Saturday, October 29, 2005

CASET Conference at the Federal Reserve, San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Economics Conference in San Francisco

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

By the way, go hit up Education Wonks

The Carnival of Education is up over at Ed Wonks.

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

My simple advice to you as educational bloggers is this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2005

I like blogging, but I live to teach.

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Weekend to recoup

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

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

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

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

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

Here's to a great week!

Friday, October 21, 2005

It's Friday! How about a mish-mash of news!

-The International Relations class is getting resistance from certain elements of the school that are concerned that I'll draw students away from their class. Here's what I need; I need every single piece of information possible about high school International Relations classes. Textbooks, resources, A-G compliance sheets, and anything that I can use to fend off the argument that I might take away from other classes. Let's make this class a reality!

-I had a half dozen ex-students come to my classroom this week. All were from last years great group of kids. I have to admit, I really do miss them. For the first time, there are students that I expect to see in the hallways......that aren't there. But the visits were very nice. One students remembered that I was a Star Wars fan and brought me a Mr. Potato Head "Darth Tater". It was great! It now sits on my stereo speaker for all to see!

-Guess who I saw in the main office today. I'll give you a hint. I turned the corner, and there was "the person". No words were exchanged, but as I passed "the person" smiled, snickered, and then giggled as I walked by. Yes, giggled. It was beautiful! The slight apprehension I had about this incident was gone after that moment. What a waste of energy.

-Vote Yes on Measure U!!!! Thank God that some reports of the Ukiah Daily Journal have some respect for reporting "the news" and supporting kids education. The town has a huge opportunity to create a top notch educational institution it can be proud of. Read the Measure in the Ukiah Daily Journal. Seriously, if you vote NO, you are voting in the same camp as UDJ Editor K.C. Meadows, who has continuously shown that she has a massive grudge against public education, and would rather put city money into growing "communal marijuana gardens".

-This weekend will be about raking leaves, grading papers that are behind (turned in late gets graded late), and relaxing a little. This is the first weekend in a long time that we get to be home, finally. We'll enjoy it for the time being, because the holidays are approaching. You know what that means. On the road again.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I am gonna kill Bill.........after I read the Education Carnival!

When people ask me about the last great movie I saw, I say that it was Kill Bill, Volume 2. Those people frown in puzzlement when I give this answer, as they often think that the Kill Bill series is simply Quentin Tarantino being an obnoxious child, using massive amounts of blood in Volume One, and useless banter in Volume Two.
Hardly.
If anything, this is Tarantino paying homage to westerns, kung-fu flicks and gangster thrillers in a method that the massively entertaining, and in Volume 2, full of outstanding dialogue. The best scene of the year could be David Carradine (Bill) and Uma Thurman (The Bride) in Bill's home discussing the ethics of Superman. The build up of tension that leads to the scene is exquisite, the acting is top notch, and the result is an excellent ending.
It is a brutal movie in some scenes, but the action is less random and comical than Volume One, and the quest makes you root much more for The Bride.

But before you grab that Black Mamba, go visit the Education Carnival!

Why my freshmen are better than NBA players.

One of the things that struck me most in my high school Sociology class during my Junior year was the impact that perception had on people. A person that dressed in a matter that showed pride and dignity would have the respect of their peers, strangers, and in basketball, opponents. Since my sophomore year in high school, I had to wear a collared shirt, a tie, and slacks. For the first two years, I thought it was the most miserable and idiotic thing on the planet. In fact, during my Junior year, I was so pissed that my coach pulled me out of the game (for reasons I can't remember), that I got on the bus, loosened my tie, and pulled my UNLV Runnin Rebels hat out of my bag and placed it atop my head. My coach's look is still ingrained in my brain, one of a half-second of irritation, then that dead look that makes you realize that you are in serious trouble. In the end, I apologized, and he said, "I know that wasn't your style, and I don't hold grudges. But never do that again." By my Senior year, I realized that teams looked at us with total seriousness when we were dressed nice and arriving at their gym. We looked like we knew what we were doing, then we played like we knew what we were doing.

I still believe that to be true today. I enforce a strict dress code with my team; slacks (no jeans), shirt and tie, no hats, no sagging. Players are always irritated at this age, as they seem to think that other schools don't think they are "hard" for dressing so formally. In actuality, other teams notice our entrance, and immediately know that there will be a serious game tonight. There is already an advantage to us, and the game is 45 minutes away. On top of that, other coaches, parents (from both teams), officials, and media have noticed that the teams looks and plays like a real basketball team. Finally, there is the issue of being one of the best basketball players in the school (at the Frosh level, one of the best freshmen), and dressing like you have pride in the program. A dress code is an essential step in creating a professional and competitive program. I firmly believe that.

Which brings us to the NBA, and the idiots that are playing in the league. Recently, league commissioner David Stern instituted a dress code for all members of the team that are conducting team business; ie sitting on the bench or on the injured list on the sideline. You would figure that the players, knowing full well that the world and kids are watching, would embrace this logical step in helping the league. A league, by the way, that is losing core viewers year after year.

Enter Stephen Jackson. You know, one of the idiots that ran into the stands to thump on spectators during the Indiana/Detroit basketball game. According to this Indiana Pacer, the dress code is racially motivated. Apparently, Jackson thinks that the league is too afraid to become too hip-hop. "When I saw the part about chains, hip hop and throwback jerseys, I think that's part of our culture.." Really? Is part of your culture running into the stands and assaulting spectators as well?

But the creme de la creme came from Allen Iverson, who makes a cool $15 million a year.

"I feel like if they want us to dress a certain way, they should pay for our clothes," he said. "It's just tough, man, knowing that all of a sudden you have to have a dress code out of nowhere. I don't think that's still going to help the image of the league at all."

Oh yeah, and a multi-millionaire asking for a dress stipend gives the league a GREAT image. Mix a little Tim Duncan in, who threatened to not leave the dressing room if he wasn't playing on game night, and you have the problem with the league. They aren't professional enough. Unlike my players, some NBA players need to mix in a little dignity.

By the way, not all the players disagree with the NBA dress code. Grant Hill has no problem with it. You know, Grant Hill from Duke. You know Duke don't you? Where they dress for every game in a shirt and tie, where their coach runs a professional team, and where the team has won a half dozen NCAA championships in the last two decades.

Thanks to A.P. and ESPN.com for the quotes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My last post.................................about this subject.

So everyone now knows about my blog, including fellow teachers, administrators, and other interested parties. As mentioned last night, the content of this blog was questioned by a party who was not a student or staff at my workplace. Instead of commenting about that subject, let me talk about the great experiences I've had while blogging. This is courtesy of a colleague that helped remind me that reflection is one of the most important things that a teacher can do.

-I've come to realize that I am not alone in being a "new" teacher, and the trials that I've been through are far from unusual. Knowing that others have faced the problems, and reading about it on a consistent basis, has made me change my own attitudes about students and education in general. It makes me realize that this job is harder than I thought, more intense than I realized, and more gratifying that any other job on the planet. The simple fact that I reflect on my teaching has made me a better teacher.

-I have a incredible respect for the staff and administration that I work with. The horror stories that come out of new teacher experiences make me pity their valiant efforts in education. Most don't have what I have, a staff that is up front, honest, and extremely hard working. I had the fortune to have a mentor administrator that would give me the criticism that was required, but understood that teaching is an art that will forever take time to perfect. I have the fortune to work with colleagues that are interested in creating good teachers, and making lunch time conversations intelligent and entertaining. I am fortunate to work at my school.

-I have collaborated with others around the country about educational technology, from Wiki's to podcasts, from blogging to filters, from websites to syndication feeds. I've been exposed to information that will benefit the myself, the students and the school. The future of education is here, on the blogs, and the success stories about educational technology are everywhere.

-I've talked about classroom management from every angle, from every age of teacher, from every grade level.....about nearly every situation that a teacher could face. I've adjusted my own philosophy to benefit student achievement and academic production. Last year was my best ever as an educator, and this year will be better.

-I've become more involved in the business and politics of education than ever before. I'm more informed than most in our union about the political status of candidates, initiatives, and educational politics. I've become more interested in Supreme Court cases, local government interaction, and the positive/negative impact of the Union System. I've kept the teachers informed and interested.

-I've met teachers that are people. People "out there" don't understand that teaching is all-inclusive, that it expands massive amounts of energy. While I'm discussing my trials of dealing with finding a home, a teacher in the Texas deals with boyfriends and sports, while another in New York deals with the 90 minute subway commute, while another in Kansas deals with family vacations, and still another in Florida simply wants to be a good father, and finally the new mother in the Bay Area that has a new priority. Hey look, we have other lives.

-I've created interest about topics that should be talked about. Comments about subjects have been thought provoking and intelligent. I've had people use information from this blog in news paper articles, Master's Thesis', and other blogs. One student from Bella Vista High School (page 10) in Sacramento used my post about MySpace in a school newspaper. My posts about Multicultural Credential Courses became a hot item in dozens of other blogs.

-Finally, this blog is my forum to discuss my opinions, something that I absolutely refuse to do in my classroom. The party that is attacking me about this blog stated that students have been reading it since Spring 2005, yet not a single student has approached me about it, and students still remain frustrated with the fact that they can't determine which way I lean politically. Out of the over 7000 visitors to this blog, my site statistics show that less than 2% have come from Mendocino County, less than 1% from Ukiah. I've had more students from schools outside of California visit my site than students from my school. And even if the students did find my blog, there are no names or indications of students or staff, the site is in no way associated with the school, and this blog is would become the perfect example of important government issues; the protection of the 1st Amendment, China's attack on political thought, the rights of government workers vs. private workers, the difference for student's rights on and off campus, the role of blogging in the media and society, the issues regarding Internet privacy, censorship, and finally, the realization of the importance of the American educator to the social fabric of the United States. Once again, that would be IF a student found this blog, which has yet to be the case.

I like blogging, and it is good for me and other teachers. It is the ultimate collaboration between colleagues, and I love the fact that good teaching is good teaching, whether it be in Tampa, Florida.....Halstead, Kansas.....New York, New York......Los Gatos, California.......Sacramento, California.........Seattle, Washington........Imperial Valley, California.......Washington D.C...........Denver, Colorado.........Richmond, Virginia............London, England..............Singapore.............or Ukiah, California.

Now, back to work.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Welcome! Thanks for the perfect teaching moment!

I'd like to welcome all those interested parties that are now interested in my blog.
I won't get into specifics, except to say that my blog is now an issue. Want to know the kicker? It isn't an issue with any students or staff at the school. Seems like someone doesn't like the politics or language of my experiences as a teacher in the American public school system. Upon reflection of my past blog entries, I've decided that I'm not about to stop blogging about those experiences either. I've gained an enormous amount of knowledge into classroom management, curriculum, technology, and educational politics while writing on this thing, and I'm not about to give it up because some people have way to much time on their hands. About three weeks ago, someone was having a Googlefest on my name, and probably came across my blog. Then I found out that they continued to visit it in the recent weeks. Little did I know it wasn't the little freshmen that I thought it was.

Here's the perfect time for a teacher moment. First of all, when you teach American Government, you are bound to make some student angry eventually because they are so partisan that they can't see straight. I pride myself on being as neutral as possible, even in my blog. As you can see, I make it a regular practice to nail any and every political party to the wall. However, someone that thinks that Rush Limbaugh or Amy Goodman spread the Gospel will not like the idea that the world was once a lot more non-partisan. Stay as neutral as possible, unless the issue is murder. For instance, you should stay neutral on the death penalty, but you should always condemn Hitler's genocide. There is a difference. If you can't see one, you shouldn't be teaching.
Second teacher moment is to control problems before they get out of hand. Personally, I see this as a nothing incident. However, I am blessed enough to have an excellent group of colleagues who gave me a heads up that someone had it out for my blog. From there I called the appropriate people and let them know that it was a problem with someone. I've made it a practice to call people ahead of time to give them a heads up regarding problems, mostly guidance staff and administrators. First, it prepares them for the problem. In most cases, a small problem can be kept small if those in the know understand what is going on. In my experience, guidance and admin are very appreciative of that. Second, as a teacher, you have less worry about something petty, and more concern over teaching. Nothing is worse than wasting energy on garbage instead of putting the focus on the classroom. As I said in earlier posts, the focus should be on the classroom above everything else.

So anyway, it will be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow. I've looked back at every post in my blog, just to be sure, and if anything, I'm proud that I've decided to give a voice to young teachers. My passionate teaching has become better thanks to this blog, and my passionate opinions have this avenue in which I am within every legal and moral right to express them.

Who should shut the hell up.....forever.

Darren over at Right on the Left Coast tagged me with the following statement; Name 7 People Who Should Never Publish Or Speak Another Word Publicly.

This one is very easy, and in no particular order.

1. Bill Walton
2. Amy Goodman
3. Latrell Sprewell
4. Mayor Ray Nagin
5. Nancy Pelosi
6. K.C. Meadows of the Ukiah Daily Journal
7. Everyone in NASCAR

I tag anyone who would like to participate. Leave me a comment on someone that belongs on this list.

Homecoming Week is over

Basically, Homecoming is a competition between each class to determine which one has the most spirit. The competition start Monday and ends with the announcement of the winner on Friday after the Homecoming game. The prize? Bragging rights and a large bell dubbed "The Spirit Bell". How much of a big deal is it? Well, most students consider this the high point of the year, which makes it all down hill from here. Students attend rallies, make skits, make a float (for a parade on Friday before the game), make a large backdrop for the gym, make a kiosk presentation, eat a lot of McDonalds,and show a general interest in school spirit. While accomplishing this task, students regularly find ways to totally alienate each other in interesting fashion. Since each class is assigned a color (this year it was freshmen=pink, sophomore=green, junior=black, senior=white), the school becomes a really bad Impressionist painting.
In terms of school work, it seems like half the teachers in the school put the academic portion on hold while students do Homecoming related activities. Many of my Seniors decided to skip class to work on the float, rehearse the skit, or to sleep in from nights of Homecomingitis. Of course, I keep the students accountable and give a test on Friday. It might seem mean, but it is preparing them for later in the year, when the pressure of multi-tasking really starts to mount. This is where student/teacher relationships start to strain a little bit because of the accountability that I hold with my students. I would be a hell of a lot easier if all teachers had a consistent program that didn't stop for Homecoming, but teachers have their own way to do things.
In good news, coaches were given a pay raise by the Ukiah School Board. Actually, coaches were paid money to make them in line with what the rest of the schools in our league make. Read the story in the Ukiah Daily Journal.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Here's some cultural insight into Mendocino County...

....courtesy of USA Today and the Ukiah Daily Journal.

In class yesterday, the conversation drifted to the legalization of marijuana, as it often does. After discussing harmful effects of the drug, a student chimed in that the only way that pot causes lung cancer is if you smoked cigarettes with it. Pot smoke was "cleaner".

Sigh.

We live in the middle of a huge drug culture in Ukiah. As the USA Today article points out, harvest is coming to full swing and CAMP is out trying to keep up with the constant pot problem within Mendocino County. Even though we no longer lead the nation in pot cultivation (Shasta County gets it this year), we have the most liberal drug laws in the state. Notice the article is talking about the problem of Mexican Drug Cartels doing the serious growing. That is no lie, as more and more campsites are being raided that contain automatic weapons and Mexican workers that often fight against police.

Also check out the recent article in the Ukiah Daily Journal about a "Hemp Church" that has refused to stop dispensing weed because it is providing a medical necessity to the area. Sure, and the dozen or so homeless that now frequent the storefront are all looking for the medical care associated with a bong hit. Or maybe it was the excellent medical advice that depression should be treated with weed.

And people wonder why so much of Ukiah High.....is high?

UPDATE 10/14

By the way, that smell in Ukiah is the smell of a bountiful harvest. Take a look at the Ukiah Daily Journal to read about the complaints regarding the odor of harvest. It gets worse and worse around here as more people start cultivating the green stuff.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I'm pushing for a new course in International Studies........so go visit the Education Carnival!

I'll take a moment to stop with the movie theme so I can hump my new course I'm pushing for next year. This afternoon I presented a course in International and Global Studies to the School Site Council. The reaction was mixed, as the electives teachers became very anxious about someone new coming in and possibly taking students away from them. After explaining that the school needs new, college prep electives, I started to gain more support. I have permission to start the process of approving the class, however the Council will meet again in 3 weeks with a final decision.

Wish me luck!

Oh, and go visit Jenny D and the Education Carnival. I haven't been sending in stuff lately because I don't think anything I write warrents sending it in. Don't worry, I'll find something eventually.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Tracy Chapman Concert #2- The Fillmore in San Francisco

After a pretty good breakfast at the Best Western, and much needed coffee at Starbucks, my wife and I head for the City by the Bay for concert number two planned for Sunday night. The first stop was the San Francisco Zoo, a location that we both hadn't been to since elementary school.

Neither of us were terribly impressed by the zoo, which is unfortunately because we were really looking forward to it. The problem wasn't the animals. Those that were out seemed content and the active exhibits were well done. The problem was that about a quarter of the exhibits weren't running, some looking like they had been unkept for a long while. It was as if the zoo spent time focusing on certain areas of the park, while leaving others to run down. It sort of spoiled the zoo visit.

San Francisco was in the middle of Fleet Week when we arrived on Sunday afternoon. This created an interesting vibe in the city. Pulling up to our hotel in Japantown, we were greeted by the Blue Angel's F-18 Hornets, in all their screaming glory. Some people find the sound of fighter jets scary, or even annoying. I find it liberating and awesome. Something about the roar of the jets makes me safe and proud. We stayed at the Radisson Miyako Hotel, about 3 blocks from the Fillmore. I found that when I called them on the phone, I got a better rate than using the Internet. The room was on a private floor and was nice, with a huge bathroom containing a whirlpool tub. Hey, after the Mill Valley Experience, I've learned my lesson. I'm spending the extra cash for an upgrade. The days of Motel 6 are over.
Dinner was sushi (Japantown, duh) that was reasonably priced and actually quite good. After a coffee run, it was off to the Fillmore to catch the glorious Tracy Chapman.
The Fillmore is rock history, and the venue is ran very well. This was my second concert there and the staff is friendly, yet direct. The sound is clear and vibrant, the lighting is excellent and enhances the bands. The crowd at the concert was in a much better mood, rather polite and very into nice conversation. The problem was actually getting into the damn building.
Doors to the sell out were to open at 7:00 p.m. At 7:30, we were still outside, getting a little ansy. A member of the Fillmore staff came around and said that Tracy was still doing sound checks. Fine and dandy, except that my wife and I were a little tired, and we were really looking forward to the early start and ending times. Finally, at 20 minutes to eight in the evening, the line started it's entrance. Ben Taylor started only 15 minutes late (8:15) and once again did a nice job. He only did 5 songs (including the great "Boyfriend"), but he manages to really connect with the crowd and is an excellent set up for Tracy.
On this night, Tracy Chapman, wearing the black blouse and blue jeans, came out at 10 minutes after nine. With Tracy was Joe Gore (guitarist) and Quinn (drums). The Asian bass player was absent.

Tracy was the same energetic person that she expressed in her music the night before. I know, you might think that it was my wife and I that were tired. That might be true, but the signs of mistakes were evident many times (Quinn and Tracy would often start over each other, it seemed like the Quinn and Joe started a different song than Tracy at one time), and Tracy's energy level seemed much lower. She seemed either content or tired. I don't want to seem like I'm bashing on the concert, because I would still pay for a concert of this caliber a million times, but the difference needs to be noted. Here's the setlist, more or less:

-Why? (Strong, simple beginning yet again)
-Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight (Softer tonight. More tenderness)
-Change (This song was done well. It's growing on me.)
-Fast Car (Seemed unsure about the song. Not really into it)
-America (Started way off. Quinn jumped it. Seemed to distract most of the song)
-House of the Rising Sun (Mellower showing than last night)
-The Promise (Did a very nice job on this one.)
-Knockin on Heaven's Door (Duet with Ben Taylor. Nice work with good crowd participation)
-Telling Stories (Not bad. She seemed a little stoic)
-Be And Be Not Afraid (Interesting song. It got better as it went on)
-Talkin About a Revolution (Crowd pleaser, but she didn't seem really into it)
-Say Hallejuah (Energy seemed much less than last night)
-Another Sun (Someone started wrong, but the song worked up. Still, not as much energy until Joe Gore gave a bellowing yell to get people hyped up)
-Give Me One Reason (Blues version, then rock version. Blues version was great, the rock version was forced and rushed. She dropped an entire stanza in the rock version and seemed ready to be done.)

ENCORE

-Come As You Are from Nirvana (Totally out of left field. She can do the lines of the song, but the chorus sounded like a mess. Didn't really work)
-I am Yours (Nice mellow ending, although most of the people were still stuck on the Nirvana song)

So the concert was not as good as the one on Saturday, but I'd still go back for more. Joe Gore was a treat to watch as he once again seemed to totally live within the music. On our way back to the hotel, we stopped outside of the Boom Boom Room to listen to the jazz tunes making it out to the street. Note to self, hit up the Boom Boom Room. It sounds like the perfect time.

So that was the Tracy Groupie Weekend. We had a very nice time, and reminded ourselves that Tracy Chapman sings like a goddess, even when she has an off night.

If you are a Tracy Chapman fan, go hit up About Tracy Chapman, a website that is the most comprehensive around in all things Tracy. Aurelie maintains the site on a regular basis, with everything from concert reviews, to up-to-the-minute news. Link it, bookmark it, visit it.

Hello kiddies

I've been found.
A collegue of mine approached me asking if I owned a website. I stated that I did and that it was www.coachbrown.net. He asked if I used profanity on the site. Of course I don't, but then he mentioned that some students were saying that I used profanity on my website when talking about a computer company. You can read the post here. Apparently it was a snickerfest when the little freshmen found that a teacher used the F-word in an online blog. Figures that it would be my freshmen basketball team-to-be that Googles me. Here is a quick lesson for the kiddies:

Profanity on a blog about me by me = protected by the 1st Amendment.

Profanity while playing on my basketball team = conditioning until your feet fall off.

Tracy at the Fillmore tonight.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Tracy Chapman Concert #1- The Catalyst Nightclub in Santa Cruz

It didn't start very well.
On Saturday morning, we found out that a member of my wife's family is getting married during Thanksgiving break.....in Arizona. Just the simple fact that we were going to have to travel during the time off was enough to get us in a bad mood. Add to the that the money that we then spent looking for airfare, and you had the workings of a pitiful start to a well planned weekend. We finally were on the road by Noon.

We planned to stop by at some of the wineries in the Santa Cruz mountains to task some of the outstanding Pinot Noir that the area is becoming well known for. The drive down was fairly uneventful. Once in Saratoga, we took a detour from the highway and drove through some of nice neighborhoods of Los Gatos and Saratoga. I didn't realize that this area has some serious money attached to it. From what we saw, Saratoga might easily be the richest part of the Bay Area, with mammoth homes sitting on acres of rolling hills and soft valleys. I was very impressed. We made it to David Bruce, home of well known pinots, at around 3:45, and left soon after, rather unimpressed. It might be because we are very spoiled living in Mendocino County, and frequenting the many establishments here, and in Sonoma County.
After a check in at the Best Western in downtown Santa Cruz (nice room, except for the nasty carpet), we decided to explore the downtown and grab a bite to eat. I haven't been to Santa Cruz in about 15 years, and I was actually interested in what I found. It has the student feel of Chico, the false progressivism of Berkeley, and the tourist feel of Santa Barbara. Students were out in force on Saturday, and not in the mellow mood that I expected. It must have been Rush Week at U.C. Santa Cruz, because legion after legion of sorority girls passed by our Tracy line, singing and carrying on like idiots. It was the typical bimbo show where ladies had underwear on the outside of their clothing and messages like "I like sucking dick" printed on their t-shirts. They would come up to arbitrary people and ask them stupid questions. Then there is the false progessivism that is so prevalent in today's society. It was fun to watch the people in a used bookstore (that charges tourist type prices) complain about the corporate system while they had a Starbucks in their hand, walking to the Baja Fresh Grill, and smoking from a pack of Camel cigarettes. Unfortunately, this attitude made its way into the Catalyst during the concert. The younger population in the back was constantly noisy, to the point where opening act Ben Taylor made a comment about it. Also, you had the 'enraged, obnoxious lesbian' act also in full swing on Saturday. A large group of girls in their 20's spent the night bashing men, complaining how hard it was to be a 'white lesbian in Santa Cruz', and screaming at Tracy Chapman that her ass was great looking in jeans. The fact that they were lesbian was not the issue. The fact that they acted like they were entitled to be idiots because they were lesbians was the problem.

The Catalyst was a small venue. The sell out had 800 people and we were fortunate to be standing about 10 feet away from Tracy, about 2 rows back from the front. The acoustics in the Catalyst were awful. Often, Tracy's voice was drowned out by the music and muffled by bad equipment, including a constant hum. The Fillmore's sound on Sunday was much clearer. Add to it the lighting that stared many in the front straight in the face, and the potential was there for a real bitch of a concert.
Fortunately, the artists saved the day. Ben Taylor (son of James Taylor and Carley Simon) opened up with a simple 8 song set that was actually quite good. It was better than East Mountain South, the opening act from last year. He sounds a lot like James Taylor, and his stage presence is very mellow. The music is also mellow, with the exception of the song "Boyfriend", which is an excellent source for a laugh.

Although Ben started on time (9 p.m.), Tracy did not. The 10 p.m. start time was 10:35 when she finally took the stage. Again, potential for serious anger. Yet again, the artist saved the day. Tracy was dressed in her usual black blouse with blue jeans outfit. Along with her was Joe Gore (an excellent guitarist), Quinn on drums, and an Asian woman who I did not recognize on bass. The following is a set list that might be a little out of order.

-Why? (Strong, simple beginning)
-Baby, Can I Hold You Tonight (Strong showing, lots of crowd participation)
-Changes (Well done!)
-Smoke and Ashes (Very nicely done)
-America (Strong showing, Quinn was really into it)
-Fast Car (Seemed to fade a little bit)
-House of the Rising Sun (She was ok here, interesting song)
-Never Yours (Very mellow)
-Sub City (Brought back a stronger vibe)
-Before Easter (New and a little unimpressive)
-Say Hallejuah (Nice job and energetic)
-Talkin About a Revolution (Crowd pleaser)
-Telling Stories (Lots of crowd singing again. She really started to get into it)
-Another Sun (Totally rocked the house. Full band was going nuts)
-Give Me One Reason (Blues version, then rock version. Excellent ending that had her and Joe jumping all over the stage. Really rocked the house)

ENCORE

-Lovesong from The Cure (Very interesting, I think she pulled it off well)
-The Promise (She did it alone, which was fine. I liked the background singers from her last tour better)

Without the venue problems, the concert was a 9.5 easily, with a seriously strong ending. We were buzzing on walk back to the hotel about how she got better and better as the night went on. Joe Gore is a kick to watch as he becomes one with his guitar and seems to play in a trance-like state. I thought her 2003 Fillmore concert was near perfect, but she had a back-up singer, a percussionist, and keyboard player during that tour. It did make a difference because it gave a little more richness to the music. Still, the concert is only slightly below the 2003 Fillmore for excellence. My wife and I were looking forward to our Sunday night experience.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tracy Chapman Groupies for the weekend

After the summer of constant work; the summer school, Algebra Academy, 30 units of college work, the death in the family, the family fight afterwards, the start of school, my wife's new job, it was time to take a break. This week shall be it.
Both my wife and I were Tracy Chapman fans before we met each other, and became even more appreciative of her work as time moved on. In June 2003, we went to her concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco and had the greatest concert experience of our lives. Besides the fact that the Fillmore is a great place to watch a concert, Chapman did a terrific 2 hour set of excellent music, all live. I can truly say that she is even better live than on cd. How many people can say that about an artist of today? I lucked out again when I found a guy selling black market cd's of Tracy Chapman concerts, and happened to have one of the very concert that we attended.
Well, Tracy is touring again, and we get to be groupies for the weekend. Tomorrow we leave for Santa Cruz to watch Tracy Chapman on Saturday night. The next night we will travel to San Francisco and watch her again. Yes, we like her that much. I'll report back on all the fun and games.

This week ended on a sour note, a health plan vote. Basically, the vote was either to cut benefits in half and pay $250 a month, or keep our current (and still shitty) benefits and pay $406 a month. With our aged population, and something like 9 catastrophic illnesses last year, we are paying up the ass for our health care. It is not a happy subject in the district, especially at the high school. It really isn't a happy subject with married couples that both work in the district. They have to pay both sets of fees!
Next week is homecoming, a totally chaotic and raucous event. Since I teach Seniors, I get the honor of being ra-ra for all the things that the Seniors do. Honestly, it is a total distraction for the week. But the town totally supports it (it is the second biggest parade of the year), and the school really gets into it. I modify my planning to accommodate the Homecoming madness. You might say that that's "selling out", I say that it is smart planning for success. Instead of giving homework, which is totally ignored because of the dozens of activities for the week, I give a quiz during the week, give lectures all the way through, and a test on Friday. This keeps them focused in my class, and the test cuts through the Homecoming mess because a test in my class is a big deal. No fuss, no muss. Now I need to figure out how to deal with the damn rally schedules during the week......

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Brian Schaffer vs.Montgomery County Schools

All teachers need to deal with creating modifications for their special needs students. Now the Supreme Court is reviewing a case that asks the question, "Who is responsible for the confirmation of the student's needs?" Basically, does the school need to prove that the modifications are in place and working? Or is it the responsibility of the parents to prove that the modifications are not working? The impact of the decision would be huge if the Court ruled in favor of the parents. This would create a massive about work for teachers to provide evidence that all modifications are in place. In three of my classes, IEP's cover over half the class.
Here's the article courtesy of the San Jose Mercury News:

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned whether school districts should have to carry the burden of proof when parents demand better programs for children with special education needs.

The court delved into the case of a Maryland family that undertook an administrative challenge to the school district's special education program designed for their son with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

"I have never seen a case where a private party coming in and challenging government action does not have the burden of proof," Justice David Souter told the family's lawyer.

Arguing for the parents of Brian Schaffer, lawyer William Hurd said federal law sets up "a unique partnership" between parents of the learning disabled and school districts. When there are disagreements, school districts have better access to relevant facts and witnesses and the playing field is tilted against parents.

The Individuals With Disabilities Act is silent on whether parents or the schools have the burden of proof in disputes.

In baseball, the tie goes to the runner, said Hurd, and "here the tie should go to the child."

Under the law, which served 6.7 million students in the 2003-04 school year, Congress provides money to the states to ensure that all children with disabilities have a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and services to meet their needs.

Switching its stand from the Clinton years, the solicitor general's office of the Justice Department is siding with school systems, saying the law does not put the burden on schools.

Souter indicated he would be more sympathetic to an extreme set of circumstances in which the school district decided to throw the student with special needs "in the pot with everybody else." In the Maryland case, Souter pointed out, the parents have been presented with a proposed program by the school district.

Justice Antonin Scalia suggested that disputes under the law are no different from other types of cases in which parties seeking relief have the burden of proof.

Scalia looked at the costs of protracted disputes, saying "this is not play money."

Hurd urged Scalia to look at the "squandering of human potential" if special ed programs are not appropriately designed.

The cost figure for disputes quoted during arguments before the justices was $146.5 million, "a drop in the bucket" compared with the $11.4 billion appropriated for the program, said Hurd.

Chief Justice John Roberts is not participating in the case. Four lawyers from his old law firm are representing the school district.


In my opinion, I can't see how the court will rule for the parents. Justice Souter's point about "burden of proof" is a serious problem for their arguements.
I'll get you up to date.

Dude, your getting hosed by Dell!

My wonderful wife bought me a Dell Music Jukebox for my 30th birthday. I've been up to about 11 p.m. each night putting songs on the device. Everything from Public Enemy to Tracy Chapman to Weird Al to Delbert McClinton to Metallica. Two nights ago, my cd-rom drive opened, releasing my Best of B.B. King cd, when I heard a snap. The cd-rom door was jammed open and would not close.
Hmmmmmm.
I removed the cd-rom (very easy on a Dell) and noticed a sound coming from inside, like a small marble rolling around inside of it. It was the last thing I really needed that late at night.
I got online and started chatting with Dell. The person on the other end stated that the Service Number on the computer was registered to Costco, the store at which I bought the computer. By now it was Midnight, and I was not going to deal with it.
Fast forward to 4:30 in the morning. I decided to end this by phone, and quickly. Wow, that was a mistake. Obviously, I didn't read the BusinessWeek that is sitting in my bathroom magazine rack. You know, the one with the article about Dell's technical support.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ACCOUNT IS NOT RACIST, IT IS ONE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUTSOURCING.
My first call reached the tech support person very quickly (about 3 minutes). The problem started immediately as the man's accent was so thick (Indian) that I could hardly understand him. Eventually, we figured out my name and I gave him my computer Service Number.
"I'm sorry sir, but this computer is not registered to you."
Ummm, huh?
"It is registered to Costco Wholesale."
Of course, I bought the computer in November of last year, and I bought through Costco.com. However, it came from the Dell factory. I explained this to the man, who stated that he couldn't do anything until we resolved the issue. He directed me to the website where it asked all kinds of questions about the previous owner of the computer, in this case, Costco. I have no clue about the first and last names of Costco, their e-mail, their corporate address, or the current phone number to reach them at. The tech guy decided that it was time for me to talk to customer service, so he transferred me.
After being on hold for 10 minutes..........click. Tone. I was dropped.
Expectedly irritated, I called the customer service line. I waited for nearly 20 minutes before I got a response. This time it was a lady who was a little clearer in speaking English, but was obviously reading a scripted sheet. It was so scripted, that it took 10 minutes before we even got to the problem. Her response was the same, that I didn't own the computer, and therefore, the warrenty didn't hold. To say the least, I was not happy. But wait! She decided that a sales associate could probably help check the order number, and we could resolve this with no problem. She transferred me to the sales department.
After being on hold for 17 minutes...........click. Ring. "We're sorry, your call could not go through." I had been dropped again.
Now I was furious. I called customer service again, waiting about 4 minutes to get someone on the line that had to be speaking a totally foreign language. I didn't even let him start his script and basically said that he was to send me a fucking cd-rom right now. I gave him order numbers, recipt numbers, service tags, express tags.....you name it. Nope, it didn't happen. After nearly two hours on the phone with Dell, I hung up in disgust.
Now I had to go to work.
When I got home I called Costco, who was on the phone in 3 minutes, confirmed the date they sent the order to Dell, resent the order to Dell, and I was off the phone in about 8 minutes. Oh by the way, the Costco lady spoke very clear and perfect English. This morning I contacted Dell by chatting and asked for my cd-rom again. This time, they stated that I actually owned the computer, but took me through a 45 minute "are you sure it is broken" speech. I stated immediately that it was broken and could not be fixed. But noooooooooo, the tech person had to make sure that it was not a software problem. I told him 30 seconds in and I didn't need the 45 minute check. But behold, in 3 business days, I'll have a cd-rom drive that works!
It is amazing that Dell is doing as well as they are, and right now is the perfect time for a low cost competitor to ride onto the scene. This morning I read another article on MSNBC that states that Dell is no longer offering free shipping on home computers. This could mean that HP, Gateway or Apple could start making a serious jump into the market.
One thing is for certain, I am done with Dell.

Your gonna need a bigger Education Carnival.

Come on, after you watched Jaws, you were afraid of the water. It's really ok to admit. I watched the movie in 5th grade and was afraid to go into the bathtub after wards. It is a horror flick that isn't as scary as it is frightening, if that makes any sense. The fear builds up until the end of the movie when you actually get to see the shark.
I've been very busy lately and will be again this weekend. I'll explain more later.

But before you go for a swim, visit the Education Carnival!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I'm a Fantasy Football God!!!!!!!!!

We've played for the last 5 years in a Keeper League.

