lifestyle: mobile apps in a snap

“We’ve arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology.” –Carl Sagan

Life itself is mobile, so why be static in an age of constant change? Here is a list of my must-have mobile apps to keep life mentally clutter-free.

(1) Camscanner

Imagine playing operation with the terrifying fear of dropping the bone in the femur. You need a steady hand for this one and good lighting, but Camscanner does an good job of editing the image to be acceptable. It also allows you to save the documents in several formats and quickly send them where they need to go. The only hangup is the Camscanner logo on the bottom of your pics, in bold, mind you. If you really need to have a professional looking document, then upgrade to premium- but for personal use, it’s not necessary.

Android // iPhone

(2) Photoscan

Long gone are the days of pharmacy drop-off and pick-up photos. With the advancement in photo-technology comes Photoscan. Easily save those 90s memories into a digital profile and share with all your family and friends.

Android // iPhone

(3) Tab

There is always one George Castanza in a group of friends; don’t be him. Tab allow users to easily scan a receipt to determine  who should pay for which items. Tax and tip are calculated accordingly, so you don’t have to break out the calculator or conduct some mathematical wizardry in your head.

Android // iPhone

(4) If (If This, Then, That)

I heard God’s choir when I found this savior. It’s true- just believe. If connects almost 300 other apps in one central hub, including Spotify, Instagram, and Google Drive. You can sync your platforms, organize your life, and track your lifestyle in one click.

Android // iPhone

(5) Pocket

Sometimes I just want to browse the internet but not read anything requiring much focus, or I may want to save something to check out later, when I can devote my full attention to it. Slide in Pocket. You can save articles, videos, or links to Pocket and revisit them when it best suits you.  Pocket is tailored to you. It is based on your reading style and preferences, and if you elect, will send you notifications about items that may be of interest to you. For the millennial multi-tasker, its text-to-speech feature is great to listen to when you’re just plain tired.

Android // iPhone



5 Novel Ways to Use Color to Teach Students

As an eleventh grade English teacher, it can be a challenging task to engage students who already have a fixed-mindset about learning. It is even more difficult when I have to teach students to analyze and synthesize information from a variety of sources to craft a cogent argument explaining their own views, and not someone else’s. For this reason, I employ the use of the arts, technology, and writing to help students develop a growth-mindset about education through color.

Total Physical Response Activities. My first unit is about the formation of America. I have students read an abridged version of Common Sense, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence. Thereafter, in a presentation, I use statistics to show how inequality stills exists in America. I then count off students by color− black, blue, and white. In suit, I provide students with random objects around the classroom such as paperclips, ribbons, post-it notes− whatever I can find and do not mind losing.

I then ask the students to create a community based on the resources that I give to them. What the students do not know is that the colors represent the different socioeconomic classes in America− lower class, middle class, and upper class. Consistently, and every time I do this activity, those who are assigned to the lower class use all their resources wisely by creating schools, fire stations, and police stations. Those who are assigned to the middle class create the same infrastructures, but they space out their community to include lawns and suburban homes. Finally, those who were assigned to the upper class tend to use their resources frivolously by creating all the necessary civil structures, but they tack on movie theatre complexes, high rises, and toss aside any excess materials.

Highlighting. When I am teaching the structure of a paragraph, I use different colors to break down the elements of sentence. In addition to the main idea, students are expected to address the following in the first paragraph of any essay that they are to write in my class− Who (the author), What (the assigned reading), How (imagery, tone, diction, syntax/structure), and Why (author’s purpose).

Example: In Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she elucidates on the racial discrimination limiting African-Americans in present day society. Through the use of imagery, she delineates between the caged bird, representing the Black man, and the free bird, representing the white man. In turn, the caged bird is still shackled not by slavery but by prejudice.

Construction Paper. For argumentative essays, pass out sheets of red and green construction paper to the students. Assign students a topic where they are to agree or disagree with the prompt. Randomly, hand out the green and red sheets to students. Those who are given the green paper must agree with the stated prompt and those who are given the red paper must disagree. This exercise challenges students to see an argument from multiple perspectives, because they may be given a color (‘side’) that they may be at odds with.

If you want to get really fancy, download lined printable paper, and print it out on top of the construction paper.

Photographs. When teaching visual analysis, I use OPTIC (Overview, Parts of the Picture, Title, Interrelationships, and Conclusion). After I use guided instruction to help students analyze the picture, I upload it into a photography program on my computer. I then apply a filter such as black and white or sepia and ask the students to reevaluate the photo. You can also adjust the clarity, focus, and cut of the pictures, if you want to be more advanced. Students are surprised how the adjustment of an image can be easily manipulated and affect the way they perceive it.

