Friday, July 21, 2017

Franciscan quotation


“God, you made me. You love me. What would you have me do? Where would you have me go? Who would you have me serve? Show me how I can be your eyes of compassion, your heart of love, and your hands reaching out to this world. Amen.”  - John Michael Talbot

Pax et bonum

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Franciscan quotation


Thank God ahead of time. - Blessed Solanus Casey

Pax et bonum

Post-Christian U.S. Cities - Rochester is #13


According to a study by Barna, a religious research group, Portland-Auburn, Maine, is the most post-Christian city in the United State, and my city, Rochester, New York ranks 13th.

Yay.

The study involves surveying people on 16 factors, and those who fail on 9 of them are deemed post-Christian, and those who fail on 13 are considered highly post-Christian.

Those factors are:

  • Do not believe in God
  • Identify as atheist or agnostic
  • Disagree that faith is important in their lives
  • Have not prayed to God (in the last week)
  • Have never made a commitment to Jesus
  • Disagree the Bible is accurate
  • Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
  • Have not attended a Christian church (in the last 6 months)
  • Agree that Jesus committed sins
  • Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
  • Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
  • Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
  • Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
  • Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
  • Bible engagement scale: low (have not read the Bible in the past week and disagree strongly or somewhat that the Bible is accurate)
  • Not Born Again

  • Some of the wording is decidedly evangelical Protestant - "Born Again," "commitment to Jesus" and "the Bible is accurate," for example - and so it's language devout Catholics might not use, thus the results for cities that are heavily Catholic might be off. Heck, I'm off on a few, and people consider me very religious. But still, the results are revealing, and not surprising.

    Portland-Auburn, Maine, topped the list with a score of 57%.

    Boston, MA-Manchester, NH came in second at  56%. The others in the top 10 are:

    Providence, RI-New Bedford, MA - 53%
    Burlington, VT-Plattsburgh, NY - 53%
    Hartford-New Haven, CT - 52%
    New York, NY - 51%
    San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA - 50%
    Seattle-Tacoma - 50%
    Buffalo, NY - 50% 

    Hey, Buffalo beat us. Given its heavily Catholic population, the number may be slightly off, maybe even enough for us to pass them.

    Philadelphia, PA (11), Tucson-Sierra Vista, AZ (12), and Rochester (13) all tallied a score of 49%.

    Of the top 13, 10 are in New England/Northeast, and two are West Coast. No surprise there.

    When you look at Rochester, the number of colleges and universities likely play a role in helping us to abandon Christianity. We have an active arts/music/theater community as well, and a substantial number of those folks tend to reject traditional religion. As for the religious community, in Rochester there is history of liberalism, heresy, and acceptance of immoral and disordered behavior.

    Still, there are many good people trying to evangelize and turn things around, so I'm optimistic.

    But I will pray for the people of my city - and that my own faith and religious practices might grow and develop.

    Pax et bonum

    Wednesday, July 19, 2017

    Franciscan quotation


    You cannot all abandon your possessions, but at least you can change your attitude about them. All getting separates you form others; all giving unites to others. - St. Francis of Assisi

    Pax et bonum

    Tuesday, July 18, 2017

    Franciscan quotation


    Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do. - Pope St. John XXIII

    Pax et bonum

    Monday, July 17, 2017

    Franciscan quotation


    The best gift anyone can give to a friend is to pray for him.

    - Father Benedict Groeschel


    Pax et bonum

    Sunday, July 16, 2017

    Franciscan quotation


    This morning my soul is greater than the world since it possesses You, You whom heaven and earth do not contain. – St. Margaret of Cortona


    Pax et bonum

    Saturday, July 15, 2017

    Franciscan quotation


    The most deadly poison of our times is indifference, And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers. - St. Maximilian Kolbe

    Pax et bonum

    Friday, July 14, 2017

    Franciscan quotation


    The world would have peace if only men of politics would follow the Gospels. - St. Bridget of Sweden.


    Pax et bonum

    Thursday, July 13, 2017

    Rule of nature reminder trashed


    A recent paper by the U. S. Institute of Physics restating and upholding the Law of Gravity is meeting with charges of unfairness, insensitivity, and being out of touch.

    The paper stated that gravity exists, that all planetary bodies are surrounded by gravitational fields, and that the measurable effects of gravity are affected by mass and acceleration.

    These statements drew immediate criticism.

    "The Pharisees of the physics establishment are trying to impose an outdated law on us," declared Patchouli Dumhuvud, a Rochester, N. Y Reiki master. "We have learned so much about various forms of energy and how to channel them in recent years. And there have been so many advances in technology that also allow us to negate that law We need greater flexibility when if come to gravity."

    Courtney Kruller also said the law is unfair to those who are clumsy or weight challenged.

    "This law discriminates against those who have trouble with gravity," declared Kruller, vice president of the International Crystal Cooperative. "Stating this law in this way is so insensitive to them."

    Albert Newton, spokesperson for the Institute, pointed out that the paper was simply reminding the world of a law that was already in place.

    "There was no desire to create a new law," he explained. "We have all been equally subject to the law of gravity, and all we were doing was reminding people of what's been accepted and true for centuries."

    Such explanations do not sit well with those angered by the paper.

    "We can change our hair color, our noses, or the definition of marriage," Dumhuvud contended. "Why not a law of nature?"

    In response to the report, the Los Angeles-based Anti-Gravity League has begun circulating a petition calling for basing the law and all such laws on either a vote or an opinion poll.

    Pax et bonum

    Franciscan quotation



    Just as the root feeds the tree, so humility feeds the soul. The spirit of humility is sweeter than honey, and whoever is fed by this sweetness produces fruit. – St. Anthony of Padua

    Pax et bonum

    Wednesday, July 12, 2017

    Found poems


    I rediscovered some poems I'd kind of forgotten had gotten published.

    The two topical limericks were printed in City in the July 24-30, 2002, edition:

    The truth about white collar crime
    is offenders will rarely do time.
    They're in bed, you see,
    with the powers that be,
    who'd turn a blind eye for a dime.

    Please don't call them corporate crooks
    because it is not as it looks.
    After working each deal,
    it's hunger they'd feel,
    and that is why they cooked the books.

    Pax et bonum

    Franciscan quotation


    We are developing in the United States a huge underclass of unwanted people, many of they the descendants of the exploitation of the South American and Latin American countries by American piratical capitalism. Not all capitalism is piratical, but some of it certainly is. And we have a fantastic gap beginning to exist between rich and poor.

    - Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR 

    Pax et bonum

    Tuesday, July 11, 2017

    Franciscan quotation


    We must be faithful to the present moment or we will frustrate the plan of God for our lives.

     - Venerable (soon to be Blessed) Solanus Casey, OFM


    Pax et bonum

    Monday, July 10, 2017

    In Honor of E.C. Bentley's Birthday



    Today is the birthday of Edmund Clerihew Bentley (July 10, 1875), who befriended G. K. Chesterton while they were in school, and who invented the verse form that bears his name, the clerihew. (Chesterton illustrated a number of Bentley's clerihews.)

    Here's a clerihew in his honor:

    E. C. Bentley
    evidently
    knew just what to do
    with a clerihew.

    Pax et bonum

    You can quote me


    I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice. - Abraham Lincoln
     


    Pax et bonum

    Franciscan quotation






    Pax et bonum

    Sunday, July 9, 2017

    St. Matthew cinquain



    Matthew
    left his table
    to respond to the call
    to share with all the Lord’s message
    of  love.

    Pax et bonum

    You can quote me


    "In the first centuries of Christianity the hungry were fed at a personal sacrifice, the naked were clothed at a personal sacrifice, the homeless were sheltered at a personal sacrifice... And the pagans used to say about the Christians, "See how they love each other." In our own day the poor are no longer fed, clothed, and sheltered at a personal sacrifice, but at the expense of the taxpayers. And because of this the pagans say about the Christians, 'See how they pass the buck.'"
     
    - Peter Maurin         

    Pax et bonum

    Saturday, July 8, 2017

    You can quote me


    “Don't worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.” - Dorothy Day

    Pax et bonum

    Thursday, July 6, 2017

    Why I quit (part 2)


    Just got the AP scores - I'm still falsely listed as the teacher, even though the principal replaced me two years ago with a teacher whom he contended would do better job (the real reason was he wanted the course as a lure).

    They look - awful.



    The AP Language and Composition Scores (by teacher)

                         Me            "better teacher"
             2014   2015      2016   2017
                               
     Tests - 42         68         58        70

     Score   %        %         %         %   

      5       26.2     26.5      19       15.7      
            
      4         38       32.4      36.2    24.2
      3         31       32.4      32.8    38.6
      2         4.8         8.8     12.1    7.1
      1           0          0          0       4.3


    Failure   4.8       8.8      12.1    21.4 

    The drop in the percentage of 5s (the highest score) from the last year I taught the course to the first year of the supposedly better teacher was 26.5 to 19 - a 28 percent decrease - and from that last year I taught to the score under the "better teacher" this past year the decline was 26.5 to 15.7 -  a 41 percent decrease.

