Random thoughts on teaching

  • You have to say things at least three times, even when everyone is listening.
  • A lot of times, people don’t follow instructions.
  • Sometimes, your instructions are wrong.
  • Sometimes students don’t remember things from one class period to the next, especially when there’s a week between each one.
  • I’m still waiting for the supposed digital natives.
  • Students make me laugh.
  • This teaching thing is hard.  As one of my friends said, the thing about teaching middle and high school is that you’re always on, from 8 a.m. to 3:30.  It’s very different from the teach one course, wait many hours (or even days!) and teach another.
  • Because of this “always on” thing, it’s hard to find time to reflect on what’s going well and what needs improvement.  But I’m trying.
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Happy Labor Day

There will be no laboring around here today.  I am extremely grateful for the extra day off.  It’s been a quite productive weekend.  I got some work done around the house on both days by only spending an hour each day (Flylady still rocks).  I also did some more work beefing up my programming skills.  I’ve been writing some simple programs and am working my way up to more complex ones.  Currently, I’m working in Python, but I hope to also learn more about Processing, which I hope to teach next semester.  I teach Scratch in 8th grade and I’m thinking that I will do Scratch, Alice, and Processing in my second semester class.  So, I guess, I lied, there will be laboring today, as I will do some more programming, but I don’t really consider that work, even when it’s hard.

I also went on a 7 mile walk yesterday as part of my lapsed training for the 60 mile walk.  I plan to go a little further, maybe 9 miles, on Thursday.  The issue for me is the time.  I walked 7 miles in about 2 hours.  If, I wanted to walk more like 14 miles, that would take at least 4.  It’s hard to carve that much time out of a day.  I usually don’t feel too sore after these walks, but I know 20 miles is a whole different thing.  I’ve resigned myself to being incredibly sore after Day 1, and continuing into the next two days, but I feel pretty confident that I’ll make.  Speaking of which, I’m only $150 shy of the amount I need to participate.  If you’re inclined, drop a few bucks in the can.

I’ve also been reading Mindset by Carol Dweck.  So far, I really like it.  I’m hoping this is the last physical book I read.  I finally broke down and bought a Nook.  I went back and for the between the Nook and the Kindle for about an hour.  They are very, very similar.  They even tied in my Twitter poll.  I finally settled on the Nook, both because it was in stock (while the Kindle was out of stock), and because there were a couple of features, like lending and a color touch screen, that appealed to me on the Nook.  I’ll let you know how I like it, but I’m really looking forward to having it in my hands.

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Random thoughts loosely joined

  • Lots and lots of meetings, which are exhausting, but which, believe it or not, I’m enjoying.
  • I enjoy the meetings because the tone of them is awesome.  Positive, grateful for everyone’s hard work, honest, open.  I haven’t been to a meeting like that in ages.
  • Some of the same complications exist at my new place as existed at the old.  They’re minor.  They’re knowable, and they’re easily avoided or fixed.
  • So far, I like the people I’ll be working with most closely.  They’re smart, insightful and pleasant to be around.
  • I am struggling with names, but I’ve freely asked people who they are.  I’m starting to remember some of them.
  • I am looking forward to working on curriculum for next year
  • I have in my mind that I need to distinguish between computing and technology (something I know I’ve harped on here before).  So far, people seem to get that I’m not an expert in your day-to-day applications, that my specialty is finding appropriate technology for pedagogy and that what I teach to the kids veers more toward computing than technology.

Once the kids actually show up, I’ll have more, but that’s what’s in my head for now.

Update 7: Murphy’s Law

Besides paperwork, this has been a week of mishaps, continued issues, and missteps.  On Tuesday, the basement flooded again, taking out our hot water heater.  Thankfully, I’d had a shower before that happened.  I made an attempt to re-light the heater myself, but chickened out after I’d found the pilot light.  I had images of myself going up in flames.  Mr. Geeky was out of town until late Wednesday night.  I might get a hot shower Thursday.

Wednesday night, Mr. Geeky called me from the airport.  He couldn’t find his car and he and his students were stranded.  His plates had just expired, so he was worried he might have been towed.  A cop told him they wouldn’t do that, but that they might have moved his car for construction.  So, I went and picked him up.  The next day, he made some phone calls.  Turns out, they were looking on the wrong level.  All the levels look the same, with the same letters to indicate the area you’re in, with no indication of what level you are on, except at the exit.  I took him back to the airport to get the car, dropped him off and zipped back home.  I didn’t have my phone with me, so he couldn’t call me to tell me that his battery was dead.  Luckily, they have a guy for that, but it took him a while to find Mr. Geeky.

Meanwhile, my computer had started to flail.  Considering that I’m trying to prepare some computer science/technology courses for the fall, this was a very. bad. thing.  After some diagnostics and suggestions from the Apple forums, I’m happy to say that it’s working just fine now.

But. Still no hot water.  Someone’s coming today around lunchtime to look at it.  When I called Mr. Geeky to tell him about it, I was ready to go out and buy a new one.  That might happen anyway. Sigh.  So, let’s see–3 days without a shower.  I have washed my hair in cold water, but do not have the fortitude to put my whole body in.

And. Still having neck issues.  Trying to do my physical therapy exercises, but I need to go back to actual physical therapy.  And said issues keep me from doing too much at the computer.  I need a new chair, I think, and a keyboard drawer.  Suggestions welcome.

We joined a new pool this summer, but we’ve yet to go.  We just haven’t had the time.  Aside from the above-mentioned issues, we’ve had appointments and lessons and whatnot.  Next week gets even worse, with meetings for me and then a trip to a workshop.  Maybe August.  Sigh.

Other things on my mind

I know the last couple of posts have been all “omg, I have so much stupid stuff to do I can’t see straight,” but I do actually think about other things outside my domestic sphere.  Here are some of them:

  • The oil spill.  It’s just awful, and I think I’ve decided that the profit motive has screwed up everything, from BP’s lack of preparation for the event to the governments oversight and response.
  • For-profit education.  The argument about for-profits used to be that their quality wasn’t up to snuff.  That’s not so much true anymore across the board.  But there are some issues with the business side, specifically the way they are handling student loans.  Watch College, Inc., read Dean Dad’s responses, and then read this article in Business Week.  For-profits fill a gap, but at what cost?
  • Facebook and Apple as evil entities.  I’m on a Mac as I speak with my iPhone plugged in.  Facebook is not currently open, but all bets are that it will be at some point.  We could add to this all kinds of other entities that basically hold monopoly power over us as consumers–cable companies, mobile phone providers, internet service providers, maybe Google?  For Apple products at least, I like the experience I get from using their products.  They generally work, and they’re fun to use.  I rarely become frustrated when using my mac or my iPhone.  The same is true of Google products, and quite frankly, a little blip is less of a problem, I’m not really paying for them (well, I am, through the use of my data, but no actual cash exchanges hands).  Facebook is not as important to me, and as I mentioned, I’m still on the fence about its practices.  Those other companies–cable, etc.–totally piss me off.  It costs an arm and a leg for phone and internet service.  I agree with DD, I want to have a selection of companies that I can buy all those things from.  So, I could go to Comcast or Verizon or another company and say, “I want internet (both home and wifi), phone (both landline and mobile), and tv for a single price that won’t kill me.”  Or I want those companies regulated like hell.  Landlines are cheap despite having a monopoly because they are regulated to a degree.  Same for the electricity.  If Facebook can be a utility that can be regulated, as danah boyd argues, then why can’t the mobile service providers?  Just saying.

Other than that, I’m mostly planning for the fall, dealing with household crap, carting kids around.  What a life!

RBOC: Sleep deprived edition

I think much of my anxiety of late comes from a lack of sleep.  This morning, I woke at 5:30 and thought, crap, it feels like I haven’t slept at all.  Despite having two cups of coffee, I can feel myself dragging already.  Maybe I can just blame the rainy weather.  I didn’t sleep well over the weekend, either, even though I slept in until 9 on Saturday.  At a party that afternoon, someone told me I looked peaked.

I am one of those people who really does need a full 8-hours of sleep every night.  I can survive on 7, but it catches up with me.  Less than that and I am a wreck.  I don’t think it helped that I didn’t really exercise much last week, ceding that time to class prep, birthday present shopping and other stuff that seemed important at the time, but now I can’t even remember what it was.

I have a late day at work today as I’m participating in my students’ mock class this afternoon.  But I am definitely going to work out this afternoon, even though I still need to fully plan out tomorrow’s class.  Some of that might happen over lunch.  And I can always add finishing touches this afternoon.

I think I’m also feeling the effects of my house falling into disarray.  The kids and the hubby have kept the kitchen in good order, but my office–hoo-boy–there are piles of crap everyone.  Also, really need to do some long term planning.  People, aka, my family, are starting to ask what my summer plans are.  I don’t know, people.  It’s January, for God’s sake.

Right now, I’d love to be in a tropical locale with a gentle ocean breeze and a mai tai in hand.

