Day 72 December 5, 2022

If I am going to be honest, there is one person that I have spent many hours with that has been a big influence. Tammy Strouse has been a steady force at Rangeview for the entire time I have been there. We started working together under strange circumstances. Our Theatre Department was big and very successful. They had three people when I got there but one person dropped that third slot. Tammy was the leader and musical theatre expert. She was also the Poms head coach. She was exceptional at teaching dance and choreography. Our second person was Sandy Scott. She was the technical theatre guru. She could do magic with sets and all things technical. We never looked a high school production but we had all the hallmarks of a professional company. Sandy was a historian of theatre and kept us in line with our choices for productions. We gave students a full depth and breadth of plays and musicals. The third person became me and I just hung on for dear life! I was given the easiest of plays but it was always my choice and as long as I fit the correct genre sequence I was golden. Tammy and Sandy were patient and supportive of my shows. I think the greatest compliment I ever received was recently by a professional actor that started on our stage. He said from the three of us he learned different styles of directors and he has encountered all of those styles in his professions career. He said he was prepared and saw the three of us in his directors to this very day.

Tammy was instrumental in my spending well over 10 years working with theatre and I wouldn’t change a day. I laughed, I cried, and I sat in the back of theatre with pride as I watched the students on stage. I was brought into the department in a very strange way. Marc called me to his office. Closed the door behind me and I sat there in panic. Afraid that I made a mistake and I was only a few weeks into my position at Rangeview. Marc out of the blue asked “didn’t you say you did and loved theatre in high school?” I was baffled but I said yes. He responded with “good, you get a chance to do it again, you are now the third person in the group!” With Tammy as a mentor I learned more about the other side and how direct than I ever imagined. I hope I made her proud with my work and I always felt a part of the team. The first show I directed was Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Lee. That show holds special meaning for me. I can say that this show has given me the full range of emotions since I directed it almost 20 years ago. Some of the cast met with tragedy and others have made it to Broadway. I can’t think of that time without have a rush of emotions. I had the the chance to direct that and 1984, Fiddler on the Roof, Flowers for Algernon, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest,  Diary of Anne Frank, Dracula, and Romeo and Juliet to name a few and helped in dozens more with shows directed by Tammy and Sandy.

I can never thank Tammy enough for what she gave me and I can say that my life and career have been much richer because of here and the Theatre Department. The only regret is that they would never let me do Carousel. If you want that story you will have to wait for another time.

Week 16 Musical Interlude

We seem to hear this from kids daily. The funny thing is that I can say the same about my time in high school.

Day 71 December 2, 2022

Another department member was very influential and generous. Cindy Hope was a character and allowed me to do my first traditional business class with Management and Entrepreneurship. She ran the PACE class which allowed students to get credit for working. It wasn’t just a blow-off where you just had to turn in pay stubs. She met with the students regularly and required activities like a resume and cover letters. She was so dedicated to this class and giving students an opportunity that they may not otherwise get that she would have regular meetings with the student and their supervisor on-site. It was this connection to the community that also gave rise to knowing many companies and being able to help secure employment for some kids. The couple of stories that I will share are not my own because they happened before I got to Rangeview but everyone swears that they are true. One day during school Cindy’s contacts were hurting and she decided to put in eye drops. A little while later Ingrid came back into the office and Cindy had her head in her hands and tears streaming down her face. Ingrid asked if everything was okay and Cindy replied yes but that her bottle of Binaca look just like her eye drops. Some of you won’t get this so take a minute and go look up Binaca. Another story about keys. Cindy was famous for putting everything in her purse but never being able to find her keys. (This part I can attest to firsthand) Rob had lost his keys in the office and couldn’t find them. He had a set of athletic keys so they fit the outside doors. He kept checking and asking and nobody had seen them. Rob was afraid to tell anyone because he didn’t want the embarrassment of losing his keys. This went on for a couple of weeks with no resolution. One afternoon Cindy was looking for something in her purse and laid everything out on the desk. She picked up a strange set of keys and casually said that she had never seen those keys before. Apparently, she hadn’t seen the keys before because they were in Rob’s pocket. So with one dump of the purse a couple of weeks later Rob had his keys back. Working with Cindy was always an adventure but a very fun one and she had a heart of gold. I have one more person that was in my department and I will get to Tom next week.

Day 70 December 1, 2022

One of the great pleasures I have had at Rangeview is coaching baseball. There will be many stories later about our baseball escapades. The colleague that I am thankful for is our head coach Mike Hamilton. Our field for the lower levels were separate from the varsity and JV field and we liked it that way. Mike trusted us to teach the game and keep quality kids in the program. Mike always supported the lower levels. He allowed us to keep 4 teams even when many other programs were reducing to three or even just 2. We always struggled getting games for the 4th team but we always seemed to have ten to twelve games a year. On our field the joy never left the game. In all too many programs there doesn’t seem to be the joy there should be. Baseball is a thinking game and a game to be revered. We walk in the shadows of every kid who picked up a glove and ball. Mike has the same reverence for the game. The coaches he assembled were all students of the game and tried to share that with the kids. We always had camps for young people and worked with a Sertoma club to hold a camp for kids who are deaf or hard of hearing. The camp was one of the highlights of summer with our players contributing to the community. Mike is a genuinely good person that I have always looked to for advice and counsel for things way beyond the diamond. Rangeview has had a history of special people as baseball coaches and Mike is one of the best.

Day 69 November 30, 2022

Bagota Buccaneers

Every now and then you run across a storyteller with exceptional skills. Rob Schurich was one of these in the Business Department when I got to Rangeview. His favorite courses were his law classes and a class he did for Intersession. Our intersession was an opportunity for 3 weeks of teachers really teaching their passions. Mine was Robot Wars and electronics. Rob’s was Woodstock. His perspective came from his connection to it. Showing off his tickets and telling stories enraptured the kids. They would sit and listen for hours. He was talented at drawing the entire time and all that happened during those few weeks. Many people don’t know that Landing on the Moon, the Manson killings in Los Angeles, and Woodstock all happened within about 3 weeks. It was a time of great triumphs, pure evil, and a celebration of youth all in less than a single month. I got the chance to take over his Law classes when he retired. I followed his teaching method of stories. I told stories about growing up in Lakewood and all of the characters I grew up with. Rob had Bagota High School in New Jersey. All of our stories are related to legal issues and concepts through our schools and friends. The concept of Promissory Estoppel explains my dating history.

Rob was a renaissance man in many ways. He coached a Cross Country state championship team at Rangeview. He also had a band with fellow staff members called the Rockin’ Raiders. He was kind to staff and students and could make a brighter day just by talking to him. There is one thing I do have a beef with. He got me started and promoted my addiction to golf. He was always encouraging to me and the girl’s golf team he coached. He invited me to a golfing event with other coaches from baseball and football. We went to Mesquite Nevada and stayed for 5 days in June at the end of the month. It was a time when we were all off and the rates at that time of year were very low. I am thinking that the 110-degree heat may have had an impact on costs. We took 2 days and drive to St. George Utah to play some courses. At Coral Canyon on the 6th hole is where I got my one and only hole-in-one. It was a 165-yard par 3 over a desert waste area for most of the carry. The best part of the memory was sharing this with 15 other guys on the trip. If you golf you know what happened at the clubhouse and how much it cost for that round of golf. This is for the golf fanatics, we were playing a skins game and gave people pops based on their handicap. I found the fastest way to lose friends. We were counting up skins for each hole and they got the 6th everybody read their scores and I proudly proclaimed “I got a 1 and I got a pop on the hole.” If you want to know more about Rob look at the Rangeview webpage and look at the sports hall of fame.  I have been lucky to have had Rob as a friend and mentor.

