Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Back into the flow

It took awhile, but I'm getting back into the swing of things. It is still not very optimal since my home life is pretty rough at the moment. However, I'm back in the regular flow and I'm starting to hit my comfort zone. Rules and Regs are done and the real teaching can begin.

Mood wise, I'm still in a funk. I'll try and snap out of it so the blogging is better, but when the home is unhappy, lots of things are unhappy.

Go check out the excellent articles at Education Wonks.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Santa Rosa makes a couple of good choices

The Santa Rosa City Schools are now deciding on whether to start school earlier, and end the year earlier. Looks like an early August time can be in the works for next year, and the end time would be the final week of May, 2006. The hope is that the first semester will end by Winter Break and create a solid break between semesters. Sounds good to me. On an even better front, the Santa Rosa City schools decided to not allow for a longer break in order to support Hispanic students that go to Mexico for their vacations.
Santa Rosa officials specifically rejected providing a longer winter break for students who take an extended vacation in Mexico. They expressed concern that students might forget more material with a longer break. As well, their analysis proved inconclusive on whether such a move would increase student attendance - and, thus, state revenue.

Good for Santa Rosa for deciding to buck the trend regarding "sensitivity" towards Latino families and vacation. I made an arguement against this in my Multiculturalism class this summer and people were not happy. I feel a little bit vindicated, but more proud of the decision of the district.
See the article in the Press Democrat.

Highly Qualified

There is an interesting article in the Contra Costa Times regarding the term "highly qualified" in relation to teachers. Apparently, the Governator has promised that every teacher will be "highly qualified" by the end of the next school year. With Ukiah, it would seem that the term is being treated with serious examination. Teachers are being interviewed and set up with a point system to determine qualification. It looks like 99% of the teachers in district are fine. However, teachers from other districts have told me that there is no way that the schools will be able to make teachers fall under the "highly qualified" status any time soon. In my subject area (Social Science), it was found that History teachers are not supposed to teacher Government or Economics. Apparently, one must have a Social Science Degree (I have a History/Social Science) or have taken enough classes to complete the requirements. That means that I have become more valuable, since I can teach any Social Science.

Check out the complaining near the end of the article about teacher quality. Seems that many research centers don't like the fact that teachers are ill prepared for the classroom. I'm all for firing unqualified teachers, and then watching the school districts go down in flames. Maybe that would garner the attention of politicians that constantly blame the teacher for the problems.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

It Begins

I'm sorry that I've been gone, but my wife's grandmother died about last week and the funeral was Friday/Saturday (don't ask). I've been in Discovery Bay and San Ramon, California for the last four days dealing with the issue of being married and trying to be supportive about a loved one of my spouse dying. My family and her family view death differently, which makes it very difficult when talking about it. Needless to say, it has be a rough weekend.
Which had to happen right before school, right? Tomorrow morning I will arrive at 6:15 a.m. to read the news and do my usual prep work to ready myself for the 150+ Seniors that will decend upon my humble abode of a classroom. Am I ready? It depends. I'm as organized as I will ever be. I pride myself on having copies ready, having the classroom set up, and being able to teach immediately. That will not be a problem. Am I mentally ready? Not really. I have had no "teachermares" for the first time, since most the nights have been very lite in sleep, and very full of emotional issues. It hasn't sunk in at all.
Anyway, I made it back to Ukiah and instead of thinking about school, I completed my yearly fantasy football draft (5th year with the same guys), and read blogs. I don't think I'm in the right mental frame of mind, but it has to change. There is very little choice in the matter.
BTW, I've spent well over $300 already this year on my classroom. While in Concord, I bought an adapter that connects my computer to my TV (for notes and Power Point) and to my stero (for music). It ran me a C-Note.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Some men get the world. Others get ex-hookers, a trip to Arizona, and a spot on the Education Carnival!

L.A. Confidential is one of the greatest underrated movies ever made. The movie engulfs the viewer in images and the feel of the 1950's, while the cast does an excellent job making the film very entertaining. In fact, Kim Basinger had the best role of her career (she won an Oscar for it), and Russell Crowe might be known for many other roles, but I think this has to rank as one of his best. A film noir-ish movie with heart and comedy, L.A. Confidential is a must see for any movie fan.

Not much to report from the school. Day Three was all classroom prep with an hour department meeting. However, I do have a question that I need answered. I'm considering making a "B" requirement in which students would have to view a political movie. I would not be during class time. There is a place off campus where I can show the movie "Bulworth". I think that using any school equipment, or being on campus puts me too liable if I show Bulworth at school, even after school. Do you think that I should even risk it off campus? Consider: A) They are Seniors B) The movie has lots of profanity and some drug use.

What do you think?

But before you go and get made up like Lana Turner, check out the Education Carnival!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Issues for this year

In no particular order of importance.....

-The workshop was entitled "Safety in our Schools". What it was about was the harrassment of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered students, for 4 hours. Let me preface this by saying that I am more liberal than you think when it comes to homosexuality (Miller's Time would not approve). Saying that, this workshop (which we signed up for) was totally misrepresented in terms of explaination. What it ended up being was another multicultural exercise, only about gays. Then it got to hate crimes, and I ended up tangling with a civil case lawyer about the use of "hate crimes" in society. I won't get into the arguement, that is for a later date. The best part was a panel of students who discussed their experiances, but that lasted 15 minutes. But for the most part, the workshop was a 4 hour waste, full of false statistics and interest agenda. High school classes in "lifestyle studies" should be added to the curriculum, teachers should put more pink in their classrooms, avoid using gender driven terms (mother, father), and we were to realize that 10 percent of the population of the school was homosexual, and that they were being terrorized in the halls of the school. And that, my friends, is the primary problem with the school according to the presenters. This brought a massive uproar, even from the liberal teachers, as the school is a very liberal thinking school, and gangs are pretty much the primary problem. So, I'm making a big sign that says that my classroom is a "Hate Free Zone", even though that is already in my class policy anyway.

