Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hey Joe, do me a favor. DON'T LINK ME!

Obviously, Joe Hammond, NEA gopher that is sucking down taxes that I am forced to pay, has decided to link my blog, but he made it look like I was hating my job or something.

I was checking out Darren over at Right on the Left Coast (check the B-Roll!) when I noticed that the NEA linked his blog with this post regarding teacher blogs and Spring time. I scrolled down the article until I noticed a link regarding unhappy teachers and Senioritis. I actually became flushed with anger and noticed that the link was to my Sunday post regarding signs of Senioritis.

Unhappy? I don't think that I mentioned once that I was unhappy. I think that I mentioned that my job is challenging, and I believe that I've mentioned many times that I love being a teacher, but unhappy?

Memo to the NEA, those money hungry bastards that take my dollars and give them to crap organizations that I don't support. The job doesn't make me unhappy, you make me unhappy. During tough economic times with schools, you actually RAISE fees to your "membership", which is a forced tax on people so you can shell out money for agendas that half your population is against.

Stop linking me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Play the Budget Cutting Game!

Ok fans, what was inevitable has finally hit the Ukiah Unified School District. Due to rising costs (transportation and Special Education are killers), declining enrollment, and health care, the District needs to find a way to cut nearly 1.5 million dollars for the current fiscal year.
How about the possibility of cutting even more next year. Like that?
Neither do I.

In fact, much of the conversation around the table lately is regarding ideas that the District can make to cut the budget, become more efficient to prevent future cuts, and to still get teachers an increase in salary to match the high (and ever increasing) cost of living in Ukiah.

I need your ideas. Start simple and then get more creative.

Education Carnival

Say hello to the Education Carnival over at The Education Wonks.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

10 signs that Senioritis is in full effect

10. The teacher shakes his head and sighs a lot.

9. Student comes in at lunch or after-school, "Oh, here's my work that was due today. I just forgot to turn it in". For some reason they think that I'll accept it. I just mark it "zero" and move on.

8. Increase in profanity. Students think that because they are now 18, they can talk like 13 year olds.

7. Attendance drops. You would figure that attendance would go up, except that the Spring weather makes attendance much worse. Of course, it's the "D" students that are gone and will have a nasty report card coming up.

6. Seniors sign themselves out. Now that kids are 18, they miss school and simply sign out their own absences. Out of the dozens of kids that do this, only 2 or 3 can actually do it with significant grade slippage. And again, it is the lower grade students that are the signatories.

5. More suspensions. Can you believe it? Seniors get suspended quite a bit near the last quarter of their high school career. Fighting, drugs, you name it.

4. Phone calls. Surprise. After grades being available online, after being able to be reached by e-mail AND instant messenger, parents have decided that eight months in they should be concerned.

3. "Mr. Silva-Brown, this is *********** (insert any counselors name). The parent of *******(insert student name) requests a conference regarding the student's grade. "

2. "But we're Seniors. We leave after 2nd period." This is after the kid tells me that he/she doesn't understand supply/demand, and I tell them to come in at lunch.

1. "You don't seem to care that I'm (or 'my son/daughter is') failing." I care, but I'm not supposed to care more than your son/daughter. It's your grade, you need to invest in it. Anything less means that a high school diploma is meaningless.

Good, cancel all of it

In my full five years as a teacher, I've come to the realization that schools are way too focused on the social aspects of a child's development. After dealing with Ukiah's Homecoming for five years, a totally invasive event that takes over a week away from academics, I'm almost ready to off every dance, homecoming style event, and social meeting that is sponsored by the school. Take the month of May, which includes STAR testing, Prom, MORP, the Senior Trip (yes, it is during school), Senior Cut Day, and another multi-fauceted event that I'm not supposed to discuss that will turn the school into a two-day wreck. Oh yeah, and Seniors have to graduate a little later.

Dances at our school are an interesting phenomenon that causes stress amongst many of the staff who have to watch kids bump-n-grind to the point of looking like a huge, dry-humping orgy in the cafeteria. Of course there are the usual busts of alcohol and drugs, with the occasional blitzed student that hurls all over the place because they drank for three hours before the dance. Of course, the Breathalyzer is used, and kids are caught, but the come back and try again at a different dance, or some other event. At home time, the administration put limits on music type and dancing, but the student uproar found it's way to the parents, who then complained that the students had "nothing else to do on a Friday night", and blamed the school for their own lack of parental supervision.

Finally, Windsor High School stepped up and starting showing the rest of the local high schools that the dance is a privilege, not a right. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat ran the story about the school having problems finding enough people to attend the dance, and the student complaints that are rampant because students and parents have to sign a contract regarding dance behavior. The strict dance guidelines came about after an October dance became a drunken Lambada scene that had the school rethinking the idea of dances.

I used to be one of those people who really liked Homecoming, really like Prom, really liked the idea of social activities that bring kids together, until I realized that a couple of things:
1) The school is held liable for all the crap that goes on while a student is on campus. It is totally not worth it.
2) The school is no longer about academics and needs to move back in the academic direction.
3) Parents and students now feel like they run the school, thus being able to dictate policy (including dances). Eliminate that.
4) And most important, the government seems to want to hold us accountable for academics, then let's start making dances a reward and not the focal points. Allow Prom and Winter Ball as starters, and only if the campus has behaved enough to earn that reward.

God, I sound like an old curmudgeon. But understand, I didn't feel like this until about two years ago, when I realized that all this social crap is just another wave in the ocean of things that go against us when dealing with academic education. Change our focus back to the preparing students for life and I might start caring about things as petty as dances.

Friday, March 23, 2007

That's so Mormon (Bumped again, because Mr. Rice has joined in.)

One of the most stated terms by teenagers in school, and I'm talking about going back to when I was in school, is the words, "That's gay." Regardless of what anyone says, the term is being meant in a derogatory way and shouldn't be allowed in the classroom. Ok homophobes, don't give me the rant on gays being yada, yada, and that it shouldn't matter at school. Also don't give me the "gay means happy" jive either. When the words obviously have a negative connotation, that pretty much gets rid of the idea of "gay" meaning the Leave It To Beaver references. And finally, don't bring your screwed up moral ideals into the classroom and start whining that things like the Pledge are being challenged, thus continuing the moral decline of public education.

I'll have to admit, getting it out of the classroom is one of the bigger challenges facing teachers. It is simply very ingrained in the lexicon of kids, driven by the parents that refuse to change their language. I'm constantly saying "rephrase" when one of my Intro level students spouts off the "gay" language.

However, it looks like someone at Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa has raised the ire of the Bible thumping nut jobs in the ritzy neighborhoods. According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Rebekah Rice was given a referral for using the "that's gay" statement in class. The parents are suing the school district for civil rights violations and discrimination of religious beliefs. The wack job parents also accused the assistant principle of having a "homosexual agenda", which I guess must mean that the AP doesn't follow the standards and simply treats the gay students better. Or maybe it means that the parents of Rebekah Rice need to take up quilting or ping-pong or some other diversionary hobby to keep their minds off of taking money and time away from school districts.

By the way, did I mention that the parents are suing now, and that this event occurred in 2002?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers

Thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle for this one.

Doesn't everyone love Tigger? I mean, the whole idea of Tigger, and Christopher Robin, and Winne the Pooh is surrounding the innocence of children...............except if you are a student at Redwood Middle School.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit on behalf of 14-year-old Toni Kay Scott, five other students at Redwood Middle School and their parents, challenging a dress code imposed by the school and theNapa Valley Unified School District.

The code calls for clothes to be entirely solid colors: blue, white, green,
yellow, khaki, gray, brown or black. The only fabrics permitted are
cotton twill, chino or corduroy. No jeans allowed. No pictures, words,
symbols or patterns.
For the record, I'm very pro-civil liberties, and very anti-ACLU, who spends a tremendous amount of time protecting pretty lame examples of "Free Speech". Kinda like this one.

Anyway, little Toni Kay Scott apparently wore long socks with Tigger on them, and was promptly sent to in-school suspension for breaking the dress code. By the way, the in-school suspension program is called "Students with Attitude Problems", quite possibly the worst name for in-school that I've ever heard. Moving on, the parent feels that the school is violating freedom of expression, thatprovocative clothes are the problem, that her kid is exempt, yada, yada, yada. I've heard this before. Have you?

Is the school overreacting? I'd say a little, but with the current climate of gang activity starting at about that age, I'm inclined to accept the dress code. Is Tigger dangerous? Only when stirred to aggression by Eores slow-moving ass (get it?). Is the parent correct in suing the school?


Let's make sure that I'm perfectly aware of the situation. The student and parent knew the dress code. The parent blatantly went against the dress code because she didn't like it. The student was punished for breaking the already realized dress code. Parent sues school because she KNOWINGLY ALLOWED HER CHILD TO BREAK THE LAWS REGARDING THE DRESS CODE AT THE SCHOOL!!!!!!!AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!
The girls' mother, Donnell Scott, said it was fine for a school to ban midriffs and miniskirts. "School is a place to learn,'' she said. "But anything above that should be my call as a parent. Pink socks and two-tones are not a crime.

