Sunday, October 6, 2013

Not such a good idea?

Six weeks, five school districts, dozens of resumes and letters of introduction, four interviews, and zero contract offers... [insert deep sigh here]

It’s hard to be rejected. For 20+ years I never once heard “No thanks” for any job or position I interviewed for, and while I knew I wasn’t simply going to walk out of my last credential class and into a classroom, I also didn’t think the education business was going to go so far down the toilet I’d be competing against over 400 people for every rare opening.

But like any good educator I'm being reflective, reviewing all the interviews, going over what I said and did, trying to learn from my mistakes and get better. While meeting a Principal and his/her staff for an interview certainly can be nerve-racking,  I needed to do something to set myself apart from the other candidates. In hindsight though, I’m thinking just there are a few things that maybe I should not have done --

...maybe I shouldn't have passed out mojitos to "loosen things up a bit" ?
...maybe I shouldn't have handed out envelopes from "a friend in Vegas" ?
...maybe I shouldn't have done the last one in Dothraki?
...maybe I shouldn't have brought along my mom?
...maybe I shouldn't have asked: "Who's your fave, One Direction or Big Time Rush?
...maybe I shouldn't have done last one in bathrobe and slippers?
...maybe I shouldn't have prayed so long? Or spoke in tongues?
...maybe I shouldn't have described my classroom management style as ‘Draconian’?
...maybe I shouldn't have worn my "Michelle Rhee is Superwoman" tee?
...maybe I shouldn't have bragged so much about my extensive ‘Hello Kitty’ collection?

Interview Delirium has led to feeble attempts at humor. The old laugh to keep from crying routine? Actually no, I've gotten good feedback from several principals and still have confidence something nice will work out soon for this year. Or next year. Or sometime after that...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Here We Go Again...

If a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, no one in the dugout talks about it. The radio announcers don't even mention it for fear of jinxing him. Which is why I don't want to tell anybody, or even type the words second interview... Oops, guess I just did.

Now watch, the phone will ring tomorrow morning and a secretary will say "Sorry, we need to cancel your visit, the school burned down" or "We looked at our budget and decided to buy new playground equipment instead" or "Trick! You really never had a chance, tee hee, to get a job. You should, haha, see your face!"

Hmm, maybe I need a more positive attitude...

Knock on wood!

Since it's now out in the bloggerverse, I guess I'd better get ready for it. I don't believe in jinxes! I believe in being prepared, in demonstrating my abilities, in presenting myself with confidence, and I believe in wearing my lucky tie. I'm spending the day studying Common Core, checking out 3rd grade lessons, planning classroom management, learning about the school where I hope to get hired.

Anything else?

Rubbing the lucky tie with a rabbit's foot?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

When Bad Interviews Happen To Good Teachers

Well, at least you can say I'm consistent. Year after year, when that summer break comes-- relaxation time for most teachers, resume update and scour EdJoin time for me-- I have played my part faithfully, never breaking from tradition. And this summer, like the four summers before, followed the familiar formula: letter of introduction, interview prep, tie and sock choice, nervous babbling, thanks for inviting me handshake, phone call wait, the sigh of resignation....

Now to be fair to myself (aka "rationalizing") it wasn't the best fit. I'm sure the first interviewer caught the look on my face when she said "Sixth grade Math and Science"-- I'm sure the same face I made when my new bride first made dinner, a well-intentioned yet feeble attempt to convey, despite facial contortions saying otherwise, my inner "joy" at what was placed before me and the anticipation of getting to enjoy it for the next 50 years* -- but I recovered quickly, and while admitting my passion was readin' and writin' I talked about the thrill of discovery and importance of problem solving as keys to both wonderful disciplines, math and science being the backbone of any successful society.

And maybe that last paragraph is evidence of my Failure As Interviewee. A bit rambling, I'd say. Incoherent in most places, you may say. It's not like I opened with a joke ("How many Principals does it take...") or replied in monotonous grunts, but for some reason I must not come across as intelligent, or at least worthy to get paid for teaching children, when I am interviewed. There is a fine line between answering how I really want to and how I think they want me to answer, all while trying to surreptitiously read upside down to see what they're writing about me as I talk. I want to say Yes, my classroom will have/do this... but how do I know if the school allows that? Maybe the Principal wouldn't know a Tweet if it bit her but I want to connect with my students using Twitter?

Part of me wants to jump up on the next conference table and give voice to the Sorkin-style proclamation within: I can teach! Give me a room, give me students! Let me coax them, cajole them, encourage them to let the learning spark in them burst! Quit blaming faulty technology and get students into the 21st century, stop moaning about class size and get to know what every student needs to learn, cancel the parties and movies and demand hard work, proof of learning, and excellent results! I AM Superman! And then again part of me, mainly the student loan repaying part, wants to say Please, I need a job, tell me what to teach and how to teach it and I'll be there for every after school function and I'll spend all weekend grading and planning but please just give me a chance...

So now I (hopefully) go back to teaching elementary P.E., a job I absolutely love at a school I absolutely love with students I absolutely love, by the way, and spend the next 11 months learning as much as I can in order to try again next summer. I'll finish my GATE Certification, complete my P.E. Credential, keep working through the Stanford Math MOOC, discuss students and teaching during lunch break, slip $20 a week under the Principal's keyboard, and work towards another chance at interviewing for my own classroom next year.  I'll firm up my handshake, practice my interview answers, study successful educators and their best practices. I'll find a way to impress the entire room on my next interview, I'll have them presenting the staff restroom key and offering to drive me down to HR and sign that contract before my sweat has even dried.

Truthfully? I think it was the wrong tie.

*Yes, 17 years later, she is a fine cook these days. Delicious pastas, awesome tacos. Otherwise we wouldn't still be married, now would we?**


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Whiteboard Word Wall

Just an idea...

Word Wall, pref on a whiteboard but that large paper sheet would work too -- students add words, can add definitions, syn/ant, illustrations, draw arrows/bridges to connect to other words, list examples of use/quotes from text -- fic or nonfic. Can even add word/def in native lang for ELs.
When board/paper/space is full take a pic and add to a slide show (accessible thru Google docs?) for viewing/study/reference.

Hmmm... I think my sons need to work up an example of this. They love summer projects!

Reading for my GATE Cert. class sometimes leads to too many ideas/distractions, but I guess I'd rather be distracted by ideas than be bored and finish quickly.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

"Guys Lunch"

Definitely going to do this next year, thank you @TechNinjaTodd at nesoloneyflipped.blogspot --

"Guys Lunch" Just me and the fellas, having lunch together away from all the girls and their drama (definitely leaving that to better teachers/humans than I) and getting the chance to talk about what it means to be a friend, a brother, a teammate, a young man.

My current school has very few sports minded students, very few athletes, which as a youth sports coach and PE teacher dismays me to no end. But the ones that have played sports, the few football players especially, definitely come from a different cultural background than 99% of their classmates. Most obviously they're African-American not Filipino-American, so unfortunately it's very easy to lump them all together (and I mean very easy: I could thunk each one with a different digit and still have fingers left over), especially when there's trouble on the basketball court or ball wall. But where others see "those black kids" I see "my athletes" and know the problem probably has everything to do with competition, skills, and the priorities their families have taught them.

It's funny how in one conversation we as teachers bemoan our American lack of fitness, the utter slothfulness of children today, but in another complain about the energy ("wildness") and drive ("disruptive") of certain students. These are the kids who, unlike their parent-coddled Playstation-addicted peers, are up and active after school. Yes, a lot of that is unsupervised, absent parent, directionless, but that's the point -- they're looking for something to do, usually out in the neighborhood.  Yes, some of that involves trouble, getting into it or trying to avoid it. These are children who are not brought things but told to go get it yourself. These are boys (and one girl) raised on watching sports from Dad's lap and signed up for a team as soon as possible, often within the context of This is the only way to make it out.

So lunch is with* me, boys. We'll talk about what bugs you, what you want from school and life, what you want to fix or change and how you can do it, what kind of friend/father/man you want to be. And we'll probably also find some time to discuss the real important issues, such as can the Heat 3-peat and will the Chargers ever, ever win the Super Bowl?