-First of all, I really liked my last pricipal. I'm not about to compare him with the new guy. One thing the new guy wants to do is enforce a stronger sense of discipline. Teachers wishes will be respected in terms of referrals, gang members are going bye-bye, and the campus will be much safer. So he says. We'll see what happens.

-Release the Hounds!!! Drug-sniffing dogs on campus roaming the halls, and at lunch! Oh, I love it! Zero tolerance drug policy now at the school. Wonderful!

-The raise in price for the health care, along with cutting benefits, made more people than me very mad. Apparently, they union committee is under intense fire to either fix the problem, or get nailed to the wall. I prefer the later since these idiots have managed to screw over our healthcare.

There are plenty of other little things, but tis late and I'm bushed. Tomorrow I need to scramble because Thursday and Friday I'm out of town. Bah!

Monday, August 22, 2005

All teachers report in!

Hey.......That would be me!
So it begins. However, this the little ones don't really show up until next Monday. This was a Professional Development Day, where most of the teachers go to really pointless and boring workshops to learn stuff they already know, or really never want to know. Tomorrow will be "Pro D" day too! I am not doing Professional Development stuff because I took 30 units this summer (3 units left!) and can write that down as my Development. Thank God too, because I will need the time to prepare. A member of my wife's family died recently from a massive stroke, and I will have to miss days this week to attend a funeral. That means my prep time has just dropped by a day and a half. Not good, but not panic time since I'm teaching the same classes as last year.
How's the old "F-Building" (Social Science) look? Messy as hell. The custodians took all the desks and shoved them to the corners of all the classrooms. Teachers were not happy. As it happened, the two other Gov/Econ teachers decided not to attend workshops either. After about an hours worth of conferring, I began my duties.

1) Set up my television and VCR. This is essential. Every morning I tape "Imus in the Morning" off of MSNBC and listen the program while I work. I have 4 from last week to listen to while I prep.

2) Set up the desks. This is (from left to right) set up in rows; 7 across and five deep. 35 total desks. For once in 5 years, nobody has taken a desk or chair from my room.

3) Open up the cabinet and take everything out. Anything that I haven't used in the last 4 years is getting tossed. I've taught World History, Government and Economics for the last four years (last year was my first all Gov/Econ). A lot of stuff is tossed. I start to sort and put away materials into the cabinet, old lesson plans, student examples, basketball jerseys, maps, etc.

4) Go to administration building and check my box. 10-12 grade are getting schedules and yearbooks today. I wander around the quad saying "hi" to students. Many students are very excited to be in my class, which is a great sign! Last year students were much more apprehensive and guarded. The only two students I get half-hearted greetings from are two varsity basketball players. One played for me and doesn't like me because I don't put up with his shit. The other is really nice when no other basketball players are around, then becomes very shy when other players show up. I would never imagine that the worst reactions would come from ballplayers. But, you have to understand the program. I'm the hardass of the group, with high expectations. After me, the kids are mentored by people more concerned about winning, and less concerned about teaching.

5) I need a big bookshelf. I have a ton of books for my student library from used bookstores and yard sales. I look at the very back corner of the school and viola, a huge bookshelf. If has to be 3.5 feet across and 7 feet tall. I spend the next half hour running down a custodian and getting it to my classroom. Then I need to rearrange furniture to fit the bookshelf. Hey look, haven't even got to lessons yet!.

6) Books start going up on the shelves.

7) 1p.m Lunch time! The teacher that taught next to me last year got hired on as an administrator at the high school. He's a terrific guy, only about 3 years older than me. Although he's admin, he's still a teacher at heart. Anyway, he comes over and invites me to lunch. Sushi is the menu. We talk work related subjects and Economics. He was a Gov/Econ teacher last year.

8) Back and more talk with Gov/Econ teachers about curriculum.

9) Set up my computer and tackle various problems. I hunt for a speaker cord and have to update all the Microsoft sets since the computer came home with me over the summer.

10) I'm winding down. I sift through more papers that need to be put away and slowly things begin to take shape.

11) 4 p.m. Time to go home. I walk to the admin building to get a copy of my schedule. It is bizarre. College prep is fine, both classes have 35 students. But Intro is all over the board. 2nd period has 17, 3rd has 26, 4th has................37!?!?!??!?!!? 37 Intro kids is crazy. I talk to a guidance person who says that I'm taking in more Sheltered kids (ELL'ers) this year because of a scheduling problem. Than I'm told to "prepare differentiated instruction and assessment" for the sheltered students. When I asked what she had in mind, I got no answer. With 37 students, there is not going to be much differentiation, keeping in mind that at least half will have IEPs that will need modification. I go home annoyed.

So endith Day One. I'm back in the classroom tomorrow, preparing for the year. Hopefully housecleaning will get down and I can work on class policies, and copy the first few weeks of materials.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Remember Teachers, it is YOUR money!

I won't explain it since Polski did a great job with the topic of Prop 76. Needless to say that I will be voting "Yes" to Prop 76.

Part One and Part Two

Friday, August 19, 2005

California Council for Economic Education Workshop

As I stated in my adventure before, I attended the California Council for Economic Education's Workshop on the California Standards in San Francisco last week. This is for Social Science teachers, particularly Economics teachers, all around the country. Even if they are standards that are for California only, it seems to be assumed that our standards are quite rigorous. And this is the group that created the Econ Standards for the State of California, so the clout is there. If you aren't one of the above, you can take a look at what is going on regarding Economics in the classroom, and as always, enjoy my writing.
Here are the highlights.

1) First of all, these guys get it. There are workshops that make a person want to scream in pain and wonder just how worthless it can possibly get. This is the exact opposite of that kind of workshop. I left excited to try the ideas and address the Standards in a different method. We like those type of conferences. No snoozer here, just an excellent experience. Did I mention the materials? Massive amount of good resources including books, lessons, workbooks, cd-roms, power points for just about EVERY STANDARD, aprons......yes aprons. See the next one.

2) This is not for teachers looking to enhance their A.P. classes. The subject matter is for both a Standard Economics class AND a class with English Language Learners. These guys are very SDAIE with their methods, not exactly preaching the method, just executing it. There examples are amazingly fresh and interesting. For instance, opportunity cost: Barbie is going to the prom. She can chose Harry Potter or Spiderman. The teacher has an apron with about a half dozen pockets labeled Decision Maker, Choice One, Choice Two, Advantages, Disadvantages, Choice, Opportunity Costs. Students break up assessing Barbie's situation, but the figures are constantly moving from pocket to pocket in the teacher's apron. Sounds complex, but it is far from it. It works real well as the kids watch the Cost/Benefit Analysis take place. The whole workshop was like this. Excellent stuff!

3) If you are teaching A.P. Economics in a semester, you are doing a massive disservice to students. In fact, the CCEE pretty much stated that A.P. Econ was a bad idea to start with because almost no students where coming to college with A.P. level Econ knowledge. A.P. Economics is designed to be taught in two semesters; one macro and one micro. Apparently, there has also been a lot of watered down A.P. Econ classes, simply to pump up the validity of school Social Science departments.

4) Stop graphing. Yes, you heard me correctly, stop graphing. What was once the staple of Economics (graphing supply/demand, price floor/ceiling, production possibilities curve) is now becoming the way of the dinosaur. Apparently the reason is that students are moving the graphs correctly, but having no idea why they are moving or what it represents. The CCEE quoted 80% of students still have very little understanding of basic supply and demand, yet maneuver the graphs correctly. The challenge was to create rules that the students use to determine what happens to price and quantity during certain stages of supply/demand, and they reinforce those with examples. However, avoid graphing. It ends up being a waste.

5) Focus on the following: Property Rights, Incentives, Information, Competition, Cost/Benefit Analysis. While meeting the Standards, teachers should centralize on these primary objectives. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Property Rights are the basis for a functional economy. Incentives motivate people to make economic choices. The best economies and governments are ran when the people are fully informed. Competition drives a successful market. And finally, the idea that everything has a cost and/or a benefit.

6) An entire section on International Economics was added to the State Standards. Discuss more on global trade, outsourcing, and the basic ideas that surround global economics. Absolute and comparative Advantage are a must.

7) Skim Macroeconomics and don't spend too much time on it.

8) Finally, don't make economics about politics. Professors are getting students in economics classes that don't have a clear understanding the Economics is not a politically driven entity, although politics do impact it. Two examples he used were the gas prices, and capitalism. In Cal-State economics classes, almost nobody lists "demand for gas" as a reason for the rise in gas prices. The primary answer is "The War in Iraq" or "Problems in the Middle East". Here's a piece of information for all those non-economic people reading this; if you don't think that "demand" is the #1 reason for the high gas prices, you are dead wrong. The second example is capitalism. Many high school teachers are pumping up the benefits of capitalism, but not really hitting the costs. In the CCEE's eyes, capitalism is exactly like democracy, it is a terrible system, but it is the best there is.

Hopefully, this opens a few eyes regarding how Economics is being taught here in California. Once again, the workshop was excellent, and I highly recommend it. There is a link to the right.

Now here is a shocker.

Apparently, recent studies that have been released show that more drugs are getting into the schools and more students are taking them.
Wow, big surprise there.
Most students also said that it really didn't matter if it was legal or illegal, they would do it anyway. Plus, over 2/3 of the students said that pot was very easy to come by. Another stunning example of the legalization argument making no sense.
You can check out some of the statistics over at NewsDay.
Oh, and it mentioned that parents play a very important role in preventing kids from doing drugs. I wonder when No Child Left Behind will start holding parents accountable?
Ukiah's response to this? Reopen the medical marijuana clinic! That's right, what better example to set than to sell it out from a business legally! Of course, that makes little difference because growing weed is legal in the Ukiah city limits!
Check out the local fishwrap for the grand reopening.

UPDATE on 8/20: EdWonk has the whole report and a better summary of the data. Go there!

Oh rats.

Nice to know that Oak Manor Elementary School is only 4 blocks from my house.

Check out the Santa Rosa Press Democrat to see the menace.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Another Multicultural rant

Seriously, I'm looking for context in this classses. I ask people to explain how this will make me a better teacher, and I get the same damn answer.
"You just need to be sure that you are sensitve and aware of other cultures."
The worse part is that the current system punishes you if you don't believe that this class is necessary. You must be a racist or be uncaring of migrant children or just be a bad teacher if you don't like multicultural education classes.

The assignment was to read about 10 articles about Multicultural education regarding a certain ethnic group. Mine was Latinos. The question was, "What ideas did you gain from the articles this week? Was anything eye-opening?" Here was my answer:

No, and here's why.

Nearly every article made reference to or supplemented teaching strategies that should be used in every classroom, not just in one that might have ELL students, or (as the articles looked at) migrant students. Hence the problem with multicultural education, the focus is on good teaching towards certain ethnic groups, instead of good teaching for everyone. Multiple articles mention that it is good to bridge a child's experience with what is going on the in classroom, that it will enhance the child's learning by lowering the affective filter.
Ok......and the point is? Isn't this just good teaching practice? Does it have anything to do with cultural identity? Should it?
You know, I had multicultural classes in my teaching credential program and I was totally open to what they had to say. Then I became very irritated with them when I got into the classroom (a diverse classroom) when I realized that it wasn't about teaching, it was about changing a person's view on culture, and that teaching other cultures MUST be done differently because the way we teach our culture MUST be wrong. Except, that they are the same, exact methods used in teaching everyone in the dominant cultures classroom. I know about culture, and the concepts surrounding culture. I studied culture, teach culture, and accept the fact that cultures are different. Since every student has a different culture, why is it that “culture” is dealing so much with ethnicity?
The problem is that Multiculturalism classes are saying that teachers should not be focused on assimilating students into the dominant culture, yet the learning strategies come from the dominant culture. It’s as if it is wrong to say that SDAIE works in all classrooms, regardless of culture. For example, if the student doesn’t know English, then we get that student the help necessary to make that student successful. Hey, surprise…….if one of my Seniors has a 3rd grade reading level, wow, we get that student help in order for the student to succeed. I just spent 45 minutes reading articles about SDAIE, only they act as if SDAIE was designed for Latino students, which is absolutely ridiculous because SDAIE is supposed to be, in essence, teaching to different learning modalities. Once again, good teaching. It is as if there is a fear to say “The best way to teach these students is to prepare them for the dominant culture, you know, the one that has been very successful during the last 200 years”. Nobody is asking ethnic groups to remove all semblance of their identity, but isn’t assimilation necessary for success in the United States? Aren’t we doing students a disservice by saying that aspects of their culture that are not successful in the United States, are ok when we teach the students academics?
What is the point of this entire multicultural mode of thinking? And don’t tell me it’s about sensitivity because teachers are supposed to be sensitive to student needs, regardless of ethnicity.

What a supreme waste of my summer.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

KNBR bends over

Well, the situation with my wife's family member isn't good, and it looks like she is staying in the Bay Area until Sunday. It is one of the those situations where you just hope everything happens quick. The good news is that it is really bringing her family together.

In other news, I'm finally ready to rant about the idiotic firing that happened at KNBR 680 a.m. last week. For those not in the know, KNBR is a sportstalk radio station out of San Francisco, one that I have listened to since 1990. Recently, during a post game rant, host Larry Krueger said that he was tired of "brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly" and that "Felipe Alou's brain has turned into Cream of Wheat".
Stupid comment? Absolutely.
Should he have said it? Absolutely not.
Is it deserving termination of employment? If you belong to KNBR it does, which is insane since I've heard much worse from the likes of Barry Bonds on a regular basis. Yes folks, Larry Krueger was fired for making a "racist" remark about Caribbean ball players. The problem is that the comment wasn't racist, it was stupid, and there is a difference. Never mind that Krueger went crawling to Giants manager Felipe Alou to apologize (it was refused), never mind that Alou called Kruger "a messenger of Satan", and never mind that not one radio host thought that Krueger deserved to be fired. When it came down to it, this isn't New York, it's San Francisco, the birthplace of Political Correctness, and Krueger became a victim of that political correctness. His firing was unjust and spineless by the upper eschelon of KNBR, and as host Ralph Barbieri put it "the darkest (day) in my 21 years at KNBR."
If you have been listening across the country about this issue, you might get the idea that Larry Krueger was a racist, the way the media portrayed it. However, fact is the opposite. Krueger was a level headed baseball fanatic that loved the Giants, and was one of the few that wouldn't tow the Giants party line. He was often critical of the play on the field. Now the management has removed a good radio guy that made a dumb mistake, making KNBR worse for wear.
Oh and by the way, check out how Felipe Alou manages his pitching rotation. I think his brain is going to Cream of Wheat too.

Go to the Education Carnival.

The Education Carnival is up at Ticklish Ears, a name everyone finds cute, and I find scary.

Sorry for the lack of enthusiasm. My wife is heading to the Bay Area were it was just found that a very close relative had a massive brain hemorrhage. She's supporting the family while I stay here in Ukiah. I'll post more tonight.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Economics Conference, Day Two (more story time)

Refer to previous post for Day One.

While I slept, I didn't dream about the possible cockroach fest in my room, or the fact that Norman Bates might be hiding in the shadows. I dreamt about a boy that I saw during the day in San Francisco.
While standing on the corner of Third and Market on Wednesday, I noticed that the cards were not driving up the street on Third. I strained to see what was slowing traffic when I saw a figure in a ragged trenchcoat, wrapped in a blanket, walking across the street. The figure was a boy, could not be older than 16, who seemed like he could be homeless. As he walked across the street, he and I locked eyes. Part of the reason I became a teacher is because I can't stand watching kids suffer. I don't mean struggle, I mean suffer. The look in this kid's eyes was part resilience, part suffering. I drew my eyes away, feeling this horrid sadness that I could not control. I didn't pity him, it was just a really deep sadness, if that makes any sense. As the crosswalk turned green, I turned and looked at him. As he was walking away, he was still looking at me, with the same expression. It really bothered me, enough to even dream about it. I hadn't felt that depth of sadness in a long while.
I woke up around 4:30 to the sound of squealing tires. What to do? Go back to sleep and have get the later ferry? Or get up and get the hell out of dodge. Obviously, the latter was the decision. Of course, there had to be one more nasty experience. With no ventilation in the bathroom, water started to drip down from the ceiling and soaked the floor. Ew. I was out of that room by 5:15 a.m.
The ferry ride was quiet and smooth, with the fog strangely absent during the morning. Due to the lack of fog, what welcomed me was a beautiful picture of San Francisco during the dawn. It was a wonderful sight. If you haven't visited San Francisco, you must take the trip. It is truly a picturesque city. Once off the ferry, I hit Peete's coffee again, but I wanted a nice breakfast this time. Down the street was Noah's bagels. Let explain something, Noah's must be putting crack in their bagels, because they were soooooooo damn good. An "Everything" bagel with onion & chive smear, wow! Noah's and Peete's, the perfect combination.
The conference was excellent, and once again I'll post more about it later.
At the end of the conference, I received a call from my wife. It was asked that I go to 4th and Market to the Old Navy, and then search the "flip-flop" rack for deals (2 for $5). At this moment, I had my backpack full of books, and a shopping bag that was really full of books. I wasn't about to walk the 30 minutes over to Old Navy with all this crap. So I wandered over to the trolley to hitch the ride that would take me right up to the front of the store. It was called the "F-line". I got to the station at Embarcadero and Chestnut. Here came a trolley.
There went the trolley. It was full. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm. I waited. 7 minutes passed.
Here came a trolley.
There went the trolley. Again, it was full. This presented a problem. You don't give up that easily when Old Navy is at state. I stepped over the tracks to the opposite side. I would catch the trolley in the other direction, but the turnaround was only a few blocks away. The trip might be a little longer, but it was no big deal.
Here came a trolley.
There went the trolley. Surprise! It was full. Now I started to fret. I walked over to the schedule to assess my options. Either it was the "F-line" trolley or the #10 bus that arrived every 15 minutes. Well, I'll wait here for the trolley and catch the bus when I see it.
Hey, isn't that the bus right there?!?!?!?!
Sure enough, it had pulled up across the street, and I preceded to waive it down, sprinting across the intersection like a crazy ass with a bag full of books. But it worked, and I found my way to Old Navy.
By this time I was tired, sick of crowds, and ready to go home. The city is great to visit, but I was dying for quiet. Old Navy was not the solution. The packed store is blaring music and the people in the establishment all look like Valley Girls. But I head to the flip-flop rack and find the deals. The only problem is that there are 15 colors, and it was my duty to call my wife. So here I am, book bag in one hand, cell phone in the other, huge backpack knocking into everyone, with a mammoth scowl. Four 12 year old girls started getting pissy with the fact that I was hogging the rack, which warranted a nice turn of the backpack to keep them at bay. After satisfying my wife's flip-flop fetish, I took another bus down Market to the Ferry Building, went to Larkspur, and drove the two hours home, thankfully without any traffic.

All in all, an interesting trip. I'll get to the Economics portion later.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Economics Conference, Day 1 (a long one, hope you like story time)

It began with my alarm at 3:30 a.m.
The decision was that I stay at a cheap motel in Mill Valley and take the Larkspur ferry to San Francisco. The reason was simple; Gas and Traffic. Gas is at $2.75 a gallon, and the trip (with traffic) would be over 2 hours long one way. It would be a lot cheaper to get my $58 motel room and take the ferry. I left my home at about quarter to four in the morning, not really tired at all. I was really looking forward to a good conference, since the last one I was at was local, and about reading apprenticeship, and made me want to put a gun in my mouth it was so boring. The drive down to Larkspur takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes with no traffic. I was quite impressed with the 5:30 rush already beginning as I drove through Novato. Doesn't anyone sleep?
I arrived at the ferry terminal with plenty of time to spare in order to catch the 5:55 ferry to San Francisco. With ticket in hand I boarded the boat. Now, I was expecting something more like the ferries I was on to the Giants games, or the ferries I've been on in Ohio and Seattle. This was much different. Think of a combination of airline seating and train car dining tables, that is what the inside of this ferry looked like. I mean, it looked really comfortable. Big comfy seats, leg room.......I know, I'm sounding like a country bumpkin gawking at the city life. Actually, I go to San Francisco often, just not by ferry. The ferry was about 40% full for that first run. The atmosphere is interesting; you can hardly feel the trip across the water (fancy ferry), while the people are very focused on either reading or sleeping. I'm not kidding about being able to hear a pin drop, because you could on this morning run. The silent trip across the bay on this morning was shrouded in the usual fog all the way to the terminal. I arrived at 6:25.
So I was an hour early, sue me. I really didn't know where the Conference was so I took the early ferry just in case. How do I drown my sorrows? Peete's Coffee. Here's the deal, Peete's is the greatest coffee in the world and if you haven't tried it, you really have never had great coffee. Enough said. I began my walk from the Ferry Building up the embarcadero towards Lombard Street. Yes, my Conference was on that street, no it was not near the crooked part. After 15 minutes, I came to my destination, Moody's/KMV. Moody's was the host (and underwriter) of this conference. For those of you that don't know, Moody's does all the research into the credit standings for companies, governments, etc. If you are a serious investor, you should know the clout that Moody's carries in Economics.

I'll get into the subject matter portion of the Conference in a later post. I want Econ teachers to read it because it is very important. For now, my journey.

