Monday, May 30, 2005

So, what did you do during Memorial Day?

I painted.

It wasn't an easy paint project either, it was a bitch. The room was from an 11 year old girl that had the walls colored green, yellow, purple and orange. The ceiling was blue. My wife wanted the room painted "Evocative Sunlight", a fancy way of calling it pale yellow. The teaching colleague came by Saturday morning to show me the ropes (he bought about 3 years ago), and help me with the first coat of primer. I finished the third coat at around 11 p.m. that night. Lo and behold, by this morning, all the touch up was done and the room is pale yellow, to the delight of my wife. Actually, the room does look much better. The yellow makes the room seem brighter and bigger, while the happiness that my wife has makes the work worth it. However, I must say that painting really sucks. Along with painting, my wife has made the house very managable and we are no longer living out of boxes in various rooms. It is slowly becoming a home.

I went to the school today from about 90 minutes to prepare a Commerical Marketing Presentation using Power Point and a computer overhead. I guess I'm very lucky that I have the advantage of having access to the school, therefore my prep is made that much easier. This week is packed! Tuesday and Thursday are full of the Commercial Presentation, with Congressman Mike Thompson coming on Wednesday. Friday is Econ Expo work day for College Prep, and the Intro kids will start on Entrepreneurship Business Models.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Senior Cut Day

Today was Senior Cut Day. Depending on who you ask, it is either tradition, or a total distraction. I don't fight against it, meaning I don't intentionally schedule pop quizzes for this day. However, I do make an assignment for today and those that complete it get some credit. I have 5 classes of Seniors. The attendance went about like this:

Zero: 40%
First: 50%
Second: 10%
Third: 30%
Fourth: 40%

One thing that is great about small classes is that you become much closer to those students. In my third period class, "Gretchen" and "Anne" told me that they were very happy that I got a house because it instantly made my attitude better. They both said that it was evident that for the last month, I was stressed out and it affected my frame of mind to the students. It might seem like that is bad news, but its actually a very good sign that the students told me this. Of course it's not fair that my "house hunt" stress came out in class, but the students laid it on their shoulders to accept what was going on and didn't make the classes unbearable. I'm a little proud of my own classroom management, and very fortunate to have an excellent group of kids. In Zero period we had a small class discussion about Outsourcing to India. Students that were usually silent made nice points during the morning. During Second period, I talked at length to "Ben" about questions he had regarding the Federal Budget. Ben is one of the best kids around and will do very well in life. He's also a classic conservative mind, but has the patience to listen and dissect arguments. He's a pleasure to talk to. Finally, in Fourth period we had an Outsourcing discussion on migrant labor taking low wage jobs in the United States. For lower level students, it was very refreshing to have them come to the explanation on how to deal with outsourcing, all by themselves.
"Fred", from previous dealings (see below), pounded away with, "If you don't want to do the hard, manuel labor, get educated. Mexicans are will to work hard for low pay. If you aren't, then you better damn well go to college to get the better jobs or you're in trouble."

I couldn't have said it better.

The principal also BBQ'd for the staff today. Its a "thank you" for STAR testing and I had fun talking to teachers I usually don't associate with. I did find one thing interesting. The basketball program is under very close scrutiny. I'm in an interesting position, since I'm part of the program, but not part of the problem, if that makes any sense at all. It also means that I've got to be very careful about what is mentioned about basketball because it could get me into trouble. Let's just say that in the current state of things, it is a good thing that I'm only the Freshmen Boys Basketball coach.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Adds and thanks!

I added Adland to my blogroll. Near the end of my Economics class, I teach a unit on Marketing. At the end of the unit, I do a Power Point/Video presentation on television commercials. Adland is the greatest commercial archive on the Internet that charges next to nothing for access to thousands of commercials, most of them from the United States. In fact, if you don't find it here, check the forum boards and someone will point out a way to get it. It is ran by a woman who calls herself "Dabitch". She's from Denmark, she's sassy and I paid the tiny fee and downloaded about 30 commercials in two days. Take advantage!

Thanks to Miller's Time for linking my in his blog. Like I said before, I only link to blogs that are consistent and that I read every day. In fact, I'm going to houseclean some of my blogs and delete some that don't post after a month. Miller is going on my Bloglines feed so I can read him consistently. His page looks like an endorsement center for the GOP, but I have "Shut Up and Teach" over on my links (the Nancy Pelosi of Ed Blogs) and I don't discriminate. Remember, various opinions are good! He does have great things going from him though.
-From Northern California.
-He's a Giants fan and therefore hates the Dodgers.
-He likes the Raiders.
-He likes the Kings.
-He teaches.
-Likes beer.

Damn! Sounds like a Sacramento road trip is in order! There are a couple of edbloggers from Sac that I can see arguing over a cold beer, a nice cigar, and the Giants on the screen.

Thanks again Miller!

End of the year for Seniors. Now I'm getting tested.

Well, its that time of year again. Only this year it is amplified because I teach five classes of Seniors. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the "Test and tribulation" of the graduating class.

As I have stated in many posts, teaching Seniors is different than teaching any other level of student. This becomes more evident with graduation around the corner. Evidence of tribulation:
-This week the level of guidance and parent calls have tripled when it has, all of the sudden, become clear that students may not graduate. This means I have to put on the patient and practical vibe and remind students and parents that I'm not responsible for the child's behavior, the child is.
-Those that are failing, or are dying for a better grade ask about extra credit. Hell, most of the counselors are now asking for extra credit for students. I don't do extra credit.
-Finally, the "What can I do to raise my grade?" question. My answer now? "Let's see, you missed 1/3 of the semester, you do 50% of the work, and the work that you do is shabby at best. You can show up all the time, never be tardy, do all the work, and hope for the best." What else am I supposed to say? I'm not here to bail out kids that decide to work during the last month of the year.
Evidence of tests:
-Seniors start thinking that they can do "adult" things now that they are about to graduate. The profanity is starting to get bantered around much more carelessly. I do my best to get the students to rephrase discussion, or simply ask them not to use profanity. As the year ends, it is harder to enforce.
-The last two days have been over 90 degrees. This means that girls have decided to come to school with little or nothing on. Our school really has no "dress code", with the exception of gang related attire. I used to be really strong on nailing girls about dress, until I realized that nobody else was helping me out. Now I ask the real over-the-top offenders to put on a sweater or something. I've had no problems this year. Today, two girls came in to test out the rule. One wore backless bandana dress, the other a strapless tube top. I asked them to put something on and they made the effort to go to the office to grab some clothing to put on over the skimpyness. From what I saw from others today, those two were tame. As a younger male teacher, 18 year old girls wearing next to nothing in a classroom is dangerous every which way around. It is a distraction to male students, it creates complaints from other female students, and it becomes a liability for me in the classroom.
-After completing some text work, a student in my 4th period Intro class brought out a copy of "Grow" magazine, a publication that advocates the cultivation of marijuana. I felt something that I haven't really felt all year, a situation that I didn't know how to deal with. The student argued that he had the freedom to read what he wanted. I decided to deal with the situation by not giving him a referral, but sending him to the vice-principal to decide what was to be done. In short, he was told that it was unwise to read the books on campus and to make better choices. After being told this, I became totally irritated. The vice-principal didn't think it was worth a confrontation and that we really couldn't stop him from reading that. Tell me I'm wrong, but I thought the point was to make schools a drug free haven. My guess is that the town's continued pressure to keep marijuana legal and regulated once again had an impact in our school.

I know, sounds rough. Still, I love what I do and don't want to sound like a complainer. Here's a nice piece of news; Congressman Mike Thompson is coming to my College Prep classes to answer questions from my students. In November, while doing a Mock Congress, my students wrote letters to Congressman Thompson about a variety of issues. In January, I got a call from him asking if it was ok if he showed up in mid-February. We had a vacation week, so it didn't work. Low and behold, he called back and rescheduled for June 1! Of course, the Congressman is very far left and I don't agree with him on just about anything. However, he is a veteran of Vietnam (Purple Heart), he's a member of the United States House of Representatives, and the students need to learn that:
1. Regardless of partisanship, there are people that should be respected.
2. It is ok to ask our leadership tough questions, and expect straight answers.

My wife finished cleaning out the old apartment and we are now solidly entrenched in our new house. It is cooler and quieter than the last place, leading to much better sleeping at night. Unfortunately, boxes are everywhere. Hopefully by the end of the weekend, the inside will be more settled and I can begin the slow process of cleaning out the garage!

One Carnival of Education to rule them all.

I know that the special effects on The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King were excellent, but that doesn't make it a better movie. I hardly know anyone who doesn't think Return of the King was the best of the The Lord of the Rings movie. I guess that makes me unusual. I found a better cinematic experience with Fellowship of the Ring. The characters are slowly developing, the action is focused and interesting, and the quest begins with hope, only to come to the junction of tragedy.

The Education Carnival is being passed around lately, this week it is at Science and Politics . A shout out to EdWonk (check the blogroll) for adding my into his educators blog registry. His site is one of the best on Education in the blogsphere. I can't say I agree with everything, but that's what blogging is all about, discussion and reflection.

But before you begin to cast your magic spell on Education, check the Education Carnival.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I Guess I'm "It".

Earlier this week, I got "tagged" by Polski. I get to chose any five of these: "If I could be a scientist...If I could be a farmer...If I could be a musician...If I could be a doctor...If I could be a painter...If I could be a gardener...If I could be a missionary...If I could be a chef...If I could be an architect...If I could be a linguist...If I could be a psychologist...If I could be a librarian...If I could be an athlete...If I could be a lawyer...If I could be an inn-keeper...If I could be a professor...If I could be a writer...If I could be a llama-rider...If I could be a bonnie pirate...If I could be an astronaut...If I could be a world famous blogger...If I could be a justice on any one court in the world...If I could be married to any current famous political figure..."

If I could be a gardener....then I would not contract myself out to other people and only focus on my garden at home. Since I recently bought a house (and Sunset's Western Garden Book), I can simply be the horiticultural artists to my abode. I have an interesting task with nice landscaping already in place around a fence, a small lawn, and a large middle area with peat gravel. The ideas are flowing. A vegetable garden is in order, with a large emphisis on herbs. Hopefully I can succeed with my lemon cucumber crop. Trying to grow in a half wine barrel has not been a good venture. I'd also like to build an arbor and plant seedless grapes to grow over the structure. Maybe some winegrapes along the fence? Ideas?

If I could be a chef.......then I would move to South Lake Tahoe and open a Contemporary/Southwest food resturant. Back in Middle School, my best friend and I talked about doing this in the future. We would partner up and head to Tahoe to open the resturant/bar, and ski and camp on our time off. Of course, I didn't know all the business in's and out's, such as employees, laws, insurance, etc. I wouldn't mind moving to Tahoe and running a resturant, even today.

If I could be an athlete......actually, I'll agree with Polski on this one. I already consider myself an athlete. I play basketball with the varsity players a few times a week, I play golf (um, I try to play golf), I play softball, I can do pretty much any sport. However, if I could be an athlete, I would work on bringing respect and honor to whatever sport I was playing. These things are seroiusly lacking in modern athletics today. People pay homage to players that they know nothing about, or worse, act like they are under more scrutiny than some of the groundbreaking legends (John Rocker comparing his trials to Jackie Robinson).

If I could be a professor.....I would teach at a junior college or a small sized college. The reason is that I really don't want to do the research work, I want to teach. I was fortunate that I had some excellent professors that were very concerned with teaching students about pertinent subject matter. I would like to teach a 20th Century Civ class or a Modern American History class or a basic government class. Why not advanced? Because eventually Political Science gets too quantitative, not qualitative. When I was taking my graduate courses on the United States Congress, students were getting into statistical relationships that I found boring and not useful. My "Congressional Influences on Foreign Policy" paper, which was full of excellent qualities, was much better.

If I could be a justice on any one court in the world........I would be a justice on the United States Supreme Court. I find interpreting the Constitution facinating. The current frustrations from Congress regarding the Judiciary Branch making laws is absolutely absurd. I've become a huge fan of court opinions. I know, how wierd. But the simple stories, followed by the judges using precident, and then the setting of the precident, is very interesting.

Ok, I'm done. Now I'm tagging back. I tag Fred, The Science Goddess, and Bud.

Monday, May 23, 2005

In With the New, Finally

Well, we finally moved into the home. It was far from easy.

Let's start from the beginning.

Thursday- I woke up at about 6:30 in the morning, drove over to the high school, and borrowed my colleagues pick-up truck. For the entire day, I moved stuff over from my apartment to the house. Sounds easy enough. Except that when I tried to move the dining room table away from the wall, I snapped off a table leg. Hmmmmmm. It was my wife's table, maybe she wouldn't be able to identify that table was broken. Then U-Haul called me and stated that the large truck I reserved two weeks ago was not going to be available. I was more than angry and after lengthy debate, they agreed to give me a smaller truck for a reduced price.

Friday- Woke up at about 7 a.m., got the smaller truck, and began to pack our garage. I took one load over and then came back and loaded the rest. My father showed up at about 2 p.m. and helped me unload. Then came the furniture. To say the least, it was heavy. When you add in the stairs that were in my apartment, it became a matter of how little damage we could to the walls and items being carried to the truck. Remember the table from yesterday? Well, the second leg then snapped as we were taking it to the truck. Um, my wife will definiately see that the table is broken. Damn. By the end of today, we pretty much moved everything over, and started the slow process of putting stuff away.

Saturday- When I annouced to my work collegues that I was becoming a new homeowner, they first congratulated me, then they smirked at me. For the last few weeks, the smirks become grins and I realized that they were waiting for the frustration that goes along with home ownership. On Saturday morning, the stark realization of what the grins meant hit me. PG&E came over to turn on the gas and inspect the gas appliances; the waterheater, the stove and the furnance. Did I mention the waterheater? Oh yeah, this water heater was "on demand" and the PG&E man told us it was improperly vented, and therefore illegal. Yes, that would mean no hot water. To make it legal, I would have to install a new vent and cut a bigger hole in my roof. This would mean that I would have to cut and reinstall areas in my roof shingles, deal with a vent cover, etc. So instead we decided to get a whole new, regular water heater. When we pulled off the water heater, the exposed pipes were found to be old and leaking. Wonderful. This whole day, which was supposed to be for unpacking and touch ups on the house, was now a day dealing with plumbing and a new waterheater. We eventually got it done, but the cost was a days worth of unpacking and organization. As a teacher, the day really matters.

Sunday- Unpacked the kitchen during the morning. We have more shelf space, more refridgerator space, but a smaller kitchen, if that makes sense. My wife and I took a break at Noon and went to see Revenge of the Sith. I'll review the movie later. We then headed to Home Depot for a bunch of supplies (mops, fire extinguishers, buckets, cleaners, etc). I spent the evening grading Stock Market projects. I have 135 of them. I got through 100 and then went to sleep.

That leads me to today. I came into class and found an excellent sub report. I then realized that today was part of the Senior trip to Disneyland. Lucky for me, this means that my classes were cut by 3/4 and everything went really smoothly. The problem is that I'm very behind in my grading and I still need to get affairs going at home. Add to that a half dozen retirement parties that I'm supposed to pay for and attend.

I'll come back later with more info. I'll give you an update on "Fred", a review of Revenge of the Sith, Economics Expo reports, and the financial situation regarding my house. If you think that two beginning teachers can afford a $410,000 house in the city of Ukiah, you would be wrong. I'll get into it later, and advocate its use in bringing in more beginning teachers to established jobs.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Out With the Old

This is my final post from the little apartment in Ukiah. The next time you hear from me will be from our new home. I'd say that tomorrow night is a maybe, Saturday a could be, Sunday a "for sure".

Moving has consumed me, although I did have a chance to talk to my sub for today's classes. All went very well, although he said 4th period Intro "didn't seem to understand the assignment". Since we began the assignment before today, and they had a great grasp on it, I think this was the class being a little obnoxious. However, if that is the worst to occur, then it was a great day!

See ya in the new homestead!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Read the Education Carnival.....or I'll make you an offer you can't refuse.

I have not met a single person that has not liked The Godfather. Enough said.

Actually, I'm in the middle of a furious argument with political neo-cons over at Joanne Jacobs site. It started with a satirical article about education by California State Senator Tom McClintock (someone I admired, until recently) and has become a nasty little discussion. I can be rational until partisan idiots started calling teachers "self-serving". Then I become a little unhinged. The only solace I get is that I really am talking to ignorant people. For instance, one comment stated that students only need 15 minutes of class instruction a day, twice a week. That alone should get the point across. Sure. And I'm actually Francis Ford Coppola and I'm considering making The Godfather: The Prequels.


Anyway, before you check out Jonanne Jacobs (listed on the side), and before you "drop the gun and grab the canolles", check out the Education Carnival.

Monday, May 16, 2005

What could happen if work doesn't like my blog, Part II

So this weekend I made some comments about what would happen if someone at my school did not like my blog. Behold the Sacramento Bee this morning. The article discusses this very issue about employers finding employee blogs.

Their workplaces are worlds apart, but the Delta flight attendant and the Kaiser Permanente employee shared one thing in common: gripes about their jobs.They also shared an increasingly common pastime: airing their workplace complaints on their daily Web logs.

Both were are also fired for what was in their blogs. Before you get in a full flux of panic, you might want to read about what was placed in their blogs. The flight attendant posted pictures of herself partially dressed on one of Delta's airplanes, while the Kaiser employee linked confidential patient information from her blog. This is a little different than some of the concerns expressed in the blogs about teachers being fired for commenting about things happening at school. As long as you are careful about confidential information (duh) and change names, you should be fine. Think about yourself as a good newsreporter, you need to follow the legal system as well as thinking about the common sense regarding students.

As to the article, I think it is a no brainer. If I posted partially dressed pictures of me in a classroom, or linked confidential student information from my blog, I would expect to be fired too. This is more of a case of dumb bloggers and not a case of workers rights.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

What would happen if someone at school found my blog, and didn't like it?

Interesting question, isn't it?

On this Saturday night, I'm scanning some of the blogs that I've never read before and came upon Weblogg-ed. It seems that a couple of teachers have got into trouble for saying something in their blog that offended students or administration. One in particular is The Daily Grind, who made a comment about a dance where the students came dressed as prostitutes. Actually, the theme was "Call Girls", very nice school sanctioned event. The girls found out about the blog, complained, and the district sent a nasty letter telling him to never do it again.

What would you do?

First of all, I don't publicize that I have a site, nor do I hide it. Eventually, someone from Ukiah will find this blog and hopefully they will understand that it is about the life of a teacher who is protected under the same rights as they are. If you haven't noticed, I have opinions. This is my forum to expand on things going on in my life. I don't expect everyone to like it. In my eyes, Grind's only mistake might have been the language he used. A mistake, by the way, that I would have made if I were in his shoes. For instance, I'm not going to say that Ukiah Daily Journal Editor K.C. Meadows is a poor reporter. I'm going to say that she's a slobbering idiot who must be high while she writes her articles about less money for schools and more money for communal pot gardens in Ukiah. Now, would I use that kind of tone if I was talking to my boss? Of course not. Hence the reason that this forum is mine and I will use the language I see fit.

Take it for what its worth.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Of STAR Testing, smashed bunny and new homes

Week Two of STAR testing is over. Three days left.

The block scheduling went real well for my Seniors this week. Stock projects were done by all classes and the two hour blocks earlier this week helped the college prep kids get lab time, while the entire week was lab time spent by Intro students. Intro students doing the stock project was very interesting. The scope of kids that I have is very diverse. It ranges from lazy Seniors that have a college reading level, to Seniors that have a 4th grade reading level. Walking them through the process was just that, walking them through the process. Some of it became exasperating at times, but think about how the kids are feeling if the teacher is getting impatient. I had a few kids throw their hands up in frustration, but they came back after a little encouragement. All in all, it was good for them to struggle, then understand, then complete the project. The bad part of the entire Stock Project is that I now have 135 reports to read. Along with moving this week, it could be a little stressful.

Speaking of moving, on Monday we officially close escrow on the house. We will probably begin moving into the dwelling on Wednesday or Thursday. It is crazy to realize two things: One, we own a very nice home. Two, we are now 410,000 in debt.

College Prep watched a film during the last block schedule day of STAR testing. Now I know that some of the "right of center" people that read this blog are going to groan, but the film is by their favorite hero, Michael Moore. Hold on, don't call me a communist yet. Before Moore went Bush hunting in Fahrenheit 911, and before he made a cheesy move on Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine (although much of the movie was thought provoking), Michael Moore was a labor advocate against the large corporate structure. His first movie, Roger and Me, details the problems in Flint, Michigan when General Motors outsources automobile factory jobs to Mexico. It is a good movie, regardless of your opinion on Michael Moore. However, in one scene Moore finds a woman who lives on selling rabbits for pets......or meat. In minute she is petting a furry little bunny, the next she is slamming it over the head with a bat, skinning it and gutting it. The reaction is priceless, and Seniors can handle it. Most can't believe that people actually do it, although they eat things that are killed in a similar manner.

Ok, the weekend will consist of grading a massive stack to stock papers and packing our kitchen. Before I go, I'll mention these little items:

-Our protest was so poorly covered by the Ukiah Daily Journal that it was disgusting. Half the story was about the Governator, while the other half was about some teacher in Southern California that hated merit pay.

-Our school picked a new principal, and the bonding company and school district have decided to go ahead with asking the town for money for modernization. The Ukiah Daily Journal gives a short explanation here.

-This Sacramento Bee article caused a stir in our department today. I've talked to teachers in Colorado about merit pay, and this article explains the push to continue it. It basically enters the thought into the minds of Californians. The problems are so numerous that it is ridiculous. Students purposely failing tests? Parents signing students out of testing? Elective teachers? Vengeful principals? What a great idea.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Keep Your Promise Governor! Fund Education!

That was on the sign that I held for 1 hour in front of the Mendocino County courthouse.
Let me preface this by saying that I don't regularly go out and protest anything. I truly believe that the best way for a teacher to teach is in the classroom, and a lot of stuff going on outside of the classroom has little impact on a teaching environment. That said, I decided to join this protest because I think that Ahnold is doing massive harm to an Education system that is already very broken. California could be considered its own country, if not for its uncivilized education funding. So over 200 of us teachers set to the streets (that is quite a lot for this small town) and let the public know that the Governor has failed to meet a promise to fund education. It felt good and it felt right. No one had signs that mentioned pay or benefits for teachers. It all had to do with funding a basic necessity for a modern superpower.
But its over now. Tomorrow I go back to the real job at hand, teaching these little Seniors something about being responsible. Most are having no problem figuring out that I hold them accountable. Some are going to learn the hard way. Regardless, I think it is important to realize that, once again, you can do the most in your classroom. I'm not going to Sacramento to protest or playing ra-ra with CTA reps or preparing to strike if Arnold follows through with Prop 98 cuts. I'm preparing for students. Tomorrow, students will ask me why I was protesting. My answer will be, "Because I'm executing my rights under the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. I have a grievance against the Governor of California regarding funding for Education." That will be all I will say about it. Students will try to guess my political leanings (as they try to do all year) and I might have to remind them that protesting is not partisan.
Anyway, back to STAR testing block schedules. This week? Stock Market Projects for Intro, Roger and Me for College Prep.

I'm off to a rally

I didn't think I would go to the Day of the Teacher Rally, until I read the preliminary reports that have our Governator using none of the 2 billion extra towards education in his May budget revision. So now I'm going to the Mendocino County courthouse and I'll see whats going down.
Hey Arnold, you are attacking the most dedicated working class people on the planet. Congratulations on continuing to destroy our state and tearing down Caliornia's infrastructure.

In one hour, I'm going to be protesting against you.

The Carnival of Education. The blog I've always wanted and now I own it. I rule!

Actually, EdWonk owns it, or at least runs it. When it comes down to it, it is the educators that own pieces that appear, with EdWonk taking his time to list these insightful posts for us.
I get weird looks from people when I tell them that I think American Beauty is an outstanding movie. There is this perception that teachers are not supposed to like this movie because the storyline is morbid and disturbing. It is the same argument that says that because I've read or watched something, I will end up doing it. I haven't bought that argument for a long, long time. Intelligent people that were brought up to know the difference can realize real, and make believe. I've been listening to Beastie Boys since 7th grade. That doesn't mean I'm going to start on the blow at huge parties. I've been playing violent video games since they were available. That doesn't mean I'm ready to go on a shooting spree. So American Beauty, a tragic story of a totally screwed-up, suburban family, goes near the top of my list.

