Friday, May 22, 2009

One More Jiggle of The School Handle Before We Go

We began 9,000,000 years ago, in August 2008. A time before the "Great Recession", Barack Obama as President and Twitter. A time of blogposting about our newfangled APS Superintendent Winston Brooks. A time in which the name "Michael Phelps" meant only Olympic idolatry, instead of cheesy commercial endorsements and bong hits.

It was the beginning of School Year 2008-2009. As crooned by that immortal singer of down by the school yard song, Paul Simon, "time it was, and what a time it was, it was". Whatever the Hell that means.

Still, for your humble blogger, and for the school in which your humble blogger professionally toils, it was, truly, a time of innocence. A time of confidences. For mid-August 2008 was just before both our school secretaries retired. Both innocence and confidence went down the toilet immediately thereafter, remaining at the bottom of the toilet like some...okay, it's too early in the morning for further visual imagery in this regard.

Still, from our position deep within the bowels of the toilet bowl, my staff and I plunged forth through a school year swirling with foul debris, spinning in a veritable miasmic whirlpool of unsanitary effluvia.

Okay, I promise to stop now.

And now it's May, 2009, and we're all a little bit wiser, a lit bit older, and far more smelly and crap-covered. In fact, it might take a while for, as that mohawked, firearm wielding movie character Travis Bickle said, "a real rain to wash all the scum off". About 85 days of rain, perhaps.

And that's good, because that's about the length of this year's Summer Vacation, give or take a day or two. Waking up this last day of school morning, 2009, those 85 days ahead appear as the single greatest mental shower in history. A psycho-shower (ha, ha) of "Silkwood" intensity. A purging unsurpassed by any possible combination of water, soap and therapy sessions.

A real rain.

But for a few more hours we're still down here in the bowl. In fact, my little Special Education Department has a Department meeting on this, the last morning of the school year. That can never be good. Having a Special Ed. meeting the last day of school is like Richard Dawkins asking for feedback on atheism and evolution at a snake handling church service in Tennessee. That's not good.

But it will soon be good. Very, very good. Congratulations to all the students, teachers and such for surviving another long, beautifully putrid swish in the bowl. While the kids go crazy and try to sing the immortal lyrics of that song by the former fake-devil worshiper now golf-obsessed singer Alice "School's been blown to......pie....ces" Cooper, try to remember how that combination of facial muscles works that results in a smile.

It's been a while. About 9,000,000 years.

Have a great three, or 85, day weekend everybody.

P.S.: As noted earlier this week, I'm posting my upcoming bike tour at Crazy Guy on a Bike. I'm taking a hiatus here at Babble for a month or so, and those few, few readers out there who give a darn can find my posting through late June at CGOAB. Stay vertical.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Seattle v. Albuquerque: And It's Not About "Hipness"

Every state/city is suffering from budget problems these days. An interesting contrast exists between how Washington/Seattle is handling things vis-a-vis education differently than New Mexico/Albuquerque.

Governor Gregoire signed a new educational funding formula into law today. From the Seattle Times story the bill sounds quite similar to one proposed by NM Rep. Mimi Stewart. The New Mexico bill, as we know, didn't make it through the Legislature. The Washington formula economic impact?
Lawmakers and government officials have estimated the reforms could add as much as $4 billion a year to the just under $7 billion the state already spends on K-12 education annually.


Meanwhile, another Times story a day earlier points out that the Seattle Public Schools is "still finalizing the number of teachers, librarians, counselors and other certificated staff it intends to lay off for the coming school year."

This while Albuquerque Public Schools does plenty of cutting, but seems to be doing absolutely everything possible to save jobs.


I'm not saying one way of doing things is better than the other, but I have noticed a general (and I realize this is a generalization) difference having lived in both Seattle and Albuquerque. There seems to be a somewhat higher emphasis on the job versus what constitutes the job here. In Seattle, keeping jobs is slightly less important, and determining exactly what one does in that job is slightly more important.

Again, a gross generalization, but one with perhaps a tinge of veracity...maybe? And, as stated above, I don't favor one view over the other. I also will point out that, on this 178th day of the teaching school year, I LOVE, absolutely LOVE my job.

And not just because I'm about to have 11 or so weeks off.