* Not "on" I'm only a poor teacher...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Party Time!

"You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." - Eldridge Cleaver

As you may have guessed, I have an aversion to school day parties. My first class nearly revolted and left me tied up in the supply room when I said No, my dear 5th graders, you may not bring cupcakes for _____'s birthday. For the 7th time. So quit asking!

Then I was a-thinkin'... How about one of those Guess Who I Am? parties where the students can each be assigned a person, place, maybe even a concept that was studied during the past year? They could know who they are ahead of time and research/prepare clues and answers to questions other students ask to figure out who or what they are, or they could not know and have to ask the questions of others. Maybe one visual clue, although costumes may give away some characters too easily. Students could be fiction, Charlotte or Poseidon or Katniss, they could be historical or current events figures, maybe even lava or pi depending on the student. Easily differentiated to many levels.

Throw in some apple slices and crackers and *voila!* we have a par-tay!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Reading Club

Just read a real good book* I could swear I saw one of our students reading, or at least carrying, the other day -- The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner -- but when I asked about it this morning, she denied everything. Maybe I got the girl wrong, there were several of them at the same table, all Filipinas with straight black hair, but I don't think so.  And it's not like I walked up to the Pink Ladies and mentioning the word "book" wiped out all her street cred in front of the cool kids, these are all good students and most are in a book club. I do know I got the title slightly wrong, I couldn't quite remember the "brilliant" or the "Gianna" parts, but it's not like I accused her of reading Mein Kampf....

Which got me wondering if I could set up a Book Club Blog** to get some 4th-6th grade students reading, discussing, and sharing books they read. I might not even be at that school next year, or might only be the PE Teacher again, but it might be a way to keep some reading going over the summer. And if I did get a classroom next year we could keep it going and use it for digital citizenship and internet writing lessons.  Even at a different school it would be a way to connect students/readers from around the county.  Hmmm...

* as opposed to a fake good book?
** obviously a catchy, cool name is needed. Any ideas?

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Final Days...

Yeah, yeah, I know most teachers are out for the summer break. I've read your "beach-bound!" tweets, seen your "feet up!" photos, hid your "margaritas at 11am!" status updates. Whatever.

But some of us are still working. We still have 4 weeks to go, 18 teaching days. Last year at this time I was passing fellow teachers in the halls and wondering what these seemingly secret but special numbers they whispered 13, 12, 11.... I was stressing over finishing the Math book and panicking over my first report cards while they had a semi-delirious smile 9, 8, 7... I was wondering how in the world I could get my students ready for 6th grade/middle school/college valedictorian/Nobel acceptance speeches in just two weeks-- ah, that's what the magic numbers were: The Countdown. The Final Days. How many days left until "Julyteenth" and the freedom of summer break!   4, 3, 2...

Needless to say, I was not ready for summer break.  I did not want summer break.  I was not ready to let go of this life-altering wonderful experience called "Finally, My Own Classroom." Not only was I not ready to give up the keys to the classroom, I wasn't ready to let my first batch of students get on with their (academic) lives without me. But there was no stemming the tide of calendar pages gleefully ripped off and tossed to the ground, the end of the school year was going to happen whether I was ready or not. *sigh*

This year, however, I am looking forward to summer. Except for the part where I must update resume, search for jobs, cross fingers I get called in to sweat and stammer through an interview for a job I won't get, of course, but the rest of summer I am totally ready for.  I love, love love, being a P.E. Teacher but there are only so many days one can stand in the sun and wind on the blacktop or dirt field and not feel that one's lungs, skin, and arches will soon rebel. I need some beach time, some reading time, some hang with my sons time. Since I don't know where I'll be next year I'm sad I may be leaving these awesome students and this awesome school, but I still get a smile looking forward to a break.

But anywho... circling back to what I intended to write: Some of us are still working. School is not out, not yet. But since it's close I'm hearing those words that have bothered me: What's left to teach? I finished the text! Movie Day! Nothin' going on today. Stopping by our party? And that's just from the teachers... It killed me most years to send my sons to school the last week since it seemed all they did was watch movies and eat cupcakes. It's funny how teachers will bemoan how students do not read outside of school, they get no music or art outside of school, some would never go to the zoo or even the beach (yes, even living 10 mins away) if not for a field trip, yet do they think children don't eat pizza and waste time? I know my students rarely get outside and play games at home and very, very few play any organized sports, so why would I do anything except try to keep them moving every possible minute I can?

