September 27, 2009

Starting A Business

Good teachers have experience in their respective fields. Good English teachers have been published; good technology teachers have worked in industry; and good business teachers have run their own businesses.

I ran a business a few years ago when I was in college, selling a product I wrote called Attendance Management System. The software tracked attendance for nonprofits such as churches, scout troops, and other community organizations. The profits weren't gigantic, netting about $130 per month, but it was a fun little endeavor.

I'm in the process of re-introducing the product with plans to roll out an online version later this school year.

Starting a business is not as hard as a lot of people think, and for me, it's more of a hobby than anything else. Coming up with an idea is difficult sometimes, but in my case, I wrote the software in my free time specifically for an organization that I belonged to and only later decided to offer it to other people.

There must be something that you can make or a service that you already provide that others would find useful. When you start a business, you can share it with others and make a little money besides.

September 22, 2009

Swine Flu, Anyone?

Do you think you'll catch the swine flu this year? It's a bit hard to imagine how the virus WON'T spread when you cram over two thousand students with poor sanitary habits into a single building, and they spend six hours with each other in close proximity.

At least one of our staff members has already contracted and recovered from the virus. In the first two weeks of school, a larger than expected number of students are showing flu-like symptoms. The school nurse has a mandate from the state department of health to send home anyone showing these symptoms. Sick students and staff are required to stay home for 24 hours after their fevers break, which usually takes five days.

Some say that these measures are overreactions to an overhyped problem. It's true that the H1N1 virus in its current form is relatively harmless, but it's still smart to take precautions. We might not be able to stop the spread of the virus, but we should do anything we can to at least slow it down
One of the high schools in our state already has 20% of the student population home with flu symptoms, and there are other districts with very high absence rates as well.

My theory is that it's a foregone conclusion that a large population of students and staff will probably contract the virus sometime throughout the year and that we should just accept it. Vaccines should be available in my state around mid-October. Swine flu is a not a reason for panic, but we shouldn't get complacent, either.

September 19, 2009

Why I Could Never Be President

President Obama recently came to my city for a health care rally, and I was one of the fifteen thousand enthusiastic attendees. He pitched his health care reform plan, and for the record, I support it, even if I have some reservations about it. Mr. Obama's approval rating has been slipping lately. When assessing his performance, I count myself in the "approve" column, and I'd vote for him again if I could.

The reason I could never be president is that it seemed like the average IQ of the crowd that day was right around the 60 mark. I mean really, I couldn't believe some of these people.
  • After the President used empirical evidence and logical reasoning to describe some of the failings of our current health care system, the crowd's response was, "We have to do something!!" I got the impression that no one had any idea what that something should be, or even where to start.

  • It concerns me greatly when people have very strong opinions on topics about which they have limited knowledge, even if I happen to agree with those opinions.

  • The atmosphere was very us-versus-them. We are benevolent and they are greedy. We believe tax dollars should be shared with the sick and they want to let people die so they can keep their money.

  • The truth is, the health issue is not nearly that simple, nor is the tax issue. Conservatives have legitimate concerns about the health plan just as much as liberals have legitimate concerns about our current system. Instead of addressing the other side's concerns, our political discourse has devolved into name calling.

    Understanding the issue is not important; forming tribes and outgroups is. Democrats accuse Republicans of name calling, and Republics accuse Democrats of it, and both sides say the other side does it more. Let's please stop this nonsense and start having some intellectual discussions based on logic and evidence.

  • The president listed some features of his plan: insurance companies would not be able to put caps on coverage, they could not exclude customers with preexisting conditions, and they would have to compete against a publicly subsidized insurance organization.

  • The crowd went wild. Again I hesitatingly agree with the President's plan for various reasons, but I also recognize that it has downsides. You can't add those extra burdens on insurance companies and not expect premiums to go up, all else being equal. But again, the crowd was one-sided as could be, and failed to even consider the opposing arguments.

So the reason I could not be president is that I'd have to work and fight for a bunch of narrow-minded, ignorant sheep. Mr. Obama is smarter that this; he does see both sides, as demonstrated in some of his interviews. But the very people he is fighting for don't even understand or appreciate the reasons for the battle. That's why I could never be president.

In our classrooms, we need to teach critical thinking skills to our students. Take the other person's perspective. Use logic. Understand the difference between normative and positive statements. Be smart.

Leaving Work At Work

This year, I have not brought work home a single time, and I never intend to. This new philosophy is working very well. I work hard when I'm working, and I relax when I'm not. I took the advice of several readers and decided to move some distance away from my district. The decision was a great one.

There is more separation between home life and work life now. I'm not constantly thinking about school. I'm not worrying about when I'll get around to grading those papers, because they're at school and I've already graded them.

This is only possible because of all the legwork I put in last year and over the summer. This year, I'm committed to avoiding the death march. I've taught all of these classes before, so preparing for class is SIGNIFICANTLY less work. That first year is brutal, but now it's relatively smooth sailing. People in my life have commented that I seem much less stressed this year than in past years.

When I was a student teacher, mentors often told me that it takes three years to really get into a groove and find your style. This is my third year, and teaching does seem much more natural now. I know the kind of teacher I am, and I'm comfortable with it.

In case you're curious, my classes are going very well so far. I look forward to going to work in the morning. Mondays excite me!

It's still not a 40-hour-a-week job; I'd say it's 50, minimum. But it's what I do. It's part of who I am, and I really like this career. It's just no longer ALL of who I am, and that's a good thing.