Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Magic Number is?

Mrs. Eagle and I often get concerned that we obsess too much over school and tend to let it take over our lives.  It's hard to escape.  School doesn't end when the bell rings, but often continues after supper and until we go to bed in the form of grading papers, updating grades, working on ideas for projects, researching labs, whatever.  And to make it worse, Mrs. Eagle and I spend a lot of non-school time together and even then we tend to start "talking shop' when we should really just let it go.

The challenge is finding something that will force us to stop thinking about school and starting relaxing a bit.  I'm back trying to run (or plod as the case may be) and that's helping some.  And I'm trying not to take too much home in the evenings, but that's a challenge as well.

In any case, Mrs. Eagle, back in September, calls me up and asks if I'd like be the fourth person on her bowling team for a winter league.  She bowls along with her daughter and son-in-law, both delightful young people, in the Old-Timers League at one of the local bowling alleys.  (I guess as long as you have someone over the age of 50 on your team, you can be an Old-Timer.)  For them, it's kind of a date-night where they drop the little one off with her grandfather and go out and have some fun.

"You do realize," I said, "that I haven't bowled in 35 years?"

"Yes," she said.

"And I sucked then," I said.

"That's okay," she said.  "Come on, it would be fun, and besides the kids suggested you."

Fine.  She talked me into it.  Well, maybe I should have said she bribed me into it when she went and bought me an early Christmas present in the form of bowling shoes.

So anyhow, I'm now in a bowling league on Monday nights.  And yes, I still suck.  But gosh, I'm having fun.  And Mrs. Eagle's daughter is enjoying it because, as she said, "I'm no longer the worst one on the team."  What's neat is that everyone, all the other players, are so nice and helpful and it's just a fun atmosphere.  We get out there, we play, we talk, we relax.  It's awesome.

And my average is 74.


Told you I sucked.

But I'm hoping to break 100 one of these days.    And I want a bowling ball for Christmas.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Motor Skills? String? What?

There are days when I think of something amusing, or witty, or interesting to write about but then, I get home, I grade papers, I work on stuff for school and I'm just so damn tired, I don't even bother to turn on the computer and blog.

I hang my head in shame.  I have become a slacker blogger.

Things are chaotic, mainly due to STEM and having 152 students this year.   This week, for the first time since school started, I actually had a complete planning period.  And I almost didn't know what to do with myself.  It was amazing.  It was surreal.  And it won't happen again for a while.

We're embarking on our second STEM challenge next week.  The same challenge that we worked on over fall break (we being the 7th grade math and science teachers), that we've spent time shopping and scrounging for supplies, and that we've been preparing the kids for for ages.

I hope the kids are ready.

We do have a concern.  One thing we've noticed, and actually have been noticing for a few years now, is that there is an amazing number of kids who have very little common sense when it comes to building or doing things with their hands.  It's like they can do a whole lot of texting with their thumbs, but give them a chance to actually do something with all ten digits and they're lost.

We did a scaffolding activity called balloon racers a few weeks ago which is a lesson on Newton's third law (for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction).  Basically the kids had to design a balloon racer which is a balloon, which has fins and a straw taped to it.  You put the balloon on a long piece of string stretched across the room, let it go, and off it goes.

Our kids had a dickens of a time figuring out how to get the string through the straw.


You would have thought we'd asked them to do brain surgery.  Fortunately, most of them figured out which direction they had to put it on so it didn't blow up in their faces (although some did have the balloon take off towards them which was a scene of my hilarity for all).

And it wasn't just my kids.  Mrs. Eagle, and Mrs. Angora had the same problem.  And Mr. Math said the kids in the Lego Robotics club actually were having issues putting the pieces together.  And it got us to thinking.    These kids play differently than we did.  We used to play outside, tear apart things, build things, make go-carts, and boats, and fortresses out of boxes and gosh knows what else.  These kids play with a controller or a mouse or they text, text, text.  They don't get the experience of going, "hum, wonder what would happen if I did this?" to a real object.

Now, I do have kids who do have this kind of experiences - mostly my kids from the more rural area of my zone.  But the numbers are getting smaller and smaller every year.

Are we creating a generation of kids who can't do things with their hands?

Friday, October 19, 2012

These Aren't Yearbook Photos...

I've been teaching at The School for ten (10!  Can you freaking believe it!?) years now, so it's safe to say that some of the kids I had during my first few years are now adults.  I do run into them quite a bit when I'm out and about, to the point that my father teases me when we don't run into a former student.

For the record, the girls are easier to recognize - their facial features don't change as much.  Boys, however, are a different story.  They get way taller, talk differently and their facial features change dramatically.  Believe me, there is a big difference from a 4'6" twelve year old and a twenty-two year old who's 6'2" and has a beard.   I get a kick out of talking with them and finding out what they're doing.  Fortunately, the ones I tend to run into are working and usually going to college.  (They must be employed at every restaurant in town.)

Lately, however, I've been spotting quite a few of my former students on-line courtesy of the local law enforcement's collection of mug shots.  The Guidance Goddess used to check the bookings log to see if any of our parents or caregivers had been arrested - obviously something like that affects are kids and, in fact, causes many of them to want to visit the guidance department in the first place.  Believe me, when a kid is worried or embarrassed about the fact that dad got picked up for drunk driving and is sitting in jail, doing science homework is not a priority.

In any case, these booking photos got so much traffic that they are now featured on not one, but two, on line newspaper websites.   And, not surprisingly, they are even more popular.  We're just a bunch of nosy folks at heart.

Sad to say, however, that the past week I have seen not one, not two, but three former students picked up and arrested.  One, in fact, made the local news (which is where I saw it first) and I about fell out of my chair when his name and face splashed across the screen.  Then Mr. Social Studies (who taught on my team for a few years before he got moved to Mrs. Eagle's team) ran into me and mentioned two other students of ours that had shown up on the website.

Sad.  Of the three, two of them didn't surprise me.  They didn't make good choices in seventh grade and they obviously aren't making good choices now.  (Running over a police officer is not a good thing.)  The other one...well, he was a bit scatter-brained, but smart, and had potential.  However, it looks like he took a wrong turn somewhere.

So sad.

Update:  As luck would have it, another one showed up this weekend as an accessory to murder.  Can't say I'm even remotely surprised.

Monday, October 08, 2012

When All Else Fails...Punt

I'm the first to admit that I really enjoy, and utilize heavily, all the technology in my room.  I know some teachers do a lot of PowerPoints (I don't) and they love that, but my favorite is my document reader.  It's amazing what you can do with that thing.  I've dissected a flower on there, zoomed in to look at the different parts, and gosh knows what else.  It's easy and convenient to slap up an example of something and work through it so the kids can see what's going on (talk about modeling).  I probably use that thing more than anything else in my room.

So, when it blinked on and off orange three times and then went off completely IN THE MIDDLE OF A LESSON on Friday I knew I was in for an interesting afternoon.  No matter what I tried to do, it would not come back on.  Tested wires, turned things on and off, rebooted my ancient computer.  No luck.


My lesson was about doing formulas for speed, distance and time.  Let's be honest, our kids feel that they can't do math without a calculator and really have no clue what they are doing when they press buttons on the stupid things.  So this was one lesson where they really needed to see examples.  Except now they weren't going to see them.

So, I grabbed the bottle of white board cleaner, my cleaning mitt, a basket of markers and proceeded to do the lesson by moving from the three little (and I mean little) white boards scattered across the room.  I'd write some notes and examples on one board, explain it, the kids would work on it, and I'd move to another board and repeat.

I forgot how short I am compared to these boards.  And I was having to write REALLY BIG because it seems that half my kids can't see anything if it's not in really big letters.

Thank goodness we only had two periods left.  By the end of the day a tech guy had shown up, found a problem with a wire in the wall, and fixed it.  Yeah.

What a way to kick off fall break, eh?