Sunday, March 13, 2005

Lesson Learned: Even I deserve a treat once in a while.

OK-FINALLY finished the unit on pressure and buoyant force. I always feel this way at the end/beginning of a unit. At first, I'm excited about the subject (this week we began The Atom and the Periodic Table of Elements). I enjoy finding interesting ways to introduce the topic, research background info in case anyone has a good question, talking to the other teachers to see what labs to do, etc. But after going over the same thing 5X/day for 10 days, I am soooo ready to move on and the next topic looks soooo interesting that I'm, like, "OK-give them a test whether they're ready or not, 'cuz I sure am!" Of course, I don't say this to the kids. Luckily, all the other teachers go through the same thing in their own content areas.

Anyway, on Friday in per. 4, only 7 students out of 30 did the homework. I was puzzling over my gradebook when the kids asked what was wrong. I said that I was very disappointed in the number of students who did not do the work. They expected me to start yelling but I decided to reward the good kids. I had them stand up and gave them each a blow pop. They were happily and gloatingly sucking on them. That actually got a lot more kids to do the work and turn it in during the next period! Hurray! The funny part was, after handing them out, I said, "You know, I deserve one, too. I have to put up with Cierre every day." To which Cierre replied, "Yeah, you totally do Ms. Aranda. I'm a handful." So, I'm glad the kids understand sarcasm or at least know when I'm (half)joking.

The agenda for that day was to read a bit from the book and take notes. The reading was on elements and isotopes. The textbook mentioned how the protons repel each other, but that the neutrons help counteract the repulsion. Only 3 of my 151 kids could explain what repulsion meant, so I did a quick demo with clear tape. Basically, two strips of tape will repel each other. You could then make the charges even and uneven to demonstrate neutral charge and attraction. One kid exclaimed that he never knew that tape could be so interesting. You just know that that will probably be one of the few things he remembers of jr. high science!

On top of replusion, radiation was briefly discussed in terms of unstable isotopes. The kids didn't really have a good idea what radiation meant, besides that Spiderman had radioactive blood. I explained that when an atom breaks down, particles smaller than protons break off. They are so small that some can enter your cells and muck with your DNA, causing cancer and wrecking havoc with your reproductive organs. As an example, I asked for a show of hands who has had an X-ray? What do they give you? "A blanket," was the common response. Anything unusual about that blanket? I ask. Oh, yeah, they say, it's real heavy. That's because it's lead, an element (#82) that X-rays can't penetrate. Where does the technician go? Oh, she goes behind a wall or in another room. Right! I say, because if you get too much exposure to x-rays, it can ruin your reproductive organs. Can you imagine the response? They were funny! One boy wondered why you just don't get a lead cup made? Another said that next time, he would really hold on to that blanket!

Well, tomorrow I return to UCLA to work on my project based learning unit. It's a good pedagogy, but I really wish I was with a jr. high. I think that elementary school teachers (a private elementary school at that) kinda don't understand the logistics of a jr. high.


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