Less lecture. More learning.

In 2013, I did a TED Talk entitled “Speak Less. Expect More.”


Unfortunately, the audio engineer failed me that day, and the recording was poor. Although my voice is discernible in the video, the audio is of such low quality that the talk never received any real attention despite initial excitement by the organizers to the contrary.

I hope to repeat the talk someday at another conference so I can get the version that people can actually listen to. 

“Speak less. Expect more.” is a hard lesson for educators to learn. So many believe that teaching is about talking. Lectures. Stories. Delivering content and imparting wisdom to eager young minds.

We call these teachers “sages on the stage,” and even though they work incredibly hard and are no less dedicated to their students, they would be far more effective if they simply stopped talking and allowed their students to do more.

If you were to ask my students what my ultimately goal is as an educator, they would tell you that it’s to do nothing. My dream is to sit at my desk, reading a book, answering the occasional question, while the students run the classroom and guide their own learning.

It’s unrealistic, of course. Pie in the sky. Nevertheless, I’m working on it, and you would be shocked at the level of responsibility that students have in my classroom.

What I’ve discovered is that children are far more capable than we ever realize, and that letting go of as much responsibility and placing it squarely on the students’ shoulders is good for everyone, but especially the kids.  

I mention all of this because I read a quote by Stephen Fry recently that summarizes my belief and my TED Talk so well:

“Education is the sum of what students teach each other between lectures and seminars.”

If I were king, I would have this quote placed above the door of every classroom – elementary through college – in America.

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Mike Huckabee is a bigot still living in 1996

Jon Stewart, while interviewing Mike Huckabee, said the following:

Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality. And the protections that we have for religion — we protect religion. And talk about a lifestyle choice —religion is absolutely a choice. Gay people don’t choose to be gay. At what age did you choose to not be gay?

You know, you talk about the pro-life movement being one of the great shames of our nation. I think if you want number two, I think it’s that: It’s a travesty that people have forced someone who is gay to have to make their case that they deserve the same basic rights as someone else.

I feel bad for Mike Huckabee. He talks about same sex marriage like it’s 1996 and the world is still ruled by ignorant bigots and sensible cowards.

Someone please tell him that while he was busy doing his show on Fox News, the world finally moved on.


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The McRib is super healthy and nothing like a yoga mat

I have to assume that the McRib will be coming to Connecticut shortly. I ate three McRibs during a two day trip to Indiana in the fall, and according to the McRib locator (yes, it’s a thing), there are confirmed sightings in Oklahoma and a possible sighting in Weymouth, Massachusetts.


There is hope.

As Andy Dufresne wrote to Red in The Shawshank Redemption:

Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

While I wait, I’m happy to report that the McDonald’s cherry pie has returned for a limited time. I introduced Elysha to the cherry pie years ago, and it ranks with things like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, macaroni and cheese and hotdogs, and go-karting as some of the best things I’ve brought to her life.

If you doubt me, try one of those cherry pies and see for yourself.


Before the McRib makes it’s mighty return, let’s c;ear up something that became known to me just yesterday regarding the sandwich.

It has been repeatedly reported that the McRib contains some of the same ingredients found in yoga mats and running shoes. I assumed that this was true but didn’t care because delicious is delicious.

It turns out that it’s not true. It’s merely a rumor, probably perpetrated by kale aficionados  or Whole Foods shoppers or Burger King enthusiasts.

Here’s the truth, from a fact sheet produced by McDonald’s:

The truth is a small amount of Azodicarbonamide, a common flour-bleaching ingredient, is used in our McRib bun. This is a common food additive and is used in many items on your grocer’s shelves, including many hot dog buns and other bread products that you probably already purchase. It is regulated under the FDA and is considered safe. It is not a yoga mat, plastic or rubber.

A variation of Azodicarbonamide has commercial uses and is used in the production of some foamed plastics, like exercise mats. But this shouldn’t be confused with the food-grade variation of this ingredient.

