ajoBlog In Review

Unemployment – Week 2

Still unemployed, but some leads on becoming employed! Yeah!

Attended a week-long workshop for a Teaching American History Grant this week, and spent most of the time at the Cuyahoga County ESC and various places in Cleveland, like the Natural History Museum, and the Art Museum. We also took a tour of the Cuyahoga River, and visited the GM Stamping Plant in Parma, OH.

I received notice I would probably get an interview at the Summit County ESC, and at a company called Smart Solutions, so that’s good news. On the job front regarding social studies teachers, it’s pretty thin, unless we’re willing to move to Columbus, or some other location in southern Ohio. Which we’re not.


Here are the jobs I applied to:

  • Long-term sub job at Nordonia Middle School <– was offered, but won’t start until August 2011.
  • Twinsburg High School
  • Police Officer 1 at Kent State University

Pictures of the 8 ft Yurt / Ger

Here are some pictures of the 8 ft yurt / ger that I’m working on for this summer’s adventure. Next up is the roof ring, roof slats, and the coverings. I built the door frame out of 2×4 material, and I’ll have the plans and measurements on the web soon, once I make separate pages for it. I’m also working on a 16 ft yurt / ger, and that will be our home this summer during Pennsic XL, in Pennsylvania.

ajoBlog In Review

Unemployment – Week 1

I became unemployed on June 11th, 2011.

After having worked for the last three years at Nordonia High School teaching U.S. History and Economics, and earning tenure this spring, I was laid off due to levy failures. Fun!

I filed for unemployment online with the state of Ohio, and received bunch of paperwork in the mail a few days later. The PIN code they sent was invalid, of course, and multiple phone calls, faxing (yes, it’s the 1990s!) copies of my social security card and driver’s license to them, we might have rectified the situation. Now, of course, all I’m waiting on is them calling my employer to verify that I actually am unemployed, and not scamming the system.

Some of the week’s conversation highlights:

Me: “The PIN code I was issued doesn’t work, and I can’t file my claim.”
Them: “Oh, all of the PIN codes we send are invalid, so you have to request a new one.”
— —
Me: “I was laid off from teaching at a high school this spring due to levy failures.”
Them: “So when does the new semester or term start?”
Me: “It doesn’t. I was laid off. I am now unemployed.”
— —
Them: “So, what about this job at Kent State University?”
Me: “That was a workshop. Two days. No healthcare, etc.”
Them: “So, when does the new semester or term start?”
Me: “It was a workshop. 16 hours worth of work. No benefits. Not full time employment.”
Them: “Oh, okay. When does the new semester or term start?”
Me: “It doesn’t.”


Here are the jobs I applied to:

  • Portage Lakes Career Center
  • Olmstead Falls Schools
  • Summit County ESC
ajoBlog Teaching

What if…we designed high school around students’ needs?

What if …

  • Flexible schedules were offered to accommodate working students and to acknowledge brain research that says that teenage brains are wired for late nights and late mornings?
  • Students could test out or graduate early instead of sitting in class bored?
  • Students could earn credit simultaneously in more than one content area through real world projects and problems that they select based on their interests?
  • Students could earn credit for learning experiences that included post-secondary, internships, educational travel, on-line learning and community/social service?
  • Learning experiences nurtured students’ skills in understanding their own strengths, their local and global communities, and their goals and aspirations?

How would this impact overall achievement in our schools?

(from: Flex Credit Report, State of Ohio, 2009)

ajoBlog Edtech

Why we all “need” our cell phones

Lots of us have cell phones, and for various reasons. Some hayve them to make phone calls only, and others enjoy the ful spectrum of an advanced smart phone, like the iPhone, that let’s you browse the Internet, etc. As a teacher, I know how many of my students have phones, and regardless of school policy, see nothing wrong with using it during class, sending the occasional text message, checking email, or fact checking using Wikipedia. I believe in the good of cell phones, and think they are a great learning tool, especially on the fly, but it wasn’t until this afternoon that I figured out why they are so popular, and so powerful in terms of “everyone’s gotta have one”.

Cell phones (and other smart devices) are powerful because they meet a specific need. No, you can’t eat a phone, and while it may keep you safe (by calling the police), the need that phones meet, is the need to belong. A phone enables you to instantly connect with someone like you, or await their call in return. The need to belong is more powerful than any of the other needs, and explains lots of various types of behavior, and why we do what we do.

In high school specifically, students need to belong to some sort of group in order to function socially, emotionally, and physiologically. Having a phone enables students to keep in touch with their extend network of friends, or people like themselves, and that connection offer students a wireless safety net of sorts.

It used to be that student spent some time in our classes daydreaming, but today, that daydreaming behavior is more likely the student sneaking off a text message to someone. One could argue that texting serves two important functions in our classrooms. One, a quick brain break protecting from overload, in addition to quickly confirming that, yes, someone out there appreciates me, and wants to know how I’m doing! The question is, do we openly allow our students to fill their needs?

ajoBlog History Teaching

Ajo Creation: The Learning Log

For the last couple of days, we’ve been working on some primary documents related to Civil Rights, and more specifically, the Bus Boycotts in Montgomery, AL, Rosa Parks, etc. Instead of me printing up a packet of questions to go with each document, I had the students create their own “learning log”. Simply put, it’s paper folded in half, for as many pages as you need (remembering, that each regular sheet of paper makes 4 half sheet pages…).

