Thursday, October 7, 2010


Okay.  I know they can be childish but here is a "choose your own adventure" foldable that can be turned into something really fun for class.  THE KIDS LOVED IT!  I used it to make four different food chains.  The students had to label each trophic level and then combine all of them into one big food web for a summative assignment. This was previously posted on Neatorama. I hope Jason Shiga posts more informational videos soon!  Check out his comic for sale on Amazon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Under Pressure!

So we're back at school and for many of us it can be a little hectic.  I am determined to save a little money this year and bring my lunch, snacks, and beverages from home.  Plus, I gained a lot of weight, eating the prepared lunches our school provides.
  I brought a can of soda to work yesterday and accidentally left it in the car.  It was only in the car from 6:30 until about 10:30am.  Here is what happened!

  This would make a great real world example for students, when demonstrating Charles' and Gay-Lussac's law.  It might also work in health class.. why we don't leave children or pets in the car, even for a little while.

A great animation for Charles' and Gay-Lussac's Law (

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Conclusion to "Climategate"

CNN has posted a story on the conclusion of "Climategate", the assertion that climatologists in 1999 manipulated their findings.  The assertion came just before world leaders met to discuss climate change at the United Nations meeting in Coppenhagen this past December.  Read more of the story at CNN.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Much of our daily lives involves the use of plastics.  We use it, dispose of it, and never think of it again.  If it escapes the landfill or never makes it there, where does it go?  One of the lessons I truly want to get across to my students is that of connectedness.  We are not seperate from the world around us.  We have a place and an impact.

In the Pacific Ocean there is a floating pile of trash, approximately twice the size of Texas.  If you'd like to know more watch this video by Chris Jordan.

Here is a wonderful video made by Ramin Bahrani called Plastic Bag.  The video anthropomorphizes a plastic bag and takes us on a trip with the bag en route to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It is quite easy to buy and use reusable cotton bags for your groceries.   They are being sold more and more.  A product that is a little harder to find is the reusable bag for produce (by  Here is the kind my partner and  I found and use.  We prefer the see through ones.  It helps the cashier see what's in them. Enjoy.

Roger Ebert's Journal

      I just found Roger Ebert's Journal online and have been reading and reading for hours. It is wonderfully written and covers topics ranging from movies to politics. I must admit I found it because of the most recent hype over Ebert's statement that video games were not art.
     One of Ebert's best posts was on the textbook revisions in Texas. The comments only make his blog better!  What truly makes me keep reading Roger Ebert's Journal are the viewpoints of his many educated followers.  They defend and support their opinions and Ebert is not shy or lax in responding back.
     Heartfelt responses are also par for the course.  Read the following comment by  Van Badman in response to "How do they get to be that way"

"Oh, Roger,
It's so easy to read the articles about the hatemongers and despair.
When I read your writing, though, I'm reminded that the world I live in is one of hope, and goodness, and responsibility and conscience.
So I don't give in to despair. I read your pieces and I gain some more strength, like all your readers do, to fight the hate, word by word, and step a little further forward.
xx Van"

Thank you Roger Ebert for such a wonderful blog.  You've got a follower!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Mary Juana

I generally teach the "At-Risk" students and have for my long and lusterous 3 years in public education.  Many of my students at both the inner-city school and my new rich kid school get into trouble by bringing marijuana to school.  Many inevitably get kicked out of school or put into an alternative school for months on end and are absent from the learning environment.  When did kids get so stupid?  Why bring it to school?  I guess they are selling it or smoking it in bathrooms.  Of course who could blame them when they are asked to fill out worksheet after worksheet by some of their more brain dead teachers.  We'll avoid the discussion about legalizing marijuana or whether or not it is a gateway drug and just look at some funny videos instead.

How do you know if your kid is a shaman?

Do Glass Pipes, Incense Prove Teens Are Practicing Shamanism?

A newbie pot smoker.. just watch it.

Masturbation Blindness

An article posted on the Scientific American website (Bering in Mind:Jesse Bering) explains why we masturbate and how that makes us different from other primates.  While I recall learning in my ecology courses that other mammals masturbate, Bering does a good job of explaining that we are different because of how often we masturbate. Evolutionarily it makes sense,


" The advantage to the male could be that the younger sperm are more acceptable to the female and/or are better able to reach a secure position in the female tract. "

I think the important message from the article is that you will not go blind from masturbation and that it is completely natural.  The article goes more in depth, if you are interested in reading it, on the differences between humans and other primates, the psychology behind masturbation, and historical views on masturbation. - bonobo photo from

Oil Eating Bacteria

Oil eating microbes are getting a lot of attention in the news. They are being toted as the eco-friendly and easy way to clean up residue in the gulf. They would need some help though, in the way of phosphorus and nitrogen, to get them to flourish. Would these microbes not then deplete the oxygen levels in the gulf where the water is being fertilized? We already have a dead zone due to agricultural run-off from the Mississippi River. Would this exacerbate the problem?

We are already seeing wildlife flee the oil laden areas.

Are the naturally occuring bacteria already at work? Is this (see below) because of fertilizer run-off? What would happen if we fertilized the area more... less oxygen? If the fish are already leaving, should we just clean it up with microbes anyway?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hypnotoad says "Watch Futurama!"

What can I say, I love Futurama!  My students knew I loved it so much they started a count down for me.  They're second installment of the new season is tonight.  Here is the hypnotoad with a special broadcast announcement.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Evolution, Sex, and Education

I love teaching biological sciences because you get to teach all the fun and controversial stuff (sex, drugs, evolution, and just plain awesomeness)!  Isabella Rossellini has a wonderful series that explains the sexual reproduction of animals, Green Porno.  Let me just tell you, IT IS AWESOME!  I am going through them now to see which ones might pass the mustard at my conservative school.  It is priceless... Here is a clip on how bees mate.

Some more on Colony Collapse Disorder : BEES

60 minutes videos

Haagen dazs Loves Honey Bees

The best website EVER!

Honey Bees Affected by Cell Phones

London, England (CNN) -- A new study has suggested that cell phone radiation may be contributing to declines in bee populations in some areas of the world.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dress Codes

     I've worked in a school where this video rings truer than not, but some schools can take dress codes too far.  My former kids told me they would bring weapons one way or another, dress code didn't matter.  If anything it makes the teachers feel better.  What do you think?

It's raining OIL!?!?

There are more and more videos, comments, and blogs reporting on oil being rained down from the skies in Louisiana.  It makes sense that oil could evaporate and end up precipitating, especially after it's been emulsified.  Or, is this just a hoax, run-off, or worse... real!  Take a look for yourself.  I'd love to know more and discuss the possibilities of "oil precipitation" in the classroom.  It wouldn't be a difficult lab.

If it is run-off and you would like to know more about preventing contamination of our waterways and drinking water, follow this link to an article on the subject by Scientific American.


Okay... I know this has been around the web for a while and the 6th grader, Greyson Chance, has made it onto the Ellen DeGeneres Show for singing Paparazzi by Lady Gaga.  What I failed to notice was the girls' reactions in the background at his school.  They look completely brain dead and unimpressed until it finally dawns on them what song he is actually singing.  I could be misreading their expressions.  Maybe they are just awkward. Teens make for a tough crowd!  Take a look in this video.

On another GAGA note. Check out this awesome acapella rendition of Bad Romance!

Geometry Quiz

Here is a sample geometry question and response from the folks at Say No to Crack. It cracks me up when students try to answer questions in this way (see below).. it shows creativity and initiative. As I tell my kiddos, "never leave an answer blank!"

Monday, June 28, 2010

School Board + Sex Ed = WOW!

Thanks to Today's Big Thing

Budget Cuts for CTE

Many states are cutting their budgets drastically. It seems the first thing to be cut from most school budgets are CTE (Career Technology Education) programs and funding. In my experience, CTE courses are what get kids excited about school and teach children to apply what they've learned in core content courses. I'm sure Senator Huppenthal of Arizona had to make some tough choices when cutting the CTE budget. If you have to cut expenditures, what do you cut?
What I do love about this next clip is that a student, who clearly learned something in his CTE courses, is applying what he's learned in interviewing Senator Huppenthal. I love teaching kids who both impress and stump you with what they've learned. I'm just glad I'm not video taped when I get stumped. Of course, the senator could have handled this differently... what do you think?

Science ROCKS!

      Check out this chemistry video by

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Houston PRIDE!

     My partner and I are about to go to Pride Houston to celebrate our community.  The Honorary Community Grand Marshal will be Houston's mayor Annise Parker.  Come to think of it.  Should the GLBT community get a month of celebration in schools as well (see last post)?  I know I would be either fired or given a lower post if my school new I was gay or if I even mentioned starting a club or celebrating Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered students and their (our) culture.

"Ethnicity Here" History Month

     I am tweeking my lesson plans for next year and realized that my new school, an upper SES white school, barely even recognized Black History Month (BHM) this past year.  I generally highlight historical figures and important people throughout the year but try to match up the ethnicity during BHM.  I then thought of how big of a deal it was at my previous school, a low SES majority black school.  Was the emphasis at these schools appropriate or reversed.  Shouldn't the emphasis on a minority culture's heritage occur where the minority is the minority?  Then I thought, how incenssitive both schools were of latin culture.  We only recognize(d) Cinco de Mayo, which really seems to only be a drinking holiday anyway.  Doesn't Cinco de Mayo only reference Mexican culture.  Aren't there other Latin cultures worth celebrating?  Why don't schools celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month (NHHM)?   And, what about our Asian students?
     I  basically had a big ethical or moral awakening.  Should we celebrate all of these months? Should they be celebrated in all schools, some schools, only in schools where the minority is the minority, or in schools where the majority is the majority?  Take a look at the following links if you are interested in when holidays occur and how to celebrate them.

Black History Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
White Heritage Month???? - Doesn't exist... should it... what about in schools where white kids are 1% of the population?

     I also found this Youtube video that quite comedically explains why the new Arizona laws promote racial profiling.  I doesn't take an idiot to come to this realization.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Suspicious Behavior on Cinco de Mayo
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Educator Rappin'

     This eighth grade teacher, Lamar Queen, makes learnin' fun for his kids by rapping.  For those who don't have the skills ,try out the following link, "Rhythym, Rhyme, Results".  I've been using them for years and they appeal to all kinds of kids!  I personally love the "Photosynthesis" song.

Cartoons Make Food BETTER!

     A new study finds that children prefer the taste of foods with popular cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters.  Read more after at the link.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


      Having taught in two radically different school districts with two radically separated socioeconomic populations, I have had the opportunity to witness entitlement on many different levels.  I am not suggesting the world is coming to an end or the current generation is any more entitled than that of the 'X' generation or the 'Y' generation.  I merely was not raised with entitlement and find it to be foreign.
     Having taught at a lower SES (socio-economic status) school, I now realize the depth at which and the persistence of entitlement.  Many, not all, of my former students expected free pencils, paper, and food from their public schools.  I was paid more to teach my inner city kids, but more of my income went to supplying my room than could ever be recovered via my tax return.  The entitlement was so pervasive that if a student was handed a pencil, I had to clarify that the pencil would be returned upon completion of the assignment or the said pencil would be gone forever.  I can even remember a student who was willing to fight a teacher over the ownership of a borrowed pencil.  The entitlement I have witnessed at a higher SES school is that of cell phone usage, high grades for merely attending class, and respect.  At my new school, respect is not earned but taken, cell phones are used by students to communicate with parents during class time, and students are entitled to redo or retake assignments without excuse.  All students are not like this of course.  But it seems like there are more than I remember growing up.
     Has there always been a struggle to have students apologize and mean it, or say the words 'thank you', 'please', and 'you're welcome'?  Probably so.  Did I just grow up in a 1980's suburban bubble?

