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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Feel Like Dancing?

After a pretty poor start this week, the last two classes (3rd and 5th grades) for the week make me feel like dancing!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Classroom Capitulation...

Just when I think I know how to handle a class, along comes a couple of 6th grade classes to let me know I don’t know shit.

I thought yesterday’s class was pretty loud and out of control, but it was just mildly chaotic compared to today’s class. This teacher is new to the school and this was the first time I’ve taken her class.

While I can’t prove it, it seems that the senior teachers take this as an opportunity to stack the deck in terms of offloading the known rebels into a single class as some sort of hazing ritual for the newly arrived educator. I recognized more than a few memorable slackers and instigators as they entered the room.

I accomplished absolutely nothing related to “education” today. It was simply crowd control and I can’t say I was even good at that.

If my experience today is any indication of how it is every day for this teacher, and some of the kids say it is, then it’s no wonder that she came down with (probably) a stress related case of the shingles after only half way through her first new school year.

I have 3rd graders tomorrow...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lite January Payday...

The current pay period ended Friday (Dec-26 thru Jan 25). The check for this month will be for just three days work. The month of February is looking better as I already had three days booked when this email arrived today:

(Click to enlarge)

It’s nice to be appreciated.

…and in case you’re wondering, my preference is “Diet Pepsi”.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Great Arsenio of Democracy...

Funny and not that far from the truth.

Carnival of Education Virtual Inaugural Ball

While virtually everyone else on the planet seemed to be in Washington this week, the rest of us could only get reservations at the Carnival of Education Inaugural Ball where I invited my good buddy "The Freeze Faker" for show and tell.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hi-Tech Classroom Substitute...

The job as substitute teacher is difficult at first because there is little or no training provided.

Fortunately, door key use, light switch activation, using a phone, overhead projectors, and using books are all intuitive functions that most people over the age of five can handle without instruction. I would have included operating heat and air conditioning controls to the previous list but there was that one time…but that’s another story.

Over the last year or so, I’ve seen the introduction of some hi-tech gear introduced in the classrooms. In addition to the Apple computers (for some reason IBM/PC’s aren’t so popular) for the kids to use in web searching and reading tests, the document camera is the newest addition to the classroom.

This is the Hi-Tech replacement for the overhead projector that required teachers to make transparency pages to display on one of those pull down movie screens in the front of the classroom. The idea is the same, but this technology displays any image placed under the camera using a high quality video projector.

This major technology leap eliminates the time and materials “making transparencies” step. I’ve encountered these in about a third of the classrooms this year. It’s a positive, direct, intuitive replacement for an older technology (overhead projector). I like it. On the plus side, the video projector can be shared with other devices like…the “SMARTBoard ™”!

A more recent classroom development is the introduction of the “SMARTBoard”. This is the interactive whiteboard replacement. In the simplest use, it’s just a white screen you write on with one of four electronic pens and an eraser. When attached to a computer, it’s an interactive touch screen extension of your computer.

You can see a demo here:

Each teacher receives (or should receive) extensive training on how to operate the board and interface it to the classroom computer. Almost every piece of paper a teacher needs for a lesson can be stored in electronic form and presented using the SMARTBoard.

So, what happens when you have a substitute with no training on the SMARTBoard try and run the class? That’s what I got to find out in last Friday’s in a 4th grade classroom.

The computer was already running (good) when I entered the classroom and the PowerPoint lesson plan was on the computer screen. Fortunately, there was a hard copy paper printout for reference. I did a dry run through the lesson before the kids arrived.

Plan note: Touch the math book picture to start the lesson.
Result: Error screen indicating a broken link to the desired book.

Plan note: Touch the Social Studies book to start at chapter 5.
Result: Social Studies book opened to a template where chapter 5 should have been but wasn’t.

Plan note: Touch worksheet answer spaces one at a time to reveal correct answers.
Result: (that worked ok)

Final score: 33% success

As a result of these problems, I had to scrounge around to find the actual Math and Social Studies books. In a non-tech class, the books should have been stacked on a table with a paper copy of the lesson plan.

