All About Academics?

I am a public school teacher. One might think my job is teaching students how to read, write, and complete mathematics problems. After all, there is a major push to have my evaluation be based on how well my students perform on tests that supposedly measure those skills.

Yet, within the walls of the school, there is little discussion as to how to teach students those subjects. There are several posts here that document the other things we teach. This is another of those.

Politicians in New Jersey have decided that my current suicide prevention training is not enough.

The bill requires public school teachers and staff to receive two hours of suicide prevention training from a licensed health care professional every year, up from the current requirement of two hours over five years.

Now to an outsider, one might not think this is a big deal. It’s two hours a year, after all. Of course, that is on top of sexual harassment training, OSHA training, bullying prevention training, and a few others I have forgotten. We spend 20 hours yearly in training, most of it non-academic.

Yet I am evaluated not on the self-esteem of my students but rather their academic performance.

One would think the training would reflect the expectations.

As I continue reading this morning, here is another initiative finding its way into school: teaching children how to deal with police officers. Oh my . . .

Just a question I know no one will take seriously. Why are schools advocating this? Where in its curricula, standards, or mission is training students how to deal with law enforcement?

Why I am Not Completing the Competent Leader Manual

When I was VPE of my Toastmasters club, I stated at every meeting and in every online communication that members were to bring their CL manuals to the meetings. I tried to teach the importance of this action. After all, I had been trained well at Camden County Toastmasters in this regard.

Leadership is critical for organizations. At Toastmasters, leadership is documented in the CL manual. Too few, imo, participate in the ledership track. In a well-honed club, a member should be able to complete a CL manual annually . . . or at least nearly so.

I have completed two CL manuals. I have four others in the works. Two of them are done save the mentoring requirement. A third is essentially done save the same requirement. I think I stopped before I documented a GE and TM requirement. The last manual has some of the work done, but I bailed on bringing it to meetings the last several months.

Here is why.

I am in two clubs. One club essentially does not “do” the leadership track. Historically, their DCP is missing these goals. My other club isn’t much better, although we talk a better game.

While I have been insistent in getting my manual signed, there are few (if any) mentoring opportunities for me to complete these manuals. So, I have given up.

While my home club rarely has new members, there should be mentoring opportunities. One doesn’t have to mentor a new member, just someone through the next three speeches. But that doesn’t seem to be what we do at our club. There has been talk of an elaborate mentoring program, but it never goes anywhere. With that, I am shut out completing these manuals.

To further add to my reluctance, the educational program is changing this year. I may as well get on board with the new program when it’s unrolled thus leading the club on the “new” program.

With an ALB still to be had, how long do I want to carry these projects out? Most likely they’ll be good for two years. An ALB will take care of one of those years. At best then, I could complete one more leadership award before time runs out. My enthusiasm to plod along with the current situation is nil.

Obama’s Education Priorities

If there was any doubt that President Obama is creating an Us v. Them society, this week’s offerings makes it extremely clear.

The “big” news Obama shared is that he wants the first two years of community college to be “free”. Free means $60 billion paid for by working folks. My main criticism of this plan is that the federal government has no role whatsoever with education, therefore Mr. President, shut up!

Who benefits from two years of free community college? Presumably the poor. Community college is designed for those who do not attend four-year universities. They are state institutions.

So the poor are being provided another freebie at the hands of those who are working.

What do the working folks get from Mr. Obama? Well, he stated that those of us who have 529s to bank money for our own children’s education will now need to pay taxes on the gains of those accounts. Yup, we pay for the poor and we pay for our own children and we pay the big bad government.

If you want middle class families to pay their own way to college, taxing their children’s college funds isn’t the way to go about it.

It could not be clearer as to Obama’s approach to his constituents: the have-nots receive everything, the middle class pay for themselves and the have-nots.

Bogart’s & The Health of Millville

Those who control the tax dollars in town fancy Millville as an arts town. It states that it modeled itself on Cape May, which is not an arts town. It has spent millions of dollars on this vision. The Levoy alone was $10 million. At a city commission meeting a few years ago, $24 million was not refuted as the amount spent.

Time and time again the commissioners reference the Levoy Theatre as the anchor of the health of Millville.

The anchor is slipping.

There are numerous store fronts that are empty along High Street. The little artists’ village north of Wildflower has been empty for years. Across the street the art display fence is torn down revealing an empty lot. The three bakeries that I was chastised for saying wouldn’t last are long gone. A few have rotated in and out over the years. Currently there is an over-priced bakery just off High Street.

The real anchor to the “arts”, however, has been Bogart’s. Bogart’s is a used book storm full of charm. When it was Wind Chimes, it was a step back into the 1970’s coop movement. It looked just like a used bookstore we had in Cape May. When it sold circa 2006, the new owner added to the store. A coffee counter was added. Music and poetry readings were brought in. We even had one of our Toastmasters meeting there. There’s a geocache in the store. One can find books written by friends. All in all, Bogart’s with its wild color scheme is the heart of Millville.

Bogart’s is for sale.

It’s not difficult to understand. It takes a lot of coffee and book sales to pay the mortgage, utilities, and walk away with some cash for yourself.

The other day I went in to see if I could spend some of my $500 credit there. I don’t do physical books any longer, but I want a specific cookbook and thought there was a reasonable chance it was on the shelf. I couldn’t find it. I asked if they could look it up. Their inventory isn’t catalogued. Hmmm . . .

I was offered the opportunity to order it. I went through the motions to see how much. $40! Holy smokes. $40 and it would be available to me not this coming Tuesday, but the following. I did not say I could order it from Amazon and have it in two days for $24 nor did I point out I could go to the public library and check it out for free moments later, which tuned into today because I had an appointment.

A physical bookstore is a tough business these days. It isn’t even Borders and Barnes & Noble running the one-off stores out; it’s Amazon. Frankly, Amazon has a better model.

So sometime in the future, Bogart’s with its quirky atmosphere will close its doors. Whoever purchases the property will most likely have to move on from a bookstore/cafe type of place. It’s sad for us as we like it there, but it’s another sign that the dream th city commission has for its town is unsustainable.

The anchor isn’t keeping anything in play; store after store is boarding up. Get ready Millville, the tax spenders are coming after your wallets to protect their investments!

Fare Thee Well

Today I felt an emotion that I have not had in 20 years; mail order for the Grateful Dead was announced!

Back in the day, the announcement of a Dead tour was a source of much merriment. To secure tickets, deadheads prepared their envelopes (after listening to the instructions over and over from the hotline number) along with the money order. Then we waited in hopes that our miracles would be fulfilled. The Dead were able to sell out concerts via mail order by selling tickets directly to their fans rather than subjecting them to the hell known as Ticketmaster. If you followed the directions, your custom tickets would arrive. Oh, the joy!

Today the surviving members announced shows to commemorate their 50th anniversary. It dawned on me that the history of the band lasts my lifetime. They played the first time a month before I was born. I will turn 50 the week before the three, and apparently only, shows they will play ever again.

Joining Bobby, Phil, Billy, and Mickey will be Jeff Chimenti (long-time keyboardist with Bobby’s Ratdog), Bruce Hornsby (a good friend of the band), and Trey Anastasio (from Phish).

Yes, I’m excited.

Even before my wife arrived home I made plans. I checked: both the Cubs and the White Sox will be in town during the week. I have a place to stay nearby at my sister’s. All was perfect!

Then I remembered. The last time I saw a concert in a football stadium was the Dead at Foxboro in 1989. I vowed never to spend another day crammed in with so many people again. Soldier Field will be even larger, I suspect. Eh.

And I adopted a policy of sitting in the front 10 rows at concerts to keep the idiots behind me. The Dead have not released the seating plan for the shows. Top dollar seat is $215.50. No guarantee where that seat will be. Am I going alone or will there be a second ticket at that price. The Dead, unlike other bands, spurs multiple shows since evening is different than the one previous. In a three-night stand, there shouldn’t be a song repeated. That’s some cash to outlay for four guys who are putting on a three-night stand and then vowing never to pla together again. If I opt for the $115.50 General Admission pit, it sounds like I could end up behind the board.

I loathe applying logic to this band. My repertoire of stories are replete with stories of seeing this band all over and the crazy ways of getting to those shows. There is one last journey down that path . . . do I take it?