Saturday, 10 December 2011

Gecko-inspired Robots and No Humility.

I have loved teaching at the all-girls school for the past two months and will be sad to finish up my time there come Christmas break.
Such a lovely staff (for the most part), particularly the science department who have been incredibly supportive and encouraging during my stay. I feel like part of the team. In fact, last Friday I could be found melting, my posture caving with pleasure into a stool upon which I was propped as I received a reflexology inspired massage on my tired, semi-sweaty, semi-stinky feet from one of the staff.
Not only do I feel I am part of the Science Department team, I also feel I’ve contributed to it… My energy and lame-ness seems to add a certain something to the crew. You know, some singing, dancing, providing many opportunities for “taking the piss” (translation: making fun).
Also, I am currently working on developing a newly introduced unit on nanotechnology????
Science-dork interlude:
Bear with me I’m still trying to get it… Nanotechnology is the use or control of “nanoparticles”….
  • Tinsy-weansy particles (nanometres in size… nano = 10^-9… 0.0000000001 )
  • Smaller than cells (micrometres in size… micro = 10^-6…)
Why the heck do we need to work with particles so gosh darn small???? … What’s the point?????
…Something about how the smaller particles have greater surface area to volume ratio and that has an effect on the properties/behaviours of that particle/technology.  Also scientists can manipulate the particles so that they fulfil particular roles…??
Think about having a lovely little tea party in the garden (that is to be read with a British accent by the way)...a sugar cube vs. sugar granules… How they behave differently…The granules dissolve much more easily/quickly than the cube.  What if we split the sugar granules up into an even smaller collection of atoms??? What then?
  • A ridiculously cool, potentially horror movie provoking example of nanoparticles/technology:
It has been discovered that the Gecko has naturally occurring nano-scale sized hairs on its feet. This means the hairs have MAXIMAL surface area, which is the reason for the “stickiness” properties of the gecko’s feet. I.e. This is why they can climb and stick to walls/ceilings with ease. This discovery has inspired researchers to develop wall-scaling robots…!?!?!?!?!??!??!? HOLY SCHNIKIES!!!!
… Ok, ok… Science-dork interlude is done… However, FYI, Lameness is bound to continue…
Generally speaking, the staff at my current school are lovely, however, there are those teachers/staff that should pull that stick out of there bottoms. It amazes and disappoints me to no end when I get the cold shoulder or a raise eyebrow, straight lipped response from a TEACHER when I offer a friendly ‘hello’ as we pass each other in the staffroom/hallway. I suppose they think I am a young, na├»ve, overly energetic teacher that will one day be broken and despise “those children” and my job like them?
It is too bad that these individuals are to play a key role in the intellectual and social development of youth.
Even after a long, emotionally draining day full of haphazard lesson plans and unengaged students, walking toward my bus stop, although sunken, teary… toast, I am still able to say, with absolute confidence:
I love my job. I can’t believe I get to do this the rest of my life.
I get to be true blue Miss Lame every day. I get to move, frolic, play, explore, express, joke, bond, create, learn, grow, care for a living. I am so fortunate.
*Student: “Miss, do you know why we like you so much?? Because you smile at us
I am sad that this is a novelty to students.
I am so glad that I can provide this positive experience.
I am happy to represent an approach to teaching which encourages mutual respect and common decency.  
Miss Lame IS edgy.
Those who know me know that I am incredibly edgy.  I do bad-bum, b-girl moves on the dance floor, I swear like a fish sometimes…and I even scare students with my “Miss Lame is NOT impressed face” and make misbehaving students cry. 
The bully and her tears:
Miss, she would tell me if she really didn’t like it. I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal about this.
Miss Lame: “I don’t think anyone would LIKE having someone palm their face and push them back and down. This behaviour is bullying. Abusive.
As soon as the word “bullying” was mentioned, Rachel, suddenly very upset shot back:
Don’t even start talking about bullying.
Miss Lame: “Well you may not have acknowledged to severity of your actions but you need to think outside of yourself more or put yourself in "Afia’s" shoes and consider how you would feel to have someone feel they could put their hand in your face and push you down. Your actions can definitely be considered a form of bullying.”  
As I spoke Rachel body language read “very uncomfortable”. Arms crossed her chest. Refusal to meet my eyes with hers. Staring down at the gravel. Tears developing.  She turned abruptly and hurried away.
I started after her. The urge to comfort and support. I stopped myself. It’s ok for her to feel sad and process this. Feel remorse. Recognise her actions and how they make others feel, something she hadn’t contemplated properly until now.  I can understand that it’s very upsetting to feel labelled as something as negative as “a bully”.  I don’t think the Rachel is a bully. I think her actions were a form of bullying and she didn’t acknowledge them as such.
Either way, Miss Lame makes students cry. Edgy.
Miss Lame in Action:

One of my favorite lessons:
Year 9 students in the midst of their physics unit, the lesson was about consolidating students’ understanding of time-distance graphs and interpreting them.
We did an activity called “Walking Graphs”. Students were given a series of 7 graphs illustrating different travel patterns. Students were to understand what the different patterns communicated through their own movement down a straight line 10 meters in length.
I “Miss Lamed” this activity up of course…
The students were to perform their interpretive walks down the line as though they were on “the catwalk”. The sassiest/most creative (but also correctly demonstrated) “walk” took the prize!!!
Student: “Miss, what is the prize?!?!
Miss Lame: “You’ll see!”… I held them in suspense.   
The following are 2 of the 7 graphs that the students were required to demonstrate in swagger form.
What the heck  does that graph mean?

