Monday, November 29, 2010

Donors Choose

After getting shot down attempting to have my school buy novels for the classroom (because they were not on the approved list), I decided to find another way to get the books I want into my classroom without emptying my wallet (that would be a neat trick considering it's a cash free zone).

Enter Donors Choose, a website that allows people to donate to projects that teachers post, helping them acquire items like projectors, computers, trips and more. Some of the projects are very cool and some make me mad. I mean how bad is it when a math teacher is asking for a white board? Seriously? The school can't flipping spring for a white board? That's not even a luxury, that's a necessity. Wow... just wow.

I have spent the last few weeks setting up my project on Donors Choose and today I was informed that my project has gone live and that a company has already covered the first $300 of the project. So I am going to do something and I never thought I would do and ask for your help. If you could donate a couple of dollars to the project it would be greatly appreciated, not just by myself but by my students. And please look at the other projects and if you find one more to your liking, by all means, donate to them.

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


It's going to be an odd Thanksgiving this year. Not odd in a bad way but odd all the same. You see normally we either visit family and friends for Thanksgiving or they come here. This year it's just the family. It's cool in a couple of ways.

1st of all, we don't have to have the house all picked up for guests. Secondly we get to teach the kids how to cook. Right now my wife is teaching the kids how to do cranberry sauce, and later my son and I will be deep frying a turkey in the back yard. This is in addition to baking pies and making fruit salad (yummy yummy) and real whipped cream. And since we are not traveling there is no traffic to fight or TSA agents to spend personal time with.

Finally I'm thankful for my family, my health and my job. I am one of the lucky ones here in Vegas who has a job and still has a house to call home.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and remember WHY we celebrate it in the first place...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Used Books

For an English teacher they are a God send. They allow me your humble blogger to amass a fairly large collection of books for my classroom without having to file bankruptcy. While I love new books and have bought them from time to time or gotten them as presents, I prefer to get as much for the money as I can. Luckily for me there are two stores here in Vegas that are close by and both of them have a YA (young adult section) to make it easier to find books my students might be interested in.

The local libraries also have used books but so far their selection has not been great. I also use the internet to get used books, which is good and bad. It's good because you have a plethora of choices, but bad because of the shipping. Now I don't blame the vendors, they need to make money and when the book is only $1.00, I understand that the profit is in the shipping. And I can still get double the books vs. getting them new at the bookstore.

I know that there are several good e-readers such as the Kindle and the Nook from Barnes and Noble, but I can't read large blocks of text on a screen and it's just. not. the. same. There is something intimate about holding a book in your hands and physically turning the pages that simply cannot be duplicated by an e-reader. I'm not against them, they're just not for me.

Now my only other problem is that I'm running out of room for my class library. I did find another bookshelf but I'm not sure where to put it. It's a good problem to have. I also need to start getting some graphic novels for my classroom as well as some manga.

Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Walking Dead

It's not often that I will watch a series on TV, especially a miniseries, but I am making an exception for 'The Walking Dead.' From the time I saw the first commercial I was excited as all get out about the series. I have watched the first two episodes (thank goodness they replay it on Friday nights) and can't wait for the next one.

Now don't be fooled, this show is for adults only. It has graphic violence and adult language, not to mention it's very creepy. It's also very well written and the zombies look very very real. If you like creepy shows give this one a try.

What you may not know about this Zombie Apocalypse miniseries is that it's based on a comic book. Yep, a comic book. And it's not the first time comic books have been used for TV Shows and movies. I'd get the comic book compendiums if they weren't so expensive, like say $50.00 each.

One last thought, I had a student tell me they loved the book I picked out for her. The funny thing is I don't have a clue as to what book I picked out for her. But hey as long as she liked it, it's all good. Speaking of books, I got 12 of the 16 books I ordered online. Yea, I'm a geek like that...

Monday, November 08, 2010


Revenge is the theme of 'The Cask of Amontillado', one of Poe's more famous short stories. In this story the narrator tells about the revenge he takes on the poor soul who dared to insult him. I like this story because it's fun to show how Montressor gets his revenge and teach them about theme at the same time. The students like it because it's dark and creepy and allows them to safely fantasize about really getting even with someone who has done them wrong.

Thematic webs come in handy here because it allows the student to write down all the things that Montressor does to get even with the ironically named Fortunado (Italian for fortunate). For example he uses his knowledge of wine to bait him to coming to his palazzo to examine a pipe (110 gallons) of Amontillado. He then pretends to be concerned about his cold and 'tries' to talk his drunk (he keeps him drunk as well) victim out of venturing under his empty (no witnesses) palazzo to the catacombs where the wine is. I could go on but go read it for yourself. It's pretty cool in a creepy way.

That is the first of the three stories my students will be reading. The other two are 'The Most Dangerous Game' and 'The Necklace'. In addition, my honors students are finishing up 'The Yellow Wallpaper' and I got my kids to the library for the 2nd quarter book project.

Friday, November 05, 2010


Testing is a necessary evil in teaching. Now the trend to see if teachers can teach is to do standardized tests and based on the performance of the students over several years you get a good idea of which teachers can teach. Or can you? Does that really tell you which teachers can teach or which teachers can teach to the test? What about writing? Does the ability to write to some random prompt mean that the teacher is able to effectively teach writing? Or can they just teach students how to write to a prompt?

I'm asking these questions because I seriously don't have an answer. I totally get the idea that teachers need to be able to teach in a measurable way, and that it's not like a job in the private sector where if you're in sales, all you boss needs to do is to look at the numbers and they can tell if you're doing your job or if you're a mechanic and it's easy to tell by the quality of your work if you know what you're doing.

Teaching isn't like that. You can use standardized tests but then the weakness is that teachers will stop teaching properly and simply teach to the test. And honestly if they start using testing data to see if I'm a good teacher or not the pressure will be huge to do just that. That will be cool for the teachers but not the kids because real life is more than a scan-tron and a proficiency prompt.

There are just some issues that don't have good answers...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Moving On

No I don't mean Different thing altogether.

I meant moving on from bad news. As you know a fellow teacher took his own life on our campus Monday afternoon. Yesterday was hard as we pretended to do our staff development day. Today the students returned and things began to return to some sense of normal. To be honest we teachers needed this more than the students.

The students took this better than the teachers, at least in my room. I only had to send one student to the library for the grief counselors and I did talk to them about trying to avoid the rumors and reminded them that he had a family and to consider them before they opened their yaps. The other good part is that they were taking the interim assessments today and tomorrow so they didn't have time to dwell about what happened.

Monday they're in the library for their next book project.

Finally I need to address the election for a bit. The GOP needs to understand that they have a lease on the House of Representatives and not the keys. If they don't try to accomplish what they want to do then they're out on their butts. And locally we need to keep in mind that Carson City is not the reason the district has money problems. They didn't decide that the classroom only deserves 25% of every dollar that they send to Las Vegas. That is a different group of people. If you're angry fine, but direct your anger in the right direction.

Monday, November 01, 2010


Update: They released the name and I knew him. I often talked to him during lunch and when I saw him on campus. We were both hired about the same time and shared many of the same students both last year and this year. He was a committed teacher who wanted the best for his students. The story is here if you want to read the whole thing.

Today was a tragic day at my school. Just before 3pm, a fellow teacher of mine took his life on campus. I don't yet know who it is and in a way it doesn't really matter. A family is now without a father, son, husband and brother. Students are now without a teacher and the staff is without a teammate.

To those of you making cracks online at the local news sites, you can go F*** yourself. The school is a Title 1 school, but the majority of my students bust their asses to get an education and deserve better than the juvenile cracks you so *bravely* posted online. Most of the problems we have come from off campus, and when we find kids who bring pot, guns, gang-banging on campus, we expel them.

The staff at my school is a pretty tight knit group. While we may not know every single teacher (there are about 120 spread across 4 or 5 buildings) we all put our kids first and we all are willing to help each other out in a pinch. We share resources and ideas. There is very little BS as far as politics go. It exists of course but kept to a minimum. Tomorrow's staff development day is going to be odd indeed to say the least. So when you read about the story and see the stupid comments remember that it was a person who died and he will be missed by his family, fellow staff and by his students.

This stuff really truly sucks.