Open Mouth Returns (Part One), but the Revolution Will NOT Be Televised

Posted on June 1, 2016
Filed Under open mouth quizzes, testing, Video | 1 Comment

Alas, MCTV is now defunct. Let’s just say this:

  1. Issues were raised.
  2. My free trial with uStream was about to run out.
  3. See #1.

Watch me go all passive voice here for a bit.
It was pointed out that certain objections might be raised, and that there were some parents (even those who might not have a student in my class anymore) who might object to the visibility of kids in the feed for various valid reasons. It was also pointed out that the district had not been in on the decision to go live, and that there were certain parties who might see fit to inform the district of my unilateral decision and to vociferously complain about said decision. It was found in my best interests to pull the plug. Thank you to all the fans who tuned in. There were actually quite a few of you, surprisingly enough. The most common comments were about my “expectations and enforcement” of conduct. I’ll take that as a compliment.

I also sorta accidentally played hooky from another district ELA confab (#729 I think) the other day. Coincidentally–NOT ironically–that day I had one of the best teaching days of the year. So there you go.

It was a test day, which is usually Friday, but this week we were going to practice/train for the SCRABBLE tourney next week, so the test was Thursday, and didn’t cover as much shtuff. This year I kinda had spare week, so I busted a teaser of Tom Sawyer in class. We only read the first two chapters, but they really seemed to like it. It was the first time in years I had even pulled the books out of the cabinet. So the test only covered vocabulary (duh) and those two chapters of Tom.

It’s near the end of the year, and they’re hanging by a thread and seemingly all taking their dumb pills together in the mornings. One kid in my genius period was doing the worm on the floor during the warm up the other day, and we were all just glad he wasn’t talking! And Gawd knows most of their grades could use a little goosing. So I decided to have a little mercy (and fun) and let them take the test collaboratively this time. Or as one of my classes years ago dubbed it: Open Mouth – Formerly Known as Quizzes for Dummies.

I hadn’t done a whole-class one in a long time. They were already in their 4×4 groups, but this time I told them they could collaborate class-wide. Just like usual with these things, each class was different in the way they approached it.

My first period homies had some Cal Poly teaching students doing their observation time. We’ve had a lot of that lately. I hope they took notes, because the homies were money.

At first they were all, “Jhoony! What did you get for number one? Two? What? Wait! What’s number three? Jhoony! What did you get for three?!”

So I quietly (snort) suggest, “Why don’t you guys just put Jhoony in charge?”

So they did. And it was beauty. See you tomorrow for part two.




MCTV is Live

Posted on April 27, 2016
Filed Under Presenting the Book | 2 Comments

“Yes, the camera is STILL streaming. Pretend you’re on Survivor and ignore it.”

Alas, that is rather impossible for the seventh grade animal.

The experiment continues apace. We’ve been live-streaming every period for about a week now. I even left the camera on a couple of times overnight. One of the kids wanted to watch the night-time stream to look for “paranormal activity.” His words. NO luck so far. I was hoping the little yellow doggie might come to life or something.

It’s been a lot of fun. I had one of the social studies teachers come visit live (HE liked the idea!) and he already knew to cover his ears when the timer was about to go off because he’d been watching the broadcast. Another history teacher sent two kids over to my room at the beginning of every period to prove to his classes that we were live. They wouldn’t believe until they saw the emissaries walk in. The other history teacher (that department REALLY liked the idea) devoted the last ten minutes of each of her classes to watching us one day.

I have kid who REALLY likes to soft-shoe dance around on my little stage before school. It used to be kind of awkward, but he’s a minor school celebrity lately because he got two or three eighth grade girls to join his dance one day, and it was seen “on the stream.”

One of my geniuses later in the day says mockingly, “I heard ‘Jason’ was dancing in front of the camera, and then some Leadership girls started dancing too, and yeah…”

“I don’t see eighth grade girls lining up to dance with you.”

Sometimes they make it too easy.

All I heard for the rest of the day was, “You totally burned ‘Stevie’ didn’t you?”

MCTV is live, baby.

Today during my prep, I took the camera to the ss teacher who had visited earlier. His kids were doing two minute presentations pretending they had visited historic sits in South America and trying to make it sound like they were actually there.

MCTV takes you to historic South America!

My next plan is to start holding court in my rocking chair (watch the stream and you’ll see it) before school and making it sort of like a show. I usually open my door at least 20 minutes before school actually starts. I sit in my chair, eating my second breakfast (the at-school one), and watching the kids draw on the big chalkboard I have (watch the stream and you’ll see it) and chatting and watching the parade (watch the stream and you’ll see it).

I’m thinking sort of a Johnny Carson type thing, where kids or teachers or other staff/adults can sit down for a 2 minute interview with mrC, and share a talent or interest or whatever. But we’d have to make it snappy.

“That’s very interesting. Next!”

This is going to be a lot of fun.

Here’s the link again. MCTV LIVE!

I Guess We’ll See How This Goes

Posted on April 18, 2016
Filed Under Oh my!, Video | Leave a Comment

My regular(s) have read about my 120 Seconds book reports. If you are not a (the) regular, you can see an example here.

This year’s batch, while competent and mostly well prepared, didn’t really “bust a move” for me. They were all pretty conventional. I was hoping for a few more of them to go above and beyond. Example: One year, long ago, a girl did Juliet’s “thy happy sheath” suicide speech, complete with fake knife (back when they weren’t illegal) and death throes. Sigh. I miss those days. So after one of my colleagues asked me why I don’t make the kids do it more than once, I decided to try to kick it up a notch as former celebrity chef Emeril used to say. So we did it again, only this round, I reduced the time to 60 seconds and made it more of a pitch to get me to read the book.

Things are going much more… entertainingly this time.

I will put together a greatest hits of one or two lines each, but meanwhile, you can groove on this kid. I almost didn’t let him present, because the book he was going to do was obviously just grabbed off the shelf and wasn’t really what this whole thing was about. But when I saw that he was also going to ad-lib it… Well, I called him back to the stage; this I had to see. Glad I did.

Now I am going to kick it up yet another notch daddio. We’re going live streaming! I also teach the video production elective, and last year I bought a couple of wifi enabled video cameras. Today I finally got the live streaming thing happening through a site called uStream. So starting tomorrow, we will be live streaming THE ENTIRE DAY, including the book pitches, the vocabulary practices, Giver Q/A and reading, my snide comments… the whole nine yards!

It’s an experiment. It might not last. The wife, her nickname is The Safety Girl, has already expressed her doubts. But I am going to take a shot at it this week. So if you haven’t anything better to do with your life…

My schedule. (When it would be worth watching.)

Period 1 (inc. Homies) 8:15-9:24
Period 3 10:33-11:28
Period 4 12:08-1:01
Period 5 1:06-2:00
Period 2 is my prep and Period 6 is video production in a different room.

Here’s the link.

Have fun!

The Other Mr. Coward

Posted on April 4, 2016
Filed Under retirement, Teaching | 1 Comment

I have always said that I will never retire. I figure that I need a job at least half the year (185/365 ain’t bad, I have to say) to keep me from getting too lazy and to keep me out of trouble. One usually leads to the other, at least in my experience. Besides, it’s still fun, and in spite of recent meddlings by central admin, I really don’t see that fun-ness going away anytime soon.

If it does, I’m gone, but in the meantime the plan was to keel over on top of one of them when I’m at least 110 years old. Whack the stick and scare the bejabbers out of them one last time on my way out.

Notice I just said was.

When my son (hereafter referred to as The Boy) was in 7th grade (and going through my class) he ran for Student Body office. He lost. Don’t get me started about our “election process,” (three offices, a dozen or more candidates, and the kids get ONE VOTE?!) but in his speech he opened with the line that said that he was the “other Mr. Coward.” He didn’t really play it up during the “campaign” like he should have. He went with a zombie theme, saying he could bring new life to the zombie-like ASB. Not bad, and the 8.5×11 inch posters were pretty cool with him facing down zombies–no gun needed! But somebody’s dad that year had a super large-scale printer, and the school was plastered with 3×4 FOOT posters of some other guy’s mug smirking in a winning fashion. Ooooh, shiny! Landslide.

Anyway, our family always liked that phrase, The Other Mr. Coward. Now it might be the future.

The Boy is nearing the end of his junior year. (I know, really?) He did pretty dang well on the SAT and the ACT and he’s been getting junk mail from colleges daily. His plan up until recently was to go to the local college as a computer science major and try to end up at our local high school (his then alma mater) taking over the tech teacher’s job.

He’s a local boy to the core, one who realizes how good we have it here, and he doesn’t really want to move away anywhere. Hard to say how I feel about that.

But of late, he has come to realize that his heart isn’t really in the technology as a career thing. He wants to teach English. Or history. The Boy sure does have a nose for high-paying careers, huh?

So now the new plan is to actually become the other Mr. Coward. Here’s how we picture it could go down. He’s a junior now. Figure one more year of high school and five to six to get through Cal Poly SLO with a teaching credential. Let’s add about five years’ worth of seasoning. Let’s call it 12 years, and I’m pushing 67. Maybe I make him wait until I hit 70.

Anyway, during the summer he gets hired and I retire and on the first day of school, 2031, the kids at Laguna Middle School (by this time, probably called a “learning hub” or some such) get greeted by “The Other Mr. Coward.”



Go Visiting!

Posted on March 17, 2016
Filed Under Advice, Teacher Evaluation, Teaching | Leave a Comment

I had my annual “Goals Meeting” with my principal the other day. In our district, you get the full “Evaluation” every other year, and in between you have to have an educational goal for the year with a meeting at each end of the year more or less. I’m on the off year, and my goal was to help the noobs.

Obviously I couldn’t actually word it like that now could I? I think I said shtuff  like “mentor and collaborate with our new teachers” or some such thing.

To paraphrase Led Zeppelin: We gotta whole lotta noobs.

Our staff looks so different than it did even three years ago. We went from having one of the oldest, most crotchety staffs in the district to a house fulla young go-getters. We have teachers in years 1-3 and teachers in their first years of junior high after just a few years of high school experience, and everybody and her mom is into collaboration and “common assessments.” One of our noob English teachers even was heard to say, “I like meetings.”


So I have been actually trying to… you know… collaborate.

Meetings are right out though.

Anyway, all my principal and I ended up talking about was my observations from my latest drive-bys.

I like to watch. Other classes that is. On my prep, after I put Bella to work, I sometimes go visiting. Not just English, but also (especially) math and science. I’m going to go out to PE next week I think.

I just wander in, and the ones that know me start shouting, “Hi Mr. Coward!” I tell them to get back to work, and assure the usually startled teacher that I’m just here to say hey and watch the show for awhile and maybe see “how my crims are doing in their other classes.”

If they’re working on something individually, I walk around reading over shoulders and asking after the assignment. If the teacher is “teaching,” then I sit down and watch. I usually don’t stay more than about 10 minutes or so. Then I say thanks, and stroll out. Recently I watched a science lab, two different math warm ups, a lecture about the pope, and one of our Read 180 classes.

The science lab was eerie good. A lab full of eighth graders going about their business quietly and with focus. Everybody, including the second year teacher, was talking in his/her library voice, which I don’t think I have one of any more. Nobody was farting around with the little cars; they actually used them as intended in the experiment. It was scary good.

Everybody I saw rocked it, and my inner seventh grader was not bored at all.

So that’s pretty much all we talked about at the meeting: the changing staff and the people and classes I had seen. We agreed that way more people should go visiting. He has encouraged people at our staff meetings, offering to cover classes and/or hire subs, but you know how people are about being out of their classrooms.

So I say, burn (part of) a prep now and then. You’ll learn a lot, it’s more useful than any forced collaboration, and most people actually like it when you come by. I usually get asked back. Plus you’ll get to see how some of your crew act in their other habitats, which is kind of fun.

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