Monday, August 26, 2013

A Day in the Life of a High School Teacher, Part 2

The most visited post ever is this one from about five years ago in which I describe a typical day.  That was awhile ago and it’s time for an update.

-My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. and I’m really feeling groggy.  My cats were active last night and I was fading in and out of being asleep. 

-Mornings used to be the local news.  Now I drink coffee and read the iPad for a half hour.  The local news is just too negative.  Instead I check e-mail, then read local and national news, and if I have time I peruse blogs.  Then breakfast; a couple of frozen waffles, two eggs, and some bacon.  Then I shower while listening to the Sunday talk show podcasts; Meet the Press, Face the Nation, This Week, and Fox News Sunday.  I’ll listen to the interviews if I’m interested but I’m more piqued by the news round tables.

-I’m out of the house by 6:30.  This year I’m leaving earlier because I’m more prepared.  However I can see myself getting to school any later than 40 minutes before the bell (7:30).  I wander into a dark room, unlock the doors, and flick on the lights…..then wave my arms like a seal on crack because the motion detector doesn’t sense me in there for 20-30 seconds. 

-I finish up the Talk Show podcasts and throw on my school playlist (appropriate music for school) and begin to work on today’s schedule.  It takes ten minutes to write on the board and with every class I’m pulling up files on my laptop.  In APUSH I pull up Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God and a power point, in Economics I pull up a Cookie Monster parody of Call Me Maybe to illustrate scarcity, and for American government I grab an Economist chart that shows marijuana legalization status around the world.  Then I head out to make copies.

-I’m at the copy machine with 25 minutes left before the bell.  My copying has dropped 80% easy over the last few years as I’ve adopted a combination of Edmodo, Dropbox, and Google.  But this is a court case out of a book that I want kids in Government to interpret.  Good bet we won’t get to it today.  But better to be prepared.  I then mosey over to the teacher boxes, find nothing, and head back to class. 

-Students start to wander in with 15 minutes to the bell.  One has an AP Environmental Science project that we discuss, only I bring up the Economics end of things and we end up with a little banter.  We have some fairly progressive teachers on campus and I feel like its my duty to bring actual pragmatism to some subjects.  I wander outside to greet my students for the bell.

-Economics starts with a quiz from the first section of the book, and as usual they do lousy.  It’s a simple case of laziness; some read last minute, others “forgot”.  Yet I hold them too it and most will figure out that they can’t skimp on reading when assigned.  We watch news and Syria is briefly discussed in class.  We then get into the fundamentals of scarcity, having a decent discussion about some basic problems of society and their relationship to scarcity.  It’s a well engaged class.  At the end of class some students complain that the podcast that I’m assigning for Friday is an hour long.  The bell rings and I head outside.

-My first Government class is a little dead.  You can tell immediately that the Monday energy is in full effect, so I beef up some hamminess to liven up spirits.  The news first and discussion about Syria and the National Zoo panda.  Then we finish up an assignment from Friday and move to the basic terminology of government.  Definitions are first, then we look at organizational examples and ask “Is that a government?”  The engagement level is a little better but I’m finding that it is just one of those days where only a half-dozen are really involved in the class.  That changes when one of my trigger slides comes up about interpreting the First Amendment.  First of all, 75% of my students don’t really know what the First Amendment is until I read it to them.  Then the debate begins about what the amendment means.  It’s a perfect jumping off point for tomorrow when we look a a case to interpret (the one I copied earlier) that involves loitering.  Quiz tomorrow on notes we did today, and the bell sends them off. 

-I wander into the communal area at the center of the building and talk to my colleagues about nothing in particular during break. 

