Friday, October 03, 2003

OH...MY...GOD. Why do I want to be a teacher again??
I had the craziest day today. I subbed for a friend. (Actually, he doesn t know I subbed for him yet.) Anyway, I was a junior high science teacher. I had four 7th grade Life Science classes and one 8th grade Physical Science class. =:o Well, he had planned for them to run experiment simulations in the computer lab, using some software, and complete a worksheet. Sounds simple, right? Well, it wasn t. The teacher forgot to tell the tech guy about the software, so we had to pass out 32 CDs and explain 56 times (they're 12 years old; how often did you do things right the first time when you were 12??) how to insert them into 5 year old iMacs. Of course, this didn't take place until they had tried to log in and access the CD. As you can imagine, this was interesting enough on it's own. Plenty of kids forgot their ID numbers, or entered their birthdays incorrectly. Eventually, we finally accessed the necessary program, and there was one minute of silence as the video-generation glued their eyes and ears to their screen and head set. Then, hands flew up because they didn't know what they were doing. Needless to say, only 2 of the 30-odd kids finished the worksheet. It only went downhill from there.

OK- I exaggerate, but you should come to expect that from me. I'm sure you're curious as to what this "virtual lab" wanted them to do. Well, you asked for it:

When they accessed the program, a "Dr. Labcoat" spoke to them from a "virtual lab" with the scenario. Today, a " Mr. McMullen" was having problems with his African cichlids. They were dying, and he didn't know why. As you can probably guess, the kids had to identify 5 variables they were going to test, and contrast a control with an experimental group (basically, this is supposed to be an example of the scientific process in action.) Also, they had to reason why only messing with one variable at a time was best. So, if they read the "fax" from McMullen and followed the worksheet, they would end up doing 5 experiments, coming up with a hypothesis each time and noting any observations. In the end, they would discover that the fish were dying from the...well, you'll just have to do it yourself! And, a lot of them didn't even make it this far. I can't blame them too much, even though I want to. What happened was that they listened to Dr. Labcoat say something, then interacted with the screen and did a couple of experiments where they had multiple variables and couldn't conclude anything. Bleh. At the end of each class, I was just glad not to be the one grading these papers!

After period 1, I thought, "OK, I' ll help them along and review the key terms, ID number, password, etc with them before running to the computer lab." One good thing was more kids logged in and were ready to go sooner than that first class. The bad thing was they were still lost. I forgot that they are only 12 years old, and what 12-year-old kid listens? How many of us grown ups listen, for that matter? (Tim is reminding me that all adults are stupid, except for us and you.) At least I knew where they were to go in the program to find their answers. It is VERY DIFFICULT to get students to figure out the answers for themselves. It is also REALLY HARD not to give up and just tell them. I realized today it would have saved my sanity if I had just told them the answers, but then they wouldn' t be learning, would they?

I was really "pumped" come period 5. By pumped, I mean loopy. I was very enthusiastic, especially when two boys ACTUALLY FIGURED OUT THE ANSWER ON THEIR OWN! I ONLY HAD TO POINT THEM IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. I jumped around and cheered and we gave each other high-tens. The other 8th graders (therefore much more sophisticated than the 7th graders...ppphhhttt) just rolled their eyes and giggled at me, but that is what I expect from them.

At the end of the day, one girl I was helping came up to me and was so excited because she finally figured out that the...was killing the fish. She was all smiles, and remembered me from the other week when I subbed for her English teacher. She just gave me a smile and said she really liked having me for a sub, and she hoped to have me again.

Then, with the boys' success and her smile, I got a warm fuzzy, and remembered why I want to teach.

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