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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Day 99: Half Physics

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Day 99/180: subbing for physics in the afternoon

Physics in the afternoon, especially on a nice, sunny day, is hard. Good thing that the kids were generally good and mostly focused. Studying gravity, the students had to work through a sheet and a PHeT planetary system simulation. It really helps a sub to know what the goals of the worksheet are, so as to better guide the kids. I didn’t do a good job of guiding the first class (and they weren’t very interested in listening to me, either). The second and third classes went better.

Day 98: Starting “Mindset”

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Day 98/180: Dr. Carol Dweck’s “Mindset”, part 1

I’m long overdue in reading this book. Although I knew the gist of it, it’s so much different to read and think about my own experiences as student and as teacher while going through it.

Growth vs. Fixed mindsets. How people deal with adversity.

I’ve thought about really good students hitting “the wall,” that is, the point where they can no longer cruise through classes and they have to actually study and work through course material. This is really a fixed-vs-growth mindset, and possibly where some people might overcome it (the successful students, of growth mindset), or the kids who won’t make it (the drop outs, the fixed mindsets). And some will change during or because of this struggle.

And having a type of mindset for particular subjects or ideas definitely makes sense. I think I usually frame it as “stuff I don’t want to work on” or “things I’m interested in,” but that’s really a kind of determination of having a growth or fixed mindset.

Day 97: Bad Days Subbing

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Day 97/180: Chemistry subbing and general ickyness

There’s nothing in particular wrong with this week for me. In the local schools, the stomach bug is running amok (I fortunately haven’t caught it). It’s raining (not surprising). My family is basically okay (no deaths, major illnesses, or other maladies). But it feels like a long week. I subbed for a chemistry teacher, whose family is having a nasty week. The chemistry classes, although grumbly about having worksheets, were fine. I, however, am rusty on electrochem. Did have some nice chats with various staff members.

Seems like there’s often a mood to school: the whole staff is having a bad week (or a good week), all of the kids are sick or stressed out or preparing for AP tests… It’s hard when there’s a bad week, particularly when it’s a pervasive thing.

Day 96: More Math Subbing

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Day 96/180: geometry and algebra subbing

It’s been a while since I’ve had block periods. For what’s such a boon in science labs, geez, that’s a long period to do math. I was able to get around to all of the kids who needed help, but that’s a long time for anyone to focus. 

I did something smart today, too: I went to check in with a teacher for whom I’d subbed a few weeks ago. I mean, I think I do a good job, but no one has contacted me after subbing to say “hooray” or even just “thanks”.  He took another business card, so hopefully, I’ll get more calls from him later. 

Day 95: Seeing My Old Students

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Day 95/180: Subbing for “my” old classes

Standardized testing has been going on all week, making the schedule truly nuts. Today, it took up the first three hours of school; the remaining three hours were split for the six-period day, so I got to see each of the periods for 25 minutes. Still, it was really nice to see them again. And it was definitely nice getting a cheer from a number of kids and a lot of smiles. I’ve missed them.

While the school was running tests, I helped some other chemistry teachers mix up solutions for labs. Not super exciting work, but it’s nice to have colleagues again. And to catch up on goings-on.

I was kinda disappointed to have a bunch of brain-dead kids. After a week of testing, they were not even really mentally-available to chat about how they’ve been for the last three months. Mostly, I’m sad that they have to go through with over a week of testing.

Day 94: More Sub Advice (for Schools)

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Day 94/180: More subbing advice (this time, for school organizational purposes)

I’ve been subbing since January, and I’ve seen lots of systems for subs. Generally, schools have a designated folder for each teacher that contains a room key, a list of classes, an attendance list or roster, a school building map with highlighted route for emergency evacuations (maybe a second plain map, which seems redundant), and sometimes a list of general school rules or procedures for the sub to follow.

Here’s something to add: The Sub Map. The Sub Map should have the following information marked:

  • Main Office / sign-in place
  • Attendance office
  • Scheduled classroom(s)
  • Teacher’s lounge and/or where to eat lunch
  • Where to get coffee and water
  • Staff bathroom
maybe I should trademark this…

Another Good Thing in the designated Sub Folder (and I saw this at one school) is a step-by-step instruction sheet for How To Use the DVD player, including the projector and speakers. This means having different instructions for every room, or standardizing every classroom so the instructions will be the same. This also assumes that the sub will only be showing movies and not actually teaching (not a completely safe assumption, but probably covers a lot of sub plans). Additionally, it’d be good to know if I should (and if I am allowed to) rip the video to a computer desktop for smoother video quality.

Additionally, it’d be nice to know how to use the Document camera and whether I can login on the computer (guest account, please!).