Similar and interesting conversation on Twitter related to report cards being completed weeks before school's end and passed out before last day (Thanks, @bloggucation) -- why send your student to school except for the free babysitting? Maybe I'm too new a teacher to understand the intricacies of dealing with a classroom 20-40 children for 9 months, but isn't the purpose of school to educate students? Yes they need a break once in awhile, we can't push.push every minute, but I think we're teaching students to "check out" too often. Every Friday play time for turning in your homework? The reward for doing your work isn't the learning, it doesn't lead to curiosity, the drive to excel or learn more, to better communication/understanding, it leads to getting to stop doing school work and have more recess! No wonder the recent news reports show 70% of Americans are not engaged in their work/careers, that's what we're teaching them in school.

Am I just on an uninformed rant here? Is there a way, or even a need, to balance free time and learning time at school? Am I just an anti-birthday party Scrooge? Hmmm...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Back to School!

No, not for all you teachers* reading this, but for me.  Started a class on teaching gifted students, GATE Certification Tier 1, through SDUSD and SDSU, and next month have one class to get my Physical Education credential. And you know what going back to school means...

  1. Playlists! Can't study or read or write without the perfect set of songs to encourage me and keep me focused. This task should not be taken lightly or done in haste, for a faulty or distracting music selection can slow homework progress by several minutes hours half a day or two if you let it.
  2. Coffee! Can't spend an hour on iTunes or Paste without having the proper caffeine levels. Very important to get the temperature exactly right, the coffee:creamer ratio perfect, and of course have the right LSM, lucky study mug, washed and primed for action.  I've spent a lot of time this week  practicing the all important Reach for the Mug without Dropping the Laptop move. Coffee cup and snack placement in the correct spot on the desk is critical. I suggest that blue painter's tape or chalk for laying out possible locations without getting scolded for using Sharpies on the furniture. Not like it's real oak or something.
  3. Quiet! oops, I mean quiet... Hard to do when the kids are out of school for the summer, but that's why God invented yardwork, garage cleaning supplies, and Go to Work with the Other Parent Day. Make sure the requisite amount of time is spent inspecting your study area, surrounding rooms, the immediate neighborhood, local Tilted Kilts, etc. for any possible noise level distractions.
  4. Procrastination, Be Gone with Thee! Beware the evils of putting off until 7pm tonight what you should have and could have been doing the past week. Because the 7 o'clock SportsCenter is vital, you probably just finished dessert, and some of us do have to get up and go to work the next morning! I'm just so glad Game of Thrones ended, or I'd really be cutting it close...

*"all" in this case meaning both of you...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Life is not fair for zombies, either...

"The zombies are anything that comes into your life, without prejudice  and destroys it. The zombies are: Life's not fair."

Interesting article on World War Z author Max Brooks.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Do I Want To Do Better Next Year?

If I am hired as a P.E. Teacher...

  • "Health Club" (or some other cooler sounding named club/group) at least 2 days a week after school: need to get these kids moving! I'm convinced most, as in easily 90%, students do not get any exercise outside of school, or even go outside and just play. I'd like to get a bunch of the unhealthy/overweight kids together and even if all we do is walk around the field several times we can discuss healthy eating and life habits as we stroll. Be nice if we got some parents to come out in their sweatpants and walk with us. 
  • "Homework Club" -- prob focus on 4th-6th, a couple of days a week give them a quiet, organized, X-box free place to work on any assignments they have, even if it's just reading logs. Some students may be able to collaborate, some could help younger students, some will need more teacher intervention, but the priority would be the time to get tasks finished and make progress on projects to help them avoid falling behind.
  • Improved communication with parents.  I tried taking over some bulletin boards to promote health & diet information (do you really know how many calories are in a frappachino???) and list sports/fitness sign up opportunities for the YMCA, AYSO, etc., but while they looked good until the sun faded everything to pale yellow, I'm not sure how much info actually made it home and was used. Twitter? FB page? I need something to get info more directly to parents, including keeping them current on what activities we're doing in class.
  • "Word of the Week"  To tie together sports/health/school/life, just a quick word or phrase like sportsmanship or fairness to give students a little proper behavior reminder. We can even do "C-O-U-R-A-G-E" jacks after our "Wildcat Jacks"   (@ryflinn thanks for the idea)
If I get hired for a classroom...

  •  All of the above, plus...?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What Could I Have Done Better This Year?


Not that I was bad, in fact I'd say I was purty darn good. Probably had the students running more this year than they've ever run in their lives.  Of course some of them are only 6, so that's not a lot of life lived with the opportunity to run, but still. I would bet good money that the majority of our students run more during recess and the hour of P.E. than they do the rest of the week. sigh....

I would have liked to get more students in sports and physical activities outside of school. I created a bulletin board and posted local team sign-ups and YMCA class schedules, even told the kids they would have a lap-free day if they show me they signed up for something, but no takers.  Seriously, out of 350+ K-5th graders we have 30 MAX that play or have played team sports.
So I should have...

  • gotten some parent/coaches to come talk up their teams, maybe be a guest coach and show students some drills and games.
  • put more information directly into the parents' hands. I know fliers are passed out in classrooms, because I find them around campus in bushes, blowing across field, as paper airplanes... maybe a website or FB page to collect and present community info would get the word out better.

What Do I Want To Do Better Next Year?


Be in a classroom.

Have my own students and not have to share with all the other teachers.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Speaking of reading children's books...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Advertising on Students

Thought this was a great idea, passed along from SDUSD P.E. Dept.:

I featured this tip in October but thought it might be timely to revisit for folks who are ordering PE clothes this spring. I was reminded of what a great idea these shirts are when I was out at DePortola MS last week:-) What a great support for the Common Core Standards.
A teacher from Long Beach shared this idea with me. She works at a low-performing school where they instituted "Vocab T's" this year in physical education to try and increase students' academic vocabulary across the curriculum. The school logo is printed on the front of the shirt, on the back is printed one vocabulary word and its accompanying definition. The word bank is 100 words deep; after 100 shirts, the words repeat. So, if you have 1000 students, 10 shirts will have the same word. The next year you get a new set of 100 words, including any words the students did not master the year before. The company supplies a pre- and post-test complete with scantrons that you can administer in your class. Students and teachers can check their scores on-line. There are many schools in SD County that have implemented this program, DePortola is one from our district. There is also an optional incentive program available. Check it out - this is a fabulous concept! Think how much wasted space is on the back of a student's physical education shirt. Below is a sample of the word bank that includes character words, physical education vocabulary, CST words, etc. And it got me thinking...what about the glossary of terms in the back of the CA Framework?
2012-2013 Word List1.Aerobic Exercise – a kind of activity that requires oxygen 2.Anaerobic Exercise -- exercise that builds muscles through tension; bodybuilding3.Area of a rectangle = length x width 4.Cardiovascular – involving the heart and blood vessels 5.Cell – The basic unit of structure and function in living things. 6.Circumference‐ the distance around the edge of a circle7.collaborate- to work together8.Commitment – a promise to do something or behave in a particular way 9.Confidence – the feeling that you are able to do things well 10. Context – the situation, events, or information that are related to something

Our school uniforms could also do the Character Counts or AVID vocab.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Almost One Year...

...since I last posted. Pathetic.

What happened? I lost interest, lost my job, lost the use of my 2 typing fingertips?

No, simply put, I became a P.E. Teacher.

Don't get me wrong, I love physical education, fitness and health, encouraging kids to get off their spoiled, lazy, X Box/Playstation-swollen fat butts and Get Up and Move! I love sports and coaching sports, and I love helping the uncoordinated kids learn how to throw and catch (mostly. sometimes.).

But in teaching P.E. 2.5 out of past 3 school years I've become stale, stagnant, spinning my professional development and teaching talent wheels slower and slower and slower...