Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The State of the Union Highlights Analysis, the 2007 Edition

I didn't get to see the State of the Union address this year, due to the basketball game I was attending (16-4, JV Boys). Fortunately, the wife Tivo'd the SOTU and I had the chance to take a look at George giving lip service to the nation. Last year we had some choice cutsfor your viewing pleasure. This year, I'm back for more fun and joy. But before you read on, check out a neat interactive graphic from the New York Times that tracks the words used and how often they were uttered from this year, and past years, SOTU speeches.

Highlight #1

Well, this is the last time you will ever see the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House smiling at the same time. In fact, Dick doesn't seem very interested. All of those that are really interested in politics are begging for Nancy Pelosi to swing her gavel over the head of the President, then tackle Cheney in a steel cage death match situation. It never happened, but it was fun hoping.

Highlight #2

Apparently Alberto Gonzales is the one cabinet member that is being held over in order to protect the Presidential Line of Succession. I'm getting this image of Gonzales hiding out in some cantina in the Southwest Texas, kinda Quintin Tarintino style. Actually, I would love President Alberto to take power. He'll pardon Lindsey England, buy a couple more guard dogs, and the crime rate will take a skydive.

Highlight #3

Jesus, it's always the underclassmen that act like sluts. Freshman Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann couldn't stop groping the President while he walked to the lecturn, until finally the Commander-in-Chief smooched the hoochy. Holy God woman! Calm down!

Highlight #4
First, we must balance the federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes. What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, and met that goal three years ahead of schedule. Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years.

Does anyone realize that the money that is allocated to the War in Iraq is not budgeted in the regular federal deficit numbers? We are going to fight a war, and not raise taxs. We are going to get health care, and not raise taxs. We are going to fix Social Security, and not raise taxes. I would like to find a way to get rid of the economic advisors to this clown, and not raise taxes.

Highlight #5
Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, preserving local control, raising standards, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Although NCLB might have helped with a little accountability, the rest of this whole issue is dead wrong. Local control is non-existant (no funding, a million unfunded mandates), raising standards (100% competent in 7 years? sure), holding school accountable (holding them slaves to idiot parents who sign their kids out of tests to sit at home or protest the fact that they are illegally in the country). Let me know when the real education reform happen. Oh, and stop this crap about school choice. Fix the ones you have, asshole.

Highlight #6
First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents. Families with health insurance will pay no income on payroll tax -- or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills. At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job.

Sure, this is really going to happen for long. Great idea to stab Congress by going after a tax deduction on massively priced healthcare. Then you put the pressure on Congress to pass a bill that won't ever get done, or will be a joke by the time all amendments are attached, then blame Congress for the problems. Or you just pull the same "go hydrogen" act of a few years ago, and ignore it.

Highlight #7
Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. (Applause.) When we do that we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.
Hahahahaahah. Sure you will. And once again I'm assuming that all these tax cuts will go right into the funding source for alternative energy research. Until you put a tax on gas, you might as well buckle up and enjoy the ride. By the way, I believe that we could actually do it. But I have no illusions that anyone is going to have the balls enough to enact such a serious program.

Highlight #8

The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat. Whatever slogans they chant, when they slaughter the innocent they have the same wicked purposes. They want to kill Americans, kill democracy in the Middle East, and gain the weapons to kill on an even more horrific scale.
Actually, they want to kill each other more than any of those things. Let them have their civil war?

The rest wasn't really full of highlights because it took him 3/4 of his speech to finally get to the main issue of the day, Iraq, and besides that, he inspires no sense of resolve or optimism in about 75% of the country.

Mission failed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Glad the day is over

I had a hell of time sleeping last night. Cat was yeowling for some reason, and I was just "awake". Drifted off at around 1 a.m.

Woke up at around 5 a.m. Damn, I feel like I didn't even sleep. Get up and shower with the notion to kick it up in the classroom today. It might be the only way I make it.

Out the door and at the classroom by 6:05. Print out a copy of the Choices Model U.N. guide that I downloaded, and bought, last night. The printer is taking too long and my laptop is booting weird. I'm trying to fix both.

By 6:20 I go into the Admin building. Two vice-principals are already there working away and I chit-chat with them while the copy machine warms up. I start to print-out of staples. Move staple trays around and start to print-paper jam. Another teacher walks in and we chat while I clear the jam. Start to print and everything goes smoothly. I'm back into my classroom by 6:40.

I turn on Imus (who is conducting a great interview with NBC's Brian Williams) and put in grades into the computer. When finished, I head back to the Admin building to place a call to the Choices people at Brown University for purchase order information. I stumble with the voice message and return to the confines of the room. At about 7:15, students begin to filter in. I write the day's agenda on the white board and crack jokes with students.

7:30 and International Studies begins, minus about 6 students. It's Monday, I guess. I'm down to about 25 students from the 32 I started with in September. Those that left said that they liked the class, but hated coming to school so early. I mention due dates for Berkeley Model United Nations Forms. Then we watch the news. No questions. The students look dead. I give a little introduction about The Voice of America, and connect it to the concept of Foreign Policy tools that we had just finished learning about. We watch a Newshour Focus on the current state of VOA. The students pay attention, but it wanes in the final few minutes. The discussion that follows is pretty good, but some of my students always drift towards the topic of impeaching Bush. When that topic goes away, they loose interest. We begin to read a handout about the creation of the United Nations and I ask them to highlight. Most do, while others ask "What do we highlight?" Only five minutes left and 1/3 of the class is chatty, while the rest look tired. I end the class a bit irritated at the energy level. I gave more than I got. When the bell rings I head back to the Admin building and through another classroom. A student that is in my Global Studies class is there for his next period, and just didn't show to mine. I look at him, raise my eyebrows, and move on. Seniors know, and either it will be figured out or it won't.

I go to the intercom in the office and announce the basketball practice times for today. There is a girls game today and our practices will be short. On the way out, two teachers stop me and tell me that my voice is excellent and that I should give morning announcements. I also overhear that 11 teachers are out, and almost half have pneumonia. Ew.

I drop by the varsity coaches room to check up on things and then return to my classroom for my prep. The class that is usually there is somewhere else today, so I turn on Imus again. Then I call the District Office looking for a date when I will receive funding for Model UN. The contact is in a meeting. I then print out a Wall Street Journal article on politics and the Stock Market, and go back to the building to make copies. Upon return, more Imus, and I sit and work on a Stock Market power point, read some newspapers (Sac Bee, Chronicle, Daily Journal), and drink tea.

Second period is Econ. The news goes by uneventfully again, even though the students are more attentive. I catch one girl playing with her I-Pod Video player and take it from her with little fanfare. Cute gadget, but becoming more of a problem. Investment quiz, and most do fine. We are starting a Stock Market project. I introduce the unit by showing them a 10 minute clip of Mad Money from Jim Cramer. They are to write down things they see and hear, and ask questions. By the end, most kid's heads are spinning. It goes fast and furious, and some are left confused. But many start asking questions about IPO's, bulls, bears, earnings, etc. It starts to take hold and I start my Brown's Bagels and Buns simulation, where I own a business and sell stock. At the same time, the market price for my shares fluctuates and other people sell their shares. It is a great little introduction to stocks. This class is not as involved as my 4th period, and again, the energy is down. I think they got it, but I'm not positive.

Break in between 2-3. I drink tea and sit out at the community table. Some of us talk of coaching and disk golf.

Third is Intro, a more basic level of Economics. I collect homework, which only 30% of the class has done. We have silent reading for about 20 minutes. I read the Wall Street Journal. Everyone is reading, although two are having a go at staying awake. Sleep earlier people. Silent reading ends, news is uneventful, and we talk about Factors of Production for a pizza. The lesson goes rather well and the students are getting it. I make it tougher and assign them Factors of Production for a bottle of water. They meet the challenge and begin working immediately, helping each other out. Best energy of the day so far. The class ends on a high note.

Fourth is Economics (like Second). They are a day ahead and after the news we watch the Nightly Business Report's "Stocks in the News", while I pause it to explain the charts, numbers and graphs. They are interested, some a taking notes about stocks to purchase later this week. Investment quiz. They don't do as well, but many are kicking themselves for missing answers that they should have known. That's a good sign. They won't miss it again. I show them Yahoo Finance and take them through a simple stock quote. Then we begin the Stock Market Power Point. Lots of interest, lots of questions. Good period.

Lunch. I'm eating a small mac n' cheese and two lean pockets. The community table is buzzing with talk about the recent Santa Rosa Press Democrat article (which I'll get to later) about the health care crises at the Sonoma County schools. One person states that an economist should take California's budget and stop doing bond measures. I agree to do it and they ask what I think. I give them honest, economically sound answers and they hate it. The liberal division of the crowd roll their eyes and make snide comments. They really don't want a solution, it would seem, because it would be painful. Then talk goes to the usual, impeaching Bush, the Iraq War, yada, yada. They last conversation is about the current Internet censorship problem at the school. Basically, the district does not trust the teachers to know what content is appropriate. Really good management technique.

5th period is Intro (like 3rd), but a lower level. Only 5 students are in the class today, and only 7 are officially registered. The news is uneventful. I then discuss the Bottled Water factors of production while they follow along. They are really trying to understand, and are on the verge. One student comes totally unprepared, is cursing out another student, and is asked to leave. We then change gears to the idea of Rare vs. Scarce. I show them a Canadian newschannel video of the Tickle Me Elmo craze and we discuss the idea of scarcity. I bought a Tickle Me Elmo on Ebay two years ago and it again becomes a great tool. $2000 at one time, $6 on E-Bay now. The difference is easily understood, and the class ends well.

I visit with a couple of counselors about students that I'm concerned about. All are supportive and willing to work with me.

At 3:15 I head to the gym, talking to a teacher about mistakes we made on report cards, and talking to students about basketball. Practice is about 30 minutes and is excellent. The energy is great, the plays are tough, and the players are executing moves that they learned. I'm excited about Wednesday against Cardinal Newman. The players look satisfied when they leave and I visit the athletic director. I give some bad news to the freshman coach and return to ask about parent evaluations. Apparently, I got some bad feedback from parents about some issue or another. I'm royally pissed. I've done everything pretty much by the book this year and I think that this was my best year coaching yet, regardless of the record. Then to find out that some parents are pissed about something........makes me pretty sick. In fact, I'm still angry. However, I'm trying to remember the many parents that have came up to me after games to tell me that I'm doing such a nice job.

I go home and play a little baseball on the PS2, trying to basically forget the parent feedback information. Then I ate dinner with the wife and started to write.

A day in the life.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Guess the cat is out now

Well, it is begun.

Today's Ukiah Daily Journal has an article about the recent salary grievance that the Ukiah Teacher's Association filed against the school district. The fact that it is now in the papers means that the nice attitude between teachers and the district, something I have relished over the last few years, might be officially over.

I don't really feel much of anything about the issue at this point. I've been hearing more jostling about with certain union members lately, with rallying cries and exclamations of conspiracy by the school district to totally screw its teachers. I can't say that I'm very happy about the district giving the Super a 19% raise, and then complain that the district is in dire shape. I agree that he doesn't make a comparable wage to other schools, and neither do the teachers. However, unlike some, I also understand that the we are all victims of underfunded programs and rising costs. Slamming the district won't solve problems. Actually, every teacher walking out for a week might do a little better to get attention to funding woes. "Oh, you are already paid too much in education funding". Special Education, transportation, declining enrollment.....you have no clue what the hell you are talking about if you are one of those statement advocates.

But I'm not marching, not calling around, not crying havoc, and not letting loose the dogs of war. I've got a basketball team, a Model UN, an AP Gov class to prepare for, and about 75 kids that read wayyyyyy under grade level. Don't tell me that the union is the most important thing right now. And definitely don't tell me that we shouldn't stand up to other school site teachers regarding what is best for the kids because "we need to maintain the unity in our union and we shouldn't rock the boat."
I pay union dues. You get me my money, I'll teach.

Wakey, Wakey

I caught a student napping during Silent Reading on Friday. The student had recently transferred into my class and the conversation went something like this.

Teacher: Just remember please, that your grade will be impacted if you are using SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) for nap time.

Student: (Lazily raises his read) What?

Teacher: Go home if you are too tired, but do not sleep in this class.

Student: You mean I got points taken off just for sleeping?

Teacher: Um, yea.

Student: But you didn't tell me that I couldn't sleep in class. I was never told that sleeping was against the class rules.

Teacher: Are you serious?

Student: Yes!

Teacher: Oh please. Any other teachers actually let you sleep in class?

Student: Yes!

At this point, other students in the class started to nod.

Teacher: Well, make it a point not to sleep in my classroom, and understand that your grade will suffer if you go night, night.

Of course, I was irritated at the student, and irritated at the situation. The students that were nodding were students that have been honest often, which is not good for the image of educators.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sure, the problem was that it was a "black issue".

This is exactly the kind of crap that shows that we have our priorities way out of whack. Before I go off, I'll pacify the NAACP by stating that I think that Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most profound figures in U.S. history. His brave and brilliant actions changed the social image of how the human species was supposed to interact.

Saying that, since when did Tarleton State University in Texas, or any other university for that matter, suddenly get a conscience about teenagers drinking heavily while attending an institution of higher learning. Thanks to the Associated Press, it has become news that an uproar has occurred at Tarleton about Martin Luther King boozefest that included malt liquor, fried chicken, gang attire, and guns. Apparently the pictures appeared on Facebook and the accusations of racism started to fly and the president of the university has started an investigation.

What a bunch of politically correct crap.

I saw some of the pictures on Smoking Gun, and I'm interested about the investigation that will start regarding underage drinking, binge drinking, drug use, and the use of gas grill instead of briquettes. Oh, that's right, it's not an issue. And let's not forget that the theme is for some drunken college frat and scat kids that have a single interest in killing brain cells. I mean, we are not talking about a group of Dallas, Texas Mensa kids that are discussing the pro's and con's of the current state of U.S. race relations. How about investigating the president of the university for executing a serious lack of judgement in even listening to the NAACP chapter in Dallas. Jesus, talking about a legendary organization that is giving itself a bad name, how about some NAACP focus on real issues.

By the way, let us also remember the other famous college party themes that we all know and love, and let us remind these drunken students that they must show the due respect to the originals:

-The Greeks: It all started here! The disrespect of the Greeks is legendary and I can't believe that schools allow toga parties in blatent disregard for the Greek culture.

-Loose the Clothes Party: MLK? No party allowed. A bunch of naked drunken teenagers running around in the act of foreplay? No problem. Just cover the beer gut a little and call Girls Gone Wild to get the school some exposure.

-White Trash Trailer Bash: Interesting that universities allow this uncaring attack on the nations rural poor. I demand that an investigation start right now. This disrespect for the working poor must end now. Let's start at Cal-Berkeley.....

-Pimps and Hoes: Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, I get it. Doing Pimps and Hoes to represent a cultural ideal would be ok. Just don't include the title "Martin Luther King Jr. Party".

And finally, all the other "cultural awareness" days where students get completely blasted to "celebrate" our diversity: St. Patrick's Day (try Chico), United Nations Day (been there), and Cinco-de-Mayo (ask students what it really means).

Don't act concerned when political correctness suits you. I don't think that what the students did was in good taste, but the issue should be making academic institutions more focused on being a little more sober. When you start educating kids, schools AND PARENTS, then they will stop acting like animals.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

4 T

I'm a technical foul magnet.

For those of you that are not basketball aficionados, a technical foul is a foul that comes about when a player or coach is acting in an unsportsmanlike manner, like getting on officials. Unfortunately, I can't seem to shake the dreaded "T". My history has been chock full of them.
My most embarrassing tech was when I was an assistant coach on the Mesa Verde J.V. team, a team that had little heart, little coaching, and no fire. I got the "T" in the last game of the year hoping to inspire a little fire. It didn't work, and I didn't even show up to awards night I was so embarrassed.
I was ejected from one game during my first year at Live Oak as the J.V. coach from the dreaded "2 T's". It was the first home game I had ever had at the school, and it didn't really give a good first impression. I can't remember why I got the
first "T", but I do remember the varsity coach,Imdad Khan, telling me that the ref was a real asshole, and would heave me at his convenience. We started down 18, got it back to down 4 with only 2:30 minutes left in the game when I was up off the bench encouraging my guys to press. All of a sudden I heard a whistle and the ref T'd me a second time for not being seated while the game was in play (once T'd, a coach has to sit for the rest of the game). We lost by about 6. The athletic director forgave me and I coached another 3 years.
Believe it or not, I've never been given a technical for using profanity. I did say "Jesus Christ" in exasperation after a bad call at the Sutter J.V. Tourney. The ref turned around and said "What did you say?". I told him that Jesus Christ wasn't profanity and he T'd me up while saying, "During this game it is". Bah. I wonder if he'd have T'd me up if I said that Jesus was the ultimate socialist (those that watch th news will get it).
I've had four technicals this year. One in Fortuna was for ragging on a young official about the homer job as we played the host school in their tournament. We didn't lose because of theofficals, but they didn't help. The second technical came a few weeks ago when an official simply didn't like me. I coached a family member a few years ago. He didn't play much. Get the picture? The third technical was last weekend at Elsie Allen. I said "that was a garbage call", and got lit up. The fourth was last night, in a big game. After a touch foul on one of my players, I lept up and told the player that it was great defense and to keep it up. The ref T'd me for showing him up and being too loud. Fortunately, the players made up for the mistake and we won an excellent game.
I probably deserve about 60% of the techs that I get, and I'm being serious. I have two serious disadvantages when coaching that simply irritate the officials. First, I have an incredibly loud, booming voice. It's the kind of voice that people 100ft away would hear even if there was a full throttle jet engine between us. In my Junior year in high school, our starting power forward Shannon Rasmussen told our point guard, "I don't have to worry about listening for the plays, I can hear Brown's voice over the whole fucking gym." I was, and still am, proud of the voice. People swear that I should be in radio. The problem is that it really grates on the nerves of refs who come by the sideline. Most of the time, I'm not even talking to them, but my loud
voice comes as a distraction to their task. The second disadvantage I have in the game is that I rove the sideline like a caged animal. I'm up and down the bench, encouraging players, pumping my fist, clapping like crazy.......just being everywhere that a ref doesn't really want me to be. So you have a crazy loud coach with a booming voice reminding you that the last call was bogus, that equals a couple of T's. Some say that I should try reffing, and I have. I reffed for three years at Chico State for college intramurals, which might be classified as worse than high school. You try officiating a game between two frats, it isn't pretty. Of course, most technicals occur with younger officials. I've been T'd up once in 5 years by Varsity level officials. Younger officials are just less confident about calls, and more concerned about what you are actually saying on the sideline. The more senior officials will come over and let you know you stepped over the line. I got to know a couple of the officials over in Yuba City pretty well while at Live Oak. One of the top guys during a home game came over while I was ranting and said, "Jeff, you're looking like a jackass and I'm not going to throw you out. I'm having too much fun watching you." We both laughed and it was done.
Anyway, I have my weakness that I need to work on I guess. Last night was a really big game if we were to have lost because of my technical, it would have done mucho damage to my relationship with my players, who worked their ass off for the "W". \
Ok, coach. Focus.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A good post rehashed, because I feel like it.

