Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I love computers, most of the time. In the last couple of days my faith in technology has been tested. I have been having problems with a graphic driver at home, and to make a long story short, I am taking my personal computer in to have it worked on today. At school I am in the process of getting Power points moved onto laptops for parent/teacher conferences. It is taking me a considerable amount of time due to the fact that some of the laptops have not been used for awhile and when I shutdown they need to install updates. On one of them it needed to install 27 updates and on another one it needed to install 85! I guess you have to input to get output! Anyway, it could be worse. If I get behind on posts, you know why.

Computer technology is still on the top of my list for useful technology.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Listening Skills

One of the most amazing skills to observe is listening. I would consider it a true art form. I see wide ranges of listening skills in the kids that I teach. Some kids can listen to my notes and not write a single thing down and that is all they need. These kids usually do fairly well on the tests. I would say that this type of listener only happens maybe once every two years in the school setting. These type of people make me extremely jealous! I have never been able to do this and never will. I am the type of person that has to write something down if I am going to remember it. I do write it down though. Some kids, the majority, take notes daily and follow directions to the T. Then we have the kids (people) that look right at you and look as if they are not missing a word and then they ask you a question two minutes from then about what you just talked about! These type of people usually don't write anything down and expect you to repeat the instructions as many times as they need. I do not have much tolerance for this. If you are a poor listener then learn to write down anything of importance (and keep track of it)! Like I said, as a teacher I see all kinds of listening skills and try to improve every kid's listening skills. This is sometimes a daunting job!...SO LISTEN UP!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Halloween Party

My family and I hosted a Halloween party yesterday. It was a lot of work but it was well worth it. I think there were, at last count, 19 kids at the party. The majority were between 1 and 6 years old. They had some great costumes and were all very excited. We had grilled hot dogs, chips, and tons of kid's snacks. We had pink lemonade, cold apple cider, and hot apple cider to drink. We played the "mummy" wrap game (wrapping a person up in toilet paper) and bobbing for apples. It was some great cheap entertainment watching the young ones bob for apples for the first time! It was rather chilly so we did the bobbing in the garage. Believe it or not, most of the kids were successful in getting an apple. We had two fires going in the backyard and plenty of good conversation going among the adults. In between eating and the games, the kids played tag and hide-n-seek. The full moon added to the ambiance of the night. Those kind of nights are what memories, and being kids, are all about!

Friday, October 26, 2007


A couple of weeks ago the news was that Manny Ramirez didn't thinking losing in the playoffs was that big of a deal and the Bo-Sox were one game away from elimination. Now they are two games up in the World Series! If anybody wants to see what leadership and "cool and collected" look like they need look no further than this years Red Sox. When Manny steps up to bat he looks like he is playing in a high school summer league game...intense, but having lots of fun, and fully relaxed. He is what "clutch" is defined as. The Red Sox held a team meeting when they were one game from elimination and decided to take one pitch at a time, one out at a time, one inning at a time, and one game at a time. So far this is working. I am not saying that Boston is going to win the series but so far it looks that way.

I am a White Sox fan but I am thoroughly impressed with the Red Sox and their durability.

12-year-old Driver?

In Tennessee this week a 12-year-old was taken into custody for taking his mother's car while she was at work and speeding through the suburbs at 70 mph. He was doing this at a time when kids were being let off the bus from school. The boy's six-year-old brother was in the passenger's seat. The boys had been driving around all week. The boy was charged with driving without a license, reckless endangerment, and not wearing a seat belt. He is facing felony charges. Video

Not cool, and very dangerous! I bet he will think twice before he does something like that again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-Teacher conferences are coming up quickly! For our students at Payson Seymour they are on Thursday and Friday of next week. I really enjoy having parent-teacher conferences. It gives me a chance to meet, and get to know, my student's parents. As a teacher I get the privilege of spending roughly five hours with your kids, per week. Obviously for grade school teachers they spend even more time with their kids. I enjoy teaching and love being able to share with parents what the students have done.

It just so happens that parent-teacher conferences for my kids is also next week. I feel more uncomfortable during those conferences than I ever have for my conferences in Payson. I really fight, sometimes, being the parent instead of the teacher. I know I am tougher on my kids than most parents due to the fact that I am a teacher. I feel I am also tougher on myself, for how my kids behave during school, because I am a teacher. It is a tough situation sometimes.

Payson parents: Please come and be a part of you child's education. Support your child by attending our parent-teacher conferences.

