Monday, May 26, 2008
posted by Q6 at 10:15 PM
If you remember last year's blog post about the AP exams, you know that things could have gone better. I'm happy to report that we didn't have as many problems this year (although it makes for a less humorous blog post); this was my third time running this particular show, and I tried to avoid the pitfalls of years past. One thousand, one hundred, and thirty-two tests later, we're done.

That doesn't mean we didn't have our moments, however. So here's the wrap-up:

AP Note-From-My-Mom
Between athletics and test conflicts, I had the highest number yet of make-up examinees. Twenty-seven may not sound like a lot, but that was over ten tests--with most of those being one-to-three kids in a room. (I think we actually gave two of these tests in a broom closet somewhere.) What added to the number were the students--FIVE of them--who called at the last minute to let me know about emergency surgery. Yes, you read right: surgery. There is, I'm convinced, no limit to what these kids will do for extra study time.

AP Temporal Studies
The AP tests have started at either 8am or noon since the beginning of friggin' time, yet there was always a handful of students who walked in late. In some cases, I had kids asking what day the test was being given (regardless of the schedule on my website, the constant reminders from teachers, and the PA announcements). I thought the AP tests were supposed to be a big deal; how seriously are these kids taking these tests if they don't even know what day it's taking place? It's worth noting that one of these kids thought his test was on Wednesday, not Monday--he ended up as one of the 27 make-ups.

AP Tech Support
There are several tests--the Music Theory and Foreign Language tests--that require the examinees to record something spoken or sung. We use the foreign language lab, which used to be equipped with 39 individual tape recording stations. Each kid recorded through the headphones, no problems. This year, however, I had to order CDs instead of tapes; our language lab got major upgrades, with new computers and kick-ass software that allows you to do almost anything . . . except record stuff, apparently. This new lab was installed last summer, and my repeatedly-expressed-concerns didn't seem to penetrate the skulls of the IT people--I needed the students to be able to record individually and burn to disk. It took two IT techs, two foreign language teachers, and a student teacher to finally ge tthe lab up to speed . . . and they finished the day before the first of these tests. (I even had to arrange for a sub for one of the teachers so she could be there to help on test days.) So my question is this: who the hell spends a hundred thousand dollars on a digital language lab that can't record a student's verbal work?!? My laptop can pull that off straight out of the box!

AP Potty Training
Wanna make high achieving students have to pee? Say the words "ten minutes remaining." Gets 'em every time.

My Personal AP Awards for 2008:

Dumbest Question: "Do I put today's date in this box?" (You mean the one that says, "Date of Birth?" Actually, that's not a bad idea.)

Most Masochistic Question: "If I think I did poorly, can I take this again during the make-ups?" My response: No, AP doesn't allow it, and I think it violates the Eighth Amendment. She didn't know which one that was. (It's the "cruel and unusual punishment" one.)

Worst Question: (continued from above) "Which amendment is that?" I'm not kidding: this was the AP Government test.

Best (and Most Honest) Question: "Yes, I still had my iPod with me, but do you really think I was cheating with it? Do I really seem like I care enough about this test to cheat on it?" (He had me there. I dropped the whole matter; I didn't even write it up.)

Best AP Anecdote: Since the AP World History test was moved to the morning hours, and since there was NO way I could find five empty classrooms to house those 157 students, I rented tables and chairs and put them all in the small gym. (What the heck--it's big enough, it's away from the campus noise, and they were already used to the setting from the CAHSEE test.) With 30 minutes to go, one of the proctors--a really good sub and cool guy named Vince--came up to me and said "I feel like I'm inside the hull of an old ship; when they shift in their chairs, the creaking sound . . . I'm almost getting seasick." Twenty minutes later, I said to him, "You think it's bad now? Watch this . . ." And then I told the students they had ten minutes remaining. Like I said--gets 'em every time.

