Monday, February 28, 2011

Another great teacher quote

"young folk of all colors and classes need to know that we're concerned and involved in their lives. They need to feel that we're listening to them, not kist with our ears but out hearts. They deserve out attention. Our attention is an extension of our love, and without loving compassion, no real dialogue can be established." ~Cornel West

Teacher Quote

"I see my role as an educator, as someone who feels both a Socratic and prophetic calling, to implement what Nietzsche called a singing paideia. I am always compelled to remember that paideia represents an unfathomable education in which self-examination and service to others produces a mature, compassionate person willing to speak, live, and sacrifice for truth." ~Cornel West

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Soldier on

Two Junior girls assured me today that the two of them and at least one more were committed to cheering for football season. Hope springs eternal.

The campus daycare Director, who runs concessions during football and basketball seasons stopped by my classroom to discuss what she had left over and what her recommendations were for track. Earlier this week our drill coach tendered her resignation, so it looks as if I may have to run all 5 track meets alone. So be it. Lord, let those girls show up to work. It's always a bear. Many of them participate in track. Some of them were in both drill and cheer, some quit cheer. Now those on just drill are sheep without a shepherd. Anarchy.

But at least that's a month away.

Tonight's game was fantastic. It was a real barn-burner. We dominated the first quarter and held on to a 10 point lead through most of the second. Our the stands were overflowing, even though the game as almost 2 hours away.

Our student section stood the entire game and were a dream of a crowd for our two meek cheerleaders- who did a fantastic job most of the time and didn't let it ruffle their feathers at all when students initiated cheers on their own because the girls weren't. I was proud of them and they had a lot of fun.

One Senior girl, a dominant basketball player herself and younger sister of one of the best cheerleaders I've coached led a couple of cheers- including one where she pantomimes a roller coaster ride and the whole student section went on the ride with her. It was fantastic. I promised myself that if we won, I'd have her do it again tomorrow at a pep rally. Since we only had 2 girls left on squad, I thought about inviting everyone down who knew or thought they knew the fight-song dance to perform it at the rally.

These two quiet, shy cheerleaders are the the most loyal and dedicated. For all they lack, I think they'll be assets if they both want to return for football season next year too. With the other 3, that's 5. I know of at least two eighth graders who want to cheer as Freshmen. That's 7, the Spec. Ed. boy will make 8. 8 is enough, I'd love to get the zealous Freshman back, if she ever gets her grades up. That's 9. Then there's the Schizophrenic 8th grader and the pathological drama-queen Junior. That's 10.

If I could just get another 2-4 more to come out, I could actually have tryouts and keep the best 6 or 8. I guess I'll run the announcements and hand notices and hope for the best.

I was so caught up that it didn't matter to me that if we won, we'd play another game on Saturday- preventing me from going on a date with my wife for my birthday.

In the end, we lost 49-46. A storybook half court shot looked like it would make it in with only a second or two on the clock, but sometimes those miracles don't happen in real life the way they do in movies. Everyone was heartbroken. I was really rooting for a couple of our Senior guys who are great Art students. I knew that it had to be devastating for them.

It was a long, quiet bus ride back to school. We got in around 10 and I decided to write this while I let my van warm up. If I leave now, I can get home by or before 11. God willing I can get to sleep by Midnight. It's hard to wind down after such an adrenaline-pumping game, but 5:30AM comes mighty fast.

Thank God, as they say, that tomorrow's Friday.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Uncertain about the future

Got some news this morning about last night's Board meeting. I guess one of our 5th grade teachers is retiring and instead of hiring new, they want to move the 8th grade Civics teacher (who also does have a dozen other things) down to that position and have me teach 2 sections of 8th Grade Civics. It's not HS Psych, like I'd really like, but I'm game.

I appreciated that they told me in Feb. instead of August. It means dropping Web Design and MS Cheer, but I guess I don't mind that too much. It will be more work, but it's something I value and like and I like this year's crop of 7th graders too.

Although, I must admit that I'm really feeling insecure about HS Cheer. Not just that they'd take it from me because I appear to be ineffective, but that they'll scrap it altogether.

Our boys are doing really well in play offs this year. Tomorrow night are Regionals and if we win, they'll go on to sub-state, but our cheer squad have missed the last couple of games and I don't know whether we'll be there tomorrow night either.

We started out with 7 but it's really atrophied.

First, the two veterans (who are also on Drill) quit early in the season, saying that "it just wasn't as much fun as past years." The truth was that they were embarrassed to be on squad with the others. One seriously quiet Hispanic girl who had cheered before, but never seemed to come to practice; Two painfully shy, very quiet, and somewhat awkward/uncoordinated girls; one heavy-set, socially awkward, but incredibly positive if not overzealous Freshman girl; and our significant/profound Spec Ed boy.

Then one of the two quiet rookies quit. She said it was because she didn't have transportation to/from practice and games, but I found out from other students later that she had got her navel pierced and was afraid I'd order her to take it out.

I begged and pleaded with the 2 vets to come back, or for some of my other veterans who weren't cheering this season to come back- but to no avail.

