Saturday, June 27, 2009

But, I did all the work . . .

Well, the report cards have hit home, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth continues. My e-mail is filled with missives from the wee ones, wondering why their grade isn’t what it should be. After all, they did all the work! Somewhere in their educational careers, they learned that just turning something, anything in, garners them a good grade. Mmmmmm, not so much.

At the end of the school year, I was amazed at some of the really dumb questions I was being asked, many of these concerned procedural stuff that somehow they were able to filter out from their hearing. Even after numerous repetition and reminders, they still didn’t know what was expected of them. I came to the conclusion that they don’t read and they only hear every fifth word that I said! This couldn’t possibly be true.

And yet my theory has been proven. A recent study by the Make Teachers Do Good Institute in Washington, D.C. proves that students actually only are capable of hearing every fifth word. All the rest of the words are totally wasted. They never enter their little melons. Dr. Arnold R. Ziffle, head of the institute, studied approximately 4,500 high schools students in twenty-five states. This four-month long study concluded that the minds of high school students become overloaded with too much information. Their brains, as a function of self-preservation, filter out approximately 75% of the input that we try to pump into them.

The studies finding have been compiled into a new book, Only Every Five, written by Dr. Ziffle. The book also contains a foreword by educational guru Robert Marzano and can be found at for $24.95. It also comes with a software program on CD that teachers may use to edit down their lectures and handouts to a more manageable size. I decided to try this program, so just for the hell of it, I filtered the Gettysburg Address through it, and this is what I got. I can’t wait to start using this in the fall.

Four years brought continent, conceived, dedicated that created are great whether and long met battlefield. We dedicate that final those their nation is proper do a can, can, can ground. Living struggled it, poor or will long say can they is living. Dedicated unfinished who thus advanced. For here great us honored increased cause gave measure we that not vain under a freedom of the people from.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Life outside of Camp Nickleby started out with a musical bang! My lady and I shot down to Santa Monica a weekend ago to take in the L.A. Acoustic Music Festival. The first one. Judging by the unfortunately sparse crowd, it might be the only one. Weather was perfect, no diving-bombing terns, and the beer was cold, if a tad bit overpriced.

Best part about the festival . . . I got to cross something off my bucket list; seeing Eliza Gilkyson play live. BUY HER MUSIC!!! She should be a Living National Treasure.

Also in the lineup for the day was The Kingston Trio (yep!) , Natalie MacMaster and Bruce Cockburn (a little too electrified for my taste).

Big laugh of the day was the large banner for the California Acoustic Music Project, which would be befitting from any proceeds from the festival. Perhaps they should invest a few bucks in a proofreader! No doubt a product of a liberal/communist/homosexual public education. SCREW THOSE UNIONIZED TEACHERS AND THEIR EVIL WAYS!!!

On whining mothers, groveling coaches and the Christian-Charity D-

Well, the camp is quiet now. All of the campers have been picked up by their parents or their guardians. Finals have been scored, grades have been turned in, and we are outta here! Most of us have cleaned out our rooms and have packed up our personal property to take home for the summer. I’m glad the year is over.

The final month is always the most difficult. It is like a three-ring circus that has gone terribly awry. The seniors start melting around mid-April. The little snowflakes (some of them) actually start worrying about their finals grades at the beginning of May. And oy, the kvetching, the kvetching . . .

As Bush’s third term towards educational ‘reform’ gathers steam, we in the profession constantly are hammered with the term ‘accountability’ by parents and ‘experts’ not in the profession. That is, until it hits their own backyard. During the end of the semester, I was visited by many who asked for a waiver for their special little interest.

I had a crying Mother asking why her little loser cherub’s grade was so low and why I was preventing him from graduating. Somehow it was all my fault that he did absolutely nothing in class expect make ceramic pipes and bongs on the rare days that he actually did show up for class.

And then there was the groveling coach, coming into my room, begging to raise the score of his little knuckle-dragging Neanderthal star athlete so he could play on next year’s football team.

And then there are the Special Ed kids! What to do with them. Most managed to just take up space the entire year. Being outside their protective environment of the special ed classroom, they floundered. Not being able to understand what was expected of them, they just flailed around, hoping somebody else would do the work for them. It’s like trying to teach rocks. If you fail them, even though they deserve it, you are the bad guy. They just need more “scaffolding” or their “learning modalities” weren't accessed properly, or some other buzzword-infected rationale is used.

Little Christine is sitting at 27% of the work completed for the year. She did almost nothing. Her test scores were abysmal. All of the projects that she actually did complete were pathetic and sad. She took up space. But I don’t want to be the bad guy. I end up giving them the Christian-Charity D-, everybody is happy, and I can get the hell out of Dodge!


Thursday, June 4, 2009


Well, we’re winding down here at Camp Nickleby. The year is almost over. We are in the middle of finals, and our little senior snowflakes will be graduating tomorrow night. This should be a time of joy and celebration. But not for me.

My very best buddy is gone. I have been on this planet long enough now to have known many dogs. But Moe was the best! An Aussie-Lab mix, Moe had more personality than a whole kennel full of dogs. I’m not sure what he liked most, going to the beach or making Moe-angels in the snow.

Moe was twelve, as of last February, and was starting to develop health problems. He was starting to move a little slower, and he could no longer jump up into the car. We had to scoop him up. Not an easy feat. He weighed in at 100 lbs. We took him in to the vet and it was discovered that he had an enlarged spleen, and other complications. Surgery and recovery would have been too painful and cruel. We decided to make that dreaded decision.

Moe was our 'seeing art dog'. We would take him into galleries, when allowed, and he would check out the artwork. Abstract Expressionism was his favorite style. Color-field painting, not so much. His last art excursion was up to Davis, to take part in a ceramic sculpture conference. We would walk him around town, and he truly enjoyed all of the attention passers-by bestowed upon him. I'd like to think he's up there now, hanging out with Voulkos and Arneson, begging for some treats.

His constant smile was infectious. He was a joy to have around. I still remember how he crossed his front legs when relaxing. I can still hear him shaking his collar in the middle of the night. It will take me a long, long time to really understand that he is truly gone. Moe, you will be missed. Damn!

First Moe, then Koko Taylor, and now David Carradine! Wow, what a crappy week!

But with dogs, we do have "bad dog." Bad dog exists. "Bad dog! Bad dog! Stole a biscuit, bad dog!" The dog is saying, "Who are you to judge me? You human beings who've had genocide, war against people of different creeds, colors, religions, and I stole a biscuit?! Is that a crime? People of the world!""Well, if you put it that way, I think you've got a point. Have another biscuit, sorry."
---Eddie Izzard

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
- - - Groucho Marx