Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Essential Blog Material

Over to the right, under my fav bloggers, you will see MyMoneyBlog. The blog is run by Jonathan Ping, a 27 year old who is looking to become wealthy by making good decisions with his money. It is an excellent source of logical financial information that you can put to serious everyday use. Examples?

-How about some excellent 0% credit card transfer offers?

-Want to know what does and does not affect your credit score? How about specific banks and credit checks?

-Looking for serious rates with online savings accounts?

-What does and does not save gas.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg! There is a ton on investing, getting the most out of companies, and general tips on making good financial decisions. I took advantage of this Sharebuilder promotion that basically gave me a free $65 to open an account and place a single $4 trade. Do a little research (like I make my kids do), nail a stock in the "buy and hold" category, and viola, free money and a long term portfolio. By the end of this year, I'm looking to build up a little more equity and move over to Scottrade for a little more hands-on market action. I'm doing a little faux portfolio over at the Virtual Stock Exchange (will use it next year for Economics) and I'm currently down about 8% after being up almost 5% before the recent correction.

Moral of the story, go check out MyMoneyBlog, it is well worth your time.

The Carnival Across America

The Carnival of Education is up at Education in Texas this week, continuing its trek across the fruited plains.
Because it is in Texas, I was waiting for some Kinky Friedman propaganda to pop up at the Midway, but to no avail. Hey, WHY THE HELL NOT?
Don't piss off the next governer of Texas.

A day of self preservation

A colleague told me that when you get in a struggle at the end of the year, consider self preservation. I did that today, and for better or for worse, the I was better for it.

I've had an issue with certain students that have missed extended days of class this, the second semester of their senior year, and it has not sat well with some involved that I have rather high and demanding standards. Well, in a meeting today, I became very flexible, or I gave in, which ever seems right. Basically, I decided that it was not worth my time and energy to spend hours, on and off campus, dealing with only a few specific situations, when the real important work is done in class. Tomorrow I will be handing out your basic make-up busy work, as per the "flexible deal" that was made in the meeting. If I would have stuck to my standards and demanded accountability, I would have spent the rest of this semester dealing with these issues. Excuse me, but this is not why I signed on to teach. So I gave up this battle so that the common good could benefit. Now my energy won't be about meetings where bargains are struck, it will be to the classroom where learning takes place. Remember, self preservation.

And this is why my day ended up being quite good.

You gotta love it when 7:30 rolls around, and you are in an in-depth discussion about the Heart of Darkness (which an English teacher assigned) and the classic movie Apocalypse Now. I always ask the students how old they are (all seniors, all 17+) and then I explain to them that they have homework over the weekend, watch Apocalypse Now. Of course I warn them; it's horribly dark, it's bizarre, and it will keep you up at night thinking about it, but they are teenagers and that makes them really want to go and see it. At this time, you have the fanboys raving over X-Men 3, and insisting that Apocalypse Now can't touch the mutant mayhem. Kids.

My Intro students are totally into the Labor/Management negotiations, and for this late in the year, that is great news. The students are negotiating a contract for a hotel in Minnesota. The original concept was created by a college professor for his labor relations class. I "borrowed" the idea, sliced down the 20+ contract pages to 6, and had the students read the contract and go at it. The results are profound. After discussing what both sides are looking for, and some of the tactics of negotiating, I'm watching these lower level students tear apart this contract and masterfully try to manipulate the other side. The labor and managers meet separately to discuss the issues, then send 2 negotiators to a meeting to hammer out details. When they report back, they vote "yes" or "no", and then go at another issue. Just listening to some of these students,
"Make sure you add on just enough dental coverage to get them interested, then insisting on keeping Clause 1.6 that makes it so we don't have to guarantee them work hours. We'll keep more part-timers on, save tons on health insurance, and help the bottom line." Fantastic! What is more fantastic is that all the groups in all three Intro level classes have read the contract enough to head off that manipulation. They are totally involved! So involved that they asked if they can have "just one more round of negotiations". Hell, at this point, who am I to say no!

My College Prep classes are still watching small clips of the China Rising series from the Newshour. However today, there was a little bump in the road. Today's episode was about the problem with Intellectual Property Rights , and how China is doing very little to spot the illegal production of counterfeit products. One of the focus products are watches. Another is technology. But the big focus is no Pfizer's "little blue pill", Viagra. Apparently, Viagra counterfeits are a major problem in China and some if it has to do with the Chinese actually thinking they made a natural Viagra-like substance before the chemical version. Zero period watched it, found it very informative and interesting, and wrote their small summary opinions. Fifth period was going to do the same until one of my students walked in with a young, 8th grade girl in tow. It was a "shadow", someone who follows our students to see what the high school was like. DANGER, DANGER, DANGER!!!!! The alarms went off in my head. Seniors who have been learning China, economics, patent rights, and politics could handle it. An eighth grade girl going home and telling mom that she learned about Viagra in school, could not. I made an "on the fly" decision and made our marketing notes (starting the 4 P's) a little more in-depth. Tomorrow, we make up the video and no harm done! See? Proof that I am willing to be flexible :)

Want to read an interview that makes you go "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm", then check out Der Spiegel's discussion with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I can't decide if he is crazy-nuts or crazy-stupid. Either way, he is a dangerous man.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

More memes

My mother-in-law is staying the night here. Now do you understand why I'm staying in my den?

10 Favorites
Favorite Season: Winter

Favorite Color: black

Favorite Time: Early morning

Favorite Food: A fat pizza.

Favorite Drink: Diet Pepsi

Favorite Ice Cream: Dublin Mudslide

Favorite Place: Home

Favorite Sport: Basketball

Favorite Actor: Ian McKellen

Actress: Jennifer Aniston

9 Currents
Current Feeling: Awake

Current Drink: Two Buck Chuck, Sav Blanc

Current Time: 11:11 p.m.

Current Show on TV: TV is off

Current Mobile used: Motorola V190

Current Windows Open: None

Current Clothes: bare feet, Chico State shirt, mesh hoop shorts

Current Thought: Bed time soon, work tomorrow on final.

8 Firsts
First Nickname: Jeff

First Kiss:1st grade, girls name was Kim.

First Crush: Albrey Palmer, 2nd grade.

First Vehicle I Drove: 1976 Ford Courier. Fear my chick magnet!

First Job: Dishwasher at an Italian resturant. Yuck!

7 Lasts

Last Drink: wine

Last Kiss: my wife

Last Meal: Chicken and ravioli

Last Web Site Visited: Besides my blog? Education Wonks.

Last Movie Watched: Full Movie? The Terminal. Not too good.

Last Phone Call: My mother.

Last TV show Watched: Giants vs. Rockies

6 Have You Ever…
Have You Ever Broken the Law: Numerious CVC's.

Have You Ever Kissed Someone You Didn't Know: no

Have You Ever Been in the Middle/Close to Gunfire: I've shot guns many times. That count?

Have You Ever Broken Anyone's Heart: yes.

5 Things
Things You Can Hear Right Now: The hum of my computer.

Things On Your Bed: Blankets, pillows, my wife's cat.

Things You Ate Today: Mocha Frappachino, Oatmeal, deviled eggs, dinner, Cup O' Noodles.

Things You Do When You Are Bored: Read, video games, television

4 Places You Have Been Today: Home, Home Depot, Hospice, Starbucks


3 Things On Your Desk Right Now: Computer, Printer, Radio

2 Choices
Salt or Pepper: Salt

Hot or Cold: Cold

1 Place You Want To Visit
Alaska

5 Things

From Tiny Nose, Big Heart (check Fav Bloggers).

5 items in my fridge
1. Milk
2. Fresh Ravioli
3. Shredded cheese
4. Oddwalla Orange Juice
5. A huge container of pickles.

5 items in my closet
1. Dress shirts
2. Slacks
3. Polo shirts
4. Some drawings that my Grandmother did. Some were featured at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
5. Stuff I'm selling on E-Bay this summer.

5 items in my car
1. Bag of basketballs
2. Case of 12oz waters.
3. My cd's.
4. My cell phone.
5. Case of Cup O' Noodles.

5 items in my wallet
1. A $2 bill.
2. ATM card
3. Credit Card
4. Driver's License. Picture was taken two days after the flood. God, I look horrid.
5. PADI License. Scuba!


I tag any sorry soul bored enough to do this.

Senior Cut Day

is 6/06/06.

Get it?

6-6-6.

Sigh.

My fifth period Seniors all bet me that I couldn't find out the date. I had it within 20 minutes. During this time, students take little vacations to Lake Mendocino and the Pacific Coast to get liquored up and camp. Normally, Senior Cut Day is on a Friday, which makes the camping a little more fun. This year, the famous cut day is on a Tuesday, which proves that this class of Seniors is totally unprepared to go into the real world. A cut day on Tuesday????

Well, my Seniors will understand that the planning was made in serious error, for they have a huge project due two days later on 6/8. I'm very excited to see these projects, to the point that I'm a little "butterfly" when I think of the potential results that could come out of it. Last year I was scared to death that my expectations were too high. I was dead, and I mean dead, wrong. The work was superb! I expect the same, if not better, this year!

And for those students that happen to frequent my blog, they should already know that on Senior Cut Day, I'm running class just like any other day.

*cough* attendance quiz *cough*

Book Review, "Our School"

FYI, this is my first book review since A Wrinkle in Time in the third grade.

Joanne Jacobs' website (link right) was one of the first that I came upon when I started blogging. Her site is dedicated to the teaching profession from the point of view that the mainstream education system is failing and that choice is one of the primary vehicles for positive change. Her book, Our School, is the example of what she wants education to be.

The book is a nice read. Joanne was a former Op-Ed columnist for the San Jose Mercury news, and she manages to make the book sound like a good op-ed piece; intelligent, but not snotty and petulant. The majority of the book plays like a feel-good success story for not only a group of low performing kids, but also for a group of people that want education to mean something for kids, namely real success. However, there are parts of the book that become very anti-public education schools, something that made me want to put the book down at the beginning. It angered me for two reasons. First, Jacobs has given up on hard working public educators, basically making them out to be whiney and lazy. The second reason it angered me? Because some teachers are actually like that, which is embarrassing.

Our School is inspiring. The story of Downtown College Prep in San Jose made me feel like I'm doing the right thing trying to institute high standards. The reader goes along with Greg Lippman, co-founder and principal of Downtown Prep, as he creates a small learning community with limited funding and disadvantaged kids. Along the way, the story looks at the community reaction, the student impact, the struggles of the administration, and the classroom adventures with bright new teachers. In the end, I felt like my high standards were justified and that education can work when accountability is implemented.

Which brings me to my problem with the book. Almost immediately, Jacobs points to public high school teachers as people that simply pass the buck to other people, in particular, parents. The book implies, much like her blog, that teachers need to take more responsibility in a students learning and not focus so much on variables that occur outside of the classroom. Just recently Jacobs had a post that stated that teachers who consider themselves more responsible for a child's education are more likely to make a difference in a child's life. Any teacher worth a job should feel that they can make a difference in a student's life, but to ignore the role of the parent in the education process is totally unreasonable. It is so unreasonable that Jacobs acknowledges it later in her book. Not once, but many times! Principal Lippman says it best, "This won't work without parent buy-in". Exactly. That is something that the public schools deal with every day, parents that don't buy into the school. Downtown established that it was a no crap school from the beginning, and parents that wanted to see their child truly succeed were the ones that enrolled. Those that didn't want to learn were told to leave. That was stated by Lippman in the book! Public schools don't necessarily have that luxury. Many parents, most in my opinion, want their kid to graduate high school with "high standards", but will balk with the standards make the kids life difficult. Downtown didn't have to deal with that since they recruited kids with parents that wanted something better. What were to happen if the school didn't recruit supportive parents? The school would fail, just like the principal said. A true advantage for a private school (yes Darren, a private school. Technicalities aside, it can pick and choose students).

That criticism aside, this book is still a good read for teachers that are in this profession to teach the kids how to be functioning adults in society. I read it again after this tough week and it made me better prepared for the meetings I'm going to take this week regarding students grades. The book reminded me of why I love this job; because kids really do want to learn, want to understand, and want to be prepared. The high that you get when you watch a child overcome adversity and succeed is the best in the world. Nothing can beat it. Because of that, I'm going to remind a group of parents that my standards are high, are going to remain that way, and that their children will earn a grade in my class.

Sidenote, check out Education Wonks about the subject of some of the advantages of private schools. I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

An easy solution to a lot of problems

On a light note, today's classes were quite good.

In my college prep class, the students watched the news, and then filled out a demand survey regarding a Bed and Breakfast business model that one of my Econ Expo groups has created. We finished up some International Economics notes that included the World Trade Organization, NAFTA, and the European Union. Finally, we are doing a short journal write while the students watch the China Rising Series from the Newshour. Today was the first journal write. The series is excellent, and the students are very interested in the new economic giant on the block. In my Intro class we watched the news, we filled out the survey, and then attacked the subject of Employee/Employer relations, and ended the day by discussing the different tactics used by management and labor unions.

All in all, a very productive day.

What I'm trying to do is not get totally frustrated with the massive hours of energy that are being spent dealing with students that have not been at school. It has become the overwhelming theme of my last weeks, and it shouldn't be. But Polski (at right) and some new teachers from other states have shown me a nice solution to the problem. Miss "x" number of days, for any reason, and you can't graduate high school. That sounds like an excellent idea.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Now, back to the Exit Exam

I'm probably the last one on the wagon to report this, but the Exit Exam has been reinstated by the California State Supreme Court.

As I stated earlier, I'm not a fan of the Exit Exam. However, I'm less of a fan of judges who rule on cases they haven't a clue about. I'm pretty glad that the justice system prevailed once again in the realm of common sense legal practice.

Carnival Time

The Education Carnival is up at NYC Educator. Check it out!

I'm having a bitch of a last two weeks. Today was first time in a very long time that the smallest inkling of "is this worth it" crept into my head. I'm letting a tiny group of kids that are hardly ever at school dictate the rest of my teaching experience, and it is driving me nuts. Without getting into detail, the situation is basically that their are habitually absent students that do not meet the minimum requirements to pass my class. However, the parents of these students feel that it is the job of the teacher to adjust their life around the absences of the child. When that is not being accomplished, the parent calls meetings to say that instructors are being unfair (like I'm the one absent for months). This problem would easily be solved if someone simply said, "Guess what, your child did not meet the requirements". But unreasonable demands are being given the time of day, and that crap is taking away from the time of day that I need with the students who are actually here. Now I'm spending more time trying to justify my high standards, than I am implementing those standards. It is unreal.

I guess I really need to bare down because I'm really enjoying the classroom end of the days. Today was full of excellent discussion on English as a national language, labor/management situations, and a simulation involving a labor union and the management of a large hotel. The students are very involved, even at this late point in the year. What could be better?

I know, how about putting the responsibility to learn on the student, and stop wasting the teacher's time. We only have 160 other students to teach........

Monday, May 22, 2006

T-A-R-D-Y................Why? Because I gotta!

The Los Angeles Times has published an education blog that I've been reading recently. Interesting stuff, but not sure whether or not it's link worthy.

One of the articles of late discusses Serrano High School, somewhere in the Inland Desert area near Victorville. Serrano has decided that those students that are tardy or truant to class will be cited and fined. The L.A. Times has a more in depth look at the subject. Needless to say, the comments on the piece are very polarized, with one group demanding accountability, while the other group says that it is unnecessarily harsh.

I used to use the standard school tardy policy when I first started teaching. Basically, after a pre-determined number of freebies, tardy students would be put on an "attendance contract" by the office. This meant that every time a student was tardy, I would write a referral and send the kid to the office for detention, trash cleanup, Saturday school, etc. It was a mess. It did nothing to deter the students and it ended up that kids were constantly being moved to the office. This caused them to miss class, demand make-up work, and cause a hell of a lot more trouble than it was worth.

So I changed my ways. I stated in my class policy that all students received 2 free tardies a semester. After the two free tardies, students would lose 5 points off their participation grade (starting at 100) for each time they were tardy. It has worked fairly well, and deterred most people from being tardy. However, I still have a massive amount of habitual tardies during my zero period class (at least 3 a day), and the grade impact is changing little in their attitude.

I'm thinking of different ways to change it for next year, but I'm afraid of going too far and alienating the clientele I'm serving. The way I look at it, Seniors in high school should get little or no leeway in regards to showing up on time. They are about to go into a world that will fire them if they are late to work.

By the way, I'm all for fining the families of students who are habitually tardy. Make it small to start and raise the price for each consecutive tardy. However that is a total pipe dream. Right now we have an idiot District Attorney, Norm Vroman, who is more interested in legalizing weed and going to prison for tax evasion, than going after kids who are constantly truant.

So, how do we adequately prepare them?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Memo to the Mexican Government

Don't ever criticize U.S. immigration policy again. Before you start spouting off that our policies are xenophobic or racist, you might want to do some serious construction on your own house.
The San Francisco Chronicle tells the story of real prejudice.

Seriously, maybe the most overlooked story regarding immigration is the total disaster that occurring in Mexico. The country has first rate resources, first rate workers, and getting more and more foreign investment......and it's STILL a Third World nation. What's more, people are getting tired of it. While the mainstream media is focused on U.S. border policy, others are starting to realize that many Mexicans are sick and tired of having to leave Mexico to make a living. The conditions in Mexico are disgusting, with drug lords taking control of cities, rampant unemployment, and horrible corruption. I'm totally against socialist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, but he asked the right question when he demanded that current president Vicente Fox explain why Mexicans are fleeing Mexico. Obrador said that it was now a matter of pride. It should be. Right now the native peoples are not happy in their native lands.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Post pics, get nailed.

The Santa Rosa Press Democrat is reporting that the city of Healdsburg (about 35 minutes south of Ukiah) has passed an ordinance that is going to make it easier for cops to nail underage drinkers. Why? Because a couple of pictures appeared on MySpace, thus making the town think that this drinking problem is a new phenomenon.

The article says that state law does not allow cops to enter an private dwelling to arrest underage drinkers, and that a city law must be passed for it to actually take effect, such as in Santa Rosa. I thought that the "plain sight" rule is pretty much common practice? According to state law, a kid could having a kegger on his back porch, and the police can't break it up? Bizarre. Of course, the first group that protests the law is the ACLU, who does an excellent job picking the wrong battles to fight.

I couldn't have said it better.

Even though I am all for higher standards, and more accountability for education (administrators and teachers), I despise No Child Left Behind. It is a political ploy that is trying to make the government out to be the "all knowing" education institution, when in reality the whole model doesn't address the real problems not only in education, but in societies view of education.

Education Wonks posted a fantastic editorial about No Child Left Behind, one that should resonate with all educators. NCLB expects that all students be proficient in core areas by 2014, an expectation that will never be met for a variety of reasons (take a look at headlines, immigration ring a bell?). But the tragic part of the bill is that 100% of the responsibility lays on the teachers for demanding proficiency. No responsibility is laid on the most important person in a child's life, the parents. And as Ed Wonk states, the teachers can't require students to do anything. For example:
-A student refuses to take STAR testing. School can't force the student to take the test, or even try on it.
-Students constant come to class with nothing, no pencil, no paper, no books. And it is often not an issue with money, it is an issue with responsibility.
-Parents hold their kids out of class for over a week because of the sniffles.
-Students chose to fight or do drugs at school.
-Parents insist that their child is both totally innocent, and a hell of a lot smarter than the teacher.

Seriously, I'm still waiting for the component NCLB that actually puts parents up to the challenge of raising their kids.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We lost two.

Two bloggers are boxing up the teaching game, and moving to a different profession. "Tiny Nose, Big Heart" and "Ms. Pig" are bowing out, heading to different area that don't have the stress that teaching brings to their lives. I know, it seems odd to that I'm a little upset about it. Hell, I don't know either one of them except from what I read in their blogs. However, their attitudes always seemed to make them in the right frame of mind for teaching.

In the end, it just seems that neither were supported in the way they should have been. Read Tiny's post and Pig's post, and bid them farewell.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Carnival Up!

Another Education Carnival is up at Ed Wonks. Give it a look!

Laura Clark must be bored.

For those that don't know, Laura Clark is a writer for the Ukiah Daily Journal, the local fishwrap that has a nasty habit of finding everything wrong with the Ukiah Unified School District. I could list them, but you can pan back to a variety of post to get my point.

I read the Daily Journal during the Silent Reading Time around 11 a.m., and today I was greeted by one of those stories that makes you wonder what the local paper does for its news cycle. According to the article in the Ukiah Daily Journal , a parent was sent a letter twice by the school, in Spanish. The problem is that the family is actually Portuguese, speaks only English, yada, yada, yada. Now the newspaper and the offended party are speaking of this incident like it demands a Ken Starr investigation. This story is not news.

Is the incident regrettable? Sure, it can be a little frustrating to get a card in a different language, and a little inconvenient to call the school and make clarifications. However, the Daily Journal makes no mention about the fact that the school has 2000 kids, the cards are made automatically, the school just finished STAR testing, and oh yea, the school is understaffed due to woeful funding.

Please, a little real reporting by the paper would be nice.

By the way, in other news:
-A group of Seniors went to San Francisco to the Federal Reserve.
-The school is showing an excellent photography exhibit.
-The school is adding new Advanced Placement courses next year.
-The school is adding an new International Studies course next year (shameless plug).
-The school is going to the Berkeley Model United Nations next year.
-Students have been accepted to Stanford, Columbia, and MIT, among others.

Not to mention the countless other positive acts that other teachers could add to the list. It is time for the Ukiah Daily Journal to support the high school in its academic progress, instead of trying so hard to vilify it.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Field Trip!!!!!!!!!!!! Part 2

We arrived at the high school at 6:30 on Thursday morning, pretty much awake. The student population consisted of 14 Seniors, seven boys and seven girls. My help showed up in the form of one of the students parents, thank God. Without her, the trip would have been not happening.
When the decision came around to who was driving with which adult, I managed to get all seven girls. Apparently, the plan was to torment the teacher will types of chick music all the way down and all the way back. So there I was, driving to Larkspur, with seven teenage girls, all singing to the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing that was blasting from the car stereo. I mean, seriously, what can you do? I let the girls have fun, and in turn they kept the fun to being good natured. At one point about an hour in, one girl mentioned embarrassing the teacher with "girl talk", but the others nailed that one shut and it was never a problem.
We arrived at Larkspur right on time and boarded the ferry to San Francisco. Most of the group sat below and had a fun game of cards going, while the couple that had never been on the boat went up top to look around. Sure enough, two of the rookies said they felt wobbly when they got off the ferry. This was enough ammo for the rest of the afternoon in regarding "Ferry Boat Sea Sickness" jokes from the group.

To be perfectly honest, I was a little worried about the scavenger hunt at Pier 39. I wanted a little fun for the kids, but I was worried that it would seem too corny, or that the expensive commercial aspect would bring kids down (I brought extra money if kids needed it for lunch), or that some odd fault to the plan would make the afternoon a day to forget. It went off fabulously! The kids divided up into boys vs. girls and darted off to complete the tasks. It took most of them a good 45 minutes to finish the hunt, which left them about an hour to take in lunch, which they did together. The hunt was great! Kids talked with owners of businesses, snapped pictures, and came away with ideas for Econ Expo (a business model project I do). And of course, they had a lot of fun! The pictures that I got were great!

But the trip was primarily about the Federal Reserve, and I was a little fearful that the FED was going to be second rate to The Wharf. We arrived at the FED a little early, mainly because last time I went, they asked us to get there a little early. Only this time they were running late with multiple tours. We waited in the lobby of the San Francisco Federal Reserve for over 30 minutes. However, the kids sucked up to, listened to IPods, played cards, and were no problem at all. When time came for our tour, the kids were enthused.

The tour went so well that I couldn't stand it! During the teen finance seminar, the students belted out answer after answer about investment and risks. I couldn't help but be so proud. Then the currency exhibit came along and the students were enthralled with the different types of currency, the notes that they've never seen (designs that were artistic, the $100,000 bill), and value of the whole collection. The interactive exhibits kept interest while instructing some of the more basic ideas of the FED. The most interesting were a computer simulation that has you adjust interest rates to help the economy, and a money counterfeiting exhibit. Then the tour of the vault, the money sorting operation, and the counterfeiting rooms were the cherry on the cake of the day. The security (no hats, no hoods, no hands in pockets, constant escort) made them immediately interested. Then the kids watched as millions of dollar were checked and sorted in front of them. Looks at the vault were followed by a comprehensive explanation of how money is examined for wear and forgeries. The kids loved it! The entire two hour FED experience was complete, and a hit!

The ride home was easy and uneventful, except for the horrid traffic. A stop at In & Out Burger solved much of the boredom of traffic, and half the girls in my car slept most of the way home. Upon reflection, every one of the students felt that the price of the trip was well worth it, and nobody had any complaints.

So there it is, my first field trip. I'm actually looking forward to next year, and hopefully getting a full class load. A couple of pieces of advice for field trips (coming from a rookie, mind you):
-It is going to be expensive. Be ready to fork out some of your own money. I ended up having to shell out about $40 to cover costs.
-Prepare for anything. I wasn't ready for seasickness, but thankfully it didn't cause a major problem.
-Boredom is bad. Besides time for food, make sure the little munchkins are busy.
-Food is an amazing mood changer. The students were often a little crabby when they got hungry, and were happy as hell when fed.
-Prepare for anything, again. A student lost her wallet somewhere in the city. The exercise immediately became a lesson in what to do when you lose your wallet. She called her bank, called her credit card company, and bingo, new lesson learned. Thankfully, she moved into a good space later in the afternoon and still had a good time.
-Finally, if you go tour the FED, get Maggie to give you the tour. She is excellent and knows a whole hell of a lot about money.

Friday, May 12, 2006

What is worse?

A pregnant 11 year old?

or

The mother of the pregnant girl who is proud of her?

You can't make it up.

Field Trip!!!!!!!!!!! Part One.

Ok, I should now be called "A Passion for Teaching and Hypocrisy".

I've been complaining a lot lately about how there are soooooo many things that students are doing outside of class, almost making a scene about it. Then what do I do? I take a group of kids to San Francisco!!!!!! Yes, the ultimate hypocrite, that would be me. However, I had an opportunity to take a group of kids to the San Francisco Federal Reserve, and I took it! From the beginning, with additional lessons learned from this, my first field trip.

The plan was to take 30 students to the Federal Reserve in San Francisco. Why 30? That's the maximum that the FED would allow from any one party. So my first question was how I was going to add something onto the trip to accentuate the FED tour. I mean, I've been discussing the FED this week at length (in my wonderful fashion), but the nations central bank can get boring. My first idea was the former Pacific Stock Exchange (now the San Francisco branch of the NYSE). I couldn't find any tour information, so that was a bust. Then I had an idea about Fisherman's Wharf. How could I exploit the massive commercialism into an economics idea, while still allowing for the kids to enjoy their visit? A scavenger hunt!!!! Yep, a good old fashion Economics scavenger hunt. So I went to work and I found a scavenger hunt that Stanford does for an ice breaker with students. I then adjusted the different hunts and realized that it would be better if I bought disposable cameras for the students to take pictures of themselves doing different tasks. Great idea!! So I nailed a 15 picture scavenger hunt, some related (sort of) to Economics (Have a member of the group take a picture with the manager of a store, take a picture of a group member wearing the uniform from a store), and some related to nothing (take a picture of someone in your group posing as Nicholas Cage in The Rock ,on your knees with arms raised, with Alcatraz in the background).
Then came the transportation. The price of the school bus alone was going to be $700. Ouch. I decided to charge $30 per student, and instead of driving all the way to the city, use some of the money to purchase ferry tickets and boat over to the city. So the requirements of the trip:
-$30
-Photo ID (FED requirement)
-Good behavior
-73% or better average in my class

The last requirement caused a massive outrage in my class, but I can't condone someone working below a 'C' being rewarded for being less than average on academics. It was more important that they stay and finish high school.

What was the turnout? Sparse. Sports, the Senior trip, the grade requirement, all created a small turnout for this trip. Immediately I became worried. We were not going to have enough money for a bus, and a another driver was going to be needed. I cancelled the bus, a mother that was qualified to drive volunteered, and it was on! By the day of departure, the group had grown to seven guys and seven girls, fourteen total. The good news was that kids that had little or no exposure with the city signed to go, and a good group of Intro students signed up. Cool. Who knows, this might be a really good memory for some of these kids.

Then again, this is 14 high school seniors, a mother, and a teacher executing his first field trip. Anything could happen.

More later.

No Exit Exam for you

As you can probably tell, I'm pretty disgusted by the current method of testing. I think that so many tests create nothing by chaos for schools and accomplish nothing for kids. For instance, today a student refused to take STAR make-ups become he "didn't want the teachers to get any money". Wow, testing is great.

But today, an Alameda County Superior court judge ruled that the Exit Exams were null and void based on, ".....evidence in the record that shows that students in economically challenged communities have not had an equal opportunity to learn the materials tested on the (California High School Exit Examination),".

I don't agree. If the test had been given off the cuff, then I could see the justification for the ruling. However, the test has been known for years, and students have had chance after chance to finish it. And while I'm not a huge fan of the exam, I'm less of a fan of the judicial system making a ruling that is more politically correct than legally correct. Millions in state and federal dollars go to Second Language Learners and low income students. Our school has a huge support system for those that want to work for it, and even a bigger one for the Latino students that want to work for it. Now a judge has decided who is really working for it, not the school system.

I'm just wondering, when is the judicial system going to start doing something about serious issues, like student truancy?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The password is ...........STAR

The blandness that is STAR testing week remains upon us, to my utter dismay. Today I spent two hours talking about the Federal Reserve, labor pools, and ethanol to half full Senior classes. This weekend was the Senior Trip to Disneyland, and they didn't get back until 3 this morning, which meant a lot of absences for the last three days. It was basically a lot of notes and discussion, since I can't give out homework to half the students when the other half are away at a school sanctioned event. So I'm ready to be back to some semblance of normalcy.

Not much to report on the classroom front other than STAR. Final progress reports are in, and the grades are not very good at all. Out of five classes I have about 5-6 A's, and about 8-10 F's. However, students just want to pass at this juncture, so the dozens of D's I have are hardly registering a blip, which is sickening, but not surprising if you read my previous post. So I'll get a half-dozen calls from parents next week, that much is to be expected. My hope is that the parents realize that many of their children have spent much of the semester kicking back, and now the consequences of that are setting in. I'm getting two requests lately; extra credit and more assignments. I'm not about grant either. I work my butt off preparing the assignments they are supposed to do. I'm not about to do extra because they are lazy.

FED Thursday maybe?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Full potential

This is a paragraph from a student essay that asked a question about entrepreneurial traits and the desire to start a business. One of the traits was potential. Some information was changed to protect ident, but you get the point.

