Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays to everyone!
Click on Santa and print it out for some coloring fun!
Or, for you sicker individuals, have your own caption contest (then send me the winning one!)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

I'll put up with just about anything...

for these two.

Friday, December 16, 2005

10 minutes...

Winter break starts in 10 minutes.

My joy knows no bounds!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Thanks, Mamacita, for the trip in the wayback machine!

A post over at Mamacita's place got me thinking about an experience I had:
While in college I waited tables in several resturants. One Fathers' Day I waited on a party of 6 or so, with a 3-4 year-old boy sitting in a highchair at the end of the booth (God forbid you sit at a table when a booth is open, but don't get me started on that particular nonsense!). This kid was too big for the highchair, and was fidgeting. As I delivered the drink order- I still remember it almost 15 years later: a couple of Heinekins, a bloody mary, shirley temple- this little darling grabbed the edge of the tray, causing the drinks to tip and spill all over him. I was able to keep the glasses and bottles from falling on his head, but he was drenched. Naturally, he started to cry, and the little cherub's mother asked me why I had attacked her son.
How could I respond to that?
Another server took over the table, management comped the meal for the party, and the kid's dad took him out to the car to change.
The server who finished the group told me the kid had wanted a grilled cheese or some other age-appropriate fare, but monster mother ordered him the steak and shrimp combo because it was free.
Nowadays, of course, these same folks and their ilk call and ask why I gave their child a failing grade, when all they did was earn a 22% for the quarter, or could I please accept the kid's work late because he had baseball practice and couldn't get to it.
Oh, well. The ability with which stupid people breed keeps me employed.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I love kids... it's just teaching them that makes me nuts!

As individuals, with some notable exceptions, I like every one of my 180-or-so students this year. But en masse, they make me freakin' crazy! They assume that any time there are not actual words coming from my mouth, they have permission to talk. I then spend 3 minutes getting everyone back on task, only to be interrupted by a request to sign something, a phone call, or a p.a. announcement. Actual time spent teaching is probably 3% of the class period.
I don't blame the kids, exactly. I know that there are several things I could do, classroom management and curriculum-wise, that would make things run better. It's a matter of time and energy needed to plan and implement changes, and both are in short supply. The result is frustration for me, time wasted in class, and kids who are being short-changed. Honestly, I love my job... there are kids I am reaching, who are getting something out of the time they spend with me, but I really feel ineffective overall.
What do you do? What works?

Monday, November 21, 2005

I feel like crap.

Today stinks.
I have a cold and a sore throat, it hurts to swallow and to talk. Both of my kids were sick for most of last week, and I think they decided to share with me. On top of that, we had parent/teacher confrences on Friday of last week, and talking to 75 parents didn't really help me much. I can't even plan on being out tomorrow or Wednesday, because I had to miss Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of last week for various meetings and a field trip with my kindergarten son (as a junior high teacher, this was a real eye-opener, by the way. I may post on this later.)

I just hope I feel better by Thursday, when I have to cook for 15 people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Nothing to do with teaching

Blogosphere, meet Daisy. Daisy, meet the Blogosphere.
She's not very smart, but she's a good dog. I rescued her from my campus about 7 years ago, and she's been our companion ever since. She loves our kids- after all, their spills have fed her well over the last few years- and they like having her around. All she asks of us is regular meals and occasional attention, and in exchange she gives us unconditional love.
What more could we ask for?

Sunday, November 13, 2005


First of all: I LOVE the freakin' blogosphere! Teacher/Bloggers are the greatest human beings ever created/evolved/sprung from alien pods!
The other day I posted my frustration with the amount of management my classes needed. To recap, I mentioned it was more like I was a firefighter than a teacher, putting out flare-ups all period instead of teaching. It was especially frustrating becuse I started that day full of energy, ready to teach.
Today's post is mainly to thank the kind commentors, Fred, Polski3, and Lady Strathconn, for their support and kind words.
I have two sections of honors world history (7th grade), and they are just as noisy-if not more!- as the regular ed classes; the difference is they actually do their work in spite of the noise. I don't really mind the noise, so much, as long as they can be quiet when I need them to be. I like a lively classroom, when kids are engaged and active. I love answering their questions, even if they aren't necessairly on-topic; that's what teaching is to me.
The day I posted about was a particulary frustrating one, but the next few were ok. I'm not so depressed any more, thanks to the support of my friends and colleagues in cyberspace. This week will present its own challenges, and I apprecitate knowing that if I post about it, I'll have your support again.
Thanks to everyone!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


They sucked it out of me today.

I started the day full of energy and excitement. I was going to TEACH today!