    Overall, the percentage of passing students decreased, and the average test score dropped.

    So ...  clearly a decline in the scores. The class when I taught it was the most successful at the school, and one of the highest scoring in the region. Now, middle of the pack. Better teacher? Really?

    I feel bad for the students.

    Pax et bonum

    Isaac and Abraham (clerihew)



    After that day in Moriah, young Isaac
    developed many a nervous tic,
    and was tempted to run for his life
    whenever Abraham picked up a knife.

    Pax et bonum

    Wednesday, July 5, 2017

    Beardless blasts from the past


    Before I left my old school, I located some old pictures in a yearbook from 1986. I shaved off my beard for the first half of that year - the only time in my adult life (starting when I was 18) when I didn't have a beard - and there were two images of me beardless.


    In the above photo, a fellow teacher (the late, wonderful, Juli Palma) and I dressed up as Herman and Lily Munster for Field Day. One of the day's activities was a Scavenger Hunt that included getting teachers to dress up as television characters. My daughter Clare was with me that day, so we said she was Wednesday visiting from the Addams Family.

    This one is my official faculty picture. We had a couch in the English office, and I stretched out to pose with a book (On Becoming A Novelist).


    And yes, I did work part-time in radio for more than 20 years. Here's the 2003 schedule with me as the Weekend Edition local host. My shift was 6 to noon every Saturday for 21 years. I also did some spot news coverage, and hosting of shows like Morning Edition or All Things Considered during school breaks, and overnight blues and jazz programs on weekends. One summer while the station was looking for a permanent All Things Considered local host three of us rotated hosting duties.

    Ah, memories!

    Pax et bonum

    Tuesday, July 4, 2017

    A Not So "Nice" Post


    I heard someone mention on the radio that the word "nice" originally had some negative meanings.

    That caught my attention.

    "Nice" is one of those words that bug me. It's one of those words that have become so vague in meaning I chastise my students when they use it in essays. I tell them to find a stronger, more descriptive adjective. For example, I tell them to change "She was nice" to something like "She was compassionate" or "She was humble."  Something that really describes the person or thing.

    Meanwhile, there is the whole cult of "nice" in our culture. We seem to think it more important to be nice - i.e. accepting of anything, going along with whatever is popular or easy - than to be good or to stand up for what is right or moral. 

    I decided to look up the word.

    According to the Online Etymology Dictionary:


    late 13c., "foolish, stupid, senseless," from Old French nice (12c.) "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing," from ne- "not" (from PIE root *ne- "not") + stem of scire "to know" (see science). "The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adj." [Weekley] -- from "timid" (pre-1300); to "fussy, fastidious" (late 14c.); to "dainty, delicate" (c. 1400); to "precise, careful" (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to "agreeable, delightful" (1769); to "kind, thoughtful" (1830).

    In many examples from the 16th and 17th centuries it is difficult to say in what particular sense the writer intended it to be taken. [OED]


    So, "nice" originally meant foolish, stupid and senseless? Given how it is sometimes used today, that makes sense. In accepting whatever is wrong for the sake of being "nice," we are indeed being foolish and stupid and senseless. All too often the morality of being "nice" is really often a way to avoid standing up for morality.

    The entry goes on:   

    By 1926, it was pronounced "too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness." [Fowler]

    "I am sure," cried Catherine, "I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?"
    "Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything." [Jane Austen, "Northanger Abbey," 1803]
     

    Ha! Jane Austen was right on target. This is the way my students use "nice." Too broad, too general, ultimately, too meaningless.
     
    We need to sometimes to be disagreeable, to speak out, to challenge, NOT to be just nice.
     
    Then maybe we can really change things in the world that really need to be changed or curtailed in some way.

    Wouldn't that be nice?
     
    Pax et bonum

    Monday, July 3, 2017

    A Weighty Issue


    I've been feeling fat lately. Pictures from yesterday's visit to the Fatima Shrine confirmed that I am.


    The last time I weighed myself - several months ago - I was about 50 pounds overweight. I suspect it's closer to 60 now. Our scale has disappeared, so I can't confirm the weight that way, but the picture above says all I need for now.

    I kid that it's Santa weight. But it's unhealthy weight.

    So, diet and exercise time.

    60 pounds? Maybe - but my goal is to get down into the 190s (I'm 6 foot). I need to get a scale to start monitoring. By summer's end I'd like to be down 10-15 pounds.

    To do this, I'm going to cut out the snacking, especially at night. I'm going to cut down portions. I'm going to cut down on sweets and beer. I'm going to get more exercise, including bike riding (rode to Mass this morning).

    The good thing is that I have some clothes that might actually start to fit me again.

    Pax et bonum

    Friday, June 30, 2017

    Contraception and the decay of sexual morality


    Look at the decay of sexual morality today - and the government seeking to impose its will on people in sexual maters (think of some birth control mandates, forcing people to take part in activities they find immoral, and so on).

    Contraception separates the sexual act from creating life, and in the process distorts our understanding of sexuality, relationships, and more. It leads to a devaluing of women and marriage, creates an accepting atmosphere for abortion, encourages homosexuality, and so on. 

    Pope Paul VI predicted all this in Humanae Vitae:

    17. Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based, if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to understand that men -- especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point -- have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.

    Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.

    Consequently, if the mission of generating life is not to be exposed to the arbitrary will of men, one must necessarily recognize insurmountable limits to the possibility of man's domination over his own body and its functions; limits which no man, whether a private individual or one invested with authority, may licitly surpass. And such limits cannot be determined otherwise than by the respect due to the integrity of the human organism and its functions, according to the principles recalled earlier, and also according to the correct understanding of the "principle of totality" illustrated by our predecessor Pope Pius XII.21

    Pax et bonum

    Thursday, June 29, 2017

    Teach your children


    There's an old Crosby, Still, Nash song "Teach Your Children." I've even performed it in coffee houses.

    I thought of the song as I was talking with a friend about our children.

    Our children are good people, but they don't go to church, or have if they do go to church have opted to go to non-Catholic churches (none of mine attend church at all). I've had similar conversations with members of my band, and fellow Franciscans.

    I see studies that indicate we are not alone. So many of the Millennials are not involved with church or organized religion in any way.

    I pray for my children every day, keeping St. Monica in mind. I hope that they will finally respond to God's call. Maybe down the road.

    I also wonder what I did - or failed to do. I know some families who were really devout and whose children are practicing Catholics. If I had done differently, if I had taught my children well, would they be practicing Catholics? I don't know.

    My prayers include ones for forgiveness. In feel in some ways I failed.

    For now, I just look at them and sigh.

    And put them in God's hands.

    Pax et bonum

    Monday, June 26, 2017

    Reading for the New Job


    Now that I've been hired at St. John Bosco School, I have a whole new curriculum to teach. That means lots of reading to get ready.

    The first book was one given me by the principal about the educational ideas of St. John Bosco - the "preventive system." I just finished the book: Keys to the Hearts of Youth by Father Paul P. Avallone, SDB.

    Many of the ideas are ones that I've tried to follow anyway, with a focus on Reason, Religion, and Kindness.

    Next up, a look at the writing method used at the school. Then into the literature.

    The school is low tech - so no service pros for the students, no Google Classroom, no smart boards, no internet. The teachers will have tablets - which are to stay at the school - and grades will be recorded online.

    The school is also not rich, so resources will be limited.

    The previous teacher did not leave behind a curriculum map, so I'll have to go by the master curriculum, and design it as I go along.

    Challenging, but exciting.

    And the religious environment, starting the day with prayers, or a Mass, or lectio divina, or morning prayers will be wonderful.

    Pax et bonum

    Sunday, June 25, 2017

    Charles Darwin Clerihew



    When he was young, Charles Darwin
    tried the dating game, but couldn’t win.
    The main cause for the ladies’ rejection
    Was he didn’t seem a natural selection.

    Pax et bonum

    Wednesday, June 21, 2017

    Why I Quit


    As noted before, I quit my teaching job at a prestigious Catholic school - but one that has strayed from its roots and one where some questionable decisions have been made.

    I had my exit interview yesterday. As part of that interview, I submitted the following (though in this version I have taken out the names):

    There are a number of reasons why I realized I could not comfortably continue working at XXX. Here are some of them:

    There is an element of dishonesty with the AP English Language and Composition course.

    I created the AP Language course. I was trained for the course, wrote the lengthy audit that led to it being recognized by the College Board as an approved AP class, and taught it for three years, two as an official AP class. That approval involved me teaching the course basically according to the syllabus that was part of the audit, though it allowed for some flexibility in curriculum and for other teachers to teach sections of it that I was not teaching as long as they followed the approved syllabus/audit.

