A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, February 26, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 54: Because IT IS edition

As the glitter from the Oscars has barely settled on the ground, let us celebrate with another Movie Madness Monday. Here's how we play: I give you some quotes, you respond with a quote of your own from the same movie without naming the movie. Simple!

This one's in honor of the academy award for best documentary.

"I've eaten things that didn't complain this much."

"Look, the tigers are just playing tag with the antelope...."
"...with their teeth."

"He's not much to look at, but it's so hard to find a family man these days."
"Tell me about it. All of the sensitive ones get eaten."

"Tae Kwon Dodos-- ATTACK!"

"Well, I think mating for life is stupid. I mean, there's plenty of me to go around!"

"What ho, a foe!"

****Weekend Update: Expect a Mammoth good time watching


What can I say? I'm a mom. And Denis Leary as a sabre-toothed tiger? Who can resist?

Now let's hope it warms up around here real soon, as I am tired of icy tootsies.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Confiscation of iPod leads to broken neck

There are no words for this. No words. From the Philadelphia Enquirer via our beloved QuakerDave:
Assaulted teacher is worried for students
By Mari A. Schaefer

Hooked up to tubes and monitors, a metal brace drilled into his skull to immobilize his broken neck, Frank Burd worried how his students would fare on state tests next month now that he could not be there to help them.

"I want them to do well," said the 60-year-old math teacher from his bed at Albert Einstein Medical Center yesterday.

The popular Germantown High School teacher was critically injured Friday after he took an iPod from a student during class. He told the teenager that he would return it after the period.

When Burd went into the hall at the change of classes, two students assaulted him, officials said. He was either pushed or deliberately tripped. Burd fell into a locker, striking his head and breaking his neck.

A security camera caught the assault, but Burd has no memory of the event, which also lacerated his scalp, leaving him in "excruciating pain" and "very exhausted."

What he does remember is music "so loud I couldn't teach."

Burd, a New York native, "simply can't believe" the assault occurred, he said. He was in intensive care and heavily sedated, but still able to joke with his visiting brother, Bill.

"I've defused a lot of fights," said Frank Burd, who explained that he always tried to get students to look at "the bigger picture" to solve their problems.

Two male students, who have not been publicly identified, have been charged as juveniles with aggravated assault and related charges, police said. One is 17, the other 15.

Paul Vallas, the district's chief executive, said yesterday that the two students would not return to Germantown High. The courts may determine where they end up, he said.

"This is the most serious incident I have had here in five years," Vallas said. He said he spent a few hours at the hospital yesterday talking with Burd about Germantown High and teaching philosophy.

Bill Burd, 52, of Elkins Park, received a call about 20 minutes after the assault and went directly to the hospital, he said. Doctors said early on that his brother's spinal cord was not injured. "It was a great relief," he said.

He said his brother was involved in the school's yearbook and theater program, and was the school's unofficial photographer. "He is a born teacher," Bill Burd said.

Frank Burd, who has four sons, said he would have a 41/2-hour operation Wednesday. A piece of his hip will be removed and implanted into his neck to repair the damage. At that point, the halo brace he is wearing will come off.

The web of metal rods is drilled into his skull in four places. He will still have to wear a less-sophisticated brace until the injury heals.

Burd said he did not know when he would be able to return to teaching.

"He is really dedicated," Vallas said. He said Burd had called over to the high school from the hospital Friday to let the students know how he was doing. "He didn't want his students to worry."

The tests Burd is worried about are the important PSSA examinations, state-mandated tests used to measure performance in the classroom.

Vallas said Burd's students were very upset about what had happened to their teacher.

"They like him because he cares about them and really has a bond with them," he said.

Vallas said that "never once" did he hear Burd lash out at the two students accused of injuring him.



Kudos to district officials for proclaiming that those two thugs will not be back to Germantown High. It's actually for their own good-- when I once had a kid take a few swipes at me as I tried to stop a melee, even though he never laid an actual finger on me, there were six or seven young men whom I had to assure I was all right and who were quite incensed that someone would try to harm me. Luckily, and for reasons beyond his trying to flail at a teacher, he never returned to our school-- even though he ended up experiencing no consequences thanks to Assistant Principal Plea Bargain (AP PB claimed he didn't remember from the videotape that the little blister tried to whale on me multiple times-- and he conveniently also forgot my re-enactment for him, and did I mention he "lost" the referral?). The young fella's parents actually approached me in the hallway hours later and HUGGED me -- after I had already had enough physical contact with their offspring to last a lifetime, thankyewverrrymuch! What bothered me about the whole thing was that the young man has no record of having attempted to assault a teacher. But students who observed the whole thing were incensed.

Mr. Burd luckily did not suffer any spinal damage. I can't imagine, though, that that surgery at the age of 60 is going to be a cakewalk. God bless him. He is in my prayers for a swift recovery.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Teaching trick number 1: a random series

Where you actually are in the classroom can often determine the students' response.

1. When I want to impart a lot of information, I stand in front of the classroom.

2. When I want to encourage some discussion, but still retain control of the conversation, I lean against a desk as I talk.

3. When I want to encourage real discussion and student ownership of the learning process, I sit in a student desk at the same level as the students.

Caveat: Before you try any of this, you need to have classroom management under control.

As teachers, we often talk about really engaging the students in the lesson presnted in class. If I have some time, I often try number 3. It really amazes me how important body language can be in instructing students.

What have you found that has been a small change you make that influences student response?


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Thursday Thirteen Number 6

(Apparently thursday thirteen is closing down, right when I was just getting started, so here's my stripped down list in mourning:)

Thirteen things I want to see before I die:

1. New Zealand-- all of it.
2. A Crowded House reunion concert- woo-hoo!
3. Japan-- especially the temple in Kyoto and the Kodokan
4. The Rift Valley of Africa
5. The Great Barrier Reef on Australia's east coast
6. The Louvre in Paris-- of course.
7. Mt. Kilimanjaro
8. Tibet-- a free, independent Tibet, at that
9. Fiji
10. Ayer's Rock in Australia
11. Greece
12. A summer Olympics
13. The US Virgin Islands

Where would you like to go?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

All You Zombies*, Or why do I keep chasing my own tail?

Subtitled: When is consistency just a hobgoblin of little minds?

Do you ever feel like you are the only person who expects kids to abide by the very simple rules of the school? I feel absolutely crazy for saying this, but yes, I do ACTUALLY expect students to:
1. wear their IDs;
2. put up their headphones during the school day;
3. stay off their phones;
4. keep their britches pulled up and their unmentionables covered;
5. not call each other the "f" word that rhymes with bag, the "s" word that rhymes with but, or the "n" word that rhymes with bigger but sometimes is pronounced with an final "ah" sound;
6. be on time to class;
7. remain awake for the entire class period;
and so on.

I am bugged because:
--twice today, I actually asked a kid where his or her ID was-- while an administrator had been conversing with his or her for several minutes each time and had not been saying a word.
--I had a kid tell me that he didn't know he couldn't listen to his headphones in the hallway because he sees so many other people doing it-- and I looked around, acknowledged his point, and reminded him that there is only so much of me to go around, and that nonetheless the policy is clearly spelled out in his handbook on the inside front cover.
--I had to insist for the fifth time that I was NOT going to give a student credit for an assignment that he copied from another student.

Yes, I am obviously trying to make myself crazy.

What things are peeving you right now? Let's dish! Shared misery is therapeutic. Or, as one of my favorite movie characters said: "Express, not repress."

* Title from a Robert A. Heinlein short story


Monday, February 19, 2007

I'm feelin' very Zen, Grasshopper.

Your Brain is Green

Of all the brain types, yours has the most balance.
You are able to see all sides to most problems and are a good problem solver.
You need time to work out your thoughts, but you don't get stuck in bad thinking patterns.

You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).

Yep, gotta say that is about right. And taking that quiz makes me even more annoyed at the CollegeBoard/AP people, who just put me through an online survey that took 45 dedicated minutes to complete!! GAAH! And that would be your problem in a nutshell, Mr. Caperton.

Thanks to Darren for that fun little timewasting link.


Movie Madness Monday 53: Land of the free edition

Here we are again to begin the second year of Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game, and the lingering effects of Valentine's Day are still hanging, cloyingly sweet, like a cloud of treacly mist. So we must take action, lest we go into a coma.

So here's the lay of the land: I give you quotes from a movie, you provide some of your own from the same movie. We do not reveal the name of the movie until later in the week, so everyone can play. Who could ask for more?

"In order to converse with an equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God."

"A lordship and titles. Gold. That I should become Judas?"
"Peace is made in such ways."
"Slaves are made in such ways. The last time Longshanks spoke of peace I was a boy. And many Scottish nobles, who would not be slaves, were lured by him under a flag of truce to a barn, where he had them hanged. I was very young, but I remember Longshank's notion of peace."

"Every man dies, not every man really lives."

"Sanguinarius homo indomitus est, et se me dite cum mendacia." (He is a bloodthirsty savage, and he is telling lies.)
"Ego nunquam pronunciari mendacium! Sed ego sum homo indomitus." Pause. "Ou en français, si vous préférez?" (I never lie! But I am indeed a savage.) Pause. (Or in French, if you prefer?)

"The trouble with Scotland is it's full of Scots."


****Weekend Update: Paint your face blue and moon your enemies in commemoration of brave, valiant, William Wallace in


Not since Sean Connery has being a Scot looked so good. Let's face it, Mel looks great with that wavy mane, before he was a hopeless anti-Semite and drunk driver. Mel, you DON'T have to be your dad. Really.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

5 Blogs that make me think

Darling Elementaryhistoryteacher chose me as one of her five blogs that make her think, and I am indeed humbled by her support.

The original idea for this award was from ilker over at The thinking blog, which is a site I had never visited before and I am so glad that I did-- this looks right up my alley.

One of the greatest things that I have enjoyed since entering the blogging world has been the conversations that I have had with all kinds of people all over the world. I really appreciate the free exchange of ideas, the polite back-and-forth and give-and-take that has so enriched my life.

Although it will be incredibly difficult to limit myself to a measly five, since I am a serial blog-reader, here are five blogs that really make me think, besides the ones that have already been tagged that I read all the time, such as elementaryhistoryteacher's site, Californiateacherguy, Mamacita, and From the trenches of public education:

1. Educationwonks is my blogfather, the person who inspired me to stick my boat in the water. He is the gravitational center of the Edusphere, the creator of the Carnival of Education, that weekly smorgasbord of the bests of educational blogposts, and besides that, he is a really great guy. But he always finds the most interesting nuggets relating to education anywhere. There's always something good to read over at the Wonks' place.

2. NYC Eduator is another blogger who really makes me think. I know a LOT more about NYC schools since I added him to my blogroll, let me tell you. Even if your situation is different than NYC's, you can see the best and the worst of the urban educational landscape here.

3. Scott Elliot at Get On the Bus reports on education for the Dayton Daily News. This is a great place to find out what the world of education is like from a non-teacher perspective here in the Land Between the Coasts.

4. Quaker Dave over at The Quaker Agitator has such a refined sense of ethics and morality-- you know he really believes in practicing what he preaches in the classroom and in his life. This is a man with a real moral compass, much like California Teacher Guy. A moment at his blog refreshes my soul, and provokes much soul-searching.

5.Polski3 at Polski3's View from Here is one of the wonderful examples in the Edusphere of someone who is so invested in public education and who is continually reflecting upon his practice as a teacher. When he threatened to stop blogging this year, I panicked. We've lost a lot of good bloggers this year, and I am so glad that Polski3 decided not to be one of them.

