Wednesday, September 29, 2004

the frustrating thing about teaching...

Well, that list wouldn't ever end. One item in particular occupies my thoughts. Thing is, I can bludgeon all these kids into memorizing facts, procedures, and definitions. Enough pop quizzes and phone calls to parents ensure that, at least, they read the text, and briefly retain whatever I put on the review guide. However, my high school students have already been formed, at some nebulous point in the past; they are either Potential Reasoners, or not. Some of them are lazy as all fuck, and do poorly in my class, but I can still see some signs of interest in, say, the concept of relativity. If I give them a problem of a type comparable to, but not exactly the same as, problems I've demonstrated before, they apply some rudimentary problem solving skills in figuring out an approach. They're rarely right (see above, lazy as all fuck), but I can engage them in a conversation, point out how to apply what they know, and lead them in the right direction. Socratic, like.

Other students are industrious, and may even be straight-B students, but learn only what they are told to learn, and exactly what they are told to learn. One hapless girl, in her notes, somehow reversed the word order a definition I had given the class; she then quoted the scrambled version on her chapter test, verbatim. Never did it occur to her that what she had transcribed made absolutely no sense whatever. If I give them a problem similar to, but not exactly the same as, problems previously demonstrated, they're completely lost. As in:

"I don't know how to do this."

"Yes, you do. See, this is a two step problem. In the first step, you're going to find the know how to do that..."

"We haven't had this before."

"Umm, no, not exactly, but if you apply two of the techniques you have had before..."

"I can't do this."

These students are just glorified computers. I could tell them that a five pound rock weighed more than a five pound bag of feathers, and they wouldn't bat an eye. On the other hand, if I ever asked them a question not specifically on the review sheet, man, I'd never hear the end of it. Where did things go wrong? Did someone amputate their ability to think critically, or did it just atrophy for lack of use? Are they idiots, or do they just play one at school?

There is, I guess, a third category of students...those bright students who can reason their way out of a wet paper bag and learn their material. However, since I'm never tutoring them, or remonstrating with them about their 40% average on the past three tests, or lecturing them on why we shouldn't sit on the back of desks, do other people's homework for them, or program their watches to beep at five minutes till noon...I don't get to talk to my bright students much.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I went off to the forest and caught 100,000 fireflies

I had to substitute teach a sixth grade grammar class today. I never got around to learning grammar; my practical knowledge of the English language is strictly a monkey see, monkey do type of thing. Somehow, I got through it without the kids doubting my omniscience. Har. Kids. They're teh dumb.

Although, I'm probably more teh dumb for not knowing the difference between the complex and simple predicate (until today).

when you were young you were the king of carrot flowers

I'm continually being humbled. However, I have yet to acquire the virtue of humility.


There's probably some cunning punch line to this observation, but frankly, it eludes me.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

I have a love/hate relationship with my area of California. On the one hand, this is definitely not a haven for young quasi-intelligentsia. Non-Starbucks coffee shops are few and far between, and more likely to be patronized by tired construction workers than apple laptop using hipsters. I recently discovered the only used bookstore in a fifteen mile radius. It isn't a particularly good bookstore...the prices are a bit high, the selection a bit low. My joy at the mere fact of its existence, though, was enough for me to start a gushing five minute conversation with the bookstore owner (he probably thought I was a crazzzy lady with an Asian cook book fetish). The movie theaters hereabouts are huge and well maintained, the libraries non-existent.

On the whole, this city is a bit of a cultural wasteland. And yet...the gentle ocean breezes and cloud formations and lush coastal vegetation really resonate somewhere in my soul. It's as if a whole tribe of mall-infatuated, tee-vee-watching, suv-driving troglodytes decided, on a whim, to set up shop in the garden of Eden.

where are you going, my beautiful friend?

damn, this morning is gorgeous. I'm going to take a drive after Mass. The Pacific Ocean probably misses me.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

this is my new wallpaper

Wow. Apparently Fry's Electronics is THE happening place on Friday night. Not that, umm, I would spend my Friday nights wandering aimlessly through the compujunk aisles at Fry's. Nope.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Adventures in Definition, part the first:

Me: So, one of our spelling words today is bachelor. Can anyone tell me what bachelor means? Monica?

Monica: Well, I don't like to's too sad.

Me: Umm...

Monica: OK, I will. A bachelor is someone who kills goats, and they skin them...

Me: ?!?!?!!

Me: Oh, what you're thinking of is a butcher!

We had read some rather morbid children's story recently that involved the potential death and dismemberment of Zlateh the Goat...I suppose that's why she brought up goats...

Adventures in Definition, part the second:

Me: So, the Bible is the inspired word of God. Does anyone know where the word inspire might come from?

Class: ....

Me: I'll give you a hint. Think about the word expire. Why might you expire? Yes, Robert?

Robert: Because you are a sinful person, and God decides to kill you.

Me: ....

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The primary school teachers arrived to work today to find that someone had put a brick through the third grade window, and smashed a few other windows for good measure. In addition, the perpetrators had spraypainted satanic messages (sentiments?) on the tarmac, as well as on the playground in front of the school.

The bored-suburban-teenagers-turned-vandals of the world are a bunch of sick bastards.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

You will note the new pseudonym. This is to keep the zombie robot Nazis off of my trail. I appreciate your cooperation.

I haven't been able to reach one of my old friends for some time. Is he dead, or just off doing something irrevocably stupid (odds are, the latter)? Should I just let him go? I hate to lose friends that way, though...not to a quarrel, or a divergence of paths, but simply to an ossification of communication channels...

In other news, I invented a drink I like to call "The Happy Physicist."

1 part triple sec
2 parts tequila
liberal quantities of grapefruit juice
- serve in a chilled glass, over ice

It's a bit of a lazy man's margarita. One per evening staves off the schoolmarm blues.

Bastard Treasure

Check out the English Emblem Book Project. Some very educational stuff, here.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

so beat the drum slowly, play the fife lowly

Once again a late adopter, I got around to trying itunes for windows (for non-technorati: itunes is a program/service put out by apple that allows you to download music tracks to your computer thingie for 99 cents). Slick interface, easy reg process, etc; I was a happy bunny. Then itunes caused windows xp to hard crash in a fashion most dramatic (computer squeals, shuts down completely, then crashes again on attempt to boot up, starts singing "Daisy, daisy..."). Fuck this shit, says I, and delete itunes.

What to do with all the m4p files, though, protected with DRM as they are? After a bit of research, I found a lovely program called jhymn which will convert them to mp4 files (the transposition of the "p" and "4" apparently make all the difference in the world...who would have thunk), so that winamp can play them. Good old winamp. After all these years, still whipping the llama's ass. Fin!

Remember, kids: piracy may be unethical, but it's free, and doesn't completely fuck up your computer.

Friday, September 10, 2004

some days, i think that the key to happiness is keeping too busy to experience depression. the only thing you need to fear are weekends...

Hmm. Also, of late, I'm afraid of falling asleep and waking up as an iteration of Dorothy Parker. There's probably a name for this condition.

If I should labor through daylight and dark,
Consecrate, valorous, serious, true,
Then on the world I may blazon my mark;
And what if I don't, and what if I do?
-Dorothy Parker, Philosophy

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Wow. I guess my night/weekend minutes don't start until 9 pm. Heh...silly me...also, impoverished me...

My classes are going well. If my brain were a little less fried, I would be able to describe the quantative ways in which they are going well. However, to a great extent, I underestimated how dumb kids are. I was worried that they were going to surpass my (meager) learning abilities in physics/algebra I'm worried that I'm not going to be able to get to trigonometry this year. Some of my math students(16 year olds, mind you) still hold fast to the principle that 3/4 < -1. Some of my physics class told me in a forthright manner that theoretical physicists study only things which cannot be observed. All of my classes ask questions like "Should I be taking notes on this?" (yes), or "Is this an open book test?" (no), or "I forgot my pencil. Can you give me a pencil?" (can you give me a dollar?). At the end of the day, my high school classroom is littered with gum wrappers, textbooks, notebooks, small pieces of paper, staples, and, around one or two desks, a fine layer of what looks like potting soil (wtf?!). I'm going to have to give them a "I am not your mom!" speech. Ah yes. But I'll have my revenge...I'm making them go up to the board to demonstrate problems. Mwahahahaha! All right, I promise not to blog about my petty efforts at revenge ever again. I swear, it's like trying to get back at the Mongol hordes with a pocket-sized squirt gun...

Monday, September 06, 2004

I was looking over my graduation photos recently, and am appalled at how terrible I look in all of them. My face expresses the following: "I went through four years of purgatory, and all I got was this lousy matching smock/cap/strangulation hood?!"

On the other hand, I'm really starting to feel sorry for all I put my professors through. The paper triangle flicking. The passing of notes. The crawling under the table and napping. The showing up hung over. The showing up buzzed. The muffled giggling in the corner. The misuse of magnesium and other lab supplies (it burns so pretty!). The sleeping. The kicking of classmates. The throwing of objects at classmates. The reading the assignment in class, and then picking a fight with the tutor. The hiding behind larger classmates to avoid being called on. The shouting matches with classmates. The bringing a windup toy to class. The bringing a live scorpion to class. The general perturbation of Mr. L. The goading of Mr. N. The doodling of insubordinate sentiments on notebook margins. The fact that attending a semester-long math class on Descartes alleviated my ignorance of the locus problem not one whit, tiddle, or jot. The notebooks filled with everything in the universe except notes.

Qua high school teacher, I'm seeing suchlike activities from a very different perspective. Can we all say "irony"?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

sooo...I went out on a date tonight...and the fellow seemed sane, responsible, relatively good looking, intelligent, and fiscally viable. I've never been more bored in my life. How CAN you exist as a human being without having a single interesting experience or amusing anecdote? Or hopes and dreams, for that matter? DAMN, he was boring.

Mature person that I am: rather than pretending to have some sort of work-related emergency and leaving, I drank a moderate amount of beer, and was diplomatic. I wonder if internal laughter can cause hemorrhaging?

Ah yes. Another peaceful Saturday morning, sipping coffee, reading Slashdot, and contemplating the shambles of my apartment.

I have to work on Labor Day (well, technically I don't have to, but I have unfinished projects, and my conscience dictates against doing a half-assed job of things). Pity meeee....

Task: convince a bunch of surly adolescents that math is beautiful. Long division of polynomials is da bomb, kids! Oh wait, you kids don't say "da bomb" anymore? Well, crap.
Task: convince another bunch of surly adolescents that questions about gravity, and the nature of light, and so forth, which puzzled and engaged great thinkers for millenia, should puzzle and engage them as well. Failing that, I'm willing to settle for them not destroying the antiquated lab equipment.
Task: convince a bunch of squirrelly middle schoolers that "Latina est gaudium et utilis!" Yeah. Right. Time to chant conjugations!
Task: convince another bunch of squirrelly middle schoolers that if they can't spell, or if they don't know the difference between a synonym and an antonym, then they will doubtless live a life of squalid penury, and die alone and unloved.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

I am swamped. In addition, I have gmail invites. Does anyone in the universe not have gmail yet? If so, you may invitation, that is...