Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 13 - Tuesday, Februrary 8

This day started with cleaning glassware! While we did that we talked about The Troubles in Town. Mr. CT spent his early years as a teacher working in Town High School during a time when the Black community in the area had brought a lawsuit against the school district over racial discrimination. The main complaints were disproportionate discipline numbers for Black students and passing over Black students when considering children for honors and other upper-level classes. I forget exactly whether the lawsuit was ruled for the plaintiffs or settled out of court, either way the school was undergoing changes under the terms of the lawsuit and the constant mantra under the rotating cast of new principals was to “keep discipline numbers down.” Not that I have any better solution, I know nothing about school administration and even less about reforming a culture that had up until recently been consistently discriminating against a group of people, but I am pretty well aware that radical restructuring tends to result in widespread chaos, regardless of situation or direction. What Mr. CT did tell me was that the functional result of this new possibility was that Black students learned that there were essentially no administrative consequences for anything they did; unless a crime occurred and the administration could call the police, resulting in an arrest that did not appear on the school’s discipline numbers, the student was free to do whatever they wanted. Not a good scene, and Mr. CT left fairly shortly afterwards.

We also talked about Midwest High, and how the school seems very focused on getting the teachers to create and clarify their goals, but there is a distinct lack of the same activity on the schoolwide level. The school has developed some weird personality quirks on its own, most astoundingly the 80 people, one-tenth of the entire school population, that enroll in AP Bio every year. This seems like something that the school could use to create an identity for itself, building a common culture out of a weird fluke. Yet nothing is done, the school tries to be everything for a tiny village that is equal parts rural farmkids and the children of professors and doctors from the nearby Town.

AP – Phases today, solids and liquids! Mr. CT laments the schedule dictated by the looming AP exam, his Masters was in Materials Science and he is limited to only one day for solids! Oh, how it burns!

Anyway, they did their stuff with crystal structures, I thought it was fun because I like geometry, but I think the kids struggled a little with some of the math involved. Also, the model for the Body Centered Cubic structure refused to stay together.

Chem 1 – Since today was a review day for the test tomorrow, I had to write out the answers to the homework problems that I would be going over today.

I took in the lab due this day with some time to answer questions beforehand. Then I presented the four numbers they needed to know: 22.4, 760, 0.0821 and 273. I approached it by having just the numbers on the board and having student fill in what their context should be. The rest of the time was given over to working on the study guide I handed out, with me coming around to answer questions.

I wrote here that it is amazing how much in improve from 4th to 6th hour. I now see this as a pretty bad thing, 4th hour gets the shaft when it comes to my performance. Not that going over the same material three times in rapid succession shouldn’t produce an improvement; it would be crazy if it didn’t. Just that I should prepare more beforehand so I have to figure out less on the fly in the first section I teach.

Chem 2 – They were talking ALGEBRA today, and also liquids and solids, strangely enough. Mr. CT gave out this metaphor to explain why melting is a sudden transition for a pure solid. The idea is that if you steal bits and pieces out of a building every day, all the other structure will keep the building together and solid. However, one day a critical piece is taken, and instead of slumping slightly the building collapses in a heap. Metaphor!

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