A Week for Tears

Being a teacher puts you in weird situations pretty frequently. Just the other day I found myself having to explain why I was not going to explain what circumcision was. Then I had to explain why they weren’t allowed to look it up over the school’s WiFi without explaining what it was that they were going to find. At that point they realized it must be something bad which only increased their desire to know.

“Ok, it’s when they cut skin off of your penis.” Goddammit, I thought. Continue reading A Week for Tears

Margarita soda and candy-grams.

“Mister, can I go to the bathroom?”

“Yeah, did you finish your warmup though?”

“Please, I have to pee.”

“Ok, go. Write a pass.”

He didn’t write a pass. He also didn’t think I saw it but I did. As Christian turned to go out the door, he tried to shift the open Coke can from being hidden behind his body to being hidden in front of his body. Why would he need to take a Coke to the bathroom?
“God damnit,” I thought.

Continue reading Margarita soda and candy-grams.

Testing, accountability, and a libertarian calling for more state control

Tyler Cowen (an amazing Econ. and general interest blogger at Marginal Revolution) wrote an op-ed for the New York Times yesterday which touched briefly on education. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Politics based on lobbying stacks the deck against lower-income groups, who are often outmaneuvered. For instance, one of the biggest problems faced by the poor today is inadequate K-12 education. They need improved public schools, more school choice, or some mix of both. Over time, such improvements would help deal with many other social and economic issues, including global competitiveness, domestic unemployment, public health and the budget deficit, because quality education has many beneficial effects.

Instead, the current system of transfers offers to the poor various sops in place of more effective reforms. Fundamental improvements to education would involve more challenging changes to residential zoning, teacher unions and certification systems, and might also take some educational finance and control out of the hands of local municipalities. It is no surprise that well-off families want to keep a system that has done very well by them, and that the poor often lose political battles over education.

The general point of the column is the growing power interest groups have over politics and how they use that power as “takers” rather than “makers”. The end result of this lobbying is policies which hurt the poor. I think it’s telling that Cowen leaves out some of the biggest interest groups – banks, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, defense contractors – and choses to harp on teachers, homeowners, and “government oriented professionals.” What strikes me most, however, is his solution: more centralized control. Looking at the excerpt above, Cowen calls for “Fundamental improvements to education would involve more challenging changes to residential zoning, teachers unions and certification systems, and might also take some educational finance and control out of the hands of local municipalities.” Continue reading Testing, accountability, and a libertarian calling for more state control


Since mid-October I’ve been learning Spanish, mostly while I drive my car. I’m using the Pimsleur Method, of which I highly approve. I can now speak Spanish far better than I could after taking three quarters at Emory.

I can speak, but not read or write it very well. That’ll come later. They don’t want me doing that yet.

The Pimsleur Method is based on the recognition that most people on the planet who’ve learned a language, i.e., children, learn to speak it pretty dang well before they can read anything. They learn by speaking and hearing, a little bit at a time, and figure out on their own verb tenses and conjugations.

I spend about 45 minutes a day speaking and hearing Spanish. What I’ve learned is mostly tourista Spanish. We talk about making reservations, ordering food, make small talk about the weather and people’s families.

After finishing the first 86 of 120 lessons, I can now order Mexican food and converse with my servers in Spanish about it. I can make small talk with lovely senoritas at the bar. That goes something like this:

Me: Vienes aqui con frequencia?* (Do you come here often)

And the senorita generally says something which in context sounds something like, “I think you’re a creepy old man.” (There seems to be intercultural consensus on this point.)
Continue reading espanol

Dining in Hollywood: Part 1

“I was watching this show about the one hundred greatest football players of all time, and there was this jazz musician from New Orleans who introduced Barry Sanders. I forget his name. He was saying that watching Barry Sanders play football was like watching art in motion. It didn’t matter which way he was going; he could move in any direction at any time. It was like jazz. I think his last name was Marsalis…”

“Wynton Marsalis? I saw him last year at Disney Hall. We talked after the show. Such a nice guy.”

“That’s right. Wynton Marsalis! His soul!!! His spirit!!! Anyway, I learned more watching that introduction than the rest of my ten years of acting training…” Continue reading Dining in Hollywood: Part 1

3 to 10 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life and Increase Your Blog’s Traffic

You are a busy person. You have to drop the kids off at soccer practice, cook dinner, and still manage to find the time to watch 6 hours of TV. I’ve created this handy list that will improve the two most important aspects of your life, your sex and your blog, in less than 5 minutes. Continue reading 3 to 10 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life and Increase Your Blog’s Traffic

I Don’t Know Sh*t About Education

The message we send our kids: Live like whitey.

Ryan’s repost of my old blog entry gave me cause to reread it for the first time since April 2011. I closed the post by pledging to be a good teacher. I’m now into my second year as a special education teacher and it’s as good a time as any to look back and reflect on my experiences and to answer that question: Am I a good teacher?

Special Education is not something I imagined I’d be doing when I completed my English degree. Or when I completed my English Education Master’s of the Art of Teaching (don’t ask). It’s definitely been a big learning experience and it’s humbled me quite a bit.

But more than any of that, working in Special Education has taught me that I don’t know sh*t about education. Reasonable people would expect to find a flawed system with inefficiencies and problems. What I have come to find is a deeply broken system bordering on dysfunction. The worst part is, nobody seems to know how to fix it. Everywhere I think I find some kind of answer or some kind of solution, there are significant downsides just waiting around the corner. Continue reading I Don’t Know Sh*t About Education

Hotter Than A Hoochie Coochie

We made our first mistake yesterday, Grace and I realized in the checkout line at Wal-Mart. Our sunscreen, inner tubes, and lifejackets beeped and passed into bags, but we relinquished our PBR tallboys to the imposing woman in the blue apron. For just a second, I considered trying to pay her off. We knew a recent legislative change now allowed alcohol sales on Sundays in Georgia. We did not know that you still could not buy alcohol before noon. The legislators did not want their churchgoing constituents to play catch-up. We would float down the Chattahoochee River in 107 degree heat without alcohol. Continue reading Hotter Than A Hoochie Coochie

De Snuffelaer

I’d like you all to meet Otto Marseus van Schrieck. A painter of the Dutch Golden Age and member of the Bentvueghels, van Schrieck was known for his detailed naturalistic studies of weird plants and creepy animals. It is said that van Schrieck kept a plot of land outside of Amsterdam stocked with a small menagerie of reptiles, amphibians, and insects to use as his subject matter. For reasons that don’t quite click with me but apparently do with the author of his Wikipedia page, he was for this reason “called the snuffelaer, or ‘sniffer’, because he was always sniffing strange lizards and snakes.” What?

Before today, I didn’t know there was something called the Bentvueghels, or Otto Marseus van Schrieck, or the Dutch Golden Age — and then I read a big plaque on the wall next to his painting at the New Orleans Museum of Art. I barely knew anything about Dutch and Flemish art before today, but now here it is midnight and I am one of the world’s foremost experts. That’s what museums can do!  Continue reading De Snuffelaer