Dean The Salesman?

 I have a way of getting myself into situations that may not play to my strengths.  And being a salesman is not one of my strengths.  So I guess I will call my next endeavor a chance to be an “evangelical” instead.

One of my major goals for teaching is to completely revamp the business curriculum at school.  The classes as they were handed to me were irrelevant, easy and no challenge for the students (latest quote from a student – “Are we going to have a rock/paper/scissors tournament in this class?”.  I kid you not).  What I am trying to do this year is make the classes challenging and relevent to the future.  But next year, I want them to be my creation.  So I have put down on paper exactly what I want to do next year.  I think it is relevant.  I think it is stuff I can teach.  But is it something the students will want to learn?  Ah, that is the question.  And to be honest, how many teenagers are really going to get excited about Mr. Waggenspack teaching “Career Exploration”? (answer – probably not many).

To their credit, the Superintendent, Principal and Guidance Counselor have all approved my ideas.  Isn’t there an old saying about “giving yourself enough rope to hang yourself”?.  I’ll take that as an endorsement that I am on the right track.  And one of the reasons I love Mississinawa so much is that I have the flexibility to do what I would like to do.

So this coming week starts my sales job on the students. I talk with the general student body on Tuesday to provide a VERY high-level overview of my core course.  Later this week I am going to spend time in each of my class periods going over the whole curriculum.  And in early February when we have Parent-Teacher Conferences I will make a more formal presentation to all students and parents who attend.  I have not met any parents, so this will be my chance to make a good first impression.

I am confident I can sell this – oops, make that “evangelize this” – set of courses.  I know that it is the right thing.  So, I relish the chance to tell them what I want to do and why they need to consider my classes.  The word I have from the Superintendent is “rigor”.  I’ll have to figure out a way to make the students think rigor is a good thing!  Those of you who worked for me in the past know I can B.S. pretty well when I have to, right?  I’ll let you know how it is going at a later date.

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The Questionable Generation?

Tom Brokaw wrote a book in 1998 called “The Greatest Generation”.  As Brokaw wrote, “they came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War and went on to build modern America – men and women whose everyday lives of duty, honor, achievement, and courage gave us the world we have today.”  He was speaking of my parents’ generation.  Brokaw highlights that generation’s common purpose and common values – Duty, Honor, Courage, Service, Love of Family and Country, and above all, Responsibility for Oneself.

Our country experienced undeniable growth, wealth and pre-eminence in the world during this generation’s rise.  They truly made the world a better place and witnessed their children have the opportunity to have a much better life than the one they grew up in.  Having lived through hard times early in life they were determined to have better times for all.  More importantly, they understood that values were critical in a civilized society.

I pondered the legacy of my generation compared to the Greatest Generation.  Certainly you could point to the fantastic innovations we have created in the communications fields (computers, Internet, cell phones).  And we have created many great products, buildings and services that make many people’s day-to-day lives better.  But I cannot help thinking how empty we are in the values that are important in building a culture.  “Duty and Honor”?  We’ll leave that to our fine people in the Military.   “Service”?  That gets a lot of attention during a natural disaster like a tornado.  But does anyone truly believe our elected officials – and the bureaucrats and lobbyists they work with – are dedicated to “Service”?  What about “Responsibility for Oneself”?  I think we have substituted “Excessive Adoration for Oneself” (narcissism).  “Look at me” has become much more important than almost any act of value (just look at all of the reality shows we have).

So what will be the lasting moniker for the BabyBoomers?

Where have all the fans gone?

Rose and the boys like to make fun of me because I make comments about the lack of fans at many sporting events. But if you look at a lot of college basketball games outside the top teams there are often lots of empty seats.

I know as a high school basketball official that it is rare to have very many students attend their school’s games.  Part of the problem in my mind is the extortion-like prices the schools charge for a game -$6 is a lot to ask a student to pay for a game.  But I think there are so many other factors at play – students working, social media, Xbox games – that entertain students.  They do not feel the need to go to games to be entertained.

Now comes word from ESPN http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/45918/bag-wherefore-art-thou-cameron-crazies that even my beloved Duke Blue Devils are not filling up the student sections for some games.  Duke has always been known for its “Cameron Crazies”, the students who camp out for games, arrive early and terrorize opponents team members.  Duke is one of the few places where the students get the prime court-side seats.  It is one of the things that makes the basketball games there unique.  But now Duke is actually selling seats in the student section to outsiders.  This is hard for me to fathom.  When I went to Duke in the “Dark Ages”, I slept out overnight to get my tickets.  The opportunity to be so close to the action was too much fun to miss.  But that is not the case for students anymore.

So are we getting closer to the time where actually attending an event is rare?  And are we all missing out on a part of the fun of a sporting event – sitting with others watching the game?

