Thursday, June 28, 2007

API Bellevue

So I'm at the Advanced Placement Institute in Bellevue, Washington. The conference is excellent. There has to be about one thousand teachers here, learning all the in's and out's of Advanced Placement in every subject you can think of. The school is perched on a small hill in the forest and looks beautiful. Everything looks pristine, clean cut, and the students that are working at the institute are genuinely interested on doing things right. The school might only house 800 kids, but the classrooms are collegesque and technically up-to-date. Seriously, this is the model that every academic institution should follow.

And yes, the curriculum is also great. I'm feeling much more confident, even excited, about teaching the AP Comparative Government class next year. The subject matter is fun and interesting, the test looks very passable, and hell, in what other class can you actually watch Prime Minister's Questions because it is necessary? The instructor is outstanding. She's a teacher that looks at us as colleagues, but at the same time mentors us in the potential successes of Comparative Government. She gets us excited about textbooks for God's sake!

Of course, the question of evening entertainment comes up whenever you head to a conference. Monday night was the Seattle/Boston baseball game. Tuesday night found me wandering around the streets of downtown Belleuve looking for dinner and cocktails. I found dinner at Chipotle Grill (surprisingly yummy), but my quest for booze was a pain in the ass. I was dying for a margarita and finally found a Safeway about 10 blocks from my motel. I wandered the store and found beer, mixers, and wine, but no hard alcohol. I asked a checker about the horrid lack of adult beverages and was promptly told that you must by hard booze at a Liquor Store. They are not sold at grocery stores. This created an extra five block hike to the liquor store, and then the walk back to the motel room.
And it was 80 degrees and damn humid. What the hell??? This is Seattle for crying out loud! Will the humidity stop following me!?!?!?
On Wednesday night I decided to use two free movies passes that I had acquired. I walked from the school to a local theater and watched back-to-back; Ocean's 13, and the new Die Hard. Both were the perfect films for the day. They were fun and had a nice, lite action feel. Die Hard was actually entertaining, and Bruce Willis still does an excellent John McClain. No, the film isn't nearly as good as the original, but it is entertaining. Oh, and don't listen to Mick LaSalle, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. He states that this Die Hard is "the best in the series", which is a gross overstatement on the quality of the movie. You're telling me that Timothy Olyphant is a better villain than Alan Rickman from the original movie? Please. And notice to Mick; the plane in the movie is not an F-16. In fact, we don't have a damn plane in our arsenal that can hover around freeway mazes while trying to pick off a semi-trailer. Get a grip.
Today I was invited by some of my teacher friends for a little roady, and we went east on I-90 to Snoqualmie Falls.

These are the falls. They are really impressive in the shear power and volume of water. Surrounding the falls are the beautiful Northwestern style rain forest, which were humid, again. This made the hike down to the bottom and back a royal pain in the ass, as my body does not do well in the sticky weather.

Afterwards, we headed to a local watering hole to down a couple of cold drinks, watch the NBA draft, and do some overall bullshitting. There was Jeff from California, Greg from Phoenix, and Randy and Mike, both Canadians who were teaching at schools in China. The conversation was never, ever boring. I wish we had done it earlier.

Ah well. Two more nights left and then I'm headed back to the homestead.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Live, from Bellevue, Washington!

About 7 months ago, my Advanced Placement Comparative Governments class was passed by school site council. With that new class came some AP money that I could use to go to a conference. I choose the closest conference, which just happens to be in my favorite city.

Actually, it happens to be a former suburb of my favorite city. Seattle has long been the only city that I would actually consider moving to. Bellevue is a former eastern suburb of Seattle, but some research has actually shown that the city has grown to become it's own entity. Regardless of the classification, I love it. The entire area is awash in forest, and Bellevue sits upon a hill just above and within the Northwestern green flora.

Horizon Air flies from Santa Rosa direct to Seattle, and then it is an hour bus trip to the hotel. I decided to take in a Mariners game while I was here, so I bussed on over to Safeco Park tonight and watched Seattle play the Boston Red Sox. The Sox sucked, and lost. The game was actually fun, and I talked with various Sox fans about the season. I was decked out in my San Francisco Giants garb, which drew curious looks from most. Safeco Park is not pretty. In fact, it's like an attempted cross between Candlestick and some attempt at Fenway, except that it really doesn't work. I guess that I'm spoiled with AT&T Park in San Francisco, one of the more beautiful establishments in baseball.

