Saturday, 03 April 2010 19:36

Mike should major in EV

 Michael Glover is a first-year-team member, and a junior at the West Philadelphia Auto Academy. Ann and I can’t figure him out.

 He has a C or D, in pretty much all of his classes, including shop.  Recently, Mr. Preiss caught him cutting shop not once, but twice.  I guess the shop doesn’t have what the corner store does.

 He falls asleep in my class about once a week.  I have his mother’s cell phone number saved in my phone, and I recently sent her a picture message of her son sleeping in my class.  It was probably one of the greatest picture texts I have ever sent.

 When interim reports went out, Michael was in shock to see such low grades.  He couldn’t understand why the majority of his grades were low D’s, and in my case an F. 

 “Michael, you never do your homework.  You never have your books for class.  Sometimes you don’t even have a pen..  The only major assignment you completed was the four stanza poem with metaphors.  And you didn’t even write four stanzas. And you wrote similes!”

 Yet, Michael does exceptionally well after 3:04 p.m.

 He is an amazing football player.  He was a great asset to the team this past fall as an offensive linebacker.  He did very well in the field and worked very hard in practice.  He loves football so much.  He cannot wait for the football summer camp in July.

 When football season was over, he joined the West Philly Hybrid X Team.  He was simply looking for something to do after school.  Many of the students on the team fall into this category.  They enjoy automotive and working with the teachers and teammates. Most of the students don’t want to go home right after school.

 Yet, Michael has a tremendous family base.  His mother is very supportive and is in constant communication with his teachers.  I know.  I talk to her about once or twice a week.  His father stops by the shop to check in on Michael.  Sometimes Michael doesn’t do a great job of letting his parents know his schedule when we are in the shop late into the evening.  When that happens, they come looking for him.

 Michael may be one of the only students on the team who realizes all the exceptional opportunities provided for him.  He said in an interview that he joined the team because he thought this could be a way to get into college.  He also said that he is pretty much as famous as all the influential people the team has met, and doesn’t see the big deal with them coming to our shop.

 He thrives on Simon’s lectures on aerodynamics.  He loves the science behind the cars and is working very closely with a Penn student volunteer on researching ways to make the cars more aerodynamic.  He is the one who found a more aerodynamic windshield that the team is looking to buy for the cars.  The same day he left for the corner store during sixth period, he stayed with Edgar (the Penn engineering student) until five o’clock to research a contraption he could build to put on top of the GT to lower wind resistance.

When the gear heads on the team stumble over the name of a car part, a specific about the hybrid technology, or the effect of rolling resistance on fuel economy, Michael has the answer. Without fail. Every time it happens – which is frequently – we’re floored. This is why Ron Preiss says Michael should major in EV.

 Ann and I spent an entire evening about two weeks ago talking about Michael Glover and his idiosyncrasies, and we still can’t figure him out.  He is the reason why high school curriculum should be restructured, the school hours reworked, the menu in the cafeteria overhauled and football mini camps should be scheduled throughout the school year. We also need to trust in our students’ abilities some more.

 Last thought: I was so frustrated with Michael one day that I called my mother and had her speak to him.  Whenever a student is giving me a particular hard time, I call my mom in the middle of class and have her speak to him/her.  Last year it was Rameak Taylor.  This is year, it is Michael Glover.  My mother is a force.  She yells more than I do.  She works at a middle school in Maryland.  Her lunch is during my fourth period with Michael.  Convenient.  Even after their conversation, Michael still didn’t do his homework that night and didn’t bring his book to class. 

 We are stumped. 

Published in Blogs
Monday, 22 March 2010 21:38


I know that it’s not nice to feel good about the misfortune of others, but, I just can’t seem to help myself.

Let me tell you the whole story.  Through the hard work of our wonderful West Philadelphia State Representative James Roebuck, we got a call from Chevrolet. How would we like to have the Chevy Volt come to our school? They would send one of the engineers who helped develop this-next-new-thing in the automotive world and we’d have a great presentation about range extended electric vehicles.

Wow! We liked the idea so much we invited students from other automotive programs across the city to come. The School District provided a bus. We conference called with the presenters, the P. R. folks and the logistics personnel. We crafted an afternoon’s activities that included a presentation by Chevy, speeches by our Team members about our technology, a question and answer session and time for all of us to get a good look at the Volt.

This morning we arranged a 100 foot parking spot on Hanson Street for Chevy to park the tractor trailer carrying the Volt. We ordered the pizza. We set up chairs. We got the drinks. Then we got the call. The truck carrying the Volt broke down.  We’re not making this up. “Can you flatbed it?” I asked the transport supervisor.  I asked the guy who called from Detroit could they swap the tractor. He asked me did we have a tractor. While we have a lot at the Auto Academy, we didn’t have a tractor sitting around.  So GM had to fend for itself.

The P. R. folks showed up, the press showed up, the students and teachers showed up, the presenter showed up, the pizza showed up, but the Chevy Volt did not. Melanie Fox gave a terrific presentation about the Volt’s technology. Students from West, Randolph and Edison asked great questions. Ron Preiss welcomed all the guests. Sekou Kamara, Alexis Bland and Azeem Hill all gave wonderful speeches. We all had a great time talking to each other and learning.

It is good to feel good about the exchange of information and meeting lots of new students. But, here’s the bad part. It is Schadenfreude.  I am getting some sort of significant delight that GM couldn’t get their super new car to West Philly because of mechanical problems. Let me be clear. I like GM. I like Chevy. I own a Malibu Hybrid. It’s the best looking car I’ve ever owned. It gets great mileage. It’s never had a mechanical problem.

Before I became the manager of the West Philly Hybrid X Team, I was a fan who faithfully followed the Team competitions.  Inevitably, the day before a race, Simon Hauger would tell me that the car was broken and we wouldn’t be able to go. Of course, if you take a look at our record, you’ll see that Simon and the team always managed to get the car to the race and more times than not, they won. That’s why I have always had tremendous respect for Simon.

Today, my respect for Simon grew by about 25-fold. We got to our races raising the money we needed through bake sales and there we were listening to how many Chevy Volts they crashed tested at hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop and how it took about a quadrillion zillion dollars of research and development to create the Volt.  And they couldn’t get the car from New Jersey to West Philly.

Chevy, I love you. It was a great day, a wonderful visit. I just can’t wipe the smirk off my face. I’m so sorry.


Published in Blogs
Monday, 11 January 2010 17:04

Looking In

When I first started my secondary education courses, nothing that was found in a textbook compared to the student-teaching observations.  You would read about the pros and cons of whole language, the various scenarios of ideal classroom management, and how to find all my boyfriends, Piaget, Maslow, Bloom, and Erikson, in the students' learning patterns.  But it wasn't until my first rounds of student-teaching observations and later in my first year teaching when I realized that I could know my textbooks cover and cover, and I still not know what to do with a pissed off teenager.  Maybe Maslow and Bloom would do a better job than I would the first time around, but no one can say for real.

Looking into Preiss' shop from his classroom, reminds me so much of how important it is to be in the moment of learning.  At 5:15 p.m. on a Monday, there are seven students working in the shop with Preiss, Dilossi, Simon, and Mark.  Mark is a self-employed specialist of the GTM.  He started working with the team a week ago. He fits right in.  He works well with the students in explaining the steps for the kit car.  Every now and then you hear, "shut up, shut up" from the students, which is a good thing.

These students are in the ideal situation.  They are learning something in theory and actually seeing how it works in practice.  Sometimes, I would find myself cringe reading the best practices of the classroom.  It just wouldn't work in reality.  Middle school and high school are the most difficult part of one's upbringing.  There is absolutely no textbook that contains all the right material.  You can't find the answers unless you are actually in the moment.

Within minutes, the students working in the shop confront problems and delays in putting together the GTM.  Poor Justin Clarke, he hurt his finger.  Justin Carter had to measure and remeasure the headlight and nose of the car.  Daniel is remodeling the harness for the Ford.

"I have completely assembled both headlights and started working on mounting them on the nose.  I had to think of different ways of tearing  the fiberglass on the frame of the car to fit the molds of the headlights.  I broke it.  I broke one screw on the corner when I was drilling.  Luckily, three screws would be enough to hold the frame in place. So I lucked up on that end." -from Justin Carter

Despite the setbacks, they are accomplishing a lot.  It is amazing to see what they did to the GTM just within the last week.  You know it is a good day when the shop smells like a campfire from the welding.  More parts are needed to order.  More wrenchs are needed for harnassing.  More hours are needed to prove theories wrong.

Ride or Die

Ms. R

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