Our house guest, Buchanan’s art teacher extraordinaire, Albert Van Troba, wanted to move one of his easels into our garage so he could spend some of his spare time on his passion - which he does incredibly well. Don’t take my word for it. Visit his website (vantroba.com), check out his awesome artwork and see for yourself.
In order for him to set up his table, paints, brushes, lamps and easel, we had to do something our family, shamefully, hasn’t done often enough (ever?) Clean the garage. My wife and I have started that project on several occasions and, truth be told, we actually completed the task a time or two. It’s just that dust and dirt accumulate in our garage at a rate that far surpasses our desire to clean it up. Besides, it’s not like we’re living in filth. Actually, our garage looks quite organized and relatively clean. That is, once Albert got here and showed us how, in record time, we could move this to here, that to there, make a couple other moves, sweep the bare floor and, presto, . . . our garage got bigger. At least there was more useable square footage available.
There were some boxes that I’d been meaning to move for some time. It’s just that thinking about moving them and actually moving them are so far apart. With moral support (and prodding) from Jane and Albert, the job got done. I moved a box inside to rummage through and decide what stayed and what was to be recycled while the two of them did the rest. The garage is now a semi-studio, looks great and, best of all, the box contained some terrific new blog material.
As anyone who’s vaguely familiar with this space knows, I wrote a book entitled Life’s A Joke which is basically about funny stories that happened to me. I published it while I was working at Fresno State and many people who read it have inquired about whether I plan to write a sequel. As soon as the book was sent to the printer, I began jotting down notes of subsequent stories that occurred. What follows are a few stories from my early adventures at Buchanan High School.
#1: One day I told the class I was checking homework. A boy told me he did the homework but didn’t think I was going to check it . . . so he left it at home.
#2: A freshman I had in Algebra I was struggling. He received a D on each of the first three tests. He asked me prior to the next test, “I really studied for this test. If I get an A on this test, will my grade go up?” He smiled when I told him that if it didn’t, there would be an investigation.
#3: The homework was to do the odd problems from 1-31. My question to the class was, “Which was the first problem you had to change the inequality sign?” The kid who had wanted to do well all semester but just couldn’t quite get it, yelled out, “20.” Not only is 20 not an odd number but it wasn’t a problem in which you had to change the inequality sign.
#4: I knew this girl was going to have a tough time when, midway through the semester she asked, “In the point (-3, 10), which is the x and which is the y?”
#5: When I asked one kid, “Did you do the homework?” his answer was, “Me, personally?” It reminded me of the time Yogi Berra was asked, “What time is it?” and he said, “You mean, now?”
#6: Unit tests were composed of approximately 20 multiple choice and three free response questions. Work was to be shown for each problem. One girl who was failing at the three-week mark of the semester, turned in a paper in which all but one of the multiple choice questions were right. None of the free response were correct and there was no work shown for any of the problems. Not surprisingly, the girl (whose average was 96% at that point) who sat next to this girl had the exact same multiple choice problem wrong (all others were right). Work was shown for every problem as it was for each of the free response questions - all of which she also got right.
It was too much of a coincidence so I called the first girl to my desk in the back of the room so no one could hear us. I explained this unusual set of circumstances and flat out asked her if she had cheated. Of course her response was “No” but the explanation that followed was one I had never heard from any other student. “I eliminate answers well.” When I remarked that she had displayed no work on any of her answers, she simply said, “I don’t like to show work. That’s just me.”
“OK, try this one,” I told her, giving her one of the multiple questions she had gotten right. She selected C (which was 5). She began to explain why she chose C when I interrupted, telling her that C was not the right answer. She thought for a while and told me, “OK, the correct answer is A,” which was the square root of 5. Once again, her choice was wrong. The correct answer was D (the square root of 13).
Undeterred, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m not comfortable doing problems in class. Just ask my mom.”
Could Michael Bloomberg have been right when he said:
“There is no accountability today, . . . no willingness to focus on big ideas.”