Sunday, October 31, 2010

Brain Considerate Learning

Kenneth Wesson was the speaker at one of the sessions I attended at NSTA. Go to his website*. Subscribe to the blog.

I was a bit leery as I watched him open up his powerpoint presentation. Nearly 300 slides. However, I am fascinated by brain research, so I decided to suffer through it.

There was no suffering. The man is brilliant, but can speak in a way that anyone can understand. Not only did the hour fly by, but we only went through 79 slides**. I would have listened to him speak all day.

Kenneth has done extensive research into how the brain works. Specifically, how the brain works when it is learning. I have spent the last several hours reading through his papers and I could say that I am fascinated, but that really does not begin to describe what is going through my head right now.

Every teacher should be required to learn about how the brain works. Every administrator should be required to learn about how the brain works. Every parent. Every day care provider. Every policy maker. Any one who works with children. Any one who makes decisions that affect children.

Because the thing is, it's not just about the brain. It's about nutrition. And health care. And emotions. And development. And so much more than just school.

*In truth, if I were to have stumbled onto this site, I probably would not have given it a second glance. It doesn't look like a site that would have this kind of information. Go beyond that. Click on every link he has.

**How many times have you ever seen the phrase "only 79 slides" and not cringed???

Saturday, October 30, 2010


So I just got back from the NSTA Regional Conference in Kansas City.


Just wow.

If you have never been to one, go. Just GO. You must find a way.

It is a surreal feeling to be surrounded by science teachers. These are people with the same challenges as me. And the same experiences as me. And the same goals as me. Yet, I don't know hardly any of them.

And I am willing to bet that each and every one of them has more than a few ideas that I could use in my classroom.

So many brilliant ideas, so little time.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Think I Scared Them

I really lit into my first hour today.

Lab notebooks were due on Thursday. Nine of my kids were going to be gone for an FFA judging contest. They were told on Monday to turn their notebooks in on Wednesday.

They were told again on Tuesday. I wrote it on the board so they wouldn't forget.

And on Wednesday, again, they were reminded.

Guess how many turned in their notebook?


So this morning as I was handing out grade reports, there were a lot of complaints and claims that I never said they had to be turned in early.

Now, I rarely lose my temper, especially in class, but today*... well, I launched in to a pretty good tirade on responsibility and making an effort and how this is not MY learning, but theirs.

There was a pretty stunned silence. Then, "so can we turn our notebooks in now?"

No. No you can't.

But here is what you can do. You can make an appointment either before school or during parent conferences on Thursday and you can defend your notebook. It's going to be just like a whiteboard session. You will tell me about the lab. You will describe your results. You will interpret the relationships between the pressure, temperature, volume and number of particles of a gas.

Once you have convinced me that you didn't just copy your lab analysis from someone else, then you can turn in your notebook.

*What can I say, I helped my dad harvest all weekend and was up all night with a sick baby.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Really? Really?

Have you ever had the feeling that you have totally lost control of your class?

That was me today. We have spent the last couple days going through a three part gas law lab and due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, we ended up talking about all three graphs at once today.

Big mistake. Huge. I have to go shopping now...

Every graph we make, we write the equation for the line. At first, when the kids stared at me with those blank looks, I chalked it up to not being around much math in the last few weeks. Now, we are trying to write our fifth, sixth and seventh equations and still, I get those stares.

It's like they aren't even trying...wait...

I swear if one more kid asks me how to find slope, I will have my nervous breakdown and be done with it. A nice long hospital stay might do me some good.

And heaven forbid I actually have them try to SOLVE the equation with some known value.

Here is the actual equation we were trying to solve for T:
0 kPa = (0.221 kPa/C) T + 90.85 kPa

I tried that first hour. After the alloted 43 seconds of wait time, no one had ventured a guess as to how to solve for temperature. I gave them a hint. Nothing. I moved the 90.85 kPa for them. Nothing.

I'm not sure what to do about this. I truly do not believe that every single one of them has forgotten every single math skill they have ever learned.

Friday, October 1, 2010

At Least Some of the Hostility has Subsided

Today is our Fall Homecoming. We dismiss at noon for pep rally and parade, so no one comes to class expecting to do any work. Since I finally got my 1st and 5th hour chemistry classes back to the same spot, I didn't really want to do too much this morning.

So we did the imploding can demo and talked briefly about pressure changes. Kids then had the rest of the hour to tie up any loose ends in their lab notebooks.

A student raised his hand and said "I have a question."

One of the girls who was instrumental in the mutiny the other day happened to be in his group. She cast me a sidelong look and said "Garrett, don't you know no questions are allowed in this class?"

I grinned and reminded her that there are lots of questions in here.

Surprisingly, she smiled back and said, "Yeah, but you are the only one who gets to ask them, we are the ones that have to come up with the answers!"

Overnight, the climate in my room has shifted in a more positive direction. I'm not sure what happened, although I am pretty sure our librarian has been discreetly dropping hints to her regulars about the "difference between being a learner and being a robot."

Maybe it was our first test. For all the whining they did, most everyone did much better than I (and they) expected.* That may have won them over more than anything. It's hard to argue that I'm not teaching them anything when they do well on tests.

What ever the reason, I'm not complaining.

Off to a parade...Happy Friday!

*That is the exactly what I told them as I handed tests back. No one seemed offended...

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