Thursday, March 31, 2005

My friend W. works for a nonprofit arts education organization. She recently got a promotion that causes her to spend more time in actual classrooms. Just before her wine tasting this past weekend, Wendy discovered the Word Wall... Posted by Hello

And speaking of plants... I have come a long way in my appreciation for kale. I actually found it rather beautiful tonight as I added it to my curry. Posted by Hello

In Defense of PowerPoint & Other Tools...

Melinama over at Pratie Place has a post about the problems with having kids give PowerPoint presentations. She admits that she doesn't like PowerPoint even when used by adults, but she finds it especially onerous as used by children. Many people respond in the comments, but as a fan of PowerPoint in the classroom, I wanted to write in its defense!

Computers are tools, just like pen and pencil, recitation, video, DVD, drawing, acting, experimentation, observation, and field experiences are tools. I've seen each used well, and I've seen each used carelessly. The fact that many adults write poorly doesn't stop us from asking kids to write!

Not everyone is a "computer-person" and even among those of us who use computers well and find them useful and fun, we have our preferences among programs and activities. Nevertheless, computers are a fact of life. Using a computer shouldn't come before learning to read or write or add, but kids need to develop fluency with basic computer programs in order to keep doors open for them in the "real world." Furthermore, computers do certain things better than people, and it is wrongheaded to deny this. I would never, never want to return to the time when you had to type everything by hand on a typewriter and re-type each revision by hand.

Here are some ways I've used PowerPoint in Science classes.

I've used it to give presentations myself, as I described in a post below. It's a good way to SHOW rather than just TELLING. Also, by using PowerPoint occasionally to present information, I model presentation skills for the kids.

I've had kids give presentations using PowerPoint. I've struggled with the problems Melinama bemoans: cut-and-paste plagiarism, reading from slides, you name it. Here are a few ideas for preventing these problems. They take more work on the part of the teacher.
  • As suggested in the comments at Pratie Place, set ground rules and stick to them. If you say no plagiarism or no reading from slides, mean it! You might have to look at first drafts of presentations and make kids go back and do things over in order to enforce these rules.
  • Give them graphic organizers or worksheets and require that they take notes in their own words in writing before they even begin making their presentation. Teach them how to paraphrase and summarize and take notes - one way is to have them read a short passage, then close the book and write down the important ideas. Then discuss which pieces of information each child chose to write down.
  • Model what you are looking for. Read directly from a slide, then do it the right way, with the slide supplementing what you say. Ask the kids what was different and which was more interesting.
  • I have also decided to have the kids use books for research more often than the internet, at least until they are good at research skills. Most stuff on the internet - even at many sites aimed at children - is simply not written at their reading level.
  • After the kids present, have each group of kids grade the presentation they just saw using a rubric that includes the things you found important... this will encourage them to learn from each other. You don't have to use the grades they give, it's just a tool for reflection. It also fills up the time lag that inevitably occurs when one group finishes and the next is loading their presentation.

Finally, the most important point for good presentations by kids: they should never, never just regurgitate information. They should always have an interpretative task. I have them design experiments and present their results in PowerPoint. I had them read about problems facing the anuran (frog & toad) populations globally and propose research projects to investigate the problem further. They presented as though it were a conference. The truth is, NO major project should ever be a "report of information" - I've done it on occasion, but they are rarely the best projects, and you have to work really hard to prevent plagiarism when kids are just looking up facts and spitting them back out.

Nancy mentioned in the comments at Melinama's that it can be used to teach kids to summarize - I don't know how she does it but I can imagine that requiring kids to fit a lot of information in small blocks of space could help them learn to be concise and pick out the most important ideas. But the teacher has to structure the task carefully!

If I ever teach sixth grade again, the kids' first few lab reports are going to be done in PowerPoint. I suggested this to my new teachers, and the seventh grade teacher tried it. Each part of the lab report had a slide. I think it helps the kids see the parts of the project more clearly, and it's easy to move them around if they are initially in the wrong order. Then, when the kids present to the class, they can see what other students did and learn from it. This might speed up the process of learning a new genre of writing. I'm not sure it's even necessary to have the kids present, though; I think that the process of writing it in PowerPoint might be enough to help them do it the first few times. Later, I'd move them to typing in Word.

I don't use PowerPoint often, but I do use it from time to time. I don't ask for posters, performances, poetry, brochures, or any other genre of project very often, either, though I've used each at least once in the last few years. Using a mixture of project types allows many kids to shine. Each type of project focuses on a slightly different set of skills, yet the underlying challenges are remarkably similar - especially avoiding plagiarism.

So much for recovering...

This week has turned out to be more stressful than last. In four days, I lost two prep periods (out of five) to coverages (filling in for absent teachers). This is fair, sort of, because today and tomorrow my dept. is responsible for a lot of coverages as we will be at the Regional Science Expo. However, each day I plan on having those preps, and to lose them at the last minute means an hour's worth of work gets squeezed into the odd minutes throughout the day or put off until after school. That's fine if it's grading, but this week a good deal of the work I had to do was the nuts and bolts of sending three different teachers with varying groups of kids to the Regional Science Expo - four different permission slips, discussions with kids about what to bring and what to expect, schedule arrangements with teachers and administrators, you name it. Not the kind of stuff I can take home with me or put off until the following day.

I finished all that - just barely - and then realized that I had to plan Monday's wild plants field trip today because I'd be out of the building all day tomorrow. More scrambling. Luckily another teacher was able to help put together the schedule and permission slips after I got it started.

Basically it's been several days of working from 8 am to 4 pm without even five minutes to sit quietly and reflect - I've worked during lunch, every moment of every prep, and even squeezed administrative stuff into quiet moments while the kids were working.

The kids have been really boisterous and aren't responding to correction - they nod and say ok but go right back to the problematic behavior - so that's added to my stress. My science class routines are still a bit off because they have to spend 15 min. a day observing the FastPlants, and then we try to fit in a lot of other stuff as well.

All of this resulted in me nearly losing my voice today. We have at least one boy sick with laryngitis and completely unable to speak, so it's possible that I'm getting sick, but I also tend to lose my voice when I'm stressed, and my chest has that tight feeling... So today I left at the end of the school day rather than staying for afterschool. I could barely talk and could not imagine leading a drama class at that energy level. The kids got split up and added to other classes for the day. I feel a little guilty but I wasn't feeling very positive or relaxed and you can't teach drama when you're exhausted and tense!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

A Case for Richness

I've been experimenting with using PowerPoint when I have to introduce a topic and present a lot of information at one time. I find that the visual format keeps the kids focused and allows them to see what we are talking about beyond the pictures in the textbook.

I taught a lesson on non-vascular plants (mosses, liverworts, hornworts) through PowerPoint a couple of weeks ago, and today I taught about seedless vascular plants (ferns, club mosses, and horsetails) the same way. I start out with a few slides that show photographs and ask, "What do you notice?" The kids write down or share out loud their observations. That's my attempt to work a science skill into a lecture.

From there, each slide elaborates on the topic, and I teach in a question-and-answer style. The kids take notes, I add detail and explain each piece of information, and we ask each other questions.

A little secret is that I struggled with the finer points of the lifecycles of ferns and mosses in a botany class that I took two years ago, yet now that I'm teaching it, I find it really easy and kind of cool. The kids don't really need to know about antheridia and archegonia (the male & female structures in ferns and mosses) but in looking at the textbook and standards I realized that these are some of the most important characteristics that differentiate these plants from regular flowering plants, and that if I tried to gloss over the lifecycles, the kids would inevitably ask, and I'd end up teaching it anyway but with less planning. I believe that if you present it right, kids can learn most anything, so why not go for it? And the eighth graders responded really well to the challenge of new words, new ideas, new information. They asked tons of good questions and seemed to understand it.

Now the thing is, I really wanted to bring in samples of these plants to pass around and investigate. I'm not that much of a green thumb, myself (except, apparently, when it comes to algae), so I don't have abundant houseplants or a close relationship with a florist. The weather's been crappy and I've been too busy to hunt around in the parks. And the flower shops I HAVE visited didn't have moss or ferns (well, there was one fern but it was really expensive). Anyway, in order to have two classes of thirty kids really observe a plant specimen, you've got to have a fair amount of it. A little sample of moss off of some rock in Central Park wasn't going to cut it, nor would the two or three ferns my roommate's got growing. So I decided to keep looking and make do with vivid photographs on PowerPoint.

When I got to the slide about ferns today, one boy raised his hand and asked, "What's a fern?" They can still surprise me; I thought my kids knew what ferns were. Sure, they live in the city, but we have parks and gardens, and ferns are relatively common, and many of them have gone to summer camp.... A glance at the other faces in the room told me that this boy was not the only one who didn't really have a mental image to go with the word "fern." I backed up to the pictures and showed them some pictures and drawings from the textbook, and that helped. I heard a few say "Oohhhhhhh" in a tone of recognition.

Now I really want to bring in a fern just to make sure. I found fiddleheads at the gourmet grocery store and got about 15 to let them examine, and I visited several more florists (no luck). I'm going to put one frond from my roommate's plant in a baggie to bring in tomorrow. And we have a field trip to a nearby park set up with Wildman Steve for next Monday. I'm going to ask him to find us some ferns to look at, if there are any in that particular park.

To me, this is just one more example of why teachers need to add rich detail and complexity to the curriculum for all children. Too often, we simplify and stick to the basics, or we try to tailor the curriculum to the children's experience or interests. I think children from disadvantaged backgrounds need MORE richness, if anything, more chances to see new things and learn their names and how to describe them and explain how they work. And while it is always valuable to begin with children's prior knowledge, we have to be careful to keep going from there, to bridge to new knowledge, to give them the opportunity to develop new interests that they didn't have before because they didn't know they COULD be interested in botany or sonnets or....

Post-Expo Science Teacher Rehab

My goals: unearth my desk, get the kids back to our usual classroom routines, catch up on grading, organize our school's field trip to the Regional Science Expo, do something about the massive green blob (aka algal bloom) that is taking over the fish tank, figure out what my role is going to be in the long-term planning process that my school is beginning.

Let the recovery process begin.


On a related note, I gave out surveys at Monday's PD session, and got a lot of helpful feedback from the other staff members. They seemed pleased by the Expo, though they wished there had been less last-minute work. I'm sympathetic and it's a challenge we're perennially working on.

Even more helpful, in some ways, was the feedback from the kids. I asked them to answer five reflection questions. The idea was to encourage them to reflect on their own work, and to investigate the students' experience of the Science Expo. I asked what they thought they did particularly well this year, what they would do differently or what they learned about doing projects, what their teachers/school did that was helpful, what their teachers/school could have done differently or better, and what their overall reactions to the Expo and the process of preparing for it were.

The most intriguing piece of information that came up over and over again - I'd estimate at least 10 times out of 60 kids - was that they appreciated the fact that I made them do most of the work on their own, outside of school. A couple of kids said that they thought they did better work as a result. Others thought it was hard but worth it since they will be expected to be more independent next year in high school. And others thought that they learned something about scheduling their time as a result of the experience. Considering my angst about balancing checkpoints and structure with independence and personal responsibility, I am really happy to have this reminder that kids WANT to be pushed to grow and take on more reponsibilities.

That said, they all wished I'd given them more time - either more advance notice or a bit more in-class time for research and typing.

Overall, they seemed to like the Science Expo and most thought it was better this year than in the past. Several had really insightful comments (I'd quote from them but I left them at school) about how our school is changing and improving and learning from our past experiences.

And then there was one boy who wrote, "I hated the whole thing." Although I'd love for them all to enjoy the Science Expo, I'm fine with the fact that it's not for everyone. I don't want anyone to HATE it, though! I'm glad he trusts me enough to be so (brutally) honest....

I am really proud of the kids for their thoughtful responses.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Good Advice

Abigail has some really good advice on staying organized and helping motivate your students.


There are a few big decisions on the horizon, especially now that it looks like I'll be in this country next year.

First is what to do with my summer. My school is making some plans to do long-term planning over the summer; no one is expected to attend all sessions but that will begin to fill in the calendar and it's the kind of decision-making that I like to be involved in. I might be able to do an alumni program at the Exploratorium. So far I haven't found any other summer programs for teachers that I'm wildly excited about. Various friends have talked about road-trips but nothing concrete yet. And I do like NYC in the summer, as I have lots of free time to explore and their are many fun activities to do here during warm weather. A friend suggested that I volunteer with her on a tall ship out of South Street Seaport and learn the basics of sailing; right now, that's the plan that's most exciting to me. I might also try to find a class or two to take and maybe see about volunteering at the HousingWorks Bookstore. The main thing is that I want to CHOOSE what I do, not sort of "default" as time goes by, even if what I default to is perfectly fun in the end.

