New school year!

So it has been a while since my last post (I feel like my posts are generally going to start that way – Keeping a blog is not at the top of my priority list right now).

Since my last post, I have officially gotten my Professional Educator Licence for the state of Illinois and am certified to teach High School Drama.  That being said, I got the licence a little late in the summer (as I had to take an extra class) and did not secure a full time teaching position for the 2016-2017 school year.  Because of which, I am holding down two jobs (Substitute Teaching during the day and waiting tables on nights and weekends).

Today’s post is on teacher frustration.  Our nations educators have a hard job and often times it is because the students that they have to teach do not want to be here.  While this is not a NEW concept, more and more we are seeing instances of the rules allowing the students freedoms that they did not have before, shifting the power.  I made a post before about technology and how it is a wonderful tool but is becoming a distraction.  Today, while I was on my break in the teachers lounge, I heard a fellow educator talking to a colleague about a couple girls in her class.  Apparently the student went up to the teacher during a test and claimed that they had never been taught this material.  The teacher responded with “this is what we have been learning the last 2 weeks!”

“Yeah, but I was on facebook on my phone in class the last couple weeks!”

Someone save me.  Why did I choose to do this to myself?

Technology is actually starting to scare me in schools

So, I know I have posted about this before, but I am starting to become much more legitimately concerned about the well-being of the students that I am teaching. Today, I was working as a substitute teacher at a public high school in a suburb of Chicago, in fact in the same district as the one that I attended when I was a teenager. I was to teach a math class, and while math is not my content area, I still offered what help I could.

In all of this teacher’s classes, the students had worksheets to work on and whatever they did not finish became homework. Simple enough right? As I am typing this, I am sitting in this second period class of 18 students (4 are missing), and here are the statistics on their cell phone usage:

  • 16 have their phones out on their desks (using them or not)
  • 8 of those 16 are texting or using some form of social media for more than just changing the song that they are listening to while they are working.

Now, remember how I said I attended this district?  When I was in High School, the first iPhone had come out during my freshman year, so a lot of us did not have phones.  When we did get one, they were usually standard flip phones or one of the original LG enV’s.  The school was also very strict on what we were allowed to do with the phones.  I remember I was walking to class one time during my junior year and a friend of mine was walking with me.  We were curious how much time we had to get to our class so he pulled out his cellphone to look at the time.  A dean happened to be walking the opposite direction, took his phone, and told him he could pick it up in the dean’s office after school along with a detention.  Just for looking at the time.  I am not saying that this is right, but it is interesting to note how lenient these schools have become when it comes to this technology.

Now, we are not permitted to take a student’s cellphone and leave it in the dean’s office, as they feel this is a safety concern.

Now, I mentioned those 8 students before about their cell phone usage.  I have now gone over there at least 3 times per student and told them to put it away and they just won’t.  Why?  Because I am powerless.  I am a sub, so I cannot write anyone up, I cannot take away phones or I will get in trouble, and I cannot enforce any classroom discipline because I am not going to get supported.

Being a teacher is an exceptionally hard and thankless job, and I feel that it is being made harder, because we aren’t allowed to do anything about the way our students behave.  You want the students to learn?  You complain about the state of our education in this country?  Look at the reason why there is a record number of students with ADD.  It is because they are so involved in their gadgets and media that they are losing the ability to think without them, and in turn, it is crippling them.

How schools have changed.

I remember High School somewhat well.  Heck, I only graduated from it 7 years ago.  I remember thinking that everything was a huge deal socially, and put a lot of stress on myself.  Even though I was taking some Accelerated and Advanced Placement classes, I didn’t really stress that much on my work.  Most of my issues were social, and because of which, I had decent enough grades.

The last two weeks I have been subbing again, and it has been a nice breath into what High School is like.  I am working for the same district that I graduated from, and because of which, there are a lot of the same cultures in place, but a lot has also changed.

All students are issued these when they become freshmen.
All students are issued these when they become freshmen.

The first thing that I noticed when I started working here was the use of technology.  All students have mini-laptops that are powered by Google, called ChromeBooks.  When I started working for this district a couple years ago, only the Freshmen and Sophomores had them, as they were in the process of integrating them.  Now, almost everything has transitioned to the cloud, and every teacher maintains a classroom website.  This has many advantages, but also can cause a lot of problems.

Today I was subbing some classes, and the students had assignments that they had to do on their ChromeBooks.  This is nice, as the teacher who is out can prepare a lesson online and have the students access it.  He can remotely make sure the students are doing their work without actually being there themselves.  However, while going around the room monitoring students and making sure they were understanding their assignment, I found almost a third of the class on Facebook or Netflix.  Having this much access to technology makes it hard to judge if the students are using it for the appropriate things.

The original iPhone released in June of 2007
The original iPhone released in June of 2007

The other thing that I noticed was how lenient the school has become on the use of cell phones.  When I was in school, I couldn’t even have my phone out in the cafeteria, as it would get taken away.  I remember getting a detention for taking my phone out for a quick second to check the time once.  The first iPhone also came out when I was in High School, so having a smartphone was a new concept for a lot of people.  Now, I have to remind the students to take their earbuds out to hear me.  Before, I would have gotten that phone taken away so fast that I wouldn’t have even seen the teacher coming.  Now, often times teachers find themselves in a battle with taking the phones away.  Students are fighting back more, and parents feel that taking a phone away is somehow violating their students rights.

A lot has changed, and I am unsure if it is completely for the better.  As someone who uses technology quite frequently, I see it’s uses.  However, by introducing too much too fast, we are running into some issues.

Back in the swing of things!

So the new year is upon us, and I have been really bad with updating my blog 🙁

I recently re-added myself to the sub list for a local High School district, and am currently writing this on my lunch break at one of the schools.

After having my student teaching experience at an All-Boys Catholic High School, as opposed to this coed Public one, there are so many differences in the culture and atmosphere that make me question which one I prefer more.

Private School, especially one of a single gender has its own problems just in the placing.  I was at a school with all Boys, which means they were exceptionally rowdy with each other, and would often try to avoid doing work to make jokes in order to heighten their social status among their peers.  In fact, there is a web series on YouTube, called “Skool’d” that was written, directed, and starring some of the former students of the school.  You can check out the link here.  I feel it was a very accurate representation of what is going on at the school.

Public school, on the other hand has its own issues.  While Private has tuition, Public does not.  This means that the students might be coming from lower income families, and might not have the support that the private school students have.  This does not really mean that the education that they are getting at either school is of lesser quality, however.  Both schools have the same requirements for their teachers, and their curriculum are very similar.

But now that I am back, and passed my edTPA (THANK GOD) I have applied for my license, and am applying to jobs.  If anyone knows of a school in the Chicagoland area that is looking for a Middle or High School Drama Teacher, let me know!

4 Reasons Theatre Should Be A Core Subject In Schools | The Odyssey

Art is just as important as math.

Source: 4 Reasons Theatre Should Be A Core Subject In Schools | The Odyssey

Someone (cannot remember who) posted this article on Facebook today, and I felt the need to share it because I agree with it, but I think the author needed to add some key things to it, especially after reading the comments.  So I am going to take what they said, summarize, add to, and possibly add more to it in order to show how important this subject matter is to me.

So, I am a Drama Teacher.  I have a Masters Degree in Secondary Education, and a Bachelor’s in Theatre Arts (with Performance Concentration).  Theatre is such a big part of who I am that I see it’s benefits all the time.  Should Theatre be a Core Subject:  YES.  Here are some reasons why:

  1. Theatre Teaches you how to work with people.
    In life, often times you get so focused on yourself that you do not realize all the parts that got you to where you are now.  It is not about your single moment in the spotlight (which is still something to enjoy) but all the collaboration that goes into it.  One of the most common sayings out there is “There are no small roles, only small actors,” which says that everyone made that moment possible, not just the one person on stage.
  2. Theatre is an escape.
    This one hits home for me.  When I started acting in Middle and High School, the Drama and Fine Arts Department at my school were where I would go when I was not feeling the greatest.  I had some self-esteem issues, but when I was acting… I was the center of my own universe for just a small amount of time.  I could be someone else, but I could still bring MYSELF to it.  My performance would be drastically different than anyone else’s but was still valid.  You can create.  You can get rid of all that stupid teenage angst that we all seemed to have at this point in our lives.
  3. Theatre humbles you.
    No one is ever going to be the “best actor in the world” because there is so much to learn and so many different styles to choose from (and that is subjective as it is).  Part of getting notes about your performance is realizing that the director is not attacking you.  He WANTS you to get better.  When you get better, the whole production gets better.  Being able to take criticism and apply it without becoming defensive or egotistical is hard, especially if it something you have worked so hard for.  But it is a wonderful skill to have.
  4. It is cross-curricular.
    This is one that I feel the author of the original article did not touch on, but someone in the comments section did, so I am going to use a quote from it.  “[T]here are other qualitative reasons, such as Math (assuming it is a musical, but also math and physics skills used in set building), History (if it is based on a historical event… like when my High School performed A Tale of Two Cities), Literature (Shakespeare anyone?) and probably a few others I haven’t thought of. It can integrate into the other areas of study.”  Theatre incorporates everything, including all the cores listed, and some other higher sciences such as psychology, and sociology as we are trying to take the human condition and replicate it under these imaginary circumstances.
  5. Theatre Teaches Acceptance.
    Theatre requires you to be vulnerable, which is something that a lot of people are scared to do.  This is why the number one skill in the world is Public Speaking.  We do not want to appear as vulnerable and do not want to feel like others are judging us.  When I was doing my student teaching last semester, I started out the class with a project that was all about self-reflection and personal narritive, where the students would tell me and the rest of the class a little bit about themselves.  They would talk about their home lives, and often would feel comfortable enough to talk about harder things.  Sometimes there were tears, as the students were reliving moments of their lives that they wanted to forget, but we were able to channel that energy into making a room where everyone was safe.  Everyone saw each other as the person that they were: human.  No one is perfect and all races, creeds, sexual orientations, and anything else were left at the door.  We are human first.