I could have, too, if it wasn't for all the blankety-blank classroom management I had to do. I'm a friggin' fire fighter, not a teacher for cryin' out loud.

Man, I'm depressed.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

How could you go wrong?

It's the Carnival!

It's of!

It's Education!

What more could you possibly ask?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Vote No on Everything!

Ms. Cornelius over at "A Shrewdness of Apes" has commented on California's Prop 74. In a nutshell, this proposed law would increase the amount of time needed for a California public school teacher to get "permanent" status from 2 to 5 years, and would make it easier to terminate a teacher's employment.
As I commented there, I'm for teacher quality; I don't like it when other people make my chosen profession look bad through their incompetence. Teachers, like doctors, lawyers, police officers, hell, even gardners and pizza cooks, need to be accountable and held to a certain standard of performance and professionalism. That said, Prop 74, if it should pass, isn't going to help. Principals will be no more willing to let people go if they have 5 years in which to do it than if they have 2. Firing people isn't fun (I know, I've had to do it), and it's too easy to let the classroom door close and forget there's a problem. Or you give them the benefit of the doubt, or dump them on someone else who's going to be just as reluctant to fire them.
I also commented, in response to a comment by Polski3, about my general distrust of this particular election. Governor Schwarzeneggar has found himself unable to work with the state legislature through traditional methods (ie: Compromise), and is thus trying to get the public to do his legislating for him. He's using his celebrity to push through his pet agenda, at voter expense... remember: this is a SPECIAL election, not one that is normally scheduled, and is therefore an extra expense.
So, here's my advice, and I'm going to thank the Orange County, California Republican party for this (it's the exact opposite of the way they're asking me to vote in a "voter guide" I received today): Vote NO on Props 73, 74, 75, 75, 77, 78 and vote YES on 79 and 80. I'm calling it my "Screw Arnold!" ticket.

An aside: Funny story- I'm (no surprise here) a registered Democrat. Have been for many years. So imagine my surprise last year when I received a letter from the chairman of the Republican National Committee asking for a) my help in getting W re-elected, and b) money. I was tempted to fill out the survey they'd enclosed, and maybe effect some change, but then I realized that wouldn't work, so I just threw the letter away and celebrated the fact they'd wasted a few cents on postage that couldn't be used in the campaign. A month or so later, I got another letter. This one I had to respond to! I thanked Ed (I think that was the Chairman's name) for his interest in my opinions, but told him (kindly) that he was wasting his Limbaugh-loving time. Politics. Ain't it funny?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Of course it's funny... it's about poop!

The Pig has an entertaining tale of kindergarten bowel control issues mixed with the always-fun parent-teacher conference. Like the title says: hey, it's poop! Of course it's funny!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

80s Child

Imagine the following scenario:
A group of 30-something adults sit around in a circle on folding chairs. Several are stirring coffee in Styrofoam cups. Nobody is speaking. Everyone looks a little embarrassed to be there.

The person wearing a name tag looks at the clock and says, “OK, folks. Let’s get started. Would anyone like to go first?”
One handsome fellow coughs, raises his hand. “Yes?”
“Hi, my name is Mr. C., and I’m a child of the 80s.”
“Hi, Mr. C!” responds the group.
“It started innocently enough. Not like I had much choice. After all, I couldn’t do much about the year I was born, could I?”
Low chuckles around the room.
"Anyway, when I was in high school I experimented a little, you know? Some Devo here, a little Tears for Fears there, usually just on weekends. Pretty soon, though, I was into the hard stuff. Duran Duran before school. Adam Ant between classes. But I knew I'd hit bottom when I started playing Murray Head's One Night in Bangkok over and over again. I needed help."
Murmurs of sympathy, nods of "Yeah, I've been there, too!"
"I got a little better around '91, thanks to Nirvana, flannel and Starbucks, but there was always a little voice in the back of my mind, calling to me with Wall of Voodoo and Bow Wow Wow. I was able to fight it off, though, and moved on with my life. I healed! I got married, had kids, started a career. I was ok... or so I thought.
"Then it was the '80's weekends on KROQ. "Hey, I'm just trying to relax, here! I can take it or leave it!" Denial, pure and simple."
"The real trouble started with VH1, and I Love the 80s! I'm only human! How could I possibly resist B-list celebs making humorous comments about the pop culture of my youth? It's not my fault!"
By this time, the group is starting to get agitated. Coffee cups are being crushed underfoot as thirty-somethings grab cellphones and BMW keys, heading towards the door in an angry mob. "Down with VH1! It's Not our Fault! It's Not our Fault! Death to Michael Ian Black!"
Nobody likes the 90s, do they?