Judge Judy vs. SOPA

I am teaching a Business Law class this semester.  Besides the fact that I just do not think it is a subject that should be an elective class to high school sophomores and freshmen, I am stuck in a weird place.  In the past, some of the topics this class has covered included looking at “Judge Judy” videos and watching the movie “Escape from Alcatraz”.  I refuse to waste my students’ time – and I refuse to allow them to get off that easy – by watching TV.  I am trying to set higher expectations.

So what am I going to do?  I want them to look at how law gets created – at a very high level.  I want them to look at contemporary issues such as the recent “Occupy” Movements and the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) debate going on in Congress right now.  If I can use that case to help them understand that there are two sides to every argument I feel like they will get some real learning.  The State of Ohio may not be able to test for that specific knowledge, but it is good knowledge.

But the other side of the equation is that I need to temper my enthusiasm to the reality of the situation.  I only have five students (I guess the students recognize that Business Law is not a course they need).  And the students’ expectations were set by the past – “it is an easy class”, “we will watch Judge Judy”, etc.   So I cannot overwhelm them.

So everyday at school is a balancing act.  Higher expectations and the additional work that comes with them sit on one side. Student expectations and willingness to work sit on the other side.  That is the challenge I face every day.  That is why I love my job.

Customer (dis)Service

Our son Stephen recently needed to buy a new car.  In order to help him establish his credit, and help him get a lower interest rate, Rose and I agreed to co-sign a loan with him.  So Steve and I walked into the local PNC Bank office to talk to the loan guy.  He was very friendly and told us about the best options.  He told us to just give him Steve’s information and he would check into the loan.  Then two days later he calls us for my personal information.  And then two days later requesting more information.  Without getting into a lot of details, we have accounts with PNC as well as our mortgage (which is paid down pretty far because I am so old!).  This loan ought to be easy.  But PNC stays unresponsive.  So eventually Steve and I go buy the car and get financing for almost the same rate through Huntington Bank the same day.

Here is where it gets fun.  I decide to contact PNC and tell them about my dissatisfaction.  Looking on PNC’s web site, there is NO WAY to contact a person via e-mail.  They do have a “contact us” electronic form.  So I provided a rather long explanation of the situation and my dissatisfaction.  Three days later I get an e-mail from “Gay” telling me – “Thank you for your email. You may forward your comments and any correspondence to the (P.O. Box) address listed below”.  They want me to send via regular snail mail all of the information I already sent them electronically!   Why can’t Gay  just send it to them electronically?  I suspect PNC outsourced their response system.  I will send them a letter just to keep the fun going.

The loan acceptance/rejection from PNC?  It is now three weeks later and still no response.  Anyone surprised by that?

Learning or entertainment?

Today as I was sitting in church listening to Father Goetz once again, I got to thinking about “entertainment”. I have been complaining lately about how our priests at church bore me – I never come home with a message. There are all kinds of reasons for going to church, but one of them is to have some message to reflect on.

That got me thinking about teaching. All of the students are at school for different reasons. And students want to be “entertained” by the teachers: “Let’s watch a movie”. “Can we play on the computers”? “Let’s have a free day today”. I get frustrated when I hear those phrases because I want my students to learn – and I want them to want to learn. But if all I am trying to do is to provide information (like Father Goetz), why should I expect them to be any different than me in church? My role as a teacher has to be to impart some knowledge – but do it in a way that leaves the students something to reflect on. That may not mean I entertain them (we are NOT going to watch Judge Judy in my Business Law class). But it does challenge me to find INTERESTING ways of imparting knowledge.  I guess that is the challenge of teaching – and it is really hard to do.

Thanks Father Goetz for providing me with a message.

Goals . . .or are they Resolutions?

Most people who know me would say that I am a person that likes to plan. And I usually am pretty good at setting goals. I think all of those years in financial planning and strategic planning reinforced that for me.  One thing I have learned is if you put it in writing, it is harder to ignore.   Another thing I learned is to make it measurable.  So with that in mind . . .

My goals for 2012
1. Publish 100 Blog posts. That means I need to do two a week. I believe that is doable. Since my goal is to communicate more with others, I will also find ways to get this dialogue more two-way.
2. Run at least three half marathons. I want to maintain my fitness level. I know I will do that, but setting a goal out there for a specific number of races helps me have something to shoot for.
3. Do five minutes of personal reflection a day.  The reflection time will be quiet, uninterrupted and with no distractions.  In my busy days, I ought to be able to find a couple of minutes of quality time.  This one is way harder than you think.  I’ve already missed a couple of days this year.

Efery once-in-a-while I will write on how I am doing.  Alright, is anyone else willing to put a goal in writing?