About Me

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San Clemente, CA, United States

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Prop 30

Talk about feeling pulled in two directions.

The state of California has no money.  Tax revenues have been down for years now and because of that, the budget for schools has been decreased substantially.  One report claimed that the average district is operating on 70% of the money they operated with 5 years ago.

The cuts have been dramatic.  First, and in my opinion most important, class sizes have increased by huge numbers.  While 35 students used to be a big class in my Accelerated Algebra 2 class, this year I have a class with 47.  47!!!!!!   This is not acceptable.  I understand that the data indicates that for a measurable affect with respect to class size, class sizes should drop to about 18 students.  But everyone with a brain would of course agree that less individual attention is available with more students in class.   47 is absurd in a high school math class. 

Teachers have been let go, support personnel have been let go, maintenance guys, janitors, cafeteria workers, secretaries, psychologists have been let go.  Facilities need repair, grounds are overgrown, and morale is at an all time low.  Public education could use a couple more dollars. 

Prop 30 promises those dollars for schools.  My union is begging us all to get out there and support this proposition with our vote for a tax increase as well as canvassing neighborhoods and manning phone banks to encourage our neighbors to vote for the tax increase as well.

Sounds logical.

Except that I don't think a tax increase is the answer.  We don't have an income problem here in California, we have a spending problem.  I could write papers on the wasteful programs and billions of dollars thrown around.  One example is the program that pays people for taking care of their parents when their parents need to be taken care of.  We pay people to look after family?  Are you kidding me?  Oh I understand the theory.  If the parents are poor, paying a child is cheaper than having the government take care of them in a government facility.  What a bunch of crap this is.  And, in addition to the absurdity of the program, the amount of fraud is estimated in the hundred's of millions.  Think the schools could use some of that money?

We are the most taxed state in America.  We don't need more taxes.  We need to cut wasteful spending.

That said, I just got my first paycheck.  DRAMATICALLY less this year.   My problem is that I've grown accustomed to the finer things in life... like eating, paying rent, paying my car insurance... you know, the ritzy stuff.... 

If the prop doesn't pass, I'll make about 15% less this year. 

Do what benefits me today or walk the walk I've been talking.   Haven't decided yet.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Big Fix

I've been reading too much this summer.  I'm about to blow.

I usually spend my summers reading trash fiction.  Stuff like Grisham, Ludlum, Petersen.   I like courtroom dramas, murder mysteries, and espionage.  I read trash during the summer because I try to restrict my reading during the school year to educational research.  I try to read ed. journals and stay on top of new trends and techniques.  (An aside here.... There is nothing new under the sun.  EVERY new fad I seen before with a different name)  But during the summer, I like to let my mind travel to the beaches of Fiji or the streets of Florence as I fantasize about a life different from my own.

This summer, I'm spending too much time at my computer reading about education.  More specifically, what is wrong with education and how to "fix it."  (Note to self:  Start penning the great American novel:  Schools aren't broken, America is broken.)  All I can think about as I read about the latest fad/trend/technique/modification/adaptation.... is for me, only 2 things really matter. 

What we teach and how we teach it.

The curriculum has to be correct.  It must be age appropriate, challenging, manageable, and scaffold in a logical manner.  We as a community must agree on what we are teaching and teachers need to hold students accountable for that material.   For this, I applaud the Standards movement.  But, I'm not the biggest fan of all the testing and the narrowing of the curriculum.   We must find a balance.  While I believe in Standards, the truth of the matter is that teachers have egos.  We want our students to test well and we are spending too much time prepping kids on test concepts at the cost of a broader curriculum.

Then, the curriculum needs to be taught, and taught well.  The most recent "educational fix" is the Reverse Classroom.  Instead of teachers teaching during the class period and students doing homework at home, (a radical concept I know), Reverse Classroom has students learning the material on their own at home and doing homework in class.  Really?  I understand the theory.  Students are taught to learn on their own and read the text.  Then in class, they get clarification on that which they don't understand.  Actually, it isn't bad....if I only had about 10 kids in class.  BUT WITH A CLASSROOM OF 40, It isn't practical to think I could get to every student, and I GUARANTEE, I'd be saying the same thing 38 times.  Teachers should teach.

