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Apr 11 2014

The Final Report

This will probably be my last blog for TeachForUs.  It has been three months since I left teaching and TFA.  As I wrote previously, I had a family problem that required us to re-engineer our lives to save our son.  Since moving to Oklahoma, he went off the deep end and we had to act…

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I’ve written a couple of other blogs about my evolving attitudes on fixing the achievement gap.  This one will probably be the most personal out of all of them, because one of the big problems with the achievement gap has come home to roost in my family.  I have a wonderful son who came to…

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Nov 07 2013

Finding what works

What does work look like?  To some teachers, it’s the sound of pencils quietly scratching on paper and students breathing.  I have tried my best to get there and it just isn’t going to happen.  But I’ve made a discovery.  This particular group of students this year works while they’re talking and laughing.  I know…

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One of the reasons I see education devolving to a colonial model rather than a nationalized system is the inability to separate teaching values and culture from math, science, and reading.  No matter what you teach, you’re teaching values and culture. In our school we begin the day by saying the Pledge of Allegiance and…

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I just made it to October break in my second year.  I thought about saving these ideas up for a final wrap-up at the end of my TFA experience, but I figured, “What the hell!”  Let me provide a little background for my opinions.  That way, Gary What’s-His-Name will know what he’s dealing with if…

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Sep 20 2013


Teaching in an  inner-city school can be heart-wrenching, as many of my colleagues can verify.  This year, my second, the students at my school seem so much more disengaged.  Their behavior is atrocious.  I advocate constantly for my earnest students, but the bad actors take up all the air in the room. Every TFA video…

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Sep 01 2013

What you really wish it said

I spent part of my Labor Day weekend posting grades for the upcoming mid-term progress reports.  It’s hard to believe that next week is our fifth week back in school. The computer system we use for grades gives you a place to put some canned comments in.  It doesn’t let you put in anything you’d…

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Another week goes by.  This week’s major hurdle was having no air conditioning.  It’s 90-plus degrees outside, the windows in the class are bolted shut, covered with metal security screens, and the air conditioner doesn’t work.  Actually, it does put out cold air.  I just takes the humidity out of the air and leaks it…

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Aug 21 2013


Seventy-six miles from my home, an Australian ball player was brutally gunned down by three black youths who admit to killing the man because they were “bored.”  The youths had Facebook profiles that showed them holding guns and huge stacks of money.  It was not a secret that these kids were very bad people. Every…

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Aug 10 2013

Year two begins–reflections

There have been lots of changes this year, but some things remain the same.  Our school is still a construction site, but at least we’ve moved into the half that is finished.  The new classes are so nice.  You could take three of my old class and put it in my current room.  However, there…

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Jun 09 2013

Summer Limbo

Summer vacation has begun and I find myself in a curious state of limbo.  A school year didsn’t come to a nice, tidy ending.  It kind of sputtered out toward the finish.  Towards the end, the kids were a little more feisty.  They knew we were out of disciplinary options.  There wasn’t Saturday School anymore.…

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May 21 2013

Moore, Oklahoma Tornado

Tomorrow morning, the headlines will be dominated by a huge tornado that destroyed 30 square miles of Moore, Oklahoma today.  Moore is a community that is just south of Oklahoma City.  The OKC metro area is huge.  It extends from Edmond and Yukon in the north (possibly even Guthrie, to be honest) and goes all…

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Apr 26 2013


Tomorrow ends our second week of state testing.  Some of my colleagues have already blogged about their experiences on TeachForUs.org, but I thought I’d add my own thoughts and observations as well. As we approached testing, we could feel tensions rising in the school.  There’s a kind of tension you get before a big game…

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The school year is beginning to wind down.  This week we began administering state standardized testing.  The feeling is like having prepared a team for the championships and its about to go in for the big game.  So far, I have been favorably impressed by the sense of determination and focus I’ve seen in the…

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Today is the third day of class I missed this week.  My son came down with a stomach virus and he has been throwing up for the past three days.  I had to use some of my own sick days to stay home and take care of him.  That means the school has had to…

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Sometimes you just have to stand there in amazed silence at the dumbness of the system.  Oklahoma ranks 49th of 50 states in education.  It’s an almost completely red state.  Decades of conservative “fiscal responsibility” have left a gaping chasm of inequity between the suburban schools and those in the inner city. The thing that…

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Education is all about opening minds to consider other possibilities.  It’s so easy to get focused on meeting the daily objective and aligning it with the Big Goal.  Then along the way, once in a blue moon, almost as if by accident, something happens that’s quite disconcerting to both teacher and class.  A true teaching…

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Nov 16 2012

Mixed feelings

Today, the principal and the two assistant principals came to my class at the end of sixth period.  I saw one of their faces peering in through the metal mesh that covers the front door’s window.  At that very moment, the class had finished their exit ticket and, because of their cooperation (they’re not normally…

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Nov 11 2012

Overcoming negativity

Today I attended the first Oklahoma Regional Summit meetings in Tulsa.  It was a good shot of enthusiasm to bolster up a weary batch of achievement gap warriors.  The positive energy there was great and best of all, I had the chance to visit with some of my Institute pals. The focus on the meeting…

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Oct 12 2012

Go figure!

Unlike the more “garden variety” of  TFA teachers, I have five children of my own and five grandchildren.  That doesn’t mean I have figured out children.  It just means I have more experience at being astonished by them and the things they do.  It never ceases to amaze me what they come up with. I…

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We have a huge problem at school.  Our school is essentially a construction site and one of the teachers was injured by a falling window back in August.  She has been out on workman’s comp ever since.  Her classes have been either tended to by subs or by us covering her classes.  For these classes,…

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Oct 07 2012

Turning the ship

I grew up in a big Navy town and my father was a Coast Guardsman.  Nautical analogies come easy to me.  Here’s one for you. Classroom management is like turning a really big ship. I used to watch the big aircraft carriers or the large container ships sail out of the Chesapeake Bay with some…

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Sep 18 2012

Overcoming obstacles

In the movie “Heartbreak Ridge,” Clint Eastwood’s character Gunnery Sergeant Tom Highway urged his Marines to adapt, improvise, and overcome.  That’s been my mantra since the beginning of the school year. In our inner-city school, things are not so bad as they are in many places, but it still takes forever to negotiate the hurdles…

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Aug 12 2012

Catching up

It has been a total whirlwind for the past few weeks.  Here are the key points (…Oh no!  They’ve got me speaking TFA-jargon even when I’m not doing schoolwork!) The last week of Institute flew by.  I started packing up late Thursday night, after the big closing ceremony.  At two o’clock in the morning, I…

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Jul 02 2012

Week 3, going into week 4…

This one was saved as a draft and had to be neglected because of all the demands of the last week of Institute.  This documents my musings from the first two weeks of July.  I’m just now getting around to posting it. I’m still plowing through Institute like everyone else.  We had one of our…

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YOTFAO BACTAG = You only teach for America once, but always challenge the achievement gap.

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