Month: July 2018

41: A Year in Review

year in review

Year in Review

I created my blog on my birthday last year. I was terrified about turning 40. Honestly, I’m still not ecstatic about it. But I’m learning to wear it well.

One of the reasons I was so uncomfortable was a terrible, nagging feeling that I was somehow behind. Like I hadn’t done enough with my life. As if way too much of those 40 years had gone to waste.

And in the blink of an eye, another birthday rolled around.

I want to take a look at what happened in year 40. You tell me whether the time was used well.

Couch Surfing

This past year I finally hosted my 100th couch surfer. I’ve since left that number in the dust. I have wonderful friends and connections all around the world and fantastic stories about the people I’ve met along the way. In fact, it was one of my early surfers who motivated me to get this blog going.

Jaffe World

Since beginning my blog adventure, I’ve consistently posted once a week. And I’ve reaped the catharsis that comes along with it. I finally transferred everything over to my own website, and even though it’s far from perfect and I’ve got so much to learn, I learn more every single day. It’s quite an adventure, and I’m still loving it.

Teach Like a Ninja

While researching about blogging, I came across the idea of writing eBooks as a method of creating passive income (I would LOVE if at one point I felt qualified enough to write about my successes with passive income). I felt like it was the perfect logical next step to take subjects I’m extremely passionate and knowledgeable about and explore them in depth. So I set out to write a book about what I learned about teaching in my illustrious nine years in the field, and the result is Teach Like a Ninja. Buy it. Buy two copies!

Shabbat of a Lifetime

Just when I think my Shabbat meals couldn’t get any more fun and interesting, in this phenomenal year I started hosting for Shabbat of a Lifetime. Next thing I know, my Shabbat table is filled with university students from North Carolina studying Israeli entrepreneurship, fundamentalist Christians from the fishing town of Urk, a professor of Judaic studies from the University of Nanking, and so many more interesting people and stories!

Skydiving

This year, I received an email from Alyn Hospital asking if I wanted to participate in their upcoming skydiving fundraiser. I asked my son if he wanted to do it with me, and before I knew it, I had almost no time to raise $2,000. But raise it I did. In ten days! For making that possible, I cannot not express enough gratitude to the most amazing friends, family, and colleagues anyone could hope for.

The dive was exhilarating. The fundraising was fulfilling. But more important than anything for me was my renewed vigor to make all my dreams come true. I waited twenty years for the right opportunity to jump out of a plane. Not only did I give my boy the ability to walk around knowing how far ahead of the game he is, but I got to remind myself that if I could make this happen, the sky is the limit (both literally and figuratively).

The Dog

This year we celebrated one year with my buddy and loyal pet, Frank. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure I would be a decent pet owner. My ex and I had a small dog many years ago, and I can honestly say it was an absolute failure. I had no idea whether or not I could actually be a good pet owner, and unfortunately my only experience so far had shown me I couldn’t. But my son and I lucked out. We got the perfect dog, who adores people and other dogs. He plays hard and rests hard. And now we can’t picture life without him.

The Gym

Despite being extremely busy, and battling what seems to be the new annoying injury of the month, I’ve still managed to get to the gym five days a week most weeks, and I’ve maintained quite the healthy lifestyle. It’s not easy. It’s certainly not cheap. And building up the motivation to go is an ongoing task.

But I’ve proudly made the gym a permanent fixture in my life. I’ve kept myself away from diabetes (I’ve been pre-diabetic for nearly two decades). Somehow or other, I’m not overweight. And until they learn I have a 14-year-old child, most people guess I’m in my late twenties or early thirties.

No, I didn’t get that six-pack by 40 I was hoping for. Nevertheless, still proud!

Work, Work, and More Work

Israel can get a bit on the expensive side. Thank goodness, I’m blessed with a wonderful job that seems to cover most of our needs. But in this wacky country where every penny counts and side expenses tend to pop up from every corner, I needed to find some way to supplement my income a little. It took me a bit of time, especially since my parameters were quite limiting. The job or jobs needed to be on my own schedule, done from home, at basically my own pace, and without too much communication (meaning, they send me what to do, and barring issues, that’s all we discuss).

The main reason for all of this was because I want to live every day of my life. I want to make food for my son, go to the gym, and relax. I don’t want life to be work. And after a hefty amount of searching, I finally found little side gigs that give me everything I need. I’m doing some freelance writing and editing for Vienna Itineraries and the Private Redemption Foundation. I’m happy, busy, and have a few extra dollars in my wallet.

So Much More to Come

Year 40 is now behind me. You’ll hopefully pardon my vagueness, but it’s ending quite well. Arguably the best year of my life. I can all but guarantee that my 42nd will surpass it by leaps and bounds.

Keep an eye out. There’s so much more to come!

Posted by jaffeworld in personal story, 0 comments

The Ability to Know Nothing: A Deep Look at Argument and Disagreement

Argument

Complicated Generation

We’re in a complicated generation.

I listen to podcasts all the time, and I think the most common thread I feel throughout what I’m hearing is that people just don’t know how to argue anymore.

Rules of Argument

In my estimation, there are four rules to a good, old-fashioned argument. Four rules I like to live my life by:

  1. Don’t take a strong stand on an issue unless you’re educated on said issue
  2. All opinions in an argument are valid, as long as they are thoughtful
  3. Never use logic in an emotional argument (and vice versa)
  4. Separate your feelings on the issue at hand from your feelings about the person with whom you are conversing

What Actually Happens?

But what do we actually see, seemingly all day everyday?

People constantly tackle issues based on gut reactions or something they heard one time. They’re not willing to do the leg work to really understand what they’re saying. They say whatever comes to mind and don’t really evaluate their thoughts and opinions. And they make them instant canon.

And they discount others’ opinions. They think of others’ thoughts as irrelevant or biased or stupid or even racist. There’s an assumption that if the opinion is different from their own, it is evil. There is no consideration of the possibility that another person might actually be saying something worth listening to.

Furthermore, I often see these uncomfortable spectacles where one party in a discussion is arguing using logic and facts while the other is using reactions and emotions. This type of discourse never produces positive results and is completely pointless. When data is presented and the other party says “Well, that’s not how I feel“, it’s time to move on from the discussion at hand.

Finally–and this is the part that irks me the most in our generation–we’ve seemingly lost the ability to disagree without hating one another. Why can I not believe something drastically different from you, and not simultaneously respect you, care about you, and maintain a civil, positive, and respectful relationship with you? Why should this impact our friendship?

Did Something Change?

Maybe I’m misinterpreting, but I feel that even since I was a kid, things have changed drastically. People used to engage in intelligent discourse. It could sometimes get heated, but that didn’t mean there was animosity. People were more divorced from the topics and could discuss them without walking away thinking there was reason to be upset, at the other person or in general.

Where did we go wrong?

When did we start closing ourselves off to those who may disagree with us?

Something’s happened over the generations. We have gotten weak. We’ve gotten soft. We run with fear when we hear opinions different from our own, and cower when those opinions are presented alongside facts.

Argument in Jewish Tradition

Jewish tradition is replete with lessons about how to gain knowledge through questioning, engaging discourse, and learning from those different from you.

Three examples:

  1. Pesach (Passover) seders throughout the world are designed to get children to ask questions. Young family members are rewarded handsomely not for listening attentively or blindly accepting parents’ beliefs or ideas, but for using their curious little minds to question to their hearts’ content.
  2. We are taught of a sage (Rabbi Yochanan) who was ill and requested a study partner. Sadly, he had pushed his favorite one (Reish Lakish) away with harsh words. They brought Rabbi Yochanan many study partners, all of whom he rejected. Why? Because they agreed with him on all points and just brought support for those views. Rabbi Yochanan wanted disagreement. He wanted his mind sharpened. He needed the push-pull of intelligent, open, critical discourse to truly understand his own perspective.
  3. And then there is the biggest example. The well-known question and answer from Pirkei Avot (The Chapters of our Fathers). Pirkei Avot asks: Who is wise? The sages then do not tell us to learn from brilliant scholars. They do not tell us to seek others who share similar viewpoints or political leanings. No! The sages answer: He who learns from all people. All people! Thus we learn that if one truly wants to fully develop his mind to the highest level possible, no opinion can be discounted. Every idea must be accessible.

