Sunday, February 14, 2016

Random Musings of a Ramblin' Fool LII

It has been nearly two months since the previous Random Musings was posted which is an unusually short interval in recent times. During that span this blog has received over 25,000 distinct visits. This edition will only feature the latest stuff going on with me which unfortunately seems the trend of late with these columns unlike a few years ago when I often included my observations or shared interesting factoids about a variety of topics. Next time which is soon, I plan to return to that model with this column. In the meantime, here's the latest on my efforts at getting from the classroom (where I learn) into the classroom (where I teach).

Winter 2016 Mid-Term Update

I am now mid-way through the current quarter at Cal Poly. This term took longer to get settled into than it has ever taken me in any term at any level of higher education. This was due to my inability to get into the four-unit Healthy Living (Kinesiology 250) class which I had initially attempted to add during my official sign-up period late last quarter. At that time I was automatically blocked from taking it due to KINE 250 being considered equivalent to Multicultural Health (Kinesiology 255). At Cuesta College I took a multicultural health class that was transferable to Cal Poly as the equivalent of KINE255. I also was informed not to worry about the block as I would be able to easily add it by crashing the class the first day and receiving an "add" code from the instructor. However, this did not work as the block persisted and I was informed in no uncertain terms that I would not be allowed in the class. For the teaching credential I must take either KINE 250 (which is no longer an option) or Health Education For Teachers (Kinesiology 443). The single-subject history teaching credential grad program prefers students take KINE 443 (which includes first-aid and CPR unlike KINE250 or 255), but allows for KINE250, too. Whereas, the multi-subject teaching credential grad program through the Education Department at Cal Poly only accepts KINE443. For some reason my buddy Blake who has been my wing-man at Cal Poly, was able to get into KINE 250 after taking the same multicultural health class at Cuesta College. The only explanation I can come up with is that since he took KINE250 a year ago there has been some sort of requirement change.

In any case, by the time I realized all of this, Week One had ended. I looked into crashing KINE443 a week late, but it is only offered as an evening class in a bad time slot in the week for me and thus is not an option quarter. Later, I discovered that it is not even offered at all next quarter, my graduation quarter. Fortunately, I am allowed to take it concurrently with my teaching credential course-load next year. However, my inability to take one or the other of the kinesiology classes created a problem for me. I need to be taking 12 or more units per quarter to receive the maximum amount of grant and loan money with which to attend Cal Poly. Without a kinesiology class this quarter, I was stuck at 10 units. I scrambled to switch the two education-related classes I ideally need to take before entering the teaching credential grad program, to wit, exchange Historical, Philosophical, and Social Foundations of Public Education (Education 300) in place of KINE443. The time slot worked and there was room for me in the class, but the two instructors were out of town at a conference and being un-tech-savvy were unable to reach their emails until their return at nearly the end of Week Two by which time I had missed the deadline to get into a class without applying for a special waiver costing $20. Fortunately, I did get into the class being granted my waiver but was by that point two weeks behind everybody else. I am doing well in the class but am still getting caught up. I absolutely love my two instructors, to wit, Dr. Frances Mayer and Dr. Sidonie Wiedenkeller.

This quarter I am also taking the four-unit History of Prostitution (History 421) with Dr. Christina Firpo (with whom I took Research & Writing Seminar In History or History 303 during my first quarter at Cal Poly). This class "double-counts" as it satisfies my requirement that I take (and pass) three 400-level history classes and three non-European/non-American history classes in addition to a host of other requirements. This class focuses on prostitution and other forms of "unfree" labor in Southeast Asia, mostly during the Colonial Period but reaching back often to what existed before Colonialism as it pertains to the changes that Colonialism wrought. I am also taking the first half of my senior project, to wit, History 460 or Senior Project I which is good for two units and is the research half of the project. I am very behind in that class unfortunately. Fortunately, I am taking it with Dr. Lewis Call who understands my situation and what I am having to deal with both with school and my ongoing family dramas and traumas. I am also taking a class I have had my eye on since I first arrives on campus over a year ago, to wit, Nuclear Science & Society or SCM335 (Science & Math 335) with Dr. Jim Eickemeyer. This class has thus far been fascinating and the most useful class this quarter. In it next week I shall be giving a PowerPoint presentation on the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident in Japan.

Last week, I signed up for my classes next quarter, my final quarter as an undergraduate student at Cal Poly. I will be taking Senior Project II (History 461) with Dr. Call again as well as my last history major requirement which I neglected to take a year ago this quarter when I should have, to wit, Political Economy of Latin America and the Middle East (History 214) with Dr. Cameron Jones, one of my favorite professors at Cal Poly. I will also be taking Introduction to Shakespeare (English 339) a Dr. Fitzhenry whom everybody seems to agree is wonderful. This class will satisfy my C4 requirement (Literature/Philosophy/Arts Upper Division Course). I had hoped to get into either of the two movie classes which involved watching movies and writing papers on them, to wit, Film Styles and Genres (English 371) or Film Directors (English 372). Unfortunately and rather surprisingly, neither is offered the last quarter of this academic year when seniors could most use them. Lastly, in order to remain at full-time student status (12+ units) I have signed up for the Air & Space class I have heard about (AERO310).

