Thursday, December 27, 2007

December Knitting

One of the groups with whom I knit issued a challenge - knit two pairs of socks for charity "in honor" of someone on your gift list.

Here are my December knitting contributions.

If you think they are "in honor of you", they probably are.

Christmas Wish Status - Granted

Just about the time I had resigned myself to living without my LCD projector, I received a totally unexpected e-mail from the school librarian.

A special grant had allowed the school to purchase many, many new projectors.

"Please come and pick mine up, at my convenience".

One of my knitting buddies suggested that my karma account from all those socks-for-charity was just coming round and paying back.

Maybe she's right.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Christmas Wish

It hasn't been a very good week.

My faith in mankind has been tried on quite a few levels and the upper limit had to be having my classroom broken into and my LCD projector stolen. I don't like to think I was targeted specifically, but a sudden string of incidents caused Isaac to ask me if I thought I was being "hazed". Could be. Probably not. Probably a string of unrelated incidents, but the unrelated incidents are getting really old, really fast. I had a lengthy chat with the police, told them what I knew (which wasn't much) and they promised to let me know of any "developments", but a friend laid it on the line for me.

I'll never see that projector again.

The crazy thing is, I didn't think I "needed" it. Heck, teachers have been teaching without them for centuries. They are only commonplace in the classroom within the last decade or so. They allow a laptop computer screen to be projected onto the wall. Suddenly, video clips, PowerPoint presentations, the internet, spreadsheets can all be shared with an entire classroom.

In addition, I was "wired" to allow me to project paper documents in "real time". To the uninitiated, this means that I could write on a worksheet, and the worksheet, my hand, pen and the words appeared magically on the wall as I wrote. Not unlike an older style "overhead" projector, but better. No acetate transparencies. No special pens. No bright, blinding light, and when I was finished, a hard copy that could be saved for a student absent that day. I hadn't thought I "needed" that, either, until I tried it.

I also had the capability to project in "3D". Beakers, rulers, springs, motors. Too small to make sense to the back of the room from the front of the room, but when projected on the wall, well, they say that a "picture is worth a thousand words", and if that's true, a live image of a 3D object might just be worth a million. I hadn't thought I "needed" that, either.

It took several weeks to get the projector, another couple to have it installed, and then another couple of weeks for me to get comfortable with using it. Finally, within the last month, I'd really gotten the hang of which switches, when, what connections, how, and reveled in the "Oooohhh"'s from my students when it happened to be put to particularly good use.

9 days ago, a person or persons unknown decided that their desire for a projector was far more important than was the learning going on in my classroom, broke into the school and took what they wanted.

It's the day after Thanksgiving, and I don't argue for a moment that I have plenty to be thankful for. I know the whereabouts of all of my family members. The refrigerator is overfilled with tasty leftovers from the feast, the sudden cold snap outside is nothing more than an excuse to light a fire in the fireplace. I truly enjoy the vast majority of my students, and they are getting comfortable enough with me to share an occasional joke. Most are succeeding academically, and those who are not, know why they aren't. I have friends who call me up just to "check in" and our nuclear family is celebrating exciting changes across the board.

I have many reasons to be thankful, but selfishly, I really, really want that projector back.


It's not the projector.

I want my innocence back.

Friday, October 26, 2007


Nine weeks down, 27 to go. One quarter of the year is done. Nine weeks ago, I hardly could imagine getting this far.

I've passed a kid who probably should have failed, and failed a kid who thinks she should have passed. I've given a large handful of Kleenex to a sobbing cheerleader (never did find out the "why") and have gotten anonymous "I heart Mrs. G" sticky notes on my computer. I've sat in special education reviews for several students, participated in a "Prevention and Intervention" conference for another and was the catalyst for yet another student receiving a police citation. I've been observed, yea, even better, I've been video-taped.

People tell me that I'm making the grade. Sometimes, I believe them.

One thing I never expected to enjoy was my morning commute.

When I took the job, I was somewhat leery of the 18 miles between "here" and "there", but figured I'd get used to it. I didn't expect to love it.

In 9 weeks, it's never taken me more than 26 minutes. I have friends who commute 5 miles and need half an hour. It's "against" the traffic. I'm heading out into the "country" as the country is heading into the big city. In the evening, duplicate the magnitude, reverse the sign. My favorite classical music station broadcasts all the way, and there are only 7 stop lights in the whole 18 miles. Three of them are within 2 miles of home. Two are within a mile of the school. That leaves a lot of open space in between.

I've come to know the trains that travel parallel to the highway; one in the morning and one in the evening. I see the prairie sunrise each morning, and I'll miss that next week when Daylight Savings Time shifts my routine. I've watched the cotton crop mature, be harvested and the fields cleared in readiness for the next season. So far, I've weathered only a couple of "bad weather" days. One morning with a torrential downpour and one with a transoceanic London fog. Undoubtedly, there will eventually be an ice storm. Ironically, an ice storm nearly kept me from an interview for this position. Maybe my ice storm karma will be good from here on.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Carving Out Time

"They" warned me. "They" said that first year teachers were risking losing their own identities. Every waking moment would be school, school, school. There would always be one more thing to organize, one more lesson to plan, one more item to cross off the list.

They counseled me to keep on carving out time for friends, family and hobbies.

They were almost right.

On the second day of school, back in August, teachers were asked to tell their classes about their outside interests, and I showed off my knitting, talked about sock construction and told a little bit about the charity group for which I knit. My students were either somewhat interested or very polite...

Last week, I realized that the second day of school had been the last time I had knitted any rows, rounds, even any stitches. I made time that same evening to finish off the stocking that had been sitting since late August, and made sure I found 10 minutes of knitting time every day since them.

"They" should be proud.

Socks in photo are August/September CIC contributions.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Three weeks down. Thirty-three to go.

The first round of tests was this week; now we'll see whether or not I'm having any effect up in the front of the classroom. My Pre-AP class would learn "in spite of me", I rather expect. The other five classes have thrown down gauntlets of varying sizes and shapes to gauge my response.

Eighth period is by far the biggest challenge. It's a large class, it's at the end of the day, and it's filled with students for whom science is NOT the reason they get up in the morning. I've been trying to connect with them. Trying to find some common ground. Anything other than introductory physics and chemistry. It's been tough.

Yesterday, we had a breakthrough. Who would have believed that we'd connect over that quintessential southern beverage, "SWEET TEA"?

(For the record, I'm not particularly fond of "sweet tea", but that's entirely beside the point.)

The lesson was about "Clasification of Matter". I threw out the word "matter" first thing, and suggested that we had an unknown material referred to as "stuff". In my classroom, we have large amounts of "stuff", and yesterday, we classified it.



Or Mixture?

We were delving into the possibilities of "mixtures", and after there was a general hilarity over the fact that a teacher would actually SAY the word "homogeneous" in a classroom situation, we were getting pretty much nowhere. The difference between a homogeneous mixture and a heterogeneous mixture was totally eluding them.

The text suggested a discussion of "salt water", and despite being only 3 hours from the coast, few of my 8th period students have been to the beach. They have no reason to mix salt and water at home, and we weren't doing anything in the lab. The homogeneous mixture of salt water was a complete failure.

Then, I remembered "sweet tea". Properly made, the sugar is added while the brew is still hot. A supersaturated, supersweet concoction poured over ice in tall glasses dripping with condensation to be savored on lazy, cicada song afternoons.

"Hey, guys! Who in here likes sweet tea?"

I had them.

"Oh, YEAH, miss! I LOVE sweet tea!"
"Sure wish I had a big pitcher of sweet tea right now!"
"Hey, Miss! Think we could have some sweet tea in here in the classroom?"
"My mom makes some fine sweet tea! You should taste it!"

Amazingly, it worked. Sweet tea was the's homogeneous unless you get TOO much sugar in, then you get a layer of solid at the bottom, and you cross the void from homogeneous into heterogeneous territory. Even more encouraging: TODAY, they still had the concept. We started class this afternoon with another round of praise for our favorite homogeneous mixture.

Next week will bring new challenges, but for today, we have found one small shred of common ground.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Point, Counterpoint


Subject of the week is "measurement". Precision. Accuracy. Percent error. Distance. Mass. Density. We've been doing a lot of measuring, which means we've been using a lot of metric rulers. Most of them aren't fancy. Most of them are the rainbow colored plastic ones from Target. Nineteen cents each if you watch the sales.

Somehow, in a bit of high spirited physics lab, one of my students managed to break one. He was mortified. He didn't mean too. He was really, really sorry. He said he really wanted to pay for it, pulled out his wallet and handed me a dollar bill.

As luck would have it, I'd been selling a lot of 50-cent composition/lab books, so I had a pocketful of quarters. I assured him that it probably was not worth nearly that much, and gave him 50 cents back. We're even. We're friends again.


I wish I could have that young man work a mindmeld with whoever stole the high-end electronic balance from the counter, sometime between noon and 4 on Wednesday.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Chair

It's been quite a week. I'm figuring out the kids, figuring out the system, finding where the pipettes are hidden, and dealing with my nemesis, the copy machine.

There have been highs and lows, and I fully expect there will be more of each. Probably all before noon on Tuesday.

My classroom is state-of-the-art for high school physics. It's a palace, really. One half for "lectures and seat work" and adjacent, another whole classroom for labs. There is ample room for 24 students per class, and at the moment, only one class has more than that. I'm grateful. Not many beginning teachers start with this kind of luxury.

There's only one problem.

The "teacher chair". It's really just a hard plastic "student chair" with 4 wheels. It works, and honestly, I spend far more time on my feet than in my chair, but it's not comfortable.'s downright UNcomfortable. And we're only one week in.




I grumbled on and off about THE CHAIR over the past couple of days, thinking I should do something about that "sometime", but having no particular plans.

This afternoon, Dave and Alex went out shopping.

I'm now the proud owner of a padded leather "executive chair" with adjustable height, 5-point casters, arm rests and optional rocking motion.

Next week is already looking better.

I love my men.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Right Choice

One week of teaching down. 35 to go...

Tonight was the FIRST FOOTBALL GAME. I've come to know some band kids, some football players, some cheerleaders. Students have been asking me for the past couple of days..."Hey, Mrs. G...are you going to THE GAME????"

I was non-committal. Frankly, I was exhausted. This teaching's not for wimps. "Hmmm...maybe. I'm not sure right now. I'd love to see the band!"

In the end, I was still at the school at 6:10 on Friday. I'd hardly seen my husband or my own child all week. I opted to go home and skip the game.

At 7:30, a HUGE storm blew in. POURING rain for nearly an hour.

May I just say..."I'm glad I WASN'T at the game"?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Take my money. Please.

It's hot and humid, there was a snafu with Isaac's school schedule, Dave's worked until after 8 every night this week. School starts on Monday, for better or for worse, with me at the front of the classroom. There are just enough things still left undone to make me edgy. This afternoon I made one last trip to the Big Box Office Supply Store and crossed one more thing off of my list. Happy with my progress, I exited through the automatic doors.

Picture a table at the exit, covered with goodies bearing the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) logo, and manned by a young lady, maybe early 20's.

She said:
"Ma'am, we're helping out the people at DARE today. May I tell you about the program? Do you have young children?"

I said:
"My youngest is 17, and I'm well aware of the program. I have a very high opinion of it. All of my kids participated in the program in elementary school"

"Would you like to purchase a t-shirt or mug to help fund the program?"

"No, not really, but I'd be happy to make a donation."

" how much were you thinking?"


"That will get you the mug or the t-shirt".

"I don't want the mug or the t-shirt, but I'll donate the $10".

(Rummage in wallet...pull out a ten, try to hand it to her).

"Well, there's tax involved. It's really $10.83".

"But I don't want the mug or the t-shirt. I'm just making a donation".

(Insert very confused look on girl's face)

"So what do I do with the t-shirt? I don't think I can take money unless you pay the tax"

(Picture me trying to thrust money toward her, and her backing away from me)

"But I don't want anything in return. I'm just DONATING THE MONEY!"

"Well, should I donate the shirt to someone, then?"

(My turn to look confused).

"Ummm, sure, that's fine with me".

"But you still owe me 83 cents!"

I did not pay 83 cents. Nor did I pass go, nor did I collect $200.

My children remind me occasionally of the year I danced with the Salvation Army Kettle Santa Claus. That's got nothing on the year I argued with the D.A.R.E. t-shirt lady...

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Six Sox August Knitalong

The designers at the Six Sox group have a real winner with this one! The pattern is called "I Love Ganseys" and the stitch patterns are typical of Fishermen's sweaters from the British Channel Islands area. I'm using a merino wool/silk blend yarn which is extremely soft and fine to work with, even if it's not totally in keeping with the original intent of the patterns.

Lots of ribbing in an amongst the cables and seed stitch hearts, so these aren't nearly as narrow as they appear.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Something you do not want to overhear while waiting for the child to finish getting the haircut for the senior photo session two days hence:

"Maria! Can you come show me how to fix this?"

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What's in a Name?

Elizabeth sent me an e-mail last week with an exciting image attached. It seems her new business cards are ready, advertising her new status as a software engineer in neat block letters. I e-mailed back, complimenting her on how professional her name looked, all printed out like that.

Rarely have I experienced such an exquisite case of "open mouth, insert foot".

She might have warned me that she'd be calling less than 24 hours later to announce that late next year, she'll be needing new business cards, as she'll be changing her name.

I can't say that the news was particularly surprising, but the timing did catch me off guard. Due to the couple of thousand miles that separate us, my sister-in-law and my mother will have the fun of seeing "the ring" before I do, and the mother of the groom will be handier for consultation on "details" as the wedding approaches, but e-mails and phone calls have been flying fast and furiously between central Texas and the East coast.

Elizabeth and Matthew, we wish you every happiness. May you always find as much joy in each other as you do today. May you support each other, respect each other, laugh and celebrate with each other. I love the fact that your shared website already refers to you as a family, for you each will be, from now on, the most important person to the other. A wedding is for a day, but a marriage is for a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Summer Camp 3, Day 3

It's not Colorado, but it's awfully pretty anyway. Texas Hill Country, "tamed", as much as it CAN be tamed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Summer Camp 3, Day 2

The Zilker Botanical Gardens. I'm not sure how I've managed to live in this area for 10 years and missed this treasure the whole time.

And another animal too cute to ignore (look out, little fishes!)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Summer Camp 3, Day 1

"Community Gardening" and "Native Plants"

And one animal that was too cute to pass up.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Knitt'n (more) Mitt'ns

Lots of seminars, workshops and classes this month, most with coffee breaks, so there was a fair amount of "short block knitting time", and mittens aren't too taxing to the mind. I was able to finish 7 more pairs for the Cheyenne River Youth Project "Mitten Blitz". These are all wool, and the bottom two pairs seem to be made of a particularly attractively scented wild and wooly wool. Pandora could hardly keep her nose away and whenever I took a break from knitting at home, I had to hide the knitting FAR out of kitty reach...

Size range is "Child's medium" to "Women's large/Men's medium". Sort of.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Home from Camp

I've been at camp for the past week, and it was great. OK, to the average outsider, it probably looked more like a week-long seminar on teaching techniques for Pre-AP Physics, but to me, it looked a whole lot like summer camp.

I packed my bag, left the family at home and "stayed over" for several nights.

At 8 AM on Monday, we gathered in the University Chapel for a welcome, announcements, introduction of the lead presenters, then our "counselors" for the week were introduced and we sorted ourselves into our cabin groups. There were 9 people in my group, and my Counselor's name was Mark.

My group (call us the Physics Nerds) came from small towns, larger towns, the inner city. Some had 30 or more years of teaching experience; some had next to none. If there had been a volleyball game, we probably would have lost, but afterward, we would have roasted marshmallows with the Chemistry Nerds and laughed about the game while secretly adding chemicals to the campfire to make it glow in strange colors.

We wore tags around our necks with our names and cabin groups typed on them and had to show our name tags to get into the dining hall where we filled our trays then sat at table clusters...with our cabin groups. If Mark got there late, we saved him a chair and waved wildly when he finally came through the door.

Our cabin had leaders and followers, those who had been to this camp before and knew all the rules and those who were brand new to the camping experience, talkers and observers. Two came together from the same school, and others of us discovered connections with others that we would never have suspected.

We had guest speakers, show-and-tell with projects and ideas from our home schools, and yes, even arts-and-crafts (have you ever made a model capacitor from common kitchen supplies?) We were given souvenirs to take home: a really, really heavy Physics textbook, a neon light bulb, a big bag with the camp logo printed on the side.

At the end of the week, we all exchanged e-mails and promised to keep in touch. Some will, some won't. We may meet again next summer, at this camp or a similar one. I packed the car and drove home, pondering the week's experiences.

Camp. What would summer be without it?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Order Rodentia, Suborder Hystricomorpha

Could you get much closer to the world's largest rodent than this?

The capybara at the San Antonio Zoo.

Going to the zoo with "big kids" is even more entertaining than going to the zoo with "little kids".

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The one with the pansies...

I didn't mean to collect tea cups.

I'm not sure you could even say that I DO collect tea cups...I have a couple of splendid, heavy celadon cups that Dave has brought me from business trips to Korea, but I don't officially "collect" them.

I collect books and knitting needles and yarn and refrigerator magnets (by default) and souvenir spoons and strange little science toys, but I've never collected tea cups.

Not until a couple of weeks ago.

Grandmother collected tea cups. She collected them on trips to Europe in the 60's and 70's and I used to admire them in her kitchen when we would pretty and dainty and elegant and everything a bookish pre-teen was not. They spoke to me of storybook characters and summer days in the garden and something beyond Girl Scouts and bicycle bells.

I don't think I ever touched them, but perhaps I was treated to sugared hot tea in one once. It wasn't important that I touched them...gazing at them fulfilled some sort of princess-y fantasy and was sufficient. I admired the gilt edging and the various curved handles and my favorite was always the one with the little purple and yellow pansies.

Grandmother is 93 now, and in recent years, she has been passing on her favorite possessions to those she loves.

Two weeks ago, she sent me the tea cups.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Knitt'n Mitt'ns

The knitting folks at Children in Common have been rerouting some of the woolly goodness this summer, to the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. As a sideline, there's a mitten challenge going on, and I like nothing better than a challenge, so here's my first round of 7 pairs of wool mittens. Most are knit with a combination of one strand fingering yarn and one strand of worsted (accounting for the preponderance of TWEED), and I used up a lot of small ends of balls and odd leftover skeins. All are knitted on either 36 stitches or 40 stitches in the round. No special significance to the cabled pair except that I hadn't made anything with cables for a while.

Friday, May 25, 2007

350 million cards?

I had another one in my e-mail this morning. A small child with a terrible cancer, who hopes to set a world record by receiving 350 million get well cards.

350 million.

I see these things, and I wonder if anyone has thought through the logistics of the plan. Where, exactly, do you store 350 million cards? Not in scrapbooks...

Let's say, just for argument, that you can fit 1000 individual cards inside a cubic box 1 ft x 1 ft x 1 ft . Judging from the junk mail piled on my breakfast bar, that's a generous estimate.

You would need 350,000 of those boxes to store your cards.

The volume of those boxes would be a cube of the size (cube root of 350,000 ) on each side...or about 70 feet on a side.

Picture a room that is 10 x 10 x 10 feet (a small bedroom with a tall ceiling)

You would need 7 x 7 x 7 of those rooms...or 343 rooms.

Maybe we should turn to e-mail, instead.

Let's say 350 million people each send the boy an e-card.

If he opens one card every second, it will take him 350,000,000/60(seconds per minute)/60(minutes per hour) to look at all the cards, that is, about 97222 hours.

That's about 4050 days, or slightly over 11 years (around the clock, all day, every day).

Honestly, I bear no ill will toward the sick child, but what if, instead of sending a greeting card, each person were to donate $1.00 toward cancer research?

American Cancer Society

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

CIC Knits, April/May 2007

CIC is taking a slight detour this quarter and supplying handknits to the Cheyenne River Youth Project in Eagle Butte, SD. They have especially requested hats and mittens, but are grateful for anything, and these Baby Surprise Jackets and socks were already either on the needles or in the shipping box. I'll work on mittens in June.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Nine years

I started substitute teaching when Elizabeth entered 9th grade. I wanted to get out of the house, I wanted to keep an eye on what was "really" going on in the middle school and high school, I wanted to see if maybe, just maybe I could like this "teaching" thing.

That was at the beginning of the school year, 9 years ago.

Today, I turned in my resignation.

This "teaching thing". Yeah. I like it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Day 10. What I learned in school.

Appreciative parents sometimes bring treats for teachers.

Kolaches are a delicious diversion during Tutorials hour.

There's another baseball game.
There's a student/parent bus available TO the baseball game.
What time and where to meet said bus, and how much money to bring.

Tryouts for Drill Team officers are this evening.
5 young ladies from Pre-AP Physics are trying out.

What time and where "Friday Night School" happens.

It surprises some students to meet Algebra in Physics class or to meet Biology in Chemistry.

I can see the value to co-teaching certain subjects.

4 out of 5 Physics students surveyed will jump right into the lab without reading the instructions first.

What books are on the Summer Reading List.

Digital cameras and computer projectors can be checked out from the library.
It's not called the "Media Center" for nothing.

The ladies in the front office know just about everything. The librarians know everything else.

Pre-AP Physics thinks I'm going to do "just fine". Easy for them to say, since they can be pretty sure they won't be in my classes next year, but I'll take them at face value and thank them for their vote of confidence.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Day 9. What I learned in school.

What day New Teacher Orientation begins.

Where and what time the baseball game is.

Where to vote for next year's Honor Society officers.

How much money is reimbursable for classroom expense each year.

How to keep track of inservice/training hours.

What the teacher websites look like, and how they are updated.

How many compasses we have for the next mirror lab. Not enough. I've fixed that.

When the textbook turn-in deadline is.

A certain percentage of Chemistry students thought I was there for their amusement. Daily chemistry discussions just for the fun of it. They didn't think they were supposed to be taking notes (or doing the homework, evidently). They have a test tomorrow.

Crawfish guts clog up the sink.

Some really, really good illustrations for the concept of low entropy/high entropy.
Low entropy: All the clothes folded in the drawer.
High entropy: Clothes all over the floor.
Low entropy: Kindergarteners in a circle for story time.
High entropy: Kindergarteners on the playground at recess.
Low entropy: Saving money in the bank.
High entropy: Spending money!

I learned that it feels really good to bring up a concept from a week ago in a different context and have students both remember and apply it correctly. Something clicked.

One more day. It's going to be strange to NOT go to school on Monday.
It's OK, though. I'm subbing in Physics on Tuesday. My cooperating teacher has promised to come by and say "hi".

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Day 8. What I learned in school.

Teacher Appreciation Week has its perks.
I've heard a rumor of breakfast tacos on Friday.

The best perk of all might well have been "No departmental meeting today".

TAKS scores have been released.
There really are seniors who will not graduate.

How to submit work for a sick student who has requested it.

A whole lot of Science/Math teachers have 3-year-olds.
This is not a group I regret not belonging to.

It's an odd feeling to teach 3 classes in a row with a substitute teacher in the back of the classroom.

The Latin Club is raising funds for a trip to Italy.

The science wing cleaning lady and the crossing guard a block west of the school can lift anyone's spirits in about 10 seconds.

Working Dry-Erase board markers could be traded profitably on the black market.

A signed contract is a beautiful thing.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Day 7. What I learned in school.

An entire class session can be planned in 5 minutes when necessary.

5 more minutes to fine tune the plan is good.

I have the only set of overhead projector fine tipped markers in the department.

By the end of the day, I'd reclaimed all but the blue one...

When graduation is.
Where graduation is.
Which student won't be graduating unless she gets her Physics lab turned in post-haste.

How, when and where the field test for the Biology End of Course Exam is being given.

That next year Chemistry will be field testing an EOC Exam.

Proficiency in protractor use is rivaled by proficiency (or lack thereof) in compass use.

The compasses with the "safety points" are not worth the time or effort. I'll take the risk of being poked with the good old fashioned metal compass points, thanks.

How hard it is to use a compass intended for pencil and paper on an overhead projector with a fine tipped overhead projector pen.

How to input grades on the computerized/online gradebook system.

Where the safety goggles are kept.

(Note to self: splurge on personal pair of safety goggles. Mother's Day is coming. I'm worth it.)

Monday, May 07, 2007

Day 6. What I learned in school.

It's not me, after all. It's the copy machine.

Fire alarms do go off during tutorials (the 45 minutes before school) and everyone still has to go outside.

A fire alarm during tutorials does not exempt you from taking the exam you were in tutorials getting help for in the first place.

Pre-AP Physics doesn't remember how to use a protractor any better than the regular level class did.

They listen to me! They really do! Some of them more than others...

Junior boys will giggle at their images in convex mirrors. They'll also crowd ear-to-ear to try to see each other in the same mirror (these mirrors are at most 3 inches in diameter).

Some paid attention, some didn't. Some did the homework, some didn't. Some tried, some didn't. Quiz grades ranged from 100 down to 10.

I'm going to need a large box of red pens.

Ms. S's multiple choice test questions are harder than the questions involving calculations.

I can go a long way on one "Thank you for helping me" from a student.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Day 5. What I learned in school.

Nobody is ready for Friday like teachers are ready for Friday.

The Physics room has two boxes of Kleenex. The Chemistry room has none.

Not every senior is counting down the days until graduation. Some are happy with the status quo.

There are parents who e-mail teachers daily.
Teacher websites can be a wonderful thing.

2 out of 5 students surveyed do not know how to correctly input order of operations into a TI-83 calculator.

Those same students will insist each time that the calculator MUST be wrong.

Mr. S1 can be counted on for good lab suggestions.

Mr. S2 can be counted on for "how to get along with kids" suggestions.

Ms. S can be counted on for test and quiz suggestions.

I may need to change my last name to fit into this department.

A new teacher teaching is a novelty. The regular classroom teacher observing from the back of the room is something unheard of. The new teacher's teacher visiting and observing could possibly cause a riot.

It didn't. My hat is off to first period Chemistry, who helped me get top scores in "New teacher teaching". They asked ALL the right questions, at just the right times. One might have thought it to have been scripted. It wasn't.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Day 4. What I learned in school.

There's a full sized statue of Dobby the House Elf in the library.

No matter how many students successfully print their simulation graphs, someone will not be able to.

No matter how few students need to print their simulation graphs, at least one will not work.

There's a certain prestige to being known as "that teacher with the pink calculator". I didn't even mean to get a Barbie Pink TI-84 when I bought it, but it's gotten a lot of attention. No one steals it, either.

Students do cheat on exams, they do get caught, they do swear at teachers, and parents do get called.

It takes about 100,000 Joules (100 kJ) to heat up the water for a cup of tea.

Where the printout ends up when you choose "Science office". Not on the printer in the science office.

A lot of forgetting has happened since students first learned to use protractors.

A well-timed conversation with an athletic coach can work wonders for certain students' behaviors.

Snell's Law really works. I don't remember ever doing the neat Snell's Law Lab...but I have now!

There's a lot of experimental error introduced between using a 1/8 inch mirror and using a 1/4 inch mirror. Be ruthless. Grab the thin mirror first.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Day 3. What I learned in school.

My possible class assignments for the fall. I am still processing this information.

The band is going on a trip.
The English classes are going on a trip.
The Seniors are going on a trip.

Alternative Classroom students get weekly visits from their classroom teachers. I'm still deciding if this is an incentive or a deterrant to being placed on AC status.

There are too many people in Pre-AP Physics. Just because there are chairs empty does not mean there is still space in the class. Not that class.

How to sign up for a computer lab.

"Last summer when I was fishing" can be applied to any class. I do not fish. This could be a problem.

There are only 16 days of school left (and I may well be the ONLY person who didn't know this).

The biology department is short on preserved minks.

A 20-year-old garage sale lamp makes a great visual during a discussion of total internal reflection.

At first glance, many students will assume that said lamp is a Van De Graaff generator.

A child who has missed 3 days of school CAN catch up in one class period if motivated. Another child will take the 3 missed days as an excuse to give up on the rest of the term.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Day 2. What I learned in school.

"A thing" that does "something" is not a valid test answer.

Low doorsills + heavy rain = live frogs in the hallway.

The importance of keeping students honest in the computer lab with occasional spoken checkpoints ("You should be drawing your diagram on part 7 by now").

Do NOT bring the jacket to the computer lab. All of the cold air stays in the science wing.

The stapler in the teacher's lounge doesn't.

Burnt gummy bears smell like burnt marshmallows.

Where the two nearest copy machines are.

Both microwaves in the science work room cannot be run at once.

If you smile at a child, the odds are good that he will smile back.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Day 1. What I learned in school.

Take a jacket. The Chemistry room is freezing. The Physics room is more freezing.

There were live fish in bowls at the prom. The decorations were great, the music was OK. The air conditioning was turned off at 11:30 PM, making the last 30 minutes even warmer than the first 3 1/2 hours, which were plenty warm enough.

Some of the cold air from Chemistry should have been transferred over to the dance, most definitely.

There's a secret back door into the science wing, and I can use it.

I can also park in the teacher's parking lot - I have the special green tag to prove it!

The science teachers rotate supplying 12 packs of diet sodas in the workroom refrigerator. Those who drink, donate. Those who don't, don't.

A class of sophomores will spontaneously applaud for the one in their number who qualified for State in shot put.

I learned that women's shot put is a real event, and I met the young lady who qualified.

Any unknown adult in the classroom when students enter is automatically assumed to be a substitute teacher.

Where the mirrors, pins, cardboard, friction blocks and rulers are kept. For rubber bands, you have to go ask in the office.

Respect a child and the odds are good that he will respect you in return. I already knew that, but it was good to see it in action.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Take My Lunch or Buy?

Tomorrow, the adventure begins.

Teacher Class has been going on since the first part of February. We've learned a lot of theory; for the next two weeks we will be putting into practice what we have learned with "Field Experience". Not exactly "student teaching", but more intensive by far than simple "classroom observation". The 22 of us have been assigned to 6 different schools within a 40 mile radius of central Austin. We have been assigned to coorperating teachers (who get a princely $50 stipend for putting up with us for 2 weeks) and know which instructors will be making the trips out to "observe" us as we try our wings.

Yesterday, our teacher asked us to discuss what we had done to prepare ourselves for the experience, and what questions we still had.

It seems that new shoes were high on the list. Many of us have new shoes (which we have dutifully been wearing for the past 2 weeks so they aren't TOTALLY new shoes tomorrow). Freezers have been stocked against the reality of all-day school and several-evenings-a-week cohort sessions. We've reviewed class material and made some sketchy lessons plans, to be filled in when we have a better idea of the classes with which we'll be working. Daycare arrangements are complete for those with small children. We have looked up bell schedules and student handbooks and dress codes. Most of us took the precaution of driving the route to our assigned schools during rush hour to make sure on the timing. We have nametags, folders of paperwork and sufficient pens and pencils.

The overall plan is in order. It's the details that still are bothering most of us, and it seems the details haven't changed much since we were considerably younger.

Where will I park? I'm not a teacher, I'm not a student, and I can't really claim a "Visitor" slot for the whole two weeks!

What if my cooperating teacher misses a day? To whom will I report, and what shall I do?

And yes, what shall I do about lunch? Shall I take it or buy it? What if no one wants to sit with me?

"Rose" and I will be at the same school, in the same department. Rose is not more than a couple of years older than my daughter, slight and energetic, she kayaks for fun and dresses in t-shirts from various marathons. We're an unlikely pair, but I greatly look forward to working with her in the fall.

We've decided - we're both taking our lunches. It's good to have a friend.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Texas Kids DO Learn All They Need to Know in Kindergarten

A few years back, "Robert Fulghum" , a man of considerable wisdom, published a bit of brilliance entitled "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten". Having small children the first time I read it, I was enthralled, and I haven't changed my opinion. We'd all be better off if everyone on earth would share, play fair, clean up after themselves and remember the mortality of the mice, the goldfish and the seed in the Styrofoam cup.

It's become popular in the recent past to bash public education and especially to complain about the initiative "No Child Left Behind". Heaven knows I've offered my own choice comments on NCLB. I'm impressed, though, with one aspect of the Texas school design that links our children from class to class and grade to grade. It's called the "Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills" , TEKS for short. It's an elegant document that sets out precise guidelines for what should be taught at each grade level by subject, concept, proficiency. Needless to say, it's a key element in training new teachers in the state of Texas.

When Alex was in 3rd grade, we moved 100 miles north within the state, mid-year. On his last day at his old school, there was a "Lunar New Year" celebration, a dragon parade, and as a special honor since he was leaving, he got to wear the dragon head and lead his class in the dragon chain. Four years earlier, Elizabeth had also been a part of the Dragon, and by luck of the draw, had "won" the honor of bringing home the class dragon head, which took up floor space in her room for months. Despite the inconvenience of the paperboard Dragon head, I like these connections and the continuity, child to child and year to year.

I've only recently become aware of exactly how MUCH continuity there is. Required by "teacher training class" to take a very close look at the TEKS, I was amazed and enthralled to see how it all fits together. The photos attached to this entry are a visual representation of the key concepts of the subject of Evolution, followed from kindergarten basics right on through high school biology. Two of my classmates and I (overachievers, all) produced the display as part of a class assignment. Isaac scoffs a bit at the fact that for three years, it doesn't get any more involved than "Living organisms have basic needs", but those early elementary years are pretty busy with learning to read and add and subtract and share. The concepts are introduced, though, and progress through "adaptations" and "traits" and on into genetics with each year being a review, a reinforcement and an expansion.

While the subject matter broadens from grade to grade, the key concepts are introduced early and revisited from year to year. First grade expands on kindergarten, second grade explains a bit more, and third grade delves a little deeper, but with a reassuring review of what we already kindergarten.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Striped Surprise

In the mid-1900's, the knitting craft was revolutionized by British-born Elizabeth Zimmermann. As much a mathematician as a knitter, she developed some simply brilliant patterns and techniques, many of which are still very much in use or have been the springboard for other knitting designs.

I was aware of some of her work, and earlier this year, gifted myself with a copy of The Opinionated Knitter and found the astonishing instructions for the "Baby Surprise Jacket". The instructions, first published in a knitting pamphlet in 1968, go on in a conversational tone for 114 rows, adding stitches here, decreasing there, picking up some more here, working buttonholes on both sides of the front, except as you are working them, it's not at all clear that this IS the front.

Since I had several partial skeins of yarn that I wanted to use up, I jumped right in and worked in some stripes, not totally sure where those stripes would ultimately end up. Finally, the instructions called for binding off 202 stitches, and more accomplished knitters than I have called the resultant shape "an amoeba".

Here's what you get:

Then, the surprise. Some quick folding, sort of an origami-for-the-knitter, two short seams (across the shoulders), and you get this:

Elizabeth Zimmermann's original instructions called for a baby-weight yarn, small needles and produced a newborn/small infant sized jacket. I upped the ante to a worsted weight yarn (Rowan Cashsoft Aran) and size 8 needles and the resultant jacket is about a 2-year-old size.

I've already got my next color combination planned...

(Editing since some have asked - The sweater pictured is about 21 inches around at the chest, with buttons buttoned. It's about 12 inches top to bottom. Stitch gauge is 17 stitches = 4 inches)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Class Project

It's been quite a while since I've had to do a "class project". Oh, I've assisted with many and offered suggestions, glue and sticker letters for myriad projects in the past 20 years, beginning with a float for the "Storybook Parade" when Elizabeth was in preschool, and most recently, supplying a propeller for a "container project" in the shape of the Spirit of St. Louis, but a project by me, for me? It's been a while.

That's a water molecule. The arrows show the unequal sharing of the electrons in the covalent bond; the oxygen atom has more pull than the hydrogen atoms, resulting in a slightly negative charge at one end of the molecule and a slightly positive charge at the other. This is called a "polar molecule" and it's a main player in life on the planet earth. It has to do with why ice floats and why lakes freeze from the top down. It has an effect on what dissolves in water and what doesn't and it's a whole section of a chapter in high school chemistry. It was also my teaching subject for "class" last week.

That's the SECOND molecule I built. I knew in my mind what I wanted, and bought my styrofoam balls, sliced off sections to make flat surfaces, even got out my protractor to check the angle between the hydrogen atoms. Glued it all together with "model glue for plastics" and set it aside to dry.

HOW does plastic model glue work? dissolving a bit of the plastic and welding it to the next bit of plastic. It works really nicely on hard polystyrene. It works equally well on that styrofoam, except there isn't much plastic compared to the amount of air space in between. Rather to my astonishment, I picked up my model a few hours later and found large empty pockets where there used to be foam and glue. I had a 3-D model all right...a hollow one.

It was a bit flimsier than I had hoped, so I trekked back to the craft store, bought some more styrofoam balls and a bottle of tacky white glue and was glad that this was MY project and not a kid project at 10 PM on a Sunday night. The second molecule turned out just as I wanted and it gained me a bit of fame and glory at teacher class. Funny how everyone wants to touch the model and pass it around.

The best part wasn't the model, though. The best part was how much at home I felt in front of the group, teaching what I know.

On the needles - nothing?

It's true. At the moment, I have NOTHING on the needles. I'm sure I'll remedy that situation very soon. Just finished, and just mailed off to CIC, the sweater and socks pictured above, squeaking in under the wire for the "Big Kids" challenge. My personal favorite is the pair of red/gold striped socks, and no, the similarity to a certain clown associated with fast food and cheeseburgers hasn't escaped me!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

For Sandarusi, Wherever He has Wandered

Strange, the things that become part of the family lexicon. "Sandarusi's Law" is a family staple.

J Sandarusi was one of my classmates way back (WAY back...) in high school. Bright, funny, clever, and definitely going places, he and I were in many classes together. Exotic, too; he was the only person I knew back then who was Lebanese. He had a lot going for him, but just like other teenaged boys I have come to know and love, common sense was not his strong suit.

"Sandarusi's Law" was generated one day in Honors Chemistry when he reached out and picked up a test tube only oh, so recently, removed from the general vicinity of the Bunsen burner. Yes, he dropped it. Yes, it broke. And thus spake Sandarusi:

"Damn! Hot glass looks just like cold glass!"

Truer words, as they say, were never spoken.

Sandarusi's Law has become a family catch phrase, invoked when the obvious is ignored and disaster ensues.

I have recently begun a journey of discovery, working toward a teaching certification in the state of Texas. Imagine my surprise when I found that Sandarusi was, perhaps, ahead of his time.

State of Texas
Science Grades 8-12
Domain 1 - Scientific Inquiry and Processes
Competency 001 - The teacher understands how to select and manage learning activities to ensure the safety of all students and correct use and care of organisms, natural resources, materials, equipment and technologies.
III. Safe and Proper Use of Equipment and Supplies
B. Glassware
10. Very hot glass looks like cool glass.

Thanks to Sandarusi, that's one area in which I find myself fully competent.

Monday, February 19, 2007

New Socks, Two socks, New socks, Blue socks

Well, wasn't this fun? Susan at "I'm Knitting as Fast as I Can!" published a knitalong for these socks last week. I didn't find the knitalong until it was practically over, but I pulled out 100 grams of worsted weight wool (Patons "Classic Wool", size US 5 needles) and worked up the socks anyway (and they were a great project to pass the time during the U-Texas Regional Science Olympiad, at which our high school team placed second, thankyouverymuch!). The pattern is as yet unnamed, although hints dropped seem to have something to do with Harry Potter. Lightning bolt socks, maybe? Socks of the Horcrux? Can't-wait-for-July-and-HPVII socks? How about "Socks-That-Must-Not-Be-Named"?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

CIC Knits, Jan 2007

Bottom-up raglan sweater in about a children's size 12. Knitted from one strand worsted, one strand sport weight on size 9 needles. Socks knitted in assorted wool yarns as I tried to perfect my short-row heel.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Chain Link" Socks

Nothing like coming down to the wire. The Six Socks Knitalong group challenges the members to complete a pair of socks every 2 months, with honors, accolades and occasional prizes for those who make the deadline. The deadline on this pair is January 31. I knitted one sock, got sidetracked on a stack of socks for CIC, and just finished these today. A good 36 hours to spare, anyway.

Knitted in Brown Sheep "Wildfoote", colors "Symphony" and "Vanilla" on size 0 needles. The 8 stitches/inch gauge is about my limit...