Thursday, April 25, 2013

Holocaust denial

So someone is e-mailing teacher people, multiple times a day, and telling them that they should not discuss the Holocaust because it furthers the Zionist agenda.  This ranks up there in the “beyond stupid” category.  Now don’t get me wrong, this person should have the right to be a complete fucking moron.  Denial of the Holocaust is not illegal.  Then again, neither is ridicule of the complete fucking moron. 

Let’s be fair though and remind one-and-all that the Holocaust denial expert is in excellent company.  Welcome to the club!  Starring:

-Leader of the Fatah Movement, Mahmoud Abbas!

-The terrorist group, Hamas!

-Influence leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood!

-Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad!

Yeah, you find yourself in great company with these clowns. 

Stop sending people letters.  I’m about the strongest supporter of free speech that you’ll find but sending multiple letters to teachers telling them everything is a Zionist conspiracy tests my patience when it comes to reading the idiot opinion. 

And by the way, your kind is one of the reasons I will continue to present evidence and let students find the truth. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I don’t do surveys, or poor classroom management

Note to all those that people that read this blog, including students, board members, administrators, other teachers, fellow educators, ladies and gentlemen;

I don’t do anonymous surveys.  Ever.

Every year we are asked all these questions for a “state-of-the-school” packet that is then given to all teachers.  I never fill it out.  The anonymous nature of it makes it sort of a joke.  Much of packet is a bitch session.  And while the intentions are just, the results don’t do anything but create a system of venting.  That’s not productive.  Therefore if I want to say something to someone in power I actually say something and attach my name to it.  Today we met with the Superintendent and discussed what qualities we wanted in regards to a principal, and some of the problems faced at the school.  I told the Super my thoughts as she stood a few feet from me and in the company of my peers.  Some in the crowd might not have agreed with me.  My Super might not have agreed with me.  But the only way things get out in the open and presented with solution is if there are people actually conversing about the issues. 

An example would be a survey that went out over this last week that was supposed to be a state-of-the-school/what-we-want-in-a-principal sort of thing from our Faculty Association.  I did not fill it out, and actually got into a little bit of a tussle about it with some teachers because I told them I wouldn’t fill it out.  Here was one of the questions on the survey:

What do you see as the major problems that need to be addressed on campus?

Fair enough.  A normal question that usually degenerates into a trollfest but it’s going to need to be asked in a survey somehow.  Let’s see an answer.

“The electronic addiction is affecting learning. We do not have to allow cell phones, ipads, ipods, iphones, etc. at school. What happened to picking up a magazine or book when we are bored?  Are all the teachers aware that some of us teachers allow students to charge their cell phones in class without thinking that maybe this kid is using their phone too much. Are we aware that kids are posting on Facebook during classroom hours and any school board member can verify this.”  (underline mine)

See, now this is where I would stand up in the meeting and say

“Hi.  I’m one of those teachers that allows kids to charge their cell phones in class.  By the way, my kids aren’t on cell phones in class unless we use them in class.  They charge them in class because they use them outside of class.  My kids also use iPads and laptops.  And they still read books if they are ever bored in my class, which is pretty much never because unless it is Silent Reading, we are doing something with my face time with students.  Oh, and students don’t post on Facebook in my class unless I’m not there.  Then they post a picture of themselves holding a bill they just wrote for Mock Congress just to prove that while I’m at a conference they are working on bills.  Now, what do we need to do to help you  with classroom management.”

Instead this just sits in the ether and gets ignored because someone anonymous put it out there.  And it’s a problem because it shows a lot that is wrong with the classroom; problems with management, a fear of change, a fear of technology, and most of all, the insinuation that real problem in all of this is hardware.  The problems have always been there, only now we can see them on an Instagram account or see someone’s six second snippet on Vine. 

Then again I sit here and some could call it bitching with out productive purpose.  But at least I have a name to it and I own my mistakes while fully wanting and willing to fix them.  At least I can create a conversation and respond in an attempt to collaborate to a solution.  All anonymous surveys do is make fun fodder.

Now where is that power strip…..

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A change in leadership with Dracarys dreams (Spoilers)

Our principal is going to Aruba. 

No seriously, he’s leaving Ukiah for Aruba.  Part of me feels happy for that opportunity for him.  Then again part of me hopes that he wakes up one morning with angry hermit crabs hanging on his extremities.  Yes I’m jealous. 

So the hunt is on for a fearless leader of Ukiah High School.  This will be the fourth leader in the 13 years of my employment at the school and I’ve become a bit more involved.  The teachers were recently asked about the qualities they wanted in the new head administrator at Ukiah High.  I responded in an e-mail to my Superintendent with this:


Danaerys Targaryen Game Of Thrones Season 3 Episode 4

Yep.  That’s who I want my new boss to be.  Daenerys Targaryen.  A stronger leader with a sense of fairness and morality.  A woman who cares about her people and demands respect from all parties involved.  And then there’s the whole dragon thing.  Sometimes you just need to roast somebody as an example of what not to do.

But in all seriousness it’s obvious that there is some concern about what direction the school is headed, and lots of apprehension about what the future holds.  There is a desire to do better and a thirst for excellence, and there was a core of teachers that said exactly that to the Superintendent today.  Let’s hope for the best. 

But while you hope, here’s the end of the last episode of Game of Thrones to spoil you. 


Game of Thrones is fantastic, and if you aren’t watching it you are missing a great work of fiction. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Your foundation for becoming a teacher

So you want to become a teacher.

Passionate about your subject matter?  Filled with a desire to change the world?  Looking for a feeling that your job is going to give you the ultimate self-satisfaction?  Well, that’s nice.  But it isn’t going to be what’s really important to the profession.

In the end, you have to really care about kids. 

You have to care about them a whole lot.  You have to listen to them and realize that stupid problems that are shallow and lame to us are probably very important to them.  And you need to really listen when the problems they face are unimaginable to comprehend in our own minds.  You need to be the shoulder to cry on.  You need to be there when a student needs to vent, to blast, to totally go off because of the numerous things that make kids out-of-their-mind frustrated.  You need realize that what you are doing is beyond simple academics, beyond tests, beyond the simplicity of coming to school every day.  It’s complicated, and good.  You need to go to the hospitals and see your students broken and be the support.  You need to feel them fight against drug abuse, cancer, homelessness, poverty, and you need to listen and support them through the battles that make academics like ridiculous.   

I don’t know what credential programs do about this part of teaching.  It surely wasn’t part of my instruction.  I highly doubt that it is a strong point of emphasis in Teach For America.  In fact, the exact opposite is one of the focuses.  We learned what happens if students become too close; what happens when students of the opposite sex become too attached, when the job becomes too much of a liability.  But in the end do you really deny the hug to the crying 17 year old that just watched her friend die in a car accident?  Do you honestly tell the student that is pouring out his heart over divorced parents that you need to stop because it is better if they go see a guidance counselor?  Of course not.  You are there to care, and if a student trusts you enough to come and show that kind of powerful emotion you need to embrace that and realize that it’s part of what you do. 

That’s not to say that teachers shouldn’t take precautions; keep doors open with opposite sexes, watch the age, watch the dress, don’t engage in flirtation, notify your admin or police if you suspect any “mandated reporter” information, and remember that you are not the parent.  But you are important.  You are there for the kids.

There is obviously a point to this rant that I can’t get into because that would be bad.  I’ve had two emotional exchanges with students within the last three days.  All of them have me wanting to take parents out back and do my best Jimmy Conway impression.  Something like, “Are you fucking stupid?  Whatsa matter with you?  WHATSA MATTER WITH YOU?”  Alas, that would be bad and my New York accent isn’t that good anyway.  So I remain committed to just being there and listening.

But if you are thinking about the profession, think about your feelings about kids.  I know, at 22 you are hardly going to feel like you want to go back to a high school setting that might have just left.  In reality, you just might.  I really loved History.  But when I first got the teaching bug, at 17 years old no less, my thought process revolved around the idea that I could do this better than the person that was doing it at the time.  I wanted to do it for someone else.  When I started coaching it was partly about the love of basketball but also about the realization that basketball (and competitive athletics) was something that was good for other people.  It’s about people.  It’s about kids. 

In its most important function, teaching is about caring for kids.  Be ready for it.  Embrace it.  Thank God for it.     

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

A Block

After the rough and tumble play of the NCAA Championship Game on Monday night, the refs totally blew this call. In whatever league you are in, this is beautiful block.

That was a bad, bad basketball injury.

You always hate to see kids get injured in any sport.  What’s worse, you hate to see the injury so severe that it makes you want to get sick.  That’s what happened to Kevin Ware’s leg during the NCAA tournament game this last weekend.  If you really need to see the injury I’m sure that you can get it off of Google in no time, because I’m not showing anything here. 

Speaking of which, props to CBS for not showing Kevin Ware’s leg injury during the Louisville/Duke basketball game in nauseating replays.  Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg pretty much sat quietly for most of the time and the camera focused more on coaches and teammates than Ware writhing in pain on the floor.  The whole scene made you just really feel for everybody in the arena that had to witness that, and then the players had to play the game. 

Believe it or not we had something similar (not to that degree) happen earlier this season.  It was a simple 3-2, 2-1 drill where one of my players jumped for an offensive board and came down on someone’s foot, turning his ankle.  The only problem was that the ankle stayed turned.  It had totally dislocated, with the bone pushing flush against the skin.  So, as a coach, what do you do when you are faced with a traumatic injury, even at the younger levels?

First thing I did when I saw the injury was tell one of the assistants to call 911.  Barring the usual nicks and scrapes, you don’t screw around with someone else’s child.  Period.  And this was definitely going to require more medical expertise than I had.  Second, get the kid laying down and telling him that everything was going to be fine.  This was one tough kid and the pain must have been horrific.  But the staff did a nice job getting him to lay down, not to look at the injury, and making him regulate his breathing the best we could.  Next, call the parents and tell them the situation.  The parents understood and were very calm.  That helps.  Finally, keep the rest of the guys away from the scene.  During an injury like that it is important to remember that coaches are still responsible for the well being of a group of kids.  They didn’t need to see the severity of the injury or the pain the athlete was in.  We moved them to the other side of the gym and put a towel up when the medics cut away the players shoe.  Then they took him to the hospital, reset everything, and the season moved on.  The athlete has a decent amount of rehab to go through.

Oh, and if you are a coach and your player has to go to the hospital, visit them.  It’s the right thing to do and goes a long way in helping establish a reputation as a caring mentor in your program.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Glad we can all get along

So we got a raise, something I discussed earlier in a blog post.  The contingency on that raise was that enough teachers would retire to make the raise nearly revenue neutral.  That way the county would pass our budget status and all parties would be happy.  The budget is solvent.  The teachers get their first raise in seven years.  And sacrifices that teachers made, wrongly and with incorrect information, were corrected.  All-in-all, the institution seemed to be going in a direction where all parties were ready to be more collaborative. 
That is, until this came out in the local paper.
Whoa, now wait a minute.  Is this some Woodward and Bernstein investigation that has taken place within the district?  Who could make such a statement?
So the quote basically came from our district CBO, Sandra Harrington.  That’s interesting that the top number cruncher in the district has now become district spokesperson, telling the people of Ukiah that if their kid has a problem with services in Ukiah Unified, it’s the teacher’s fault.  This is not the way to build any sense of unified institutional philosophy.
While the professional collaborative development opportunities on the Internet are spectacular, one of the drawbacks is that you realize that much of what you want to control, you can’t.  In many instances it shouldn’t matter.  In a small town it does.  When a CBO makes comments like this people around town start to grumble, and the district manages to go from professional manager to professional agitator, making the job of the teacher that much more complicated.  I notice in my online communities that many successful districts have good management; and while I’m not saying that ours if bad, it seems that there is a strong disconnect between districts that have strong morale and our own.  Some of that is teachers for sure.  I see plenty of examples of very top-down management where teachers feel part of the process, they feel supported, and the evidence presents itself in student achievement. 
In the end, this commentary is pointless.  If the raises were going to kill the district in the future, why not just say “no” in the first place?  Why make a statement that does nothing but say “Hey, the greedy teachers are going to bankrupt your district while stealing your first born child and sacrificing them to the God of worksheets.”  Yeah, not helpful.


So the Anderson Valley Advertiser has made a commentary on the issue as well.  This show you just how "progressive" Mendocino County actually isn't.  First of all, the newspaper looks like something that comes out of Tombstone, Arizona in the late 1800's, and is written like it is coming out of Arizona in 2013.  It spouts off commentary like Bill O'Reilly or Amy Goodman without the legwork of research, with the hope that it gains the attention of the general public that really hasn't ever given it a real glance.