Getting Into The Classroom

One of the requirements of  for completing the teaching credential grad program is to sit on on classes and observe and if asked, assist the instructor. However, I feel this is probably more relevant to the lower grades where multi-subject teaching is occurring and instructors can use more hands on deck to help in the classroom. In any case, I had to be LiveScanned and checked per Megan's Law as well as take a TB test to make certain I have not been exposed to the disease. I occurred to me that I could probably get that done at no additional coast in the campus health center and I was correct. While I was in getting that done I elected to go ahead and get my long-overdue tetanus shot which I upgraded to a Tdap vaccination at no additional cost to me.

They Like Me, They Really Like Me

In the case of Paso Robles Unified School District, they seem to realize they have had some problems and seem to be taking solid steps to address those issues. They have also had to deal with a great many retirements in recent times and that is not unique to PRUSD. It appears that now is the best time in a very long time to get into teaching before the window of opportunity shuts again when hiring catches up to demand or when the economy goes in the crapper next time which it will given that capitalism is a boom & bust cycle-driven system.

While talking to the admin at PRHS regarding sitting on on classes I was given a bit of a hiring pitch from the assistant principal whom I really like.... he's a cool but no-nonsense sort of guy. The principal recently left so there is a temporary management situation there which seems to have the assistant principal probably having to do more than usual. He made it clear to me that they like teachers who are willing to do extra stuff like coach or lead in some other activity when I told him I wanted to help coach. He also informed me that the health care package is about to get better at PRUSD. The head headhunter at human resources in the PRUSD in the district offices I had to go into as part of the process of getting on campus was very cool and she seemed keenly interested in me and even gave me her card and asked that I keep in touch with her.

Given I was given no such pitch at the Atascadero Unified School District offices or at  Atascadero High School and that there seem to be no openings there I suspect I will not be working in Atascadero fresh out of grad school. However, things can change and over a year from now who knows how the battlefield will look? It's also possible the only places hiring will be junior high schools or middle schools upon my graduation from the teaching credential program. I might be facing the option of leaving the area or at least the North County to teach high school or else settle to teach junior high or middle school in order to stay in this area.

Finally In The Classroom....

In Week Five I finally got in to observe some classrooms being taught. I got accepted into Paso Robles High School first so I checked out  two classes there, Mr. Land's standard U.S. government and civics class and Mr. Bradford's Honors world history class. Both seem to be effective teachers and showed me how different things are done now compared to when I was in high school.

In California, sophomores take world history, juniors take U.S. history, and seniors take a semester each of econ and civics which I believe was the case when I was there 1985-1989. Within that horizontal framework of class track by grade level there is a framework of three levels of ascending difficulty: standard, honors, and advanced placement (AP).

In Week Six (last week), I finally got into Atascadero High School (my alma mater) and stayed all day watching four class sessions. I watched two consecutive sessions of my old school mate and teammate David Donati teach standard world history to sophomores. Then I watched Ben Tomasini teach AP world history and finished the day in Christine Williams' AP civics class. All four class sessions and all three teachers taught me something(s) useful. I also spent the lunch period talking to Athletic Director Sam DeRose who was an assistant varsity football coach back when I was in high school playing varsity football for Larry Welsh. Sam gave me some interesting insights and it was good that I let him know I'm getting into the teaching career locally and soon.

....And At A School Board Meeting

Last week I also attended a Paso Robles Unified School District Board meeting and I wasn't bored. They welcomed two new hires to the athletic department, including a former Greyhound football star who went on to some success in Arena League Football.  They also went over some generalities regarding remodeling and new construction at various district facilities within the context of a bond measure. They also discussed and congratulated themselves over how the district handled a recent student death. That death turned out to be a 12 year-old girl killing herself after being bullied by other girls, at least one of whom was a freshman at the high school and was heard to say something to the effect of "good, she deserved to die." This is hardly the first and surely won't be the last such case but for some reason this one bothered me more than most.

Networking Baby!

I worked an event at the Colony Inn in Atascadero last Friday night. There, one of the important organizers of the performing arts event was Kathy Hannemann, a long-time educator within Atascadero Unified School District. She and I hit it off and I learned a lot from her in a short time while just chatting with her and I got to network with her and let her know I'm getting into the biz just so word can get spread via yet one more avenue. Also notable there was that a very nice lady representing Rio Seco Winery was pouring her wine at intermission. Carol Hinkle and I talked at length during the show about local schools and such as she, too, is well-connected locally to a lot of what is going on and who matters so yet another score for me and I hope she was entertained by her chat with me.


Last month I took the CSET Social Studies Subtest I. Last week I got back the results which are that I passed the test. It is worth noting that I took the test "cold" which is to say, I did not study for it. Last week I took Subest II and I took it cold, but by accident. I thought that test was for civics so I reviewed my old textbook from Cuesta College. However, as it turned out, that test is history so my studying did me no good. Apparently, Subtest I is world history and geography whereas Subtest II is American history. I have to wait about a month for the results from that test. Tomorrow I take Subtest III which I have learned is civics and economics but focusing on the U.S. and California. I shall study for it tonight and tomorrow morning by reviewing my political science and macroeconomics textbooks from Cuesta College and bone up on my U.S. Constitution again as I did before Subtest II last week. After I take my third of three CSET tests tomorrow, I plan to sign up to take my CBEST test which is also required in order to get into the teaching credential grad program. It is worth noting that each of these tests cost me $99 and I am supposed to have them all passed by April 30, 2016, despite the fact that one wait 30-45 days to get results before knowing if one need retake a test. At least on have one of them knocked out.

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