I watched the Stupid in America segment on 20/20 last night, hosted by the teacher's best friend, John Stossel. I figured that at this point in my career, I'm ready to give a realistic assessment of the state of Education in the United States. Here are some of the questions that Stossel asked, and my response. Chime in if you like.

There are some serious problems with education in America.

I'll say, and they encompass a huge spectrum of people that refuse to take responsibility for the problems. But when it comes down to it, the main problem is that the United States does not put a premium value on education. No, I don't mean that funding equals value, I mean that society as a whole refuses to take an active part in education, simply leaving the task to the government to take care of. Think it isn't true? Who do you like makes the rules that teachers are required to follow? It isn't the principal. It isn't the school board. It's the political establishment that is voted in by the constituents. In the end, many of things we can and can't do is based around Ed Code, something made by state and federal governments, which are ran by people that know little about education.
This is not to say that teachers, unions, schools, and parents aren't part of the problem. However, the country needs to stop talking about caring for education, and actually take part in a new educational process.

Test scores show that kids are failing in public schools.

I respect the idea behind No Child Left Behind; more accountability and a larger push towards real achievement in academics. But if you think that test scores are a true measurement in how kids are succeeding in public schools, you are very mistaken. The test are joke. Who says so? Why, you do. You blindly follow the government mandated tests thinking that they fairly measure the scholastic aptitude of students, while not taking any other variables into consideration when listening to the test scores being read off. For instance, parents can sign their kids off on taking tests. This means that parents alone can make a school miss their requirements. I've had plenty of students that will be going to major universities, Advanced Placement students, refuse to take the test because they felt it was redundant after the AP test. Students also refuse to take the test seriously, as many take out their displeasure on the answer form of the state tests. Schools have gone to insane lengths to get students to take tests; from ice cream sundaes to giving away I-PODS. If parents and students don't take it seriously, how are we supposed to influence test scores?

There isn't a link between money and student achievement

Yes and no. Yes, the amount of money spent at a school has little impact in student achievement. You can buy all the laptops in the world for kids, but it amounts to nothing if the kids don't learn. At the same time, plenty of statistics show that schools that are poverty stricken areas are less likely to have good student achievement. Therefore, every school should look and feel, and act, like a major academic institution. The problem is that the system is losing money somewhere in the chain from the Governor to the classroom. Fifty billion for the state of California should be enough. So where does it go? I'm not sure, except to say that I don't receive a major chunk of money to spend on my students, AND my district is constantly short on money at the end of the year. Is it the districts fault? Well, we have some of the lowest paid teachers, custodians, district administrators, and staff in the area. We are down custodians, barely have money for art and music, and have to constantly pay for health fees. Sorry, I don't buy the argument that the district wastes money intentionally. One way or another, it is still not reaching the school.

The schools should use the Jack Welch method and fire the bottom 10% of the teachers.

I absolutely agree. In the six years that I have worked as a teacher I have witnessed people that should not be in this profession. This job is too important to have incompetent fools teaching our kids.
But I have one question, who decides what makes a bad teacher?
Do you fire a special education teacher because she doesn't get her test scores up? Do you fire an AP teacher because more kids didn't pass the AP tests this year as compared to last year? What about the PE teacher who has more kids getting obese? Should they get canned?
And the worst would be the new teachers. Are you going to fire a new teacher who makes mistakes? You learn teaching by doing and making mistakes, but in our profession that can make parents and students angry. How are you going to protect the new teacher who is just getting their feet wet? It took me four years to find my grove, and I'm just starting to get really confident this year. Was four years too long?
Now, obviously the scum of the profession (sexual harassment, violence, etc) should be let go immediately, but if you run a school like General Electric, and fire teachers based on immediate results, you will be hard pressed to find people that will grow into great teachers.

Competition will improve education.

Actually, it will only hide the problem of not valuing education in society. We shouldn't need private schools or charter schools, and the idea of letting parents choose where students go to school will only allow kids with involved parents get the "better" education. Let's be honest, not every parent can afford to send their kid to a private school, and charter schools are not held to the same accountability standards as public schools. This will great the school for kids whose parents are not involved, and schools for parents that have a lot at stake in their child's education. But it doesn't solve the problem of actually getting society to value education. Instead, it leaves a population excluded because they are in poverty, or are Second Language Learners, or are disabled, or are simply unlucky (as in the lottery on the show).
If we truly want competition, then lets make the playing field level. Charter schools are to follow the same rules, have the same funding, and must admit all students without prejudice. Let the competition happen naturally, don't push the funding and political agenda to the side of the charter schools.

Does anyone else you know work only 6 1/2 hours a day?

I found it amusing that Stossel accused teachers of not working as much as the general public, and then shot to a group of KIPP teachers going home with cell phones answering calls from their kids "at all hours of the night".
Here is another example of society not appreciating education in that society doesn't want to pay educators. We are college graduate professionals that are often not paid a wage that allows use to buy a home or exists in many parts of the country. We often work many more hours than the average worker (lest you forget that many grade papers and lesson plan at home, and coach or have duty at school), and are held responsible by an enormous amount of people; the kids, the parents, the administration, the Board, the state, the federal government, and society in general. Would that make you want to start at $30K a year?
By the way, I give my e-mail to my students and I'm often answering their questions at all hours of the night.

The union is a monopoly that hinders education.

I was fortunate to have a principal that was an excellent mentor, and department that was supportive, critical, and motivating. Not all teachers are so lucky, and the union is often necessary to make sure that teachers are not trounced on my an inept administrator or held out to dry by an apathetic department. I've also been fortunate enough to have seen both sides of the union, and I'm as pretty middle of the road as it can get. I owe a lot to my local union for negotiating a strong contract, for supporting me during a natural disaster, and for being their regarding issues with parents. They are an organization that genuinely supports good teaching and helping kids. Are there union wackos that insist that the district is the devil? Yes, but they are a minority.
The CTA and NEA are another matter. I've had a rise in my dues almost every year since I was hired and have seen a negative return in terms my involvement in the process. My dues go to causes I disagree with, agendas I despise, and politicians who are less concerned about education and more concerned about votes. In my direct dealings with the CTA, I've sent in state legislation for legal advice regarding adherence by my district, only to be totally ignored on a variety of occasions.
I have no love for the state and federal unions, but without protection, we would be at the mercy of often irrational people. They are necessary.

What do we do about the problem of education in this country?

You want my 12 Step Program for Education Success? Here it is:

1. Conduct an independent audit of the entire Education program in California. The politicians, the parents, the districts, and teachers want to know where the money is going. The only way to accurately do that is to find the waste and begin to eliminate it, starting with the County level of education.

2. Build all schools up to the same standard, from building codes to athletic facilities, from classrooms to technology centers. No student should ever want to leave a school because it is run down. Every school should have the same academic, environmental standard.

3. Schools that receive private funding should get an equal reduction in government funding. Demanding achievement from all schools starts with not allowing one school to become elite, but all schools. You might call it socialist and un-American, but I would point out this quote from Stossel, "Money does not equal student achievement". If that's true, private funding is not necessary.

4. California immediately requires standards for administrators and conducts a thorough review off all administrators in state. Those that do not meet the standard are relieved of duty. If we are going to get serious about schools, then the schools need good leadership. I'm fortunate to work in a school with excellent leadership. Many of my colleagues that I went to school with are not so lucky. Administrators are responsible for the school, and should be held to the responsibility.

5. Fire the "bad" 10% of teachers immediately. I have no problem with the Jack Welch approach with a competent administration. I have total confidence that a professional administrator knows the difference between a struggling teacher is (new, tough population, rough parents), and a bad teacher. This will only work if #4 is implemented and working successfully.

6. Eliminate the CTA and NEA as unions, and keep the locals strong and organized. The state and national unions are simply political action committees that give little or no say to local teachers. It does no good for teachers to be forced into giving dues to an organization that is not for the best interests of teachers. If teachers want to give to their PAC, make it voluntary. I'll gladly pay mandatory local dues for all the hard work they do.

7. Penalize the parents for attendance issues, and go after public officials that refuse to properly address attendance problems in the community. The school can only do so much in making students show up to school. If the government is serious about education, fine parents for habitually tardy kids or enact community service or jail time. Too harsh? Not if we are serious about education. If district attorneys refuse to prosecute (like here in Mendocino County), they should be considered in violation of state law and removed from office, or thrown in jail.

8. Make all state and federal testing together, and make it mandatory for graduation. It makes little sense to have an Exit Exam and STAR testing separate, and on top of that make only one really count. Want to improve test scores, keep the Exit Exam a graduation requirement, and incorporate the STAR test with it. It can be done, and it would be more financially sound.

9. Eliminate funding by ADA, and only increase funding for schools with large amounts of Second Language Learners and Special Education. First, ADA is a massively flawed method of funding that hurts every school with declining enrollment. As for the argument that this goes against #2, the funding should come from the Federal Government, who is constitutionally obligated to deal with the problem of immigration. If they insist on allowing illegal immigrants into the country, they should pay for massive immersion programs (much like business travelers have in other countries) and Spanish-English staff. Special Education needs more funding than General Education. The law simply requires it.

10. Give local school the power to expel students that have no business being at the school. California Ed Code makes the process of expulsion a very long, expensive, and often fruitless task. However, if society is really serious about making school a priority, then they need to ignore rants of parents looking for babysitters, and allow schools to remove obstacles to learning.

11. Publicly make education a priority. All the talk in the world is not going to do anything for education unless parents and children see the government actively working towards positive change. This means that education should be encouraged by the government in greater volumes and with incentives for businesses to become involved in student's lives. Tax credits should be offered to corporations that are active in schools and the government should form a committee of corporate CEO's whose task it is constantly advice the government on what is needed from the next generation of students. After all, it is business that will be one of the main beneficiaries of a well educated population.

12. Treat all students like scholars and demand excellence. Not all students are going to go to college, and not all students are going to succeed, but that doesn't mean we don't give them the best atmosphere possible for academic success. Kids will achieve that what we expect of them. Right now, we don't expect enough.

As early, but not as stupid, as every other presidential prediction

Every poll that is taken right now is just plain dumb. However, I'm game, so here are my current predictions for 2008.

-John Edwards will win the nomination.
-Obama can't do it. Sorry. Age, race, youth, middle name "Hussein". The country isn't quite that ready.
-Gore is fat, needs to stop making partisan scare movies, and needs to go raise money for a real candidate.
-Kerry just needs to go away.
-Dodd is too unknown.
-Biden is too angry.
-I will be president before Hillary.
-Bill Richardson is my dark horse.
-Everyone else is a joke.

Ephalents (yes, that was intentional)
-Rudy Gulliani will win the nomination.
-Romney is my dark horse, though not much of one.
-McCain died this week when he supported the troop surge. RIP for 2008.
-Gingrich actually sounds reasonable as of late, except that he pissed off every Democrat when he was in Congress, then pissed off every Republican when he worked with Clinton.
-Everyone else is dreaming, but I like Huckabee for the future.


Or some damn thing.

I received a bright yellow union memo in my
box earlier this week that stated that the district was lying to us,
that the District Super got a huge raise, and that the Union had to be
diligent and prepared for action. While the accusations are in fact
true (and irritating), I'm not about to take up swords, cry "freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeedooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmm",
and rush the district office. Whoever decided to write this up had a
very interesting sense of timing. It is the week of finals, so it isn't
like the high school teachers don't have important things to do. I'm in
early and out late this week trying to get everything prepared for the
tests, get make-up work set, and most of all, prepare of the deluge of
questions regarding grades. With Seniors the questions come fast and
furious, and the more open and available grades are, the better. The
only problem is that I had a little trouble with the transfer of grades
from my home computer to the school computer, and some assignments are
coming up missing. In most cases, students have kept the work and
simply reminded me to add in the grade. That won't last too long.
Eventually, we are going to find adiscrepancy , and I'll end up eating
it. I should, it's my fault. Not that I'm going to take much shit from
anyone regarding technology errors. I'm one of the very few that are
serious with the Web (one other is in my department) at the school, and
I'm taking risks with technology for the benefit of students and kids.
Some hiccups are going to occur. We'll deal with it and move on. One
option for next year might be to dump Making the Grade, my current
program and moving to an online host, like Gradespeed. I feel a little uneasy about an off-site host, but the program is smoother, better coded, and much more accessable.
Back to the Union issue, the one issue I'm really trying to get solved with
the Union is simply not being addressed quick enough, so I'm not on
their side right now. Officer Dave has become an absolute joke to deal
with in my class. Everything on the Internet, and I mean everything, is
censored.YouTube is totally blocked, hence the lack of political videos
that my class saw this semester. Last week, some of Cagle's political cartoons
were blocked. Today I tried to download Window's Messenger for my
school computer. You might think that it is nuts, but you need to
understand that many of my Seniors are gone by 10:30 a.m. I'm done
teaching at 2:45, but I'm at my desk doing work until 5:30. Students
often e-mail me, but I don't get it until much later, sometimes because
of server problems, sometimes because the school filters label their
mail as SPAM. So, Instant Messenger is the deal, except that the school
has the site blocked. Are we serious about technology or not, because
if I'm going to work on the Web, let me work on the Web. And censor
everything if you have to, but give me a damn password to bypass that
stupid ass filter.
That is currently something the Union is
currently "discussing" with the district. Apparently, the district is
looking at some form that states that we will be sent to Baghdad if we
give students the bypass password. Form? You meanEdCode isn't enough?
What about the contract that I signed? District policy? Our
professionalism? I hate not being trusted as a professional to make
decisions that are best for the students. Instead, some techiefanboy is sitting at the district waging war against Renaissance nudes because some 2nd grade teacher found Johnny oogling the Virgin Mary.
So no, my sword is staying in the scabbard until some real classroom
teaching issues come up. Yes, I'm irritated at the district for funding
issues. However, I'm much more irritated at the State for not supplying
us withadequate funding (no conferences, athletics is out of money, band is out of money, extra-curricular has no money, transportation is out of money, technology is out of money), and the issues that involve my ability to teach the kids to the
richest prospective possible.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ok, John Tinker, your thoughts?

A teacher at my school has officially announced a proposal to ban
the Confederate flag image (otherwise known as the Rebel Flag or Navy
Jack) from campus. The reason that he is going after the image is
because some of his students have found the image offensive, and that
it could create an environment of violence. I don't like much of
anything about the Confederate flag, however I immediately voiced my
opinion to the instructor that his argument (he's very anti-censorship, except here) was A) unconstitutional, and B) simply attacking a group that he doesn't like.

The Supreme Court's rulings have been extremely open ended when it has
ruled on speech regarding the Confederate flag, usually only ruling in
favor of banishment when the school was facing a direct threat of
disturbance from the exposure from the image. The more recent case
found that the court didn't like the flag, but was more irritated that
the school was not banning all "hate based" images, just the
Confederate flag, and ruled as such. Although I agree that certain
images should be banned for the safety and security of the students, I
would be very careful about going after the idea that certain images
give off the apprehension of violence. Where do we draw the line? Think
I'm being an implusive, trouble-making moron?

This is the color "Red". Some schools have banned the wearing of the color red because it creates tension amongst certain populations. Some schools have also banned this color, called "Blue", for the same reason.

This is called a swastika, a Hindu symbol of peace and harmony, now perverted
by Nazi Germany to be considered the ultimate anti-Semitic image.
Obviously, this has been banned all over the country for what it
represents. Could a teacher get in trouble for putting this symbol on
the board while teaching Hinduism?

, ladies and gentlemen, ban this. Here is your Confederate flag. Yes, it
is. This was the first Confederate flag flown for the first two years
of the existence of the Confederate States of America.

Here is the flag of the moment, the Rebel flag of the Confederate States of
America. If you really hate what it represents, then why aren't you down with Southern heritage groups that actively fight against hate groups using this as a symbol?

How about this guy? Good old Che. He only
advocated for a nuclear strike on the United States, tortured and killed thousands at labor camps in Cuba and Latin America, and has become the new poster boy for white supremacists. I have students that wear Che t-shirts. Ban it?

Of course, I'm all about educating people, not taking away every single thing in existence
that offends them. I can see the Nazi flag being banned, but the
Confederate flag? I think we walk a fine line when we start eliminating
everything that might symbolize something that they don't like. How
about we really work on educating, not eliminating.

Cold Snap

"Honey, our pipes are frozen!"
This is not what I want to hear at 6:30 in the morning on a day after I got back at 11 p.m. the previous night. Worse, that day is a Saturday, a day of rest. Lately, the nights of Mendocino County have had temperatures drop to 19 degrees, causing people to realize that some their outdoor pipes might have been improperly insulated. One of the neighbors of a basketball player had a sprinkler pipe rupture. Another family down the road woke up to water running down the walls from their attic. Luckily, we only had a lack of water, not some mammoth flood (thank God). Three minutes on the only 12" section of pipe exposed on the outside with a hair dryer and the water poured forth with a mighty gush. I threw a towel around the pipe, let the water trickle a little at night, and no more Ice Age treatment from Mother Nature. My plants are a different story.......

Generation Next

Check out your PBS stations for a documentary on the new generation of young adults called Generation Next. I've been keeping up with little snippets of the program on the Jim Leher Newshour (required viewing for my students) and it's looking like some seriously good viewing. It looks at a generation that ranges from ages 18-25, and Judy Woodruff does a nice job trying get an overview of the most analyzed group of adults in history.

Check it out.

I think that the history that's going to be written about my generation is going to talk about how we responded to unbelievable challenges, challenges like no other generation for at least a century, I think.

I mean, when you're talking about America's place in the world, when you're talking about global warming, when you're talking about just dealing with inequality, within the country and within the world, the question is going to be, how did young people respond? How did my generation stand up and respond to those? And I think that that has yet to be written.

-Anya Kamentez (author of "Generation Debt")

Why don't we just force it down their throats?

If you've been reading this blog, then you'd know that I think that schools are going the wrong direction when they continue to ban certain foods at school. I understand the idea behind banning candy bars and your old school "junk food", however the scope of what is considered "junk food" has now changed. For instance, our school has attempted to ban soda, because it is full of sugar. Instead, the school has fruit juice drinks that often have MORE sugar than the sodas that they replaced. Candy in the food lines? Gone. Ice cream in the food lines. Well stocked. In some San Francisco schools, pizza and burgers have been eliminated from the menus in favor of other "healthy" choices. Why am I against this? I think whole issue is horribly misdirected.
Tell me if I'm wrong, don't kids have much healthier choices in school now than we did back then? I remember when the salad bar became a "big deal" at our school when I was in high school. I remember huge cookies, ice cream machines, and plenty of candy. We ate terrible. Remember when AM/PM started spreading on the West Coast? Noon runs to grab a half dozen hot dogs for $2 and a 64 oz Pepsi.....ah those were the days. However, we weren't becoming a bunch of lazy, fat kids while we were eating this stuff. Why? We were outside all the time. But instead of making kids get their ass outside, school officials and lazy parents want to go after the school menus. How about we address the real problem; getting kids in shape.

-Require 4 years of Physical Education, and make the curriculum a little more difficult each year. Why not build up their bodies as well as their minds.
-Get teachers to do more clubs or after school activities that require bodies to be active. I do "Open Gym" for three days a week from March-June, 2 hours a day. What about aerobics? Weights? Hammer the local business for equipment, or get the vocational shops to build some for you. Don't have a Frisbee golf course? Metal shop can weld together some baskets and you can place them around a field.
-Get PE classes that actually do some physical activity, including work. I've seen, and been in, PE classes that are a joke. Come in, run around the gym once, and play a pathetic vollyball game for 30 minutes. Most kids will sit off to the side and not even care. But the best PE class I have ever seen was from Rick Silva at Paradise Intermediate School, who treated the class like......well......a class. You did a serious warm-up (together, or we did it over again), we played and were encouraged to be competitive, and we set goals to reach. It made us physically better, and we ended up more proud of ourselves and our health.

Of course, we can continue to attack the food vendors and get the result that San Francisco schools are getting; students going to other sources. KCBS radio had a story today about a ram pent problem with catering trucks parking near the school and selling junk food to the little boys and girls trying to get on with their education. This is not sitting well with the policy makers of the school district and the city of San Francisco.
San Francisco Supervisor Sean Elsbernd has introduced legislation that would require the trucks to stay at least 1,000 feet away from the schools. "As much education that we are doing in the schools about healthy lifestyles and healthy eating, if there is something we can do to help them make that choice, I think we should," he said.

Yea, put those vending trucks on the same level as pedophiles and drug dealers. Smart move.

Supervisor Elsbernd is right about one thing, helping kids make the right choices is critical. But simply taking away access to food is not the answer because, well, the food isn't necessarily the problem. The school district has to set the right example to get those kids off their ass.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wow! Jay Mathews at the Washington Post likes the blog!

Jay Mathews is an Education Columnist at the Washington Post and he selected my blog as his 11th favorite. You can find the article HERE!

I'm glad that he found the blog a good read and something from the heart, since I truly believe that most of mainstream society still has little clue about what Education is about. How weird is it that two years ago I was looking for self-reflection, and found my little niche in the edublogosphere. Thanks for the recognition, Jay!

By the way, I'm a regular reader to some of his other top blogs in including Shrewdness, Joanne Jacobs, and Teaching in the 408, all located at the links bar at right. Hit them up too!

The iPhone iDont care about

I was pretty interested in the MacWorld announcement of "something big" this week. I had heard the rumor of "I-TV", but that idea had been in the works for awhile.

The big deal is iPhone, a new device that is combination cell phone, wifi web device, e-mail browser, iPod,camera,
and overall neat thingy. Plus, this has the capability to do everything
using a "smear proof" touch screen, getting rid of the bulky PDA style
devices. Finally, there are senors that will automatically bring up
software when you turn the device around, change the screen lighting
based on outside brightness, and make you a nice margarita when you get
thirsty (ok, maybe not the margarita).

Sorry, I'm just not that excited about a new cell phone. Here's why.

First, the average life of any cell phone is a little under two years. I don't see people forking out $500 for Cingular
Wireless and a cell phone. And Steve Jobs was looking at taking 1% of
the cell phone market in one year? We are talking about tens of
millions of people in a market that is already saturated with cheaper
and viable product.iPhone browses the Internet....like 90% of other phones. iPhone plays MP3's...........like 80% of other phones. iPhone has a computer operating system (OS X variant)............like Microsoft has had on PDA's for over a year (Microsoft Mobile). Get the picture?

what the hell good is it to actively text or e-mail using a touch
screen? It will be slower and less productive than the business
oriented Blackberry models already on the market to produce massive
amounts of e-mail. And again, you can get a greatPDA for over half the price, and wifi will not be far behind.

I'm very interested in how much juice this baby is going to take from a
cell phone style power supply. Jobs quoted 16 hours for music only, and
5 hours for web use and phone calls. 5 hours? For $500?

Nope, I'm just not falling off my chair like I was with the iPod, which was just too cool at the beginning. The screen, the sensors, and the wifi
are all really neat, but do we really want to shovel this much stuff
into a touch screen phone? And again, for $500? I'll wait.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A lot happened today

-I got a cranberry muffin instead of the blueberry one I ordered from Starbucks.

-I was told by a colleague that I needed to experience WASC because "it will help your professional development as a teacher". The colleague was serious. I, quite frankly, see lots more to do with my time.

-I got Advanced Placement Comparative Governments passed by Site Council and Department Heads. Polski stated that I must be having fun with the class if I'm taking on a more advanced version. In one word......yep!

-Safeway sandwiches on rustic italian bread are yummy.

-We lost our third game of the season tonight, and currently sit at 12-3. We lost because we didn't play well, period.

-However, on a side not, an official stepped right into my face twice (during and after the game) in an attempt to bait me to fight him. "What, do somethin!". Don't see that every day.

-Note to opposing teams; don't complain about making one trip from Santa Rosa to Ukiah. By the end of the season, I will have made eleven trips in the other direction, on a school bus.

-It is truely nice to be home.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Um, Mr. President?

For a little something to spike interesting in the Presidency, I decided to show the White House sanctioned video of George Bush touring the Oval Office. Unfortunately, I committed a cardinal sin when showing the video. I half-assed the preview. Of course the video isn't "inappropriate" for school, or rated "R" for the young kiddies. But I previewed this video by simple listening to it halfway, in the background, while I did other work. I mean, come on, it's a 7 minute video on the White House website! How bad could it be!
How about embarressing.
The video does a nice job giving some insight on the President's tastes in interior decorating in the Oval Office, and I mean that sincerley. He has paintings of Washington, Lincoln, and various scenes from Texas, plus busts of Churchill, Ike, and Lincoln again. His explainations about his choices help delve into the man behind the Commander-in-Chief. However, either George Bush is the single most incompetent speaker or the editor of the video should get a Saddam Hussien welcome. I think it is the later (though Bush is a horrid speaker), but if that's the case, why publish a video that is totally bush league, pardon the pun. Regardless, the kids got a huge kick out of it, though that wasn't necessarily the intention.

I'm petitioning to teach AP Comparative Governments next year. Anyone teach that now?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Another one rides the bus

Most of my life has involved riding a school bus.
From 5th to 9th grade I rode one way nearly ninety minutes to school from the upper reaches of Magalia, California to institutions of the Paradise Unified School District. Then, when I played basketball, I took trips to to Chico, Oroville, Redding and Susanville. The shortest trips were 40 minutes, Susanville was about 4 hours. After the 1991 blizzard, the trip took closer to 5 hours.
From '94-97, I sat in the big, yellow taxi from Live Oak to Sacramento, Corning, and the Delta.

I must be a masochist.

If you want to play any games outside of Ukiah, the bus trip will cost you at least an hour in the golden limo to Santa Rosa, in a bus packed with kids. The kids are not the issue. Actually, I haven't seen a bad incident on a bus in Ukiah in the 6 years that I've been here. I think it's the road and the fact that the bus is just freaking cramped. You have those seats that don't conform to the legs of a 6'2" male who likes the Lazy Boy recliner. And for some reason, I seem to be attracted to wheel wells, which means that there is less leg room than even a regular seat. Then the bus makes its way down Hwy. 101, a now 4-lane curvy road that is much better now that it looks like a real highway. Until three years ago, most of the ride through the mountains was two-lane flattop that made the night trips home a partial prayer ride. Thank God for good bus drivers. Oh, and MP3 Players.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Where the heck have you been?

Where the heck have you been?

Busy. The 6:30-8:30 workdays are killer. Then I do homework until 10:30 and basketball on Saturdays. Blogging is not at the top of the list right now.

There is a rumor that the blog is finished. That true?

Not a chance. I’m simply making the priorities as they should be, and blogging is lower down on the list. I’m all about prep, so that is taking up time.

Prep for what?

I’m really trying to make my International Studies class work. A new prep just takes a lot of time to make it click. I’m also trying to constantly keep up my website, www.coachbrown.net, and the Ukiah High Model UN site.

Nice site. How’s the parent response about the site?

Parents love it. Students use it. The responsibility factor has really been placed on the kids when I post work on the site. Plus, I use less paper. 80% of the kids print the work at home or in the library after we go over the work. The only problem is making sure I get the assignments up. A couple of times I forgot to post the assignment, which makes things a little difficult, but it keeps me on my toes.

Speaking of parents, how is parent/teacher relations?

Totally fine. The website makes things much easier and I’ve had next-to-no negative issues.

And what about basketball……

11-2, and having a good time with it. We are fun to watch.

What about the issues from earlier this year?

They are spreading rumors, going after other teachers and coaches, and are digging their own hole nicely. Some of us received legal advice and are doing some documenting for defamation and harassment. Apparently, the politically charged community is going after various educational positions for one reason or another. Of course, this is interesting coming from a down that has a rampant drug problem and refuses to put energy towards that.

Drug problem?

Teachers, police, administrators, counselors.....even high level education staff within the county, have reported that the drug problem in Ukiah Unified is really, really bad. Reason? The town has a lax attitude towards it, period. One connection with the police department told me that the marijuana problem is simply not addressed by the legal system. The district attorney refuses to prosecute, judges refuses to throw the book, and kids keep getting hooked.

That’s rough. How’s the media treating it?

Recently, the Ukiah Daily Journal’s editor K.C. Meadows published an editorial attacking the school for allowing vandalism, as if we were the problem. She pointed to the size of the school as the issue, even though we have decreased in student population over the last three years. Then there was an article about I-Pods being stolen at the school. As usual, the paper likes to blame the school for the town’s ills, and refuses to help support the school in an effort help out kids.

Well, when are you back to blogging?