Sunday, September 22, 2013

“Give me a referral.” I don’t. Leaves anyway.

“Cell phones away please.  If they are out I will take them, sell them on E-Bay, and you’ll be famous for someone putting you in a scene twerking with Miley Cyrus.”

I subbed for another teacher this week, just one period only.  Within that period I had to be meany face and take the phones of those who failed to heed my warning.  One student gave me the phone and within thirty seconds this took place.

“I want my phone back.”

“You aren’t getting your phone back.”

“I want it back.”

“You’ll get it later.”

“I want it now.”


“Think so?”

Yes, this is a challenge from a high school student.  While this conversation is taking place I’m trying to give directions the teacher left me, my back being to the student.  I’m heard this before, although it’s been many years since I’ve had one so blatantly challenge me because I primarily teach Seniors, and I have a reputation for no bullshit.  So my response?

“Oh, absolutely.” (with a grin)

I stand 6’2” tall and weigh 250.  Fear plays no part in the decision to tell him “no”, although I already foresee what’s coming.  The kid didn’t not get the reaction he was looking for from a normal sub.  And here it comes….

“Fine then.  Just give me a referral and my phone back and I’ll go up to the office.”

This is the connection to the phone talking, and giving in to that impulse actually diminishes the value of the class and gives power over to the electronic device.  The point is to keep students in the room. 


“Well forget this then.  I’m out of here!”

The student left the room.  At this point the situation has now escalated to being out of my control, and my concentration needs to be on the 33 other bodies in the classroom.  I act like the event didn’t happen and the rest of the class (50 minutes) goes off without a problem. 

I found the student in the discipline office waiting for, you guessed it, his phone.  I gave cell phone referrals for those that complied with the hand-over, and the one student received a cell phone violation, defiance, and a cut.  I gave them to the admin who promptly gave them to the students as it was the last period of the day and the issue would be dealt with the next morning. 

I think the situation went well.  Now, some might take issue with the fact that the taking of the phone led to student removal from class.  Some might say “was it worth it” to have that not go through the day’s lesson simply because he was on an electronic device.  I would respond by saying that the kid had a choice. 

I often lurk in places on Twitter and the Edublogosphere that are really big into student choice in terms of learning styles, pacing, and overall classroom instruction.  What I find interesting is that the choice issue isn’t brought up when the child fails to behave.  The student knew the rules, broke the rules, and then chose that the device was more important than the learning.  It was a bad choice.  My choice was to concentrate my energy on the other students that wanted to remain in the class to learn. 

Sometimes the edu-community forgets that a massive amount of energy is spent focusing on the few that get into trouble, thus ignoring those that also need that education (and energy), and are there ready for teachers to go at it.  

Back to School Night a monumental success, for the 15% who showed up.

I don’t know about other schools but Back To School Night at Ukiah High School is not the most attended event I have ever seen.  This year was like most years in the Coach Brown classroom; 5-30% parent attendance, good questions, positive vibe, and the occasional parent that wants to make sure that I’m not A) Showing liberal media, and B) forgetting to include Zinn in my AP U.S. History classes.  By the way, those would be two separate parents.  But now the Back To School festivities are here and gone, and while the parents that did show were very attentive and fun, my concern is the class of APUSH parents that barely registered eight families in a class that contains 34 kids.  I wince at that statistic for many reasons. 


As of today Homecoming Week is two weeks away.  The students have been preparing for that one week for the past two weeks.  Eek, that reeks!  Gotta go eat some leeks, other something something.  Anyway, the distractions have amounted to some instructors asking to have have a couple of kids pulled for any assortment of issues related to Homecoming, about five or six, and me saying “no” thus maintaining the reputation that I hate Homecoming.

Have I mentioned that I hate Homecoming?

Ok, I don’t hate it that much, except for the fact that it is totally pits students against each other, ignores the academic mission for at least a week, forgets the football game, and impacts the state of student lives for up to five weeks.  What’s to hate?  And I really tried to get involved this year.  Seriously!  I offered up the Homecoming theme of Arab Spring countries, with each class of students representing a country that has gone through a modern Middle Eastern revolution.  They turned it down and went with musicals instead.  Cowards.


I rank this year up with being one of the best starts ever.  Energy is up.  Engagement is up.  Attendance issues are wayyyyyy down.  And I need to say that part of the solution was to make everything inquiry driven and to minimize lectures to about 20 minutes or less, and to stay the course with that.  I didn’t have a problem with student engagement before, however now the students seem like they are showing up partly because they want to know “what happens next.”  It’s a tad bit addictive.


And I’m still coughing.  Dammit.  I’ve now been sick over a week and while I’m getting better very day, I still have this damn cough.  It’s annoying. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Musings of a month in, dammit.

Dammit anyway.

I’m sick.  I’m better than I was yesterday, that’s for sure.  I had a fever, could barely get out of bed, and was hacking up half my insides trying get out the gunk.  Now I’m just a little fatigued, yet I’m still hacking and coughing.  I started coming down with it on Thursday afternoon and tried to announce the football game on Friday.  I succeeded in sounding like Barry White calling ball-carriers and tackles.  Then I went home and collapsed.  It’s not a surprise though because kids have been coming down with this thing for over a week, and my wife got it last weekend.  But I think it has run its course and normalcy should set in by mid-week.


Let’s get something straight, warm-up music is not for adults.  At basketball games a vast majority of the music is going to be hip-hop.  At football games the vast majority will be heavy metal.  You don’t have to like.  It’s not for you.  It’s also not profane or nasty or derogatory, so sush.  Listen for 15 minutes and deal with it, or show up at kick-off.  Regardless, don’t bother me in the booth with complaints about how awful Metallica is.  You won’t get anywhere.


This is another year where beach wear is in at Ukiah High School and I really can’t figure out what has happened to the sense of parents to police kids.  You are parents.  You parent.  See how that works?  Right now nice kids are wearing either clothing that is actually tasteful but inappropriate for school (strapless sun dresses made for the beach) or clothing that looks kind of like, well..

 See through tops with bras underneath.  Yep, here we go again.  Last year I asked a girl wearing something similar to cover up and the parent thought I was the expression police about to send her daughter to the gulag.  This year I’m early and hopefully the message is sent while the honeymoon is in full swing.  And this picture is actually tame compared to some I ask to cover up.  And animal prints are back in fashion. 



Back to school is Wednesday.  Over/Under for number of families to show?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Dude, let me puff that vape

I was told in the summer that students are starting to bring e-cigarettes to school that are disguised as pens.  How cute. 

For those that don’t know, e-cigs (aka “vapes”) are electronic devices that allow the user to get a nicotine hit through the use of vapor.  It’s marketed as a method to stop smoking, only the Centers for Disease Control has found that students are starting to show signs that it’s doing just the opposite. 

“…1 in 5 middle school students who reported ever using e-cigarettes say they have never tried conventional cigarettes. This raises concern that there may be young people for whom e-cigarettes could be an entry point to use of conventional tobacco products, including cigarettes.”

  Interesting, except that I don’t see much that my high school can do about something that doesn’t really have a rule, nor has major externalities in relation to other students.  Plus, enforcement is going to really, really difficult.  So maybe parents need to keep track of the whole vape thing and realize that your child is sucking on a small, metal pipe.  Or a rope.

God.  After a short time off the trendy list it looks like smoking hookah is also back into fashion.  The past time has created a culture that has been promoted by parents by loaning their child the garage and to allow them to buy a massive communal water bong because it probably prevents them from having sex, drinking booze, listening to loud music, and doing hard drugs….unless it accomplishes none of that. 

Ahh, the teenage desire for vice.  

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Blurred Lines, the most heinous thing on the Internet

I really tried to write that title with a straight face and I’m not pulling it off very well.  It’s one part Emily Ratajkowski, whose mere presence on my screen makes it very difficult to concentrate on anything.  The second part is the absurdity around the idea that the video is anything other than a goof on sex. 

For those that haven’t seen the video simply Google the title and watch either the unrated version that contains topless women, or the edited version that contains clothed women.  Both videos are totally goofy, which women and men dancing around and making sexual innuendos throughout while Twitter hashtags occasionally make their way onto the screen.  I saw the video first in April after I heard the song at a Giants game, then heard students talking about how racy the video was.  I was amused.  Seriously,  it’s a fun video about sex. 

But the topless women apparently make the video insanely misogynistic.  The phrase “I know you want it” is code for rape, I guess.  The men are mean to the woman, some how.  And the entire video is a commercial for everything a man should not be; meaning….God, who knows.  If this video is the model for bigotry in society then I have plenty of songs, films, and video to show you that will make your head burst;  legitimate media that straight out describes misogyny. 

There are benefits to the anger at the Thicke video, the top of the list being this video from a group of law students from the University of Auckland.  It’s a parody of Blurred Lines that attacks a male dominated society that subjugates women by demanding a female dominated society that subjugates men.  Or maybe it doesn’t and I’m reading into the part about castration.  I actually enjoyed the Aussie video as much as the original because it’s creative, and the while I think the message is way overstated, it packs a punch in a way that is unusual.  Good for them for bringing it to the world.  

And while the conversation is being had at some level, the students are totally over the video.  It’s so “last-school-year” and there was little to no shock value, partly because (this is coming from students) that nudity is nothing compared to what they see on the Internet.  Now that should be a concern.   

Sunday, September 01, 2013

What the hell do you mean you’ve never heard Hotel California?

I was going to end my lesson with four minutes left in class.  Note to all new teachers; that’s not really a good thing.  You want to have things happening from bell-to-bell.  Well, I noticed earlier that the lesson was moving quicker than I wanted it to, and I wasn’t going to have time enough to transition to the next exercise while making it effective.  So I was going to have a spare for minutes.  So what do I do?

It’s relationship building time.  I decided to comment on a recent cultural event. 

When Madonna did these kinds of things it was interesting and provocative.  When Miley Cyrus does …well…this, it makes you wonder if Paul Verhoeven was secretly filming it for Showgirls 3: Releasing the Nutty Shrew.  It was weird.  And I made a joke about it in class to stir up conversation.

Within 20 seconds one of my students popped in with the fact that he was reading an excellent book on The Eagles, and how Hotel California is so hard to play on guitar.  I asked the students, a class of 34, how many had listened to the great Hotel California.  Six raised their hands.  SIX!  That couldn’t stand.  So, I warmed up the iTunes and we listened to the first few minutes of the song while discussing why music was better in the past.  It was a nice way to end fifth period.

No, it wasn’t a waste of time.  Those are the moments were you seem human to the kids and they appreciate that you are bringing something into their lives that shows a bit of “you”.  It’s those things that Khan and MOOCS and the entirety of the online world can’t give students.  Relationships.  The kids got a kick out the song; some holding their nose while others were sort of digging the music.  It’s a moment where everyone relaxed and yet they learned something about who I was, who each other were, and who we as a country are.  Use those moments wisely and you build an atmosphere that goes beyond professionalism. 

And you teach them about The Eagles in the process.