Saturday, April 30, 2005

You try taking the STAR Test

Our Social Science department at Ukiah High School will occasionally get together and ram the uselessness of the STAR Test. For those that don't know, the STAR test is the yearly bullshit exam that has nothing to do with student progress, and is simply there so the government bureaucrats can say that they gave a test to kids. Anyway, while our department slams the test, some of us speak up (me) and state that they could not pass the algebra portion of the test. After some startled teacher looks (you know, the 'how are you a teacher if you can't pass the exam' kind of look), some start to realize that they probably couldn't pass the math portion either. By the end of the conversation, you have teachers flushing out old math textbooks to see if they can do the problems.
I'll admit it right now, I would fail the math portion of STAR test. I got a D in high school algebra, it took me two semesters to pass college Intermediate Algebra, and I know less now than I did then. Sue me. I can write an essay about Congressional Effects on Foreign Policy, but don't ask me about Pythagoras because it ain't happening. But isn't everyone like that? Specialize in some things, weak in others?
Thankfully, Post-Hip Chick (link at right) found this article in the San Francisco Chronicle about parents that took the STAR, and ended up a lot like I would.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

My response to the Ukiah Daily Journal.

So when I read the post by K.C. Meadows (check yesterday for more information), I became very irritated. I figured that a letter was warranted, and if she didn't publish it, at least she would read it. So my response was:
UDJ should rethink position and support Education.

As an instructor of Political Science at Ukiah High School, I'm often proud of the fact that I live in a town where opinions are shared, debated and discussed with regularity. I tell my students that it is important to get involved, even if it is a simple letter to the editor of a local newspaper. However, on Tuesday, April 19, Daily Journal Editor K.C. Meadows decided to take it upon herself to make a snap judgment regarding the high school modernization project. Meadows, with a total lack of reliable information, stated that the citizens of Ukiah should not assist the Ukiah Unified School District in upgrading their secondary educational facilities because the high school was too big. Speaking as a teacher, I can attest to the fact that this school must address the issues that all high schools are faced with. But none of the problems are related to the money that must be raised to make Ukiah School not only modern, but actually compliant with State and Federal laws. If K.C. Meadows had taken the time to actually step on to the high school campus to do some "investigative reporting", she might have realized the importance of the high school modernization.
Meadows stated that handicap access is an "apparent" need at the high school. However, the American's With Disabilities Act of 1990 demands that access be available for those with physical limitations at all venues at a public high school. I think that it is necessary this high school to continue to meet the ADA's requirements so everyone can have an equal opportunity. It seems that the editor is not into "equal opportunity". Meadows stated that improving sports facilities are an "apparent"need. Because the school is so old, the athletic facilities do not meet Title IX requirements for equality in sports. Does the editor not think equality for students is necessary, even in athletics? Meadows called the modernization of the high school "pure folly". Is "pure folly" upgrading the heating/cooling systems which will save the district thousands of dollars in heating and cooling costs? Is "pure folly" enhancing the educational experience by providing students with better classrooms with basic amenities like windows, natural lighting and reliable environmental controls? Is "pure folly" creating athletic facilities where students aren't injured by falling ceiling tiles, holes in the floor or by slipping in rainwater leaking into the gymnasium? Finally, does Meadows consider it "pure folly" that the people of Ukiah want this high school to regain the status as an elite institution of secondary education?
Ukiah is a town full of innovative and forward thinking citizens. As I walk the town, talking to parents and business owners, I get a sense that people want to see Ukiah High School as an institution of excellence; academic and vocational, athletic and social. With Federal and State governments lacking in basic funding, I hope Ukiah continues to show a sense of "pride in ownership" for its high school by helping with its modernization and continued goal of an establishing an elite institution.

Jeff Silva-Brown
Ukiah High School
Department of Social Science

The current response from my colleagues has been very positive. The current response from the editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal has been nil. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

It's turning into one of "those kind of weeks".

As I stated before, three students died earlier in the week from a car accident. The shock was yesterday, the grief was more evident today as students wandered in from mourning to continue living. Lots of long faces were evident and students clutched articles of clothing, little pillows, and each other. Funerals are supposed to be today and later this week. But some sort of closure will take awhile. Prom is this weekend, that might help.
Then there was a small fire in a garbage can outside of our building. It put out a lot of smoke, but no damage. Still, everyone is a little on edge and that didn't help.
Then there was the problem with the clocks. The bell rang 4 minutes early in every class today, according to the school clocks. This threw off a decent rhythm we had today.
My Intro classes viewed the Newshour piece on Latino dropouts. I had the question on the board before class started and immediately many of the Latinos question the validity of topic and called it a racist question. This is an ongoing problem at our school, that everything brought up about Latinos must have a racist slant to it. However, after we viewed the video and discussed the problem, many Latinos were more than happy to write down input. White students also chimed in with different thoughts. Some felt that Latinos are stereotyped, while others feel that Latinos have even more opportunity than many white students (using Mecha and Mayo as examples). It was a productive day.
Finally, here is the letter from the editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal. Today I'll publish the letter from the Journal. Tomorrow, I'll publish my response. The editor is a one K.C. Meadows.
The Ukiah Unified School District is floating the idea of extending the current 11 cent per parcel tax for school improvements to 2034 or even asking voters to raise it to 12 cents. The idea is aimed at raising upwards of $50 million for improvements to Ukiah High School, especially its sports facilities. Roofing and handicapped access are also part of the expensive overhaul the high school apparently needs. Over the years, observing the overcrowded Ukiah High School, it has become apparent to us that what the campus needs more than anything is downsizing. If the district wants to spend $50 million- and even today that's a lot of money- we suggest that the first thing to do is to study the needs of the community and what is best for the education of our high school age students. Rebuilding a school that is already too large and unwieldy, where it is difficult to keep tract of students, where students feel threatened in bathrooms and other areas outside of the classroom, seems pure folly to us. The school district ought to be considering downsizing Ukiah High School and building another small high school elsewhere in the Valley. By all means build a premiere sports facility somewhere that all UUSD high school kids can use- including charter school students- but before we spend a huge new pot of money, let's step back and look at the future and what we as a community want for our kids.

The school is in declining enrollment, there are at least two charter and one Christian high schools in the area, the student population is less now than 5 years ago, and this idiot wants to spend MORE money to build a new school. I found out over the last 2 days that Ms. Meadows is a classic school agenda journalist. In fact, on Sunday she printed a column attacking district Science textbooks as being inaccurate. Apparently she found this Textbook Trust book watchdog that points out every typo and vague statement, and makes it a point to prove schools wrong.

Nice to know we have another local fishwrap ally.

Rommel, you magnificent bastard I read your Education Carnival!!!!

I swear to God that after I watched Patton for the first time at 16 years old, I heard those damn fading trumpets for years. One of the greatest war movies of all time, Patton also has the distinction (in my opinion) of having the most well acted character ever put on film. George C. Scott is Patton.
But before you slap around one of your underlings, check out the Education Carnival!

Monday, April 25, 2005


During open gym today, I think I strained some muscle that below my calf. It hurts like hell. Speaking of open gym, the city league volleyball people came in and started putting up nets right in the middle of our game. Literally, they came onto the follow and set a volleyball pole up. Needless to say I was pissed, and pulled the pole out. They were not happy and were very confrontational. I stated that I had the gym from 4-6 on Monday's, that I've had it for 4 years, and that they had 15 minutes to go. One of the guys stated that "the rules are changing starting today." My response was a nice "no, they are not", which made them more infuriated. Then they demanded to know who my boss was. My boss is, of course, the principal of the school. He happens to love the fact that I do open gym. So I'm not worried in the slightest about their bitching. No problems in 4 years, now these idiots? Oh, and he wanted to know if I had "rented" the gym for the two hours. My polite "no, I'm a coach here and this gym is for the students", was really supposed to be "listen jackass, this is my gym and you should pray to God that I don't slam this volleyball pole down your scrawny little throat. And never endanger my students like that again or lock your ass out with my pretty little key."
But I'm diplomatic. :)
Remember my mention of the newspaper editor and the nasty letter I sent her (check Friday's post)? Well, she printed it in Sunday's paper. I'll get both tomorrow. I actually got calls from other teachers saying that they appriciated it.
School was great today. My 4th Period Intro students had a group that was a little squirrelly, and it cost them in a little extra work. It was one of those group assignments where the focus was on car rims and prom dresses, not revenue and cost/benefit. We'll see if any of the students accomplish the extra work for tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Of car shows and gang fights

Well, wasn't today an interesting day.

First off, this morning was one of those mornings where the alarm went off at 5:15, and I managed to actually make it out of bed around 6. My wife and I talked a little about the house, and were trying to figure out reasons to stay home. We could find none. My wife was going to do some interesting things with her kids today, and I really love my job. I just hate mornings.

Intro was pretty good today. They watched the news and calculated revenue for 12 possible Food Court Resturants. College Prep was also very good. They worked on the Stock Market Project and Economics Expo. It was the other events that made the day interesting.

During break, between 2nd and 3rd period, I went on a newspaper hunt. By that I mean I go to the office and try to round up a school newspaper on days that it comes out. It's a little tradition that I keep. Anyway, on my way to the office, I noticed that the quad was almost totally empty. Bad sign. Then a campus supervisor burst out of the office and yelled that help was needed at the small tri (an area near the middle of campus). I hustled over there with her to find, you guessed it, the Reds and Blues (Norteno and Sureno) were lined up hurling gang signs, insults and threats. Apparently, I had missed something much bigger and caught the tail end of it. Until I know more, I won't speculate. I just entered the frey with a happy, "And how are we today, gentlemen?". Then, there were supervisors, administrators and teachers everywhere. Not that it stopped the bangers from yappin, because they continued non-stop. The result? 5-8 arrested. 2 might have been from my class. Hopefully there will be expulsions.
Then there was the car show. For the second year, the auto shop put on a show where a bunch of people show off their rides for everyone to see. It is the perfect example of a total distraction.....that you kind of like. Since I teach Intro, I have a large amount of kids who have massive potential in vocational arts (we have a huge vocational program here), and little in academics. Most of my Intro kids will not go to college, and half of those that do will drop out. But if you blindfold some of them and ask them to put an engine together, they could. So 4th period was when this car show started to take place, with lunchtime being open to the public. Well over half my 4th period was gone. Most of them had cars entered at the show or were involved in running it. The rest of my class was ansy to get out and see it. So I took roll and made a deal with them. Give me 45 minutes of straight group work and we take the final 10 minutes of class to take a small field trip to the parking lot for the car show. They agreed, and followed through completely with their end of the deal. Now, you might think it is a poor use of class time. I call it a Friday afternoon right before lunch were I can continue to establish a relationship with the students through the end of the year. The students enjoyed the car show with no problems. They stayed at the show, respected the cars and even cheered on a couple of entries from our class. The cars were loud, tricked out and expensive. 25 total entires this year, up from 15 last year. I voted the simple and classy, referbished 1967 Chevy Malibu as the Best of Show.
So next week promises to be very interesting. The interviews for a new principal happened today, which means updates next week. The gang fight will have reprocussions. And STAR testing begins in 2 weeks (aren't we excited).

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Nice Day

Today went very well. However I'm tired, so we're going short tonight.

Because of the short Wednesday, we got into a large conversation in Intro. We talked about the new Pope, John Bolton's nomination, and the Oklahoma City bombing. That took up a majority of the period, with the remaining 15 minutes focused on problem-based questions for the High School Food Court.
College Prep was review day for Seniors. To review, we play Jeopardy. Ask about it later, I'm too tired now.

Otherwise, I got very worked up about a letter from the Ukiah Daily Journal asking citizens to not vote for measures that would fund modernization for our high school. I was so annoyed that I wrote the editor a nasty letter. I'll get more into it if anything pans out.


Oh, I'm sorry. Did that break your concentration? I believe you were saying something about The Carnival of Education.

Pulp Fiction either a love it or hate it kind of movie. Not only do I love it, I think that it might be one of the best written movie of all time. If you haven't seen it, check it out. Just be warned, it isn't for the timid.

But before you eat your "Royale with Cheese", check out the Carnival of Education.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I don't do Senioritis. Oh, yeah, and Utah is currently my favorite state.

When you look back on the day, it was actually pretty good.

My Zero and Fourth Period Intro classes worked on how to take a Demand survey and calculate the best price for revenue. We practiced and practiced and they were getting it at the end. Some were very proud.
My College Prep classes were nice and spunky, even though we talked about Government Regulations. My third period class got me off course a little and we started talking about gender sterotypes. Only two girls in a class that has about 20 said that they can change a tire on a care. When asked why, a few said that it was the guys job to change tires. I decided to that it was the perfect time to lighten the mood and went on a diatribe.

"See my brothers", I announced to the minority of guys, "this is what I am talking about! We must fight the power and fulfill Dr. King's vision of justice and equality! May this be message to all the males of the world that we will not take this tire changing sterotype lying down! No justice, no peace!!!".
The class lost it in laughter. The note taking mood lightened and the rest of the period worked out great. I know it is risky, and sometimes Seniors want you off track. But if you manage it right, you can rein them in by allowing a short mental break. Then back to work.

The problem of the day was 1st period Intro. Three boys sit together and are basically, well, teenage boys. Today, I asked them a number of times during instructions to relax and calm down. They kept playing grab ass (not literally, a term), making faces and finally, throwing a paper airplane. My response was simple.
"Last warning, knock it off or your moving."

"What?? What did we do, huh?? It's not like we are doing anything."

That is my signal that these boys are looking for an arguement. Most students will pipe down because they realize that my final warning means "It is over". So I decided to act.

"Out the door, now. Wait for me outside." I said it very calmly. I wasn't mad (as I might have been a year ago). It was business, not personal. They trudged outside, muttering that I was overreacting and was being unfair. I then continued with the instructions and lesson. I left them out there.......for 25 minutes. I checked every 5 minutes through my window to make sure they didn't bolt. They didn't. When I was down with my lesson (and with 5 minutes left in class), I went outside and announced to them.
"From now on you will do exactly as I tell you. You are in my classroom and you will follow my rules. Failure to do so will result in your removal from my classroom, loss of points, and a possible problem for your graduation (my class is required). I will answer none of your questions."
The really smart-assed one asked, "Isn't this a democracy?".
And the conversation ended. They came into the room, got the assignment from peers, and then left with the bell. They were not happy and shouted it in the hall on their way out. Later at lunch, one of their girlfriends came up to me and said, "There are students that hate you because you are so mean." It really didn't phase me as much as it might have last year. Why? Because this summer I had at least 12-15 past students that I ran into tell me that they appriciated my class and that they actually learned something. It was hard, but it was more like college than most of high school. So it didn't bother me that students were pissed that I wouldn't take Middle School bullshit. I bothered me that I had to be a Middle School teacher for a period, but sometimes you have to do that.
Look, I'm not unfair to my Seniors. I work lessons around important Senior events (Prom, Homecoming, Senior Cut days, etc), I work with students that go visit colleges, and I'll always listen. But Senioritis is bullshit. I'm tougher on my Seniors during the second semester. I don't take late work. I don't accept cutting class. I don't accept tardies. I don't accept not working up to my standards. But Seniors in my class actually accomplish something that they worked for. I know plenty of teachers that take the path of least resistance with Seniors because they are really a different breed of student. In my eyes, that is a cop out and a disservice to students that must fight much tougher battles in the coming years.

I love my Seniors. But dammit, they are not going to quit on me with 3 months left. I swear it.

By the way. Utah rules. The first of hopefully many states that calls out the Federal government on funding a legislated mandate. Bravo to the Utah Legislature for putting the needs of the students before a piece of failed legislation that could have bankrupted, or destroyed, their educational system.

Monday, April 18, 2005

My message to California State Senator Tom McClintock....

.....shut up. You don't know what the fuck you are talking about.

"Good teachers don't need protecting (by tenure)."

Sure, and how about we evaluate you by letting Democrats decide if you keep your job or not. Moron.

Read this Contra Costa Times article to see Tom have no clue.

For the record, I like Tom McClintock, most of the time.

Wanna Beer Part II, The Students Respond

What a nice day.

I came into class with resolution and energy, and it provided me with a days worth of good teaching.

I came into class an hour early and caught up on work while listening to Imus in the Morning on the VCR. With my work completed, I began the day.

In all of my classes we discussed the 60 Minutes piece on parents providing students with a place to party (see earlier post). In Intro, I had my students do a Quickwrite on the subject after a small discussion. The opinions were interesting. In zero period, the students were surprised that parents would go that far for kids and actually objected to it. Many stated that if a student got hurt, the parents would be liable for damages or death. This makes the parents, in the eyes of zero period, not very smart. Both my first and fourth period Intro classes delved into actual parenting. Both stated that students are going to drink because it is rebellious and the parents will not stop it. But many students said that parents that trust their kids more were more likely to have children that won't drink. More rules, more rebellion.
In College Prep Econ, the we discussed the subject, but did not do a Quickwrite (we had the Sherman Anti-Trust Act instead). However the topic again focused on authority figures. According to a vast majority of students, drinking occurs because they haven't really been directed not to. A large number of students seemed to feel that yes, Ukiah is boring. Yes, drinking is prevalent. But more important, it takes nothing to make Mom and Dad bend to their wills. Many stated that kids have an enormous amount of power in families now, in comparison to 20 years ago.
"Kids don't have authority figures anymore.", said a student in my 2nd period class. "Teachers, coaches and parents can get into trouble if they yell too loud, spank us or threaten us." The theme seemed to be that children and adults are at similar levels in relation to society. Kids don't listen to authority because they really don't have to. Almost all the kids stated that being "grounded" was their punishment for wrong decisions. BUT, they would still have a vast amount of their lifestyle paid for by parents; car, insurance, cell phones, internet, clothes, etc.

After the day was over, I it seemed clear to me that the students know that there is a problem, and they simply are taking advantage if it. Kids openly say they manipulate the system because the responsibility will be on the authority, not the child. Teachers are responsible for their grades, parents are responsible for their actions, and society is responsible for protecting those freedoms. Hell, I had some students saying that life would be much better if Child Protective Services didn't exist! That way, students couldn't threaten parents if they were punished too sevearly.

Overall, a very enlightening and invigorating day. Last week is forgotten and this week began anew. Good house news (locked in at 5 7/8% for 30 years), good basketball news (great open gym today) and great home news (wife had good teaching day).

Tomorrow will be better.

David? Are we out of touch?

I happen to love the New York Times OpEd columns. Rarely does a day go by that some columnist makes an interesting point that keeps me thinking throughout the day.
Today, the thoughts are more perplexed.
David Brooks is an interesting writer. I really liked his book "Bobos in Paradise", and I find his columns provoking. However, this column is not provoking, it's a mistake. I don't know where he gets his stats, but Brooks says that teen sex is down, the numbers of partners are down, and teens are more "show" than "go". Working in a high school, I would say that Brooks is horribley misinformed. Kids are more empowered than ever and are showing it in a variety of ways, including sex. Brooks says that sex is more private than ever with teens. Brooks is wrong.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wanna Beer?

So after my Friday night rant, you know the one where I complained about the town not parenting their children, I relaxed for a nice weekend of R & R.

Then 60 Minutes came along.

Ladies and Gentlemen! May I introduce you to the geniuses that we get to deal with!

Consider a stunning statistic: Between 10 and 20 percent of all the alcohol consumed in this country is drunk by kids who are underage.

It’s an epidemic that leaves parents facing agonizing choices -- parents like Bill and Pat Anderson in West Warwick, R.I. When their son, Gregg, asked to throw an after-prom party with alcohol at their home, their first response was, "No way."

But then, Gregg told them the party would be at a local beach instead -- and that got them thinking. At the beach, there would be no supervision, and everyone would have to drive home. At their house, they could lay down some rules.


The only solace that I took from this video was the fact that this happens in other towns around the United States. Maybe you've heard the stories. I know I have. Parents let kids and a couple of friends come on over with a booze (they don't buy it). They buzz upstairs to watch Letterman, and the students have a makeshift party. The next morning, a few select, hungover yahoos get to clean up the mess. Yep, I have heard that many times. Oh, except I've had students talk about parents having pot parties as well (one described as a 'hookah party', insiders may understand). Finally, since this is Ukiah, I have the family pot garden where Mom, Dad and the kids do a little Sunday 'weeding'.

Of course, this points to a massive epidemic that goes beyond booze. It is parenting. This was stated at the end of the program,
One of the things that we've done, I think, for too long in this country, is say, 'You know what? Kids will always drink. I drank, my dad drank, his dad drank. Let's just accept it,'" says Morrison.

"I don't think that's a good way to handle a problem, because if you’re gonna say that it’s OK for parents to allow kids to consume illegal substances as long as they take their keys away from them, basically what you're saying is, 'We give up.'”

"We give up." I've had parents tell me those exact words many, many times. What has happened to parenting? Parents are so much more concerned with a Gilmore Girlsesque relationship with their children than actually raising them to use common sense. What it is coming down to is that kids are learning more and more about the world from peer groups, many of who are dangerous and stupid. So how do we solve a parenting issue?