I created a cover page, with a small table showing the number of documents we’re using (in this case, 9), and this allows me to keep track of the students’ work, checking each station/document as they go. I use a single hole punch to punch their ticket as we’re “Riding with Rosa”!

Most of the documents and questions come from Teaching Tolerance materials. They’ve got some awesome stuff, if you haven’t seen it yet!

Here’s the front cover page (which you create by printing on the right hand side, in landscape mode…


ajoBlog Teaching

Ajo Blog: Student Internship: “Cooking Dogs”, and other stories…

One of my students, Sarah, is a Senior this year, and graduating. As part of our Senior year program at Nordonia, students may elect to conduct an internship that they arrange. Each internship and placement is supervised by a staff member to make sure all is well. Sarah asked me to be her mentor for the internship, and I graciously accepted.

Sarah has been one of my top students in the last three years at Nordonia, and one of the students that has really made teaching worthwhile. She would ask challenging questions already in her Sophomore year, and really invest herself in her studies. When I had her in my Economics course, the astute thinking continued, and she left that class well prepared for any economics on college level. Most recently, Sarah asked to be a student aid in my classroom, and of course I accepted. If I could have hired her full time, I would have. Needless to say, Sarah is one of those students that you’ll always remember, and hope they keep in contact over the years.

Sarah’s plans are to study zoology at Kent State University, and to work with animals in some shape or form as a career. As such, she has prepared herself by taking challenging coursework at the high school, scoring well in her AP Biology course and other science classes. Now, here’s the best part. She arranged her internship at a pet cemetery!

Thinking she would work with the establishment’s kennel, and perhaps in the attached grooming salon, Sarah set out with great vigor to attend her first day. When she stopped back to tell how her experience was going, she had found out some of the other things that happen at a pet cemetery, like cremation, burial, etc. Needless to say, as a zoology professional later in life, she would have encountered the end-of-life for her charges either way at some point, so why not get it over with.

As part of the internship program, we, the staff members and mentors, are encouraged to take an active role ourselves, with phone calls to the establishment, follow up conversations, and site visits. I decided to go visit last week, and because I love learning new stuff myself, asked for the full tour. It’s not every day you get a chance to visit a pet cemetery.

Sarah’s internship is at Paws Awhile Pet Memorial Park, and they provide services that range from cremation, burial, kennel, and grooming salon, among others. Located in Richfield, OH, they provide service for a broad range of veterinarians, and animal hospitals when it comes to cremations, and is open to the public for pet burial, etc. Joe, the owner, took us on a tour of the place, including the memorial park where animals are buried and marked with plaques, to the cremation station, the vault display room, and the kennel and grooming salon. Joe started his entrepreneurial side early in life, making and selling speakers at the age 18, then moving on to wholesaling diamonds out of New York, to finally, after purchasing the 23 acres in Richfield, opening up a pet memorial.

Part of the internship asks the students to essentially work for no pay, and to learn as much as they can. The program is designed so students get an idea of what it might be like working at a place that may be in their field of interest. A testament as to how well Sarah was picking up all the details of the job, when I arrived for my visit, she instinctually said “Yeah, we’re cooking a dog right now.” Yikes!

“Yeah, we’re cooking a dog right now.”

– Sarah L.

We concluded our visit with some chit chat by the grooming salon, and I asked a few follow-up questions about the place, the internship, and in general, made sure things had been going okay. Of course, Sarah had been the model candidate, and the owner even offered Sarah some work over the summer, should she desire it. High marks, judging by anyone’s standards.

Sarah will make a presentation in front of parents, teachers and administrators next week as part of the internship program, and I’m sure she’ll wow anyone in attendance. I wish her the best of luck in the future, and hope she’ll come back often to visit, filling me in on her continued education and life experiences. I have truly enjoyed working with her as a student, and recently mentor. Any future employer will be ten-fold better off after she arrives!

If you want to contact Sarah for any reason, I have her information. Feel free to contact me directly.

ajoBlog History

This Day in Local History

Andreas Johansson is born, May 8th, 1979, Ängelholm‘s Hospital Maternity Ward, at 3:24 a.m.

His parents lived at the time in Torekov, a small fishing village on the west coast of Sweden, with a winter population around 1,000.

His father was employed by the Swedish Coast Guard as skipper / lead rescue diver, and his mother employed with Ängelholm’s local schools, teaching 4-6 grade (all subjects).

ajoBlog History Teaching

Ajo Blog: What I’m up to today…

Since I’m not in school today, I thought it would nice to share what I am doing.

I was invited to attend a conference on Digital Humanities in Cleveland, and more specifically at Case University. It’s sort of like a mini TED talk session, or like #thatcamp for those that know what that is, and the idea is to share knowledge and ideas about the humanities, digital or otherwise.

The morning however, started with a boat trip on the Cuyahoga River where we received a guided tour on Cleveland from the river’s point of view. We saw the steel mills, the salt mine, and all the other buildings and bridges from the river, which offered a new a nd refreshing perspective. The weather was a bit blustery, but the tripo turned out great. Several other teachers joined us, CSU staff, as well as the team from @Omeka.

This afternoon, the conference will take place here at the Kelvin-Smith library, near University Circle. I hope to meet some new people, learn some new things, and share some ideas and provide feedback. For more, see tomorow’s In Review post.

ajoBlog Teaching

Teaching: What we’re good at!

Well, there you have it! At least we’re good at something