A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A question of priorities

A trillion dollar claim

What I like best about my school is how unapologetic we are about demanding academic success for all of our students, which flows from Dr. P and the culture he has engendered. Any student on our D and F list gets targeted for remediation efforts. Targeted!

After a week having a Gucci clad 6th grader come to my class all week during lunch for remediation of geography content in U.S. History -- 3 - F's on essentially the same quiz -- I decided to try a different approach. On the share drive, I found a simple hands-on sorting / matching activity that matched the regions to their critical attributes: Coastal Plain / Contains excellent harbors, Appalachian Highlands / Contains the oldest mountains, old eroded hills, etc. "If you want to eat with your friends in the lunch," I told her, "just sort these cards 3 times in a row correctly."

"Can you just give me the F?" she replied.

In above referenced Atlantic Monthly Article, which was discussed in the Math Department meeting, there is an unstated claim that not investing sufficiently in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) approaches could cost American workers potentially a trillion dollars over the near future. The opportunity cost of not focusing on STEM approaches came in conflict with a different priority recently after the Middle School Council voted to reintroduce Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) as a way to foster a "culture of reading." The Math Chairman questioned the validity of having students read "graphic novels" and, bless his heart, wanted to suggest a more guided approach, including shared reading and deep level questioning -- Jerry was going to have his Algebra students discuss the Atlantic article -- I chuckled at the prospect of having my students, virtually all below grade level readers, tackle the ideas discussed in the article. Excitedly, I pulled out the high interest, leveled, "considerate text" readers suggested earlier in the week by a renegade English teacher who has taken an interest in me, as she prepares to retire, and wants to pass on the treasures she has collected over a brilliant 30+ year teaching career.

Then came the directive: "Reader Choice is a key element of SSR," so after consulting with my team, I put the books away. Not a battle I am prepared to fight. Bring on the graphic novels.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A good night"s sleep

Yesterday, as I was walking Mabel along a stretch of the Cross County Connector trail near my house, meditating on how I can apply the audio inputs from How to create a mind: The secret of human thought revealed, by Ray Kurzweil,
mom called and the conversation turned to my health. Jim Rohn, In the art of exceptional living, stated the moral obligation to positively address heath factors, "I'll take care of me for you," which helps keep me mindful of how I am or am not taking care of my body.

I learned long ago, from painful experience, the relationship between sleep deprivation and poor performance in a classroom, as well as a correlation between elevated blood pressure and diabetes. My full-throttle approach of teaching through lunch and working with students 2-3 days a week after school, can take a serious toll on my body. That approach also leads to snarky criticism from colleagues and administrators. When I run my machine so hard that I begin falling asleep five feet from the front floor, with Mabel licking my face, or falling asleep on the couch curled up next to Mabel, and don't discipline myself to go to bed and put on my darth vader machine, my cognitive capacity begins to flatline. All Saturday, I was a walking zombie. None of the items on my list got done. Mom reminded me to use the bipap, so last night I took half an ambien, put on the mask, and got a solid 8 hours of sleep, and now I feel terrific.

There's a time to sleep and a time to roll. Let's roll!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Simple Food

During my family's recent visit to San Francisco for my grandma Masako's 100th birthday, my sister Dawn, her husband Rowland, my boy Joe, and I drove down to Fisherman's Wharf, a tourist trap, in search of tickets for the Alcatraz tour. After watching a seagull swallow a plastic tartar sauce packet whole, thoroughly disgusted by the filth, we made our way back towards the shop with the big yellow sign advertising Alcatraz tickets, where we met Dan, who along with the car with the giant pink mustache across its grill, which got right on my a-- on the steepest hill in San Francisco -- I almost drifted back into the car with the pink mustache -- became one of two villains on our trip. Dan read us information on a Hop On Hop Off brochure describing a package deal, which included Alcatraz Tickets, a night tour, and 2 days worth of rides on the Hop On Hop Off. Classic bait and switch! Not that I really cared, since all I really cared about was the Alcatraz tour since Joe's heart was set on it, but Dan misrepresented what he was offering, which upset my sister Dawn for days. There was no night tour. The two day pass was not included, we got a 1-day pass. Joe and I did, however, get our Alcatraz tickets. More importantly, we discovered an unexpected treasure immediately after our encounter with Dan, a man my sister Dawn considered a total shyster.

As we were leaving Dan's ticket scalping shop, we bumped into his supplier, Gianni, who was wearing an Oakland Raider's jersey. We struck up a conversation. Gianni reminisced about how much he had loved Al Davis. We asked Gianni where me might find a good place to eat. Gianni handed us a business card of his friend, the executive chef of Pinocchio's, and advised that we head away from Fisherman's Wharf, and walk about 10 blocks towards North Beach. Gianni said that Pinocchio's was within walking distance, and to tell them that Gianni had sent us. It was more like a 15 block walk. There, we were greeted by a person who must have been the owner. He said, "Welcome to Pinocchio's, where the food is good, but the service is lousy." He sat down at our table and had a Peroni with us. We asked for his recommendation. He replied simply, "pasta." As he made his rounds, he serenaded his guests with Opera. His regulars joined in.

Normally, I am the first to finish. That night, I finished last. I savored every morsel, smelled deeply for every hint of every ingredient, noticed every texture as it rubbed against my tongue. The portions were not large, but they were perfect. Pinocchio's thus became my standard for simple, authentic Italian food. The owner seconded my observation that authentic Italian food is simple, with each ingredient allowed it's own unique voice.

Tonight, I searched and found an excuse to drive my new used 2012 Ford Focus, which I bought earlier in the day from Khalid over at Enterprise Rental Cars in Woodbridge. My little schnauzer Mabel rode shotgun on my drive up the street to the 24 Hour CVS in King's Park. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a new Italian restaurant, Giardino's had opened up in the same location as an Italian restaurant which about a year ago had spiraled into oblivion through mismanagement and lousy food -- the last three pizza's we bought there were badly burned -- and the restaurant food was worse, but the staff was friendly. After the third burnt pizza, Joe never let us buy pizza from there again. After I discovered an unpleasant surprise in my food one night when we went there for dinner, we were done.

I noticed that Giardino is affiliated with Paradiso, one of my favorite restaurants. I went to the original Franconia Road location when it first opened up in 1991, and dropped in recently when I had to go to DMV to renew my license. I overheard a couple comment that the menu looks the same, but that they would give the pizza a try. I went in, hoping to try a slice, simply curious. I was introduced to Tony and his wife, who own Paradiso. Tony and his wife told me that they had just opened up last Tuesday. I mentioned to Tony and his wife what the couple had said about the menu being about the same, but shared with Tony how excited I was about the affiliation with Paradiso, and was certain that the quality would be great. Tony and his wife shared with me how the grease had been about an inch thick, and how he had hired professionals to steam clean the place. Tony's wife handed me a VIP discount card, offering 10% off. They offered me a drink, but as sleep deprived as I was, I declined.

Tony explained to me that unlike the chains, Giardino's makes the dough from scratch, every day, and that the cheese is authentic high quality mozzerela which they shave from blocks. After I related to Tony my experience with Pinocchio's, he agreed that simple is best, and said that he prefers a simple cheese pizza, so I ordered a 12" pizza, hoping to reconnect my boy Joe to authentic wood fired pizza. Delicious! Joe loved it! Tomorrow, we will order a pizza for dinner. For years, I've felt we've needed an authentic Italian restaurant close to home. Thanks to Tony and his wife, we finally have one.