Sunday, October 12, 2014

Good for Shaelynn and Charley. Homecoming still sucks.


Homecoming is over at Ukiah High School.  I didn’t say much about it because I’m past the point of hating weeks of pointlessness that invade the souls of Ukiah youth. 

Instead I’ll mention a Homecoming from a school about an hour way.  Maria Carrillo High School is a rival school in Santa Rosa; a very wealthy rival school who probably can do Homecoming like no other. 

“….Shealynn Stillman and Charley Gittins made history Friday night.  With the announcement of Maria Carrillo High School’s homecoming royalty, the couple — two girls — became the first same-sex couple in the school’s, and maybe the county’s, history to win the honor.”

Told you. 

I honestly don’t care about the royalty aspect of said popularity contest except that it seems like these two actually like each other.  That’s nice to see since most Ukiah couple candidates come together about day before the nominations are due and Billary it up for the contest.  Good for the Maria Carrillo High School administration for not discriminating based on sexual whatever and letting the vote take place as it should. 

By the way, don’t get pissy about the “sexual whatever” comment.  Shealynn and Charley see themselves as pansexual; which might be omnisexual, if it isn’t polysexual, ambisexual, or queer.  Why any teacher, or anyone else, should care about who-loves-who or who-likes-who or who-is-banging-who is still beyond me.  This story isn’t really news except for the fact that they seem to like each other.  Hopefully in the future this doesn’t become news because it really doesn’t matter.  They seem like two fantastic young women.  They won.   

And screw Homecoming.

And screw Willow Canyon High School in Surprise, Arizona.

The Advanced Placement U.S. History argument is full of dumb people

Ben Carson is the Islamic State personified. 
Take a fundamentalist and have him use vindictive rhetoric to attempt to eviscerate everything his puny little mind doesn’t understand.  Then have him march across the country and preach hatred for intelligence.  Yep, sounds like a clear ISIS/Carson standard for me.
Benji is angry because of the new Advanced Placement United States History framework.  Last year the College Board changed up outline curriculum requirements to become more thematic while attempting to create questions that were more within the realm of critical thinking.  Carson is fairly upset about that.
“There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington. George Washington, believe it or not. Little or nothing about Martin Luther King.”
Carson is correct in the dumbest possible way.  Washington is literally hardly mentioned at all, and the fact that he isn’t is not unusual in an AP framework.  In fact, because he is mentioned at all is a sign that he’s actually really important (or at least his Farewell Address is important).  No, instead of a huge list of names/dates/events, you have things like this:
Analyze how competing conceptions of national identity were expressed in the development of political institutions and cultural values from the late colonial through the antebellum periods.
Hey look, no names.  Well actually the teacher will have to address a whole lot of names because it is literally impossible to deal with that learning objectives without lots of information on the Founding Fathers and the Framers.  Any good teacher will nail that and any bad teacher that doesn’t should be fired anyway. 
And what about Doctor King?  Nope, Carson is idiotically correct here too.  The name is absent.  Instead, you have this:
Explain how civil rights activism in the 20th century affected the growth of African American and other identity-based political and social movements.
Analyze how arguments over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution have affected U.S. politics since 1787.
How is Martin Luther King not a part of those learning objectives?  He is!  But there seems to be a radical fringe of the population that wants teachers to either be on leashes or they have the image of teachers that is incredibly demeaning. 