Yet rumors persist. Smug foodies ignorant nonconformists cite this nonsense all the time.    

Next time you hear this claim, push back on it, please. Say something like “Repeating incorrect facts that you probably heard third-hand and didn’t bother to confirm doesn’t make you knowledgeable about food. Just stupid about knowledge.” 

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Resolution update: February

Each month I post the progress of my New Year’s resolutions here as a means of holding myself accountable. The following are the results through the month of February.


1. Don’t die.

So far, so good.

2. Lose 20 pounds.

I lost the two pounds that I gained in January plus one more so I’m one pound down in 2015 and 19 to go. Not a great start.

3. Do at least 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups five days a week.

Done. I’ve added a plank every morning as well.

4. Stop drinking soda from two-liter bottles.

I didn’t drink soda from a two-liter bottle in February and have cut my soda consumption by well over half as a result. I still drink Diet Coke in restaurants, in my car, and at work, but even this consumption has been dramatically reduced as a result of the elimination of the two liter bottles.

I don’t know why, but I’m not complaining.    

5. Practice yoga at least five days a week.

I’m ready to return to the practice. Shoulder is fully healed. But I feel like I’m starting from scratch again, clueless and uncoordinated and pathetic, so I will have to meet with my teacher soon.

6. Learn to cook three good meals for my wife.

No progress


7. Complete my sixth novel before the end of the summer 2015.

The book remains about half finished. I’m still in the process of polishing a memoir before returning to it.

8. Complete my seventh novel.

The book remains about half finished as well.

9. Sell one children’s book to a publisher.

I have three books written and ready to go. I have three new ideas that I plan to work on in 2015. We will submit one or more of these books to editors at some point soon.

10. Sell a memoir to a publisher.

The memoir is written and is being polished now.

11. Sell a book of essays to a publisher.

The book is in the hands of editors now. I await word.

12. Complete a book proposal for a book on storytelling.

Progress continues.

13. Write a new screenplay.

I’m still revising my first screenplay based upon film agent’s notes. No progress on the new one.  

14. Write 50 pages of a new memoir about the years of 1991-1993.

I have 25 badly written pages for this memoir that must be transformed into 50 good pages in 2015. No progress yet.

15. Write a musical for a summer camp

Meaningful progress has finally begin. 

In addition, the musical that my partner and I wrote last year is being produced by a local theater company, and it will eventually be brought to schools throughout the area as well. I completed revisions on the project this week, and production begins in the fall.

16. Publish at least one Op-Ed in a physical newspaper.

I published another piece in the Huffington Post last month after it was rejected by three newspapers. It actually received a great deal of attention on social media and many clicks, but again, this is not a physical newspaper.

17. Submit one or more short stories to at least three publishing outlets.

No progress.

18. Select three behaviors that I am opposed to and adopt them for one week, then write about my experiences on the blog.

My first idea: Backing into a parking spot. I rightfully assume that anyone backing into a parking spot is a lunatic of the highest order. I shall spend a week backing into parking spots and see what wisdom I can glean.

I have not begun this experiment yet.

19. Build an author mailing list.

First email sent last month, and I’m ready to send another this week. The job that I have now is twofold:

  • Create engaging content that will keep readers interested in my monthly emails.
  • Build my subscription base.   

20. Build a new website for matthewdicks.com

I paid a consultant to discuss the redesign of my website and other aspects of my author platform, and I’ve decided to migrate my content over to SquareSpace, which has a low learning curve and many features. That work begins this week.


21. Produce a total of eight Speak Up storytelling events.

We produced a sold-out show at Real Art Ways earlier this month, and this evening, we will be producing another sold-out show at The Mount in Lenox, MA. This is our first salon show, staged in Edith Wharton’s original drawing room, and it will feature an audience question-and-answer session after the stories and a live, interactive storytelling game that will have storytellers generating true stories on the spot based upon audience prompts. 


22. Deliver my fourth TED Talk.image

I will be delivering a TED Talk at Boston University in April. I have also pitched talks to two other TEDx events in 2015.


