Pottery People


I am at a complete and utter loss. For words, direction, meaning…anything. What once came to me so surely and steadily, as rain falls to the ground, now must be found. Sought out as I stumble through darkness, the light of a single flame guiding me forward.

The easy light of the sun which once illuminated my life has been replaced by a flickering candle, timid, feeble, searching for fuel, but alight nonetheless as shadows threaten to swallow it whole in one satisfied gulp. It almost seems easier to let the flame die out and learn to live blinded in the dark. But fear holds me back.


Everything seemed so straightforward long ago, I had yet to realize the difference a decade makes. A decade of discovery, doubt, and an unhealthy amount of positivity. Yes I said unhealthy.

I was so utterly convinced that life, while complex and varied and occasionally a bit of a
jerk, was inherently and innately well intentioned. That the energy which keeps us all conscious and aware of ourselves and each other was eternal. That the symphony of electrical currents flowing through my brain would only cease with death. I was so sure of my own ability to exist and be happy that I never questioned how I came to be like that in the first place. I was aware that I came from a place of privilege, that my life was woefully devoid of pain and tragedy, and that I was surrounded by uncommonly thoughtful and self-aware people. But humans have a knack for missing the obvious even when it’s right in front of their face.pottery face.jpg

I never fell. Never scraped my knee as my bike wobbled in eternity and then tipped over. Never heard the crack of bone as I slammed to the ground from a high up branch or the edge of the roof. I was never surrounded by laughter and pointing fingers, voices mocking and condemning me for that which I could not undo or understand. I never failed. And I should have.

I thought, with childish naivete, that if I denied myself failure, I would never fall.

But despite my best efforts, fallen I have. Every bone in my body aches with pain. My scrapes, cuts, and wounds bleed profusely, and my head rings with confusion and splitting pain as canaries waltz with stars in circles around my head.

I am so utterly broken that I find it hard to believe I was whole to begin with.

broken man.jpg

And yet I feel like a liar. By what right do I lie here broken, smashed upon the floor? There are those who have been broken many times over in far more painful ways than i. People who pick themselves up and forge ahead despite their ceramic nature. And all I did was stumble. I tripped and could only watch helplessly as I smacked into the ground and shattered, pottery shards on the floor. And what did I trip on? I can never be sure whether it was a crack in the floor or my own two feet which led to my downfall but I can tell you which one I had control over.

I was no masterpiece, yet I still mourn the loss of her innocent beauty. It was all so much fun to watch her. It brought me joy to see her smile, to watch her twirl across the room, skirt rippling in the wake of her sunshine. She was spring. Sunshine splashed in her hair and bare feet in the dirt as she sang a sweet song that no one knew the words to but she and she alone. I was younger then. She looked perfect from afar, and i’m sure she thought so despite what she may have told her friends and lovers. Sometimes our gaze would meet, but I never knew how to answer those piercing eyes. They burned with questions I did not know the answer to.


But she and I haven’t seen each other in many years, or perhaps we never met at all.

I will never see her again. At least not like I imagine.

If she were to find me now, scattered across the floor, i’m sure she would rush to my aide, all kind words and overwhelming desire to help those in need. She would search the room, gathering up every last piece and fit them into a semblance of who I once was. Slowly, carefully, she would pour herself into me, filling up my cracks with sunshine until I shone with light. But no matter how carefully she searches the floor for every last scrap, no matter how slowly and thoughtfully she pieces me back together, and no matter how carefully she fills me up with her light, just to the brim but not one drop over, she cannot make me whole.

Only I can do that.

Only I can control my feet.

And yet despite my best efforts, which were neither meek nor small, here I lie, scattered upon the ground.

I do not know how to put myself back together.

I do not want to be seen, broken, fragile, a failure of the seemingly easy task of remaining whole

But I see it happen everyday. Broken people march on, despite their fragile nature. Bits and pieces held together with glue and string. Some are chipped, poked with holes, even missing a piece here or there, but still they move forward. Imperfections do not detract from ability. Failure does not impede success, and privilege is not an indicator of health and happiness.

Perhaps I too can begin to glue myself back together.


But I will never be whole again. Chances are I will forget a piece of myself, lying dusty underneath the couch. Maybe the breeze will blow my dust away to be lost forever on the wind. Or I may simply put myself in all the wrong places, a mismatched puzzle, an incomplete picture.. How am I to know where I belong without an instruction book?

Even if I somehow managed to recreate myself seamlessly, I do not think I would fit inside.

I am a different shape now.

I think I will fit better if I build myself a new house.

Perhaps pottery was meant to be broken, perhaps it is a miracle that any piece stays whole, interned in silent museums for us to wonder how it got there.

Life, kind or cruel as it is, played little role in my fall. It was not the cracks in the floor that were my undoing, but my own two feet, to focused on placing one foot perfectly in front of the next to notice that the floor underneath was imperfect.

I could say I was misinformed or mislead, but that would only belay the reality of my situation. I cannot fix every crack in the floor. I must learn how to step over them.

woman and crack.jpg

In my rush to be perfect, I missed out on imperfection. It’s not that freckles and clumsy feet make us perfect in our own ways, but that our search for perfection eliminates the noticing. And it is the noticing that makes life worth living.

How can I appreciate what I have if I don’t know what it is?

I am beginning to understand those cracks in the floor as my hands dance through the darkness, searching for pieces of me.

The cracks did not lie to me, I did.

The floor did not trick me, I did.

The feeble light of my flame did not deceive me in the dark, I did.

Life did not fail me.

I did.

I am still convinced that while I may be complex, varied and occasionally a bit of a jerk, I was and am inherently and innately well intentioned. But aren’t we all?

As I piece my broken self together, I begin to see that I am more than who I thought I was, more than I am capable of comprehending.


We march on, pottery people, broken, fragile, and searching


Images in order of appearance:



Face Sculpture

Pottery Pieces

Green Eyes

Broken Statue

Crack in Floor

Sculpture of Woman

Clay People


Alternative Pathways to Success

NOTE – i found this information on www.artofmanliness.com. I wanted to create my own list of alternatives to the 4-year degree but this one was so well put together and covered all the bases that i felt i wouldn’t really be able to add much other than putting it into my own words. That being said, i think that this is an extremely valuable and helpful list that discusses everything from starting your own business, to vocational occupations, to joining the army. I think that the only thing i would really add to this list is the practice of life skills in addition to focusing on your career. To that end, here is a list of skills you should definitely be aware of if not actively practicing as you graduate high school. Below my list you will find vocational/alternative pathways from http://www.theartofmanliness.com

  • Cooking
    • you should understand the basic components of cooking and recipe using: Knowing the proper way to clean and sanitize dishes that have touched raw meat, how to check to see if your food is cooked thoroughly, how to experiment with spices and flavors, the difference between frying, baking, broiling, boiling, roasting, etc., knowing the basic of nutrition and the components of a healthy meal/diet, how to tell when food is ripe or has gone bad, how to properly use kitchen knives, etc., the ability to follow recipe directions/the ability to google a recipe or help when you need it, understanding how to properly hand wash dishes in case the dishwasher is broken/unavailable, etc.
  •  Cleaning
    • you should understand the basic principles of maintaining a relatively clean house and home: Understanding proper use of dangerous cleaning chemicals, understanding how often various places in the house need to be clean (i.e. toilet vs. vacuuming), the importance of using the appropriate cleaner on a certain surface (i.e. wood vs. granite vs. plastic), etc.
    • cleaning also includes laundry: understanding how to separate lights and darks, how different temperatures of water will affect your clothes, the importance of using a good detergent, which types of fabric can be heat dried and which need to be air dried, etc.
  • Personal Hygiene
    • you should be able to maintain a reasonably clean and personable appearance, esp. at work/school: daily/semi-weekly showers, nail clipping, hair cutting, facial hair trimming, facial cleansing (esp. to prevent acne), proper hair washing, proper shaving techniques to prevent cuts and infection, etc.
  • Basic Sewing skills
    • although i’m not expecting you to be able to sew your own wardrobe you should be able to: sew a button, fix a loose thread, whip-stitch, understand the principles of sewing construction (i.e. sewing inside out to hide the seam, proper thread/needle use (esp. needle size), etc.
  • Basic Car skills
    • you should be able to fill your car with gas safely, understand the importance of checking oil and continual maintenance, knowing how to use hazard lights when stopped in the middle of the street or in an emergency, etc.
  • Life Planning
    • you should understand the various things you have to do in order to maintain your life as an adult: yearly doctor, dentist, eye-doctor, and gynecologist visits, keeping track of your bodies health and reporting unusual feelings or pain, keeping track of bills and appointments, etc.
  • Job-Having
    • you should understand the components of a good work ethic: punctuality, a willingness to go above and beyond, teamwork skills, responsibility for you tasks, accountability for completing tasks in the right way and on time, appropriate dress and personal appearance, good interview skills, an understanding of the importance of not burning the bridge, maintaining professional relationships and networking, etc.
  • Basic Money Skills
    • understanding how to use a bank and keep track of your money: understanding how a bank account works, the difference between credit and debit, how to get and maintain a good credit score, how to keep track of and pay bills, good saving habits, the importance of saving for retirement and for emergencies, how to budget and distribute money, etc.

These are certainly not all the life skills that would be helpful for you to have a handle on by the time you graduate, but these skills will provide you with a basic ability and understanding of how to “adult” and how to survive and even thrive as an adult. Below you will find alternative ideas and pathways to the 4-year degree. The life skills you have obtained by this age will dramatically affect your ability to pursue any sort of career or success after you graduate.

“One-quarter of college grads are in jobs that don’t require a degree. And of the 30 jobs projected to grow the fastest in the next decade, only 7 require a standard 4-year degree. Ultimately, you have to think about your life goals. Mary Docken, a prominent voice in education advocacy, says, “Students need to think about what their interests are, how they like to learn, what motivates them, what financial realities they face, what type of work they see themselves doing – (sitting behind a desk with a computer in front of them, building things, working with people, etc.).”

For some professions – like many of those in STEM fields – college is absolutely the right choice. But for many, it ends up being a waste of time and money. For some, college even limits your career options, as you get strapped into thinking you have to go into a certain major (most often business) in order to be successful. That’s just not the reality, however.

Below, we’ve highlighted 10 very legitimate options to consider after high school. Some of them can lead to lifetime careers, and some of them are seen more as transition periods to decide life’s next steps — whether that’s ultimately to go on to college or to take another path. Either way, they should be considered right along with 4-year colleges for every high schooler out there struggling to try to figure out what to do next.

1. Start a business.

There are over 22 million individuals who are self-employed in the U.S., with no employees other than themselves. That’s about 14% of the entire American workforce. With drive, initiative, and a quality product, it may be more attainable than you think to make it on your own. In fact, some of the most successful men of the 20th and 21st centuries were entrepreneurs without a college degree:

  • Richard Branson
  • Michael Dell
  • Walt Disney
  • Henry Ford
  • Bill Gates
  • Steve Jobs
  • Milton Hershey
  • Frank Lloyd Wright

All of these men took the initiative and started businesses they were passionate about, and were sure would change the world.

The barriers to starting a business have never been lower. With a computer and an internet connection, there are a slew of business opportunities that can be launched with even just $100 from the comfort of your own home (half of those 22 million individuals work from home). Whether selling goods online, or simply using the web as your portfolio, it’s quite simply never been easier to become an entrepreneur. To open a clothier, for a quick example, you no longer need an expensive storefront that has rent costs, utilities, numerous sales employees, etc. With a little bit of drive (okay, a lot of drive) and a quality product, you could be the next Antonio Centeno, making and selling quality clothing online from the backwoods of Wisconsin.

Or consider the ease of starting a business selling any kind of handmade good with an Etsy shop. You could even become an antiques trader and seller with nothing but an eBay account. With just an internet connection and copious amounts of hustle, the possibilities are truly only limited by your own creativity.

One of the great things about starting a business these days is how much information and free education is available. Your local bookstore will have shelves and shelves of business books, and a quick Google search can get you started down the road of entrepreneurship in no time. The Art of Manliness was built from the ground-up by Brett and Kate with mostly their own gumption. Using Google, they installed WordPress, designed the website, created an online store, sold advertising, and have now been running a successful business for six years. (Although they would also say that their college and graduate degrees greatly aided in the writing and critical thinking skills so necessary to running a successful blog).

While it’s certainly true that more small businesses fail than succeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find an entrepreneur who didn’t learn invaluable lessons even amidst their failures. Do you have zeal for something you created as well as good people skills? (Those are two qualities that entrepreneurs say catalyzed their success.) If so, perhaps taking the steps to start your own business is a better idea than spending four years in college.

2. Attend community college.

While community college doesn’t carry the prestige of the 4-year university, there are numerous benefits to this alternate path:

  • Saves boatloads of money – the average credit hour at a community college costs $60, while the average credit hour at a 4-year college costs around $300. While community college costs are rising right along with 4-year colleges, it’s not nearly at the same pace. There are even schools like Tulsa Community College that will cover 100% of the tuition costs for all high school seniors with at least a 2.0 GPA who enroll the fall after they graduate. Check to see what kinds of programs and incentives are available in your area.
  • Makes the transition to college easier – if you attend community college, you’re more than likely either living at home, or else living very close to home. Instead of feeling like you’ve been kicked off a cliff into the deep waters of college, you can wade in at a pace that is right for you, and slowly take on responsibilities of your own.
  • Gives you time to define and refine your interests – at 4-year colleges, the majority of your first two years are going to be general ed classes, even if they’re related to your major. You can do the same thing at a community college, for a fraction of the cost. This gives you time to explore your interests, without the stress of knowing you may be racking up massive debt on courses that don’t end up counting towards your degree or major.

