Still living the privilege of working with fine professionals who are also amiable and fun, and serving students particularly willing to learn and unusually respectful to us and one another. Still wondering if it’s a long term calling, or a place on the road toward working more with at risk youth. Still working hard to teach five different subjects and thankful for ample planning time. I have my new classroom painted (covered the institutional pasty yellow with sky blue to counter the lack of windows), chairs, projector, and whiteboards set up. It’s so much easier to teach in one room all day, no more carrying laptop, text, and paperwork back and forth.
Students are really getting the hang of things, incidences of failure to hand in assignments are falling, people are doing corrections to bombed quizzes or homework they didn’t understand. They are grasping the connection between practice, participation, perseverance, and success (mostly reflected by grades, in the math classes). If I have the same students for a second math next year, they should be able to roll with my system pretty well, as I will have tweaked it to align with what they need to accomplish and what is practical in the time given. I hope that all the quieter students who need help will realize I’m eager to give it, and that extra tutoring is worth the time spent.
In environmental science, we’re getting into an experimental design on decomposition. In the process of learning how to properly design a controlled experiment, I plan to cover the cycling of matter, the chemistry and biology of decomposition, municipal solid waste management, and the effects of solid waste on the environment. Also connecting soon with a study of current waste production at school and home, and problem solving around that. I started too late last year to do much at the other school, but even the “reluctant learners” there were pretty enthusiastic about cutting down on waste, and all but two took turns at weighing bags of garbage. I’m thinking it would be interesting to post the daily and weekly amount of the different types of waste we generate to raise awareness first. I’m sure the students will have good ideas.
In biology, I decided that we were getting seriously bogged down in the chapter about the nature of Homo sapiens, so I skipped forward to look at the essential characteristics of all living things. I gave a project borrowed from last year’s colleagues and adapted it. After choosing a species of organism (from an assigned category) and researching it, the students are to create posters illustrating and explaining how their species show evidence of each essential characteristic. They can use any reasonable list of characteristics, and since the list in the text specifically names evolution in terms of common ancestry and species evolving into other species, I gave the option of focusing on shorter term evolution within populations as they adapt to changing environmental conditions. Nods all around.
I think the common ancestry idea is pushed a little too heavily, anyway, without even offering a definition of “species,” so Bible believers just assume it’s the same as the biblical “kinds’ (Hebrew min), which they are taught were created distinct by God and don’t morph into one another. Sure would be interesting to go into a discussion of that with the Hebrew text and commentaries and all, but, oh, no, not in public school! I really think the teaching of evolution should start with the evidence right in front of us not the overarching theory that took years to emerge once Darwin and Wallace got to thinking about their findings. Darwin was certainly bothered by it all, and I’m sure had a real conflict between his desire for intellectual honesty and his traditional biblical teachings. As it was for Darwin, evolutionary theory is a great candidate for inquiry based learning, but in the text, which is usually so oriented that way, the end findings are stated up front before fossils, or Darwin, or comparative embryology, or DNA, are even mentioned.
I’m looking forward to seeing the visuals some of these artistically talented/practices students will create. Now that we have lots of wall space of our very own, they’ll be a nice addition to the decor. When I saw the other teachers punching staples through the expensive vinyl wallpaper, I knew it would be okay to cover the place with posters and bulletin boards. I even put up the evolutionary tree of life poster, reminding myself that I need not, should not, feel apologetic about it. And hoping that if anyone does object, they will come directly to me and have a conversation. The principal has alluded to the fact that he would always advise that if parents have issues, and that he has my back as to teaching public school biology.
To tell the truth, from our school website, you’d never know it is a public and not a Christian school. I wondered if I should mention the presence of two very obvious Christian signage items on the front page of our website, but being new, I don’t want to be the one who tries to scratch the Christian image–I would probably get surprised stares from all but maybe one of the staff, and rumors might get about to the parents that I was anti-Christian. Still, I do think we should make it known that the school is a public school and welcomes all homeschooling families. The name even sounds private school-ish. I wonder how the non-religious students are feeling (if, indeed there are any decidedly non-religious, or even less theologically conservative).