I love my job on Day 13, Day 97, even Day 124 (right around testing). I'm glad APS is seeking to save jobs whenever possible. I do wonder a tiny, tiny bit if we're undermining the job of teaching so much that fewer and fewer people will LOVE their teaching jobs in the next few years.

Okay, maybe more than a tiny bit.

Three days to go folks. Three.

Monday, May 18, 2009

America's Choice™: Other Voices, Other Sounds

Last October I wrote a little something about "America's Choice™", the Math remediation curriculum-in-a-box pressed upon "failing" schools in APS. As sometimes happens with these old blogposts, I received a fascinating review of America's Choice™ just this past weekend.

I think it's worth re-posting here, and I hope "Anonymous" doesn't mind....

Was looking for online reviews of America's Choice programs and saw this blog. Love the "mudunclear" description.

Before I make my comments, I want to just say that Johns Hopkins U. has done some nice comparisons of "research based" (gag) programs for math and language. Results are at

I am a MS math teacher. Or at least I used to be. Now, I am not sure what I am exactly aside from an overpaid babysitter and a pawn in a very costly game of making some folks "successful" at the cost of our students, our teachers, and the taxpayers.

My school adapted RampUp mid-year this year. A couple days were lost to testing students for the program, and catching up with those absent during testing. Then came the disruption of student schedules being shuffled with some limbo time between testing and shuffling as we waited for our new classes to be formed. Then came the training---I think a total of 10 days, with more that we were supposed to have, but I could not justify being away from my students that long.

Pros of the program: The "concept book" is nice---students can almost self teach from it, and it has examples of how to solve a variety of problem.
Presentation is good. Simple, straight to the point. Not cluttered. A predictable flow of activities. Teacher's guide shows student book.

Cons: Does not follow the same sequence as the APS curriculum map for MS mathematics, so the kids are screwed when they take the
A2L tests. I asked mutltiple times at training sessions, inservices, etc. how to resolve that issue since A2L results are being used for summer school, AIPs and placement. No answers.
More "mudunclear" guidance from APS as to what grade levels to use it with. 6 and 7? 7 and 8? Aren't we heading toward consistancy within the district?
Materials management is an issue with check out and return of not just one textbook, but 8 mini-books plus the concept book. Navigator is even more cumbersome with cards and keychains to keep track of.
Scheduling for Navigator will be "interesting" since it is done as 4 week mini classes geared to certain groups of students missing a particular concept. Who is going to be doing the moving of the kids so they are getting what they really need?

Another concern is that some of the same district higher level folks who "selected" this have now left or are leaving APS to work for.......America's Choice. I have not always taught, and where I used to work that would have been callled conflect of interest.

Training (one figure I saw said the cost per teacher for 9 days of training was $3,300) was expensive, and a waste of money because issues that needed to be addressed by the district regarding implementation of the program were not answered. I wish I could make $3,300 in 9 days! Last I knew, the Abq. America's Choice offices are near Old Town, behind St. Claire Winery.

Last thing I want to speak out on is that when they start looking at district scores and whether various programs provided higher levels of success, I do hope that someone will be looking at the fact that most schools did try to inrease length of math periods. ANY curriculm is going to do better when you give it more time!

That's all folks!

Along the lines of the added time for Math, tomorrow morning my own school has it's "BIG MEETING" to introduce a new schedule, one replete with dramatically increased time for Math instruction. Having such a BIG MEETING on the last week of a school year should be good for plenty of fireworks. *Firearms maybe, even.

*Note: This is a joke. Nobody is bringing firearms. Really. Zero firearms will be brought to this meeting. Kind of a bummer I even feel the need to make this disclaimer. What happened to the good 'ol days when one could make "bringing firearms to the meeting" jokes? I tells ya, it ain't like the good 'ol days anymore. Hey, get off my lawn before I shoots ya with some rocksalt buckshot!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Germany Bike Tour Update

Teacher Scot is about to metamorphose into Summer, Human Scot, after a last week of school that is sure to be everything from traumatic to exhilarating.

And that means we're only days away from Bike Tour 2009: Eastern Germany. Well, by "we're" I mean me.

After hours and hours and hours and hours and days and weeks of teeth-gnashed filled planning, I've just about finalized the details. Here's the packing list. Perhaps you will notice there is no bike on the list. 98% of the teeth-gnashed planning has been on whether to bring my own or pick one up in Berlin. Final decision: bring my own seat and pedals and pick one up there. While I realize this decision doesn't compare with the great, difficult choices in history (the Berlin Airlift comes to mind), I cannot possibly stress strongly enough how monumentally over-thought this has been.

And that, I've discovered, is a big part of the fun. Planning bike tours is perfect mental roughage for those who are suckers for angst-filled, existential minutiae. One wonders if perhaps the planning angst isn't the real reason for the trip, and the actual bicycling merely an anti-climatic by-product of the actual point of all this.

Or maybe I'm thinking about John Lahr's review of "Waiting for Godot" too much this morning.

Anyway, another great teeth-gnash resource is reading the many, many bike tour journals at Crazy Guy on a Bike. For point of reference I have decided my own touring will be something between dumpster-diving, camping long-beard hippie and good-writing girlfriend go from Tucson to Gainsville, Florida and plush touring guy goes down the Danube hotel to hotel. Probably much closer to plush guy than dumpster-diving couple.

Yesterday I crossed the 1,000 mile mark of 2009 bike riding. I think I'm fairly well prepared in terms of physical health, and nowhere near ready in terms of day-to-day bike riding mental preparation. But again, that ill-preparedness and transition to a bike tour mentality seems like one of the biggest allures of the whole exercise.

I'm sure at some point I will question this, however. A point along some desolate stretch of Oder-Neisse river route when I have a flat tire, it's raining and cold. And I'm on the Polish-German border and know zero Polish or German.

And the crazy thing is I'm looking forward to that cold, rainy uber-questioning point of existence. A lot.

P.S.: I'm not taking the laptop, but I've pretty much decided that Burque Babble readers need to be bored to tears by frequent bike tour updates. I shouldn't be the only one experiencing the ultimate in existential ennui/terror. Ok, maybe I should...but consider this an open invitation to be unbelievably bored from May 25th or so to June 24th or so.

P.P.S.: In order to make this tour official, I've decided to keep a journal (no, it's not another blog, it's a journal) of the trip. You can vicariously live with and/or laugh at me here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bike To Work Today Or Feel Horrible About Yourself Forever

The "Day" concept (Mother's, Father's, Secretary's, Take Your Daughter to Work, Talk Like A Pirate, Pork Sausage Processor's) has certainly gotten out of hand. And yes, I made "Pork Sausage Processor's" up. But you get my point...there's a "Day" for just about everything, thus cheapening the meaning of each "Day", not to mention the grating irritation of being told to thank or observe something due via some contrivance of peer pressure.

All true, but....

Friday, May 15th is "Bike to Work Day" and don't you forget it!
  • Commence righteous peer pressure!
  • Recite the list of reasons why biking to work is good and driving your stupid car to work is beyond evil!
  • Repeat the list mantra-style similar to Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō...while biking to work Friday!
  • Kill your metal death machine, "cager", and ride free like the wild wind you are!
  • Do it or face the eternal scorn of those riding their bikes to work Friday!
  • Packets of eternal scorn will be available for purchase at several "Ride Your Bike To Work" sites around town Friday!
  • Collect enough scorn to torment all your friends!
  • Collect enough to ensure they will become ex-friends! Metal death machine propelled ex-friends!
  • Remember: Meat = Murder, Cars = Death, Bikes = Unicorns jumping over rainbows!
Sorry, marketing was never one of my strengths.

So instead of the hard-sell, I'll just humbly suggest you give a thought to biking to work Friday. If you do, you might like it. If everyone does, Albuquerque would, for one day, look kinda like Amsterdam, or Hanoi pre-2000. Maybe people would start wearing pointy rice hats and a line of hash bars would open along Lomas. Incredible things might happen.

But those highly unlikely things are even more highly unlikely to happen unless you ride your bike to work tomorrow. Damn. I don't seem to be very good at this sort of thing. One more try....

Ride your bike to work Friday. Or don't. See if I care. If you do, though, and I pass you on the road I'll give you a special dorky bell ring from my dorky bike bell. Just be sure to say "Hey Scot, I'm only riding to work today because you told me to in your pitiful little blog" really, really fast as we pass each other. I promise I'll make it an especially loud, especially dorky ring. Just for you.


P.S.: I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I spent at least ten minutes searching for a "Pork Sausage Processor's Day", and couldn't find anything. Not even a "Meat Processor's Day" or "Slaughterhouse Worker's Day". That's just not right. So I'm declaring the day after Bike To Work Day as "Sausage Processor's Day". May 16th...mark your calendars, and remember to let the pork sausage processor in your life know that you appreciate how they make your life just a little bit better.

I even have a little Hallmark card idea. On the front it says: "Dear Pork Sausage Processor: I appreciate you THIS much" and right after the word "much" a giant chain of linked sausages runs in a close looping pattern (kinda like the Homeland Security lines at the airport) down the first page of the card, and through the second page, and the third page...and most of the fourth page...but on the end of this long chain there is a sausage connected to a pig's tail and a pig at the very end of the card, and the pig says "Thanks, Pork Sausage Processor for making me taste SOOOOOOO good!"

Happy Bike To Work Day, Happy Pork Sausage Processor's Day, and have a great rest of the weekend everybody.

It's "Graduation" Morning In Teacher America

Chas: I've had a rough year, dad.
Royal: I know you have, Chassie.
--Wes Anderson, "The Royal Tenenbaums"

Every May we have this cheap imitation "Graduation" ceremony for our 8th Graders and it's stupid, and fake, and hard to endure. It's great seeing the 8th graders celebrating and all, but as a teacher/adult you just kinda want to put each of them in a headlock, give them a noogie and say "but you haven't even got to the fun part yet!". And then you want to parcel out incredibly boring "life lessons", and important things they should supposedly remember their entire lives. And you stop yourself most of the time, but once or twice you find yourself doing it, and it's embarrassing and awkward all around. Then you go home and remember that these 8th Graders still have your class for another week or so, and you wonder "why the Hell was 'Graduation' on May 14th, exactly?" And so do they.

So yeah, 8th Grade "Graduation" is pretty stupid.

But it or something has got me thinking this May 14th, "Graduation", Seven Days of School Left to Go Morning...this has been a hard year. In some ways the hardest year of the 16 or so I've been doing this.

And I wonder why that is. It can't be my actual job...compared with teaching "twice-exceptional" students back in 1995 at Van Buren MS during the height of the "war zone" Surenos 13 madness in the aftermath of a strangely progressive principal who had just ran off to Florida and left a "progressive" school with no bells, 13 different student schedules arranged in 13 different teaching teams (all of whom seemed to hate each other) and a location at Louisiana and Trumbull that seemed to scream out "drive-by shooting", my job now is pretty darn skate. Easy. Perfect.

Far more perfect, for example, than my three years trying to save the world, one Friday at 4:00 p.m. staff meeting at a time, teaching at a well-known, but probably best left unnamed charter school. Compared to the frenzied, every teacher on pedagogical crystal meth, environment at that place, my current employ seems more tranquil than a remote mountain lake on a calm winter's day.

So why was this year so tough? Maybe it wasn't, and I'm just "burnt out" from the routine of it all. Maybe I'll wake up the day after the school year finally ends and immediately think "Hey that really wasn't bad at all..what the Hell was I complaining about?"


But sitting here, early on Seven Days of School Left to Go Morning, it's difficult to imagine that possibility. Frankly, it's hard to even imagine that May 23rd, the first day of Summer vacation, will ever come. And I wonder why that is.

A few tentative "theories" running around my head as to why:
  • After, for years, successfully avoiding any connection, interaction or thoughts whatsoever about outside my classroom things like school policy and education funding, I found myself getting involved in soul-crushing things like creating next year's schedule. I am drawn to these wonky education topics like a moth to a giant, multi-story high inferno. Like a June Bug to a 1,000,000 volt bug zapper. For years I wisely resisted, but this year, for whatever reason, the glow of the zapper was too strong. I feel zapped.
  • All this personal stuff involving death and disease happened and continues to happen, stuff I've already bored readers with and will spare readers from at this time. Even stuff I haven't already bored you with, and am tempted to bore you with, but have the good sense to see both the grinding ennui running through the enterprise, as well as the simple fact that, yeah, every body/animal gets sick and dies, eventually. Dem the rules, but at times it's just hard not to think the rules suck.
  • This ongoing, and admittedly boring, saga between me and APS and the State Department of Education in which I am being told I can't teach a Film Class because the class has "Regular Education" students in it, and I only have a "Special Education" license. So after 16 or so years teaching "Gifted" kids I have to go back to CNM and get an "alternative license" in "Regular Education". I realize that to a non-public school teacher nothing in the two sentences above makes any sense. Trust me, it doesn't any sense to the teachers among us, either. The most aggravating thing about this saga is that everybody I have talked to about it: non-teachers, teachers, administrators, Union folks, District Human Resources people...nobody thinks it makes any sense. But we're all not doing anything about it. Why can't a "Special Education" teacher teach "Regular Education" kids if qualified to teach the subject? "Regular Education" teachers teach "Special Education" kids all the time. Insert brain into hamster-wheel. Spin wheel. Ad infinitum.
  • An aforementioned little dalliance contemplating employ in Leipzig, Germany. Reasons to work in Germany: (besides the whole Europe thing?) see above. Number of times the above has made me question my decision to stay at my current employ: 5 billion and counting.
  • Finally, maybe this little blog has been a partial cause. Back around August I had the kooky idea to spend this school year focusing BB more directly than ever on the K-12 world and working experience. I'd skip some of the sophomoric satire and try to write "serious" stuff about educational issue. Probably a big mistake. For one thing, I suck at writing "serious" stuff. Let's face it. B-O-R-I-N-G and not terribly informative. A bad combination. Much easier to just make fun of Marty Chavez and stuff. Far less soul-crushing as well. Satirically slamming stupid things is fish-in-a-barrel compared with actually proposing things to improve/change the stupid things. Especially when it comes to K-12 education. In retrospect, it's been a setup for trite, insipid writing and large holes in my workroom wall from my head banging against it. Time to go back to making fun of Marty Chavez, the oxymoron that is the New Mexico Republican Party and such. Whew...I feel better already.
So that's the report this Seven Days of School Left to Go Morning. "Graduation" morning. It's been a hard year, but tonight I'm sure to find a few smiles looking out from my "backstage" position at all the 8th Graders ready (and some not-quite-ready) to grow up and get to the fun part of life. Here's hoping they are just now getting to the fun part. Each and every one of them.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Baldrige and K-12: Long Beach Unified

As the slow creep of "Total Quality Management" and "Baldrige" permeates my school, I've continued searching for research into just how effective these strategies have been in K-12 schools. I've noticed a certain circularity of "success stories" on the 'Net told between consulting firms and a small set of schools who have purchased the services of these consulting firms.

Another noteworthy aspect of these "success stories" is that they are all from the early part of the 2000s. I'm not seeing much from this half of the decade. Now this could be from my own bias/cherry picking, but I'm doing a fairly good job, I think, in trying to find both the good and the bad.

Regardless of bias, I'm having a heck of a time finding a broad, statistically relevant longitudinal look at how Baldrige using schools/districts are doing. So, in a weak attempt to start connecting the dots, I submit two websites devoted to Long Beach Unified School District in California.

First, here's a story from 2004 in which Long Beach gets a $1.1 million grant...

The Broad Foundation recently awarded $1.14 million to the Long Beach Unified School District to expand the district’s award-winning use of Baldrige strategies for continuous improvement at schools and central offices.

The three-year grant will help to increase use of the techniques throughout the district, including elementary, middle, K-8 and high school classrooms.

And here's the "Great Schools" report on Long Beach schools, including quite a bit of test score data from 2005-2008.

I don't know the L.A. area very well, but just for grins here's the report for the nearby Santa Ana Unified Schools.

I know...I know...inconclusive. Still, I'm doubting Jim Shipley and Associates and other Baldrige consulting firms are holding Long Beach up as a "success story". Speaking of grants, does anybody wanna throw me $1.1 million, so I can do a full-blown Baldrige/K-12 analysis myself? Heck, I'll drop my price to $999,999.99. Buy now and save.

As many others have noted before...wouldn't it be nice to see something substantive citing exactly why we're plunging into BaldrigeSpeakLand? If someone knows of something that doesn't come from Jim Shipley, et. al., directly, I'd love to read it.

P.S.: Yes, I know..using standardized test score data is somewhat repugnant. But that's how this stuff is being sold, so when in SBA Rome....

The Professional Development Plan and Other Educational Jokes

The Life Cycle that is public education is almost complete for another year. In seasonal terms we're past the first frost, and the leaves are swirling along the increasingly brown front yard. Winter/Death is almost upon us, and never has Death been so frantically anticipated.

