Monthly Archives: November 2013

Let the Festive Day of Gluttony Begin!

Happy Turkey Day, everyone!  Let’s all go stuff out faces with turkey, pie, mashed potatoes, gravy, and pie.  MORE PIE!

Oh yeah, and let’s be thankful for some stuff.  This year, I wanted to make a list of things I’m thankful for.  So, in no particle order:

My sister is getting better – She has cancer.  I wrote about it here.  But she’s going to her treatments and it looks like she’s getting better.  They won’t know for sure until they do the next set of CAT scans, but things are looking up.

I have a job that I like – Doesn’t sound like much, but I sometimes hear other people talk about their jobs and how much they don’t like them.  I really like to my job.  And most of my students.

Disneyland – That’s just a given. 😉

That special someone – You know who you are.  And you’re amazing.  And I’m so glad you’re in my life.

Family – I’m spending Thanksgiving with my parents and sister and cousin and the special someone from above.  It’s gonna be a great day.

Friends – I’m spending the first weekend of December with these people to celebrate my birthday and they are all awesome people.

Leaving my 20’s behind – That’s right, I’ll be 30 in just a few weeks.  I look back at my 20’s fondly, but I’m glad to be headed down the path of 3-0, where hopefully I’ll actually have my shit together and actually know what I’m doing and actually have a plan.  I think my 40-year self will laugh at this.

Cheers all!  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Apathy

I’m getting to that point in the semester where I just don’t care anymore.  It happens every semester.  The kids are stressed because finals are around the corner and they still have a C- in the class.  The teachers are stressed because finals are just around the corner and their evaluation depends on the kids passing.  But I’m at the point where I just stop caring.

It’s not that I don’t care about my job.  I really do.  I love my job.  I look forward to going to work.  Everyday.  It’s just that it’s stressful right now and I stop caring about the students’ problems.  Here’s an example:

Student: Ms. D, I have a D-.  I can’t have a D-.  My parents will kill me.  Can I have some extra credit to bring my grade up?

Me: …………………….No.

Me(internally): You’ve had a D- all effing semester!  Why are just now coming to me to see what you have do about your grade?!  No you can’t have any extra credit!  You didn’t even do the regular credit!

Student: How can I bring my grade up?

Me: You can turn in all your missing assignments and retake one of the tests.  Make sure you study for the final.

Me(internally): You can’t.  Do better next time.

And that’s pretty much how it goes.  Student’s start panicking because they realize they are either about to fail the class or that their grade is super low and they’ll get in trouble at home.  And they want me to magically fix it.  But I’m kind of at the point where I just don’t care anymore.  I’m going to help the kids who have been working their butts off all semester to maintain their C.  I’m not going to help the kid who I basically nagged all semester to turn in their assignments and they never did.  Those students need to learn that they can’t do a crappy job all semester and then suddenly expect it to magically turn around with one extra credit assignment.  That’s not how life works.  If you do a crappy job at work for months on end, suddenly asking for extra work the week before your evaluation isn’t going to keep you from getting fired.  But that’s what students expect in classrooms.

And with three weeks left in the semester, there’s really nothing I or they can do to fix it.  Hope they learn their lesson.  Although, probably not..

Looking forward to winter break.


The Interwebs are wonderful

There are plenty of trolls on the Internet.  We’ve all seen it in the comments on every social media site and every online article.  So much so that some major web publications are actually shutting down their comments.  People are jerks on the Internet.  They fight with each other.  They nitpick each other.  They are mean to each other.

And then there is a silver lining.  Amazing things can happen that make you realize that the Internet is a wonderful tool that can bring people together.  This is one of those stories.

I’ve been listening to a science podcast called Science..Sort Of.  It’s a fun podcast that deals with science in pop culture, science in academia, and fringe science.  There’s also some stuff about beer and movie trailers.  All-in-all, a fun listen.

I’ve made a few comments, left a few voice messages, and interacted with the hosts through various social media throughout the years.  I’ve developed a sort of friendship with these people that only the interwebs can create.  But that’s what makes the Internet so awesome.

About a month ago, I reached out to three of the hosts of Science…Sort Of to see if they would be interested in talking with some of my students.  I sponsor the Science National Honors Society chapter at my school and I wanted my students to get the opportunity to talk to real scientists about what they are doing and how they got into the field.  Three of the paleopals (title of the show hosts) stepped up to the plate and today my students got to interview them.

It went so well.  Much better than I could have hoped for.  My students had great questions and the paleopals had great answers.  Everything from why did you pick your major to what classes did you take in college to how is college different from high school, this interview opened up the eyes of some of my students and took away some of their worries about moving on into the big wide world of college, responsibilities and the future.

None of it would be possible without the Internet.  These are people that I started following because I like their podcast.  I follow them on Twitter and Google+, I like their pages on Facebook.  I’ve been able to interact with them through social media even though we all live across the country and have never actually met each other face to face.  Because of the interwebs, 11 high school students from a small town outside Phoenix, AZ were able to talk to and interact with two Ph.D students and an engineer in order to learn more about what options the future holds for them.  Because of the Internet, I could reach out to other who are willing to provide learning opportunities to anyone who asks.

This is a pretty wonderful thing. 🙂


College and Career Ready Standards aka a better way to teach

I’m pretty sure most teachers can relate – college and career ready standards are coming to a school near you.  Please panic.

For those of you who aren’t teachers, let me explain.  College and career ready standards (formally common core standards) are a new set of standards that teacher have to teach in the classroom.  They will replace the AZ state standards that are currently used next year.  Arizona is one of 45 states the will be using these new standards.

Standards are a list of objectives that students need to learn in each subject in order to continue.  They vary from grade to grade and from subject to subject.  For example, I’m a chemistry teacher.  Part of my standards are to teach the parts of an atom, so I have to set up a lesson or two to teach that standard.  Much of the standards are like that: having students describe functions and properties, having students recall information that they memorized, or having students use formulas to solve a problem.

The new standards are going to focus more on problem solving, critical thinking, and real world application.  It’s actually pretty good.  They were written by teachers, professors, administrators, and parents in order to better prepare students.  States can choose to adapt them.  But basically it makes it so that if you are going to school in Arizona or California or Florida, you are learning the same skills during your education.  You can read more about the CCRS here.

I don’t really want to talk much about the standards themselves.  As a teacher, I think they are pretty good standards and will better prepare students for the challenges they face after high school.  I want to talk more about how they are better.

The new standards want students to be able to solve problems and to think critically.  Many multiple choice tests are based on the ability to recall facts, to define terms, and to pick the best response.  Critical thinking problems need more than multiple choice tests.  This is a problem.

For example: AIMS (Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards).  Reading and math AIMS are both multiple choice tests that don’t require a whole lot of critically thinking.  The reading test does test how well students can read and understand a text, but many of the questions have to do with finding specific information in the text or understanding the definitions of words.  There are little questions asking students to analyzing the text.

The math test isn’t much better.  Students have to solve problems, but it’s very straight forward stuff.  Again, there aren’t a lot of critical thinking problems.

The CCRS is trying to fix that with the PARCC test.  They ask students to use their knowledge to draw conclusions, make inferences, and generally think about things.  The essays for the English test ask students to use evidence from the text to justify their answers (something that students have a hard time with but is a critical skill for them to have).  The math sections asks them to analyze data, draw conclusions from the data, and manipulate the data to find patterns.

So, CCRS and PARCC are better.  Much better.  Yet people have a problem with these new standards and don’t want states to adapt them.  Part of it might be because they don’t understand what the CCRS are.  Part it might be because they don’t want “the government” in education.  Either way, they are wrong.  CCRS are good.  They are better.  They will help educators better prepare students for life after high school.

Now if we can just get the next generation science standards adapted…


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