Monday, June 16, 2014

The Best Baseball Movies

Last night I saw 'Million Dollar Arm' and I loved it more than any baseball movie I have seen in a long time. The baseball-Bollywood music mashup was a big hit with me, seeing that I am a closet Bollywood fan. The film inspired me to make a list of my favorite baseball flicks of all time. For the record, there are a lot of baseball movies I haven't seen, including what is regarded as the greatest of all time, Bull Durham, because it is rated R. Because of my values I try to steer clear of movies with course language and sex, which apparently are critical components of real-to-life baseball stories, so I miss some films here and there. This is by no means based on any cinematographic ratings system, just how much I enjoyed the movies.
10. Moneyball: This, apparently, was a masterpiece of the silver screen. I am a huge Oakland A's fan. You'd think I'd be more into this one, especially since I went to so many games that year. But in the end I didn't really need to see the movie, I was there.
9. Bad News Bears: I saw this when I was a kid and liked it, but it didn't really stick, it's just nostalgically funny.
6 (three-way tie). Rookie of the Year, Little Big League, Angels in the Outfield: I loved these movies. Here is the formula: 1. A kid makes an impact on a major league baseball team (RoY: pitcher, LBL: Owner, GM and coach, AitO: sees angels) 2. Cameos by real baseball players  (RoY: Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Pedro Guerrero, LBL: Ken Griffey Jr, Ivan Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and many others, AitO: Carney Landsford--again, I'm an A's fan, so I loved this) 3. Use trickery in the final play of the game  (RoY: hidden ball trick, LBL: hidden ball trick, AitO: lie to Tony Danza about seeing an angel) 4. Win the Pennant. And you're done. I will always love these movies from my childhood.
5. The Rookie: I thought this was the best movie when I first saw it. I always have to fight off tears when he tells his son that he got called up to the big leagues. Perhaps the best part, however, is when he enters the Devil Rays' locker room and sees the jerseys of Boggs, Canseco and McGriff, then looking online and finding out that on the roster only Boggs and Julio Franco were older than him, then realizing how awful that team must have been that they signed a 35 year old lefty and brought him all the way up to the bigs for five appearances in September.
4. Million Dollar Arm: I just saw it, so I'm still living in the moment, but I thought it was an exceptional movie. I've seen more Indian films than the average American, and I loved the India part of the movie and the A. R. Rahman influence. There's something about seeing someone get a chance to play in the big show that gets me all emotional, I'm such a wuss.
3. Field of Dreams: I love this because it pairs Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones as well as baseball with science fiction. Often called one of the all-time greats, usually behind only Bull Durham, it falls to 3rd on my list because I think so highly of the top two titles on this list.
2. A League of Their Own: First of all, I've always been a sucker for Tom Hanks. Second of all, this movie is hilarious, historical and heartwarming. And thirdly, "There's no crying in baseball!"
1. The Sandlot: I love this movie. So quotable from "You're killing me, Smalls!" to "You play ball like a GIRL!" to "For. Ev .Er." I remember watching it over and over again. Playing ball as a kid, I felt the truth in what James Earl Jones said at the end of the movie, "Baseball was life." If only I could still be a kid and baseball could still be all there was to life. Maybe after ten years of teaching I'll slip on an icy patch and be able to throw 90 mph, then get picked up to play for the Blue Jays...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Common Core: Friend or Foe?

Complaints about the Common Core are usually made by whiny republicans who are holding on to the state's rights concerns, so they always sound more radical than they actually are. The biggest beef I usually have with these are that they are based on principles and not the actual standards In my two years in Roosevelt I saw poor district implementation and yearly teacher training that teachers said didn't help. 
Before I list my problems, Here is a list of why I like it (the whiny republicans never do this, which always makes them seem more crazy, because the unwillingness to cede anything, even the obvious, in an argument usually is a characteristic of someone blinded by personal interests and is being irrational. 

Why I Like it

1. My first thought was that it's about time. The highest performing countries all have state-run education systems (and by state I mean national) that are linked to the states forecast of economic needs. The difference is that these states (Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan) are only as big as a US state. And the CCSS weren't developed in line with any outlook on the economy, which is different in each region. 

2. I like the idea that each state is actually on the same page. Going to an institution like BYU with a national base of students opened my eyes to the different educations you get from each state. It may not be the best reason to create a nationally implemented curriculum, but for a 'United' States that depends on each other it really troubles me to think how little people care that one state can fall so far behind another's educational standards. To be able to actually compare students from one state with students from another based on common assessment is not a horrible idea, either. You just have to make sure the assessment actually is worth it then implement it well. More on this later.

3. It focuses on good math solving skills, not just math skills. The rigorous nature of the math curriculum is great for assessing a students' true understanding of the subject. This is great, but it doesn't look great due to flawed implementation, which I'll touch on later, and makes assessment-writing difficult as well. 

4. English teaching that matters. As much as I love reading, and enjoy reading the classics, we really don't need any more English majors. Kids need to learn at a young age how to effectively read informational texts. Why? Because this way students will be able to understand the wording in math problems and science lab instructions, which are two of the greatest contributors to math anxiety and disinterest in the sciences. Aside from this advantage, people need to know how to read boring forms because life is full of them, and if nothing else, it might prevent people from getting in line at the DMV just to ask stupid questions.


1. Poor implementation. districts like he one I formerly taught in throw it all all grades at once and hope for the best. This predictably leads to failing students in the higher grades because they did not grow up in the system, and therefore are unaccustomed to the types of high-level of expectations dictated by the curriculum. I witnessed a higher than usual amount of 9th graders who failed (or nearly failed) and went on to fail yet again in the the 10th grade, and definitely will in the 11th grade as well because they were the test run of the secondary math curriculum.This really only shows the incompetence of local leadership, but I think this is happening in a lot of other places, too. 

2. Poorly trained teachers. Teachers are being tossed into the fire of teaching for new types of outcomes without really knowing how to do so. They are asked to attend a week-long unpaid training every summer that teaches them about teaching the CCSS, but I have not heard a single favorable report back from those (I went to a special education one that was separate, paid, and really, really helpful, but that's special education for you). Now, teachers are generally cynical about changing anything they do, so many likely immediately shut down upon being asked to change and shown how to do so effectively. And when they are pulled away during the summer to be trained without pay, usually sacrificing time from a summer job that they have in order to make ends meet, it doesn't exactly help the attitude. The problem of poor teacher training will lead to all sorts of problems with the implementation of CCSS and, consequently, student learning.

3. Poor Assessments. The first two concerns alone will drive CCSS into the ground, and it will have nothing to do with the actual quality of the material. That being said, the material (specifically math) has led to difficulty in assessment. When proving the effectiveness of CCSS, all that will matter is the test results. Standardized tests have come a long way since I was a kid. I couldn't believe the amount of useless testing that was going on when I started teaching. The end of year standardized assessment used when I began teaching was the NWEA. It was administered three times during the year, and the results were treated by teachers like Angry Birds high scores. So this testing did not do anything for the teachers or students and yet the kids took four different tests (math, science, reading and langauge) three times a year, taking away instructional time, and developing in some students (and most teachers) test apathy. 
I asked my colleagues serious questions about it because the results were so abstract and time-consuming to interpret that I wondered if they took the time to analyze the results of their 180 students. None of my fellow teachers had any idea how to use NWEA scores to direct instruction. The only training they had received was how to administer the test. I was in attendance at the monthly principal's meeting when they had a training on it, but it was from a school administrator from another district who was trying to sell the state on adopting it state-wide and the information did not make it to other teachers in the schools and focused mainly on interpreting school-wide results. What it really showed me was how much we don't know from student test scores*, affirming my belief that the test was a waste of money.  
I mention all of this because I believe that standardized testing in any form is flawed, it's not new, and I actually don't hold much hope in that changing (at least not in the district I taught at). The year after I left the district picked up the new SAGE test compliant with the new CCSS, and it turned out that it was just more of the same. Do you know why? Teachers were not given adequate training, and students were also left in the dark about what to expect, so the test apathy developed from the NWEA was perpetuated. 
The Common Core? Well, if what I've seen is any indication, the poor results in the classroom and on standardized tests will likely cause people to really question its worth. Maybe questions about how it was implemented will be asked and answered, maybe not, but if nothing else it gives the opportunity for someone to come up with another program that will be touted to "increase educational outcomes in our schools". I am perfectly confident that the next one won't fix the previous, and also that the current isn't actually that bad, but there are some major problems with implementation, training and assessment.

This has been long, but I want to quickly revisit what I said in the first paragraph. I agree with the whiny republican who is in charge of in that education is a responsibility not granted to the federal government and therefore should be reserved to the states, and that wheels are in motion signaling greater federal control of the education system. This is not okay, especially since it is the states that fund their schools and have the right control them. If they want to usurp some power from states there is a perfectly constitutional process to do that in the form of amendments. That being said, I can't think of the last time the country was able to do anything about executive overreach (or should I say, "I don't recall"), but if Republicans can put it on the agenda for 2016 and find a candidate who's not a time bomb of frequent racist/sexist/anti-leftist fear-mongering/plutocratic/crazy comments, something might change. 
What I really want to know is where these guys were during NLCB. They could have saved us from years of horror.

*I could talk about this, but I won't because 1)It's boring 2) They aren't doing that test any more in that district and 3) It'd be really long.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Response to the 9 things you should never say to teachers

I admit it, I scroll down the Huffington Post for my news. I feel slightly queasy doing it, but there are some things there I appreciate about it, specifically that they have an education page. Currently education news is a little slow, but I did find this, which intrigued me as a teacher. For the record, I have only heard one of these statements before, but I have heard other comments that are more offensive than some of these. Here are my responses to a few of these:

1. "Teaching sounds like such a sweet gig. I mean, you get summers off."
"During the summer, many educators teach summer school classes, participate in teacher training, earn advanced degrees and plan for the next year."
All of this is true, but my district didn't offer traditional summer school, only offered two days of paid training, and one paid day of prep. You know what most teachers do during the summer? THEY WORK! As we all know, there is very little money involved in teaching, and most teachers need to work over the summer to support their family, that is why this is number one on this list.
5. "It's awesome that the point of teaching is to make a difference, but do you really think any of your students will remember you?
First of all, I could be wrong in thinking that everyone remembers a teacher they had at some point in time, even the idiot who asks the question thinking that it is correlated to teachers making a difference. Secondly, I think teachers and non-teachers would generally agree that teachers are teachers in order to make a difference, but I think the definition of what is a difference would be different between the two groups. While the community and politicians might think that the difference is graduating students into prestigious universities, raising test scores or teaching disadvantaged Latinos calculus (or more recently inner city kids how to enjoy writing), teachers would probably think of smaller victories. As I think of these small victories, most are achieved through kindness and mercy. Like helping students through bad days by giving of time and words of encouragement, spending time before or after school helping students master an important concept or giving students a shot at redemption to help them make the grade. I am actually not good at any of those things, but I know there are teachers out there who are, and that's great. My goal in special education was to inspire students to enjoy doing math and believe they could do more than they had done in the past. Nobody passed an AP test but I can at least say that there was a change in student attitudes while I was at Thompsen and Union. This goal translates into fewer truant students and dropouts, higher grades and test scores, and more graduates. Does it make students remember me? Who cares?
7. "If you get tenure, you pretty much can never get fired, right?"
"As noted in a National Education Association blog, 'Tenure is about due process -- not about guaranteeing jobs for life. And it’s not about protecting 'bad' teachers -- it’s about protecting good teachers.'"
This comes up in every discussion about teacher quality, but there's a shift against tenure in most conservative-run states. Everyone in the district I taught in has a one year contract and the district is under no obligation to renew it. I have seen teachers and administrators alike 'pushed out,' so to speak, so this doesn't really apply to me. But if I taught in California I'm not sure it would offend me.
8. "Can't you just sit back and let the textbook teach for you?"
Some teachers have done this. It is not incredibly effective, exciting or popular, but the answer to the question is yes. I have not seen it done in schools I have taught, but I had a class in high school that fit this definition, and I think that if I was the only one this question wouldn't have made HuffPo's list.

My overall synopsis of the questions is that I don't think people are really stupid enough to ask them. Most of them require the questioner to not value the traditional public education model either for political reasons or personal (like having the same world history teacher that I did). These are the same people who would ask questions #3, 6, 7 and 8 because they think teaching is a super easy job that offers a lot of autonomy and cushion because of the superpowerful teachers union (applicable to unions in California, Illinois, and New York in particular). These are generally the students who did not need extra help to pass their classes, or underachieved and didn't care. As parents they start charter schools to try and keep bad teachers out of their kids' classrooms, which is noble, I guess, but not entirely necessary in my opinion.

