About Me

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San Clemente, CA, United States

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. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Can Johnny still Read?

I spent the past 3 days in my old stomping grounds; Tucson, Arizona.  Well, that isn't exactly correct. I spent a good portion of those three days at the airport.

The first flight was the train wreck.  I was booked on a 1:00 PM flight out of San Diego, CA on Southwest Airlines.  Leaving from San Clemente, I hit the freeway at 10:00 AM.  Parking, check-in, security went smoothly and quickly and I was sitting at the gate by noon.   I checked the master board and was happy to see the plane was scheduled to be "On Time".

At 12:40, the board changed and indicated our flight was delayed and scheduled for 1:50.  So what, I got an hour.

At 1:50 we were informed that the plane was at the gate, the flight attendants were on-board, but there was no pilot.  Seems having a pilot is a good thing when flying.  We were asked to be patient and that we would leave as soon as the pilot arrived.

He never really arrived.   !:50, 3:50, 6:00.... All posted departure times that came and went with me still sitting in the airport reading a Jack Reacher novel.

The other passengers, to their great credit, mostly handled the situation with composure.  What can you do anyway?  Yell at someone who didn't do anything wrong?  We all commiserated quietly and tried to stay patient.

At 7:00 PM,  we were told our pilot had just landed and was close.  We were also then all given a flight voucher for a free $200.00.  Pretty reasonable I'd say.

At 7:40 we boarded and were in the air 10 minutes later.

So what, I got delayed.

What stuck with me is what I watched.  Both during the 7 hours in San Diego, and another hour in Tucson, I observed the end of reading.

Back in the day, (I know how much we all hate that expression, but it fits) everyone read at the airport.  Paperback books, the newspaper, magazines, text books and coloring books.

No one is reading now.  NO ONE.  Ok,  1.  Me.  EVERYONE is on there device.  Computer, tablet and phone.  I'm not really judging.  I'm observing.  I watched people spend 7 hours on their devices.  It was weird.

No one was reading.   Maybe reading is happening online?  I don't think it is.  I think we are texting, (without grammar), gaming, and watching videos.

Now if I WERE to judge, I'd lament the fact that we don't read.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The End

I used to write to help me work through my anger.  Maybe I was just trying to convince myself, but I really think by writing my feelings, I was able to "let it go" to a degree.  It was as if I could leave it on paper and walk away to face the next challenge.  Blogging has served a needed purpose in my life.

No more.  Nope.  Not now.  Now I live in a world where everyone is offended about everything.  Actually, they aren't really that offended.  They act offended.

For 10 more years I need to keep my mouth shut.  I need my job and I am convinced that there are no organizations left that don't cave to the 4 voices of feigned oppression.

I'd like to write about my feelings about the Stanford swimmer who raped an unconscious young woman.  I'd like to smash this kids face in but I'd like to write about how as a white man I'm being accused of fostering a "rape culture."

I'd like to write about the parents who don't control their children around gorilla exhibits or alligator populated lagoons.   I'd like to smash their faces but write about the difference between human life and animals.

I'd like to write about the mass shooting in Orlando at a gay dance club.  I stand with all the victims and pray that their souls are held in the hands of G-d.   I'd like to write about gun control and the Constitution but I'm not convinced that people of differing beliefs won't come after me and my employment.

I'd like to write about Trigger Warnings and Safe Zones and the refusal to entertain, embrace, and debate differing views.

I'd like to write about Feminism and how it seeks to paint all men with the same brush.

I'd like to write about poor parenting, entitled kids,  and conditional morality.

Nope.  We no longer live in a world that allows me to do that.   Now if we disagree with a policy, written word, speech or anything else, we seek to silence and destroy that voice.   I live in a world where I fear if even 1 person complains, we fire employees.  

This isn't the America my grandfather and father fought for.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pressure

I had an important talk with my principal today.  I've been trying to see him.  Invited him out for a beer even, but noooooo, he had a "family to raise".  Like that should take precedence?????  

I've been carrying the weight of my department on my shoulders.  Every "disappointment", I wear.  Everything.  If our percentage of failures in Algebra 1 edges up, it feel it eflects upon me, even though I don't teach Algebra 1.  If a long-term sub isn't performing like Jaime Escalante it eats at my soul and I truly feel responsible.  I feel like any data we collect is a measure of me.  Intellectually I know how absurd and egotistical I am.  Still....

Since becoming my department's Chair, I've been WAY overestimating my importance.  Today I had a chance to talk with my principal and he helped.  

He helped because he sees good.  He can walk into a class and see a boring lecture and find the two engaged kids.  He reminded me that for every disgruntled parent, there are 2600 others that are thankful for what we do.  I think he sees good because he is good.  My principal inspires me to see the good not just the "disappointing".

I've never been that guy.  I'm the guy screaming because you are too lazy to use a turn signal.  USE THE TURN SIGNAL IDIOT!!  I'm the guy that gets angry when you bring your dog into the store.  I'm the guy that forgets a student volunteers at the Library when I bark at her for being late to class.  I'm the guy that sees the bad.  I think that makes me bad.  I'm tired of being bad.  I want to be good.  I want to see good.  

My department is stuffed with good.  And if I am in ANY way judged based upon their performance then I am stuffed with good.  I am reminded that the best thing I can do as the department Chair, is  be a great high school math teacher.  If I inspire them with my effort, then all the better.  I can't and won't wear every detail.  I can't be that egotistical.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lettuce

It must have been about 1972 when the women of America revolted.   Ok, maybe it wasn't a full-on revolution, and maybe it didn't even branch outside of a single neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona, but the women revolted.  

It seems that for years, the price of a head of lettuce was about 25 cents.  All of a sudden, the price "skyrocketed" to about 50 cents a head and the women of Tucson would have none of that.  They didn't picket the store.  They didn't call for the resignation of the CEO.  They didn't stage sit-ins and they didn't try to Occupy Tucson.  They just stopped buying lettuce.

It seems, if my mom's memory is correct, that even without a concerted combined organized and well timed effort, all the women simply stopped buying lettuce.

As my mom remembers it, it took about 2 weeks for the price of a head of lettuce to return to 25 cents.

I guess I just don't understand choosing to go to a college where the racial makeup of the student body and the faulty is well known, disclosed, and reported, then protest about the lack of racial diversity.  I don't understand.  Don't buy the lettuce.

I don't understand why when a store sells an objectionable item, there are protests and rallies.  Don't buy the lettuce.  Shop elsewhere.

I could go on and on.  I guess I believe in the power of the pocketbook.  I guess I believe in voting with my feet.  Maybe more of us should stop with the protests and simply stop buying the lettuce.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Oops

Sometimes I forget.  i forget meetings.  I forget to call or text people back.  I forget all kinds of stuff.  I've been that way most of my life, and frankly, it hasn't hurt me too much.  People think I'm lying when I say I forgot, but I'm not.  Anyway, can't really control or care about what others think.  I forget stuff.  Whatever.

But I'm disappointed in myself because until about...now....I'd forgotten something important.  I'd forgotten that at one time I viewed my job with the phrase, "And I thy humble servant."  I saw myself serving the students not scolding the students.  I found good instead of only seeing bad.  Today I pledge to remember that to teach is to serve.  I will remember the valor of humility.  I may take a few steps back at times, but today I get better.  Today I remind myself that there is so much more good in my students than bad.  I remind myself that love beats hate and calm beats frantic.  I remind myself how good I was when my attitude wasn't so bad.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Colleagues

I've written some pretty tough material recently about some of my former colleagues.  I'd like to now reflect on some of my current ones.

I work with a great team.  As a whole, we mostly like one another.  On average, between 10 and12 of our 16 each lunch together every day.  We are smart and we are professional.   Individually, our parts shine even brighter than our whole.

We have experienced teachers who simply "bring it" every day.  We have young teachers who keep preparing themselves for more and more.  We have comedic characters and we have more rigid and firm.  We have rigor and we have reason.  Individually, our staff stands up pretty well against every other staff I've been on.

As I was reminded in the comments, "those who live in glass houses..." and this is painfully true.  I am low on the list of people who have earned the right to pop-off about others.  I'm far from the teacher I aspire to be and maybe, "physician, heal thyself" fits good here.  Maybe ranting about teacher flaws inspires me to overcome mine.

Whatever my demons, I want to apologize to all my colleagues for many of my posts.  I don't want to be measured based upon my 10 worst minutes and neither should you be judged.  I have forgotten how very good my fellow teachers are.  In every department, we have superstars.  I'm lucky to be surrounded by teachers whom I like, respect, and admire.