This year has been rife with struggles with a new, very different group of students, a new schedule, and issues with some of my less than competent colleagues. But enough of that. It’s April, there are less than two months left in this year, which means I am less than two months away from ending my teaching career. It’s also DC-CAS week, which means I have a lot more time on my hands now that I’m not planning and setting up labs with all of my free mornings and planning periods. So here are a couple of major successes I’ve had this year that I am particularly proud of:
A successful chemistry field trip to Rock Creek Park.
Before this trip, I had to consider that my 10th graders this year are a whole new breed compared to my students last year. Everything tried and true from last year has completely failed with the majority of these kids. And a much larger number of them are failing my class, which has more to do with their collective lack of motivation than what I am doing, since I feel like my teaching has gotten better rather than anything and I am providing more support than I used to. All of this made me incredibly apprehensive to take them out into public, on the metro, and to the park to collect water samples for my annual chemistry trip.
But it was great! I was missing about ten students, so the remainder of us left the building with way too many chaperones, pre-made water test kits, and a set agenda. I planned the hell out of this trip because I kept having thoughts of what might happen when I take these kids out of the school. Not to mention that my colleague had recently told me how his 9th graders had to come back early because they were throwing snowballs at passing cars while they were on their last field trip.
The best part was: I got my most annoying kid’s mom to attend the field trip… and since his mom is well-respected among his peers, there were no major mishaps. They complained a lot at the beginning about being out in nature (something they don’t experience very often), having to walk 2 miles (again, for many of them, a huge struggle) and then by the end they were running down muddy river banks to test their water samples.
A great (but really sad) teaching moment: while we were on our way to the river, one of my brightest but laziest kids turns to me and asks, “Are we going to the ocean?” Minutes later, as I’m explaining the difference between an ocean and a river, he says, “Man, I thought that thing you pass by on the way to Pentagon City on the metro was the ocean.” Oh, how D.C. public schools have failed him. I’m glad I at least got the chance to turn that crazy idea around, because that horrible misconception would probably not have popped up in chemistry class.
A Successful 1st (Ever!) Science Fair!
Last semester my principal mentioned the dreaded words to me: science fair. I pretended to be deaf for a several months, until it came up again. So when can we do a science fair? I really didn’t want to – considering that the science department is, basically, just me (I have a colleague, who…well…let’s just nicely say he doesn’t pull his weight), and I knew I would end up doing everything. But I put it together, did all I could to hype it up, and it turned out pretty well.
I was disappointed that only 5 students actually completed a project (I had at least 15 commit to a topic, but didn’t follow through), but my principal and the other staff at my school still thought it was a success for our first science fair. My kids’ projects ranged from how cooking w/different starches changes the yield and consistency of meat, to how different volumes of peroxide affected the color and quality of hair. All 5 won a [cash!] prize, and by the end of the fair other students who had dropped out of the running earlier on told me they would do it next year. One of the fair participants, when she found out this was the first ever science fair, said, “Wow, our school is steppin’ it up!” Music to my ears.
Here’s to hoping the end of the year will bring more than annoyance and stress when a lot of these kids find out they really are going to fail for the year. It’s gonna be an interesting two months!