23. Build a website for Speak Up.

First the author website must be finished, then this one can be built.

24. Attend at least 10 Moth events with the intention of telling a story.

I performed in a Moth GrandSLAM at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in February, bringing my total Moth events in 2015 to two.  

25. Win at least two Moth StorySLAMs.

I’ve competed in one StorySLAM so far in 2015, placing third after having to tell first. So it really doesn’t count.

26. Win a Moth GrandSLAM.

I placed second in the February GrandSLAM, which is about par for the course for me. I will be competing in another GrandSLAM in Boston in March.  


27. Launch at least one podcast.

The MacBook Pro has arrived, complete with GarageBand, which was critical to my podcasting efforts.

I have crossed over to the dark side, at least in terms of podcasting.  

I also pitched two podcast ideas to two podcast producers in February and await their replies.

My website redesign must also be completed in order for me to launch my own podcasts.   


28. Pitch at least three new projects to five smart people.

I pitched one of my projects to one person in January. No further progress.

Truthfully, I’m not sure what this goal is requiring me to do (even though I wrote it). Do I need to pitch each of my three ideas to five different people? This seems excessive. What if one of those smart people convinces me that my idea is bunk? Then what?

As a result, I’m adjusting this goal to read the following:

“Pitch at least three new projects to at least two smart people.”

This makes much more sense to me.

29. Host at least one Shakespeare Circle.

Nothing scheduled yet.


30. Enroll in the final class needed for certification as a high school English teacher.

No progress. 

31. Set a new personal best in golf.

So much snow. So little golf.  

32. Post my progress in terms of these resolutions on this blog on the first day of every month.


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Cat Heaven snuck up on me and made me cry.

If you’re a cat lover or a book lover or a person who suffers from an ongoing existential crisis or simply a human being, Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant is a book that you will love as you possibly weep.


My daughter, Clara, is named after a character in The Van Gogh Café – also by Rylant – and while I love that book for obvious reasons, I love this one so much more.


I picked it up and read it to Clara before bed, not knowing what was hiding between the pages. It snuck up on me, finding a way into my heart by the third page and sending me for an emotional loop.

Rylant also wrote Dog Heaven, but I’m almost afraid to read it. As much as I love my cat, I’ve owned dogs for much of my life, and I’ve buried more than I care to remember, oftentimes as a child as the result of my parents’ atrocious disregard for their safety.

I fear that Dog Heaven may be too much for me.

Cat Heaven is a beautiful book with beautiful images by Rylant herself. Buy it. Make it the gift that you give ever cat lover you know this year.

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I’ve found the next, great cereal spokesperson

Does anyone know a head honcho or an advertising executive at Cheerios?


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One of these words is not like the others

My daughter asked to learn some new words tonight, so my wife went with callipygous, plethora, and personification.

Guess which one I thought was slightly questionable (but ultimately fine).


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Friendship Application 3.0

Behold the newly-revised Friendship Application 3.0.

Friendship Application 1.0 is more than five years old, and Friendship Application 2.0 is three years old, so it was time for an update.

There have been instances in previous years when it seemed as if someone in my life was on the verge of becoming a genuine friend. This is all well and good, but what if the person turned out to be a Jets fan or a militant vegan or someone who watched five hours of television a day?

I’m not opposed to making a new friend, but I have standards. Thus the Friendship Application was born.

If I feel that someone is on the verge of becoming my friend, I will send an email that reads:

Dear _____________,
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed that we may be on the verge of becoming friends. In order to ensure that you are proper friendship material, please complete the attached application. A score of 100 or above will indicate that this friendship can proceed.

Less than 100 and I will be forced to terminate this potential friendship.

Good luck!


It’s important to note that all current friends are grandfathered in and need not score 100 in order to remain my friends. This is merely an acknowledgement of my limited time and the value that I place on my current friends. A new friend could potentially infringe upon my already limited time with them, so it’s important to determine if the return on investment is reasonable.

Some items of note in regards to my criteria:

  • The vegetarian question does not imply that I have a problem per se with vegetarians or vegans (I actually have at least two friends who are vegetarians), but considering my limitations in terms of vegetables, it makes friendship slightly more challenging in terms of finding a place where we can both eat. And I know a lot of vegans who love to talk about being a vegan, which makes me want to stab them with a carrot. 
  • In asking if an applicant is a teacher, I am seeking to determine if our schedules will closely align. A teacher with the same summer vacation as me is much more valuable than someone who is working 8-10 hours a day throughout the summer months as well.
  • I ask if an applicant is an author and a writer because there is a distinction. An author is published, allowing for discussion and insight into the publishing world. A writer is a person unpublished but still very much appreciated for their knowledge and engagement in the craft.
  • Even though I am a Yankees fan, it should be noted that a Red Sox fan can score points based upon my recognition that this rivalry often produces interesting debates and lively banter. The same does not apply to  Jets fans, who are always annoying and downright unpleasant when discussing their teams.
  • In terms of golf, you can score points for being a golfer, but actually playing on a regular basis (and therefore being available to play) is much more valuable to me. Some of my closest friends are golfers, but because they only play a couple times a year (for reasons usually associated with the demands of their job or family), it means little to me in terms of available playing partners. I considered adding a question about whether or not an applicant had to ask his or her spouse for permission to play golf, but I didn’t think that anyone who required permission would answer honestly.
  • In terms of football, flag football scores more points than touch football because flag football implies a greater commitment to the game. You can also easily transition an attempt to strip a player of a flag into a full-blown tackle, often without much complaint or protest.
  • My question regarding an applicant’s weekend wake up time seeks to determine his or her availability. I have friends who profess to love golf, for example, but are unwilling to get out of bed at 5:30 AM on a Sunday in order to play. The earlier you get up on the weekend, the more likely you are available for early morning activities. Some of my closest friends will routinely call or text me at 6:00 AM on any given day, knowing that we are always awake at that hour.
  • The question about the all-nighter seeks to determine a person’s sleep tolerance. I am often in search of friends who are willing to stay up exceptionally late in order to attend a Moth event in NYC, a Monday night football game in Foxboro, MA, or even an all-night activity like the Williams Trivia Contest at Williams College in Williamstown, MA. There are few people willing to sacrifice sleep in exchange for attending one of these memorable events. I am always in search of more.
  • In terms of martial state, unmarried is preferable to married simply because there are fewer demands on a person’s schedule and greater availability.
  • The number of hours per day that an applicant watches television is an indication of the probability of the applicant summarizing the plots of TV shows and the dearth of meaningful moments in an applicant’s life.
  • Similarly, a childless person is preferable to one with kids because of his or her increased availability, but having children similar in age to my own children is also helpful and can score you points.
  • The number of Supreme Court justices that a person can name is shorthand for an applicant’s knowledge of politics and current events, which is crucial in any meaningful conversation.
  • A long distance runner spends insane amounts of time running, so availability is often compromised. Also, I think long distance runners are a tiny bit insane.
  • Living in NYC is an asset, as I love the city, am there often, and am constantly looking for company.
  • An applicant’s skill level with home repairs is an asset to me, who can’t fix a damn thing. But an inability to conduct basic household repairs does not impede your chances at friendship status. Similarly, an applicant skilled in the technological realm is a potential asset, but having no knowledge or understanding of technology is a disadvantage because it is likely that the applicant will be hindered in some regard or constantly asking inane questions.
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I won’t be reading my novel to my children. For a damn good reason.

My son asked me to read my novel, Unexpectedly, Milo, to him.

“Too long,” I told him. “No pictures. Let’s find something else.”

It also has an awkward and explicit sex scene in it (which I didn’t bother to mention), so I think he’ll be reading that one on his own some day.


Posted in Books, UNEXPECTEDLY, MILO | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I have illogical affection for this.

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