About Me

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San Clemente, CA, United States

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I swear I'm trying. I'm trying every day. I've even seen a specialist to help me. But as this year closes and I reflect upon my actions, I'm nowhere near controlling my emotions in the manner I desire.

I'm trying to be a "kinder and gentler" Jake Schwartzberg. I'm trying to think before I speak. I'm trying to talk in softer tones and with less anger.

I could easily make the excuse that the behaviors I see everyday cause me to react with anger and volume. Everyday I am disgusted and disappointed by the way our students talk, dress, ridicule, bully, drink, use, and lie.

My instinct is to respond immediately, loudly, and angrily when I see such ugly behaviors, and I hate when I go down that road. I have got to find a way to respond differently. Barking isn't working.

I just wish sometimes that I had a little help on campus. I know I'm making excuses but for the love of math, we need more campus monitors and more adults in the halls "helping" kids act right.

And, I think every school should have a hammer. The hammer is the assistant principal on campus who handles discipline. Mr Haugh was that guy when I was in school in Tucson. First of all, there was no, "ascending matrix of concequences" that we all use now. There was paddling. Yep. In 1981 I got paddled in principals office for using bad language. I think I called a kid a fucking pussy. But it wasn't just the paddling that had my attention on campus. There was a fear of this guy. He was a scary son of a gun. Ex marine, flattop, big. We were pretty well behaved. I think the fear of Mr. Haugh kept us from doing a bunch of stupid stuff.

I wish we had a guy who the kids were afraid of .

Friday, August 13, 2010

Personalized Plates

I hate you. I hate you for so many reasons, but today, I hate you because of your personalized plates.

Here are some of the plates I've seen around.

SXYBLND No. I saw you. You are not Sexy. I know these things because I am not sexy and I am sexier than you. Therefore, by the "squeeze theorem" in mathematics, you can not be sexy and you cannot have that plate.

MYMINI Thank goodness you have that plate. You never know when you will be parked in a row of fire engine red, convertible Mini Coopers. Phew, this one must be mine. It says my mini. You idiot.

LUANN This plate was on a car driven by a guy. I laughed at first thinking he was driving the girlfriends car. Then the car gave it away. This is a guy's car. It had an oldschool lift, big music, rims. This was his car. This guy named his car. What a loser.

SS GUY We get it. The S's are dollar signs. I bet you were a mortgage banker. I hope you feel pretty good now that you've lost that job. Or, you're just telling everyone you are rich. Moron.

08VETTE I'll give you that the car is smoking. You win. But 08? Cmon, save it for like a 67VETTE. 08?

I hate everyone

The bike

About 4 months ago I decided I needed a bike. Nice old fashioned 10 speed. Yeah. 10 speed. If you haven't bought a bike in the past few years THE GAME HAS CHANGED. In a nutshell, you can only buy 2 bikes; a mountain bike or a street bike. Fatter tires and an upright riding position vs. skinny tires and aerodynamics. I decided I was a street bike guy.

$1000. Oh my gosh. There are no $200 10 speeds. $1000. That gets you the "entry level" street bike. Really nice. Really light. I bought the damn thing and have been riding it about 3 times a week since I got it. I ride through my neighborhood. I found a 45 minute pretty flat loop that I ride. I try to do the thing a bit faster each time and, without patting myself on the back too much, have become a pretty fair biker guy.

Yeah. Right. NOT!!! I decided to ride last Saturday on a pretty popular bike lane along the PCH in San Clemente. Pretty flat. Not much wind. Nice day to ride. Well, I went one complete cycle of the PCH and on my second, I decided to push it. Lungs, thighs, calves,... here we go.

It didn't bother me when the biker flew past me on his $5000 machine in his helmet, shorts, and shirt. It didn't even bother me when the 50 yr old woman raced by me next. Her calves were the size of small tree trunks.

I didn't mind too much when the 2 14 yr olds cruised by me on their 50 yr old Beach Cruisers. They were just pedaling easily, sitting up, no hands.

I began to get concerned when the 400 lb. dude rattled past me on his amazingly sturdy 1972 Schwinn. How the hell does THAT happen? I didn't have time to reflect. The family of 4 passed next. That was it. When that 8 year old went by me I'd had enough. Damn those little streamers coming from her handle bars. Damn that little pink banana seat.

I'm thinking about jogging.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I'm standing 3 deep in line at Starbucks the other day patiently waiting to order my Chai Tea Latte. (No foam, non-fat, extra hot) The guy at the head of the line gives his order (he too had been 3 deep in line at one point). He gives his order, and clearly he had been to a Starbucks before based upon his Half Caff, Double Shot, ring around the rosey, etc.

So when the nice girl at the register tells him "$3.95 please", he seems almost startled that he has to actually pay. He spends about 30 seconds getting his George Costanza wallet out of his too tight pants and then spends another minute digging through the mountain of receipts and coupons until he FINALLY finds a five dollar bill.

Here's a thought you jackwagon. Trying digging though your pocket filing cabinet BEFORE you get to the front of the line. Did you not think you would make it there? Every time you order that drink, EVERY TIME, it has cost the same. How can you not be ready with your money? How can you be so selfish as to not think about moving promptly so others spend less time watching you fumble through your nonsense. GRRRRR. When I was 3 deep in line, MY MONEY WAS IN MY HAND you spazbucket.

I hate everyone

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Daily Grind

We are in a part of the school year that I think is the toughest to get through. Early in the year we seem to hit holidays at all the right times. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Winter Break. February is easy and we get a long weekend for President's Day. But getting from March to Spring Break is a grind. We've been with the same kids for about 22 weeks and I'm pretty sure we are sick of each other a little bit. Thay are sick of me and I'm a little sick of them.

Today I'm trying to deliver a whiz bang standards review lecture on the really sexy topics of proof by contradiction and the laws of detachment and syllogism. Every time I look at a face it is an ugly mix of boredom, frustration, hatred, despair, and a bunch of other words. I simply stopped a couple of times and tried to talk about something else for awhile, then I had to head right back in. Audible groaning. Today I didn't blame them. Today I bored myself.

I don't blame myself. I am told what to teach by the state of California and the Capistrano Unified School District and for some topics, there are no bells and whistles. No "woo hoo" moments. For MOST of what I teach, it is just a daily grind for the students as they wade through material they have no interest in. I don't blame anyone. I completely understand that my students couldn't get fired up for this and I completely agree that we should be teaching this.

I get it that it isn't always what we teach that matters most. Sometime its about learning. Just proving that we can learn anything that we get put in front of us. If something can be learned, why not learn it?

That said, today was a grind and tomorrow I get to teach how to graph
y = A + BSin(CX + D) Yeah, that ought to get them fired up. Woo hoo.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


America is convinced that education is broken. It isn't. America is broken. Families are broken. The government is broken. The ONLY thing I can think of right now that ISN'T broken is education.

Every day in every school in every city in every state, the opportunities to receive an incredible education in America are outstanding. There are outstanding teachers all over this country.

I currently, have former students who are attending Yale, Duke, UCLA, USC, Air Force Academy, Cal, George Washington, and a bunch of other great schools. If education is broken, how did these kids test well enough to get into, and excel at, these schools? Did they teach themselves the properties of logarithms? Did they learn Reimann Sums by reading their Calculus texts? Maybe their moms taught them vector analysis.

No. These students walked into classrooms prepared to learn, willing to learn, and ready to learn. They put forth a good effort every day and guess what? They learned. They made A's, aced AP exams, and put up big numbers on the SAT.

When students come to school prepared, willing, and ready to learn, they learn. It is in part because of the quality of the educator and the curriculum. Schools aren't broken. Education isn't broken. Schools are providing that opportunity and assistance every day to every kid. Schools aren't broken. America is broken.

Parents aren't spending enough time reading to their children when they are young. The DVD babysitter isn't getting it done America. Hey USA!! Put down the remote and pick up a book. Most children who enter preschool or kindergarden or 1st grade above grade level, stay ahead of grade level their entire educational careers. Studies have also shown that if a student is achieving below grade level in the 3rd grade, he or she is likely to remain below grade level his or her entire school life. Schools aren't failing. Parents are failing. Teachers are trying ot teach kids to run. Parents are supposed to send them to school able to walk.

The students that are failing are not willing to learn. They just go through the motions of walking into classrooms and tuning out. They are failing because they aren't getting their butts kicked at home. Where has the fear of our fathers gone in America? I took care of business in school because when I didn't, my dad kicked my ass. Where are the fathers of these apothetic and unambitious kids? I get it that the moms might just hug and cry and throw up their hands when kids choose not to try, but where is dad? In America, dad is living across town or across country with another family. Step-dad is in the house and is probably impotent in handling the kids. Schools aren't failing. Families are failing.

Parents are too busy trying to be friends with their children. Friends? FRIENDS?? Wow. It seems to me that moms and dads are worried that their children will be mad at them if they are firm. That they won't like them anymore. Holy smokes. In a couple of sentences that should be a couple of books, kids don't need more friends They need guidance and guidelines. They need consequences and consistency. The way children speak to their parents would have gotten me slapped growing up. The language they use would have gotten me paddled. Their drinking and drug use would have had me in military school.

I have worked in 5 high schools around America. I know one thing. Parents who send their children to school with a little bit of fear about not doing well, are much more likely to see their children succeed. You see, teachers find the students who are putting forth good effort. SO MUCH OF OUR TIME is spent trying to motivate kids to try, that when we see a kid trying, it is noticable. Kids working hard encourages teachers to work even harder.

Parents should spend less time pointing fingers at schools and more time kicking their son's ass for ditching English.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The End

I have a great friend who is a little bit nuts. Seriously. This guy is such a sweet sweet guy and such a nut job.

Yesterday he called me and told me to get my ducks in a row because it was the end. The signs are all there. The end is near. Haiti, and now Chile are his evidence. The end Jake, the end.

I think I talked him off the ledge by explaining some of the science behind the movement of the teutonic plates, and I think he'll get some sleep in the next few days. But the expression "the end" is stuck in my mind. Not the end of the world as my friend sees it. But the end of the status quo.

I'm a teacher and therefore a member in my local and national union. I am also closely watching the developments in one Rhode Island school district. You see the school board has fired all 93 teachers, administrators and support staff. All of them. Every last one.

The school is a trainwreck. Over 90% of the students live below the poverty level and on a recent math exam, only 7% of the high school juniors were proficient. Ouch. But the teachers weren't fired for the performance of their students. They were fired because they wouldn't agree to participate in a plan to turn the school around.

As I understand it, the turnout plan (that is what they called it) would have required teachers to do about 3 things. First, an extra 25 minutes would be added to the school day. Second, the teachers would tutor on a rotating basis about once or twice a week for an hour each time. Third, the teachers would eat lunch once a week with the students.

Pretty darn reasonable if you ask me. Oh, and the teachers would be paid for all this additional time. $30 an hour.

The teacher's union voted no. They wanted $90 an hour. This in light of the fact that the community in which they teach has a median income of $22,000 a year while these teachers make an average of $70,000 a year.

So the board fired them all. I can't stop thinking about this and the more I think about it, the more pissed off I get. Maybe I don't know all the details, but it sure sounds like these teachers could have stepped up and tried to do what the board was asking. It sure couldn't hurt. I know what it takes to teach. I know the hours and the out of pocket expenses. I also know the economy in which we live. I'm pissed that these teachers voted no. Don't want to do the job? We'll get someone who does.

But it is a fine line and a slippery slope. Lets just offer the teachers 40 bucks a year and force them all to quit. Then, we can replace them with lower cost new teachers. Well, in education, I've found, you get what you pay for. The best teachers are in the districts that pay the best and provide the best environment. Shoot us, but we gravitate to the better paying jobs in the nicer neighborhoods. But this only works for the best. The worst teachers are left to work the lower paying jobs. This school board may be very surprised by the quality of educator available, and willing to take a job with a trigger happy board and in such a down-trodden community. Might fill a bunch of slots, but what about Physics, Calc, AP Chem, AP Bio, AP Stats, AP Euro, AP US Hist, blah blah blah. Not so easy to find great educators.

But even given this, I think this needs to be a wake up call to all unions including my own. Business as usual needs to end. The status quo needs to be modified. In these tough economical times that may last for a bunch more years, teachers and their unions need to step up and be part of the solution.

What that looks like, I don't know. You see I've been teaching long enough to remember how badly I was underpaid for my first half dozen years. I remember making $18,900 in 1994 when all of my friend were making over $30,000. These guys weren't lawyers and businessmen. They were waiters and constuction workers.

And my pension? America thinks I'm getting too good a deal in retirement. Payment for life. But what I think America doesn't realize, is that I don't get Social Security. EVERY other American gets paid after they retire from the fund they paid into while working. Me too. I just get mine from a different source. The source that I paid into. I think America thinks I get my Social Security and my pension. Nope. And health care? Yeah, I think I'm covered in my retirement but so is everyone else. Medicare covers all retirees in the system. I'm just in a different system. But I sure as hell paid into it my entire career.

What I think teachers can do is more. I think we need to do more. I want us to extend the school day, extend the school year. I want us to do more. I want us tutoring after school and working lunch time "duty" on a regular schedule. I just think we can do more.

That's my solution. I don't want to take much of a pay cut, but I'm willing to do much more for no additional compensation

I understand if my salary is frozen for a few years and I understand if I have to take a pay cut to help my district make budget.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rule Book

I sure wish there was a rule book on life so that I could refer to it when making decisions.

I got an email today from a girl I dated in Fort Worth, Texas in 1999. I had gone to Texas to teach and coach because I had needed to get out of Arizona. I wasn't running from the law, I was running from my ex-wife who I like to call, "The Devil." After she carved out my heart, I felt like a failure for a few months. I felt that people looked at me differently. "There's the guy who couldn't keep his wife." Then a friend slapped me around a bit and I decided a fresh start in a new state would be a great idea.

I took a job teaching math and coaching football and I hated Texas from the minute the humidity of the summer started pissing me off. Every day was just oppressive. Plus, work was no fun. No kids to meet me halfway and actually give a damn about their education. We were inner-city and it was ugly. Hundreds of gang fights. Must have been one a day. I

But, I made the best of it, was voted Rookie of the Year by the staff, and had a decent year. Midway through, I wasn't even thinking about dating (ok, thats a lie) when I met the drama teacher at our school.

Holy crap what a hottie. Gorgeous in a girl next door kind of way. I had to find a way to meet her so I made up this ridiculously bad excuse. "One of my students is failing badly. You have her too, how are you getting through to this kid?" Worked like a charm. We talked all lunch about education and the kids at Eastern Hills. Super nice. Super sweet. I made it a point to get in her room at least 3X a week just to chat and say hi. She would come to my room every now and again too. We were becoming friends. Super smart. Super funny. 3 months into her divorce. We pledged not to talk about our divorces with each other but we always did. We laughed, cried, and everything in between. In March she told me she had never met anyone like me. In May we went to the movies together, had dinner, and shared a kiss. The next day was a bit awkward at work and we didn't speak about it. Neither of us knew if we should just pull the trigger. I moved too slow.

The year ended and I was packing up to move to Manhattan Beach, CA to get the hell out of Texas. On my last day, with my truck packed and gassed, she came by to say goodbye. We kissed again. Long, passionate. I looked in her eyes and knew she loved me. Then I got in my truck and left.

What if I had stayed? She was special. How do I NOT turn off the truck and take her in my arms?


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Teacher of the Year

I was just voted Teacher of the Year by the teachers at Dana Hills High School.

About a month ago, teachers were asked to nominate a Teacher of the Year candidate and the top 3 nominees would be voted upon. Well, I was nominated. (no, not by me. I nominated Nate Ritcher because he is an outstanding Physics teacher and that sets us apart from many other schools) I must have been named on a number of ballots because on December 18 (ok, so I remember the date, sue me) an email was sent out to all 120 teachers with the names of the 3 Teacher of the Year finalists. My name was first on the list.

Wow. I think I just stared at it for awhile. Really unexpected. I'm pretty rough around the edges and awkward socially. I ROUTINELY open my mouth when I should keep it shut, and I have blasted a few crappy teachers. I really didn't expect this.

I knew I had a few fans on campus. Just a few I thought. The people who have walked in my door and watched me teach know that I do a pretty good job but teachers rarely see other teachers teach. We are teaching when they are. All we know is what our students tell us about their other classes.

Final voting for the honor was not until January 14. I had a lot of time to think about it. My final thought was this. I would rather not be nominated than be nominated and lose. Most people would think, "oh, what an honor just to be considered out of so many." Nope. Not for me. I'd just feel like a loser.

Yes I voted for my self and yes I won. That was yesterday so I haven't had much time to think about it fully. I do know one thing. I was feeling a little bit good about myself as I left Trader Joe's last night. I was feeling validated, loved, respected, and I think I may have had a bounce in my step. This was going to be my year. I publish my book and I check off a number of other items on my bucket list. I put my groceries in the trunk and as I am about to get in my car, I notice the bird shit. Must have been 4 big shots on the hood, one one the windshied, and 2 on the convertible top. I looked at all the cars parked around me. Nothing. NOTHING. I look up. No tree. This is gonna be my year.

My dad said that the award is only good for a more sensationalized headline if I ever get arrested. "Former Teacher of the Year Arrested for ........." Thanks Pops.

The bird shit and my dad were good things. Brought me back to baseline. What an honor but c'mon.

Kids talk to me all the time about their other classes and other teachers. I have a pretty good idea of what goes on in a lot of classrooms. (don't assume I believe everything teenagers say) I think I'd put myself at number 12 of the most important and best teachers at Dana. No way I'm the teacher of the year. How does this happen.

It will almost be harder to look them all in the eye. Will I feel like a fraud? Do they expect that every moment in my classes are magical? Now I feel I have to be Teacher of the Year worthy. This award is going to make me work harder every day to deserve it. That is what I'm going to do with this honor. I'm using it as a motivation to be great every minute of every day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mr. Lopez-Maddox


You were quoted recently in the OC Register. Your statements if accurate, offend me.

"This is nothing more than a drill by the people who lost the last two elections to intimidate and attempt to get a pay raise for the teachers union, which we can hardly afford. I've been elected and overwhelmingly re-elected. Our test scores have never been higher."

Sir, my problem is your last statement. If you are takiing ANY credit for MY students test scores, then your ego is writing checks your body can't cash. (who gets a chance to write that? I win) Seriously though. Sir, here is what you should have said. "Our test scores have never been higher. Hats off to the students, their families and their teachers. THEY deserve a bunch of credit." That would have been classy. No, you decided that YOU, a man I have never seen in my class, in my school, or even in my community take credit for their successes. Shame on you.

High scores are earned by students whose parents insist on academic excellence and push their children to great successes. PARENTS deserve the credit for any high test scores.
High scores are earned by students who sit every day, 185 days and listen and participate and learn and retain information. Students who understand that being educated means something. Students who get it that their actions today matter. STUDENTS deserve the credit for any high test scores.
High scores ar earned by the students of teachers who prepare them well. I'm the guy who learned the standards, prepared lessons to address them, built assessments that included standards type testing, worked with my department to write common assessments, shared best practices with my team, assessed data routinely, planned the curriculum to cover every standard before the testing date, AND STOOD AND DELIVERED EVERY FLIPPIN DAY. How dare you take any credit for these successes. TEACHERS deserve the credit for any high test scores.

I hate everyone.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Full Circle

In my 17 years as a teacher, I have seen a 180 degree change in the public's perception of me.

When I began teaching, I think the public thought, "Oh what a noble profession". I think that translated into something like. "What an idiot, he's never going to make any money". It was assumed, accurately, that I taught math because I loved it, was good at it, and was willing to never make the big money. I know my friends were laughing at my salary. I know it because they did it to my face. . And most of these guys worked construction or something. In a year where I was making $27,000, a friend of mine who installed kitchen cabinets PART TIME made $36,000.

I NEVER complained. I knew I picked a job that limited what I could make but I like what I do and that is worth something to me.

Then slowly, I started making more. Teachers would get 2% cost of living increases every year and after 17 years of this, compounding, .... well, I'm making more money now.

Well, today in a blog teachers were painted as overpaid union hack/mobsters. Wow.

Teachers used to be commended for what they did. Now they are attacked. Overpaid? C'mon. But, this recent turn of events has helped me come to a stunning conclusion about humankind. "If I'm struggling, I hope everyone is struggling."