Archive for September, 2009



     I am in need of direction, not navigational or spiritual, but to figure out the purpose of this blog.   This isn’t a “To Blog or Not To Blog” post;  this is my third blog, the longest lived, and clearly – for whatever reason – I blog. 

     Initially, this blog was a grad school assignment as a means of reflecting on my journey to becoming a teacher.   I had hoped that it would also create a community space with the fourteen teachers in my science teaching cohort as we worked through grad school and our initial years of teaching.   Neither of those objectives really panned out, I’m not teaching yet and blogging didn’t really take with the rest of the cohort – all but two have stopped blogging.

     I have substitute taught twice so far this year.   All plans I make are subject to being cancelled if the phone rings.  I’m not teaching my lesson plans or doing what I want to do but being around the kids is FUN!   The job search… not so much.   

     At this point, I think I’ll open up the topics and perhaps include more components of my life.    What do you think?


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A Plethora

Crowd Illustration

© Pavlen – istockphoto.com

     Plethora is one of those great words.  It has an interesting rhythm.   It means a superabundance or excess of something.    In the area where I live, there is a plethora of science teachers – despite media and government reports to the contrary.  Even teachers who live and work here remain under the impression that there is a shortage of science teachers.   Not!  In my graduate school cohort of fourteen teachers, eight have found jobs and two of those are less than full-time.

     When I started my program, I didn’t realize that the five schools of education in the area each had a large enrollment of science teachers.   This was made clear at a February conference where there were at least 30 pre-service teachers from other area schools.    At the end of the school year, the large, urban school district in the area laid off 120 teachers – add to that a recession in which teachers are neither retiring or leaving their jobs for other positions AND the result is a lot of teachers out there looking for work.  The other day, I sat in a room with forty other certified teachers hoping to substitute teach in one of the local districts.  Many had been looking for a job for years and all were trying to sub in multiple districts.   Sigh.   Next year’s class of science teachers at my university is 23 students, I really hope that most of them are planning to move out of the area.

     When I visited my parents in Connecticut, I took a look at job postings both in the paper and online.  The large, urban district near them laid off 1200 teachers and I found only two positions for science teachers – one for someone fluent in written and spoken Turkish;  the other for someone fluent in American Sign Language.  It was interesting to look even though relocation is not really an option for me.   A long commute – yes;  but not relocation.

     Despite all this, I have not given up.  Today, I applied for three more jobs – two I found out through connections and the other from an ad in the newspaper.   I am optimistic and hopeful that there is a school and classroom out there for me.   Hopefully, I’ll get some calls to sub soon and in the meantime, I’m still in high gear looking for a job!   Anybody know of one?

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     Recently, at a meeting designed to support new science teachers, we were asked to describe our high school experience.   A simple question:  “Where did you go to high school?”    People are asked this all the time and for most it is an easy question but not for me.   In five years, I went to four different schools in three different states.

     In 8th grade, I was in my last year at a parochial school that I attended since 2nd grade.   In 9th grade, I was in a segregated public school in a basically suburban town.   In 10th and 11th grade, my family lived in the projects in a medium sized city in New England while my dad finished grad school;  this school had a very diverse population and a big gang problem.   In 12th grade, I lived in a very small, rural town in upper Appalachia.   Diverse doesn’t even begin to describe it.

     The current emphasis in science teacher education seems to be all about “not teaching how you were taught.”     I really want to teach science as I was taught because at the largish, urban high school with a tracking system including seven levels, I had the most amazing science education that you could imagine.   I think the National Science Education Standards (NSES) (NRC, 1996), which emphasize inquiry, were based on the teaching of my Chemistry teacher, Miss Maguire, and my Physics teacher, Mr. Sterns.   Either they did hands-on, inquiry-based activities all the time or that is all that I remember and I’ve blocked out the worksheets.

     Mr. Sterns could build anything.    He had eight wave tables available for us to explore; all manner of ramps, pullies, and falling objects; when he taught momentum, he came in on a skateboard, writing on the board as he glided past.   Miss Maguire taught us about the chemistry of photographic film and Mr. Sterns extended it by having us expose film using a strobe while dropping a light and then develop and use it to determine the acceleration of gravity.   Miss Maguire also did a wide variety of labs with us including titrations and generation of hydrogen and oxygen from water in addition to the aforementioned candle observation lab.    I don’t remember either of them lecturing but I suppose that they might have.

     I really hope that I can teach half as well as I was taught!

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New Address

New Address

     This is a new location for my blog.  I moved for a variety of reasons including a newer version of WordPress with more features for all of us including the ability to subscribe to follow-up comments.   I was also tired of the pharmaceutical spam in my RSS feed on my old blog – an ongoing problem probably related to the older version of the software.    This space shouldn’t be too much different –  I’ve added a picture and additional information to my “About Me” page.

     Within my University cohort, we have had many spirited discussions about the public nature of blogging and some have wished for more anonymity.   I am taking the approach that my online identity is part of who I am and will curate it accordingly.   I do not feel the need to use this space for saying things that I would not say publicly.   I am usually somewhat careful in using proper nouns about other people and institutions but am fairly open about who I am.   The New York Times had an interesting article on some of the ramifications for lawyers of ranting in their blogs including some analysis of the generational difference in attitudes about blogs and public presence.  

     I can’t claim that I am quite as careful on Facebook but that is a difference between a somewhat private forum and blogging AND I have reined that in a bit too.   During a recent lunch with friends, I realized that I knew much less about what was happening in their lives than I did for acquaintances with whom I communicate on Facebook.

     Welcome to my new space!   Thanks for reading.

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Fossils – Age

Fossils collected 8/27 & 9/6/09

     I live in an area with many interesting geological features – the glaciers advanced and receded over this area several times – including areas that are rich in fossils.    Each summer, I spend time mucking about in shale or limestone beds searching for these ancient sea creatures, which are proof that at one point, the north coast of the US was a tropical sea south of the equator.   The possibilities for using this local resource in teaching are endless – dating methods for Chemistry, glaciers and continental drift for Earth Science, adaptation and proof in Living Environment (Biology).   The fact that this area – the third snowiest metropolitan area in the country – was once tropical is a discrepant event of mind-blowing proportions.   Sigh… I can’t wait to teach again.

     Recent fossil hunting excursions got me thinking about how they determine the age of fossils.    In an effort to improve my chances at a teaching job, I have removed everything from my resume that would allow a potential employer to determine my age.   The Career Center advisor said to include my original degree and its date – it would be evidence of maturity and experience.    In my first round of job applications, I did not get a single interview.   I think age was the reason.   Either that or prejudice against career-changers;  we had a mock interview in which one interviewer said she had bad luck with career-changers and wouldn’t hire another one.    Who knows?

     Today was another first day of school in most of the rest of the local districts.    I feel like someone who got left standing when the music stopped – approximately half the people in my program got jobs although a few are 0.7 or 0.4 positions (part-time).  It’s a bad year to be a science teacher looking for a job.  At this point, I know of only one solid position (it was advertised in the newspaper);  the rest are rumors.

Fossil Hunting Grounds (I’m in yellow)

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© HeikeKame – istockphoto.com

     This morning when I woke up, I lit a candle for Josh.    In the waning light of this evening, I will relight it.   He was a wonderful young man – too soon gone, a year ago today.   I am thinking of him and his family almost constantly today.

     Today was the first day of school in the urban district where I wanted to teach.    I haven’t completely given up hope but I suppose that will happen soon.  

      I will never forget my first day of High School Chemistry.   My family had moved and I was the new girl, in a new school, in a new town where I knew nobody.   The teacher had us light a candle and asked us to observe carefully.  She told us to write our observations into our notebooks.     Another shy girl (yes – there was a time) was sitting next to me and she agreed to be my lab partner.  We were excited that we got to use matches in school and started to write down observations.   I think we had twenty or so between us;   after all, it was just a candle.   Our homework was to read Appendix A in our brand new Chemistry textbook, which listed 303 individual, completely valid observations.   I was blown away!

      Is it any wonder that I majored in Chemistry?

      Last night, I lit two candles and thought of Josh and his twin brother who were born on September 1.   The chemistry-inspired stained glass from my friend Wayne, who I met through Josh’s mom, is in the background.  I couldn’t resist including this picture too.


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