About Me

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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, February 06, 2014

The Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted WilliamsThe Kid: The Immortal Life of Ted Williams by Ben Bradlee Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is very well researched and attempts to balance the often contradictory sides of Ted Williams' personality. What is not in dispute is that Ted was the greatest pure hitter and greatest student of the art of hitting in baseball, something that is acknowledged as one of the most, not the most, difficult skills in sports.

Ted was also profane, abusive, and a total wreck as a husband and, until the very last years of his life, as a father. Even then he enabled a rather worthless son who exploited and tarnished Ted's legacy.

Williams was also a kind benefactor to many, particularly sick children through his support of the "Jimmy Fund" for sick kids, and out of his own time and money for which he demanded that no publicity be given.

Ben Bradlee's massive 850 page tome on Williams is very detailed, almost of the point of tedium, but still full of information and insight that make it indispensable in understanding Williams and obsessive sports psychology.

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Saturday, January 04, 2014

The "Make or Break" Term

Monday, January 6, we begin the Spring Term 2014 at Oklahoma Centennial Middle/High School.  This will be a crucial, really a "make or break" year for our school.  This term is the last in our School Improvement Grant, the money given to us to "turn around" the school from its "failing" ways.  So far, the results have not been all that positive, though there are some positive signs.

On the state department of educations "A-F" report card, we rose from a "D" grade to "D+". The feeling is that we will have to show much more improvement for the school to remain as it presently exists.  If this does not happen, we all face the possibility that we will need to apply for new jobs next year. I am not going to borrow trouble. I have enough to deal with right in front of me.

The district chose to send our principal, Charmaine Johnson to another school. Ms. Johnson did wonderful work during her two and a half year tenure. She helped me improve my teaching methods and taught us the importance of relationships in working with our students, among other improvements.  But it was judged that a change was needed, perhaps more than anything else to impress on us the seriousness of our situation.

There are many things beyond any teacher's control.  Those things I can't worry about. There is a need in front of me.  The young lives in my classroom need to know how to read, write, speak, and think well to succeed. Our goal as a school is to increase STUDENT achievement. All things that do not lead to this are distractions.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A Visit to Ingalls

Hotel that was the site of the Battles of Ingalls
Yesterday, we decided to take a little car trip. Cat and I have always loved to take small trips to parts of Oklahoma we have yet to see. Skylar, our granddaughter has come to enjoy this also.  She wanted to go to see Stillwater and Oklahoma State University. I remembered that not far from Stillwater was the community of Ingalls, Oklahoma where a big Old West gun battle took place called "The Battle of Ingalls".

Other building from the Old West in Ingalls, OK
I was very pleasantly surprised to see so many of the original structures still in place. I wonder why more has not been made of this incident which was far larger than the much more famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral"?
Oklahoma Historical Marker detailing the battle.
Another building of interest to us was the old school building in the town. This was in much better condition than the rest of the building making me think that it is still in use for one purpose or another.
Ingalls School
Skylar found a friend while we were there.
Skylar and friend

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

On the Cusp of 2014

In a few minutes it will be 2014. Of course, a teacher's "year" bridges the old year and the new. At the end of my 2012-2013 year, I was a miserable teacher. I did not feel as though I had the respect of my principal, nor did I feel that I had done well as a teacher. I had struggled with my classes, particularly the seniors that year who seemed more interested in fighting one another than they were in learning. That began to change when the students, the juniors at the time began to report on their End-of-Instruction (EOI) test scores, which seemed to be much better than in past years.

 When I finally got the results, it turned out that over 80% of them has passed their EOIs. When the non-full time students were factored out, it turned out that 80% of the full-time students had passed, the highest scores in the school's history.

While I did not feel that I was the sole factor in this result, I did feel a great deal better about myself as a teacher, and it seemed to make all the difference to my morale and approach to teaching at Centennial. I felt that if there were one thing that made a difference, it was the fact that I had begun to develop relationships with the students that has deepened over the months. I have tried to help students celebrate their time in the school by cheering their victories and commensurating their losses.

 I also had much help from many of the consultants who came to aid our schools. The best advice they gave me was to go with my instincts to perform for the students. I have always felt that teachers are to some degree actors, and that I needed to "sell" what I the knowledge I wanted them to master. That freed me up to become a knowledge salesman, and that helped to get them involved in their learning.

 As I face this new year, I will continue to do what I have done. We have some changes coming on in our school. We will have a new principal starting on Friday. The students are expected to show improvement over last year.

Who knows what the state or district will do with our school. We will just have to carry on and remember that the only ones who really matter in all this are our students, our future.

Happy New Year!