My Father’s Flight


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B24 Witchcraft

Last week I got the privilege to fly in what I believe is the last of the flying B24s from WWII. I was a guest of the Collins Foundation that maintains a B24, B17, and a P51. I was asked if I would like to fly in the B24 because my dad piloted one in WWII.  This plane had many casualties in the war as it was a bomber with little in the way of extras. We were informed not to step onto the bomb doors as well as the front wheel well door as these were made to break away from the inside (you would want a loose bomb hanging around inside the plane). After takeoff we could wander and crawl throughout the plane. I was struck by the lack of shielding from the inevitable flack that most bombing runs must have encountered.  Those bomb doors couldn’t have shielded the crew very well.

I was also struck by the fact that the crew must have been all small and agile. I crawled to the front gunner position by going through a small space under the pilot and the copilot. The front gunner sat in a tiny seat in a very windy nose of the plane protected by plexiglass.  The bombardier sat in what seemed an even smaller seat directly under the front gunner.

The plane has a metal skin and metal ribs and nothing else. You can see the ground from a few places in the plane and the mid section gunner has two wide open windows about 3 feet by 4 feet and each side of the plane to shoot at the enemy with a machine gun mounted on each side of the plane. I stuck my head out the window and looked around. It was of course very windy, but I’ve never had an opportunity to stick my head out the window of a plane before.

The ball turret in the belly of the plane looked as if it was built to has a third grader. It must have taken real guts to climb into that little compartment when going to battle. There is an equally small top gunner compartment and rear gunner compartment.  A total of 6 high caliber machine guns protected the plane from enemy fighters.

We were told to not grab a hold of cables as we made our way through the plane as these were the cables leading to the rear flaps and the wing flaps. I found myself staring at these cables thinking of the pilot up front and how this plane was the epitome of utilitarianism.

note the passageway to the front of the plane

I also got to go right into the cockpit behind the pilot and the copilot. No special doors in this plane to keep out terrorists (they were suggested by the FAA). I sat and watched the pilot maneuver this old beast of a plane and imagined my father sitting there 70 years ago. The only change I could see in the control panel was the addition of a GPS. The rest looked very old and functional. The gas gauges were a couple of glass tubes! There were switches to auxiliary tanks for each of the four engines and a very old looking communication system.

this is the view from the open window of the mid-plane gunner position.

Throughout the plane there were oxygen tanks for the crew (not used anymore). This was necessary for higher altitude flying since obviously we weren’t pressurized. We flew very low to the ground and it was a nice sunny day so we were very comfortable. I thought of my Dad and crew flying from Italy to targets some of which must have taken him over the Alps. The frosty plane must have really been the opposite of comfort then.

Book Reading


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I just read an article from a relative of Alice Pleasance Liddell who received a book for Christmas written for her by Lewis Carroll called then Alice’s Adventures Underground What a great present! This was a much more innocent age and children seemed to have greater imagination. I wonder what

lesson plan, history lesson, social science lessonpictures came into Alice’s head the first time read about Alice and the White Rabbit. I worry sometimes about our children with all the technology that they have available to them. I know there will always be readers but certainly the percentage of readers of novels among young readers will decrease as more and more young people would rather just “watch the movie”.  I hear students comment sometimes that they never read and that they see no need to read when they can get all the information they need from online or from videos. I think my students are “normal” and I would guess that at least half of them have not read a novel cover to cover ever. Some read parts of novels that are required for school but I doubt they ever read novels outside of the classroom.

I know that even those that get all their stimulation from games, videos, or social networking sites still do a fair share of reading. They have to read instructions, blogs, posts etc…, but I’m afraid they’re really missing out. I remember long hour spent in my room as a child reading great classics like Tom Sawyer, Treasure Islandand 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I was transported in my mind to all the places that I read about in my youth. I still can see mental pictures from some of the books I read. Do our children today get even close to the same experience when they watch the latest video or movie? I am not an expert by any means, maybe some of you out there are, but I fear the population maybe losing a great deal if our youth doesn’t read as much as the youth of the past. I know that the students that struggle in class are also the poorest readers.

At this time when schools are being cut left and right by budget constraints, I


Cover of

Cover via Amazon


wonder if this is maybe a time when schools are needed more than ever to teach our students not only how to read but to develop in our students a love of reading.   Is this next generation going to be known for their mouth open, blank stares that they have while looking at LCD screens? I know a lot has been written about the amount of time people spend each days looking at video monitors, tv screens, and cell phones. We have all seen the blank stares associated with each. Can we do more to encourage our children to read more?

Should parents be able to change curriculum?

I just finished reading about the law in New Hampshire that allows parents a line-item veto of any lesson that they say isn’t fit for their child. Here is a link to the debate (NH Debate). How could a teacher function under such a law? I have to send home notification if we are about to watch part of an R-rated movie. Alternative lessons are then provided for any student who opts out. I can’t imagine having a bank of alternative to each and every lesson. And what if the parent opts out of the alternative as well. And what do you do before each lesson, do you have to post what each lesson covers before you teach it. In the high school social studies classroom the discussion can lead into all sorts of directions. Would each topic have to okay’d by parents before you went there in the classroom? 

It is hard enough to teach students that seem to be reading less and less every year as they play their video games, watch movies, and live in a Facebook world. Now parents don’t want their children exposed to anything that they haven’t approved first. How can someone discern what is right or wrong without being exposed to other’s viewpoints? I am a conservative christian but I would never want to just close my eyes to the world around me. I don’t have to agree with it any more than people that hear my opinion have to agree with me. I enjoy the debate that ensues when I encounter someone with another point of view. 

Our country is great because of our ability to express our divergent viewpoints. Do we really want to raise our children to think everyone must agree with them– or else? I’ve never been one to shy away from controversial topics in my classroom. I will state my  opinion when asked but I always preface it with a statement that it is only an opinion (mine). I believe it’s wrong to teach students our beliefs but they need to hear the different theories/beliefs/opinions of others. My students are taught what bias is and they are able to state their own biases without repercussion as long as it isn’t bigoted. 

So let’s continue to teach our students about all that is around them. That’s the job of teachers. Parents, please let teachers do their jobs.

Racism at Athletic Events


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historian, current events gameMy school has recently been involved in a bit of a controversy concerning racism at a few football games in the last couple of years. Go to the link here to read the latest article in the local paper  I attended the meeting we had at our gym this last Thursday night and I was happy to see a full house there. I was impressed by the speakers that all spoke about accountability and what we try to teach our athletes. It is very unfortunate that in 2012 we still live in a society that has some ignorant people who ruin reputations for the majority.

Our school is not very diverse. We have one Black and about two dozen Hispanics. We are small as we only have about 160 students. The school is like a big family. When something happens to someone at school or if the school is attacked we tend to take it personally. Our teachers really love our students and I believe the feeling is mutual. For example a few years ago my daughter was in a serious auto racism, current events, US Historyaccident and I received many comments from concerned students and fellow faculty members. Most of the students had never met my daughter but they were genuinely concerned about me and my family. When you read some of the articles written in the paper you don’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling like I had back when my daughter was recovering.

Every day I go to school I am met by smiles and warm greetings. I can honestly say I have no students I dread seeing every day. I enjoy each one of them and share my personal life with them. My students are always curious about my kids and our recently acquired four-year old foster child. My foster child is black and my students that have met him fell in love with him immediately. I have plenty of willing babysitters!

I’m sure we have some prejudice in our school. I find it hard to believe any school in America is perfect when it comes to prejudice or bullying. Our community is no different. I’m sure we have people in our community who say things they shouldn’t even be thinking. We are normal. We can always become better and that’s what the meeting Thursday night was all about. We were there to reaffirm our commitment to being responsible fans, coaches, and players at our athletic events.

Ferndale is a fantastic community and is has been an absolute pleasure teaching there for the last 28 years. The community is supportive and they are doing a fine job of raising their children. I credit our parents and community members for the great group of students we have attending our school. Of course, who else could take credit?

This is a small storm that our school is weathering just fine. Our students have had a healthy dialogue about the situation and they are better because of it. Although none of this was the student’s fault (and they know this), they have become more sensitive to what they say and do. A good lesson has been learned. I am proud of the school and the community.

Teaching in 2012


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So here it comes: 2012. For those of that have been teaching for a

Teaching, social studies, teacher resources, history, lesson planswhile the new year brings lots of questions about what the new year will bring. So much has changed since I started teaching 28 years ago. When I started, Michael Jackson was the reining King of Pop and computers weren’t being widely used. Sony Walkmen blasted Thriller from cassette tapes into students‘ ears during trips. Boom boxes were big… but discouraged by school authorities.
I remember using my Apple II in the classroom to do grades and store worksheets. About half of the teachers at school resisted using computers, as they wanted to continue teaching and grading as they always had. I was always interested in new technology. I spent $2500 on a new Apple IIGS after teaching for a few years. It was supposed to be the computer that would be a bridge between Macs and IBMs. It was a terrible waste of money but it did allow me to be one of the first people I knew to get online and talk to other teachers around the country on the precursor to AOL called Applelink (as a charter member of this online community, I received a complimentary a t-shirt). 
A few years later, I was the first in school to get a video projector that I could hook up to a VCR layer and a computer. I started using PowerPoint and saving everything to our school server. A few times I recorded lectures with PowerPoint onto a videocassette that my substitute could play. I was one of the first to allow access to student grades online at the school, and I did a little workshop to show other teachers how they too could do their grades online. Most teachers thought what I did was too cumbersome and continued doing their grades on calculators.
So here comes 2012. One of the biggest discipline problem now is students using their cellphones in class (I confiscate them until the end of the day). What new ideas will be coming along this calendar year? I know I’m not the most up-to-date teacher around but I do have my lesson plans online and the student grades are posted securely online. Now if I could just get my students to use those smart phones of theirs to check my website when they miss a day of school instead of coming in the next day and asking what they missed. 

Veterans’ Day


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Veterans Day

Image via Wikipedia

Many of my students are gathering at someone’s house tonight to make Christmas cards for soldiers. Many others made cards in art class today. A few even volunteered recently at a Veterans’ Stand Down event that shows vets all of the services available to them. I realize that my high school is a small one and students do things that they might not do in larger schools. Maybe the students at my school are just special (I think they are but I’m biased). I just feel so proud that the students are willing to give up their time in order to provide items for soldiers and veterans that will make them feel a little better wherever they are. I really believe that most of my students truly understand that we all are indebted to our men and women in the military. We don’t spend enough time thanking our service people during most of the year. I really like a video I saw that is a fine tribute to our veterans.

We just take for granted so often for all that we have here in the United States. As Tom Brokaw wrote in The Greatest Generation, we have much to be thank my father’s generation for. I truly feel blessed and if you are reading this and you are a veteran or in active service I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you’ve done. If you are a fellow teacher I hope you teach your students all about the tremendous sacrifice that our veterans have made for us. I really believe that teaching students to be thankful for all they have is one of our most important tasks. Unfortunately, state standards don’t tend to include thanking veterans in the classes we teach.

Have a wonderful Veterans’ Day!

Where the Ferns Grew Tall


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Teacher lesson, innovative plan, assignments, historyLast night I attended a presentation of the re-release of a book that students from my high school produced in the  1975- 1976 school year. Their US History teacher was looking to do something for the Bicentennial and had thought for years of having her students write a book about local history. She asked the students on the first day of school whether or not they were interested in the project. Many of the students thought this would be a small 100 page informational pamphlet that wouldn’t take much time. The teacher explained to them that this was something that would be done mostly outside of the classroom as they still had to complete their normal US History studies. The students agreed and were assigned various chapters in groups ranging from one to six depending on the topic. The book turned out to be a large project that students researched by looking through old newspapers and interviewing old-timers in the community.

One of greatest things that came out last night was that this teacher had empowered her students and made them feel special. They believed that they were handpicked by the teacher and that they were expected to have the ability to do something that they may not have felt they had the ability to do in the first place. Another plus to the book is that the people interviewed for the book have almost entirely passed away now and the book is a record of their stories.

The students of the Class of 77 have kept in touch all these years and consider themselves family. They call their teacher their adopted mom. It was really wonderful to see such a great group and such a fine presentation. The local museum has reprinted the book and produced a video about the making of the book. If you’re interested in reading Ferndale history you can get your copy from the Ferndale Museum.


Image via Wikipedia

Labor Day, the traditional Back-to-School


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No Video Games

Image via Wikipedia

Does anyone else remember this day as the last day of summer? I remember laying on a raft in the middle of Twain Harte Lake wondering why summer had to end so quickly and why school had to start tomorrow. Now some schools have been in session for a month already! August is such a great month to be outside.

As you can see I’m not a major proponent of year-round schools. In fact I detest the encroachment of the school year on the summer vacation. I don’t believe there should be a week off for Thanksgiving and a week off for  Presidents’  Week. These are hatched from a plot to move towards year-round school. I want summer to remain intact! Kids need summers to get outside and play. Video games and computers should be taboo during daylight hours and our children should be riding bikes, climbing trees, swimming or just plain playing in the dirt. I remember some great times playing with my army men in the dirt. I would have entire wars fought. The dirt clod explosions were just as spectacular in my mind as any explosions in the movies or video games. My sister and I would also go climbing trees. These were great valley oaks that you could spend hours exploring. She would always climb higher than I would as I had a bit of a fear of heights. And then there was my bike. I’m proud to say I was a proud owner of a sting ray that I would ride everywhere on. I would only come home for meals and in between my friends and I would be out exploring, going to each others’ homes, finding the best jumps, and just laying in the grass by our bikes looking up at the sky.


Image by euphro via Flickr

So I hope on this Labor Day kids all over are getting outside and playing in whatever fashion they like best. We have such a beautiful place to live it seems like a waste to not get outside and enjoy the rivers, oceans, forests, and wide open spaces.

August is here! Sourdough is rising.

news, education, historyWell I am starting to get the feeling that summer is winding down and school is just around the corner. We start at the end of the month and there are things to get done before school starts. First we have a Kids’ Camp to cook for and a wedding to cook for. Then we go to the cabin for a week. It’ll be a whirlwind last month of summer that will be packed with fun but will be sure to go by fast. August 29th I start my 28th year in the teaching profession.

My wife and I seem to cook an awful lot during the summer. People seem to like our cooking so  guess we must be pretty good cooks. I specialize in sourdough pizza, sourdough bread, barbecuing, and cooking large quantities of food on the griddles. I cook 10 dozen eggs on the griddle at a time. Going to try making sourdough bread sticks today so that I can make 400 or so for the wedding. It’ll be the same recipe as the pizza dough recipe but I’ll cut the dough into strips before I bake them.

Here is the recipe I use for the sourdough pizza, bread etc…

    • News game, current events  2 cups proofed sourdough starter (it needs to be foamy before use)
    •   1 teaspoon salt
    •   1/2 cup water
    •   2 tablespoons oil
    •   3 cups white bread flour
    •   cornmeal


Prep Time: 1 1/2 hrsTotal Time: 2 hrs

  1.  Put all ingredients except cornmeal in bread machine pan in the order recommended by manufacturer.
  2. Select dough cycle and start.( I knead by hand because I make large batches)
  3. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and form into balls.
  4. With a rolling pin, flatten the balls into 12- to 13-inch rounds about 1/8 inch thick.
  5. Fold each round in half and transfer to a bakers peel or thin baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.
  6. Proof, covered, for about 45 minutes at 85 degrees F.
  7. Place a baking stone in a cold oven and preheat for at least 15 minutes at 450 to 500 degrees F.
  8. Add your toppings to the rounds of dough and transfer the pizzas to the hot baking stone (See Note).
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until crust is brown.
  10. Remove from oven with bakers peel.
  11. NOTE: It takes practice to transfer the pizza to the stone.
  12.  As an alternative, bake the pizza on a traditional pizza pan sprinkled with cornmeal.
I usually multiply this recipe by ten when making large batches for camp. It’s wonderful stuff and very cheap to feed a lot of people. The most important step in the whole process is making sure the starter is foaming before you start. I can always guarantee a good bread if the starter looks right before I start.
So I better get to work. Try out this recipe and let me know how it worked out for you. If you have questions post them here.

Summer Activities of a teacher


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Moon over San Diego.

San Diego

Summer is already about halfway gone. So sad. I’ve got so many more things planned but I know that many of the items will have to wait til next year…or later.

Just got back from a great little golf trip with friends and my son. We went to a fairly new golf course run by a casino. It was a wonderful course, and the attention to service was incredible. The people there made sure you had everything you needed to have a good time. They even cleaned your clubs when you finished playing. The sprinklers came on when we were on the eighteenth hole so the people in the pro shop felt bad and gave us hats! Can’t wait to go back there.

The week before that my wife and I cooked for a mid-high teen camp. There were about 70 people there. We cooked homemade sourdough pizza, marinated chicken, fresh lemon pull-apart rolls, and buttermilk pancakes as well as many other items. We feel like we really spoiled them. We even served homemade ice cream sandwiches one night for a snack. We’ll be back at camp cooking in a couple of weeks.

This week we’re travelling to San Diego to pick up our golf cart and visit with friends. It’ll be a quick little five-day trip with my wife and then return with our daughter whose already there. Hope to get in a little golf (hopefully at Torrey Pines) while we’re there.

Today I’ll be pruning trees and chipping branches and then possibly pulling roots so that I  can prepare a pad for new greenhouse. I can’t list here all the projects around the house that are on my list. As you can tell from this blog the house chore aren’t my highest priority. These are the items most likely to be postponed until next year. The pruning though can’t wait as the trees keep growing. Someday I want to landscape the yard. I’ve even taken a landscaping class and drawn up plans but they plans sit in a book waiting for implementation.

Schoolwork will be on my agenda in August as the next school year beckons. I’ve got some ideas for change foe the next school year I want to try. Of course there are tweaks to course outlines that need to be made. Even after teaching 27 years I like to keep things fresh and switch things up a bit. I hate the idea of getting into a rut. I learned a long time ago that you can always improve and that when you think you’ve achieved perfection you’re delusional.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer as much as I am. Apologies to those of you that are working all summer. I guess someone has to.