Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Balls-y Move

Yeah, that's me and my students.
It's tough to get 8th graders interested in chemistry & physics.  Hell, it hard to get me interested in chemistry & physics.  I'm more the life sciences teacher type, but that gets taught to my 7th grade class.    For those of you who do not know, I teach in a "challenging" environment.  My students are more into gangs, drugs, and sex than they are into elements, molecules and Newton's Laws of Motion.  

In my attempts to bring it to the level of my "criminally gifted" audience, I have turned to my love of movies.  (Little snippets to grab their attention, if it doesn't put them to sleep the minute the lights go out.)  For this little lesson I turned to a certain film featuring a young hunky Ben Affleck and my Moonlighting crush Bruce Willis, called Armageddon.

We were studying the difference between weight and mass.  One being the amount of matter an object has and the other having to do with the gravitational pull against that mass.  Now you can imagine what kind of snooze-fest it was in my classroom.  Seriously, the only thing my students want to know about weight and mass is how much does a dime bag really weigh and how many buds would that mass have in it.  Anyway, I decided to use a clip from the movie that shows the oil-drillers training for their walk on the asteroid.  In this clip, Bear (Michael Clark Duncan) is not paying attention to Astronaut Watts instructions.  Being the good instructor that she is, Watts gets Bear's attention and tells him she is trying to teach him how to use his suit, so that if she were to kick him in the balls, he wouldn't go flying off into outer space.

Oh, don't get all uppity on me about the balls comments.  If you worked in my classroom you would understand that saying "balls" is about as benign as saying "hoo-hoo".  My kids can conjugate the F-bomb like nobody's business, so showing a movie clip where they say the word "balls" is nothing.  Get over it.  

Anyway, I used Bear's predicament as our scenario.  First I ask "What would happen to Bear if Watts kicked him in the family jewels while Bear was still on earth?"  After several comments about Bear kicking Watts' behind after he could walk again, and how they would kick someone's @$$ if a chick did that do them - we get to the point.  The point being that the earth has gravity holding Bear to the ground.  It's what makes Bear weigh so much.  I then ask "Why would Bear fly into outer space if Watts kicked him in the family jewels?"  The right answer is because the moon does not have gravity.  It takes a few minutes for them to catch on.

Next we move on to the topic of mass.  "Now did Bear change in size when he went to the moon?" I asked.  No.  He is still the same size.  His mass does not change.  It remains the same on the moon as it is on earth.  This they seemed to grasp fairly quickly, so we return to the weight portion and start to review.

Again, I ask "Where would Bear go if he was kicked in the pants on earth?"  Answers varied from falling on his knees and crying to beating the snot out of Watts.  Eventually we get to the idea that he does not leave the earth's atmosphere because the earth has gravity and Bear has weight.  

Then I make the fatal mistake.  I ask "Where would Bear go if Watts kicked him in the pants while he was on the moon?"  Silence.  Then the lone voice from the back of the room shouts...............................WAIT FOR IT..............  "He'd go to Uranus!"  The class erupts and students (OK, and teachers) spent the next 20 minutes trying to regain some composer.  Yep, another fine teaching moment brought to you by Ms. Tastrophie's Criminally Gifted & Talented 8th Grade Class.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Do You Make?

Miss Tastrophie has been around.  At least in the terms of her careers.  In previous lives she has been a secretary - want to know who knows all the company dirt?  The secretary.  Trust me people, do not piss her off, because the secretary can turn your life to a living hell with the flip of a Rolodex.  A waitress - where she learned that she really was not meant to serve the masses.  You want your order right and not to get charged for drink refills?  Be nice to the waitress.  You want a watered down scotch & soda - piss her off.  You want to afford oh so cute Coach handbag - get another job.  A bartender, but that didn't last long - something about the vodka being for the patrons, not the bartender to suck down with her ho-ho's during her many "union" breaks...whatever. A personal assistant - ditto to the secretary thing here.  And a health information systems analyst - yeah, it was as boring as it sounds, but the perks and pay made up for the "dork" factor.  Plus, it put Ms. Tastrophie in too cute hand bags and shoes for several years.  But for the past three years, Ms. Tastrophie has been living a different, sensible shoes and handbag life as a teacher...and I FREAKING LOVE IT!!! 

Granted, the kids I teach are among some of the best "criminally gifted and talented" this town has to offer, the pay is somewhere below that of an indentured servant, and whoever told you that you get summers off was full of sh*t, but I love it.  I work harder now than I ever did when I was a corporate drone.  The one thing that I have noticed about teaching is that since I have become a teacher, people seem to think I have lost some I.Q. points.  As if the brain I had when I was answering the phones, shuffling drinks, or telling people that their ERM was FUBAR had suddenly disappeared.  But my favorite part of teaching has to be when people belittle what I do.  And it is usually done by some pompous @$$ who thinks his job is soooooo much more important because he has a litany of initials behind his name.  I especially love it when he/she equates my non-existent income with what I make.  

So recently I was sent the following little tidbit of humor that I found slightly appropriate for dealing with those snug @$$ people who don't realize that if it wasn't for some poor teacher way back in their life; they wouldn't be so smug.  I don't know who wrote it, but they are forever in the heart of Ms. Tastrophie - 'cause you know she loves a good comeback.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.  One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a
teacher?"  To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie .
Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make?  (She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ student feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make? (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn't everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math. They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, One Nation Under God, because we live in the United States of America .

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

( Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make Mr. CEO?