Sunday, May 6, 2018

Family Poker

Article by William Abernathy, 2/1/2002
Many of our acquaintances - perhaps even most - consider poker a vice. My wife and I call it a family value. We play Texas hold'em almost every Friday night with our children. Our house motto is, "If you have a chip and a chair, you have a chance."
The primary advantages that poker has over other games is that it gives instant feedback for poor decisions, allows for mistakes during play, and although chance or luck is involved, chance plays a smaller role. In chess and checkers, one poor play can lose the game. In poker, one poor play costs a person the hand, but it seldom costs that person the game. In Life and Monopoly, luck plays too large a role: When faced with a row of hotels, Monopoly doesn't allow a person to fold. We use poker to instill persistence, as everyone has won a game after going all in. Again, "If you have a chip and a chair, you have a chance."
From our children's perspective, poker is tremendously different, because we pay them if they can beat us. Paying for success began when we had an epiphany that we could spend less money per weekend while enjoying our family more if we put up prize money. We currently have six players (Shades, Shark, Jelly, Stretch, Ammo, and Cato the Younger), and pay cash to whomever places in the top three. Paying for success means that the kids get additional spending money, we spend less per weekend when compared to movies and meals in restaurants, and we have much more interaction with our kids than if we were watching television like mute zombies.
After playing poker for a year, we've learned that we can instill our family values while dealing the shovels, jewelry, lovelies, and puppy tracks. We've used our poker games to teach the difference between possible and probable, counter the school's "all are equal" mantra, properly define prejudice, and, believe it or not, hammer home the unpleasant side of teen sex.
Poker has allowed us to condense our lessons about life in ways that we didn't foresee. We were able to teach, and continue to teach, that we want our children to reach their maximum potential, even if it means being better than we are. In the beginning, the kids thought that our poker advice was condescending. Jelly once told Shades, "Just because you have all the money doesn't mean that you know more." Shades replied through a laugh, "It means exactly that."
Poker has allowed us to teach our children that our advice is heartfelt and usually correct, that our values lead to success and happiness, and that we want them to have great lives. Our poker advice was to fold sooner, fold more often, and bluff occasionally. After giving our advice a try, all of them have won more money. We told Stretch to accept that when her bluffs are raised, she should fold. She does, and has become dangerous. We use the success of our poker advice as evidence that, just as we have never misled them in poker, we will never mislead them in life. Our advice is honest and well-meaning.
When we first began playing more than a year ago, Shades won 50 percent of the games and Shark took two-thirds of the remainder. The kids were losing because they lacked the ability to distinguish between what is "possible" and what is "probable." For example, they kept tossing in their money when they had three cards to a flush after the flop because they believed winning was possible. After putting their knowledge of fractions to use, they now know that they will lose more than 20 hands before they get their cherished flush. Possible isn't synonymous with probable. After grasping this concept, the kids realized that they didn't have enough money to lose 20 hands to win one.
After stumbling onto the fact that we could use our poker games to teach family values like persistence, unselfish advice, and the difference between possible and probable, we started actively searching for other lessons. Did I mention that our family has four daughters?
We linked the poker practice of bluffing to relationships. In short, boys bluff. Shades told the girls that he was the best bluffer because he was a boy, and boys have a natural ability to lie to girls. (Our current poker games consist of four girls and two boys.) Shades told the girls that boys would forever be telling them that they should get naked together if they are in love. But, it's a bluff, a lie, a prevarication. Boys bluff about being in love and they bluff well. Shark told the family about how many times she went on only one or two dates because she remained clothed. The boys always told her how much they wanted to be with her, but when she kept her clothes on, they stopped asking her out. We tell all the children that if a person really loves them, they will love being with them while their skin is covered with cotton. Shades told the family that all too often, boys view getting girls naked the same as they view a poker game: Bluffing is required and rewarded. Every once in a while, to keep the pain fresh, Shades shows his cards and brags about besting someone with a bluff. Since everyone hates losing to a bluff, Shades does it to hammer home the point that getting naked with someone who is bluffing feels a hundred times worse.
Our time together at the table has taught us that today's schools teach only two relationships: 50-50 and 100-0. In the beginning, the kids were wholly unable to understand the concept of 10-1 odds or 2-1 odds. The cards were either good or bad, 100-0. If deemed good, they were all equally good, 50-50. Cato was persistent in always putting in money to see the flop. Her reasoning rang with the sound of a school lecture - "All cards can win." We could hear the refrain of a teacher - "All people are equal." Sadly, Cato lost lots of poker games before she stopped believing that all cards are equal before the flop. Our family does not pretend that we are equal. We recognize and praise each family member's individual strengths, like Jelly's outstanding drawings and Cato's wonderful writing. We have used poker to counter the public school's mistaken mantra. All cards are not equal and neither are people.
Prior to playing poker, we had had discussions with Jelly about her choice of "friends," with less than desired success. When we told her that she should stop being friends with people who get poor grades, she told us that we were prejudiced. She absolutely could not understand the concept of judging people based on their actions. To her, any and all judgments were examples of prejudice. Poker has allowed Jelly to better understand us. To break a losing streak, Shades told her to fold when her cards were lower than tens. He hammered home that it was necessary to make poker decisions with limited information. Eureka! Getting bad grades is limited information, just like having only two cards out of seven. She has vaguely come to understand that her parents were not "prejudging;" they were "post-judging," making decisions with limited information. She now understands that her parents believe bad grades are enough information to warrant a decision. We no longer face the "you're prejudiced" argument when asking her to make decisions about people. Poker has taught her to make predictions with limited knowledge.
Our only remaining major advantage over the kids is our ability to read tells. (Shades, a.k.a. Dad, has this moniker because he put on a pair of sunglasses when the kids complained that he was staring at them.) Here, too, we have shared our knowledge with the kids. First, decide whether players are acting. If they are, they are doing the opposite of what their cards say they should. Acting weak means strength, while acting strong indicates weakness. The kids are listening and learning. Stretch recently told Shades, "I know you are weak because you are calculating whether to call my bet. When you are strong, you call quickly. When you are weak, you calculate." She was right. Ammo told him in a different game, "Dad, you had a look. You're bluffing." Ammo raised, and Shades lost.
If you are tired of board games and TV, have a couple of hours before bedtime, and enjoy teaching your kids how to live a proper life, play a little Texas hold'em. Our starting stake is 25 times the beginning maximum wager. We double the limits every 30 minutes. At the 90-minute mark, the game becomes pot-limit. If a game lasts two hours, we go no-limit. Almost all games last between one and a half and two and a half hours. Play a few nights. You will discover that it is a great way to instill family values

Monday, March 28, 2016


Last week I had a dream. I was at South Hills, my old church, sitting up in the upper level during some giant circus event. First, I was watching my brother successfully shoot bowling balls off the upper deck into basketball hoops, but then I got up to go to another section to watch the rhinos shooting bowling balls off the balcony into basketball hoops.

So basically pretty normal stuff, and then I went back to my seat.

When I returned to my seat Brian Brown was there. He had seen me from across the way and came over to say “hi.” That is really about all I remember from the dream.

It has been nearly 20 years since I’ve seen Brian and I can’t even recall the last time he has entered my mind. So I’m not really sure why or how he entered my dream. But from that point I did the only logical thing. The next morning I contacted Ryan Paterson on Facebook and asked if he had any idea as to Brian’s whereabouts. Turns out they are in a monthly poker game and Ryan gave me his e-mail.

So this afternoon I met up with Brian after work. Let me tell you it’s hard to catch up 20 years in only 2 hours, but we did our best.

In summary:

We both have kids ages 7 and 9. We both have wonderful wives that are great to raise children with. We both are teaching. And we both play in a regular monthly poker game with friends.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

2015 Student Letters

So once again my students have reminded me why I keep returning to the classroom each year. This job continues to be draining, so the affirmation from my students is what drives me to keep going. Again this year I had all of my students write me a letter at the end of the school year. Here are excerpts from many of their letters. I tried to include the ones that were most thoughtful, kind and encouraging-- or in some way made me laugh. In the order in which I read them:

You can be witty at times, and at other times quite scary. I hope I can have you next year.

You were the most exciting teacher, because I never knew when you might explode or throw a marker at someone, or stand on a chair and move your arms a lot while you yelled. I think you made coming to this class every morning kind of unique and in a way my 7th grade year. So, thanks for being cool and funny and yeah.

p.s. you made it fun to learn some of the hardest stuff ever.

One last thing I want to thank you for is pushing me to do my best and never give up and for that I am thankful.

Also, I’m sorry, but first period is just the easiest to ditch.

You’ve shown me how to make complex math seem simple. I like how you always got to the point with your lessons, and how you could make a serious math lesson seem funny.

You are the best teacher ever. My favorite part of your class is when you tell stories that most of the time have nothing to do with math. You’ve taught me a lot over this year and hopefully you get to be the advanced 8th grade math teacher. If I had to choose a class to be in for the whole day it would probably be this class. Also, you are way more fun and engaging than any teach I have ever had.

You have been one of the best teachers. Not the best, but still good.

I’ve learned a lot this year though I admit the majority of the time I felt stupid and often wondered why I was in advanced math, but now I know the answer is because you were the one that inspired me to do many things….I just want you to know that many things that I’ve learned within these four walls will live with me forever. Thank you Mr. Burrill. J

I should also mention that you made math easy and fun (or at least bearable).

You have inspired me to chase my dream of going to college and doing my dream job.

I liked how you put so much love in teaching math, and had a fun time doing it.

I look up to you for taking in all of the student teachers. They are lucky to have a teacher like you to teach them about teaching. I liked in the class how you are always chill. You don’t freak out about little things like a lot of teachers. In this class I felt comfortable asking questions. If I get the question wrong I know you will teach me how to fix my mistakes. Thank you for teaching me 7th and 8th grade math.

Hopefully I have you as my 8th grade math teacher because I wouldn’t want to learn from anyone else.

I genuinely enjoyed being taught in your class. It was refreshing to see everyone so enthusiastic to learn math. I thought the class had an excellent learning environment. I hope you will teach the 8+ class next year.

I never really understand what you teach, so I just look online how to do it.

Thank you for this wonderful year of math teaching. You were a very funny teacher. A lot of things you did encouraged me to want to learn more. I think my favorite part of the year in your class was around the winter because when I was cold and tired, third period would always wake me up. I wish I could’ve had you for 7th and 8th grade. So yea… thank you for this fantastic year, and I hope you keep teaching the way you taught us.

The best thing you ever told me was to not be so mean. And I’ve been through a lot so my initial instinct is to have an attitude. But you really taught me to be nice to people. Thank you!

Thank you for being my teacher this year for math. You have taught me a lot in math because last year I was bad at it and now I am good. Sometimes I get frustrated cause I don’t know what to do and I get mad but you still help. You are a great teacher and I’ve had lots of fun learning new thing from you! Thank you!

Everyday I went to your class and it made me realize that I wanted to do better in my life and thanks to you now I am. The first day I came to your class I was shy and scared that I wouldn’t go to high school. But you helped me go through those struggles. I now have to say goodbye to the teacher who made me a better person.

Thank you for being such a good teacher. You were very understanding and helpful during this crazy and difficult year.

Thank you for being the best math teacher in the world. Thank you for all the tutoring and help you have given me. I really appreciate it. Also thank you for making math fun and not boring.

You are the funniest, the smartest, and the most awesome teacher ever. Thank you for making this year so great.

You have really taught me things out of math and in. When people say this is what you’re meant for this is it. I really do appreciate what you did for me, you have had the biggest impact on my life outside of my family. I came into this year knowing nothing and right now I’m feeling confident about next year’s math.

You are inspiring and amazing. I don’t know why people wouldn’t like you for any reason.
Your math techniques are proper even though I wouldn’t know what proper is for math but I like it J.

This year was my favorite year in my entire life that I actually liked math class.

You were better than my 7th grade teacher Mrs. Kosiewik because she would be doing the most with homework and your more chill and really funny your like the next Kevin Hart

You were the best teacher ever. Your funny you tell us jokes and you are always energetic even though I’ve only known you for 1 year I felt like I’ve known you forever because youre that teacher which pushes us to keep going every day and helps us succeed. I can’t wait in 20+  years where I tell my kids all about the best math teacher I ever had. And that’s you. Thank you for teaching us new tricks in math and new words tell us jokes and stories you’ll always be my #1 math teacher.

I really enjoyed this class and I wish I wouldn’t have to leave so soon. You are hands down one of the best math teachers I’ve ever had. You changed my life. Thank you!

You are the best math teacher ever. You have taught me so much stuff that I’m probably going to forget over the next 3 months. You are my second favorite teacher. Your not my first because I don’t’ like math but if you did not do math you be number one.

This year was the best year of my entire life. You are definitely by far my favorite teach of all time. Thank you so much for being my teacher.

Thank you for teaching me over the year. I hope I have you next year even though sometimes you are crazy.

I just wanna thank you for everything you have taught me. One thing that I really enjoyed was your personality. You are a very positive and wise man. When I first came into your class I just knew I was gonna like it. Mr. Burrill, you’re just a great person to be around. I was really blessed to get a teacher like you, Thank you again.

Thank you for helping me with math and for giving me life lessons along with what to remember in life. This class has been my favorite class of the year, it not only helped me with math but it lightened my day and it gave me something to look forward to. This is my best subject because of the environment I am in and I thank you Mr. Burrill for everything.

I really want to thank you Mr. Burrill for teaching me how to be confident in my math skills. Before I came to Einstein, I lacked confidence in my work but now I am helping my younger sister (and my mother) with their failing math skills. You have inspired me to be my best and that is really the best thing a teacher can give their student. Every day when I come home I am eager to share some of the stories from this class to my family and I make sure to use my “Mr. Burrill” voice as I repeat your Mitch Hedburg jokes.  I would once again like to apologize for my mother’s humiliating e-mails… she sent them without my consent. Thank you for the adventure.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Personality Test

I hope you enjoyed taking the  personality test

Here are the very basics to the four personalities:

Yellows: loud, open, and cluttered

Reds: high energy, bold, practical and efficient

Blues: quiet, closed, neat and tidy

Greens: cool, calm, collected and all about comfort (and 
those that don't fit into the other categories)  

The quadrants look like this:

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 11.48.17 AM

The top two are extroverts, and the bottom 2 are the introverts. 

The left side tends to be more people oriented; the right side is usually more task-oriented

Most people have a primary and a secondary color with two personalities that touch each other on the chart. However, some of you will notice in your score that you have one Color that is clearly more dominant than the other three. 

This was an abridged test to make it quick and easy to do on-line. I'd love to hear your results and your feedback about the test itself. If you would like to hear more analysis or are interested in taking the complete test you can e-mail me at

You can learn more about each personality and how to apply this information in your everyday life by reading our book Personalities for Educators.

I would also encourage you to check out Vickie's page:

And you can find her first book Personalities for Business on amazon too.

I hope you're enjoying exploring personalities and learning more about yourself and others. Look forward to hearing from you.

Please click here and share your results with us. I'm curious to see all the scores.


View results here:

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Essay Interview

Toward the end of the school year I offer my students one extra credit project. The directions are to find an adult in a vocation they would want to have when they are older. Then they conduct an interview and write a paper about what they learned about that career. Well... sometimes the stuff my kids write is just too funny to not share with others. So here is an essay from one of the kids. I didn't change anything. Believe me; I couldn't make this up.

Essay Interview
Mr. Burrill

                Hi my name is Jordan Thompson, my dream job is to be a detective or maybe a pharmacist. I’ve always wanted to be a detective because ever since I was young I always watched Colombo and matloc, and I would always try to solve the cases.Ive decided to interview my uncle Dwayne and he is a call receptionist at Verizon wireless.
               I interviewed my uncle Dwayne, he is 52 and he has been a call receptionist at Verizon wireless. He has been in the customer service field for about 8 years now and has moved himself up.  He pretty much answers phone calls to customers that aren’t happy with their bill. Sometimes there just having a hard time with their phones. He has customers as mad as where they can be cursing him out. When people are complaining about their bill being high he tries to maybe see if there up for a new phone or he can do a 15% deal off.
               A typical day for my uncle is first to clock in and get his coffee.  When he sits down he usually checks his email and calls his daughter and wife and tell them he got to work safely.  Once hi is all settled he checks if there is any emails and calls. He said he gets about 45 calls on a good day, he gets yelled at at least 10 times a day. He has two 15 minutes breaks and 1 lunch break. During his 15 minute break he handles some of his bills and most of the time he has mandatory meetings. During his lunch break he usually brings his lunch to his daughter at work or goes out to eat with his girlfriend Sheela. After he goes back to work and finishes up some paper work he starts on his phone calls after he finishes up some paper work. Then he clocks out and goes home and chills at home.
               The perks and advantages of this job is that he can flex his hours, which is where you can leave work early and then make up the hours later. That is really cool because most adults can’t do that so I think that is really cool.  His money was really good when he used to be a lawyer for a very long time and he had to go back to help his daughter because she had a two twin kids.  He works about 10 hours on a good day 11 on a bad day. He and my family go on a cruise trip every year out the country.  He gets along with all of his coworkers, he thinks it’s cool because he usually a one man job except for his clients.  The rewards at his job is every Friday his job has a potluck I’m going to one pretty soon. He always has fun either if it’s happy hour after his job, or its clubbing with our family.
               This job requires 6 weeks of training you really have to know what you’re doing to have job so it’s a lot harder.  You have to have an AA you don’t need a master’s degree or a bachelors because it’s not mandatory for most people if they have been in this field before.  He ended up in this job because he wanted to get some extra money on the side and this was the easy because he went to law school so he got the job easily.  He originally wanted to be in the NBA but that didn’t work out but he played college ball. 
               He uses math every day because he has to count his customers, so that’s a pretty big part of his day.  Math is very important because he’s adding, subtracting and multiplying he said he feels like an accountant.  His advice to middle schoolers now is to don’t take middle school for granted what you learn will be essential to what you learn in high school and life.
               An interesting story I learned from the interview is it was his birthday and they put him down for working after he asked for the day off. Once he found out he had to go to work he yelled at his boss and he said Dwayne I gave you the day off this is for next month. My Uncle Dwayne called him and apologized later that day for all that cursing and yelling at him for. The most interesting thing I have learned from this interview is to always put in your full work because one day you will be so proud and it will pay off. Like in math class by grade dropped and it’s been so hard getting up and I want to keep doing my work so I can my make my mom proud. His worst day is when a customer called him and was cursing him out, and his temper was already high from earlier this morning so he snapped on the guy.  The customer gave him a zero on his survey and he had to have a meeting with this group manager and his boss, luckily all he had was a write up. His scariest moment was when he thought he was going to get fired because he missed 2 days of work and didn’t call in saying he was ill. His most successful story was helping a customer that had a problem that no one could really solve and the other one was giving a customer a deal to help them pay there bill when they didn’t have the funds to.
               The conclusions about this career is you have to have lot of patients and sometimes you will get very frustrated and and this job isn’t for everyone.  Also not many people are able to do this job my uncles boss said it is a gift. I wouldn’t want to this job the salary isn’t a problem I feel like I can see myself being a detective like I said in the beginning of this essay, or I maybe want to be a scout for high school sports I would love to do that. Thank you very much for taking up your time in your day to read this essay.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

2014 Student Letters

Once again I had my students write me letters at the end of the year. I give them some basic ideas, but they are free to write whatever they want. And they do. In effort to keep the integrity of the letters I have tried to leave spelling and grammar mistakes, so you can read them as they were written. In no particular order here are excerpts from the letters:

This year being in your class was actually kind of fun even though we had to do ton’s of homework. But I kind of got used to it even though I don’t do it that often.

Omg, you don’t even no how much I’m going to miss this class. TBH (which mean (to be honest) you were my best teacher this year. like NJ (which means no joke). The part about this class was when you tell us funny stories. I be 2 weak. But ya.... This class was a great experience for me and will help me for my future. So thank you so much 4 everything you’ve done and taught me.

One girl just made a key for me at the bottom of her letter.

JK = Just kidding
Lol = laugh out loud

Really? Give me some credit. TBH and NJ might be a little tough, but I think I'm good on JK and lol.

Have a nice summer, haha. You get it? Because I’m summer. Lol. But have a nice summer. P.S. your my favorite math teacher.

I had a good time in this class (even though I was not there most of the time) it was nice. Did I tell you about a ride back in North Carolina? It is call the Intemedator it is huge. Well, I hope I might be back next year.

This came at the bottom of a letter from a girl in my 6th period:

p.s. you look good in black it brings out your eyes

This was a different girl in the same class:

p.s. you look good in black.

Let me check their last exam and see if they were copying.

This class was ok. I didn’t have much 8th grade friends in this class but it’s cool. I learned how to use fractions a lot better thanks to you. your lessons always make sense. But I want a cool job. I want to be dJ. That would be the sickest job ever. Party all day. If I ever become world famous you would be welcome to my concerts and stuff.
p.s. If I become world famous this paper will be your pass

I liked this class better than Mrs. Nickles because you don’t give that much homework even tho I don’t do homework. Well last week I started a crew, the S.S.C, which stands for see-saw crew because every morning we would go to the park and play on the see-saw. That’s all I’m going to say.

Mr. B you are my current favorite math teacher this year.

Even though some of us did not pass your class (cough) you did teach us a couple things about life, and you did make it fun.

I finally know how to graph thanks to you! Mr. Kerze was weird and also a good teacher but you were better and at teaching us stuff; easier. Btw you should show this to him. J but yea I really liked how you would be teaching us math, then all of the sudden it would be like BAM! Story time! You should’ve brought your wife more often to class thoe. She was nice and helped me on my equations. And my mom thinks your adorable! BYE!

Even though I was a pain for you, you still liked me as a great and intelligent student.

One thing I will say I learned from this class is to never be late and bring in food.

One day one of her classmates showed up about 30 minutes late to first period carrying a bag from McDonalds. I kinda went off. I guess she remembered that.

Anyways you get distracted easily by one second the class is doing math and the next thing you know you talking about your crazy ex or some prisoners.

Your favorite thing is that you want your kids to do good in life. That is one thing I admire about you.

Almost all of my teachers I have had have been funny but you take funny to whole new level because you can use humor that we can relate to for our age.

When you teach us math you make it fun to learn and you do things to some of your students like yelling at them or throwing something at them so you can make them pay attention or whatever but it makes everybody laugh and have a good time.

Once I started your class I noticed you that you explained lessons the easiest way possible which made it a lot easier.

I don’t really remember what I learned this year, but I learned a lot.

You are the best math teacher and a good person. Your story’s are the best. I learned a lot from you and not just math, I learned how to try hard and never give up. I hope you have a great life, and I see you again sometime.

The funnest assignment you had us do this year was when you multiply an exponent by an exponent.

I totally understand. Sometimes my friends and I just get together to multiply exponents. Personally, I love X3 to the fifth power. I could do that one all day. 

I learned a lot during this year. I have gained a lot of experience in Algebra. The experience I have gained will be with me for the rest of my life. Unless I get a serious bad case of amnesia or get hit in the head by a frying pan.

Hola Mr. Burrill,
Es un buen maestro aprendier much te usted, usted abbesses es chistoso con la clase porque nos cuenta historia perosnales de su vida. Ami me gusto la marieria que usted tien para que los ninos aprendan facil.

I understand my greades sliped in the last month but that is becaus I wasent handaling my time wisely. I realiy hope I improve on that, (along with spelling and my shyness).

You’re the funniest teacher I ever had. I have learned so much about math this year, that’s why I love math! Ever since I was in elementary school I hated math. I didn’t care about it or I just hated it. Once I got into your class, I started to like math.

Why do you yell at random times?

You motivated me to push harder and further, not just in school, math, but in life. Thank you for a great, funny, and educational year that helped me get back on my feet.

I even have respect for you, because you believe in your students. Even though we act like immature idiots. You still believe we can go somewhere in life.

In the first of the year I didn’t like you much but now your like my 2nd or 3rd favorite teacher.

You’re the best teacher in the world. I learn to much and that’s why I didn’t want to do anything. But you were the best teacher I could have.

I’d like to start my letter off by saying thank you. Thank you for being our teacher and my favorite while doing it. I loved every minute of every lesson that we learned. Especially the 10-star notes, and your funny stories. I can’t wait to see you next year!

I’ve learned so much in you’re class, just never remembered any of it, that’ why I didn’t do my homework all year.

My favorite part of the class are the posters, they are so inspirational and I wish all my teachers had posters like yours.

Finally I had a kid notice the posters. (They are great posters.)

Ever since the beginning of this year I would say math is my favorite subject now. Even though you have been a big asshole you still are my favorite teacher of all the teachers here. I know I’ve given you hard times before because of talking and I’m really sorry for that. My favorite part of my day is coming to 4th period ready to learn and have fun. I really love math now because of you. Have a very nice summer with Stephanie and the kids.

At the beginning of the year you were kind of a dick. But as I learned about it, you do it to help us. I had a lot of fun in your class and I hope to be in it next year.


Even thou you have been mean several times but it’s all right that’s the way you have to be against us.

The truth is that I liked your class very much besides the fact that you sent me out about 5 times.
Thanks for being so hard on me.

I think in future years you should let your classes have more fun. More comedian stuff (the computer not you) cause I didn’t understand any of your jokes.

I’d personally like to be as funny and witty as you are when I’m your age. And my favorite part of this class has been your Mitch Hedberg sketches.

In the beginning of the year I was really shy and didn’t participate very much. After we had that talk I started to have more confidence to participate.

You explain things very well and math is now my 2nd favorite subject. My first is band, of course. But after band me and Katherine talk about what we will be learning today and tomorrow every single day. 

When I first came to your class at the beginning of the year I thought you were a dick. And when the year started to go by I still thought you were a dick, but then I started to understand where you were coming from and why you were a dick. So I guess you can say you were a pretty cool/funny teacher and I had an OK year in this class.

I guess you can say you sure learned how to give a compliment. 

I thank you for making the concepts understandable and allowing me to figure things out because it makes that “ah-ha” moment better.

My favorite pare of the class is the beginning of the year when Miss S. was here.

I’ll miss walking in here every day and hoping that we’d use the white boards.

You are by far one of the best teachers I have ever had. You make learning fun for me. You are the reason I look forward to coming to school.

One kid even wrote a poem for me:

Mr. Burrill is tight
He never got in a fight
He only comes out at night
To fly a kite and get some chicken mc bites

I always hated math. It was one of my weak points. But you were always there trying to help me. Teaching me, and letting me learn about you. I wasn’t just learning math but also about you. You make me happy when you tell stories. Even though my life is really shitty you give me hope. My best friend is dying and I feel like I’ll die too if she leaves. But you give me hope. Hope that she will be okay. All this hope comes from hearing your stories and for that I thank you. Thank you Mr. Burrill for all you have done for all of us in this class.

Wow. I had no idea.

Thank you so much for taking in this class! If I would have stayed with a long term sub I would have failed. I’ve learned so much from you and not just math. I’ve learned some life lessons as well. I’m going to miss being in this class. I also wanted to thank you for encouraging me to write, because before I was terrified to go up in front of the class. Thank you for being the kind, understanding, fun teacher you are!

I told the kids one day that I hoped at the end of the year they could say that their life was a little better off because for one hour a day for one year they were in my class. And they should strive to be the type of people that others want to be around. 

Thank you for dedicating so much of your time to all of your students. You are such a great teacher. Not because of what I learned, but how I learned. I was amazed how you could put so much of your personality into math. You made class fun. And that made all the difference. My life is a little better off now that I’ve been in your class one hour everyday for 5 days a week.

If I could go back in time and re-live this year in your class I wouldn’t change a thing. You always made my day, even when it was a horrible day. I just want to thank you for all you’ve done and for believing in me.

And thank you too. You were a joy to have in class.

Just for the record I did teach math I didn't just tell kids stories the whole day, but I guess I can see what they remember. So nice to hear from the kids when they really did learn and grow and can express it such a wonderful and beautiful way. Sometimes I need these letters to keep me going.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Last AVID Class

It has been over 30 years since the first AVID class began in San Diego California. Now it is a huge program all over the country and international as well. I had the opportunity to start AVID at Einstein Middle School and be the coordinator and teacher for the last several years. I just finished my last year with program. At the end of each year I have my kids write me a letter telling me anything they would like to say. Here are some excerpts from my AVID students of 2013-2014:

I really can’t thank you enough because I don’t think I would have made into West Campus without all the practice you gave me and the other kids with writing. To be honest, I thought I wasn’t going to be cool with anybody in the class until TRF groups came and everybody started to get to know each other. Before I joined AVID, I thought college was way out of my range and that once you got in you’ll be stressed the hell out all the time. I thought that the only way for me to go college is through athletics, but no, you made me believe that sports is not the only thing on my side. I can make it in academics and I will do good in college because you trained to go into college prepared. Thanks for all your stories and knowledge!

Thanks for teaching me about ELA and mathematics because those were my worst areas. I think I will do better in high school and college because of you.

I just want to thank you! Thank you for not letting me regret choosing AVID as my elective. You have inspired me to actually think about what I want to do in college. Thank you for telling me that school is a game and you have to play it RIGHT! Thank you for the field trip and parties. Now you can remember me and Abrea for teaching you the nae nae. Mr. Burrill you’re the funniest teacher EVER! But overall, you made my last year at Einstein the best. Oh, and thank you for all those perseverance movies. I learned a lot from those. It taught me to never give up on something your really want to do.
This was one of the bet classes I had in my life. I never thought that AVID would help me and be so fun. One thing I learned is that college is very important.

I learned that I need to be more assertive as I express myself. You are one of the most funniest teachers I had so far. You’re not afraid to speak your mind and that’s what I admire about you. I also learned a lot of life lessons from you that could help me as I get older. I like how you sometimes get off topic because you want to tell us your experience on certain things. You try to help all your students from now to sometimes high school. It’s fun that I had you for two periods because it is cool how you treat your kids.

I’m really glad I chose AVID for my 8th grade elective, although I’m disappointed that it’s the last year here at Einstein. You’re a great teacher especially when teaching AVID. Throughout the school year you have helped us realize many things like: not caring what other think of us, having integrity, not always being passive. I think it’s cool how you can tell us a story and turn it into a lesson. Hopefully you and Stephanie last long, and hopefully you won’t get so bothered about her shoes everywhere.

I hope AVID comes back in the future because this program is very helpful and fun… We’ve had lots of laughs and serious moments. You taught me how to use perseverance and follow my ambitions.
In the beginning of the year, I didn’t even know what a thesis was, or what a topic sentence is. Now I know what both of them are and more. I know a lot more thins, and I want to thank you, because you’ve made me open my eyes and realize that I needed to get my priorities straight.

You inspired me and are one of the people who actually is keeping me a live because you showed me that there are people who care. Crazy right? Ha.

Most of the time in classes you can be mean at some times, but that taught me that not everyone you meet is going to be nice.

I wish I had a few more days to spend at school so our class could have more fun together.

You taught me a whole lot about life and how to succeed and I really truly want to thank you for that. Your cold hard truths you did with us really impacted my life. The best part about class was our stories. You told us a lot of superfluous information but oh boy it was funny.

I am very sad that Einstein AVID is coming to an end. AVID was really fun this year. I learned how to write a lot better! I am going to miss this class. I’m glad that we are the last AVID class at Einstein because we were obviously the best class ever! Listening to your stories about your crazy ex-girlfriends were the best part of this class. Next year I will come back and say hello. I really liked the cold hard truths when we actually did them. I learned a lot from those… Don’t forget about the best AVID class you have ever had!

I won't.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

No Ice Cube Trays

We currently have no fridge in the house, and are just using one in the garage until the new one comes. This is the approximate phone conversation I had with Steph when she called me after work:

Me: Hi babe

Steph: Hi

Me: You sound well. Did the meeting go well?

Steph: Yes.

Me: Hey, do we have an ice cube trays?

Steph: Yeah.

Me: Where would they be?

Steph: What?

Me: Where are they?

Steph: Where are who?

Me: The ice cube trays

Steph: What?


Steph: We don’t have any ice cube trays.

(Then I just start laughing.)

Me: I’m just curious. How did this conversation begin for you?

Me: What did you think I said when I asked you if we had ice cube trays and you responded yes?

Steph: Sometimes I can’t hear you well, and I just guess what you say.

Me: What was your guess when I said, “Do we have any ice cube trays?”

Steph: I don’t know. I thought you were just saying something about the meeting.

Me: Do you see how that made this conversation confusing for me?