Sunday, November 29, 2009

Long, Productive, Weekend

I'd love to show you what I've done this weekend but I keep losing my camera! It reappears, briefly, but disappears when I most want to photograph something. Like, say, the sweater that my mother-in-law made for Mike which I have now mostly ripped out in order to reknit the wool for a sweater for Little Squid.

(The sweater was huge on Mike, made when he was ... um ... huge. He is 60 pounds lighter then when the sweater was knit and mom never got around to reknitting it for him. And, since I am in the process of spinning and then knitting a new, custom sweater for Mike, Little Squid will reap the rewards of the recycled yarn.)

And you also don't get to see the weaving that I finally finished. And the rewarped loom, now set for scarves for holiday gifts. Or the gallon of yogurt that I made.

In addition, you do not get to see the wonderful cleaning and waxing job that I did on my Minstrel. She's so nice and shiny -- and no longer dusty and dingy. And spinning a bit better, too.

Nor do you get to see the lesson plan I wrote. Tho I suppose you could if you asked nicely. But it's really not that exciting -- thought it does include some neat pictures of nerve cells. (I love google docs! So easy to share things!)

And you really can't see the grades that I worked so hard on.

Oh wait ... I didn't actually work on those ... well, you won't get to see them after I finish them on Wednesday night ... right before they are due. Or maybe Thursday, well after they are due. Rank has it's privileges ...

And you also can't see the cute knitting sheep that the kids gave me for my birthday.

But I got a lot done. Really!

Monday, November 23, 2009


*** Tongue in Cheek Alert: Take the following VERY lightly!

My school finally has a working Public Address system. It's circa 1930 ... but it's working. We do not, however, have working bells.

That means, that our teachers are dependent on their watches and the occasional classroom clock to determine when to dismiss their classes.

This also means that when a teacher gets fed up with a class ... they sometimes dismiss them a little early.

We used to have a jury rigged bell system but someone cut the speaker wire, somewhere, and we have never been able to figure out how to rework it. Besides, it was the most annoying claxon I've ever had the displeasure to hear.

While researching the bell problem, I called my dear, darling husband for advice. After all, he does tinker in electronics.

He did not, however, have an electronic answer to my problem. He did, though, suggest an old time solution. One ala' Notre Dame.

Not the school, the cathedral.

He suggested a hunchback*.

The theory was, that we could hire a hunchback to roam the halls, ringing a bell at the start and end of each period. Hunchbacks are probably a title that is very much in excess** and so we should be easily able to get one.

And, in addition to being great bell ringers, hunchbacks can also, often, double as lab assistants, something else that we desperately need but cannot afford.

Sadly, the last hunchback retired from the New York City school system back when they retired bell towers, sometime in the early 2000s (which is also when they got rid of the last coal burning furnace).

It's so sad when something so classic is gone for good.

The topic re-arose this evening as I bragged about how well the public address system worked today (I literally jumped for joy when the other schools did not call to complain -- which means we really did isolate just our rooms).

Mike is still convinced that a hunchback is our best solution. He could even make the daily announcements!

* No offense meant to those with spinal problems, this is being written with my tongue firmly in my cheek!

** Title In Excess: a staffing line (a specific job like: teacher or aide or hunchback) that has more people than the school can afford. Those with least seniority in the line are placed into "excess" and hopefully picked up by another school.

Lesson Plans

As I've stated before, I put a lot of time into my lesson plans. The New York Times recently ran an article about how some teachers are now selling their lessons.

Gasp! You mean I could have been making money off these things? These lessons that are usually so very specific to the way that I teach?

Oh well.

For the curious, here's a sample of my lessons ... just a taste of my "what are enzymes and how do they function" plan.

Example: Joe was mad at Janet for something stupid. He was planning on having an argument with her after school. Doris heard about this and decided to have some fun so he told Karen that Janet was talking trash about him. Karen texted Joe who got even more angry and stormed off to Janet's classroom to start the argument NOW instead of waiting until after school.

So, the argument would have happened anyway but Doris made it happen faster. Doris was the catalyst, the enzyme.

Now imagine that only Doris could have caused this argument to happen faster -- if Albert had said the same thing, it would not have worked because Joe and Doris are best buds but Joe and Albert are not. Joe will only believe what Doris tells him.

Joe and Janet are the substrates, Doris is the enzyme and the fight is the product. Doris made the fight happen.

The lesson went on from there and included a co-enzyme (someone who egged them on and helped the catalyst do it's work) and an inhibitor (the friend who stepped in and prevented it all from going down).

Will it work for someone else? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on the teacher and on the class. Would I have paid for sample lessons to help me plan years and years ago? Probably not. I didn't make enough money to spare the buck for plans that friends were willing to share for free.

Did I ever use anyone's plan as if it were my own? Once. It was a disaster.

I have, however, taken elements from other people's lessons and adapted them to fit my class and my style. So, had I had the money back then, yes, I probably would have purchased plans, at least once I realized that they were resources, not plans that could be used "out of the box."

And ... in case that wasn't enough for you ... I used this video in class the other day.

*Names have been changed to protect my student's identities. I used the names of actual kids in the class (and in my actual plan) when I taught the lesson. It made it a bit more immediate and real to them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Minty Fresh!

Remember that lab I was prepping for on Wednesday?

Well, I'm sitting here grading them and ... they all smell like tooth paste!

Yes, I had them test the pH of toothpaste.

Best smelling lab reports I've ever graded!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Acid Test

I spent much of yesterday working. Partly on my own class lessons and partly on the administrative stuff that makes up the rest of my work day.

Yes, yesterday was a school holiday. Yes, I was home. Remember that the next time someone criticizes teachers for having a short workday / year.

With my trip back to the classroom this year has come some seriously teachable moments at home. Yesterday, I was preparing red cabbage pH indicator and decided to run through the lab exercise with Squidette and Little Squid.

The deep purple in the lower left is the unadulterated cabbage extract. The bright red was extract plus lemon juice, the fuscia was vinegar, the green -- baking soda. The pale pink was some lemon-lime soda and the pale purple was milk. The sudsy one? Dish soap.

The rest of the extract was absorbed into melita filters, dried and sliced and readied for today's lab.

Yes, I did spend more time prepping the lab then my students will spend doing it.

We didn't, however, just spend the day in the house prepping my lab. A walk was taken uptown to see the U.S.S. New York.
The New York is an amphibious transport dock, the first I have ever seen in New York Harbor. Usually we see battle ships and aircraft carriers for the annual Fleet Week.

The New York has, incorporatated into it's structure, 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center.

Mike and Squidette were lucky enough to see her sailing upriver when she came to town. (She sailed right past their school after making a brief stop opposite the WTC to give a 21 gun salute.)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Random Thoughts ...

If Squidette is going on a school trip that Mike is chaperoning, can he sign the permission slip or do I have to sign it?


The Department of Education has apparently renamed my school. It was The Academy of Environmental Science Secondary School (AESSS). It is now The Academy of Environmental Science Secondary High School (AESSHS). Huh?

(This is the last year that AES will have a middle school grade.)


If a millionaire billionaire buys an election in a forest and nobody hears the cash register ring, does he still win?