Monday, October 24, 2005


I quite simply have nothing to say. It's been a week since I last blogged here, and I don't have a single new thing to contribute to the blogosphere.

I will, therefore, exercise a level of restraint too often missing in today's society: I'll just be quiet, and refrain from adding to the meaningless noise of the Internet.

I hope I'll have something more to say soon.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Round-about commenting

Today's Homework: If I Touch It, It Explodes. Graycie at Today's Homework posted about some bad luck she's had with the mechanical objects in her life, and I wanted to offer my condolences. Unfortunately, her commenting to her blog is currently limited to team members, and I'm not a team member. So, respectfully, I'll submit my comment here.
I would first like to offer you my condolences on the injuries and deaths of your mechanical family members. Be strong, you'll get through it.
As to your offer of long-distance voodoo on something I'd like to see "explode," I'd like to submit my school's PA system for your special treatment. The only days of peace we've had thus far this year were the two when the phone/PA system was out of order. It was truly blissful! So, if you wouldn't mind, my colleagues and I would be forever in your debt if you were to send a thought or two in its direction.


Sunday, October 16, 2005

CA Social Studies Leadership Conference

This weekend I attended the California Social Studies Leadership Conference, put on by McDougal Littell. It was kind of a cross between staff development and sales pitch, but an overall great conference.
Here's how it went: Friday afternoon I drove up to Marina del Rey (part of the LA megalopolis, right on the coast, for you non-CA folks) and checked into the hotel, then headed down to the first session, School Funding issues. Bottom line: not great, but not currently getting worse. Then it was adult beverage/networking time, and off to dinner. The keynote speaker was Tim Kanold, who gave a great talk on "leaving the harbor" leadership (don't sit back and enjoy your successes too long... go out and find new challenges. Ask, "Why not?") After dinner was more networking/adult beverages, and off to bed.
Next day started with breakfast and a great presentation on Standards and Assessment (read that as "high-stakes testing issues"). We then had some breakout sessions focusing on our concerns in areas of standards and assessment, readability and accessability of texts, and technology, followed by a ELL session. Lunch was a highligh: Holocaust survivor Gerda Weissman Klein spoke about her experiences and the possibilities available in this country.
The last two sessions were "curriculum solutions" (this was the sales pitch) and a very cool presentation by Bill McBride on brain-based and gender-based learning.
I had a great time at the conference. It was great to meet teachers and administrators (site and district level) from around the state. I usually only get to interact with teachers from my own county, so this was cool.
And McDougal Littell paid for it all. Conference registration, the hotel, parking, meals and adult beverages.
Certainly this is an important marketing event for them, building goodwill among schools for their own products, and also a market research opportunity (that "concerns" breakout I mentioned earlier). But I was very impressed with the overall quality of the conference. The speakers were excellent and avoided excessive reference to McDougal materials. The sales pitch was more of a showcase of the program they are offering (which looks good) than a "So, how many can we put you down for?" kind of thing.
Kudos to McDougal, and thanks for the opportunity.
And the food.


This is a response blog. In a previous post, I talked about some of the issues I am dealing with as I work towards my admin credential. Polski3 offered a comment, and instead of having my response follow in thread, I'm blogging it fresh.

My aspiration as I go through this process is to be the kind of administrator who works for the interests of the teachers and students. I've never been much of a political type, and kissing ass doesn't sit well with me. I've no aspirations for a superindendency, so I should be ok in that regard.
I truly believe that the right administrator can make a huge difference in a school, much the same way the wrong administrator can destroy morale and student success... Getting the admin credential doesn't have to mean selling your soul (I actually had an instructor in my credential progam describe it that way). It doesn't have to be an "US vs THEM" situation. Administrators can provide leadership without dominating, crushing creativity, or writing a script for every word spoken in the classroom.
The reality here for me, though, is that I'm looking for a key to open doors in the future. I don't see myself in the classroom 5 years from now. I already have a master's degree, so I'm as far over on the pay scale as I can get. I'm not doing this for the money. But if an opportunity arises, I want to have the papers necessary to try for it.
I think it's really unfortunate that so many teachers have had such negative experiences with their administrators that they have turned against the entire class of professionals. There are good administrators out there, and if more teachers were willing to become the type of administrator they want to work for,instead of just complaining about the one they have, the problem would go away.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

God bless the shortstops...

I was listening to ESPN Radio's The Herd this morning, and the host was telling a story about former Boston Red Sox centerfielder Nomar Garciaparra, and how he and another guy saved two women, one unconscious, who had fallen into Boston Harbor. (Read the story here.) The host, Colin Cowherd, said one of the funniest things I've heard on the radio in a long time: between New York Yankee shortstop Alex Rodriguez saving a 10-year-old boy from being hit by a car earlier this year, and Nomar's heroics, Boston now leads the nation in lives saved by shortstops.

