Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Alberto Gonzales' resignation speech

It hasn't been widely reported, but here was the former Attorney General's speech at MSNBC yesterday.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 1, 2007

The day was fairly uneventful, with the exception of the horrid stomach ache I had for the first two periods and the continual lack of air conditioning. The combination made me sweat like a dog during second period, and during third a girl pointed out that I seemed to sweat a lot. For the record, I'm passionate when I teach so I may sweat. I'm of the opinion that if you work hard and sweat a little, big deal. I didn't help that 35 teenagers were in a classroom with no air conditioning and a 90 degree temperature outside.

Other than that the classes went fine. I have sensed out one possible classroom issue that will be resolved with a short talking too, maybe even tomorrow. The only other distraction that is evident is the massive number of cell phones that are everywhere. That too will have to be crushed tomorrow.

Things are smooth so far.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Nervous

At about 11 a.m. this morning, I started feeling it. I guess that feeling of butterflies never really goes away if you care about your job as much as I do. I'm not necessarily worried about doing a good job, I'm worried about not doing a better job. Numbers for my International Studies class are now at 23, down 8 from last year. It makes no sense, as it looked like the class was a hot commodity, but I think kids feel like they A) don't need to be in school as Seniors, and B) don't like classes that challenge them. I'm still a huge proponent of raising the minimum credits for graduation. However, in the end I need to do a better job with the class or it will get the ax. Hey, I'm a firm believer that if you don't get the students, the class should go away. If I'm not getting it done then bye-bye International Studies. That will also mean adios to Model United Nations, because there is no way in hell I'm going to try to do that as a club.

Other worries are the usual preparedness worries that I shouldn't have, but do. I made a trip to the school today just to check on the classroom, which I was in for a total of five minutes. Quick sweep here and there, a nod of satisfaction, and buh-buy. Everything's ready, but I'm still skittish, even at quarter to nine. After two melatonin, I'm starting to get a little tired, but the energy spurt is still in the background.......waiting for the morning.

In other news, it looks like someone over at Mendocino County offices found my blog, and actually posted a link. I'm probably the odd blog out with the others that focus on the usual banter about how horrible the government and media are.

I'm also in the midst of a fantasy football draft tonight, that will finish tomorrow. Yes, you heard it right, the draft isn't done. Those idiots at Fanball.com managed to crash our draft room for over 90 minutes, so we moved the remainder of the draft to tomorrow at ESPN.com. I'm 9th in a 10 team league (to which I'm the two time returning champ) and I've drafted Rudi Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Larry Fitzgerald, and Marques Colston. I'm looking RB/WR for the next round, then QB in 7. Tight end might be in 9, but I'm not holding my breath for much that is exciting. Like most drafts, the good picks come after round 10. I'm looking at a whole lot of sleepers on my list that have massive upside. Jones-Drew is a big risk in the second, but we are in a keeper league and I see a couple of nice RB's coming up in round 5. Draft resumes tomorrow evening, after school.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I'm ready

Simply put, what else is there to do?

I know, I've been negligent in the blogosphere as of late, and I will have to blame, well, my job for it. I've spent all my time up at the computer (www.coachbrown.net), setting up my class, and going through the usual meetings.

Speaking of meetings, the new administration (principal and super) both look pretty good. Good humor, by very "I mean what I say", and seems to have many of the same educational philosophies as I do. In fact, the same sentiment was shared by pretty much the entire department. This attitude of "let's get things done together" seems to have actually gotten us to get together in more efficient manners. Meetings have been shorter, work time more constructive, and the focus seems to be on actually teaching the students, not meeting stupid ass test scores (which have to be met, but good teaching should make that happen anyway, except when parents sign kids out or yada, yada).

My classroom was pretty much how I left it, only cleaner. The boards are dust free, the floor smells nice, and the desks are in pretty rows that haven't been bothered by kiddies. That wasn't the condition of the school in Monday, which had no phones, no air conditioning (100 degree heat), no Internet, and a whole lot of three feet deep trenches from the modernization that is going on. However, the problems were fixed by Thursday afternoon, including the trenches that were filled and cemented over.

By Friday afternoon I was simply wandering the classroom, putting away small items and making adjustments to things because I felt like I was supposed to be busy. The problem is, I'm just ready to go. I've been working all summer to prepare for Monday, and I'm just ready to get at it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Money hungry, gold digger, media ho

Imagine that.

The day that Don Imus settles with CBS regarding his contract, Kia Vaughn, one of the infamous Rutgers basketball whatevers, decides to sue the radio jock for defamation.

What did coach Vivian Stringer say? Upstanding? Admirable? Role Models?

Sure.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prepare yourself

I've been reading the first days of many teachers experiences in the many education blogs I've subscribed to. Most are a little frightening, but still excite me because I think I'm more prepared than ever to get it going. I've been reading a lot of "back to school blah" stories, and I'm happy to say that I don't have them, although the comment is constantly "you're still young, you'll get there", which is depressing in itself.

Where's the fire? Has it really been beaten out of all the educators in the world? I have a small glimpse of the hardship through coaching and the crap that occurred last year. Seriously, after the fiasco that was the season (players and stuff were great, the bureaucracy was a trainwreck), I considered throwing it in this season. But that lasted about a day. Part of it was my love for the game. Part of it was because I think basketball teaches as much, maybe more, than the classroom. And part of it was because I could really give a shit about what my detractors think. One thing that the end of this summer has shown is that I'm growing more and more confident that I'm becoming a good teacher. The "Distinguished Educator" award at the end of last year was only the tip of the iceberg. I went to workshops and felt giddy with all the new opportunities that I could present to kids. I received almost two dozen e-mails from ex-students telling me that my class was great and they learned a lot from it. Today, I ran into three students, all talked to me about their life and praised the Government/Econ class. And one of them had failed it!!! Yes, my confidence is pumped! I'm not trying to say that I'm not eternally grateful for my position, or that I'm the most wonderful teacher, or anything like that. I'm just ready to go, really ready.

Add to mix my first meeting with the new principal, whose athletic policy is a mirror to my own, and made me ever so enthusiastic to work for him. It might even be my last season, as I had a source leave me a message saying that I was being pushed out after this season, but I just don't care. The way I look at it, I'll have a great season, and they'll decide to get rid of a very good coach, if that's the direction they are going. I'm just that comfortable with where I am. Instead of looking at the environment, I'm part of it. And it is good.

Sounds supremely arrogant, and I can't figure out how to explain it without sounding in that vain. I'm nowhere near "great teacher" status, but I've figured out the system while maintaining my passion for teaching. I look upon myself and realize that I could be great. How is that bad? Don't all the greats have some semblance of cockiness? Don't we always tell kids "be the best at what you are good at"? It's not like I'm crawling up some corporate ladder and stepping on my comrades on the way to "the top". I respect my colleagues immensely, and I have no higher aspirations than to be the best teacher. I'm sorry if that sounds cocky, but the better teacher I am, the more kids get out of it.

Wow, I'm ready.

The Mendocino Board of Supervisors has been busy

Mendocino County has problems.
The county has a rampant drug problem that creates a massive crime rate for an area this rural. The economic infrastructure is something out of the 1970's, with no real plan in place to attract economic development. Above all else, nobody seems to care that the county is becoming, well, nothing. The county seat (Ukiah) is losing population, yet gaining small box retail; a bad, bad combination.

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors had a chance to take the county in a logical, managed growth direction that promotes the positives of living in this beautiful part of the world. They had a chance this week, again, but figured they would vote on more important issues.

1) Give themselves a $20,000 raise. Apparently their old salary (which was about what I make now) was not justifiable. It takes serious work to fuck up an entire California county, and they would be dammed if they weren't going to vote themselves a fat raise.

2) Reaffirm the "limit" on marijuana to 25 plants and 2 pounds of the processed stuff. The medical marijuana advocates feel that their should be no limit to the amount of weed that the compassionate users dying of cancer use. Of course the reality is that those cancer victims represent about 3% of marijuana users, and what the advocates really want is for the families to continue to grow pot, poison kids, and destroy the community. Oh, and ignore the federal government.

3) Speaking of the federal government, the Board took up a resolution that was going to support the impeachment of Vice President Dick Cheney. Look out, the Mendo 707 Posse is in full effect! They actually voted to not act on the resolution, much to the chagrin of a group of anti-Dick people. Since I kind of teach Government, I'm still trying to figure out we are impeaching anyone for.

Thank God for the Mendo Board of Supes. Where would we be without them?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Local" ain't gettin it done

My wife and I are in Chico taking care of my father-in-law for the weekend. We have come to dislike our former little college town due to a variety of factors, most of which can be connected to the town making stupid decisions regarding its citizens and infrastructure. The city is now in serious debt, with dwindling police and fire resources to contain the jump in crime, and is continuing to pander to the inhabitants that show up in late August, and leave in late May. What that creates is a large amount of Big Box sprawl and a huge desire never to go downtown. The last two times I've been in downtown Chico I've observed a variety of drunken idiots get into fights over women and parking spots.

Then we come to the "local" establishments that continue to give out lousy service. Yesterday morning we ventured to Sin of Cortez, a local eatery that is known for it's healthy, yet yummy breakfast menu. 7 years ago we would get a weekly "to-go" plate, as the interior was pretty uncomfortable. The restaurant has since moved and the building looks much nicer. Too bad that was the only thing nice about the establishment. From the moment we got there we had to ask for everything. We were given only one menu, and after 5 minutes had to beg to get a second. We were given no utensils, which was completely missed by the waitress up through the point of bring us our food. "Do you need anything else?", she asked as we sat there and looked at her with our table bare except for the plates of food. So, we had to ask for the tools of which to eat with. Then, with table cleared, we waited almost ten minutes until we had to ask for the check. When we complained we got the "oh well" look from the cashier. Speaking of cash, like the amount we spent, we had little of it when we left the Sin of Cortez. My wife had warm beans, watery salsa, and warm sour cream over a ridiculously tiny amount of luke-warm red potatoes. The price tag came out to about $10. My plate was two pieces of bacon, two luke-warm pancakes, and those scrambled eggs that look like they belong in an Egg McMuffin. Price for that beauty: $8. Tack on a $3.50 orange juice and a $1.50 tiny cup of coffee (.75 cent refills, are you fucking kidding) and you have the makings of a meal only fit for suckers like us that won't ever return.

Quite simply; the Sin of Cortez sucks.

For dinner we didn't push our luck. We went to Chipotle Grill and had some excellent food and $3.50 margaritas that represented a truly excellent value for the hard earned dollar. Once again, corporate America wins the struggle for my money because of the two basic principles of consumption: low price and good quality.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Expression of Tigger trumps academic environment

You might remember of the post I made regarding Toni Kay Scott, a little tyke that wore Tigger socks to school and was disciplined for breaking the school's dress code. Mommy threw a serious lawsuit fit, the ACLU (which ranks as one of the most hypocritical organizations on the planet) jumped in and screamed "Freedom of Expression", and now the school has backed down.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Redwood Middle School has decided to relax it's rules on dress codes, making the issue fall right into the lap of teachers and administrators regarding what is and is not acceptable dress. This has created the situation that educators don't want, an instance where we now have to become traffic cops upholding a law that has less clarity that it did. The last rule was clear and more importantly, clearly enforceable.

This is another example of the hypocrisies that continue to fester in the social attitudes towards education. Parents want accountability and the improvement of the academic environment, but then resist it when it impacts something that directly affects them. You can't really do much when families decide that academics fall down the priority list behind sports, social interactions, weekend ski trips, week long vacations, month long trips to Mexico, protests, and Tigger on socks.

Do bitch about the quality of an education that you really don't care about.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'm working, dammit!

Yeah, it's 1 in the morning and I'm working on some curriculum for a class that I'm taking at Sonoma State. The class is a from 9-3 all week, and Friday is the day to present. The nice thing is that I'm getting paid $120 a day to basically do what I would have to do anyway......plan. It's actually been a nice process because it's gradually putting me back into the school mode.

Let me also clarify that the fact that I'm up this late isn't bad, because the class has given me a massive rush of ideas and I've been creating and tweaking my calendar until my eyes are crossed and I'm just too tired to keep it up. I do have to get up in six hours, so I figured that I'd stop. But don't you love that feeling when you plan? That rush that comes with finding something that you just KNOW will work better than what has happened before.......it's nice, even this early in the morning.

My wife and I took the last weekend off to celebrate our 7 year anniversary in the little town of Gualala, which is west of Santa Rosa on the coast. Her family was camping nearby so I golfed with the father-in-law at Sea Ranch and enjoyed some nice walks with my wife. We stayed at the Seacliff Hotel for two nights and were very satisfied. If you are in that neck of the woods, look them up.

Anyway, it looks like I have my class list for next year. The bell schedule is different (No zero, first period starts at 7:30, sixth gets out around 2:30 now), and our collaborative Wednesdays are gone. My schedule is:

1st Period: Advanced Placement Comparative Government
2nd Period: U.S. Government/Economics
3rd Period: U.S. Government/Economics
4th Period: International and Global Studies
Lunch
5th Period: U.S. Government/Economics
6th Period: Prep

Not to brag, but it is my dream schedule. I'm totally stoked to get the year going.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wow, today sucks (spoilers for The Road)

My mouth has been hurting for the last week.

I had a cleaning at my excellent dentist last week and the pain started the day after. I went in and he found a small infection on the gumline on the lower left side of my mouth. He put me on anti-biotics, nuff said.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up to a screaming pain in my jaw that was much more than a simple infection. Monday afternoon I found out that one of my molars had done gone bad and I needed a root canal. Today I experienced my first root canal.

The procedure itself was not that bad. The doctor in Santa Rosa was terrific (it was an endodontist, not a dentist that did it), the staff was helpful, and my insurance will cover the situation just fine. It was later in the afternoon, when the numbness went away, did the soreness really set in. My mouth doesn't really hurt as much as it is simply really sore. I'm pumping the 600 mg ibuprofen every few hours, but all in all the pain sucks. I do know that it is getting better though because I'm now only sore around the tooth, not the whole damn jaw line. What's worse, I still need a permanent filling and a crown on the damn thing so it doesn't break. Back to the drill I go.

The second thing that I did today is read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Yes, I read it today. The book is a very simple read, and took me about four hours to complete with minimal interruptions. It is a good summer reading book in that you can finish in a few days and then discuss it will all the other women who will think you are wonderful for reading an Oprah Book Club selection. I read it because I really enjoy stories about the end of the world. Yep, I'm a fan of the "Apocalyptic Horror" novels that are stories of dread, and then human survival. In 6th grade I read Alas Babylon, a story about a family in Florida that lives through a nuclear attack, and then continued to read stories that saw the end of human civilization; The Stand, On the Beach, Fail-Safe, Warday, and my grand dame, Bangs and Whimpers.

The Road is less about post-apocalyptic survival as it is a story about a father and a son. Both are trying to get to the coast of the United States from some unnamed inland location, while battling the cannibals, starvation, and the memories of all that they have seen in their trek. McCarthy is a very good at portraying the scene, and all that is felt within any given situation. While an easy read, you might find yourself drifting off trying to figure out why a character did this or that during the story. About the only thing that is for sure is the love of the father and the son for each other. Still, the book is a total downer with only slight signs of hope. Some scenes are downright disturbing and much of the book has the tone of a person that is about to be executed for the crime of living during a nuclear winter. You just know that one or both are going to die because that's the tone that the book sets. When the father starts coughing up blood about 60% into the book, you know he's done eventually.

I read it, and then I'm sending it to the used bookstore. Although I'm into apocalyptic fiction, I'm looking for the struggle much more than the certain fate. It might seem simple to really like happier endings, but my opinion is that this isn't much of a story as it is a picture of normal life during a nuclear winter, and "maybe normal" at that. I don't see humanity becoming the "commune" versus the "cannibals" if the government went into the tank, or becoming so vicious that it looses all sense of reason. The book, although well written, was depressing and will not stay on my shelves.

The good news is that thanks to my root canal and The Road, it can only get better tomorrow.