Wednesday, February 27, 2008

At Least It's Springtime in Lakeland!

The Tigers' first spring training game against the Mets is today in Lakeland, Florida, and I'm listening on XM Radio. To hear the sweet sounds of baseball again makes me feel warm despite the frigid temperatures and lake effect snow outside. At least it's springtime in Lakeland!

Friday, February 22, 2008

How Would Jesus Drive?

In the past three months, I have been nearly run off the road twice, nearly hit three times, and have been treated rudely, flipped off, and today, honked at for not accelerating fast enough in a lane that was about to end...all by people whose license plates look like the one at right.

I told my wife about my experiences when they began before Christmas and what the license plates all looked like, and she thought I was just blaming this group of people because I am an atheist.

Then she started seeing it, too.

I know it's not all Christians doing this. Some of my best friends are Christians, you know. It's the people with the license plates. I think they must be trusting that God is going to spare them from their bad driving. I wish they'd spare me from it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

My Little Tiger

Eight months ago, I got Sera a little Tigers outfit to wear to her first game, and she was just the cutest little girl ever. At her first game, everyone who saw her said, "Aaaaaaawwww." We got her the cheerleader outfit because her hair was so short she got confused for being a boy when I put her in ordinary baseball wear.

We have to go to Kalamazoo, Michigan just to get her a Tigers outfit. Around here you get a choice of White Sox or Cubs. So we make a point of going to Michigan each year to re-stock my supply of Tigers stuff. I even go to office stores to get calendars and mousepads.

We took Sera back to Kalamazoo today to update her wardrobe. I felt like I was home again, as I was not the only one wearing a Tigers cap for a change. Kalamazoo is full of Tigers fans.
Sera's wearing 18-month clothing now, and look what a fan I have at home:

Sera is always taking my Tigers cap off and putting it on. Now she has one of her own!
And don't let her 22 months of age fool you. I turned on ESPN Classic today to a game played between the 1993 Astros and Mets and the first thing out of her mouth was "Beesball!" She knows when they're talking about it on XM radio in the car, too, even before they say the name of the game. The brainwashing has begun!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Spring Training

At last!

Pitchers and catchers reported for spring training yesterday, and I can't wait for baseball to begin! I even shaved off most of my winter beard. With a week from hell behind me, I have something to look forward to.

Monday all the 8th grade math teachers in my building had an all-day inservice. Tuesday, all Elkhart teachers had an all-day inservice. We actually had school on Wednesday and Thursday, only to be followed by a four-day weekend. Guess what, when school's back in on Tuesday data coordinators have a half-day inservice so I will miss three of my five classes. I'm sure my students' learning is going to improve from this schedule somehow, but I'll be darned if I can figure out how.

I was listening to XM radio yesterday to try to get the lowdown on the beginning of spring training, but all I hear is talk, talk, talk about Roger Clemens. Good grief, Senator Mitchell suggested in his report that we proceed from here: "Knowledge and understanding of the past are essential if the problem is to be dealt with effectively in the future. But being chained to the past is not helpful. Baseball does not need and cannot afford to engage in a never-ending search for the name of every player who ever used performance enhancing substances." Isn't that good enough? Let's develop tests to eliminate this crap from the game, not target and smear every player named in the report. Nothing good will come of that.

I finally found some good coverage of the Tigers in spring training from the Detroit News. I would give a lot to be in Lakeland, Florida this weekend. The Tigers made key trades this winter, and on paper the team looks to do well, but they have to play the games. I'm ready to see them! We'll be headed up to Kalamazoo, Michigan this weekend to see if we can find some Tigers wear for Sera for this spring. I can hardly wait!

Monday, February 11, 2008


I lost a student a week ago Friday night.

Most times, when a student moves away I get an email stating that the student is withdrawn and that their books are in my mailbox in the office. When they are expelled, the same thing happens. But last Saturday, my principal called me at home to tell me that one of my students had died. She had neck pain, followed by a headache, and she was taken to the hospital where she passed away of an inner brain bleed. She was 14 years old. I was okay at first, but when I thought of how her parents must be suffering, the same way I would suffer if something like this happened to Sera, I broke down.

When I went back to school on Monday, there were counselors on hand to help with grieving students. They weren't enough. I didn't last very long in my first period before tears welled up in my eyes. The young lady's death was on everyone's mind and I couldn't even talk about it. This sentiment was shared and noticed by my students, or at least most of them. One of my students, who must be a sociopath or something, didn't understand why we were upset just because someone close to us had died. I know that anger is one of the stages of grief, and I sure felt it just then. I didn't have to say a word to him, though. The girl's friends who were in the class just about made him shrivel away with their stares.

When second period came around, the period I had her in class, I thought the class would never end. One hour felt like ten. No one could even look at the empty seat in the room where she had sat. Almost everyone was in tears. I heard kids bargaining, saying that they would gladly give their life for hers. It was heartbreaking. Several kids had to go down to the counselors because they just couldn't bear the pain of loss. I understood how they felt. I tried to busy myself with work, but it all came back when I had to mark her absent on my computer at the end of the period. One would have thought that she would be removed from the roster before her teachers had to do that, but apparently that was too much to hope for.

This girl was wonderful, one of those kids who never misses a day of school, always has the homework done, and never makes any trouble. To be honest, though, none of that matters. No one should die at 14.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

You Know You Have Baseball Fever...

...when you hear that Minnesota Twins 3B Michael Cuddyer and his wife are expecting a child on June 23 and you check your favorite team's schedule to see if he'll be missing a game against them.

Friday, February 01, 2008


I used to be a good teacher.

I work hard, don't get me wrong. I have done everything I am supposed to do and more. I give individual help when needed, I create programs to give after school help, I even give out my home phone number just in case students don't have anyone at home to help them. It's just that I don't get through to students anymore. I can't convince them any longer that education is the key to success and can make a difference in their lives, no matter how disadvantaged they think they are.

I have always tried to use myself as an example of what you can do with your life, no matter what your background is. I grew up poor, an abused child, and I still managed to graduate from high school with honors, get into college, finance a four-year education, and become a professional.

My story used to work. It used to inspire. Now, for some reason, many students accuse me of bragging. They do not believe that success can come to them. They think that I am somehow waving my success in front of their faces to show them what they can't have. The crazy thing is that these kids, generally poor, have every advantage when it comes to getting grants and scholarships. There is no reason they can't go to college and accomplish what I have except that they choose not to take an active role in their own education. It literally drives me crazy to watch them throw away their lives at age 14.

I'd like to blame rap music. I'd like to blame any scapegoat that sends the message that performing well in school is bad. Heck, I'd take the blame myself if I hadn't been busting my rear end for the past 20 years. Public education is under attack from all sides. No Child Left Behind is a thinly-veiled assault. The administration created mandates supposedly to enforce accountability for teachers, but underfunded it to the tune of $56 billion. That basically means that we can't even do what we were doing before because we have to take money away from the insufficient existing programs to increase spending on testing. That's the testing that shows that what we are doing is insufficient and needs to be changed. When you think about it, the basic assumption of the law already says this, doesn't it? So, on one hand the administration has created budget shortfalls in public education with one hand, and doles out money to support private school vouchers with the other. If they think private schools are the answer, more power to them. I'd like to see what these private schools would do with the student in this story from yesterday:

Every teacher, at some point, says that kids behave worse than they used to. My turn came yesterday when I politely asked a student to be quiet and he called me a "cocksucker." I told him quietly to go to the office and wrote him a disciplinary referral and went about my teaching, but it bothered me all day. I don't know about you, but when I was a kid, no student would have dared to do something like that at age 14. I can't even imagine what would have happened. I guarantee it would have been more severe than what's going to happen to this young man. This incident is symptomatic of the complete breakdown in discipline. Why is this happening? Because not only are test scores being tracked, but the number of suspensions is being scrutinized like never before. I wonder if this will still happen when the schools are privatized. I'm willing to bet that no private school teacher will have to suffer an insult like that more than once. I wish those teachers well, whoever they turn out to be.