    In 2015 Mr. Q decided that another teacher would teach all sections of the course. Since that involved me no longer teaching the course and the new teacher was not teaching it with me that seemed to violate one criteria for it being an approved AP course. The new teacher also changed the course, raising doubts about whether it followed the audit.

    I notified the AP supervisor at the time (Mr. S) that the new teacher would likely have to file a new audit for it to remain an approved course. He assured me that things would be taken care of.

    I later received the XXX scores for the 2016 test; they were registered and reported under my name, indicating that there had been no change.

    In January 2017, I received notice from the College Board that the new AP coordinator at XXX, Mrs. W, had renewed the authorization for the course under my name, even though I had not taught the course since 2015, and the course was somewhat different from the course for which I had originally received approval.

    I immediately wrote to Mrs. W voicing my concerns (“the course was renewed under my name and by my curriculum, but I no longer teach the course, and it no longer follows the audited curriculum AP approved, so is this valid? / I also don’t feel comfortable having my name on a course I don’t teach as if I do – it seems dishonest to me.”) That seeming dishonesty extends both to the College Board implying that I am still teaching the course and to the students and their families who believe that are taking an approved AP class, while it may in fact no longer be so. 

    The last time I checked, the course was still listed under my name.

    This poses potential problems for the school and the students. As the renewal letter states: Admissions officers use the AP Course Audit results to determine the extent to which students avail themselves of rigorous course work. It is in your students' best interest that courses designated AP on your school transcripts have been renewed through the AP Course Audit process for each academic year in which they are offered. An inaccurate AP Course Ledger could negatively impact your students in the college admissions process. As a result, if you are no longer teaching at this school, are not teaching English Language and Composition during the 2016-17 school year, or otherwise believe this renewal was done in error, please ask your school administrator to update the renewal status of your course.

    A similar potential issue arises with the AP English Literature and Composition course, which was approved under one teacher who is no longer at the school, and has had several different teachers since. I don’t know if this problem extends to other AP courses in other departments.

    As for me, I did not want to be party to any kind of potential deception.

    Course assignments seemed questionable.

    As noted before, I created the AP Language and Composition course. It was successful, with students scoring some of the highest AP scores at XXX, and well above the national average.

    At the end of the 2014/15 school year we were informed what courses we were teaching the following year. There had been no discussion prior to this, as had been done in previous years when we could say what courses we wanted to teach and were part of the decision-making process.

    I learned what I was not going to teach any of the AP Language and Composition sections, that a new teacher who had just been allegedly recruited and hired was taking it over entirely.

    When I contacted Mr. Q to find out why, he left a message saying simply that choices were made based on the new teacher’s gifts and mine.

    I later was told by several people that in order to get this new teacher to come to XXX she had allegedly been promised the AP Class, and that after a year she would become the department chair (even though another teacher had just been appointed chair). Indeed, the new teacher, fully aware of what she had allegedly been promised, remained silent for much of that first year, thus her appointment as chair came as a complete surprise to the people involved. This created a climate of distrust in the department, and morale plummeted.

    As noted, the course was still deceptively listed under my name, and so I got the test results the first year this other teacher taught the course. The average score dropped, the percentage of student passing dropped, and the most pronounced decline was in the percentage of students earning 5s, the highest possible score. My last two years of teaching the class 26.2%, then 26.5% of the students earned 5s (nearly triple the national average) while under the new teacher 19% earned 5s – a 28%  decrease.

    When these results were later brought to Mr. Q’s attention he said the reason I was no longer teaching the course was that I had been slow to return one set of papers to the students the last year I taught AP. I acknowledged that I had been slow returning them, but noted that I had had reasons for doing so. (Whether they were good reasons is certainly subject to discussion.) Moreover, the students had had multiple sets of papers – amounting to more than 400 3-5 page AP essays and more than a 1,000 2-page AP analysis assignments - that they had gotten back in a timely fashion. That did not sway him, but then it was likely too late to address the situation. However, it does raise questions: If it was perceived that I was having a problem at the time, why was I not given a chance at the time to explain, or given advice and support? And why were all the sections of the course taken away without warning given my earlier success? 

    A similar situation developed this year. Another new teacher was allegedly recruited and hired – with an air of secrecy. For example, the day this teacher was being interviewed I came down the hall and this teacher and Mr. Q came out of the English office talking about the department. Though the natural thing to do would have been to introduce us, Mr. Q simply ignored me. This immediately roused my suspicion, and indeed we learned shortly thereafter that the new teacher had indeed been hired. At that point, there were no openings in the department that we were aware of, so we were left with the impression that one of us was going to be let go to make room for this teacher. Another teacher suddenly left mid-semester, ending that concern. But then when assignments came out – again without discussion or teacher input – we learned this new teacher was taking over the AP English Literature and Composition course. The teacher who had been teaching that course is a gifted individual whose students had scored exceedingly well on the AP examination. But she was told that she was perceived as a challenging teacher – which an AP teacher is supposed to be - and not “personable” enough, so some students opted not to sign up for the course. The new teacher would attract students, it was allegedly claimed, which would make this course one that could help with recruiting and promoting the school. Thus the impression was that marketing took priority over academic rigor. (As a side note, this new teacher was also given the creative writing class that I had been teaching, even though I am an award-winning journalist, a published poet, a playwright whose works had been performed locally – including by GEVA – and had helped a number of students get published.)

    The secretive way this second teacher was hired, the way courses were assigned, the seeming deception with the AP classes, the lack of trust and the declining morale in the department were the main reasons I decided I could not return.

    There were additional reasons.

    I did not receive timely feedback from teacher observations.

    Each year teachers are required to be observed by an administrator, and to be given an observation report to help point out strengths and areas that could be improved. Mr. Q and Mr. S both did so in timely fashions. Mrs. W, however, has developed a reputation for not providing such reports in a timely fashion, as was the case with me.

    She observed me twice. The first time, several years ago, I got the observation report six months after the observation – ironic considering that a delay with one set of papers had allegedly led to my losing the AP Language classes. That report was so vague and general it was difficult to tell that it was about the class she observed.

    The second observation took place late in the past school year. I never received a report.

    The schedule changes cut down on actual teaching time, making it increasingly difficult to cover curriculums and to keep continuity in classes.

    The school shifted to an eight-day schedule that involved meeting with each section six out of the eight days. The class length was extended supposedly to provide comparable teaching time. This was not the case – the schedule actually resulted in less teaching time. Further, advisement periods were added, then an activity period, then there were multiple assemblies or days dedicated to other activities, further reducing class time. As a result, teachers have had to eliminate material from their curriculums, or to give short shrift to other topics/lessons.

    Further, the fact that classes did not meet every day disrupted continuity. This became even more pronounced when days off due to other activities, weather issues, or holidays intruded. For example, last November, I was not able to meet with one class for a week and a half due to the schedule, the Gala, a day off due to weather, and then Thanksgiving. The class was completely out of synch.

    I and other teachers found this frustrating – and even the students voiced confusion and frustration.

    Grading policies changed.

    School officials decided to change aspects of the grading policy. Minimum grades were instituted, meaning that students did not receive accurate assessments. Indeed, some students learned that the system allowed them to slack off at times and not be afraid of failing. A new letter system is being instituted, even though many faculty members did not see the need. The feeling was that this was what the administration wanted, and objections were ignored or downplayed.

    Each year seemed to have a different priority, making it difficult to know what was expected.

    Every year there seemed to be a different focus, or document to create, or book to read. Some of them followed each other, but others seemed unconnected – often with some kind of tacked-on connection late in the process. This made it difficult to decide what really was a priority – indeed, staff began to complain about receiving too much too fast. I know of one teacher who left rather than have to deal with more of this. Moreover, these foci dominated our summer work and our department meetings – often making it difficult to get department work done.

    There was a growing sense that we were going though these efforts for the sake of going through the motions, and not with any clear goal in mind. That may not have been in the case, but was the sense.

    The current strategic planning process has just seemed more of the same, raising fears about the future of the school and its ability to provide a quality education.

    Overall, this led to confusion, frustration, and increasing cynicism.

    Faculty input about changes was often perceived as manipulated.

    The works we read guided some of the academic changes being made at the school. In addition, the schedule was changed several times, as were grade reporting procedures and programs, and more.

    There was a clear sense that the works were chosen to direct the discussion in a pre-ordained direction. In addition, faculty was frequently surveyed, but the survey choices were often limited or worded in such a way that the results seemed directed, and hence were questionable.

    Further, a number of faculty members did not trust the surveys, believing that their individual responses would be checked. In some cases, they responded with what seemed safe. In some other cases, they did not respond at all for fear of their actual thoughts being known. This tracking may not have been the case, but the perception that it might be revealed the lack of trust at the school.

    Meanwhile, this skewed the results.

    Yet the results were reported as if the faculty had reached consensus. What the results really were was a consensus on the limited choices they were given, not on the decision as a whole.

