February 13, 2016

Trailers AKA Movie Previews

The Movie Trailer as Art Form

Before the summer blockbuster arrived in the mid–70s, I think movie  trailers were mostly rote advertisements following a tried and true formula with a special voice over. But as I grew up and for as long as I can remember I have enjoyed watching movie trailers. I like to get to any movie at the theater plenty early so I know I'll be able to watch the movie trailers and see what's going to be arriving in the next year.

This movie that features another take on The Joker, the beloved criminal mastermind that Cesar Romero made famous in the campy '60s Batman TV series. 

When I was younger, I thought it was cool to try to "compare" trailers to the movie that actually showed up in theaters. Sometimes, parts of trailers never made it into the movies. I know that that happened with The Burbs and Batman back in the late '80s. I've continued to watch trailers the same way since middle school. It's probably the reason I never minded writing compare/contrast papers in high school and college.

I've often said that I would go to the movies and pay to watch two hours of trailers. I don't know why I enjoy trailers so much because some of the garbage they preview is so bad you know you wouldn't go. But some of the movies are actually good.

That's what's cool about youtube.com and the Apple movie previews. You can watch trailers all day long — and on a smart TV you can cue them up and watch several in a row. If you see something previewed and want to watch it again, you can call it right up on your TV in your own home. Sometimes VHS tapes would include the trailer to the movie you were watching but DVDs changed that game. They included (because of move room on the disk) previews for the current movie and other movies.

The first time I remember a trailer it was on TV and it was previewing the upcoming motorcycle police show. NBC previewed the show constantly and I couldn't wait to see CHiPs when it finally debuted. One of my favorite shows of all time, CHiPs finally met its demise when NBC moved the show to a ridiculous Sunday night at 7 p.m. in the early 1980s.

Do you want to watch a cool trailer? I'll post it below and you can decide which TV show was based on it. And this movie has never arrived on DVD, Bluray, or any format for that matter …

January 11, 2016

Detroit Sports Teams on the Upswing

Detroit Sports Teams on the Upswing

Change, change, changes ... 

Motor City Football Squad 

I think the Detroit Lions made a good hire in Bob Quinn joining the team from the New England Patriots. The Patriots, despite some shady dealings, are a class organization in the NFL. It's hard to believe that not too long ago they were a worthless organization going nowhere. Now, they are a winning team year in and year out. Quinn gives the team a solid GM who has paid his dues in the league. He also would have a good relationship with some potential coaching candidates, should the Lions decide to end the Jim Caldwell tenure. Furthermore, the Lions already have two possible head coaching candidates in the current regime — and Jim Bob Cooter is one of those candidates.

Detroit Basketball

Similarly, the Pistons changes from a year ago are coming to fruition. The Detroit Pistons are close to returning to the rank of competitive team in the NBA. The league is a tough one and it's good to see the team in the Motor City competing again. It's hard to believe it's been a dozen years since the Larry Brown–led team shocked the Los Angeles Lakers and won the title. Stan Van Gundy has done a fine job as the GM and head coach.

The Detroit Nine

Finally, the Detroit Tigers will be breaking ground soon on a new season. The team has already broken ground on an improved Spring Training home in Lakeland, Florida. The team is getting ready to rebuild and create a state–of–the–art facility for the Tigers. For several years, the complaint has been that the weight facilities, the batting cages, etc. have not been up to par for the Major Leagues. The changes promise to allow the team to be even more prepared for the long season.

The return to form of Justin Verlander will have an incredible affect on the Tigers. 

On the same note, it will be interesting to see what the Tigers do this season. They have upgraded in several areas and they have also signed a solid starting pitcher in Jordan Zimmerman. The new closer is Francisco Rodriguez who has saved a great many games in his career and he is still a relatively young pitcher (see Nathan, Joe ... )

It will be interesting to see if the Tigers do decide to upgrade in left field. Yoenis Cespedes is still available and he was a solid, even spectacular, ballplayer for the Tigers last season. His role on the New York Mets after the late July trade at the deadline was nothing short of storybook. He nearly single–handedly pushed the New Yorkers into the post season, not to mention the World Series. He's available and the Tigers could use someone like him.

Cespedes was great in his first go–round with the Tigers. Is a return on tap? 

November 17, 2015

Involving the community

Involving the community 

Some of you know that in September I started a new job at Vanderbilt Area School in Vanderbilt, Mich. Vanderbilt is a unique school because it has been in deficit since 2004, with one escape about five years ago. Moreover, the district is also a Priority School as the test results in the elementary have been near the bottom of the State for several years. The battle is real. The efforts are paramount. Moving forward is a challenge, but something that must be done. 

As part of the change in culture at the school, I have increased community communication and one of the ways I've been doing that is writing a weekly column for our local newspaper. It's been a fun endeavor and allows me to share thoughts about change, leadership, culture, curriculum, and assessment in a conversational manner. I've had good responses on the columns so far, so I thought I would share the latest. It's a combination of an attempt to involve the community BUT also an effort to upgrade our safety as the same time.

We have begun to upgrade our safety at the school. At the last Board Meeting, the Board voted to purchase safety upgrades from the Lockdown Company out of Fowlerville, Michigan. The District will be purchasing “the Boot,” a safety device that will allow all internal school doors to be locked down quickly based on an announcement; ballistic shields to be put on key exterior doors; and rapid response room number placards in order to easily identify and find classrooms. In addition, the District is investigating the possibility of building a new wall in the main lobby to ensure that all visitors visit the office before any other spot in the school. The cost of the tools from the Lockdown Company is $16,000, which the District can pay off over four years and also use Sinking Fund monies; however, we are hoping that the community is interested in helping us by “adopting a door.” We will be sharing more information on how to adopt a door soon. While we upgrade our safety, we are also working on bringing back the yellow and black.

How does Vanderbilt Area School truly bring the yellow and black back? We’ve placed a focus on “Every child. Every day.” and continue to be motivated to build an incredible school district for our community. But how do we do that? We have to involve the community, continue forth with academic initiatives, and create transitions between levels for our students.

Involving the community in reimagining of our school district is crucial. Working with our community agencies, local companies, and other entities to help our students and their families in the current economic climate will allow that to happen. Our free/reduced lunch counts are high — high enough that we are able to offer all students free breakfasts and lunches every day. We hope to create a great learning environment for our students and allow them to become successful.

Furthermore, we must continue forth with our academic initiatives already in place. Studying the work of November Learning, Dr. Michael Schmoker, and working with our our intermediate school district (the COPESD) to place rigorous academic programming in place, frequently monitor student achievement, and make appropriate changes in a timely, efficient fashion. The idea is not to make students mere numbers, but to put them in charge of their own learning. Student learning is more important that teachers teaching and the proverbial "did the student get it?" The reality is that we have to find a way for students to "get it." Developing professional learning communities (PLCs) will allow us to “… focus on learning rather than teaching, work collaboratively, and hold yourself accountable for results,” according to former administrator and PLC designer Richard DuFour. DuFour identifies three “big ideas” for PLCs: Big Idea #1: Ensuring That Students Learn; Big Idea #2: A Culture of Collaboration; Big Idea #3: A Focus on Results. Focusing on results will have a great effect on the organization.

When we bridge the gaps between educational levels, from lower elementary to upper elementary to middle school to high school to college/post–secondary learning, we will move the district in the right direction. We do a great job for our students who do graduate but we do no exit survey, no follow–up survey, and no outreach for students who leave and go to college. Those recent alumni can help us greatly. Furthermore, we need to highlight college and post–secondary options for kids beginning in the elementary school.

October 30, 2015

The Educational Star Wars

The Star Wars Saga in Education Continues

I have shared with you many ideas from educational researchers such as Michigan's own Larry Lezotte and Mike Schmoker as well as Robert Marzano and others. In many years in education, I have learned a great deal about "how" we get things done in a school. I've also learned the vast importance of making sure people understand "why" we do what we do. Also, recently, you have probably had the opportunity to check out the trailer for the new Star Wars movie coming out in a couple months. It will certainly be interesting to see what the new movie brings — and if there is an appearance by the great Jedi master, Yoda. Yoda was a great teacher himself and held true to some basic beliefs. Educators must truly believe in high expectations for all. That doesn't mean that you expect every single student to achieve at the highest expectation, but that each child should have that possibility in front of him/her. One of my professors told our class (years ago), "A 'C' is a most honorable grade." High expectations only make schools better.

The CIA 

Within the curriculum, instruction, and assessment "system" led by the principal, ensure that students have enough time to do their school work and that teachers are embracing that time and allowing what is called "time on task" by Lezotte and others who have worked on creating and studying effective schools and identified the "seven correlates." Ensure that the aforementioned culture is sound and that the school is a safe and orderly environment for all — students, teachers, families, etc. The factors that play into this include the school calendar, the daily schedule, and a focus on making sure that students are engaged in excellent instruction every day. One superintendent I know suggests that we build our systems around "response to instruction" moreso than "response to intervention." Furthermore, there should be regular and systemic checks for understanding of student learning.

Make a Difference Time

It's imperative that teachers remember that they went into education to make a difference in kids' lives. It's been my experience that we go through so many different processes in education, always finding the latest and greatest flavor of the week. We must create a focus on the classroom, the school — with the background of the district. Education is simple, but every time a principal goes to a conference and brings home a new "flavor," we take so many steps back. Education must be simplified and we know how to do it.

Face it, as Yoda may say, "There is no longer 'try,' we must do."

October 25, 2015

It's all perspective in the MLB at the deadline

Perspective. That's what the trade deadline provides. 

  • 53–51. Six games out of first place. (Toronto)
  • 53–50. Two games out of first place. (New York Mets) 
  • 50–52. Seven games out of first place. (Texas Rangers) 
  • 50–53. 11.5 games out of first place. (Detroit Tigers) 

On July 31, 2015, the Major League Baseball trade deadline, four teams had the preceding records. The records are close to each others, give or take two–and–a–half games. Three of the teams made the playoffs. One of the teams completely gave up. One of the teams — the one that did not make the playoffs — traded a key component to two of the teams allowing them to improve as the season wound down. The other team made a trade that everyone thought was "for next year" that allowed them to rally in 2015.
Cespedes turned up the volume when he shipped to the National League.
The Tigers would go 24–34 down the stretch and finish in last play way out of first place. The other teams' fortunes would improve and they would march to the playoffs. The New York Mets became so serious that they would rally all the way to the World Series. In the spring, no one was predicting the Mets to even make the playoffs. The player the Mets acquired from the Tigers was Yoenis Cespedes who would rally down the stretch and put up incredible statistics. He hit .287 with 17 HR and 44 RBI for the Mets in 57 games after .293 18 HR 61 RBI in 102 games for the Tigers. So, Cespedes posted almost identical stats in nearly half the games. He turned up the volume when he shipped to the National League. He was always thought of as a big game player.
Yoenis Cespedes is a solid hitter but an even better defender. His trade to the Mets spark–plugged their run to the National League pennant. Cespedes should get MVP votes simply for the effort he put forth after the trade. 
David Price, dealt to the Blue Jays at the deadline, by the Tigers won the same number of games with the Jays as the Tigers in 10 fewer starts. Price had a great season overall, winning 18 games. He was nearly dominating with Toronto, going 9–1 down the stretch. He went all Doyle Alexander on the American League — hopefully, there was a John Smoltz on the other end of the deal. Price continued his post–season slouch, though, for the Jays who were defeated by the Royals in the American League Championship Series.
David Price is one of the best pitchers in the Major Leagues. He dominated for the Blue Jays after the trade. 
Finally, the Phillies shipped Cole Hamels to the Rangers in what was viewed as a deal for 2016; however, the Rangers rallied and made the playoffs. Heck, they won the American League West after finishing last in 2014.

At the trade deadline, four teams had similar records. The Tigers decided to go small and go home, trading their most marketable and potential free agent stars. Two of the teams decided to go big. Three of the teams won divisions and made the playoffs. It's all about perspective and the Tigers' perspective was that they could not contend or make the playoffs so they dealt for prospects. The prospects all have good futures according to the Tigers' braintrust; strangely, though, the general manager who made the trades was fired the day after the deadline. Something strange happened as the season wound down for the Detroit Tigers. At least that is my perspective.

October 18, 2015

Why We Do What We Do

The opportunity to touch the future.

That's what most of the people I've taught with over the years have been all about. The focus of most educators during the past several years has been that "teaching is what we do." Somewhere along the line, though, we lost the "why." We have to bring back the why.

We went into education because we love working with kids and helping get them ready for their futures. Even when a child is in kindergarten, his teacher(s) are preparing him for his future. Our youngest students in school are only with us for 30 or so hours a week. Our teachers work hard to facilitate the learning of their students — teaching them to read, compute math problems, and so many other academic facets. It's so much more every day: counseling students, listening to students, helping them learn manners in the cafeteria, communicating with parents both bad and good information … When we say we want to "touch the future," we aren't kidding. Teachers truly do a great deal to help ready children for their futures. Every. Single Day.

Of course, it's not only the teachers. The bus drivers impact the kids. The cooks and cafeteria workers, the parapros, the secretaries, and even the principal influence student behavior. Children are our most precious resource and we must carefully influence and guide them every single day. In all reality, it's the community that works together to ensure that students are ready for their futures. It's just that teachers chose to impact students' lives because they want to touch the future. It's what they do.

October 17, 2015

Austin Jackson and the Acquisition

Put Me In Coach

The Royals and Cubs are heading to a showdown in the Fall Classic.  And Austin Jackson is at the center of everything during the post season. 

It's amazing that Fernando Rodney and  Jackson are both on the Cubs' roster. Rodney has struggled the past couple of seasons and Jackson just never put it all together with the Mariners after his trade* from the Tigers in the summer of 2014. 

Jackson was constantly an up–and–coming future star during his tenure with the Tigers. 

Wisely, the Royals chose not to take Joba Chamberlain to the playoffs with them — his meltdown in 2014 with the Tigers against the Orioles was both epic and repeated (two nights in a row). 

Two–thirds of the Mets outfield are former Tigers: Curtis Granderson (part of the epic trade that brought Jackson to the Tigers from the Yankees back in the 2009 off season) and Yoenis Cespedes who has been a catalyst in allowing the Mets to jump the Washington Nationals. 

Former Tigers rental and ace (as well as someone involved in another aforementioned *trade involving Jackson) David Price is on the Toronto Blue Jays roster. Devon Travis did not make the postseason roster after the pre–season trade between the Tigers and Jays. 

Jackson is like Kevin Bacon in these playoffs: six degrees. It will be interesting to see how the post season shakes out, but it looks like the Kansas City Royals and Chicago Cubs are on a crash course. It's awesome to see the stadium in Kansas City filled up with all of the fans waving flags and making noise. I'm sure that Toronto and New York City will also be going crazy — but no park will be as awake as Wrigley Field in Chicago. 
The Spirit of Detroit decked in Tigers gear makes the City much more lively in October!