Monthly Archives: September 2014

Off to a rocky STARt…

Well let me just start this post off with another “WOW.”  This week was absolutely insane, crazy, ridiculous, and jarring all wrapped up into two jam packed homework weekend days and five demanding weekdays.  But I have a feeling that this is going to become pretty normal for the next year.

Let’s start with the highs of the week,

  • Today I got to shadow a student at my placement who barely speaks in class and who often seems slightly off task, watching videos or listening to music from his Chromebook at inappropriate times.  However, after three periods of following him around, and him realizing that he actually was going to have to eat lunch with me we started talking about our schools and sports and my placement.  It felt really good to break through to a student who seems disengaged on the surface but actually turned out to be an incredible student and just quiet.  I’m hoping that today’s experience will spill over into future classes and he’ll be more open to contributing in class and helping his classmates when he can.
  • Earlier this week I got one of my first few chances to unleash my creativity while making my STARS notebooks which is something I have really been missing lately.  On a downside I definitely over extended myself as far as cut outs and tape ins go and was thus left in a photo finish situation for Wednesday.  Here’s to hoping I can get the best of both worlds from now on.
  • I started my online Spanish course this week and realized I remember a lot more than I thought, so for now at least it’s not an insane addition to my work load which is good.  Although this semester is going to be crazier because of it, it’ll be nice to get it dealt with so it’s not hanging over my head for the rest of the program.
  • Last night I had the most perfect 8-year-old’s dinner ever.  A box of Kraft Spongebob Squarepants shaped macaroni and cheese with two Hebrew National hot dogs cut up and mixed in with a side of Cherry seltzer water and Bravo TV.  This was good for two major reasons. One, I haven’t cooked a real dinner at home since my mom visited me two weeks ago and although it was a meal for someone less than half my age it was exactly what I needed.  Second, I could feel my beloved TV feeling lonely with how busy I’ve been, and its frustrations in becoming a glorified radio since all I use it for is my XM music in the morning. ….and yes, I did just personify my television.

Now for my low,

  • My biggest low of the week is how my STARS team has been going.  Day one, I thought at the time, was rough.  My team barely talked and essentially refused to use their lab notebooks (that I spent so much time and love making).  However, they did make an awesome human model of a titration which I got filmed twice, once on GoPro and second on an iPad.  I found the titration idea online and used some colored hats to demonstrate what is happening at a molecular level during a titration.  This was especially rewarding because my team is more than half seventh graders.  So this is the first year they’re experiencing science and yet they’re picking up chemistry concepts that most of them won’t get to until eleventh grade or so.  This is sounding a lot like a high so time for me to get real with all of you.  Day two in STARS was my actual nightmare, I think, for lack of a better analogy.  I lost my two leading STARS to other commitments and, in their place, gained SEVEN new people, two of which were boys which brought my count to the day to four boys and seven girls.  I thought this might prompt some more conversation … and boy, was I underestimating things.  Following crickets during my opening icebreakers that I really thought would bring us together and bring with that some laughs, some of my younger members took the reins to catch up our new members.  Then the group revisited the human model in different roles and did it just as well.  Then, just as I started my main demo for the day, showing the equipment for titrations and some basic, foundational concepts for my investigation the mass chaos ensued.  I had kids throwing pens at each other, cursing each other out, grabbing each other in inappropriate places, and chasing each other around my room.  Then, just when I thought I got them reined in and re-discussed our in’s and out’s for STARS, two boys and one girl got thisclose to a fistfight. Right in front of me.  With one of my younger members pacing the back of the room with his hands over his ears.  It was heartbreaking and terrifying and disturbing and eyeopening to see the conflict first hand and how severely it affected my other STARS.  My team never really came back together after that and it was fairly evident during whole group.  I did make a solid effort in employing some of my CT’s classroom management techniques to get my STARS back on task after the “scuffle” but they didn’t seem to have any affect on them. I’ve been wondering if this is because of the insanely different school atmospheres between the schools and if it’s reasonable for me to expect these classroom management tools to work in other, more typical schools. This is because of how exceptional my placement is in comparison to other schools and the students that attend those schools.

I’m looking forward to hitting the reset button this weekend after DASA, lunch with Jill’s family, dinner with some friends, and hopefully dinner with my relatives.  I think after yesterday I really need it, more than I thought I would following one especially trying STARS experience.  It can, hopefully, only go up from here.

It’s only just the beginning

Wow. Mostly just wow. I feel like the two weeks it has been since I got back from break, but mostly just this past week, have lasted for an entire year.  And I mean that from a variety of emotions; exhaustion, stress, happiness, excitement, sad, pride, accomplishment, and …. whatever the word is for laughter.

First of my placement so far has been incredible.  The kids are incredibly receptive to having both Jill and I constantly looking over their shoulders and offering our help when they need it.  It is going to take some time still to get used to saying “Hi, I’m Miss. Weber” but I think the generic “Miss” that Jill and I get called 90% of the time is a good transition for me.  One of the first few days I was there I, and my CT, was told a horrific story pertaining to the background of one of our students who, according to this other teacher, had severe behavior issues in class.  Despite this bone chilling story, she is upbeat and continually on-task.  I contribute this, for the most part, to be a product of my CT’s way of setting up her room and its management as well as how she has already connected with the students.  The students know what is expected of them and already have a good background of where my CT is coming from and what she has been through.  It is these relationships that, I think, have kept the classes managed so well.  And this isn’t just the norm at my school, some other classrooms are so loud you can hear them down the hallway and around the corner.

What has been my biggest source of stress so far, despite being only 9 days into school, has been STARS.  There is just so much to do in so little time, on top of my already overflowing schedule, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t release a few hundred stress tears as of late.

Recruitment was a whirlwind.  The day was really eye-opening beyond my demos.  Being in six different science classes, in a school on the other side of the urban spectrum from my placement, was like being in a different world.  I saw some great classrooms, similar to the one I’m in at my placement, but then I saw the placements that most people picture when the imagine urban education.  Classrooms where the teachers basically yelled for 45 minutes, where kids slept in the back, where entire lab groups just gossiped the whole period despite the teacher’s interventions, and where teachers talked down about their students to me prior to class.  It was a heartbreaking experience to be blunt.  People all around Rochester seem to look down on this school but the kids that attend it are just like any other kids, they need to be just as college and career ready as every other graduate, but a majority of them end up not graduating.  I think recruitment was the final straw for me, in my “I want to help urban youth achieve their dreams” vs. “I want a comfortable life in the suburbs” argument. Despite the urban focus in GRS, before recruitment day, I would get pangs of “the suburbs would be nice” but after getting to see a much bigger picture of what urban education really entails I realized how much more help I can do, and how much more positive influence I can have, in an urban setting.

The STARS Expo was another three hours of mayhem for me.  Despite getting there earlier than necessary my station required a lot more setup (and clean up between rotations) than I had thought and so I was (literally) running around like a headless chicken for a good portion of the expo.  I think my station went really well, although I was told to “do less” (which I did by cutting out an entire demo with dry ice and colors) I still was unable to “do even less” and ran out of time during every rotation.  Luckily one of the supporting teachers helped to clean out mortar and pestles while I immediately transitioned back to the beginning of my “script.” I put quotes around it because after the first paragraph in the first rotation it basically went out the window.  Even with how “freehand” this Expo felt for me as it was happening I got quite a good team.  A mix of 7th and 9th graders, I have 9 girls and 4 boys all of which are really excited to learn cool, colorful science and make new friends as Team Orange.  I’m a little concerned about how I’m going to teach the concept of titrations to the team, particularly the 7th graders. And I’m even more anxious about getting my team to understand the arithmetic involved in the titration workups, since they still take me some time to wrap my head around.  In all I think it’ll all be ok, despite they’re age and how quiet they were my team seems extremely excited about our investigation; and really, if the science doesn’t end up going the way I had planned its okay, because teaching is more about relationships and I have no concerns with that.