Sunday, November 30, 2008

Getting in the spirit

As I get older, I find that it becomes a bit more difficult to get into the holiday spirit each December. Not that I am in grinch in any way. BUT, I have found that the further I get from my youth, I need to do things that ensure the fact I am in the Christmas spirit and that mentally, I know it is the holiday season. This time of year goes by so quickly and in recent years I have found myself wondering where the time has gone.

I find that doing certain things every year gets me in the spirit. For example, today the Christmas decorations went up. Thats a start. The holiday specials on television also help.

One plan I have this year is to attend a holiday concert. Yes, a concert, big surprise huh? I have seen the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in years past which is usually a great way to get in the holiday spirit. This year, its going to be Mannheim Steamroller in concert. They are similar to the TSO with their method of taking classic Christmas songs and transforming them into more contemporary, rock-oriented versions.

What do you do which helps you get into the spirit and make sure the season doesn't go by without you realizing it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Junior Lock-in

Having just come off the Class of 2010 lock-in, I wanted to post a few thoughts and pictures from the event. The first thing I think about in regards to this lock-in is how proud the class of 2010 should be. Considering how long Norton High School has been around, it really is impressive that they are the first class to successfully put on this type of event. Kevin and the rest of the officers and delegates deserve all the credit in the world for pushing for this event and getting it organized over the past 6 months or so. It took a ton of hard work and planning, but I think if you ask any of the students who attended, they will say that it was well worth it. Just about every student I spoke with both during and since the event said they really had an enjoyable time and its something that they will take away from high school remembering forever.

Here are some photos of the students in action...

Clearly staff members were enjoying it just as much...

If you are interested in seeing more photos, Mr. Dewar has uploaded quite a few to his blog as well. If you have any thoughts on the lock-in, please post them here!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Campaign heating up!

The election of 2008 is sneaking up on us very quickly. In about a week, we will know which candidate has the difficult job of leading this country ahead and taking over during some very murky times.

Many are calling this election one of the most important in the history of the nation. When I think of important elections, I can think of several in American history. However, one of the more interesting (and important) that never gets as much attention happened in 1800 between Adams and Jefferson.

The election year of 1800 signaled the birth of political parties which can only mean one thing...a nasty campaign between Federalists and Republicans. You think things have gotten nasty between McCain and Obama? They've got nothing on the candidates in 1800...

Things got ugly fast. Jefferson's camp accused President Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."

As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.

Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was "one of the most detestable of mankind."

To read the full CNN article, click below...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Too much success?

Patriots = 3 Superbowls since 2001
Red Sox = World Series winners in 04 and 07
Celtics = 2008 NBA Champs

Is it possible to win too much?

With the Red Sox in the playoffs again this year, there has recently been some discussion about whether people are getting sick of Boston for being so successful with its national sports teams.

The Sun Chronicle recently had an article in the sports section about how people are sick of hearing about Red Sox Nation. There is a particular NHS teacher (who will remain nameless) who feels that the Red Sox have won enough and its time for another team to win the World Series.

Looking at the situation from a national perspective, its easier to see how other cities could start to despise Boston at this point. After all, how badly did we root against the Yankees when they were in the midst of 4 World Series titles in 6 seasons?

How do you feel? Have we become too successful here in Boston? Would you prefer the Tampa Bay Rays or L.A. Dodgers win the world series this year?

Or is a particular NHS teacher out of his mind?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Great Quotes

I'll admit that I'm a sucker for a great quote. I recently had one of my history classes tell me what their favorite quote was. If they didn't have one that came to mind, they had the chance to do some research for something they liked.

Here are a few presidential quotes for thought as we approach the next election:

"Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder."
-George Washington

"That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."
-Thomas Jefferson

"As to the Presidency, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entrance upon the office and my surrender of it."
-Martin Van Buren

"Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?"
-Abraham Lincoln

"And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
-John F. Kennedy

"America is too great for small dreams."
-Ronald Reagan

"There is nothing wrong in America that can't be fixed with what is right in America."
-Bill Clinton

Do you have a favorite quote? Share it!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008



The start of another school year has arrived. I'll be honest and admit that I think I'm even more excited for this school year as I was for last year. And why not? I really enjoy my job. I'm looking forward to continuing as junior class advisor, sporting events, planning the 2009 prom, and planning some neat things for my classes. I am also starting my grad school program this year which I'm looking forward to.

But as much as I enjoy my job, the end of summer is always bittersweet. How could it not be? I can't imagine a much better place to spend summer than here in New England. There are so many options here! And I'm happy to report that I made the most of it.

I visited the Belgrade Lakes region of Maine, spent a couple of days in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, visited my grandparents in Vermont, did an extensive bike trip in Rhode Island and Connecticut, went camping in upstate New York, and spent plenty of time on Cape Cod biking and kayaking. I also spent a few days in Chicago where I caught baseball games at U.S. Cellular Field and Wrigley Field.

In addition to all that, I attended many, many concerts. Yes...for those of you who know me, music is my passion.

So the first question for you as we start another school year is how did you spend your summer? Do you have any recommendations for a future trip for me? Did you stay local? Visit a foreign country? Or maybe you went to a great concert?

Let me know.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Last spring I had the chance to go to a Massachusetts DOE seminar promoting service-learning in public schools across the state. Impressed with some of the projects I saw at the meeting, I spent the next few months thinking of something neat I could do with my classes. When I talked to a teacher at the Solmonese school about the annual tour of Norton for 3rd grade students, the lightbulb went off. Why not have my students research all the historical points of interest in town and then conduct the tour themselves? It seemed like a win-win situation. The elementary school teachers would certainly approve as it would mean less stress for them. My students would most certainly enjoy getting the opportunity to get outside the school to work with 3rd graders. And the 3rd grade students? Lets just say they were thrilled to hang out with the "cool" kids from the high school.

The project took a lot of planning and ironing out of details, but finally came to pass on June 5th. I think its safe to say that many of my students were anxious and even nervous prior to our departure. Despite this, I think my students clearly hit a homerun. Being the first class to ever attempt this project, I can't compliment them enough on how much responsibility and initiative they all showed for this assignment. With so many eyes watching them, they clearly realized how important the work they were doing was and really wanted to do a great job.

Their research included trips to the Norton Historical Society to speak with members as well as take advantage of the archives there. They also completed research online and from the resources available at Norton High. A number of students later expressed interest in getting more involved with the Historical Society which really pleased me as well as the society itself.

The trip itself started on 9:45am when 3 buses full of 3rd graders picked up 20 of my sophomores at NHS. From that point, the buses went all over town in different orders checking out several points of interest including the Historical Society Schoolhouse, the Town Common, King Philips Cave, the Common Cemetary, the Wetherell Homestead, Crane Farm, Devil's Rock, the Unitarian Church, and a few other spots. From that point, all the buses brought back the JCS students to school where there were some heartfelt goodbyes from the 3rd grade students to the high school students. I think just about every one of my students made at least one new friend that day.

I'd like to thank the following people for their support and assistance in helping me get this project off the ground: Mr. Dewar, Mr. Barth, Mr. Duff, George Yelle, Ruth Gould, Miss Alves & all the JCS 3rd grade teachers, and lastly all my students who worked so hard for the past month in making this project such a success.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

History Outside the Walls of NHS

I recently conducted my first field trip as a teacher at Norton High School. Speaking for myself, I must say it was a pretty cool experience. Speaking for the students, I think (hope) they also really enjoyed it as well. Judging by the dozens of "thank yous" I received that day and the following days in school, I think most students really appreciated getting to learn outside the walls of the school and to see actual history in person. And going to Faneuil Hall for lunch and shopping with their friends afterwards also probably helped as well.

The trip included a guided tour of a section of Boston's Freedom Trail. Some sites we visited included Boston Common, the Granery Burial Ground, the State House, the Omni Parker House Hotel, King's Chapel, the site of the Boston Massacre, the "old" State House, Boston Latin School, and of course Faneuil Hall. Our tour guides were young, enthusiastic, and had plenty of interesting facts, many of which I was not aware of. Following the tour, students got to spend an hour or so on their own at Faneuil Hall for lunch.

I'd like to thank the students for their excellent behavior. Thanks also goes out to Mr. Shanley, Mr. Barth, Mr. Duff, Mrs. Taylor, and Mrs. Young for helping me out with the trip.

My next post will include information about another ongoing project with some of my students involving a tour they are conducting for 3rd graders on Norton town history.

In the meantime, let me know if you can think of any other great field trip ideas. I would like to formulate a trip for juniors who take U.S. History II. Can you think of any cool ideas? The Holocaust Memorial and Battleship Cove are two that come to mind.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

American Idols? Are you sure?

I recently had an interesting discussion with one of my history classes regarding what the music industry is currently trying to classify as "music." The discussion started because were were talking about the origins of rock and roll in the 1950's with stars like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Fats Domino, Bill Haley, Little Richard, etc.

I half expected the class to be turned off by some of the 1950's music that I played. To my pleasant surprise, most students seemed to at least appreciate the fact that this stuff was life-changing for the people listening to it in the 50's and how it would pave the way for future decades of music.

We then decided to talk about the themes of music in the 50's in comparison with music that is popular in 2008. That led to the topic of American Idol being brought up. As a huge music fan myself, I can appreciate the talent that some American Idol contestants possess. However, on the whole, many of them possess no musical talent aside from having a good voice. They are winning a karaoke contest on national TV. They aren't singing their own songs, and when they do make it big thanks to the show, many of them go on to produce albums of music that they don't write themselves. Nothing worse than stereotypical, corporately produced pop music that guys in suits think American teenagers will sympathize with.

I was also surprised (and pleased) that most students in my class agreed that they don't tend to respect the American Idol stars. Again, I respect the fact that they have good voices, but when they are able to write and produce their own creative music that doesn't sound like every other band in the world, thats when I will start to pay attention.

What are your thoughts on Idol?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

What about the book?

So...what did you all think? (One Book, One School that is)

Did you read it? The entire thing?

Impressions? Did it change your perspective on Lance Armstrong? Positively or negatively?

Did it change your perspective on cancer?

Do you think the book was a good choice for the school?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

WWII veterans

I recently had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Herb Church into my classroom to speak to my students about what it was like living and serving in the World War II era. I am creating this post specifically to get feedback from the students who were present in the room and to encourage more of you to appreciate what those soldiers did for this country and the world.

Mr. Church presented a wealth of information about his personal story including people he met, tragedies he witnessed, and his voyage across the world. Unfortunately, it won't be long before there won't be any WWII veterans left to tell these stories. Of the 16 million who served, less than 4 million are still alive and veterans from that war are dying at a rate of 1,056 a day. I encourage you to find out if you have any veterans in your lives who you might be able to speak with regarding their personal stories.

For the students who were present, what did you think? Would you be interested in having veterans from Korea, Vietnam, or Desert Storm come in later this year?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Free time

I recently answered some questions for The Lance concerning what I do with my free time on the weekends. Free time has been at a premium lately as this tends to be one of the busiest times of the year for a teacher. However, it got me thinking about those hobbies that we all have that we don't get to participate in as often as we'd like. You know what I'm talking about...those things you really enjoy doing but due to your schedule you just never seem to be able to find the time for?

I go through spurts where I really enjoy photography. The great thing about it is that you sometimes surprise yourself by capturing beauty in a seemingly ordinary object. Take for instance this shot of a random tree branch that happened to be in my way...

What do you do in your precious free time? Is there anything you wish you had more time for?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Top albums of 2007

Most of my students have already figured out that I'm a big music freak. Around the end of each year, I can't help but think back at the year gone-by and recall what some of my favorite albums and concerts were.

2007 was a good year for classic rock albums. John Fogerty came out with one of his best solo discs in decades, Revival. If you enjoy the old Creedance sound, grab this disc for sure. Bruce Springsteen also returned with the E-Street Band to release Magic. While I think it lacks some of the energy usually found on E-Street albums, this is still a great release. The Eagles also didn't dissapoint with their first new album in nearly 30 years. Long Road Out of Eden is a double-CD with some songs that have that classic Eagles sound and also some tracks that sound very "new."

I also really enjoyed Ryan Adams' "Easy Tiger" album as well as the interesting duet album with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. David Gray, Crowded House, Spoon, and Levon Helm also came out with great albums this year.

Is there anything from 2007 that you would highly recommend?