     The following talk show offers some advice to parents on how to dissuade entitlement.

Lynne Namka, Ed.D. also has an interesting article on narcissistic behavior at this link.

Arizona English Teachers

     Arizona is auditing certified English teachers' speaking skills according to a new law for the state.  Tom Horne clarified that the law was passed 8 years ago, in the year 2000, and has come under scrutiny due to Arizona's new immigration laws (see video below). Those who support the audits claim that the law is "common sense" while those who do not support the law find it to be anti-immigrant in nature. Readers should keep in mind that, according to the Arizona Dept. of Education, a little less than half of their students begin school as English language learners.
     Our news channels and reporters no longer seem to present "fair and balanced" reports. Take a look at the following two news stories. Are they skewed? If you were to watch one news channel and not the other, would your opinion be different?

For an educated view point on the matter follow the link, for that of the University of Arizona's Department of Linguistics.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

School Lunches

     My partner and I have been killing ourselves by participating in classes at our local gym every day of the week in the hopes to slim down.  I myself have gained more than 30 pounds in the past three years, no doubt, from eating the same food my students eat.  I even had a scare this past year because I started exhibiting symptooms of diabetes!
     We were partly motivated to start working out due to television shows like Biggest Loser and Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and partly motivated by poor body image.  I've noticed that many educators are over weight.  We are always moving, barely eat (in the ten minutes we have to eat), and work long hours.  How can we all be so heavy and out of shape?
     I personally feel lethargic and drained after a school lunch.  Mrs. Q, at Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project, details the daily monotony and unhealthy choices students face on a daily basis.  Take a look.  She's got quite a great blog!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"No-Fail" Grading

     This photo is from Neatorama and is the opening image for an article on the many parking meters that do not function in Los Angeles.  The city is currently experiencing a "financial crisis".  This is a very real example of failure in policy and action.  Where do such low standards come from?
     This past year, the state of Texas did away with the policy of "No-Fail" grading.  The policy affected all of us, educators, differently.  I used to work in an at-risk, tier-1, school where we were told to award a grade of 50% for anything earned, lower than 50%.  What this looked like for many students was a long list of 50's and one or two higher grades to ensure a passing grade.  Many times this was a guessing game, as percentages were lost on many of the students (and faculty).  The students, and faculty, sometimes didn't know what passing really was and didn't care.  It seemed so attainable, who cared.  The bare minimum was all that was required.   I moved districts and found that my, privileged, at-risk kids had a similar strategy.  The strategy was modified though.  The students and faculty knew what passing was.  The calculations of percentages happened on a daily basis.  You could hear students doing the math in their head....  "If I get a 50 on this then I just need to get a 73 on my next exam to pass!"  I actually thought this showed higher level thinking.  Inadvertently, Texas had taught a whole generation how to calculate percentages in their heads!  Many, in fact most, of the kids used this strategy to some extent.  The dependent factor was their expectations or that of their parents.  My "on-level" and "honors" students tried for 80's.  The rare few strived for their 90's and there were always the ones who had to earn their 100.
     Expectations seem to be what drive achievement.  I've seen teachers and districts coddel students or reprimand them with grades and with little conscience.  Consequence does not seem to drive student performance, expectations do.  I have a new policy in my classroom and it works!  A student must make an 80 or higher on exams.  If they do not, they earn a "Not Yet" until they complete a second review and take a second, but different, exam.  It is a lot of work, but worth it.  I will not, however, pass a child if they do not put forth the effort.  I have had two to three kids each year, who will not put forth any effort.  They have their reasons.  They are confident they understand the consequences.  And, after all the "Response To Intervention" you can dish at them.. they fail.  I personally am glad the law is gone but urge educators not to be tyranical in their grading policies.  What do you think?
     Follow the link for a news report by FOX on the subject.,2933,518101,00.html
     I credit the grading policy to Spence Rogers' PEAK Learning Systems.  You can learn more about PEAK at this link.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Gamers Delight, why can't school be this fun?

     I've been trying to liven up the new curriculum I am teaching next year and ran across this game.  I wish there were more educational games like it! To play the game, follow the link below the picture.

Brought to you by the BBC and Amanita Design

Monday, June 14, 2010

BP Oil Spill

     I heard a lot of weird comments at school, from teachers and students, about the BP oil spill.  I work in a very conservative school district, with very conservative families, teachers, and students.  We're talking Rush Limbaugh types.  I've been informed that the oil spill is not a big deal and that oil naturally seeps into the Gulf anyway.  One teacher angrily stated "why did they put all those estuaries there anyway?"  I tried to explain that liberals didn't put estuaries anywhere... needless to say.  I wasted my breath.  Enjoy the comedy that ensues when BP spills coffee (by

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Teachers in the Movies

     Inspirational teaching movies used to piss me off, back when I taught in inner city schools.  Many times the actors playing the kids were way too old, there weren't enough classes, or the movie was shoved down the throats of teachers by administrators to provide false hope.

     Take a look at the movie survey at the top right of this blog. Which do you think is the most accurate?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Proximity is key

So I've been reading up on classroom management lately.  Yes, I'm a loser.  But what the hey, I'm a teacher now, through and through.  I just thought I'd show you what we're up against. "They" are always practicing and honing their skills, why shouldn't we... proximity is key.


Don't Drink the Koolaid!

     I recently applied for a job in which I had to list out every training, seminar, and workshop I have ever attended.  For those of us who are educators know, this is nearly impossible, unless you keep ever certificate of completion for every seminar you have ever attended.  I, however, am not that OCD and never will be.  While I love trying new things out and keeping what works... I also love sitting next to the one naysayer in the crowd.  Inevitably the naysayer, usually a long time educational veteran, utters these words, "Don't drink the koolaid.."  What can I say, I love a Cynic!
     There are many cults in education.  You have the minor cults and the major ones.  Everything from "let the kids make their own rules" to "We must all have the same lessons, lectures, labs, and exams".  All having their own merit and idiotic tendencies.  At some point, haven't we all had a little Koolaid, in order to see if it'll help us make the kids learn more information, fit in with the crowd, survive the year, please a boss, or just keep our sanity.  And, if a little Koolaid doesn't shape a persons identity, at least in a small way, then what does?
  Here is a link to some interesting cults by Take a look at Michael's comment at the bottom of the page.. priceless.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


     I went in to work today and found out I will not be teaching summer school.  My first reaction was disappointment... I have been programmed to teach.  What will I do with myself?  How will I focus long enough to get anything done?  I need the structure of school.
     I've actually been programmed to be like my students, scatter brained.  I have been teaching more and more at-risk and special needs students and doing well with them.  Partly, because I teach them via organized chaos.  My students even joke around that I am more ADHD than any of them could ever be.  I walk on desks, shout when there isn't any need... we learn and it IS FUN.  I saw this video recently and it explains it all.  All of it.  My new demeanor.  My students.  The next generation.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No Homo!

   I've heard kids, mostly boys, saying things like "No Homo" when complimenting another person of the same gender.  Heck, I've heard adults do this.  I've also heard teachers use the word "faggot' in reference to gay men, only they do not know that is what I am.  I do not allow any form of hate or discrimination in my classroom but where I fall weak and utterly defenseless is when fellow co-workers spew hate speech.  I basically turn into a straight guy every morning when I head off to work.  The sad thing is I spend most of my day as a straight guy, only to sleep with a gay one - no homo.. wait I mean homo, right?  Anyway. A friend of mine sent these videos to me, enjoy!

Last day of vacation...

     I spent 6 hours at a car parts shop yesterday.  I bought a new battery.  Stuck it in my car and an alarm system I didn't know existed, kept me from starting it.  The dealership wanted to charge me $200 to look at it and run a diagnostic test on it.  Some repair shops refused to look at it, except for one.  The repair shop across the street had one guy willing to have a go at it.  He couldn't look at it without the car being in his parking lot though.  UGH!  Tow trucks wanted to charge me $85 to get the car across the street.  I would have pushed it myself but the traffic was unbelievable.  I had to wait, and wait, and wait.  The good news is I read half of my new book "Stiff" by Mary Roach.  I plan on using it for a new course I might get to start two years from now, Forensics.  The book is awesome.  It has great imagery and it gets you up close and personal with science behind the use of corpses for scientific (or not so scientific) research.  Eventually my partner got off of work.  We pushed the car across the street, risking life and limb, which I now have better imagery of, thanks to my summer reading.  The repair guy took 2 minutes to fix it.  Nothing like a car repair problem to make your masculinity nill to non-existent.  By the way, did I mention, everyone I had called and or know drove by while we were pushing the car.  They were all honking or had their windows down asking, "what are you doing".  My personal trainer being one of them, I responded, "getting some exercise".
     Today I am laying low.  I am not running errands.  I will be on this computer, applying for a great part-time botany job at a near by community college, and reading.  Basically avoiding any Chevy Chase moments. (

Sunday, June 6, 2010


  Well.  I followed through with a promise.  I went to their graduation.  I taught at a "tier 1" school just outside of Houston, my first two years into this journey.  The demographics were not diverse (65% Black, 34% Hispanic, and 1% other).  If you are familiar with any hero-ing teacher movie, a la Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds.  That is the kind of school I am referring to.  We put all we had into the school.  We fought hard to pass the state standards.  We were told we were crap day in and day out by administration.  We didn't work or care enough.  Just ask Dr. Business on the school board, with her bad dye job.  She said we weren't serving "her people".  Even though most of us were working until 10 or 11 o'clock most nights making phone calls, tutoring, and getting our lesson plans ready.  Eventually our kiddos didn't pass the state standards.  I guess we were crap.  The school was taken over by the state, one year after its inception.  68% of the teachers left in the first year alone.  I won rookie teacher of the year for the school and district and because I was naive, dumb, or one of the few left, I was asked to be the Department Chair for science.  I accepted.  Life was hell.
     We fought harder the second year.  We fought for our rights as teachers and human beings, we fought for grades.  There really is enough for a book or movie in all of this, but, having been beaten down, alas, no book.  I made sure my department acted and felt as one and that we maintained our health, which was no small feet.  We eventually won the battle.  The kids were almost ranked "recognized" by the state, but we were 4 students off... we were apparently just "acceptable". No apologies, no congratulations, no thank you's and a loss of another 68% of the teaching staff later,  I quit.  I couldn't maintain such a life style.  New teachers and kids year in and year out.  I vowed to work at Walmart and earn minimum wage.  My partner threatened in not so many words to leave me if I didn't start taking care of myself.  Through the grace of someone or something above, I now have a job in a school that is the antithesis of where I started out.
     The graduation was noisy, outside, and not a single soul even tried to listen to the pomp and circumstance.  Cleavage was everywhere.  It was interesting, to say the least.  Because of the transient nature of the student population, I hardly recognized but half of the kids.  It was all made worth while to see some of my babies graduate.  Actual blood, sweat, and tears were put into their education.  Some donated more.  I have closure.  I can now move on.  I AM AN EDUCATOR.

On a lighter note, In the hallways at my former school, teachers were referred to as F!@#, A$$H*(3, and worse.  I sometimes made them call me "Mr. F!@#"... I mean there's gotta be some civility to it all.  The following news story cracks me up.,0,2702469.story

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Here it goes...

Why blog?  The school year is over.  I have no identity and I am tired of smothering my partner with what has become my identity, teaching.  I actually got emotional when I realized I was the last teacher to leave school on Friday.  Everyone else left fifteen minutes after they were given the okay by administration.  They literally left everything in place, as if an A-bomb was about to go off and they needed to evacuate.  Pencils, dust bunnies, and blinking screen lights were all left to fend for themselves until August.  How can they do it?  I must not have enough of a life.  I actually wanted to stay and prepare for next year.  After all of the complaining about school, I wanted to stay.  WEIRD!