Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obnoxious (A short Rant)

My wife and I sprung for an afternoon movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The plot disappointed me, but I was more bothered by the seating arrangement. With forty to fifty people in the entire theater, a grandmother, mother and child arrived just before previews and sit down, yes, right next to me. An entire theater open, and the grandmother chooses the seat next to me. But then she talks all through the previews and the first twenty minutes of the movie.
After we saw the movie, we stopped at our local Ford dealership to check out a Ford Escape Hybrid. We are in the market for a second vehicle; my choice would be the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Here's the obnoxious part: they didn't have one on the lot. And not only did they not have one on the lot, the salesman informed me that I will be hard pressed to find the Ford Escape Hybrid on a lot, but if I want to order one, it will be a 10 month wait.
Now, I see the commercials for this vehicle every night. Many of the morning shows are talking about this vehicle. But it isn't even available because production was limited.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mondays with Daddy

It is 8:17 on Monday morning and my wife just pulled out of the driveway to attend summer school training sessions. I am sitting across the table from my two year old daughter, Tate. She has started the morning off as a terror. That fact, combined with my love of a Bill Simmon's running diary, is the reason for my sharing the first--well, second--day of summer vacation.

8:20--Tate exclaims, "My all doned," and proceeds to play peek-a-boo around the candle between us. Her hands are covered with jelly and so is her face. "Daddy, all done," she coos again.
8:25--Time for educational televsion. On Demand offers many good programs, and I wanted to introduce Tate to the Blues Clues. Nope. This section is "free with subscription." Well, wait. Free and "with subscription" don't seem to go together. Instead, we'll be watching "Eyore's Sad Day." It fits the current weather pattern which is keeping us from palying outside.
8:29--Tate is off the couch and commanding our dog, Fortinbras, to "WAKE UP, FORTI." But, I am enjoying Tigger and the gang trying to cheer up that depressed ass.
8:33--I can't imagine I'll be giving updates quite this regularly. I just found an interesting article from the Seattle Times on small school academies to break up large high schools. My school of 900 will start year two of this method, though I don't quite understand how it will work--especially when we don't have the funding. On a separate note, Eyore is still sad and the gang is confounded by this. Tate is sitting in an upside down bathroom stool.
8:44--"Eyore's Sad Day" ended with a great message about just being with someone to cheer them up. We don't have to put on a show all of the time. Now, Tigger is bouncing endlessly through his mini-episode. Tate is no longer watching, having ditched the show for play in the bathroom. She's giving Elmo a bath.
8:50--"We're going on a trip/ in our favorite rocket ship..." Though she wasn't watching Tigger and Pooh, Tate realized it had ended. This bothered her, so she came to ask if she could watch "Rocket Ship" or Little Einsteins. She's sitting quietly on the couch. How long will it last?
8:53--"My poopie potty," she yells as she hops of the couch and runs to the bathroom. She's pretty much potty trained. Now she's distracted; she's playing in the bathroom once again.
9:12--Coloring Time: I'm giving Tate the letter A with a picture of an alligator and an acorn. We might as well be academically minded. The weather is still dreary--a few storms in the area.
9:27--I ask, "A is for?," she replies, "Jelly-fish." Time to start a Data team, I think.
9:31--"Daddy, all done. Crayons go away." She wants to paly with mayno, which I find out means Play-Doh. We have blue and yellow at the moment. Tate believes we have only red. She can identify colors, but more often than not, she doesn't. Is she just messing with me, or does she really not know them?
9:43--Play-Doh time is going well with the exception of the inevitable taste test. I'm reading about how Obama and McCain will handle racially charged campaign ads.
9:52--"My all done with play-doh, daddy." She's mixed the two colors and is trying to jam a large flat piece into the round opening. That's my girl. At most, my days will be broken into 20 minute increments. THIS won't help my ADD.
9:59--We finished cleaning up and set her up with Lynn Downey's The Flea's Sneeze. She's listening to it being read on CD. In retrospect, I should have given her a copy of Tolkein's The Hobbit, and let her listen to that on CD!
10:22--I'm thinking about next year, my classroom to be exact. Tate is in her room putting with her toy golf set. 'Please, Golf Gods, give her the ability to make the PGA.' Our dog, Fortinbras, wants to play outside, but the drizzle persists.
10:33--As Tate gets herself dressed, kind of, I found this magnet that I want to turn into a poster for my classroom: If you're going through hell, keep going.... The truth would benefit many of my students who come from a version of hell to my classroom.
10:38--This is so wrong of me. My wife just called to say she was on her way home because the time provided to set up her classroom can't be used. Why? Their waxing her floor. My first reaction? Sweet. Tate's been really well-behaved, but we still had to have lunch, do some more coloring, and put her down for a nap. Sweet. It's all I can say.
10:43--As I pushed "publish post," Tate walked in with her alphabet puzzle. "Daddy!!," she proclaims before dumping the pieces on the floor. She had the letters D, M, N, T, and Q in place when I turn around. Now she has E and I.
10:45--She struggled with L but nailed Z, followed quickly by K and Y. Wait, did that really just happen? She drops in S, J, P and O before struggling with C.
10:48--C was a tough one, but once in B came easily ("B for Boston" she reminds me!") A and T are now in but "Daddy help," blurts out for the letter R.
10:50--H, V, and U are all in. It looks like she figured out R. X and Wis are being placed now, but we're missing F and G. Uh oh.
10:53--All of the pieces are thrown onto the floor so she can stand on the puzzle! Sweet.
11:03--After redoing the puzzle, Tate carries it back to her room and proceeds to dump it, again. THIS is going to be my summer? I just finished teaching high schoolers that acted the same way.
11:11--"MOMMY'S HOME," I scream with joy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I love sports. Athletes have long stood at the forefront of the nation's conscience. We track their stats, draft them in fantasy leagues, and watch hours of sporting events and the talk shows that come before and after.
As a child, I wanted to become a professional baseball player, but the fact that I couldn't hit prevented me from my dreams. Today, I returned to a thought I have had in the past: teachers being treated like athletes.
If in order to earn six figures as a teacher, we had to endure the paparazzi, endless talking heads bantering about our performance, or reporters critiquing us, would we take it?

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I have just wrapped up my third father's day, though I really only count two real ones. The first one, in 2006, came two months after Tate arrived on April 17. My first go 'round at fatherhood has begun successfully, mostly because Tate has been blessed with such an astounding charisma.

This child of mine can bring levity to any room.

In fact, this morning she made me laugh at the irony of the day. She kicked and screamed her way to the car. We were headed to Starbucks and then to church. Daddy had to discipline her, and so she pouted for half the trip. Then she warmed up to coyness, and finally she was asking to "snuggle daddy" as we walked into Starbucks.

We stopped at my grandparent's house on the way home. Tate loves her "Pop-pops," and he, at almost 90, is enthralled by her.

I tried to install a portable air conditioning unit as a gift to my father, who is now fully dependent on oxygen to survive. As with all mechanical adventures for our family, it was a debacle that ended with me back at Best Buy to purchase a different unit. That installation was only a minor debacle! (My buddy Stence will be happy that I used the word 'debacle' twice in one sentence)

The evening is ending, the U.S. Open still going and the Boston Celtics coming on shortly. My daughter is sleeping, my wife is making t-shirts for her students, and I am firmly planted on the couch, thankful for my father and my own fatherhood.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Choose Your Own Adventure

My first "Choose Your Own Adventure" post created good dialogue; I've got two more scenarios to offer my readers.
Scenario One:
A week ago a student came and asked permission to take the final early. The student's parents felt it was acceptable to leave for Puerto Rico on vacation a full week and a half before the end of the year.
No problem.
Then the student gets into a fight and thus suspended. So, the student wouldn't be around for the last two and a half weeks of school.
The student's counselor e-mailed the teachers asking us to contact the student to set up a time after school to take the final. What do you do?

Scenario Two:
At the end of semster one, a student's grade tallies up to a 58%. The student often misses class and has a surly demeanor. But the student needs a full English credit to graduate, so the student asks you to bump the grade to 60%, a passing grade.
You tell the student that, contingent upon better attendance, better product, and a better attitude, you would reasses the semester grade at the end of the year. The student agrees.
But, the student continues to skip, improves the work, and slightly improves behavior.
The student's counselor comes to you for your final decision on the first semester grade because mom needs to know. What do you do?
*IF you chose to leave the grade, you can stop reading.
**IF you chose to bump the grade to 60%, read on...