Although you can use hard copy photos, I recommend using a digital photography program that allows you to edit on the spot, or at least apply filters.

Paint Chips. Check out your local paint store and pick-up paint chips. Use these as a visual form of analysis to grade student papers: the deeper the color, the deeper the analysis. Besides being free, this resource is excellent for rhetorical analysis. It provides a visual for students to distinguish between ‘surface-level’ analysis and ‘deeper’ analysis. This tool can be applied to both prose and poetry. I also attach a rubric to further define the areas where students can improve:  analysis of reasoning, flow and structure, insightfulness, and originality of thought.

Hue knew color can be so helpful?

My post was originally featured on Edutopia: 5 Novel Ways to Use Color to Teach Students


op-ed: the early fafsa

“Failure is the tuition you pay for success.” – Walter Brunel

The early FAFSA has brought forth a litany of questions about how it will affect admissions deadlines, financial aid policies, and recruitment efforts.

The Change: The new FAFSA will use financial aid information from the past two years instead of only using the a family’s tax information from the preceding year.

New Submission Date:  Students can now submit the FAFSA earlier−on October 1st and continue to file until the next year.

Presently, the only qualification to obtain the grant is to be a citizen or an eligible non-citizen. In each case, a student must also have a high financial need, as determined by a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

However, excluded from this narrative, is how a student could barely pass high school and receive a full Pell grant. For the 2016–17 award year (July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017), the maximum award is $5,815, which is to divided between fall and spring semesters.

Working with different demographics, I have seen students who barely pass high school or who have recently emigrated to the United States, as an eligible non-citizen, receive full awards. In contrast, the lower middle-class student, with perfect grades, often times gets zilch.

FAFSA states that it has implemented the change to put “less pressure” on families who “won’t need to estimate” tax information. However, working in college admissions, the real reason may be to redress loopholes in the system.

For example, some families may list only one parent on the IRS tax form, with that specific parent claiming all the dependents in the family. In this manner, those who are generally seen as “too wealthy” by the federal government, which is determined by the family’s needs analysis, will get some aid.

Nonetheless, the implementation of the two-year rule may not fully curtail abuses. Families may still try to work the system, because the federal government has yet to solve the rising cost of education and the crippling student debt crisis.

Ultimately, the socioeconomic implications of the new FAFSA have yet to be foreseen. From an institutional perspective, universities may have to reevaluate deadlines, offers of admissions, and recruitment practices. From a student perspective, families are still not being informed about the true cost of college nor is the middle-class receiving the full scope of financial aid that they should be entitled to have.

If FAFSA truly wanted to rectify its policies and procedures, as the award has not increased relative to college costs, then it should institute a GPA restriction as well as a residency requirement of at least two years.

There will be much discussion about FAFSA, included within the larger debate about the high cost of college, as many answers are still unknown and will not be known till the early FAFSA has been fully instituted.


lifestyle: quasi-relationships and singledom

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long.” –Pablo Neruda

Relationships, or quasi-relationships, are the norm these days. And with the impending Valentine’s Day holiday, it is easy to get wrapped up in your singledom. It is also just as easy to sit on a throne of lies and believe your relationship is healthy, and not just comfortable.

Here are a few reminders for those in relationships:

  1. No one owns you.
  2. Do not disrespect your partner. Do not cheat, lie, or betray one another. Once trust is gone, so is any chance of a strong relationship.
  3. If you are confused or frustrated, move on. The other person is playing you either intentionally or as a result of his insecurities. Boy, bye!
  4. Every relationship will teach you something:  what you want, what you do not want, and what you should never tolerate. Learn from your past.
  5. Love will make you stupid. Truly, completely, and utterly stoopid. Hopefully, the person who you are in love with will not abuse that love.
  6. You may fall out of love, or realize after years of being in a relationship that you were never in love to begin with. It’s okay.
  7. Do not speak ill of your exes, even if it is true. Harping on the negative will make you come off as angry and bitter. It’s emotional self-sabotage. Find the beauty in peace.
  8. Only talk to your closest friends about your relationship issues; this allows you to maintain your privacy but still get an outsider’s perspective on the relationship. Sometimes you are too close to a person to realize who he really is.
  9. Speak your truth. Do not just say, “I’m fine.” Address the issue and come to a solution.
  10. If he cares, then he will change. If not, he has just revealed his true face. Choose yourself before you give to another.