But before you engage in your mid-life crisis, smoking weed and wailing on your pecs, check out the Education Carnival.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Rainy Weekend

The fact that it rains in Ukiah is not unusual. This town averages about 33 inches every year. The fact that it is raining so much in mid-May is very unusual. In the four years that I've lived here, I've never seen so much rain this far into May. It's a sign that Summer is going to be slamming into us instead of the normal, gradual rise in temperature.
With the rain came an uneventful weekend, which included some packing and a couple of hours of grading homework. Plans are continuing regarding things like switch phone/electric and TV services. We intend to do a little maintance on the home when we first move in, so we worked on planning that. Finally I observed, later than most, "Turn off the Televison" week by watching all of my Tivo'd programs.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Newsweek's Top 1000 High Schools: The NorCal Edition

I'm always a little fascinated by Newsweek's Top 1000 High Schools in America, mostly because I think that it is crap. The formula they use to base their rankings is simply the amount of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests given divided by the number of graduating Seniors. Although I have little experiance with IB courses, I can safetly say that I hate what I see from AP courses. Most of the information is useless, mind numbing dribble, and the class is based around teaching to a test. How wonderful. Teachers and parents bitch and moan that they don't want to teach to the standardized tests........unless they are called Advanced Placement.
In my opinion, the measure of a school has little to do with conning kids into taking AP courses. Ukiah High has one of the top vocational programs in California. Ask some of those AP kids to change their oil, much less build an engine or repair leaks in their house. How about throwing some vocational information? Or what about funding issues? Demographics? Poverty?
Anyway, for what its worth, here are the "Top" schools in Northern California:

Rank/School/City/State/Index/%of free and reduced lunch (Ukiah is at 70%)

1003 | International Studies Academy | San Francisco | Calif. | 1.040 | 40.8
991 | Gateway | San Francisco | Calif. | 1.053 | 27
955 | San Mateo (tie) | San Mateo | Calif. | 1.090 | 10
940 | Petaluma | Petaluma | Calif. | 1.101 | 9*
935 | Casa Grande | Petaluma | Calif. | 1.103 | 8.2*
922 | Shasta | Redding | Calif. | 1.119 | 20*
919 | Mission | San Francisco | Calif. | 1.123 | 42.4
878 | Encinal | Alameda | Calif. | 1.162 | 62
873 | California | San Ramon | Calif. | 1.165 | 1.1*
843 | Redwood (tie) | Larkspur | Calif. | 1.200 | 1*
826 | Milpitas | Milpitas | Calif. | 1.213 | 28
800 | San Ramon Valley | Danville | Calif. | 1.235 | 0*
772 | Oak Ridge | El Dorado Hills | Calif. | 1.262 | 0.2*
764 | Hillsdale | San Mateo | Calif. | 1.269 | 9
756 | Granite Bay | Granite Bay | Calif. | 1.278 | 1*
738 | Gunderson | San Jose | Calif. | 1.301 | 45.4
728 | Las Lomas | Walnut Creek | Calif. | 1.305 | 50
724 | Willow Glen | San Jose | Calif. | 1.308 | 41.7
720 | Woodside | Redwood City | Calif. | 1.311 | 25.2
695 | Pioneer | San Jose | Calif. | 1.335 | 17.2
619 | Los Gatos | Los Gatos | Calif. | 1.418 | 1*
617 | Lincoln | San Jose | Calif. | 1.420 | 19
616 | Rio Americano | Sacramento | Calif. | 1.420 | 7*
605 | Silver Creek | San Jose | Calif. | 1.431 | 20
602 | Aptos (tie) | Aptos | Calif. | 1.434 | 36
597 | Aragon | San Mateo | Calif. | 1.441 | 2*
580 | Berkeley | Berkeley | Calif. | 1.462 | 23.2
568 | Monte Vista | Danville | Calif. | 1.482 | 1*
562 | Davis | Davis | Calif. | 1.495 | 6*
482 | Campolindo | Moraga | Calif. | 1.591 | 0*
472 | Arcata | Arcata | Calif. | 1.604 | 10*
455 | Washington | San Francisco | Calif. | 1.637 | 33
428 | Tamalpais | Mill Valley | Calif. | 1.698 | 6*
405 | Alameda | Alameda | Calif. | 1.733 | 23
402 | Burlingame | Burlingame | Calif. | 1.742 | 3*
384 | Mills | Millbrae | Calif. | 1.775 | 4.5*
382 | Acalanes | Lafayette | Calif. | 1.776 | 0*
361 | Piedmont | Piedmont | Calif. | 1.821 | 0*
352 | Leland | San Jose | Calif. | 1.832 | 7*
334 | Homestead | Cupertino | Calif. | 1.867 | 10*
330 | Palo Alto | Palo Alto | Calif. | 1.872 | 4*
291 | Mountain View | Mountain View | Calif. | 1.982 | 9*
279 | School of the Arts(tie)|San Francisco|Calif.|2.026| 17.7
271 | Miramonte | Orinda | Calif. | 2.044 | 0*
262 | Amador Valley | Pleasanton | Calif. | 2.068 | 3.4*
259 | Menlo-Atherton | Atherton | Calif. | 2.084 | 24.5
234 | Foothill | Pleasanton | Calif. | 2.161 | 0*
218 | San Jose High Academy*|San Jose |Calif. | 2.201 | 57.1
212 | Mira Loma* | Sacramento | Calif. | 2.230 | 25
202 | Saratoga | Saratoga | Calif. | 2.276 | 0.7*
193 | Mission San Jose | Fremont | Calif. | 2.312 | 2.7*
177 | Lynbrook | San Jose | Calif. | 2.384 | 3.6*
70 | Gunn | Palo Alto | Calif. | 3.052 | 3.2*
57 | Monta Vista | Cupertino | Calif. | 3.236 | 2*
* represents schools that serve an upper-middle or upper class income population

A couple of observations. First off, 54 out of 1000 schools made this list, or 5.4% of the schools overall. You can't make the arguement that smaller schools did better because most of these schools contain over 1,000 students. You can make the arguement that more money makes a difference. 60% of the schools on the list serve communities or areas that contain large amounts of income. That may seem even enough, except that on this list, I can only see 4 schools that actually serve impoverished or demographically diverse populations (Las Lomas, Encinal, Mission and maybe Washington). In fact, many schools on this list could be considered in "elite communities", where million dollar homes, fancy cars and massive parent support reign supreme (Cupertino, Moraga, Lafayette, San Ramon, Orinda, Los Gatos, Piedmont, Mill Valley, Danville, Larkspur, El Dorado Hills).
So this list, which is meaningless anyway, tells us nothing new.

Friday, May 06, 2005

So endith the first week of STAR testing.

I haven't heard many complaints from teachers about the testing this week, except from the teachers that have been assigned as our subs during the testing period. Some are complaining that they have other things to prepare for. Sure, as if we don't! Otherwise, I haven't heard much complaining, except for my Seniors.
The last two days went fairly well. Yesterday was a very draggy day that included a labor/management negotiation with my College Prep classes, and profit calculations with my Intro classes. Everyone was out of it, including yours truly. It was one of those days were the entire world was in some kind of haze that we couldn't shake.
Today was much better and I felt more motivated. The students were very engaged and got a tremendous amount of work done. Only two problems arose:
1) Today students began work on the final portion of a stock project. Stocks are one of the first things we learned about this semester. They were supposed to be tracking them and preparing a final report. Today, two students asked the question, "How many shares were we supposed to buy in the Dow Jones Industrial Average?". If you don't know, you don't buy shares in the DJIA. It's a barometer of the overall New York Stock Exchange using 30 companies that represent various sectors of business. It is basic information that students should know. At the very least, I bristled at the question. I reprimanded this girl for not keeping track (rather harshly) and commented to the class that knowing what the DJIA was could be on the Final. It wasn't the most mature way of going about things (it embarrassed her a little), but I was frustrated that she hadn't paid enough attention.
2) Remember Bill? Well he came up to me with the same complaint about his grade, that he has never had a C or a D in his life (he currently has a D+). With this argument came more information. I finally found out that during this time he was gone, Bill was on a college swing throughout the Mid-West. I asked him why he didn't do an independent study contract and he stated that he didn't want to work while he was gone. Now he was offered a $15,000 scholarship if he gets good grades during this semester. The problem? Bill is not an A student, a B student, or even a very average student. Is he smart? Yes. Could he be an A student? Yes. Has he earned an A in my Economics class? Not even close. So Bill is back to threatening meetings with Dad and his counselor. I'm willing to sit and listen, but this is an instance where the student has dug his hole and tried to weasel out of it every which way. In the end, Bill will either finish my class or transfer for the last 25 days, which will not look good for the teacher that will take him. Stay tuned.

The second week of STAR testing is fast approaching. This week will consist of block schedules and hurt feelings when I hold students accountable for showing up to class. At the end of this coming week, students that have fulfilled the obligation of being in class on time, every day, will receive a nice treat. The rest will have to learn the lesson the hard way. But first, Saturday will consist of packing, with an interlude to attend a Ukiah High School lacrosse meet. I have been promising a couple of guys that I would attend and I need to watch the warriors in combat on the field.

Go Wildcats!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

What a perfect surprise during testing week

Ok, my kids know that I'm a fan of Star Wars. I regularly take hell for it of course, the culprits being either preppy guys that really like it and don't want anyone to know, or girls that haven't watched the movie because it is uncool. So I generally hype Star Wars as one of the greatest movies ever (I roll my eyes at the last two) and proudly show off my beanie baby Yoda that is on my bookshelf in class. Well, on Monday the conversation drifted towards Episode 3, coming out on May 19. One of the students asked me,

"Hey Mr. Brown. Are you one of those fans that will dress up for the movie?"

"Um, no. I'm not a crazy Star Wars nerd and I'm not going to the movie dressed up. Except that if I had a really nice Darth Vader outfit, you know with the whole set up, I might be inclined to wear that."

Darn it if my students didn't call me on it.
Today in 2nd period, two students walked up to me with a large bag. One was also holding a camera, the other a small video phone. In the bag was a Darth Vader Helmet and Voice Changer! The class roared with laughter as my faced changed about 15 different colors of red. Then came the chants of "Put it on! Put it on!". I obliged to a raucous applause, which attracted other people in the building. Overall, it was an interesting moment with your students looking at you in a Darth Vader Helmet.
But hell, they had a lot of fun with it and I really did to. It was totally unexpected, and yet it charged my batteries right back up for the stretch run to the end of the year. After school, one of the other teachers heard the story and stated, "Congratulations! You are now one of the beloved!" I don't know about that, but today was a fun day to be a teacher.

Indiana, we are merely passing through history. This.....this is the Education Carnival.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is the single greatest action movie of all time. It's fun, adventurous and it has the perfect hero/villain combination. I could watch this film every weekend with a big bowl of buttery popcorn and a smile on my face. Check it out, and watch it with the whole family.

But before you search for the Ark of the Convenant, check out this weeks Carnival of Education.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Whine, Whine, Whine

I have my Seniors twice a day this week. Once during testing (Intro goes with a sub, but does my work assigned) and once for regular class. They get out of class about an hour later than usual and some end up deciding that it isn't worth it and cut.

Those that stay whine incessantly. By the amount they complain, you'd think that they were doing something that was actually difficult, if not impossible. Unfortunately, that means that STAR testing week becomes a much bigger emotional drain than other weeks. With tardies and cuts piling up, and students more into Prom, Senior Trip and Graduation parties than grades, the next few weeks are going to start becoming a study in patience and repetition. Two of my students came up to me this week after checking grades to find that they might actually fail and wanted to know what to do about it. My response? I recommended that you attend every class, that you complete all work, and focus on the Economics Expo (the final project). Other than that, I can't do anything for you at this late juncture of the semester. Then I hear the "my parents already sent out the graduation cards" and "my whole family is coming from the East Coast" speech. My response? I have no control over your grade. You do.

So with moving and the end of the year, it will get interesting.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Abbiamo un presidente!!!!!!

Ok, its not that big of a deal.
Today, our President of the Ukiah Coaches Association resigned his coaching position, and therefore resigned his post as President of the UCA. Guess who the Vice-President was? That's right, me. I am now the lovely spokesman between the athletic coaches of the school (which there are many) and the principal (which will be new). Oh how I love a challenge!
First on the agenda is grade policies related to athletics. Currently, students must have a 2.0 GPA to play any sport, period. There is no "probation period" or "grace quarter" for a second chance. This includes 8th graders coming to the high school. If they graduate 8th grade with under a 2.0, they can't play football for the high school in the fall. I need your help. Please leave a comment about the grade/athletic policy of your school. The UCA is going to change it next year and we need some ideas and viewpoints!
The second major event of the day is that I found out that I'm going to teach two sections of Public Speaking next year. This is a good thing! I was recommended by the current Public Speaking teacher and I accepted. Wow, a brave new world to explore!! This doesn't mean that I'll stop teaching Government/Economics. In fact, I figure that my schedule will probably look like three Gov/Econ and two Public Speaking. Sounds excellent!! This also means that I'll be teaching Mock Trial, an event that I know nothing about. Wish me luck, and if you teach Speech, give me a holler!!!

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Don't Panic

This warning can be seen as two different tellings. One, "Don't Panic" refers to the slogan located on the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Two, it is the perfect phrase for the upcoming week, which will include STAR testing and my family packing for a move.

First the movie. I read Hitchhikers's Guide a long time ago, then again about 5 years ago, and I still feel that it is one of the greatest books ever written. The writing is interesting, smart and witty. The question was whether or not that spirit was going to show itself on the big screen. The answer is "not really". I enjoyed the movie, that I can say without reservation. But looking at it from a totally neutral point of view is scary. Someone who is unfamiliar with Douglas Adams' dry humor and vocabulary of the Guide universe is going to walk out of this flick. It simply does not work well on the big screen. I would also like to point towards casting Mos Def as Ford Prefect, which doesn't work at all. He has little to no energy in the role! For Ford I envisioned a Tom Baker type character, knowledgeable about the universe, but goofy as hell. Def did not work. However, Martin Freeman was a good Arthur Dent, Alan Rickman's voice is the classic Marvin the Paranoid Android, and Sam Rockwell is outstanding as Zaphod Beeblebrox. In fact, almost all the laughs in the movie come from Rockwell's antics. So, I'd give the books a solid A+. The movie.....C+. It was enjoyable, but I don't need to see it again.

STAR testing is this week AND we are packing to move, so DON'T PANIC! Yeah right. I talked about my feelings on the STAR test earlier and explained my role in it. For a review, all the Seniors will be with Social Science teachers during testing time. So tomorrow, I will get two classes of Seniors for an extra hour in the morning, then again at the usual time. That means a lot of solid planning and being prepared for damage control if other teachers don't go with the written lesson plans. I am very concerned about my Intro classes, who have been told over and over that this is a chance to solidify their grade, and graduation. Of course, some are going to ignore me and pay for it in about a month. And we are moving. Moving has got to be the single most stressful thing in the world. My wife and I are moving to our new house on May 20th. We started to pack now. My wife moves at the speed of a very cautious 65 year old woman, looking through every item thoroughly. I move at the pace of a garbage man on crack. I'm ready to do it college style; throw everything in plastic bags and haul it over. This causes a little stress in our happy household. If you have hints on how to make a move easier, drop me a line.

Thanks to Education Wonk (right side link) for adding me to the Tales of the Trenches. EdWonk has one of the best education oriented blogs around. Go show him some love.

So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish!