Heiser Christmas Letter 1992

Teaching

I had a wonderful time last year at Fairfax High School. In the spring, I taught computers, and became good friends with other teachers and students. I really liked teaching computers, even with a lab full of old Apple II computers. Unfortunately, it would cost $70,000 to equip a computer lab with new machines.

This year, I’m a regular teacher, teaching science, math, computers and graphic design at Mid-City Alternative School, a small public school in South Central Los Angeles. The other teachers are great and the kids are very friendly. But, I find it impossible to teach a lesson. They’d rather watch me take out my denture than listen to a lecture. Classes are noisy and confused. On the other hand, I haven’t seen any kids with weapons or drugs. Their home lives must be a real trial, though. Until this year, I thought that by being vivacious, like Jaime Escalante, I could reach the kids. Teaching students who are so reluctant is frustrating, but sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards.

There’s a lot of apparent freedom teaching. I get to choose the curriculum, the methods, everything. I get total cooperation from the administration and faculty. I’m flooded with money and help. The Eisenhower Foundation paid for my registration at the science teachers’ convention. Bob Content has given money and a VCR to motivate the kids. The school district is putting me through its free intern program, and I’ve applied for a mini-grant to get more classroom equipment.

I’m learning along with the other new teachers how physically tired you can get by the end of the week. Also, the LA district’s 12% pay cut is an adjustment. However, it’s a lot better than being laid off!

Computers

I enjoy making lesson plans and teaching materials on my Macintosh computer. It’s fast, colorful, big, fun.

For some years now, I’ve wanted to write some kind of new Macintosh application. I’m a wanna-be programmer. Each year programming seems to get more beyond my reach; there’s so much to learn, such as the subroutine protocols for resources, graphics, networks and user interface. Some years, new tools like Object Oriented Design promise shortcuts. Most years, things just get more complex. On the other hand, a college student friend of mine, Ben Weiss, is a big success. He writes plug-in extensions for PhotoShop, the image—editing program.

Sim City

At school, I’m coaching a student team to compete in an engineering contest. We’re designing a city on the computer with a simulation program called Sim City. I’m excited about our chances for winning. We have a unique presentation strategy, and we plan to make a video of it.

I have my own strategy for playing Sim City, but even though I’m prudent and careful, my game score is low and I have only a 30% approval rating with the “Sims”. It makes me feel like George [H W] Bush.

Family

After five years of extended family life with Dorothy and Bennett and MaryLou, we have decided to go our separate ways. They found their perfect family home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. That’s too far away for us, so Loretta and I and our cat, Annie, moved into an apartment around the corner in August. It’s a luxurious place, and very romantic for Loretta and me.

Love and Peace!

Dick and Loretta

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