For all those single gals waiting to finally find a good man, wait till mid-March. This is peak season for break-ups and fresh beginnings.


pedagogy: does working threaten college students’ academic success?

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

There has been limited research on the experiences of traditional-aged students at urban, commuter schools. This particular population is more likely to have higher financial aid needs, and as a result, work more and participate in on-campus activities less.

Often times these students come from economically challenged families, are minorities, first-generation American, or are considered non-traditional students. In turn, they are less likely to know how or apply for financial aid, thus missing out on state and federal opportunities to fund their education.

Instead, turning to working more hours, these students’ grades are impacted. In a study published by the Journal of College Student Retention, a negative correlation between hours worked and students success was found. Since there is a statistically significant relationship between GPA and persistence, students are advised to ideally work no more than than 10-15 hours per week.

By examining the relationship between work and student success, further study is needed on socioeconomic equity and access to higher education. Colleges and universities need to better allocate their resources to serve students who are struggling with finances. And students need to be informed how  their choices affect their ability to successfully complete college.


lifestyle: fit, young, and fresh

“Your body is a temple, but only if you treat it as one.”  –Astrid Alauda

The best tip that I ever received about weight loss and maintenance is know thy self. Some of us love breakfast, others desert, which is why diet plans fail. Do not tailor your size to a generic fit. My biggest food struggle has always been the munchies. Mindless eating watching GoT or a sappy rom-com on lonely nights does not help the waistline when you’re trying to find Mr. Right.

Here are 4 tips to beat those nom-nom-oops-gone moments:

  1. Something crunchy? Avoid those chips, even the ‘baked‘ ones. Empty calories, unnecessary oils, and gross breath. Solution- cut up radishes, celery, and carrots! Place these wholesome, snappy bites in a plastic container with a small amount of water on the bottom, so they don’t lose their freshness.
  2. Chocolate? True, it is your best friend; let’s not deny ourselves this indulgent fact. However, too much, not so cute. First step is to admit you are a woman; second step is to admit you need more magnesium in your system. Find it in nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. Bonus, this mineral serves to relax the body and combat stress! Best way to get your daily dose is by eating spinach, which has no taste. Blend it into a smoothie, and you have a delish superfood in the palm of your hands.
  3. Something sweet? Drink water. Craving sweets indicates a lack of chromium in the body, and the most readily available source to find it is your local tap, the faucet, not the corner bar.
  4. Something fatty? Guac, me. You’re low on essential fatty acids and oils. Think omega-3 and the lux hair commercials. Best bet is to hold off on the snacks and enjoy a healthy meal with fish, like salmon, as your core consumable. Other options include buying supplements, but they have yet to come up with a chewy or Flintstones-esque version of these fatty oils. Gotta swallow that pill whole, much like life.


lifestyle post: design and planning

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”- Lao Tzu

I’ve gone off and decided to give this whole blogging thing a whirl, never mind feeling inundated by the workload, uncertain in the caricatures of blogger realities posted by the Queen “B’s” (get it?), nor the overwhelming fear of solid investment without a single return. (The latter is the biggest gulp to swallow, particularly on a teacher’s salary!)

But I refuse to submit to my self-constructed realities. I will not concede without a fight. The worst situation to happen is the loss of financial resources, which will ebb and flow with the economy in any matter. The best, and most inevitable situation, is learning more about what defines me and my self-worth. In truth, I cannot lose.

Thus far, I have already completed my website and have generated social media platforms to increase my outreach. Current tasks include creating a marketing plan and scheduling events. Next steps are to network, write, practice, repeat.



to a new beginning

“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour.” -William Blake

They say life has an unusual way of coming full circle, yet my path has been mystically oblong with throws of hard fought lessons and humbling experiences. However, through it all, what has most grounded me is the ability to constantly see light in a young person’s eyes. A twinkle here or there amid the tumults of life, and, in those quiet a-ha moments, I feel at ease knowing that I have served others in their pursuit of happiness.

I am rejuvenating my efforts to create a blog for my start-up nonprofit “Arrow.” I chose the moniker of an arrow for its simplicity of life constantly pulling me in new directions, sometimes backwards, sometimes forwards- but never towards the same space. With Arrow, my mission is to increase college access and attainment for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, or creed.

As a result, this blog will have several foci:  educational pedagogy, college tips and updates, and minor infusions of lifestyle pieces as I catalog my journey.

Thank you for joining me on my adventure!