Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Retakes and More

Just this semseter, as a team, the chemistry teachers have decided to allow the students to retake certain portions of exams when their scores fall below 70%. The students need to come in for extra help before they can retake the portion of the exam that the teachers have decided is important in the study of chemistry. This is not always the entire exam but just a section that is an essential learning for the topic. I am having a difficult time with some students since they are fine with not retaking any exam. I guess that this is okay but when given the chance why would some students perfer not to retake an exam? I wonder also, why students are taking a class if they are not interested in the subject? More importantly is why are they not interested in the topic? (I guess that if I had an answer to that I could become very rich.)

The thing that I am most excited about right now is the use of a wireless tablet in the classroom and the use of Camtasia software to capture/publish what we are doing. I see a lot of possibilities and I never thought that I would think about beginning podcasts or videocasts of the class sessions. I guess when you start to ask what next? Or now what? Or how does this go to the next level? You start to look for doing things in a new way. The biggest issue is feeling like a first year teacher each day.

The astronomy class took a field trip to CU Boulder and Fiske Planetarium. We listened to a presentation on the sky tonight and what is currently going on in the study of Mars and even talked a little about black holes. It was good to see the students engaged and after I talk to them tomorrow, I will post a little of the conversation.

Well, once again, I am trying to figure out ways to change science instruction and my excitement is a little overwhelming to me.

Monday, October 15, 2007


So as I think about the major changes that are happening in my instructional methods, I cannot wait to begin playing with some new software. I received a copy of Camtasia Studia and SnagIt from TechSmith. After playing with the software a little last Friday, with the help of Mike Porter at the ESC, I am interested in attmpting to capture a PowerPoint soon. The presentation will be on solving some problems in chemistry. I will then place the video on the internet to allow students to seek assistance outside of the classroom. I am wondering if there will be problems with allowing the students access to all of the material. Will they stop paying attention in class? I guess that I will need to find other things for the students to do during class. I think that the true power of this software comes with the students being able to work at their own pace. I am still having a difficult time finding the time to do the things that I want to try and finding the time to implement the changes that I think need to happen in the classroom.

As for now, I long for an inservice day which I can spend by myself, not in meetings.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What kind of school do I want?

While reading the book "Professional Learning Communities at Work" by Richard DuFour and Robert Eaker, I found a couple of questions. (Okay, so there are lots of questions, some answers, and lots more to think about.) As part of the learning cohort at AHS we decided to examine a few of these questions before our next meeting.

(Way to go Brian. The next meeting is this week and I am just getting around to the homework now. Better now as compared with after the next meeting or never, right?)

So here goes.

  1. "When I leave this school, I would like to be remembered for..."
  2. "I want my school to be a place where..."
  3. "The kind if school I would like my own child to attend would..."
  4. "The kind of school I would like to teach in would..."

In regards to the first question, I would like to be remembered as the teacher that liked learning for the sake of learning. It does not matter if the material is in my specific content area or about learning in general, I would like the students to know that their teacher wanted to learn from them as much (if not more) than I have to offer them. I am interested in the world around me and the people in it. I would like the students and my colleagues to think of me as someone who wanted to be around people and see them grow.

The second question is a little more difficult. I would like to see my school be a place where other professionals want to come to see what we are doing. I would like the entire school to contribute to the greater good of education and the continual improvement of ourselves as educators. I do not want the school to stay the way it is. (That might not sound right.) I want us to develop new methods for doing things and get the students involved in their learning future.

Since I have two little ones at home, question number three is something that I have been looking at recently. I would like the school to encourage my children to take risks and learn from failure. I do not think that everything that is done in school should be a success. I think that the school should call me, as a parent, when my child is behaving in an offensive manner. I think the school should be teaching skills that we be helpful to my child later in life. I would like the teachers in the school to think "outside the box" and be interested in the student's lives. If I could really pick, I would pick something like the Denver School of Science and Technology (Only if my children are interested in these things. If not, I would find something similar in their area of interest.) I would like the school to have a global perspective and not just a limited view. Wow, there is a lot more. Should I keep going? Perhaps, I will come back to this in a later post.

Finally, the kind of school that I would like to teach in would include the students and community in all of the decisions. There would be support from outside the four walls of the building since they would be transparent (not actually transparent, you know). Students would be in a seminar class and do practical experiences later in their schooling. I think that we are doing a pretty good job right now but I also think that pretty good is not good enough. I would hope that all the teachers in the building are there because they believe that the school is better with them and there is something that they have to offer the students. I would want the materials in the building to be state-of-the-art and there should be ample training for the equipment use. I would encourage more of the meetings like we do currently. Give teachers time to work together. I would want the school to offer teachers time. Time to pursue degrees if they wanted, time to improve what they do by seeing and talking to other teachers, time to plan with other teachers, time to learn with the students and I would like to have time to reflect. I would want the students to be involved in the community and the school. Wow, there are lots of things in this list also.

This seems like it was more fun than it should have been. I guess that AHS is the place I want to be a part of, make an impact and change for the better. I guess it is a good thing that I am a part of it now.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

So Far...

So far this year:

  1. I have been a part of conversations about norms, mission and vision for two teams.
  2. I still am not sure where I am going.
  3. I am pretty sure I know where I am.
  4. I have watched/broken down/posted a lot of football film.
  5. Attempted to use the wireless in the downstairs classrooms (they seem to not like me)
  6. I have used the computers in the upstairs classrooms (they work great)
  7. Graded, graded and graded.
  8. I have had an introduction to Moodle and I am really excited about the possibilities.
  9. I worked with students to develop a community service plan for Link Crew.
  10. I have been collecting lab experiments on video to attempt to post (okay, it is just one, but it is a start, right?)
  11. Then there is the life outside of AHS. (More on this later.)

The astronomy class seems to be the one place where things are working the way that they should. This involves little on my part (which might be why it is going so well) but I need to be in the class to give some direction. The students decided on the percentage for each category of work that they are going to complete this semester. I agree with the percentages that the class decided on and I am excited that the students had the say in this. There have been a couple of lessons that I have changed so that the students are composing all of the material. For example, from a vocab list, the students were allowed to pick two to three terms that work together and then, as a group, they developed some type of digital documents to tell the story of the terms. One example was force and acceleration and the students chose a football player to display this information. I will link to these document in my next post to share this work.

My biggest concern right now is time. I know that time will take care of itself but I still worry. There are lots of good (perhaps great) ideas in my head but I lack the time to let them loose. This feels like a big excuse but there is a lot going on right now and the "old" way seems to work. The students do nto fight when you are lecturing but are they learning? Maybe. But are they learning a "like" of the material? Am I letting them down by being easy on myself from time to time? Am I the only one with these questions?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

You Might Think That I Disappeared...

Just the other day, I was sitting at home thinking. (Note: this is not something that I usually find myself doing since there is a lot going on.)

"I have not been to my 'Blogger' account for quite awhile." The time has gone by and I have found myself going back to my old ways, in the classroom. Sure, I might say to you, "there are times when I seem to be rather forward thinking in the classroom." But, it seems like I am just doing the things that I used to do in the classroom before I was worried about preparing students for the world. As a matter of fact, I used the overhead projector, stood at it, and lectured to my students about chemical bonding. (Yuck. not the material but the method.) I was wondering why the students were not as fascinated as I was about the fact that atoms that have no ability to make decisions come together in just the right way to make a human being or an animal or a plant or anything else that is in the Universe. Then it dawned on me. They don't care because it is my fascination and not theirs. Duh.

When you take the time to look at what students are interested in, and for the most part it is not chemistry, they are interested in what their life is about. There is no way to get students truly interested in the world that I like (there are exceptions) but what if there was a way to use their world to teach science to them. Or better yet, what if there was a way that they could use their world to teach themselves science. At some point, students lose the drive to investigate the world around them. They lose a sense of wonder. They lose the ability to think about "why" and "what if". Sometimes, I use teh excuse of "there just is not enough time." But what if there was not enough time to continue teaching the same old way and missing the chance to get students excited about science?

When I try to think about questions in chemistry that will get the students thinking about an exciting topic it usually backfires and little to no discussion follows. I am wondering if this is a problem with how I am presenting the material or if the issue is with how the students have learned to "play school." Now, there are times when the questions that come up in class lead us into a grand discussion but usually, it is a discussion between myself and two or fewer students. Is there a way to get the larger group involved? What are some of the techniques for presenting questions that lead students into deeper investigations in science? Has there been any research about how students learn science? What happens when a student is engaged in science and decides that they want to pursue it later in school? What was it that made me want to be a science major? (or better yet, what were the driving forces behind me wanting to be a teacher?) Are there ways to brake out of the stucture of school that I am used to and am comfortable with? Will this get easier?

I do think that I am on my way back to the blogosphere. I will even make sure that my daughter's ages are correct in my profile. Amazing what you can do with some time, a little initiative and a desire to change.