Archive for November, 2010

The Korean War to continue?

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

1953, cease fire between the Koreas…

Here is an article on what happened this morning (a small thing, but perhaps another “shot heard ’round the world”?)

Of special interest is the nuclear comment…I’ll quote it, below:

“The existence of North Korea’s new uranium enrichment facility came to light over the weekend after Pyongyang showed it to a visiting American nuclear scientist, claiming that the highly sophisticated operation had 2,000 completed centrifuges. Top U.S. military officials warn that it could speed the North’s ability to make and deliver viable nuclear weapons.”

One of my students pointed out to me the quote about the 3rd World War:  “I know not what WWIII will be fought with but I know that WWIV will be fought with sticks and stones.”  Let’s hope that we don’t have to see the fulfillment of this prediction.

I wonder how this will play out.  The political world waits, we citizens hold our breath. 

Test Giving–a Word of Caution

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

As nice as it is to have a day where you can just relax and give a test to all or most of your classes…it can be pretty bad then having to GRADE all of those tests all at once. 

So, my suggestion is, then, to space out your tests between courses if at all possible.  Stagger them by at least a week, if you can manage that.  It will save you a big headache during grading time.

Breath of Life

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I was insistent upon getting a video monitor to watch our baby at night when we needed to check on him.  Only very recently has he been resting so soundly that it is hard to tell whether he is even breathing.  At such times, I lean in close to the monitor…waiting to catch a view of his chest or a flutter of his hands–looking for a sign that (of course) he is alive.  It is an observance born of a father’s love.

I wonder if God is not like a Father Who is watching…waiting for any sign of life from His children…even just a simple sign of breathing or the slightest motion.  How often He must see so many of His children waiting only for the morning and letting the dark hours of the night slip by unused.  When “that bright morning” shines again, how many of us will He find still awake after our night’s work?  Or, how many have already fallen asleep…?

Beginning of Quarter Email Silence

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I know that I will eventually regret saying this, but I wish that parents and students would devote as much time emailing me at the start of a quarter as they do at the end of one.

“Is this a trick question”?

Friday, November 19th, 2010

I don’t believe I have ever been asked the classic “is this going to be on the test?” question…  however, I very often get the “is this a trick question?” query.  My response has always emphatically been, “No!  I do NOT write trick questions!”  But, I realize now that there is only one real response, and the students already know it:  “Yes, that is a trick question.”

Because no matter how cleverly you explain yourself, students will always believe that you are trying to trick them.  Moreso if it is a multiple choice question.  Somewhere along the way, they learned this (yes, a miracle!).  ;0)

College vs. High School teaching — Part 1 (Introduction)

Friday, November 19th, 2010

I remember my first year out of high school very well.  I was attending the local community college to get my freshman classes out of the way (for free, basically, which was a blessing) and was transitioning well into college life.  My day consisted of college classes, then work, then home again.  It was a comfortable way to start post-secondary life before moving up to the full university for the remaining 3 years.  By the time I left the community college, I knew two things.  First was that I wanted to teach Physics.  Second was that I wanted to someday return there and teach full time. 

Over the next few years at the University, my plans for my future career developed further.  I knew that I wanted to teach at the college or university level.  However, I also had determined that the best teachers seemed to have come out of the trenches:  high school.  They were the most creative, the most dedicated, the most “with-it” (aware), and the best prepared to diversify material to meet the needs of EVERY student.  (I have since modified my perceptions on this subject, but those observations fed my desire to begin my teaching career at the secondary level, and without them I would not be the teacher I am today).

And so I began work on my BA in Physics Education.  There is time enough in the future for me to give a breakdown on all of the facets of this major and my experiences.  I could write a book on my student teaching experience (and plan to) under a physics teacher who was no doubt the very best in the field (I was his student teacher on his 42nd of 43 total years as a Physics teacher). 

So then came graduation, and my entry into “the real world.”  For a teacher, the real world seems eerily similar to the world before…except in a mirror, and probably more clear but with a greater number of facets (no surprise).  Again, I could write on and on about my experiences in even this process, but the important thing was that I chose where I wanted to work (the job market was a bit different back then) and, in my interview, I told them my plan outright:  “I want to teach at the high school level for 5 to 10 years, and then plan on having moved on to the college level.”  They hired me.

It was a brilliant plan.  Over the next six years, I developed my curriculum building capabilities, I earned my MS in Physics Teaching from Another University (under one of the most creative, realistic, and capable Physics professors I have met), got married, had our first child, and got hit by the reality of PhD impossibilities (this is yet another blog post for the future).  I wouldn’t change any of it (for fear of negating the unique blend of experiences and joys (and sorrows) which have gone into forming who I am).

And so, I find myself at a fork in the road.  I am now in the range of high school teaching experience where I am looking for a full time college position (specifically at the old community college campus, where I adjunct in the evenings–although I have learned to keep my options open).  My greatest passion in teaching is having creative outlets.  I have found that teaching adults allows for some very distinct advantages in the learning process.  Very often I find myself reflecting on the idea that I was “made for this” (teaching at the post-secondary level).  When I was a high-schooler, myself, I was closer in outlook to my teachers than my age-group peers.  It was not until college that I began to find people with whom I could relate closely (and even then, my friends in my undergraduate experience were almost exclusively graduate students).  In truth, I would have likely made a very good university professor–and eventual graduate advisor.  But, I loved teaching too much to pursue that route, and even now when I consider the “might have beens” of university-level Physics professorship I remember back to how negatively many professors viewed teaching (loving, rather, their research over their classroom). 

I am full, then, of expectation for a turn of the page in my teaching career.  I have no doubt that an opportunity will very soon open for me to teach at the community college level (my first love, as it were).  Perhaps I will then pursue and complete an educational doctorate (EdD) in the field.  I do plan on carrying out my own independent research (both Education and Physics based) in the near future.  I miss computational Physics challenges, and compiling survey results and forming useful conclusions.  A job where I could continue teaching, and apply my varied skills (even my construction and electrical trades background) will be a welcome one.  I have considered a position where I would be out of the classroom, but my passion for teaching is just too great.  If I did evenually take an out-of-classroom job, you can bet that I would continue adjuncting and most likely would be sticking my nose in active classrooms all the time  ;0)

Thus ends my Introductory (background) blog post for my comparison of college and high school teaching.  In future posts, I will be looking at the pros and cons of teaching at both levels.  It should prove illuminating.

Why I have no pseudonym.

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Some of the world’s great blog writers have pseudonyms (or “writing names”).  I, however, am very public about who I am (the site name, which I have had for some years, now, says it all).  I have considered whether or not this is a smart idea.  Afterall, there is a big stigma against making information public on the internet.  I am certainly a big fan of anonymity for my Family and also for my students.  The freedom that comes with an internet-name also comes with other baggage, however, that might be worth the risk carried with being who you are online.  As much as I wish to discourage “in person” attention for myself with those who might read this blog (with whom I have no prior association), I believe that the problems of anonymity outweigh the benefits.  Allow me to elaborate:

1) Anonymity encourages flippancy.  I enjoy a good joke (and even a jab) now and then (see my earlier post on SPAM comments).  Some of my favorite blogs (I am new to the world of reading other teachers’ blogs) are becoming those of teachers with fake online names.  Why?  Because they can speak from their darkest emotions as classroom teachers and can face little to no consequences.  Let’s face it, Mr. LaFazia is human, and he can get pretty miffed at people (not just students) now and again.  You’ll probably never SEE this, but if I were to “tweet” my thoughts as they came to me (before they could be channeled correctly) then I would probably reach for the backspace key.

No, I believe that a degree of professionalism, even when discussing personal ideas (my site, my right, correct?) is necessary.  One of the great tragedies of anonymity online is that people can be their worst, walk away from it, and not care about how they just presented themselves.  Yes, it is a way to get out the frustrations of the day…but there are healthier ways to do this.  Ranting about students or co-workers or your employers (and so forth) in public (for that is what a blog is–very much a public place) is a pitiful practice.

So return to pseudonym-carrying teacher blogs being my favorite to visit, so far.  Why, again??  They allow me to see the most human side of teachers from around the world.  And, from these raw views, I get ideas for blog posts–ones which, admittedly, are usually in directions very different from those which helped to inspire them.

Overall, it is safe to say that I firmly believe in professionals taking ownership of their online personas.  Now, if I want to start a blog about gardening, then I will likely have a pseudonym…

2) I am forced to be creative.  If I wish to make a snide remark, it must then be an intellectual one–cleverly disguised.  On the other hand, I do have the option of being blatant in my jokes.  The requirement simply is that they are appropriate to my audience (something which everyone should consider in ALL aspects of life) and that they are not damaging to anyone.  Even my “SPAM comments” post was not particularly scathing…in the event that some of those 5 posts (the numbers even now are increasing) were true-to-life people and not simply spam-bots.

I am not sure whether my delicacy will ever be appreciated, but it certainly adds some challenge to my thoughts  ;0)

3) I can be ME.  Mr. LaFazia (pardon my occasional use of the 3rd-person…this happens in the classroom, as well) is an okay guy most of the time (I like to think).  I enjoy putting on my instructor’s cap.  It would be uncomfortable for me to have to consider how revealing my personality might be…not to mention the fact that (locally, at least) I doubt I could fool anyone for long.  I look forward to sharing my discoveries and ponderances (I’m no English teacher, so if that is not a word, then you’ll have to excuse me) with an Education-based audience.  I can even make “religious” comments here and there if I want (afterall, I am out of the classroom–I limit myself to “yes” or “no” questions (if even those are appropriate at the time) in the physical or online classroom).  Christ has always been my life-line, my anchor, my rudder, my ship, etc., etc., &tc.  I appreciate being able to make reference to Him now and again, online.  I do admit to being initially uncomfortable with the prospect of mentioning and even discussing my Faith since this blog is of course accessible by students, but I am beginning to realize that it is not as much of a breach of my in-class silence on the subject as I had at first feared.  Do not get me wrong–I am not a timid Christian (nor an unschooled one).  However, I have always been aware of my role in the classroom and how I am limited in my discussion of Christianity by law and by principle.  As much as I am called to witness to others, I have always considered it a poor judgement on a teacher’s part to discuss religion in the classroom.  This is likely due to my science-ed background (history teachers go all-out, apparently!).  Gradually, though, I am convincing myself that a “Christian Commentary” section would not be out of place in my Categories list.

Those are a few of the reasons why I carry no pseudonym with my blogging.  Perhaps someday I will deem it necessary to blog from behind a made-up name, but for now I will let anonymity fall by the wayside.

Spam comments–the lifeblood of blogging

Monday, November 15th, 2010

So far in the short life of this blog, I have only ever received spam (stupid, pointless, annoying messages) comments.  It started out 2 comments to moderate (i.e., “mark as spam”) each time I checked, here.  Now, I am up to 5!  The site must be growing in popularity  ;0)

I decided to share with you the comments which I have had to delete, today.  They are pretty typical…  Most are no doubt left by “bots,” although some may actually have been typed out by a real, living person without the aid of a program.  Perhaps one of these will be good for a laugh.

C1) Mitch Deland | | | IP:

I really love what you blog about here, very insightful and intelligent. One issue though, I’m running Firefox on Ubuntu and parts of your site structure are a little broken. I realize it’s not a popular setup, but it is still something to to keep in mind. Just shooting you a heads up.

R1) Thank you very much, Mitch (from “M.I.T.”)…how creative.  I will most definitely take time out from my busy schedule to restructure my site so that it meets the needs of all five of your Ubuntu using colleagues and yourself.  In fact, let me go back and relearn all of the web-programming tricks that I picked up from almost a decade and a half of straight HTML code use to make sure that you do not run into this inconvenience on my site ever again.  I really appreciate your comments, here–very insightful and intelligent.  One issue, though…YOU’RE A SPAM BOT!

C2) Tandarts | | | IP:

Hi this post is nice and interesting. I’ll use it for my blog :). Can you comment me some related articles that I can read too?

R2) Whoa whoa whoa…WHERE in the whole entirety of do I say that you can use one of my blog posts for your own blog?  I believe, artsy-tartsy, that you should instead ask my permission first (which will summarily be denied).  I will gladly comment you some related articles.  Try one of my all-time favorites:  “How To Rip-Off Site Content” or perhaps you would enjoy “Plagiarism for Dummies”!

C3) Shantae | | | IP:

I admire the worthwhile info you offer in your articles or blog posts. I will bookmark your web site and have my children check up here often. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else! Yours trully, Shantae.

R3) Shantae, it is so nice to hear from you again!  How are the kids?  What’s that?  NO, I had NO IDEA that Sonic had bad credit  :0o  Seriously??!  I’m going to have to go out there and buy some more slushes if they’re going to survive THIS scandal  :0(  Thank you EVER so much for the heads up!!  I owe you one.  Give my best to the kiddies.

 C4) federal student loans | | | IP:

Thank you, I have recently been searching for information about this topic for ages and yours is the best I have discovered so far.

R4) Dear Neldini, I am afraid that you have come to the wrong place.  Seeing as you are already an employee (in fact, owner??) of the Federal Student Loan “dot com,” you might be better served asking one of your peons (who are overqualified for your position and too highly motivated to seek it, in any case) for directions to the nearest lavatory.  I am afraid that query goes far beyond the scope of this resource.  You may, however, find some enlightenment in the archives. 

C5) thai seo | | | IP:

good molly , i comment your blog , that a nice blog and useful. Best for me. a lot of Educational Commentary and content. i going to visit to read and review your blog.

R5) Mr/s. Seo, you have no idea how happy I am to see this comment.  You are the first intelligent poster I have had so far.  It pleases me greatly to see that you enjoy my Educational Commentary, and even the content!  Please continue commenting so that I can enjoy the honor of reading your words.  Good molly to you, too, and I hope to hear from you again in short order, Mr. L.

…and a Tragedy.

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Late last night I listened to a voice mail from a fellow teacher.  A former student of ours had just died in a car accident, locally.  This young man had been in my classroom as a student and teacher’s aide for the past four years.  I was very heavily involved in his learning plan, as well, and had seen him overcome some serious setbacks.  More importantly, I had seen him grow. 

I kid you not when I say that this former student of mine (who had expressed a desire to take one of my community college classes, as well) had more potential than most students who have taken my courses.  Just the very day before, I had thought to myself how I wished he would come visit to let me know how he was progressing.  I keep envisioning his face and that of his mother. 

In one instant, a life was snuffed out.  And, allow me to be selfish here, but it was not just anyone’s life…it was the life of one of my truly favorite students.  Many students are enjoyable to have in your class, but this student was one of those whom you don’t need to think hard to recall.  I can only hope that I helped to add something worthwhile to his life. 

And since I cannot come up with any more appropriate words than those which I’ve already written, I’ll end this here. . .

A success!

Friday, November 12th, 2010

I just received thanks from a former student of mine who has recently enrolled in her first university science class.  Apparently she was the only person in the class who knew what was going on.  She reported that the “smartest person in the class” was copying notes from HER!  I had taught her for two courses during her high school career, and saw her advance by leaps and bounds.  Her triumphs were always encouraging.  I’m sure this gratitude will continue to remind me that I am not only a “nice teacher,” I am also a successful one.  It is so fulfilling to hear something like this.