Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sometimes the best idea is...

The best part about teaching a science class sometimes is the lab. There are some activities that I have done in the class that have been pushed aside by other things. Today the students were asked to determine the mass of two gases by using oxygen as a standard and the volume of a gas by water displacement. I have not seen students talking as much, or laughing as much, as they were today. It seems that I have forgotten that some of the basic measurements can be done with activities that students find fun doing. If all activities in science generated this kind of excitement or conversation maybe there would be more people going into science fields.

I forget sometimes and want to create a new activity with lots of "bells and whistles" when there are activities that are a little more simple (and student led investigations) which are already in use.

Friday, October 27, 2006

What a month!

So there have been a lot of things going on the past month. (Has that really been how long it has been since I last posted?)

Football is coming to an end and that should free up some time for me to focus on other things.

The applications for this years Toyota International Teacher Program were sent to me this month and I had a little envious feeling about the teachers who will be applying this year. What a trip...What a trip...

My two year old and I played in the snow. I think that it was the first time that we have done that. It will not be forgotten anytime soon.

AP Chemistry is keeping me very busy and I am having a difficult time finishing all of the work (labs, assignments, notes etc.) for this class.

My first year chemistry students are having a hard time doing the things that they need to do to finish the course. Some of them are starting to ask: "Why do we need to know this?" I would have thought that with all of the new activites that I am trying and the way that the class is structured (more student centered) I would like to think that this question had answered itself. I wonder if the stuedents are aware of the changes? Does this class look any different from the others? How can I use the computers to design student led activities for calculations and problems that the students have no idea about? The basic concepts in chemistry are easy to interpret using the computers but when we enter untis based on math concepts with chemical equations the students have a very hard time explaining them.

I see how the computers are easy to implement in classes when some of the background information has been covered but how can the consturctivist approach be applied to a chemistry classroom? When the information of the course is new how can the investigations be implemented?

The Astronomy class is an entirely different beast. That class is a great place to test new learning activities and see what the students come up with. Recently the students were given all of the unit inforamtion that I would have presented to them and they could complete it in any order. I was a little worried about how that would work but the students were ready to complete all of the work by the deadline that they set! The final project was a brochure that would sell a telescope. When the students asked if their brochure was "okay" I started responding with "Would you buy it?" - Thanks Mr. Fisch for that idea. How could I do this with other topics? I am currently working on the idea for the final project, more to come later.

Since it seems that doing the same old stuff in education is a lot easier than changing things to meet the student's needs I can see why teachers and administrators are resistant to this mode of thought. It asks all of us to think outside of whatever box we started in and that kind of reflection can cause problems. We are asking ourselves to critically think about what we do daily and with all of the other stuff that we have going on we tend to not react well. The thought that those who can...do...and those who can't...teach seems to be a perception in the business world that would not be correct for our building. I even find myself thinking that if I had some of the teachers in this building earlier in my schooling then I might have been an English major or a history major but my chemistry teaher was the one that helped me find what I liked to learn about. Isn't that what school is supposed to be? Helping the students find their interests?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Starbucks Thoughts.

As I sit at my desk, reflecting on the sadness that comes with the bottom of a cup of coffee, I read something that really made me think about my day.
"Flying by myself in a tiny aircraft over lonely woods: I have no one to blame
if I make a bad judgement, and the laws of physics won't listen to my excuses.
What would my life be like if I always had to take full responsibility?"

- Mark Olson (Taken from my Starbucks cup The Way I See It #128)

What would this do to our days if people thought of this kind of thing every time they had a decision to make?

Grades, What Grades...?

The other day, I had a discussion with a student in my AP Chemistry class who is struggling with the grading process in this school. He was thinking that he should learn material because it was interesting to him. However, this year, which is his junior year, he is learning that school becomes looking at things that you might not find to be too interesting. He is a little discouraged because he is used to looking at course material in the context of wanting to learn it and not "to get ready for a test." I thought that this was what we wanted our students to do. (To seek the information because they wanted to know it not because they had to know it.) When I asked him why he thought school should be learning of information that is interesting to the learner, his response was that someone told him that college was this way. Wow, in college you get to study things that interest you? I thought that there were prerequisite courses that you had to "get out of the way". Wouldn't it be nice if all schooling was set up so that you were learning things that were intersting to you and not because someone else thought it was important? Do you think that students might pay more attention or be involved in constructing their learning if they were allowed to find something in a subject that was interesting to them? I find it interesting that I was having this conversation with a student when we, as a group of teachers, are having the same conversation.

The conversation progressed to a point where the student said he felt grades were detrimental to learning. When asked for explaination of his thoughts I found out that he felt grades were something that students were working towards. While this might be a good temporary goal for students he thought that the material would become secondary to the grade. I told him that, as a group of teachers, we are looking at how to overcome that. I think he felt excited to be a part of a school where we are asking these difficult questions. While we don't have the answers at least we are asking these and other difficult questions. (This might be why there are teachers who are struggling with what we are doing.) He also wanted to know why we were trying to take a college level class (AP Chem) and apply high school standards to it? I did not even know what to say to this.

The thing about these conversations is that they made me think about two big items.
1) How could we use grades to give feedback and show progress and not just as an end in themselves? (I am going to try using more of an AP scale, 0 to 5, in an elective that I teach.)
2) Where was I in high school? I think that I was trying to get through high school and was not asking why I needed to learn something. Are there other students who are asking these important questions about school and learning and grades? or is this young man a special case? Should we be asking them for help in designing material instead of jsut telling them?

That is a lot of thought conversation between a student and a teacher. (I will let you try to figure out who is who in this post. I mean the teacher and the student.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Too Much, Too Fast

One of the issues with allowing the students to use new methodolgy and allowing them to construct their own understanding is the time that it takes. Now don't misunderstand me, I agree with most of the comments going on over on the fischbowl, but I am troubled by my first time through an AP class. There is a lot of information to get through in this class and the test score is the most important thing about this class (or is it?). If I do not get to the information, there are consequences to deal with. The students right now are doing a good job of not being too worried about their class grades because I think they are learning a lot. But how do we balance the large amount of information that I need to cover with the limited time (a lot of it taken by standardized testing that the school needs to do) and the use of allowing the students to find their own direction? I guess this will be a question that I (and we) will be looking for an answer to long after I leave teaching.

Update on the wiki

Thanks to the folks at pbwiki.com for their help on the use of a wiki in the classroom. Also, Karl Fisch is an amazing resource for those of us trying new things in the classroom. After trying multiple ways to use this tool in a classroom, I was amazed at how fast the students adapted towards their use. The wiki allows the students to put together information in new ways and allows them to express themselves through the material that we are studying.

Check out their work in progess at www.ahsastronomy.pbwiki.com

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Wiki(ed) Headache


After a good start to the school year and with students getting used to using the computers in class I have tried to spend the past few days getting an idea of how to use a wiki for my class.

I am not even sure where this is going but I would like for my classes to write an on-line book for themselves.

I guess the trouble right now is figuring out what to do with a blank slate. I am trying pbwiki and I am not sure if I need to invite all of the students so that they can add to it. I am not sure if I need to create a few pages or if we can get by with just one page for now. Does anyone have any ideas?

I think that this could be a very powerful tool but I feel lost.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I think...

As I think about the first few weeks with having the students work with the computers, in a way that they are forming their learning, I have realized that the students are not always on task. I have also realized that my job description has changed. No longer am I the "keeper of knowledge" but I am here to help the students form their own knowledge. Watching this happen, I realized that there are times when the students need my direct instruction, chemistry is not easy. I also know that there will be mistakes on the way.

"Only when sleeping do we make no mistakes. Mistakes are the privilege of the active person, who can start over and put things right."
-Ingvar Kamprad

I am thinking about the classroom that I am a part of (no longer "my classroom") and I am energized by the work that the students are doing. They actually are engaged and can do the things that I set them to do, with-out me "holding their hands". If we just let them work they will.-

Friday, August 18, 2006

The first day of the rest of their lives.

Yesterday we started using the computers in Astronomy. Aside from some small issues, things whent very well. I would say that looking at this group allows me to be very excited about trying this style of teaching with them. There is a high level of energy in the class about the instructional changes and use of new methodologies. I am going to teach the first unit the same for the most part since it is a lot of activities. I am looking forward to the second unit, one that I have not enjoyed in the past, since I am going to ask them how the unit should look.

I told them that life changes now, here, in this room. It is a journey and I am excited to be on it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


So, some people have been wondering where I have been.

Let me tell you...

Allison Brianne was added to our family on the 25th of July. She weighed 6 lbs. 10 ozs and was 19 inches long. Everyone is doing great. Megan is a good big sister, mom is good and dad..well, dad is.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

To discuss.

I had a difficult time talking about the philosophy of education. I think that the main difficulty came from the fact that the material we are looking at forces us to change our philosophy all the time. I wonder if we will ever reach a point where we have a true peace about our philosophy or if this will be an on-going thing. I do think that if we have reached a conclusion about how the philosophy should look then we need to reexamine our practices in the classroom.

The other disussions that we had in the group were very good. The grading talk, while overdone (haha), was very helpful to hear about where other people were on their feelings of grading.

I cannot wait to see what others are doing in their classroom's this fall.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Where next?

Since I retuned from Japan I have had a few thoughts about the trip (see earlier post "A Summary"). Most importantly lately is the thought of "Genchi Genbutsu" which means essentially to go and see. There is a lot in the world and it is not as scary as I would think. I guess the strongest thing that I left thinking is, where next? If the world is calling me to see it, how and where do I go? I want to go out and see. I want Kaizen my world. I want to take my students to different levels and places. I want my family to see what the world is made of. The people, the places and the sounds of Japan are the things that will cause the most reflection in my world.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

One Wise Man

At the beginning of Chapter 10 in The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman includes a quote from Albert Einstein:
Out of clutter, find simplicity.
From discord, find harmony.
In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.

I was thinking about this and my classroom for the next year. As I embark on a new chapter of my career I think that there will be a lot of discord and difficulty. How I look at these items will determine how my attitude changes each day. As a team we are going to go ahead and try to find out one to one notebook instruction in a public school. There is little that I have seen on how to do this effectively in a Chemistry classroom. I know that there are ways to do this but I am afraid that I will fall back on the ways that have worked in the past. Time is the biggest struggle when trying to implement this type of change in a classroom.