An Aside

-An aside: I know there might be someone out there thinking that Judaism is loaded with dogma and that I’m cherrypicking facts to support my own worldview. Others might be thinking about their time in Jewish schools where their thoughts or opinions were not validated. I sympathize if your experience with Judaism differs from what I am presenting. It doesn’t change the fact that this IS the proper Jewish way of life and the only way I believe we can understand our traditional sources. If others are abusing their authority and treating my religion differently, they are acting shamefully. In my eyes, they do not represent an authentic Jewish perspective.-

The Benefits of Opening Your Mind

This topic is near and dear to my heart for so many reasons. I feel like my ability to listen to other people’s perspectives, and keep myself open to growth and change, is my single greatest quality. I have friends from all walks of life, and we can benefit from each other and care about one another, all differences aside. Furthermore, I can look at any issue, and even if I’ve already formulated an opinion (even a strong one), I’m never closed off to further influence. This attitude has resulted in major transformations in my life. And continues to do so.

In fact, just recently I discovered (to my intense delight) that just about everything I thought I knew about myself was wrong. For three years post-divorce I’ve been surrounding myself with walls to protect myself. And in an instant, I felt the walls come tumbling down around me. I felt everything change, and a feeling of intense satisfaction and enjoyment washed over my whole self.

The ability to know nothing opened me up to growth and change I never thought possible.

And everything’s different now. Everything is better now.

 

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my latest eBook!

Posted by jaffeworld in judaism, opinion, 1 comment

Parenting Your Way Through the Crazy: Five Tips I Picked Up Along the Way

parenting

I’ll be the first to admit that I am hardly the best parent in the world. I’ve got worlds to learn about parenting and I’m certainly not an authority figure on the subject.

However, I have four beautiful angels in my life. For nearly 15 years I’ve been working harder every day to become a better parent. This post is about five parenting life lessons I’ve learned along the way.

1) Parenting through Creative Distraction

My children will never forget several years ago when we were in the car and the stress levels were off the charts. One of my darling daughters was having the meltdown of the century, and repeatedly shouted at the top of her lungs, “I want to go home!” Each word was said slowly, loudly, and with purpose.

Unfortunately, taking her home was not yet an option at the time, and my other children and I were about to go insane.

On a whim to never be forgotten, I made up a song on the spot with the unforgettable lyrics of “I want to kill a dolphin.” This was followed by an adorable little “Doo doo doo”. Every time she would start another slow and drawn out “I want… “, I would finish her sentence with “kill a dolphin” and my other kids would chime in with “Doo doo doo”. Before you knew it, even my daughter in full-on meltdown mode was singing along with us.

Situation diffused.

To this day, my kids and I use that song when things get tough or someone needs a distraction.

Never underestimate the power of good, creative actions to quickly move children away from what’s bugging them and pull them to a happier state. And without them even realizing it happened!

*As an aside: Please note that no actual dolphins were harmed in either the creation of our family song, nor in the composing of this post. If the content of this section has offended or upset you in any fashion, please contact my legal team with your concerns at iseriously@dontcare.com.

2) Stop Your Damn Screaming

Fact of the matter is, there has never been a moment in my life where I’ve looked back after screaming at a child and said to myself, “Well gee, I sure handled that situation like a champion.”

Unfortunately, yelling is the average parent’s go-to method of dealing with any and all complicated situations. We use it because it’s easy and thoughtless. We use it because we’ve been so exposed to it. And we use it because on the surface it appears effective.

However, this appearance not only can be damaging for children in the long run, but is ultimately ineffectual as well. For long-term success and a feel of love, safety, and security in your children, it’s almost always worth looking for another path.

