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San Clemente, CA, United States

Tuesday, April 30, 2019


Today I am broken.  Today I cannot see.  Today I cannot hear.  Today I cannot breathe.

Yesterday in San Diego, a Jewish woman went to her place of worship to celebrate the final day of Passover and to give thanks for the blessings of her life.  She went to her Synagogue to honor the memory of her mother and to give thanks. 

A 19-year-old young man also went to that same Temple.  He entered during prayers and songs and joy and he began shooting.  One woman was killed.  She had gone to honor the memory of her mother and give thanks for the blessings in her life. 

Today I am broken. I cried last night as I thought of the victims of Charleston and Pittsburg and Sri-Lanka and New Zealand, and now San Diego.  I cried for their loved ones.  I cried at the senseless and heartlessness of the acts.  I cried as I realized no end is in sight.  

Today I am broken but I will not break.  Tomorrow I will look for, and I will see good.  I will see good in my students as they care about, and for each other.  I will see good in my fellow teachers as they try over and over and over to educate their students.  I will see good in my friend as he guides me in our non-profit foundation and I will see G_d when I look in the faces of our special needs teachers, aids, and students.

I am broken but I am not defeated.  I am broken but I will not break.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Company We Keep

So I'm minding my own business a couple of days ago enjoying a cup of coffee at a local Starbucks.  I was there working on revising the pacing guide for my Topics in Calculus class, but truthfully, I was just people watching.  At times, the walls close in on me at home and I just want to see the world from a different table.  Who knows when I'll meet my next bad relationship?

Two women were sitting close enough, and speaking loudly enough, that I was actively listening to their conversation.  They were both 8th grade middle school teachers.  Both teaching History and the English at the same middle school.  They seemed nice enough but after listening to them for about 10 minutes I had to change tables as I almost began to laugh out loud.

It turns out that we become our environments.  I have long known, that because I have spent so many years teaching high school mathematics and being around 16 year olds all day, I am the least mature adult I know.  I speak like an idiot using words and vernacular that I shouldn't.  I must sound like an absolute tool to "real" adults.

But these 2 middle school teachers were beyond the pale.  It was both laughable and really sad how they spoke.  It wasn't adult or professional or even clearly coherent.   Typical sentences included, "...and I'm like all no she didn't and he's all like, yeah, no, I'm so not.  I mean omg lol."

Note to self.  Time to grow up in the way I speak. 

Because a Man Stands Up.

When I decided to start this blog nearly a decade ago, I remember thinking it would be a place where I could share my conservative views.  It hasn’t really worked out the way I thought it would.  I haven’t let it.  I have run scared from sharing some of my views because I know how they will be received within the world I work and the place I live. 

I teach in a public high school in California.   I’m not sure there is a more liberal place to be in the world.  This immediate area isn’t about a free exchange of ideas.  This is about group-speak.  Stray too far?  You are a misogynistic, Nazi fascist, homophobic racist. 

I don’t care anymore.  I’m tired of worrying about upsetting others and I ‘m tired of worrying that my employer will take such offense they will look to try and find something to fire me for.  I just don’t care anymore. 

I have shied away from writing about abortion, immigration, the 2nd Amendment, gay marriage, etc.  No more.  I will write what I feel and let the cards fall where they may. 

Today a new day dawns for me. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Seniors 2019

A letter to my seniors,

As we are just a few weeks until you graduate, allow me the opportunity to share with you a few of my thoughts. 

First, thank you.  Thank you for letting me stand in front of you every day and teach you Calculus and Pre-Calculus.  We all know that the material can be a bit…dry… at times, and still you were respectful to me and showed up willing to close your mouths, open your minds, and try to learn.  I am grateful for the level of respect you showed me all year.  I hear stories from other teachers of the blatant disrespect that they receive from students almost daily.  Never once have any of you treated me with anything but respect.  Please know that it goes both ways.  I very much respect you for your behaviors towards me. 

I’d like you to consider 2 things as you progress to college or the work force.  First, have a plan.  If you go to college, have a plan.  Here’s one thought.  From Sunday through Thursday, be the best college student on campus.  Go to class, go to the library, get a work-out, and study some more.  Be perfect from Sunday to Thursday.  Friday and Saturday?   Let it go.  Have some fun.  Relax, enjoy your friends and your surroundings.  Without your parents to guide you now, you are going to be pulled in a LOT of directions.  If you live in a dorm, EVERY night you will be invited to do something other than study.  It will be pretty easy to be talked into having a beer with friends over reading a boring chapter of Biology.   Sunday-Thursday?   Read the damn chapter.   Have a plan, execute your plan, and finish college with a meaningful degree in 4 years. 

Lastly, the big lie, I think, is to try to find a job you will enjoy.  I think you should try to make a living at what you are good at.  I’m good at math and found a way to make a living because I have something that society is willing to pay for.  I don’t like math.  Math isn’t…likable.  I’m just good at it.   Find what you are good at.  Find what you can do that society is willing to pay you to do.  I bet you will grow to like it too.

Good luck.  Go be honorable, moral, hard-working, people of good character.  G_d bless you and G-d Bless America..


The Scholastic Aptitude Test. 

At the school where I teach, the last kid I know of to “pitch a perfecto”…to put up a perfect score on the SAT…was a girl I had taught when she was a sophomore in my Honors Algebra 2 / Trig class. 
When I heard about her score, and subsequently ran into her in the hall, I asked her to swing by my room at lunch sometime because I wanted to pick her brain about her SAT journey. 
That same day, she came by my room and we took a walk around campus and talked about the SAT.  It took me one question, and then her answer to re-open my eyes about how to be successful.  As I remember it, our conversation was as follows:

Me:      Congrats again on your score.  Way to go.  So what’s the “secret sauce?”  What’s the pathway that led to the magic? 

Her:     Well, my mom enrolled me in the Kaplan SAT prep classes that met on Saturdays.  It didn’t really work for me.  I kind of felt like they were trying to teach me how to “beat” the test not prepare for the test.  They had some good practice tests though and I found those really helpful.   I went to Barnes and Noble and bought the big blue College Board SAT Book with 8 practice tests and a bunch of smaller practices sections within as well.  I did every problem in the book till I got them all right.  Then I bought the another SAT Review book and did every problem in that book.  Every night after my regular homework I spent an hour doing problems.  When the test came along there was nothing I hadn’t seen.

Me:      Cool  ( I know right?  Impressive command of the language)

For me, there are so many important take-aways.

Students.  There is no substitute for hard work.  There really isn’t a way to do less and succeed at the highest level.  Many of you haven’t learned that lesson because you found a way to succeed, even in Honors and AP classes, by doing relatively little.  Remember all those books you were supposed to read and annotate?  Yet you chose to grab the Sparks Notes instead and then only skim that!  Maybe the above SAT journey teaches us all that it is great effort that leads to great reward.  


When did receiving a B in a class become a bad thing?  Why are kids LITERALLY crying as they beg for points to be added to their grade.  “I HAVE to get an A in this class!”  

What have we done to these kids?

If you earn a B in my Calculus class, you should be skipping.  You should run outside and scream from the mountaintops, “ I AM SPARTACUS!”  You should brag to your friends, add a little swag to your step, and walk with your shoulders back, eyes up, standing just a bit taller.   You should be proud of yourself for mastering limits, continuity, differentiation, related rates, optimization, velocity and acceleration, integration, area, and volume.  You handled logarithmic differentiation and u-substitution integration.  You should, in all seriousness, be really proud of yourself.  What an accomplishment.  Mathematically, you are walking where less than 2% walk.  Congratulations.

I know you can't see this right now, but your grade doesn't matter.  Years from now?  It isn't the grade.    It is the confidence you gained in yourself by doing this.  A grade of B in Calculus?  Well done.  And all you.  Your mom didn’t do your homework for you.  You walked in and passed Calculus on your own.  As you move forward in life, know that you have done something impressive.  Let that carry you and give you confidence that “you have game.”  This isn’t like the U9 soccer trophy on your dresser.  Let this B give you confidence about your abilities as you go forward. 

And when did doing something right 85% of the time become looked down upon? 85%.  8.5 out of every 10?  There is NOTHING that I do correctly 8 and a half times out of 10.  I don’t brush my teeth right 8 out of 10 times.  I don’t dress right 8  out of 10 times.  My point is that when you think about it, 85 % is pretty impressive.  

I get it, “…..its hard to get into college.”  Well, shut up.  No it isn’t.  It is easier than ever to get into a college.  Maybe not the one you dreamed about as a kid, but there are hundreds of others that will accept you. 

At 17, begging diminishes you.  Stop it.  Take the grade you earned and do something about it next semester or don’t.  But I’m done watching kids cry over B’s.  Congratulations.  And if it is your parents that are badgering you, have them call me.   

Sunday, February 12, 2017

My Week

I had a pretty good week this week.  This is noteworthy because as a high school math teacher, I’m pretty much the most hated man in America.  (After this election I may be down to number two or three.) 

In my Honors Algebra 2 w/ Trigonometry classes, I continued my deliciously exciting lectures on the conic sections.  We explored, graphed, and wrote equations for circles, parabolas, ellipses, and hyperbolas.  This is tough stuff for kids when even after they show understanding of the basics; we raise the bar and challenge them to write the equation of the hyperbola only given its asymptotes and one of its vertices.

The kids are working on conics and systems of conics both in and out of class and they are improving every day.  I taught using chalk and I taught using technology.   I taught from bell to bell.  More importantly, they learned.  Each check for understanding along the way has been outstanding.  I had a pretty good week this week teaching Honors Algebra 2 w/ Trigonometry.

In my Calculus classes, we concluded our curve-sketching unit.  Students graph nasty functions by finding both the first and second derivatives.  They find where a curve is either increasing or decreasing and where it is either concave up or concave down.  They combine this with all intercepts, asymptotes and relative extrema to sketch impressively difficult functions. 

They are killing it.  They are killing it working alone and they are killing it working in groups. Next week we review for the chapter test but we are close to ready right now.  They are learning math while not hating life.  I had a good week this week in Calculus.

Today, Saturday, me and about 40 of my colleagues hosted our Open House / 8th Grade Welcome, “Dolphin Experience” at my school.  Incoming 8th graders and their parents heard presentations from each department, and every sport on campus.  The band was playing and the cheerleaders were cheerleadering and we did a pretty good job of showing off what we do well both in and out of the classroom.  I  answered dozens of  from  parents about the Mathematics program here.  It was fun and I think I repped my school pretty darn well.  I had a good week this week. 

Then I went on the internet and found out I’m a horrible human being.  It seems that the debate over Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has re-ignited the conversation about how badly I do my job.  Me, the classroom teacher, I’m the problem.  I am the reason public schools are failing.   I read how lazy I am.  I read how overpaid I am.  I read how I’m a union thug drinking from the public trough.  (I really read that)  I read story after story from people who think public schools are failing because of public school teachers. 

I thought I had a pretty good week.