Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Like a Kettle, But Not of Fish

Fair warning, these may become less frequent.  It hppens for many reasons, but I still plan to write.  It's a nice outlet for what happens and how it makes me feel.

Right now, thinking about two things: one, planning my first activity all by myself, which I will lead 3 times, and two, I got upset yesterday.  The students came in from lunch riled up and talking over me, and so I kind of yelled to be heard over them.  I gave them a talk, trying to remain in the restorative justice theme, about my feelings and how I know they can do better and I want to see them do better.  For the most part, it seemed to work.  I don't know how much they understood, so the impact may have been tiny.  My demo teacher said I did the right thing, as did another teacher I spoke with.  I really hope I did.  The language thing can be so tough, and students love to play around with science, and it can be fun, when it's safe and directions are being followed.

Part two of my current anxiety is the activity I planned.  It's the first one I'm doing all on my own, and here's hoping it works.  I tried to focus on making it relevant to their lives and a phenonmenon that they can all relate to, which is moving furniture.  They move the chairs beneath them every single day, they push tables and desks arounds rooms.  I think it may work, and I'm hopeful.  But anxious.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another Magical Binder Check

Today was a day of more binder organization.  Apparently across the board, teachers have been having issues with students not being organized.  Just like me at that age.  Binders never worked for me.  College suited me so much better with online homework and no worksheets or digital copies of it.  Anyway, it went better because they only really had like 8 assignments for this unit thus far.  Also, we got our planning together a lot better and were more organized, so it went faster in the later periods.   

Getting Visual

So my job was to mod yesterday's lesson plan to suit me.  I turned the page into a worksheet, which we shall call part 1.  I also made large visual aides about distance and displacement, which we shall call part 2.  Or part a and part b.  Reminds me of a good joke.  "What comes before part b...?" "PART-AAAAY."  I digress.  

Anyway, part a/1 was beneficial because it made it so they didn't have to copy everything down and have misunderstandings.  The was nice for all of us involved.  Part 2/b was awesome because I got to draw something and it eactly helped them understand easier.  And I got to talk about Superman and how he follows displacement vectors when he's trying to save people and it kind of made my day, even if it didn't resonate with some students.  Overall, it felt good.

A Walk to the Park

Today's activity was using vectors on maps and talking about distance and displacement.  Honestly, I feel like this would have been a stronger activity earlier, but what are you going to do.  It makes vectors more relevant to their lives, especially when you add a story to it.  Which I always do.  I spent most of  the day with one student in particular.  She's having a difficult time with the language and so taking directions for her is hard.  Giving directions to her is no picnic either.  But little by little, we got her there.  Overall this class has a lot of bright students, some with more drive than others.  The GATE identified boy just could not care less.  His work is becoming sloppier, and I know it's because he needs more of a challenge, but what can we do to challenge him without giving him significantly more work than the other students?  I suppose we could modify it so it's more challenging, but I don't know exactly how that would work with the language thing.  

I feel like half of my dreams are in Spanish now.  Or the Chinese I hear every day on the bus about exiting through the rear doors.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Adding Even More Vectors

Powerpoint is a weird animal.  Sometimes it's useful, sometimes it's a tease.  Today, it was fairly helpful for me.  I love in my class doing chorus responses.  They love to tell me when I'm being ridiculous, and I love when they do that.  It adds to the interaction between us.  So we did the whiteboard vector adding activity, and I must say I was impressed.  I love how they talk to each other and get help from one another, often in their home language or across cultural lines.  For the most part, they seemed to understand what was going on with adding vectors.  I think almost all of them got about 70% of the problems right on the worksheet.  The things I kept repeating were "nose and tail."  "Every vector has a nose."  "Where's the nose?"  I think I tapped my nose so many times, it may have turned reddish.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Adding it all together...vectors I mean

And the vectors go on.

My role for the day was dealing with students talking out of turn, which everyone knows is my favorite thing to do.  The students were not engaging so much with direct instruction.  I have been trying to think about it in the ZPD mindset, and I think what didn't quite get them there was relevance.  I never realized what a huge component of strong education relevance is, but it feels like a "DUH" moment.  How many times when I was a teen did I go "I just don't care?"  More than I'm willing to admit. 

Anyway, there are a couple students who have been picked as being gifted, and so they do not care.  It's finding a way to engage them in work that they feel is below them without compounding their workload but still challenging them.

Blast from the Past

I love that as the blog has gone on, I have seriously lost count of how many days of school there have been.  Like, I have no clue.  I could go back through and check, but what would the point of that be?  

Anyway day of the field trip.  I waited for the seniors in the gym at my most recent alma mater and as one rounded the corner, she yelled out my name.  Here's what I really love about highschoolers above all else:  they don't hug me.  I love that they are happy to see me, but I love even more that they don't hug me.  This was a field trip for a college fair, which was neat for me to see at my old college.  However, at this point most seniors know where they are going to apply, so this felt a little late.  But it was a great way to transition into my long weekend.

A Fade into a Long Weekend

So Friday is a field trip for both groups of students, and so we couldn't let the periods get out of order. Therefore, today's class engaged in the age old time spender:  a video!  To be exact, Mythbusters.  Not sure what they got out of it, and I'm guessing we'll find out when we read the homework.  Overall, because there wasn't a whole lot of teaching going on, not much to report.

My Turn

There is nothing more awkward than standing up in front of a classroom when students are unresponsive.  How does it feel, you ask?  Like standing in front of a group of unresponsive people.  Let's not get too terribly poetic about it.  Anyway, my ability to relate language to the students has become stronger, so I felt understood and I used wait time, which is powerful.  Students need time to think, but man do you feel your time get eaten away rather quickly.  

Anyway, the activity overal went over well, but they had less time in the classroom to do the vector worksheet, so we shall see next week who finished it and who didn't.  They may have time then to finish it if it wasn't done, but I doubt it.  It's up to them to finish it.  I'm trying to decide if I'm doing right by them sometimes.  I have a lot of growing to do, and I don't want to drag down my students because of it.  

On a lighter note, my boy with some of the weakest language just absolutely loves math and so this portion is ringing true with him.  It's amazing how universal a language math can be sometimes.  As a literacy, it's one of my favorite to have.  I don't know what I personally would do without mathematics.

On to My Favorite Things

Here they come!

The moment every physics teacher loves and hates...


Why do we love them, you ask?  When understood, there is nothing more useful in the world.  Why do we hate them?  Understanding vectors takes a ton of time that most classes don't have.  The activity we did today felt pretty good though.  We walked different steps in the vector process, and the students seemed pretty engaged in it.  I don't know how well it was related to them that what we did today was look at components to vectors and drawing based on that.  I'm hoping in this class we will be looking mostly at vectors in the cardinal direction, but we shall see.  The students in this class (second period) seem to react well to direct instruction.  Their language is a bit higher than the other class, so things in general seem to go faster.  Most even finished the worksheet by the end of the period.  They were also pretty quick to give directions to each other, which was part of the in class activity that was very heavily language based.

My Least Favorites

I get binder checks.  I mean I really do.  Helps kids stay organized, lets me communicate work they've gotten back, allows them to understand their grade in the class.  I didn't like them as a student, I don't love them now because it just eats Mondays.  Om. Nom. Nom.  

So the kids got their tests back today.  Most of them were not entirely pleased, understandably so.  One student asked me what the percentage meant in terms of her letter grade.  I had an odd flashback to when I was her age and needing to get  the grade I felt I deserved.  I saw that she became less confident, but that's not what I want.  This girl is driven and brilliant, and I wish she truly, truly knew that.  And some students I wish became more driven by their low grades, but they won't.  Some of their responses on their homework so how little they might understand or how little this information means to them.  Either way, I need to figure something out.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Feeling Doctory

For Friday, I did rounds, and so I wasn't directly with my students that day.  I got to observe different classes around my school.  Always fun, and it reminded of how much I love love love calculus.  Which is a lot.  I also got to connect more with some of the classmates I see less often, so that was amusing. I know this is a short response, but it's due to the fact that I wasn't in the classroom too much this day.  If you're worried about my students, it was the second day of unit exam, so they didn't miss me much.

Testing 1-2-3

Not a great deal to report today.  We had the first unit exam, and it went overall well.  We did have a bit of a snafu with someone copying someone else's test and talking, so he received a zero.  How do I know he copied?  Every single answer was identical to the boy sitting next to him for the multiple choice, which is all he answered.  We try to have a collaborative classroom culture, but tests are individual affairs.  It's the weird nature of tests, and while I was a good test-taker, that's not a common trait in students.  I think a test is ok, but you have to understand what you're assessing and how to communicate that to your students.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rolling Dice, Not in the Alley

Another day of the board game, but this time, as we say in poker, the students were all in (See what I did there.  Clever?)  In this class, the students tend to work together better and followed most directions better.  While they were louder, it was a good louder.  There was a great deal less catcalling and putdowns and it was really wonderful to watch.  I didn't mind talking over them actually, because their discussions were based on answers to the questions.  Some students had some issues with understanding and lost a bit of focus during the game, but we started a sub game for him where he would roll the dice for me and guess how much he would roll.  I think the next step to this activity would be to keep track of how many times each number was rolled and how many times he was correct, and use that to do math stuff later.

The last period, of course, was faster moving.  We even got to watch some Mythbusters.  So much less stressful.  For the most part they're so mellow and it's very relaxing.  Good way to end my long day.    

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Duck Above Water

I understand how the government is supposed to function.  I took civics courses in high school and college, I get it.  I know the history, I know the meaning of our laws and why they are the way they are. However, this fact doesn't make it any easier when the government is shut down for the day and it actually affects the way class runs.  The aide we were supposed to use was on a goverment website, which of course was down.  So I ran around like a crazy person for my own health, after waking up late and being a tad stressed and tired.  I woke up when I'm usually supposed to catch my bus, so I had to drive.  Knocked me off kilter more than I thought it would.  And then I messed up my breakfast and spilled my juice for lunch.  I just feel like nothing was going right.  Luckily, there was a back up video, that a good portion of the class slept through.  At least a back up plan existed at all.  

Second period was a classwide game, and my kindergartener was at his best.  I have never in my life had to tell a student about the age of 8 multiple times "Take that out of your mouth.  It's yucky and dirty."  Seriously, he's mentally 5.   And he was gloating with his team all the time, and mouthing off so he perpetually lost points for his team, which his competitive teammates did not appreciate.  He wore me out.  I wish there were activities that I loved as much as the students.  This game grew on me, but I think it was the personalities in the class that just wore me down.  And not even all of them!  Just those boys in that group.  I dedicate my nap later to them.  

A Treatise in How to Stay Sane

It's interesting to see my perspective shift as I go from student to teacher.  The biggest shift: birthday cake.  It was a student's birthday today, and she brought in a tres leches cake.  It was my first tres leches cake, and it was pretty good.  If you haven't had the priviledge to try one, it's like a sponge cake that is soaked in sweetened and codensed milk and topped with whipped cream frosting.  Pretty tasty.  Anyway, it would be an understatemet to say that students were distracted by the cake.  They lost all concentration on their unit review for the most part.  The focused students remained focused, the non-focused became even more excitable.  Most students had to take the worksheet home to finish it on their own time, but that's ok.  When I was their age, I loved the easier days when cake came in.  Now, I'm a little depressed about it because I know work won't get done, even if it makes the kids happier.