Those are some practical benefits of community college when compared to 4-year colleges. The other major benefit – perhaps the one the matters more than anything else – is that in just two years you can earn your associate’s degree, and enter in on a path towards success that you never imagined.

In the next decade, only 7 of the 30 fastest growing jobs require a traditional bachelor’s degree. Most others require mid-level education – defined as more than a high school degree, but less than a 4-year degree. And believe it or not, these aren’t necessarily low-paying jobs. This list of 40 high-paying careers that don’t require a bachelor’s degree is quite diverse. A few particular careers mentioned in that list that require an associate’s degree:

  • Engineering technician (avg salary $60k)
  • Aerospace operations (avg salary $61k)
  • Web developer (avg salary $62k)
  • MRI technologist (avg salary $65k)
  • Nuclear technician (avg salary $69k)
  • Air traffic controller (avg salary $122k)

Use this handy community college finder to locate a school near you, and set up an appointment with an admissions officer to talk about the benefits of community college.

3. Get into a trade.


Trade schools offer specific vocational training for a wide variety of skilled careers. Sometimes this means getting an associate’s degree at a community college, but many times it’s simply a year or so at a technical school. These careers are often associated with “blue collar” jobs, and unfortunately often carry some negative stereotypes in today’s culture.

The reality is that there are literally millions of people who work in skilled labor jobs, and they’re paid well, especially compared to college graduates. The average starting salary for a college graduate is $45,000, while the average salary of someone who went through trade school is $42,000. Not much of a difference, and the trade school graduate is entering the workforce at least two years sooner.

In addition, you’re almost guaranteed a job coming out of school. There are numerous stories of large energy and construction projects that had to be canceled not due to money shortages, but due to labor shortages. Companies simply can’t find the skills to complete the work needed.

Yet another benefit of skilled labor is that your skills are not as exportable as people who sit at a computer in a cubicle all day. Even work that was formerly done by lawyers anddoctors is being outsourced. You can’t outsource electrical or plumbing or welding jobs. These careers are truly what makes our nation run on a daily basis.

Mike Rowe, former host of Dirty Jobs, is doing his best to dispel the stereotypes surrounding blue collar work and is trying revive interest in the skilled trades:

“There were over 3 million jobs in 2008 that were sitting there, and nobody was really talking about them because they weren’t aspirational. So long-story-shot, I figured lack of appreciation for skilled labor ultimately manifested itself in a kind of disconnect that led us to push kids in one direction, ignore another direction, and that ultimately created a whole lot of jobs that nobody was too enthused about.”

He’s started a foundation that provides resources, scholarships, and even a job board for those interested in pursuing skilled trades. It’s really an incredibly handy website, and nearly made me want to pursue a trade myself! He also has a new book out, in which all proceeds go towards his foundation – my copy is on its way and I can’t wait to read it.

So, what are some specific career options? Take a look at the partial list below, and learn more details about these trades over at Rowe’s website.

  • Construction
  • Welding
  • Landscaping
  • Electrical
  • Painting
  • Forestry
  • Photography
  • Woodworking
  • Masonry
  • Locksmithing
  • Metal Work

We’re going to embark on a more detailed series of posts regarding the trades in just a few months. Stay tuned!

4. Be an artist.

If art is your passion – be it music, painting, sculpting, etc. – you should strongly consider not attending a 4-year college. While established artists average around $60k a year in earnings, it takes a little longer to get to that point. After getting a degree, you’ll be strapped with debt, and will you have really advanced your craft beyond what you would have anyway?

Getting an associate’s degree as a backup plan is a good idea, but then just put everything you have into your craft through deliberate practice, and consider moving to an art-friendly city like Seattle, Austin, TX, or one of these other top cities for artists, where you can find peers and mentors that can help critique and improve your work.

In building your following and clientele, really what you’re doing is starting a business. And you have to treat it like a business. Don’t fall into that “starving artist” stereotype of the lazy, couch-surfing bum who can only work when inspiration strikes. Even if art is your calling, you’ll have to work your butt off, just like with any other profession.

5. Take online classes.

Online college-level courses have boomed in the last couple years, with Coursera and EdXleading the way. While YouTube and a variety of websites freely offer lectures for the public to consume, Coursera and EdX offer certificates of completion, and with a small fee, those certificates can be university-verified.

While you won’t get college credit for taking these courses, they are absolutely college-level (trust me, they’re difficult), and will teach you some very valuable and practical skills that can be applied to a number of professions. A selection of class titles includes New Models of Business in Society, Competitive Strategy, Physics 1, Beginning Game Programming, and many more. If you don’t have a degree on your resume, being able to show a handful of certificates for specific skills is much better than nothing at all.

One institution making waves in the education world is the University of the People(UoPeople). Founded in 2009, it offers tuition-free education to anyone and everyone. Students can receive an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in business administration or computer science. It’s hard to believe, but UoPeople is no gimmick and there’s really no catch for students – you get a real degree. Curriculum is put together by volunteers, and the school was recently accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council. Bill Gates has given money, as have many large corporate entities. It has applied for accreditation from the Department of Education, and it’s believed that they’ll meet the requirements.

One drawback is that in attending this university, you really have no skin in the game. While there are over 1,500 students, only about half are active. I’ve noticed this phenomena myself when taking courses on Coursera or EdX; when it’s free, it’s harder to stay motivated to continue when life gets busy or if you simply become disinterested.

Another drawback is the lingering negative perception in general of online-only schools. Employers are sometimes wary about online degrees – even if those concerns aren’t necessarily warranted. It’s a matter of public perception that will hopefully change over time, but as of yet, online degrees still don’t carry the same prestige as a “real” university.

Having said that, UofPeople is a unique opportunity, and is gaining some public steam.

It’s only a matter of time before these online learning institutions gain even more credibility and become mainstream options for graduated high schoolers.

6. Take a job. Any job.


One option that every 18-year-old should consider is to simply get a job and work for a year or two before deciding on their college path. Even if you start at minimum wage, things like showing up early and staying late, having integrity in the workplace, and treating customers and coworkers with respect will move you up the chain. Believe it or not, those seemingly simple characteristics are in high demand.

By working full-time at a fast food joint, or as a barista, or doing landscaping, you’ll learn invaluable life lessons. You’ll learn about customer service, about bucking up and working even when you don’t want to, about budgeting your income, about balancing life and work. Those are things that many men don’t learn until they’re out of college.

Beyond slinging burgers at the local diner, there are well-paying and life-long careers that don’t require any formal education beyond high school (keep in mind these positions still need to be worked up to, they just don’t require formal post-secondary education):

  • Construction Supervisor (avg salary $60k)
  • Claims Adjuster & Investigator (avg salary $60k)
  • Mass Transportation Operator/Inspector (avg salary $63k)
  • Gaming/Casino Manager (avg salary $65k)
  • Power Plant Operator (avg salary $66k)
  • Detective/Criminal Investigator (avg salary $74k)
  • Elevator Installer/Repairer (avg salary $77k)

If after a couple of years of working you decide to go to college, you’ll be two years more mature, and you’ll have money in the bank to help you pay tuition. While wages are lower and unemployment is higher for those with only a high school degree, a little bit of elbow grease can go a long way. My own mom, for example, didn’t attend any form of college, but worked for a few years in various fast food and retail jobs before getting her real estate license and becoming an executive for multiple real estate companies and earning a wage much higher than the average person. Gumption and grit can in some cases take you further than a college degree. Speaking of real estate…

7. Sell real estate.

Becoming a real estate agent is one of the best options out there for young men not interested in 4 years of college, but who are interested in high income potential. For generally under $1,000, you can take a couple months of real estate courses, take a state licensing test, and start selling homes.

Real estate agents, on average, make $42k a year, which is on par for those with a degree. But your income potential is much higher than that. You get as much out of the career as you put into it – so if you work hard and hit the pavement, you’ll make plenty of money to keep you and your family happy. It’s also an appealing career choice because realtors are often home-based, and set their own hours, to a certain extent.

The downside of real estate is that you’ll likely end up working on many nights and weekends. People who work jobs with normal hours can only look at homes when they’re not working, and you’ll often be on the phone and filing contracts late into the evening to make sure your client gets their dream home.

While the housing downturn a few years back may turn off some folks to this career, the market is already starting to rebound, and the job growth is projected at 11% in the next decade, which is in-line with the job market as a whole.

Check out the National Association of Realtors for more info on becoming an agent.

8. Volunteer.


Volunteering for a year or two is a great way to not only give back and do some service, but to build your own character at the same time. Many people have dreams of living abroad or doing service for a year, only to realize after college that bills show up, spouses materialize, and soon after, babies start coming. There’s simply no better time than that year or two after high school to capitalize on your desire to have a little adventure and do some good in the world.

The Peace Corps is an option for international service, but the majority of assignments go to those with college degrees. If you haven’t attended college, they generally look for commensurate experience in the field you’ll be working in. Having said that, there are options for those with only a high school degree, so look into it.

AmeriCorps is a much better option for high school grads, although you are “limited” to service here in the U.S. Particularly, the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) program is a good fit for men aged 18-24, who want to serve for about one year. It’s a residential program, and you work in teams of 8-12, so you almost get a college feel, except you’re doing community projects instead of attending classes.

The AmeriCorps VISTA program is another good option. The set-up is a little bit different; you work for a year as basically an employee of a non-profit organization. You’re given a small stipend for housing and living costs, and that’s about it. I personally know several people who have done this program, and every single one has had a great experience.

A few other options for volunteer work after high school:

  • Conservation Corps – goes back to the days of the Great Depression and FDR’s New Deal. Much like AmeriCorps, you receive a small stipend for living expenses. The Conservation Corps tends to focus more on outdoorsy-type work.
  • Global Routes – an organization that sends young people to foreign countries for 12 weeks or so to perform service. The drawback of this program is that it’s a shorter-term commitment, and costs $4,000-$6,000 in “tuition.”
  • Catholic Volunteer Network – provides a wide range of volunteer opportunities, and has a great searchable database where you can specify that you’d be looking for opportunities that don’t require a college degree. You don’t have to be Catholic (or religious at all, for that matter) to take advantage of this network.

9. Join the military.


While many folks think of the ROTC program when they think of young folks in the military, that’s not the only option (although it is certainly a good one). There are around 100,000 18- and 19-year-olds who join the military right after high school. Beyond being a form of service, the practical benefits of being in the military are another reason to consider joining:

  • A salary that is on par with what a new college grad makes ($30-$45k).
  • Free health care for you and your family.
  • Little-to-no living costs, meaning you can save money faster.
  • Tuition is paid for while in service, should you decide to earn a degree at some point. (You have a variety of online learning options, and many military bases have satellite classrooms of prominent colleges so you never even have to leave post.) You can also take advantage of the GI Bill once your active service is complete, and get at least portions of your education paid for, depending on your time on active duty.
  • Travel the world – while certainly not the point of military service, this is a benefit that shouldn’t be ignored.
  • 30 days of vacation per year. The average for folks with 20+ years of service in the American civilian workforce is only 17 vacation days.
  • Retirement, with benefits, after 20 years of service. For an 18-year-old, that means you can retire at 38. While you likely won’t live off those benefits for the rest of your life, you’ll have much less to worry about financially.

There are a few requirements for joining military service:

  • Must be 18 to join, without parental consent. You can be 17 when enrolling if you have parental consent.
  • Must be a US resident (includes territories like Guam and Puerto Rico).
  • A high school degree is not required, but is strongly desired. GEDs are sometimes acceptable as well.
  • Pass the ASVAB Test – tests your comprehension in various categories like science, language, technical skills, mechanical skills, etc. It helps in assigning career roles within the military. The different branches have different passing scores for this test.
  • Pass a physical. Each branch has different requirements for height, weight, and body fat. You are also tested for various physical ailments that could handicap your service.

The learn more about joining the military, I’d recommend visiting two incredibly helpful websites: www.military.com and www.todaysmilitary.com.

10. Become an apprentice/fellow.

Peter Thiel – founder of PayPal, entrepreneur, and investor – has taken an interest in this discussion of the necessity of college. In 2011, he launched the Thiel Fellowship. Each year, he chooses 20 young men and women under the age of 20 to give $100,000 to in order to skip college and realize their visions and ideas. He says, “Rather than studying, you’re doing.” During the two-year program the fellows are mentored by some of the world’s top scientists, researchers, and business leaders. There are no specific definitions of a successful two years in the program, but most graduates of it have invented something or started a company.

Similar programs are popping up all over the country as people begin to realize the benefits of the age-old idea of apprenticeships:

  • Enstitute – provides full-time, paid apprenticeships for students aged 18-24.
  • Echoing Green – provides funding for young leaders who are passionate about social change.
  • TechStars – provides funding and guidance for entrepreneurs of any age in the technology industry.
  • UnCollege Gap Year – a really cool program that basically guides students through self-directed learning and growth. It does have tuition costs of $16,000, but the idea is that perhaps you’ll discover a different route for your career than a traditional college degree.

11. Attend a work college.

This option is close to being just another 4-year college, but with one crucial difference. You are actually required to work 10-15 hours a week to help pay your tuition. Because of that, at these work colleges, you pay significantly less in tuition, and in a few cases, you pay no tuition.

In all other regards, it’s a normal college experience, but you aren’t strapped with the debt that cripples so many students and their families. You also get the valuable experience that comes with working a job while also engrossed in your studies. These institutions admit you’ll probably work harder than at other schools, and have a harder time learning how to balance your responsibilities, but you’ll come through the other side stronger than most of your peers.

There are only seven federally recognized work college in the country, so your options are a bit more limited, but they are definitely worth considering. Learn more atwww.workcolleges.org.”

Design Challenge Assignment


For my design challenge assignment, i had my students design a “deus ex machina” solution for a real life problem. For those interested, the assignment sheet is at the end of this blog post. As a teacher, i thought that this lesson would be fun, revealing, educational, and a great opportunity for kids to showcase their individual talents and passions. As a student i found that all of that was pretty much true. I find that my one major failing as a lesson designer is that i fail to provide specifics and appropriate modeling for students. Unfortunately that was the case here as well. I think a decent portion of it is that i need the classroom and unit context to really be specific enough. The other is that being that specific requires a lot of surety in your lesson plans and i don’t have that.

I think that this project would also do really well in a more structured format. It really depends on the student level. A more advanced IB class would really enjoy the opportunity to make what they will of the material, whereas a freshman class might be more concerned with specific instructions. I found that i really enjoyed coming up with ridiculous solutions to problems, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier. Sometimes i found it easier to imagine a realistic solution because i understand the laws of our universe, whereas coming up with inventive solutions that were semi-plausible was a bit more difficult without rules to fall back on. I think that this assignment would be a great addition to a unit about plot devices or creative writing.

Design Challenge Assignment 1Design Challenge Assignment 2


Meet the Expert: Return to Anteroland


well here we are again, another session with Antero completed, and my brain is once more buzzing with ideas. Maybe you can tell just from the picture above, but Antero is one of those magical people who just *clicks* with everyone and everything. Though he would never admit to such talent, he always has something thoughtful and helpful to say about a given topic. He’s always personable and friendly, the kind of guy that you want to keep talking to for hours just because you’re enjoying what he’s saying so much. This time we talked about teacher advocacy.

We talked about including cultures in your classroom. The average classroom has students who speak multiple languages, come from different cultural and economic backgrounds, celebrate different holidays, practice different religions, have different learning strengths and weaknesses, and different interests and passions. Antero pointed out that as teachers we have a tendency to take control over our classroom space, and why wouldn’t we? it’s one of the things that most teachers look forward to – getting their own classroom space to decorate and plan out. But the classroom space isn’t just yours, it’s you students too. Antero talked a lot about incorporating elements from different cultures, interests, lifestyles, etc. things that reflect the demographics of your classroom and will make your students feel at home. At the same time, Antero warned us not to be presumptuous or make ignorant statements about other cultures. In fact, he told us not to be afraid of asking our students how they would like to see themselves represented in the classroom. It makes your students feel heard and allows you to incorporate different styles without being offensive.



On the other side of the equation, we talked about teacher advocacy. Teachers are often left out of the advocacy equation, but Antero pointed out, and this is something Cindy has been telling us all year, that teachers are humans too. As much as we need to be aware of, and caring for our students, we also need to be aware of our own health, needs, and abilities. Teacher’s go through tough times too, teachers need support for student death/illnesses, teachers need support for mental illness and phsycological problems, teachers need relaxation time and personal space. I thought that this was really important to remember. Teachers often burnout within a few years of the job, and i personally know that i tend to get obsessively involved in things i’m currently passionate about. It will be really important for me to take a step back and advocate for myself as well as my students. After all, teaching is a marathon, not a sprint.



“‘We want children to ask difficult questions, to engage so it is not boring, to be able to do algebra at an early age, sure, but also to see it for what it is: a tool for critical thinking. If their teachers can’t help them do this, well—’ Rifkin searched for the word that expressed her level of dismay. ‘It is a betrayal.'”

Education reform is always tricky. There is always going to be someone who isn’t happy with the new rules and regulations. As a future teacher, and as an advocate for my profession and school in general, i think that the ESSA is going to make my career very interesting. Theoretically, i will be entering the educational profession a year or so after ESSA goes into effect. I will experience the first stumbles and pitfalls of the act and will certainly be a part of the reform process for the act that will inevitably come down the road.

One subject hat has been of particular interest to me recently has been the subject of “New Math” and the integration of subjects in the classroom in general. All signs have been, and continue to point to individualized, connected, critical thought,  and creative learning being one of the most effective way to not only engage students in a subject, but also ensure understanding and learning in the classroom. The conversation has shifted from how to get the kids to connect with the subject, to getting the subject and teacher to connect with the kids. For many years teachers have been teaching according to the rules and regulations of their curriculum, school, and district rules. This means that when students deviate from the lesson or curriculum, they are often shut down, ignored, or relegated to special needs classrooms. The quote above really spoke to me because it emphasized learning from the student side of the equation. When we as teachers are not prepared to meet the individualized needs of our students, we are denying them access to education in a way that is effective for them. i am happy to see that ESSA will take into account that pure academic success is not the only measure for student success and ability. I hope that this will allow me to focus on my students’ needs and teach in a way that speaks to them.

How to Reform Schools

Everyone agrees that education needs reform. Students, teachers, parents, and everyday citizens all agree that schools need to change, but how? Apparently not everyone an agree on that. It’s actually surprising how many different ways people think schools should be reformed and function. Some organizations advocate for curriculum reform. Some advocate for student voice and student involvement in the running of schools. Some advocate for social justice and diversity. And others advocate for specific programs like writing, extra-curricular, and aid programs. Personally, i have a hard time deciding which way is the best. I can see where each group is coming from and understand why they think that their particular issue is most important. However, after reading through several websites that advocate for education reform, i can see my viewpoint shifting. Instead of choosing one way that is best, why can we not implement multiple modalities and areas of concentration in education reform in the same way that we would implement students, teachers, parents, and administrators ideas, and curriculum content into a single lesson.

Rethinking Schools is an organization that advocates for racial equity, diversity, humane practices, and democratic processes in the classroom. Rethinking schools puts out magazines and books with articles written by its supporters and leaders. Apart from donating to the cause, writing your own article about an issue in education that speaks to you, is probably the best way to get involved and participate in the movement. Rethinking Schools’ ultimate goal  is “The Common School”. A school that allows and nurtures the learning, interaction, and connection between diverse students with different backgrounds as students talk, play, and work together. Rethinking Schools also emphasizes democracy, and that the only way to instigate change and reform education, and even our society, is to work hard and make it happen.

The National Writing Project believes that reading and writing are extremely important at every grade level, and in every subject area. Through inservice programs, training programs, and “teacher-consultants”, the National Writing Project has been proven to increase performance in writing among students whose teachers participated in National Writing Project programs. The National Writing Project believes that it is the duty of teachers to be well informed upon, and to integrate both the practice and the study of the art of writing in classrooms across the board. The National Writing Project asks for donations to support the cause, but i wish that there was a more concrete way for me to get involved.

Students For Reform is a grassroots, social justice movement. College students learn about issues that are important to them and to the lives of students around the country, and complete project to raise awareness, implement change, and instigate education reform in all types of districts, states, and communities. Students For Reform is different from The National Writing Project and Rethinking Schools because it not only advocates for active student involvement in education reform, but was created and is led by college students around the country. Students For Reform believes that college students are uniquely positioned to both understand the needs of students and have the knowledge and power to instigate reform. I really liked that apart from asking for donations, Students For Reform gave me information on how to start my own chapter of the organization and bring educational reform into my community. Students For Reform thinks that education and schools should be affordable, applicable, and that teachers are responsible for providing good education to their students.

After exploring these websites i came to the conclusion that i couldn’t really pick just one way to reform education. Personally, i think that Students For Reform is the most relevant and self-aware organization out of the ones i researched. They seem to have a better handle on how and why education reform needs to happen. The National Writing Project and Rethinking Schools, while effective and important in their own ways, seem closed off and not interested in what students and the average citizen has to say about the way we run schools in America.

For Your Own Edification…

Though experience is a requirement for almost every job, and extensive training is often required to hold managerial and decision making positions, teaching is one profession where the people making the big decisions are not teachers. In fact some, if not most, of them have never been in a classroom within the past few decades, let alone in a teaching position. It’s no wonder that teachers are having a hard time teaching anymore. Practical knowledge and experience will always beat out reading and static understanding, and teaching is a profession where experience and practical work are paramount for success. Those who have never taught a class cannot understand what is required to teach effectively, and therin lies the problem.

Though we can’t upend the system on it’s head for the sake of those trying to gain an education in this transitional period, we can still do what we can to educate those who cannot or will not teach. This is the value of an open door policy for a teacher. You are on the front lines, you are practicing what is preached, and you understand the pitfalls and needs of students, teachers, and schools. One could say it is your duty to educate the masses as well as your students. Oftentimes when doors are opened, and curtains pulled back, people will notice and care.  We are rarely interested in what is not under our noses and in front of our faces, and if you keep what goes on in your classroom under wraps you breed suspicion, ignorance, and misunderstanding.

Though you don’t have to explain every step of your process, or relate every difficulty you encounter, I think that at least being willing to share with those who ask will help others to understand and care about issues in education; whether the issue is as small as your classroom, or as big as economic inequality, no one can help or care if they don’t know and understand. And as someone who understands and knows the issues better than most, I think it is important and necessary for teachers to teach about teaching, not just English and math. And you should listen, for your own edification if nothing else.