...After you bump the grade, a notice from the attendance office shows up in your mailbox. The student has lost credit for second semster due to absences. The student is going before the final appeals committee, which will determine whether to restore credit for the semester. The committee would like to know your views on the student's behavior, homework, and quizzes.
Now, what do you tell them?

Monday, June 09, 2008

It just takes one

...time losing your temper to set in stone your reputation.
...obnoxious student to ruin your day.
...uplifting letter from a student to remind you of why you chose to teach.
...honest conversation to win over a class.
...teacher who cares to change a school's culture.
...moment to smile at a student entering your class.
...moment of neglect to turn a student off.
...literary work to hook a student on reading.
...year to make a good teacher want to leave the profession.
...timely joke to lighten the mood.
...driven student to salvage a class.
...(fill in the blank)!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Goal Setting

I just bought my first laptop computer, a Sony Vaio. With hopes of mobile access during this summer, I am blogging from outside the confines of my office for the first time. Here in the Northeast, the temperatures rose to above 90 degrees. After a late evening dive into the lake, I am sitting on my deck. As luck would have it, I had to postpone the blogging endeavor because a passing shower chose to drop some moisture on me!
My seniors must complete a self-reflective letter as their final. I stole this idea from the Everett Public Schools for whom I taught before moving to Connecticut last summer. Even though none of my seniors will attend college in the fall, this assignment will serve to culminate their senior year.
One of the questions asks them to evaluate their short term and long term goals. I promised them that I would do the same.
I am not ready to do so yet, but once the year ends, I will evaluate my future. I've expressed a desire to stay in my current position while simultaneously expressing a desire to leave. That will be the first goal I set: to stay, or not to stay.
Then, I will evaluate which direction to further my education in. Do I want a Masters in my content area, education, or do I want to pursue administration? Today, the lack of ski boat makes me want to pursue the administrative level!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I keep battling...

This schoolyear feels like a lengthy at bat. The kids keep chucking nasty curveballs, changeups, and fastballs, but I keep fouling them off. They want to strike me out, turn me into the teacher who allows mediocrity and lets them dictate the day. I want to get a hit, maybe drive in a run or two.
I can't say I really understand why I continue to battle. For the fourth day in a row, the first word I heard upon entering the building: f---. In my smallest class, a group of 7, two are on out of school suspension, one is in school suspended, and one can't function on a daily basis because, as he says, "What's the point, mister? I have to repeat next year."
And yet, despite being on the look out for something new for next year, I found myself in a conversation with a student about who are the influencers in the school.
My latest save the school idea invovles identifying the student influencers. If we know who they are, we can focus our attention on them. I want to bring those students together--students who have long lists of misbehavior. I want to influence those students to become leaders of change, to take ownership at the school. I wonder how different those students would behave if they were given the chance to voice their ideas freely and appropriately.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Come again?!

Most have already seen this clip, but if you haven't, please watch. It is from the Scripps National Spelling Bee, and the announcer doesn't annunciate clearly--leading to a rather humorous exchange!

Do you like your teacher?

It's Sunday evening and I was feeling depressed at getting turned down for a new position. I figured I must be a terrible teacher. This thought gave me the idea to do some youtubing of the phrases, "I hate my teacher," and "I love my teacher." I've provided the links.

"I Hate My Teacher"--First 5 that appear:
Video 1--Scary. At one point he wields a knife--the authorities might want to view that.
Video 2--A little long and rambling.
Vide0 3--Nothing like attacking personality or making wild claims to remind me why I love teaching!
Video 4--Long, very long...but I actually enjoyed the video--especially when she rags on Julius Caesar!
Video 5--Sorry P.E. Teachers...this guy hates his gym teacher.

"I Love My Teacher"--First 5 that appear:
Video 1--A music video from elementary school kids; very sweet!
Video 2--Confusing.
Video 3--An old Bill Cosby clip.
Video 4--The teacher thinks it is because of his "guns."
Video 5--Some strange anime thing...I don't follow.