December 19, 2014

Wrap It Up — I'll Take It

Time, For Me …

It's that time of year when we all talk about the great things from the current year and set out to make goals for the upcoming new year. I have to be honest, I can't place my finger on anything from the pop culture year that really stands out as incredible — it doesn't seem there were any phenomenal movies or songs that resonated. I read several books; one of my new year plans is to start reviewing those books on my blog. None of the books stands out as "can't miss."

Colorado in July — white water rafting. Bucket list: CHECK. 

All I can tell you about 2014 is that it went fast. I remember about 20 or 25 years ago when my dad told me that I probably wouldn't believe him but someday I won't believe how fast years go. It's amazing how quickly the years move anymore.

John Mellencamp, on the incredible Scarecrow album that will turn 30 in the new year in "Minutes to Memories" :

"Days turn to minutesAnd minutes to memoriesLife sweeps away the dreamsThat we have plannedYou are young and you are the futureSo suck it up and tough it outAnd be the best you can …" 
It's amazing how true that statement rings all these years later. On a sidenote, Mellencamp released Plain Spoken which is some of his best work. You can actually see where he was going in 1994 on the song "Another Sunny Day 12/25" on the Dance Naked platter.

I make a pledge to myself to write more in 2015. 

I never meant to set out and give JM accolades. This is truly a sentimental journey down the road of time and progress and goals and dreams — a snapshot, if you will. We have to realize that we are here for only a short while and we have to face the reality. It's time to " …suck it up and tough it out and be the best you can."

Peace. And stay the course.


November 26, 2014

Baseball has always resonated with me … and so has rock 'n' roll

"Rose he knows he's such a credit to the game, but the Yankees grab the headlines every time." — Billy Joel 


I was almost seven. Okay, by the time I heard the album I was seven but when it dropped I was six. This is back in the days of Mark "the Bird," Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish, and Jack Morris. Before Kirk Gibson. The Tigers weren't good, but baseball was in prime time. It was 1978.

Tigers yearbook from the era of "My Life." 

I wanted the album 52nd Street by Billy Joel, which we purchased at Meijer's Thrifty Acres in Traverse City, Mich., before we actually moved "up north," and I thought the whole album was great. I especially liked "Big Shot" and the song I bought the LP for, "My Life."

This "Zanzibar" song, though, whoa. It mentioned a bunch of cool things that I really didn't comprehend, e.g. Ali. However, when it mentioned Pete Rose and the New York Yankees, I was like, "Wow, this is about current stuff," or something to that effect. I thought it was so cool. I had a Billy Joel album and a Pete Rose baseball card, not to mention a couple of New York Yankee yearbooks for some reason — they were really good back in the late '70s.

The Pirates were one of my favorite teams back then. Probably because of the hat. 

"Zanzibar"

(Billy Joel) from the album 52nd Street

Ali dances and the audience applauds
Though he's bathed in sweat he hasn't lost his style
Ali don't you go downtown
You gave away another round for free

Me, I'm just another face at Zanzibar
But the waitress always serves a secret smile
She's waiting out in Shantytown
She's gonna pull the curtains down for me, for me

I've got the old man's car
I've got a jazz guitar
I've got a tab at Zanzibar
Tonight that's where I'll be

Rose, he knows he's such a credit to the game
But the Yankees grab the headline every time
Melodrama's so much fun
In black and white for everyone to see
Me, I'm trying just to get to second base
And I'd steal it if she only gave the sign
She's gonna give the go ahead
The inning isn't over yet for me

I've got the old man's car
I've got a jazz guitar
I've got a tab at Zanzibar
Tonight that's where I'll be

Tell the waitress I'll come back to Zanzibar
I'll be hiding in the darkness with my beer
She's waiting out in Shantytown
She's gonna pull the curtains down for me, for me

I've got the old man's car
I've got a jazz guitar
I've got a tab at Zanzibar
Tonight that's where I'll be



November 24, 2014

Learning about Learning

The Written Word

Charlotte Danielson. Mike Schmoker. Robert Marzano. Doug Reeves. Richard Elmore. Larry Ainsworth. Larry Lezotte. Richard Dufour. Et. Al.

So many educational researchers and writers have influenced who I have become as an educator.


