of his life and how he enjoyed the simplicity of his trade.

Every year in Sri Lanka only 2% of students get admitted to university. Only the top students can study in the science or medical faculty. Raj seems genuinely happy with his life, but its hard to imagine how different his life would have been had he gone to uni. It is impossible to quantify the opportunity cost of war. How many future scientists, engineers, and doctors found it impossible to continue their studies?

Coloring Book Academy

January 15, 2013 — 3 Comments

I studied finance at Fordham. When I started University I was in the College of Business Administration; during my senior year we became the Gabelli School of Business, thanks to a major contribution by Mario Gabelli. During my four years there I had a lot of internship experience and I got an offer from a top bank to work as a credit analyst post graduation.

Now I am teaching nursery rhymes and coloring. My classmates studying liberal arts didn’t call the College of Business Administration the Coloring Book Academy for nothing.

Life is good great. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else in the world right now.




My First Petition

September 5, 2012 — 1 Comment

Several weeks ago I started a petition to try and convince Citi Bank to defer my student loans.

As it turns out, if you annoy a bank enough they’ll just sell your loan to get rid of you. After about three weeks of running the petition I received a phone call from the Office of the President at Citi Student Loans to explain how my loan was sold. As it turns out Discover bought Citi Student Loans, and Discover offers deferrals. Citi bank, at this time, does not offer deferrals for the Fulbright or Peace Corps; though they are reviewing this policy.

You can be sure I’ll be following up with Citi to see if they revise this policy.


On Friday Breaker was joined by Dr. Tom Guarriello, the Chief Idea Officer of True Talk Consulting, for a session on Storytelling.

Humans crave narrative, its a core element of our culture; one which transcends culture, gender, and race. Tom describes stories as being the software of our humanity, and our brain is the hardware. Our hardware drives and shapes software; stories are a delivery system for the six basic emotions.


Emotion is defined as a feeling state with physiological, cognitive, and behavioral components. Using this definition, our feelings are: fear, anger, disgust, sadness, surprise, and joy.



Tom posed a question to the Breakers, “How can you embed your product or experience in an emotionally engaging story? Stories are written for the moral, and follow the same basic structure that Aristotle codified.

To explain the question in more detail, Tom answered it for us. He told us the following story:

Tom was working one day and became very tired, he went to Starbucks and got a venti americano. He was so refreshed that he was able to finish his project.

In this story there is a victim, villain, and a hero. The villain is fatigue, preventing work from being accomplished. While the hero is Starbucks, saving Tom and enabling to complete his work..

Many people are not comfortable with the idea of a corporation being a mentor or hero in their lives. This is not the way people consciously think. Tom went to Starbucks for some coffee, not for a guide to show him the path towards vanquishing his villain. Yet when people attach memories or beliefs to a brand this is precisely what they are doing. Powerful brands enable us.

When crafting your brand’s story, be cognizant of the emotions you utilize.







For those interested in learning more about this subject here are a list of resources:


This post is cross-listed on the Breaker Tumblr

Qualified to Teach?

June 21, 2012 — 1 Comment

For the past week I’ve been going through orientation for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program. This orientation has brought together 64 recent college graduates who will be traveling to Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia (Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Sri Lanka, and Tajikistan).

There is a wide variety of students here, but very few of the ETAs have teaching experience (or were even teaching majors).

For the past three days we have been receiving instruction in teaching English as a foreign language. Throughout this program I’ve asked myself what qualifies me to teach English in Sri Lanka? I majored in finance at Fordham, not teaching. But the State Department saw something in me that made them believe I’m qualified to represent America and teach abroad.

Yesterday is came across a great NPR article on teaching qualifications. It turns out that Einstein would not be able to teach Physics in high school – as he was not a certified teacher.

At Fordham some of my best professors were those who didn’t have a doctorate degree, but had a great deal of real world experience. Charlie O’Donnell is a great example of this, his class fundamentally changed my career outlook. He is not an academic, and doesn’t have a masters or PhD, but he’s an incredibly effective teacher. This is because he’s teaching about something he is truly passionate about – the NYC Tech Community.

I wonder how our country would change if professionals were allowed to teach at the high school level. My guess is that we could get some really talented individuals into our schools.

I’m not an expert in education, but I believe this is a conversation we need to have.