Graph is:
Speed is:
In a straight line
Constant speed
Changing speed
Curving towards the y- axis
Curving toward the x-axis

Imagine, Miss Lame and a gaggle of twenty-something bouncing, weekend ready, 13 year old girls pouring out of the science block following my lead and collecting in the centre of the small school campus, which is a big square of uneven, course cement that could rip an exposed knee to shreds in a single spill.  A select few help me place the cones (UK folk don’t know what “pylons” are) to mark the start and finish line, 10 meters apart.

I turn around to see a dispersed, disorganized blob, some girls chatter away, others attempt to joust with meter sticks, one or two fold and weave their body awkwardly through and over the rail to the side of the cement square.
What we call “disengaged” in the teaching world.
Miss Lame fighting to gain their attention, her booming voice lost in the great outdoors, carried away by the gusts of wind that heave through the yard.
Ocean, a bigger black girl, her disposition a beautiful mixture of sweet with sass, steps in, her voice roars over the excited giddy chatter and laughter of her classmates…
Silence. Attention.
Continuing on…
The activity was a smashing success, the girls swaggered, posed, spun and shimmied down the gravel catwalks, all earning Miss Lame’s ultimate prize!....
“HIGH FIVEEEEEE!!!!!”  I ran around energetically bounding and dodging from student to student sharing the prestigious reward.
Miss Lame’s Sankey Diagram:
“Step to the Line”

Over 100 year eleven students stand distributed into two “3-girls-thick” (OR MORE) lines approximately 25 meters long, one “3-girl-thick” line facing the other, chatting and wondering about the two tracks of tape running across the width of the Assembly Hall before them.

Their attention than shifted to Miss Lame as she galloped and shuffled energetically down the track between them, calling out for their attention (“please!”) preparing to give instructions and start the game.
Two CRUCIAL Rules:
1.    RESPECT for peers
2.    LISTEN carefully to Miss Lame’s instructions
*These two rules are far-reaching and several different misconducts could easily fall under one of the two… Keepin things simple.
It is MOST important to set a tone of mutual respect in this activity as to generates the most honesty and benefit from the activity.
Miss Lame starts with an easy one: “Step to the line if you enjoy a daily dose of vigorous dance
…Laugher. Some girl step forward with smirks and complete confidence. Others shimmy forward a little more apprehensively. A number of girls stand, steadfast at the start point, most looking entertained as they observe the responses of their peers, whilst maintaining an expression of “I DON’T dance”.
Miss Lame: “Step away from the line please.
…a few questions passed... Starting to get into the reflective stuff.
Miss Lame: “Step to the line if you consider yourself creative.
Mr. O: “Kadija! Why did you step forward??? YOU’RE not creative.
The room of year 11 girls erupted. Laugher.  Jovial dismay. A collective “ooohhhhhhh!!! WHHHAAAA!!”… Kadija’s face is rosy with embarrassment, confusion… Bewildered and not prepared for the diss.
I wait for a good moment to take the lead again, when the shock value of “Sir’s” comment starts to wear, and gallop down the tract between the two gigantic lines… asking the girls to hush. They take a moment to settle (rightfully so!)…
Once all is quiet I turn to “Sir” and say “Mr. O. I think you forgot my number 1 rule. What do you think girls???” The girls energetically erupted again. Cheers of support, fingers pointing, shaming. The word "RESPECT" is hurdled at Sir as he recoils and removes himself from the side of the tract where he stood amongst the raging year 11 girls. His expression: laughter, remorse, "I surrender". As if to say "yes, you are right... Ive been bad..."  
 “Step to the line” activity invites participants to question and reflect on their own lives, while relating and finding common ground with their peers. Soul searching. Community building.
The year 11s (Canadian “grade 12”) are wrapping up their secondary career. They are currently in a VERY stressful, confusing, anxiety-provoking, yet exciting time in their life.
  • They are making decisions about their futures with many life changes/transitions before them- college/uni/work/career paths/relationships
  • The momentous series of GCSE exams loom before them, Jan/Feb.
The “GCSEs” are OFFICIAL, STANDARDIZED exams that play a pivotal role in year 11s future educational and career avenues and options.  PRESSURE. STRESS. There is FAR too much riding on a single STANDARDIZED tests.
How does such an approach in the education system encourage learning for the sake of and enjoyment of learning? How does it promote understanding information from a variety of perspectives?
...This is a whole other discussion. Miss Lame must get back on track… “Step to the line” if Miss Lame is ranting…
Ultimately, the “step to the line” game gave the year 11 students an opportunity to relate to one another on this current stage in their lives.
The assembly hall, two 25 metre “3-girl-thick” lines of year 11 students. As the questions continued they became more reflective and more emotionally exposing/challenging…
Step to the line if you know what you are doing next year”…
Step to the line if your educational/career/personal decisions are in line with what your family wishes for you”…

The year 8s, in their “Energy” unit were learning about conservation of energy and how energy is not gained or lost but transfers to different forms… For example, in a light bulb, electrical energy is transformed into light energy (useful energy) and heat energy (wasteful energy).  This energy transfer is illustrated in a Sankey diagram (see image comparing a regular bulb and a fluorescent bulb).

And of course I had to “Lame-it-up”…

Student: “Miss, you don’t have any huuu.. huuummmill….” struggling to find the right word...
Miss Lame: “Humility?
Student: “Yeah, that's the word!!!

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.

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