I know, it doesn't seem funny now, but this morning I was laughing my rear end off!

It's the little things, you know?

I'm Tired.

I can't wait 'til November. I need a break!
Yesterday: work, site leadership team meeting for 1:20, then off to class for another 4 hours.
Today: work, deal with stuff from leadership meeting, deal with stuff from class. Not to mention the usual "This needs to be done NOW!!!" stuff that comes up every day. And I have 2 kids at home who deserve my attention, and a wife to maintain a relationship with.
I need November... Parent/Teacher conferences (any day without students is a break!), Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving, day after Thanksgiving. This haul from Labor Day to Veterans' Day is brutal.

Friday, October 07, 2005

How long should it take?

Here in California, teachers need to be certified CLAD (Cross Cultural Language Acquisition and Development). I finally managed to meet the requirements to apply for the CLAD certicification and in August sent the paperwork to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC).

As of 5 minutes ago, my application was "pending evaluation."

Come on! I sent in the application, a copy of my test scores, and a money order. How long should it take to evaluate that? Five minutes? Yet the CTC's web site says 75 WORKING days. That works out to some time in late November. I sent the application in mid-August. It's been a month and a half now, and I'm still waiting!

I understand that they have a limited budget and staff. But should it take this long? Geez!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Administators and unions; some musings

As I've mentioned in this space previously, I'm currently enrolled in an admininstrative credential and master's program. This is my 9th year in the classroom, and, while I'm not really ready to leave teaching, I'm looking to open doors for the future.
Unfortunately, I'm kind of conflicted. I hear, and read here in the Blogosphere, a lot of venom directed at administrators at the school, district, and county level. Much of this I can identify with; there are many in the admin ranks who would identify with several of the points I made in my last post. But I don't think that this is necessairly an occupational hazard. I believe it's possible to be an administrator who is looking out for kids and for teachers. Adminstrators can be responsive to the needs of their school community and the demands of the county, state, and federal education agencies.
Why, then, are so many apparently not?

On a somewhat related issue: Last year, our district was embroiled in a labor dispute: we wanted more money, the district said there wasn't any. Both sides dug in. We "worked to contract." We quit doing afterschool interventions. There were "crisis" meetings. Teachers pressured, and I mean really pressured, colleagues to leave campus exactly at the contracted time. Teachers would wait in their cars in the parking lots until the contracted start time, then march through the office in unison, "United and Informed," wearing red t-shirts on Wednesdays. Teachers stood outside the campuses, and sometimes on campus, on Open House night and passed out flyers to parents. There was even a letter, formatted as a certificate of appreciation, handed out on Day of the Teacher, that was one of the most childish things I'd ever read.
You can probably tell my own position on the issue, and it leads to some of the conflict I mentioned above. I support our union. I pay my dues, I was the sole site rep on our campus for 2 years, and I honestly appreciate the efforts the union takes to improve my salary, benefits, and working conditions.
But,come on.
We want to be treated like professionals, yet when we don't get our way, we sulk like babies, throw tantrums, and act in ways we would never accept in our classrooms. How is it acceptable from us, then? Relationships with the administration of the school sites were damaged, and they had no control over anything we were upset about.
In the end, we got more-or-less what we wanted. I appreciate that. I don't think, though, the methods used were justified, or even really what led to the resolution. I dread our next round of negotiations.

Quiz: are you stupid?

Ok, this isn't really a quiz, but rather a few observations I made on my drive home from work today. How many of these do you do?
Mr. C's Evidence of Stupidity
- (Men)You're over 2o years of age, yet you still wear your pants halfway down your ass
- You play your music so loud, or with the bass so high, that other drivers feel you coming before they see you coming. (If you do this in drive-thru lines, or in parking lots, you're also an asshole.)
-You really think a third party has a chance of winning a major election (Just kidding; it's not stupid, but it is naive)
-(Men again) You think the dancer in the "gentlemen's club" really is interested in you, not just your money.
-You think that yelling at service providers (waiters, clerks, etc) actually will improve the service you receive.

I know there's more. What do you think?

It's time for the Carnival!

I have truly been remiss in my civic duties as a citizen, newly naturalized, of the Blogosphere. "What is my offense?" you may ask. With hesitance, reluctance, and shame, I admit that I have not yet mentioned the Education Wonks Carnival of Education in this space. As community service, undertaken in consequence of my sin, I hereby direct your attention to this week's Carnival. I hope that you, my fellow citizens, my paisans of the 'Sphere, will forgive me my lapse.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Yeah! Meetings!

Had a staff meeting today to introduce the new assistant superindendent. She seems nice enough, and I've heard good things about her, so I'm optomistic. Our last asst. sup. was less-than-stellar, so it'll be easy for her to look good in comparison.
Then we had department meetings. My colleagues are passionate about what they do. (Read this as opinionated and vocally so). I was very tired at the end.

Friday, September 30, 2005

A little something for my "fans!"

Howdy all! (however many of you there happens to be!)

Not much going on, but I'm feeling compelled to blog anyway, so this is going to be a disjointed series of thoughts and observations, rather than a cohesive essay.

  • I've started my admin credential/ masters in school admin program at Azusa Pacific University, and I'm working my tail off. It's a very cool program- cohort groups, really applicable material being taught- but it's very new. Actually, this is the first cohort group they're putting through. It's neat being part of the founding group, especially since we're modifiying the program as we go through it. The university is being very responsive and flexible. So far I'm impressed!
  • John Roberts is our new Chief Justice. I don't know how I feel about that. I'm an optomist, so I want to believe he'll be, as the job title implies, just. While I'm not a great fan of President Bush, and there are some things in his background that make me a little nervous, I'm going, for now, to trust in the process itself. The Founding Fathers gave justices lifetime appointments so they would be (relatively) free of political intereference. Indeed, there are justices who have moved from right to left, or at least towards the center, as their term progressed, so there is still hope. Now, about that other vacancy on the Court....
  • Back to School night was last night. Good turnout, parents seemed satisfied with what I had to say. No requests for schedule changes out of my class today as far as I know. I guess after 9 years I'm getting the hang of it.
  • We had to do some master schedule adjustment this week because of higher-than-expected student numbers. This is a good reason, but still very disruptive. I lost 2 of my 7th grade world history sections and picked up 8th grade U.S. history. I like the U.S. content better, but really like my 7th grade students. I'm sure I'll like the 8th graders, too, but I'm used to the others. Oh, well.
  • Any of the CA folks reading going to the Social Studies Leadership conference in Marina Del Rey next month? It's put on by Houghton-Mifflin (obviously to help sell the new book series), but the agenda looks very cool.
  • It's Friday afternoon, and happy hour beckons with it's sudsy siren's song! (How's that for alliteration? And I'm a History teacher!)
Take care.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Check this out at The Onion. It's satire, so don't take it seriously, but I think it's hilarious!

Monday, September 26, 2005

A little politics, but I promise it won't last too long!

Ok, I know the title of the blog is Classroom Biz, but sometimes we just have to go beyond our insular little world and deal with other issues. This is one of those times.

This is an editorial from the Sunday Los Angeles Times. When the story about President Bush allowing firms to pay less than the prevailing wage in Louisiana, I commented on what the outcome would likely be... more profits in the hands of large construction companies. Here's another side effect of the decision:

La Nueva Orleans

  • Latino immigrants, many of them here illegally, will rebuild the Gulf Coast -- and stay there.

  • By Gregory Rodriguez, Gregory Rodriguez is a contributing editor to The Times and Irvine Senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

    NO MATTER WHAT ALL the politicians and activists want, African Americans and impoverished white Cajuns will not be first in line to rebuild the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Latino immigrants, many of them undocumented, will. And when they're done, they're going to stay, making New Orleans look like Los Angeles. It's the federal government that will have made the transformation possible, further exposing the hollowness of the immigration debate.

    President Bush has promised that Washington will pick up the greater part of the cost for "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen." To that end, he suspended provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act that would have required government contractors to pay prevailing wages in Louisiana and devastated parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. And the Department of Homeland Security has temporarily suspended sanctioning employers who hire workers who cannot document their citizenship. The idea is to benefit Americans who may have lost everything in the hurricane, but the main effect will be to let contractors hire illegal immigrants. (Read the rest of the editorial here; registration may be required.)
    I have nothing against immigration. I have a huge problem with the exploitation of workers- of any nationality or immigrant status- for the profits of industry. And this article in today's New York Times brings to mind a related issue: who's approving these contracts, and who's choosing the contractors? The potential for abuse and corruption is gigantic, and it makes me sick. Over 1000 people dead, mostly poor, and/or elderly, and/or black, and the loudest sound to be heard in the South right now is ringing cash registers.

    Wednesday, September 21, 2005

    Sanity: It's overrated!

    Have you ever had a day where you feel like you are slowly sliding into complete insanity, and the kids are egging on to slide faster?

    I had a day like that today.

    It was a lot of fun!

    I get to teach 2 sections of honors World History for our 7th graders. These are bright kids, a mix of above-average to “Whoa! That kid is SMART!” It’s nice that, for the most part, they pick up on what I’m trying to teach them quickly; it makes it possible for me to go into a lot more depth than I can with a standard class. But the part I like best is that they get my jokes, and actually enjoy my sense of humor.

    Today was just plain wacky, though. I had several of them collapsing into giggles with little more than a raised eyebrow, which would make me laugh, which set them off fresh, which would then spread to the rest of the class. I’m amazed we got through anything on my lesson plan for today at all, but that’s ok. These kids will get the material, they’ll do fine on the CST next year and will do their part to help us make our API. What they did today was even more important: they reaffirmed that school is an ok place to be, that learning can be fun. And they learned, in addition to the origins of the word “plumbing” (plumbum=Latin for lead), that they have an adult in their lives that cares enough to play with them, even though they think they’re too old to play anymore.

    I really do like my job.

    Sunday, September 18, 2005

    Couldn't have said it better myself!

    Here's another gem I picked up over at Endless Faculty Meeting. I'm thinking about handing it out at parent-teacher conferences. :)

    Friday, September 16, 2005

    Bush lifts wage rules for Katrina

    This is a wonderful development... if you are a major contracting firm in the southern United States. Think there will be any difference in the rates these firms charge for their work? No way! The only difference will be that their profits will be much larger because they'll be able to shortchange their employees. How many of these companies are Bush campaign contributors? Why make it even easier for people to profit from the disaster?
    And this man gets TWO Supreme Court appointments!
    Bush lifts wage rules for Katrina
    President signs executive order allowing contractors to pay below prevailing wage in affected areas.
    September 11, 2005: 11:59 AM EDT

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush issued an executive order Thursday allowing federal contractors rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to pay below the prevailing wage.

    In a notice to Congress, Bush said the hurricane had caused "a national emergency" that permits him to take such action under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in ravaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi. (Read the rest of the article here)

    Wednesday, September 14, 2005

    Ok so far!

    I'm hesitant to say this aloud, but this year is going very smoothly. I don't take all the credit for that: this year's kids are different than last year's, more focused, more willing to listen, if not necessairly more gifted academically. Maybe it's the different schedule- a later start time, prep in the morning instead of after a long day. Maybe it's by virtue of my experience and recognition of the things I needed to change after last year.

    I don't know why it's working, but it is, and I'm going to enjoy it while I can.

    Monday, September 05, 2005

    So long ago...

    Tomorrow this young man starts Kindergarten. (No, this is not a recent picture! He's much taller now, and the cheeks aren't quite as chubby!)

    I think I'm ready for this. His readiness I'm not worried about, of course. It's mine.

    He's been in preschool for the last 2 years, so it's not a huge transition for him, but it's big for his parents. This is REAL SCHOOL we're talking about, after all. Report cards, lunch lines, playground interactions, all kind of things he has dealt with before, but within the sheltered environment of small classes and ever-present teachers/classroom aides. Now he'll be going it "alone."

    My baby is growing up! Alright, I'm starting to sound like his mom now. I've got to get a grip on myself, here. :)

    I know he's going to be fine. I trust his school, I know the program he's in will be great for him. He loves learning, is smart and curious, and generally follows directions... all important for school success. And I know that his mom and I will be fine, too.

    At least, until his little brother starts school in 3 years!

    Update: His first day of school was great: he likes his teacher, he's made some friends. Of course, there was nothing to be nervous about, but what kind of parent would I be if I wasn't just a little nervous about something like this?

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Bad times, good people

    (Thanks to The Endless Faculty Meeting for the link to this article)
    I said this after 9/11, I said it after the tsunami in December, and I'll say it again: times of crisis bring out the best in some, the worst in others. People open their hearts and wallets for the victims of disaster in New York, Indonesia, and Louisiana, providing the support needed to help survivors remain survivors, both physically and emotionally. Others descend into a Lord of the Flies/Mad Max style of post-Apocalypse chaos. The very worst begin to salivate at the opportunities to profit from the destruction and heartache. Fraud artists. Price gougers. Looters. I hope that all of them burn for eternity. If there is justice in the universe, they will.
    Mamacita over at Schiess Weekly says:
    ...All my life, people have teased me about my bleeding heart. Believe me, my heart is bleeding all over the place over this tragedy.

    Not for the thieves, though. For the decent people who are being devastated twice: once by Katrina and again by their fellow man.

    No, my heart is not bleeding for the thieves.

    The thieves are scum.
    I can't help but agree.

    This situation will show us that people are stubborn and resilient: New Orleans will be rebuilt, life will go on. One hopes that lessons will be learned, and this particular tragedy will not be repeated. Mardi Gras 2006 will be a sight to behold!

    I admire the human spirit, our willingness to go on with life, to grieve and to live on, to thumb our noses at adversity and tragedy time and again.
    I am disgusted by the willingness of others to take advantage of tragedy, to use dispair, destruction, death to their own selfish ends.
    I hope the good in us wins out more often than the bad.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    One down, 179 to go!

    Acutally, today went pretty well. The only real snag I hit was that I forgot to hand out the lunch cards to first period, so some kids may have had trouble getting their lunches as quickly as they should. Mea Culpa. And of course my throat is sore from saying the same intro/welcome blather 6 times.
    I think I'm going to like these classes. I had some last year that I had trouble saying that about, so this is a very nice change. There were several kids in each group who seemed like they really wanted to be here, and the others were at least willing to let me do my thing without interruption.
    I can work with that.
    Our new schedule is interesting... conference/prep period before the kids arrive, lunch after 3rd, then 3 and done. Dismissal is 1:15 later than it was last year, so that will take some adjustment, but I think it will be fine. I actually love the later start... time to settle into the day instead of jumping into it (or falling into it, depending on the morning!)

    Wednesday, August 31, 2005

    There're coming!

    Tomorrow is the first day of school for students. AARGH!! I think I'm ready to start again. I'm actually looking forward to some aspects of the year ahead, and even got some good news regarding my class roster (can't be too specific here!)
    Also found out that I've been accepted to the Administrative Services Credential program I applied to. That's good. I'll talk more about that later, though.
    Alright, bring 'em on!

    Monday, August 29, 2005

    Meetings are fun!

    Today was our first official day back at work. I’ve been back a few days on my own, setting up my classroom and kind of puttering around, but today was the first “real” day. We had our district convocation (ie: pep rally) and staff meetings. We even got some really good news, which I can’t go into right now.
    Overall, today was good. I’m the History department “coach,” so it was my job to run our department meeting this afternoon. We went over some test score information, looked for some trends, and did some introspection as to the strengths and weaknesses of our program. We came up with some solid ideas as to how to address some of our shortcomings, gave ourselves a few pats on the back for our accomplishments, and basically mentally prepared for the year ahead. While we still have considerable work to do, I think we’re heading in the right direction. And though it might sound like it here, I’m not really talking about improvement in test scores. That’s certainly an issue, of course, but what we’re working toward here is student achievement. We’ve got kids who aren’t making it, and not just in History. Kids who are falling by the wayside, and we need to find a way to reach as many of them as possible, which we can only do if we actually put names to the test scores. I think we can do it, if we are willing to make the effort.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2005

    Almost time...

    Kids come back to our school a week from tomorrow. Today was the first day I spent in my room. On the good side, my water fountain and faucet are finally fixed, after 4+ years out-of-order. Also, I have new glass for my window/sliding door, removing scratched tagging from who-knows-when. On the minus side, we were supposed to get new front doors... mine is one of three classrooms yet to be finished. Also on the minus side, this is a pilot year for texts, and I don't have the pilot materials yet.
    On the whole, should be a pretty normal opening. I'm wondering, though, how many preps I'm going to have. Could be two, could be three. Might even be four (Lord, I hope not!). I should be able to find that out tomorrow.
    This year we'll be starting "looping" with our Honors History classes. I had 8th grade last year, so it's not going to impact me very much, but I'm looking forward to it. I think spending a little extra time with the same kids will have a positive impact on their learning. And we can't forget: 8th graders take the History/Social Science Standards test covering grade 6-8 standards here in CA. I feel a lot better being the one who's teaching them 2/3 of the content they'll be tested on if I'm the teacher of record when the take the darn test.
    This is going to be an interesting year, I think. I'm going back to school for a second master's degree, this one in school administration. I'm not sure that I want to do the principal thing, but neither do I see myself spending my entire career in the classroom. The Admin credential will open up some possibilities. But, regardless of how I plan to use it, going back means two nights a week, 4-9pm, in addition to my normal work load and family stuff. When I got my first masters we only had one kid. Now it's two (the older one is starting Kindergarten this year), not to mention I'm a little older. Oh, well. That's why there's coffee, right?

    Update: It's three preps: 1 section of 8th grade US History, 3 7th grade World History, and 2 7th grade Honors World History. And the door should be done before kids arrive next Thursday.

    Friday, August 19, 2005

    Not too surprising, really.

    I can't say that I thought the questions were all that good... I'm probably more centrist than the options allowed me to be, but it was kind of fun anyway.

    Your Political Profile

    Overall: 35% Conservative, 65% Liberal

    Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

    Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

    Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

    Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal

    Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

    Imagine the fieldtrip possibilities...

    There's a company planning to build headstones with embedded flat-screen video monitors (read the story here). Apart from questions about who would approve the content (family/cemetary/nobody) that the "stones" would play, I think this would be awesome from a history student viewpoint. Walking through an old graveyard, looking at headstones from 100+ years ago imagining who the people named were, what they did, what they saw , gives me a feeling of being surrounded by history. If those headstones were more interactive, think of the things we could learn!
    OK, maybe it's a little morbid, but I still think it would be really cool. Imagine if they had these during the Civil War... Gettysburg would be even better! Or how about Arlington? Normandy?

    Thursday, August 18, 2005

    Video Games

    Interesting story from the UK regarding the academic value of video games.
    I'm not sure that GTA: San Andreas is going to be in the curriculum anytime soon, but I am willing to concede that the skills students apply to their mastery of video games can be applied to the world at large, much like skills learned in the armed services can be applied to civilian jobs.
    I don't think, though, that we'll see US state governments spending money to investigate a skill set that is not represented on standardized tests anytime soon.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2005

    Ok, I think I'm ready now.

    This post by Abigail on Social Studies made me think about a student I had a couple of years ago. She had a host of medical problems, the most severe of which resulted in frequent fainting spells (Long QT Syndrome, which is bascially a long pause in the heartbeat, resulting in drop in blood pressure and unconsciousness). I wound up carrying an ammonia capsule with me all the time in the event she "went down" in class (she did... twice in class, at least that many times on the school grounds, even during our district-wide disaster drill!) When she came to my class, I got a literal laundry list of medical concerns with this student, and couldn't help but wonder how I was going to handle having this fragile thing in my classroom.

    I really had nothing to worry about.

    True, she did have plenty of medical problems- wound up having at least two surgeries during the time she was in my class, one of which was to install a pace maker at the age of 14!- but she also had a real desire to learn and a stubborn streak a mile wide. (Here's an example: she tried to break out of the hospital so she could come to school on the last day of the year! )
    This kid got something out of my class. She still calls and visits, considers history her favorite subject. I reached her, somehow. I even gave her a nickname she uses to this day.

    When I get frustrated and burned-out, I think about her, hope she's not the only one I've helped, and I can go back to work.


    This is a truly scary story. I don't know what I would have done in her place, but I doubt I would have returned to the school in the fall if that principal was still there. I understand that administrators need to be careful around parents, but this is beyond messed up!

    Saturday, August 13, 2005

    Blog Dominoes

    Man, this blogging thing is like making a row of dominoes... you read one, and it leads you to others. Pretty soon, you've got dozens of blogs to review every day, not to mention comments to read and make yourself. Then you've got to write your own entries, refer to the blogs you've read, and start the cycle all over again.
    Anyway, I really like the Personal Contract idea on Steve Dembo's Teach 42 blog from yesterday. Every year our school makes goals. We write them up, turn them in, and usually forget about them. Not exactly a tool for reflection on our teaching/learning processes. Steve's contract is a combination of personal and professional goals (sort of a set of new school year resolutions) for the coming year. I hope that it works for him, and I hope that his administration plans on using the contracts in some constructive fashion.

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Here goes!

    OK, I've built the classroom blog, now it's time to put one together for my professional/personal amusement. I've been reading several teacher and educational technology blogs the last few weeks, along with David Warlick's Classroom Blogging: a teacher's guide to the Blogosphere, and it's pretty amazing what's out there in terms of teachers reaching out to one another. This is an awesome profession!
    Now, about me: This year marks my 9th in the classroom, teaching 7th and 8th grade history. I have a masters in Educational Technology and am going back this year for my Administrative Services masters/credential. I'm married (8 years next May) to a wonderful, understanding, supportive-and of course beautiful!- woman, and we have two great sons (ages 2 and 5). My wife is also in the biz (elementary assistant principal), as are my sister, her husband, my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. Family dinners can be interesting, especially for my non-teacher relatives!
    So, what do I hope to accomplish with this blog? A couple of things, really. First, it's a place to vent some of the frustrations that go along with this profession. I don't want to turn this into a complaint forum, though. Instead, I hope that it's a place to find some solutions to the frustrations. Second, I want to build professional relationships with educators outside of my own district. While I enjoy working and socializing with my colleagues, I think it's worthwhile to expand my circle of resources as far as I possibly can. Third, and most important, I think it will be fun. And really, why do it if it's not going to be fun?
    I hope you enjoy reading. Please comment early and often!