Monday, August 31, 2009


Well, we’re into week number two of a new school year here at Camp Nickleby. The hills are alive with the sounds of the little dry sponges. All are eager to soak up as much knowledge as possible! Yeah, right. It will take some time for all of us to get back into the groove.

A week before camp started, the counseling staff was here, getting ready for the new year. We worked on vision and mission statements (no, serious), got our rooms ready, and sat through a lecture by Super
intendent Kim Chee, berating us for not being better teachers. “All of you are sooooo lazy,” she screamed. “I get here everyday at 5:30 a.m. and stay until 8:00 p.m.! If you were really serious about teaching, you would do the same, instead of taking off at 4:00 to get back to your cabins and nap. I could replace you all with those fine young people from Teach For America! How are we going to close the cheese mint gap?” Just made you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Dr. Chee let us know that she wants to tie our pay with student performance, starting this year. Since we are a non-union charter school, we just have to bend over and take it. Not sure how this will affect me.
Do I not get a raise if my kiddies can’t make a decent pinch pot? If they can’t mix the color orange? Do I depend on our math and English counselors to raise the test scores? Can’t wait! This Race To The Top crap is really getting to be a pain in the arse!

Speaking of test scores, we received our state API scores from last spring, and it doesn’t look good. Chee really went through the roof! After several years of scores creeping upward, they came crashing down again. We lost about 47 points from last year! A large number of math scores were uncharacteristically low. Apparently, a substitute teacher during math testing allowed the kids to talk her into letting them use crayons to fill in the answer sheets! Of course, there was the usual number of math wizards who turned the ans
wer sheets into connect-the-dots and made bunnies and hearts, which didn’t help either. To compound the problem, the error was not discovered at the ETS scoring facility in Sacramento until it was too late. The oily crayon residue gummed up the scoring machines and altered other schools’ test results, including our cross-mountain rival, Cruz Bustamante Preparatory Academy Strip Mall Charter High School. We’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop on this one.

The first project of the year always sets the tone for the rest of the year. This year, we’ll be m
aking Chia Pet Heads of members of the Obama administration! All the kids seem to be quite excited about this project and can’t wait to get started. Each kid picked a member of the administration to model. No two alike. Unfortunately, three boys wanted to do White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel heads, and I had to intervene. Not really sure what this means, but I think it will be a good project.

And that’s the news from Camp Nickleby, where every youngster enjoys the great outdoors, clean fresh air, daily mountain hikes and NO CHILD'S LEFT BEHIND!

Friday, August 28, 2009


As I recall, these young ladies were writing little missives to each other last semester during my wonderful lecture on pueblo pottery. They both recieved an 'F' on the test, but received an 'A' for note writing under the radar. Once again, doing our part here at Camp Nick to close that all-important achievement gap! Thanks kids!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Finally, a cause I can get behind! The rest of this stuff just makes my head hurt!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Call me a whambulance ! ! !

Can't believe the summer is almost over! Staff is back at Camp, writing Vision Statements and Mission Statements. Oh dear God!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


It’s hard to believe that the 40th anniversary of Woodstock is upon us! Where did the time go? For two of our Camp Nickleby staffers, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, as it was originally called, has a very special place in their hearts. Maurice and Charmaine Thibodaux were actually there, rolling around nekkid in the mud at Yasgur’s farm. As some of our loyal readers may recall, Maurice works as our maintenance man, but insists on being referred to as our ‘Viceroy of Camp Operations’. Charmaine works as our cook in the cafeteria, but she constantly refers to her work in the ‘film industry’, in her younger days. Both came to us from New Orleans after losing their house and all of their belongings during Hurricane Katrina.

These two crazy kids actually met at Woodstock. In 1969, both were recent graduates of Tulane University, but never ‘hooked up’ during college. Maurice earned a B.S. degree in chemical ‘engineering’, and Charmaine received a B.F.A. in interpretive dance (every father’s nightmare). When they heard about this music and art festival happening up in New York State, each of them decided to head north. Maurice packed his 1967 green and white VW microbus with a sleeping bag, a box of granola, half a case of Mateus Rosé, some weed and a couple of bongs, and headed north on a hot, muggy Louisiana morning in August of 1969. Charmaine decided to ‘borrow’ her brother’s aging Citroën deux chevaux and hit the road too. Packed with a cooler filled with organic bean sprouts, a loaf of wheat bread, several tie-dyed blouses, and her four-stringed dulcimer, she was ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

Their meeting at Woodstock was the proverbial case of love at first sight! It was, one would call, a whirlwind romance. Both being devout Catholics, they eschewed any type of birth control (and also because they were both #@&%ed up on windowpane acid) their love was consummated on the rotting remnants of Yasgur’s beet crop. Little Muffaletta Zydeco Thibodaux was conceived on August 15, 1969, at approximately 5:37 in the afternoon! Unfortunately, right after the climactic moment occurred, Maurice’s left foot was accidentally run over by Max Yasgur’s grandson, Skippy, taking a joy ride on his grandpa’s vintage 1957 Massey-Ferguson. Little Skippy was apparently suffering from a contact high and didn't see Maurice down on the ground in his Coleman sleeping bag. Maurice shrugged off the injury, but still walks with a slight limp. With that limp, he is constantly reminded of that special day 40 years ago. And little Muffaletta? Well she grew into a fine young woman, went to law school at Tulane and became a civil rights attorney and community organizer in Atlanta, Georgia. She is now currently an attorney, working with ACORN.

I asked Maurice what he remembers about the Woodstock experience. He said, “Not much, man. I was pretty stoned most of the time. But it took a long time to get Ritchie Haven’s music out of my head. Man, the dude played for two hours straight and he only knew one, friggin’ chord!”

While going through some old papers, I came upon this aging advertisement in Ramparts Magazine for an unassuming art and music festival in the summer of ’69. CHECK OUT THOSE PRICES!!!


As I was cleaning up the art studio today at Camp Nickleby, getting ready for the start of another glorious, standards-based school year, I came across this lovely missive, hiding under the overhead project. It was accompanied by an empty box of gum, several broken drawing pencils, some used mucous management tissues (yuk) and seventeen cents in change! Wonderful penmanship and spelling skills too!

It's going to be a good year!

Friday, August 14, 2009


I think I deserve a big refund! I spent a lot of money and a lot of time, back in the day, learning a bunch of librul, teacher mumbo-jumbo, going through hoops and hurdles, to get a teaching credential. If I waited thirty years until the dumbing down of America was in full swing, I could have saved myself a load of money and time and just spend less than a buck for a teaching certificate! What a maroon!

In the July 31, 2009 issue of The Washington Post, an article explained these new-fangled ways to become a teacher in NCLB America. Heck, you don’t even need none of them there fancy how-to-teach classes. Just pays your money and sit in a chair for a few weeks and, presto, you’re a teacher! You can even do it from home, on-line! Ain’t that great! It just gets better and better, don’t it?

Here are some of the more memorable moments culled from the article:

Many reformers say a fast track is the best way to capture potential teachers. "If you get rid of the hoops and hurdles, you can get some fantastic people to come into teaching," said Michael J. Petrilli, vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a District-based education think tank. (Problem is, they don’t stay)

Some initiatives seek to avoid traditional education school curricula (mumbo-jumbo) completely. The American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence approves teachers in nine states through online training and tests. In the District and in Maryland, the New Teacher Project has authority to certify its teachers with a practical, year-long seminar series led by D.C. public school teachers. (Year-long!??? Think of how much partying time I lost while studying teacher edgumacation in collitch!)

Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University, said accelerated training programs that put teachers in charge of classes right away can lead to higher burnout rates because teachers become quickly overwhelmed. Her research shows that teachers with more comprehensive training are less likely to leave within a few years.

Until a few years ago, many positions, particularly in urban schools, were filled by teachers with emergency credentials. The 2002 No Child Left Behind law outlawed the practice, and alternative programs sprouted up to give under-prepared teachers a clear path through state-required coursework. (but, but, I thought we all had to be highly-qualified!)

But here’s my favorite . . .

Career-changers are considered desirable because they bring maturity and outside experiences into classrooms. They also help solve a perennial problem in public education, particularly in math and science: Too few teachers have a solid grasp of the subject they teach. (This, ladies and gentlemen, is just some damn fine journalism! WTF? According to whom? Did the writer pull this out of a monkey’s butt? Oh yeah, she probably did!)

I had an appointment with a new doctor last Thursday. I asked him where he went to school for his medical training. He told me he attended Big Bob’s School of Doctorin’ in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Took him seven months and only cost him $485. I got the hell out of there fast!

Friday, August 7, 2009


Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana

As the Bushobama Department of Education’s anti-public school juggernaut continues careening down the hill, it is always comforting to know that there are folks in high places who really care about teachers and public education. Ironically, they are usually people who have never taught in a school!

Most recently, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana knows what’s best for schools and teacher education. Thanks Mitch, for setting us straight on this issue! Let’s hear what Mitch has to say on the subject, shall we?

“Arne Duncan could not be superintendent or principal in Indiana,” Daniels said of Obama’s education chief and former superintendent of Chicago schools. “He doesn’t have the right credentials.” The governor enunciated “credentials.”

Asked about how the Ball State University teachers college will have to adapt, Daniels explained, “When the Professional Licensing Board begins starting next week to redefine what is required to get a teaching license in Indiana, the schools of education are going to have to make some major changes of their own. They are not going to need as many people teaching what to me is mumbo jumbo. We’re going to expect students who want to teach spending much more of their time studying the subject they are going to be teaching in the schools.”


As I recall, I spent a lot of money, back in the day, to learn a lot of MUMBO JUMBO so I could get a teaching job? I FEEL SO DIRTY.

EDUCATIONAL TOOL OF THE MONTH is a copyrighted feature of Thank you very much!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fruitstand Signs as an English Lesson

During the summer months, the Valley is flooded with fresh fruit and veggies. Roadside stands pop up, seemingly, on every corner. And
with those stands come hand-made signs to attract potential buyers. Unfortunately, many of the sign makers apparently are products of the public education system in the United States. Surely students of private schools would have better spelling skills than this. Are could they be home-schooled? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . .

If I am only able to teach the kiddies just one thing, JUST ONE THING, I hope it is how to create the plural form of a word. I don't think it is that tough!!!

Hey, they got one correct, although that "W" in GROWN is a tad bit suspicious!

And then there is this one.
Hey, you make plum plural by adding an 'S', why not peach, right?

Here's a little poem about plurals I found when I used "The Google"

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
but the plural of ox became oxen not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice;
yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I spoke of my foot and show you my feet,
and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and three would be those,
yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
and the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
but though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
but imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim.