Sunday, August 31, 2008

1st Week of School

Hurray, 1 week down - only 35 more to go. Just kidding - I am not counting. The only bummer about this week was my little fever that struck on Tuesday. By the end of the day I collapsed on the couch in my classroom. I laid there for 30 minutes before I peeled myself off and dragged my butt home. Later that evening I realized my fatigue was not school induced, but that I had a raging fever. Unfortunately, I was to start my institute class that evening, but I was too wiped out to go. Fortunately though, my fever broke about midnight and I was able to finish out the rest of the week. I don't know why the fever struck but I am doing much better now.

This year I am teaching the following courses:
  • AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination - a college prep class, 22 students)
  • AP World History (2 sections - 30 students per class)
  • Honors World History (1 section - 37 kids)
  • World History (2 sections - 50 kids per class)
For those that are counting that is 219 students. I can proudly say that by the 3rd day of school I knew all their names. However, by the 5th day the fever killed some brain cells and I can't quite remember all of them - but I am working on it.

So far my students look promising. My two average world history classes will be a challenge simply because of their size. It is difficult to control 15-year-olds but when you put 50 in a room together it gets tough. My classroom is a nice size, but not with 50 people in it. We are all a little crowded. Our state drastically cut our education budget and the enrollment is up by about 400 students at our school and we are down 12 teachers. I am optimistic that within the next few weeks they will try to level our classes to get the count to be around 35-36 in those classes.

Summer Travels Part 2: Rexburg

After spending a week in Seattle, I boarded another plane bound for Salt Lake. At the SLC airport I met my brother Garret and the two of us shared the shuttle ride to Rexburg. This leg of my summer travel was only a few days, but I certainly had fun. On Saturday, July 12th my brother Scott arrived and it was fun to spend a little quality time with 3 of my brothers. Along with Marnie's brother-in-law Tyler, we all went to see the Incredible Hulk Saturday afternoon. The movie was much better than the Hulk and that evening was spent catching up.

Sunday was my nephew Scott's big day--his mission farewell. Before church I took the following pictures for Doug and Marnie.


Taylor, Doug, Marnie & Scott


Scott, all grown-up

It makes me feel old to realize I have a nephew who is a missionary. Scott gave an excellent job talk - his topic was missionary work. It is obvious that he will be a fantastic missionary. After the block of meetings there was an open house with tons of food and great conversation. Before I knew it my brother Scott had to fly back to Vegas and Garret returned to Dallas.

Monday the 14th I hung out with my parents before I took off for the third part of my summer travels.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Chicken, Chicken, Chicken

One of the few things I asked for this past Christmas was gift coupons to a local cooking school. I have driven by the school a number of times, visited their website and always wanted to take their classes. The older I get the less "stuff" I need and I thought this would be a fun alternative to a traditional gift.

My loving brother Scott gave me the certificate for Christmas and on August 7th, I completed my second course....Chicken, Chicken, Chicken. The first class I took was "Knife Skills" which doesn't sound very fun, but it was exceptional. I took the knife skills class back in January and it has taken me eight months to complete my second course. But like the first, this one was exceptional as well.

With one professional chef and 8 students ready to go we made 4 chicken dishes: 1) Herbs de Provence Chicken 2) Roasted Dr. Pepper Chicken 3) Chicken Roulade (stuffed goat cheese chicken) & 4) Proscutto wrapped Chicken skewers. Each dish was outstanding and would impress any dinner guest, but my favorite turned out to be the Herbs de Provence Chicken--it was a little burst of France right in your mouth. I don't think I have ever eaten that much chicken in my entire life, but I now have a few more dishes to add to my aresenol which is always a good thing. For my next choice...which class should I take now?

For more information visit: creativecookingschool.com

Summer Travels Part 1: Seattle

The first leg of my summer travels took me to the always beautiful Seattle area.

The 4th of July was spent with my best friend Chandra and her adorable family. I have to say she has some of the cutest girls in the world. After picking my up from the airport, we spent the rest of the morning/afternoon at the Bothell city parade. Chandra's oldest daughter Olivia was part of her dance troupe's float which was fun. Chandra's girls had a great time running after candy and I enjoyed just hanging out with her and the family.


Victoria and Lucy looking very patriotic.

On Saturday the 5th, Chandra and I got to have a girls afternoon out. We went for pedicures, saw the movie "Get Smart" (very funny) and went to Buca di Beppo for dinner. It had been 2 years since we last saw each other and this time together was nice.

The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying each others company and hanging out with her family. On Monday the 7th, I met up with my sister-in-law Robin and her kids at her brother's apartment pool. The kids had a great 4 hour swim before we headed out to their house in Duval.

Their house in Duval is in the prettiest location. I could just sit in their front room and look out their window for the rest of my life and be happy. It is gorgeous - this picture does not do it justice.



Unfortunately on Tuesday the 8th I ate something that didn't sit well and I spent the rest of the day running back and forth to the bathroom. I haven't had to throw up that much in my entire life. Nothing would stay down, not even water. Fortunately, Greg was able to give me a blessing with the help of his neighbor and by Wednesday all was fine.

Wednesday, Robin and I took the kids to a nearby lake which the kids did not think was very exciting. After trying to keep them there for an hour we tried our luck at another community lake. We were fortunate that the gate was open and the kids had a great time playing in the water. In the evening, we had a little picnic in the park where a local band was playing and I was able to see my dear friend Robert and meet his partner Mikel and their kids. The band was entertaining, but the music was a little too loud to have any deep conversations. My nephew Hunter was bothered by the loud music, so Robin took the kids to work on some crafts. There was a river nearby and before you know it Hunter, Chris and Elaina were all soaked to the bones. The kids are like fish and can't seem to get enough of the water.

Thursday we met Greg for lunch in the Google offices (talk about an awesome setup--makes me almost wish I worked there)--and then spent the rest of the afternoon at a local park. I treated Robin and the kids to dinner at Red Robin before we headed back to their house. Here are a few of the pictures of the kids I took that evening.


Alix & Elaina


Hunter & Chris

The highlight of my trip with Greg and Robin was meeting their little one Jacen. He is the friendliest baby I have ever met.


Friday morning Greg took me to the airport nice and early and off I flew to Salt Lake for the 2nd leg of my trip.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Home Again

Well after many, many trips this summer I am home for good. Over the next few days I will post each of the legs of my travels over the last six weeks but first some news. Today I went back to school to move my classroom and start unpacking and decorating (I don't officially report until the 20th and classes begin with students on the 25th). I had the help of two of my students and my home teachers. They were a huge help and got me off to a great start with finishing my classroom.

Now for some good news, I checked my school mailbox this morning and I got the results for my AP class....10 of my students passed the test. I had 26 students take the test and I had anticipated that I would have about 10% pass the test (around 3 students). I am thrilled with the results. The most experienced AP World History teachers have between a 50-60% pass rate depending on the year and the quality of the students. The exceptional ones might be able to boast a 65-70% pass rate. My 39% is excellent for a first year AP teacher and in my case I was only a second year teacher as well. I am very, very happy with these numbers.

Bravo to my students who studied and put in the time to be successful and I am so excited to start next year and see what I can do. I know I will be a more effective teacher and I hope to have even better results next year.

Here is a little more information:
The test is on a 5 point scale with 5 being the highest.
2 students received a 4
8 students received a 3
6 students received a 2
10 students received a 1

(I am actually happy I had more 1's than 2's because I told my students all year that a 2 was a lazy man's 3.)