Friday, February 29, 2008

Good Mornin and God Bless.......

"Cardinal Egan" returned to the airwaves Friday on the Imus in the Morning program, and I take that as the official sign that it is back in full swing.

Those that prayed for the Imus downfall can now back to kissing Al Sharpton's ass and listening to Amy Goodman give oral sex to any degenerate that champions free speech and justice, except in the causes she doesn't agree with. You know what I'm talking about. You morons that I talked to that screamed for Imus' head and then told me that the first time you ever heard the program was when CNN played the clip of his Rutgers comments over and over again. Thankfully, real radio is back, and so is the sharp, yet hopeful commentary from The Cardinal.

By the way, if you want a real conversation about race, why don't you read Debra Dickerson's comments on her appearance on the show, then listen to the interview (links are on the page). It might be the first honest thing that critics of Don Imus have actually done in this situation.

Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost...........
We finally got back what we wanted the most.........
Lord hear our prayer!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Budget cuts a coming

My International Studies class is on the chopping block, so said a colleague today.

With the budget for schools going down the drain, the first thing to go are classes that are not fully stocked with kids. I was around a good 24 last year. This year started with 25, but at the semester a had one move, two go to independent student, and two leave because they didn't like the work. A class under 20 does not look good to the le ole bookkeepers. So starting on Friday I hit all the World History and U.S. History classes trying to get kids interested in taking a class that looks at something more than the United States. I'm hoping to drum up enough interest to get 25 to sign up. Possibility? Well, students that left Ukiah High still tell me that the class is something more than worthwhile, but it is very hard to get seniors to play ball with a college prep elective that involves more than turning a socket wrench or making a clay bong.

My wife asked me if the class disappeared would I take on Model United Nations as a club. Not a chance. Model United Nations is a very involved process if you want to do it right, and I'm not into doing things half-ass. I would get no stipend for the club, end up paying money to help kids go to events, organize fund raising, hold meetings after school or at lunch, and then hope that I could keep a skeleton crew for small conferences. Nope. I have basketball and AP Comparative to keep me busy enough. If this class goes, its gone and I'm moving on. I'll be glad to try and get it going again the next year, but if the Arnold wants to take the class and call it collateral damage, then he can be the blame.

Give him a letter and he's good for another 5 years

Our Winter Awards Night ended on an immense high note last night.

I received one e-mail from a parent and one print letter from a family that were immensely flattering. It was exactly what I wanted to see after the horrible mess that occurred at the beginning of last year with all the crap politicking. The e-mail was addressed to me. A copy of the letter was sent to the principal, who thanked me for my services this season and seemed happy about receiving a letter that for once didn't ask for coaching heads.

To me it was the final sign that I was really doing something correct on the basketball court. I ended last season on a good note with good relationships with players and a winning record (20-6, tied for second in league), but I still had doubts looming about my ability as a coach. I think that part of that had to do with the lack of confidence that certain superiors had in me. This season I dove into the job, had an outstanding year with a group of fabulous kids, and had another successful season (20-6, second in league). The year invigorated me to keep going and made me look forward to next season. I haven't had a season do that in years.

So all it took was a couple of nice words. Obviously the paycheck doesn't matter, but the recognition and understanding that I coach because I want kids to become better adults really keeps me going. Thank God for this season. I needed it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Wireless hell

Once again, I bring about the question of how the teachers most dependent on technology were left farthest from it. This move is making me more and more aggravated. I just spent $60 on wireless in an attempt to get this wireless card into a 7 year old laptop to use the Internet in teaching my students. The router works fine. I found out this afternoon that the wireless card is not compatible with Windows 2000, the aged system that is on all of our computers. I need to pray that this other type of wireless system from McAfee will work with the system, but I've already spent hours on it this afternoon without success.

I know, it seems like some petty bitching. Fine. But we are talking about a method of teaching that I have found most successful. The Internet is such a wonderfully vast resource and I have been able to hone its use over the last seven years. Tomorrow I was going to put up pictures of Russian leaders, show kids the Economic Freedom Index, an example of Instant Runoff Elections (flash video), and the results of the 2006 Israeli Elections on Wikipedia. To try and make this work takes two to three times the amount of time and more patience than I have at this point.

God, I'm irritated.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

3 stop subway

I love urban transportation. In fact, if I wasn't teaching I would find a college and get my degree in Urban Planning and go to some town to create a viable work-up for their urban transportation system. Hell, I could go to Washington D.C. and just sit on the Metro and enjoy the scenery. The system is great and the stations are actually very nice looking. New York isn't as pretty, but it is a highly functional system.

California has crap. Sacramento has a light rain system that doesn't reach the commuter areas. San Diego's light rail is a bit better. San Jose's light rail is an embarrassment for the region that is known as the technology capital of the universe. BART is a regional system, hardly a subway. Finally we have Muni, a light rail system that works it's way around San Francisco. The problem is that the system misses some very important areas of the city (Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, Marina, Palace of Fine Arts). The solve this problem, San Francisco has decided to create a three stop line from 4th and Brannon (near AT&T park) to Chinatown, stopping at Moscone Center and Union Square (totally missing BART). Estimated cost? 1.4 billion. Ouch. This has created some stir from the local columnists and complaints that the Mayor is pandering to Chinatown and tourists.

I can't say that I disagree. While I see the point of getting people from Cal-Train to Chinatown (or the shopping of Union Square), I don't see the reason why the line doesn't extend to North Beach, then the Wharf, the Marina District, and finally the Palace of Fine Arts. This city needs more access from the upcoming Transportation Center (in the South of Market) to other points in the city and the bus system is getting a worse and worse reputation for customer service. To be a premiere city, the planning in San Francisco needs to be in better shape. Maybe I need to seek a different profession.

M-O-O-N. That spells moon.

I saw the lunar eclipse last night and was quite interested for a time being. Then I was more interested in the Lakers/Suns game on TNT and went back inside. I snagged this picture from Mamacita at Scheiss Weekly (blogroll) because my view was obscured by the popplers in my back yard and her picture is just plain good. However if she comes at me with a 2x4, I'm going to take it down and have to find some sucky AP picture.

By the way, the header is a phrase that was often uttered by a character in one of my favorite books. Care to guess?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

iPhone or not?

Our cell phone service is about to go bye-bye in the next month and it is decision time about the which Nazi style phone contract we are going to get stuck with. Right now we have Edge Wireless, which is essentially AT&T, and while the service on the phones is good, our phones have been lousy and when we wanted to go in and actually up our contract with new phones, we were told it was too early and that we would have to buy unlocked phones. We were not amused. However, this being Ukiah, our phone company options are fairly limited.

Two of my students own iPhones, the slick little device that is basically a cell phone, iPod, and small iMac all rolled up into a cute, black hand-held. The students were kind enough to demonstrate the iPhone, and then allowed me a little playtime, including surfing all those nifty sites that are blocked by the school guard dogs. Yes, guess what folks.....all those Internet censors are basically crap now because I was able to access my Facebook using the AT&T Internet service on iPhone. What a sweet little item.

But I'm not getting one and here's why.

First, the phone is connected to only AT&T with a two year agreement (unless you are in China, then it's China Mobile), and I happen to dislike AT&T at the moment. Add to that the news that the unlimited air-time cell phone war has begun, and it is a bad time to change over until the dust settles a little bit, especially when AT&T can't quite word its servicing agreements right (thanks to Valleywag for the link and picture).

Second is the price. I still can't force down $400 on a phone and then another $60 a month in charges just to get a fancy phone. In the end, it is just a phone and there are other competitors out there is very good products. In addition Apple is apparently going to release an updated version in June or in October, depending on the websites you believe. I need the technology a little longer than a couple of months to be viable.

So I might wait it out and see what the summer holds. The bummer is that the service does run out soon and we might be going in a different direction, like towards Verizon.

You're a teacher?

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Let it load and enjoy!

It's going to be a great summer for movies.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Back from Trippin

With every vacation comes the obligatory trip to see all the relatives, so on Friday we traveled to Chico and on Saturday I took my roady to Ashland, Oregon and Burney. I don't mind the trip at all as I listen to my Imus in the Mornings on a portable VHS player during the journey. Probably the most interesting thing about the trip was the quotes that I heard from people. Some were overheard conversations, others I was involved in, while others were quotes that I heard on the radio or TV.

-I think it says everything about the level of education in our schools. When you have, look, one out of every five Americans still believes that the sun revolves around the earth. But you shouldn't have to be an intellectual or a college graduate to know that the sun doesn't revolve around the earth. There's been a huge failure of education.

-I was a teacher when education was important in California. I don't know how you guys do it.

-Bush's New Orleans rebuilding plan is a sea level situation. Everything above sea level is getting attention while everything below sea level is getting ignored. The Ninth Ward still doesn't have electricity, water, or sewage.

-You want to teach History? How to you plan to make it interesting........I mean, it's just nice to talk to you when your in such an idealistic stage. In education, that will change.

-You were always the family rebel, voting against everyone else.

-You'd figure that Burney would at least have a decent hamburger.

-Everyone, at one time in their life, needs to experience owning a business.

-I'm not going to ever support Universal Health Care. Explain to me again why I should be paying for someone to be a fat, smoking, alcoholic, drug addict? People take care of their bodies in the first place and the price of health care will drop by itself.

This does not include the dozen times I was asked about my job security and the recent budget issues here in California. Our little district is 3 million in the hole, and I have little idea how that district is going to manage to reduce. All over the state I read the same thing; that school boards and supers are having to decide what goes. Best of luck.

Anyway, I'm home again and fully prepared to relax.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Property of .......(add boyfriend name here)

This year the Valentine's Day balloons are seriously out of control. Girls all around the school had huge mylar bladders that were the size of four standard balloons and were woven into all sorts of shapes and sizes. Usually the girls that had these balloons were in the paws of the "studs" that gave them the gift, either in a lip-lock or with the guy glaring at any male soul that dared look at the couple. It was the most interesting look at property marking. The quad looked like a pink pissing contest, with the ladies checking out each other's gifts and the guys staring down the male passersby.
My classroom became a pink paradise with candy and cards everywhere. The first thing out of my mouth to every class,

"There is no eating in class. If I see food, your grade will be impacted and I will tell your significant other that you are cheating on them. I'm in a foul mood this morning but will be much better when more people break up this afternoon. Have a nice day."

It was greeted to grins and giggles as they give me the "Grinch" treatment. My gift to them? An Economics test. Their gift to me? A 78% three class average and only 3 failures.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Strawberries and Cream

A student that has me twice in the day walked into the second class with a Starbucks Strawberries and Cream in her hand.
"I was mean to you earlier", she said, handing over the tasty beverage.
After the kind of day I was having, this was the perfect treat. I beamed for the remainder of the afternoon.
I have to admit, part of my anger still stems from the fact that the teachers that integrate the most technology in their classrooms are the one's that have the least access to it. I spent 20 minutes looking for the damn Scantron machine yesterday. I can hardly find a computer on campus that can work with Word 2007 documents. None have 2007, and most are blocked from uploading the file that will help. No printer, no direct access to the Internet, no help from the department that has kindly exiled themselves to a different wing of the school. So what am I doing? Why, I'm buying the supplies of course. I'm going wireless, I'm getting a printer, and I'm just about to the point of buying an iPhone just so I can hook it up to a project and show YouTube videos to students.
God I need another Stawberries and Cream.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Basketball season over

20-6 again.

Now I get to live my life again for awhile since the Saturday games were killing my ability to do anything ever. Combine the health issues and the classroom move, and I'm grateful for the time to reestablish my senses back to the routine of having a wife and a bunch of classroom students.

Not that I didn't enjoy the season. This season had some great kids and some really good games, but the three hour bus rides and the really poor officiating (it was bad this year) made the experience tiring. I'm serious about the officiating. Last night an official called the opposing coach an asshole and challenged him to a fight after the game. Um, what's the coach supposed to do? Respond and get tossed? He got T'd anyway.

I'll take some time off and start up Open Gym in a few weeks.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Meme.......because the Melotonin hasn't kicked in.

9 Have-You-Evers:

9. Have you ever liked someone else while you had a girlfriend/boyfriend?
Bah, it got me in trouble plenty of times my Senior year in high school and my first year in college.

8. Have you ever had your heart broken?
Once. And I still hate hicks.

7. Have you ever been out of the country?
Yep. Munich, Germany. I loved it.

6. Have you ever done something outrageously dumb?
Haven't we all?

5. Have you ever been back stabbed by a friend?
Yes, but I think I thought it was much worse than it actually was.

4. Have you ever had the cops called on you?

3. Have you ever dated someone younger than you?
Oh yes. Actually, my wife is younger.

2. Have you ever read an entire book in one day?
Yep. In fact, I read The Road recently in about 3 hours.

1. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?

Try five.

8 Whos:

8. Who was the last person you saw?
My wife, who went to bed while I'm up trying to sleep.

7. Who was the last person you kissed?
My wife, who cooked too much today and deserved much more.

6. Who was the last person you texted?
Wow. I think I texted a student at Stanford Model UN to meet for lunch at the quad.

5. Who was the last person to call you?
A politician.

4. Who is the last person you freaked out on?
My wife, who bought shoes.

3. Whom did you last hug?
My wife.

2. Whom did you go with to your first school dance?
A girl named Micki. She was sort of hardcore and I was a little shy.

1. Who is your best friend?
When? My wife, Jake, Brian, Sedona, Debbie, Rachel.

7 Whens:

7. When was your last shower?
This morning at around 9.

6. When did you last see your mom or dad?
Mom- Two years ago. She was visiting from London.

Dad- About three weeks ago when he came to Piner High to watch my basketball team.

5. When was the last time you danced?
Two weeks ago.

4. When did you get married, or when do you want to?


3. When was the last time you cried?
A few weeks ago I was tired of the constant pain in my chest.

2. When did you last go to the movies and with whom?
My wife and I saw National Treasure 2 together. Lousy.

1. When did you last take a vacation and where?
New York and Washington, last May.

6 Wheres:

6. Where do your grandparents live?
In Ashland, Oregon...about 6 hours north.

5. Where did you last hang out?
The couch.

4. Where is your favorite place to be?

3. Where did you sleep last night?
In bed.

2. Where would you like to move?
Up north, but I like where I teach.

1. Where were you when Princess Diana died?
Working at a video store.

5 Do/Does:

5. Do you like someone right now?
My wife.

4. Do you like your vehicle?

3. Do you ever wish you were someone else?
Not really. I wish I could dunk.

2. Do you have nightmares?

1. Does the future scare you?
Not scare me, but sometimes I get a little solemn.

4 Whys:

4. Why are you best friends with your best friend?
Because we know each other pretty damn well.

3. Why did you get a My.Space?
I was bored.

2. Why did your parents give you the name you have?
Because I'm a boy. If I was a girl I'd be named Jessica.

1. Why are you doing this survey?
I'm bored.

3 Ifs:

3. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Move things with my mind.

2. If you could go back in time and change one thing, would you?


1. If you were stranded on a deserted island and could bring one thing, what would it be?
My wife.

2 Would You Evers:

2. Would you ever get back together with your ex?
God no. Besides the fact that I'm happily married, I'm not into the whole feminist thing.

1. Would you ever shave your head to save someone you love?
Oh course.

1 Last Question:

1. Are you happy with your life right now?

Hey Arnold, did the legislative analyist tell you this?

Cutting 10% or $4,800,000,000 from public education would be like:

-Laying off more than 107,000 teachers OR

-Shutting down every school across the state for nearly a month OR

-Increasing class size by 35% OR

-Reducing per-student spending by more than $800 OR

-Laying off 137,000 Education Support Professionals OR

-Cutting more than $24,000 per classroom

"I really want him/her to graduate"

I'm getting tired of this phrase.

Let me get something very clear. While I feel for the plight of the parent of the student who has made a choice to follow the path of least resistance, it should be understood that these are adults who are normally making a conscious decision not to put the effort into their own graduation. It has been a month since the beginning of the semester and I'm back into the territory of being pretty short of the "class maximum" in student numbers. The usual suspects for "struggling students" are the big three:

1) Students go onto "Independent Study", which is basically packet work and students learning nothing. Students are supposed to go into this program due to certain academic or work related circumstances. I've read the letters from students trying to get into the program and excuses like "I'm not a morning person" seem to be valid excuses.

2) Students go to a different teacher. This is where you hear the "My son/daughter doesn't like your teaching style". I don't like this excuse since I use a multitude of learning styles with a consistent outline to help make the class successful. Look at the grade and you will see that the student did nothing. The student doesn't participate, and the doesn't like the fact that I don't take crap. Students usually go to another teacher, and more often than not, fail there.

3) Students go down a level to Intro. Some students need to slower pace. Others don't want to do the work and go down to Intro where they know that the load is less. I've found that the latter is more true.

In the end, the parent is the final say in the matter, and most often the comment, "My son/daughter has spent all this time in school, and I just want them to graduate" is involved in the conversation regarding moving a student. I'm a strict teacher, but I'm a fair teacher that has the best interest of the student. Moving a lazy behavior problem on the final couple of laps of the Indy 500 is not in the best interest of the student. It gives the attitude that it is ok to get bailed out early. It gives the student a safety net that will often not be there in the future. The term "finish it" becomes warped and wrongly defined.

My answer to every parent is that if a student doesn't want to graduate, then they shouldn't. I give students every opportunity to use my assistance, but some don't want to take the steps, they want the diploma handed to them. I'm more available, more open, and more wanting for Seniors to graduate than you could believe. But the education has no value if it is given.

If you want it, work for it. Finish it.