Peacebuilding, Education, Tech


Why I Want to Be a Software Engineer

Why I Want to Be a Software Engineer

Silence on the other end of the phone. “Are you even good with computers? You don’t seem like a techy kind of person.” My friend was understandably incredulous of what I had just told her: I want to be a software engineer. I am an […]

The Rotation Braid

The Rotation Braid

I started recording myself talking through the PEDAC method out loud, and it is a disaster. I know that I am not a verbal processor – I tend to write everything first or see it written in my mind’s eye. I even sometimes imagine that […]

Thank You to Teaching

Thank You to Teaching

We balked when the Career Counselor at my college told us that the average person changes careers – not just jobs, but careers – 11 times in their lifetime. I remember thinking that this number was a little drastic. However, in the decade since my college graduation, I have already had 3 different career paths, and I am studying for my 4th.

My past career lasted for four years. What a crazy four years! I want to take some time to thank my teaching career for all that it has given me.

Dear High School English Teacher Career,

I was warned about you before we met. I was told you would be draining, and I was told I probably would not sleep. These things were true, and I will not miss you for these reasons. You’re not sustainable. However, you taught me some valuable skills and life lessons that I wouldn’t have ever learned otherwise:

I learned how to work hard. I worked very hard in high school, college, and in my first two careers. However, it was always work that, while overwhelming in its own way, eventually gave breaks that allowed me to recharge. You, on the other hand, did not let me rest. I was “on” all the time, which pushed me beyond the bounds of what I thought I was capable of. I learned to do one thing at a time and let go of being perfect. I learned to balance a million tasks and not let myself be paralyzed by the sheer amount of things left to do. In fact, you remind me more of my first job at a coffee shop, closing, exhausted while washing endless greasy dishes and then having to clean up again after the inconsiderate late arrivals, turning off my own emotions to provide customer service with a smile. Again, unsustainable, but useful to the extent that I now know my limits. I say no to what I can, and hold loosely what I cannot. I prioritize, and in your case, that was always the students’ learning. Did I get every random administrative task completed on time? No. But was I prepared for making each class the best for learning, to the best of my ability? Always. I don’t regret that. Their learning was the best part, anyway. Grading sucked, and dealing with administrative tasks let’s not even talk about, but researching and developing the plan for the class, seeing how it connects with students, seeing faces light up with understanding, seeing tangible growth, then quickly shifting gears and flexibly changing up the plan if it isn’t working – this is thrilling. I felt alive and whole-hearted. Thank you for this rewarding challenge that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I discovered my love for my next career. You provided me with the motivation to research how to make my administrative tasks easier, more efficient. I developed projects and homework using technology that would help me grade it faster (and avoid plagiarized work from students). I completed administrative tasks with more accuracy and ease because I developed materials and even an Excel program to help me keep track of things. I researched those skills and discovered along the way that I felt a sense of “flow” while patiently working on a tedious, problem-solving-heavy, technology-based solution to whatever I needed. I can only compare it to getting lost in a good book, or perhaps writing an essay. Difficult, deeply satisfying fun. I might have arrived at this conclusion eventually, but you provided me with the need that led to this discovery.

I love literature, I love writing, and I love reading. Thank you for reminding me (again) how fun it is to analyze and appreciate the beauty of literature, and to be able to share that love with others.

I don’t think I want to be in a job that is so emotionally draining ever again. I never really felt like you valued the contributions that I made, but I don’t blame you. The education system is soul-sucking in so many ways, and I was just one more casualty on a long list. I am thankful for the individual students who expressed their appreciation and feedback, and I am thankful for the lesson that learning is a life-long endeavor.

Let’s just be friends.


Creative Logic

Creative Logic

It’s a sea of methods in Ruby.

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock!

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock!

Breaking down a problem seems slower, but it helps speed up the process in the long run. I lived this firsthand when making the game Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock.

Rubocop Musings

Rubocop Musings

“Whoooa there! Slow down and pay attention to indentations!”

Rubocop is a nifty tool to make sure everything in your Ruby program is formatted correctly. I love the idea – it reminds me of one of my favorite programs for students, Grammarly, which shows them their spelling and grammatical errors. I also enjoy, my go-to source for citing sources in MLA format.

“Ms., this needs to be in MLA format, right?” Yes, yes, young chillun. Always.

Standards are important for code readability. I understand the importance of standards – as an English teacher, I have had to read upwards of 120 essays at a time, and every little formatting deviance compounds to make a huge difference in my ability to understand the most important part of each essay: the ideas themselves.

My students learn that standards allow them to be free. Rules give you freedom. It’s a paradox, I know. But I will not be judging them based on the kind of font they use, or if they have a fancy cover page or an expensive plastic cover, or the fact that the text is justified instead of left-aligned (and therefore seems “longer”). If their text looks exactly the same as everyone else’s, it is more difficult to tell who wrote it, and this is a good thing because Bias. (If I taught in a college setting, I would require them to put their student ID instead of their name. For reals.)

Standards help me, the evaluator, to determine the grade to give the essay based on the power of their ideas instead of judging the book by its cover. Standards promote equality and justice because they allow for a wider, more universal comprehension and a blank slate where the ideas can shine for themselves.

(I am obliged to point out that this is for academic essays only. Creative writing is a different beast.)

So I’m all on board with Rubocop. Tell me what I did wrong! Yay feedback! I watched the LaunchSchool example video and saw that the speaker only had about 4 offenses (the Rubocop term for deviations from the standards). I figured I might have a few more.

I ran the analyzer on my program. And I received…

87 offenses! Yikes!

Things I learned from this process (because “Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed”):

  • It is easier to fix errors as you go than all at the end. I think I might run Rubocop earlier and more regularly. Figuring out where all the white spaces are is annoying, and changing out the ” symbol for ‘ is &%$!. I could probably write some kind of code to fix it all at once, but I’m not sure how to do that yet. So it’s good to know as soon as possible what works, what doesn’t, and what things need to be changed. Launch School really recommends breaking the problems down and being systematic.
  • I really liked being able to highlight a block of code and indent it all at once in order to make a loop, but it created whitespace, so… this is why planning is important.
  • I learned how to make a block of code shorter by using one-liners for my if statements.
  • Formatting helps readability. It really did look better when I was done.


American Dream

American Dream

Here is the story of a young woman I know who decided to go to the US undocumented. She is a young, very hard-working single mother who lives with her family, has a steady job as a teacher at a private school, and has a university degree. Yet she wants to go on this dangerous journey. What is wrong with this picture?

Reconsidering the Migration Narrative in Honduras

Reconsidering the Migration Narrative in Honduras

Is a lack of positive thinking the reason that so many people are leaving Honduras?

Peacebuilding Thoughts

Peacebuilding Thoughts

“I just want to be able to provide for myself and my family, and be able to give back to my community.”

The young woman looked at the group of young people surrounding her. They nodded, understanding.

It is hard to provide for your family when you don’t have a job because you can’t get back to your neighborhood when your shift is over.

It is hard to provide for yourself if you have to shut down your business because the local gangs are asking for a “war tax.”

It is hard to provide for your family when you lose your job after the store that hired you goes out of business because of the riots related to the recent election scandal.

It is hard to provide for your family when your little siblings spill your materials for making shoes all over the floor because you don’t have the money to rent a workspace.

The struggles that face young people in my neighborhood are many. It is hard for them to get and keep a job. It is even harder to begin a business. It takes courage and huge effort in the face of overwhelming challenges.

So when they tell us that they want to begin a project, we listen.

Peacebuilding is so often like planting crops. A missionary who has a sustainable farm in a rural part of Honduras told me that farmers should be called “micro-organism shepherd,” because that’s the real power behind the magic of growing crops. Micro-organisms in the soil are the real farmers. They are doing all the work of providing the plants with all the right conditions to survive. A farmer’s job is to pay attention to and care for the soil; keep the micro-organisms healthy, and the crops will be able to thrive.

In a sense, peacebuilding and community development work is like this. It is not something we can force on a community, nor can we take credit when everything goes well. Peacebuilding is so much more complex than we can ever imagine.

Like paying attention to the needs of the powerfully influential micro-organisms in the soil, it is important to find the people in each community who contribute in a positive way to the community’s development. The leaders we work with, young people who have their own dreams and goals, are already actively involved in seeking peace and justice in their communities.

The best thing I can do in order to help the community is to support them as individuals – seek to create with them a safety net that will give them the time, energy, and resources to give of themselves to their community.

That is the vision of all the peacebuilding work of RedEd and From Honduras with Love. I want to keep listening and keep working to support leaders who seek peace and justice for those around them.

Life is a journey

Life is a journey

Life is about taking every step as being as important as the final destination and being present in our missteps, knowing that failure is just another step on the road to growth…