Archive

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Schooling Through The Summer

August 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Last June, I was in a discussion about education and having school year round. The parent’s thought was that it would be beneficial to her son’s education as their school was implementing some type of system to maintain students year round. Is this necessary? There are a few reasons why I believe year round education to be not worth the effort and a poor idea, but am I missing something?

The common argument I hear is that students lose so much over the summer to the point that teachers must spend a considerable amount of time reviewing what was taught the year before. How accurate is this assessment? I’ll take a look at several subjects and analyze them.

The first is history. Some schools do not teach history on a linear basis or chronological basis. There is some jumping around in the realm of history, therefore, what teacher reviews the previous school year’s history? If we look at how history is taught at the high school level, we immediately see that it is nothing more than a cursory coverage. While in graduate school alongside school teachers, the common statement was how little students know about the Civil War and even the Second World War! Do you think any of these children know about the War of 1812? Asiatic history is fully ignored and with understandable reason. The majority of the American population is European based so no one will recall the Imjin War or the multiple Chinese dynasties. Even South America is blank for Americans as few to none know who Simón Bolívar was. Certainly, no one recalls the first successful slave revolt in Haiti. They definitely wouldn’t know that there were black slave owners on Haiti at the time, too.

My point is that history at this level is too superficial and disjointed to require any summary. Another point is that our method of teaching history is so dull that students forget the history shortly after the knowledge is no longer required for exams. Another factor to consider is that there are people that simply do not enjoy history. I love history, but I will fail to recall certain historical topics that I have no interest about. Even going to school year-round will not help the student accumulate a wider knowledge of history as it is just too much and it continues to add up every day. We can say the argument fails. Even the idea of having more time for history fails as little is gained.

What about the sciences? We are talking chemistry, physics, biology, and the other types of sciences taught. Again, these subjects, though related, are not related in educational terms. If a student fails to remember water is made of 2 parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, it won’t hurt the student in physics or biology or even the study of clouds. The argument is even flimsier than when applied to history. When I dissected a frog, I had no need of how to balance chemical equations, how to determine acceleration or force, or what types of clouds there are.

What about English, do students lose something? Yes, students lose something, but this is less of forgetting and more that the instructor couldn’t teach. If you learn the fundamentals and understand them, you are more likely to retain them. Having a review reaffirms what has been learned. The review helped to solidify the foundation of what has been learned. You build upon what you learn but the vast majority of students have not been properly taught as it is tedious and rather dull. My sons have had their summers off and never struggled with reading, writing, and understanding the basics of English. What difficulties they had fell to my spouse and me as we did not educate them properly.

I have saved my favorite for last. Mathematics. This is a field that is similar to English. Again, I find fault with the original argument. Students do fail to recall elements of math after the summer and do need a review. Is the argument correct for this? Yes and no. Any of us that studied math should be able to attest that we forgot what we learned at the beginning of the course as we neared the end. Students go to school continually from late August to early June and yet, students forget much of what they learned in the fall. If you look at certain math programs, extra problems are built into each chapter that review previous chapters, why? Without continual practice, a student who does not understand the fundamentals will forget. How does learning math year round help? It doesn’t. You will need a review period or increase the homework, even more, to accommodate what was taught six or eight months ago. If the instructor properly teaches the students then the review becomes less necessary.

I will openly admit my sons forget elements of their math as they didn’t understand the concepts taught. In fact, they would fight me when I tried getting them to understand trig functions through deriving them. Once you understand how something is developed or calculated, you are less likely to forget it. Sadly for many out there, math requires an understanding of the concepts taught and practice problems to reinforce.

This isn’t a comprehensive review, but it does show how unnecessary going to school year round is. Our educational failings are with our school districts and those teaching. They are failing our students and money has nothing to do with this. It is how we apply our education strategies as schools and teachers. To continue with schooling through the summer is an expensive effort with little reward. The student is going to gain almost three months of what knowledge? It is a nice idea to think of how much more our children will learn, but if the process is inefficient, to begin with, how will a few extra months help? I do not the value exceeding the overall cost of educating year-round.

Chicago Blackhawks

August 8, 2017 Leave a comment

The Chicago Blackhawks were swept by Nashville Predators with ease. Was this an aberration or portends to come? They only scored three goals in four games while being shut out in two of the games. Some years the puck doesn’t go the way you want. Was this the case?

It is easy to look at the Nashville Predators and assume their making the Stanley Cup finals proves the Blackhawks played a great team, but this is too simple. The Predators were the sixteenth seeded team and clearly were not one of the better teams entering the playoffs. They were tied with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders for regulation victories with 39. They were five and five their last ten games. There was not much to write about as the Predators entered the playoffs.

Chicago, on the other hand, lost their final four games with two being in overtime and the team was three and seven in their final ten. They couldn’t average two goals per game their final four games, and they held a four and one record against Nashville with two victories in Nashville. On the surface, there wasn’t any reason to believe Chicago would be swept.

The losing streak provides one impetus for their being defeated by Nashville. The ‘hawks were struggling at the end of the year and this lack of energy was carried into the playoffs. When a team dials it back, they sometimes lose their momentum and this appears to be one of those times. They didn’t have any momentum and Pekka Rinne had a great two game start to push back the ‘hawks.

Without seeing the series or videos, it is difficult to show how the Predators were able to neutralize the ‘hawks. One video I did see (Game 1) was on the ‘hawks offensive zone as they were on a powerplay in the second period down 1-0. Every shot by the ‘hawks on Rinne were unscreened with Rinne given time to set up. Patrick Kane, all alone, shooting from the faceoff circle to Rinne’s left had plenty of time to move in if he should choose. Instead, he fired a shot to a well-positioned Rinne who saved it. Toews was briefly trying to screen Rinne, but he did a poor job and was rather ineffective. A second video showing Hossa’s second period shot displayed nothing more than a weak shot that was easily saved by Rinne. In fact, I do not believe Hossa got all of that shot.

Nashville’s goal was a nice goal but more of a luck type that more often than not does not go right. This doesn’t take anything away from the goal, but it is simply something that happens from time to time. For Rinne, he played well but didn’t face many difficult shots. In fact, Chicago shot wide many good scoring chances. The first game validates the fact that Chicago was not ready to play. There was energy, just not the crispness the Blackhawks were used to.

An early goal in game two continue the momentum the Predators had from game one.

Categories: Uncategorized

Resume Season For Me

August 8, 2017 Leave a comment

Bad emails are back again for those in the need to write one for a job. It never ceases to amaze me at how poorly resumes are written. If you want an interview, your resume is the gateway to the interview. You need to keep it concise, clear, and informative. Put some effort in writing the summary of who you are as a potential employee.

Somehow colleges and universities do a very poor job of teaching students how to write resumes. The first issue, I believe, is the fact that those teaching how to write resumes do not write standard resumes. They construct a college teaching oriented version that is vastly different than what most people are looking for. Also, they teach obsolete ideas. The biggest issue would be the variety of resume styles needed. Each profession has a focus such are published works for professor positions and website work for those looking to program.

As I look at my newest batch of resumes, I see quite a number of people omitting names. Seriously!? A few only provided what I presume to be the first name. If you cannot take the time to provide your full name, I will not take the time to read your resume. You have told me you do not care. While you are at it, provide me with a means of contacting you. Give me a phone number and an email. Also, where are you located?

Length. If I have to read fives pages worth of a resume to get an idea about you, you have wasted my time. This young lady’s resume is slightly over four and I stopped at one page. Her summary of qualifications took nearly half of the first page and the technical skills were vastly overloaded. Simple to say, reduce this information. Instead of listing in a vertical position your name, number and email, why not go horizontal with this. Oh, the 24 font name is not necessary. Keep it standard and bold if you must.

This lady brings up another issue and that is experience or skills. Do not oversell yourself as doubt begins to set it when you “know everything.” She may be experienced in her listed technical skills but by no means is she proficient in all of them. Remove the Microsoft information if you are going to add 35 additional skills. Why not combine the MS information and leave out what you are not proficient at. Pick what you are best at or use the skills you know to target a specific job. Design your resume as if it is a guided missile. Make it specific to the job you are seeking.

Experience and past jobs are another problem I have found. Please refrain from using the buzz words. Only a simpleton falls for them or the experienced graduate. I have eight resumes that I swear the applicants used the same source. “Experience working on large scale projects…” What does this tell me? Absolutely nothing. “Was able to autonomously understand the overall requirements…” and “Experience with process modeling…”and so on. This means nothing to me. Just because you are experienced at using a software has no value. I can find dozens if not hundreds of people that can use Microsoft Word. Leave out the phrases “Good experience…”, “Good knowledge…”, “Experience in creating…”, and “Involved in…” Include substance within your experience. If you worked at place A for a time, then give me some detail about what you did. I know you did not do ten different major projects in the year or two you were there. You may have assisted in some minor way, but you were not the most important person. Leave the lesser part of your experience out.

For goodness sake, do NOT tell me why you lost your job. You want me to bring you in; not exclude you! Do not tell me that you left because of personal reasons or company culture reasons especially when I see you work at companies for no more than a year or two. If you keep being laid off or downsized, this tells me all I need to know about your skillset. I recommend you keep a job for a minimum of four to five years. It is understood that some jobs are not what you thought, but when you leave a company every one to two years, this tells me you are not someone I want to bring in.

Layouts of resumes have changed. I have a ten year old or more resume that needs updating. Today’s college graduates are changing how resumes look. One gentleman has his objective, skills, and additional knowledge listed on the left while his experience is listed vertically on the right. The left side information tend to be single words or short phrases. Another person has his skills, tools, and language listed on the right. These are organized and clear and very easy to read. One mistake I do see are paragraphs that are too long. Three sentences are nice but keep them short. Search on the internet for templates that best fit you. Please, please for you own sake do not say you are not willing to relocate. Do NOT highlight it in any color, too.

One final point to bring up is providing links to your work. Obviously this is not for everyone, but it is for those that do developer work, research, teaching, and other jobs that provide an opportunity for me to peruse beyond your resume. If you are a college student that wants to be a web developer, then have some examples! You had to do this while in school, so give me this and do an outstanding job on this. Do web work for a local church or organization even if it is free. I hired a great lady whose experience was doing a few simple sites for two small businesses. Her school project was immaculate, too! Do not blow off your school project and do whatever you can do. The more I learn about you the more I can determine if you should be brought in for an interview.

The key to take away is to design your resume to fit a specific job. You may need five or more different versions of your resume, but this will help your resume stand out more. Stay away from buzz words or generalized statements. These statements and words bore me and tell me you are not very experienced and are not as in depth with your work as you want me to believe. Update your resume to the current standards and continue to keep it fresh. Do not be overly flamboyant but go outside the box while maintaining some conservatism. Do not oversell yourself and be concise. I do not a dissertation on a job you held for one or two years. If you did lead a project then spend a sentence or two giving me the meat of what you did. What was the success? Did you save anything? If you were a minor role player, then give me the meat for that. Take a lot of time developing your resume as it will show and tell me that you care.

 

Categories: Education, Uncategorized Tags: ,

Jefferson Street Joe

Joe Gilliam was a black quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers before their Super Bowl run in the 70s. I have always been intrigued by what could have been with him. It was my opinion that Joe may have been a better quarterback than Terry Bradshaw. From the little I recall and viewed, he had a great arm and was accurate. Also, he appeared to read defenses better than Bradshaw. His brief career as a starting quarterback lasted only six games during the 1974 season. He began with a bang but quickly disappeared with more than forgettable performances. He was a sad case where the player closed the door on opportunity. Why did his opportunity close? A writer, Dexter Rogers, has taken a different view that I hold – he believes it was racism.

Mr. Rogers, Dexter and not Fred, claims it was a racial issue. I have given Rogers the benefit of the doubt and have reviewed his argument, but I find that he uncovers racism where there is no racism. Rogers writes, “The combination of the social climate and race played a role in Gilliam’s eventual demise.” This is flat out wrong. Another errant statement is, “Sadly Gilliam turned to drugs to cope with his surprising demotion.” Rogers is looking to place blame on the white authority rather than Gilliam himself. The problem with that Rogers doesn’t know what the reasons were and makes assumptions to fit his narrative.

He does not know or understand who the Rooneys were or who Chuck Noll was. It is easy to understand why he doesn’t know who Chuck Noll was, for there are very people that do. Noll was a private person but one that did not march to the beat of society. Rogers does have interviews with different people, so this should have illuminated why Gilliam was no longer the starter. When studying these two, one can easily conclude that racism was not a factor. As evidence, we can see Noll’s relationship with Joe Greene and Bill Nunn.

The simple fact is Joe Gilliam was a good quarterback who could have been great but drugs destroyed him. His drug use didn’t begin after he was benched but more likely before he started the season. His drug use began to affect his play and led him to be late for team meetings which contributed to his being benched. The Players were aware of his drug use and John Fuqua and Joe Greene had stated in interviews for the book, “Chuck Noll: His Life’s Work”. Joe Greene even stated that he wanted Bradshaw as the starter over Gilliam. Gilliam was undermining his future and the team’s and his teammates were aware of this. Gilliam’s drug problem forced Noll to roll with Bradshaw and dispose of Gilliam.

Joe Gilliam’s downfall was not the result of racism; it was the result of drugs. This is not to say Joe was not dealing with racism. The country was in the middle of change for the good but change never the less. He was the recipient of racial insults and slurs, but this wasn’t the reason for his fall. No, Gilliam’s downfall was the drug use. To say it was because of racism would be an excuse for an easy answer and one that would be popular with many people. Drug use killed Jefferson Street Joe and likely kept the 70s Steelers from winning more than four Super Bowls.

The Art of Music

Recently my son performed for an audience, and a conversation with his piano instructor and I had a conversation about teaching piano. We had a philosophical agreement about how to teach in terms of what music to use. Sadly, my sons previous instructors lacked this fundamental knowledge and lost our sons.

We in many respects forced our sons to take piano lessons. A cheap, old pian was purchased for its last purpose in life and that was to work with my sons in terms of music. The one key near middle C never worked correctly. Even after a tuning the piano was rather off-key and didn’t sound the best, but that didn’t matter as the goal was to work with my sons.

Early on our sons struggled with practicing, and our cajoling and threatening work not very effective. My oldest even developed a method of fooling us by playing something and stating it was what he was supposed to play. For his mother and me, we were not familiar with what the early instructors were giving him, and he was playing what he wanted and rather badly at it. Instructor number two was better than the first instructor but was old-fashioned. If she could have whacked my sons knuckles with a stick, she would have.

Instructor number two was better than the first instructor but was old-fashioned. If she could have whacked my sons knuckles with a stick, she would have. She had taught her six or seven children the piano and also was teaching other students when my sons arrived as new students. The oldest had experience while my youngest was new. Her harsh method of teaching did little to inspire my sons as they tolerated her and did little practicing. She scolded my wife for their not practicing, but since we were unfamiliar with the songs she selected, it was difficult for us to help. We did provide suggestions of songs she could teach them.

This is where she mainly failed. She taught my sons religious songs. Now I do like some religious songs like on Eagle’s Wings but for the most part, the religious songs were dull and not exciting. My sons liked the Caisson SongImperial Death March, the Phantom of the Opera theme song. Of the religious songs my sons liked, they were too complicated, so out of their reach. The instructor was unable to move beyond dull religious songs and accept other music. Occasionally she would cave in and allow my oldest to play The Caisson Song or my youngest to play a patriotic song. The concerts she gave at her tiny church was finally given new life with these songs and not the constant versions of religious songs. I am not criticizing religious songs but consider how dull it is to listen to three versions of a song from simplest to simple to moderately advanced. Ten students with two to three songs and nearly half are duplicated. The instructor was killing any love of music my sons could have, and my sons were driving her up a wall as they resisted her strong arm tactics. She finally “retired” from teaching, and we sought out another instructor.

This instructor is old fashioned as well and a hard critic, but she understood something. As an instructor, you can’t be stuck on what you like. You need to go beyond and allow the student to guide the instructor. She and I agreed that a person will play if it is music they enjoy; therefore you can’t force them to play music they don’t like.  My sons told her what music they like, and she was willing to work with them. Finally! The youngest had Scott Joplin even after she stated his hands were too small. By darn, he proved everyone he could play it. The Phantom of the Opera, the theme song to The Lord of the RingsThe EntertainerThe Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, and plenty of other songs. She introduced some that they liked and they introduced others to her. Their love of music increased as did their practice. My youngest son’s passion and feeling of music came out in such a wonderful way. This led us to investing in a new piano and without encouragement, our son wanted us to find a way to continue his lessons as he began his dual enrollment at the local college for his junior year.

Now my son has done a short performance in front of an audience and his proud instructor. With our cajoling and the instructor’s willingness to allow my son to dictate his interests, our sons have developed musical skills with my youngest displaying a gift of feeling the music. He is talented, but I’m not delusional to believe he can be some great concert pianist, nor is that my goal. My wife’s and my goal was to introduce our sons to music, enjoy music, and enjoy playing music for themselves. We have achieved this. As my sons get older, I want them to continue playing and enjoying music.

When we introduce our children to something new, we need to be prepared to be introduced to their interpretations and viewpoints as well in order for it to thrive. As much as I beg my youngest to play Maple Leaf Rag and the Entertainer, I also understand he’s moved beyond this and is journeying on his path and not mine. I am allowed to maintain the hope that he’ll spend an afternoon entertaining me with Joplin.

Categories: Education, Music, Uncategorized Tags: ,

2016 Election Learning

November 11, 2016 Leave a comment

As I have grown older, I have begun to appreciate politics more than when I was younger. Maturity and wisdom are now replacing the inexperience of youth and the ignorance of youth. Disappointment in my political selections is nothing more than the recognition that nothing changes and does the joy of my political selections. I understand now that the government changes with the slow pace of societal changes. It is the process that I find most fascinating.

With all of the disappointment, crying, celebrating, and overall in your face nature, few Americans understand why our government was set up the way it is. How can I explain to that young latina who believes the solution is to fight and have deaths on “both sides” in order to have her way is not how America was set up? (Yes, there is an actual video of her stating this.) I simply can’t do this. I am even more disappointed, but not surprised, at our entertainers. What I can do is explain the process to my sons, though they should know.

As I watched the electoral votes Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, I could not help see the flaws in the electoral college. If you looked at the electoral college map, you could spot urban areas with ease. What had begun as a way to not marginalize smaller, lower populated states is now marginalizing populations within states. In reality, the origination of this method of voting can be found within chains of slavery. This does not mean that marginalizing groups or states isn’t an issue. The true goal of the electoral college was to protect the slavery interests of the South, since the North’s population was larger than the South’s (excluding slaves) and could have pushed through suffrage. The South could not have any of this, and did its best to “even” everything.

Is the electoral college bad? Should it be replaced by the popular vote? I would argue no and each account with the first needing a qualifier. The electoral college needs modified. As I looked at the red on the map, many of the states really didn’t matter. Does Alaska, Montana, North or South Dakota really matter when competing with California, New York Texas, and Florida? They do not. If we look in more detail at the state of New York, does it matter if you live in any area other than New York City, Albany or Buffalo to name a few? The population of New York City alone represent 42.4% of the state but does not represent the interests of the entire state. This issue can be found in all states for this is an urban versus rural issue. Does all of silly ol’ California want to leave the United States? No. Actually only the unhappy people whose candidate lost.

If we go to a popular vote, why should those in lower populated states bother voting? Their voice means nothing and the Republic portion of America goes away while the true Democracy version of America grows. Why should anyone care about Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, Hawaii, and even you D.C.? In many respects, this idea born of slavery ideals is an important method to involve everyone in the election process.

It may be time to update the electoral college by breaking out each state’s electors say Pennsylvania’s 20 electors, so regions may be able to cast their vote towards a more representative candidate. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh could cast their allotted votes while more rural regions in the state can select the candidate that they believe represents them. This better aligns the country and keeps with the idea of a republic. Less populated states have value and are more included in the elective process. Their vote actually does matter than the myth propagated now.

How does this election help us learn? It provides parents the ability to educate their youth about the electoral college and why it was designed. This election provides the opportunity to explain to our youth why we need to accept the results especially when it was not what we wanted. We do not need the latina or any of the 2016 election protesters who didn’t get their way to be citing violence. The electoral college was an good idea created on poor principles. What appears to be a poor idea in this year’s election is in reality a better option than the popular vote. Our nation needs the electoral college more now than ever as we are a diverse and widespread country. The goals and ideals of New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and good ‘ol Philadelphia do not necessarily agree with the rural goals and ideals of Utah, Wyoming, the rural areas of Pennsylvania and New York, or even Alaska. We need to give these regions a fair voice and together we can continue grow.

Riding a Bike

November 3, 2016 Leave a comment

When our second son began to take college courses this fall, we were a little apprehensive about this. He is actually a very bright young man, and this, naturally, was not our concern. Compared to his older brother, we considered our youngest to be the most likely to fail. His older brother has the perseverance that the younger one does not. Failure could destroy the confidence of our youngest and  his anxiety about the upcoming classes had us concerned.

You see, when our first son began taking classes, we were prepared to let him go but continue to monitor from a safe distance. Well, we discovered how that went. His grades would suffer below what we thought he was capable of. Okay, I’m considered less realistic when I expect all A’s. When I actively engaged our son and became a part of his college life, the grades improved. I was Moses during the fight. As long as my arms were up, my son did well, but when I lowered them his grades suffered. God made a poor selection in me. I am the least worthy and capable of this type of task, but I was the only one left in the bullpen, I guess. The reality was that our oldest son was immature and not ready for a full-time schedule let alone two or three courses. His first two years as an official college student was one of weeping and gnashing of teeth. No longer could I be the direct influence upon my son. Though he did well, he also struggled. His junior year has been his wake up year as maturity takes hold.

Our oldest son’s experience weighed us down with our youngest, and the anxiety our youngest had was not helping. Another factor was how my oldest relayed to his brother his study habits. He NEVER read any of his books! All that money we spent on those books! The oldest is an audio learner and does well when the professors actually can teach. He struggles when they can’t and must rely on Youtube for supplemental learning or directly talk to the professor. Our youngest is a different type of learner. He is not as curious as his older brother and does rely on audio learning. His distaste for reading worried us as well, for this was one of the main ways he needed in order to learn.

We are in our third month of the semester, and my youngest son is actually doing great. The first two months were spent by my wife and me supporting our youngest son. He was given leeway on his chores and other tasks. Once he got his firm footing, he was off and running, and unlike his brother, I am not as attached to his college coursework. This doesn’t mean I won’t be a part of it. For the next two years, I will be a support person for my son and maybe even the first two years of his official college life.

As homeschooling parents, my wife and I have recognized that our sons learn differently and require different needs. This is true with all youths. For our sons to succeed on their own, we need to be like the parent teaching their child to ride a bike. We hover around the child as they wobble on the bike and let them go once they achieve the balance needed to ride a bike. This is something I think all parents need to recognize. Our children or young adults need our parental assistance even when we or they think they are on their own. I no longer follow my older son’s coursework. He is riding on his own. My youngest is beginning to learn to ride. My wife and I will surround him until he, too, masters the balance needed for life. We are the first lines of defense against failure.