I don't really desire to reach my full potential. I am happy to go far enough in that direction that I can see that I could be very good at something if I wanted to be. This year, I played a sport. But by the time that sport became easy and I saw that I was one of the top athletes, it didn't really seem worth the effort. I was satisfied with the knowledge of my potentital and halfway resolved to get there when I have time. So I quit the sport.


I had many papers say something similar, which is a clear sign for me that someone is not pushing them nearly hard enough.

What do you think?

Weekend

I did more gardening and movie watching than anything this weekend. Now that everything is blooming, it is much more apparent where things in my backyard are not growing well, that and the part of the fence that is still down. So my wife and I used a coupon from a local nursery and bought some veggies and flowers to spice up the yard. Then I spent a nice chunk of time repairing the sprinkler heads that were covered in mud from the flood. Ahhhhhh, the joys of home ownership. But seriously, it is very nice and soothing to have a nice backyard to look at when you come home after a hard days work.

I also went back and watched what I consider to be, the best movie in the last two years, Kill Bill Vol. 2. I know, many people are critics of Vol. 1. I think they miss the point of the movie, with the hommages to the 1970's samurai flicks, the old cop dramas, and the spaghetti westerns. The gallons of blood that are spilt are done in a comical fashion, with the final fight scene with the Crazy 88's going over the top. It is a pure nod to a different type of cinema. However Vol. 2 is above and beyond better, and most critics agree with me. Why? Basically Kill Bill Vol. 2 has some of the best dialogue that has been written for years, with nothing coming close since.
Take for instance, every scene that has David Carradine. This picture shows a scene where Bill is interrupting The Bride at her wedding. Watching the interaction between Uma Thurman and Carradine makes you realize that director Quintin Tarantino really gets the best out of his characters because he lets them play the part. For this generation, Carradine is Bill (for us, he's Kwai Chang Caine). The part is simply that masterful. The second great scene is when The Bride and Bill are discussing their current situation on the couch at Bill's hacienda. The ideas of ego, superheros and murder are pandered about in the fashion that only Tarantino can make logical, and entertaining.

Of course, since the movie in from Quintin Tarantino, people will either love it or hate. You choose.

By the way, I came upon an article from The Wall Street Journal. I love the Journal, and I use many articles in my Economics class. However, just like the article back in April, this one points to the big, bad teachers as being the problem with education. Apparently, the Florida legislature got rid of a voucher bill, which is enraging the pro-school choice Republicans who look at the pretty numbers raise without realizing that they are selectively enhancing the population sample for academics. Once again, don't let an economist try to run education, you wouldn't get results. As always with these voucher movement people, they seek to move a tiny population to get better results while announcing that the public education system is a failure, and is beyond repair. Not a very economic thing to do, since education is supposed to be an investment in the future. I have the same problem with Joanne Jacobs book, "Our School" as well, which I'll review later. Basically, both camps say "screw public schools", and go about their merry way, while completely bringing nothing to the table about how to fix public education. Hell, I'm ready for an overhaul of the system. But the American people better be ready to pay up.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Be NCLB, like me!

I found out on Friday that I am officially NCLB compliant, not that I really cared. However, it seems that the district has a few months before the Federal government does nothing..errrrr...comes crashing into the district to make sure the teachers know their stuff. Talking about major props, I'm officially indebted to the staff at the district office for doing the work of going through ALL the teachers files and checking for NCLB compliance. That's a whole lot of degrees, units, classes and professional development. Thank God I didn't have to figure it out. In the end, my degree makes it very easy for me to teach four core subjects; History, Geography, Government, Economics. I was going to teach Public Speaking this year, but I was told "no" because I wasn't NCLB compliant in English, which makes perfect sense now doesn't it.
Although the intentions are excellent, NCLB is still a mammothly flawed game that still manages to sluff the problems of education to the teachers, without treating them with any sort of respect. I'm still waiting for the question about Special Ed to be answered. I'm still waiting for the boycott question to be addressed. I'm still waiting to hear how NCLB will address the 95% clause in the boycott. Or how the federal government CUT spending to Title One, which goes directly to support ELL students to pass the tests. I'm still waiting for the answers on how schools in declining enrollment, with increased costs, are supposed to pay for MORE transportation AND professional development for teachers if they become "Program Improvement" schools.
I know teachers that are simply drinking the Republican Kool-Aid supporting this legislation. I just can't understand how any teacher can possibly call it, " A good thing."

Friday, May 05, 2006

OMG, Brett has figured it out.

I nailed this from the Education Wonks (check out my blog links).

It's called The DeHavilland Blog, and the message of the post is a letter that should be read by any political figure to parents. However, Brett (the owner of the blog) correctly states that talking to parents is one of the "third rails" of politics.

My fellow parents,

The ability to read is the single most important indicator of success in life. If your child does not learn to read and read well, his opportunities in life are so limited that you may as well buy him a mop and a bucket right now: he won’t get much further than minimum-wage manual labor for the rest of his life.

Despite what you hear from the talking heads in the news, our schools are perfectly capable of teaching a child to read. But we have to have children who are ready to learn, who have a supportive environment at home that reinforces what they’re doing at school.

From almost the time that they’re born, it is your responsibility – and only your responsibility - to prepare them to successfully learn how to read. Fortunately this is simple to do.

Read to them every day, preferably a few times a day. Let them see you reading. Make sure they have access to a wide variety of reading materials in the home.

That’s all it takes: do that, and they’ll be ready to learn how to read when they get to school. We’ll take it from there, although of course we’ll still expect you to do your part at home by continuing to read, continuing to emphasize the importance of reading, and holding yourselves and your child accountable when we send home work that reinforces what we’re doing in school.

And if you don’t? Shame on you. You’re failing your children, relegating them to a life filled with the frustration and despair that come with living on the fringes of society. They will always look longingly at the lives that others are able to build for themselves and knowing that success is permanently out of their grasp. It won’t be the fault of the schools, nor will it be the fault of “society.” It will be your fault, and yours alone.

So please: read to your children. Let them see you read. Give them access to books and other reading materials. And help them lay the groundwork for a life that can take them anywhere they decide they want to go.

Good night, and good reading.

Star Testing Blues

I don't know why, but STAR testing has totally exhausted me. I think this is because of factors on many levels.

First off, the schedule is straight up odd. On Monday and Tuesday, we had a mammoth 3 hour test block where all the Seniors were doing Economics. This means I had to lesson plan and coordinate three hour blocks for five different classes of Seniors, three of which are non-college prep. Ouch. No problem you say? Try being with 35 Seniors in a classroom for an hour in May. The attention span is simply not there. So I had to make sure that everything ran smoothly in each class, which it did not. One class ran out of calculators, one classes worksheets were missing an important piece of info, one class had a substitute that couldn't understand the directions or work a DVD player, and all the classes were pissed as hell to be in school when it was 80 degrees outside.

The second problem has to do with the fact that many other teachers in the school are doing very little to help with the process of our building volunteering to take all the Seniors for the STAR testing days. In fact, some are acting like they are doing the tough job of administering the test, like handing out a test and making sure students are filling in weird bubble shapes is more difficult than the process I stated above. Teachers that do nothing during STAR testing, and I mean nothing, seem put out when asked to accommodate the needs of teachers that actually have to teach a class. Some of us are wondering how the other teachers would feel if they were told to take the Seniors, and we relax and administer the test.

Last, but not least, the end of the year stress is here. I'm having the constant complaining about the need for extra credit, the want of more assignments (to pad a grade), and the realization that their 3/4 semester of laziness will not get them a diploma.

Part of the problem is also my health. Although I play two hours of basketball a week in open gym, I can't seem to find time to work out otherwise. I come home exhausted physically, but I can't seem to sleep very well. My current lifestyle is probably not doing me any favors.

End of the year, be here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Monday, May 01, 2006

Protests and STAR tests

It's that time again, where Seniors are subjected to 3-4 hour blocks of Economics, students get ignorant parents to sign them out of taking the test, and teachers try to figure out the point to the entire process.

Yes, it's STAR testing time, compliments of State and Federal Governments. How about a little first day STAR testing hodgepodge:

-Our local State Senator, Wes Chesburo, voted to sanction the May Day boycott by Hispanics. In response, Mr. Chesburo, now a member of the "dumb bastard club", will never receive a vote from me for anything. He could run for town dog catcher and I'll vote for the other guy.

-Many Hispanics boycotted school to march or whatever. I asked a variety of teacher about their numbers, and most said about 60% of their Hispanic population missed school. I was missing about half.

-Speaking of attendance, my Senior attendance was spotty depending on the class. Both college prep classes were only missing 2-3 students, while my Intro level classes were missing about 5 in one class, and half of two other classes. I made very worth the while of the students that showed up in terms of grade. At this point, it has to be incentive based. Come on, 3-4 hour Economics classes are brutal. However, the students that missed the time are going to get a real nasty report when they come back and see that class did not stop because they were gone.

-What do you do for that much time? Well, one class worked the entire time on Economics Expo (I'll explain later) and a stock market portfolio power point. Another class watched an excellent Frontline video on Wal-Mart, completed a film guide, and did 30 situations involving Supply/Demand and the impact on Price. Finally, two other classes watched Roger and Me, and also completed the Supply/Demand paper. Overall, the classes were very productive.

-As I predicted, the protests are having the opposite effect of what the organizers intended. For the most part, this is because the organizers are ignorant fools who pushed naive workers into a politically driven cause. Take a look at Lou Dobbs excellent article about the radical fringe that is taking hold of the movement. This isn't about immigration anymore, as much as it's about agendas. On CBS 5's Eyewitness News, the head of the United Farm Workers union in Salinas stated that he was supported the boycott because "it was what Cesar Chavez would do." Except that it isn't. Chavez regularly protested against the use of illegal immigrants, as they pushed down the wages of legal union workers wages. I'm seeing more and more Mexican flags and the concept of Mexican pride. This includes glorifying a country that is corrupt on a monumental scale, that legalizes heroin and cocaine, and basically robs the common people of social order. Oh, and some of the protesters are starting to push the Mecha model, meaning the incorporation of the Southwest back to Mexico. Finally, I saw plenty of Che Guevara posters that discussed the "power of the worker". Che was never promoting worker pride, he was promoting the concept of revolution against anyone who happened to be in power. This is the same Che that told a British newspaper that he would have gladly nuked U.S. cities during the 1960's. And I guess the protesters are in interesting company. Neo-Nazi's are starting to use the image of Che Guevara to ramp up interest into the white pride lifestyle. Talk about your contradictions.