Friday, October 8, 2010

The best defense against an anonymous detractor? ....blogging

This post is a direct follow up to my last post.  This here free bloggity thingy also lets my facebook friends know when I create a new blog post.  I am fortunate enough that some of my past students wrote some unbelievable things about me.  Most days I try to do my best and most days I'm pretty happy if I can go to bed and say to myself, "Ha, I fooled them again and no one found out I don't really know what the hell I am doing."  Apparently, by hook or by crook I'm not a total failure.  I re-post these comments from facebook not to brag, but in direct defense of my teaching practices which were called into question and prompted my preceding post.  All of these have come from past students. All of them were unsolicited and I did get permission from each before posting.

Aside from trying to prove a point to some naysayers within the community, I really honestly give each of these folks a heartfelt thank you.  I never really had a teacher in high school I ever thought enough of to say things like this about.  I should be humbled every day already by the idea that parents are trusting me with their children and... these comments...well they serve as a reminder that I should never take my job for granted.

Amber Lynn Spehar 
and when/if that person does try to contact you, please give them my name. So I can explain to them why your former students would and do want to remain friends with you after gratuation. So that one of your former students can talk about the first time they sat in your class room and actually had her mind opened up to a thought process she could have never conceived of before having an open and honest discussion with you. You say that you hope you can reach your students and touch their lives, well YES SIR, YES SIR YOU HAVE. I'm sure that there are many other students that would agree with me, I'm sure they have had a different experience with you that had a very similar outcome. You Sir, are a rare and dying breed of Teachers. *starting applause*


Adam Damaschke 
A large part of the reason I continued with the early versions of my novel was because you made us write entries in our journals every week in preparation for our Senior paper. It made me write, it gave me a deadline, and your comments, and teachings, helped me develop my story and intimacy with my characters. I don't think even I know exactly how big a part you were in me finishing my first novel and will be as I continue to work on my trilogy and whatever else in the future.

And to whoever complained, get a life. Please. Your children are in capable hands.


Kaitlyn Kirby 
Loved the blog, dale. First of all, being able to free-write at any given moment has been a key part of my success at the university level. If I ever had to force my self to sit down and write while hastily pulling things out of my head, I wouldn't have received the scholarships, achievements, or grades that I have thus far. Writing is a critical skill that I don't feel many other teachers have emphasized. So, bravo for seeing the bigger picture and motivating students to attain that finesse. That shows you aren't just pushing students through the system. Second of all, touching on the level of respect, your students,former and current, do hold you in the highest regards. Not many other teachers are willing to give that level of respect to students and allow them the privilege of being treated like adults. I think that plays a large role in the transition of child to adult. I know I personally responded better to that method than other teachers who expected me to never make mistakes. I think the fact that students still like to keep in contact with you speaks VOLUMES of your character. The student-teacher relationships that continue past graduation is what makes Carney so different from other public schools.


Jon Damaschke But in all seriousness, your classes were great. One of my favorite things about them were the journals you assigned us to write in. (I don't remember if it was one class or more than one.) There is nothing better for an antisocial kid, especially in the weird-est time in his life. The opportunity of opening up without the fear of judgement and/or embarrassment made my life a little easier.

Now the only thing left for me to do is say the secret word and watch as my secretly brainwashed Carney grads all rise up in legion to burn and pillage in my name and fetch for me all the neighborhood cats.  *sinisterly rubbing hands together*


Ok...where do I start?

Here’s the deal. One of the first things you learn as a teacher of readin’ and writin’ is to be a good model. Hence when it’s readin’ time...if the story isn’t going to be read aloud in class, a good thing for a teacher to do is read. When it’s writin’ time, a good thing for a teacher to do is write.

Everyone with me on that one?


Let’s move on.

Every fifth hour M, T, R, F...the first fifteen minutes of seminar are meant for sustained, silent, writing. That means the kids don’t talk. They write. For fifteen minutes. They write about something, they write about nothing...but they write. What they write is their business. This is their one opportunity to write without the almighty red pen swooping down on their stuff and criticizing what they write. They can write in slang, morse code, Swahili or Pig Latin and their content is just that...THEIR content.

The whole idea is that, eventually, maybe some of them will get the idea, “Y’know...that writing stuff isn’t so bad.” Plus, the more you write...the better you tend to get at it. Once a week my students and I get together and share some of the stuff we wrote by reading it aloud. Of course the kids are told, that if they happened to write some thoughts down that are not school appropriate, then be sure to keep that log entry to themselves and do not pick that one to read aloud.

