Damped and Driven

Regarding my Hiatus:
October 29, 2008, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Not School, School

So… it’s been a while. My apologies reader, one of the things i worried about when i started this blog was that i would drop the ball, that the thing would get pushed off the priority list, and well thats basically what happened. However, its a new year so i’m going to give this another shot.

First a quick update:

So last i posted it was the middle of april. Quite a bit has happened since then. I was informed that i didn’t get re-hired at TCHS, in fact a quarter of our staff was not asked back. This sort of took the wind out my sails as i had wanted to take what i had learned in the last year and apply it, use it to making class better for my students in the 08-09 school year. If i ended up moving schools or grade levels, i felt like my effectiveness would be diminished. Thankfully, 2 MONTHS later, i was able to get re-hired at the high school as a math teacher. As it happened i would end up teaching physical science again anyway! More on hiring and admin in the district later- suffice it to say it can be quite a comedy.

The summer was great, i went camping in the BWCA for a week with my dad and some friends. I spent a month and a half in Lincoln, NE. I know a professor there i had worked for, during a summer 3 years ago. I got in touch with him in the spring and asked him if there were any short-term projects he could use a post-undergrad-but-not-yet-grad student on. To my delight, he had some projects that i could help with. I ended up working on aspects of a problem i had gotten familiar with when i was there before, mostly a class of interesting math problems. That was the summer.

It’s the middle of the 1st semester already, wow! School is different, the main thing being we changed to a block schedule. I teach two 90 min blocks of 9th grade physical science and one block of upper classman in pre-calc. Its a great mix of younger kids and older kids and the most of the kids are great. There are a few knuckle-heads, but there are also some super kids, kids that inspire, kids that you don’t want to let down.

The year is off to a good start. Theres already been some epic adventures, lots of hiking in the badlands- turns out theres a really great place right in Wanblee. Teaching, planning, grading, old friends and new. I think it’s going to be a good year.

more soon..


jumbo pixie sticks and pickles
May 16, 2008, 9:58 pm
Filed under: School

a recent exchange: 8:45 a.m.

z: “no food, not during class put that away”

k: “but i didn’t eat breakfast, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day” k proceeds to pull out a baggie with a pickle in it and a jumbo pixie stick. She
bites the top off and pours pixie stick on it and takes another bite.

z: “?”

so I about busted a gut/you learn something new everyday/i love science
April 10, 2008, 7:43 pm
Filed under: School, Science and Other Nerdiness

One thing thats great about being a teacher is that the kids are funny, or maybe more accurately, when kids are involved, things can be funny, actually f’in hillarious. Case in point: we’ve been working on waves last couple days. I had them do a short project where they were supposed to make a poster with the two kinds of waves that we talked about (transverse and longitudinal) on it. The poster was supposed to have definitions, diagrams, and examples from the web. The examples is where it got interesting.

One of my students had searched for ‘transverse’. And was looking at a picture she had found and said something like “gross, ewww..”- naturally i was intrigued. I went over and saw what looked like the inside of something, nay someone and thought uh-oh. What are the students looking at on my watch? I scanned the URL and the word ‘colonoscopy’ grabbed my attention, yikes! Turns out she had stumbled on a ‘tranverse’ image from a colonoscopy. I didn’t draw attention to it or tell her what it was (the inside of a butt) but told her to go back and did my best to quell totally busting out laughing. Apparently, transverse is also an anatomical word. Its more or less the plane that would go through your waist parallel with the floor (i never took anatomy), and i guess that was the orientation of the image. You learn something new every day.

April 8, 2008, 4:58 pm
Filed under: School, Science and Other Nerdiness

Recently i’ve been introduced to a new, wondrous, and horribly distracting and addicting feature of the internet called StumbleUpon. How it works is you enter a bunch of preferences of things that you’re interested in, from coffee to physics, from anthropology to zoology. Then when you find yourself with some free time, you push the little stumble button and it brings you to a random website culled from the interweb that it thinks you might enjoy based on your preferences. Its awesome. It’s kind of like if there was a grab-bag button on your TV remote that you could push that would bring you to an awesome channel that up to this point you didn’t know existed.

So if you know me you might not be surprised that this poster, actually a collection of them showed up one day based on my preferences. There are some really good ones in the collection: Realize Resist Revolt. I dig this kind of art, i like bold stuff. I think it draws me to woodcuts and etchings and messages that can be spray-paint stenciled onto the back of a t-shirt.

Anyway, the one above in particular resonated with me based on what i’m currently doing. It can be really saddening. Some of my kids are tough kids, they have a lot smarts, more wisdom than they should have at this age and tremendous will, but instead of directing that at kicking butt in school, sticking it to the stereotypes and finding out what they want in life and grabbing it, they direct it toward defiantly doing nothing and failing gloriously.

Which is why in the future, i plan on teaching them a lesson based around the idea in this poster. I have tried the message of “I know you can do well, believe in malleable intelligence, blah, blah, etc.” and the kids have heard it. That may work for some, but for others, for some of my hard screws, its not a message that reaches them. So instead i though i might be able to appeal to the indignant side, the defiant side. Something like: “Basically, if you don’t have an education, people who know more than you will take advantage of you. No, it’s not fair, but it is the way that things are, but you have the power to change that. I know you could kick butt at school and show them, but that has to be YOUR choice. What are you going to do?”

And i know they could do it, they could kick butt at school, if i can only convince them thats what they really want to do…Thoughts?

hindenerg: v. to fail catastrophically, really catastrophically
April 7, 2008, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Not School, School

A buddy of mine in college had that poster on the wall in his dorm room. I’d always got a kick out of it (no disrespect to the dead) but before becoming a teacher had never witnessed a situation so accurately represented by that picture as the feeling you get when a classroom devolves.

Some days class Hindenburgs on you, you might be bracing for it, you might not be expecting it. In either case, shit happens. Sometimes in retrospect, your plans for the day seem to make about as much sense as having a smoking room on blimp made out of a giant sack of extremely flammable gas(its true), but more often its a lack of planning rather than bad planning. Thankfully, tomorrow is another day to do better and to create better (air-tight you might say :P) lessons.

number senselessness
April 7, 2008, 12:33 pm
Filed under: School

So at the risk of kind of stepping on what i just talked about a few posts ago about being sensationalist, i want to type about something that it really hurts to see, especially as a science/math inclined person. Many of our kids struggle with math and sometimes it pops up in the strangest ways.

Here’s an example: recently in class we’ve been working on calculating kinetic energy, i.e. the old KE=1/2mv^2. Anyway, enough students for me to notice were having trouble with entering the equation into a calculator if they were doing a problem in a calculator. “how do we enter fractions, how do we enter the 1/2 into the calculator?” or something similar they would say, or i’d look down and see that they have: 1.2, or 1.5 entered to represent 1/2. Yikes! “These do not equal 1/2. You actually don’t have to enter it as a fraction, you can just enter 1 (division sign) 2 and go from there or .5” I’d say. I couldn’t believe it. Not that we haven’t run into problems with math before, it’s just this is such devastating example.

I think this is a pretty terrible example of what a calculator can do. Unless used with care, it robs them of the ability do basic computation, and worse, to recognize when it’s not doing what they think its doing.

A good example is with fractions goes something like this: “what do you think? if the number on top is smaller than the number on the bottom, when you divide it, will the result be greater or less than one?” A disturbing fraction of students won’t know. We shouldn’t even have to have this discussion! We shouldn’t have to reason through it. It makes it very clear though when we’re trying to build science concepts on such a foundation and use their math tools, why it can seem so daunting to some students. Arg. Teaching science often becomes teaching and reviewing math too.

Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem
March 30, 2008, 5:59 pm
Filed under: School

So the other day after my 3rd hour, which didn’t go so hot (shit-show), my neighboring teacher called me over and said he had a poster which needed to be in every classroom. Mel was there also as she borrows my computer cart that hour. The poster was in Latin- she studied Latin in college and i’ve studied it a bit. So we set about trying to decipher it. We didn’t get very far before he told us what it meant:

In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags.

Wow. Pretty much encapsulated what i was feeling at that moment after a crappy class, it was perfect. Sometimes class is just not fun and thats how it is, but don’t worry sometimes class its really great too. On the one hand i wouldn’t want to post something as negative as that on my wall. On the other, they wouldn’t know what it meant…