On Teachers and Hard Work

July 9, 2013

Writing around these parts has been sporadic because of my new venture into the world of baseball analysis.  In a way it’s been nice to explore writing in a more analytic fashion (most of the time).

Still, every now-and-then I build up enough information in my mental filing cabinets and feel like I need to organize it.  From this concept, Ramble On was born.

But I digress. (As I often do.)

The other week before school let out I was talking to some of my colleagues about who their greatest educational influences were as students.  Some had mentioned teachers that showed compassion.  Some mentioned teachers that were strict and consistent.  Some mentioned teachers that made them think differently about something for the first time.  When I was posed the same question, however, I had to stop and think.

I was provided a quality education in rural Northwestern Pennsylvania; I truly believe that.  From kindergarten to undergrad, I’ve interacted with some of the most influential people in my life, let alone my learning process.  In some instances I took full advantage of the education that was being provided to me, but other times I didn’t.  So as I was pondering that heavy question, I wondered what made the excellent teachers stand out.  Why did I work extra hard for some teachers, but not for others?

And then I thought about my own teaching style and the students that seem to take away the most from me as an educator.  When I put together my educational career as a student with my teaching career, I suddenly felt like I painted a very clear portrait of the people who influenced me as a student.  I learned the most and gave the most to the educators who connected to me through language.  To this day, I still enjoy nothing more than sitting in a lecture or meeting and hearing someone say something profound enough to catch my attention.  That’s what I crave in conversation as well.

Say something smart enough or clever enough or different enough to pique my interest.  Make me interested in you and what you have to say and that’s when I’ll thrive as a student.

To this day, there are still things that I vividly remember teachers saying that have remained with me since elementary school.

My earliest such memory was in third grade.  Students were ability grouped for reading so that all of the high-achieving readers were in one class, the on pace readers were in another, and the below grade level readers in another.  I’m not, and never have been, a naturally brilliant person, so I found myself in the middle group of readers.  While it was never explicitly stated, in third grade it didn’t take more than a few days to figure the system out.  So there I sat in Mrs. Brown’s classroom reading ‘The Boxcar Children’ while the students in Mr. Seger’s class were tackling Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House’ series.

I remember writing a summary of ‘The Boxcar Children’ and at the end, to close my summary, writing, ‘But I bet it’s not as good as “Little House on the Prarie.”‘

Eventually my passive-aggressive attempts to try and get myself moved up to the top reading group turned into flat out asking if I could change classes for reading.  After a few times pestering Mrs. Brown, I was eventually allowed to go to Mr. Seger’s class where I sat down with the man himself and read from the ‘Little House’ book they were reading in class.  It was the first real job interview or audition I had for anything.  As I walked into the room, I felt just as nervous as I did before a Little League baseball game.  The butterflies were fluttering as I sat down at the tiny rectangular table in the corner of his room and stared at ‘The Little House on the Prarie’.

At that instant, the book looked gargantuan.  Those butterflies turned into a sense of panic as I thumbed to the page he requested.

I remember struggling through reading the few pages that I was asked to read.  Not terribly, but enough that I knew, as a third grader, that I didn’t sound impressive as a reader.  I suddenly felt like that classroom was out of my league.  When I closed the book at the end, I was nearly in tears.  Mr. Seger looked right at me and asked me how I thought I did.  To save face I sheepishly said I thought I did okay.  Then he told me something that, to this day, nearly 22 years later, I still appreciate as a thirty year old man.

He said he knew the books they were reading in his class were going to be challenging for me.  But he told me if I was willing to work hard, try my best, and get all of my assignments finished, he would add me to his reading class.

To this day, whenever I feel like I’m up against someone or something, even if they seem like the best of the best, I recall that moment with Mr. Seger when I may have been in a bit over my head.  I remember the hard work that I put in to earn my spot in his classroom.  It was the first time I enjoyed reading after school at home because I felt like I had a purpose.  All because of a simple conversation; a simple lesson.  Mr. Seger taught me that hard work could pay off.


On Kent Hovind

July 31, 2010

I’m not exactly sure when I first remember hearing about this whack job, but it was within the span of a few years ago. The first thing I remember hearing about this guy is that he tried to claim bankruptcy, didn’t file his tax returns properly, and stated that his motivation for claiming that he wasn’t a United States Citizen and had no income or possessions was because everything he owned belonged to God.

That’s a little glimpse into the mental capacity of the man known as Kent Hovind.

Typically (sadly) this wouldn’t strike me as anything more crazy than I’d hear on an average day on the news. However, what captured my attention and I found particularly agitating was the fact that this man had his PhD. “Why does this bother you so?” you might ask. Well, it’s because someday I’d like to have my PhD (or at least my EdD), and this ass-clown is really devaluing the worth of a doctorate.

I’m sure by now you’re wondering how this one person could single-handedly destroy the value of the most prestigious academic achievement mankind has to offer. In order to better understand this, let’s dig a little bit deeper into the life of this big, dumb man-child and see what comes about. **Brace yourselves for large bouts of laughter, followed by immediate feelings of nausea and remorse, please.**

“Dr.” Kent Hovind completed his bachelor of religious education degree at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in 1974. He was awarded his Master’s degree in 1988 from Patriot University in Colorado Springs. By 1989 he founded the Creation Science Evangelism Ministry and by 1991 had earned a “doctorate” in Christian Education from Patriot University as well. Now the problem with all of these degrees that Kent was earning was that Patriot University was (and is still) a non-accredited university (accreditation is an award given to universities that prove the quality of their education through all kinds of different, rigorous measures. My alma mater is NCATE accredited, for example). It may be misleading if you go to their website, however, because they claim that they’re accredited, just not by the ‘government.’  It’s accredited by God.  Unfortunately for the graduates from Hillbilly U., God’s signature of accreditation is worth about as much as accreditation from Santa Claus.

Now, onto some other points of interest in Hovi’s life. Don’t worry, we’ll get back to his academic credentials in a hot minute.

For now though, let’s move onto another facet. A little place I like to call…

Dinosaurs! Adventures! All in the comfort of this creepy guy's backyard!

Kent is also the creator of Dinosaur Adventure Land (DAL), a theme park based on creationism located behind his house in Pensacola, Florida. Yes, he’s serious. Read a little bit about Dinosaur Adventure Land here and try not to pee your pants as you giggle. Learn about dinosaurs, principles of science, and even how to make a paper airplane that can fly over 300 feet! Wow! I’m really excited about the paper airplane! I hope the Tyrannosaurus Rex teaches me how to make it! How this swindler made enough money to build a theme park in his backyard is well beyond me. Parents, this is precisely why you don’t tell your kids growing up that they can do anything. Because some of them may actually try.  And then be successful.

If you’ve already booked your flight to Florida to visit Dinosaur Adventure Land, however, you may want to check and see if you can get some vouchers for those tickets; DAL is closed indefinitely due to Kent’s federal tax evasion charges. Oh, and also because he didn’t obtain a building permit from the city of Pensacola before he built an amusement park in his backyard. There were 58 tax-related charges levied against him before he decided that he needed to try and save DAL for the children by deeding his theme park to his brother, Eric Hovind, and his equally zany partner in crime, Glen Stoll. Unfortunately, that’s illegal and is considered tax evasion. You don’t get points for trying and all you probably did was piss the federal government off more. They just want to seize your assets, Kent. And The Man gets what The Man wants.

Now, all of this wackiness isn’t really even what irks me the most about the guy; the federal charges, using God as an excuse as to why he didn’t file his taxes, the zany theme park he built for himself in his backyard (that does kind of bug me, actually. What a waste of money). What does bother me, however, is that this man refers to himself as “Dr. Hovind”, or, on his crazy-ass website, as “Dr. Dino”.  I’d like to preface what I’m about to show you with just how hard earning a PhD should be.

In a nutshell, on top of the coursework required by the university you attend, in order to obtain a PhD you have to create an original piece of academic research. Along the way you submit pieces of this research to publications so that, basically, everyone can bash it and you can see how well it holds up to the criticism of other professionals in the field. The peer review process is absolutely brutal, but necessary, to ensure the legitimacy of the research. After years of research, writing, rewriting, repeating, you submit your final thesis to be reviewed by a counsel that determines whether its an original, acceptable body of research or not.

I’ve seen this process bring some of the smartest, motivated people I’ve ever met to their metaphorical knees. But in the end, the collection of work submitted is (or should be) immense, compelling, and influential.

My interest was piqued about this crazy bastard and what kind of crazy, genius sociopath he was. I imagined this guy to be like a comic book super-villain.  Lex Luthor holding all of Metropolis hostage.  Simply diabolical.  How else could he get away with the shit that he got away with for so long if he wasn’t a super genius?

After reading his dissertation, I will tell you how:

People are dumb.

I tried to read Hovind’s work, but it’s like a dammed Shakespearean tragedy.  I laughed.  I cried.  Eventually I just wanted to give up and read the cliff notes.  If you’d like, you can check out his dissertation right here.   Whatever wacky tribunal decided that this nutcase contributed anything of value to the world of academia should, in the words of my favorite cat Garfield, be drug out into the street and shot.

If you’re not feeling overly ambitious about reading some terribly written bullshit, let me give you the abridged version.  “Dr.” Hovind’s doctoral dissertation begins as follows:

Hello, my name is Kent Hovind. I am a creation/science evangelist. I live in Pensacola, Florida. I have been a high school science teacher since 1976.

Holy shit.  I feel like he just introduced himself at a speed dating convention.  After suffering through minutes of that man’s work, I value his doctoral status less than Dr. Seuss, Dr. Dre, and Dr. Pepper. All of whom I think are more qualified to lecture to anyone about anything more than Kent Hovind. At least Doctors Seuss and Dre are fun to listen to. Hovind writes like a dammed fourth grader.

Another favorite:

I will be quick to point out that “there is nothing new under the sun” Most of my ideas are the result of the input of hundreds of Godly men and women through the years.

God dammit.  I may retch on myself.

I’m glad you’re admittedly writing your dissertation about nothing new, you moron.  That should really help advance the field of whatever the hell it is you’re rambling on about, page after pointless page.

Hovind is a charlatan of the worst caliber.  A stupid one.  A man trying to sell ketchup popsicles to as many ladies wearing white gloves as he can.  And then he has a stash of white gloves waiting in the wings.  And the ladies can see them.  But they still buy the popsicles anyways.  I would probably be a little less frightened if I thought this lunatic didn’t actually believe in the shit that he does, but I have a sneaky suspicion that he thinks the Earth is only 4,000 years old and that Jesus rode on dinosaurs while he was helping the blind to see again.

Yep.  He’s definitely one of those guys.  One of my favorite parts in that video has to be when he references a leviathan.

“Now what on earth is a leviathan?” he asks.

Hopefully you’re not wondering the same thing, because he doesn’t know either.  Instead, Hovind answers his own question by farting the following out of his mouth:

“I think leviathan is probably Tyrannosaurus Rex.  I don’t know.  I can’t prove this.  But I’ve read it many times and it seems to fit and it may or may not be right, but I’m preaching tonight so for tonight it’s Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

He does, however, digress into some interesting facts about T-Rexes though.  And I do have to admit, they sound pretty awesome.  In fact, from now on, let’s just call dinosaurs ‘leviathans’ instead!  Then, I’ll go catch a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and sleep with my 75 virgins waiting for me after I save the Easter Bunny from the deadly clutches of Frankenstein’s monster.

Of course I can’t prove any of that is actually possible.

Thanks for diluting the field, Kent.  After listening to his pointless story about how his mom drug him behind their vehicle on his bike using a rope, I understand the shallow gene pool his family swims in.

I hope you enjoy prison, you ignorant slut.

Union City Lip Dub

February 27, 2010

Straight up gangsta.

This is a pretty neat contest that All-Star teacher Mr. Hale introduced me to this evening.  His school, Union City High School, has entered into, as I understand it, a video Lip Dub contest on YouTube.  It’s a pretty neat social experiment, even if it’s not a contest.  Go to YouTube and type in ‘lip dub’ and check out all of the results.  If it’s in true lip dub form, the video should be lip-syncing a song with a group of people all in one shot. If you’re not impressed by the quality of these videos, you’ve clearly never tried to shoot a video for an extended period of time all in one shot.  Anyways, check out the video below and some of the other videos as well.  They’re pretty sweet.

Late night television and my sincerest apologies

January 21, 2010

First of all, I feel terrible that I’ve missed out on an opportunity to jump into the middle of the Late Night Wars over at NBC while the jumping was good. My loyalties rest with Conan (AKA – Conebone69), and as such, I side more with the party that agrees Jay Leno is a giant douche than I do with the side that says NBC made the right decision. That’s a debate, however, that I don’t have time to enter at this moment because (what a perfect lead into my next segment of this post)…

I’m back in school!

So I have no time to do things like blog here. Since my graduate program is 100% online, I have to blog on my professor’s web page with other students about educational things. I am extremely saddened by this and will try and keep up with my constant readers the best that I can (I’ll still need some creative writing time to get me through the weeks), but mostly my posts from here on out will pertain to educational leadership and all the fun topics that entails. I’m also assuming once I start coaching baseball, some of my friends and family may think I’m dead. Please inform them that I’m alive and well in Townville, Pennsylvania.

So, constant readers, I bid you adieu for now and leave you with this: my parting thoughts on Leno v. O’Brien.