Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Friend Passes

A seat at Lexington Elementary has gone unfilled for the last week. It's not a seat that was vacated by an absent student, or the chair of a teacher on hiatus. It's a dark chair in the
school's front office, a chair situated between the front door and staff meeting room. It's a chair that often swiveled its occupant between window views of children entering from the playground to peeks at photographs of family members sitting on the nearby desk. It's a chair that was invariably filled by Debra Sharp, the school's secretary.
It's a chair that, although it will one day be filled by a new occupant, will remain forever empty in the hearts of those who had the pleasure of knowing Ms. Sharp.

Ms. Sharp passed away this week.

Her frank manner, her conversational warmth, her deep interest not only in what folks were doing at her school but also in who those folks were, her optimism for a better tomorrow will be remembered by all who knew her.

The last time I saw her, she was in that same chair at Lexington. We talked about her family. We spoke about her plans for her upcoming wedding. She was thinking about getting married at Lexington, with all of the little kids there to celebrate her special moment with her. She couldn't help but laugh at the thought.

The Lexington family did not get to share in that moment. Ms. Sharp's time here on Earth wasn't long enough to accommodate such a well deserved celebration. Certainly the world could have used many, many more years of Ms. Sharp.
But there was enough time for Ms. Sharp to leave her mark as someone who would get the job done, both professionally and privately. There was enough time for her to give so much of her life to a social endeavor, namely education, that too often gets too little respect.

I thought the next time I would see Ms. Sharp would be at her wedding day. I would finally get to meet those people in the photographs she kept on her desk. Last night, I did meet those same people, and Ms. Sharp was dressed in all white as most brides are. But rather than marry the man she loved, it was her time to bind with eternity.

When someone is so cherished as Ms. Sharp still is, death is but a word that serves only to remind us that a seat in our world will remain empty, while the whispers of memory preserve a spirit ever-flowing.
The emptiness of the chair reflects the emptiness we feel within. But the fullness of spirit of its former occupant serves as testimony to the indelible song the whispers of memory will sing in the halls of Lexington Elementary.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cranky System and Economics

With volunteers and college students about to start their placements this semester, the online system is about to get tested.

My main goal is to make this as easy as possible for our partner schools to use. So I'm now creating an "Easy View" section of the website that allows teachers and administrators to bypass all the editing options and just see who is coming to their school on any particular day.

But Google is getting cranky and doesn't want to show me my calendars right now. Not like I took weeks to make them or anything....

On a side note, I'm doing some research of my own that will hopefully end with something I can publish. (I'm sure it's not easy for a recent college graduate without any advanced degrees or past publications outside of editorial columns to get published, but I'm feeling lucky.)
The research is centering around the idea of parceling out responsibility and enabling more folks to get involved in our larger social challenges, like education. Now, I'm specifically looking into the economics of scheduling, and I am struggling to find any way for people to coordinate schedules efficiently without the use of a third party arbitrator.

Say we assume that we make decisions based on what's best for ourselves, and let's say there are two people trying to coordinate schedules.
If we set up the scheduling system with Person 1 revealing all of their free time and Person 2 then selecting a slot of that free time, Person 2 would pick that slot which works best for Person 2. So Person 2 would maximize his utility given the situation, but this doesn't mean that the utility of the system (Person 1 + Person 2) is maximized.

Think about it like this: When Person 2 picks the "Best" time slot for himself, that same slot might just happen to be the "Worst" time slot for Person 1. Even though Person 2 might be a little worse off personally picking his second or third most favored time slot, the gains in convenience/happiness for Person 1 in moving from the "Worst" to something better might be enough to offset Person 2's losses.

In other words, "Best" + "Worst" might be less than "Good" + "OK".

In subsequent posts, I'll actually draw out diagrams to explain this all a bit better (if you're familiar with Game Theory, you may have already done this in your head).
Long story short, I'm trying to find a way to set up this whole process that will get people to coordinate and make choices that benefits the whole rather than just one individual.