Archive for the 'school' Category


How to Fix a Nonresponsive Smartboard

Teachers! If your Smartboard has trouble tracking your position, especially in only certain areas of the board, and doing a calibration doesn’t work for you, try this:

Take a 3×5 index card (or other thin, stiff paper product,) slide it between the board surface and the bottom frame, and slide it completely across, left to right or right to left. I think this removes accumulated dirt, skin cells, etc., and may make your board responsive again.

Good luck!


Fear of FAIL… and Why We Need to Screw Up More Often

I’m inspired by a fantastic piece up over at Ars Technica that I just read.  Matthew Lasar, the author, offers a three-page rogue’s gallery of lesser-known inventors and innovators in telecommunications.  All of them failed to capitalize on their discoveries, usually because they were a few decades ahead of their time.

Here’s the article.  (Clicky Readey)

As a teacher, what strikes me the most about this is the alarming trend in child rearing and education to shield a kid’s purportedly fragile self-esteem from the “crushing” experience of failure.

Parents, fellow teachers, and other responsible, compassionate adults reading this: please hear me.  It is MUCH more important that a child learn how to fail and learn from the failure than it is for them to experience success.  To fail to do so is to produce a person with an inflated ego due to an overestimation of his or her own abilities, and to whom the entire concept of “trial and error” is an alien thing.

Perhaps worse still, you deprive them of the thrill of success that only truly comes after repeated, failing attempts.

So let them bump their heads, skin their knees, fail a school paper or project, or even an entire class.  Then be there to help show them the most important part of the process: how to dust yourself off, clean up the blood, accept the natural consequences of your choices, and ultimately try, try again.


URGENT!! Crayon Physics Deluxe “Pay-What-You-Want” SALE!!


Teachers! I’m talking to YOU TOO.

It’s only good until the 15th of January, so HURRY!!!!


God to JC: “I’m still here.”

Yesterday found me in a dark depression about my job.

Backing up a bit.  About a week ago, my boss called me in to get my side of the story on something that I did.  Something I did which was stupid.  VERY stupid.  Being the amazing man he is, he turned the situation into a learning experience and promised to help me get things right.  Seeing as how he COULD have just fired me and hired a sane person, I thought this most gracious of him.

Then yesterday, I had what was probably the WORST day yet with my 6th hour class (which is REALLY saying something…   ask me sometime), was already more than a little off-kilter due to sleep deprivation, and was battling a touch of… umm… intestinal difficulties.

And I get an email from my boss saying, enigmatically, that he “wants to see me during my conference.”  Again.  And I get this right at the end of the day.

I have been very slow to move all my stuff into my new room.  I guess I’ve felt like it’s not really “mine,” I guess.  Anyway, I’ve had this big box of smoke-scented college textbooks sitting in my front passenger seat for about a month now, which I only recently have been taking in to my classroom, a few at a time.  I doubted whether I should finish doing so… after all, if the administration and school board changed their minds and DID decide to fire me, what would be the point?  I’d just have to box them all up again anyway.  At least this way I have a head-start of sorts.

So I came home, monster headache, feeling like something that fell off a poop-wagon.  My wife immediately sends me to bed, where I stay for an hour.  As I wait for the Tylenol and Sudafed to kick in, I really let God have it:

“What were you thinking bringing us here?  What possible good can I do for THESE kids?  I don’t have it in me to change them.  They are SO far-gone.  What good will it do us if you brought us all this way, away from our home, church, friends, cozy little house, and established job security, only to let me get myself unemployed a few months later?”

Then I told him I didn’t believe what I was saying… but that I could REALLY use a sign.  And soon.

This morning before the bell rang, I got several.  My department head asked me how things were going, and I told him (a bit of) the rotten situation I have been having with my 6th hour kids.  He offered a little advice and encouragement, and then said…

“Well, we’re glad to have you here.  I’ve walked by your room quite a few times, and everything in there seems to be going well.  If there’s anything you need, please ask.”

I somehow kept from crying tears of relief and release then, as I am fighting crying them now.

Another teacher in the department expressed similar sentiments to me, not more than a few minutes later.

