Monday, January 31, 2005

I must be NUTS!

So about a year ago, I got the crazy idea that I wanted to play the violin. This isn't completely nuts seeing as I already play the piano, French horn, carillon and have some voice training. However, I am almost 22 years old. Most violinist start well under the age of ten. Even though the notation and muscianship part of playing the violin isn't proving to be too challenging. The technical aspects are going to drive me nuts for a while. It's frustrating because I know what I need to do and fully understand why I need to practically bend my arm out of my socket to hold my violin correctly, but my muscles just are not cooperating! Professional violinists make it look so EASY!!! However, if you really exam they way you are supposed to hold a violin it is one of the least logical things you will see. It just doesn't look natural to me. Anyway, this is the rant you get after I practice my violin for over an hour....

Friday, January 28, 2005

Summer Homework?

I read this story today on It's about a student bring a lawsuit against the school to do away with summer homework. Yeesh. I don't know the specifics or exactly how much homework was assigned, but when I was in high school we had summer homework and it was resonable. I didn't have to work on it every day for the entire summer and I even enjoyed it because it kept my brain working throughout the summer so the "breaking-in period" of school was much shorter. The student said that he worked all summer, but I find it hard to believe that he couldn't find a few hours to do this homework. Besides if summer homework wasn't allowed, what about the other school vacations - winter break, thanksgiving break, etc.?

Since when do teenagers think they are so entitled? It is not that they are questioning their teachers that bothers, it's that they don't see the value in what we teachers do. We don't assign homework to be mean (most of the time), we assign it to help them learn.

Bah, I'm cranky today. What is the world coming to?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Melissa's Adventures in Cooking!

I am a self-confessed cooking ignoramous. Don't believe me? Well, last year I attempted to make cookies for the holidays. The kind that you buy a roll of cookie dough, scoop it onto a cookie sheet, bake and *poof* you are finished! Obviously this product was not designed for the likes of me. My main problem was that I never knew that cookies were supposed to be gooey when you take them out of the oven...I thought they needed to be cooked more. If you don't see where this is going, I can tell you that it was not pretty - they were burnt to a crisp.

Lucky for me the past few days have been nothing like my cookie disaster. The night before last I made Lemon-Parsley Porkchops. These were really good! The only set back was that I had to cook them a little bit longer than the recipe indicated, so dinner was a little late, but that's not a big deal. Last night, I made Almond Crusted Chicken. I liked this even better than the pork chops. I think this was an easier recipe too, since it didn't involve any mincing or zestings of the ingredients. Although this one was much...slippery. The chicken almost got away from me while I was transfering it between the egg dipping bowl to the almond bowl.

Anyway, I'll keep you all updated on my adventures.

From a teaching standpoint, I made a lot of progress on my portfolio today. Instead of being a pile of papers scattered around my desk, it is now contained inside a very professional looking binder. It even has some snazzy clip art on the section dividers - very teacher-ly.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Spiders on DRUGS!!!

Jason emailed this link today. It's pretty neat. My favorite is the spider exposed to LSD. I would love to use this with students, but am not sure how to work it in. Hmmmm...maybe I'll just link it on my class webpage....plot, plot, plot....

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

New Edmund's Scientifics Catalog

I'm like a kid in a candy store when I get this catalog. Microscopes, specimen, slides, large insects sealed in lucite, what could be better than that? Even though I know I am going to be tossed into a classroom and am going to have to use whatever equipment is there, a girl can dream can't she? I hope that whatever I do end up with can at the very least be repaired. I'm pretty crafty with these things afterall. My thesis advisor refuses to throw anything out so I've gotten pretty good at "rigging" scientific equipment.

This past summer I was left to "fix" (i.e. rebuild) an aparatus used to deliver electrical stimulation to rat brains. This was pretty tricky since I had to convert the wall current down to a level that would not inflict brain damage on my rats. Now this thing was from the 1950s and reminded me of the photos of the first {gigantic} computers. It had bare wires hanging out all over the place and half the parts were labeled in GERMAN. Oh my, that was fun.

Hmmm...time for more reflectiong.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Get your specimen!!!

I got the new Edmund Scientifics in the mail today and was browsing through it - trying to see if there is anything simple I could use in my lessons. I was surprised to learn that a frog (for dissections) costs only $5.95. For some reason I thought these frogs were more expensive. You can also get 8 different creatures (starfish, fish, clam, etc.) in a jar for $14.95.

Somehow I feel enlightened...

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Blizzard Views

As promised some photos of the snow.

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Heading into down along River Road

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The icy, cold Delaware River.

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Heading into town.

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Making a snow angel!

And hooray Eagles!!! To the super bowl!!!

"Baby it's cold outside..."

Somehow I don't think that it is fair that Charlie (the one and only significant other) is luxeriating in Palm Springs and it's 80 degree weather while I (the one in the relationship who is always cold) am here in the middle of a snow storm and 16 degree temperature...grumble grumble. The snow is very pretty and I plan to take some photos tomorrow to post here, but I wish it weren't so cold! To my amusement my desktop weather program uses and thunder crash to signify a blizzard warning...

Anyway, I'm in the middle of assembling the first draft of my portfolio and it is quite an undertaking. I did not expect it do be easy, but the juggling of which paper/reflextion/videos go under which standard and what to do with the ones that fit under multiple areas. It is a bit overwhelming. I'm sure I'll manage and even end up posting bits and pieces of it in here, but that won't happen until I get my act together and finish it.

Anyway, this room is pretty cold so I think this will be the end of my post for today. I wish snowdays for all the overworked teachers out there!

Friday, January 21, 2005

The Differentiated Classroom

Learning about this was one of my favorite part of my teacher prep. course. I LOVE the idea of allowing students a margin of freedom in how they carry out their learning. For example, some students learn by writing out essays and other students may learn by making flow charts for the information. I definitely plan on incoportating this into my own teaching.

Something I am not as comfortable with is differentiation for ability. I have a hard time figuring out how this benefits the whole class - from the smarties to the students who might need more help. While allowing them some choice in how they are assessed I don't see how it is possible to have everyone benefit. It really sounds like we are heading back to the days of the one room school houses and I'm not sure that is a good thing. First of all, as a "smart kid" I know that if my teacher had some students learning something easier got the same grades that I was getting for learning something more difficult I would be angry. Furthermore, isn't this damaging to the self-esteem of the not-so-smart kids? I would feel pretty bad about myself if I wasn't even allowed to try the more difficult material. Lastly, if I scaled every lesson back so that ever student could understand the material I feel like I would be short changing the whole class for a few students. I really want to have ALL of my students learn something, but I just don't think that the way to do that is to have so many different levels in the same classroom.

Does anyone else feel like this? Can anyone share experiences about this working or not working? I'm just very, very curious, especially since I still have a little while before I become a full time teacher. Thanks!

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Intelligent Design?!?

I can't believe it. The full story is linked here. To summarize a public school district in PA is having its science teachers teach intelligent design along with evolution. To quote from the article:

"The district is believed to be the only one in the nation to require students to hear about intelligent design -- a concept that holds that the universe is so complex, it had to be created by an unspecified guiding force."

Even though teachers and students are not required to hear it, it is still integrating religious beliefs into public education where it really has no place. Actually, that is not entirely true. I remember being fascinated by my World Cultures class, but the religious material was presented more as a comparison - this religion believes this and this other religion believes something different. It wasn't hostile and it wasn't a competition to see which religion was the correct one. Teaching intelligent design directly pits religion against science.

Furthermore, if we have to present a religious viewpoint for evolution then we will have to present religious for other phenomena. What about homosexuality? In high school my classmates would often question the teacher as to why some people were gay. The scientific answer involves a theory about subtle brain differences which is what she would tell the class. However, many religions believe that being gay is "wrong" and that they are going to hell, etc. Will a teacher have to read a statement like that at every tolerance assembly?

Finally, while religion does not play a large part in my life, I understand that it will for many of my students. I do not believe in intelligent design, but many of my students will. Hopefully, I will be able to teach evolution, maybe not extensively, but it is an issue that my students should be aware of. I will probably say something to the effect that this is just one possible way that the world could become what it is today, but there are also other ways it could have happened. I see no need to be specific as to what those other ways are. Then I would present the evidence supporting evolution and let my HIGH SCHOOL students make what they will of it. They can make their own decisions...but I guess that is what so many people are afraid of.

**Note: I am not anti religion, I am just opposed to it in public schools. I'm not on a crusade to erradicate religion I just don't want to be required to teach it in anyway.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

How long does it have to be?

That is the question. The answer according to Ginny is:

"Like a girl's skirt. Short enough to be interesting, but long enough to cover the topic."

This little gem made my day.

Someday soon, I want to talk about No Child Left Behind and why it does more harm then good, even though it sounds "warm and fuzzy."

That day is not today. Today is the day I finish my studying for my EEB (Evolutionary and Ecological Biology) final exam.

Happy teaching!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Story from the Front

During the semester my teacher prep classmates and I had to go observe in the local schools. Lucky for us, our observations were more like mini student teaching sessions. Everyone had a pretty good experience. However, there was one mishap.

One of my friends, Sarah, will soon be entering the world of elementary education. Most of her observations went well. However, one day she came to class looking a bit distressed. Our curiousity got the better of us and we ended up spending 15 minutes of class listening to her story. Apparently, she had to pull a student ( a 3rd grader) aside when the class was lining up for recess because he was misbehaving. While she was explaining to him what he had done wrong and was telling him to simmer down. HE BIT HER!!!! This was not just a nip either. He didn't draw blood, but a few days later, Sarah had a wicked bruise in the shape of teeth. I wish I had a photo to share with you, it was pretty impressive. Anyway, Sarah told us that this kid isn't classified or anything like that and he has done this before. The school kept brushing it off. We were shocked. This is bad behavior for any age, but it is completely unacceptable for a 3rd grader!! Jeez.

Lucky for public education, Sarah is still going to become a teacher.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

New Title

I changed the title of my blog to a phrase commonly heard in classrooms around the world.

"When are we ever going to use this?"

Any fellow teachers reading this can hear the exact tone of voice in which this phrase is most often uttered...frightening...

Dean's Date is Over!


Yesterday was the final day to submit all written course work at my university. I am giving myself a pat on the back for finishing my linguistics take-home final early so that I would have the majority of winter break to work on my teacher prep. assignment. Our assignment can be summed up as a "prove to us that you learned something" paper.

Lucky for me, I had a lot to write about. It's one of the few papers I've had to write that I've really gotten into. I turned down the movies, tv, a night on the town and food to write this paper. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to!

Now that everything is all over (except for my EEB final next week) I'm going to take a long luxurious bubble bath, followed by a nap and an obscence amount of tv watching!!!

Monday, January 10, 2005

Slander Spreading Teacher

My of my high school English teachers who I have kept in contact with since graduation called me a few days ago asking my advice. I felt very honored to have a teacher whom I respect a great deal ask for my advice.

Anyway, she wanted advice about a teacher I had in high school who I shall refer to as Mrs. FunnyLips. When I had Mrs. FunnyLips she had a very interesting grading system - she would take all the papers the class had written and throw them down the stairs. The papers that made it closest to the bottom got B's and the grades got lower the further awy they were from the bottom of the stairs. This may be an exaggeration, but there was no consistency in her grading. When I confronted her about this, asking what I could do to improve my papers she did not give me a straight answer and could not explain why she had taken points of in the first place. After this talk I starting recieving A's on nearly every assigment. Granted, I knew they were A papers all along, but confronting her with her own ignorance was the only way to get the grade I deserved.

Now, 5 years after my last class with Mrs. FunnyLips she is still making me angry, but slandering the best English teacher I ever had. Apparently, nearly 60 students wrote a petition complaining about the aforementioned grading "policy." In response, Mrs. FunnyLips blames my friend and former teacher, Mrs. Musical. She claims that Mrs. Musical is not preparing her students and is a terrible teacher. This is lie. Mrs. Musical is a fantastic teacher and I learned more in her class than in my two years (9th grade and 11th) with Mrs. FunnyLips. I won't bore you with evidence, but take my word for it. Not only has Mrs. FunnyLips made these accusations to the principle, but she is telling her students that Mrs. Musical is a "bad teacher who taught them nothing."

Mrs. Musical is at her wits end. She does not know if she should ignore the slander. Her gut is telling her that she needs to make peace with Mrs. FunnyLips, but she does not know how to do this. I suggested that there needs to be a meeting with the principle addressing both Mrs. FunnyLips unprofessional behavior and her accusastions. Teachers as supposed to work together and support each other, not discuss each others ability as a teacher, ESPECIALLY not with the students.

If anyone out there has better advice for Mrs. Musical feel free to comment!

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Eep! Term Paper due TUESDAY!

A quick post in light of my looming teacher prep. term paper.

When we started the course we were asked to write down our top 5 personal beliefs about teaching. Now, at the end of the course we were asked to revise our items based on what we learned/experienced throughout the course. Here for your reading pleasure my tope 5 beliefs about teaching.

1. Teachers should attempt to stimulate the curiosity of their students and then teach them how to satisfy their curiosity.

2. Respect is integral to a positive student-teacher-class relationship.

3.Every student has qualities that they can bring to the classroom.

4.Everyone has their own “best” way of learning and teachers should try to accommodate these ways.

5.Teachers can and should learn from their students.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Guide to Student Teaching

It's been some time since I've added an update to my adventures, but alas the life of a college student is as unpredictable as it is hectic. Between end of term assignments, tying up loose ends and Charlie visiting there has not been much time for blogging. Please bear with me, this is sure to be a lengthy entry.

The Second Lesson
Thanks to the wonderful individuals at the teacher prep. program I was able to do my second lesson before my mentor took 2 weeks off for her wedding. This lesson was much harder for me to teach because my mentor had materials that she really wanted to have her students use. This isn't a problem in and of itself as it understandable that she would want all of her classes to have access to the same materials....HOWEVER, there were not the best worksheets I have ever seen. The directions were confusing (something I could fix) and the diagrams were awful. Furthermore, I am not a fan of worksheets, especially not the premade ones. I hope in my future years of teaching I do not become a "queen of worksheets." I find that they often come off as busy work in the eyes of the students. Furthermore, I think it is vitally important for high school students to be able to take notes that are useful to them. Anyway, now that I'm done ranting about worksheets, back to my lesson. I would have liked more freedom, but overall the students enjoyed the lesson. One girl even said I looked much more relaxed during the second lesson!!!

I already miss visiting MHS for my weekly observations.

Final Course Assignment
Right now I am in the middle of composing my final course assignment. We are writing guides to our upcoming student teaching. I am surprised by how much advice I am giving myself. This is a great assignment because it truly covers the entire course. I get to review nearly everything we learned. There are few worthwhile assignments that cover an entire course effectively. I'll let everyone knows how it turns out. If you're lucky maybe I'll even post it in here. Oh! And I've also linked "What to Expect in your First Year." It's a website that has various teacher input from the first year of teaching. Enjoy

If any teachers find this, could you please comment on the interactive notebook???