Friday, January 14, 2005

Lesson Learned: There really is no place like home!

Imagine, if you will, a Monday morning. An early Monday morning. A rainy, early Monday morning. That is how this week began. I knew that the latest of a series of storms was upon us as I left for work that day. It was very black, as 6:15 am usually is this time of year. I wasn't too concerened until I passed a car that had swerved into the divider. That's when the drive became frightening. The wind and rain picked up; lightning flashed over the dark, surging seas. On the northbound side of the freeway, traffic was stopped; a line of white lights, a mile long, formed behind what appeared to be a two- or three-car accident, and was getting longer by the second. I passed a car that had spun out of control and was now facing oncoming traffic. I had slowed down to 40mph, it being difficult to see through the driving rain. Slick patches of road turned out to be large puddles; I thanked God I had replaced my front brakes and all my tires a couple of months before. The wind and rain were getting more fierce, and I saw a streak of lightning above the city where my school is located. Once inside the staff lounge, the few other teachers and principal who were crazy enough to be there at that unkind hour were amazed at my determination and loyalty. In moments we were informed that the southbound freeway was closed, just after my onramp! I must have missed the mudslide by 15-20 minutes! A couple of teachers who also live up my way were unable to get to school, and a few more in the neighboring hills were also locked in by flooding and mud. As more and more people arrived, again I was alternately praised and heckeled for being at school. I blamed my naivete.

It wasn't until later that the enormity of my dedication was fully known; both directions of the freeway were closed, as were all the alternative routes! There was no way to drive from school to home. I was trapped! Fortunately, I work with some very generous persons, and offers of spare bedrooms and sofas were given. I accepted the first one. After school I called the CHP to see when they predicted the freeway would be open. To my dismay, not until Wednesday. On Tuesday, I was informed that Thursday or Friday would be the day I could drive home; Wednesday had the date set at Friday; Wednesday afternoon's prediction was for Saturday morning. The alternative routes wouldn't be reopened for another 2 weeks to indefinately, and the only other option was to drive down to LA and back up, a 5 hour trip-no thanks.

A news story told of a local whale-watching company that had decided to shuttle people between the two cities (where I live and where I work; BTW-most folks live where work and work where I live). It took me all day to get through to them, but I got a reservation for Thursday (yesterday). Boy, was I ready to go home. You wouldn't think being stuck in a large town would suck, but it does. At first, it was kinda fun and exciting. I bought a new shirt and underwear to wear to school; the kids were somewhat sympathetic that I couldn't get home. Some found it unbelievable that I drove so far each day. But by Wednesday, the "fun" had evaporated. I was chewing off heads all day! For example, I was lecturing about acceleration due to gravity when student asked why the water feels like cement when you fall on it. "Surface tension, remember, surface tension!? Due to the attraction of water molecules?! When you land on your stomach the force is spread out over a large area so you hit with a smaller pressure than when you dive or land on your feet! We only talked about it in class! If you don't remember, look in your notes! Yes, you can die; people have died from falling into water from a great height and landing on their heads!" After that, I realized that the situation was getting to me and I was overreacting in class. So when I left yesterday, I made sub-plans for today and called in sick. I needed a mental health day.

When I finally got off the boat and into Tim's office, I got all teary-eyed it felt so good to be home. I slept very well last night and got out of bed two hours later than I usually do. I ended up doing a whole lotta nuffin' today. I played around the Homestarrunner website mostly and read a romance novel my friend lent me while I stayed with her and her husband. (I'll have to write/rant about romance novels later on. Of course, that didn't keep me from finishing it. ;o) ) Now I'm looking at a four-day weekend. Tim and I are going camping tomorrow and will return on Monday. We're going to the desert-this is supposed to be the year for desert blooms. I hope we aren't disappointed!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Lesson Learned: I am awesome.

You know, when I tell people what I do for a living, their first reaction is one of incredulity, quickly followed by respect and awe, especially if these folks have kids of their own. I guess no one would wish being stuck in a small room with 30+ 13 year-olds on their worst enemy. On the other hand, they all recall that science was their favorite class! Hurray! Maybe my actions will become immortal in the hearts of my students. ...kinda scary, now that I think about it.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Lesson Learned: It's good to be back. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Well, today was our first day back after Winter Break (or Christmas Vacation, Christmas Break, whatever). Yesterday was hard; I had to keep telling myself that it'll be good to get back into a structured routine, see my friends, play with science, yadda-yadda-yadda. I'll believe it in a few days.

I had planned an easy lab for today and a lot of bribes to make it less painful for the kids. The bribery began after our bellwork (which I try to have most days). I had them define four words: force, friction, gravity, and acceleration. After having a student read the definition fom the book, I asked for any volunteers who could either give an example or demonstration of each word. It really worked out well in periods 4 and 6. I got kids who rarely if never do well participate and come up with appropriate examples!

In the lab, the groups were given a piece of wood, aka sled, with a screw sticking out of it (perpendicular to the broadest side), a spring scale, and 5 cans of soda (yeah, that really got their attention. You'd've thought they never had a soda before!). You put a can on the sled, hook the spring scale over the screw, and measure the force needed to pull the can and record it in a data table, and repeat with 2,3,4, and 5 cans. The fun part came afterwards! Each team turned one of the desks over, tied a string to a leg, and using the spring scale pull the desk and record what happened. Then, they put the soda cans under the desk and pull again and record the force needed then. They were amazed how easy it was to move the desk with the soda! I had fun watching them. As usual, they had a difficult time thinking about what it all means.

OK-so, I was happy to be back and it was nice seeing some of the kids again (don't let them know I said this!). Except for one student, whom I regard as my nemesis. I had him last year and he didn't like me then and he doesn't like me now. Since he is failing all of his other classes, I try not to take this too personally. SooooOOoooo, he comes in and instead of reading the board and getting to work like most of the other students he dawdles about, looking at this neighbors stuff (like he always does). Well, I wasn't about to start 2005 that way and I looked him right in the eye and said, "Look, you are not going to start the new year this way. Take out your planner, write in your homework, and define the words on the board." To which he began to argue (again, like he always does), to which I firmly replied, "I am not going to argue with you! Take out your stuff and get to work! Be the good student I know you can be.... You are going to pass this class and graduate this year even if it kills me, do you understand?" Boy, that really shut him up (no easy task!) and he was fairly decent the rest of the class time! Hee-hee! Sometimes I love being evil.