Chewing

Oddly, I’m about done with a new book.  Its working title is “Ten Years In” and it’s about my many, many adventures teaching high schoolers how to do TV.  I’m not sure if it’s good or not but it’s much more…visceral than the motorcycle books.  The motorcycle books are really just stories and good sound practice and there’s not much in the way of risk in writing them.  Sure, I tell a story here or there that is interesting or embarrassing and there are flights where I wonder off into the emotion and feel of riding but this is different.  I’m more invested or exposed or…I don’t know what.

On the scooter side I can ride.  I’m not worried about giving crap advice because I can strap a motorcycle to my rear end and get it to do what it does best and how to relate that action and emotion to readers.

But teaching isn’t as elegant and brutal a thing as riding.  I can teach your kid to shoot, edit and produce video but my real duty is to help them grow up, to point at the hole in the bridge and then pull them out when they fall in.  I think I may be a crappy teacher but I’m a good coach.  My students are my ’employees’ and I’m the ‘boss’ and there grades are their ‘paychecks’ and sometimes I pay a full days wage for a half days work and full days effort.

I don’t think math teachers do that.  Or maybe they do.  In the end there’s no standardized test for my guys.  I try to teach 4 things:

1.  BE THERE.

2.  BE ON TIME.

3.  GET THE JOB DONE.

4.  DO THE JOB TO SPEC.

I really test them after 2 years when I hand them to a football, basketball or wrestling coach and I say, “This is the student who’s gonna give you a year end highlight reel–make sure they give you what you want.”  Then that kid flies or dies.  In the end they sit there with 50 or 100 schoolmates, parents, family and friends and get either an ovation or silence.

And they face that dragon alone.  I don’t go.  You made it–you claim it.

That’s how I teach.  That’s how I test.

And I’m not sure, academically speaking, that its really teaching.  I guess I’m scared someone is going to find out and say, “You’re having too much fun.  Knock that shit off.”

I try to make sure every child, every single dang one of them, feels success in my classroom.  I don’t give away free and frivolous esteem, I watch and I see and I know when they are putting every once of horsepower they can muster to the ground.

I teach them to die trying.  Lost all your video?  Computer ate your project?  Get up off the floor and fight for it!  Did you backup to the portable hard drive?  Is the there an autosave version?  Checked the trash?  Go get one of the IT kids and let’s see what they can do.  Keep fighting.  Then, when it’s all said and done and you’ve fought it to the ground and you’re choking it out and it taps?  Get up in front of those people and be gracious taking the compliments because you earned them.

There’s nothing better than watching a 100lb girl who’s been hiding behind everyone else step up and say:  I MADE THAT.  IT’S MINE.  And get the credit she deserves.  That’s a win.  I’ll wait you out.  I’ll be patient.  I’ll cajole.  I’ll tell you the truth even if it’s uncomfortable but I will get the most out of you.

And I’m scared someone is going to look at what I do and then take it away.

Strange the things we fear, yes?

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New Riders and the Freeway

Should rookies avoid the freeway?  Yes.  Why?  Because in many ways it’s too damn easy.  How so?  Simple:  think about how you drive your car on the freeway or highway.  You’re looking straight ahead, in a bit of a trance, Rush Limbaugh may be screaming at you or it could be Trent Reznor doing the screaming either way other than the idea of speed we all tend to look at the freeway as an easy drive in our cars once we have any skill at all. 

Therein lies the problem for newbies and the freeway—everyone else tends to be asleep at the wheel. 

The flow of freeway driving leads to a certain hypnosis for drivers and riders alike, it’s easy to ride between the lines, hold a steady throttle and let your brain shut down as we wait for those cues that tell us our exit is coming up.

Admit it.  You’ve arrived at your exit and don’t remember the journey.

New riders on the freeway are subject to the same thing, that slip into comfort and thought where you’re considering whether to have lunch at Taco Bell or…is Del Taco a step up or a step across?  Really?  And what about Green Burrito?  Is that the same par?  Is Baja Fresh in a different league?