I'll end this post with a story of the most offended I've ever been as a teacher. To be honest, it may be the only time I was offended by a parent or anyone else when talking about my profession. It happened when I was a student teacher at parent teacher conferences. I was teaching health education at the time and a parent told me I should have gone into teaching math. I guess I was offended because I did-and still do-believe teaching health in school has great merit, and it actually is more applicable to students' lives and can make a bigger difference in the big picture for students as well. Looking back on it, his tone was more offensive than his words, because I would have gladly been a math teaching major if I wasn't already three years into a political science degree when I decided I wanted to teach. Health was the fastest way to become a teacher, but I got hired to teach special education instead because of my merits as a teacher, and now I teach math anyways. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Mockingjay Won’t Get Fooled Again

SPOILER ALERT!!!! This is dripping with details that you don’t want to deprive yourself of discovering when you read the book for the first time.

I just finished the Hunger Games. I haven’t talked to anyone who really enjoyed Mockingjay, especially when compared to the first installment of the series. I find it the most complex of the three, but probably because I overthink it, however it does include my favorite part of the entire series. Was it as ‘fun’ a read as The Hunger Games? No—this is the opinion everyone gives of this book, which I totally understand. This is because what people end up finding the most interesting is the account of Katniss as a participant of the Hunger Games (which is pretty funny, because people comment on how obscene the Hunger Games are, but they can’t swallow a book that doesn’t give you a play-by-play of people hunting each other). I admit, I was disappointed when the Quarter Quell got cut short in Catching Fire. I wanted to see Katniss save Peeta and what would happen at the end, but what happened instead was much more mind-boggling.

Let me begin with the sappy love story, because that’s what Courtney always asked me, “Who do you think Katniss will choose?” I was a Gale supporter from the beginning. Gale was the most static of all the characters. Through the whole story, I don’t see Gale change at all. He begins hunting with Katniss and badmouthing the Capitol, he ends hunting and badmouthing the Capitol. His feelings for Katniss don’t even change. Yet Katniss chose Peeta. I don’t like the idea that it’s because they were both screwed up by the end of the whole things (although I do subscribe to the idea that the weird ones find each other—especially at BYU).

The reason comes down to their purpose in life. Gale was dedicated to a revolution—he had been since the very beginning. He was willing to go to any length to seize control from the Capitol, but Katniss was not. The short answer to this is that Katniss believed that ever since the nightlock incident she claimed responsibility for every rebellion-related death and couldn’t support a violent revolution. The long answer is that she didn’t want a revolution. She offers no evidence of desire for an uprising of the districts. In fact, every time she is faced with the prospect of being part of such an uprising, she wants to just run away. In the end her life’s only motivation came from 1) A desire to save Peeta and 2) A desire to kill Snow.

Up to the announcement of the Quarter Quell, I believed Katniss could have—and would have—ended up with Gale (although information revealed in Mockingjay disrupted theory). Katniss felt indebted to Peeta for 1) saving her in the Hunger Games and 2) playing him like a fool for the entire Hunger Games. Here entire behavior from there until Peeta’s rescue had been predicated on her need to keep Peeta alive. Katniss simply couldn’t live indebted to someone who loved her so much. When Peeta had been hijacked, though, she needed something else to get her through. She found strength in the thought of killing President Snow. During this time it appeared that she and Gale shared something, but in reality that was not the case. Not only did she not have different views than Gale, but she also thought less of him for his views, which is not something that is particularly awesome for relationships. She had such arduous hatred towards him for personally ruining her life and Gale’s spun his web of hate for the system through which he brought pain and suffering to people throughout all of Panem. That’s not to say Katniss approved of the system – she most certainly did not – but she wanted Snow for personal reasons, she didn’t think any other form of government could be different, which is why she always wanted to take flight into the woods and live without government interference like some crazy in the Idaho panhandle.

Peeta always loved Katniss. He’s such a figure of moral fortitude through the entire story, too. His hijacking destroyed him, of course, and what I never did figure out is how he got over his hatred for Katniss and began to trust her again. It never made sense to me. In the end I see their relationship a matter of convenience. They both end up in District 12, which is essentially the Idaho panhandle at this point, far from the commotion of an emerging government, and Katniss, after over a year of caring for not much more in life than Peeta’s survival decides she loves him. Gale goes on to serve in the new order of Panem and, I’m sure, is heartbroken over Katniss’ unstable mental state, but will get over it because he’s a warrior. And that’s what warrior’s do.

(For the record, Katniss was warrior, but was manipulated emotionally in a way that screwed her up. Major PTSD stemming from both the Hunger Games and the weird relationship with Peeta)

Now for some interesting questions. Mockingjay prompted so many questions about character decisions and speculation for the future of Panem. Because this is incredibly long, I’ll stick to these four, unless I think of any more.

What type of government will Panem use?
As someone whose political science capstone emphasis was in state building, I asked this question the whole way through. I absolutely loved the commentary on the state building process, especially reading it while this is taking place in Syria, where Alleppo might as well be District 2 (although the Syrians are not blessed with such help as District 13 provided). Although Plutarch tells Katniss that the government will be a form of representative republic, I don’t see that being the case. To keep things short, we’re looking at Stalin’s Russia, here. Coin was ready to step into power and force equality over the entire country, no capitalism; no system that promotes one person or group of people to feel superior or be perceived as such. This would theoretically prevent the previous extreme, cirque et panem, that existed under Snow. Without Coin, a representative republic is certainly more possible, but I still see a protectionist, socialist state run by a council rather than a president (I know they still have a president, but I’m sure they added some form of checks and balances as to decentralize power in some way).

Why did Katniss shoot Coin?
If there was one thing Katniss was able to recognize still through all the mental health issues, it was the scent of Snow’s grasp of power, and Coin stunk of it. This was my favorite part of the book. Snow was going to die either way, but why not take out Coin while you have the chance? Both a genius plot twist, and something that was totally characteristic of Katniss’ character. This obviously brings up the more pressing issue presented by Snow in the rose garden (does anyone else love that the president has a rose garden, just like the president of the United State has a rose garden?).

Did Coin send the parachutes?
When I read it, I thought Snow was sending the kids help as a publicity stunt, but Katniss’ description of the situation sounds like an atrocity beyond understanding. Snow had motive to lie to Katniss about it in order to enrage her to the point of still distrusting the government in hopes that she might just bring down the woman who brought him to his knees (Coin). Coin had motive to do it in order to make Snow look completely inhuman. Snow had zero motive to kill those children. He knew he was done, and what would killing the youth of the Capitol do for him? What an excellent way to end the book.

Why did Katniss vote for the Capitol Hunger Games?????
Would Gale have voted yes to a Capitol Hunger Games?
It makes no sense to me. The Hunger Games were a symbol of the Capitol’s power over the districts, which Gale did not like. I’m sure he harbored resentment for everyone from the Capitol who did not immediately join the uprising, but I do not see him enjoying the Hunger Games when it represents submission of those people to the new order. Peeta, the unchanging moral compass of the book believed this. I feel Katniss should have felt the same way. I don’t buy her position that she voted as a reaction to Prim dying, because it was likely Coin’s fault that Prim died, and the following events suggest that she must have believed it at that point. Now more children will die because of Katniss, a thought she abhorred since claiming responsibility for all uprising-related deaths in Catching Fire. If not for the other points I thought excellent, this could have given me a nasty aftertaste of the series. It still lingers a little bit.

There are other matters worth discussing, but I really should be working on schoolwork, the same way I should have been from 8:30-12:00 every night since Friday when I started Catching Fire.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Abbreviated Notes from Pondering while Wondering

I felt inspired to post today. It may be that I'm just avoiding an assignment that I must do for a training tomorrow, but nevertheless a post is a post. There a many issues in the past month that have crossed my mind as I have been working my summer job. This summer I am working for mosquito abatement, which entails driving around looking for mosquito larvae and killing it during the day, and driving backroads at 10 mph with the fogger on at night to kill fliers. All that driving, searching, and swamping gives me plenty of time to let my mind wonder. The topics I've been thinking of include:

  • A documentary about all the weird summer jobs teachers have
  • The definition of marriage 
  • A theory I came up with four years ago explaining how an influx in popularity of far-right groups   could cause the Republican party to lose elections that it should easily Idaho......and that theory's pertinence to the situation on the national stage today
  • Said theory's ominous raincloud over the Romney campaign
  • The need for campaign finance reform--ugh
  • The need for a paradigm shift in education reform--We just aren't providing a sufficient free, appropriate, public education any more. How is it that a college degree is the new high school diploma when the cost of secondary education only rises and students graduate with a lifetime's worth of debt? How is that the American dream? Speaking of which:
  • The American Dream: Does it really exist? Can it only exist with a mountain of debt?
  • Next year I really need to find a college research job or something
  • The European financial crisis--how different are we and what are we doing to avoid it?
  • The Affordable Care Act--again, what are we doing to avoid a government bankruptcy?
  • The Supreme Court's ruling on the Affordable Care Act--if the quick, sly fox is Chief Justice Roberts, is the lazy dog Clarence Thomas? And how can we get past this chalk party line on the bench? I mean, I learned in high school that there are two ways to read the constitution (liberal and conservative); is there any way past this?
  • Baseball-I think the Giants and Nats will make a good NLCS and Rangers and Angels will make an even better ALCS.
  • Entertainment-I wish GI Joe would have opened on its expected date
  • More education reform-When will I have time to work on preparing for next year's classes? Why are teachers expected to improve without being paid to work towards improvement when they don't have to worry about teaching classes? What's the idea here? Does anyone have a plan for professional development?
  • Recreation: Will I ever regularly run again? When will I make enough money to go golfing? To go camping for a week with my family?
  • Basketball-Did Lebron finally make 'the jump'?
  • Money-How will I pay for a doctorate?
  • Money-How will I pay for another vehicle to hold more family?
  • Money-How will I pay for hospital bills when we expand the family?
  • Money-How will I pay to visit the family we love that live so far away?
  • Money-How will I pay for whatever it takes to make my lawn turn green again?
  • Oh yeah, working mosquito abatement over the summer will help
  • Man I hope I find a better job next year
I someday I'll address these topics, but for the most part I spend what time I'm not at work, with my family and what time I'm not with my family or at work working on my master degree. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

A lot can change in one year...

One year ago I was relentlessly applying for teaching jobs and receiving a constant flow of rejection emails. Yesterday I finished my first year of teaching. And while I wish I could actually be paid to work for another few weeks so I could work out some kinks in my instructional scheduling and prepare for the new curriculum I'll be teaching in the fall, paying teachers to do so is not as important to everybody, although it certainly should be. (Great idea note: most experienced teachers, while they will deny actually needing this, probably need to take time to reflect the past year and make necessary changes to their instruction just like young teachers. All teachers should be allotted contract time for this and should be held accountable for the process of refining their teaching skills, and there is really no better time to do so than right after the school year.)
What new curriculum? Well, I applied for a district job in the district and got transferred to the high school where I'll be teaching three periods math and three language arts. While I feel comfortable teaching the same math I have been this year, I need quite a bit of prep time for my new language arts course. Here are some reasons this is more difficult than it might seem at first:
1. The Common Core Curriculum: Our district began teaching the nationally accepted Common Core Curriculum this year. I am up to date on my math, aligned with the junior high courses being taught (the math department at RJHS helped me out a ton on this) but the high school English department is not exactly on the same page concerning how to teach this new curriculum (or whether or not they want to, I think). So it will be difficult closing the gap when I'm unsure of what mark I'm trying to catch up to. Speaking of which:
2. IEP Goals: Previously, I had written very specific IEP goals for the kids at Thompsen, but I was told this week that there are no specific academic goals for students at the high school, just that they pass all their classes and are preparing for graduation, and a behavior goal or two if they need it. This is wrong on so many levels (on a legal level, first of all, but also on educational, organizational, professional, and caring-about-the-kids-you-teach levels, to name a few). It's not like I'm incredibly anal about not being in compliance with special education law (well, I am, actually), but these goals are there not only for students to work towards something and the parents to hold the school accountable for trying to catch their children up to the mainstream curriculum, but also to guide instruction. So I can't really plan what I teach unless I know what they need to learn. Urgh. Frustrating.
3. Other Special Education LA teachers: There is another special ed teacher who teaches 5 periods of language arts. If I had the time to collaborate with him we could streamline the department's LA curriculum in order to curb the amount of students who will undoubtedly try to switch classes when they find out one of us is harder/easier than the other. (Disclaimer: The district does provide two paid days before the school year to prepare for things, but that usually includes at least half a day of in-service. Special education teachers also get a couple of extra paid days to review their new IEP files.) This likely will happen, but not to the extent that I would like it to happen.
4. Differentiating Instruction: This means providing challenging learning opportunities for every student despite what level they’re actually on. I’ve developed a program to do this in math, but I’m not so sure of how I’ll do it in English. It’s a vital part of special education instruction because in my classroom students will have goals on all sorts of different levels (well, not yet, maybe; see 2. IEP Goals), so to meet all of them I need to give them all specific instruction towards what they need. This hasn’t been happening in math, nor has it been happening in language arts, so I need to do that to, which is a problem because…
5. I don’t do language arts: Or at least I never have before. No one ever taught me how to teach someone to read or write. Mainly that’s because I’m still working on my masters in special education and my two undergrad degrees were political science and health education. So I don’t really know what I’m doing anyways, but I’m sure I can give it a pretty good shot.
So that’s what I’m doing. I feel fairly confident in half of the new job I’ll be doing, and a little wary on the other half, but I’m excited to be a part of some big changes.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Awesome meets Disappointing

I saw Styx for the first time in 2007 and was amazed by the band's energy, especially Tommie Shaw parading around the stage with his long blonde hair and skinny jeans looking like a teenage girl from my view on the grass. My wife surprised me with tickets to the Styx-REO Speedwagon concert this year while I was attending a conference in Salt Lake. I joined my good friends Atlee, Danielle and Brett, who came done from Logan. Once again the band was awesome, from Foolish Young Man to Grand Illusion to Crystal Ball to Come Sail Away to Renegade, it was well worth the next day's heavy eyelids through the morning's four-hours of seminars and the concluding keynote speaker.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself (even through Speedwagon's set of deep tracks before they finally played Ridin' the Storm Out), but I have to say I saw something that disappointed me. No, not the hundreds of boozed up fans of all ages screaming and slurring together verses of 'Man in the Wilderness' or the Tom Arnold look-alike getting stoned out of his mind sitting behind us, or the fact that the 50+ year old booty shaker fifteen yards in front of us wore out after Speedwagon and left the concert wheezing in her husband's arms during the intermission. No, what really got to me was the healthy young kids in front of us aged somewhere between 18-24 who were singing, dancing and having a great time, but also smoking.
I guess I really have been sheltered in Provo, and even out here in Roosevelt at teaching at the behavioral unit where most of the kids smoke or chew or both. Now those 'kids' at the concert weren't that much younger than me-the concert was a present for my 26th birthday, but I was still surprised and disappointed to see young people passing cigarettes around for a puff. Only about 20% of Americans smoke today, which makes sense seeing that people who smoke live 13 years less than those who do not smoke (all stats from the CDC). It ruins quality of life and life expectancy, so why start, right? Well people still do--every day about 3,450 youth under 18 smoke for the first time and 850 begin smoking on a daily basis.
As a health educator, I feel great disappointment when I see young people smoking. One statistic that shocks me is that nearly 30% of adults with high school degrees or less smoke compared to just 9% of college graduates. So there's something about education that keeps people from smoking. It's not surprising because, the more educated you are the more likely to know that your life expectancy is greater by not smoking and life insurance is cheaper, as well. But it's odd because college graduates are more likely to be able to have the discretionary income to afford such an expensive habit, and those who do not have degrees are more likely to be employed in jobs requiring physical labor, which is made more difficult by smoking. Quite the paradox, but the powers of addiction and the influence of peers and parents is greater than that of a health teacher or a schoolwide scare campaign or Red Ribbon Week or a couple of PSA's with statistics like the one's I've thrown out there. Without solid, loving efforts in the home to keep kids on track to reach high goals, youth will engage in risky behaviors.
The moral of the story-don't believe in the grand illusion of tobacco use or what fun is had in renegade behaviors--you're fooling yourself and you don't believe it, killing yourself and you won't believe it. Don't let life end too early, be smart, don't even start.