Monday, April 30, 2007

SKOOL


I was in public and private education my entire adult life. What I'm about to say is not politically correct but that doesn't make it incorrect.
To become licensed to teach, when I began, one had to have a bachelors degree, specific education courses, student teaching and you had five years to get thirty graduate hours. Many like me chose to pursue a masters degree since it took the same number of graduate hours.
A few years later I pursued a second masters degree in school administration. I finally finished up my degrees with a CAS, certificate of advanced standing, which gave me my school district administrators license. All tolled, not counting the graduate hours at Columbia University in writing that my district paid for, I have about eight years of college education and four permanent licenses.
Why am I stating this?
I became tied of listening to educated and uneducated people spout off about what's wrong with our educational system. I'm tired of listening to state workers, executives and 27 year old mothers of 12 year olds , who haven't been in a classroom in years, tell me what's wrong with education!
The biggest problem with our educational system is twofold :
  • In America everyone attends school. So everyone has an opinion. Of course it's based on their personal experience. If they had a quality experience they are pro school and if not they are anti school. How many times have you heard from adults and senior citizens, "...when I was in school we..." In a Jeffersonian Democracy the idea is to educate the masses and it also gives them a voice. Discipline is next to impossible. Every body from the State Education Department through students watch the suspension rates. One of my all time favorite ALBANY TIMES UNION news articles was about the supension rate at an inner city middle school. The article talked about how minority students were targeted for suspension. Since my friends all knew I worked there they would ask if it was true. I told them it was but I also reminded them that the student population was 94% minorities! God all I could think about was Dr. Powers my college stats teacher who gave us a book titled HOW TO LIE WITH STATISTICS.
  • Superintendents, Principals, School Boards and unfortunately teachers have become political and therefore liars. Our society is litigious and alot of "rights" have been legislated. So when a parent asks why their 14 year old can't read and write you can't say because you didn't teach them appropriate social skills at home so they don't participate in lessons. Or that as a parent you've instilled the thought that teachers and school employees are second class citizens and can be disrespected at will. What about the sense of entitlement you taught them - the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree you know. I got ripped into by an indignant parent once, as the Summer School Principal, for dropping a student in a 30 day program after 14 straight days of absences. Even after repeated warnings to both the student and parent. We're liars because no one digs in and confronts any of the issues head on. There are so many students mislabelled special ed simply because they are discipline problems that it's scary and I worked in alternative education! Don't let anyone tell you that there isn't a district cap on special ed numbers. Many truly needy students do not get services simply due to numbers and cost.

Am I saying that the publics perception is true? No. What I'm saying is, become involved with your child's education, learn the facts and get to know the teachers. Yes, some are idiots but some of you are too.


Saturday, April 28, 2007

TASK ORIENTED?



When I was responsible for the supervision of staff, I used to watch to see which people were focused and which weren't. Some were obsessive and others just good at looking busy. Others were just slackers.

This picture could be representative of anyone of them!

Was the driver of the paint truck so obsessed with completing his task he just wouldn't stop or was he not attentive? Was he a slacker who got a kick out of leaving his stamp? Only the opossum could tell us for sure.

So how would you evaluate the quality of his work? What criteria would you use? The job did get done. So is it a good job? I think about the old saying ,"Good enough for government work!" It can't be rated a great job - although it is funny in a sick way.

I guess the real test will be for the animal control guy that picks up road kill.

EXCELLENT RATING - if he fills in missing yellow lines.

FAIR RATING - if he doesn't

POOR RATING - if he doesn't show at all.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

PAYBACK


This is my Grand daughter, Belle, going for a double knuckle deep nose penetration on my sleeping son - Glenn. That's one of the greatest things about kids, anything and everything can become a toy. Adults shop and purchase elaborate toys and supposed learning tools for their offspring and all the kid wants is a box, a piece of paper, lint, an empty bag or even a nose hole.

