Friday, August 15, 2014

Why Education Controversy Can Be Good

The August sun has a chilly undertone. The days seem a little shorter, and millions of teens rush to start their summer reading. This can only mean that the brisk fall months are approaching. Both kids and adults look forward to and dread the days when September crawls in and the school year begins once more. With kids and teachers entering the classrooms, anxious parents are never too far behind.

With education being a hotly debated topic, different possibilities for schooling, and millions of students physical and emotional needs at large, there is no way everything can be done one way. A learning style for one student will intensify problems for another. One teacher cannot possibly reach every student. Fortunately, we have long since passed the days where one teacher taught all ages in a single room. Across one’s life, a student has many teachers. Sometimes the person one learns the most from is not a formal schoolhouse instructor.

This is why so many philosophies and educators are both warranted and necessary. It’s easy to write off one subject or method of teaching as destructive for one reason or another, when stepping into other areas helps understanding too, similar to last week’s blog post regarding traveling.

 Going off on the traveling example, bilingual students use more areas of their brain, so they are said to have an advantage balancing all subjects. A New York Times article reveals a study that there is a heightened sense to monitor the environment when a student knows more than one language.

 Plus, being bilingual often means having an understanding of more than one culture, promoting a deeper understanding of people. For a student who wants to travel and get a job abroad, this social and cognitive need would have to be met.That student would also need to be skilled in other subjects to match up with foreign standards.

There is also often dispute between religious and science teachings. It is easy to write one of them off, though in truth, both have their place. Though contradictory explaining creation, science and its various branches can explain how the world works, while religions give one a deeper sense of how a moral world is shaped. 

Science feeds into art, as a technical understanding of the physical helps put projects together. For example, knowing light and color and human perception will build a successful computer design or a theater show. Meanwhile religious teachings help students to better understand literary themes, such as those in Shakespeare, which often have biblical motifs or references.

With those basic examples laid out, it translates to a greater purpose in education. Differing and contradictory subjects both have their place for teaching. One problem is that often times, the assumption arises that one way of teaching is best, and that one type of educator will be a one-size fits all type of arrangement whether that be the increased focus in science and math the US enacted a few years ago, or the ongoing debate about sex-education in schools. 

Though humans like to organize and simplify, student situations come in so many forms that no one style of teaching can possibly reach everyone. Different teachers and styles of education reach different students. This is why we have public, private, charter, Montessori, home schooling etc and a richer variety of courses available. Combining pieces of information and experience and opening up to contradictions will allow students to get a richer knowledge base. It’s better to allow for controversy than to be a prodigy in one side of thinking.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why Should You Travel Now?

The United States is such a big country that there are many lifetimes worth of history and culture within the various regions. Some parts of the country say “freeway,” others say “highway.” New England has a reputation for having a very fast paced lifestyle, while the West Coast is thought to be more relaxed and leisurely, compared to the South where there’s a more of a polite hospitable culture. We may as well be a bunch of separate countries. 

Countries abroad pick on each other too. The Danish and Swedes have a rivalry. The Germans and Swiss can’t understand each other’s dialects, and Japan personalized countries stereotypes and history within the television show Hetalia. Europeans love to pick on Americans for our lack of geographical skills and our inability to tell the difference between an Irish and a Scottish accent. Asians and Asian-Americans point out general cultural insensitivity over and over again for failing to recognize someone born in America versus someone from countries like Korea, Thaiwan, China, Japan or the Philippines. 

Since this is American Adventures Month, it’s necessary to recognize our own ideas about our country and how we interact with people abroad. While our education gives us knowledge for how to hopefully get a job and contribute to society, (focusing less on languages,) the best way to learn is through experiencing other types of environments, both in the United States and abroad. There are infinite experiences out there that we know nothing about. Fortunately, AEI is lucky to hear from speakers who have had such a cultural experience. 

People like Neal Petersen are great examples. Petersen overcame racial prejudice in apartheid South Africa. Wanting to be a sailor, he designed and built a yacht himself, and spent 9 months alone at sea through tumultuous weather, just for the opportunity to compete in yacht races amongst other sailors. His story, the embodiment of personal experience inspires people all over the world to turn baggage into a treasure chest. 

Within our own country, we can learn a lot from Brian Unger, who hosted a television show, How the States Got Their Shapes. He studied the history of the United States. State by state, the show focused a little more about how the country formed, how each state came to be little by little from the original 13 colonies of the 1700s, to Hawaii joining the country, only becoming a state in 1959.

It is an adventure in itself listening to different accents and dialects across the country and the globe. It also leads to hilarious moments when Americans and English try to mimic each other. While not everyone needs to sail around the world, or could possibly know every piece of trivia about the states, a few miles or kilometers travel often leaves some impact. 

Traveling gives one a richer experience beyond the borders of a school classroom. If we were to know everything through media and perceptions, we’d have a flat one-dimensional view of most of the world’s population, turning away interesting complex individuals and potential friends and spouses. Though a thorough trip takes some planning, take American Adventures month, or the last official month of summer vacation to visit someplace new.

 For more information on all of our speakers, please visit us at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Be A Follower

It doesn't look as glamorous on a poster, and it seems counter intuitive to asserting individuality, but followers do not get enough credit for putting ideas into action. 

Last month we celebrated the Public Speaking Fear-Free Month. Meanwhile AEI honors all types of speakers every month. Some of those speakers advocate for leadership. Commonly, an idea that’s taught within leadership learning is how to be a leader. What we don’t see as often is the other side, the followers, the people who help put ideas into action. Often times, being a follower is seen as a bad thing. While it’s important not to go along with a bad idea like political extremism, sometimes it’s necessary to be a follower to help good ideas come to life. What isn’t advocated enough is that there needs to be followers in order for such leadership to be effective.

A self-made businessperson may claim that they didn’t get any help from anyone. Yet, while starting their company, they would have to go through some process requiring others. Indeed some do have a personality that is better suited for a leadership position, but other people directly or indirectly will help that “self-made” person become more effective. 

Going back to speakers, it’s important to think of the leader-follower dynamic as telling a story. Each person is the main character within their own story. No matter what, others have a powerful influence on us. A brief chat about the last sports game or the grateful glance from the woman you helped across the street is enough to be the highlight of someone's day. Similarly, parents and teachers can become someone’s guide to success or their wrecking ball. But, not everyone can be that helping hand. Someone needs to take it. 

People in different roles give us a break from the cabin fever that is too much of our own company. If you’re the most interesting person you know, great! However, if you’re like the rest of us, you’ll probably get bored of your own pride and angst after some time. You'll also need some other hands to carry the pieces of your project. Even a self-made businessperson gets out of his or her office and spends time with their family, co-workers or Netflix account, listening to someone else. The point is that nobody can be a leader all the time. Eventually, you may need to be a follower to help someone else's vision.

Now, what does it mean to get sick of your own personality? Well, it’s easier to think in relation to story. If one follows any type of storytelling, whether that’s movies, the local news, or internet fan fiction, we have to spend a lot of time with the main character. Blockbusters put a different face to the same brand of hero. The news, reports similar tragedies in separate locations, and the internet provides ample opportunity to unleash one’s smutty interpretations of existing work.

Since every story needs a focus, the recipient sees both highs and lows of that focus. Frodo bears the ring, the US government tackles Health Care and 50 Shades of Grey excites the imagination.  Fortunately, the main character has relationships to help on the journey that others can get invested in too.
Side characters are just as important as the main character. They are the wise mentors, the best friends, the comic relief; the person who jumps out at the last minute to save the day. They are proof that the hero cannot make it alone, no matter how stubbornly they proclaim they need to. How many characters would be dead without a last minute miracle from another human relationship? It is through side characters that the main character learns about themselves. As good a leader as one can be, this is why one needs to have equally talented group of support. Sometimes, that support needs to be you.

People need friends, politicians need advisers, and even fan fiction communities thrive off both interest in a source and reinterpreting it. It is often said that hell is other people. On the other side, given the right group, heaven is too. So being a follower really is not such a bad thing. Direction is necessary, but without people to follow the action and physically build off those rapidly firing neurons, there would be much more dreaming and talking, but far less doing.

 For more information on all of our speakers, please visit us at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Goodbye July

Blog Post Recap

July was a month for several rich topics. We had a lot to cover in the past 31 days from our excellent speakers to current events. We had a few fun holidays to mention like Chocolate Day on July 7th. As we come towards the end of this month, we happily remind you what we talked about every Friday for the past few weeks.


July 4th kicked off our first Friday. We celebrated the United States becoming 238 years old both with some fun flag facts and with our speaker Brian Unger who showed us how the States Got Their Shapes on the History Channel.


Our second Friday, July 11, we delved into why people were afraid of public speaking, what many usually think of when hearing the term public speaker, understanding that a good speech is its own artwork. Doing so, we recognize the hard work of all the wonderful speakers with AEI Speakers Bureau.

Finally, on July 18th we were happy to feature science teacher and football coach Natalie Randolph as our latest exclusive speaker. Natalie has been the subject of focus within sports for her inspiring story coaching a team of high school boys, hoping also to bridge gaps between academia and athletics. She discusses how both successes and failures influenced who she is.

July has proven to be a successful month in regards to diverse topics. Keep in touch for further posts. August is right down the road.

For more information on all of our speakers, please visit us at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Featuring AEI's latest Exclusive Speaker: Natalie Randolph

Natalie Randolph has officially joined the roster at AEI Speakers Bureau. Having recently stepped down after 4 years as the head coach of Calvin Coolidge Senior High School’s varsity football team in Washington D.C., one of just a few female football coaches in the entire country, Randolph is now available for speaking engagements. 

In her keynote "Finding Self in Strange Places" Randolph shares her journey to truth of self and how honesty with oneself is the necessary way to reach youth audiences both in the classroom and on the field. In her 2013 TEDx talk at Middlebury College titled "Good Things Never Come Easy", she elaborated how the students could see right through any false pretenses and if she was going to get through to them, she had to embrace that truth, and her own: 

As a teacher, Randolph is focused on bridging the gap between academics and athletics. In her keynote, "Competition in Education" she speaks to the importance of success AND failure. With the fear of failure comes the behavior to simply not try and without trying there can be no success. Randolph speaks to how competition in sports can lead to competition in education and greater success overall. 

See her ESPN feature!

Bring Natalie Randolph to your school and hear for yourself her inspiring story. 

For more information on all of our speakers, please visit us at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Freedom From Fear of (Public) Speaking Month

The alliteration of this monthly awareness can quite easily be reinterpreted into slandering the first amendment, which is perfectly legal, but not culturally accepted. It’s not “free from Freedom of Speech,” it is “freedom from fear of public speaking.” What it means is we should not be afraid to speak up, speak out and present our ideas to others. People generally love having the ability to complain about what’s wrong with the world, but it takes real skill to put that rant into a course of action that inspires yourself and the listeners around you.

Public speaking is fascinating. There are individuals who are excellent at presentation, but have nothing to say. There are also individuals with brilliant ideas, but lack the words to match them. However, given the choice, we’d pay far more attention to presentation than content. This is why we typically zone out during high school presentations and cults have a large following. While that is a simplified explanation, public speaking is much more impressive than any school assembly.

Fortunately, if you are the person who is brilliant but needs help expressing that, you’re the luckier of the two. Thoughts and creativity cannot be taught, though how you organize and express yourself can be. It is tougher than it looks, which is why the month of July honors public speakers. You do a small-scale public speaking every day with various groups you spend time with. So here is a general overview about public speaking and good speakers.

Most people have something to say. It’s so easy to forget how people are different, and that opinions are all over the place. Reviews in magazines, blogs, and YouTube certainly prove that, and multiple online reviewers exist for almost every topic one can converse about. However, at the same time, for YouTube videos, there are also comments where opinions solely consist of how much the poster hates you and everything you stand for. What separates the good from the bad is confidence in one’s ideas, organization and balance. Though you know, basic courtesy is good too. 

A speaker is confident in their own ideas. Even if they are nervous about sharing them and memorizing what they will say, if they know that their idea is a good one, then that should carry over more. If one constantly compromises such thoughts, how will they be able to express it? They can be influenced by current events, but confidence also stems from core values should remaining consistent.

Consistency is so important when in presenting. Speaking is telling its own story, and getting from one idea to the next gets the point across a lot better. While values need to be consistent so you believe in it, the topic needs to be clear so others understand. Love for example is described as a human mystery. You know what else is a human mystery? The Bermuda Triangle!

While that was yet another generalization, it’s important to remember focus helps with understanding. The end goal is to communicate a message, and stay true to it. This is incredibly easy to forget. You know your ideas, but that does not mean everyone else will, due to how easy it is to forget not everyone sees through your eyes. Sometimes you just have to explain a little bit more, while balancing that out with a solid technique.

A good speech is a work of art. There are so many layers, both technical and creative involved. It is a lot to work with, and it’s even harder to make it look easy and natural, which comes with both practice and a personal style. Some speakers are very good with anecdotes, while others excel with humor. Think of the person who you admire most. Is their style similar or different from yours? Why is that?

As much as we love talking, it is even more important to listen to other speakers. Everyone has a story, and a unique way to express it. It can help a person understand what to do and what to avoid. Listening to others will help you broaden an understanding for what it is like to be in another person’s life, even for a few seconds.

While July is the month to honor speaking and confronting that fear, AEI Speakers Bureau honors speakers and speaking every day. We have people discussing all topics, from education and marketing, to LGBTQ communities, to leadership, teamwork and technology. It is the modern day version of oral traditions.

 For more information on all of our speakers, please visit us at and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!