Tag Archives: postaday2011

Virtual Dinosaur Dig

24 Jan

The Smithsonian has a cool virtual dinosaur dig where students learn how fossils are uncovered, transported, and then assembled.  Neat stuff!

http://paleobiology.si.edu/dinosaurs/interactives/dig/main.html

Awesome idea alert

23 Jan

jenga Jenga.  Who doesn’t love it?

 So why not turn Jenga into a game to review with your students?

 The author at “I Want to Teach Forever” gives you the details.  Pure awesomeness.

I feel so hopeless right now.

22 Jan

This school year hasn’t gone as planned.

Don’t get me wrong.  It hasn’t gone badly.  My classes are good and well-behaved (for the most part), and the students seem to respond well to my style.  Yet I haven’t been able to try any of the new things I envisioned for the year.

Part of the problem is that I’m at a new school.  In some ways, I feel like a brand-new teacher again.  The norms and values of the school as a whole are very different from my previous workplace.  At my old workplace, there were a lot of passionate teachers.  There were also, unfortunately, a lot of people who shouldn’t even be in the teaching profession.  At my current job, the faculty seems good overall, but they don’t necessarily seem passionate.  There are some people that I think may not even like kids. 

Frustration

Frustration

They aren’t bad teachers, though, necessarily.  Yet it’s still a very different dynamic than what I am accustomed to.  At my previous workplace, differentiated instruction was really pushed (some might say “crammed down our throats”).  New ideas were always being presented and tested out.  I have lectured more at this new job than I’ve ever lectured before.  I mentioned to my fellow subject matter teacher the other day that I thought we should have the kids do more projects.  They appeared aghast at the idea. 

I keep telling myself, “Maybe next year”.  But what about this year?  It hasn’t been bad, but I don’t know that I’ve grown much either.  I’ve wanted to set up a Moodle all year and have gotten absolutely nowhere.  The teachers here don’t seem very interested in trying new things, so I haven’t been able to get much tech support, either.

I’m frustrated.  I’m lonely.  I know no one likes a new person who comes in and starts changing things dramatically, and I understand and respect that.  But when does that end?

Teaching science as religion

22 Jan

How do you teach science?

Most science teachers ideally incorporate projects, research, and inquiry into the curriculum.  Honestly, to what extent do we do that?  We spend a lot of time also teaching the history of science and performing traditional “cookie-cutter” labs.  We tell our students what the currently accepted theories are and then we test them over it, expecting them to have all of the “facts” memorized.  And, if you’re in the public school system, you hardly have time for inquiry and what-not since you are essentially forced to teach to a standardized test.

So (brace yourself), how is this fundamentally any different than teaching religion?

In many circles those two words, science and religion, don’t get along so well (which in my opinion is silly, as the two are not mutually exclusive, but that’s a topic for another time).  The last thing many science teachers want to hear is that they are, in fact, teaching religion. 

If we don’t make the students actually PERFORM science though, how is it truly different?  Telling the kiddos that Mendel mated pea plants and found a 9:3:3:1 ratio when he crossed parent plants that were heterozygous for two traits…teaching that the world came into existence as a result of the big bang…teaching that there is a teeny tiny organelle called a mitochondrion in your cells that basically helps you produce energy…these are all explanations that can be memorized.  Very little of it is usually taught in such a way that the students come to this idea on their own. 

And, taking this idea one step further, if this is how we teach science, is it any wonder that some students choose NOT to accept the currently accepted theories of evolution and the big bang?  We often present it as memorizable facts–just like their parents and pastors do for creationism.

Bottom line: we need more project based learning, research, and inquiry in science classes.  Make the students think, make them hypothesize, make them research, make them collaborate.  Make them DO science.

Romney on Merit Pay

17 Jan

I am shocked to hear AP teachers specifically mentioned in merit pay.

Challenge bust and a cool dream

16 Jan

Sadly, I haven’t performed so well on my “post a day” challenge.  I have been posting more frequently, though.  Life has just been so crazy since my father passed away.  It’s hard to believe it’s been a month already.

A few nights ago I dreamed about my dad.  It was very odd; I think in my dream I was confusing him being in the hospital with him already passing, and thus my dream took place in a mausoleum.  My mother and I were at this mausoleum, talking to my dad, who was lying in what seemed to be a hospital bed.  He seemed very loopy and “out of it”, and he was in and out of consciousness. 

My mother was holding his hand, and she said to me, “You know, the doctors said he didn’t feel anything when he passed.” 

I looked at him and I said, very upbeat so he wouldn’t know how sad we were, “Is that true, Daddy?”  I don’t remember his response, but then I recall that I asked him, “So what’s it like, Daddy?”

He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Oh, I can’t tell you that.  You’ll have to see for yourself.” 

Later, that sentence bothered me when I woke up.  It made me feel paranoid, wondering if perhaps he knew something about my time left on Earth that I didn’t.  Anyway, back in the dream, I persisted, saying, “Come on.  Tell us something.” 

This is the part I remember very clearly.  He looked right at me, and his demeanor was so happy, and his blue eyes were sparkling just like they did in life.  He said, “Well, it’s just…peace.”  I think I woke up shortly after that, because that is all I remember.

Teachers–are you part of the Reform Symposium?

8 Jan

Today, January 8, is the Reform Symposium (#rscon11 on Twitter).  Basically the Reform Symposium is free professional development conferences/presentations/webinars on engaging children in the classroom. 

The schedule of events can be found here: http://bit.ly/g5HuMX

Join us now!

Why do you teach?

7 Jan

Why do you teach?

Is your goal to make sure each of your students learns the geographic impact on the rise and fall of major empires throughout world history?  Must all of your students understand the value of finding the limit of a function?  Do your students need to be able to explain how the architecture of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells suggests a common origin?

These are all worthy goals, to be sure.  As educators, we are passionate about our subject areas.  Naturally, we would love for our students to love them as well.  Not many things could make me more proud than for a student of mine to go on to do great things in biology. 

Realistically, I know that most of my students will never have a career even remotely related to biology.  Do our goals as teacher’s need to include covering the subject matter?  Of course!  That is what teaching, fundamentally, is.  Yet I fear that many teachers get bogged down at this level of education and never consider what other things they can be accomplishing at the same time.

Perhaps Chris at Practical Theory illustrates this sentiment best–

For four years, kids share their lives with us. We see them grow up through some of the craziest times of their lives, and if we are lucky, we get to have some small impact on them. Within the context of f(x) = x -3 and Newton’s Laws and Their Eyes Were Watching God, we learn about each other, and we touch each other’s lives, and then they move on, and we have a new group of kids who we have to care for with the same energy and passion and dedication as we cared for the kids who just left. It is a bit twisted, really, but it’s kind of amazing too.

Amazing barely begins to describe it!  I think some teachers are scared of this aspect of the job, and thus it limits their teaching to strictly focusing on the academics.  Maybe they think it’s inappropriate to have fun with kids, to get to know them, to spend time with them as people.  Maybe they are uncomfortable trying.  Maybe they are worried that they are incompetent in this area, and thus they simply don’t try.  Yet, kids often don’t care what you know until they know you care

Teaching isn’t just about academics.  Maybe it should be, and maybe it shouldn’t.  I suppose that’s a whole ‘nother debate.  What I do know is that I choose to look at it differently.  Not only am I fortunate enough to have the opportunity to share my love of biology with teenagers, but I’m blessed to get to be a part of their lives.  And also blessed that they get to be a part of mine.

Science education’s great loss

6 Jan

Recently the science education world, and more specifically the world of biology teachers, lost a great colleague, Kim Foglia.  Ms. Foglia was an extremely generous and well-known AP Biology teacher who shared everything online (ExploreBiology) with other science teachers, many of whom she probably never even met.  Many biology teachers around the world were, and are, incredibly grateful for the help and support she provided other teachers by sharing her ideas and lessons.  Many of us are probably better teachers in many ways because of her.  She will be missed.

Kids and Social Media Dangers

6 Jan

I found this YouTube video courtesy of Michael at Passionate Teaching.  The video demonstrates some of the dangers of kids using social media.  Honestly, it’s a good reminder for us adults, too.  As Michael at Passionate Teaching stated, I urge you to watch it.  Try to find a way to incorporate it into class or suggest to your administration to present it at an assembly or something similar.  The video is very creepy and downright disturbing, but it’s extremely effective.

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