One is tempted to hasten the death of a school year, but patience is best...savoring each tick/tock of the Education Death Clock, a Dali-esque apparatus with a surrealistically melted minute hand and no numbers. Instead of 10, 11, 12, we have events on our clock. Events every bit as strange as any Dali painting or moustache. These include:
  • The last Standardized Test;
  • The last Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting;
  • The last "Progress Report";
  • The last "Professional Development Day" (i.e., In-Service);
  • The inexplicable school-day trip to Cliff's Amusement Park which we still do although it has absolutely nothing to do with education and is a big pain in the ass;
  • The equally inexplicable "Recognition Ceremony" (i.e., "Graduation") for 8th Graders which has about the same educationally meaningful weight as a infant beauty contest or Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes;
  • And lastly, the ultimate "we don't trust teachers, let's face it" ceremony in which all the teachers must turn in their room keys and anachronistic hard-copy "grade books". Nobody uses hard-copy grade books anymore. It and the "returning of the keys" is one of those annual rituals that everyone knows is stupid, but doesn't bother to question. We just want the Hell out of there, and if it means putting your keys in a tiny, little manila envelop with the implicit promise that we won't, for any reason, actually work in our rooms over the Summer, so be it.
Another step toward the end of the educational Life Cycle is the PDP - "Professional Development Plan". In theory, this is a multi-step process through which teachers outline their personal goals early in the year, and administrators meet with teachers late in the year to assess how well a teacher did in meeting those goals.

Like communism and "clean coal", the theory isn't quite matched by the practice. What the PDP really is, at least in my 15 years of experience, is:
  • A creative writing opportunity for me in early September to write a pithy little paragraph on some vague "goals" I have in a given school year;
  • Another creative writing opportunity for me around the end of April to write another pithy little paragraph in which I try not to brag too much, but just enough about how the year went;
  • A brief chance to get to know my administrators better, via a "PDP meeting" in which the administrator takes about 20 seconds to glance at my two creative writing exercises while I glance at a pithy little vague paragraph s/he wrote about me;
  • After 20 seconds of admiring each other's ability to spend 150 words writing absolutely nothing of substance, we sign a bunch of forms in a bunch of places while making small talk about "What are you doing for the Summer?" and "I plan on being back here next year, I think.";
  • Total "PDP Meeting" time: 1 minute, 45 seconds;
  • If it wasn't' for all the signatures we could certainly get these things down to under a minute.
Yes it's a waste of time, but at least it's only about 105 seconds of time, and it also marks another important organ failure on the road to the death of a school year. I'm not complaining, not even about the simple truth that my administrators have never really known much about what I do in my classroom. In fact, I like it better that way.

Still, whenever I hear talk of "Merit Pay" for teachers, I consider the joke that is the Albuquerque Public Schools PDP. The current PDP process is about as far away from a "Merit Pay" system of accountability as could be possible. Even farther.

Creating the many checks & balances necessary to institute a valid "Merit Pay" system in our public schools would involve a complete revolution in our bureaucratic practices. A revolution that in addition to significant expense, would require a paradigmatic change I don't see happening in my professional lifetime, or the next.

So I expect my remaining 10 years of APS service will be spent writing little pithy paragraphs o' nothing, and taking a couple of minutes each year to ask how my boss is doing while signing a bunch of meaningless stuff. It's a joke, but it's another joke that leads, inexorably, to the death of another school year, and I'll sign here, here, and here over and over and over again to hasten that expiration.

10 days left folks. 9 if you don't count the "Cliff's Day". Etc. etc.

P.S.: Can any teachers beat my current PDP record of 105 seconds? I'm sure there's somebody out there who's discovered a way to shave a few seconds off my personal best. And I envy them.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Public School Math Wars: The Battle of Seattle

I know just about zero when it comes to teaching Math, Math textbooks and the battlelines in the oft-discussed "Math Wars".

In fifteen years of K-12 teaching all I've learned in this regard is that the mention of certain Math teaching concepts and textbooks to certain Math teachers is a perfect opportunity to see apoplexy and rage in action. Some of the most mild-mannered folks you ever wanna see can go positively mouth-foaming psychotic when terms like "IMP" and "Discovering Math" come up.

It's fun to inject these terms into innocent conversation with certain math colleagues just for the reaction. Fellow non-Math teachers at middle schools are encouraged to casually whisper "Connected Math" to a Math teacher at the next staff meeting. The reaction, positive or negative, is sure to liven up a dull meeting.

So when I see stories like this from the now online-only Seattle PI about the local fight between "Discovering Math" and Prentice-Hall Publishing textbook take on Math, I don't know who is right or wrong. All I know, especially from reading the 103 comments (at this writing) to the story, is that some people take these things very, very seriously.

Actual wars could easily be fought over this stuff. As with seemingly all Internet comments, many of the aforementioned 103 are full of "liberal lemmings of the education bureaucracy" crap, but others are definitely worth a look-see for those, like me, interested and bewildered by the vitriol, passion and obscure references.

The Seattle battle, including everybody from "experts" to the school board is also interesting. Does our APS school board even tackle this sort of stuff? What exactly is it the APS school board does again? I'm drawing a blank. Not that anybody would really want the APS school board deciding anything like textbook adoption.

Seriously, does the school board do this? I sincerely can't remember the last time the APS school board performed a memorable act regarding anything.

P.S.: I just looked through some recent school board agendas at Nope, nothing earth-shattering there. Meanwhile, how is that new website coming along? I hold some nostalgia about the Internet circa-1998, but perhaps it's time APS moved a tiny bit closer to the year 2009 in this regard. Or even 2004.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Shameless Middle School Student Film Festival Plug

Well, a wee bit o' shame, really, but we plunge forth nonetheless....

The 7th/8th graders in a little film class I teach will be getting together with a larger film class over at the Public Academy for the Performing Arts (PAPA) to put on a little "festival" this Saturday. There aren't many "film festivals" for middle school students, in the same way that there just doesn't seem to be a ton of anything for middle school students. Not to complain or anything. It's just that the 13-14 year-olds in this culture tend to be avoided like an infectious disease or something.

Anyway, a teacher at PAPA and I decided to get together this little festival as a small step toward reintroducing our 7th/8th grade young people to the rest of humanity.

Here are the details:

  • Date: Saturday, May 9th
  • Time: Doors open at 11:45, show starts at Noon. We'll be done by 2:00 p.m. Promise.
  • Place: Guild Cinema, 3405 Central Ave (N.E., in case you're wondering)
  • What: "Films Collide": A ton of short films, ranging from the strangely sublime to the sublimely silly.
  • Why: See above
  • Cost: One U.S. Dollar. That's's a buck. This admittance will help pay
  • Prizes: $50 for 1st Place, $20 for 2nd, $10 for 3rd
  • Judging: Open to anyone in attendance. You don't have to judge, however. You can just sit there, after grabbing some popcorn and a Blue Sky, and watch the madness unfurl itself.
Thanks to Su Hudson at PAPA for even considering the idea, Keif at the Guild for all his help, my school for letting me "create" a film class in the first place, and Ms. Riley at my school for diligently selling ice cream at school day after day to raise money for this shindig.

I'm sure I left some things out, but the marketing "plug" shame is rapidly growing. Hope to see you Saturday. No salesman will visit your home.

And speaking of that old line, let's close by enlisting the unwitting help of Tom Waits to help promote this "festival"...Step Right Up...Step Right Up...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Swine Flu: The Natalee Holloway of Infectious Diseases

You got your nondescript, run-of-the-mill bad things happen to folks strep throat and chicken pox, and then you've got your missing young blond white woman of infection. Swine flu 2009 certainly appears to be the missing young blond white woman.

Why this insidious little bastard even supposedly focuses on attacking our young, beautiful people, bypassing the typical old, ugly folks killed by less-noteworthy flu. Ring the media news cycle bells everywhere, we've got beautiful people under attack!

In internet parlance, swine flu has gone viral.

It's the disease to talk about around the water cooler (if we were still congregating around things like water coolers). It's the hip ailment with local angle news stories: "Hey, we got swine flu here, too!" It's "Wolverine" meets "Watchmen". It has "legs" and is major "box office".

Swine flu has worked its way into the "public consciousness" to the point where statements such as:
"'Closing schools is not effective' in halting the spread of the virus, said Dr. Richard E. Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.".--NYT, 5.4.09
Only get in the way. We don't want the story to end. Like the's always more fun when the Category 5 is churning off the coast. Actual landfall is always such a letdown...

We don't want to find the dead body of the missing young white blond woman. We just want the story, the diversion, to last. Because otherwise we have to go back to thinking about our jobs, our shrinking possibilities, the hard work it will take.

Why fear the dull, daily things when we can wrap our paranoia into something we'd be proud to announce to the world on the news: I have Swine Flu! I have had a brush with infectious disease celebrity!

On the other hand, what a crushing bummer to find one merely has run-of-the-mill, unsexy strep throat. So close to close.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Give Me Fear Or Give Me, Uh, Anything But Death

There are just over 40,000 motor vehicle-related fatalities each year, a number that hasn't changed much over the last decade. 41,945 for 2000. 41.059 for 2007. Pretty much statistical clockwork.

A study a couple of years back showed that around 17,000 U.S. schoolchildren ended up at the emergency room each year from school bus-related accidents. Reasons for injuries includes actual bus crashes, slipping on the ice getting on/off the bus and "roughhousing" on the bus.

Last time I checked, no schools had been closed due to the pandemic of motor-vehicle fatalities. I could find zero closures based on the concomitant pandemic of school bus-related injuries. The very recent death of a Rhode Island high school student run over by a school bus is terrible news, but I see no note of a school closure in the story.

I think you know where this is going.

And to speed things up, I'm going to bypass the subtle, incredibly eloquent segue from auto injuries/deaths to H1N1, and just point out that:
  • I think the New Mexico Activities Association should cancel all future sporting contests until we can perfect teleportation and have teams simply dissolve "Star Trek" style in Jal and appear (via the same "Star Trek" teleportation music) in Hatch for a baseball game.
  • I think an assessment of public events should be made. Any event requiring a parking lot larger than 250 spaces will be canceled. Yes, this unfortunately means the Balloon Fiesta has to go. Also affected will be the Isotopes, Lobos, and Albuquerque Zoo. The University of New Mexico will be unaffected as the University doesn't have 250 parking spaces.
  • I think all New Mexico K-12 schools should become "virtual" schools, with teachers "teaching" via the Internet, thus avoiding the need for students to be driven, school bus or no, to school. Needless to say, these students would also not have to walk to school, thus eliminating the possibility that they be run over by a car, school bus or antiquated New Mexico Air Guard "Tacos" jet.
  • I think your humble blogger/K-12 teacher should get a special "teaching" bath robe to "teach" in.
  • I think the informal calendar that includes things like "Take Your Daughter To Work Day" and "Secretary's Day" (which now has a new name I can't remember) should have a major change. The current "Ride Your Bike To Work Day" will be replaced with "Drive Your Car to Work Day". For the other 364 days of the year, employees will be expected to ride their bikes to work.
  • I think anyone in a moving car should be required to wear a bike helmet (H/T to John Fleck for this one).
  • I think any automobile driver whose unspoken motto is: "I must arrive at my destination in the absolute fastest manner that doesn't result in my death" should be immediately be put to death.
  • I especially think that those drivers who tailgate the Hell out of your humble blogger on 2nd Street just because your humble blogger chooses to drive the speed limit and the tailgaters subscribe to the aforementioned motto should be even more immediately be put to death. By me. In the manner of my choosing.
In closing: if we're going to fear death to the point of absurdity, let's at least better pinpoint the target of that absurdity.

Friday, May 01, 2009

And Now... Your Annual Teacher Humiliation Ritual

Have ended up taking a few days off here, as various projects swamp the end-of-year teacher. And can't post much today, as I can't miss an all-important practice for....wait for it....

The Staff/Student Basketball Game

And yes, "Staff/Student Basketball Game" is actually Hungarian for "Ultimate Humiliation of Old People". It's also Finnish for "Reliving Horrible Teen Experiences While Physically Incapable of Even Being Able to Do the Things You Weren't Any Good at Even when a Teenager".

The game is like a reverse therapy session. Or a primal scream therapy session in front of 500 nascent teens filled with boredom and/or vicious hatred. Or both. Now that I think about it, I've always wondered who came up with the whole "Staff/Student Basketball Game" concept and I'm pretty sure it was some sort of psychologists marketing committee trying to drum up more business.

Anyway, time to get ready for my annual 0-9 shooting, ten turnovers and assorted muscle pulls. No video cameras, please.

Have a good weekend, everybody.