One school provided a sub folder stuffed with information, along with instructions to “familiarize” myself with it. If I have procedural questions, it’s far easier and faster to ask the next-door teacher for help. Here’s a list of Things I’m, Frankly, Not Going to Read in 30 Minutes While Reading the Classroom Teacher’s Instructions and Trying to Prepare:

  • Entire student and/or teacher handbooks
  • All of the emergency procedures for fires, earthquakes, lock downs, lock outs, loss of power, etc. (I will, however, absolutely keep it close and use it if necessary)
  • The course catalog
  • A list of staff names and extentions (unless I know the staff, I’m not going to blindly look through a directory).

Thank you for your time, and remember to request me to sub for you!

Day 93: Applications and Modeling

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Day 93/180: More applications and some modeling instruction

Filling out job applications totally counts as part of my Regeneration year. They take forever, and they all ask for the same stuff (i.e., basically what’s on your resume, which they, strangely, also require). I’ve said it before: the least they could do is use the same program or something. One school, however, did something clever: when I uploaded my resume (the first thing after registering), it sucked out all of the information and tried to put it into the right boxes. All I had to do was make sure everything was in the right place. Kudos!

Then, as a treat to myself (and some PD and kinda a test to see if I really, really, want to go to see about modeling chemistry at ChemEd in July), I attended an AACT webinar by Larry Dukerich and Brenda Royce on modeling. (Slides here and more info on modeling here.) Strangely for a curriculum / way of teaching, it seems vaguely cult-ish: you either model or you don’t. And although large parts of it seem like things I already do (or want to do), I never quite understood what “the model” was, or if its definitions change over time. I was also surprised that they didn’t have any data to support the use of modeling (over their previous instructional styles) in the classroom. However, I still agree with the rationale of let-kids-figure-it-out-and-it-will-stick-better. I wasn’t sold on that presentation, but I’m not entirely discouraged yet

Day 92: Subbing for Social Studies

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Day 92/180: Social studies and extra helping

My first subbing-by-request from a non-science/math teacher! He took two periods on a field trip, so I only had three classes to show a movie. The rest of the day, I helped another teacher with small errands and odd jobs.

It’s been a long time since I took a non-education, non-science course. It was kinda fun to have something new to me. I, sadly, am pretty unfamiliar with the history of India (and non-Western history in general), so it was kinda fun to watch a pretty melodramatic historical fiction film. But it’s also fun to listen to what the kids comment on, and see the nature of the classes. Even though I didn’t interact much with them, I have a guess as to which is the fun class, the energetic class, and the serious class.

Day 91: More Social Justice Stuff

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Day 91/180: social justice random-ness

It’s a professional development day in the local district (read: no subbing available!), so I figured that it’d be a great day to do my own PD. Besides clearing out more backlogged stuff, I’m now noticing how much of it is related to social justice. I’m obviously interested in it, and I obviously need more of it in my reading and thinking.

Sad side note: I got most of these links from Twitter, but I no longer know who Tweeted them.

Listened to Rusul Alrubail on this (far too short) podcast. I was struck by her thoughtful clarity in possible issues during classroom discussions. I definitely agree with the idea of re-directing people back to the central topics when they’re mad or indignant. That makes a lot of sense to me. I would love to hear more from Rusul!

Played The Shape Game by Vi Hart and Nicky Case. Super interesting (and, at times, frustrating!) to see how patterns emerge from prejudices. For me, mini-non-binding-versions of this when my family goes to Chinese restaurants… Oof. More to process.

Took a few Implicit Bias tests, which approximate your unconscious biases against particular groups.

And this Big Marker talk by Elizabeth Self on on Seeing your students. Big things in my head: automatic (integrated!) assumption that “minority” = somehow diminished/lesser; practicing common student/parent interactions before needing them. This one is juicy. I need to watch it again (I keep saying that).

Day 90: Physics Subbing

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Day 90/180: subbing for physics, physical science, and study skills

Today, I subbed for science in the last of the “neighborhood” (non-lottery-based choice) high schools. Good kids (either I’ve so far lucked out in the good-kid-department while subbing, or I’m pretty tolerant of things, or they’re all playing nice with me, or…??). I really should try to learn physics again. I was always able to get the concepts, and I could also do the math, but somehow, putting those two things together was really challenging for me. My free-body diagrams always had too many arrows, and the math I thought I needed was usually excessive. No wonder I was relieved to have chemistry!

I’m still amazed that going to the staff lunchroom is so solitary. Only once has anyone ever asked who I was, or who I was subbing for. I know that there’s lots of little sub-groups for lunch, as well as down-time, but I’m not sure people recognized me as not-staff. Is the staff so disconnected that they don’t recognize new faces? Too shy to ask me? Or is it my responsibility to introduce myself to everyone?