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.