Saturday, September 26, 2015

The week that can only be reached by cell phone

Hey guess what?  We are a quarter of the way through the semester!  That’s right!  Cinch notices went out this week and that means we are going to get some of those students wondering were grades are at….when they aren’t thinking about Homecoming.


Oh yeah, and Homecoming is this week.  It’s been less invasive than past years, mainly because it looks like some students are realizing that it provides limited benefit for the time people deal with it.  I’ve heard a lot of the “the popular kids” take over the situation from students, and that ends up turning off a lot of people.  Normally those popular people also have parents with money and that money often comes with strings, and that leaves the opinion of others on the margin. 


The item of the week is the cell phone.  I have a policy that is simple and to the point; if it’s out when it’s not supposed to be out I take it for 24 hours or until the student’s parent comes and picks it up, whichever comes first.  I’ve dealt with about a dozen phones so far this year but this week was the real tester.  Four phones this week, three had parents actually come to my classroom to pick them up.  Mind you these are Seniors in high school.  About 70% of parent interactions when this happens are very positive.  The other 30% are angry but it seems more geared towards the student.  After this week I’m guessing phone use is probably going to drop a lot because the message has started to travel.


Fall Basketball started this week and means late evenings twice a week.  It also means that I get to bed quite a bit later and have a better chance of being tired during the school day.  I was a tad flat at the beginning of 2nd period on Tuesday when a student came in an said “Brown, where’s the energy?  This is my favorite class because of the energy!”  That helped but it will take me a week to adjust.


Speaking of Fall basketball….over 30 kids!  That’s a fantastic improvement over the last five or six years when we barely have had enough players to field a team.  It looks like the older kids are raring to go and a large group of young basketball lovers is heading into the high school.  Hoop life is good!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Day 19: Chaco Canyon National Park

Chaco Canyon is known for two things.  It is the greatest collection of Native American pueblo ruins north of Mexico, and road to get to it is a bitch. 

We woke to rain and decided to risk the nasty road and headed back south towards County Road 7900, the turn-off to Chaco.  The problem with the road is not the first eight paved miles.  Those are great.  It isn’t the next nine miles of county paved road.  That was well graded and was an easy 50 mph ride.  It was the last four miles that was quite a bit dicey.  At its best the road is washboard with groves and washouts, plus a crossing over a very large wash.  If it is raining at all you are looking at an ugly ride in which you might have a problem in the wash.  If it is raining hard there is no way you are passing that four miles, meaning you might be stuck in Chaco Canyon for awhile.  We got through but were constantly watching the clouds all day.

Chaco Canyon is a community with different townships and a history that is unbelievably deep.  We spent over five hours just exploring the different houses on the loop road but never worked up the nerve to hike up the canyons, mainly because we kept hearing thunder throughout the day.  The Great Houses of Chaco are some of the largest in the entire country.  My wife and I read all the signs, bought the guidebooks, and walked all over the ruins trying to imagine the sights and thoughts of the inhabitants.  There is a feeling that overwhelms a person walking within the remains of such an ancient civilization.  What were they thinking when they looked at what I was looking at?  Why did they leave?  How did they manage to irrigate crops on only nine inches of water a year?  The entire afternoon was about investigating the massive structures of Chaco, and it was an experience. 

But the rain started around 2 p.m. and the thunder was closing in.  The road left us little choice; it was time to leave.  We were sprinkled on as we went across the wash and made our trek back to the highway, and ended up being thankful because a thunderstorm warning went into effect about the time we entered Farmington. 

After a small picnic on the Angus River we wine tasted some New Mexico bottles at a local place in Farmington and found that the bubbles were excellent, the Syrah was god-awful, and that the Cab Franc was very pleasant.  But none of it was really worth the Napa prices they wanted for it.  We bought a bottle of bubbles and a cheap Zin and called it a day.     

Trails hiked:  All those really neat houses at Chaco Canyon.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The week sure can’t make up its mind

It rained this week.  It wasn’t a warm, summerish rain that doesn’t give you any sense of real refreshment.  Nope.  This was a cool, fall rain.  It was a rain that was welcome along with the cold chip in the air that made me think happy thoughts of warm blankets, hot chocolate, and dark evenings. 

It was 101 today.


The difference between an average teacher and better teacher could be something as simple as energy.  By now the students are in the unfortunate rhythm of school; the glazed looks complimenting the constant state of whining about boring classes and useless work.  What students are looking for is passion and energy.  I’m still at the door, the music is still playing as they enter, and I’m still whipping around the room being slightly loud, mildly sarcastic, and almost totally obnoxious.  Students are also engaged.  Don’t get caught up in normality.  Keep up the energy!


Aluminum Overcast was in town this weekend.  No, not some kind of sleazy hipster college-radio band.  This is Aluminum Overcast:

Blank image

Over the last three days I’ve been hearing the roar of a B-17 over Ukiah.  It’s fantastic!  Unfortunately I can’t bear ponying up the $475 for twenty-four minutes in the air but watching it fly around the valley is a treat in itself.


Two week long Short Term Independent Study contracts already.  Not even a month into the year and parents have already started to pull their kids for vacations because the two plus summer months, the week in November, the week in March, and the two weeks in December apparently are not enough.  Not that I’m bitter.  I’m to the point now where I have a pre-made slip of paper that says:

-You are responsible for the work.

-You are responsible to make up all quizzes and tests.

-Everything is on Google Classroom.

-This choice may not be in your best interest academically.

What will happen is they will go on vacation, do none of the work, come back knowing none of the material, and end up probably with a full letter grade lower.  My class is very intensive IN MY CLASS.  I don’t give a lot of busy work.  I’m selfish like that.


Our department has found some energy again.  For a couple of rough years people sort of hunkered down in their rooms and kept to themselves while the trials of tribulations of the school and the economy had their way with society.  Now we are back out and engaging each other with new ideas and words of wisdom and support.  It might be fresh admin, it might be fresh teachers, and it might be that we are all tired of living in caves and would rather exist in communities. 


Genetically I’m gifted in that I can pretty much play any sport.  I can’t play any sport great but I can go out and not totally embarrass myself.  I can still easily run with the varsity hoopsters.  I can play a good First Base while legging out a double here and there.  Golf?  I’ll do a little over 100 consistently.  Hell, I’ll manage in tennis and disc golf just fine.  Friday it was volleyball.  I had a blast partly because the students make me feel young again, and partly because it’s a competitive atmosphere.  Sure, the faculty consisted of mostly people that are not spiker proficient.  But who cares.  We had a good time and I got a couple of kills that made the varsity football players give an ohhhhhhhhh.  I’ll take it.  

Day 18: Bernalillo, New Mexico to Farmington, New Mexico via Petroglyphs National Monument and Aztec Ruin National Monument.

Today was not a rough hiking day.  It was an open day meaning that we really had no idea what we were doing except that we had to end up in Farmington. 

We were mellow getting up once again and started back towards Albuquerque and Petroglyph National Monument.  Petroglyph is actually four trails; three on the east side that contain petroglyphs, and one on the west side that is mainly volcanic.  The three trails on the east side are actually right next to subdivisions within Albuquerque, and yes, the city noise does make for a more subdued experience.  But we started on the least crowded and northern most trail, Piedras Marcadas Canyon, by about 7 a.m. and enjoyed it the most.  It had the least amount of people and you could get up close to many petroglyphs.  The middle trail, Boca Negra Canyon, also allowed for up-close-and-personal with the symbols but was more crowded and seemed to attract more of the city noise.  The most popular trail was the worst; Rinconada Canyon.  It was popular, hot, sandy, and you had a fence that kept you away from the rocks, thus the only we you could get a good view of the petroglyphs was using binoculars.  Done with our symbolic trails we headed north.

We were thinking Santa Fe today but Petroglyphs actually took up nearly five hours of our time, so off to Farmington we went.  Note to those wanting a really underrated drive; the views of the geology from Bernalillo to Bloomfield are excellent.  They are a combination of the Paria area in Vermillion Cliffs and the Waterpocket District of Capital Reef, just on a smaller scale.  We thought about taking the dirt trek out to Chaco Canyon today but the monsoon was already forming so we headed up to another urban National Monument; Aztec Ruins. 

I’ve got to admit, we were a bit disappointed when we arrived at Aztec Ruins in that it was basically in town.  We like rural.  We like “hard to get to.”  We like very few people.  But the ruins are fantastic, and the massive collection of rooms and Great Kivas got my wife and I really excited for Chaco Canyon tomorrow. 

Trails hiked:  Rinconada Canyon, Boca Negra Canyon,  Piedras Marcadas Canyon., Aztec Ruins.

Total Miles:  4.2

The Valley Fire

In California we worry about three types of natural disasters; earthquakes, floods, and wildfires.  Earthquakes are useless to be concerned about because they are so random and eventually, if you live in California, you will be in one.  You just prepare, prepare, prepare.  Floods only hit once in awhile and usually in areas around bodies of water.  The Sacramento Delta is probably the next Katrina style event and the government knows this.  However most of California will not experience flooding.  Fires?  Fires are frightening.  You never know where or when they will occur and with the drought creating conditions that are tinder-box dry, they move with insane speed and intensity.  Most of California is in danger from wildfires.  Remember the Oakland Hills?  San Diego? Lassen?  Mendocino County in 2008?  Wildfires can strike anywhere.

I’ve been to Middletown many, many times.  Usually the occasion is to golf at Hidden Valley Lakes Golf Course, a nice course that has a good variety of holes for a reasonable price.  My father and I often commented that the brush on the back nine was so dry and would go up quickly if it were to catch fire.  I guess I really had no idea.  The fire started at 1:30 in the afternoon on Saturday, September 12.  Within twelve hours the fire had consumed 40,000 acres.  Think about that.

40,000 acres.

The devastation in southern Lake County is brutal.  Around 600 homes destroyed, the lives lost (right now at five) will be determined over the coming weeks, and the psychological impacts will be felt for a decade.  I’ve been close to two stories from the area.  One was someone who had family that lived in the burn zone but their home survived the disaster.  The other was a staff member at Ukiah High that lost everything.  Both stories were harrowing and gut wrenching. 

One positive has been the attitude of Northern California in helping the fire victims.  On Sunday one of my students took a horse trailer into the disaster zone trying to rescue horses and livestock.  People opened up homes, campgrounds, restaurants, hotels… name it and people are donating like crazy.  My classroom raised over $100 in pure cash donations in four days by simple charity box style.  On Friday the school held a really awesome volleyball fundraiser that allowed different Fall Sports teams compete against each other and the staff.  It was a blast to play in and we raised $8,000 to help out Middletown’s athletic programs.  The vibe was a good one and I was proud to be a part of something positive for southern Lake County.

With the news cycle over, now the focus needs to be on maintaining a compassionate vigilance to the fire victims of those devastated communities.  That area of Lake County has been absolutely hammered by wildfires this year.  The Valley Fire has currently burned over 75,000 acres.  A month ago the Jerusalem Fire, just to the west of the Valley Fire, burned 25,000 acres.  And at the end of July the Rocky Fire, both north and west of the Valley Fire, scorched another 70,000 acres.  Being one of the poorest counties in the state makes recovery and reconstruction vital to any socio-economic viability for the citizens of this area.  Not only should we not forget, we should make a mission to reinvigorate Lake County with help from Northern Californians; from construction help to grief counseling, from rebuilding roads, homes, and resorts to rebuilding the spirit of those that lost all that they owned.  

Let’s get to work!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Week gets hot, makes me wish I lived in Montana.

Damn it’s hot.  Like your typical Northern California in September hot.  Like triple digits easy hot.


That’s Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier in Glacier National Park.  That was this past weekend. 


That was taken by me a little more than a month ago.  Not gonna lie, I miss the hell out of Glacier.


I play music every day, every class as they mosey on in to start the period.  I was shocked at how positive the reaction was to C & C Music Factory “Gonna Make You Sweat”.  Occasionally this happens; music that we think has been dead and buried in the psyche of American youth makes a small resurgence of viability.  There are the usual stalwarts of music that gather attention (The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty) but C & C Music Factory?  Go figure. 


Thursday was Club’s Day.  The idea is that the different clubs take over the quad and hock there wares and food for exposure and income.  It’s a fairly popular beginning of the year tradition that is a favorite of mine because of one thing; the food.  A diverse high school that includes nearly half Hispanic students and a significant Native American population means that I walked back into my classroom with a cold cup of horchata and a fantastic Navajo Taco.  And I mean they make the fry bread right in front of you and it is still warm Navajo Taco.  Better still, some of the Native students are in my class and on the basketball, thus they hook a brotha up. 


I still stop what I’m doing on September 11 of each year and do a whole short discussion about the event.  We watch many of the videos of the day and those that came out afterwards.  We watched some of the video from the Naudet brothers’ documentary, the crashes into the buildings, the collapse, the work on The Pile, and the scenes of the debris field rushing through the streets of Manhattan.  We talk about the history behind the attacks, the planning, and the results of that have culminated into a post-9/11 world.  It’s important to remember that my Seniors were 3 or 4 years old when the event happened, so they have little to go on even though society seems to expect them know.


From my JV Football announcers perch:


When people see smoke in these parts people get concerned.  Very concerned.  Luckily the bombers hit the fire pretty quick and it was doused without incident.  But trust me, we were all looking that direction to see if there was a larger smoke plume or some signal on rate of travel.  And we still have a good month left in fire season.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Day 17: El Morro National Monument and El Malpais National Monument

We are starting to slow our roll, chill out, not rush.  That’s a good and a bad thing because our places to visit are constantly changing with our mood and it is impossible to satisfy all our curiosity with the limited amount of time we had.  Today we used Bernalillo as our home base and headed west. 

About one hundred miles west of Albuquerque is El Morro National Monument, an out of the way destination that happened to be in our book about the Colorado Plateau as a must see, and one of last of our Parks/Monuments on our Colorado Plateau checklist.  It was a total treat.  The monument is tiny but has a large amount of variety and plenty to see.  We took the two mile trail around the entire monument looking at petroglyphs, old Spanish explorer inscriptions (some with calligraphy-like signatures), U.S. military inscriptions, excellent geologic formations, a box canyon, vistas, and old Native ruins that included a square and round kiva.  It was a total treasure find and we were beaming with happiness as we pulled out of the parking area heading back east towards El Malpias.

El Malpias National Monument is basically a massive lava flow bordered on the west by craters and caves, and on the east by vistas and an arch.  The sky was clouding up and the ranger at the Visitor’s Center warned us that being on lava flows during thunderstorms was really dangerous because they are chock full of iron.  Point taken.  We decided to do a loop hike anyway and it ended being a fairly shitty hike, partly because there was an entire half mile that was on a lava field, and partly because the last mile was a hustle back to the car because the thunder started to roar.  Walking on a lava field is like walking on the worst loose, jagged stone you can imagine.  It’s a horrid experience.

So the west end of El Malpais was a suckfest, plus the thunderstorms had arrived.  Unfortunately the ranger also told us that we shouldn’t even bother going to the east side of the park if it was raining because the roads easily wash out.  What do we do?  Drive to the east side of course!  By the time we got to the east end we were in-between storm cells and the Sandstone Bluff views were beautiful, and the La Ventana Natural Arch was well worth the near 40 mile detour.  It made the end of the day a good one as we headed back east on I-40, blasting through thunderstorm cells and torrential downpours. 

This day is kind of the official end of our real Southwest U.S. experience as tomorrow we start to drift up towards the Four Corners and the transition to Rocky Mountain territory.  

Trails hiked: Mesa Top Trail Loop, El Caulderon Loop, La Ventana walk.

Total Miles:  6.5

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Week goes boom at the end, makes the weekend that much more thought-provoking

When you have a week in September that is in the mid-high 80’s in Northern California, you soak it in.  I actually had to wear a jacket out to the car on Friday night because the wind was chilly.  That’s unusual for this time of year.  This week?  Back to triple digits.


The alarm was pushed ahead to 4:30 this week.  A clear sign that I must have at least some control on the year.


Chromebooks.  Yeah, they are good for some things and not so good for others. 

Good for:  Research, quick online discussions, in class work for bigger assessments, overall creation.

Bad for:  Turning in work, anything to be done “in the moment”, anything that has a lack of structure for one minute, creating engaging and deep discussion.

Some of this could be structural.  My Chromebook cart is small and the line to distribute and put back ends up long and slow.  The kids are fantastic at putting them in the correct slots but they take four-five times as long to get out and prepare for the lesson, and a lot longer to put away.  I can teach to the bell with paper and pencil.  Not so with Chromebooks.  Chromebooks can’t print but again, that’s structural. 

Oh, and I officially hate online work.  It’s clumsy and takes longer to grade.


The Homecoming Theme was announced this week.  I recommended “Different Methods to Kill Famous Disney Characters” but for some reason it was denied.  Instead; music genres.  This is actually fantastic.  I’m promoting that the classes use Happy Hardcore, Gangsta Rap, Death Metal, and Brian Eno’s ambient music.  I may yet become a Homecoming fan!


Much of this last week involved searching for a new coach within our basketball program.  What’s entertaining is the look on people’s faces when I describe the requirements to coach and the time and money commitment necessary to actually manage a team.

“You mean you don’t have busses?”

“Only for league games.”

“You have to drive where?”


“You have to deal with motel rooms.”


“Do we have to practice every week day?”

Seriously, I’ve been asked that question. 


I’m my own worst critic.  Part of the reason I keep this blog is for self-reflection and on Saturday evening I made some comments about an APUSH Facebook group and a moderators actions leading up to the post.  I’ve turned inward and read the post a couple of times, and the comments many times, and wondered if the post was the right way to go.


It would have been easy to say “meh” after being told no.  And I was going to until, after one question, a fellow educator blocked and banned me.  For a question.  Eventually a person gets tired of hypocrisy and excuses and calls out what needs to be called out.  Sure, I do it with the grace of a bull trashing around a china shop but hey, it is what it is. 

Monday, September 07, 2015

Day 16: Carlsbad, New Mexico to Bernalillo, New Mexico via Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We woke up to rain.

That’s fine since we basically went to sleep to a lite rain but the night was not a good one.  The bed creaked every time we moved, the noise outside our room was idiotic at one in the morning, and the room had signs everywhere saying that we were responsible for anything we stole.  There were three signs in the room that were supposed to be a deterrent from stealing.  That’s didn’t make us safe.

On our way to Carlsbad Caverns I noticed something looking south into Texas.  I noticed fires.  Not regular fires or plains fires.  It was flaring.  Gas flaring.  All over the horizon were brilliantly lit gas wells with permanent flames shooting in the air.  On the bluff where the park Visitor’s Center was built, the Texas landscape looked like….well it looked like Kuwait in 1991.  Gas flaring and smoke and blah.

We got to Carlsbad Caverns nice and early to avoid people.  You can get down to the caverns two ways;  take the elevator or take the 1.25 mile hike down the Natural Entrance.  Since our tour was at 9 and the Natural Entrance didn’t open until 8:30, we opted for the elevator ride down, down, down.

The common area of the cavern (food, gift shop, elevators) is touristy and fairly unremarkable.  The rest of the caverns are absolutely amazing and I give it my whole-hearted recommendation for a visit.  We first took the King’s Palace tour; a 90 minute walk on paved trail through some excellent large caverns with a great ranger (Ranger John) from Kentucky.  Then we took the time to circle The Big Room, a massive (try many football fields massive) cavern that had a 1.3 mile loop that satisfied many senses.  Have claustrophobia?  Carlsbad is going to be great for you because the cavern is enormous!  I’m already hassling my wife for a return trip to do two things.  One, I want to take an off-the-beat-path cave tour that includes some ropes, headlamps, and bouldering.  And two, I want to stay for the evening Bat Flight event where hundreds of thousands of bats leave the cave after dusk. 

Upon leaving we had a choice.  We could walk to the elevators and take the quick and easy way up.  Or we could walk up and out of the Natural Entrance; a trail that warned people of potential health risks if they attempted the hike up to the top.  It was about 850 feet of elevation gain in 1.25 miles or so, and my wife and I could not figure out how it was going to kill us.  There was no sun beating down on us and the temperature was around 57 degrees.  It was humid so we were going to sweat but what else was new.  So we started up.  It was a little steep and we got looks of horror from people on their way down the Natural Entrance but we made it within 40 minutes easy, and it really wasn’t that hard.  My glasses fogged up because of the humidity but the trail was paved, not that steeply graded, and had a couple of points that were interesting anyway so we would stop for thirty seconds or so to view the sights, not that a rest was really needed.  Seriously, the ascent up Navajo Loop at Bryce Canyon is a lot harder.

Then it was car time as we drove back through Carlsbad and across New Mexico towards Albuquerque.  The drive sucked.  There is really nothing in central New Mexico except scrub plains and Roswell, which is a lot bigger town than I thought and full of kitschy alien figures.  Yes, Roswell really plays up the story of the UFO.  We avoided the thunderstorms today until we reached Albuquerque and then a small one stalked us for the rest of the trip.  One stop at a Trader Joe’s for some supplies and off to Bernalillo, a northern suburb of Albuquerque and our home for a couple of days. 

Trails hiked:  King’s Palace, The Big Room, up the Natural Entrance. 

Miles hiked:  3.5

Saturday, September 05, 2015

The Great Internet Blackout of 2015

During 3rd period my Newshour video went out within about a minute.  I glanced at the screen with a frown because it had been fine for two classes and figured that maybe the page just needed refreshing.  But a second glance made its way to the lower left section of the screen to my Dropbox icon, and it was no longer connected.  That was a sign that the Internet was totally down.  The wireless was down and the wired was down, since I always plug in just in case the wireless gets wonky.
This year I’m more online than ever and today was a perfect example of that.  It included the Newshour summary, a clip of an interview the Edward Lawson from the Kolender vs. Lawson court case, and the use of Poll Everywhere to conduct a pre-assessment survey.  Whelp.  That doesn’t seem to be happening.  I adjusted my plan on the fly and reverted back to the days of no Internet.  I actually reviewed the current situation with the Kentucky clerk and her actions (or lack of) regarding gay marriage and then brought up a Power Point that dealt with qualifications of a state.  The period went just fine.  It as hardly off the rails in terms of pacing or scheduling and the students went along as if everything was hunky-dory.
But my Dropbox icon remained empty and the Internet was flat down at the end of the period as well.  This was unusual.  Our district has learned that down Internet in the age of demanding teachers to use it is a bad thing so outages usually last a very short period of time.  It was now 45 minutes and I needed to plan for a day with no Net.  Poll Everywhere was a huge part of 4th Period so I moved assignments around and used some shtick to fill in the holes.  It was going to work only now I was curious about what was up.  Then a couple of students piped up;
“Cell phones don’t even work.  Teacher X said that it was a massive cyber-attack!  The Internet is down across the country and Europe!  And stoplights are out all over town!”
I frowned.  I checked my cell phone and sure enough it didn’t work.  But this didn’t sound right.  Even if national networks were down that shouldn’t have anything to do with stoplights.  And this is Ukiah, not Fort Bliss.  We are important to just about nothing in the world except for our own myopic sensitivities.  I joked about the whole issue using the Zombie Apocalypse as an example and went about the day.  Then Ms. Coach Brown (now an admin at my school) came in and confidentially told me what was being bantered about.  The Internet was down everywhere.  There were no phones.  All admin had radios so emergencies went through them.  Rumors abounded about a 9/11 style cyber-attack.  AT&T was down.  Comcast was down.  Verizon was totally sporadic.  But T-Mobile was fine.  Apparently most of Europe was totally Internet dead.  Stop lights were out in town.  I told my wife that the situation sounded bizarre and that more than likely there was a localized problem.  She asked me if I would go out to the car at lunch and listen to the radio to make sure.  Good idea. 
I told the kids about the stop lights and to be careful, then the bell rang and I wandered out to the car and turned on KCBS out of San Francisco.  News was sports, weather, and traffic on the 8s.  Turned to KGO.  Some wonk was furious about, hell I can’t even remember but it had nothing to do about the Internet.  KNBR was talking about the Giants woes.  I flipped about and hit KCBS again at the bottom of the hour and the top story was the Kentucky court clerk and the contempt of court charge.  Nope, this was not a large scale event. 
I went back and told Ms. Admin that there was nothing at all on any news, and that something was being overblown.  But the damage was already done.  Parents were beginning to pull their kids out of the elementary schools due to the lack of communication.  Banks were starting to get lines at doors because ATMs and computers were down.  Stores wouldn’t take credit cards.  It was getting a tad bit nuts. 
5th Period was actually full and my new adjusted lesson went off without so much as a hiccup.  Students said that it was true that stores were not taking credit cards but stop lights were working and everything seemed to be fairly normal.  I went home a tad bit early to check the news on TV and found nothing at all about an event.  When 3:30 p.m. rolled around 4G data started to trickle in about a construction accident south of Ukiah, and that the accident shut down the system in Humbolt, Mendocino, and part of Lake county.  The rumor mill was bad today.  It was not Armageddon.  Cell and Internet was out the rest of the night with sporadic data coverage on 4G.  I sent out a Remind text telling students that the online reading would be adjusted to fit class tomorrow.
It was vandalism.  AT&T put out a statement saying that a reward was offered for a group that cut the lines looking for copper, an activity that is much more prevalent that people might think.  In 2010 my wife and I came upon a fire in Riverside Park in January where someone had literally just started to burn through rubber tubing to get at some copper wiring.  The fire department said it was actually more and more common.  Sad.
I’ve now been in class through 9/11, the Iraq War, Katrina, the 2005 floods, the Japanese tsunami and Fukushima, the 2008 Mendocino Lightening Complex wildfires, and a variety of local police actions that were quite scary.  But as a teacher my number one job should not be to inform the students, it should be to calm the students down and get them to understand that all is going to be ok.  And before you pop off with “what if it isn’t ok”, 99% of the time the problem is false panic and not a crisis.  What’s nice about being Social Studies teachers is that we are not programed to be experts on one thing or be dependent on one source.  We want multiple sources, multiple perspectives, and a rational step back into what the sources are really saying.  The Internet was down.  But it was only two counties.  A few stoplights were out.  But that was because of street construction on a main thoroughfare on the east side of town.  The information was incomplete, people guessed, and much of the day was wondering if ISIS had executed a cyberhack on Facebook that automatically programed people to vote for Kanye or Donald Trump’s toupee.  We have a greater responsibility when things go astray to make sure kids are all right.  Let’s make sure we don’t forget that.   

APUSH Facebook group bans prospective APUSH teachers because screw you that’s why.

I’m included in a variety of Facebook groups.  They are:
-AP Economics
-AP Comparative Government and Politics
-AP U.S. Government and Politics
-History and Love of Ukiah
-National Parks and Monuments
-The Mike O’Meara Show Fan Page
-History Geeks Unite
I lurk in most of them and offer up ideas when teachers need some help with lessons and content.  The Advanced Placement pages (especially AP GOPO) are gold mines for ideas and lesson plans.  Even better the ideas are at a higher level and thus I end up teaching my standard Government and Economics classes at a higher level.  It’s a total win and a great example of collaboration and support. 
Unless you request membership to the AP United States History group.
I taught AP U.S. History for about five years until last year when I took over the Varsity Basketball position, and the administration thought that teaching four APs (APUSH and Comp Gov) plus coaching equaled serious misery.  At our school most teachers teach APUSH for about four-five years before handing it off to another teacher because of workload.  I’m one of the few teachers that would actually like it back eventually.  This was part of the reason that I requested membership in the APUSH Facebook Group.  That and APUSH lessons often go with standard Government lessons all the time, especially when you deal with Constitutional Convention era issues and Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. 
Well, my request to join the group was denied and this conversation actually happened.  The gatekeeper of the group was XXXXXXXXX.
“You have requested to become a member of the APUSH teacher only group. Only APUSH teachers are granted membership. We do not grant membership to anyone who cannot prove that they are a APUSH teacher. The best way to prove you are an APUSH teacher is to take a screenshot of your audit approval from College Board. We look forward to your response.”
That’s…interesting.  Not very welcoming at all.  And while I get the idea of keeping out unsavory characters, this is pretty much telling a whole lot of teachers to go away.  My response…
I taught APUSH for four years at Ukiah High School and I'm not teaching it this year but may in the future. Any reason why you boot teachers that want collaboration from any group?
In an area where teachers are begged to collaborate, where the College Board is clamoring for teachers to share and model and create connections this particular group seemed to be rather exclusive.  XXXXX’s statement?
Yes, because the guidelines for membership state that you have to be teaching APUSH. The years that I do not teach AP European History I withdraw from the group and then rejoin when I alternate back in.
This makes no sense at all.  And I asked for clarification.
And that benefits teachers how? You censor teachers from the group that might be teaching APUSH in the future. That makes no sense at all.
Just to be clear, you are denying teachers just because they don't teach the subject, correct? Prospective teachers...veterans....Honors teachers.....all "no"?
XXXXXXX never answered me and that was the extent of our conversation.  Within two minutes XXXXX blocked me from the conversation and from even viewing the front page of the APUSH group.  So much for the positive message for teachers.
In fact what kind signal does this send to teachers?  APUSH teachers should be some of the best resources for Common Core instructors because the class does exactly what Common Core wants; critically analyze primary sources and write and write and write.  But this generation’s future APUSH teachers on Facebook won’t have the ability to collaborate with veterans because rules are rules.  Or something. 
Unfortunately this is another example showing that teachers are part of the problem.  In a time when the nation is desperately short of good teachers, a small group of them has gone exclusive and creates the exact attitude we DON”T want the next generation of educators to have.  We don’t want to be exclusive.  We don’t want to keep resources to ourselves.  We don’t want to deny access of the best to the newest.  And we don’t want to stay in our classrooms while living in fear that new energy might just be pretty damn good for education.
Here’s a screen shot of the conversation.  I really couldn’t believe it was happening. 

Update 9/5/15:

So I took down the screenshot and removed references to the teacher's name.  I'm not interested in making someone's teacher life, especially if they are a good teacher, more difficult.  But a word to the wise, if you are going to create a forum for teachers, create a forum for teachers.  And when a colleague asks for knowledge, asks for your help to add to the well of passion for education, don't bullshit them with "well, you don't teach it" and then make up some idiotic excuse that you can't maintain security within your own group.  If you are actually exchanging sensitive material on a Facebook page YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

The people in the comments should remove the moderators name too.  But they should really leave the comments because they are frightening in their reasoning.  Get a grip here people, you are supposed to make kids passionate about history, not live your life in mortal fear that John the hack is going to take a lesson found on EdSitement and sell it on the Dark Web.  And seriously, if you are exchanging files with sensitive materials; email, Dropbox links, Google Docs, carrier pigeon, there much better ways than closing off to everyone else.  

Day 15: Las Cruces, New Mexico to Carlsbad, New Mexico via Guadalupe National Park

We were mellow getting up because, quite frankly, we figured we had no chance at hiking Guadalupe Mountain’s summit because of thunderstorms.  So we were very mellow, very reflective of the rattlesnakes, and very done with ever seeing them again.

We drove south and entered Texas and we weren’t really impressed.  We didn’t really enter El Paso, we just took a highway loop road that went around the north end of town and through Fort Bliss Army Station.  It was boring, desolate, and well, Texas.   East of El Paso we hit a Boarder Patrol checkpoint. 

Yes, we are American citizens.

We are from California.

No, I don’t mind waiting.

Wait, what’s that dog doing behind my car.

Have a nice day!

The amount of border security we’ve seen in the last two days is almost laughable.  We aren’t bordering North Korea you know.

It was probably 100 miles from El Paso to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and in that span we saw a dozen Texas State Police and half of them were pulling people over.  We did our research yesterday that said that Texas was nasty on speed breakers and it paid off today.  Cruise control, a smile, and patience. 

Guadalupe  Mountains is a neat sight in the flatlands of Texas but we realized that we were still not going to be able to climb it.  South of the park looked dark and ugly and the worst possible feeling is being stuck on a mountain with lightening.  We asked the ranger at the Visitor’s Center about the ascent and she simply looked at us, smiled, and said “There’s a 50% chance of thunderstorms.  Wanna risk it?”  I love park rangers.  They’ll subtly tell you that you are stupid but let you make your own choices.  We opted for another hike.

We decided on hike up McKittrick Canyon to an area called The Grotto, a formation that was in the side of a riverbank that looked like the inside of a cave.  Our immediate concern?  Rattlesnakes.  The ranger told us that the chances of us running into one was extremely slim.  But the weather was not hot (low 80’s and a tad humid) and it was still somewhat desert.  We even thought about letting a family go before us to shoo any snakes away but shook ourselves, got our focus going, and made the hike.  It was a nice, mellow hike with wide trails and it meandered along McKittrick Canyon.  The Grotto was fascinating, and it’s really is a cave formation in the side of a riverbank cliff.  It has columns and dripping water and all.  It was worth the walk and fairly easy.  On our way back we ran into the family we were going to let go before us, a nice family from Texas. 

“Yeah, we heard you guys talking about snakes.  Funny thing, we saw a two foot rattler on the trail where you passed just outside the trailhead, about ten minutes after you left.”

You have got to be shitting me. 

We hiked back now under stress, waiting for the rattlesnake that would block us yet again for our car.  I was so focused on the trail that it gave me a headache.  But no snake was seen and we got back to the car, relived that there was no encounter. 

Until we started driving.


That’s from the safety of the Outback, and that’s number four.  A little shorter and a lot thinner than the trailhogger that we saw at Chiricahua.  We are done with rattlesnakes.

We wanted to finish with one more quick trail called Springs Canyon Loop but it started to rain on us and we heard thunder about a quarter of the way up the trail.  Off we went, out of Guadalupe, past Carlsbad Caverns, and into a driving monsoon.

It was the flooding, crazy thunderstorm that made you wonder if the world was ending.  The driving was down to 30 mph and the lightening was never ending.  We made it Carlsbad in one piece but ended up soaked as we unloaded during Noah’s flood or whatever the hell monsoonal moisture this storm cooked up.  We are soaked and tired, and tired of snakes. 

Trails hiked:  McKittrick Canyon to the Grotto, Spring Canyon to Manzanita Springs.

Miles hiked:  7.2