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San Clemente, CA, United States

Thursday, June 30, 2011


My district has just filled two openings for High School Principal and we are currently looking to fill a third. I know a couple of the guys that applied and I've just finished reading about the two guys that ultimately got the jobs. All four of these guys could just about share resumes.

They all are in their mid to late 30's and have been in education for between 12 and17 years. They spent about half that time (6ish years) in the classroom and the rest of their time as assistant principals.


This ain't your father's high school.

Back in the day, principalships were filled by teachers who had spent 30 years in the classroom. It was almost as if the position was given as a reward for a career well done. After that, we went through the former football coach era. It seemed for about a decade, schools were run by the guy who used to wear the whistle.

Times, and the job bave changed. Where we used to hire (or at least that was what they claimed) educational leaders, we now hire politicians. Don't get me wrong. All four of the guys I referenced above are quality guys and will do fine jobs. But these men are all politicians, not educators.

These guys didn't spend 30 years in the classroom. They haven't been around long enough to have seen all the "flavor of the month" educational theories, practices and policies. After I had been teaching for 6 years, I thought I was great. Now, looking back on those days, I laugh at how much I didn't know and how much better I am today.

Principals now don't wander the hallways and interact with kids as much. They don't pop in to classrooms and interact or evaluate teachers as much. To the best of my knowledge, the daily grind of the high school principal includes taking calls from upset parents, dealing with disgruntled teachers, dealing with maintenance issues, spending time in IEP's, dealing with discipline issues and doing mountains of paperwork from our district office, the state, and NCLB.

The four men I referenced above know how to talk to people. They know how to organize. They know how to prioritize and they know when to listen and when to talk. These are good quality men who are good fits as principals. But they are not educators.

They are managers. The job has changed.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


The Los Angeles Unified School District governing board just decided that they know more than teachers when it comes to educating kids. . Most of these governing board members aren't college graduates but that sure hasn't stopped them from acting like experts. Most of them haven't been in a classroom in 20 years. Still, the LAUSD governing board has decided to replace tried and trued teacher practices with a flavor-of-the-month policy of their own.

They decided to put a limit on how much weight homework can have on a students grade. The LAUSD governing board decided that homework can not be worth more than 10% of a students grade.

First, to the students and parents who complained about homework and got this decision passed. YOU IDIOTS!!!!! Do you really want your grade to be based solely on tests and quizzes? Homework is a GIFT. It provides an opportunity to get points while experiencing the practice needed to be successful on tests. Do you really think teachers assign and grade homework just to be vindictive? We assign and grade homework so that students can better understand the material by having them look at it a second time. It teaches students how to access information and to begin to learn how to learn on their own.

By capping the homework percent, students will be less motivated to do homework, do less homework, and be less educated.

Second, to the governing boards; "STAY THE HELL OUT OF MY CLASSROOM!!!" You caved to the vocal crying of a few parents and you missed the boat. Do you think teachers will be assigning less homework? Nope. Same amount. You have effectively lowered the grades of the students. I'll spell it out for you. Assume a unit or chapter test consists of a 100 point test and 10 points available in homework assigned during the unit. Two students make identical 79% on the test. One did all the homework making his total 89/110 or 81% for the class. One of the students doesn't do the homework for 79/110 or 72% for the class. By telling students homework is worth less, they will do less, and their grades will go down.

My dad once told me that the person who knows best how to do a job is the guy doing the job. People working daily at a particular task usually find the best way to do the job. I am tired of idiots outside the classroom thinking they know more than me.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Burn Notice

During my most recent Burn Notice Marathon, two sentences from one of the episodes are roaming around in my head.

"More than anything, zealots crave an audience. Fanatics at their core believe they have something to teach the world."

Good or bad, those statements explain me pretty well. Mathematically, at my core I believe I have something to teach my students and therefore, I crave an audience. It isn't as if I lose sleep if I don't get to "stand and deliver", but I would rather teach a class of 40 than sit down with one kid. Why? More kids get to see the magic.

I think every teacher should have an ego. You need to believe in what you are teaching and you need to believe you can teach it better than anyone else around. Confidence in their teacher is important to students.

I'm pretty sure that makes me a fanatic and a zealot.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Enough already. At Dana Hills High School, we try to make our senior's last year a special one. We have gone way to far.

We have Senior Social, Senior Brunch, Senior Dessert, Senior Movie Night, Knotts Berry Farm, Senior Awards, Senior Ditch Day, Senior Send-Offs, Senior Last Will and Testaments, and yesterday, we had the first ever Senior Assembly. Phew. Thank goodness we added an event.

Are you kidding me? Enough of the nonsense.

Maybe 20 years ago graduating from high school was a big deal. Now? Now, saying you have your high school diploma is akin to saying you don't have a college degree. Graduating high school is nice. But we are making this into some grand level of success that few humans ever attain. Oh to taste from the cup that was held by a high school grad. Give me a break.

This generation scares me. It isn't their fault. It is their parents fault. This generation is the "play date" generation. From birth, they have been the center of the family. They grow up being chauffered to every event they want to be at, every practice for every bad soccer team they played for, and every friend's house for "play time". By being the center of the family, these kids believe they always get what they want. Parents are there to do things for them.

I am sick of hearing "My kids are my life." By paying them all the attention, children never have to strive to be great to be noticed. They don't have to do anything great to be called great. They never have to achieve something that screams to the world, "Look at me!!!" Nope. We tell them how wonderful they are every minute of every day. They grow up thinking the world is built for them.

The result? This generation isn't leaving home. They are staying at mommy's house into their 20's and 30's. This generation isn't holding down jobs. This generation isn't as qualified academically. This generation is waiting to be given something instead of going out there and taking it. This generation can't see that hard work pays off and you have to be better than the next guy. (This is the generation that played soccer without keeping score so no one would feel bad. This is the generation in which everyone gets a trophy. Everyone)

I believe in praise when it is deserved. Congratulations on graduating high school. Now go do something. As a society, we need to understand that false praise; praise that comes before excellence, ultimately hurts the kids.

Monday, June 6, 2011


After I got divorced in like 1990, I bounced around a bit. I taught for a year in Texas, a summer in San Diego, three years in Manhattan Beach and two years up in Northern California at Mountain View. Every time I moved, I moved less "stuff". I have slowly gotten rid of all my chachkies, clutter, knick-nack paddy whack stuff. While I assume most people accumulate "stuff" over their lives, it seems I'm moving in the other direction.

I love it. I love being a minimalist. I don't like a bunch of crap sitting on counters or desks or anywhere. Which brings me to my point. To all of my understandably adoring fans, students, parents, and just people who want to give me things, please don't, then do.

Please don't buy my the coffee mug because I drink coffee. It is really well thought out and I'm honored that you notice I drink coffee a bunch. But I have 14 brand new spillproof Starbucks Travel mugs taking up too much room in my cabinet. Please don't buy me the motivational rock or poster. "The same fire that melts butter, forges steel" Nice. But to my eye? Clutter. I've given them all away. No books. I have every title I want and 100 (literally) waiting to be read.

I know I sound ungrateful. I am not. I'm humbled when anyone gives me anything. I really am. Still, I can't handle the picture frames, wicker baskets, vases and pottery.

So, here is what would make me happy. Really happy.

For about $15 I like the Pentel Sharp Kerry Pencil. .5 or .7 lead. Probably have to find it online.

If you like me more than that, and who could blame you, for about $100 I think i would LOVE the Caran D'Ache Ecridor Pencil.

If I changed your child's life. If I saved the family from destitude and disgrace. If you feel the need to reward me further, don't. Spend you money on your family and friends. Chances are, if you liked me, I liked you. That's enough for me.