I've spent a lot of my spare time lately producing audio podcasts. I love podcasts and I love podcasting. Earlier this year I launched a YouTube channel because I started thinking about the feelings involved in having a conversation with someone face to face, looking at someone's eyes when they are speaking to you. I've gone back and forth on whether audio or video is best for different content. I've thought about this a lot. For now, I've decided to focus my efforts, for the type of content that I want to consume and create, on audio.
After two videos on YouTube I started producing more podcasts. Right now I'm publishing PsychTech and Headshots on alternating weeks and Geek Therapy every week. Plus I'm on Rolling for Change. I think about video content all the time but I end up recording an audio podcast instead. I'll make more videos, that's just not my priority right now.
My friend Ali Mattu has a YouTube channel called The Psych Show. I've watched his work closely, helped a little here and there, and discussed with Ali different ways I could help the channel grow. Then I had the idea to start a Psych Show Podcast... Yes, an audio show related to a video show. See? My brain is thinking in audio now.
I submitted a panel idea to SXSWedu titled "Audio or Video for Social Science Education" (click here to vote for it) as a way for me and Ali to have an informed audio vs video debate. The SXSWedu panel now has a variety of voices on it with different experiences in psychology audio and video programming. I regret not using the word 'edutainment' in the title instead of education but I'm excited to have the opportunity to present this topic at SXSWedu and I hope it happens. I would love to show up there with comparison of The Psych Show video vs audio content but we have enough to work with either way.
I'm looking forward to working on different formats. My ultimate goal is for Geek Therapy to become a storytelling show and I want to get better at telling stories so I'm always looking for stories to tell. I plan to work on more content like that very soon.
I've worked at a handful of schools over the past 5 years as both a counselor and a teacher and I've been shocked by how aggressive some teachers are. I've seen teachers so aggressive and verbally abusive that I would only hire them to play a prison guard in a movie, not even for a real prison. Some of those teachers were so loud that you could hear them through walls in the hallways, which means that other people were obviously aware. Other teachers talked about it. But nothing happened. Why?!
This has been on my mind this weekend way more than usual because yesterday I saw a video that was going around of a teacher who "lashed out" at a first grader at a charter school here in NYC. The teacher appears aggressive and unreasonable. She appears to be furious at a little girl, probably 6 years old, for not following instructions on a math assignment. Here is the video:
It's difficult to watch because the child is so small but I realized I'm quite jaded about all of this because my first thought was "I've seen much, much worse."
Then today I was watching an episode of DC's Legends of Tomorrow titled White Knights and I see the older Martin Stein violently yelling at the younger Jefferson Jackson, you know, for his own good. Once Jackson walks away Stein admits to another character that hurting Jackson is the only way to get through to him.
First of all, let's not ignore that in both of these situations it's a White "teacher" yelling at a younger Black "student." But I've seen this scenario in every possible mix of race and gender you can imagine. It transcends race. It's a power dynamic in which the person in power is aggressive and violent, often justified by their role or position.
In an effort to take my mind off of this for a bit I started doing some chores and put on a podcast. So I'm listening to episode 56 of the Kinda Funny Gamescast which had on as a special guest my favorite teacher-turned-rapper Mega Ran and suddenly he says "I was kind of a mean teacher... I was mean... You have to be with 12-year-olds... They say you don't smile 'til Christmas when you're a teacher...You have to do that every day until they get in a structure where they're like 'Oh my god, he might kill us'... You gotta build a level of trust and structure before you can divert from it."
Thanks for helping me get my mind off of it Mega Ran!
So being "mean" and scaring students is how you build trust? When did it become ok to be mean and yell at kids in school? And why the fuck are some adults being bullies and incredibly aggressive to kids while administrators stand by and do nothing?
This is a serious problem and there is some research out there on it but I don't think there is nearly enough. And we don't talk about it enough. We are sending kids to school every day and it's possible that one of the many adults we expect to take care of them are in fact behaving in such a way that has traumatic effects.
As a teacher, I've found myself thinking that if I didn't raise my voice like the other teacher, the kids wouldn't listen to me. In fact, I was always surprised to see soft-spoken "nice" teachers yelling at the top of their lungs in order to get a group of kids to do something. This spirals out of control and you end up creating a culture of teachers who feel that they have to yell or students who think that they only really have to comply if the teacher is yelling. It's actually way more complicated than that and there are many factors involved.
My biggest concern is that verbally aggressive teachers will continue to harm children because administrators have other priorities or rather not lose the staff, or who knows what else. Why do some schools have zero-tolerance standards for students and not all schools have zero-tolerance standards for teachers.
In my counseling practice I offered discounts to teachers because I know how hard their jobs can be. I loved the idea that I could help a teacher change his or her behavior so that dozens of students could benefit from a less stressed, happier teacher who could deal with difficult emotions in a healthier way.
And there are way healthier ways to "get through" to kids and build trust that don't involve yelling and being aggressive. I'm going to try and do a better job of calling it out and doing something about it because I believe that this may be the worst part of going to school and not enough people are talking about it.
Today was a very bittersweet day. I spent the last six months developing a hackerspace at a middle school but today was my last day there.
Hackerspaces and makerspaces can look very different depending on who is running them and mine was an open tech and digital media workshop. So I had students learning game design, website design, 3D modeling, video production, and a lot of experimentation. My goal was to help my students discover and play with new technology and learn that they too could make cool stuff. Visiting the Maker Faire in NY was definitely a highlight of my time with these students.
It's always difficult to leave something in the middle of a cycle. In this case I'm leaving in the middle of the school year and I wish I could have stayed until the end of the year when goodbyes are expected and a natural part of the process. But as last days and goodbyes go, this one wasn't bad at all.
I recently set up a game appreciation club at the school too so I was able to spend my last hours at the school playing Super Smash Bros on Wii U, 8 players at a time, with 6th and 7th graders. I can't think of a more fun way to say goodbye to my students. We had fun and I got the chance to say goodbye to everyone again while we laughed and screamed at the TV.
My only hope is that my students understand that I always enjoyed my time with them, seeing them learn and grow, and that my leaving had nothing to do with any of them. Each of them made leaving a lot harder and I hope my replacement eventually cares about them as much as I do.
I haven't met many people who fall asleep when they are bored the way that I do.
For years I felt that falling asleep was entirely out of my control and it happened at very inconvenient times. Namely at school and at work. I once fell asleep at a museum... standing up, leaned against a column...
It wasn't until at the age of 29 that falling asleep at work was such a problem that I decided to seek an evaluation. At the time I was working exclusively as a therapist and I loved working with clients and my team. It was the paperwork that followed every interaction that was so mind-numbing for me that was a problem. It was so bad that eventually just the thought of doing the paperwork made me drowsy. Many times I would start the paperwork and wake up hours later.
The reason I sought an evaluation was for anxiety. I was starting to fear that I might lose my job because of what felt like an inability to complete a very important part of my role. It wasn't until I met with a few psychotherapists that I realized that my anxiety made perfect sense but it was the drowsiness that was the real problem.
It feels so strange to reflect on how blind I was to all of this, especially being a therapist myself, but the drowsiness I felt when bored was something that I accepted as a part of who I was and I unconsciously worked around it for most of my life. Now that there was no way around doing this type of very boring work did I have a real problem.
I now have a much better understanding of how my brain works and how to work around this and I want to talk more about that in the future. For now, I just wanted to share my story in hopes that other people who experience something similar can learn that they are not alone.
I just posted my first video on YouTube... Why would I do such a thing?
I bought a nice camera 3 years ago because I wanted to make videos for my psychotherapy clients. I wanted to have a library of content available for them to review between our sessions. For a number of reasons I decided it might be better to have an audio library and ultimately I did neither.
For the last year I've been doing PsychTech which I record with my co-host every week in a very strange way because we don't see each other. In fact, due to seeing each other in person only twice and my self-diagnosed mild face-blindness I think the chances are very good that I might see her on the street and not realize it was her. I've been thinking about how different our conversations would be if we were in the same room or at the very least could see each other.
Then I kept thinking about the feeling of talking to someone and how jarring it is when you're watching a video and someone looks away from the camera. That's what finally pushed me to think about starting a YouTube channel again: Talking with people. Even if the conversations don't happen in real time.
It feels good to finally have a channel. It is another outlet for sharing information. It is a creative outlet. It is a way to challenge myself in new ways. I also love having the option to present a story or lesson in multiple formats and for different audiences.
So my YouTube channel is very much for me but in many ways it is still a version of the original plan to have a collection of resources I could point people to. It will be less clinical than what I planned years ago but hopefully it will be just as helpful when enough content is up.
Here is my first video:
I don't have a degree or any certifications in education but I've been teaching in high schools and middle schools, in some capacity, for the last 2 years.
I'm still a licensed counselor, I still coach, but a few years ago I got the idea that my work with clients was missing something, I didn't know what it was but I couldn't stop thinking about it. Eventually I came to believe that the answer might lie in education so I looked for opportunities to teach. I was willing to teach anything to anyone in a traditional classroom setting and then the strangest opportunity presented itself for me to teach Spanish at a private high school. I thought I might teach college, maybe some professional workshops, and although I considered teaching Spanish in some form I did not plan on teaching high school students.
I embraced the classroom because I wanted to conduct informal, hands-on research on teaching and learning, specifically to use different forms of educational technology in the hopes of bringing what I learned back into my counseling and coaching work. It only took a few months for me to come up with a few new hypotheses and while I think my research is valuable I want to take it to the next level and do more formal research with a university or research institute.
It's hard to conduct research with everything that goes on in a classroom, in a school, and in communities. I don't regret going all-in on my covert research mission but I do wonder how much better the research would be if I wasn't also teaching and vice versa.
A while back I saw a video on YouTube featuring my (now) friend Kelli Dunlap giving a presentation at PAX East 2013. I liked it a lot and invited her to be on the Geek Therapy Podcast. Although her dog can be heard snoring through most of the episode... I really enjoyed talking to her and the work she does.
In January Kelli saw an episode of Black Mirror and told me she wanted to discuss it but I somehow talked her into creating a whole new podcast. And thus, PsychTech: The Psychology and Technology Podcast was born. We've recorded over 30 episodes and it has been a lot of fun.
Check it out and let me know what you think. One of my favorite early episodes is titled "I Know Kung Fu... But I Forgot It" and it's about how great it would be to upload information to your brain but also how unreliable human memory can be.
Kelli is pretty cool. She has a PsyD plus she's getting a degree in game design. She runs a Halo esports community called GriffballHub with her husband and she blogs here. If you see Kelli, tell her I said hi.
As of August, 2015 I am now back in New York City. I used to live here, specifically in Queens but now I'm living in Brooklyn. I missed you NYC!
While in North Carolina I did a lot of great things including running my own counseling practice for two years and teaching at a high school. In NY I'll be shifting my focus a little to more technology and digital media work and setting up a coaching practice vs a counseling practice. (More on that later.)
Charlotte, NC was great, I have few complaints but there is something about living in a big city that makes you feel like almost anything is within your reach. I don't mean that it is empowering but that everything is here, in some form. Anything you want to see or learn, is accessible here. Even if there is someone you want to see in person, such as an author or a performer, chances are that that person will pass through here at some point.
It's expensive and it's loud... but I missed it.
Mark Waid is one of my favorite comic book writers. At one point I looked back on my comic-reading history and realized that so many books I loved were written by him and I didn't realize it. He's written a lot of great stuff. If you want a taste, try Kingdom Come or Superman: Birthright.
My friend Patrick O'Connor and I have repeatedly discussed Mark's Incorruptible and Irredeemable books. I argue that Incorruptible is a great story about how difficult it can be to strive for perfection and the strange, very personal reasons why we sometimes want to do "what's right."
O'Connor came up with the idea of discussing the two books with Mark Waid at a comic book convention. Mark agreed and the three of us shared a stage at San Diego Comic Con on July 11, 2015. It was great! I was nervous but Mark is a really nice guy and it was great to have a chance to ask him about the books. I think the best part was how it was obvious that O'Connor favors Irredeemable but I like Incorruptible much more.
I'm adding this one to my list of Greatest Hits. Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen and if you were there, let me know if you enjoyed it!
Last year I was invited to go to the city of Bogotá in Colombia to talk about comic books and psychology. I had no idea what to expect and I had more than one contingency plan in place, just in case things didn't go as expected on the two week long trip.
To be honest, I really didn't know who Herb Trimpe was in the comic book world until I found out he was going to be a part of this event I was going to. Herb Trimpe was the first person to draw Wolverine and he drew the Hulk for years. When people picture a classic rendition of the Hulk, that's Herb's Hulk.
For two weeks we stayed at the same hotel and saw each other almost every day, even if just for a second in the lobby. I wouldn't say we became friends, we never spoke after the Colombia trip, but spending time with him and his wife Patricia was one of the highlights of my trip.
My first impression of Herb was that he was mad for some reason. He had, at first glance, in my opinion, one of those "bitchy resting faces" that made me not want to approach him. It turns out that Herb was incredibly warm and nice and funny and everybody I met loved him. I'm serious, everybody said the nicest things about him and they were all true. He was also a very "no-bullshit" type of guy. I really liked him.
He was in his 70's and still going to conventions, signing autographs, and doing commissions. More than once in that two week period I saw him sitting alone in the hotel's restaurant area finishing up commissions. And if we went to eat somewhere and he was recognized he would draw something on a napkin for a fan. It didn't seem to bother him and he and his wife seemed to really enjoy all of it.
He told me a story about how he once made a huge AT-AT with moving parts, out of wood, for one of his kids. He seemed really proud of it. He seemed really proud of his art too. I heard him say a few times that working in comics was just a job and it wasn't until later in life that he realized that his work really mattered to people. Then it mattered to him.
I only knew Herb Trimpe for two weeks but I'm so happy that I got to meet him and hang out with him. It was an honor. I've still got a lot of his work to see and I look forward to swapping Herb stories with fellow fans for many, many years.