Second is housing. My roommate plans to move out in June, which is making me think about housing options. I love my neighborhood and like my apartment a lot. I have no great desire to leave. I've offered her room to a friend who is going to think about it. I could also try to find a new roommate through craigslist and similar routes. My commute is too long, though, so a part of me sees this as an opportunity to find a place more convenient to my school. The only way to significantly reduce my commute would be to move far uptown or stay in my neighborhood but much closer to the train station. I don't really want to move uptown, and the chance that I'd find an affordable place closer to the train in my neighborhood is laughable. The process of finding an apartment or a share in this city is so painful that I dread going though it again when I have an apartment I like and can afford in a great neighborhood. The third option would be to change schools, something I don't plan on doing this year and probably not at all as long as I live in NY. I've simply invested so much in my school that it would be silly to leave unless I am packing up and moving away altogether. Which opens a door I hadn't really wanted to open: moving back to California. I like it here - a lot. But I have a lot of friends in California, they need teachers there, and surely there are some innovative small schools hiring.

I'm also thinking about buying a new computer. And - gasp! - maybe even changing allegiances and buying an Apple, a nice little laptop. Big purchases of this sort take me forever to make. My current computer is almost five years old and I'm ready for something new.

On a slightly more frivolous note, I'm also thinking about buying an iPod. I figured I'd get the laptop & iPod before leaving the country, since that would be the most sensible way to bring a computer & lots of music with me. Now that I'm not leaving, I find that I still want both new toys...

Enough procrastination. Back to work.

And happy Easter, everyone!


Spent the weekend decompressing from the Science Expo. Now I'm taking a look at what to teach this coming week. I have my unit on plants all planned out, but I have to make sure I have all my materials ready - I'm always really ambitious when I plan my units and sometimes feel far less adventuresome as the day of the lesson approaches. Here are some of the things we are going to do this week:

On Monday, I'm going to hand out a survey asking the kids to give me some feedback about the Science Expo, and also to encourage reflection on their part. Meanwhile, they are going to do observations of their FastPlants, which are growing like, um, weeds... and I'm going to give them a chance to start their experiments over if they want to, since some quads got knocked over during the last week, and some of the experiments were so extreme that no plants grew at all. Also, we ran out of vinegar mid-week, so the groups watering with acid were stuck, and I never managed to make it to the grocery store to get more. So, in the interest of science, many groups will want to set up new experiments.

On Tuesday, I'm doing a PowerPoint lecture on seedless vascular plants, a.k.a. ferns. I was also hoping to pass around some fern leaves for them to observe - perhaps fiddleheads - but the fiddleheads I saw at the grocery store weren't that impressive. With any luck I'll find a florist whose got ferns on Monday evening, or else they'll just have to look at pictures.

On Wednesday, we're going to take a look at seeds. I must remember to soak some beans overnight so they can disect them and see what's inside.

On Thursday, they are going to design germination experiments. With the FastPlants, we don't get to see what's going on during the first few days when all growth is under the soil. There are many simple experiments you can do involving the germination of bean and corn seeds, using variables like the direction they are oriented, amount of water, amount of air, etc.

On Friday, we'll take a look at leaves.

Meanwhile, in sixth grade health I need to come up with lessons on the health problems caused by obesity, and in seventh grade health we'll be doing the non-health-related costs of smoking, such as smelly hair & clothing, the insane amount of money smokers spend on their habit, etc.

On Monday afternoon, we have a staff meeting. I might have to present at that meeting, not absolutely sure.

On Tuesday afternoon, a consultant is coming to meet with me about the laptop program.

On Wednesday I'm working with the HS Prep kids about reading difficult reading passages and answering multiple choice questions about those - I must find some poorly-written, overly-complex writing to give them as examples. Sadly, few textbooks, magazines, and even fewer pieces of literature feature writing this bad.

On Thursday I'll take my drama kids down to the auditorium for the first time and see what we can do about blocking the first scenes from "Charlie."

Friday, March 25, 2005

Report from the Science Expo

It was a success, though not without stressful moments.

One thing I love is that I have to drag (many of) my judges kicking & screaming to the Bronx, but they almost always end up having a blast. P. was a bit lukewarm about judging - he really doesn't like schools - and joined at the last minute, but he had fun. Same thing has happened with several other people. And all the judges found the kids polite & professional, which is what I want to hear.

Especially since, on the way home from the Bronx last night, I noticed that the moon was full (or certainly looked it). I scheduled a major school event for the full moon?! Ask even the most rational teacher - and I'm a candidate for that title - and they will tell you that the full moon brings out the kids' inner werewolves.

The eighth graders pulled together their projects really well, albeit at the last minute. As a person who works best under a certain amount of pressure, and often does major projects at the last minute, I realize that some of their delaying may have been inevitable. But I would like to re-train them when they are young to start working on projects early. Their projects were good but imagine what a little more feedback early in the process could have done....

Anyway, when they were younger I complained that - possibly due to a lack of art experiences early in their education - they had no aesthetic skills (and believe me, I'm talking about basic stuff here like cutting neatly, not simply design choices different from my own). It's really nice to see that they have come a long way in that department. Presentation DOES matter.

Even more importantly, they've come really far in their scientific thinking. There was only one project that made absolutely no sense, and several that were excellent. Many kids have figured out how to analyze data and look for patterns and discrepancies. They are still plagued by small sample sizes. Some had difficulty finding background information but they did much better than in previous years and most groups tried to relate their conclusions to their research.

The winning eighth grade projects were about whether people with acne have more bacteria on their faces, and whether different kinds of music affect your ability to concentrate on math problems.

One of the two girls who won burst into tears as she accepted her award, and gave me a big hug. She wants to be doctor. Her family, while tight-knit, isn't always the best influence on her education - her cousins skip school on Fridays, and she often does as well. I think she's been sexually active for a while. She works incredibly hard in school, though, and usually gets good grades in science. I really, really hope she fulfills her dreams, but I think for that to happen, everything will have to fall into place perfectly for her over the next few years. I see the number of challenges she faces. One nice thing was that her mom was in the audience last night. Another teacher told me that this girl's mother might be dying of cancer... it's always a little hard to know exactly what's going on but it seems that she's sick.

The seventh grade projects turned out really well. The winning project had to do with carbonation in cold soda and warm soda. It was awesome in every respect. We had two visitors from the Region - sadly, they arrived a little late when the children were already on their way home - but they asked if they could have that project for PD if we didn't want to keep it ourselves (we do). They seemed pleased with the Science Expo, and I think they would have been even more pleased if they'd been able to talk to the children.

The sixth grade projects were pretty weak, which I attribute to a combination of factors - part of it is the kids' inexperience with science, part of it is that they have a brand new teacher, part of it is just that they are still fairly concrete thinkers and the task is pretty hard for them, part of it is that even in their six months in our school they haven't done quite as many experiments as I would have liked. The winning group found that diet soda floats in water while regular soda sinks - this is because regular soda has a huge amount of sugar in it, while diet soda has nutrasweet or something similar which achieve the same level of sweetness with only a few grains of the sweetener, so those cans contain way less "stuff" in the same volume. They're less dense. Anyway, they systematically added salt to the water and found the point at which the regular soda would also float. It was a good project although they did not completely understand why it worked.

The afternoon session was a great success. The evening session, which we held for the first time this year, was fairly stressful. The teachers supervising the sixth graders made some poor decisions regarding behavior, a couple of judges couldn't make it at the last minute so I had to scramble to get the judging finished, and in general the teachers were exhausted but the kids were bouncing off the walls. I was very stressed out for a good half an hour, but in the end it all worked out.

So, I'd say the day was a success. Next week I am going to hand out reflection sheets to ALL the teachers to get their feedback and ideas, and our Science dept. meeting will be dedicated to debriefing. I'm also going to give my students an opportunity to reflect.

What is pi?

a schoolyard blog asks "If someone asked you to sketch pi – not the symbol for pi, but its meaning - what would your sketch look like?"

Her math questions interest me. They make me think about how much of the math that I KNOW I really UNDERSTAND. This was a hard one - she's always asking us to DRAW a representation of things. Although I did think about this question by imagining shapes in my head, I'm not much of a sketch-er, really. Here's what I came up with:

Pi is a number but I think it's also a ratio that has to do with circles. I asked myself, okay, why is the area of a circle pi-r-squared? Thinking about that, my next question was, if I took away pi, what does r-squared represent? I imagined drawing a square around the circle so the edges of the square just touch the circle on each side. The area of that square is side-squared. The radius of the circle is half the length of one side. So, if you square just the radius, you get 1/4 of the square's area. If you multiplied by four that would give you the area of the whole square, but the circle doesn't fill the whole square. So, I decided that pi is the number that expresses what portion of the square is filled by the circle. This makes sense because pi is a bit less than four.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ready as we'll ever be...

Clipboards and judging forms - check.
Memo to teachers with schedule for the day - check.
Judges lined up - check.
Parents invited - check.
People from the Region invited - check.
Gifts for judges & prizes for students purchased and accidently delivered to my house instead of school, thus necessitating that I carry a large plastic bag full of 9 "Pop Bottle Science" kits and 10 small boxes of chocolates on the 5 train this morning - check.
Numbers written on index cards to label each project - check.
Spreadsheet listing all projects - check.
Permission slips to stay for the evening session distributed and collected - check.

Student projects finished - well, almost. The eighth graders have pulled it together during the last two days and I am gratified to note that their aesthetic skills have come SO far since sixth grade. Nevertheless, tonight will be a late night for many of them, I predict. I have very little idea of how the sixth & seventh grade projects are coming along but I am slowly accepting that whatever happens, happens, and we will all learn from it. I know the two new teachers have a lot of reflections on the process, and therefore we will improve each year that we do this.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Or not.

Turns out this boy is NOT suspended. His family came in and decided that they didn't believe that he'd made those gestures because I didn't actually see it myself. They did not believe the accounts - written statements - of several children in the class who all said the same thing. The young adolescents at my school are not likely to make up a story to get another child in trouble if the story they make up requires them to say "masturbation" multiple times to multiple teachers! So I believe them. Anyway, their statements are going in his file, but that's all. He's back in class essentially without punishment.

Monday, March 21, 2005

This is a beautiful post about the violence that schools sometimes do to children.


My dad sent me an issue of Educational Leadership which is all about urban schools. The first article describes a study in which they found that there are three groups of teachers in struggling urban schools - those who blame the children for not keeping up their end of the bargain, those who blame the children's families for the same, and those who don't blame anyone but simply do not allow any children to fail - not by lowering standards, but by showing the children they care, by pushing them to keep working until they meet the teacher's standards for good work, by being there again and again and again. They found that the teachers in the third group often achieved remarkable success with their students, and they found two schools that cultivate that attitude among all the adults in the building, and these two schools are far more successful on tests and the like than one would expect based on results from schools serving a similar population.

But the most telling difference was that in these two schools alone, every teacher we talked to (and we interviewed almost all of them) asserted that he or she was responsible for student success. The qualities that made their school different from the others, they attested, derived solely from their desire to act on this belief. Like their highly effective colleagues scattered throughout the two districts, these teachers argued that they could not alter conditions outside school that impinged on student performance, but they could affect the conditions in their classrooms. Using best practices alone was insufficient; effective teaching meant giving students no other choice but success.

This article rings true for me. The most effective teachers around me get on the case of students who are not doing their work. But they don't just fail the student, they make that kid come upstairs at lunch time to redo assignments, they hand back sloppy work and demand that it be returned the next day as it ought to have been done, and so on. They put in a lot of their own time and they demand that the student put in a lot of time until he or she finally does what is expected. I have at times been quite strict about students rewriting work that received a failing grade, and I think that helped some students learn that with hard work, they were completely capable of doing that kind of assignment successfully. Having completed a lab report or the like once, they have an easier time doing it the next time.


Today, a colleague & friend told me and another teacher at my school that she will not be returning next year. She has already told our principal. I will miss her but she needs to move on to other things. It's interesting that this is probably the first time a teacher's departure from my school has been handled entirely professionally. It feels so... reasonable.


The Science Expo is on Thursday. If I got started writing about all the what-ifs circling about in my head right now, I'd write a short novel. This year has been all about letting go of control - I have no idea how the sixth and seventh graders are doing because I'm not their teacher, and I've had so many coverages and whatnot that I haven't done much observation in their classrooms. All I can do is trust that their teachers have it under control.

As for the eighth graders, I have provided a structure of deadlines, feedback, etc. for them to get their projects done over several weeks but not during the school day. They didn't take full advantage of the opportunities I gave them to hand in drafts and get my feedback, and I have struggled with how much of a safety net I should provide now that the Expo is a few days away and a few groups are realizing that they should have worked a lot harder two weeks ago. I'm giving them three days of classtime, which I was planning to give them anyway, but I've put my foot down about other last minute help: they can't come up at lunch, they can't stay after school. I know that sounds antithetical to the notes I wrote above, but they really, really wasted several opportunities to get my help, and they are growing up. It might be time for them to learn that if you cast aside the safety nets first offered to you, you can't count on them being there when you start to fall. If that metaphor makes any sense!

This is what happened (really I'm trying to convince myself to be a hard*ss about this): I collected and read first drafts a few weeks ago. Then I gave those back with extensive comments and even conferenced with each group. I handed out a checklist of the various sections of the project they would need to complete, since the science expo is more complicated than a regular lab report and most groups had not done anything but the basics in their first drafts. This checklist was literally a checklist with little blank boxes for them to check off each part as they worked. I gave them five days with no homework except to write another draft. Then I collected second drafts, and discovered that NO group had completed everything on the checklist! (Nor had anyone asked me for help or anything during the week...). One or two came close, but most had done very little. I read them the riot act and gave them exactly one more day to give me anything they wanted feedback on. Friday was the last day for teacher feedback. And I am going to stick to my guns on this one. What would you do?

A Story

Every now and then a student does something that crosses the line from everyday adolescent weirdness to real sexual harrassment. The student who wiped lotion on my leg and made sexual gestures is one example, and he had done the same thing to some of the girls sitting nearby before he did it to me. It didn't affect me much emotionally because I didn't see the sexual stuff, that was reported to me by students. Nevertheless, he's getting a three-day suspension. He would get counseling but his family doesn't allow him to get counseling from a school counselor, opting instead for counseling by his church pastor (who happens to be his grandmother). He's a pretty messed-up kid from a pretty-messed up home; we've reported them to ACS more than once and have tried to help him ourselves in many, many ways, and at this point, I think we've moved on to helping other kids because we've used up the available options or hit the wall that is his family.

The whole thing reminded me of a situation that occurred during my first year of teaching. I taught five classes, none of them a piece of cake but one - 339 - particularly difficult. The eighth graders in that class could barely read, had a host of behavior problems, had in most cases been held over at least once, etc., etc. They could be a major pain in the *ss but they also had their sweet side, and my strategy for dealing with them was to ignore as much as possible the kids who were incorrigible and teach to those who responded. I wish I could say that I did not give up on any of them but I did what I had to to make life livable. In any case, I really bonded with a few of those kids, and I think they learned a few things, though not as much as they should have. But I digress.

One boy in this class - "Keshon" - had an IEP for severe emotional & behavioral problems. Thanks to the IEP, a harmless old man named Mr. B. had been placed as his para. I was never quite sure what Mr. B's role was supposed to be - and I certainly never saw Keshon's IEP or was involved in any conversation about how to handle (or educate!) him. Once, he was placed in the "top class" for a few weeks to try to isolate him and give (some of) his teachers a break. As I taught this class one day, the boy started throwing paper at his para. I ignored him. After all, he had a grown man assigned to sit next to him full time; this didn't seem like my problem as long as I could still teach the other kids. A few minutes passed, and then Mr. B. got my attention - in the middle of my lesson! - and said, "Excuse me, Miss, Keshon is throwing paper."

But anyway.

This boy had a reputation in the school, and part of that reputation was that he was untouchable because of a relative at the district office. So he occasionally got suspended for particularly egregious acts, but the principal could never succeed in placing him in a real special ed class or transfering him to a special school.

His behavior in my class was by far the worst example of sexual harrassment that I have ever endured. I have experienced only the most minor forms of workplace sexual harrassment (another story for another day), and nothing that any other child has done has come close to the months and months that I spent with this boy - who was probably 15 - in my classroom. It was well past the point where if he were an adult I would have sued him.

Day in, day out, whenever I walked past his desk he would slouch, spread his legs, and mutter, "F--- you. F--- you. No one wants to f--- you. F--- you" and on and on and on.

I had to send him out of class at least once for exposing himself to girls in the class.

Once I realized that I could write up anecdotals about the harrassment until I was blue in the face without result, I did my best to ignore him unless he disrupted class for the other children.

Here's how another teacher told me she dealt with Keshon. She was complaining about him to the dean of the eighth grade. She didn't even teach him, but he harrassed her in the halls. The dean said, "Well, you just have to punk him out." She was a fairly new teacher, from the suburbs, and she had no idea what the dean meant... punk him out? So she endured - like I did. And then one day, she snapped. He muttered something lewd to her as he passed her in the hall, and she turned, grabbed him by the shirt, pushed him against the wall, and said to him, "If you ever touch me, talk to me, say anything to me, say anything about me, or look at me wrong again, I am going to call the police and have them arrest you right here in school." And then she let him go. I don't know if I recommend her strategy or not - I'll leave that up to you to decide, but I will say this: Keshon never bothered her again.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Do YOUR clients do this?

Here's something those of you working in the business world probably don't have to deal with:

After I walked past a student's desk today, several kids jumped up to tell me that Lucifer (not his real name) had put white-out on my pants. I looked down, and sure enough, there was a big white splotch on my leg. Luckily, it was lotion, not white-out. Lucifer immediately denied doing it on purpose, but he has a history of lying (we're talking pathological liar here) so needless to say, I asked the other students for a bit more detail, decided their story made sense - and they all told me the same story - and then I sent him with a note to Ms. Dean. After he left, several minutes passed, and then two students approached me and said that behind my back, Lucifer had actually been making masturbation motions with his hands and then holding up his lotion-smeared fingers and threatening to wipe it on the other students - and then, when I walked by, he wiped it on me.

What a darling, darling child.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


I think spring is here... or almost here. Don't say it too loudly, though, or you'll scare it away! I had an iced chai to celebrate. By the time I finished drinking it, the evening was too cold for iced chai.

And because spring may be here, or just around the corner, instead of discussing my day - a midnight anxiety attack about how on Earth the science expo is going to happen, the discovery that the eighth graders basically ignored all the instructions I gave them for rewriting their science expo lab reports, the sprouting of the FastPlants sometime between first and third periods (really!), one oddly frustrating meeting at Tweed about restructuring middle schools, my first yoga class in three weeks* - I give you the First Geeky Quiz of Spring, courtesy of a schoolyard blog:

I am a d12

Take the quiz at

I DO like the dodecahedron best. It is a nice combination of not-too-square, not-too-round. I don't play fantasy games, though, which made my answers to a lot of the questions a bit hit-or-miss.

*It is so easy to forget how good it feels to do something nice for your body & spirit.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Et tu, Brute?

I'm not sure if I should reserve that phrase for my immune system (which you would think would be on MY side) or for the NYC subway system (which raised fares only two weeks ago, AGAIN), but I'll let you decide.

Sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning, I got so completely sick that I had to stay home from school on parent-teacher conference night. Teachers, you know how sick that is. So sick that my big accomplishment for the day was moving from my bed to the couch, and putting on sweatpants. So sick that I couldn't even watch movies or read.

But last night my fever broke and I headed weakly to work this morning. Arrived at Union Square already feeling like perhaps I had overestimated my energy levels. My train arrived and sat in the station for five minutes, until...

"Due to a power outage, no trains will be running on the 4, 5, or 6 line between Union Square and 86th St."

(Universe to Ms. Frizzle: Go home! Go back to bed! It's not too late!)

Casually ignoring warnings from universe, I headed for the nearest payphone to let my colleagues know what was going on. Hmmm. I don't actually know how to use a payphone anymore... I'm standing there scratching my head, like, how much does this cost? Do I have to dial 1 first? When do you put the money in? I rang the school but did not get through.

This whole trip I was feeling like an astronaut returning to earth. Oh, that's how you use your legs! Oh, that's how you eat! Everything felt a little atrophied. The best part of the whole commute was the subway musician playing "Starman" at 34th Street... I practically wanted to hug him: "Yes! That's exactly how I feel!"

Two transfers later I arrived in the Bronx. Now, being a white woman, when I'm walking around in the Bronx, or even standing at a bus stop, the cabs practically park in front of me. They beep, they pull over, they look expectantly at me. Except today. Today I ended up walking ten blocks to work.

My favorite thing about being is absent is the absolute panic in the children's eyes the next day, as they practically attack you to make sure you understand that the REASON they didn't complete their assignment is because YOU were absent and YOU had to give them their first draft back and THAT'S why they didn't do it and WHAT are they going to DO now.... Ooof, cut your teacher a little slack! Can't you see I'm holding onto the table so I don't fall over?!

After that, the day was fine. I broke up one fight, made reproduction in mosses seem scintillating (oh, but it is!), spoke to one parent about his son's disrespectful attitude, helped one group set up a stream table for their science expo project, gave a practice test during afterschool, and managed to stay standing all day, which was more or less the goal.

Oh, and did I mention that on the way home, we arrived at Union Square only to find that the doors would not open due to a signal failure, due to - you guessed it - a power outage? They came 'round with a special key, so we got out, but after that I think everyone had to find new routes home from there. Luckily, it was my last stop.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Growing Things

We spent today planting.

Last week, the kids designed experiments to find out how different variables* affect the growth of Wisconsin Fast Plants. I have groups comparing different quantities of fertilizer, the pH of the water they are using to water the plants, the number of seeds per cell, the color of light, etc.

Wisconsin FastPlants are a growing system designed just for teachers. You get little styrofoam quads - four cells each - along with seeds, fertilizer, potting mix ("Ms. Frizzle, what's potting mix?" "The soil." "I TOLD you it was the soil!"), plastic shoeboxes, water mats, water wicks, wooden sticks & plastic rings for supporting the plants as they grow, and - get this - dried bees which you are supposed to glue to sticks and then use to pollinate the plants for genetics experiments.

Basically, the kids plant the seeds according to the instruction manual, then they set up the watering system. This is a plastic shoebox full of water & anti-algal chemicals, with a plastic lid that has a hole in one end. You saturate a felt water mat, then drape it over the lid of the shoebox so that one end of the mat hangs down through the hole into the water. Water gets drawn up the mat, then into the wicks which you have placed in each quad underneath the soil. The plants water themselves!

My students who are watering the plants with different solutions will use the watering system on weekends but will water the plants with an eyedropper during the week.

We also have special lighting systems which are like large crates that have lights hanging down from above. A team of eighth graders is helping me assemble these during lunchtime, for community service hours. Some kids are testing how different colored light affects plant growth, so they are going to have to wrap cellophane around a ringstand in such a way as to make a colored filter to go between the plants and the light. It won't be perfect, but it should work well enough.

In my experience, Wisconsin FastPlants grow right on schedule - they sprout within a few days and their whole lifecycle takes just a few weeks. The only problem is that the planting process takes my kids a FULL hour. It took them the full hour even though they had been given the planting instructions to preview last week. My room looked like an explosion of soil and water by the end of the day.

I'll try to bring my camera to school from time-to-time over the next few weeks so you can get an idea of how this is all going...

*See Number2Pencil for a good explanation of independent & dependent variables, by the way, two concepts which, no matter how many times & how many ways I explain them, remain confusing to my middle schoolers. Consensus among science teachers at the Exploratorium this summer was to just keep hitting them with the concept in experiment after experiment, question after question, until they all finally get it. Variables are necessary to every experiment, so its not like you're dumbing anything down for the kids who figure it out quickly.

In like a lion...

As you can see in the pictures below, I spent the weekend at home (my parents' home) in Massachusetts, where there was at least a foot - probably more like a 1 1/2 feet - of snow on the ground. I don't remember the last time I saw our front yard like that, but it did happen regularly enough when I was a kid. We used to go sledding down the hill in our backyard.

I arrived home to find that my work habits may be genetic. My father has his Puritan tendencies. He goes to bed around midnight, wakes up at 7, repeat, repeat, repeat. I think he'd go to bed even earlier but years of marriage to a night owl have worn him down. My mother get the most done in the middle of the night, and got very little sleep last week since her grades were due on Friday. I survive somewhere between their two lifestyles: I don't pull all-nighters too often these days (read: never) but I don't get a regular 7 hours, either.