Cruelest AP Prank: The AP World History test is made up mostly of tenth graders, and this is their first AP test. After three and a half hours of testing (the end of the test), I said "pencils down" and then followed it up with, using the straightest of faces and with my eyes on the testing instructions, "You are now halfway done with the AP World History Exam." The looks on their faces were priceless.

Since I'm leaving this school at the end of the year, I won't be doing this AP stuff anymore. I'm glad I finally got it right--as right as possible, since there weren't any real calamities. It feels good to get something that big done, and done right.

Now all I have to do is sign the $89,000 check, and I can put the whole thing to bed.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
posted by Q6 at 7:48 PM
For 10 years, and over administrative terms in two schools, I have been the Test Center Supervisor for the SAT and ACT tests. It's a job that requires me to be at school before 5am on a Saturday getting things set up, to leave after 2pm, and to get very little rest in between. It's a job that involves paperwork and test materials for 300 to 500 students at a time.

And it's a job that is no longer mine.

In preparation for my departure, I've handed this duty over to one of our teachers, a very capable and process-oriented individual. For so long, I've been treating this particular duty with a sense of personal pride. The folks at the testing firms--the SAT, specifically--are sorry to see me pass it on (but they know any successor I train will be up to the job). I've created protocols, spreadsheets, computer files, and procedures to make a test administration go as smoothly as possible. This may be the closest I come to letting go of a child before I actually have to let my son move on to adulthood.

Truth be told, even if I wasn't transferring (sorry--being transferred) from my current school, I was going to give this duty up anyway. Not only do I want my Saturdays back (my fiancee refers to it as "reclaiming my quality of life"), the money I was making--almost $6000 a year--required me to claim it as a Schedule C business, and that's been playing hell with my taxes. And the stress was something that I was becoming very used to--so it's good that I'm letting it go.

Bit by bit, I'm letting this job go. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about it.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
posted by Q6 at 7:20 AM
Oh, for the love of God--I've been MEMEd. OK, here goes:

The rules of the game:
1) The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
2) Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3) At the end of the post, the player tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4) Let the person who tagged you know when you've posted your answer.

1) What were you doing ten years ago?

I had just moved into this house with my first wife and my two kids (then four and six years old), I was finishing up my conversion to Judaism, I was teaching at a high school--my alma mater--thirty miles away, I was driving a beat-up (but very cool) pickup truck, and I was just starting my Masters degree and administrative credential at CSU Long Beach. And it all seems like forty years ago, thank you very much.

2) What are five things on your to-do list today (not in any particular order)?

Get through another day of AP testing; complete the teacher evaluations that will soon be late; check in my son and my daughter for their flights on Friday; go for a nice, realxing walk with my fiancee; and get to bed early. (I never seem to get that last one done.)

3) Snacks I enjoy

Cheetos, Milk Duds, Dr. Pepper, Granny Smith apples, bananas, beef jerky, really sour lemonade, and Sweet Tarts. And I still weigh the same as I did in high school. (If I could bottle and market my metabolism, I'd be a billionaire.)

4) What I would do if I were a billionaire

Star in the commercials for my metabolism elixir; Set my mother up for life (getting her out of work and into a nice house); send one, possibly two, kids to college; get someone else to fix up my house instead of trying to do it myself; get a natural gas/electric hybrid automobile; donate quite a bit of it to the arts; go traveling with my lovely bride to all kinds of places we talk about; and write my books.

5) Three of my bad habits

I don't call my mother or my brother nearly as much as I should; I don't remember anybody's birthday; I finish about 40% of what I start.

6) Five places I have lived

Redondo Beach, CA
Gardena, CA
Long Beach, CA
Irvine, CA
and, occasionally, in La-La-Land.

7) Five jobs I have had

Food Preparer at Burger King; Gardena, CA (and it's no longer there)
Racetrack Announcer at Ascot Raceway; Gardena, CA (and it's no longer there)
Video Rental Manager at The WhereHouse; Torrance, CA (and it's no longer there)
Accounts Payable clerk at HQ Office Supplies; Long Beach, CA (and it's no longer there)
Office Manager at a real estate office; Long Beach, CA (and it's no longer there)

I'll have to get to it later, but since OKP has more or less tagged my entire blogroll, I'll hit up The Alcatraz Kid, Q6girl (who will have to do this on her MySpace page), and Mark . . .
Monday, May 05, 2008
posted by Q6 at 10:18 PM
Our AP Tests began today. This isn't much of a big deal to most, but I've spent the last two weeks preparing for it. We're a big AP school--over 1100 tests this year--and so you might imagine that finding proctors and available space for this kind of testing isn't easy. (And since I had a mild problem with the test last year, which resulted in a personal loss of $1900 AND getting formally written up by the district, it was really important to me to get this one right.) Among the new things I'm doing this year: not proctoring most of the tests (I'm doing three), using the new digital language lab for world language tests, and using the small gym for the World History test (all 157 students in one room). It's the last time I'll be doing this particular duty, which is a good thing. I mean, it's rewarding to accomplish such a monumental task and all, but it can be stressful. I'm handling it pretty well, though.

So far, I've only puked once.
Friday, May 02, 2008
posted by Q6 at 8:56 PM
Since the news of my transfer at the end of this year broke to the parent body, there's been a lot of communication from the parents. That communication has been directed to me, to the principals of my site, to the district leadership, and to the Board member from our school's area. All of this communication has been very positive about me, and some of it has been mildly hostile toward the decision-makers. (How this has stayed out of the local paper, when so very much of what happens at this school ends up there, I have no idea.) When I say mildly hostile, I mean two things: people are questioning the district leadership on their decisions, and people are not satisfied with the answers--or non-answers--they're getting. Although one of my principals has asked that I make some sort of response to these e-mails and phone calls, she doesn't seem to realize what I grasped very early on: this matter is no longer about me.

My school has endured quite a lot of administrative change in the last several years, as has the district. No principal at this school has lasted more than three years in the last ten or so, and I'm the administrator who has been there the longest. I've been the only constant, and now they're losing me (and neither the parents or teachers is particularly wild about the people who will be sticking around, so that adds to it). The communication has been extremely flattering about me, my abilities, my honesty, and my speed in getting things done. If nothing else, this entire ordeal has done wonders for my ego. The parents even put together a petition--four pages long--asking that I be left in my current assignment. There seemed to be little said at the Board meeting last month, but quite a lot has been said behind the scenes. At our next PTA meetng next week, the guest speakers will be the Superintendent, the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Instruction, and the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. Gee, I wonder what they'll be asked to speak about?

While all of this flattery makes me feel good, there's still an undercurrent of dread. This has become something of a headache for the district higher-ups, and although I have had no part in creating the controversy, it's got my name and face all over it. These district administrators can't really do much to the parents who are complaining, but they can keep me down, or in assignments I don't like or want, or eliminate my position and leave me twisting in the wind (more on that another time). My hope is that the conversation at the PTA meeting will be focused not on me, but on the decision. I didn't ask for the transfer, I wasn't involved in the decision to transfer me, I haven't complained or fought the transfer, and I haven't spoken out against the transfer . . . so I'm hoping that everyone will realize that this is about the decision, and those who made it, and why, and how they're justifying it (it turns out that the guy I'm swapping places with is well-liked at his school as well, and THOSE parents are complaining, too). A couple of people have told me that they're dissatisfied with the "party line" they're getting in response, and that's not going to be easy to deal with . . . in the end, I know that an easy way out would be for them to ask me to calm everyone down. I've kinda tried that through back channels, and it hasn't done any good. I don't want anyone to ask me to do it openly, though . . .

. . . I mean, if a restaurant decides to take a dish off the menu, and the patrons don't like that decision, you don't ask the rack of lamb to make a statement.