Think fast teachers!! Because we are being blamed for the lack of academic achievement in this environment. We are the reason that students don't do their work. We are the reason students can't critically think. We are the reason students have low self-esteem. We are the reason that more students are dropping out of high school and college. Oh yeah, and we are the only ones out here that know the truth, or so it seems.

As for the boozey kiddies, I'll say the same thing to you as I said to my classes two weeks ago. In Bangalore, India and Shenzhen, China, there are students that want IT more than you. They have more drive, more discipline and more dignity. They know what you are doing and are preparing to pass you by.

Wake up ladies and gentlemen, it is a bigger problem than you think.

There goes the weekend

So I had a little time to rest and recover, and drive out some of the lingering pessimism that was in full effect on Friday. I didn't do much. In fact, here's the short list:
-Watched movies
-Looked at the house
-Snapped pictures of the house
-Made a Yahoo album of pictures of the house
-Looked at paint and appliances for the house
-Thought about gardening at the house

Lots of house stuff.

I'm planned out for the week with my classes. We are continuing the High School Food Court (again, check out Bucks Institute link on right) in Intro, with a focus now on Supply and Demand. My College Prep classes has notes on Government Regulation and a test on Thursday.

Friday, April 15, 2005

It's Amazing How Hopeless it Seems

This was one of those days that by the end, I was wondering if I truly do any good at all. No, that's not it. I guess today was one of sadness because most of these kids just have no idea what is coming. It was one of those days when all I seemed to hear about was the pot that was going to be smoked and boozed that was going to be consumed. By 4th period, I was so tired of hearing it that I forbade any comments regarding drinking or drugs for the weekend. You know what a students said?

"Then don't ask us what we are doing on the weekends."

For some reason that comment hit me really hard. I ask my students every Friday if they have something nice planned for the weekend. On occasion, I get a smart ass that yells out something about a party or getting hammered. But now it is everywhere. And I watch the problems of the town as they accept the fact that they are establishing a culture that fucks up kids. Seriously, how many of you can say that they have students that announce to the world that have a pot garden? And actually can do nothing about it? Most of these kids are going to go through very hard times, and there is nothing else I can do to prepare them for it. Hard to not feel like a failure, since I really shouldn't. As a teacher, you automatically have lots of variables against you. In this town, those variables are multiplied and engrossed. On occasion, it just feels awful to be a teacher.

But I'll snap back, as I always do. By now I realize that I can only control the classroom, which means I make it a positive environment for those that really want to do well, in class as well as life. This was just one of those weeks where I was very glad to leave the campus.

The Legal Battles Over Illegal Drugs

This is stupid.

Remember the article I showed you earlier about the increase in problems with teens and marijuana? Remember when I told you that this town has its priorities totally screwed up?

Here we go again.

The City of Ukiah is looking to make backyard pot gardens illegal by moving them indoors. This would limit the number of pot planets a person could own, while also taking care of the "odor" problem that neighbors are complaining about. The Ukiah Daily Journal wrote an article about a recent Planning Commission meeting where the group heard protests against regulating marijuana. Let us all remember that this is an illegal drug. No mention about the effect on children in the community either.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Oh, now here is a huge surprise.

Statistics shown to the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors stated that over the last 10 years, marijuana related arrests of youth ages 12-17 have gone up 323%. According to the County Supervisor, it could be because of
"the availability and the prevailing attitude of the use" of marijuana in Mendocino County"

Wow, ya think so?

I notice that at the end of all these articles, they always mention the medical marijuana Supreme Court case and how everything will be reevaluated after the case is done. How the hell is this relevant at all?!?!?!? MARIJUANA IS AN ILLEGAL SUBSTANCE RIGHT NOW!!! But we have two county idiots (Sheriff Tony Craver and District Attorney Norm Vroman) who are more interested in people having the freedom to take bong hits than the fact that the county is becoming a culture in a constant, drug induced haze.

Here are the "startling" facts in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

The Carnival of Education. You will never find a more retched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.

I love film and love talking about film. Unfortunately, there are those "film snobs" that refuse to rank Star Wars as one of the best of all time because it became so big. If you really know about the history of film, then you know that Star Wars ushered in a new era of movie promotion and the concept of the "summer blockbuster". Ok, so the last two have been less then stellar. But we have hope for Revenge of the Sith!


Well, while you wait for Episode 3, check out the Education Carnival!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Home Run!

Well, as of 5 p.m. this evening, we started escrow on a home!

Earlier in the day our agent called with a counter off and we accepted. From there the ball started rolling and we are starting the process of home inspections for everything known to man. The house is 3 bd/2 bath and about 1,500 sq ft. It is on a beautiful, tucked into a corner lot with a great size backyard and room for an RV on the side (no, I don't own one). One of the best assests, right on the other side of our fence are acres of vineyards!!!!! It is our dream come true! And the master bedroom has a huge window seat that looks out over the vineyards! It is pretty damn near perfect.

I'll get more into the house as we go along. The cost was just over $400. How could I afford it you might ask? Those in economics will understand; I had help from an angel.

