A Summary of my GRS Experience


I met 6 (well, technically it was 8 at the time) strangers, and we were quickly put into a class with three professors who made us use each other’s first names, make eye contact, and make watersheds out of Playdough. Some of the hands-on activities seemed silly, but I now know why we did everything that we did, because doing an activity helps you remember it. Do you know how many times I’ve done the spray watershed activity that we did in that class? Numerous!




We all dressed up for hiking one day, even Jill, and went out to the river, finding that, instead, we were brought to a 13th? floor conference room with windows on either side, meeting with the engineer who designed all of the bridges we were seeing. Normally when in fancy conference rooms I don’t wear my hiking boots and Camelbac, but there I was.




Tiarra and I did a study of the Genesee river on a nice June day. Then, to continue the surprise that has been GRS, we presented our research in front of polar bears and sea lions, because, well, they wondered about turbidity and about how well the Data Hub works.




Summer B began with the study of Michael’s magical cube, reminding us of how engaging solving a mystery can be, for us, and for our learners. One day, class was cancelled and we all showed up anyways. Camp was our first experience lesson planning. I was teamed up with Jill and Ryan for Team Experience Success who is the best at the test. The first day of camp was an epic way to see a lesson plan not happen as planned, at all. We did it though. We kept our campers safe in torrential rain, and the other days seemed so much easier.

C campprep cohort


Camp was also when the Science Chant came to be. After STARS, I think that I will always have the chant in my head. We’re doing science! The word “journalize” is now permanently a part of my vocabulary, as are plusses and arrows.




At some point around late August I forgot that I have actually killed every plant that I’ve ever attempted to raise, and signed up to co-lead a gardening project at STARS. My group ended up picking worms as their independent variable: Plants without worms in the soil and plants with. STARS was a great experience to make somewhat risk-free plans, as it was not in an actual classroom with a curriculum. It was also the first time we were introduced to the Jill Moment.


tyedye S oreos


We wrote a number of big papers reflecting on STARS and then on our teaching, as we taught our (mini) unit in November. We then started student teaching. Through it all, we somehow survived class every Monday night, subsisting on Warner Biscuits and Warner Spread.


N J humanmodel


I have learned a lot. I have done a lot. I know that, when I actually have some time to think, in a year, I will realize just how much I have really learned. This program pushed us right into working with children, and that experience was hugely valuable.


HHHHH halfway H


I think my favorite GRS memory, though, may be the thread in which we all ask Jo Ann questions. Jo Ann, when will I get some sleep?

E D cohort4 B


Tiarra, Eric, Ceb, Jill, Jessica and Ryan, you’re out!


1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

More Paper Management Fun

I learn by doing, and one reason that I chose Warner was because I knew that. I knew that being in schools from Sep-April would help me learn a lot more than an excess of classes ever could. I have learned so much by doing about student misconceptions, appropriate expectations for certain grade levels, managing a classroom, sorting papers. As issues arose that I never anticipated, I addressed them, learning as I went.


One thing that I never did get an ideal system for was managing papers that I had already handed out. Part of this was because of a student teacher’s lack of printer priveledges. I would lay out the papers I was going to hand out in order, including maybe a few from the day before. Once the papers were done with, I would put them in a folder in the back of the room that students knew to look in. The problem arose when all copies of a particular paper were gone from that folder, and I hadn’t realized it. On one occasion, there were no master copies, as my CT had unknowingly lent the book a worksheet came from to another teacher.


I think I would like to do something kinda like what I used to do with forms in my cubicle, many of which, sadly, were not computerized. Of course, on my computer I will try to have papers organized in files for easy printing, but I will also create a master copy of each assignment. On that copy I will write ‘master’ in highlighter, and I will keep these papers in a 3 ring binder in order. Next to each paper I will also keep the key, making grading more consistent and easier. If I need to make copies, I will always have this original. I can stick post-it notes on each assignment regarding the date I gave it out each year, and use tabs to separate units, or even have a different binder for each unit.


What do you think? How do you manage these sort of papers?  Once you have given a capture sheet, etc out, what do you do with the other copies/original?





Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Letting them mess up

I think it was Breanna who April said once wrote on a STARS write-up “I’m gonna let them mess up.” Letting kids mess up works! My most recent CT consciously let me mess up, and I loved it. She wanted me to try out the activities I created because I will remember what didn’t work more than if she told me it wouldn’t work. I love this method! It works!


