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The Scientist in Me Needed to Make a Graph….

My lack of blogs has severely affected my writing skills. In fact, I feel that they have already deteriorated and I am remorseful about the fact that I haven’t written. I have created a simple line graph to illustrate the phenomenon of my reduced compositional output: 

 

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Fig.1. Although the scales are completely bogus, it is clear to see that as the amount of bloggable material occurring increases, the time available to blog about the bloggable material decreases. Conversely, when the amount of bloggable material is small, the time in which to blog about it increases. 

 

 

 

 

 

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“So you don’t have to go back to work until February, right? Wow, I wish I got 6 weeks of paid holiday!”

 

1301BlamingTeachers-ArtAt this time of year, the only smalltalk among friends and family during Christmas celebrations is a comment on my ‘extensive holiday period’.  I’d like to see some of my family members do this holiday with as much style as I manage to pull off!

But firstly: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Australia! 

Traditional Christmas Symbolism:

tree one

Australian Christmas Symbolism:

snowman sand

 

….although, to be fair, it did drizzle a bit on Christmas Day 2013.

How to Christmas Holiday like a Science teacher: 

1. Increase coffee intake so that your 10-week sleep debt catches up with you on the 27th, not the 25th. Try hard to remember that it’s not nice to snap at people.

2. Purchase gifts for everyone within two days. Do not buy anything that is more than 50% plastic and refuse shopping bags wherever possible. Don’t forget that children should be engaged in learning from their Christmas presents. (Yes, people ARE grateful when I’m their Secret Santa, why do you ask?)

3. Wrap presents as well as you can with minimal wrapping paper (reduce), rip the old tags off of last year’s gift bags (reuse), and separate the sticky tape and foil paper from the papery paper before putting the rubbish into your bins (recycle). Advertise unwanted boxes on freecycle for people who are moving.

4. Conveniently forget that the supermarkets are closed for two days. Neglect to shop for groceries. Strategically plan your meals based around the friends and family you visit.

5. OPEN GIFTS! Plenty of chocolate, Science documentaries, household trimmings and books to read! These gifts are truly orgasm-inducing! (Turn into boring adult: check!)

6. Watch housemates leave for work. Brainstorm people to hang out with…..but they’re all at work. Wait for something to happen on FaceBook.

7. Eat many things.

8. Sit on couch with no prospects of company for many days. Find reasons why usual exercise schedule is absurd and unachievable without a school routine.

9. Eat ALL chocolate with nobody around to avoid possible social tension stemming from an unwillingness to share.

10. Begin intense household cleaning regime.

11. Cook lots to pass time and to create MORE things to eat. (WARNING: Do not interact with scales).

12. Become dissatisfied with housemates and enter into harebrained scheme to move house. Keep this scheme continually running in the background.

13. Allow the days to pass in a blur of domesticity, superficial social encounters, overeating and vegetating.

14. One week before the return of school, panic.

15. Lock self in office and complete all planning, marking and resource creation that was supposed to be spread over six weeks.

16. Begin the term and dedicate yourself to teaching again at the expense of housework. Restart exercise routine. Plan to clean and cook again in ten weeks’ time. It is now safe to approach the scales, but you might have to leap over piles of mess……..

 

And that’s why they tell you to marry a teacher! 

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When it’s not your turn to be the teacher: Managing my/their/everyone’s behaviour #3

I have written before about changing friendships and those moments where I forget to turn off the teacher voice, but the problem of teaching becoming who you are rather than what you do encroaches further into my life than that. Every time I interact with a person who is unreasonable, overly officious or obdurate, it is me who takes the role of pandering to their needs in order to calm them. When I meet a person whom I find disagreeable, I make myself more agreeable to accommodate them. I even do this when that other person is in a position of authority or if they have been employed to cater to my needs. I automatically try to avoid conflict where I might have sought it in the past. I notice in the staff room at school that we all do this for each other as well. When somebody comes in with their temper in fragments, they are not often blamed for it. Instead, everyone else tries to keep out of their way or make them feel better, or simply avoid loading any further responsibility onto them. I definitely appreciate this when it is my temper that has erupted and I think it’s one of the major strengths of our faculty.

The power of placating service people is a useful skill and can win me extra consideration and bargaining powers. It’s also nice to have someone else think that I am a lovely customer. However, there are situations where managing people is a drawback.

When the habit of dispersing tension leaks into your personal life, it costs you meaningful relationships. Managing another person’s behaviour categorises them into a new box in your head. Instead of being equal to you, that person is now lesser. They become equivalent to a student and they also take mental effort to deal with. They will never be a person whose company you seek for pleasure and you will never be able to turn to that person for advice or comfort when you are having a rough time. It also ties you to someone whom you would normally meet and then forget about or refuse to see again. The problem is that you’ve gone to effort to make them feel good at the expense of an opportunity for you to feel good. They leave the interaction liking you, and you leave the interaction pitying them. You end up with a superficial friendship that becomes an obligation. It’s never comfortable and it’s frequently awkward. You end up either making all of the plans  because part of your role in their life is to organise things, OR you get no say because your role is to accompany them when they’ve got nobody. When I began to find relationships like this creeping into my life, I began to question those relationships I had pre-teaching that were a little awkward. It turns out that some of my relationships were less than ideal and I’ve begun to make more efforts with people I actually like. It’s comforting that other people just past my age have said they went through the same thing in their twenties.

Additionally, being a behaviour manager makes it difficult to behave graciously when being taught by someone else.

I got a remote first aid certification recently. It was a two-day course with a mixture of practical and theory, with a very experienced first-aider as a teacher. He had a few tics that it was difficult to ignore though. He had a habit of saying only half of a sentence and ending it as a question, as though waiting for one of the adult pupils to finish the sentence on a subject we had not been taught about yet. He was also patronising and he threw us into practical situations that we could not solve because we did not have the knowledge. I was there with a colleague from school and although the teacher’s first-aid experience and knowledge could not be questioned, we harshly critiqued his teaching methods and laughed helplessly at his manner. Our behaviour was unbecoming and something we would never tolerate from students of our own.

Teachers, like all professionals, have a multi-faceted life with many priorities and responsibilities, but I am finding that I’m turning into a person who approaches all of my priorities with my single-faceted personality. If I continue to do this, I will continue to struggle with making meaning of the place in my life that each person I know holds. In my future, I would like to keep the behaviour management at school and relax when I go home and when I go out to socialise.

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Managing my/their/everyone’s behaviour? #1

behave 2

better bart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behaviour management is the

proverbial ElephantInSchool during university education degrees. The lecturers are confident that you’ll figure it out for yourself when you’re on prac. On prac, the supervisors handle all of the obstinate learners for you, while you die of shame in front of them. The Teacher Instruction literature guilts you into believing that if the students are misbehaving, then your educational practice is unsound. The Inspirational Teacher literature is not worth consulting when it comes to student discipline. It contains more verbose imagery and orchestrated catharses than poorly-written erotica.The maxim referenced by most of them is: “The only behaviour you can manage in the classroom is your own”.

 

My Behaviour

I do manage my own behaviour. I enact coping mechanisms to prevent myself from physically harming the students or other staff members. This behaviour management approach protects my career, and prevents episodes from being exacerbated, but it does not improve the behaviour of my students in that instant. When I go home, I have to enact further strategies to ensure that I can still interact with other humans.

 

Excuse me while I disembowel this orc to release my frustration and carnal rage. 

LOTR Lego

 

 

When it’s your turn to manage behaviour for the first time in first year, you have to decide where you’ll draw the line, and you have to make constant judgements about when a kid is playing you and when they’re being sincere. Sometimes, you will be wrong, and most of the time, you will be accused of favouring a student who you like more.

News flash: I tend to dislike students who lie to me, swear at me, physically threaten me and refuse to participate in my classes. Students who wait for instructions to be given so that they know how to do the wrong thing incur my wrath. It is therefore nonsensical for a student being disciplined for any of the above behaviours to complain that students doing the right thing are not being given punishments.

Nonsensical is what teenagers do best.

If anybody wants to talk to me, or ask me to do something: tough. I’ll be sitting at my desk plugged into a musical paradise working by myself. 

There are also  instances when the students are very clearly managing your behaviour, and you don’t have the emotional energy to stop it from happening.

“We’re not going outside, we’re too tired. If you take us out there, we will run away from you and make you chase us. Go back to your staffroom and get us a DVD!” 

Seniors are the professionals when it comes to manipulating me. Homework extensions can be easily granted and excursions can also be wheedled out of me for the price of smiles and consolations and the promise of ‘a posse’ during playground duty.

bodyguards-entourageTo be honest, those moments where someone else is making suggestions  and caring about you are rare and very sweet.

 

I don’t care what we eat for dinner, in fact, I think I might be too tired to chew. I change my vote to soup or coffee. 

 

I find it most difficult to manage my own behaviour when there are spiders in the classroom and when I am undertaking playground duty. During Winter, a huntsman spider took up residence above the doorframe of my lab. The first group of students to come through that door after the huntsman moved in were Year 12 Biologists coming to school for a study day. When they noticed him, they screamed and ran to the opposite corner of the room. They all tried to stand on tables and chairs and there were shouts of “Miss! Miss! Kill it now!” I REALLY wanted to be among those standing on chairs. There were no other staff members around because they were at home for the holidays, so I looked for my male biologists. They were cringing behind the girls, covering their heads. I found some adrenaline  somewhere and by standing on a lab bench, I was able to sweep the offending creature into a beaker with a dustpan and brush. This did not curb the bloodlust of my class, so I had to spray the beaker full of insecticide and watch the spider jerking as though subjected to the cruciatus curse.

 

Student/teacher interactions during class:

shark2

 

Student/Teacher interactions during playground duty:

pgroundD

During recess and lunch, you again have to decide what level of behaviour you will demand from the students and then enforce it. The most frustrating part of playground duty is when the executive members of staff do not support your decisions or follow up the reports you give to them.

 

Irritated and enraged to the point of tears after dealing with students, I have no wish to engage in an argument with you, my colleague. If you provoke one, you will not get sane or stable answers. My sarcasm and flippancy is designed to evoke the same feelings inside of you as the feelings that are inside of me. I will also retaliate at a later date by pulling a prank on you. 

 

You have to carefully balance managing your behaviour and de-stressing. Too much either way will undermine your professionalism or cause your teacher identity to absorb your everyday alter-ego.

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Resources: Brain-food for you and your students, courtesy of YouTube and the Net

MAN-Steve Cutts 

MOST PEOPLE ENJOY THIS ONE

The above is my favourite piece of propaganda: a hyperbole of the damage we are doing to our environment. It is biased and confronting, so it is best used for an older/more mature class and should be followed up with some sustainable behaviours that the students can enact. Otherwise, it can be quite depressing. I have to admit that it’s something I often share with adults as well. 

Wild Sex-Sexy Dance Offs

MOST PEOPLE ENJOY THIS ONE

I used this for my senior Biology class when I wanted to teach them about mate choice and sexual selection. It is not necessarily part of the curriculum, but it helps kids to understand that “survival of the fittest” is about organisms surviving long enough to produce offspring rather than just surviving. You can also use it to explain the reasons why some characteristics become more prevalent than others in a population. 

Positive and negative feedback loops

MORE FOR TEACHERS OR BIOLOGY ENTHUSIASTS

Perfect because it’s simple, but still detailed and it uses subject specific terminology. Senior biologists love this one! 

The Science of Cats

MOST PEOPLE LOVE THIS ONE

This is a great video, answering interesting questions using simple, applied Science. It’s a great treat for the end of a lesson of hard thinking. 

Edmodo

This website is useful for communicating with students outside of school. It gives you administrative privileges so that you can control what they are posting to one another, but they can ask questions of you or each other. If I use a resource in class, I post it to the wall for future reference, either for them to study or for me to find again. They can share photos, videos and websites too. If I am absent from school and my class has laptops, I can leave them a copy of the work to refer to. Some classes respond to it better than others, but it’s still a useful resource, and the layout resembles Facebook, making it easy to use.

Dog Cloning

MAINLY FOR TEACHERS

This is a cute little interactive explaining the process of cloning. It uses a hypothetical scenario of cloning  imaginary dogs and I LOVE it because it removes some of those common misconceptions. For best effect, get each kid to do it individually on a computer. Takes about 10 mins at the most. 

Mantis Shrimp-The Oatmeal

MOST PEOPLE LOVE THIS ONE

Educational for all involved, fun facts with an accessible perspective on the Science. I use it when I’m teaching about light waves, and also in senior Biology when we’re learning about how eyes work. 

Nikola Tesla-The Oatmeal

MOST PEOPLE LOVE THIS ONE

Same as above, plus the excellent ‘human element’ that can be missing from Science sometimes. It is essential for teaching kids about how to actually BE a scientist and it also makes them think about where our acquired knowledge has come from. From memory, it has offensive language, so I save it for seniors or I tell students to look it up at home on their own. They can be enticed to do this with the promise of offensive language.

My biggest goal when teaching is making my students think. I like to give them information, perspectives and opinions so that they can come to their own conclusions and make carefully-weighed decisions. The best way for me to do that is to continually collect information, perspectives and conclusions for myself. I also spend a fair amount of time finding new representations of scientific issues and concepts. The resources above are great, so please check them out and make sure that you pass them on. Teacher or not, this knowledge is useful and accessible for people of all ages and educational backgrounds. 

Healthy faculty relationships can often be built around shared resources. We are good at passing on resources in our faculty when someone asks for them, but we are working towards building an electronic repository that everyone can access at their own leisure. This is a positive and progressive step forward for us, and I recommend it. 

Happy Learning! 

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Celery!

Celery!

Taken down the barrel of a monocular microscope, with an iPhone, by a year 11 student! She was very pleased with this photo, and I was very pleased that she thought celery interesting enough to photograph. The darker stained spot is a vascular bundle, comprised of xylem and phloem vessels separated by vascular cambium (a section of cells whose job is to produce more phloem and xylem cells). The two lighter spots toward the top left hand side of the picture are tears in the section.

(TS of celery stem;stained with methylene blue)

Some basic plant knowledge:

Phloem and xylem vessels are a little bit like blood vessels in humans because they are the transport system inside a plant. Xylem vessels carry water from the roots of a plant up to the leaves where that water evaporates through the pores on leaves (stomata). The process of water moving through a plant is called transpiration and it is driven by the evaporation at the leaf. Water molecules cohere to one another and adhere to the walls of the xylem vessels, so as water is evaporated at the stomata, the thin stream of water molecules is drawn up through the xylem. Xylem vessels are composed of dead cells that link together to form long tubules stretching through the plant. They are heavily lignified, or woody and water can only go up, not down. Dissolved in that water are also some minerals from the soil.

Phloem vessels transport organic nutrients (sugars) around the plant. These cells are living tubules that have lost their cell contents to allow the phloem sap to pass through. Companion cells can be found next to phloem cells to feed the cell and to load it with sugar. Phloem sap can flow upwards and downwards using a mechanism known as ‘source to sink’. The source of the sugar is any cell of the plant that is photosynthesising. The sink is any part that needs sugar for respiration. The sugar moves from where it is made, at the source, to where it is required, at the sink.