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.