-Third period is my full APUSH class, and since they have a quiz that day they are trying to take advantage of Silent Reading time to study.  It’s a good five minute physical presence exercise to get the point across.  One student in particular, while very bright, is dying to be the center of attention.  I crack open my own book, Cobra II, and do a balancing act of ignoring her attempts at attention while reading and occasionally making sure everyone else is reading.  Reading period ends and quiz time.  Quizzes are marginally ok.  The first two weeks of APUSH is about flow and many of these students haven’t found it yet.  I then read an excerpt from Jonathon Edwards Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in my best crazed preacher voice.  It has the desired impact.  Now some review of the summertime as we address the Great Awakening and the Enlightenment.  Lots and lots of engagement, although my attention seeking student is still seeking it, and in this class that kind of energy can’t be wasted on one students theatrics.  It will have to be addressed this week in a quick shot.  I talked longer than I wanted to in this class but the students seemed engaged enough for it not to matter.  Bell, and I wander out and get ready for my second Economics class.

-Although only 16 students, the attitude more than makes up for a lack of bodies, and I say that in a good way.  Quiz first and immediately some students want to challenge the wording on questions.  These students were the same as I had in APUSH last year so I’m already ready for the onslaught and the insurrection is put down.  Quiz scores, like first period, should be better.  News and not any questions so we jump into the Cookie Monster video, which is humorous and beneficial at the same time.  It gets the point across (Cookie Monster actually says he’ll sell his soul for a bite) and we jump into scarcity.  The students are much more engaged than the morning.  That could be the time or the dynamics of the class.  No complaint about the podcast for this period and the bell sends them away. 

-The center communal area is pretty empty with everyone starting to stay in there classrooms during lunch.  Two other teachers come in and we end up talking about all sorts of issues; some school related and others not.  Then a colleague comes in and mentions not retiring this year, and for the first time this year I’m reminded about why I detest the system of teaching.  Last year the middle of the salary schedule got a 3% raise.  The top end of the salary schedule got more than double that raise.  I leave the table before I say something snide and head to the door to greet 5th period.

-Some people don’t like their after lunch students because they have checked out.  Not my Government class.  News and immediately there are questions about Syria, the Rim Fire in Yosemite, and the panda (why is it news).  We then look the marijuana chart from the Economist and have an interesting discussion about Federalism, which dove tails right into the government basics power point.  I only get through half the slides I want to get through because the discussion and engagement is really high.  And it isn’t “hey, let’s distract him” kind of discussion.  These kids are engaged and retention seems very strong.  It was a good class.  Assign the quiz for tomorrow and they are out. 

-Prep period is sixth and I head to the office to finish paperwork and stop by one of the VP’s to ask a question.  He’s busy so I head back to my room and check e-mails.  A couple of coaches from around the state are looking for JV basketball games buy my team is already set.  That reminds me that I have a question for the Athletic Director so I head to his office.  He’s in a meeting so I talk to the Student Activities Director and get the monetary situation in all the basketball accounts.  Then I talk to the varsity baseball coach and we chat about whether or not Independent Study students can play sports now that they are considered in a different school.  They can since the school is on campus.  A couple of laughs and I’m back to my room.

-More e-mails.  This one is from our school union rep welcoming us to the new year and saying how excellent it was that people got raises last year.  Now my blood pressure boils.  For a group of people that preach solidarity, the Ukiah Teachers Association had no problem fucking over a solid majority of teachers to benefit  the self-interest of the elder membership, which happen to inhabit the power positions of the union.  Assholes.  I convince myself that unless the raise is equal across the board (minus bring up the newbs), I vote no in the future.

-School is out and I’m prepping for tomorrow.  I write assignments on the board and once again get my files ready on the computer.  I’ll prep quizzes tomorrow morning and input some grades.  After that I throw in grades for an online quiz and notice that some students that are behind in APUSH are not doing much to catch back up.  That will need to be addressed tomorrow.  I check Facebook and Twitter, grab my bag of papers to grade (which I probably won’t get to) and leave the school at 4 p.m. listening to The Mike O’Meara Show.  I came in listening to serious and when I leave, I need to laugh. 

-I get home to my wife leaving for Yoga.  I empty the dishwasher while listening to podcasts and then prep my news for tomorrow.  The Newshour’s Syria story is good and I tape the usual Newshour summary.  I skim BBC World News for anything having to do with the AP Comp Gov 6 (Iran, China, Russia, Nigeria, UK, Mexico) and nothing tickles my fancy. News done, make dinner, wife comes home.

-We eat pretty much in silence.  We are both teachers and we are both tired and today is a day where sound is just noise, and quiet is ok.  We chit-chat after dinner and she heads to bed while I check blogs and e-mails.  I browse the lousy Giants game and decide on this blog post. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Khan interviews Arne Duncan because of course he did

So Sal Khan interviewed Arne Duncan at a Google Hangout because Sal Khan is the Mike Wallace of Silicon Valley media, or something.  First it was the cover of my Costco Connection, now an interview with the Secretary of Education, and tomorrow Khan will be releasing a video on how to solve the crisis in Syria.  Later this month Khan will become the President of the world.  What could possibly stop this ongoing march to absolute edu-rule?   


I knew Ricardo Montalban wasn’t really dead!  Look Sal, there is only enough room in this universe for one Khan, and that spot was taken when the super-human left Ceti Alpha Five.

Screw you cartoon lion.  I said THE KHAN, not Sal Khan or Shere Khan.  And you can’t hardly survive a stampede, much less pilot a starship.

Look at the video if you want.  But you will only sit there and hear Barack Obama edu-talking points while looking at the screen and wondering why Frontline isn’t doing this interview, AND WHO THE HELL IS SAL KHAN ANYWAY?  Duncan does mention how wonderful teachers are (aw) and how the education system needs to move away from age-based grade advancement (how about tomorrow).  But it’s more of the same with Obama, lots of campaigning without real governing.  Let’s visit universities and edu-VCs to spread the message that I need to get…wait a minute…I’m going to be termed out in three years, aren’t I?  Yes, Barack.  Yes you are.

And in the meantime Sal Khan has risen one of the tech elite because he’s created lousy lecture videos that have much better substitutes elsewhere online.  Excellent.  Gates had Windows, Jobs had digital music, Bezos had Amazon, and Khan has lecture videos for free. 

If only.

Tis started

The end of the second day with students and boy am I tired.  Maybe it’s the euphoria of the job.  Maybe it’s the energy expanded in the theater.  Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t get my mind to stop rolling at night, thus making my sleep less restful. 


The last few days of American Government have been hooks and writing.  I want to see where they are in their participation and their ability to write, and write critically.  The first day’s hook was the first 9 minutes of the movie Minority Report. 

It’s a tad sexy, a bit who-done-it, and the scene ends with Tom Cruise saying “You’re under the arrest for the future murder of Sarah Marks.”  Confused?  Watch the clip (and the movie on your own if you haven’t seen it).  The question I present to the kids is should the man be arrested for a murder that was supposed to happen?  Then we dove tail in the role of government and how people are tracked that “may” commit crimes.  The second day is simply “what’s more important; liberty or security?”  We discuss that, look at the National Security Agency data center in Utah and talk about government surveillance , and then tie that to the Social Media policy in the athletic program.  We’ve addressed the fundamentals of law and morality near the end of the week, and by the time all is said and done, the kids have written what amounts to about three pages of work. 


Class sizes: 28-34-37-16-27.

The 28 and 16 are both Economics/AP Comparative Government, and the APUSH is the 37.  The 34 and 27 are American Government/Economics.  51 students signed up for APUSH  in May.  44 came and picked up the summer assignment.  37 remain.  35 finished the summer assignment.  2 did not but wish to remain in the class, a trait that I greatly admire.  They start in a big hole but the challenge will be better for them in the future.  The Comp Gov classes are overrun.  Those students in the 16 class couldn’t fit in the other class because of competing AP classes, so another class was created to fit them.  For the record, I don’t like having only 16 students.  I like classes of about 25-28.  Those are perfect numbers.


Every year teachers get a feel for the overall personality of their classes.  Those that tell you otherwise are lying.  Each class develops a persona usually based on the type of students in the class.  My classes are extremely well behaved and very inquisitive.  The management end of teaching is almost too easy *knocks on a Redwood tree*

Saturday, August 17, 2013

So is anyone really going to address this?

I’ve been around the high school for two weeks, and it was Tuesday before I overheard this conversation between a few teachers.

“So what’s really going to happen here with the new transgender law and the locker rooms?”

“I have no idea.”

Does anyone?

From CNN:

California has become the first state in the nation to allow transgendered students to choose which school bathrooms and locker rooms to use and which sport teams to join based on their gender identity.

I have heard nothing about this policy, although as a coach I have no problem at all with anyone playing on the team.  Girl, boy, transgender, Na’vi, the droids we aren’t really looking for; they all can play for me.  I want the best regardless of gender. 

But the bathroom thing and locker room issue could be a tad bit…interesting.  I realize that I’m starting to wander into those waters where asking tough questions could invoke the dreaded “prejudice card.”  But have we really looked at what we are saying here.  I understand the concept of someone as transgender.  But their anatomical gender is pretty clear.  I mean, you either have a penis or you don’t.  Right? 

I’m sure this is the point where I’m getting the “oh, you’re so simple mind and a heathen” kind of talk.  But seriously, what happens when a transgender male walks into a high school locker room full of girls?  And don’t give me this “we are all equal” crap because if that’s true then just get it over with and create unisex locker rooms.  It’ll save money and satisfy Title IX perfectly.  But has a unisex locker room ever really worked out?

Now wait a minute.  Might I remind you that almost all of those soldiers in Starship Troopers DIED BY BUGS!  I don’t buy it!

Since it could present real issues in the near future, wouldn’t be nice if someone addressed this item with teachers?  Are certain showers going to require walled off stalls?  Are there going to be punishments for gawking?  Would extended glances be considered harassment?  Will feminine hygiene products need to be installed in boys’ locker rooms? 

Don’t roll your eyes.  They are legitimate questions that need to be answered, especially when it will be the teacher that will be liable for all the problems.  And we are talking about middle and high school aged kids here!  There will be issues! 

We ready……

My wife and I saw three foxes this week while walking our neighborhood at 6:30 in the morning.  They were cool.





What?  You were expecting some transformational message out of the fact that I saw three foxes?  Seriously?  What do I look like, Oprah?  Fact is that the pre-game is over and ten months of turning up life is about to be in effect.  I’m ready to get’er done.  To put some gravy on this some bitch.  To…aw whatever.

My prep week changed from my standard prep week because our entire department has changed.  Rolling over from last year are four veteran teachers, myself being the most green with 12 full years of experience.  Added to the Social Studies stew are four teachers in which this is their first full time teaching job.  This means that my job to prepare myself for the year also expanded to help prepare them for their year, because nothing is worse than a department that wishes you luck and sends you on your way with nothing.  I was supported and I want these guys to be supported.  And my first impression is that I’m proud as hell of my department for really stepping up, making the new teachers feel welcome, and making sure all doors are open for support.  We also decided to each take on a teacher and be peer mentors for the year, making sure that each of us focused on teachers with similar subjects.  I had the same thing happen when I was younger and it was invaluable. 

I’m ready, or so I keep trying to convince myself.  Something is niggling me, like every other year, that I’m missing out on some small detail that’ll pop right up when the morning starts on Monday.  My technology all works.  Gradebook is set up.  Syllabus needs a little tweaking but that can be done tomorrow.  I have engaging activities to start the year, some quick writes for four out of five of my classes, and APUSH immediately collaborating and using their laptops.  The week overall is ready, my photocopies (screw you paper Nazis) are ready, and the only real thing missing is students in my classroom.  What’s missing?  DAMMIT, WHAT’S MISSING?

The answer is that nothing is missing that I shouldn’t be able to handle on the first day.  I’ve done this for awhile, to the point where I could walk in and run the class fine with almost no prep. But “fine” isn’t good enough.  I want “fantastic”.  I want every year to be better than the last. 

Work must be graded and returned quicker.

Per Se Courts need to be used in greater abundance, and I must take the risk of using them in my standard Government classes.

All students need to feel engaged and not be allowed to sit in a corner.

English Language Learners ALL must become an active part of the process and become part of the rigor.

And I need to make sure that do extra “teacher” related things that continue to enhance my life, not weigh it down.

There are my goals.  Let the year begin.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Jay Greene says stupid shit

Yeah, I know.  Such an undignified title for a post that is exposed the Interwebz world.  But if the shoe fits, if it walks like a duck, and if it is damn stupid.  Well….

So Jay Greene has a blog.  That’s not entirely new.  Lots of people have blogs.  I have a blog.  A crazy ass that totally digs celebrities has a blog.  A “Southern Belle” that uses way too much butter has a blog.  Hell, even the severely disillusioned have a blog.  It’s all a matter of opinions.  We are all taking our little spots on the web and making them a soapbox for all those things we care about.

Twitter is simply a smaller soapbox.  In 140 characters we managed to express ourselves in a manner that reaches a whole lot of people very quickly.  I give out opinions; most being totally incoherent ramblings that are probably going to get me fired one day when I mention something about the San Francisco Giants’ batting style.  Until that time occurs, I figure that I can provide something to the American public.  A window in the life of a public educator in Northern California.

“Judging by the high status of many of these manic Tweeters you might think they are saving the world. They include respected academics, think tank leaders, and foundation officials, so it would seem that they really must engage in these compulsive acts to prevent something terrible from happening.  Unfortunately, I think they are suffering from a form of madness.”

Whoa.  Looks like Mr. Blog-o-Greene has a thing about Twitter.  Apparently the frequency of opinion really bothers him since he created an entire post about how useless having an opinion on Twitter actually is. 

“Issuing dozens of 144 character messages every day has no real impact on making the world better. It just encourages shallow thinking and petty sniping. In the history of the Universe it is highly unlikely that any Tweet influenced or helped anyone.”






And we could add in people like Andy Carvin to the list for the ability to take news stories, as they happen, and give a total perspective from the 140 standard characters that is Twitter.  Yeah, no influence at all.

The most egregious error that Greene makes is the gross hypocrisy on his own blog.


What the…. 

“thoughts on education policy and other matters?”  You mean like Twitter?  Except with Twitter you can get through a lot of garbage and often actually say something.  But I understand, you…..wait a minute.  Is that a link to share on Twitter? 


Oh well played. 

By the way, Larry Ferlazzo (a local guy) provides one of the most comprehensive resource options for teachers on the Internet, with strong emphasis on information to assist with English Language Learners.  He is tireless with his research.  Going after Ferlazzo is like going to the neighbor that builds playground equipment for needy children and punching him in the face just to prove that you can. 

But I guess that’s how they do it in Arkansas.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Because I wouldn’t write it as well.

Assorted Stuff gets the credit for this post because he created an open letter to his new Superintendent.

Not a big deal, you say?

Well it wouldn’t be if it didn’t represent the feelings of thousands of teachers around the country.  But Assorted does a fantastic job describing the “accolades”, the “inspirational speeches”, the mention of international educational dominance, and the data….ooooh the sweet data. 

So yeah, you should read this and realize that what teachers want most for the time right before students enter is to prepare for that moment when students enter. 

By the way, I could have wrote this kind of letter.  But I’m too immature and I would have probably added in some kind of extra nonsense that would not have helped the matter.


Take it for what you will.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Miserable Common Core scores reported. Hilarity ensues.