The next class, my primary, was more focused.  They also have a better community for learning.  They tend to help each other more, and there's more cross-cultural friendships.  I sat a Latino boy next to a Chinese boy, and they were so happy to be next to each other.  So the title was how to stay sane: find joy in the small things.  I love watching my students work together and I love when they teach me their language and I can teach them mine.  It's not exactly what I would assume to be culturally conscious teaching, but I feel like we're making more connections, which seems to help them work together better.  

Teaching is so much about feeling for your students.  It's like  being a raw nerve a lot of the time, feeling exactly what's going on with your kids and yourself.  I now understad my father a lot better.  Both of us feeling things deeply, but don't show it to others often out of survival.  I care, I just can't show it often, and that is both a strength and a weakness.

Monday, September 30, 2013


So my lesson on Wednesday that I thought was a bomb...wasn't.  You can imagine my shock face.  Wide eyes and all.  Most of my students got more than half of a very substantial worksheet.  And by most, I mean all but one.  I guess it meant that they just needed to digest the information and practice. I'm ot sure how much they enjoyed it, because this is not something many do end up enjoying.  I'm just glad they got something out of it.  Later in the day was a tad disappointing though.  I wish I could just sleep on my classes and get somehting out of it.


I know the title is kind of scary, but don't worry.  None of my blood was shed, nor that of my students.  It was a crazy thing, someone came down yelling "Security!  Security!"  All I saw after that was my friend and fellow studet teacher protecting a bit of blood spatter on the ground.  All of my kids came into class shaken up and a bit scared, but they did start on their work pretty efficiently.  Turns out it was  a fight that resulted in a bloody nose for one boy.  I was more worried about my own kids, so I just did my best to help them through a worksheet they had and fiish up some other work that had to be done.  This was a day when my professional life was overwhelmed by my own scholastic life.  I wish that my classes were more directly supportive of my school day.  I just feel like there's so may things going on that bog me down outside of everything, that I lose focus occasionaly.  It's rough, it really is, and it can hurt my performance in everything.  Just got to keep moving forward. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What I learned from Vicki White

I think the best sign of how I'm feeling right now is my hair.  Seriously.  I had this neat French braid that was tidy and lovely.  It fell out.  Like hard.  And a student just literally came by and stroked my hair and made it even worse.  Awesome day, man.  AWESOME. 

We were going over unit conversions today with students who just did not understand.  LIke agreessively not.  I got some students who eventually got it, but it was tough going.  I found my sweet spot later, where I figured out that ones who didn't know what they were doing weren't listening, but that comes to the question:  how to I get them to listen?   I know the stuff about making it contextual and bringing it into their lives, but I'm following someone elses' lesson right now, so I can't bring in inquiry right now.  Maybe I'll try and shake things up and try something out.  As a normal teacher, I feel like today went fine.  About 80% of my students got it, and that's great, but how do I reach the kids with attitude?  What's the buy in for unit conversions?  

On a lighter note, I do have names that I will name my future kids based on students who made my day.  Luckily, the name is in my family.  It's my sister's middle name, so that's great.  But those boys took it on board so quickly.  They are so focused, and just like they're improving, I'm improving with praising them on their hard work and progress than on just being "smart."  

Anyway, how does this relate to Vicki White?  I'm having a few of the problems she had in her Case Study in terms of making it relevant to their lives, but I was able to talk about why it's important to the future.  See, I learned something.  Now I just have to figure out the rest.

Binder Organization

If you've known me for any length of time, you'd know that I'm an organized person, but I will always have the world's messiest (and I do mean messiest binder.)  Maybe it's my brilliant scientific mind can't be encumbered by your socially acceptable mode of object transportation or it could be that I'm just lazy, but aren't those things one and the same.  So telling kids that they have to organize their work into binders is not necessarily how I would do it.  However, I do see the benefit of keeping it in order.  It helps you find what you need, it helps you keep all your things in one place and boy howdy does it look good.  Of course, this is not the only thing we did today.  We also got to start on the unit conversions section which marks the end of measurements, and the beginning of PHYSICAL CONCEPTS.  My heart is almost full to bursting.  

In the notetaking activity, I noticed a couple things with the students.  One of our more serious boys was seated next to my kindergartener, and he helped focus him so well.  It seems one of the reasons that this boy can't focus is he can't understand, and isn't willing to try to understand.  The use of color was also beneficial for the kids, and helped them follow along, which can be difficult when using a video.  I'm just stressed right now.  And we did sub prep, so that was a learning experience.  I'm just not sure how Tuesday will go.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Misconceptions on Life

Day 23-

I never again, in my life, want to hear someone say they want to kill themselves.  I know I say in hyperbole that this is killing me, or I'm gutted, but to be so down you want to take your own life?  I have felt nothing close to that.  I've been in low-lows, but I will always have a drive to live because I'm living for more than just myself.  I suppose this is where my spirituality comes in.

Might as well get personal.

My brother was disabled my whole life, but that never made me think of him as less of person.  The opposite really.  Here's where it gets painful, though.  My parents wanted two kids, and I'm number three.  Because Buddy-Bear was disabled, my parents decided to go for one more as a companion to my sister.  I thank Buddy-Bear for my life, and I will never waste it.  It could have easily gone the other way, where I just couldn't live, but it didn't.  He's my inspiration.

Back to the point: We had a meeting about this boy has been relocated from a different country, already flunked out of a school, is redoing a year and is having an incredibly hard time. His dad said that he would rather die young than work hard.  And I can see that.  I just hope I can help him work on these feelings and move forward and not become bogged down.  It will take time, and students at this age can be ill-equipped to deal with things, but I hope to show them they can talk to me.

Onto how the rest of the day went.  I used the misconception power I learned yesterday to my benefit.  One boy didn't believe a Dixie cup can hold 85 mL of water (spoilers: it holds 89 mL).  The activity was to make an estimate and then find the real measurement.  The entire class thought it would hold only 20, and I decided not to correct them until we measured, which was the best thing I could have done.  They all called me a liar and told me to re-measure, so I had them do it.  The huge reaction showed me they were actually invested.  Awesome moment to a scary day.

Another thing:  Costco is more fun with friends :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Same Kids, Different Place

Day 22-

I got to watch my kids in another room today, and I feel like that was the best thing I could have done.  It was wonderful to see another teacher interact with them and what he could get out of them.  He did cold calling, call and response, had them come up to the board, had them speak and focused on misconceptions.  He got so excited when the kids, across the board, misunderstood an idea.  He was ecstatic because he caught them all in the same place, and got to help them fix a major issue.  I loved seeing how patient and kind he was with them, and I picked up a few new techniques that you bet your behind I'll use.  It also turns out that we're from the same area, so that is an added plus in terms of he knows where I'm coming from, and I know where he's coming from.

Second period, however, is turning into a challenge.  There's a couple strong personalities who think they're better than the system, but show a great deal less understanding.  It's hard to get through to them, and so my DT is becoming frustrated with the class as a whole, even if the fault is in the few.  It's going to be a learning game, to figure out the best way I can support her.  STRESS, MAN.  If I make it out this year without grey hairs, I'll be surprised.  Not going to lie, I check most days, since my hair color is more or less natural again.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Day 21-

Wednesdays are strange for me, because they are so long.  So, looking back as I am want to do, sometimes things don't jump out too much.  I remember that I lead most of my class period, and that 6th was much easier than 5th.  We did a concept review, which students did far better on than last time.  A couple students are getting me worried.  One boy has all the signs of under schooling, and seems to be getting bogged down.  Another girl is still transitioning into the class, and that can be tough too.  I think what it comes down to as what I want to reflect about is they are my class.  I run almost the entire class period for them most of the time.  I truly want all of them to succeed, and I feel like we're making a good rapport.  We went over "percent error," and what they really clung to was the word "error."  I suppose for most of their languages, that word has all the worst things in it.  Not unlike my last name.  But they just love to try saying it.  And I love to hear it

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

L is for...

Day 20-
So here's how it went down. 

A student was having issues with her vision so, as I was the extra special extra adult, I had the pleasure to take her down to Wellness, or as I knew it when I was young, the nurse's office.  The Wellness Center is a great deal more than what my nurse's office was, with different amazing resources for the students, and it's located in the basement of the school, and can be rather difficult to find.  As I walked this girl down, she became increasingly nervous and I'm convinced she thought I was taking her off to be murdered.  I did what I do best, and asked her about herself and her life.  It seemed to help, and we made it to Wellness in one piece.  I had a couple other errands to run, and I asked this girl if I could leave and do so, and if she was going to be ok.  She looked at me and said, "No.  Stay."  How can I say no to that, so I stayed as long as I could.  When it looked like it was almost her turn, I said I would meet her when she was done with her exam.  She nodded, and I went to take care of my next job, which was discussing with a counselor why a girl had be dropped from the system again.  Survey says:  no idea, but she's back in.  I have a few theories, and only two have to do with gremlins.
I arrive back in the classroom and as I walk in, there are shouts and students milling around.  They had been using the meter sticks as weapons, and not as the measuring tools that they were meant to be.  They lost the privilege to use them for the day and were set down to bookwork.  Scared the crap out of me.  But I understand where the teacher was coming from.  This part I've dissected over and over again, so not going to go too far into it.  

I get a call that the girl is done, and I run down to meet her.  She seems more comfortable with nurse, who is one of my new favorite people, and we walked up back to the classroom.  She said the three words I enjoy hearing, but never know how to respond to.  "I love you."  I nearly cried.  That's how today went. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

One Long Day

Day 19-
I consider today a jumping off point.  I mostly observed APES, but Physics was partially my baby today.  I was the leader of the Concept Review...review for second, and it went fairly well.  I've been trying to be mindful of answering my questions, but sometimes I just want to help those kids out.  I feel like if I keep asking more and more questions, it's just going to make the students more stressed out and then they'll lose it and it'll be all my fault.  So, no pressure.  I must have done something right because my DT asked if I wanted to lead all of the 5th period.  Instead of thinking about my own cortisol levels, I said yes.  And I led a whole people as main teacher from beginning to end.  They listened most of the time, and I felt like we got through a good deal.  It was just exciting to get to do something on my own.  I just wish we could get into subject matter and move on from measurements soon, but the students are taking a while to gain comprehension of the material, so we have to keep working towards that goal.  It was just amazing to lead a class, and kind of reminded me that this is what I want to do, even if it's stressful, awkward and uncomfortable on occasion.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

In Brightest Day...

Day 18-

I can't help but think of the song "Mama Said."  But in the positive way, for the most part.  Mostly the line "Mama said there'd be days like this."  It was only one moment in the day that really got me.  It wasn't some big part of the lesson.  The main struggle there was along the lines of getting kids interested but having them understand meant working all together.  It felt better than Thursday, but I don't think they enjoyed it much.

Onto the positive:  There are two students in particular who are improving rapidly.  When one started the year, he could not read or write even in his own language.  Now, he's understanding some english, writing some english and speaking some english with me.  It's a huge leap forward to be honest, and I'm so happy for him that he's improving.  The same goes for another student.  He was always willing to learn, but now his hard work is paying off.  He's a kinestetic learner for sure, and so he's also growing by leaps and bounds.  Both boys were volunteering in class yesterday and giving loads of answers and ideas.  So I approached them after class to tell them how much they've improved and noticed one was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt.  That got us talking a bit about comic books and all that kind of stuff.  I've decided I might bring some of my comics in so they can read them when they have free time.  Pretty excited about that connection.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Estimate, Measure, Evaluate, Repeat

Day 18-
Yes, my kids are still on measurements.  I agree with my DT, it's best if they have some confidence with these tools.  They'll be using them a lot.  Even if it can be slow going.  

Before we get too reflective and deep, funny anecdote.  In the AP class, the students had a ton of personality.  One girl got up in the middle of class and left.  Just gone.  Yeah, she got a referral.  Another showed up very late.  Turns out she got a paper cut on her eye and had to visit the doctor.  She comes back to tell me about that so she can make up the quiz, and I just kind of look at her.  I had no idea really how to respond to an eyeball paper cut besides "Oooh ouch."  The next thing out of her mouth was "So who was that guy who came to class?"  And I responded, "Oh that was a classmate of mine who's a teacher at a junior high.  He was here to observe."  She smiled and looked very excited, "He was so cute.  I thought he was so cute. But my friends didn't because he's white."  Man I love kids.

Anyway, we had more measurements today.  One boy in particular shone for me.  He wasn't quick, but he was brave.  He was so nervous about raising his hand, and I encouraged him as much as I could.  He got called on, got to measure something, made a good hypothesis and got a moment to himself.  He then helped others in the class to understand, and really blew me away today.  It showed me how important encouragement is for students to show what they know.  Made my day.  


Day 17-
Let's jump right into why everything was a bit crazy.  I'm about to start my observation, my first formal one.  I'm already nervous and sweating and just in a general state of disrepair.  I get a call from the Dean of the school, who is more or less in charge of discipline.  He says he needs a student, and I'm trying to catch my DT's attention when he comes in and grabs him.  She looks at me, and I was kind of like "Yeah...was trying to tell you."  Need to find a better and more efficient way to do that.  Anyway, more or less half of the students also were not in class.  We kind of went "Huh.  Odd."  They were doing tardy sweeps, and because our kids are coming from the locker room, and for some reason can't  change clothes very quickly, they had gotten caught in the hall, carted off to write letters to the teachers about why they were late.  Which only made them later. 

I start my scathingly brilliant lesson on triple beam balances, and it's not tanking, but not resonating.  So I flop around for a bit until we strike gold.  I started asking simpler questions, getting the arms into it, getting the kids more into interacting.  It was magical to hear them all chorus together "MORE" and "LESS."  Then we got the rotation established, and somewhere in there the dean returned the boy...and took three more.  Awesome.  We got started and the kids were having a great job measuring my sidekick (photos of him to come later) and we had a blast.  The boys came back, and my DT got them going on their own worksheets.  We moved onto the next activity, and I got to practice some more with the balances.  I was sweating like crazy.  Super cute.

The bell rang for lunch and the little darlings filed on out of the room.  The next part was I had the debrief with my supervisor, and the subject of my interview/case comes in.  The meeting was put on pause, I conducted my interview and then a couple students from the next class came in to wait until class started.  Did you see anywhere in there that I got a bite to eat?  Yeah, that's because I didn't until my supervisor came back to continue the debrief.  Which is when the bell rang for the class.  So I pounded my sandwich and we went and finished talking and I came back to the classroom.

This class has fairly good language skills so they breezed through everything and moved right onto doing their homework. At the end of class, one student started about how school is torture.  So I told him my schedule.  He determined that I'm basically in hell.  I told him everything is easier once you find something you love.  I told him it takes time, but you have to work hard to get there.  Fast forward to the world's longest day.  This was the ultimate hump day.  Awesome.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Posters Everywhere

Day 16-

I think the title of this post is accurate about the postings in the room.  In APES, the students engaged in a jigsaw, which seemed to be really beneficial.  Science texts are tough, and decoding only one section seemed to be the best possible solution.  The made these rather awesome posters with cool cartoons on them and presented to the class.  A couple students, I would say, shone.  A newer student who has to do a good deal of make up work, is rather impressive.  She was able to bring the class up to date on important jargon on her section with wit, humor and obvious understanding of the concepts.  I feel that wit shows understanding.  A good, clever joke is based in the understanding of audience and what you're talking about, so it's great that she can do this.  Also makes for a pleasant break in monotony.  Next, they answered some personal response questions, which might have actually been less stressful than presenting, but students still complained vehemently to, it seemed, working at all.  It's interesting that, from my perspective of AP classes, their workload is fairly light.  I suppose to them, this is rigorous and maybe they don't quite see the point yet.  I'm not trying to impugn their past experiences, I'm just thinking that for many of the students, this is their first experience with an AP science, so it may be a hard adjustment for them.

Onto our meat and potatoes.  I had the pleasure of observing another observer today.  It was neat to see how my boys reacted to another man in the room, and how they spoke to him as compared to how they spoke to me.  They gave him a whole lot less attitude than me, but that's to be expected I feel.  Also, when they give me attitude, I gauge how appropriate it is and let them know their current appropriateness level.  As I said before, sometimes I love a little wit.  Sometimes, It's not okay, and they need to know that.  We started a lesson on the triple beam balance, which will be my observation for tomorrow.  It's my first formal one, and to say I'm nervous is a bit of an understatement.  I just don't quite know what to do in terms of reflecting and all that jazz.  It's a little stressful for me.  However, small victory, I made my first worksheet and did my first group presentation.  So glad that's over.  I think the next step for this class is going over American and International units.  It's going to take some repetition and review.  One student will repeat English words to himself after he hears them the first time.  I made sure to tell him today his practicing is paying off.  I love to see them working hard.  Makes me inspired to work even harder for myself.  

Two by two, hands of...not blue

Day 15-

Mondays are days of returning assignments and progress reports.  What shocked me were not students getting angry about low scores, but AP students being ambivalent about grades.  Like, no reaction at all.  My classmates would have been at my throat with some of the scores these students received, but they kind of just took it.  I'm not sure if that means that they were more mature, or just did not care.  

The EL class also had a returned work kind of day as well.  As well as their first assessment, a thinly (and I mean THINLY) veiled quiz.  Or, should I say "concept review"...  Yes, that was my brain child, and I'm not ashamed to say I was proud of it.  We also had to catch a couple of students up on some assignments, which brings us to the title.  I had pairs of kids coming to me to throw cotton balls and estimate and measure.  I got the pleasure, and I really do mean pleasure, to show a student how to use a meter stick.  Such a sweet boy, and he was so excited when he got it.  The other student I tried to teach wasn't feeling it as much, mostly because I, myself, am not a sweet boy.  This particular student prefers to learn from attractive males, which is her prerogative.  Pretty much the opposite of me.  Took me a long time to respect men.  She would wait for her boyfriend to tell her what to do.  She wouldn't really listen to me, and could have been language, but I feel like that's not entirely it.  I also worry because she's been reticent to do her homework.  Not such a good thing.  I'm going to keep an eye out for her.   

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Measure for Success

Day 14-

I know how important hands on lessons are for students.  Believe me, I do.  I just there was a way to make them less stressful.  I think the best thing we can do is to front load them like crazy.  What kind of happened in this class, which connected really well to practicum, is we had to wait for a long time to get kids to respond.  I see this as a symptom of two things: 1.  Language anxiety and 2.  Social anxiety.  It's frustrating to watch.  I'm a strong believer in solidarity, so I stood with my DT.  What she did made sense at the time, but I wonder what we could have done differently to go faster.  We talked about cold calling in practicum, but for my kids, that may be too stressful, or it may be the push they need to speak up.  There's just so many different language levels.  Needless to say, I was tired at the end of the day.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Grades, Gradients, Graduated

Day 13-

So another hilarious conversation was had with my opinionated girl.  She'd be easy to do an interview with for one of my classes, I'll keep that in mind.  Unless I want a challenge, and then I have someone else in mind.  For sure.  This other girl seems to retain material.  What questions she answered on the vocab quiz were right.  I feel like if she's knows it, she KNOWS it, which is most impressive.  If only she could apply it and not snore in class.  Speaking of vocab quiz, they had a vocab quiz today.  It's definitely a bell curve.  But shifted towards passing.  Actually, that's what I'm assuming right now.  The grades haven't been entered yet.  I'm curious to see.  My responsibilities certainly are expanding.  Taking grading on full force.  I'm going to get an in and out box for my desk for SURE to keep things organized.  That's the AP kidlets anyway.

Onto the physics class.  Today, I feel, was a difficult concept.  Especially for those who are under-schooled and have never used a balance, it can be difficult.  Even for students who are native speakers, using a balance for the first time or being forced to make a prediction is tempestuous at best.  So apply that concept on today's class, add in multiple stations and yes I had to raise my voice. This class is certainly the trial period, and I feel like we figured out that they need to be given very explicit directions on where to go and when and how.  Let's just say MARBLES EVERYWHERE.  That was I want to say frustrating, but I've already used that word and I want a new one.  But I can't think of one.  All I can say is thank goodness jazz music exists.  It's like an instant release valve on my brain.  I'm a music lover all right.  Maybe I can use that somehow...

The Victorious End of the Rockets.

Day 12-
FInally.  FINALLY.  THe rockets are done.  And today, I rather enjoyed it.  The highlight was talking about astronomy with the kids and trying to get them to think of how they would get their bottle rockets to space and what it would take in terms of fuel.  We had our usual herding cats moments with students not doing their work, as per usual.  These students are forming a pattern of not participating.  It's a bit frustrating, and that's an understatement.  It's hard to communicate why something is important when you can't communicate with the kids.  I think this will be easier-ish as their english develops, but I've had students before who still had a hard time grasping the concept.

The class after lunch was a bit more focused, but there are some personalities evolving in that class.  Another thing we did was go through the assignment log and make sure all their work was in order, which turn into a weekly thing.  One girl tried to pass off a fake grade as one we gave her.  Yeah, glad we caught it now.  For the most part that class has an issue with being almost too willing in some cases.  It's sweet, but exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Attack of the Rockets

Day 11-
Oh man, wings on a rocket plus erratic wind patterns makes crazy erratic rocket paths, but it was neat.  We did our first of the last launches today outside, and my darling kindergartener was acting up again.  When this one is helping, he's all good, but he's decided to play a new game of asking if I understand what he's saying.  I say no, because I don't some of the time, and then he'll say something else and some people will snicker.  It's become disruptive a bit, so I've had the respect conversation with him.  I want to get my language skills to the point where I can intercept this behavior, but man, that's something I just don't have time for.  

So, positives: I needed to find a way to keep the kids engaged while the rockets were being set up.  I would have them form hypotheses about the particular trial, and then had them explain it.  It kept them engaged and thinking about the activity, and some students really jumped on it.  I felt bad when one girl got called smart in derogatory way just because she was trying really hard, and had decent explanations.  It brought me back to when I was that age, or even in college.  It makes you not want to get answers right because you'll just get ridiculed for it.  This girl, though, offered to help me out later with another student's understanding, and I'm glad she's putting herself out there and pushing herself.  I love how well the students work together, and how you can tell they really want to help each other a lot of the time.  Pretty fantastic.

Only Slightly Chaotic

Day 10-

Another day of building rockets.  In this case, there was high highs and low lows.  One group was made up of students who could barely speak English, and spoke completely different languages, and they connected!  I was a bit surprised.  One student said to me "He speaks a little spanish!"  I asked "As much as me?" The student responded "Even less."  I'm learning, but the students assume my progress is faster than it is, so they'll come at me with long sentences, that I catch the gist of, but responding is...harder.  Anyway, the chaos was a bit more manageable in this class, but it's not my forte in terms of coping skills.  I think I'm the kind of person who's a planner, surprising no one.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Kindergartener in Freshmen Year

Day 9-
I swear this kid must actually be five years old.  So the same sainted child that I had to be best buddies with on Tuesday was acting up today.  He was touching everything, making faces, being loud, distracting others.  He needs to have something to do ALL.  THE. TIME.  I don't know if I have the creativity to keep him that occupied unless I have him start cleaning the classroom or something.  I was having a lovely conversation with one of the girls, and he came up and grabbed a boxcutter from next to me.  I grabbed it out his hand so quickly as I saw all the things that could happen with it flash before my eyes.  Yeah, bullet dodged.  I'm glad the kids can approach me and talk to me.  I like talking to them, and hearing about their lives.  Thinking about it now, it's probably a good way for them to practice English, and me to practice their languages.  I really do love these kids right now, even my little kindergartener.  He's got a good spirit to him, and he's obviously a funloving guy, but he needs to calm down in my class or I will lose it.  The rest of the activity went well.  We now have rockety-looking rockets!

There're the things on the shelf.  The morning class went well too.  One girl came in a blustering about what's going on in Fukushima (nuclear waste leak due to damage from the earthquake a couple years ago) and man she was passionate about it.  Ended up having a really good discussion.  Anyway, onwards to tomorrow and see if we can make better plans for the rocket construction so I won't lose my mind.

Bottle Rockets Part 2

Day 8-
So today was a great example in how planning can really benefit a class.  We assigned partners, we assigned volunteer order, we outlined expectations and therefore, we were pleasantly surprised (or not really surprised, just please) with how smoothly bottle rockets went today.  Also, I feel a stronger bond with the first period we had today.  I'm not sure if that's because they're my primary class or just because there are some great kids in the class.  Over all the classes, I'm shocked with how well a lot of the kids get along (knock on wood.)  The best part?  I got to lead part of the experiment!  And I made some fantastic mistakes that I definitely learned from.  I'm trying to get in the headspace of enjoying my mistakes.  I suppose that way I stay a bit saner than otherwise.  The next step with this process is the students will be designing and doing their own experiments, so I think a planning discussion over this is necessary.  

One aspect of Wednesdays I need to really consider is how long my day is and if I am able to keep swimming.  For my own mental health, I think I should but man, it makes the day that much longer and harder.  I'm already down to 6 hours of sleep on good nights, and so that's started to drag me down a little.  Let's see how it goes.  I just want to take care of myself.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bottle Rockets, Part 1

Day 7-
Disaster is not the right word, and I really mean that.  I would say henpecked is more accurately.  Let me explain.
In Conceptual Physics, we began bottle rockets, which is so much potential for fun.  They're water and air pressure powered soda bottles, and they get some serious air, about 80 m in the air in one case.  So this class were wandering and chatting like chickens during feed.  They even were scrapping a bit, also like chickens.  I had the pleasure of using my stern voice.  It's hard to yell at kids when you don't know how much they understand.  One rather persistent boy forgot his assignment paper, was wandering or touching everything and playing around with our apparatus.  My DT was fed up with his poor behavior and made him sit over by himself for a moment until he gained his focus.  He was my buddy for the rest of the day.  I stuck to him like glue and made him do all the work, taught him some English words and he taught me some Spanish.  Once he was on lockdown, the other kids mellowed a bit, but still weren't quite listening.  The plan for tomorrow is to give them stricter guidelines before leaving the classroom.  We just went over the rules of the class yesterday!  But kids, like all humans, have the attention spans of...well, chickens.  Let's just say, I'll be having poultry tomorrow with few regrets.  
In other news, got some new yarn to make a scarf because it's important.  

Delayed Reaction

This is part one of a two day, two part post.  I'm doing them separately because I feel like that's more true to the project.

Day 6-
So today was a long day.  I decided to stay all the way to 6th period, partly because I really wanted to practice some delivery stuff, partly because I love those kids.  So, 6th is the higher English speakers, and I've connected really well with a couple of the kids.  They're the ones who actually say "Hi" to me in the hallways.  The part of today's class I helped lead was the discussion of class expectations, which went as well as that sort of thing ever does.  We had kids translate it into their home language to help others in the class whose language skills are still developing.  In 5th period, they were awesome about it and so quick to jump right into it.  Their posters, which were a pretty open assignment, looked fantastic, if a bit unfinished.  I don't know why, but I'm always impressed by how students just jump into open activities like that.  I was for sure a structure kid.  

This is a little backwards, because now I'm going to talk about the morning.  I came in, indulged in my latest addiction (COFFEE) and a young woman came in after me.  She's in the AP morning class and we just started talking.  I love talking to the seniors, because of that weird feeling that they think they're so adult, and I remember thinking the exact same way, but life is just beginning.  These kids have seen so much already, and it's just the beginning.  Kind of a fantastic dichotomy.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

Another Nice Connection

Day 5-
Officially survived my first week.  Celebratory sigh on three...



Sometimes,  I realize how much I hold my breath during the day, like I just need to hold onto myself, when breathing would actually be a better way to do so. My brain is silly.  Anyway, today was CPT and  the last day of the observation lab for conceptual physics, as well as practicum for SFTR.  My role in the lab was to kind of direct students towards getting work done and facilitate our name game.  Today went so much smoother than yesterday in that respect.  They were all engaged after we had to make a bit of an example of our girl with attitude.  Once we did that, it was instant change for her.  She actually tried during the lab activity later, which is fantastic.  She's a student who's been around a bit longer, and we had a nice conversation and her behavior became a lot better, in my opinion.  My DT is really good at thinking of engaging language level appropriate activities.  I'm keeping a notebook of them for later for sure. 

The connections that I valued today were actually those with my other cohorts.  We were all exhausted at practicum, and we all showed it.  This exhaustion kind of united us in a weird way.  I actually found myself talking to and really connecting with people I didn't connect with during orientation.  Our community is really meshing so well, and I can honestly say I'm so happy to have them all in my life.  Of course, I still connected with those I was already close with, but I think I got a little closer to everyone today, and I felt like a part of the community, which I love.  I think this is another reason I want to get into teaching, that I want to help form learning communities where people are accepted and loved because they're different.  

Ok, time to eat.  Off my soap box I get.  Tomorrow, I'm library girl.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Nice Connectioin

Day 4-
Things were actually getting more or less underway today.  In the environmental science course, those kids actually got to dive into some good old fashioned content.  The kids were sometimes engaged, sometimes not.  I suppose that's the nature of trying to teach a huge class as well as a huge AP class. There's certain things that you have to get through in order to be considered a college course.  The workbook they're working out of is a really cool concept.  It's all about look at the economy and vocations from a green perspective and learning about it that way.  It's a college course through SFSU (my dear, dear alma mater) where these kids get real college credit.  Sometimes, I'm not sure they understand right now how amazing an opportunity that really is, but who am I to judge.  I didn't see what was in front of my face sometimes in high school.  Silly underdeveloped prefrontal cortex.

Onto my lovely physics kids.  Part of how the EL system works is they get evaluated and sorted by their english teachers, so the classes we've had all week are no longer the classes we have now.  Second period earlier was silent and uncomfortable.  Now, we have a larger range of abilities in the class and so there's more talking, they all work together and students who weren't trying at all yesterday are excelling today.  The biggest surprise for me was Miguel.  He's got a twin brother with whom he seemed rather attached.  They didn't stand out besides the fact that there were two identical faces looking blankly at me.  Today, Miguel on his own was forming hypotheses, writing fantastic english and following directions perfectly.  I can't wait to watch him develop.  We also have other hardworking and helpful students with fantastic spirits in the class, but he stood out  because of his major growth over such a short period of time.  Another student, Heyling, was so inquisitive today.  She was asking about all sorts of english words for the observation activity to create more complicated sentences, so I obliged her as much as I could.  

Lunch came next, and I spent a bit of it doing homework by myself when a student came in.  We'd talked about her future goals earlier and she found out I read comic books and she wanted to discuss them.  She's a fairly outspoken person and we had a great kind of getting to know you chat.  I think the reason she approached me is because I look relatively close to her age.  Some of these kids look older than me, and some actually are based on when they came to the United States.  She's actually in a special situation that she kind of has to figure her life out pretty quick, and she has ambitions and goals that are not easy to achieve in this economy.  My demo teacher says she has great ideas, but limited follow-through, and in the art restoration field, that's going to be tough but I have faith that this girl can do something fantastic with her life if she just gets in the right mindset.

One last thing: day two of swimming.  I both love and hate my own ambitions right now.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Going Swimmingly

Day 3-

I definitely was dictated by hunger today: a hunger to teach, as well as the physical feeling.  I really want to be in the classroom, and so leading an activity that was actually graded was fantastic.  The activity was a get to know you sort of thing.  Yesterday, because of massive language barriers, it was a bit of a case of pulling teeth for my demo teacher to get the students to talk.  Today however, that was not the case.  I didn't mention my expectations that "When I talk, you listen."

Lesson learned: Assume nothing is given, unlike math.

Anyway, there was talking over me and giggling in Spanish and Chinese, two languages that my fluency is rudimentary.  And by that, I mean nearly non-existant.  So I found myself getting a bit frustrated and feeling fairly disrespected and it was just not a great moment.  I didn't know how far I could push being a disciplinarian at this point, because my demo teacher is in charge and I didn't want to cross any lines.  It's difficult to not step on someone's toes in a situation like this.  We're working together really well and I feel really supported (like I hope she does too).  Anyway, the next time I did it, I set up expectations about when I was talking that students need to listen to me, that I'm not just talking out of my ass.

So physical hunger: started swimming again, which was a great idea expect I'm hungry all the time again.  I kind of love that, but it's going to get expensive.
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