Thursday, April 27, 2006

I've got gas

I've got gas, but it's some of the most expensive gas in the country. This map is a gas map courtesy of Gas Buddy. The interesting thing is that it shows where the most expensive and least expensive counties in the United States are located in terms of average price for a gallon of gas. See San Francisco? Run up the California coast until you hit the dark red (the symbol for most expensive). That is Humbolt County, home of Humbolt State, the City of Eureka, the Avenue of the Giants Redwoods, and the highest price for gas in the United States. Average cost for a gallon; $3.34 and rising. I live in the county just south of Humbolt, which is called Mendocino County. Our average is .20 less at $3.14. Now take a look at the dark green the right, located in the state of Wyoming. That is Natrona County, where the average price for a gallon of gas is $2.39. Those are the highest and lowest prices in the country. Quite a little disparity, isn't it?

I'm not really surprised, or angry about the current gas situation. I teach Economics and the problems with gas prices are perfect examples of supply and demand in full effect. People in the United States, and in California in particular, love to drive. This high demand equals higher prices which means more money for the oil companies. Is this bad? Not at all, since we are the ones voluntarily buying the gas. If you look at the profit margins of the oil business, you will see that it is pretty on par with most industries in today's day and age, which means that all the complaining by politicians is simply pandering to constituents. Record profits the problem? Here are the causes:
-bigger cars
-more drivers
-more developed countries
-longer driving times
-more commutes

That all equals more gas, and more profits. Don't complain, you are the one buying it.

It's a girl!!!

Great news from the education world!

Posthipchick (fav bloggers at right) at her Lovely Beausband are the proud new parents of a baby girl! Some of us had followed the trials and tribulations of Posthip for months now, and even we were ready for the little tyke to get out sooner than later.

Congrats and all the best to the new family!

Carnival of Education #64

Education Wonks has the Midway up and running. Give it a whirl!

National "I don't know why the hell I'm protesting" Day

Figure a way out of this one Margaret Spellings.

May 1st is the first day of STAR testing, the wonderfully planned event that will help determine the federal fate of our school. On that same day, Hispanics all over the nation will stay home from work, and school, making it the single largest possible fucking disaster for our school. 25% of the students are going to be missing in action. Oh yeah, those 25% are also the one's we are supposed be working really hard to help get better test scores. And guess what! They're all going to have permission from their parents! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the mother of all idiotic moves by the Latino community.

Why is it idiotic? What, besides the fact that the school will lose ADA? Besides the fact that STAR testing will be screwed? Besides the fact that the students don't know what they are protesting about? Yep, that's right, the students still think that HR 4437 is going to be passed and that they are protesting about that bill. Want to hear more idiocy? How about the dumbest bastards on the planet, the California State Senate, PASSING A RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE WALKOUT!?!?!?!?!?!? How the hell can you support education, especially at this time of year, and support students leaving school?!??! You are destroying the very institution you aim to help fix!

One of the main supporters, and head idiot, is the head of Centro Azteca, a man named Miguel Araujo. During an interview with CBS 5 in San Francisco, Araujo stated that "Hispanics don't need to be in school since the so many are dropping out and the schools aren't doing their job. I think that this is evidence that administrators and teachers are not doing their job right". Oh really asshole.....that's not what you were saying four years ago when you were so far up Peter Camejo's ass that you could play hockey with his colon. How about the whole "importance of education" and the support of teachers? Where is that now? How about the gang problem that the Hispanic community refuses to take an active effort in eliminating? Does that impact Hispanic education? What about refusing to let kids speak English at home? Could that be a reason? Sending kids to Mexico for a month? Could be a reason? How about sheer lack of importance for academic education in the Hispanic community? Might have something to do with it? No, you decide that students that miss school are going to get a "life lesson". Ok Miguel, here's what you, and those dipshit Senators, are teaching them:

-Don't worry about being educated, because Miguel will simply tell you what is right and lead you around by the nose.

-You know that free education that legal AND ILLEGAL immigrants take for granted? Fuck it. Who needs a system that spends billions of dollars specifically on programs that help Second Language Learners like MESA, Title One, Hispanic Retreats, special guidence counsulars, special mentors, special tutors, etc, etc, etc.

-Follow me and I'll give the Hispanic community the respectable image that it deserves. You know, one that takes advantage of children's naivity to parlay a political agenda.

-Finally, and the most important lesson of all, don't bother assimilating to the culture of the United States. That's right! Since we are Hispanics, and obviously different from the Italians, Germans, Polish, Scottish, Irish, Japanese, Chinese, and other dozens of cultures who have assimilated into the U.S. culture, we need to stand strong and united against the horrid attempts of America to make the transition smooth.

One question. Why aren't these advocates for social change taking their protests to Mexico? You know, where they are LEGAL CITIZENS.

Ok Margaret, I'm waiting for an answer.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Control your own retirement

I think one of the most important things I teach my Economics students is the power of controlling their own retirement future. With the current state of Social Security, and the number of businesses dumping pension packages, I think that it is vital that students understand than the money they start saving now will help them live a better future. We discuss stocks, bonds, mutual funds, various annuities, and I give them the tools to do their own research. I discourage brokers and "advisors" because they are all in it to make a buck. Plus, you can manage your own trades and investments on simple online brokers like Scotttrade or Sharebuilder.

Now comes an article in the Los Angeles Times about teachers getting hosed by the NEA regarding retirement programs (such as the much touted 403B's) that are supposed to help with retirement security, but in actuality are overhyped investment promotions. Apparently, the NEA and certain investment outfits are in cahoots to guide teachers towards programs that brokers profit from, whether from high fees or long term/low yield results. I have two thoughts on this.

First, I am hardly surprised that the NEA is partnered with corporate interests. I'm constantly irritated that I am required to funnel money to these corrupt assholes to further their political agenda, but I'm not surprised. The NEA is basically a political action committee that tries to parlay the whole "good natured, socially accepted teacher vibe", while at the same time taxing the members with no visible government results (pay? benefits? social attitude?).

As a result, hundreds of insurers, mutual fund companies and financial planners compete for teachers' money, touting a bewildering array of products. A union endorsement confers a huge advantage, allowing a provider to stand out from the crowd. Unions do more than simply give companies their blessing. Some help market and sell endorsed products. They tout investment firms on their websites and provide direct links to sites where teachers can sign up to buy annuities. Endorsed providers also enjoy special access to schools and teacher conferences where they can pitch their products. Teachers generally are not aware that unions are paid for their endorsements, directly or indirectly. Such deals usually are not mentioned on union websites or in brochures describing the favored investments.

These are not the actions of a well run union, these are the actions of a corporate structure. The union should be pushing education programs for all its members, with different a multi-tiered focus on where on the retirement scale a teacher is current at. Younger teachers can be taught that taking a risk is good at this age (not a 3% fixed annuity), while older teachers are taught that less risk and more security is a wiser move. Instead, the system is playing politics. Recently the California State Teacher's Retirement System (CALSTRS), the nation's second largest pension fund, decided to sell stock in any company that has connections to the Sudanese government, due to the recent issues in Darfur. Sounds very nice doesn't it? Except that it may not the be most financially sound decision for the members that happen to put money into CALSTRS. I think that what is going on in Darfur is awful, but I don't want my retirement to get worse because a lucrative Chinese petroleum company happens to do business with the Sudanese government. If this was a real issue, CALSTRS would pull all stocks from any company that does business with China as well, one of the world's largest abusers of human rights. I want my retirement in companies that are going to secure my future. Hey Mr. CALSTRS fund manager, I want my money in Halliburton and in any Venezuelan oil company that you can find. Chavez is going to end up kicking out the American companies eventually, the teachers might as well profit!

My second opinion has to due with the basic financial ignorance of the American citizen. If teachers, who are supposed to be educated professionals, are being lured into these grossly misstated investment opportunities, think about the average citizen who could be told that he must figure out his/her own financial security. We are talking about people that can't balance a check book, much less research a good mutual fund or take a few hours a week to check their stock portfolio. Total privatization of retirement is not the answer, but neither is letting the problem fester. Hey NCLB and CASHEE, how about less focus on the Pythagorean theorem and more time on secure the future of students.

Thanks to Right on the Left Coast (fav blogger, and loves Pythagoras) and the Education Intelligence Agency for heads up on the article.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Rupert Murdoch solves the MySpace problem

Since parents are totally irresponsible about monitoring their child's online visitation habits, Fox Interactive Media (part of Murdoch's NewsCorp) decided to hire someone to safely patrol MySpace in an effort to protect the youngins from all the pedophile freaks that roam the Internet.
Business Week had the article first, but I also found a copy at Yahoo. Apparently, the MySpace savior's name is Hemanshu Nigam. He's worked for Microsoft for years dealing with Cybersafety for children and has been involved with the U.S. Government in enforcing computer crime cases. In a nutshell, Nigam is going to do what is usually done; offer filtering software, make sure the site is available for those 14 and over, monitor for malicious activity, delete illegal images, yada, yada, yada. Welcome to MySpace, Nigam!

This is pretty much a public relations move that is going to have little, if any, impact on the habit of teenagers on MySpace. Once again, the onus of dealing with kids is put in the hands of someone other than the parents. You're going to tell me that this guy is going to actually do some prosecuting of MySpace accounts that show a 15 year old snorting blow? What about the MySpace fights between jilted lovers that one boyfriend is going to "kick the ass" of the other boyfriend? Or that 14 year old girl in a string bikini that plays off like the school slut? Is Nigam going to be the judge, jury and enforcer of all these problems? Of course not, but at least MySpace can now tell the general public that it has done all it can save tearing down the site.
By the way, if you have a MySpace account, shoot me an e-mail and I'll add you on.

Put down the paper and slowly back away

I was taking a look at First Year Teacher's blog recently when I came upon a story that is becoming ever more prevalent in schools, the lack of paper. One of the costs that most school districts, including ours, is trying to cut back on is copier costs. Apparently, it is the little old Xerox machine that is breaking the bank for the school district. Occasionally, we might be reminded that we need to cut back on using the paper, something that I actively pursued during this year. I'm finally getting tests and quizzes down without errors, and to my standards, and not having to copy new ones every year. I've also put more quizzes on the projector, which saves paper. I'd say I've cut my paper output by a good 30-40%.
Still, to have to worry about something as necessary as paper is pretty damn ridiculous. What's worse is hearing the complaining when I tell kids to take out paper. "We use too much paper in this class." "You're not very environmentally friendly."
My response?
"Just another chapter in my saga to destroy one full acre of Amazon rain forest by the end of this year. Thank you for contributing."

By the way, go ahead and ask your professors for paper, kiddies. That will really be a laugh.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Teacher Attrition

Ms. Frizzle (check my favs) found this little tidbit from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future , a document that shows, at length, about the problems in education with finding and maintaining quality educators. More and more teachers are leaving the profession for a variety of reasons, income being among the top of the castle. Just today I ran across an article in the Contra Costa Times about teachers leaving the Mt. Diablo school district for greener pastures because they don't have adequate medical coverage. One of the teacher's that was interviewed mentioned teaching at San Ramon Valley High for a 70K salary. That might sound nice, but 70K in San Ramon will not buy you a home, at all.

The problem is getting worse before it gets better. Teachers in Oakland barely reached a deal, and still seem to be preparing for a stand-off. Culprit? Health care. Hell, teachers in Yreka protested increases in their costs of health care. Within six years, they are looking to pay $1,000 a month. $1,000 a month?!!??! Who the hell is going to want to work for $34 grand a year, and have $12,000 eliminated for health care?

Well, according to the report, not many. We all know the scary "First Five/Fifty Gone" statistic. Basically half of all teachers that start the profession don't last past the five year mark. I'm currently in my fifth year, and I have every intention of staying, but at the same time, I can just feel underapprciation by society regarding education. It does make me consider other options, but being with good kids makes me think otherwise. However, if I was in a bad district with bad admin, I'd have left a long time ago. Other statistics that are also not surprising is that Special Education teachers are most likely to leave. They are under enormous pressure and are compensatated way too little. If Special Ed were to strike, every district would be fucked. Can you say "massive lawsuit"? Also no surprise, Social Science (cough, cough) teachers are least likely to quit. I think that it is extremely relevant and interesting, and teachers that make it that way for the kids have good classes. I've heard that Social Science degrees are easy to come by. Ok, but bullshit. My History/Social Science degree was a bitch to get. Sitting through opinionated poli-sci classes and boring as hell Medieval Europe classes does not classify my degree as "easy".
Reasons for leaving the profession? Well, salary ranked second in low poverty areas (like San Ramon), and fifth in high poverty areas (like here in Ukiah). I agree with that, because even though I hate the low salary, I can live with it. The number one reason teachers leave the profession? Poor Administrative Support. For the record, I had excellent administrative support when I started out.........and still have it to this day. I am in an environment that is very conducive to creating effective teachers. Admin will leave you alone if their are no problems, but will no bullshit when something is wrong. At the same time, occasional compliments are not uncommon from the admin as well. Hey, I got lucky.
Interesting to point out the National Board Certified Teacher numbers, a little over 25,000. Some in our district push this for the little raise you get with it. Bah! I'm not interested in going through my credential program again. The government should be kissing the ass of good teachers and cut the check anyway, not force them to do a bunch of busy work portfolios that give you student teaching nightmares.
The end of the article gives some options in regards to paying teachers, both of which are crap. Giving a veteran teacher $40k and calling it a good salary is an insult. Requiring the National Board Certification nonsense is pure insanity.

In the end, it seems like society is simply going to have to realize that they can't get a free lunch, even in education.

Carnival of Education #63

Head over to Education Wonks for the Carnival of Education for the week.

Just because I didn't work on school, doesn't mean I didn't work

I'll have to admit, working around the house is rather good for the soul. I did my first little electrical job by repairing a bad light socket. I went up to the attic, opened up the cool little box, dropped down the socket, and went to work. Now I know what you are saying, who cares? But you really need to understand that I know zero about real home maintaining. In the last 10 months I've learned PVC, gas pipe, electrical, various plumbing, roofs.....all kinds of handy man work that helps the ego. Plus, it really helps the economic part of the equation. I've also done a lot of catch-up yard work. When the Russian River detoured down Washo Drive, it left a tremendous amount of weed seed in my back yard. The massive rain, followed by the recent 70 degree temperatures have created psycho weeds that demand to grow taller than the property owner.
Serious flood damage also got taken care of this week. The entire duct work of the house is fixed, along with a new furnace and air conditioner. The project was completed by a company called Redwood Heating and Cooling. The workers were great and everything was done in two days. When I say the workers were great, I mean they were great. They kicked ass and were complete gentlemen in the process. So that is done.
Finally, I did the family obligation thing and traveled to all the in-laws. Father-in-law in Chico and mother-in-law in Discovery Bay. Husbandly obligations are complete, although visiting the mother-in-law is fun because her husband likes to talk shit, eat rib-eyes and drink a whole hell of a lot of wine.
School work awaits and I'll start it tonight.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Breakin 2: The Electric Bugaloo

I'm finally at Spring Break and I've decided to do nothing with school at the current time. It's actually a mental health kind of thing. See, right now I think that the house needs more attention than the stack of papers that I need to grade. Of course, the light in the bathroom and the weeds next to my fence aren't going to bullshit me when I come back to school regarding grades. Here are the goals for the week:

-Get the heating ducts, the air conditioner and the furnace work all done.
-Reseed the back lawn, which was destroyed in the flood.
-Grade the papers
-Plan for STAR testing
-Fix bathroom light fixture
-Tear apart father-in-laws computer
-Start to tear out drywall in garage
-Relax and fun somewhere

Friday, April 14, 2006

I'd like to welcome those readers of the Ukiahilite

Well, now I know that my students have found this blog.

Today I read a new issue of the Ukiahilite, the school news paper, and a student mentioned that he viewed my blog, and then focused on my post regarding Longmont, Colorado's high school banning the American flag. Maybe they'll learn what life is really like for a teacher in America.

I'll also address those that make the Ukiahilite with the following comment; your op-ed columns are the best I've seen in the five years that I've been here, and not because three of the four are from my students. For once, all address interesting and 'real' issues, not stories of how homework sucks and the where the next party is going to be at. I know all four columnists, and I easily say that they could rival the New York Times in terms of diverse complexity. One is a left-wing energy drink that drills statistics at you while presenting a complex argument. One is a McCain-esque Republicanite that fills his article with intelligent political insight and interesting personal experiences. His column also has the greatest title I've ever laid eyes on. "I Love Trees........and George Bush!", with a picture of him hugging a large tree. Classic. The third is a kid that is smart enough to understand the world, mellow enough to realize what matters, and coy enough not to allow anyone to catch on. His columns are interesting and filled with good advice for teenagers everywhere. Oh yea, he's probably the guy on the other end of the Internet connection that's kicking your ass in Call of Duty 2 as well. Finally, there's the tough feminist. No, she's not the Patricia Ireland or Betty Friedan type. She's the type that is confident enough and strong enough not to really care what you think because she will tear whatever barrier there is to the ground. Therefore, she talks honestly, not with a bunch of politically correct rubbish.

Props to the op-ed columnists, I dive for your sections the second I get the paper. And welcome to my little world. You won't hear about it in class.

Thoughts before the break

A few things have happened at school recently that have made me start to understand the growing ineptitude of public education. They culminated today when I started reading Jonanne Jacob's (check my fav bloggers)book "Our School", which describes a successful charter school model out of San Jose. I'll give a more in-depth opinion of the book a little later, but after my experiences this week, I have a greater appreciation of the public perception of education. I can't say that I totally agree with it, but symptoms of a broke institution are definately there.

We are killing are children with low expectations

On my way to a conference at the San Francisco Federal Reserve on Wednesday, I heard a morning radio talk show host announce say this over and over again. He is so right that it makes me want to vomit. I'm currently seeing over and over again the reason why kids; a) can't graduate high school, b) graduate high school and can't manage college.

Exhibit A:
I have over a half dozen students that are taking vacations to Mexico over the next few weeks of high school. Most of these students have C's or worse. Upon giving me their short term independent study contracts to sign, I announce to them that their grade will probably drop while they are gone (most never do the work I assign) and they are at risk of failing, therefore not graduating. Sure enough, I've had four phone calls from parents saying that I told their kid that if they go to Cancun for a sunny vacation with month left in school (brilliant timing), they might fail. Then I get calls from administrators and guidance telling me that parents are angry over my comments. Oh, but see, I want to be an employee that doesn't make ways so I go the diplomatic route, "Billy has been notified of the possibilities of not doing the work, but we will with all diligence to make sure that Billy graduates." What should be said is, "You're damn right I told Billy that he'll fail. He's got a D, he's leaving with a month left, and makes no effort." We are setting up these people for failure. Over and over again I think that I would like to treat my class like a job. After poor performances, you get fired. But no, we accept the lowest common denominator and call it "success". This student will pass because people don't want to make waves. Unfortunately, I'm starting to think the same way.

Exhibit B:
In the last 10 days, I've had 4-5 students transfer out of the class and go on "directed study", which means the student shows up to their Resource class and does packet work. These students were all failing due to not turning in assignments and lack of attendance. I mean, a couple of students showed up less than half the semester and half under 30% for grades. Now they will go finish packet work and get a passing grade. By the way, they get to go to all the electives because we promote mediocrity, we just take them out of the required classes. Feeling ballsey today, I went to the Special Education office and asked how the process was allowing this. Now, I feel for these Resource teachers. They are part lawyer, part teacher, and part administrator. But the answer I collected from the 10 minute session was that everyone deserved another chance. Really? You mean 13 years of school, a dozen referrals, constant hounding by teachers, and a failing grade isn't enough of a chance? Nope. We need to spoonfeed a high school diploma to these guys. God forbid they struggle. GOD FORBID THEY MIGHT FAIL!!!!! And this prepares the kids for the real world, right? Again, lowest common denominator.

Exhibit C:
I feel myself falling into this whole ideal. I first noticed it on a bus trip to a basketball game in January, while I graded papers from students that had no business graduating high school and thinking, "Who the hell passed these kids at lower grades?" Lately, I've felt like my teaching has not been what it should be, but I couldn't put a finger on it. It's as if I'm being handcuffed from being better than I want to be. I disagree with many ideas of Joanne Jacobs' book "Our School", the primary idea being the attitude that public education is a failed experiment that needs to be abandoned. However, I see what she sees and I feel the frustration at a process that doesn't let real teaching happen. In the book, teachers are relentlessly pushing students, demanding more than they are initially willing to give, and praising kids when they start to break the typical mold and strive for more. That is how it should be. Homework should be nightly. Hell, I've been recommended not to give Intro level students homework because they simply won't do it. Social time shouldn't be an acceptable excuse. And parents shouldn't expect teachers to allow the mediocrity that they extend to their children. I feel like I'm expected to perform for the lowest common denominator, and I hate it.

Whose to blame? Well, I can tell you that it isn't the administration. I've had private conversations with many in the "A" building who fight the good fight, and have the same feelings and frustrations. Although some teachers help allow the status quo, most are not to blame. My entire building is rampant with teachers who want more, demand more, are frustrated with the acceptance of apathy, and are ready for social change towards a more focused education. No, I don't know who to really blame for all of this.

I do know that I really like my kids. I think I feel like this because I'm getting this notion in my head that I'm teaching down to lower levels, and expecting students to wait, not teaching up and demanding students to catch up. I've got brilliant minds in my classes, one of my students visited MIT last week, but I'm feeling like I'm failing them by not preparing them for the world ahead. A good 70% of my kids do not write at a college level. I'm talking about college prep students. These are students that will be in remedial writing over the next year because we failed them somewhere. And what about this notion that we don't teach Intro students as hard because most "won't go to college anyway." WHY THE HELL NOT? WHY DO WE ACCEPT THIS?? Fine, no Intro kids are going to Stanford, let's get them into Humboldt or Chico or Sacramento State (who really mentors Hispanic students). Props to "Our School" for making that clear, and a priority. I'm also sick of hearing "Oh don't worry about his reading level. He'll have a secure job welding when he gets out of high school and make a nice living." HE HAS A THIRD GRADE READING LEVEL!!!!!!!!!! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THAT HE'LL HAVE A NICE LIVING!?!?!?!? I no longer care about the fact that this student can put a truck engine together blindfolded. If the student can't read the dinner menu at Denny's, he should not be graduating high school.
"We are killing our kids with low expectations."
Ok, I've vented.

Thanks Joanne. You've reminded me that I love this job, and I love it for the right reasons.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Carnival of Education sits at the front of the bus.

The Magic Bus that is.

Yep, another site I hadn't heard about called The Magic School Bus is handling the Education Carnival this week. School Bus also made it into a Passover Sins situation, which is creative, non-politically correct, and will probably piss off some sort of fundamentalist group out there. Good for him.

I haven't offered any postings to the Midway as of late. I guess I'm just not as impressed with my posts as I used to be, which is good because they'll make me push a little harder.

Anyhow, enjoy the ride!

Monday, April 10, 2006

A student funeral

Thankfully, I didn't have to worry very much about someone covering my class during fifth period. Another teacher did a "favor" for me in return for covering her class in the future. That's what's nice about having a close building, everyone is willing to help everyone else out.
I went to the funeral with another teacher who had the student earlier on. It was a first for both of us and I think it was good that we sort of had each other there for a little support, even though neither of us said much through the whole ordeal. The funeral was held at a mortuary right down the street from the high school. The entire service lasted about 45 minutes, and little was said by anyone except for the minister. Some songs were played that the student liked, and a poem was read by someone the student knew. Because of past events, the family didn't say anything. In the past three years, this is their second child to have died from tragic circumstances. I would say that I knew at least 60 of the people at the service, which ran easily over 300 people. I saw teachers, students, ex-students, coaches, and members of the community all gather in, what I would call, true mourning. At almost every funeral I've attended there is some sense of laughter or fond memories. This funeral was straight sadness. I couldn't see the family, as I was in overflow seating off to the side. I'm thankful for that, as the sobbing was making my heart hurt.
That wasn't the hardest part. Watching people you know, students and ex-students, grieving so hard was brutal. I watched happy-go-lucky people that I taught in so much pain that it was really hard being in attendance. Many times I watched people with iron clad constitutions break down because of the realization that the departed was gone. By the end of the whole ordeal, my teaching partner and I left with a sense of sorrow, and anger. Neither of us wanted to got to one of these ever again. We kept asking the question, "When are they going to figure it out?"

Unfortunately, I don't think it will be any time soon. Here is a response from a family member of the deceased in one of the local papers;

#### said alcohol was almost certainly involved. But she said she's skeptical about reports that some of the partiers, including her ######, may also have indulged in prescription pain pills.
``I know there's a lot of second-guessing going on around town, but I truly feel that if by chance drugs were involved it doesn't mean these guys were regular users,'' said #######.''

I'm really not trying to seem heartless in a time of sorrow, but doesn't those quote just slap you in the face? Vicodine and oxy-cotton are starting to run rampant around the teenage community, yet more and more parents are insisting that their children can't be partying to that degree. Even if it was only a one time thing, isn't that bad enough? Isn't it bad enough that a group of kids were drinking to the point of passing out?

In the end, the whole experience makes you realize that we can only do so much, and that society needs to focus, yet again, on developing a broader support structure for kids. Teachers alone, can't do it.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Stomach flu

I'll blog later.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Just another day

Except that it was anything but. That's not to say that it wasn't a good day, because I really didn't feel overly stressed out. It was just an interesting day.

-My students are very lethargic lately. We are on week six of no breaks and you can see the strain on the faces of the students. The problem is that this is the time to actually find more drive and more focus, and some students are not used to being pushed. I've had quite a few students, especially Intro level students, come to the realization that the next two months are going to be a real struggle. That reaction makes for some interesting conversations after class. Has anyone really pushed these kids before? Some seriously believe that I will simply pass them because it is time to graduate, even if they have not completed the minimum.

-I read a Wall Street Journal article by David Wessel called "It's the Teachers, Stupid", which is another attempt by an economist to reason with the education problems in America. An idea called The Hamilton Project was put together by a group of economic advisors and economists to figure out how to cure the ills of education. Their thesis was simple. There are too many bad teachers. At least 25% must be cut out immediately and the new ones should be given no tenure. Teachers should receive a $10,000 pay increase if they teach in tough schools and merit pay should be instituted for testing. See, wasn't that easy? According to their research, class sizes didn't matter because if you cut out bad teachers and replace them with good ones, who cares about class size? The article also pointed out the simple solution of recruiting new and better teachers. Sure. I bet the guy making $60 grand in tech will want to teach Math for $45 grand at Castlemont in Oakland. By the way, no mention of ESL, Special Education, rude parents, unmotivated kids, bad administration, or the fact that teaching is one of the lesser respected "professional" fields. Thankfully, there is an economist who is a teacher than can show the error of young David's ways.

-I broke up a fight today between two girls. I first I thought my student was joking when he calmly stated that there was a fight outside of my door. I expected two juggernauts to be hauling away at each other, and the image of me having to get in the middle of it was entering my brain. Instead it was two girls, both about as tall as my waist, that were crawling all over each other on the ground. I calmly stepped in and separated the two little Napoleons with ease, trying very hard not to laugh. Neither was very hurt, and both were dealt with by the supervisors. Still, the image of me picking up two little girls off the ground in a fight was amusing.

-Tomorrow, I will attend the funeral of my former student. I'm not going to delve into the reason for the students death, except to say that it was not intentional. I really hate funerals. My family always had a sense of celebration that came with death. Even when my uncle died of cancer, the relief was very apparent, and then the celebration of his life took place. This is totally different. The situation is tragic, and there are more variables that I can't really discuss that make the whole event a major, major tragedy. I'll go for two reasons. One, I want to sort of say farewell to a student I liked. Second, I'm going to see a lot of people that I know in a bad state. Maybe they can use a shoulder to cry on.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Question for Margaret Spellings

I found out today that our school has zero chance at making our AYP requirement under No Child Left Behind. Apparently, we are going to miss our "minimum number of students taking the test" clause.

Here's where the question comes in.

When taking the California Exit Exam, we had a major group of students with 504's and IEP's. Those required us, by law, to give the kids the modifications listed on their special education documents during the testing. It is mandated by law.


The federal government refuses to accept any testing results that have been taken using modifications, even those modfications that are legally binding by, well, federal law.

How are we supposed to reach our AYP target?

I await your response.

Education Carnival #61

Education Wonks has created another excellent edition of the Education Carnival!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A sad day

There are a many "firsts" in teaching that you really don't want to experiance. In all seriousness, this might rank up at the top.
While turning in my grades, one of the vice principals told me that a former student of two years ago had died today. At first, it simply didn't register. I thought he was talking about someone else. Then I came to realization that he meant my ex-student.
This is the first time that I've had a former student die. I can't get into the details about it, but I can tell you that it is an odd feeling. It was a student that I got along with pretty well, and came to know enough that I saw the student a few months ago and we talked for a few minutes.
Knowing the student's relationship with the kids and community, I think that tomorrow is going to be very rough.

Monday, April 03, 2006

There are those that are missing and those that are back

Maybe it was the time change.
Maybe it was the constant rain.
Maybe it was the fact that it was Monday.
Or maybe it was entitled attitude of the students that allowed them to take a day off today.
I kid you not, well over half of three classes were gone today. That's right, a big 60-70%! Both my College Prep classes and one Intro class decided that they simply were not in the mood to deal with that horribly tough thing called high school. This is just another in a series of the "I deserve" attitude from the current generation of instant gratification junkies. Sure, I realize that I have a few students who are sick. I get that. But not 70%, and not the 5 or so that I'm averaging in absences a day from these classes.
But I went about my day, giving a variety of quizzes, reviewing for a test that we will have tomorrow, and clarifying the theorem that we have been working on. My only irritation is the fact that many students are going to have D's and F's on their report cards, and the song-and-dance that I have to go through with parents is not something I look forward to.
"My daughter is a good student."
"In my class, she has a D."
"Well, she says she does all her homework, and I don't see any work from your class."
"Every day I put the agenda on the board and ask my students to copy it. It has all the work, homework, upcoming quizzes, tests, etc."
"Well, she says her work is done."
"My report says that she does some of her work, and that work is done at a 'C' average."
"I heard you have a lot of projects during this year. Isn't that a bit tough for Seniors."
"Maybe your teaching style isn't right for my daughter. Can we request another teacher?"

Sure lady, request another teacher. In fact, while your at it, why don't you bend over and let your daughter kick you in the ass. Seriously, teachers should be able to be truthful to parents without having to worry about sensitivity.

"Your daughter is a spoiled brat that doesn't like the word 'no'. She hardly shows up, does half-ass work, and is about as organized as the Congressional Budget Office. She's not going to Intro because that is for people with different needs, not lazy asses. She's not going to another teacher, because they don't like lazy asses either. Oh yeah, she's not going to college, because she can barely do high school."

At a literacy conference it was stated that 55% of graduating high school students that go straight to a 4-year school are totally unprepared for college. No kidding. Think missing high school might have something to do with it?

One person that has shown up is an old friend, Tiny Nose-Big Heart (check right). I gladly welcome back the princess of passionate blogging!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

What in the hell is going on here!?!?!?!?

Now a high school in Longmont, Colorado has banned the display of flags from any nation, including the U.S. flag, due to an incident where students were waving U.S. and Mexican flags in each other's face. Check out the San Francisco Chronicle for more.

I have no problem with suspending the students for provoking each other into a possible conflict, but banning the display of the American flag?

Are you serious?