Then there’s Julie Williams, member of the Jefferson County School Board.  I’m sure that you have heard about the Denver area’s Board of Education taking the torch to the APUSH test.  What about it Julie?
“APUSH is new. This is important to state because some may not know it is NEW. It came into existence quite recently under dubious and secretive circumstances…”
The redevelopment of the APUSH standards has been common knowledge of most teachers for, I don’t know, about two or three years.  In fact, I would like to take you back to the Advanced Placement Annual Conference in San Francisco in July 2011.  Scroll down to the bottom of the post.  Notice the afternoon session.  Previewing the Revised APUSH Course.  For the record anyone that paid the fee could attend that conference and I signed no paper that revoked my citizenship if I gave up APUSH secrets.  In fact, we were asked to promote it. 
So back to Julie…
  “…instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”
Clearly Julie did not get the full scoop on the history of the United States.  Something is weirdly off when someone manages to put “materials should present the most current factual information accurately” and “materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” in the same paragraph.  It hardly promotes the best and brightest thinkers.  What Julie and Ben both want to do is create Storm Troopers.  Who needs the next generation of Patrick Henrys when you can have armored simpletons running around checking on hull popping noises and smacking their helmets on bulkheads.   
At it’s core this isn’t about curriculum, it’s about teachers.  Julie and Ben fear that bad teachers can’t understand the outline and therefore want to define it for them because the Union won’t allow them to be fired.  Sort of, in a marginal sense, ok (hey thanks unions).  But more so Ben and Julie really fear good teachers.  Those that tell the whole story without censoring the mistakes.  Those that consider the United States exceptional (I do) and yet remind students that the whole democratic experiment has things like the Trail of Tears, Japanese Internment, Slavery, Women’s Rights, Jim Crow, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Good for the Jefferson County students, screw you Ben Carson, and school boards all across the land might want to focus on that really matter.

Hazing incident shows how stupid people are

Hazing is idiotic. 

It’s one of those things that one would hopefully look at in the modern age and say “wow, it was stupid that we did that” because it really served no point.  It was a “rite-of-passage” ritual that didn’t mean you accomplished anything at all except joining the organization that had just insulted you.  Brilliant.

Seven New Jersey teenagers from Sayreville High School took hazing to a disgusting level that included holding freshmen against their will and sexual assault. 

“….three of the players were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the juvenile victims. One of those defendants and four others were charged with various counts including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of some of the victims.”

Seems like quite the geniuses.

So the school dumped the football season for the school and part of the community is outraged.  Social media is active and lots and lots of players and parents are saying that the season cancellation was an over-reaction by the school.  Those people are morons.  While everyone is innocent until proven guilty, let’s remember that police don’t simply arrest people without probable cause, and a freshmen simply complaining about hazing is not grounds for probable cause.  Something is out there that is strong evidence that a crime has been committed or this thing would not have blown up like it has. 

And yes, the coaches should be fired.  If they had any inkling at all that this was happening then they are just as guilty as the perpetrators.  If they had no knowledge of incident then they are guilty of complete and total mismanagement of an educational situation involving children.  Fire them.

If this act actually happened then the death sentence for program is more than appropriate.  Is is tragic for the kids involved on the team?  Yes but not as tragic as the fact that they didn’t act on what certainly had to have been a rumor about bad things happening to teammates.  A man wouldn’t have stood by while assaults were happening, a man would have stepped up.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Monday is Day 1. And Close Reading is Ebola.

Monday is my first official day back at school.  It’s my fourteenth year.  And the first three hours of my fourteenth year will be sitting in a large room discussing the enthralling topic of Close Reading. 


Excuse me for a second…..

/lights match

I’m not usually one to burn books.  In fact if you look at my home you’ll see that the den of my house looks more like a used bookstore than a den.  We have stacks of books.  Books everywhere.  Close reading just does something to me. 

For those of you that are uninitiated, Close Reading is basically hyper-analysis of a small text or a small piece of a larger text.  Kids identify first impressions, vocabulary, main idea, points-of-view, contextualization, and so on.  The goal is to get students to not only have a greater understanding of the literary passage but to also be able to apply it to something else.  It’s actually a very effective method of analyzing text. 

Ok then, what’s the problem?

The problem is that we’ve had in-school professional development for this strategy all the time, every year, forever and ever, Amen.  Close Reading has now become the buzz phrase that makes a teacher say “Are you kidding me”, and then begin the charge of the iPad so they can read a whole lot of Tweets during the presentation.  I could go on-and-on except that John Spencer has a better grasp of why I hate Close Reads.  In summation:

-It’s consistently forced because of bad policy.

-You are told you must use it.  A lot.  And damn the fact that you are a professional.

-It’s not really good for all subjects.

-Advanced students hate it.

-It’s often done within the context of itself, not with a bigger idea in mind.

-It’s horridly overused.

-It’s something teachers have done before.  Many times.

-It’s boring.

-Teacher’s chose bad literary choices.

-The skill becomes the important part of the exercise.

I even know and like the presenters and I’m still prepared to use my three hours of human capital in a more efficient way.  One of these days teachers are going to be able to figure out there own professional development and not cop out to the schools to rescue them from laziness.

In the meantime, Angry Birds is here somewhere….. 

School hasn't started but I’ll go back anyway.

I don’t have students until August 25 but I’ve already been to my classroom three times in the last few days.  It’s therapy time in the Coach Brown classroom and over the course of my first few hours I’ve purged many old projects, dumped an old television cart, and got rid of a massive bookshelf.  My classroom space has now become cleaner and more simple.  Textbooks found there way into enclosed locations, old supplemental materials found their way to the warehouse, and the recycle bin became my new best friend.  It felt good to purge.
The varsity boys basketball team played 47 games this summer, and thanks to a very hard working staff, it went off without a hitch.  Now the question is whether or not this season will go off without a hitch.  A lot rides on our gym, which is currently a mammoth, gutted cavern that stands to be a pain in my side if not done by basketball season.  It’s supposed to be done by basketball season.  Being me, I’ve already got back-up plans in motion but the season would flow much better if I didn’t have to play in other gymnasiums. 
This is going interesting start to the year if for no other reason than that I don’t teach AP U.S. History this year!
/dances around house
It was the ultimate pro-con class; I got to teach very driven students a very hard subject in a very rigorous manner.  And it was successful.  The bad part was that the class nearly took over everything and it never felt totally complete.  Now it is gone and I can drop the guilt of APUSH, moving forward with my AP Comparative Governments class, and my American Government/Economics class.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Four: Analyzing the data; 2014 edition


I haven’t the slightest damn clue how I received a high score from kids, or how I received the Distinguished Educator Award from the Senior Class.  I am not being a fisher here, I honestly think that this was my hardest year and maybe some of my poorer teaching.  I was often stressed beyond all belief for the first time maybe since I began teaching.  Why was that?  And what connection does it have to the data I just listed?


Notice the problem of keeping grades updated, again.  This time the updating of grades went for long periods of time and therefore I really tried the push the “don’t worry about the grade, concentrate on the learning” concept.  Yea it didn’t work.  Fat chance that you will get Seniors that have been told their whole life to care about grades to suddenly not care about grades.  So what to do?  Simple.  I need to get it done. 


So I allowed a policy of making up any assignments, even if you did poorly on it initially and the result was just plain lame.  The Advanced Placement students took advantage of it almost exclusively.  The only other students that took advantage of the make-up policy were those that might fail at the end of the year.  Those that cared tried to relearn the information.  Those that didn’t….didn’t. 


I’m mean to office TAs.  Get over it.  They are annoying and seemingly unending, and most have no sense of humor, no spine, and some even have the gall to engage my students while I’m teaching. 


Remember this?

  “I don’t think it’s necessary to give recommendations because Silva-Brown does not treat his students with respect so I don’t think my opinions would be valued.”

First of all, I wouldn’t be giving out the surveys if I didn’t value opinions.  It would be a total waste of my time and the students’ time.  But this comment is one that I do ignore, not because I don’t value my students’ opinions, I just don’t value this student’s opinion.  Know you might be thinking “Shouldn’t you value every students’ opinion?  Doesn’t that make your class better?”  Um, the answer is no.  Lest we forget that we are dealing with homo-teenagerous, and the input they give is often laced with teenagisms that they believe are correct.  For instance, someone (like this) that has a horrid rate of attendance should not be complaining about the lack of detail of in-class instruction.  Someone who openly disrespects other students should not be giving grand seminars on the lack of respect that is afforded to themselves.  In Economics there are terms for these kinds of people.  Outliers.  When I read this information every year I look for patterns.

-Do the lectures still work?

-Do I have the right balance of interactivity?

-Does my sarcasm go too far?

-Does basketball season impact my instruction?

-Do people use online programs? 

-Does the tardy policy, dress code policy, cell phone policy, waste basket shooting policy, all seem fair?  (notice you saw nothing about tardies and cell phones, and I am hard core on both)

When I see trends, I need to act.  The grades thing is a now beyond a problem, it is actually something that is eating away at me becoming a better teacher.  It must, MUST change.  The teacher aide comment shows that my sarcasm might have been a little far this year.  I’ll blame stress and lack of rest and work on it.  But “lack of respect for students” is an outlier.  Period.  Therefore, I keep it like I keep all the surveys I’ve ever passed out, yet I don’t really act on it because its an inane analysis. 


The great national nightmare is finally over. 

No not the school year; teaching APUSH.  AP U.S. History was the hardest class I’ve ever had to teach.  It wasn’t the students at all.  It was the content.  The meticulous, idiotic minutia of the content required for the class.  It could easily make someone really dislike history.  It was the writing and the grading and the grading and the grading.  It was extremely hard to engage students and get them prepared for the test at the same time.  I took the class about five years ago because no one else would take it.  My scores were good, I worked to create and evolve good content, and eventually I got to the point where now sixty people are signed up to take APUSH next year.  Well, I’m not teaching it, and I’m ok with that.  It’s pretty much a relief. 


  Basketball created a massive amount of stress this year.  I coached both the Frosh and JV teams, there were personnel issues, the old varsity coach was removed, I took his place, and I have a posse of people that are really hoping that Ukiah Basketball fails.  That stress won’t be there this year because now it’s all my responsibility, which isn’t really as stressful as you might think.  The buck now stops with me and I’m more than willing to take that on.  Although it is new to me to have people writing against you in the local paper, especially when the season is months away.


I think this year worked because I love what I do.  I love to teach, and Seniors are amazingly patient when you show them that you care about them and you care about the job.  I’ve been hard on myself this Summer and upon reading the student surveys, there is always room to get better.  But the fact that I wake up every morning and get to do this still blows my mind.  I get tired, I get cranky, I lose energy sure.  But it is all worth it to have this feeling every day.   

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Three: What were things that Mr. Silva-Brown did well? 2014 edition

Next, all the things, word for word, that the students thought that I did well.

-Explaining the subject.

-Has lessons and keeping me awake.

-He was organized and was not always in a crap mood. He made it fun to learn subjects because of how well it was taught.

-Humor and taught me in a memerable way.

-Organized and straight up. Teaching different subjects that we learned well.

-Class interaction, catching students' attention, teaching the material, letting us know that it's our choice to be here.

-Per Se Courts were helpful, along with Jeopardy.

-Pretty cohesive all around.

-Per Se Courts, Jeopardy, and quizzes.

-Per Se Courts were helpful in formulating information into a thesis. Practice FRQs were a lot of help.

-Videos and presentations.

-Watching and discussing news, Politica, Current events in all the countries we discussed.

-Everything worked. You are perfect just the way you are.

-Per Se Courts helped a lot even though I lost all my rounds. The debates really helped me understand the material.

-Per Se Courts and Jeopardy.

-Watching the news helped to understand what was going on around the world. Playing Jeopardy before tests.

-Per Se Courts, FRQ practice, videos, simulations.

-Politica was enjoyable but the country involvement was not equal.

-Organization, explaining himself and examples, answering questions.

-Each day was planned out well. The quizzes kept us on track.

-I highly enjoy your class because it actually taught me valuable life lessons. You are a well organized teacher and you know how to explain information well. You made us practice hard, then made the tests easier so we had higher chances of passing them.

-The news and Per Se Courts.

-Per Se Courts.

-Lecutres and debates.

-Per Se Courts worked well and boosted excitement in the classroom as well as knowledge. The little projects we did on specific people or events or documents were also fun.

-Lots of things.

-Per Se Courts, group presentations, group quizzes.

-Power Points and note taking, in class projects.

-Class discussions on news were interesting. Although I was terrible at Per Se Courts they were useful in studying the subjects and practicing debate skills.

-Per Se Courts were rad.

-The more creative lessons.

-Open discussions and Per Se Courts.

-Brown is a good teacher who knows a lot. Jeopardy.

-All of the things we did had good information that helped evolve my understanding.

-Jeopardy, news time helped connect to what we studied.

-Per Se Courts, Lectures, News, Edmodo.

-Per Se Courts and Jeopardy are the best ways to review chapters.

-Per Se Courts

-Funny discussions that were actually interesting and we actually learned useful things. In a lot of classes you forget everything you've learned when you leave. Not this class. Enthusiastic and positive.

-Always taught me how things should make me prepare for the world and how to handle life's annoyences.

-Mostly everything.

-You made everything clear and it wasn't boring.

-Answered even the dumbest questions. Also spoke about other situations outside of class, such as world news and the drought.

-Made the class interesting.

-The class overall worked well. Jeopardy helped a lot.

-Organized class well, taught the subject and answered questions.

-Taught, made us laugh.

-Lectures. I loved lectures.

-The lectures really weren't a bad way to do it because you're funny.

-Per Se Courts, APPARTS

-APUSH Wall of Fame, pretty much everything.

-The quizzes we took at least once a week kept the most relevant info fresh in our minds.

-You have a knack for keeping students' attention with humor, videos, and stories. This makes your lectures fun.

-News every day was nice.

-Killer vocab was really helpful.

-Per Se Courts, News Watching, and most importantly was the reading being assigned the night before we learned and then we went over everything in detail in class.

-Lessons. Some of the activities were tedious.

-Per Se Courts were a good addition.

-Per Se Courts helped develop and back up arguments.

-You make it very involved, unlike other teachers, and you genuinely care. Thank you.

-Jeopardy, Killer vocab, daily quizzes, propaganda, the Ten Rules of Economics, Econoland, Diminishing Marginal Donut Game, video clips, daily news, and Per Se Courts.

-Did examples and explained things and didn't move on until it was mostly understood.

-Answer all questions very thoroughly.

-I enjoyed the stories and the atmosphere of the classroom. I looked forward to the end of the school day because of this class.

-Able to explain things that were on the news. Able to be chill but loud enough so we didn't sleep.

-Make econonmics interesting.

-Prepared us for quizzes and tests, made things exciting and humorous, made good and easy notes for us to take down.

-Teach the lessons.

-I feel you made learning interesting and fun and I like how involved you were with the class.

-You made the class fun to be in. You never got to serious to where students would start spacing out.

-You made your lessons interesting and you were easy to talk to and humorous.

-Presentations were really good, projects and activities were helpful, Jeopardy was great. I really like how you stay neutral and let us express our opinions with wedge issues.

-Discussions and keeping kids awake.

-Make the class fun while teaching.

-He taught us well.

-Taught us about life after school.

-Actual face-to-face teaching with the class, confident and authoritative.

-Did a great job at helping students grasp certain concepts.

-Make-up work was useful.

-Videos, Power Points, allowing lots of students to ask all sorts of questions.

-Lectures, Per Se Courts.

-Per Se Courts.

-Everything but the Per Se Courts. (That's a new one)

-Less video, more notes and assignments.

-Poster presentations and APUSH Wall of Fame.

Per Se Courts, lectures were interesting and well done.

-Per Se Courts

-He presents material in a way that is easy to understand and makes the class enjoyable. Also gives a lot of quizzes which helped me get ready for a big test.

-Pretty much anything interactive. Per Se Courts are a highlight.

-Per Se Courts and vocab tests.


-Politica, Per Se, Killer Vocab helped so much, being about to make up quizzes.

-Quizzes every day was great. Reliable system and kept us accoutable. Personal favorite was the Per Se Courts. It made class topics interesting and forced us to look at them in new ways.

-Per Se Courts.

-Per Se Courts really helped with FRQs.

-Per Se Courts and Propaganda Posters.

-I love Per Se Courts. They work well and that infomation seems to stick the most.

-Per Se Courts. Helped me become more familiar with topics and improved my level of confidence.

-Lessons about love and respect. Liked the Barbie lecture and just the smile on your face. Econoland!

-I like how he tried to get on our level and make things easy to understand.

-When he spoke, you could hear him, that's for sure.

-Awesome at being a smart ass and getting us to pay attention.

-Talking and overall teaching.

-He did everything real good.

-Made things understandable by showing videos related to the subject. Very passionate about Economics and demonstrates it in many ways.

-Incorporated learning material in engaging activities making the class fun.

-Quite liked the news and how we talked about world events.

-Was very real and straight forward and was patient when it came down to teaching us difficult lessons.

-Taught the information very well. I understood everything.

-Hands-on class projects.

And there you have it!