Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things You Never Thought You'd Say To Your Children, Part 652

"Stop playing with my normal cell and put it back in the prop box!"

(The "normal cell" in question being the blue ball from the photo below...the orange ball was my cancer cell.)

Gave my talk on new cancer therapies to the eighth graders today, all three classes of them.  I was teaching pretty much the whole time from 10:30-1:30, and I now have a new respect for middle school teachers.  How in the world do you present the same material to every one of your classes multiple times a day, every day, year in and year out?  I've certainly given talks before, but never the same talk three times in a row on one day.

My biggest concern was the level at which I was speaking.  It's tough to target that age group in science: oversimplifications bore and insult them, but it's hard to get much below the 30,000 foot mark in Biology without things getting grad-school level pretty quickly.  I did the best I could with that, even bouncing some of my slides off Thing One ahead of time as a gauge.  He's only in sixth grade, but he's a bright, science-focused sixth grader...figured if he understood what I was saying, the older kids would.  As it happened, the kids seemed to be able to follow the talk and the teacher was happy with it...guess the acid test will be whether he invites me back to give it again next year!  We'll see.  At the very least, I'm glad to have it over with for the time being...I've been stressing about that for a good two weeks now.


In other news,  the most recent sign that the apocalypse is nigh came from Thing One, who bounded off the school bus and informed me cheerfully that the next middle school dance will be in December and that formal clothing is required.   He wants to go. (!)  And is planning to wear dress pants, dress shoes, a nice shirt, and A TIE. (!!)  This from the kid who fusses about wearing a collared shirt to church!


  1. As a former middle school teacher ...

    I found it rare to have only one "prep" - usually I was teaching three different classes (to different grades, ELA vs. ELD, different English Language Development levels, etc.).

    And usually even with the same information, because I'm teaching kids and not content, I have to mold it differently to different groups differently. And think on my feet to adjust based on comprehension/engagement. But my real "trick" - I try really hard to not lecture but instead use methods to put the responsibility for learning in the hands of the students - it keeps them more actively engaged and much more likely to learn, and bonus: it doesn't bore the snot out of me. :)

    I was listening to something on NPR about kids doing close readings as a result of common core and I was like DUDE. All kids should be doing close readings - if not, what the hell are they learning in English class? NO wonder they can't read for shit! YOu HAVE to look to the text for evidence of all assertions made, not just pull things out of the air. That's not common core, that's PROPER TEACHING.

    So even if I were teaching the same selection to different classes, their engagement would vary with it, so it wasn't totally the same. Not like my 7th grade history teacher who just put movies in all the time and walked around to make sure nobody put their head down. Only "movie" I ever showed was MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech in that unit, and it never failed to change kids' lives. In different and interesting ways, so I'd never get bored!

    1. to clarify, usually 5 different periods, 3 different subjects.

    2. Yikes. I did get a small taste of what you mean by targeting material differently based on the kids in a class...the three classes were very different that way. Sounds like you are/were the best kind of teacher!!


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