So, I do what a good teacher is supposed to do and model what I want the kids to do at the same time I ask the kids to do it. Even though I often want to check papers, clean my desk, get something ready for later...I put all that aside for 15 minutes and I write....just like I ask my kids to do.

Long ago I quit trying to write with a pencil. My pencil just doesn’t move fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. I compose on a keyboard these days. This year instead of composing on a word document, I have been composing on this here lovely free blog site. The idea being when I don’t write, I tend to stagnate creatively and what better motivation/learning experience to keep writing then to put my writing out there for the public to approve or disprove of. When I am done writing, I click post. Then a little pop-up window asks me if I want to let my facebook friends know I just created a blog post and I click “approve” then I go back to my work life as normal.

Well since my writings tend to be time stamped when they go online, apparently some community members felt the need to complain that some of the things I wrote appeared during school time and that some of it is school inappropriate. I did not post the items to a school related site. I did not tell the kids where they could find my school inappropriate stuff. In admittance of guilt, I have to say I did indeed have those thoughts I wrote about and I had them on school time. Damn me all to hell.

Here’s some facts for whoever is concerned:

1) I do not read the school inappropriate posts aloud in school with my students. Just like many of their thoughts get to stay private in their writing logs, I get to choose which audience gets to see my more PG 13 posts. A school setting is not the appropriate time and place to share those with students.

2) I am a grown ass man. I cuss. I drink. Neither do I make a habit of engaging in while I am at work. Did you think that part of becoming a teacher is that someone took a hot poker and burned out the parts of my brain that had school inappropriate thoughts? For the record, most upper high school students curse more than I do. That’s a fact.

3) I do not friend students on facebook nor on any other social networking site until after they have graduated for many reasons. Society considers them adults at that time and so I feel free to friend them from graduation on and even then, I only do it when they request it. Believe it or not, not all my ex-students want to be my friend on facebook. Go figure.

4) Once I post my thoughts on the internet, if you don’t want your kids to see the content...then it’s up to you to keep them from trying to find my content. By the way, if you think that my blog is the worst place your kid has ever found on the internet, then it is time for you to take a reality check. I am not spouting racist slurs, nor advocating suicide solutions. Last I checked, I am allowed to be funny and provocative on the internet and still be a teacher.

I am aware that some folks might be more comfortable with the idea that I come into school and present for their children the idea that I am a perfect human being. That I do no wrong inside school, nor outside school. That every time a student fucks up, I talk to them from my arrogant place on high and pretend that I have never lied, never messed up, and never made an ass of myself.

Yeah, that doesn’t work for me. I am imperfect and I don’t ever pretend to be anything other than who I am. Of course I take care to be professional at work, but I don’t ever try to put myself on a pedestal higher than the student. Make no doubt, I am in charge and I get the final say, but I think one of the reasons I have so few discipline problems with my students is because I do what I say and I don’t pretend to be who I am not. As some of the kids might say, I try to “be real.”

As a student there was nothing I hated more than a teacher who tried to be holier-than-thou M-F from 8:30-3:30...then I would see him trashed out of his mind night after night and cheating on his wife. From that point on, I didn’t believe a thing that teacher ever told me.

So basically, I tell kids outright that I behave differently in different environments as do we all, but I am still pretty much me. I don’t tell deer camp jokes at funerals and I don’t always say excuse me when I fart in my easy chair when I’m alone in my living room, but I’m still the same guy. I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not, because it’s pretty easy to figure out when someone is full of shit in that department, and once kids figure out you are full of shit...good luck getting them to ever listen to you again.

So I guess, what I am saying is I try to be a good example to kids in and out of school because I like kids and my desire for my pupil-kids is the same as my desire for my biological daughter. If I have an impact on your life, I want it to be a positive one and heaven help me...I want you to have a better life than I have had.

Pretty simple stuff.

I also realize that some folks believe that 8:19-3:25 should always be solely devoted to teaching duties. I agree for the most part, but let it be known that I spend no less than half of my “duty free” lunch periods every week taking care of things for my kids at school. My average time of arrival at school is 7:30 a.m. in the first semester and 7:00 in the second semester. So if folks really want to split hairs about how I spend my time, I guess we can do that.

Maybe from now on I can get to school at 8:15 every morning and leave at 3:35 which is allowable according to my contract. Then I can lock my door at noon hour and ignore everything happening in the building until my “duty hours” begin again.

But I won’t do that. Why? Because I like kids. It means I’m going to show up tomorrow (Saturday) morning to help with the cross country meet. It means I’m going to teach students to the best of my ability even if it means reading “classic” literature over again during summer months. It means if a student wants to make up his test during noon hour or after school, or just wants to chat with me that’s okay, too. It means I will spend fourteen hours here in a single day during the track fundraiser. It means I will go to continuing education classes/meetings/seminars/conferences every year. I will be here for anything Paul asks me to be here for. I will be here for Halloween carnivals, blood drives, and tailgates. I will be behind the counter at basketball games keeping clock and all of it on my own time.

So, to conclude an entry that is far too long and far too boring for most of the regular visitors to my blog, whoever complained to my boss should have come to talk to me first. My email and contact number are on the school website and I do know it's the taxpayers who butter my bread. If you would have spoken to me first, I could have straightened everything out and explained exactly what my philosophies are about and how I do things. We more than likely could have resolved everything amicably. We may have agreed to disagree or we may have become friends. We'll never know, now. Instead, whoever it was decided just to complain to my boss without knowing his or her butt from a hole in the ground on the matter.

Hey, thanks for making my day a little bit shittier. Have a good weekend.

P.S. I am currently at home after using some comp hours while an installer works on my house. I hope it's okay with you that I am posting this on my blog during school hours even though I am at home. I have an idea for you. Try to look for something good our staff does instead of trying to nitpick. It's a lot easier to catch them doing good things if you are willing to look for it. On the other hand...hey..thanks for reading and keeping up to date on my blog!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Forests and Trees

Every so often I have to remind myself of what is and isn't important in my life.  I did some whining last week about running around like a madman trying to make my house look like something humans lived in before my in-laws arrived.  I was partially successful except I never did get that fresh sawdust put down in my sleeping pen.   A friend of mine sent me a snippet of poem which I have been unable to find in its full version.  In brief, it said, your kids are only young once so quit worrying about cleaning so much and spend time with them because soon they will move out, but the dust will always be there.

It was a nice reminder that I sometimes keep losing sight of what is important in life. Sometimes I get so focused on the jobs at hand, that I get nearsighted and forget to enjoy my time with my family.  I get so upset and guilty over all the little things I am not accomplishing that I forget to appreciate when  I do have a moment on the couch with my wife and daughter.  Or better yet, how about I quit worrying about some of those minor jobs and make more time for my family?   How about I quit worrying about the dust bunnies...actually they have been there long enough that they have probably mutated into some sort of monstrous fanged dustensteins by now...doh!  See there I go again...punishing myself...stop it.  Bad, wedge.  Bad.

So, I am going to try my best for the rest of this day to stop seeing only the obstacles and try instead to see the path around them...right after I change the sheets on Alanis', I won't change them at all and instead read a book with her...after she does her homework...which won't be until after cheer practice...then she has to take a shower tonight...and we have to pack our lunches for school tomorrow...and that puts us at about 8:45 p.m....

*sigh*  This is going to be even harder than I thought.

Monday, October 4, 2010

DirecTV vs Dishmyass

Pulled the trigger today.  It is October 4th and Fox and Dish Network haven't settled their accounts yet.  Seeing as how the Red Wing games are 95% of the reason I even am willing to pay $78 a month for television programming...egads...I get sick to my stomach a little when my brain starts multiplying $78 X 12 months.  I guess I don't have much choice.  I don't go to bars very often nor have much of a social life and if paying a monthly fee so I can watch hockey for six months a year is a sin, then I hope they serve beer in hell because I'm coming in and I'm thirsty.  Now Dish Network has lost their contract with Fox which is the mega corporation that broadcasts my hockey games and I had already told Dish I would be leaving them if I missed a single episode of Sons of Anarchy or a single hockey game.  Well looks like I will miss Sons of Anarchy tomorrow night and Terriers on Wednesday night, but I am hoping that I will have DirecTV up and running in time for the Wings first game on October 8.

I was a Dish Network guy for about 12 years or so, but for the last 3 years, every time they have to re-negotiate with one of their major providers they take the negotiations public and try to get me to call Fox or Cinemax or whoever and yell at them.  I kinda think my $78 a month should be enough where Dish should do the yelling for me.  DirecTV will add about $3 a month to my bill *shudder* but from what I hear, DirecTV is just plain better.  Time will tell.  Again, if I could even get hockey reliably on radio I wouldn't have much reason to pay for television at all and when I think about how many hookers I could buy in a year if I saved $80 a month...*mmmmm*.....oh wait, sorry...drifted off there for a bit.

So, after being financially fisted for over a decade by Dish Network, I have decided to switch fists. Lets hope that DirecTV doesn't wear a lot of jewelry.