Self Portraits

So for Christmas, Diane bought me a set of "stuff" to give me better lighting options for my photography. Only problem is that either I've been too busy or not feeling creative enough to properly use them since the holidays. Now that it's spring break I decided that this would be the perfect time to really try everything out and see what I can come up with.

Now add to this that the photography blog I follow (Digital Photography School) runs a weekly challenge that I occasionally like to work on. The result? This week's challenge was self-portraits and this is the one I entered for the competition.

I like to call it "The Angry Teacher" because I'm sure my kids have seen this face on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, I probably won't win because there are literally hundreds of other entries that are far more creative than mine. I thought two others turned out pretty good and convey some sort of "feeling." You get to decide just what that feeling is!

The interesting thing about this "assignment" was just how difficult it turned out. I mean, really, it's not like you can just turn the camera around and start snapping pictures. For a true "self-portrait" you really need to have some sort of plan or idea and then try to get both the mood and lighting to match what's in your head. Needless to say, I learned a lot by working on this assignment.

I'm thinking about using this picture as my official school mug shot! My kids will just love it.

Speaking of students. During my first year of teaching I spent 8.5 months convinced that I had no clue what I was doing and that my poor students were getting absolutely NOTHING from me. Last night I checked my school email and found a note from a student from that first year. He was writing to thank me. Let me repeat, THANK ME! According to him he hated math until I started to teach it and made it fun for him. I was floored. I mean, really, much of that first year was spent in the pose shown just above and trying to figure out how I was going to get any better. Needless to say, this is now my most favorite student - of all time! Seriously, I am humbled. I've been told that you never know just how your actions are going to affect someone and in this case I would have truly guessed wrong.

My next official assignment is "portraits" of others and guess who is going to be my model? I bet you can also guess that I probably won't be allowed to post any of the pictures of her. Also, in the meantime I've been doing some table-top still life shots and as soon as I edit them I'll post an article here.

Until then...

The President Discusses Education

Visualize Chuck moving a wooden box marked SOAP to center stage. He sets it down, steps up on it and says...

Today, at a speech in front of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Obama outlined his proposal of 5 pillars of reform for education and I'd like to comment on his thoughts. If you click on the title of this article it will take you to the White House blog entry for the speech. In short, here are his pillars:
1) "Investing in early childhood initiatives" like Head Start;
2) "Encouraging better standards and assessments" by focusing on testing itineraries that better fit our kids and the world they live in;
3) "Recruiting, preparing, and rewarding outstanding teachers" by giving incentives for a new generation of teachers and for new levels of excellence from all of our teachers.
4) "Promoting innovation and excellence in America’s schools" by supporting charter schools, reforming the school calendar and the structure of the school day.

5) "Providing every American with a quality higher education--whether it's college or technical training."
And my thoughts:
  1. While the San Antonio branch of Head Start has had some management problems, there are numerous studies that show that children from disadvantaged neighborhoods tend to do much better in later school years when they receive support from the community at a very early age. It would be nice to see more put into those initiatives.
  2. I hate to say it but this seems to be a "throw-away" line. Everyone wants better standards and assesments but there are real arguments as to what those should look like. In Texas, the TAKS tests have been a dismal failure except to prove that people can easily find ways to punish schools, teachers and, by association, students. By "proving" that public schools "don't work" people can more easily push for charter schools or other personal designs. Every time I receive the grade reports on my students I am reminded of the axiom I was taught in my college statistics class, "If you torture a number long enough it will tell you anything!"
  3. Better recruitment and preparation = good thing. Incentivizing teaching is not a good thing. For many reasons. a) Studies show that "bonuses" bring improvements in a persons job for a very short time. Eventually the employee sees the extra money as an entitlement and they quickly return to their old ways. b) If you expect the best from someone and they agree to the payrate you offer, why would you ask for "better results" for more pay? Seriously, if I'm doing my absolute best then there is no such thing as 110%. Also, we don't REALLY give kids grades of 110...well, in class I do, but when the report card comes out it's rounded down to 100. You can't ask for more than the best and we ask for the best from our students AND our teachers. You are insulting my professionalism when you tell me you'll pay me more if I do even better.
  4. "Charter schools" - questionable at best. Some are pretty good and others are horrible. It's a crap shoot. We're talking about children's lives here. Why do some people get a chance to experiment with these kids? This whole idea reminds me of another favorite phrase of mine, "Hold my beer and watch this!" "Reforming the school calendar and the structure of the school day" - I'd like to see the plan before I comment. We know that children tend to lose ground over the summer months and we also know that the current school calendar was originally based on a lack of air-conditioning and crops needing to be brought in. However, you will have a difficult time convincing teachers that those 10 weeks (more or less) off during the summer needs to be shortened.
  5. I've spent 4 years listening to people say that we should plan for 100% of our kids going to college. The truth is, there will always be a number of people who can't or won't be able to enter or complete college. For various reasons. In my humble belief, students should be prepared for whatever comes their way. Some should go into technical trades and others should go to college. It's nice to see someone at the upper levels of government see this also. As a "Career and Technology" (CATE) teacher I'm proud to be helping to prepare my students to be successful in either college or technical jobs.
Finally, the president spoke to students and told them that dropping out should not be an option. A wonderful sentiment. All in all, it seemed to be a great speech even if it was short on specifics. But, as they say, "The devil is in the details!"

One last note, when did education go from a "local" issue to a "national" one. I thought education management was a "States Rights" item and our state lawmakers (in ALL of their infinite wisdom) delegated the decision making to local school boards. What exactly happened to THAT concept?

Chuck smiles as he climbs off the box and exits stage right.