Monday, September 29, 2008

What we've got here, is ... failure to communicate.

If you know your movie quotes, this one comes from Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman, who passed away this past weekend. Now I must say I have missed a lot of Mr. Newman's movies through the years, but this one holds a special place for me.

When I was in high school our football coach showed us movies before games to get us relaxed and focused. Now, we rarely finished the fact we might have finished one in the two years he was here. So my sophmore year he puts on this movie Cool Hand Luke. Now of course, there were two things I remembered about the movie. First the quote, it was used in Guns N Roses Civil War. And second, the egg eating scene ("Get mad at em eggs!") classic. Well we never finished it. Then my junior year, he showed it again. I still liked the entire movie, of what I saw. It was a good combination of showing how to never give up dispite the odds and make the best of a given situation. Once again, we didn't finish the movie.

So fast forward 3 years later. I am in college and on a Saturday morning what is on, but Cool Hand Luke. So I figure "let's see how this thing ends." Well I don't want to spoil it, but the main character (Paul Newman) dies in the movie. Gets about your WTF?!?!?! moments. I was so upset.

Looking back it's kinda funny. To think all those years, I thought there was some sort of "happy ending" and that's how it ended. Too funny.

So I plan on watching more of Paul Newman's films starting with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid...I hear that's a classic.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thoughts Without Words: Back to School

So here it is the day after Back to School night. The turn out was ok I guess, nothing special, but when it comes to high school we usually don't get many parents. I have a ton of freshman (like you didn't know that already) and they showed up and asked some questions. The night got off to a rocky start with a parent questioning me about his kid cheating and me not enforcing other rules. Really fired me up, but it was all good because he came in later and apologized for what he said because when he told his son what I said his son confessed that he lied (there's a shocker!). So it was nice to get an apology from a parent for being in the fact that might be the first for me.

Nothing else stood out from the night. Our principal gets up and talks to the parents while we all sit there and I am thinking..."why are we here?" Not at back to school night, but at that part of it. Ok have the teachers that are recognized show up, but let everyone else just sit in their rooms and get ready for the parents.

Actually, there was one parent who wanted a syllabus for the year. I have a course outline describing procedures, but I haven't had a parent request a syllabus ever. In this day and age of using assessments to determine pacing it was surprising to get that question.

It was an ok night, but it just makes today so much more challenging. Oh well, next up Open House...super.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Venting the Anger: Motivating Students

So with all this No Child Left Behind nonsense, schools are trying their best to get their API scores over 800 and by 2013 have all of their students be proficient or advanced in all the tests. Now, don't get me wrong I think testing students to see what they learned is good. But there is no accountability on the students if they do bad. I won't get into the students aspect too much because I touched on it HERE.

So schools are trying to motivate students to do better. At this particular school, some of the staff and administrators told the students if they met their goal then they would shave their heads ( BTW, their goal was 9 points...NINE POINTS!!! The state re-adjusts scores more than 9 points sometimes. So they met their goal and off goes the hair. Everyone is happy, it's a great photo op for the school and kids.

But what are we teaching these get them to do their best there must be a reward. What happened to motivation coming from within? When you wanted to do your best just to show you could. We have created a generation of kids that will always expect something in return for them doing their job. I have students that are constantly asking "what do we get if..."

Suicide rates are climbing for younger children and this is part of the problem. These kids are allowed to fail or even do a simple task without some sort of reward. When they finally encounter some sort of resistance, they panic and don't know what to do. Look at what a school district in Dallas, Texas did. They changed their grading policy to include the following:

•Homework grades should be given only when the grades will "raise a student's average, not lower it."

•Teachers must accept overdue assignments, and their principal will decide whether students are to be penalized for missing deadlines.

•Students who flunk tests can retake the exam and keep the higher grade.

•Teachers cannot give a zero on an assignment unless they call parents and make "efforts to assist students in completing the work."

•High school teachers who fail more than 20 percent of their students will need to develop a professional improvement plan and will be monitored by their principals. For middle school the rate is 15 percent; for elementary it's 10 percent. (from:

I really don't want to see what the future holds for this country.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Who Decides: Potential top 10 2008

Ok with the released songs on the internet and most of these albums actually being released, I have a potential top 10. Now there are at least 2 more albums that I am looking forward to, Deadlock and Becoming the Archetype. Other than those I feel like I have heard what I needed to hear.

Anyway new list here we go:
Metallica - Death Magnetic
Testament - The Formation of Damnation
Trivium - Shogun
Into Eternity - The Incurable Tragedy
Exmortus - In Hatred's Flame
All That Remains - Overcome
Eluveitie - Slania
Textures - Silhouettes
The Haunted - Versus
Protest the Hero - Fortress

BTW, here is my mid year list

1. Testament: Formation of Damnation
2. Mercenary: Architect of Lies
3. Biomechanical: Cannibalized
4. Protest the Hero: Fortress
5. Eluveitie: Slania
6. Mygrain: Signs of Existence
7. Textures: Silhouettes
8. Warrel Dane: Praises to the Warmachine
9. 36 Crazyfists: The Tide and Its Takers
10. Machinery: The Passing

Notice, all the changes. Maybe Biomechanical sneaks in over Textures, but this is a solid ear for thrash guitar solo driven albums! Also Bullet for My Valentine just keeps growing on me...why? I gotta say that Mygrain is a solid album as is Mercenary. I will probably do a top 20 this year, but it's all about the top 10.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thoughts Without Words: Metallica - Death Magnetic

The year might as well end this weekend because I have found my album of the year...and it's name is Death Magnetic. This thing is killer. From start to finish this is what should have and easily could have been. In fact, if you take away the guitar solos and put in the crappy tin drums you have St. Anger. The riffs, the length of songs, and the lyrics are all kind of similar. One of the songs, The End of the Line, reminds me of Some Kind of Monster.

But the solos and drums are back and so is Metallica. I am a solo kind of guy and Kirk goes nuts on this album. It's like they were saying "geeze, sorry we screwed you out of the last what you want." The solos on this album are the kind I love. Just when you think they are done, they keep going and going and going.

It's not Master of Puppets 2, but for me it is better than The Black Album and the Loads. But the Loads weren't made to be thrash metal, so that's not fair to say. It does fit nicely between And Justice for All and TBA.

Favorite song: All Nightmare Long

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Venting the Anger: Aeries Gradebook Program

Ok so our school is starting to implement a new gradebook program that will allow parents to log in from home/work and see their child's grade anytime they want. Well that's nice, what could be the problem? The fact that this program is by far the worst piece of you know what that ever existed. Now let me say this first, I am not a tech-phobe that wasn't willing to give up my current program. In fact, I was on board from day one. I mean this is going to cut down all those parent requests for grades. I set up my classes, gradebooks, assignment types, and seating charts on the first day. I was going around helping people set up all of their gradebooks too. I was gung-ho.

So then I actually started to use it. I can't even begin to tell you how bad it is. Ok, first off the seating chart. Most, if not all, gradebook programs let you drag the students anywhere you want on your grid and drop them in (drag n drop). This one was more of playing Battleship. Numbers for rows and letter for columns. Ok, so I set that up and was ok with it. But when I tried to print it out, it was too small. So when I switched to a photo view, it printed out on two pages. Not to mention the freshmen photos haven't been uploaded yet...and we know how many freshmen I have this year.

*UPDATE* as I was writing this post, we got word that they added the drag n drop system. Now this is a start, but there is no preset grid or an option to add one. For my students the boxes aren't the same size so I can't line up my rows, and for one of my classes I couldn't put a student in the front would jump him back kind of like trying to push two magnets together that have the same poles.

So onto the gradebook itself. Now entering is kinda like every other gradebook, but one thing you notice is that you can't view the entire gradebook at once. You can view it by assignment. If you want to see the entire gradebook you need to go to a print preview report. And if you want to know the assignments, instead of just the numbers, you need to check a box.

That's another thing...who was the genius that decided to make it so you have to check boxes? Don't they know we are busy and don't have time to check boxes. You need to check a box to see the assignments, check a box to see the letter grade, check a box to finish grading an assignment. That's right you can enter all of your grades, but nothing is calculated until you check a little box!

Fortunately, my wife had bought Making the Grade last year so I have reinstalled it on my computer. Oh yeah, that's another thing. They reformatted all of our computers over summer and didn't reinstall any of the gradebook programs...coincidence? Who knows. I am back up and running though.

This is going to be a huge...huge problem next year if they don't fix these problems. Technology is supposed to help us in our jobs, this doesn't. I would go as far as to say it adversely effects our jobs.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Future Uncertain: Predications 2008-2009

So I am doing something different this year in my classes. I am having them write a letter to themselves explaining what they hope to accomplish in class and how they are going to do it. They also talk about things they are worried about or excited to do. On the flip side, they also get to make predictions about the year itself; who will win the Super Bowl, who will be President, if they will still be friends with whoever. So in the spirit of doing what my students are doing here are my 2008/2009 predictions.

* I will learn to embrace the freshmen and take care of them...parenting instincts.
* I will have a higher number of first semester failures, due to the high amount of freshmen.
* Our football will beat Diamond Bar and make the playoffs...barely, but they will.
* Girls sports in general will continue to dominate boys in terms of league titles and wins.
* 5th period will end up being my favorite class, but wouldn't have been in my top 3 from last year.

* McCain will squeak out a victory because of the way Palin handles her daughters pregnancy.
* Cowboys (ugh!) will win the Super Bowl
* Angels will go into the playoffs has the favorite to win the World Series, but lose in the 2nd round.
* Metallica's Death Magnetic will still be my favorite album into 2009.
* Battlestar Galatica won't live up to the hype, but will leave me wanting more.

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Sun Always Shines on T.V.: Tivo & Directv

I know this post has nothing to do with a tv show, but it deals directly with my tv viewing habits. A few years ago, Directv created it's own D.V.R. (vcr with no tapes) and announced that they were phasing out Tivo. In fact, when Directv switched from mpeg2 to mpeg4 all the old Tivo boxes were pretty much done. Meaning all the new HD channels you couldn't get with tivo, you had to go with Directv's craptacular dvr box.

Well I made the switch last year and I absolutely hate this box. There are many many things I don't like with it, but the worst part is that you can't pause one channel switch to another and come back right where you left off. In our house, we still have our old tivo box, that gets 2 HD channels and we hooked up an antenna to get all the locals. And in our living room sits our new Directv dvr that we hardly's that bad.

I was ready to make the switch to Verizon FIOS as soon as it was available to my area, but now I might wait to switch back to tivo.