Monday, December 04, 2006

Push to 2 year, push to failure?

I used to be a big proponent of pushing students towards community colleges. I bought into the whole arguments that kids needed a transition environment, kids needed a cheaper alternative, kids needed to be closer to home, and so on and so forth. Then, about 3 years ago, I realized that pushing kids towards community colleges was pushing kids into doing less. Why did I come to that conclusion?
-Cost: The money for a 4-year university is there, period. I registered with a variety of websites that track scholarship, grant and loan availability and found that there is money all over the place that is dying to be nabbed. What I found is that students don't really want to be bothered by doing the work to nail the funding. They work on college apps, finish the first semester of their Senior year, and then Senioritis sets in. Is a community college cheaper by the unit? Yes. Is it overall costs of community college cheaper? Well, as I will show later, the lost time goofing off and lost possible revenue could cost thousands.
-Transition environment: AKA, expecting less from the students. In the end, pushing kids to a community college makes us less accountable as secondary school teachers, putting the pressure on community colleges for students to succeed. Again, the expectation is of the "kid gloves" type instead of taking the dive into a much more substantial education.

Enter the recent article from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The statistics for community college completion rates is astounding.

Roughly 15 percent of full-time community college students eventually transfer to a four-year college; another 3 percent get an associate degree; 3 percent get some other certificate; 79 percent get no credential. Half of entering students never go past the first year.

Because of poor preparation, most need basic-skills courses before they can even begin college-level work. According to Community Colleges Chancellor Mark Drummond, "90 percent can't do college math; 75 percent can't read or write at college level." Many arrive without any idea of what college work requires.


This is another example of expecting little from our students and simply allowing it to continue to happen. Oh, and this isn't just an issue with teachers. Once again it is society that has yet to take education seriously.

I'm back

Well, it just took awhile to get things situated, ok?

I occasionally get this way when I'm just way too over-my-head in work, and I don't go home feeling up to blogging. I go home feeling up to sitting in front of the television and grading papers. But now I'm a bit more caught up, and my bloggosphere is back in business. Plus, I have a dozen newspaper articles that need to be discussed.

I actually got more caught up at a basketball tournament in Fortuna. For those of you outside of the Emerald Triangle (those in Northern California will understand), Fortuna is a little town about 15 miles south of Eureka on the NorCal coast. The town is fine, the JV basketball tourney is better. I can't comment very much on basketball, since the subject is absolutely on the touchy end of the spectrum around here. However, I can say that I'm really enjoying what I'm doing and you can follow my teams progress at my website, What does one do in Fortuna? Well, since I'm there from Thursday night to Saturday night, I end up doing a lot of grading in a little Best Western motel room while I listen to HBO movies in the background. What else? Christmas shopping was attempted, but the only real deal was bottles of Chateau Sovereign 2003 Cabs at Costco for $14. A seriously good wine at a seriously good price. Of course, I couldn't buy them while I was in the situation of being at a basketball tourney. They way things are going, some yahoo would have a fit if I had purchased wine as a Christmas gift for my wife. But don't you let that deal pass up. Go get some!

So the blogging is back. Ready?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Busy, busy, busy

Mock Congress
Model United Nations

I'll write when I get a chance!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Education Carnival

Yep, Education Wonks is still managing the Midway. Check out the Education Carnival.

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is a nice, mellow Thanksgiving here at the house, with smells of turkey and sounds of football and family. But let us not forget the real meaning of Thanksgiving.


We cannot break bread with you.

You have taken the land which is rightfully ours.

Years from now, my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations.

Your people will wear cardigans and drink highballs.

We will sell our bracelets by the roadsides.

You will play golf and enjoy hot hors d'oeuvres.

My people will have pain and degradation.

Your people will have stick shifts.

The gods of my tribe have spoken.

They have said, "Do not trust the pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller."

And for all these reasons, I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground.

Pretty damn funny speech from Wednesday Adams from Adams Family Values. I also makes for an interesting question. Could Thanksgiving be going the way of Columbus Day, being very un-politically correct?

Monday, November 20, 2006

I got your Thanks right here.

Like most teachers, I will be doing no work on Thanksgiving. Since I'm naturally lazy (hey, I'm a teacher!), I figure that there should be no reason to stress myself when the whole holiday should be about me. For instance....

-I did not work in the classroom for an hour last Saturday. No way.

-Nor did I hold a basketball parent meeting on Saturday. That would be wrong. Nor will I practice three days this week.

-I also didn't attend a scrimmage on Saturday, will not be attending a game on Wednesday, or a game on the Saturday after. What? Do you get paid to work on your time off?

-Of course, updating my website, grading papers, updating grades, and communicating with students is totally out of the question.

I know, it does sound a tad bit sarcastic. In reality, I'll be doing all this of course. But this is a little frustration coming out from the idiot in Albertson's I ran into that said, "Week of on Thanksgiving? Must be nice not to work for a living." Sure, and when I get done with my 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. job teaching YOUR kids, I'll remember that.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Stupid Bastard of the Month Award

Imagine a world were free thinking was strictly forbidden. Where politics was much more important than the needs of the children. Where the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. Where children are told that their life would be better without direction, a sense of purpose, or a place to be secure.

Where is this world you might ask?


Some fictional Orwellian world?

Nope. Try San Francisco.

Last night, the San Francisco Board of Education voted to eliminate the Junior ROTC, an institution that had active in San Francisco schools for nearly a century. 1,600 students in San Francisco are active in the program, and have been effectively told by the San Francisco School Board to buzz off. According to the Board, the military had no place in the schools and the action was also a stand against the military stance on gays.

Politics at work in the public school system, with no regard to the impact on kids. Instead of listening to them, they listen to this idiot,

"We don't want the military ruining our civilian institutions," said Sandra Schwartz of the American Friends Service Committee, an organization actively opposing JROTC nationwide. "In a healthy democracy ... you contain the military. You must contain the military."

Contain the military. As if the United States Army is invading San Francisco high schools and telling them to do drugs, join a gang, and kill the Navy. We are talking about over a thousand students that were told that 4 people's dumb ass political ideas are more important than giving them a sense of structure in their life. And no, don't come at me with the, "Wow, you love everything the military does?" bullshit. You watch the damn video of those hundreds of cadets that protested to keep the program and tell me that it wasn't doing some good.

Congrats to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for stepping up and calling the whole ordeal a disgrace, because it is.

Oh, want the ultimate kicker?

On other matters, the board introduced a resolution that makes race a factor in deciding what school a child will attend starting with the 2008-09 school year. No action was taken.

Jesus God.

Check out the San Francisco Chronicle for the full story.

Education Carnival

This week, Washington's own Science Goddess holds down the fort at the Education Carnival!

Take a peek!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Oh really?

How about a conversation starter. Blame Ms. Cornelius from A Shrewdness of Apes.

Here's what I've done (in boldface for this meme). What have you done?

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A teacher's worst enemy

In my five years of teaching, I've found the enemy, and the enemy is me. Well, sort off. Actually, the enemy of the teacher is lack of sleep. This week was one of the hardest to manage in a long time, and it wasn't because of kids or parents, it was the 4-5 hours a night of sleep. What's causing it? Prepping for Model United Nations Workshop, the beginning of basketball season, the usual lesson planning, and prepping Mock Congress for two government classes.
So what exactly does a lack of sleep do to a teacher?

First of all, it makes waking up every morning a nightmare. The first thought that went through my head at 5:15 a.m. was "Holy God, I just went to sleep". This is not the most positive way to start the day.

Then there is the massive amount of food that I eat (stress eating) and coffee that I drink. Peppermint frappachinos have became the overwhelming coffee of choice this week. Add to that the two fast food burgers I ate for dinner twice this week and it all equals 10 extra pounds and bad acid reflux.

Dumb mistakes are made in class when sleep is at a minimum. I would call correct answers wrong in a Jeopardy review. I'd have massive trouble spelling really easy words. Finally, I'd forget to do basic things in the classroom, like grading certain papers, filling out forms, and updating my attendance sheets. Of course, all this mistakes means even more work for me later on.

Finally, the classroom management issue becomes glaring when I'm tired. Every little thing that is usually a simple annoyance now became a severe irritant. Add to that my naturally sarcastic attitude and we had a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, the one incident that occurred was minimal and cooler heads prevailed.

Thankfully, this weekend was a three day weekend, which isn't much of one with 4 hours of basketball a day. However, I'm all caught up with grading and prepping for the week, making the week of sleep deprivation a thing of the past.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Passion for Election Results

Governor: My pick- Phil Angelides. Result- The Governator. I know, how can I vote for such a horrid candidate? Anyone with a pulse knew that Phil had no chance at winning, but that didn't prevent me from throwing my vote the way of the lame Democrat. Schwarzenegger tried to solve California's economic problems by taking the idiotic step towards robbing public employees of their pension and pay. You know, those employees that are some of the lowest paid professionals in California. I don't trust him, at all. In the meantime, both parties need to find a true California candidate. Both currently suck. And Schwarzenegger going after Boxer down the road? Ew.

Prop 1A: My pick- Vote No. Result- Passed. This was pretty much a useless law. Taxes are taxes, and shouldn't simply be earmarked for specific projects. Plus, it can be revoked in an "emergency".

Prop 1B: My pick- Vote No. Result- Passed. I'm done voting debt to future generations because legislators and the idiot Governor don't have the balls to raise taxes to fix things. "Proposition Governing" is not an effective way to run the legislature. We voted you in, you do what you were elected to do.

Prop 1C: My pick- Vote No. Result- Passed. Call me anti-homeless. Actually, call me more concerned about getting workers off welfare, including going into debt over it.

Prop 1D: My pick- Vote No. Result- Passed. Yes, I voted no on school bond money too. It basically shrugs off responsibility for education on this generation of voters. Make education a priority, stop talking about it.

Prop 1E: My pick- Vote No. Result- Passed. A vast chuck of the money goes to the Delta. I don't live in the Delta, and my flood would not be prevented by this money.

Prop 83: My pick- Vote Yes. Result- Passed. I think we should be even harder on sex offenders. I have no problem tracking them, and no problem with forcing them away from schools and parks. If they move into a certain neighborhood, build another park.

Prop 84: My pick- Vote No. Result- Failed. Prop 1E, part 2. Why would I even consider it?

Prop 85: My pick- Vote Yes. Result- Failed. Abortion is outpatient surgery. Minors need a parent there for them. As for the arguement that their home situation could create a bad problem, check the statistics. The idea that Mom and Dad are abusive to every minor having an abortion is massively warped by the media. A vast majority of abortions are from girls using the procedure as birth control. I'm not saying that we should ban abortion, but controls are needed.

Prop 86: My pick- Vote Yes. Result- Failed. Sin tax failed? Californians are so damn freaked by the word "tax" that they won't even tax tobacco. Hypocritical environmentalist that won't vote against helping to prevent second hand smoke. Worst defeat of the evening.

Prop 87: My pick- Vote No. Result- Failed. No kidding. Anyone with a brain should see that there would be no way to enforce the "can't push costs onto consumers". Supply and Demand will make the costs go up anyway. Might as well directly tax the consumer.

Prop 88: My pick- Vote Yes. Result- Failed. People hate parcel taxes. People love stupid commercials. Mix the two together and you get this amendment defeated. I wonder if people realized that you were exempt from the tax if you lived on the property.

Prop 89: My pick- Vote No. Result- Failed. What the hell was the Nurses Association thinking??? Down in flames you go!!

Prop 90: My pick- Vote Yes. Result- Failed. I don't get this one. So voters actually voted for the government being more free to grab private property, and even allowing the government to sell that property to developers. I guess the Supreme Court say the writing on the wall.

Measure W: My pick- Vote No. Result- Passed. A bond for Mendocino College. This institution doesn't have the student base to need to be renovated. Cut the bond in half (to $30 billion), focus on something other than the parking lot, and you might have my vote. Instead, I'm going to be charged an extra $100 a year in property taxes for a parking lot and roof tiles.

Measure X: My pick- Vote Yes. Result- Passed. 10% is the standard rate for a transiant tax. I don't quite understand why this only passed by about 60 votes. Tourism is up, let them help pay for services.

Measure Y: My pick- Vote No. Result- Passed. "Should the U.S. leave Iraq immediately?" This is Mendocino County, what did you expect? A totally unimportant advisory measure on a ballot of important items. Plus, the idiot who came to the school to hump the measure knew next to nothing about Iraq, she just came off like a your typical peacenik.

Sonoma/Marin Measure R: My pick- Vote Yes. Result- Failed. This actually passed in Sonoma County, but not in Marin. So, no train from Cloverdale to Larkspur. Voters in Marin complained that the cost was too much for a train that would not do enough. I agree........BUT, I don't think that Marin will vote for ANY train project EVER! They are way too "NIMBY" and are satisfied with the congestion on HWY 101. I'm ready for the state to come in and just build the damn thing, and tell the Marin "yuppie hippies" to deal with it.

Sacramento Measures Q & R: My pick- Vote No. Result- Failed. Funding an arena for a bunch of rich people? Please. If the public is going to pay for the arena, they should get the revenue from the arena. The NBA is not leaving Sacramento. The league knows the town loves the team, and they won't bail on them.

I knew the House was going to fall, but I thought that the Senate was going 50-50.

Sorry for the absence

I've been slammed.

Basketball started, Model United Nations was swinging, and I've been real involved in describing the elections with the kids. It equals late nights and no time to blog.

-My father had a small heart attack last weekend. I freaks me out to think about the having a heart attack, but my father was real good through it and is fine now. All he has is a hole in his leg where they inserted the stent. Of course, the primary reason he had the heart attack was his diet, which was not good. Bad news, I'm built like my father. Worse news, I don't eat much different.

-The Berkeley Model United Nations Workshop was a big success on Saturday. The kids were engaged and very interested in continuing the entire process. The only complaint was that some kids felt overly prepared, as I was one of the few teachers that has an actual class, not a Model U.N. club. One neat thing was that the Cal-UCLA football game was that evening, and the band was in full throes during Saturday afternoon. The kids got a nice view of Berkeley life and the Cal Bear Band. Although they enjoyed it, some looked a little intimitated.

-I'll blog more later. Plenty of stuff has happened at school, but I'm just too worn out to discuss it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Education Carnival

Check out The Median Sib for all your midway needs.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy, Happy Halloween!

I did my usual this Halloween at school; a monk.

The students were fairly attentive, and I was glad to see that they were really into discussing the California Election. So the college prep classes worked fine.

Unfortunately, my Intro level class pushed my last straw and I've taken down the magazines and bookshelf in my classroom. My silent reading group has done damage to books and magazines over and over again. I try to be reasonable with them, after all, they are "adults". But today they left books on the floor and destroyed a Garfield comic book, and left magazines all over the place. So, like I'm dealing with a bunch of elementary kids, I put the magazines away, covered up the bookcase, and that is that for the next quarter. No magazines, no books, and the kids are now absolutely responsible to provide their own. It was sad actually, and I don't like having to threat Seniors like little kids, but I guess it happens. The problem is, I have a group of maybe six guys that need to get nailed in order to get things taken care of. I'm ready to move them to various areas in the front of the room, because I'm getting the feeling that they are becoming a little too empowered.

Grades are done and ready to be handed in. Statistics?

International Studies: 32 students. 28 passing and 4 fails. 10 A's.
College Prep Government: 63 students. 55 passing and 8 fails. 6 A's.
Introduction to Government: 46 students. 40 passing and 6 fails. 2 A's.

Half the failures are totally attendance based, while the rest is homework. All of the International Studies failures are due to attendance, since the class is during Zero Period (7:30 a.m.). On the other hand, the students that are getting A's most definitely deserve them. I tell students at the beginning of the year that it is hard to get an A in the class and it is hard to fail. You need to really try to do either.

Finally, there was little mayhem on this Halloween night. We are one of those mean families that turns out the lights and relaxes during the night instead of dealing with trick-or-treaters. Seriously, families drive to the neighborhood and whole thing becomes a 2 1/2 hour candy fest. The only incident involved 2-3 Seniors who knocked on my door and said, "Jeffrey Silva-Brown, you give those kids some candy.", and scurried off giggling. It was only 7:30 when it happened, so no big deal. It woke my wife up though, which is never a smart thing to do to a woman who wakes up at 4 in the morning. It was just kids being kids, and that type of stuff really doesn't usually bother me. It's kind of affectionate. If they don't like you, you won't hear a thing and wake up the next morning with something ugly on your hands. That's one of the drawbacks of all the students knowing where you live, but 99% of the students that I see at my home are no problem at all. I'll be working in the garage or doing yard work and they'll stop by and chat. I had that one issue two years ago with the threat, and that is the extent of the really nasty stuff.

Wanna know who's coaching the boys' basketball program at Ukiah High?

So do I.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Work to rule?
Nah, doesn't do the kids much good at this point. Which is why I spent most of the weekend creating a Model United Nations website for the school. If you want to check it out, click on Mr. Silva-Brown's Website under the Links section to the right. Then click Model United Nations and you will see the result of a weekend of work. I must say that I didn't make the overall template design, however I did manipulate the images and the colors, deal with the links, yada, yada.

I'm trying to shake off all of this cynicism before I start the week, as it will do nothing but shake me down. And this week's schedule will be a doozy. I have lots of after school stuff to take care of, everything from Model U.N. driving issues, to summertime university credits, to late night basketball. Arg!!! But it will get much better after this weekends trip to Bezerkeley. The first trip is always the most difficult to manage.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Week, oh week

I'm sitting here right now listening to old Cardinal Egan visits to the Imus in the Morning show, and working on a new Ukiah Model U.N. webpage. I need to laugh, and others need to lighten up.

-"If the parents don't like him, teachers and coaches should be fired". I have heard or read this quote nearly a dozen times this week. Ever since the A.D. was fired because of a group of parents, this quote has given a false sense of confidence to parents that they actually have power to impact everything done in a public school. And some of you actually question why teachers have tenure?

-Global Studies had their first mini-model United Nations session (minus the country research) regarding the situation in Sudan. In the end, the resolutions that passed agreed that economic sanctions were needed against Sudan, and that the United States should participate in a larger peace keeping force to protect the civilians. Sure, it is a tad bit naive, but the resolutions were well done and the debate was good for a first time. Want to meet Coach Brown? I'll be at the Berkeley Model U.N. Workshop next weekend with a small group of interested students. You can say "hi", or "I hate your blog", or some other uplifting comment.

-Skunky harvest is here. Yes, nothing is more potent than walking out of the house to the small of marijuana every morning at 6:15. Growing is so prevalent here that it is unbelievable. My hope is that the passing of Norm Vroman will hope the county go in a more reasonable direction in terms of drug issues. Speaking of the recently deceased, it looks like he was on someone's watch list before he died. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported today that the Feds were planning to raid his house to sniff out weed, guns, and cash, some of which might had been stolen from police department raids. Hell of a guy, huh? I also hope that Judge Cindy Mayfield throws the book at these two guys that had a 400 plant plantation in the middle of a residential neighborhood, near a school. And I hope it goes something like, "You are getting the maximum penalty and you can take your medical marijuana card and stick it straight up your ass!"

-I need a good LCD projector with at least 2000 lumins and reasonable replacement bulb costs. Anyone have recommendations?

-I realized on Thursday that my classroom management problems are nearly non-existant, and that is such a cool thought. I haven't had one kid tossed out, one kid written up with a referral, not one! I was just one of those realizations that was enjoyable to think about in a week full of garbage.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

2 Questions

1. Do you coach?

2. If you don't, did you used to coach and why did you stop?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

A long time in coming

It is well past time to add to my "Favorites Blogroll". Here's the new adds.

-Teaching in the Twenty-First Century
-Teaching in the 408
-School Me!
-The Quick and the Ed
-Friends of Dave
-Education in Texas
-3σ → Left

Hey, this is truly a medical marijuana case

From the Ukiah Daily Journal,

Bail for Memo and Mark Parker was reduced during a Friday hearing, after their attorney, Katie Lerman, failed to get the two released on their own recognizance.
The brothers have been jailed since Monday, when a search warrant was served at their residences, and more than 400 marijuana plants and 170 pounds of processed marijuana were seized.

"I believe this is a 215 (medical marijuana) case," Lerman said. "I believe the evidence is overwhelming in my clients' defense."

Mendocino Superior Court Judge Cindee Mayfield reduced the two Ukiah residents' bail from $150,000 each to $75,000 each.

Yes, one client had a headache and the other had a splinter. The 400 plants were simply to take the edge off the pain.


Castro Valley..........when parent "experts" try to run athletic programs

CW Nevius in the San Francisco Chronicle has got it dead on.

It's the kind of over-the-top behavior that's increasingly common -- parents running on the field, screaming from the sidelines and, in the worst cases, punching out officials. It happens when well-intentioned parents let their protective instincts for their children overwhelm their good judgment.

Castro Valley has a classic problem; parents deciding that they have a clue about running high school athletics. A veteran teacher at Castro Valley, Nancy Nibarger, decided to take the girls varsity basketball job. After a nice run in the beginning, her current record is less than stellar, and that is the time that this group of parents decided to pounce.

But here is the problem, after investigation about parent complaints, the school administration and the district found no problems. It was the school board that took exception.

An investigation was convened by the principal's office. Shari Rodriguez, varsity girls volleyball coach and a Nibarger supporter, says the administration interviewed every player on the team and reached a conclusion -- no action was needed. The parents group took it to the district level. Once again, every player was interviewed and the conclusion was the same -- no action. Finally, the group went to the school board. The final hearing, in August, lasted nine hours. Those who were there say that the anti-Nibarger group appeared with matching binders and that Goodman was seen pulling girls aside before their appearances to "help" with their statements. The group even led cheers, Rodriguez says.

And the board caved, adding on restrictions on the varsity program that are completely absurd.
-The coach will not be able to pick her team. The team will be picked by a six member panel that will include parents and community members. The coach will be 1/6 of the vote to pick "her" team.
-Her assistant coaches, one a Cal-Berkeley Hall of Famer, both having no complaints against them, were fired.
-Instead, a member of the parent group will attend every practice as a babysitter.

So let me get this straight. The athletic director supports the coach, the administration supports the coach, the district supports the coach, the kids support the coach, other teachers support the coach, but the board supports the parents? Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to a disastrous athletic season brought to you by people that don't know what the hell they are doing. High school sports programs are like Advanced Placement P.E., yet we are going to let parents have that much influence on what and how those classes are taught?

"If we don't stomp this out," says athletic director (Marie)Gray, "whosever mommy or daddy has the most power is going to be the starter. And if you look around the country, you see we are losing that battle.''

And along with it, we are losing great, young coaches. And we haven't even addressed the issue of the impact on the kids who work so hard for years, only to have a group of parents yank the rug from underneath their season because of their selfish actions.

"What I want to know is what are these kids going to do when they leave home and have a boss or a professor they don't like? They can't destroy everyone they don't like.''

Once again, let the real coaches do the coaching, and tell the other "experts" to be quiet, or you'll end up having a laughable athletic program.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


As in "thank God it is the......".

-Was that not a bad ass Battlestar Galactica!?!?!? I'm telling you, THE BEST SHOW ON TELEVISION!!!!

-"What, now that a new District Attorney is going to be hired, cops will focus on marijuana and not all the crack and meth out there? What a bunch of shit." I heard this three times this week from students who are now afraid that the county's bountiful crop will be tarnished by Ukiah's Finest. I really felt sad for these kids. I mean, it's like their life revolves around weed and they are constantly up to justifying why it is the greatest thing in the world. You get the "you can't die" angle, the "it's not addictive" angle, the "hemp is wonderful, ask Thomas Jefferson" angle, and the finally, if all else fails, the "hey, then why don't then make alcohol illegal" angle. It's just pathetic. No, not the kids, the town. The kids deserve to be taught a little discipline, and the town needs to stop spending a year on a stupid flag on a stupid hill. How about the weekly drug and booze binges with students? How about a year on that?

-My students did essays on which Amendment of the Constitution they felt was most important. The First Amendment was far and away the pick of the students. A couple did a nice job justifying other amendments, and those essays were the most fun to read. You love to see students analyze the 9th Amendment and explain its incredible importance to society. For those that don't know, the 9th Amendment is basically talking about rights that people have that are not stated in the Constitution. Some believe that this is where the concept of John Locke's Natural Rights is embedded. Other students had the 14th and 19th Amendments as the most important.

-My coaching position is now left in limbo after a small culling of the boys basketball program by the School Board. I wasn't fired, but if you are a basketball coach, you could see where my job would be interesting if a program head wasn't around at this point before the season. The biggest tragedy is that I've had a variety of good, young on-campus teachers that wanted to coach, say that they will not even consider coaching in the current situation. Canned if enough parents complain? Please. A lot of good coaches are walking away, and I don't blame them.
By this time next week, I'll either be coaching or I won't be coaching. If I'm coaching then I'm happy to bring some semblance of order back to basketball. If not, then it will be the first year since 8th grade that I won't have been involved in either coaching or playing basketball.

-International Studies conducted its first Model United Nations debates on the geocide occuring in Darfur. After a little sluggishness with rules and procedures, the kids became fully involved in debating and negotiating the genocide. At the end of this week, I'll give you an update about how it went.

-Remember, legalizing weed reduces crime.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What Economics is truly about.

This is Muhammad Yunus, a banker and economist from Bangladesh that recently won the Nobel Peace Price. He is also the prime example of why the concept of Economics, and the theory of ownership, is so important in creating a stable economic structure.

Yunus helped develop and implement a concept called microfinancing, the idea of giving very poor people no-collateral, low/no interest loans in an effort to get them out of poverty. His bank, the Grameen Bank, has succeeded in this endeavor on a scale that is unimaginable. Over $5 billion in loans have been handed out, with a repayment rate of nearly 99%!! Oh, and the bank is making a profit!

In exchange for the lack of collateral, the Grameen Bank insists on doing business in a way that gives incentive to better the borrower, and the overall community. Borrowers are a part of a group of five people, and the entire group must show that they can responsibly pay back the loan. One person defaults and they all are considered in default. Over 90% of all borrowers are women (more likely that the money goes toward the family), and there has to be an agreement that the borrower will use the funds to empower themselves. Check out the 16 Decisions of Grameen Bank. It gives excellent insight into what is expected from the institution.

Muhammad Yunus is a man who deserves the Nobel Prize, and thank goodness that we finally have a capitalist that both parties can look at as a success story. Those that teach Economics might what to consider using the Newshour video from 2001 that gives a nice summary of the actions of the Grameen Bank.

Hopefully, it will also be used as another classic example why you don't simply give money away to certain groups of people and expect them to want to work for a better life. A great quote, "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and he'll eat forever".

Thanks Mr. Yunus for teaching those that need to learn.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I still don't do Senioritis, and neither do many colleges

How nice of the colleges to finally figure it out.

Maybe you remember my post from two years ago where I stated that I didn't accept the issue of Seniors mailing it in with a few months to go in school, a condition that is known as "senioritis". Well, it looks like some other institutions of higher learning are finally figuring it out. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Colleges and universities from coast to coast are cutting students whose senior grades drop dramatically or who do not complete the rigorous course of study they promised in their application. California universities have rescinded hundreds of offers for this fall.

No kidding? Usually it is the very high end universities that are knocking at the door of Seniors in May, now the UC and CSU system are starting to get into the act. It really makes sense actually, since the application process is becoming more and more competitive. The only problem now is the reliance of junior colleges by students, not because of financial burden, but because of laziness.

Although the University of California, California State University and Stanford University have been revoking admissions for decades, they are becoming even more aggressive about demanding that students be ready for college work when they arrive.

"We want the students to be prepared. The biggest reason students fail in college is their preparation in secondary school," said Jim Blackburn, a CSU enrollment director whose 23 campuses have been trying to reduce the number of freshmen needing remedial courses.

My wife took attended a workshop at Sonoma State in June that revealed some startling statistics. Nearly 60% of all incoming freshmen need some sort of remedial Math and English upon entering the UC/CSU system. 60%!!!! That's a whole lot of wasted money and time for something they can learn free-of-charge in high school. However, I'm not the slightest bit surprised at the English numbers. I'd say that only about 30% of my current college prep population is ready for a CSU English course. Not too good.

Officials say the scrutiny comes as a shock to most students, even though almost all colleges and universities warn students in their admission letters that the offer depends on successful completion of the senior year without a slip in academic performance.

I read a study in the Wall Street Journal a year ago about parents being concerned that their kids have it harder in terms of the ability to find a job in the market than they did when they were young. The realization is starting to take hold that a lot of people have a Bachelor's Degree, and that a simple college education will no longer guarantee a job. Yet that attitude is not reflected by students in the classroom. Students are full of optimism (something that this society is famous for), but lacks the focus of reality. During the Willits Algebra Academy, I listened to the U.C. coordinator explaining to a group of 8th graders that it was vital to begin to get good grades early in their career because the universities are starting to get really selective. Parents seemed very interested, but kids were just screwing around, acting like the squirrels that they are. Is 8th grade too early for a little discipline and perspective? I don't think so.

And Seniors will learn the discipline and perspective lesson sooner or later.

Just a bizarre week

I can't really explain it any other way than to say that the week was simply bizarre.

You know what you get when you mix a bunch of Homecoming all-nighters and school days? Colds. That's right, the season for getting sick is in as all those kids that ate garbage for days and got little sleep succumbed to the common cold this week. Can't say that I didn't warn them to eat better. I got a little scratch in the throat earlier in the week, which has turned into a slight cough. I can't tell yet whether I've fought off the cold or if it just starting.

Speaking of other Homecoming effects, I gave my second test on Friday to my Government classes, with a very unhappy result. Averages were in the range of 69-72%. Ouch. And this was a pretty straight-forward test, mostly about Constitutional Principles, Amendments, and some Convention thrown in. When I asked about why they did poorly, the overwhelming answer was very simple; "I didn't study". No kidding? You might find a correlation between studying and test scores if you continue in this manner. Unfortunately, this isn't uncommon for this time of year. I expect a near 10% increase in the test scores for the next round, as students figure out that I'm very consistent with tests and quizzes, and that the test questions come right out of the notes.

I need to find a way to raise about $5,000 for Model United Nations. One approach is an Educational Foundation Grant that has the potential of making the Berkeley Model U.N. Conference a reality if I can get the paperwork straight. Wow, talking about a serious bunch of work! Applying for a grant is like doing my college thesis all over again, except that this time Constantine isn't going to get the visit from God that saves my ass. Thankfully, I've acquired some great advice and I'm plugging through with the process.

My website ( is having problems with the Making the Grade online grade upload. For some reason, some classes are showing up without any grades, just the e-mail link. Any suggestions?

Hopefully, by the end of this week, I can change part of this website and then move into a brand new era in my career. Sound coded and secretive? Well, it's meant to be. All I can say is that I remember back to my Junior year in high school, when I was in Mr. Mason's U.S. History class, I told a girl named DeAnna that I was going to do two things with my life. One was to teach high school History. The other was something else. I accomplished one dream, and the other is incredibly close.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Education Carnival

The Education Carnival is up at Education Wonks.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Fall Television, Part Two

Well, the shows have begun, the premiers have been cast, and the initial feelings are as follows:

Battlestar Galactica is.............the single best show on television, again. The season opener was excellent, which relevance to the modern global situation, and bizarre situation with Starbuck.

Amazing Race is.............still old reliable. I'm still enjoying the show's editing, which is smart and snappy.

Heroes of my new favorites. Being a fan of X-Men, you could see where I get the warm fuzzies for this show. Currently, it is doing a great job introducing the characters and setting up the mystery. Let's hope it keeps going!

Gilmore Girls over. It is depressing, again. Time to shoot this dog and move on.

Lost is...................still getting my interest, but I need some resolution. I was a little "well, fine" about the season premier. Not a good sign.

The Nine is...............interesting. Talk about a show that jams in the different emotions. It will either be excellent or flame out.

Jericho is..............flaming out. I'm in it for one story line. Make it better or go the way of "Kidnapped".

Dr. Who is...............same as always. Leave me alone about it :)

Studio 60 is.................pretty entertaining. I'm liking the chemistry, with the exception of Timothy Busfield, who is out of place.

Drop the homework?

The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an article that discussed the "growing movement" to abolish homework. Apparently a teacher at Gunn High School in Palo Alto has moved in the direction and has noticed a growth in students passing the Advanced Placement exam in Economics. He states that the reason is that students are more focused in the classroom, allowing for a less stressful home life and overall better academic performance.

The rest of the article is an argument about whether or not homework helps or hinders academic progress.

Homework has become less of a focus in my class for a variety of reasons. I've seen better academic progress by my students over the years, but can't say with certainty that less homework has something to do with it. I would hope that my teaching getting better would be the more reasonable conclusion. The main reason I've given less homework is simply that I'm not interested in spending every free moment grading homework. "Busy work" serves so purpose except to let teachers sit in classrooms and relax, and save the work to grade for a more comfortable situation at home. I'd rather not have the kids get the busy work (that is useless anyway), and then I won't have to grade it. The next reason that I've eased up on homework is because I don't consider "studying" as homework. I quiz like a mad man, which is an effective way to make sure that things get done. Then there is the issue of giving out projects or essays and having students give me updated sections, which I consider homework. See, in the end the idea should be that teachers actually do the teaching in the classroom, with some reinforcement or critical thinking taking place on the homework front. One of the complaints that I heard last year from one of my foreign exchange students was that teachers were simply giving work to do outside of class and doing no real teaching in the classroom. Not very effective for the bottom line.

In the end, homework is necessary, but let's remember that the greatest place for learning is in the classroom.

Homecoming finished

After the energy drinks, the fast food, the zombie stares, and the class clowning, the week that is Homecoming is finally over. The Seniors won the week with a commanding performance in their homecoming skit that was focused around the Star Wars universe. It was fun for the kids, fodder for the paper, and fairly irritating for the teachers.

Thank God it is over.

I've received a few e-mails about my negative attitude towards Homecoming, most stating that it is one of the positive things that happens at a school that has fights, drugs and gangs. I should probably clarify what I'd like to see with Homecoming Week.

First, stop reading the Ukiah Daily Journal. For some reason, the image of the high school is one of a drug infested institution that promotes mortal combat and has a different street gang on every corner. My first recommendation is that you cancel the Daily Journal.

Second, tone down Homecoming Week. This year's homecoming became totally invasive to the academic progress of students. I've had students miss 4 of the 5 days this week to do homecoming activities. Is that something that should be promoted? What about the dead eyed students that spent all night working on homecoming, only to come to school to sleep in class? More promotion? How about this:
-Dump the kiosk. It is a waste of time and energy, serving little purpose in the overall Week's activities.
-Dump the backdrop. It is another event that makes kids stay up late at night, including staying up to place them in the gym.
-Stop all lunchtime rallies. Students miss third and fourth period to prepare for the various lunchtime rallies.
-Have a rule stating that points are deducted for students that work on floats or skits after curfew.

Everything should be in moderation, including Homecoming Week. The ability for kids to manage a number of events and issues should be a priority for the teachers to instruct to students. Saying that, we need to remember that schools are academic institution.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mid-air collision survival

Want to read an absolutely amazing, and sad, story?

On Friday their was a mid-air collision over Brazil between a Gol Airlines 737, and a private executive jet. The 737 crashed with no survivors. The private jet somehow managed to keep aloft and everyone survived. A New York Times journalist was on the executive plane and recounts the harrowing moments of the collision. It is pretty amazing that they made it out alive.

Just a note, preliminary reports show that the pilots of the private plane are at fault in the crash. Apparently they were instructed by air traffic control to descend from 37,000 to 36,000, but didn't. The 737 was to the same altitude going the opposite direction when it hit.

Thanks to Benallaroundtheworld for the story.

I'm such a freakin killjoy

Homecoming week is only two days old and I'm already prepared to ask for the damn thing to be banished.

For those of you not from the 707, Ukiah's Homecoming is a well known event that pits one class versus another in a variety of events. They include eating at McDonald's (yes, the more you eat, the more points you get, how's that for progressive), small lunch-time events, a kiosk diorama, a massive gym backdrop, a huge Friday rally skit, a float on a flatbed truck, and over-all spirit for the whole week. The winning class gets the "Spirit Bell", and bragging rights. It is so popular that it is the number one item that has to do with the school that the Ukiah Daily Journal actually covers that isn't negative.

The only problem is that it is negative. The first two years of my time at the high school found me enjoying the whole attitude and atmosphere of Homecoming Week. Kids were amped up and the town really got involved in the little reindeer games. Now, after maturing as a teacher, I've come to realize that the week is a total waste of time that serves no purpose except to pit classmates against each other. In fact, I've noticed over the year that nobody really even cares about the main point of Homecoming, the football game. The whole week revolves around the competition between classes, which also makes academics suffer.

Monday morning I arrived at 6:15 a.m. to find a variety of students screaming and running around the school dressed in "class colors" and waving flags. I didn't smile. Then came the dead students to my classroom, since many of the Seniors (with acceptance from their parents) stayed up the night to hang stuff around the school. Then came the constant "Why aren't you wearing class colors?" question to students that didn't care. Of course, when the question was presented to me, my reply is "I will support any class with the appropriate compensation". I'm still waiting for my $300 fee to wear class colors on a school day. Something tells me that I'm charging too much.

This morning was much of the same. This time Seniors were dead because they worked on skit practice, the kiosk, and the backdrop all night (again, parents don't seem to mind). I don't let them nap in class and I don't change my schedule to their Homecoming mood, so I look like the royal jerk. Mix that with the incredulous "You make us work during Homecoming Week?" attitude and you have a bunch of pissed off teachers that have enough to deal with and don't need this week to help it along.

Oh yeah, I didn't mention the temper-tantrums, egging of students, a conga line by a group of students through the building in class, or the students that miss class to work on Homecoming.

Call me the Grinch if you must, but this week sucks.

Education Carnival

This week's Midway is hosted by Current Events in Education, a blog that discusses, well, current events in education.

I like this week geographic format. Go look.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Check out the Monet! Check out the Michelangelo! Check out the boobies!

When I taught World History a few years ago, I did a few units about the art of the period we were talking about. It is amazing how students react to art projects; first with boredom, then with interest, and finally with enthusiasms. The Renaissance project was a big hit, as students found such an intriguing blend of mythical figures, religious connotations, and brilliant colors. Some of the artwork that they research include nudes, whether it's David, one of the various Madonna's, or some other image of the human body. Over the three years that I taught freshmen, I rarely had any issues with students complaining about nude artwork, or even acting very immature when viewing it. Out of 90 students a year, I might have had 1 or 2 that would snicker. Other than that, the kids were really interested in the art.

So, does that mean that teacher Sydney McGee should have taken her 5th grade class to the Dallas Museum of Art? Does she deserve to be suspended and possibly fired because a student complained to mommy that he/she saw nudity in some of the artwork? According to the New York Times, that's exactly what is happening in Texas. The district is taking the situation out of hand and pandering to small town parents, something I found when I coached at certain small school districts.

In the May 18 memorandum to Ms. McGee, Ms. Lawson (principal) faulted her for not displaying enough student art and for "wearing flip-flops"” to work; Ms. McGee said she was wearing Via Spiga brand sandals. In citing the students "exposure to nude art, Ms. Lawson also said "“time was not used wisely for learning during the trip,"” adding that parents and teachers had complained and that Ms. McGee should have toured the route by herself first. But Ms. McGee said she did exactly that. In the latest of several statements, the district contended that the trip had been poorly planned. But Mr. Gibbs, the districtÂ’s lawyer, acknowledged that Ms. Lawson had approved it.
And people wonder why you need a union if you are a teacher. Her past performance evaluations are excellent, she is well liked by students and other parents, and was even awarded a Teacher of the Month award from a local paper.

Sounds to me like accountability for administrators might need to be considered.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Pot" calling the kettle black

You gotta love Ukiah.

Here is the picture that was plastered on the front page of Friday's Ukiah Daily Journal. For those of you that are from another planet, those are pot plants being grown indoors, something that is legal in Ukiah. The title of the article is Decade of Prop 215, that now infamous marijuana legalization legislation that the idiot voters in California made law.

This article is sort of "state of the bud" address in terms of Mendocino County. For instance,

The growth and sale of marijuana has been a cause of friction, especially in cities. In 2005, the Ukiah City Council passed an ordinance that restricted the number of plants a patient could grow within city limits to six adults or 12 juveniles.

Apparently the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Raich doesn't have much merit in this neck of the woods. You might be asking "why indoors"? Could it be safety for the kids? Could it be the increase in crime (crime has gone up since the ordinance was passed)? Nope. It was the "skunk".

It also required that plants be grown inside because of a skunk-like odor that spread through the city during harvest season, prompting complaints to both law enforcement and air quality officials.

As you can see, weed is alive and well in Ukiah. However, this isn't as much of a rant about Mary Jane as it is the hypocrisy of the whole situation regarding drugs, Ukiah, and the school.

On the same front page of the same exact paper is this headline, "School Safety Meetings Begin". School Safety Meetings are the attempt by the administration to get parents more involved in dealing with safety issues on campus, a very good idea since the idiot paper makes the school out to be the Mendocino County version of Attica. Some of the comments were the standard issues about violence, harassment, and general safety. Then came the parents and specialists that were all of the sudden concerned about drugs on campus.

Suzanne Bentley, also with Public Health, attended the meeting "primarily as a parent," she said. "My main concern is drug use on campus, specifically marijuana, which seems to be being dealt with in a very cavalier way. I've heard that kids ... many students, are smoking on campus; that there are lockers filled with marijuana. And, if there are locker checks the students know about them in advance," Bentley said.

Anyone else see the irony of celebrating the legalization of marijuana, and the condemnation of the one place were drugs are least tolerated, all on the same front page? I laughed out loud when I read about the "very cavalier way" that drugs are dealt with on campus. Cavalier? You mean sort of like the entire attitude of the county of Mendocino? I dare you to find any institution in the entire county that enforces federal marijuana laws like the high school does. Obviously Ms. Bentley has little knowledge of California Ed Code in regards to drug offenses, or the idea of due process. She also must have no knowledge of the now deceased Norm Vroman, a district attorney who passionately advocated legalization and rarely prosecuted offenses. If Bentley really wanted to help out, she would go to city council meetings and address the real problem of the drug culture that is now ground into the entire social order of this town. You are preaching to the choir, Suzy.

I almost forgot the obligatory teacher-basher at the Safety meeting.

Sharon Govern, also a parent, feels not only are schools an
instrumental part of the process, teachers, too, need to be more involved in order to evoke change. "Unless teachers play a strong role in this, talk the talk, walk the walk, I don't think it will succeed," Govern said. "Teachers are role models and need to be involved in the meetings," Coren said.

Actually, you really don't want me to attend the meetings. One of my shortcomings (according to some people) is that I'm not much of a diplomat. I'll tell you exactly what I think the problem is, without much regard to the fluffy feeling you might want to get from educators. I'd say things like "What the hell do you think we teachers talk about at lunch? We talk about wanting your kids safe, that's what." and "We get your kids for an hour a day. How about you be the best role model for your child.", and the ever popular "Talk the talk, walk the walk? You just remember that when I fail your kid or suspend him or otherwise discipline him". Sorry, not very diplomatic, but very effective in getting the point across.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Teacher meme

I've seen this floating around and decided that it would be an interesting meme to fill out.

1. I am a good teacher because..........I honestly think that I was born to do this, and I will forever work to get better. I don't know if I will ever be "great" at teaching because I have seen great teachers, and I just look in awe at the impact they have on kids. I can only work and hope.

2. If I weren't a teacher, I would air traffic controller. Something attracted me to that job before I was teaching, and I still think that it is a fascinating job. I would either do that or maybe work as a research analyst for Goldman Sachs.

3. My teaching style is.................real, period. I bring my attitude to the classroom, meaning that I expect a lot from my kids, but I also express a caring and fun attitude when it is appropriate. Even though every teacher school doesn't recommend it, I use sarcasm and very whitty banter. Of course, I teach Seniors in Government and Economics, and they buy into the environment. The trick is making your attitude conducive to teaching, which I'm having fun doing.

4. My classroom little world. I have student projects and business models on one wall, a huge bookshelf "classroom library" in the back, a chalkboard, and a white board. My desk is a bit messy, but I know where everything is. I have a T.V., VCR, DVD on a cart in the corner, and a laptop with LCD in the middle. It is my newest, most wonderful toy. I have a Darth Tater on my table, a Darth Vader helmet on my shelf, and a 6' Darth Vader stand-up in the back corner of the classroom.

5. My lesson plans..............are nothing like what they teach you in the credential program. Government is now automatic, Economics finding new things, and International Studies is outlined for the year, but detailed on a week to week basis. The more detailed the plans, the easier it is to adjust and the easier to becomes down the road.

6. One of my teaching goals make students enact some kind of positive change, and to have some knowledge of what is going on "out there". Reading and writing is sort of also a priority.

7. The toughest part of teaching is..............the fact that society doesn't really buy into the importance of education. Students are only what we expect of them, and currently society doesn't expect enough. Kids are not apathetic by nature, they are only modeling behavior that they witness. For education to change, society needs to take it seriously.

8. The thing I love most about teaching is.............everything changes, and teacher's have the power to make things better. Despite everything that goes against teachers and education, we truly can make a difference in the classroom, where all the magic happens.

9. A common misconception about teaching is....................that we don't work as long as "working people". Bullshit. Most of us get to school early, leave late, and do a ton of work at home and on the weekends. As for those "summers off", I go to school (30 units last summer), run basketball camps and clinics, and then take weeks to prepare my classroom and curriculum. Until you actually step inside a classroom (especially a special education classroom), shut-up.

10. The most important thing I've learned since I started that you must pick and choose your battles, and those that you pick to fight must be done with the utmost professionalism and documentation. How you handle (or don't handle) things at the beginning of the year can have a big impact on the rest of the year.

Indiana, this is history..............unless you went to Berkeley, Stanford, Duke or Yale.

For some reason, these statistics does not surprise me in the slightest.

Out of 50 schools surveyed, Cal ranked 49th and Stanford 31st in how well they are increasing student knowledge about American history and civics between the freshman and senior years. Other poor performers in the study were Yale, Duke, Brown and Cornell universities. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore was the tail-ender behind Cal, ranking 50th.
Remember that focus on Math and Science? Well, it seems like it is having the predicted impact on the Social Sciences, as college students are missing the historically relevant studies in their college lifestyles. I'm just not as shocked as others are at this article, which is being circulated at many sites on the net, including Right on the Left Coast (see links). I saw this a couple of days ago and it simply echoed something one of my exchange students told me on Monday. He stated that Americans seem very advanced in Math, but are very slow with Foreign Languages, and should be embarrassed about their lack of Geography skills. I concur, especially in regards to Geography. I had my International Studies students attempt to study and find 15 different locations in Asia. During a map quiz, less than 40% could successfully identify Israel, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Russia, China, Japan, North Korea, Philippines, and Indonesia. About a quarter couldn't plot half the countries. The foreign exchange student not only completed the required countries, but also completed the entire map.

Two of the examples that they stated were know the importance of Jamestown, and knowing Saddam Hussein's political party (Baath). College students should know the first question, but I don't see the Baath party as being THAT important, especially in this generation where the Baaths really don't exist any more.

Also, take a look at the election voter turnout numbers and it is easy to see why students don't feel like civics is important. With teenagers having more discretionary income than ever, having more access to media than ever, and being more active socially, civic responsibility is just not a priority any more. How do we change that? Once again, I think that school districts need to make school more important to the kids by extending the credits needed to graduate and implementing programs that instill civic and community pride.

Otherwise, get used to the 40% that vote representing you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Education Carnival

The Carnival is back at Education Wonks.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A roller coaster week

I made a critical error this week; I gave way to much homework, therefore I made it a weekend full of essay grading that was less than productive from a relaxation point of view. I started Friday night and just finished at around 5 p.m. tonight. Note to all new teachers; remember that you have to think about yourself when dealing with your energy and mental state. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't make the "mass homework" mistake too often or you will get burned out.

Hugo Chavez's speech was a pretty large topic in my classes, with most students getting a good laugh at his comments. It wasn't a laugh at the President, but more of a laugh at the school bully that is picking on a teacher when his back is turned. For the most part, they didn't take him seriously. Many have also began to see the economic implications that Venezuela has on the United States, and vice-versa. When it was reported that Chavez hasn't changed a drop of oil exported to the U.S., students saw Chavez's words as hollow, thus rendering him a less important international figure. Students are very interested in Iran, Darfur, and more recently, Thailand.

The horror of Homecoming Week is approaching. I know, what a killjoy I am. However, Homecoming Week is now so big, so important at this school, that academics become a backseat assignment for the students. Hell, academics might as well be on the trailer hitch! I've of the unpopular opinion of ending the current homecoming format and winding it way, way down. There are class vs. class contests that end up dividing the entire school, two 2nd period assemblies that tear half of my Seniors out of my required courses, the campus becomes a zone of posterization and propaganda, and all the teachers greet this event with a smirk and a tired glance at the administration for letting it continue. Sure, it is nice that it happens, but it destroys the week academically. Then, if the wrong class wins the "Spirit Bell" (they have contests all week), most of the next week is a drone of complaining by the losers. Already, three weeks prior to the event, I've had students staying up into the wee hours of the morning working on their skit (done during a school assembly on Friday), and their float (showed off during a parade on Friday afternoon). The only real cool thing about this year's homecoming is that the theme is Fantasy Realms, and the Seniors picked Star Wars. GO SENIORS!!!

Back to school night went down on Thursday. Attendance:
International Studies= about 30%
Government= about 20%
Intro Government= 1 student's parents.
That's right. Out of over 50 students, only 1 student's parents showed up for the event. On the reverse end, I've already had one complaint from a parent that stated a concern that the class was not "challenging" enough. However, I've had over a half-dozen parents also personally tell me that students love the class and are getting a whole lot out of it. We'll roll with the good.

I found out on Monday that I'm still a target of some angry parents regarding my blog and some comments that were made over a year ago on another website. A reliable source told me that it is being used in conjunction with other issues that a band of coach-haters are using to try and clean house in the athletic program. Let me make it very, very clear on how I feel about my coaching. I love coaching basketball and I see it as a huge benefit for kids. Many will learn more about life and being a man than in any academic subject in school. My goal is to create a 5 star basketball program that puts out high quality, high class student athletes. Just so we are clear, and not to sound egotistical, parents should feel very fortunate that I'm coaching their kids. You should be thankful that I'm honestly concerned about the well being of their kids and want them to be successful individuals. That group that is on a constant witchhunt to nail coaches to the wall are doing more harm than good to the program in that you are distracting good coaches from doing their job. I'm going to remain in the athletic program, continuing to be a role model of consistent hard work and leadership. Please take your political agenda somewhere else.

Mr. Silva-Brown will be playing the part of a toga wearing Greek, a Cardinal, Martin Luther, General George Patton, and former President Bill Clinton this week. We will be investigating different historical International Systems. Should be fun!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What's on your slate for Fall television?

Readers of this blog know that I'm pro-television. You know those weeks that a person is supposed to take to turn off the TV? I program extra shows into my Tivo just for those weeks. Everything in moderation, I say.

So the new season of television is off and running. What's on my Tivo and how long will it remain? Here is a list of my new hires, and some old favorites.

Imus in the Morning:
It is the mainstay in my television line-up.

The NewsHour with Jim Leher:
The news summary for my kids that is shown to them daily.

Frontline and Frontline/World:
Two excellent news magazines that produce some top of the line information for classes. Go to the website (link right) for online episodes.

60 Minutes:
Another classic news magazine that shows everything from Starbucks to Iran. A must for Social Studies teachers.

Back for Season 3, Lost is in full throttle mode in regards to the drama it produces. An excellent show.

Gilmore Girls:
In it's sixth (and possibly last) season, GG has become a has been in my book, but I'll watch it for a hopefully positive sense of closure.

The Amazing Race:
I still love the "Teams must now........." of network television. I guess that it helps that I know where the places are.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip:
Aaron Sorkin might have a another winner if the first episode was a sign of things to come.

I love good post-apocalyptic survival stories. This looked ok, but the music was way, way off. Make it Lost or X-Files spooky and you have a winner.

The Nine:
Sounds intriguing. I'll give it a chance.

Doctor Who:
Yep, I'm back for the next season. Let the inner nerd in me flourish!

Battlestar Galactica:
The best show on television, bar none. Hit the "catch-up" episode and then get on board for television's best!

You might ask, "When do you have time to watch?" The answer, we make time!

Education Carnival

The Education Carnival is up over at Median Sib. Give'em a look.

Monday, September 18, 2006

And what have we learned this week?

I'm currently in the throes of week #4.

I know that I've neglected my blogging duties as of late. Blame it on the fact that I'm just working my ass off trying to plan and organize stuff, mainly for the new International Relations class. The class seems to be going really well, even though the class gave me tongue lashing today when I presented them with an essay regarding Realism and Liberalism. I'm enjoying the flow of the class in that there is no pressure, and we are doing a whole lot of learning. Of course, we are talking about college prep kids that want to be there.

One of my students was a foreign exchange student from none other than Kandahar, Afghanistan. I say "was" because she has moved on to a different city, but her experience here was wonderful. In the short time she was with my class she discussed her views on Bush, the American perception of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the idea that the problems are based around the Taliban. She was elegent, well spoken, and a wonderful representative from her country. She will be missed.

I have a challenging class. I've nailed a variety of cell phones and IPods from the class, and have done two student moves to different parts of the classroom. The next rule breaker becomes an example because I can tell exactly who is just starting to test my limits. I have a half dozen that are thinging about it, and 2-3 that will probably act out on their unwise choice. Unfortunately, this group will also could dictate how the class reacts to perceptions to rules, which is why they need to be nailed immediately and fairly. For all you new teachers out there, the students will often do a good job telling you when students are getting out of line. I had a couple of eye rolls today from a group of ladies up front. It was a clear indication that they thought the troublesome group of students were getting away with too much and distracting the class. It is the sign that action must be taken.

Want to donate to the Ukiah High School Model U.N.? Hit up, it the Paypal button, then come back and comment about the site content. I always need feedback.

I noticed that USA Today has an article about teacher blogs, some of which (First Year, What It's Like, Get Lost, Shrewdness, Joanne Jacobs, Babylon, and Education Wonks) I read on a regular basis. Take a minute and check it out.

Finally, an exchange between the French teacher and myself, all in very good fun. His students were in the computer lab while a group of mine were at a lab table researching Federalist #51. He approached them and started talking about Montesquieu. I intervened.
"No, no. Don't start bringing France into the American political realm."
"But Mr. Silva-Brown, it is common knowledge that the great ideas in political thought actually began in France."
"Well, we try and avoid that part."
"Remember the quote by Thomas Jefferson, 'Every person should be a citizen of two countries; France and their native land'. Put that in your pipe and smoke it."
"Um, that's exactly what Jefferson was doing when he made that comment."

And the lab, and the teachers, roared with laughter. It's nice to have that kind of relationship with people you work with. It makes you think, "I love my job".

Now pass me some Freedom Fries.

Friday, September 15, 2006

And they say that teachers are out of touch????

About the only reason that I currently Tivo the CBS Evening News is the section called Free Speech, where all kinds of people, from Rush Limbaugh to Morgan Spurlock, take 30 seconds to spew forth a stream of quick consciousness.

Tonight, my wife and I were fixing dinner as we listened to the segment, only to bug our eyes out in surprise and make comments like, "Wow, what an absolute idiot". The segment was hosted by Joanne Lessner, a singer and writer from New York, and explained why her ideals as a mother superseded all the issues around the use of cell phones by students in schools. It could have been the most naive thing I've ever heard on public television.

Her thesis is that September 11, 2001 has now forced every child in America to consider themselves targets in the War on Terror, and cell phones are that shield against Al Qaeda.

There is no way I'm sending my 10-year-old son off to middle school without a phone. 9/11 happened on his second day of kindergarten. So for everyone who says, "kids have been going to school for centuries without cell phones," I would answer, "yes, but they didn't live in a world where they were terrorist targets."

I don't know what is worse; using 9/11 as an excuse for cell phones, or the fact that Lessner pointed out American children as targets of terrorists, and using that as a reason to have a cell phone. First of all Joanne, the next time a student brings his/her phone to school, has it go off in class, and states that he his testing his ringer in case of a terrorist attack, will be the first time. Hate to break it to you, but kids are text messaging, calling friends, and listening to MP3's, with little or no concern about the next 9/11. This argumentreeks onaivetety, with a hint of "fight the power"ism, and a handful of stupidity.

Here in New York, the mayor and the schools chancellor have categorically banned cell phones in schools because they say students use them to cheat on exams, sell drugs, and organize fights. Now I understand the Board of Ed's issue with cell phones, but what they're missing is that the basic function of a telephone is not what's causing problems in the schools

Hate to break it to you honey, but most states do not ban cell phones on campus. California has made it a law that they must be allowed on the person while at school. It is also obvious that Lessner has spent more time writing lousy novels than sitting in a classroom. Cell phones have become a functioning problem at schools, although they are certainly not the root of all evil. I have watched students scam tests, text drug deals, and make themselves a hugnuisancece by putting their focus on cell phones, not academics. Want to know how many phones I've taken in this, the third week of school? Nine. If it isn't phones going off in the middle of class, it's students that have to check the vibrating messenger to see which girlfriend called them. When I catch them, the answer is always the same, "My mom called me." Really? At 10:30 in the morning every week? Let me make it perfectly clear that when I was 17 years the last thing I wanted was Mommy and Daddy checking up on me at school. Either the kid has serious security issues or they are lying. Surprise! Students do lie!

The city should partner with a cell phone manufacturer and design a "city-approved" phone. Its only function would be to make and receive calls. Period. Those phones would be the only ones allowed in the schools. And one other advantage: Cities across the country could make money by selling these phones to students and pour the money back into the schools, which are dying for it.

Obviously we don't have a Mensa meeting leader here. Sure, let's partner the city and a cell phone manufacturer (whose contract will be through the roof) to make a cell phone that no kid will ever buy (yet cost the school billions). Yeah! And then schools across the country can loose money, and still have regular cell phones on campus! God knows, I see kids lining up for school t-shirts like crazy. Cell phones, here we come! Unbelievable.

Until there are working pay phones on every corner and in every school, my son will have a cell phone in his pocket when he goes to school, ban or no ban.

And here is an example why education is absolutely NOT a priority for Americans. Let me translate for you.
"I could care less for the rules of the school. The whole lot of them can kiss my ass. Phones rule."
Oh, Mr. President? Ms. Spellings? Anyone else out there that thinks that all teaching goes on at school? Are you getting this? Can we finally put a little accountability on the parents here?
FYI. At my classroom, there are four-five pay phones on campus, and regular phones in every classroom, and a couple for student use in the office.

Never mind that cell phones didn't work during 9/11. Never mind that parents are acting out against Education like idiots (we've had parents come in and complain that teachers won't let kids talk to parents on cell phones during class). Never mind that parents are not held to the accountability as teachers. Just remember, the cell phone will make it all better.

Update 9/20

My first post to be used in a somewhat, half-way major media blog. Blogma over at C-Net used my post as a pro-teacher point of view. From the reaction I've recieved, I'm not very popular over at C-Net, whose users seem to think that instead of getting the cell phone out of the classroom, schools should find a way to use them as educational technology. Hey, I'm the biggest supporter of educational technology that you will ever find. Saying that, the idea that teachers need to start looking at cell phones as educational technology is crap. Sure, and I'll be looking at my wall phone (landline) soon after.
Oh yeah, I was quoted at C-Net!!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More newbs doing the Carnival

The Carnival of Eduation is up at Current Events in Education, another rookie in dealing with the Midway. Say hello and be friendly.

I wrote exactly nothing this whole week (I teach, sue me), so there is a pretty good chance that one of my submissions will not be included.

Has it really been a week?


It must be those essays that I assigned at the end of last week coming back and biting me in the ass. For some reason I didn't manage my time in terms of assigning writing very well, which left me doing a lot of grading this week. My Intro classes wrote 9/11 reflections, my college prep did an essay regarding Morgan Spurlock's "Free Speech" piece on CBS, and International Studies wrote about Bush's Speech. Lots of writing.

Week two and the beginning of week three have shown me a couple of observations regarding year thus far. Probably the most significant thing that I witness is that I've become enormously reflective on my own teaching. I have been really critiquing nearly everything that I do and I'm in a better position now than ever before to fix it. I don't have to seriously lesson plan in Government, since I'm pretty set in curriculum. This allows me to focus on teaching styles and to eliminate weaknesses in my classroom management. I'm been much more into physical presence (moving around the classroom during lecture/discussion) and conserving energy for the day. I'm still pretty worn out by lunch, but I'm getting better and selecting areas to expand energy. Both these things are going to continue to remain a focus.

Another observation is that the honeymoon for the beginning of school is completely over. I've taken two IPods and three cell phones so far, a record for the beginning of the school year. One IPod and two of the phone problems were in one class during silent reading. There is definitely an issue with Intro level kids being allowed to act this way in other classes, because most college prep level students are not acting out. I'm not saying that they are stupid or childish, I'm saying that other people on campus are equating their lower academic levels with some permission to act like 6th graders. Some are beginning to run into the wall in my class and pretty soon we will see a select group try to seriously push me, to their detriment.

Finally, there is a great disturbance in the Force at the school. I really can't put it into words, and it is probably best that I don't, but I can only say that environment is more tense and edgy that in years past.....and I don't mean the kids. I've been asked by three separate people to be on committees for this and that, all of which I have declined because I'm getting a feeling that being outspoken at this point in time is not necessarily a good thing. I only know bits of pieces of information, all of it not very uplifting, which is why my focus needs to stay student based. In the end, the important stuff happens in the classroom.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Education Carnival

Get on the Bus has this week's Education Carnival, and it is currently being done Village People style.

Go visit and sing along!

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Hallway Show

After my first day of no energy, no drive teaching, the week did exactly what I had hoped and got much, much better. I can't totally figure out what the problem was, but it left the classroom very quickly and I ended up really enjoying my first week.

One of the things that I really noticed that kids like, and I'm going to be much more proactive in doing it, is greeting kids at the door before they come into the classroom. I stand outside of my door every passing period with a watchful eye and a smiling face as students stumble into my realm of politics and critical thought. Student reaction is 99% positive, and the administration loves it. Not only is it good practice for building relationships, but it also keeps another presence out for some of the trouble-makers to notice.

I'm also well known as the "crazy guy in the hallway" because I'll simply make off-handed comments to no one in particular. Some examples:
-someone listening to an I-Pod walks by, "Watcha listening to?". Great conversation starter.
-Kings and Giants jerseys get props, Dodgers and Lakers get hassled.
-"Good Afternoon".
-I'll start singing lyrics that pop into my head. One of the girls in my class mentioned Fleetwood Mac today and I started singing "Sweet Little Lies", which got laughter from the Seniors and looks of pure terror from the Frosh.
-Plenty of high fives, fist knocks, and the good old fashioned hand shakes.
-Kissing your significant other around my classroom? "Ahhhhhhhh, come on! Stop slobbering on the poor girl already!"
-Eating something? Offer a piece to any old student walking by. Licorice is excellent.
-Hacky sack with a group in an open area. Two years ago a group of use were like clock work every day.

But no matter what you do, stop and greet your students at the door, and smile.

I try to keep the attitude at my door fun and interesting. Some bad attitudes make snide remarks, but they are really very few and far between, and the worst I ever got was a couple that couldn't keep their hands off each other every day complaining to the vice that I was constantly harassing them. The way I look at it, standing in the middle of a crowded hallway, holding up traffic to suck face, is a either a Public Display of Affection (which has consequences), or a chance at entertainment. Last year I asked went up to them and politely asked if it was necessary to make a show of it. The response was pretty "mind your business". Ok by me. Means more fodder for the hallway show.

Students will continue to expect you at the door, and will even ask why you weren't there if you cope out. My recommendation is that every teacher should spend at least two weeks meeting kids outside the door and chatting in the hallways. I'm a ham, so my schtick is not necessarily the best for you, but a simple smile, "hello", and your presence, will go a long way.