Tuesday, November 17, 2009

End of the streak...

So my streak of not writing up students ended last week. We had a tardy lockout and one of my students told me that if I did not let him in that he would not come to class. I didn't let him in and he was true to his word. What he didn't know is that I would make him pay a price for ditching my class. So I wrote him up and he got dean's detention anyway, which is what he would have gotten had he simply taken his ticket to detention. Id10t.

Speaking of id10ts there is second period, THAT class. I totally rearranged my room because they could not handle the way it was before. I gave two students detention last week because they would not shut their mouths, and that didn't help. So today I informed them that because they insist on acting like little kids I would treat them like little kids and the next time one of them opens their mouth they get detention. Mind you this is also my worst class academically as well. 2/3 of them are failing right now and they don't seem to care. Mass detentions seem to be in order for them.

That reminds me I have to write up another brain sturgeon (you guessed it 2nd period) for skipping two of my detentions. Now he is the dean's problem. The school policy is that students can reschedule one detention but once they blow that one off, then it goes to the dean's office.

On the bright side, I have a guest speaker coming in tomorrow for National GIS Day and he is going to do a presentation on the conquest of Guatemala. It should be a welcome break for my students to hear someone other than me speak. And the short story literature circles in my honors class is going very well. They are working on their group power point presentations and for the most part they are going well. And the mystery boxes went very well with them. Hopefully 5th and 6th period will do well with their mystery boxes as well.

What I really hope for is a turnaround for 2nd period. We'll see...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Big Red Binder

Tomorrow I have my meeting with my AP regarding my Big Red Binder. For those of you who don't teach in Las Vegas let me explain. The Big Red Binder is where you keep your lesson plans, your attendance sheets and other related items. To the administration and the district, The Big Red Binder is a very big deal. They are supposed to be able to come into your room while you are teaching, open up The Big Red Binder and follow along with the lesson via the plans. Your attendance sheets are supposed to be uber accurate as well so you end up having to write in new students and crossing out the ones that have dropped your class in pen. The school prints out new sheets on a monthly basis to reflect your enrollment. Some schools also have you put your sub plans in there as well. I'm not sure if I have to do it here but I have the room. Did I mention the binders are BIG? Like with those huge 5 inch rings big. So for the last two days I have been putting The Big Red Binder in order. Now I did have the lesson plans in there already but I split them into the three sections and rearranged the order to make it easier to read. I also put in all the attendance print outs and tomorrow during my prep I'll go through the most recent one and add the new students while crossing out the ones who are no longer there. Hopefully I will have done it correctly. We'll see. I also need to finish up my emergency sub plans. I have four of the five days done and I should have the last one done tonight.

In other news I finished The Yellow Wallpaper with the two classes who were reading it. I am SO doing this story every year. The students seemed to enjoy it, even if they were grossed out and a bit confused at times. The honors kids also enjoyed hearing about why she wrote the story, although my other class would not shut up long enough for me to let them know so they missed out.

Finally I started calling parents tonight. One call was to check in on a suspended student to see if they needed more homework. One was because the kid wanted to sleep in class for the last two days and the last was because he likes to wear his pants below his buttocks. Tomorrow will be round two of the calls.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Quarter 1

Is done and in the books. Today I asked my students to write about what went right and wrong for them in the last eight weeks. Among the usual things such as not liking their seats, boring stories and promising to try harder next quarter, I saw a couple of interesting things. One of the first things that I noticed with some concern is the fact that the students think the class is easy. I am glad that I had only a few students fail, but I am concerned that they didn't really earn their grades. Now I know a couple of students mentioned that I explain things really well so they don't get confused but I worry at the thought of easy. Is it easy because I explain the lessons so well or is it easy because my standards are too low? I want them to succeed but I want them to learn. I didn't do a bunch of big projects for most of my classes but I will do more this quarter than just the active reading and the narrative.

The other thing was the response I got from a student who said "You make me like English!"

And that is why I teach.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hey Mister!

I hate getting a cold. It's bad enough when you have a regular job, but it really sucks when you're a teacher. You can't go through the motions or just call in sick. That means a wasted instructional day and they're precious enough as it is. So this week has been a bit of a challenge to say the least. Fortunately most of my students got the hint about me not putting up with any crap due to my sickness.

And even more fortunately for me, I had the audio version of the story we were reading. "The Cask of Amontillado" so I could simply play the mp3 file and then stop it to have quick discussions. Today I was planning on just finishing the last few minutes and then doing a catch up day. That changed when my AP showed up unannounced to observe me for most of the period. I instantly switched gears (good thing I had not announced my plan) and actually taught the rest of the story along with the audio file. The class did really well today and we had a good discussion.

Near the end of class while the AP was writing furiously in her notes with her head on her arm a student on the other side of the classroom raised his hand to ask a question and when I walked over to him to see what the problem was, he looked over at the AP (Assistant Principal) and said quite seriously, "Hey Mister, why is that lady sleeping?". With a concealed smile I told him that she was awake and was writing some notes. That seemed to satisfy him and he went back to work. When I saw my AP later in the day I relayed the conversation to her and she got a big grin out of it as she headed off to lunch duty.

It was not until later that I realized that the unspoken question was really "Hey Mister, why are you letting her sleep?" I'm infamous for kicking desks to wake up students who are sleeping. Although I have occasionally let sick students alone. I'm firm not a monster after all and the students are pretty good about knowing the difference between the two.

So far that has been the funniest thing that's happened this year!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Gah

So I was talking to my DC today and he had some bad news. Apparently those tests that I had my students take for the last two days were the wrong ones. Oh, they were English I tests and they were most certainly the interim tests for the fall, the problem is that they were the wrong year. Of course nobody told either the DC or the AP. The county finally got around to sending us the right books. Nice, huh? Now all my students have to retake the test a second time which means I lose two more instructional days because of this snafu. Now I am a bit annoyed but what can I do? Yell and scream? That would be your tax dollars at work for you.

At least the quarter is ending on the 21st of this month and then we start everything again. I am so glad I had that internship last year because I'm not nearly as flustered as I would have been had this been my first year. And I get a three day weekend at the end of the month due to Nevada Day! I'll take it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Flexibility

It's a must have for teachers. You have to be able to adapt your lessons on the fly and be able to reschedule interm assessments from next week to say... tomorrow and Wednesday. Yea, gotta love the schedule shuffling by the powers that be. But I was the good soldier in the hope that when I need some consideration that I'll get it. Plus my Department Chair promised me that this would not haunt me come evaluation time. So after I was done complaining (just so I'd feel better) to my DC, I realized as I was driving home that this could actually work to my advantage.

I am desperately behind on my grading and filing and having two whole days where my students aren't actually turning anything in will give me the chance to get caught up on both. And it will also allow me to get the lessons I had planned over the weekend fine tuned and the copies of the graphic organizers made so I can continue the lessons on active reading.

Finally, my room is all decorated for Halloween and the kids thought it was really cool that I took the time to decorate my room. Apparently I was one of the few teachers who did decorate their classrooms. And if they think it looks cool now, wait until Christmas!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Halloween

Halloween is coming up shortly and my room is almost decorated. I had to run to the Dollar Tree to pick up just a few more things for my back wall which is almost totally bare at this point. The rest of the room looks pretty good. I have up the fake cobwebs in areas that cannot be easily reached by the students, the window clings, my Peanuts Great Pumpkin Display, spiders, skulls and various other items to add some atmosphere to my room.

I just need to find my spooky sounds CD so I can put it on my PC at school so when we read our short stories I can have a bit of extra atmosphere. The stories I am planning on doing this month are "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Yellow Wallpaper" . I had been thinking about doing "The Telltale Heart", but I didn't want to subject them to that story yet again, nor did I have enough copies of "Dracula", "Frankenstein" or any of the other classics of the horror genre to use in the classroom. In addition, I don't want to overdo it when it comes to reading fiction so I'm also mixing in some current events articles ranging from sports to news and politics. I still have not had time to chase down anything relating to music etc, but I will at some point.

Since we celebrate Nevada Day the last Friday of October I'll be showing "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" the last half of class on the 29th just to give the kids a short break.

No, no costumes for me, I'm scary enough as it is...

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Rants and Raves

Why is it when students leave your class because their schedule got changed nobody informs the teacher? I mean I'm trying to do attendance and yesterday my students were there in SASI. Then today? Nothing, no emails, no forms to sign, no notifications in SASI that they had dropped. It looked like it they just fell off the face of the earth. I had to trek down to the attendance office to find out that yes, these two students are now in another class. So I then had to trek up to the 2nd floor office to tell them what happened so that the Assistant Principal (AP) could talk to the counselors about proper flipping procedures. I realize that I'm just a teacher but a heads up would be nice.

Now for the rave part. I'm currently teaching my honors students the skill of active reading and will start teaching it to my regular classes tomorrow. We're working on free response where at the end of every paragraph they jot down some thoughts, questions ect. on what they have just read. This is a continuation of the prereading I did yesterday featuring news articles and posts by bloggers such as The Other McCain, Buckhorn Road, and Jammie Wearing Fool. The goal was to read the headline, make a prediction about what they thought they were going to read and then write down if they were correct or not. The article about Polanski still had most of the class torqued up at Polanski's rape of that girl. So today I used an article from Fox News online that talked about how Medicare knowingly pays too much for equipment and boy did I get a reaction to that article from my students. Here are my favorites...

  1. What is wrong with congress?
  2. These congressmen must be stupid...
  3. It gets me irritated that they keep on wasting money. I find it very stupid
  4. The two guys that are congressmen are pigs.
  5. So much money they could save and their wasting it. It's absolutely pointless and stupid.
  6. And my favorite... This is f*****g c**p (yes they did write it with the stars)
I'm hoping that my regular classes give me similar reactions to all that wasted money. I was also able to rearrange my seats so that my room no longer looks like it belongs in a reform school. It's not perfect but it's a vast improvement on what I had. I may even be able to lose some desks and create enough room for beanbags!

Those are 9th graders in case you're curious. They liked it the last time I brought in current events so I am going to continue to bring them in on a regular basis.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Duh

Yet another awe inspiring title from yours truly. I was stressing about teaching reading strategies and I did get some good pre-reading strategies from my AP who used to teach reading before she crossed over to the dark side of administration. Bless them, because I have less than no desire to get into administration. I'd rather just teach thank you very much.

Anyway as I was driving home from school I remembered that I had a binder full of active reading strategies that I learned during training last year. Which is where my brilliant title comes from... Duh! Why not use one of them? Hello! McFly! Anyone home? And to think I'm a licensed teacher to boot!

So what I came up with was to combine what I got from my AP with what I had in my binder. I'm going to use headlines from articles in the Las Vegas Review Journal and The Wall Street Journal, with the writings of blogs that I follow on a regular basis.

Buckhorn Road wrote about how Astroturf is not all it's cracked up to be, especially when it's hot outside.

Jammie Wearing Fool has an update on the Roman Polanski scandal.

And finally The Other McCain discusses his 'appearance' on Meet The Press. And when did become OK to not have proof to back up charges of racism in this country anyway?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In need of a title

Seriously, I have no clue what to title this one. Yea, anyway my observation went pretty well and the classes' personalities are starting to become crystal clear. And I also need to get them to read more nonfiction text which they will be doing in the next couple of weeks once I get the lesson planning done for them. Oh and I have to come up with emergency sub plans as well. I have two days done and Karlana was nice enough to send me some of hers. Stop by her blog when you get the chance, she writes on a plethora of different subjects and does it well.

1st period is your typical class, some kids who should be in honors and some who couldn't care any less about passing not to mention a few who cannot show up on time, ever. Academically they're doing OK but not great. I don't really have any meatballs though so it's a pretty good class to start with.

2nd period is my Excedrin class in spades, it already had more than it's share of chuckleheads and then they added 10 more students for a grand total of 41 kids. I am now on seating chart #4 and we've been in school for 5 or 6 weeks. Whereas 1st period is going to do group work, 2nd period isn't because they could not stay quiet for independent reading. And surprise, their grades as a class suck eggs. Rotten eggs. Looks like the Siberia seats will get some use from them tomorrow.

My honors class is what you would expect of honors students, bright kids who talk fast and work harder. Today they began their mystery box assignment and tomorrow when they finish "The Most Dangerous Game" they'll start "She Unnames Them" and then it's off to short story literacy groups. That's where a group will pick a story to read then fill out the elements worksheet and then will start creating power point presentations to teach the rest of the class about the story they read. I just hope all the freedom I am going to give them does not come back to bite me in the gradebook so to speak. I am also going to have them read some nonfiction work.

5th period is like 3rd period except they are a regular class but I only have 2 kids who are failing and their class grade is right there with the honors kids. They'll be doing lots of group work as well I think. I may just give them the same (or similar) work as the honors and see what happens. I am going to loosen the leash on them as well and see how they do. Library, here we come! Pray for the librarian if you can though!

6th period is between 5th and 1st. I think if I had them at a different point of the day they would really shine but it's the last class of the day and they are kinda done with school at that point but I have some GREAT kids that day. Their grades are pretty good as well.

What I really want is to have a class where there are no F's and few D's and with my honors kids and with 5th period I just may get my wish as I have only a couple of kids who are failing in either class.

I also need to mention that one of the nonfiction texts my students are going to read is by Mary Baker who wrote a very compelling article about why she no longer considers herself an African American. My honors and 5th period will read that one, discuss and write about it and my other three classes will read a shorter piece by Teddy Roosevelt talking about what it means to be an American without the hyphen. Credit goes to Saberpoint for posting it in all it's un-hypenated glory. It's shorter than the Mary Baker piece but has the same message about the importance of simply being an American regardless of where you immigrated to this country from. It's a message some of these kids sorely need to learn.

Speaking of Teddy, here is my favorite quote of his. Feel free to mention it next time you get called an '-ist' for criticizing the President...

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Observation

I knew this day was coming, the day that my supervisor would come in and observe my class while I teach my students. Tomorrow (possibly Wednesday) is the day of my first observation and to say I am stressed is a bit of an understatement!

For those of you who don't understand let me explain. In education, instead of the normal review with your supervisor where you fill out your form and your boss does theirs and you meet and hash it out, your supervisor (usually the principal or vice-principal) will sit in your class and observe you teach. They will look at your lesson plans, the setup of your classroom, what you have up on your white/chalk boards and even how you have decorated your classroom. They do this several times during the year depending on where you are in your career. Then they will discuss their observations with you at the end of the year and give you your review.

The only way I can get off the probationary list is to get high marks on my observations, and if after two years I don't get off of probation, I have to find a new career.

I think I have everything set for this week but I'm sure I forgot something. I need to do some emergency sub plans to put in my big binder and give to the office.

The joys of teaching.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Switching Units

So today I switched units with my classes. The two classes that were doing short stories are now starting the narrative writing unit and the ones doing the writing are now starting the short stories. One of the things I forgot to account for was my honors class. Silly me thinking that they would just plod along reading "Two Kinds" for three or four days like my regular classes! Looks like tomorrow they are going to work in groups and do the elements worksheets as they read. I figure they should finish it by Monday at the latest and then we can do short story literature groups. Of course I have not written up the plans for it yet, but what the hell, I'll come up with something and make it work. Now I need to reserve the computer lab for them so they can teach the rest of the class about they story they read as a group. Plus I need to reserve time in the library since the librarian dropped the hint that she had not seen me with my students yet. Some English teacher I am! Finally, I had a chat with the soccer coach about two of my students who could not figure out what 'no talking' meant. Today along with the teenage death stare I got silence from both of them, and the football player who was acting like a meatball is now passing with a solid C (from a 40% F) and actually pays attention the whole period. Yay for coaches!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bad Timing

Sigh, the timing for the transferring of 160 students to the other English 1 teachers came at the worst possible time. Because we did not make our enrollment numbers we lost an English Teacher and a support staff position. So now that I am two days from finishing up a 2 1/2 week unit on narrative writing and a short story unit of the same length. I now have between 5-8 new students in my regular classes (none for my honors class but I have plenty of honors students in my regular classes) and have to find something for them to do for the next couple of days. At least for the writing part I found some quick narrative prompts so I can get an idea of their ability. As far as the short stories go, they'll just have to catch up on 'The Most Dangerous Game" and then we'll start on the writing unit.

I can't help but wonder that if the CCEA had not fought so hard for the raises due teachers this year, that some of the positions would not have been eliminated, but hey it's all about the students, right?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Progress Reports

Updates below!

I love it when I get warned about little things like progress reports, so I am not thrilled that I didn't find out until Thursday afternoon that progress reports grades are due on Monday. Normally I give my students fair warning so the ones who care and turn in missing work in their classes and keep their phones. So today after school I spent 2 hours trying to get missing work put together for my classes. I got first and part of second period done and on Monday I'll get the other ones done. Monday will be a make up work party along with working on their regularly scheduled work. I will probably be printing out extra reports to keep students out of trouble. They will get a 25% penalty for the really late work but the students seem to like the idea that they can still get a decent grade for late work and I like not having all the 'mi' for missing in my grade book.

There is also the rumor that a position is not going to be filled so that all the English classes are going to be much bigger than before. I'm not exactly thrilled about this rumor because I don't need 5 classes with 45 students each in them. I already have THAT class to deal with, you know the one that drives you to drink? It's 2nd period and I'll be changing their seats this weekend and hope this works along with some phone calls next week. At least I finally got my attendance program this week which had made my life much easier.

Update #1: My posters came in today. So on Monday along with the college pennants (all of the PAC-10 schools, thanks Dick!) to hang up I will also hang up my 'Victims of Che' poster as well as my Friedrich Hayek poster, after I laminate them of course. Go me!

Update #2: The rumors are true and now I'll have at least 40 kids per class. Looks like I'll have to go back over the procedures again. What really sucks is that I am finishing up a unit on narrative writing as well as a unit on short stories that many of my students will miss and I will have to figure out some way to get them caught up before the super important mid term assessments in a few weeks. Man, that is really going to throw a wrench into my plans.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Open House

Man are my feet SORE. I guess standing up from 7 am to 1:30pm and then from 6-8pm will do that to you. I ended up with 25 students coming in with their parents and three or four more who came without their parents. That's not bad for high school. The parents were very nice and the snacks and juice were a big hit. Plus my daughter came with me and made $10 for watching an infant for a fellow teacher who could not find a sitter. Classy gal she is, just don't tell her...

I am continually impressed by how smart my students are in my class. I wish everyone would stop slamming today's students because they are way smarter than we give them credit for. I'm amazed that some of them keep coming to school with the fact their home lives are a tire fire.

The problem is that now I am a day behind on grading and it's going to get worse because I have training tomorrow so grading is shot for tomorrow as well. Can you say 'burn the midnight oil'? I knew you could! If people knew how many hours teachers put in they would stop bitching about what kind of money we make. I easily put in 55 hours a week, sometimes more, including nights, weekends and holidays.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Another Mystery

I'm not sure why, but out of my four regular English 1 classes, the last two periods are doing better as a class than the first two periods. Here are the class averages by period as of yesterday.

Period 1: 54.4% with 17 Fs
Period 2: 50.7% with 16 Fs
Period 5: 67.2% with 7 Fs
Period 6: 66.4% with 9Fs

I have 4th period prep and 3rd period is my honors class. You would think that 5th and 6th period because they are late in the day would be hanging off the walls and not doing any work but that really isn't the case. I am getting more makeup work in today as well which is nice. Late work is the bane of teachers and I still have yet to find a system that works for me and that will induce the maximum number of students to turn it in. I've tried the 'if it's late it's a zero' tactic, the 'just turn it in' tactic, and the 'turn it in for 50% credit' tactic and they have all failed. This year I am trying something new. They get dinged 5% per day until they lose 25% of their grade and it seems to be working. The fact that they can turn it in and get a 'C' is doing the trick so far. It does punish them for turning it late, but not so much that it's not worth it to them. I remember when I was in high school (was it really more than 20 years?) and that if I could only get 50% credit, it simply was not worth my time.

Tomorrow is open house at our school, and like last year I have resorted to bribery to get my students to come to open house. I told them that if they show up and sign in with their parents they get 10 extra credit points. Last year, when I was interning at the prep school I literally had 8 or 9 parents tell me their kids dragged them to the open house just so they could get their points. Hell, if it worked there, it should work here. Plus I am making walking taco dip as well as a snack for anyone who comes by. Well, actually my wife is doing that for me.

At least I'll eat well tomorrow night!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Rude Shock

Some of my students are in for a rude shock this week. I posted grades on the uber ugly bulletin board that were just as ugly. Why they can't do or turn in a quick write that is done at the beginning of class is a mystery that even Sherlock Holmes can't solve. I even have a couple of honors students who have literally a 0% in my class right now.

What is sad is that there is no reason for my students to be failing at this point. My quick writes are easy points and they students have a good amount of leeway in how they approach their assignments.

My hope is that posting the grades and switching the seats will light a fire under some of these students.

Speaking of rude shocks, we had two fire alarms go off this week, 10 minutes before school started. Yesterday was not bad but this morning I was literally under the alarm when it went off. Can you say 'instant headache'? I knew you could. Then I had this donkey of a student who walked back onto campus sporting a nice baseball cap. The problem is that you are not allowed to wear your cap on campus. I kindly asked this young man to take off his cap and got ignored. I repeated my request "Sir, would you please remove your hat?" and was told 'no'. Wrong answer... I then asked him for the cap, "you're not getting my cap!" Strike two! OK, then you're going to have to give it to the dean. "No, I'm not!" And you're out! I then continue to follow him around campus and continue to ask him to go to the dean's office and he continues to refuse. I signal one of the administration to let them know and they start to move in. All this time we've gone to the two story building to the 2nd floor, across the walkway where the principal shouts to me that she wants to talk to him "No, I'm going to class!" and then across to the three story building where he is finally corralled by one of the security monitors. I hope to find out what happened to him tomorrow.

And finally we have a pep rally on Friday, what's the over/under on cell phone confiscations? I am done playing with these kids, either they play by the rules or they pay the price. I plan on bringing a bunch of ziplock bags to stick the phones and iPods in with the form.

A Rude Shock Indeed...

Friday, September 04, 2009

'The Speech'

Ever since this whole firestorm about Obama's speech started, I've been wrestling with how to approach this without destroying my plans for the week and without knowing what to do with the rest of my classes for the day.

Fortunately Dr. Rulffes helped me out with that one. He sent an email to everyone saying that the speech was not mandatory and that it would be archived for future use. His reasoning was that the speech was all well and good but only if it does not interfere with the day to day teaching. (Plus any parent who wants their child not to hear the speech can opt out, my daughter will watch the speech but she will do so with an open mind!) So what I am going to do is to watch the speech at a later time and then design my own lesson to use at a later date.

For once everyone wins!

Update: I found the text of his speech at Politico. Had President Obama released his text with the announcement this would not have been the firestorm that it was. You'd think that someone as smart as he is would have anticipated the concern this speech would cause amoung those on the right side of the aisle and done something to assuage those fears, but hey, I'm just an English teacher.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

End of the honeymoon

No, not the one Obama had with the country although you might be right about that as well. I'm talking about the one in the classroom when the students start testing the teachers and staff to see what they can get away with.

Today there was a Freshmen assembly in the gym and to say is was a mess is an understatement of biblical proportions. There was talking, flirting, sagging and oh yes, texting a plenty! I spent the entire assembly stalking the bleachers keeping the phones hidden and the shorts up.

When we got back to class I let my students know just how I felt. I told them that how they act in an assembly reflects personally on me and that I wasn't going to have any nonsense and that it did not matter if they were in my class or not, they're my students and I expect them to behave properly.

I've also get seven students in first period who think I'm kidding about tardies and detention, boy are they in for a shock tomorrow morning when they get in and receive their prize for failing to show up on time. One kid already has three tardies in eight days, which means he gets a phone call home as well. What's sad is in my other four classes I don't have kids showing up late, maybe 3 or 4 out of 35-40 students per class have 1 tardy which is not bad.

Finally I was able to get rid of three desks in my room which has allowed me to create a couple of 'Siberia' seats for the kids who can't figure out the rules, all three of them. Tomorrow some of my students will enjoy their trip to Western Russia, I'll let you know how their tours go.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Today was a good day...

