Friday, December 30, 2005

Live, from Chico, California!

It's being called the largest storm in the last 7 years, and we decided to go driving right in the middle of it. For this New Year's holiday, my wife and I are visiting her family in Chico, and then driving tomorrow to Discovery Bay, a little wealthy community west of Stockton. It isn't simply a drive, it's an adventure!

For those of you that are not in Northern California and the Northwest, we have been slammed by the "Perfect Pineapple Express", a series of storms that stretch across the South Pacific and are aimed right at California. This creates 5-6 days of straight rain, followed by a day of relief, and then more rain. It has been this way for weeks now, since about the 17th of December. Well, the really nasty part arrived this morning, just as we left Ukiah. It rained the entire 3 hour drive here, and then became really windy as we entered the Sacramento Valley. So far, it has not stopped raining since we arrived and the wind is topping 50 mph. What's worse is that the worst of it is supposed to be tomorrow, when we drive to Discovery Bay, which is in the middle of the Sacramento Delta, of course. Well, if we make it, we make it. If not, then we are watching "The Ball" drop from the cozy confines of our home.

I noticed that a small town called Gurneville (pronounced "Gurnvill") was on the NBC Nightly News this evening because the Russian River is cresting about 10 feet about flood stage. That isn't much of a surprise around here. Gurneville is about 90 minutes south and west of Ukiah (which is close to the upper Russian River, but doesn't flood), and they are always looking at flooding. Other places of concern are the Napa River at St. Helena, the Russian River at Healdsburg (which is more disconcerting, considering the dollars in that town), and the Navarro River near Highway 1, which floods every year. Oh, and by the way, don't think about heading north on Highway 101. The road is covered in a mudslide at Confusion Hill north of Leggett and is closed for the foreseeable future. And there is no detour. Here in Chico the news is the Sacramento River, which is flooding just about everywhere. We came across near Willows and nearly every road between Highway 32 and Colusa that cross the river are totally impassable. Highway 32 in Hamilton City is fine, but they are looking at the river cresting about 13 feet above flood stage tomorrow. Tubing anyone?

If you live in California, do yourself a favor. Stay home!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

This is the picture that represents 2005.

From Time Magazine:



It is very hard to actually be "for war", but I agree that the United States needs to be doing what it is doing in Iraq. Those that continue to fiddle with the entry into the war are totally missing the point, since that time is years gone by. Still, this picture brings the most emotion out of me than any other sight before my eyes this year. The image is war being brought to the public, and yet the public sits cozy, still not understanding the situation or the stakes involved in this fight in the Middle East. It is a sad picture, make no mistake about it. Someone's child is in that coffin.
But in the end, I look at the picture and the faces in the windows of the plane and I think, "Wow, they still don't get it".
No, I don't mean Bush and Cheney.
I mean the American people.

You could have just asked the teachers and administrators

The Los Angeles Times is reporting on a story that is all too familiar with teachers, absences. According to the paper, L.A. area school are losing millions because of the massive drop in attendance, whether it be because of illness, vacation, or senioritis. The "in-thing" to do now is to try and bribe the kids into coming to school by offering attendance raffles. Cars, I-pods, or in the case of our district, $25 (it rolls over to the next student chosen, so it gets bigger each week that it goes unclaimed). Personally, I like the idea of charging parents that want to take their kids out of school for a nice vacation during school days, as Temecula Valley is doing.

Clearly the schools are in a bind. However, pandering to the already rampant consumer attitude is hardly making the high school age kids show up for school more often. There is always the threat of going after the parents, except that our law enforcement up in this neck of the woods is already understaffed as it is. Here are a couple of solutions that I think should go into effect to help attendance:

1) Make a mandatory minimum number of days that a student must attend school. If the student misses too many days, for any reason, that student fails to acquire the appropriate credits. In the case of severe distress, form a committee to oversee these requests. Otherwise, lets teach the kids that missing work because of the sniffles will cost them.

2) Teachers keep a consistent policy towards cuts and absences. In my opinion, the administration wants the kids to attend class, and is only part of the problem in terms of enforcement. In our school, the administration does an excellent job in trying to get the kids to stick around. However the teachers don't enact a strong policy of punishing cuts and absences. 1/4 of my students will often only attend my class because they know that it really hurts them to miss it. That isn't the case in other classes. Only through consistent and demanding policy will the students get the message.

3) Make it affect their grade. Every student has 100 participation points at the beginning of the semester. Every tardy after the second is minus 5, every cut is minus 10. After 5 cuts, they automatically fail the course. I have Seniors that will figure this out only after they fail my first semester of Government. They shouldn't have to. It should be made much more apparent earlier.

4) Make the make-up work harder. It is amazing how students show up when they realize that the make-up quiz is an essay quiz, or that a simple attendance quiz has turned into "Name all the Standing Committees in the U.S. Senate", and for fun add "........and do it alphabetically". Think its mean? I think that taking up my lunch period giving make-up quizzes is mean.

5) Fine the parents. This is going to sound wildly unpopular when you introduce this to lower income communities, but it will make an impact. Fine them the ADA that the child took away by constantly missing class, and make it in the form of a citation. Many parents have plenty of disposable income, case in point, the enormous purchasing power that teenagers have these days. Make it law and hit the pocketbook.

6) Enforce the DMV law about revoking licenses. It is threatened in the Driver's Handbook that ditching school could result in a loss of a Driver's License. Ok, now let's enforce it.

Some of you might think that this is too much "stick" and not enough "carrot". In my eyes, a high school diploma is a nice sized carrot. If students can't attend a place where they are supported, educated, safe, and cared for, then take away the carrot and whip out the stick. It could save the schools millions.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

You can't be serious

Here in Ukiah, the problems between administration and the teachers are pretty minimal. There is a mutual respect. The admins are out to support the teachers, and the teachers do their best to enforce policy and educate. As a team, we work pretty well together.

Want to see a real problem? How about a "Kick that Teacher" contest. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, step right up and kick a soccer ball at your favorite teacher. Down at The Pig's Tales, this was a promotion that actually occurred! Hmmmmmm, I wonder if the principal had her picture up there for kids to kick down.

Chico, no shortage there.

I'm always interested in keeping up with the old stomping grounds of Chico, California, especially when it comes to teaching. I got my credential from CSU-Chico, and I feel very fortunate that I went through that program and not from the programs from Dominican or Sonoma State, both of which have bad reputations up here. However, Chico was challenging, demanding, and still flexible enough to benefit your education. Out of the many classes that I took in the credential program, only two I found total useless. One was because the teacher was new and had no concept of the State Standards, the second was Multiculturalism, which I have discussed at great length in previous posts. But for the most part, Chico prepared me pretty well.

Saying that, it was pretty well known in the program that if you were looking for a job in Chico, you had better know someone very well. As stated in the Chico Enterprise Record, the city is not short of teachers by any stretch of the imagination. Good student teachers are snatched up by Chico Unified fairly quickly, and those are usually student teachers that are working with master teachers of exceptional influence. On top of that, teachers should be aware that housing prices in Chico have jumped and wages are not keeping up at all. In fact, when we left Chico in 2001, the Union and the District were in a nasty, nasty battle over wages. At one point, teachers were threatened not to cross a picket line or their pictures would be taken and they "would never teach in California again", as was quoted to me by a union member. Although it was settled, the financial situation was never fully rectified and there is still tension. On top of that, the district is continuing to slide in terms of enrollment. As stated in the Chico ER, 7 years ago the district was busting for a new high school. Now they are looking at losing students for the next 15 years, something that is not a positive note for prospective teachers.

Be wary, and go south. Elk Grove seems to be dying for teachers in that neck of the woods.

Monday, December 26, 2005

I must have needed a vacation

So I became a really nasty, cynical prick before Christmas break. What can I say except that I need a vacation without hassles. No tension, no drama, no whining. Fortunately, this is exactly what happened.

Friday was a good day, except for the usual group that complains about everything under the sun ("Can't the clock go any faster?). I enjoyed the nice Christmas banter, while my Intro took a test (average 81%!!!!!! I knew the constant quizzes would help!!!), and my college prep kids watched and analyzed a video on President Bush's actions and reactions during 9/11. The intense discussion afterward showed that the students were right on top of the decisions that Bush made, and they think that he acted within good reason for the leader of the United States.

