My Trashy Girlfriend: A Lesson on Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll

My Trashy Girlfriend

I always believed that working at occupations other than teaching before I became a teacher was very beneficial. Doing other jobs helped me keep the joys, the challenges, and the frustrations of teaching in a manageable perspective. Those other jobs also gave me a rich background of examples to make my lessons more real and relatable. I’d recommend that all teachers get experience at things other than teaching before entering the field.

I’d done it all: bus boy; service station attendant; cab driver; construction laborer (a member of the Hod Carriers Union) and more and through all of it – professional musician. It was as a musician I learned something I later turned into life lessons for my kids. I learned that no matter how much you love your woman, when she gets banned from the biker bar where you are working you have to face it, “You’ve got a trashy girlfriend!”

Read more

HealthCare Reform: How Democrats and the Mainstream Media Can Make It Happen

Improve the messaging.

Why is quality healthcare for all Americans so hard to achieve? Greed, ignorance, and bad messaging. It’s big business, their leaders and their impact on politics that demonstrate the worst aspects of greed. It’s too many Americans who are woefully ignorant of how to reason with facts. And it’s Democrats and the mainstream media who are doing the terrible job of messaging.

The greed of corporations and too many individuals is beyond dispute. Trying to simply legislate greed out of existence is foolish. We can pass some legislation to temper greed but I recommend changing the incentives for greed [read Freakonomics, Levitt & Dubner], more on this later.

After greed, it’s ignorance that is holding healthcare reform back. Too many reports and interviews rely on numbers and impersonal logic. ‘Ten million without healthcare,’ doesn’t compute to the working class as well as ‘Your son can’t get treatment for a life threatening illness,’ does. [Go back and review your Marshall McLuhan.] Here’s what I mean:


I’m going to use a few socio economic and political labels in this essay so it’s important to label myself first. I grew up working-class on the Southside of Chicago. I’m the only one in my family who has graduated from college (University of Illinois). I have taught the disadvantaged and at risk here in Los Angeles, California (LAUSD) for over 25 years. I’ve traveled the world and hung in the hood. I consider myself liberal in my views.

Stop calling Obama “Black” and Don’t call the ACA “Obamacare”

Read more

Homework Cure: Change the System

The Real Value of Homework

There is a debate about the value of homework. The debate rages in school districts, states, faculty meetings and homes. There are parents who insist on homework and there are parents who feel homework is an unnecessary intrusion in their child’s life. There is no one solution. I recommend flexibility in the classroom and curriculum. What do we do if we are unsure of the value of homework? The following are some (not all) ideas to guide your thinking. If you want to change the system examine your cherished beliefs and promote flexibility in the classroom.

Question cherished beliefs like ‘School should be fun’.

Read more

Homework Help for Parents

When you can’t change the system:

When you can’t change the system and your child has homework you have to examine how you feel about it and then find a way to cope with it. I’ll be dealing with homework from the teacher/school perspective in a later post. If your child is already a straight ‘A’ student you probably aren’t worried about homework other than the fact that the load might cause burn out. That’s a subject for a later post. Also I’m not going to be directly dealing with those families where the parents don’t speak English. That too is for another time.

Right now we are dealing with,
“My kid has homework. She needs help. What do I do?”

I know you’re busy. I know your time is valuable. So what do you do if you believe that at least some homework (practice, reenforcement, continued engagement) can have value. Don’t give up. Don’t despair. I’ll help you.

Read more

Homework: To Do or Not To Do

Homework was the issue.

I was called to meet with a parent, in the office, during my conference period. It was about homework.

I entered the school conference room to find the Assistant Principal, Billy Bones (my student), Billy’s mom and her lawyer! Hmm… ‘Looks like Billy isn’t the only one on the hot seat.’

The lawyer started in on me, “Ms. Bones is concerned about Billy’s grade in math. He received a Fail on his last progress report.”

“That’s correct,” I answered. “He did no work in class so it was the only grade I could have given him. I have repeatedly asked him to get to work and I have offered to help him both in his regularly assigned class time and during lunch or after school but, so far, he has refused.”

The lawyer continued, “What about homework?” At the risk of seeming rude I said, “What about it?” She said, “We asked him about his homework and he said you never gave him any. Is that true?”

I tried to take the high road.

What I wanted to say was, not appropriate for this discussion. But… I tried to take the high road and what I did say was,

Read more

The Owl and the Pussycat

This is my lovely cat Captain Flint!

P.S.: Captain Flint is a female! She is named after Long John Silver’s parrot (also a female) who is named after the ‘famous buccaneer’ Captain Flint from Treasure Island.

The Owl and the Pussycat is a poem by English poet Edward Lear.

My Speak Up Talk Radio Interview

Check out my first ever Radio Interview

Radio Interview: On Speak Up Talk Radio Network

For those who follow my blog and haven’t heard from me in a while I’m working on a series of essays about homework. Watch for them – coming soon.

How School Broke My Heart

Everybody Has a Story

Talk to anyone, and no matter how great their childhood memories are, everyone can come up with some story of heartache caused by something at or about school. It might have been a mean teacher or a school bully . Maybe it was anxiety over some subject, grade or test. Whenever I thought about mean teachers I alway remembered Mrs. Murphy my 3rd grade teacher. She used to poke us in the shoulder and it hurt. But I never felt real heartache until I became a teacher and then school broke my heart.

It wasn’t a bully or a physical threat. It wasn’t done to me personally. It was having to stand by while blind, stupid bureaucracy hurt the kids I loved.

Read more

Are You Gay?

Are You Gay?

“Are You Gay?” Students have asked this question a lot in classrooms where I have taught, particularly when I was a substitute teacher. Why? Because it’s an easy way to derail a lesson. Once asked, it must be EFFECTIVELY answered or the class/lesson descends into homophobic giggling or worse.

This isn’t about being ashamed or trying to hide. It’s about keeping the class on task. I live in West Hollywood. My wife swam with West Hollywood Aquatics (a predominately, but not exclusively, openly gay swim team) and so I have met more than a few gay and lesbian teachers who have been asked this inappropriate question and some did not know how to respond. I write this for them and for any teacher who doesn’t want to be trapped by this question.

It is important to note that I was never asked about my sexual orientation by any openly gay students (see Embarrassing Questions). I am spectacularly handsome but I don’t think I give off a particularly gay vibe. When I was gigging with drummer PT (he’s the guy who recommended I should substitute teach for additional income which started my teaching career), he used to get angry with me on the job and on the break one night he fiercely scolded me, “Would you please get your head into the job? I can always tell when a pretty girl comes in the room because your playing goes to hell. Stop checking out the girls and get your head into the music!” He was right.

Mad Magazine and a word of caution

Read more

Gunfight at the Furniture Store

Gunfight: Store Owner Fights Back

It was the Monday morning after Easter Sunday. I had the local TV news on to catch the weather report. I was rolling around on the living room floor doing stretches before heading out for my before-school cardio when I heard the news. “In our top story, Store Owner Fights Back. Yesterday, a gunfight erupted when three men attempted to rob a furniture store at gunpoint. The owner pulled his own gun, and foiled the attempted armed robbery, killing the gunman and wounding another.”

Wow! I thought, ‘What kind of fools decide to rob a furniture store? And on Easter Sunday!’ Unfortunately, I found out. The fools were from my school!

Now don’t judge my kids too harshly. Some of them were really great kids who just had to make up credits. I’m still in touch with some of them who are now adults and I consider them my adopted children.

But, some of my kids were fools on their way to the penitentiary or the cemetery. This is one of their stories.

Read more


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: