Archive for January, 2009

… or is it possible to teach science without arithmetic?

© Diane Diederich - istockphoto.com

     I finished my first student teaching block last week.  It was difficult to leave as I had grown quite attached to the students.   As I look back on the experience, I am amazed at how much I learned about myself, my teaching, and middle school science.   It was a great placement with a very experienced teacher who connects with his students so well that there is a constant stream of high school aged visitors stopping in the classroom.  The students were enthusiastic to the point that it was very difficult to practice wait time because many hands shot up after each question.   The staff and environment were incredibly positive and friendly plus I had another student teacher from my program just down the hall.

     One of the difficult parts of teaching science was the near complete lack of ability to do simple arithmetic for most of the students.    They are not allowed to use calculators and the numbers are manipulated so that the arithmetic only involves whole numbers yet… they struggle.   For one of the last labs, I let them use calculators and they regularly reversed the numerator and the denominator.    We worked on motion and speed calculations – sadly there is division involved and there the brain freeze occurs. 

     Today I met with my cooperating teacher for my next placement.   He said that for the general chemistry classes, the work is mostly nonquantitative.   Sigh.   I guess I will learn to teach science without numbers.


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To Blog or Not to Blog…

… and what, if blogging, to blog about anyway?   Those are the questions – some of them anyway.

     I’ve blogged in the past about other topics – topics easily separated from myself – a photo journal of a group I was leading, my garden through a season…    Blogging about teaching feels intensely personal.   Mostly, because I care so much about it, but also because I feel vulnerable as a novice/apprentice.   It’s also the first time I have blogged “professionally” because this is associated with my masters program.   I prefer anonomity in the blogosphere but didn’t get to make all the choices here.

     I have not blogged much over the last month or two.   The blog, however, has been a constant presence – affecting the way I consider recent experiences.  For my last student teaching placement, I had a long commute and often spent drive-time thinking about the day or yesterday or tomorrow or the whole trajectory.   Often, I would compose an entire blog entry, in my head, only to decide that it could never see the light of day.  

     The reasons why something wasn’t publishable was an important part of my thought process.   Was it because I didn’t have the conviction to put it out there?  Was it because I thought it might hurt somebody’s feelings?   Was it because as a pre-service teacher, I wonder if anything I have to say is relevant?   Would the statement be too easily associated with me personally?

     My friend over at Stratoz blogged recently about a student finding his blog.   Another friend, Gannet Girl, has blogged anonymously for years.   I’ve considered doing two blogs.   There is little hope that I would manage to keep both of them going but – does that mean I have a split personality? or need to live two lives?   Something else to think about.

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     My first student teaching block ended on Wednesday.   I will miss the students and the school very much but it’s time to move on to a new experience.   Moving up to high school and more advanced Chemistry will be fun.   However, when I tell people where I will be teaching, they look horrified and then proceed to share whatever recent story they have heard or read about my next school.   I think it will be fine because kids are kids but it’s hard to ignore all the bad news especially when people won’t stop talking about it.

     My life has been a whirlwind since last May when I started studying to become a teacher.  There were two weeks off in late August and that was the last real break.   Yes, I had thirteen days off at Christmas but given that it was a major holiday AND I have kids AND I went out of town to visit grandparents AND I had to plan a Physics unit for January – it doesn’t count.   Right now, I have another thirteen days off from teaching.   I plan to catch my breath, cook enough to stock my freezer for the next whirlwind, exercise a lot, and catch up with friends.   Oh yeah, university classes start again on Monday so I guess it really isn’t a full break.

     The picture is from a Chinese New Year celebration at a local restaurant on Friday.   Gung Hay Fat Choy!

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New York City as Homework


Brooklyn Train – Early a.m. – Fresh Snow

     My eldest son and I went to New York City last weekend.   We left before sunup on Sunday and came back late afternoon on Monday by train.   It was a job shadow project for school.  His dream is to follow in his uncle’s footsteps by being involved in the music business on the production, not the performing side.  

     Normally, I am not enthusiastic about school projects that require parental involvement.   When my kids have a homework assignment of “play this math game with a parent” or “interview your parent about this”, I have been known to write a note back to the teacher saying that our schedule did not permit completing this type of assignment.   

     One reason for my initial lack of enthusiasm for this adventure was that I was giving up my first quiet weekend since the fall semester started just after Labor Day.  However, I love New York City and it was a great opportunity for him, so  I adjusted my attitude.  We spent Sunday afternoon at MOMA, Sunday evening having dinner with our gracious hosts in Brooklyn, and Monday in Manhattan – job shadow for the tall boy and lunch with friends for me – friends with whom I’ve e-mailed daily for over a decade but two of whom I had never met.   Maybe I could get used to the idea of helping my son with his homework!

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Wow!  I just checked the date of my last blog post and wondered if I needed to declare this space defunct and move on to a new blog.   I hope that, whichever Solstice holiday you celebrate, that it was as full as possible with peace, warmth, and light – whether the warmth came from friends and the light from candles OR from a trip to someplace with warmer weather.   

My family celebrates Christmas but we also mark the Solstice.  When you live on the north coast of the United States, the sun is very low in the sky in late December and the lengthening days are worth noting and celebrating.   One year for Christmas, my older son received a model solar car kit and the instructions noted that it probably wouldn’t run at our latitude – it didn’t.   I have a Solstice mark on the wall of my front foyer and the light beam has already shifted three inches down the wall.  The light is returning!

This holiday season has included time with friends, time on the road to New England to visit family, and now – with three days left before I return to teaching – a bit of time to relax.   Happy New Year!

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