7 Things People May Or May Not Know About Me

note: I wrote this post months ago, but my blog was broken! I am finally posting it.

My friend and colleague Amy Bowllan tagged me (along with Malcom Gladwell!) to blog about 7 things people may or may not know about me. I teach my students about being careful with what they post online, so I'll try to follow my own advice while doing this. Here we go!

1. I spell my name in all lower case. Like this: arvind s. grover. As far as I can remember, I started experimenting with this in 4th grade. I've always been a little obsessed with fonts, and I liked the way some a's were drawn (see image). Ms. MacDonald used to take points off, but I think that made it more attractive to me than less. Then, I learned that others like e.e. cummings and bell hooks and most recently, danah boyd, all preferred it that way, and I felt like I was in good company.

2. I’m addicted to learning. I love learning new things. I love getting better, picking up random knowledge, talking to smart people, reading brilliant writing, listening to wise words. The evolving Internet feels designed to fit my love of learning, and I’m a better person for figuring out how to wield it. I’ve had tons of help, and that’s what makes it great. Some key examples: the Digital Photography School Blog has made me a better photographer by ten fold, and the Flickr community is a close second. My Twitter educators network continually gives to me, and I try to give back. TED.com’s free videos have expanded my mind in ways that are powerful and real, and I’ve shared them with many people. 21st Century Learning (my webcast), EdTechTalk (our show’s network), and Alex Ragone (my cohost/recruiter) have pushed me immeasurably to be better. Just better.

3. I am vegetarian vegan. It’s been a decade since I stopped eating meat. I don’t eat any animals, marine or otherwise. I’m not quite a vegan, but I don’t eat eggs or drink cow’s milk (I recommend Silk soy milk). I was a serious omnivore 10 years ago, but over lunch, I was bet that I couldn’t go two weeks as a vegetarian. I “won” the bet, and have never looked back. When people ask me why I’m a vegetarian now, my standard response is, “because I know it’s the right thing to do.” I feel like I am living a nonviolent, healthy, environmentally-friendly, and most-of-all, ethical life. I strongly recommend you do the same, and am happy to help you adjust. Believe me, I ate more meat than anyone before, and if I can do it, anyone can. 101Cookbooks has been one of the best sources of great food for me lately, so I highly recommend starting there for beautiful food and photos (try the brussel sprouts and caramelized tofu, you’ll never look at tofu the same way again). If you need more encouragement, just check out some of the things I’ve been eating lately. update: I'm a vegan now! I read the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and learned that I could avoid heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, Alzheimers and more, all my eating whole grains and whole foods. Who wouldn't want that? I strongly recommend the book.

4. I’m an atheist. My mother was raised Hindu, and my father raised Sikh. They were both born in India, a place where religion is old, just a part of your identity, and recently, part of serious sectarian politics and violence. I was raised in Pittsburgh going to both a Hindu temple and a Sikh gurdwara. At first I found them interesting, but as I watched adults in charge, I became disenchanted. Shooshing kids was then, and is now, one of my pet peeves. I feel like both temples constantly were scolding, and chasing out kids who were making the slightest of noise; strike 1. At the same time, my family made yearly trips to India to visit the extended family. In the mid-80’s in Punjab (state in India where my dad’s family lives), Sikh terrorists had basically seized control of the state. They wanted an independent Punjab, and were taking hostages, killing opponents, and generally terrorizing an entire state. I’ve had a family friend kidnapped and held for ransom, a kid I grew up with taken hostage on a plane, and my family’s business shot up with AK-47 bullets for one of their employees talking back to a terrorist. Some highlights from my childhood: the Indian Army stormed the most-sacred Sikh temple where the Sikh terrorists were holed up; Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation; right-wing Hindu zealots incite mob violence and slaughter thousands of Sikhs in New Delhi. These were the times in which I was raised, watching Sikhs kill Hindus and Muslims, Hindus kill Sikhs and Muslims, and later Muslims kills Hindus and Sikhs. Religion lost all relevance to me, and in fact, became repugnant. That gives you the lack of interest in religion. God may have still been around, but Russian author and philosopher, Dostoevsky put that in its place for me when he wrote an article about two parents who tortured their baby in unthinkable ways. His argument was basically that if evil like that exists in the world, than there is either no god, or no god worth believing it. Philosophers refer to this problem as the “problem of evil,” and for me, if there’s evil, I can’t see what kind of god there is. Hmm, this blog post may be getting too deep! I must say that I think I'm spiritual, I just don't know how to confine it to one belief system.

5. I’m a feminist. I am a radical and a progressive, too. As hokey as it might sound, but I do believe all people are equal, yet different. I am sad that we live in a time where 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic abuse; women earn 75 cents on the dollar to men, for equivalent work; most American law (and it’s new “hopeful” president) does not allow all people to marry, regardless of sexual orientation; the world is entrenched in wars and violence; quality of schooling in the U.S. (and most of the world) depends mostly on how much money your family has; the news, and seemingly the world, are only focused on money instead of people; and I could go on and on. Feminism gives me an intellectual framework to understand systems of oppression, patriarchy, and how they work against all people. I think that it is a responsibility of people with privilege to stand up for the rights of all people. Feminism is my tool and my ally in this responsibility.

6.  I’m a person of color. For those who don’t live in the United States (or don’t know the term), a person of color for my purposes is a person who is not white. I realize that you have to know what white means to understand that definition, but person of color generally refers to black, Latino, native American, Middle Eastern or Asian people. Being a person of color is something I learned I was when I was young; it was about being a minority, about not fitting in, about being different (in the bad way). Through high-school and college, I began associating and organizing with people of color groups, and I learned about framing my race, my ethnicity, in a positive framework, rather than a deficit model, and a new me was born. I’m now part of the Asian Educators Alliance, the People of Color in Independent Schools – New York, and have been a member of the Students of Color Coalition in Ann Arbor, just to name a few.

7. I don’t know much. But I know what I don’t know. I think I’m pretty good at most things I take on, be they work or personal. But it’s for the sole reason that people out there have experienced it before me, have shared their knowledge with me, and pushed me to develop my own understandings. My “teachers” come in many forms, from actual school teachers and professors, to family members, to friends, to blog/book/article/podcast/video/radio authors, to those in my personal learning networks (PLN’s). Whenever I’m taking on a new endeavor, small or large, I turn to those who know more than me. Those people always exist, and I’m smart enough to be humble enough to know that. Those who don’t do their due-diligence research are doing themselves, and their causes, a disservice. If you’re not part of a personal learning network, you’ve got to go looking. I’m happy to point you in positive directions, so just leave a message below, or come talk to me on Twitter (one of my PLN’s). Knowing what you don’t know makes life a whole lot easier, especially when there are almost always people out there willing to help you figure it out.

Example to the right, I didn’t know how to take night photography, so I read about it, here.

If this were 8 things you may or may not know about be, I’d include #8, I talk a lot. But heck, I’m sure you figured that out from this blog post! Amy, thanks for tagging me in this, I’ve spent all day thinking and writing, and it’s been a moving experience to start off 2009! I thought this was going to be simple! Now, for the people I’m tagging. Sorry to give you more work, everyone!

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arvind s. grover

I am a progressive educator, a podcaster (EdTechTalk.com/21cl), a blogger, and dean of faculty of JK-11 school (building a high school) in New York City.