Friday, October 31, 2008

Prop 8- ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME–SEX COUPLES TO MARRY

I don't see how any civil libertarian can possibly agree with not letting gays get married. First of all, marriage shouldn't be a Constitutional issue at all. In fact, it shouldn't be a government issue except that the state makes it a government issue when they decide to attach government benefits and drawbacks from being married (including the need to get a license). In a rational world, same-sex couples could be married and a church that would not want them married would simply say "no", and that would be that. They would be married somewhere else, maybe by someone who is not religious. In reality, that's how it should be, but it's not. Government has decided to get into the business of legislating marriage and it has decided that a certain group of people should not get all those benefits and drawbacks of that legislation. No, "Domestic Partnerships" do not present the same exact benefits of marriage. Therefore, California was at one time practicing the art of segregation, very interesting coming from the progressive capital of the nation.

Then comes the term "activists judges". A truly idiotic statement. Arguing that the California State Supreme Court went against the correct mandate of the people (Prop 22 in 2000) in allowing gay marriage is like saying that the Earl Warren courts were going against the correct mandate of the people in the South, those that practiced the popular theory of segregation. Was that an infringement on the Constitution of the United States? Isn't it the job of the court system to interpret whether or not the government is affording equal protection to its people? It is, and if people don't like it then they should be demanding that the government get the hell out of marriage.

Then comes of the issue of the classroom, where the proponents of this measure think that gay marriage will create some kind of environment where teachers will make off- handed comments like "You really should consider being gay" or something like that. Seriously, this argument disturbs me. Proponents use the examples of bad teaching as the rallying cry for this argument. Two idiot teachers made a field trip for a group of elementary school kids to their wedding, and for some this means that all teachers will now sign up for gay wedding visits for student field trips. The question should be how those two teachers could tie it to curriculum (which you really can't at that age), not if they went to a gay wedding (which parents signed permission slips for). And that "state standard" that pro Prop 6 people are flashing around is an elective Health standard that says that Sexual Education issues will discuss "monogamous relationships and healthy marriages". Yeah? And? What, all of the sudden Health teachers around the state of California will be saying, "The only healthy marriage is a gay marriage"? What a bunch of crap. Truth is, if the question "Is a gay marriage a healthy marriage" were to come up in the classroom, the answer should be, "Are the couples doing the things we discussed that promote healthy marriage?" If the answer is yes, then what's the problem?

Is it that the people are gay? You mean gay = unhealthy relationships? Are you serious? Are you drunk? You're telling me that straight = healthy relationships? Are you really living in the real world? I've had thousands of students that would be prime examples of that theory going straight into the toilet. Ask any kid whose family got a divorce or a kid beaten by his parents or kids that are miserable because of unhealthy relationships. Being gay has nothing to do with good parenting.

In the end, Prop 8 is a 1980's "I'm scared of fags" style attack on a fundamental principle within our society, equal protection. I find it interesting that a group of people that so value the protections of the Constitution, all of the sudden run away from it when something in society shakes up the status quo, and then insist that government has no place in dictating the policy of the scared masses. It was those same masses that had no problem with slavery, no problem with Chinese exclusion, no problem with segregation, no problem Japanese Internment, and no problem with pointing gays away from Constitutional protections because of their sexual orientation. It's disgusting.

I am however jubilant because either way, the Constitution will win the day. If this Proposition passes, I will enjoy the trail this measure takes to the steps of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C., the same place where similar people told little Linda Brown that segregation wasn't a Constitutional issue, and that she already had her own institution to which she could attend. The result will be the same. Segregation will be shot down, the Constitution will win the day, and the nation will be better for it.

VOTE NO.

How I'm voting

Take it for what it's worth.

Prop 1A- SAFE, RELIABLE HIGH-SPEED PASSENGER TRAIN BOND ACT.
-In the end, all the bond issues on this ballot are regarding the appropriate use of government funds. Yes, the California Budget is in an absolute shambles. Yes, this project is going to cost $19 billion over 30 years. Is it an appropriate use of funds in these times of economic turmoil? Of course it is. It is an absolute travesty that the state jumps into the this century with little or no idea of how to create a "next gen" urban planning transportation solution. Current plans emphasize widening freeways, creating toll roads, and building more airports, things that reflect a late 20th Century approach. California needs high speed rail, just like the North Coast needs the SMART train, the Bay Area needs BART to loop the Bay, and San Francisco needs a real subway. These projects drive the state into the next generation of transportation, urban planning, and job development. If you have a problem with government oversight, then fine, make it happen. There are plenty of examples of California transportation projects being done on the fly with good results, a good Governor could make it work. VOTE YES.

Prop 2-STANDARDS FOR CONFINING FARM ANIMALS.
-The market is already impacting the sale of all kinds of free range meats and eggs, and I think that these standards are already starting to be imposed as market driven conditions. The EU has banned pork crates (confining pigs) by 2012 and the largest pork producer in the U.S. has already agreed to phase out the same practice. While I don't agree with the treatment of CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) meats, I don't see the backbone of the needing to be impacted by more government regulation that will be gone soon enough. In the meantime, eat free range meat (it tastes better) and by eggs locally (ours are from a farm for less than grocery store prices). VOTE NO.

Prop 3-CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL BOND ACT
-While I'm sure the idea of helping children is attractive, let's remember that some money will be going to for-profit corporations to build on an already screwed up medical infrastructure. Radical change in the health care system is needed and providing government funding to a broken wheel (that keeps coming back) is not the solution. VOTE NO.

Prop 4- WAITING PERIOD AND PARENTAL NOTIFICATION BEFORE TERMINATION OF MINOR’S PREGNANCY.
-I've been in a serious argument today where a colleague insisted that if you agreed with this proposition that you must be either religious or against abortion. I'm neither. I don't see why abortion must be such an black and white topic when reasonable people can see the necessity of certain regulations on a medical procedure. Hell, a minor isn't supposed to get a tattoo without parent permission, why make a sudden exception for an abortion? Incest/Parental sexual involvement is extremely minimal in abortion cases, so you can toss that out right now. The only thing I can really find against this is the idea that people that promote this law want to end abortion, which I disagree with. Sorry, I think parents should have the right to be involved in their kids lives. VOTE YES.

Prop 5- NONVIOLENT DRUG OFFENSES. SENTENCING, PAROLE AND REHABILITATION
-A jive ass way to legalize marijuana and allow society to ignore the problems that drugs present to the community. Take it from a person that lives in a town seeped in a drug culture, rehab is an excuse, not a solution. And while I agree that we need to figure out a way to get non-violent offenders out of jail, I don't think the method is allowing addicts to take run of the community. From someone that lives in a region where this kind of thing is promoted, VOTE NO.

Prop 6- POLICE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT FUNDING. CRIMINAL PENALTIES AND LAWS.
-If this law were carved up into other propositions, I would have voted for some and rejected others. I agree that stronger laws for victim intimidation and meth possession are needed, but the funding aspect concerns me. Why the specifics targeting the anti-gang aspect? Sounds like a lot of prison money to me. VOTE NO.

Prop 7- RENEWABLE ENERGY GENERATION
-This initiative is so murky and unenforceable that it is scary. First of all, we need to realize that there is no way that major utilities will be able to produce 20% of their energy by 2010, especially in a state where environmental impact studies alone won't allow them to build anything for at least two years. Also remember that Californians love to enact the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)argument and will fight against any project that potentially kills property value. So the companies will be penalized. And while the law states that the penalty can not be shifted to consumers, I say "Good Luck" to that. It is near impossible to prove that a price increase, especially in something that is in so high of demand, is a direct result of a fine. This has disaster written all over it. VOTE NO.

Prop 8- Get's its own post

Prop 9- CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM. VICTIMS’ RIGHTS. PAROLE.
-California is actually pretty up to date and pretty strict on parolees. I think that his avoids the real problem regarding crime (how do we deal with repeat offenders) while potentially increasing costs in our criminal justice system. I wouldn't mind if the victim has more say in certain parole hearings, but this is an example of trying to pass a series of laws on a population that really doesn't understand what its voting for. VOTE NO

Prop 10- ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLES AND RENEWABLE ENERGY.
-Another example of how some of it works well for me, while the rest doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I wouldn't have a problem with the state spending bond money to become the next-gen capital of alternative energy. Hell, the possible economic returns for California could be enormous. But to offer millions for rebates on cars? Feed a subsidy to consumers who are already changing their driving habits (ask Ford or GM) is idiotic and a waste of money. Plus, why give people money to buy automobiles when we want them to figure out a different method of transportation? Doesn't make sense. VOTE NO.

Prop 11- REDISTRICTING.
-With all due respect, pretty much any other form of drawing districts would be better than the gerrymandered methods currently in place. The only reason that you might be against this is because of the idea that elections have consequences, and that the ability to draw congressional districts is one of those consequences. I would agree except that I think the districts should be a much more accurate representation of the region, not some manipulated geographic entity that benefits the winner. Drawing districts should not be difficult. 650,000 in an area, period. Plus, the current state legislature can't find its own ass anyway, so taking responsibility from them is a good thing. VOTE YES.

Prop 12- VETERANS’ BOND ACT OF 2008
-This is a pretty small sum of money that is actually only used if the California Veterans program can't pay to help veterans for the purchase of homes and farms. Note, the California Veterans program has totally paid for itself in the past with no direct impact on taxpayers. I see no problem with getting veterans some support (they more than deserve it), helping the economy in the process, and having a little cushion if a program that has worked in the past falls a little short. VOTE YES.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blessed are those that witness a classic under the Friday Night Lights

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I was lucky enough to witness the single greatest high school football ever on this very night. 

It was between the Rancho Cotate Cougars and the Ukiah Wildcats, and it was an instant classic.  There was highlight after highlight, with elements of sportsmanship, athletic ability, and a monster work ethic sported by both teams. 

While we didn't come out of this one victorious, I felt honored just being able to stand on the sidelines and witness these kids in the healthy spirit of competition on this Friday night. 

Thanks guys!

Dude, where's my refund?

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Three weeks ago I filed for my $20 refund from the California Teacher's Association.  My wife filed within five minutes of me.  Yesterday my wife received her refund check from the CTA. 

I have yet to receive mine. 

Hmmmmm.............

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Conundrum

I haven't written for a week for two reasons.

One, I've been really busy. Imagine that from a teacher.

Reason number two has to due with the primary subject of this post. Around last Friday I experienced the scratchy throat. It was followed by the minor cough that became congestion by the middle of last week. By Wednesday the congestion had drifted into my chest and I was in a full blown coughing fit. Now a week has passed and I still have a deep chest cough, but the energy is better and I can function.

Every year teachers are exposed to the little nasty bugs that kids bring in with them from out in the nether-world. Teachers must have some of the greatest immune systems on the planet because we go through any number of virus and bacteria infections. Every year I run through two series of colds, one in October and one in the spring (which might be more allergy driven). I've been seriously sick a few times. My first year was a two day nasty flu bug, and my second year was a flu that turned into walking pneumonia. I was out for a week. Since then I get a 24 hour bug here and there, but I don't usually get too out of it. Which brings us to the conundrum.

When should the teacher not show for school due to illness?

Contrary to those idiots that seem to think teachers live to be out of school, absence of any kind is much harder work. Consider that I need to prepare a sub for three different preps, hope that I get a sub that has some semblance of ability to follow directions (most don't), and then clean up the damage when I get back. I've had one, maybe two subs that are worth anything since I've been at the high school. One still subs on occasion and the other became a full time teacher. Both managed to get things done, one doing over an entire week with Seniors......in May! However, there are times when the benefit of being at home outweighs the cost of educating the little tykes. When will I stay home? Simply, when I don't see myself as able to do my job effectively.

That means if I'm throwing up, I'm not going to school. I made the attempt during my second year that I was going to ignore my up-chucking ways and fight through it, only to end up puking my guts out 20 minutes before class with my colleague making fun of me to no end (good fun). I ended up going home anyway, worse for wear. But that's because I'm pretty much unable to perform my duties as teacher, almost anything else still qualifies me to go into classroom and give it a run.

Where do "mental health days" fit into that? Well, I don't really take mental health days because they end up not being relaxing at all. First you have to prepare for the day that you are gone and then fix all the garbage that occurs when you return. In all, the day becomes a bigger pain in the ass than it had intended to be. Add to that that by the time you have a few years under your belt, the need for mental health days should go away. You become more organized, use your prep more wisely, and become to understand that real teacher hours aren't necessarily contract hours. And that's ok.

So go away sickness go away, even though it will help build that immune system for another day.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Lost Kids of Willows

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I have a small piece of my history that resides in Willows, some of it good and some of it not so good.  It isn't that connection that makes me feel so sad about what has happened to that town over the last three years.  It isn't the fact that I'm a teacher that makes me feel like my heart drops through my stomach every time I hear about the tragedies that have befallen Willows, California.  It's just simple humanity that drives me to near tears when I think about the course of events that has impacted this little town about two hours east of Ukiah.

Those of us in Northern California have probably heard about the deaths of Stephen Furtado, and Jenny and Billy Carrigan.  Stephen and Jenny were murdered, and Billy was killed in a car accident while trying to drive back to the town of Chester, California upon hearing about the murders.  Stephen Furtado was a student at Willows High School.  What many don't know is that Willows has had a very tough few years with student deaths, tough enough to make even the strongest hearted break down and ask, "Why?".  

ESPN got a hold of the story and Michael Weinreb wrote an excellent article about trials of Willows High School during recent memory.  I recommend the article for two reasons.  First, it is an extremely well written article by the national media about a local town. 

Second, it makes you want to hug a kid and tell them that you care.

The Lost Kids of Willows

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Annual Homecoming Rant

Well, I just watched the final parade floats roll down Low Gap Road in the yearly ritual that is the last day of Homecoming. While I'm happy that the kids on the floats are happy, and it's nice to see the community come out in support of the high school, my thoughts are not in a place of tranquility and splendor. I'm more frustrated than ever.

This culminating event of Homecoming occurred on the same day that the Ukiah School Facts Sheet was put in our boxes. You know, the one that says that our school has only 34% of the graduates meet the UC/CSU course requirements (the county average is 67%). The one that says that only 13 out of every 100 Juniors and Seniors passed Advanced Placement exams last year (state average is 26 out of 100).

This culminating event of Homecoming occurred two days after Department meetings about pacing, trying to keep up with all the information required by STAR Testing. This while students completely lost all academic thought for the entire week to focus on Homecoming.

This culminating event of Homecoming occurred six weeks after we were notified about our academic performance results, and how we pretty much under-performed in most areas.

Yes, it was kind of tough to get excited about a weeks worth of distraction when the numbers show that you are not getting it done.

For those that are not familiar, Homecoming at Ukiah High School is one of the biggest events in the entire community. For an entire week, the different classes pull together and try to out do each other in a variety of categories. Included are a school skit, a float, a parade, a backdrop for the gym, a mural for the quad kiosk, a variety of rallies, students dressing in school/class colors, and overall spirit and participation. Each event is judged using Spirit Points, with the class gaining the most Spirit Points winning the coveted Spirit Bell. It is pretty much all encompassing. Here are the stages of Homecoming:

Stage One: Planning and Set up
-About a month before Homecoming week, a theme is announced for all the classes to follow. This year it is "musicals". Classes get together and choose a class color and musical that they will pattern Homecoming week after. In this case Seniors=Grease, Juniors=Wizard of Oz, Sophomores=Willy Wonka, and Freshman=Lion King. They also choose colors. In this case Seniors=Black, Juniors=Orange, Sophomores=White, Freshman=Yellow.
-For about two weeks before Homecoming week, students argue about ideas and some start showing up ragged to the first or second period of class. Making of the floats and prep for skits has already started. Some start missing first period all together during the week before, and others miss after-school extra-curriculars to help with Homecoming stuff. Teachers watch this happen and hold their breath while hoping for the best.

Stage Two: The Week
-Monday: The craziness actually starts around 5 a.m. when groups of students show up and cover the campus in posters and banners that represent their theme. By First Period, everyone shows up in class colors, immediately criticizing anyone not wearing same color. I wear khakis and a white dress shirt every day, which means that I'm supporting the Sophomores, I guess. The energy in the morning is totally unfocused as students discuss the weeks events. A lunch there is a rally, and student attendance drops after lunch like a rock. Another thing that you notice is that any students involved in student government or rally issues will miss half of the classes for the week. All are excused. Students end the evening by putting up backdrops in the gym until 10 p.m.
-Tuesday: Student show up around 5 a.m. again, this time to put up the mural on the kiosk. Students are ragged because they have been working on the float, skit, and mural during the evenings. During Second Period, there is a rally for the football game and to enhance school spirit (actually, it is pit the classes against one another to see whose louder). After the rally, the students crash and it is difficult at best keep them engaged in anything.
-Wednesday: No school day activities, but now the news reports come in that classes have started going after each other. One class toilet papers another's float. In response, the second class eggs the first classes float, which happens to hit parents working on the float and that's not good. Skit practice occurs tonight in the gym until 10 p.m.
-Thursday: Class colors again, but now we start seeing groups of students going from class to class yelling out class slogans. Seniors will park outside of Junior classes and chant "Seniors!", and in response the Juniors might make a conga line through a Senior classroom. There is another lunch time rally and again the post-lunch attendance goes South. You also have students getting irritated with teachers that are getting frustrated with the lack of attention in class, and discipline rises.
-Friday: Final day has class colors. Students that are running for Homecoming bring candy and treats to school to woo voters and classrooms become garbage dumps. Another rally during Second Period where the classes present their skits to an overflowing gym. Post rally students are completely gone. All the energy is out of them and many others skip class to prepare the float for the parade, hang with friends that have post skit rush, and prepare hair and make-up for the Homecoming Parade. Post-Lunch attendance is 40%, as most student go to the parking lot and line up to get on the floats. The parade takes off at 3:30, the game is at 8, and teachers are tired as hell.

Stage Three: The Aftermath
-Students will now miss a number of days next week from their immune system taking hits after staying up late and eating crap for the last two weeks.

I know, I sound like a complete killjoy. I'm really not. I like that the students have fun. I like that the community comes around the school and supports it. And I like that aspect of opportunity for student involvement. I think Homecoming is a cool idea, but it should not encompass weeks of school time, and totally distract an entire week of teaching. While the school should be the symbol of academic excellence in the community, it is instead a symbol of social interaction that comes with Homecoming. Homecoming, while touchy-feely and goal oriented, actually promotes the wrong message to students at this time in their academic careers; academics takes a back seat to the social priorities. What's worse, the community supports this (while then bashing the school when the academic numbers come out). While the support is great, the better support should be this energy going into STAR testing week, or into after-school programs for disadvantaged youth, or into making the school/community a better academic atmosphere.

Here are some amendments to Homecoming Week that I'd like to see:

1. Eliminate the skit altogether. It is time consuming, it interrupts all of Friday, and it involves a small element of the student population. It short, it serves no purpose at all.

2. Eliminate either the back drop or the kiosk mural. Both are totally redundant and simply take up time.

3. Eliminate class colors. These do nothing but pit kids against each other. Instead, have one day for each classes theme to dress up, with Friday being Purple and Gold Day. No animosity, serious creativity. Have costume contests be included in the Spirit Points.

4. End all 2nd Period rallies. Having pep rallies during classroom instruction time is beyond me. If you are going to have rallies, make them at the end of the day or after school. I understand the desire for inclusion, but those that don't want to go end up not going to the 2nd period rallies and feel more left out because it should be school time. Rallies should never be mandatory and never be during instruction.

5. Extend the attendance Spirit Point category for a full month before Homecoming. Make it worth more.

6. Add a Community Service category to Homecoming. Have judges, administration, and student leadership sit down and figure out a list of project that can be done to benefit the community, and then the classes can chose and complete a community service task. Points can be awarded for originality, importance to community, efficient usage of community resources, creating connections between the community and the high school, and next-gen enhancement of Ukiah ('Green Projects', technology use, application of global awareness). The potential is enormous. And no, money is not a limitation. I've seen the dollars spent on the current Homecoming situations, and the money is there.

In the end, it's the standard hypocrisy that I see in society that is being reflected in the current incarnation of Homecoming, and that is the general frustration. I love seeing the kids happy and excited, but the message is wrong and in the end, teachers will be the one's taking the brunt end of test results and media throw-downs. I would love to explore merit pay, but I have serious reservations with my performance being judged if the atmosphere is not working to be more conducive to academics.

So for next year, how about we ditch the idea of a "better" Homecoming, and look towards a more "productive" one.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Surprise. KIPP suffers from the same problems as everyone else.

I've been interested in the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) model of schools for a few years now, actually since reading Joanne Jacobs (link right) book Our School, which has a philosophy much like KIPP schools.  I liked the book overall, although I had problems with the image it generalized with regards to public school teachers.  KIPP has long been the darling of various media outlets and charter advocates because it manages to get students with low socio-economic status to score very well on standardized tests at the primary grade levels, and the program helps motivate kids towards a college prep environment.  What those same advocates don't like to admit is that the KIPP program suffers from the same problems as public schools; secondary school student achievement, discipline, and teacher retention.  A study was released recently that evaluated the KIPP program and came up with some very interesting results.

1.  5th and 6th grade KIPP kids are doing much better than public schools on the tests.  In fact, statistics show that up to 40% higher scores were received at KIPP, proof that this is a serious improvement that should be looked at by other institutions.

2.  Student attrition before the end of 8th grade is an incredible 60%.  This answers quite a few questions regarding whether the mighty KIPP can all of the sudden hold sway over the elephant that is the Great American Teenager.  It also explains some of the secondary test results, which may be inflated because some of the lower level students are gone by high school.

3.  Teachers are usually from high end colleges.  Personally, I find little difference from a teacher that has a degree from Stanford versus someone that has a degree from Sacramento State.  Subject matter competency only goes so far when dealing with high school students and learning the in's and out's of a classroom isn't something that any college will prepare you for.

4.  Teachers are leaving KIPP.  Up to 50% of all teachers leave KIPP for some other function.  Teachers also report an average 65 hour work week.  Welcome to the profession.  I spend about 45 hours a week actually in my classroom, and that doesn't include basketball, Model UN, or grading papers evenings and weekends.  I would agree with 65 being the regular hours.  During basketball season, I pull way more than 65. 

5.  KIPP schools are struggling to operate at current funding levels.  That's interesting because when public schools state that they are struggling, it's called whining.

6.  KIPP students go to school 9.5 hours a day.  Public school students aren't forced to attend classes above the required credits, and parents often don't want them to.  Students, especially high school level, are encouraged to get a job when they are of age.  Most Seniors don't attend school more than 4 hours at Ukiah because they don't feel that they need to when they are finished with credits.

The teacher retention piece is what is fascinating to me because when you read the report, you find that the young teachers who are quitting are simply saying that the workload is much too demanding to take on year after year.   

The time is really challenging. I am coming up against a wall of how much I can give. It is getting
to be too much. This is not a place I plan to leave anytime soon. I just need to find a way to
balance my life. I definitely plan to see it through as far as possible. It is dear to me. I just need to
figure out how to make it work.

That comment comes from a teacher in the report.  It is not something that is unfamiliar to me.  I've heard this from young teachers everywhere that feel like they are giving up their lives to a profession that won't allow them to live otherwise.  And while I think higher pay is part of the answer (simple economic reasoning), the real issue is more along the lines of "is MORE teaching actually EFFECTIVE teaching".  The study showed that teachers at both KIPP and public schools spend the same amount of time in classroom instruction, but that KIPP teachers end up doing more outside of that instruction environment.  Yes, test scores for some grade levels is up.  But is it really working?  Teachers and students are leaving in substantial numbers.  Is that necessarily success?