Anyway, I got in about an hour ago, and I'm up in 6 hours.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summer Cleaning

During this little time away from hitting the key board, I noticed that I focused on only a few blogs for my viewing pleasure:
-Darren at Right at the Left
-The Blog Father at Education Wonks
-Polski in the Imperial Valley
-Mr. McNamar at the Daily Grind
-Ms. Cornelius at Shrewdness of Apes
-California Teacher Guy

This doesn't mean that I have ditched the rest (my bloglines has hundreds of unread posts), it means that I narrowed down my reads to the locals, or those that simply really interest me.

To make a long story short, I added in California Teacher Guy to my blog favs. He's from Southern California and might have the greatest combos of image-postings around. I've been reading his recent trials of finding a new job, and I'm totally engaged into his blog. He deserves a spot.

Constrained Vision hasn't posted for awhile, and Tiny Nose dropped out of teaching to pursue something else. They don't post much and go bye-bye from my list.

RIP Serena

Our cat died on Thursday.

This was the very pretty "sand and smoke" colored cat with bright blue eyes and a wonderful temperament. She was only six.

The ironic part of this is that the cat was healthy, went to the vet, and died there. I took her in to get an ear allergy looked at when the cat suddenly started to pant very hard. The doctors said that it was a panic attack and that the cat simply needed to calm down. After a sedative and a dark room, my wife showed up and suggested that we take her back home where she would be most comfortable. The vet agreed, but on the way home she started to wheeze and vomit, and then she started that horrible lung rattle that lets everyone know that something is very wrong. We turned right around started back to the vet, who upon hearing Serena wheeze immediately hooked her up to IV's and oxygen. The doctor said we could stay if we wanted, but it might take awhile to stabilize her. We left, hoping that the cat would pull through, but not able to watch the 5 people try to save her.

About 30 minutes later the doctor called and said that her condition had not changed.

About 15 minutes after that, the doctor called and said that her lungs had cleared, and she seemed much more stable. They were going to let her rest before doing some tests to figure out what was happening.

Ten minutes later, the doctor called and said that Serena had taken a turn for the worse, and was not looking good.

Five minutes later, the doctor called to say that Serena had died. Basically, she died from congenital heart failure. The doctor said that their was evidence in an ultrasound of the heart that showed a small defect that got much worse when Serena became stressed at the vet. Why did it happen this time, and not the four other times we visited the vet? Who knows.

I know, it was just a cat. However, those that have pets know that a good pet is like a family member, and when that family member dies, especially suddenly, it is a tragic event. My wife and I were very sad for the last few days, and I'm just starting to clear out of it. Hey, we don't have kids, and these cats (we still have my wife's old cat, Midnight) are the perfect little companions for two stressed out teachers. Seriously, it is amazingly therapeutic to have a little cat purring above your head when you go to sleep after a stressful day at work. The cat doesn't care, she'll purr just because you're there.

So we are sad, not out-of-control weeping, but sad none-the-less. She was a wonderful cat that gave five years of good memories, and I'm thankful for that.

Thanks, Reenie.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cool

Read the Ukiah Daily Journal article, and you'll see something real neat that happened this year.

I was also honored to have my little spiel written and spoken by two excellent students. They are two of the most powerful students I have ever known, and will do great things in the future.

Thanks to whomever selected me. You touched me more than you will ever know. I will do even better.

I promise.

Thanks again.

Diploma

di·plo·ma /dɪˈploʊmə/ Pronunciation noun, plural -mas, Latin -ma·ta /-mətə/ Pronunciation Key - Show Spelled Pronunciation[-muh-tuh] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation, verb, -maed, -ma·ing.
–noun

a document given by an educational institution conferring a degree on a person or certifying that the person has satisfactorily completed a course of study.


On Saturday, I might have seen a number of kids that failed my required class walk in the graduation ceremony. I could be totally wrong, and I might have been suffering from heat stroke at the time (black robe in 90 degree heat will do that).

I take pride that students feel that my class is hard. One high level student stated on the teacher report card, "This class is pretty tough for being a non-AP level class".

Good.

I have students that worked their ass off, I'm talking WORK THEIR ASS OFF, to pass my class. They end up receiving that diploma and they are proud that they successfully beat down one of the harder, more challenging classes at Ukiah High School.

Yet here's a question, purely hypothetical of course; what makes a couple of teachers feel that because they hold the classification of instructors that deal with students with special needs that they can simply overrule 10 months of instruction and hand out diplomas like they are worthless? Doesn't that demean the idea of a diploma, or even the concept of education? This is again, hypothetical.

Here's little information for all the teachers in the world: A student that misses a third of class probably hasn't met all the requirements to successfully pass said class, no matter what classification they are. Also, simply sitting in class and doing nothing does not classify as "meeting the basic requirements for accomplishing academic standards". Furthermore, I have yet to find an IEP with the following modifications:
1. Student may miss class because he/she has job, has other things going on, or is lazy.
2. Student may create a class disturbance because you should expect less out of a student with special needs.
3. Student will be handed a diploma because someone feels sorry for the student.

By the way, the passing rate for students with IEP's in my class is well above 90%.

And those students actually earn it.

The class of 2007

Wear sunscreen.........or some damn thing.

I played that Baz Luhrman piece for my graduating Seniors and I must admit, it holds a lot of good advice. I added in my own advice, which quite simply is, "If something isn't working, change." Change is good in many aspects, and as I sit in my little classroom in Ukiah and start to see returning students, I hear one thing more than any other, "I'm stuck in Ukiah". I told the students that no one is stuck anywhere, that you know choose to be "stuck" in Ukiah if you make that decision. "Change" impacted my life in a major way, many times. I'm hoping that some students know that change is an option.

The class of 2007 was my final class in which I taught some of them as freshman in World History. Some of their departures were quite emotional, though I wasn't about to let on as such. I felt an odd, deep connection to some of my students, and I finally feel like I understand how a parent feels when their child goes off to college. I feel the worry about a student that has little direction in her life, except that she is happy-go-lucky, and that attitude may give her great strength, or it might be ran down by the realities of the "real world". I smirk at the coming success of a student that is just plain goofy on the outside, but shows flashes of inner strength and a good heart when he allows himself to lead. It isn't a smirk of disdain, it's a smirk of "he's going to have wayyyyyyy too much fun getting to his destination. Good for him." I see the painful averages that could have been so much more their freshmen years.
"You're graduating, (name of student)! Whatcha up to next?"
"Going to Mendo."
It makes me crazy. Get away from the friends and the family, and the comfort. The world awaits your talents and spirit.
Finally, I feel the admiration for those that I've watched grow, and I am actually excited for them to take on the world. I watch one who's going away with nothing to fear, and I wish him just the little hint of humility that will be needed to achieve greatness. I watch another who's going away with lingering doubt, and I want to hug her to transfer to her the reassurance that everything will be fine.........and then I want to kick her in the ass to get her out of Ukiah and out into a world in which she will become the best at whatever she chooses.

Yeah, it was rough to watch, but in kind of a good way. Ya know?

Live, from Union Square in San Francisco, California!

Hola.

Remember me? The teacher that was blogging with consistency and then dropped off the map? Yeah, that would be me. Once New York became a reality, my blogging didn't, and any semblance of consistent bloggomania went out the window. When I returned I was behind just enough to make life difficult, and then the end of the year pretty much took blogging out of the picture.

But I'm done now, with the class of 2007 graduated and my brain on relaxation mode. Of course, I'm in San Francisco now, attending an International Economics conference at the Federal Reserve, which shows that I must be a masochist since I left the grounds of graduation only 36 hours ago. Hey, it sounded interesting and I'm up for it, and I'm in San Francisco........on my 3rd Ultimate Margirita from Cheesecake Factory (which are suprisingly good).

I'm back.

Are you ready?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Still a question of priorities

It's not that I don't want to, it's that it is not really that important at this point. New York put me way behind and I'm spending all this time trying to bring the balance back. Add in the Econ Expo's last week and I'm simply putting blogging as a back burner priority until I can get back into form. I'm figuring that another couple of days will put me back into the blogosphere.

End of the year, new principal, class reviews, New York, Washington, season television review......I have plenty to say............just later.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Proof that I was in New York........watch Wallstrip

If you click on the Wallstrip Widget down on the left side of the page, you will see a Wallstrip parady of Jim Cramer called "Value Click". About half way through (2:33), "Cramer" does man-on-the-street interviews in front of the New York Stock Exchange. See the guy that says "I'm sure there are a lot of corners you can find love on in New York"?

That would be me.

I'm here, and I'm about to blog a whole lot when I get caught up from my jet laggedness.