And there are a hundred more people upn whom I depend to help me reflect upon my practice and beliefs as an educator. If you have a chance stop by these blogs and see what I mean. Thanks so much for coming by to my little corner of the world every day!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday Thirteen Number 5: I have a very bad feeling about this edition

Thirteen Reasons Why The latest three Star Wars Movies are Awful

And the truly sad part is that we can't go back and fix this. It's ruined forever.

1. There is no sense of humor evident in Star Wars episdoes I-III. Jar Jar Binks is exhibit A. Does anyone remember the smart-aleck repartee that Harrison Ford and Carrie Fischer got to volley back and forth?

2. The scripts were wooden and the character interaction simplistic. There was nothing believable about the relationships, no spark, no chemistry. Now, George would not have had to look far to find someone to help him out here-- ironically, Carrie Fischer has worked as a script doctor in Hollywood, punching up the dialogue and pacing. Imagine what she could have done with this set of scripts!

3. By putting so much emphasis on computer-generated characters, the story lost its soul. Yoda hopping around like a flea on hot metal; androids that don't breathe wheezing and coughing, and back to Jar Jar Binks-- did we really have to have a character in Star Wars speaking in the "Ubby-Dubby" language from that childhood educational program on PBS called The Electric Company? Then there's was Watto, Anakin's owner on Tatooine-- at any second, I expected him to say something like "Now, THAT's a spicy meatball!" like a bad imitation of Chef Boy-ar-dee. It did not have to be this way, though. Look what Peter Jackson did in LOTR with Gollum.

4. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christiansen. EGAD. If this is the main character for your entire saga, George, why didn't you pick someone who could actually ACT? These boys had all the emotional depth of a protozoa.

5. And speaking of protozoa, what exactly was Anakin's father again? The Holy Spirit? So is this story about what would have happened if Jesus had turned to evil?

6. And how is it that all those Jedi could be in the presence of Palpatine and not recognize that the Force was strong with him?

7. Would Darth Vader really have gone around claiming that every single thing that happened to him was "unfair?" Say what you will, Darth was not a pouter. Ever.

8. Speed up all the light-saber duels with computers, and you end up making all of us wonder why Obi-wan and Vader's climactic fight in Star Wars IV was so sluggish and plodding.

9. If Anakin Skywalker created C-3PO, why didn't C-3PO recognize the Skywalker name when sold to Owen on Tatooine? Why didn't Owen or Beru recognize Threepio?

10. When asked about her mother in Star Wars VI, Leia says she remembers just a little about her. How could this be true if Padme dies seconds after Leia's birth?

11. Where are the scoundrels? We loved our Han Solos and Lando Calrissians! In fact did anyone in episodes I-III have a heart of gold under a tough-guy exterior? Indeed, were there ANY tough guys in the first three episodes?

12. Do you really believe that Padme found Anakin attractive? This was the greatest mismatch since Billy Bob Thornton married Angelina Jolie.

13. Notice the purple background here. That's representing the foofy purple lightsaber used by pigeon-toed Mace Windu, alias Samuel L. Jackson. Nothing personal, Mr. Jackson.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Elementaryhistoryteacher
2. Stacie
3. Kathy
4. Susan Helene Gottfried

(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

...You're NEXT! Last one in is a Jawa!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Carnival of Education 106- Go see the midway

The Education Wonks has put together another smashing edition of their traveling roadshow. All kinds of good stuff to see!

I especially liked this one about John Adams, History Geek that I am. Plus, I am pitying Ryan's headache after all that data overload. And IB a Math Teacher obviously teaches in my building, since I've gotten a letter remarkably similar to this one last year.

Go on over and peruse at will. It's a free country!


A continued discussion on the state of military readiness

A colleague of mine whom I esteem very highly contributed some very thought-inspiring comments on my previous post regarding recruitment in the high schools. Now, much of this that will follow has nothing to do with recruitment in the high schools, per se, but more on the readiness of our armed forces and the state of the military today. But my thoughts started to run so long in response that I decided to place them here as well and expand upon them. Now I am speaking as a concerned citizen, rather than as a teacher.

Many people claim that the military has been meeting its quotas with ease. I am going to gently disagree regarding the interpretation of the Army and its quotas right now. That has been accomplished by lowering the quotas and even more significantly the standards potential recruits must meet. This is an even more vital issue now that the maximum size of the Army and Marine Corps has been increased after five years of continual downsizing.

Let me direct your attention to this article from FOX News, hardly a bastion of military-haters:
The Army and Marine Corps are letting in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions, reflecting the increased pressure of five years of war and its mounting casualties.

According to data compiled by the Defense Department, the number of Army and Marine recruits needing waivers for felonies and serious misdemeanors, including minor drug offenses, has grown since 2003. The Army granted more than double the number of waivers for felonies and misdemeanors in 2006 than it did in 2003. Some recruits may get more than one waiver.

The military routinely grants waivers to admit recruits who have criminal records, medical problems or low aptitude scores that would otherwise disqualify them from service. Overall the majority are moral waivers, which include some felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic and drug offenses.

The number of felony waivers granted by the Army grew from 411 in 2003 to 901 in 2006, according to the Pentagon, or about one in 10 of the moral waivers approved that year. Other misdemeanors, which could be petty theft, writing a bad check or some assaults, jumped from about 2,700 to more than 6,000 in 2006. The minor crimes represented more than three-quarters of the moral waivers granted by the Army in 2006, up from more than half in 2003.

...In recent years, as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have dragged on, the military has also relaxed some standards in order to meet recruitment demands. The Army, for example, increased its age limit for recruits from 35 to 42, and is accepting more people whose scores on a standardized aptitude test are at the lower end of the acceptable range.

In its report, the Pentagon said, "The waiver process recognizes that some young people have made mistakes, have overcome their past behavior, and have clearly demonstrated the potential for being productive, law-abiding citizens and members of the military."

According to the Pentagon, nearly a quarter of new military recruits needed some type of waiver in 2006, up from 20 percent in 2003. Roughly 30,000 moral waivers were approved each year between 2003 and 2006.

The military in its report divides moral waivers into six categories: felonies, serious and minor non-traffic offenses, serious and minor traffic offenses and drug offenses. Because many states have different crimes categorized as a felony or misdemeanor, the groupings are more general.

About one in five Army recruits needed a waiver to enlist in 2006, up from 12.7 percent in 2003. In addition, the report showed that the Army granted substantially fewer waivers for drug use and serious traffic violations last year than in 2003.

More than half of the Marine recruits needed a waiver in 2006, a bit higher than in 2003, and largely due to their more strict drug requirements. Felony waivers made up about 2 percent of the Marine waivers, while other lesser crimes made up about 25 percent, both up slightly from 2003.

About 18 percent of Navy recruits required a waiver, up only slightly from 2003. Two-thirds of the waivers granted by the Navy were for misdemeanor-type crimes and about 5 percent were for felonies.

Just 8 percent of Air Force recruits had waivers, down a bit from 2003. Nearly all of the waivers were for the misdemeanor-type crimes.

The Air Force and the Navy have absolutely been making their quotas, but they are not bearing the brunt of the fighting in this war.

Now, in the interest of my former students who are in the military, I do not believe it honors them to put them alongside criminals as they seek to serve our country. Another one of my students went to take the ASVAB a few weeks ago and came back disgusted. The "passing" score on the ASVAB has been lowered to a 36 but sometimes as low as a 21 on a 99 point scale. The Air Force requires a 36, and the Navy requires a 35. Meanwhile the Army requires a 31, and the Marines require a 32. (The Coast Guard wins the prize for requiring a 40, by the way.) Honestly, would YOU want to serve next to someone who is carrying an M-16 pointed at your head as he or she lay alongside you on the line who could only manage a 21 or even a 31 on the ASVAB? Would any educator worth their salt consider even a 36 out of 99 a passing score? I personally have more comfort with raising the age requirement to 42. There are plenty of forty-year-olds who are more fit than twenty-year-olds. My husband and I have also played a game of chicken with the age limits-- we have aged out and come back under the maximum age requirements more than once in the last 5 years.

Then there's the whole issue of the alleged bias of the "liberal" MSM (Main Stream Media) being unfair. There are certainly biased people in the media. Close your eyes and start listing the people employed in the media who obviously have an axe to grind. The ones who have annoyed you the most are the ones you will list, while the ones with whom you agree will probably not emerge on the internal radar, because that's human nature. There are left and right-wing zealots, and then there's a huge swath in the middle.

If we as American citizens accede to the vilification of the entire "Mainstream Media," what remains to us as a source of information? Administration spokespeople? That certainly does NOT seem to be a more reliable source of information that is always unstintingly honest and even-handed. And, without sounding cynical or flip, why should it be? Full disclosure is not the purpose of government talking-heads-- re-election or re-appointment for their bosses is. Nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone realizes this. Certainly one should be aware of all kinds of biases in any source or information, but a free press is the foundation of democracy. Beware anyone who tries to undermine it-- they are leading us down the path of Stalin and Karimov and Shwe. If you don't trust Newspaper A, fine! Get your news from a variety of sources, watch Glenn Beck or Carson Palmer or or the host of other commentators, whatever! Here in America, the news and the internet is open and free. Recognize that, and act upon it.

Regarding the comparison of suburban America and Iraq in terms of dangerousness: no matter what, we don't have Americans wearing body armor and driving REAL Humvees (not those shiny suburban bling-encrusted grocery and soccer team shuttles, but REAL ones) still being grievously wounded and killed here in America. We don't have IEDs planted along major thoroughfares. If we really want to compare apples to apples, let's compare the death rate of civilians in Baghdad to the death rate of civilians in DC or St. Louis or Detroit or wherever.

Another, more logical comparison would be to compare the death rates of police (since that is the function a large portion of our military is performing in Iraq) in these dangerous cities with our troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan on a per capita basis. Simply divide the number of police casualties in one of the American battlefields, if you will, by the total number on the police force, then compare to the number of military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan divided by the total number of troops on the ground. And, we could actually look at the number of all the casualties among our service-men and -women in Iraq and Afghanistan, including those who are injured in evasive maneuvers employed against IEDs even though no enemy fire may have contributed to their injuries.

We've had some great recruiters come to our school and hook our students up with all kinds of opportunities that they would not have otherwise have had. These I honor with my whole heart as the daughter niece and granddaughter of veterans who have put their lives on the line. My dad would never have been able to pay the bills without the discipline instilled in the Navy or the GI Bill training and preferences he received! But these recruiters of which I speak did their jobs without resorting to lies, or by forcing kids to hear their pitch.

Finally, if going into the military is good enough for the least in our society, it should be good enough for everyone in our society.

Let's ALL demonstrate that serving our country is honorable and noble beyond words or sound bites or political posturing. I actually sometimes wonder what the policies regarding our military and this war would be like if every senator and representative who has either served in the Middle East themselves or who has a son, daughter, or spouse actively serving in the current conflict would have three times as much of a vote on war policy as those who have no vested interest. It might be interesting to see what would happen.

We say that our military is the very best our country has to offer. But let's remember, WE don't really offer them-- they offer themselves through volunteering to serve. That is a vital difference.

How do we really revere that sacrifice? Most obviously, we demonstrate that military service is noble and honorable by the way we treat our potential recruits, our servicemembers, and especially our veterans.