3) Buy a Dog

Getting a dog was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Yes, dogs are fun and entertaining. They are loving and loyal and protective of your children.

These are all fantastic things…

But for me those were all secondary.

I had two daughters deathly afraid of dogs… so I got a dog!

There was some adjustment, for certain. But my little six-year-old who used to cower in terror when a dog walked by, can now go with me to a dog park and play with each and every pooch, without a shred of hesitance.

Getting a dog was giving all of my children the ability to walk down the street without fear. And it was giving them the ability to be loved by a dog, one of the greatest feelings on God’s earth.

4) Parenting and the Punching mattress

This one was accidental, and so effective.

Sadly, my apartment is not so big. So when my kids come over, they’re practically on top of each other. It could get very hairy sometimes.

Unfortunately, in the midst of terrible moments where kids have gotten extremely aggressive with each other, I’ve had to physically separate them, something I absolutely hate doing.

But it solves nothing if I cannot calm the separated child down. They’ll just head back out of the room, and before you know it, we’ll be right back where we started.

So, here I was. Standing in my bedroom with my youngest child. She was hysterical. Crying. Screaming. It seemed like there was going to be no way to come down from the situation.

And it was going to be a long and rather unpleasant evening.

I have several mattresses in my room leaning against the wall, and on a whim I suggested that my daughter punch the mattresses. She gave it a swift and angry (and adorable) kick.

I could see by the look in her face that something positive had just happened. I suggested she do it again. And then again.

Within a few minutes she was laughing and smiling. She left the room and was an angel for the rest of the night.

Teach your kids non-destructive ways to get out any and all anger and aggression. The results are remarkable!

5) Equality and Planning

My children cannot stand any inequalities. Everyone needs an equal amount of time sitting next to me, sleeping in the bed of their choice, amount of dessert received, and the list can go on forever.

This is an ideal that is basically impossible. The only way to get anywhere near some semblance of success requires lots of planning, and an even larger amount of creativity.

Sometimes the ideas will be used to foster equality (charts and specially purchased items), and sometimes the ideas will be used to circumvent equality (creative random choices, like making choices by drawing names from a hat).

One thing is for certain though: Do nothing and just make your decisions on the fly, and disaster will ensue.

Many people don’t think of planning in its relationship to parenting. You wake up in the morning and you’re a parent, like it or not. So you just start going through the motions of the day, with parenting just being one of the things that you do, like putting on your socks.

But like so many things in this crazy world, a break to sit back and think about everything is welcome and highly recommended. No one knows your kids better than you do. Leverage that power. Plan ahead. Think about how decisions might impact them. Calm the fights before they ever happen. A little thoughtfulness can go a long way to making everyone’s lives infinitely better (including yours).

 

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my latest eBook!

Posted by jaffeworld in parenting, 0 comments

Teach Like a Ninja

Teach Like a Ninja

I love to write. I think I’m even pretty good at it.

And I love maintaining this blog. I hope you enjoy reading it.

The Origin of Teach Like a Ninja

Inspired by a good friend, I recently decided I wanted to take my writing to the next level. I thought the best way to do that would be to start a new adventure writing an eBook.

And so I thought long and hard about what I wanted to write about, and decided after lots of deliberation it was time to write down some of what I learned in almost a decade in the classroom.

And that was the origin of Teach Like a Ninja.

I’m no longer a teacher, but those years were jam packed with life lessons, and they were extremely important and special to me. I learned so much and I want to make every minute mean something.

So I started thinking and typing and editing, and after several months of hard work, I am proud to announce the final product: Teach Like a Ninja.

I’d love it if you bought a copy. If you know someone who is new to education or considering it as a career, or if you think I might just have something to say that might enhance their career, consider ordering a copy. It’s extremely affordable ($0.99) and, in my humble opinion, a pretty decent read with a few good laughs along the way.

Memorable Quotes

Here are a few memorable quotes from Teach Like a Ninja:

One

From Chapter I (“Learn to let things go… for things will inevitably get messed up”) of Teach Like a Ninja:

…more than anything, [teachers] need to be willing to do things that have never been done before. Or to do incredible things that have been done before, but with limited or no success.

But a risk is a risk. The rewards of success are unfathomably great. And the risks of failure could have many repercussions, ranging from embarrassment to on-the-spot scrapped lesson plans to even getting fired.

Two

From Chapter II (“The Secret to Being a Great Teacher: Marry Rich”) of Teach Like a Ninja:

… a teacher needs to teach. He needs to look out into the room of the children he wishes to influence, and search his soul for the absolute best way to get information into the previously unoccupied spot in the students’ heads.

No matter what the consequences.

Three

From Chapter III (“Be Yourself, and the Best Version of Yourself”) of Teach Like a Ninja:

Your students are just little people yearning for knowledge and inspiration. It comes more naturally from someone they like or admire. And you will inherently be more likeable and admirable if you open yourself up to your students.

They want to be taught by a person, a whole person, with interests, dreams, opinions, and stories.

Four

From Chapter IV (“Your Students are Friggin’ Amazing”) of Teach Like a Ninja:

When you look at a person, you need to see just that: A real being. A special being. Someone with strengths and weaknesses, with true and powerful feelings, someone who one day might be wealthy, important, or influential regardless of anything they do in your classroom. Or that won’t be, and that’s fine too! When you realize all of this, you’re already a huge leap closer to succeeding.

Five

Chapter VI (“How easy it is to destroy someone”) of Teach Like a Ninja:

Teaching is hard. On one hand, you need to feel freedom… On the other hand, every word is precious and should not be abused. Be careful! You want every student you ever teach to walk away a better, stronger person, and you would never want to be responsible for damaging them in any way, shape, or form.

Six

Chapter VIII (“Goals, Goals, and More Goals”) of Teach Like a Ninja:

[Goals] exist to pull you forward and to heighten your motivation. If they aggravate or upset you, do not abandon the practice. Reevaluate yourself, your relationship with your goals, and the goals themselves. It’s a crying shame if you lack this mighty tool in your life.

Seven

Chapter XI (“Futility of Grades, and the Folly of Long-Term Success Projections”) of Teach Like a Ninja:

You are not teaching mini robot test takers. You are teaching a room full of lovely souls, each of whom can go farther than your imagination can conceive.

Theme Throughout Teach Like a Ninja

One of the primary themes throughout Teach Like a Ninja is that students are whole, complex beings. They don’t live for your classroom, they have a lot going on in their lives, and they are loaded with opinions, interests, thoughts, and feelings. The only way to truly reach and impact them is when you recognize this and you make sure that each and every moment you’re in front of the classroom, you are hyper aware of the amount of beautiful complexity that sits before you.

If any of these quotes or this concept stands out to you, if you are a teacher in the early stages of your career, if you’re contemplating becoming a teacher, or if you know anyone like this, consider ordering a copy.

And of course, please feel free to leave comments on this post and to review the book on Amazon. You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Posted by jaffeworld in book review, education, 0 comments

My Five Favorite Educational Websites

Educational Websites

Educational Websites

As a former educator but a lifelong learner, I wanted to take some time to explore a few educational websites that fascinate me, most of which I use every day of my life. I recommend and enjoy all of them. Hopefully you’ll find something in here you can enjoy as well.

* Duolingo

First and foremost, I love Duolingo. And I’m using it (no joke) to learn nine different languages right now. It’s hardly an obscure website, and comes up first in any language learning search. And it’s literally used by hundreds of millions of people.

Opponents of the site point out (accurately) that Duolingo could basically never lead to fluency. It’s an unfortunate fact, although arguably true of any language learning website or program. Fact of the matter is: Fluency is very unlikely to ever be achieved outside of immersion. That being said, the site is fun and engaging, has an extensive array of languages to choose from (including two fictional ones: Klingon and High Valyrian), and with it’s new format, there is so much repetition, you can really walk away from each section knowing your stuff. Fluency is unlikely; proficiency with some time and effort, is highly likely.

Also checkout their newest site, Tinycards. It’s a supplemental flashcard program, and it’s excellent. It also has tons of non-language classes. So if you have been itching to finally master the state capitals, the periodic table, and the names of all the Game of Thrones characters, you came to the right place.

A fun aside: In years upon years of using this site, I’ve never paid a dime, nor have I seen an advertisement. Yet the creator is filthy, stinking rich. Read up on this guy. He’s an evil genius, and millions of us users are so happy that he is!

* CodeCademy

I haven’t used CodeCademy in some time, but I love the format as a way of studying computer programming, and I wish more sites would take a similar approach. I used it to learn HTML and CSS a while back, and found it very effective.

What makes the site great is the split screen effect, where you can study everything on one side of the screen along with instructions for what to try and accomplish. And you see the effectiveness of your coding right there on the other side of the screen.

It’s brilliant in its simplicity, and I’m still shocked this is isn’t the norm.

I do find the site has three faults, which is probably why I haven’t touched it in a while:

  1. They don’t seem to update the site often, which is very problematic in the tech world. There’s no excuse for teaching outdated codes. Nor is there any reason why an activity will have the same issues for a long time, without anyone coming around to fix everything up.
  2. When you finish a course, it gives the mistaken impression that you’ve completed studying the subject matter, when there are in fact worlds more to study.
  3. There’s no good direction to go once you’ve completed a topic. You’re kind of left to just figure out the rest of the subject matter on your own.

So, in summary, the site would be perfect if it were always kept up to date and gave a clear path for advancing the studies post completion of a subject. As far as I can tell, for the price tag, it’s the best we’ve got right now.

* Nitrotype

I used to teach typing, and I had a student who was way too advanced for the other students in my class. I didn’t know what to do with him exactly, and I wasn’t about to just let him sit around doing nothing.

Then I had a vision of what I thought would be the perfect way to engage him. Imagine if there were some online program where he could race against other people with similar skill levels.

On a hunch, I hopped onto Google to see if something like that already existed, and I was so happy that I did. Nitrotype is a program where five people compete at the same time to type the same paragraph the fastest. The competitors could be anywhere in the world. And as they type, the speed propels images of cars across the screen. For each race, you get virtual money that you can use to buy other cars to race with.

It’s fun. It’s engaging and competitive. And it’s the absolute best way to learn to improve typing skills.

* YouTube

I know the standard thing to say nowadays in the pursuit of knowledge is “Google it”. Well, I’m not so sure it’s always the right choice. When it comes to learning how to do something, I am still in awe at what’s out there on YouTube.

Unlike the previous three sites mentioned, YouTube hardly comes under the category of “educational websites”. It’s more like a treasure trove of cat videos with a fair amount of useful stuff accidentally tossed in.

And my YouTube rule of thumb is and always will be:

If you want to remain happy, and you don’t want to lose any and all faith in humanity, never ever scroll down. YouTube comments are a cesspool of the worst human behavior you will ever witness.

Nevertheless, the amount I’ve learned from quick YouTube searches is off the charts. I’ll never forget when I needed to move a freezer to my basement, but couldn’t fit it through the hallway because of the freezer door. And removing the door was problematic, since it was connected with all sorts of intricate electric wiring that the movers refused to touch. A simple YouTube search, and the next thing I knew I was dismantling a freezer and putting it all back together. Like a boss!

Search and ye shall find.

Just don’t look down!

* WPbeginner

Here I am, a beginner blogger. Navigating everything from SEO to plug-ins to how to monetize a blog. And it’s beyond refreshing to know that a resource like WPbeginner exists. The name is misleading, however. The amount of information available is so very vast, I would hate to think of myself as still a beginner if I master even small chunk of it.

One thing is for certain: If you start a WordPress blog with little knowledge and you are NOT reading articles on WPbeginner, you are missing out on the single best resource currently available for the task. And you might be a little bit crazy.

 

*Enjoying my writing? Check out my latest eBook!

Posted by jaffeworld in education, 0 comments