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ArtIAmA Oil painting artist who painted the first Paranoma painting in my country, Kuwait! Ask me anything!

Dec 31st 2016 by AsadBunashi • 26 Questions • 979 Points

I've been studying lions in Africa for nearly 40 years. My research has been important in reducing the prevalence of lion trophy hunting and raising awareness regarding conservation challenges. I spend my days working to improve the future for African lions in both fenced and unfenced reserves, and starting at 5:00pm Central Time, I'm an open book. Ask me anything!

Edit: We're done for the day. But if you'd like to learn more about lions, the Lion Center or me, you might be interesting in checking out my two books on Amazon: Lions in the Balance

Into Africa

 

Want to help out? We're currently hosting a Crowdfunding Campaign to raise money for additional camera traps in Africa!

 

Proof

Q:

Do you plan on coming to USA to do any art shows anytime?

A:

Well I'm gonna be the first to ask the obvious- why did you quit??


Q:

I've heard that trophy hunters actually fund more conservation of lions with the money it costs them to obtain permission to hunt a single lion, is that true?

A:

Probably, depends on what exhibit I'm going to do about next.

I've been to India, China and Thailand for different exhibits, so I might give USA a try!


Q:

I felt (a) unprepared, (b) underqualified, and (c) unsupported.

(a) The majority of the knowledge I gained during my time in college was of no use to me whatsoever. Most of the focus was on early childhood students and my professors all told me (us, I guess) that all we had to do was trust our students and be there for them and everything else would fall into place. When myself and others in my cohort in school would ask about more 'refined' behavioral issues (for lack of a better term), they'd shrug it off and say "Just do this and you won't have that problem." Everything was so idealistic for them and it became obvious later on how out of touch with teaching they were. So when I landed my job, I was naïve as could be and was overwhelmed from the second it started by student behaviors, shifting policies within the district/state, and the sheer workload.

(b) Beyond just not bracing for a realistic classroom setting, my school was a full inclusion setting, meaning kids in special education attended general education classes as often as possible. I love the system and think it's the way to go, but I had almost no realistic education for how to approach moderate/severe disabilities as a teacher. I didn't really know any of the available accessibility technologies or techniques for actually getting the major points across. Even assessing a student with severe disabilities was an enigma for me. I reached out for help from various sources, but each person told me so many different and conflicting things that I never managed to get it right.

(c) In the two weeks prior to the school year, I discovered I wouldn't have curriculum for my students. That's, like, a big deal. It's the road map of what you teach, and when/how to teach it. There was no mentor from the district that was promised when I was hired earlier in the summer. There were no textbooks or class novels. I had to work in the librarian at my school to apply for a state grant just to BUY THE PREVIOUS YEAR'S NOVELS, as I was then going off of that curriculum. My principal was letting all the 'rough' parents walk all over her when she was supposed to be a barrier between them and us teachers. Upper administration in the district had very little concern for any of my grievances, too, as there were a number of seat swaps in the headquarters and policies changing just as rapidly.

I never claimed to be a great teacher and I do blame much of my hardship on myself, but I was certainly never given an environment to thrive in.

A:

This is only true in a few parts of Africa. In most places, the hunting fees are far too low to cover the costs of protecting the hunting blocks from poachers, cattle herders, etc. The hunting blocks are typically rented out to individuals with close contacts inside the range-state governments. So the government "official" gets the money rather than the government agency that pays the rangers' salaries, etc. In short, the high idealism of sport hunting fails because of rampant corruption.


Q:

Thanks for your time! What subject matter are you interested in exploring? For example, many contemporary artists still like to explore idealized themes from history or fantasy, or hope to travel and paint landscapes in places they have not visited before- is that something that interests you?

Are there subjects that you are likely not to explore, perhaps because of cultural or societal stigma or just a lack of interest? Even in America there is plenty of debate over topics that are considered too obscene or offensive to portray as "art".

Thank you again- I look forward to seeing more of your art in the future :)

A:

Thanks for the detailed response. I currently work with children in a one-on-one type setting and love it. People ask me all the time why I don't pursue a career in teaching and while I've thought about it, the entire education system just seems way too overwhelming and unrewarding. I hope you find a new calling!!


Q:

Hi Craig! I'm going to South Africa in a few weeks for a wedding, can you tell me the best way to see lions? And what's your favorite fun fact about lions? Thanks for the AMA!

A:

Good question!

I'm interested in imaginary and fantasy art or imagery. It helps me be calm and creative, in fact, most of my art paintings are fantasy and imaginary, especially these paintings.

There is nothing that I wouldn't paint or explore unless it's a negative topic of course, such as racism, horrible visuals of execution, the destruction of nature and many more, I am not that type of person at all.


Q:

Thank you for what you do. Being a para is an even less respected profession despite being the ones that make the biggest difference with those who need it.

A:

There are a lot of good places to see lions in South Africa. You are almost certain to see them in Kruger National Park. The Sabi Sands Conservancy is another great area. But you can find lions in a number of the smaller parks in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and and Mpumalanga. My favorite fun fact about lions is that they can count.


Q:

Why don't you let women drive?

A:

I'm a school bus driver. I get to hang out with each group of kids for around 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon. So pretty much I just get to hear their goofy stories, tell dad type jokes,offer quick advice...then drop them off for the day. It's pretty great (I certainly don't do it for the pay).

I can't imagine how the teachers stand up there with so many eyes on them all day every day and be expected to teach.

Hope you find a better niche in the system.

Edit: Though the benifits and paid time off can't be beat.


Q:

Lions can count? How do they do it/how was this discovered?

A:

That is in Saudia and not in Kuwait, all women have rights to drive cars here.


Q:

That's what subbing is like for me. I get to spend one day with a variety of different students and impart the best of what I've got to them, then I move on to the next school.

A:

We used a loudspeaker to broadcast the recorded roars of either one or three females lions to prides of different sizes. Female lions are highly territorial, so they get aggressive when they think a stranger has entered their domain. When we played the roar of a single female to a lone female, the experimental subject became agitated but didn't approach the speaker. if we played one to a pair females, the duos were more likely to approach, but it was only when we played a singleton's roar to a group of three subjects that the subjects almost invariably approached the speaker, ready to kick out the stranger. So then we played a chorus of 3 roaring females to trios, and the trios were just as inhibited from approaching the speaker as one-against-one; quartets reacted the same to roaring trios as pairs to solitaries -- and quintets were just as eager to approach invading trios as 3 against one. So as long as the subject females out-numbered the invaders by at least two individuals, they would go forward -- and that means that they must have been able to count the number of "us" vs the number of "them!" After we published this study, similar findings were made on chimpanzees and a few other species.


Q:

Opl

A:

I learned more about how to change a battery in a hearing aid then I did with how to talk to parents, or organize teenagers. Teacher's education is so out of step with what is needed in the classroom its scary. For most teachers, on their first day as a teacher they are totally alone in the classroom, nobody to ask questions to or help. You have to find a mentor in most cases, and usually you are so tired by the end of those first days the last thing you want is someone else pointing out your flaws.


Q:

Who would win in a fight between a lion and a tuna?

A:

Thank you kindly!

My next project will be the Hiroshima exhibit! I will paint many paintings and imaginary art such as the nuke with faces on it, it is basically personified.

I will also explain about Hiroshima's history using my imaginary paintings!


Q:

I learned nothing about dealing with parents aside from "be nice". Same goes for administration. I barely knew what any of my meetings were even about until I went to them the first time.

As for teaching methods, I was a whiz. As for nearly everything else, I was at a loss.

A:

I suppose if the fight were to take place in the deep ocean....


Q:

There is a huge difference between how the Amish even today can manage with minimal funding for a single schoolteacher with a one-room schoolhouse with multiple grade levels of students where older ones help younger ones and discipline problems are few, versus the administratively and financially bloated monster that is public education today. The Amish have strong parenting, strict expectations, discipline, shared culture of chores and work, and shares languages (Deutsch and English). LAUSD and Washington DC each spends $30,000 per student per year and still have shitty high school graduation rates.

A:

Where does the majority of your funding come from and what is your daily work routine?


Q:

That all makes perfect sense, but the unfortunate thing is that the public education system was not designed to improve those same cultural aspects that you mentioned the Amish are proud of. Throwing money at a problem is typically a good start, but without support from society nor understanding that those cultural strengths are essential, nothing's going to happen.

A:

For the past few years, the majority of my funding has come from National Geographic in the US, with additional funding from the National Research Foundation in South Africa.
During the fall semester each year, I teach at the University of Minnesota. For the rest of the year, I work with researchers and wildlife managers in various parts of Africa, including South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe -- I also advise various projects in Tanzania. This mostly means that i spend a bit of time with lions in the protected areas and the rest of each day working with people who spend all their time in the field.


Q:

That people are unprepared for it is one of the main criticisms, I think, of programs like Teach For America. For instance, they take idealistic young teachers with little experience and expect them to actually effect change and it doesn't work that way. Do you agree?

A:

How did you get into this field? What made you want to do it and how did you follow through?


Q:

It's exactly the problem we have right now. The training and preparation prospective teachers receive is so behind the times of a system that barely has any shared identity from year to year.

A:

i was extraordinarily lucky to be able to go to Africa as a field assistant to Jane Goodall when i was an undergraduate. Very few people watched animals in the wild in those days, so when I caught the bug for research, it was relatively easy to keep going. In my case, I went to graduate school in the UK so as to return to the primate project with Jane, and when i finished my degree, I was able to take over the Serengeti lion project from a couple of friends. The field is far more crowded today!


Q:

I've been teaching ~25 years. Still feel unsupported, unappreciated by my admins, yet don't want to leave because I went into teaching to teach. I just have to find other ways to do what I must.

A:

How do you feel about the obvious inverse correlation between lions having a good/bad year and the rest of the world having a good/bad year? I drew a graph for clarification. http://iob.imgur.com/uYGg/NXGvi7Iiuz

Edit: Lions broke my upload :(


Q:

Yeah, I feel you. I love teaching still, but most of the job isn't that. I get that all jobs have bullshit to wade through, but calling the job "teaching" is almost false advertising.

Subbing for the current school year is doing me a lot of good, though, I think. I get a chance to show up, teach, and leave. Good day? Coming back. It's been giving me a lot of motivation to take some hard looks at what I really did all of this for.

A:

Despite the bad stuff in 2015 for lions -- and the bad stuff in 2016 for the rest of us -- a lot of good things may be starting to happen for lions.
First, the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service has been very strict about preventing the import of lion trophies from Africa to the US -- USFWS requirer the African countries to provide solid evidence that sport hunting makes a POSITIVE contribution to lion conservation in their territories, and so far South Africa is the only country to make a convincing case. Thus across all of Africa, only a handful of wild lions were shot for export to the US in 2016, whereas in earlier years hundreds of wild lions were shot and imported to the US every year. In addition, USFWS banned the importation of "canned" lion trophies in 2016. Canned lions are raised on lion "farms" in South Africa and shot at close range. Over 500 of these "trophies" had been imported into the US every year for the past decade. Thus the American market for lion trophies has virtually disappeared. Let's hope that USFWS will be allowed to continue these strict policies into the new Administration in Washington DC. Second, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the world must find a better way to finance African wildlife conservation than has been possible thru sport hunting or ecotourism. The costs are simply too high to be shouldered by Western families on holiday in the Serengeti or sport hunters chasing after lions like Cecil. I attended a meeting in Oxford in September where a number of lion conservationists like myself were able to make the case to the British Govt and to organizations like UNESCO and UNEP that Africa's iconic parks and wildlife will only survive if the entire world helps cover the costs through some sort of global funding program to the National Parks services of Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, etc. We received quite a sympathetic ear, and I think we might be able to move the idea forward to world leaders in the coming years -- though the US Govt may not be the best place to start right now!


Q:

No education does what you ask, anymore. School maybe gives you the time and freedom to figure out your calling and sells you a small amount of relatively temporary credibility to establish yourself in a career. The idea that anyone is prepared for any particular job after college is naive and never explained to kids. College helps you by exposing you to higher levels of thoughts and ideas, but it is not a training facility and never really was. Trade schools did what you are asking and they rarely exist anymore.

A:

What is your opinion on lions (or other animals for that matter) in zoos? Do you wish they had more freedom or do you feel that the lions are cared for in zoos?


Q:

That's fair, to a point. My professors in college weren't too helpful as described in the topic post of this specific thread, but it was almost like they were giving us misinformation because of how long they'd been out of the field. They were all older people who taught only as recently as ten years prior, with a few having only taught in the 80's-90's. I can think back to so many questions we asked and the answer we got was so outdated that almost nobody teaching today feels that way.

I get that college isn't trade school, but the learning curve for teaching versus nearly anything else is so steep that the majority slide back down and say "Well what the shit, hill?" That's my biggest concern. There needs to be total reform of the public education system, but it also needs to start at the source: where our teachers come from.

A:

By one important measure - breeding - lions fare very well in zoos. Most zoo lions have been sterilized or fitted with contraceptives to prevent a baby boom. Otherwise, zoo lions don't really have enough to do, and they often get obese because of a lack of exercise. If their enclosure were bigger and they were allowed to catch dinner -- and also to fail most of the time -- their lives would be much better.


Q:

What was the worst and the best moment in the classroom for you?

A:

How do you feel about the Cecil shooting? All permits were in place for the shooter. What's your take on what happened?


Q:

Worst moment and best moment revolved around the same incident. It definitely had to be the one regarding a troublesome student who came from a rough background and was consistently having trouble fitting in. He and I were always closer than most other students were to me and, despite his (and my) shortcomings, our relationship grew into a strong trust over time.

During parent/teacher conferences in which us three teachers all met the parents at once (because fuck 90 different meetings for EACH teacher), one of my colleagues mentioned that she saw the student stealing food from another student's lunchbox and bribing another for food. I, personally, had never witnessed this and was honestly a little surprised when I heard it. Well, Mom went home and shamed the kid and he roared in during my first class the next day and shouted me out, screaming that he trusted me and thought I'd be there for him and how I lied just to get him into trouble to keep him under control at home. ... It's tough to even recall the memory as it's still so vivid in my mind. Eventually, he apologized and I did, too, as for all he knew I DID say those things - I couldn't just say the other teacher lied or whatever. We ended the school year amicably with a giant hug and he promised me he'd go on to do good things with his life and help others like himself.

A:

Cecil was shot illegally. The Zimbabwean guide only had permission to shoot a lion in an area in a different part of the country -- and he brought his client to a site where lions from Hwange National Park are often found. But even if Cecil had been shot legally, the client only spent $50,000 -- when the true conservation costs of shooting a fully adult lion is well over $1,000,000 -- lion conservation is expensive and sport hunting in most countries raises pennies on the dollar of the true costs of wildlife management.


Q:

fuck that other teacher. had they never thought maybe the kid was not fed well at home? that very well may not a behavior issue, but an issue of abuse.

A:

Thank your for your clear and erudite answer.

Now, for a follow up? Who was to blame? I think the dentist did his due diligence. Also? I heard the lion in question was lured from the park and shot on ground that was, in fact, legal.

I understand that it's murky. I want and respect your opinion. You know more than I do.


Q:

It wasss... a complicated issue with that kid. Mom in prison, dad just starting to get it together because of it but still sort of a tool, stepmom being a breath of fresh air for both of them, etc. None of us thought he wasn't receiving enough food from home (largely because he always brought a lunch and never once indicated to any of us that food was an issue). I'm not saying it wasn't possible, but he also had issues with stealing things even when he didn't need them. It's a 'survivor' mentality. A lot of kids from rough backgrounds pick it up during times when they DON'T have anything, and latch onto anything they can.

I think my colleague was more just pointing out that he was stealing in the first place and not insinuating that, because it was food, he's hungry.

A:

Hunting was permitted at the site where Cecil was shot, but the local hunting operator's permit was restricted to a different part of the country -- so the outfitter pulled a fast one, and it left the dentist looking like the bad guy. It is extremely common for hunting operators to set out baits at the borders of the national parks so as to lure the lions into the hunting concessions.


Q:

Did you talk to any current teachers in your state before deciding on being a teacher?

A:

What is perhaps the biggest threat facing wild lions today? Also, if every trophy hunt were 100% legal and the funds always went towards lion conservation with no corruption present, would trophy hunting (with the fees as they are today) help conservation efforts more than it harmed the lion population?


Q:

Not directly, no. But we (my college cohort and myself) all knew the common grievances going into it. We also knew that there are good schools and struggling schools, good districts and struggling districts, and that we could choose where to end up.

Of course, that didn't prepare for just how polarizing the difference between an affluent school and a Title I school is.

A:

The biggest threat, ultimately, is rapid human population growth across Africa == by 2050 population density in much of Africa will be similar to India today. Lions need vast tracts of land -- and open areas outside the parks are disappearing fast while the parks themselves tend to be underfunded.
Sport hunting could only make a difference if it raised about twenty-times as much money per square mile. Lion conservation costs about $2,000 per square kilometer, and lion hunting seldom generates even a third as much -- and in many places, hunting only generates $20-100 per sq km.
This could either be achieved by greatly increasing the fees per client or making it much more difficult to actually shoot a lion -- most lions are shot at baits and outfitters practically guarantee one lion per client. If only 1 in 20 were successful, a lot more revenue would be generated. So big changes would be necessary.


Q:

How early into your college career did you commit to going into teaching?

A:

Wow. "by 2050 population density in much of Africa will be similar to India today" seems insane. How did this get projected out? Was it sheer population growth historically that was projected out or is there some multiplier tied to things like increased industrialization? Thanks!


Q:

When I started college, I was a Music Education major. That came out of my own uncertainty of what I'd do with my life and the fact I was musical all throughout grade school. I did this for a couple years as I grew disillusioned and jaded with my lack of personal accountability in those beginning years. Once I kinda got my shit together around my junior year, I realized I didn't want to be a music teacher and made the switch to Primary Education (as, in another post here, I explain why I always admired the idea of being a teacher). It the took me three years between making up for lost ground and starting a new program, but then I student-taught in what was technically my sixth year, and graduated in that December.

A:

Africa is the last continent on earth with rapid population growth. In the rest of the world, economic development, health care and education for girls have led to what's called the "demographic transition" where the preferred family size is 2 kids per family. But none of this has happened yet in Africa, so the preferred family size is still 5-8 kids. The UN's latest population predictions suggest that most of the global population growth for the rest of this century will be in Africa. And that means a four-fold increase.


Q:

because this is an AMA, I'll come out with this one:

Did anyone ever say to you: "you need to find out more about education as a working environment before you commit to that as a career path."

Like, did anyone at your university or anything advise you to find out about things like.... all the things you didn't know wouldn't suit you about teaching?

I considered being a teacher at one point, and then spoke to 2 people who were currently teaching, and based on what they said and what I knew about myself, I decided against it.

I just wonder why no one advised you to actually examine the teaching environment/talk to 2 or 3 actual teachers in your area before committing to education as a career.

A:

What is the craziest thing you have seen throughout your 40 years in Africa? (Wildlife related).


Q:

I was (am?) passionate about teaching and knew what I was getting myself into. I did talk to people, and they told me realistic things. What I didn't account for was an unsupportive school district causing a dramatically increased amount of stress beyond what I knew was expected.

A:

We did a research project about 15 yrs ago that tested why lions have manes, so we obtained a set of life-sized toy lions with removable manes and set them out two at a time to see if females preferred long manes over short manes or dark manes over light manes. We didn't really know if it would work until we tried it the first time -- and we gave a set of 3 females a choice between black and blond. Amazingly, they responded as if the dummies were actual male lions - and approached them with considerable interest (and a certain amount of flirtiness). That first group of females clearly preferred the dark maned dummy and even tried tugging on its tail to get it to respond. Our later tests all showed the same thing, and we eventually learned that real live males with dark manes are superior competitors to their blond rivals. But that first test made my students and me all laugh and hop up and down with such excitement that it was one of the true highlights of my scientific career.


Q:

Yeah, I just disagree categorically with that ideology re zeroes. You're parroting exactly what my professors said in my master's program. I understand the logic, but in practice in the classroom, I believe it encourages bad behavior. You can't do half your job and expect to keep it. Life isn't about getting by, and nobody cares if you're demoralized because you were too lazy to do the work at your job... Procrastination and laziness should not be rewarded. And I think that as educators, it is incumbent upon us (well not me anymore) to prepare children for life, and coddling doesn't do that. I'm not a huge disciplinarian behaviorwise, but I think that strict grading is important. I also don't think that you need to give hw every night by any means (outside of math). But I do think you owe it to your students to owe them accountable. I feel the same way about people who work for me. They owe it to me to do the work, and I owe it to them to hold them accountable, even if I like them and don't want to.

I'm also a huge liberal, disagree completely with race to the top, nclb, fucking the incoming Sec of Ed, and have serious reservations about charter schools.

Based on what you wrote here, there's probably a lot we would agree on... The zeroes is the one thing I'm pretty old school about... Anyway, happy holidays. I'm truly proud of you and everyone else who teaches.

A:

Makes sense, just wish they could've done something else I guess. Thanks for taking time to answer.


Q:

Teachers will always be needed, but the methods with which we teach will always change. Incorporating technology into the classroom right now is essential for many reasons, the two most crucial being that students' lives are already dominated by tech and it's how you're going to reach them most often, and teaching them through new technologies will also teach them ABOUT the technologies, preparing them for the real-world.

As for how much educators will be supported, well, that's probably not about to change a whole lot with the recent string of elections on state and federal levels.

A:

It's always a tough situation when it comes to exotic animals -- lions are just too dangerous!


Q:

Fellow teacher here. If you really like the idea of teaching I'd try another school. Even in the same district schools can vary greatly. Go and ask the teachers if possible without administration to get an honest sense of the school climate.

I don't have as great school related question so...what did you get for Christmas?

A:

What country/regions are they faring the best? Which areas are they doing the most poorly? Are there any diseases that you are really worried about? I've seen some with terrible flies on them, is that condition normal? Are their numbers down greatly and if so are their prey populations growing? Are other apex predators taking their place? What's the overall effect of reduced lion populations on their ecosystems?


Q:

Gift card to a good pizza place in town that my wife and I love, a high-quality waffle iron, a gas grill for our new patio, and a few smaller but equally neat things.

A:

Lion numbers are declining throughout most of West, Central and East Africa, largely owing to loss of habitat, loss of prey and human-lion conflicts. Lions eat people and their livestock. People retaliate with spears, guns and poison. The only areas where lions are thriving are in southern Africa -- either where all the reserves are fenced (like in South Africa) or where the reserves are located in deserts with no surrounding populations of people (like in Botswana and Namibia). Where lions are declining, leopards tend to fare better -- lions ordinarily keep the leopard populations lower -- leopards also survive better around people. The only real disease problems are bovine tuberculosis in inbred lion populations (outbred populations can withstand bTB ok) and canine distemper virus when an epidemic happens to coincide with an outbreak of tick-borne disease -- otherwise lions seem to cope with CDV ok. The flies are usually a sign that the lions are too sick to brush them off.


