Saturday, 29 October 2011

Crusty Senior Sass, Antacid Rockets and DANCE PARTIES!!!!

Those classes that suck.
I truly adore teaching but there are those days/classes that SUCK BUCKETS.  Those moments where Miss Lame wants to scream at the top of her lungs… RAAATTTTTTSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!
I know, so far, Miss Lame has had all positive things to say about teaching and life here in London England, but there are those pooptastic, downright exhausting days too.
I hate feeling like I failed to deliver an effective, engaging lesson.  These moments knock me down a peg as I over analyze and over personalize my rough interactions with students and the overall disorganization of the classroom. I despise feeling like I couldn’t quite gain the respect and attention of my students. 
During these arduous classes I grow to loathe the sound of my own voice.
Ladies, I’m waiting for some quiet please.
Like a broken record, stop and go, stop and go, constant interruptions, students completely consumed in their social banter, I fight to stick to my guns. Stay calm.
Not wanting to raise my voice.  I wait… waiting… still waiting... for students to discontinue talking so that I can deliver what could be a brief, 30 seconds of instructions, but instead takes at least 15 wearisome minutes to convey. Exhaustive. Boring.  
Pausing and waiting, an exasperating attempt to demonstrate the concept of being respectful to others and listening when someone has something to share. We call it “character building” in the world of teaching.
 The bell.  Little to nothing achieved, voice hurting, a dull ache creeping up my neck and nagging at the back of my head. Students begin to pack up and Miss Lame can’t bring herself to stop the flow towards the classroom door, to make a final statement to set the tone for next day. Nothing left. Rats. 
I turn up in the Science Department office, heart sunken and my posture and drawn face clearly reading “completely dejected”.  My arms are full of books, handouts, teaching supplies, my thermos and keys, all dangerously propped, one on top of the other and squeezed tightly against my breasts, threatening to crash into a disorganized mess on the floor.  I waddle awkwardly toward my desk space and begin lowering my armful of goods, slowly, carefully to the table, fighting ferociously not to impose further stress on my already damaged ego.
The Miss Lame way, in my elegant, rust colour vintage dress, classic brown leather boots, I execute a cumbersome, highly unflattering squat, contorting my body into angular, unnatural positions. Sacrificing grace (which isn’t a problem, nor a rarity for Miss Lame) I ultimately successfully manage to safely place my pile and pride on the desk.  Free of the dangerous load, I rotate my body, squaring my bum up with my chair seat and drop heavily into it. Toast.
The Crusty Senior Sass:
I find it is the crusty senior girls in particular that are most stressful to manage during these over personalizing, busy-brain times… Most of the time I am entertained and rather enjoy their “spunk” (that’s right, I said it), but some days I just can’t seem to let the sassy attitude roll off my back.
Miss Lame = Human.
Senior girls are on the cusp of young adulthood, growing more and more emotionally and mentally independent. They have so much to say. I love this. At the same time, many of these young ladies also still retain the highly self-centred focus of youth.
A deep desire for complete independence, coupled with the struggle to see outside of themselves results in what Miss Lame likes to call “Crusty, senior sass”.
Afterschool Detention…
Student: “Miss, I am going to be late for the cinema, which I pre-bought tickets for and it’s going to be your fault.
Miss Lame (thinking): “Don’t be such a self centered dickhead. You fucked up the class for everyone today.
Miss Lame’s ACTUAL response: “It’s not my fault you are here. Your behaviours and interruptions in class today affected the movement of the lesson and your classmate’s learning. It may not feel fair, but your behaviour wasn’t fair to you, your classmates and myself. Now you have to deal with the consequence and make up for lost class time.
Miss Lame learnings
During these taxing teaching times my ability to think positive is disrupted. My ability to acknowledge the baby steps and the small, yet crucial successes is drowned in my over anxious, over analysing, anal retentive brain.  Miss Lame has some stress management learning to do. 
Luckily, in the teaching world, if you are a reflective person (as teachers should be), self-learning and growth can occur quickly.  Successful teaching approaches, behaviours and mental states are met with instant gratification- student learning/engagement, a sense of organization. While ineffective approaches are met with a poop experiences. It is apparent, changes are to be made.
It’s important for Miss Lame to recognize that there are a number of factors contributing to a pooptastic class/day of teaching. Not soley due to her failures... 
A successful day/class of teaching = Kickass lesson plan + Hours of sleep for Miss Lame + Miss Lame fed and caffeinated + Energetic and confident Miss Lame mindset + Student hormonal state/mindset + Student group dynamics + Day of the week/Time of day    

