Thursday, January 29, 2009
posted by Q6 at 5:08 AM
I'm noticing yet another disturbing trend among the young people with which I work: they feel they deserve high praise and accolades for ordinary, mundane things. I watched a student last week on the basketball court at lunch; he dribbled, he stopped, he took the shot, and then he beat his chest, looked at his teammates, and yelled, "Me, bitch!" like he just sank the winning basket in the NBA Finals. He didn't even make the basket. He barely hit the backboard with the ball. Still, he wants to be carried off the court on the shoulders of his peers.

Someone recently suggested to my wife (a high school teacher) that it's "now politically correct to praise failure; how could they understand [achievement] in a time where even the losing teams get prizes?" She's been dealing with Honors & AP kids who want to eek their Bs into As because they tried really hard. Me, I watched a student not too long ago kick a ball during PE. He kicked it against the outside wall of the gymnasium then spun to face his friends, throwing his arms up in triumph and expecting applause and congratulations. He wants praise for literally hitting the side of a barn.

I guess what bothers me most about the whole thing is that this is the sense of entitlement people seem to use later in life as an excuse not to work, not to parent, or not to care for property. I'm worried that their focus won't change, and that they'll eventually atrophy into those that we have to take care of because they can't take care of themselves. (A close second on my worry meter is that self-esteem-motivated praise ends up devaluing ALL praise, and praise can be a powerful tool when used properly.)

Of course, today I was reminded of why we started praising ordinary things in the first place. One of our students has been getting to school hours late on a regular basis, and today not even the principal and the police officer could get her out of bed to come to school; on the other hand, she lives in a one-room motel room with two parents who drink and party until 2 in the morning, so it's little wonder she's not functional until noon. Another of our students was worried about taking one of his finals this morning, and suggested to his father that he didn't want to go to school today; he arrived at school not long after receiving the beating his father gave him.

We motivate some kids to get to college; we motivate others just to get to tomorrow. Some of these kids get praised for little things because it's all they get a chance to do. Not all of them, and certainly not some of them . . . but a few--a very specific few--deserve the pat on the back for trying.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
posted by Q6 at 12:34 PM
Check out my new ride!

What you see is the 2008 Honda FCX Clarity, a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. This isn't the econo-box that was Honda's first generation; this is a full luxury version . . . this thing has ALL the bells and whistles of any luxury car on the market, but runs on ZERO gasoline. And the only thing that comes out of the tailpipe is water (I have the first car in the world designed to pee). The car of the future is here, my friends, and it's wrapped around me whenever I drive.

I'm sure that, over time, I'll be posting a lot about the new car, including photos (to be honest, I have to make sure I don't post anything proprietary, per Honda's wishes). For now, I'm going to post the answers to the four most frequent questions I've had in the last week:

1) How did you get one of these? (Usually asked, "How did YOU get one of these?") Honda's trying to put 200 of these on the road over the next three years (mine, I'm told, is one of the first ten--Jaime Lee Curtis has one, so I'm in a pretty nifty club), and their website asks interested people who live near one of the fueling stations to sign up. I did. Frankly, it's one of those things that you fill out and you know they're never gonna call--but they did. I've been speaking with them since November, and we got everything worked out. Despite what certain reviewers are saying, they're not just handing these things over to celebrities; they are, however, screening the potential lessees pretty carefully. Anyway, my answer to this question is, "I raised my hand, and they called on me."

2) Is it hard to drive? Is it hard to refuel? In both cases, no. I've never had a luxury car before, so I'm going from a stripped-down 2000 Hyundai hatchback to this. Driving a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle--basically, an electric car--means becoming accustomed to the acceleration, the gauges, and the mechanics of starting the car, but it's not all that different. I think that's the point, actually: to make the cars cleaner without changing the way we drive them. As far as refueling the car is concerned, it's actually easier to fuel with hydrogen than it is with gasoline. Once you know what you're doing (a simple 30 minutes of training), and once you've done it a few times, it becomes . . . well, kinda boring, actually. But that's better than needing a 50-page manual each time.

3) Is it expensive? Um . . . yes. Yes it is. Here's the thing, though: with the $600 per month lease, I'm getting all maintenance AND the comprehensive and collision insurance included (I just need to pay for the liability insurance and the hydrogen). That being the case, it's not really all that different from leasing any other big-ticket luxury car. On top of that, I get to drive around in a "limited edition" kind of car, and I'm not polluting anything while I do it. As far as the hydrogen itself is concerned, you have to learn the math of driving all over again (what with the new fuel type, the conversion of numbers isn't always easy--or possible). Let's put it this way: it costs me the same to fill this car's tank as it did to fill my last car's tank. So again, there's not a whole lot of change here.

4) Are you going to let your son drive it? Look, my almost-17-year-old son doesn't even have his license yet, and doesn't take the test until next week. I love my son, I trust my son, and I'm glad I sent my son to an expensive driving school--but unless there's a federal bailout package specifically for my liability policy, I don't see him driving it anytime soon (one of the guys from Honda--I'm looking at you, Tim--suggested that I let him take the test in my Clarity, for crying out loud). Actually, my son doesn't have his eye so much on my new car as he does my OLD car. He has dreams of co-opting that one. We'll see.

If I get questions, I'll answer them (if I'm allowed to, of course). In the meantime, if you need me, I'll be in my car.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
posted by Q6 at 6:06 PM
I got a letter yesterday from the County Department of Education. It seems I've been nominated for (and will receive) an award for "Outstanding Contributions to Education." It's nice to be honored. It's nice to be recognized.

The thing is, I was nominated for this award by parents at the school I left seven months ago. The transition was not easy for me OR them (as those who read this blog regularly well know), but I got through it. I'm not as adjusted to the new school site as I'd like, but I feel that I've made the transition. I find going to the old school's events a little bit painful, so I go to very few of them. There's just too much history that makes me endure the change all over again.

Again, it's nice to be honored. It's really gratifying to be appreciated so much that the parents feel compelled to nominate me even after I'm gone. The award thing is at the Board meeting on the 23rd. My former principal will be there, my wife (who still teaches at the old school) will come, and God only knows who else is going to show. It's nice to be honored, but I know there's going to be some of that reopening-the-old-wound emotion, too.

I'll get through it, though. It's nice to be honored.