Friday, December 30, 2005

Live, from Chico, California!

It's being called the largest storm in the last 7 years, and we decided to go driving right in the middle of it. For this New Year's holiday, my wife and I are visiting her family in Chico, and then driving tomorrow to Discovery Bay, a little wealthy community west of Stockton. It isn't simply a drive, it's an adventure!

For those of you that are not in Northern California and the Northwest, we have been slammed by the "Perfect Pineapple Express", a series of storms that stretch across the South Pacific and are aimed right at California. This creates 5-6 days of straight rain, followed by a day of relief, and then more rain. It has been this way for weeks now, since about the 17th of December. Well, the really nasty part arrived this morning, just as we left Ukiah. It rained the entire 3 hour drive here, and then became really windy as we entered the Sacramento Valley. So far, it has not stopped raining since we arrived and the wind is topping 50 mph. What's worse is that the worst of it is supposed to be tomorrow, when we drive to Discovery Bay, which is in the middle of the Sacramento Delta, of course. Well, if we make it, we make it. If not, then we are watching "The Ball" drop from the cozy confines of our home.

I noticed that a small town called Gurneville (pronounced "Gurnvill") was on the NBC Nightly News this evening because the Russian River is cresting about 10 feet about flood stage. That isn't much of a surprise around here. Gurneville is about 90 minutes south and west of Ukiah (which is close to the upper Russian River, but doesn't flood), and they are always looking at flooding. Other places of concern are the Napa River at St. Helena, the Russian River at Healdsburg (which is more disconcerting, considering the dollars in that town), and the Navarro River near Highway 1, which floods every year. Oh, and by the way, don't think about heading north on Highway 101. The road is covered in a mudslide at Confusion Hill north of Leggett and is closed for the foreseeable future. And there is no detour. Here in Chico the news is the Sacramento River, which is flooding just about everywhere. We came across near Willows and nearly every road between Highway 32 and Colusa that cross the river are totally impassable. Highway 32 in Hamilton City is fine, but they are looking at the river cresting about 13 feet above flood stage tomorrow. Tubing anyone?

If you live in California, do yourself a favor. Stay home!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

This is the picture that represents 2005.

From Time Magazine:



It is very hard to actually be "for war", but I agree that the United States needs to be doing what it is doing in Iraq. Those that continue to fiddle with the entry into the war are totally missing the point, since that time is years gone by. Still, this picture brings the most emotion out of me than any other sight before my eyes this year. The image is war being brought to the public, and yet the public sits cozy, still not understanding the situation or the stakes involved in this fight in the Middle East. It is a sad picture, make no mistake about it. Someone's child is in that coffin.
But in the end, I look at the picture and the faces in the windows of the plane and I think, "Wow, they still don't get it".
No, I don't mean Bush and Cheney.
I mean the American people.

You could have just asked the teachers and administrators

The Los Angeles Times is reporting on a story that is all too familiar with teachers, absences. According to the paper, L.A. area school are losing millions because of the massive drop in attendance, whether it be because of illness, vacation, or senioritis. The "in-thing" to do now is to try and bribe the kids into coming to school by offering attendance raffles. Cars, I-pods, or in the case of our district, $25 (it rolls over to the next student chosen, so it gets bigger each week that it goes unclaimed). Personally, I like the idea of charging parents that want to take their kids out of school for a nice vacation during school days, as Temecula Valley is doing.

Clearly the schools are in a bind. However, pandering to the already rampant consumer attitude is hardly making the high school age kids show up for school more often. There is always the threat of going after the parents, except that our law enforcement up in this neck of the woods is already understaffed as it is. Here are a couple of solutions that I think should go into effect to help attendance:

1) Make a mandatory minimum number of days that a student must attend school. If the student misses too many days, for any reason, that student fails to acquire the appropriate credits. In the case of severe distress, form a committee to oversee these requests. Otherwise, lets teach the kids that missing work because of the sniffles will cost them.

2) Teachers keep a consistent policy towards cuts and absences. In my opinion, the administration wants the kids to attend class, and is only part of the problem in terms of enforcement. In our school, the administration does an excellent job in trying to get the kids to stick around. However the teachers don't enact a strong policy of punishing cuts and absences. 1/4 of my students will often only attend my class because they know that it really hurts them to miss it. That isn't the case in other classes. Only through consistent and demanding policy will the students get the message.

3) Make it affect their grade. Every student has 100 participation points at the beginning of the semester. Every tardy after the second is minus 5, every cut is minus 10. After 5 cuts, they automatically fail the course. I have Seniors that will figure this out only after they fail my first semester of Government. They shouldn't have to. It should be made much more apparent earlier.

4) Make the make-up work harder. It is amazing how students show up when they realize that the make-up quiz is an essay quiz, or that a simple attendance quiz has turned into "Name all the Standing Committees in the U.S. Senate", and for fun add "........and do it alphabetically". Think its mean? I think that taking up my lunch period giving make-up quizzes is mean.

5) Fine the parents. This is going to sound wildly unpopular when you introduce this to lower income communities, but it will make an impact. Fine them the ADA that the child took away by constantly missing class, and make it in the form of a citation. Many parents have plenty of disposable income, case in point, the enormous purchasing power that teenagers have these days. Make it law and hit the pocketbook.

6) Enforce the DMV law about revoking licenses. It is threatened in the Driver's Handbook that ditching school could result in a loss of a Driver's License. Ok, now let's enforce it.

Some of you might think that this is too much "stick" and not enough "carrot". In my eyes, a high school diploma is a nice sized carrot. If students can't attend a place where they are supported, educated, safe, and cared for, then take away the carrot and whip out the stick. It could save the schools millions.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

You can't be serious

Here in Ukiah, the problems between administration and the teachers are pretty minimal. There is a mutual respect. The admins are out to support the teachers, and the teachers do their best to enforce policy and educate. As a team, we work pretty well together.

Want to see a real problem? How about a "Kick that Teacher" contest. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, step right up and kick a soccer ball at your favorite teacher. Down at The Pig's Tales, this was a promotion that actually occurred! Hmmmmmm, I wonder if the principal had her picture up there for kids to kick down.

Chico, no shortage there.

I'm always interested in keeping up with the old stomping grounds of Chico, California, especially when it comes to teaching. I got my credential from CSU-Chico, and I feel very fortunate that I went through that program and not from the programs from Dominican or Sonoma State, both of which have bad reputations up here. However, Chico was challenging, demanding, and still flexible enough to benefit your education. Out of the many classes that I took in the credential program, only two I found total useless. One was because the teacher was new and had no concept of the State Standards, the second was Multiculturalism, which I have discussed at great length in previous posts. But for the most part, Chico prepared me pretty well.

Saying that, it was pretty well known in the program that if you were looking for a job in Chico, you had better know someone very well. As stated in the Chico Enterprise Record, the city is not short of teachers by any stretch of the imagination. Good student teachers are snatched up by Chico Unified fairly quickly, and those are usually student teachers that are working with master teachers of exceptional influence. On top of that, teachers should be aware that housing prices in Chico have jumped and wages are not keeping up at all. In fact, when we left Chico in 2001, the Union and the District were in a nasty, nasty battle over wages. At one point, teachers were threatened not to cross a picket line or their pictures would be taken and they "would never teach in California again", as was quoted to me by a union member. Although it was settled, the financial situation was never fully rectified and there is still tension. On top of that, the district is continuing to slide in terms of enrollment. As stated in the Chico ER, 7 years ago the district was busting for a new high school. Now they are looking at losing students for the next 15 years, something that is not a positive note for prospective teachers.

Be wary, and go south. Elk Grove seems to be dying for teachers in that neck of the woods.

Monday, December 26, 2005

I must have needed a vacation

So I became a really nasty, cynical prick before Christmas break. What can I say except that I need a vacation without hassles. No tension, no drama, no whining. Fortunately, this is exactly what happened.

Friday was a good day, except for the usual group that complains about everything under the sun ("Can't the clock go any faster?). I enjoyed the nice Christmas banter, while my Intro took a test (average 81%!!!!!! I knew the constant quizzes would help!!!), and my college prep kids watched and analyzed a video on President Bush's actions and reactions during 9/11. The intense discussion afterward showed that the students were right on top of the decisions that Bush made, and they think that he acted within good reason for the leader of the United States.

School ended late, but my 5th period class was so great that it went like a breeze. I waited for my wife to pick me up and off to Tahoe we went. Why Tahoe you ask? Well, my wife's aunt has a very nice cabin (chalet?) in the Soda Springs and we were invited to stay for Christmas. The trip (a little under 4 hours) was nice. We put some Christmas tunes and dropped out of the "on" mode of school, creating a more festive atmosphere for the drive. You know the classics: Mel Torme, Frankie, Shawn Colvin, Charlie Brown Christmas, Eagles. My wife loves the "Noel" song by Celine Dion, so I listened to it a couple of times. I'm more partial to "Family" by Montgomery Gentry, "Christmas at Ground Zero" by Weird Al, and "Christmas in Hollis, Queens" by Run-DMC. However, that was overruled due to the lack of substantial Christmas cheer.

Christmas Eve was spent doing what we should be doing during that time. Enjoying music, reading good books, playing games with the family, and general enjoying each other. My wife and I took a nice walk around a half frozen lake (it was 50 degrees up there, warm) and kept the mood mellow and enjoyable. The night ended with Scatagories, a game that is guaranteed to piss off everyone at one time or another. In this instance, good natured laughter occurred instead. Christmas morning consisted of opening gifts, and then leaving just as the snow began to fall. From Soda Springs, it was off to Chico to visit more family and have Christmas dinner. Finally, we came home and opened our gifts late into Christmas night.

All in all, the weekend was just what I needed to recoup the batteries. Some of the nasty cynic has drifted away and I'm resting a little longer until school begins in the new year. Actually, school sorta begins tomorrow with basketball practice.

Thank God for vacations!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I "shop", local or not.

I had a massively irritating experience that makes me hate those jerks that complain about Wal-Mart causing businesses to close. Here is what is causing businesses to close.

After a very stressful school day and basketball practice, I went to a local store to by a Christmas gift for my wife. This store specializes in fancy kitchen and dining room junk, and massively overpriced "specialty" dish soaps and lotions. After the day, and looking to spend $25 on a bottle of lotion, I made my way to the register, where the guy was busy wrapping a gift. I stood patiently as the man struggled to get the dimensions of the gift correct, and then he rung me up. I used a credit card to pay, casually tossing it on the counter. The man behind the counter rang me up, I left, end of story.

Except that it wasn't. At the end of last week, a student told me that the man was totally insulted at "how rude he was, throwing the credit card at me". This was one of my students that works at that establishment who was told by that man that I was throwing my credit card at him, as if I used it like a ninja star and was looking to stab him in the throat. This is wrong on so many levels. First off, you don't complain about a teacher at the work place to a student. It is a tasteless to say the least. Second, you don't complain about big business invading taking your business, while you piss off customers.

Let me explain something to this local establishment (I'll keep it nameless because it doesn't deserve the plug), I bought your overpriced crap. Now shut-up. I don't want to hear one more complaint from anyone in that store about anything I've ever done in there because the only thing I have ever done is spend money. I have no problem spending money on my wife. I do have a problem with overpriced complainers whining about customers to students. I swear to God, I have a whole unit on Wal-Mart planned and I'll enjoy using your establishment as a perfect economic example of why Wal-Mart is good for America. Your store does plenty to keep local inflation high, not to mention the shoddy customer service that is a whole lot worse that that nice lady that greets me at the local Wal-Mart.

However, I'd be happy to recommend some local places to frequent because their service is excellent and their prices are very reasonable.

Oco Time- An excellent sushi restaurant in Ukiah. The service is excellent and the food is fresh. The best sushi I've had.

Dorsey's Auto Repair- You like a guy that can not only work on your car, but explain it to you in the process, and promise that he'll do the best work possible. Hell, an oil change becomes an education about your car. Excellent work by a group of guys that make you want to be loyal.


When it comes down to it, people will shop local if you give them a reason to. Otherwise, it is off to Wal-Mart.

Merry Christmas

I think that we are all ready for a vacation. God knows that I am. You would think that the kids would have some cheer during this time of year, but instead the whining is in full effect mode. By the end of the day, teachers comment that their Senior classes sound like they are full of 3rd graders complaining about every little thing under the sun. Everything is "lame" or "stupid", many complain that school is not something that is needed, and some go as far as to make the classroom environment quite uncomfortable.
However, as a teacher, you can start to gauge the trouble that will start in the second semester and take steps to remedy it. I've already put my finger on the group of students that are really going to be a joy when Spring time rolls around (you know, Senioritis). So I become tougher at this time of year in terms of my standards and expectations of the rules. No warnings right now, only action, which is followed by excessive "waaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh". However, these actions show the ones that "get it" that just because it is a few days until Christmas does not mean the instructor allows chaos. It will be work, until the end, like it is supposed to be. I know, the whining can get totally annoying at times, but the most I usually do is try to make them realize that they sound like a bunch of elementary students, and that their bosses in the future will laugh at their excuses. I doesn't always work of course. I have a couple of spoiled brats who get their mommies and daddies to do everything for them, and they worm a note here and there to get excused from class. I try to not react about it any more, since it should be treated like a business. So I say, "You're right, you're excused."..................then I whip out the big quiz. That solves the problem nice and quick like. Yes, I do have to meet angry parents that want to know why their son/daughter is failing, but an attendance sheet is a very powerful weapon, and parents usually cooperate after glancing at the 15 absences.

Other than school, and basketball (we are 3-3, I'll talk about that later), not a whole lot is going on. I have a list of posts I'll work on during the break, and I might log in and post later on. But if I don't, Merry Christmas to all those fighting the good fight.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yes, it's called Christmas.

For some reason, this holiday season has been has been riddled with controversy regarding whether or not you can use the term Christmas when discussing the holiday season. Apparently, people with wayyyyyyyyyy too much time on their hands are starting to get offended by any and every symbol that has to do with Christmas. For instance, a person came in during lunch not to long ago to say that it was offensive that a Christmas tree was in the administration building here on campus. The argument then drifted into a debate on Church/State and so on.

Let me make something perfectly clear, this whole idea that Christmas is a religious holiday is bogus. The holiday is a socially accepted part of American culture and very little of it still based on the Christian faith. It would be naive to think that any kind of majority of Americans wake up on Sunday morning and think, "Happy Birthday to the baby Jesus". No, they are thinking about relatives, presents, and the wonder that comes with a Red Ryder B.B. Gun, a George Foreman Grill, or bath salts. America really can't be that bad off if people are busy complaining about the word Christmas.

I'll quote one of my students after this came up in class:

Teacher: Do students really think about Jesus on Christmas morning?

Girl: I do!

Teacher: Do you really? Seriously?

Girl: I swear to God that I do! I think, "Thank Jesus for all these presents!"

Want Christmas relief? Go visit this weeks Education Carnival!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Why?

I really don't mind the fact that our school district is going the full week. I mean, it does suck that my wife is done in Willits on Wednesday, but I'm a trooper, and I'm perfectly willing to work until the 23rd of December. Saying that, I'm up for asking about the decision to make the last freaking day before vacation the longest in months. Someone decided to make the annual "Christmas Concert" on Friday, thus creating an assembly schedule, and thus making me leave the school 15 minutes later than I normally do. 15 minutes not really matter? Not when I have to drive to Soda Springs in the middle of Donner Pass for a good old fashion "family Christmas", minus my family of course (those that are married will get it). I'm already in for snow on the way up. Nice to know that I now have an even better chance of hitting snow AND darkness on the way to the former cannibalism capital of California. I mean, seriously, does this make any sense at all? How about we make Wednesday a regular day and the concert, therefore making Friday a shortened day, allowing people that have to drive 5 hours a little head start!

And to make it even worse, my wife told me that Whooping Cough is making a nice little comeback in Willits.

Ok, pop quiz. Which is worse?

A: Whooping Cough

B: Dealing with student behaviors on an extended day before Christmas break

Saturday, December 17, 2005

An Evening at the Fed (A must for Econ teachers)

ARG!!!!!! Busy can't define the state I have been in recently! I'm very sorry that the blogging has been down, but the school situation hasn't allowed me to keep up. Hopefully, these next posts will explain why my blogging has not been existent. Also, apologies to the Education Wonks for not linking the Education Carnival this week. You do too much work to not be recognized!

According to all my wife's teacher peers, the fact that we both teach the same subject (Government and Economics) is very cute. The whole "awwwwwwwwwwww" thing was in full effect on Wednesday, when my wife and I decided to attend "An Evening at the Fed", at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Building. The plan was to leave Ukiah at around 2 p.m. (Wednesdays are short for me), attend the conference, and make it back by 9 p.m. for good sleep, since we had to teach the next day.

"Evening" is a series of workshops aimed trying to more successfully connect high school educators with the Federal Reserve, and do more to get students to successfully understand the California Economics Standards. The idea is great, and if the implementation of the program is anything like the first workshop, then Economics teachers will find a very valuable resource at the Federal Reserve.

This workshop was to introduce a video entitled "Open and Operating: The FED responds to September 11", and the curriculum that goes with it. Simply put, the 16 minute video uses 9/11 to describe how the Federal Reserve system works, and the importance of "liquidity" to the overall economy. The video is not long enough to get boring, but solid enough to really explain the main jobs of the FED. It is also not a dumbed down version that kills Advanced Placement level students. You might have to do some serious prepping for lower level kids, but with some explanation of the tasks of the Federal Reserve, many "Intro" level students should come out on good terms with the video. On top the video, a curriculum guide is included that does an excellent job using Pre-film activities, during the film questions, and Post-film discussions. Graphic organizers are also included with the packet.

The 90 minute presentation at the FED was well worth the drive. After an introduction from the Joy Hoffman (Vice-Pres of Public Affairs), she took us through the entire video and put the teachers through the Pre-Film activities. The curriculum packet is excellent because it is very detailed, just like a teacher would want it. That might be because Joy worked in education and has helped establish this program with teachers in mind. Also at the workshop were higher ups from the Federal Reserve to discuss how the FED deals in disasters, people from the Economics industry, and college professors that were more than willing to point teachers in the direction of very good material. All in all, a very successful night.

The bottom line is, go the San Francisco's Federal Reserve Education Materials website and order your FREE copy of "Open and Operating". It comes with all the goodies and will be there in a month. If you are killing your students with the same old, boring-as-hell FED videos, pick this one up and go through the curriculum. It will convert you.

After the FED trip, my wife and I went to Union Square and strolled for about 90 minutes, observing the Christmas windows at the institutes of consumerism (otherwise known as department stores). The top three winners are:

#3- Saks Fifth Ave for the elegant women in evening dresses and ice sculpture headdresses. The jewelry was too much, so you get third.

#2- Tiffany's for the mini-window with the Christmas tree, carousel and train. It was beautiful and tasteful, even if the stores prices aren't.

#1- Macy's for the SPCA pet windows. The cats and dogs seemed very happy in their habitat, and the board that showed the number of adoptions seemed very healthy.

The losers, and not just for windows:

#3- Neiman Marcus for the $70 candle and the reaction the man gave when I reminded him that it was wax and a wick.

#2- FAO Schwartz for being closed, as in "the store was empty" kind of closed. If you go out of business, take down the famous sign.

#1- Lush for the $14 for a 1/4 lb soap. Lush is a store that is tended by a group of rocking out college kids (Warrents "Cherry Pie" in the background) that has blocks of soap in mammoth mounds around the tiny store. They smell and look excellent. However, $14.95 for a tiny chip of natural Ivory soap is not cool. Neither is the tiny canister if $18 shaving cream. Hellllllllooooooooooo Costco!

Um, we made it home at around 11 p.m.

And yes, we suffered for it the next day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How serious?

"To all teachers. Upon consultation with the Vice Principals, any student caught using MySpace, chatting, or playing any games on the Internet will get an immediate referral for defiance."

Good.

Monday, December 12, 2005

How to make a great day go bad

The energy was up today, as I used Jeopardy to review for the test and had a lengthy discussion of the Tookie Williams case with my Intro students. I was looking forward to a nice practice with a great group of basketball players, when this occurred on the way to the gym.

-As teacher is heading to the gym, two students are on a planter box spitting on the sidewalk.
-Teacher walks by and says, "Hi fellas". One student stares the teacher down and spits on the sidewalk behind him.
-Teacher walks up and says, "Hey guys, could you spit in the planter? That way the sidewalk doesn't get all nasty".
-Student spits on the ground in front of the teacher.

At this point, I'm sure that many of you can imagine the various things that should happen to this little brat. Take under consideration that I have no idea who this kid is and I've never seen him before.

-Teacher asks student to come to the office with him. For the next five minutes, student goes back and forth about coming to the office. Student then walks off campus and leaves in the end.

Funny how society is asking us to educate their kids, yet I could really do nothing to prevent him from leaving. Get to close a student, like guiding them to the office, and they do the whole "Don't fucking touch me!" routine and threaten all sorts of bullshit. So this student gets away with his behavior, for now. Fortunately, he passed a campus supervisor on the way out and I got his name.

This begs the question that many teachers, especially new ones, ask more and more these days. Does every student have a "right" to an education? How far to we go to try and teach children that have no want to be taught? I think you might be surprised at the answers that many students give these days, especially the older ones. Most agree that students that don't want to be taught should be put to work somehow to benefit society. Most also concur that those students should not be in an institution where learning is supposed to take place.

So today I taught 150 kids about Government and 11 kids about basketball. Unfortunately, the most serious lesson will not be learned by the student that needs it the most.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

This is just too funny.

Some of you will hate the hell out of me for it, but I was visiting Right on the Left Coast and I found the Ultimate War Simulation. Now, I'm a fan of realistic simulations (Flight Simulator, Sim City, Total Rome, Warcraft), and this one just has to make you laugh. Come on Sim fans, you know you want it.

Warning; if you are very uptight on the current political climate in America, don't visit the site. While your at it, stop listening to Rush Limbaugh and Amy Goodman. Both are loud mouthed idiots.

Is it really that bad?

Well, according to a survey of historians, no. Quite frankly, I'm very inclined to agree with them.

Think about the last 100 years and the events that this country has been through, from the Great Depression to the Watts riots, from World War 1 to MAD, all of which have been times of much greater chaos and pain than the current era. Yes, the attacks of 9/11 are one of the most important and tragic events in our history, but is this era we are living in really worse off than the many of the generations before it? Certainly not.

However, a case can be made that this generation has viewed more chaos than any generation before it. Live on television, this group has witnessed the devastation of the World Trade Center, the War in Iraq, the liberation of Afghanistan, and a multitude of domestic ills that make the country seem on the brink of devastation. Throw in the partisan idiocy that permeates our government, and there seems to be no order at all.

That presents an interesting problem with today's youth, who have been pampered and babied more than any other generation in history. With this lack of preparation and mental toughness, any small crisis to them is going to seem like an apocyliptic event. Whatever way you want to spin it, the War in Iraq is not an apocyliptic event. It may have gigantic consequences that could lead to a massive event (ie: if we leave, a regional war ensues), but the war itself is far from Vietnam, Korea, or either World Wars. It is the job of teachers, especially Social Science teachers, to point this out to students. If we don't give them a fair assessment of the world of the past compared to our own time, we simply engorge this sense of fear and apprehension, keeping them unprepared for the global issues ahead.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The MySpace Experiment

So I created a MySpace account, as many of you might have seen from a post about MySpace this summer. I created it just to gauge the reaction it would have from people, and to see how long it would take to others to find it. Here are my findings.

-After creating the MySpace in July, I had only 344 hits, although the first 200 came quickly.
-I found out that the most frequent visitors were players from the Varsity basketball team. Second most frequent visitors were from this blog, and finally I had visitors that were people I went to high school with.
-About 5 ex-students signed up as "friends".
-I found 6 people that I went to high school with, and 1 guy I played basketball with for 3 years in high school. I had some very nice conversations with these people. It was nice to reaquaint with old ball players.
-I found no evidence that any students in my classes found my site. If they did, they didn't tell me. Again, the only people that found the site were a group of varsity basketball players.
-Speaking of the basketball players, they decided to create a dumby site that used my name. The picture and the comments were inappropriate and out of line, however the situation took care of itself. I notified MySpace about the fake page, and they took it down within 24 hours, with a promise to monitor the blogs that I mentioned if the incident were to occur again (I had 12 people out the gentlemen with way too much time on their hands).
-The site caused many people to send me e-mails or comments about my article, and my place on MySpace. A student at Bella Vista High School in Sacramento used my site in her school newspaper as an example of how teachers should warn students to use MySpace with discretion. Others stated that I had no clue what I was talking about. Unfortunately, those were a little more common. Here's one that I received today:

Amazing how you no longer have a myspace account. So if what you say is true, then why don't the people from the tv show "Laguna Beach" get arrested for drinking under 21. The camrea crew is obviously over 21 and knows for a fact they are drinking, everyone knows. If you start statements like you provided in your article you can never stop which will only lead to the entire shutdown of human communication, because myspace is like walking around with a shirt with your profile on it, and saying that is illegal is wrong. It is your choice to tell other people information about yourself publicly, freedom of speech, and if concerned they can set their account to friends only, so only their true "accepted" friends can see their profile. Your article and this controversy is a waste of time.


I give you one guess if this letter is from a high school student. Like usual, they do know it all, don't they. Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse and worse for people thinking that the Internet is some kind of private domain. What you say on MySpace is public record, even if it is set to private. Whether it is a threat, your personal information, comments about teachers, hell, even cheating on your girlfriend, is all public information and can be used against you legally. While you are at it, teachers might want to explain to students that everything that is typed into Google is also recorded and kept at Google Headquarters in Santa Clara, California on their servers. Although they state that the information is kept to help make searches more efficient, the information can be used against you. This includes the information sent over G-Mail servers! Everything, all your searches, all your G-Mail, where you shopped in Froogle, is saved at Google. On the stretch end of the spectrum, the Patriot Act might have the ability to use the Google database to conduct searches. On the other end, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Google could be subpoenaed for the information, whether it be searches or e-mail accounts.

For the record, I created another MySpace account. I won't have students on this one, and I'll have to hide it from the little munchkins. It shouldn't be much of a problem really. I found it nice to talk to old friends, and to discuss with others where we are in life. Like anything else, MySpace is an interesting tool that has great reflective value in people's lives. Concurrently, the medium is dominated by middle and high school students that are in a generation that enjoys the excesses in life. This poses a nasty problem for educators, since parents continue to remain naive about their sons and daughters getting drunk every Saturday night on Captain Morgan. Once again, it falls upon us to do something about it. It has just, and I mean this week, became a major problem at our school. Students are having Internet privledges removed for week chunks for viewing the program on the computers, and students are starting to cry foul. In the atmosphere that is our school, the debate is going to get fierce.
Stay tuned, and be safe.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Education Carnival and MySpace Murders. No, they are not related.

Hit up "What It's Like on the Inside" for this weeks Education Carnival.

BTW, I warned about MySpace and the impact that it can have with children and young adults. The case about the murders in Pennsylvania has heated up the questions about MySpace, and moreover, the access that other people and the media have to information. My MySpace experiment is continuing, with interesting results that I'll post later. In the mean time, check out MSNBC for a little MySpace murder connection.

The phone call we all dread.

Let me preface this by saying that I don't blame the Special Education and Resource teachers for this type of call. They have an even tougher job scheduling all this mess.

Pick up phone, enter in code......

"You have 6 new messages. Message from ____________, at 4:30 p.m."

"Our mutual student ____________ is having a meeting (504, IEP, conference) to address some concerns of the parents about the child's progress. We are trying to find a good time for everyone. We came up with 4 p.m. Now, I know that seems a little late, but that seems like the time that everyone can do it. We understand your time is short, so we will let you address your concerns first. Thanks, and we will see you tomorrow at 4."

