Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’


     Too many meetings and too much administrative paperwork but this will pass and it will get better.  

  • Day 1 – met with another teacher for an hour then headed downtown to fill out paperwork and sign a contract (Yay!).   It wasn’t ready but even so process took over an hour.     Mandatory parent meeting for Techboy’s swim team, then required attendance for another group with which Sportsboy is involved.
  • Day 2 – got to spend a little time organizing classroom, then back downtown to finish paperwork, get ID, etc.    That evening included two hour-long parent meeting about math;  not mandatory but given the struggles my kids are having with math, essential.
  • Day 3 – department meeting from 1:30-2:30, meeting with another teacher 2:30-3:30, mandatory meeting  including terrific presentation about classroom management from 4-6  then back to my classroom to organize, think about tomorrow, and pack up the work to bring home.  Home by 7 PM – need to plan for tomorrow.

     It is going well.  We are at the early stages and we are still building connections, structure, and community.     They say that the four stages of group development are Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing;  we are definitely still in the Storming phase.     However, it is going well – as well as it could given that I was dropped in with basically no notice, curriculum, resources or anything on Monday morning.   I like the kids.   They have  been through a lot – teacher leaving after a little over two months, sub for a week and a half, then a restart with a new teacher.

     7th-grade Science in this district is a spiral curriculum.   This year will be about half Biology, then some Earth Science followed by Physics.   I might get to do a bit of Chemistry with the Honors class but that’s it.    I’m still very happy and excited, but I’m hoping to get to bed before midnight and wondering if there is any coffee left in the coffee maker.


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Fireworks - iStock_000000155954XSmall

© Christian Weber Photography (Zong-istockphoto.com)

     Late this afternoon, I received a phone call and was offered a job teaching middle school science at the urban high school where I did my student teaching last spring.    I really loved being at the school and am very excited about this position.   Finally, the goal that I have been pursuing for years is within my grasp.    I can’t wait to get started and that will happen Monday!

     Stay tuned.

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     I never would have believed that I would be grateful for the start of Daylight Savings Time.   One of the most ridiculous things about the fact that I am pursuing a teaching career – especially in seconday schools – is the fact that I am not a morning person.   David Letterman and I were on a first name basis for years including those in which he didn’t start until after midnight.   Now, the phone rings at 5:15 a.m. and I am grateful because it means that they need a sub and I will teach that day;   I have worked every day for the last two weeks.  

     When you live on the North Coast, the winter days are short and the November skies are gloomy.    As a creature of the light who celebrates the Winter Solstice and the onset of longer days with a fervor most people reserve for birthdays, anniversaries, and other major holidays, it is odd for me to consider this timeshift beneficial.  I have long railed against the shift to an early sunset and nights that seemed longer but then I had only been awake for sunrise on very rare occasions, such as camping and staying up all night.        

     This year, I celebrate this day!   Now that my days in late October rarely include sunrise, I have a new appreciate of the time shift.  Tomorrow, my kids will be able to safely ride their bikes to school again and I may actually view sunrise during my drive to tomorrow’s sub job.

(Photocredit:  Tech Boy (my oldest) from the driveway)

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     This weekend, I am reading this book in preparation for a conference that I will attend on Tuesday.  It’s not a new book – it was written more than 10 years ago –  but to me it is fascinating.   It chronicles a study in which videotapes from classrooms in the United States, Germany, and Japan were studied to determine how teaching was different in these countries.  The impetus for the study was the poor performance of students from the US on an international assessment of math and science – the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study).

     The focus of the book is on math teaching and learning.   Apparently, both Japanese and German instruction is at a higher level than that in the US.   The Japanese instruction also includes a higher level of student problem solving including having students develop their own problems, work through their confusion, and a teacher role as mediator between the students and mathematics rather than controlling focus or imparting knowledge in the way seen in US and German classrooms, respectively.

     The fun for me is in thinking about applying the knowledge gained from this study to teaching Chemistry.  It isn’t so easy to provide chemicals to students and just say “Go ahead.  Investigate.   Make Mistakes.   It’s OK.”    Yikes!   However, my big takeaway is that the students need to get frustrated and try to figure things out for themselves.  There are lots of ways to do this that aren’t dangerous.   One concept that really stays with me is that Japanese teachers have a higher tolerance for student frustration and allow the students to work things out on their own, whereas teachers in the US tend to see confusion and frustration as evidence of bad teaching on their part and step in too quickly.

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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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Substitute Teaching

© Diane Diederich – istockphoto.com

      I have been substitute teaching 1-2 days/week, mostly with the 8th graders that I taught fall semester during my first student teaching block.  I don’t know how teachers get over giving their students up to the next year, another grade, and new teachers year after year.   These were the first students that I taught and they will forever be important to me.

      Today, I subbed for their Math teacher.  It was odd to spend so much of my day on testing – NY State Social Studies Test for the first two sets, NY Regents practice test with the next class, review book with AIS students, and a practice test with the accelerated class.   Yes, there were three tracks today in 8th grade and the 10th graders were part of a one-year course spread to three-semesters to help students be successful on the NY State Regents test that has become a requirement for graduation.   Perhaps this plan was partly due to having a sub but at least two of these activities were on the preprinted calendars for the class.

       It was most amusing that the students assumed I wouldn’t be able to help them with math.  The comments today included:

  • “I didn’t finish my quiz because I ran into a problem and didn’t think you’d know how to help me.”
  • Another girl was questioning a problem involving graphing a formula.  I provided two options:  1) solve the problem algebraically to be as close as possible to y = mx + b and graph that, or 2) leave the formula in its initial form and make a table of possible x and y values, then graph them.  She told me that she would take the quiz home for help from her father.   I told her that it wasn’t a take-home test and her regular teacher would help the next day.
  • Another group didn’t believe my explanation that trig was involved in a triangle-depth problem until two other student groups confirmed it.  They all expressed surprise that I remember sohcahtoa and knew how to use it!

        Tonight I have the pleasure of reading Paolo Friére for my last class of my master’s degree.   It was a nice antidote to a day in a middle school classroom.   I am continually amazed by his description of man’s inhumanity to man but deeply inspired by his thoughts on critical literacy and pedagogy.   In any classroom, probably in any group of people, there is oppression and a need to examine its structures and practices.   From Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Friére, 1970), “Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift.”  I look forward to having my own classroom.

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Concept Connections

© Andrew Johnson – istockphoto.com

     We met with the Science Stars after school on the last day before Thanksgiving vacation;  this may have contributed to lower attendance than usual.   We used a concept map to review their model of the factors that influence rocket flight while worked on making connections to the data that they had graphed last week.   It was fun watching the lightbulbs go on as they made connections and checked that they could confirm their statements.   Supporting conclusions was a focus of this session.

     Our icebreaker was that each of us said our favorite store with a statement to support our claim.   The girls talked about several stores including one girl who said that any store at the mall would do.   Dylan, one of my teacher partners, stated that his favorite store was Goodwill.   This led to a spirited discussion of clothes and secondhand shopping.   All three pre-service teachers and one of the students said that they shopped at secondhand stores.   Two of the girls were adamant in their refusal to even consider shopping there.   It was a good place to start a discussion about backing up claims and debating positions.

     It’s Thanksgiving.   I’m thankful for so many things, including the existence of secondhand stores.    I wish a peaceful Thanksgiving to all of you!


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