Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Questions I Would Love Students to Answer. (Or, maybe just a rant on my part.)

Questions I would love to have students answer...

Why does your calculator disappear before every math and science class?
Why do you leave your book, pen, pencil, notebook, jacket, lunch bag, in my classroom everyday at the end of class?
Why do you stand in the middle of the hallway, and look at me like I'm crazy when I try to walk down the hall?
Why do you congregate for discussions at the top or bottom of a stairway?
Why must you slam your locker door to get it to closed?
Why do you close the door as you enter the building, without looking back to see if someone else may be trying to get in?
How come you know when the bell rings to the exact second, but can't understand time limits on quizzes, tests or labs?
Who cleans up after you in your own home?
Can I come to your house and dismantle the faucets and gas lines in your kitchen or bathroom?
Why do you drink less than a quarter of your bottle of water before you leave it in my classroom?
Why can't you ask a teacher if they need assistance when they are trying to balance a stack of papers, their computer bag, umbrella, coffee cup, while trying to get their keys out to unlock the classroom door?
Why do you jiggle the handle on a locked door or bang on it instead of walking over to check if the other door is open?
Is the empty water bottle so heavy, that you cannot walk the extra five feet to the recycle bin and must throw it in the trash can?
Do you you not realize that every quiz is difficult if you not have prepared?
Also, every quiz is easy for me, because I wrote it!!!!
Why can't you have your homework prepared to turn in when you arrive at class: with your name on it, stapled and organized?
Why do you tell me as the bell rings all of your excuses for not having your homework instead of emailing the night before?
Can I come and touch, move, take, misplace everything on your desk at your home?
Have you not figured out that the things I repeat several times might be important?

I would love to read your additions to this list of rants...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Periodic Table Scavenger Hunt

I like students to be comfortable with the periodic as a tool for their use in chemistry, rather than a sheet of information that they memorize.  To keep students up on using the periodic table as a tool, I periodically (no pun intended) ask them to search the periodic table through a scavenger hunt.

I have provided an example below. 

Periodic Table Scavenger Hunt

Hint:                                                                                                   Symbol

1. Start at the element that is a waste product of photosynthesis.            __________  O

2. Add seven AMU’s to the mass                                                         __________  Na

3. Add 26 to atomic number                                                                 __________  Rb 

4. Remain in that period and go to Group IB                                         __________  Ag

5. Go up one period and to the right six groups                                     __________   Br

6. Go to the top of that family                                                                __________ 

7. Remain in that period and divide the electro-negativity by two            __________  B

8. Add fifty to the atomic number                                                          __________  Cs

9. Go to the element that is a liquid at 25o C in that period                     __________  Hg

10. Increase the proton count by six                                                      __________  Rn

11. Go to element with the smallest mass in that group                           __________  He

12. Multiply the atomic number by ten                                                   __________  Ca

13. Decrease the proton number five                                                     __________  P

14. Jump to Group IIA in that period                                                    __________  Mg

15. Cut the atomic number in half                                                          __________  C

16. Decrease the mass by 3.0 AMU’s                                                  __________  Be

17. If the element is an even atomic number multiply by 4
      If the element is an odd atomic number multiply by 5                        __________ S

18. Jump up one period. You should be back where you began.            __________ O

While this isn't some earth shattering method of exploring the periodic table, it does provide students with familiarity with the elements, information and terminology necessary to use the periodic table efficiently and effectively. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Student Choice

John Wooden posted the following note on the Bruin's bulletin board on the values of the choices we make:

There is a choice you have to make, 
In everything you do.
So keep in mind that in the end, 
The choice you make makes you. 

The world of today's adolescent is wrought with choices, some good and some not so good. Definitely more choices than most of us grew up with.  But, with these choices comes the consequences of the path chosen. 

One of the most valuble skills we can provide for our students is the ability to see the effects of choice. 
How to measure the causal relationships of choices made. And, how to create a balance between choices made for safisfaction today and choices made in preparation for tomorrow. 

One of the most troubling trends I have noticed in recent years is the lack of understanding of the ramifications of what is done today and how it will effect the future.  Whether students have simply grown up in a society that values immediate gratification or if they have simply lost hope in a sense of the future, high school students today have great difficulty in dealing with any issue that requires them to see beyond today and most definitely if they must see beyond tomorrow. 

Students need to develop the steps necessary to set goals, develop plans, create paths for success, recognize obstacles, adapt to change and actualize success.     

The "I want it now", attitude of the 80's and 90's will not suffice in a world where the only constant is change.  Students need now, more than ever a sense of future and the path necessary to get there.  No longer can the path be culminated in an end but must be toward development of skills for change.  No longer can the students of today depend on a career path that may not be there a decade from now. Technology has changed the game and continues to do so with each new device, program or operating system.  

The choices students make today will serve them only if they understand that the greatest ability is in the ability to see ahead of the curve and look to a future where change is the norm and the skillsets for success are the ability to think critically, communicate effectively and work collaboratively.  


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Be the Best of Whatever You Are

"The Three Dimensions of Life"

"Now let’s turn for the moment to the length of life. I said that this is the dimension of life where we are concerned with developing our inner powers. (Yeah) In a sense this is the selfish dimension of life. There is such a thing as rational and healthy self-interest. (Yeah) A great Jewish rabbi, the late Joshua Leibman, wrote a book some years ago entitled Peace of Mind. And he has a chapter in that book entitled "Love Thyself Properly." And what he says in that chapter, in substance, is that before you can love other selves adequately, you’ve got to love your own self properly. (All right) You know, a lot of people don’t love themselves. (That’s right) And they go through life with deep and haunting emotional conflicts. So the length of life means that you must love yourself.

And you know what loving yourself also means? It means that you’ve got to accept yourself. (All right) So many people are busy trying to be somebody else. (That’s right) God gave all of us something significant. And we must pray every day, asking God to help us to accept ourselves. (Yeah) That means everything. (Yeah) Too many Negroes are ashamed of themselves, ashamed of being black. (Yes, sir) A Negro got to rise up and say from the bottom of his soul, "I am somebody. (Yes) I have a rich, noble, and proud heritage. However exploited and however painful my history has been, I’m black, but I’m black and beautiful." (Yeah) This is what we’ve got to say. We’ve got to accept ourselves. (Yeah) And we must pray, "Lord, Help me to accept myself every day; help me to accept my tools." (Yeah)

I remember when I was in college, I majored in sociology, and all sociology majors had to take a course that was required called statistics. And statistics can be very complicated. You’ve got to have a mathematical mind, a real knowledge of geometry, and you’ve got to know how to find the mean, the mode, and the median. I never will forget. I took this course and I had a fellow classmate who could just work that stuff out, you know. And he could do his homework in about an hour. We would often go to the lab or the workshop, and he would just work it out in about an hour, and it was over for him. And I was trying to do what he was doing; I was trying to do mine in an hour. And the more I tried to do it in an hour, the more I was flunking out in the course. And I had to come to a very hard conclusion. I had to sit down and say, "Now, Martin Luther King, Leif Cane has a better mind than you." (That’s right) Sometimes you have to acknowledge that. (That’s right) And I had to say to myself, "Now, he may be able to do it in an hour, but it takes me two or three hours to do it." I was not willing to accept myself. I was not willing to accept my tools and my limitations. (Yeah)

But you know in life we’re called upon to do this. A Ford car trying to be a Cadillac is absurd, but if a Ford will accept itself as a Ford, (All right) it can do many things that a Cadillac could never do: it can get in parking spaces that a Cadillac can never get in. [laughter] And in life some of us are Fords and some of us are Cadillacs. (Yes) Moses says in "Green Pastures," "Lord, I ain’t much, but I is all I got." [laughter] The principle of self-acceptance is a basic principle in life.

Now the other thing about the length of life: after accepting ourselves and our tools, we must discover what we are called to do. (Oh yeah) And once we discover it we should set out to do it with all of the strength and all of the power that we have in our systems. (Yeah) And after we’ve discovered what God called us to do, after we’ve discovered our life’s work, we should set out to do that work so well that the living, the dead, or the unborn couldn’t do it any better. (Oh yeah) Now this does not mean that everybody will do the so-called big, recognized things of life. Very few people will rise to the heights of genius in the arts and the sciences; very few collectively will rise to certain professions. Most of us will have to be content to work in the fields and in the factories and on the streets. But we must see the dignity of all labor. (That’s right)

When I was in Montgomery, Alabama, I went to a shoe shop quite often, known as the Gordon Shoe Shop. And there was a fellow in there that used to shine my shoes, and it was just an experience to witness this fellow shining my shoes. He would get that rag, you know, and he could bring music out of it. And I said to myself, "This fellow has a Ph.D. in shoe shining." (That’s right)

What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; (Go ahead) sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, "Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well."
If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill
Be a scrub in the valley—but be
The best little scrub on the side of the hill,
Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.
If you can’t be a highway just be a trail
If you can’t be the sun be a star;
It isn’t by size that you win or fail—
Be the best of whatever you are.
And when you do this, when you do this, you’ve mastered the length of life."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"The Three Dimensions of Life"
April 9, 1967

How easy would our jobs as educators be, if we could get our students to buy in to this idea of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

Students would work to the best of their abilities and realize whatever grade they recieved was the best for them for that moment in time.
Students would not need to compare themselves in any way to other students, thereby eliminating the need to compete, be jealous or cheat.
Students would  not take things for granted, nor would they wnat for anything because they would realize that they are in the moment and that is enough.
Students would learn for learning sake and not for the score or grade or building their resume.
Students would come prepared everyday because preparation would allow them to maximize their potential for that day.
Students would appreciate others because it is in community that they maximize themselves.

Oh, how simple our jobs would become. 
Our classrooms would become an actual environment of learning.
Our relationships with the students could truly fluorish to maximize each students potential. 
Our classrooms would be emotionally safe for all members of the community of learning.

A tremedous resource for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his life, accomplishments, sermons and letters can be found through Stanford University at  http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Teaching = Learning

In the mid 1st Century A.D.,  Roman philosopher Seneca stated,
"While we teach, we learn."
In the late 18th Century A.D., French moralist and essayist Joseph Joubert wrote,
To teach is to learn twice. 
In 1993, American educator Dr. Gary Phillips determined,
"we remember 92% of what we teach each other."

Despite knowing that the best way to truly understand, one must be able to teach.
The American educational system is still dependent upon a model that places the expert
at the front, in the position of both teaching and learning,
while presenting knowldege to a captive group of passive students.

We must demand better of ourselves as educators and place our students in the
optimum position for their learning.   Students must become their own teachers. 
We must create in them a desire to understand the knowledge,
we hope for them to apply and retain, to a point that they can teach each other.   
We must place the burden of learning on the students and diminish the role of the educator
from expert presenter of the information to guide and facillitator of the learning process.

Students must understand that in a community of learning that they are responsible to and for each other in order to maximize the potential of learning for all.  It is in the ultimate success of the group that success as an individual is actualized.  


Thursday, January 05, 2012

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Yesterday, January 4th, marked the first day back from the holiday break and the beginning of the new semester.   In the tradition of Lasallian schools, we begin each class with prayer.  Quite often, I use the website, Praying Each Day, http://www.prayingeachday.org/reflect.html for the prayer of the day.
The prayer for yesterday focused on Sir Isaac Newton.  Who else would be a more appropriate focus for a prayer for the beginning of a science class?  However, it is in this prayer that we can see how all educators and their students should approach both teaching and learning.  I can not find a better way to articulate what the focus of education should be. 

Isaac Newton was born on January 4th 1643. What is Newton remembered for?
He developed Calculus, a branch of mathematics.
In studies of light, he showed via a prism that sunlight is made of a spectrum of
colors - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
Newton formulated Three Laws of Motion, which led to his theory of Universal Gravitation
(often remembered in the incident of the falling apple).
Newton’s work was a turning point in science, but he acknowledged that his progress and success were built on the hard work and achievements of people before him:

“If I have seen further,
it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
There is so much that I don’t know, and I ask you to inspire me with a thirst for knowledge.
I pray, too, for wisdom and understanding that I may use my knowledge well.
I give thanks for many people I have never met whose knowledge and understanding have been passed on to me.
I ask that I may benefit from their work and experience and may contribute, in turn, to the
well-being of others.