Q:

What would you consider a good pizza place in town?

A:

How similar to lions are house cats? Is it true they're essentially 'tiny lions'?


Q:

The place is Sauce. It's one of those new-fangled Fox Restaurant Concepts, but it's actually pretty solid. Pizza is decent but their pasta is where it's at.

Beyond that (assuming you're talking about Phoenix), Pizzeria Bianco and Parlor are both fantastic.

A:

Tiny lions except for doing things together (like catching a large prey animal) and engaging in gang warfare against their neighbors.... House cats are solitaries at heart! Also, lions don't purr!


Q:

I graduated less than two weeks ago with a degree in history. I'd like to teach high school. My old high school principal told me if I can get a year or two of teaching middle school on my resume, I'll be a shoe-in for any high school gig after I get my masters. So, I'm getting ready to start teaching middle school social studies. The problem is I've had virtually no training or instruction on how to be a teacher.

Now here's my question: on the scale of 1 to "Piper Perri in the same room as Lexington Steele," how fucked am I?

A:

Will the Lions get to the Superbowl this season?

Joke Question aside, Is it true that Lions are basically overgrown cats? Like, do the like getting petted and things of that sort?


Q:

I'll tell you what I wish I could've told myself before I started my school year: Go in confident. Go in with a plan. You're going to have awkward moments and times when you feel like you're losing control, but recover quickly and be consistent with your actions. Set clear expectations for your students and let them know that that's how it's going to be. Be a strict authoritarian in the beginning and you'll eventually find the freedom to ease up later on.

A:

Egad, I'm afraid i was a Packer before I started studying lions -- and besides who would ever make a lion wear a blue uniform -- so I will be rooting for my namesakes this weekend.... Lions like it when they rub up against their companions -- they are very tactile and affectionate to members of their own immediate family. But they also engage in gang warfare against their neighbors. So they are certainly very catlike -- but also a lot like humans in the sense of doing things as a group.


Q:

So I have a friend who is in his 3rd year of teaching 9-12 earth sciences. I asked him what the worst part of teaching is and he said it's dealing with people who don't want to learn because it reflects badly on you. Do you agree with this or is there something worse? Besides pay of course.

A:

Hi Craig! What is your favorite lion of all time? Have you ever thought about combating lion poachers first hand by creating a rogue force? If so, please IM me- #JusticeforCecil


Q:

Absolutely. My worth as a teacher to the state was almost solely based on the test scores of not only my own students, but all students at my school and even within my geographic area. I had a number of students whose parents were rather vocal about their distaste with teachers/schools and were very, ehh, anti-establishment in general. So when their kids strut into my room, refuse to learn, and any sort of sense I can get into them is instantly deleted when they're picked up, how is it remotely fair that my credibility as a professional is based on their test scores? Or how about my student who came to school the morning after being taken into Child Protective Services because his mom almost died from a crack overdose? The last thing on their mind is "being a good test-taker," yet that's where my job security lies. The system is horrendously biased against students with less stable home lives and, therefore, against teachers in lower income areas. So it's no wonder the state has trouble filling these positions and keeping people there for longer than 5 years.

A:

There was a lion I got to know when I first started working in the Serengeti. Our predecessors on the lion project had named her Goka. When i first met her, she was about 3 yrs old, playful and curious. She was mating with a big black-maned male, and she blithely came up to chew on the tire of my Land Rover -- I worried that she might bite all the way thru the tread and leave me stranded with a flat tire. So I reached out the window and banged on the side of the car with my fist. She jumped back half a step, but her consort partner leapt straight at my arm in a fit of jealousy. I pulled my hand back inside in time, but I wondered if I would survive the next few years in the Serengeti.
A few months later, Goka unhitched the guy ropes of a tent with a BBC film team inside and tried to drag everyone across the plains. The following year, I got out of my car near a rocky outcrop (kopje) and walked around to stretch my legs. When I turned back, Goka was stalking me -- and she was halfway between me and my car. I made a lot of noise, clapped my hands and made it back to the car -- and Goka just watched as I ran past. Nothing really seemed to bother her, and there was something about her that made her seem really intelligent. She lived to be 15 yrs of age (the oldest female we ever studied in the Serengeti lived to 19), so she had a long life, but her pride territory was in a really challenging part of the park with little to eat for much of the year, and she only ever managed to raise one cub to maturity, a son who moved to a different part of the park, found a companion, and started his own family.


Q:

My SO is on her second year at a Title 1, and she did an ARL program so literally no preparation in college. Everything you said in your replies is spot on with her experience. I'm sorry teaching wasn't what you'd hoped.

How many tacos can you eat?

A:

Hi Craig! What is your favorite lion of all time? Have you ever thought about combating lion poachers first hand by creating a rogue force? If so, please IM me- #JusticeforCecil


Q:

Though I wasn't really going for sympathy, I appreciate your words nonetheless. I have a friend who has just decided this year (his third) is his last year. He had such a hard time deciding what to do earlier this school year and he and I discussed his options and what he wants out of life at this point. He realized that stepping away isn't admitting defeat, and you shouldn't have any obligations to stay and continuing doing something if it's making you miserable each day.

If they're approximately the size from Taco Bell (but much better so I don't vomit later), 4 before I'm just forcing it.

A:

As for saving lions, there are almost no lion "poachers" -- people kill lions that have attacked their families of livestock, so they are trying to protect themselves and their property. The best solution is to build wildlife-proof fences wherever possible so as to protect people from lions and eliminate the need for retaliation. Where fences can't be built, it is important to help local people improve their livestock husbandry.


Q:

I worked in an affluent school at the beginning of my career and I saw the parents do that as well. They made crazy demands

A:

Hi Craig, thanks for your hard work! I've always wondered, all lions look similar, if not identical, to me. Have you ever had difficulty distinguishing lions from each other? Or they just have distinct personalities and roles in their groups that it wouldn't be too hard to tell them apart?


Q:

That's rough. We never had issues with physical violence against staff, luckily, but I know it exists in certain areas/schools. There WAS one time when the principal came down and pulled a regular troublemaker out of class (rough background; it was hard to blame the kid) and she spoke with him out in the courtyard. With all our doors open as it was nice outside, the kid abruptly shouted, "FUCK THIS SCHOOL, THIS IS BULLSHIT," right in the principal's face, then stormed off into the bathroom. That kid got a one-day in-school suspension and that was it, all because our principal was a pushover and was afraid to deal with the [admittedly awful] parents. But that was her job, and she didn't do it. So that kid committed student-career-suicide and got a light slap on the wrist.

It's so terrible to be in a position where your administration, your lifeline and shield, doesn't protect you. But hang in there. Mad props to you for sticking it out. Those kids need strong people in their lives and you're going to make the difference where your administration can't.

A:

If you have a cat on hand, take a close look at its whiskers -- there is a unique pattern of dots on each side. We use whisker spots to identify each lion when they are young. As they get older, they acquire various notches in the ears, some get broken tails, others have conspicuous scars on their noses, etc. These all help, but, you are right -- they are very hard to keep straight without a good pair of binoculars! Except for the males, of course, which have quite variable manes.


Q:

What are you going to do for money?

A:

how did you get started studying about lions? and why lions of all animals?


Q:

Now? I'm a substitute teacher for the time being. I was one for a semester after graduating in December 2013 before teaching, so I went back to gain perspective from afar. My wife is also fortunate enough to be making enough money at this time to largely support the both of us.

As for what's to come? I don't intend to be a substitute beyond next school year, but I still legitimately have no idea what's next. I have so many creative interests but still feel drawn to teaching and obligated to return in time.

A:

I started off studying monkeys and became intrigued by the way that baboons sometimes cooperated in their disputes with each other (mothers helped their daughters vs. other females; a pair of males would form a temporary coalition against a third). So as time went on, I wanted to find a highly cooperative species that I could study in more detail, and lions fit the bill: they hunt together, raise their cubs together and defend joint territories -- so it was a good choice!


Q:

What is the standard PTSD medication for someone like yourself?

A:

Do you think the Lions will win the superbowl and why do you think they will?


Q:

Mojitos.

A:

I'm thinking that the Lions will have a hard time getting past the Packers this weekend...


Q:

I'm student-teaching with ASU with one semester to go... can I ask if you did your program with iTeachAZ or another program?

A:

Looks like you're not a Lions expert


Q:

I don't think I did. I went to -cough- NAU -cough- and they kinda just did everything on their own.

A:

Ha! Well, good luck to you -- but don't you think that the Lions should change their team colors from Blue and Silver to, say, Brown and Tawny or Sienna or something more lion-like? After all, the Bengals are orange and black!


Q:

Greetings. I might be late to the party, and I gave the comments a quick skim to see if my Qs had been asked/answered, but if they have you can point me to them or just ignore. But: What state did you teach in? Title 1 is subjective to the state/district the school is nested in. yes? (<---Serious question)So what was the ses makeup of your school? Rural poor or urban poor? What was the support of parents like? What about administration? Thanks for answering and happy/merry whatever you believe/don't believe in. Cheers

A:

Why are academics often so humble?

Why do so many academics lack the courage to call themselves "the world's authority" on their field of study?


Q:

For the most part, Title I is the same just about anywhere, though criteria and some minor differences may vary from area to area.

The socioeconomic status of my school was largely urban poor, ranging from a few middle class all the way down to homeless and state foster services.

Parent support was intermittent. We had a handful of genuinely concerned parents who could always be trusted to be in contact, volunteer at events, and spare a little gift of appreciation from time to time. The majority of parents were distant but still in touch with their kids' academic performance, usually not reaching out to us unless we came to them first.

The worst kind of parents were the ones who THOUGHT they were being attentive to their kids' performance and behaviors but were just unintentionally perpetuating and encouraging those negatives tendencies. One kid, for example, had to have had ADD. It was bad; never listening, staring off into space, constantly asking completely unrelated questions, losing everything, etc. He was very kind and knowledgeable, but he could not look at or think about one thing for more than 8 seconds. His mom absolutely refused to take him to a doctor or do anything about it whatsoever, passing it off as just a phase or whatever. She wound up pulling him out of our school and put him into a charter, a move we later learned didn't work because he switched schools twice after that. So because his mother was in denial of almost the entire list of ADD symptoms, he suffered.

My administration, both on-site and district, we largely unhelpful and unsupportive. My principal was courteous enough in the beginning, understanding that not having curriculum is a problem, and gave me some preliminary tools to get started. But as the school year went on and I figured out the academic side of things, she became less and less supportive of the staff while dealing with parents and student behaviors. By the end of the school year, parents were walking all over her and we had no backing on our decisions, so the parents took over a lot of parts of our behavior plans - parts that had been working up to that point.

Hope this answered anything you were curious about. Merry Christmas. :)

A:

I flinch whenever I hear people call me that -- but I guess everyone wants to know who's the #1 in their respective fields. And I reluctantly agreed to the title on this AMA because my research group and I all really did want to grab everyone's attention!


Q:

Have you ever considered teaching in another state?

A:

Would you ever have a lion as a pet and how easy/hard would it be to take care of one if possible?


Q:

It's definitely crossed my mind, but I think I'd need to convince myself to go back to teaching in the first place... uh, for lack of a better term, that is.

That would also require my wife to uproot herself from her career (in which she's fairly invested), and so I don't think it's in the cards. If I DID, I'd go to Washington or Oregon. They have some of the highest-ranked and best-funded programs in the country. I've also heard Alaska, of all places, is a surprisingly pleasant place to teach.

A:

Lions should never be treated as pets. Once they grow up, they are far too dangerous and will have to be put down.


Q:

I'm in the credential program as we speak. I plan to teach high school math. Any advice?

A:

How does one suddenly get involved in conservation efforts? Do people approach you knowing that you're knowledgable, or did you have to seek out an organization?


Q:

Classroom management is #1. Ask as many questions about it as you can and ask to have hands-on time practicing it. Have a system in place and well-established before your kids walk through the door on the first day. Be strict early on and you'll find the room to ease up as the year progresses.

A:

It really depends on where you are in your life. If you are still in school or college, you could consider entering the field of conservation biology or environmental science. If you already have another career, you could think about working part-time or volunteering for a conservation agency -- there are volunteer opportunities out there for periods ranging from a few weeks to a few years. If you are wealthy, you can find an organization that you believe in and make a financial contribution. Hope that helps!


Q:

What other jobs have you had? What's your plan now?

A:

After teaching, I did some odd jobs here and there to support my wife (who was fortunate enough to have a lucrative career already at that point) like temp administrative assistant at a friend-of-a-friend's law firm, freelance article writer, etc. Some were to pay bills while others let me explore some creative outlets.

Currently I sub in a different school district. Aside from the pay, it's just better than teaching full-time. I get to show up, teach with everything I've got, and leave the classroom a better place. I've got a number of teachers who call me regularly nowadays and trust me to continue lessons they've started and teach material while they're out. It's a lot of fun, but I don't feel the grind setting in again.

I may try focusing on smaller student interactions, like maybe in a tutoring setting. I've always felt most beneficial and connected to students in small-group or one-on-one work, so that's a possibility. If teaching in its entirety doesn't work out, I'd been wanting to get into writing more. It's not really a career (unless I commit even harder than a teacher must) but I've always been passionate about it.


Q:

Did you have a Kevin?

A:

Did not. Wouldn't tell you if I did, but no; I did not.


Q:

Ever meet any kids you were 99% certain would turn into felons?

A:

As someone who is enamored by the innocence of children and knows that people can change, I'd be hesitant to say I have.

As someone who has a level of anonymity here, yes. It hurts to think of a student that way and I would certainly never let the thought escape my own mind, but yes. For as much as I'd help one specific student of mine and talk to him and get him to open up, you got the sense that his fate was already decided. It sucks and it may make me sound shitty, but I'm also a realist and take the world as it is. I feel like I tried my best and didn't let that thought bias my treatment of him, but I fear it wasn't enough.