Tuesday, December 23, 2008


We wrapped up the food drive today by delivering 2/3 of the 5400 items to 7 different families. The other 1/3 went to our local soup kitchen.
It was the best way to wrap up before heading out on break. My wife and daughter fly to Seattle (weather pending) tomorrow afternoon, and I follow on Christmas Day.
Feliz Navidad, everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Everyone needs compassion

An Oregon high school students is wondering, "Where is the love?" Senior Kelsey Hertell wanted to share kindness with the community around her. Instead, she's found that too many in the world are too leary of a kind deed.
Each morning before dropping toddlerTate off at daycare, we have a short conversation. "Tate," I begin, "remember this: be kind, compassionate, and polite." She usually follows along. The author Frederick Buechner says, "Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Which is what I hope we accomplish with this food drive I've written about. Joy for my students. Joy for my community. Joy for the people receiving the food.
The Dalai Lama says about happiness, "If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
Again, this is another aspect of what I hope our food drive has accomplished. I don't know that I have been all that happy at my school. In part, I wonder if it has something to do with the lack of compassion throughout the building. Students lack compassion for one another, evidenced by the regular put-downs, arguments, and fights. Students lack compassion for the teachers, evidenced by the regular disrespect. In turn, the teachers lack compassion for the students, evidenced by the quick judgements and half-hearted efforts. This lack of compassion has grown into a circular event in which individuals cannot bring themselves to end the cycle.
I hope we've taken a step towards shared compassion. I hope the world is not so cynical that we can't be kind to one another.

Food Drive (Phase II)

I'm sitting here at the computer looking at the lake surface grow increasingly angry as the heavy wind drives the light snow sideways past the window. We cancelled school on Friday, pushing the start of Phase II (Food Distribution) to Monday. Today's weather could have implications tomorrow, and Friday's weather has already messed with the distribution.
We scheduled Shopping Day for tomorrow. We need to have school tomorrow in order to accomplish the Shopping Day--when student volunteers set up the cafeteria as a grocery store and then shop for the families we will support. The event can still happen unless school is cancelled. I'm not too worried about that possibility.
What I'm most concerned about is Delivery Day, which is scheduled for Tuesday. Because school was cancelled on Friday, the indoor track team's first meet was postponed. The rescheduled meet will happen on Tuesday, Delivery Day. Many of my heavily involved volunteers are on the team. That means we will be lacking a number of our most dedicated students. And that means the very ones who have put in the most time will miss out on a rewarding part of the project.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Food Drive (Final Collection Day)

I'm exhausted. But I've put our odds of reaching 5,000 items at 3-1. Our original goal was 4,500 items, and this morning's count had us at 4,200. We had a stellar night at our two locations. Here are two stories from my group:

A man walks up to our students and matter of factly asks, "What are you girls doing, here?"
"Oh, we're putting on a food drive to support our school families in need this year,"they reply, filling in lines for each other.
"What can I do to help," he questions.
"Well, here's a list of items we're collecting," one of the girls says while handing him the blue paper.
"Okay," he replies, already heading into the store.
Forty five minutes later he returns. His grocery cart is full to the top. Reaching for one of the bags, he says, "Here you go." He then turned and walked away, still holding the one bag he had picked up from the pile.

Earlier in the night, a man walked out of the store holding a bag and a turkey. He didn't donate, but I kindly told him to have nice night. Fifty feet later, he stops, turns, and walks back to me. He puts the turkey out and says, "Here." That was it. Nothing more before walking away.
A car pulls up and the driver calls me over. It's turkey man. While reaching out to shake my hand he says, "That turkey was for my kids. You know, my wife died two years ago and now we get state help. But we have food. Give that turkey to someone who doesn't have food. We need more people like your students. Thanks, and tell people my story."

I was floored, stunned by the generosity of these men. So, now you now the story. Starbucks has their new ad campaing imploring us to "Do Something Good Every Day." These men put that into action; I hope you will do the same.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Food Drive (Day 9)

I hope you've enjoyed the break from my regular content; I know it has refocused my teaching soul, which had become corrupted by student behaviors.
Tonight marked the ninth night of collecting food at our local grocery stores. The freshmen brought four students to one location and the juniors only offered one student at the other. Fortunately for the juniors, it was only our second day at that location so the food drive is still a novelty. At the freshmen location, we are in our second week which resulted in many passing up because they had already given last week. Which makes me wonder why it matters, but I don't want to dwell on the negatives.
After this morning's count, we had lifted our total to 3,600 items and $288. That puts us 900 items away from our goal of 4,500 items. Tonight will net another 650-750 items, leaving us just shy of our goal with one night remaining.
The weather might be bad overnight, so here's (for the first time) hoping that we don't have a snow day. I'll take a 90 minute delay, though!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Food Drive (Day 7 & 8)

Quick update on the our food drive. After this weekend's count, we had amassed 2900 itmes, over halfway to our goal of 4500. I ended up using my first three periods counting and sorting the items--a great thank you to my three freshmen classes who I forced to help.
My central office is working to identify the families we will be helping--probably 13-15 in all.

We spread our operation to a second store tonight. For the first hour, I was alone at Wal-Mart until one of the amazing volunteers showed up--she wasn't scheduled to help, but somehow heard no students had come to help. Finally three other students showed up, plus two teachers and administrator.

Best story of the night. As I was setting up, a woman hovered around me to see what I was up to. Finally, she asked what my signs were all about. Upon discovering that I was setting up to collect food, she reached into her bags (she had entered the store before knowing we would be there) and handed me the two boxes of cereal she had purchased. "I was out of work for six months," she admitted. "I know what it's like. Thank you for doing this."

And that is why I am dedicated to making this drive happen, even if it requires me and only handful of students to make it work. For those few students, this drive will shape their high school memories.

And if you want to see the model I am using, please follow the link to a news story about my former school:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Food Drive (Day Six)

Bells, bells, bells.... The Salvation Army bellringers were the local Boy Scout troops, and they certainly rang those bells! It really is fun to watch people donate food and then drop money into the pot for The Salvation Army. I think we brought in 400 items this morning, but the official count will happen on Monday.
The other amazing part of this event is the support given by local businesses. Today, the terrific pizza joint across the street donated two large pizzas which we shared with our "competition."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Food Drive (Day Five)

After this morning's count, we had totaled over 1400 items. This was cause for celebration and excitement. Unfortunately, the final period of the day arrived and that class was simply out of control. Why is that I'm in complete control of three classes, tenuously in control of the fourth, and lacking control in the fifth? I'm at a loss and I feel, for the first time in my career, like a true failure. It isn't pleasant.
But, then comes joy. I've been struggling to diversify the volunteer crowd, and today's session did that. My favorite part of the evening was when one of the students, obviously not accustomed to being the "face" of the school went from struggling to get the sales pitch correct to nailing it every time. "Mister, I'm on a roll," he shouted to me. Sweet. He and his friends experience amazing generosity from our local community, bringing in around 500 items to add to our total.
I may not have taught my last period how to read a graph for information, but this student learned that compassion does have a place in society, and that he can be a part of its influence. I'll take the latter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Food Drive (Day Four)

After an absolute disaster of a day teaching, I met four of our best students at the supermarket to collect food. Fewer people were out shopping, possibly because of the drenching cold rain. Yet, we were able to collect another three hundred items; and thanks to "The Hustler" (in the non-pejorative manner) we were able to collect $115 in cash donations, over twice what we had collected in three previous days.
So, off to bed for me. I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Food Drive (Day 3)

This is the back of my car after the three student volunteers loaded it with tonight's haul. I continue to play the role of Gemini, both irritated and elated at what transpires each night. Another colleague finally joined me this evening which helped out tremendously--the Juniors did not show up until almost an hour after they were supposed to arrive. Had my colleague not been there, I would not have been able to cover the two entrances as potential donors entered the store.
After two official counts, we are at 650 items. Tonight should add another 300 items to the count.
For those tracking, and commenting (Hedgetoad), thanks for the support and the ideas. I spent the five minute passing periods and planning periods hunting for individual students to sign-up. So far the "maybe's" have not shown and neither have the "oh, yeah mister, I will do that's". But again, too what extent can I wallow when we are approaching 1000 items?
I must point out how amazing our local Starbuck's Coffee house has been in supporting our project. Once again, they donated hot chocolate to our cause. There is nothing better than feeling the support of local businesses. And of course, our local Shaw's Supermarket who have hosted our food drive to this point. Next week, Wal-Mart will also host our students.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Food Drive (Day Two)

I'm exhausted. I sent out an e-mail last week and yesterday seeking the assistance of my colleagues in overseeing the students collecting the food. To this point, only one teacher has offered to help early next week. That is not a complaint; because can one really complain when an additional 350 items were added to the coffers.
The Sophomores didn't show up tonight, so again the Seniors will get the credit. I've got to find a way to get more students involved. Here's a few comments from students as I talked to them about the success of yesterday's efforts:

"I'm not going to stand there for three hours."
"Ain't nobody helpin' me."
"Nah. I don't help people."

The vicarious experience can often be the most powerful. So, I told them stories from last night and how people donated more items than they bought for themselves. I told them about the mom and child, food stamps in hand, dropping off two cans of green beans.
How can I convince more than the Student Council, National Honor Society, and DECA leaders to participate?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Food Drive (Day One)

Today marked the start of the first annual (I hope) food drive at W.G.A.S.H. I learned how to run a school wide drive by watching the students and faculty at the school I taught at in Washington (See this post or this one).
My current school has never done a food drive that tried to incorporate the entire student body so the challenges have already manifested themselves. Today, the freshmen were supposed to be stationed at the local grocery store to collect food. No one showed up other than the senior student council members assigned to help monitor the young ones. Oh well. We still collected around 400 items.
That was phenomenal. The vice-principal stopped by and noted that we've already collected what previous food drives have collected in their entirety (previous drives have been very small scale and perhaps not well advertised).
Well, I hope tomorrow nets more students participating, but more importantly, I hope we can bring in over 500 items.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Things that happened this week and how I handled or mishandled them:

I've been labeled as arrogant and prideful by a few recent commentors. It's true that I think I am a good teacher, and it is true that I am confident in what I believe about education. Certainly I can be arrogant, and I am often prideful. But in my arrogance and pride I want only the success of the students, even if that means I get credit!
Anyway, this week offered yet another round of wild and wacky behavior. Some of the disorder continues to baffle me into near paralyzation. I mean that.

Monday: As I walked to my car after school, I noticed a student standing at the curb waiting for a ride. She's in one of my reading classes, but she rarely attends class. We've met a few times already with the various stakeholders in this student's success.
I stopped just to chat. To tell her that I wished she would attend my class. That if she's skipping because she feels unsuccessful (an admitted truth) I'm usually available for an hour and a half after school. Then I told her to have a nice afternoon.
She only came to class one of the four days we met last week.

Tuesday: Side Show Bob (because that's who he looks like) apparently had no interest in participating. He didn't want to read the selection because, "I just don't wanna. Why do you care?" Because I want you to improve as a reader so you can do well in your other classes. Apparently that wasn't a good enough answer because he continued to distract other potential learners. He was more successful at gaining their attention than the practice assignment on theme. I sent him to the hallway where he practiced his rapping skills. I didn't bring him back in because the class was actually working diligently.

Wednesday: With only three students in one of my classes, I gave in and let them relax. I'll admit that they were effectively persuasive when all three of them pointed out that they had recently used the character analysis skills (identifying round/flat/static/dynamic and character traits) in their English class. They were beaming as they told me how "smart" they felt because most of the other students didn't know that stuff. Yeah, I'm a sucker for learning.

Thursday: As one of my "duties," I monitor a study hall in the cafeteria. There is one other teacher to keep order for over a hundred students. My task is to serve as the door-man. I sign planners allowing students to visit counselors, bathrooms, or the library. Students often try to walk right by me like I don't exist, and then I have to get their attention and remind them that a planner is required.
Well, after the ninth or tenth person ignoring me, I stopped trying. I was tired of the looks, the whining, the "But I just need to go..." I put my nose in my book about teacher evaluations (there's irony for you) and educated myself about the process.

Friday: Here's where it all went to hell. During first period, I taught the final lesson on theme and then wanted to demonstrate for the students what their new class will look like when second semester rolls around. We'll be implementing the scripted program of Corrective Reading; I thought that they might want to see a quick sample since they've been asking about it.
I was wrong. One student was defiant when I tried to move them into the seating arrangement for the activity. "I don't want to. I want to sit right here." She eventually capitulated but then would not follow the instructions. Ultimately, I wanted to engage them in a dialogue about how the program worked, why it was structured that way, and what their initial response to it might be.
She reacted. "What the fuck? I'm not in third grade. This is bullshit. I'm not going to do that." Okay, just hang on, I want to have a conversation about this, but we can't just yell. Please sit down and wait. "No. You're treating us like we're in elementary school. I'm not that fucking stupid."
Whoa, wait, listen; if you've tested into the program... (A few more cuss words) Then I gave in: well if you act like you're in third grade, I guess we have to treat you that way. (Not as an excuse, but these types of power struggles and reactions are somewhat typical of my daily grind)
She walked out, cussing all the way.
Later in the day, I handed out progress reports to another class. One student has a failing grade because she has refused to do work and tests. I've met with mom and her other teachers to little avail. This turned into me being yelled at for giving her an F, how my class sucks, I'm a jerk. In the few moments to try and communicate, I gently tried to explain that all the missing assignments can be completed if she will stay after school. Her responses were that she's not staying after school, and she walked out because, "I'm getting tight."

So there haters. I'm not perfect, and I can admit it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Master's In Blogging

I attended an informational meeting for UConn's administrative certification program, a two year intesive study. Unfortunately, I won't be applying because I don't have a Master's Degree. The intersting thing of it is that the Master's Degree can be in anything. Really. I could go out and earn a Master's in:
Divinity, European Law, City and Regional Planning, Design, or Enterprise.

It isn't that I am opposed to learning, but it just seems that a piece of paper shouldn't disqualify someone from entering Education Administration. If UConn's two year program is so good, and I have no doubt that it is, will a Master's in Health Science make me a better principal? No.

So, I have created an online university: The University of the Daily Grind. I offer one Master's Degree: A Master's of Blogging.

After posting today, I will have completed my learning and will confer upon myself the first ever Master's of Blogging. Then I will be ready to be an administrator.

Actually, I am taking votes. What would you want your principal to have a Master's Degree in?

Monday, December 01, 2008

But it's Natural

I need these people running my school.
What would ever possess a student to let one rip in the middle of class, laugh hysterically about it, and then have the nerve to defend such actions? In my reading class of six boys and one girl, farting happens every day. And every day, my boys laugh and point fingers. It never gets old.