Sunday, January 30, 2011


I am not a psychologist, but I have heard that people isolated on desert islands or in solitary confinement lose some of their mental stability. At least Tom Hanks did when he sobbed over the loss of Wilson in the film, "Castaway."

When food and water are ingested, waste products must come out. When we have experiences and ideas arise, so should some waste product come out. That is why we all have a need to communicate.

That is why I write. My blogs are a release, something that helps prevent the mental constipation that comes when we can't or don't share our feelings and ideas. Some would say it's a great writing material as a waste product, and many times I feel like that's what it is, but writing keeps me writing. I call it writer's blog, and it is the antonym for "writer's block."

Wilson was Tom Hanks' only friend, his ear, his way to communicate and share his experiences and ideas, and ultimately, his escape.

You are my ears and thus my friends. Thank you for continuing to read.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Our middle school hosted the Rachel's Challenge program during two assemblies this week. Rachel Scott was the first student killed at Columbine High School in 1999. The last few months of her life were spent telling everyone that she was not going to live a long life but somehow was going to make an impact on millions of others' lives.

Started by her father and her family, Rachel's Challenge is the program that carries on her wish for everyone to show more compassion and tolerance for others. A video was shown to all my math classes that introduced them to the Columbine massacre and the challenge that Rachel Scott made to us all after her death.

It is a powerful video that was edited by our counselor so that no dead bodies were shown. Students cried. Their treatment of me has been much nicer than before. Teachers and staff cried. We are all affected. I hope the challenge that was accepted by myself, our students and staff is carried on forever.

To view the video, click on this link: Rachel's Challenge

Friday, January 28, 2011


Our country is making an insidious decision. We have a choice between rewriting history or affirming that many of our ancestors' deeds were dishonorable. We have chosen to rewrite history.

I was raised in the south and saw drinking fountains marked "white" and "colored." The colored drinking fountains were always dirty because the white owners did not want to clean them, and besides, it served a purpose. That dirty drinking fountain marked "colored" proved the filthiness of the African-American race and the purity of the white race. The only problem was that I was fourteen years old and saw through the deception.

I watched the Civil Rights Movement take place under the inspired guidance of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I sat at the Newberry's counter in the old Gulfgate Shopping Mall a few weeks after blacks were hauled off to jail for having the audacity to sit at that "white" lunch counter. That Newsberry's went out of business. Good riddance.

I spent my formative years gazing up in admiration at huge statues of men in Confederate uniforms with one arm to the sky symbolizing that Almighty God was on their side. I was raised singing "Dixie" and watching Confederate flags flap in the thick and humid air of the South. I was told these were great things, honorable things, respected institutions. I discovered that it was all a fabrication. A lie.

The Southern whites bought human beings. They sold them. They bred them. It was a simple business decision to sell or keep the children of slaves. The Confederate flag was designed to represent the Confederate States of America when they broke away from the Union and formed their own country in order to keep their precious slaves and ensure that any new territories that became states would allow whites to own human beings from Africa. The statues were of men who fought to keep the institutution of slavery in the South and killed Union soldiers. I remember my brother moving to Boston and telling me that one of the culture shocks was seeing statues built in honor of Union soldiers who fought against slavery and the preservation of the Union.

I have watched propaganda films that have been fairly recently released that sell the deception that the Southern soldiers were gentlemen and the Northern soldiers were crude and despicable. One of those films even stated that many Confederate Generals were fighting with the intention of setting slaves free at the end of the war. Lies.

Instead of facing the hard truth which will set us free, we believe the deception. Any of my ancestors who fought for the Confederacy fought to maintain slavery. Should it be a surprise that one hundred years later I was a teenager and staring at "colored" drinking fountains? We were still fighting a war in the South. The Confederacy had lost the Civil War but was still fighting the dishonorable cause.

The war continued until Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He is one of the casualties of the continued battle with the last remnants of the shameful Confederacy.

Abraham Lincoln did a great service to the South by including the Confederate soldiers with the Union soldiers while honoring all their deaths in National Monuments such as Gettysburg. Lincoln is a greater man than I. I can't and won't pay homage to the Confederacy, and I hate to see the rewriting of history. Many blacks do not seem to comprehend the honesty and true vision of Huckleberry Finn, and the nation is blinded to the deception in our latest revisions of the Civil War.

There is no honor in a dishonorable cause.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Beavers are industrious creatures, and if you stroll by a stream while hiking, upon your next day's return you might see a completely new dam built as their needs arise.

Bees have a society maintained by worker bees, and the workers work in a furious flurry of activity all predicated upon the continued survival of the species.

Americans picture themselves as beavers. Our children are busy. Everyone is busy. Busy as beavers and bees.

Curmudgeons, as they are sometimes labeled, complain that everyone and especially children are too busy.

"Our children's schedules are overloaded. Take your children out of some of the organized activities and let them enjoy life," they whine. "We're draining the childhood out of our kids with all these frantic activities," they moan. I have to agree with the curmudgeons.

I have had piano students for over twenty years, and I have watched the amount of their practice time slowly dwindle over the decades as more and more activities are squeezed into their schedules. The students don't have to lie; the parents will back them up. They truly are too busy to practice. I hear their schedules and inwardly groan, and I know they will never learn the piano because they have no practice time. If I tripled my rates, the parents might ensure their child would practice in order to warrant the expense, but more likely, I would probably lose them as clients.

Children are not beavers and bees. When they get too busy, they are no longer productive. All they do is buzz around and accomplish more with less excellence. Many of us are as busy as beavers and bees, but we are sacrificing a quality of excellence in our accomplishments.

Being busy as beavers and bees should not be a goal but a schedule that enables us to achieve excellence in our endeavors. When we squeeze in too many activities in too little time, we aren't as busy as bees and beavers; we become as busy as a couple of nerds in a never ending dodge ball game.

We should not strive for quantity of activities, but excellence in the quality of those we perform.

Of course, I could be wrong. We could be raising a new generation of Renaissance People, excelling at many activities and creating an explosion of amazing accomplishments that will mystify all.

I hope I'm a curmudgeon and wrong.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


At the beginning of the day an announcement was made over the PA at our school for all geography students to immediately go to the atrium. I didn't know where the atrium was, so I asked the students, "Is the atrium that place at the end of the hallway where the big Jet is hanging from the ceiling?" (Our mascot is a Jet.)

"Oh no! yelled lots of students. "No! that's not where the atrium is. No! No!

"Then one student yelled out, "The atrium is where the Jet is hanging from the ceiling!


I met a student who was entering the classroom. She saw me and said, "Oh, Mr. W., I'm not here today!"


I told the class that their homework was not in the textbook but was a problem on the board. "Please copy it down," I said.

A student raised their hand and asked if we had any homework.


Another student was tardy to class, and he was wearing one shoe with the other shoe tied to it and flopping along as he walked. I asked him why he was late, and he said, "I got into trouble with a cop."

"An Albuquerque Police Department officer or an Albuquerque School security guard?"

"A security guard guy."

"OK, so it wasn't a cop. It was one of our security guards. What did you do?"

"Me and a friend were walking down the hall with our shoes tied together like this."

"Why did you and your friend do this?"

"The cop told me to do it."

"The security guard told you to tie your shoes like that?"

"No, but to walk to class like that."

"So you're trying to say that the security guard told you to continue on to class and not stop to tie your shoes correctly, is that right?"


"So that's why you were late?"




There is a girl in one of my math classes who is inattentive, easily distracted, and is perpetually tending to the upkeep of a facial feature or alertly adjusting a fashion accessory with far more attention to the task than Martha Stewart would put into a centerpiece at a dinner for Chinese emissaries at the White House.

Several months ago I caught her passing a secret note. She was mortified and distraught about my confiscation of the said note, and she begged to have it back. I kept it with no punishment or consequences.

I placed the note in a "secret compartment" in my wallet, and found it recently. Here is the secret note and its exact contents:

Haha ya! Uhh...Something that makes
and algabreak equasionss
Wat does tht?... Magic wand?!?
Oh ya! But where tofindit?.. ??
No idea??
Haha maybe the creepy lil nose picker
that claims hesawitch that lives nextdoor to me mite
have one I can rent. lol! Ha ha!!

I thought it was of some significance or importance for the sole reason that its contents were of no significance or importance whatsoever. It is quite revealing, and I wonder about the inanities I passed around the class when I was twelve.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Teachers learn with their students, and unfortunately some of those lessons are grim. We learn that some students will not reach proficiency, much less mastery of the lesson, even under the best of classroom conditions. A society may attempt to eliminate social and educational ills that present valid excuses for a student's failure, but inevitably, they are excuses and nothing more.

I have seen many human lives and bits of lives play out on the stage. The events and results of a person's life unfolding can be fascinating and very enlightening. At times, the light is nothing more than a perspective, and conflicting philosophies based on those events may arise. Here is one life played out in front of me to see and to learn from, and it applies to a student's failure.

Years ago I attended an elementary school that had a family of two boys. The older boy was about the age of my older brother and sister, and I heard lots of stories about this older boy who I shall dub, "Fred." Fred was a tall, handsome, popular, high schooler, and all the stories about him were favorable and luscious. Girls fawned and boys admired. Fred was a charmer. Smart. Cool. Handsome.

His younger brother, "Frank," was also tall and handsome but not as smart. The girls liked Frank but no more than any of the other boys because we were only fifth graders and too innocent at the time to base our affections on society's idea of appearances. Girls thought I was as handsome as Frank until they reached the age of eighteen and decided they didn't want to face the possibility of having a red-headed, freckled-faced, short, mesomorphic child.

Frank flunked the fifth grade. No one spoke of it. It was never brought up in conversation. It was hush-hush and taboo to discuss what happened to Frank, but it was a big deal. Frank suddenly became a lowly fifth grader while the rest of us were promoted to the sixth grade. Frank lost his coolness, at least to some of us. Poor Frank. I felt sorry for Frank and thought, "What will become of poor Frank? Thank heavens I make straight A's."

Fast forward about twelve years. I am driving down the freeway in a worn out Chevy Nova, blue smoke billowing out of my rattling tailpipe as drivers behind me frantically change lanes, the car windows are up in summer so the wind pressure inside the car won't blow the rear windshield out because of all the rust, I have eight dollars to my name, my parents aren't happy with me as usual, I am jobless again, I haven't had a date in two years, and the only good thing in my life is that my last thoughts of suicide didn't "pan out," so to speak, and I am still alive to cry in a beer.

On the spur of the moment, I got off the freeway and drove into Bob Robertson Chevrolet, not to shop but to dream and gaze wistfully at the treasures a good life could bring to someone more fortunate than myself. A couple of salesmen approached me, but I told them they were wasting their time. I didn't have a dime to my name, no job, and I was just dreaming.

A third salesman approached and I told him the same story. He replied, "You might be surprised. I can talk to our Sales Manager and maybe we could work out a trade-in. You could apply here for credit with GMAC, and if you qualify, the car of your choice is yours."

"I don't think it's gonna happen, man. My car isn't worth a hundred dollars."

"You might be surprised. We have a new Sales Manager, Fred Julep, and he makes things happen. Let's go talk to him."

I immediately recognized the name. It couldn't be the same Fred. How could he be the Sales Manager at one of the biggest dealerships in Houston, Texas? He was my age, about twenty-three.

"Is this Fred Julep kind of young, like maybe 23 or 24?"

"Yeah, he is. He's a lot younger than me."

"Is he tall with dark hair?"

"Yup. That's him."

I made up some excuse, turned on my heels, and left. I didn't want Fred to see me in that condition.

It turns out that the Sales Manager, Fred, was my old classmate. He was the Sales Manager, drove a Corvette, was married, and had a pregnant wife. He eventually became a regional Sales Manager for the Chevrolet Division of General Motors.

I don't know the rest of his story, and I don't know how his life turned out, but that's the beauty and mystery of life. Our story always reminds me that when a student is failing, the school system and the politicians and the parents and all of our society gets all frazzled and worked up and everyone tries to fix the social ills that caused it to happen so that a child's life is spared the humiliation and poverty that comes with failure.

Inner Peace. That's what we need. A stillness inside us that tells us everything will be fine. Life is not an emergency. Education is not an emergency.

I hope that Fred still prospers, partly because I liked Fred, but also because I want to believe that our frazzled selves do not comprehend life's complexity, and we have no idea how a life story will play out. All we do is fret and worry, cringe and fear.

Fred did just fine, and I pulled out of my dive just before I would have crashed and burned. I drive a wonderful car, and I hope Fred still does, too.

Friday, January 14, 2011


I am not a member of a teachers' union and have no intention of joining one. I paid my dues for years to watch my precious little pay slowly decrease. When I became a teacher, my state was ranked 38th out of 50 in teacher pay. Not bad. However, after ten years, our state had dropped in rank to become 49th out of 50. That's awful.

I began email communications with our new union President, a woman whose name shall remain anonymous. I wrote to her specifically regarding our abysmal pay rate. After many emails, it finally came out: pay increases were not her biggest objective. Her pet projects were site-based management and professional development.

Site-based management means that a teacher can be on a committee that "runs the school." What a crock of malarkey. Any principal who so chooses can ignore the recommendations of any teacher committee. It's a bag full of air, an empty promise, and even if it wasn't, if I wanted to run a school, I would have obtained my administrative license and become a principal. I don't want to run the school; I choose to be in the classroom. I believe that teaching is one of the few professions in which you start at the top and work your way down to the bottom.

Professional development is a cutesy word that refers to pitifully boring meetings that allegedly enrich your teaching abilities. How could any meeting help a teacher? I would never want to oversee or run such a meeting. What could I say or do in such an environment that would really impact teachers and the manner in which they provide instruction? There isn't a whole lot.

I emailed our new union President that I believed she was heading the union in the wrong direction. She disagreed, and after quite a few written debates, our email communication stopped abruptly. I quickly dropped out of the union and sent her an email explaining why I disagreed with the union's emphasis and direction and made sure she understood that money and the union's direction were the motivating factors.

Money is no longer an issue. A new Governor of our state promptly raised teacher pay, and my pay started to climb substantially after his first term. Despite my finances being much better off, I still consider union dues money spent wastefully. Our union is cantankerous in meetings with administration, doesn't speak the truth, doesn't want the truth spoken, and is a mamby-pamby political tool of the liberal politicians it endorses and the lousy teachers it protects.

There are two large teacher unions in this country, and I don't want to have a part of either. Most teachers in my state agree. Most teachers have their noses to the grindstone, concentrate on the classroom and the students they encounter, and have no time or inclination to ponder the bull noodles coughed up in the political arena. We just wish that lawmakers and lawyers would stay our of our way and let us teach.

Teachers' biggest complaint is that we now spend far too much time gathering data, and on occasion even having to input it into computer programs. We are slowly becoming data operators. This data is tests scores, and that is where huge amounts of money are being spent by school districts. Trust me, they won't cut that expense when they reduce the schools' budget. It should be noted that the data is mandated by No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

My complaints about teachers' unions run deep. The last president of the local teachers' union "went to the Dark Side" and had a highly paid position with the school district as a coordinator and an interfacer. Everyone knows our present president is headed for the same high paid position upon her retirement. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Marshall McLuhan, in his revolutionary book, "Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man" (1964), proposed that our electronic media was taking the place of the printing press as our mode of communication, and this electronic media would change our society more than the content of the communication itself. We have created an electronic "global village." This global village would have its own characteristics that were vastly different from the "linear" world of the printing press. Among many changes would be a shift to "process rather than product." Sound familiar?

McLuhan would be amused to discover that in the United States, the village is considered insane by the parents of its children, and the parents want no part of someone else having any say-so in the raising of their child. Parents believe everyone else in the village is nuts.

I have switched from elementary school to middle school, but I am amazed to discover that many parents of middle schoolers are completely oblivious to any input from their child's teacher, and quite frankly only listen to the child's side of the "story." They believe everyone else is lying and can't be trusted.

Students are being pulled from classes and "promoted" into "Accelerated" classes because their parents are "squeaky wheels" and frighteningly vocal complainers. The village is being run not by its members, but by its legal community that has a tight grip on the villagers' privates.

Students who don't like the amount of homework teachers give complain to their parents that their teacher is mean. Their parents complain vehemently without ever talking to any of the teachers first, and they are able to frighten administration into switching their child to another class. Then the child discovers that there is a little more homework in the new class or maybe it's not as much fun, informs their parents that the new teacher is much meaner than the old teacher, so they get switched back to their original class. The village is not being run by the villagers.

It is not accurate to say, "It takes a village to raise a child." It should be, "It takes a lawyer and threats of lawsuits to control the villagers so I can raise my child the way I want."

Some parents squeeze their children so much that teachers just stand back and wait to see when and where they'll pop.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


The holidays were like a near-death experience except there was no light at the end of the tunnel and there was no sense of peace and love as I didn't approach it.

My health took a nosedive. If I was a car I would have been diagnosed with a blockage of and a serious leakage in the rear exhaust system which affected the power train. I also had a malfunctioning fuel system and two broken rear suspension parts. All in all, it was a pitiful sight to see a robust, masculine work of virile manhood such as myself reduced to a decrepit geezer.

The reason I don't actually give specific diagnoses of my health is due to a singular devotion to maintaining a youthful attitude. I may have already informed you of my efforts to maintain that attitude, and here is how I do it.

I classify people in two categories: the young and the elderly. The biggest difference between them is that the young concentrate on and limit their discussion of the human body to exterior body parts. The elderly, meaning a lot of my friends, discuss interior body parts. I can't stand listening to them talk about blood pressure and pharmaceuticals and organs and organ removals and diseases and such. It is all so depressing. I want to focus on exterior body parts such as hair, lips, rear-ends, hips, pokey-outey parts, and stuff like that. That will keep you young.

So I suffered from some pretty serious afflictions, but relating them to automotive problems relieves me of having to go into disgusting, elderly conversational mode.

I had two weeks off due to the holidays (teachers have a great vacation schedule!) and then I had to call in sick five more days right after that because of my exhaust, fuel and suspension systems. It was horrible!

I was so glad to see the students when I finally returned that I could have hugged them. Instead, I just returned to making their lives a little miserable and knowing that I am NOT ready for retirement, at least not under such painful and decrepit conditions.