They deserve the very BEST our incredibly wealthy country has to offer-- and I don't just mean that as empty sloganeering.

They deserve the BEST equipment --and as much as they need.

They deserve not to be treated as chattel, or indentured servants, or mere faceless "boots on the ground."

They deserve not to be warehoused upon their return home. They deserve the VERY BEST medical facilites and veterans benefits.

All I am asking is this: recruit our young people without disingenuousness. And at the very least, they deserve not to be lied to.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Military Recruiting in High School: Under the Gun?

Imagine my bemusement when I opened up my school email and discovered a request from a nearby batch (what would be the collective noun? --covey? --pod? --clutch? --den? --squad?) of Army recruiters, sent to about a third of the teachers in our school. Instead of being addressed to the district as a whole, the email actually listed all of our names individually. It did not come from the District HQ as a forwarded message, nor did it include any administrators in the list of addressees. This is far from my first experience with a recruiter in my classroom, either, as I've written about here.

The email stated that the recruiters had a goal of speaking to every single junior and senior in our school before the end of the school year, and offered several different possible lessons that they could present to our classes, like on the history of the Army and so on. It later emerged that this email had not been vetted by our school district nor our building principal.

Under the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, military recruiters were allowed equal access to public school campuses. Now, of course, we all know (or at least I hope we all do) that under the No Child Left Behind Act, public schools are required to provide the names and contact information for high school students to military recruiters. Parents may opt their children out of the release of this information, but by default this information is turned over to the military.

Then a friend of mine told me about this story. It talks about certain practices that some Army recruiters have utilized in trying to make their quotas. These include stating that it is more dangerous to walk around in suburban America than in Iraq, for instance. You should read or watch this entire sorry tale.

This is unfortunately far from an isolated incident, however. If you don't believe me, try googling "news investigation military recruiter." Apparently the above claim has been used by unscrupulous recruiters all over the country. This absolutely devastates me. I also believe that this type of tactic certainly makes a lie out of the phrase "support our troops." Young people who sign up for military service as a result of this type of dissembling and false advertising certainly aren't allowed to back out of the contract that they signed when they enlist. There's certainly no such thing nowadays as getting released from a military commitment to go to graduate school.

Now, my Dad dropped out of high school to serve in the military in World War II. Two of my three uncles served as well, and my grandfather served in World War I. One of my cousins served in the Coast Guard. I have a flag like this one that was given to our family in memory of my father's service. My father-in-law, as well, served our country during World War II, and we have his flag as well. Both are in protective cases where we can look at them every day. My Dad's military service gave him access to training that later allowed him to support our family, certainly in a better manner than a high school dropout had reason to expect.

I have about sixteen former students who are currently serving in our military, and I pray for them every day. I treasure the letters I have received from basic training. But these young people voluntarily walked up to a recruiter at a booth in our high school during lunch. They were interested, they listened to the sales pitch, being free to walk away or come back as they saw fit. They knew what they were getting into, and, God bless them, they signed up fully cognizant of the fact that joining the military by definition means signing one's life over to the military without question for at least the next eight years of their lives and possibly longer if they hold a commissioned rank. They also understood that being in the military means being trained in the use of weaponry not just for the fun of it all but because they may very well be asked to place themselves where they may be aiming and using those weapons at other people who may be aiming other weapons right back at them, and who may also use those weapons to try to inflict harm upon them. They didn't believe that joining the military was the equivalent of going on a vacation to Cancun. And shame-- and, hopefully, punishment-- upon anyone who tries to convince a young person otherwise.

Now, back to that email.

I require my students to be in class without exception. I am notorious for tolerating no skipping of class. Therefore, I do not believe it is appropriate to invite these gentlemen into my classroom. I believe it is a different matter to force my students as a captive audience to listen to a recruiting sales pitch in my clasroom as a part of my instructional time, where they have no ability to absent themselves if they have no desire to hear this message--even though I would be there to clarify things for my students both during and after the presentation.

I also find it strange and even a bit troubling that these recruiters did not go through the proper channels before contacting teachers with this offer. Perhaps it was an innocent mistake-- or perhaps it was a calculated gambit.

I can give-- and do give-- presentations on the history of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps all by myself, thanks. I even have a neat little lesson I've used where we dissect the meaning of the Marine Corps hymn, and i teach my students about military insignia and rank. But I present this information in a neutral manner, and I have nothing to gain from it.

That's the way it should be in a public school.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 52: Poor Trini Lopez edition

"Flllllllllyyyyyyyyy me to the moon and let me swing among the stars...." Yes, It's Movie Madness Monday's special Valentine's edition! Of course, we must mark the feast day of this mythological saint or saints with a lovely piece of romantic comedy.

Here's the 411: I give you quotes, and you respond in the comments section with a quote or two of your own from the same movie. We do not name the movie, however, even if it is patently obvious, because some people have got no patents. I will out the movie next weekend.

And I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine's Day. Even the married people, like me, where I'm lucky if I don't end up cutting up someone's steak into chewable pieces. Ahh romance! At least Mr. Cornelius no longer considers a vacuum cleaner a romantic gift.... But enough about me!

"If he eats one tiny piece of a nut..."
"My head swells up like a watermelon and I drop dead."

"I don't think it could let a woman pay for dinner."
"Great. They'll have a parade in your honor."

"'I live in Tulsa.' Where is that?"
"Oklahoma. Do you know where that is?"
"Somewhere in the middle."
"I'm not going to think about what they're not teaching you in school. I am not going to think about it."

"It is easier to be killed by a terrorist after the age of 40 than it is to get married--"
"That is not true! That statistic is NOT true."
"It's not true, but it feels true."

"'...and while we're on the subject, let's just say right now that Brooks Robinson was the best third baseman ever. It's important that you agree with me on that because I'm from Baltimore.'"

****Weekend update: This movie was just like magic, especially if you're


I'm not too sure about the Brooks Robinson bit, since I'm awful partial to Mike Schmidt. But this is one of Nora Ephron's best pieces of work. Then there's Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Rosie O'Donnell, Bill Pullman, Rob Reiner, and Rita Wilson. Not to mention a cameo by Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. And I didn't even make you go to the top of the Empire State Building!


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Prithee, good friar....

Yep, give me a few good books, including The Good Book, and a nice quiet retreat....

The Monk

You scored 15% Cardinal, 61% Monk, 41% Lady, and 48% Knight!

You live a peaceful, quiet life. Very little danger comes your way and you live a long time. You are wise and modest, but also stagnant. You have little comfort, little food and have taken a vow of silence. But who needs chatter when just sitting in the cloister of your abbey with The Good Book makes you perfectly content.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Cardinal
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Monk
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Lady
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on Knight

Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Friday, February 09, 2007

7 things about leadership

Nani (who is the One) tagged me with this meme started by our delightful colleague Miguel Guhlin.

Here's the question: What are 7 qualities we don’t know about you that help you be a leader?

1. Of course the first essential quality of a leader is that they know when to follow. Like the fact that I am doing this meme!

2. I don't let kids (or parents) ruffle my feathers too much.

3. I rarely raise my voice. I growled at the computer today when the program I was running froze up, and half the class jumped because they had never heard that sound come out of my mouth. This is ironic, because I can be really loud.

4. I may not know the answer, but I am always willing to find out.

5. A good leader has to be engaged with the task at hand. I hate it when I have waited to talk to someone and their eyes are darting away, or they're looking at their insanely wasteful administratror playthingsBlackberries or walking away or fiddling with their schtuff. It's rude and demoralizing to do otherwise.

6. I am a perfek prefecshun perfectionist.

7. It's really important to me that I do the best job that I can.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Thursday Thirteen Number 4: Pages of my Life


1. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. A beautiful, beautiful book. One of the abiding principles of my life is this: "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

2. Sweet Thursday, by John Steinbeck. With its companion Cannery Row, we get the lighter side of John Steinbeck. And you know, some days ARE no damn good.

3. Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein. Actually, anything by Heinlein is an abiding interest for me. He was my favorite science fiction writer ever. Front!

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. The thing about the whale and the flowers? Hysterical!

5. Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. Another metaphysical book. I read all the Hesse I could find after this, and truly enjoyed it.

6. The Code of the Woosters, by P. G. Wodehouse. What's a lad to do when his Aunt demands that he pinch a cow creamer or be banished from the table of the peerless Anatole? He says, "Right ho," and waits for Jeeves to save the day. If you don't laugh at these stories, you don't laugh at anything.

7. The Lord of the Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien. An entire world that draws the reader in. I visit there at least once a year.

8. And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes, by Angie Debo. Miss Debo was the premier Oklahoma historian, and her account of the treatment of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole nations was a groundbreaking work that made me want to study history.

9. Crocodile on the Sandbank, by Elizabeth Peters. This book introduces the intrepid Amelia Peabody, an amateur Egyptologist during the Victorian era. It's mystery and a love story, without all the mushy stuff. Perfect.

10. The Seven Storey Mountain,by Thomas Merton. The story of one man's search for peace in his soul.

11. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. My English teacher in my junior year recommended this to me, and I will be forever grateful.

12. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T. E. Lawrence. This man had a vision. Even if half of it is true, this is still a magnificent story.

13. Dune, by Frank Herbert. The book was so much better than the film. Kyle MacLachlan, tchah!

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. ron davison
2. one gal's musings
3. culbert's classroom
4. miss profe
5. west of mars

..... You're next!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

How much AP is too much?

Jay Matthews has a fascinating article at the WaPo about kids' AP courseloads:
Trevor Packer, executive director of the AP program, said he had spoken to a number of college officials about how many of the college-level courses were needed to impress admissions officers and prepare for the rigors of higher education. They told him that "three, four or five AP courses are sufficient" in a high school career, he said. Under that scenario, a student could max out with one AP course as a sophomore and two each in junior and senior years. "Beyond that, they are interested in seeing students participate in other activities."

Many college-bound students in recent years have been spurred by parents, counselors, admissions officers and other advisers -- as well as peer pressure and self-motivation -- to pack their transcripts with tough courses. Many believe the more, the better.

Yesterday, Packer addressed AP overload for the first time at the College Board's annual release of its AP Report to the Nation in downtown Washington. The report once again showed Maryland, the District and Virginia among national leaders in participation on the three-hour AP exams. About a third of graduating seniors in each jurisdiction took an AP test last year, higher than the national average of about a quarter.

Although area students who take a dozen or more AP courses or tests might be overdoing it, Packer and College Board President Gaston Caperton said, the national problem is not that high school students take on too much college-level work but that they take on too little.

Two students on an expert panel convened to discuss the AP report acknowledged that they were guilty of exceeding the five-exam mark. Kyle Daniels, a University of Maryland freshman who graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County, said he took at least six AP exams. Celina Guerra, a Harvard University freshman who graduated from Edinburg North High School in south Texas, said she took at least nine. Both said that they took so many they could not recall the exact number.

College Board data showed that only 2.7 percent of AP students took six or more tests in the past three years, as Daniels did. But he said he was glad he did. "College is a competitive place," he said. "Competing in high school is good preparation for college."

College Board officials reported that 2.3 million AP tests were given in 2006 in 37 subjects. Among 2006 high school graduates, about 24 percent took at least one AP exam, up from about 16 percent in 2000. About 15 percent got at least one grade on an AP test high enough for college credit (3 or better on a 5-point scale), up from about 10 percent in 2000.

The five states with the highest percentage of public high school seniors with at least one credit-worthy AP test grade were: New York, 22.7 percent; Maryland, 22 percent; Utah 20.8 percent; Virginia, 20.7 percent; and California, 20.1 percent. The District's mark of 6.6 percent exceeded the percentage in 19 states. In addition, Maryland had the sharpest six-year increase in the nation; its mark in 2000 was 14.1 percent.

There's more to read in the whole thing.

I'll be honest: we have a few kids who take too much, but the main problem we have is kids who won't take AP becuase they want the high GPA without all the hassle.

I was having a chat with some of my students today where they realized that they have almost read the entire textbook already, and that they've never done that before. EVER.

Now, I'll be honest-- that freaks me out just a bit, but let's just leave that aside for a moment. Our school is always walking a fine line between encouraging all kids to take AP and making sure that kids who take AP are willing to rise to the level required. When I first started teaching AP, I got some pressure placed on me to water down the course to make it easier. I know some people do this-- and they are the reason why I now have to spend time completing some stupid audit in my already hectic schedule so that we can use the AP designation next year.

I have made this class as "easy" as I can without making it difficult for my students to possibly earn a 5. I am constantly reminded that I make the kids do more than other AP teachers. I am okay with this because, since I found my groove, our passing rate has increased to over 70% in a school that is solidly diverse in terms of socio-conomic status and future college-attendance plans. I strangely have students who actually seek out the Cornelius experience, so I guess it can't be that bad. They're good kids-- they just need to be pushed and made to feel that they can do it.

But we do have a few who are seeking to be valedictorian who overschedule everything, not just AP. And they make themselves just about crazy. But I have yet to see anyone tell them that enough is enough.


Carnival of Education 105!

The 105th Carnival of Education is up over at the soul-patched home of Alexander Russo (Dude!) atThis Week in Education.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A question to ponder

So I was watching VH1 Classic, and suddenly had one of those questions strike that just won't leave me alone.

Who was the ugliest rock band ever?

Because , you know, usually there is at least one cute one to save a band from complete shame. The Doors had Jim Morrison. The Cars had Benjamin Orr, God rest his soul. Henry Rollins isn't bad until you see all the tattoos.

System of a Down is certainly in the running. (I am also mad at them for using the phrase "most loneliest day" in a song, but that's another problem.) Canned Heat, from back in the day, also was pretty shudder-inspiring, but lots of people wore their hair like that then.

Let's try to limit this to bands with more than two members, which saves us all from the White Stripes.

So who comes to mind for you? inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 51: Yodelers from hell edition

Welcome to a post-SuperBowl Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. I tried and I tried to think of a movie I could stand that was about football, but who wants to sob through Brian's Song? Not me.

So, we are going to put our faith in tangents, here.

Now remember I give you some quotes, and you post a quote of your own from the same movie without naming the movie, so everyone can play. Okay? Let's try it:

"Dammit, are you boys gonna chase down your leads or are you gonna sit drinkin' coffee in the one house in the state where I know my boy ain't at?"

"Biology and the prejudices of others conspired to keep us childless."

"I tried to stand up and fly straight, but it wasn't easy with that sumbitch Reagan in the White House. I dunno. They say he's a decent man, so maybe his advisors are confused."

"Gimme that baby, you wart-hog from hell!"

"What kind of name is Ed for a pretty thing like you?"
"Short for Edwina. Turn to the right."
"You"re a flower, you are. Just a little desert flower."

And take that ball and run with it!

****Weekend Update: They only wanted to be a family, but they ended up


An excellent early example of the Coen brothers' oeuvre, and another winner from Holly Hunter, Nicolas Coppola Cage, and John Goodman. Genius!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

I was always led to believe it was God, Flag, and Football....

There is NO way the NFL will win this one:
The thousands of churches across the country that want to host Super Bowl parties Sunday night had better not pull out big-screen TVs, or they could face the wrath of NFL attorneys.

For groups that want to host Super Bowl parties -- other than sports bars and businesses that normally show televised sports -- here are rules the NFL says must be followed:

• No admission fees (even to pay for snacks).

• Only one television (55 inches or smaller).

• No use of the words "Super Bowl" in promotional materials.

• No exhibition of the game in connection with events "that promote a message."

Source: NFL

The NFL is telling Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianapolis that the church's plans to use a wall projector to show the game at a party for church members and guests would violate copyright laws.

NFL officials spotted a promotion of Fall Creek's "Super Bowl Bash" on the church Web site last week and sent pastor John D. Newland a letter -- via FedEx overnight -- demanding the party be canceled.

Initially, the league objected to the church's plan to charge partygoers a fee to attend and that the church used the license-protected words "Super Bowl" in its promotions.

Newland told the NFL his church would not charge partygoers -- the fee had been intended only to pay for snacks -- and that it would drop the use of the forbidden words.

But the NFL wouldn't bite. It objected to the church's plans to use a projector to show the game on what effectively was a 12-foot-wide screen. It said the law limits the church to one TV no bigger than 55 inches.

The league even took exception to the church's plan to influence nonmembers with a video highlighting the Christian testimonies of Colts coach Tony Dungy and Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith.

"While this may be a noble message," NFL assistant counsel Rachel L. Margolies wrote in a follow-up e-mail, "we are consistent in refusing the use of our game broadcasts in connection with events that promote a message, no matter the content."

Given all the NFL's concerns, the church appears unlikely to host a Super Bowl party.

"The Colts and Tony Dungy are such good people -- and (team owner) Jim Irsay, too. We want to be supportive of our local team. I don't want to make our people choose between coming to church and watching the game. It is such a big event," Newland said.

"For us to have all our congregation huddled around a TV that is big enough only for 10 or 12 people to watch just makes little sense."

Newland said he expected there are churches across the country that are planning similar Super Bowl watch parties using big screens.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league's longstanding policy is to ban "mass out-of-home viewing" of the Super Bowl. A major exception to the rule is made, however, for sports bars and other businesses that show televised sports as a part of their everyday operations.

"We have contracts with our (TV) networks to provide free over-the-air television for people at home," Aiello said. "The network economics are based on television ratings and at-home viewing. Out-of-home viewing is not measured by Nielsen."
Newland said his church won't break the law. But he sees a double standard at work when sports bars with giant screens can charge barstool rental fees and sell food, but his church can't offer a free event for families.

"It just frustrates me that most of the places where crowds are going to gather to watch this game are going to be places that are filled with alcohol and other things that are inappropriate for children," Newland said. "We tried to provide an alternative to that and were shut down."

The NFL's attorneys can flap their gums all they want, but I imagine they really don't want to really be seen by the public as going after a church. And get a load of those rules about big-screen TVs! If the NFL wants to make the Super Bowl practically a sacred holiday, then it should be unsurprised about churches trying to use the event for proselytization.

And that certainly is "promoting a message."

Lots of religious people are football fans-- witness all the invocations spewed while watching the game. I imagine loads of people pray, call out to God, and ponder heaven, hell, temptation, and other theological issues while immersed in the game. I even have a joking theory that the Super Bowl has been moved to later in the winter over time so that it will not coincide with the annual meetings that so many churches have in the month of January-- hahaha! (Actually it would be more likely that churches would move the annual meeting, but whatever....)

Hat tip here.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

You are attacking me with Capoferro!

"A princess bride personality test!"

Hello! Your name is Inigo Montoya!! You have spent your whole life learning to fight so that one day you can get your revenge on someone who ruined your childhood. You are very honest and a loyal friend and if you give your word you will be true to it. You do have a bit of an alcohol problem though, which takes you over when you're bored or unhappy
Take this quiz!

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| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Friday, February 02, 2007

Don't be hatin' if you're perpetratin'.

"The one who cannot restrain their anger will wish undone, what their temper and irritation prompted them to do.”-- Horace

Every year you get at least one. A parent or, even better, a set of parents, who are on a teacher like stink on a skunk any time the teacher says anything at all to their Beloved Offspring. Personally, I approach things from the other side-- if one of my kids' teachers has to say something to my kids, I will be quick to spring to action, alright-- to reinforce my disapproval of my kids' action which drew said ire. But que sera, sera-- it takes all kinds of parents to really force a kid to seek therapy later in life.

But this set of parents were not your garden-variety ki-yipers. They would sound perfectly reasonable-- until you actually prevented their kid from doing whatever she wanted to do. Then suddenly, the tone on the phone would turn subarctic and you would be informed that they "really don't appreciate you doing/ saying/ expecting/ refusing permission" to Pweshus, and then they would tell you what you were going to do: "I expect you to take that work/ I expect you to stay after school every day in case Pweshus decides she needs help/ I expect you to email me any time you mark an answer wrong on her homework/ I expect you not to ask her to participate in class/ I expect you to never take any consequences if her phone goes off in class, because it's probably me calling, but even if it's not, we've instructed Pweshus to leave her phone on" blahblahblahblah.

I would always just express my regret that they felt that way and reiterate that I was going to follow my policy. They would continually push, I would pleasantly refuse to engage and visualize martial arts kata in my head to keep from getting annoyed.

They would usually bid me a regal good-bye-- and immediately call the principal and scream at him over what a complete tyrant/idiot/harpy I am. Last month, after we were having one of these cheery little confabs, the mother called the principal and loudly complained that it was obvious I was taking notes during our conversation, and that therefore I must have some nefarious ulterior (pronounced "inferior") motive. Now, if you're hung around here for a while, you will know that I recommend keeping notes of conversations with parents as a bit of posterior coverage which has stood me in good stead numerous times in my career. So yep, guilty. The principal thought that this complaint was particularly hilarious-- after his ear stopped smoking.

And apparently these people were more polite to me than to anyone else who came into even casual contact with Pweshus. The poor principal has been getting daily doses of invective drilled through his eardrum for months now. Always, always, there were excuses as to why Pweshus couldn't do her homework/come to school on time/come for tutoring/get off her damn cellphone/stay awake/manage to be in school any time there was a test.

So during a few tirades, a few kernels of information dropped out that made us wonder: why so paranoid about me taking notes when asking about why Pweshus couldn't get to school on time? Why is it Pweshus never took the bus if her parents couldn't get her here? After all, her address was fifteen minutes' walk away from school.

So some discreet investigation was done, and-- guess what? Pweshus doen't live in our school district-- not even close. No one would have probably ever known if her parents hadn't shown their asses so much. If they'd just been reasonable, no one would have ever realized that two plus two equals several thousand dollars in lost tuition payments charged to non-resident students.

So what is the moral to this story? Don't be hatin' if you're perpetratin'.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thursday Thirteen Number 3

Thirteen Things I Learned from My Dad

1. Football teaches you about life (pronounced l-a-h-f).
2. The Orange Bowl isn't the Orange Bowl unless OU is playing in it for the national championship.
3. Barbecue is the best food ever.
4. Louisiana Hot Sauce is good on everything.
5. Watermelon is more interesting with salt on it.
6. Wuthering Heights is a great book. My dad insisted I read it when I was about 11, and I loved it.
7. A mechanic is only as good as his tools.
8. A man can live his life as a complete, patriarchal, sexist pig-- until he has a little girl who might not get to do whatever she wants.
9. A real friend helps his friends whenever they need help, and tries to do it humbly and secretly.
10. You should never be without a pocket knife-- and he was right. Everytime I haven't had one, I needed one.
11. The day is not done until the crossword puzzle is done.
12. Little children like green gum.
13. A good vocabulary can take you anywhere.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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