House on Kroeger Street


122212_0456_TestofaBlog1.jpgFrom my earliest memories I was told about the “Kroeger Street” house. My parents reminded me of the big sycamore tree with a tire swing and our dog, Friday. I remember as an older child hearing it and barely remembering. Now I remember the street all too well from all the telling. I spent the first 4 years of my life there. In the pictures they showed me it had a white picket fence and a white wooden look to it. It must have been built before the days of “stucco” because it was all wood. It had a front porch and as I said a tire swing attached to a large sycamore tree visible from the street on the side. It was a place an open mind would come from.

They told me of another boy I used to play with next door. They told me of Mrs. Fitz. Apparently her last name was longer . . . Fitzpatrick or something, but so the kids could say it, they called her Mrs. “Fitz.” She was elderly and in a wheelchair but whenever we would go over and knock on her screen door she would say: “Well hello, here comes Damien!” and give us warm apple turnovers. We would sit and listen to her tell us stories. That part I remember vividly. My brother is 14 months younger than me so I doubt he remembers Kroeger street more than I do. Nonetheless, we have 8 millimeter film footage of he and I in the grass with the cat and dog. My mom looks so young, it’s really amazing to see those pictures now. My dad always had a Freud-like beard. He was wild and wacky in those days (and you see it in the film). He’d throw me up in the air and put my face right in the camera lens. He was, and still is, so proud of his family and kids.

When I would close my eyes and envision Kroeger street I’d see gutter flowers, grass growing through sidewalk cracks, the house as they told it to me, and of course the people they told me loved me while we lived there. One day at the age of 26, I decided to go back! I rode my bike past the house, since I was going to college close by working on my graduate degree in English. It was all boarded up and Mrs. Fitz’s house had been razed. The fence sign around it read “Starbucks coming soon!” I suppose in a way that is all too fitting. I think they serve apple turnovers don’t they? Even so, I doubt any barista would call to me from the screen door.

It’s amazing how we as humans can attach so much meaning and soul to simple places. The soul is eternal, but places come and go. They are not static, yet they are inseparable. As I looked at the old Kroeger house I could see the tire swing was gone. The huge branches and leaves of the tree had been sawed off. It was just a trunk now with the cut areas spray painted over to prevent healing and regrowth. There were no animals, no children, no families of any kind. The street is a short street, and it appeared many houses were also boarded and up for sale. I wished I could walk in the front door to see if some memory would come back. A smell, and sight, a vibration of the wind through the house . . . something that might take me back to those wonder years I have seen and heard too much about.

The rosebushes in front of Kroeger street have long faded, I treasure their memory and that’s why I’m writing them here now. Down the road, I’ll be telling my kids how it was . . . on our mystical sequel to the long gone Kroeger Street.

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Learning Objective

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Explicit Direct Instruction

IAB_CL1_PX01642Series on EDI intro: Explicit Direct Instruction, or EDI, is a set of teaching strategies assembled by Data Works, a research company in California.  I have been trained and certified as a trainer and have found it a great way to deliver effective lesson plans.  It consists of steps which you will find in each post in the series here.  I hope you benefit by the series.  Please leave a comment, let’s have a dialog.

In the teaching method EDI, “Learning Objective” is the beginning of the lesson.  It should be stated clearly and the kids should show evidence of understanding by repeating it back and then answering as random non-volunteers. I usually write this on the board and explain any new or difficult words.  Then I say it and have the class repeat it.  You are establishing the goal of the lesson.  This helps the students mentally prepare for the lesson.  Many times teachers do “forward questioning,” or, questioning without teaching.  Forward questioning is a big no no.  A clearly taught learning objective is the best weapon against it. Here are some teaching methods.

Even though EDI is the focus here, a learning objective is an excellent part of any lesson plan. You state what we will be doing and stay faithful to it through all stages of the lesson.  It’s like a target guiding what you do and what you assess in the end. Now, onto the second step of my favorite method of teaching.

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Turkish Coffee


This post is from a series here called Coffee Vocab Tuesdays
coffee vocab
Okay, so I went into my favorite Starbucks this morning and had a new adventure in caffeine. I joked in “Coffee Vocab pt. I” about how I usually say: “If I can’t chew it, it’s not coffee.” Well, I kid you not, the guy in front of me literally meant that when he ordered something called “Turkish Coffee.” In a 10 minute wait, I learned a new term, and got a new drink!!!

I’m such a line eavesdropper. That’s one reason I don’t mind waiting in them. I usually opt out of the fast pass at Disneyland, because to me waiting in line is part of the ride: based on the STUFF YOU HEAR! Anyway, at Starbucks, the guy was Middle-Eastern and spoke with a heavy accent. The girl didn’t seem familiar with it. Poor thing, she was really cute too. She showed wisdom when she asked a fellow barista for some help in preparing it correctly. Another came over, guided her through a series of steps which I watched in dumfounded amusement. Finally, with trepidation she gave him the strange concoction. He drank it with questioning relish and said: “That’s good, I can almost chew it!” I was in shock. It was my clever line! Yet it wasn’t clever, it was APPLICABLE!

I of course had to break with my routine order of a mild-coffee-of-the-day black with no room for cream to get a TURKISH COFFEE! Have you ever had one? If you have, you know that there is indeed a coffee drink out there in the repertoire of drinks that indeed . . . is chewable.

I need a new line now that mine is no longer outrageous . . . any suggestions? I like to make the baristas laugh. Can’t fail to please ya know?

