Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Good-bye to You

I don’t claim to be fully psychic by any means, but I believe that my body and mind are in tune with one another. No, I don’t mean that I have grown out of puberty and no longer bump my knees and head into things because I am still attaining body awareness and coordination. The in tune that I am talking about refers to how I feel things before they actually happen or I become aware of positive and negative energies, winds of change and sometimes, even death.

I remember the night my brother was attacked and murdered. I stayed up late that night, waiting for him until 1:30AM. I awoke the next morning to an empty house, my parents’ bed unmade and a car gone from the driveway. I didn’t receive the hospital phone call until 11AM even though what woke me up in the first place was my dad calling the house. I didn’t answer the house phone because it was never for me, we had an answering machine and if someone wanted to get a hold of me, they would call my cell. I remember everything not feeling right and went about my morning, went to work even, but things just felt different.

That was how this week has felt for me. I mentioned this feeling of restlessness and unease with a good friend of mine who I also believe is aware of these sorts of things. I told her that I feel like everything is in a state of change and things just don’t feel right… like I just felt uncomfortable and almost nauseous.

We had a meeting this morning at 7AM and that was when the gut-punch feeling really set in. Our principal, an absolutely amazing and talented woman, announced that she was moving to another middle school in the district. And not just any middle school, the school that I had in fact just left the year before. The entire staff appeared heartbroken when she spoke, happy for her but at the same time (and selfishly, of course) sad for ourselves. I absolutely adore this woman and I feel completely confident that she will be successful wherever she is placed. When my former principal asked how I felt about this transition, I replied “You have to place people where they will be most successful.”

And I meant what I said.

From what I hear, this lady really turned an entire middle school around. She implemented new programs and effectively improved the school’s writing scores with once-a-month Florida Writes practice tests. She hired fresh and talented teachers, and built up the team mentality amongst her colleagues. I have a tremendous amount of respect for this woman and she will be surely missed.

As for us, it is hard to tell who will step in and assume the principal’s position for the upcoming school year. We all have our favorites, and some will follow her to her new school, but ultimately, I still wish we had Karen back. I can admit that I am being selfish but I am positive that she will do a fantastic job wherever the district needs her most. Her secretary actually said today that we only need one day of mourning when tragedy strikes, and then we need to move on. She’s right, you know. Spending time mourning takes away from the time you have with your loved ones and time away from enjoying this beautiful experience called life. With that said:

Today is my day of mourning.

Tomorrow will be another day.

You have to place people where they will be most successful.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

My Science Textbook is Written by Bill Bryson

I just love reading the book, A Short History of Nearly Everything, with my students. Even though the terminology, the lexile and the humor may be a little over their heads for their immature minds, they simply enjoy reading about the crazy and interesting antics of some of the most famous scientists. Students who are usually a handful in the classroom and have attention spans like that of a mosquito, will literally sit there and read along as the audio book reads this novel in its English accent to them. Of course, as with every classroom, you will have a few that just do not seem to participate no matter what you do, but for the most part, my middle school kids just eat it up.

For example, so many students are just taken aback when they learned that Sir Isaac Newton, the man behind the Laws of Motion, stuck a bodkin behind his eyeball “just to see what would happen”. This genius also stared at the sun for quite sometime to see what sort of damage would be done to the human eye. Luckily for him (and us), nothing did happen, except for a sore eye and having to remain in a dark room for a few days until his eyes forgave him from the burning sunlight.

Or how about Hennig Brand, the German scientist who thought that he could purify urine into gold (the similar color must have been behind this idea). Besides making his humble abode probably smell like the inside of a kitty litter box, the urine eventually formed into a paste and began to glow. Brand had become the discoverer of phosphorus.

Today, the students learned how Carolus Linneaus, the Swedish born scientist and father of taxonomy, was a cocky and sex-obsessed fellow (he went so far as to name one genus of plants Clitoria). He was very comfortable with own greatness to the point of painting numerous, flattering portraits of himself, and declared his system of classification as “the greatest achievement in the realm of science.” Being middle school students, they were especially glued to the book when reading about how plants were previously named mare’s fart, hound’s pissopen arse. Whatever it takes to keep them reading, right?

We finished up today with the final chapter of book, Chapter 30 “Good-Bye”. Since they have such short attention spans, we had skipped around the book quite a bit, focusing on the chapters that coincided with whichever unit of study we were currently involved in. “Good-Bye” is about how humans have caused the demise and extinction of more animals than can possibly be counted. Students were dumbfounded to learn that the last and only remaining specimen of the dodo was ordered by the museum director to be thrown onto a bonfire because it “began to smell a bit musty” in 1759. We no longer have any idea what a living dodo looked like and have more evidence that the Apatosaurus was around, even though the bird lived in modern times. Bill Bryson continues with a description of the eradication of the Carolina parakeet, the Greater Koa finch, the Steller’s Sea Cow and the Tasmanian tiger, all animals that really didn’t cause any harm to human beings but were simply obliterated for the sake of being killed. How amazing is it that species can unlock the secrets of the universe yet still have the capacity to kill animals that haven’t done us one bit of harm?

What I find to be so interesting about this book is that it is a science textbook written for the typical modern American. Most scientific text are so mundane, can be rather boring and just don’t get into the nitty gritty details behind the scientific discoveries and inventions. Bill Bryson notes that the science textbooks he had read as a child were not only hefty and dull, but the authors appeared to keep the “cool stuff” a secret. This is honestly my reasoning behind not using the textbooks provided by the school district as much as some other teachers do. My kids actually enjoy reading in science with Bill Bryson’s book! I cannot count the number of kids who have informed me that they have asked their parents to purchase this book for them. A few of my students are reading this book for their book report in Language Arts too. I just think this book is an absolutely amazing teaching tool that all middle school and high school science teachers should utilize in their classrooms.