“We get to do a lab?”

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Day 19:  I think my students forgot what a lab was like while I was down with my injury.  Finally, we get to do some real hands-on learning for a change!  This was a great lab that I could fit into a 50 minute class and it gave the students a great visual of chemical changes.  The kids had a great time too!

Thank you to Aaron Sams and Jon Bergmann as this lab was one they shared with me.  I love it!

Back to Lab Prep

Day 18: Because of my knee injury and absences, my students have not done a real chemistry lab in weeks.  I finally got off my crutches on Wednesday so I spent Thursday evening prepping for a lab on chemical changes.  With the big classes I have this year, I have to get as much ready as possible so there are not kids moving everywhere so I made use of a lot of pipettes for this microscale lab.  This is only about 2/3 of the lab prep at this point.  Hope they enjoy it tomorrow and learn a lot as well!

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Back to blogging…finally!

Days 6-17: I cannot believe it has been so long since my last post.  The first day back to school after labor day, I fell in the school hall near the library and cafeteria.  I slipped on something and banged my knee up pretty good as you can see below.

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The lighting was terrible in these photos as my leg on day 3 looks like a cadaver, but you get the point.  I was out of school for the next three days and then two additional days after that because of excessive swelling and pain, X-rays and MRI and a possible blood clot. I have been on crutches and I have seen my leg turn every shade of purple and blue over the last several weeks.  Mostly, I’m just trying to keep my head above water planning lessons from home, teaching from my chair at school and elevating my knee/leg as much as possible.

My students have been troopers.  They haven’t done a lab in weeks, have had to put up with countless subs, some of which were clueless in chemistry, and have been very understanding of my situation.  I tried to leave a few fun learning activities for them while I was away like the classic “Save Fred” where students have to put a life saver on Fred the worm who is on top of his capsized boat.

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Needless to say, my blog went by the wayside and my photos from each day of school just did not happen; except the above photo from my sub!

In every teaching year a bit of excitement does fall…I guess the was the first of another crazy year for Mrs. Schunke! 

Replacements

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Well, it is the first week of school and I already had to call a sub for today due to some health issues I am having.  Ask any teacher about the sub experience and I am sure you will get lots of groaning and even some horror stories with an occasional positive experience thrown in.

When most of America takes off for a day, the work waits for them to get back, but not the case with teachers.  In fact, a lot of teachers don’t take off much because it is way more work to prepare for a sub, than it would be to just be there.  We have to write plans that can be followed by just about anyone because we don’t know the educational background of the person who will be taking classes that day.  Oh, and kids can smell busywork a mile away so be careful how you plan.

Having been a sub at one time, I truly appreciate the job the substitutes do for teachers everyday.  It is hard work with little thanks. That is why I try to make things as easy as possible when a sub comes to my room as you see above.  I am fairly obsessive about it sometimes, making sure things are clean, easily accessible and ready to go.

The hardest part about being out with a sub for me is that I truly miss the kids and I don’t want to lose a day of learning with them.  Looking forward to being back in the classroom next week!

Relate

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Day 4:  Welcome to the view of the front of my classroom!  Back in the summer of 2011, I heard Aaron Sams, Flip Teacher Extraordinaire, say one of the best things he ever did was bring a couch into his classroom.  Not the first thing you would expect to hear from an educator, but it made sense once he explained it.  He said that after bringing the couch in, he found himself sitting on the couch with a bunch of students surrounding him. They were just talking about what was going on that day or working on chemistry together or what not.  The point was they were building a relationship with him and with each other.

Last year in the week before school started, a colleague sent out an email that she was getting rid of the couch that she had in her yearbook office because a parent had donated a new one.  I jumped on that and told her I would gladly take her old couch. Voilà: instant relationship builder!  I found a pillow and a couch cover the next day.  The pillow reads a definition: “Relate: (v) make a connection, hit it off, share communicate, tell”  Isn’t that was teaching is about?

Social Learning Networks

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Day 3 and we are getting right into the swing of things.  Every year that I teach, I am faced with the challenge of finding ways to engage kids and help them feel supported in learning. It is my experience that one of the best ways I can do that is to develop relationships with my students.  But how do you develop and promote a positive relationship with over 180 kids that you only see 30 at a time for 45 minutes?  That is less that 2 minutes a student that I can spend with them.  This is one of the biggest reasons I chose to do the flipped classroom.  By moving my direct teaching segments for students to do at their pace, I am freed up to talk to students and work with them in smaller groups.

Another way I am working to develop relationships with kids is through our new social learning network.  This year, I introduced Edmodo to my students.  It is a learning network that looks like Facebook, but it is private and student friendly. I was a little unsure of how my students would receive this because it’s NOT Facebook and I was afraid they would think it was lame.  I was wrong!  I have had an overwhelming positive response so far.  The above picture is from my group page in Edmodo with some sample responses to a lab safety video/question.  I am thinking about when I have shown this video in class in previous years and I ask for responses from students….typically a handful of students share for the class.  Now, all students have the opportunity to respond and I have the opportunity to hear them.  And that is what kids want today…they want us to hear them.

So, is my relationship building working so far?  I had a student come to me at the beginning of class today to tell me she could not get her school supplies yet.  She is a quiet student and she seemed as if she was about to cry.  I asked her if everything was OK, and while we did not get to talk for very long, she did share that she was having some trouble at home.  I don’t think I have ever had a student open up to me like that on Day 3.  I gave her a notebook to use and a big hug and I learned exactly how important relationship building is in my classroom.

Safety Dance!

 

Yes, you know its the beginning of school year in a science class when you see kids learning about lab safety!  I keep trying to re-arrange my curriculum so that we don’t necessarily have to do safety lessons the very first day or even the second, but when kids are going through schedule changes and classes are being balanced it is the go to kind of lesson plan.  Today students were learning how to use Material Safety Data sheets and how to recognize safety diamonds and the hazards of chemicals.

Kids really have no idea how many chemicals they are exposed to on a daily basis.  Heck, I don’t even know everything I am exposed to.  This is where I sometimes have a crisis of belief with chemistry.  I am amazed by all that we have created and done in chemistry over the years, but at the same time, I worry about all that our kids are exposed to today. This is where I see my job as a chemistry teacher lies…helping students to learn how to be good consumers of the information that is available to them, including understanding the risks involved with materials they use every day.

Do you know some of the chemicals that may impact your life? Check out this video, it will open your eyes.   In the last 10-20 years we have had chemists working on this problem in an emerging field called Green Chemistry.  Their job is to help to find safe alternatives for use in  our daily lives.  I plan to integrate these green ideas into my curriculum this year because some of my students may be the ones who solve these problems in the future.