Team W L T Pct PF PA Strk
Ukiah Wildcats 4 0 0 1.000 332 250 W4
Jackson Bayou Jags 3 1 0 0.750 311 233 L1
Charlotte Kitty Cats 3 1 0 0.750 289 262 W2
Anborn Selects 2 2 0 0.500 354 298 L1
Hercules Dynamite 2 2 0 0.500 272 297 W1
Mt. Eden Monarchs 2 2 0 0.500 265 286 L1
Boone's Farmboys 1 2 1 0.375 299 294 W1
Austin Pickles 1 2 1 0.375 280 303 W1
New York Rams 1 3 0 0.250 304 280 L2
Hotrodsters Autobots 0 4 0 0.000 186 389 L4

Monday, October 03, 2005

Change it!

The great thing about teaching is the ability to change something that is not working immediately. During Class B, I had my students doing a little Constitution Search Packet thing, where students followed the document and found 'simple' answers to 'basic' questions. Needless to say, Class B didn't find the packet 'simple' or 'basic' and struggled at the task. Why? Most worked independently and didn't think to work together, even at my recommendation.
During Class C, I changed up and said that everyone had to be in groups of three or more. The change was immediately apparent and positive. One student would look up Legislative questions, one Judicial, one Executive, and some had the extra student summarizing the Amendments. Twice as much got done, more students were engaged, and more answers were correct. Class D was even better.
We have four new teachers that frequent the lunch area this year. One came in all gloomy and stated that she was having a rough day. When I asked her about the problem, she stated that some things were not worked as she had planned them. I told her to change it, as in next period. She continued to look glum and I told her that she would find it eventually, but not to dwell, to move on. This brought out that half-smile that I remember having that was like, "Sure, easy for you to say.".

Teaching is organized flexibility, where a teacher has a plan, but can bend it in a million different directions if the time is correct. Teachers need to learn to go with their gut on many occasions because some of the best learning takes place outside of the "plan". Tomorrow's news has a short blurb about the European Union admitting Turkey. Time for a change on the Amendment talk, and devote a little time to EU politics and Islamic democracies. I know it sounds nuts, but it truly is as easy as that.

Of course, I teach all Seniors, which means I have no testing to worry about, and I teach Government/Economics, which makes a whole lot very relevant. Guess I'm just lucky.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Hospice + $64 = over 250 books

It felt like stealing.

There is a local Hospice in town that sells odds and ends for money for cancer patients. Every so often, my wife and I will pop in to look for something for the house, or swoop into the book section to build our classroom libraries. Um, sure, we build our library too. This weekend was more significant, as my wife's friend is now the principal at the continuation high school in Willits, and the school has no library. This can not be permitted to happen and we set out to create the Sanhedrin High School library.

Upon arriving at the little store, we bolted right to the book section, only to find that there wasn't much there. We were in a state of melancholy. Suddenly, an older lady poked her head in and asked what we where looking for.

"Oh, we're teachers and are looking to build up our libraries for the students."

The older lady raised her eyebrows. "Come back here around the curtain.", she said.

We hustled into the back room, out into a backyard, and through a doorway to a large garage. The lady pointed at the corner of the garage, where 50+ boxes of books were stacked upon each other, gathering dust.

"Only one lady runs the book department, and she comes in once a week. Have at it."

Two and a half ours later, we had seven huge boxes of books (think Dell computer boxes)and $64 less in our wallet. The finds were unbelievable, with books for my wife, myself, my classroom library, and for Sanhedrin. How good was it? Think of the greatest find of books imaginable. It is pretty close to our score.

How much do we like books?


This is two walls of the den (the border is from previous owners). What you don't see is the shelf of books in the garage, the bedside table full of books in the bedroom (one for me, one for my wife), or the books we bought today.
As you can see, we really like to read.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

My Wife

Marriage is difficult.
Those people that get married and simply think that marriage will always work itself out are totally naive, and my wife and I were not one of those people. Saying that, marriage is also very rewarding. If you are lucky enough to find the right companion, you get to experience a side of life that is totally fulfilling.
We moved to Ukiah because I was offered a job there (another story for another day). My wife, who also holds a Social Science degree and can speak Spanish, did not have a job when we moved out here. Her first job was at a bilingual pre-school, which she actually enjoyed, but didn't pay enough. Then came the notice in the paper. Willits High School was looking for a Special Education teacher and it was the same pay as a General Education teacher. It was the beginning of a lot of rough times.
The Special Education job was for teaching students who have severe emotional......needs.....that can't be address in a typical classroom setting. She had students for the entire day. To say that it was a challenge would be a massive understatement. For the first two years, many days had my wife coming home in tears over not only the challenges from her students, but also witnessing the lives that some of the students were living. At the beginning of the third year, she started making major progress. Some students passed the High School Exit Exam, while others were starting to get part time jobs in the community. She really did a great job, but it was not what she wanted.
Finally, a few weeks into this year, my wife found out that a Social Science teacher at the school was resigning to pursue other things. She jumped at the chance, nailed the job, and now teaches World History and Economics. Week one was just completed, and the attitude, the frame of mind is completely different. She feels invigorated, prepared, and just plain better. Although she had grown an attachment to the students in her program, burnout was a real possibility. Now, she finally made it to the job she wanted all along.
Congrats to my wife. She had to do it the hard way, but she's there.