Category Archives: Teaching

Tales from the Classroom #007

Redskins’ sources say the coach personally broke down the game tape with the quarterback. When they were finished assessing the Chargers game, George told the coach that he played as well as he can possibly play.

Chris Mortensen on ESPN.com in 2001

This is a blast from the past. When it happened, I was upset that then-Washington head coach Marty Schottenheimer didn’t give quarterback Jeff George another chance. George had a great arm, I thought. He was way better than plenty of starters in the NFL, I thought. Why not give him another shot? Why didn’t anybody else give him another chance?

Now, as a teacher, I know. Sometimes, some people are uncoachable. Now, I’m not saying that George was like that. The stories penned by many football journalists implied that, including the one above. I don’t know George or anyone involved personally, nor have I talked to any of them. That’s what’s been suggested or implied based on what writers have written.

In some ways, this story is similar to Tales from the Classroom #006 that I’d posted some time ago. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Anyway, I had this student. Let’s call him Shawn.*

*The name has been changed to protect the student’s identity. 

I would tell Shawn, “All right, Shawn. Make sure you come on time moving forward. Class starts at 9:00, not 9:09.” His response? “I’m trying my best already,” he would retort. No, it’s not a traffic thing or commute issue. He lived about eight minutes away on foot. However, he chose to wake up every morning at 8:55, change, and rush to school.

He never brushed his teeth – it was obvious. You could smell it standing close to him.

I explained to him that you have to develop a good habit, wake up early, as it affects your future career, etc. It was in one ear, out the other. Now, I’m not talking about a child or teenager here. The guy was 26 years old.

“I’m teaching you to develop strong habits,” I would say.

“I have 10 minutes to be here. I don’t need to be here at 9:00,” he would say, referring to the school’s rule of allowing students a 10-minute window to arrive because of traffic. The 10-minute window is not for people who are lazy. And Shawn was exploiting the rule due to his laziness.

I would tell him to create a title and double-space anything that was to be handed in. I would remind the class every time. I even had a package that I handed out detailing examples of this. Every time he handed in his assignment, those two things were “forgotten.”

Now, we’re not talking about a learning disability. Shawn simply didn’t care. And it doesn’t matter how patient you are, his stubbornness was something he refused to change. It was nearly impossible to teach him.

He would say, “I’m better than [name of one of his classmates],” or “I don’t need to [care] about [whatever the feedback was].” To me, not caring about constructive criticism is like you want to be mediocre. To constantly compare yourself to others, as I’d written in the past, is not the way to improve yourself.

When he received a low grade for the term, he was “angry,” (his words). He thought that if he paid for the course, he was a customer and should receive royal treatment.

The more I taught Shawn, the more I thought about the football example.

Then I realized… it’s true. Some people, unfortunately, can’t be coached. In life, that’s just the way it is.

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More writing projects on the way…

Unlike others, I tend not to engage in petty gossip and what-not. I prefer to spend my time creating stuff.

I mean, yes, I’m the odd “consumer” – where I spend time playing computer games and watching TV series/TV dramas – but I’m not one who gossips about others. I tend to do creative things with my time.

You know, I’m referring to those on the train, in coffee shops, etc. gossiping about and labeling others. So many times on the train or in cafes, I would be sitting in my seat or at my table, and the next seats/tables, etc. would have young women trashing their “friend” because, “oh, she’s so stupid to be doing blah blah,” or, “oh, if I were her, I wouldn’t STILL be living home at our age, blah blah.”

It’s like, people are constantly judging others, talking trash behind their backs. Or, equally bad, are those who have their face down when they’re walking on sidewalks or in public, texting or doing whatever they’re doing, without looking at where they’re going. Pay attention to where you’re going! (And, that’s not me labeling them; it’s me pointing out the fact they are oblivious to their surroundings and they might be obstructing others in their paths, for instance.)

Anyway, I prefer to spend my time, as I said, doing creative things. I write. I write about people who inspire. I write about those who are underappreciated but who actually inspire.

I’m proud – and will forever be proud – that I had Tom Candiotti’s biography published by McFarland & Co. even though I was never a journalist. It was through my own efforts in tracking his teammates down – and yes, I have to thank them for responding – and my own hard work in making the book happen.

And I can say I’ve had a “history” book published – since McFarland’s specialty is history books, mainly. (Okay, I say that as a joke about my having written a “history” book.)

I’m also proud that I was able to stay on task and finish “The End of the Montreal Jinx” – a book about the Canadiens-Bruins NHL rivalry. There were those who scoffed. There were those who tried to undermine me or wanted me to fail.

(Yes, I can give an example. At a certain company that I worked in, the “director” asked me to be in charge of personnel and yet was undermining me all the way. I was asked to give a test to employees, and I assigned them a spoken test to make sure they could describe the products VERBALLY because they are going to be doing so on the phone to customers and clients. Yet, on the morning of the test, the “director” suddenly asked me to change it to a written test. Later, IT presented me with a document which listed the messenger chat between the “director” and a certain “coach killer” (a cancer) where she told the “director” she didn’t want to do a spoken test. That’s why the “director” suddenly asked me to change it. The time stamps indicate that that’s what happened.)

There were those who pretended to be interested in what I’m writing, and they ask me so that they can determine how much money I make from books or they ask so they can scoff at me and tell me how bad my idea is. “Yeah, it’s the Dodgers’ 30th anniversary [of winning a championship], but SO WHAT?” All some people care about is attacking instead of being supportive or providing solutions.

There were those who would take what I say and twist it around (like they’re lawyers or something) or form their own opinions without asking me. As a joke, I’ve often said, “I’m 21.” A lot of people joke about that kind of stuff. But you’ll have peers or “friends” who will take that statement and try to analyze why I said “I’m 21.” Some would say things like, “Oh, you’re hung up on someone who’s 21 years old and that’s why you pretend you’re 21.” Excuse me? Instead of asking me, these people assume I have issues or whatever.

Anyway, there were those who would say, “I’m busy,” just because they have no time for you. Or, “I don’t care [what you have to say or what you’re saying].” Guess what? It works both ways. If they don’t care what I have to say, how seriously am I going to take them moving forward?

Getting back to that Dodgers comment from three paragraphs earlier, I succeeded – despite all sorts of negativity I had to listen to or deal with as I was writing that book. Well, I’m happy to say that Rowman & Littlefield is publishing that book celebrating the Dodgers’ championship team in August this year.

I just have to block out the negativity that I constantly hear around me. I’ve succeeded. Again, I’m proud that I have that book published.

And at the moment, I’m working on a biography about another ex-Major League Baseball player who, like Candiotti, also was nicknamed “Candy Man.” I’ve been working on this project since January 2018. It’s been going well.

Not only that, I’m also working on a book about a Stanley Cup champion from the past. And also another one about a former White Sox pitcher.

All of these stories are inspirational. And I want to write about their stories.

I’m still trying to track down a long-time pitcher who now works as a pitching coach in the minor leagues. Want to speak with him about the possibility of a book. And also a former big-league switch-hitter who had a marvelous but underrated career – one which saw him get snubbed for an All-Star Game.

Failing those two, there’s also a potential project on the horizon about an ex-Pirate, a former first-round pick, and a fellow who probably should be in the Hall of Fame.

Like I said, I’m a creator. I want to create inspiration. We need more of that in our world… not constant negativity and gossiping.

Tales from the classroom #006

So, I teach kids.  I teach teenagers. I also teach adults.

Now, as a teacher and instructor, I come across all types of students. Some are just assholes.

Just last week, I encountered one such student. Now, we’re talking about an adult class, where you’d expect people would be mature.

Not the one student that I had to deal with. This individual did poorly on the final test – and when I was approached and asked why the score was low, I explained the answer in detail.

This person couldn’t handle it, and started talking about other students’ scores. To be professional, I gave encouragement and stated that it’s not about comparing yourself to others; it’s comparing yourself to your own performance from before. As long as you’ve progressed, you’ve done a good job – don’t worry about the score.

This asshole didn’t care – basically this individual is someone who just overestimates their own ability by trashing other students. Totally unacceptable and unreasonable the way this asshole chose to deal with the situation after consulting with me.

It’s just another reminder: Hey, there’ll always be assholes in your classes – even adult classes where you expect people to be mature. I guess for some people, you’re not going to change their opinion even though their thinking is flawed.

It is what it is.

Tales from the ballpark & classroom

So, minor-league baseball season is over. For the last 11 weeks, I’ve been juggling my time at the ballpark and in the classroom.

Amazingly, for each of the last 11 weeks, I’ve been asked to go in to substitute for various teachers at the same school. 11 straight weeks! During those times, I’ve subbed for A. #1, A. #2, C., D., M., R. #1, S., and R. #2. …. So, basically, I’ve subbed for all levels of ESL as well as Advanced, SSP, UCPP, TESOL, TYCP, and IELTS… pretty much everything. Sometimes during those 11 consecutive weeks, I went in for three straight days or just once a week, but the streak has lasted 11 weeks so far.

And, 10 times, I was in the classroom at 9 a.m. and then had to be at the ballpark by 12:10 p.m. for that night’s baseball game, often not getting home until 11:30 p.m. Those 10 days, in particular, were long days. But baseball is finally over.

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I’m proud of myself for remaining calm and positive at all times. There were multiple times when I was yelled at, but I remained positive and did my work. During those situations I always kept a smile on my face and had a positive attitude. It’s hard to do that. But I’m proud of being able to do it during those especially tough times. I strongly believe it’s important to always remain calm and positive, and work to solve problems instead of creating them. Sure, there were frustrating moments here and there… but I’m very proud of the work that I was able to achieve despite those unpleasant times.

We’ll see what next week brings.

UPDATE: Sept. 10, 2016 – As it turned out, in the 11 weeks of baseball, I was called in at least once in each of those 11 weeks to be a substitute. Naturally, the streak ended at 11 weeks as I was not called in for a 12th consecutive week. So, the streak ended at 11 weeks – when I had no more baseball obligation. Also, as it turned out, I will not be brought back to the school as a regular teacher. 

Dec 2014: Motivational Speech to Engineering Students @ University of Datyon

From Dec. 2014: I was asked to make a motivational speech to inspire international students in third-year Engineering at the University of Dayton (OH).

Unfortunately, they didn’t film this and I recorded it myself but the recorder didn’t have enough space at the end so the recording is incomplete.

The purpose was to help the class, most of which consisted of international students, feel inspired and realize it’s possible for them to get adjusted to North American life. Their professor had reached out to me to fly down there to motivate and inspire them – and I accepted.