I met with my boss, who told me that despite several irate board members asking him about his hiring practices and whether they should “terminate my contract immediately” he, the superintendent, and the assistant superintendent all went to bat for me.  Undeserving me.  Unknown quantity me.  Guy who pulled the idiot move and made them look bad me.

Okay, that did it… I’m crying now.  Getting hard to see to type.

On top of all that, my lab demonstration worked today.  First time, no kinks.

And I found my dinky little green iPod Shuffle I lost about a month back.  Wasn’t even looking for it.

I love how God answers me in ways that even oblivious, idiot me can’t miss.  Exactly when I really need it.

I am baffled sometimes at how one as repeatedly unworthy as me continues to find love, patience, and acceptance from the God of the universe, and those he puts in my life.  I’m glad he does though.

I don’t need to go back to Egypt.  I’m bound for Promised Land.


I’m a rockstar, and the rest of my day

Why is it that some dreams really stand out while so may others fade away?

This morning, shortly after awakening I suddenly recalled, with crystal clarity, a dream from last night.  Get your Freud on for me, folks…

In my dream, I remember deciding that I would try playing the guitar.  So somehow I found myself learning some chords, becoming a rock prodigy, and signing up for a slot at some kind of concert festival thing to single-handedly belt out my own version of “Face Down” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. And I sounded pretty darn good, too.

Anyway, the night came for my performance.  As I geared up to play to a crowd from the top of my tower stage, I realized with horror that I couldn’t really play the guitar, and what I had taken to be a real guitar was just a collapsible plastic toy guitar with fishing-line strings.

After a few minutes of furiously trying to get my rock on, I resolved to never try to do something like this again… and I had the overwhelming sense that this was at least the second time I had tried going rock ‘n’ roll and failed horribly.

Still a pretty cool dream, though.

Anyway, the actual high point of my day involved finding out that I have lost eight more pounds over the last three weeks (and was actually dubbed “the biggest loser” by the school nurse that weighed us all in!!)  That was followed by a free lunch of tasty cold-cut and veggie sandwiches, and FOUR HOURS to work in my classroom before they let us go home.  Woo hoo!

Oh, I got to kidnap my wife from the new kid for an hour and whisk her off (in the chilly rain) to an ice-cream mini-date at Braums. (Thanks, dear sister-in-law.)

“I need to laugh, and when the sun is out, I’ve got something I can laugh about.”

PS:  Facebook folks reading this… I can’t read any comments you leave ON FB.  Please click over to my blog and comment there so I know you still love me.  :mrgreen:


8 years

This morning wasn’t terribly unlike most other school days.  Since it was a Friday, the walls (and faculty) of Borger High School were draped in red (and denim, in the case of the teachers.)  The kids were rowdy, excited for the coming football game and weekend.  An announcement came after first bell, as usual.  But instead of launching into the pledges and a moment of “silence,” we were told that that would happen at 8:46… in memory of September 11.

I looked around at those kids.  I did the math.  They were all 7 or 8 years old when it happened.

I remember every detail of that day with crystal clarity.  It was my third year teaching.  It was 2nd period, and I was mixing up some stock solutions for a lab for Chem I.  Then Sammy Silva told me that “somebody accidentally crashed a plane into the World Trade Center” in New York.

I hurriedly turned on my rabbit-ears equipped classroom TV, just in time to see the second plane hit the second tower.

The rest of the day passed in numb silence.  I remember that I got a new student, Pamela, that day.  I remember that we didn’t get much classwork done that afternoon.  Classes changed, and one group of kids wandered out as the next wandered in.  The TV stayed on.

That night, Rebekah and I watched Fox News coverage (broadcast over the UPN, which was the only station we could pick up at home) and, though I don’t remember doing so, eventually tore ourselves away from the screen and tried to go to sleep.

Eight years later.  Certainly there has been time enought to mourn, right?  Time to move forward and put this behind us.  Right??

3rd period today — my conference time.  I made a run to the bank to deposit a check (another one of those things I’ve never been able to do before during a school day.)  I was pulling back in to the teacher parking lot, when I caught the opening monologue of The Rush Limbaugh Show.  Rush read the Gettysburg Address.  Then he told the story of Todd Beamer.

Todd was 32 in 2001.  He had a wife, two sons, and another child on the way.

In the face of evil, this man rallied with his fellow passengers and stood up to the hijackers of Flight 93.  And saved who knows how many lives.

As I listened, I started crying uncontrollably in my car.  I’m 32.  I have two sons (plus a daughter) at home, and another on the way.

If it had been me, would I have been able to selflessly give all I am and have to do the same?

So few of us are ever called upon to be heroes.  While many hope for the chance, I shudder at the thought that I might be tried in the fires of momentary, life-or-death crisis… and be found lacking.  That history might forget me as just another coward-on-the-scene who didn’t stand up and DO something when I had the chance.

I thank God that there ARE heroes in this world.  I am eternally grateful for those who have stood and fought evil wherever they have found it, or where it has found them.  Without them, I would have no country… no life… no hope of eternal salvation.  No freedom.

And I pray that if I am ever called upon to stand in the gap and give my life for my fellow man, that I too will be filled with the resolve to stand firm, clench my knuckles, set my jaw, look my enemy in the eye, and sincerely say “let’s roll.”


Where circumstances find me: August 20, 2009

As Summer breathes his last, hot, dying breath, I see where I AM, and realize that I am long overdue for a reckoning with where I WAS but a short time ago.

Last May found me finishing up my tenth year at Lockney High School, home of the mighty fighting Longhorns of Lockney, Texas.  Great place to work.  Wonderful, blessed community.

And I was in the depths of a despondency of my own design.  It wasn’t where I was supposed to be any more.  And I was faced with a decision: leave the comfort, security, and familiarity I had grown into for the last 14 years of my life, OR stay and continue to spiral downward.

Believing that God had called me to do so, I chose to resign my position in late May.

Some would call what I and my family did “stepping out on faith,” and would use reverent tones in doing so, like we were saints.  In all honesty, we did what we have always done (to one degree or another): we put all trust for our future in the hands of an almighty, omnipotent God who has never yet proven us foolish for having done so.

And we waited.

I sent out multiple job applications in a variety of public and private fields.  And heard nothing.

And we waited.

I had a fantastic couple of interviews with McLean I.S.D., and remarked to my wife, “If they DON’T offer me this job, it HAS to be God.”  And they were silent, and evasive for weeks.

And we waited.

I had another fantastic interview at Caprock High School in Amarillo.  Again, I felt reasonably sure that THIS must be the perfect place.  And I never heard from them again.

And we waited.

One day saw me interviewing at Hedley I.S.D. in the morning, where they promptly offered me a job… on the spot.  They were hungry to fill a spot, and I could sense that.  I almost said YES.  That afternoon, I interviewed at Borger High School.  Having come from a job offer, I may have exuded a bit more confidence than any of my other interviews… I don’t think I did, but who really knows?  It was a good conversation — I met and spoke with principal Tony McCarthy, and his enthusiasm for the changes being wrought in the school and community of Borger, Texas, was very contagious.

And we waited.  A few days.

I was offered the job in Borger, and called to accept the following day.

We had roughly a month to sell our house, find and buy a new one, and pack/transport/unpack all our stuff before the school year began.

Then we saw God, who had watched US wait on him, begin to MOVE.

We listed our house the next Monday, and sold it in two days…

We shopped houses in Borger on Friday, and made an offer on Saturday… which was accepted, after a few negotiations, in a few days.

We packed up our house, and closed on it in a further two and a half weeks.

Now, we sit on the eve of closing on our new house in Borger, and four days before classes begin at the high school.  I’m teaching IPC (Integrated Physics and Chemistry,) a course new to me, and a challenge that I eagerly look to meeting.  I am in a room which is (to put it kindly) unfinished, but which reeks of potential.  I have a list of roughly 110 students who I will be meeting for the first time soon (and many of their parents in just about half an hour.)

And we have the birth of our new son, Samuel Journey, to look forward to on the 2nd of October.

Ask me whether I prefer the calm or the storm, and I’ll likely point to the Captain of our ship, who is steadfast in either, and still hasn’t let us down.

The random musings of a 30-something, West Texas high-school science teacher. Hoo-RAY.
July 2019
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