Thursday, December 31, 2009

Read this - then read it backwards

Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed

I am part of a lost generation
and I refuse to believe that
I can change the world
I realize this may be a shock but
“Happiness comes from within.”
is a lie, and
“Money will make me happy.”
So in 30 years I will tell my children
they are not the most important thing in my life
My employer will know that
I have my priorities straight because
is more important than
I tell you this
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
but this will not be true in my era
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me
30 years from now, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making
In the future
Environmental destruction will be the norm
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this earth
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.

And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it .

Video available at

Social Networking

I blog for the same reasons that many others do: I am looking for solutions, I have funny things to say that I want to share (sometimes funny odd, sometimes funny ha ha), or I need to vent and my family doesn't want to hear it anymore.

Like many, I do this anonymously out of fear of retribution. In my case, not because I have seen retribution at my school, but it would not be out of character for it to happen.

There are other outlets for social networking: myspace, facebook, linkedin and probably hundreds of others that I am too lame to know of.

I used MySpace for the sole purpose of connecting with an old student as I guessed (correctly) that she was there. It was worth it.

I use Facebook to connect with family and friends. The young ones (college age or younger) post the most - but I see family pictures and learn of milestones this way. I don't post much above the level of "It's a beautiful day". Again this is out of fear as a a young teacher has had her career ruined over a picture of herself with a glass of wine on Facebook.

LinkedIn I use to connect with former co-workers and to keep a foot in the business community. Unless I suddenly write a book or something, I cannot imagine posting much of anything here.

I asked a not-close-friend, more than an acquaintance, not a relative who is having difficulty in the job market to link to me in LinkedIn, figuring I have other similar contacts from people still in the business world who might be able to help. I learned that I am not considered a business friend, but a facebook friend. It was an education. On one level, I was slightly insulted. (I am not sure why, I know this person hears banjos when I talk as the South is full of those who are not quite right) On another, this is not someone I trust in my Facebook (for the reasons stated above) even though I never say anything.

Isn't it interesting how we compartmentalize our lives?

Wishing all of us a better economy, more dedicated students, distracted administrators (so they leave us alone), and witty postings! Happy 2010!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Six Word Saturday

Winter break!! A time for family.

We are heading north on the trip we were supposed to take before Christmas. Last week's storm delayed us.

See you again in time for New Year's!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

I love the Internet

Tracking Santa with Norad - he's over Scotland now.

This would have been so cool when the kids were little. Oh, wait, it's just as cool when we each have a laptop tracking Santa.


My daughter and I just spent an hour reading Amazon Wish Lists for everyone we could find!! What fun. Sometimes there are 2 or three with the same name - but you can find the one you want by the books they chose.

Cheap hors d'oeuvres

SPEND/THRIFT: Recipe for new potatoes with roast beef and horseradish cream
By JIM ROMANOFF For The Associated Press
December 18, 2009 (AP)

These easy to make new potatoes with roast beef and horseradish cream cost half what frozen hors d'oeuvres do and serve nicely with a variety of sliced meat toppings.

A homemade hors d'oeuvres beats out-of-the-box frozen any day. And while your guests are sure to appreciate the personal touch, it's the savings to your entertaining budget that will have you smiling.

On average, frozen party nibbles cost between $5 and $7 per dozen. This recipe for baked new potato halves topped with roast beef and horseradish cream can be prepared in about 30 minutes for about $2.50 per dozen.

For convenience, the potatoes can be baked a few hours ahead so you can quickly reheat them and assemble the hors d'oeuvres as needed. If you like, use sliced pastrami, corned beef or even deli sliced roast turkey instead of the roast beef.



Start to finish: 35 minutes (15 minutes active)
Servings: 60

30 very small red potatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
3 tablespoons well-drained ground horseradish
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 pound thinly sliced deli roast beef, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven to 425 F. Brush 2 baking sheets with oil.

Place the potato halves on the baking sheets, cut side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, or until well-browned on the underside and tender at the center. The potatoes can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead. Let cool to room temperature and cover with plastic wrap.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, horseradish and mustard.

To assemble, reheat as many potatoes as you want to serve at one time, in the oven or microwave. Top each potato with about 1/2 teaspoon of horseradish cream and 1 teaspoon of chopped roast beef. Sprinkle with tarragon. Serve warm.

Christmas Eve - must be time to think about food!

This recipe was in the paper today:
Recipe: Ham and Cheese Strata

This make-ahead Ham and Cheese Strata can save a lot of prep time on Christmas morning.
AP Food Editor

When dreams of sugarplums have morphed into a living room floor littered with wrapping paper and toys, the last thing you want to do is pull away from the holiday fun to get breakfast on the table. A do-ahead recipe lets you have it both ways.

This easy strata is made by arranging ham and cheese sandwiches in a baking dish, then pouring a mixture of eggs, milk and cheese over them. Top everything with a bit more cheese, then put it in the oven and walk away.

The whole thing can be assembled in about 10 minutes. And even that can be done the night before. Like bread puddings and baked French toast, this strata can be assembled and refrigerated the night before. Pop it into the oven while the presents are being unwrapped.

This recipe also is particularly versatile. If ham and Cheddar aren't your thing, try cooked turkey breast and Jack cheese, cooked bacon and cream cheese or thinly sliced cooked sausages mozzarella.

Ham and Cheese Strata

Makes 8 servings
10 slices sandwich bread
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
5 slices deli ham
5 slices deli Cheddar cheese
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 package (8-ounce) fresh mozzarella rolled with prosciutto

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Use the bread, mustard, ham and cheese to make 5 sandwiches. Arrange the sandwiches in a single layer in the prepared baking dish. You may need to cut 1 of the sandwiches in half to get them to fit evenly. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cream, salt, black pepper and Parmesan. Pour the mixture over the sandwiches, then press the bread gently with a fork to help them absorb the liquid.

4. Use a serrated knife to cut the roll of mozzarella and prosciutto into about 15 thin slices. Arrange the slices over the top of the strata. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the strata comes out clean and the strata is lightly browned at the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

It looks good.

We make pigs in blanket on Christmas morning. We do the stockings, then pigs, then open the rest of the presents.

Christmas eve is for noshing: cheese ball, veggie tray, fruit tray, and Nutcracker.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You can't scare me

I was feeling better today so I treated myself to coffee at my local coffeehouse.

I hadn't been in there very long when a group of high school boys came in, trying to impress a group of high school girls already there. Somehow, me sitting there, reading, gave them a challenge. And they decided to try to embarrass me. I finally looked up and told them I teach high school. Math.

They left me alone.

Weird Dream

Sometimes you wake up, remembering some really bizarre dream. You know, the ones that have plots and characters, and you can tell the story to anyone willing to listen, and it would take a good 20 minutes to get all of the details in.

I had one of those last night, this morning. It seemed to review a lot of past decisions (since it started with my last pre-teaching job). But what I thought was most interesting was that when it finally got to the decision I had always wondered why I didn't make at the time (getting mainframe computing experience) I heard myself say: "But I haven't told you: I teach."

There it was. The reason I cannot go back to the pre-teaching, better paid, less-stressful life. I teach.

I believe I have arrived.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

This will hurt me more than it will hurt you

OK I have called all thirty of the kids who are failing my class.

Specifically, I have called their parents, spreading joy wherever I go, telling them what they need to do in order to pass.

I am sure they think I am the Grinch - I wish they could see that it is only because I care.

I because I have to be able to document that I have told the parents in a timely manner.

Merry Christmas to all!!

You can lead a student to an education

Walter Williams is one of the reasons I went into teaching. I have even written and told him so. He is a better teacher than I will ever be - I know because he "makes" me read articles about a topic I didn't enjoy as an undergraduate or graduate student.

I read this article - and despair. I do not see a solution in what he writes. He is black, an educator, well read and well thought of. If he cannot envision a solution, what hope do I have?

I build in projects into my classes which should help the students raise their grades and solidify the learning - they do not turn them in EVEN THOUGH I TELL THEM DAILY WHEN THEY ARE DUE AND WHAT IS REQUIRED.

I doubled the number failing with the last project, because they didn't turn it in.

So, to cover my fanny, I am emailing and calling to tell parents that Jhnny didn't turn it in and it is still due.

Why is this so difficult?

Monday, December 21, 2009


There is nothing that does entitled like a teenager.

One of my students is graduating at the end of this term. He is, on a good day, a jerk. He insults the students in my class, interrupts, etc. He is late to class, late from lunch, basically thinks he is a man. I have tried to explain (gently) it is difficult to be a man in high school.

He came in Thursday and wanted to know if he could take his exam the next day (they are scheduled for January). After a lot of finagling, I arranged for him to take them the first day of finals instead of the last day, when his is scheduled. (He does have a valid reason). When I got the confirmation, I emailed it to him - and he wanted to know if that meant he could take his exam a week early (no).

I know of no way to explain to these kids (without it coming back to bite me) that when they exhibit their jerkiness all semester, it doesn't mean that I will go out of my way to do more than I have to. The first day of exams is reasonable, what he wants is reasonable for someone who acted reasonable.


I finished The Time Traveler's Wife and several mugs of cider. Slept away 2 days. Finished all of the study guides for finals - now I need to work out the study guides and finals.

But I feel much better.

Had a student tell me this past week that I read more than his English teachers do - probably true.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I'm sick

I have a cough and a sore throat. A lot of my kids were sick that last week (thanks for sharing).

I have too much to do - like always - but I just want hot cider, a book, and bed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Student (who refuses to do any of the options I have given him to raise his grade to passing): I have more potential than any of your other students.

I told him it was too bad I graded work not potential.

We are at an impasse: I hope he realizes he will need to do the work because I am NOT grading potential.

Another - who will not do ANYTHING - told me he was lazy. That was the reason for not doing the work. Wow. That gives me an incentive to help him. Putting in a 60 or 65 to replace the missing grades - gives him a 60 or 65. 70 is passing.

I am trying to figure out how that helps anything.

Six Word Saturday

Winter break!! A time to recharge!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bomb Threat

The kids have found a new use for the graphing calculators we use at school: write bomb threats on them.

A friend emailed that they found a bomb threat written on the calculator - so the dogs and cops were checking out the school this morning as the teachers arrived.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Making Progress - in baby steps

One of my boys has given me grief all year long. His pants are down around his knees - but I get nothing but attitude when I say pull them up. He sleeps in class or cusses up a storm. I relish the days he is out. He tells me how much better teach Mr. Ego is "and he FAILED me!!"

I have simplified the repeater class so that they can pass.

I am not sure how this will work next semester with the state test, but I will figure it out before I get there.

Josh is passing my class. He finally realized it a week or so back. We have started playing games in this class to get them to do the work - and he is about the only one who sees the connection between playing the game and doing the math.

He stopped by to see me today just to talk. About what he wants to be. How he sees his life after high school. And I gave him a couple of ideas that we can pursue later to help him get there.

I feel connected.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Inmates are in Charge

Well the class that was out of control was pretty good today. Of course, I upped the ante and told them they had a 100 test grade for this unit. That every time they talked, I would decrease the grade by 5 points. They were angels.

A girl gave me a card with a coffee house gift certificate in it. She told me shyly that I could use it at any of the coffee houses. How sweet - she didn't realize that chains do this - but I was touched! There aren't many gifts at this school - there isn't a lot of money.

A girl - Alice - from one class attacked another girl - Betty - from another class during a class change. I wrote Alice up for profanity and passed the threats ("I;m going to beat you up and key your car") on to the AP.

Funsucker is being amiable.

Overall - a good but interesting day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can you hear me now?

One of my classes is totally OUT OF CONTROL this week. They will not stop talking. Not even when I am trying to teach. Not even when I am reviewing for the test. (Heck, not even when I was giving the test.)

I told them they were talking because they were bored so I would make sure they weren't bored, and moved the test up two days. Most did ok. The group that really talked did poorly.

I also told them today when they were quiet (when they realized they were bombing the test) that there are different means of assessing. If they could be quiet while we were teaching. If they could participate in meaningful dialogue about the topic. Then there would be no test Friday. If they talked during the lectures for the next 2 days, there would be a test on Friday. Then I asked someone to tell me what I said.

Tomorrow we will learn whether they heard me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Detroit teachers are being asked to give up money

Detroit teachers are being asked to agree to give up $500 a month in a "loan" to the city that they would "get back" when they retire.

How many of YOU believe they'd ever see the money again?

Is it just teachers being asked to give up money - I am not seeing that the mayor, the superintendent, the board are being asked to contribute.

Having said that, DPS is $218 Million in the hole - something has to give.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sick Days and control

From a column in the AJC today.
Good question posed by Christopher Johnson of Atlanta in the AJC’s Letter’s column: Why do teachers miss more work than others? Concludes Johnson: “There is no credible reason why teachers should use sick leave at the rate of 1.6 to 2.3 times that of the non-teacher workforce.” One of these days politicians do need to screw up the courage to give Johnson a rational reason — or change the system.

One of the responses gives something to think about:

Jim you want a pretend answer or a real one on teacher absences Wooten?

How many days would you miss if you were held accountable for the performance of 25-30 employees, but those employees could A) refuse to work B) not show up for work C) curse fellow employees D) curse you E) threaten fellow employees F) threaten you G) assault other employees H) assault you? And most important of all, engage in actions A-H with little to no meaningful consequences?

Yet you are told it’s all your fault when production slips, even though you have little or even no authority to enforce consequences that could address actions A-H above.

Think you might miss a day or two Jim? Think you might feel a little stress?

Deal with actions A-H above, and especially deal with the fact that they occur with little to no meaningful consequences for the students who engage in them, and then you’ll be having an honest discussion.
But we don’t want to deal with A-H, because we don’t want an honest discussion. We want to blame our teachers for how we don’t raise our children.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Sticks and Stones

I don't understand teenagers.

Or I don't remember being one, which is always possible.

Two boys got into it in class Thursday. It was the usual dance: first they start insulting each other. Then they start poking around looking for THE button (your mama, your girlfriend, your virility). Finally, the punch. And away it goes. I couldn't move fast enough to deflect the initial insults and had to push the button for the administrators and police officer to break it up. These are two who will not be back for awhile, if at all.

Dang, it means I will be called for a tribunal again. (Hate those)

The only good news is they are two of the ones failing so my percentages will go up.

Happy day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Six Word Saturday

"Nutcracker" makes the season come alive!

Interesting complement

Today John came to my room, wanting me to write another letter to a judge, since my last one worked so well. I told him he would have to tell me a lot more.

"Well," he says, "I was arrested at school last year for disruptive behavior."

What did you do?

"I cussed out a teacher. I was being bad. She sent me out in the hall to cool off. I stayed out there a while and came back in and she started in on me again. And I lost it."

I asked who the teacher was - she is a good teacher and a good person. So I asked a series of questions:

· Do you realize now that she was trying to help you?
· Were you wrong?
· Was she a good teacher?
· Did you like her except for that day?

Then I told him, I will write the letter but you have to do something for me first. You have to write her a letter of apology.

"Whoa, I already apologized." [I doubt it]

Yes, but you have to write her a letter. You know: “I was wrong to say what I did. I know you were trying to help me but I let my anger get the best of me.” It doesn’t have to be much. You show me the letter before you give it to her and I will write the letter for you.

I figure he seldom accepts responsibility for his actions. He is a large boy and has anger and control issues. His size means people either write him up or banish him or accept his behavior.

We'll see if he writes his letter - or not. Either way, I win.

Monday, December 7, 2009

cuts coming but nothing in the paper

From Edweek:
Georgia schools Superintendent Kathy Cox says the schools will have a "pretty rocky couple of years" before state education funding improves.

Cox said during a meeting Friday that she expects to have to cut up to another $39 million from school funding before the fiscal year ends June 30. That would be painful for the state's 180 school districts, which have already lost millions in funding as the state grapples with the worst fiscal crisis in decades.

It could mean more layoffs, more furlough days and even larger classes.

But the local newspaper has NOTHING. Wouldn't you think this was important to know?

Heck, I wonder when our district will tell us something.

Merry Christmas!

getting to know you

I have asked my students to write one page about themselves for each of (up to 7) assignments that they are missing. My intent was to give them a chance without creating more work for me.

Two lately have told me things they don't tell many. One told me her mother basically abandoned her and told her that the mom never wanted her. Another told me she has piercings because it substitutes for cutting. (And she hasn't cut in 2 years now)

They asked me today if I had read what they wrote. I told the first one that (unfortunately) there is no test for parenting, that anyone can have a child but that doesn't make you a mom. And that she has a father who loves her.

Then the second asked if I read hers. I told her that I hoped she finds out why she wants to pierce or cut as she is a very bright and caring person (which I believe). She started crying. I hugged her and talked a while longer.

I hope they wrote what they did because they want someone to know. It doesn't fall under reportable stuff (it was obvious from the writing that DFACS has been involved).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

what the goal should be

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up…
To more than I can be.

By the book

When I student taught, a teacher with a lot of experience kept lecturing me that you don't teach by the book. Indeed, she said, you shouldn't use the book at all.

That made no sense to me because every class I had ever taken had used a book, been driven by the book.

And, when I had my own classes - I kept being driven by the book.

This year, I get it.

I have Algebra students. If I taught by the book, I would miss thinking every day: what do they need, what do they know, where do I want to move them. I use the book a little. The particular book we use is written for a calculator (we don't have them) and so the numbers are what I like to call hairy. Instead of using simple numbers (y = 2x + 3) they will use interesting ones (y = x/7 + 2/9) which make it harder for kids not good in math to "get it."

In my business math class, the book is awful. It isn't well written or clear. The definitions are not well written. I rarely use it.

Funsucker thinks it is THE BOOK. Every time she teaches, she has the kids read out loud. She has them listen patiently while she works the sample problem from the book, then they can do classwork. We have worksheets that a previous teacher wrote so the kids have something to practice on, but she relies on THE BOOK.

Mr. Ego is even worse. He believes in retesting the students so they can master the material. Sounds good, doesn't it? He drives by the book: one section every day (regardless of whether the kids have mastered the material or not. His tests are the ones delivered with the books, not anything he has written. Same publisher as the algebra book, same reliance on calculators. Since the kids are seniors, some of them have them. Same hairy numbers.

He is doing his same end-of-year thing. He belittles them, threatens them, they are running out of time, etc. etc. So, the day before a test, his room is full with kids desperately trying to learn enough that they can pass.

Wednesday, there was not enough room for all of the kids, so they asked another teacher to help them. (Remember, none of us knows enough to be able to be any help at all.) She taught it, gave them ways to remember where the parts of logs go, simplified it so they could understand, really did a stellar job - and all of these kids did outstanding on Mr. Ego's test the next day.

He accused each and every one of cheating, because there is no way they could have learned it without him.

I think the other teacher is angrier at Mr. Ego than the kids are. She is insulted that he would question her ability to teach.

But he has managed to teach me something I was resistant to. The book makes a lovely help and sometimes a great roadmap. But it isn't the important part of teaching.

Six Word Saturday

Southern snow comes,leaves quickly! Joy!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Be on time or you get a letter in your permanent file

I ran across a note today from one of the first faculty meetings: We don't treat all teachers as a group, so don't punish a class because one or two students misbehave.

We had a meeting yesterday where we were all reprimanded because a couple (unspecified number) of teachers don't clock in on time.

Most (because they have been kvetching) didn;t clock in on time because they were on campus doing schoolwork and 1) didn't get to the office 2) got to the office, it was locked, they didn't get back in time or 3) one or two were late getting to campus because they had to run school errands (something for the athletic department) before school.

The meeting sounds like we are all late, fooling around, wasting time, cheating the school district.

Sure wish they would practice what they preach.

Further adventures of Funsucker

I don't like her.

I'm sorry. Is that obvious?

Today she was teaching. She did a better job than normal, involved the students in coming up with a list of items. (Normally it is her lecturing them or having them read aloud. They are Seniors,) But she couldn't control the class. The entire class was talking. She say hush, stop talking, are you ready to learn?, Shh Shhh SHhhhh.... and yet they talked.

I heard the students say: they aren't going to stop. Just teach the ones who want to learn. Can you give us the assignment so we can go ahead and do the work? And, finally, why don't you do what Ricochet does and talk real softly? It works for her.

Yes!! They noticed!!

Finally, I got up (I was grading papers - she yells at me if I offer any assistance), walked to the front of the room (she was talking), look at the class, then wrote 3 names on the board. They got quiet - instantly.

I sat down. They stayed quiet.

[I tell them writing names on the board is like a rattler's rattle. It is a warning. If I am still irritated when I get time to do a write up - and can remember what it was for, they get a write up. If they change their behavior, I will forget what it was and they don't get one.)

Love my students

I always have 2 versions of the test - I change a number or so in each problem and usually have no issue with cheating. Mostly, because I tell them I have no problem with them cheating as it will not help them.

I was going over a test today. A girl had earned a 28 and I was going over each question with her. Since I have 2 versions, I grade one version then the other. While I was going over the test, I had both of my keys in front of me. I told her I didn't know how she got the first answer. Ohm look - it;s the right answer for the other test. Oh, look, it is worked out correctly all the way through - for the other test. Oh, look, so is problem 2. . . . .

She said she got help, but it wasn't cheating. I said - copying off someone else's paper is cheating - but it obviously didn't help you. Remember, I ALWAYS have 2 versions of the test. Copy away.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Diller A Dollar A Ten O'clock Scholar

A diller, a dollar, a ten o'clock scholar!
What makes you come so soon?
You used to come at ten o'clock;
Now you come at noon.

We are apparently going to get lectured tomorrow for any faculty tardies we may have. Um, isn't it a more effective management AND educational tool to address errors immediately rather than to let them become ingrained.

What I love is the fact that even if they know you are here - on time or even early every day - if you fail to sign in on time, you are late.

And they wonder why our morale is not upbeat and preppy......


Boomerang, one of my here-today-gone-tomorrow students, is back. Time is running out and I don't even want to think how many days he has missed.

I gave him the option of writing about his life as a means of explaining how is life is like a project for the class. We'll see how he does.