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San Clemente, CA, United States

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.