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Monday, March 30, 2009

Quake - March 30

We had an earthquake just about an hour ago. Pretty good rockin' & roller at 4.4 Richter. The center was about 8 miles east of my house.

I wonder if they did the earthquake drill at the schools today?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Classroom Videos…

Friday was yet another easy day in 5th grade. Correct some homework, do the next math lesson, reading assignment and watch a couple videos.

With only about 30mins before class begins, I do not have the time to “preview” any video selections to make sure it doesn’t contain any graphic scenes of violence, sex or other inappropriate visuals that could get me fired, sued or arrested.

Most the time the “video” is a Disney animation feature stretching the definition of Social Studies and History as in Mulan, Pocahontas and Hercules. Others are videos that I have seen before and I know are “ok”.

Friday’s video was one I hadn’t come across before. The description of “The Human Machine” sounded interesting. I didn’t know how it would go over with 5th graders, but if it’s on the lesson plan it must be ok.




Had I seen the unedited cover sleeve (see above), I might have performed a quick scan during recess, but the lower right hand cover graphic was blacked out with a Sharpie pen. It’s on the lesson plan, it must be ok.

The story line has the viewer following a robot/mime like actor as he explores the various functions of the human machine.

From the Amazon editorial review:
…Even the simplest move we make requires a host of complex interactions between our muscles, bones, and brain. DK's Eyewitness: Human Machine lays it all out in a way kids and adults will both love. Their distinctive visual style, using modern special effects, always provokes a "Wow!" from the audience. Examining athletes in slow-motion, microphotography of our tiniest parts, and state-of-the-art imaging techniques for peeking inside the brain, DK shows us what is known and piques our curiosity to learn more. It's rare for a family education video to actually educate the whole family--Eyewitness: Human Machine works and should be a part of any lifetime of learning. --Rob Lightner

While there is nothing visually explicit in the video, it comes close to the “can I get into trouble?” for showing it in class category.

The part on intestines and its end product got a few “oh gross” comments from the crowd. No problem. I think poop is interesting.

The part showing a hairy man in slow motion diving into a pool (…and I mean Sasquatch hairy) got a lot of “icky, gross, eek” comments from the girls, but still not up to the standards of getting myself jail time. It’s on the lesson plan, it must be ok.

The part about the largest human organ, “skin”, had robot man on a beach in southern California watching string bikini bronzed models from the rear. The boys in class got real interested! I think this is the part mentioned in the review about: “always provokes a "Wow!" from the audience!”. I reminded myself: it’s on the lesson plan, it must be ok.

While robot man and I enjoyed the beach visuals, I thought 5th grade boys and girls didn’t need to see four or five transitions to various different views of bronzed beach bunnies in school. The comments from the boys in class confirmed my opinion. I decided not to make an issue of it. It’s on the lesson plan, it must be ok.

We were coming up on the last segment of the video and I started getting nervous about how they would handle human reproduction.

I started walking toward the front of the room so I was within reach of the “Stop” button on the VCR. Fortunately, the video skipped any scenes of hairy Sasquatch guys and beach bunnies getting together. The video skipped directly to microscopic video of embryonic egg development and baby sonograms.

The video ended and I quickly inserted the next video on conservation because:
--It’s on the lesson plan, it must be ok.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Truth About Poop …

If things go right, nothing malfunctions, the kids are terrific and I end the day non-stressed and happy, does that make for an uninteresting blog entry?

If so, well…too bad!

These 4th graders were fun to be with today. The lesson plan was clear; the kids responded well to direction; were cooperative and happy; and as a result, made a stress free day for me.

At the end of the day, I rewarded them by reading a few interesting facts from a book I found on the teachers desk: “The Truth About Poop”. Even I learned something new today.

For example: Did you know wolverines will poop on a leftover meal to discourage other animals from scavenging it before they come back to finish it?

Me neither! Who knew? I feel compelled to discover more truths about poop and I will get to do just that.

I sub the same class again on Monday! I almost feel guilty about getting paid for today. Note I did say “almost”.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chris D(i)dd It.

"I didn't do it on my own...Someone asked me to do it."

I usually hear this kind of "reasons why" from Kindergartners. The amazing thing is, I think they actually believe it when they say it out loud.

This is an example why a line item veto (not a line item amend-o) should be afforded the President on budget legislation.



Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Latest Carnival of Education

The latest Carnival of Education is currently hosted by Right Wing Nation

At Right on the Left Coast, Darren has a class on the probability of being dealt a royal flush in 5-card stud.

...I "bet" it's a popular class!

Random Classroom Observations …

I carry a clipboard with all the necessary paperwork I’ll need throughout the day. This normally includes a copy of the daily lesson plan, a blank substitute teacher report form to fill in during the day and a separate blank piece of paper to jot down “items of interest” that I think might or might not be blog worthy.

This previous weeks’ collection of “interesting items” from various 4th and 5th grade classrooms includes:

Q: What quirky unlabeled Apple notebook computer icon is used to boot up the “SmartBoard™ program” in the morning as instructed in the lesson plan?
A: It’s the blue circle thingy called “Notebook”, of course!

Q: How do you fix the SmartBoard™ when it freezes up during the lesson?
A: After furiously trying different electronic pens, the electronic eraser, and tapping every control icon you can see with a finger (not the finger I’d REALLY like to use), you give up and revert to real whiteboard markers and the tiny bit of actual whiteboard space not covered the idiot SmartBoard™.

Q: Are books written in Hebrew or Spanish allowed during “Silent Reading” time?
A: Unless specifically limited to “English only” on the lesson plan, I say yes! At least they are reading or at least pretending to. Just don’t expect me to help pronounce or know the meaning of any specific word. Especially the Hebrew!

Q: What would possess a kid check out a book from the school library, return it to the city public library and believe the school librarian shouldn’t get all worked up over it?
A: I don’t know. That’s what kids do.

Q: What would possess a kid (different kid) to draw pictures of spacemen and cowboys in a school library book and expect the school librarian to be “ok with that”?
A: I don’t know. That’s what kids do.

Q: Should the class “wannabe gangsta” with a real bad attitude toward other kids and adults be allowed to leave the classroom to do his job as “a conflict manager”?
A: I was sure this had to be a scam, but the office verified it was true!

Q: Should a kid get detention (I had recess monitor duty in the detention room) for drawing the wrong Indian god for homework?
A: I thought “government” and “religion” weren’t compatible in public schools. I guess it’s only with “some” religions the government has a problem.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Apology in Advance

A spammer found the blog and posted 17 spam comments to 17 different posts.

After spending a 1/2 hour locating and deleting comments, I've re-activated the "comments verification" feature for a while.

It's not like I had better things to do. February was a busy subbing month. That's changed to no calls for this first week of March.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Math as a Foreign Language …

My high school required at least one year of a foreign language for graduation.

I don’t have the gift for foreign languages and being that at least half of the student population in my school spoke fluent Spanish, I figured that I’d never be able to beat the bell curve going that route. Instead I chose French figuring that I had at least an “average” chance of pulling a middle of the road score.

I received a final grade of “D” for my efforts.

While I lacked any talent in the linguistic arts, I was more at home in the logical science of mathematics. The unambiguous rules of geometry, algebra, and trigonometry were more my speed.

So last week I found myself in a 5th grade classroom reviewing the math lesson for the day: Page 453: Area of Parallelograms.

This should be a cinch!

“The area of a parallelogram is the base times its height.”

There you have it. We’re done. How much more simple can it be? Well, as it turned out all I got were a bunch of blank stares and “We don’t get it!” comments.

“Ok, let’s back up for a moment.”

“Everyone knows what the area of a square is (multiply base x height)? Yes!

“Everyone knows what the area of a rectangle is (multiply base x height)? Yes!


“Ok, good.
Now, everyone get out a piece of graph paper and draw a rectangle of 8 squares on the bottom and 5 squares tall. Now, what is the area of that rectangle?”


Most of them responded 40. A few came back with 26.

After explaining the difference between area and perimeter a few more times, I believed that I convinced the “26” crowd that the “area” was, indeed, 40 square units.

I then had them draw a line from the top left corner to any point of the line on the bottom and cut out the resulting triangle as I demonstrated on the doc-camera.

“Ok, now slide your triangle piece to the right until the vertical sides line up. What is the figure now?
Response: “A parallelogram!”


“What is the area of that parallelogram?”

No response.

“Remember, all we did was cut the rectangle into two pieces and move them around. The area of the two pieces is exactly the same as the original rectangle. Got it?

Now, what is the area of the new parallelogram that we made from the old rectangle that is 40 sq units?”

Response: “40?”


Yes, now repeat after me:
“All rectangles and squares are parallelograms. The area of any parallelogram is the base times it’s height.”


They started in working some of the exercises until recess. I could tell by the number of hands up and requests for individual help that at least a third still “didn’t get it”. I just didn’t know how to explain it or demonstrate it more clearly.

Having some of them repeat the mantra while writing down the numbers helped a few but clearly, I wasn’t getting through to everyone.

After recess they were supposed to continue math exercises. I hoped the repeated mantra was still embedded in a few memory cells, so I decided to see.

Me: I have a prize for the first person who can tell me what the area of a parallelogram is!

Kid #1 Response: 40!
Kid #2 Response: 26!

Oy Vey!... (pardon my French)