A long time ago, when NCLB ruled the land and the wicked STAR determined the fate of the endangered, I sat at a table and talked with the more seasoned of my staff.  They looked at a me with eyes of knowledge and in their own way they said,

“Young Padawan, this too shall pass.  For over five score yarens the mission of public education has been re-interpreted by those that wear bad suits and answer to the mighty ballot.  We will end the cycle that is NCLB, and we will move to something else, and to something else, and to something else, and the circle will never end.  To excel in teaching you must make sure that you use your skills, follow your feelings, and actually teach what is in the students’ best interest to know.  If you look into The Eye, the horrible Eye of standardized instruction, you will only go mad with its never-ending adjustment and it’s promises that at the end of the new curriculum rainbow is eternal life, 99 virgins, and all the delicious cabernet that you can drink.  No.  Stay the course, my friend.  Teach, and know that your stability, ingenuity, and educational integrity will reign supreme in the eyes of the most important; those that are being taught!”

They were oh-so-correct.  I remember being freaked out early-on by NCLB and it wasn’t until I started reading educational blogs and reading twitter that I realized that the best didn’t care about the standards.  They cared about the teaching. 

Which leads us to the recent news about the new (and predicted) Common Core Standards!  They will save us!

“Test scores in New York state, its first under tests aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and math, show sharp declines in student performance in grades 3-8 for the 2012-13 school year, as officials try to assure parents that the new scores don't reflect a major drop in students' academic understanding, just tougher performance standards.

Statewide, the statewide ELA proficiency rates dropped from 55.1 percent on the non-common-core-aligned exams from the 2011-12 school year, to 31.1 percent in the 2012-13 school year. In math, the proficiency rates declined from 64.8 percent to 31 percent.”

The edu-wonks are in full boar response mode now.  Political saber rattling, back-tracking, blame-gaming.  It’s back to being all about the test.  Except, wait a minute…..

“For the first time in several years, California students' performance declined on their state assessments, the Standardized Testing and Reporting exams (or STAR) in English/language arts and math this year, although the drops were significantly less dramatic than in New York.The Sacramento Bee has the numbers: Statewide, 51.2 percent of students in grades 2-11 tested in math were proficient, off very slightly from 51.5 percent last year, while in English, the proficiency rate dipped from 57.2 to 56.4. Math test scores had previously increased for five straight years, while English scores had climbed for the last eight years.”

Oops.  Looks like the last year of STAR testing didn’t quite go off so well either.  Dammit California.  Now the reasons that are being presented here are simple “transition to Common Core” and “budget cuts.”  Maybe.  I have another theory.

Here’s the deal.  Teaching under No Child Left Behind was a nightmare for most districts.  While the accountability and the data presented were awesome, the standards assumed the impossible (everyone can be proficient in Math and English) and told everyone that if this didn’t occur by X date, there would be consequences to everyone…….except for the student.  So the atmosphere for many was one that didn’t promote education, it promoted test taking and having public educators trying to bribe young kids with everything from cash to baseball tickets to ice cream to iPods.  After the greatest budget crisis since the Depression, the fudging of data, social-media “cheating alerts”, and various major scandals all over the country, out went NCLB and in came Common Core, with the theme of more open instruction, more focus on writing, and the idea of “college and career ready.”  And you know what the reaction from most teachers is at this point to Common Core?

They don’t care.

“We will end the cycle that is NCLB Common Core, and we will move to something else, and to something else, and to something else, and the circle will never end.  To excel in teaching you must make sure that you use your skills, follow your feelings, and actually teach what is in their best interest to know.” 

Teachers want to teach.  They want to be passionate about kids, want to watch kids succeed, and want to see those teachers that aren’t passionate get run through a wood chipper.  Common Core does nothing for that.  Common Core does nothing at all except give another way to teach subject matter that good teachers already know how to do, only once again they will have to use colorful language (along with precious time and energy) to prove that they do it.  I see “Unit Planning for Common Core” in professional development and it makes me look for bottle of 18 year Glenlivet and a straw.  Seriously, you are going to have a good veteran teacher spend time on Unit Plans that work, by making sure that they align to standards that are not a lot different than previous standards but probably require more evidence that they do align, some how.  Know why?  Because.  So everyone is going to go ga-ga over Common Core until something else changes.  In the meantime the good teachers will make the small necessary changes (little or nothing) and impact kids lives.  The waste of time and productivity will be astounding. 

Look around.  Teachers feel marginalized and totally screwed by a system that uses political efficiency to manufacture what the problem is within Education.  Teachers try to tell people but they are ignored because it isn’t sexy to place a mirror in front of society and say “Hey look, we are the problem.”  Instead the curriculum is changed and teachers, especially young ones, are left with the taste in their mouth that a social contract has been broken over and over again; I teach passionately with every fiber of my being, and you work as society to create the best environment for successful children. 

Fix the social contract and you’ll fix education.  Fix that social contract and “test scores” will go up.  Fix that social contract or you are in danger of losing a generation of really good teachers.   

Thursday, August 08, 2013

A fantastic job by school board members


Since they are public officials that I actually vote on, I find it appropriate that I make reasoned criticism of the actions of the Ukiah Unified School Board.  Some will actually read this blog and write me e-mails, talk to me privately, and otherwise engage me in reasoned conversation that has never delved into a school board member talking bad about my mother. 

Saying that, I think it’s time for some praise for Ukiah Unified Board Members. 

Ukiah Reads is the brain child of board members Megan Van Sant and Anne Molgaard.  It’s a selection of books recommend by the pair that is broken down by grade level.  The selections are phenomenal.  They mix in some of the classic literature that children should be exposed to (James and the Giant  Peach, Ramona the Pest, Cannery Row) with modern works that are excellent but yet to be appreciated by youth (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Harry Potter Series, Million Dollar Throw).  Oh, and look at what’s on the list for those entering 10th grade:


Nice to know that Ukiah has a greater literary appreciation than, oh let’s say, Chicago

“The impetus came from our efforts to find age-appropriate summer reading material for our own children. I was tired of having to go to Internet sites of schools that my nieces and nephews were attending to find book lists. We wanted to create something from our own district."

All the teachers received a booklet with the recommendations and my hope is that his catches on.  I like a board that wants kids to be learned, and isn’t just satisfied with yacking.  This list is the rubber meeting the road, and it’s good.  I mean, this is one of those things that I read and went “Damn, this is totally cool.” 

I hope it continues.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The fear of not knowing

I’ve been to my classroom twice in the last few days.  No, I’m not on the clock.  No, I’m not contractually obligated.  I go because I like it.

And to annoy my administration.

I see some of the horror stories on Twitter and I shudder.  Some teachers are a week away from having the little munchkins in class yet have no idea what they are teaching, or grade level they are teaching at.  Wow.  While Ed Tech and Common Core are proliferating the Internet, it’s the things like this that are the bane to education.  Want a well run class?  Prepare for every eventuality that you can.  Want a prepared teacher?  Communicate and offer up the best atmosphere for success.  Telling them their assignment well before the last minute is a start.

I know my assignment because I annoy the administration and I’ve been teaching the same thing for awhile.  Around the end of July I start wandering to the Big Board in the office and checking what I’m teaching; harassing the staff and probably preventing loads for very important work to get done.  Hey, someone’s got to do it.  Actually, I have a relationship with my admin where they understand that I work and want to prepare, so they keep me informed.  They also understand that they can tell me to get the hell out of the office before I’m physically harmed with large objects, and I won’t be offended in the slightest.  It’s a very good relationship that I hope is cultivated with a lot of teachers and administration.

Twitter doesn’t seem to think so highly of that relationship.  At least, not from what the teachers are talking about.  Even with the most experienced teacher, springing classes without adequate prep time is setting up at the very least a delayed process of learning.  Sure, a good teacher can wing it and manage the class.  But is that what you really want?  Don’t you want the best from Day One?

Let’s get it done, people!

Friday, August 02, 2013

The curious conundrum of Khan in my Costco Connection (#flipclass will love it)

I love Costco.

It’s the great identifier for those with the capitalist ethic, marginalizing those that don’t do their research by presenting them with “deals” that make people spend over $400 per shopping trip.  My wife and I do the research, and our trip costs have been cut down significantly (*cough* minus wine).  And where else can you grab a dog and a drink for a buck fifty, after you’ve gorged on all the snack samples that permeate the store.  So bring forth my mailer, the Costco Connection!



That’s not really what I had in mind for the Back-To-School edition of the Connection.  Sal Khan, founder and marketer of the online platform Khan Academy, has now found his way into the heart of my shopping nirvana.  Part of me is not surprised at this, especially when I realized that he is now promoting a book, The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined…..available at Costco.


Sal Khan insists that his Academy is not the “silver bullet” of education, although he has plenty of opinions about education and all of them revolve around using the Khan Academy platform.  And he’s has offered up those opinions on any media outlet that will take him, the most recent being the Back-To-School edition of the Costco Connection.   

And look who’s the new face for Flipping the Classroom!  Sal Khan!  Hahaha.  Being a lurker of #flipclass on Twitter and doing a whole lot of investigative work on Flipping, I can tell you that Sal’s massive overexposure might not go well with those teachers that actually practice the real concept of classroom face-to-face time.  The grunts are doing the real work while the prissy little general that has never had his hands dirty is going to the media saying “Look at all I’ve accomplished.” 


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Oh the Udacity of it all!

In an effort to seem ahead of the curve in educational technology, San Jose State teamed up with Silicon Valley start-up Udacity and started to offer online credit classes.  As we all know, ed-tech is going to solve the education crisis in this country, starting with the state college system and working down.  The results?


“….failure rates in the five classes ranged from 56 to 76 percent. Nor was the course material exactly rocket science—the five classes were in elementary statistics, college algebra, entry-level math, introduction to programming, and introduction to psychology.”

Someone, somewhere is probably surprised by this statistic.  That someone is probably not a teacher, and very likely an edu-crat or a simple politician.  For some reason people have forgotten what type of people go to college.  Remember that your perfect little children are probably not the majority of those people enrolled as freshmen in college.


That’s the Lazy College Guy meme.  He’s tremendously popular because he reminds a lot of people about what college was like as an underclassman; getting up to go to class hung over and barely making it in classes that were moderately challenging.  Now you are telling Lazy College Guy (and Gal) to not to bother getting up because you can blast through Udacity and pass the class whenever.  Sure, sounds like plan. 

But wait a moment!  Some good news.

“….83 percent of students had completed the classes, a far higher rate than is typical for the free, open courses that have come to be known as MOOCs.”

Of course.  Nearly 20% of those that signed up didn’t even complete the course, and of those that completed the course almost 75% failed.  Somehow the founder of Udacity found this to be the silver lining on the thundercloud known as MOOCs.  If I’m not mistaken, the point was to rush kids into learning something by using the online platform.  Didn’t seem to work out well.  

I took online courses in college…..when I had already graduated.  Yep.  Once I saw that 90 units of credit got me a serious raise in money, I took as many online courses that I could handle in a couple of summers and shot over to the end of that salary schedule.  But the difference between me and the San Jose State debacle is that they were all classes I was interested in, and the incentive to take them was very clear.  Money.  There is little real short-term incentive here, and the engagement aspect of a good college class is non-existent online.  I loved some my subjects I took from Fresno-Pacific.  But the classes were boring as hell. 

Online learning will always have a niche in college.  But only a niche.  College is an experience, not just a series of webpages you can scan to complete the work for bogus credit.  Until we figure out that we need real pedagogy and rigor to fix the situation, the Interwebz will just be an excuse.