Friday, June 29, 2012

Google takes creativity out back and shoots it, Old Yeller style

I’ve reflected about Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) before.  The teaching strategy takes a collection of good teaching practices and scripts them to the point of blandness.  The teacher is coached in this method by a “mentor” who will stand in the room and regularly interrupt the teacher when he/she is off-script, leaving the teacher annoyed, the kids amused, and the lesson a totally canned experience.  The creativity is gone, the critical thinking is gone, the relevancy to the lesson is gone, the dynamic teaching is gone.  What you have left is a bunch of programmed classrooms where the least common denominator will regurgitate information, do better on tests, and then reflect on how school was a miserable experience because all they did was prepare for a test that meant nothing to them.  Other students will simply check out because they can’t connect the information to anything relevant except for a test, and higher thinking (and those that aspire to higher thinking) students don’t play that.

Many teachers will say that EDI is the fad-de-jour.  It is the new curriculum style that will raise test scores because it depends on good teaching practices that are scripted by professionals with tons and tons of research.  Apparently this has been said a variety of times across the teaching profession throughout history.  Well, if there was one company interested in canned learning, what would it be?  Hmmmmm……

Dine Equity!  Oh, wait a minute.  Not really.  Yes, the company that owns IHOP and Applebees takes really good food ideas (French Toast, Ribs, Fine Well Drinks) and turns them into bland shit.  But while they sound like perfect companions to EDI, alas they are not meant to be.  Who is the winner?


Of course!  Why didn’t I think of that?  After all the creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin grew up with a Montessori education so why wouldn’t they love the ideas behind Explicit Direct Instruction?  Why indeed?  Why would Google pony up a $1 million to something that stops creativity at the front door of because the the creator, DataWorks, says that the script isn’t being followed?  

According to Google spokesman Jordan Newman, his company is especially appreciative of the EDI program's goal of teaching in the most efficient manner possible and the methodical nature through which the method achieves that goal.

"That kind of attention to detail is something that you see in Google's culture," Newman said. "I think the way that they (DataWORKS and MVWSD) have approached all of this is very very Google-y."

This really is a “what-in-the-hell-is-he-talking-about” moment.

Wasn’t it Google that came up with the 20% time to foster innovation?  Isn’t Google the company that gives massive amount of freedom to its employees in return for a strong work ethic, creative results, and high standards?  Funny, but I see EDI as the antithesis of Google.  I see the Google method as the spice and flavor of the great dishes of creativity.  I see EDI as Denis Leary taking all my favorite meals and putting them in a blender and demanding that you suck the masterpiece through a straw.  It just doesn’t sit well regardless of what it contains.

So I wonder what Google is doing.  Maybe it needs a stronger tax write-off.  Maybe some good P.R. is in order since Android is regularly getting its ass kicked by Apple products.  Or maybe this is another example of why you don’t let the private sector decide what is in the public’s best interest.  It doesn’t always work out with a rational thought.

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Four: Analyzing the data; 2012 edition

So what does all the data show me?

-First thing I notice is that student like a certain amount of Direct Instruction, and that’s I something I’m constantly trying to tell advocates of total “flip” classes and completely problem-based classrooms.  It’s not about one way being better than the other.  My kids seem to like simple power points and enthusiastic presentations mixed with hands-on simulations and critical thinking activities.  Notice that many of the comments referred to the positive aspects of explaining things.  Direct instruction done the right way reinforces things that you may have done during simulations but don’t really understand.  Teachers love to revel in the diversity of the classroom, only that the diversity also comes with problems.  My “college prep” Gov/Econ classes have students that will go to U.C. Berkeley and students that have trouble writing a single sentence all in the same room.  Even the most well-guided problem-based simulation will need some direct reinforcement. 

-Make-up work and quizzes ended up creating a massive load on me this year.  So many excused absences allowed piles and piles of work to get loaded up in my boxes and distorted grades because they didn’t get calculated in until later.  Since we are required to allowed every excused absence a chance to make-up work, it creates a massive time sink to have to late grade a bunch of 18 year old’s work because they didn’t feel like coming to class.  And most of that work is shit.  Any advice?

-I’ll say it again; “more homework and less quizzes” is an attempted bail out of having ownership of the information.  Some kids want “busy work” to inflate grades.  A few kids even asked for simple work sheets and fully admitted that it was just busy work to bump up the grade.  Don’t expect me to give in.

-Note to parents; your kid is still responsible for the information whether they go to visit colleges, go out of the country, go on a cruise, or get lost in the forest in Oregon searching for yeti.  Plan accordingly.

-This felt like a tougher year than it actually was.  I honestly thought that these reviews were going to be fairly poor, full of irritation that my standards were too high and that I unfair in holding the kids accountable for their actions.  After all, this was the year of mediocrity; I had less A’s than ever, and only one student failed the course, also the least ever.  But maybe my frustration came with watching the students be ok with being average.  Students admitted to Senioritis and reveled in it, with the top of the class being perfectly happy being average once the university acceptance letter arrived.  Not a whole lot I can do about this one except keep kids engaged.  Senoritis is just becoming part of an accepted culture at this point; from the parents on down.

I’ll be teaching the same classes yet again next year and I love it.  I’m already getting the ideas down for next year, number 12.      

Louis Woodhill would rather you be stupid and bow to Steve Forbes

This is Louis Woodhill, columnist for Forbes magazine and a man that has nothing on his mind except gumming the theory of economics to death by espousing the inefficiency of public education.  You might think that this guy is Donald Trump or Carlos Slim wealthy.  Nope.  He’s a successful software engineer that has decided that employing a group of people to develop things that will eventually become Internet porn and time wasting dribble for his employees must be pre-requisite enough to comment on the overall state of public education.  So he wrote an article called an article called Solyndras in the Classroom.  What’s the main idea of the article?

“America has gotten nothing for the enormous increase in educational “investment” that we have made over the past 60 years…..instead of being given a 2009 education for $158,717 (Woodhill’s estimation for a lifetime of education investment on one student by the government), an average student were given a 1967-style education for about $58,000, and $100,000 in capital with which to start his working life.  

At this point most people adjust Mr. Woodhill’s drool cup and remind him that the nice bus to the local dog track will be along shortly.  I mean, at the very least I guess you pat him on the head and smile a lot.  The article is so damn stupid that you almost feel sorry for the guy. 

Now, I’ll fully admit that I’m very against the government waste that is pervasive in everything, including Education.  But to say that government’s investment in education has brought nothing for 60 years is just idiotic.  Never mind the evidence of American economic power that has been connected to education; the development of a middle class to the screaming creative innovation that has come out of educated (yes, publically educated) people.  How about some tremendous social accomplishments brought about that have increased the cost of education.  Things like the excitement of the Space Race, the Civil Rights Act, the increase of women into higher education, and mainstreaming of special education students in an attempt to get them to be productive members of society.  But no, Woodhill wants to give every four year old an abacus and $100,000 to blow on a car and PS3 games in some idiotic argument that the world is full of the entrepreneurial spirit.  Never mind that 80% of those with the entrepreneurial spirit fail.  Call me crazy but I think that the investments in education have had much better opportunities for return. 

And Louis’ lame argument that there hasn’t been an increase in productive physical capital over the course of sixty years is pretty much like saying that all other variables in the ocean of the argument doesn’t matter.  No other time in human history has a society been more productive with less.  In fact it is the phenomenal pace of that productivity that has lead to this structural unemployment issue that we are dealing with.  Woodhill’s refusal to acknowledge this makes it look like he was bored one day and decided to just pop public education while hopefully throwing in a questionable statistic just to sound credible. 

Hey!  Let’s just take a little glance at the following statistic and see the complete unimportance of a public education.

Well it looks like someone is putting a value on education because clearly being educated seems to matter in the eyes of employers.  And since most of those people will have gone through the public education system, I would say the investment seems to be working.  And now Louis Woodhill can move on and make sure the dust is off Steve Forbes loafers.     

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

God Bless the Republican Party of Texas

See, and this is about where my status of a Republican and the Texas idea of a Republican might diverge just a wee bit.  Take a look at a party platform point from the Texas Republican Party.

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about a party platform that expresses the desire for stupidity.  I’m still trying to figure out how critical thinking impacts parental authority, and how students are supposed to maintain certain fixed beliefs throughout the entirety of their childhood.  While most of the world is trying to promote a much more intelligent species of human, Texas is trying to stuff as many people in the Delorean as possible and bring it, along with Marty McFly, to 1955.  God knows the world needs more McCarthyism, more subservient women, and more lame denials that everyone drank, listened to rock n’ roll, and hid the first Playboys under their beds.

Obviously the Doc wasn’t from Texas either because the car isn’t a Ford or Chevy, or a pick-up for that matter, and the ability to create the flux capacitor wouldn’t happen from a Texas student because those students would just say “yes sir” and “no sir” while trying to be the starting quarterback on the local football team and avoiding the pretty girl in the whip cream bikini who was trying to seduce them.

Don’t bitch at me about Texas stereotypes.  The Texas Republican Party might need the brunt of your anger.         

California spending on students is worse than Wyoming, meaning it sucks.

You gotta love people that speak against spending on pubic education.  I get the whole spending “inefficiency's” that need to be fixed; firing of bad teachers, better decision making, school regulatory reform.  But when people argue against spending on education in the eighth largest economy on the planet, they come off sounding like Ishmael in Kingpin; a complete idiot who lives in ignorance because he’s secluded himself from society.  People that don’t like spending on public education are those idiots; burying their heads in the sand mumbling about how they would much rather be getting tax breaks from the government than helping a build a ramp so a student in a wheelchair can reach a classroom. 

And before those people complain that we spend too much on kids, this statistic:

California ranks 35th in per-pupil spending, more than $1,200 per year under the national average.

Furthermore, the Census Bureau report said, California ranks even lower - 42nd - in school spending vis-à-vis personal income.

That’s an embarrassing number.  One of the primary economic drivers of the world spends about the same amount on education as Thailand.  California should be golden.  California should be the model for what an educational system should be like; in per-pupil-spending, in teaching professionalism, and in creating masterful institutions.  Instead California looks like a state full of Greeks, pissed off that choices have to be made and irritated that everyone but ourselves are making poor ones.  

Also note that the only two categories where spending went up in California was support staff and school administration.  For those that are wondering, the school administration piece is not school site related in many instances.  Schools are cutting to the bone and it seems like district offices are hiring more and more people.  Or maybe that’s only in my district, where counselors are dealing with 500 to 1 student ratios while the district office continues to hire “consultants”.  I’m not totally sure what constitutes “support staff”.  However if it is classified staff that deals with Special Education and campus security I have no problem spending more money on that.  By the way, neither do you.  Unless you like crime ridden institutions and kids with special needs being totally left behind.   

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Three: What were things that Mr. Silva-Brown did well? 2012 edition

Next, all the things, word for word, that the students thought that I did well.

-Organization, consistency, and humor.

-Lessons and teachings made us understand topics with powerpoints, books, and quizzes.

-Slide notes and explaining terms and examples that we can understand.

-You are hilarious.  You have personality while you teach.

-Slideshows for notes and holding activities in class, along with the weird faces.

-Taught and explained well.

-Always in a good mood, or at least faked like it.  Always able to reiterate a definition or assignment for a students.  All around great teacher.

-Didn’t hold back when it came to explaining things to people.  Very direct.

-All in all really good. I can leave this school saying that I did learn things in Government and Economics.

-The way you spoke. People listened to your explanations.

-Lectures and power points.

-The way you made class interesting with visuals and videos.

-Explained things in full detail.  You are a human book.  You know so much.

-Really good teacher.

-Yelling.  Waving and swinging a stick around the classroom. Teaching the class as a whole.  Power points.

-Using clips to gain/help extra attention at the beginning of the period.  Yelling.

-Teaching, fun activities, advice, jokes, drawings, impersonations, yelling.

-Killed unicorns, argued, taught well. (The unicorns represent fluffy writing.  At the beginning of APUSH I take a wooden sword and beat down a stuffed unicorn to show that bright, fluffy, rainbow, “feelings” writing is abhorred in the class, as we focus on more structured, thesis driven work.  The kids love it.  One student bought me a unicorn for my birthday.  I named it Slaughter.)

-Really gave us the chance to be ourselves and everything was good.

-Getting the material to us in an easy way to understand.  Short and sweet.

-Constantly kept the class engaged by teaching at a breakneck pace while slowing down when needed. Funny as hell.

-Straight to the point but fun and interesting.

-Jeopardy before the tests.

-Jeopardy test reviews, remaining neutral in the class despite his opinions as evident on his blog. 

-Covered all the material, gave good notes, and I like how you taught overall.


-Taught well and put more learning tools online so we could access it.

-Taught us well, made us laugh, and cared.

-Prepped for power points, notes, graphs, the news, and projects.

-Good on presentation on teaching the subjects.

-Power points and notes.

-Interacting well with the class while keeping the class going.  Activities were most helpful.

-Teaching and comebacks

-Slide show notes explained things well.

-Kept us interested with weird things like Elmo and Barbie. (I use Elmo to talk about the concept of Scarcity, and Barbie when dealing with Opportunity Cost.)

-Not keeping up with Edmodo.  But seriously I will miss this class next year.

-Power Points

-Made sure everyone understood the material by answering questions.

-Make fun of students while playing with children’s toys and explaining slide shows.

-Yelling.  Also good at his methods of explaining concepts, then putting them to use by assigning little projects. Good sense of humor.

-You taught the class very well. Enjoyed your method of teaching. I really liked how we watched the news every day.

-The power points are great for notes.  You seem to understand that not all the students will understand at the same time.  And the news.

-Very good power points, action figures were interesting, news, jeopardy, what was on the test was on the notes.

-Power points.  Hands on activities kept class engaged.

-Lectures.  Never took a political side.

-Presenting information in an easy to understand manner.

-Class was engaging and videos were fun.

-Answer questions.

-Made it fun to learn with yelling.

-Balance between joking and classwork was nice. Assignments were challenging but acceptable.

-Always had a plan.  Very good lecturer.  Knows how to turn something boring into something interesting.  Fun projects and not useless homework. Chances to study and improve.

-Got our attention and the class entertaining and weren’t too harsh.

-Power points, yelling, explaining, class activities, making fun of people, learning in here was fun, never wanted to miss because I actually learn in here.

-Nice notes, kept class in line, well prepared.

-Explained, give examples, help us understand.

-Giving examples.

-Liked the power points to teach lessons, group work to understand concepts, liked the news daily.

-Incorporated humor helped a lot.

-Watched news every day and always explained politics without bias, unlike virtually every teacher here.


-Multiple ways to get your work done.  Edmodo, daily chart thingy.

-Organized power points.  Explaining things.

-Lecturing, being  loud, and teaching.

-Almost nothing except make us mad and fight with one another. But you did teach us a lot of productive stuff.

-Teach and explain the material.

-Appreciated how understanding you were under certain circumstances. Power points made for good notes.  Essentially you taught me how to study effectively, rather you were the catalyst for forcing me to do so.

-Prepping for AP test and threatening students.

-Felt extremely prepared for AP.

-Keep class attention, used good examples, added humor, and kept opinions to himself.

-Kept me interested.

-Power points helped a lot.  It was a lot of notes but in the end they helped on the test.

-Power points and hands-on activities.

-Power points and talking about the notes in depth.  Helping students understand new concepts.  Answering questions to the point to where students understand.

-Making power points for notes that are easy to understand.

-Giving different examples in history and discussing what’s going on now.

-Confuse me.

-Notes were to the point

-Were organized and explained things until they stuck.

-If you didn’t understand a question, Brown would explain as many ways as he could until you understand.

-Power points, scaring children yelling, explaining things.

-Had the class laughing a lot.  Did a good job talking and presenting notes.

-Did a good job explaining things in ways and situations that helped me understand better.

-Notes and class involvement

-Involved the whole class.  Made sure everyone kept up with quizzes.

-Straightforward and clear with rules and expectations.  Good at answering questions.

-Teaching.  Seems pretty dedicated to his job.

-The project where we created our own government. You made activities fun.  Had enthusiasm.

-Taught well and kept us interested.

-Examples and helping understand.

-Answering questions even when they seemed unimportant.

-Win arguments.

-Teaching style, easy to understand, somewhat laid back

-Answered all my questions and kept class interesting.

-Teaching, lecturing, arguing, yelling.

-Kept class engaged.

-Keeping class interesting, taking in class things that were happening in the world at the time, having interesting conversations.

-Showed visuals.

-Inserted great videos and great rap.  Informative power points.

-Explaining loud and clear

-Good at getting information across.  Well organized and good slideshows.

-Making class more fun.


-News and Jeopardy

-Activities in Econ were very helpful.  Liked the Comp Gov debates.

-Notes and presentations on each chapter were cool.  Able to make boring things interesting by joking around.

-Power points, explanations, notes and study guides, Frq practice, review.

-I liked your teaching method and I liked those things the class got involved with (Jeopardy, socratic dialogue, court things)

-Talking loudly

-Appreciated the straightforward lectures and Edmodo.

-Well organized, on point.  Occasional fun projects.

-Supply and Demand charts, not sucking up to students that want to do everything late.

-Liked power points and explanations.

-Explained things well if people had questions.

-Answered questions well.  New what he was talking about.

-Explained and constructed power points.

-Explained everything.

-Explaining difficult concepts in watered-down ways.

-Videos……that’s it.

-Engaged the class and allowed discussion.  Acknowledged and appreciated good understanding of important concepts.  Used humor.

-Lectures were fun.  Per-se courts were a fun idea that tested knowledge.

-Teaching and making it interesting.

-Made things interesting to learn with activities and simulations.

-Answered questions well and made sure that the student understood before you moved on.

-Connect with us.  Engaged the class.

-Presented information well.  Taught real stuff, not useless crap.  Jeopardy.

-Power points, important readings, explanations.

-Organization and AP Prep

-Tried to keep students entertained.

-Well organized, kept us interested, activities were fun, good projects.

-Be politically correct

-Great public speaker.

-Power points, lots of FRQ practices, lots of info online, mostly organized, nice.

-Dressed nicely, great sense of humor, gave good understanding of Economics.

And there you have it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Two: “What recommendations would you give Mr. Silva-Brown”, 2012 edition

Here are all my recommendations, live and uncut, from my students. I'm leaving none out, however some students did not fill out every category, which is why the numbers will not be the same. My comments are in italics.

-Explain Politica more or not do it at all. (Politica was a world that revolved around an international relations simulation that I did for my AP Comp Gov students after the AP test.  They were totally engaged but as with every complex simulation, it can be rough the first time through.  This will be better next year.)

-Don’t be such a hard ass on quizzes.

-Give the class a better understanding of Comp Gov. Instead of a quiz a chapter, give quizzes on sections and more time to prepare. (An AP Senior should easily do 10 pages in two days and be ready for a quiz.  Enjoy college.)

-Don’t punish people for travelling.  (So here’s the deal, I don’t care if students travel.  However, and this includes Advanced Placement, you are responsible for all work that you miss when you leave.  The information is in the text, online, and available from friends.  If you don’t know the work, that is your issue.  E-mail questions to me.  Ask.  By the way, students that go away for trips do e-mail me asking questions or clarifying information.  That’s why they are good students.)

-Treat next year’s class better.

-Compare quizzes to the notes or homework you gave us.

-None.  Keep doing what you are doing.

-Cut down on Power Points.

-Don’t only get news from PBS.  Get online providers like RT for example.  And Senior year is tough.  Cut us some slack every once in awhile. (This eval was quite hilarious. It insisted that all my media was bias, that students and teachers are complete equals, that Senioritis had priority over academics, and that 9/11 was a conspiracy.  It was also the first time a student actually said “Fuck You” in their eval to me.  However only a couple of  lines higher in the eval it says “you are good at teaching”.)

-Be nice please.  I understand that it is not in your personality but just try. 

-Be more organized and give back tests and projects promptly.  (I’m deservedly going to catch hell from my APUSH class because I was nearly as prompt as I should have been in handing back FRQ’s later in the semester.)

-Learn to iron.

-Get a new haircut.

-Frame the “Serious Silva-Brown’s” photo. (Three students took a “Senior Friends/Siblings” picture for the yearbook known as the Serious Silva-Brown’s.  The three are supposedly my children, with glasses and all, topped with a very concentrated glare.  It is classic and it is in the yearbook.)

-You seem discouraging of liberals and environmentalists.  If those are your views, hide them better. (This makes me happy.  I’ve been called a hater of every political persuasion this year and it works out so well.  Since I’m a teacher I must be a liberal, except that I wear a tie so I must be a conservative, except that I play both sides so I must be an equal opportunity offender.  By the way, I’m an economist, and therefore the ultimate environmentalist.)

-Teach before quizzes for better understanding.

-make it more accessible for students to find out what they missed.

-Avoid trying to be funny.

-Organize the class so there is less cramming before the AP test. (Tell me about it.)

-The stick is too long.

-The quizzes have unnecessary questions.

-Learn when to lay off.

-Be more lenient and learn to spell.

-Work with us more individually.

-Study guides for tests.

-Don’t be so harsh with tardies.

-Don’t wear yellow.

-Be more lenient and allow students to re-take tests.

-Grow a soul.  Just kidding.

-Don’t be vague and spread out the reading.

-Talk about real countries instead of Politica.

-Start Politica earlier.  It would have been more fun if it weren’t rushed.

-Give a brief overview of what will be on quizzes and focus on outside reading.  The book is outdated.

-Return stuff in a more timely manner.

-Do more activities.

-Go over the chapter before you do quizzes.

-Be a tad bit nicer.

-Give back tests faster and make the quizzes easier.

-More organized.

-Get stuff up on time all the time.

-Don’t be so specific on homework assignments.  People got zeros on assignments because they didn’t type them.  At least give partial credit for doing the work. (This is the kind of bogus attitude that seems to be permeating our society.  I did it wrong so I should get partial credit for ignoring the basic instruction “I will not accept it if it isn’t typed.”  How about following instructions.)

-Don’t make it so hard.

-No idea.

-Less talking.

-Cut down on intense humor.

-More Jeopardy, especially before Finals. 

-More group activities.

-Do better at entering grades.  Just because it is late doesn’t mean you don’t enter them in a timely fashion.

-More homework in Economics.


-Nothing.  You’re perfect.

-Less lecture.

-Don’t cram before AP test.

-Don’t take everything so seriously.  Explore the universe.


-Don’t say that everything is on Edmodo because that is a lie.

-Stop wearing see-through shirts.

-Explain certain things better.

-Have more group projects and discussions.  It makes it easier for an overall, better understanding.

-On projects show more examples on how it can be done.

-Be more understanding to students that try.

-Easier quizzes and more hands-on activities.

-Be stricter with people who don’t pay attention or distract other students.

-All your shirts are cool except the yellow shirt.

-Keep doing what you are doing.

-Give your opinion.

-To much writing notes.

-Go over things on the quiz right before we take the quiz.

-Extend the amount of time needed to complete projects. 

-Loosen up.

-Count the ballots.

-Don’t give really long power points.  The get really boring after awhile.

-Advise students on how you think we will do on the AP exam.

-Looking good

-Give FRQ’s back quicker and give more comments.

-Try being nicer.

-First time you assign a Prezi, give us an extra day to figure out how to use it. 

-If you require that something needs to be typed, remind us that we might lose points.

-Decorate your room.  It’s looks so 90’s.

-Less projects and more lecture.

-More “one question” quizzes that seem to better prove we know each section.

-Be more angelic.

-More group projects and presentations.

-Give more homework.

-Explain the last part of Economics better and show more examples.

-We need to know about quizzes a week ahead of time. 

-Have more cats on the board.

-More time for projects and remind us more about homework.


-Be more lenient with make-up quiz and missing homework policy.  Don’t be such a hard ass if we simply forget.

-Be nicer sometimes.  You can be a little scary.

-Be easier and more accepting of general answers on tests/quizzes.

-More large review sections.

-I’m in no position to give advice.

-Less confusing questions on quizzes.


-I really have no suggestions except yellow, see-through shirts.  Great teacher with a refreshing way to get material across.

-More homework and less quizzes.

-More homework because it was hard to keep up with quizzes and classwork.

-Not a lot.  Maybe just a little more time on projects.

-Stop yelling.

-Make sure students pay attention.

-Have a plan B in case plan A fails because of technology.

-Do the daily news on the computer because the VCR sound and visual sucked.

-Count the freaking ballots.

-Send more people out.  They should get one warning and then they are gone.

-Don’t mess with my cooking skills.

-More homework and worksheets to complete, not just information and notes.

-Count the ballots.

-Get more ties.

-Slow down on the Power Points so students can write things down.

-Don’t talk so loud and don’t stare down students.  You get intimidating.

-More extra credit.

-Iron your shirts.

-Ease up on accents and stupid jokes.

-Do something other than Jeopardy to study for a test.

-Smile more.  Compliment more students on their work. 

-Nope, but I want a waffle party in class.

-Give more days to make-up a test.

-Get work back to students faster and make students that have not seen Star Wars watch it.

-Loved the class and can’t think of anything.

-More class discussions and less projects.  Require notes and make students turn them in.

-Make it required to take notes.  Students will do better in class if they have notes about the reading.

-Teach Economics first, then Government.

-Focus more on the news.  It is great insight.

-Not much.  More homework would be nice, maybe an extra minute for quizzes.

-Get the elbow in on your jumper.

-Honestly, be more strict with your students.

-More homework and less quizzes.

-More colorful shirts.

-Don’t take points off when we shoot paper balls at the garbage can.


-Nothing really.

-Let students eat in class.

-Count the ballots.

And there you have it.

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part One: “Ratings Game”, 2012 edition

I present to you, part one of a four part series that looks at the "graded" Mr. Silva-Brown. At the end of each year I give out a report card with questions about my performance during the year.

The questions are:

-One a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), rate Mr. Silva-Brown's teaching this semester.

-Was I well organized?

-Did you understand what was going on?

-Do you think I have improved since September?

-Did you feel safe?

-Were students treated equally with respect?

-Describe your overall experience in the class

-What did I do well?

-What recommendations can you give Mr. Silva-Brown?

-Give one piece of advice for next years students.

Today, I'll give you the numbers rating. The rating is first, followed by how many students rated me at that level.  .

Here are the results:

Ten- 24  

Nine- 43 

Eight- 44

Seven- 20

Six- 1

Five- 3  

One- 1  

My average is an 8.5, a straight B. Here are the contrasts from past years.

2005-06: 8.3

2006-07: 8.9

2007-08: 8.3

2008-09: 8.7

2009-10: 8.2

2010-2011: 8.5

The only 1 hardly had anything on it.  I can’t really tell what the issues are if the student decides to only put the score and no feedback.  The three fives were interesting.  One form stated that the student felt punished for traveling and that the grade reflected that statement.  One form stated that I should have taken sides on political debates to counter-balance “ignorant questions” for a more complete understanding of issues, and one form complained that I wasn’t more clear on the student’s current grade throughout the semester (even if the information was constantly online).  I’ll address these issues later on.   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Done grading and outta here

Well the silence in the Kansas City Convention Center has been broken.  No more shuffling of papers, marking of scantrons, and wearing out the carpet moving back and forth between the table and the essay boxes.  About 125 of us graded around 18,000 Free Response Questions.  We figured that each of us at our table graded over 2,000 writings about one question.  I’m done grading.  No seriously, I am really done grading. 

How about a KC AP 2012 recap.

-Last year it was swag.  This year the buzz word on the FRQ tests was YOLO, otherwise known as You Only Live Once.  It was used much less frequently as last year’s but still had a prominent showing.  I didn’t receive nearly as many love stories this year, but did read many students who basically said that they didn’t care enough about the tests because they had already been accepted to universities.  I read quite a few of those.  Art work was also prevalent this year, although at a level that was very disappointing.  Not much to admire.  The really tough ones to read were those that blatantly said that the teacher did very little in class.  We aren’t talking about the usual complaints about how hard the class was, we are talking about students that were really pissed that the teacher didn’t address content, talked about old college stories, or generally didn’t come out from behind his or her desk.  Our table was quite annoyed at those booklets.     

-Once again I saw the interesting split between college graduate students/adjunct professors, and high school teachers.  There is a youthful optimism that is still apparent to a thirty-something that is still in college, and also an interesting trepidation about what they can do with their high-end degrees.  Most all want to teach at a university, something that at the current time is not looking well in a climate of slash and burn to higher education.  I also heard some very interesting academic elitism; holders of PhD’s that insisted that they would only teach at very reputable schools.  Um, how about the institution that pays you.  That would be good.

-My table was awesome.  Once again it was a real collaborative experience where we were able to discuss answers at a deeper level with colleagues that saw different angles and interpretations.  Out of the seven of us, five were high school teachers and the rest dealt in college.  Some were from schools overseas.  All were people I would love to work with again. 