OH SHIT!  Brake lights straight ahead! (Time for a rookie braking error yes?)

Or, “THAT CAR DIDN’T SIGNAL THEIR INTENTIONS!”  (Time for a rookie swerve error?)

How’s about, “I’ll just gas it and fit into that gap…OH CRAP!”  (Rookie throttle error?)

The danger for newbs is that if you’re coming from a car you’re in the mindset that the freeway isn’t that big a deal.  Sure, a new is a tad freaked out and wide awake the first few times but after a couple of survival sessions on the slab?  Old habits come back. 

Plus?  All those car and truck drivers are a tad asleep as well.  They make more mistakes and poor decisions and if you’re a newbie you ain’t got the skills to get out of a 70mph hole with trucks and cars and HOV lanes with seams and diesel and potholes around you.  The skill set to ride on the freeway requires you to be wide awake and if you’re not?  You need the reaction skills to do the right thing.

Newbs ain’t there yet. 

I realize that in some places using the freeway is close to unavoidable.  Sometimes you simply can’t get there from here without a jog on the 405 or 101 or (insert your metro nightmare freeway here) but that doesn’t mean you can’t go!  It means you need to be aware of your own abilities.  Increase your following distance.  Keep your eyes up and know where you are and what’s around you.  Plan, plan, plan.  Know when you need to be where and be in that place before you have to be in that spot.  And Newbs?  The longer you’re on the slab the easier it is to have that mental drift happen so don’t plan for long runs on the freeway.  Look for alternates and look the opportunity to use an alternate route. 

Should Newbs hit the freeway right away?  Nope. But if you have to realize the dangers you face and the skills you might lack.

 

Be Safe.    

Romney’s Reagan Moment

Last night I was up late to see how Idaho’s education laws would turn out.  I wound up watching Mitt’s concession speech.  I was tremendously impressed.  All campaign folks have been weakly trying to tie Romney to Reagan and somehow equate them.  That comparison hadn’t held up until last night. I was 17 when Reagan went to the White House and bitterly disappointed that I had to wait until 1984 to vote for him.

When he took the dais last night Romney finally channeled the Gipper.  Calm.  Clear.  Concise.  Optimistic.  Graceful and gracious.  Conciliatory but forward looking.  A Leader not a reactionary.

If the Mitt Romney who conceded had run?  He’d be President right now.

How to Vote on Props 1 2 and 3?

People ask me for my opinion on Idaho’s Props 1, 2, & 3 so, here you go:

Prop 1..;is unnecessary.  Why?  Because in it’s zest to “break the Union” Idaho is making a common mistake—let me give you an example:  The State of Idaho is attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist here, much like term limits.  If you’re old enough to remember when term limits were all the rage you probably remember that “Idaho needs term limits to get rid of long term legislators like Ted Kennedy.”  Which always begged the question:  “How does limiting the length of term for the Bonner County Sheriff solve the problem of Ted Kennedy getting reelected over and over?”  It’s a symbolic and constricting move.  Why?  Because the Union serves more as a Organization of Business Professionals than an ‘east coast style’ Union.  Come on, be honest, “breaking” a Union in Idaho is a lot like beating up a kid in a wheelchair–sure you can do it–but why?  In Idaho the Teachers Union brings an important voice to the table.  Teachers are child advocates and the Union creates a situation where that voice of advocacy can be directed accessed (or confronted) and improves the conversation about education.

Removing voices from the education debate is a bad idea. Prop 1 looks to be a craven attempt to pretend to solve a National problem that doesn’t exist at our local level.  In the end it does nothing but put a easy skin on a politician’s walls at a time when we should be worried about other, weightier matters.

OH and by the way there is no TENURE in Idaho.  What we do use is called a continuing contract.  Every year I sign a 2 year contract, this protects me and it protects the school.  Because I’m selfish it lets me know I’ve got a job next year but it also guarantees the school that I’ll return the next year as well.  If you’re a crap teacher then guess what?  You don’t get to re-signed and you’ve got a year to get it together before your contract expires and…you’re out of work.  The idea of the un-fire-able teacher is not true in Idaho.  It’s an myth about teachers “out there in liberal land” and it’s a problem that doesn’t need to be fixed here.  You can get fired.  It’s not that hard–just be bad at your job and refuse to improve and you’ll be gone in a year.

Prop 2:  Not a fan.  Why?  Because how that “incentive pay” is earned is a true matter of debate.  There’s state rules…local rules…convoluted mathematics and in the end?  You end up teaching the ISAT answers because your bonus is measured “by Standard” and that makes you teach to the “Standard”.  It’s the epitome of Socialism:  If you can get the same outcome for every child whether dumb them down or smart them up?  You get a prize.  I would be more in favor of simply giving districts discretionary funds and saying, “You know who deserves it–give it out”.   By the way, if you’re the greatest teacher a crappy school has ever seen?  No dough for you…meaning incentive to abandon underachieving schools and students–the ones who most need good teachers.

Prop 3:  No again.  Not because technology is bad, but because top down, one size fits all, government mandates are BAD.  Why not take that 180m and let Buhl apply for grant to do what is best for them?  Why not let Boise do the same.  Top down, government mandates that say: “Everyone does it this way so every kid comes out like this” are in the end, Socialism at it’s finest.  Why not let districts compete for the money?  Why impose a bureaucrat’s vision on the people with boots on the ground.  If you want tech?  FUND TECH.  Distance learning and teaching webs would be fabulous for small, rural districts while larger urban ones may want to do things a bit different.  More government in education isn’t the answer.

No on 1, 2 and 3.  Yes to more voice, yes to more flexibility, yes to more innovation.

No on more government intrusion.

Feel free to like and paste.  I’m cool with that.

Be Safe.

Looking Too Far Ahead

Yes.  It is possible.  

I work as a freelance camera operator.  As such I get the opportunity to work a variety of sporting events.  Last night I saw what appeared to me to be a group of young men who, because they were focused too far down the road ran straight into a pothole.  Part of my camera responsibilities last night were to bring quarterbacks onto and off the field and to maintain a constant lock on them.  I was also responsible for a lot of those cool close-ups you see where the screen is filled with shoulder pads and face masks–where you get to look directly into player’s eyes.  

I do that for the entire game.  Viewers get to see those shots occasionally but I live with lots and lots of faces and eyes and last night, the San Diego State University Aztecs had the look of a hungry not-supposed-to-win contender who had read the pre-fight commentary and were determined to prove them wrong.  

The Boise State Broncos on the other hand appeared a tad confused they weren’t winning.  As much as I’d like to blame the players or allow Coach Peterson to take the blame (which he will because in the end he’s a good coach and good coaches know they hold ultimate responsibility) I prefer to blame the local media.  Here’s why:  

In the past couple of weeks the local rag and the local “newschannel” have relentlessly pushing the idea that a BCS bowl bid and a trip to the Orange Bowl were realistically within the Bronco’s grasp.  Which is true.  And false.  Like anything hopeful there was a mathematical possibility.  However, there wasn’t much of a POLITICAL possibility.  Let’s be reasonable, in the end it’s about money and name status and this year the Broncos are a bit off the radar.

But if you’re a young team (like the Broncos) in a small metropolitan area (like Boise) then there’s a good chance you’re getting some pretty good input from the community that you’re future is pretty dang bright.  

And if you believe the hype?  You’re likely to take your eyes off the road immediately in front of you and focus on the wrong thing–you get fixed on the road signs and forget to watch the road and then?  When you put your front wheel smack in the middle of that nasty pothole (like having the opening kickoff returned for a TD)?  You react with panic and confusion and you’re suddenly off your game and, well, you don’t recover well.

Who’s fault is it?  In the end it’s coaches because they’re the leaders responsible for helping the players ignore the hype.  In the short term?  It’s a case of not making the hype.  

Be Safe.