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Friday, December 11, 2009

According to snopes.com the email about flooding the ACLU with Christmas cards is false. So why then is the monsignor at my church and my son's school urging us to send a Christmas greeting to the ACLU in order to shut down their operations?

I don't know if I am more disturbed by the gullibility that is required to believe such a missive or the gall of priest using his time after a Christmas program at the school to urge "parents like you" to shut down an organization that has during numerous occasions defended the rights of Catholics and Christians throughout the nation. Neither, of course, is acceptable.

I could chalk it up to him being a cranky old man, but if that was the case then I pray that his advanced years would make him incapable of understanding the intricacies of the interweb. Unfortunately, it seems as if he has at least managed to master the skill of clicking the open button on his email.

Perhaps I should bemoan his lack of critical thinking skills that have left him vulnerable to urban legends like an infant to the swine flu. In fact the school and the diocese has been extremely diligent in it hand-washing campaign. If only they could apply some of this effort to inoculating the clergy against ignorance.

Finally, I wonder why Monsignor is spending so much time with Hannity and Glenn Beck. Why would anyone other than fear-mongering, right-wing nut jobs want to shut down the ACLU? How can anyone purporting to serve the will of Christ possibly be against civil liberties? Monsignor ended his tirade with a proclamation that The U.S.A. is the greatest country in the world (we have been blessed), but neglects to realize that we continue to be great because of the ACLU.

I am beginning to wonder if we will ever be able to wipe out the plague of ignorance. We are just as stupid as we have ever been.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sherman Alexie Beats a Kindle to Death

The other night I went to a book signing for War Dances, the new collection of short stories and poems by Sheman Alexie. I have enjoyed everything that I have read by Alexie mainly because he accurately captures what it is like to a man in modern American society.

Obviously I am not Native American (though I am relatively certain that my great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee that married my great-great-grandfather, Jesse James), so he is not my literary doppelganger, but I can definitely relate to much of what he is writing.

I even agree with him about the Kindle. My Amish tendencies cause be to view most technology with a wary eye. I prefer to see how each new device will affect my life. Right now Kindle's advantages do not outweigh its affect on my bank account so I haven't given it much thought.

While Alexie was recounting his experiences with the Kindle he said, "we are letting a bunch of guys with Aspergers control out lives."

I'll admit that I laughed at the time; he is a funny guy, but a few days later I was thinking. (For posterity sake I should mention that I was in the shower. I do all of my best work in there.) Is it possible that Johannes Gutenberg, father of movable type, could be placed somewhere on the autism spectrum.

While his fellow Germans were laying the groundwork for years of nationalism that would culminate in the second world war, was he holed up in a room somewhere moving type?

"Suck it, Sheman Alexie!"


"Hey guys look at this. I printed a poem," said Johannes

"That's great Geekenberg (Nerdenberg?)," replied his Aryan friends as they stuck it down the back of their lederhosen.

"I bet they wouldn't do that to the Bible."

So while Alexie casts aspersion on Aspergers he may want to consider the fact that most of what we love was created by the socially inept.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gen Y, Generation Next, The Net Generation

I am not a big fan of generalizing about an entire generation. It feels too much like racial or linguistic profiling which may have its uses for the FBI, CIA, and NSA, but is relatively useless when it comes to one on one relationships.

Of course I wouldn't be telling you that I hated it if I hadn't recently decided that there is something to it. I am a member of Generation X, the Dazed and Confused Slackers that stumbled around lost and convinced that Reality Bites. I never thought that any of this applied to me. It never did. I thought most of these people were whiny little babies.

So when it comes to generational generalizations I am often suspect, but I have recently met a couple of people that fit the stereotype. A pervasive sense of entitlement leads them to believe that they deserve trophies for just showing up.

I don't want to sound old, mainly because I am feeling it, but these young people today need to learn their place. In order to get your voice heard you need to earn the respect of those that you want to listen. However, they will walk into meetings with a belief that the system is broken and that anyone that has been there for a while is the cause.

This horribly myopic considering that all systems that have ever been devised by humans are broken from the outset. Systems, like writing, must be constantly revised. Rarely do they need to be dismantled and its leaders deposed.

I have been working on technology committees for different schools for the last 15 years. I have been pushing for the use of technology in the classroom. I have trained other teachers. I have pieced together labs out of discarded Macs and Pcs. So when a noob shows up to his first meeting and starts talking about all of the problems how can I not feel personally attacked.

If you want to get something done, the shut up and get to work, but whatever you do don't whine and don't expect a trophy.

My Life With the Turtles

My wife and I have been fighting about the best way to educate our son. In Kindergarten he came home with less than stellar grades in reading. We have since decided that the teacher did not clearly communicate her expectations to our son or us. We also realized that she probably doesn’t know how to teach. Until these recent revelations, the conversation around the dinner table had been getting rather tense.

In this corner we have a verbal sparing champion and eventual victor, my wife. In the other corner, weighing in at a mere twelve pounds, we have the eternally defeated, me.

“We need to get him caught up to the rest of the class. I don’t care if we have to drill every word with a flash card,” my wife said.

“But . . .” I weakly countered.

“But nothing. This is not acceptable. He has to give the teachers what they want.”

“Okay.”

It wasn’t that I had given up, though I kind of did, but I had finally realized why I opposed academic capitulation. Unlike most of my physical scars, I actively strive to hide my emotional ones. Throughout my educational career, I have had to constantly prove to others that I am an above average reader and writer. In math I was a prodigy, but it bored me to death. With writing I was able to express my bizarre thoughts, lame jokes and insightful wisdom, but these gifts are always under appreciated.

This resentment buried deep inside was rising to the surface again, and if I didn’t learn to confront my issues with literacy, it would eventually affect my son.

I became intensely aware of my issues in the second grade when I was placed in the turtle group. In order to understand the turtle group you must know that the other groups were named eagle, cheetah, gazelle, stallion and porpoise. Not really, but you get the idea. I could tell by looking at the slack jaws and lazy eyes that it was the wrong group. I don’t remember exactly how I got out of that group, but I eventually did. I vaguely recall directing my fellow turtles in a ridiculously elaborate dramatic interpretation of a story in which we had to play elves, trees, and some distant cousin of Little Red Riding Hood. We spent weeks designing scenery (cutting trees out of butcher paper) and rehearsing (me yelling at the turtle to hurry up and finish cutting the butcher paper). I don’t know if it was the play that did it or U.N. sanctions against my dictatorial treatment of the turtles, but I was moved up not long after. It would not be the last time that I would be relegated to turtle status.

The slow and steady tortoises crept up on me again in the fourth grade. I am competitive by nature, so when the teachers devised a monthly reading contest, I was determined to win. For several months I would consistently come in second. The winners were invariably girls, and each month it was a different one. I began suspecting that they all belonged to the same reading coven and had conspired to have each member win an award. I also became convinced that they were doing so by reading the easiest books possible. While I was reading intricate mysteries involving Encyclopedia Brown and the Three Investigators, these girls were delving into the adventures of Smurfett and the Smurfiest Smurf.

I had my fill by February. The night before that months deadline I pulled every Mickey Mouse (I mean that literally) Golden Book that I could find. I had already padded my stats by reading a twenty-five page book about each of the fifty states. I also read the entire natural disaster series: Tornadoes, Floods, Earthquakes, Fires, Hurricanes and Tsunamis (I’m pretty sure they were called tidal waves back then). In all I read nearly eighty books in one month. At the time I thought I was cheating, but since I still remember the books and now consider myself an expert on useless geography and climatic catastrophes, I guess it was worth it.

So, I was back in the lead. However, as is probably obvious by now, I had a little attitude whenever anyone questioned me and would suffer from bouts of anger whenever I was not entirely successful at writing essays, answering questions or hitting a baseball. Luckily for adult me this is no longer a problem since I no longer fail, but unfortunately for my son, it must have been a trait encoded in my DNA. And unfortunately for my wife, I am reliving my tragic literary career through him.

As my fellow scholars and I matriculated to the seventh grade, a clerical error most likely perpetrated by a former turtle resulted in my name being left off the list of those recommended for honors English. At least I hope it was a clerical error and not based on the fact that I was a regular visitor to the principal’s office because of my penchant for adversarial and defiant behavior when it came to teacher regulations. Whatever the case, I immediately embarked on a “shock and awe” campaign to topple the dictators that so cruelly imprisoned me in a regular English class. By the end of the semester I had a solid A that demanded their immediate attention, and in January I was back with the intellectual elite where I stayed until the end of my junior year.

For five years I soared with the eagles, leapt with the porpoises, sprinted with the cheetahs, glided with the gazelles, galloped with the stallions and left the turtles behind. My talents, or at least my test scores, indicated that I was more inclined to success in math and science, but I was doing well all around. That was until a bout of hormones awakened the defiant snapping turtle that had lain relatively dormant all those years. The teachers weren’t the ones that held me back. It was the menagerie. Apparently, there was a jungle animal council in which they all got together (Except for the porpoises who lost a contentious motion to meet under the sea) and decided that my latent turtle ways were holding them back.

Mrs. Dunnington, my English teacher and role model for most of what I do now in the classroom, called me in and delivered the speech. In it she told me that she was sorry, but she had to ask me to leave the class. At that time testosterone was doing most of my thinking, so I was able to see this as a badge of honor. In retrospect and in light of my son’s struggles, I now wish that I had been more diligent in my efforts to remain in the class.

I have been carrying around this bitterness for quite some time, and now that my son is in school, it has come to the surface like a wart on a toad. The arguments that I have with my wife are projections of the dinner table conversations that I had with my mother. Both of them implore me to look at the situation logically. My mother would constantly tell me to give the teachers what they want, and my wife says that Evan needs to do the same, or he too may be placed in a terrarium with other turtles.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Absolutely Flipping Brilliant

Today, a 55 degree afternoon (it's relevant trust me), I went to pick up my son from school. I was stopped by the teacher.

She said, " I just wanted to let you know that on days when it is cold if Evan doesn't have a coat I won't be able to let him go outside. He (my son) says that on some days you are just walking from the car." (This is a blatant lie since we walk to school.)

"Oh I'm sorry. I usually let him decide," I replied.

"But you're the parent," she stabbed.

At this point I had to suppress the gamma radiation that was boiling in my blood. I try to reserve that stuff for lifting cars off of people and pounding through walls of burning buildings.

She continued, "With the flu we are trying to keep the children healthy."

"Okay, I'll put it in his backpack," I said ending the conversation.

I knew that I was dealing with someone who most likely believed in witchcraft and easily confused co-occurrence with causation. I'm sure she has already blamed the neighbor lady for the death of her goats and the fact that her DVR didn't record last weeks episode of House. I mean she did give her the stink-eye last week.

Keeping my son inside would actually increase his likelihood of contract a viral infection. Flu season begins in the fall because we all are inside more often and in contact with infected individuals. Outdoors is the least likely place to get sick. That is not entirely true. A clean room at the CDC may be safer. So would a bubble suit like the one John Travolta wore.

Can I go outside now?


I also take exception to the "you're the parent" comment. Apparently as the parent I should impose some sort of draconian coat wearing regime. It gets worse. She went on to say, "I can't let him out if I wouldn't let my own children go out."

You may spot the logical fallacy. First she states that I am the parent and then supersedes the authority that she gave me. Apparently she is the parent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Donors Choose Beggars Lose




Whenever I hear someone suggest that I, or any teacher, try using donorschoose.org this is the image that jumps into my mind. Why is donorschoose perfectly acceptable and standing on a street corner with a piece of cardboard proclaiming, "District Out of Money. Will Beg For Paper," would be considered shameful. It is demeaning and ridiculous.

But, since it appears to be necessary lets come up with a few tips that will make it more successful, some creative signage so to say.
1. Mention as many times as possible that your students want to succeed.
"Please help my girls succeed "
"they need to be successful in higher-level math courses"
"we are getting more excited about receiving contributions so that our students have the necessary tools for success"
"Your help will help our students "unlock" their potential to succeed in middle school."

Why do these quotes work? Because as is intuitively obvious to any one that has ever seen a teacher at work, we do not care about student success. Therefore it is imperative to emphasize that you are different from the majority of teachers that have decided to dedicate their lives to student failure.

As you may have guessed, American "free" education is actually a plot of the Illuminati meant to keep the masses ignorant at best.


2. Make sure to mention that your students are minorities. (Include a picture if possible)

Nothing makes moderately successful white people feel better than to help a minority. You get more money if you manage to perpetuate stereotypes. At the beginning of each paragraph you should remind potential donors that your students face drugs, gangs, hunger, gangs, drugs, abusive parents, gangs, and drugs. The next couple of sentence that appear in successive paragraphs manage to mention success and fulfill the white guilt quota.

"Students face gangs, drugs, hunger and many other issues on a daily basis. However, they choose to succeed."

"Urban students face many challenges: gangs, drug abuse, violence, poverty. Yet my athletes continue to succeed."
This way if you don't have permission to use photos of the students you have successfully create one in the mind of the donor.

Baby needs a new Glock!
3. Check you self respect at the door.
Seriously, find your self-respect, wherever you keep it, and just leave it like a pair of musty sneakers by the door of the Kick-Me-In-The-Nads Dojo.
It's not bad enough that those that can do and those that can't, teach. It's not bad enough that each night on the news we hear that the primary problem with American schools is the teacher. It's not bad enough that Michelle Rhee wants to fire every teacher in the nation's capital. It's not bad enough.
Put the teachers on the street with a bucket, and if they are lucky, and orange reflective vest and have them beg for school supplies. We could even have the students make our signs.
"A Pencil For My Thoughts"
"Paper, paper everywhere, but not a drop of ink"
"It was the best of time, nah who am I kidding?"
"Why Can't Johnny Read? He doesn't have any books."
With ample doses of pathos, guilt, and humiliation our nation's public schools will once again be competitive. I still feel like I am taking a goat away from an African village.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fear over Free

I just read a sentence in the prologue of Free The Future Of A Radical Price by Chris Anderson that made me angry. Of course I'm not angry about things that are free. Hell this blog is free. I am angry about the same thing that always gets my dander up. (My dander has been down lately.) Education.

The sentence in question describes the web as "the greatest accumulation of human knowledge, experience, and expression the world has ever seen." I agree it is. And the wonderful thing about it is that so much of it is free. So riddle me this. Why would cash starved schools decide that they should not take full advantage of its wonders.

Answer, schools are afraid. Fear trumps free every time. Even in districts that are relatively lax in their internet policing fear of social networking, fear of predators, fear of cyberbullies, and a dash of ignorance leads to some of the most useful tools of the web being blocked from student access.

Sites such as Blogger, YouTube, Goodreads, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and about anything else that might lead to productivity have a various times been blocked in my district. For the most part we will let students access knowledge, unless of course it is a video, or happens to be on a Facebook page, or is a tweet, or a game.

That is the good news. The bad news is that they can not "experience" or "express" much. We are much to worried about getting sued and not about teaching.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Damn it Jim, I'm a teacher not a record keeper.

So I figured out why I don't like data driven decisions. Actually it is not the data, the driving, or the decisions that bother me. I hate the collecting and recording. Whenever you deal with data you have to get it first. If I was any good at this, then I would have been a researcher. I am good at teaching.

I enjoy baseball stats, but if I had to wade through the piles of data created every game, I would go insane. I let the statisticians and sabermatricians compile all of that for me. Then I make a decision about who should be on my fantasy team. If we are going to do this then districts should hire researchers and statisticians instead of conscripting TEACHERS to do it.

I was recently written up because I failed to record a reason for each and every D and F. I honestly believed that the ones that I left blank was because I didn't have adequate data to determine a cause. Perhaps if I had a research assistant I would have been better able to fulfill this duty.

Oh well!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

DDD - Data Driven Decisions

I love science. I know that science is often counter-intuitive. But I can't shake the feeling in my gut (and my gut knows) that the current obsession over data driven decisions is ludicrous. Other than the alliterative value the data driving my decisions seems intuitively obvious to the casual observer.

The data seems to be nothing more than elaborately ornate and shiny ass-shielding. Certain aspects of science are just given. For example, "shit falls." For a deeper understanding of the universe an Einsteinian understanding may be necessary, but for the rest of us a nice little Newtonian concept such as "shit falls" is perfectly acceptable.

When I spill coffee on my new pants on the way to work, I really don't care that gravity is actually a curvature in space. I don't need to perform a pre-assessment to find out the proper speed I need to drive in order to not spill a half full cup of java. I just scream, "SON OF A BITCH" and hit the nearest Quik-Trip for a refill.

In the same way I can read any students essay and be able to tell you what I need to teach. Is it because I have the Newtonian laws etched into my brain. Probably. I don't, however, have to quantify what is obvious. I dropped out of Physics for this very reason.

I am not a detail person. I see the big picture. If other people what to collect and analyze data, then I would be more than happy to read it. I don't want to conduct experiments on my students. If you are ever surprised by what the kids can and can't do, then you are not paying attention.

I am probably now considered the education equivalent of a creationist, but all of this data just seems too much like work.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Without a Clue

What is it about people that forces them to give every indication through verbal and body language that they understand what is going on, when in reality they have no clue. I notice this mostly in class.

Early in my teaching career I would ask if everyone understood. There would then be a general consensus of nods and grumbles. I quickly realized that no one wanted to look stupid in front of the class so I was not getting an honest assessment of what was happening. So I started to ask, "What do you understand?" And then point to random students most of whom would anwer, "Everything."

This is like asking my six year old son what was his favorite part of a story and he relplies, "All of it." A wholly uninformative and most likely incorrect answer.

I am reminded of a project I did in high school which I inadvertanly produced a work of insight. We were asked to make a coat of arms and to have a motto attached to it. I thought it would be funny to quote Weird Al Yankovic (When has this ever failed?) and proclaim my motto: "Dare to be Stupid." I thought it was ironic. My teacher, Mrs. Dunnington, however thought I was the 432nd coming of the Dalai Lama.

From her perspective, as a teacher of honor students, it would take a great feat of courage to risk failure and ridicule. It is through failure (and success) that we learn, but often grade grubbing sycophants care only for the success.

Even today it takes willful determination for me to admit in front of others that I do not know something. On occassion I have let my internal debates as to whether I should ask a question go on for days so that the opportunity to learn has long since passed.

The internet makes it easier for us to hide our ignorance. Now if we don't know something we can just google it (bing it?) and not run the risk of looking stupid.

I guess the problem is that many of my students are unaware of the fact that they don't know. My job is to illuminate the boundaries of their knowledge and give them the kick in the ass to push those boundaries farther.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Motivation

So how do I define success. My students at alternative school, summer school, and night school invariably fail. Well that is not entirely true. They aim for Ds and occassionally make it. The attainment of a D is cause for great celebration including, but not limited too dance, song, and high-pitched squeals.

I find myself often accepting the bar that they have set. A bar so low that it would be more impressive if they managed to limbo under it rather than hop over. I begin to wonder if there are people out there that are interested in bettering themselves.

Yesterday, in a journal I asked the students to pick their favorite fairy tale and tell why they like it so much. Most of them could not name a fairy tale and started mentioning movies such as Hoodwinked. I had to explain to one student that Pocahontas was a real person, and while doing so some other students asked me how I knew for sure.

I have never had a student say to me, "Is it okay if I right six paragraphs instead of five." It is always, "What if I only do two paragraphs."

Is it my fault that they are not motivated? Probably.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recent Study Finds Link Between Work and Success

At a press conference today educational researchers released the results of a decade long study looking at the link between turning in work and high GPA. The study took into account every variable and was able to isolate the effect of turning in work.

Lead researcher Dr. Obvious told reporters, "A lot of students thought we were crazy. They would point to the fact that the teacher hated them or that they were racist. We took that into account. And with the help of a relatively simple questionaire we were also able to determine if the teachers just made up the grades."

Students were pessimistic about the results and cautioned that the study only found a link and it has yet to establish causality. Mya Effingrade commented while stuffing stacks of unused spiral notebooks in her locker, "I mean you gotta be trippin'. Like for real, I think that those lames with good grades are just sucking up and turning in work. To me in my opinion I think that if I turned in work it wouldn't do no good."

Researchers hope that their findings will have an immediate impact in the classroom. They are optimistic that once students learn of this link they will exploit it.

One local district has already promised several days of professional development for their teachers so that they may more effectively get the word out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Teaching and Baseball (Statistics)

In baseball there is an epic battle between new wave statisticians and old style "heart of the game" types. Of course by epic I mean a lot of guys are blogging about it. There are a core group of baseball researchers that believe that through the study of the immense amounts of data surrounding baseball that we can better predict and evaluate a player's performance. On the other side is a bunch of guys saying, "Nuh-uh."

I find myself siding with the stats mainly because the other guys always want to talk about grit and determination. They also refer to people as gamers. However, in the classroom I can't seem to get behind the data as firmly as I do on the diamond.

Data driven decisions in the classroom are a lot trickier, kind of like defensive statistics in baseball. It obviously works on things like attendance and graduation rates, but in other areas I feel that there are too many variables.

First of all we need to take into account park effect. Baseball stats are often adjusted for the players home park. For example pitching stats are often inflated in Colorado and the Green Monster obviously offers and advantage to right handed hitters in Fenway. I propose that when we get testing data that it should be adjusted to reflect the home effect and the school effect.

For instance if a student scores lower on a test but they come from a home with parents that just barely graduated high school then those scores should be adjusted to reflect that. By the same token a student that have their own little study oasis at home and private tutors to help them along should also have their test scores normalized as well.

Secondly, much of the data that we use is subjective and like the defensive statistic that I mention earlier, there really is a way to objectify them. Every teacher will grade differently no matter how many PD sessions we have. Every student will perform differently depending on how much sleep they got the night before and whether they ate oatmeal or Fruit Loops for breakfast. Furthermore we are often compare players from the low minors with All Stars. Hitting in the Carolina league is nothing like facing a Mariano Rivera in Yankee Stadium and a player that makes that jump will look foolish every time.

Finally, if we are going to use data to drive our decisions we should realize that a .200 hitter will never win a batting title and no amount of steroids will turn a pitcher with 3.4 K/9 into Nolan Ryan.

Each district should hire a statistician to analyze and compile the data just like every major league club relies on at least one come draft day.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eliminate Rigor

The best definition of rigor I can find as it applies to education is "strict precision". I am trying to decide why of all of the words that we could have chosen to use as an adjective to describe the curriculum. Other denotations of the word rigor include harsh and inflexible, severity of life, a tremor caused by a chill, and a condition that makes life difficult. I am praying that when the buzzword committee of The Education Cabal were deliberating they were merely focusing on the strict precision definition.

Perhaps the English language is so limited in its lexicon that there just wasn't a word that sufficiently described what the committee was aiming for. Though this may be the case, I would still like to make a suggestion. Instead of academic rigor we should strive for academic (wait for it; wait for it).

Play
One possible definition is unimpeded scope or opportunity for action. Granted that is pushing the connotation of play, but hey if Merriam-Webster says it, then it must be true. I think however that we could all agree that when we hear the word play we definitely think of the "spontaneous activity of children." Why not work with this spontaneity and make children spontaneous learners.
Good teachers do this anyway, but because of NCLB and our ridiculous obsession corporate and global economies we are forced to talk about education with words that bring forth images of stiffening corpses.
So abolish rigor. Abolish work. Abolish the animated corpse that has a stranglehold on education. Abolish homework. Establish homeplay. Abolish worksheets. Establish playsheets. Establish playbooks. Establish group play.
When a child says that their favorite part of school is recess they should be referring to American Lit., Algebra II, Chemistry, and World History.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Damning Evidence #9

In a recent discussion about the importance of one vote I told a student that in the Missouri Obama only lost by 200 votes.

He replied, "This is one state our of 52 others."


Damning Evidence Bonus Edition

In Media Studies students were analyzing newspaper articles for bias. One of the students picked an article about the Grammy Awards. In that same edition of the paper there was a picture of an Oscar announcing upcoming coverage.

The student cut out that picture to go along with her article.

I asked her why and she responded, "Don't they give out Oscars at the Grammys?"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Documentary Document

I didn't write about the last break-out session yesterday so I will get to it now. I was impressed that a teacher was willing to present an assignment only one year after her first try. I have been doing my poetry CD for 6 years and still don't want to present. I don't know if that is because I don't feel prepared or if I am just lazy.

Anyway, I was impressed. Almost every question I had was answered in the course of the presentation and it definitely got me excited about possibly doing it in my classroom. That was until the presenter played some testimonials from the students. It was at this point that I realized that it just wasn't going to happen.

During the presentation she had mentioned that she had a class of 20 that showed up regularly. I thought to myself maybe these students are like mine. She made a joke about their attendance, and mine hardly ever show up. But when she played the videos and the students actually talked about how excited they were and all of the things that they learned I realized that they were nothing like my students.

I am currently working on the school's web page and newsletter and none of the students can meet deadlines and none of them remember how to write a story. They seem irritated when I give them the independence to write and are unwilling to brainstorm any story ideas.

I would love to make documentary films, but I don't want to set myself up for disappointment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Certifiably Google - PLN (Personal Learning Network)

Okay, the Google certified teachers redeemed themselves this afternoon with the break-out about Personal Learning Networks. Obviously, I have been blogging for a long time and I follow and comment on certain blogs. However, I have never felt like I was a part of an education community.

I do however feel like I am part of a Royals baseball community. I don't blog about baseball, but I follow a lot more blogs. There is one particular blog at which I actually feel as if I know the person, though I am pretty sure he does not really know me.

I have tried unsuccessfully to create these communities within my district, but no one seems to be interested in having the conversation. I even invited someone to go as my date to METC, and much like prom my junior and senior year I ended up going alone. (This is not true, but I thought it would be funny. I had all kinds of dates for prom.)

Of the three networking tools mentioned at this session Ning was the only one I hadn't heard of and will probably try later this week. Last year I tried Skype, but I didn't have anyone to call and did buy a webcam so I was disappointed. I just started looking at Twitter again, but as you can tell I am a little verbose and haven't quite figured out how to say something important in 140 characters. Maybe I should read more Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker.

So if anyone is out there please respond so I can feel like I am part of a PLN.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Can I Bash a Google Presentation on Blogger?

So this presentation was informative but dry. Google has plenty of tools. Obviously I am using one now, but the presenter managed to make me hate them.

By worshipping at the altar of Google the presentation managed to instill a Big Brother fear of the search engine that rules the world. Now they seem to be the Microsoft of the new millineum. They are not the giant killer. They are the giant.

With that said they are giving away free stuff for now.

Teleconference w/ MLBHOF

It is official. I turned into that guy. The guy that asks questions just to show off.

I was at a teleconference with the HOF and I was wearing my KC Monarchs hat. This was not by design. It is snowing here so I took my kid sledding before the conference. I couldn't find my winter hat so I donned my baseball one instead.

So I walk in to the conference looking like a poseur to begin with and then I proceed to ask and answer questions like I was a baseball savant. I am guessing that a lot of people walked out the room saying, "Who was that jerk that thought he knew everything?"

I guess it wasn't as bad as the teacher that needlessly asks questions extending a 30 minute staff meeting into a 2 hour marathon of inanity, but it was still annoying I'm sure.

The presentation was good. It definitely sparked my interest in teleconferencing again. I'm not sure if I could use anything from the HOF, but it did make me think about contacting the Negro League Baseball Museum in K.C., which by the way is where I bought the hat that I am wearing today.

Notes from METC

To all the people that care, which as far as I can tell no one, I am at the Midwest Ed. Tech. Con. I came late because of the weather. School was cancelled for the whole family. So I took my kid sledding before I headed out here.

I got here in time for a break out before lunch, but I had to pick quicks so I went to see Howard Pitler. We are reading his book right now for our Tech Teachers group so I went with that for some suck-up points.

It wasn't bad. He endorsed auto-summarize in Word. I knew about it, but have never used it so I will probably put it on my list of things to try.

He also demonstrated "combo-notes" which look suspicously like double column notes, but on the right hand side students put non-linguistic representations instead of written notes.

I am getting ready for a teleconference with with the Baseball HOF.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Damning Evidence #8

After seeing this picture of my son one of my students asked, "Why your son have three ears?"

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Damning Evidence #7 (2 for 1)

Get Your Peanuts Here

While discussing figurative language, specifically synechdoche, I used as an example the word "Ben jamins." All of the students knew that it meant money and that Franklin's portrait appeared on the $100.

However, when I asked why Ben was so honored one of my students responded, "Because he invented the peanut."

We're Only Human

A student was trying to make an excuse for an absent by claiming that his dog had died the day before. I told him that it wasn't a good enough excuse to which he vehemently replied, "You sayin' a dog ain't a human?"