Thursday, May 14, 2009

Space is the place

We're learning about the Moon and the Solar System. We watched a few documentaries on the Apollo program and the manned trips to the Moon. It's neat to turn the kids on to stuff that they don't know about. That's why it can be so much fun to teach. There's a comedic side and a frustration side that run with the enjoyability portion of teaching. I guess this is a three-sided model of teaching. (This is the theory part that will be taught in education grad schools from now on.) Anyhow, we were watching a pretty interesting and pretty cool documentary about the Apollo 11 mission and my kids just can't help themselves from talking. It's just the most bizarre stuff. "Look...he's wearing a spacesuit!" Yes. That's what astronauts wear. "That thing blew up! Why did it blow up?" It's a rocket. Rockets are filled with explosive materials. They are really friggin' dangerous. They just told you that before the footage of all the rockets blowing up. "He in a black hole!" No. He's in space. Space is that dark black color. "He's wearing a spacesuit and hopping around." Yes. He's on the Moon. He'd be a dead man without that suit. He's hopping because there's less gravity on the Moon. "Gravity? There's gravity on the Moon?" Yes. If there wasn't any, they wouldn't be sticking to the surface. "That looks like it's burnt up." Yes. They just told you that Apollo 1 had a problem and all three crewmen burnt alive. "What's that black pile of stuff?" That's Apollo 1. "They're on the moon?" No they died. It was a catastrophe. "So what did they say when they got back from the moon?" They didn't say anything. They died. "But Gus Grissom was walking around. I thought you said he was dead?" They took the film before he died. "So he's dead?" Yes. "Did he go on the Space Shuttle?" No. "Mr. Who was that man who died?" Gus Grissom. "What's that thing that looks like fried chicken?" The crew of the Apollo 1. "That pile of stuff?" Yes. "Burnt up like fried chicken?" Yes. "Mr... chicken is so good. I'm hungry for chicken...." And so it went.

It's fun to teach. It's also so sad and frustrating. Humorous too. I feel sad that my kids have no prior knowledge of the simplest things. The space program was 40 years ago. I don't expect them to know that much. I wish they could be a bit more reverent. I got choked up when the Apollo 11 crew walked on the Moon in our documentary. My kids were talking through it. It's not a bad thing to believe in your country and to be emotional about the good things we do. Even from an engineering perspective it was awesome. The Saturn V rocket worked perfectly. Awesome. I'm not sure how we get that feeling of emotion to happen in our students.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Almost a goner.

Yesterday, I was unpacking and setting up for the day. I took my cold pills with a swig of coffee. The first pill went down but the second lodged sideways in my throat. It was really painful. I swallowed and it wasn't going anywhere. At the same time there's a student tugging at my sleeve. "Mr? Mr?" I swallow and think. "Is it in my throat or is it in my windpipe? Am I going to choke to death right here at 7:50 am with a kid tugging at me and in front of a classroom of noisy, oblivious kids who are talking and running amok instead of putting their things away? This isn't the way I want to kick off. What am I going to do?" Lucky for me the next swig of coffee dislodged the Dayquil. The student went away. I lived to give another standardized test.

It makes you think about your own mortality. I spend more time with my students than I spend with anyone else. Seemingly, they would dance around the room for joy if I had dropped dead.

Ugh. We teachers do a pretty thankless job. I try hard. We all try hard. Here's to all the teachers out there that made it through another trying day. They're all going to be harder the closer we get to the end of the year.

Sorry to be so maudlin.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Three Awesome Goals.

One of my students was doing some writing about himself and I learned that he has three goals: 1. To fly, 2. To have super powers, and 3. To get an electric guitar. He's a wacky kid but I can't argue with those goals. What could be better than to have super powers, to be able to fly, and to rock out on electric guitar? I want the same three things. I'm turning my amp up to 11.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Smoke them if you've got them.

I was teaching my students about how to divide fractions today. I couldn't believe how frustrating it was. In the middle of that I'm leaving my body and my mind is thinking about how good a cigarette would be. I'm tasting pure tobacco goodness. Then I'm back to reality and to getting them to change the sign and make the second fraction a reciprocal. It's wild what you think about while teaching. Where your mind floats as you fight your way through a frustrating day.

I guess it was more frustrating than I thought if my body was craving a cigarette to unwind. I haven't had a cigarette in more than 13 years. I'm not going to smoke. I'll never smoke again. I am going to enjoy a Mexican beer (or three) with dinner in honor of Cinco de Mayo. A couple of my kids knew what it was about. A first. Most classes think it's in honor of the dead rising from the grave or something. One year a kid said "Cinco de Mayo means the devil is rising from the dead!" Hmm, no, sorry. Wrong answer.

I have to get through to June. I can do it but it isn't going to be easy. After the standardized testing the kids have no incentive to do anything. To them the year is over. There's a lot of time left.