Sunday, October 25, 2015

Day 22: Grand Junction, Colorado to Vernal, Utah via Colorado National Monument

The east gate to Colorado National Monument is literally in a nice subdivision in Grand Junction.  It was about a ten minute drive from the motel and within 15 minutes we were walking towards a waterfall that unfortunately had very little water.  The No Thoroughfare Canyon hike was done early in the morning and while the journey was just fine, the pay-off was dry.  No wildlife either for a lonely morning.  Just a couple of large lizards that would take an occasional dart at our heels. 

We then drove the Rim Road at Colorado and saw some spectacular scenery.  The park is up on a large mesa that overlooks a series of jagged, and beautiful, canyons.  Like many National Monuments it’s small enough to enjoy in a day but large enough to produce that sense of wonder that is fantastic.  The pinnacle of the trip is the Independence Monument, a triangle fin-like formation in the middle of Monument Canyon.  We parked at the trailhead of the lower end of Monument Canyon and considered our next hike, a five mile plus jaunt to the Independence Monument, around it, and back down Wedding Canyon.  The problem was that the clock was after noon and the temperatures were starting to rise.  Screw it.  There was a breeze, a view, and we were hydrated.  Let’s go!  The hike was fabulous.  We ended up coming up Monument Canyon (something different since we are usually going down into a canyon) to the mammoth Independence Monument and great views of the canyon interior.  The ascent into the canyon was moderate but had stairs, and the stiff breeze allowed for a great respite against the warming temps. 

Until our decent.  Wedding Canyon had great views but a punishing decent of rocky terrain mixed with steep gravel downslopes.  It was not easy.  At the bottom we still had a good mile or so hike when my wife started to mention that she was feeling off.  Uh oh.  Dizziness, a bit of nausea, the feeling of overheating.  Yep, sounded like heat exhaustion all over again. We stopped and consumed jerky and sports drinks and plodded on.  My wife is a trooper but she clearly seemed off.  I started thinking of possible ways to address the potential of this becoming serious.  I couldn’t see the parking lot and wasn’t familiar with Wedding Canyon so I was a tad nervous.  Plus, I knew what she was feeling and it was not good.  After going over a small bluff…..the car!  I turned on the air conditioner ahead of her and got her drinking more water.  Then we got ice out and put it on the back of her neck.

“I’ll tell you in a few minutes whether or not we should get to a hospital because I feel very off.”

The air conditioning and ice did the trick.  We also consumed our sandwiches, hit a McDonalds for a large Diet Coke, and kept the ice on the neck until my wife started to perk up.  Then it was hunger, irritation that it happened, and exhaustion so I knew she was ok. 

We left Colorado National Monument and head almost due north into a beautiful alpine ridgeline and then dropped down into eastern Utah and mile and miles of oil drilling.  Signs were everywhere signifying that a lot of land in northeastern Utah was owned by Chevron and that the operation was very much alive.  We are experiencing more and more gas/oil boomtowns and they are much more prevalent that we could possibly realize.   

That would include our new home for two days; Vernal, Utah.  Vernal is usually considered popular because of Dinosaur National Monument and the plethora of outdoorsy stuff to do locally.  And then I noticed the trucks and buildings for companies like Halliburton and Schlumberger.  That means there is petroleum or mining or both within the local geology, and we have here a gas/oil boomtown.  It must be a tad bit progressive of a boomtown because I didn’t expect the Sprouts.

Trails hiked: No Thoroughfare Canyon to the (dry) waterfall, Lower Monument Canyon/Independence Monument/Wedding Canyon Loop.

Miles hiked: 9.3

The week that suffers from pestilence.

I’m at a coffee shop in Rocklin at the moment.  It’s fall and I’m doing a little of the hoops thing with our local AAU team.  I’m coaching both the U-16 and U-18 teams so one game is down and five remain.


First sickness of the year.  Woke up with the sore throat and slowly but surely the energy level started to drop.  By the end of the day I felt so fatigued that it was starting to feel flu-ish.  Some teachers like the “movie and worksheet” route on rough days but I slog through.  I start slow to conserve energy and then try and end strong.  Now my head is just stuffy and I’m suffering from a consistent low grade headache.  I’m wondering if it is allergies.


Peer counselors went to a camp thingy near Willits last weekend and came back with warm fuzzy feelings.  One of them gave me a purple yarn bracelet and told me that they appreciated me .  Usually I smile and move on without it really impacting.  For some reason this year made me smile and actually made me feel, well, nice.  I also took two pieces of yarn and told two students that I appreciated them later in the day.   One young man and one young woman.  Both are pretty awesome. 


I was able to show the new Star Wars trailer in class because it totally relates to Economics.  So there. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The week that was hung over from Homecoming

Students were sick and slightly depressed this week from the after-effects of Homecoming.  Now that it’s over the kids are realizing that the grind is real from now until Thanksgiving, with report cards heading out in a couple of weeks.  Absences were up as well as the weeks of eating crap and staying up late caught up with the teenage physiology. 



Here is the Homecoming scorecard!  There are over 9,000 potential points to be had in a variety of categories.  Now look at the one that actually matters to one’s education:

Attendance:  200

At least we have our priorities straight.  A paltry 2% of a school related event counts actually showing up for class.  And hey look; the Seniors won Homecoming, and they only had the second worst attendance. 

*slow clap


Oh, and for those that say that Homecoming is about school spirit, there’s another 2% category.  What’s more the classes chose class colors to be worn on Friday instead of school colors.  Senior class color?  Black.  Junior class color?  Orange.

Colors of the Santa Rosa High School football team that we played Friday evening?  Black and Orange. 

You got to love the school spirit that is kind enough to have half the home bleachers actually wear the colors of the opposing team.

*slower clap


Monday was Professional Development Day.  The afternoon meeting involved an ER doctor, a sheriff, and a former gang member.  What did we learn?

-Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in Ukiah. 

-Ukiah is four times the state average for alcohol related crimes. 

-Parents are knowingly allowing kids to party at their homes.  Not just their own kids, all their friends as well.

-Parents think that current marijuana strains are just like the strains they smoked long ago.  Some current strains are 25-30 THC.

-Remember pot brownies?  I don’t.  I do know that honeyoil is about 80% THC and people are now putting honeyoil into brownie mix and taking it to school. 

-Meth is terrible.

-Molly is around and kids seem to insist that it is a safe form of ecstasy.

-Bath salts are not only in Ukiah but are being sold at smoke shops over-the-counter.

Happy Day!


It’s fascinating to see where all your old high school friends are in life in comparison to you.  My best friend from high school was in town on a work issue so my wife and I had dinner with her while we reminisced about “the old days.”   The number one difference between me and my high school compadres is kids.  I have none.  My old friends have many.  Kids have dictated much of their existence since high school while I’ve dictated much of my existence until I got married.  Kids aren’t a bad thing, just not my thing.  I have kids every day and I enjoy them immensely, just like I enjoy my own time alone.    

Friday, October 09, 2015

Day 21: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park North Rim.

Our 1960’s style motel is growing on us, probably because the owners care about their motel and we appreciate hard working small business people.  We enjoyed a nice breakfast and headed back south towards the Gunnison River.

The National Geographic book we bought listed the North Vista Trail as a must hike, so we headed east at the town of Delta, Colorado, weaved through the farm land of Clifford, and ended up on the unpaved roads to the ranger station on the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.  The ranger said that the trail had little wildlife activity and that we should enjoy ourselves, and off we went.

It was a dandy of a hike.   The trail followed the north rim of the canyon with fabulous views and ended up on the top of Green Mountain with stunning views of the entire park and surrounding valleys.  It was a great hike in great weather with no people and the Cottontail bunnies being the only thing that distracted us from the wonderful views.  Black Canyon of the Gunnison was a late addition to the trip, and was a real treat. 

We got back in time to swim at the pool.  Yep, we swam at the middle-of-the-parking-lot pool and we loved it.  The sixties style be dammed, we enjoyed the chill nature of the pool, the kindness of the owner, and relaxation we felt after a long hike and nice swim.

Trails hiked: North Vista Trail to Green Mountain.

Miles Hiked:  7.3

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Four: Analyzing the data; 2015 edition

I can’t believe that I forgot to post this!  Believe it or not I completed parts 1-3 about two months ago so this is a little late. 

But it’s also a really good update assessment tool.  So, I’ll leave the old text and add on current comments in bold.  Let’s see if I learned anything.

There is plenty to take away from my 2015 student reviews. 

-There seems to be a fine line between some students saying I’m fun and passionate, and some saying I’m mean.  I see two reasons for this.  First is that my temperament changes around November, which is probably connected to my energy level having to do with the start of basketball season.  I get a bit grumpier, a bit less patient, and my tolerance for tomfoolery and highjinks starts to wane.  The second reason has to do with the end of Homecoming, the holidays, and my attendance consistency.  Homecoming usually ends around mid-October, and at this point the students realize that school is not going to just be about floats, spirit rallies, insulting each other, and a bell.  They actually need to lock down and when the holidays show up, the academics start to slide.  Families take multiple week vacations, Winter sports start hitting student time management, and my standards remain consistent.  Push back commences and get labeled as mean.  Case in point; I had one student say that I was rude to students and colleagues, and that I had little or no respect for students, and that I was despicable.  That was the worst comment I got and was pretty much the only super negative one.  But if you read the rest of the students review one thing stands out over and over again.  Attendance.  I was power hungry with my tardy policy.  I was ridiculous with Attendance Contracts.  It was stupid that I would mark students tardy if they showed up ten seconds late.  It was an AP student that was pissed that past teachers didn’t hold the student accountable, probably because the student was in AP classes. 

So what do?  Well, I’m not changing my attendance policy.  At all.  We have become a culture that doesn’t want to pay attention to detail and the simplest detail is showing up on time and doing your work on time.  Ask around to businesses locally and they tell you that it is amazing that the youth labor pool expects the employer to adjust the schedule for the worker, not the other way around. 

The year is young and attendance is still an issue.  It’s clearly not being met with the same kind of anger as past years.  But grades will be coming out in the next few weeks and that will be an interesting first look at whether or not I’m a mean old bastard.

The second thing?  My summer trips have really gave me time to reflect on what it is to be a successful human being.  That sounds weird except that I can’t really describe it any other way.  I’m limited to the amount of human capital I can put to any one endeavor because I am, well, human.  Within that restriction I want to be the best husband, teacher, coach, citizen, person, advocate that I can.  But I’m suffering from scarcity, big time.  So the logical thing is to prioritize.  The problem is that I work in a job that has very interesting ideas on the concept of prioritizing.  I didn’t participate in summer basketball this year.  Instead (as you might have been reading) I took a summer long road trip to heal, strengthen, and engage my soul;  and I did it with my partner.  Well I took some criticism apparently, from some local coaches and some of  my program’s parents.  The commentary was that I wasn’t committed.  This is an insanely idiotic claim.  Here’s a little trivia; name the two active coaches who have coached the longest consecutive years in the North Bay League.  Go ahead, I’ll give you you a moment.


1)  Coach Brown – Ukiah High School

2)  Tom Bonfigli – Cardinal Newman High School

That’s a little bit cheating because Coach Bonfigli was involved with Cardinal Newman for some 15 years, left for awhile, and has coached at Newman since 2007.   I don’t see myself in the same galaxy as Bonfigli, and I’ve spent 13 of my 14 years as the Frosh and JV coach.  However I’ve pretty much committed my life blood for years to Ukiah basketball.  So, that argument is bunk.  I’m a teacher and a husband as well, and when you rank those things against each other…..well….the other people are the ones that seem to have it totally warped.  But who knows.  Maybe I make the change or maybe the change makes me.

I’ve actually heard nothing negative about basketball since the school year began and the numbers showing up for Fall Basketball (AAU) are better than they have been in five or six years.  We’ll see how it goes when the season starts.

-Ok, so I don’t know if you have noticed but the assignment thing is absolutely a problem for me.  I’m taking too long, again, to get assignments graded and there is no excuse at all for the delay.  This year I wanted to commit on getting things done quicker, and I didn’t.  I’m trying to figure out why this is and I’m just not prioritizing returning all papers.  I prioritize some but things like quizzes are put off in the grade book until later.  Note, students really didn’t care about getting the work back as a method of assessing their progress.  They wanted to know grades. 

And I’m still getting behind.

-Speaking of grades, I hate make-up work.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  Let’s do a little pro/con list for make-up work

Pro:  Students might learn the material from retaking quiz.

Con:  Everything else.

Make-up work has created more work for me, taken up my lunch time, inflated grades, and created an entitled culture that has students dependent on make-up work.  Don’t worry about doing it right the first time, the safety net is there.  That ends.  Now.  It is a two year experiment that has resulted in no real academic progress.

-There is plenty of room for growth here and the great thing about what I do is that I’m continually excited to make my teaching better and better.  I still get those moments when the ideas whirl in my brain and I need to sit down and brainstorm engaging ideas that students will learn from.         

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Hey, remember when the week was totally taken over by Homecoming?

Fall is here.  The mornings are now crisp, the leaves have started to change and drop, and we are starting to see more animals running around now that the heat has started to dissipate.  Sure, we will still get a couple of mid-90 degree days but the heat is short lived because when the sun drops, Fall is in the evening air.


Homecoming was this week.  Because the theme was music genres and my Senior class had Rap/Hip Hop I tried to get into the mood.  It lasted three days.  Then I was fully prepared to take two days off because the whole process is a travesty of a mockery of a shame.  It’s also written like a reality television show.   I’ll leave it at that.  At least I got to listen to good music for most of the week.  The Senior skit had references to Easy-E, Fab 5 Freddy, and they played music from Que, Flo-Rida, Run-DMC, and Missy Elliott.  Ahh, the reminiscing. 


Attendance contracts have started.  My tardy policy is sort of like work; “If a student shows a consistent pattern of tardiness they will be placed on an Attendance Contract.”  If a student is tardy now and then tardy again in a month, I don’t really worry about it.  But over the last two weeks I’ve had students begin to test the policy (like cell phones).  One tardy- I mark it down and don’t comment.  Two tardies- I approach the student and ask them if they are having some issue with transportation or special circumstances (since 95% of tardies are 1st period and after lunch).  Three tardies- I tell the student they are tapped out of freebies for the semester.  I think it’s a fair system and the students, for the most part, seem to accept it. 


But not always.  1st period is one of my Advanced Placement classes every year.  Like clockwork, there is often a student (or two) that comes in late regularly and then if so furious that they are put on contract that it impacts the entire year.  That hasn’t happened this year but it happened last year, even to the point that the student basically called me a power hungry Nazi for issuing the contract.  See, AP students are never “sent to the office.”  Vice Principals often comment to me that the first time they see these students is their Senior year because of tardiness or cuts.  In my mind that means one of two things is happening.  One, students are reaching their Senior year and having a massive transformation to Senioritis mode, thus impacting their attendance.  Or two, someone is allowing these students to be late to class on a regular basis with no consequence.  It’s probably a little of both. 


Another assignment turned in online.  Another assignment that is harder to grade online.  Another reason I don’t like paperless assignments. 


It’s getting to the quarter pole of the year and my analysis of the overall year is that my classes are really damn good.  The number of students that are genuinely inquisitive is very high and more and more are starting to break out of their shells and contribute.  That’s a very positive sign going forward because the lessons get more and more interactive as the year goes on.  When they are involved classes are so much better. 

Day 20: Farmington, New Mexico to Grand Junction, Colorado via Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

We wanted to be gone by 6:30 and hiking some nice trails by 9:30 as our stay in the Four Corners, and the overall Southwest, was officially over.  We left Farmington and headed north along the Animas River into Colorado.

I love the mountains.  I really, really like the desert terrain of the Southwest but I love the mountains.  Durango is gorgeous in a way that makes me want to retire there but at the same time won’t allow me to because it’s too gorgeous.  Part of that gorgeous is expensive.  It’s as if someone wanted to put the ruggedness of the mountains on display for wealthy boomers and yuppie hipsters, then interspersed expensive stores and cafes in the mix.  We continued north and gaped at the mountains between Durango and Montrose, Colorado.  Waterfalls cascaded down snowcapped peaks with wildflowers in bloom and jagged peaks welcomed us to our new geography.  This stretch is known as the Million Dollar Highway and is considered by many to be the most beautiful road in all of Colorado.  We loved looking at it and researching it later, well, it makes sense that it is considered so fantastic.

Our destination was Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which wasn’t even an option until a month ago when it showed up on a National Park calendar, and then received a seal of approval from a friend of my wife.   We had originally decided on a quick visit before Needles/Canyonlands but it changed when Grand Junction became the next stop.  We changed our lodging and made our way to Black Canyon.  Road tripping on the fly is awesome like that.  

What a nice treat.  The canyon is not necessarily wide (Grand Canyon) or super expansive (Canyonlands) but instead the landscape was a deep, short gorge that had fantastic black/gray coloring and steep spires.  We were tired of because of the drive and did a couple of short overlooks on the South Rim, saving the long hike for tomorrow.  One walk was by the Visitor’s Center and yet again we were accosted by a snake, although this time it was just a rather large garter snake so no worries.  All the views were fantastic, although both of us were very impressed with The Painted Wall; an immense cliff (the largest in Colorado) that was colored in black and grey, with veins of almost white running through it.  After hitting the outlooks we drove through a couple of thunderstorm cells to Grand Junction.

We are staying at a renovated 1960’s style drive-in motel in the middle of Grand Junction.  It came highly recommended by Trip Advisor although right now I have my doubts.  It’s cheap, that’s for damn sure. 

Trails hiked:  Oak Flat Loop, Warner Point, various overlooks.

Miles hiked:  4.5