Of course, the schedule is not very helpful for me, who has 12 kids in the gym at 4 p.m. waiting for basketball practice to start. Then lets add on the fact that most of those 6 messages on my voice mail, were similar meetings throughout the week. This becomes very, very frustrating. And it isn't that "Hey, I'm done with my contract day when the clock strikes 2:38" kind of frustrating. I've never liked that attitude about teaching. It's more like the double edged sword frustrating. Who do we insult by our absence? The special ed teacher, who is stuck in the middle of this whole mess? The parent of the child, who probably had to leave work early for the meeting? The basketball players, who I committed to coach for the season? The basketball parents, who would like a competitive season for their kids? This one is pretty much a lose-lose for me. For one day this week, I decided to back practice up 30 minutes to accommodate a meeting, one where the parent insists that all teachers go to this meeting or feel her wrath. Wow, can a person want to be anywhere else than that meeting?
Um yea, how about basketball practice.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ripon City Cameras and a toga

My students have been doing quite a bit of writing as of late. As I stated last week, my Intro students did a Quickwrite about the city of Ripon in Central California. The city has put large amounts of funding into cameras for the police to view city streets. I asked my students to put themselves into the shoes of a Ripon city councilmen, and to decide if the cameras should have been installed. The results were interesting.
-The ratio was about 70-30 against having the cameras. The number one reason against the cameras was the age old argument of "invasion of privacy". However, the interesting point is that the students usually did not simply stop with that argument. Many pressed on stating that the funding used for cameras should instead go towards more police on the streets. The cameras, they decided, were too expensive and not effective enough.
-There was no racial or economics disparity that I could see. Both Hispanic and white students had the same 70-30 split, as well as men and women.
-There were only a couple of papers that had the whole "cops are bad" thing going. Much less than I expected if you listen to my classes during discussion. This shows the machismo that is prevalent in discussions is suddenly gone when the thoughts are private.

In my College Prep class, the bills are done and one targets the President (that would be me). The "Toga Tuesday" act of 2005 is to force the teacher to wear a toga (over clothing) on Tuesday of every week. Right now the bipartisan support is generally strong, but showed signs of weakening when I started to talk to certain members of the House about possible White House favors (ie: extra credit). Last year's class created the "Pink Tie Act of 2004", which forced me to wear a pink tie every Monday in support of Breast Cancer research. That bill was very well done and avoided the pitfalls of being vague. This bill has holes that I intend to exploit. I better, otherwise my Greek half will be coming out during school.

In totally lighter news, I found an old cd that has Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick tunes. I was driving to Willits to help my wife out with a situation, bumpin to "La Di Da Di" and "Mona Lisa" was a huge trip. Most kids can't comprehend that I listen to rap music, and get a huge kick out of the moments when I bust out the funky old school lyrics.
Totally clean lyrics........of course.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ukiah 65 El Molino 50

We jumped on them early with the full court man press, and it immediately began to pay dividends. Within the first few minutes we took a nice 8 point lead and were looking to push it forward.
Of course, we must remember that at this level, nothing is really safe. Not even a lead. The reaching began, along with the fouls, and the nasty habit of allowing the point guard to penetrate to the basket. Before long, it was 25-23 El Molino. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.
After a couple of adjustments, we held a slight lead at the half. In the second half we focused in on pounding the ball inside. We were very successful and it wore out the opposing team, leading us to pull away near the end and finishing with the victory.
After the game, I went to the Varsity coach and told him that I recommended that my best player be moved up to Junior Varsity. His line tonight: 25 pts, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks. He's ready, and my guess is that he will be starting for them fairly soon. I'm of the opinion that the only reason that a person should move up is if they are going to start for the next team, period. This guy fits that mold. If he were to stay with me, he'd have been the best center I've ever coached.
This makes the season all the more interesting. At first, I thought I was going to be post reliant. Now I find myself more reliant on guard play, which I have no problem with.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tough Week

In August, my wife lost a member of her family. On Tuesday, she lost another one. It is been a tough week to say the least.

Dealing with emotional stress and constantly being "on" is difficult in times like this. On Wednesday, I was pretty much out of it in terms of energy. All the emotional stuff that occurred during the night previous just sucks the juice right out of you. Then today I was exhausted, like I had fought in a war. The problem was, my classes were not difficult at all. I haven't had a thing go wrong in terms of management or my work. I'm caught up, I'm where I want be in terms of my semester, I'm just tired.

Monday, November 28, 2005

It is raining.

And it is raining hard and for the whole day. It isn't a nice rain either. It's a rain that is constant and very cold. I was half expecting to see snow today, what with how damn cold it was.

Mock Congress continued in College Prep today. We did a little discussion about gerrymandering, and then I had both parties choose a nominee for Speaker of the House. After a small speech in Zero period, neither candidate got the majority vote enough to be called Speaker. The frustrated Zero period has found out the hardships of partisanship very quickly. Fifth period votes on a Speaker tomorrow.
After some discussion about Black Friday (the busiest shopping day of the year), Intro classes did a quickwrite about the issue of having cameras on the streets of a city to provide protection. Credit CBS 5 out of San Francisco for running a story about the small town of Ripon in California (south of Stockton) and the new wireless, live camera network that police are using. The position paper was a good, interesting thing to come out of the break with.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

One of the nice things about this week.

I guess the rule is that once you get married, all semblance of a mellow "break" is gone. Thanksgiving was half her family, and then a few days with mine. The first plans for Christmas began to emerge, which involves an ungodly amount of driving and not enough staying home. Anyone else going through this? Hell, I might want kids so I can have an excuse to stay home. Wait, scratch that. Then they all would show up here. Bad idea.

I was approached by a variety of different students during the break, all of which were smiles, and four of which said that they really enjoyed my class, which was mentioned without me asking about it. That was a huge pick me up. One was at the game in Windsor on Wednesday, one was at Safeway on Saturday, and two were at a local eating establishment on Saturday night. Sometimes it is simply that alone which will keep me going for awhile.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Ukiah 64, El Molino 39

This game was fun to watch.

Again I was missed my two important post players, and again the team decided that they would win anyway. This game began much like the last, the full court man press letting us jump out to an 8 point lead. After a little back and forth, the bench came in and helped us to an 11 point half time lead. We really should have been up more, but our free throw shoot was horrid (again, missing two technical shots)and we gave up 15 fouls.

The second half was totally different. The starting group was struggling defensively, not pressuring the ball, forcing bad passes, look for officials for help. After about 4 minutes, I put in the bench, and all hell broke loose. We immediately went on a major run that had us up 21 and flying up and down the court. One really pleasant story was a post man that hadn't seen the floor very much coming in and scoring 5 points and grabbing 4 boards in his minutes. It was neat to see. Then others got into the act, as the point guards started running the offense to the point of a simple lay-up. In the end, we went back to the Hurricane to not run up the score, and almost everyone on the team scored. A very successful outing.

People that made many mistakes on Wednesday changed them tonight, making them right. For only the second game in, this is a very good sign. Next game isn't for a week, and we play El Molino again.

Ukiah 43, Windsor 36

This game was on Wednesday night, and I figured a recap was in order.

First of all, my team is complete. I have 13 guys, all very nice, some rather athletic, but only one or two that have the "court sense". Although we have size, it has yet to truly be tested, but we are very, very quick.

The game at Windsor was going to be without two of my better players, both post men. I figured that this might present a problem because our back-ups played limited roles in 8th grade, and were a tad slower than most posts. I decided to play three quick guards, a small forward as a post, and the quick of the couple of post men. We started in full court man and quickly jumped out to a 15-3 lead. I was pleasantly surprised at the way we ran the court. For the first game, they looked pretty good. In the second quarter we had a chance for a blow out, but blew it. They had two technicals called on them, and we missed all four free throws. Include the 6 missed lay-ups and I started to pull my hair out. But the bench kept us comfortable, and we went in at half with a 7 point lead.

The 3rd quarter was a disaster. Suddenly we would reach on defense, wouldn't move on offense, and Windsor made the game close. In the opening moments of the fourth quarter, they tied the game. One of the reasons of the turnaround was because Windsor decided to have their post man dribble up the court, and often to the hoop, against my slower and smaller post players. I wanted them to pull through it, but the footspeed was not there as it had been in the first half. Wanting to preserve the win, I went to my Hurricane match-up zone (something I learned from my old high school) and they immediately began to jack up terrible shots. We went on a small run at the end of the game, including a couple of nice offensive series, and when by 7.

Not bad for a first game. It would show that we could be a great team, or a disaster, depending on our effort.

Friday, November 25, 2005

She gets it.

Normally, I can't stand Anna Quindlen. I love Newsweek, so much that I'm considering letting my Time subscription run out. But Anna Quindlen gets into these left-wing rants that make me think that she is actually Al Franken in drag.

Except for this month.

As a teacher, you always wish someone would step into your shoes for a moment and see how hard your job actually is. Quindlen did that, and wrote about it.

Check out Anna Quindlen's Newsweek article "The Wages of Teaching".

By the time I get to Arizona, Part 2

It really isn't that warm in Arizona on a November morning. In fact, it feels a whole lot like California at 8 a.m. Of course, Saddlebrook is at 3000 feet, and this helps bring a chilly nip to the morning air. This was my thought on Sunday morning when I awoke to the hazy Catalina Mountains right outside my doorstep.

I could go day-by-day about my events in Arizona, but I can sum it up very quickly with fewer words:

Sunday: Watch football, 9 holes of golf, steak dinner, play Bunko with wife's family. Bunko is this game that every woman on the planet seems to love. My wife taught everyone how to play it and the whole family is now enthralled by it. I won Bunko on that night, but I don't really like it very much.

Monday: 18 holes of golf, read book, salmon dinner, play poker. I lost $5.

Tuesday: 18 holes of golf, go to the wedding of my wife's aunt (the whole reason why we were there), very good Chinese food, Scatagories.

Wednesday: Home.