Day 68 November 29, 2022

We have just completed the Thanksgiving weekend and I will take this time between this and the winter break to be thankful for colleagues. I am a strong advocate of focusing on the students but colleagues build your environment and create or destroy a happy workplace. At Rangeview I have been blessed with some people that I will never forget and are a reason why I enjoyed teaching. I want to start with the business department chair when I got to Rangeview. Ingrid was one of the most enjoyable and endearing relationships at Rangeview, She had the ability to make a tough day fun or tell me when I was out of line. Previously, I mentioned the event for our 50th birthdays so I won’t go over it again. I think my favorite was the joy we both had with music. The day we tried to show my class the Temptations dance moves was priceless. I was trying but I was stumbling along with Ingrid’s graceful moves.  We also tried to teach them the Hustle but they thought we were crazy. I learned from her how to have relationships with my classes. How to develop trust and mutual admiration for students. I was in awe of how she could talk with students and make them feel great about themselves. She also could tell them things that other teachers couldn’t. Ingrid remains one of my daughter’s favorite teachers from high school and ranks her ahead of me. She had a sense of humor that was very on point and knew how to have fun. She retired a few years ago. My favorite part of the first day of school for several years after her retirement was the very early morning text. She wished me a happy first day of school and she was going to Zumba and then out to lunch with other retirees. Maybe next year I can text her to have fun at Zumba and that I am going golfing.

Week 15 Musical Interlude

This is from the movie Fame. If you haven’t seen it please take the time to find it. This song is very emotional for me because this is what I hope every student believes as they leave us and start building their tomorrow. I think a testament to that is that a former student helped start a band called My Body Sings Electric.

Day 67 November 22, 2022

Yesterday I told a story of inspiration from a student at Rangeview. Today I will tell the story of one of my students. We had a wheelchair-bound student with a deteriorating muscular disease. He was interested in art and graphic design. He was interested in taking classes at the vocational school for our district. They were not equipped to accommodate him and his counselor asked if there was a way he could take either my desktop publishing or multimedia classes. He had a very limited range with his hands so it was going to be a challenge. I found an old-style desk and raised it very high so that his chair could fit underneath. The table was able to move close to his body so he could work the mouse and other drawing tools. I would love to sit with him and watch him work. I became more frustrated that he couldn’t do more advanced classes. We spent the year lobbying to get him in. When they saw the setup I had created they tried it. He did go there the next year and flourished. I would see him for the rest of that year and he had a smile on his face all the time. This was a young man that had a mission and he was going to make it happen. It was an honor the be a part of his education and anytime I feel a little sorry for myself, I only have to think about him to put it into perspective. Unfortunately, the story has a bittersweet ending. He passed a few years after high school from complications of his illness. The comfort I take is that he was able to do what he loved for a time and that Rangeview was a haven for his dreams. I am truly thankful I knew him and I will always have that in my heart. I will never stop telling the story to students to let them know they can dream and know that there are people who will have their backs.

Day 66 November 21, 2022

It is Thanksgiving week and I thought it was time for a couple of inspirational stories. Today and tomorrow will be stories that still bring tears to my eyes because of the inspiring story of students. I remember my first couple of years and some of the kids we had. One young man has one of the most inspirational stories I have witnessed. This wasn’t my student but everyone in the school knew the young man. He had a neuromuscular disease that was slowly robbing him of his limbs. He could walk a little when he got to Rangeview but his body kept deteriorating over his time with us. He had made a decision his senior year and nobody was going to stop him. His senior year had him wheelchair-bound and with little else in terms of his muscles. He had one special teacher, Val, and a class that committed to helping him with his goal and his secret. Graduation came and it was raining so we had to go into the gymnasium at Hinkley High School for the ceremony instead of out at the stadium. The building was ready for it but there wasn’t enough room for everybody so we had to limit it to two people per graduate. I was the new guy so they threw me into the lion’s den telling people that only 2 could come in. The ceremony was going well but I do have another couple of stories about this graduation later in the year.

The preliminaries did not prepare us for the moment of passing out the diplomas. The stage was handicap accessible so the young man could be rolled up to receive his diploma and go down the other side. When they got to his name, he came to the edge of the ramp pushed by his teacher. She stopped and this young man stood and started walking up the ramp. It was slow and unsteady but I have never heard cheering like I heard that day from the other seniors and families. His family and nobody else except his class with Val knew what was going to happen. The applause lasted until he got down the other side. There was nothing that was going to stop that walk across the stage. This was not a dry eye in the house. In thirty years of teaching, I have never been more moved or inspired than I was that day. I have had kids do amazing things but it still pales in comparison to one devoted teacher, a small group of classmates, and one student who was not going to let a wheelchair define his high school career. We later found out that he and the class had been practicing all semester during that class period.  If you ever have doubt about what the future holds in the hands of kids, look no further than this young man and his class. We will be just fine.

Day 65 November 18, 2022

This is one of my favorite stories. This one is about someone else but is well worth sharing. Different people have different takes on things. I don’t put bumper stickers on my car because I keep those opinions to myself most of the time. Sometimes bumper stickers can cause anger, frustration, or embarrassment. Sometimes they can make a very important point or suggestion. When I first got to Rangeview we had some mobiles in the south part of the building that has since been replaced by a building expansion. One of the fun parts of being the staff member of the month was parking in front of the mobiles and being very close to the doors to get inside. One of my colleagues earned the staff member of the month and was allowed to park in these spots. A lot of cars pass by the spots as they dropped off students. Everything went well for a couple of days but then the staff member was called down to the office and told he could only park by backing in. Apparently, some parents had been complaining. I knew it had to be pretty extreme for the principal to ask them to back in. On my way out that day, I had to swing by the car. There was a bumper sticker that I thought was very appropriate and that many of our students and their parents should follow. The bumper sticker simply said, “READ A F#@$ING BOOK!” Simple and to the point.  I thought the idea was expressed completely and with no grey area.

Day 64 November 17, 2022

Our employee number is used for an immense amount of record keeping. The most telling is when we use it during employee meetings for staff development.  When I give mine I am usually met with: “No honey, the 5 or 6 digit number you use for payroll.” After I assure them that I am not senile, I tell them again. The next thing they say trying to not make me feel bad: “Not your school number but the one for you as a teacher.” After another try at pointing out that I am not senile, I tell them that our school number is 376 but that my employee number is 397! I usually have to pull out my ID and prove it to them. So this 6 digit kid stands mouth agape when they see a 3 digit ID. They look at it in awe and like they have seen something so rare that it should be in a museum. They say, in a hushed voice, that they have never seen a 3 digit number before. In our district, I am told that there are less than 50 people left with this low of a number.

The story behind my low number reinforces the old adage: Location, Location, Location! When the new system was put into place I was still at Montview, less than a mile from the Administration Building. HR sent an email out at about 10:30 AM telling people to come by the Ad. Building and get an ID and that was when they will assign your number. I went to lunch at about 11 AM so I hot-footed it over to the office and got mine. I was one of the first in the district so I got a very low number. We do have one person at Rangeview that has a lower number. Monique was at Arora Central at the time and just had to walk across the parking lot to get her ID. She has a number about 30 below mine.  My number does speak to my age but also my location at the time. No secret, but a fun detail and I am keeping my ID when I retire to prove my point.

Day 63 November 16, 2022

I mentioned that I would go back to elementary now and then. Today is about a robbery down the street from Montview. The store was held up at gunpoint and the robber headed toward Montview. This was in the days before lockdowns and duck and cover, He crashed his car about a block from Montview and jumped out of his car, and ran toward our building. With the agility of a cat, he jumped onto a fence and then to the school’s roof He hid hoping that the police didn’t see him. They did see him and surrounded the building. They came in and asked us how to get to the roof. Our custodian had just transferred so our new one didn’t know where the roof hatch was. I made the mistake of being in the office at the time. I told them I knew where it was and I would take them to it. It was in the media center and in the back room. As we were walking up to the media center the officer asked if I could tell them what was on the roof and the areas where he could hide. I tried as best as I could but I told him it would be easier to show him. I went up the ladder with the key and unlocked the hatch and was the first one on the roof. As I looked back, I could see the officers in vests and with their shields following me. It never occurred to me that I was unarmed and unprotected but I was leading the party. At this point, I have to say that they found the car and he had left his gun in the car so they thought we were safe. I pointed out the HVAC units and the rest of the roof. They quickly surrounded him and had him handcuffed.

The police had apprehended the robber but had him handcuffed and I could see that he wouldn’t be able to climb the ladder in cuffs. The lead officer made a quick call on the radio and the next thing I know the fire department showed up with a ladder and bucket truck. They put him in the bucket and set him on the ground and carted him off to jail. We went back down the ladder and the officers thanked me and left. The one question that should have been asked was, how did I know what the roof looked like? For the last 25+ years, I have never been asked. I will give you the truth but still with some reservations. I had a science club and one of the best projects was building Estes rockets I will leave it at that, but I did spend a fair amount of time on the roof and in the neighborhood.

