Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What do I want to be when I grow up?

One of the considerations when you take a new job is the benefits that job comes with. When I took my new position at JHU there were a number of benefits that were really attractive to me. One was the retirement benefit. Although I am not old enough, nor have I been there long enough, to take advantage of this benefit when I turn 35 it will be a really nice nest egg that I start building. The other benefit that caught my eye was the tuition remission that all employees at JHU enjoy. Although it is not near enough to cover any sort of program, especially a doctoral program, I don't want to leave that kind of money on the table. And, it was a clear goal of mine to start a doctoral program in the next few years. Although before I had to leave the public school system I had no intention of starting something so soon, especially with Pudge being born, I think starting sooner rather than later is a sound idea. And, I would really like to have my Ed.D. before I turn 40.

So, I had a conversation with some administrative folks in the Education dept. today to feel out the process of starting a program at JHU. It was a fruitful conversation because I learned a number of things. First, the difference between a Ph.D. and an Ed.D. There are many considerations but I know at this point that my emphasis should be on the application of instructional technology, not the development of future research. I want to tackle the problems in curriculum, find ways to change the culture of curriculum design. And, I DO NOT want to take any statistics courses. :) God I hated stats as an undergrad. I know it will be different now that I am an adult with the advanced age and wisdom that I enjoy (huh?) but I still don't have to look forward to it.

I also learned that the JHU program is a ton more expensive than I could ever hope to afford. That all by itself would be a deal breaker. I'm a firm believer that any potential benefit has to outweigh the cost of the program. Why would I spend $50,000+ on a program if I can't expect to get that money back in potential income? It seems silly that they would charge that much.

Lastly, the program at JHU turned out to be cohort based with a very prescribed set of classes that are heavy on data-analysis and like I said, stats. There is no room for individuality in their program so it is everyone does what they say you do. Your dissertation is yours, of course, but apart from that, the first three years would have been hellish to me.

So, no to JHU. I've got to start looking at some other programs. I saw one at Wayne State University tonight that looked promising. I wonder if wifey would mind moving to the most depressed and depressing place in the country - beautiful downtown Detroit.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Can't ask for more than this

This weekend was a good weekend for my sports teams. If you didn't know, I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2000 so I've been a Terps fan for about a decade. From some really bad football and basketball teams to some really good ones (a national championship in mbball in 2002, a national championship for wbball in 2006, and some really great bowl wins for the fball team in the past few years) my emotional capacity for following the Terps has been absolutely drained. I watch through my fingers most of the time, and wifey is just plain tired of seeing me complain and (almost) throw things at the TV.

But, Saturday was a great day in Terpdom. Maryland was playing the #1 team in the country, the hated Tar Heals. Down in Chapel Hill no less. I have to admit that I though they were going to lose by just about 30 points. I mean, they lost to American University forchristssakes. So, as we were at our good friend's birthday party (see wifey's blog for a funny story about that) the game was turned on after one of the other party goers mentioned that MD was winning at halftime. I almost choked. Winning? Maryland? The men's team? Not soccer?

So, the game had to be turned on. Although it was in the basement, with rabbit ears and some inventive posing to get the signal to come in, we were delighted to watch as the Terps held on at the end to win!!!! 82-80 vs. the #1 team in the country!!!!!!! And there was much rejoicing.

Then, the cherry on top came on Sunday. Having grown up in New York I grew up a Yankees and Giants fan. No, not the Knicks. I hate the Knicks. Bunch of thugs. I was a Celtics fan. Gotta root for the great white hope, the one and only Larry Bird. Man he was good. Again, digressing... So, yesterday the Giants were playing the Packers in Green Bay. The weather was terrible, -1 at kickoff, and no one was giving the Giants a chance. Guess what??? YEAH! And the Giants win, the GIANTS WIN!!!! It only took their kicker 3 $%*#@ tries to kick a game winning field goal. Oh my god I was about to have a heart attack. Never been closer to a mortal heart failure than that. It was, needless to say, the talk of the town...

So, on to the Super Bowl----- Gotta beat those Patriots to ruin their perfect season. And the Giants are just the team to do it. I mean, it technically is a road game and the G-Men are 10-0 on the road this season. It is gonna happen. I hope.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why do they do it?

Okay, so I admit it. I like watching TV game shows. Most of them. I think Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is a horrible show. That might be because I think Regis is an absolute tool. I think my love for TV game shows all stems from when I used to watch Double Dare on Nickelodeon when I was growing up. What a fun show! Cummon, you know you liked it too! No, only me?

So, last night wifey and I were watching a totally inane game show on TV. Usually I like the shows that you actually have to do something to win. Jeopardy is good. Even the Wheel is fun to watch. But last night we were watching Deal Or No Deal. Again, in the interest of honesty I think I only like it for Howie and the models. And for much different reasons thank you. Howie is hysterical to me (Bobby's World rocked!) and do I really need to explain the models? But, as usual, I digress. So here we are, watching DOND as it is affectionately known by its friends, and this lovely young lady was rocking the house. The show hasn't given away much money, and I don't think anyone has gotten the million dollars, so they are really trying to give away that million. This lady was an Army wife, and she just seemed really nice. She had 7 million dollar cases to try to get. I turned it on near the end and she had done pretty well and had 3 million dollar cases left. So, I see her go through one round where she needs to open 3 cases. She nails one of the million cases and two smaller ones. At that point she gets an offer for almost $200,000!!!! For an Army wife!!!!! You know her husband isn't bringing home 6 figures. I'm almost yelling at the TV - "TAKE THE MONEY!!!!!" Her husband tells her to take the money. What does she do?

No deal. No deal? ohforchristssake...

Now she has to open 2 cases. She has 2 million dollar cases left. You couldn't write a worse ending that this. Dawn and I watched as this poor woman picked two cases, and both were the only million dollar cases left.

I turned the TV off. I was so sad for her, but really... take the damn money!

Now, I normally wouldn't have written about this. But, things just got worse. Tonight I was watching probably the best TV game show this side of that Whammy show... 1 vs. 100. Gotta love anything with Bob Saget. Tonight this guy is just kicking butt on this game. Dude gets all the way to the point where he has a guaranteed $250,000. Yeah, a quarter of a million bucks. What does this dummy do? Keeps playing. I admit, I was telling him to quit when he had $75,000, but he kept going. Poor guy actually had me rooting for him too, and I usually don't root for guys from Brooklyn. Just on principle. This guy gets a question about the last state to ratify the 13th amendment. Cummon, you all know the 13th amendment. You do know what an amendment is right? I'll give you a hint... the Constitution... slavery.... saying it was bad.....

The year was 1995 and the state was Mississippi. I even knew that, don't ask me how or why.

Yup, he got it wrong. Said it was Kentucky. Lost a quarter mil.

So, the moral of the story kids is this....


How hard is that?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

In Plain English

Finally, a site for me! A colleague of mine told me about this site today as we were discussing social bookmarking. The guy who makes these videos is great at making things really simple in an entertaining way. Learning while being entertained. Imagine that?

Monday, January 14, 2008

A feel-good news story???

I couldn't believe it. In a world where all we hear are stories about death, destruction, recession and George Bush, all horrible topics, I heard a honest-to-goodness positive news story tonight. All right, it was on ESPN, but it was nice to hear nonetheless. You can read a story on it
and here:,0,3127408.story

Basically, a wonderful elderly gentleman has taken it upon himself to 'adopt' his local high school's athletic program by collecting cans, one at a time. Thus far he has single-handedly donated more than $10,000 to the school's athletic program just by collecting and recycling cans. And people say that they can't make a difference when they do something good all by themselves. Don't tell this guy that, he'll just laugh at you.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dank You Bewtball Bayers!!!!!!

It is hard to be a Giants fan living in the metro D.C. area, but tonight was a wonderful night. The G-Men pulled out an amazing win over the much touted Cowboys to get a chance to play in the NFC championship game against the Packers next weekend. The whole family was gathered around the TV right to the end, waiting with jaws clenched, just anticipating a let down by my beloved Giants, but they didn't falter and as JAM jumped around the room and I was pumping my fist in the air, my little Red said it best...

Dank you bewtball bayers!!

Giants beat Cowboys!!!!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I couldn't have said it better myself...

In a previous post I discussed some of the reasons why I wasn't in the classroom anymore. One of the reasons I mentioned was the (for lack of a better word) horrible behavior of some students in and out of the classroom. I discussed the culture found in the hallway and the inability of the school administration to get a handle on it.

In this week's Greenbelt Gazette there was a commentary written by a former teacher who is currently working as a retire-rehire substitute at a high school a stone's throw from my house. In his commentary Mr. Fox does a phenomenal job speaking for all of us old classroom teachers who had students disregard everything we were trying to do for them. I would recommend it to everyone who has ever been in, wants to be in, or considers themselves worthy of speaking about public-school education.

See the article at

Friday, January 11, 2008

When you've just got to laugh

Wifey showed me this tonight...

There might be funnier things out there but not too many.

Enjoy -

Bennie Lava

Monday, January 7, 2008

My guilty little pleasure

I have no idea why, but I've fallen in love with a silly little game on shockwave. It is called Dolphin Cup. Basically, you control a little dolphin and make him jump out of the water and do tricks and different tricks and combinations of tricks are worth different point values. If you combine tricks you get bigger points. It is silly, but I love it. I even got wifey and J playing it and H loves to sit in my lap and watch. At first I was happy to break a million. Then, 10 million was a great score for me. Then, on Christmas, I got 15 million and thought it was the best. Right before we left for a New Year's Eve party I killed it and got 36 million! Well, tonight, I did the unthinkable..... drum roll please....

65 million. I know, I can just feel how impressed you are - it is coming right through the computer and bathing me in your good wishes.....

Pitiful isn't it?

You too can play at

Friday, January 4, 2008

I wish it were an option

A few years ago I made a decision to leave the classroom. Although I wasn't sure it was for good I was pretty sure I would never be in front of a group of MY students ever again. And to be honest, I was happy to do it. I loved teaching. I got goosebumps countless times when I knew, for whatever reason, that I drove something home to the students. I would be standing and delivering (I really didn't do that much, I was more of a project facilitator than a lecturer) and I would see the lights come on in their eyes and I knew I earned my money that day. I had kids who had been turned away from everyone else, or who had turned away themselves, become stars in my class. I believe it was a combination of the content, the environment, and a good dose of "I ain't putting up with your crap you little over-confident under-educated 15-year-old" directed from me to them that created the atmosphere where they could settle down and succeed. Kids with straight D's and E's (remember when failing was an F?) would get their hands on a computer in my class and I would lead them to great projects that meant something to them as people and wondrous things would happen. Then, I left. For a number of reasons I think, but none more so than I couldn't stand some of the kids. Not even really my kids. Something happens when a student becomes your student. Even if they don't like you or care about your class you know them, and hopefully have their parent's ear, so most of them hop when you say hop and stop when you say stop. But it was the hallways, the lunch room, the smoking pot in the stairwell right outside my classroom that really got to me. It was when I realized that the administration at the best school in the district didn't have a clue what to do or the time to do it. Pack 3,000 students into a school that was supposed to hold just over 2,000 (how having a school with 2,000 teenagers ever sounded like a good idea to someone I will never understand) and the admins just never stood a chance. They were overworked, sometimes hardly qualified, and I just couldn't take it anymore.

Now, I wish I could go back.

Why? I miss the kids. I run into former students all the time. That happens when you live in the same town where you taught. That was one of the things I liked most about living across the street from the school, I knew I would see them and I thought that gave me some extra ownership of the whole process. I could say that I lived here and I taught at the school and people would look at me differently. It was nice. I miss building relationships with kids, "good" ones and "bad" ones. I got some kids to straighten up, I lost some kids who were used to rolling over people because they were smart, nice, or white. Yeah, they used that to their advantage. I hated that most of all. But the ones I got to I really developed lasting relationships with. I still have them emailing me. That is nice too. I like knowing I had a hand in getting them into good colleges, preparing them for the real world. I never lowered my standards for a single kid but I modified my expectations for each student. That was hard to do. But I loved it. I miss those A-Ha moments. Like I said, goosebumps. I miss MY ROOM. Man, my classroom was awesome. Ever walk into a classroom where you just know the teacher can't wait to leave at the end of the day or doesn't care one bit for the space they use? Not mine. I covered my walls with personal items, student work, anything to add interest to the space. I wanted the kids to know that they were coming into a place that I loved being in. Most of the time. Yeah, I could go on and on....

Why don't I go back? First, money. What a pitiful excuse, but I can't think of a more important one. If I went back to teaching I would be putting my families future, the future that I envisioned for us, in jeopardy. Not like mortal danger or anything, but there is only so far you can go on a teacher's paycheck. How sad!!!!!!! It isn't like I am pulling down the gonzo bucks in my new gig at a major university - it is about equal to what I would have made at the same salary over a 12-month span, not the 10-months that teachers get paid. But, it is guaranteed 12 months of money. I wouldn't have to hope that some summer work would show up. Granted, I was always really good at finding summer work at school, but it was never guaranteed. Now, I know I will have a paycheck all year. That is a nice safe feeling. Plus, the retirement is about 1,000x better. I wasn't planning on stashing away much cash as a teacher and the pensions were pitiful. This will give me enough to retire on.

Second, like I said, there is only so far you can go as a teacher. I knew that if I wanted to move upward, and I think everyone should want to move upward, I would have to move on. The biggest reason for me wanting to leave the classroom really was the fact that I wanted to help more students. At most I only had the opportunity to help the students who were enrolled in my classroom. After I left to become a technology coordinator I was in a position to help all the teachers, and by extension all the students, in the school. Now, I have the ability to possibly affect the teaching and learning across the nation. Literally. To continue working out of the classroom at the county level I would have had to become an admin, and if there is one thing about me that I know it is that I do not want to be an administrator. I want to continue in instruction because that is what I have always been. In no way do I see myself spending all of my time disciplining misbehaving students and dealing with moron parents. Yeah, I said it. Moron parents. If you have ever been in a classroom you know what I mean.

In my new life I can move into all sorts of other things, teaching being one of them (but at a higher level) but it will all be instructional in nature. I can earn my Ph.D., start speaking or writing, become an expert at one of my various passions. None of that seemed possible when I was in the classroom. Your whole life is devoted to the classroom when you are there. It is a never ending process of days, nights and weekends. No time for Ph.D.'s there as far as I could tell. Yeah, I know some people have made it work, they are far better than I.

So, I wish I could go back but I realize I can't. And it makes me sad.


There are all sorts of things you can get happy about in life. What I have realized as I've gotten older is that you can pretty much boil sources of happiness down into two categories - superficial and actually worthy of caring about. Into the first category, superficial, go things like new cars, the Giants beating the Patriots (it almost happened), the Yankees beating the Red Sox (it could happen), chocolate (my wife would disagree), all the lights being green on your way to work, things like that. Into the other category, the one that really matters, go far fewer items. And, most aren't even items at all. Having a job that provides for you and your family, unconditional love, a warm place to sleep, things like that.

Where am I going with this? The point of this post, or points as it may be, are my kids. My son J, gap toothed, high-energy, crazy, amazing ball of activity JAM, and my daughter Red, willful, funny, inquisitive Red, are both high on the list of the most polite kids I have ever met. In some way, unbeknownst to wifey and myself, we are in the process of raising kids who have wonderful manners. To everyone but us most times, but great manners nonetheless. What brought this on? It really is an everyday occurrence, but two nights ago, as I was changing the diaper of baby Pudge, Red was walking past me and said "escoose me daddy." She is 19 months old and she thought enough about the fact that she needed to brush by me to get by that she said excuse me! Then, last night, as I was rocking with her before I put her down to sleep, I coughed. A few times. Each time, she looked up, tool her thumb out of her mouth and said "bess you daddy." I didn't have the heart to tell her that I didn't sneeze. :) I just said thank you and squeezed her a little tighter and thought to myself that we are so fortunate to have kids like this.


I used to teach high school students web design, from the basic HTML all the way through complex and advanced web techniques, as they were 4-5 years ago. So, I am pretty well skilled in the basics of web design, although I would not consider myself a true web geek like some of these people who can code database driven sites in their sleep. The reason I bring this up is that I have a deeply ingrained dislike for do-it-for-you sites like our very own blogger. When teachers jumped on the bandwagon of sites that would make pages for them, or even worse, tools like Blackboard, I stuck my nose in the air and continued to create my site in Dreamweaver one page at a time. Yeah, countless hours of my life went into that. But, the result was good - I was in full control of the content and design of the site and I knew that everything would work when I was done. I could post anything I wanted to, make changes to the templates of my pages to enact wholesale change to my site, and upload again in a matter of minutes.

Why am I bringing this up? Because I can't get a damn animated gif to load as my header in this godforsaken site. I made sure my image worked, I am not that stupid. I even went to try to toy around with the template code but hell if I can figure out where to mess with. The code that the template creates (when I view source on the page) and the code in the template itself are obviously not the same. Not sure if I've gotten this right, but I've gone into some of the help message boards and it seems that the image service blogger used to host uploaded images doesn't like animated gifs. What kind of image site doesn't like animated gifs???? What makes it worse is that I had to try to use an animated gif after I found out, the hard way, that blogger doesn't like flash files in their headers. This is exactly the reason I used to code my pages myself, so I didn't have stupid do-it-for-you sites letting me down.

Breath and move on.....

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

So, what's the point?

I've often thought about why I should start a blog. Who would read it, who would care, what could I possibly say that someone else might care to spend their precious time ingesting? I finally came up with an answer... nothing. there are people out there who spend all their time talking, thinking, and trying to be witty so that others will read their blogs. I can't compete with them, I've actually got real things to do during the day. So, this blog is mine. Not for anyone else, purely for me. I will post items of interest to me, and use this as my personal journal of sorts. That is what blogs were to start right? Before the money, fame, advertising, etc.? If anyone else reads it they should really stop and think about getting a hobby. :) No, hopefully I will post something that someone else out there might find interesting, but that will merely be an unintended, albeit positive, consequence.

So here goes, wish me luck and we'll see where this really takes us. I mean me. This is harder than I thought.