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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oklahoma Letter Carriers' Food Drive Sets Records


This is the food drive my Honor Society students helped out with:

from Brother Bob Bearden:
THE FINAL REPORTED TOTAL
FOR THE NALC Branch 458 LETTER CARRIERS FOOD DRIVE IS …
478,822 pounds

87,000 pounds MORE than last year!!!

Thank YOU, thank YOU everyone!!!

P.S. The overall total from all the drives within our Regional Food Bank area (53 counties) surpassed 600,000#’s!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Goodbye to Old John Marshall High


Today was the last day of school in the building where I have been a high school teacher for 14 years. For 13 of those years, I was on the faculty of John Marshall High School. This last year I was a member of the Oklahoma Centennial High School faculty. John Marshall is in a brand new facility on NW 122nd Street. But for me, this building will always be John Marshall High School as it has been since the school opened in 1948 when it replaced Britton High School.

Next year we will be in a new building, actually a remodeled building. However, I feel it is good to pay tribute to a building that has educated the students of Oklahoma City for 60 years.

Good bye, John Marshall High.



Monday, May 26, 2008

A Memorial Day Prayer

Remembering the Fallen
My thanks to Pam Paul, who handles the duties of the OCDP Web Page master and Listserv Publisher, for bringing this prayer to my attention when she published it as our OCDP Memorial Day message.

Memorial Day Prayer

Spirit of Life
whom we have called by many names
in thanksgiving and in anguish—
Bless the poets and those who mourn
Send peace for the soldiers who did not make the wars
but whose lives were consumed by them

Let strong trees grow above graves far from home
Breathe through the arms of their branches
The earth will swallow your tears while the dead sing
“No more, never again, remember me.”

For the wounded ones, and those who received them back,
let there be someone ready when the memories come
when the scars pull and the buried metal moves
and forgiveness for those of us who were not there
for our ignorance.

And in us, veterans in a forest of a thousand fallen promises,
let new leaves of protest grow on our stumps.

Give us courage to answer the cry of humanity’s pain
And with our bare hands, out of full hearts,
with all our intelligence
let us create the peace.

Author: Barbara J. Pescan

Source: Morning Watch - Skinner House Books 1999

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My Worship Leader Remarks this Sunday

First OCHS graduating class being led into the Cox Convention Center for the graduation ceremony.
Note: Each Sunday at my church, one of the laity acts as Worship Leader. This Sunday was my turn. One of the duties of the Worship Leader is to deliver a brief statement on any topic the Worship Leader chooses. I chose to review my first year as a teacher at Oklahoma Centennial High School since this was the Sunday following our first graduation ceremony.

Last Wednesday evening, I was a part of Oklahoma Centennial High School’s first graduation ceremony. My special thanks to Gail Vines for helping make this a memorable event. As most of you know, this is my first year at OCHS after 13 years of teaching at old John Marshall High School.

It has been a great year, one of my best. I have gotten to take part in many firsts. We organized our first chapter of the National Honor Society, and, along with Brother Bob Bearden, completed our first service project by taking part in the National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive.

Along with this, fellow OCHS teacher Mark Lyle and I developed the “Bison Chess Club” to which several Mayflower members donated “seed money.” I am happy to report to you all that we held our first school chess tournament. Our students have been so enthusiastic about the club that some have asked about the possibility of keeping the club going during the summer months. I can’t tell you what joy that brings to a teacher’s heart.

We look forward to greater things next year because we will at last be moving into our own building. For the past two years OCHS has been using the old John Marshall facility, but next year we will move to our permanent home over on Kelly just north of Britton in what was formerly Eisenhower Junior High, but now with MAPS for Kids money, is being remodeled into a brand new school

I covet your prayers for our students. Researchers say that the number one predictor of a student’s success is the student’s economic environment. The number two predictor is the economic environment of the student’s school population. Our students are largely drawn from the Britton, West Village, and North Highlands neighborhoods. Anyone who knows those parts of the city knows that our students come to school with a couple of strikes against them already. My job is to show them out to get a hit with a two-strike count.

I cannot change the situation into which my students were born. I have control over just one thing: the world I create for them in my classroom. My mission, the sacred mission of all my fellow teachers who call Mayflower our church, is to make that world one of nurture, growth and learning.

I know I speak for all my colleagues in expressing our appreciation for the historical support that this church has given to public education. Fellow teachers, let’s enjoy our summer and renew ourselves for the tasks which lay ahead when once again we will be called on to touch the future

Saturday, May 24, 2008

In Honor of Those Who Paid the Ultimate Price



I have always wanted to have a flag for our home to fly on appropriate occasions. Memorial Day, the day we honor those who died defending our country, seemed a great reason to get it done.

May we be wise enough honor their sacrifice by promoting peace and justice in our world.

Friday, May 23, 2008

On the Death of Jack Mildren

Jack Mildren 1949-2008
Jack Mildren,OU quarterback, in 1971

Jack Mildren, great OU quarterback of the 70's and a Lt. Governor of Oklahoma, passed away last night due to stomach cancer. He was 58.

My first encounter with Jack was not very pleasant to say the least. His high school team, the Abilene Cooper Cougars, and my high school team, the Amarillo Tascosa Rebels, were playing in the 1967 state playoffs. Cooper played us on our home field, and the score wasn't close at all. I think they scored a touchdown on their first play from scrimmage and beat us something like 38-6. What made this worse for me was the fact that Jack was coached by my uncle Merrill. Needless to say, I kept a pretty low profile at school the next week.

All was forgiven when Jack decided to play at the University of Oklahoma. My uncle, who played at OU in the 50's was accused of "nudging" Jack to Oklahoma, but Merrill stayed way out of the picture in the recruiting war that broke out over Jack. Sports Illustrated did a feature article on the battle for Jack.

Freshman could not play varsity football when Jack first came to the school, so Jack played on the freshman "Boomer" squad in 1968. Their games drew large crowds, and big things were forecast for Mildren.

However, at first, Jack disappointed many people. Not all of this was his fault. Steve Owens was in the OU backfield, and it seemed as if the entire 1969 season was dedicated to getting Owens the Heisman Trophy. So Jack mostly handed off to Owens, and the team went 6-4 that year.

In 1970, OU switched to the Wishbone attack. Jack, who had been primarily thought of as a passing quarterback, had to act as a 4th running back and do his passing largely in the form of laterals. When OU first switched to the Wishbone, many in the stands booed and hooted at OU's feeble attempt to immitate the Texas Longhorns who had introduced the formation to college football.

Many of those same people cheered OU on during the storied 1971 season when OU went 11-1 losing only to number 1 Nebraska in "The Game of the Century." Jack made "All American" in 1971.

After college, Jack played for a while in the NFL as a defensive back. He then was successful in the oil business before turning to politics becomng the 22nd Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. He ran for Governor in 1994, but his campaign was sabatoged by a "Dixiecrat" named Wes Watkins who ran as an independent when he couldn't get the Democratic nomination for himself. Later Watkins switched parties and served as a Republican congressman representing the southeast part of the state known as "Little Dixie."

Jack would have been a good governor. He was compassionate and tolerant. Oklahoma would have gone a better direction had he and not the Republican Frank Keating won that race.

I will miss Jack. We were not close friends, but we knew each other through his connection to my family. I had hoped he would get back into politics again, but sadly that is not to be.

My prayers are with his family.

Article in The Oklahoman on life of Jack Mildren. My Uncle Merrill is quoted in the article.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

First OCHS Graduation

Some of our class leaders
The graduation line
Wednesday night was our first graduation ceremony at the Cox Convention Center. Our kids were wonderful. They've been through many obstacles to get this far. We wish them the best!

Our NHS Chapter is Chartered!

First OCHS National Honor Society Chapter with Charter
Principal Thompson and I with our First Charter
We received our first charter for the Oklahoma Centennial High School National Honor Society.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Letter to Rep. Mary Fallin

Rep. Mary Fallin

Note: Rep. Mary Fallin, 5th District, Oklahoma, wrote me a letter explaining her eagerness to cut my taxes. She specifically singled out what she called the "marriage, estate, and gift" taxes as targets for elimination. I immediately sat down and sent her the following note by return mail.

Dear Rep. Fallin,

I received your letter written May 15th in which you decry high taxes. You stated that you wished to cut my taxes particulary the marriage, estate, and gift taxes which you termed "burdensome." I am certain that your stance will prove to be very politically popular.

However, as you know, taxes are used to provide services which citizens of our country feel are the responsibility of our government so we may lead quality lives. These services include schools and school lunches, hospitals, safe roads and bridges, health care, Homeland Security, clean air and water, safe food and drugs, air traffic control, armed forces, veterans' benefits, job retraining, national parks and recreation, drug law enforcement, just to name a few.

In your next letter to me, please include a list of those services you wish to eliminate or cut in order to pay for the tax cuts you have promised.

Your interested constituent,
Robert Lynn Green

P.S. I see that the letter you sent me was printed and mailed at taxpayer expense. Is this congressional priviledge something you wish to eliminate?

Kirk Humphries Selected as OKC School Board President

Kirk Humphries, newly appointed chairman of the Oklahoma City Public School District School Board
Former Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphries was selected as chairman of the Oklahoma City School Board last Monday. While mayor, Kirk helped to pass the "MAPS for Kids" bond issue and sales tax that has been used to do a massive building and remodeling project in the city's schools.

The first big task facing Humphries and the rest of the board is to find a new superintendent to succeed John Q. Porter who resigned after a brief time of leading the district following allegations of financial impropriety.

Kirk is well connected with Oklahoma City's business community. This, plus his service on the Putnam City School Board, are his chief assets. His chief liablity from this teacher's standpoint is that he doesn't have much experience dealing a democratic urban school district. He believes in the "school is a business" [false] analogy as evidenced by his statement:
"I believe the customer is always right, and in a school district, the customer is every family in our district with school-aged children."


The problem with this model is that, in a school, sometimes the customer is wrong. For example, if a parent believes that her child should remain in school due to his "special needs" when that child is disrupting class for all his classmates and making it impossible for a teacher to do her job, the parent/customer is wrong.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Advice to High School Graduates Going to College

Graduation Time!

'Tis the time for graduations both of the high school and college variety. Saturday was rather special. My Alma Mater, Southern Nazarene University, held its Commencement ceremony. I had a niece who graduated this year, and that was special enough, but what made this one very special was that my university gave an honorary diploma to my nephew Spencer Lee who died last year of Ewing's sarcoma cancer after a six year battle with the disease. His mother and father, my brother, was there as well as every member of my immediate family and several other relatives as well.

Afterwards, we went over to Bethany 1st Nazarene Church for a family luncheon. My father and mother who are 80 and 78 respectively were able to come down from Seattle to attend.

Sunday, my wife and I traveled up the turnpike to Tulsa to attend a graduation Sunday service and party for our niece from my wife's side of the family. She graduated from Union High School in Tulsa-Broken Arrow on Friday. On Sunday, her church, Tulsa Central Church of the Nazarene honored their graduates. Her parents, Ed and Cheryl, my wife's sister, hosted a reception her. She will go to the University of Oklahoma and major in Drama and Theatre Tech.

I have but one bit of advice for all high school graduates going to college: Study Scared. When I went to college, I assumed that everyone there was far more prepared for college than I was. I felt I needed to study twice as hard just to keep up with them. And that was about right.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Americans Seek Afforable Health Care in Other Countries

Dying for Lack of Dollars?

I wrote the following letter to editors of The Oklahoman in response to a "Your Views" letter published in the May 17th edition.

Dear Editor:

Rick Olsen claims that the US “already has the best health care in the world” evidenced by the fact that foreigners come here for their health needs. Some do, mostly the wealthy seeking elective procedures and other medicine most Americans cannot afford.

But many American go to other countries for their health care. Many seniors go to Canada and Mexico for less expensive prescriptions. Americans have also found it more affordable to go to India for their surgeries.

And if our health care is the “best,” then why are our infant mortality rates among the highest and our life expectancy one of the lowest in the industrialized world?

Friday, May 16, 2008

First OCHS Chess Tourney Was a Winner All Around


We had our chess tournament on Thursday with eight students taking part. The students enjoyed themselves so much that they asked if we could do it again before school lets out. (Sadly, we can't.) They also asked about keeping the chess club going over the summer. I'll have to look into that one.

I Relate to this Teacher

Grand Avenue by Steve Breen

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tulsa Hosts US Chess Championship



Tulsa is hosting the 2008 U.S. Chess Championship. It began Tuesday and will run through May 21st. Twenty-four players were invited to participate in the tournament.

Ironically, today the Bison Chess Club is holding its first intra-school chess tournament. The quality of play will be far different, but we will have a similar level of enthusiasm for the game.

Another note about chess in our school. This morning I was at my duty station reading a book on chess. A man who is acting as a substitute in our building came up to me and told me that when he has "free time" for the classes he subs in, several students pull out chess sets they have in their book bags and start playing chess games with each other. A colleague bought about 20 chess sets from The Dollar Store and donated them to the club. I've been giving them out to our students who don't have a chess set of their own. Obviously, this has had a positive affect in our school

Took Me a While to Catch This Pun

Frank and Ernest by Thaves

Do you know what word is being "punned" here?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Return of the "Dixiecrats"?


Mississippi Democrat Travis Childers won a special election in a seat formerly held by a Republican. His victory is the second in a row by a southern Democrat. Previously, a Democrat won a seat held by a Republican in Louisiana. It was also the third special election in a row won by a Democrat in a district that was formerly Republican.

Today's Southern Republicans are the lineial descendents of the old "Dixiecrats" who first began leaving the Democratic Party when we adopted a civil rights plank in our platform during the 1948 convention. The trickle became a flood after Lyndon Johnson worked for and help produce the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. At the time, Johnson prophetically said, "We [Democrats] have lost the South for a generation."

While it is far too early to pronounce a trend, it's interesting to note that the two Democrats who won their election are both socially conservative, white, males, once considered an "endangered species" in the American political world. In Oklahoma, we have such an elected official in Rep. Dan Boren who, interestingly enough, represents the part of Oklahoma known as "Little Dixie."

Today, these socially conservative and economically moderate Democrats are known as the "Blue Dog Democrats." In a closely divided Congress, they wield power in greater proportion to their numbers.

In the past, the Dixiecrats blocked a great deal of good legislation like national health care and workers' rights. How will these Democrats respond to the needs we have for economic justice in our nation?

Miss. Democrat wins GOP-held House seat
Why GOP’s Mississippi House loss resonates

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pearls Before Swine

by Stephan Pastis

This is another of my favorite cartoons. Pastis is a fellow Punster.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rep. Tom Cole Wants to Feed Our Addiction


Recently, Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole released a column decrying the skyrocketing prices of methamphetamines, which he blamed on excessive left wing government regulation. He called for the government to remove regulations from the meth industry so that the commodity would become more available to average Americans.

Well, that's not exactly what he said. He was talking about oil, but his take on the problem of high energy costs and its solution made about as much sense as it would have if he were talking about meth.


If you want to see the rest of my response to Cole, go to: Response to Tom Cole on our Energy Policy

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Highlights from Rev. Meyers Sermon

God giving Adam the divine spark. Detail from Micahangelo's painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Sermon Date: May 11, 2008

Title of Sermon: Original Blessing

Scripture: Psalm 8
Relevant Passage: 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? 5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

(Note: Robin calls this his "Signature Sermon" meaning that he believes this sermon covers a topic he considers central to his ministry. The ideas in this sermon will be further explored in a book he will soon publish entitled: Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshipping Christ and Start Following Jesus.)

Sermon Highlights:

The doctrine of Original Sin, that humans are born sinful and sin because its in our nature to do so, has been a disaster for humanity, but great for the church. The church can claim that humanity has a problem and that it has the only solution. This gives the church a franchise on salvation.

The doctrine of Original Sin is not to be found in either the Hebrew scriptures or the Gospels. We largely get the idea from Augustine who wished to take away any idea of Free Will.

What if the idea of Original Sin is not true? What if there is no final judgment? No hell? What if faith is not a matter of believing certain ideas we know probably are not true in order to enjoy a reward we think is probably not real? What if faith is a matter of deep trust in a way of life rather than belief in doctrines?

Jesus wanted followers, not fans.

We must be mindful of our blessing of being born in the image of God, our Orginal Blessing, and the responsbility placed on us because of that blessing.

Original Sin promotes the idea that we all fail. When one projects failure, one determines failure. The person who does not love herself wisely and well will make a casualty of his neighbor.

We use humaness to explain failure. "To ere is human, to forgive, divine."--Alexander Pope. But is not our successes also due to our humanity? If we failed due to our humanity, who were we when we succeeded?

God made you and me, and when God did this, God created a masterpiece.

Each of us is a piece of God. The wonderful Latin phrase for this is the imago Dei. We should live up to our inheritance, not down to our sickness.

Prayer of Confession: Lord of Life, we too often forget that each one of us is a child of God. We may be imperfect, but we participate in the Divine Perfection. We have made mistakes, but we are not a Mistake. Help us to remember that we are born, not to Original Sin, but as a part of the Original Blessing. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, our Teacher and Lord we pray, Amen.
Mayflower Congregational Church Web Site

Saturday, May 10, 2008

OCHS Honor Societies Help to "Stamp Out Hunger"


Today, members of the Oklahoma Centennial National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society participated in what I hope will become a regular service project by helping sort food collected by the Oklahoma City Letter Carriers for their annual "Help Stamp Out Hunger" food drive. They unloaded and sorted over 20 mail delivery trucks full of food items. These food items will be taken to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to be distributed to the many charitable agencies in Oklahoma involved in the fight against hunger.

One of the four tenants of the National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society is "Service," and the five young ladies who participated in this event. Demika Martin, Audrianna Morgan, LaTreha Jackson, Brittany Horton and Brandy Horton, acted in the best tradition of the Honor Societies. Thank you ladies, you make me very proud to be your faculty sponsor.







Friday, May 09, 2008

Let the Countdown Begin!


A fellow educator once told me that teachers often end up wishing their lives away. We wish for the weekend to come. We wish for the next holiday to come. We wish for the winter break to come, then the spring break, then summer. Finally we wish for retirement.

I try not to do that, especially wishing for summer at the end of the year because I do not want to ever stop being a teacher. But when we get to the last two or three weeks of school, it is hard not to be conscious of the fact that soon the much needed long break is going to finally arrive.

Too many teachers go into a kind of holding pattern during the last two weeks. When you teach high school, especially seniors, it's hard not too because seniors have so many distractions and interruptions happening.

I'm going to try to teach a component on research during this time. I want them to have some experience with things like documentation and using sources before they leave my classroom. I especially want this for those going off to college.

I plan to give them most of the material they will need to write the essay. The essay will be on Immigration since this is such a hot topic in Oklahoma and in the United States. I will see what I can get done with them. At least, they won't be sitting around waiting for it to all be over. Doing nothing is the worst thing a teacher can ever do.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I have my schedule for next year now


All of the high school teachers got our schedule for next year. Of course, this is never final till the beginning of the year, and sometimes, not even then.

I have to admit that I have a good schedule. I am responsible for the English 11 and English 12 classes. I was disappointed. Actually, I was quite upset that we will not be offering Advanced Placement English classes next year. The district does not see the value of AP classes because no enough of our students who take the AP exams pass the tests. (Last year, I did not have any student pass the exam. This was the first time that had happened.)

I find it interesting that our football team was 0-10 last year and 1-9 this year. However, no one has suggested that we eliminate football at our school even though it costs far more than offering Advanced Placement classes.

Ms. Thompson says that she has not given up on offering Advanced Placement. I understand where she is coming from. Our students have great needs, and simply adding AP courses will not meet those needs. I am willing to go along for now and grow the program we will be offering, but I do not want Oklahoma Centennial High School to become a virtual alternative high school for the school district. If we do not offer AP classes, then how will we ever attract the brighter students to our school?

I plan to attend the AP Conference in Tulsa this summer with my wife. I hope I can find some answers from the Advanced Placement people running the conference to our schools situation.

Two Good Cartoons

Candorville
Most people forget that while Dr. Martin Luther King was alive, he was very controversial.
Frank and Earnest
Another cool pun from Thaves.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Had Our First Big Tornado Warning Today


It was shake, rattle, and roll in The Village today. The warning sirens were going for a couple of hours as a big line of thunderstorms packing 70 plus MPH winds came through our neighborhood. There was no damage at our house as far as we can tell, but other places, it seems, weren't so lucky. In Bethany, several buildings were damaged by straight line winds. A funnel seems to appeared over on 39th and Rockwell and damaged some businesses and some of the athletic facilities belonging to my alma mater Southern Nazarene University.
Damage reported throughout Oklahoma County
Funnel brings moments of terror to Bethany

Monday, May 05, 2008

OKC School Board Votes for a Seven Period Day


This evening the Oklahoma City Public School District's Board of Education approved a proposal by the administration for middle schools and high schools to operate on a 7 period a day schedule. Two schools, Classen School for Advanced Studies and Northeast Academy, have been exempted from this change.

This will mean that we will see our students every day during the term rather than on alternating days as in the present schedule. Teachers will have 5 classes each day, a "planning period", and a "collaborative period" reserved for meetings, professional development and tutoring.

I have been advocating a daily schedule for some time. The present block scheduling doesn't work for our students. However, I am a bit leary as to what the district has in mind for the collaborative period. My fear is that the district will want to require us to use it to remediate failing students, especially those taking the core subjects of Language Arts, Math, Social Studies and Science. Since every teacher has a "hard core" group of students who perform poorly in class, usually because they won't do their work, this "tutoring" could turn into a 6th class for us to teach.

The district says it is willing to work with the our union, the American Federation of Teachers, to resolve potential problems, but I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts. And this may turn out to be another Trojan Horse.

NALC Food Drive this Saturday, May 10th

National Association of Letter Carriers Food Drive

On May 10th, the National Association of Letter Carriers will hold their annual Food Drive. Please put a sack of non-perishable food items by your mail box for your local Letter Carrier to take to the collection points in your community.

In Oklahoma, all food donations will go to the Central Oklahoma Regional Food Bank to work against hunger in our community.

Food Drive