Thursday, March 31, 2011

Venting the Anger: The Gas Company part 2

I mentioned last week about my new gas meter and the bill that was going to be coming from it. Today I got it online...$187.

I obviously called right away. I won't go into the detail like the last post, but I will say the supervisor was very smug in her manner. I told her all the things that they screwed up on and dropped the ball with and the total lack of communication. She said that there could have been more communication on their part...more? How about some? I was never told anything!

Then she said that they have every right to get payment for those lost months using a formula to determine the amount. Their formula? Yeah it's just "charge them for what they used last year" because that's exactly what they did. So I guess since I wasn't home most of December, changed my thermostat, and the weather was warmer...all that doesn't matter. They can just charge what they feel is right?

I was pissed and told her they were pulling numbers from their ass and there wasn't any formula. So I contacted the Public Utilities Commission to file a complaint. So we will see where we go from here.

I don't understand how I can be responsible for their mistakes. If they knew in December, why did they wait until February to try and fix it? And then, since the gate was locked, why didn't they call and tell me then? Why not fix it in December or January? Or call and set up a time? This is their fault and they should have to be held responsible for their short comings, not put it on me.

Music Non Stop: Month of Metallica

About 3 years ago I started playing nothing but Metallica when state testing was approaching. This year is no different. I started with Death Magnetic, then to St. Anger. I will hit the two new songs from S&M & I Disappear, then finish it off with disc one of Garage Inc.

It is kind of fun to hear the difference in the albums. To hear a band sort of de-evolve, since I go backwards in the discography. I have stated before that I didn't think I could rank the Metallica albums when I ranked their opening tracks awhile back. But as I have listened to the albums this week, I am thinking I am going to try it.

One thing for sure is that St. Anger isn't going to be on the bottom of the list. I have a new respect for that album after putting it back on after a couple of years. It has some classic Metallica songs on there; Frantic, My World (heck I named my blog after this song), Sweet Amber, Shoot Me Again, The Unnamed Feeling, and All Within My Hands are great songs. Listening to them now I don't miss the guitar solos at all. The drums? Yeah that still bugs, but it doesn't take away from the music. Anyway, I will try and rank the albums before the month is over.

And to start it off, a video. Not a Metallica video...well not a music video. On the Megadeth forums there was this guy on there who won a contest to jam with Metallica backstage. Anyway, he decided to play One with them. When the solo comes on, he starts to harmonize over Kirk. It's freakin' awesome. I love the expression James has around the one minute mark...heck he stops playing to watch! Great moment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Final look at Wonder Woman

If you didn't know better you might think this is a Wonder Woman blog. I mean I did a post on her new comic costume, one on her new tv costume, and then for good measure another one on her tv costume with some fan photoshops to make some obvious corrections....I'm looking at you red boots.

So here is the fan photoshopped corrections;
Of course, the middle is the original press release one. I think we all agreed that the blue boots had to go. And I didn't think the darker blue pants were that bad. So today we got the first look at WW on the set;
And it looks like we got our wish. RED BOOTS!!! The darker pants are...whatever. They aren't as shiny as before I guess that's a plus. One final difference would be the dark hooker red lipstick is gone too. You know how those Amazons love their red lipstick.

The one thing that jumps out now are the stars down the leg. They were on the original picture, but not noticeable. They remind me a bit of the original TV WW, Cathy Lee Crosby, the way the stars were down the sleeves. By the way after looking at Cathy Lee's version, I know where the blue boots come from. It's a stretch, but overall I am happy now. I doubt I will watch it, but at least it feels like Wonder Woman.

The Last Laugh: High scoring D.C. school probably cheated

When I say probably, I mean most definitely. As one statistician put it;
“The odds are better for winning the Powerball grand prize than having that many erasures by chance,”
It seems that this school which had such high gains also had high erasure marks. When the average erasure mark is less than one per test and this school has over 12 per test...yeah something's not right.

Best part, besides the praise they got, is the bonuses all the teachers and principal received.

Unfortunately, as politicians move to tie a teacher's pay and evaluations to test scores, I think we will be seeing more of these types of incidents.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Inside Four Walls: A Glimpse into my class

I have talked about the struggles with my Algebra B class this year. I have had some bright spots, but mainly it has been a challenging year for me. Usually I average about 60% or higher advanced/proficient on the standards test, but this year I will be lucky if I get 20%.

I have had a ton of complaints as to how I run my class. One such complaint was that I collect homework at the end of a chapter, not everyday. I had a bunch of students say, "If you collected the homework daily I would do it, but since you wait til the end of the chapter I don't do it." So that whole being responsible didn't work. So I decided to start collecting the homework daily. I have copied my gradebook and took a picture of it. Now before anyone freaks out, the order is random, the names & grades are chopped off. And you can't even see the assignment points. And it isn't even the entire gradebook, just the last couple of weeks.I told one teacher it looked like a battlefield with all that red. And's my fault they aren't passing? I don't get it. I had a parent ask for the class average. It is low, but I felt like they were trying to justify their child's grade. I felt like just showing them this picture and saying "this is why the average is low." I think it says a lot that there are only 4 students on there that haven't missed an assignment.

This isn't the norm for me. This is definitely one of those weird years. I can't explain it, but the lack of motivation is staggering to me. I got nothing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Last Laugh: Bonus pay not getting the best teachers

At least in Washington state. According to the report, via Joanne Jacobs;
  • Even with an additional $5,000 “challenging schools” bonus, fewer than 1% of Washington’s NBCTs move from low-poverty to high-poverty schools each year
  • The proportion of NBCTs teaching in challenging schools is increasing, but only because teachers already in those schools are gaining certification and because the state’s challenging schools list has grown each year
  • Washington’s NBCTs appear no more likely than other teachers to stay in challenging school assignments
File this one under no duh as well. Seriously, who would want to go teach at a low poverty school? I can only imagine the struggles that teachers must deal with on a daily basis. I have read a few blogs about it and it definitely isn't worth $5000.

And let's add in a classic "Catch-22" scenario. With more and more states wanting to tie a teacher's salary to state testing results, who would want to go and teach in an area that won't produce high results? And if the state says "you know, those low income schools, they don't need to have high results." Then how can you justify giving those teachers bonuses when they don't need to show results? Ahh education, don't you just love it?

Right Now: 500th post?


I guess it has been 5 years...almost. I feel like I have "found my groove" when it comes to this blog. I like the variety of topics, the labels, the responses (when they come), and just having the ability to share my thoughts and stories. I have a nice steady stream of about 1,000 to 1,200 visitors a month. Now I know that's not huge, but to me it is still humbling to think someone would want to know what I think.

I doubt it will take another 5 years to hit 1000, but who knows. I mean I look back at my previous years and in 06 & 09 I didn't even get to 30 posts for the year.

Thanks for reading and here's to another 500 posts.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Venting the Anger: The Gas Company

So earlier this week I was bringing in the trash cans and happen to notice I had a whole new gas meter. So I called to find out;
  1. when did this happen
  2. why it was replaced
  3. why wasn't I called to be told about it
So I called them up and here is what happened;
Me: Hi I was wondering why I have a new gas meter and why I wasn't told about it.
Operator: Well when we did the meter reading on December 15th we saw there was no gas consumption. So the meter was broke and not working.
Me: it's March...
Operator: well, we came out in February and the gate was locked. So we had to reschedule.
Me: ok
Operator: so we came out earlier in the week to replace it.
Me: Ok so what is my bill going to look like since you're saying I haven't paid for gas in 4 months.
Operator: Well we are working on it to have you pay for those missing months.
Me (a little upset): So let me get this straight. You knew in December that my meter was broke right?
Operator: yes
Me: And you don't bother to send someone out to fix it until February or even call me to let me know?
Operator: that is correct
Me: And then after waiting 3 months to fix it, the one day you come out the gate is locked. And you don't bother to call me and say "Mr. Wendland, your meter is broke and we need to get into the backyard to replace it, can you leave your gate unlocked?"
Operator: yes sir that is correct
Me: So then you wait another month before you fix it. And you still never called me to tell me that my meter was broke or that you needed to get into my backyard. And you want to charge me now for 4 months. Is that what you are saying?
Operator (sounding very upset): yes
Me: ok cause I'm writing this all down and I just want to make sure I am getting it right.
Operator: Well sir, if you would have looked at your bill you would have seen that the bill had zero gas consumption.
{I was getting a bill, but I found out you get charged a daily rate no matter what you use.}
Me: I pay my bill online and look at the bottom line. I don't try to figure out the whole BTU formulas you guys use. But if that's going to be the excuse you use, that it is my fault that I didn't check my gas consumption, when clearly this is your fault. Then fine, if it makes you feel better then go ahead and blame me, but we both know you guys dropped the ball here not me.
Operator: ok sir thank you (click)
So now I am waiting for my gas bill. I expect it to be around $150 - $200. I am not going to pay it though. They have no way of knowing how much gas I used...if any. We were gone a lot in December. How can you charge someone for a guess? I will keep you posted.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Venting the Anger: Florida ending tenure

In 2014.

I have talked about teacher tenure and merit pay before, so I won't rehash anything, but this is a joke. When are people going to stop blaming teachers for the failure of students? How about looking in the mirror? How about the old story about how "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't force him to drink"?

Am I a bad teacher because I assigned 6 problems of homework and less than 30% of my students did it? Is that my fault? Is it my fault when a student goes to Disneyland the night before a big test and doesn't get home before 11 PM? Is it my fault when a student would rather bubble in a penis on a final exam than try and take it?

When will politicians learn that we teachers don't have any real control over the students. And how smart is Florida? Who in their right mind would want to teach there now? Seriously, you are going to put your career in the hands of teenagers? And that's what you are doing. These state tests have ZERO repercussions for the students and yet you want to base teacher pay and job security over them? I have had my smartest kids just half ass it because "it doesn't count for anything, and I have a test today in another class." Once again, is that my fault?

If you say "yes", then shouldn't a doctor be held accountable if he has patients that smoke or are obese? Sounds ridiculous, but it is the same argument. If a student wants to fail, they will fail. If they want to pass, they will work hard and pass.

Back to Florida, annual contracts now? Once again, every year is now a "what if". So when that principal needs someone to help run the clock at a basketball game for free because he can't pay anyone due to cuts, do you think he will be able to find someone to volunteer now? How is that principal going to view the teacher who gets average test scores, but does nothing for free? Think they will get a good evaluation? I highly doubt that they will.

Who will want special ed students? It is difficult to get them to be proficient or advanced, no matter how much time you put in. Is this fair for the teachers who get the average students versus those who get the AP or honors level students? How about those students with bad home lives? There was a story about a mom who allowed her son to fight another boy on her front yard. And she encouraged him to "f@ck him up" the whole time. Yeah how important is education to her and her family? And yet, a teacher will be judged good or bad based on his score on a test that doesn't determine anything for him.

Politicians want to run education like a business. I have said it many times, but you can't. Simply stated, because you can't pick and choose your students. As a supervisor at UPS, I had 60 days to determine if an employee would help my area out. If they were late once, I could fire them. How does that work in education? I get 170+ students and I can't do anything if they are late, but send them to the office. If an employee didn't work hard, I could fire them. If a student doesn't work hard, they fail the test and probably the state test. But their inaction will now affect that teacher's pay. Whereas at UPS I could fire that bad employee, the teacher is "stuck" with the student for the year.

I want to go to a politician's office and give him a special ed student or an unmotivated student and say "here is your new secretary. You have to find a way to get them to be the best secretary you have ever had." How long do you think that politician would wait until he fired them? And yet, we can't "fire" our students.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Teacher suing student...

It's about time. That's all I can say.

Seems as though a senior that didn't get the grade she wanted started talking about the teacher, he had enough and threatened to sue her for slander and to stop. Of course someone told her to keep fighting and go further to the school board, a former principal (just another reason why teachers don't trust administrators).

She is complaining because she said he graded the class on group projects which she says is unfair. To me this is an open and shut case. According to Ed Code 49066;
49066. (a) When grades are given for any course of instruction taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the determination of the pupil's grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.
Read the bold...yeah sums that up. So much for her complaint. He has to justify the grade, from what I have heard about things like this, but other than that he is good to go.

Back to the more important issue at hand, the potential lawsuit. Every time a student rips a teacher on Facebook, Myspace, or anywhere it's a 1st amendment freedom of speech thing. Yet, when a teacher says something about their students outside of school they are suspended or worse yet, they are fired.

I am sure nothing will happen here. The girl can complain all she want, but the chances of her getting her grade changed are slim to none. The teacher's potential lawsuit won't go anywhere because they will hide behind the 1st amendment. I love education...don't you?

Inside Four Walls: What glimmer?

Last week I talked about my Algebra B students doing well on their 1st semester benchmark and I thought that this could be a sign of things to come. Well then there was the whole homework incident that sort of brought me down. Well whatever optimism there was from that benchmark is pretty much gone.

They took a rational equations quiz yesterday, basically fractions with variables. They all became quadratic equations when you got rid of the denominator too. So we have been doing these for about 2 weeks now and did about 20 minutes of review before I put the questions on the board, it was a block day.

I don't have the average yet, but there were only 12 questions and only 8 of the 28 scored a 7 or higher. For you non-math majors, a 7 is a 58%. I mention that because 9 people scored 0 out of 12. Yeah, couldn't get one right. Despite the fact that we did 5 problems before the quiz that were set up the EXACT same way as the actual questions.

I got nothing here. I really am at a loss. I have been asking other teachers for help and guidance, but nothing is working...nothing. And should I really be too surprised? I mean when I gave a homework assignment of 6 questions, I only had 8 people do it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Sun Always Shines on T.V.: If Only...

...they ended Scrubs with season 8 and called season 9 something else.

Scrubs was a great show, make no mistake about it. The writing was quick, the acting was superb, and there were so many twists that you didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Season 8 was the first season on ABC and towards the end of the season it was almost a guarantee that Scrubs was done. So what did they do? Simply make possibly the best series finale episode ever! I talked about it after it aired here. Just watch the final scenes, if you were a fan of Scrubs there is now way you could watch this without getting a little teary eyed.

JD finally hearing Dr. Cox share his feelings about him;

JD remembering the people of Sacred Heart;

Finally, JD's vision of the future;

Freakin awesome stuff there. That's how you end a show. The music, the projection of his future on his face and camera work...perfect. I would be hard pressed to come up with a better series finale. Well, as I mentioned before, Scrubs continued on for one more season...unfortunately.

Season 9 had it's moments, but when you watch that and then watch something like this;

oh bad was that? Seriously, moving to a med school? Just call it something else. Not Scrubs. There was no JD after 6 episodes, no Carla, no Janitor, no Ted, no Todd (besides bit parts), no Kelso (for the most part), not a lot of Elliot, no Keith...just Turk and Cox. Cox changed right away by taking a protege, which went against everything we knew about him for 8 seasons.

The new doctors weren't too bad. Cole was probably the funniest just cause he was so out there. Drew was a combination of JD (sensitive) and Cox (sense of humor & attitude). Lucy was the new JD, but she was more of an annoying Elliot. Jo was a leftover from season 8 and she was solid in her role.

Could this have made it as a different show? Who knows. But more than anything it sort of tarnished the previous 8 seasons of Scrubs. It lacked so much of what we had come to love, but taken by itself it isn't too bad. So my recommendation? Watch it, but forget everything you loved about Scrubs and expected to see again. Kind of like Battlestar Galactica, the new one was good, but you first had to forget everything about the original.

Music Non Stop: If Only...

...they would have released this as another band.

How many times have you heard that one? The classic "it's not that bad, it's just not a _________ album". Well my friends, I have 3 such albums that any time I listen to them I find myself saying the exact same thing. Heck, when I talk about the albums to anyone I say it.

Testament - Demonic
I'll be honest, I wasn't always a Testament fan. I talked about it years ago, basically how they sounded like a clone of Metallica. Heck after The Black Album came out, Testament released The Ritual. It was basically the same style of mid paced metal that sort of ruled the early 90's. But my collection lacked some Testament so I picked up a greatest hits album. It wasn't anything special until I got to Dog Faced Gods. It was so intense. Chuck Billy had some deeper growls and definitely didn't sound like James Hetfield anymore. It was great. I saw it came off of Low, so I picked it up. Low is probably my favorite Testament album. It is the perfect blend of classic thrash and modern thrash, I might go as far as to say it is the birth of modern thrash.

I decided to check out The Gathering which was released a couple of albums later, skipping over Demonic. I heard Demonic was a death metal album. Well after The Ritual I had to pick it up. And you know what. Demonic is a great death/thrash album, but it isn't a Testament album.

Most of the time Chuck Billy is doing death vocals. He has a great metal voice, so why would he do something that isn't his strength? Maybe Eric Peterson couldn't get a Dragonlord album out so he wrote it for Testament. Demonic is a tough album to categorize because it doesn't have the blast beats for death metal and the vocals certainly aren't thrash. The only songs that have a Testament feel would be John Doe and Hatreds Rise because of the cleaner vocals.

With all that being said, Demonic isn't a bad album, it just isn't a Testament album. If this thing was released now, kids would probably go nuts over Chuck Billy's vocals, but in 1997 it fell kind of flat.

Motley Crue - Motley Crue
Oh Motley Crue. You started off so strong with Too Fast For Love and Shout at the Devil and then you went glam...big time. That's actually ok for me because it gave us Wild Side, Girls Girls Girls, Home Sweet Home, and all of Dr. Feelgood. After Dr. Feelgood I was curious as to what they could do to top it. Their first greatest hits album, Decade of Decadence, had 3 new songs which were all great. Primal Scream is easily one of my top Crue songs. But there was no follow up with the original line up after Decade of Decadence, Vince Neil was gone. Enter John Corabi.

Just changing Vince Neil really changed the look of Motley Crue, gone was the lone blonde member. But the changes were more than physical, John Corabi didn't just sing, he also played guitar. For the first time the Crue had two dedicated guitarists. It really changed the sound of the Crue. Gone was the whole glam sound and what came was probably their most "metal" album since Shout at the Devil.

The guitars were slow and brooding. The drums played with such force that you could almost feel them coming out of the speakers. The music itself? I would probably say it was a more blues influenced metal than rock. Looking at it now, it almost feels like a somewhat lighter version of Metallica's Load albums. Lyrics were not just about partying anymore. It was more serious. Abuse (physical and drugs) and crime replaced those classic Crue lyrics of old. There is still a ballad, but it isn't too cheesy and I would say that was put on because of the record label.

John Corabi couldn't go high like Vince Neil could, so that also changed the whole sound of Motley Crue. His vocals had that classic hard rock sound to them, nothing glam going on there. Corabi was made for a rock/metal band, not glam. Unfortunately for the Crue, the label wanted the glam Crue. This is probably their best album from start to finish, or at least top 3. People throw this away because there is no Vince Neil on it, but it is a great blues-influenced rock/metal album.

Megadeth - Risk
This had to be on here right? Some of you might think it's hypocritical to have Megadeth on here for Risk and yet, not have Metallica on here for the Loads. Honestly, the main problem is that Dave was out talking about how Risk was a "return to Rust in Peace". And I bought it. I mean Cryptic Writings had some great thrash moments and this was going to build on those. What could go wrong?

It starts off with some distorted guitars, which was ok. Then we are hit with almost a techno feel with violins and all. Insomnia isn't a bad song, in fact it's one of the better ones on the album. But you notice the trademark guitar sound that was present since Countdown to Extinction was gone. Prince of Darkness has a super long build up, but once again, once it kicks's a great song. I was pretty pumped here. Then we come to the bad parts. Enter the Arena and Crush Em seem well out of place on a Megadeth album. Up til then, I was still thinking this is a good Megadeth album, not great, but solid. Crush Em lyrics just didn't fit for Megadeth, but whatever, it was written for Bill Goldberg so I could live with it.

Then it hit, Breadline. What is this? A rock song on a Megadeth album? Catchy, yes, but not sounding like Megadeth at all. Ecstasy & Wanderlust were more of the same. Catchy songs, with a standard drum beat and thin sounding guitars. What happened to my Megadeth? Heck Seven could have been on Motley Crue's self-titled album from above. It was just a rock song. There is little to no metal on this album. The two part Time songs round out the album, those are the highlights in terms of metal songs.

So is it a bad album? Not by a long shot. It just isn't Megadeth. The heavy sounding guitars are gone. Super technical and drawn out solos are gone. Thrash? Nope, not here move along. Does that mean it sucks? Nope it means this album would have been great...if it would have been released as something else besides Megadeth. Imagine a radio station saying "here is Megadeth's latest Breadline." wouldn't happen. You don't associate Megadeth with anything but thrash. Dave wrote a good rock album, he should have released it as something else like he did with MD.45.

That's it. I find it funny that some how I managed to mention Metallica in everyone of these albums. Totally not planned, but funny how it worked out that was. Anyway, I kind of like this If Only sub-tag. I might do more of these for all of my tags.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Another look at the new Wonder Woman costume

A few days ago I showed the new Wonder Woman costume for the new TV show. It was good, but the one thing I noticed, and a lot of other bloggers, was the lack of red boots. Well, in the age of photoshopping, it didn't take long for someone to correct that. Here is the original (the middle) and two variations of it;I think we can all agree the red boots are a HUGE improvement over the blue. And at first, I thought the dark blue pants was too similar to the Jim Lee design, and we know how I feel about that one, but I realize it's pretty different. First, it has actual boots, not slippers or whatever those are. The pants are a navy blue, not black. So the core colors remain. And finally, no 90's leather jacket.

As much as I like the far left, I could actually see the far right one in a tv show or movie. I think I have to come to grip with the fact that whatever incarnation of Wonder Woman we get now will have pants, not shorts.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Inside Four Walls: So much for that glimmer

A couple of days ago I posted about my Algebra B class and how they scored really well on the 1st semester benchmark. I was starting to feel like maybe they had turned the corner and maybe had a chance.

While I won't say they are done, I will share a story from Friday. On Thursday, I assigned 6 review rational equation problems...not a typo, 6 problems. I even gave them 15 minutes in class to get started on them. These are a little harder than the normal ones because they all became quadratic equations. But I figured, "hey they have only 6 and I am giving them 15 minutes to get started, they should get this done pretty quickly." Wishful thinking, maybe I was still on cloud 9 because of the benchmarks.

On Friday when I collected it, only 8 people turned it in. 8 out of 28! Seriously, how do you not do 6 problems? Especially when you are given 15 minutes in class to start it? I ended up emailing the parents of the students who didn't turn it in. This was at 9:30 in the morning. When I left around 2:45, only 1 parent had responded.

How can anyone justify tying my pay to students that refuse to work? I don't understand how no one seems to understand that you can't force someone to do something. Hey but there is a silver lining, when most of the class isn't advanced or proficient then people will be able to judge me and say I'm a bad teacher. I love education.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Last Laugh: Barack Obama Elementary closing

Now, there isn't anything funny about a school closing. Most of the teaching staff will get reassigned, but the janitorial and office staff is usually let go. But there has to be some kind of irony in this;
ASBURY PARK, N.J. — A central New Jersey elementary school that was renamed in honor of President Barack Obama last year will soon be closed.
The report cites declining enrollment for the move.

There are a ton of jokes in here, come up with your own.

Thoughts Without Words: New Wonder Woman TV costume

Since I seem to talk about costumes quite a lot around here, I might as well give my thoughts on the new Wonder Woman costume for the new tv show. Heck, I even talked specifically about Wonder Woman when she got her new comic costume awhile back.

Well for those that still haven't seen it, here is the new suit.
This might surprise followers of this blog, but I really don't have that big of problem with it. You can clearly tell it's WW. There is no black pants or leather jacket, just the classic colors. The one thing that really jumped out at me and does each time is the boots. The boots should be red. Not just because that's the way they have always been, but it just becomes too much blue from the waist down.

Here is a nice side by side comparison with the Linda Carter WW suit;The tops are pretty similar, but it's the boots. I like the new gold trim on them, but they need the red. And I will be honest with you, the missing stars aren't that big of deal to me and the shocking thing is that the pants don't really bother me either, which is funny considering I blasted the Jim Lee comic re-design for not having shorts. I read somewhere that the 3 red stars on WW seem out of place and I didn't really notice them, but if they were to dump one of the stars from her belt or chest it wouldn't hurt.

Overall, it's a nice suit. If they were to give it some red boots, I might even say it was a perfect updated look.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: This is how parents think now...

Let me start off by saying this could have been posted under Free Speech for the Dumb or Inside Four Walls because it deals with parents, but I went generic.

A couple days ago I posted the video of a bully getting slammed by the kid he was picking on. Most would say justice was served. I say most because the bully's mom? Well, she sees it differently.
"We don't need this posted everywhere," she told Australia's Seven Network on Wednesday. "I would like him to apologize."
That's right. Her kid is the one picking on another student and starts hitting him, yet it's the victim who needs to apologize. This is what we see more and more in education. Call it deflecting, not accepting responsibility, or whatever you want, but this is what society has become. It's always someone else's fault.

Now she did say this;
Tina said she while was "shocked" at Ritchard's behavior, she didn't think he deserved to be slammed to the ground. Neither boy suffered serious injuries in the fight.
Hmmm shocked? No apology there. Oh and I like the "didn't deserved to be slammed to the ground" part too. What did she expect the kid to do? He doesn't provoke the bully. He just wants to be left alone. It's the bully that seems to have brought the slamming upon himself. But why would I expect a parent to do their job and parent their child. It is becoming more and more rare to see a parent actually parent their child. Unfortunately, parents are getting to be like the kids and make excuses and avoiding accountability.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inside Four Walls: A Glimmer?

So before the CSTs come I always give my students their first semester benchmark and final, just to see how much they have retained. My Algebra B class this year is really struggling. I have done more review, longer lessons, and re-teaching entire chapters this year than ever before. And I figure I will only have 5 of the 30 be proficient or advanced. To say it has been disappointing is an understatement.

Well this might be a glimmer of hope. I gave them the first semester benchmark, which covers factoring, graphing, exponents, and rational expressions. The average in the fall was a 62%. Nothing special to say the least. Every year I focus 3 of my 4 opening activity questions on factoring, graphing (writing equations of lines, slope, intercepts, anything with graphing), and systems of equations. So since November they have been doing one of those topics daily. I do it because those are 3 of the big topics on the CSTs and it is good daily review. I was hoping for some improvement, but to be honest I wasn't expecting too much.

The average the second time around was a 71%. Almost 10% gain! Are you kidding me? It helped me see there was some growth. It reassured me that the opening activities do work. I love the opening quizzes for this very reason. And in addition to seeing these topics daily, when other classes are re-teaching those topics, my classes don't need that.

I haven't been able to do something like this in Geometry or Algebra 2 yet. It's harder because of the amount of material I have to cover. I started weekly review quizzes this year in Geometry. I write about 6-7 questions from previous chapters once a week. I don't know if it will have any sort of effect, but I will find out next week when my Geometry classes take the 1st semester benchmark again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Video Killed the Radio Star: Bully gets body slammed

This video is making its way around the internet. And all I can say is this is what needs to happen to bullies. The bully was suspended for 21 days, while the other kid got 4. I mean he did body slam the kid, but I would have given him only one and said he was defending himself. Oh well, the little kid will think twice I guess.

The Last Laugh: Merit pay isn't working in NY

All I hear politicians saying about teachers is "go to merit pay". It will bring results if you give incentives to the teachers. Well apparently not.
New York City's now defunct schoolwide performance-pay program didn't increase student learning in any statistically meaningful way, according to a new study by Harvard University economist Roland Fryer. And a large majority of the schools decided to allocate their pay bonuses to all teachers evenly, rather than using some other set of criteria to recognize specific teachers' contributions.
Other findings from this latest study: The program didn't raise test scores at all and may have slightly depressed middle school scores in the participating schools. The impact of the incentives on student attendance, behavior, course grades, regents test scores, and high school graduation were negligible, Fryer writes. And it did not seem to affect teacher behavior either, as measured by retention rates in the school or the district; absenteeism; or teacher perception of the learning environment.
Any teacher could have saved a lot of time and money on this one. Merit pay can't work because teachers realize they don't have that much affect on student behavior. They see the students an hour a day. Last time I checked there were 24 hours in a day.

But of course merit pay works there was something wrong in the study.
The paper includes a discussion of possible explanation for the lack of effects. One hypothesis Fryer lays out is that the incentive scheme, like others in the United States, may have been too ambiguous in its goals and complex in its means to effect a change in teachers' behavior.
Right too ambiguous.

Here's the kicker though, the cost of it.
One important addition: This was a costly experiment for New York City taxpayers, for several reasons. The program itself was expensive, costing on the order of about $75 million over its duration. And it will continue to be costly, because the program, put in place in 2007, was made as part of a deal with the United Federation of Teachers. The district's tradeoff was in allowing teachers who agreed to pay a minimal amount toward their pensions to retire with full benefits five years earlier.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Another teacher fired over Facebook comments

It seems that every time I turn around another teacher is fired for blogging or doing something in their own life that is private that someone finds out and becomes public.

Seems that a NY teacher posted something on her facebook that wasn't flattering at all. Shocking, yes, but it was a private posting. Meaning it wasn't public. One of her "friends" took it to the principal, nice friend huh?

Anyway, I won't say what she said, but more of comment on a teacher's right of free speech. Especially in this case, where it wasn't public, but private. Students rip teachers all the time on And that is protected by the 1st amendment. Heck a student sued because she said her first amendment rights were violated when she was suspend.

What rights do teachers have? Can we not say anything anymore? I was told students have a first amendment right because it doesn't effect the learning environment, but if a teacher says something it does affect the environment. I call bull on this reasoning. When there is a facebook page calling teachers fat, lazy, pedophiles, or drunk then that's a problem and does disrupt the learning environment. Parents & administrators look at ratemyteacher and take it as actual fact. Yet, we can't be removed from their site.

Once again...where are the teacher's rights?

Free Speech for the Dumb: Adrian Peterson

It's been awhile since I had a Free Speech for the Dumb story, but this one was too good to pass up.

The NFL owners are locking out the players until a new CBA can be reached. What does star NFL running back Adrian Peterson think about it?
If they have nothing to hide, just give us the information. Why not? Obviously, there’s a lot to hide — these guys are professionals, and they’re maximizing what they do. But they know that if all this information comes out, the information the players want, it’ll be right out there for everyone to see. It’s a rip-off — not just for the players, but for the people who work at the concession stands and at the stadiums.

It’s modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money . . . the owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money
Wow. Really? A didn't know slaves made $10.72 million a year. Heck that's not even a full year, maybe 7 months. Where do I sign up to be that kind of slave? I'm sure I'm not the only one who would be willing to sign up.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: Parents sue preschool...

why? Well because they didn't prepare their daughter for Harvard, duh.
A Manhattan mom is suing a $19,000-a-year preschool, claiming it jeopardized her daughter's chances of getting into an elite private school because she had to slum with younger kids.

Nicole Imprescia yanked 4-year-old Lucia from the York Avenue Preschool last fall, angry the tyke was stuck learning about shapes and colors with tots half her age - when she should have been prepping for a standardized test.
So the mom pulls the kid out and is now suing the preschool. The kicker is that the girl is 4. Her mom is basically saying to her daughter, "honey because you were learning shapes and colors at four, you are ruined and won't become anything." Ridiculous. Is it a great school? Who knows, but to say your child can't get into a certain college which is 14 years away is just ridiculous.

A couple of my colleagues always wonder if a student is going to come back and sue the district because they left high school unprepared. I mean think about all of the special ed students that pass because of IEPs. Do they really understand the material? Or is it the modifications that help them pass? And how do they cope in the real world with no modifications? After reading this story, maybe it is a matter of time before it hits us.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Keep it in the Family: Time for Star Wars

My son is going to be 3 in May. On a recent trip to Disneyland he was awestruck with the Jedi Academy show. Since then he wants to play Star Wars with his sword. So talking to another dad at church and a teacher at school, they both said they started with Star Wars when their kids were about 3 as well.

As a Star Wars nerd this was the time I had been waiting for. But what would the order be? Episodes 4, 5, 6 and then the prequels? Or just go in order 1 to 6? After much deliberation (over the course of years) I went with this list 4 & 5, then back to 1, 2, 3 then back for 6. The big surprise is the whole "I am your father" and I don't want to spoil that.

So today we put on Episode 4. He enjoyed it, but lost interest about an hour into it. And went outside to play, in his defense it was a beautiful day today. So now I am thinking, do I want to change the order? I mean Episode I was made for kids. Jar-Jar, Anakin, and the pod-racing seemed tailor-made for kids.

I am at a crossroad. On the one hand I want to go with my plan, but is it going to hurt to see Episode I? Will it ruin everything if I went 1,4,5,2,3,6? What a mess that is. Oh well that's the hard thing about being a parent right? By the way, I was joking there.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Last Laugh: So much for his dream...

Last week I posted a story about the millions of dollars wasted trying to make the L.A. Community Colleges "green". In it, Larry Eisenberg was quoted as saying;
"Ultimately," he said, "I believe we'll get there."
Well apparently not. He was fired this past week.
Several dozen spectators burst into applause when board President Georgia Mercer announced that the seven trustees had voted unanimously in closed session to terminate Larry Eisenberg's employment contract, effective at the end of this week.

"It's time to move on in a new direction," Mercer said.
My favorite part was when The Times tried to reach him for comment;
In a brief telephone interview, Eisenberg declined to discuss what led to his firing.
"You guys have done your damage," he said.
At least justice was served here. I just wish The Times would pull their head out of their rear ends on this Value-Added stuff.

Music Non Stop: New Cavalera Conspiracy & Sylosis

Can this year get any better? We aren't even a quarter of the way done with the year and I have about 20 albums that all deserve some sort of recognition. I guess I will probably have to add these next two bands.

Cavalera Conspiracy features the Cavalera brothers, from Sepultura. Their debut was average at best. It was more punk metal than tribal or thrash like they did with Sepultura. So when I heard about their follow-up I didn't really care, especially since Omen (by Soulfly) was so bland as well. Good news for me, it looks like I am wrong.

The music is more thrash like older Sepultura and Marc Rizzo's guitar work is fantastic. The one knock that I heard with the song is the repetition of lyrics. But hey, at least I can learn the words quicker right?

Next up is Sylosis. Their debut was solid. It was one of those debuts that made you say "yeah, that was pretty good I wonder what they can do next." They were kind of a heavier version of Trivium. From the samples on this video, it sounds like they have abandoned the whole clean chorus thing that they had on their debut. The guitar work sounds awesome and to top it off, this album is over an hour long.

This sounds really good. Varied vocals might have made it a little better, but these are just samples and the music itself sounds really impressive. Another can't wait album.

Thoughts Without Words: We've got a jumper here...

I got this from Darren's blog, but I will basically say what I said there about this.

A high school class went on a field trip to the Golden Gate Bridge. Pretty cool right? Well some 17 year old decided to jump off the bridge, why? Someone dared him. Now he is lucky to be alive because;
Someone leaps off the iconic bridge an average of once every two weeks - last year, 32 jumpers died. About 98 percent of those plunges end up being fatal and authorities rule most of those deaths suicides.

The Marin County Coroner's Office and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District have said that up to 1,500 people have died after jumping off the bridge since it opened in 1937.
When I read stuff like this it makes me think that one day my pay could be tied to someone like this. Or better yet, I am considered a bad teacher if I can't make students like him proficient or advanced...yeah that's fair.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Video Killed the Radio Star: Boom goes the Dynamite

I think I might be late to the party on this one, but this is great. Poor kid filling in on an actual newscast. There are so many great moments...

Now as funny as that was apparently it took off and went viral. So much so that it has its own Wikipedia entry.

Look at all the times it was referenced in Popular Culture...23 times and there are probably more that aren't listed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Venting the Anger: buying a new car

So this past weekend I went out to buy a new car, well used. Let's face it with all of these budget cuts coming there is no way I am going to take on a car payment. My plan was simple, trade in my truck (Blue Book value from $14,500 to 18K) for something in the $12K to $13K range so that everything was covered, including tax, title, and license.

I saw a Mazda5 for $12K. Now a Mazda5 is not a big car, but the gas mileage is almost 10 mpg better than my truck, so I was like let's do it. I go in and tell the guy basically I want to switch out cars. I know mine is worth more than your Mazda5, I saw my Titan with more mile being sold for $18-$20K on lots near by, so I just want to switch cars.

Then he goes into car salesman mode. He brings out his "boss" who I explain the whole thing to again. He says he has to "run the numbers". He comes back with an offer of $8500 for my truck. I almost start laughing. I was so pissed I told him no way. So he does the classic, "ok just let me talk to my boss, I don't want to leave you with a sour taste in your mouth".

Comes back again and this time it was $9k. I told him no thanks, I didn't need his car. I started to get up and he said, "if it was a Chevy or Ford I could work with you, but Nissan doesn't have a good name for trucks or reliability." I was pissed didn't say a word and left.

He wanted to make so much money off of me. He would have made at least $9K off of re-selling my truck. And then I would have had to pay almost $4K for the Mazda5, including the tax, title, and license fee. B.S. If he would have switched cars he could have made about $4-$5K on re-selling my truck. He got greedy and lost a sale. And I will never go back there again. Worst part was I spent 2 hours there! A-holes!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Music Non Stop: Instrumental albums

Instrumentals have always been hit or miss with me. The first instrumental I heard was Metallica's Orion. Clearly, a hit. In fact, that song sort of set the bar for other instrumental songs.

Instrumental albums are usually a miss for me. It wasn't until Animals as Leaders released their album a couple of years ago that I realized instrumental albums could be good.

Well it just so happens that there are already 3 instrumental albums on my top albums of the year playlist already. Best part? You can download them all for free or "pay what you wish". There seems to be a trend now of musicians putting out instrumental albums for people to enjoy. These bands aren't signed, but you couldn't tell by the production values.

First up, Dan Dankmeyer and his album Arcologies. This is very similar to Animals as Leaders, which made my top 10 in 2009, so of course this peaked my interest. It's not total shredding. I can't describe it, but he has a way of keeping each song interesting. There is jazz, metalcore, progressive metal, and classic metal. If you are a fan of Animals as Leaders, then this is a no brainer.

Next up is some industrial instrumental music from Tyrants of Death, and their album Dark Space. I thought that Before the Fall was a good mix of Fear Factory and Strapping Young Lad, well ToD is in the same vein with even more SYL thrown in. There is also a ton of electronic samples thrown into the mix as well. This is that class Devin Townsend "wall of sound" music that you either love or hate. The drumming never stops. I absolutely love what they have managed to create. The guitars have that classic Meshuggah sound to them as well.

Last but certainly not least is Soul Cycle, not the greatest name I guess. But musically, they might be the best of the 3. They play classic thrash/melodic death metal. Their debut album is pure greatness. If you could imagine a swedish death metal band or thrash band doing an instrumental album it would probably end up like this. The solos are melodic, but can go into shred mode at any time. The drumming isn't just blast beats either. They play an important part to the melodies as well. If Metallica was to make an instrumental album, it would probably sound something similar to this.

I think the worst thing I have heard about these bands is that they are thinking of getting vocalists to sing over their music. I can't imagine any vocalist being able to make this any better, but whatever. These bands are all unsigned and have their music out there for everyone to enjoy. Go take a listen.

The Last Laugh: L.A. Community College "dream" of green

You know a lot of people talk about how these environmentalists are a little crazy and aren't really practical. Well, this story isn't going to help squash those stereotypes.
Larry Eisenberg had a vision. "Amazing," he called it. "Spectacular."

The Los Angeles Community College District would become a paragon of clean energy. By generating solar, wind and geothermal power, the district would supply all its electricity needs. Not only would the nine colleges sever ties to the grid, saving millions of dollars a year, they would make money by selling surplus power. Thanks to state and federal subsidies, construction of the green energy projects would cost nothing upfront.
Wow...what a great idea. What could possibly go wrong?
He overestimated how much power the colleges could generate. He underestimated the cost. And he poured millions of dollars into designs for projects that proved so impractical or unpopular they were never built.

These and other blunders cost nearly $10 million that could have paid for new classrooms, laboratories and other college facilities, a Times investigation found.
Plans for large-scale wind power collided with the reality that prevailing winds at nearly all the campuses are too weak to generate much electricity. To date, a single wind turbine has been installed, as a demonstration project. It spins too slowly in average winds to power a 60-watt light bulb.
well that's not good either
Eisenberg eventually put together new financing deals to pay for the $44 million in solar projects Chevron was building. The federal tax credit and utility subsidies will cut installation costs by 26% — far from the 90% savings Eisenberg once promised.

Even so, the cost will be steep — $33 million for solar arrays that will provide less than 7% of the district's electricity needs and will produce minimal savings on its power bills.

All told, the college presidents have agreed to build no more than 16 megawatts of solar projects — well short of the 60 megawatts that Eisenberg says would be necessary to meet all the campuses' power needs. So far, the district has built just 6 megawatts.
ouch. This falls under the no duh I guess. But here is the worst part. Instead of admitting he screwed up, here is his response to this;
But Eisenberg said he still believes the college system can achieve energy independence, even if progress toward that goal has been "much slower than I'd hoped for."

"Ultimately," he said, "I believe we'll get there."
I guess it's funny and sad a the same time to think about how much money has been wasted on this project that could have been used elsewhere. Nice job hippies.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Music Non Stop: More new bands

Time to change it up a bit and get back to something that makes me

A couple of new bands (new to me at least) have found their way onto my radar. First one up is Before the Fall. I read about them on The NewReview. The samples they had were pretty awesome. When I hear them play I hear some Fear Factory/Divine Heresy mixed with Strapping Young Lad, yeah that's a winning combination. The drums are insane. Nonstop with those classic stop and go riffs on top of it. It's been done before, no doubt, but these guys are right behind those bands above. In fact, if clean vocals turn you off a bit ala Fear Factory, you won't get that here. Straight screaming. I checked out most of the album on their myspace page and was even more impressed than before. Hopefully the album maintains the brutality I have heard so far, but this is good. For those solo fans, there is some soloing, but nothing fast or technical...and from the songs I heard, not in every song. Check out the intro song

Next up is another female fronted band, Izegrim, but unlike other female fronted albums the girl is a screamer much like Arch Enemy. Once again, this isn't ground breaking because Arch Enemy has been doing the exact same thing for years now. And yet, once again, it's good. In fact, there are times that I think I am listening to Arch Enemy. The screams are good, don't get me wrong. Musically it's solid as well. I would say though that it is more thrash oriented than Arch Enemy. This isn't a band that is a one trick pony and puts the girl in the front why? Because the girl also plays bass and not that bad either. I haven't heard all of the album yet, but what I have heard makes me want to hear more.

Here is a video from their last album, Point of No Return;

Both of these bands remind me of Lazarus A.D. Their debut reminds me so much of Exodus, the vocal delivery and the music was all too familiar, but it wasn't a carbon copy. They stood out from the Neo-Thrash movement. These two bands are the same. They sound like other great bands, but they manage to write songs that help them get out of that pigeon hole.

Inside Four Walls: Is this how bad it has gotten?

Not for me, although that is for another post probably tonight or tomorrow.

Seems that a teacher took a desk lifted it up and dropped it to get the attention of his class is now "on leave". Why? Well one of his students got scared and called 911, of course.
From inside a bathroom at Selby Lane School, a distraught 13-year-old girl calls and tells a 911 dispatcher Tuesday that her math teacher has just knocked over a desk and screamed epithets at students, an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The Daily News reveals.
But here's the funny thing about the cursing;
Ruby Prado, who told The Daily News she is the mother of the girl who loaned the 13-year-old student her cell phone, said she would be surprised to learn Haynes had used profanity.

"My daughter is an honor roll student and I would say it's partly -- mostly -- because of him," Prado said. "He's a very good teacher. He's committed."

She said her daughter hadn't mentioned that Haynes used any swear words and is concerned her teacher might now be in trouble.
So wait he cussed or he didn't. Which is it? A total contradiction of statements. But that is besides the point. Let's get back to the other part of lifting the desk.

If you are a teacher, you know how kids lose interest quickly in lessons. You need to get their attention and do it frequently. At times, you feel like you are a clown up there trying to keep them from fading away. I have thrown markers at a wall, pushed a chair/desk, or anything else to get their attention...not out of anger. I can't condone the cursing. Even though a high school campus is full of so many f-bombs, s-bombs, racial slurs...teachers shouldn't curse.

My favorite comment though was this one;
Awww, that poor kid. The teacher rattled his desk and scared me. Wow, are we raising a generation of coddled, overly sensitive wimps or what?
If he only knew how bad education is...he is so correct. By the way, if you listen to the phone call you can tell this girl really doesn't get it. She talks about how she is afraid the teacher will find out that she called 911. She tells the operator that she needs to give her friend her phone back so she can't talk anymore. I guess all of those 911 commercials have worked...

This is just another example of how crazy education is right now. Seriously...think about the teacher that would drop a book to wake a sleeping student, or worse, spray water on them to wake them. Those days are obviously over. When I was in high school I had a teacher throw water on me telling me I was insensitive. I didn't call 911 or go to the principal, I filled up a cup and threw it back at her. What has happened to students?
Another teacher nailed it the other day when they stated "I would have to question the sanity or anyone who is going into education now". He is 100% right. Teachers are being attacked left and right. Parents come in and blame the teachers right away. Unions are being blasted. And if you have tenure you are a lazy teacher. It's tough to be a teacher right now.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Thoughts Without Words: ACLU is destroying education

In my last post I mentioned briefly about the ACLU coming after our school. But I didn't say why. Apparently they are upset about us charging for AP tests and PE clothes. Whatever.

Well today we got more of the lawsuit. Apparently, AP teachers are no longer allowed to change grades based upon the result of the AP exam. This has been going on for a very long time at our school. The ACLU said it isn't fair because if a student can't pay for the test, then that student doesn't get a chance to get his/her grade changed. So our district said no for anyone.

Before anyone brings up Ed Code, I looked into it and yes this does seem to be in direct violation of Ed Code 49066
(a) When grades are given for any course of instruction
taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be
the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the
determination of the pupil's grade by the teacher, in the absence of
clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency,
shall be final.
However, this is coming from our district, which still needs to be a policy change, but it sounds like they are in the process of making it official. Now districts can modify ed code, as far as I know, and some already have.

It gets better. A student can be enrolled in an AP course, not take the test and still get the AP course on the transcript. AP teachers are frustrated and upset at our school, so it will be interesting to see what happens with these teachers and if they want to continue to teach those courses.

But wait! There's more. Apparently, the ACLU wants to go after our summer school program. Due to cuts, we had to start asking students to pay for classes if they wanted to get ahead, not make up mandated classes, just get ahead. Our district's lawyers have told us that if we get sued we would lose and have to pay all the students back for their fees. We have been doing this fee based summer school for a few years now.

One teacher brought up a great point though. If you don't need summer school and you are just getting ahead, how is that unfair? You can still graduate in plenty of time by not taking summer school.

So what are the ramifications on this one? Well we put through about 1500 students every summer. Those students then don't need to take those classes during the regular year. Well now they will. So we will need to add more sections of certain class. But how can we add sections when we are cutting sections due to budget cuts? This is a classic cluster-f@ck moment if I ever saw one.

I have no idea what the future of our high school is or public education in general is now. All I know is that the ACLU is killing us.