Wednesday, January 30, 2008

20 questions (part 4)

Don't make us wait!

16. Do you feel guilty that school was canceled today and you got to stay home with Charlie while your wife had to go to work?
Absolutely not. Maybe if my wife worked on Fridays, or in Wisconsin where we don't take a day off every other week to celebrate stuff like Chester A. Arthur's birthday. But probably not even then because she is so fond of mocking me on days when I have school and she doesn't. It's called karma, dear. Now I have to finish this up so I can go take a nap.

17. So what did you do with your day off?
First, I lay on the couch for about an hour watching SportsCenter while Charlie played because it was cold and I didn't want to get out from under my blanket. Then I finally got myself (and Charlie) dressed, and we had breakfast. Special K for me, bananas and a bar for him. Then we watched Sesame Street--a great blog about that forthcoming--before getting bundled up to go out to Menard's. We picked up some light bulbs and yogurt-covered pretzels (which Charlie inexplicably called "eggs" all morning), then stopped by McDonald's for lunch. After we got home and Charlie played while I changed the lightbulbs downstairs, he got a snack of corn dogs and crackers before taking a nap. Now I intend to do the same (minus the corn dogs). Outstanding morning.

18. Tell us something interesting you learned in college.
There's one story that always sticks out to me more than anything else:

In the 1950's, Borneo was having some trouble with mosquitoes spreading malaria, so the World Health Organization decided to help by flying in lots of DDT with which to spray the crops. And it worked, but now there were a bunch of dead insects full of DDT, and these gecko lizards were eating them, so the lizards were dying too. And then the cats would eat the lizards (!), so the cats would die. And without any cats, the rat population sky-rocketed, so the sylvatic plague and typhus were spread all over Borneo. So do you know how the World Health Organization helped to fix this problem? They parachuted cats into Borneo. 14,000 of them! And I know this probably isn't the way it actually happened, but I always imagine a bunch of cats in individual parachutes floating down, then landing and scampering off to eat a rat.

Isn't that a great story? It's so great, in fact, that they made a children's book out of it. You can find a PowerPoint of the out-of-print book here. Anyway, I learned that from Skip Wittler in Environmental Studies. And I'm sure that all of my English professors are thrilled that the only thing I remember from college is something I learned in a science class.

19. What's the strangest headline you've run across on the Internet today?
Clay Aiken knows he's "not cool," but still a panties magnet.

20. Now that you're obsessed with the CMT's 20 Questions web site (which you came across by Googling "20 questions" in an effort to come up with material for this blog), have you come across any more factoids as interesting as Taylor Swift's Deff Leppard obsession?
Indeed. For example:

Bucky Covington loves Eminem.
Kellie Pickler thinks she's "very intelligent."
There was, at one point, a rumor that Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Parton, and another similar artist were going to star in a show that was "much like The Golden Girls." (Unfortunately, Barbara doesn't know anything about it.)
Trace Adkins describes his wife as "ultra-cool" about all the beautiful women in his videos.
Garrison Keillor thinks that "the younger generation is forgetting what a tomato tastes like."
Ron White thinks that all comedies on mainstream TV right now "suck" except South Park and The Family Guy.
If Carrie Underwood had to choose between animals and men, she would choose animals.

For more stunning revelations on the country music scene, check out

That was fun. Maybe we'll do it again sometime.

Until then, later gators.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


This is a break from 20 Questions, but Kelly's comment about finding Harper Lee's unfinished manuscripts reminded me of something that Jeff Brower--the one who inspired me to be an English teacher--said the other day. He said, and I'm quoting, "The Chosen is way better than To Kill A Mockingbird." How can one of the smartest people in the world think that? I mean, The Chosen? That seems ludicrous to me. But he's also the one that loves A Separate Peace and Lord of the Flies but hates The Great Gatsby. So what do I know?

Back to 20Q tomorrow, gators.

20 questions (part 3)

First, some comments on your comments: 1) Tony Lucca is indeed terrific. And he's buddy-buddy with Sara and Stacy's friend Aletha (sort of). And he went out with Felicity; 2) Friday Night Lights is indeed terrific. Better than the movie, and that almost never happens; and 3) Unless it's my wedding, Joe singing is never a highlight of anything.

On to #11-15.

11. Did you always want to teach high school English?
Nope. At some point in my life, I aspired to be each of the following (in no particular order): lawyer, rodeo cowboy, sports reporter, baseball player, novelist, guy who changes the scores on the scoreboard at Fenway Park, minister, elementary school teacher, principal, researcher at a sports network like ESPN, policeman, Taco Bell employee, doctor.

It was during my senior year of high school, when I had Jeff Brower for AP English, that I decided I wanted to teach high school English. Because I love sports, I decided to also be involved in coaching. And here I am.

12. So is this your perfect job?
Well, no. I mean, it's awesome. And at this point, it's probably my perfect realistic job (although I'd like to be in Woodstock at some point). But in a perfect world, I'd be a college basketball coach and a writer. I could stay home and write in the mornings, then do basketball preparation, etc. in the afternoons and evenings. That would be my perfect job.

13. Did you know that if Taylor Swift was driving across country and could only have one CD in her car, she would pick Pyromania, by Def Leppard?
I did know that. And I find it fascinating.

14. If you could play poker with any four living people, whom would you choose?
The honest answer probably involves my family, but I know that's not the point of the question, so I'll go with Bill Simmons, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, and Samuel L. Jackson. That's kind of random, but I'd bet it'd be fun.

15. Why did you use "whom" in the previous question?
Because "whom" is objective (it serves as an object), and "who" is subjective (it serves as a subject). So in that sentence--whom would you choose?--the subject is "you" and the verb is "choose"--"whom" is the direct OBJECT. Therefore, objective case. If the question had been, Who would choose you?, then the object would have been "you" and "who" would have been the SUBJECT. Therefore, subjective case.

Later gators.

Monday, January 28, 2008

20 questions (part 2)

Time for Part 2 in a 4-part series called "20 Questions." Now, I had planned to cover topics like sandwiches, dental hygiene, and the broom that I bought yesterday, but Jessi has made me feel self-conscious about covering those kinds of topics, so I'll have to scrape up something else. Here goes:

6. Go to any good parties lately?
As a matter of fact, yes. Saturday was Charlie's 2nd birthday, so we had a big bash. A brief run-down:

THEME: VeggieTales, of course. Including napkins, posters, balloons, and sidewalk chalk.
ATTENDEES: In the morning, it was just the fam. After Charlie's nap, all his friends came. And remember, we're still living in 1,100 square feet of house, so it was a tight squeeze. But if you don't enjoy spending an afternoon in a confined space with a dozen 2 and 3-year-olds, that seems like your problem, not mine.
FOOD: Napoli's pizza. The only pizza in the tri-state area that can compete with Pino's. Quite a treat.
HIGHLIGHT: On Charlie's behalf, I'll go with the presents. (This was probably more of a highlight for me since I ended up opening everything--with Grace's help--while Charlie played with a balloon.) Just a terrific showing by everyone. An excellent range of gifts, each one just as thoughtful as the next. Charlie has outstanding friends.
LOWLIGHT: The Badgers lost. And Joe sang into Charlie's PlaySkool phone. Kind of brought everyone down.

So there you go. And I'm still kind of tired.

7. Now that you've had some time to reflect on your Top 50 Movies of All-Time, are there any that you wish you'd included but didn't?
Yep. Two, actually. Good Will Hunting and Scent of a Woman should both have made the cut. And that would push out Dog Day Afternoon and The Negotiator, which is fine because I like both of the former better than both of the latter. But I've also seen some movies--I think Juno is one--since then that should make the list too. Maybe I'll do a revised list sometime.

8. What are you reading right now?
That's a tricky question because I'm always in the process of reading about a dozen books. If I had to pick one that I would say I'm "reading right now," it would be Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safron Foer. It's written from the perspective of a nine-year-old kid named Oskar whose father died in the 9/11 attacks. He finds a key in his dad's bedroom and goes through the 5 boroughs trying to figure out what it's a key to. I'm about 2/3 of the way through it, and it's solid. You'd like it.

9. What are you listening to right now?
I just bought the Juno soundtrack, and it's really good. But that's kind of a boring answer, so I just looked through the collection on my computer, and if I were going to make you a CD at this very moment, here's what I'd put on it:

"Brown Eyes," by Andy Davis
"All I Want Is You," by Barry Louis Polisar
"Good Morning Son," by Ben Folds
"Buckets of Rain," by Bob Dylan
"Nothing Fancy," by Dave Barnes
"All Will Be Well," by Gabe Dixon
"Big," by Gentry Morris
"Ghost Repeater," by Jeffrey Foucault
"Loose Lips," by Kimya Dawson
"Don't Touch My Hat," by Lyle Lovett
"Wild Rose," by Sam Baker
"Death of Me," by Tony Lucca
"Galuppi Baldassare," by Kris Delmhorst
"New Slang," by The Shins
"Sunday Morning Coming Down," by Johnny Cash

10. What's your favorite brand of frozen pizza?
Jack's Original. And once again, I won't listen to discussion on this.

Friday, January 25, 2008

20 questions (part 1)

Today marks the beginning of a 4-part series on teacher man called 20 questions, in which I make up 20 questions and answer them. I'll give you a moment to gather yourself on the edge of your chair. Good? Good. Here we go.

1. How many movies have made you cry?
Interesting question. The answer is two. The first, I am not at all ashamed of. Field of Dreams. I've seen it a million times, but when Kevin Costner's character asks his dad if he wants to "have a catch" at the end...well, let's just say it tends to get a little dusty in the old Baker house. The second movie that made me cry I am somewhat ashamed of, but in the interest of honesty, I will reveal that it was...(drumroll)...Jersey Girl. And I know it had Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (and George Carlin!), but it's about a guy whose wife dies while she's giving birth to their son, and that's sad--I don't care who you are. Anyway, it was like a minute, and my wife still brings it up whenever that stupid movie is on TBS. Whatever.

2. Have you ever had a cup of coffee in your entire life?

3. What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
I've eaten some strange stuff--elk meatloaf, a chocolate-covered cicada, an entire lemon slice (including the peel). But at gunpoint, I'd have to go with a squirrel potpie. My grandpa used to make it. Or at least he did once. And I had some.

4. Who is the greatest basketball player of all-time?
Larry Bird. I won't listen to that Michael Jordan nonsense. Jordan was a better defender, and he was better at dribble penetration. Bird was a better rebounder, a better passer, a better shooter, and he did what he did against significantly better competition that Jordan did. Significantly. If I'm starting a team today, and I get any player in history in his prime, I take Bird every day of the week. End of discussion.

5. Have you ever been in a play?
I have, actually. I played Guard in the Ripon College production of Bakkhai. I had the shortest speech in the play, but at least one audience member told me that she thought it was the best one. (Hey, Mom!) Anyway, I was the one that stood up to Pentheus and told him that Dionysos wasn't all that bad a guy. Took tremendous courage. And I am nothing if not tremendously courageous.

That's it for today. Catch #6-10 on Monday.

Later gators.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

al baker (the first one)

Here are 15 reasons why you'd have liked my Grandpa Baker:

1. He wore one of those old grandpa hats. Kind of like this.

2. He used to yell at the Packers on the TV all the time. Like when he was 85 years old, he was telling Mike McKenzie what a bum he was.

3. He lived to be 91.

4. He was married to Ginny Baker for over 60 years.

5. He used to call us Peanut and/or Pickle.

6. He had a sweet ping-pong table in the basement.

7. One winter day, we were driving by a farm and there were cows out, and he said, "Farmer must be making milkshakes."

8. He and Grandma always used to take us to the Madison zoo and get us those little wax animals.

9. His middle name was Obert.

10. He played Old Maid with us all the time.

11. One time I broke the window to the garage, and my dad made me tell Grandpa myself. After I told him what I'd done, I was convinced that he hadn't heard me because there was literally no reaction. He just got up and said, "Let's go take a look." Then he saw the window and said, "Well, windows break." And he replaced it right there.

12. He used to fill a coffee can with water and let us "paint" on the basement walls with it.

13. He was legitimately handy. Could make chairs and stuff.

14. When he found out that he had to have stomach surgery, his biggest concern was that he now had to eat several small meals a day, and my grandma was used to making three squares a day. He said, "I don't think Ginny's going to like that."

15. He was a member of the Freemasons, which is a sort of secret society, and secret societies are cool.

And so was my grandpa.

Later gators.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

students say the darndest things (part 2)

Since my last Students Say the Darndest Thing entry was so successful, and since my students continue to say crazy, silly, ridiculous things, I thought I'd do another. As always, the names have been changed, but these are all direct quotations:

JOHN CARTER (Great Gatsby analysis): "Is appearance all that meats the eye?"
Great imagery here, actually. Unintentional, but still.

PAUL HARPER (Literary Analysis): "The new couple's life is meretricious and expensive, twenty-two dollars to be exact."
1. Meretricious is one of our vocab words, so he was clearly excited to put it into a paper, proper usage be damned. 2. There is a hat in the story that cost $22. How he decided that that was the cost of their new life is unclear.

RANDY STAUB (Literary Analysis): "If he doesn't deliver a good performance, he may become self-confident and never pursue music again."
Agreed. Self-confidence has ruined many a promising musical career.

PARKER EVANS (Literary Analysis): "You could start out digging yourself a little rabbit hole and end up in the grand cannon."
He's talking about lying, obviously. What's less obvious is why you would end up in a big, outdated artillery gun.

TRAVIS KARSTEN (Persuasive Essay): "Get Rich or Try Dying."
I believe this was the less successful sequel to the movie Get Rich or Die Trying. This one ends with a bunch of poor dead people. It's sadder.

And to conclude, an unprecedented three entries from the same student. We'll call him Mark Smith:

1. "Stephen King's use of tone in this short story is fanaminal."
2. "Abraham Lincoln was miss understood big time by whites."
3. "Albert Inestine was another person who was largely misunderstood."

Fanaminal? Miss Understood? Inestine? I don't even know what to say about this. But it doesn't matter because I've got to get back to grading papers and finding more of these gems.

Later gators.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

top 10 celebrity encounters

Isn't it weird when you see someone famous in real life? I mean, I don't exactly get all giddy like some weird Zac Efron groupie (i.e. Joe), but it's still a surreal experience. I've had a few of these experiences in my life, and I've broken down the top 10 into this list. I based ranking on two factors: 1) level of celebrity, and 2) quality of encounter. So for example, seeing the President at the airport would receive a 10 in Category 1 (he's intensely famous), but maybe a 2 in Category 2 (it's not like we're buddies now). Having a beer with the guy who played Dauber on Coach would be a 9 or so in Category 2 (that's definitely a quality encounter), but roughly a 4 in Category 1 (because I'm still calling him "the guy who played Dauber in Coach"). So that means that the beer with Dauber ranks higher than seeing the President. And that sounds about right.

So all of that having been said, here are my Top 10 Celebrity Encounters of All-Time:

10. Leaping Lanny Poffo (3). My aunt went to high school with this guy, and you have no idea who he is, so he clearly ranks at the bottom for both criteria. He was a professional wrestler who used to read poems that he had written whenever he pinned a guy. Check out his web site. Here, you'll find that his father set the world record for sit-ups with 6,033 in 4 hours and 10 minutes; his brother is Randy "Macho Man" Savage; his greatest thrill was meeting Shel Silverstein; and he is now a certified credit counselor. So there you go.

9. Tommy Lasorda (9). Hall of Fame coach and Slim-Fast spokesperson. Clearly, a top-notch Category 1 encounter. However, I just got his autograph at a coaches' convention when I was 10 (or so). He was talking to some guy, and I didn't want to interrupt, so I stood there, about 10 feet from them, for like 10 minutes. They kept looking over at me, wondering if I was going to stab them or something probably, until finally he asked if he could help me. So I gave him his baseball card, he pulled out a Sharpie and signed it, and now I'm telling the story 17 years later. Actually, that's kind of depressing. Moving on.

8. Herb Kohl (10). My dad was recognized as an excellent teacher by the Kohl Teacher Fellowship program. We went to a luncheon and got a picture taken. He said that Joe, Sam, and I should be playing for the Bucks because we're tall. But we're not that tall, so I think he's kind of losing his mind.

7. Mike Wilbon (13). This is the guy from Pardon the Interruption. I went to Indianapolis to visit my buddy Paul and watch the Final Four a couple years ago, and we saw him at a restaurant. He came over to the table and said hi. Cool guy.

6. Bruce Weber (14). Head coach of the Illinois basketball team. Saw him on the same Indianapolis trip (and in the same restaurant). This encounter eclipses the Wilbon encounter because Weber saw my Brewers hat and said, "Go Brewers!" And he gave me a thumbs-up. If Charlie ends up being a great basketball player, I'm definitely sending him to Illinois.

4 (tie). Dick Bennett (15). Former head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. But my encounter with him took place when he was the head coach at UW-Green Bay and I went to one of his basketball camps. They had knocked off California in the NCAA tournament the year before, and I showed up to a session one day with a Jason Kidd jersey. (Kidd was, for those of you who don't follow basketball, California's best player that year.) So he called me up in front of everyone and made me do 5 push-ups for wearing it. All in good fun. Heck of a guy. (And a Ripon College graduate, by the way.)

4 (tie). Ben Stein (15). I saw him speak at Ripon one night, which doesn't exactly qualify him for an appearance on this list, but then some baseball buddies and I went out and started calling his hotel room after midnight trying to get him to come out to the bars with us. We probably called like 7 or 8 times, but he never answered. For all I know, the guy at the front desk was connecting us to an empty room. Who knows? Still a good story.

3. Laura Ramsey (16). Kind of low (6) in Category 1, but a 10 in Category 2. If you know her, it's from a) The Real Cancun, b) The Days, or c) She's the Man. When I was at Ripon, I helped to direct a theater production at Laconia High School, and she was one of my actresses. And now she's a big star. You're welcome, Laura.

2. Kenny Chesney (17). Hanging out with my bro in Nashville, I saw him at Subway. The first question my wife asked was, "What did he order?" Sadly, I didn't pay attention. One of the great regrets of my life.

1. Rick Reilly (19). Super-famous because of his work in Sports Illustrated. And an awesome story: I wrote an article for the school paper when I was in high school that criticized the way that some of the basketball players were disrespecting the head coach. It got negative feedback, so I was thinking of dropping the paper. My mom sent my article, along with a short note, to my favorite writer--Rick Reilly. A month later, he called my house and we talked for half an hour. He encouraged me to stick with writing, so I did. And now you have him to thank for this blog.

Upset that you're not on the list? Well, if you're not famous, you need to get more famous. And if you are famous, you need to do cooler stuff with me. That's all there is to it.

Later gators.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

were i omnipotent

Okay, so here's the preface/disclaimer/whatever: I like Big Foot High School. I really like it. In fact, I was offered a job elsewhere last year and declined because I like Big Foot. It's a good place to work. I like most of my students and most of my colleagues. I really, really like Big Foot High School.

That having been said, it's not flawless. And I'm not just talking about the kids that smell funny or the fact that none of my copies of Of Mice and Men have covers. Now, I don't really have much power around these parts, but if I did--were I omnipotent--here are some of the things I'd do:

1. Eliminate the requirement that teachers include comments on every student's mid-term report card. This is ludicrous for a few reasons. First of all, the grades and the diploma endorsement marks (scores of 1, 2, 3, or 4 for things like attitude, effort, etc.) already serve this function. If I see that my kid has a BC with 1's for attitude and group work, and 2's for effort and quality of work, that tells me all I need to know. Does it really help paint a clearer picture when the teacher tells me he's a "pleasure to have in class"? And if there really is a need for a comment, the teacher can include it. Second, I never see the comments after I enter them. If I went to the bother, I could find them, but it would take some time. However, the parents and the students see them all the time. So if I say, "Doing solid work," then he doesn't hand in his next three assignments, his grade report looks like this: "GRADE: F; COMMENT: Doing solid work." So I have to go back in and change the comment every time that one of my 70 students' grades drop? False.

2. Eliminate the gum-chewing rule. Ridiculous. People don't put gum under desks, etc. because they don't know what else to do with it. They put it there because they're trying to hide it so they don't get in trouble.

3. Extend lunch. The bell that tells us lunch is over rings 25 minutes after the bell that tells us lunch is beginning. That's not long enough. I would gladly extend the school day 20 minutes if it meant we got a longer lunch. Gladly.

4. Teachers would get to use late starts. Every two weeks, we start school two hours late. If teachers were allowed to use this time to their advantage, it would be outstanding. But we're not. We have to get technology updates and other nonsense that no one (including, more often than not, the presenters) thinks is really important. I could spend that time designing tests and working on course transitions.

5. All boys would be sent away for one year. Specifically, the year between their freshman and junior year, otherwise known as their sophomore year. I hate sophomore boys.

6. Extend Winter Break by one week. For whatever reason, a lot of people seem to think it's a good idea to have a short Winter Break (this year, the 22nd was our last day, and the 2nd was our first day back) so that we get out earlier in June. False. School in June is way easier than school in January. I'd much rather have a nice long break in the middle and spend one more week here in June. I won't listen to discussion on this point.

7. Institute corporal punishment. Because there's a kid in my class that I'd like to smack right now.

And that's it. Those seven changes would make this a perfect school.

Later gators.

Friday, January 11, 2008


I remember when I thought I was cool. It wasn't really that long ago. I mean, I thought I was super-cool in middle school, but everyone thinks that. And that carried over so I thought I was cool when I started high school. Then I realized I wasn't. Then I sort of decided that I was cool because I was so uncool (a designation that I have since decided is kind of uncool). Then I went to college and, for a year, was as sure of my uncoolness as I've ever been. Then I got a girlfriend, so I decided I was cool again. Then I married her, which was a great decision, but perhaps not exactly a "cool" one. But now I don't have to worry about the question of whether or not I'm cool anymore. I'm not. I have a kid.

Seriously, if you're reading this and you have a kid, think back on a time when you thought you were cool. (If you're reading this and you don't have a kid, you probably still think you're cool.) (On second thought, if you don't have a kid, you're probably not even reading this. You're probably out at a bar or a movie or someplace else that you're able to go just because you feel like it.) Okay, have you got that period in your life in mind? Now tell me how cool you thought it was to...

...wipe snot off of a little kid's face. (In fact, as Nicole and I were saying the other day, I specifically recall thinking, "Why doesn't that kid's parent just wipe that junk off his face? That's gross." And you know what? The kidless people reading this probably still ask themselves that question. Clueless bastards.)

...turn down an opportunity to go out to a bar with friends because your wife and son are out of town and you have a chance to lie on the couch and eat pizza and watch some movie your wife never lets you watch like Goodfellas. VeggieTales/Sesame Street/SpongeBob SquarePants/etc. (And I'm not talking about having it on in the background while you're doing housework. I'm talking about sitting down--maybe your kid's there, maybe he's not--and watching with a vested interest in what's happening to these characters.)

And there are tons more examples. Really, my whole day is a study in uncoolness. When we read The Great Gatsby in American Lit., I always have kids define "cool" (so we can talk about whether Gatsby is), and no one ever says, "Ability to sing the entire VeggieTales theme song." So yeah, I'm no longer cool.

BUT (and, as my father would say, it's a big but), the important thing is this: I came to the realization that I'm not cool after I came to the realization that being cool is lame. One of my favorite quotes comes from North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams: "I hate cool people. I've never met one friggin' guy who was cool who I liked." Totally. I hate cool people too, Roy.

So if you still think it's important to be cool, the hell with you. But if you like to talk tomatoes, and if a squash can make you smile, well, then you and I are totally cool.

Later gators.

Monday, January 7, 2008

parent-teacher conferences

This entry is in honor of Nicole Beckford who somehow weasled out of conferences tonight. Just in case you forgot what you missed...

First, it's important that I share with you my 3:1 Theory of Meetings. In my opinion, for every one minute of actual work that gets done during a meeting, there are three minutes that are wasted. So if a meeting lasts an hour, it most likely could have been over after fifteen minutes if it had been run efficiently. In fact, with the advent of email, I think that meetings are, by and large, obsolete. We have nine faculty meetings at BFHS every year. I think we genuinely need two of those. And I'm being generous.

ANYWHO, you can multiply the 3:1 Theory out by a factor of 10 when it comes to parent-teacher conferences. In the 2 1/2 hours that I'm going to be here tonight (yes, I'm writing this as I sit here parentless during hour two), I will have had two important conferences. That's it. Let's say that we were going to make a matrix for parents and we had Showed Up on the x-axis and Needed to Show Up on the y-axis. Here's how it would break down:

QUADRANT I (Showed Up, Didn't Need to Show Up): 12%
QUADRANT II (Didn't Show Up, Didn't Need to Show Up): 63%
QUADRANT III (Didn't Show Up, Needed to Show Up): 23%
QUADRANT IV (Showed Up, Needed to Show Up): 2%

That's correct. The 2% in Quadrant IV is the only 2% I really needed. (In tonight's case, a girl who has A's on all of her tests and F's on all of her papers and ought to be doing better; and a young man whose freshman English teacher said was one of the top two students in his class and who is now failing, as far as I can tell, everything.) So that's the 50:1 Theory of Parent-Teacher Conferences.

Now, even though only 14% of parents show up, there's quite a bit of a variety in that group. Here are the 8 basic archetypes that you'll find among parents at conferences:

The Lingerer. We are supposed to spend no more than five minutes with any parents so as to keep things moving. The Lingerer finishes the conference, then spends the next 10-12 minutes shuffling toward the door and discussing all manner of things, excluding his/her student's performance in my class.

The Perfectionist. I print grade reports for every student that I give to their parents so we have something to talk about. The Perfectionist's son/daughter has a 97% in my class, so the grade report looks like this: 100, 100, 98, 100, 80, 96, 96. The Perfectionist zeroes in on the 80 (which is inevitably a 4/5 on some meaningless check quiz) and says, "So what's the story behind this BC?"

The Ex-Student. Not of mine, obviously, but of my dad's. Man, there are a ton of them. How long did he teach? Like 75 years? Every other parent starts with, "You know, I had your dad for class back in..."

The Buddy's Parent. This is another one that is specific to me, and potentially very embarassing. Since I was a student here just 10 years ago (!), I sometimes have little brothers and sisters of kids I went to school with. Which means that their parents knew me when I was a know-it-all teenager who ate their pizza and left my Mountain Dew cans on the floors of their cars. These can be awkward conversations, especially if the kid is a dirtbag.

ME: I'm sorry, Mrs. Smith, but Jimmy just isn't as focused as he could be.
MRS. SMITH: Oh, yeah? Remember when you threw up in my kitchen because Dave dared you to eat a banana with the peel still on it?

The Lookalike. This is the parent who looks so much like his/her kid that you almost can't concentrate on the conference because you're staring. It's a small group, but they freak me out.

The Confidant. I will never understand the Confidant. This is the parent who, for some reason, thinks that it's okay to complain about other teachers to you. Why would this be okay? I can't imagine anything more awkward than some parent saying, "Well, I'm glad she's doing well in here. Now I don't know what's wrong with Teacher X. You know, Katie says that he doesn't even tell them what's wrong with their papers when he hands them back? I mean, you would never do that, would you?" Yikes.

The Liar. Again, an inexplicable sort of individual. This is the person who says, "Well, I'm really disappointed. I mean, Larry has always gotten A's in English. It's his best subject." Well, no it's not. First of all, I know that because Larry couldn't find a coherent sentence with both hands and a flashlight. And second, I have this thing called PowerSchool, and you can bet that the second you leave, I'm checking Larry's grades to see what he's done in his other English class. Yup, just as I suspected...

The Eye Roller. This one is actually kind of funny. You have this big speech planned--I really think that Tina could get an A, but she seems content with a C. I really wish she'd apply herself a little more. Blah, blah, blah--and all they do is smile and roll their eyes as if to say, "Tell me about it. You're the fourth teacher tonight that's said that." I actually feel sort of sorry for the eye rollers. Lousy kids.

That's pretty much it. There would be more, but the parents of the kids who are failing and disrespectful never show up. And that explains an awful lot.

Later gators.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

top 10 sports links

Wow. Taking some heat for not keeping up the blog over break. Sorry loyal readers.

Back with another Top 10 list today. I sometimes try to stay away from sports on here because I know that a lot of my readership is not interested, but since 100% of my authorship is interested, today we're going with the Top 10 Sports Links on the web. I sincerely believe that some of these will be interesting even to those of you who don't know your Paul Assenmacher from a hole in the ground. Without further ado...

10. Top 25 Baseball Names of All-Time. We begin the Top 10 with a Top 25. And check out some of the highlights that only made honorable mention: Spanky Lavalierre, Bip Roberts, Skeeter Barnes, Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown, Hipolito Pichardo...

9. RBI Baseball. From the "Some People Have Too Much Time On Their Hands" file, a site dedicated to arguably the greatest Nintendo game of all-time. If this were some ordinary web site, it wouldn't be worth mentioning here, but the extraordinary detail that went into this site is remarkable. On it, you will find (among other things): an RBI Baseball drinking game, the creators' rankings of the greatest/worst teams/hitters/etc. in the game, a Where Are They Now section detailing the current whereabouts of all of the players in the game, and a comprehensive record book for the four guys who put the site together. Truly impressive for guys without jobs.

8. Ole Miss Baseball Emmy Nomination. Just watch this. This guy is a freakin' goofball. And then he gets tossed.

7. You've got to be a pretty intense basketball geek to enjoy this one. I love it. The best part is at the bottom of each individual player's page when it compares him to former players at each point in his career. For example, Michael Jordan's first 8 seasons were extraordinarily similar to Kobe Bryant's. After that Michael is more similar to guys like Dominique Wilkins and Vince Carter. Prior to that, Kobe was more like some guy named Winford Boynes (who did not win 6 championships and 7 MVP awards). It also tells you how much players make, which is depressing.

6. What If Sports. This web site is pretty well publicized and has won all kinds of awards (including, now, a spot on the teacher man Top 10 Sports Links list). You can do a lot of things here, but what's most interesting to me is that you can have football/basketball/baseball/etc. teams of different eras square off against each other and, in a matter of seconds, it simulates games with full play-by-play/stats/etc. For example, I just pitted Larry Bird's 85-86 Celtics against Michael Redd's 07-08 Bucks. The Celts won 108-95, but Andrew Bogut put up a valiant 17/8 in a losing effort.

5. Barton v. Winona State. YouTube clip of the 06-07 Division II National Championship--the greatest 45 seconds of basketball since I started watching seriously. Barton's down 8 when Anthony Atkinson goes to work.

4. The Sports Pickle. Imagine that The Onion were about sports. Some sample headlines: "Edgerrin James Can't Shake Feeling That He's Going To Suck This Season"; "Victorious Boxer Thanks Parents For The Childhood Abuse That Made Him What He Is Today"; "Brett Favre Says He'll Only Return If Packers Improve At The Quarterback Position"; etc.

3. Greatest Sports Highlight Poll. ESPN is currently sponsoring a poll to determine the greatest sports highlight of all-time. If you're looking for a way to kill an hour, go here and check out all of the nominees. Babe Ruth's called shot or Roger Maris's 61st? The Stanford Band or Buckner's error? Michael Jordan v. the Cavs or Michael Jordan v. the Jazz? Pretty awesome.

2. American Gladiators Application. This is one of the funniest things I've ever seen, and it's totally legit. Some sample questions: What magazines/newspapers do you read?; Have you had any experiences that have traumatized you? If yes, please explain; What conversation topics are "off limits" for you at a dinner party?; What is the weirdest thing about you? And if none of that makes you laugh, check out #42 & 43. This show is awesome.

1. Jimmy V. This is Jim Valvano's speech at the 1993 Espy Awards. This clip is to sports highlights what "More Cowbell" is to SNL sketches. And that's why it's number one.

Later gators.