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 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.
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