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Monthly Archives: August 2008

I had a birthday this week.  Birthday’s don’t bother me.  Turning 30, big deal.  40?  Whoopie.  50 is on the horizon and I’ve never given it a thought.

But I turned 48 this week.  And it bothers me.

Years ago my wife and I were in a situation where we thought we might like to leave here.  My parents lived in San Bernadino so we moved to California to start a new life.  My wife was pregnant with our son, who is now 22.  My dad was 48.  We only stayed a few months before we moved back here, but that time still remains one of the touchstones of my past.

You know how you have a picture in your mind of your parents.  No matter how old they are, you always imagine them at that age.  For me, my dad has always been 48.  Honestly I’ve never thought of him as 48, but that’s how I have thought of him, as the guy he was at that age.  Even now, when I think of him, I see him at that age and not the way he looked the last time I saw him.  I don’t know that I’m getting the feeling across in words, but maybe you know what I mean.

I’m that age now.  And dad passed away this year.  It wasn’t that long ago he was 48.  It won’t be that long until I’m the age he was when he died.  Life is short.  I’ve always known that, to an extent.  This year it became a reality to me.

I have a grandbaby on the way.  5 to 7 weeks from now.  The circle of life continues.  And it goes by so fast.  Enjoy the moment.  Tell your loved ones how you feel.  Live each day.

Before you accuse me of not knowing how to spell, yes I did it on purpose.

For those of you not familiar with the Peter Principle, here it is:

In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his/her level of incompetence.

If you happen to be a school administrator, I’m sorry, but from what I’ve seen this holds true.  Let me give you an example.

Last year we had a first-year teacher teaching Algebra 1.  71% of her students failed the class.  She was always upset about the success (or lack of) from her students.  She did everything she could to help them.  She tutored before and after school.  She made home visits.  She really tried.  She refused to give a student a passing grade if the work didn’t merit it.  The principal didn’t want to re-hire her.  The central administration was riding the principal’s backside about her failure rate.  She was constantly told how bad a job she was doing.  They couldn’t find someone to take her place so she was re-hired and given the worst classes.  Her self-esteem was crushed.  She doubted if she was in the right profession.

A second-year teacher was teaching Algebra 1.  His failure rate was about 60%.  Again, he only kept his job because they couldn’t find someone else.  He also was “demoted” and doesn’t teach Algebra 1 anymore.

A 17 year veteran teaching Algebra 1 had a failure rate of 11%.  A 19 year vet teaching Algebra 1 had a failure rate of 7%.  What great teachers.  What shining examples for the slackers.  Try to be more like them.  Watch them teach.  Learn from them.

In my fair state we have End-of-Instruction tests.  When you hear about high stakes testing, this is high stakes.  The Algebra 1 EOI is infamous for its difficulty.  Today we received the results of last year’s tests.

Our school had 67% pass the test.  Now that number may not impress you, but state-wide only 40% passed. 

The first-year teacher who was constantly told how bad she was had 91% pass the state test.
The second-year teacher who couldn’t teach had 87% pass the state test.
The 17 year vet, one of the shining examples, had 31% pass the state test.
The 19 year vet, the man held up as the prime example of doing it the right way, had 19% pass the state test.

The superintendant and the assistant super both showed up in the principal’s office today demanding to know why the two most successful Algebra 1 teachers were not teaching Algebra 1 this year…  They seem to have forgotten that they wanted to fire them 4 months ago.  The principal can’t imagine why those two had such success on the state tests.

Maybe it is because kids will rise to your expectations.  Maybe it is because if you actually hold kids accountable they’ll learn something.  Maybe it is because if you actually teach and not just pass out worksheets kids will learn. 

I hope they both feel vindicated.  I hope they both continue to keep high standards.  I hope they both remember why they chose education as a career. 

I hope someday I’ll see a real live administrator who doesn’t forget what it was like to be in the classroom.

One component of the new software our district is using is a new gradebook.  I love it.  It is user friendly and has many nice extras.  One of the extras is that with one click I can look up any of my students schedule for the day.  I know which teachers each of them has, and which period.

Maybe this isn’t such a great feature after all.

We have a rule in our school, no visible piercings other than ears.  Period.  None.

That’s supposed to be the rule.  If a kid comes into class with piercings we are to first ask them to remove them and if they refuse, send them to the appropriate administrator.

[It may be a stupid rule, I may not agree with it, but, a rule is a rule and I’m expected to enforce it.]

Seventh period.  A girl enters my room with two studs in her upper lip, a large nose ring, and three studs in her eyebrows.  Excuse me young lady, can I speak with you in the hall?  You know you have to remove the piercings, right?  Why?  Because that’s the school rule.  I don’t care if I’m the first person to tell you this today, you still have to take them out.  Well, if that’s the way you feel go the principal’s office.  I know I’m a jackass, do it anyway.

I then go into my room and email the principal.  Surely I’m not the first person to send her to you today am I?  It turns out that yes, I am.  Flashes of red begin to appear at the edges of my vision.  I look up her schedule on the new handy-dandy software and compose an email along the lines of: WTF do you people think you’re doing?  Do your F’ing job.

Before I hit the send button I cool down enough to realize this might not be the way to approach things.  I delete that email and send this one:

JF is in my seventh period class.  She put her studs and rings back into her various piercings before she got to my room today.  Then she proceeded to lie about all of you telling me that none of you made her take them out when she was in your class.  I just thought it would be good for you to know about the nasty rumors being spread about how you don’t do your job.

Too subtle?

First day of school…

Over the summer our district has installed some new software.   You would think someone would make sure things are set-up properly before the first day.  You would think.

When student schedules are printed you would assume that the first line would be first period, the second line would be second period, etc., wouldn’t you?  I know I would.  And I know that 1,683 students would think so too.  The headings for the columns on our schedules looked like this:

Teacher’s Name / Room # / Subject / Pd / Sec

Then they were sorted alphabetically.  By the teacher’s name.

Teacher’s with their last name beginning with A’s or B’s had 100+ kids show up to first period, while teacher’s such as myself, with a last name beginning with W, had no one show up…

Mass confusion for the first half-hour or so…

Today I learned that the least effective means of teaching is lecture.  I also learned that the human attention span is somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes.

I learned this during a 3 1/2 hour lecture, with no breaks.

The lecturer read the powerpoint to us.  The principal sat in the back of the auditorium to make sure no one left.  He actually had a bathroom pass.  One.  You had to take the pass and bring it back to go to the bathroom. 

Quality professional development.

In honor of a new school year:

1. I can see your point, but I still think you’re full of shit.
2. I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce.
3. How about never? Is never good for you?
4. I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
5. I’m really easy to get along with once you people learn to see it my way.
6. I’ll try being nicer if you’ll try being smarter.
7. I’m out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.
8. I don’t work here. I’m a consultant.
9. It sounds like English, but I can’t understand a damn word you’re saying.
10. Ahhh…I see the screw-up fairy has visited us again..
11. I like you. You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid.
12. You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
13. I have plenty of talent and vision; I just don’t give a damn.
14. I’m already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
15. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
16. Thank you. We’re all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
17. The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.
18. Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
19. What am I? Flypaper for freaks!?
20. I’m not being rude. You’re just insignificant.
21. It’s a thankless job, but I’ve got a lot of Karma to burn off.
22. Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
23. And your crybaby, whiny-assed opinion would be…?
24. Do I look like a people person?
25. This isn’t an office. It’s Hell with fluorescent lighting.
26. I started out with nothing and still have most of it left.
27. Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.
28. If I throw a stick, will you leave?
29. Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
30. Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
31. I’m trying to imagine you with a personality.
32. A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.
33. Can I trade this job for what’s behind door #1?
34. So many freaks, not enough circuses.
35. Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?
36. Chaos, panic, and disorder – my work here is done.
37. How do I set a laser printer to stun?
38. I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted a salary.
39. Who lit the fuse on your tampon?
40. Oh, I get it… like humor… only different.

A few months back a certain doctor told my daughter, “No doubt, you’re having a girl.”

With that info my wife and mother-in-law went nutso buying all those cute little baby girl clothes.  And I do mean nutso.

Today, according to the doctor, OOPS!  There is apparently a penis and testes.

I tried to tell her to wait…

At the end of last year our school bought a software program for the math department.  Each teacher received a copy of the software, which was a tremendous shock.  Usually we get one copy and have to share among 14 teachers.  We sat through a three hour presentation before we bought it.  It’s pretty straight-forward, very user-friendly.  I’ve spent about 15 hours going through the program this summer picking what parts I like and when I’m going to use it.

I got a letter in the mail a couple weeks ago.  Professional development from 9 – 2 today on the software.  I’ve already used it so I called the school and asked if it was required to go.  Well, that was a stupid question…

So, from 9 to 11 I got to sit in a small room with all my math colleagues and listen to the sales pitch again.  Wait, you say, didn’t your school already buy the program?  Yes we did.  But there was another school there today who hadn’t.  Quality professional development you ask?  Ha!

We break for lunch.  When we come back at noon we get into how to use the program.  The first hour was spent on how to use a remote with a DVD player.  Which button do you push to pause, which button is the fast-forward button, etc.  You probably think I’m stretching it here, but no.  The presenter even said, about 10 minutes in, that the reason they do this is because different DVD players have different remotes and that women are apprehensive using remote controls since they don’t get to use them at home.  Seriously, that’s what she said.

The last hour was spent telling us how to use the different menus.  This is the lesson menu.  This is the guided practice menu.  If you want to go back to the lesson menu use the down arrow on the remote, you remember where that was right?  

At least they paid me $25 an hour to listen to this dribble…

Long time, no write.

But I’m back.  My summer didn’t go quite as planned, but such is life.

Yesterday was the first day of new teacher orientation.  The local teacher’s association buys lunch for all the new teachers each year, and then we make our pitch for them to join the union.  I’m the VP of the association and I’m also the chairman of the membership committee so its up to me to run this luncheon.  By my lists our district has 35 new teachers this year.  As the teachers were arriving at the restaurant I was counting them.  About midway through I had a moment of deja vu.

A few years ago my school was holding our freshman orientation.  At one point a shy blonde Reese Witherspoon look-alike came in my room.  She was apprehensive about being at the high school and proclaimed, nearly in tears, that she really sucked at math.  We talked and I tried to convince her that she would do fine in algebra and that high school would be fun.  She left my room that day unconvinced.  She worked hard in class and to be honest, she had an amazing teacher, and she finished the year with a B- in algebra.  She was in my class her sophomore year for geometry and her junior year for algebra 2.  She overcame her shyness, was captain of the cheerleader squad and homecoming queen her senior year.  She was elected most popular her senior year and was planning on getting a degree in nursing.

Imagine my surprise when one of the new teachers is a bubbly blonde Reese Witherspoon look-alike.  I asked her what she was doing here and she told me she was a new first grade teacher at one of our schools.  I jokingly asked her if she had had trouble with the math in nursing school.  She said that after her freshman year in college she spent some time thinking about what she really wanted to do with her life.  She told me that I had inspired her and that she wanted to touch someone’s life the way I had touched hers so she became a teacher.

We don’t get paid a lot monetarily, but at times this job is priceless.