Kids naturally have no boundaries or filters. We are the ones that teach them "no." We place the stigma of wrong on them. I've watched youngsters unfettered by adult baggage eat bugs, pick up dog shit with their bare hands, throw spagetti o's at the wall and see the delight they have watching them stick to any surface. Hell, I still do that with spagetti. How else do you know if it's done?

One of my favorite pictures of my son I took after he ate his first Oreo. His face is blissful, almost like he reached nirvana, but he is encrusted with cookie. I swear when we changed him he even had Oreo crumbs on his butt.

But looking at this picture these weren't my first thoughts. My first thought was " Yes, payback time."

Usually it's the mother who says it but all parents think it - "I hope you have a kid just like you!" The dreaded centuries old mommy curse has worked each and every time.

Neither of our children were sleepers. Being our first we were novice parents, so our son put us through baby boot camp. We have a big old pine rocker that we've used over the years. When it was my turn in the middle of the night, I'd get his bottle, turn on ESPN and rock him. He would fight me and sleep like it was a WWF cage match. Many a morning I would wake up in the rocker with him draped over a chair arm or maybe a sleep on the floor hugging his bottle. I marvelled each time that the two of us survived. I was sure it was only a matter of time before there would be a casualty in this war.

One night in the early 1990's, my wife and I returned home after a late night out. I had , maybe, a couple scotches too many. I decided it was payback time for all those late baby nights! Glenn was in maybe 8th or 9th grade. His current goal was to be Kurt Cobain incarnate - grunge was king. This should give you both a visual and attitudinal image.

While my wife went upstairs to bed, I went in to his room and woke him up. You can imagine his reaction, "What the hell you doing dad?"

I told him that I was wide awake and I wanted him to come in the living room and we'd eat, rock and watch ESPN like old times. He just gave me that look that only a teenager can give and rolled over.

Now this is what our parnets had told us to do all along. Stay in bed and just ignore them. I think he got me again by going back to sleep. That's when I mommy cursed the smart ass!

And guess what? It worked again! Now he's got one just like him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

MYRTLE


To a 16 year old kid there is nothing more fantastic than his first car. Mine was a 1950 Ford that I bought in the summer of 1966 for $50.

It started out as a dull navy blue, eight cylinder flat head, three speed on the column with a radio that didn't work. You had to wack the starter with a hammer to get it to start. The interior had that musty mildew smell of really old cars.


At the time, I was working at my uncle's gas station. In my family you didn't work for family for pay. I thought he was the biggest tight wad until I started driving and he would give me free gas. Of course at this period of time, you could fill up for about $4. But this gave me the one thing all young people want - freedom.


My Uncle Bud became my hero. He also owned a farm equipment dealership and service center. His main products were John Deere and International Harvester. Uncle Bud offered to paint my car as long as I chose either Deere yellow or Harvester red. Red it was.


Even better, he traded an old bulldozer blade and hydraulics for a 1965 289 cu. in. Mustang engine. It was from a wreck. He put this in my Ford. My friend and I changed the three on the column to a Hurst floor shifter. He also let me use his pipe bender and I installed dual exhausts with glass pack Cherry Bomb mufflers. This car was getting nice!


My Gramma Nichols wanted to help so she made me seat covers out of green, red and yellow plaid blankets. I guess this was a tribute to my Scotch Irish heritage. I put two big boxes of baking soda under the front seat to try to get out the musty smell. My ride was now complete.


I cruised the boulevard smoking the tires and slamming gears. Riding around was a pastime of teenages and I did this with zeal.


I've never really talked about this but in my mind I always thought of this car as Myrtle after my Aunt; Uncle Bud's wife. Actually from this car on, I thought of all of my cars as Myrtle. Especially when I talked to them. Come on - you do too! Things like, "Come on Myrtle start for me girl" or "I know the gauge is on E but you can get me there!" My vanity plate for years read GRUMPIE, I couldn't get GRUMPY it was used, but I still called them all Myrtle.


Later that year I bought my first motorcycle and sold Myrtle for $600. My wife doesn't even remember me owning it but I'll never forget my first Myrtle.












THE BUGS BUNNY/ROAD RUNNER/MARINO HOUR


When I saw this picture I immediately thought of my friend Nick Marino. I could only begin to imagine what his comments would be.
I first met him in 1961 when we were kids. Every Saturday I would go to his house at noon and we would watch the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. This ritual lasted until the late 1960's. We knew all the cartoons by heart and could sing all the songs and knew the dialogue. On occasion we were known to dance and sing a song or two, when this happened usually there was alcohol involved.
The reason I thought of him was because of the way he used to torture his sisters. His oldest sister was a big girl with a very large nose. She would come in to the family room to watch TV with us and he would start in on her.
"Glenn, you think if we got ropes and a grappling hook we could climb that thing?" She'd give him a dirty look.
" You know if we got those helmets with the lights and breathing apparatus we could each go up a nostril." She'd start sucking her teeth.
His middle sister, who considered herself attractive, would walk through and he'd say something like," Those jeans make your butt look real big." This one usually threw something.
The family room was off the kitchen and it seemed like Mrs. Marino was always in it cooking. I could see her over his shoulder and I'd watch her start to chuckle after Nick's comments.
I always felt sorry for his little sister since she took everything personal. She'd sit down on the floor in front of the TV indian fashion and Nick would start on her. "God girl, your ears are so big you look like a taxi cab with the doors open." She'd start to fidget. "Where'd she go? Where'd she go? Oh never mind, she turned sideways and I couldn't see her."
This would go on until one or all of them went after him.
One Saturday Nick's father came in the door when the three of them were attacking Nick. Mr. Marino was an imposing figure. He was an ex-Brooklyn cop and just exuded a forceful, no nonsense demeanor. They all froze in place.He looked over at his wife, who was smiling, and said,"Where's the big wooden spoon?" The Marino kids laughed but my bladder almost emptied when she handed it to him and he said," Alright Nichols, you first."
I loved those afternoons!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

SOUTH BOUND END OF A NORTH BOUND COW





My Grandfather, Pop Nichols, was the oldest son of poor tenant farmers in Upstate New York. Due to his rural agricultural upbringing he had some bizarre sayings.
Many were animal related:
If he saw a plus size person walking away he might say - "that looks like the south bound end of a north bound cow"
If it was raining really hard - " it's raining like a two C#$% cow piss'in on a flat rock"
Some one would mess up - " that's a real goat F#$%"
Some buddy BSed him - "smells like horse pucky to me"
"that's as slimey as a bucket of eels"
Apparently they had owned a bull named Lucky. It had a nose ring and for some reason this made the bulls nose run. When he blew his nose and he was really congested he'd always say
" whoa, Lucky snot!"
Others not animal related:
"She was so ugly my ears bleed"
"Boy that made my ass pucker"
"That boy could F#$% up a free lunch"
"His teeth were so bad he could eat an apple through a tennis racket"
"Parle Vous a wooo wooo baby?"
These are only the highlights, he had many more much more profane.
Pop told me some things that I didn't understand as a child but came to relie on as an adult.
  1. Everyone in the world is an asshole until they prove personally to you that they are not.
  2. All Nichols and their vehicles are asshole magnets.
  3. You are never lost as long as you know where you are.

This last one, I found out, applies not only to geographical location but life as well. I used it many times on our motorhome trips. My wife would say,"You're Lost." I'd tell her I wasn't cause I knew where I was and as long as I knew that I could get to where we were going. It worked. I'm home ain't I?

Everyone has times in their lives when they aren't sure about themselves - they are lost. We all have confidence shakers. But if you know where you are you can always get to where you're going.

Thanks Pop!

Monday, April 23, 2007

LONG LIVE THE QUEEN

Watching the news the other night, I saw the newscaster speaking with "people on the street". The topic isn't important. What struck me was that the regular man and woman made more sense than the public officials being reported about. You're right, this is not unusual at all.
I take the David Letterman approach to politics - just laugh at them and give them a "big ass ham" cause that's all they are anyway. He wacks Bush every night with GREAT MOMENTS IN PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHES. We get clips of him stuttering and babbling through his most recent speech . But this is the man who is responsible for overseeing our health care, military, environmental, constitutional and legislative policies.
Is this right? Not what Dave does but how Bush portrays our leader's image; a dumbed down version of his father. No wonder foriegn people laugh. ( I'll be nice and not mention laughing Americans)
Another thing that just scares the hell out of me are the people who base decisions on the opinions of the likes of celebrities like Rosie, Oprah, Montel, Sting, Bono, etc. These people are so well known they only need one name! What gives them the right to politic? Jesus H. Christ - paleeze -because of their fame? I agree with the idea that they should use the fame for good but one has to be selective with the people and opinions that they choose to support. Many people just follow them blindly. I'll never understand it. They are good at what they do but that doesn't mean that an actor should be govenor or president. OOPS!
I know , it's a Democracy.
But is it really?
I've been married for 37 years and we tried to have a democratic relationship. I'm not sure exactly when it happened but my wife held a bloodless coup after which I became her subject. She rules fairly, I have certain rights and liberties and know the capital offenses. Well most of them. They do change occasionally and without warning. I view her as a benevolent monarch.
Our government, on many levels, operates the same way. You support someone by voting for them because you are attracted to their views and ideas and before you know it they are in office and you've lost your golf league privileges! No, sorry, that's the wife. Let me start again - ... before you know it you've lost a civil liberty.
I wouldn't live any where else!
(You decide which one I meant)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

DO YOU NEED READING MATERIAL?


------------------------ Bryce Canyon, Utah 2004-----------------------------------
Did you know that horses stop to pee? I don't know if all horses do this or not, I'm not a horseman, but this guy stopped dead every time he peed. This caused me some problems during our ride cause he never bothered to tell me when he was going to do this. Of course he never did this on any flat land it had to be on an incline or decline.
The first time was up hill and he had me leaning backwards holding on to the saddle horn for dear life and when he let loose it was, let's just say, like a firehose. I was in awe of his ability to even hold this quanity of fluid. It went down hill like a levy burst.
Did you know that horses who stop to pee, when finished, take off after the horse in front of them at Mach speed? Me either.
The second time he did it I was not prepared either. He went for so long I asked him if he needed some reading material. Again, off like a rocket, snapping me like a whip, to now pass the horse in front of us. Awed again but this time I was wondering where it all came from since he hadn't had anything to drink. I'd had beer drinking nights like this - you know the old "you don't buy beer you just rent it."
In the picture you can see my wife and me laughing - I'd just told her that we needed to leave before he pooped. I didn't want to be a part of that experience!

LIVIING LIKE A WILD THING


These are two of the ladies in my life and two of the reasons I look forward to tomorrow. The big one is my daughter Kate and the little one is our son's daughter, my grand daughter, Belle.
The chicken is not related but he does look like my friend Dave DeLuke; especially when he wears shorts.
Many people have asked me how I live knowing I'm terminal. I've embraced a concept that Lawrence touched on in his poem:
WILD THINGS
I've never seen a wild thing feel sorry for itself.
A small bird will fall frozen dead from a bough
never having felt sorry for itself.
At first blush this appears macabre but after awhile you realize all he is saying is that wild things live in the moment with out bothering with emotions. Emotions are a human attribute.
I try to live in the moment now - enjoying my family, friends and doing what I can. My wife and I still cry but then we stop and enjoy the day.
"the ship's at the dock, my bag's are packed and I ain't coming back, I'm gonna kiss the girls hold em tight, I'm gonna do it wrong till I do it right!" Levon Helm