Yea, I know it's still the honeymoon period when kids pretend to like you and try, but it was still a good day. The first week or so where I teach is kind of a loss because kids are moving in and out of your room so frequently that long term projects/homework is pretty much out. So today I was planning on doing some writing assessment. One of my fellow teachers had found this one online from New York State.

Prompt: Youʼve been in school for most of your life, so you know different teachers decorate their classrooms in different manners. Think of your ideal of the perfect classroom. Is it colorful? Does it have desks or tables? What does it look like? How does it smell? Are there any sounds in it? Write an essay describing your idea of the perfect classroom. Your teacher may even incorporate some of your ideas into the room!

Now if you fell asleep in your Fruit Loops I don't blame you. So after first period, I started to interject a bit of commentary into the prompt to get them to look at it in a different light.

Prompt: Youʼve been in school for most of your life (well duh!), so you know different teachers decorate their classrooms in different manners (gee, ya think?). Think of your ideal of the perfect classroom (who the heck wrote this sentence anyway?). Is it colorful? Does it have desks or tables? What does it look like? How does it smell?(please don't tell me how it smells!) Are there any sounds in it? Write an essay describing your idea of the perfect classroom. Your teacher may even incorporate some of your ideas into the room!

In addition to my commentary (yes I aced my sarcasm classes!), we talked about things that kids liked to see in the classroom and then expanded it to different classes such as auto shop, art, music and PE. I loved watching them write down ideas and then start their drafts. When asked how long to make it I told them to completely cover the material. What I hope is that when they write about what is interesting to them, the length will come naturally and so far, so good. Tomorrow we finish the drafts, do some peer reviews and then start the final draft.

Now it's your turn... What do you like to see in a classroom?

Update #1: Looks like I need to get me some bean bag chairs! And more lava lamps too! Amazing what happens when you give students options...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Taking part in the process

I'm sure that all of you have heard the mantra of "Contact your Senator etc." when you have issues with what they are doing. Today I did just that. While surfing on the web (and watching my son play Mater-National on the Wii, I found an easy way to contact our representatives and senators. So I decided to let my rep, Shelly Berkley, know how I felt about the health care plan currently in the house.

"I am writing to express my opposition to the health care plan currently put forth in the House of Representatives. I believe that it is nothing more than a government take over of the health care industry and will make things worse and not better. I am going to get to the point, if you vote for this bill not only will I not vote for you again, I will actively campaign to defeat you in every election until you leave office. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further. Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Sincerely,

Desert Art Guy"

Now I don't know if she is going to respond, since she supports is and I oppose it, but at least she knows that if she supports it, she loses my vote.

PS Here is the link in case you need it. http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Sunday, August 16, 2009

1 Week

Yep, one week until school starts and I am totally overwhelmed. Now I do have my classroom 90% set up and I've met many of the other English teachers at my new school. But I have no unit plans, no teacher edition of the writing book for my room and the novels we use to teach may or may not actually exist on campus. Add in the fact that I don't yet have the template for the lesson plans, roster sheets and only a vague idea of what stories I can teach (so I don't mess up the other English classes) and you can see why sleep has been fleeting.

It's not like I don't have lesson plans either, but they are not in the right format and not in anything that resembles units yet. I'm not sure if 1 week is going to be enough time to really get everything together for the first day of school.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

One of those days

I had this great plan for the day and well, it didn't quite go as planned. My plan was to sleep in, work on my room and then go to McDonald's before heading home to relax with the kids. Yea, that was the plan anyway! My son woke up at 6:30 because he had a bad dream, they were waxing the floor at the school so I could not get anything done and so in reality we went to McDonald's and then went home where I entertained my son while my daughter played Wizard 101. So much for my plans. I also heard that CCSD has banned refrigerators in the classroom so I don't know if I'll be able to bring up my mini fridge after all. I may just bring it anyway and put it in an out of the way area. I see so many fridges in classrooms that it may be one of the things that is 'illegal' but ignored.

I did take the literature book and writing book home with me to look through yesterday. It looks like I may actually get some use out of it. It had some stories that I knew and liked such as "The Most Dangerous Game" and "Two Kinds". It's a good thing I have a short story elements worksheet that I took with me from my old school last year. All I have to do is change the name of the story and print it out. I won't do it every time but it's a good way to teach things like conflict, plot elements, and the like. I just hope that I will be able to teach some of my favorite stories like "A Jury of Her Peers" and "The Yellow Wallpaper". It depends on the rest of the 9th Grade English teachers though.

It will be kind of strange coordinating everything with other teachers when I was at the charter school I had total freedom, and when I was just a student teacher, coordination was something that I didn't have to worry about. I was just there to observe and learn.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Red Eye

I am typing this in Detroit Michigan waiting for my connecting flight to Marquette where I will be on vacation for the next week. We took the redeye from Las Vegas and it is currently 6:03 AM I have now been up for about 23 hours so if I mess up some spelling or make a grammar error that's why. There were two wi-fi options here one was free and one was not guess which one I picked? Is Detroit so broke they charge for wi-fi now? Sheesh, Las Vegas is hurting and McCarran had free wi-fi there.

So tomorrow we celebrate my grandfather's 90th birthday party and then we'll visit my grandmother later this week to celebrate her 90th birthday party. There must be something in the water up there that makes them live long lives. So for the next week it's relax, swim, and enjoy myself.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Diversity

It's the favorite word of the left, but while diversity of sex or skin color is important, what about intellectual diversity? How about a diversity of views and opinions? One of the problems with education is the fact that so many educators are left of center at best. Why so few moderates or conservatives? Is it because they have been scared away or simply driven out of their fields by the left? Is is because most people who are on the right side of the political side of the fence are in private industry? And education is not the only place where this lack of diversity exists, the media is overwhelmingly liberal and if you doubt me then why is Sarah Palin not defended by a supposedly impartial press when her AND her family is subject to constant abuse. I mean if a liberal had a child with Downs Syndrome and some attack was made on them could you imagine the firestorm?

I bring up ideological diversity because of an article I found on line talking about a student (who is a liberal) who is disturbed by the lack of intellectual diversity at their campus, and the nasty reaction they got when they published an article about this fact, and the comment I got in my previous post asking about giving both sides, in a way I'll be giving the other side and I may be the only conservative voice they hear this year. During the election last year there were only two teachers at the middle school where I taught out of 12 how voted for McCain and I have found that schools here are usually 75% liberal if not more so I know I am going to be in the minority.

Ah well, such is life.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I have an issue...

And it has to do with decorating my room. You see all English rooms look pretty much the same. Posters of famous writers, genre posters, writing traits, a spot for student's work (I'm OK with that) etc... The details change but you KNOW you're in an English room and that's the problem. I don't want just another English classroom. I plan on bringing in politics, current affairs, popular culture and more. If a student doesn't know by 9th grade the difference between a mystery and science fiction, Putting up this isn't going to help much:


If they've ignored it for the last 4 or 5 years why would they suddenly pay attention now, not to mention that it's just to juvenile for 9th graders, sheesh.

















I'd rather put up a poster more like this:


Che is something of a pop culture icon, but most kids have no idea about the real story of this murdering b*****d and the bloody legacy he left behind. This at least has the potential to make them think. Because the poster is made up of some (but not all) of the people that he executed in Cuba.













And I am definately going to have something like this in my room:

Many of my students will have some memories of this day but I want to remind them of what happened and why on 9/11/01. Again this type of poster will be there to make them use their brains. That is why they are in school after all. They'll be old enough to vote in a few years and I want them to be as informed as possible.














This one is also a must have for my room:


Need I say more? Actions do have consequences after all...











Needless to say the last thing I want is to have just another English room.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

9th Grade English

That's what I'll be teaching come this fall. I apologize for not updating what was going on but life and the 4th got in the way. Today I signed my conditional (pass background check for the 800th time) acceptance of the offer to teach at a local HS. This school is urban and will be a Title 1 school in the near future. It's also one of the oldest HS in the area although they have done a nice job renovating it. I'll be teaching 4 regular sections and one honors section of English and I am very excited about it. It will be an interesting switch to go back to high school after spending the last year and a half at the middle school level.

I'm already thinking about how to decorate my room...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Job Hunt

So on my last post I had been waiting to confirm the teaching position that I was offered while on vacation in California. (PS go visit the Charles Schultz Museum!) The bad news is that I didn't get that job. The good news is that on the way home from California I got a call from an assistant principal asking me if I would be interested in teaching High School English so I made an appointment to interview while on the road home. The interview went very well and after the interview at a third school fell through I felt that it was time to pull the trigger. My next chore (pun intended) was to turn in my application for my license.

Easy right?

Not so fast... I needed a couple of things first before I could go down to the office and make everything official. I needed to get fingerprinted and I needed to get a money order for $161.00 for the license or so I thought. I also needed my transcripts of which I have plenty and I was off to the races. Now because I am cheap I went to one of those payday loan places that does not charge for money orders. There was one literally 3 minutes from my house so that's where I went first. Of course they moved their location down the street, about five miles from one end of Rancho to the other. So I track them down and then find out that you can no longer use your debit card for money orders so I head up the street to the bank pull out $180.00 and get my money order.

Only when she is counting the change that I realize that I should have pulled out $200.00 because the fee for the license is $161.00 so I am short a dollar for my fingerprinting. (which is why I teach English and not math) So I then head across town to the fingerprinting place aiming to hit the bank along the way to put in the $19.00 I have and withdraw $20.00 for the finger prints. Mind you the fingerprinting place is across the town from where I am and it's already 100 outside. I make my way across town find a bank and then get the proper amount for the fingerprints. Then I realize that I need gas and detour to make sure I don't have to spend the rest of the day walking. I finally (90 minutes later) hit the fingerprinting place and while waiting for my number to be called my daughter calls me up. Mind you she is watching my son so you can just imagine what's going through my mind when I see my home number pop up. I tell her I will call her back and when I finish my two sets of prints I call her back and breathe a sigh of relief when she wants to know how long to nuke a corn dog for my son.

So fingerprints in hand so to speak I hop into the mom-mobile (aka minivan) to drive across the valley again to the licensing office to get my license. I arrive at the location listed and don't see the office anywhere. After searching for a good 10 minutes I call them and find out they are on the second floor of the realty building (No there was no sign anywhere on the outside) park the mom-mobile and head up the stairs to the office. After a 20 minute wait it's my turn and I hand the clerk my paperwork, money order etc. She starts to type in my name and then stops when she sees that I still have a valid substitute license. She tells me that because I already have a license all I need to do is add the endorsement to that one and I am good to go. This was good news and bad news. The good news is that an additional endorsement costs a mere $50 and not $161. The bad news is that I have to get a money order for $50 not to mention the $20 I didn't need to spend on the fingerprinting. At that point I had already been on the road for 3 hours and I was at least 30 minutes from home so I decided to go home and finish up the next day.

So the next morning my son and I hop in the mom-mobile and drive to the bank for the cash (and deposit the $161 back in the bank) so we could then go get the money order so we could get my endorsement added to the license. That took about 2 hours so as a reward I took him to McDonald's for lunch.

Thank God that's over with!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Distance Blogging

This week my family and I are in Northern California visiting my in laws and getting a few days of time with just my wife. The kids are really enjoying themselves and it's nice to see the color green as in green grass, green trees etc. The kids get to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and spend the night at the Asilomar Campgrounds on the beach. My wife and I get to go to wine country and will probably visit the Peanuts Museum as well. If you ever visit that part of California make sure you visit the aquarium because it's an all day event.

On the job front I left a message for the principal of the middle school to call me back so I can tell her that I really want the job. I knew I would take the job because I had started to think about lessons and how to take advantage of the technology at the school while driving from Lost Wages to the Bay Area. The clincher was when I did some research on the school and found out it was a 2008 Title 1 Distinguished School in the State of Nevada as well as getting recognized as a high achieving school for closing the achievement gap.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Wild Morning

So today started out as a normal day. My son and I were relaxing by playing Lego Star Wars II (OK I was playing and he was watching, the game was his idea) and my daughter was still sleeping. The only irritating thing was the phone would not stop ringing! My wife called which was cool, her and my son talked on the phone and put a smile on both of their faces, then it was call after call. Needless to say I was getting irritated and I was tempted to let the answering machine do it's thing, but I decided to answer it one last time. Good thing I did because it was a middle school principal asking if I was interested in an open position this fall and when could I come in for an interview. Now the interview part was the tricky part since I was the one staying at home. I relayed this to the principal who replied that it would be fine to bring them along, that this was an informal interview. So I then had 45 minutes to shower, get two kids dressed and get the three of us down to the school for this 'informal interview'.

Somehow I managed to arrive on campus right on time, kids dressed and on their best behavior even. The position is for 8th grade English at a Title 1 school in a mainly hispanic area of North Town. The school itself is old and has heating and A/C issues (what school does not?) but it also has plenty of technology and the class sizes will still be in the 30s because of it's Title 1 status (literally 99% of the school is on free and reduced lunch). I also got so see what a classroom looks like and I got to meet the librarian who was very nice and kept the library in very nice shape.

As far as the Title 1 goes, that does not bother me I spent the last quarter last school year subbing at a Title 1 school and really enjoyed it. The school is not too far away which is nice and I like the fact that they have ELMOs and Smartboards as well as LCD projectors. Plus the principal hates weekly spelling words. It's one thing to have a vocab list that is specific to your lesson etc., but another entirely to simply have them memorize 20 more words. Total waste of time if you ask me. What I might do is to see if there is a montage of Bill O Riley's word of the day and use that as a bell ringer of some sort since his words are fairly uncommon and it would certainly be a change of pace for them.

I must have said something right to her because she offered me the job at the end of the interview. She told me to think about it and to get back to her next week, she is going to be out of town on Friday for a long weekend. Looks like I may have a job in the fall after all.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Reading

One of the benefits of being at home is getting to read more than usual and I have taken advantage of that by finishing up four books in the last few days. Two of them were historical and the other two were political.

As for the histories, I read Patton a short but interesting biography of the colorful and brilliant general from WWII and I also read The Coldest Winter the story about The Battle of The Bulge from the point of a platoon that bought the allies precious time and surrendered only after they ran out of ammunition. Both books were surprisingly good and easy to read. They were not my first choices to read because they were checked out but I was glad I took a chance on them.

On the political front, I finally got to read Bamboozled and Arrogance, two books that had been on my reading list for many a moon but had not been able to get to for various reasons. Both books were well researched and very informative to read. When I get the money I will add them both to my collection.

That leaves just one book that I checked out from the library that I have not finished. It's from Ray Bradbury and it's called From The Dust Returned and if it's half as good as Something Wicked This Way Comes it should be a really good book.

Tomorrow it's back to the library to return books and get some more. My daughter blew through most of the 13 books she checked out and I need to return mine as well.

I could get used to summers off...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I swear I was going to leave this one alone...

But I can't! A student on another site posted this in her journal and I can't get this tripe out of my head. So I thought I would post this here and put in my comments and let all of you have a crack at it as well. If you have actual research to back your points up it would be helpful for my ultimate reply to her on the other website. Oh and if I'm wrong on something let me know would you?

1. Hitler and Stalin committed heinous crimes because they were atheists.

This statement assumes that (1) they were both atheists and (2) they committed mass murder and other horrible crimes BECAUSE they were atheists. Assumption 1 is false for Hitler; he was a Catholic who hated Jews!(Get it right, please) Since assumption 1 is false, then assumption 2 is false as well.
Assumption 1 is true for Stalin; however, assumption 2 is false for Stalin, so assumption 1 is irrelevant. What matters is not whether Hitler and Stalin were atheists, but whether atheism systematically INFLUENCES people to do bad things. There is not a slightest evidence that it does.

This one irritates me because she erroneously paints Hitler as a practicing Catholic which is false. I grew up Catholic and I know for sure that nowhere in their teachings did exterminating foes come into play. I find it fascinating that most of the mass murderers were atheists once they rose to power.


2. Founding Fathers were Christians. America is a Christian nation.
:| Lack of knowledge in history cannot reveal itself so blatantly in this statement.
The founding fathers were SECULARISTS/DEISTS, men of ENLIGHTENMENT. Thomas Jefferson would eat you for breakfast if you said such thing!
The 1796 treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was "in no sense founded on the Christian religion", This was not an idle statement, meant to satisfy Muslims-- they believed it and meant it. This treaty was written under the presidency of George Washington and signed under the presidency of John Adams.
"The priests of the different religious sects...dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live." - THOMAS JEFFERSON

Where to start with this one? Maybe that George Washington was the Chaplin for his troops for the French and Indian war and that he spent an 2 hours a day studying the Bible and praying to God. Of course the quote is taken out of context as well. It meant that there was no established state church in the USA, not that is was not a Christian nation. An odd statement considering that 99% of the people in the US were Christian. I also know that most of the founding fathers were either Christians or Diests and that even Thomas Jefferson attended church on a regular basis.

3. Many renowned scientists, like Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking, are religious.
Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking certainly do NOT believe in a personal god. Einstein was always irritated when people called him a theist or religious. He wrote a famous paper justifying his statements "I do not believe in a personal God." in 1940.

"I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat of new kind of religion.
I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.
The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive."
- ALBERT EINSTEIN

This one I am going to leave alone although I find it hard to believe. I do know that until the last few decades most scientists had religious faith.

4. Atheism is a Denial of God That Requires Faith:
The most common misunderstanding about atheism is the definition. Many insist that atheism is really the denial of the existence of God, but there are two errors here. First, it pretends that atheism is exclusively about their god, the god common to Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Second, it focuses on a narrow sub-set of atheism and atheists to the exclusion of all others. Standard dictionary definitions list "denial of God or gods" second; first comes "disbelief in god or Gods." Disbelief is not the same as denial, it's either the absence of belief or the presence of skepticism.

Well, Atheists sure act like it's their religion they way they not only attack people of faith but try to convert people to their secular view. Secular Humanism is a belief system that acts like religion but is Atheist in nature.

5. Atheists Worship Satan, Themselves, Money, or Some Other God:
The claim that atheists replace worship of God with worship of something else ranges over man possible objects for worship: Satan, themselves, humanity, etc. In addition to being wrong, these myths share the belief that worship is somehow fundamental to human existence such that it simply isn't possible for a person to live a decent life without worshipping something. This is false, though. No matter how important religion or theism is to someone, this isn't a good reason to conclude that they are also important to everyone else, even those who deny having any god or religion.

Everyone worships something, it's human nature...

6. Atheists hate God/Christians and that is why they claim not to believe.

It's not a myth, has she actually read any of the books written by athiests? If they love believers they have a funny way of showing it!

7. More People Have Been Killed in the Name of Atheism & Secularism than Religion:
A common criticism raised by atheists against religion is how violent religion and religious believers have been in the past. People have slaughtered each other in large numbers because of differences in religious beliefs or because of other differences which are justified and intensified through religious rhetoric. Either way, religion has a lot of blood on its hands. Can the same be said for atheists and atheism? Haven't atheists killed more people in the name of atheism than religious theists have killed in the name of their religion? No: atheism isn't a philosophy or ideology.
"Imagine, with John Lennon, a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as 'Christ-killers', no Northern Ireland 'troubles', no 'honor killings', no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money ('God wants you to give until it hurts';). Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues, no public beheadings of blasphemers, no flogging of female skin for the crime of showing an inch of it." - RICHARD DAWKINS

Go look at how many people Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Stalin etc killed vs. how many died because of religion. It's not even close...


8. Atheism is a Product of Rebellion & Pride:
There are many myths about atheism and atheists which claim that people are atheists due to some sort of rebellion (against god, religion, church, families, fathers, etc.) or pride. These myths come primarily from Christians whose religious mythology gives an important place to rebellion against divine rules as the origin of evil in the world (Satan is depicted as having rebelled against God). At most, these myths might be true of some but not all or even most atheists; even if true, however, none of these myths would have any implications for the truth or reasonableness of atheism itself.

This one may actually be correct in some way. Everyone comes to faith in different ways so I would assume that Athiests come to thier non-faith in various ways.

9. You cannot prove that God doesn't exist; therefore, atheism is based on faith

Is the existence of "God" a subject which science cannot answer? That depends entirely on how "God" is defined by believers. Some can be proven or disproven empirically or logically and some cannot — but those which cannot are defined in ways which are too vague or incoherent to properly evaluate. In such cases, it also isn't very reasonable to believe in them, and religious theists are only fooling themselves if they think this is a way to avoid providing rational defenses of their claims.
Any alleged deity which is claimed to interact with the world we live in is a deity which should have empirical effects — and that constitutes potential evidence for or against the existence of said deity. Only gods without any impact on our world are beyond empirical investigation, but such gods are also without any real relevance for us. Even if they are somehow not unreasonable to believe in, they certainly aren't worth basing an entire life around.

I'm not sure this even makes sense so for now I will leave it be. I will say I have seen enough evidence in my life to make me a Christian and nothing to make me turn away from my faith.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Never Forget




Let us remember why we get a three day weekend, and it's not for BBQs, trips to the YMCA to swim or to spend time with our families. It's to honor those people who paid the ultimate price in defense of our country. To any veteran who reads this post. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. To those who lost a loved one in the line of duty, you have my heartfelt sympathy and deepest thanks. And to those who currently serve or who have loved ones who are in the military, may the good Lord keep you safe and return home, and once again. Thank you for your service to this great country of ours.

That drawing is simply entitled "Memorial" and I did that in 2006 for a local art show commemorating the 5 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream

Now I'm not a chocolate fiend like my wife or my dad, but I make an exception for the chocolate dipped ice cream cone, something that I've enjoyed for as long as I can remember. It's also one of the few times that I order the same thing just about every time I go to DQ, I love them that much, especially in the summer when it's 100º F by 9am in the summer.

Today my four year old son had to get some cavities filled and after last week's debacle I decided to reward him if he was brave with his very own chocolate dipped ice cream cone. So after he got his fillings done with minimal tears and after the 30 minute (40+ actually) waiting period I took him and my daughter to DQ for a treat. And as promised he got his very own chocolate dipped ice cream cone which he devoured in about 4 minutes flat! He also helped me eat my cone and some of my daughter's Arctic Blast. All in all it was a good time for everyone.

In other news, my job search is progressing, I have one more reference to get back from my student teaching and my official transcripts from NSC and my application is complete. Hopefully I will be able to schedule some interviews and maybe even get me one of those job thingys by the fall, but first the flipping legislature has to get it's collective head out my wallet and pass something that approaches a budget first. But hey what do I know?

Finally, I really need to finish the books I checked out from the library, but I've been lazy which is too bad because 1776 is a really interesting book and I've barely gotten past the first couple of chapters.

And don't forget the real reason we have Memorial Day because some really did give all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Real Christianity

Yea, I chose that title completely on purpose. You see there are two kinds of Christians, those that talk a good game and those who actually do. Today our church went and did. There is an apartment complex that houses refugees from around the world. Most of them came here with only the clothes on their backs to start a new life here in Las Vegas.

Our church held a block party for these refugees and anyone else who happened to live there. We provided all sorts of things like toiletries...
















Free haircuts...

















Lots and lots of food... LOTS of food...





It was just too much for some folks to take in...




We also gave away clothing, silverware, glasses, a microwave oven, furniture, shoes, snow-cones and balloon animals and more. That table you saw earlier was empty within about 60 minutes. Aside from showing up, my family helped with the balloon animals, clean up and my son started to give the kids who lived there balloons, but since he can be shy he would leave them next to them while they were eating, stealth generosity if you will. When people start banging on Christians, just show them those photos, because this is what real Christians do, help those in need without making a big deal out of it. There was no news conference, no press releases just Christians doing what they do best.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mr. Mom and more

So this week I've been playing Mr. Mom, running the kids here and there, running errands, that sort of thing. I've also been busy with applications and trying to figure out what I am going to do for the summer for work etc.

The real joy today was taking my kids to the dentist where my son decided to throw up in the sink and all over his shirt. Oh, joy. We managed to finish the examination but will have to go back next week for the fillings, and I have a limit of one vomit per day per office visit. Tuna fish the second time around is not very appetizing if you know what I mean.

CCSD finally got two of my references where they are supposed to go, I'm working on the third one as well but the folks at NSC can't seem to figure out how to answer the phone. My tax dollars at work I suppose. Oh, joy. The good news is that I got my final grades and I finished my time at NSC with a 3.70 which is a nice reward although a teaching job would go further towords paying the bills.

NASA is repairing the Hubble Telescope as you read this, or was depending on your time zone. Keep those brave men and women in your thoughts as they literally risk their lives so we can get even cooler pics of the cosmos than we already do.

Finally, Nancy Pelosi has done a wonderful job of making a fool of herself with the whole 'torture memo/hearing/waterboarding thing'. It's been amusing to watch the latest developments as her version and the truth continue to miss each other by that much. Nancy, maybe next time you should start with the truth and not with your version of it, but what do I know?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Finished!


I thought I would NEVER finish college and actually get a degree but here I am simply counting down the days until commencement Saturday night. To think that I went back to school for the 5th time in January of 2003 and now all that work has paid off. My last official assignment was to do a presentation today about my education and student teaching at Nevada State College. I was volentold to go first by Karlana and Kristi, presumably because mine would be so bad theirs would look great by comparison. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! It feels wierd not worrying about summer classes, registering for the fall semester or stressing about tuiton.

Tomorrow I am keeping my 4 year old at home and we're going to spend the day together. I see a lunch at McDonald's in the future. Now I need to update my resume, call the flipping district to see why the references never got sent and try to find a job. Hopefully the id10ts in Carson City will agree on a budget so the id10ts at the district will know how many openings there will be come this fall. Good thing I am getting reinstated for substitute teaching. I also got to visit the school I subbed at last spring that went from 6 weeks to the rest of the school year. I got to say hi to the teacher who taught next to me as well as the staff. All of whom recognized me and were happy to see me. The attendence lady was so excited that she jumped up and gave me a big hug! Too bad she couldn't get me a job.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

50 book challenge

I have almost completed the 50 book challenge. Here is the list of all 42 books I have read so far.

If By Sea
All Quiet On The Western Front
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Lord of The Flies
The Trial
I am Scout
Big Mouth and Ugly Girl
Robinson Crusoe
War of the Worlds

Crime and Punishment
To Kill a Mockingbird
American Lion
What's so great about Christianity
Ike, an American legend
"What we carry"
"The making of a poem"
Shade's Children
Speak
Kidnapped
Elfstones of Shannara
Pool of Radiance
Pools of Darkness
Silent Sea

These three I'm counting as one book
The Bottle Imp
The Body Snatcher
Markheim

Ranger's Apprentice Book 1
Flight of The White Horse
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
Dragonflight
Dragonquest
The White Dragon
The Great Gatsby
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Grapes of Wrath

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A change of pace

While watching "Jack's Big Music Show" with my son, I was pleasantly surprised by a group called "Nuttin But Stringz" that mixed violins with hip-hip. Normally I only half watch the show but something made me put down my book and pay attention. Boy was I glad I did. The first clip is the one from the show itself.




And yes this is the group from "America's Got Talent", here is the clip from their initial performance.



Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

You gotta be kidding right?

Last week I sent a letter to the school district to get reinstated as a substitute teacher for the remainder of the school year as I was no longer at my apprentice teaching position and my student teaching assignment would be ending in early May. Today I received a letter from the district stating that I would have to do a few things. First I would have to complete on-line training and then I would have to get finger printed (again), bring down a copy of my sub license and then I could sub for the remainder of the year.

Now the first thing that irritated me was the fact that I would have to pay $50 I don't have for the finger printing, even though they have my records for student teaching, and the thing that really pisses me off is the fact that I have to pay another $12 for the on-line training. I would understand doing this if I were new to subbing, but I subbed all last school year and was in the classroom all this year teaching as well! Can you say money grab? I knew you could!

Can you effing believe this? Bad enough I gotta pay the fifty clams for the finger prints, but then I have to pay for on-line substitute teaching training on top of that? Seriously?

This is not the change I was hoping for, that's for damn sure.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Almost done

I am down to my last two big projects and then my time at Nevada State College will come to an end. It's hard to believe that just 6 years ago I went back to school to become a teacher, and I am just one paper and one presentation away from reaching that goal. And then it's up to the jackasses in Carson City to get their crap together and pass some sort of budget so the school district knows how much money they have for teachers.

But hey at least I'll have a degree in May!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This really p***es me off...

I have not done much political posting lately with all the great stories to relate from the classroom but I had to talk about something that really has me pissed off.

No, not my students, they're great (just don't tell them that), it's the report released by the KGB er Department of Homeland Security dealing with Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment so now instead of dealing with the actual threats facing this country, the KGB, er DHS will be dealing with such threats:

"Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration." (pg. 2)

OK, so that's pretty much 90% of the conservatives in this country and includes everyone who participated in the 'tea parties' that took place today. And people thought that Bush was a dictator? In what flipping universe? Nothing that Bush did during his 8 years ever came close to this horse crap, and when they did issue reports like this they were very specific with group names and specific threats not this broad brushed jackbooted book burning Che loving hammer and sickle waving garbage.

And since I like to save the best for last, here is one more little gem for you to chew on.

"DHS/I&A will be working with its state and local partners over the next several months to ascertain with greater regional specificity the rise in rightwing extremist activity in the United States, with a particular emphasis on the political, economic, and social factors that drive rightwing extremist radicalization." (pg. 8)


Vast right wing conspiracy anyone? And we thought that died when Bill Clinton left office.

Friday, April 03, 2009

50 Book Challenge

Update #3 4/14/09: It's 38. I finished "The Trial" and "I Am Scout" today and forgot to add "Big Mouth and Ugly Girl" from last month. Only 12 more by July!

Update #2: It's 35, I finished Robinson Crusoe on Friday and I'm reading "The Trial" right now.
And Happy Easter everyone!

Update #1: It's 34 I finished War of the Worlds today and I'm half done with Robinson Crusoe...


So I have now finished 33 books out of the 50. Here is the list so far.

Crime and Punishment
To Kill a Mockingbird
American Lion

"What's so great about Christianity"
Ike, an American legend
"What we carry"
"The making of a poem"
Shade's Children
Speak
Kidnapped
Elfstones of Shannara
Pool of Radiance
Pools of Darkness
Silent Sea

These three I'm counting as one book
The Bottle Imp
The Body Snatcher
Markheim

Ranger's Apprentice Book 1
Flight of The White Horse
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
Dragonflight
Dragonquest
The White Dragon
The Great Gatsby
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Grapes of Wrath

Thursday, April 02, 2009

To Kill A Mockingbird

At my new school my cooperating teacher had just started To Kill A Mockingbird so after spring break, that's what I'll be teaching as well. I had forgotten how good that book was until I picked it up again and the movie is not bad either. I mention this because I decided on a whim to do the novel for my literary theory class because I just was not interested in redoing my paper on Ursula LeGuin.

I'm glad I switched because I found out a very interesting thing. Lawyers use Atticus Finch as a role model in their law schools, and that one professor wrote an article in the Michigan Law Review that asked some hard questions, which were answered by other professors and lawyers. One of those responses came from Ann Althouse who has an excellent blog of her own.

Funny how things just kinda work out sometimes. Today I'll do my prewriting and the rough draft(s) and then tomorrow I'll finish it up.

Oh, and spring break is next week.

YEE-HAW!

Friday, March 27, 2009

8th Graders

I really like teaching 8th graders. They're more mature than 7th graders and I've been able to give them more challenging lessons successfully than 7th graders. Plus, they're not 7th graders. Don't get me wrong, Ive had some great 7th grade students and classes, but they're just wacked out as a rule. It's all those hormones raging through their bodies, they discover the opposite sex in a big way. They're happy one second and mad the next. Grown up one minute and a 3rd grader the next. And don't get me started on the drama, er D-R-A-M-A. It makes Desperate Housewives look like Dora The Explorer. Spare me, please.

Now 6th graders are just too immature for me, they're too clingy and needy. Plus it takes them pretty much a whole quarter before they even get the hang of middle school, and generally speaking you can't challenge them with lessons like you can 8th graders. Thanks but no thanks.

I'll take 8th graders any day of the week. The hormones have settled down some and they have a better sense of self, not to mention they really want to get out of middle school, especially here in NV where middle school is 6th-8th grade.

Next week I am going to start doing some teaching in my English classes. We're doing "To Kill A Mockingbird" and it's going pretty well so far. We'll see if it lasts.

Finally I got my confirmation from NSC for graduation. After 6 long years, I'll finally have a four year degree. And if I get an A in my Lit Theory class, I'll graduate Magna Cum Laude. Go me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Finally!

After literally a week, I'm finally back in a classroom. I'll be dealing strictly with 8th graders this time which I can deal with. But here is the ironic part. Two of my new students know two of my old students, in fact one of my new students is related to an old one. Wait until I tell my friend at the old school that one!

There is one thing that I really miss though, and that's the laptop. It sucks not being able to sit in bed and work while my better half is relaxing, and it really sucks having to share a computer with the family.

But hopefully I'll be able to afford my own laptop this year.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Waiting Game

So it's been almost a week since I've been inside a classroom interacting with kids, and I'm really ready to start teaching again. This enforced vacation that I have been on is not relaxing in the least. However, my professor told me that he was merely waiting on news as to which teacher I'd be pestering, er torturing, er working with for the next several weeks. The school is about the same distance from my house as my previous school although I have to backtrack a little bit due to the location of daycare but it's not a huge deal. At least I'll be teaching again and not sitting around the house feeling sorry for myself.

Also can someone please explain why 'Crime & Punishment' is considered to be such a great novel?

Please?

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Fresh Start

So I thought that last week was a challenge, boy was I wrong. Monday morning I had a verbal confrontation with a student that turned ugly. This student butted in where he was not wanted and totally lost his temper when I told him to go away. Eventually he managed to push the big red button and I lost my temper as well. I had a meeting later with my principal about what happened and figured that it was resolved as did the principal.

Tuesday afternoon I get a call from the chancellor of the school telling me that she had heard of the incident and that until her investigation was complete I was banned from the campus. So I go from getting ready to graduate and lesson planning and all that to looking at a teacher career that was about to come to a screeching halt. To say I was shocked would be the understatement of the year. And it wasn't just me, my cooperating teacher and the principal were both shocked and in the case of the principal, really angry that the chancellor felt the need to investigate what had happened. I think he was also angry that she was usurping his authority in what he thought was a private, not to mention closed matter.

So Wednesday passed and I found out that my inquisition er interview would take place Thursday at 1pm, at which point I would be able to tell my side of the story, then finally learn my fate.

So after a 2nd sleepness night, I arrived at the school to tell my tale and attempt to save 6 years of work. I arrived at the school and flanked by my principal (who fought very hard for me) and my adviser from Nevada State College, I told my side of the story as honestly and accurately as possible. I explained what led up to the incident and as much of the incident as I could, because most of it was a blur.

After that was over, I got a call from my advisor who explained that my career was not in jepordy and that I would finish my 'student' teaching at another school. I put the '' around student because in reality I had been teaching there since the first day of school, and in no way shape or form was I a typical student teacher because I took over a class that had no teacher until a replacement could be found so my 8 weeks was more like a semester and a half, literally. The reason that I am going to switch schools is to give me a frest start. To say I was stressed would be another large understatment, try teaching two subjects, go to school and try to be a dad and husband all at once. So going to a school were I could just observe and help out is going to be nice, even if it will be unpaid. We do have a bit of money saved up so we should (with God's help) be OK until the summer.

So today after school I went to turn in my laptop, badge, key, etc and collect my belongings. I arrived right after school let out to talk to the chancellor and get my fingerprint reports and I got mobbed by my (sadly) former students. They all came to say goodbye and to wish me luck at my new school. The chacellor was very nice and told me what a hard decision it was for her to make and that if there was anything she could do for me to let her know. She then told me she could see how much I cared for the kids and that my next school would be lucky to have me.

I also got to see some of my colleges on the way to my room. The principal and some of my students (funny how I can't bring myself to say former) had boxed up my belongings to make it easier for me. Some of my students also wrote me letters saying how unfair it was that I was leaving because they were misbehaving. (Hopefully that lesson will stick, mess with the good teachers enough and they may leave for greener pastures!) One asked me for my lava lamp (It's at home) and reading them brought tears to my eyes. They'll go on the wall by my computer with the letters from previous teaching stops.

What I could not believe was how much stuff I brought home with me. 1 packback, 1 office depot bag and 4 paper boxes worrth of books, lessons, posters, coffee cups and more. And that was just from the middle of August to today! I did leave a few books for three students who need to be reminded to put the books away until they finish their work. A good problem for an English teacher!

I will find out early next week were my next school will be. I'm sad that I won't be able to finish the year where I was but I am thankful I can still teach. Which brings me to why I won't finish at the same school. There are two reasons actually. The first is that I'd be second guessing myself everytime I try to correct a student's misbehavior. After all I'd been suspended once, the second time I'd be done both there and as a teacher. Secondly, for the rest of the year I'd be 'the teacher who got suspended'. And when there are only 190 middle school students everyone would know who I was and it would seriously inhibit my ability to teach.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BBL

Too many balls in the air, to many things going wrong at the same time, to many stupid mistakes on my part, be back later.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Worst. Day. Ever.

Somebody remind me why the f*** I became a teacher would you? It's a good thing I have a co-teacher because I would have gotten myself fired today because of the way I was treated by my students. I tried from 8:00 to 8:07 to get my first class settled down so they could watch a movie and they refused so I said no movie. Then they got all indignant and asked for a class discussion, which went nowhere. They were telling ME that I had to be more respectful to THEM, as if I were the student and they were the teacher. I did my best to answer them, but of course they reverted to form and it was so bad the principal had to come and talk to them. I am so sick of getting rescued by my principal I could throw up.

Plus the kids actually got a treat today, they got to watch a movie to celebrate the end of the CRT tests and they screwed that one up as well. I was so mad that I literally had to leave the room for about 20 minutes and vent.

I refuse REFUSE to kiss the backside of a seventh grader just to get them to sit down and shut the hell up. Boy are they in a for a surprise on Monday.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

131 million and counting....

That's how much non gaming money my city has lost in the last 90 days. As the Las Vegas Review Journal reports "Forget apology-seeking letters. Maybe Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman should send President Barak Obama a bill."

A couple of notes to the 'enlightened' one:

1. Spitting in the face of a state that voted for you in the last election, especially one that relies heavily on tourism and the convention trade is very very stupid, especially considering that the same state voted for Bush the last two elections. You're costing the state jobs and once the GOP rightfully pins the blame on you for this, good luck in 2012...

2. Conventions help both businesses and customers, not to mention the cities and states that host them. I should know, I've been on all three sides of the equation and it's a great way for companies to get new products and services in front of customers.

Of course I'm sure it's much easier blaming Rush Limbaugh for your issues than looking in the mirror, but you may want to think about things like this before you speak without your teleprompter.

Monday, March 09, 2009

CRTs: AKA Uber High Stakes Tests

The CRTs (Criterion Referenced Tests) are what the Silver State uses to see if the schools are making AYP (adequate yearly progress) in regards to NCLB (No Child Left Behind). Today was our first of 4 days (6 for the 8th graders) of fun testing. Today and tomorrow are the math tests, Wednesday and Thursday are the English tests and next Monday and Tuesday are the science tests.

Now the nice thing was that our students didn't seem super stressed by them, probably because they've already taken so many tests similar to this one, and because although we've told them the CRTs were coming, we as a staff didn't freak out about the tests and this was passed on to our students. We did have them review one from 2006 so they would be used to the wording, and we did make sure our lessons applied to the standards the CRTs were going to be testing, but freaking out was not in the plans.

I have mixed feelings about NCLB. I like the fact that schools are accountable for all of their students regardless of grade or ability, but I don't like the all or nothing tone of the law, nor do I like the fact that eventually all schools will fail to make AYP, especially once you get a vast majority of your students making AYP, because there is no way 100% of your students will make AYP no matter how much the school rocks. Imagine being in a school were you have 75% or more of your students making AYP and yet getting put on the watch list because you didn't improve from the year before or that your scores went down a bit. And spare me the righteous BS about educating everyone. That assumes (a BIG assumption) that your students are ready and capable of learning, and that (an even bigger assumption) those parents are on board with you as well. I'm all for accountability but at some point reason has to prevail, but like so many other things the federal government does, reason never entered the equation.

I'll keep you posted on the rest of the week. Maybe I'll be able to finish my unit on Letter From a Birmingham Jail, now that the copier has toner AND staples. I swear the kids eat the handouts when I'm not looking. No wonder their backpacks weigh 800 pounds...