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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Day 105: Chemistry and Math Subbing

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Day 105/180: subbing for chemistry and algebra

It’s so cool to sub for something I know. I love seeing how other people do chemistry, and how the kids process things. I mean, I know how my students sound when answering my questions, but I like hearing how other teachers’ students respond. It’s different keywords, different emphases on process, different overarching concepts (or discrete topics). Fodder for me to think about for coming years.

I always liked observing other classrooms. When student teaching, I loved watching how other people loved their subjects, especially non-science classes. I distinctly remember going to math classes, orchestra, and an immersion Japanese class. I’ve also found invaluable lessons from how other teachers treat their students, and how they show the wonders of their subjects.

Day 104: Starting an SBG Curriculum

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Day 104/180: Starting to work through SBG, and feeling unsure

Part of this year’s sabbatical goals were to create an SBG curriculum so that I could possibly implement it into my shiny new next-year-job. So far, I’ve just made a list of chemistry topics for the year. I’m not yet sure if it’s better to be more or less specific as far as content goes, so I’m erring on the more side. I’ll also need to figure out how to combine these into larger units (i.e., fewer unit, non-chapter, tests), as well as the non-curriculum-specific skills I want students to have.

I’m working off of TEACHING|CHEMISTRY and Always Formative and Crazy Teaching for SBG information.

The curriculum works in my head, but it’s been a while since I’ve actually written out plans. My previous school was more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of place, since each student was on his/her own schedule. I had a list of topics to cover by the end of the year, but the pace, and even the order changed for each kid. I feel like a first-year teacher again.

Additionally, I’m sad that #chemchat is a kinda lonely place. Apparently, there used to be a weekly Twitter chat there, but hasn’t been around for a while other than a tag for random classroom experiments and thoughts. I don’t really have time to do a weekly chat (especially on the West Coast), but I’m working on maybe a thing… maybe a #slowchemchat thing…

Day 103: Chemistry Subbing

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Day 103/180: Chemistry and physical science subbing

One of the frustrating things about being a sub is not always knowing exactly what you’re assigned to. Through the online sub system, I can pick the assignments I want, and I aim for the math and science classes because I know many other subs can’t do them (and frankly, I feel somewhat incompetent in other disciplines). But there’s a pretty big difference between prep for, say, geometry and algebra… or chemistry and biology. Not that I have the same kind of prep as a normal classroom teacher, but I like to be somewhat prepared.

After I picked up my folder and went to my assigned room (chemistry! hooray!), an announcement told all teachers to read an email regarding the 16 absent teachers and to check for period coverage assignments. The chemistry classes were just taking unit tests, so I got to proctor most of the day. I also covered an extra class of physical science, where there were no lesson plans and I couldn’t get hold of another teacher. A para-educator, who’d written down homework for his student, gave me what the kids were supposed to work on.

Had an interesting conversation with the para-ed. Finally got to talk to an adult during the school day.

It was also a Day of Silence for kids in ASL. Strange how they were totally silent with me, but not-so-quiet with their peers. I guess friends don’t count as talking (which is pretty funny in an all-text-all-the-time environment).

Meeting Old Friends

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I met Megan and Justin on Saturday!!


There were a bunch of other people at the table too, whose names I’ve sadly forgotten.

And I tagged along to meet Christopher too. Unsurprisingly, his kids are also smart and funny. It’s so good to meet people in person. Even though I’ve been tweeting and blogging at/with them for about a year and a half, it’s nice to talk in person with someone and hear voices and shoot the breeze.

And it was cool to hear the excitement from EdCampTC and all of the ideas and stuff out of it. I’m looking at an EdCamp near me.

While at the table, someone threw out the idea about having them all teach at the same school, and whether it would work or drive everyone nuts. The discussion didn’t last long, but it seemed like generally people thought it would work. Here’s why I think it would work: enthusiasm and respect. Every person at that table was interested and invested in their profession, and they’re willing to work and change for the benefit of kids and themselves. I think if there were some sort of disagreement in that kind of faculty, I’d like to think they could have an open discussion about the perceived issues. Every school (and probably most jobs) has the people who can be reasoned with, as well as the ones who are good for advice, for mentoring, for ideas, for commiseration. Often, a few of these positive traits overlap in individuals. And there’s also a few people with whom you can’t talk, can’t ask for advice, can’t advise, or can’t deal with, either because they aren’t receptive to you or are against change in general. I think that this kind of trust is part of what makes many workplaces good (or bad) places to work. That if there’s to be a team-based workplace, then most people have to buy-in and contribute to the overall good of the organization. If it’s all about individuals, then people can come and go, and individuals can be replaced easily.

I just like hearing enthusiasm for the profession I love.

Day 102: Cleaning Out

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Day 102/180: The rest of “Mindset” and some old links

School and mindset. Praise effort over innate ability. The kids I worry about hitting an academic brick wall in college: I’m probably sensing a fixed-mindset-ness about them. Page 235: Ask about efforts and mistakes made (and learned from!) Emphasize value of learning over merely achieving or completing. Be careful of the perpetual over-achiever. Again, emphasize the learning rather than the completion or ranking.

Having a growth mindset for controlling weight loss or anger, etc.. Cool. Reminds me of “you can’t change what others say/do, only how you respond to them”.

I thought “Mindset” would be an optimism/pessimism thing, but it’s really not. While having a growth mindset is probably less pessimistic thank fixed mindset, it’s more of a way of thinking past all of the lemons and toward the lemonade.


I’ve been very bad in getting to an article by Matthew Hartings (sorry!) in J.Chem.Ed, about making the Junior and Senior years of college chemistry essentially a focused research project. Pretty cool.

In high school, I had a 2-year chem/physics class. Because of eliminating some overlaps (like gas laws), there’s an extra quarter. The extra quarter was spent on an independent research project of our choosing. To my recollection, the rules were as follows:

  • Each quarter of Year 2, students were to find 10 sources of information (in an annotated bibilography) on their topic. If a new topic was chosen, additional sources had to be found. (This was pre-internet days.)
  • Students had to produce some kind of physical object/project.
  • Students had to produce a ginormous lab write up of all experiments and results.

Thoughts on the paper:

  • For college-level Juniors and Seniors in chem, they’re presumably going into the sciences. Giving them research and related problem-solving experience is probably pretty valuable. I did not have this structured experience, and think that it hurt me in grad school.
  • Giving students a starting point (everyone started on some aspect of gold nanoparticles), narrows the field for the faculty to work with and prepare. Probably also easier for students to come up with topics, since the subject of research (but not the variations) is already chosen.
  • I wonder what happens when a research topic fails.
  • It sounds like a serious ton of work for students. Yes, they get more transcript-credit, but does the potential time-commitment drive away some? (Thinking about my art studios and science lab requirements for my double-major.)
  • I did do some minor research in college, but was never given the training in what or how to think about problems, and definitely not how to further my questions longer than one quarter. I’d like that experience now. I’m kinda jealous!

Day 101: Even More “Mindset”

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Day 101/180: more “Mindset”

It’s Spring Break in the local district, so no subbing for me this week. Instead, I’ve been fighting off my annual Spring illness and allergies. Super fun.

Back to “Mindset”. I like all of these examples, and it’s helpful to see how various decisions in fixed and growth mindsets manifest. The whole chapter on sports and mindsets made me a little sheepish, as I’ve always “known” that I’m just not athletic. Hmm. But, I’ve never really been super motivated by sports either, no interest in pursuing them. Mindset problem, or chicken and egg problem?

I wonder how much an SBG system with re-takes and lots of not-for-points practice work could encourage a growth mindset for students.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” = fixed mindset?

Bullies and victims as examples of fixed mindsets. Interesting.

You can’t control what other people say or do, but only how you respond to it. = growth mindset


On a side note, my blog noted that someone searched for “things a long term sub should do” and found my page. Hooray! I hope it was useful information for them.

Day 100: More “Mindset”

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Day 100/180: More “Mindset”

I feel like the 100th entry should be something of greater significance than more-of-the-same, but here it is anyway.

“Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and something do it even better) with training.” — I’ve said something like this for a while: I wasn’t the top grade in my high school chemistry class, but few of my classmates continued in this vein. I worked hard for my degrees in sciences (and art).

Smart vs. hard work — yup.

Personal work-ethic can build character — kinda makes the “it’s-good-for-you-it-builds-character” adage real.