Monday, April 28, 2008

STARnival

STAR testing time was given the name STARnival by one of my colleagues. It is pretty aptly named since the entire process is a horrid little joke that schools suffer in so many ways.

For instance, a rumor went around this week that today was National Ditch Day. Who the hell knows if it was true or not, except that it's one of those things that the NCLB idiots really don't take into account. Some teachers suffered major attendance issues, even in other schools around the county. I did not, but I don't teach students that take the tests.

Instead my students (four Economics classes and one AP Comparative Government class) are parceled out to other teachers for three hour testing blocks today, tomorrow, and Thursday. I needed to make lesson plans for these blocks, which included computer lab work on stock projects (power points and written reports), a Frontline video on Wal-Mart, and some textbook work on Market Structures. The teachers taking my classes are more than competent, so the information will easily get passed onto the students. Still, it becomes a challenge when some students look around in confusion because they didn't pay attention when I assigned the work. Then the panic sets in when they run to me at lunch and request a full explanation of the work, only to have me say, "Read me the directions".

"I don't have the directions."

"Where can you get the directions?"

"On the Moodle", stated in the smug 'I already know that' voice.

"Ok, go print out a copy of the directions. It will take five minutes and I'll be here when you get back."

"Can't you just give me a copy now? I need help with.....", any number of things that I've explained a half dozen times.

I then give the unamused stare. "Get the directions. I'll be here".

Believe it or not, some students will in fact print the instructions and come back for help. In my eyes, it is the sign that the student (even though it is late in the game) has come to focus on the task at hand and is open for learning. This is good. Unfortunately, some students simply go off and don't take the five minutes to print off the instructions, leaving them just as clueless as before because they want the answers given to them. Remember, they need to want it more than you do. I make myself available, but we are talking about Seniors in high school that are well aware about their position in class. In the end they make choices. It is that simple.

So more STARnival is coming this week, and then a couple of days next week are block to assist with more fun and games. Wonderful.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A good Giants game and a Critical Mass of Asses



My cell phone went off as I walked out the door of the admin building on my way home. Apparently, someone gave my wife four tickets to the Giants-Reds game in the Club Level at AT&T Park. Two friends and my wife and I crowded into the car and raced down to the ball game for some nice hardball action. The game was great. Jonathan Sanchez struck out 10 and the young Giants flew around the bases in the late innings to secure the victory. After the game we enjoyed Mojitos, Margies, and the best late game snacks in the world at Palominos under the Bay Bridge. It is still, by far, the best deal in post-game snackage that you can get in the city. We ended up back in the not-so-bustling Ukiah at around 2:15 in the morning.

The only drawback was getting to the game in the middle of the 2nd inning because we ran into the idiots of Critical Mass. We were making excellent time going against the rush hour traffic until we reached the corner of Bush and Market, where we ended up stuck in an intersection as hundreds of cyclists rode en masse down Market Street. Critical Masses is a monthly, sometimes weekly, protest against the city for the "unfriendly" environment that the city provides for the biking population. They do this by breaking laws and tying up traffic on the busiest street in the city, while making no one sympathetic to their cause. In fact, my guess is that most drivers were in the same thinking mode as I was, "I wonder how many I could scatter if I just punched it". Having went to college in Chico, where cycling idiots bitch about similar issues, I must say that I have absolutely no sympathy for the cause of Critical Mass. In fact, I think cyclists are some of the most hypocritical morons in society, bitching about bike rights as the fly through 4-way STOP signs, run red lights, and constantly scream at pedestrians that they own the road. My wife wondered if the cyclists were going to be held to the same standard as cars, as they flew through the intersection of Bush and Market without a care, and be cited for a red light violation.

But Critical Mass of Idiots couldn't dampen our spirits this night as the Giants ended victorious, and for some reason, my wife and I have the luck of the Irish in nailing free seats at some nice games.

Comments on teacher pot charges

For those of you that aren't local, or that are local and live under a rock, a teacher at my high school was arrested for an indoor marijuana grow that was around 156 planets. You can read about it in the Press Democrat. Instead of going into a long diatribe, how about I answer the top five questions that I've been asked in the last week.

1. Did you know the teacher?

-Barely, and not in a good way. He was one of the group that tried to toss the entire athletic program a couple of years ago,so I have no love lost for him. In terms of actually "knowing" him, I might have said five words to him in the last seven years at the school.

2. What do you think should be done?

-Simple. Like any citizen he should be given his right to due process. If found innocent he should be let go. If found guilty then the judge should throw the book at him.

3. Why hasn't he been fired from the school?

-Because you can't just fire someone for being accused of something, that's why. In this country there is a process of finding the accused guilty of a crime, and if the school just hauled off and fired an employee with no just cause, it wouldn't work out very well for the school. If he's found guilty, he'll be fired immediately, I would guess.

4. What surprises you the most about this matter?

-The shock. A school is a microcosm of the community it resides in. You think that the largest employer in Ukiah would be totally immune to the same ills that are pervasive to the rest of the town? If you are shocked then you are a fool.

5. Do you think that teachers should be drug tested?

-Yes, and I'll be the first one in line to take the test.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

If only I was able to send this out

Thanks to Scheiss Weekly (check the blogroll).

Dear Parents, Siblings, Friends, Neighbors, Spouses, Fiancees, and Ex-Fiancees of my students:

While I appreciate the concern all of you feel, from time to time, about the grades, attendance, and overall class status of the students in question, please allow me to remind you that the law prohibits me from giving you the slightest detail of his/her standing in my class.

No, I cannot tell you whether or not a student was present on any given day.

No, I cannot tell you whether or not a student is passing or failing.

No, I cannot tell you what assignments a student is missing, and even if I could it wouldn't matter because at the college level, there are no make-ups.

No, I cannot give you the assignment due next Monday.

I can give this information only to the student himself/herself, and I never do that over the phone because how, then, would I know it's not YOU instead of the student?

Thanks for asking.

Sincerely,
Insensitive Professor

P.S. Yes, I understand that you are paying all of this student's fees, tuition, and books, but I still can't tell you.

P. P.S. I work really hard to make my lessons as interesting and memorable as I possibly can, but if a student is not there, how can he/she benefit from it? Yes, we covered Chapter 28, but we did far, far more than that. I guess you had to be there. . . .

Maybe the best way to help high school students is start actually start treating them like college students. Maybe the same could go for parents too.

Ukiah is still about marijuana

The county is only 80% of normal and may enact mandatory water restrictions as early as May. But it isn't that important.

The school district has sent lay-off notices to 70 teachers in Ukiah. Even with the protest, it has hardly gone noticed.

Jobs are flying out of the county and Ukiah is worried that it is going to be the victim of a box store economy. Hardly a whisper in the community.

Nope, all the hype in Mendocino County is a measure to limit the growth of marijuana, not eliminate it, limit it. In 2000, the voters of Mendocino County passed Measure G, an initiative that attempted to decriminalize the cultivation of marijuana. Basically, it said this:

The Ordinance will:
(A) Instruct the County government to support all efforts toward the decriminalization of marijuana.
(B) Instruct the County Sheriff and District Attorney to make marijuana enforcement their lowest priority with respect to other crimes.
(C) Establish a maximum limit of plants and weight for cultivation and possession of marijuana for personal use in Mendocino County, and prohibit the expenditure of public funds for enforcement of marijuana laws against cultivators and users in possession of quantities below that limit.
(D) Remove the fear of prosecution and the stigma of criminality from people who harmlessly cultivate and/or use marijuana for personal medical or recreational purposes.
(E) Extend police protection to those growing or possessing marijuana for personal use.
(F) Provide for the continued enforcement of marijuana laws against those who cultivate, transport and possess marijuana for sale.
The Board of Supervisors shall use its budgetary authority to ensure that the Sheriff’s Office makes no arrests and issues no citations for violations of the above State Health and Safety Code Sections in any single case involving twenty-five (25) or fewer adult flowering female marijuana plant or the equivalent in dried marijuana.

Basically the police have had their hands tied in dealing with marijuana crimes, which by the
way, have gone up dramatically since Measure G passed. Home invasions, gun related crimes, assaults dealing with drugs, all have gone up. Students constantly complain about the problems with drug dealing in neighborhoods and the stench of skunky week with October and the harvest rolls around. Many in Redwood Valley say that they can't even leave their house because the smell is so overpowering.

Now there is Measure B, an initiative that is on the June ballot and will repeal Measure G, sending the marijuana law back to the Prop 215 state mandate; 6 plants or 8oz of processed weed. The proponents of Measure B came to their senses that Mendocino County has quickly become a magnet for drug dealers and in terms of schools, basically legitimized the illegal drug trade. The opponents of Measure B insist that they need at least 25 plants (you get 25 per family member with a Medical Marijuana card) to take care of whatever ailment afflicts them. The so called "compassionate use" crowd seems to think that they should take care of not only their medical needs, but also the "needs" of all those in the county that would love to get high for any reason (ie kids, the homeless, the mentally ill, and whomever else they can poison). Basically, most "compassionate users" are drug dealers.

Thankfully we now have a county sheriff and district attorney that actually have the health and security of the county in mind. Both stated in a recent town meeting that Measure G created a suction of outside marijuana growers that have destroyed the environment and dramatically increased crime. Local law enforcement supports Measure B. Local doctors support Measure B. Most teachers support Measure B. Hell, K.C. Meadows supports Measure B.

Oh yeah, and 86% of all the money for the "No on Measure B" campaign is coming from out-of-the-county marijuana advocates. So much for "all politics is local".

Coming from a school teacher and a person that wants to see smart growth and success for the city of Ukiah, vote YES on Measure B.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

How are they doing?

With the end of the 3rd quarter a week hence I have started to receive the guidance counselor's e-mails with lists of students with my predictions about the potential for graduation. Along with that are the comments that parents are a little concerned about Johnny's graduation party that will have all the relatives. Of course, it has only been about 7 months that the kid has had this grade, and even with Instant Messaging, e-mail, and online grades, now every parent has their kid's attention.

Take the list of six students I got from one of the counselors. These were kids with D's or F's on their report card. The response (paraphrased here) went something like this:

Student #1- A knucklehead, but should do fine. Has good attendance and works hard.
Student #2 and #3- Both are struggling with understanding, but are here every day and are trying diligently in the class. I would predict that the students will be ok at the end of the year.
Student #4- Dug a huge hole in the beginning of the year. Has been on and off with work and now expects that everything is good? I would recommend that the parent get a copy of the semesters work and then remind them that school actually goes from January to June.
Student #5- Sorry, but the doe eyes don't do it for me. Attending class does. When you miss two to three classes a week, you're going to have one hell of a time passing.
Student #6- Last time I saw this student was when the Falklands were being disputed by Argentina. Probably not going to make it if I we've been through four presidents and I haven't seen the kid.

I've actually been told by counselors that I can't tell parents that their kid has no chance at graduating this early. I don't really understand that mode of thinking, since it's just a simple mathematic impossibility. Your child hasn't been around in months, they will not pass my class because they don't have the points.

Before you call me "heartless", remember this, I tell my students all year that two things are very difficult in my class, an 'A' and an 'F'. You really need to work for both of them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Real Importance of April 15

First Minor League game for the Montreal Royals (farm team to the Brooklyn Dodgers):
4-5 in hitting
1 home run
4 runs-batted-in
2 stolen bases
caused the opposing pitcher to balk twice
(Actually April 18th. April 15 was Robinson's first game in the Majors. He was 0-3)

After the daily news summary, I pulled up a chair and did my yearly April 15 ten minute story time on one of history's greatest civil rights warriors, Jackie Robinson. I talked about his "back of the bus" incident at Fort Hood, his attitude in the Negro Leagues, his relationship with Branch Rickey, his passion for baseball, and most of all, his ability to persevere through tremendous hardship. The kids were totally enthralled.

In every class, students wanted to know more about Robinson, baseball, civil rights, and the Negro Leagues. Who said April 15th had to be a bad day?

Just "Cowboy up and get to work".

I am often amazed at the ability of education pundits, those that haven't stepped one foot in the classroom, to constantly blame teachers for the problems of the educational system. While I fully admit that teachers could be doing more (God knows that I mentioned that we need to represent our profession better many times on this blog), I disdain the fact that society and the government constantly don't admit the other factors in the education of children; student apathy, parent apathy, little funding, and idiot testing, really matter.

Take for instance Friends of Dave (blogroll), who is a fellow Ukiah blogger who made the common reference to "other jobs have less than favorable conditions so teachers should stop bitching" argument.

I think all too often in public education, we continue the same strategies year after year and we blame student apathy, parent apathy, too little funding or high-stakes testing for our failed teaching practices and educational strategies. If the goal of public education is to educate students, we can't stop trying simply because students or parents aren't making it easy. As I've said before, fireman don't ignore fires that are started by dumb decisions made by a homeowner. Police don't ignore calls from people who have made bad choices. Doctors don't stop treating fat people because they made bad diet and exercise choices.
First of all, California constantly makes the mistake of CHANGING teaching strategies that have worked in the past to satisfy.......well, someone who was bored I guess. You could hate "drill and kill" to death, but the memorization of multiplication tables sure worked a hell of a lot better than that "whole math" crap.

Now for the "fireman, policeman, doctor" remark, which is often used when non-classroom related people decide to pop off about what's right for education. Last I remember, firemen, doctors, and police are all given the tools of the game to make learning work. No, I'm not talking about gimmicky learning programs or "one laptop per child" tools, I'm talking about schools that are palaces and not dirty, in disrepair, or straight out crumbling. I also don't remember doctors being told, "you don't get O2 today", cops being told, "you don't get bullets today", or firemen being told, "sorry, your allotment of water was used up this week". In many cases, a teacher is ill-equipped for the job, ill-supported for the job, and then told to preform. Donald Rumsfeld was basically fired for saying, "You go to war with the Army that you have, not the Army you want", but teachers are told that every day.

And by the way, firemen are never blamed for starting the fire, policemen are never blamed for committing the crime, and doctors aren't blamed for people getting fat. Teachers are most certainly a target of blame for the lack of education of children, even though they have no control over a multitude of variables. Teachers still teach, firefighters fight fires, police control crime, and doctors treat patients, but only one of those is actually held accountable at the end of the day to entities that they have no control over; the other factors of a student's life. Firefighters aren't held accountable for the meth lab fire, they put it out. Police aren't held accountable for the domestic violence, they arrest the suspect. Doctors aren't held accountable for patients getting diabetes, they simply try and treat the condition. Yet teachers are somehow given lessor tools, more government oversight, less pay, and are supposed to be held to a greater accountability over things they have no control over?
The duty of public education is to educate. If our instructional strategies aren't working for large groups of our students, but other schools are having better success with the same students, we need to stop whining and making excuses and start looking to those successful schools for the answer. Schools aren't relieved of the responsibility to educating students simply because they're making it hard. Cowboy up and get to work.
Simply put, not nearly as easy to implement. I'm sure that the income of "successful schools" has plenty to do with it. Anyone that doesn't think that schools with money are more successful are in dreamland. Then add it Second Language Learners, increased Special Education populations, lack of money, sue-happy parents, towns with increased drug culture, lack of money, equipment from the 1990's, shoddy infrastructure, a district wide lack of vision or business sense, oh yea, and lack of funding. You say that California spends over half its budget on Education? Ok, when it walks into my classroom let me know. While your at it, let me know when you find a successful school that manages to operate through all these problems. I'll be glad to jump on board.

In the meantime, until you make every effort to supply teachers with the tools needed to succeed, stop blaming them.

Oh yeah, while I'm making this blog post, I'm doing the following:
-updating my Moodle for the classes
-instant messaging with a student about an assigned book; Persepolis
-communicating with another student on Facebook about attending U.C. Irvine

I also graded essays this evening. Doctors, firemen, nor policemen take that kind of work home with them.

Yee hah.

Monday, April 14, 2008

King for a night

Like I could give this up.

On Thursday afternoon my mother-in-law notified us that she came upon some tickets to a luxury box at the Sacramento Kings game for Friday night. I couldn't say, "Yes!" quick enough.

If you ever get the opportunity to see a came from a luxury suite, I highly recommend it. I'm the sort of guy that loves the bleachers, loves the band, loves sitting about 10 rows up from the center court, but I have to admit that "the box" pretty much blows this away. Free food, free beer, an in-house bathroom, and a great view of Spencer Hawes throwing a beat down on the Portland Trailblazers. Yeah, I could get used to that. Of course I'll have to become the Super of our district to get anything close to the salary it would take to afford the box.

Ah well. It was a great experience. It always are the rare ones that are so memorable.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Book Meme

Polski (blogroll) tagged me with a book meme.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people and acknowledge who tagged you.

Nearest Book: Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989. By Michael Beschloss. One of the great presidential historians and some required reading if you are into U.S. presidents.

Post: At the White House, two weeks after Sherman's Atlanta victory, Lincoln learned that General Philip Sheridan had scoured Jubal Early's troops from Shenandoah. Chuckling at how his fortunes somersaulted, Lincoln said it looked as if "the people wanted me to stay here a little longer." A Lincoln man wrote him from Illinois, "The September victories have changed all, and as we reason here, your reelection is certain."

Tag whomever likes books.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I didn't march

On Tuesday I had a choice.

I could do my usual and conduct Open Gym for a variety of current and ex-Ukiah High School students, or I could join a few dozen teachers marching for "A Funeral for Education". I chose the gym, where about 20 showed up for an excellent two hour session of hoops. I was criticized a tad from a couple of teachers that had concerns about 'unity'.

List of reasons for not attending:

1) Open gym. The kids love it. I think it's valuable.

2) If it was the district as a whole protesting the idiotic budget measures of Ahnold, I would have seriously considered attending. However, during a time of belt tightening it would behoove the union to start looking at this situation like a business, not like an 'us vs. them' mentality. The union insisted that the district was not going to be mentioned in the protest, until of course, it was. And what comment did the paper print? The district one of course.

3)

It was just after 4 p.m. Tuesday when dozens of Ukiah Unified School District teachers and their supporters filed somberly down Perkins Street toward Alex Thomas Plaza in what was dubbed a "Funeral for Public Education."

The sign-toting funeral procession then made a left turn down State Street, the wooden coffin provided by Eversole Mortuary figuratively holding the 350-plus-year-old institution. A great number of the mourners in attendance were clad in black garments in memory of the dearly departed.

Um. I just can't take that very seriously.

4. When the elementary teachers that run our union actually take the high school under consideration when making decisions, I'll consider us unified. But I've been approached a couple of times by high school teachers saying that we should do things that are a) not in the best interest of the high school, and b) not in the best interest of kids. All in the name of unity. We might need a major look at the we as a profession are looking to accomplish as a union. "Fair days work at a fair day's pay" if I'm not mistaken.

I have to admit, our site holds a share of the blame. Younger teachers don't attend any union functions and many teachers overall seem very blah about the issue. I can't feel blah with a small group having some control over my pay, work hours, and health benefits.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Wouldn't you know it

Today I started investigating methods of funding the basketball program. We are talking serious methods that include signs in the gym and maybe even renaming the gym. I was psyched to get started on banging the phones for ideas and suggestions........

Then I heard the news about coaching for next year. Apparently there is a plan on the table to eliminate freshmen coaching salaries and cut back JV and Varsity coaching salaries in half for next year. Two years ago the coaching staffs at the high school fought very hard to get pay that is somewhere comparable to the pay to coaches in that are in our league. For years, I was paid half of what my 6 counterparts were paid and last year I was finally paid a wage that was within a few hundred dollars of the higher paid coaches in the league. Now the budget cutback gurus are thinking of slicing and dicing those as well.

Bad idea.

First off, coaches are one of the best teaching deals that money can buy. If you count only the hours that I work during the season (November to March), my hourly rate is about 57 cents. If you counted the Open Gyms, the camps, the clinics, the meetings, the scheduling, and the paperwork, I probably make under 10 cents an hour. Actually, if you include the hotel rooms and food I pay for during tournaments, the money I give to kids for lost dinner funds, and the scorebooks/whistles/clipboards I buy, I come out making nothing. For someone to teach real world life lessons and build relationships for their entire high school career, that's a hell of a deal.

Second, and more importantly, this town is very negative on the athletic program. I can tell you that when I ran into a variety of coaches regarding this news, the mass opinion was to sit back and watch the school district deal with a 1900 kid athletic program full of walk-on coaches. Athletics has been beat up over the last few years and I can easily see this as the final straw that might end any participation of teachers in athletics.

What would I do? Don't know yet since nothing is for sure. I can tell you that the information made me stop researching funding immediately. I do so much for my job for free already, and actually end up spending a hell of a lot of money (basketball, Model UN, supplying my own technology and materials). When you work your ass off, and do it well, and you're told that you aren't worth as much (especially when the Super gets a 5 G raise), the motivation factor falls through the floor.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Thanks Jay

For a second year in a row, Jay Mathews at the Class Struggle column in the Washington Post has rated this blog as one of the best educational blogs out there.
Exciting and candid inside-school stuff from a social studies teacher and basketball coach in Ukiah, Calif.
Cool. Nice to see that simple opinion and reflection is appreciated out in the media for someone who is just giving a little insight into the profession. I have to admit, it's nice to see the old site meter go from an average of 60 a day to over 550.

Thanks again Jay!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Absolut idiocy


Late last week I found that Buckhorn Road (blogroll) had a post about this Absolut advertisement that is making its way around the Mexican countryside. It is causing quite a stir. Using its "In and Absolut World" campaign, the poster shows the Mexican borders redrawn to include the land lost to the United States after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. It is an obvious shot at the United States in an attempt to get more Mexicans to drink vodka. Not that I'm a conspiracy theorist, but Absolut is owned by a French company, which would explain the idiotic statement that this ad makes.

First let me tell you that I was a big fan of Absolut marketing. I think their print ads are some of the best ever created, and thousands of male college students feel the same way as bedrooms around America are covered in Absolut's sly commercial appeal. The ads are creative, tasteful, and effective. Which is why I'm surprised about this piece of garbage. The offending part of the material is obvious. The "reconquest" of the Southwestern United States by Mexico has been a an odd bone of contention by some in "White America". "Educational Organizations" such as MEChA have thrown more gas on the fire by occasionally slipping in "Chicano reconquest" items in speeches and protests, thus driving some educators to see the group as a little Mexican nationalist movement in the making.

Absolut posted this response on their website:
The In An Absolut World advertising campaign invites consumers to visualize a world that appeals to them -- one they feel may be more idealized or one that may be a bit "fantastic." As such, the campaign will elicit varying opinions and points of view. We have a variety of executions running in countries worldwide, and each is germane to that country and that population.

This particular ad, which ran in Mexico, was based upon historical perspectives and was created with a Mexican sensibility. In no way was this meant to offend or disparage, nor does it advocate an altering of borders, nor does it lend support to any anti-American sentiment, nor does it reflect immigration issues. Instead, it hearkens to a time which the population of Mexico may feel was more ideal.

As a global company, we recognize that people in different parts of the world may lend different perspectives or interpret our ads in a different way than was intended in that market. Obviously, this ad was run in Mexico, and not the US -- that ad might have been very different.
Wow, you think? And if the ad was "Absolut World" with the United States taking Mexico (as was the option if Mexico didn't accept Guadalupe Hidalgo), would that have been an acceptable interpretation? How about an ad ran in Chiapas? Does an Absolut ad from Chiapas contain the Mexican map redrawn from the point of few of the revolutionaries who want an independent government? How about non-cartographic advertisement. "In an Absolut World......the Mexican government can take its head out of its ass to feed, cloth, and educate its own people so they don't have to emigrate to the United States".

Speaking of the history behind the "former Mexican land" that is now the American Southwest, how about a little correct interpretation. First of all, Mexico only owned the land because they took it from Spain, who in turn took it from the Native Americans that they enslaved when they were trying to turn them all into God faring Christians. That is if the Natives survived from European diseases that were brought over from Spain. Second, Mexico owned the land and basically left it almost totally empty. It wasn't like there was any kind of massive civilization in Southern California or New Mexico that exemplified Mexican culture. Two kinds of people survived in the region; missionaries out to enslave Native American cultures, and criminals, either exiled out of Mexico to be settlers or sent to protect the missionaries from the Native Americans that were none to happy to be pressed into involuntary servitude. In fact, the government almost totally ignored all the installations in California to the point that the generals were begging for food and clothing until American traders showed up from Boston.

So not only is the ad ridiculous, the concept of reconquest of the Southwest is almost totally invalid. The only real valid argument against Manifest Destiny should come from the Native Americans, and I don't see an "Absolut World" poster with tribal boundaries in North America coming any time soon.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tumbling down

It was in the middle of the quad, in front of probably 40 or so students, and about a quarter of them were students in my classes. I was tired and returning from the Admin building back to my temporary classroom with my head a little low and my pacing sort of drudging. It's the end of the week and I was tired, nothing was wrong. I noticed the usual group at a table in the quad that had quite the eclectic group that consisted of a couple of students and a few non-students. These were not students I had a special relationship with, just some students that are in my classes, if that makes sense. All were "Seniors", in that they are all ready to get the hell out of dodge and do something else. One has potential to do some very good things, but he's done with high school. Anyway, I pass by this group daily and we always say 'hi' to each other in a nice manner. Today, I was figuring on just nodding a hello since I was just ready to be done and go home.

When my left foot hit the uneven concrete, two things happened at once. First, the three consecutive pops that meant that the ligaments in my left ankle were being strained, and then the familiar split second feeling of my ankle rolling onto its side.

Then came the pain and I tumbled straight to the ground.

I heard the brief snicker from some of the students at the table and was less than bothered by it. If seven years of teaching have taught me anything, its that high school students laughing at you for making a mistake is not that big of a deal. I once dumped an entire cart over; utensils, papers, overhead and all, to which the class roared in laughter. I snapped a "Shut up" in anger and embarrassment, something that made the problem even more laughable and it aggravated a simple situation into a bad one. That was 5 years ago. Now those simple errors I calmly fix and laugh with the kids later on. In this case I wasn't laughing and I'm sure I let out some profane exclamation when I hit the ground. The snickering stopped pretty quickly when they saw that I wasn't getting up and I was holding my left ankle. A small group, including some from the table, came over and asked about getting ice or calling the nurse. I told them "thank you" but that I didn't need to make a big scene over it. I have rubber ankles from not taking care of them in college, and I just needed a minute to wish the pain away. Eventually the show was over and one of my students from the table, one that I have quite a challenging time with, picked up my dropped roll sheets and asked if I was sure I was ok. I thanked him and hobbled to the nurses office for some ice.

Embarrassed at all? Only for the moment that I realized that I was falling, and then the logic set in that embarrassment is nothing compared to the real pain in my ankle. I was very appreciative of the students offering of help, which is another example of why I think that just about every student wants to know right from wrong and understand the meaning of respect, but they just aren't taught how. So while I sat in the nurses office with ice on my ankle, I thought about nice show of respect from some of my students when I took my tumble. Will I hear about in on Monday? You can bet on it. And I'll laugh right along and then make it a reminder that they need to take care of their bodies, even at their young age because my ankles are the way they are because of decisions I made when I was 19.

Now I sit at my laptop with an ankle wrap in place and my pain level rather low, a slight throbbing really. But now my thoughts are on the fact that some of those challenging kids that helped me out today may not make it through my class. I understand that you don't simply give grades for good deeds, and that the year is long and kids that don't make it are making the choice (at least in my class) not to meet the minimum requirements, but that doesn't mean that you can't think that the kid is a good kid. I speak all the time of this professional and consistent attitude that I try to portray and that I think that it really helps kids. It's these times of moral challenges that teachers need to remain professional. Occasionally I get a twinge of "you know, he's just a good kid and he needs to get his diploma and he'll just do better at a later age, later on". I got that twinge with some of these kids as I walked to the nurse. I put it out of my mind quickly though. A person should be a good samaritan because it is the right thing to do (as these kids did), not because it may lead to a benefit down the road. That's something we should be teaching. Classroom grades are based on good deeds, their based on what goes on in the classroom. Kids earn the grades from my class from a semester's worth of evaluation, not a couple of nice gestures.

Still, while I was wishing away the pain from my ankle in the nurses office, my head in my hands, I think I remember muttering to myself, "Dammit, you guys better pass my class".

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Welcome Board Member

I had a hunch about a month ago.

That hunch become stronger last week.

Today I got it confirmed.

A member on my Blogroll is actually a Ukiah Unified School District board member. How's that for connections.

Um, I'm not that kind of blogger

During the day I had a colleague pull me to the side and say, "Didn't you read the NEA magazine? You need to be really careful about what you blog about. There's an article about teachers getting fired about things they are writing"

"No problem", I said. "I met with the administration years ago and I'm fully aware of what is and is not acceptable. I don't break student confidentiality so I'm not worried about it."

"No, they are getting fired for inappropriate things that they are writing. Just be more careful."

Hmmmmmm. I furrowed my brow at my colleagues comments and then went to check out the NEA's article. I was very interested in who was getting fired for what comments. Seriously, there had to be either a lousy contract or a lousy teacher. Teachers fired without warning? What the heck is being written?

The result? Well, you've heard about most of them.

In Virginia, high school art teacher Stephen Murmer was fired after posting photos of his "butt art" on the Web, which were viewed by scores of students. The budding artist applied paint to his posterior and genitalia, which he then pressed onto canvases. With the help of the ACLU, he sued the school district last fall claiming a violation of his First Amendment rights.

Band director Scott Davis from Broward County, Florida, was dismissed after school officials viewed his MySpace profile that included his musings about sex, drugs, and depression.

A Colorado English teacher lost her job after composing and posting sexually explicit poetry on her MySpace site. Police were even called in to investigate.

Nashville teacher Margaret Thompson was removed from teaching after posting "racy pictures" of herself, along with candid photos of her students, on her MySpace profile.

Florida middle school teacher John Bush was terminated because of "offensive" and "unacceptable " photos and information on his MySpace page.

Massachusetts teacher Keath Driscoll was suspended for his MySpace postings including "sexually suggestive" photographs, videos of drinking alcohol, and references to women as "whores."

Last October, reporters for The Columbus Dispatch conducted an investigation of MySpace profiles posted by Ohio teachers. The newspaper quoted one 25-year-old teacher bragging that she's "an aggressive freak in bed," "sexy," and "an outstanding kisser." Another teacher wrote on her page that she had recently "gotten drunk," "taken drugs," and "gone skinny-dipping."

Anyone see a pattern here.

I don't know what's worse, the fact that this crap that the NEA brought up is actually considered "blogging", or that my colleague actually compared this blog to the offensive material. I really don't get the childish inspiration to throw up a picture online of me doing crazy college age antics, or showing off parts of my body for the public to view. If you don't want to be a positive role model for kids, stay the hell out of the job. And FYI, a positive role model is not someone that parades their life to the Internet viewing public. No one is saying that a person can't get a little crazy sometimes, but "time and place" please.

And don't compare real blogging (check out the many on my Blogroll for real blogs) with MySpace. It's insulting.