Thursday, July 23, 2009

Note from the Island Paradise

Science teacher no more.  Back in the saddle again and headed toward more comfortable terrain of literature and film.

Still see this summer of heavy duty teaching as a very mixed bag--enjoyed the kids, my colleagues, and meeting new parents.  But the schedule was debilitating, and diminishing returns kicked in early on for all of us.  No planning day up front, no planning time during the school day (not a single hour), no time at the end to prepare Pass/Fail report, little support (and sometimes hostility) from support people--and all of this for 1/2 daily rate. 

Most of us who taught this summer say we will not do it again. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Final Week, and then . . . Science Teacher No More

Looking ahead, there's is much to do this week.  But, first, where have we been? 

So far, the kids have set up their blogs, thrown seine nets to collect marine life from Biscayne Bay (identifications came afterwards), written about the flora and fauna of Virginia Key, completed a daunting APA formatting challenge, read and discussed Plato's anti-empirical argument in The Allegory of the Cave, Stephen J. Gould on Darwin, Thomas Kuhn on paradigm shifts in the sciences, and taken about a third of a practice PSAT.   

We will wrap up this week by finishing what we started with the PSAT (with a focus on why particular responses are better than others). We will attend  a presentation on "technology on the cutting edge," watch and cheer as the engineering classes launch their team-made vessels, and dance until we can dance no more at Friday's cotillion. 

Math and engineering teachers have exposed students to a great deal as well. If you consider what has gone on in all three areas, you cannot help but be impressed by the rigor and variety of the summer program at MAST Academy. 

We have put in place the kind of summer program for which private schools charge thousands of dollars.  This is indeed quality public education.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Week Two (in which the kids hit the water and wrestle with APA!)

Good day today with my students in the science course. We spent most of the time trying to get their blogs set up correctly.  A few of them had time to begin an APA assignment that requires them to format 15 citations, from non-standard software to photos found online.  they will use this info in PowerPoint presentations created for their Engineering and Design course.  

I am out of the building at a meeting on a new teacher evaluation system for the next three days. A bit nervous about that as I feel that we have begun to hit a stride. 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

One Week Down . . . or Up, Perhaps?

Week One bumped to a close yesterday.  Still think the kids are terrific, although because I am not accustomed to teaching the younger students, I am still adjusting to how many times I have to repeat myself--and how many times I have to quiet them down.  As a whole, they are talented--and very funny!

One of the unexpected dividends of the structure of our summer program is working in such close proximity to Dr. Hood--a REAL science teacher.  (I am the interloper.) We've known each other for years but have never had the opportunity to watch one another teach.  She is extremely knowledgeable but has no need to posture as way to convince our kids how much she knows. Julie is not looking for a "following," but she already has one. She just knows her "stuff" and the kids know she knows it. She's sincere, mellow, funny, and interested in the well-being of the kids, who are learning a great deal.  So am I!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Darwin via Stephen Jay Gould

Reading and discussing Gould's essay, Darwin's Middle Road, tomorrow.  Gould, who was an evolutionary biologist, is a powerful writer whose arguments seem to form quite effortlessly. His point in this piece is that Darwin combined inductivism and "eureka-ism" to great effect--the theory of evolution.  To read this essay from The Panda's Thumb is to understand one of the greatest ironies in modern science: Darwin's great contribution to science was the result of close observation, yes--but also wide reading in economics, theology, and moral philosophy. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fish Out of Water: Looking Toward Day 2

Well, Day One went better than I expected, although I fell into lecture without intending to do so. Gotta watch that.  

The kids are terrific and many showed some genuine interest in Plato's anti-empiricist rant in the Allegory. They will read the piece tonight, generate questions on it tomorrow, and discuss it in a Harkness circle. The kids will also write their first journal entry tomorrow when they reflect on Plato's positioning vis-a-vis The Truth.  Then it is on to Jacob Bronowski Wednesday. 

Teaching for four hours straight in the summer is . . . challenging.  I imagine that from the perspective of the students it is even more of a trial. 


Sunday, July 5, 2009

First Time for Everything

I will enter the science classroom tomorrow to begin a 3-week stint discussing the scientific method, reading essays on the history of science, teaching the APA style sheet as a way to document sources in science writing, and working with about 60 students on a field guide to the flora and fauna of Virginia Key. It all sounds a bit daunting to me (particularly this last component) . . . but, hey, I am game! Remains to be seen how this literature and film teacher of 31 years is going to do in a foreign sphere. More later. 

Friday, July 3, 2009

A Turning Point for U.S. Education?

I highly recommend this short article by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter:  He makes the point--and a good one it is, in  my view--that we have a critical choice to make in teacher training and evaluation and the spending of stimulus dollars. Do we continue with the status quo, funding public education evenly in spite of spotty or highly unreliable data on teacher quality, or do we venture into unchartered terrain, challenge the tired curricula of schools of education and focus on TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS? 

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Twitter to Blog, Blog to Twitter

Posting URL to the blog on Twitter today.  Will be interesting to read comments, if any result!