After fiddling with the computer in an attempt to “fix” the broken things, I had somehow inadvertently switched windows being displayed on the SMARTBoard and could not figure out how to switch back to just a blank white screen so I could use it as a plain old whiteboard.

It was only after class that I discovered that it was the “document camera” that had controls for which source to use with the projector. Had I found this earlier, I could have selected the DocCam source and placed a sheet of computer paper under the camera for display on the SMARTBoard.

Needless to say this day didn’t go so well…

What would have happened if there had been a power outage during the night? Janitors are notorious for turning off everything in a classroom at the breakers.

Would a substitute know the password to the reboot the computer after a power failure? Would a substitute know how to restart the SMARTBoard application? Would the computer automatically have recovered to the “lesson of the day”? All good questions and I still don’t know the answers.

I imagine that, over time, I’ll get proficient using this new classroom technology but for now, I suppose, it’s no different for those first time users of “THE BOOK”:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009

Freeze Faker…

I subbed a 4th grade class last Wednesday. Mostly good kids with the usual few “characters” in the mix. Nothing out of the ordinary except for…“Freeze Faker”.

The lesson was pretty straight forward, single page worksheet:

"...Read the story and highlight the title in green, highlight explanations in yellow and highlight facts in pink. You can work in table groups"

FF: Do I have to work with my table group?
Me: If you want to work by yourself, go for it!

After a little while, one of the narcs at his table quietly notifies me that FF was doing it all wrong and was now bothering them to copy their work. So I wander over to see what the situation was. I take a peek over FF's shoulder to see that everything, title, explanations and facts on his work sheet are hi-lited in green, where his table mates are making use of all three colors on theirs.

Me: Ok, FF, what's the problem here?
FF: They won't let me copy their papers!

Me: (thinking: WTF??) You said you wanted to do it alone. Why do you want to copy theirs?
FF: Well, I don't know what to do.

Me: I see that you marked everything on your paper in green. Is that what the instructions say?
FF: I don't know.

Me: Were you listening when we read the instructions together?
FF: (no answer)

Me: Well, let's read the instructions again, shall we?

No answer, no movement to pick up the worksheet, he's staring straight ahead across the table and not looking at me.

Me: FF, let's read the instructions together so you know what to do.

No reaction. In fact, he's not moving. No squirming, no fidgeting, no movement at all!

Me: Come on FF, let's go. Pick up the worksheet and let's read together ok?


Other Kid: He's frozen. He does that sometimes. The teacher has to make a loud sound to unfreeze him.

I make a few more unsuccessful attempts to communicate but nothing works. One of the other kids claps his hands and FF looks startled and starts looking around.

Oh, brother! I got kid with one of those weird three-letter acronym-istic, conditions that no one told me about.

Now that he's listening again, I start over in attempting to get him back on track with the lesson at hand. He freezes up on me again. He's holding his hands still as stone, in front of him, just a couple of inches off the table.

I walk around to the other side of the table so we're face to face and I notice something odd. I move a little left and then back a little right, then left again.

Me: You know, FF, it's amazing. Everything is frozen. No reaction whatever.
FF: (no answer)

Me: Nothing moving...except your EYES!! They're following me!
FF: (Slight twitch at the corner of the mouth)

I lean slowly across the table getting nearer and nearer, watching his eyes start to cross as I'm almost nose to nose with FF.

Me: (whispering) You're FAKING, aren't you!
FF: (Busts out laughing)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What a Difference Four Years Make...

Global Warming?

September 16, 2005

Global warming 'past the point of no return'!!!

"...The greatest fear is that the Arctic has reached a "tipping point" beyond which nothing can reverse the continual loss of sea ice and with it the massive land glaciers of Greenland, which will raise sea levels dramatically."

January 1, 2009
Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979

"...Each year, millions of square kilometers of sea ice melt and refreeze. However, the mean ice anomaly -- defined as the seasonally-adjusted difference between the current value and the average from 1979-2000, varies much more slowly. That anomaly now stands at just under zero, a value identical to one recorded at the end of 1979, the year satellite record-keeping began."


Now, can we dump this silly fad and get on with the next one?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Here's to a Better New Year!

Happy New Year 2009!! (...hopefully better than 2008)

Uncle Jay's year end review...