If I’m so tired and my legs hurt so much after the senior boys hike, why am I blogging now, and why didn’t I lose ten pounds?

Well, I just got back from the 2013 senior boys hike.  This was the fourth year Archmere Academy has organized this trip to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.  We had a great time.  And by “we,” I mean four teachers (Mr. Jordan, Mr. Cocco, Mr. Levine, and I) and 34 senior boys.  Over three days, we hiked just short of twenty miles on three different hikes, the final two proving to be far more difficult than the first uphill amble–and the last one, the most enjoyable.  On Tuesday we climbed the highly anticipated Old Rag, the last 30-45 minutes of which is an invigorating (and I use that term loosely) scramble through very challenging natural rock formations.

At two different points on this third hike–on a flat rock at about 2500 feet and at the summit at about 3500 feet–we stopped to admire the views and eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches.  Everyone enjoyed the hike thoroughly…but nature’s water slides were a big hit, too, on Day 2, during the White Oak/Cedar Run hike.

Mr.  Cocco calculated that we burned thousands and thousands of calories during Monday and Tuesday’s hikes, but I’m not so sure; I’m not seeing it yet.  All I know is that this annual exhaustion is well worth it, considering how terrific the boys were the entire trip.  And, oh my, if you want to know the minds of high school boys, simply sit behind the wheel of a moving vehicle filled with them because, clearly, you will become, to them, invisible and deaf.  Fascinating and hilarious stuff.  (Note to parents:  please let your boys know that Taco Bell does not have “the best meat ever.”)  And all the information I gleaned was expressed–thank goodness–with the candid purity of amazing and decent kids.  I always feel privileged to be around our students.

We ate, too:  Mr. Jordan and Mr. Cocco grilled burgers and dogs the first night; I ordered out for DELICIOUS chicken and fries from the Big Meadows  camp store/restaurant on the second night; on the last night we ate in the main lodge’s basement eatery–burgers and chicken wings and dessert.  The boys played a lot of cards, Mr. Levine challenged them with a playing card riddle I swiftly walked away from, campfires roared, and there was always a football in the air.  With tents spread over five sites, sleeping arrangements were commodious, and the overnight temperatures were perfectly chilling.  Everything went exceedingly well.

I wanted to add pix here, but the images are too big, and I forget how to re-size them, but check in again soon.  Thanks most of all to the parents for trusting their fine boys with us.  This excursion is a summer highlight.

Mr. Dougherty, where’s my schedule?

Even though I’m using a new and fairly robust software to create students’ and teachers’ schedules, almost every student schedule requires additional manual adjustment. For instance, if a student couldn’t be scheduled for a particular elective, I search for one that will fit, meaning I might have to move other courses around to provide a full schedule.  Some of these adjustments take two to three minutes, but most take longer, so the entire scheduling process takes time.  I thought I would be able to mail schedules out by this Friday, July 26, but, oh my, no.  No way.  Uh-uh.  Forget it.

To complicate matters…from Sunday (7/28) through Wednesday (7/31), Misters Jordan, Cocco, Levine, and I will be taking 30+ senior boys on a camping and hiking trip in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.  Fun and important, to be sure.  So I’m cranking on these schedules now and will crank out some more when we return from Virginia.

All I’m saying is that schedules are coming.  If I mailed them out on August 9, that’s still plenty o’ time to know what’s up.  More than true necessity, curiosity drives people’s desire to know their schedules now.  But to keep eveeryone as informed as possible, I will be sending a letter by email this week explaining the upcoming schedules and course changes, etc.

This was the #1 most boring thing I’ve ever written.  Ever.

To compensate, here’s a picture I took of Florence, Italy.

Photo Jul 11, 8 11 42 PM



Maine is more fun than scheduling. That’s just the way it is.

I’ve ventured from the woods of Maine to check email, and so I thought I’d post a quick note from Vacationland.  That’s not a metaphor; that’s what Maine calls itself.  Talk to them.

Let’s be clear:  I’ve not even LOOKED at a schedule since I left last week.  Feels great.  But I have been reading.  What, you ask?  Well, here you go:  Escape from Camp 14; Methland; Run, Brother, Run; Making Haste from Babylon.  Hope to start American Passage later today as I gaze out over the silvery lake from the shore of my cabin.  Maybe even get to The Glamour of Grammar.  Honestly.

With the reading, kayaking, and grilling, I’m appreciating my time off, recharging for two things:  1) continuing to perfect student and teacher schedules and 2) the senior boys’ camping and hiking trip to Virginia on Sunday.

Okay, back to the woods.


Who knew scheduling could be fun?

Yesterday I started the actual scheduling of classes in a new (for Archmere) scheduling program called Rediker.  (Since we’ve moved all of our student data to a new system,  I needed a new scheduling program, too.) All the preparation that has led up to this point (I explained that in my last post) pays off with every click on the track pad.

The program magically (to me) searches for the best spot to place each class to maximize student requests.  People used to do this process by hand (some in smaller schools still do), but that was easier when there were far fewer students requesting courses from a smaller pool of offerings to be scheduled the same period every day.  Archmere has an academic program that is more robust than many others, and it employs an 8-day, 7-period schedule (a diagonal cascading rotation with a drop day) that defies manual construction.  Well, it defies my manual construction:  in other words, I ain’t doing it by hand.

To watch the program compute the best schedules is pretty cool.  I was able to weight courses, too.  For instance, an AP class has more “weight” than an elective:   If AP US History  and Photography are vying for the same period on a student’s schedule, Rediker will grant the period to AP US History.  It won’t move Photography to another period because that’s the period that works for most everyone else who requested it:  this is why not everyone can be scheduled for every elective he or she requests–it’s not always about space; it’s usually about the other courses all students chose.  Rediker, like all programs like it, schedules communities of people, not individual students.  That’s a tough lesson to absorb when you don’t get the art or music or computer elective you wanted.

But the process is moving along, and then there are adjustments to make by hand.  I’m pretty certain that I will be able to mail home  to students (by Friday, August 26) the list of classes they will be enrolled in next year.  And by August 21, everyone will be able to access the new student and parent pages through the Archmere website.  But that’s a bit of a spoiler there…you’ll hear more about that soon. But imagine this:  a life without paper schedules.  You’re welcome.

Okay, I’m off to read about the pilgrims.  Believe it or not, there’s more to know.