Monday, October 22, 2007

GPS Opportunities

My high school class and I just got done marking the trees and fire hydrants that are located on the school property. I think the kids were kind of surprised on how easy GPS (Global Positioning System) units are to use. It took us roughly six days to mark around 100 trees and five fire hydrants. We are hoping the the school district can use this information to see where more trees may be planted and where current trees exist. To answer the question that everyone is asking, yes they could just walk around the school's property and see, but I think seeing this information on a map makes it much easier to see as a whole. The fire hydrants, I think, are very important as far as location, especially with the new addition at the grade school. We only marked the ones on the school property (5) but there were some that were directly across the street from the school's property (4-5). We now have the school's property boundaries, the exterior of the buildings, trees, and fire hydrants all marked. The property and exterior of the buildings was done in 2006 by my class that included freshman through seniors. We already have the boundaries and the exterior of the buildings mapped, using GIS (Geographical Informational Systems-Arcview in this case). We will be adding the trees and fire hydrants to the map soon. The kids this year (9th grade) enjoyed this project. They learned something, got some exercise, inhaled some fresh air, and hopefully, benefited the school district.

We, the technology coordinator and myself, hope to get some monies through grant opportunities to purchase more GPS units so that larger classes can benefit from this wonderful learning experience! I think we are ready to step it up a notch and venture out into the community.

Halloween in Full Force

My family and I went to a Halloween party this weekend in rural Missouri. The temperature was great, especially with a roaring fire. The moon was bright, which added to the atmosphere. I bet there were 30 or so kids there and they were all cranked up on sugar and the party atmosphere. The food was excellent and included hot dogs (of course), made-rights, chips, cookies, pies, cakes, etc. This was the first time my kids got to experience a "country" Halloween party with all the trimmings. The hay-rack ride was the highlight of the night! They had a "not-scary" one for the little ones and a "scary" one for the older kids. My son would have ridden it over and over. I got a chance to talk to some "old-timers" and thoroughly enjoyed their conversation. To me, this is what holidays are all about...friends, good conversation, and the chance to see your kids enjoy themselves on a new level.

Have a great Halloween and be safe!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

ITBS testing

Today was the first day of ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) testing at school. It went well. It is taking me awhile to get used to a few things, this year, about the testing. The biggest change is that we are taking the tests in the fall. For the previous 13-14 years that I have been at Payson Seymour High School we have always taken them in the spring. I like the fall setup. When we took the tests in the spring there was only about a month between the ISAT and the ITBS. I don't think that makes for good test scores. That is too much testing in that small time period. I also like how none of the tests are more than 30 minutes long. I think this is a huge benefit to the kids and their test scores. It is also nice to have new test booklets. One thing I don't like about testing in the spring is that not much of what you, as their current teacher, teach will be covered because you only have them for about a quarter before you do the testing. I guess they are more concerned with what the kids are retaining over a longer period of time. Tomorrow we will be finishing up the ITBS testing for another year. I hope all the kids are taking the testing seriously and realize that their best effort is a necessity in this day and age (No Child Left Behind).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Staph Infections in Schools

A student in Bedford, Virgina died Monday due to an antibiotic-resistant staph infection. This has resulted in the closing of 21 schools for cleaning so the infection doesn't spread. The report states that staph infections have been spreading through schools nationwide in recent weeks. The report also states that these infections are being spread in gyms and locker rooms. Do you think all schools in the nation should do something to stop this sickness from getting out of control?

How bad are staph infections? Experts say that staph infection deaths may end up being higher than AIDS deaths. The overall incidence rate was about 32 invasive infections per 100,000 people. It is most common in hospitals but is spreading through poor neighborhoods, gyms and locker rooms, and prisons. The bacteria that cause staph infection do not respond to penicillin-related antibiotics. Are you worried about staph infection? Do you take any precautions against infection?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Busy Day

Boy, did today fly by! I was so busy trying to catch up on grading projects, running copies, getting makeup work in the grade book, and putting grades in STI, that the day disappeared without warning. This is always a busy time of year but especially when you have a sick child and the end of the quarter is coming up! I got to school today at 7 and did not take lunch today but pretty much got caught up on things. What a feeling of satisfaction! It is just kind of a messed up week. My son was sick yesterday, the kids had an assembly that lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, and ISAT testing is on Thursday and Friday morning. This is one of those weeks where your lesson plan book looks more like hieroglyphics than anything that resembles plans for teaching. I think we all need these type of weeks. These kind of weeks keep us on our toes and let us know that we are alive. It gets us out of the daily mud that so many of us drag through.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A "First Concert" Experience

My brother and I are taking my son to his first concert this weekend. He is really excited, even though I don't think he has any idea what to expect. We are going to Pop's in St. Louis for the concert. My brother and I have been there before and we both think it is a great place to see a band play. You are able to get pretty close to the band and it makes you feel more like you are part of the show. A lot of pretty good bands play at Pop's. I am a big metal fan, and always will be and my son seems to like the music and seems to have the "metal-mentality". We will be seeing Down. For those of you that are not familiar with Down, the band includes Philip Anselmo (lead singer of Pantera and, in my opinion, the best metal singer on the planet!), Rex (bass player for Pantera), and Pepper Keenan (member of Corrosion of Conformity). I have seen Phil play with a couple of other bands and he never disappoints!

Here is what I hope. I hope my son feels the energy of the concert experience and refers to this as one of his "best memories". I hope he gets totally engulfed in the pounding and screaming of the live show. I hope he learns to enjoy music (any, that he ends up liking) the same way I do. I would love it if he fell in love with metal the way I did when I was younger but I know that different music moves all of us in different ways. Here's to my young son "rocking out" at his first concert!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

My Top NBA Players (By Position)

Here's my list:

Guards: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Bob Cousy, Steve Nash, Dwayne Wade
Forwards: Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Kevin Garnett, Charles Barkley
Centers: Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Shaquille O'Neal

Who are your top NBA players?

Tasmanian Devil Decline

Facial cancer is killing the Tasmanian Devil population. Why? Well it seems that there is a lack of genetic diversity in these creatures so the animal's immune system does not try to fight off the disease. In Tasmania 90% of the population has died of the disease. They think that the disease is spread by biting during fights for food or mates. Scientists are trying to save the animals by relocating breeding pairs to sanctuaries on islands.

Monday, October 8, 2007

2007 MLB Playoffs

Who is going to win the 2007 World Series? Will Cleveland, Boston, New York, Colorado, or Arizona take home the trophy? I think both Cleveland and Boston are playing some good ball. I also think, overall, that the American League is stronger than the National League.

What is your opinion on who is going to win the World Series?

Shooting in Crandon, Wisconsin

On Sunday, at about 2:45 a.m., an off-duty sheriff's deputy, Tyler Peterson, shot and killed six people and critically injured another in a small town in northern Wisconsin. Crandon has a population of about 2,000 people. The shooter was shot and killed on Sunday afternoon by a SWAT team. The victims were between 14 and 20 years old and either attended Crandon High School or had recently graduated. It was the high school's homecoming weekend. The shooter was described as "average" and "nice".

Once again this should prove to every small town in America that this can happen anywhere, no matter how big or how small. It would be great to be confident that this type of thing could not happen in a small town, but the facts state otherwise. We all need to be aware of what can happen and not assume we are in a safe "shell" just because we live in a small town.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Culver Stockton Homecoming

It has been 17 years since I graduated from college. Geesh! Has it been that long ago? I attended Culver Stockton College from 1985 until 1990(Yes, I was on the 5 year plan!). Those days were some of the best days of my life. As a freshman I made many friends from all walks of life. I did not join a fraternity my freshman year. When I was a sophomore my best friend and I decided to give fraternity life a try. We became men of Sigma Phi Epsilon. In the next four years we had some of the best times and made some of the best friends a person could ever ask for.

This year I am going back for Homecoming. I won't make all of it and I don't even know if any of my fraternity brothers are going to be there. I have some "old" students of mine that are also alum and some friends that still live around here from other fraternities that will be attending some of the festivities. I just want to see some old faces that take me back to the days when we all had it made. My fraternity brothers and I did almost everything together. We went "out". We went to see movies. We participated in Greek Week. We loved intramurals and were all very competitive. We went back home with each other to experience another "home town" and had some great parties at "the old frat house". Yes, we didn't always get along but when you put 10-12 guys living together, in one house, there are bound to be some differences. We learned to live with them and in the process became close friends. To this day I know that any of these guys would do anything for me if I asked. It is a great feeling to have friends like that.

17 years! Where did they go? I sure hope that some of my students are lucky enough to have some of the experiences I have had and develop close friendships like my fraternity brothers and I have.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


I have been lucky in that I had parents that believed that travel was essential in learning what life, and people, were about. I have been all over the United States. While traveling as a kid I learned that whenever you think you know people, take a trip. Traveling to a different area, even in the same country, can verify, in fact, that you don't know people, their land, or their culture. Forget about TV. This was experiencing real America.

Several memories stand out concerning our family vacations. The first time I got to swim in the ocean, getting stung by fire ants in Florida, having a snowball fight on the fourth of July on a mountain in Colorado, my first taste of grits in Kentucky, are a few things I will never forget. I got to see fireworks on the fourth of July in Washington D.C. in 1976. They were amazing! On one particular vacation our family traveled to 24 states in three weeks, in a car. I didn't say all these memories were good ones! We camped in the Rocky Mountains one year. I mean, we CAMPED! We had to dig a hole for our toilet, get our water out of the stream, and chop our own firewood. During this camping trip we awoke to the sounds of moose. You wouldn't think that would be that big of a deal but these things were loud and the sound was something none of us had heard before. The wildlife would actually come to within feet of you. It was very common to see deer and ground squirrels within ten feet. On our first trip to Kentucky I will never forget hearing the "southern draw" as one of the locals talked to us. It was funny at the time, but as I got older I realized that this was part of their heritage. Traveling to New York City was a very exciting part of our 24 state jaunt. I grew up in a town of around 800 people, in central Illinois, so New York City was like a different planet. People with signs on the corners, kids asking you if you wanted your windshield washed, a hundred different cultures bustling about. It was almost too much for my senses to take in!

Traveling always made me want to travel more and find out as much as I could about other cultures. It also made me realize just how much of a small part of the world we, as individuals, are. I hope I can give to my family what my parents gave to me, a true education in the human interaction and differences. I also hope that I can advance this education to include other countries. I think traveling to different countries would be an extremely fun adventure!

If you get a chance to travel, anywhere, do it. It will only make you more educated about the world around you! Who knows, you may even make some new friends with a totally different background!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Banning Hugs

One of the big issues in schools recently is the issue of public affection, specifically hugging. Oregon schools have banned hugging and Oak Park schools in Oak Park, IL have also banned hugging in their school. Aren't there bigger fish to fry than the hugging issue?

In the case of Oak Park I can see where they are coming from as far as why hugs were banned. They were having "hug-lines" in between classes and it was jamming up the hallways and kids were getting to class late.

I personally see nothing wrong with a hug, if it is just a hug. I believe that many kids in today's society do not get this type of affection at home and I do believe they need it. There is nothing like a hug to show that you care about someone and/or their feelings. What will these schools do if there is a catastrophe involving their schools? If a student gives someone a hug will they be suspended? I do not agree with other signs of affection in school such as kissing or "making out".

What are your feelings on this issue?

Monday, October 1, 2007

Harvest Time

Well, it is harvest time again. Harvest time for me means being mom and dad for a couple of weeks (not really, just in a couple of ways). My wife works for ADM and usually has to work some over time during harvest. Don't get me wrong, it is not like she is working 24/7 but she usually is so tired when she does get home that she needs that time to recuperate.

During the non-harvest times of the year we share duties pretty equally. We both share the cleaning. I cook. She cleans up the meals. She pays the bills. We split putting the kids to bed, etc. During harvest is a special time for me because I get the chance to see all aspects of our kids lives and I also get a very quick lesson on how difficult it would be to be a single parent. I think all parents should get a chance to try to tackle a couple of weeks on their own. It sure lets you know how important your other half is!

My wife still does quite a bit during harvest but I guess it is just that we are out of our routine. So here we go...running my son to scouts and football, running my daughter to dance, keeping the notes from school straight, making sure the homework gets done, making sure the kids get their baths, and making sure my wife knows I appreciate all she does.

Bandana Wars

In a small city (Pekin, IL) about 20 minutes from my hometown (San Jose, IL) there is a battle brewing over something that most of you will find unbelievable. The school system has banned the wearing of bandanas due to being a symbol for gangs and gang activity. Twenty four kids have been disciplined for violating anti-gang policy. This policy has been in the school handbook since 1993. It was not challenged until this year. Kids are fighting the policy because "there are no gangs in Pekin". Is the right to wear a bandana worth fighting the school system over?

FOR THE BANDANA WEARERS: Now I know wearing bandanas is not a problem in west central Illinois (at least that I know of) but many kids want to change their appearance to be noticed or to start a trend. Don't all people have the right to be "individuals"? We could all probably come up with something that we have worn that might be against the rules, or at least on the border of inappropriate.

AGAINST THE BANDANA WEARERS: I am a pretty firm believer in "if it is a rule, then follow it". I think this has a lot to do with my coaching background. The bottom line is that the school district is doing what they think is in the best interest of the school district and the kids. Do any of my students (or other readers) disagree with the school district in question? Why do you agree or disagree?