teaching

Where Profanity Comes From

My mom taught me a couple new swear words this morning on the way to school. Traffic was bad. I can’t tell you what they mean or even what they were without getting in trouble, but trust me when I say they were both creative and breathtaking.

Sometimes I wonder where those words come from.

That's the Rule

That’s the Rule by John, on Flickr

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Traffic had become unbelievable lately. Daryl would sometimes eat lunch during the commute, to maintain his stamina. He’d even started packing extra food and water, just in case.

Today the traffic was worse than ever. The clock in the truck didn’t work, and the jam stood locked in place so long that Daryl lost all track of time.  Seasons passed. Civilizations had toppled and rebooted. Children had stepped into the shoes of their ancestors. That’s what it felt like to Daryl at least. Forever plus one day. Of course he was overreacting.

It couldn’t have been that long, could it?

PHOTO PROMPT -Copyright-Roger Bultot

PHOTO PROMPT -Copyright-Roger Bultot

My entry for the Friday Fictioneers 100 Word Story Challenge, based on the photo prompt above.  Curated by the amazing Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Click on the link below to check out some of the other entries.

I was too busy to participate last week, and of course with school starting next week my life will basically be over. Or least significantly occupied by tending the childrens and sitting in traffic.

I always pack extra food and water, just in case.

Expect the Unexpected

Carl Sagan“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
― Carl Sagan (via Goodreads)


In sixth grade science students are still learning the basics of the scientific process, which in our curriculum involves six steps: problem, hypothesis, materials, procedure, data, conclusion. We really try to hammer home all these parts in sixth grade, so that in seventh and eighth they can begin designing their own experiments with control and experimental sets and carefully measured data.

When we start any lab we alway start with the problem, which is a question that the students hope be able to answer by the end of the lab. Then comes the hypothesis, which is the prediction (educated guess) to the question they’ve asked. We ask them to write down what they think is going to happen and why.

Later on during the conclusion portion students are usually asked to reflect back on their hypothesis and decide if they were right or not. Often times they feel that if they have gotten the hypothesis wrong then they have somehow failed the experiment, but this is totally backward. It is through the observation of the unexpected that scientific knowledge is advanced. If the experiment goes exactly according to plan and the hypothesis is totally correct, then we have learned nothing. It is only by observing what we don’t expect that we learn anything at all.

Of course the sad part is most people only see what they want to see, which is what they expect to see. When you expect the unexpected you may actually learn something new, so search for the unexpected, not only in the science lab, but in all aspects of life. Expect the unexpected.

Science experiments can be truly amazing! (by George Thomas on Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Flowers in the School Garden

In case you didn’t know, I teach middle school. I also started and continue to run a school garden at my school. We have a summer watering schedule,  and students and parents have volunteered to come and water the unirrigated portions of the garden over the summer months. But I still like to stop by every couple weeks and check on how things are going, to make sure the equipment is still there, and make sure nothing is broken or destroyed. Unfortunately, vandalism is a big problem when you leave an area of a school open to the public. Sometimes it seems that teenager’s favorite way to enjoy something is to destroy it. This summer though, so far so good.

In my own garden that I see everyday, the growth and changes are subtle and hard to appreciate. But not seeing the school garden for weeks at a time, the growth and changes are much more dramatic. These are some photos from my last visit.

Now if we could just keep all the other garden pests out.

Future Architects of America

I guess I need to be more specific when I tell my students “Just stack the bricks over there.”

This photo pretty much sums up everything that is great and frustrating about teaching middle schoolers. They need help following directions, keeping their hands off each other and out of each other’s backpacks, and seemingly just about every other social skill associated with civilized societies. But they can also surprise you with some unexpected moments. The four boys in this photo all acted so cool and unaffected most of the time, like doing anything that required even a dollop of effort wasn’t worth the calories required. But when they were stacking these bricks they were so proud, and they seemed like preschoolers playing with building blocks. Unfortunately their structure did not pass the strict seismic building code in California and had to be scrapped and relocated to the place where they were supposed to stack them in the first place. It was one of those moments that made me laugh while I was pulling my hair out.

Welcome to my life as a middle school teacher.

DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story

One step at a time…

Screen shot 2014-05-03 at 10.42.28 AMI sometimes like to draw a box on the whiteboard in my classroom and write Everything written in this box is false, just to give the kiddos something to think about. Some of them get it and say I see what you did there, while others wear that blank, confused expression so common in middle school. Honestly some might never get it. But such Catch-22s and logical fallacies can exercise kids brains and train them in critical thinking.

Screen shot 2014-05-03 at 10.58.05 AMAnother thing I like to share is the Socratic paradox–the only thing I know is that I know nothing. Most kids are silenced by the logical loopty-loops their brains immediately undergo. I think it’s hilarious that when they understand what it means they are even more confused than when they don’t understand.

But recently when I said this a student flung a logical fallacy back in my face by responding, knowing that you know nothing is knowing something. It amazed me how quickly he was able to get to the point. When he said it the kid sitting next to him nodded his head piped in Yea. I felt speechless and a little humiliated. At least that’s a start, I told him finally. One step at a time.

So let’s all just remember to take things one step at a time, and not forget what we know. Or in the words of Mark Twain:

Mark Twain “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” ― Mark Twain (via Goodreads)


Read more teacherly posts HERE

DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Student, Teacher

Classroom Graffiti

It should be a recipe for disaster. The classroom left wide open during 7th grade lunch by a naive substitute. Seventh graders are notorious for shenanigans and poor decision making. Their favorite activities seem to be deliberately destroying things on accident and inventing new ways to bully each other. Low and behold a gaggle of 7th graders had snuck in to my classroom at some point and left graffiti splayed all across the whiteboard for me to find upon my return at the end of the day. It gave me strong feelings so I snapped a couple photos with my phone and then forgot all about it. I rediscovered the photos recently as I was going through and organizing older and older photos, trying to piece together the forgotten days of my past.

This was my white board on the day before the last day of school 4 years ago, which was coincidentally the last year I taught 7th grade science.

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This is the type of thing that makes me really love being a teacher. If only every day could end like this.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters