First Day Back


Yesterday I started the Curriculum Development course at Notre Dame.

My first problem was the thing that happened last week, which I think I mentioned somewhere on Epiphany’s site. I went to school and realized I didn’t know the room number. So I went to the board outside the Registrar’s office and discovered that class didn’t start until this week. Duhhhhh.

Not wanting to waste the trip, I went to the bookstore to get the textbooks for the class. Lemme tellya, friends: Textbooks can get pretty fricken expensive, but I wasn’t prepared for this. The books for this one class, which runs for three weeks, cost more than the books for my last two classes combined. I nearly had a heart attack right there in the store. The total for this session: $238.  I’m feeling faint all over again just typing about it.

The class started yesterday afternoon. We have eight sessions between now and the 14th. There’s at least one paper due each class. I’ve already written the first one but I get the feeling that I’m going to come out of this exhausted.

Two Educations for the Price of One

I didn’t win anything in Atlantic City, but that’s OK. I lost about $120, plus another $20 bill that I just can’t find even though I know I didn’t spend it. I have to wonder if someone got a really good tip late in the day.

Tonight, despite the holiday, I had to go to class. But I had another bit of business to take care of, first. I had a little trouble doing my homework because there was a problem with one of my textbooks.

I’m not proud. I don’t have a problem with buying used textbooks. They’re a little bit cheaper, and often you can get a pretty clean copy. I don’t worry about highlighting or notes in the margins although I do ignore them; I have no idea whether or not the person who had the book ahead of me was a complete moron and highlighted all the wrong stuff. So I expect a few imperfections.

I expect highlighting.

I expect notes scrawled all over the book (one book of mine had football picks from some week last season).

I expect a little wear on the cover and a little dogearing or smudging on the pages.

However, silly guy that I am, I also expect that the book have all of its pages. It turns out that some of the pages in the book have these "quiz yourself" type of tests, where you figure out whether you’re a Type-A, whether you have good self-monitoring skills, and so forth. And furthermore it turns out that the pages are perforated for easy removal. So, they were removed easily, and because they’re not all together it wasn’t easy to figure out that pages were missing until you got to that spot.

Before class started I went to the bookstore (which, fortunately, is in the same building) and explained the situation. The attitude of the girl behind the counter was pretty much, "Hey, you gotta expect stuff like this with a used book." Um…no, no I don’t. She called over her boss, who told me to go get another copy and we’d make an exchange.

Naturally, there were no other used copies, so I had to get a new book and pay the difference. While the transaction’s being rung, the boss said something about how they’d have to look a little more carefully at the buybacks. Gee, ya think? How long have they been doing this, anyway?

So because of all this grief, and having to fill out paperwork because of the exchange (because I haven’t had enough crap to deal with), I wound up late to class and not quite prepared to discuss the reading. Bah. At least the assignment I handed in last week had nice comments on it, although I completely missed the point of part of the project. The professor is letting me re-submit that part, though, since it has to go into my online portfolio as part of the Administrative Certification process.

And, of course, next semester I get the syllabus early and buy my books via Amazon or eBay.

I Don’t Know!

I’ve already gotten a bunch of hits from people who are wondering if Baltimore City schools are closed tomorrow. Here’s the official word: I don’t know. I go by the Baltimore Sun’s website. Try them (link in the sidebar).

And one poor soul came here wanting to know if West Hempstead, NY schools are closed. Maybe Newsday knows that one.

But feel free to stick around and read the "Bitching About Work" posts if you want to hear some stories about the Baltimore schools. They’re not all complaints. Not ALL of them. Only most.

This Bird Has Flown

The morning of December 9, 1980 was much like any other at first. I was a Senior in high school. I woke up early for some reason. The first thing I did every morning was turn on my radio, which was tuned to WABC. It was still a music station then. The morning DJ at the time was Dan Ingram. For those of you who remember New York radio in those days, this was a brief experiment on WABC’s part, and it wasn’t too much longer before he was back at the afternoon drive shift.

If you don’t know him, Dan Ingram is probably one of the best disk jockeys ever. He’s funny, he’s clever, he’s sincere. If Bruce Morrow was everyone’s cousin, Dan Ingram was the uncle with the bizarre sense of humor. When Chairman Mao visited New York City, Dan suggested that the Chairman looked a little like the guy who did his laundry. Many time he’d talk back to the records or the commercials, usually taking them out of context: "No sir, I would NEVER ‘void where prohibited’." Dan’s shift usually flew by because you had so much fun listening to him.

This morning, however, he was rather somber. Something had happened and it took several minutes for me to piece it together because of the time that I came in. There were references to "he" and "him" and it was only very slowly that I realized that John Lennon was dead. Not only that he was dead, but that somebody who was known perhaps worldwide for his efforts at peace had died a violent death. A lone gunman, someone described by a local police officer as "a wack job", had ambushed Lennon late the night before, as he returned home from a recording session, the one that would ultimately become the Milk and Honey album.

In retrospect, even though police were there in a heartbeat, and even though they didn’t bother waiting for an ambulance (they piled him into a cruiser and drove him to the hospital), he arrived at the hospital alive but it was too late; there was too much damage done. He had no pulse, no blood pressure. He wasn’t breathing. They worked on him for maybe twenty minutes before they gave up.

I got to school early every day because I was the guy who did the morning announcements on the PA system. I remember taking notes on all of this because I wanted to share some of this information. When I got to school I realized that there were people who still didn’t know everything that had happened. For many of the people in Kings Park High School that morning, I was the person who broke the news that Lennon had died.

Twenty-five years ago today, John Lennon was killed outside his apartment house. I still remember some parts of that day vividly.

We all shine on.

Heads Explodin’ Everywhere

Coming back from Florida, I certainly hit the ground running.

I got a bunch of homework done while I was away; enough to get me only a week behind. By now I’m almost done with everything, which is just as well, since I only have one class left. I’m hoping that I can get my last brief done tonight so I can hand in my last two a couple of days early; then all I have to worry about is my presentation on Zero Tolerance policies, which I’m doing on Thursday. Then I’m done with the Legal Issues class. I really did enjoy this class but it’s not something to be given over seven sessions for four hours at a time. First, it gives the topic short shrift, and second, we never met for the full four hours. I went through this when I took the Assessment course as well. It was a summer course, so we met four times for something like six hours at a pop. You don’t get a good appreciation for what you’re learning. Of course, when I get to the Technology course, which will teach me how to post stuff to the World Wide Web (a-hem), it’ll be the Interminable Death March of Classes. Feh.

So I’ve got homework to finish, a presentation to complete, then two reports that are already due from work and a third that will be generated tomorrow when I do another observation, then in the afternoon I’m meeting with someone to start another training session, which means another presentation to BEGIN.

If you see a guy walking around town with a big smoky hole where his head should be? That’d be me.

School Daze

Last night was my first night of attending school as a student since 1995. I’m overwhelmed.

Okay, it’s not quite that bad. But there will be a lot of work to get done this semester. And because the class is so long each week (four hours and this guy says he doesn’t do breaks), there aren’t that many classes to begin with (and I’ll be missing one of them). Our last class is on October 27.

The course is Legal Issues for Teachers and Administrators. Between now and the 27th I have to complete four briefs, do a presentation on some legal topic facing educators, and write and present a Position Paper of perhaps 2500 words. Ain’t we got fun. This is NOT what I was hoping to deal with, my first time back in so long. But on the other hand, maybe it’ll make everything else seem like playing in the sandbox.

And here’s a beauty detail: early in the class, as the professor discussed the syllabus, he started talking about how the presentation was going to be a "small group" project; that we’d pair up and present as partners.

Group projects? They give me hives. I hate ’em. I’d rather earn my grade by myself. Sink or swim, it’s all me.

So there was one person who wasn’t in the room but they’re friends with someone who was, and they’re paired up. But that meant that there was an odd number of people in the class and so there was going to have to be one group of three. That trio formed quickly. I just sat there highlighting legal terms I wanted to look up later on. Finally, the professor asked the class "Who doesn’t have a partner?"

This was going to be the moment: either he’s going to let it slide or he’s going to force someone on me. If that’s the case, so be it. I held up my hand.

So did two other students. TWO! Since I was in the back, I wasn’t immediately visible. He paired them up and then it was just me. He looked puzzled for a minute until finally I said "I really don’t mind working alone." It turns out that he didn’t mind it either, but he still looked confused.

Frankly, I’m still not sure how it happened. But I’m not complaining about it.

Crossed Wires

In the film Buck Privates, there’s a scene where Abbott and Costello are going through some basic marching maneuvers. Bud Abbott is drilling Lou Costello and three other guys in things like "right face", "present arms" and so forth. At one point, Lou gets whacked in the back of the head and, disoriented, begins to march in a direction opposite to that of his comrades.

"Where are you going?" barks Bud.

"I dunno, I dunno," replies Lou, still rubbing his head.

Bud then puts them through a series of maneuvers to get them back where they should be. The last two involve his physically holding Lou in place while he shouts "Right face! Right face!" at the other three. Once everyone’s righted, Lou comments to Bud, "Phew–what a time we had with them three."

This is sort of what it was like getting registered at Notre Dame (MD) this week. When I brought in my registration form last week, I was told that the class I was supposed to take, Technology, was full, but maybe Sister (I Forget Who) would waive me into the class anyway. If I didn’t hear from anyone in a couple of days, I should call.

By Tuesday I hadn’t heard anything so I called from work. That’s when I was told that the class was full and had been for some time, but they didn’t have any of the paperwork back from Sister Whatsername. Maybe I should give it another day.

As it happens, when I got home there was a message on my voice mail telling me that the course was full. Very full. So full that students were going to have to share computers ("You type the left hand and I’ll take the right."). Accidents were going to happen. There would be 1’s and 0’s all over the floor.  It was going to look like that alarm company commercial where there are pixels everywhere. Or something, anyway.

Fortunately (i.e., for a change) I had a backup plan in place that I’d arranged with my advisor. So the next morning I called the Registrar’s office and told them that I’d gotten the phone call and that I’d like to see if the Legal Issues course was open. Sure enough, it is, but I have to send them a new registration form. Nobody seems to know where the old one (which has my advisor’s signature on it) is. I can live with that, but then where’s the check with my registration fee? Gone. Where’d it go? Don’t know. </Paul Vitti> OK everybody, let’s keep our eyes open.

And, of course, I get home and there’s an envelope from NDM waiting for me. It has my registration form and my check.

So back I go this morning to the school, turn in the form, the check and the copay certification (so that BCPSS pays for part of my tuition). And now I’ll be taking Legal Issues on Thursday nights. My first semester back and I will be WORKING MY ASS OFF instead of easing into things, as the Tech course would have allowed me to do.

Phew–what a time I had with them folks.

You Can’t Spell “Student” Without “Stud”

…yeah, that’s me, the Social Stud. Except, not really either one.

I gotta thank Yellojkt for the reminder. Somewhere in Tuesday’s alcoholic haze (I got pretty drunk that day) I managed to change the banner didn’t say anything about it here, as I usually do. What you’re looking at is a picture of Gibbons Hall, which is more or less iconic for the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. As it happens, I do have a connection to the school, since on Friday I was accepted into the Aspiring Leaders program run by the Education department.  So now I get to  say "I went to Notre Dame just like President Jed Bartlet". Except that he went to the one in Indiana. Oh, and he’s fictional. So I guess that’s why he’s not on their list of distinguished alumni.

They have two tracks of students for this course: one track is for the students who have their Bachelor’s degree and that’s the full 30-whatever credits. the other track is for people like me who already have their Master’s degree. It’s 18 credits (including the internship) and you automatically get your qualifying certificate at the end. So when I’m done I can be an Assistant Principal if I’m so inclined, and supposedly I’d be adequately prepared to take the Administration 2 test which would qualify me for principalhood. (I’ve been told that it’s a grueling, all-day exam, but Notre Dame has a 100% pass rate.)

And, under the certification program (as opposed to the full MS), I won’t have to do a thesis. At this rate I’m going to make it clear to a PhD without having to do a thesis of any kind. When I got my MS in Special Education at C.W. Post, that was a 42-credit program that also didn’t involve a thesis, although we did have to do a research paper that we had to submit to the Council for Exceptional Children. As luck would have it, CEC accepted my paper and we wound up presenting it at the New York chapter’s annual meeting in January of 1995.

I’m either lucky or in for a big shock when I get to the next level; I haven’t figured out which, yet.