Hopefully society wakes up sometime and realizes that it needs to work on the whole system of education, not just create a "different" model that does some things better, yet fails in other areas and disregards some of the essential issues within the problem.  Why not work on making education better for everyone?  Simply shifting valuable education funds to something else is definitely not working.  You know what does work?  Good academic institutions that have good leadership from the top down, regardless of whether or not they are charter or public.  I've been watching Michelle Rhee's reorganization of the Washington D.C. schools with interest, and I see it as a prime example of someone who is coming in, making the tough decisions and actually working towards creating a fine academic institution.  When the teacher's union comes in-between the implementation of progress, she ends up making them a professional offer that any good teacher couldn't refuse and puts the pressure on the union to concede, or decides that accountability is necessary and starts to clean house.  Oh look, a competent administrator who wants to pay teachers a lot of money, kick out teachers that suck, and expects that with that money comes actual education.  Looks real nice to me. 

And it isn't even a charter school.              

Calm down already

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It is sad that around Campaign season, the American people all of the sudden go into partisan brain-dead mode. 

While we are in the midst of a very important election, one that will determine which direction the country will choose going into the meat of the 21st Century, people are using the time to make idiot observations and insane innuendos that really have nothing to do with leading the strongest nation on the planet.  I see less and less real discussion on how to attack the issues that matter (real economics, the war, national security, education, health care), and more focus on moronic hyperbole that makes the world image of the American voter drive all other global citizens straight into the arms of their local dictator, socialist dreamer, or any other scheming politician. 

Is Obama too black?  Is McCain too old?  Is Obama a Muslim?  Is McCain a Christian fundamentalist?  Is Biden a degenerate mob-corrupt lackey?  Is Palin plain stupid?  Can Obama say "Change" one more time so my ears bleed?  Can Palin see anything other than Russia from her house?  Does Obama know anything about foreign policy?  Does McCain know anything about Economics?  Will Barack Obama create a socialist police state bent on ending our Constitutional freedoms?  Will John McCain create a fascist police state bent on ending our Constitutional freedoms?

Christ, do we really sound this stupid?    Unfortunately yes.  And worse, we haven't become educated enough to know when both sides spur it on.  Yes, Obama can handle major foreign policy decisions.  Not only will he be well informed, he's going to have some very good military minds to help him out.  Same with McCain.  The senior Senator from Arizona knows plenty about Economics, both in experience (head of the Commerce Committee many times) and in people that will be advising him. 

We are more partisan now than in any time in our nation's history.  Do our established democracy a favor and don't play into the partisanship.  Regardless of what you might think, the world will not end if either McCain or Obama becomes president.  Both put a good face on the office of the Leader of the Free World, and both would do a better job than the current occupant.  Don't be a prejudicial fool by calling McCain voters ignorant religious zealots that care only about pulling the country downward.  And don't be paranoid moron by watching kids sing about Obama and thinking that the children will the next SS in the Obama Socialist Army.  Use your brain and help the country.

And you can start by reading about the Biden-Palin debate

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

God, I Hate Formal Lesson Planning

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I'm sitting here right now making a formal lesson plan for the Teaching American History Project, and I'm being reminded why I hate making these damn things.  The actual lesson plan asks for so much hoop jumping crap that a teacher that is excited by an idea eventually becomes totally exhausted by writing down pages of information that is just not necessary.  Good teaching is good teaching.  Writing down every single English Language Learner instruction model is not necessary.  It provides nothing to making the lesson plan actually work.  Neither does writing down every single Social Studies Standard, Language Arts Standard, or any other government mandated crap that does no good to teaching the lesson. 

Those rookie teachers that start from the Day One need to know that in the beginning, having all your own instructions for the lesson (the actual application of the lesson) is the most important thing.  It helps give you a point of reference and a sense of direction when you begin to teach your class.  The rest is "standards and practices" telling you that they need evidence that you know what you are teaching.  For now, start with details for the content part of your lesson.  Eventually you will find that you don't need it and everything will flow.  For instance, I haven't had a formal lesson plan in about 6 years, but I still plan my ass off for the semester because it makes my teaching better.  However, writing down every standard known to man does nothing for my teaching except make me wish I wasn't doing it.   Seriously, if teachers had to make daily formal lesson plans, I probably wouldn't be here.  There comes a time when the cost of making them outweighs any benefit they give.  Credential program instructors should know that. 

Ok, back to it.  Let me read through those Language Arts standards...........