Colburn (1997) discusses gradually making labs more inquiry based. One suggestion it to let students create their own data table. On page 2, Colburn states “They might record data in a visually appealing manner that you never would have imagined.” I love this quote! Students may have better ideas than we do, and I love giving them the freedom to try this! Done early in the year, if students do not communicate what they need to, the issue can be addressed and fixed for the future. No harm done. An imperfectly done lab can lead to learning that students will never forget. Colburn discusses how allowing students this freedom leads to an opportunity to demonstrate good communication skills. What did you see, smell, feel, and might it be relevant to share? How can you share it in a way that makes sense to most people?


This made me think about some of the work I did as a Research Assistant at Brockport. Doing geological fieldwork in the wilderness, I had a small field notebook and no computer. I had to keep the notebook relatively dry, take lots of photos, and otherwise communicate information quickly while literally chasing after a professor who I believe is non-human because he can run over bushes all day without ever stopping to eat or drink! My notebook did not have to be legible to others, but it did have to be legible to me, and my notes from it had to be legible to others.

578840_10151071565691071_161592842_n Literally, he ran over these bushes. 


This fieldwork was my first experience with needing to somehow indicate which photo went with each site. We could have brought some sort of visible letters or numbers to lay on the rocks, but we hadn’t, and we only had so many tiny notebook pages and a pencil. If my camera has a way to add captions, I don’t know how to do it.

534486_10151071566566071_2085422136_n 599704_10151004607416071_157101542_n The limestone bridges we studied


My research partner and I devised a creative method: We would take a picture of one finger being held up before site 1, then two fingers before site 2, etc. This helped us keep track of which photo went with each site. Of course, we eventually ran out of fingers. We would then pick a name for each site that we could photograph and also write in our field notebooks. Site 11 might have been ‘left boot’. We would take a photo of my left hiking boot, then the needed photos of that site. Another site might have been ‘peace sign’ or ‘Rebecca making funny face.’ This was silly, out of the ordinary, and not something we had thought of in advance, but it worked! And now I have a lot of photos of my left boot!

550995_10150953503466071_642607665_n I no longer have most of our placeholder photos, since the photos are labeled.  This may have been one though:  A face! 


There are so many Nature of Science concepts that I experienced when doing this research, allowing me some great stories to share with students!

554656_10150953502631071_1175011841_n 548049_10151042232846071_1159637927_n 224867_10151004607061071_1999899352_n We studied unique fractures


527673_10150953504396071_871124457_n 382538_10151042231221071_1461195635_n



My research partner measuring strike


Ground penetrating radar


Another day at the office 


Colburn, Alan. (1997) How to make lab activities more open ended. CSTA Journal,  4-6.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized


Honestly, a lot has happened in my life this year, both intense-15-month-program related, and not at all related. It’s hard to turn life off, and to devote one’s self entirely to a program. I tried, but it isn’t possible. No matter what excuse I have to not be available, people get sick, people pass away, people have needs, and I can’t run away from all that. I am 110% devoted to becoming an amazing teacher, but I have personal, familial, and friends’ needs too.


Recently, I have been diagnosed with a medical issue that needs addressing. It isn’t serious, but it needs addressing. I need to have some medical tests done during business hours, and I haven’t had time. My doctor’s office called me at least 6 times about a test before I called them back and said “I can’t schedule it until after April 10th anyways.”


I am suffering from the effects of my changed lifestyle. I have physical symptoms that relate strongly to the vitamins I am likely lacking, vitamins that I was so careful to include in my vegan diet before this program. Not having the proper vitamins is dangerous, obviously, but it also means that I’ve been in physical pain and have been excessively tired. This isn’t good for teaching 8th graders. I am markedly weaker. Having been an athlete in the past, I am amazed at how much less I can do physically after 11 months of not working out very often. I notice this in my every day life: My balance, my ability to lift things. I think that I know what my body can do, and I can’t do it anymore.


I have honestly had moments where I thought that this program was too intense for me. Perhaps I should have gone to a program in which I could consistently go part time, in which I wasn’t required to student teach while taking classes, something many other programs ban. I, despite being a full time student, am the breadwinner in our household. I can’t completely quit my job until I am a full time teacher. I have had moments of asking myself “Why? Why did you do this? You knew that you were a person who needed proper nutrition and sleep!” I know that you all think that I make old jokes too much, but, really, I would have survived fine without these things 10 years ago.


But……..I wouldn’t take it back. I mean, I haven’t died of my vitamin deficiencies yet, right? One major reason that I picked this program was because it put us in schools for a longer time than many programs. I love that I have been in schools since the first day of school. I can’t believe that this is our last week of student teaching! I need some time to take care of myself before I even think about subbing, etc, and I am so ready to have time to think, but I will so miss working with adolescents!


I remember last summer, asking people from the last cohort who were newly hired as teachers whether they felt ready. Do I feel ready? Of course not! Will I ever? Teaching is a process of constantly learning and growing, and I have proven to myself that I will learn and grow. I have proven to myself that I constantly question my teaching, and I know that I will constantly improve. Historically, it has taken me a long time to become efficient at jobs, to truly be good at what I did. Once I got it, I got it, but it didn’t come quickly to me. This program has given me an advantage I had never had before: I had never been an intern or otherwise gotten to practice a job before having that job. I was thrown in to responsible positions at a young age, and I definitely did not feel ready! Now, I feel more ready than that, and that is saying a lot. I feel 10x more ready than I did when I started this placement, and 100x more ready than I did when I first taught my mini-unit at my first placement.


This program has given me advantages that I never could have imagined. Looking back on all that we have done as a cohort, there is so much to reflect on, and I’m sure I’ll be a much better reflector once I’ve had a little more time to think. From our first class together, when we explored the Genesee River, to writing our first lesson plans and implementing them at camp, to having the freedom of implementing lesson plans at STARS, outside of a classroom, we’ve gotten a lot of experience that my friends in other programs haven’t gotten.


I think, honestly, that I would do this program all over again. (First, I would sleep for about a year though.)


With that said, it was August of 2011 that I quit my job, taking a $12,000 annual pay cut to live off of student loans and part time work. I went back to undergraduate as a former social worker. All of my lab partners were 18 year olds, and I remember being extremely shocked and feeling out of place. I worked taking care of a client with a disability often, lacking sleep. I drove to campus, an hour from my client’s house, unshowered, with oatmeal between my toes that she threw at me, trying to wipe yogurt out of my hair as I drove (true story). I worked all weekend, every weekend until a year ago, when I started this program. This is my fourth year as an adult student. I am almost done. I am so so very tired of being a student, of living off of minimal income, but I am almost done. We are all almost done.


Imagine what kind of teacher I could be if I had proper nutrition again, if I wasn’t unnecessarily tired and overwhelmed. Imagine what better teachers we will all be when teaching is our only job!


With that, back to the great final-week-pile-of-grading!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Literally being under less pressure than you………

…….and other fun meteorology demos


Lately, I have performed a number of demos in my classroom that I think worked out very well. I’ve been lucky to teach meteorology twice and therefore perfect my craft. And by “perfect” I mean “improve”. There is a certain degree of comfort in knowing that I can learn from my mistakes and grow as a teacher, and I have loved teaching some of the same lessons twice! My CT said that it is the best unit I’ve taught. I think so, too. These are some of the demos:


Crushing cans to teach about how temperature affects pressure


You can find a million Youtube videos about this, and they are what I used in my last placement, rather than risking trying it myself. This time, I got braver, and I did it myself, which was much more engaging for the students. A Youtube video with a gigantic barrel would have been a nice addition, though, had we had all the time in the world.


I put a little water in an empty soda can and put it directly on a hot plate until you could see steam coming out of the top (it didn’t work when indirectly on the hot plate in a pot of water). It worked better when I let the water in the can boil for 10 or so minutes. I told the students that I was going to then put the can into ice water (cold tap water from our classroom faucet actually did work), and asked them what they thought was going to happen. They enthusiastically yelled out answers. I would say that just about every student was engaged.


I used tongs to pick up the hot can, quickly invert it, and put it into the cold water. It crushed because of the pressure change, and even made a loud popping noise in a few classes. This seemed to really work in allowing the students to connect the uneven heating of the Earth with changes in pressure, which led us into weather.


In other news, Sol Burrito sells canned soda, should you also not drink any, and the night before I ordered many for delivery. Ha.


Cloud in a Bottle

My cohort saw Mike demonstrate this one, and I stole the idea, though it is harder than it looks. Put a little rubbing alcohol into an empty plastic water bottle. It did not work when I tried a soda bottle, I think because the plastic was too thick! Close the bottle and twist it tightly. This actually takes a lot more strength than Mike made it appear to. Show the students that you are working hard to twist it, and ask them if you are currently putting high or low pressure on the bottle. Then let go, and, as the pressure gets low, a cloud forms. The more you twist the bottle, until it feels like its about to burst in your hands, the better the cloud.


This demo seemed to work well, was quick and easy, and was something students enjoyed doing. The bottle was brought up again on many occasions, and often passed around the room. I put tape over the top of the bottle so that no one would attempt to drink it, thinking that it was water. I’ll do this demo again!


Paper roll pressure columns


I did this demo at my last placement, and improved it for this placement so that it went more smoothly. I taped 6ish pieces of construction paper of various colors together, forming a long column, which I rolled up. I then asked for 4 volunteers for my human model, and always had plenty more than 4.


I asked which 2 of the 4 felt that they could stand on a classroom counter top safely, and consciously picked 2 who I knew could. They climbed onto the counter-top (we have a nice low, safe one. I did this with chairs at my last placement because we didn’t.) Each of the 2 was handed a construction paper roll.


I asked one of the other 2 to sit on a desk and one on a chair. Another method is to choose a very tall student and a very short student (by asking “Who here thinks that he/she is tall?” rather than classifying students by height myself.) The point is to have two sitting students in front of the two students on the counter whose heads are at noticeably different heights.


I asked each of the 2 standing students to unroll their pressure columns, holding them at equal heights (in my original demo at my last placement I used a meter stick labeled ‘top of the atmosphere’ to designate this height, but it became a weapon so I decided against it this time; also 4 students are easier to manage than 6.) The two sitting students were to hold their pressure columns against their foreheads, forming a visual and colorful column of pressure over each of their heads, with the taller column over the lower/shorter student.


I told the students that these columns represent the atmosphere over our heads (they had already done their atmosphere foldables about the layers of the atmosphere.) I asked which layer the bottom piece of construction paper represented, the troposphere. I then asked which student had a taller column over his/her head, and why. This was the shorter student. I then said that that student was in Rochester, at low altitude. The other student, meanwhile, climbed Desk Mountain. The student who was higher up had less pressure over his/her head. A very tall student then responded ‘So I have less pressure over my head than you all?’ which I loved. It was just a perfect moment! I bet him saying that will help everyone in his class remember it!


This demo seemed to work. Kids remembered it. One catch though, was that, when I later tested kids about what kind of weather low and high pressure systems bring, many thought that low pressure meant cold weather and high pressure meant hot weather despite me knowing that that was a common misconception (thank you, first placement!) and reiterating it 1000 times. One student in particular said ‘Low pressure means cold because when you are up on a mountain its cold like those snow capped mountains and the pressure is less there.’ Crap. Did my demo cause this misconception? What do you think?


Mission for next week: Why do they still think that low pressure means cold? I think I’m gonna ask a few students.


Flashlight on the Earth

This was a station, in which I wanted my learners to see that the sun hits the equator more directly than it hits Rochester. I have not perfected this one yet.


I had learners shine a flashlight on a location on the equator, and measure the diameter of the circle the flashlight beam made using string. This was difficult for students, as they didn’t often understand how to use string to get a distance, then put the string against a ruler. I then had them keep the flashlight where it was, and tilt it towards Rochester, measuring that circle. The point was that the circle was now bigger, hitting Rochester at more of an angle.


It is very important to get a flashlight that emits a small circular beam. I did not have the ideal flashlight for this. Despite this, most learners got the point I wanted them to get, so I’ll do this activity again, with some changes. It was hard for learners to hold the light at the same exact height. I should have had them put it on a counter top or table or some set place.



I’m open to more ideas and suggestions!






Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A candy curriculum

I think a lot about how to start out my class when I have my own.  I think about this a lot because I know, at least in my most recent undergraduate experience, I made a judgment about each class pretty early on, and it affected how I felt about it, and how much time I was prepared to work on it.  Literally, it affected how many work hours I signed up for.  I don’t remember doing this in high school, but perhaps I did.  That was a while ago, and school was easier for me then than it was in college.  If my students are making these judgments, then I want them to be good ones:  I have high expectations, this class will require a lot of work, I will respect you, you can talk to me, science is fun and accessible, we get to do fun labs, etc.  In fact, I just heard on NPR the other day that various schools that are high performing despite the odds against them had only one thing in common:  high expectations.  I learned about this in some psyc class a million years ago too.

Do you agree that a class is molded in the beginning of the year?  What did your professors/teachers do that changed your impression of a class early on?  Michael’s presentation last week inspired me, because we were all so engaged, and I think our students would be too.  Particularly, I think that the Lifesaver activity would be great to do on the first day of school, or close to the first day.

In this activity, we each were given a fruit Lifesaver.  Using a countdown clock, we all put the Lifesavers into our mouths at the same time.  A timer was then put up, and we were to write the time we finished our Lifesaver on a large chart paper, in the correct column for the color of our Lifesaver.  This took maybe an average of 7 minutes, so other instruction could happen while we were sucking on our candy.   During this time, Michael asked us to write down all of the things that could affect the dissolving speed of the Lifesaver.  Afterwards, we combined our lists on large paper.  Michael then showed us the tools her had for our investigations, which we didn’t actually do, but would when teaching children.  He had Lifesavers sorted by color, water of various temperatures and thermometers, and a few other tools.  He then asked us to pick one question we would like to research.  It was clear that researching dissolution speed of various colors, or “body” temperatures, would be possible, investigable questions with the tools we had.  I felt motivated to begin designing a study, and I imagine my students might feel the same way.

I really like this study because it is simple.  Students can make their investigable question as complex or simple as they need to.  If they are intimidated by this request, seeing the tools available might help them pinpoint a possible study.  They may have been competitive about sucking on the Lifesavers, or might have noticed a trend about color, chewing on the Lifesavers, etc.  Also, I’ve learned that children don’t really mind when you give them candy.

I like the idea of starting off my class with this study, maybe even on the first day.  If I end up teaching Earth Science, Lifesaver dissolution isn’t, believe it or not, a part of the curriculum, but it can relate.  No matter what science curriculum you are teaching, this would establish right off the bat that this will be a hands-on, fun class, that learners are expected to be independent and creative thinkers, etc.  Right from day 1 they would be designing their own simple studies.  What do you think?  Do you think this is appropriate so early on in the year?  Would you try it on the first day?


Filed under Uncategorized

Some things I’ve learned about my teaching needs

At my first placement, I made a number of changes to the classroom as I learned what I needed as a teacher. At this placement, I have made less. I don’t want to change another teacher’s space if I don’t have to, and this CT has a very similar style to me anyways. She actually already had in place a lot of the things that I did in my old room! Score!


There are a number of things that I have learned about what I need, which will help me next year, and perhaps help you, if you need them too:


  • I learned at my last placement that I need to lay out my papers in the order that I will need them that day. At this placement, though, there isn’t an easy place to do this. I need to find a way to lay them out where students won’t sit and accidentally mess with them.  I’m getting more relaxed about the accidentally messing as I go on, though.


  • In the future, I plan to get stackable bins for work that needs grading, is graded but needs to be recorded, is ready to be handed back, etc. This will give me more space for papers that I need to quickly grab while teaching class.


  • It is easier for me to grade the same assignment over and over. I don’t need them sorted by class period. I can do that later. I need them sorted by assignment. That way, despite a rubric, I am most fair and equal in my grading, and I become most aware of common issues/misconceptions.  The down side:  Turned in assignments are not sorted by class.  They are sorted by assignment.  This means that I have no idea who could have handed me  a paper with no name.


  • I need to be more on top of my grading, a problem that will obviously be solved when I’m not working on top of taking evening classes on top of student teaching. I’m finding myself grading things after a unit is over, and realizing that I should have gone over certain questions, etc. I should have gone over this material before the unit test! I feel really bad about this, and need to change it somehow over the next few weeks.


  • Extra noise in my classroom bothers me, and, to some extent, I need to learn to get over this. 8th graders are going to loudly tap pencils while I’m talking. They just are. I’ll tell you what though: I’m going to find a way to afford a silent pencil sharpener, and I’m going to chain it to my desk if I have to! Or, there are always mechanical sharpeners! We have the loudest pencil sharpeners in the world, and they are my arch nemesis!


  • I need to know every student’s name backwards and forwards. I am at the point in this placement where I know every student’s name when taking attendance or handing back papers, but not on the spot when calling on the student. I still pronounce some names wrong, and I miss up Adrianna and Arianna and other similar names. I am a better teacher when I know every student’s name, and I need to quiz myself more often. One challenge has been that, since starting at this placement in late January, there are some students who have only come to school 2 or 3 times, and there are some on the roster that I have never met!


I’m open to ideas on how to best fix these concerns if you have them!


In other news, this is one success I’ve had: I was lucky enough to teach the same unit at both placements, allowing me the opportunity to edit that unit. This has been a great experience, although it does mean that there are many units that I’ve never taught. I taught weather in my Earth Science placement, and now I’m teaching the 8th grade version of weather/atmosphere. I’ve been able to take some confusions/misconceptions from my last placement, and edit them out.


One big success has been this atmosphere foldable. We did this in my Earth Science class. It took a lot of time, with students cutting and pasting. A lot didn’t actually understand what the atmosphere was after all of this. If I told them that Rochester had an altitude of less than 1 km, and asked where on their foldable Rochester was, many would point to an arbitrary location in the mesosphere or thermosphere. Many didn’t get that we were describing the sky, not the surface of the Earth, not the layers of the Earth itself. This was a problem.


So, I made my own foldable directions  (LayersofAt).  There was no cutting and no pasting. We printed the foldable on paper that students could fold, rather than having them glue it onto construction paper. (Bonus advice: The Dollar General has cheap construction paper. Wegmans rarely has it.) I had learners identify where Rochester is and where Mt. Everest is, showing that even the highest mountain is still in the troposphere. I had learners color code their model: blue for getting colder with increasing altitude, red for getting warmer. My 8th graders started to understand what my 9-12th graders struggled with! I’d call that a win!


Changes for the future on this foldable, many suggested by Jim, my Supervisor: Put that Mt. Everest is just under 9 km, not 8.8. That confused them. Talk the class through it one step at a time, so that they understand what they are cutting.

Photos of this foldable coming soon to a blog near you!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Self Harm and Suicidal Thoughts (another issue that may come up in schools)

Have you ever seen someone inflict physical pain on him/herself, cutting him or herself? Or known someone who said that he/she wanted to die? These are terrifying issues, but they have become less terrifying for me over time, as I’ve had some experience with them. The more I’ve begun to understand them, the better a friend or social worker I have become.


My first experience with both of these issues was with a friend in college. I was 19: young and naïve. I spent pretty much entire sophomore year protecting this friend, not knowing what else to do. She would tell me, via Instant Messenger, that she wanted to die or hurt herself, and I would ask her to come over to my suite. This was before cell phones, so I really had no way to reach her if she was out and about on campus. She often showed up with cuts on her arms and a desire to kill herself. I protected her by making her sleep at my place all the time. I also protected her privacy by not telling my suitemates, thinking that it wasn’t my place to. My intent was good, but instead I ended up trying to help this friend alone, being way too young to do so.


I should have asked for help. I should have helped this friend get some treatment from a professional. I should have realized that it wasn’t my fault if she did hurt herself. But I didn’t. I was young and I didn’t know what I know now. (This friend is doing well now. A mom. She grew out of it, as many people do.)



My next experience with these issues came when I worked as a mental health counselor at a live-in facility in Vermont. I was 23 and it was my first truly responsible job. A few months in to my time there, I was asked to move into another house because of staffing changes. In this house, the clients were all women (a relatively bad idea seeing that we were all sharing one phone). Most of these clients were sexual abuse victims, who are highly likely to self harm.


I remember one client wanting to hurt herself. I wanted desperately to go to bed, but felt that I had to stay up with her. My boss advised me by phone, telling me that it was ok to go to bed “Tell her that you will be in your room if you need her but that you are going to bed” she said. This was very hard to do, and was the first lesson in a long series of lessons about advocating for myself. In college I had kept my eyes on my friend when it wasn’t my job to do so, and now it was actually my job to care for this client and I was being told to go to bed!


This client did cut herself pretty badly, maybe that night, maybe another. She woke me up, and I ended up, as I often did at that job, having to take her to the ED for stitches. A not-very-helpful senior staff member spoke poorly of this client, saying that she had done it on purpose. This made me feel angry and violated. Was this client taking advantage of me? Why would she hurt herself? Who would want to spend her night in the hospital?


I realized that I needed to better understand self-harm. On that rural farm in Vermont with minimal internet access, I asked for resources, and I read them. The following are some things that I learned, which helped me to work with that client, future clients, and future friends with these issues:


  • Self-harm is a way of relieving emotional pain by inflicting physical pain. When the person harms him/herself, he/she feels relief



  • Self-harm is not the same as suicidal thoughts. Often, people who are harming themselves do not want to die.


  • If a person feels suicidal, therapists become concerned when the person has a plan regarding how he/she plans to kill himself, but become less concerned when the person does not.


  • There are a few strategies in which a person can hurt him/herself and get the relief he/she needs emotionally without actually cutting his/her body. One strategy that works for some is to put ice against a sensitive area of the body, such as the inner wrist. This hurts, but doesn’t lead to hospitalization. Another strategy is to snap rubber bands at one’s self. Either of these strategies is ultimately better than cutting.


  • Self-harm is much more common among individuals who have been sexually abused, which is why I saw it so often in the all women’s house I worked in.


  • If someone does hurt him/herself, it is not your fault. You can’t drop everything and stop living your life, like I did my sophomore year. That didn’t help anybody.


  • One type of self-harm is trichotillomania, in which a person pulls out his/her hair, sometimes leading to sections of thinning or missing hair. Some people also eat the hair that they pulled out, which can lead to digestive problems.


Since researching self harm and suicide, I’ve been better able to help people dealing with these issues, because I was able to calmly handle them and to advocate for my own personal space and boundaries. Often, this has meant that I listen and don’t freak out when someone tells me that she pulls out her hair.


A useful link:



Filed under Uncategorized

Writer’s Block

I’ve been searching for inspiration, for a blog topic that speaks to me.  I have one, yet, here we are on Thursday night, the night I have committed to myself that I will blog every week, and I don’t have it solidified.

I tried to go onto past cohort’s blogs.  What were they writing at this point in the program?   Is it appearing to anyone else that the old GRS blogs were hacked?  The issue could be this virus-protection-less computer I’m using and promptly replacing.

So I’m going to try to write about what I’m not feeling prepared to write about:


As a teacher, compassion is key.  Children will exhibit behavior that annoys and aggravates you at times, and I find that the way that I best deal with it is to try to see things from their perspective.  As teachers, as as humans on this Earth, I think we all should try to understand each other just a little bit  more.

Today, I read this letter about a transgendered boy.  It made me think about my experiences with the transgendered community and allowed me to recognize that they may be worth sharing because not everyone has had those experiences, though you likely have had your own experiences that, if shared, would help me become a better, more compassionate, teacher too.


The first experience that I (know I) had with the transgendered community was when I was fairly new to Rochester.  Back then, my friends and I hosted a gigantic pirate themed joint birthday party just because we could.  I met a friend of a friend at that party, and she invited me to an upcoming dinner at her house.   Before the party, the friend sent me a sort of warning:  There would be a person at this party who is transitioning and who preferred to be referred to by male pronouns.

Despite having lived with a variety of people in a variety of very accepting communities, I don’t know that I had ever really been introduced to gender identity until that moment.  Having a transitioning (moving from one gender to another; gender fluid) friend-of-friend didn’t concern me.  I was thankful that my friend let me know, and I happily went to the party, glad to make some new friends.

Since that time I have become friends with many transgendered individuals, both FTM (transitioning from female to male), MTF, or something in between (maybe not fitting into either gender at all).  Having had these experiences has taught me a lot about the transgendered community:

– People who are transgendered truly feel that they were born as the wrong sex.  They identify strongly with one gender, yet their body does not match it.  It isn’t that they are gay.  It is that they identify so strongly as someone that society does not perceive them as.  Imagine this!  I am glad to be a woman and have never wanted to be a man.  I identify as a woman.  It is what I have always known and who I am.  But imagine if my body had male parts despite that!  I can’t just decide not to identify as a woman.

– Being transgendered is entirely separate from which gender a person is sexually attracted to

– Many people who are transgendered experience severe depression and suicidal thoughts if they do not transition to their desired gender.  They truly feel that they have no choice.  Many of them, including the boy in the above story, become noticeably happier when they can finally be themselves.  The boy in the story is 5 and perhaps not self-aware yet, but my adult friends are.  I don’t doubt that they needed to do what they did by transitioning.

– It is not ok to ask about a person’s genitals/body parts/surgery to see if they  have fully transitioned.  Surgery is invasive, expensive, and scary.  Some choose not to have it.  Asking about these personal matters isn’t ok.

– It also isn’t ok to ask a transgendered person what his/her ‘real’ name is.  Call him/her what he/she would like to be called

– Our world is so focused on gender.  What is the first thing that we find out about our babies?  Their sex.  It affects what toys we buy, color we decorate with, and what words we use to describe our child.  Bathrooms are separated by gender, leaving those without a clear gender with no safe place to go.

Suicide and murder rates of transgendered individuals are ridiculously high.  It is hard to get and to keep a job when one does not fit into society’s expected gender molds.


If you would like to see some more perspectives (the top 2 are friends of mine):









1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

My Book Talk Paper, with slight edits

The Battle over Hetch Hetchy by Robert W. Righter is a detailed account of the reasons, politics, and personnel behind the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, an issue that has been important to me for some time because, as the most protected places in our country, I believe that national parks are no place for a dam.  The guiding theme of this book is that science, and the political issues that science is used to resolve, is often extremely complex. Most issues debated in our society contain “grey areas”, being much more complex than right versus wrong, or science versus religion. This is a valuable lesson for learners who may distrust science educators because of previously held beliefs that appear to contradict what is being taught.

The author cites extensive research into the details of the damming of Hetch Hetchy, including personal notes from individuals on both sides of the issue: those for damming the valley, and those against. The reader has the opportunity to view the issue from both sides of the spectrum, understanding that both sides had good intents. Each side fought to protect its constituents, either the people of San Francisco, or the protected land of Yosemite National Park. The author allows the reader to change his/her views regarding this issue, something that I can personally account for.

Mr. Righter’s prior knowledge about this controversial issue was similar to my own: He believed that John Muir, the famous Preservationist, fought against the dam’s construction because of the inherent value of the valley’s natural features. Many instructors and Yosemite historians throughout my environmental education and time spent living in the park, have agreed with this perspective, teaching about this issue because it was known as being the first time that nature was protected simply because it was natural, rather than because it benefitted humans.

The author searched for evidence of this, but did not find it. His account leaves the reader convinced that he looked for all sources of evidence regarding this issue. Instead, Mr. Righter explains that John Muir fought for Hetch Hetchy Valley to be developed for tourism, keeping many natural features, but certainly not keeping it in its entirely natural state. John Muir does state that he does not think that the nation is ready to protect nature because of its inherent value, though. Perhaps, in fighting for tourism in the valley, Mr. Muir was using the only argument he felt that the country was ready for. Perhaps he knew that the way to get nature protected was to build hotels that allowed the elite to experience it.

On the other side of the issue, as I had always been taught, were the conservationists, the people who believed that nature should be protected solely for the benefit of humans. Mr. Righter’s detailed account allows even the most ardent preservationist to see that those arguing for damming the valley did not have evil intent. These individuals were merely trying to obtain water for San Francisco, a city Mayor James Phelan took great pride in. San Francisco had been the victim of a recent earthquake which severed gas lines, causing a large fire. A municipal water supply, which San Francisco was one of the last cities in the country to get, may have protected the city from such a severe fire.

The book was very worth reading for me as someone who deeply cares about this issue, but may be a challenge for learners who do not. It is a, sometimes a bit dry, historic account, including a plethora of names and dates which could overwhelm a K-12 learner. Perhaps it would be more worthwhile in California, where learners are more likely to have already been familiar with this issue.

6  Day 8 of an 8 day backpacking trip to Hetch Hetchy, on the dam.

The lessons learned from this book are extremely worthwhile, though. K-12 learners often have a “black and white” view of political issues, believing that one can not believe in evolution and Christianity, for example, not recognizing that many individuals, including scientists, believe in both. Crossing these bridges allows the learner to become open minded towards science education and to enhance his/her scientific literacy, critically analyzing both sides of the issue.

McTighe and Wiggins (2005) discuss the ability to openly consider an opposing viewpoint as being an integral, yet mature, part of truly understanding material. Can the learner argue for what he believes in, and against what he does not? Has he considered the opposing viewpoint’s perspective? The issue of Hetch Hetchy is an important one to me, one in which I have strong opinions and desires. This book was extremely useful for me because it allowed me, even as a fairly open minded adult, to see that there was more to the story than I knew: John Muir was not fighting for what I believe, partially because it was not meaningful to do so at the time, and James Phelan was not evil, fighting for damming a protected place without just cause. Reading this book allowed me to understand the opposing viewpoint. It did not change my overall views regarding what should be done in the future, but it very well could have.

Learners should be given information on issues similar to Hetch Hetchy, controversial issues that the learners may care greatly about. By being asked to consider the opposing viewpoint, learners practice independent thinking skills that are essential to scientific literacy. Learners re-consider their arguments for or against a cause using evidence, an important part of doing science. I am unlikely to ask my learners to read this particular book, but I am likely to guide them in experiencing the lessons I learned from it.


I will likely post more thoughts and teaching ideas later!  I just applied for my first teaching job and am exhausted!  Can you believe we are at that point already?




McTighe, J. & Wiggins, G. (2005). Understanding by Design. Alexandria, Virginia, Association for Supervision          and  Curriculum Development.


Righter, Robert W. (2005). The Battle over Hetch Hetchy; America’s Most Controversial Dam and the Birth of Modern Environmentalism. New York, Oxford University Press.




1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized