State Testing and Ordeal by Water – Education Thoughts

This blog will help you prepare for state tests that determine if your teacher has taught you anything, if you have learned anything, and whether or not your school is worth attending.

Question #1.  Compare and contrast the following two articles.

On State Testing, excerpt from New York Times Opinion, April 10, 2014, written by Elizabeth Phillips, Principal Public School 321, Brooklyn, NY:

We were not protesting testing; we were not protesting the Common Core standards. We were protesting the fact that we had just witnessed children being asked to answer questions that had little bearing on their reading ability and yet had huge stakes for students, teachers, principals and schools. (Among other things, test scores help determine teacher and principal evaluations, and in New York City they also have an impact on middle and high school admissions to some schools.) We were protesting the fact that it is our word against the state’s, since we cannot reveal the content of the passages or the questions that were asked.

In general terms, the tests were confusing, developmentally inappropriate and not well aligned with the Common Core standards. The questions were focused on small details in the passages, rather than on overall comprehension, and many were ambiguous. Children as young as 8 were asked several questions that required rereading four different paragraphs and then deciding which one of those paragraphs best connected to a fifth paragraph. There was a strong emphasis on questions addressing the structure rather than the meaning of the texts. There was also a striking lack of passages with an urban setting. And the tests were too long; none of us can figure out why we need to test for three days to determine how well a child reads and writes.

On Ordeal by Water, excerpt from Wikipedia:

TrialByWaterOrdeal by water was associated with the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries: an accused who sank was considered innocent, while floating indicated witchcraft. Demonologists developed inventive new theories about how it worked. Some argued that witches floated because they had renounced baptism when entering the Devil’s service. Jacob Rickius claimed that they were supernaturally light and recommended weighing them as an alternative to dunking them. King James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England) claimed in his Daemonologie that water was so pure an element that it repelled the guilty. A witch trial including this ordeal took place in Szeged, Hungary as late as 1728.

Question #2.  How do you know if a test actually measures what it is supposed to?

Extra credit.  Who is the qualified and independent party “accountable” for insuring that high stakes tests measure what they are supposed to?

————-

It makes no sense to hold students and educators accountable to a test that misses its marks.  Kudos to Ms. Phillips for courageous leadership.

————

References

Phillips, Elizabeth.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/opinion/the-problem-with-the-common-core.html?_r=0

Wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ordeal_by_water#Ordeal_of_water

Other posts

The Common Core Standards for High School have depth, yes, but too much breadth to effectively teach (or learn). The River is Too Wide.

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Fitness, Flexibility, and Yoga

A teacher sits cross-legged in an 8′ by 10′ room with almost no furniture.  Light from an overcast sky diffuses through windows onto the wooden floor.  “Honor yourself for taking this time to show compassion towards your body.  Namaste.”  The Sanskrit word “namaste” loosely translates to “the best in me bows to the best in you.”   Students quietly respond, “Namaste” and yoga class ends.

While retaining many of its positive mental aspects, yoga has been adapted to western fitness regimes and sensibilities.  It can be particularly beneficial to the aging athlete (all of us are aging, right?) who recognizes the need to promote muscle and joint flexibility – the need to show compassion towards our hardworking bodies.  Yoga classes come in every variety and flavor, from the advanced gravity-defying, human-pretzel to the restorative draped-over-pillows, human-dish cloth.  Gentle or beginner yoga lands in between.  Classes are designed to reset the mind and body to an alert, relaxed state.

imagesOverall fitness encompasses endurance, strength, and flexibility.  Balancing our efforts to include all three becomes more important as we age.  Yoga addresses flexibility for the entire body and, to a lesser degree, strength.  Let’s say you are a runner or cyclist with tight hamstrings, so you regularly reach for your toes.  Though this may be better than doing nothing, a stretching program that includes all parts of the body would be more effective to stretch your hamstrings.   How can stretching your back affect your hamstrings?  Through your connective tissue, which connects, well… everything.

What happens when you stretch

With regard to fitness, what we generally think of as “stiffness” arises from the joint and ligaments (about 50%), connective tissue in the muscle or “myofascia” (about 40%), and tendons (about 10%).  Since overstretching tendons and ligaments can weaken the joint, efforts to increase flexibility should be directed towards stretching myofascia.  Fortunately, myofascia is more elastic than the other tissues.

sk_musc_macro

So what, exactly, is myofascia? Myo (muscle) fascia (connective tissue) surrounds individual muscle fibers, bundles of fibers, and entire muscles.  Fascia contains elastin and collagen fibers oriented in a wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull.  They are flexible, but able to resist great tension as pulling forces straighten the wavy pattern of fibers.  Fascia tissue connects muscle fibers to tendons, and tendons connect to bone.  In fact, fascia, or connective tissue, is continuous throughout the entire body, like a flexible mesh from head to toe.

Michael J Alter, author of Science of Flexibility, states that the main reason we become less flexible as we get older is a result of changes in our connective tissues.   Aging has some of the same effects on connective tissue that lack of use has.  When connective tissue is unused or under-used, it provides significant resistance and limits flexibility. The elastin begins to fray, collagen increases in density, and both lose some of their elasticity.  It is believed that stretching prevents formation of adhesions by stimulating the production or retention of lubricants between the connective tissues.  Note however, that connective tissue also has its limits.  When it is overused, the tissue becomes fatigued and may tear, which also limits flexibility.

Before you stretch

First off, you should not stretch first.  Stretching is not a “warm-up” activity.  In fact, you need to “warm-up” prior to stretching.  You do this by raising the body temperature 2 or 3 degrees F and by moving joints through comfortable ranges of motion.

things_body_temp_01Raising body temperature makes the muscles and attached myofascial tissue more elastic.  To do this, stretch after your regular workout or after a light aerobic workout.  Research has shown that stretching prior to exercise, in itself, does not prevent injury.  Raising body temperature prior to stretching or prior to exercising is what helps prevent injury.

Joint movement stimulates production of sinovial fluid – a viscous lubricant in the joint which the body produces abundantly when we are young, but less so as we age.  That stiffness you feel when you first get off the sofa – lack of sinovial fluid.  Move your appendages in slow circular motions to lubricate those creaky joints.

Yoga for stretching

Yoga class may start with “vinyasa” or flow yoga, a series of continuously changing poses with integrated breathing, which can serve as a warm-up.  If the routine feels easy and comfortable to complete, this can be a good way to raise your body temperature and lubricate your joints.  Feel free to skip or modify any poses that seem difficult; it is likely your body is not yet warm or flexible enough to achieve proper alignment to do those poses.  If the instructor discourages this kind of self-advocacy, find another class.  One of the most important tenets of yoga is to know and accept your body’s current limitations.  We are so demanding of ourselves!  Try practicing that compassion-thing.

After you warm-up, class may progress into static stretches or poses.  Research (on hamstring muscles in particular) has shown that static stretches are most effective when held for 30 seconds.  Again – these should not be the longest 30 seconds of your life.  A healthy stretch should go only slightly beyond your comfort.  As with much of life, frequency of your practice (minimum: twice a week) yields more improvement than intensity of any single session.
462-7-ways-to-prop-up-your-yoga-practiceA gentle or beginner yoga class generally avoids poses that cause injury for beginners.  Rule of thumb: if the pose is painful and/or you cannot imagine how the movement could possibly help you in your sport – feel free to modify or skip it.  Steve Fearing, Yoga/Joga, states that students who skip a pose, modify it, or do a completely different pose during class are often advanced yoga students, but more generally those with good body awareness.  Some stretches for beginners to consider avoiding include:  the plough (lie down on your back, sweep your legs up and over, trying to touch your knees to your ears), traditional backbend, traditional hurdlers stretch (sit on the ground with one leg straight in front, the other leg fully bent behind you, as you lean back to stretch the quadricep of the bent leg), and straight legged toe touches (it’s perfectly ok to bend your knees!).   Tis better to err on the side of compassion and return quickly to challenge yourself, than to overextend and damage tissue.

I do not receive a commission from any yoga affiliate

Realistically, you can stretch regularly without a yoga class.  The question is:  Will you?

If you decide to try yoga, a class with a qualified instructor will help insure familiarity with poses and correct alignment so you can continue your practice at home, on your own or with a video.  In addition, with a class you have a commitment, you learn new routines which incorporate proper breathing, and you don’t just do your favorite stretches – the ones you are good at.  The yoga community values quiet reflection, but there is also camaraderie.  Perhaps most refreshing, yoga is a fitness activity that yields more benefit if you simply accept whatever you can do.  Yoga invites you to leave your competitive drive at the door.

Resources

Finding the right yoga class:

http://m.wikihow.com/Choose-a-Yoga-Class

http://life.gaiam.com/article/finding-best-yoga-class-you

Recommended yoga classes (West Linn and Canby, OR):

Yoga/Joga, West Linn, OR.  Jo McMahon teaches a beginner class.  She accepts a $5 donation per class, which she then donates to the local food bank.  Steve Fearing teaches intermediate/advanced classes with fees for 8-10 week sessions.  http://www.yogafinder.com/yoga.cfm?yoganumber=42779 .

Canby Community Education.  Yoga with Michelle Dahl, Yoga with Steve Fearing.  http://www.canby.k12.or.us/uploads/pdf/communityeducation/Spring-2014-CCE-Schedule.pdf  See page 13.

Online (free!) yoga classes:

20 minute class (good overall stretch)  http://youtu.be/B_725qp3_qo

Unravel the tension (20 minutes – emphasis on hamstrings and shoulders.  Note: I skip reclined hero’s pose, an extreme quadricep stretch) http://youtu.be/gQ63nBPHzew

Seawheeze 2013 yoga practice (30 minutes – more advanced – designed for runners and cyclists, but a good all-around stretch)  http://youtu.be/QlgDPA9o21A

Yoga videos – even with all the free stuff, I would pay for these

Yoga conditioning for weight loss with Suzanne Deason (45 minutes – a great overall stretch for beginners of all sizes — don’t let the title put you off)

AM and PM Yoga (20 minutes – Patricia Walden gives great overall PM stretch.  Rodney Yee does the very, very gentle AM stretch, also about 20 minutes.)

References

Michael J. Alter, Science of Flexibility, ISBN-13: 9780736048989

MCNAIR, P. et al. (2001) Stretching at the ankle joint: viscoelastic responses to holds and continuous passive motion. Medicine & Science in Sport and Exercise, 33 (3), p. 354-358

Flexibility  http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_3.html

How to stretch  http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_5.html

The effect of time on static stretch on the flexibility of the hamstring muscles.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8066111

Understanding flexibility: An important part of fitness. http://www.healthyalberta.com/720.htm

Epiphony

I lie on my back, knees pulled into my chest, eyes closed, slowly rocking back and forth.  On the backward swing I roll into sunlight. The inside of my eyelids light up neon bright, little floaties swim by, swirling around as I squeeze and relax my eyelids.  I gaze into a red-orange snow globe.  I am six years old, supposedly taking a nap, but it’s way too hot to sleep.  The swamp cooler drones in the hallway, its humidified cool circle of influence extending to within a few feet of our bedroom door.  

My sister Linda, older by three years and past the age of required naps, is supposed to be reading or studying or something.  Her first name is really Laura.  I find out much later that someone in the family could not pronounce Laura correctly.  This person called her Hoar-a, which was just too close to a bad word.  So we moved on to her second name, Linda.  For as long as I can remember, Linda and I have always shared a room, we have always had chores, and because she is older, she has always gotten the harder ones.  Everyone has a set place in the world – mine is middle child.

“Hey Linda, you know that feeling when you don’t feel anything, like your whole body is rubber?”

She is sitting at her desk, identical to mine, with her back to me.  The room has twin beds, parked head-in against the same wall, separated by a chest of drawers, left side hers, right side mine.  Both beds have matching ribbed bedspreads, the thin kind that draws attention to every wrinkle underneath and leaves parallel indent lines on your skin if you lie on top too long.

“No.”  She doesn’t even turn around.

I know she knows what I mean.  What is she doing over there?  Nothing – just looking out the window.  This is so irritating, because I really want to talk about the feeling.  The one that happens when I first wake up from a real nap, but only sometimes.  It never lasts very long.  Last time I had it, I quietly rolled out of bed and headed down the hallway, using stealth mode to protect the feeling.  Even the dust brigade, backs against the walls, hardly noticed me. Carefully sliding each foot down its assigned lane of linoleum tile, I almost made it to the front door before regular senses took over.

“You do know.  Your body feels like rubber and your brain only works in the very middle.”

“No.”  She continues to stare out the window.

Her window faces west, shaded by a cottonwood in an otherwise barren side yard.  I look out my window onto the backyard.  Sprinklers spray the grass under a weeping willow.

A gentle light diffuses through my mind.  Maybe she really doesn’t know about the feeling.  I start to wonder, could she have feelings that I don’t know about?  No way.  If she thinks and feels things I don’t know, that means I don’t really know everything about her.  The light sweeps each thought forward to make room for the next.

Maybe she is more than someone in my world, here to help me grow up.  Maybe she has her own world, and she thinks I am part of her world.  My reflection looks at me from the mirror.  

So, it’s like TV.  There is my show, of course, with all its people.  But all the people in my show also have their own show?  That’s too many shows.  I wait for a new thought.

Nothing.  

That must be it.  Everyone I know has their own show, just like I do.  Bigger than that, every person in the whole world has their own show.  Every person can have thoughts and feelings no one knows about.  They can do things no one expects.  Every.  Single.  Person.  

The complexity stuns me.  As I scowl at my feet, my brain grows numb, even in the middle.  Linda is writing or drawing something, her face a few inches from the paper.  I curl up and pull the bedspread all the way over my head.  I take a deep breath and close my eyes, floating into the black snow globe.  The light trails off, then disappears.

Pain and the Brain – Science Thoughts

Last spring, after putting it off until getting dressed became a contortionist’s act, I finally agreed to shoulder surgery.  I expected the short-term pain – what the medical community calls “acute” pain.  I initially managed it with pharmaceuticals, and as one would hope, that pain dissipated with time.  What I never expected was long-term or “chronic” pain.  I decided to manage that by first finding out how pain works so I could make informed treatment decisions.  The most powerful thing I learned?   Knowing how pain works can make its treatment more effective.

As I get ready to launch into the nature of pain, you might be tempted to scan down to find the how-you-fix-it part.  Here’s my bias: most people do a better job of fixing things if they understand how they work.  I believe this to be particularly true in the case of pain.  When I first heard some of the recommendations for self-treating chronic pain, I thought they were almost laughable.  They certainly would not have worked for me at that point.  Because pain perception involves your mind, understanding how pain works can affect the outcome.

Nature of Pain

Most of us find it easier to tell the doctor where it hurts than to describe how it hurts, but the medical community needs to know “how” because it divides pain into two major categories: acute or chronic.  Acute pain initiates from the point of tissue injury, travelling via fast-conducting nerve fibers.  Characterized as sharp or stinging, it serves the very necessary function of letting us know when we damage ourselves and generally subsides once the injury heals. Chronic pain is more sinister.  Carried by slow conducting nerve fibers, chronic pain presents as dull, burning, tingling or aching.  Chronic pain lasts more than three months – some unfortunate individuals endure it for decades.  The sinister aspect: chronic pain serves little or no protective purpose.

programming-bugIf someone tells you chronic pain is all in your head, you can inform them that the spinal cord is also involved.  (My editor nixed what I would tell them.)  Chronic pain can be thought of as errant wiring or a programming bug in the brain and spinal cord. This bug allows false pain messages from long healed injuries.  In the case of phantom limb pain, an amputee may still feel pain from a lost limb.  Wiring, in the form of additional pain nerve cells, may also help transmit the old message.  Researchers have recently come to view chronic pain as a mal-adapted form of “neuroplasticity” – the central nervous system’s ability to change structure, function or chemistry.  This ability facilitates learning new tasks and, unfortunately for some of us, the efficient replay of useless pain messages.  Indeed pain is very mental.  So much so, that in some cases it can be forgotten, if temporarily, when something more interesting distracts us.

madmen_switchboard_opsTo explain why sensory input, thoughts and emotions influence pain perception, Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall proposed a gate mechanism.  Picture an old-fashioned telephone switchboard: three operators connect messages into the switchboard. Each operator specializes in specific messages.  Operator 1: acute and chronic pain messages from the body; Operator 2 “regular” sensory (touch, vibration, temperature) messages from the body; Operator 3: messages, such as thoughts, from the brain.  An outgoing wire from the switchboard is a pain hotline to the brain.   Before reaching the brain, pain messages must pass through a switch or gate.  Specific combinations of incoming messages close the gate, preventing pain messages from reaching the brain.

No pain signals reach the brain (gate closed) with any one of the following conditions:

  • no incoming messages;
  • “regular” sensory nerves bring in more input than the pain nerves;
  • messages from the brain shut the gate.

Pain signals reach the brain (gate open) when both these conditions exist:

  • pain nerves (acute or chronic) bring in more input than regular nerves;
  • the brain does not send messages to shut the gate.

Some people vigorously rub their hand to relieve pain after pinching a finger.  Gate theory would say they increased regular sensory input to override the pain input.  The pain gate closes on the hotline – no pain messages pass to the brain.  Similarly, mental distractions can help us forget pain, as messages from the brain close the pain gate.

Non-Pharmaceutical Pain Relief

pillsPost-surgery, I took an opioid medication prescribed for moderate to severe pain.  At the time I remember thinking, “This recovery thing is a piece of cake!”  If something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.  The longer I took the medication, the less relief it provided.  I began to understand the roots of misuse and slowly tapered off.  For unknown reasons, chronic pain from a previous, unrelated injury reactivated.

What a drag, it is, getting old.  After consulting two doctors who found nothing “wrong”, I decided to look for alternative treatments to close the pain gate.  Research shows that relief of pain can reverse neuroplastic changes to restore normal brain function.  I hoped to close the pain gate and then let reverse neuroplasticity produce long term relief.

As alternative therapies become more accepted, the number of studies increases until scientists can statistically combine results from multiple studies to reach conclusions on the benefit of these treatments. The therapies discussed below are widely used, but by no means comprehensive.  It goes without saying, appropriate treatment for a particular pain condition should be discussed with a doctor.

Strategies that close the pain gates can be divided into sensory (physical), cognitive (thoughts), or emotional (feelings), with substantial overlap between these areas.

Sensory

Regular sensory inputs provide competing input to close the pain gate (rubbing the hand to relieve pain from a pinched finger).  Acupuncture, massage and exercise are examples of sensory-based therapies.   Statistically combined studies found they can provide pain relief for chronic pain, depending on the specific condition.  The takeaway for those who prefer some science in their decision-making: there is science behind these particular alternative therapies – both a theoretical model (gate theory) and experimental data for specific conditions.

yoga-1Therapies that have not yet gained scientific acceptance for specific pain conditions also have their adherents.  Yoga helps illustrate the difference between individuals finding relief and a statistical conclusion.  Researchers in the U.K. conducted a literature search on the effects of yoga in relieving chronic pain.  They found ten comparable clinical trials, involving hundreds of patients.  Though nine out of the ten trials found yoga could help provide pain relief, they concluded, “yoga has the potential for alleviating pain. However, definitive judgments are not possible.”   Though many people in these studies found pain relief with yoga, many did not.  Statistically conclusions depend in how much noise or variation exists in the data – too much variation yields no definitive conclusion.

For those who find a human connection powerful in their decision-making:  My friend Jan, an avid hiker, has experienced intermittent leg pain for three years.  She writes, “I think I’ve tried about everything: physical therapy, chiropractic therapy, massage, acupuncture, and rolfing (structural integration). Of these, I’d say acupuncture was the most effective, but none of them have had lasting results. Even though I’m very new to it, yoga seems to be helping more than anything else I’ve done.”  Personally, I also find yoga effective.  As with any unproven treatment, cautious participation may be the only way to draw your own conclusions.

Cognitive

Substantial research has shown that we can diminish pain perception through our thoughts – messages from the brain closing the pain gate.  Over time, repeatedly closing the pain gate may reverse the misguided neuroplasticity that causes chronic pain.

brainFor those skeptical about our ability to “think” our way out of pain, Stanford’s Neuroimaging and Pain Lab provides one of the most dramatic demonstrations of our cognitive ability to dial down pain.  In this program, trained volunteers tried various thought strategies (e.g., relaxation, imagery and distraction) to increase or decrease their pain. They received real-time feedback by watching a pain-perception portion of their brains through functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).  The Stanford studies show that individuals can gain enough control to impact even severe chronic pain through their thoughts.

Biofeedback and meditation have both been evaluated using statistically combined studies.  Both were found to provide moderate to effective relief for specific pain conditions.  It should be noted that effective meditation programs involve eight to ten weeks training, with continued and consistent practice showing best results.

With the mind-body connection introduced in a scientific context, this is a good time to discuss the placebo effect.  People need not feel embarrassed if they learn their perceived pain relief came from a “sugar pill” or other non-active therapy.  fMRI research demonstrates that the placebo effect has a scientific basis.  The placebo response reduces pain by closing the pain gate and/or by activating natural opiates in the brain.   Surprisingly, the placebo effect does not necessarily require deception.   A  2010 Harvard study told patients they would be taking inert drugs; patients were also told that placebos often have healing effects.  Even the Harvard researchers were taken aback when patients who knew they were taking placebos reported twice as much symptom relief as the no-treatment group – an improvement better than many pharmaceutical drugs.

placeboStudies evaluating alternative treatments generally include test groups to rule out the placebo effect.  However, given the potential for significant pain relief and the lack of side-effects, the question arises: If you are self-evaluating a particular treatment, does it really matter if pain relief comes from the actual treatment or from the brain’s placebo response?

Emotional

It does not take a medical degree to know emotions affect your perception of pain.  You feel better when you take control of your well-being, keep a positive attitude, reduce stress, and work to overcome depression.  Certainly, chronic pain can lead to depression, but the reverse also applies.  Chronic pain and depression share some of the same nerve pathways and neurotransmitters – the chemicals traveling between nerves.  As with chronic pain, depression reduces signals that close the pain gate (mal-adapted neuroplasticity); the gate stays open, increasing pain perception.  When dealing with depression and chronic pain combined, the need to work with a physician is even greater.  Fortunately, many treatments found effective for chronic pain also help alleviate depression.

Finally, some people turn to their own spiritual beliefs to deal with pain.  I have another particularly courageous friend, Lynne, who lives a full life while dealing with multiple sclerosis and its multiple points of chronic pain.  She explains, “The primary way I deal with pain, besides due diligence in pursuing medical treatment/therapy, is spiritual.  It depends on an informed faith as revealed in Scripture and as demonstrated by how the Lord has sustained me in the past.”  We each have our own profile in courage to draw from.

Stick To It

The commonality for most of these non-pharmaceutical therapies: they are time-consuming and require long-term commitment.  Most people will likely have to try more than one.  The payoff is in taking charge of your own well-being and potentially helping to reverse the neuroplasticity causing chronic pain.  While evaluating a particular therapy in conjunction with a doctor, pain management experts recommend monitoring quality of life, as well as reduction in pain.  This includes improvements in daily functions, mood, sleep, relationships and pleasure in living.  Many find this particularly powerful because it reinforces the idea that quality of life is not solely or rigidly connected to chronic pain.persevere

References:

[deCharms, 2005] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1311906/.  Viewed 02/09/2014.

[Freudenrich, 2007] http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/pain4.htm.  Viewed 01/29/2104.

[Goyal, 2014]  http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1809754.  Viewed 02/08/2014.

[Mayo, 2013] http://www.mayoclinic.org/massage/art-20045743. Viewed 01/29/2014.

[Melzack and Wall, 1965] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/150/3699/971.citation. Viewed 01/29/2014.

[Millar, 2013]  Pharmacology of Pain Management 2013 by Sue B. Millar Pharm.D. Clinical Pharmacist Specialist-Geriatrics, Portland VA Medical Center, Power Point presentation.  Email correspondence 01/29/2014.

[Morley, 1998] http://www.researchgate.net/publication/13092976_Systematic_review_and_meta-analysis_of_randomized_controlled_trials_of_cognitive_behaviour_therapy_and_behaviour_therapy_for_chronic_pain_in_adults_excluding_headache/file/d912f50af5a79d2bfe.pdf. Viewed 02/08/2014.

[Naugle et. al., 2012] Naugle KM, Fillingim RB, Riley JL. A Meta-Analytic Review of the Hypoalgesic Effects of Exercise. J Pain. 2012(Dec);13(12):1139-1150.  http://updates.pain-topics.org/2012/12/exercise-chronic-pain-relief-meta.html. Viewed 01/30/2014.

[Posadzki et. al., 2011]  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21944658. Viewed 01/30/2014.

[Thernstrom, 2006]  http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/14/magazine/14pain.html?_r=0. Viewed 01/29/2014.

[Tsao, 2007] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1876616/. Viewed 01/31/2014.

[Vickers, 2012] http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1357513.  Viewed 02/07/2014.

[Wagner, 2013]  http://wagerlab.colorado.edu/files/papers/Wager_Fields_Textbookofpain_toshare.pdf. Viewed 02/20/14

[WebMD] http://www.webmd.com/depression/managing-pain.  Viewed 02/10/14.

Other sources:

[Abaci,2012] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-abaci-md/chronic-pain_b_2185616.html.  Viewed 02/07/2014

[Jacques, 2009] http://pain.about.com/od/painandmentalhealth/a/depression_cp.htm.  Viewed 01/31/2104.

[Kerr, 2013] http://www.frontiersin.org/journal/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00012/abstract. Viewed 01/31/2014.

[Levy, 2008] http://www.health.com/health/condition-article/0,,20189539,00.html. Viewed 01/29/2014.

[Pickert, 2014] http://healthland.time.com/2014/01/22/learning-to-pay-attention-5-steps-to-mindfulness-meditation/. Viewed 01/31/2014.

[Pain and Wellness] http://www.painandwellness.com/how-pain-works. Viewed 01/29/2014.

[Rosenzweig, 2007] https://www.google.com/search?q=comorbid+definition&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari.  Viewed 01/31/2014

[Rubinstein, 2011] http://www.healthtourismmagazine.com/article/treatment-of-chronic-pain-a-neuroplastic-approach.html.  Viewed 02/08/2014.

[Sherman] http://www.aapb.org/files/public/ReviewOfBFBForPain.pdf. Viewed 01/30/2104.

Green Chile Believer – Food Thoughts

New Mexicans have their own mantra for treating the common cold: drink lots of fluids, get lots of rest, and eat lots of green chile.  Didn’t find that last thing on the Mayo Clinic web site? Someone should fix that.  

IMAG0803Therapeutic properties aside, there remain countless gustatory reasons to eat green chile (Capsicum annuum), the defining ingredient in New Mexican cuisine.  Similar in appearance to Anaheim and poblano chiles, New Mexico green chiles are hotter with more complex flavors.  Within the state, natives heap it over eggs, onto pizza and into stews.  You can even order a green chile cheeseburger at McDonalds, though longtime locals hit Blake’s Lottaburger, recognized by National Geographic in their 2006 article: Passport to the Best. [1]  Really though, the best place to find green chile is inside a freshly-rolled flour tortilla, hot off a wood-burning cook stove in a tiny stucco house at the end of dirt road outside Cebolla, NM.  Just the tortilla and the chile.  Nothing like it.

If you think “Chile is chile, so what?” then you have not tasted green chile from Hatch, New Mexico, home of the Hatch Chile Festival.  During this two day event, the town (population: 1639) has hosted up to 30,000 people. [2] If you found your sampling of green chile unexceptional, you may have ingested fake New Mexico green chile.  “What we’ve got is people coming in and selling chile and saying it’s from New Mexico, and some of it is being shipped in from Mexico or elsewhere,” said State Representative Andy Nuñez, sponsor of the New Mexico Chile Advertising Act.

esq-Roasting-the-green-chilesFolks from out of state with friends or family in New Mexico can export authentic Hatch green chiles in airline luggage.  To prepare green chiles for transport, my mom buys and freezes the peppers every September, when fresh chiles arrive in local grocery stores and street corner stands.  Street vendors will fire-roast chiles in rotating screened bins for a nominal fee. It’s quick and cheap and yields perfectly charred, smoky peppers.  Once roasted, the peppers collapse, like the water-doused wicked witch of the west, minimizing their volume.  Most DIYer’s and commercial companies do not peel whole pods before freezing. My mom tucks the flavorsome babies into quart-sized plastic bags, labels with relative temperament (hot, medium or mild) and lets them rest in the freezer.  To ready the peppers for flight, she bundles the frozen chile bags with freeze-packs in thick layers of newspaper, which I further insulate in laundry from my always-too-short visit.  Albuquerque TSA has seen this a million times.

calabacitasAnd what to do once you get them home?  Prior to cooking or just plain eating them, run lukewarm water over the frozen pod.  This defrosts the skin, but leaves the meat firm.  With a little tactile encouragement the skin falls away.  (Take care not to rub your eyes during this process – yeow!)  Once peeled, chile possibilities span every meal of the day.  Breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, quiche… pretty much any egg dish.  Most “Mexican” dishes: chicken enchiladas, tacos, tostadas.  The Santa Fe School of Cooking offers its version of Green Chile Stew [5].  Vegetable side dishes hosting green chile include quelites (spinach) and calabacitas (squash).  Until I left New Mexico, I had no idea people made guacamole without green chile.

While a virus hijacks my normally fine health, I research the finer points of green chile to learn that chile peppers are packed with vitamins C and A (as beta-carotene), as well as potassium, iron, and fiber.  That may explain why people claim green chile fights the common cold.  I’m heading for the freezer.  Good things come to those who believe.

[1]  “National Geographic Passport to the Best, The 10 Best of Everything”. National Geographic. 2006-03-21.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatch,_New_Mexico viewed 01/08/14.

[3]  http://www.hatch-chile.com/  viewed 01/09/14.

[4]  http://www.newmexicanconnection.com/10lbsgreenbigjimchiles-mediumheat.aspx viewed 01/09/14.

[5]  http://santafeschoolofcooking.com/Recipes/Archived_Recipes/Green_Chile_Stew/ viewed 01/09/14

photo basket of chiles  http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/chileinformation/tp/Types-Of-Green-Chiles.htm

photo street vendor roasters  http://www.esquire.com/blogs/food-for-men/roast-green-chile-recipe

photo calabacitas  https://www.google.com/search?q=calabacitas+image&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en&client=safari

The River – Education Thoughts

Image

In 2001, I joined a math department that included one of that year’s PAEMST winners (Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching).  It is the nation’s highest honor for math teachers.  “Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education.” [1] To top that off, Jerry Young, our PAEMST-winner, is just a heck of a nice guy.

In retrospect, I should have noticed my co-workers tippy-toeing around the honor.  People quietly congratulated Jerry, but no one suggested even taking him out to lunch.  Suffering from social tone-deafness, I took it upon myself to email the math department invitations to a little celebration.  We all gathered for lunch at a nearby restaurant.  Everyone had to sit somewhere at the table, but the half that sat furthest from Jerry actively ignored the rest of us.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_(wrestling)

Math Wars.  Wikipedia defines Math Wars as the debate in modern mathematics education over traditional mathematics and reform mathematics, philosophy and curricula. [2]  Ladieees and gentlemen… At this end of the table, we have Jerry Young, passionate advocate of reform mathematics.  And, at the far end we have the traditionalists, firm believers in time-honored methods.

What is the difference and who is right?  In the simplest terms, traditional methods rely on direct instruction. Teachers provide full and explicit guidance accompanied by practice and feedback. Students do not “discover” what they must learn. [3]  Reform methods, on the other hand, challenge students to make sense of new mathematical ideas through explorations and projects.  Teachers do not explicitly tell students what or how to think.  Teachers provide support and guidance as students develop new ideas by building on what they already know. [4] Sage-on-the-stage versus guide-on-the-side. Though either side may take exception with this generalization: traditional curricula tends towards more breadth, reform tends towards more depth.  The debate over which is better has raged for more than 20 years.

River - Ants

Did you hear the one about the two ants?  I digress here, but hang with me.  Two ants stand at water’s edge arguing about how to build a bridge to cross the river.  Ends up, ants have a remarkable ability to build bridges out of their collective live bodies.  One of the ants has experience with live-body bridges, the other wants to use the more standard grass-blade technique.  Soon, the argument gets physical and the ants are trying to sever each other at their skinny little waists.  Zoom out from the scene…  back a bit further…  the river is a mile wide and an inch deep.

The River.  Many teachers will recognize the phrase “mile wide and inch deep.” It is often used to describe math curriculum in the United States, particularly when compared to other top achieving countries.  “Mile wide” refers to the large number of topics taught at each grade level; “inch deep” refers to the unavoidably shallow understanding that results from covering too much, too fast.  It matters little how you teach when the time spent on each topic allows for only rote or algorithmic understanding of the problems. (Note: The most traditional of teachers maintain that K-12 requires a mile-wide river to insure their view of “math literacy.”  For them, the goal is to memorize and use as many different algorithms as possible.)

Many reasons account for the creation of our mile-wide river.  Among the first stands the breadth of topics in No Child Left Behind high stakes tests, which were based on NCTM Standards [5].  Fortunately, as we move onto the new Common Core Standards, those days are behind us.  Or are they?

Common Core has something for everyone, reformists and traditionalists, alike.  And therein lies the danger. Few would question that Common Core calls for deeper understanding.  At the same time, for high school math, it also addresses breadth with a vast number of standards.*  Do we now have a river that is 0.8 miles wide and 0.8 miles deep?

white-stick-river-the-mississippi-river

How wide and how deep is the river?  With the number of school days pre-set, breadth and depth are interdependent.  In practice, whichever gets established first becomes the limiting factor for the other.  In policy-making, that interdependence can slip by forgotten or ignored.  The language and rationale that go with Common Core seem to prioritize depth; however, the number of high school standards provides a breath-taking width.  In practice, since depth of understanding can be difficult to quantify, hitting all those standards often becomes the driving factor – at depth’s expense.  Once again, we find ourselves gazing across the River of Perpetual Return.

Teachers need policy-makers to clearly define depth and specify a compatible breadth in the number of standards.  Until then, it really does not matter if one teaches reform or traditional.  Neither can be fully effective.

* I cannot speak to the number of standards in K-8.

[1] https://www.paemst.org viewed 01/02/2104.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Math_wars viewed 01/02/2014.

[3] http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/spring2012/Clark.pdf  viewed 01/02/2014.

[4] http://mathematicallysane.com/reform-mathematics-vs-the-basics/ viewed 01/02/2104

[5] I use the phrase “NCTM Standards” for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommendations for K–12 curriculum contained Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000).

Photos

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_(wrestling)http://www.myrmecos.net/2011/07/11/ants-make-a-bridge/

http://explore.org/photos/4991/white-stick-river-the-mississippi-river