Sunday, February 27, 2011

Not Dead yet

This blog is not dead yet. The blog author is learning how to manage her time better :p

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We didn't come here for this....

Whenever I need to talk to a parent I usually have a problem, that is I don't speak Spanish. last week I took a phone away from a student for texting in class and Mom came to pick it up. Well since Mom was there I figure I'd tell her that the student was not passing the class. Well the student told me "well this isn't what we came here for". I was stunned, and SO WAS MOM. She didn't speak much English, but definitely understood what her child had said. I went next door to a teacher who does speak spanish and got my message across. The student was not very happen with that,..... but too bad!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What about school?

Ok, so I blogged how busy I an outside of school, but this is a school blog so whats up at school?

I struggle. I've been teaching for 3-1/2 years and I suffer from wanting everything to turn out perfectly, and having it not turn out perfectly!

This year I am trying to pay attention to what keeps a student from learning. I have found that one of the biggest obstacle is vocabulary. I am not talking about content vocabulary (I teach science and their is a huge list of vocabulary I have to introduce every week!) I am talking about words such as distinguish, interaction, stalking (for predator and prey), grazing, herds, and so many every day words that I am familiar with, but they are not because they haven't been exposed to that type of vocabulary. I have learned not to assume that they "should"know that word. When students ask me what something means I will usually tell the whole class, just to make sure that everyone knows it.

Another area students have problems in is their confidence. They do not have confidence in what they have learned and what they know. I learned this really well this year. One thing that I allow my students to do after every test is to repair it. Repairing the test is a process in which the student corrects every problem on the test that they got wrong . They need to find the correct answer using the book or notes and explain why they got it wrong (what confused them). When the students go through correcting their test they find that they are amazed that they choose the wrong answer. I get responses such as "Why did I choose that?", "I remember that from lecture", and "that was from the lab". Away from the pressure from the test they remember more. I always reinforce these self discoveries in hopes that during the next test they will do better.

Another blow to a students confidence is how teachers interact with their students. My students have told me that some teachers do call them stupid. As a teacher I do understand the frustrations when students don't know, but there needs to be that pause in between the anger to analyze what the student doesn't understand, you can't get angry. To call a student stupid in the classroom is really to destroy the confidence of all students in the room. I have done something similar. I had a student ask me what page we were on (after I said what page three times already) and I replied "If you were listening you would know". I immediately felt like such an ass after I said that. I immediately stopped the class and apologized for the stupid statement that came out of my mouth. I told them to please always ask me if they don't know what to do. I rather have them ask me (than sit there and do nothing because they don't want to ask me).

I understand why a teacher would get angry or frustrated, that is normal human reaction. The difference is to be able to get over being mad and teach the students what they need to know. I know not to take home being frustrated by what students know and don't know, and I don't. I am disappointed in my fellow teachers that they let the anger spill out and take it out on the students we share.

Everyday is a new day, whether its a day in September or June. I teach the kids, and as I teach the kids I also learn from them too.

Spring Break

Its Spring break for me. Its Thursday and I'm FINALLY done grading. What has busy me been up to? Here it goes:

Visit Family:
For Easter Weekend my husband and I decided to visit his Mom and some of his brothers & sisters in Vegas. We usually visit during the spring break because to visit Vegas in the summer is crazy! We had a real nice time visiting. The first night we ate out with his older brother and wife. It was good for us because we haven't seen them in a while, and it was good for them because they could vent about how stressful times have been about having Mom and other (younger) brother and sister (and her husband) move in. They were quite happy to get out of the house.

Easter was nice we had a very nice brunch at the house. His older brother made biscuits & gravy and a TON of bacon! I made a fritatta which everyone loved. Afterwards we took his Mom gambling to the Casino. She loves this slot machine thats called Irish Dublin. It makes Irish music and she dances to it. We gambled for about 90 minutes (don't worry its a penny slot machine) and then she got tired so we took her home.

We headed home on Monday morning and then I had to really start working. Even though its break time for me, its not. I cleaned house and washed clothes from the trip. Tuesday I started grading! YUCK! I did this thorugh Tuesday and Wednesday. Wednesday I also did the grocery shopping and ran some errands. It was really nice to go to the grocery store on a weekday and not have it be crowded! Thursday was doctor day. Visited the foot doctor and then made an appointment to visit my regular doctor for the biyearly TB test. Then I punched in all my grades into schoolloop. I love schoolloop. Its a way for kids to check their grads online. Hopefully they will check their school grades inbetween myspace and facebook!

Friday will be lesson planning. So nothing too exciting really on my break. I think I pretty much did what almost every teacher does on break, catch up with schoolwork, clean house, and plan out the next lessons! Hopefully on Monday I'll be totally ready!...


but then there is state testing around the corner....

Friday, January 23, 2009

First Reporter

All teachers, doctors, nurses, policemen and other county workers (I think) are supposed to be first reporters (It could also be called first responders, I'm not sure). Essentially if I suspect any type of child abuse at work, at home or if I'm out shopping, I must report it. For me not to report it leaves me liable and I could lose my job and even arrested.

So I had to report something the other day. I'm glad it wasn't something horrible-horrible-horrible, but it left me stressed. I was stressed because I had to make the call and was unsure of all the CORRECT paperwork and stuff I had to gather. At the time I had no one to ask advice because all the counselors were at a meeting and all the administrators were out. I was stressed because I was giving a test the next period and I had to have a teacher watch my class. And I was stressed because I don't like that bad things/situations happen.

I basically found an aspect of my job that I don't like. I don't like that bad things happen to kids (again nothing horrible-horrible-horrible), I don't like NOT KNOWING what to do, and I don't like looking like I am freaking out (I felt like I did).

So it was a sucky day.

I know I did the right thing, I felt sure in myself about that. It was better the next day because I did ask the counselors If I did the right thing and they said I did what I was supposed to do. That helped it be a little less sucky.

Sometimes the world sucks!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dreams of school

So one of the teachers at the workshop that I attended would tell me she had nightmares about her school. She said in one dream she was at the photocopy machine, and she really needed to make copies, BUT she couldn't find her master copies to start photocopying.

I've never had a nightmare but I guess all the talk about dreams finally entered my subconscious because I did have a dream about school. It wasn't a nightmare, but it something that could happen.

First I dreamt that my class was physically longer and that they had added 6 more benches to my room so it was now able to hold 54 students. One of the students sitting in the back, of course, was a knucklehead I had for only one semester last year (THANK GOODNESS!). In the back of the classroom in the other corner was 2 boys who were being smart asses. They would say something and I'd reply back, knucklehead from last year would laugh every time the 2 boys would talk back. The dream ended with me kicking them out to guidance. It wasn't a bad dream, definitely something that could happen, except for the way larger classroom. That wouldn't happen.

So that was my crazy dream. It wasn't bad, and I'm still looking forward to the new school year.

Last week for my worshop: A reflection

I just finished the last week for my inquiry workshop. I really enjoyed it and it has fired me up the start of the school year. At the end of the workshop we had to evaluate the program and fill out a HUGE questionnaire. One of the questions I had trouble answering was what I liked the most. I really couldn't decided. There were two aspects that I liked equally.

One, I liked learning! We spent three weeks going through common procedures in microbiology and molecular biology. Two subjects that I really enjoyed in college. We made plates, cultures, Inserted genes using plasmids, examined digested pieces to cut p the DNA, examined the DNA on an agarose gel and ran a PCR. I was so bummed that my PCR didn't work! It was such a short course that I did not get the chance to run the PCR again. Most of this workshop was HANDS on. It required me to remember and review what we would be doing before, or after, we did it. We had very active discussions about what we were learning, and I enjoyed the learning! It made me miss going to school myself and learn more on the subject.

The second thing that I enjoyed about this workshop was the dive right in attitude. It was essentially good, but to dive right in without really knowing what your doing, or having time to review what you will be doing, is hectic. Without really knowing what the product is we were asked to perform many complicated laboratory techniques that most of us have never done before. I had done some of these things in my undergraduate classes and in other workshops, but very few others had done this. Its not so much that I enjoyed the feeling of being unsure, its that I realized that this is what most of my students must experience when expected to learn some very complicated biological processes. This dive in attitude put me in their shoes.

Using Inquiry learning strategies in the class can help lower the amount of students not sure of what to do. Unfortunately I have found that most of my students do not like science. I found this out by asking them if they like science at the start of the year. So when I give instruction or lecture on a biological process they don't pay close attention because its something they are not interested in. Using Inquiry strategy I can get them hooked in by allowing them to choose what they want to investigate(within current topic of study). Now I'm not dumb, I know its not going to get all of them. But even a 10-20% increase in students who become interested in what we are learning because they get to find out information that they are interested would be excellent.

I also realized that I do want to go back to school. I want to increase/sharpen what I know.

So its a bummer that the workshop is over, but I did gain alot from it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Something funny.

If you saw the last Batman movie, here is a funny spoof based on the interrogation scene in the movie. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Well I am at Cal Tech this week. I took my camera to take pictures of the campus, but my dumb rechargeable batteries died. Need new ones :(

I did get some pictures. Here is the hallway for the building that my workshop is in. Its Spanish style. The Hallways are very beautiful as they have the plastered arched ceilings.

On the way to lunch we pass by this little turtle pond. I have never been interested in having a turtle as a pet, but these guys are cute!

Right past the turtle pond is this large park area with a water feature. Its a nice area to sit, feel the breeze and enjoy how peaceful it looks.

And thats all I got, cuz then my camera died. Oh well next week!

Frustration & Learning

In my second week in my inquiry learning workshop I have been frustrated, but I have also learned about frustration and how it interferes with learning.

During the second week we transformed some bacteria with the GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein).
Now I do teach Biology and I am familiar with the steps required to do transformation, but is something I have only done once before in another workshop, over 4 years ago.

Now the first part is easy. We are given plasmid DNA that has DNA from a Jellyfish. A Plasmid is a piece of DNA that is found in bacteria, but is not connected to the bacteria's DNA. The Plasmid can move in and out of the bacteria and this is one way that bacteria can pass around the genetic information that makes them antibiotic resistance. What molecular biologist have learned how to do is to take a plasmid from bacteria and splice in another gene. Now this is one way that they make insulin for diabetics. They take plasmids, splice in the gene making insulin, put it into a bacteria and the bacteria will make insulin. They grow billions of E-coli and these E-coli produce insulin.

The plasmid DNA that I received came from a jellyfish that naturally glows green.

Each plasmid only carries one gene and each had a different gene from the jellyfish. So some might of have the gene for making the protein that glows, one might of have the gene for making the slime on the outside of the jellyfish or any other part of the jellyfish. We first had to transform the bacteria, that is trick the bacteria into taking in the plasmid. Once the bacteria takes in the plasmid it will produce the protein that was on the plasmid.

So this is what I grew. The top 2 rows have growth, but too much. When you have this much solid growth its called a lawn. In the third row only the first plate had growth, but these were colonies, basically little dots of growth. It was the same for the 4th row as well.

Me and my lab partner had success, we had one dish that grew bacteria that had taken in the plasmid with the Green Fluorescent Protein Gene! You can see the glowing green little colonies.

What was frustrating? The Stoichiometry (calculations) needed to figure out the concentration of bacteria cells per sample on the plates with colonies. This is something I have never done. Fortunately for me one of the classes I teach I do show how to do conversions, which is similar to what I'm supposed to do. So I kinda know how to set it up. I was also lucky is that my lab partner new what to do. So she showed me what to do. Thats good and bad, I learn better when I puzzle it out myself.

The next step is verification. When you transform bacteria to produce a protein you need to verify that you have the correct protein inside the bacteria. So you go through a process where you take the plasmid out of the bacteria and place the plasmid DNA on an agarose gel to see the length of DNA that you are interested in. Basically you look to see if the plasmid in your transformed DNA is the one you wanted in the bacteria.

So what was frustrating about this? The steps to do this were complicated as well as the calculations to make all the solutions we needed to make to perform the experiment. Now in the workshop we first meet to discuss what we are going to do, then we do it. The moderator/teacher of our workshop was going over what we had to do. She was going over the instructions in a fast manner and assuming we knew all the reasonings why certain things need to be done. This was all so frustrating. I was trying to listen and write down instructions. That is something hard for me to do because when I write I am comprehending what I heard, but then I get behind in what is being said. SO at one point I got lost and looked up to see who I could ask for what I missed and I saw that everyone was lost. I teach, I know what the "lost-look" looks like. The moderator (a post-doc student) didn't know we were lost. She didn't know because some of the teachers were nodding their heads lie they knew what she was talking about, and when the moderator asked "any questions?" no one raised their hand.

Now the kind of person i am is that when I don't know something I NEED TO KNOW NOW! I raised my hand and asked "I'm lost, I think everyone else is lost, please raise your hand if you are on the same page as the moderator" and no one raised their hand. So we had to back peddle a bit and we figured it out.

This was a good experience because this is exactly what happens to students in a classroom. They get lost and they just nod there head and wait until the bell rings. Whats worst is that students will not raise their hand to say they are lost. They have learned by high school (through bad teacher experiences) that if your the one that raises their hand to critique something in class you, as the student, risk of being embarrassed or made fun of or even in trouble. So I learned to pay attention to how I give instruction and to gauge their facial/physically reaction. so I don't lose them.

So once we did that we went to the lab. I actually did partially figure out how to do some calculations for the solutions we needed. We went through all the chemical steps to separate the plasmid and reculture it. We actually did this part on more than 1 samples so we would have more than one plasmid sample to test. Then we cut up the plasmid for just the DNA for the gene we grew in the bacteria. Once we do that we use a micropippete tool to place the DNA samples in the agarose gel.

SO these are micropippetes, you use them to distribute microlitres of fluid. That is 1/1000 of a ml, very small amounts.

The idea is that you cut up the DNA into little pieces. Then you make a gel, a jello like substance, that is about 1/4-inch thick and rectangular in shape about 3 inches by 4 inches. The gel is made in a mold that creates 12 small wells, or holes, on one end of the gel. You then micropippete a small amount of one of the DNA samples into one of the wells in the agarose gel. Then it is placed in a Electrophoresis tank and an electrical current is applied to the gel. DNA is polar, which means it has a positive end and a negative end. So when the electrical current is applied to the gel the DNA moves within the gel. This makes the DNA bands that TV uses in all there CSI shows. This is the Electrophoresis tank.

This is what we got after we took the gel out and put it in the UV ray to see the bands. IT WAS WAY COOL!

This is all we could do this week. next week will run a PCR, a way to reproduce the gene of interest in great amounts.

We ended the day having a discussion on inquiry learning and how we could incorporate the inquiry process in our classes. All teachers in my group realize that what we are doing would not be entirely possible in a basic biology class. Most of us, including me, do not have the tools or equipment for most of what we are doing. But we do take away our experiences with these procedures and an understanding how important it is to allow students to dig and figure out things on there own. This way they are engaged and when they are engaged they are learning.