School ended late, but my 5th period class was so great that it went like a breeze. I waited for my wife to pick me up and off to Tahoe we went. Why Tahoe you ask? Well, my wife's aunt has a very nice cabin (chalet?) in the Soda Springs and we were invited to stay for Christmas. The trip (a little under 4 hours) was nice. We put some Christmas tunes and dropped out of the "on" mode of school, creating a more festive atmosphere for the drive. You know the classics: Mel Torme, Frankie, Shawn Colvin, Charlie Brown Christmas, Eagles. My wife loves the "Noel" song by Celine Dion, so I listened to it a couple of times. I'm more partial to "Family" by Montgomery Gentry, "Christmas at Ground Zero" by Weird Al, and "Christmas in Hollis, Queens" by Run-DMC. However, that was overruled due to the lack of substantial Christmas cheer.

Christmas Eve was spent doing what we should be doing during that time. Enjoying music, reading good books, playing games with the family, and general enjoying each other. My wife and I took a nice walk around a half frozen lake (it was 50 degrees up there, warm) and kept the mood mellow and enjoyable. The night ended with Scatagories, a game that is guaranteed to piss off everyone at one time or another. In this instance, good natured laughter occurred instead. Christmas morning consisted of opening gifts, and then leaving just as the snow began to fall. From Soda Springs, it was off to Chico to visit more family and have Christmas dinner. Finally, we came home and opened our gifts late into Christmas night.

All in all, the weekend was just what I needed to recoup the batteries. Some of the nasty cynic has drifted away and I'm resting a little longer until school begins in the new year. Actually, school sorta begins tomorrow with basketball practice.

Thank God for vacations!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I "shop", local or not.

I had a massively irritating experience that makes me hate those jerks that complain about Wal-Mart causing businesses to close. Here is what is causing businesses to close.

After a very stressful school day and basketball practice, I went to a local store to by a Christmas gift for my wife. This store specializes in fancy kitchen and dining room junk, and massively overpriced "specialty" dish soaps and lotions. After the day, and looking to spend $25 on a bottle of lotion, I made my way to the register, where the guy was busy wrapping a gift. I stood patiently as the man struggled to get the dimensions of the gift correct, and then he rung me up. I used a credit card to pay, casually tossing it on the counter. The man behind the counter rang me up, I left, end of story.

Except that it wasn't. At the end of last week, a student told me that the man was totally insulted at "how rude he was, throwing the credit card at me". This was one of my students that works at that establishment who was told by that man that I was throwing my credit card at him, as if I used it like a ninja star and was looking to stab him in the throat. This is wrong on so many levels. First off, you don't complain about a teacher at the work place to a student. It is a tasteless to say the least. Second, you don't complain about big business invading taking your business, while you piss off customers.

Let me explain something to this local establishment (I'll keep it nameless because it doesn't deserve the plug), I bought your overpriced crap. Now shut-up. I don't want to hear one more complaint from anyone in that store about anything I've ever done in there because the only thing I have ever done is spend money. I have no problem spending money on my wife. I do have a problem with overpriced complainers whining about customers to students. I swear to God, I have a whole unit on Wal-Mart planned and I'll enjoy using your establishment as a perfect economic example of why Wal-Mart is good for America. Your store does plenty to keep local inflation high, not to mention the shoddy customer service that is a whole lot worse that that nice lady that greets me at the local Wal-Mart.

However, I'd be happy to recommend some local places to frequent because their service is excellent and their prices are very reasonable.

Oco Time- An excellent sushi restaurant in Ukiah. The service is excellent and the food is fresh. The best sushi I've had.

Dorsey's Auto Repair- You like a guy that can not only work on your car, but explain it to you in the process, and promise that he'll do the best work possible. Hell, an oil change becomes an education about your car. Excellent work by a group of guys that make you want to be loyal.


When it comes down to it, people will shop local if you give them a reason to. Otherwise, it is off to Wal-Mart.

Merry Christmas

I think that we are all ready for a vacation. God knows that I am. You would think that the kids would have some cheer during this time of year, but instead the whining is in full effect mode. By the end of the day, teachers comment that their Senior classes sound like they are full of 3rd graders complaining about every little thing under the sun. Everything is "lame" or "stupid", many complain that school is not something that is needed, and some go as far as to make the classroom environment quite uncomfortable.
However, as a teacher, you can start to gauge the trouble that will start in the second semester and take steps to remedy it. I've already put my finger on the group of students that are really going to be a joy when Spring time rolls around (you know, Senioritis). So I become tougher at this time of year in terms of my standards and expectations of the rules. No warnings right now, only action, which is followed by excessive "waaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh". However, these actions show the ones that "get it" that just because it is a few days until Christmas does not mean the instructor allows chaos. It will be work, until the end, like it is supposed to be. I know, the whining can get totally annoying at times, but the most I usually do is try to make them realize that they sound like a bunch of elementary students, and that their bosses in the future will laugh at their excuses. I doesn't always work of course. I have a couple of spoiled brats who get their mommies and daddies to do everything for them, and they worm a note here and there to get excused from class. I try to not react about it any more, since it should be treated like a business. So I say, "You're right, you're excused."..................then I whip out the big quiz. That solves the problem nice and quick like. Yes, I do have to meet angry parents that want to know why their son/daughter is failing, but an attendance sheet is a very powerful weapon, and parents usually cooperate after glancing at the 15 absences.

Other than school, and basketball (we are 3-3, I'll talk about that later), not a whole lot is going on. I have a list of posts I'll work on during the break, and I might log in and post later on. But if I don't, Merry Christmas to all those fighting the good fight.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yes, it's called Christmas.

For some reason, this holiday season has been has been riddled with controversy regarding whether or not you can use the term Christmas when discussing the holiday season. Apparently, people with wayyyyyyyyyy too much time on their hands are starting to get offended by any and every symbol that has to do with Christmas. For instance, a person came in during lunch not to long ago to say that it was offensive that a Christmas tree was in the administration building here on campus. The argument then drifted into a debate on Church/State and so on.

Let me make something perfectly clear, this whole idea that Christmas is a religious holiday is bogus. The holiday is a socially accepted part of American culture and very little of it still based on the Christian faith. It would be naive to think that any kind of majority of Americans wake up on Sunday morning and think, "Happy Birthday to the baby Jesus". No, they are thinking about relatives, presents, and the wonder that comes with a Red Ryder B.B. Gun, a George Foreman Grill, or bath salts. America really can't be that bad off if people are busy complaining about the word Christmas.

I'll quote one of my students after this came up in class:

Teacher: Do students really think about Jesus on Christmas morning?

Girl: I do!

Teacher: Do you really? Seriously?

Girl: I swear to God that I do! I think, "Thank Jesus for all these presents!"

Want Christmas relief? Go visit this weeks Education Carnival!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Why?

I really don't mind the fact that our school district is going the full week. I mean, it does suck that my wife is done in Willits on Wednesday, but I'm a trooper, and I'm perfectly willing to work until the 23rd of December. Saying that, I'm up for asking about the decision to make the last freaking day before vacation the longest in months. Someone decided to make the annual "Christmas Concert" on Friday, thus creating an assembly schedule, and thus making me leave the school 15 minutes later than I normally do. 15 minutes not really matter? Not when I have to drive to Soda Springs in the middle of Donner Pass for a good old fashion "family Christmas", minus my family of course (those that are married will get it). I'm already in for snow on the way up. Nice to know that I now have an even better chance of hitting snow AND darkness on the way to the former cannibalism capital of California. I mean, seriously, does this make any sense at all? How about we make Wednesday a regular day and the concert, therefore making Friday a shortened day, allowing people that have to drive 5 hours a little head start!

And to make it even worse, my wife told me that Whooping Cough is making a nice little comeback in Willits.

Ok, pop quiz. Which is worse?

A: Whooping Cough

B: Dealing with student behaviors on an extended day before Christmas break

Saturday, December 17, 2005

An Evening at the Fed (A must for Econ teachers)

ARG!!!!!! Busy can't define the state I have been in recently! I'm very sorry that the blogging has been down, but the school situation hasn't allowed me to keep up. Hopefully, these next posts will explain why my blogging has not been existent. Also, apologies to the Education Wonks for not linking the Education Carnival this week. You do too much work to not be recognized!

According to all my wife's teacher peers, the fact that we both teach the same subject (Government and Economics) is very cute. The whole "awwwwwwwwwwww" thing was in full effect on Wednesday, when my wife and I decided to attend "An Evening at the Fed", at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Building. The plan was to leave Ukiah at around 2 p.m. (Wednesdays are short for me), attend the conference, and make it back by 9 p.m. for good sleep, since we had to teach the next day.

"Evening" is a series of workshops aimed trying to more successfully connect high school educators with the Federal Reserve, and do more to get students to successfully understand the California Economics Standards. The idea is great, and if the implementation of the program is anything like the first workshop, then Economics teachers will find a very valuable resource at the Federal Reserve.

This workshop was to introduce a video entitled "Open and Operating: The FED responds to September 11", and the curriculum that goes with it. Simply put, the 16 minute video uses 9/11 to describe how the Federal Reserve system works, and the importance of "liquidity" to the overall economy. The video is not long enough to get boring, but solid enough to really explain the main jobs of the FED. It is also not a dumbed down version that kills Advanced Placement level students. You might have to do some serious prepping for lower level kids, but with some explanation of the tasks of the Federal Reserve, many "Intro" level students should come out on good terms with the video. On top the video, a curriculum guide is included that does an excellent job using Pre-film activities, during the film questions, and Post-film discussions. Graphic organizers are also included with the packet.

The 90 minute presentation at the FED was well worth the drive. After an introduction from the Joy Hoffman (Vice-Pres of Public Affairs), she took us through the entire video and put the teachers through the Pre-Film activities. The curriculum packet is excellent because it is very detailed, just like a teacher would want it. That might be because Joy worked in education and has helped establish this program with teachers in mind. Also at the workshop were higher ups from the Federal Reserve to discuss how the FED deals in disasters, people from the Economics industry, and college professors that were more than willing to point teachers in the direction of very good material. All in all, a very successful night.

The bottom line is, go the San Francisco's Federal Reserve Education Materials website and order your FREE copy of "Open and Operating". It comes with all the goodies and will be there in a month. If you are killing your students with the same old, boring-as-hell FED videos, pick this one up and go through the curriculum. It will convert you.

After the FED trip, my wife and I went to Union Square and strolled for about 90 minutes, observing the Christmas windows at the institutes of consumerism (otherwise known as department stores). The top three winners are:

#3- Saks Fifth Ave for the elegant women in evening dresses and ice sculpture headdresses. The jewelry was too much, so you get third.

#2- Tiffany's for the mini-window with the Christmas tree, carousel and train. It was beautiful and tasteful, even if the stores prices aren't.

#1- Macy's for the SPCA pet windows. The cats and dogs seemed very happy in their habitat, and the board that showed the number of adoptions seemed very healthy.

The losers, and not just for windows:

#3- Neiman Marcus for the $70 candle and the reaction the man gave when I reminded him that it was wax and a wick.

#2- FAO Schwartz for being closed, as in "the store was empty" kind of closed. If you go out of business, take down the famous sign.

#1- Lush for the $14 for a 1/4 lb soap. Lush is a store that is tended by a group of rocking out college kids (Warrents "Cherry Pie" in the background) that has blocks of soap in mammoth mounds around the tiny store. They smell and look excellent. However, $14.95 for a tiny chip of natural Ivory soap is not cool. Neither is the tiny canister if $18 shaving cream. Hellllllllooooooooooo Costco!

Um, we made it home at around 11 p.m.

And yes, we suffered for it the next day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How serious?

"To all teachers. Upon consultation with the Vice Principals, any student caught using MySpace, chatting, or playing any games on the Internet will get an immediate referral for defiance."

Good.

Monday, December 12, 2005

How to make a great day go bad

The energy was up today, as I used Jeopardy to review for the test and had a lengthy discussion of the Tookie Williams case with my Intro students. I was looking forward to a nice practice with a great group of basketball players, when this occurred on the way to the gym.

-As teacher is heading to the gym, two students are on a planter box spitting on the sidewalk.
-Teacher walks by and says, "Hi fellas". One student stares the teacher down and spits on the sidewalk behind him.
-Teacher walks up and says, "Hey guys, could you spit in the planter? That way the sidewalk doesn't get all nasty".
-Student spits on the ground in front of the teacher.

At this point, I'm sure that many of you can imagine the various things that should happen to this little brat. Take under consideration that I have no idea who this kid is and I've never seen him before.

-Teacher asks student to come to the office with him. For the next five minutes, student goes back and forth about coming to the office. Student then walks off campus and leaves in the end.

Funny how society is asking us to educate their kids, yet I could really do nothing to prevent him from leaving. Get to close a student, like guiding them to the office, and they do the whole "Don't fucking touch me!" routine and threaten all sorts of bullshit. So this student gets away with his behavior, for now. Fortunately, he passed a campus supervisor on the way out and I got his name.

This begs the question that many teachers, especially new ones, ask more and more these days. Does every student have a "right" to an education? How far to we go to try and teach children that have no want to be taught? I think you might be surprised at the answers that many students give these days, especially the older ones. Most agree that students that don't want to be taught should be put to work somehow to benefit society. Most also concur that those students should not be in an institution where learning is supposed to take place.

So today I taught 150 kids about Government and 11 kids about basketball. Unfortunately, the most serious lesson will not be learned by the student that needs it the most.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

This is just too funny.

Some of you will hate the hell out of me for it, but I was visiting Right on the Left Coast and I found the Ultimate War Simulation. Now, I'm a fan of realistic simulations (Flight Simulator, Sim City, Total Rome, Warcraft), and this one just has to make you laugh. Come on Sim fans, you know you want it.

Warning; if you are very uptight on the current political climate in America, don't visit the site. While your at it, stop listening to Rush Limbaugh and Amy Goodman. Both are loud mouthed idiots.

Is it really that bad?

Well, according to a survey of historians, no. Quite frankly, I'm very inclined to agree with them.

Think about the last 100 years and the events that this country has been through, from the Great Depression to the Watts riots, from World War 1 to MAD, all of which have been times of much greater chaos and pain than the current era. Yes, the attacks of 9/11 are one of the most important and tragic events in our history, but is this era we are living in really worse off than the many of the generations before it? Certainly not.

However, a case can be made that this generation has viewed more chaos than any generation before it. Live on television, this group has witnessed the devastation of the World Trade Center, the War in Iraq, the liberation of Afghanistan, and a multitude of domestic ills that make the country seem on the brink of devastation. Throw in the partisan idiocy that permeates our government, and there seems to be no order at all.

That presents an interesting problem with today's youth, who have been pampered and babied more than any other generation in history. With this lack of preparation and mental toughness, any small crisis to them is going to seem like an apocyliptic event. Whatever way you want to spin it, the War in Iraq is not an apocyliptic event. It may have gigantic consequences that could lead to a massive event (ie: if we leave, a regional war ensues), but the war itself is far from Vietnam, Korea, or either World Wars. It is the job of teachers, especially Social Science teachers, to point this out to students. If we don't give them a fair assessment of the world of the past compared to our own time, we simply engorge this sense of fear and apprehension, keeping them unprepared for the global issues ahead.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The MySpace Experiment

So I created a MySpace account, as many of you might have seen from a post about MySpace this summer. I created it just to gauge the reaction it would have from people, and to see how long it would take to others to find it. Here are my findings.

-After creating the MySpace in July, I had only 344 hits, although the first 200 came quickly.
-I found out that the most frequent visitors were players from the Varsity basketball team. Second most frequent visitors were from this blog, and finally I had visitors that were people I went to high school with.
-About 5 ex-students signed up as "friends".
-I found 6 people that I went to high school with, and 1 guy I played basketball with for 3 years in high school. I had some very nice conversations with these people. It was nice to reaquaint with old ball players.
-I found no evidence that any students in my classes found my site. If they did, they didn't tell me. Again, the only people that found the site were a group of varsity basketball players.
-Speaking of the basketball players, they decided to create a dumby site that used my name. The picture and the comments were inappropriate and out of line, however the situation took care of itself. I notified MySpace about the fake page, and they took it down within 24 hours, with a promise to monitor the blogs that I mentioned if the incident were to occur again (I had 12 people out the gentlemen with way too much time on their hands).
-The site caused many people to send me e-mails or comments about my article, and my place on MySpace. A student at Bella Vista High School in Sacramento used my site in her school newspaper as an example of how teachers should warn students to use MySpace with discretion. Others stated that I had no clue what I was talking about. Unfortunately, those were a little more common. Here's one that I received today:

Amazing how you no longer have a myspace account. So if what you say is true, then why don't the people from the tv show "Laguna Beach" get arrested for drinking under 21. The camrea crew is obviously over 21 and knows for a fact they are drinking, everyone knows. If you start statements like you provided in your article you can never stop which will only lead to the entire shutdown of human communication, because myspace is like walking around with a shirt with your profile on it, and saying that is illegal is wrong. It is your choice to tell other people information about yourself publicly, freedom of speech, and if concerned they can set their account to friends only, so only their true "accepted" friends can see their profile. Your article and this controversy is a waste of time.


I give you one guess if this letter is from a high school student. Like usual, they do know it all, don't they. Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse and worse for people thinking that the Internet is some kind of private domain. What you say on MySpace is public record, even if it is set to private. Whether it is a threat, your personal information, comments about teachers, hell, even cheating on your girlfriend, is all public information and can be used against you legally. While you are at it, teachers might want to explain to students that everything that is typed into Google is also recorded and kept at Google Headquarters in Santa Clara, California on their servers. Although they state that the information is kept to help make searches more efficient, the information can be used against you. This includes the information sent over G-Mail servers! Everything, all your searches, all your G-Mail, where you shopped in Froogle, is saved at Google. On the stretch end of the spectrum, the Patriot Act might have the ability to use the Google database to conduct searches. On the other end, it isn't out of the realm of possibility that Google could be subpoenaed for the information, whether it be searches or e-mail accounts.

For the record, I created another MySpace account. I won't have students on this one, and I'll have to hide it from the little munchkins. It shouldn't be much of a problem really. I found it nice to talk to old friends, and to discuss with others where we are in life. Like anything else, MySpace is an interesting tool that has great reflective value in people's lives. Concurrently, the medium is dominated by middle and high school students that are in a generation that enjoys the excesses in life. This poses a nasty problem for educators, since parents continue to remain naive about their sons and daughters getting drunk every Saturday night on Captain Morgan. Once again, it falls upon us to do something about it. It has just, and I mean this week, became a major problem at our school. Students are having Internet privledges removed for week chunks for viewing the program on the computers, and students are starting to cry foul. In the atmosphere that is our school, the debate is going to get fierce.
Stay tuned, and be safe.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Education Carnival and MySpace Murders. No, they are not related.

Hit up "What It's Like on the Inside" for this weeks Education Carnival.

BTW, I warned about MySpace and the impact that it can have with children and young adults. The case about the murders in Pennsylvania has heated up the questions about MySpace, and moreover, the access that other people and the media have to information. My MySpace experiment is continuing, with interesting results that I'll post later. In the mean time, check out MSNBC for a little MySpace murder connection.

The phone call we all dread.

Let me preface this by saying that I don't blame the Special Education and Resource teachers for this type of call. They have an even tougher job scheduling all this mess.

Pick up phone, enter in code......

"You have 6 new messages. Message from ____________, at 4:30 p.m."

"Our mutual student ____________ is having a meeting (504, IEP, conference) to address some concerns of the parents about the child's progress. We are trying to find a good time for everyone. We came up with 4 p.m. Now, I know that seems a little late, but that seems like the time that everyone can do it. We understand your time is short, so we will let you address your concerns first. Thanks, and we will see you tomorrow at 4."

Of course, the schedule is not very helpful for me, who has 12 kids in the gym at 4 p.m. waiting for basketball practice to start. Then lets add on the fact that most of those 6 messages on my voice mail, were similar meetings throughout the week. This becomes very, very frustrating. And it isn't that "Hey, I'm done with my contract day when the clock strikes 2:38" kind of frustrating. I've never liked that attitude about teaching. It's more like the double edged sword frustrating. Who do we insult by our absence? The special ed teacher, who is stuck in the middle of this whole mess? The parent of the child, who probably had to leave work early for the meeting? The basketball players, who I committed to coach for the season? The basketball parents, who would like a competitive season for their kids? This one is pretty much a lose-lose for me. For one day this week, I decided to back practice up 30 minutes to accommodate a meeting, one where the parent insists that all teachers go to this meeting or feel her wrath. Wow, can a person want to be anywhere else than that meeting?
Um yea, how about basketball practice.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ripon City Cameras and a toga

My students have been doing quite a bit of writing as of late. As I stated last week, my Intro students did a Quickwrite about the city of Ripon in Central California. The city has put large amounts of funding into cameras for the police to view city streets. I asked my students to put themselves into the shoes of a Ripon city councilmen, and to decide if the cameras should have been installed. The results were interesting.
-The ratio was about 70-30 against having the cameras. The number one reason against the cameras was the age old argument of "invasion of privacy". However, the interesting point is that the students usually did not simply stop with that argument. Many pressed on stating that the funding used for cameras should instead go towards more police on the streets. The cameras, they decided, were too expensive and not effective enough.
-There was no racial or economics disparity that I could see. Both Hispanic and white students had the same 70-30 split, as well as men and women.
-There were only a couple of papers that had the whole "cops are bad" thing going. Much less than I expected if you listen to my classes during discussion. This shows the machismo that is prevalent in discussions is suddenly gone when the thoughts are private.

In my College Prep class, the bills are done and one targets the President (that would be me). The "Toga Tuesday" act of 2005 is to force the teacher to wear a toga (over clothing) on Tuesday of every week. Right now the bipartisan support is generally strong, but showed signs of weakening when I started to talk to certain members of the House about possible White House favors (ie: extra credit). Last year's class created the "Pink Tie Act of 2004", which forced me to wear a pink tie every Monday in support of Breast Cancer research. That bill was very well done and avoided the pitfalls of being vague. This bill has holes that I intend to exploit. I better, otherwise my Greek half will be coming out during school.

In totally lighter news, I found an old cd that has Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick tunes. I was driving to Willits to help my wife out with a situation, bumpin to "La Di Da Di" and "Mona Lisa" was a huge trip. Most kids can't comprehend that I listen to rap music, and get a huge kick out of the moments when I bust out the funky old school lyrics.
Totally clean lyrics........of course.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Ukiah 65 El Molino 50

We jumped on them early with the full court man press, and it immediately began to pay dividends. Within the first few minutes we took a nice 8 point lead and were looking to push it forward.
Of course, we must remember that at this level, nothing is really safe. Not even a lead. The reaching began, along with the fouls, and the nasty habit of allowing the point guard to penetrate to the basket. Before long, it was 25-23 El Molino. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.
After a couple of adjustments, we held a slight lead at the half. In the second half we focused in on pounding the ball inside. We were very successful and it wore out the opposing team, leading us to pull away near the end and finishing with the victory.
After the game, I went to the Varsity coach and told him that I recommended that my best player be moved up to Junior Varsity. His line tonight: 25 pts, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks. He's ready, and my guess is that he will be starting for them fairly soon. I'm of the opinion that the only reason that a person should move up is if they are going to start for the next team, period. This guy fits that mold. If he were to stay with me, he'd have been the best center I've ever coached.
This makes the season all the more interesting. At first, I thought I was going to be post reliant. Now I find myself more reliant on guard play, which I have no problem with.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tough Week

In August, my wife lost a member of her family. On Tuesday, she lost another one. It is been a tough week to say the least.

Dealing with emotional stress and constantly being "on" is difficult in times like this. On Wednesday, I was pretty much out of it in terms of energy. All the emotional stuff that occurred during the night previous just sucks the juice right out of you. Then today I was exhausted, like I had fought in a war. The problem was, my classes were not difficult at all. I haven't had a thing go wrong in terms of management or my work. I'm caught up, I'm where I want be in terms of my semester, I'm just tired.