Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A bit of Christmas Cheer

I read this to my daughter and now to my son every year during the holidays. I actually have the first 12 lines memorized I've read it so many times. May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Hanukkah!


by Clement Clarke Moore

or Henry Livingston

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!

His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

50 Book Challenge Update

For those of you who may not remember, (or care) I took the 50 book challenge from Shelfari. The idea is to read 50 books in twelve months. I have not posted on this in a while so I thought this would be a good time to give all of you the 411 on my reading.

Here is the finished list so far.

Old man and the sea
My Grandfather's Son
Sharks over China
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Screwtape Letters
Catcher in the Rye
The Coldest Winter
Mere Christianity
Count of Monte Cristo
The Black Arrow
The White Dragon
The Great Gatsby
The Black Arrow
Picture of Dorian Gray
Flight of the White Horse
The Bottle Imp
The Body Snatcher
Markheim (I am going to count them as 1 book)
Ranger's Apprentice book 1
Pools of Darkness
Pool of Radience
Shades Children
What We Carry
The Making of a Poem

So I've now read 26 books since July. I'm reading three books right now as well. "The Reagan Diaries", "Enter Three Witches" and a book on Haiku poetry.

I've also asked for three books for Christmas as well as a gift certificate to the used bookstore by my house, AND the super cool prep school gave me a $20 gift card to Barnes and Noble, so I will have plenty to read for the rest of this year and the first part of 2009.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Normally I don't plug products, even free ones but this is pretty cool. If you use Firefox and you blog, then you should check out Scribefire. It allows you to update your blog without having to actually log into it. Very handy if your employer decides to block blogs. In addition it will allow you to add youtube content, manage your ads and more.

In addition, my daughter just finished a 30 hour fast to combat hunger around the world. They did all sorts of things including feeding the homeless this morning. She said that she didn't notice she was hungry until about 3pm (27 hours in) and that the last few minutes when they could smell the food were the hardest. Needless to say we're very proud of her.

And I'm catching a cold... ick!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Poetry Units

So I finished creating the unit for my 8th graders to start when they come back from their vacation, and I'm currently working on one for the 7th graders. I'm using the same basic plan as the one for the 8th grade but with different poems and forms, so that when I teach the 8th grade unit next year, I won't have to hear the "We did this poem last year" complaint.

I just finished doing the lesson for the ode and thought I would throw in a Haiku to remind the students to use complete sentences since we do Haikus the day before.

A good grade at stake

Complete sentences were used,

No red ink needed!

I wonder how many of my students will realized that it's a haiku reminding them to use complete sentences!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Better than I thgouht

Well, I just got my last grade for the fall semester at the three colleges I attended. And yes I did type the number three... don't ask. And I did better than I thought I would considering I was teaching full time and going to school full time.

I received A's in my teaching methods class and my English literature class, a B+ in my journalism class and a B in my speech class. The nice part is that now I can concentrate on teaching and the two week poetry unit I am creating for my 8th graders, which will become a 1 week poetry unit for the 7th graders.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Actually I was done last night, but you get the idea. I survived teaching 2 subjects and taking four classes. The big surprise was that I not only got an A in my Brit Lit class, but an A+ on my final paper. Now I figured I had written a pretty good paper but A+? Really? Either the paper is that good or the other students wrote really bad papers. Either way, I'll take the A and run with it. I also got an A in my teaching methods class. As for the other two classes I probably got C's in both of them, but I can live with that, although it will suck to break my streak of no C's at Nevada State College.

Now I can concentrate on teaching until the 20th of January when the circus starts again. The difference is that it's only two classes along with student teaching. Since I've been teaching all year, I'm not super nervous about 'student' teaching, I just need to make sure I dot the i's and cross the t's so I get my diploma in the spring.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Almost done!

I apologize for the light blogging but it's been really busy for me. Not only do I have the usual teaching and domestic thing going, but it's finals time for this desert rat. In the last two weeks I've had my final speech, my final project, my final paper and final articles for my college classes. I think I finally out procrastinated Karlana by working on my final paper during my daughter's birthday party.
The nice thing is now I can concentrate on my teaching for the next several weeks until the spring semester starts at the end of January. This means that I can redo seating charts, get caught up on my grading, lesson plans, thinking skills sheets and long range plans.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Inspiration and more

The principal came in today to observe me in the classroom. Now there was not much direct instruction going on because the students were writing an essay so he'll be back next Thursday to conclude his observations and then give me the news. Now it was on purpose that the kids were doing an essay. Not so much because I was afraid to teach in front of him, but because this class has been out of control since August and they have not changed even with TWO teachers in the room.

So yesterday I finally had a "Come to Jesus" talk with them and I gave them this assignment. "You will go home and think about what kind of class you want this to be. You can A: change your behavior and we can have some fun and interesting projects, or B: It will be nothing but worksheets and if you open your mouth, you're gone. You as a class tell me which way this is going to go, because it's up to you, not the instructors."

So today when they come in, I have them vote and they decided that they didn't like the enviornment and wanted to change how they behaved in class. Now you and I know that words are cheap and that actions matter. So I let the matter drop until the second half of the class when I gave them their writing assignment where they had do not only tell me what they did to turn the classroom into a grease fire, but what actions they personally were going to take to correct the situation. I made sure they knew that this was about them and their actions and not what they thought someone else needs to do. I'll be reading them this weekend and making comments and giving them a grade.

Next week should be interesting when I hold them to their words. That and I'll be teaching the unit that I blogged about earlier. It's very ambitious and will either be really cool or the Hindenburg part II. It will certainly be interesting to see how they respond to the meeting and if they were serious about their decisions and essays, because I sure as hell am.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


So tomorrow I get my first real observation by the principal. I've been observed by the NSC adviser before but those weren't real observations like the kind your job hangs on as a teacher. To say I'm a bit nervous is an understatement of monumental proportions, especially since the period he will be here is the 8th grade class, who tend to act like a bunch of 5 year olds on a sugar high. Let's not even mention the fact that tomorrow is the day before a four day weekend so their minds will be on everything BUT school and that this week's lessons are fairly simplistic due to the short week.

Hopefully it will go well, I would have preferred next week when we have a really cool set of lessons set up where the kids will be reacting to different kinds of prompts (visual, written, auditory) and then writing about them.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

13 favorite movies... more or less

Saw this on another blog (Churcheria). She listed 13 movies she never gets tired of, so I thought I would do the same thing just for fun. I can complain about my students later!

This is not in any particular order and technically it's more than 13 but it's my list so there!

1. Star Wars: The original one from 1977. Saw it in the movie theater when I was 10. I've probably seen it at least 100 times since then. A classic in every sense.

2. The Matrix: What science fiction movies should be and aren't. Great story, seamless effects and a great cast.

3. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: The first of several animated movies. It had a great plot, great animation and some great one liners. Mark Hamill is the Joker in this one.

4. Akira: A one of a kind anime movie from Japan. I still don't get the ending but it does not matter. And this was done before all the GC animation as well.

5. Ghost in The Shell: Another great movie. The anime version of what science fiction should be. It spawned a very good sequel and a great series to boot.

6. The Patriot: Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, a great villain and solid plot.

7. The Fellowship of the Ring Trilogy: As good an adaptation of the books as you could do... ever.

8. Fantasia (Both): An incredible mix of music and animation. The first one was way ahead of it's time, and the second one was a great sequel to the first.