I believe in planning, classroom management and environment, instruction, and professional responsibilities (Danielson), but I realize that more goes into the planning (Dufour, Ainsworth) then just looking at curriculum documents (Marzano, Schmoker) or following the textbook (No one ever!). When I first encountered Danielson's work, I was like, "Now that makes total sense." It of course is common sense but written down and delineated in an effective, understandable way.

I've had the great fortune to actually meet Schmoker, Marzano, Reeves, and Lezotte.

Lezotte was one of the original "effective school" people. Then, when you're a young educator and discover he's from Michigan, it's like, "That's cool." I was able to meet him when he spoke to a group of educators at the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District a few years back. His information about effective schools is —— again, is there a trend? —— common sense.

The Seven Correlates (according to Lezotte's research)


  1. Instructional leadership
  2. Clear and focused mission 
  3. Safe and orderly environment 
  4. Climate of high expectations
  5. Frequent monitoring of student progress
  6. Positive home–school relations
  7. Opportunity to learn and time on task

Mike Schmoker

Schmoker's work on "results" makes sense and is replicable. I read Results Now prior to reading any of his other work. It changed the way I thought about what could happen in a school. No, it didn't change the way I thought about what could happen … it changed my belief that ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN when a dedicated group of people decide to make something great happen for kids. Some simple tweaks and focus on learning can make a huge impact. I have been fortunate enough to bring Schmoker into a school district twice, intermediate districts twice, and to a major conference, as well. Some of what he says rubs people the wrong way, but research supports that he is probably correct. If you haven't read a great education book in the past six months, do yourself a favor and order a copy of Results Now.

Marzano

Marzano's work on effective instruction is incredible. His work on effective schools and effective districts is even better. Marzano has been researching and studying what works in schools for several years. He has a grasp on what it means to take things to the next level. You could choose to read anything by Marzano, but could start with this free white paper "Teaching for Rigor."

I could write for hours about the value of well–run education. But I have to go to school this morning ...




November 21, 2014

Twenty Years of Educational Change

From Teaching to LEARNING 

It's hard to believe that 20 years ago I was a student teacher in Ithaca, Michigan. I taught English and journalism/newspaper at the small, rural school south of Central Michigan University. My educational journey has taken me to Vestaburg, Michigan, Sheridan and Stanton, Michigan, and back up north to Buckley, Michigan. I've witnessed an amazing amount of change in those 20 years. After graduation from CMU in 1994, I spent a semester up north substitute teaching but got lucky the next fall and was hired at Vestaburg as an English and journalism teacher (as well as a Title I assistant teacher). It's been a great journey but what started me thinking was, "what changes have I seen in 20 years ... "


Don't turn the blog off yet. 
I'm not going to write about all the changes. I'm simply going to write about three changes that I think have impacted us all greatly. They have all made us better educators but at the same time have created additional complications. An organized curriculum, technology integration, and the systemic loss of local control have all had major effects on the educational world where I reside.

The Curriculum Itself
When I started this journey, the Michigan Curriculum Framework (MCF) had not been introduced. Teachers created curriculum from the textbooks they taught and from borrowing and begging completed curricula from other school districts. Curriculum was a hodgepodge of "stuff" that may have been all over the place. Getting teachers  — especially English teachers in a small, rural district — to agree on something like "voice" at the K–12 level … well suffice it to say, that was my first professional development session at Vestaburg as a new teacher. As the MCF had yet to arrive, we were all creating. I think this was the first time I heard a teacher utter, "Just tell me what you want me to teach." It wasn't the last. But it was probably the same teacher who when the MCF arrived and administration said, "This is what you're going to teach," said, "Why don't we get a say in this?" Come on, you know the person(s).

The MCF led to revisions, the introduction of Mi–CLIMB, the eventual arrival of the Michigan Grade Level Content Expectations and High School Expectations, further revisions, and eventually to the Common Core State Standards (though the aforementioned Michigan–specific GLCE and HSCE were not directly related to the CCSS). Curriculum is the backbone of what we teach but using best practice instructional strategies is how we teach this to our students.

Technology 
I used to con my fellow teachers into letting me have their computers in my classroom if they weren't using them. I had several big old Gateway computers in my classroom ready for students to use. This was before we had Internet and the printers weren't great, but I had computer access so once students had begun the writing process (where exactly was that in the MCF?) they had technology they could use to compose and type their papers. As the Internet would catch on in my later years as a teacher, I made sure to teach students how to research on the computer (it's probably changed dramatically) and how to watch out for inaccurate information … Technology integration is getting technology into the hands of teachers and students so they can use the tools that are driving the working world today. Technology integration is not showing a Youtube video to your class. Technology integration is not simply allowing your students to look something up on Google on their smartphone.

Technology integration is getting tools into everyone's hands. It's no longer about learning to keyboard. Kids naturally learn this skill anymore. They may not learn the correct keyboarding skills but if you watch a fifth grader send a text message, you know that kid is quicker on the keyboard than most of us. Tech integration is allowing our students the opportunity to take us someplace. It's not teaching kids to create a movie using PowerPoint. Technology is the hub that connects us. Students have to learn the correct way to use technology to empower them to become better learners and at the same time better students, communicators, and citizens. Technology will forever band us all together, so we all need to integrate it into our lives.

Local Control
I think local control started to go away at the same time Proposal A passed and dramatically changed the funding structure of public education in Michigan. Literally, Prop A probably saved a number of school districts from going broke. It put the state in charge of funding for schools. It made some poor districts suddenly seem rich. But, 75 tweaks and changes later, it no longer works. But governmental and legislative control of schools if prevalent. We rely not only on the state for basic funding but also at risk funding; we rely on the feds for a number of funding sources, as well. Education used to be about the community coming together for the education of its kids. The lack of local control and subsequent misunderstanding of what that means in local communities has also affected how education happens. When we wait to see what the state is going to do before being able to make what many people consider simple decisions (e.g. budget) then we have a situation that is bigger than all of us.

I could go on about curriculum, technology, and local control for hours. But, I have an important educational meeting to get to today and it requires some drive time. Have a great day. I think I'll expound on all of these over the next few days.

October 31, 2014

Joe Madden and the Opportunity of a Lifetime

It's Baseball, Baby. Just play. 

Sparky Anderson was hired mid–season 1979 by the Tigers and the manager he replaced, Les Moss, was jettisoned. It was a move the Tigers couldn't refuse at the time, similar to the recent move (or subsequent???) the Chicago Cubs have (or will) be making with Joe Maddon. 

I think Joe Maddon has every right to make the decision he made. He had the ability to choose to leave the Rays and accept the managerial gig with the Cubs in Chicago if that's what the parties decided they wanted to do.

I read somewhere that the Cubs, in 1979, decided that they were going to hire Sparky Anderson to be their new manager — in 1980. A Tigers broadcaster heard the rumor from a friend who heard it from a friend who … well, you know. And suddenly, the usually tight fisted, no splash move making general manager, Jim Campbell, hired Sparky Anderson and fired the longtime company man Les Moss. Moss had finally realized an opportunity to manage the big club after years in the organization, including the minor leagues.

One of my favorite pictures. It's a shot of Ernie Harwell standing at Tiger Stadium and chatting with a young fan who couldn't believe he was talking to Mr. Harwell. In the background is the legendary Sparky Anderson. I didn't realize what a gem of a photo I had until I looked closely at it one night. 

Anderson rode into town proclaiming that the Tigers would win a World Series within five years. He guaranteed it. Of course, if the Tigers had never won the 1984 World Series, we probably wouldn't remember that Anderson made that bold proclamation. The Tigers of the early '80s were a good bunch who grew up together. Much of the team was homegrown talent cultivated by company man Bill Lajoie.

This brings me back around to the Cubs and Madden. Even though the management structure is completely different all these years later, I'm sure there are people who remember when the Cubs took their time and didn't make the move to bring in Sparky. Maybe Sparky instead of Jim Frey could have led the Cubbies to the '84 Championship instead of the Tigers. As you may remember, Frey was appreciated in Chicago and won the '84 Manager of the Year.

Joe Maddon is a players' manager who gets great results from his teams. He is unorthodox, maybe even unique. He may be just the manager to bring in and put things together in Chicago. It's an interesting management structure in Chicago, and perhaps, Theo Epstein wishes he would have hired Madden all those years ago in Boston, after all. I like Joe Maddon and thought he would be a good addition to the Tigers if they so desired. But, this time, the Cubs struck first. It's not the terrible thing for baseball that everyone is making it out to be. I'm sure Rick Renteria will continue to get paid for the remaining two years on his contract and he may well end up managing elsewhere in the future. The Cubs have the resources to do what they feel they need to do to put themselves in the best position to win.

Greg Eno wrote this upon Anderson's death in 2010. I liked this quote so much, I turned it into a quote. I never realized what a great manager the Tigers had until he was no longer managing the team. 

Is there anyone who doesn't wonder if Jim Leyland hadn't called Dave Dombrowski in 2005 and said, "Dave, I think I'd be willing to manage again if you had an opening ..." ? Leyland had quite after 1999 with the Colorado Rockies, saying he was burned out and didn't have the fire any longer. He regained it for eight years in the Motor City. The key to that move, though, was the Leyland had been a longtime Tiger before leaving for the Chicago White Sox in the early '80s to manage with Tony LaRussa, then an unknown.

 Jim Leyland was redeemed when he returned to manage the Tigers in 2006. He took the job of a legendary Tiger, Alan Trammell (#3, below) but it sat okay with fans because Leyland was a former Tiger. Leyland worked with both Trammell and Whitaker (#1) when they were farmhands but Trammell grew up under Anderson and considered him a mentor. 

October 23, 2014

Rick Sometimes Rambles

Night Moves

Some days I just need to ramble. I think this is one of those days. Right now, I'm listening to the new Bob Seger album Ride Out. It seems to be a halfway decent album though I didn't think Seger'd still be making new stuff in 2014 when I bought one of his new albums in the mid-90s. I think I bought that at Media Play in Saginaw.

The Death of Media

Media Play was a really interesting store, selling everything from music to books to movies to video games to toys. It was a one stop place that seemed to have so much more than Best Buy, even is so much more referred to books. It's interesting that Best Buy eventually bought Media Plan and it went out of business in the early 2000s. I still think Best Buy will be out of business by 2020.

Digression

I digress. (Do you even write that or is that just something spoken?) Lately, John Mellencamp has released a new album, Plain Spoken, and John Grisham has released a new book, Gray Mountain. I used to get those new releases at the place who had the best price and try to go there the day it came out. You know, Meijer (@Meijer)  was the worst at having things out on their shelves in a timely manner. I used to get new release books at Sam's Club. Now, for Seger, I did buy it at Meijer but it had been out for a couple days; the new Mellencamp platter is totally digital as I bought it on iTunes, and the Grisham book arrived from Amazon.com the morning it came out. Times have changed. It's no wonder that a place like Media Play or Best Buy struggle?

The first vinyl LP for little Ricky, Foreigner's Double Vision. Probably purchased at a record store or maybe from K-Mart. It's hard to say as it was an Easter gift from the Easter Bunny. 

Nostalgia

Are you a victim of nostalgia like I am? I watched an episode of Family Ties earlier. What a great show from the '80s with a great introduction and theme song. I thought Alex P. Keaton was a great character with many good traits. The '80s were a different time and we probably didn't realize how good the times were back then. But we also think back fondly to the '70s and even the '90s. It's interesting that we never really think of the current as the greatest — yet we always look back fondly.

Pinch Runners

But I sure do long for the days when the starter went eight or nine innings and sometimes the closer came in with the bases loaded in the seventh with one out and finished the game for a real save. The sluggers then hit 35 to 40 homers and the stolen base king would swipe 80 to 100 bases without blinking. Heck, there were even Pinch Runners. Everything changes.
Rickey. He says he was the greatest. He might have been right. What does Rickey think? 

1999

As I write this, it's our 15th Anniversary. Lori's working hard at the kitchen table preparing a lesson for tomorrow. I'm watching Jeopardy on TV for no real reason. Tonight's episode is not the best. Much has happened in our lives since 1999. I was 27 then and Lori was 33. Now, we're older than that. The girls were younger, too. Courtney was almost seven and Amber was barely eight. Now, they're in their 20s … Time flies. And sometimes Rick rambles.

Have a great night and Happy Anniversary, Lori!



October 11, 2014

Constructing a Roster

Tigers Gear Up for Different Team in '15 

What will the roster look like next year? These guys are free agents.

  • Victor Martinez
  • Max Scherzer
  • Joba Chamberlain
  • Torii Hunter
  • Phil Coke
Signing Victor Martinez makes a great deal of sense for the Tigers. 

Free to Be 

Do we re–sign any of them?

My first thought is that Martinez, Scherzer, and Hunter could contribute to the team. If it were up to me, I would offer Martinez a fair–market two–year contract and maybe a one–year offer to Hunter to be a part–time player — the bench guy we need alá Hernan Perez. Scherzer turned down a six–year offer, which I felt was too long an offer, so it's doubtful that he would consider anything less or any less amount of money. 

Chamberlain can move on, as can Coke. That's two less former Yankees, but that's not a slam on the New Yorkers — it's just an interesting fact. Chamberlain's second half was abysmal. Coke's career in Detroit has been up and down, mostly down. If Coke is gone and Scherzer also leaves that would mean that no one is left from the December 2009 blockbuster trade with the Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. 

I suspect that Martinez may sign a short–term contract with the Cleveland Indians to finish up his career where he began; however, the Indians have some players who already play his role in Cleveland. It will be interesting to see how this works out. Scherzer may stay in Detroit but he also may sign a good contract with the St. Louis Cardinals so he can go "back home." For both of those ball players, I think it's 50–50 they may stay. If Hunter decides he wants to play "one more season," he could conceivably stay as a part–timer in the D. 

The Replacements

How would the Tigers replace the free agents? Chamberlain and Coke are part of the bullpen rebuild. It has to be blown up. Hunter's defense is a liability. He can still hit. Martinez' bat and leadership are key to the team. He's worth possibly overspending on to keep. 

Scherzer is a great starter but it's becoming clear that there is more to World Championship teams than great starting pitching. It might be time to consider that a solid starting staff that might include guys like Brad Penny (no, I'm not saying bring him back …) or Drew Smyly (do we make that trade again?) or someone similar and put together a bullpen that can be used in the seventh, eighth, and ninth. 

I suspect that we could be looking at a blockbuster this offseason. I think there are only a couple of players immune from a possible trade. I really don't think the Tigers will trade for more superstars; instead, I think they may deal a superstar for quality parts. 

As far as free agents, could we look at Andrew Miller? We were close to trading for him in July, so why not talk to him? You could argue that Smyly in the bullpen (Fister trade, my friends?) or even Miller would have been better than the Price(y) trade. 

The Quiet Conundrum

One major obstacle that must be considered is the disconnect between David Price and the Detroit Tigers. Price is a modern day Jim Slaton because he's not coming back to the Tigers. I suspect he may take a serious hometown discount to return to the Tampa Rays. Do the Tigers trade him now and acquire talent or wait a year and offer him a qualifying offer and take the draft picks? I never knew much about Price as a Ray, but just saw a total disconnect when he joined the Tigers. Could we ship him out in a complicated multi–team trade where the Tigers, ahem, could bring in some true parts that will help the team instead of having a mega superstar for the rotation. 

The Tigers rotation will include Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Anibal Sanchez in 2015. I'm not convinced the Price will return, nor Scherzer. So, essentially, we would have to fill to slots, and there are no obvious choices to fill them. Verlander will probably relish becoming the true ace again, and fully healthy, will probably be back to his 2011 or 2012 self. I'm not convinced Robbie Ray is ready now, or ever will be. Maybe Kyle Lobstein will develop, but he might be more valuable in a relief role in '15. Could a Price trade return a potential starter and some relief help. If the Tigers decide to trade away Price, I only hope it's a better trade than the failed Doug Fister trade. The Fister trade made no sense when it happened, nor know. 

Robbie Ray

Window Closing

The Tigers' window is not closing. Look at how teams like the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals continue to rebuild on the fly without paying big bucks for big names. The Royals of Kansas City and the Baltimore Orioles also don't necessarily pay the big bucks and they're playing for the American League Championship. I don't think the Tigers' window is closing; they just have to make more economical and efficient moves to fill their (many) gaps. The manager probably was overmatched this season. I'm not even saying the Brad Ausmus is a bad manager — he's a bad manager on this relatively good team. The 2014 Detroit Tigers, after April, never felt like a team destined to win it all, even though they beat the heck out of the Kansas City Royals all season and the Royals will probably play in the World Series. But the window isn't closing. Yet. 

Architecture 

  • Hire recently–fired Ron Gardenhire to manage the team and "make talent a team" 
  • Rebuild the bullpen, even considering eating the contract of Joe Nathan
  • Find some bench players, including maybe keeping Torii Hunter for such a role 
  • Shore up centerfield
  • Find a couple of pitchers to fill some holes after the "big three" or four; Justin Verlander will be ready for a return to form next year 
Justin Verlander is primed for a return to form in 2015