Category Archives: Posts About Me

Poisons in Jazz Age New York City

So, I know I already posted my book talk paper that I read over winter break but I just recently started another chemistry based book and thought it’d be a great read for some of you all. I had actually hoped to read this book initially when Jo Ann explained what the book talk book had to be but alas, after searching for my original copy it seemed to have found itself left behind at my ex-boyfriend’s house halfway across the country and so, I set to find a new book which resulted in this paper and book talk.

I had talked to Jill at length about how much I wished I could have that original book back but didn’t want to reach out in order to get it back and so Jill, being a true PIC/BFF and the SpongeBob to my Patrick, got me a new copy for Christmas this year =). The book is called “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York” by Deborah Blum. Luckily, over break I have been able to start reading it for my third time and have really enjoyed it so far even more than the first two times (I’m only halfway right now). The main reason I think I’m enjoying it so much more this time around is because of how well it demonstrates the nature of science and how being included into the culture of science is seen as a privilege given to very few (when it really isn’t that way). And therefore, here is a halfway-point book talk about a second book!


The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Science in Jazz Age New York

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Science in Jazz Age New York

Title: The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York

Author: Deborah Blum

Big Idea: Science is tentative and often seen as exclusive of other disciplines


In this book, Blum breaks up the history of poisonings in 1920s New York City into each category of poisons, as they seem to have a rather chronological path through time. The book covers the many poisons including chloroform, wood alcohol, the cyanides, arsenic, mercury, carbon monoxide, methyl alcohol, radium, ethyl alcohol, and thallium.

Each chapter includes several aspects of the history of poisonings in Jazz Age New York in order to paint a vivid picture of all that happened to make forensic medicine and poisoning the complex yet intriguing spider web that they are today.

First, within each chapter is a historical account of how forensic medicine really got its’ footing in the laboratory and, more importantly, in the court rooms of New York. The chapters start by telling of the corruption within the medical examiner’s office and later on how it gets reversed and forensic medicine makes incredible strides forward by hiring a top pathologist, Dr. Charles Norris, from Bellevue Hospital at the time who went to great lengths to develop newer, more precise, and more sensitive tests to determine how a person had died. The chapters also includes multiple stories showing how a particular poison was used, often in multiple ways, in order to get rid of someone whom the poisoner didn’t want around (for whatever reason). These stories start with explanations of the crime scene, moving towards the story of what Dr. Norris and his team did in the lab to determine cause of death, and ending with the stories from the courtroom of who said what, what the verdict was, and what the (assumed) story of what really happened was. Some chapters include extra ties to things occurring in history at that time, for example the invention of the car, its’ increased popularity, and the ties to the increase in carbon monoxide and tetraethyl lead (TEL) (linked to mercury poisoning) deaths in car and gasoline factories).

Overall, “The Poisoner’s Handbook” tells an incredible, scientific and historical, account of how poisoning changed forensic medicine forever. The stories included within these pages cover multiple viewpoints of history including legal, scientific, historical, political, and technological of Jazz Age New York, which combine to create a colorful painting of what Jazz Age New York looked like, from both sides of the courtroom. People who would enjoy this book include people with scientific interests, people with medical interests, people with legal interests, as well as anyone with a strong sense of curiosity surrounding crime and science. Having a chemistry background would help in your initial understanding of the poisons before Blum discusses them; but, her descriptions of the physiological effects as well as her explanations of why these compounds and elements were so dangerous for human contact mean anyone could enjoy and understand the inner workings of poisoning in the Jazz Age of New York City through reading “The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Science in Jazz Age New York.”

Reflections and Rochester

This week, as many of you are already aware of, is many of our first interviews for grown-up jobs. In preparing for this with the cohort I was prompted to reflect on all that we have done up until this point and find some shining moments for us to really highlight on Saturday. This reflection started for me at my first placement, since that’s where I really felt I got my teacher voice and persona down. However; after delving deeper into our journeys thus far it became more and more clear to me that all the hoops we jumped through for GRS are really rich experiences that, in retrospect, challenged me much more than my placements have. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t felt overwhelmed and at the breaking point at either of my placements, but it does say, heck it screams, that science in all spaces (authentic, culturally relevant, scientifically relevant) plays a monumental role in a cultivating a student’s scientific identity.

At the placement I’m in right now I actually teach one of my campers from this past August. At camp this camper became my project for the week and I really wanted to get him invested like the rest of our team was at the time. However, at school these days that same camper, now my student, is a leader in the classroom and really identifies with science being a part of his life. Now, maybe at camp he didn’t want to be there, or he didn’t see the point, but something happened between camp and today where he gets it now. He’s already asking me what the investigation is going to be next year and was quite disappointed to hear that we wouldn’t be the team leaders again.

I have felt slightly out of place in middle school but have started to really get it as of late. Seeing as a good portion of my current students haven’t taken science formally yet in school many of them need many more scaffolds than at my other placement; where the students were older and more familiar with how to participate in science. These additional scaffolds that need to be included for my students have really started to push me back to camp and STARS where we had to make it relevant and fun for our learners to increase their buy in.

It seems like one of the ways to do this is to include the community, which is all over our evaluation rubrics and other Warner materials, but is a real challenge for some units. For my opening lesson in Evolution I taught about fossils and rock layers and based it all around the Rochester Gorge at Lower Falls, which is a familiar and relevant place to many of my students. My CT commented after the day was over that it all clicked together really well in that lesson, which was structured similarly to past lessons of mine, but it did have much more buy in from students of all abilities because they all have a story about the Gorge and all want to have some fun facts to take to impress their family members at home. Seeing how well this went for me I am publicly challenging myself to include more pieces of the community and surrounding areas of Rochester in my future lessons whenever it works. It really sparked some interest in my current students, including my past camper at camp, and I think it can promote the inclusion of science into a student’s identity, especially in students with less background in science who haven’t realized that it is really all around us all the time and so it is relevant to their lives.

What do Rubber, Morphine, Purple Dye, and Nylon all have in common?

This week I wanted to share my book that I read for our book talk papers.  Although the book is on the longer side I really enjoyed that it didn’t require me to read it all in a short period of time (so that I wouldn’t forget the plot).  Each chapter could stand on its own and that made every time I picked up the book feel like a totally new experience.  It’s thorough and interweaving historical accounts of chemistry provided me with a ton of valuable insight into how far chemistry has come since the beginning of modern science.  I don’t want to give away too much more though, so that my presentation isn’t totally ruined before I even start it!


Book: Napoleon’s Buttons: 17 Molecules that Changed History

Authors: Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson

Big Idea: Science is tentative, messy, and unexpected.

In Napoleon’s Buttons: 17 Molecules That Changed History by Penny Le Couteur and Jay Burreson, a central idea of the Nature of Science, namely the fact that science is tentative and ever changing is pervasive. The book discusses seventeen molecules that, in the authors’ opinions, changed the path of history significantly with their identification and induction into society. As more molecules are discussed in the book, more overlaps between the molecules become evident. Ties between quinine and picric acid and aspirin, for example, are laced throughout all three of the chapters, which speak directly about those compounds. Furthermore, because many of these compounds were discovered, isolated, and synthesized within a similar range of dates their overlaps must go beyond even the scope of this book.

While there are many similarities between a large number of the compounds on which Napoleon’s Buttons focuses, the book pays special attention to the struggles and obstacles that scientists encountered while trying to isolate, determine the structure of, and stereo-selectively synthesize the molecules in question. This point is one that I think is significant for my future students, and would provide real-life Nature of Science into my future classroom. These struggles highlight the facts that science is messy, and indeed even some of the molecules spoken about in this book were discovered accidentally, while a researcher was looking for an entirely different compound, or even as a result of tiny differences in molecules’ structures.

In addition, significant time is spent in the book discussing how the development and use of some of these “miracle” compounds turned out to be “nightmare” compounds. For example, at the time of DDT’s (dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane) initial use for eradicating malaria and slowing the spread of typhus it seemed to be a positive, life changing molecule; but, DDT ended up having serious environmental impacts despite its efficiency at doing its main job and whose use has since been significantly reduced.

Overall, Napoleon’s Buttons speaks directly to the Nature of Science in a multitude of ways including its messiness and tentative natures. By reading even only individual chapters of this book my future students would get valuable insight into how sloppy, unexpected, and uncertain science can be. The connections between chapters, and thus reading the entire book, would provide students with an insiders’ look into science research and discovery; which would really uncover the collaborative and mysterious underpinnings of the development of our society, through the lens of science. In my own classroom, I could use this book in segments or as a whole, for the end results I stated prior, but could focus on the connections between seemingly unique compounds. Given the time to do so, a concept map of significant words in Napoleon’s Buttons would be cognitively challenging and profound for students to create, either for individual chapters or for the book as a whole, for which students could be responsible for individual chapters. For this task, the words in the concept map would go beyond just the compound names, by also include locations, dates, routes to discovery, origins, and so on. Through this exercise the interconnectedness of all corners of our current society could be made visible for learners.

This book is one that I would recommend to science geeks, learners, and all people in between in addition to anyone with an interest in history and the progression of modern advancements. In all, Napoleon’s Buttons is a book that can be enjoyed in single chapter segments or as a whole, but either way gives an insightful and descriptive account on seventeen history-changing molecules, many of which are very unexpected choices.



Le Couteur, P., Burreson, J. (2003). Napoleon’s buttons: 17 molecules that changed history. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Goals and Updates

Updates from last week: the poop sock digestive system model was a huge hit! My students either loved it or were super grossed out by it but they all seemed to really absorb (haha, get it?) the material because the lesson as so unique. Also, I’ve hit a milestone and got my first student to legitimately throw up from one of my lessons, so I’m marking that as a huge point in the win column. My first week went well, I guess you could say, and each day I teach I get more comfortable with the discipline policies. I’m still not perfect but I’m improving. The first week also started off with my first teacher snow day; and, I have to say, the rumors are true, snow days as a teacher are way better than as a student.


And now, onto my new thoughts; I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I’m going to maintain my sanity through another couple years of madness as I settle into my teaching career and realize I probably need to start setting goals for now and for the future. And, yes I am taking Julian’s blog idea here. #HatersGonHate. So without further ado, here they are.

First short term,

  1. Stop watching Netflix in bed. This is a trap I get myself caught into on an almost nightly basis. I bring my computer to my room, get in bed, and watch some wild prison or drug lord documentary (weird choices, I know). This is not a terrible thing because I usually only do this when I’m going to bed early. However, this documentary usually runs about an hour to an hour and a half long and once it ends most normal people would shut their computer and go to sleep. That’s (obviously) not what I do; see, I have this pre-bed routine that I like to run through that includes Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Buzzfeed, CNN, and at least a dozen ThoughtCatalog articles. Each month this routine seems to get longer, and I’m going to attribute that for the most part to the number of ThoughtCatalog articles I read increasing each time I go on, by now my pre-bed ritual is about half an hour to 45 minutes long. That takes an hour-long documentary to a two-hour ordeal by the time I turn my lights off. That’s too much, and especially with how busy I am during the day it’s something that needs to stop, or (at the very least) be cut down.
  2. Start eating real dinners. I’m just going to come out and admit that last night I ate brownies and pretzels with a side of ginger ale for dinner. Gross. And, even worse is I did actually have the time to cook something and the food to cook something with actual nutrition in it. I currently feel like I’m getting sick and I’m going to go out on a limb and say its because I haven’t been eating great so I haven’t been getting enough of all the good stuff to keep me healthy… Or I guess it could be that my CT has the flu. Either, or.
  3. Work out when time allows. Jill and I did really well this past summer with going to the gym before class and I really started to notice a difference in my energy levels and my strength from doing it; I was actually really making progress towards getting back into good shape. However, as I’m sure we can all relate to, as soon as school, STARS, and class started we stopped (understandably). Now that I’m only in two classes (instead of five) and have kind of gotten the hang of writing lesson plans I have slightly more time on my hands. This extra time has been, for the most part, spent in a horizontal position on Jill’s couch or mine. Now, I’m not saying that hanging out and doing nothing is a bad thing, because it is probably one of my favorite things but between that and my brownie dinners I’m losing any fitness that I once had. This time last year I was working on Wall St. and commuting two hours each way to work; that meant my 9-hour workday was really a 13 to 13.5-hour day door-to-door. Now that really left me no time to work out so I bought a yoga mat and started doing some serious Pilates to make up for not going to the gym. I still have that mat in my apartment and I have a ton of index cards with body weight workouts written down that I used then and over the summer with Jill. My plan is, on the days that I don’t have class, to get one of those workouts done before I go to bed. Between that and eating real dinners I should make some progress back to the summer.

Now for longer-term goals,

  1. Start making classroom management and organization plans. I’ve gotten to see a few styles of running a classroom at this point and have several different options to use or build off of for next year. I need to start making some general plans that can translate to whatever and wherever my classroom may be next year. I know that things may be slightly different depending if I’m in middle school or high school, especially because chemistry students tend to be much older than middle schoolers, but there are some general things that will be very similar. As for organization, I’m not very organized by nature (Jill has helped with changing that recently) so I need to consciously start making moves towards having an organized classroom so that I can avoid having five units worth of papers on my desk.
  2. Start creating general unit outlines for my content areas. I realize this is a huge task to bite off, however, that being said I am only going to be in one class this summer (besides creating my portfolio) and should have the time to at least get the major topics for the year down and decide on an order that flows. Now, ideally I’ll know where I’m teaching before the day before school starts so that I only have to do this for one content area, but worst comes to worst it won’t necessarily be a bad thing for me to have a plan for chemistry and middle school.
  3. Start paring down my possessions and donate/sell what I don’t need. I have a pretty big apartment, in my opinion, and I have three closets, one of which is the size of a small office. All three of my closets are stuffed with clothes, things, and boxes. Now, the boxes were intentional because I know I will be moving soon but everything else is really starting to (literally) pile up. I currently have enough dinner and silverware to feed approximately 24 people with real (not plastic) stuff. I also have three vacuums and two air conditioners. So, needless to say, especially because I’ll be moving in with Jill at the end of the summer (baring any unforeseen catastrophe) and will have to combine my stuff with her stuff into an similarly sized, maybe even smaller, apartment. And that definitely sounds like something that would stress out a Jillian.

Thank you, and goodnight.

You say hello, I say #Goodbye …. #PoopSock …. and other #Winter thoughts

Over winter break I spent a lot of time, as most “out-of-towners” do, at their family Christmas party catching everyone up on what I’ve been up to in Rochester and how I’ve like or disliked it. I realized, after talking to my seventh or eighth relative, that I don’t remember a time in my past where I felt so many things at once but was perfectly ok with all of it. I’m nervous because we just started new placements, I’m sad at times because I do get homesick (although, mostly for my dog and bagels… sorry mom and dad), but mostly I’m happy because I finally feel like I’m where I belong, geographically, emotionally, and educationally.

My first placement really got to feel like home for me, and while I did have a few issues with it by the end, the school, the teachers, and the students really felt like my own. Jill and I unfortunately had to give a test on our last day but with the long, block scheduling that that placement had we were able to have a mini party afterwards where we handed out individual goodie bags and thank you’s to all our students. I really wasn’t expecting to feel so sad when we were leaving but after talking to our first class about it being our last day and that we appreciated that they were so welcoming and respectful towards us I almost did get a little teary eyed. Now, I am a huge crybaby for sentimental things like that so I guess I should have seen that coming. What really did almost throw me over the edge was when a particular student that we were close to had to go outside of the room because she started to cry a little and, when at the end of class students started to ask for goodbye hugs and when we were going to come back and visit them.

This whole experience, in addition to the anxiety of starting a new placement made me start thinking about how these feelings are something that I am going to experience every year for the rest of my career. Being that (ideally) I will be teaching chemistry next year and after that my students will be older and probably within a year or two of graduating so I won’t get to see them much after they leave my class. Now, I’d like to think that it’ll be easier because I’ll be seeing my students graduate and move onto bigger and better things than high school which is exciting, but I know it’s not going to be easy… I’m just hoping the universe will compromise with me and settle for easier.



Jumping into my second placement in the middle of the year was also harder than I expected it to be. I have gotten a better system down for learning names, which was good, but it has been much harder to get down the classes’ routines than it was at my first placement. I think it has a little bit to do with coming in in the middle of the year but I’m trying not to give myself excuses.

So far at this placement, discipline will be my biggest challenge. I got better at my teacher presence last semester; but this school, and the grade level team that I am a part of, is all about their discipline routines and managing behaviors before they get out of control. My CT and her co-teacher are very upfront about their expectations and with their willingness to support me as a transition into the lead role, which I’m so appreciative for already. My goal for the first half of this placement (which I plan on continuing) is to be serious about discipline so that I will be seen as an equal to my CT and her co-teacher. I know this will be a challenge for me, because I tend to want to go easy on kids. I like to think that I’m the Queen… eh, Princess of the Warning but I rarely go beyond that. Kids have already started to test me a little bit and I think I’ve done okay with not overstepping my bounds too soon; once I’m a lead teacher though I know I’ll have to be making decisions quickly and with more discipline than I’m used to. I guess I think a lot of my anxiety about this is coming, first, from my nature of being a generous and giving person, but also because the discipline and classroom management in my last placement was completely different from this school. That’s not to say that kids were running the room and going wild but my CT at the time had the approach that “if they’re not distracting and mostly on task, whatever they need to do is okay.” Now, I get that, and I really started to own that mantra but at my new placement, with a new grade level, and a MUCH smaller room I’m beginning to see that that management style isn’t going to work, because kids can’t just stand up to stretch their legs or get up to throw out a paper without disrupting 85% of the kids in the room (mostly because they’d have to climb over at least four people just to get to the trash can).

Change is a good thing, and I’m really loving this change a lot more than I expected to so I like to think that things will smooth out after my first day jitters finally leave. Also, I think once the kids see what I have in store for them on day one (#PoopSock) they won’t be so quick to test me, because they’ll be engaged with my material, and won’t have time to think of making distractions. However, the world isn’t perfect so I know it’s not going to go so smooth; so, tips and pep talks are appreciated, and I’ll probably need them to start…. In addition to some background knowledge on body systems (#ChemistryForLife). Go time is Monday so I’m already preparing nightly pep talks for myself already. Hopefully the Super bowl pumps me up as well!

Mints, Fire, and Crime

This coming week Jill and I are leading our series of lessons at our placement.  For this mini-unit we are teaching electron excitation and are trying really hard to ground our students’ learning in real world.  For this we have come up with the Wint-o-green triboluminescence experiment, a human model of electron excitation (See Jill’s blog), a flame test investigation, and an investigation into spectroscopic lines.  It seems, and is, a lot to accomplish in only three or four days (depending how much time the students need for each assignment) but we’ve been wrestling a lot recently about whether what we have planned would be enough, because (as we’ve all heard a billion times before in Summer B) “hands-on is not enough.”

We, or at least I am, completely, totally, a billion percent psyched for all of our activities to do in the two general chemistry classes.  For one, what student doesn’t want to see their teachers climbing on stools and throwing M&M’s to each other (See Jill’s post for more on this), or who doesn’t want to change the color of a bunsen burner flame into any color of the rainbow, and lastly (and the one I’m most excited for) who doesn’t want to do a lab investigation into spectroscopic lines that starts with a short video of Miss Weber and Miss Kramer committing mysterious crimes involving fluorescent light bulbs (that can be identified by spectroscopic lines)??? I’d like to think no one doesn’t want to partake in those activities but it’s inevitable that someone might have a bad day or just not care so much about making mints flash light in your mouth that day.  Also, because of timing issues in class we have to start one class off with notes that our CT has already given to the other class.  This is making re-syncing the two classes difficult.

Significant changes to our plans have happened since its conception, due mostly in part to input from our supervisors and other advisors, but also because of Jill’s ingenuity to preface our final summative lab assessment with a relevant, funny, and engaging video clip of us presenting a series of mysterious crimes to our students to solve.  We’ve also decided to change our flame test from an actual lab to a demonstration, but to improve student engagement and increase its “cool” factor (although for fire-based labs I don’t know how much that is necessary) by changing the procedure form burning wooden splints soaked in salt solutions to using spray bottles to mist the flame in salt solution.  After our tests on Friday last week this turns out to work really well (except for if you spray too closely to the flame and extinguish it) so our CT is looking forward to using the spray bottle technique in the future.  Our human model (again, see my PIC’s blog for more on that) also should provide much better basis for understanding than diagrams or regular notes.  By combining YouTube videos and outside suggestions we’ve come up with a way that has already worked very well in improving our Regents class’s understanding of the concept.

Overall, I’m excited but there seems to be so so so much more do to for this than for STARS.  Also, I’ve noticed I feel less comfortable when I’m not the only teacher figure in the room so I will need to do a lot of personal chances to make sure I come across the way I hope to … the first challenge of which will be learning not to always talk over Jill, which after being a single team leader for STARS will provide me with a huge challenge.

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.

Harambee and Purple Stained Fingers

This week in my latest series of teacher events I found myself at the Freedom School experiencing Harambee for the first, but hopefully not last, time.  Harambee was incredible, and for those of you that know how intensely I feel emotions, it almost choked me up.  After hearing for the past two months how disadvantaged urban students tend to be and how they are often disengaged as well, getting to see (my estimate of over a hundred) urban youth dancing, singing, cheering, supporting each other, and getting excited for another fun, educational, and friendly day at the Freedom School was really overwhelming.

Jill and I then went to battle the gusts of wind to set up our APK station which Jo Ann aptly named “Can you picture this?”

APK Station Sign

The experience felt like mayhem, in a good way.  Ten minutes FLY by when you have campers in front of you, so we were constantly collecting papers, erasing whiteboards, taking pictures, moving Warner paper, etc. just to keep our heads above the water that was APK stations.

APK Station Group Talk

APK Station JandJ

APK Station Graph APK Station Making Graph








Overall, seeing the excitement in the Freedom School was actually a little intimidating, especially knowing we’re all going to have to get ourselves up to that level for camp.  I can already feel the exhaustion!!!  Unfortunately I never played any sport that had cheers of any sort so I’m hoping someone else has or that we’re all willing to get creative and a tiny bit weird.  On the other hand, I am SO pumped for ice breakers and team building.  I have to admit, I HATED this stuff when I was a freshman at college but now that I’ve come out of my shell I can’t wait to do them again from a more outgoing perspective.  I think the fun we have at camp will easily make all the work of Warner Lesson Plans and Unit Planning worth it; although I can already see my sleep calendar getting severely diminished.


To end on a purely fun note; last night the cohort all met at Jo Ann’s house for the most fun tie dye session I’ve ever been a part of. (And just so you all realize how big of a deal that is I have tie dyed at least once or twice a year since high school).  Everyone brought some food or drink and we took out to tie dye a grand total of 34 shirts! My biggest tie dye task yet, so I’m glad I had so much help!  Spirals and accordion style rubber banding dominated Jo Ann’s patio table (and then basement floor) which all came out looking incredible.  Ryan turned out to be our resident spiral-pro and was quickly recruited to spiral at least one of everyones shirts,  Jill quickly realized she could be successful at tie dying, Eric and Angie became our professional wring-out-the-t-shirt-ers, Tiarra and Alanna were nature rubber-band-taker-outers which made easy work out of retying 34 shirts.  I actually found myself being pretty useless! But, I guess that means I instructed well, since several of our instructors have said that when you feel useless you’ve scaffolded and planned the “activity” well.  I just think I have very helpful and clever friends.  We missed Kaitlin and Ceb (following a earlier visit) but I’m sure both of you will be happy with the shirts we’ve made for you; but, on a positive note you guys are probably the only two people who don’t have purple stained fingers today (despite my make-shift plastic bag gloves)!

Overall, a great night with great friends.  Looking forward to camp with everyone, but specifically with (temporarily) named Team Jerica.

11pm and still smiling!

11pm and still smiling!

One of our best spirals

One of our best spirals



Aaand boom goes my tire…

So, as a few of you may know I drove home to Long Island last weekend, half because it was Memorial Day Weekend (and I feel that it’s a requirement to go for a ride on my boat to start the summer off right) and half because I found and apartment that I’m moving into … TODAY (and all weekend probably, given how much stuff I have).

Unfortunately, a draw back to living on the other side of NYC  from Rochester is  that whenever I drive there, or back, I have to find a delicate balance between me wanting to sleep late-ish and me not wanting to get stuck in rush hour traffic; which, may I mention, lasts for about four hours.  So, it’s more of a rush-four-hours.

Unsurprisingly my dislike of traffic won again for this trip and I woke up bright and early, at 6:45am, so that I could pack up, get breakfast and gas, and get on the road to miss the Memorial Day traffic.  Let me also add that any holiday weekend traffic (especially if it falls on a Friday) tends to lengthen rush-four-hours to approximately rush-six-hours and instead of starting around 4:30pm it usually starts as early as 2:30pm.  So by leaving by 8am I planned to be home by 2 or 2:30, and successfully evade Memorial Day traffic.


…..Let’s just say none of that happened.  About 20 minutes into my drive (just before the Geneva exit on the thruway) I had an instantaneous blow out of my rear passenger side tire.  I guess I really am as cool under pressure as I think (go me!) because I was able to get off to the shoulder and far away from the 18-wheelers to be safe.  AAA was called, and told me half an hour. So instead of sitting like a lame duck for that time I decided to start changing my tire and actually got it most of the way changed before the guy came to help.


The damage. Clearly not your everyday flat tire.

The damage. Clearly not your everyday flat tire.


Following an excruciating two hour ordeal of changing tires and getting a new tire (because I tend to have bad luck and was fearing another blowout) I was back on the road maneuvering my way through the back roads of the Finger Lakes … just in time to make sure I hit the tri-state-area smack dab in the middle of rush-six-hours.

My usual six hour drive took me ten hours and I barely made it home for my favorite dinner; roast beef, homemade gravy, mashed potatoes, and corn. But, dinner did make up for my disastrous drive home in the end.  During this dinner with our next door neighbors (my best friend’s parents) describing how or what made my tire disintegrate so quickly really puzzled me.  I found myself in the middle of what seemed like an everyday discussion but what had a scientific (mostly physics) background from all the different forces that were acting on my tire.

I don’t know exactly what we decided happened to the tire, given that they were in pretty good condition and I didn’t see anything on the road I may have run over. But, seeing my family and friends, none of whom are even remotely science-people, think critically reinforced several of the themes we have been discussing in class.  I found that although none of these people had careers even close to the science field they all possessed scientific literacy and were able to think critically about my tire disaster.  We had evidence based arguments and predictions; heck, I think there was even a corn-on-the-cob based model used at one point!


And I did get to take a ride on the boat!!

And I did get to take a ride on the boat!!