9. Any John Wayne western: If I had to pick 2 it'd be "Rio Bravo" and "The Shootist"

10. Rocky I: "Adrian!" I saw this one at the drive in and loved it instantly. The only other one in the series that was as good was the last one.

11. Freedom Writers: Man I hope I can make that kind of difference with my students one day!

12. Spirited Away: I like anime... get over it. Seriously it has a great story and characters you can really care about. I'd use this in the classroom if I could come up with a lesson plan that works.

13: King Kong: The original. I know it's dated, but the action scenes still get me on the edge of my seat and King Kong is a tragic figure that endures.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Unit plans

One of the hardest things that I do is to come up with unit plans either for the future or retroactively. I'm pretty good with weekly math plans, but math is easier to plan for than English because it's more straightforward and logical. English is comprised of so many different aspects that coming up with a coordinated unit is more challenging that it seems.

Now I can usually come up with a single lesson pretty easily for both regular and block classes, but this is a bird of a different feather because everything has to be coordinated from day to day.

The first challenge was simply to come up with a unit to teach. I know that it's a target rich environment in many ways but it needs to fit into what was done and what needs to be done, not to mention fit into the schedule and keep the test scores up. It took me over a week just to come up with a unit where the students will react both verbally and in writing to several kinds of prompts, from political cartoons to pictures, a speech, poems (they will read and hear them) and finally a short story (one I swore I'd never teach).

Then I had to lay the plan out day by day and make sure I had 50+ minutes of potential learning built in. That got harder as the week went on, much harder which is why I used that short story I was never going to do because the idea tank was E-M-P-T-Y... but heck why reinvent the wheel?

It's pretty much done I just need to attach the materials by Tuesday and post it online for my class and then teach it the week after Thanksgiving. No big deal right?

On the plus side I was able to track down some short stories I had been looking for online. they were "The Yellow Wallpaper", "She Un-names Them" and "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas". The last of the three had become a quest of mine because it's a great story to illustrate scapegoating in literature, plus not every teacher in the Western Hemisphere uses it.

Oh and the poems I'll use? "We Real Cool" and "Dust"

And the short story? "Eleven"

And Karlana, you can stop laughing...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You learn something new...

A few weeks ago, the students and staff at the super cool prep school, had their pictures taken, the students for the yearbook and family memories and the staff for the yearbook. After all, who better to do a Captain Morgan to than the teacher who gave you hell for a year or two?

So today I check my normally empty mailbox and was shocked to see something other than dust bunnies occupying that slot, the very photos I had taken no more than a month ago! Now I was surprised and a bit bemused. The last face I expected to see in one of those photo envelopes was my own.

My wife is thrilled to death of course, (I'm not sure I want to get her eyes checked, she may not like what she sees with glasses or contacts!) as are my kids. My wife is not only going to bring a photo to work, she wants to send a pic to the parents along with the pictures of the kids.

And hell no, I'm not putting them up here! The last thing I want to do is to scare off my last 12.3 readers!

So my question to the other teachers is this... Do all schools do this or just this one?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Meme

I forgot who I stole this from because I started it last week and just now finished this meme...

Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?

Paperback, they're cheaper and I am very broke. But if money is not an issue, then hardback.
Usually if I shop at the used bookstore (proof there is a God) then I'll get the hardback because the price is the same.

Bookmark or dog-ear?
If I have a bookmark I use it, otherwise I dog-ear. Not nice I know, but I'm just bad about that.

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random?
By author, and then by series. (Shannara, LOTR, etc.) But that usually does not last very long and then it descends into chaos. So I guess the answer is yes!

Keep, throw away or sell?
Keep, I read books more than once, and I put them in my classroom for students. Book-a-holic be me!

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
Book jackets make great bookmarks, nuff said, plus the artwork is usually pretty cool on the dust jacket.

Last book you bought?

I bought ten, here are a few of them...
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Robinson Crusoe
The Elfstones of Shanarra

Last book someone bought for you?
My wife got me "The Reagan Diaries"

What are some of the books on your to-buy list?

More classics, some Louis L'Amour, a couple of Terry Brooks Shanarra books, the list is endless.

Collection (short stories, same author) or anthology (short stories, different authors)?
Yes! I have both and enjoy them. They are good when don't have much time to read.

Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, or the velvety embrace of Death?
To be honest I have not read HP or LS, but I'll start on HP first.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
Do I have to choose? Because more than once I've started reading when the sun came up and stopped when it went down...

The books you need to go with other books on your shelves?
Some of the books I need will fill in holes in my library where I have a series that I don't have every book to anymore.

Do you read anywhere and anytime you can or do you have a set reading time and/or place?

I read when I can depending on time more than anything else.

Do you have seasonal reading habits?
I read more when school is not in session because I have more time. But as far as topics go, anytime is a good time...

Do you read one book at a time or do you have two or more books going at once?
I usually read one book at a time but not always.

What are your pet peeves about the way people treat books?
I don't like it when they trash them on purpose, but my biggest peeve is when people give up on a book after 20 pages...

Name one book you surprised yourself by liking.
Ella Minnow Pea, I was not looking forward to reading it and ended up liking it.

How often do you read a book and not review it on your blog?
Just how much free time do you think I have anyway? I don't do book reviews on my blog.

What are your reasons for not blogging about a book?
No time and no interest in doing that, at least for now.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Congratulations to the Obama campaign. They have now broken the color barrier for the highest office in the land. I am writing this as someone who voted for John McCain so you will have to forgive my lack of enthusiasm for his election. However, the American people have spoken and I will respect that decision.

President Obama it is.

But, I will cut him no slack for the next four years, and if you don't like how he governs, don't look at me. I voted for the other guy...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Be careful what you wish for

I have coworkers who are incredibly excited about the prospect of Obama winning. Some of them have been wearing Obama t-shirts and buttons to school and have been well very sure of themselves. Either they are also socialists, or they really don't know who they are voting for. It finally drove me to staple a McCain/Palin sticker to my wall. It'll stay up until Wednesday win or lose. Not surprisingly, I am one of the token conservatives at the school where I work. I cringed when I saw the Obama shirts and buttons and I wondered more than once what would have happened if I had worn a McCain shirt? I did have a McCain screen saver that would flash up on the LCD when I had my laptop hooked up to it, and I left it up there just to be a Palin er pain.

But I think that people who support Obama will soon find out that they've been sold a bill of goods in short order. Do they know that all Obama has to in order to raise taxes is let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010. Then on Jan 1, 2011 everyone's taxes go up and I mean EVERYONES! The poor, the middle class, and the ever expanding 'rich'. And the AMT? Watch that exception go by the wayside as well and boom 20 some odd million people get nailed with higher taxes.

And Joe Biden is right, Obama would get tested and quickly because our enemies view Obama as a weak leader and will jump at the chance for another big attack at the 'Great Satan'. Russia will continue to more closely resemble the old USSR than a real democracy. Don't be surprised to see more Russian military intervention in the old Soviet bloc because Putin knows that Obama won't do squat about it.

I keep seeing the old Cox commercial where the digital Max does not know the microphone on a camera is on and the words 'BUYERS REMORSE' echo through the store.

Buyers Remorse indeed.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Well, the new math teacher starts on Monday. Which is really good for her and the kids, and in many ways it's good for me as well. I get to really start teaching English and the Mrs. W., who I will be working with has 30 years of knowledge and experience that I can learn from. Plus, we compliment each other well. She knows the content inside and out, not to mention the pedagogy etc., but she admits that she does not take risks with her lessons very often. I am pretty much the opposite. I know that my content knowledge does not match hers, nor can I match her time in the classroom. However, my lessons are nothing if not ambitious and I take huge risks with them knowing the potential payoff is worth the chance that the lesson crashes and burns. Finally, for whatever reason, the female students don't try to play me like they do with Mrs. W., in the classroom and I already have a reputation of being a real hard ass with the students. Boy are her 8th graders in for a shock!

But (you knew that was coming) there are a couple of negatives. First, I won't be teaching any of my old students. Even though I will still teach a section of math, it will be course I (6th grade) and not course II (7th grade) and the class I am picking up is seventh graders who are behind in math and some of them and I don't see eye to eye. Secondly, I am going to lose my laptop computer. The IT department does not have any spares and thus, the intern makes the sacrifice. So this weekend, I'll be removing all the personal things from the laptop and then next week I can give it to IT so that they can re image it for the new teacher. Hopefully I can access my grade book from the computer lab so I can enter grades, if not then I'll have to do that by hand as well.

I realize that as the person who's not even on the totem pole that this may happen, it's still gonna suck not have a laptop computer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thank you!

I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post about patriotism. I didn't use everything but I found it to be fun and educational to read about your views. I'll be turning the new article tonight in class and hopefully I'll get a better grade than what I started with.

On the teaching front it looks like they finally have a teacher to replace me for math (YAY!). This means that I can actually start teaching English for 6 periods and just have one math class to deal with. I kept one class for two reasons. First, it means that the principal can stop teaching one section of math and spend more time on his first job, and I'll still get paid more for teaching because they apprentice pay sucks. And I do like my students even when they drive me batty.

And I actually gave the kids a break today in class. We spent the last 25 minutes watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Tomorrow is parent teacher conference day and the 31st is Nevada Day, so there is no school. All the kids (even the 8th graders) enjoyed it and I think I'll do the same for Thanksgiving.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


So what is patriotism? Is it a bumper sticker? A flag in a cup? A lapel pin? The reason I am asking is that I need to rewrite a story for my journalism class and I need your thoughts. Let me know what you think when you see things like

1. A small flag in a pencil cup

2. An Obama/Biden sticker

3. A McCain/Palin sticker

4. Flag Lapel Pins

5. A support our troops magnet/sticker on a car.

6. The symbol for the GOP (Elephant)

7. The symbol for the democrats (donkey)

Be as brief or verbose as you wish.

Thanks to all 12.2 people who watch and read my blog...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

End O' Quarter

Well the quarter ends on Monday and the results are decidedly mixed. I have one class where 15 of the 16 kids are passing with a C minimum and then the other two are not doing so well. The 6th graders I can at least understand. They're doing 7th grade math and some of them still have not figured out that you have to spend more than 10 minutes on the homework and actually turn it in to get a good grade.

The 8th graders simply talk to much and work too little. It was so bad that the principal had to come in and tell them that if I send them to him that they get suspended. Not that it's going to help any, at this point I am going to have to sacrifice a couple of them so they get the point.

The one other thing I don't like is the fact that the district does not do any plus or minus. So an 80% is the same as an 89% when in fact they are two different things. I really wish they would do pluses and minuses for official grades.

The good news is that I am getting an A in two of my classes, the bad news is that I am getting a C in the other two. Looks like I better kick it up a notch.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2nd quarter letter

UPDATE #1... I found some errors and corrected them on my original and here...

This is the letter that is going to be sent to all the parents on Tuesday, which is the first day of the new quarter. I hope this will alleviate some of the problems that I am having with my students. Notice how many times I put my phone number on the letter to make sure they can get a hold of me with any questions. Feel free to carp, criticize, suggest or otherwise let me know what I can do to improve this. If you would like to borrow this for your own use, feel free.

Dear Parents,

Well, we have survived the first quarter and generally your children have done fairly well in my math classes. However, there are some things that need to be cleared up for the 2nd quarter so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the first nine weeks.

The first issue I need to address is one of coming to class prepared. For the last few weeks far too many students are not showing up with basic items such as pencils, paper, red correcting pens or even their math textbook. They must have the following supplies with them when they come to math class: 2-3 pencils, a red pen to correct with, their textbook, binder paper and a good attitude.

The next issue I need to address is the effort or lack thereof given by the students. If your child did not earn the kind of grade that you were expecting, it was probably due to one of the following things: not turning in homework, too much talking, not taking their time or a combination of the three. It’s imperative that your child give this class their best effort or their grade will not be where it should be.

The most likely cause of poor grades is that students decided not to turn in their homework. On average the students had 45 assignments that were either homework or class work that had to be completed at home. If a student misses one or two assignments it generally does not hurt their grade much, BUT when the number of missing assignments is more than five or six it can literally cost them one full grade, and if the student is missing more than ten assignments, it’s almost impossible to pass the quarter or semester. If your child tells you they have no homework from me, it’s probably not true. The ONLY time they would not have homework is the day of a test or quiz. This includes Fridays as well. In high school and in college, they will have homework nearly every day and they need to get used to doing homework on the weekends. If you have a question please call me at 555-1212.

Late work is a huge problem and in an effort to alleviate this, the following policy will be in place for the remainder of the semester. If a student does not turn in an assignment on time, they will receive a 10% penalty for every day it is late until the 5th day. At that point the best they can do is 50% on their assignment. Once we have finished a chapter, any missing assignments from that chapter will become and remain ZEROS in the grade book. If your child is absent for any reason it is their responsibility to get the assignment(s) and turn them in. They will have three days to turn it in or it will be considered late and the penalties will ensue. If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212.

The next most likely cause is that they have decided that math class is their time for socializing and not for learning the material they need to pass this class. I do not tolerate talking in my class and if your child decided to test me on this expect to get a phone call home letting you know your child is disrupting my class. If they get a phone call home they will also get detention during the morning break between 2nd and 3rd period for a minimum of two days. If they don’t show up expect another phone call home and more detention. If you never had a chance to give me your contact information please fill out the form attached to the letter and have your child return it to me. If you have questions please call me at 555-1212.

It may also be that your child is rushing through their homework in an effort to get as much play time as possible. It’s not possible to do my homework in only 10-15 minutes. At minimum, it should take my students 30-45 minutes to complete assignments at home. I do give them time (when possible) to complete their homework in class, so it may be that they have done most of the work already. If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212.

My students also have the opportunity to fix mistakes on their assignments and exams. They get full credit for homework or class work that they fix. If for example, they get a score of 10/20 on an assignment and then correctly redo seven of the ten questions, I will change their grade accordingly from a 10 to a 17. For multiplication sheets then can get one point back and on exams, they can get half of the missed points back. This is the best way for your student to improve their grade in my class. I do this because I want them to understand the material and doing it a second time will help them now and next year in their pre-algebra class. If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212.

Don’t forget that AACPA has free tutoring in the great room starting at 3:45pm and continuing until 5:15pm Monday through Thursday. It’s free and if your child has less than a 75% (C) in any class, I strongly encourage you to participate. You can have them come once a week or everyday. If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212.

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned my phone number several times (555-1212). Please call me with any questions or concerns you have. If you get my voicemail please leave me a message with a call back number (or two) so I can return your call. I cannot be successful in the classroom without your support. If you prefer using e-mail, feel free You are also welcome to stop by my classroom at any time. The only day I cannot stay late is on Tuesdays because I have to be in downtown Henderson at 5pm. Most other days of the week I am here until at least 5pm and I would be happy to spend a few minutes chatting with you.

I would appreciate it if you would sign the form attached and return it to me. If you are not sure if I have your contact information OR if it’s changed, please fill out the contact information again. If the first page has a star on the front, I don’t have your contact information on file and need to have it so I can contact you regarding your child's progress in my math class.

If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212 or e-mail me, I look forward to a new quarter and continued math success.

Obviously I changed the phone number to protect myself and I took out my email address for the same reason. I also attached in the real letter a signature/contact information sheet for the kids who didn't get the initial contact information signed. I am also going to make getting this new letter signed worth a large amount of points so that if they don't it's really going to hurt them, and conversely it will reward the students who do things the right way. 10 points don't seem to do the trick, so I was thinking of 25 points or more. I also hope that this will help with the late work issue all teachers face.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Burn out

That is what I am headed for right now. Four classes, full time teaching and the whole husband dad thing is really taking its toll on me right now. I'm once again behind in two of my classes and barely caught up in the other two. And on top of my regular teaching, I have to write all of the long range plans for last quarter, come up with the bank of questions for the NWEA tests and finish grading everything because the 1st quarter ends on October 20th.

My principal and I are hoping to get some of the sections I am teaching taken off of me so I can actually start teaching English. I will continue to teach one class and then go observe English teachers to see how they do things. I still have not found out about my student teaching or graduation yet, so hopefully those will go OK as well.

Back to the salt mines go I...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lotion Bomb

That's what my car was a victim of this week. When I went to my car during my prep to get my things ready for my speech it was fine. I go back at 5pm and the back of my car was decorated with lotion, covering the right taillight and the wheel. I didn't have time to do anything more than clean off the worst of it and get to my speech class. I did email all three principals to let them know what happened. My principal told me to wash my car and give him the receipt and he'll pay me back. The facilities guy is also going to look at the security tape to see if they can find out who did it. I'm mad, but I'm even more disappointed. I would expect this at a school where the neighborhood is rough, but not at this school.

In other news my college classes are driving me nuts. It's getting harder and harder to keep all these balls in the air at one time. They still have not found a new math teacher yet either so I'm still doing full time teacher/full time student thing. I also had to call parents last night, lots of parents. Literally half my seventh graders, some eighth graders, and a couple of sixth graders are going to have a rough go of it with their parents. But there is no other way to get rid of the chatterbox virus that is racing through the middle school.

Anyway, back to the salt mines.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


And sore! That's what happens when your tree sheds a several hundred pound branch in a short but nasty storm. So instead of trying to get ahead with my grading and school and all that, I was chopping and cutting so that my wife and I could start cleaning up the mess. Mind you the branch was about 12 inches at its thickest and was probably 20 feet long, not to mention all the smaller branches so it took me about 45 minutes just to get the branch off the wall (not to mention the neighbor's yard) and into my yard. Then it took my wife and I another hour or so to clear about half the branches and bag them up. At least we had a good weekend before then. We saw 3:10 to Yuma, which was an excellent movie and then watched the new Knight Rider which has some potential.

Well back to researching anonymous medieval lyrics for my paper due Friday, rounding up supplies for my demonstration speech, and finishing my re-write for my COM-250 class.

Monday, September 29, 2008

All Summer In a Day

Today I was able to teach English for a change. No, they have not yet hired a math teacher at the super cool prep school, but one of the English teachers, Mrs. W., was nice enough to let me teach her 7th grade reading and writing class for the week.

I had written a lesson for the short story "All Summer In a Day" by Ray Bradbury that involved reading the story and then writing a new ending, picking up where the story left off. The kids were introduced to the lesson and began writing their endings today and I learned a very important lesson.



I figured this gem out during the lesson and had to do some quick adjusting on the fly to make sure they story made sense. You'd think that I would be able to count from 63-67 but nooooooo!
Once that had been resolved and the questions answered, the kids began to write their new endings. They ranged from well, anemic to really cool.

Having them revise their endings is going to be a great experience for both teacher and students. Tomorrow I plan to make copies of the self revision form and I need to modify it for having another student read and make suggestions on the endings.

The other thing I forgot to do was to have the pre-writing activity up on the board ahead of time. Because of this there was some lost time in the classroom. Silly me, next time I'll know better... I hope! At least Mrs. W., kept the activity on the board for tomorrow when she teaches the same lesson to her other ELA classes.

If this works, Mrs. W., will let me teach more lessons during my prep periods.

This may sound like the height of arrogance, but if you want a copy of the lesson, let me know and I would be happy to share it with you. Why reinvent the wheel?

Saturday, September 27, 2008


That's what the last week has been. Now that the honeymoon has ended so to speak the kids have decided that the rules no longer apply to them. Two fights, kids stealing, shooting teachers with rubber bands, and swiping pencil cases all occurred in the last week. This with about 150 middle school students. Lucky for us the principal is good at making the punishment fit the crimes and several students have not been to school for a few days if you catch my drift.

I had to rearrange the seating arrangement in my room because of the talking and the fact I could not move around the room easily. I like how it works, I could care less if the kids do. In addition I started a morning break detention list that currently has about 7 names on it. If this does not straighten out some of them, then I guess I'll start going lunch or after school detention for the little darlings.

And I still have my four college classes to deal with, including coming up with a lesson plan for a poem or short story that has an open ending or meaning.

I must be nuts to willingly do this.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The race that wasn't...

My son and I were supposed to be watching the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race tonight but that didn't happen thanks to a dead battery in between qualifying and the race itself. So instead of watching trucks tear around the track at 170 mph we were at Pep Boys getting a new battery for the minivan so my wife would not have to deal with a dying battery this week. That being said my son and I had a great time. We got to see the crews work on the trucks in the Neon Garage, where he got a 5x7 card from one team and lug nuts off the trucks from a couple of others. He had the biggest grin on his face while watching the controlled chaos of the pit crews in action. We also spent time with our friends Fran and Rich who got us the passes for the garage as a birthday present for my son. Next year I get him better ear protection because the ear plugs I bought were not nearly enough for his sensitive ears. I'm pretty deaf er immune due to my rock and roll listening past.

Hopefully next year we'll be able to watch the race as well as all the other activities...

Friday, September 12, 2008


Update #1 9/16/08: Slow learners this lot, not only did two more from 5th period get the heave-ho, two kids from 1st period also got the boot. That's four in one day, a record of sorts...

That's what I've been doing for the last couple of days, or more precisely my students have become. My lovely 8th graders still have have the terminal chatterbox syndrome and can't seem to find a cure, so it's up to me to keep them quiet. So starting yesterday I've started removing students from my room.

Thursday I sent two two gentlemen to the office, and today I sent two more talkers to face the music. So I'm hoping that on Monday they will get the hint and stay quiet. But if they don't I will continue to remove the talkers from the room until either nobody talks or nobody is left.

I'll take door #2, they won't be able to help themselves. They just talk to much.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A day in the life

If you were ever curious about what 24 hours of my life is like, look no further, and it's only 100 words too!

I stumble out of bed, head swimming with thoughts of students, college and family. A shower, coffee and breakfast later I’m dropping off my son and I start my day teaching middle school. Exhausted, I get into my car and drive home long enough to see my daughter and then head off to college. I come home; enjoy dinner and a cold frothy beverage while trying to juggle homework, lesson planning and family time before I fall into bed for another sleepless night worrying about my students, classes and family only to do it all over again tomorrow.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A Tale of Two Days

I'm not sure I could have had two days that were so different from each other. Wednesday was pretty much a grease fire from the word go. My good shirt had a food stain on it so I had to wear my other dress shirt with the starched collar. I left my lunch at home so all I had eaten from 6am until 6pm was a couple of handfuls of peanuts. I got punished for doing the right thing and allowing the assistant principal to switch rooms with me so she could use the smart board 1st and 2nd period. Her room had a slight ant problem and the 6th graders got nothing done, and one of my 7th graders decided it was OK to kick a pen across the room nearly hitting several students and yours truly. Then to top it all off I left my power cord for my laptop at school so I could not get much done aside from enter a few grades. Did I mention that I paid for my class at UNLV at the bargain price of $1000? Something tells me I need to go back and find out why it was so flipping much money!

Thursday was the polar opposite of Wednesday. The kids were well behaved, the lessons went smoothly and open house went pretty well. I got to meet many of my student's parents and explain to them how I did things. Funny thing is that nobody complained about the no-name and it's in the trash policy either. My taco dip was a big success and everyone enjoyed themselves. I didn't get home until 8:30 but it was worth it. Not bad for my first open house!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

In MY Classroom

I did this as an assignment for my teaching methods class. I thought it would be worth sharing with everyone here. Try not to fall asleep...

When I get my own room it won’t be like any other English classroom. Yes, there will be posters about literacy and even the parts of speech. And maybe even an author or two. But the walls will be filled with student work and more. There will be maps of the world, posters of great leaders, art by the great masters and more. Why? Because English is more than just two of the three ‘r’s, it’s the language of business, travel and more.

In MY class current events and history will be read discussed and written about. Street racing, foreign policy, movie reviews, animation and fashion will all have a place in my curriculum. Why? Because English is more than the parts of speech, grammar and high stakes tests, it’s about what makes us tick and what ticks us off. When the students care about the subject, their reading and writing will be the stuff of legends, at least for my students and me.

In MY class, the standards will be high and excuses will be left at the door. I’ll demand more from my students than just being on time and staying on task. They’ll have to hand in their work on time or suffer the consequences of a goose egg in the grade book. They’ll always remember to put their name on their work so that it does not end up in the trash. Why? Because in the REAL world, missing a deadline can cost you your job and your employer thousands or even millions of dollars, actions always have consequences and the sooner my kids students understand this, the better off they’ll be as adults.

In MY class, my students will take chances with their writing. They’ll sleep with their thesaurus and be comfortable pushing if not ignoring the envelope. Their writing will be a destination and not a grade. Writing to a prompt will be second nature to them because there is ALWAYS an angle that they can use to make the subject and their writing more interesting. Why? Because writing is more than POS, LOL and WTF? Its images written with words that teach entertain and irritate us to where we think about it long after we’ve read it.

And that’s what MY class will be like. Why? Because I give a damn, that’s why.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A new winner

Have you ever been wrong about a class? You know, you get a group of kids in your classroom and your initial impression is off by oh 180º degrees or so, or is it just me?

I hope I'm not the only teacher who got fooled, you see I have a new muse, er problem class and it's my 8th graders, the one group that should know better. I mean they've done middle school for 2 years now and should have the best idea of how to get themselves to 9th grade but they act like 7th graders on a sugar high. I gave one id10t a zero on a quiz and sent him to the principal's office for talking during a test. He was done and even though there was 1 student still taking the test decided that I didn't really mean no talking. Yea, and now he gets a zero and dealt with the principal. I really love working for him, he truly rocks. He knows when to show a bit of mercy and when to step on throats. He's always approachable and well let's say were lucky to have him.

Now in addition to grading the quizzes, I need to rearrange my seating again and to just start kicking the blabber mouths out of my room, no matter how much I like them. I'm very disappointed in their behavior, in the space of 4 days they went from my best class to my worst class, they make my 7th graders look like angels.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

6th Graders

I love em, but they're killing me right now. Every day it's the same routine. We grade assignments in class and they never pay attention to the answers. You'd think after 4 days in a row they'd have some sort of clue but I end up repeating the answers again and again and again and again and and and and.....

What is so hard about it anyways? 7th graders can handle it, and most times they can't sit still for more than .0000002 seconds at a time and 8th graders can (and do) grade in their sleep. I find myself repeating the same instructions over and over again, more often that I do for the 7th graders, mind you these are supposed to be the smart 6th graders. What up with that yo? The course I teach is for normal (if they exist) 7th graders, so I should be dealing with the cream of the crop.

In other news, the troublemakers in 4th period all left. (that sound you heard was a champagne bottle popping) Some of the 7th graders in pre-algebra couldn't handle it and had to get moved to my class. This put me way over the maximum level allowed by the school, so the principal who normally only taught them for one period now teaches them for the whole block. Mr. P said that they did really well for him. I think it's because they're used to him and now their block is not disrupted my moving to my room with kids who do better in math than they did. His kids are the ones who struggle with math, like my 8th graders. But unlike my 8th graders, his kids did not comport themselves well in my classroom. I will miss some of them, and I'll miss others like I miss the intestinal flu.

Oh, and our open house for the super cool prep school is a week from Friday. My wife is excited because now I have to clean and organize my room for the open house. She spent 20 minutes telling me how cool the school is and 10 minutes ragging on me because my room is still not organized. I guess all her teachers in school were neat freaks or something.

Finally I had to write the professor who teaches the online course that I am trying to get into, because it's full and I need his permission to enroll. Hopefully he'll take pity on me knowing that some of his students will drop the class soon and then it won't be so crowded. If not then I don't student teach next spring. At least the people in the English department at UNLV were VERY helpful and were willing to point me in the right direction. Kudos to them for their help.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Write up!

Well, apparently not all students realize that I don't make empty threats. This morning I had a fine young man get himself sent to the principal's office for acting like an id10t. This fine gentleman started the day with a lousy attitude, stemming from the fact that I talked to him about missing our Friday appointment and from his illegible homework. When I caught him slouching in his seat at a 40º angle to his desk, I told him to sit properly. That didn't um sit well with him and he proceeded to make a huge production out of it, right until he slammed his chair into position. At which point I tossed him out and then hand delivered the write up to the office.

Tomorrow morning this fine young man, the principal and I are going to have a heart to heart chat about his behavior in my class. A process that will be repeated in my 4th period class now that I know who the chatterboxes are. This is the same class that has 15 out of my 23 students failing right now. Funny how the chattiest class has the worst grades. I guess it's hard to talk and follow instructions at the same time. New seating charts anyone?

In other news I have to drive down to UNLV and take care of the prerequisite in person. Like I have nothing better to do that drive all over the flizzing valley.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008


That sums it up in one word. I went to check my schedule for the fall semester at both NSC and CCSN so I could let my principal know what day I could not stay late when I noticed something strange. I had somehow gone from two classes at CCSN to just one. My Brit Lit class was nowhere to be found, and I never got any notice from the college about any schedule changes. I know they have my email because they sent me my receipt when I paid for the two classes. I then checked my balance and my worst fears were realized. They now owe me the money for the canceled class.

The first thing I did was to recheck the available classes at CCSN to see if it was just a glitch, nope, no glitch. I then checked NSC just in cased, no luck there either. Finally I checked UNLV and found that there were 2 internet classes open for Brit Lit. Of course I had to register ($30) for UNLV and now I have to wait a couple of days (which I don't have) for my application to go through before I can even try to register for them.

I guess I could try the community college in Reno if it comes down to it but the timing could not have been worse. It's bad enough I got hosed on my lit theory class, now I gotta deal with this crap as well?

Did I forget to mention that the fall semester starts on Monday, August 25th?

Monday, August 18, 2008

1st day is done!

I survived my first day at the Super Cool Prep School. There are still a few kinks to be worked out, like getting the bells for the middle school and high school to work properly, but over all no real complaints. I also found out which period was going to be the source of many blog posts, er my challenging class.

And the winner is... 4th period!

Here is how it works. Periods 1,3, & 5 are regular math classes and the even periods are math application classes, where we work on things that will improve their problem solving skills. For 3rd period I have only 8 students, which is wonderful. Life gets even when the kids from the other (principal's) 3rd period class shows up for math apps. Suddenly they get chatty and don't want to pay attention. Add in that lunch is next and you get the idea. Tomorrow, I start stepping on necks and calling parents. Plus I am going to talk to the principal and ask him if they are as chatty in his class as they are in mine. Hopefully he'll talk to them about it!

Anyway, I gotta get back to my lesson planning and dinner preparation...

Friday, August 15, 2008


Now I know that teachers are supposed to be flexible, in fact it's a must if you want to be successful, but I think I got bent into a pretzel this week. As I noted in my last post, I got traded from the HS to the MS at the Super Cool Prep School, which I think was a blessing in disguise looking back on it. I was made to feel more than welcome by the principal and I really connected with Mrs. W., who came out of retirement to teach at the Super Cool Prep School. Just a couple of examples of how nice the staff and administration are. The principle told me not to go to training today because of my son's party AND helped me edit my appeal letter (something Karlana has also helped with) for Nevada State College. The AP and the other teachers has helped me with lesson planning and materials to start the school year and Mrs. W. wants me to help her with her classes during my prep. Oh, and they were going to get me a laptop even if I wasn't going to be teaching a specific class...

Anyway, I was helping Mrs. W. set up her room when I was asked to do the math training with the other math teachers, which seemed kind of odd considering I'm an English teacher but I went anyway, being a good sport and all... I soon found out why I was asked to be at the training. They are short a math teacher and need me to teach 6th grade math until they can get the right teacher in the classroom. So I suddenly have three days to set up the classroom, get a computer, room key and create lesson plans for at least the first few weeks of the quarter until the new teacher shows up. Can you say stressful? I knew you could. I called my friend Karlana to give her the news that day and yesterday she asked me if I was still teaching math or had been put someplace else. I replied that I was now teaching physics, biology and intermediate Swahili...

Don't get me wrong, I am so excited about starting the new school year it's not funny. I'm also so stressed that I can't sleep. Add in my son's birthday party at Chuck E Cheese and this is going to be one hectic weekend for this English, er Math er Swahili teacher!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Well, I got traded to the middle school of the super cool prep school. There was a mix up in the beginning of the week and the HS had one apprentice too many and the middle school didn't have anyone. And while I'm disappointed that I won't be in the HS, the staff and principal of the middle school made me feel very welcome. So, long story short I'm now a 6th grade literature and reading teacher as well as doing a bit of math. The nice thing is that I'll be able to do 7th and 8th grade English as well. The teacher I'm working with is very nice and is happy to have me. He did make the mistake of letting me bring a few (2 inch stack) things in for him to look at. He wants to do 'Of Mice & Men' and I just happened to have a couple of things for that book as well.

I can't wait to start teaching again.

On a side note, my four year old son was watching the US Vs. Angola basketball game chanting USA USA USA!, as we pummeled Angola by 20 odd points...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I like this better

As much as I would LOVE to take credit for it I can't. I found it here.

McCain was not my first choice for the GOP, actually I had not made up my mind who to support when McCain clinched the nomination, but as the race has gone on, I've strengthened my support for McCain. I know his campaign has been understated but when the opposition is self destructing, why not just them do your work for you?

In other news, I finally had Karlana and her family over for dinner (ribs, twice baked potatoes and salad) last night. It was nice to finally repay her for getting me the two long term assignments during last year. We had a great time and she told me she got a job on Friday at the middle school she subbed at the most. So starting in a couple of weeks, she'll be teaching 7th English, and those kids don't know how lucky they are to have her. She has the perfect temperament for teaching 7th graders, who are either angels or demon spawn depending on the amount of hormones raging through their bodies at the moment.

Tomorrow I start my orientation week at the super cool prep school. I am so excited to get back in the classroom it's not funny.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Random Thoughts

First off, my friend Karlana has an interview at a local middle school to teach English for the whole year. It could not have happened to a nicer person and I finally get to pay her back for the jobs she got me by feeding her and her family dinner this weekend. Please stop by her blog and wish her luck, that school will be lucky to have her.

Secondly, I start my orientation on Monday for my internship at the super cool prep school. To say I'm excited would be a massive understatement along the lines of saying there are a couple of neon lights on the Las Vegas Strip. I really really miss teaching. In addition, I finished not only the Grapes of Wrath but The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I really enjoyed both of them. I'm glad I stuck it out with Dorian Gray because it did take a bit to get going and then it was 100 miles an hour until the end of the book. And yes Lady, you did tell me so! So now I've read 16 books with 34 to go. Looks like another trip to the library is in order since I read all those books I bought earlier in the summer and I need to return a few before they're due.

Before I forget, I found a cool new blog/cartoon that I added to my must read list. It's called Diversity Lane and it's quite the read. When you get a chance you need to check it out. Of course if you lean left and have no sense of humor, then you best go elsewhere, consider yourself warned.

Finally, I found it interesting that when local reporter John Ralston called Barak Obama on some of his statements, Barak's first reply was to call him a McCain proxy. Now John is lots of things, but a McCain proxy he is not, he goes after all politicians and cares not for the letter after the name... Watch it here. Barak is in for a rude surprise if he thinks that his stands and statements won't get questioned by the press at some point before the election. Welcome to reality sir, I hope you enjoy your stay.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

You may be a racist...

Since the democrats and Obama's supporters have been charging that the people who oppose Barak Obama are racist, I thought it might be handy for people to see if they really are a racist, when it comes to this year's election. If you have no sense of humor you should probably go elsewhere...

25 Reasons You May be a Racist [Peter Kirsanow]

The tendency of Obama supporters to see racist impulses behind every criticism of their candidate has evolved into absurdity. Now even the first black president feels compelled to declare he's not a racist. By this measure, nearly every American is at risk of being branded a racist at some point in the campaign. To assess whether you're at risk just consult the list below ( apologies to Jeff Foxworthy ):

1.If you think Obama's the most liberal member of the senate you...may be a racist.

2.If you object to Obama raising your payroll, capital gains and estate taxes you...may be a racist.

3.If you'd prefer a president have at least some foreign policy experience you...may be a racist.

4. If you're in favor of drilling for oil and building nuclear power plants you...may be a racist.

5. If you think "Vero Possemus" is Latin for "Massive Ego" you... may be a racist.

6. If you wonder why Obama was hanging around William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn you...may be a racist.

7. If your pastor is nothing like Rev. Wright or Father Pfleger you... may be a racist.

8.If you don't want the majority of justices on the Supreme Court to be like Stephen Breyer you...may be a racist.

9. If you're not impressed with Obama's 100% NARAL rating you...may be a racist.

10. If you're not sure whether Obama opposed or supported FISA reauthorization you...may be a racist.

11. If you don't think America is a "downright mean" country you...may be a racist.

12. If you think Obama should've visited wounded troops at Ramstein and Landstuhl you...may be a racist.

13. If you think the surge is working and that's a good thing you...may be a racist.

14. If you oppose racial preferences in employment, school admissions and contracting you...may be a racist.

15. If you think "we are the change we've been waiting for" is a line from a Monty Python skit you...may be a racist.

16. If you prefer that a president have a smidgen of executive experience you...may be a racist.

17. If you're appalled that Obama voted against treating infants born after an abortion attempt the same medically as other infants born alive you...may be a racist.

18. If you were proud of your country even before Obama's candidacy you...may be a racist.

20. If you don't think American troops are just "air raiding villages" you...may be a racist.

21. If your grandmother isn't a "typical white person" you...may be a racist.

22. If you don't think rural, working class people are bitter and "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them" you...may be a racist.

23. If you're not sure invading Pakistan is a particularly good idea—what with their nuclear weapons and all— you...may be a racist.

24. If you don't want the president to meet without precondition with the leaders of state sponsors of terror you...may be a racist.

25. If you don't care how Hollywood or the European elite think you should vote you...may be a racist.

This campaign has, to paraphrase Moynihan, defined racism down.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

50 Books... Update 3

I'm back from vacation (I'll post on it later) and aside from the fun of camp, I got to do some serious reading in and have an update on the 50 book challenge.

When I started the challenge I had read these books

Old Man and the Sea
My Grandfather's Son
Sharks over China
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Screwtape Letters
Catcher in the Rye

Then, I was able to finish four more by the 25th of July.

The Coldest Winter
Mere Christianity
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Black Arrow (Finished 7/25)

While on vacation I finished the following books

Dragonquest (Dragonriders of Pern book 1)
(Dragonriders of Pern book 2)
The White Dragon (Dragonriders of Pern book 3)
The Great Gatsby

I'm reading
The Reagan Dairies
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Grapes of Wrath

So I've finished 14 books out of the 50. I should finish The Grapes of Wrath this week I hope...

Friday, July 25, 2008


I am going to be out of town for a week to visit my family in Michigan. As you can see it's the opposite of the desert I call home. A week of swimming, saunas, food, fishing and more is what awaits me and my family.

Hope you have a great week as well...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

50 Book Update (with update)

Recently I joined the 50 book challenge at Shelfari and wanted to give everyone an update on my progress. When I made the original post I had read the following books:

Old Man and the Sea
My Grandfather's Son
Sharks over China
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The Screwtape Letters
Catcher in the Rye

Since then I've finished these books:

The Coldest Winter
Mere Christianity
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Black Arrow (Finished 7/25)

And I'm reading the following books (yes books, as in more than one)

The Reagan Dairies
The Picture of Dorian Grey

I am going to take these books on vacation next week:

The Grapes of Wrath
The Dragonriders of Pern Trilogy
The Great Gatsby

I may take the Reagan Dairies and The Picture of Dorian Grey as well. The Black Arrow is a library book so I will leave that here. If you have also taken up the challenge let me know how you're doing.

18 steps

No it's not some newfangled treatment for addictions. It was the number of steps from the storeroom to the floor. I know I counted them this morning as I made trip after trip after trip loading up carts with shoes to send to California. And I went up and down those 18 stairs 50 times if I did it once. And that's 48 times to many if you ask me. The last thing I needed was to see just how out of shape I was and boy did I find out! The good part about this is that the normal two day assignment has turned into a 4 day assignment and we really need the extra money.

And I'm one day closer to August 11...

Monday, July 21, 2008

They want to do what?

Let's see, the economy is not doing well, gas is over $4.00 a gallon and millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet. I know! Let's increase the gas tax by another 10¢ a gallon! Now I realize that I'm not a economic guru, but last I checked, when the economy is struggling the last thing you should do is to further erode the purchasing power of your citizens. I've also discovered another fact that seems to escape the democrats in Congress. When you don't have enough money coming in, you need to cut expenses first. Of course since they're playing with someone else's money it's easy to see why simply increasing taxes is the better option. I think they're betting on Obama becoming president because McCain is not big on tax increases.

This is the best example of how the GOP views this vs. how the democrats do.

"Congress should first reduce spending on pet projects, known as earmarks, argued Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. "I'm not going to let the Senate spend all this money when nobody is looking, especially when we refuse to stop wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on earmarks."

Oberstar, D-Minn., said his committee is working on the next long-term highway bill. He estimated it will take between $450 billion and $500 billion over six years to address safety and congestion issues with highways, bridges and transit systems.

"We'll put all things on the table," Oberstar said, but the gas tax "is the cornerstone. Nothing else will work without the underpinning of the higher user fee gas tax."

Nothing else will work? Senator, with all due respect... Are you high? Try wasting less of my money in other areas and see what happens. All you're going to do is to increase the drag on our economy and lengthen this downturn.

This is why the system was built for gridlock ladies and gentleman...

H/T Bald Headed Geek

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Truth is a moving target, or is it? (updated)

Over at American Power, Dr. Douglass posted an essay discussing giving animals the same status as humans, thereby making all animals equal, which is a direct shot at the Judeo-Christian view in which we are at the top of the heap and the animals to one degree or another are below us. In addition, there is an essay by Dennis Prager that is worth looking at. In this article Dennis discusses the difference between the Judeo-Christian ethics and the secular, postmodern ethics.

The main difference between the two systems are this. People who subscribe to the Judeo-Christian view, have held that certain things are right or wrong, that's why we tend to hold things like the 10 Commandments in such high esteem. Secularists see everything as shades of gray, what is good for you is good for you and all that nonsense.

These two world views are polar opposites of each other and at some point one or the other will be tossed aside. Make no mistake about it, the secularists are hell bent on removing the Judeo-Christian morals from our culture and replacing it with moral relativism. Where instead of concrete ideas of what is right and wrong, you're constantly shifting until it feels right for you. Needless to say this is bad for society, we need set rules of behavior, where people know that there are certain things you just don't do. Of course many of these are moral things like fidelity, modesty, honesty, and not having sex just because, which is why the secularists don't like them.

So is truth really a moving target after all?

Update #1:

I was thinking about this thread when I made this post to start with. It starts out with the usual indignation about the cover on the New Yorker and then when the cartoon of the McCain's comes out (thanks Dr. D) I posted it since at least one person said they'd be just as offended if one were published. Funny thing, since one is a magazine cover and the other 'just' a comic, they're not the same, at least according to people there. That would be moral relativism in action for you.

Friday, July 18, 2008

When Good Things Happen To Good People

I've been mulling this post over in my head for the last few days and since my car won't start right now I might as well get my thoughts down before I forget what it was I was going to share. There are two fellow teachers whose blogs I follow that finally got some good news after months (if not years) of frustration and setbacks.

California Teacher Guy: He just found a job at a school in Northern California. He's been bouncing around schools as a special education teacher for the past few years. Last year he taught at the Jewel of the Desert School and was a victim of cutbacks in the district. In addition, his blog is a must read for me and you could certainly do worse than to add him for your blog rolls.

Over at I am a teacher, Mr. G. finally found a classroom to call his own in Eastern Washington. He's been looking for steady work for way to long and at one point was ready to throw in the towel. In addition he is a huge Wizard of Oz fan and has a separate blog just for that book. His blog is also one I read on a regular basis, especially now that it's good news instead of more disappointment.

It was nice to see two of the good guys get a well deserved break. When you get a chance head over there and congratulate them.

Now I just need to get my car started and probably replace my battery. The desert heat is just murder on car batteries, and it has been about 3 years since the last time the battery bit the dust. Good thing my wife took the van this morning.

Update... The car has a new battery and is now running fine. The people at Wal-Mart even waived the $9.00 core charge. Needless to say I was very thankful.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Lie Clock

Got this in my email and thought it was worth passing along.

The Lie Clock

A man died and went to heaven. As he stood in front of St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, he saw a huge wall of clocks behind him.

He asked, 'What are all those clocks?'
St. Peter answered, 'Those are Lie-Clocks. Everyone on Earth has a Lie-Clock.Every time you lie the hands on your clock will move.'

'Oh,' said the man, 'whose clock is that?'

'That's Mother Teresa's. The hands have never moved, indicating that she never told a lie.'

'Incredible,' said the man. 'And whose clock is that one?'

St. Peter responded, 'That's Abraham Lincoln's clock. The hands have moved twice, telling us that Abe told only two lies in his entire life.'

'Where's Senator Obama's clock?' asked the man.

'Obama's clock is in Jesus' office. He's using it as a ceiling fan.'

Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's all my fault!

Over at Betsy's Page, she mentioned that in California the governator wants 8th graders to master algebra. Now while this is a noble sentiment, the reality is far different. I hit the comment link to see what the discussion was like and I ran into this gem by "Walt Vega"

"At what age do kids learn Algebra in Japan, China, Germany, France, Spain, Australia? American kids are stupid, thanks to American Teachers. Great job"

Now, I don't know about you, but that looked like an outright attack on all teachers, and I took a certain amount of umbrage at that statement, and responded thusly...

"Walt, with all due respect. Kiss my ass. You obviously have never been in a classroom as a teacher and have no clue what you're talking about. You know how many parents supply phone numbers that don't work? How many don't care? How many would rather buy booze and drugs instead of shoes and pencils for their kids? And yet it's my fault as a teacher? Hear that ringing? It's reality calling, you might want to answer."

Now, I admit I should not have told him to KMA but I was pretty pissed that he would blame all teachers for the problems that public education face in 2008. Plus I figured that Walt was a post and run troll who likes to flame and run. Well, Walt to his credit responded to my first comment...

As much as you would enjoy me kissing your ass I wouldn't dream of depriving your mom from using her mouth there and elsewhere on your body.
Personalizing it by attacking me is a sure sign you're a loser. You can't keep it substantive. Try to address the original issue. Show us what a smarty you are.
The better teachers know the horrendous state of "teaching" in the USA. It's inarguable.
Equally inarguable is the inverse relationship nationally between "teacher" salaries and student performance. It's grotesque. It's shameful.
Blame? Go ahead. Makes you look all the more foolish. It's people like you and the NEA/UFT that vote in the democrats who promulgate laws and programs to coddle teenage criminality, to promote illegal aliens sucking dry resources from schools and towns, and that lower standards of every conceivable kind.
Keep it up, genius."

Now, aside from the incestuous implications that I won't go into, it's clear that Walt has no clue about my personal feelings about teacher's unions or the reality that teachers face in the classroom everyday. This time I didn't reply right away until my temper had cooled down a bit...

"A. I hate the NEA with a passion. They have done more to hurt education that all the loser parents put together. I love the idea of voucher programs, school choice and charter schools. If it will truly help the kids learn, I'm all for it. As for illegals? Put the marines on the border.

B. You missed my point. So I'll lay it out again just for you. If you want kids to succeed, then you need parents who care. To often, the parents don't care and that attitude rubs off on the kids. When the parents care about their kid's education then the foundation for success gets laid.

C. I don't lower standards, sorry you have the wrong teacher.

D. Maybe you should get the facts straight before you attack me. You made it personal when you blamed all teachers without exception. If you're so smart you go teach and get back to me.

Jorg, you really do need those pedagogy classes. There is a huge amount of knowledge that you need just in the science of teaching. Lesson planning, classroom management, record keeping etc., are all vital to becoming a good teacher. Many states have an ARL (alternative route to license) so that people with a BS+ can start teaching right away and go to school to get the teaching part."

Now, I was pretty sure that I had made a point about crappy parents getting some of the blame, but I guess I was not obvious enough for Walt...

" You never made a point. There was nothing to miss.

A good carpenter never blames his tools. Deflecting your failure as a teacher to the parent must feel comforting, but it's bullshit and shows what a numskull you are. What's your next excuse; no parking?

If you want to get paid as a teacher, you should only receive a check if you've done your job. Whining not included. You don't teach. You collect (my) government money for arriving at your job site.

The immigrants were not famous for "caring" about education for the their children. School robbed them of income they needed just to survive.

Or are you referring to Negro kids (more specifically, their parent(s))?"

Now at this point it was fairly obvious to me that Walt's views are set in stone and that all teachers are racist pigs feeding at the public trough. He straight out says that teachers have no excuses at all for not properly teaching their students. Now I was not about to let the whole racist charge go without an answer so I responded with this...

"Exactly how much time have you spent as a teacher again? Tell you what Walt, since you're obviously so much more qualified to teach than either Betsy or myself, why don't you come to our schools and show us how it should be done.

And the school I last taught at was 55% hispanic, and I've seen this parental problem across racial lines, so your tactic of calling me a racist won't wash either.

I don't blame all parents for the trouble our schools face, I do blame the ones who couldn't care less about their kid's education and why that's my fault I still don't understand.

I do know this, that the more involved the parents are, the better the odds that the students will be successful and the inverse is also true.

If you wish to continue to blame teacher's for all the ills in public education go right ahead, it shows your lack of knowledge and your continual personal attacks show your lack of class."

Now I am going to let Walt know that I've posted this here so this conversation can continue if he wishes. I don't want to drag down Betsy's blog with this debate.