Now it looks like I just added one point and changed the wording on the other four, but eh, it works.  One thing however did catch my eye in the comments section, and you can probably see it if you go to the page.  There was a man who commented this:

[S]ports do the same thing. If someone were to propose mandatory enrollment in a sport, it would be struck down. Why? Not everybody is capable of practicing sports-it requires a similar minimum level of physical ability as theatre. Not everybody is “into” sports. The stage of heroes is a small stage; if everybody in the school were to join theatre, you would have dozens of extras, most only part of the performance for moments. also, there is a level of competition involved, such as vying for key roles. not everyone wants to be a part of that, and top talent would get the gold. Also, simply tracking participation is a potential nightmare, especially for larger schools. the teacher input required is enormous already for the respective niches of sports and theatre. if you were to expand either to include the entire school, it would strain personnel and break the banks of public education. where would that money come from? it would be really irresponsible to ask for it from our already debt-laden national government, especially when we are on the verge of a large military conflict with ISIL, not to mention the crap being pulled by Iran and the PRK.

Well ignoring the fact that he turned it into a rant about the way the United States government is handling it’s funding, I will move on.  I said:

I think you have never actually taken a Drama or Theatre class before, based upon this response. Having a class that teaches this discipline is very different than everyone just putting on a play. You use sports as an example. Well (at least in this state) there is a class for that, which is mandatory: Physical Education. PE doesn’t make every single person join the Basketball Team, but it gives them the opportunity to test their abilities, and their grade is measured on effort and growth than actual ability. Theatre is absolutely NO different.


WordPress Theme Tutorial

Source: How To Easily Create A Custom WordPress Theme

So I found a nice tutorial on how to create WordPress themes, and have been playing with it all day.  Because my knowledge of PHP is limited, it is proving to be much more of a struggle than I thought it would be.  Getting there though.

I also wanted to learn how to create themes for other CMS’s, but hey!  Baby steps.  I figure, let’s master WordPress, so I can then move to other ones.  My main website, uses a very simple CMS that I was able to find, called CMSMS.  CMSMS stands for Content Management System Made Simple, and can be downloaded from here.  I like it because all I need to do, is make the page in static HTML, and place a navigation and content block into the theme file, and that is it!  It is done.  It is currently hosting my portfolio.

What I like about WordPress it the functionality that you can get out of it through the use of Third Party Widgets.  I know that my World of Warcraft guild used to use a WordPress back-end for it’s website (now on Joomla), and we were able to have people register, host forums, and use some free progression and recruitment widgets that are available.

Anyway, thought I would share what I found.  I am going to get back to testing out making my own themes.

Have a good one everybody!


WordPress themes

So I am a freelance web designer.

I love coding and have extensive knowledge of HTML and CSS. However, I am new to the whole “designing for WordPress” thing. Right now at the time of posting, this blog is just using the default WordPress theme that is current (Twenty Sixteen).  However I want more customization. WordPress has a lot of themes available, but I do not know how to truly customize them from scratch.

According to w3techs:

“WordPress is used by 58.8% of all the websites whose content management system we know. This is 25.4% of all websites.”

Using the lovely device that is google I have looked up a variety of guides on how to do this but they do not seem to give me what I want.

The first one I found was from Siteground, which is a web hosting service that offers some WordPress tutorials.  While this is a great basic example of how you can make a theme, it does not do things such as… teach you how to make the sidebar support widgets.  Or how to include a navigation bar.  I will continue to keep looking for more, but I have a lot of work ahead of me.

First Post!

Hey everybody!  Welcome to my blog.  I am going to use this blog as an extension of my social media presence.  For those of you do not know me (which let’s be honest, if you made it here, you probably do) my name is Joe Baumgartner, and I am a variety of things.  I am an Actor, Web Designer, Teacher, Director, Gamer, and opinionated young adult.  I (at the time of writing) have just completed my Masters Program, and will be looking for a full time Drama Teacher position in the near future so that I can continue to create the art that I so love, which is performance.

In my free time, I enjoy coding for the sake of coding, playing World of Warcraft (For the Horde!) and chain watching seasons of television shows on Netflix.

The reason I also decided to begin blogging is that I discovered a blog that I had created about 3 years ago after the death of my father, John Baumgartner.  I had it hosted on my website, but I had not updated it in over a year.  When I did write in it however, I would find it therapeutic to write things out, and my father’s friends and my family found it nice to have it as a memory of him.  I decided that I would remove the site, as I am finally at a place that I no longer need it.  Because of which, it has been deleted.

I hope you all enjoy your stay at my blog!