About Me

My photo
San Clemente, CA, United States

Monday, May 27, 2013

D. Chair

My principal informed me yesterday that I would be the new department chairman for the mathematics team at Dana Hills High School.

I was the department chair for 2 years at a previous school and learned an important lesson at that time.  It is impossible to make everyone happy.  Back in the day, the department chair had a variety of duties but none was more important, more visible, more contentious than doing the mathematics department schedule.  It wasn't hard to decide when to offer a class or how many sections of each class would be needed, but making the final decision of who would teach what was never easy.  There would always be teachers not thrilled with their schedule.

There are a bunch of other important things the d. chair does here at Dana; work with the district office to inform staff of changes, work with the leadership team at the school to propose changes, order and maintain supplies, etc.  But again, who will teach what is a big part of the gig.

The first time I had the gig, instead of fully pissing off a couple teachers, I think I kinda pissed off all the teachers.  I was audacious enough to ask the guy teaching 5 AP level classes to teach 4 AP's and one lower level class.  I was so bold as to schedule a teacher to teach 2 sections of Geometry instead of 2 sections of Honors Geometry.  I thought that it was important to reward a hard working teacher who had taught nothing but low level classes for 5 years with a schedule that included some higher level classes.  Oh the humanity!!!

At Dana, I never wanted the job.  When I got here 10 years ago, Jim Ferguson was the chair.  Heck of a guy, heck of a teacher, heck of a d. chair.  Jim retired a year after I started and Nancy Williamson took over.  Nancy has been excellent for 10 years.  Her greatest strength is her patience with us, but she is everything a chair should be; organized, motivated, honest, fair, and calm.  I have come to look up to Nancy as a mathematician, a teacher, and a woman of good character.

Every year teachers are asked if anyone wants to interview for the job.  Every year when we are asked if we want the job,  we all say no as we ask Nancy to stay with the job.

Now, after 10 years, she's done.  I was nominated by my team, interviewed by my boss, and named d. chair yesterday.

I'm proud, excited, and scared.  I'm proud that my colleagues and principal believe I'm the guy for the job.  I'm excited to have a seat at the "leadership" table with all the other d. chairs.  I'm scared I'm not the guy Jim was and not the chair Nancy was.  Big shoes to fill.

I'm also more ready for this position than I've ever been.  Here's to fresh starts and new beginnings.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Less is more

The older I get, the more successful people I meet.  Every stinking one of them is a self made man or woman.  I have yet to meet anyone of wealth and success that simply inherited their fortune.  I know they exist, I just haven't encountered any.  Every successful person I know is a self made man or woman.

I tutored a girl whose parents were a mess (drugs, alcohol) and was being raised by her grandfather.  He lives in 7000 square feet RIGHT on the water in Dana Point, CA.  He's an entertainment lawyer who grew up the son of a janitor.  He put himself through school and law school and became the man that he is.  I have friends that are doctors, business men, teachers, firefighters and a bunch of other professions and as I get to know them better, I am overcome with the belief that parents should give their kids almost nothing. 

My great take-away from knowing these men and women who became successful is that they became successful because they overcame adversity.  I think they may NOT have achieved what they have achieved if someone had given them help.  It's risky, but parents should not give their kids anything.

I know that I live in an affluent community in Southern California but the way parents are handing their kids everything is a disaster.  I have students who have had new cellphones every few months.  They break them, lose them, want the latest technology or whatever.  Whatever they want they seem to have. I have students whose first car is a new BMW.  Are you kidding me?  What does the kid have to look forward to?  They treat "their" belongings poorly because they never worked to get them.

My first car was a 1969 VW Bug.  This was way before it was cool to have a 1969 VW Bug.  This was 1979 and I had worked pretty hard to save the money to buy it.  Can't remember the price but I bet I worked for 18 months saving money.  I had a newspaper route in a giant apartment complex and I delivered the morning paper every day.  I also worked 20 hrs a week after school at McDonald's.

I had crappy cars all my life.   As I think back my  78 Chevy Impala, 82 Honda Civic, 84 F150 Truck,  were all used when I got them.  I remember buying my first brand new car.   I was 42.  Now I have a great car.  2008 Honda S2000.  EVERY DAY when i get into "the rocket", I smile a bit.  I'm proud of where I've come given where I've been.

When we give, we take something away from people.  We take away a pretty important life lesson.