Thursday, March 31, 2005

Visited States

Dammit.

Thanks Mz. Smlph for getting me hooked on time wasting items for my blog.

She's dangerous folks. Watch out :)



create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourFlorida travel guide

I'm still dying for the Northeast tour.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Great Pot Experiment Continues.

I don't know about your school, but ours has a massive marijuana problem. Kids are constantly coming to school high and getting nailed for possession of weed. As some of you have read over the last few weeks, the city of Ukiah and the county of Mendocino could really care less. The concern for them is that their divine right of grass cultivation not be disturbed. They are so concerned about it that they are indifferent about how the current Supreme Court case regarding medical marijuana turns out. Basically, they will celebrate if it passes, ignore it if it does not. This means that either way, the school will suffer. How crazy is it?

How about this article from the Ukiah Daily Journal. Those of you that are not up to speed will be interested in knowing that personal cultivation of marijuana is for all intents and purposes, legal within city limits. This has created a massive amount of pot gardens growing in peoples back yards. The justification of the gardens falls under California's Prop. 215, which states that marijuana is legal for medical purposes. The county attorney general (a tax dodging felon and advocate for stoners) refuses to prosecute any marijuana related crimes within the county. Anything that is nailed is by the DEA (a federal institution) and that is rarely. However, the legalization has hit a few snags. First, people have been complaining during harvest that their neighborhoods permanently smell like a Bob Marley Tribute Concert. People have threatened to go to the State Air Quality Board (the county board ignored it) and sue the county for breaking air quality standards. Second, local crime has gone through the roof. Backyards are being invaded and shoot-outs have occurred over some people's pot gardens.

What is the solution from the city of Ukiah?

Restrict pot cultivation to land use zones listed as "commercial". That's right! The city of Ukiah's Planning Commission and City Council will be restricting pot cultivation to commercial zones.

I'm sure this will have a major positive impact on the drug problems facing our students (dripping with sarcasm).

And people say that No Child Left Behind is our biggest problem.

Any recommendations?

Well, it finally happened......

So I decided to go to the classroom today and do a little work. This is the first Spring Break in four years that I avoided the classroom during the first weekend of Break so I could actually sit and recover.

When I arrived at the classroom, I noticed that my door looked wierd. Now, let me first state that in four years, I have never had a prank call (home or school), nothing has ever happened to my home, nothing has ever happened to my car, nothing really "prankish" has ever occurred. Ok, last year someone glued the locks to all the classrooms, but that was the Senior prank. Well, I have now been targeted. My classroom door is now a red omlet. It looks like someone took a dozen eggs and used my classroom door as target practice. According to the custodian, it happened Monday night. They nailed my door (and my door only) and knocked over a bunch of trash cans on campus.

I really don't know how I feel about it. I'm actually kind of indifferent, if that makes any sense. I feel that this year is by far the best year I have had teaching. I've written three referrals all year (one to student that isn't even in my class), parent problems have been religated to parents who are known to be a little pushy, and my relationship with my students has been excellent. I do teach lower level Senior Economics (called Intro), and unfortuantley I could see a few students that would resort to egg chucking. But as I rack my mind, I really can't see a vast majority of my students acting in this way.

So someone out there is irritated at me. But the good news is that it wouldn't take two hands to count the possible culprits.

Hi, my name is Irwin Fletcher and I work for the Education Carnival.

Last week it came from The Empire Strikes Back.

This week I decided to do comedy and use Fletch. If you haven't seen Fletch, then you are missing out on one of most underrated comedies of all time. Here is the perfect example of why Chevy Chase should still be considered one of the top comedians ever. Not top 10, but up there. By the way, almost all his skits in the movie were improv. Now that's talent!!

Hit up EdWonks Education Carnival here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bubble, Bubble..........toil and trouble.

People don't seem to believe that a rural area of Northern California can have such outragous home prices. My wife and I have about $400 G's of capital to invest in a dwelling, and we can't get anything of value here in Ukiah.

Let me point you in the direction of the Los Angeles Times (free registration might be required, but worth it). It would seem that more and more people are getting into the real estate investment game, especially in the more rural areas of California. Take for instance the following chart in the article:

Most popular areas for investment, ranked as a percentage of all homes bought solely for investment in 2004

Redding, Calif. 19.08%
Medford-Ashland, Ore. 18.78%
San Luis Obispo-Atascadero-Paso Robles 18.20%
Visalia*, Calif. 17.98%
Merced, Calif. 17.53%
Chico-Paradise, Calif. 17.52%
Fresno 17.48%
Tallahassee, Fla. 16.78%
Bakersfield 16.56%
Reno 16.18%
*Also includes Tulare and Porterville.


These areas are not the greatest places in California to live. Redding, Visalia, Chico, Fresno, Bakersfield, Tulare.......all are California Central Valley farming communities, some larger than others. All the places have no significant special value to them at all. All are horribly hot in the summertime. All are becoming too crowded for their infrastructure. Where is the intellegence in buying this land? Simply put, it is real estate speculation.

It is pushing young professionals out of the state. You wonder how long until the state figures it out. The way I look at it, some of the California coastline is about ready to "burst".

Read and enjoy!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Come on now.......

Kudos goes to the Wonkette and the Gawker for this one.



If you read the article in the American Spectator, you realize.........Actually, I have no freaking clue what you realize. I mean, America was an excellent satirical book. Many have listed it as one of the best books of 2004, and I'm very inclined to agree. If you are a political buff, like I am, you must have this book. Hell, you need it if you like any sort of history as well.

Shame on the American Spectator for actually taking itself waaaaaayyyyyy too seriously. With a marvelous show and satirical textbook, Jon Stewart can be placed in the same light as other excellent political satirists such as Mark Russell, Mort Saul and Garry Trudeau. It is hard to believe that a journal with such fine writers (some great conservative writers have contributed) would stupe so low in regards to partisan attacks on a classically funny book.

The sign of a growing, self-actualized society is when it can look in upon itself and laugh. Thanks you Jon Stewart, for making us all grow up a little.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

BC/AD? or BCE/CE?.....and all the while it rains.

I love the rain.

While my students are going absolutely stir crazy about the rain ruining plans for wakeboarding and tanning, I walk outside of my classroom between periods singing in the rain. My wife is sick, so this means she is in bed for the day while I relaxed down stairs. I watched the tube, read and graded Market Clearing Price worksheets today. The entire day was a constant downpour that only let up a little about 90 minutes ago. And it was a mean, "You thought Winter was gone, didn't you?!" kind of rain. Best part of the day was when my wife came downstairs for an hour and we drank a bottle of Cab together while listening to the rain and talking. We are total Cab fans, so speak up if you are into wine. Don't be jealous, but we live within 90 minutes of some of the best wine on the planet:)

By the way, if you are a history buff, check out EdWonks post on the arguement between using BC/AD or BCE/CE in relation to historical chronology. One side states that BC/AD should continue to be used because it relates to the common Christian calander that historians have been using for centuries. That, and it could be a sign that some schools are attempting political correctness. The other sides says that BCE/CE is more historically accurate and doesn't put the focus on a religious figure. Therefore, the use of the latter terms would be more acceptable to a diverse population of people.

As I state in the comments section of the post, I was taught the BCE/CE version by my Antiquities professor. I mention it to my World History students (I taught it for the last three years, not this year), then I don't mention it again. The way I look at it, Jesus is important enough in history to leave the BC/AD alone. I talk more about it in the comments section of the EdWonks post.

Enjoy!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Two things before I'm off to bed.......

1) If you are a teacher and haven't bookmarked Daryl Cagle's Cartoon Index, then their should be a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

2) .

I have no idea why I found this picture so damn funny. I'm just picturing a couple of Iranians at a nuclear power planet saying, "What hell do you mean West Virginia in the Sweet Sixteen?!?!? I've got Wake beating them in the second round!!

Spring Break!

Well, Spring Break is here.

You'd figure that I'd be super excited, but I'm just thankful that I have a little break. Looking for a house has become an extra job, what with the time looking and dealing with real estate agents. Tack on the mental stress and Spring Break is simply going from two jobs to one. We have an interesting plan that just came into the works. I can't explain it now, but it has potential to aliviate a lot of stress.
My plan for the break is to recover. Little odd jobs may abound, such as cleaning the apartment, grading papers, visiting friends and family. But this is truely the time to recover and plan for the final quarter of the year. I'll go through and plan the day-by-day activities for my classes, especially for the week of STAR Testing. During that week, I get one class of my Seniors for many hours during the days. Late May and ancy 12th graders is an interesting combination. So I'll plan more than anything else.
My wife will not be spending the Break with me. Her school district is in Willits, a little town about 30 minutes north of Ukiah on Hwy. 101. Their Spring Break two weeks down the road. The timing means that no vacations will be happening this year, not that any would happen anyway because of the house.
Reading back in this entry, I realize that my writing tonight sucks. It's short and choppy, kind of like my current attitude. To be honest, I feel like I need about 2-3 days of total shut down mode for my body/mind to start to relax. With the house stressing me out, that isn't likely to happen. It's Saturday at 9 p.m., and I'm dead tired. I think I'll try and read a fiction book right now. I'm into that Wheel of Time series at the moment. I'm about 3/4 through the first book. Took a little bit of time to read the charactors, but now its a keeper.

I added "What It's Like on the Inside" to my Fellow Bloggers list. She's a Science teacher in Washington that is currently writing a whole hell of a lot better than I am.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Officer Dave says "Move Along"

I'm irritated.

So I got to school today and went through my daily routine. I get to school about 90 minutes early every day because I spend the first 30-45 minutes reading the news. So, I boot up my computer, open the browser to my open page (Drudge Report)...........and Officer Dave comes up?????
For those of you that are unfamiliar with Officer Dave, he is the little man that pops up when you visit a site that has been deemed unacceptable by the school district. The Internet Filtering System is called Bess. It seems that someone at the district has labeled The Drudge Report as an illegal site and listing the reason as "Lingerie". Those of you that know the Drudge Report (click link at right) understand that it is a pretty great source for up to the minute news. So I started the calling around; the tech person, the library staff, the principal, various secretaries...all telling me that it goes through the tech person for the County of Mendocino. I called him at 7:30 this morning. No change and no response.
Hopefully this is a simple mistake. The library stated that the district is looking to deny access to MySpace.com, a personal blog site, and maybe there was a mix-up.

Well, they have one week to fix it, then I really get annoyed. This system has been a pain in the ass. Seniors that do stock portfolios can't access alcohol based web sites (Sierra Nevada, Molson-Coors, Anheuser-Busch) to acquire annual reports. It is getting tedious to deal with.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

For High School Basketball Coaches- Summer Tournaments

Here's the deal, I'm about as anti-AAU as it gets.

For those that are not in basketball, AAU is the Amateur Athletic Union. I really have no clue what it is like in other states. Here in California, it is a money making scheme that puts kids on for show and sucks the money out of wallets of unknowing parents. Basically it is an alternate tournament league where people show off. I was associated with AAU for two years in California. Fortunately, I was with a coach who brought a high school team together and simply had them join the AAU. Most teams are not run in this manner. Many are overhyped prima-donnas who have been told that they are the second coming and that scouts will be drooling over them. Some angry parent that resents the high school coach then creates an AAU team, sucks hundreds of dollars in fees from parents, and proceeds to teach their child no fundamentals about the sport of basketball. While this is occuring, the parent thinks that because he is an AAU coach, it is his right to storm up and down the sideline imitating Bobby Knight on crack. AAU is a royal screw job. That is why I'm here to show you a great alternative.
For those that are in California, I give you NorCalPreps.com. NorCalPreps is an excellent resource for coaches that are looking for high school team camps. These are basically summer tournaments that, for the most part, have no bracket play. What they do is a round robin style involving high school teams playing against each other. Most tournaments get in 5-9 games, depending on where you go. Now, NorCalPreps is all about Northern California hoops. It is best for those from Merced, across to Monterey, and up to the California/Oregon border. Team camps are usually cheaper, have better officiating (some are actually officals camps) and the coaching staffs are more concerned about development, not winning pointless summer games.
My link to the right is to the message board. It is free. I won't link the front page because I don't like the fact that they want money to view the headlines and all information about college bound athletes. I understand that they need money to survive, but I think their are alternatives to making coaches, students and teachers pay for it. So, use the message board. Yes, there is the occasional shit talker about "My high school rules, your's sucks". But there are many coaches that pay attention to this board and summer tournaments are already popping up. Also check it for games during the season. I've been very successful picking up games over the last three years.
Here is a list of summer tournaments for you Norcal Hoop People that I highly recommend:
Varsity
California State University-Chico
Sonoma State
University of San Francisco
Foothill High in Sacramento

J.V.
Sonoma State
Foothill High in Sacramento
Pleasant Valley High in Chico
Galena High in Reno

Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Plain Tired

Another bite on a home today, and another let down.

This time a collegue of mine knew a friend that was selling his house and was looking to not use an agent. I called the person up, only to find out that he felt loyal to his agent, and it was worth going through him since he would probably get a better offer in the marketplace. That makes 3 offers and three let downs. I know, 3 is nothing. The problem is that there is almost nothing on the market right now. Things come on and go in a couple of days, easy.

In other news, I have tons of seniors (some who are barely passing) who are going on short term independent study (gone for over 5 school days). They have decided to take an extra week for their spring break. Some of them are in the 60-70% range in grades. So, I'm currently writing up a nice letter reminding them that the work does not stop while they are gone and are still required to pass my class to graduate. I'll be super popular with parents on this one, but I'll also have my ass covered.

The Education Carnival.......it is your destiny!

It has been raining raining like crazy over here this week. So what better edutainment than to read excerpts from the Education Carnival!!

The Carnival is on the road this week, over at Jenny D's.

Check it out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Addition to the Blog Links.......and another reason why there are still problems at Bezerkley

Finally!

A compadre that teaches Economics! Check out History in Halstead where Mr. Warsnack teaches History and the admirable subject of Economics. He coaches hoops too! Cool! This means that we will be yacking at each other about Economics and boring the hell out of everyone else. And since he's from Kansas, we won't mention Bucknell :)

Click the blog link for his site.

Berkeley, along with Oakland, has a major problem. It really goes beyond the basic problem that all school districts in California are underfunded and are in the middle of a crisis. No, this problem stems from attitudes and naivete that are actually counter-productive to the academic progress of the students. Joanne Jacobs found an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the Berkeley Schools voting on changing the name of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School because he was a former slave owner.
Sigh.
Apparently, some are offended that one of the Founding Fathers is being recognized for attributes he doesn't deserve, since he owned slaves. You know, this is exactly the thing that time and money should not be wasted on. Instead of empowering the students with useful information, you toss in an agenda that is based on 2005 values and mores on a topic that was totally different in the 1700's. Is this the kind of teaching we are going for now? Agenda driven, non-offensive and politically correct?
Upon returning from a conference in Oakland last year, my colleges noticed that a group of Oakland school teachers (dressed in colorful traditional African clothes, complaining about the lack of African curriculum, demanding more focus on famous African-American figures) couldn't correctly identify 10 countries ON THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA!!!!! Style over substance, agenda over academics, a waste of freaking time.....call it what you want.
Since we are removing the names of people from schools because they are offensive, I would like to suggest the following, regardless of positive impact on our culture:
-George Washington (actually a lousy military general, family owned slaves, he's out)
-Abraham Lincoln (didn't duck in Ford's Theater, no dexterity, he's gone)
-Franklin Roosevelt (Put American citizens in camps, nuked a country, remove)
-JFK (Put us in nuclear jeopardy, let Bobby do most of the work, buh bye!)
-MLK (At one time advocated communism, must make him Stalinist, gonzo)
-Malcolm X (White devil? Offensive, gone.)
-Hiram Johnson (Progressive = socialist = Marxist = French?. Close enough)
-All schools named after their town (Too arrogant. Get rid of it.)
-All schools with the name Richard in it (FCC doesn't like "Dick", neither should schools).

You get the point. You can pick almost any person in history and critique them for doing something bad. You can do the same with any cultures. Try teaching please. Let the kids learn and figure it out themselves.

Tales from the Trenches at Ed Wonk

Ok, you simply must bookmark Education Wonks. Click the link on the right.

Not only does the site discuss important education issues, but EdWonk does an excellent job showing the lives of teachers who are blogging their lifestyles. The recent edition shows the trials and tribulations of teachers around the country.

Click it---------------> "Tales of the Trenches"

Here's another interesting statistic from my Intro Economics classes. I timelined the Terry Shiavo case, had them watch the news about it and had them quickwrite an opinion on the case. Out of 88 students from 3 classes: 84 students believe the feeding tube should be pulled. 4 students stated that it was murder. What I was most proud about was that a few students referenced that "one Supreme Court case in which it must be written down or stated by a lawyer" (the case was Cruzan vs. Missouri Department of Health). A couple students stated that it was ok to pull the tube if Mike Shiavo had the required information.
Brings a smile to my face.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Dumbest Bastards on the Planet......Part II

Earlier this month, I posted this article regarding Mendocino County trying to certify marijuana as organic. The State of California denied the request. Imagine that. However, the county still allows marijuana to be grown all over the place, including most of the backyards here in Ukiah.
Now comes the creme-de-la-creme of pro-legalization arguements, taxation of the product. Mendocino County, as stated in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, wants to start regulating and taxing pot clubs. The problem (duh)is how you actually regulate a product that is illegal. If the county supervisors pass the law, they risk losing state and federal funding. On top of that, what is to prevent pot consumers to simple stop using pot clubs and going back to personal plants or illegal transactions?
This whole situation is so bad for our school. Marijuana is a massive problem in our school and the community is doing nothing but supporting the pot growers. The county getting involved to support it only strengthens the arguement for students to use it. Top that with the illusion that governments can benefit from this illegal crop and you have a situation were the school is the only bastion of common sense left in the town.
I'll update this subject as much as I can, since this is only just starting to become an issue in other states. As for Mendocino County, marijuana is legal here folks. The only place where it is forbidden is on campus, and we are fighting a losing battle.

Should we move......I need opinions

My wife and I crunched numbers this weekend, and we are now faced with this problem.

Is California too expensive to live in? Where I live, a 2 bd/1 bath 1,000 square foot house came on the market last night. No a/c, wall heater, tiny lot on a busy road. The price..........329,000. Yes, I am serious. In this small town, where both my wife and I teach, we can't afford to live the American dream and own a home. So we have to make a choice. Stay here and struggle, or move to a town like Pocatello, Idaho and have the ability to live. The solution seems simple enough. But the problem is that both my wife and I love where we work. We love our colleagues, our administration, the weather, the location and the departments we work. I'm in an environment within my school that is totally conducive to teaching. Do I risk leaving that? This is the choice that my wife and I are facing. We really don't want to leave, but we may be forced to.

Otherwise, the weekend was uneventful. A nice thunderstorm hit us on Sunday morning, about 12:30 a.m. I love thunderstorms. There is something about the sound and fury that make them almost mystical.

I'm getting ready for a tough week. It is the week before Spring Break, a clear signal to kids to start getting rowdy. One thing I'll focus on is the Terry Shiavo case. It has turned into a massive political debate that goes beyond "right to die" into State's Rights and Separation of Powers. Fun, Fun, Fun!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Let it Rain

I must say, Winter is my favorite time of year. Fortunately, it rained most of today and it felt like a winter day. With the NCAA Tournament on television, Saturday seemed like the near perfect experience. My wife went to school and did our 6 week Costco/Target/Trader Joe's trip. I sat and watched the excellent tourney, while still fuming about the CTA raising its dues. However, I'm moving on to other issues that I feel need to be opened on this Saturday night.

-Well, I'm glad that somebody is actually addressing this. According to the AFP, Texas is looking to ban "sexually oriented" cheerleading routines, and make them more "family friendly". Being a former athlete, and now a coach, I'm all for this law. If you haven't noticed, the routines are borderline "freakin" and the outfits are made to be sexually attractive. Of course, actually regulating this law could prove to be interesting. Will you have families at the game call up the police and charge the cheerleading squad with indecency? Who gets the ticket? The squad? The coach? The school? I have a better idea. Let's leave the indecency to responsible administrators, and focus on making legislation that bans cheerleading routines that suck. I think good squads enhance the sports experiance for athletic fans, but bad ones make your hair hurt. Read the article here.

-I was estatic when Syracuse lost during the tourney. I'm in a Yahoo Tourney Pick-em with some of my students and basketball players. One of my ex-players picked Syracuse to go all the way. He mentioned that he tore through his house in a rage. I celebrated as the veteren, experianced teacher that was preparing for a dominating Final Four win!
Then Wake Forest lost to West Virginia. Sigh. Think my wife would mind me tearing through my house?

-So while I was listening to Imus in the Morning, both Boston Herald columnist Mike Barnacle and "Meet the Press'" Tim Russert stated that Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and John Edwards are all planning to run for the Democratic ticket in 2008. That's nice. For a laymans translation, it means that the White House occupant will be a Republican until at least 2012. In fact, Hillary might want to concentrate on winning the 2006 New York Senate race. It is far from a guarantee.

Ok, more hoops tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Jesus, what a Friday.

So besides the idiot CTA, what else happened today?

-Actually, my Intro classes were great! After the news (and explaining the Ireland/Northern Ireland thing) we started into a Buck Institute simulation called "Running in Place". Now, if you don't know the Buck Institute, and you teach Government or Economics, you must click the link on the right. This non-profit organization specializes in Problem Based Learning modules that are aligned with California State Standards, and more importantly, are very engaging. It was a total success. Plus, you can download the lessons FOR FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!! DO IT NOW!!!!

-My Econ classes were in full seniorites. This was the day relegated to working on Economics Expo (see earlier on for an explanation). Instead, I got a lot of this: "Mr. Brown, I don't wanna be here." "Mr. Brown, I have a headache." "Mr. Brown, can I call my mom so I can go home." "Mr. Brown, will you chaperone the Senior Trip" (um, no), "Mr. Brown, do we havvvvvvvvveeeee to do this" Those with seniors will understand this behavior. In the end, they did work and accomplish a bit.

-The bad news was that weird things (in a bad form) happened this week that are catching up. Two students died this week (one from possible sleep apnia, one from cancer, neither were mine), one student was calling cell phones during classes talking about suicide (again, not mine), and a nice-as-hell student was caught snorting blow in a bathroom (this one happened to be one of mine). It is very interesting being a teacher, because even though these students actions are basically outside of my realm (being the classroom), I still give a major shit. Sometimes it seems like I give a bigger shit than most parents. Anyone, the problems put a damper on the day and made the school attitude a little melancholy.

The other interesting news of the day is that the Public Speaking job is going to open up next year. My name has been seriously bantered around, by the administration (who asked me) and by the current teacher (who hasn't asked me). I would love to do it. I have a booming voice and I loved my Public Speaking in high school and college.

Anyway, the weekend is here. My wife will be at Sonoma State tomorrow, slaving away in Special Ed credential classes. Me? I'll be slaving away in front of the television watching the NCAA Tournament! That is, when the house is nice and pretty for my wife to return to. Those that are married will understand:)

Wow, let the discussion roll

If you have any interest at all in California Teachers Union politics and where your money is going, you MUST check out Education Wonks post. There is excellent point/counter point discussion going on regarding a very hot issue.

Check out the comments too. Passionate educators are arguing for you!

On this morning, our "Allies" look to drag us down.

So every morning before I get ready to teach I glance at the Bloglines of about 10 different blogs to see what the story is for the day. Today one of my favorites, Education Wonk (See my link on the side), nailed this article about the California Teachers Association raising our union fees by $180 per member over three years. Those of you that are out of California don't understand that we have no choice, we have to pay three different unions (Federal, State, Local), and those unions are supposed to represent us.
Now those blood sucking weasels from the CTA are demanding, demanding mind you, that we pay more?!??!?!?
My recommendation is that the CTA becomes a dues optional organization that will get more funding when teachers feel properly represented. I have no problem with a local "dues mandatory" organizations where people are actually democratically elected. I know that I'll get the "you're anti-union" response. No, I'm anti any organization where I have no say and they act like they really represent me. Jesus, I know more about what is going on in Sacramento than my local CTA rep. She comes to local meetings and stirs up hysteria about things she doesn't understand.
There must be a grivance procedure against this union. There has to be some method to get proper leadership at the state level.
Barbara Kerr, you are making my wife and I suffer!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A word from our sponsers......while the kiddies are testing....

March 15 has come and gone.

And I'll be teaching for my 5th year at Ukiah High School.

:)

Senior realizations....

It is at about this time that seniors in my classes come to the realization that their senior year is not going to be a walk. Yesterday was a review for the Supply/Demand test that they will take today. Some were excited that they were picking it up, but others were really angry at the fact that the work is hard and they needed to study. The senior year at Ukiah comes with a sense of entitlement that they deserve days off and less work. Surprise, it doesn't work that way.

I'm also getting the enormous amount of complaining that I have a test on the Friday before Spring Break. Since we are trying to emulate responsibility, I have decided not to budge on this one. I've already had parent complaints that I give too much work to students that go off on vacations during school days. What can I say? Well, actually I can say that we need a "No Child Left Behind At Home" law that actually puts parents partially responsible for their child's education. Like we can do anything if parents feel it is ok to pull a child, who is barely passing, to Cancun for 10 days at the end of May.

Anyway, I'll connect later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Guess who's back........The Education Carnival

Once again Education Wonk presents the trials and triublations of teaching around the world in the Education Carnival. Be shocked, be amused, be happy, but most of all realize that we are all in this together.

BTW, those of you collge basketball freaks, sound off on the Final Four picks. Since I'm only averaging about 4 readers a day (how to promote this thing), but maybe it will pick up.

My Final Four: Wake Forest, Arizona, Duke, North Carolina. North Carolina over Arizona in the Finals.

Class upcoming. Happy Wednesday to you!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ukiah Coaches Association

Along with teaching the little boys and girls at Ukiah High School, I'm also a coach. The coaches at our school formed the Ukiah Coaches Association in order to build a foundation at which the coaching staffs from all sports can have a unified message of competitiveness, academics and class. I happen to be the vice-president of the association. Essentially, that means nothing. Nice title I can put on the resume.

One of the topics broached at the meeting was our school's problem with getting the atheletes into strength training. At our school, the class is called BFS (Bigger, Faster, Stronger). It is offered twice a day. The problem is that out of the 350 Fall and Winter athletes at the school, only 37 take BFS. Ouch. So how do you promote the weight program? The obvious approach is that you bully students into taking the class. "If you truely want to play next year, take BFS." The problem is, that won't work because currently the athletic teams at our school are not a "big deal". Bascially, it is nothing special if you are varsity athlete. So, what to do? We agreed to promote it, that's about.

The real problem lies in the fact that the school allows students to go home if they are all caught up in units and core classes. I have tons of seniors that only have two early classes in the morning, then go home for 4 hours before practice. You are going to have a tough time convincing students to come back to school for weight training, especially with the conditions (the room is a small portable) and the equipment (which is minimal).

Any ideas? God knows we went through them all last night.

On the house front, the 1st house we offered on countered with an awful proposal. Basically they will only go down three thousand, and refuse to fix an Section 1 structural problems found during inspection. Sure, I'll pay 350 for a house, and not have it be in working condition. Basically, they are idiots.

But behold, late last night a house we wanted earlier fell out of escrow and off we go again, making an offer tomorrow morning. May luck be with us.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Ups and Downs

So on Sunday night, I went from one extreme to another.

First I read the recent articles in the Sacramento Bee that stated that the Democratic legislature here in California is about ready to "bargain" with the Governator. The deal would be that pension change would be gradual (instead of immediate) and merit pay would be taken off the table in exchange for making tenure for teachers a five year process. My take is that the bargain is a joke. For the lack of pay that I recieve, I depend on the security of my retirement. Without it, this job becomes a lesson in cost/benefit analysis. And 5 year tenure? Your going to make a young teacher wait five years to get any security in this job? Why the hell would anyone want a job like this??? No pay, no security, threatened retirement, no respect.

Then I went over and read Polski's blog reminding the teachers that good things are going on, most of them are in the classroom. In fact, the positive outweighs the negative in the classroom by a lot. The problem is a matter of respect in our jobs. We are not treated, paid, imaged or representated like professionals. Sometimes I just have to get over that and realize that the students matter more than my own future.

At least for the time being....

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Campus Supervisor is a dangerous job.

I'll preface this story by saying that I really like my administration. In fact, I don't know if I could have thrived in my environment if my administration hadn't been so supportive.
But if there is one thing that our administration is sorely lacking, it is consistant discipline for students that do not belong at the school. Take a look the article in last weeks Ukiah Daily Journal regarding the dangerous job of campus supervising. The one guy, Todd, that is making a big beef with the Board has a vaild point. He's a terrific guy, that simply wants the school to be safe. However, like teachers, supervisors are feeling like "why discipline students if there is no follow through".
Read the article, then give me suggestions on how to deal with it. I'm considering going to my union and asking for there support to push the Board to be a lot tougher on suspended and expelled students, especially those that are gang affiliated.
Oh, and I have some of those students mentioned in the article in class.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Your average Friday...

As a warm 75 degree night time falls in Ukiah, I reflect on the days events.

For my Intro classes, the Wal-Mart video worked pretty well. Most students were engaged because the topic was familiar. Wal-Mart is here in town and in most towns that people visit. The system of "opening price points" grabbed the kids when they found out (surprise) not everything is sold for the cheapest price at Wal-Mart. They were even more interested in the China exports and how labor works in China. Out of 75 total Intro students, I only had to warn 3 not to nod off. In my book, with that population, on a Friday, I call it a success.

Economics class was the beginning of the usual challenge of using the computer lab. The deal is that my 70 Economics students get into groups of four and create a business model for the end of the year. Included are Supply/Demand information, real life interviews, costs, marketing, financing, labor relations, you name it and I try to accomplish it, right down to an employee Manuel. So I allow my seniors, every Friday, to use the computer lab to work within their groups and create this business model. Every year, a few idiots use the computers for something other than what it was intended for. This time it was Internet whiffleball, looking at car kits on eBay, and Fantasy Baseball. It was four total students and my warning was simple. One more transgression and you get to do Economics Expo (the name of the project) as a totally outside project, like a college research paper. One thing that is nice about my classes is that most students know that I'm fair, but will follow through with my warnings.
That is the main thing I've been learning over the last four years. To pick and choose my battles while remaining fair, yet firm. I let the students know what my boundaries are, warn them, then follow through. Are there times I adjust the rules? Of course. I hear about teachers that complain that adjusting the rules for students is unfair to the class as a whole. Well, there is a difference between placating and adjusting. Your class is not a group of robots, but students with different attitudes and needs. Some get more leniency than others.
Believe it or not, the students will let me know when boundaries have been crossed. It's nice to be able to rely on them to do that.
Otherwise, I'm back in my very warm apartment with shitty air conditioning. Seriously, my apartment sucks. Hence the home hunt. I just got done watching the Kings' Mike Bibby hit a shot to win it. Pretty soon, after some blog reading, off to bed. Actually, I might wait until it cools down.

It's not looking good.

So a small update of the last two days.

Classes A,B,E: We worked on textbook vocabulary and started a video "Is Wal-Mart Good For America?" I know, I know. There are teachers that refuse to use videos in the classroom. I think being that close minded ends up being counter productive if you have the correct materials. I show small clips in Government. In Economics, I show a little more. This video is from the series Frontline (check out my links section)and is very watchable. Plus, students really do want to understand why Wal-Mart is so huge and successful. As for the text vocabulary, if you know Economics, you know that its like a foreign language.

Classes C,D: Currently studying Supply and Demand. The work is tedious and the students are starting to get "Spring Fever".

But outside of school the news is not very good. We got a message from our realtor saying that the Sellers are sticklers to there price. They are asking 359, we are offering 345, plus they pay closing. So now we wait, which is the hardest part.

Tuesday, Thursday Open Gym has grabbed about 15-20 per session. The basketball is not very good lately. No defense.

Weekend Approaching!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

It beats the hell out of some of that crap you get in the credential program.....The Education Carnival!

New or experienced, young or old, the Education Carnival might be one of the most interesting, and necessary resources on the Internet. Being a teacher in this day and age makes you very pessimistic. The Carnival makes you realize that others out there are fighting the good fight with the same passion and problems that you are facing.

Give it a look.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Failure

Tis a sad day in Sonoma County.

With a hope to increase revenue for schools, 10 cities placed parcel taxes on the ballot for the spring election, held yesterday.

All ten failed to get the 2/3 vote needed to pass.

Unless the budget outlook improves, Sonoma schools are looking to lay-off teachers, eliminate music, and dump sports programs.

Read the news here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Wow, I'm tired

It wasn't the teaching today that got me, it was the rest of life.

All five classes went relatively smooth today. One exception was when a student took a book from my bookshelf for silent reading, read it, then casually threw it at the bookshelf. I lit into him pretty hard and some of my students were shocked. I don't feel the least bit unjustified in my response. Most teachers would have written him up for some damn thing or another. I was irritated with him being disrespectful. I let him know and then moved on.

But the fact that my wife and I are looking into a house is just a pain in the ass. We might have found one. The street is a little run down. The house if 3/2, massive kitchen with an island, central heat/air and a spa. 1,600 square feet. Keep in mind that the street is pretty run down. Here's the game........name what you think is the asking price for this home. Go for it. Remember, I'm in Ukiah and the street is fairly run down.

Good luck!

Another unfortunate job as a teacher/coach....

I have one of the hardest jobs in our high school's athletic department. As freshman boys basketball coach, I have the most kids trying out (30-40 a year) for only 14 positions. Locally, there are four middle schools that students come from that are have 8th grade basketball programs. Cutting 25 kids is a very difficult job.

In this story in the Sacramento Bee, those of you who don't coach get to see the hardest part of our job.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Be A Man

Check out this essay from the Newshour contributor and Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page. I showed this piece to my students and we had a thoughtful conversation about men and women in academics and the workplace. My students thoughts?

Female perspective= Men are lazy, aggressive and want things now. Men are more focused on being macho and gaining popularity.

Male perspective= Damn right we are lazy. If women want power, so be it. Means we get to stay home and watch television.

My perspective= God, are we in trouble.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Another reason that Mendocino County is ran by the dumbest bastards on the planet.

From the Associated Press:

Authorities Won't Let Mendocino County Designate Pot As Organic Crop

POSTED: 12:42 pm PST March 3, 2005

UKIAH, Calif. -- State officials have told Mendocino County agriculture administrators they can't certify medical marijuana as organic.

However, another state agency said it's probably OK for the county to advise medical marijuana growers about pesticide use.

Mendocino County Agricultural Commissioner Dave Bengston asked state regulators if his office could certify the crop and regulate it to protect consumers from dangerous pesticides.

"This department and you as our agent do not certify, register, etc., illegal activities. Either growing or sale of marijuana violates federal law (even the growth of one marijuana plant) and that is a federal issue not one within the purview of this department or you," John Dyer, chief counsel to the state Agriculture Department, wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to the county.

California voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 1996. However, federal authorities maintain all uses of the drug are illegal and application of California's law has been uneven

The state Department of Pesticide Regulation, also contacted by Mendocino County, said it was probably legal for the office to advise individual medical pot growers on pesticide use.

The department urged county officials not to advise cannabis clubs, which sell medical marijuana.

Tony Linegar, the county's assistant agricultural commissioner, said state regulators confirmed there are no pesticides that can be legally used on marijuana
.

Our school has a rampent drug problem. Wanna take a guess why?

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

So Sundays around here look like this.....

Phase One: Cook like crazy. My wife wakes up about at 6:30, I wake up about 8. We then go on a massive cooking spree until about Noon. What we have learned is that fixing lunches early makes for an easier week. No fuss, no muss. The menu varies, but I usually stick with chicken because I'm counting carbs.

Phase Two: Relax and grade. I don't understand how teachers can possibly grade in silence. While I graded this afternoon I watched:
-Thurdays "Imus in the Morning"
-The Indy Racing League Homestead 300
-Kings vs. Pistons

I just get into a better grading flow with something going on in the background.

So today the grading consisted of very tedious worksheets on changes in Demand, and grading essays on competition. This was a little sad because 85% of the essays sucked. The assignment was simple:

-Read "Competitions Quiet Victory" by Newsweek columnist Robert Samuelson (2/7/05, ask me for a copy, excellent)
-1-2 page essay
-Summerize, advantage/disadvantage and opinion.
-Given during Snow Week break.

I don't know what was worse; the fact that only 5 students (out of 70) made two pages, the fact that only half did more than 1/2 page, or that only 2 papers would be accepted at the college level. This being a college prep class, my students will not be happy tomorrow at grades.

Ok, bring on the week. On the agenda: looking for houses, Winter Awards Night, Progress Reports, and the time honored tradition of the parents starting to call me wondering why their A+ kid is barely passing Economics.

Long Live Senioritis!!!

Ok, everyone else is doing it..........

Thanks to whoever started this damn thing to make me feel pathetic...

Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C /

Go HERE to have a form generate the HTML for you.


Yea, but I've been to Germany!!!!!!!!! Who needs Wyoming anyway!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

School funding......

I've already gained therapy from having this blog, discussing frustrations with other teachers about various issues.

Here is an article written for the local paper by our principal. Unlike most of what I hear, this guy has been one of the best things ever to happen to me. The man has been terrific with beginning teacher support, positive instruction and thoughtful criticism. He's retireing this year and will be sorely missed.

Principal speaks on school funding;


By PHIL GARY/Principal, Ukiah High

A few weeks ago I wrote about the funding for schools and received a number of calls and comments from readers. As I talked to the, I began to think about the funding I received the first year I was the principal of Ukiah High School.

In 1987, Ukiah High School received $65 per student for student materials, office equipment, library books and classroom supplies. We also received $50,000 to support the fine arts programs, primarily band travel and instruments and theater production. In addition, the district covered most athletic costs including coaching salaries, transportation, and safety equipment. Athletic Boosters paid for uniforms and awards.

After briefly rising to $75 per student in the early 1990s, the district support for classrooms and offices was reduced again to $65 where it rests today. In addition the $50,000 for the fine arts programs has become zero and the district picks up only part of the costs for athletic coaching and transportation. To make matters worse, the coaching salaries have been reduced over the past 18 years by approximately 33%.

The Consumer Price Index conversion tables show that it would take $1.64 today to purchase what one-dollar would purchase in 1987. To have exactly the same purchasing power, the $65 allocation in 1987 would be $106.60 today. Since it has remained at the $65 level, its purchasing power is the equivalent of $40 in 1987.

When I looked up the changes in teachers' salaries since 1987, I found that a teacher with 15 years experience who remained in Ukiah had a salary increase of 59 percent during that time. When compared to the Consumer Price Index, his purchasing power today is just under what it was in 1987.

To place these numbers in perspective, I looked up the cost of common consumer goods in the past 18 years. In 1987 a loaf of bread cost $.55 and a gallon of milk cost $2.07. Today those items average $2.99 and $3.69, increases of 504 percent and 178 percent. Eggs, $.78 a dozen in 1987, are $2.19 today, a 280% increase. Stamps were $.22 and gasoline was $.95. I did not look at the cost of medical care or drugs, but their increases must far exceed even the rise in bread.

In summary: a salary with slightly less buying power, coaching salaries reduced by 33 percent, a materials and supplies budget with a 40 percent decrease in purchasing power, and no money for fine arts programs. This describes a level of support for education for which every Californian should embarrassed.

So I'm back............

I totally missed this blog when things got crazy at school. Then I realized that other teachers, which were friends of mine, reminded me of blog therapy. Actually, that and reading the Wonkette. If you are really into politics with a dirty, dirty, DIRTY sense of humor, visit the webmistress that is Ann Marie Cox. But have an open mind and realize that this blog is for teachers or would be teachers.........and that I teach Political Science and Economics. The mix can be dangerous.

Anyway, I am now a representative to the Ukiah High School Teachers Association. Basically I represent the high school to a union that focuses on the elementary schools in town. My job is to represnet the interest of the high school. By the way, what is Ukiah High like you might ask?

Ukiah is located about 2 hours north of San Francisco on Hwy. 101. The town's population is about 15,000, however if you included the surrounding valley, the total is closer to 30,000. The high school is large. 1,900 students. For this area, thats very large. The next high school of similar size is in Santa Rosa, about an hour away. We are a campus that is about 67% white, 25% latino and some Native American mixed in for good measure. Average class size is about 27 students. I teach two classes with 35, the rest are a little lower. About 40% of our students are free/reduced lunch.

The county, like the town, is interesting. There is very little middle class, either you are worth a lot or nothing at all in this town. Housing and other costs are driving people away from the town, but nobody is coming in. Hell, my wife and I are both teachers and we can't afford the crazy housing prices in Ukiah.

Anyway, a lot happened this week. I'll list quick, then I'm off to check some other teacher blogs.
-Started Open Gym. This means that twice a week I open the gym from 4-6 p.m. for students (and myself) to play basketball. Good showing, around 17 first day, 30 the next.
-Went to the UTA (union) meeting. Want to really be involved in school politics, get a union rep. I made my first motion also. I asked that all minutes and agenda be set to all the reps. Can you believe that it wasn't being done before? Anyway, my other high school rep collegues said they were happy to have someone there that will step to the front.
-Looking for a house. God it sucks.
-Check this out. More and more students are getting disciplined by the teachers, but the powers that be will not follow the instructional system of discipline, therefore screwing teachers. Then, the principal (a super principal by the way) announces in the faculty meeting that teachers need to do more discipline because students are feeling harrassed. Go figure.

Weekend of grading. Looking at a house in the countryside this weekend. Wish me luck.

If I don't update this thing, e-mail my ass!