I ate really well and caught up on sleep but still came down with a nasty cold this weekend. Pity the parents who have to sit across from me tomorrow to discuss their children's report cards.

I think this week might be the turning point for NYC, from winter to spring. We're supposed to get a string of days with temps in the forties, and the sunshine just has that feel. Regardless, people have started wearing flower prints and sandals, so if spring doesn't come on its own, we may have to go get it and drag it here ourselves.

Beware the ides of March!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Home in Massachusetts

 Posted by Hello

 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

One Student's Life

This weekend, the mother of one of my favorite students passed away. We do not know the causes, but we do know that she had been in the hospital for at least a few days. She was only about 30, and she had 6 children, all 15 or younger. Her son, whom I have known since 6th grade, is high on my list of "children I would adopt if it were absolutely necessary" (which, thank goodness, it isn't, since he can live with his grandmother). His father died when we he was younger, though he does have some kind of relationship (I'm not clear on the details) with at least one of his siblings' fathers.

In sixth grade he had a terrible temper, which flared up frequently and violently. I don't remember ever having been on the receiving end of any of his fits of temper, but I witnessed this behavior in the halls. He is incredibly smart, but is a chronic neglector of homework. He makes the girls' heads turn with his dazzling smile and "light" eyes (blue) which are prized in the Dominican community.

At the end of the school year last year, I decided that it was ridiculous that this boy kept failing Science, considering how bright he is. Starting in the fall, I cracked down. I made it absolutely clear to him that any major project not completed would mean lunch detention for as long as it took to complete it. After I made him stay in a few times to finish (or re-do) important projects, he got the message: I have received all his projects on time since then. They are not always high quality, and he still skips day-to-day homework assignments, so he is always on the border between failing and passing, but I feel better about his performance. This is one kid I will NOT leave behind.

He is unfailingly polite and has gained control of his temper over the last few years. Now he's a real leader among his peers, captain of our basketball team, all-around great kid. If there's one student whom I can point to and say, we've had some small part to play in this boy becoming a man, it's him.

Apparently, he came to his basketball game on Saturday without parts of his uniform. When his coach asked what happened, he said, "My mother died." That's how we found out. I saw him for the first time since his mother's death tonight, at the wake. I attended with several other teachers. This is the first time I have attended a funeral in my role in the community as teacher - I have always been a relative or classmate. I realized the other day, thinking about all of this, that if I stay in teaching, the day inevitably will come when I will attend the funeral of a current or former student. I hope not, but I know it will happen; you see too many students each year to avoid this.

At the wake, we each gave him a hug. We asked how he was, but he said nothing, and it was clear that he could not talk beyond his role as the oldest son. He rose to the occasion, though, greeting each of us, thanking us for coming, introducing us to his family members. He smiled proudly during these introductions, and it seemed that he was as proud to introduce us to his family as he was for us to meet his sister, grandmother, and other relatives. And just before a priest began a short service, he carefully brought over a program for each of us.

My heart is bursting with pride in the young man that he has become, a man who knows exactly how to handle himself even in such a painful situation, and at the same time, I am filled with a kind of dread that the pain could overwhelm him, could send him spinning. I hope and believe that it won't, but I am still fearful for him. We will be there, obviously, but I cannot imagine the amount of change that he will go through over the next few months: the loss of his mother, enormous changes in his day-to-day living situation, new responsibilities at home, possible economic difficulties, graduation from middle school and the beginning of high school... It makes my life seem so easy.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Something arrived to brighten my day! (Check out neighborhoodies if you want your own. I stole the blog-tee idea from her. I just hope the odd coloration where they attached the letters will go away in the wash. Posted by Hello

Sharing a Building

Yesterday I walked down four flights of stairs with 30 sixth graders to "our" "scheduled" PE space only to discover that the elementary school had decided - without notifying us in advance - to use the space for class pictures, so I made the on-the-spot decision to use the (at that moment unoccupied) space next door ("their" gym) for stretching and then take the kids outside (since it was still chilly out and naturally they didn't have their jackets with them). Then the PE teacher from the other school - part of a team of PE teachers who refuse to let us use an currently-empty closet next to "our" gym, thus ensuring that all equipment - nets, balls, etc. - must be carried up & down those four flights of stairs every single time we have a PE class - approaches me and tells me I need to leave her space. So I say - and perhaps there was an undertone of frustration to my response - that we are on our way outside but that we don't schedule our picture day for their space and it would be very helpful if we at least were warned in advance the next time they schedule theirs for our space. Later that day word reaches me that I was "very rude" to a teacher from the elementary school over something that happened involving the gym.

Oh, and have I mentioned that for two hours a week for the last 6+ months (not to mention the entire 02-03 school year) my PE classes have been disrupted repeatedly by streams of screaming elementary school students running across our basketball games and attempting to pull down our volleyball nets, and I have said nothing, maybe at the most scowled? And have I mentioned that our children walk in straight lines quickly & quietly past their PE classes, never knocking over any equipment and doing their absolute best to avoid bumping into the whirling, screaming, wrestling children? And that when a couple of our children DID bother their children, I immediately took action?

But hey, I probably was rude.

(I'm home today due to an appointment that simply could not be scheduled at any time outside of school hours for the next two months).

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Future (Present?) BS Artist

Question (from inverts test): What does "cephalopod" mean? Is it a good description? Why or why not?

Answer: Yes its a good description because it tells about cephalopods. The meaning of the name tells the true characteristics of cephalopods, thus enabling us to know basic facts.

Get this kid a career in politics!

Weekend Melancholy

I handled the events of the week quite well until yesterday. Now, the reality that I will not be teaching in another country next year has hit me, the reality that I came this close, the reality that the project that most excited me is pretty much over, that I need to start thinking about what to do with my summer & where to turn my creative/adventurous energy next...

School alone isn't doing it for me right now. It just feels like work. The students' dismal grades on their inverts test isn't helping. Nor is the anticipation of at least a few weeks of tumult as we adjust to one teacher leaving and the (probable) hiring of another, who is more than likely going to be a brand-new teachers. Nor is the fact that the laptops are falling apart, I'm sort of the person who is in charge of that project, I don't have time for it, and I hate doing it, but I know enough to be made anxious by it.

I had been very careful not to imagine next year in too much detail, not to start pinning my hopes on it, but I can't help being disappointed.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Calling all teachers!

I have an idea: let's start gathering and posting about summer opportunities for teachers. Maybe we could add a page to the Teachers' Lounge wiki that lists summer opportunities by subject area, and include reviews by any teachers who have participated. I am on the lookout for interesting programs, PD opportunities, courses, jobs, etc. - things that are a little different, unusual, high-quality, you get the drift.

Here's one interesting program that I found: Teacher Leaders in Research Based Science Education. Since the application period is in the fall, I'm going to bookmark it and revisit it in the late summer, if I'm in this country for next year. You have to be working with three new science teachers in order to participate, and we only have two at my school. But I have a couple of ideas for finding others... Basically, you take an on-line course during the winter and spring, and then you do a two-week class at Keen Observatory - you study astronomy and use the resources of the observatory, but you also learn how to do research-based science ed and how to work with new science teachers. That's right up my alley. I could use an update of my content-knowledge in astronomy, and I really, really want to improve my ability to work with new teachers.

I guess this is obvious, but we don't have to limit ourselves to summer opportunities - the program above lasts for two full years.

Learning Lines

I began drama class today with trepidation. It was the first test of the students' commitment to our school play: I assigned them their first set of lines to memorize. A few students didn't attend, which was disappointing, but of those who did attend, more than half had memorized some of their lines, and two or three had their lines fully committed to memory. One girl's performance of her first monologue was so awesome that I used the dollar intended for MY snack to buy her a package of M&Ms! The good thing is that enough students had their lines memorized that I think it will motivate/inspire/be-a-kick-in-the-rear for the rest... also, if one or two more students learn their lines for next week, then anyone who doesn't is going to stick out like a sore thumb, and social pressure not to let their fellow actors down may start to kick in.

I get to make petri dishes... again.

Last night I stayed up late stirring beef bouillon, sugar, water, and gelatin, and pouring it into petri dishes. Gross. But this morning, after a night in the fridge, they were solid, though not particularly agar-like in appearance.

Today, none of the students who are doing bacteria experiments were ready to begin their experiments, despite my warning them that I would have the petri dishes ready. And then, sixth period, a box arrived from Carolina Biological Supply, with two class-sets of petri dishes and agar, so now I can make "real" petri dishes. Carolina is an awesome company, very responsive to teachers. I ordered the petri dishes on-line earlier this week. The expected delivery date was next Wednesday, but in the box where they ask for special shipping instructions, I explained that it would be really helpful if we could get them earlier - and here they are, almost a week early!

Otherwise, the day wasn't fabulous... a number of things came together to make me frustrated with the kids and with myself. They didn't do a very good job of teaching their invertebrates lessons, and many of the students slacked off on homework because it was assigned by fellow students rather than by me (although they knew it was getting collected and graded), and even though I gave them study sheets and articles containing extra information and even a whole period to study in-class, they did very poorly on the inverts test (at least based on the ones I've graded so far). Grades are due next week. I handed out an extra-credit assignment today, but I think very few kids will take advantage of it, since it is a lot of work - they have to watch either "A Bug's Life" or "Antz" and research one species of insect, and then write a five-paragraph essay analyzing whether the movie did a good job portraying that insect. I made it hard, because, quite frankly, I think they've been lazy about following directions, lazy about taking on challenges, and basically lazy about damn near everything in the last few weeks. Even walking from classroom to classroom, they practice the passive resistance of walking a s s l o w l y a s p o s s i b l e . . .

it's really getting on my nerves.

And I am concerned that this pervasive do-the-minimum attitude is going to mean that their science expo projects turn into a last-minute panic. I don't want that to happen because it means MY life will turn into a last-minute panic.

This teacher could use a few supportive words. Rough week.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Unfinished post from yesterday...

My feet hurt. I actually taught afterschool in my stocking feet because I just couldn't stand in those shoes - in any shoes, really - for one more minute. And my shoulders hurt, too, from commuting for an hour with 100 recycled-cardboard manila folders in my backpack. After observing and helping out in a sixth grade class, I decided both of the other science teachers were in desperate need of folders for the students to store their project materials.

A woman from the Fulbright office called me today to ask why I did not include a note of explanation with my application so that they would have known that I'm not really a PE teacher. It didn't really occur to me, I guess, although now that she mentions it, I suppose that would have been a good idea. It's just that I expected them to look at my application, see my M.Ed. and certification and five years of experience in Science Ed., see the 80% of my schedule that is currently teaching science, see that I'm the head of the school's science dept., and come to the conclusion that I'm a science teacher, first and foremost. I never expected 2 periods/week of PE and 4 periods/week of Health to be interpreted to mean that I'm a PE teacher, especially given that nowhere else on my application is there any experience or education in teaching PE! We talked more and she encouraged me to try to work out the exchange with my proposed partner from Finland, because she will definitely not get another offer, and I very likely will not get another offer. So, I am going to ask some questions about what teaching PE in a Finnish HS actually entails... more on that as events transpire. By the way, the website is Fulbright Teacher Exchange.

Tonight, I have to make homemade agar from gelatin and bouillon cubes, because about 8 groups of students want to do bacteria experiments for the Science Expo, and I thought we had another kit with petri dishes and agar, but I discovered the other day that we used all of them during our bacteria experiments in the fall. I have ordered more, but some students want to get started right away.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

I am writing to decline...

I just finished writing the letter I will have to send declining the exchange. I am very willing to be flexible in what I teach, but I'm not willing to teach anything. High school students deserve a PE teacher who knows more than I do about the sports and activities being taught, and who has at least some knowledge of the best ways of teaching PE. They also deserve a PE teacher with much more first aid and safety training than I have. I won't be happy trying to be something I'm not, especially in a country where I don't speak the native language and am not familiar with the culture and customs. And if I'm not happy, then why go?

On the bright side, I went back to the Teacher Exchange website and re-read the FAQs, and it looks like they will try to find another match if you decline your first proposed exchange. I don't know what the chances are of a better proposal being made, but I did try to clarify in my letter what subject areas I think I could teach (Science, English as a Foreign Language, introductory Computer courses, Mathematics, Health). I also said I would prefer middle school but would consider high school if I am comfortable with the subject area.

The bottom line is, even if this means I don't get to do an exchange, I feel strongly that it would be a mistake for myself and unfair to my Finnish students to accept this position.

So, cross your fingers that another proposal comes my way!