Life Quilt, row 4,#4 – My Career as a high school science teacher

Retirement came in 1998 after thirty two years of teaching high school math, physical science, chemistry, physics and  computets. I was recruited from Colorado State University on a cold blustery ground blizzard kind of day in February. Go pack they said, the Camilleas are in bloom in Oregon.


Later I found out from the science supervisor why I was hired.  He liked certain special science teacher candidates. If you hadn’t taught, and you had A’s and F’s, he picked you because it showed him that you could do the work if you wanted to, but you weren’t above failing a class if it wasn’t good.  If you were an experienced teacher, then he looked for evaluations that said you were a good science teacher, but couldn’t keep quiet at faculty meetings. Therefore he filled the district high school teachers that were renegades who often led the teachers unions.


Four of the five high Portland schools I taught in are closed. I started in 1966 at the height of the baby boom at Roosevelt High where I taught Physics (PSSC), general math(SMSG), special math, Introductory Physical Sience (IPS) and was the Neighborhood Youth Corps coordinator after the previous guy left for Job Corps, in the North Portland neighborhood of St Johns. Roosevelt is still open and undergoing remodeling to become a community center.


In 1969 I was selected to join the faculty at the new Adams high school, run by Harvard PhD candidates and using the school within a school model.  the rest of the district called us ‘Disneyland by the park’ because we were filled with radical staff, hippies, and union members.  I taught physics (HPP), Integrated Science (That I helped write at Portland State University), Dr Wong’s physical science (Individualized projects and grading) and General education (THE multidisciplinary course for All students within the College Exploration School (CEX) within a school.) I served as Science Department Chairman.

Beginning in 1966 I was involved in PAT-OEA-NEA, serving as building rep, and trustee for OEA. In 1974 I was the teacher spokesman for the teachers bargaining team. In 1976 I was elected President of the Portland Association of Teachers. Later I would serve as chair of the grievance committee.

When I finished my year at PAT I was assigned at Jefferson High School, a magnet school for the Performing Arts. I taught Chemistry (Chem Study), physics (PSSC), and computer programming. (BASIC and Pascal on the Honeywell mainframe at district headquarters. I also. Served as unit leader for the science, technology and math group;

NOTE: Jefferson is actually still open, but has changed to what is being called a ‘Middle College’ when it joined with Portland Community College (PCC) across the street from the football stadium.

I left Jefferson in 1983 to create the new Instructional Technolody program, a child of the Curriculum and data Processing departments, which eventually situated itself at the old (closed) Washington High School. I was a teacher on special assignment (TOSA).

In 1989 I received my PhD in computers in Education from the University of Oregon, and promptly lost my TOSA position as a result of the passage of Ballot measure 5 which restricted property taxes and was then sent to Marshall High School in SE Portland. (Washington is currently being restored to become a performing venue and restaurant.)

At Marshall I taught Physical Science on Macintosh computers using STELLA, Image Processing, mouse trap cars and video measurements. (Marshall was closed in 2011.)

I retired in 1998 and became a global volunteer, working in South Africa, Mexico, Peru, Viet Nam and Cambodia, and moved to Corvallis.

= Small town boy

I see; visual memories.

You may have noticed, as I did, that my memories of Reno and GRABAAWR  (See my Life Quilt stories) was made up of more pictures, literally, than text.

This brought to my attention again that I process life visually and spatially.

This is part of my visual intelligence and results in visual thinking.

Thinking about my abundant use old photos to depict memories held in the actual (and visual) Life Quilt containing my old tee shirts made by my friend Joanne, a quilter in Cedar City, UT, has erupted into acknowledging how many times I depended on a visual representation of my world.

  • All of my memories of my father are visual: riding in the model A, vaccinating pigs, him pulling my tooth while he was in bed, and the red records in the blue sleeves for the new console radio he bought. He died when I was nine.
  • I flunked out of chemical engineering at the University of Colorado in 1960 because I couldn’t visualize chemistry fast enough for testing. I’ve recently discovered that I’m as smart as anyone else, but I’m a slow thinker, because I have to see it. While other aspects of engineering encouraged you to construct concepts and reconstruct them for answers, chemistry relies on recall of concepts difficult to represent visually.
  • I once had to ask my wife to wait in the process of construction of a deck at our beach house until I could visualize how everything fit together. This single event was the greatest impetus for me to ‘get it’ that I was a visual thinker.
  • In my later years as a science, math, and computer, I relied almost solely on visual representation and manipulation for problem solving. I taught teachers and students Image Processing (thanks LuAnn and U of Az) and Systems Thinking as evidenced by its visual representation in the Stella computer program (thanks Luanne and MIT). Systems mean a lot to me: components, connections, interactions and boundaries which can be visually represented.
  • Recently I’ve found myself on a spiritual path that is filled with visual expressions: I write of buckets inside me filled with the Holy Spirit whom I’ve visualized as a man named Jeff.
  • I was asked to teach an ed media class at the U of o in my PhD program. It contained the concept of visual literacy, which much to the disappointment of my elementary librarian wife, I had no understanding of then. However, before I got the teaching assignment, I had to visualize the course in my head and then on paper using Venn diagrams.
  • Also my wife can tell you that I’m a very messy person, requiring a desk, bedroom, and life that is all ‘out there’ to see. If it gets put away I can’t find it.
  • Recently I discovered that riding a motor scooter has made me a better driver and diminished effects of vascular dementia, because of visual defensive driving and focus required.
  • People have called me a visionary, idealistic, impulsive, and at the same time very collaborative and empathetic.
  • In my leadership roles I am known to be full of fresh ideas but unable to carry through over the long haul. When I brought innovation it was through teaching teachers how they fit into the structure of education and the structure of the teachers union. My collaborative skills were valued too. At my last teaching assignment they called me the ‘glue’ that held the department to cooperating in planning science courses.
  • I used a note taking method called ‘Concept Mapping’ which visually represents concepts through drawing ways they are linked. Also an art teacher I worked with (thanks Joan) helped me make my journals more meaningful with drawings, diagrams, and color.
  • I finally told my wife after moving here to Corvallis after my retirement that I would do no more ‘some assembly required’ furniture because the Chinese diagrams didn’t make sense to me.

BTW: I’ve written this whole thing without pictures though it appears to me to be disconnected and without connections.

I can’t write my blog or stories without first visualizing the title, then I am compelled to write. It is now 2:14 am and I’ve awakened with this in my head awaiting its visual representation in the written word.

Get the picture?

– Small town boy

The Sun is in my eyes

6:54 a.m., the sun rises and blinds me.

I must move or shade my eyes so I can see.

It is not as bad as when I had cataracts that scattered the light all over my vision,

But it is bothersome as I sit here trying to write.

It is the end of July here in Corvallis, 

The sun rises later, but the days are hotter.

With daylight savings we save the daylight for this event,

Sun up before children up. Quiet time.

They have set their iPads alarms for 7:00

So they can dress and prepare to play soccer this morning (at 11:00)

At Lil’ Kickers this morning.

She (age 6) wants to play with him (age 8),

He (age 8) wants to teach her (age 6) some kicks.

She is sorely disappointed that she can’t go,

Her age bracket was yesterday.

After some disappointment, she decides she will go to see him play.

Oops, it’s 7:00 I better see if they got up

With the sun, and

Take my wife coffee to start her day.

– Small town boy

My path

Walk down my path with me for a while.

It isn’t a straight path right now, but has many forks which I have been investigating.

A friend who put me on this path is in hospice, so pardon me if i’m distracted.

My path was covered with brambles, Himalayan blackberries,

which  had accumulated while I  was being a good person, a good husband, a good lover, a good teacher, a good Christian etc.

My major stressors were to be perfect and to please others. I learned that in  a workshop in the late 70’s, but I think it is still true.

So I have retreated, literally, and am trying to express myself

in written word, in drawings, in poetry, in dance, in costume, in lots of different ways, not all of them within societal norms, not drugs, but nudity.

A big part of this search, and probably much of the reason for it, was the Portland REgional Burn. My eyes were opened. Don’t do  anything drastic for 6 weeks they say. Well its been at least that. Much in the change in my appearance (longer hair, scraggly beard, wearing a sarrong) are in preparation for THE Burning Man, now 43 days away. 

I don’t mean to frighten or worry my family or friends.  I should have done this long ago.

I have recently joined a UCC church that has inspired me to pursue a spiritual path, an intentional path, a path  of enlightenment.

I am also tryhing to clear internal brambles in my body, my heart, my mind, and my soul, so as to be open to life, new experiences, God, and finding myself.

These things shake up those around me. They shake me up too. That’s the point. One does not change without the  shake up. It may be worrysome, stressful, embarassing, etc., but that leads to discovery and change.

I don’t even know if I am brave enough to change or make life changing decisions, but I have people.

My people don’t hesitate to tell me when I’m going down the wrong path or a path that might embarrass or threaten them.  I appreciate that. I appreciate their concern. I appreciate this is how they show their love and support.

But I must lead the effort. I must take a look, try new things, express myself, and change if needed.

Bless me.

  
PS Elizabeth KKubler Ross, On Death and Dying, says that each of us must face death and try to understand it. I agree, but I think the first step is to understand living. I have been given a life and now is a good time to examine what I’m doing with it.

Small Town Boy

People to People, South Africa, July, 1979

People to People asked me to join an educational media group to South Africa under the leadership of Ribert Branch, a professor at the University of Georgia with experience in Botswana and Durbin, SA.
I made a scrapbook of it at the time. I will try to share this with you.
Here is the first page showing the group that went:

   

  

    

    

    

    

   

   

  

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

      
Small Town Boy

Men in my life who made a difference

I lost my father when I was nine. He committed suicide.

My mother, when I was still young, sought out men who could become surrogates.

Here are the ones I can remember:

Chuck Hagemeister was a mentor in acolytes and Boy Scouts, probably my first adult male friend, one with whom I shared a bond of friendship.

Mr Pitkin, I think his name was. He was a teacher during the year but he ran a crafts class outside the library across the street where we made plastic bracelets, among other things.

Mr Van Arsdale(?) my junior high science teacher who pointed me toward science Ed though I didn’t know it at the time.

Jerry DeFreise, high school chemistry teacher who definitely pushed me into chemistry and my unsuccessful attempt at Chem engineering .

Ed and Don Pomranka who owned Fred and Fred’s grocery and took me in when I was a teen and taught me about the world of work.

Fr. Alexander Balfour Patterson III campus chaplain at University of Colorado and Francis Wolle, deacon. Fr. Wolle taught me how to be a lay reader and Fr Pat told me to go make myself useful when I flunked out.

John Gibbons, former Sea Bee in the Pacific, a contractor in Boulder who I worked for after flunking out of CU who taught me how to be a laborer, a hod carrier, a carpenter, a cement mason, a tiler, and an adult.

A neighbor in Fort Collins who collected and sold things others didn’t want. We would call him a recycler now. He told me if I ever fell on hard times to acquire a magnet and anything that would stick to it could be sold for money.

Dr Louis R Weber, chair of the physics department at Colorado State University, who taught me to rely on myself, seek others to partner with, and the love of teaching physics . (And to not fall asleep in class)

Gerald ??? My science Ed professor who turned me into a science teacher. He taught me to gather resources and helped me learn to be at the front of the science classroom.

Jack Sheehy, science department chair at Roosevelt where I started teaching. His kind, quiet support removed the frustration and anxiety of my first real job.

George Flitte, head of College Exploration school at Adams High. Jerry Hagan, counselor and Ed Basaraba, my team leader. These three men and Henry Pond, vice principal, made a challenging teaching assignment doable.

6 men in ABOGIK, a men’s group. It stood for A Bunch Of Guys I Know. They taught me how to love men and that they could love me.

Elliot Geller and Thomas Fisher, two counsellors who helped me come to grips with my father and my relationship with men and women.

Chuck Kuzminski, Bob Dahlman, Clark Peters, uniserv staff for OEA PAT NEA. Who helped me grow into leadership.

Gerry Moreford, who bargained on the board’s side of the table who helped learn how to bargain for the best in the teacher’s contract.

Gene Douthie ( now Jean Valjean) And Larry Ayers, Admin at Jefferson, who led me to team leader and ultimately my PhD.  

Bob Williams, head of data processingAnd Ed Schneider, head of the Curriculum department, who showed me the ropes of school support that eventually led to private consulting and teacher training and my PhD.

Colin Karr-Morse who rescued me when my tech job in the curriculum dept dissolved, got me lots of Macs to teach physical science with, and said I was one of the finest teachers in Portland, upon my retirement.

Tom Nelson who taught me all he knew about birding and took me twice to Malheur National Wildlife Sanctuary in southeastern Oregon at times of migration.

The eight men I interviewed for a series called Cronies’ Tales.