The conference was put on by the California Council for Economic Education (CCEE). They created the California State Economic Standards and worked with the State of California to get them implemented. The presentation over the two days was excellent. The information was invaluable. But some of the teachers that were there were "interesting". The scope of the conference focused mainly on Bay Area teachers; from Castro Valley, to San Francisco, to Santa Rosa, to San Jose, and of course, me in Ukiah. The conference had about 40 different teachers attending. Most were in a very similar boat as me; teaching for a few years, having taught Economics for a couple of years, wanting more ideas. There were a few new teachers and a few vets. And then, there were the "how are you a teacher" types. For instance, when the instructor announced that they helped the state create the Standards, a woman yelled "I hate you guys". Yes, she was dead serious. What could you do but roll your eyes. Interestingly enough, her partner arrived 30 minutes late, and would disappear for hours at a time, only to show up for lunch and at the end of the day. Examples of why politicians want tenure removed? Yep. It was almost embarrassing to see how people acted. One lady had her cell phone go off a half dozen times a day. It would go off, she would dig for it and barely miss the call, put it back, and have it ring again, and the process would repeat. You would figure that all the glares would give her a clue, but alas no.
Lunch was excellent, with tasty sandwiches and fresh salads. We ate on the roof deck at Moody's, right underneath the KOIT Tower. A gentleman started to talk to us about the "Parrots of KOIT Tower" and the story of a squatter who raised these parrots and would let them go, letting them fly around the neighborhood. The lunch table, full of dominant alpha males, smirked and grinned at the folk tale. Of course, what happens. About 5 minutes later a flock of, you guessed it, parrots came out of a house on the hill and started to fly around the buildings and the tower. I kid you not, and yes they were parrots. Imagine the smug little bastards eating our grins while the one storyteller exalted in his victory.
After a few lessons on supply and demand, the conference ended. I needed to pick up an anniversary gift for my wife, it was our 5th Wedding anniversary on August 10th, and I had just the item. So I began the walk.
Up Sansone to Broadway.
Up Broadway, past about 10 strip clubs (I didn't peek), to Columbus.
Enter City Lights Bookstore. This is supposed to be a counter-cultural landmark here in San Francisco. What it actually is, is a high priced establishment that is ran by culture snobs. The people up front were rude, the people looking for books were pushy, and the prices make me love I'm selling out because of City Lights. Blame them.
Leave City Lights and walk through China Town. Not the popular way, the back streets way. Here's an interesting observation; the lines at the tea shops ran out the door. People from all walks of life were really into buying dried tea leaves do to the healing properties.
Walk down Stockton and down Sutter. Enter the Glass Pheasant. I bought my wife a limoge box. Limoges are made in France and are very detailed ceramic art pieces, most of them are interesting boxes. They are pretty, but not worth the price. Except that my wife loves them and hasn't had a new one in three years. So it actually is worth the price.
Leave the Glass Pheasant and head down Sutter to Market. Walk up Market to the Ferry Building. I very nice walk on a beautiful San Francisco day (fog burned off at 11 a.m.) I was also lucky in that I caught a ferry back to Larkspur just as I walked up. The ferry ride was a nice way to relax after the day in the City. I wouldn't wait to get to my motel room and relax to Sportscenter. Larkspur to motel was 10 minutes.
My first clue should have been the key, which was a metal key, not a key card. The reviews at Expedia seemed to say that this place, the Best Value Mill Valley, was not elegant, but perfect for the weary traveler just trying to rest. I figured that Mill Valley was very safe, and how bad could it really be. The answer was 'bad'. Room 205 was a pit. The door wasn't a door, it was a temporary closet door that was hanging on the permanent doors hinges. I don't know why used the key at all, I could have pushed the door and it would have opened. The lock was a single, half installed, dead bolt. I opened the door and looked at where the chain (or clasp) was supposed to be, you know, the one you lock at night. It was ripped off the wall. The bathroom was first, smelling of bleach. Except for the soap holder, which had mold growing in it. The rest of the room was just as bad. I was not going to sleep here. I went down and requested a room "with a lock this time". Ahhhhhhhhhhh, a card key! This time, it was room 212. A suite? No, a shitty motel room, though it did have a standard lock and a solid dead-bolt. Of course, it stank of smoke, mold was on the soap holder, the furnace door was ripped off and pilot light was going, the t.v. remote had no batteries, the bed blanket was torn, and the furniture had cigarette burns. Ahhh, home sweet home.
I left to get dinner and wander the town of Mill Valley, a very rich area. I found the public library, posted my earlier post, and went back to the motel room. My wife, upon hearing my conditions, told me that I should find another place. I refused to spend the extra money and settled for a small bottle of margarita instead. I was asleep by 11.

Day Two tomorrow, and Economics information after that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Live, from the Mill Valley Public Library

Wow, my motel is a real shit hole.
Hence the reason that I'm blogging from the Mill Valley Public Library. I'm out and about for 2 reasons. One, my motel is a shit hole, and I'd rather be somewhere else. Two, I need walk off the In & Out burger I just ate.

The Economics Conference is excellent. There are a ton of new materials, great reviews of standards, and the lectures/activies are informative. I highly recommend something like this for anyone that is teaching Economics, especially if you are new at it or a first year teacher. The information is invaluable.

I'll give a better rundown of the activities when I return to Ukiah, hopefully by tomorrow night. Here are some of the teasers:
-Ferry or airplane?
-"I hate the Standards."
-The parrots of KOIT Tower.
-Homeless at 15.
-Shredders at the Ferry Building.
-and my shit hole motel.

I hope that I get through the night. It is in a fine area, but the hotel really looks substandard. Nothing like what Expedia noted.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Economics Conference in San Francisco

So I'm out of here for a couple of days to head down to San Francisco to attend a workshop on Economics Education. I'm staying in Marin County and taking the ferry over for the day. Why not just drive the two hours back and forth from Ukiah for two days? Because gas is $2.75 a gallon, bridge toll is $5, parking is at least $12, and traffic out of the city over the Golden Gate at 5 p.m. really sucks. The cheap motel room and the ferry price is a lot cheaper. The place is supposed to have Internet access. If it does, I'll give you a report on how the workshop went.

I got my schedule today. Intro means they are low level readers.

Zero- Government/Economics
1st- Prep
2nd- Intro Government/Economics
3rd- Intro Government/Economics
4th- Intro Government/Economics
5th- Government/Economics

A nice schedule. I start at 7:30 and I'm done at 2:45. That is not including basketball season, or any meetings that we might have. I'll be in the classroom at 6:15 every morning to get most of my work done. I do my best work in the morning, and I leave the 6th period to do paperwork and prepare for basketball.

