Archive for May, 2020

Planning for Next Year Already

May 18, 2020

My principal says I am not teaching math next fall.  This year I was a full time teacher and a full time IT, techie, teacher trainer and guy who knew the most about where all the breakers in the building were located.  It did not work out well.  The IT suffered and it killed my prep time for teaching.  So next year I am losing my two math courses (three sections) so I can focus on IT stuff and also build the CS curriculum back up.  

I am really going to miss the math.  I have been teaching the Stats course too long and was starting to get bored with the material so this is probably a good thing.  The Math 2 Honors on the other hand was a kick.  We sit in a circle and BS about math stuff then go explore something.  Only 7 students so this worked out well.  Five out of the seven kids were into it and the other two were willing to go along for the ride.

We hired a new business teacher but he has no programming experience.  (Montana has a bit of a CS certification issue.  If you have a Business degree you are certified to teach CS/programming, even if you have never had a CS/programming course.  The other way to get certified is to get a CS degree and then get a separate teaching degree.  As can be expected not a lot of kids jump on that wagon.)  We need him to teach a basic programming intro course (Scratch, Small Basic).  I will need time to help him get up to speed.  He is young, he can figure it out but it is kind of nice to have help when starting out at a new school and a new field to learn.  

I have some kids coming into my Python class that are extremely sharp.  I will need to brush up on my Python skills if I am going to survive.  A couple of them are going to run me over anyway but I want to at least look knowledgeable for the first couple of weeks.  Then I just point and get out of the way.

I offered a few of my Unity Game kids a second semester in Game.  I want to do some VR with the Oculus Rift.  I had planned to do some VR with some kids taking a second semester of Game this Spring but the shutdown killed that.  I also want to tinker with apps like Displayland ( I have some halfway good Unity VR material but Unity did a VR update so I need to run through the material again to see if the changes made the material obsolete.  Unity and VR can be a challenge but many VR games are written in Unity so it is doable.  Unreal Engine 4 is much more VR friendly but there is an extreme shortage of intro level VR tutorials and material for UE4.  Again I want to look good for a couple of weeks before the kids trample me into the ground.

One of the bad things (and good things) about teaching software like Unity and UE4 is the speed at which it changes.  I just learned about Displayland today on YouTube (  It looks like it may make a big difference in what the average user can do.  Scan a 3D image with your phone and then import it as an object in your own Unity project.  For free.  Cool.  Time to tinker.  (I just tinkered.  This is incredible.  More tinkering required.)  The fast evolution of this type of software requires me to troubleshoot the YouTube videos I use to teach Unity.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they do not.  I use a lot of YouTube for the Unity course for several reasons.  The biggest is I can reverse the teaching style.  Watch at home, build in class.  If the kids build in class I can help troubleshoot the inevitable weird things that happen.  One of the issues with not having a computer lab.  BYOD is the only way to go but it does cause some compatibility issues.  Too bad I cannot require every kid have a 17” Win 10 laptop with 16 gigs of RAM and a decent video card.

Now I am just hoping we actually have school next year where I can work with kids live.  The remote thing is just not my cup of tea.

Seniors are Done

May 18, 2020

Friday was the official end for the seniors.  This was their regular graduation date.  No fancy walk across the stage of course.  Today we had a drive-by.  We put paint marks 12 feet apart around the football field.  The seniors put on their graduation hats and robes and sat or stood on an “X”.  The cars drove around the track.  Forty-eight graduates, must have been 200 cars.  I was there for an hour and a half.  Cars just kept coming.  No gaps.  Impressive.  

The event sort of made something clear to me.  I do not want to be a remote teacher.  I like the kids, even the ones that are a pain in the ass.  Seeing them really brought it to me.  To me these are not cattle going through a chute called high school.  Some of the kids may think that but the teachers sure don’t.  I know public school teachers that survive the school year for the summer off.  They count the days to retirement.  I will admit if I was in public schools I might feel the same way.  In a normal year I regret summer break and I look forward to Mondays.  I cannot imagine retiring.  I plan to be found dead in my office thirty years from now.  Man, this job is fun! And I get paid to do it!

I sure hope next year is normal.

School Is Winding Down

May 3, 2020

Seniors are done on the 15th of May.  The rest will be done on the 22nd.  For the seniors this is their regular graduation date.  For the rest it is two week early.  Some of the high school teachers are disappointed with the early out.  They have not talked to the elementary teachers.  Our elementary staff members are toast.   I look at what happened to my work load in the remote teaching environment.  Initially it was a mess.  Detailed long lesson plans that would normally be lectures and small group work.  I can now generate these lesson plans in a lot less time.  I am in a groove and can do the job.  Our elementary teachers are still on overload.  Apparently there have been a couple of major meltdowns.  The elementary teachers are ready to be done.  I am just hoping we have not burned them up.

There have been some major disappointments.  The biggest being on the student end.  Students that simply checked out at the start of the school closure.  I have several students that would have gotten solid Bs that are now in the solid F category.  Without the regimentation of daily school they were lost.  School forced them to get out of bed, forced them to listen in classes and forced them to think of academics.  Without this forced guide and without parents willing to force them into some form of regimentation the students fell off the earth.  That second semester senior transcript is going to be bad.  It takes a strong character to handle a major sudden change like this.  I was amazed by some who were not up to the task.  The number of parents that are totally ambivalent and not up to the task is also amazing.  We are a private school so parents are paying about $10,000 a year for this education.  Their student has just tossed $5000 on the window.  Most of the seniors that have checked out were not college bound so there were not scholarships to lose or a GPA to maintain but it does indicate a lack of independent work ethic.  

I have not quite come to terms with finals.  Right now I am just thinking of another homework (duh) assignment that will be a review of what I consider the important concepts of the last chapter.  The possibilities of an unapproved collaboration is high but I just do not see a way of preventing it.  I cannot give a test with a limited time window because I have a couple of students with limited internet.  One lives across Lolo Pass on the edge of the Bitterroot Wilderness.  She has internet through a satellite but it has limited bandwidth and is shared by a number of families.  A couple others are on old DSL lines and the US Postal Service is almost faster.  So I am going to throw something out and hope for the best.

There is one huge problem with school winding down, that means it has to wind up next year.  I think that is a greater challenge than many teachers and administrators think it is going to be.  The status quo is over.  “Normal” is over and is not recoverable.  The new normal is yet to be determined.  Next year will not be boring.