Then you teach your kid and stop wasting the money of public education on one of your self-righteous crusades to prove that a 14 year old on a high school campus has the
same rights that you do. THEY DON'T!!!!!!!!!!! THEY'RE CHILDREN!!!!!!!! If you had half a brain, you wouldn't teach your child that breaking the rules because you simply don't like them is an appropriate method of enacting positive changing. Instead, you would show the kid the due
process of changing the rule, and explain how , in this society, YOU DON'T GET EVERYTHING YOU F-ING WANT!!!!!!!!!! My guess is that since the rule is currently in force at a public school, that it went through teh process of a school board, a public hearing, and a vote. That is the will of people. Follow it and then call Sean Hannity and bitch about it.

No, pink socks and two-tones are not a crime, but breaking the rules is. Way to "teach" your child.


Monday, March 19, 2007


This was one of those hectic weekends that you really needed to digest to truly talk about. On Sunday I returned with 20 students from the Berkeley Model United Nations. It was interesting, and according to the students, a good (some said great) experience.

Let me debrief and discuss a little, then I'll get back at you.

In the meantime, I'm still really, really busy. I have BMUN to finish, AP audits to start, a conference to prep for, and still piles of papers to grade. Add on top of that the beginning of parent concern over grades (in mid-March of course), and life is getting a little crazy.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Education Carnival

While I'm busy as hell, check out the Education Carnival, which is being hosted by the Blog Father of Edublogs, Education Wonks.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Good Read

I'm a nut about books.

Well, Ms. Cornelius over at Shrewdness of Apes (check the blogroll) has a meme going regarding books. Notice that I'm really not into the "classics". My high school required reading pretty much scarred me from reading and getting enjoyment from any books they wanted me to read. I remember wanting to read Winds of War by Herman Wouk in the 7th grade, but my teacher told me that I should get out of war books and branch out. In 9th grade, my teacher allowed me to do a book report on The Guns of August, and I was totally stoked! But alas, most of the rest of high school was classics that bored the hell out of me.

*Look at the list of books below.
*Bold the ones you’ve read.
*Italicize the ones you want to read.
*Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) -It was a nice romp through fictional history, but nothing monumentally spectacular.
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) -The only high school book I really liked. Come on, who doesn't like Atticus?
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)- Excellent ending to a wonderful series!
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)- My favorite of the trilogy, probably because I think that Tolkien creates masterful characters.
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien) -Slower than the others, but loved the Frodo/Gollum banter.
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)- I liked it going darker, and I think that Rowling does a nice job writing teenagers.
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling) - A little slower starting than I would have liked, but the ending is great. So are the supporting cast wizards.
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling) -Didn't think it would draw me in, but the innocent simplicity of good/evil at the beginning was great.
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King) -one of my favorites! Randell Flagg is so damn freaky, and the whole scene of the U.S. going under to a plague just frightens and intrigues you the perfect amount. Not a horror story, by the way.
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)- Another great addition!
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) -I enjoyed parts of it (the Bilbo/Gollum riddles are classic), but some parts dragged on.
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) - Don't Panic!! I've read this series over a half-dozen times. The scene at Milliways (which might be in the next book) is great! Pass the Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters!
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) -Ugh. I've tried and tried to get into this series, with no real interest. People are in love with it, and I can't see why.
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) -
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)- Mary Stewart's series about King Arthur (excellent BTW) got me into this work, an excellent look at the whole Boy King from the eyes of women.
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible -History major. Not everything, but at least 80%. Old testament is far more interesting.
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) -Ugh, Ugh, and Ugh. Had to do a comparision reading in college with the movie. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)- Still, an excellent series.
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)- Read most of it when I was in early high school one summer. Interesting, and kinda sick when I think back.
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) - Read it when I was in my mid-20's. Not bad, but nothing great.
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) -
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) -Who in the hell hasn't read Charlotte's Web? This, and Wrinkle in Time, should be required reading in primary schools!
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck) -Yes, we all know what happens to Lenny. Back in high school, I didn't care.
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind) -Picked this book up about 3 years ago from a student recommendation. Excellent read. First three books are wonderful, and go south from there.
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) -Another high school book in which I just didn't really care about.
93. The Good Earth(Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum) -The book is vaguely similar to the movie, but very dated. Remember, we are talking Cold War here. Still good though.
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)
101. Jurassic Park -First rate scientific thriller. Excellent!
102. Learn Me Good

Only 24 books, which is why I don't put much faith in lists.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

No way,Teach! I got my Green Card!

During my second year at the school I had an interesting incident with an 18 year old student who proudly waived his Medical Marijuana card in the air and exclaimed, "I smoke it, my family grows it, and it is good". It was during a discussion about Federalism and the legalization
of the drug in California, but totally inappropriate. When I discussed the incident with the higher-ups, I found that the only thing that could really be done was a call home to ask the student not to rile everyone up with his "Go Green" antics. It was also an interesting
introduction to the drug culture of this town.

A couple of news outlets have been creating interesting story headlines like "Teens at California school getting high on medical marijuana", as if the schools
themselves are medical dispensaries for the product. In truth, medical marijuana cards are just incredibly simple to obtain for theyoungins . Kids at the school will gladly tell you that $100 and a warm body will get you access to a travelling doctor who writes up a solution for you.
Basically, the idea of medical use is crap.

If you read the article, you'll see that the problem was that kids were coming to campus high, and justifying it with the Green Card. That's just the sign of stupid kids who are high. However, here in Ukiah, talk of families growing weed and the backbone of the economy being the
green stuff is not uncommon. In fact, I've had plenty of Intro level students state that they didn't even need to bother going to college, or even graduating high school, because they would help the family grow.

I wonder if NCLB has provisions about that.

Consider it "personal leave days"

This is coming from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

If you take Highway 17 from San Jose south towards Santa Cruz, you'll eventually come to an upper/upper-middle class community called Scotts Valley. The school in Scotts Valley is suffering from the same problem that many schools are now afflicted with, declining enrollment. For those of you that are not familiar with how schools are funded, here's a little lesson.

State funding for schools is based in large part on a formula called "average daily attendance." Districts aren't paid for how many students are enrolled in their schools, but how many kids show up for classes. So, more absences means less money.
So, if a student misses school, for any reason at all, the school receives less money to function. Kid is sick? School loses money. Death in the family? School loses money. Now, those two absence reasons are perfectly legitimate. However, it isn't death and illness that is killing funding for schools. Think about trips to Hawaii or camping, or week trips to snowboard at NorthStar, or shopping trips for Prom dresses, or simply cutting class. All those missing days add up to hundreds of thousands, or millions, in lost money to keep programs going.

Well, Scotts Valley is now asking parents to pay for those unexcused absences.
Frustrated by children missing class for long weekend ski trips and jaunts to Disneyland, the local school district is trying a novel approach to persuade parents to keep them in school.
It's sending them bills - $36.13 per day.
The bills are merely a request for reimbursement; no one is actually required to pay. But some parents in the well-to-do community 30 miles south of Silicon Valley are handing over the money, seeing it as a way to ease a guilty conscience.
Actually, this should be seen as a real world experiment on kids having to actually pay for missing work days, like the rest of us. And there are parents that are pissed that it is a public school, and therefore everything should be "free" for their kids since tax dollars are going into the child's education. What the parents don't realize is that when the kids miss school, the tax dollars aren't going into the kids education because of the ADA rule.

Would this work in Ukiah? Probably not, as the town is much, much lower in the income bracket than Scotts Valley. But the idea is interesting because it puts at least the idea of parent accountability into the education of the kids. Still, something is going to have to be done in this town if the parents don't want to see programs and extra-curriculars cut. The district is in declining enrollment, costs for everything (except teacher salaries) is sky-rocketing, and choices are going to have to be made.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

If you want us to work, give us the tools

Not too much of a surprise here, although it is interesting that society keeps bitching about problems with public education, and continues to skimp on the subject.

According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Govner Ahhhhhhnold is looking to get rid of the already piddly teacher tax credit, which is around $250 a teacher. Yet again, the government looks at education as more of a budget item than an investment. Take our school. Special Education costs are skyrocketing. Transportation costs have climbed the ladder to the point of taking away from general funding. Chairs and desks are falling apart. Computers are old and take 10 minutes to simply boot up. What can the governor do? Why, cut more benefits for teachers of course.

Of course, the dedication of public educators is constantly in question lately with all the education issues that are popping up. I used to be a big fan of Joanne Jacobs (blogroll right) because she seemed to want what was best for the kids. In the last few months, Joanne has pretty much made it a habit to find everything that is bad about public education, from special education to teachers to philosophy. Now it's not about kids, it's about hating public education and humping charters, while the vast majority of kids are continuing to get screwed by the lack of investment by society into the public education system. Instead of helping to fix the problem, Joanne has be exacerbating it as of late. She's not alone, it seems to be the attitude of the whole of society.

My wife and I combined our receipts for the year and checked how much we spent of school materials, not counting college units or anything like that. Total cost? $3,800.

If Ahhhhhhhhnold wants the best teachers, he better start paying for them.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

You ever have that feeling of having everything to say.....

..........but you never feel like writing about it?