Talk at you tomorrow from Mill Valley, or Friday from Ukiah!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Sea Ranch

Saturday and Sunday were spent about 90 minutes south of my current dwelling, on the coast of Northern California. In a little town of Gualala, my wife's mother and husband attended an abalone feed in a nearby campground. The best way to describe Gualala is that it is a "blink and you'll miss it" town, unless you are in abalone season, which creates a massive influx of tourists looking to enjoy the coast away from the summer heat in the valley.
About a mile south of Gualala is the resort at Sea Ranch, a miriad of buildings and bungalows that are situated in the coastal grass and sand. This is also the home of the Sea Ranch Golf Links. Some have called it the poor man's Pebble Beach, except that they would be wrong. None of holes are along the coast, and the cost is still pretty steep, about $95 a person for cart and green fees. The fairways are in decent shape, and the greens weren't terrible either. The problems arise when you don't hit is straight. The fairway width is rather narrow and the term "short rough" doesn't really exist here. You are either on the fairway, or into the coastal grass that runs two feet high, making it impossible to find your ball. Trees are not much of a problem, although they are nicely placed on some holes. Two contain serious water, including one whole where you have to jump from area to area over water. Still, if you can hit the ball relatively straight, you will do fine. I shot a 114. Not bad for not playing since October of last year. It wasn't the course that killed me either, it was my short game. I'd love to take my Wedge and break the thing against a tree. It is totally useless in my bag. I had 4 pars, and I won $3 for being "closest to the hole", and making par, on #17. Of course, I also had way too many Snowmen also (an 8). My advice, it might be nice to try once, but I don't mind waiting a long time to play it. I'm only a hack that plays once in a while anyway.
For all of you golf nuts, here is a list of courses I've been to, in order of my most favorite to least favorite:

Fall River Valley (Fall River Mills)
Hidden Valley Lake (Middletown)
Vineyards Course at Chardonnay (Napa)
Southridge (Sutter)
Plumas Lake (Marysville)
Sea Ranch (Gualala)
Bennett Valley (Santa Rosa)
Ukiah Municipal (Ukiah)
Bidwell Park (Chico)
Haggin Oaks (Sacramento)
Little River Inn (Little River)
Table Mountain (Oroville)
Paradise Pines (Magalia)
Kelly Ridge (Oroville)
Del Norte (Cresent City)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Survey. Is your classroom Culturally Responsive?

I had an assignment in my Multiculturalism class that had me rate my Cultural Responsiveness in my classroom. Please understand, I am sensitive to the needs of different cultures, but some of these questions are a total waste. The questions are right out of the book, the answers are word-for-word my own.
And yes, question #5 was really there.

In order to rate myself on being culturally responsive, let us follow the checklist that is on page 263 of the textbook.

1. What groups are represented in text, discussion, and bulletin board displays? Are certain groups invisible?
a. Since I teach Government and Economics, the primary groups that are listed in the text relate to the concepts of United States. I don't go out of my way to point out any specific group because the events that are happening around the world will do that for me. Since we live in California, and Latinos are in the news, there is a lot about Latinos that we talk about. Topics come up such as immigration, migrant workers, the economic/political/social status of Mexico, and the future of the Latino voting block in the United States. But, when Latinos are not in the news, I don't push to fit Latino news into the curriculum. Obviously, the Middle East dominates the news, followed by China, and the immigration problems in the United States. As for displays on my walls, I put up exceptional student work. I don't throw up work based on cultural identity. If my Latino or Native American students do excellent work (which they often do), they deserve to be on the wall. Are certain groups invisible? In terms of what? Representation? This is the United States and we discuss the U.S. government and its citizens. I think that group is represented very well.

2. Are roles of minorities and women presented in a separate manner from other content-isolated or treated as a distinct topic?
a. Absolutely not. Beside being immoral, that would totally detract from my method of being consistent in my construction. I pride myself and having everyone involved in what is going on in class. Isn't that the sign of a healthy democracy, when everyone is well informed and making sound judgments?

3. Are minorities and women treated in a positive, diversified manner or stereotyped into traditional or rigid roles?
a. This is a two sided question. I treat everyone in a positive, respectful manner. I'm guessing that "diversified" means that I meet the needs of individual students to allow them to be successful. As for stereotyping, I don't do it in my classroom, but it is becoming a problem with the Mexican culture being equated to gangs. As I stated before (with a very unpopular response), students and teachers will start "racial profiling" students if the Mexican community doesn't make a greater effort to crack down on the gangs within their culture.

4. Are problems faced by minorities presented in a realistic fashion, with a problem-solving orientation?
a. When it has to do with what I am teaching, then yes. To add to that, I think that I do it in a much more realistic fashion than most because we really do look at issues from the angle of a realpolitik point of view. Students are introduced to all points of view and then create informed opinions on how best to solve the problem. Understand that it is not my job to get on a soapbox and tell kids that their opinion is wrong (except when the opinion involves committing violence or death). For instance, if a student says that no social services should go towards illegal immigrants and that they should be deported, my job is to explain possible outcomes, ask some questions, and that is it. Same with a student that says that California should give all illegal immigrants Driver's Licenses and allow them to use social services. So, when we say a "realistic fashion", let's remember that things like National Security, Economics, and Social Welfare do matter.

5. Is the language used in the materials inclusive or are biased terms used such as masculine forms (mankind, mailman)?
a. Is this a serious question? I never use racial or gender slang terms that are derogatory to people or dehumanize them, but is this really a serious question? Does this mean I'm not supposed to use "HIStory" in class, or call 9th graders "FreshMEN", or when something goes wrong I can't say "MAN, I can't believe the Giants lost again". This question is a prime example of why Multicultural classes are not taken seriously.

6. Does the curriculum foster appreciation of cultural diversity?
a. My curriculum is designed to teach students of all learning modalities the concepts of Government/Economics, while also preparing them for college and the “real world”. Cultural diversity appears in my classroom because students bring it in their opinions and discussion. I think that this concept of "cultural diversity" has been warped into a definition that is totally exclusive of the culture that we have in the United States. A rich kid with a strong family from Regina Heights (a nice area) has a totally different culture than a poor kid with a broken home from Laws Ave. (a not so nice area). Yet cultural diversity is only focused on students that come from other countries, with the picture that they are the only ones that struggle. I teach students about the United States (the good, bad and ugly), I teach them about opportunities, and I teach them how to take advantage of those opportunities, regardless of their culture. That is true diversity.

7. Are experiences and activities, other than those common to middle class/European American culture, included?
a. Experiences from every walk of life are necessary for a good Government class to be run. What better way to show the United States than in a class that has different people, with different backgrounds. As for the method in terms of activities or lessons, and whether or not they are "Eurocentric", I use the best practices available to get my students to succeed. When I discover a better way to get my information to the students (regardless of Eurocentrism or no), I will use that way instead. By the way, this whole process of getting the CLAD is so we are considered proficient in helping students learn English. Isn't English part of the "middle class/European American culture"? It's funny how we are asking teachers to teach kids English, as long as you don't put emphasis on the culture that English dominates.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Sue the Interns

Well, it was going to happen eventually.
Now a group is suing the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) for creating a certificate that makes Interns classified as "highly qualified", as stated necessary by No Child Left Behind. The organization that is creating the law suit says that the teachers are not qualified enough, and that it is cheating California's kids to an education.
Of course, if you paid teachers enough, you might actually attract enough "qualified" people to get into the profession and not have this problem. The lawsuit is stupid, but maybe it will take the fact that you won't find very many teachers to wake the public to the epidemic of underpaid teachers. You can find the article in the Sacramento Bee.

By the way, I've decided that I will support merit pay, on one condition. Let the teachers decide the base pay and the pay scale. While bad teachers should get less, or should be fired, great teachers should be making $100,000 a year, easy. Remember, we are professionals that hold an advanced degree (a clear credential), we have a mammoth responsibility to kids and society (something most professionals do not have), and we work much more than simply "in the classroom".

So come on merit pay fans. Let the teachers decide their true value. You will get honest answers. But the question is whether or not society is willing to pay for the best.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The letter that I didn't need to get.

Let me preface this by saying that I love teaching. I love being in the classroom, I love my colleague's that I work with, and I love the profession that I'm in. In fact, I'm getting that giddy feeling of next year already! I've got new ideas to try, old ones to make better, and I'm tearing out articles out of Time and Newsweek as we speak (Robert Samuelson-Newsweek, excellent source). If we could only be paid a decent wage and not have to deal with crap outside of the classroom, my job would be perfect.

Instead, I get this letter from the Ukiah School District Health Committee. I'll give the gist, followed by a translation:

As you know, health care costs, and especially medical costs, continue to rise dramatically nationwide

-As you know, our health care plan doesn't cover simple items such as birth control, acid reflux medicine, and most lab testing. We negotiated this deal, but we didn't realize that the cost would rise. We also didn't take into account other districts plans (my wife's, which covers all of the above as well).

Through proactive management....the increases in our health plan costs have consistently been below the national average.

-While our health care program doesn't cover shit, we think that it is fair that you haven't had a raise in four years, and still pay over $200 a month in coverage.

unfortunately.....the costs rose dramatically this year. As a result, the employee health plan fee will be increasing for 2005-06.

-While we did negotiate a 1% raise for next year, and we still realize that the plan covers shit, we are going to keep the status quo and screw our members out of their hard earned work.

The Health Committee will be setting the fee next month, and is considering any and all options to keep the fee increase to a minimum.

-Except the option of opting out of the program entirely. We at Ukiah Unified believe that our employees should be forced to pay into the health care coverage and have no option of leaving the plan, EVEN IF BOTH MEMBERS OF THE FAMILY WORK WITHIN THE DISTRICT. Being married is no excuse, you BOTH must pay the same amount.

However, you should be expecting to see the fee increase above the 2002-2004 levels of $2,000 a year ($200 per month for 10 months)

-We don't feel it necessary that we look for better plans (like my wife has at her school, 20 minutes up the road). We would rather you pay more to have less.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these changes, and for your continuing efforts to keep our plan costs low.

-We have one of the worst health care plans in the county, and you get to pay into it. Have a good teaching year.

Someone should get sued for incompetence. Seriously, on top of UTA dues, CTA dues, and NEA dues, I get to pay into a health care plan that almost never covers thinks I need????? Simple things like birth control?!?!!?

New teachers......whatever you do, get supplemental health insurance.

I love my job, but this blog is about teaching realities. This is one that needs fixing, now.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

You don't frighten us, English pig dogs. Go and boil your bottoms, you sons of a silly person. I blow my nose at you, so-called "Education Carnival"..

I find it funny that so many high school students view Monty Python and the Holy Grail as some big secret, like a hidden cult classic film gem. Sorry kiddies, the Holy Grail was funny before you were born. This movie might be considered the greatest parody film ever made, making fun off all the medieval "King Arthur/Quest" type of movies. I've found that people that don't like Monty Python's brand of humor still liked this movie. From French Taunters to the Knights that say "Ni!" to killer rabbits, if you haven't seen Monty Python and Quest for the Holy Grail, you are missing out on a comedy classic.

In other news, check out a post on Right on the Left Coast regarding a parent that is angry at Darren for posting a link to the "Breast Not Bombs" Rally. Actually, it isn't the link that's the problem, its that her 13 year old son clicked the link and saw naked people protesting in Berkeley. The controversy has stirred up a hornet's nest regarding decency, teacher's rights and the 1st Amendment. For the record (and I posted this in his comments), I have two units I do with freshmen World History students regarding the Renaissance and Impressionism. Both contain artwork that have nudes. I have had no problems, as in zero, in the three years that I taught World History. Go over and have a look-see for yourself.

But before you try and fight The Black Knight, go check out the Education Carnival!