Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 12 - Monday, February 7

Since today was a lab day, I took the first period and dropped in on the other sections of Chem 1, who went earlier in the day, to see how the whole situation went. The lab has us reacting a coil of magnesium with hydrochloric acid in such a way so that all the hydrogen is collected and we can get a volume of gas produced, which is then used to calculate a molar volume and compared with the theoretical. Tips I picked up: acid means goggles, the magnesium ribbon has to be coiled fairly loosely so that it doesn’t break and it’s worthwhile to check to make sure that the ribbon is over 3 cm, otherwise it doesn’t produce enough gas to equalize, even in the largest cylinder we were using. Also, for a prelab demonstration, it doesn’t take too long to show the actual process of pouring, just have the magnesium coiled and tied beforehand since that wouldn’t be able to be seen from distance anyway.

AP – I took back the used setups from the last lab, except for one which I kept for the two makeups that were supposed to be coming in that day. The actual class was talking vapor pressure and boiling, which was just the subject that me and Mr. CT were supposed to be working on for the Team. I spent the time getting an ice-salt slush nice and mixed up for some make-up kids who were supposed to come in next period.

Advisory – Kids stood me up! No matter, I got things to do, like set up for the lab.

Chem 1 – The lab went really well, though I’m working on striking a balance on how much information to give the whole class at the front of the period. I am always tempted to front-load it like in a real chemistry lab, but I end up having to come around and tell groups some of the same information individually any way. Now that I think of it, that’s probably how the TA’s in college chemistry courses felt sometimes. The labs seemed to go well, some problems in the first section with getting them to measure the strips with any sort of accuracy, and in the last section a group completely failed to understand what the lab was trying to measure, so they took no relevant data and they had to get data from another group.

I really don’t remember what happened in Chem 2 this day, what I have more note on was a meeting I attended with Mr. CT after school. The school has a new push for some curriculum standardization and teacher collaboration across the departments. The teachers are organized into teams by subject, and once a month the team leaders have a meeting to discuss how things are going with the principal and the superintendent and a future principal(?). Of course, the rest of the teams are supposed to meet with the leaders gone, for some reason. Today it started with some discussion of the use of some analysis tool in judging how to set standards and figure out how to interpret the results. There was one guy running the meeting, and he chose for his examples some data that Mr. CT already had submitted, and he had messed with some of the qualifications that would qualify for “Exceeds Expectations.” Mr. CT was somewhat concerned with the standards that DudeGuy had set up, since Mr. CT regards his tests as diagnostic tools which, by definition, have to be set up to have a decent failure rate on any particular question in order to gain any useful information. DudeGuy’s standards were set up with the assumption that most people could get near perfect scores, and Mr. CT was wondering whether that was how he should be setting up his exams. This sparked a discussion with the administration side assuring that the teachers should, “continue to have rigor.” The way they used it made me want to ask them to specify what they meant by the word, “rigor,” in that it sounded meaningless and buzzword-ish on their lips. The foreign language contingent somewhat objects to the number-crunchiness of the specified system, understandably.

There’s a lot of Capitalization going on. The teachers have to make Power Standards and Learning Targets, and some long-term Smart Goals. There’s also something called MAPS, not really sure what that’s all about. The more I hear about this the more it sounds like a serious infection of Corporate-speak. Some of the reforms that they have been pushing are apparently a good thing, but the whole thing seems drenched in buzzwords that don’t mean anything, like someone got sold on a bunch of conferences along the way and we’re being dealt the end result.

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