Friday, August 12, 2016

Safe home.

I’ve been to two funerals in my time as a teacher.  Those funerals were for ex-students that had their lives end too soon in tragic circumstances that often ripped my heart out.  I won’t be attending the third funeral for a former student because I’m going to be out of town but now the sadness of the passing is compounded by a desire to find a bit of closure that won’t be there. 

This is the first passing of a member of the basketball family.  This former student wasn’t on my team but I worked with the kid for many a day and enjoyed his company during years past while on trips to tournaments and summer leagues and practice times in hot gyms.  His relationship with other members of the program was incredibly strong and very genuine.  I heard about his passing through the reactions of his former teammates and it was uniformly emotional for all of them.


I’ll celebrate him by remembering him as the kid that had a fun and goofy smile off the court that played like a warrior with a serious chip on his shoulder during basketball games.  He was a dependable teammate; there to provide the energy when the team needed it and an integral part of the family of cagers from Ukiah.


Many of us will miss you.  Safe home. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Economics is cool but not taught a lot in school

Tyler Cowen, economist at George Mason University and noted blogger, was asked a question regarding why Economics isn’t taught more in schools.  In the United States only 20 states mandate Economics education, which goes a long way in explaining why people continue to make questionable choices. 

What does Cowen say?

  1. K-12 teachers do not themselves understand economics.

This is true.  During my second year of high school I went with a colleague to the Buck Institute’s Economics Problem Based-Learning course.  A good 2/3 of the teachers in that room had limited knowledge of what it actually meant to teach Economics.  There was a lot of politics in the room, some personal finance, and a whole lot of insistence that free markets were terrible and shouldn’t be taught, even though there seemed to be limited understanding of how the market actually functioned.  Social Studies teachers are usually History teachers and Economics is not a History course.  My degree at California State University at Chico was in History/Social Science, meaning I had to take Government and Economics courses to get my degree. 

2. It is much easier to teach and test historical facts and Spanish grammar than economic concepts.  Note that many high school economics classes seem to devote a lot of attention to business taxonomy rather than actually thinking like an economist.

Meh, this might be true but more related to #1.  Economic concepts are actually super engaging and fun to teach but many teachers are either unfamiliar with Economics or so against the ideas of free markets that they simply won’t teach it.  I think APUSH is tougher to teach than Economics, and I’ve found that many students that struggle in Social Studies classes do much better in Economics because it is relevant and personal.  When you structure it from scarcity regarding individuals and build up to communities, governments, business, and the world, Economics becomes an enjoyable class.

3. K-12 administrators may be hostile to economic reasoning, since said reasoning may paint some of them in a less than flattering light.

The same could be said about Government but the impact is usually not that dangerous to the administration.  Showing school district financials and cost/benefit of things like Homecoming Week doesn’t really get the students attention.  Know what takes on that less-than-flattering light?  Teachers.  When you talk about the market for employment and the concept of voluntary exchange it becomes rather difficult justify the concept of tenure, especially when there is a teacher that students know is lazy or checked-out.  It also makes students question other teachers when they go on political rants about things like universal health care, “free college tuition”, and policies revolving around GMOs.  The answers that students receive are usually political not economic, or the student is often vilified for being against human rights or against the poor or just flat out ignorant.  This creates skeptical students.  This is a good thing in a class like Government or Economics but can be a bad thing if you have a teacher in a non-Social Studies class using students as a sounding board.   


I think that Economics is still one of those subjects that is shroud in mystery and skepticism from teachers that are unfamiliar with Economic theories or unconvinced that the those theories are valid.  Many think that teaching about free markets implies an immediate bias towards conservative politics and thus it pushes the buttons of political progressives that often teach with agendas.  But people fail to grasp the idea that Economics teaches people to think in a different way.  It doesn’t work in absolutes but requires students to slow down and look at positive and negative consequences of decisions.  It should be a requirement at all schools in all fifty states but until the myth and controversies around Economics are shattered, expect it to lay low in the background. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Let’s talk body shaming.

“Hey, school administrators and teachers, we have to talk about something.

You uphold antiquated, strident, unbalanced and frankly sexist standards when it comes to female students and how they dress at school. That's a problem.

It's time to stop body shaming your female students (and hey, even some of your male students) over their fashion choices.”

Mashable posted an article calling out schools and their approach to dress code enforcement, aka body shaming to those that want to raise their fist in the air and fight the power because rebellion.  Now this article could very well be addressing dress codes that are actually over-the-top and gender discriminatory but I figure I’d address the article from the point-of-view of a young (42) male teacher that enforces reasonable dress codes in a professional manner.  I also only teach Seniors so my dress code issues are usually not a really big deal.  This year they were an area of contention because a sub-group insisted that dress codes were automatically a veil of misogyny.  So, let’s take a look at what Mashable recommends and put a real perspective on an article that plays around with an issue that can be trouble for male teachers. 

1. Accept that these students have bodies — large, small, pear-shaped, hour glass, etc. And they can't change that.

This is the weight-loss/weight-gain argument and how teachers should not comment on either in regards to a student.  Simple out-of-the-blue comments on student body composition are unnecessary and I can’t imagine why a teacher would comment except to seem self-important.  However, if a teacher knows a student is on a weight loss journey then encouragement is good.  The idea that you wouldn’t support one students healthy choices because it MIGHT offend another student is moronic.  And as an Economics teacher we look at things like obesity statistics and healthy eating in terms of health care and Standard-of-Living.  If those things become offensive to a person then that might be more of a wake-up call, not a moment to censor. 


2. Seriously, get with the times.

Seriously, get with the environment.  Trends that promote transparent clothing don’t automatically mean that people’s rules are antiquated and that you are above said rules.  Wear that around town, to the beach, to the county fair, whatever.  Idiotic trends that are there to “empower” people within a classroom isn’t generational.  People have been trying to attract attention to themselves for a long time.  Time and place. 


3. Remember your comments over dress code can easily trigger such mental health issues as disordered eating, depression and anxiety.

Bullshit.  A teacher doesn’t have to be an asshole with enforcement of rules or with talking about controversial subject matter but turning one’s classroom into a sterile environment devoid of any potentially sensitive commentary is the peak of the promotion of victimization and ignorance.  A student that has eating disorders, depression, and anxiety needs much greater supports that go beyond  a teacher saying “Hi.  Please cover up your bikini before coming into my classroom.”  And in my 15 years the vast majority of students that deal in dress code issues are not dealing with any of these issues.  They are being teenagers.


4. Treat male and female students equally.

Absolutely.  This year I nailed a male student for wearing transparent clothing and “wife-beater” style tank tops will have my attention and the insistence of covering up.  But here’s the dirty little secret that nobody likes to mention; female students push the dress code more than male students.  No one likes to say that because one comes off as being gender bias by those with agendas.  But take a look at the clothing that is worn, actually not, and you’ll find that female students dress more for the attention.  It’s not classless or despicable, just inappropriate for the classroom.


5. Remember that it is your responsibility not to label these young girls as sexual objects.

That’s an interesting statement.  It assumes that teachers do the labelling and not the teenage students.  In the Mashable post the author says that the number one reason that girls are told to cover up is that “it’s a distraction to male students (and teachers) in the classroom” and therefore promotes males to continue a “rape culture.”  Two things here.  First, I used to be on the rape culture bandwagon until I started to look at statistics and the culture that exists that is so anti-rape that simply being male becomes evidence that you are potential rapist.  So dress codes don’t promote a culture that is questionable at best.  Second, there is a dress code that is appropriate for the classroom.  That’s it.  Consent and sexual assault should be discussed in your classrooms but to put it within the guise of dress codes is a great way to flip the conversation to fighting-the-power and teenage rebellion, not solving the issues that revolve around sexual assault.

7. Do not, I repeat, do not publicly humiliate or shame the student.

I have no idea where #6 is because Mashable didn’t have a #6.  But yeah it’s not really a good idea to publicly humiliate or shame students on dress codes.  The problem is often the student becomes the attention-getter and makes the issue bigger.  I usually meet the students at the door and quietly mention that the clothing is not acceptable.  Most of the time there isn’t a problem.  Sometimes the student will march into the class and cause a minor huff because the teacher is a fascist.  On rare occasion the student will go off-kilter and begin to rally the troops for an Occupy Dress Code movement in F-6.  It’s up to the student to see how far this goes. 

  8. Have the rules explained in a clear-cut fashion and enforce it consistently.

Rules can be clear but we aren’t going to hit everything and the idea that you ignore something that is inappropriate because you didn’t write it down is amusing.  There is an expectation of behavior that doesn’t always get hit in the rules and the teacher makes those calls.  This is why the “anything the teacher deems inappropriate” is perfectly fine in the class policy.  And it’s not like we jump from day one into full blown sweater mode.  You approach the student and say “That’s not going to work here” early on and give the student the opportunity to change it.  And yes, your rules must be consistent.

9. Be understanding and fair.

Pretty much stated above.  I would say that 9/10 dress code infractions aren’t demonstrative, they’re just inappropriate for the classroom.  They don’t warrant a suspension unless the student out right refuses to comply.  The rare occasion is usually something I already see coming, like Halloween.  The student is going to push and then want to challenge an outfit that hyper-sexualizes Smurfette if she were working nights at the Gold Club.

10. Catch up on some reading.  I challenge you to educate yourself on the harmfulness of rape culture, gender politics and feminist authors in general. We recommend all of them but some contemporary writers like Roxanne Gay and Lindy West are a good start.

I mentioned the questionable aspect of rape culture and victimization early on but I’ll point out again that the author doesn’t want the reader to be educated, the author wants the reader to indoctrinated.  There is not to be a discussion about rape culture, gender politics, or feminism.  There is THAT way because it’s so damn clear with all that emotional reasoning. 


This is not to say that some schools don’t have insanely restrictive or maybe even bias dress codes.  Watching some of the idiocy from afar one can pretty easily see that some administrators are still freaking out over hemlines and jeans.  But Ukiah High’s dress code is pretty relaxed to begin with and even that is hardly ever enforced.  Some of that comes from male teachers that think dress codes become weaponized plutonium that can be used at an attempt to nuke a teacher’s career.  The current climate (with some female teachers and students) often views male teachers as out-of-bounds when discussing dress codes so the safest course of action is to ignore it.  That’s ludicrous and it’s getting worse.  Mashables posts like this are basically geared towards warning male teachers and administrators that rules are now social experiments to be manipulated and that their lack of complicity makes them potential sympathizers to misogyny and gender politicking.  Administrators and school boards need to support teachers and reaffirm that the academic environment is there for the benefit of everyone’s learning, even if groups want to use them as their own soapbox.  

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Most students don’t hate group work. They hate bad teaching.

Joanne Jacobs had a very interesting post about a topic that’s all the rage these days; group work.

“Teen Hates:  Group Projects”

Hate is a very strong word and as the title points out, teens are probably nearly unanimous with there dislike of doing group projects with their peers.  Let’s see some pictorial examples of said dislike.


Looks like group hatred to me. 


Obviously disgusted with group dynamics here.


The hate is swelling in you now.


It’s fairly evident that when a group of people come together for a common purpose, this includes teenagers, that they will often put out an amazing amount of time and energy to produce a quality product.  People ignore things like the arts and athletics because it’s convenient to do so when discussing the culture of a “classroom.”  Put students together on a mission and the group work not only becomes relevant, it becomes necessary, it becomes fluid, it becomes fun.  Put 35 students together that have little in common except that they happen to be under the same roof together at a given time of the day and you can get negative chaos unless a teacher is really, really prepared.  So let’s look at the link within Ms. Jacobs article (The Atlanta Journal Constitution) and really find out what the problem is with teen angst regarding group work.

“When I ask adolescents what they dislike about school, they seldom mention testing or homework. A common and surprising answer: They resent classes where learning is disrupted and time is wasted.”

When I ask my Seniors why their attendance in classes is bad the answer is pretty similar and usually revolves around the idea that their human capital is being wasted.  The Senioritis will forever exist but becomes manageable when what takes place in class has some value.   When group work is assigned to people that don’t share the same desire for things like Government or Economics (in my case) the result is, predictably, some people do all the work and others ride the coattails of the workers to a simple grade.  This creates resentment, laziness, and a general desire to take group projects out to the woodshed and beat them to death.  This is why group work functions fantastic in the arts and athletics, functions well in Advanced Placement, and is usually fractured within general education courses.

Part of the problem is the concept of the “student-centered classroom”, which sounds really, really neat on the surface and is promoted as the optimal method of teaching teenagers.  Delve past the idealism and you’ll find a million ways to turn your class into disaster area that has no focus and that has goals and lessons that are being created and manipulated by 16 year olds.  And teacher credential programs do a crappy job at preparing teachers for student-centered models.  The professors will assign the group work to prospective teachers (all of which want to be there) as modelling and then give roles to everyone like “facilitator” or “scribe” or whatever and hey look, you have a successful group project.  In reality the group work requires much more preparation and the ability for teachers and students to back check the work of the group, and the work of the members of the group.  The teacher needs to have consistent checks on group progress and needs to come down hard on those that don’t participate.  So in reality a group work classroom isn’t as student centered as it is made out to be if it is done correctly.  Teachers need to prep and prep and prep some more to make sure the project is done correctly. 


I do the occasional group project in my classes and usually they:

-Must be calibrated to where there is no down time for anyone.  Usually the projects are due quick.

-Require multiple entries for engagement.  For political propaganda I want a preliminary plan and who is working on what.

-Have teacher checks upon checks.  For longer assignments I want updates and who is doing what.

-Have peer evaluations at the end.  Those that work get paid.  Those that don’t get nothing.


Why don’t I do more group work?  Well when I was coaching I was doing group work every day and it was successful because the goal and motivation were clear.  I find group work in general education classes to be overall less productive, longer to prepare, and longer to grade.  Group work usually requires a presentation and that takes class time that is valuable.  Sure, some of the best are excellent and worth the watch.  But many can be donkey turd and that ends up being a waste. 

And remember that in the end the problem isn’t the work, it’s the waste of human capital. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Four: Analyzing the data; 2016 edition

In the late Spring I recieved a small note on my desk.  It stated that a student was tired of my misogynistic attitudes and that I was to prepare to be judged, or something to that effect.  The letter had no name and nothing ever came out of it but I showed it to my wife and some of my colleagues anyway.  They laughed it off for the most part but brought up a trend that seems to be more evident in classrooms; it’s more difficult being a strong male teacher.  Much of the movement around male secondary teachers is very touchy-feely, closing off or condemning masculinity, and attempting to program young men into a type of social construct that is conducive to being a passive (and often guilt-ridden) group. 

Now I could go into the other additional comments and letters I recieved from students and bring out a whole lot of “you were my favorite teacher” and “I love how you keep it enthusiastic and real” comments but I won’t because this small, unsigned note is something I’m noticing on the social media landscape of teaching from colleges to high schools; the attempted supression of ideas considered offensive.  A lot of this came from John Kasich’s comments in April where when asked about dealing with the college rape problem he added in “..also don’t go to parties with a lot of alcohol.”  This caused an uproar with many, including others in my class that found it victim blaming.  Other students argued that the point was legitimate and I was immediately looked at to shut down their point, something that is apparently done with regularity in school now.  Not only did I not shut down the point I stated the evidence shows a correlation supported by evidence and voluminous research between excessive drinking and sexual assault.  This, mixed with the fact that I actually enforce a dress code policy, apparently made a small group label me as some kind of woman-hating heathen.  That in itself is not that big of a deal since I’m not a woman-hating heathen (my wife would sort of not tolerate that) and every few years a small group goes grivance hunting to show they are entitled to their way because they are kids and kids sometimes do that.  The problem is that they are not being told that they are wrong because they are protraying themselves (whether true or not) as marginalized victims.  This puts administrators in a pickle because the potential PR problems in this era of hyperbolic feelings of social injustice make forays into the realm of equal discussion a dangerous course of action.  I teach Government and Economics.  Discussion is required.  Thinking is required.  An exchange of all ideas is required.  That can’t and won’t change. 

By the way, I make it very clear that if someone does not feel safe that they should report it to my boss immediately.  It doesn’t happen and (again) the years of comments I’ve recieved show that while the class can get students riled up, it’s a great place for the flow of ideas.

The return of work was once again an issue but less than previous years.  I tried to cut back but not elminate quiz redos and all it did was pack my classroom less often and give me piles and piles of make-ups anyway, which put grades further and further behind.  I need to totally eliminate all make-up opportunties because they are only enabling behaviors that promote laziness and grade inflation.  Computer based work is also much more tedious to grade and that needs to be cut back as well.

I’m apparently one of the few teachers where eating in class is non-negotiable, and during first and fifth periods (after lunch) this became a festival of complaints that I was being overly mean with my policies.  That’s really not going to change, espescially now that we are apparently in some hyper vigilant mode regarding the roach problem on campus (more on that in a future post.)

“Let students be late!”  In my opinion there is an attendance problem at our school.  Students miss a massive amount of class has still recieve high marks and rarely, if ever, incur the attention of the administration.  I asked students about this and the response was simple; nothing will happen.  They show up to my class because they know that I do a lot in my class and if they don’t show up they’ll probably fail.  That’s not the case everywhere and students are plenty savy to know that reprocussions are limited.  I’m not changing my policy and I’m still shocked at teachers that say that attendance is not a battle worth fighting. 

It’s also possible that I’ve simply been a rather unhappy teacher for the last few years.  The last four years of basketball (final two JV, and last two varsity) took an enormous tool on my mind and body.  I ate worse, drank too much, didn’t get enough sleep, and perseverated on something that didn’t amount to the energy put into it.  I’ve dumped that stress and I immediately became reinvigorated by attending CUE16, an Economics conference with Dirk Mateer, my AP grading, and another Comp Gov conference in a few weeks.  It feels good to go all out in my teaching. 

Friday, July 08, 2016

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Three: What were things that Mr. Silva-Brown did well? 2016 edition

Next, all the things, word for word, that the students thought that I did well.

-I dont know



-the presentations

-The simulations were fun.

-Lots of notes

-All mthe transaction games and the jeopardy.  (Jeopardy is the method we use to review for tests.  It’s pretty much a classic favorite.)

-jeporady and the notes

-I liked supply and demand

-I really like the games during blocked schedule

-all of the interactive activities.

-The separation of the class into democrats and republicans was interesting when we voted on the bill the students wrote. I enjoyed it.

-Ur lectures

-group work

-him not being here

-Group work and class discussion

-Quizzes and projects helped a lot.

-the assignment when the sub was here waws good

-Power points. Showing examples on board and giving examples to let students try on their own before discussion.

-Online lecture

-Group work

-The interactive activities

-Browns just really great with teenagers

-The jeopardy, market curves, projects, politics

-The news every day, resource mark and the market activity. where we physically found the equilibrium price and how households sell resources to firms and firms sell back goods and services to the house holds.  (The fact that someone can be this detailed about this simulation makes me oh s0 proud!)


-GROUP tests/quizes

-His attitude

-The jeopardy review for tests

-Notes with slides and talked us through everything

-His power points and lectures are always well put together, as well as his comprehensive explanations

-Jeopardy, study guides

-Jeopardy, Practice, Notes

-He always has music playing in the background right before class.


-News, Review, and notes. The enthusiasm by Silva-Brown

-Note taking

-When we had free range to ask questions and collaborate as a full class, it helped me a lot.


-None, I didn't understand anything that was talked about in this class

-They all worked well for me

-Jeopardy and review days.

-The games, group quizes, and practice quizes

-Low budget jeopardy, and the stipulations we did most of the time.

-I liked all of the activities because they all made sense and showed how things worked.

-The activities where we had to sell or buy good and see our profit and any activity really worked to help me better understand this.


-Taking quizzes with a partner.


-Those little projects and also jeopardy were really fun.

-Jeopardy and just the way you taught

-Those little projects and also jeopardy were really fun.

-The majority there is not one thing that I could remember.

-"Mind your P's and Q's"

-Class discussions and Jeopardy

-We had group presentations that helped and activities around the ideas of consumers and producers which also helped.

-The majority there is not one thing that I could remember.

-The video assignment you gave us

-The news and mock congress

-Jeopardy was fun and I learned a lot from playing.

-I really enjoyed playing jeopardy and watching clips

-The hands on games and the parts where we came up to the board

-I like playing Jeopardy because it gave everyone an incentive to answer some of the questions and test their knowledge.

-Group quizzes, lectures

-Prep for tests(Jeopardy) How engaged he was in class, there was never a dull lesson, but we still stayed focused and on track.

-When you lecture you engage the students well because of your personality.

-Mock Congress was cool to do.


-I enjoyed the news because it got great communication and discussion flowing since day one of school and it really made a family like bond inside the classroom with the bickering and debates. I enjoyed jeopardy a lot because I love a good competition and it really did help me review for a test because even if it wasn't my row I would try and answer the question to see if I knew it. The questions I couldn't answer I knew I needed to study for.

-Jeopard, quizzes and resding book sections on our own so that way we would have to study


-Games played were all useful and worked well to get the point across



-Jeopardy was a good way to study for tests.

-jeopardy before the test.

-Jeopardy, other games

-The studies of the different societies of different countries.

-I really liked all of the activities we did in class, especially during economics

-I liked the per se courts because It made people really think on the fly.

-I like Jeopardy as a review before every test because I tend to forget some subjects, which will be a good reminder for me.

-I like the stuff we did in economics, as well as Jeopardy before a test, good review material.

-I liked Jeopardy.

-Podcasts, Killer Vocab, Jeopardy, Per se Court

-Everything during economics helped me understand it better. For example, the Barbie going on a date thing. Also the "which celebrity is hottest?" thing helped me understand election systems much more than simply an explanation would've.

-THE CONTENDER...I think that quizzes are really helpful because they give us an incentive to actually study and read the material. Killer Vocab is great too.

-Jeopardy is fun.

-The quizes i felt help alot to prepare you for the test.

-Contender game was really fun.

-Jeopardy before tests and test corrections because they helped me understand why and where I went wrong which helped me on future tests because I knew what type of questions confused me.

-The card game that we played towards the end of the year was really fun and informative.

-I liked per se courts, and the lectures were easy to follow. I also like the propaganda posters and reading/watching persepolis.

-I liked the Per Se Courts

-Jeopardy was very helpful. The videos you showed us helped a lot also, they stuck in my mind.

-The interactive activities worked well for me.

-All the activities we did in the economics unit where we experimented with trading and having personal property and all that stuff. It was all really interesting and gave me an understanding and personal connection to the concepts we learned.

-The activities we did in the beginning of the year, having to do with cost and benefit were helpful as were the per se courts.

-Per-se courts, lectures, and classroom discussions

-The activities he made us do to study for tests and get a better understanding of a concept.

-jeopardy and short lectures that are well-suited for a teenager's average attention span

-Per se courts, news, jeopardy

-The Socrates dialogueso and the activities we did in economics were very fun and I learned a lot from them.

-Use of videos and hands on activities.

-The way you taught economics with fun activities was an attention-grabber, and helped us learn. I wish there would've been more of those during the government unit.
The videos you show about countries are always worthwhile. Insight makes a difference to our understanding and our perceptions.

-Per se courts. I will never forget them.

-Personally, I enjoyed everything. I think combining mediums like lecture and media is a very engaging method and adds to the class and the material. I really appreciate that as a student. Even though they were not my favorite, I believe the debates were a good experience. I like the variations, if you will, of your lessons and your teaching.

-Per se courts and jeopardy are very helpful and fun

-Honestly everything. I liked the videos we watched.

-The constant motion through the class by having activities and keeping a good learning environment worked very well, PowerPoints and lectures were kept to a perfect timing to where it was always enjoyable

-News every day without fail, constant classroom updates, and Mr. Silva Brown always sticking to the schedule, quizzes to keep us in check, jeopardy, weekly FRQs, and test corrections

-The jeopardy was really helpful, as well as the daily power point lessons.

-Jeopardy, other games to reinforce information.

-The balance between didactic and dialectic learning/teaching styles was perfect for avoiding boredom (as much as possible), and discussing modern events and politics, while not part of the curriculum, was very important and useful for real life application of CompGov/Pol

-I liked how we could make up quizzes and I like how everything was at our access online so we could study. I love the debates.

And there you have it.

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part Two: “What recommendations would you give Mr. Silva-Brown”, 2016 edition

Here are all my recommendations, live and uncut, from my students. I'm leaving none out, however some students did not fill out every category, which is why the numbers will not be the same. My comments are in italics.

-maybe not focus so much on roasting everyone


-Stop yelling or hitting stick on de desk

-Stop being an ass

-Be nicer

-LET PEOPLE BE LATE SOMETIMES!!!!!!  (Want to become really great friends with students, let them be late.  One thing I’m noticing more and more is teachers sacrificing their attendence policies to maintain relationships with students.  It teaches exactly the wrong thing and I’m not letting up on attendence.)

-nothing really

-No idea

-Try to slow down

-Be a little quieter. Keep your word on sending people out if they're loud (you only did the last month)


-to calm down and take a second to take a breath

-relax a little dont yell as much

-Don't vote

-I have no idea..

-be a little more lenient or helpful to students or sign senior trip papers  (Once again we have the issue of students being told that they can do everything and that there are no consequences for trying to do everything.  Our institution, following societies model) does a horrid job in time management.)

-Don't be so judge mental. People are different and just because you think one way doesn't mean that they think the same way. It upsets people. (Don't be such a dick)  (Ask around and you’ll find that I don’t give political opinions in class.  But this year I had a sub-group of students that basically demanded that certain speech either be condemed or not permitted.  I refused to do that and therefore I came off as insensitive or dickish.  More on this in the analysis section Part Four.)


-Everything was pretty good.

-To not be so strict with his late policy

-Don't stop being brown


-Correct quiz re-dos every quarter instead of every semester

-Stop the disruptions and insults before it gets too distracting

-Be more 101 not during lunch but during class


-None at this time

-Stop being a Giants fan

-Be nicer

-Be more organized and don't discourage students for asking you about grades or work. I know that some kids lie about their work ethnic just for the grade, but you should know that you have students who care very much about their grade and would do anything for their grade to reflect the effort they put in that class. Talk with them and be reasonable. Students make mistakes (including myself), but teachers aren't perfect either.

-Keep up the enthusiasm for teaching.

-He is a funny teacher

-Be more understanding of people's work schedules and retakes goddammit!!!

-Chill man

-To have more days to study for tests

-Be slightly more sensitive to people's feelings at time, and to be less stubbon(in n out for example)  (Ugh, total mea culpa on this one.  I was pretty insistant that In N’ Out would never come to Ukiah.  A city with 16,000 and an average income just over 40K and a moderate highway in the summertime just didn’t make sense.  So of course they’re coming to Ukiah.” 

-Country rules.

-Be more approachable and less scary

-Throw away the stick.


-More time to review for tests and quizzes


-don't be a bitch

-Just give others more time but over all, the class was perfect.

-To teach the graphs a bit slower and with time

-Just give others more time but over all, the class was perfect.

-Nothing really his class is enjoyable

-Nothing really his class is enjoyable

-Stop making red-headed girls cry

-Nah he's good

-Stop making people cry.

-Nothing really his class is enjoyable

-More qiuz make ups

-Don't wait until the end of the semester to enter make-ups

-Work with students better. Understand that not everybody is a test taker and people that show up to your class everyday and do the work should pass the class. If u fail somebody like that you are just being a dick.  (If you come to class every day and work your ass off and still fail every test there are one of two things at play; you have serious testing issues which I will have identified and made adjustments, or you actually don’t come to class every day and work your ass off.  The latter is the likelihood.)

-Be nicer to students

-i can't think of any

-Maybe spend a little more time going over one subject

-Keep doing what you're doing Mr. Silva Brown! All I recommend is that the slideshows be a bit more organized-I got confused a few times when there was one title on one slide and the topic would continue onto another slide, but have a different title.

-Have a sweeter soul.

-Be nice and try to understand that some people take your comments the wrong way.

-Stop making girls cry.

-Just keep doing what you do, you're a very informative teacher.

-My recommendations would be to be just a little bit nicer (slack) when announcing important dates and quiz/test days. We are still teenagers and human, we forget things. Just a little shout out to check out the bored would of helped a lot and would have been awesome (especially about the make-up quiz days!! I read his whole syllabus twice and still seemed to skip over that section!!) Also to maybe stay on top of grading make-up quizzes and tests so that he can have less students yelling at him to update Edline on stuff that he hasn't even graded yet. Also try to get through lessons faster in the beginning of the year because by the end I felt extremely rushed and stressed out. We had quizzes every other day on stuff we only learned the class period before.

-Clearer information on make ups

-Class is good how it is in my opinion.

-Get our tests/classwork/homework back faster

-Be nicer


-Don't tweet so much

-Be less of a shitty person :)

-Don't talk Shit about UP

-Don't leave the year early. Still proud of you for being a table leader tho

-maybe less power points and more activities?

-I think the hardest part for most students are the quizzes that took place every few days. Back in Economics, the reading was not that bad, but during Comp GOv, the book was very boring, especially when we had to read like 20 pages once.

-I think a quiz per chapter is too much in my opinion, maybe occasional quizzes, but not too much.

-It would be really helpful if, when a student asks a simple and easy to answer question, you could just answer it instead of giving some snarky condescending response.

-Let your student eat in class. I want to eat my breakfast, Brown!

-Quit roasting my hair it's kinda awk when you do that. Bring your cat to school. NVM SOME PEOPLE ARE ALLERGIC.

-Maybe practicing FRQs more. We do some however I think it would be nice if maybe once a week instead of a quiz there is an FRQ that is actually for points, because when we do the practice ones I try to do them but I know they don't really count for much in the grade so I don't try as hard as I could.

-Get a book that is updated and less boring

-Maybe let us eat because i was hungry at times

-Be safe in Salt Lake City.

-Be less condescending when students ask clarifying questions. Sometimes it makes students feel unintelligent. Trying to finish Mexico before AP testing week.

-It would be helpful to have quizzes after the reading AND the lecture, that way the information is more imprinted for the tests.


-Not really anything.

-To force quiet people like me to talk more because I learn better when I participate, but usually I have no motivation to participate.

-Please update your grades more often.

-More physical work outside the class, like more written assignments to prove we did the reading, not just quizzes.


-just keep being you :)

-Give me all the possible terms for the same thing. I screwed up on "political party system" and you had "distribution of power" on the country reviews for the exam.

-Keep being your cool self man. Haters gonna Hate. Your probably one of my best teachers I have ever had.

-Use less sarcasm. Don´t refuse to sign things just because you want to. Just because you won´t give your perspective on political issues doesn´t mean you need to compensate by giving your opinion on absolutely everything else. (i.e. music and media, liking T. Swift does not make you a ¨terrible person¨ and antagonizing people in this way is unnecessary and slows things down.)

-Your fun, joking personality is enjoyable. Though I would recommend that for following years, getting a new batch of students, take a while to really figure out which students are seriously uncomfortable with being picked on. Some people are shy and can take it, but some people have anxiety and seriously become uncomfortable. Heads up because I know a junior who's worried about that.

-Bring your wife flowers every once in a great while

-Maybe really highlighting the differences from the old textbook to the current aspects of the country. I got confused a few times by what the book was saying and what had actually changed. It'd be beneficial to make super obvious what has changed since the publication of the textbook.

-Keep doing what you do


-More FRQ practice

-No recommendations. Maybe on the first day next year play the part of an ultraconservative person, just to set the dynamic for the year.

-There are multiple answers for most questions; when a student puts an answer that a) you were not expecting or b) is not up to par with your expectations, keep in mind that there's a good chance your question had ambiguity.
Also, the Mexico segment does not belong in AP testing week.. half of your students simply cannot be there to learn in class. This can be easily avoided.

-Keep edline updated, along with quiz makeups and test corrections

And there you have it.

Mr. Silva-Brown’s Report Card, Part One: “Ratings Game”, 2016 edition

I present to you, part one of a four part series that looks at the "graded" Mr. Silva-Brown. At the end of each year I give out a report card with questions about my performance during the year.

The questions are:

-One a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being excellent), rate Mr. Silva-Brown's teaching this semester.

-Was I well organized?

-Did you understand what was going on?

-Do you think I have improved since September?

-Did you feel safe?

-Were students treated equally with respect?

-What grade do you think you earned this semester?

-On a scale of 1 (didn’t care) to 10 (total focus), how would you rate your effort put towards this class this semester?  Explain.

-What did I do well?

-What recommendations can you give Mr. Silva-Brown?

-Any additional comments for Mr. Silva-Brown?

Today, I'll give you the numbers rating. The rating is first, followed by how many students rated me at that level.  .

Here are the results from question #1:

Ten- 30

Nine- 27

Eight- 42

Seven- 9

Six- 5

Five- 5

My average is an 8.5, a B.  This is lower than last year and lowest since 2012.  Here are the contrasts from past years.

2005-06: 8.3

2006-07: 8.9

2007-08: 8.3

2008-09: 8.7

2009-10: 8.2

2010-2011: 8.5

2011-2012: 8.5

2012-2013: 8.8

2013-2014:  9.0

2014-2015:  8.8

Thursday, July 07, 2016

A word of warning for AP teachers out there…

I return from the land of the Wasatch Range and seriously dry to give a message out to all those teachers that teach Advanced Placement classes. 

Oh wait.  Yes I understand the motto of the AP Reader. 

Rule Number One of the AP Reading is never talk about the AP Reading.  If you break Rule Number One, just remember where the soap came from.

I’m sure the College Board’s Head of Advanced Placement gets in a rage any time even a mention of the Reading gets on social media. 


Or maybe he doesn’t.

I think this piece of advice is same and usefull and probably spans many different subject areas.

Work on the handwriting.

The handwriting was so bad this year that it needs to be said that students are at risk of making things difficult if they can’t get the penmenship down.  Believe it or not the process for grading is quite collaborative and if nearly a dozen college educate teachers and professors can’t read the sanscrit that is on the parchment then you are the problem.  I understand that we are in the era of the touchscreen and the keyboard but total lack of coherence in some of the handwriting was a concern this year; one that needs to be rectified by the teachers. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Day 36: Eugene, Oregon to Ukiah, California via fires.

So my wife went to Chicago and I barely got home.  There are fires everywhere.

My wife’s family has decided to donate a quilt to the Springfield, Illinois historical society and that meant a trip to Chicago for her.  The plan would be that I would drop her off in Williams, California and then do my usual cut across Highway 20 to Ukiah, if I could make it.  Apparently a massive wildfire had started south of Clearlake Oaks had was spreading east along the southern boundry of Lake County.  I had to hustle.

Oregon was apparently on fire too as the smoke near Roseberg and Canyonville was so bad that we had to slow down on I-5 because of awful visability.  It felt sort of weird to be coming home to such nastiness and chaos after such a wonderful trip.  We made the early lunch stop with my grandmother in Ashland and promptly sprinted over Siskiyou Pass for the long decent into the Sacramento Valley. 

I stopped in Williams and looked over the hills to the west and noticed, yep, there was a lot of smoke.  I kissed my lovely bride good-bye and headed for the final stretch home.  By the time I got into the hills it was evident that the situation was not good.  Fire personnel were everywhere and there were plenty of opportunties to pull over and watch the flames licking the hillsides south of Highway 20 as I neared the Cache Creek area.  By the time I reached famous elk ponds area the scene looked like some dystopian nightmare of people packing belongs and fire trucks racing down the highway.  Things ended up fine once I dropped down into Clearlake Oaks and the rest of the trip home was uneventful. 

Highway 20 closed about 90 minutes later.

I arrived home and began the long process of unpacking. 

Trip over. 

Counting both trips in June and July we travelled over 8,000 miles. 

And some of us had realizations while travelling.

My wife is considering life outside of teaching and doing administrative work at my school.  We spent a considerable part of the last few days rolling around the idea of my wife not teaching and the fact that we would be working on the same campus.  The emotions were part saddness and part excitement.  She’ll miss teaching and loves her town but the situation has become very difficult (and not on the kids end) and this is a potential opportunity for future progress.  There are still a lot of balls in the air but a transition is a real possibility. 

Speaking of transition, I’m 90% sure that this will be my last year of coaching.  Five years ago it was in my head, three years ago it was reality, and now I’m realizing that I’m not the same person I’ve been for the last twenty plus years.  In so many ways high school basketball has brought fulfillment and joy in my life.  Now high school basketball is holding me back from bringing greater joy and fulfillment in my life.  So it’s probably time to change that.

And plan more trips for later.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Day 35: Somer’s Bay, Montana to Eugene, Oregon via the Columbia River Gorge in a heat wave.

Christ, I’m tired.

Chipotle is on the table, my wife is reading a book, and we are in a hotel room after a lot of hours of driving.  And damn it is hot.

We started the morning by jumping the battery of a fellow cabin member’s car.  The young man and his girlfriend were fairly freaked out and we happily held up our departure and got them on their merry way.  We left Somer’s Bay at around 6:45 in the morning. 

Travelling home is reflective and usually quiet for the first part of the journey.  The GPS takes us through the back roads of western Montana, across Native American reservations, into and out of backwoods towns, and through picturesque forests and rolling hills.  Once we traverse our way to Interstate 90 we head west and progress towards Spokane, Washington.  The path across Idaho was actually quite nice and Spokane seems like an almost cute city to live in.  But one we were past Spokane, ick.  It’s nothing for hours and hours except fields and near desert.  And it was slowly getting hotter and hotter.  We reached Pasco, Washington around early afternoon and stopped for a bite to eat and a hit at the local REI.  We had a coupon and our old Costco camel packs had pretty much lived their life.  We were hoping that a nicer pack from REI might be in order while making us drool for our trip next year.  Finding nothing we continued our journey. 

We hit Interstate 84 and made our way west through the Columbia River Gorge expecting the temperatures to go down.  The reverse happened.  As we got closer the Portland the temperature gauge on the car went higher and higher.  By the time we had hit the outskirts of the Rose City the thermometer read 103 degrees, the hottest we had experienced on the entire trip.  We also experienced Portland’s finest traffic at about 3:30 in the pm, and thus our attempt to get through the city early still resulted in a good 45 minute delay.  We stopped at the Salem REI for another look at gear and found the style but not the size we were looking for.  We then called ahead to the Eugene REI and forged on. 

We found the packs we wanted, probably spent way too much money, nailed down Chipotle, and are now escaping the heat in our hotel room in Eugene, Oregon. 

Yes, Eugene.  Where the temperature is over 100 degrees and I’m wondering if going home might be a mistake. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

A work day at home

I’ve had a lower stomach issue bothering me for a couple of weeks now and this weekend seems to have been the culminating event.  After a Saturday of shopping in Santa Rosa I came home and like a hammer I was hit with a fever.  Not a horrible fever; something around 101ish.  Sunday was miserable.  I kept a fever just enough to make me feel totally lethargic but not enough to think I wasn’t going to work in the morning.  I ate one can of soup and that was it.

I woke up before my alarm this morning and while my fever had dropped from it’s max last night (101.7), I was unwilling to go to school a walking zombie.  I took a sick day.

This is very uncommon since I’m usually going to gut out something minor and I don’t get sick often anways.  It’s been years since my last tangle with the flu (thank you flu shot) and the usual colds don’t slap me enough to keep me out of the classroom.  But today’s fever shall be the exception and I’m taking a rest day to get my body back into some sense of normalcy.

Sick days are also not total relaxation days either.  I ended up out of bed at 5 a.m. (like every morning) except that this morning I spent an hour signing up for my sub and lesson planning.  And before you go all “ohhh poor baby” on me, realize that I actually take what goes on in my class seriously.  I’ve not only booted bad subs from not getting it done in my classroom, I’ve called the principal after getting texts from students and had a sub removed from my class by the second period of the day!  I dive into my plans because I expect them to be followed and I expect kids to get something out of it. 

Technology has made the process of communicating with my students much easier.  I immediately sent out a Remind text to all my students to bring headphones and nailed down the link for Friday’s Newshour summary.  For my Comp Gov classes they could look over a Power Point in Google Drive, then hit up a Newshour Series on Nigeria, and finish by beginning to read Persepolis.  My Economics classes did some text notes and then viewed a video about the controversies surrounding Eminent Domain.  The text and links were posted in Google Classroom, a note was left via the substitute system to the teacher in charge, a couple of e-mails to my colleagues to keep an eye out on my classes, and viola, finished.  Around eleven this afternoon I got a text from a couple of students saying the assignment wasn’t up on Google Classroom and within a minute I had the ability make the changes necessary to get things rolling.  Technology is an amazing tool. 

Barring a reaccurence of my fever tonight I should be back in the saddle tomorrow bright and early.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Day 34: Somer’s Bay via Logan Pass, and the end.

We left early hoping to avoid the crowds at Logan Pass.  I’m thankful that we did as our 8:30 arrival time found the parking lot already 2/3 full.

Today’s first hike was to an overlook above Hidden Lake, right on the Continental Divide above Logan Pass.  The hike to the overlook was about a mile and third up a series of wooden walkways along alpine meadows and beautiful views of mountains.  Last year we attempted the hike but ended up blocked by snow about half way up the trail and had to turn around because we were ill equipped.  This time we made it up and were greeted by this:

Hidden Lake, Hidden Creek 2015

It was a stunning view that my wife and I took in for about ten minutes.  Even with the throngs of people on the wooden overlook the feeling was quiet and serene.  Almost too quiet.

“Jeff, can you come over here for a second?”

My wife’s calm tone raised my awareness and I headed over to the opposite end of the overlook and looked down into the meadow.

 Grizzly, Hidden Lake Overlook 2015

It was a smaller grizzly bear digging around not that far below us from the deck overlook.  I was oddly not frightened; maybe it was the crowds that were present or maybe it was the fact that the bear didn’t really seem interested in us.  It roamed for awhile and then took off down the trail toward Hidden Lake, which was already posted for a bear activity warning for hikers.  Satisfied with our expedition we began our trek back down.  As we crested the Divide and started down the planks we noticed a ranger looking south into an alpine meadow. 

“Large grizzly”, he said and he pointed down into the meadow and sure enough, probably a good third of a mile away, was a massive bear cavorting in a small stream.  It also seemed totally oblivious to the stream of humans heading down the mountain and was perfectly content taking sprints in the stream while occasionally stopping to tear up the ground.  We watched the bear frolick for a good forty minutes and were witness to the very reason you are told not to run.  That beast of a bear was flying down the valley.  It could easily have caught even a fast runner it moved so effortlessly across the alpine terrain.  It was mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time. 

We moved back to Logan Pass and crossed the Going-to-the-Sun Highway to the Highline Trail, renouned for it’s cliff edge trail and overall beauty looking into the heart of Glacier National Park.  We held up and waited for someone to travel with as to follow the doctrine of grizzly bear smart travel and a young couple that was on a honeymoon from Tennessee showed up.  We chit-chated as we passed the “bear frequenting” warning and slowly made our way along the first half mile cliff face, peering over the side at the road hundreds of feet below.  We managed another third of a mile before we came upon a huge pile of bear scat.  All four of us didn’t want to push our luck and turned back.  We watched a few bighorn sheep roam the cliffs above us before we said our goodbyes (they where heading home tomorrow) and my wife and I began our way back towards Kalispell.  We decided to talk one more look at Avalanche Lake so we stopped at the trailhead and made the trek up to one of our favorite places.  At the parking area we noticed a huge line of cars being stopped from heading up the hill towards Logan Pass.  Thankfully we got up there early enough to avoid the traffic!

Avalanche Lake was not quiet.  Throngs of people had staked claims to various parts of beaches, including a youth group whose minister felt that his voice was going to be much more articulate than the wonderful voice of silence.  Why go to such a place and conduct a sermon? 

We leave tomorrow, sadly, and I’m already missing this trip.     

Trails hiked:  Hidden Lake Overlook, part of the Highline Trail, Avalanche Lake.

Miles hiked:  8.25

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Day 33: Somers Bay via …….nothing.

A full day of doing nothing.  It was nice.

We looked at some gear in Kalispell, grabbed a coffee at a local shop, and then picnicked on Flathead Lake and simply laid around in the sunshine.  We did accomplish something today.  We started planning next year. 

Logan Pass is supposed to open tomorrow and I am thrilled!  The location is at the top of Glacier National Park and two hikes I’d planned a year ago are now back in action; Hidden Lake, and the Highline Trail.  This is the perfect way to end the trip; a hike into alpine country to overlook a beautiful lake known for its grizzly population, and a hike that is considered one of the most beautiful in the entire country.

Today also brought to the forefront that the end is neigh.  Work e-mails for my wife and I have already started and the real world is trying to intrude on our vacation. 


Miles hiked:  Zero

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Day 32: St. Mary, Montana to Somer’s Bay, Montana via Avalanche Lake and Costco.

Damn, it was cold this morning.  We didn’t wake up to rain though and that meant a hike was up and coming, although we needed to hustle because rain was supposed to be ugly later throughout the day.  The St. Mary Valley was the worst we had scene it smoke-wise.  It looked like something was holding the smoke inside the valley making visibility very poor.  I was happy we were leaving. 

By the time we hit East Glacier we had limited phone reception, some of the first in days.  I had one message on my phone.  My wife had…more.  There are definitely benefits to being out of cell phone contact.  On Highway 2 between East Glacier and West Glacier we came out of a mountain pass when my wife pointed down the road that something was on the right side.  That something was a bear. 

We pulled up within ten yards of the bear which had one cub in tow and one behind it munching on what seemed to be huckleberries.  My wife struggled to get my iPhone camera to work as the black bear calmly looked at her and lazily turned to walk back into the forest.  We continued west as our roadside attraction ended. 

We made the turn into West Glacier and headed for an old stomping grounds, Avalanche Lake.  It was relatively early and the traffic was light as we wound our way along Lake McDonald and into the center of the park.  Avalanche Lake is well traveled but we  took along bear spray anyway and hiked quickly up to the lake, only to find that many small groups were already there.  Bummer.  But fear not the crowds because an extra half-mile brought us along the west side of Avalanche Lake to a more secluded location and the perfect place for a mid-morning snack stop.  We had been to Avalanche last year and there was a noticable lack of snow along the ridges that fed the lake.  This meant that the number of waterfalls going into the water was cut down about about a third; still impressive but a tad bit of a let down since we saw the lake last.

We decided to head into Kalispell and have our first Costco trip in a long while.  After snagging some supplies and wolfing down a Costco dog we drove south to Somer’s Bay and a series of cabins there were across the road from Flathead Lake.  The cabins were very nice but the road noise was a definate minus.  We’re thinking of maybe hiking some local trails or maybe even hitting a beach tomorrow for a picnic.

Trails hiked:  Avalanche Lake, Trail of the Cedars

Miles hiked: 5.6

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Day 31: St. Mary via Two Medicine, Scenic Point, and Running Eagle Falls.

We left early for Two Medicine because everything we read said that parking was extremely limited.  The trip takes about 30 minutes and winds along the east end of Glacier National Park, some of which on roads that are barely acceptable for a regular car, and even with something stronger can only take speeds of about fifteen miles per hour.  One small plus (maybe not) was that once we got to the Two Medicine cut off we found ourselves with phone reception!  We did a quick check of our email, my wife checked in with family, and we headed back into the park to no service.

Two Medicine is gorgeous!  I know it gets old that I keep saying that every area of Glacier is gorgeous.  But I don’t know how to express that at every destination there is something that just totally stimulates the landscape senses.  The glacial lakes are beyond picturesque, only in this area the peaks are a bit taller and the scene feels a bit more intimate.  We parked in a little side lot and met up with our ranger, this time an older man who was also a middle school teacher in Montana.  We also ran into Jack and Gretel and planned a potential beer and pie tasting later in the afternoon in St. Mary.  And we were off!

After a stroll through the woods we stopped at Appistoki Falls, a tall and narrow falls that seemed a tad bit unimpressive after yesterday’s views along the Grinnell Glacier trail.  It might have been because we were right next to it, too close to get a good view.    After a small backtrack we took a right turn and began the long trek up the switchbacks to Scenic Point.  I’m sorry, I meant the long, long, long trek up to Scenic Point.  2,400 feet in elevation gain in three miles.  Up, up, up!  Through the dead Whitebark Pine forests.  Through the exposed cliff faces and shale rock.  It was serious work.  It was also fairly dangerous.  At the bottom of the trail the temperature was around 75 degrees.  Around 2/3 of the way up the mountain a storm started to brew over Upper Medicine Lake.  The wind started to whip and my wind breaker was not helping in the slightest.  The climb had turned me into a sweaty mess and now a massive chill was starting to grip my body.  The ranger stopped us and asked me if I had an extra layer, which I did.  I have no idea why I didn’t throw on the flannel earlier except that the climb and the cold might have been taking their toll.  Once the flannel was donned the chills stopped and the hike resumed.  Thankfully the storm skirted northeast and we only received a spit of rain. 

We reached the top of the mountain and began our final push across a small ridge to Scenic Point.  Man was it windy.  In fact I don’t know if I have ever been in a wind that was angry.  This wind seemed furious.  People have mentioned winds that acted like they want to throw you off the trail and this sucker seemed to want to throw us off the entire mountain.  Then, as we approached the point, it stopped.  It was literally as if the wind was turned off when we hit the rocky outcropping.  We stopped and enjoyed the view of Two Medicine to the west, the plains of Montana to the east, and the town of East Glacier a few miles to the south.  It was pleasant picnic weather and the group of eight of us enjoyed a nice break and some food while the conversation drifted towards education.  Our ranger, the middle school teacher, shared the all too similar stories of Common Core, budget cuts, and the overall negative environment of being a teacher in America.  We agreed that we loved the job but sometimes we wondered when the nation was going to get a clue.

The hike back was fairly uneventful.  The angry wind tried to block us off the ridge initially and gradually died down as we descended into the valley.  As the clouds parted the views of Two Medicine become more and more spectacular.  One of our hiking companions commented that some of the best scenery in the park was past Two Medicine on a loop of Dawson and Pitamaken Passes.  We would love to do it but the grizzly country makes us take serious pause.  At the end of the trail we parted ways with our Belgian companions Jack and Gretel.  The hike seemed to run them really ragged and Gretel was having a severe case of shin splints. 

We finished up the day with a tiny quarter mile hike to Running Eagle Falls; a facinasting waterfall that looks like the water is coming out of the rock itself.  It was nice to end on a mellow note after such a strenous climb up in the cold.      

Trails Hiked:  Running Eagle Falls, Scenic Point

Miles hiked:  8.6

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Day 30: St. Mary’s via Grinnell Glacier and one of the best days ever.

The smoke seemed to have lift when we woke up around 6 a.m.  It still smelled like a large campfire but you could actually see across the St. Mary’s Valley with the smoke hanging like a haze over the treetops.  But the wind.  Man, the wind just doesn’t seem to want to let up.

We headed back to Many Glacier and the Many Glacier hotel for the boat ride and hike up to Grinnell Glacier.  The boat ride is two fold; first across Swiftcurrent Lake.  Then you disembark, hike up and over a small hill, and take another boat across Josephine Lake.  It cuts off about two and half miles of uphill hiking, and saved our legs for more hiking in the end.  The boat rides cost about $25 a piece.  Is it worth it?  Probably not but again, save the legs. 

We met up with our Belgian couple, the ranger, and thirty others and started up the Grinnell Glacier Trail.  Note to those wanting to take the trail; it’s not for those that don’t like edges.  The views are fantastic, the wildflowers in the alpine meadows are great, and the waterfalls will knock your socks off but it will freak people out that don’t like heights.  About 3/4 into the hike we crossed the bottom of a waterfall; like the trail was actually in the waterfall and the water was streaming down next to and around you.  The stone stairs are ok but look left.  There is nothing there but the western end of Grinnell Lake, about 1,000 feet below off the ledge.  If you can master the heights issue then you are greeted to fantastic views of mountain passes, valleys, and three glaciers (Gem, Grinnell, and Salamander) for the majority of the hike. 

As we approached the Grinnell Glacier overlook we passed by a few avalanche chutes, basically cleared out areas of forest that were plowed by avalanches at some time in recent history.  A small meadow had developed in one of the chutes when some said “look, a bear!”  Sure enough, a bear with two cubs was wandering in the meadow, nose to the ground, and oblivious to the attention she now attracted.  At 150 yards away it was clear the bears were not only brown but the mother also had a hump on her shoulder.

“That’s a grizzly sow with her cubs!”

The ranger was almost excited as we were, and then promptly got on his radio to notify the powers-that-be that a grizzly bear was wandering the Grinnell Glacier trail with her cubs.  It was magnificent.  The bear was large and seemed like it was a powerful entity in the alpine landscape.  The humans walking the trail were whatever.  This thing was actually in control of the environment and the group that was watching it seemed to have the ultimate respect for the animal.  It eventually wandered into a grove of trees and disappeared.  My trip is absolutely a 10!  I saw a grizzly sow with cubs from a good distance and it was wonderful.  A special moment that probably won’t happen twice. 


We continued up the trail and over a moraine to Upper Grinnell Lake, fed by the runoff of the three glaciers.  In front of me was a brilliant turquoise lake surrounded by a glacial wall that towered over the back of the canyon.  On my left and eye level was Grinnell Glacier, once mighty and now has receded so much that there is concern that it won’t be around much longer.  Above it on the glacial wall ledge was Gem Glacier, a small patch of glacial ice that was by far the smallest of the three.  Finally, stretching across the middle of the glacial wall, Salamander Glacier.  A long and slender ice field that had a variety of waterfalls flowing from it’s lower portion into Upper Grinnell Lake.  The scene was unreal.  Occasionally the sun would poke out of the clouds allowing for the perfect color, then it would become overcast again and the view would just go back to excellent. 

We spent a half hour enjoying the views.  A group of us prepared to head back down without the ranger; me and my wife, our Belgian team of Jack and Gretel, and a group of Taiwanese ladies who where in college in the United States.  One of them was researching the effect National Parks had on people.  If we could only be the subjects of that research. 

Down the moraine we went, at a good pace and starting to glance over our shoulder at the glacial wall because the clouds were getting a shade darker.  About fifteen minutes into the decent we noticed about three people stopped in a nook in the rocks. 

“Come see this”, a hiker said.

I stepped down, looked up into the meadow and 20 yards away were the two grizzly cubs.

I said “BEAR” immediately and everyone in our group stopped.  As I watched the cubs playing my brain was processing two things;

“This is the one of the neatest things I’ve ever seen!”


“Holy fuck, those cubs are RIGHT THERE!  Where is mom?”

I took two steps to the right and mom lumbered out and started to sniff the ground next to the cubs.  The cubs stopped, looked at us (probably ten total people at this point), then proceeded to play like they could care that they had an audience.  Mom didn’t seem to really care either but I had a feeling that at 20 yards I didn’t want to push my luck.  We watched the three grizzlies for about a minute and then left.  Could we have stayed?  Sure but the rule of thumb is that bears and wolves are 100 yards for viewing, and we were really breaking that rule…in THEIR HOME.  We left, satisfied that we got to see them twice, once up close. 

Ten minutes later, as we were walking along the cliff edges and slick rock, it rained like God decided that Ark II was an appropriate sequel.  It was windy as well which created an interesting and very slow feeling as we were crawling down the cliff edge trail.  Eventually we made our way down the valley, the rain let up, and we reached the junction at which we had to make a decision; head down the hill and catch the two boats, or continue along the ridge and walk to the Many Glacier hotel.  The Taiwanese students wished us the best and headed towards the boats.  Our Belgian companions joined us as we continued the walk, all the way to the Many Glacier Hotel.  It added another two miles to the walk but believe it or not, we arrived exactly at the same moment as the people taking the boats. 

The grand total for the day?  Three glaciers, a dozen waterfalls (including walking through one), spectacular views, a pounding rainstorm, two marmots, two mountain goats, four bighorn sheep, and one grizzly sow with two cubs.

A fantastic day.

Trails hiked:  Grinnell Glacier Trail, Josephine Lake Trail

Miles hiked:  9.7

Monday, March 07, 2016

Oh, you know, the typical Monday morning conversation

“Is it possible to be a feminist stripper?”

This was the actual conversation from students in my classroom before school started at about 7:15 this morning.  No, it wasn’t a joke.  It did start as a joke but then drifted into one of those questions that may not be appropriate for class except that my students are:

A)  Seniors.

B)  Intelligent.

C)  Mature.

D)  Inquisitive. 

This means that very little is off the table when discussions are concerned.  Potential personal issues will cause me to shut things down rather quicky and that’s about it.  Since I didn’t feel like anyone in the class was a stripper or had the massive potential for stripping (although it has been a way to pay for college) I let the conversation continue as long as it wasn’t going to go off the rails.

It didn’t. 

In the end the commentary revolved around the idea that a feminist stripper who is against objectification of women is kind of doing it wrong, although some of the people in the conversation disagreed with that assessment. 

The issue is a trap for men without a doubt, and hopefully my male students were learning that conversations in college are becoming more and more like the trap.  If you support a woman’s right to be a stripper then you are by the very nature of the act, objectifying her.  If you don’t think that women should engage in the act of stripping then you are obviously too threatened by female sexuality and are a misogynist.

Regardless, one of the great things about teaching is that every day brings something different and unexpected.  Tomorrow?  Who knows….

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Day 29: St. Mary’s via Iceberg Lake

The smoke was still there a-plenty, although the wind wasn’t blowing and breakfast was had with lousy visions but little campfire flavor.  We left and headed over to Swiftcurrent Lodge for our ranger-led hike to Iceberg Lake.

Our ranger was a mid-20 something female who majored in business and promptly moved to Montana because she felt nature was more fulfilling.  Now she works at an REI in Missoula while trying to deal with the Montana winters and works in Glacier National Park in the summertime.  Our hike was to take us up into a little nook in a canyon containing Wilbur Creek.  At the top of the creek was Iceberg Lake, a body of water surrounded on three sides by massive walls of rock thus allowing for ice to remain in the lake well into July.  I was hoping to see ice. 

The first 3/4 mile was a strong climb up a narrow trail that eventually flatted out to a nice gradual climb up to Iceberg Lake.  Along the way our ranger educated us about local glaciers (we saw Swiftcurrent from the trail), the different forests on the east and west side of the Continental divide, and bears.  It was the bears that people were most interested in because our large party (had to be about twenty) were fairly concerned about running into a grizzly.  The ranger was fantastic, discussing the ins-and-outs of bear encounters.  Interesting fact; bear bells are no longer recommended.  Basically if you are going to hike in bear country, you better be talking every couple minutes and talking loud.  We got the in’s and out’s of bear spray, bear tracking, and most importantly, the reminder that most of the time if you are acting in a bear safe manner you’ll be fine. 

We stopped at Ptarmigan Falls for a short break and then continued our journey towards the lake.  Eventually we broke out of the forest and started walking through alpine meadows.  I think I’ve found my favorite type of terrain.  The meadows are full of different types of wildflowers and the occasional trees seem to create a perfect match to the granite rock and green lushness on the ground.  Mix in the jagged peaks, the multitude of waterfalls, and the plethora of animal life and it feels like your in the greatest wilderness that could have been invented by a Creator.  Iceberg Lake was fantastic.  Set in a bowl and covered partially by, well, icebergs, the lake was a brilliant blue hue contrasted with the white snow surrounding its banks on the far side.  While there were probably thirty or so people there, the tones were hushed as an almost reverent feeling overcame all of us.  Even kids seemed to appreciate the vision before them.

As the afternoon waned we had a choice; wait by the lake for over an hour more for the ranger to head back or get a group together start the journey early.  We paired up with Jack and Greta, an older couple from Belgium and began our way down the trail.  We discussed everything from the European Union to teaching in the United States to families to the hope that grizzly bears stayed out of our way.  We were loud and I lead the way with the regular “waayyyyyyyyyyyyyohhhhhhh” every couple of minutes and any time we neared a blind curve.  We avoided bears ok but ran into this baddy:

SUmmer 2015 2085 That’s a grouse that was very bold in an effort to find her chicks.  She found them eventually and it was actually really cool.  But damn those talons…..

Once we got back to the Swiftcurrent Lodge we sat and enjoyed a couple of cold brews and talked about our road trips and (in the case of our new companions) trips around the world.  It was a fabulous day that started with a beautiful climb and ended with excellent company.  Jack and Gretel are actually staying at the Many Glacier Hotel and we are going to meet them tomorrow for our climb up to Grinnell Glacier.  

Trails hiked:  Iceberg Lake

Miles hiked: 10

Well, on to other things.

I resigned from coaching basketball.

At this point I’m not going to get too long winded about why because a lot about basketball is still clouded with vitriol from particular people and situations that surround high school sports.  I’d be ranting like a crazy person and that’s something for much later on when I have time to edit.

It’s really not a sad moment.  It’s been years in the making and to be totally honest I’m a different person now than I was years ago.  I love teaching and I love adventures with my wife, and I really love the fact that I acted on doing something about both those things before ignoring those impulses became damaging. 

It was great working with kids and coaching a competitive athletic sport.  People will never completely understanding teaching until they do it and those condemn it as something other than teaching are fools.  Kids are the easy part of coaching because they want to be there and they soak up good teaching like a sponge.

But this is about the best use of human capital for myself.  Teaching is a marathon in which I probably have at least twenty more years.  I’ve spent the entirety of every Winter holiday and at least half of the Summers engaged in basketball since 1988.  That wasn’t a bad thing then but now I have other things that fill my soul.


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Everybody knows you are a lesbian and care way too damn much

Student free speech lawsuit

That’s Taylor Victor. 

She went to class at Sierra High School in Manteca and a teacher apparently tossed her towards the office where two administrators told her to change the shirt because of “inappropriate sexuality” and “dress code violations.”  That caused a bit of a stir and the school and Taylor worked out an agreement that allowed the First Amendment to run amok on campus in exchange for ignoring the error of the districts ways.  Or whatever.

“she met with Leland (the principal), telling him the dress code did not prohibit the shirt; he told her that she was not allowed to display “personal choices and beliefs” on her clothing and that it violated the dress code because it was “disruptive” and could be “gang-related,” the lawsuit says.”

Gang related?  What the hell kind of gangs are hanging out around Manteca these days? 

Yeah doubtful. 

“Assistant Principal Dan Beukelman, who also is named as a defendant, said she could not wear the shirt because it was “promoting sex” and an “open invitation to sex,….”

It sort of is promoting sex because she’s announcing something regarding her sexuality, which is about sex.  But the question is whether or not it really is ABOUT sex.  My guess is that Ms. Victor is doing the part pay-attention-to-me and part social justice thing that is not uncommon with teenagers, and my God did the school overreact.

I can’t see a situation with a Senior coming into my classroom where I do anything but smile and move on.  Taylor’s shirt is the equivalent of a Now This clickbait video, and that’s not entirely uncommon amongst the teenagers that proliferate a high school.  Good, bad, justified or not, the shirt became way too big of a deal for a high school. 

Move on.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Technological miracle called “books” continue to take hold.

The death of paper has been greatly exaggerated.  Take a look at new growth in used book stores, continued success in paper book markets, and the statistics that e-reader sales have seriously plateaued, and the indication that society is still in love with the physical printed word is alive and well. 

And schools seem to be behind the times.  There is an interesting technological revolution going on within Ukiah Unified right now and the initial results have been fairly interesting.  I won’t get into the nuts and bolts at this point because much of it is rumor and all of it is brand new.  One thing that has been broached in a smaller way is the substitution of textbooks with e-readers. 

What say you Interwebz?

In a new study conducted by American University linguistics professor Naomi Baron, researchers have found that an overwhelming majority of students prefer physical books — you know, with covers and paper — over e-books for serious reading.

These are this generations massive readers; college students.  They overwhelmingly want the physical books in their hands than an e-reader, even when the book has a digital copy at no financial cost.  And this isn’t just a college going phenomenon.  It looks like the teenagers are still into reading and that social media simply creates buzz for the purchase of the paper books. 

What’s most important to the student angle is the apparent lack of engagement that students find in an e-reader.  When presented with the opportunity to recall information, studies show that digital devices had a negative impact on the overall absorption and engagement within that information

  "the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does"

The statement could be seen by some as old fashioned or obsolete until you start sifting through data and realizing that, just as many teachers have said, the technology is only a tool and occasionally that tool is used improperly. 

I also buzzed around an AP U.S. Government forum where the question of e-readers as textbooks was put in front of a group.  A vast majority of teachers did not like their digital experience.  They found that either the students didn’t read as well or as often with the Kindle style books, or that the digital copies were poorly executed on Kindles and laptops.  This created a mess on Kindles because students had trouble going back to charts and graphs on previous pages, and laptop infographics ended up clunky and often distracting to the reader.  A couple of teachers noted that textbook companies like Pearson were also doing a masterful job locking schools into digital books as well.

The most dangerous part of integrating technology into schools is the act of simply integrating it into schools because it is technology.  It’s pretty and powerful and makes board members and administrators look like they are savy in the ways of current pedagogy.  That’s the wrong way to look at technology.  Technology is not pedagogy.  Technology is the tool and the teacher needs a lot more say about how that tool is most successfully used in the classroom.  Sweeping changes without consulting teachers can have disastrous and incredibly expensive consequences. 

While thinking about this, please view IKEA’s reminder to all of us about one of the greatest technological advances in human history….the Book.

Day 28: Victor, Idaho to St. Mary, Montana via Yellowstone National Park

We woke up at 2 in the morning. 

My wife was worried about the fire and wanted a back-up plan.  Part of the town of St. Mary (our next stop) was being evacuated, and we were fairly sure that everything else was smoked out.  Logan Pass (a highlight of the park) was closed.  We were concerned that our reservations couldn’t be cancelled and that we would be stuck being miserable at a high price.  Then we started figuring out alternate plans.  If we could get out of our reservations on the east side of Glacier we could detour over to the Badlands in South Dakota for a few days and then head to Kalispell, Montana on the west side of Glacier where the smoke was less pervasive.  If we could get out of both reservations we could skip Glacier and do a loop of Upper Cascade, Mt. Rainer, and Olympic National Parks.  We looked at drive times, hotel prices, fire conditions, weather updates.  After about 90 minutes we realized that a lot was riding on whether or not we could cancel the reservations and went to sleep.

For about two hours.

We made a quick packing of the car and by dawn we headed over the pass and north through Jackson Hole.  We hit sporadic showers and one bear jam at the northern end of the Tetons as about eight cars watched a large bear (don’t know what kind) wandering around a field before lumbering into the forest.  We decided to take the long way (through Yellowstone) to visit one location; Artist Point.  We had missed it last time through and the location was famous for looking over Yellowstone Falls through the gorge that was the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  It’s also historical in that the first major portrait of Yellowstone was drawn from that location, and the picture of Yellowstone Falls was a major part of what eventually became the creation of America’s first National Park.

Like last year Yellowstone National Park was painfully slow to drive in.  Lots of traffic and road work kept our speed around 25-30 mph for most of our time within the park.  The scenery was fabulous and Artist Point was well worth the trip but man the drivers in this park are bad.  After hitting the point we drove through Haydon Valley, up and over Dunraven Pass, and headed out the northern entrance of the park.  We did catch a very substantial bear jam near Mammoth Hot Springs where a grizzly and two cub were sniffing around a log about 150 yards away.  That was a pleasant ten minutes.

We got ahold of our location in St. Mary’s and asked about our reservations.  They basically told us that they were open, most of Glacier was unaffected, and they expected us to meet our obligation for the reservation. 

Ok then.  Guess our decision is made up.

We enjoyed the terrain up to from Yellowstone to Interstate 90 in Montana, and for the first time in a long while we headed west.  Near the headwaters of the Missouri River (which is odd to think about in Montana) we headed north towards Helena.  The weather had cleared up mid-afternoon but the weather to the west was looking iffy.  We arrived at Helena and decided to hit a Super Wal-Mart to stock up for the days at St. Mary’s.  We walked in to partly cloudy skies.  We walked out to thunder and lightening, and a nasty driving rain.  Then it started to hail.  We slowly made our way to Interstate 15 along with the rest of the very cautious traffic.  We were doing about 30 mph on the on-ramp to I-15 when the heavens opened up and it flat out poured.  I don’t know if I have driven in a harder rain than that moment.  People were pulling off the four lane highway and I can’t say that I blame them.  I stayed in the left lane and slowed way down; visibility was poor but the main problem being the loud and driving rain. 

Then it was gone.  That quick.  The rest of the way was completely sunny.  Totally spazzy weather.  It makes you appreciate California’s climate.

There was a gorgeous area of I-15 known as Gates of the Mountain that was a total treat; red rock cliffs and river canyons that spanned mile after mile.  Then we went off the highway and into the rolling flatlands of central Montana towards eastern Glacier National Park.  There was very little to see between Gates of the Mountain and St. Mary.  There are a few small towns that depend on agriculture.  A colony of Amish-style people that are a very closed society.  A couple of wildlife refuges in view of the Rocky Mountains.  And the town of Browning, Montana.  Browning is a reservation town that looked like many reservation towns we visited in the Southwest; an insanely depressing location.  Arguably Browning is an under-developed nation within one of the most developed countries in the world.  It’s sad. 

We could see the smoke from the Reynolds's Fire in Glacier National Park from about 60 miles away, yet the air didn’t seem quite as bad as the news outlets had made it out to be.  As we dropped into St. Mary’s we looked up the canyon towards Logan Pass and could see the fire roaring along the western forested slopes while being attacked from above by three water-carrying helicopters.  It wasn’t pretty but being from California we’ve seen much worse.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have smoke at our cabin but it’s not nearly as bad as it could be. 

Trails hiked:  Artist Point

Miles hiked:   Really doesn’t count