Friday, March 24, 2006

250,000 liters

I taught one of my favorite lessons today. I gave each group of kids two metersticks, a box of markers, and a piece of chart paper, and they had to measure/estimate the volume of the classroom in liters. We pretended that the classroom is a perfect rectangular prism without any furniture or weird ventilation shafts projecting into the space. I started them off by going over the calculations necessary to show that a cubic meter would contain 1000 liters. I showed them roughly how big a cubic meter would be by holding up three meter sticks touching at the corners. I went over the assignment and provided a few hints and ground rules...

No standing on furniture, and no jousting with the meter sticks, or you sit out the rest of the period.

Ms. Frizzle, what does 'jousting' mean?

And then as they lined up to leave the classroom at the end of the period, a discussion began about whether we could really seal off the classroom and fill it with soda. I pointed out that if I had the money to afford that much soda, I'd buy a nicer apartment and take more vacations, and anyway, the custodians wouldn't really appreciate it. The kids suggested that we could put tape around the door and just pour the water in (through the ceiling? I asked). And then one boy at the back of a line started doing a little swimming dance straight out of some undersea mermaid cartoon.

The last time I did this lesson, the kids took nearly two full periods and were still rushed, and their answers varied from about 100,000 L to almost 1,000,000 L. It speaks to the incredible-ness of this year's sixth graders that most groups had an answer before the end of the class period, and that nearly all their answers were between 200,000 and 300,000 L, despite much leeway in their methods for estimating the height of the classroom. One or two groups were off by a power of ten, but they quickly realized their mistake when I went through their math with them.

And after school, another teacher said that the seventh graders must be liking whatever it is we're doing in Science (the seventh graders? Really?). Apparently, during PE class, one of the girls claimed/joked that her shot did not go into the hoop due to the Coriolis effect. Awesome. Anything to create really geeky kids who will over-apply science concepts to explain away their lack of athletic prowess!

Teaching is fantastic. I could not be more in love with my job.

And I hate my job, and had an awful day, and am seriously considering leaving. My interactions with a few of my colleagues are really tumultuous right now - and I'm not generally a tumultuous person - and it's not always their fault. Today it was mine. I don't want to go into it any deeper; it just upsets me because I am not always the person I want to be, and occasionally far from it.

It's weird how things can be so good and so bad at the same time, how I can feel like I've contributed to creating the most amazing school, and how I can feel like I want to escape so badly, how I can yearn for leadership and recognition and to make a bigger difference on the one hand, and long to be allowed to just teach on the other.

Do you ever stop growing up and feel like you've figured things out? (And would that even be a good thing?)

12 Comments:

Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Listen, take a deep breath. DEEEEEEEEEEEEEEper.

We all have days like that.

There were times when I considered 90% of the guys I teach with to be complete and total moronic juvenile delinquents. Then, when my dad was dying, they contributed lesson plans and checked the room and sent flowers and offered to grade my tests and sent me home when I was feeling scared.

But your colleagues may not be like that, I know. But you have to keep doing your job. You've got a gift.

Peace.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Boy, we really need a vacation. But seriously, I was speaking with another teacher today about how our kids need teachers who can really hold the line and be tough...they just need that sort of structure. The problem is, I'm not good at that and it's one of my shortcomings as a teacher. There are ways that I could go: I could either try to become that kind of teacher or I can move to another school where the culture would be a better fit for my personality. Being a "tough" teacher is tiring and frustrating and I wonder if it's worth it...I really like my school. I'm comfortable there but the culture of the school and the types of kids we serve just sucks all the energy out of me. I've been getting lots of emails lately about job openings at smaller, more progressive schools and it's very very very tempting...

7:39 AM  
Blogger Al said...

But... but... but if she knew about the Coriolis effect, why didn't she adjust the spin on her shot to compensate???

9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, sometimes you do come across as pompous and self-serving. Is it possible you make your fellow teachers feel you, and only you, are the best thing that ever happened to this school?

I thought you were going to adjust that part of your personality that made your principal upset after she told you the school would not be getting another science teacher?

9:40 AM  
Blogger Alexis Walker said...

As the harassment counselor for my private school, I can tell you that the spring is just about the worst time to be a teaching colleague. Everybody is unbelievably incompetent, malicious, lazy, petty, bureaucratic, cold, frivolous, prejudiced, and just plain wrong-headed, except of course for me. I dread the spring (slightly more than I dread the week before winter break) because I keep looking up whenever someone comes in my room, afraid that he or she will say, "I don't know whether I need to be talking to you about this, but I have a situation with X and I thought I'd better. . . " and close the door.

I can afford to say all this so lightheartedly because I'm on spring break right now.

I loved the meter measuring activity. Kids all over the floor, standing on tables, climbing up on the counters, some of the anal ones measuring behind the book cases. Those were the times I was glad my science classroom wasn't on the same hall as the other grade-level teachers, because the noise was unbelievable and my fifth grade colleagues were incompetent, malicious, lazy, petty, bureaucratic, cold, frivolous, prejudiced, and just plain wrong-headed and would have complained :)

10:33 AM  
Blogger Ajarn Baa said...

I believe what you are describing has a technical name. It's called life. I'm not trying to be flip. Trust me, leaving teaching isn't the cure, because the same issues, the same uncertainties, the same difficulties, confusions, frustrations (and idiots) will crop up no matter what you do. So you might as well spend your time doing something that will leave a lasting effect on a few, and likely many, people in this big, weird world.

Or not. What the hell do I know?

11:10 AM  
Blogger ms. frizzle said...

Well, sometimes you do come across as pompous and self-serving. Is it possible you make your fellow teachers feel you, and only you, are the best thing that ever happened to this school?

Well, that's hard to hear. It might even be true, but that doesn't make it any easier. Any specific examples? (I'm serious).

I thought you were going to adjust that part of your personality that made your principal upset after she told you the school would not be getting another science teacher?

Ever tried to "adjust" your personality? Was it easy? Something you could accomplish in a matter of a couple of months?

4:34 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

Ms. Frizzle;

Read NYC Public School Blue to realize how lucky you are that you teach in a screened small school (sorry Peter G) with quality students.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog faithfully for well over a year, and I have never found the author to be pompous and self-serving. I think it's cowardly to come at her with anonymous attacks.

-Colin

9:13 PM  
Blogger Chaz said...

anonymous;

I agree that there is no reason for the personal attack on Ms. Frizzle. She is what she is, a dedicated teacher who cares. Maybe too much.

However, why are you posting as anonymous??????

9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you - we've been doing metric units and conversion between them in my sixth grade classes, so I used this idea for one of the lessons and it worked really well!

Helena.

5:46 AM  
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1:20 AM  

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