Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Time to work out, not pork out

Today is the first day of a new school year. Like many teachers, I approached the start with great trepidation. Nobody likes knowing their summer has disappeared and the responsibility of work suddenly reappearing seemingly out of nowhere. I especially wasn’t looking forward to returning so soon. This isn't because I dislike my job (on the contrary I love it, there’s not a better gig in the world) but now I’m not getting the thrill of being a “stay-at-home dad.” I’ve grown very fond of sleeping in each morning and playing with Caffrey all day long. I’m truly going to miss that. However, I needed to get back to work so that I could get back in a more healthy state.

In the spring, shortly before we went on summer break, the school district offered it’s employees a chance to have free physicals done here in Odessa. If we didn’t do them, we could see our insurance costs go up so I think every person in the district took advantage of it. It was an eye-opening experience as my results were quite poor. To quote Navin R. Johnson from The Jerk: “I failed everything but the date of birth.” My LDL (bad cholesterol) was high and my HDL (good cholesterol) was low. My BMI (Body Mass Index) was horrible. According to the people doing the physical, for my age and height, I should weigh somewhere between 160-190 pounds. I don't think so. If I ever get that low I’ll look like a shorter version of Shawn Bradley or a dude version of Kate Moss. Oh, and my blood pressure was high as well. I told the nurse that if she had my job of working with disciplinary issues everyday and finish the basketball season on a 22-game losing streak, her blood pressure would be high, too. Surprisingly, the only result that was normal was my glucose. This shocked the heck out of me and almost caused me to spit out the Sweet Tea I was drinking at the time.

So anyways, this was the kick in the pants I needed to start getting healthy. I joined the Grain Valley Community Center’s gym and was working out five days a week throughout the month of May. Everyday after work, I would get on the elliptical for 30 minutes and lift for 45 minutes. Heck, I was even getting there and working out before school on some days. I was feeling great and dropped 10 pounds. The plan was stay there for May, and then in June, we’d all join the Y in Blue Springs. My GVCC membership ended in early June, but we didn’t join the Y. I was swamped with basketball camps and had the bad cases of gout and there was just no way that I could workout in that condition. It wasn’t until mid-late July that we did our membership at the Y. And wouldn’t you know it, that month of work that I put in to drop 10 pounds in May was all for naught as it came back and I’m right back where I started from. I wasn’t working out, and my eating habits that I had established during the last couple months of the school year went down the drain just like that month of working out. I was eating and drinking out of boredom (dang you, McDonald’s Sweet Tea and Smoothies!). You see, I’m a very routine-oriented person and being at home all day with a baby means no routine. Now that school’s back in session, I can get back to my morning and afternoon schedule:

5:55 Get up and get ready for the day (including drop CC off at daycare at 6:50)
7:20 Get to work, walk the halls a little, get ice from the lounge for my waters
8:30 Eat breakfast of yogurt and granola, nutragrain bar, or oatmeal bar
10:00 Go for a walk in the building then eat a 100-cal pack for a snack
12:30 Lunch consisting of leftovers from night before with 100-cal pack or granola bar for dessert
3:05 Head home, have a snack, workout, get CC, go home and wait for Laura to get home for dinner.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. My summer went nothing like that except for the “wait for Laura to get home for dinner” part.

So that’s where we are. Since today is the first day of the school year, it’s the first day that I’m getting back on the health wagon. Not only do I need a routine (which I now have again), I also need motivation and accountability when it comes to stuff like this. Here’s where you and this blog are going to help. Each Tuesday, I’m going to post something on here about my current weight and just a short note or two about the workouts. If you feel that I’m slacking, I want you to tell me about it. Now, with that being said, according to my weigh-in this morning, I’m tipping the scales at just over a deuce and a half. Ok, 260 to be exact. My hope is to be down to 225 by the time we have our first basketball game which is 105 days (15 weeks) from today. It’s going be tough to reach that goal with my birthday, Halloween and Thanksgiving between now and then, but with all your help, I think I can I can make it. Then the trick will be to maintain it. After all, I have a reputation as one of the most "nattily-attired basketball coaches" in the area and I’ve got some kickass suits that I need to be able to suit up in again this season ;)

Ok, it's now time my for my 10:00 snack. Probably do some butt-clinches at my desk, too. There's no time to waste.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Updating SB54: What is and isn't fine.

Today was our first day back to work. It was highlighted by an hour-long presentation by our district's lawyer on school laws and policies such as FERPA (confidentiality) and student allergens. About halfway through, we were briefed on SB54 and it's impact on us as teachers. Come to think about it, the presentation and the bill were similar in that SB54 was neatly tucked into the middle and that was really the only thing anybody there was really concerned with.

A handful of us diligent educators and administrators stayed afterwards to discuss some issues with the lawyer and now I feel that I should make some updates to my previous blog over this which was posted last week. Unfortunately, I have the ability to think rationally and that hurt me when discussing SB54 the first time.

First off, let me once again preface this by saying what was reiterated to us several times today and that is it is up to the individual districts to create their policies on this. They have minimum guidelines to follow but can be more strict if they choose. Right now, the issue is that school is preparing to start, but since the bill was just signed recently, most districts don't have their policies yet. Odessa is one such district.

I visited privately with the lawyer afterwards and she said that any former student (and let me remind everyone that includes anybody 18 or under and not graduated) isn't to be "friended" on Facebook or texted privately. As I interpreted the law, you would still be okay having them if you weren't in the same district because the law says "IS employed." Not the case. So, I've got some work to do deleting a bunch of Lexington kids as well as a handful of Marionville and Mercer ones. Fortunately, Laura is friends with some of them, so I'll be able to be in contact with them through her which is fine.

Another interesting item was dealing with parents that are teachers. I remember reading somewhere on Facebook that somebody said the law exempts parents that teach their kids. Guess what. Not the case. There is no exemption according to the letter of the law. Now, that being said, the lawyer said there was no way that would ever hold up and she would "gladly defend" somebody that got in trouble for it and that's fine.

Public Facebook pages (such as the one for the Odessa Cross Country team and any others like it) are perfectly okay. It's classified as a "work-related internet site" and because anybody can follow it (there's no request to follow like when you try to friend someone) and there's not "exclusive access" it's fine.

Text messaging was another sticky issue though. Those group texts to your athletes or club members would violate the law. However, if you allow parents to be included on the group text list, that's fine. The possibility of having parents sign a consent form or waiver giving coaches/sponsors permission to text their son/daughter is out there as well. The funny this is that it's okay to call kids, you just can't text them. Doesn't make a lot of sense. I guess the General Assembly's feelings are that you can't show inappropriate pictures in a phone call, so that's fine.

Well, those are the major issues that I felt I should revisit now that I've been educated on it a little more. My brother has his district's day where they'll be briefed by their lawyer tomorrow, so maybe he'll be able to shed a little more light on the subject as well, and that's fine.

Time to get to deleting and that's not fine.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

SB54 shows that everybody overreacts

Missouri Senate Bill 54 was recently signed into law by Governor Nixon a couple of weeks ago and now all of a sudden people are up in arms about it. It's a perfect example of how the government can do something that sounds good in theory, but application is another issue. It's also a perfect example of people getting all worked up about stuff without reading the fine print.

SB54 is a lengthy bill sponsored by Democratic Senator Jane Cunningham (the same Senator that has been a major proponent of ditching teacher tenure and instituting merit-based pay on a four-tier system) that has many things in there to protect students. Things like more background checks and requiring districts to report sexual abuse allegations within 24 hours after the allegations have been made. It's known as the "Amy Hestir Student Protection Act" after a student that was sexually assaulted by a teacher many, many years ago, most people are jumping to the part of the bill that deals with electronic communication, mainly Facebook, even though it's never mentioned by name in the bill.

Here is what the bill says about teacher-student electronic communication which is what Facebook would be categorized as:

"Every school district shall, by January 1, 2012, promulgate a written policy concerning teacher-student communication and employee-student communication. Such policy shall contain at least the following elements:
Appropriate oral and nonverbal personal communication, which may be combined with or included in any policy on sexual harassment; and
Appropriate use of electronic media such as text messaging and internet sites for both instructional and personal purposes, with an element concerning use of social networking sites no less stringent than the provisions of 2, 3, and 4 of this section."

Ok, here's where it starts to get saucy:

"3) No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a work-related internet site unless such site is available to school administrators and the child's legal custodian, physical custodian, or legal guardian.
4) No teacher shall establish, maintain, or use a nonwork-related internet site which allows exclusive access with a current or former student. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed as prohibiting a teacher from establishing a nonwork-related internet site, provided the site is used in accordance with this section."

The first thing that everybody jumped at was the words "former student." As soon as people started seeing this they freaked out that they wouldn't be able to "friend" students they maybe had in class 10-15 years ago and might even be co-workers with now. The status updates were nuts yesterday, filled with dozens of current teachers talking about no longer being friends with students they may have had years ago and they were going to start unfriending them and so on. If you want to do that, be my guest. But as I said in the headline, it's an overreaction.

Nobody likes to read bills from the General Assembly, which is the combined name for Missouri's House of Representatives and Senate, or our state version of Congress (there's your Government lesson for the day). Heck, even Senators and Reps probably don't like reading this stuff. But to understand things more fully, you have to get in there and read some of the nuts and bolts.

The first part we need to discuss is "exclusive access" which is defined in the bill in the section before the stuff about teacher's setting up the sites (the definitions are part of Section 2). It states "the information on the website is available only to the owner (teacher) and user (student) by mutual explicit consent and where third parties have no access to the information on the website absent an explicit consent agreement with the owner (teacher)." You can have current students or former students as friends on Facebook, you just can't send private messages to them. You can post stuff on their wall, such as "happy birthday" or "good game last night" or anything else that would be deemed socially appropriate there because it's public or "non-exclusive." You just can't put your private stuff in their in-box. That'll get you in trouble in more ways than one.

Secondly, let's address "former student." Contrary to popular belief, it is defined in the bill, it's just not one of the parts that's getting a lot of publicity right now. This is defined as "any person who was at one time a student at the school which the teacher is employed and who is eighteen years of age or less and who has not graduated." So guess what guys. You can keep your friends that you taught if they're over eighteen and graduated. And it also says IS employed, so you're okay if you're in a different district.

Also, let's not forget that it is the individual districts' responsibility to create their own policies. What might be permissible at one district might not be at another. So, you could end up seeing districts creating board policy stating that you won't have any current students on there and to be honest, that's probably the safest thing.

The part that I was beginning to worry about the most was the part about text messaging which has been an overlooked aspect also. As a coach, I have every basketball player's phone number stored in my phone. If I need to contact them, I send out a mass text because that's so much faster and easier than trying to make 30+ phone calls. I'd say most coaches around the state do this. However, under the letter of the law, text messaging a student/athlete would violate the law because text messaging has been lumped in with electronic communication and then you get into the "exclusive access" portion of the bill again because the texts wouldn't be public or going to a parent/guardian. But here's where I hope we as coaches can get around this. There's mention of an "explicit consent agreement with the owner (teacher)" which would be like a contract from a parent giving you consent or permission to send private messages (such as texts) to the student/athlete. Once again though, it all is based on what each individual district wants to create as part of their board policy. My district might just do a blanket policy of zero texts to kids. That would upset me because text messaging is one of the main forms of communication for kids nowadays. It's unfortunate that kids would rather punch up some letters on their phones than hit the numbers and talk to a person directly, but that's the society we live in now. If my district says that's the policy, so be it. I'll abide by it.

I probably have 200 friends on Facebook that were either students of mine at one time or that I coached (I counted 100 and was only in the J's, so I decided it was time to ballpark it). Many of them have graduated and gone on to start their own careers, get married, have families. Some of them are still in school in other districts that I've worked at and I've added them because I still like to follow them, see how they're doing and continue to show them pictures of my gorgeous baby girl. However, I've never allowed a current student/athlete of mine to be included in any of my social networking sites. I've had several students try over the years and I tell them the same thing: "Graduate, and I'll add you." Makes for a very cheap graduation present. I even included it in the syllabus that I would distribute and go over with the students on the first day of the school year. I have nothing to hide, but it just helps keep me safe from kids seeing or reading something that they probably shouldn't.