27 January 2010

Reflection 27 January 2010

In my reflective writing class, we always start with 10 minutes of writing. Tonight, I am writing here. I'm thinking about this class and how very different it has been from the second module of this program. I won't say it's been better, but it certainly hasn't been worse either. Its just been, well, different!

In one way, the relaxed atmosphere has been especially good. But this has also played against me, as well. The relaxed atmosphere has not really motivated me to put my heart and soul into what has been required, i.e. reflective writing. In fact, you will notice that my posts here have been much shorter, more rare, and in general not the quality (IMHO) of my previous writing. Maybe its because I am being asked to write at a level which doesn't work very well with my lack of self confidence.

I'll shift gears...I read the resulting IEP forms from a students conference this morning today during my plan. I was struck that it said "still struggles with self-confidence issues". This seemed strange to me, given who the student was and his level of intelligence. He is on an IEP because of OHRI (other health related issues) so its a physical malady, not any sort of learning disability. I thought, this guy? Self-confidence? But he has so much going for him! He's a bright kid who comes from a good family and gets more family support than many of my kids put together. I guess it goes to show that self-confidence problems stem from many different areas. You can't just look at someone and determine what they are feeling on the inside.

I can relate with this student. I have so much going for me. I am blessed with an amazing family. I have a fantastic job, working with the most amazing students in the school. I have two children who are absolutely fantastic kids. They are the kind of students, the kind of kids who you are always proud to say "that's my child". They have a way of making me look good. Now bear in mind, I take NONE of the credit for who my kids are. I have tried to do that in the past, but its just not an appropriate thing for me to do. I think its pretty easy to look good as a parent when your kids are already amazing before you even get to do anything with them. My wife is such an outstanding woman. Little did I know, 19 years ago, what kind of amazing life I was going to share with this woman. She is the type of person who makes you want to be a better person. She literally brings out the best in me. I certainly do not deserve to spend my life with this person but that's the great thing about love, you don't always get what you deserve, nor do you always deserve what you get.

So, here's the reflective part: what in the world do I have to be "unconfident" about? Honestly, I can say: "nothing". I'll end this with some questions: "what is it about me that makes me feel unnerved when people speak well of me or place their confidence in me?"  The reason I ask this is that in this class, we have to talk about accomplishments. Do you know how hard that is when you don't think you have any?

22 January 2010

An open letter to myself in 25 years (part 1)

Dear self,

How are things? I hope we are still teaching. There are many things that have changed by this time, such as the address of this blog, your flying car, and the amazing grandchildren we probably have now. I'm sure we are still a million dollars short of making a million dollars, but at least we still love the movie "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles"!

Remember how back in the day you used to get aggravated about "veteran teachers" complained all the time about how the kids have changed and how technology is too pervasive in the classroom and how they don't know how many more years they can take this? Are you there yet? Have you lost your will to change with the times? Are you burned out? Do you think you are having a positive influence on your peers? Are you discouraged or encouraged by the current state of affairs?

How about your classes? Are they still challenging you? Or have you fallen into the "rut" of doing the same things year after year? Do you still reflect on what you are doing in class? Do you still try to make class relevant to your students? Remember how frustrated you used to get over the batteries on the laptops we used in class? Have they fixed any of that? Surely every student has their own laptop now!

My hope for you is that you are still as passionate about Physics in your "now" as we were back in this "now". If you are ever able to do anything with time travel, I'd surely appreciate a visit from you.

13 January 2010

remembering the fall of 2009

Today is the last day of the semester for the Fall of 2009. In the spirit of Reflective Writing (my current graduate class), I am going to attempt to write in the suggested writing style of the National Board Certification about this past 19 weeks or so (with my personal writing style mixed in). Mind you, this is only the first step of the reflective writing process; its the one in which you remember the situations, writing whatever comes to mind, but always returning to "I remember". The second step is learning and discovery. The third step is setting your intentions.

Lets start with the family, shall we? This semester I remember taking Jessica to get her driving test done. We stood outside the Oklahoma DMV from about 5 a.m., until they open the doors and give out numbers at 7 a.m., in the nastiest, coldest rain (for August), trying to stay warm. I remember feeling like I built a better relationship with JC over this semester and really being able to talk about my expectations of him without him feeling like I was criticizing him. I remember building a closer relationship with Mishelleyb and being amazed that she could love me and put up with me for 19 years.

Physics during the fall of 2009 will be remembered as an average class. There aren't really any stand out moments I can remember vividly. I will remember several of the students as insightful, bright learners who have a desire to understand the World in which they live. I remember a student who hacked a computer, thinking it would be funny to add an additional password to the login process. I remember a couple of students who have more than 15 tardies in class. This should come as no surprise to many of you, since I teach high school and this is first block.  I remember having a Navy Nuclear Physics instructor come to my class and talk about Nuclear Physics with my students. I remember that the students were engaged and interested in what he had to say. I recall this semester's wiki project as one the students didn't really "buy into".

My Pre-AP class for the fall of 2009 a memorable semester. If you read this blog, you'll remember this post. Its the retelling of a great story (which consequently drove a LOT of traffic to my blog) in which I was doing a physics demonstration and had an accident, which sent me to the Emergency Room. I bet no student will forget THAT class! I remember there being several student in that class who are extremely smart. I have had a sibling or two of theirs in my classes already and the parents of those families are doing something right. I remember having a Particle Physics researcher come in to speak to that class. I think the kids were interested in what was being said even if they didn't totally understand it all. The researcher spoke at the level of about a 3rd year college class and she has a pretty thick Russian accent.

I remember fall 2009 as a semester in which I taught Earth Science for the first time. It was a time of heavy collaboration with another teacher; one who had also never taught Earth Science. It seems to me that we muddled along for the first 9 weeks but really hit our stride after fall break. We got things organized and began to collaborate using GoogleDocs and Google Calendar (take that PC Library Media!) I remember thinking "if we could get the whole school to share a calendar and documents, wow! How much more effective could we be?

I remember this semester as the one in which our school took a step BACK in technology. We (the corporate we, not me) decided it would be advantageous to go back to a handwritten calendar book when scheduling computer labs in the school instead of continuing the use of Google Calendar as a viable way to do scheduling. (grrr...) I remember being very disappointed when I couldn't get a return email after an initial offer from Discover Magazine to begin hosting my blog in their new Science Education part of their website. I remember telling myself I wouldn't get my hopes up, but I remember (more vividly) when my hopes were dashed on the rocks of a very steep cliff. I remember thinking to myself "why am I writing this blog, anyway?" I remember this being the semester that I felt like I began to get my feet underneath me as far as teaching goes. I also remember starting my Master's and that totally erasing the "feet under me" feeling, since now I have much less time to plan for class. I remember this semester being one in which I was finally able to begin getting to work at a time in which I am comfortable. This is due wholly on the fact that my oldest child drives herself and her brother to school, so I can pretty much get here when the doors open (which is around 0645). I recall this semester being particularly difficult, given the fact that I chose to procrastinate on what may be the most difficult class of my Master's program. This made the rest of the semester extremely stressful, especially because I recognize I was the cause of all of that stress.

Enough! Enough of the negative! I remember this being the time in my life when I was able to purchase a motorcycle. This was made especially delightful given the fact that I was able to do it without incurring any debt. I remember riding out to Arcadia (to Pop's) and enjoying every minute of it (the numbness of my buttocks notwithstanding)! I remember taking the long way to school in the mornings just so I could ride for 5 extra minutes. I remember freezing my unmentionables on a few upper 20 degree mornings but taking the long way anyway!

Overall, I remember the fall of 2009 being a pleasant time in my life. I'm certainly thankful for that.

05 January 2010

getting back in the grove

Its been quite difficult so far this week to get back into the grove. This should be evidenced by the fact that I am blogging during class. Fortunately, I made it easy on myself by having my students work on presentations this week. They are reviewing themselves for the final by creating presentations that cover the main topics we have worked on this 9 weeks. It was designed to be a self made review. As I write this, I am watching students and some of them are on task, while others are not. I wonder what I can do to get more of them engaged? I think this is one of those projects that students either buy into, or don't; its very much like the wiki. Maybe I haven't done a good job of selling this so students are vested? I'm not sure, but I will definitely be changing this in the future. I like the concept, I like the process, I do NOT like the product so far. I guess I should wait until I see the results (the presentations) before I pass judgment. We'll see.

In other news, I'm already a little behind on my graduate homework. Not a very auspicious beginning to the New Year. I'm not sure I like the tone it is setting for the rest of the year.

I have to give a verbal "book report" tomorrow night. How long has it been since you've done that? Its been a while for me for sure! I had to choose at least one book I have read for education and then I am encouraged to choose one I read for pleasure. Its difficult to differentiate between the two since technically they were both read for pleasure. I chose "The Scientists" by John Gribbin, which is a history of science as told through the eyes of the people who made it all happen, and "First You Build a Cloud" by K.C. Cole, which is a brief introduction to Physics as a science and a way of life. Both books are excellent very well written and could be read for either purpose, although each purpose is intertwined as far as I am concerned (at least at this point in my life). I plan to read a short excerpt from each to illustrate how they are both written in an interesting and very readable style. I hope everyone else will be able to see how much I enjoy both of them!

I am learning how therapeutic blogging is for me. Even the act of sitting down and writing this is helpful to me and helps my mood about my classes. I'm sure at some point I'll get into a groove of blogging and it will be easier for me to go back and look at how I've grown and changed over the years. O

n a side note, last year was the year of gray hair, it looks like this year is going to be the year of vision changes, there will be no more making fun of my mother-in-law when she holds something five feet from her face to read it!