    This led to further frustration.

    There is a climate of fear at the school.

    Teachers had a sense that they had to go along with what was the perceived direction administration wanted, or face consequences.  This was as a result in part of the fact that contracts were year to year, thus each year there was uncertainty about whether one had a position or not. In addition, there was the perception that those who had incurred disfavor in some way lost favorite assignments, which were given to those who had favored status. Again, this may not have been the actual case, but it certainly was the perception and this often shaped or limited teacher responses.

    The effect was that some teachers felt trapped, afraid to say what they really thought.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………….

    There are other reasons why I am leaving – including concerns about the school moving away from its Catholic roots, the seeming obsession with fundraising and marketing, the watering down of the curriculum, and so on. It just became apparent that as much as I loved the students and enjoyed working with many of the faculty members, I could no longer continue at the school.

    Pax et bonum

    Monday, June 19, 2017

    Some of the real Wonder Women


    The new Wonder Woman movies is out. I haven't seen it yet, but I've heard some positive things from people about it.

    Of course, she is a fictional character. There are real Wonder Women in the history of the Church. Here are a few.

     

    Mother Teresa


    St. Clare of Assisi


    St. Teresa of Avila


    St. Hildegard of Bingen


    St. Joan of Arc


    The Blessed Mother


    St. Therese of Liseux


    Dorothy Day



    St. Catherine of Siena

    Pax et bonum

    Sunday, June 18, 2017

    Father's Day

     
     
                                                              
                                                              Father's Day -
                                                              the coolness
                                                              of his headstone
     


    Pax et bonum

    Friday, June 16, 2017

    Passing on the Parish Council


    A couple of months back, members of the Parish Council at my parish spoke at weekend Masses trying to recruit new members. In our parish, instead of an actual election or even a put-all-the-nominees'-names-in-a-bowl-and-pick-the-required-number-of-members method used at a lot of parishes, if you show up you are a member.

    I went over to one of the members I knew, asked a couple of questions and shared a couple of jokes. He asked if I was interested, and I said I'd think about it. My wife later said I should really consider it, and that she could see me on the Council.

    A couple of weeks ago the head of the Parish Council left a message on my phone and invited me to the June meeting as a new member, or at least to check things out. I didn't even get a chance to return his call - he came up to me at the end of Mass after my music group played and asked me to come to the next meeting.

    Feeling trapped, I said I'd attend the June meeting. I did so earlier this week.

    I was one of four new/potential members. The rest of the people were the people I'd expected - the very active members of the parish. The kind of good, solid people every parish relies on.

    I listened to the issues being discussed. I also got to meet the new pastor who will be joining us at the end of June. That was nice.

    I did not commit when asked. But when I went home I told my wife I would not be joining.

    Why?

    As I mentioned, the people were all the active members in the parish - every program, every fund-raiser, every social activity, these were the people who ran things and volunteered and did the work. And at the Council meeting it was indeed clear it was expected that the members were to be active in as much as possible - from the parish picnic to the new adult formation program to overseeing the parish newsletter - and to promote everything. That message came through again and again.

    It's pretty obvious that they were seeking new members because they need more hands and new blood.

    But I don't participate in all those activities and events. I'm not a picnic person. I don't go to all the dinners and card and wine-tasting nights. I can't even be part of the adult formation program because it's scheduled for a night I work. It would be hypocritical for me to promote activities and programs in which I don't participate.

    Plus, with a new job, being on the the Board of The Margaret Home as we attempt to get that program off the ground, my Franciscan obligations (including being a member of the Fraternity Council), Santa duties in November/December, and the Rock of Faith band, I'm already committed to a lot.

    Further, the discussion involved a lot of dithering and repeating - many of the members are older, some are hard of hearing, some are not native English speakers, and some got lost as issues were discussed. I know me: I don't have the patience for that.

    So I'll let them know that I was honored to be invited, but this is not for me.

    Pax et bonum

    Thursday, June 15, 2017

    Rock of Faith - 2017 edition



    The most recent edition of my band, Rock of Faith, in 2017. So many talented people!

    Pax et bonum

    Gilbert comes through again (clerihews)


    I just got the latest issue of Gilbert. Much to my delight, the Clerihew Corner features poems just by me.

    Here's the poems that got in:

    Dr. Mary Gatter
    treated it as a laughing matter,
    but sell enough baby parts, even that teenie,
    and you just might afford a Lamborghini.

    A somber Marquis de Sade
    said with a knowing nod,
    "The wickedness of all my work fades
    before that woman's 50 Shades.”

    One of the aims of ISIS
    is eradicating Western sins and vices,
    except, of course, for a select few
    that they themselves like to do.

    When he was young St. Polycarp
    religiously practiced the harp.
    When a musical career proved a non-starter
    he instead became a martyr.

    When Alexander Pope
    slipped on a bar of soap
    the couplet he muttered was neither stoic
    nor heroic.

    Steven Wright
    Is right:
    Boycott shampoo,
    demand the real poo.


    That makes 8 clerihews in the last three issues - after a five and half year gap!

    Pax et bonum

    Sunday, June 11, 2017

    I quit


    Yes, I quit.

    I met with the principal of my school to sign a new contract, and I stopped him and told him that I was not returning.

    You should have seen the look on his face.

    I have another position lined up - at a real Catholic school - but I didn't tell him that. Instead I talked about some of the reasons why I was leaving.

    Sadly, we didn't get to cover them all. Among the concerns I didn't get to cover was the fact that this supposedly Catholic school was drifting further and further away from defending Catholic teachings. (Don't mention them: Don't want to offend parents shelling out big bucks.)

    So it goes.

    The school I'm going to has daily prayers, weekly Mass for students, and opportunities for daily Masses for the faculty. Some teachers say rosaries with students. Lessons include Catholic books and discussion of saints.

    And I don't have to be worried about offending people by discussing Catholic teachings.

    Further, the education is classical - not ruled by Google and computers.

    This week after I file my grades I will just be packing up. Lots of books that I used to enhance my lessons.

    Alleluia! Thanks you Lord.

    Pax et bonum

    Monday, June 5, 2017

    Fake News At CNN?


    I saw reports accusing a CNN news crew of faking a protest by Muslims against the terrorist attack on London Bridge. At least the video circulating on social media seems to show them arranging and posing the protesters – but I don’t know the full context and what happened before or after, so I can’t say what really happened.

    I was reminded, though, of a time when I was involved with a fake newscast of sorts.
     
    It was 17 years ago. I was a reporter for a newspaper, and one of my beats was local politics. Some folks involved with the county legislature were holding a press conference on some issue, and I and number of other print, radio and television reporters showed up at the appointed time and asked enough questions so we could all go back to our respective news outlets and create reports.

    The press conference had ended and I was lingering to talk with one of the interviewees I knew when a cameraman from a local television station came rushing in. The station had a reputation for being frugal (to be polite) so they had only a few news cameras, and often sent cameramen out without reporters just to film something so they could say they covered the event, often, as in this case, arriving late.

    The cameraman looked crestfallen, realizing he had gotten there way too late to get any film. The interviewee said he would be willing to answer some questions, but the cameraman admitted that he only had the press release and really knew nothing about the issue at hand. They had just sent him out to film answers to other people’s questions.

    I looked at the interviewee, who looked back at me, then I turned to the cameraman and said, “I can ask a couple of questions so you can get something.”

    He looked relieved.

    So I sat off camera and asked a couple of the questions I’d asked earlier, the interviewee sat at the table as if he was still doing the press conference (we even put my mike on the table in front of him along with a couple of other mikes to make it look real), and the cameraman filmed the responses.

    That night, I turned on the station’s newscast. When the press conference report came on, an on-air personality (i.e. good-looking reporter) who had not been at the press conference asked one of the questions I’d asked as if he’d been there asking it, and then the report showed footage of the interviewee answering (my) question.

    The on-air personality looked good (of course). The cameraman got his shot. The interviewee got coverage.

    I chuckled then at the little deception.

    Now, I just shrug and wonder what conversations are going on at CNN.

    Pax et bonum

    Sunday, June 4, 2017

    A Scifi Cinquain



    He longed
    to kiss her lips
    but was uncertain which

    pair of her lips it would be safe
    to kiss.


    Pax et bonum

    Saturday, June 3, 2017

    A Prayer for The Margaret Home



    St. Margaret of Cortona, you gave yourself to the crucified Christ in thanksgiving for his love and mercy. We ask for your prayers for this home which bears your name, that it may be a refuge for those in need and a sign of Christ's love and mercy and a sanctuary where your children are welcomed and protected. O glorious St. Margaret, present this request to your crucified Lord and ours. May your example guide us, and your support protect us. ... Be our companion, we beg you, until we reach our Father's house. Amen.

    Our Lady, Seat of Wisdon, Pray for us.
    St. Margaret of Cortona, pray for us.

    Pax et bonum