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San Clemente, CA, United States

Friday, November 20, 2015


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


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


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


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.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


Every day I wake up I make a decision to be as good a man as I can be.  I make some mistakes, but I hold my head high as a man of good character.  The older I get, the better if feels to do the right thing.  I don't lie on my taxes, or cheat on girlfriends.  I don't take what isn't mine and I don't ask for things I neither need nor deserve.  I always pay my fair share and I treat people with respect.  I do all these things, not for any praise, but because this is how we are supposed to act.

Maybe I'm watching too many YouTube videos, but I'm getting convinced I'm the last sane and honorable man in America.  I know that great men and women must be out there, but I fear we are wildly outnumbered by people who have no desire to walk a good walk.  Well I'll walk a good walk.  I'll do so because I have a responsibility to my G-d, my family, and my late father and I will not embarrass any of them.

Additionally,  as a public school teacher, i feel a responsibility to act as a role model for our children.  Many of our kids live in homes in which parents do not exhibit good character.  As teachers, people who stand in front of these kids 5 times a week, we have an opportunity (responsibility) to show them not just mathematics, but how to be young men and women of good character.

Too many of my colleagues have forgotten this responsibility or never realized that it is the biggest part of the job.  I'm not talking about saying "bullshit" in class.  Heck, my language at times also gets colorful.  I'm talking about showing kids that when you go to work, you go to work.  You don't sit at your desk and demand others work.  You stand and deliver until your feet hurt and your voice is strained.   Then you do it again 4 more times that day and every other minute of your week.   Then you work even harder the next week.   We must show our students what hard work looks like.

We must show our students what it means to come to work prepared.  How dare we lambaste our students who don't bring their book to class when we can't be bothered creating a good lesson plan?

Some of my colleagues are amazing hypocrites.  They come to work late yet write more tardy referrals than the rest of us.  They confiscated cell phones while spending much of their time in class living on theirs.  They complain about the performance of their students while not doing anything to better themselves.  They expect an hour of homework a night out of the students and then can't be bothered to grade that work in a timely manner.

It is time for teachers to begin holding each other to higher standards.  It is time for teachers to risk friendships if it means it might help students.  It is time for strong teachers to open their doors and show their colleagues what it means to be a teacher.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


On Tuesday I begin my 24th year as a high school mathematics teacher and I still have the feeling of butterflies in my stomach.  The rush of standing in front of a crowd competes with the fear of standing in front of a crowd.  And don't tell me a classroom of 38 17 year olds isn't a crowd.  Hell, somedays its a gang.   If the past 23 years are any indication, I won't sleep for the next two nights.  I'll toss and turn and plan my day/week/semester/year.  

One of the reasons I like teaching public high school mathematics is because it provides me a fresh start every year.  For most people, life and work is a steady non-stop grind.  I get to enjoy a clear start date and I get to look forward to an end.  I like having a finish line.   I hit the tape, take a couple days off, and spend the summer playing golf and thinking about how to get better.

I have only one goal this year.  Perfection.

I want to pitch a perfecto.  27 men up.  27 men out.   Nothing even close.  Punch out 17.

I want to birdie every hole.  298 yard drive with a 10 yard draw right down the middle.  142 yard 8 iron that flies right at the stick.  8 foot putt with 3 inches of left to right break right in the back of the jar.

I want to score on a penalty kick, a breakaway, a long distance bomb, and I want to bend a corner around the goalie.

10 frames?  12 strikes.  300

I want to dunk on Michael Jordan as I beat him 11-0 in one on one.

I want the jury to award my client MORE than I asked for.

I want the doctor to tell me to start smoking because I'm too healthy.

I seriously want to be the perfect teacher.  I've won 3 Teacher of the Year Awards.  What else is there?  I want to be perfect.

No more popping off at a kid goofing off.  Calm and perfect.
No more colorful language in class.  Classy and perfect.
No more outward frustration when they act like kids.  They are kids.  Breathe and be perfect.
No more going home with anything left in the tank.
No more forgetting that I am there to serve there needs and help them achieve.

I want to be perfect.  Seamless transitions from funny to serious.  The perfect balance between rigor and reason.  I want to be tall and dark and handsome and every one of my words dripping with importance.   I want to have the greatest year since Plato opened the Academy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


I don't like cliches.   "Time heals all wounds."  Shut up. No it doesn't.  "Patience is a virture."  Shut up and hurry up.  "You can do anything you set your mind too."  Shut up.  I'll never dunk a basketball.

And my favorite.  "Take it one day at a time."  Just shut up.  What does that even mean?  Only a fool would go through life not knowing that a day was a small piece of something bigger.  To treat a day as an isolated event doesn't fit my brain.

Except yesterday I figured out that "Take it one day at a time", for me, might be the key to my sanity.

I've been having a problem with balance.  I've been too "all in" at work.  Planning, teaching, tutoring, testing, reflecting, re-teaching, re-testing, begin again.   My brain has been all school all the time.

Well, yesterday I had a good day.   One good day.   Balanced.  Bit of work, bit of fun, bit of family responsibility.  

Now I want one more good day.  Maybe I'll try and do this "one day at a time".