Sunday, June 29, 2008


A few odds and ends...
* Got the new MacBooks (had a neighbor sign for them since they arrived the day we went on vacation, despite the expedited shipping. See earlier rant here.) So far, very happy with them. Still adjusting to the differences between them and the PCs we're used to, but nothing too difficult.
* Speaking of vacation, the Grand Canyon was, well, grand! (That's our tour guide, Oscar.) If you are interested in visiting, I recommend the Grand Canyon Adventure through the Auto Club. We drove from SoCal to Williams, Arizona, stayed overnight at the Grand Canyon Resort, then took the Grand Canyon Railway to the Canyon (about 2 1/2 hours away), stayed at the Maswik Lodge, then back to Williams. GCR works with the resorts, so we didn't have to worry about any luggage on the train; it was waiting in our rooms when we arrived at the Canyon and again back in Williams.
The staff on the train was great; we upgraded to a first-class coach (air conditioned, nicer seats, complimentary soft drinks and snacks), and the hostesses in our coach were full of personality. There was Southwestern-themed entertainment on both trips, and complimentary sparkling wine or apple cider on the way back, not to mention a train robbery!
If you do take this trip, some advice: 1) Upgrade your seats on the train- More room, more comfortable, and a nice experience. 2) Skip the included meals at Max and Thelma's buffet in Williams (this is a Grand Canyon trip, not a culinary adventure, and the food included isn't great.) Instead, walk 5 minutes into town and have your meals there. This is small-town America at its finest, right there on Route 66. And the Pale Ale at the Grand Canyon Brewery is pretty good! 3) Bring money for tips- the coach hostesses, entertainers, and train robbers all have a hand out.
We travelled with our own kids (boys aged 5 and 8) and another couple and their son (8 years old). The boys had a great time, and the adults enjoyed themselves, too!
* I start the new job on Tuesday. Looking forward to it, but would have liked a little more time between this one and the last. Oh, well!

Monday, June 23, 2008


I just came back from a presentation by Dr. Anthony Muhammad, a Professional Learning Community consultant, and WOW!
I've been through PLC presentations before, and think it's a fantastic model. I've even seen the DuFours themselves, twice, and find them to be engaging and motivating speakers. Dr. Muhammad is a DuFour disciple and presents many of the same concepts, but specifically from a middle school point of view, and is just as engaging and motivating as his mentors.
The reason for the title of this post, though, is the concept of the developmental stage of middle schoolers that he presented.
(In fairness, he did not present this as his own work, but I don't remember the researcher he credited with it. My apologies for the sloppy scholarship, but it was a very compelling piece of information and I focused more on the concept than the name of who came up with it. Sue me!) The gist of it is this:
When children are born, they are defenseless and totally dependent on others for their basic needs. At the age of 1 or so, they become what we call Toddlers, and begin to explore their world by walking, touching, grabbing, etc, and being talking. During this process, they are trying to find out what their socially-appropriate limits are in terms of their behavior, and take their cues for what is and is not appropriate from the adults around them. For example, a 2-year-old may tell his or her mother "NO!" when directed to stop playing with a particular toy, and in doing so is not being defiant, but is trying to find out what he/she is able to get away with. They test the limits we impose on them physically- ever see a toddler shaking a gate at the top of a staircase? After a few years, toddlers develop into children, and we send them off to school where they continue to learn the limits society has imposed on them, and generally, they accept them.
At the onset of puberty, kids effectively revert to toddler-hood; they are once again searching for their place in society and testing their limits, only at this point, we define that "NO!" as defiant behavior and refer them to the office. We don't put up gates at the top of staircases, we tell them, "You should probably stay away from that." Try that approach with a 2-year-old, and you can expect a visit from Child Protective Services. Yet, at 12 or 13, we turn kids out of our classrooms with an admonition to "behave" themselves, but don't supervise them as they move from class to class, and then wonder why we have problems with behavior.
I am not coming close to the succinct way in which Dr. Muhammad presented this concept, but I hope you get the idea; middle school kids, like toddlers, need adults to guide them, to put up appropriate boundaries to protect their safety, while allowing them the opportunity to explore their world and develop their independence.
I don't think this is all that revolutionary a concept, but I think too many of us at the middle school level have forgotten that the students we deal with are, in effect, just tall, potty-trained toddlers.
I repeat, "WOW!"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The year has ended

...And I am now 2 days away from my last day in my current position, and will spend one of those 2 days at an all-day meeting in my new district.
I'm feeling kind of conflicted at this point. On the one hand, the new position pays more and carries the title of Assistant Principal, as opposed to my current position which, while the job is that of an assistant principal, carries a title that makes everyone think I'm a guidance counselor. On the other hand, I didn't ask to leave this job (it was eliminated due to budget cutbacks, and I'm the new guy on campus), it's in the county I've spent my entire career, and where I have a good reputation. Not to mention, the school where I work now is only 3 miles from my home. That's about 15 minutes including the stop at my kids' school for drop-offs in the morning.
I've struggled a bit with this change, mainly, I think, because I wasn't really ready to make it, but instead had it thrust upon me.
I've come to terms with it, though; my new principal seems great, the new district has a good reputation in the area, and they tend to promote from within so advancement opportunities are there. My commute will be only 10 miles, which isn't bad at all by Southern California standards, and did I mention the money? That comes with an extension of my school year of 15 days, cutting my summer vacation to 2 weeks from 7.
All in all, I'm ok with the way things have worked out. Silver lining, and all that. Now I'll just make the most of it.

I'll try to keep you posted!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dear Steve,

[An Open Letter To Steve Jobs]

I have to admit, I'm a little annoyed at you. Well, more accurately, at the Apple Store.
Let me explain.
First of all, I'm no zealot in the Great OS Debates. I believe that there's plenty of room for Windows, Linux, and OSX(+) in the world of computing, each with its pros and cons. I don't believe that either you or Bill G. are supermen come to save the world of the home computer user, but instead are extremely talented businessmen who have enlisted the support of dedicated followers. I'm fine with that. You make your pile of cash, Bill makes his, and the rest of us just live with what you decide to give us. Again, no problem.
But, here's why I'm annoyed: I've decided to make the switch from Windows to Mac. It's no religious conversion, and should Bill come out with something new and super-cool I could very well switch back, but for now I'm going over to the other side.
Steve, I want to give you some money. Not just for my computer, but for my wife's as well. That's two new MacBooks I'm looking to acquire.
Now, perhaps I'm naive, but I figured if I went to the Apple Store, I'd be able to get my new machines quicker than ordering online. I wanted to upgrade from the 2 gig memory to the 4 gig, and from the 160 gig hd to the 250 gig. That's an upgrade cost of $300/machine I'm talking about.
I didn't expect that the store would have these machines lying around, retail floor rents being what they are, but I thought that I'd be able to order in the store and pick them up there in a few days. This works for me, because the Mrs. and I both work so there's no one at home to sign for new computers being delivered. I could have them sent to work, but it's the end of the school year, and I don't know for sure when they'll arrive and if either of us will still be in the office to get them, so that's not a great option either.
Turns out, you can't order at the store and pick them up later.
I told the nice young man working for you, Steve, what I wanted. He told me to order online. Even offered to show me how. "Thanks," I said, "but I've already been on the web site. That's how it is that I know I wanted to upgrade the memory and hard drives."
I know how to use a stinking web site, Steve. I've done it hundreds of times. Even to order computers, much like the Windows machine I am using RIGHT NOW to type this. If I'd wanted to order online, I would have done it and avoided spending the time and gasoline to visit your retail establishment.
Steve, I'm still going to give you my money, because I think the product you are offering is the best to fit my needs at this point in time. But you are not winning a convert; you are temporarily gaining a customer. If you want to keep me, you've got to impress me, and so far...
...that ain't happening.


Mr. C.

Monday, June 09, 2008

It's official

I had the honor of being introduced to the governing board of my new school district this evening. I say that without sarcasm, honestly. I heard some very nice things said about me, which is always good, and met some nice folks. While I don't particularly want to go somewhere else, the decision was made for me by the state of the economy here in southern California, so off I go, and it's up to me to make the best of it.
Found out tonight, also, that I'll be the summer school principal at my new school. That should be an interesting experience. Never done that before, and wasn't really planning on it, but it an AP's job description it usually says something to the effect of "Other duties as assigned."
Guess this falls into that category!
You know, the part that makes me feel sorriest for myself (not a major part of my psychological makeup, but something I feel obliged to acknowledge) is the fact that my summer break has gone from something like 12 weeks as a teacher, to 7 weeks in my current job, to about 3 weeks at the most. I suppose it's time for me to grow up and have a big-boy job now.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Don't want to gloat here, but...
Signed the contract at my new district today. Yeah, I'm obligated to work 15 more days each year than in my previous one, but they're paying me, get this, $11,000 more.

That, I am OK with!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Job-seeking update, #2

(#2 for this weekend, anyway!)

Success! At 5:20PM, Pacific Time, the superintendent of the district I've interviewed with 3 times called to offer me a position!
While it's not exactly where I want to be, it'll do, and I'm glad to have the uncertainty put to rest before the end of this school year.
I'm sad to be leaving my current school district, and somewhat apprehensive to be leaving the county where I've spent my entire career to this point and established what I hope is a good reputation, but I know things like this happen for a reason. I'm looking forward to the new challenges things to learn.

I'll keep you posted on developments!