Twenty-something goggled year 9 students standing around the schools 10 x 10 foot patch of green space, staring excitedly, tentatively at the 3 little film canisters set across the middle. Waiting for the punchline, the reaction.  A minute passes. The canisters are static. Steadfast. The girls start to fidget, their energy and smiles starting to fade, chatter picks up. They start to question the effectiveness of Miss Lame’s demonstration.
Miss, how long is this supposed to take? Did you try this out before hand? Are you sure you used the right ingredients?”
I encourage the girls to hold their horses just for a bit longer.   It’s gotta work!...” I said hopefully, a slight waver towards the end of my conviction…
1min 30seconds, still waiting.  As we approach the two minute mark I too begin to lose faith in my demonstration. My facial expression reads “dejected”.
I think out loud, “I don’t know why this isn’t working. Maybe I did miss something… 
The girls see my disappointment, some giggle, many begin throwing suggestions and words of encouragement my way.  The chatter escalates as we stand there, contemplating… “WHAT NOW?!”… Conversation begins diverting in all directions while I sit there fretting, feeling completely mentally constipated, stuck on the thought “WHY DIDN’T IT WORK!!!???!”
Chatter, Miss Lame brain constipation, 2min 30seconds... “POP!”  The film canister lid rocketed 10- 15 feet in the air!!!
The girls cried out with surprise and excitement, catching only the tail end of the "lift off"! The attention and eagerness of the young learners was instantly restored.  We all stare keenly, expectantly at the remaining two film canisters, not daring take our gaze away out of fear of missing the explosion again.  After observing the other two canisters explosive take off, I could feel the buzz of my students creative, energetic minds as they start firing ideas at me:
"MISSSSS! What if we add MORE acid??? What about FIVE antacid tablets instead of one??????"
Miss Lame's Super-dork science facts- What did the film canister rockets demonstrate?
The year 9s are learning about different types of chemical reactions (Metals with Water, Metals with Acid, Metal carbonates- alkaline/basic- with acid)... For this demonstration we were looking at the chemical reaction between metal carbonates and acids.
The general reaction equation is:
Metal Carbonate + Acid --> Salt + Water + Carbon dioxide gas
(*a neutralizing reaction*)
I wanted to give the students real life examples of this reaction/equation...
-Example 1: FOR DELICIOUSLY FLUFFY PANCAKES two KEY ingredients (REACTANTS) are required...
1. BICARBONATE OF SODA (Metal carbonate)
These two ingredients/compounds should be mixed right before cooking as the reaction will begin taking place... THE KEY PRODUCT that results in FLUFFIFYING of the pancakes is CO2 GAS!!!!
-Example 2: Stomach acid and antacid tablets such as "Gaviscon" etc... ANTACID ROCKETS!!!!!
1. Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) was poured in the film canister (experimented with various amounts). This is to emulate the stomach acids that proliferate when there is a lot of fat digestion taking place in the stomach...
2. Antacid Tablets, which I inform the students are used to neutralize or calm down the over active stomach acid.
The film canisters that have "male" style fitting lids are fairly snug and stay on the canister as the chemical reaction takes place and the byproduct, CO2, builds and builds. When the pressure becomes to great, the lid explodes off the top of the canister, rocketing high up into the air! Explosions = fun!
The follow up student questionning... "Miss, if I took an antacid would I explode too???
"Yes. Yes you would."
Dance Party???
After a great class, Miss Lame likes to wrap things up with a moment of dance.
The popular song of choice (student vote):
These brief dance parties have been known to result in a giant, full class dancing trains...  Delightful!
NOTE: Any words that are bolded, italicized, underlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuck, shit, ass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings as times, so just imagine them in there if you will.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


“Class, looking at the handout, what is another gland in the body that produces hormones for bodily communication?”… Chatter. Energy. not listening… “Testes… Testicles… Testes… Testes…” Like a broken record, I repeat… My utterance starts to catch on… “Is she saying testicals?” The class starts to hush, confused smirks. “Yes, there is a gland in the testicles that produces the hormone testosterone.”
Miss Lame’s approach to behaviour management.

