Parlor Spider...Step In, Little Fly

Insightful thoughts and/or rants from atop the soapbox from one who wishes to share the "right" opinion with everyone.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Colin's Joke


Ok, Colin (the same student who promoted Irish Road Bowling to me) rushed up to say he had a joke for my blog. Normally, I think I'm the funny person, and others really aren't so much, but I gave him a listen. I laughed for five minutes after I finally got the joke, and promised I'd print it. See if you can get this...I'll admit that it took me a few seconds:

Q: How do you drown an elephant?

A: take the "C" from "cat" and the "F" from "way."

As the realization dawned on me what I'd just said, I had to laugh out loud. It's no wonder I love teaching so much...the characters I meet on a daily basis are amazing.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Stacie (the shorter one in a cheerleader outfit) and Marsha (farmer with the cute little piggy) get a shout out on the blog. Country girl Diane (under the sheet so people can't hear her renditions of country music) and Queen Bee Coach Grentz add a touch of style to this photo as well.I'm sure you ladies wanted these pictures all over the internet so I'm happy to help out. When I'm retired next year, I'll come down for the Halloween party with the looks like great fun. We had a great time in Colorado with you and hope the season goes well.GO ILLINI!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

All This Will Be Yours

Bob, if you're out there, here's my parting gift to you...or to whomever takes my place in the world of physical education in my school. Now that the hoopla has died down about "the award," I can get back to the original plan. With one quarter of the year gone, my ankle cracks and pops painfully like popcorn dancing in the microwave: plantar fascitis makes sudden, athletic movements difficult if not impossible (of course, that presumes I can still make those kinds of movements)and,tonight, my left knee resembles the pumpkin we just tossed at the neighbor's mailbox. I don't so much get up as I unfold, and what I do immediately thereafter certainly cannot be considered walking. Most of the time, I try to start off downhill so I can limber up before any sudden turns or stops present themselves. Things in my way after a head of steam is developed run the risk of needing collision insurance: turning this much mass with that much acceleration? Ask the skipper of the Exxon Valdez! I actually broke down and went to see the doctor the other day...I think I've damaged my vocal chords using my "outside" voice eight periods a day for nine weeks. Without even so much as a "hmmm" or an "uh, huh!" he pronounced me good as new. "No structural damage!" he crowed. I found that hard to swallow, but then, that was my problem all along. Just to make the visit worthwhile, I got a flu shot...since he's not in my medical plan, it cost me ten bucks for the clean "bill" of health; I always try to get my money's worth: I asked for the jumbo size, but Jacklyn, my nurse, only had the senior citizen size. Lucky for me, I qualify. AARP will be wanting me for their poster person any day now.
Call the mink ranch...downed steer awaiting transport.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Award Winner Sans Family

Thanks, Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol once made a comment that everyone would get 15 minutes of fame or infamy in life (even though the publishers of Who's Who claim it is now down to 5 minutes). While the time frame is probably not meant to be taken literally (as in taking 7 days to create the world), notoriety DOES seem to have a way of finding us. Up until this point, I figured my fifteen minutes had come in small segments: riding in an elevator with Dick Fosbury (originator of a "new" high jump form); going to the bathroom alongside and subsequently interviewing Jim Ryun; beating Ryun in a road race when he was a jillion years old and suffering from asthma (hey, they ALL count as wins!); and appearing on the cover of Track & Field News. Granted, the picture was actually of a guy winning a race and I happened to be behind him at the time, but it was still the cover shot.
I've never saved someone's life or helped any old people across the street. I certainly wouldn't get someone's cat out of a tree unless I had a .22; however, fame on a rather small scale, has found me at last...AND I'M TIRED OF IT!
I was selected by a state organization as its high school teacher of the year 2005 recently. It was a great honor and probably somewhat deserved, especially since the list of previous winners was extensive and nobody is allowed to win the award twice!
Filling out the nomination form required noting all the TV and news media outlets in the local area. I was certain that few if any of them would consider the item newsworthy...and they didn't. Just my luck to have a hideous local homicide occur at the same time. It was an horrendous crime, to be sure, and I'm really glad I was not involved on either end.
However, the small newspaper in Algoma got the story sent to it by our school media people and felt compelled to do a small story with a photo of the award winner and most of the immediate family. Fine. That's good. Let it go. My time is up.
The district administrator then called me in to ask permission to hold a "tea" in my honor for the district staff. I, of course, said "no," but he chose to do it anyway. Can you imagine ANYONE coming to this thing on the night of parent conferences when their room is still a mess from the day's derelicts? Not likely. I think there is supposed to be food, a fact which would draw me in any case."Bring anecdotes to share." Oh yeah, I can hardly wait to hear those!
Today's newspaper comes out with an even BIGGER picture and a much longer article in which I seem to say that I am the envy of all because I have such a great job. Now, the staff REALLY has some ammunition. Let me say before anyone else can that I was misquoted! Damn that yellow journalism! I am NOT your kid's role model...I have NEVER taken depends on what your definition of "is" is...oops, channeling other people again.
It's all too much. Physical education offerings were cut this year. As money continues to get tighter, it will probably happen again next year. Public education is too important to let get away from us; our kids are too important.
Let me go back to obscurity, but let me keep road bowling!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Carded at 55!

"Not on your life!" the clerk sneered haughtily.
I was stunned a bit. I was getting carded for being too young for the senior discount at Krispy Kreme! OK, I know, a Krispy Kreme delicacy is not really a part of the balanced diet unless one is on a 6,000 calorie diet. At 200 calories a pop (most of them from fat, I would guess), a dozen of those would seriously put a crimp in my colon. The amount of fat coursing through my system after those would make the Thanksgiving Day food debauchery look like a testimonial for Jenny Craig. I figure I'm getting fruit from the lemon-filled ones and the pumpkin spice ones. Let's see...there were a couple of strawberry-filled ones as well, and the chocolate on a few were good for mood elevation. Having milk with them makes it a healthy deal, I figure. It's like I feel when having cake for breakfast: eggs, milk and flour are all good for me!
However, I was not going to get my so-richly-deserved senior discount of a dollar fifteen because the counter person didn't think I was old enough. The unmitigated gall! Truth be told, I wasn't really buying them because it was part of my early birthday celebration (I've still got a week as a middle-aged guy), and my buddy Ot was footing the bill. HE is already over the magic age KK uses to designate "senior citizen" (it's the same age McRonald's uses in case you're getting up there as we are). Still, a buck is a buck, even if the crabby waitress at Butch's Das Settlement in St. Nazianz and this counter guy didn't think I could figure it out, and AARP would certainly say we were entitled. I'm not going to run out and get a red hat or join the Gray Panthers, but the point is that I've been paying for other people all this time, and now it's my turn. I don't even ask that anyone respect me for my senior status...I just want some money back when I can get it. Those expecting me to leave it to them in my will might be in for a shock as the U-Haul backs up to the hole and drops cash in on top of my casket :0
Anyhow, as I reached for my wallet and said, "Your senior age is 55, isn't it?" the clerk backed off and rang up the discount. Mess with a senior citizen who has money to spend, will you? My discretionary dollar could go lots of places. Unfortunately, Krispy Kreme has the monopoly on incredible doughnuts here in Green Bay. There's always Storheim's Ice Cream if I'm looking for high-fat. After all, I've only got so many seconds left; and Thanksgiving is coming up as well. I'll balance all of that with some prostate will thank me,too.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Another Nail in the Coffin

I think it's the quick shock that life gives us every now and then that keep us from getting too cocky. Just when we think we have this workable situation figured out..."Boom" John Madden (or someone who can startle me like he does)enters the room. It happened today, and really altered my perception of my ability as a teacher.
I have a wellness class which studies the seven dimensions of wellness for a nine-week period. I introduce concepts, we discuss how they apply to us personally, we go to the media lab one day a week and research an interesting, student-selected aspect of the topic, and we give oral reports to our classmates and we discuss the importance of what they might have discovered. I think it's entirely workable and beneficial to students: it allows them information on a new topic and creates an opportunity for self-investigation with only minimal teacher input. This might be the perfect learning situation because it has many facets and allows students to basically take charge of what they learn under "expert" guidance. Junior and senior students should be ready to guide their education with just a little help.
Having followed this format for eight weeks, one might suspect that the students understood procedures. One would be wrong. Virtually half of the class decided this time that intellectual wellness wasn't really worth their time and gave it a pass
(well, actually, gave it a "fail", but that's another point). Given the great variety of ability levels in this group, a certain amount of non-compliance might be excpected. However, two responses made me difinitely sit up and take notice.

1. "The teacher who helped me with this used too many big words that I didn't understand so I can't present this in class because I can't read the words."
2. "What is the topic? Intellectual wellness? No, I didn't do it. I missed the day you went to the library, and you didn't tell me I had to do it."

Gee, "My dog ate it" is more credible than that! "Martians stole me and performed strange operations on my cranium" would be more plausible, especially since we had been presenting oral reports on the topic for three days! Did you even think I was going to get around to you eventually? D'oh!

It was unclear to me whether these two students were less influenced by my teaching than the arrogant ones who chose not to do the work. This is an elective class, but that doesn't mean that doing the work is elective...perhaps something that should be addressed in small words in the course description!
So, I'm left to wonder how I could fail to stimulate almost half of the class? I consider myself better than average in competency. I follow standards and benchmarks. I spend hours planning lessons. I feel that I use down-to-earth, relevant information and examples. And yet, I failed to achieve much in eight weeks with these students.
Should I content myself with the knowledge that half of the class did fine work and probably gained a great deal through personal effort? Does the explanation lie in tainted water or a muddied gene pool in Algoma? Those would be easy answers, but I have another one: it really IS time for me to get out, making way for more competent, motivational teachers.
Willie Mays ended his days playing for a terrible Mets team when he stayed on past his prime. I will not be Willie Mays.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

55 Words

There is a national contest which challenges people to write short stories which contain only 55 words, no more, no less. It's a great challenge, and the winners are published in a book. I have no more serious information since Joe took my copy and has yet to return it...
I promised my students that if they would make a serious effort along those lines, I would "publish" the one they liked best (voted on anonymously by the class). Josh Jaeger was the winner, and here is is offering:

The child was sprinting down the dark corridor; he was pursued by a ghost.
The ghost closed in...
"There's a doorway! Oh, heavenly light!"
The boy escaped...his exit was a balcony;
the ghost caught him and hung him over; he saw all of Neverland.
Thus, Michael Jackson filled the news and tabloids once again.

Intellectual calisthenics ( a word I misspelled to lose the 8th grade county spelling contest!) like this make us all stronger and repel the dread of senility just as bit longer. Try it!
It is interesting to note that the students' votes for MY entry placed it fifth in the competition. This might indicate that I need to work at writing skills more diligently...or it might indicate they have no clue as to what good writing is, but they "know what they like." It's also possible that I am as dull a writer as my wife thinks I am.
I am gratified to report that from a class of 22 potential writers, I got 18 attempts at the story project. The fact that it was an exercise not to be "graded" should not be overlooked. They actually took the challenge to heart. One small step for education, and one large step for learning.