Golf in the desert was not a fun experience for me. The course was very nice, the fairways firm, the rough tough, and the greens slick, if not a little untrue. The area was full of animals. Dozens of different birds flock around the course, led by hordes of quails and the occasional roadrunner, who were really tame and enjoyed watching you tee off. Mix in the groundhogs and cottontail rabbits, and you had a pleasant desert setting. The problem is that once the ball is "out of bounds", you might as well forget it. There are a million little planets in the desert that have thorns (besides cacti) and they all surround the golf course. Searching for the ball in shorts is like walking in a razor blade forest. Of course, you might say that hitting the ball out of bounds is a bad idea. That is correct if I could somehow manage to not hit a slice on every fucking driver shot that I took. It was getting so damn frustrating that I was trying to use my 4 Iron off the tee for the drives. This created a weekend of 115 for my score, about 10 strokes worse than usual. Arg!!!!!!!

Other than eating, playing games, and celebrating a very cool nuptial (it is one of those marriages that is good), not a whole lot happened.

My vacation ended at 3:30 in the morning on Wednesday. Yuck. We had to drive an hour to the airport for our 6 a.m. flight to Los Angeles, and then nail our connecting flight to San Francisco. With only 3 hours of sleep under our belts, my wife and I trudged to the airport and caught our little jet to Los Angeles. It would have been nice to sleep on the plane, except for the fact that it was very rough. Think about a combination of 4-wheeling and a roller coaster, and that was our flight. Then we caught a 757 from L.A. to S.F., a much smoother and more enjoyable flight. Then it was a quick drive home for the end of my Arizona trip.

Impressions of the trip:
-Fix my driver slice.
-Fly United more. The staff was excellent.
-Go direct. No more connections.
-Arizona was not that hot, but it was dry as hell. Not good on skin that likes moisture.
-Would I mind living there? I really isn't a bad area, but I like the coastal atmosphere. I love rain, and Tucson gets only about 11 inches a year (Ukiah gets about 33).

By the time I get to Arizona, Part One

"Sir, do you realize that your license has expired?"

When you go to the airport to take a trip, that is one of the things you don't want to hear in the security check line.

My trip to Arizona started out very mellow. I nice drive to San Francisco and peaceful parking job at Long Term. Since it was Saturday evening, we had little in terms of that massive holiday rush that usually starts on the weekend before Thanksgiving. My wife and I arrived at the United Airlines ticket counter and did the automatic check-in, a real convienent way to nail down your boarding pass. You simply entered your credit card, and a machine spits out all the boarding passes you need for the trip. Then you show a valid photo I.D. at the security point and off you go to the gate.

That is, unless your license has expired, like mine was. So I went back to the ticket counter where they gave me a special ticket that was considered "extra security" for the boys and girls doing bag checks. I was separated and placed in a machine that blew air on different parts of my body. I'm guessing it was to check for explosive residue. Then I was brought to a different section where they checked everything in both bags and swabbed everything, and I mean everything, for explosives. They asked me a few questions, took my Swiss Card (a credit card sized device that is like a Swiss Army Knife), and I was on my way. They whole ordeal was about 10 extra minutes. I had no problem with the extra security and I had no problem taking time out to have everything checked. The people were very polite, with me and my items, and the horror stories about security that I heard in the past never occurred.

The flight from San Francisco to Tucson was only about 2 hours, and the plane was a small regional jet that was more like a dart than an airplane. It was sleek, quick, and the ride was smooth and hassle free. It was also more expensive than transferring along the way, by the tune of nearly $150. In the end, it is worth it, as we would have to transfer on the way home. We landed in Tucson at about 9:30 at night at a nearly empty airport and a crisp chill in the air. Northern California was just as warm, if not warmer, than Arizona on this day. We were picked up by a relative of my wife, a very nice lady whose bubbly personality is very refreshing. We didn't stay in Tucson, but actually in a very nice retirement community called Saddlebrooke. The master planned community is specifically catered to retirees looking for a very active lifestyle, focused around golf primarily.

Saddlebrook is about an hour north of Tucson, even though it is still considered part of the city. First thing that was noticed about Saddlebrook is how dark it is. At 11 at night, there were no streetlights. Apparently, there is a massive amount of astronomy that is researched in the area, and street lights are prohibited by law to reduce light pollution. Interesting tidbit, but it makes trying to walk home at night a little tough. The second thing that I noticed upon my arrival at my rental was the howling of the coyotes in the distance. The community is surrounded by mountains which are the homes of plenty of mountain lions, coyotes, and something called havalina, some sort of wild desert pigs.

I have to say that I was a little less than active during this part of the trip, and most of the first two days. As a teacher, I find that I decompress during the first few days of the trip to recoup all the energy lost during the school year. I'm so "on" during school, that I just sort of shut down for awhile to rest. So I appreciated the fact that I was in a new and interesting place, but I wasn't terribly awake for it.

More later.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Live from Tucson, Arizona

Just a quick hit that I'm not in my home town currently. I'm in the beautiful desert Southwest, where it is currently cooler than in Ukiah.

Go figure.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Legalize pot.....it would decrease drug associated violence.

Les Crane was the biggest proponent of legalization in Mendocino County. He ran a "Hemp Church" in Ukiah and a similar place in Laytonville (about an hour north of Ukiah).

As reported in the Ukiah Daily Journal, Les has proved that legalization has done nothing but continue to destory the social fabric of Mendocino County.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Brian Schaffer vs. Montgomery County Schools- The Verdict

In the continuing effort to keep my loyal audience up to date on the pertinent Supreme Court rulings, I give you the verdict of Schaffer vs. Montgomery County Schools, a case having to deal with Special Education and the concept of "burden of proof". Basically, the question that was being asked was "does the school need to prove that the modifications of an IEP are in place and working? Or is it the responsibility of the parents to prove that the modifications established in an IEP have not been implemented"? For better detail on the case, check out my 10/06/05 post on the beginning of this case.

As I expected, the Court ruled in favor of the Montgomery County Schools, 6-2. Sandra Day O'Connor made the simple explanation that "We hold that the burden lies, as it typically does, on the party seeking relief." Delving deeper into the case, O'Connor gives a very nice explanation of education based federalism, IEP's, and the need for the establishment of successful parent-educator relationships for IEP's to be successful. The importance of "the core statute...the IEP....is the cooperative process it establishes between parents and the schools." The Court then explained the rights of parents, which most of us are well aware of (if you aren't, you are endangering yourself), and the responsibility of the school district in implementing an IEP. It would also seem that the Supreme Court has a very good handle on the stress that Special Education causes schools districts, especially financially. O'Connor mentions that if the burden were to lie with the school districts, then the education system would need to be appropriately funded for such an implementation. Further, she states that "moreover, there is reason to believe that a great deal is already spent on the administration of...IEP's", and she mentioned Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, which mentions, "parents and schools should be given expanded opportunities to resolve their disagreements in positive and constructive ways," and that "teachers, schools, local educational agencies, and States should be relieved of irrelevant and unnecessary paperwork burdens that don't lead to improved educational outcomes."

This could be considered a landmark ruling that will give a little breathing room to school districts. Special Education is such a nightmare to deal with in terms of the legality and liability, that teachers should probably be paid more than General Ed teachers because of the pressure that is put against them by the legal effect of IEP's. And while schools can breath that sigh of relief, they should get too comfortable. While Justice O'Connor made it known that she understands the pressure of the IEP, she also made plenty of references that if the burden of proof is shown in a case like this, it usually means that fraud is involved. Seems like the message was "Education needs room to work right, but not fulfilling the obligations of an IEP means that you are defrauding the parents of the child." An IEP is, after all, a legal document.

Congrats to all the Special Education teachers out there. You get a moments peace tonight :)

Objectionable material in the classroom

Ms. Cornelius has an interesting article regarding objectionable material in the classroom.

Ed Youngblood, a 37-year teaching veteran, said he was forced to quit or be fired last week after showing an R-rated movie in his British literature class.... He resigned last Wednesday after complaints over his screening of the 1998 movie "Elizabeth" prompted an investigation....

Youngblood did not follow procedure by using unapproved materials in a class without first gaining permission from the school. Two weeks ago he showed the movie, which carries an R-rating for violence and sexuality, to a class of seniors.... Monday, Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said that Youngblood chose to resign when told that an investigation had begun. Youngblood says he was given five minutes to choose between resignation and dismissal.

He said he was told those were his options because a precedent had been set at the school. In 2002, two special education teachers were forced to resign for showing the comedy "History of the World Part I" in class.

... Support is gaining at the school for Youngblood, who retired at the end of the 2004-2005 school year and taught part-time this year.


History of the World? Someone really has no clue concept of what is and is not acceptable in the classroom. I'm a huge fan of Mel Brooks, but History of the World is super wrong for the classroom for oh so many reasons. As for Elizabeth, the movie has nudity in it, a complete no-no for the classroom, regardless of age. The question is then becomes the issue about the teacher resignation, which is (like Ms. Ms. Cornelius stated) sounds kind of fishy. History of the World is pretty blatant. Elizabeth's nudity is brief, and can be justified depending on the subject matter. I used a clip from the movie when the Queen was crowned, but that was only about 90 seconds.

Over at Ms. Cornelius' website (A Shrewdness of Apes) she gives the explanation that showing videos is not something that should be done in the classroom. Clarify that, showing whole movies should not be done in the classroom. In most instances I agree. However, I'm not about to remove the medium from my teaching practice. My college prep class has seen no movies this semester, but will watch Startup.Com, and Roger and Me during Economics. Those will be shown during the STAR testing, when Seniors don't participate and have massive 2 to 21/2 hour classes. Both these showings are massive hits with the students because they are relatively short, and both keep the interest. Plus, they are real, which is always more interesting.