Day 62 November 15, 2022

Derek was one of my favorite students when I first started at Rangeview. I worked with him in Theatre and had him in web design class. Derek had a sense of humor that matched mine. We were working on a project to create a website for a resort and had to have pages that covered the full gambit of a resort. They created the resort from scratch and had to have a lot of pictures, created facts, and pages for those different aspects of a resort. I must have talked about error pages during the project because he created one. He didn’t say anything about it and hid it in his pages. I had a habit of showing people’s pages as examples. I should have known something was up when he immediately volunteered. I am going through his pages and he set a trap in several pages so that I would be sure to find it. He had formal writing on his error page and it was error 14150013 (I made this number up) I later discovered it was his student number. The page read that I had reached the end of the internet and there was no more and that I should turn back immediately. It shocked me because I was doing it in front of the class. I started to try and figure out what was going on and make sure I hadn’t gone to some location that was inappropriate. I tried to figure out what it meant and I was going to go check the error code but he gave himself away with a chuckle and a look from that corner of the room. I knew instantly that he had me and that he was getting an A for the class. I have encouraged humor and every now and then it does come back to haunt me. The best example of Derek’s sense of humor is that he played Thenardier in Les Miserables at Rangeview and was perfect for the part.

Week 13 Musical Interlude

Here is what we try to do as teachers. Take students to heights where they can see all of the possibilities. My favorite line is about chasing their dreams across the star.

Day 61 November 14, 2022

A teacher has a lot of choice in their environment. I did cause a little problem my first couple of years when I moved my room. The class was all in rows with the computer facing the front of the room. I am a talker so I knew that students were going to talk. In an effort to promote collaboration and make projects easier, I changed the desks. The challenge came around the plugs. The plugs we use are on the floor and are spaced in separate rows mentality. I have always felt that collaboration and working together with peers is a strong reinforcement of lessons and ideas. I have been a follower of David Thornburg since meeting him in the late 1990s at the Technology in Education Conference in Colorado. His work on the Campfires in Cyberspace changed how I thought about teaching. The simple premise is that we have 4 learning environments. a Campfire, a Watering Hole, a Cave, and life. The Campfire is the traditional teaching with the teacher (elder) telling stories at the campfire. The Watering Hole was working with peers and sharing information and ideas like in a desert the way that a watering hole is an equal gathering space. The Cave is learning in isolation and with no outside influence. Life is simply the process of going through day-to-day experiences. One revelation that has come to me in the last few years is that when I would ask kids which way they like to learn, about 70 to 80% said in a cave. After the pandemic when it was the ultimate cave, the number is down to about 20%. I think a balance of styles is important to learn. We spend so much of our time trying to find that perfect balance in a classroom that we sometimes forget the student. I also reinforce to the students that even if they do not like a particular style, it is important to understand how they learn in a different setting to optimize their education.

The change-up of the desks showed me that there was still a way to go but they really do make better connections in these little pods. Instead of 1 or 2 people around to collaborate with, they have 5 to 7 that are within easy distance. It may not be the perfect approach but it seems to work for me. I encourage you to explore David Thornburg’s ideas in this document: https://dcdc.coe.hawaii.edu/ltec/612/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Thornburg-Campfires_in_Cyberspace.pdf  

I also encourage you to look at the work of Marshall McLuhan. His work on the Media Theory is a cornerstone that still holds in today’s fast-paced social media environment. If he were still alive I know he would be having a great time as these new mediums come in and out of existence.

Day 60 November 11, 2022

I had an experience today that is special and I wanted to share it while I had it fresh in my mind. I believe that our job carries students into their lives and considers their dreams and aspirations. The last week or two are always my favorite. It is the time when seniors will come and tell me where they have been accepted to college. We some of the structures in place now students can apply to many schools without an application fee. They then often spread a wide net of opportunities. In the last few weeks, I have heard several accepted to the Colorado School of Mines but my favorite this year has been the University of Alabama. Over the years I have heard everything from MIT, Standford, Mines, Wyoming, Washington, DU, and Emory. This is a very short list but it shows the wide variety of choices students have made. I remind students that they can get quality educations at many schools and that they should choose a place based on feel. Do they feel comfortable on the campus and do they see themselves on the campus?  I don’t think the school makes the education but that the student makes the education at the school. I am proud of my schools and still feel comfortable driving around Greeley at the University of Northern Colorado.  The most important thing for students is to find their fit. Vocational schools and opportunities hold as much value for me as any college. If the student has found what they love to do, everything is worth it. I am also a strong advocate of the military and the opportunities they provide. I have had students who have been very successful in the military and are very proud of their service. I am reminded of a very old and tired cliche but it still is true: “if you find what you love, you will never work a day in your life.”  I also remind them that they will likely change professions at least once or twice in their careers. I went from retail management to photography and landed as a teacher. I look forward to the rest of the semester because the last few weeks have just been the early admissions and there are many more to come.

Day 59 November 10, 2022

One of the joys of teaching high school is the fun of putting students into real world settings. I got my first lesson when I had the Management & Entrepreneurship class. A third quarter assignment was to go through the process of creating a business. We would go through the process from inception to returning the profits to the investors. Some years we would produce products and other years we would be resellers. This was always an interesting project, Kids did really well and even a couple of those students have gone on to run their own businesses successfully. I never knew that this would cause some friction with other teachers. Part of the project required that they raised the money and gave shares in the company to investors. I thought that it would be welcomed with open arms by other teachers since it was a practical experience that relates to their future. I was a little naive and got a shock. About a week into the first year I was talking to a teacher from another department and we started talking about the process of raising money to start a business and then selling a product for a profit. The teacher asked where we were donating the profits. I simply said that the profits go back to the investors. Well, that was a mistake. This teacher goes off on me that as students and teachers we should help others and that it was abhorrent to make a profit in a public school.

I was taken aback and had to think before I spoke. You would think that I would have done okay since I paused before I answered. I could only think of one response and that just turned up the heat. I said that I was teaching business and not altruism. You would have thought i just set fire to their hair. They screamed at me that I was doing untold harm to the kids and violating our mission as teachers. To hear them talk I was the devil incarnate. They went down and tattled on me to the principal. I got called down and was asked to explain what I was doing with my class and what I was teaching. I told him nervously and then told him about my take on the encounter. My principal sat and thought about it for a minute. He then told me to keep on doing what I do and teach the kids how to run a business. I just avoided that teacher for a couple of years. The good news is that I turned a profit every year we were in business and returned a profit to the investors.

Day 58 November 9, 2022

Intersession! This was one of the greatest ideas we ever had at Rangeview. Our principal felt that we needed something to spice things up a bit. It was also at a time when the first semester ended in January. It was a strange three weeks. We spent more time in classes and then did Intersession when we came back until the rest of the district finished the first semester. It was predicated on the idea to give students a choice and teachers an opportunity to be creative. The classes were covering a huge spectrum of topics. There was Sat prep, Knitting, Woodworking, Colorado History, Electronics, and too many to mention. Intersession had been going for a while before I got to Rangeview but I really embraced the idea. I did Robot Wars. It took an RC model truck and turned it into a BattleBot. It was an opportunity to bring in added old appliances and outfit the robot with tools of destruction. We watched videos of the shows and kids had to write their ideas down and sketch them before trying them on the robot. This class was my favorite of all time. At the end of Intersession, we took the robots into the commons and had a tournament with a single winner. We had some great battles and I wish I had taken a video. We learned that the rollers for old VHS machines were very heavy and could cause a lot of destruction. We did have one person take his mother’s toaster and used parts. We did have a few dollars left from the fund so she got a new toaster. Every single thing we did in Robot Wars is now a part of my engineering curriculum. Ten years before I started teaching engineering, I was headed down this track. Thanks to Marc Stine, our principal who encouraged this creativity. I know that many students who were not involved the rest of the year really enjoyed Intersession.

Day 57 November 8, 2022

Building improvements and retrofits are common in schools. Over the years we have had several additions and some remodeling. The two biggest have been additions and wiring retrofits. The wiring is the most important to me as a computer and business teacher. Our rooms were retrofitted with wiring in the floor and additional wiring on the walls. These have been critical as we moved away from typewriters and only a few computers. These retrofits sometimes lead to strange consequences. One such event was the time we tried to make an old woodshop a STEM room that had a full complement of computers. The first thing we started to see is that the far side of the room couldn’t connect to the internet. I tried everything I could think of from software to hardware. The ports were active. The switches worked in other parts of the room. I spent a couple of weeks troubleshooting the issue. I finally gave up when I realized the closet we were coming from. It was a problem that most people won’t face because their wiring closet is close to the machines. I walked it off one day and realized that the room was at the very end of the distance that basic ethernet wiring can go. I would start up a machine and the small amount of bandwidth was stretched to the limit. When you fired up a second machine it got much less and after a few machines, nothing worked. We had to abandon the idea of using that room.

The other electrical wiring issue was one that could only happen in a government operation. We had some power added to the back of a couple of our rooms. We have an electrical board in our storeroom about 20 feet away. It would make sense that the wiring was there. We blew the circuit breaker once and it took us 2 days to find the right switch. I checked every one of the electrical panels in the department. I had a strange hunch that I followed a couple of days later. The wiring came as part of a remodel that included our receiving area downstairs. Just on chance I went to the new panels and low and behold found the switch at the bottom of the farthest panel from the room. So instead of adding to a panel that has lots of space 20 feet away, they went with a panel on a different floor and about 75+ feet away. This proves that the cosmos has a sense of humor. I now have to make sure that people know it before I retire or it could be very funny for the next person.

Day 56 November 7, 2022

One of the joys of working at Rangeview was the Business Department team. Cindy, Rob, Tom, and Ingrid were a joy to work with. We had fun and still were leaders in the building. None of us took ourselves too seriously and enjoyed the relationships with the students. I learned how to connect with students and make a difference by watching all of them. As with any team, we had inside jokes and pranks on each other. My favorite was with Ingrid. Her birthday was exactly one week before mine and even in the same year. We always had fun with our birthdays in school. My favorite was the prank I pulled on her one year. Every 15 minutes through the course of the day I had a student bring her a balloon until I had hit the number of years. We all laughed and had fun with the idea. I should have known that I was going to get it the next week. Right on cue, every 15 minutes I was visited by a student bringing me golf balls until we hit the number. The only difference was that the balloons were easy but the golf balls were hard to control. It isn’t a big thing but it is the kind of thing that will always be in my memory of teaching. I wish every teacher a group to work with like I had when I came to Rangeview. There are many more stories to come about this group.

Week 12 Musical Interlude

I imagine this song with my teaching. As I envision retiring I can imagine a teacher version of this song.

Day 55 November 4, 2022

I have been short-sighted for as long as I can remember. It was discovered in junior high  school by a wonderful English teacher. John Glover discovered that when I sit in the back I just goofed of and was a class clown. When I was up front I did my work. He worked through everything and then had me checked for vision problems. I got glasses shortly after and finally could see what I was doing in classes. That did not stop me from being  clown but it at least gave me a better chance. I had these problems since 1972 and I had glasses and even tried contacts once. The contacts lasted about 3 hours. I got them back in the day when only hard contacts were available. So in 2002 I decided to try Lasik surgery and see if I could leave the glasses behind. For almost 20 years it worked but in the last few years my eyes reacted like anyone getting older.

I was nervous about starting the new job at Rangeview. I had the surgery a couple of weeks before I started. When I got Rangeview everything was blurry. I panicked and waited for the problems to settle. It was scary because I thought the surgery had gone bad. After 2 weeks and squinting at everything I called the surgeons office the nurse told be to look at the care directions on page 2. If I had read I would have known. Apparently after surgery florescent lights make things blurry. Luckily I was able to see things clearly in a few weeks. That was the last thing I needed as I started a new job.

Day 54 November 3, 2022

Starting at Rangeview was a new start and a new challenge. I was working with a new staff and learning new systems. The first thing I discovered was that a staff of almost 150 is very different from an elementary school. I could tell when we had our first all staff workday. We met at a conference center and had a nice breakfast and prepared for the new year. I am like all teachers who are new to a school. I am under scrutiny from everyone in my department and in the building. I wanted to just fit in and make no waves. I am boisterous and very involved in meetings but for a new job I just watch and see the lay of the land first. We had a large group of new teachers for this year and so it was easy to lay low. I had met everyone in my department but I knew Ingrid the best so I stayed with her and sat with the whole department. I sat at the table waiting for the meeting to begin.

We had a change in superintendent the year before and this was the start of his second year. The new superintendent had brought my old principal into the district office as the Director of Instruction. It had been a rough start because many people felt that the director didn’t understand what it took to run a high school and some of the people didn’t like some of the policies that were put into place. It was tense anytime the district folks came into our meetings. Because it was an all staff meeting we couldn’t keep any of the district folks out. I sat there quietly waiting and the Director of Instruction walks in. I can feel the temperature of the room drop ten degrees when everyone saw her. She walked in and was walking along the back wall when she sees a familiar face. I am ready to dive under the table but she walks over and sits down at the Business department table and starts talking to me. The rest of the room is all looking at me with a suspicious look. We had worked together for nine years so it made sense. I also believe she was a very good elementary school principal and I enjoyed working for her and with her. I was made fun of during Business Department meetings for several years. So much for being unseen and subtle.

Day 53 November 2, 2022

Yesterday I talked about meeting Marc Stine at my Aunt Dorothy’s funeral and the winding way I put in for a transfer. Today is about the interview process. I had mentioned to my principal at Montview that I might not even get an interview. I did and had to tell the principal that I needed part of an afternoon off. I wasn’t worried about taking too much time because I never used sick leave. As I write this I have 275 sick days accrued. I got to the interview about half an hour early because I am punctual. I believe that on time is fifteen minutes early. I sat in the office waiting and getting nervous. I realized that I might like this challenge. I had a massive notebook as a portfolio and a CD with everything in electronic form as well as websites I created. I knew that the position would be teaching web design and multimedia.

I came into the Assistant Principal’s office. Rob Bishop was the first person I met and he would later go on to be the principal at Rangeview. I also met Ingrid Franklin who was the department chair at the time. She had a cold and so didn’t want to shake my hand and make me sick. As we were going through the interview she looked a little distracted and I was afraid that she didn’t like me. I would later find out the real reason and it wasn’t me. I did the best I could do but since I was teaching elementary I didn’t think I had a chance. I would later find out that there were a lot of people that applied for the job. I left and beat myself up because I could have answered questions a little differently.

Again, I did not expect much and thought it was kind of fun interviewing again. It really made me evaluate what I was doing and maybe I could do some things better. About three days later I got a call from HR that they would like to set up a finalist interview. Now I was even more nervous but got there half an hour early again. I met with Marc alone and was a little panicked because my mouth went dry and I forgot everything I had ever done in the classroom. It was an interesting interview and was very conversational. He asked me about my qualifications for a couple of minutes and then talked about my high school experience. One of the things I mentioned would come back to revisit me a few weeks into the year. I then got the “trick” question. It was very straightforward forward and I answered truthfully but thought I had ruined my chances. He asked if I would rather be respected or liked by students. I answered with the analogy that I still use today. I said that I have respected many people that I did not like. I would not do anything for them out of the required. I said that if I liked somebody I would go through a brick wall for them. Respect should go hand in hand with liking someone. As a teacher, I knew that if kids liked me I was more likely to get them to learn. I also mentioned that being liked was very different from trying to be their friend.

I left this meeting with the same feeling that I had before and had all of the same doubts. I told my wife that I had given it a try but didn’t think it was in the cards. The next day I got a call from HR that they were offering me the position. I was walking on cloud nine and I haven’t come down since. Now I had to figure out my credentials but that is for another day.

Day 52 November 1, 2022

I am moving into high school. I will still do an elementary story now and then but it is time to transfer to Rangeview High School. I will be using my experience in several areas as the basis for these stories.

  • Classroom Teacher in Business, Engineering, and STEM
  • Technology Coordinator
  • Baseball Coach
  • Softball Coach
  • Performing Arts Staff
  • Student Leadership and Senior Sponsor
  • German Exchange

I have to start with the first moments of considering changing to high school. It starts on a sad occasion but it propelled me to this career. I had an aunt who was one of the nicest and genuinely great people. Aunt Dorothy served in many roles in the city of Sheridan, Colorado during her life. She and my Uncle Bill had positions from the city council all the way to the school board in their time. They were the most civic-minded people I ever knew.  Another indicator of this was that many of my cousins have followed their lead. Aunt Dorothy was able to charm anyone and was sincere in all she did. Many years ago my Aunt Dorothy passed away and the whole town came to the services. While she was on the school board they hired Marc Stine as the principal of Sheridan High School. He moved from there to Aurora Central and then to Rangeview. Marc was at my aunt’s service. I knew of him because he cast a large shadow in APS and was someone that has charisma. He was a dynamic principal and I learned a great deal from him in the short time we were together at Rangeview.

During the reception, we started talking about things in APS and the remembrances of my aunt. The one thing that we talked about was the crafts that my aunt did. Our favorite craft were the same. Aunt Dorothy made these large sugar eggs that had a cellophane window on one end and revealed a scene inside. She used to give those out and I always treasured the one I had for many years. When it was time to leave Marc mentioned that If I ever wanted to go to high school let him know. Many months later I happened to see him at a school board meeting in APS. We chatted in the parking lot and he told me that he had a teacher turn in her papers to retire and that he expected my transfer paperwork to be turned in by the end of the week. At the time all of the paperwork was hard copies and required me to ask the secretary in our building for the paperwork. I couldn’t do anything in secret but I told the principal at Montview that it was just a long shot and that I probably wouldn’t even get an interview. I did get an interview and you know the story then goes on for over the next twenty years all the way to today. I am not going to tell the entire story of the hiring process because there is enough about the interview process that deserves its own story. I will be forever grateful to my aunt for the way she was in life and I can’t help but think she had a hand in changing the trajectory of my career.

Week 11 Musical Interlude

Some good old Folk music. It is a part of my war protest music and is a very fun song with a serious message. It sometimes gets lost on people who don’t understand satire but I hope you enjoy it.

Day 51 October 31, 2022

I have a few thoughts on teaching elementary that I want to share. This is my last post for my elementary years and I still have a ton of stories. I want to say that teaching for nine years in elementary was the best prelude to teaching high school. Elementary kids still scare me. I know that I had to work very hard to do a good job for these kids. They all deserve the best and a good start can set the tone for their lives. Teaching elementary was not intuitive for me and required a lot of extra work. The good news is that when I got to high school I understood what came before. I knew how they learned and were taught. It was a huge advantage and allowed me to focus on the content and not worry about classroom management and learning types.

There is one last story that I have to tell.  I had advanced to the point where I was able to have a student teacher and I was lucky enough to have one that was very good and spent many years at Montview after I left. Amy Lini was very well suited to work with kids. She was patient, compassionate, and empathetic. She had one Achilles heel and that was that she couldn’t gauge the temperature of the water. I have said before that my room was frog themed. I had an African Clawed frog for two years. I grew him from about 2 inches to almost 6 inches. He was the class pet and we were very fond and proud of him. They have the ability to take a gulp of air and hang on the fish tank floor for hours on that one breath.  They would be there not moving for hours. Little did I know that this habit would save me one day. We were a week from the end of Yellow Track and headed for a three-week break. We decided to clean the tank so that the teacher who was taking care of it wouldn’t have to do anything but feed him. Amy had been my student teacher for a couple of months by this time and I trusted her. I cleaned it out and got it ready and Amy was going to put the water in and let him get into the water to acclimate. I just told her to have the water at room temperature.  I am not sure what room she thought we were in but the water ended up being hot. I didn’t check it because I was doing other things in the room. She put him in and he took two strokes and then just died from being cooked. He was in a stretched-out position but dead as a doornail.

Luckily this frog murder had occurred after school was out for the day. The good news was that he looked natural, only dead. I did what any good parent or teacher would do: I just left him at the bottom of the tank. The kids didn’t seem to notice. When they would go to recess or lunch I would move him around so it looked like he was still alive. I did that for almost an entire week but things started to fall off of him. I did make it to the end of the week and after they left I cleaned it up and put the tank away.

I had three weeks to find a replacement. I traveled from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins looking for a frog that was big enough. There was none to be found. Apparently, they are sold very small and then grow. The pet shop owners said that they have only seen a couple get that big. I was in a panic so I did the only thing I could think of: I bought two small ones. When they came back from break they noticed that there were two and I never answered any questions about what happened. I left it to their imaginations. If I have any regret in teaching it is that there may be thirty adults out in the world that think frogs can split in two.

I still have some elementary stories and I will sprinkle them into the rest of the year. I was honored to be a teacher for nine years of students at Montview. I was blessed to work with exceptional people who loved students and gave them the gift of learning. I want to keep reminding people that this is a celebration of the kids. It is just through my eyes. Tomorrow I start high school for the second time in my life. This time I will be here for over twenty glorious years.

Day 50 October 28, 2022

Accomplishments are important and I am a believer that if my accomplishments help others, I have been successful. In the mid-90s we were writing out report cards for every student. Your hands would cramp up and trying to find ways to say things briefly became an art. As I look back on where we are now, it seems very primitive. Now I click a couple of buttons to add the grade and another couple of buttons to add comments. The attendance and other details are built into the system. Even to the point where we no longer send out hard copies of them. Everything has become electronic. One of the first major projects I took on for my fellow teachers was creating an electronic report card. I had very few options and was building something from scratch. It had to be only one page and yet had to have everything that we were required to report. I turned to something that was new and decided to try and invent Montview’s first electronic report card. I went with the most modern software I could find for the task. Clarisworks was what I needed. I decided to go with the spreadsheet component so that I could create dropdown menu items so that people couldn’t mess it up. Teachers had to keep everything on a disk and hope nothing happened to it. At the end of each quarter, we collected the disks and then gave them back after we made a backup. It was the funniest thing in the world to watch teachers try to use them for the first two years. This was unprecedented and was watched by the district. Eventually, the district started offering the template to other schools. 

I was so excited because I had spent many hours on the development. We were able to make things go much faster but teachers had to be careful not to write too much. If they went one line too far it created a second page and messed everything up. I listen to teachers complain about the system when they change one minor thing. I compare it to the complaints when we completely changed the landscape of reporting to parents. I am very proud of my efforts and within a couple of years we then started looking at student management systems. I still believe that my report card started the ball rolling and people saw the possibilities. The only people who knew I was behind this idea were the folks at Montview. I was honored to be a part of a community of teachers with a single goal: do the best for kids. I will take that acknowledgment from them as an accomplishment. I received the Mary Lou Midcap Award during my last year at Montview. It was an honor that I still cherish and consider one of my greatest accomplishments. My elementary journey is coming to an end and I will transition to the twenty-one years I have spent in high school. I have one last post on Halloween and it is a perfect time to switch over. Thank you if you have read my elementary stories and I guarantee you that the high school stories will be a riot.

Day 49 – October 27, 2022

Today I landed in Orlando, Florida getting ready to present at the PLTW Summit for the next three days. I have been to many conferences in the last 30 years. This weekend will be the last one as an APS teacher. I think back to some of my memorable conferences. Some of my favorites were the Technology In Education (TIE) conference in Colorado. I presented at many over the years and had a great time. It was the time when those of us doing technology were at the front of the curve. I especially enjoyed watching and learning from others. Presenting is a joy to share some of my ideas but learning from others far exceeded my expectations. I am in awe of some of the presenters I have seen over the years. I think about how much I was able to translate into activities for my classroom. I think of the advantage my students have had because I was always learning from others. I have said that the day I stop learning is the day I will stop teaching. I am so excited to see what I can learn from others over the next few days.

Day 48 – October 26, 2022

I am a big fan of planning. There exists a group of people that spend money like there is no end and that they will always have money. The other piece is that people often look at the new shiny toy and feel the need to have it. An example happened a couple of years ago I had an administrator ask why we didn’t have a bunch of 3D printers for our building. I told her simply that we were getting to the point where we needed them for our curriculum. It seemed silly to have equipment just because other people had them. It makes sense to buy them when we have a need and not just respond to a fad. This brings me to the technology renewal money we had in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The bond election provided money to renew technology in a building and keep things updated. We would spend hours preparing the report. The document had 10+ sections that covered everything from staff use to student use. It covered labs, media centers, and classrooms. It was a complete evaluation and a plan that covered several years. It was this preparation that allowed for a very successful use of taxpayer money. In the last few years, people became offended if they were asked how they were spending the money for the building. The other problem that arose was that money was often at the whim of any new principal and could change as a new principal came in. There became disjointed plans and often, no plans at all. It seemed like a burden at the time but it was something that we could tell taxpayers and look them in the eye. A return to a simple plan for money before spending on new toys without a plan would help schools become more fiscally sound.

Day 47 – October 25, 2022

Microworlds and Logo programming was my first step into programming with kids. I was doing this with students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades at Montview. As I compare to students coming into my class today, those elementary kids were miles ahead of the high school kids I see now. This is a windmill that I have been tilting at for several years. A few years ago districts were facing budget shortfalls and one of the savings was in not teaching technology specials. The justification was that students “grew up” with devices in their hands so they already know how they work. It is a huge fallacy and has done a disservice to our kids. I grew up with a gifted mechanic as a father. I grew up with engines everywhere and yet I know very little about engines. It is thinking that has handicapped kids and made them significantly less prepared for coding and the modern world than their predecessors. Kids were moving turtles around like crazy and drawing their own art with these turtles. As remediation for many in my computer science class with ninth and tenth graders, I am using Logo and turtle graphics again.

The kids I had at Montview loved to create things and it would have been an easy jump for them to go fully into a language like Python. I hope those students have done well and their coding has served them well. Python was in its infancy in the mid-1990s but I know the older elementary kids would have done well. I wish I had that as an option at the time. I have included three Logo programs below. Two of them are free programs and Microworlds does cost. I was lucky at the time at Montview to have a principal that let me buy it. With the older kids, I did move to another program that reinforced the use of technology as a solution. We did work on systems thinking and used a program called STELLA. It was very good software to show systems and programs for variables in systems. The software was being used all the way to colleges and we were doing it in fifth grade. When we did units on predators and prey, we used the systems software to model the change in environments based on populations and resources. The fourth link is for an online systems thinking and modeling creator. The fifth link is for software devised at the University of Colorado and has a great following. I was turned on to this software by a friend who taught middle school. AgentCubes/AgentSheets is a fun and challenging environment that can also do simulations and 3D. Mark Shouldice has been a leader for AgentCubes/AgentSheets. for years and many students in APS are the better for it.

 

Links:

https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/

https://people.eecs.berkeley.edu/~bh/logo.html

http://www.microworlds.com/

https://ncase.me/loopy/

https://agentsheets.com/

Day 46 October 24, 2022

Welcome back from Fall Break.

Today is one of the ways to break up a staff meeting. Any teacher who has been to a staff meeting understands. Unfortunately, they can’t be leveled like we are asked to do in our classrooms. The ideal would be three staff groups. Group one could be for years 1 to 5 in their career and address things as if they have never experienced them. Group 2 could be from year 6 to year 20. These people know everything and are willing to tell you. They will also be the ones that ask questions as a way to challenge the administrators. Group 3 would be years 21 to 30+. This group has seen everything at least twice and that experience should be honored. Facts, new ways, and support should be the focus.

All of that was an introduction to my version of how to break up a staff meeting. In about year six I unknowingly completely shattered the meeting. I had problems breathing since my teenage years because my nose was rearranged in sports. I had a doctor that recommended Sudafed as a way to clear up my sinuses. He recommended 3 to 4 doses a day to really clean me out. The problem was that he never gave a time frame so I kept taking it. Apparently, if enough of the medicine in Sudafed builds up it can have unintended consequences. During a staff meeting, I blacked out, had some kind of seizure, and was talking randomly. It wasn’t a full-blown seizure but bad enough for them to call paramedics. I don’t remember the ambulance ride or much of the emergency room but they kept a few hours for observation and sent me home. It was more traumatic for my wife who was in the same meeting. She may have some rebuttal to my take on things but it is as best as I can remember. The next year I had my septum corrected. It wasn’t just deviated but it was accordioned back into my head. I had a great doctor who fixed and I have been able to breathe ever since.

The most important piece of the story was that the principal and assistant principal came to the emergency room right away after the meeting and stayed with my wife and me.  Sometimes as teachers we feel unappreciated and unvalued. I can tell you that I have never felt that way in APS and their response was living proof. Debbie and Jane always made me feel appreciated and valued. We did have a few rough spots over the years but it never felt as though I wasn’t valued. I thanked Debbie and Jane many times over the years but I wanted to say it one more time as I get ready to retire. Thank you to all of the Administrators I have had over the years. I have learned something from every one of them.

Day 45 – October 13, 2022

I think every child ought to visit Disneyland. It really is the happiest place on earth. I have many stories about Disneyland and they will come up when I transition to high school. My first time at Disneyland was as a teacher at Montivew. I had found a new adventure and was teaching a sheltered English class to students who were learning English as a second or third language. It was fun and a huge challenge at the same time. one of the perks was to be a part of Project TALK. Project TALK was run out of the Bilingual Education Program of APS.  It was an ambitious project and was the precursor to what we have today. The full description of what I was working on is in the JPEG below. We were going to the California Association of Bilingual Education (CABE). We had been to many sessions and we were “conferenced out” and were leaving late that night. As we sat at the restaurant of the Anaheim Hilton we looked over the itinerary for the day and came to the conclusion that walking across the street and going to Disneyland was a far more entertaining choice. I had an amazing time and was the biggest kid in the park that day. When I got home, luckily my daughter was only three and wasn’t as aware of what I did. If she had been a little older I would have been in big trouble for going without her.

The second part of the story is about the people I connected with and met during the conference. I got to spend a lot of time with David & Yvonne Freeman who were very big in the bilingual education area. I spent time talking about my classroom and got some great tips and advice on how to make my classroom more successful. The other brush with celebrity came at a session on teaching math. I was sitting next to this gentleman and something about him struck me as familiar. I couldn’t place him until the presenter told people to turn and introduce themselves to the people next to them. I said my name and this man just got halfway through his name before it hit me. I was sitting and chatted for an hour with Jamie Escalante, the teacher that inspired the movie Stand and Deliver. I was a little star-struck but a great conversation ensued. After a few minutes, I got up the courage to ask him the question I always wanted to know about teachers like him. I asked him in a polite way, what was it that made him such a good teacher. In one sentence he was able to give me the best understanding of teaching, I had ever heard. He said, “I just teach differently and I teach the way I learned.” I thought about it and as we talked he told me that he was successful with kids who may need a different approach. There wasn’t just one way to learn and he reached his kids on their level and their way of learning. To this day I try to approach new learning in a couple of different ways to reach more kids.

Next week is Fall Break so I will return on October 24, 2022

 

Day 44 – October 12, 2022

Teaching has given me the good fortune to meet many influential teachers over the last few years. One of my favorites was meeting and talking to Donald Graves. Donald Graves was a leader in the reforming of writing. His books stand out as beacons of light as a way to instruct young writers. His work changed the teaching of writing and empowered generations of teachers and writers. He is partially responsible for my courage to undertake this project. He was a joy to be around and always gave you the feeling that you had something to contribute. As a new teacher, it was refreshing to be considered and even when my ideas might have been off he was kind about redirecting my thoughts. He came to Montview because a former graduate assistant of his was now teaching at Montview. He was in town for a conference and came to Montview to spend the day. He spent time with all of us but was interested in my science curriculum and the writing that was coming out of it.

At the time he was working with the University of Miami (Ohio) on a science magazine for children. The magazine was called Dragonfly and he asked if I might be interested as a teacher. Of course and I would look forward to seeing it and using it in my classroom. He was writing the initial lead article for the premier issue.  It was supposed to come out in a few months and he just made a note of it. I didn’t think much of it and was just waiting for it to hit the streets. A couple of weeks later I got an envelope from him. I was expecting a copy of the magazine but it was too early. When I opened it, there was the article he was writing and had a note attached asking me to look it over and give my thoughts. I was floored at someone of that stature in teaching to be asking me for an opinion and ideas. I read it over and found it to be a fantastic article on getting students to use science as a way to express themselves in writing. I was terrified but I made a couple of minor suggestions and mailed it back. When the magazine came out he did incorporate one of my ideas.

I learned the lesson of humility in the strongest possible terms. It also gave me permission to ask others for ideas and that I didn’t have to be the last and final authority on everything in my classroom. It opened up learning as a collaboration between students and the teacher. I have held that belief and philosophy ever since.

Day 43 – October 11, 2022

It is not what you know but who you know. This will be a repeating theme in my story. On September 6 or Day 18, I spoke about getting hired. This is about the interview before getting hired. The first time I encountered this was while getting hired at Montview. One of my professors in my teaching program was an instructional leader at Montview. Like other programs, the University of Denver employed adjunct professors who were working in the field. Cheryl was a talented teacher and gave us a good background for teaching reading and writing.  Cheryl suggested I try for the primary position that was open at Montview. She said that even if I didn’t get the position, it would be practice interviewing. I got through the paper process and my name was given to Montview for consideration. When I met with them I was frightened and intimidated. I was at a kidney-shaped table with six people and I was in the hot seat. All of the women were in the primary grades or administrators. Leading the interview was my professor Cheryl. It didn’t make me any less nervous but I did have a face I recognized.

The questions came from all sides for about 45 minutes. I felt like I was doing well until a question about the reading process came up. I started my answer confidently and about halfway through my answer I felt a sharp pain in my shin. I started to answer again and felt another sharp pain. I thought it was someone stretching their legs under the table. The second blow told me that I had made an error with my answer. I realized that the blows to my shin were not a simple stretch but were intentional by Cheryl. I was not willing to risk a third bruise. The easiest way to say it is that I changed my answer and got the job. A few months later I was talking to Jana who was across the hall and asked her what it was about my interview that convinced them to hire me. She told me that since it only took two kicks to the shin before I figured things out, I could be molded into a good teacher. The rest is the thirty-year journey since that day.

Day 42 – October 10, 2022

Opportunity and flexibility are important in elementary classrooms. Too many teachers teach their lesson plans and often don’t teach their students. You sometimes have to seize an opportunity and let the planned lesson fall by the wayside. These are often the best learning days. I was lucky enough to learn this early in my career. One of the units we did was a butterfly unit and hatched butterflies. We set everything up and with the help of a kit, we had 30 caterpillars ready to go inside their chrysalis’ and turn into butterflies. I had many friends do this unit and the butterflies emerged at night or on a weekend. They would then show the students and then let the butterflies free. I had the best of all outcomes with my class. We just got back from lunch and one girl ran over to look and started screeching that they were hatching. I had a choice to continue with the math lesson or focus on the butterflies. I chose the butterflies. I asked the students to grab their notebooks so they could draw and write about the process they were seeing. As a class, we even skipped our specials. It was art, the teacher came out and joined us with paper and crayons. Susan DeCamp was our art teacher and one of the nicest people I know. I still have one of her paintings hanging in my house 25 years later. We took the whole afternoon and sat outside huddled around this box holding the chrysalises. It is probably one of the deepest and most long-lasting lessons I have ever taught.  All that I did was sit back and let it happen.  I spent the next 2 and a half hours listening, dispelling misconceptions, and answering questions. Not one student wanted to go play with the other kids during recess. At the end of the day, it was a scene of chaos when we let them go. Kids running everywhere on the field chasing their butterflies. The best part is that I learned as much as the students did. I learned about what teaching really is while they learned about butterflies. That lesson stays with me to this day and I bet if you were to find some of those students, they would still remember that day. As a teacher, I wonder what lessons kids will remember and take with them. It is usually never the ones we think they should remember. I have confidence that this lesson will stay with them forever. The way I can tell is, later in the spring I heard one of my students telling the story to another teacher and then correcting the other teacher when they said “cocoon” instead of chrysalis. The student went on to correct the teacher by telling them that cocoons produce moths, not butterflies. I wish every teacher could have seen that day and learn the lesson of the butterflies.

Day 41 – October 7, 2022

In the words of that great philosopher Kermit: “It isn’t being green.” Most elementary teachers use themes to enhance their rooms and build the sense of family. My first few years saw me use a frog and green theme. It was at this time that cell phones were starting to become more common. To join in with my theme I got a green phone cover. It made it look a little like a toy. I had it setting in my desk drawer and one day I didn’t find it in the drawer at the end of the day. I went into panic mode. I looked everywhere I could think of. I scoured the school and after a half an hour of panic someone mentioned the simple test of calling the phone. I called from my room hoping to hear something but after about 7 rings I heard a tentative “hello?” I asked who this was and where they found the phone. She said she got it from behind the dryer at her souse. I asked if she had a student at Montview. “Yeah, in second grade in Mr. Mills’ room.” I was a little flabbergasted but asked the parent to bring it to school that evening. She did and I got my phone back. On the way home I got a black cover for the phone. It taught me about trusting students. I still am very trusting and this story didn’t change my mind, Many years later, I would have another phone stolen, That is a story for my high school years.

Day 40 – October 6, 2022

Usually businesses and other organizations make sure not to have spouses working together. In our case at Montview, we were looking to hire a special education teacher. My principal asked me if it was okay to hire my wife away from the private school where she was working at the time. My wife was working at a school run by a bunch of misogynists. She knew she would never move into the top echelons of the school. Montview offered the opportunity to control her own destiny. I was’t worried and even looked forward to her working at Montview. It gave us the chance to discover the secret to a happy marriage and working relationship. For any of you who are taking notes get ready. The secret is two-fold. First, separate cars to work. I know we may have added to the carbon footprint but I am willing to take the heat. The second is separate bathrooms. This also is huge when considering and being married. We don;t have the stress of getting to work at the same time. I am inclined to get there very early and my wife gets there eventually. It has worked well for the last 25 plus years. The one gap was while she opened Fletcher Elementary in our district. After that she joined me at Rangeview. We have spent the last 7 years at Rangeview. The best part was the four years our daughter joined us for her high school years. At the end of this year, Dawn and I will join Kaila as a Rangeview grad.

Day 39 – October 5, 2022

One of the important things for a professional is to measure their words. We have all opened our mouths and placed our foot directly in. This is even more important to be aware of if you open your mouth and insert your foot and potentially offend a supervisor. My most interesting occasion was while I was teaching at Montview. I am a sports nut and so there are a few things I do as a result. Watch a lot of sports, participate until my body said it was over, and read about sports. One of the must reads was always Sports Illustrated. At the time I had a subscription to Sports Illustrated and the Hockey News. I read them cover to cover every week.  I did have a subscription to the Smithsonian Magazine for my intellectual side. One Sports Illustrated magazine article sent me over the edge. It was about hockey but I really don’t remember what the article was about. I just knew that the author was someone who didn’t regularly write about hockey. He was a golf and football guy. So I was talking to some other sports fans at a staff meeting before it began. I was sitting with them at a table and it included several staff members and an assistant principal. So I am on a tirade about the article and how the author should mind his own business and go back to golf. So I complete my tirade and everyone agreed with me. Then the voice of my assistant principal chimes in and asks what I know about the author of the article. I just piled on and repeated that he should stay to what he knows.  She then proceeds to tell me that he was from Boulder and as an aside that he was her brother! After I looked at her and could tell she was serious and did the biggest back peddle I have ever done. I stammered an apology and she told me that she was used to it because her brother was opinionated and did ruffle feathers. I worked with her for a few more years but I always measured my words when talking to her. The other takeaway for me was that I did read a couple of his books and really enjoyed his writing about golf. To this day whenever I see a Sports Illustrated I am reminded to look around before I say anything.

Day 38 – October 4, 2022

I was a member of a small group of innovators that started technology specials in elementary. In our district, we had Carl W, Andy Y, Randy W, and me. It was the opportunity of a lifetime to create something exciting and new. Teaching is built on the foundation of nurturing students. If that nurturing is personal or nurturing learning, it is an important tenet of teaching. Often one missing piece is the nurturing of colleagues. Since we were creating a program from the ground up, we sought the help of fellow specialists. We found out that we were persona non grata in the specialists’ world. This was led by a few loud people who felt that we were out to damage what they taught. One of the main people leading this campaign in the district was a teacher from my building. The teacher was kind and polite to my face and then behind my back was horrible. I learned to walk a delicate balance but knew that I had no place for district-level meetings or training. Any inservice training we did was amont the four of us. As other schools came on board we had a larger group but still struggled with how to prep for 6 different grade levels. We worked through it but for several years we were on our own with no support or training. I am torn about who to blame. Would it be the district who should have stepped in and included us? Was it the role of the principals to demand supports for all their teachers including us? Was it the other specialists in the schools or even in district settings? I blame them all equally. This is why some teachers feel abandened in the careers and aren’t sure who to turn to in times of need. All my group were strong and held our own in these settings. I am left with the question of: How good could we have been if we had support and training. I also wonder if I have ever done that to someone else and not realized it.

Day 37 – October 3, 2022

I had the joy of starting a technology special at Montview. It was a perfect rotation for a year-round school and kept the specialists on a similar schedule. I had kindergarten through 5th grade all year long. I had to develop lessons and work for every level. It was a challenge but fun because I could see their growth over time. I would like to think that those students did well with technology long after they left us. There was always a drawback to everything good it seems. The drawback for me was that every year I seemed to scare one kid. My favorite was a little girl named Sarah. She was in kindergarten and was afraid every time she came to class. I still do not know what it was about me that frightened her but something did. We had to do the technique of getting closer to the room and me every day. It was funny to see her seat a little closer every day. By the end of October, she ran to my class when they had the technology special and fussed when she had to leave. By the end of the year, I was her “Favorite” teacher. It is wonderful to see how kids grow and develop and that you might find something you like if you try it. That has always been my motto. I will try things at least once and go from there. No broccoli is another matter!

Week 8 Musical Interlude

With the advent of vaping we are back to this mess. A little old school from Brownsville Station. I like the Motley Crue version but let’s go the the original!

Day 36 – September 30, 2022

Reading and writing is a battleground upon which all elementary teachers toil. It sounds so civilized when said that way. It is a conflict that teachers face every day. Often the battle rages beyond our classrooms. Most cases pit modern or progressive ideas against “I learned it this way and so can my kid.” The struggle that the teachers face is how to balance what is suitable for the students. Most schools have a prescribed method of teaching in their classrooms and it is the teacher’s job to carry out that method. Some teachers are evangelists for programs and will go to their grave saying there is only one way to teach a classroom full of students. If you drill down with teachers their heart is much softer.  Most teachers don’t care about what name you call it, as long as students learn to read and write. We often profess we are creating individuals and then turn around and teach them all exactly the same. I was instructed, counseled, and then told the one way I would teach reading and writing. I now admit publicly that I used many methods for different kids trying to match their needs.
 
I am still amazed at the anger, frustration, and vitriol that come from these battles. I have felt like I was being accused of intentionally trying to hurt the children’s futures if I didn’t do some things a certain way. These accusations came from parents and administrators. I was caught in the middle with no place to turn for help. I still have the faces in my head of students that have done a disservice and not met their specific needs. So far in the previous 35 days, I have stressed the importance and fun. I still stand by that but my biggest fear is that not be doing the student some good. This is where the serious nature of our job is and should be. The foundation of reading and writing is the backbone of every other discipline. I prayed every day that I would do well for my students and with a historic eye, I hope those prayers came true. 
 
There is one phrase I heard as an elementary teacher that I believe: the educational gap is often boiled down to those kids coming to school that come to school with 10,000 books. Either read or been read to the student. That is why it is important for me to continue to push for students to get books for themselves. The value of ownership and the kinesthetic joy of books will never be replaced. The most guilty I have felt recently was not immediately supporting a teacher who was asking for money to support her buying books for kids from Scholastic. I felt guilty because I hadn’t lived my convictions. The extra component was that the teacher is a former student of mine. As soon as I got back around to that Facebook post, I had to act and help. I am also now encouraging everyone to do something. Please consider supporting these causes. It is nothing about the recent controversies about books but about putting books in kids’ hands.

Day 35 – September 29, 2022

Names are fun and they can have some humor. One day almost thirty years ago was particularly challenging. A problem that Montview has is the transiency rate of the school. We often had 50 or more kids rotate through our class in any given year. It was an opportunity to explore the concepts of taking kids from where they are and moving them ahead as fast as you can with the time you have. I also know that there are sometimes signs around us that are pointing to our fate. Having this bad day was made worse by the news that I had 2 kids who were transferring to another school. There was nothing new except that when I read the names I got an ominous feeling. The two students leaving were Moses and Jesus. I have had many students over the years from Hispanic families that used these names. There is an obvious biblical connection as well. I just know that it could get worse when Jesus and Moses were abandoning my class. I took things very delicately for a while just in case.

The ultimate point of this story is to notice things around you and have a sense of humor. As a teacher, I knew that these little pearls were dropped into my life at different times to lighten my mood and light my burden. Nothing is more cleansing than a good laugh. I will say this again often but it is worth repeating. Have fun and enjoy and that will come across to the students and make the room a place to look forward to and not a room to dread.

Day 34 – September 28, 2022

On day 33 I spoke of a poor role model. I want to now speak of a wonderful role model from the very same conference in Las Vegas. One of the speakers was Bob Villa who was on the show This Old House at the time. He was doing a talk on including trades into everyday classroom activities. At the time vocational courses were looked down upon. He gave a very compelling argument and was a strong advocate and spokesman for the trades. He was also serving as a spokesperson for Sears and their line of Craftsman tools. He told stories but also reminded us of the importance of science and math in the trades. My favorite story was of his daughter that had to build a house mock-up for a class. He said he wasn’t allowed in the basement and that he could only see it at school for a parent evening. He got to the school and said he could tell his daughter’s project right away. No matter which direction you look at it from, it was leaning left. Mark Rodie and I were very excited to meet him and for me, it was extra special because my daughter and I watched the show on PBS all the time. I asked him to sign the program flyer for my daughter and he was more than happy to oblige and she loved it. We got together with our people that came from Aurora and we told them the story. They thought it was funny but asked why I didn’t get something signed for me.

You might think that this was the end of the story. As with many of these, there is more to the story. The administrative assistant for the learning coordinator that was in charge of science also came with us on the trip. Sheila Seigert was the best! She was one of those folks who instantly enjoy being in their company. Some of the best experiences in APS have been working with her. She thought it was unfair that I didn’t get anything signed for me. She was not the type of person to let things go. She spent the rest of the day tracking him down in his hotel room. She knocked and told him the story and he was more than happy to write one out just to me. I think it is important to honor the things that people do for you. As a result, that picture has hung in my classroom or office for the last 25 years. It is still one of my prized possessions from my teaching career. I have awards and plaques but the place of honor still goes to Bob Villa.

Day 33 – September 27, 2022

One of the most important lessons we can teach kids is how to act. I do not mean by constant reprimand but by example and mentoring. I saw something many years ago in Las Vegas that proves my point. I mentioned the trip to Las Vegas for the NSTA conference earlier. This occurred when we were getting ready to leave. As we sat in the casino waiting for people to get downstairs, we saw the pro basketball player Dennis Rodman. He was in the casino gambling. What drew our attention wasn’t who he was but how he acted. He kept grabbing the waitresses inappropriately. They changed the waitress three times during our short wait. He was very loud and inappropriate. What was even more discusting was that every time a waitress balked at his wandering hands, he would throw a $500 chip on her tray and they would bring out the next waitress to help him. I was dumbfounded that this was his and the casino’s expectations. No one batted an eye as this went on. I know that pro athletes say they have a private life and should have the freedom to act as they want. This crossed every line of decency and it was allowed because of his celebrity. The reason why this was important to me is that as a teacher I leave the building and go into the community. I am not an athlete or celebrity but I have seen at least 10 students in the last week at restaurants, stores, and movie theaters. My behavior matters. I sometimes reap the benefits of being a teacher and so I am careful about how I am perceived in the community. All teachers should keep this in mind. When I see an athlete or celebrity act like a fool I just chalk it up to not understanding their place in their communities.