Eventually one (also insanely quiet, shy, and moody) girl who had cheered in the past offered to cheer, but only for games when she didn't have to work. I took it!

I worked with what we had as much as I could. The all got much better over the course of the season. They bravely led pep-rallies. They all learned the fight-song dance, which is more than I can say for some of the more socially adept/accepted girls on this year's football squad. I even got them to get louder.

The Freshman zealot grew on the basketball players and much of the student body. She went from being the new kid who'd transferred in from somewhere else and seemed kind of weird, to being the one who always got them to stand up and yell, the one who always slapped their hands and told them "good job!" whether they won or lost. The only people who's nerves she was irritating, were her squadmates- who'd all rather blend into the background and who felt like she was being bossy, just because she actually took initiative and started cheers! 

I'm proud of all of them, but I really have to say that I'm really proud of her for her constant positive attitude, enthusiasm, intention and school spirit.

Ah, but then it really fell apart. The Hispanic girl, a Junior, transferred to another school. That zealous freshman started failing two classes, making her ineligible, and the Spec Ed boy's mom had back surgery so she couldn't transport him around to games anymore. We were down to two, quiet cheerleaders.

Our surly, curmudgeon of a mascot, a Junior boy who's on my yearbook staff, called this season the "Geek Squad." I sighed and asked him not to make things worse.

I was still proud of them, they were troopers. If you knew them, you'd know it was brave of them to cheer just the two of them.

Then we came to "mid-winter break," a Thursday and Friday off, giving us a 4 day weekend in February- playoff season. And what happens? One of the 2 remaining girls, the rookie Sophomore's family decides to stretch this into a vacation in Florida. So she's unavailable for the last girls game last Thursday or the boy's games last Friday and yesterday (Tuesday).

I'm in Des Moines in a meeting with a new Occupational Therapist for my daughter when I get an email from my principal asking why we haven't had any cheerleaders. I explained as concisely but honestly as I can.

In my experience, it seems like most administrators, having a background in competitive team athletics aren't very empathetic to the problems of cheer coaches. But I could just be paranoid. He didn't respond to my reply, though he did ask this morning, when he brought me the news about next year's changes, if I thought we'd have cheerleaders tomorrow night.

We'll see, the Florida family is supposed to get back some time today and that girl plans on coming to school tomorrow- of course the game will be LATE, it's more than 80 miles away.

I know a few 6th and 7th graders who will be upset about the demise of our MS Cheer program. One who'll be devastated in fact. I don't know what to think. No other schools in our area have MS programs and it will make some things easier for me.

I don't know if my board or administration would like to find someone to replace me because I just can't seem to hold a decent squad together- or if under the pressure to cut expenses because of state budget crunches and the national recession- they'd look for an excuse to discontinue HS cheerleading at our school too.

Guess I can't waste energy worrying about it nor take it too personally whatever happens. I'd miss that vocation, it's not just that it's become a part of my identity (which it shouldn't be) bit it's both such a meaningful venue for mentoring kids and an aspect of HS life that I think is important- though from all I've been managing to recruit lately, maybe it's not so valuable to the constituency to constitute maintaining it much longer anyway.Hmmm.

Anyway, I'm not spinning out of control in any kind of existential angst or anything, but I am trying to absorb what all this means. Mind you, I can't hardly listen to anymore news about teacher unions and labor unrest right now either.

I guess I have this blog to ruminate on. The compulsive communicator in me desperately wants to share this post with people. Maybe just to get some sympathy, maybe for moral support or to solicit some positive thoughts and prayers. But in my insecurity, I don't think it would be wise. My wife already worries that students or parents might be offended if they ever knew what I write here. I know better than to complain publicly about work, you hear about people getting in trouble for what they post on facebook and twitter all the time. Be that as it may, writing is therapeutic and if this blog never leads to publication, but is merely a diary- then at least it's helping me process my thoughts and work through what I'm dealing with.

Maybe it's time to retire. As fantastic of a ride as it's been, and as important as it is for some of these young women to gain the poise and confidence that Cheer offers and hopefully the mentoring I try to offer- a HS Cheer coach needs to inspire pride and loyalty, I seem to be lacking in this area.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Support Our Public Servants

Under international law, all workers have a human right to organize and to bargain collectively. These rights are delineated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights among many other documents and conventions.

It's not just about having to pay more for benefits and pensions or receiving less in salary. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants to dismantle the leverage that workers have to balance out political interests.

Dear conservative friends, this is not fair, and it's not about balancing his state's budget, it's cynically taking advantage of hard times to bludgeon who he see's as political enemies. Please, please, can't you see this?

Teachers, Firemen, and Policemen are not selfish anti-American conspirators. They're willing to negotiate and make sacrifices for the budget, but they're standing up for what used to be something that helped build the middle-class.

Why is it that we're trying to take away workers' voices, yet the Roberts Court granted corporations Constitutional rights as individuals under the 'Citizens United' decision? Why is it we're so afraid of labor unions, but political action committees and multinational corporations get protected?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


golden 042
Originally uploaded by T-Mal
I often wonder how many reflections are inside of a goldfish bowl. With a memory only seconds long, perhaps they never get lonely because they keep seeing other fish