Teachers must stand and deliver every minute of every class period. And to all of you teachers who take themselves too seriously, remember that personality, enthusiasm, passion and energy are as, if not more, important than content knowledge.   Know your stuff but try to make it bearable to sit in your classroom.  We are trying to teach, not lecture.  Lecture, but make sure that you are teaching. 


Sunday, September 16, 2012


Here is my unsolicited advice to my seniors about how to pick a college.

Put together a list of schools in which you feel you can be successful academically.  Adjust the list to include only schools within about 300 miles from your home.  Then close your eyes and pick one.

It doesn't matter where you go to school.  It only matters what you do when you are there.  The absolutely most successful guy I know went to school at Middle Tennessee State University.  Another guy I know is 50 years old, unemployed and STILL has $15,000 in student loans due from his years at Princeton. 

I absolutely believe that where one attends school has zero effect on his or her future success.  The big lie is that college rankings matter.  They don't.  The cream will always rise to the top.

I'll acknowledge that at some schools, the alumni REALLY look out for one another.  Notre Dame grads look to hire other Notre Dame grads.  Harvard nerds love to surround themselves with other Harvard nerds.  But in the norm, connections are made at every college and university.

Stay close to home, work harder than everyone else, and don't treat college like a 4 year party. 

Back to School Primer for Students

In golf, there is a standard expectations for caddies.  Show up, Keep up, Shut up.  Caddies are expected to show up early and be ready to go when the golfer is ready.  Caddies are expected to keep up with the pace of the golfer.  Whatever the pace of the golfer, match that.  Lastly, caddies are expected to keep there opinions or reactions to themselves unless asked.  Caddies for the most part, should keep there mouths shut.

I encourage my students to do the same.  Show up, Keep up, Shut up.

Show up EVERY DAY.  Everyone feels like crap at 7:00 AM when we wake up.  We all consider calling in sick.  Don't.  Drag yourself out of bed and into the shower.  The shower has magical properties.  Get to school EVERY DAY.
Show up ON TIME.  Our passing periods are long enough to get from one end of the campus to the other in plenty of time.  Showing up late means you are putting your personal conversations with friends ahead of your responsibility to your education.  Getting to class on time is respectful to your education and your teacher.

Keep up with the pace of the teacher.  Get everything from the board on paper.  If things start going too fast, don't panic.  Get everything from the board on paper and spend time during the evening re-writing your notes.  For me, college mathematics moved FAST.  It was all I could do to get things on paper.  I didn't learn the material in class.  I learned the material when I recopied my notes.  I could pause and figure out all the why, how, and if questions I had.  Keep up.
Keep up means doing your homework every night.  Build in a routine with a dedicated time.  Get your work done every night.  Falling behind is the kiss of death in school.  The most comfortable way to go to school is by staying a section ahead of your class. 

You cannot hear if you are talking and you cannot learn if you cannot hear.  So, SHUT UP.  Spend the whole class period quietly trying to learn everything well.   Nothing you have to say to your friend is more important than the lesson.  Nothing you have to say to your friend is worth missing even one sentence from your teacher because that one sentence could be the most important sentence of the day.  The culture of classes today is that the kids are talking over their teachers.  Shut up.  Let your teacher do his job.  It is selfish to talk through a class.  The kids around you might just want to learn the material more than you.  Shut up.
That is not to say not to ask questions.  Raise your hand and do it right. 

Show up, keep up, shut up. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Union 3.18.2012

This is a topic I seem to be writing about more and more often these days.

My union.... The California Education Association.  Yeah, "that" union.... The Teacher's Union.

My initial disclaimer is long winded but worth revisiting.   For the great bulk of my 19 year career, I have very much disliked most of what my union has done and has stood for.

I have disliked working in a profession where I am paid based upon how long I've been doing this job, not based upon how well I do it.  I have disliked the fact that I was never allowed to negotiate my own contract.  Given that math teachers are in tremendous demand and that there are hundreds of available elementary school teachers, is it not reasonable that the mathematics position merits a higher pay than the other?   Maybe I'm not "more important", but I am certainly more scarce.

My dislike grows to hatred when I think about my union's overly liberal politics.  A microcosm of this is the recent Proposition 8.   Prop 8 here in California was the bill put to the public about same-sex marriage.  My union decided to spend 2.2 million dollars to run an advertising campaign in support of same sex couples.  While personally I don't care what people do behind closed doors, WHAT THE HELL IS MY UNION DOING SPENDING MY UNION DUES ON THIS??????  Why should we take a position at all?  Why are we spending even one nickel on a social issue when we should be spending all of our time and effort trying to figure out how to best educate kids and provide great teachers with reasonable compensation.  GRRRRRR   Every time I think about Prop 8 I get angry.

All that aside, I am so very glad I am a member of my union, and I am so grateful for what it does for me. 

Thank you for protecting me from those who want to close public schools and privatize education.  I can't imagine they are in it for the money.  Nah...  Thank you for protecting me from the roar of the media that I, as an experienced teacher, should be fired to make the way for a younger, more vigorous teacher.   I could NOT be more tired of hearing how all of us older teachers are simply mailing it in and biding our time until retirement while the younger teachers, many of whom cannot find jobs, have so much more energy and access to newer/better teaching practices.   To this I say, Horseshit.   I will only speak for myself, my department, and my school when I say the absolute best teachers are the ones that have been doing it for awhile.  Energy?  I challenge anyone to match the energy of our experienced staff.  On average, our experienced staff is way more energetic, way more reflective, way more innovative and  have way better outcomes.  People have a misconception about our young staff. 

Back in the day, new teachers didn't make enough money to live, so we all took all the available jobs on campus.  We coached 2 sports, chapparoned all the dances, signed up for Saturday SAT proctoring and grabbed extra classes when available.  Now?  These guys are making over 50 grand a year and very few of them are doing more than teaching and going home.   Young, vigorous, energetic with all the latest teaching strategies?  I'm not seeing it. 

I seemed to have digressed.  Thank you Union for allowing me to keep doing what I do as long as I do it exceptionally well.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Dark Side

It's happening.

In each of the past 20 summers I've had as a teacher, I've really enjoyed the first couple weeks of summer vacation.  Then, I want school to start.  I have so loved doing what I do that I spent most of my summer vacations wishing I were in the classroom. 

Until now.  I'm not thrilled with the idea that summer will soon end.  I'm really not looking forward to dancing this dance again.  It isn't as if I dread the thought, I'm just ....blah...which is a far cry from who I have been.

My mind drifts to where I never thought it would drift....School Administration....Principal.   I've got my Administrative/Principal credential, having taken the classes years ago.  (primarily to earn graduate credits to maximize my salary)  I never really intended to go that route.  I always saw myself spending my entire career in the classroom. 

Back in the day, we called administration "the dark side."   Now, not so much.  Back in the day, it was a little more...us v. them.  It seemed a greater divide. 

I find myself surfing the classifieds for Assistant Principal/Principal jobs.  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Random Thoughts

Don't contact me after 6 years, tell me how you've been thinking about me and how you hope I'm doing well, then ask me for some help with your college math class.  Just ask for help.  I'm happy to help.  But it feels pretty disingenuous to preface your request with a bunch of crap. 

A number of "new" diets are making the rounds.  My favorite is the Juice Diet.  Yeah, that should work.  Here's a little secret.  Eat less, exercise more. 

I won't pretend to understand the persecutions endured by the LGBT women.  Still, the "in your face" mentality that seems to have developed isn't helping.  I don't want to generalize because I am friends with a handful of gay/lesbian people and each of them is reserved and classy.  But there is a group, and I don't know if they are fringe or main-stream, that is on TV and the radio who are so "militant" that it really does the whole movement harm. 

Stop telling me how bad smoking is for me.  Do you think there is anything you can tell me I haven't already heard?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Just a quick note to explain "why" I blog.

I'm a pretty emotional guy.  When I have a bad day in class, or read an article I violently disagree with, I find that venting my frustrations by writing about them helps me to understand how I feel and "let it go" a small amount.

I only blog when I'm angry.  I don't find myself often sitting here reflecting, "What a great day.  I was rigorous yet manageable in class today, all the kids put forth their absolute best effort, and I saw a unicorn standing under a rainbow over in the English wing.

I blog when I get pissed off.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I'm so sick of the way some teachers talk.  My latest frustration is when teachers defend themselves against outside attacks by saying... "and I work every weekend, and I have to buy my own supplies, and I blah blah blah... and I don't do it for the money, I do it because I love the kids. 

Shut up. 

Do doctor's love their patients?  Do lawyers love their clients?  Does my plumber just love clearing drains?  Of course not.  We do the jobs we do because over the course of our lives, we have found out what we do best.  That's it.  We teach because it is what we do best. 

I don't accept the premise that I would be better at what I do if I cared more about the students.  My level of effort, everyone's level of effort, is defined by their character.  I work hard every day because that is what you are supposed to do.  Whether I am washing my car or hanging a picture for a friend or educating America.  I work hard because that is what you are supposed to do.

Ok, I'll admit that I go home knowing what I do is important and that makes it easy to put forth a great effort.  I feel I have to work hard because I have a limited amount of time to do a very important thing; educate America.  Maybe it would be tougher to go a hundred miles an hour with my hair on fire if I were selling houses or cars. 

Still, I hate when I hear teachers claim they do this job because they love kids.  I do this job because at one time, I was a special young mathematician and have an ability to teach tough concepts in an understandable way.  I teach high school math because I am good at it and I am compensated in a reasonable manner.   I teach because I can. 

Saturday, February 25, 2012


When the bell rings, when students are in classes, no one in the educational system matters other than the classroom teacher. The secretaries, attendance clerks, maintenance crews, janitors, and the entire district office staff could be munching on potato chips and watching reruns of "Dance Moms" for all it matters. When the bells ring, there is only one person who has the eyes and ears of 40 students waiting for him or her to motivate and educate them; the classroom teacher.

So why when I go to the office because I need something am I made to feel like an imposition? Quite the opposite should be true. I should have a couple adults waiting outside my door to sprint down the halls if I need anything. I'm the one trying to teach these kids. Without me, no one else is working. Without me, there is no school.


About 4 years ago, I was walking through the halls during passing period behind a group of three or four boys. A couple of them were just walking to class, but 2 of them couldn't seem to keep their hands to themselves. There was arm punches, mini-shoves, rough neck hugs, etc. All in the span of about 50 feet. The 2 aggressive kids were big. The 2 boys bearing the "good natured" brunt were smaller. They got to there classroom and one of the bigger boys grabbed a smaller boy in a rough headlock and pretended to bring his knee up quick for a knee shot to the face. He came pretty close.

I'd seen enough.

I barked at him to stop and told him and his rough buddy to come with me. First they just stared at me while the smaller boy said they were just playing. Another bark to follow me and the boys joined me privately in my room.

I ranted at them pretty good that this is a high school not a playground. I told them that what they were doing looked like bullying and it will not be tolerated. I accused them of acting like children while we are insisting on them acting like young men. I told them I would not tolerate this nonsense in my school.

Two days later a mom contacted me. She wanted to talk to me about how I spoke to her son. I agreed to meet whenever she would like, and she suggested a Starbucks near school.

She started by telling me that she thought I was too rough on her son. My tone, words, posture, facial expressions were all too "something". She tuned me up pretty good for awhile and I just sat there and took it. Finally, I interjected. Probably went something like this,

"You son did something wrong, got yelled at, and you are hear to cry for him? Your son made a mistake and got talked to roughly and you are here complaining about it? He wasn't suspended, expelled, written up, taken to the office, ... nothing. Nothing happened bad to your son and you are here going to bat for him? He will continue to do the wrong things until you let him serve a consequence. What the heck are you thinking? You should have grounded him and taken away every bit of his technology for acting the fool at school. You should have made him come to me an apologize like a young man but INSTEAD, you think he was spoken to "meanly". Are you kidding. Ma'am. I know your son. I've watched him for 2 years. He is absolutely capable yet getting bad grades. He is always out of class, always violating dress code, always disrespectful, and you are coming to school to complain that I was mean to him. You should be mean to him. You should be furious with him....."

Something like that.

Then, she just started crying. Horrible racking sobbing flailing crying. She blubbered that he was out of control, on drugs, drinking and failing. She didn't know why she did what she did for him.

She started apologizing and told me she didn't know what to do. Inside, I knew this kid was an entitled punk who owned his parents. Nothing she tried to do now would change him. Still, I gave her my best advice.

"They don't need friends, they need parents. They need parents that insist on good character and great work ethic and they need parents that model that behavior. Can't tell a kid to read if you are watching Teen Mom on TV. Kids don't need to be given everything they want and they are begging for structure, rules and consequences. Quit worrying if they like you. Start worrying if they will learn what they need to grow into hard working citizens of good character.'

The rear view mirror

The crap that people hang from their rearview mirror makes me laugh.

The tassel from your high school graduation. Really? Ok, props to you for doing what everyone else has done. You just go ahead and keep that tassel there so you can remind yourself, and others, how very average you are.

The tassel from your college graduation. Loser. If you graduated from college, go get a great job, work hard for a bunch of years, and carve out a nice life for yourself. But hanging your tassel screams, "this is the best thing I've ever done!!". Lose the tassel and grow up.

The crystal. Come on. I get it; its pretty when the sun hits it. So is a puppy but I don't hang one from my mirror. Move to Sedona, Arizona, sit under a triangle and gain you mystical powers, but leave the crystal at home.

The cardboard evergreen tree air freshener. "But it smells good." Shut up. You have just transformed your $40,000 BMW into a car that looks like it should be driven to the trailer park. Nice going idiot.

Parking pass. Wow, you are so cool that you get to park in the parking lot. Take the damn thing off when you leave and put it on when you get there. Could you be more lazy?

Fuzzy Dice.   The 80's called and want their dice back.

Beads.  We get it.  You've been to Mardi Gras and showed everyone your breasts. Might be time to rethink your character.

To be continued


A five foot nothing, 94 pound, high school sophomore girl stopped me in my tracks the other day. 

She's a student in my Accelerated Algebra 2 w/ Trigonometry class and she earned a B (87.35%) for the semester.  Good student.  Always on time, always on task, always pleasant to be around, and she performed very well in the class.  Tough class.   Logarithms, conic sections, exponential growth and decay, etc.  

She stuck around after class and when everyone was gone, she asked if she could talk with me about her grade.   I said sure, sat down, and listened as she told me that she felt she deserved an A because she "tried her best" and "worked her butt off".  

I think the conversation went something as follows;

HER:  I know I finished with 87%, but I feel I deserve an A.   I gave my best effort and worked my butt off.  I want to know if you will round my grade up to an A. 

ME:  That would be a heck of a rounding... 3%.... No,  I'm not comfortable issuing you an A.  You had a very good semester and should be very proud of that B.  My class is fast and complex and rigorous and I agree you made a great effort.   But, at the end of the day, your grade is determined by your performance, not by your level of effort.   Grades are a microcosm of life.  If you become a salesperson after school and you try really hard, do your best, work your butt off and still don't sell anything,  your family doesn't eat.  Again, at the end of the day, it isn't about how hard you try, it is about what you ultimately accomplish. 

HER:  Is there anything else I can do?  Extra Credit?  I really need an A.

ME:   No.  You earned a B.

HER:  You know you are a hypocrite right?

ME:  Excuse me?

HER;  All year long you harped on us about putting forth great effort.  You said things like, "Great effort is always rewarded"  and "In this world all you can really control is your effort and attitude.  If you put forth a great effort, maintain a positive attitude, good things happen"   Well, I guess you didn't mean any of that.

She left, and I just sat there stunned.  Now, a week later, I'm still shaken.