True, But Useless

A rather cold phrase to describe an important part of working with at-risk kids. If I were to sit down with any kids who has checked out of school, who is starting down the path to dropping out, I will find out many things that will wrench my heart apart. I will learn about poverty, neglectful parents, indifferent teachers, possibly some drugs and physical abuse. Not all at-risk kids have such stories to tell, some just find a mismatch between what they want in life and what school has to offer. Many, however, will tell me these stories, and most, for me at least, are true, but useless (TBU).

I’m going to summarize a story told in Switch, a book by Dan and Chip Heath. They tell the story of “Bobby,” a troubled teen who terrorizes his teachers and threatening to other students. When Bobby went to a counselor, he told about a life in and out of different foster homes and a strained relationship with his father. Bobby was one of maybe 50 or more kids the counselor was working with on a weekly basis. As the Heath Brothers put it, “He [the counselor] didn’t dig into Bobby’s trouble childhood, and he didn’t try to excavate the sources of his anger and willfulness. For [the counselor], all that information would have been TBU.”

The counselor instead focuses on the parts of the day that Bobby liked, the teacher he got along with, and found specific things that that teacher did which worked for Bobby. He shared that with the rest of the teaching team. Together, the teachers implemented what worked, and all saw improvement. Once again, as the Heath Brothers make certain to tell us, “Bobby is not a model student. But he’s a lot better.”

The purpose of this story is not to say how great that one teacher was who connected with Bobby, but how the team used that “Bright Spot” in Bobby’s life and tried to replicate it throughout the day.

St. Nick Fan Club

My wife has made me love Christmas.  I wasn’t always the biggest fan, but recently, I’ve joined the St. Nick fan club.  She convinced me for three reasons, and all of them selfish.  She gave me great presents this year.  She was able to tie 2 of my favorite things together with her thoughtfulness.

First, she got me a camp cot.  I like camping, but I never sleep well.  Air mattresses always hurt my back and I always wake up laying on the ground.  The mattress ravaged by cold nights and small leaks.  The cot is long enough for my 6’3″ frame.  It can also hold up to 600 lbs.  I think it has me covered.

Second, she got me a chef coat.  For the past 6 months I have been cooking up a storm.  I love food.  My increasing girth is evidence of that fact.

Finally, a cook book for campers.  Written by a couple who traveled around the world on their bicycles.  The aforementioned girth is probably going to preclude me from circumnavigating the globe on a bike, but the cooking tips, the stories, will inspire our next road trip.

Thanks Em.



I love baking bread.  To date I have baked the following breads.

White Sandwich Bread
Buttermilk Sandwich Bread
Cinnamon Roll Bread
Rustic Wheat Bread
French Baguette

I love baking bread.  Today we are going to eat my homemade French Onion Soup with my homemade French Baguette for lunch.  Tomorrow, its French Toast, made with my Cinnamon Bread, and Bacon.  All I need to learn now is how to raise chickens and pigs for the eggs and  bacon, how to grow wheat for the bread, etc, etc.  Never mind.  I don’t want to be a farmer.


A Bit On Google

I use Google Everything.  I have an Android phone.  I have Gmail.  I use Google Drive to store all my documents.  I browse using Google.  I can’t remember the last day in which Google and I didn’t communicate in some way.

Just a little something about Google.

Spring I Shall Never See

I’ve got a bit of a morbid one here.  I’ve been watching the Hobbit recently (both 1 and 2) and was reminded of a poem that Tolkien put in the Lord of the Rings, “I Sit Beside the Fire and Think.”  This poem is all about looking towards the future and of the next generation,

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

As a teacher, I think about that world.  I see my former students, my nieces and nephews,  as they are graduating from high school, going on to college, work, and independent lives.  They are beginning to take a hand in creating that world.  I find it terrifying, exciting, and fascinating.

I always told my students that the best part of being a teacher was watching them as they decide to stop being children, and start become adults.  It doesn’t all happen at once, and, as we all do, they tend to relapse back to childhood every now and then.  But, when you teach high school freshman you get not only that one year they are in your classroom, but the three years that follow until that day they walk across the stage.

That world that they are creating, the choices I would never make, some that I would, but all leading to

when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see. 

Just a side note, I’m 34, I know my parents, my former teachers, feel the same way about me.


Mary Poppins

For Christmas this year my wife and I chose to watch Saving Mr. Banks.  It was mostly because I wanted to, but she played along.  It was one of the best and most heart wrenching.  Up there with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Before Christmas, and Saving Mr. Banks, we watched Mary Poppins.  I can’t believe how snotty, prissy, and annoying that woman is.  “Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.”  PRACTICALLY.  Her greatest fault is in telling you how great she is and how your not living up to her standards.

That being said, I love Mary Poppins.  That movie and the following scene are a part of who I am.

Nerd Grub

My wife recently purchased and embroidered a chef coat for me with my personal trademark.


Don’t I look fabulous.


Teacher Web Series

Every teacher has experienced this.  We all wish we could say this, but to keep our jobs, we don’t.

Undergarments Before the Fall

There is a simple indicator for a poor economy.  Better than the unemployment rate.  Better than the housing market.  Simply put, when was the last time you bought underwear?  When times are tough, the last thing you are going to spend money on is a new pair of boxers.  That simple question leads to a simple answer.  The fewer boxers/briefs being sold, the worse off the economy.

Underwear Index

There are also simple indicators of a student’s likelihood of finishing school or dropping out.  Instead of one simple question, there are three.

  1. Does that student show up on a regular basis?
  2. Do they stay out of trouble when they are in school?
  3. How are their grades in Math and ELA?

By asking those simple questions we can tell as early as the 6th grade when a student is going to drop out of school.  The real question for those of us asking those questions are, what are we going to do about it?

El Duderino

Several years ago I told everyone that I wanted to BE the Dude.  Not sure if that is ringing any bells with you, so I will explain.  Back in 1998 the Coen Brothers did a movie call The Big Lebowski.  To quote IMDB, its a movie about . . .

“Dude” Lebowski, mistaken for a millionaire Lebowski, seeks restitution for his ruined rug and enlists his bowling buddies to help get it.

The Dude is a slacker.  A lazy, unemployed old hippy in Los Angeles.  He spends his days smoking pot, bowling, drinking White Russians, and wondering about in his boxer shorts and a robe.

As an upstanding member of the educator community, I did not wish to emulate the Dude in all his glory, just the part about wondering about in his boxers.  I wanted to continue to be an educator, but work from home.  I wanted to get up, have a cup of coffee, and go to work in my pajamas.

I believe in my current role I have achieved at least a small portion of the Dude’s life.  I work from home, analyzing data, often in my pajamas.