-I went to a Royals game at Kauffman Stadium in the suburbs of Kansas City.  The stadium is really nice. No, it is not AT&T Park in the scope and beauty.  But what is?  It park looks like a modern place to watch a ball game while maintaining an intimate atmosphere that gives it a tad bit of a AAA feel, and I mean that in a good way.  The only problem with a Royals game is the Garth Brooks song that was played in the 6th inning.  I think I died a little bit.  My group looked at me and laughed.  “You probably don’t get this in San Francisco do you.”  Um, no.  Thank God.

-I also took the walk to the Negro Leagues Museum and the American Jazz Museum.  They are in the same building and you can’t beat the $10 admission.  Both are pretty small but do a very nice job describing some of the intricacies of both subjects.  The “Field of Dreams” monument in the middle of the Negro Leagues Museum is pretty awesome.  It’s built much like the Constitutional Convention bronze statue setup at the National Constitution Center except it’s a small baseball field with the most famous Negro League All-Stars.  Standing next to Satchel Paige looking into Josh Gibson was a treat.  And the Jazz Museum does a nice job of not only looking at the history of jazz, but also trying to teach the elements of jazz.  You could easily spend two hours in both places total.

-Only one nasty thunderstorm early on.  It was strong enough to wake me up at around three in the morning.  Humidity was non-existent early on and became oppressive the last two days.  I hate it.

-Ran into people at the AP Reading, the hotel, and at the ballgame that moved out of California for economic reasons to cities and towns in the Mid-West.  All of them regretted it.  Their standard-of-living had gone up but they hated the weather, the lack of the diverse culture of the Golden State, and the laid back (and more tolerant) attitudes of the Left Coast.  The family I met at the ball game had lived in the Bay Area and seemed almost in tears at missing it.  They moved to Kansas City so they could buy a nicer house.  To them it was clearly not worth it.

-If you haven’t heard, Europe and Asia are about twenty years away from serious economic problems due to declining populations.  Russia’s problem has the potential of being catastrophic.  That would not be the problem at the Sheraton Crown Center in Kansas City.  For some reason about three-fourths of the females at the pool were with child, and every single one of them had AT LEAST one other child in tow.  It wasn’t that bad until Friday when the pool became Romper Room and many of the AP Comparative readers started mentioning China’s One-Child Policy. 

-A high school teacher from Minnesota showed me the magic of Google Forms and Flubaroo.  I already knew about embedding Google Forms into Edmodo to create online quizzes.  Now Flubaroo will grade them for you.  Awesomeness. 

I’m hoping for a return next year for more collaboration, and as usual I recommend that AP teachers give it a shot if they have the opportunity.  At the very least you can see how rubrics are created and interpreted, and that really matters when it comes to creating lessons for complex political issues.

Right now my focus is the trip home and the basketball camp I’ll be coaching in, oh, twenty hours.  I’m over the deserts of southern Utah on a Southwest flight at the moment and I’m really looking forward to my own bed, not living out of a bag, at the squeak of basketball shoes.   

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Back in KC

Yeah, so I’m grading Advanced Placement exams.  No, don’t ask because I can’t talk about it.

In fact I’m noticing that maybe I’m a little socially awkward when I get around people I really don’t know.  I’m sitting here in the Social Lounge where I’m typing on my laptop with my earphones plugged into a Fresno Grizzlies game.  In the room are groups of people talking about nothing in particular, and I don’t seem to do will going on in and engaging in small talk.  Never have.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t totally ignore people around me.  I just don’t make the effort, or something.  That’s not to say I don’t get along with people.  In fact I’m very conversational with people at my question table.  Who knows.  Maybe my body language is screaming that I have a flesh eating disease or something. 

I still really like Kansas City.  I’ve already nibbled on ribs and sampled some of the local brew, and the weather hasn’t been so muggy as to make me dread the outdoors.  Today I decided to walk from the Convention Center to the hotel after the reading, not a bad walk when the weather is nice.  When the weather is muggy it becomes more of a slog.  Everywhere I look there are AP Graders from Calculus, Statistics, Comparative Politics, and Biology.  We are the smallest group by number and by notice.  We are the group without the goofy t-shirts, something that Calc is well known for. 

Ok, better try and interact as a human being with other human beings.  If that fails I might just go and lay by the pool.  Hmmm.  Choices….

Monday, June 11, 2012

Done with the year and off to KC

Las Vegas McCarran Airport is suffering from stupidity. 

I’m sitting at Gate C21 right now glaring at at every possible person in frustration that there isn’t one damn location around me to plug in my portable devices.  No charge for laptop.  No charge for iPhone (which as horrid battery use as of iOS 5.1.1).  No damn clue.  Where is the realization that airport travellers are juice hungry?  Where is the realization that the world, especially at an airport, is a tad bit connected via the Interwebz, and that the Interwebz require a TWO PRONG FREAKING OUTLET!  Nope, looks like I’ll charge my phone on my computer while I blog and hope my battery makes it from Vegas to Kansas City.

I need to leave Ukiah.  When your bosses confirms that this was a hard year, then this was a hard year.  Death, trauma, fear of the unknown, a lack of vision, change… all seems to have a taken a serious toll on the staff.  Lots of people just wanted to get out of Dodge, if just for a little while to confirm that, yes, life existed outside of the cloud that was 2011-2012.  Part of my anxiety came from the retirement of someone that was kinda one of my mentors when I first came to the school.  She was a hard ass, had high-expectations, and had no problem looking me up and down while saying “Do it better.  Now.”  She’s now departing for the next stage of her life, and our department lost a bit of it’s place in the school.  I feel like I’m part of the problem because I’ve been perfectly content with teaching in my little classroom, being totally focused on students, while pretty much ignoring what we as a department were going to be known for.  If that makes sense at all. 

Flight’s boarding.  Gotta go.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Catastrophe Award

“The mother of an 8-year-old Arizona girl who was presented with a "Catastrophe Award" for apparently having the most excuses for not having homework believes her child was humiliated by her teacher.”

So let’s summarize this story, this something that is totally idiotic in every which way but has fortunately given the mother of an 8-year-old kid some air time and a possible ticket to watch a Michelle Rhee speech.

So a teacher decided that in her end of the year frustration she would play with the “trophy-for-all” world by gifting a Catastrophe Award to a 3rd grader.  This is, of course, is fundamentally stupid.  We all know that while teachers constantly make up these awards in our heads, we can’t possibly hand them out because people won’t get that it is a Mad Magazine message to society that their children are mirrors of their parents, who are in turn enormously funny creatures.  If you don’t think I have awards for some of my students that teeter on the edge of profanity, you would be wrong.  However I realize that we are dealing with young (yes, society still see’s 18 year olds as young), impressionable little minds.  So my “Most Likely to Post Something on Facebook to That Will Get Them Fired” award must stay in my frontal lobe.  So will my “Most Likely to Think that WWE is Real” award, my “Weed is Part of the Food Pyramid” award, and my “Most Likely to Be Caught with John Edwards by TMZ” award.  I don’t have Catastrophe Awards for excuses about missing homework because I don’t get that much paper in my yearly allotment.

Major rule in the teaching profession; never humiliate students in front of other students.  There is a difference between “calling them out” and humiliating them, and this being done to a 3rd grader is just a total lapse in sensible judgment.  While I tease and banter with students, I’m really careful not only to avoid humiliating students myself, but preventing other students from doing it.  So, bad form for the show-up on the student. 

And yes, the parent bares some responsibility here since the parent didn’t seem to realize that her kid was not getting the work done.  But that is why you contact parents and document everything, everything, EVERYTHING.  That way you can remind the parent that you told them that the kid was in Fantasyland when it came to homework.  You do have to wonder what the parent was thinking though, trying to make this a local news story.  Mean ol’ teacher with a mean award doesn’t really deserve play on Action News, unless you really want to attract attention for the sake of attention.

Senior prank, and the even more pathetic result.


What the hell!

No, no, no.  I mean NO. 

This is a total affront to teenagers everywhere.  I mean, I was once a teenager and I can’t believe that members of that once proud, rebellious specie has stooped to this level.  Seriously.

Those are teenagers who engaged in a Senior Prank at Heritage High School in Brentwood, California, a very affluent suburb of San Francisco.  They are protesting the fact that they were suspended five days for, among other things, vandalizing the school, destroying school property, and leaving a goat chained up in the middle of campus over night.  They were suspended, and many will not be able to walk for graduation due to the fact that they engaged in the prank.  This is the result.  Yes, holding signs in front of the school in protest saying “We’re still learning” is the reaction from the students.  Holy God.  Not only are the students and parents stupid enough to engage in an activity that the school clearly defined as “zero tolerance”, they are now acting like spoiled little brats by trying to pray on public sympathy to support their idiotic cause. 

Welcome to the “call me maybe” generation.  Yeah, nothing that a good “I’m sorry” won’t fix, even when it comes to vandalism.  Senior pranks I get.  Even over-the-top Senior pranks I get.  But to actually beg for public support when your entitled ass got nailed?  Wow.  The wussification of America is in full effect. 

You want to see a serious problem with education, look at this.  Not the prank, the attitude.  This is what teachers are dealing with every day.  This is why students need to be begged to take tests, bargained with for grades, and constantly pandered to in regards to their own education.  In the end the safety net for their actions is so wide that they have no fear of failing.  Don’t worry about the prank because Mom and Dad will sue the school’s ass off if they don’t let them walk during graduation, which they in fact did.  Thankfully the judge supported the school in the lawsuit. 

"In the end, this is our children's lives," said Pam Shasto, who has two seniors whose scholarships and college admissions are now in jeopardy. "This is their future -- over some Crayola paint."

Exactly, and your kids decided that their future was worth the Crayola paint, the vandalism, the concrete bench, and a goat.  Maybe you’ll realize that you kids are actually accountable for their actions.  You should be thankful Ms. Shasto.  Maybe the lesson means your kids won’t be living with you when they are thirty.