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The Notion of Blog Audience

Aristotle and Plato wrote of the importance of the audience in rhetoric. If you want to communicate something, you ought to consider the receiver. In writing a college essay, the audience is clear: the professor. In writing for a magazine, you have a focused idea of the demographic you are appealing to. Most every writing situation has an audience you can imagine, outline, and write with respect to but not so the blog.

Writing a blog can be like a diary. Once while looking around at blogs, I found MANY “online diarist” blogs at Live Journal and other free hosted sites. That makes sense, it’s called a Journal, so nothing bad there. But blogging can be a wide array of other types of writing. The blogosphere contains diary blogs and blogs about bands and blogs about (insert blog topic you know here). Blogging, like all writing, will benefit through audience consideration. I’ll give you a few ways that I think good writers do that:

#1. Take the time to think about your intended audience. This will depend on your purpose and the subject of your post.

#2. Outline the typical reader in this audience, then form your words around that person. List her/his needs and interests.

#3. Use their vernacular. We live in an exciting culture full of sub-culture phrases and idioms. Write a couple down before you start and use these in your post.

#4. Guess some questions the reader might have and answer them in your post. This is an important part of audience consideration.

Just thinking about your audience will make your blog (ironically) universally more coherent and effective at persuasion. And if you are thinking “I don’t write to persuade.” Then I must respectfully reply to you that all writing is persuasion, just ask Plato and Aristotle. So many bloggers never think about their audience, be different and be more effective and conveying thoughts through blogging.

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Rethinking Your “Regular Stuff” in a Classroom

What good are the loftiest goals if you don’t have the nuts and bolts. In 4th grade, this means a solid and open instruction space and homework. These are two areas I have opened up lately and done a full rebuild with. When the everyday tasks are available on a daily basis in an accessible way, the teacher can explore into the depths. When they are clogged or neglected, those loftier goals might as well be unsaid because they will never happen. There is hope. Take the time to clear a better space to teach.


Take the time to clear your workspace. Fill it with only that which you need to instruct.

Hemingway wrote about a clean, well lighted space. I’d change clean to ordered and apply it to teaching. The cluttered mind is far with worry and unreal expectations. Take the time to order your workspace. On my personal blog/online diary, I wrote recently about enjoying the regular road to achieve enlightenment (of sorts). This is also true of teaching. I know are all overwhelmed but I know from experience if you take the time to uproot and replant your regular stuff, like a teaching space and homework, new doors will open up and you will be a stronger teacher than you ever imagined.IMG_3053.JPG

What is the “regular stuff” of your classroom. Could it use some rethinking?

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Enjoy the Regular Roads

Driving to work today along a lonely high desert road, Highway 395 to be exact headed West toward Adelanto, I had another realization about life. We look back and say “It all went by so fast.” To those I say: “What were you waiting to happen?” I think we do this because we don’t pay attention to the road. Paying attention to the road makes time go slower.

It’s so easy to get distracted from the regular road ahead of us. We may see it every day for 10 years and fail to notice something small. When I think about the huge events in my life, it seems to have gone by slowly. Why? Because I was focused on the road, sometimes in technicolor focus. Instead of waiting for these magnanimous events to occur in ones life, it is adviseable to embrace the regular road for what it is.
Own it. Don’t want for the “event,” rather be it. For me today, the event was driving 60 down a high desert highway. Tomorrow is might be earning the coveted spot of teacher of the year. The key here is the word “enjoy” … integrate yourself … into the regular road. Lead the rich, full, rewarding life you look at over there on your neighbor’s grass. You can have it all today, it’s right in here for all of us. Suddenly, you may find the big events set the pace and every day every hour every second becomes enlightened.

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Prepare to Meet the Villain


deceiverDid you ever see a superhero movie where the hero finds the villain’s lair only to hear upon entry:

Welcome. We’ve been expecting you.

Then there is a ghoulish laugh like “bwah ha ha ha ha” or something like that? That scene is pretty common in superhero shows. It’s possible audiences relate with it so well because we all have metaphorical villains that we fear. When our fear materializes it seems composed and set on destroying us. In those scenarios, fear has control, we do not. Wouldn’t it be great if when our fear shows itself we could say to it:

And I have been expecting you!

Preparation to meet our “villain” is the key to good mental health. Sorry if the picture is too scary, but I thought it accentuated my point well. The villain is not for kids. If you go back and read my post on the REBT psychology method you will see that our belief about adversity is what determines our action and consequence. Wrong beliefs about things defeat us. At the present time, these posts of inspiration and good mental health are my favorite to write. If your greatest fear is to lose your job, which is probably mine in all honesty even though I have a pretty secure job, then ask yourself why does that scare you so much. Is your worth 100% in your job? I know mine isn’t. As you begin analyzing that fear and asking “Why?” you can become prepared for the fear when it comes up. Classic example of REBT: Your boss calls you into his office. Do you panic? This is your villain manifesting itself. There is no need to panic if you meet him prepared. Your greatest fear is probably not even going to happen and imagine how much trouble you’ll save yourself by not being so concerned. You can beat that villain and another and another until ideally fear no longer has a hold over you (I am not there quite yet). It’s a great thing when defeat a villain, despite his size. REBT is my latest excitement to blog about, thought it is certainly nothing new. As I close, let me draw your attention to another psychological marvel that shows us really all our collective villains I guestblogged about in a simple list: The 10 Cognitive Distortions. These are the biggies to watch out for. Remember this ‘aint no movie, this is your one shot at a life. Now, go get yourself prepared to meet the villain.


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