Archive for the ‘Daily Life’ Category

On Completing my First Year of Teaching and Going to Greece

June 25th, 2009 1 comment

I don’t know how it happened, but I survived my first year of teaching! Tillicum has been a great place for me and I have really enjoyed teaching there. My colleagues are great and the students have been a blast. Somehow Bellevue worked things so they didn’t have to lay anyone off (RIF) so I have my job back next year; same place, same classes! How incredible! I posted a few pictures of the last few days at Flickr: Last Days of School 2008-09. My class pictures are also below!

Since I found out I had a job, I also hopped on board Boutry and Kim’s travel plans to go to Greece! Tomorrow morning I will be heading out for 20 days on an adventure to Greece and Germany! I will visit Kos, Crete, and Athens, then head over to Boutry’s place near Frankfurt and venture out from there. You can view my itinerary here at Google maps. I have never been to Greece and am really excited to go! I will try and send updates if I can. What a great way to end a fun, difficult, tiring, exciting, and a number of other adjectived year!

Read more…

Categories: Daily Life, Education

5 Year Blogversary and an awesome 30th!

May 19th, 2009 4 comments

Today marks the 5th anniversary of starting my blog. Pretty amazing that I have been doing this for 5 years! Of course in the last two years, or so, the posts haven’t been as frequent… but it is quality over quantity, right? I started at the, now nonexistent, Modblog which was a great community and introduction to blogging. I have, since then, had various blogs that I update with varying frequency, but it has been great running my own domain and just writing when I feel like it and about the topics I am really interested in. Everyone should blog really. No, really, go start one now, they’re free!

Should you desire to take a gander at the various things I have written about, check out the / Random Acts of Verbiage Archive and drop a note!

Matt and Stacey turn 30!To go along with this anniversary, I am also happy to say I had an incredible night/weekend with some amazing people celebrating my and Stacey’s 30th birthday. I am supremely blessed to have the wonderful friends I have. Thanks to everyone who made it so special!

We started the night at Anthony’s on Pier 66 on Seattle’s waterfront then went back to our suite at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel for swimming, eating, and just general enjoyment of each other’s company. It was a night to remember! Please stop by Matt and Stacey turn 30! @ Flickr for some pictures from the evening.

Categories: Blogging, Daily Life

On Turning 30…

May 10th, 2009 1 comment

Well here I am. Three decades in. I can look back and feel blessed, satisfied, and optimistic. Sure, there are things I wish I could have done differently or wished had turned out differently. But those things have become part of who I am. For instance, I make a pretty awesome third wheel. Life moves forward, I have finally found a career that I enjoy, I have incredible friends that encourage me every day, and wonderful family who blesses me all the time. Pretty freakin’ awesome.

I wonder what the next few decades will bring! I am looking forward to it!

Categories: Daily Life

Griffey is coming back to Seattle!

February 18th, 2009 2 comments

Me and my Griffey card collection!Ken Griffey Jr. has been my favorite baseball player since he started with Seattle back in ’89. Even when he left Seattle, I still really liked him and wished him well. I have a HUGE Griffey baseball card collection that I will probably never let go of. When he played against Seattle last year and was welcomed back with such open arms, he talked about how he would love to come back here. I was in full support of him coming back even if it seems like many were against it or thought it would be a silly move. But he NEEDS to be in Seattle. The fans love him. He can still play a few years in the outfield and then he can take over at DH forever. Well today made my day (other than the face that Mariella Grace Di Loreto was born!!!!)! Griffey selects Seattle as best match: Future Hall of Famer returning to where storied career began. How awesome! I am super glad to see him back and really look forward to going to some games this year!

Categories: Daily Life

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

December 21st, 2008 1 comment

It’s that time of year again where we reflect on our lives and look forward to the celebration of the birth of Jesus. I have written other posts about this that I won’t bother to copy (but feel free to check them out, they are linked below). I just hope you will all be reflecting on your lives and thinking about what is important to you, what gives you value, what brings you hope, love, and compassion. We all (if you have internet and a computer to be able to read this, you are definitely included in this) have been given much. Grace, mercy, kindness, places to live, cars to drive, food to eat: abundant blessings we have. Be thankful for them and in turn, give to others in whatever capacity you are able. Give beyond what makes you comfortable. Push beyond your comfort zone. One previous post I commented on Relient K’s song “I Celebrate the Day” and it’s climax is pertinent here:

I celebrate the day
That You were born to die
So I could one day pray for You to save my life

Grace has been extended to us in our brokenness, try extending grace and love yourself.

It has been a strange week here in Seattle. We are used to the rain and the cold. We are used to snow as a novelty or as something you seek out somewhere else. We are not so used to it as a way of life. We have about a foot of snow here at The House and the roads haven’t been driven on much. We walked up to QFC and it was packed with people seeming to prepare for the end of the world. It is just strange for us. I enjoy it, it is peaceful I think. We have had 3 snow days at school with one more tomorrow and (most likely) one more on Tuesday (we had to go Monday and Tuesday as make up days for our strike… that we now have to make up because of snow). The days off have been nice and relaxing, which is what a break is supposed to be. Hopefully I can get down to Southern WA for Christmas without any problems… we’ll see how that goes.

But the title of this post brings me back to what I really wanted to share. For some reason I had never heard the hymn “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” written in 1964 by Henry Longfellow and my life was lacking because of it. This song really struck a chord with me. The King James translates Luke 2:14 in this way: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” While a more modern and scholastic version renders the Greek slightly differently, the intent behind “Peace on Earth, Good will to men” has never been exposited so beautifully. The complete lyrics of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” are worth of your pondering, but I wanted to share two of the verses:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

These words, written during the civil war, are difficult, yet filled with the hope that comes again this Christmas. (I would recommend the Casting Crowns, Johnny Cash, or Jars of Clay versions, they are done wonderfully!) In the broken world we live in, what all the difficult things we go through, experience, and see, it is easy to get stuck in that first verse. But in reading the Gospel and delving in to the person of Christ, we are left with hope and grace. That is a good place to be this Christmas.

Selected Previous Christmas Posts:
I Celebrate the Day by Relient K
Dickens Speaks Truth
Get the X out of X-Mas!
Always Winter but Never Christmas
Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

Merry Christmas and God Bless!

Categories: Daily Life, Religion, Theology

On a Cold Tuesday Morning…

December 16th, 2008 4 comments

… I walked outside to my car, excited because I actually woke up a bit early and would be at school with plenty of time to get some stuff done before our 8th grade team meeting. Instead I was met with a 6:30am chill and this:

In case you missed it, there should be a window there. Oh, and a CD player. (Oh, and this is after I cleaned the loads of glass shards off my seat…) Nice.

Categories: Daily Life

Google Street View Meets Seattle!

December 4th, 2008 5 comments

Sometime last month Google Maps finally completed their street view of Seattle (there are a LOT of streets!). Of course I had to drop over to my house and see what they captured… imagine my surprise when I found this:

Yep, I managed to make an appearance! Totally awesome and creepy, all in one!


View Larger Map

Categories: Daily Life

Bellevue School District: On Strike - My New Job

September 2nd, 2008 37 comments

Last year while I was working on my masters from SPU I was sent into the classroom right away. Right off the bat I started observing and getting to know the students. As the year progressed, I started taking over more and more classes and responsibilities. Tillicum Middle School in Bellevue became my home. The staff was great, my mentor teachers were amazing, and the kids helped me grow a lot; a perfect first experience. To compliment that experience, I was able to fill in as a leave replacement at Tyee Middle School for the last quarter of the year. It was nice to be on my own and get a little taste of the “real” teaching experience.

Over the summer I worked on the 8th grade physics curriculum as a “content specialist.” We incorporated materials and ideas from what we had done during the year along with suggestions and helps from the special ed and ESL departments. The idea is that collaboration and resources will make the curriculum, the curriculum web and the lessons it contains that much stronger. While there, I was approached by one of my mentor teachers from last year. She let me know that she might be moving to the high school level to teach biology which would mean there was an open position back at Tillicum.

So last week I found myself at the newbie training for Bellevue School District! I have my own room! It is mostly ready to go. The walls look fairly bare for the most part… but it is functional and I will be working on it! It was pretty much the ideal situation for me. I know the school, I know the staff, I know the curriculum; that should help make my first year of teaching much more smooth and successful (hopefully for my students as well).

Today’s my first day… well it would have been had the Bellevue Education Association (our union) not decided to go on strike.

The Strike

The bargaining team on both sides have done a good job of working hard to get the contract hammered out, but there are still three major areas where agreement could not be reached. The three areas still being argued are compensation, health benefits, and the use of the curriculum web. I am all for higher pay and I think there is ground being made on the issue of compensation. Bellevue is paid well compared to other districts in the area, but the cost of living is higher and (some would argue) the quality of the teacher is higher as well. I believe that the district does need to be held accountable for where money has gone and why they think they cannot afford to pay us more. But I also understand that if that money truly is not there, they would have to fire personnel, which would not be a good situation either. Here is the comparison in pay proposals (from the district website… so there are other factors that may not be represented). I don’t have too much to say about the benefits issue. Personally I would rather have the money on the check than in benefits because all mine is covered already. But I also have to understand that most people are not single without kids and so have to pay more and should therefore have those benefits. At the same time, we have a pretty amazing benefits plan as it is.

The Curriculum
I have had problems with the language the union and many teachers use in talking about the curriculum web. Here is the memorandum of understanding regarding curriculum from the district (UPDATE: here is the current version). When I read that, I do not understand what the union could have problems with. Teachers are worried about autonomy in what kind of lessons they can teach. Fine, I get that. If they need to change or modify the lessons they teach, they can do that. Why wouldn’t they share that with their curriculum staff and their colleagues?

Some teachers are still under the impression that we have to teach scripted lessons. That we could just print a lesson off the web and read it. That is not the intent of the web, nor has it ever been the intent. I do not understand why this is still being propagated. I have never interacted with any administrator or curriculum coach who thinks the lessons on the web have only one way to be taught or that they should never be modified to fit the needs of our students. This is what “professional judgment” means. For my final, “official” observation to be entered into Bellevue’s job pool (in lieu of an interview), I was observed by one of the area directors. In that observation I did a lesson that was NOT part of the curriculum web and the observation went wonderfully because the lesson was student centered and was aligned with district objectives. It made sense. “I heard a teacher got in trouble for not using something from the curriculum web…” That is NOT sufficient to suggest that teachers actually are being written up for the reasons you think. Hearsay needs to be ignored and not propagated. If people have a problem with Bellevue’s educational philosophy or pedagogy, they probably shouldn’t be part of this district. Why would you join a company if you completely disagreed with what they did? And why does the union think they can control and dictate what the district deems important?

I understand this is a very complex issue, I just wish both sides would grow up a bit, stop using politically charged language, stop propagating inaccurate information, provide factual information that is relevant, make appropriate compromises, and just keep working to settle this strike so we can start teaching our kids.

To the teachers: stop thinking the district is trying to control and micromanage your classroom. They aren’t trying to do that. They don’t want to do that. They want you to be a professional.

To the union: don’t push an agenda that the entire union might not be in support of. The memorandum of understanding concerning curriculum makes sense and should be supported.

To the school district: you need to show specific numbers if you truly think you cannot afford the pay increase being asked for. You haven’t been completely honest in the past on this issue and teachers got burned. If you have mismanaged funds, you need to figure out how to deal with that, but not at the expense of quality teachers.

There is much more that could be said, but I will leave it at that. I will eventually have my first day of teaching. I just hope it will be soon!

Bellevue Education Association (the BEA, our union)
Bellevue School District

News Articles about the Strike:
Seattle P-I: Bellevue teachers set for strike
Seattle Times: School’s out in Bellevue as teachers hit picket lines
King 5 TV: Bellevue teachers walk picket line
KOMO News 4: Bellevue teachers on strike
KIRO TV 7: Bellevue Teachers Hit Picket Lines

If you would like to email the BEA bargaining team about your thoughts on the matter, they can be emailed here: BEAbargain [at]

Check out this Seattle Times editorial: Bellevue teachers strike is wrong. While the editorial can be a bit harsh in places, they have a lot of good things to say that should be paid attention to.

Teachers are taking standardized curriculum as a personal affront when it is not. Districts have always been empowered to set curriculum.

Bellevue has spent the past five years creating the curriculum with a $2 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — an organization known for vetting academic initiatives. Meanwhile, the district continues to be recognized nationally for its quality schools and its emphasis on getting all students into high-level classes.

Here is a critical point the teachers union appears to want to ignore: Bellevue’s common curriculum is an evolving effort, far from completion. It was expected that best practices and teaching strategies from teachers would build upon the work already started. The curriculum would change as students change, creating a living rather than static effort. Teachers should know this.

You should read it.

Categories: Daily Life, Education