I do think that a class based on simply videos is one being taught by a teacher who has given up. Films are full of drama and garbage that really put kids to sleep, unless they have a whole lot of garbage action that is meaningless. They have their place, but the place is only when you want to seriously impact some meaning on the kid. When I taught World History, I showed plenty of clips to introduce certain aspects of history, but the only movie that has the right impact is Schindler's List, which should be view by every student on the planet. Hell, every student should go to Auschwitz once in their life to experience the horrid side of the human soul.

Mellow Week.......except for the hoops

One of the odd things about this week is the fact that my classes have gone very smooth and mellow, while basketball has become a situation that is full of drama.

College Prep Government is in the midst of researching bills for passage in a mock House of Representatives. Both classes are doing a great job with the rules (they must address each other formally, and me as "Mr. President") and the ideas for bills. I'll post the bill subjects later this week.

Intro is doing propaganda. They are creating brochures using 4 different forms of propaganda to promote a candidate (anything from Spongebob to Super Mario to George Bush). They are very creative and are getting the gist of the project, but are still having trouble identifying the different forms of propaganda. Of course, not studying has something to do with that.

Basketball is another story. I know have 15 players, with final cuts coming today. Recently, I've had a group of kids that have missed most of tryouts show up because our numbers are low. Interesting concept. Miss most of tryouts and show up with the idea that a full roster is better than a hard working one. That isn't how I work. I have a couple of players that have been here the entire two weeks, runnin and gunnin with everyone. I think I'll probably keep them, simply because the chemistry on the team might be better.

The Carnival of Education is up and as classic as ever. Hit it up.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

AND I WILL STRIKE DOWN UPON THEE WITH GREAT VENGEANCE AND FURIOUS ANGER..............

At the very least, you have to look at Pat Robertson as a form of entertainment. Remember that not too long ago, Robertson decided to try and make foreign policy decisions, like a call to assassinate Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.
Please don't tell me you took him seriously, he's just too big of an idiot to really listen to. I remember listening to the news when I heard about Robertson's comments and I almost had to pull over I was laughing so hard. Something about Patty boy calling for a rub out just seems way too damn good to be true.

Thankfully, Pat hasn't let us down with his sense of humor. As you might know, the citizens of Dover, Pennsylvania voted out a group of school board members who wanted to teach Intelligent Design, which is basically Creationism without saying the word God. Besides the Constitutional problems that Intelligent Design brings about, you also have this model from the Intelligent Design Museum that religious nut Kevin Ham is creating:

Yes, that's a Triceratops. Yes, that's a saddle. Welcome to Intelligent Design World.
Anyhow, after the more "intelligent" citizens of Dover voted out the board members, out came Pat Robertson with his message of hope and compassion:

"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said."


In addition, I would be looking for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck look-a-likes with angelic wings tearing around Dover shooting anyone that has committed a sin (Dogma fans would get it).

Thanks Pat! After the stress of the election, I needed a good laugh. And to the citizens of Dover, thank you for following the Constitution, not some old fool.

It was quite beautiful

People don't seem to realize that California has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. My morning trip to Ashland from Burney was simply so enjoyable that the 2 1/2 drive there, and then back, was really quick.

This is Mt. Shasta from Hwy. 89, coming from Burney towards the mountain. Now, it is from some motorcycle website (Pashnit.com) and it is the summer in this pick. Instead, picture a lite covering of snow along the road and Mt. Shasta totally covered. This was my view for most of my journey.
Ashland, Oregon is a very quaint little town that is famous for the Shakespeare Festival that runs for much of the spring and summer. During the off-season, the Southern Oregon State becomes the focus, and the town becomes a very mellow mix of cutesy college town, and content retirement community. This is the home of my grandmother, who at 85 still has more energy than people half her age. She works at the Festival Tutor Guild, holds a drawing class, works for a local Foundation, and helps manage her church library. She's quite a woman. The visit was excellent, as it always is. My grandmother is a former high school teacher from Hayward, California, and understands all the fun trials and tribulations that I'm going through. In fact, I probably owe her for getting me interesting into teaching. While my parents divorced, I spent a whole lot of time with her. However, we rarely stayed home. We visited museums, the Exploratorium, the Lawrence Hall of Science, Washington D.C., Sacramento......all kinds of enriching experiences. It kept me interested. And again, the ride home was totally gorgeous.
So I'm back home here in Ukiah, after the 4 hour trip back from Burney. I've been trying to relax a little since my weekend has been on the road so much. Mock Congress is in the works for my college prep kids, and propaganda with my Intro kids.
Enjoy the week!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Live from Burney, California

Wow, there is snow on the ground in Burney! Simply the fact that there is snow here is odd, the fact that it is the middle of November makes it down right bizarre.

I can't believe how tired I was driving up from Ukaih today. I had major problems on Highway 5 maintaining some semblance of mindful driving. I don't think I have adjusted to the season just yet. It helped that there was a Starbucks in Corning, which is just so damn wrong that I almost cried. Seriously, Corning is this orchard and hick town in the middle of nowhere, where farmers and truckers flourish. But lo and behold, a Starbucks (a good sized one too) is firmly implanted in the town's outskirts, close to the freeway. A triple mocha later, I was on the road again. Speaking of the season, I had to make the first round of cuts today. Out of 9 that tried out, I kept 5. Then I had about 10 football players show up. Second round of cuts is next Thursday, and it won't be easy.

I'm off to Ashland tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

It has been a crusher of a week

First of all, I loved the rain in the beginning of the week. It was a pleasant and totally enjoyable experience. However, the week ended up going really, really slow. That is not good when you have a 4 day week. These last two days have taken forever to get done. So what's been happening lately?

-The talk in both classes has centered around the Props, and general information about elections. The students were very into the elections and had a chance to vote on a sample ballot. The results were different from the election. Half the students voted for Prop 73, most all voted for Prop 75, and almost all voted for Prop 74. The rest went down fairly badly, while Measure U (the Measure to help modernize the high school) passed in 4 out of 5 classes with the required 2/3's vote. Bad news for Arnold, most young Republicans do not like him. Everyone hates the idea of changing the Constitution for him to run for President. Not going to happen.

-Basketball has been interesting. I now have 9 total tryouts for the team with football coming in tomorrow morning for their first workout. At first glance, I'm not as talented as last year, but I might have a group that will be faster up and down the floor. This could create a lot of problems for a couple of teams that we play that have trouble in transition. At the same time, we might not be running a whole lot of half court.

-My International Relations class goes before the District Curriculum Board on Monday. Wish me luck.

-If you look back in earlier posts, you will see posts made regarding Ukiah Daily Journal Editor K.C. Meadows. You remember her. She's the idiot that doesn't like funding schools, but would rather fund community based pot gardens. Unsuccessful as she was in derailing the effort to support the schools, she let it be known one last time in the paper that the school should not get the money to modernize, and that it should stay in the 1970's condition that it was built. I notice that this blog is hit alot in the K.C. Meadows Google search. Here is a little memo to that moron from the Daily Journal:
1. Shut your hole until you have a damn clue about what you are dealing with.
2. Research is good. If you had actually stepped on the campus once since you tried to worm your way into my classroom and suck up to honornable Congressman Thompson, you would realize that the school is in violation of various State and Federal guidelines including; The American's With Disabilities Act, Title IX (that's the number 9, Ms. Meadows), and the various air quality standards because of the antiquated ventilation system. Interesting that you are against students, the handicapped, and gender equality.
3. Building a new school would cost 3 times the price, take longer to create, take up more land, and establish another building on land when the building doesn't need to exist. Hmmmmmmm, Ms. Meadows anti-environment? Not very Mendocino County now, is it?
4. Over the last two years, I have seen nothing good come from that your columns regarding the schools. You are an ignorant soul that is looking for frivolous headlines by exploiting teachers, administrators and students. I intend to have more of the Congressman in my classroom, and I'll hopefully bring more prominent figures to this school to keep the students interested in Government. I'll gladly allow some of the excellent reporters from the Ukiah Daily Journal into my classroom. You, however, are banned. Stay the hell out. Your last visit had you trying to make yourself the highlight by pushing for a new school (thankfully ignored by Mr. Thompson) and then using the paper to push that the Congressman spoke economic "doom and gloom" to the students. You made it sound cheap, although I now realize that I should expect nothing less from you.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, rant over. Sorry for it, I just feel protective of such a nice learning environment. Everyone works so hard there, to have some spoiled brat bashing the school is sick. No one points out that this idiot is just anti-school for the hell of it. Grow up.

Mock Congress next week.


I'm off to Ashland, Oregon in the morning, after tryouts at 8 a.m. I might just blog from there, or Burney, California, the home of my father.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A numbers game.

First Day Basketball Tryout Numbers:

2001- 31
2002- 35
2003- 28
2004- 26
2005- 7


Yep, you see the number right, seven players showed up for the first day of try-outs.

Ouch. I didn't realize that declining enrollment would hit up this hard.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The weekend that was, and the week that will be.

Wow, Batman Begins is really good.

In fact, the movie gets to movie up into my elite comic book movie category right now. I know, who cares? Well, I'm a huge comic book fan, and an even bigger comic book movie fan. Good comic book movies are usually enormously popular and make tens of millions at the box office. I always find it interesting that people don't want to admit that they like comic books, but will shell out the cash for a good comic book flick. My top comic book movies, in no particular order:
Superman
Superman Returns
X-Men
X-Men 2
Batman
Batman Begins
Spiderman
Spiderman 2
The Crow
Akira

Batman Begins is the new storyline from Christopher Nolan, who directed one of my favorites, Memento. Christian Bale plays an excellent Batman, once again a tormented soul that decides to fight the crime that is infesting Gotham City. Finally, they decide to go away from the conventional villains and bring out the Scarecrow (done excellent) and Ra's Al Ghul. Notice that the Scarecrow did not die (a major mistake in Batman), you only see him take off. The whole movie felt right from the beginning, and the payoff was excellent. I'm very interested in who will portray The Joker for the next film, as I think it will be next to impossible to top Jack Nicholson. The only problem I had with the movie is Batman showing his identity to his ex-girlfriend. You maintain the secrecy, not give it up so easily. However, I can easily see the next film dumping Katie Holmes and moving on. The movie was excellent, a solid 9.5 out of 10. Stop repressing your nerd side and see it now.

I also saw Sin City this week, an amazingly bloody and nasty film that does an excellent job portraying the comic books from Frank Miller. If you are really into Sin City, then you will probably really like the film. The colors play right out of the comic book and the actors play all the roles totally over the top, probably just like Frank Miller intended. I appreciate Miller's style (his Batman adaptation "Year One" and "Dark Knight Returns" were excellent), but I really don't like a lot about Sin City. I love film noir and I love the "Pulp Fiction" idea where stories interact. However, the movie doesn't click for me until too late into the film. On top of that, it is just too over the top for me to really get into. The Mickey Rourke storyline was too brutal and disgusting, with little in terms of idea that was new, besides the sheer nastiness of the villains. The Bruce Willis/Jessica Alba story was interesting but predictable. I did like the Clive Owen story of prostitutes that own the Old Town area of Basin City. The hookers had a peace with police officers and the Mob, thus allowing them to basically govern an entire piece of town. The scene with Owen, Alexis Bledel, and Benicio del Toro was sexy, smart, and entertaining. I wanted to know the outcome and I had no idea what was coming next. It was the lone example of interesting storytelling in the movie. Being this critical might be without merit however. Many say that Sin City might be the most accurate adaptation of a comic book, and I'm inclined to agree. However, it is a movie and it was ok, at best. The Clive Owen storyline was enough to keep me interested. 7.5 out of 10.

What does the week have upcoming? The California Special Election will have a lot to do with it, as both classes take serious looks at the ballot measures. Then Intro moves into Elections, and College Prep looks at campaign finance. Basketball starts tomorrow. I'm excited as always, even though my two best guards are being moved up to Junior Varsity. My opinion about moving players up is simple; if they start on the J.V. program, they should be there. If they don't start, then it does no good to play up. Regardless, I'm going to have a small tryout group for the first time in 5 years. Normal tryout numbers average about 25-35 players. I only have 18 on the sign-up roster, and over half play football, which means they will come next week. Could I not have enough to even scrimmage? We shall see.

What to do.......

Interesting scenario.....

A group of students decide to create a video for a propaganda project. They are promoting a candidate for President, against the instructor. The project is to apply 4 different techniques of propaganda, create a clear vision for their candidate, and employ creativity. The video, of course, is primarily mud-slinging against the instructor, but in a very satirical manner. The students are basically pulling off a Saturday Night Live style commentary on why you shouldn't vote for the teacher.

The problem is the content of the video. Some of the creativity is really "pushing the envelope" in terms of creative liberty. None of it was illegal, however the entire piece is beyond politically incorrect, and morally questionable. There is no profanity. A few students in my class found the video to be a bit offensive. I found one part to be offensive, although not enough to be more than annoyed. I honestly believe that the students were simply trying to make a funny and creative presentation, and used bad judgment therefore stepping over the line in terms of material. I don't think they were being really malicious at all, regardless of the objectionable content.

My quandary is that I don't want to make a huge deal about it, but I think that it needs to be addressed that they went too far.

My current solution is this. They will get full credit for completing the assignment and meeting all the criteria. They will get no extra credit (which occurs when students go "above and beyond" in work, like video presentations), and I will write a few comments about the material that I find objectionable.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Rainy Season has started

And my gutters have leaves in them. Dammit, this means a trip up on the roof, something I have not had to deal with as a renter. This means that my first task of this weekend will be gutter cleaning. Yuck.

It has been a very good week. Students in Intro have been involved in a very detailed political values discussion, and most have been totally immersed in the conversation. College Prep has been looking at propaganda and the different techniques involved in creating good propaganda. They looked in awe at the 1964 Lydon Johnson daisy nuke commercial. It wasn't too hard to get the message, "Vote for Johnson or die in a nuclear fire."

The excellent news is that the International Relations class was passed by School Site Council. This means that it is a 95% positive for next year. I would really like any material or suggestions if you have some.

coachbrown@earthlink.net

I'm just been very tired and cautious about blogging lately. I get back into the flow once things settle down.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Education Carnival ...........this time it is mobile!

The Education Carnival is up now, except that it is in traveling mode. This week, check out the midway at Get On The Bus. I've never been to the site, so I can't comment on it, except to say that Get on the Bus was not one of Spike Lee's better movies.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

We are family

With a little help from EdWonk, I came across the Blog Family Tree, a little project that The Politburo Diktat has put on to see where this crazy blog world all started.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm a part of the Tree. Looking from where you started is interesting in a really weird sort of way. I've always been looking to keep some kind of journal, especially about teaching, but this blog has become something more than that.

So who are my "Blog Parents"?

My blog mother is Wonkette, which is a blog that involves political satire, mainly from the Left attacking the Right. I first saw creator Ana Marie Cox on the Imus in the Morning Program a few years ago, and I read it ever since......until recently. Now the Wonkette is no longer produced by Ana Marie, she is instead the Editor. Whatever, all I know is that it isn't as funny as it used to be. Ana Marie Cox has a personal blog, but she is spotty on updates and doesn't have the good humor she once had.

My blog father is Education Wonks. On one rainy afternoon in February, I decided to find some blogs from teachers, I as was having my own frustrations teaching. Low and behold, I came across Se Hace Camino Al Andar, a blog from a woman teaching in New York City. At that time, she didn't post often (she is much more regular now, and a good read) so I skipped it and found my way to The Education Wonks. From there I realized that knowledge is power and reflection is a great teaching tool that I had forgotten.

I don't think that I have any "blog children" of my own. If I do, I would really like them let me know.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

CASET Conference at the Federal Reserve, San Francisco

Once again I attended a conference that made me love the job that I'm doing and gave me wonderful tools to accomplish the task at hand, teaching Economics.

The early 3:45 rise time wasn't as bad as you might think. I normally get up around 5:15, and on this day I had a couple of things going for me. First, it was Friday. Second, I was excited to get more information from this organization. The organization is the California Association of School Economics Teachers (CASET), based at California State University-San Bernadino, and it is now my favorite organization by far. Hell, I'm beginning to like Econ better than Government!
The departure time was 4:45 from my humble dwelling in Ukiah. I plugged in my mobile VCR/TV combo and listen to Thursday's "Imus in the Morning" while I cruised down to Larkspur. Of course, it was Friday that the rainy season decided to set in. So I drove in the rain from Ukiah to Petaluma, a little over an hour in length. It was a steady rain, so the road was soaked and the trucks on the road succeeded in making the spray constantly end up on my windshield. Mix in a super slick road because of the first rain and you have a little driving adventure.

I made the 6:40 Larkspur-San Francisco ferry with ease. Yet again, I love taking the ferry. The ride is smooth and, even though all the seats were full, quiet. Once we got within about 5 minutes of the Ferry Building, I wandered topside and took in the view. It was one of those moments where a few of use went outside and just looked in silence at the dawn rising over Treasure Island and the Bay Bridge. No one said a word, they just looked and smiled. I smiled even more when I got off the boat and made my way to Noah's for a bagel, and Peete's for a coffee.

The Federal Reserve is a block away from the Ferry Building, making it very convenient. I'd never been to the FED, so I was very interested on how impressive they would make the place. First of all, they don't screw around at all. All the conference members had been checked prior to our arrival for anything that might make us questionable. When we got there, we were given a security badge with a microchip in it. We were not to remove that badge for any reason at all. In fact, we were never to go anywhere in the FED without escort. That badge not only got you into the FED, it was the only way to get out. You had to use the badge to activate the outgoing doors to leave. If you didn't, the multiple security guys would give you very stern looks and lots of questions. Finally, our bags went through an x-ray machine and we walked through a metal detector. Once again, the FED was not messing around.

The conference itself was broken up into some short introductions, 3 workshops, lunch, and a tour of the FED.

The Introductions were short and sweet, but the main attention was outside of the doors at the Economics vendors trying to show off books. Some were very pleasant, others made used car salesmen seem timid. I decided to look at the different texts and inquire about International Relations textbooks, something that many of the companies are starting to make standard. The best vendor, and the one that received the least attention, was from the Buck Institute. I have a link to the right and I highly recommend their material.

My first workshop was about the Stock Market Simulation and the Capital Market Simulation done by California State Universities here in the Golden State. While the Stock Market Sim is very interesting and nice because of the competition, it costs $11 per group. The Capital Market Simulation was very complex. In essence, it is a simulation that makes students investigate Economic Indicators and to make substantial recommendations to the FED in the form of an essay, a Powerpoint, and a presentation. This was demonstrated to us by four students who could work for CNBC right now with the detail and knowledge exhibited in their demonstration. I would love to do the Capital Market sim, but again cost is a factor. The second problem is that I might be able to pull off a few kids understanding that detailed of a view of Macroeconomics, but it would leave many totally baffled. I found out that the four demonstrators came from a magnet school that focuses on Math, and that they were currently in college at USC, UC San Deigo, and two from Cal. Essentially, the coursework will have to be A.P. and the students are going to have to be very dedicated to Economics. We are not quite there yet.

The second workshop was much better for my Intro level students, and probably for my college prep as well. It was called Money Wise Teen and it used Personal Finance to teach the Economics Standards portion of the class. The example was fun, but more important it was very obvious that it was meeting content standards while at the same time connecting students to very relevant situations. There is currently no paperwork up yet, but the video's they use are at Moneywiseteen.org. Check them out.

The third workshop was a presentation from the Federal Reserve. My current FED video is like the song "I Like Traffic Lights" by Monty Pyton, eventually you went to 187 the television screen. The new FED video is only 16 minutes long, and does a very nice job explaining the job of the Federal Reserve by recounting the FED's response to September 11, 2001. There is also curriculum that is very detailed and interesting, plus available powerpoints in the future.

Lunch was elegant. We ate in a conference room that overlooked the skyscrapers of San Francisco and were treated to organic salads and some excellent chicken with fresh greens. To top it off, cheesecake topped with raspberrys, strawberrys and kiwi. Simply put, we were treated like professionals, which was nice. The whole set up was like a professional conference, which made it all the more worth attending. They didn't skimp on anything, including lunch.

The tour was interesting and I recommend it for the kids. You can go to the San Francisco Federal Reserve Education Website and reserve a tour for a class. The tours are about 90 minutes and they also do a Personal Finance interact lesson afterwards that lasts 45 minutes. The tour is interesting enough to keep them involved, and short enough to not let the trip be bogged down. The money display is really fascinating.

The way home was rainy from Novato to Santa Rosa, and a trip that usually takes 40 minutes ended up being 100 minutes due to traffic and whatnot. However, if you are an Econ teacher, I highly recommend CASET.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Economics Conference in San Francisco

Tomorrow I will partake in Part Two of the Economics experience that start in early August. You can check out the first conference in Part One and Part Two of a previous post. This means I'm getting up around 3:30 for the trip to the Larkspur ferry, and a boat trip across the water to the City By the Bay. This time, it's at the Federal Reserve in San Francisco, a place I have yet to visit. From all accounts, I hear that it is actually very interesting. One thing that I am looking forward to is the Noah's Bagels and Peete's Coffee that I will consuming upon my arrival at the Ferry Building.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

By the way, go hit up Education Wonks

The Carnival of Education is up over at Ed Wonks.

Basically, it is all about being smart, and avoiding hassles.

My simple advice to you as educational bloggers is this:

Remember that a school is full of students, and those students have parents. As we all know, some of the parents often act in an irrational manner. This means that even if you change names, change classes, and the whole bit, they will still think that you are talking about their child or someone they know. Unless you basically detail the student to the world or give out confidential information, you are probably legally fine. However, we all know that dealing with these situations distracts from real teaching. It becomes a major hassle.

So what does this do to collaborating about classroom management? Well, I don't really know. It would seem to look like discussing classroom management in a public forum is not going to work because every parent is going to think that you are talking about their kid. Even if you aren't, it will become an issue and a headache that no one really needs. However, we also know that teachers discuss classroom management all the time. The wording will simply have to change. For instance (and no, this didn't happen today), if I were to describe a situation like this:

"Today, a student walked over and spit on another student. I had to give that student a referral and they had to be escorted out of class."

.....someone might know who you are talking about and raise hell. Try changing the statement and finding a why not to incorporate students at all. I know, it sounds crazy, but think about the hassles if you say "I have a class that has kids with IEP's" in it, and the problems that could cause with every potential person that thinks they know who you are talking about.

The other issue is blogging during school time, which you should be smart enough not to do. At our school we have silent reading and I have Prep time. During both times take time to read various newspapers and online news sites. I'm a Government/Economics teacher, reading news is a part of the job. If I find an article I like for the blog, I cut and paste the link into this browser and save for editing. The problem? The time at the bottom states that I blogged this when I opened the browser. I might have pasted the link at 6:30 in the morning, and then posted at 10 at night, but the post will say 6:30 in the morning. So it looks like I blog on my prep or during silent reading. Best advice, don't deal with the blog at all at school. Now the links I want go into e-mail and I deal with this back home.

As for the political end, you are protected by a multitude of organizations that are just dying to protect you in court. I don't know the issue of "teacher morality" in regards to blogging about something legal, but that has questionable morals. I think a teacher use common sense morality when it comes expressing opinions. At the same time, I don't think using profanity on a private blog on occasion is an immoral act. I don't act like Howard Stern on my blog, and I don't describe acts that would be considered indecent.

So you make the choice. As I stated before, I live for teaching so I'll adjust my blog.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I like blogging, but I live to teach.

First off, I'll start out by apologizing to anyone who thought that I was speaking about them when I discussed classroom management issues. Contrary to what you might think, we teachers are actually trying to get better, and that means explaining certain situations in a classroom setting and acquiring opinions on new techniques. No names (all fake) or information were used with malicious intent, and any assumptions that readers made regarding individuals were your own.

So this blog will be changing, a little. I was advised today about the extent of the law, and how it affects teachers and bloggers. Although I'm probably safe (union representation read the blog, and though they didn't agree with some things, they didn't see much wrong with it), I agreed to remove posts in which some people might assume that they have a clue about who the people are. I'm doing it because this issue is affecting my teaching in the classroom in ways that I don't like, and the kids suffer for it. My last class of the day found it evident that something was not right because my answers were very short and monotone, and I was figeting like crazy. I'm not willing to give up something I live for because a tiny group of people that have nothing to do with the school make assumptions on situations they know nothing about. Any offensive posts have been removed and will making classroom management posts that have are much more vague. I'm doing it because I live to teach, and the students mean more to me than this blog does.

On the other hand, this last week created some very positive notes as well. I learned a lot about the law, and how many teachers need to be careful posting in the online world. This afternoon, an interesting conversation took place about Internet classrooms and online postings. How is a teacher supposed to discuss classroom management without divulging a single piece of information? If you take a class at the local JC and talk about a situation, does it put you at risk if someone in the class knows one of the students? What about online classroom forums? It brings up an interesting topic.

The support I have continued to receive is enormous. Teachers have read the blog, and even though some don't agree with the politics, all have lined up to support me. It felt really nice.

So I blog on, with care from now on. This is still a blog about a teacher who is going through the ups and downs of working in the American Education System.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Weekend to recoup

About the only serious work I did this weekend was to rake leaves and grade a few hours worth of papers. Otherwise, it was relaxation nation for those in need. No places to go and no people to see, finally.

I'm still a Fantasy Football God. With Ladainian Tomlinson sucking today, and Chris Brown and Robert Fergeson out, I thought I was toasted. But my opponent had the Bills defense and I had Lamont Jordan. I'm up 25 points and he's got Curtis Martin and the Jets tight end left for Monday night. It is looking real good. A win will make me 7-0 for the season, the first time in the five years of our league that the first half was skunked.

I'm totally ready for basketball to begin! Practice starts on November 7, with our 1st game only 2 1/2 weeks after. This means that try-outs are going to go almost to the point of the first game, which makes no sense. The district has a 5 day try-out policy, which while well intended, makes the try-outs way too long since football runs for an extra week. Plus, in the tiny gym that I practice in, some players create a safety problem for everyone else. After two days there should be a first cut, plain and simple. I've also began hearing the usual "issues" regarding the basketball program. This year I've made a commitment to the program, to focus purely on the Freshman Boys basketball program and making it the best in the league. Realistically, it will be a hard hill to climb. Montgomery has the best feeder program north of the Golden Gate, while Cardinal Newman still insists that they don't recruit. Of course they don't. I mean, isn't it every day that a school's best 6'6" big man wants to transfer to Newman to reconnect with God? This will be a recurring theme on this blog, by the way. I think the fact that high schools go and recruit players is disgusting and dishonest. One of the nice things about the high school level is that coaches have to develop talent from the middle school levels up. Great programs get great results. Except if you are a Christian school that tries to recruit CYO talent from other schools......allegedly. And the problem is not simply with private schools, I've observed public schools snake players away as well. One of the nice things about Ukiah High is that there is no sense of recruitment at all. In fact, the coaching staff takes extra special care not to hassle players into coming to the school. However, I've been involved in programs that pushed players into coming to certain schools. It was embarrassing.

After two seasons of so-so episodes, The West Wing has come on very strong. The casting of Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda was an excellent decision, and the focus has slowly left Martin Sheen to focus on the two presidential contenders. However, tonight was a crusher as it seems like the beginning of the end for Toby Ziegler. I've always liked Toby. I really see some similar traits in Toby that I see in myself. I have the best intentions at heart, and I'm professional and passionate about what I believe in. Like Toby, I have a rough and sarcastic sense of humor, that can often put off many around me. And like Toby, I don't beat around the bush when it comes to politics. Now he's slowly being written out of the show, maybe with his dignity, or maybe not.

Political parties and voter practices abound in college prep, as student research the different parties and present to the class. In Intro, it is an in-depth look at 9/11. Upon talking to my students, I realized that almost all of the students had no clue about 9/11 except that planes hit the World Trade Center. Little was known about the Pentagon, and almost nothing was known about Flight 93, the single greatest act of heroism in recent memory. So the benefits of teaching Intro continue, as we pause for a week to take a serious look behind 9/11, including radical Islam, the past problems, and repercussions of the attacks. It is the perfect teaching moment.

Here's to a great week!