Tag Archives: Games

Home Sick

I’m taking my first ever sick day today and that seemed monumental enough in my personal life to write a blog post about it.

When I was growing up, I hated missing school. I hated the catch-up required after being out for even a day, hated copying friends’ notes, hated missing the jokes and the banter. I’m also bad at sitting around at the best of times so being stuck at home has never worked for me. Right now, I’m wearing jeans and a sweater and all the jewelry that I normally wear. The only unusual thing is that my hair is in a ponytail and I’m wearing glasses.

When my roommate got home last night, she took one look at me and said, “You need to be horizontal right now.” I finally listened to her around 9:30pm. Today, I’ve spent most of my time on the couch wrapped in a heavy shawl that I sometimes use as a blanket. I’ve been reading but also doing the school prep that needs to be done whether I’m at work or not. And because I can’t stay home all day without losing my mind, I added the library and a vegan sushi restaurant that makes delicious spicy soup to my errands for the day. The more practical errands of doctor and pharmacy, I’ll have you know, also made the list.

I think much of my disdain for staying home sick stems from my childhood experience with illness. My mother is one of the toughest people I know and I was lucky enough to have her as a stay-at-home mum for my school years; she went back to work when I was finishing high school. She never let a sick child prevent her from doing whatever needed to be done that day. And when you, the sick child, had the misfortune to have walking pneumonia in sixth or eighth grade, you were deemed too young to stay home alone and take care of yourself so you might as well rally and join mum at the grocery store. So you did. (The third time I had walking pneumonia was while traveling in Norway. When I woke up with pink eye my parents finally decided we could probably skip a tour of Oslo City Hall and visit an urgent care clinic instead.)

So that’s the backstory of why staying home from work is a big deal.


I felt myself getting sick over the weekend but one of my best friends was in town so I joined the rest of the gang and explored some pretty cool haunts around the city:

I asked the bartender about the Public Displays of Affection sign on the right. If you want to buy someone a drink, you’re welcome to do it by filling out the required information on this chalkboard. How fun! I was tempted just because I like chalk.

Next door to Harlem Public is a neat spot called At the Wallace, which has board games, arcade games, giant Connect Four, giant Jenga, shuffleboard . . . and a whiteboard wall with markers in the bathroom! Couldn’t resist taking a picture of my graffiti. The ceiling was plastered with old National Geographic covers and the walls with photobooth pictures. We meant to take one but completely forgot after taking over a table in the corner that was also a PacMan console.


I’ve never been in a bar as it opens for the day, but had a delicious Irish coffee in the silent Swift before brunch on Saturday:

Neat mural in the East Village on the way to brunch at Vic’s:

Old firehouse across the street from said mural:

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It turned out to be quite the weekend for games! We played a lot of giant Jenga and giant Connect Four but I also had fun photographing the flashing lights of arcade games at Pioneer’s, a Chelsea establishment full of couches, armchairs, and coffee tables that provides free popcorn and allows food delivery:

And then there was some solitary wandering in midtown on Sunday because, though feeling poorly, I figured I might as well do the shopping that I dislike equally while healthy:

Loved the shadows – I think this is St. Bartholomew’s but it might also be St. Patrick’s
International Building at Rockefeller Center
Really quite pleased with the lighting in this one!

And there you have it! A recap of my first professional sick day and the really fun weekend that led up to it. I’m on steroids for a nasty rash that is (mercifully) hidden under layers of clothing and as long as I have a cup of tea practically glued to my hand and avoid talking, my throat feels okay. My students yesterday were so helpful with my inability to speak and I hope they were as good to the sub today as they usually are to me. I’m sure I’ll hear all about it tomorrow.

The Perfect School Day

It’s probably clear from this blog by now that education is very (dare I say “increasingly”?) important to me. I’ve written a lot about education in general, and more specifically on the purpose of education. Much of what prompted those posts came from reflection and discussion with a friend when I was working in Singapore. 

Here are some of my past writings on education:

We’ve also literally written thousands of unpublished words on the topic, including over 10,000 words in an unfinished e-book that has been on the back burner for months, but spurred on most of my education-related thinking over the past year or so. I’ve rethought a lot of what I “knew” about school, teachers, and students and I’m excited about the possibility of true education reform.

So with all the abstract philosophical thought on the topic and much reviewing of the educational literature, here is a complete “perfect day” of secondary school as my friend and I envision it.

The Daily Schedule
9:00 AM – Start of school. This isn’t super important, other than it isn’t super early. Many high school students naturally sleep in a bit later due to staying up later and there really isn’t any reason to begin at 7:00 AM.

9:00-10:30 AM – Reading. Ideally this is aimed at current local, national, international, or global problems with current events from the news or other texts. The goal is simply to be aware at the beginning of each day of the suffering that is taking place all around us. This is not done to instill pessimism, but to inspire compassion – the desire to alleviate suffering in others. Literature that deals with human created suffering such as Frankenstein make for good selections during this time as well.

Conversation. This is a time to discuss what’s been read and share what interests and engages us. There can be a specific topic for this first hour, say sex trafficking of women around the world, or more open-ended reading of current affairs and sharing issues of personal interests. The aim is simply to engage in meaningful conversation about the state of the world with the purpose of refining ever more acutely what causes suffering and understanding the variety of contexts that contribute to it.

Investigation. This is a time to investigate what solutions have been generated for the causes of suffering we’ve been reading and discussing and to figure out what we can do as individuals, a group, and a community (both locally and societally) to alleviate it. This should spur lots of insight and opportunities for the social entrepreneurship block to come later in the day as possible gaps are identified in current attempts to deal with issues. Students might investigate political, economic, social, or technological solutions that have been attempted to deal with world problems.

10:30-11:00 AM – Break. This is a time to simply relax, have a snack if needed and transition to the next phase of the day.

11:00 AM-12:30 PM  – Physical education. This is a time for strength training, cardiovascular training, mobility training, and other athletics. This is also an opportunity to meet in small groups or one-on-one to discuss nutrition, mental health, and emotional health in order to increase and monitor overall well-being. The aim is pragmatic, how do we take care of ourselves as humans?

12:30-1:10 PM – Lunch.

1:10-2:40 PM – Social entrepreneurship. This is a time to work collaboratively on projects that aim to alleviate suffering and improve the world. Creativity, service, design, innovation, STEM, and business skills are intermingled in order to develop projects and programs that would have the greatest possible impact in any particular area. All members of the school community spend this time actively engaged in social entrepreneurship work, which could also include supporting one another’s enterprises, meeting with community partners and facilitators, and working off campus. This is also an opportunity to attend roundtable discussions to present work completed so far and elicit feedback from others, as well as figure out collaborative partnerships.

2:40-3:00 PM – Break.

3:00-4:30 PM – Personal growth and well-being. This is a time to end the day on a positive note, examining personal strengths, goals, and psychological states. This is also time to follow individual passions, such as reading literature, playing music, learning languages, creative writing, playing sports, making videos, blogging, or simply relaxing. The rejuvenation that comes from this part of the day will help the following day to commence with similar excitement. Engagement and flow should occur often and students can leave for the day feeling charged and full of zeal.

A Day in the Life of a Student
“Air pollution increases amidst warnings.”
“Migrants face deportation.”
“Refugees seek urgent medical care”

Maia stretches and looks up. It’s nearly 9:30, the end of the half-hour reading block that begins the day. Maia, her peers, and their teachers have been together as a team for the past year and a half. While they don’t always agree on how to most effectively tackle the suffering in the world, they care for each other and about those around them.

Soon, there’s enough movement to indicate that the readers are ready to talk. They readjust themselves around the room, remaining comfortable, but better able to see and hear each other.

“I’ve been reading a lot about climate change today.” The comment comes from a student perched on an ottoman next to a stack of books with titles like The Age of Sustainable Development.

“Did you see the New York Times article on the summit?” Maia asks, still sitting against the wall. “There’s a picture of the Doomsday Clock in my head.”

“I thought Canada put up a particularly strong stance, actually, and that might push other countries to follow through with caps on emissions.” A student new to the group states, sitting at a desk.

“That’s pretty broad, though,” says a student on the floor near Maia. “Yesterday, I read a lot of this book on the Copenhagen Consensus and there are real proposals that real people are working on, but it’s hard to tell whether emission caps are actually more effective than other suggestions, like bioengineering. On the one hand, it’s an easier sell. So maybe that’s better than nothing.”

The conversation continues for about thirty minutes and covers a range of topics from climate change to micronutrient deficiencies in small children. As always, the focus is on understanding why suffering occurs. Gradually, students return to their laptops and put in headphones, ready to move on from discussion.

Feeling agency to act is important. Maia and several classmates have lately been investigating vaccination efforts in Africa. They read Half the Sky together earlier in the year, which prompted questions about sex trafficking due to poverty, leading to a foray into tropical diseases. When they come across a new report on Ebola, one group member calls over a teacher to ask about virus mutations while others gather around a YouTube video explaining the science.

After about thirty minutes, it’s time to stop. Maia has learned to monitor her body for fatigue and tries to pause in her work before reaching a point of frustration. While some stay to continue working, Maia needs a half-hour of relaxation and maybe some frisbee. She takes an apple out of her bag and joins a loud group of friends on their way outside.

Frisbee leaves Maia feeling warmed up and ready to keep moving. She has a meeting with a nutrition counselor at 11, the beginning of the physical education block. After a long exploration of ethics and sentience, Maia has decided to become a vegetarian and wants guidance on her new diet. If she can’t take care of herself, she can’t make the world a better place. A guidance counselor taught her that last year after she experienced a series of anxiety attacks. After her meeting, Maia joins a group of classmates for a trail run in the woods on the edges of campus.

