Saturday, March 08, 2008

Blogging the California Council on Social Science Conference

I don't even know if I can be happy at this conference with the knowledge that 23 teachers in our district were just given their walking papers. Hell, I might even be one of them.

7:05 a.m.
-My wife and I have made our way to the Marriott City Center in Oakland for the conference. The hotel room is paid for by the Teaching American History Project from Mendocino County office of Education. The $30 a day parking is not. The room was already cleaned for us when we got here, so we are settled and I'll report back later.

-Just went to the "Teaching Civics as a Course in Constitutional Law. The guru is Rich Kitchens, a teacher at Piedmont High School. I was lucky to be one of the first in the workshop and was greeted to a textbook and cd that are both full of valuable information. The class is basically a civics class that is taught with the emphasis on law. It looks amazing. I'm thinking of seriously taking one of my classes and teaching it like this. It looks fun, intelligent, and most of all, full of critical thinking for the kids. I'll gladly hump Kitchen's website, which supports his text. I'm planning to go to another session with this guy later.

-Ok, so not all the workshops are going to be great. I just attended "Europe and the Middle East: Exchanges and Dependencies". There were two speakers and both were pretty boring. The first one treated the class with a boring college style lecture on connections between Europe and the Middle East in ancient times. The second was more modern, yet nearly as boring. They were there to promote some outreach program from UCLA, but I was so bored that I forgot the site. This weekend will be about human capital, and how to make the best of it. This last hour was a waste.

-I went to "Best of the Web for Students, Teachers and Parents", but I realized that this was much more for teachers that haven't got much Internet experience. A teacher put all of the links he's investigated on a site, which is nice but a little impractical with the advent of Delicious. When the teacher started talking about making pages with Front Page and navigating his website, I walked out. I wandered into "Solving Great Economic Mysteries in U.S. History" and ended up staying the last 40 minutes. It was a nice look into the causes the Great Depression and some relationships to the current economic conditions. I liked the lessons so much that I went down to the National Council of Education Booth and bought the book......for half price......with no tax.......and no shipping.

-The exhibits are a mix of amateurs that are trying to sell bogus materials to non-profits that seem to really care about students and teachers. I'll let you know what is good and what isn't later. I can tell you now, Jackdaws was my wife's favorite.

-There was a very nice farmer's market in downtown Oakland and it was a nice respite from the workshops. Eventually we ate at a Japanese sushi/ramen place called Suruki's. It was quite good at a very reasonable price. I had pork dumplings and a huge mixed ramen that I would rate highly at only $6.50

-Just attended another workshop by Rich Kitchens, this time on "Teaching About the First Amendment". It was another dandy workshop that had a lot of questions from teachers about student conduct. It is amazing how touchy teachers can be about student behaviors. One surprise was when one teacher stated that she would not let her child into a class where the teacher reads the Bible during silent reading time. I bet a $1,000 that she wouldn't care if it was the Qu'ran, meaning that it seemed more a Christian issue than a secular issue.

-Well, everything sucked so I came back to the room during this session. I started with "Using Current Events to Make Content Real and Improve Literacy Skills", but it was basically a sales pitch for Newsweek. I headed over to "Technology in the History and Civics Classroom", except that for the five minutes that I was there the person couldn't work the technology. I wasn't interested in a lot of sitting, especially in a session about Colonial Williamsburg and technology. So I'm back, and I won't write until after dinner, maybe.

-Ugh, what a shitty night. First we attempted to eat somewhere locally, which is difficult in downtown Oakland because quite frankly, this place is a pit. We walked around the block and didn't feel safe because we ran into constant pan-handlers and never felt even remotely safe. We felt 100 times safer in New York at midnight than we did at 7 p.m. in downtown Oakland. We decided to drive out to Berkeley and hit a restaurant that was recommended to us by the PBS television show Check Please, Bay Area. The restaurant is called Picante. It is located in Berkeley, and it was far below expectations. The food was horribly average, with the exception of Soupa Azteca, which was awful. Tortilla Soup with a little chicken and watery broth? The chips were either overcooked or very stale, and the pitcher of margaritas was full of ice and lacking in alcohol. This place is beyond “kid friendly”, it’s kids everywhere. Kids are running around, on top of tables, and bumping into you while in line and at dinner. Needless to say that we are not returning. Need to be up early to start it again tomorrow.
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