What will my classroom look like? How will the students respond? How will I adapt and respond? What will the next few years look like? Is this the next level for instruction in my classes?

I do think that stretching teachers, outside of their comfort zones, is what will pushthe students to new levels. For this outlook, I am excited to be a part of this reform in schooling and proud to be a part of it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Baseball and Umbrellas?

While in Tokyo I and some of my new friends enjoyed a baseball game. It sure was fun and the view was amazing. We watched a game between the Yakult Swallows and the Chunichi Dragons. I had noodles for dinner and made a friend that collected WWII airplanes (two were given to me as gifts!). Note: Two photos (The one of me giving the gift and the shot of the Jumbo-Tron with us on it) are from another Toyota International Teacher Deb Cole. You can find her blog here.

Toyota, Greenspan and a Teacher

So, let me tell you about an exchange that I had in Torrance, California. I was having dinner at the Toyota Motor Sales, USA offices and struck up a conversation with James E. Lentz (Group Vice President & General Manger, Toyota Division) while on the Toyota International Teacher Program. Why was this interesting? Well, Mr. Lentz was saying that at lunch the day before, Alan Greenspan...

Wait did he say Alan Greenspan?
I have never been involved in a conversation like this before!
Back to the story.

Anyway, Mr. Lentz asked Mr. Greenspan "What keeps you awake at night now that you are retired?" The response is what I found interesting.

Mr. Grenspan's response was that he worries about the kids in school who are not being built into thinkers. They are do'ers who can fill rolls where there is little creative/independant thought taking place. Students need to be working in the math, science and engineering fields. The US needs people to fill rolls that are going to open soon.

After hearing about this conversation I am again left wondering if we are doing the best that we can to get studnets interested in the fields like math and science or are we turning them off? I cannot wait to try some of the new things that are coming to our school this year. I hope that this is a question that we as a group of teachers continue to ask. These are not the kind of conversations that teachers find themselves in all the time and I think that there was a lot of value in being a part of it. What will the flat world have in-store for my kids?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Torrance and Toyota

For the actual press release about the Toyota International Teacher Program click here.

Let me tell you a little about june 23rd and 24th.

I was taken awayby United airlines to LAX from DIA for the start of an adventure that I was greatly looking forward to. There were four other teachers from the state of Colorado on our flight (Kelly from Greeley, Saralynn from Joes, TJ from Denver and me). How did we find each other if we had no met before the trip you might ask......

Well, the Toyota group that was "taking care" of us had provided a handy rolling carry-on that had the groups logo on the outside. We talked briefly about ourselves and then boarded the flight to LAX. While on the flight, I shared for the first of many times the excitement that I had about the trip. The man sitting next to me was the lucky soul that was able to hear the explanation about the trip and all. We had a great talk and what a small world it was already since we had some common friends.

Once at LAX with my bags in tow, alongside my new friends, I started to see that this was no ordinary trip for a teacher. There was a young man holding a sign for "Toyota International Teachers." He took all of our bags and led us outside to a waiting Limo! Then the short trip to the hotel in
Redondo Beach, California. I had never been to this area of LA and was excited to walk around. However, I felt a little odd being dressed in what the group would come to call "Business Casual Attire"since I was on the beach.

We had a short getting to know you session and then it was on to the first of our many bus rides over the next two weeks.
We went to Toyota USA offices in Torrance, California. These are some amazing buildings. There is even a "green" building that is environmentally friendly. We were treated like stars. There was food, drink and entertainment. We talked with some very important people at Toyota USA and became even more excited about the trip.

My roommate was a newly married teacher (Jeremy from Indiana) and he was just as excited as I was about going to see Japan.

We had breakfast in the hotel and listened to a few speakers. One of the speakers was from Toyota University (Michiko Powell) and she presented some of the basic do's and don'ts for travel to Japan.

What a couple of days! I have never as a teacher been treated this nicely. What would the world be like if teachers were treated like this all of the time in every country?

Camera Help

Hey, I just purchased a Canon S3IS digital camera. Is there anyone who might see this post that can help me. I would like to post some pictures to this blog but I am not sure how to decrease the size once the photo is on the computer. I do not want to use too high of a resolution when posting since I am on a dial-up commection. I have Microsoft Picture-It on my home computer but I am not sure what to do.

Any help would be good.

Japan Itinerary - A Summary

So, before I start talking about how the "Toyota International Teacher Program" to Japan changed the way that I think about the world, let me tell you a little about what we did.

The trip started on the 23rd of June for me as I left DIA (Denver International Airport) and headed west to LAX (Los Angeles International Airplort). There were three other teachers from Colorado and we were all on the same flight to LAX. We had never met before and had no idea of what were going to experience in Japan.

There was an evening orientation at Toyota Headquarters in Torrance California.

June 24th - Orientation/Cross-cultural speaker and departure for Narita Airport in Tokyo.

June 25th - Arrival in Tokyo and a free evening.

June 26th - Toyko Orientation, presentation by an environmental speaker for Toyota, a Kabuki performance and a free evening.

June 27th - Visited Soka University and met with students and a professor, visited a high school and talked with teachers and students, a baseball game in Tokyo and a free evening.

June 28th - Presentation at Roppongi Hills on architecture, environment and industry. We visited Meiji Shrine and the US Embassy. That evening we traveled to Nagoya by the shinkansen (bullet train).

June 29th - Visited Toyota Commemorative Museum, TMC Showroom and viewed the production line for the Camry and Prius. We also had an introduction to the Toyota Production System (TPS). That evening we traveled to Kyoto by the bullet train.

June 30th - Met Mr. Alex Kerr who gave an overview of all the stuff in Kyoto and an introduction to his program called Origin Arts Program. We were allowed to explore Kyoto for the last half of the day on our own.

July 1st - We were at the Origin Program today where we learned about Calligraphy, Waraku, Tea Ceremony and Noh Drama.

July 2nd - We departed for Nagasaki and then to the island of Hirado. We traveled to the hotel on Hirado, enjoyed an onsen and looked around the town. Another group of teachers went to another island for a stay there.

July 3rd - We took a tour of the town and castle, visited Hirado Elementary School and visited with the students, and that night we had an overnight stay with a family on the island.

July 4th - We traveled back to Nagasaki and had a program debriefing at the Art Museum. We were given time at the Peace Museum and Memorial Park. That night we had a farewell party.

July 5th - We traveled from Fukuoka Airport to Kansai to LAX to DIA.

July 7th - Jet-lag and head fog catch up with me.

July 8th - Finally have some clear thoughts and can write stuff on paper.

Well, there it is. The whirlwind tour of the country of Japan. Someone asked if I would go back. My answer was a strong "YES". I will put some detailed entries from the trip up over the next couple of days.


I just cannot wait to see what the rest of the summer months have to offer.

Let see, since football camp at the end of the school year, I have:

1) Worked on the house
2)Rode my bike around Metro Denver
3) Traveled to Japan (more on this later)
4) Planned for our second daughter
5) Traveled to the mountains
6) Played with my daugter Megan
7) Read some books
8) Worked on some AP Chemistry problems (which is a new prep for me in the fall)
9) Stressed about making my classroom more student centered
10) Played around with my iPod
11) Worked in my yards
12) Attended some very important birthday parties (Megan turned two)
13) Sold part of my childhood toys on eBay
14) Read some blogs/made some comments
15) Met with some teachers at school to determine laptop computer use policies
16) Rewrote my classroom policies
17)Watched "The Tour"
18) I am sure that I am missing some stuff but this is what my brain would allow right now.

I am not sure but this sounds like a lot and I know that other teachers are doing the same kind of things. There are people out there who think that summer is just a nice time off for teachers. I am sure that there are those teachers out there who do little thinking on their practice in the classroom. I am not having one of those summers. This is not a post that says how good I am or how much I am doing to be better but one to just remind myself that there is constant work that needs to be done. The work is not only in the classroom setting but for me also.

Japan was amazing and the next few posts that I make will be about that.

Has anyone been watching the Tour de France? Did you see the Alpe d' Huez stage? This has been an amazing Tour and the more I watch the more I think about education. If you do not know, a lot of the riders favored in the Tour were removed before the start. What this did was it left the other riders with a very "open" ride where there was no one favored rider but everyone had an equal chance. I thought about this a lot and what if our schools were places where all of the students had an equal chance. One where the playing field was level. What would that look like?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A thought.

In one of the books that I am reading to prepare for the trip to Japan there was something written that struck me and got me thinking. In the book Following The Brush, John Elder states:

...and to hear the depth of Bahso's declaration in Oku no Hosomichi that " life itself is a journey." So easily we give our hearts to suffering old wars and imagining new ones, and our minds to poring over bank statements. But walking out under the flower-bright sky, we can also remember larger forces at work in the world.

I sometimes think that we do not take enough time to watch what is happening and reflect on it. We, and I am talking to myself here, try to over analyze things most of the time. I wonder if there are really as many things to fix about the education system or if we are looking to blame one part of a complex thing for the problems that we have. Are we looking at things for the future generations or are we fixing them for ourselves? When new reform is started, is it focused on the right things or are the people working on it out for themselves?

Just a thought...

"...we can also remember larger forces at work in the world."

Elder, John. Following The Brush, Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.

Missing Items

As I sit in my house, during what most people think are the best three parts of teaching (June, July and August), I feel as though I have been missing something. I was wondering what it could be...Contact with students?...Contact with other teachers?...Then it hit me.

Blogging, I have not been doing much of anything lately.

I am reminded why it is so important to write things down in this profession. I try to remember what it was that made a day so special and I cannot. I try to think about what worked during a lesson (one that I thought was going to go so well) and what did not work and cannot remember. I try to recall what I was thinking and doing and that is missing also. I have never been good at keeping a journal and now that I have one, I forget about it? What is happening to me?

As think about my classroom for the fall, specifically about blogs, I hope that I can be a little more consistent about them. My falling behind is one thing but if I am asking students to participate and I am not serving as a good example what am I doing? I am excited about the new technology that is coming to my classroom and AHS but will I be able to use it to the fullest potential?

I am going on a study trip to Japan for a couple of weeks and I cannot wait to see this part of the world. I will be allowed to visit schools and talk to students, administrators and teachers. I will be staying with a family for a few nights and experience teh fullest of Japanese culture. As I prepare for a trip to Japan I am reminded to write things down. I will be visiting schools, cultural places, and houses. Is there anything that I could tell pepole about the trip to Japan? (I am not an expert but will try to discuss things when I return.) Feel free to ask.

I will not be taking my notebook computer with me and I feel some form of withdrawl already. It is back to pen and paper for me. I hope that I can keep up on this trip. Pictures will be coming.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Driving Forces

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

Albert Einstein
German-Swiss-American mathematical physicist, famous for his theories of relativity.

As I am sitting here tonight thinking about the world around me and the one that my children are growing up into, I wonder about what drives a person to do and be who they are? Is there some magic formula (you would think that a chemist could come up with one!) that helps determine what a person is and what motivates them? Is it genetics? Could it be just plain dumb luck? Do people decide what they are going to become? Does the world around them make the decisions? (Boy o' boy, I need to get some sleep.)

I know that there is a plan for all of us. I know that some people are motivated while others seem to not be. I think that school in general seems boring to students because they have lost a reason to be motivated. They seem to be looking for a way to find the secret easy path. (Not all of them mind you.) The question that I am really thinking about is how to motivate the ones that seem to not want to be motivated? I guess if I had the answer I would be a very rich person. Is it rewards that motivate? If so, why do grades defeat this?

If the goal of chemistry is to be a problem solving class then why are students not excited to learn about it? The world around the students is one filled with wonder and magic, I know, I see it in my daughter. I wonder how to get the students to be as excited about the stuff around them and how it all works together as my little one is. If some students are going into science and engineering because they like to look at the world around them and wonder then I guess I have done my job as a teacher. I do not think that I can get all of them to like science (that would be a Hatak utopia!) but just a few of them. What would it be like if one of the students that I have in class has the cure for cancer in them? or the details for space travel? or how to make the fields produce enough food to feed all who are in need? and I did not do my best to get them excited about science? I hear that the number of students majoring in science and engineering is lowest it has been in decades! Do they not want to work to find answers? Do they not wonder? How do I get these "lost" scientists interested?

I think that what we are doing as a group and with the new methods that I am trying at least I am doing something to reach this generation. I hope that I do not forget that the material is not nearly as important as the method of learning and self-motivation that comes from school.

"Whoso neglects learning in his youth, Loses the past and is dead for the future."
Euripides (484 BC - 406 BC), Phrixus

Professional Blogging - My thoughts

So, there was a recent post on the blog "2 Cents Worth" that discusses the views on "Professional Blogging."


The usual excuses are presented about why teachers would not want to blog. (Time being the main issue.) I could not agree with this more but I think that there is more to it. Teachers need to see the value of having a journal that can be shared with other teachers. I do think that there are those teachers who find the value in keeping a journal and those teachers who think that sharing with other teachers is very important. The struggle that I am having is finding the time to do all the things that I want to do. Truth be told, I will find the time in my day to accomplish the things that I want to do along with the things that I have to do. It becomes a list of priorities. I think that teachers need to stop using the time argument as an "easy out". We need to be looking at things that will help us to be more effective in the classroom and help the students to connect with material. Right now, I see the blog as a tool that can be more helpful to me and a way to discuss ideas with other educators.

As David Warlick says in the post referenced above:
Today, the world is the curriculum, and the world is changing every day. In a time of rapid change, education must become highly adaptable, a place where teachers can retool their classrooms every day. The time issue must be solved. ItÂ’s a very simple problem (granted that the solution would not be simple) that, if solved, would have a dramatic impact on teaching and learning. But a significant part of that impact would come from the professional discourse that would be necessary in order for teachers to productively manage adaptable classrooms. It would come out of well thought-out and compellingly written (and illustrated) conversations from teachers who are paying attention, reflecting on their observations, sharing their insights concerning the impact on teaching and learning, sharing, and continuing the conversation.
When I read this post, I started thinking about my classes. I cannot ignore the fact that the method of teaching science that is occuring now is really not science. I have said it before that I think the current method of science instruction teaches the students about science and what has been done in science but does a lousy job teaching the students how to be scientists. Then there is the issue of motivation. I do not just mean the motivation of the students, that would be a whole different entry. I mean the motivation of the teachers (I am talking to myself right now, so feel free to listen). It takes time, energy, resources, and a willingness to fail to change what is happening in a classroom. Time is the easiest scapegoat. I think if I can figure out the resources then the time will not be as big of an issue. The truth is that it takes a lot of work to create the changes that I would like to see happen. It is good to see that there are a few teahers out there who are willing to try to change and then continue to evaluate what they are doing.

"We are continually faced with great opportunities, which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems."
-Margaret Mead
From: Teacher's Calendar, Andrews McMeel Publishing, March 30 entry.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Okay, so I seem to have missed one. - The blogging....

I have blogged with my students once this semester. I am having a difficult time getting my students to see the benefits of blogging and how to talk to each other outside of the classroom. I do not feel like I set up the blogging very well. I hope that next semester will provide the technology to blog everyday. I am in the process of evaluating my goals (again) and seeking new ways of meeting the needs of my students. I am not happy with the way that the goals are going.

Tune in again soon for new goals and old goals revisited.


While I am on the central coast of California, connected at my mom's house, I recently came across a news article discussing the difference between boys and girls. The article continues to discuss that there are different learning styles between the genders and that the boys are being "left behind" by the girls. The article talks about the fact that schools are trying to find a way to meet the different needs of the students. They even point out that the percentage of boys entering college is 40% and that colleges are letting boys, who are not as qualified as girls, into school so the percentages do not fall too low.

It seems that the administration and the teachers at AHS are ahead of other places when it comes to gender studies. I hope that there is a way we can share the information that we are learing with other professionals in education.

While talking to my sister, who teaches in Bakersfield, about technology, we seem to be well ahead of some other schools. The school where my sister teaches is not seeking technology as a means for student learning. (Or, so it seems.) If schools want to prepare students for the "flat world," shouldn't they be proactive and not reactive? When are we as a profession going to team together to prepare students for the world and not wait for someone else to figure "it" out first? Is there a way to take our PLC's outside of the walls of AHS and connect with teachers elsewhere? How can we find the resources and time to do this? I am going to try somethings along with the trip to Japan this summer but are there other ways to get connected with people who are already very "busy"? Any ideas out there on how to get connected with other classroom teachers? (I mean in actual practice of a global classroom and not just reading about it.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Next Fall

So, as I am thinking about the down side to next fall's registration approach, I found a bright spot. I received an email from a student asking about their grade and that I grade papers harder than the person they had last term. The fact that teachers are not being consistant on common papers is causing my some troubles for the first time. I know that common papers are designed to make the learning equal for the students but if each teacher involved grades them differently then when the students make a class change it becomes very difficult to continue on with methods that I use first semester. I now look forward to having the same students for a full year.

I know that as a team we should be still talking about the use of common papers and how they are scored but there are times when the discussions are going nowhere. I wonder if there is an easy way to make sure the students are all being held to the same standards?

I also am having some thoughts on what to do with the notebook computers but I am having a hard time finding the time to write this stuff down. Any ideas? What about the three classroom teachers getting together to share ideas so that we can be consistent?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

MP3 Player recordings

I have been thinking about the issue that recently came up in another local high school. I recently was listening to a local radio station that was discussing how easy it is to edit digital media. If a student is recording lectures in a class and has an issue with the teacher it would be very easy to edit the recording and make it so the teacher is saying things that they never actually said. Should we be worried about this? Perhaps we need to be recording ourselves, if we are having these kind of discussions in class, so that we have a copy of what we actually said. I think that it is important to have classroom discussions and I also think that the students should have the ability to record the conversation for later study (afterall, I did this in college). I think that the classroom is going to be changing in a significant way in the next few years and I feel like we need to be proactive about these issues and not reactive.


I am having an issue with one of my classes that falls into the category of classroom management. I keep thinking that the problem is with the material or the students. I cannot stop thinking about how to fix the classroom dynamic. If there is a magic cure I sure have not found it. However, I started thinking about the fact that studetns need to "slow down" when they come to school. How do we get to the point that school looks more like their fast-paced lives? Is there a way to make classes more relevant to students? Are we trying to get students to take classes that they are just not wanting to take? Are we placing students in classes that they are not ready for (I mean content wise and work ethic wise)? Is the fact that there are so many ability levels of students in one classroom leading to my issue of management? I am thinking that the notebook computers that are coming are either going to really add to the issue or they are going to help solve the issue but I am not sure right now what is going to happen.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Reading? Who, me?

I never thought these words would come out of my mouth. (That is why I am going to type them.) I am excited about teaching reading to my science students. It has always been intimidating to me to teach reading. I never was good at it. I did not really like it. I, only recently, have found topics that I really get into. However, after hearing the presentation today by Jesse and Michelle, I needed to write this down. The resources that were shared will be very helpful as I try to get my students into the material of the class. I know that not all of the students will be reached, that should be the goal, and I might make mistakes in teaching this but at least I am going to try. It seems that in the past, I was just hoping that the reading would take care of itself. I mean the "good" kids will do the reading, right? Now, I think that I need to be helping the students through the reading process and not just complaining about the fact that they are not doing it.

Boy, oh boy, this group is really having an influence on me. I cannot wait to try some not so new ideas in my classes.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I seem to be doing "okay." That is the answer right now. After finishing a unit on the study of thermodyanics, heat transfer for non-science people, I asked the students how things were going. They responded by saying "difficult." I started thinking about this response and thought that if I had taught them exactly the way that I had before, then maybe things would have been a little easier on them. Then I remembered what the study was about. Chemistry is not an easy topic. That is what I am forgetting.

I think that the fact that I am asking them to do more about their learning is not a key part to the "difficult" answer. I know that it might be a perceived portion of the "difficulty" but it is not the entire reason. I also know that when the students are asked to stretch their minds then they can accomplish much more than just the course material.

So, "okay" might be a little misleading. I am doing better than that. However, I too am being pushed out of my comfort zone and am learning more each day. That in itself is the best part of the changes that are happening in my classes.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I cannot believe the people that I get to work with. I am amazed by what you all do on a daily basis. Walking by your classes and seeing you with the students I am reminded about why we do what we do. I consider it a great privlidge to work at this school, on this team, in this department and to call all of you my friends.

Thank you for what you do for me and the kids!


Well, I did not think that it would happen. I am going to Japan this summer. I tied my application to the blogging process. What I mean by that is I am going to try to:

1) Use the blog as a journal for my experience.
2) Use my class blogs next fall as a way for my students to experience education in Japan.
3) Keep open lines with the people that I meet on this trip through the blog.

I am not sure what the trip really looks like.....

I am not sure what the blog will look like....

I think this is what my students are feeling when I give some of these assignments. I guess that the teacher can be a life-long learner also.

Friday, February 17, 2006


When will we get to this point?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


"Don't count crayons......Just color" -Mark Sharenbroich

At the assembly today, the students heard a lot about choosing their own path in life. It involves living and loving and not losing the joy of learning. It seems that this talk fits right in with the things that we are trying to "fix" in education. I am going to start thinking of this as an educational improvement group and not a reform. I am not even sure if the CIT group (from the grants) is actually a reformation group. It seems like more often, I am trying to tweak the things that I am doing in the classroom and not totally redoing them. I need to try to focus on the positive a little more.

In the book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states:
The best moments usually occur when a person's body or mind is stretched to
its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and
worthwhile. [3]

...optimal experiences add up to a sense of mastery - or perhaps better, a
sense of participation in determining the content of life - that comes as close
to what is usually meant by happiness as anything else we can conceivable
imagine. [2]

What I seem to be trying to do in my classroom is figure out what the "flow" should be.

Oliver Wendell Holmes
"One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions."

How can we get students and teachers to actively seek what they truly find imporant and enjoyable? When there are so many students in one class, that have different interests and abilities, can we reach them all?

The students that I talked to today said that they see me as the type of person who does not "count the number of crayons but just likes to color". If I can get my students to start thinking this way then I think I am changing the eduactional system for the better. If students seek what makes them happy in their studies then that is where I hope they will be at this point of the journey (I choose not to call high school the "end" of the journey but it is just another point on the map).

So, I will continue to try to figure out how to get the students to be the captain and driver of their own ship while I serve as the mechanic. Needless to say, I will continue to find ways to make school enjoyable for students and try to reignite the fire that they had when they raised their hands in first grade.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Back At "It".

Okay, after a week of non-posting, I have recovered and am back at it.

This past week was interesting.

On Monday, I returned to my classes after sending them to the computer lab, with a sub, to investigate the bonding of atoms in molecules. Even with guided questions and web page suggestions, they did not spend much time trying to figure out the material for themselves. They even asked if they were going to " get points" for doing the activity. (ARRGH!!!) Will this be easier if I start it earlier with them?

In lab, I watched a lot of copying and not much comprehension.

Test on Friday. Same results as last year. New methods tried. Refinement needed in lessons. Will I figure this out? I mean the constructivist approach to science education. Is there an "Idiots Guide To" out there? Will students continue to ask me to teach them the material that is in the text? I understand that they might need clarification but "spoon feeding"? I mean come-on.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


So, I set up a computer activity for Friday. My only concern is that there will be a sub here. I know that the kids that are doing the activity should have no problems but I still worry. I wonder if this will get better as I have them do more of their own learning? I know that this just another something new and it will go fine but I sill wonder.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Review Activity

I have to give credit to Amanda for this one. In chemistry we are getting ready for the first assessment of the semester. The topic of study is the electron and the Periodic Table. I started by putting the term "electron" on the board in class. Next, I asked the students where we started the study. The first response was one that amazed me. "History" one student said so, I wrote that on the board. Then other students started to chime in with terms and concepts that we have studied in the past three weeks and even from last semester! When all was said and done, we had a list of close to fifty terms on the board. Next, I asked a student to choose a term that was directly tied to "electron" and she picked "orbital" and we connected those terms on the board. We worked together for awhile on this and then I turned it over to them. I explained that if they could make the connections between the material that we were investigating then it might be easier on the test. I also told them that if they could not make the connection then that would help them figure out where to focus their studying.

I cannot belive how this worked, or at least seemed to. I wonder if the students see the value in this type of concept map? I know that they were not happy about doing this at first but the conversations that I overheard were amazing. My goal is to have them do this for each unit of the semester and then for the final we are going to try ot make one big concept map. I hope this goes as well as I think it will...

(To Be Continued...)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


So, after I have calmed down a little, I talked to my wife. (Go figure, I have time to do that when I am also doing this stuff.) We talked about how and if the world is becoming "flat." She works for a health care company in an after-hours clinic (nice since I work days and can then hang with my daughter). Sometimes she needs to consult an "expert" like an orthopedic doctor. The other night she said there was a call for a consult and the person on the other end had a strange accent and lots of noise during the phone call. It seems that the "after-hours" consult call went to an orthopedic doctor in New Zealand! Since it was the daytime there the doctor was "in." The x-ray was sent via e-mail and the doctor looked at the film and decided there was a break. She could not believe that the help came from that far away. The two of us are now talking about what this means for our children (yes, there will be another soon) and for the students that I teach. We do not think that this type of outsourcing is a "bad" idea and I am wondering what other people think?

Grading Discussions

Anyone else confused? It seems like I just went through an entire day of meetings and talked some about grading. One meeting had us looking at the idea of getting rid of grading all together. Then we have talked about how to give feedback. Finally, we talked about using letter grades for a method of telling students/parents about reaching benchmarks. It seems as though we (I mean me) are looking for a way to make grades more meaningful than they are currently. I wonder how to do this.......

Are we just seeing different ideas right now and the answer is coming from some higher power? Is this one of the "cycles" in education that my college professors talked about? As I am looking for answers about grading? I am just becomming more and more frusterated about the discussions? What are we trying to decide? I am looking at what I am doing in the area of grading? (Knowing that I could do more to help students.) I am just a little afraid about what I have been reading/hearing and the direction that this is going. Is a decision coming about grades or is this just going to be one of those "neat"discussions in education?

Anyone else out there feeling these things? Thinking these thoughts?

Interesting Point

Today in our group discussion, an interesting point was brought up. The fact that history repeats itself. As we know with the fall of the great empires, which found an untimely demise, the United States seems to be falling from the top of societies. I wonder if this is a perceived fall or an actual fall? Are we really falling behind? Is this a method for people to make money? What is the best way to change? Do we need to change? Where are we going? Is there a destination at the end of this path we are walking, in educational change, or is the destination the path itself? Are the things we are trying going to cause a change or are the students going to continue through education the way that they have in the past?

Monday, January 23, 2006


Hatak takes the assist from the corner and shoots and scores...... Oh, wait this is not what Karl meant.

I guess if I had to come up with a goal this semester it would be to engage the students in meaningful discussions which are a means of investigating the essential learnings in class. I would also make sure that the students understand what the essential learnings are for each of the classes that I teach.

Plan of Action:

1) The primary means for engaging the students in discussions will be the classroom stucture that enables the studnets to take an active role in the investigation of the material that we are studying. This will be through continnued use of inquiry based experiments, blogs for discussion and classroom activities.

2) The students will use blogs to discuss topics that we do not have time to cover in class. This will cover material that is important to the study of the sciences but should not be limited to the core material.

3) The students will encorporate a greater use of technology into their understanding of the essential learnigns. They shoudl use the internet and other resources to research, discuss, evaluate, and compose writings that are based on the topics that we are studying. These documents will include but are not limited to lab reports and discussion papers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Grading Processes

Today in Astronomy, we talked about grading (by we I mean the students and I). I started by listing possible categories for IC. Next, I asked the students to write down what they thought about each category. (what the meaning was, what it should include, what good and bad examples are etc.) We had a large group discussion about this. SInce it was first hour and the seniors are not quite with it, they really did not want to participate. I had a hard time with the silence. The students would even turn their eyes from each other. I am sure that they were uncomfortable with the discussion. Then I had the students write down what percentage of the course should each category be. This is where it got interesting. I had some students who were really into this and others who could care less.

I had the students pair up and try to convince each other of why the persentages should be the way that they decided. Then they were to agree on percentage assignments. Next, the students had to pair up with another group and do the same thing. The groups kept getting larger and larger until we were back as one group. We then decided as a class what the percentages should be.

Some students left happy and others were unhappy. The group of students that concerns me is the group that did not care. Do they really have no input? or has no teacher ever asked them? I wonder what this will look like if I do the same activity with a single assignment and not the course? I know Cara has tried this and I am excited about trying it also.


I saw this and it got me thinking about what we are trying to do.

"Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual."

-Authur Koestler

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I find it very interesting as I post to this blog and the "Fisch Bowl" that most people are making one post. Isn't this suppossed to be a conversation? Does everyone have but one opinion? (I am saying this to myself as musch as to others if not more...)

If we have a hard time doing this, how do we get the students to participate more?


I recently found an article in a printed source about LCD displays and how they are made/work. It is written for the high school level. I would like to make the source available to the students so that they can look at it. I do not know how to go about this. Any ideas?

Second Semester

Well, it seems like it has been some time since I last posted.....

This week, I took my classes to the computer labs and had them send me an e-mail. This seems to work better than when I assigned it as homework. After they sent the e-mail, I had an online assignment for them to complete. This was helpful since some of the mail came fast and others took a little while. (They had to set-up an account.)

I have not given them a blog assignment yet. I am waiting a little bit so we can have some discussions in class first. When I asked the students about blogs, only a handful of them said that they used them before so I wanted to wait.

There seem to be a lot of topics that I could choose from this semester to blog about. Maybe my brain is now thinking about them.

I tried Amanda's idea of introducing the semester as a key concept and then having the students attempt to tie everything to that concept. I am overly excited about trying this and I think it will help the students see the big picture.