When they get back to the gym, Maia heads straight to her favorite coach. She wants to add mobility training to keep her hips mobile for the barbell squats she already does with the hope of squatting one and a half times her own body weight. She found a series of exercises online and asks for help with her form. The gym begins to clear out around 12:30 as students freshen up before lunch.

The afternoon campus is unrecognizable from the calm of the morning. Teachers, students, and community members are everywhere, all working on a myriad of social entrepreneurship projects. Maia’s group is putting together an education campaign about vaccination. They’ve partnered with another group focusing on fundraising efforts to implement the campaign. Each group takes a turn updating the other on what they’ve accomplished since their last check-in two weeks earlier. A teacher joins the groups to ask whether they’ve contacted any humanitarian aid agencies, which Maia’s group adds to their task list. Across the room, a few students and teachers are gathered around a whiteboard with a series of questions: “How do we create vaccines? What are they? Are there vaccines we don’t have, but would like to have? What’s been done to create them? Can we try making one?” Pointing this out to her group members, Maia joins in the discussion. This could be another good partnership.

It’s 2:45 by the time Maia’s group decides to stop for the day. They have a “next steps” action plan that should get them through the rest of the week. Other groups have already paused in their social entrepreneurship work and gone back outside to take a break.

Maia returns to her locker for her yoga mat and makes her way to an open studio space. After learning about yoga and meditation from a friend last year, Maia started an afternoon yoga class during the personal growth block. At the beginning of class, she invites each person to check in with themselves and set an intention for their practice. They’ll be in this space for an hour so she encourages them to focus on altruism, approaching each person with the goal of enhancing their overall well-being in every interaction.

After class, Maia steps over a robot whizzing down the hallway and follows the sounds of yelling and cheering to a room at the end of the hall. Someone mentioned a new virtual reality video game and maybe these are the people to ask about it.

At 4:30, Maia joins the waves of students leaving campus. She feels content, optimistic about the work she’s doing, and already looking forward to meeting with her project group again tomorrow. She makes a mental note to see what the team of teachers has been working on; she hasn’t really talked with them this week. Maia flips through her phone to a podcast recorded daily by a group of students.

“Good afternoon,” the host begins. “Thanks for joining us on What to Be. Today’s special guest is the executive chef at a local restaurant that provides job training and childcare for mothers.”

Maia smiles. That chef is a friend who graduated two years ago. Cool.

Final Thoughts
The actual blocked timing of much of this day ought to be more flexible than is written out here. It’s important that students learn how to manage their time and what is important. If they are fully wrapped up in a project they are working on involving social entrepreneurship, it is in no way urgent that they stop so they can move onto the final chunk of the day focused on personal growth and well-being; they are almost certainly already feeling a sense of personal growth and well-being if they are truly engaged in the project and feel a deep sense of meaning and purpose. Let them continue on.

The shape of this day is designed so that students can be exposed to problems early, work hard on thinking about and reflecting on them, take a break to physically recharge with exercise and food, move onto solving problems and creating value in the world for others, and then finish with some personal “me” time that explores what gives each of us pleasure and a sense of well-being. They will be prepared to act as responsible citizens who can think critically and participate in civic debates while also being ready for employment that is purposeful and creative. When not acting as citizens or employees they will understand how to relax and enjoy themselves in personal activities that contribute to a sense of rejuvenation and flow.

Learn, exercise, connect, create, be. Do our students really need to focus on anything else?


One of my new pastimes here in Seremban is playing badminton. Badminton is a very popular and competitive sport throughout Southeast Asia and there’s a really nice court near school. A group has been playing Tuesday nights for about 6 weeks now, perhaps longer. Two weeks ago, one of the other girls and I decided to join them and we had a great time! We had an open day at school yesterday and five of us got through the day by counting the hours until we were allowed to leave and go play badminton. It’s a great workout and I find myself improving noticeably each time we play.

Those who know me know that I am not an athletic person. I run primarily because I can do that without disappointing anyone else and without having to focus on throwing, catching, or hitting, all of which involve hand-eye coordination that, sadly, I lack. I’ve been playing a lot of pool here, too, because there are pool tables in the bars that we frequent most often. I’m not good, not even a little bit, but it’s a lot of fun.

The most recent game I’ve learned to play is darts. Previously, I’d simply thrown darts at a dartboard because I was with someone who wanted to throw darts at a dartboard. Unless I’m very much mistaken, those dartboard were usually in friends’ basements and magnetic or something that wouldn’t damage walls. Darts involves aiming, which is hard for me. That’s also my problem with pool, I think. But I’m more competitive with myself than I am with other people, so it works out okay.

The apartments we were promised are still under construction, but we’ve asked for a pool table and dart board in the communal space. With any luck, I’ll be a better player when I leave Malaysia than I was when I arrived.