Class was ok today. My Intro classes worked on Supply and Demand vocabulary (those that teach Econ know that it is like learning a new language) and this week we will start the High School Food Court Simulation from the Buck Institute (click link right). The classes worked very diligently on the vocab, with 4th period starting in on a conversation about good Mexican food. See, most of this class is Mexican, very proud Mexican. I asked a student of mine about a good place for food and all of the sudden there were 15 people giving advice. It last for a good 10 minutes, but it was healthy. I fully believe that you need to talk to students about something other than academics. It builds relationships. College Prep was whiney, especially 2nd Period. These students are in full blown Senioritis, and let the world know every 10 minutes.

Off to bed. Regardless of this sweet feeling (along with poverty apprehension) of home ownership, I still have kiddies to teach.

A letter that needs to be sent.

Thanks to First Year Teacher for presenting a letter to all the parents that suddenly wake up at this time of year.
First Year speaks for a lot of us.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Many thoughts for the weekend.

-First of all, my wife gets her Spring Break starting now. I would like to thank the Ukiah Unified School District(that would be mine) for giving us 9 straight weeks and not spacing out the vacations with reasonable breaks. I would also like to thank the teachers who approved the calendar, for some reason.

-No word on the house yet. Our agent called and said she would call the second we heard something. By Monday evening hopefully.

-My weekend was spent cooking for the week and watching massive amounts of television. Nothing calms massive amounts of stress like the tube. I can't tell you much, except that their are "family issues" that are causing lots of stress. It's a bummer. So, I watched a few Giants games, the Kings-Lakers games (screw you Kobe!), and lots of shows about cooking and gardening. Don't ask why. I think the house has something to do with it. I didn't do much grading, but I did do a lot of planning for the next 5 weeks. What was cooked? Here is a little menu for the dishes cooked up for the week:
-Collard Greens mixed with sauted prosciutto, peppers, garlic and artichoke hearts
-Chicken wrapped in bacon topped with thyme, garlic, onions and olive oil
-Chicken thighs cooked in olive oil with garlic, rosemary, basil, onion
-broccoli and cauliflower mixed with ranch dressing (lots), bacon bits, olives and green onion.
-Lots of sliced strawberry's for munching

-So it is popping up everywhere today. This is George Will's article in the Washington Post that promotes giving 65% of all educational spending directly to the classroom. A small summary:

The idea, which will face its first referendum in Arizona, is to require that 65 percent of every school district's education operational budget be spent on classroom instruction. On, that is, teachers and pupils, not bureaucracy.

Nationally, 61.5 percent of education operational budgets reach the classrooms. Why make a fuss about 3.5 percent? Because it amounts to $13 billion. Only four states (Utah, Tennessee, New York, Maine) spend at least 65 percent of their budgets in classrooms. Fifteen states spend less than 60 percent. The worst jurisdiction -- Washington, D.C., of course -- spends less than 50 percent.

By the way, according to Darren, California only spends about 61.7%.

After looking at the proposal, the only thing I can find wrong with it is that it classifies "Teacher Training & Curriculum" as an "outside the classroom" expense, and is therefore exempt. Sure, this would mean that I could be paid more. But it also means that Workshops, conferences, Institutes and most of all, textbooks, are not covered by the proposal. Districts could use that to their advantage. But all-in-all, I like the idea. District administration is vital to running a school at the local level. But I really don't see a whole lot that the County Schools does for us, with the exception of Special Education. But that is sparse and tangled in bureaucracy. I like the 65% idea. As for curriculum, hell, I buy most of it myself anyway. That, and I steal :)

-Speaking of George Will, I consider most of his columns as great to excellent. He is a classic conservative that doesn't play into the mid-1990's, neo-con agenda. Liberals often write him off because he isn't afraid to voice his opinion bluntly. But read his Washington Post articles and his "Last Word" columns in Newsweek and you'll find a man that has risen above the partisan frey in hopes to make this country better. It is worth a glance, at the very least. If you are a baseball fan, also look into "Bunts" and "Men At Work", two books that are a must for the true Major Leaguer.

-Finally, a word on Governor Arnold removing his support for a proposition that released the State from funding State employee pensions. I relates to a post I found on Darren's blog. I didn't have a problem with Arnold becoming Governor from the beginning. I had no illusions that he was basically a puppet that was ran by people in the background. But I figured that his fiscal conservatism and social liberalism would fit this state well and give it a Ronald Reagan "Morning in America" type of push. Then came his attack on Indian Gaming (a cancer in this state), his smart push for the 2004 initiatives (slamming a bad 3 strikes removal law), and most of all, supporting a much needed Stem Cell research bond measure that made California the proving ground for stem cell research. It seemed to be working.
Then it seemed like his handlers let him go a little too much. He opened his mouth and attacked Democrats, Nurses and Teachers as the problem with the budget in this state. The Democratic legislature needs to be controlled, I grant you that. They spend more money on pork projects than can be believed. However, that is not what the Governor addressed. Instead he went after some of the states hardest workers. Teachers and nurses are paid nothing compared to the output of work they perform, and Arnold attacks them? You think tenure and teacher pay is the problem? You think a requirement that the state pay for education is the problem? No the problem is simpler than that.
Californians want more services, yet want them for free.
Face it citizens of California, the problem is you. You are apathetic and you are greedy. You want the best of all worlds; hospitals, schools, public safety, roads......but you don't want to pay the money required to run them successfully. Californian's, here is your chance! Vote out the legislature and vote in members that will run the government efficiently! Then accept the burden of running this state that you take, take and take from, but give little back in return! Go for it!

But of course, it won't happen. We are too fat and happy to act. Of course, if any of those measures regarding teachers should pass, then maybe educators should act. How about a state wide strike? That way parents can get out of education what they put into it. Meaning nothing. Actually, it might be good for parents. They might actually have to "parent" their child.

Dammit, now I'm bitter. I'm in one of those moods where I want to tell everyone in the world that they are damn lucky that I love their kids and I love what I do. Why are they lucky?
Because sometimes that is all that's keeping a damn good teacher going.

Friday, April 08, 2005

What wierd freaking weather.

For the last three days, the weather has consisted of 10-15 minutes of brilliant sun, followed by 30-45 minutes of torrential downpours. I've seen this situation for half a day, but three days straight?!?!?! Don't get me wrong, I love the rain. It just seems odd for around here. Today was the craziest. This morning it was a massive downpour. It was sunny for about a half hour. Then around noon it was literally sunny/rainy ever 10 minutes. Twice it was a massive hailstorm!! Well, I love it, no matter how odd it is. Currently, it is a light rain. It is as if to say that the show is over.

Today was a pretty good day, except for attendence. Three classes had half the students gone. With presentations in three classes, and group work in two, it made for an interesting day.

However, my Intro classes did a very nice job with the Shoe Production Presentations. They discussed how they would produce and market a brand of athletic shoe, explaining the impact of the consumer and supplier on the market. This lesson comes from the Buck Institutes "Running in Place" simulation. Check out the link on the right. It might not sound like much. But the fact that these kids made a 2-4 minute presentation in front of the class, as a group, is major progress.

My college prep classes worked on their Economics Expo project. Today it was explaining how they can interpret unclear data from a demand survey. So far, only two groups out of 16 are concerning me in a negative way. This project is essentially, the Final. Screw this up and graduation is at risk.

Overall no major problems. Some of the students were a little overactive today, but that is far from unusual for a Friday. The only negative action came from one girl (one of the emo-goth group) that said my haircut made me look like a little boy. And that student was from a different class. This is a girl I usually will banter with, except that it is Friday and it was about 2 p.m. If you are a teacher, you will understand why ignoring the comment was more important.

We made another offer on a house. Wish us luck!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Tinker vs. Des Moines Problem?

Tim Bueler is the President of the Rancho Cotate High School Conservative Club, just south of Santa Rosa. He's rather famous locally for his protest against a "liberal bias" in the classroom that brought the national media to Rancho Cotate (he was Bill O'Reilly's show and was featured by Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage).

Yesterday, the Conservative Club protested against the Gay/Straight Alliance by demonstrating across the street of the school. I'm not here to promote or demote the demonstration. It is that clubs right to protest.

What I'm more interested in is the Constitutional problem that occurred Wednesday morning. Here is an excerpt from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat:

Some demonstrators carried signs and wore sweat shirts that said "Homosexuality is sin," and had the universal symbol for "no" - a circle and slash - around and through the word "gay." School administrators confiscated similar sweat shirts from students who wore the messages on campus Wednesday morning.

That brought an angry reply from Bueler, who said it was a violation of free speech for the school to take the shirts, which he said were provided by, a Placer- ville-based group.

School Principal Mitchell Carter said the sweat shirts violated a school policy about messages on clothing "that represent bigotry and target particular protected classes" of students.

Hmmmmmmm. Regardless of your feelings towards the protest, is the school's rule Constitutional? The Supreme Court stated,
"in our system, undifferentiated fear or apprehension of disturbance is not enough to overcome the right to freedom of expression"

I'm not one to scream about 1st Amendment violations everytime a student is disciplined for opening their mouths. However, this is one of those interesting cases were unpopular opinions may be dictating the school's administration. If you read the Tinker case, and review recent federal cases involving student expression, I think you might see that these actions might not have been warranted. In most cases, the litmus test is whether the expression incites violence or causes a massive disturbance in the educational process. More often than not, federal judges are ruling in favor of the students.

Leave me some comments and let the discussion role!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Marinated Tri-tip and a 1997 Sebastiani Cab

That is code for "The night is over, relaxation is in full effect."

Talk at you later.

Mendocino Marijuana Debate Continues

Well, the plan to tax the Mendocino County marijuana crop has failed.
As stated in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors stated that the taxation of pot is too complex to deal with in this era of the budget crisis. There is the possiblity for a business license to be purchased for pot club operation. But the one pot club in unincorporated Mendocino County was shut down because it sold to an undercover cop. So we are back were we started, with marijuana being bought and sold illegally with no reprocussion. There is your "tax the product" arguement, right down the drain.

Michael???? Oh God, I told you to get some therapy........try the Carnival of Education.

So Sydney Polleck didn't say it quite like that to Dustin Hoffman.
Tootsie is one of the funniest comedies of all time. It has an outstanding cast, a sharp script, and has the ability to be funny over and over again. Nice treat that Bill Murray's small part is hilariously funny. Check it out.

First, take a look at EdWonk's Carnival.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

CTA Dues Increase Update...straight from the CTA.

I attended the Ukiah Teacher's Association meeting, as I do every 1st Tuesday of the month, to find that there was a special presentation from Susan Savage, the region representative of the California Teacher's Association. After her speech about the hammering that Arnold is putting on California's education system, I posted a question regarding fee increases at the June meeting. Her comments were as follows:

-"The CTA has been informing the political representative from the local unions. They should keep you informed."

-"The dues increase would amount to $6 a month, if enacted."

-"The vote in June will be to simply introduce the idea of increasing dues. They will only be increased if the Governor's propositions make the ballot. The maximum length for the dues increase would be 3 years."

-"The money is to reimburse the CTA for putting up their own building to fund the campaign against the Governor. We are fighting this battle as well, so much that we put up our headquarters. Your increase would help pay back money."

Those are quotes ladies and gentlemen. I was disturbed about the lack of accountability in notifying the membership AND that final quote. She acted as though the CTA was fighting the battle alone and teachers were not putting in their fair share.

I was happy to see that out of the many site reps that attended the meeting, I gained nods of approval by over half. Some even made comments of support for my questions.

"There is no way that CTA's membership should be informed by the media instead of the leadership."

So there you have it.

The day was pretty mellow. I had to do grades today and I'm mentally preparing for the onslaught of parent calls upon realization that their child is doing little in class.

The stretch run is upon us. Buckle up!!

Monday, April 04, 2005

So, who else flew flags at half mast because of the Pope?

I arrived at school at 6 a.m. today, to find the following memo attached to the teacher mailboxes:

The Governor has ordered all flags to fly at half mast thru the end of the week in honor of the Pope's passing. This is for all Federal and State Buildings.

Oh really?

I also found this:

Presidential Proclamation: Honoring the Memory of Pope John Paul II
A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America

As a mark of respect for His Holiness Pope John Paul II, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset on the day of his interment. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this second day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and twenty ninth.


Listen, I'm not some Christian bashing left-winger. Let's get that out in the open right now. But the demand by the President, and the Governor, raises serious questions (again) about the ethics that this administration portrays regarding the separation of Church and State. And don't insult my intellegence by telling me that the United States is mourning a Head of State. Yes, he was a Head of State. No, we are not honoring that fact as much as we are honoring the fact that the head of the Catholic Church died.
I don't know. I'm not one that usually gets riled up by these kind of things. Take a look at my BC/AD rant at the bottom. Some things have their place in government. In my humble opinion, this does not.

On other fronts, my classes were excellent today. Classes A,B,E (Intro) all had a ton of questions about the Pope. The luxury about teaching Intro classes is that expectations regarding subject matter are low, which means I can focus on very relevent issues. Simply keeping them in the classroom is good. Today, they were enthralled with a short history of Christianity and the line of succession for the Pope. Then we watched a Newshour piece on Creationism vs. Evolution in the public schools and had the students do a Response (a 1-2 page opinion paper). Again, very interested. Classes C,D (college prep) also had questions about the Pope. We discussed it a little, then I gave a quiz. I was mean this Spring Break. I assigned a textbook chapter to study for the Break with a quiz following. 80% failed the quiz. Almost every one of them stated something along the lines of "Maybe I should have read the information".
Ya think?
The class accepted the blame and we moved on to Market Structures notes. I'm planning on showing the Frontline Wal-Mart piece this week. Check it out online. Click on the Frontline link to the right and you can watch it for free online!!!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

New Additions

BTW, here are more fellow bloggers that teachers should check out.

What up, Mz.Smlph?- Very open and fun. Excellent read as well.

Mildly Melancholy- A 1st year in the Big Apple, from the Northwest.

Middle School Mayhem- Sounds like one of us.

Enjoy them, and keep in mind that these are all people who are fighting the good fight!

Back to Chico.......bummer.

On Friday evening, my wife and I drove back to our home town of Chico, California.
Yes, that Chico.
The Chico that is famous for frat parties hosted by adult film companies.
The Chico that is famous for more than a few horrid hazing deaths.
The Chico that is famous for even more deaths by alcohol poisoning.
And finally, the Chico that recently arrested a professor while he was smoking meth out in his car between classes.
Every time people find out that I'm from Chico, and that I graduated from Chico State, the first question I'm asked is about the parties. This is especially true with my students, many of which are dying to go to Chico so they can get blitzed 4 nights a week. I'll be totally honest with you, I have never gone through the whole "party scene" that was Chico. The only parties I attended were with friends and they were well away from 5th and Ivy (the center of partydom). The reason I stayed away? Basically it was because the whole scene is a lot like high school, only everyone is way more drunk, much more stupid, and dying to fight. When the school gets a bad rep, the school complains. This weekend it was this L.A. Times article that the Chico State president stated was inaccurate. He's right, it is actually much worse. It doesn't mention the constant fights, the combat that often results between police and students, the youth that are getting drunk off their ass, the alarming rape statistics, and the huge number of students that visit the Chico State care center because of STD's.
It is scary that the university has become this.
In the article, one student stated that he left and graduated from Sacramento State because Chico was dangerous. I've had 3 students that went to Chico come back and tell me that their time there was wasted. One student was down right angry. "I spent 3 semesters and thousands of dollars on nothing. I couldn't do any work because the environment wasn't for working. I wasted two years of my life." I taught this boy during my first year. Now he's moving to Southern California to get a degree.
My visit to Chico was similar, a complete waste. We visited my wife's family, which is on the nice side of town. But on our way out of town, we stopped at Celeistino's Pizza, one of the greatest eating joints on the planet. Down for a slice, we drove to the downtown location. We weren't there 5 minutes before we were cussed out by three college guys who wanted our parking spot. Seriously, they were ready to throw down.
Over a parking spot??
Sounds like glorified high school crap.