Sunday, September 23, 2012

The picture says it all.

A truly offensive week

That gif is on loan from Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles, probably one of the best baseball blog writers in existence.  One hopes that it is enough to kiss his rear end because I didn’t really ask to borrow the gif and I’m sure that I’m liable for Joe Pesci Goodfellas style ass-whipping if I don’t give credit where credit is due.  But seriously, the dude writes well and you should read his posts if you are a baseball fan.

By the way, the gif has nothing to do with my week and I posted it because I thought it was funny.  LOL A’s.

My week was actually very positive.  The vibe within my classroom is positive and work that is coming from students is quite good.  On Friday the group collaboration on creating a democratic government for a fictitious country was so good that I didn’t want the periods to end.  One of my classes has a little low energy but picks it up once we get the period going.  Otherwise, all is pretty good.

Then why the “offensive week” comment?  A colleague wrote an e-mail to me this week that stated that some blog posts I make were offensive.  No specifics were made but the message was very clear and it did state, without ambiguity, that some of my writing took a tone that the colleague didn’t like.  That brings up an interesting issue about what happens when I write something that someone I work with doesn’t like.  Ok, maybe it really isn’t an issue because what happens is nothing.  Seriously.  Nothing is going to happen and nothing should happen because simply being offended is not legal grounds for anything in this country.  If you are really interested in being the kind of person that burns down buildings and lives simply because of Freedom of Expression, I point you to something you can relate too all too well.

There are three reasons why I blog.

First, I like to reflect.  I go back and check out how lessons went, how my frame of mind was, and the usual “Silva-Brown’s Report Cards” to try and find trends that help my teaching.  It allows me to see what works and to anticipate moments where I notice certain amounts of stress, or moments where I notice I’m working too hard with not enough results.  It’s extremely useful.

Second, I like to talk.  I’ve always had a thing about expressing opinions and I figured a blog would be a nice place to do just that.  I talk about a lot of things, some might not be in the realm of totally tasteful when it comes to holier-than-thou prudes that still think what I’m actually saying.  I get that my job has the benefit of tenure, and that allows me to discuss education related issues without fear of reprisal, which is how it should be anyway.  I don’t go after colleagues, I don’t go after my boss, and I don’t talk about students with the exception of group behaviors that usually happened in the past and that identify no one.  The only time my blog became a real problem was one the parent of a disgruntled athlete actually printed off all my posts and gave them to my then principal with “offensive” words and phrases all highlighted; with particular anger at a post for saying that I found breasts to be an attractive attribute of the opposite sex.  Here’s a news flash.  I still do.

Third, I like to write.  For some reason I’ve had no real problem writing things down, and my family always said I seemed to write well.  This wasn’t a reason early on.  However I’ve grown to really like writing again and I’m working on making it better.  I look back at previous posts and I see the sub-par, petulant, hyperbolic, simple-mindedness with no real direction or coherent thought.  Now I see sub-par, petulant, hyperbolic, simple-mindedness with no real direction or coherent thought, but damn its written a whole lot better. 

So I continue to write.  You can choose to read, or not.  That’s kind of the really neat thing about that First Amendment thing; it allows you the first line of censorship defense by simply not looking at offensive material.        

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Because the NFL doesn’t have other things to worry about

In a league that has the roid ragers, convicted felons, and this guy……

……it’s tough to imagine a crime so unspeakable that it warrants a stiff warning of a $15,000 fine. 

So what is it that is so heinous, so horrific, so God awful that the National Football League throw the war hammer of justice upon the soul of the unclean?

Oh.

It’s a hat. 

I mean, it’s a San Francisco Giants hat.  That pretty much makes sense since Alex Smith is the quarterback of the SAN FRANCISCO Forty-Niners and all.  And let’s not forget that Smith wore the hat last year when, you know, the Giants were not about to win the National League West title.  But apparently it is now an issue, and the loving father and husband needs to re-up his NFL street cred by going to Centerfolds to make it rain, hire a gang of hookers for a session of unprotected group sex, and then murder one of them with his best friends to create a prolonged court case that might smear the entire sport. 

And do it all without the Giants cap.  Dammit.  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Batman’s Bane Movie

Yeah, yeah.  A fire will rise.  Whatever.  This really was not the Batman finale I was looking for.

If you haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises yet then you are probably a loser anyway, so spoilers.  Ok, maybe I’m just a little irritated that Christopher Nolan’s send-off Batman is just a bit weak.  Maybe I’m irritated that the characters (with the exception of Catwoman) started acting in ways that totally contradict the comic book.  I mean, Alfred walks out on Master Wayne?  Then again, maybe I’m just irritated that the movie was sort of boring.  I wonder what could have made this film a little better…..

 

The story of Dark Night Rises has to do with a big guy named Bane who successfully takes over Gotham by blowing up stuff, breaking the Batman, and then waiting months down the road to blow the whole city up using a nuclear weapon.  Batman comes back from healing, slaps down Bane, and blows up the nuke over the water while secretly disappearing from his job as caped crusader with the uber-hot Selina Kyle.

The problem with the movie is that it takes liberty with storylines that become unrealistic and a villain that is waxes eloquent about all kinds of things until the end of the movie, where his spine goes squid-like and he just about sobs like a little baby.  And while the breaking of the Bat is actually somewhat similar to the Knightfall storyline from the comic books, the healing process is something out of Star Trek V script that is only missing some God-like entity to whisk Bruce Wayne out of his pit prison.

 File:Bane breaks Batman.png

The lead-up to the breaking in Knightfall was so much better; as villains all take their shot at Batman over the course of a series until Bane waits for an exhausted Dark Knight and then breaks his vertebrae.  The story of the healing was also done well, delving into various storylines that resulted in power struggles and bizarre encounters until Bane and the original Batman met again for another round.  It was a well thought out, well scripted epic.  This was a two hour movie that was less of a send off for Batman and more about putting scenes around this. 

  

Any doubts that Anne Hathaway could pull off Catwoman were killed in the movie.  No, she wasn’t quite Heath Ledger’s “Joker”.  But I’m not kidding when I say that she kicked Michelle Pfeiffer out of the water easily and was much more true the nature of the comic book than almost any other character out of the Batman genre of movies.  It also helped that she was really damn hot.

You should go to this movie if you are a fan of the Batman movies (it gives a bit of lame closure) or if you are a fan of Christopher Nolan movies.  Be warned, this is probably Nolan’s weakest movie.  It’s not bad but I’d say it is safe to call it weak. 

Then again…

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I support the Chicago Teacher’s Strike #CTU

I don’t take a strike lightly.  In my opinion a strike is the absolute last-of-last resorts when it comes to labor/management negotiations.  That is doubly important when you are dealing with essential public services, like teaching.  If you protest or picket or walk off of the job you are a taking an incredible risk of alienating the pubic and doing more harm than good to your cause. 

However teachers have now become society’s target for blame for all its ills.  They are being asked to do more with less, and with less respect from society, that at any time in modern history.  The days of believing that Education is necessary for a thriving democracy have been lost in partisan bickering and a society that has turned the profit-motive into a cultural necessity.  Eventually you can only beat on teachers so much.  Eventually they need to take a genuine stand.  It started in Wisconsin and now Chicago has become the next focal point.

Remember when you are reading this that I’m a teacher who believes that the best teachers should be paid more, that the worst teachers should be fired right now in totally unceremonious fashion, and that academic institutions should be the pride of the nation.  None of that is going to be accomplished until society takes the education of its children seriously.  One of the complaints of the strikers in Chicago was that a teacher had no air conditioning in their classroom.  That’s a given.  That’s not a negotiable item.  And you don’t base the value of educators on one test.  Ever.  Period.  If that’s the case then I’m never getting evaluated because the only students I have taking the State tests are my 30 Advanced Placement kids, and they are always proficient.  Imagine that.  Can’t say the same about teachers that deal with Special Day kids, Second Language Learners, Students with IEP’s, or those that just teach kids that are worried about eating, sleeping, or whether or not they will get beat by a drunk father when they get home.  Testing evaluations are not a valid way to decide who is and is a not a good teacher. 

But unions do need to jump on board and become part of the solution.  Pressure bad teachers out of the profession and become an organ of Education, not necessarily an organ of Teachers.  If Chicago teachers come out ahead in the current labor situation, they must take advantage of the opportunity to further the profession by helping remove the dead weight.  Help create teacher evaluations and help create good teachers so that we don’t need to worry about evaluations so much. 

In the mean time I wish those that the striking a strong will and clear mind in their decision to defend the rights of a historically important and currently under-valued profession.  I wish them them the wisdom of using this time to start developing solutions to present to administrators, district leaders, and parents.  I wish them the constitution to withstand the criticism that they don’t care about kids, even though every shred of past evidence points the contrary.  And I hope that all Chicago teachers realize that educators all around the country are watching their stand and have earned our respect.       

Sunday, September 09, 2012

This is not a smoke free zone

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Yep, that’s a real picture from the Lake County News of a fire bomber hitting the Scotts Fire, about eight miles from my house.  That’s a pretty long eight miles, over the Russian River and up an area called Cow Mountain.  However the concern is more for those living in the smaller towns of Blue Lakes and Lakeport over the hill, and less for our town because the wind usually comes off the ocean and heads east.  That’s not to say it isn’t eerie to see the strong glow of flames in the east hills, or watch the fire bombers roar overhead every few minutes.  I think everyone is keeping an eye on the Scotts Fire.

The fire actually started at the end of a four-day week that felt nothing like a four-day week.  It felt like a six-day week and most teachers I talk to agree while having no idea why.  It’s only a couple weeks in and margarita talk has commenced at the lunch table.  That’s not to say that the feeling is negative, just tiring.  I think some of us are in the full impulse groove right now and we haven’t quite hit the point were we ease off the gas pedal and conserve energy for, you know, ourselves.

The theme of this week revolved around students in various states of “medical” distress, from the very genuine to the very suspect.  This is a touchy subject for teachers to deal with because the last thing a teacher wants to do is seem totally uncaring to a 17 year old kid that is really in an injured state.  That’s not asking for trouble, that’s asking for a SCUD missile full of Sarin nerve gas to fall into your classroom.  But I’d have to say that about eight out of every ten students that are on extended medical leave are students that are A) milking it, or B) don’t have the outside influence telling them to move on with life and get going.  Sound mean?  Well, mean is when that student tries to pull that shit at work or in college.  Then the response is “I don’t care” or “That’s ok, I’ll find someone that can do it.”  That’s mean.  This was not one of those times.  This week a student suffered a pretty traumatic accident and as a teacher my focus was to immediately take away any stimuli that was dangerous to the healing process.  I told the counselor that grades would be taken care of, I left a message on Facebook to the student not to worry about school, and I tried to basically make it known that I understood that life happens, and that educators need to adjust when necessary.  This was necessary. 

Another necessity is apparently this thing called Back To School Night.  It’s an exercise where I get less parents attending from near 150 students, than I do from the 12 basketball players when I conduct a beginning-of-the-season meeting.  I’ve never had a negative parent at a Back to School night, although I had one get rather irritated at me when I told her that I thought Hugo Chavez was dictatorial in his managing of government policy.  It didn’t go far because I think I promised her that I wouldn’t use Chavez as an example of an authoritarian regime in class.  I also think I lied.  I’m not anticipating a huge turnout again this year due to a couple of reasons.

It’s on Monday.

Monday Night Football.

The Voice.

Basketball Wives.

Hoarders.

Are you getting the picture?  Those parents that are actively involved in their child’s lives will be there and they will be very interested in my presentation on how they can be very active in their kid’s progress in my classroom.  But again, that number will be VERY small.

Onward.   

Monday, September 03, 2012

Take the week, swirl around your mouth a bit, let it linger on your tongue.

The week began with Kelsey Sheehy of U.S. News and World Report interviewing me for a story about teachers using the Party Conventions as a device in the classroom.  If you have nothing else to do you can read Sheehy’s education blog and my comments in her newest posting.  Essentially I tried to avoid telling her that the Conventions are pointless exercises involving myopic politicians and bad public speakers.

The Republican Convention was a pointless exercise involving myopic politicians, bad public speakers, and The Man With No Name talking to a Chair With No President.  I really like Clint Eastwood, and I actually thought that the chair bit had lots of potential to be humorous.   Unfortunately Eastwood was a few steps from 2011 Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin Eve in his delivery and it ended up just feeling utterly lame.  Not as lame as most of the other speakers but getting there.  With the exception of Marco Rubio, there wasn’t a speaker at the entire Convention that either was dynamic, or had commentary that seemed relevant to this era.  So I spent some of this week watching bad speeches and giving it very little time in my classroom.  Note to Democrats that are smirking, you’ll get equal time.

I had my first cell phone issue this week.  It was dealt with quick, it caused little disturbance, and I think that it will become less and less of a problem in that class.  Part of the reason for that is decreased class sizes.  Only one class is totally full and the rest are starting shrink little by little.  This allows for more eyes on less students and a greater ability to engage in activities in a less confined space.  It helps with management, it allows me to grade more effectively, and it give me a greater opportunity to find students with special needs faster.  What I’m trying to get at is the person who said that class size doesn’t matter is an idiot.

The reason why some of my classes are dwindling is because students are leaving for Independent Study.  I find Independent Study interesting.  In a society that seems to care about their children learning something, they take many kids that do very little in an organized format, put the learning in pretty little packs, and give credit when the pretty packets are complete.  I don’t quite get how A) Students that can’t come to school (but can go to extra-curricular) are going to succeed on their own, and B) What the benefit of packet learning is.  Oh well, gotta worry about those within my four walls.

And this week, we are at it again.