I have been fortunate to receive full weeks of teaching work for the past 3.5 weeks.  Including a full week teaching PE at a lovely school in North East London, filling in for a teacher afflicted with shingles, followed by an incredible experience at an all girls’ school teaching science this past week and a half.   
Miss Lame feels complete.
You know that feeling in your chest that you get when something completely moves you. An overwhelmed feeling, a welling up of emotion.  I am instantly consumed with utter elation and deep feelings of love at my core as I contemplate, reflect and share my experiences of teaching this past week with friends and family.  As I experience this powerful exhilarating sensation my super-dork science brain often leaps to an image of my brain pouring, absolutely brimming with bright, hyperactive endorphins, which are flowing and distributing through my body to my finger tips and toes.
Buzzing, indescribable, pure, sheer excitement. I LOVE being Miss Lame.
As mentioned earlier, I have been teaching Science at the all girls’ high school in Central London and will continue to be there for at least the next week and a half to follow (3 wks total), bringing me to half term (week of Monday Oct 24th).  The teacher I am covering for was already absent for two weeks prior to the beginning of my assignment, thus the start of last school week I was confronted with a number of frustrated, doubting and bored young ladies. Rightfully so.  Supply teacher after supply teacher, dry, uninspiring  “read-from-text-answer-questions” lesson plans. Science can be the most incredibly exciting subject to teach and learn. Science is in everything from the photosynthesis of the orchid on my dresser, to the chemical reactions occurring in my kitchen as my flatmates cook up dinner to the multitude of bodily systems involved in the movement of my fingers over this keyboard. The list could be never ending. Amazing.  The possibilities for exploration and discussion in the world of science are limitless.  So many opportunities for creativity, there is no reason why any Science class should be boring in my opinion.    
Hi ladies, I recognize that your experience in this science class so far this school year has been fairly inconsistent and perhaps boring, but I will be here for at least the next 2 to 3 weeks and my goal is to take what you need to learn and make it as exciting and fun as possible.
Throughout this past week and a half, I’ve actively worked to gain the trust of my students and managed to successfully prove that I am there to provide a fun and engaging learning environment.
In teaching, there are both overt and more covert signs that you have gain students respect and trust. Although I LOVE receiving overt positive reinforcement such as compliments and completely engaged, enthusiastic students, I find it’s often the small covert successes that keep me resilient and strong through the day. Something as small as a student who typically chats the entire class asking an ON TASK question to a crusty, sassy year 11 girl who has started rolling her eyes at you every 10 seconds instead of 2.  The key is looking for and appreciating the baby steps!
Some MAJOR benefits to teaching for Miss Lame…
1.      Enables/supports my hyperactivity- A symbiotic relationship exists between hyperactive Miss Lame and her students.
What I get:
-Teaching enables me to expel my inordinate amounts of energy
For Example: I like to incorporate physical tasks in my daily science lessons. Waking up the body and the mind! The other day in science class we played “Review Jeopardy” in which I included a “spice it up” category requiring students to perform little physical feats … One of the selections asked that a team member perform 1 of 2 basic breakdancing moves (the worm-fwd or back, or a simple stall).  The girls requested that I demonstrate a stall, which I happily and excitedly did… Wearing a tighter pencil skirt. The non-elastic fabric of the skirt buckled under the pressure of my hearty booty and split at the side seam. P.S. I am Miss Lame.
Ultimately, I get to stand, dance and move through space for my job. Perfect.
-Seeing and experiencing students engaged in my lessons gives me indescribable amounts of gratification and further exacerbate my energy and zest for teaching.
What they get:
-My hyperactivity and excitability often transfers to my students, which boosts the classroom mood and engagement levels.
-My overactive, super-dork science brain, as well as my tendency to “be lame with no shame” means that I introduce random, interesting, sometimes humorous points of discussion in relation to the topic being considered.   
For example: I bring up topics/words such as poop as often as possible. Generating small giggles, “ews”, intrigue.  
During a thorough discussion of the importance of nutrition and excretion as required processes of living things with year 7s I highlighted the fact that a darker poop means that your body took more nutrients out of your food.  Miss, isn’t there a book called Everyone Poops?”… and a beautiful conversation transpired…
Today, plant carbohydrate in the form of cellulose = fibre when ingested = easier poopin’. Smirks.
2.      Instant gratification- I know, without a doubt, immediately, if I have succeeded or failed.
Fail: My parents will be happy to know that I am finally realising and appreciating the positive affects if sleep on my performance in the classroom and anxiety levels. There is no comparison. WORLDS BETTTERRRRR!
*Miss Lame has been a night hawk for years- Like evening birds of prey I have a keen focus when all is dark around me. I am able to zero in on tasks that usually my hyperactivity/attention span would impede or make difficult during the day. When my entire surroundings are lit up in daytime, the colours, the sounds, the smells, the movement of people, nature poke at me constantly, stealing my focus for moments, which often sends my brain on divergent thoughts, or at least require that I reset my brain to the task at hand, again and again. The gentle flip of the leaves as the wind catches their surfaces, the faint chirp of birds chatting in a nearby bush, the flash of someone’s red TROUSERS as they speed by me on a fixed wheel bicycle.  Yes, Miss Lame typically gets more accomplished at night. 
*The new pattern- organization is key.  Make notes on what was accomplished and what is next immediately after each class. Limit evening time work. Use resources available to you. Be creative but dont try to reinvent the wheel. Go to bed at reasonable hour. Wake earlier for a slower, less anxiety provoking start. Layout how the class will go the morning of. Brain turns on. Ideas are fresh. GO!!!
Success: Because I will be at this all girls’ school for weeks to come, my goal is to take the outlined cover work, and classroom expectations and design lessons that will revitalize the students’ enjoyment and engagement in Science.  Working with a wonderfully welcoming and supportive science department has truly made this possible.  Unlike most cover teachers, I am honoured to have permission to run demonstrations and small labs in the science classroom, which opens the door for much creativity.
I have received much positive reinforcement from students and staff alike.  Receiving an increase in my daily pay rate and receiving many positive words of appreciation.
A truly uplifting example from today… A senior (year 11) student informed me that the group of year 8s she leads during “tutor time” were raving about how they actually enjoy learning Science now that they have Miss “Lame” as a teacher.  That Science class was fun!
Amazing news.
High school students… Categorized.
The rays of sunshine, Year 7 and 8 students.   Filled to the brim with energy and unconditional love, they truly brighten up the classroom with their smiles, eager questions and desire to please.
Senior level students…  
*GROSSLY exaggerated eye roll* “Miss, it’s RAAAAN-DA. Not Rhhhonnda. There is no h. It’s RAN-DA.” Complete and utter distain dripped from RAN-da’s critique.
There is something I adore about the little miss attitudes. 
Not all senior students ooze with such deliberate brashness, but all do demonstrate a sense of intellectual independence, or at least a developing one, that intrigues me so much. They have so much to say.
You can wine if you want to!!!... or beer, or spirit…  (Fri Sept 30th)
People. EVERYWHERE. Standing, sitting, lounging, dancing, congregating, mixing, mingling, cans, bottles, glasses in hands, to mouth between words and body language…The high energy buzz of social output.
After an incredibly rejuvenating power nap (enabling me to push past my “After-a-week-of-teaching-Friday-Fuzzy-Brain”…), my flatmate Kat and I walked down to hip, happenin’ Broadway Street. With the abnormally warm, completely clear, gorgeous weather we had been having all week long, people were taking advantage of the last days of what felt like summer, before autumn officially took over.
I bought a bottle of wine and a bottle opener that we were in DIRE need of at home. Kat bought two bottles of beer.  The store owner provided his cork removal service as well as a few cups, which enabled us to move directly to the street curb, joining the thriving, buzzing mass of people.
Sitting in the streets of Broadway Market, London, a part of the mob, Kat and I people watched, chatted and enjoyed our wine and beer. I love the freedom and spirit here.

I am thankful for...
I am thankful for having such an incredible family. Mom, Dad, Erik and Kate, our special dynamic brings me to smiles and tears.  Your unconditional love and support gives me so much strength. Even from afar, your warmth, our bond, is felt, strong and unwavering.  I am so fortunate to have such a beautiful family.

I had the pleasure of celebrating and sharing a Canadian Thanksgiving experience here in the UK, where Thanksgiving isn't celebrated. 
The traditions, the warmth, the smiles, the comfort. Martin and Tarvi's home glowed and invited as a I sat with lovely company this past Sunday evening to a beautiful feast.  Such special gents, my little family away from home, I am so thankful to have their friendship.
NOTE: Any words that are bolded, italicized, underlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuck, shit, ass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings as times, so just imagine them in there if you will.