Friday, September 21, 2007

Straight outta Compton

I haven't written anything on this blog in a long time. Wait, let me see that better: I haven't written anything in a long time. I feel like the teaching is taking away some of my mental acumen. I do like my kids, but some of the cultural things are sooo hard to overcome. For instance: it has always been the case, even when teaching, that I need between 33 and 74 apologies per day. I just say things that are wrong or come out wrong or are heard wrong. In many places this is no big deal. But for most of the students I teach, a lot of their identity is wrapped up in not letting anyone say something to them or do something to them to hurt their image. So if they even think that I've done something to insult them, it is really hard to come back. Really hard.

Another thing that seems cultural: understanding what types of questions are appropriate to ask a teacher in class and what types are not. All students everywhere push the boundaries, but a lot of these students haven't learned what those boundaries are supposed to be. Hear me well on this: when I say "cultural" I'm not referring to race or ethnicity, rather the city/street culture that exists in south central LA. As I've said, I really like my students, but being raised in multiple rural towns in Oregon – as much as I don't like to admit that Roseburg is rural – and going to college at Wheaton didn't exactly prepare me to interact daily with kids from Compton.

Because of some of the differences, and because I'm getting walked all over, I'm instituting some new rules and procedures next week. I hate doing it, but it really does have to be done. I also realized that I need to put more effort into my lessons. My professors at Oregon espoused the belief that 99% of class management can be taken care of by having engaging lessons, and I still believe that's true. So it feels a bit like a cop-out to be planning to put in more rules instead of just making sure that my class sessions are engaging for all students. The problem is that so many students are keeping class sessions from happening the way they should that I can't tell yet how engaging my lessons are. And that's why I have to give in and start focusing on classroom management techniques for a little while. I give a hearty "boo" to that, but it's happening nonetheless.

One thing that is always enjoyable is answering questions about the Blazers poster/pennant/figurine in my room. A lot of the students think that Portland is just terrible, and they always have been. It's funny for me to hear that perspective, so I've been sharing with them about the 1977 team and the teams from the early '90s with Clyde and the gang. The figurine I have on my desk is actually Drexler, and I won it last year in the Blazer's Edge contest by scoring exactly 22 in my picks for one of the games. (Thanks Dave.) Most of the students don't really care, with just a few mentioning how good Kobe is or something like that. But a girl in my first period class mentioned the other day how excited she was for training camp to start soon. I couldn't even be mad she meant Lakers training camp, because it was so nice to have someone in the room sharing my excitement for the imminent NBA season.

And I really can't wait for the season. I mentioned this to a few friends already, but after overcoming my grief about Oden's surgery, I'm even more excited about what the Blazers might do this year than I was before. On Mike Barrett's blog today he posted the interviews he did with various players and members of the management last night at the organization's annual company picnic. Listening to all the things the various interviewees had to say made me giddy. James Jones said some things about how talented this team is and how unselfish they are as a group. This from a guy who played in Phoenix with Steve Nash for a few years. Jones knows unselfish, and he knows talent. Sure, his opinion is biased toward his new teammates, but he didn't have to say something so glowing. Players put things in less glowing terms quite often. To hear LaMarcus talk was great too. And Przybilla, with his emphasis on how hard he knew he needed to work this off season, was one of my favorite interviews. It's all really good, so if you have the time and want to join me in some excitement about the upcoming NBA season, give them a listen. Barrett is always good about getting stuff like that up for people to check out. I'm still waiting for Casey to put the up the Quick Chat on Oregonlive, since I couldn't listen to it live the other night. That one is usually really insightful too, since Quick is a great beat writer and keeps his pulse on the team really well. I can't wait to get some sort of hook-up that gets me into a Blazer/Laker game this season at the Staple's Center, just so I can be there when Portland surprises the LA – well, faithful isn't the right word – celebrities by showing how good they are without the best pure center to come into the league since that big guy that used to play down here in purple and gold.

Last note: I had a chance to go with a colleague of mine to the UCLA-Washington game tomorrow night at the Rose Bowl, but I'm going to my friend Michelle's soccer game instead. I'll have other opportunities for UCLA games, and I wanted to see the soccer game pretty badly. But it still took a little while for me to decide to stick with my original plan, since I haven't been to the Rose Bowl since Oregon's loss to Penn State in 1995. Enough for now. I'm going to go get some ice cream from Cold Stone, maybe, and then head back to the house. Hopefully the quantity of words in this post makes up a little for the lack of posts recently.

By the way, if you were wondering who else other than Ki-Jana Carter played for that Penn State team, let me remind you: Kerry Collins was the starting quarterback, Bobby Engram (yes, that Bobby Engram) was the number one receiver, Kyle Brady was the starting tight end, and I'm sure several good linebackers. By the way, Collins won the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards that year, finished fourth in Heisman voting (where Carter finished second to Rashan Salaam), but was not the best quarterback in the game. Danny O'Neil from Oregon was player of the game in a losing effort and set Rose Bowl records with most passes completed (41), most attempts (61), most yardage (465), most plays (74) and total offense (456). I remember how awesome he was live, and that was a big deal for a little kid watching his team face the Nittany Lions in the Granddaddy of them all. Oh yeah, and Joe-Pa won FWAA coach of the year honors that season, but Rich Brooks – yes, that Rich Brooks – won the Bear Bryant award for Oregon in his last season before going to coach the Los Angeles Rams.


Lewis said...

Intense stuff that I can't really even imagine. I think it is cool though that you have the possibility of using something like a shared love of the NBA to connect with those kids.

Glad to see you writing again even though you are busy.

The Professor said...

Hey man,

Dig the blog, especially as a fellow teacher/sports fan/blogger. Can't say I'm a huge Blazers fan (Jazz fan by birth), but I can say this about Oden's injury: when I heard about it, I didn't think about Bowie. I thought about Jordan missing almost his entire second year with a broken foot. Keep your chin up.

bethanybeams said...

I know this is an old post, but I just had to say that I am jealous of your Drexler figurine. I only have a jersey, and God knows I can't wear that to work at the high school. (As you know as well...) My kids tend to be the troublemakers too, so I know just exactly how to pray for you. And I am! Hope things are going well.