Ask Teachers and Get Answers

Everyone is an expert in education. The fact that virtually everyone has attended school sometime in one’s lifetime qualifies us as the judge and jury for the schools. That is not to say that we shouldn’t have an opinion and shouldn’t be concerned about our children‘s schools, but it doesn’t make us an expert. It is tantamount to saying that because I have had two operations over the past few years that I am able to do critical commentary on thoracic surgery. I have the right to make suggestions, but I should leave surgery to the doctors. In fact, in today’s screwed-up world it seems the farther one gets from actually teaching in the classroom, the more credibility and status one derives.
What is more ironic than listening to an entrenched high echelon administrator lecturing a group of teachers on classroom practice. Just once I would like to have a room full of highly paid administrators packed together on uncomfortable folding chairs in a warm room lectured by real teachers who are walking the walk and talking the talk. Even worse is the troubling current trend of districts being forced to contract with outside agencies, or, as one of my colleagues calls it--the “peddlers”, who help schools restructure. I am reminded by the famous Reagan quote that said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Most schools could do without the “help” they receive from the peddlers.

One of the true confounding miracles of nature is the production and use of royal jelly by worker bees to cultivate and sustain a new queen bee for the hive. The goo, which is secreted by glands in the heads of the worker bees, is fed to a generic larva, transforming it into the huge egg laying creature which anchors and replenishes the colony for years. It would seem that some administrators are like that. After years of walking in the same halls, teaching the same students, and using the same bathrooms as regular teachers, the very act of “promotion” to a higher paid, non-teaching position suddenly infuses them with extraordinary abilities, a quasi-omniscience, that qualifies them to make curricular decisions for their former colleagues, often without consulting their former colleagues. They become uber-smart overnight. Part of the morphology is the attendant “puffing-up” of personality which separates them from the mundane workers. Is this true of every one of them? No. But it happens often enough to cause a snicker, raised eyebrow, or a shrug of desperation from the troops in the trenches. The result of making decisions without proper input unfortunately wastes time, depletes precious funding, and almost always alienates the very staff who must carry out the directives.
It is not an out-of-body revelation to realize that the real answers to education’s tough questions are not solely in the domain of enlightened administrators, state department appointees, and self-proclaimed experts. Try asking a teacher from time to time. You may not get the answer you wanted or were looking for, but more than likely you will get the unwelcome truth. We desperately need a truth that the peddlers and royal jelly users cannot provide.


U.S. Cities - Making Gut Wrenching Decisions

  Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who runs New Jersey’s largest municipality, said U.S. cities will be forced to make “gut-wrenching” decisions to cut as much as 20 percent of their spending in the next year. In Newark, that led Booker to propose firing “hundreds” of city workers last month and to seek concessions from unionized employees to help close a $180 million budget deficit.
    Perhaps due to the confidence that comes with a brand new City Hall building (above) the Las Cruces City Council still thinks it has the luxury to vote down job and revenue producing projects. Read more about other cities here:


Roger Maynard
Ketchikan Daily News
Nov 18, 2008


Colorado's U.S. Senate Primary Race - Strange Campaign Season

Democrats went west in 2008, holding their national convention in Denver as they sought an advantage in a swing state. Though Barack Obama carried Colorado in winning the presidency, two years later the state remains untamed by either party. But in the Senate Democratic primary race Bill Clinton and President Obama are endorsing different candidates Read more here:

Housing Gets Sick on Keynesian Roller Coaster

According to economist Kevin Hasset, new home sales data have been gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau since the early 1960s. In May, they dropped to their lowest level in recorded history, increasing the risk of the dreaded double-dip recession. He blames Keynsian government tampering. Read here:

Bernanke - Good Small Businesses Can't Get Loans

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said small businesses are having a tough time getting loans they need to expand or stay afloat and keep the U.S. economic recovery going. Read the details here:

Six dead, 4 Injured in Albuquerque Office Shooting

ALBUQUERQUE — A gunman opened fire at an Albuquerque fiber optics manufacturer on Monday, killing five people and wounding four others before killing himself in what police said was a domestic violence dispute. Read details here:

Martinez Spokesperson Fired After DUI Arrest

Republican gubernatorial candidate Susana Martinez’s campaign spokesman was arrested for DWI early Sunday morning, and he was fired later in the day. Read the details here:

Joseph C. Phillips - Locke & Marx

Columnist Joseph C. Phillips ponders the effectiveness of our education system through a mythical wager regarding the name recognition of Karl Marx and John Locke. Once again he offers us a thought-provoking commentary on the learning centers we call public schools. Read his latest ideas on the subjects here:

Time for a Meeting

Updated: the LCPS board chair is Dr. Connie Phillips.

The situation is like a train wreck everyone can see coming from a mile away. If this wreck is not avoided it will turn into a local scandal. The problem that must be solved began with a city council vote to refuse $10 million in private road funds for the extension of North Sonoma Ranch Boulevard in April. The April vote was a reversal of the position of City Council in January. This surprise vote in April will result in the compelling of the Las Cruces Public Schools to waste $1 million building a "temporary" road from the end of North Sonoma Ranch Boulevard to Peachtree Hills Road that will eventually be ripped out. The good news is the waste of resources still remains completely avoidable.

Perhaps the time has come for citizens to go to their phones and email boxes and call for a meeting between School Board member Dr. Connie Phillips (left) and Mayor Ken Miyagishima (right). No doubt the city and schools are going to have to work together to serve as good stewards of taxpayer resources. If the schools and city councilors have not already done so they should consider meeting immediately to avoid frittering away a million dollars. Site visitors can find contact information for all city councilors and school board members on the Call City Hall page at the top of this website. The full story can be read on the LCPS $1 million page of this site or by simply searching for stories about city council.


Japan's Revolving Door May Continue

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s election loss could lead to a downgrade of Japan’s credit rating should it hamper his ability to address the world’s largest public debt, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service said. The Democratic Party of Japan’s upper-house defeat yesterday is “potentially negative” because of legislative gridlock, Takahira Ogawa, director of sovereign ratings at Standard & Poor’s in Singapore, said in a phone interview today. Read details here:

Horns Silent - Spain Celebrates

The annoying horns in South Africa were finally silenced yesterday as was the formidable team from the Netherlands. The party began immediately all over the Iberian penisula (minus Portugal of course) as Spain celebrated its first ever World Cup title. Read details here:


Baseball - All Star Game Break

Heading into the All-Star break and the showcase game of stars in Anaheim tomorrow night, the Yankees, White Sox, Rangers, Braves, Reds, and Padres lead their respective divisions. See a detailed look at the Major League Baseball standings here:

Hanson, Sanchez, Haussman

Guests for News New Mexico for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are set. We will have education expert and News New Mexico education page editor Del Hanson Monday, Lieutenant Governor Candidate John Sanchez will be on the phone from Albuquerque on Tuesday, and founder Heath Haussamen will join us on Wednesday.


Eleven Pretty Good Rules

Good teaching is good teaching. Whether a teacher is discussing Macbeth, the Doppler effect, quadratic functions, or the Taft-Hartley Act, there are approaches to communicating with students which are timeless.
Over the years, I have attended numerous workshops and seminars in my subject area. Although I always left learning something new and interesting, the most valuable time was usually spent during the breaks, at dinner, or sitting around the lobby of the hotel late at night talking to fellow teachers from schools far from my domain. During those delicious moments, one not only heard about new ideas and approaches, but the conversations often validated your own teaching philosophy. Sometimes one needs to hear that.
Over the decades, I have codified my approach to good teaching into eleven “pretty good rules.” They are:
1. There is absolutely no substitute for subject matter expertise, excellent preparation, and contagious enthusiasm. None.
2. You must like children and young adults. Do not go into education if kids are going to be the enemy.
3. You must believe deep in your heart that every student can learn. It is the job of the teacher to find ways for every student to experience some success. While all students are not equal academically, they deserve equal opportunity and access to an education.
4. Self esteem cannot be conferred. Students need to earn their grades and be proud of their accomplishments. Good teachers find ways for students to be successful beyond paper and pencil assessment.
5. A teacher must come to class prepared every day. Students can immediately sense if the teacher doesn’t know what he or she is doing. It can be like sharks to blood. Do not voluntarily be a part of the lower food chain.
6. The best classroom management/discipline plan is a good lesson plan.
7. Be fair, firm, and friendly. A teacher does not have to be a buddy, though. A pleasant, non-confrontational atmosphere is often very conducive to learning, but being liked is not necessary for me to discharge the duties to which I have been assigned. I must admit that I function better when my class is a friendly, safe, and happy place. I assume the students learn better when it is that way, too.
8. Remember that the class and subject you teach may not be the most important thing in your student’s life on a particular day. Keep things in rational perspective. Your demonstration of concern and kindness to that child may be the only positive reinforcement they get. It never hurts to smile on purpose.
9. I want students to look forward to my class each day, even if we are learning dreadfully unexciting stuff. My classroom should be safe and inviting. It should be cool to come to class.
10. Don’t take yourself too seriously. I have discovered, over the years, that my philosophy of teaching is “to stay one step ahead of the men in the white coats.” I believe it is important for students to see you as a real person, not merely a sage on the stage. It is important for you to be as human and humane as you can be to your students. Always ask yourself at the end of the day: “Would I have wanted to spend and entire class period with me?”
11. Teaching is all about making connections with other human beings. We are not just information dispensers and test preparation technicians. We should be professionals. We ARE teachers.
I have never regretted for a moment choosing teaching as my life‘s work. Although teachers almost always have lingering concerns about personal finances, every so often you are reminded why you went into this crazy profession. The other day, at Easter brunch, the waitress said, “Which of you is Mr. Hansen?” I instantly thought, “Oh gosh, what have I done now?” I could envision my car being towed away by Zebo’s Crush It N Bury It Towing Service. Instead, she said a man in the restaurant wanted you to know that you were the best teacher he ever had. Slightly embarrassed, I said “thank you” and mentally cashed one of those million dollar teacher checks one sometimes receives. It’s still a great profession.
(Del Hansen was a teacher and administrator for over thirty years, teaching math and physics to high school aged students. He is now retired and living in Las Cruces, New Mexico.)

A Tale of Two Leaks

Live Feed of Oil Leak
Click on either one of these two video disasters.

Live Feed of Solvency Leak

Harry Jackson Jr. - Rating Eric Holder & the DOJ

Columnist Harry Jackson Jr. offers his thoughts on the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder. The subject comes up in Jackson's column after the news earlier this week that Holder's DOJ dismissed a case against a notorious Black Panther and also sued the State of Arizona. Jackson offers some thought-provoking ideas here: