Sunday, September 30, 2007
I woke up Friday morning a little under the weather and suffered through a day of sneezing and coughing. As a result I did not feel like going to the fair as planned. Too bad…I was looking forward to it and really wanted to see
Perhaps my favorite
Look in the mirror and tell me
Just what you see
What have the years of your life
Taught you to be
Innocence dyin' in so many ways
Things that you dream of are lost
Lost in the haze
Hold on, Baby Hold on
'Cause it's closer than you think
And you're standing on the brink
Hold on, Baby Hold on
'Cause there's something on the way
Your tomorrow's not the same as today
If I’ve done anything the past three years it is to look in the mirror. I’ve not always liked what I’ve seen looking back. Was I really being the man the years of my life have taught me to be? I wanted to believe that I was, but I knew better. I was not raised to feel sorry for myself or to wallow in self-pity. Still, “innocence dyin in so many ways” is difficult to come to grips with, no matter what your age or experience.
What do I see when I look in the mirror now? I am sometimes uncomfortable writing about this for a couple of reasons. I don’t want to seem triumphant. I don’t want to give the impression that I’ve got it all figured out. Lord knows I don’t. But when I awaken each morning and drag the electric razor across my sleepy face I am not repulsed by what stares back at me in the mirror. I am a professional man, one that has been recognized and twice promoted in the past couple of years. I am a father, one that still makes mistakes but who adores his children. I am a lover and a partner to a wonderful woman who I plan to build a life with. I am a man with purpose once again. I really was standing on the brink, not seeing what was on the way. I no longer cry when no one is looking, no longer spend my time dissecting every moment of my previous life to agonize over my mistakes. I really believe that the best days lie ahead and I can’t tell you what a wonderful feeling that washes over me each day.
My tomorrow is not the same as my today, and it is most definitely not the same as my yesterday. All I had to do was to hold on and to believe.
Now if I can just get rid of this sinus/allergy thing......
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I was chatting with a police officer the other day, and she mentioned that the police department would soon send officers to training to learn to deal with a terrorist attack on a school. Most police training now is focused on a crazed shooter (student or non-student) who just walks around blasting away at random. What if there was a meticulously planned, methodical, terrorist takeover of a large school? Impossible? The lesson of Beslan is very instructive. Over 300 hostages were killed, a possibility that strikes fear into everyone’s heart.
Such an attack would create havoc. Imagine all the parents rushing to the school, a natural reaction that could prove to be very dangerous. What would the government do in such a situation? The long-time official policy is not to negotiate with terrorist groups. Would the government stick to that policy if they started tossing children’s bodies out of the windows? The public would demand that extraordinary measures be taken to get the children out of there alive. Such an attack could paralyze a nation. It is not a stretch of the imagination to see how an attack like this could be attractive from the terrorist point of view. Want to really strike fear in our hearts? Go after our kids. Schools are “soft targets”, not created or able to deal with an attack such as this.
Remember how people stopped flying for awhile after 9-11? In this situation, how many parents would be sending their children off to school the next week? The next month? The next year? The consequences would be devastating, short and long term. How would you recover from something like this?
It is something to think about.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
It is midweek and the world continues to turn.
It is that time of year. The state fair is town and of course my kids are raring to go. Ok, maybe I’m raring to go as well. In spite of the parking and the crowds, I enjoy the fair. I’ve always liked the thrill rides. I like whatever the food is on a stick. I enjoy looking at all the exhibits. I also like the idea of seeing Kansas Friday night, but I don’t know if I can persuade my family to go for it. I tried to warm Aubree up to the idea by singing “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry on Wayward Son” to her as I was driving her to school this morning. I’m not sure it worked.
I must be getting old, because I can remember when
Do you think that the fact that some of our gangs are becoming multi-racial is a sign of progress?
For the first time this year, but far from the first time in my career, I had someone tell me, “I’ll have your job”. There are a few days I probably would gladly give it to her! One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to never respond to provocations like that. I ignored the comment and just replied, “ma’am, I’m going to have to be going. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss with me in a civil way before I go?” There wasn’t.
Please stop by Susan’s blog and offer your prayers and best wishes to her niece, Kayla, who is recovering from a difficult surgery.
One of my teachers dropped her keys in the toilet today just as she was flushing and they disappeared down the drain! Our maintenance guy had to remove two toilets before he could finally retrieve them. Who knew that keys could be flushed down the toilet? Not me! She said, “Brian, we girls need some type of hook to hang our stuff on in the bathroom. We can’t carry everything in our pockets the way you guys do.” Hooks? I guess so!
Top Chef is down to the final four chefs. At this point I’m cheering for Casey, who not only is kinda cute (not as cute as Padma…but cute!), but has been consistently cooking very well the past few weeks.
So how is YOUR week going?
Sunday, September 23, 2007
The case of the “Jena 6” has brought national attention to a small
Like most of us, I can only rely on media reports, but this reads like a textbook case in poor leadership. I’m not just talking about school officials. Local law enforcement, parents, prosecutors, and community leaders should have seen where this was going and taken aggressive action to prevent violence. Why did the superintendent and district attorney regard the “noose incident” as a “harmless prank”? This showed a profound ignorance of history and the psychological impact of that symbol. Not only should the noose hangers have been appropriately disciplined, this should have signaled to the community that they had a problem. This was a time to work on bringing students and adults together, to build bridges between the various racial groups. It was also a time to send out a strong signal to students that any type of racial harassment or violence would not be tolerated by anyone. The district attorney didn’t help matters at all. I would’ve been furious had he come to my school, made a statement like that, and then left me to deal with aftermath. He made things worse, not better.
A high school is a community, one made up of various racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. My own school probably has more students in attendance each day than half the towns in this state. If not properly managed it can erupt into chaos. The difference is that this community is made up of young people, physically mature but often emotionally immature especially when it comes to dealing with conflict. They need adult guidance from the school staff, parents, and the community. They take their cues from us and I’ll bet that many of those students were receiving the wrong cues. Why wasn’t the school bringing parents together and discussing ways to reduce the tension? Why weren’t those parents having these same kinds of discussions with their own children? Why wasn’t the school combining a zero tolerance for harassment and violence with programs that taught students how to respect others of all races?
We all know that teenagers also rely heavily on their peers for guidance. A few years ago in a previous school we had racial tension between two groups, with several fights breaking out on campus and off. Not only did we act swiftly to discipline all students involved, but we brought in the leaders of these groups to talk to them. I referred to them as the “heavy hitters”, the kids that other students looked to for leadership. If you win them over you win a lot of others along with them. We spent hours with six headstrong young men, working through past issues that had festered into hostility and violence. We made them listen to the other side. We showed them news articles about young people being killed in gang related violence. We may not have solved every problem, but there was a dramatic and noticeable reduction in tension on that campus. We continued to meet with them regularly to resolve issues before they erupted. Is there any reason
With all that has happened in
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Geez….what a week!
Actually, its more like….what a day. It was a rough day at school. Lots of incidents. Lots of angry kids. Lots of upset parents. Emotions run amok. Media coverage that wasn’t exactly positive. Oh the joy!
I think its ok for me to admit that I don’t always understand some adolescent girls, the grudges that they can hold forever, the inability to let go of perceived wrongs even when they can’t remember what started it in the first place. You really want to get kicked out of school because you simply must keep fighting some girl that flirted with your boyfriend three years ago?
I got in a few fights as an adolescent and sometimes was playing basketball with my antagonist a few hours later.
On the complete opposite end of that coin, a young woman appeared at my door yesterday and politely asked if she could have some of my time. She maturely and articulately outlined some of the problems that she saw at school, some proposed solutions that she felt would benefit everyone, combined with a very strong statement of her own personal faith and ethics. I ignored phone calls and knocks on my door for thirty minutes while I took notes and chatted back and forth with her. Young people like her can give me a hope for the future.
Terri’s son has been visiting us this week. He graduated from high school last year, and Patrick idolizes him. In spite of a four year difference in age, they have some things in common and Patrick was in heaven this week dueling him in the back yard, playing card duels with him, and discussing the TV shows they both have an interest in.
Aubree has a good friend that stays here often and this friend’s mother can drive you crazy. She may call 5-6 times in a single evening just to check up on her, even quizzing her about the details of the meals she eats in our home. If she calls and the girls are riding bikes up and down the street and I can’t get her immediately to the phone the mother will drive over here in a panic. We’re taking a little hiatus from this friend visiting for awhile. Note to friend’s mom….if you are that worried about her staying here, don’t let her come!
Is there any story more bizarre than that of O.J. Simpson? The mind boggles.
If you are an Oklahoma blogger and have not had a chance to vote, please drop by here and cast your vote. It is a tough choice with so many outstanding bloggers. I am also hoping to attend the Blogger Roundup and hang out with some of my Okie blogger buddies.
So how is YOUR week going?
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
I regularly peruse Amazon’s Top 100 books list, always on the hunt for something new and interesting to read. I was amused to find books called “The Mystery Method” and “The Game” listed within the top 50. These books purport to reveal the secrets of the “pickup artist” (PUA) and how a guy who never has any luck with women, aka the “average frustrated chump” (AFC) can learn certain techniques that will allow him to approach HBs (hot babes) and get them into bed. Apparently there is a subculture of men who are obsessed with developing and refining their technique and aiming toward a quite simple goal: Get laid by as many beautiful women as possible! Some of the gurus of these methods charge thousands of dollars for seminars for guys eager to learn.
From reading the reviews and comments it apparently comes down to several things. Forget what your mom taught you about being a gentleman. Women make nice guys their friend and sleep with the other guys. The rest of the advice sounds not all that different from trying to sell encyclopedias or automobiles….approach, engage, seduce, close the deal. Techniques such as the “neg” (subtly insulting her so that she knows you are not under her spell and making her want to seduce you) and “the pivot” (using the company of one attractive woman to move on another). Flirt with her less attractive friend so that she will come after you to redeem her ego. Further manipulation methods are outlined, each described as a way to get to the promised land.
I probably won’t be buying these books. First of all, since I am in a relationship I don’t need any advice about how to attract women. Even if I was in the market I don’t think I’d want to rely on these techniques. It is no mystery why books like these would sell so very well. From puberty on, guys wonder how they can get the girl. Sometimes it can be an obsession. Some guys are good at it and some aren’t. Some think they are good at it and the reality is that they are not. Some think they are not but just need a boost of confidence.
I’ve always liked intelligent women and I’m not sure I’d want a woman that could be seduced by such lame methods. There is some truth in the writing such as the belief that some women say they want a nice guy but always go for the bad boys….the ultimate frustration for the nice guys out there. But much of the advice is focused on “the game”, getting a woman into bed. What happens the next day? It’s almost like the character in "The Candidate" who works so hard to win the election and then asks, “what now?” It ultimately becomes a game with a score but no winner. After you’ve slept with 100 women, where is the thrill in the 101st?
Whatever happened to,“Hi there. Can I buy you a drink?”, anyway?
Saturday, September 15, 2007
This famous phrase, popularized in the
The use of numbers in an argument implies rationality, the use of science and logic as opposed to emotion and blind faith. It is true that statistics allows us to make inferences from a set of idea, identify probabilities, note trends, and make correlations between variables. What they usually do not do is to definitively prove anything.
About half of all marriages end in divorce. Statistically, if you follow the matrimonial path today, the odds are one in two that you will some day be sitting in divorce court. Everyone who gets married assumes that they will beat those odds. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’ll go ahead and get married even though I’ll probably be divorced in a few years.” Do the statistics prove that your impending marriage won’t work? Of course not. What the data does demonstrate is that a certain percentage of people just like you who get married will some day be divorced. A 50% failure rate would not be acceptable in most industries. Would you buy a car that statistics showed had a one in two chance of falling apart? Of course we don’t live our lives by statistics. We take steps to reduce the chances that we will be on the negative end of probabilities like this. What else can we do? The other choice is to live a hermit-like existence, never stepping out of our homes.
There are numerous foods that have been demonstrated in statistics to cause the consumer to have a greater likelihood of contracting cancer. There are also many others that have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer. Some of us take this data more seriously than others. Sometimes we make a considered decision…..”I’ve read that eating bacon makes it more likely that I will contract certain forms of cancer, but I like it so much I’m going to continue to eat it anyway.” We also have a natural human tendency to embrace data that supports our preferences and to ignore data that tells us what we don’t want to hear. If the political candidate we like is leading in the polls we celebrate. If our guy is losing we think there must be something wrong with the poll….that many people simply couldn’t be supporting that jerk!
These numbers affect us whether we like it or not. Your credit rating is nothing but a statistical model to attempt to determine the likelihood that you will pay back your debts. Your insurance rates take into account your age, gender, where you live, what kind of vehicle you drive, what materials were used in building your home to decide how much to charge you. Current trends in education attempt to quantify school quality by assigning a number to it.
There is no doubt that statistics inform and educate us. In my field we use them all the time to guide our decision making just as many of us do in our daily lives. We read Consumer Reports to help us decide which appliances to buy for our homes. We read automobile statistics to help us decide which care we should buy. We look at the success rates of treatments for various diseases to help us in deciding which treatments to pursue. We look at hotel reviews on Expedia to help us decide where to stay when we travel. It helps us make some sense out of the overwhelming number of choices we make. We look closely at books on Amazon’s Top 100 list with the theory that if a lot of people are buying that book it can’t be too bad. We know how that turns out sometimes.
The problem with numbers and statistics is that research is conceptualized, compiled, analyzed, and interpreted by human beings. The science is sound but we all have our own biases and perceptions. It is the rare person that can completely set aside their own opinions and be truly objective arbiters of the facts.
I think Twain had it right.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
It is midweek and we’re just getting started!
I got the textbook for my class this weekend. This is a research class and this is a statistics text, full of distribution curves, chi-square tests, inferential statistics, t tests, and all sorts of fun stuff. It has been many years since I’ve seen any of this material. It should be a challenging weekend!
The big issue this week is a new district policy that requires shirts to be tucked in. I’ve probably said, “tuck that shirt in” at least 100 times in the past couple of days. The day before the policy was implemented I stood at the door and watched the first twenty five boys who walked in the door. How many had their shirts tucked in? One. We knew this was going to be a challenge.
The reason for the policy? It is a couple of things. First, it helps address the perennial issue of sagging pants. There is also a safety/security consideration about kids being able to tuck things under their shirts. Like it or not, this is our policy and we have to enforce it. We are definitely going against the current style of clothing kids like to wear.
I spent Monday and Tuesday at a statewide conference on school accreditation. Like most conferences there were some interesting sessions and some that induced daydreams.
I’m honored to have been nominated in several categories in the Okie Blog Awards. It is always flattering to be included among so many outstanding bloggers. If you are an
Aubree wants to go on a school sponsored trip to
I really enjoyed Veronica’s post on a local festival in
Aka Monty found a cell phone for her daughter that she could live with. It sounds pretty neat.
With class this weekend this is going to be a looooooong week!
So how is YOUR week going?
Saturday, September 08, 2007
I’ve laughed quite a bit in the last few days. If laughter really is good for the soul, my soul is in fine shape right now. I never cease to be amazed that in spite of the serious nature of the work I do there are always things to laugh about. Sometimes it is like mortician’s humor, finding the quirky or funny in an otherwise serious situation. Other times it is just the humor that can always be found in day to day life.
I’m sitting in the principal’s office the other day when a mom appears at the door to retrieve a cell phone that had been confiscated from her daughter. She looks very familiar to me but I can’t place her name or exactly how I know her. She immediately calls me by name and asks, “do you remember my name?” I tell her that she looks very familiar but that I am struggling to remember her name. My boss says, “Brian, her name is tattooed across her chest if you need any help!” I instinctively look, and sure enough, there it is, her last name in nice bold letters. She is short and I am very tall, so I lean over slightly to read. When she leaves everyone in that office is howling with laughter. I’m not talking a little chuckle….I’m talking red face and tears, guffawing at my expense. What can I do but join in? The next day the story is all over the office, secretaries stopping at my door to make little remarks just to see me blush. Pranks are conspired involving women writing their names on their upper chest in ink just to see my reaction.
I have to admit it is kinda funny. I came home and told the story to Terri, partially because it was kinda funny and partially because I knew people would undoubtedly gleefully tell her the story at one of the football games.
Last night at the football game Aubree spent a lot of time hanging out with me and the other administrators in the end zone. When she’s not hanging out with the cheerleaders she is hanging out with us, listening to us tell jokes and stories. Every time a team scores a touchdown in that end zone and line up for the extra point kick, a group of boys gather behind us to try and retrieve the ball. I whisper to Aubree, “why don’t you see if you can beat those boys to the ball!” She takes off her shoes and runs back there awaiting the kick. The ball sails through the uprights and a mad scramble ensues chasing the ball. Aubree beats all the boys, triumphantly holding the ball over her head and bringing it to me. My boss thinks this is hilarious. He turns to the throng of boys and innocently asks, “which one of you guys got the ball?” They sheepishly point to Aubree, one of them saying, “she got a lucky bounce!” I hear one of them say, “DUDE…you got beat by a chick!”
I write a lot about the serious issues we see at school every day, but there is humor abounding everywhere. Kids are funny. Teachers are funny. People are funny. When I stare at a woman’s chest to read her name, I am funny. It is necessary to find the humor in what we do, the oddities and absurdities of human interaction. It makes the job more enjoyable and steels us for the more serious issues we must face.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
It is midweek and all is well. That three day weekend gets the week off to a good start, doesn’t it?
We had a blast at the football game last Friday night. I think Patrick enjoyed the concession stand more than anything else, but he did exhibit some curiosity about the game. Aubree discovered that there were some advantages to her dad being a high school administrator. She spent the entire first half sitting on the front row, watching every move our cheerleaders made. I took her down on the field at halftime, introduced her to all the cheerleaders, and asked if she and her friend could spend the second half with them. All the girls lavished her with attention and she even got to do some cheers with them.
They are both excited about attending future games. By the way….we won 48-5!
Patrick is so funny now with his voice changing. He talks away and all of a sudden that little squeak comes out.
Nominations are still being accepted by the Okie Blog Awards. Stop by if you haven’t had a chance to submit your nominations!
I enjoyed Laura's post on trigger words. How many times do we say things without thinking about how they will set others off?
I also enjoyed and appreciated Sudie Girl’s post about authority figures gone bad. She had some kind words for me, but even more importantly raised an important question. What makes someone in a responsible position risk it all?
A couple of quick school vignettes:
Yesterday I had parents, kids, and the police occupy three hours of my morning discussing an incident that happened last Friday at the bus stop. The short version is that there are two groups of girls who have been feuding since middle school. The feud started over a boy, but that is not even important now. They’ve been posturing at each other and it came to a head at the bus stop. A big fight ensued with a number of adults including mothers, brothers, and cousins jumped into the melee. Then they all show up at school after the weekend. Good grief!
A female student had her truck broken into in the parking lot. It was parked quite a distance from the building. The window on the driver’s side was down, with the automatic motor apparently broken. The would be thief apparently didn’t notice this, shattering the passenger window instead and using a big carving knife to try to pry her stereo out of the dash. It didn’t work and he left this big knife just laying on the seat amidst all the broken glass. I commiserated with her about the incident and also told her that whoever did this needed to be in one of those dumb criminal videos.
So how is YOUR week going?
Labels: Midweek Meanderings
Sunday, September 02, 2007
I often follow court cases that involve schools, partially out of curiosity, and partially from a need to avoid pitfalls of my own down the road. There are a lot of lawyers who make a lot of money suing schools and defending schools from lawsuits. I would personally like to avoid enriching the coffers of either side. I have read cases where I shook my head and thought, “that was really dumb. They deserve to get sued”, and others where I thought, “this is ridiculous. Why would a judge even entertain such a lawsuit?”
A current case involves a suit by a young woman named Erica Corder against the school district she attended. Erica is now a college sophomore, but her suit involves events surrounding her high school graduation two years ago. My reading of several articles on this case seems to outline these basic facts:
1) Erica was one of fifteen valedictorians of her graduating class.
2) Her principal gave the valedictorians two options: Select one person from their group to speak for all of them or for each person to give a very short speech. They chose to have everyone speak.
3) They decided that the 30 second speeches would be coordinated, with the early speakers welcoming the guests, the middle speakers reminiscing on each year of school, and the concluding speakers offering thanks for those who helped them on this journey.
4) Erica was not originally to be the last speaker, but she persuaded the student who was going to be the last speaker to change places with her.
5) The students wrote and submitted their speeches for approval, practiced as a group, and rehearsed the entire thing for the principal who approved their remarks.
6) Graduation night came and all the students gave their short speeches. When Erica’s turn came she deviated from her script and gave a quite different speech.
7) Her speech focused on her personal devotion to God, her religious beliefs, and urging the audience that they do the same.
8) Erica was summoned to the assistant principal’s office, admonished for her actions, and told she might not receive her diploma. Erica acknowledged that she had planned this and not submitted the remarks she wanted to give out of fear they would not be approved.
9) Her principal insisted that she apologize for her actions before she could receive a diploma. She wrote an apology which was distributed to the school community and was subsequently given her diploma.
10) Erica retracted her apology after receiving her diploma and filed suit against the district.
Where to begin?
First of all, it is a long standing practice for school administration to approve graduation speeches. A graduation ceremony is for all students and their families and not a personal forum for those who are allowed to address the audience.
Much has been made of the fact that Erica’s message was a Christian one and this has drawn many to defend her actions. In my mind it wouldn’t matter if she were criticizing the president, talking about the environment, espousing the merits of Buddhism, or asking for world peace. She was part of a group speech and had agreed to carry off her part of it. She was dishonest with the school and to her classmates. I admire her convictions, but free speech does not mean that any of us have the right to say anything we wish in any venue we want to say it.
I do not think religion is or should be banished from schools. I attended a graduation ceremony a little over a year ago and the valedictorian noted her faith in God. I found it touching and entirely appropriate. I believe students should have the right to pray at school, alone or with others. I believe students should be able to express their religious beliefs and not have to hide them. My own school has several large and thriving clubs of a religious nature which meet regularly on campus and recruit other students. There is nothing wrong with any of this.
In my mind however this case has little to do with any of this. Erica was deceptive and I think what she did was wrong. Her message, while not objectionable in itself, was not in keeping with the commitment she made to her classmates and school.
However, threatening to withhold her high school diploma was a foolish move by school officials. There is really no legal basis to withhold a diploma from a student who has met all the requirements for graduation. While I think Erica was wrong in what she did, the school compounded the issue by threatening to not allow her to receive her diploma. I am also not a fan of forced apologies, which by their very nature are insincere. The administration should have expressed its views to her privately and then moved on. Sometimes there is not a remedy for every wrong.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?