Thanksgiving Debrief

ToastingImage by lorda via Flickr

I had a thoroughly enjoyable Thanksgiving. Used to be at any family gathering, I got anxious about my appearance, what I was doing for a living, etc. I was keenly aware of being judged at these things, of people considering what I looked like, what my job was, what my kids looked like. And yes, that’s as painful as it sounds. Now, I just don’t care. I don’t need some random relative that I see once a year to approve of my life. It makes the whole thing more enjoyable when you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Here’s some things that occurred to me over the long weekend:

1. I’m really, really proud of my kids. They behave admirably among adults, engaging in conversations with them, telling them about their lives. They invariably inadvertently show off how smart they are.

2. By extension, I’m proud of the way Mr. Geeky and I have raised them. We’ve always thought hard about parenting and took it seriously. It’s nice to see that hard work paying off. You don’t always notice it during everyday activities.

3. Where I live may not be perfect, but it has a lot to offer. I found much of the surrounding area we were visiting quite depressing. At one point, I asked Mr. Geeky (who grew up there), is the whole place this bad? Other relatives also said that the particular area has indeed gone downhill. Some comparisons:

  • In both places, everyone is pretty spread out. But the reasons are different. In the place we visited, the spread was mostly a result of suburban sprawl. Here, I suppose, that’s some of it, but mostly it’s the result of an urban setting, with the city serving as the center around which we all settle. In Mr. Geeky’s hometown, there’s no real center.
  • I can walk to shops and services, and in fact, I do my best to frequent those local shops. In Mr. Geeky’s hometown, you have to drive everywhere. In fact, they’re at the end of finishing a huge expansion of the various bypasses and highways. There are eight lanes of traffic crisscrossing the city in all directions. It’s like a sea of pavement.
  • If I lived in Mr. Geeky’s hometown, I’d have a hard time finding organic anything. I made a visit to 2 different grocery stores and they barely had a produce section. Four aisles of convenience food, but only the very basics in produce. I’m sure that there are places where I could find better options, but I found it very sad that the people in the area didn’t even have access to substantial produce.

4. I’m happy with the choices I’ve made about my life, and happy with the way things have turned out. And I feel that without having to compare my life to other people’s. Sure, there are still things I want out of life, but that doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with where I am. Having to explain yourself over and over again to various relatives solidifies that feeling.

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RBOC: Weekend Update Edition

  • Puberty has hit our household with a vengeance. I went bra shopping, got a request for deodorant and for shaving lessons. Now everyone in the house shaves.
  • Lots and lots of laundry and general house cleaning and the house still seems messy. Sigh.
  • No walking this weekend due to both the above bullets. Seriously, I spent from 8-4 yesterday doing some kind of housework.
  • The heat came on for the first time, but it’s still predicted to be near or above 80 all week. These wild swings in temperature are always hard to manage. Should I get out the fall clothes or no? Wear a jacket or no?
  • 6 a.m. seemed extra early today, especially for Geeky Boy.
  • Once again, the week looks hectic.

RBOC: Incomplete thoughts edition

  • Yesterday, I started a long post about race that I just couldn’t finish. Suffice it to say, my relationship to race is complex, influenced by being raised in the South, by my own desire to figure out how the South got to where it is, and by people I’ve known and other places I’ve lived. I have been in contexts where I’ve had what can only be called racist thoughts. And my response is to fight those thoughts, to understand where they come from. And I think I’m not unusual in having those thoughts, though I may be unusual in recognizing them and trying to do something about them.
  • Laura at 11D continues the conversation about parents and work schedules and also talks about managing her own time. Although I’ve made progress on some projects this summer, I’ve given up having a super productive summer. For one thing, I’ve realized that physically, I can’t handle all work all the time. Seriously. I end up with major migraines. So, I’m basically working about 4 hours a day. Yesterday, I worked in the morning, then took the kids to the pool. I usually read while I’m there, sometimes things I need to, sometimes not. But that’s been the typical schedule. Housework happens when I’m inspired, which isn’t that often. I recruit the kids for lots of things, and they’ve been good about that.
  • Still trying to balance eating healthy and local and the cost. Still difficult. Yesterday organic chicken was running at $5/lb. for a while chicken. Regular chicken, $1/lb. Sigh.
  • BlogHer was on last week. I went in 2006. I like the idea behind BlogHer. It’s certainly great to see a bunch of women bloggers all in one place, but the corporate nature of it rubs me the wrong way. Maybe I’m just squeamish that way. Maybe it’s because my blog doesn’t get enough traffic to attract coroporate sponsors. 🙂
  • Update to my Naked Teaching post, another good commentary on teaching with technology.