This happened over twenty years ago, and it still cracks me up. I’m not going to name the student, but I did provide a clue by using the appropriate school colors.
Tag Archives: Education
Richard Feynman, On Learning New Things
Attention, Teachers of Arkansas!
This is a dangerous time to be a teacher. Each of us needs an organization that looks out for us — and, here in Arkansas, we have one. It’s the AEA (Arkansas Education Association). I’ve been a member for years, and can’t imagine going back to school without my AEA membership, and the protection it offers. The easiest way to join is at this page: https://www.aeaonline.org/join/.
On Reopening Schools
I didn’t write this — it was shared with me. However, I do agree with it.
On Leaving the Brick-and-Mortar Classroom
I’ve been a high school teacher for the last 25 years. I’m also leaving the classroom — but I’m not leaving teaching. Next year will be my 26th year teaching, and I’ve been told that I’ll be teaching on-line, from an office.
This is how we all taught during the fourth quarter of the last school year, except we did it from home, since brick-and-mortar schools shut down, all over the world, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We used screensharing in Google Hangouts (shown above), Google Classroom, e-mail, and lots of other things to finish the school year . . . and we did finish it, successfully. This year, teachers won’t be at home (unless things change, due to the coronavirus), but many of our students will be staying home.
After I’d finished everything up for the 2019-2020 year, I went to school to turn in my keys. At that point, it was obvious that we were likely to have some sort of dual-track system for 2020-2021, with some students receiving instruction at school, and others at home, remotely, using their district-issued Chromebooks. I told my principal that if we did end up doing such a system, that I wanted to be on the “home team.” I don’t want to have to go to school and risk COVID-19 infection, which could then be spread to my family, some of whom are in high-risk groups for this disease. I’ve now received confirmation that I will be a remote-learning instructor next year, presumably working with students from all over the district.
I’m going to miss my old school, both the Sylvan Hills High North Campus and the Sylvan Hills High Main Campus. Sylvan Hills taught me a lot about being a better teacher. As a result, I’m leaving with an improved ability to help students, compared to six years ago, when coming to Sylvan Hills from other schools. My principals at these two campuses deserve a lot of the credit for this. I’ve worked with many administrators over the years, and these two are the ones who have helped me the most in my efforts to become a better teacher.
The coming year will present many challenges. To teach effectively, you have to get to know your students. We’ll be doing instruction and discussions with computers, webcams, microphones, and speakers, so I’m going to have to make a lot of adjustments to get to know my students as real people, while teaching remotely for a full year. The end of the last school year gave me a lot of experience I can build on.
This next year should be interesting, and I am looking forward to it.
These vandalized goggles were found in my science lab at school yesterday. When I tried them on, they literally had me seeing red.
Special PCSSD Board Meeting, 3:00 pm, Saturday, April 28 — Please Attend, and Spread the Word!
Dr. Janice Warren is the interim superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District. It has become clear in recent weeks that she is not being treated fairly by the PCSSD’s Board of Education — even though she is, in my opinion, the best superintendent I’ve ever seen (and I have seen many).
Dr. Warren now needs our help, at a special meeting of the PCSSD school board, at 3:00 pm tomorrow. I’m asking teachers, parents, and other members of our community to come to this meeting, to show our support for Dr. Warren.
Please come to this important meeting if you can — and even if you cannot be there yourself, please help spread the word to others. We need to pack the boardroom tomorrow afternoon!
The Construction of a Zome Model of a 240-Atom Fullerene Molecule, In Seven Pictures
You can buy your own Zome at http://www.zometool.com.
The T-Shirt from the Future: A Short Short Story
Someone nudged my shoulder, stirring me from deep sleep. “Wake up, grandpa,” said an unfamiliar voice. Grandpa? Who’s that? I opened my eyes to see a young woman, dressed in black, looking back at me. Her face was brown, and her eyes looked like deep pools of water.
She smiled. Nothing in twenty-plus years of teaching could have prepared me for this, I thought. I looked around, trying to find my cell phone, without success. Nothing here was like anything I’d seen before. Small lights, like fireflies, circled us in the darkness.
“I know it’s confusing to be called ‘grandpa,'” she said, answering a question I had not yet had the chance to ask. “This is, well, complicated.” Her voice sounded excited, even though she was speaking softly. She reminded me of teachers new to the profession, positively bursting with new ideas, and looking forward, enthusiastically, to the new school year ahead.
“It would have to be complicated,” I mumbled. Sleep was fading as I rubbed my eyes, trying to see where I was. A light came on, but it was unclear where the lightbulbs were. We were alone, inside a blue and white cube. The cube slowly moved, but its direction kept changing. “What am I doing here? Where’s my wife? Where am I, and who are you?”
“So many questions! I expected that, though. I will explain what I can.”
“That’s good, because . . . .”
“Please don’t interrupt,” she said. I stopped talking, but did not stop thinking. It appeared to be time to listen, not talk. “Thank you,” my alleged granddaughter continued. “In order, here are the answers to your questions. First, you are here for an important conversation. Second, your wife is peacefully sleeping. Third and fourth, you’re in my time-travel cube, and my name is Xiahong Al-Nasr. Technically, you’re my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, but . . . .” I raised my hand to ask a question, as if I were in class myself. She shook her head, and continued, “. . . I’ve always thought of you as, simply, ‘grandpa.’ It’s a time-saver. May I continue explaining why we are here, or can your question wait?”
I thought fast. What should I say next? There was only one logical response. “I’ll listen,” I replied, and put my hand back down.
“You’re about to go back to school,” she said, “and you’re the teacher. It’s important that you understand why you are doing what you do, this year, above all others.” This reminded me of advice I’d heard before, but this time I was listening as if I were hearing for the first time.
This woman’s name, Xiaohong Al-Nasr, combined a Chinese given name with an Arabic surname. I hoped she would explain how that had happened.
“You’re wondering about my name,” she said. I swallowed, and nodded. My mouth was too dry to speak. “I’m from the 23rd Century,” she continued. “Nearly everyone where I work and learn, including me, has DNA from every continent on Earth. I’ve also got a little from off-world colonies, but I’m 100% human, just as you are. I was given my name by all of my parents.” She paused. Her gaze was locked to my own. “I’ve been authorized to tell you that much, but I have to be careful about revealing more, to prevent altering the timestream. Do you believe me?”
“If you know anything about me, you know that I teach science, as well as other subjects.” It was a relief to finally have my turn to speak. My alleged descendant, Xiaohong, was listening to me now. Finally! “You’ve either studied me, somehow, or you’re reading my mind, or it’s something else even more complicated, but you seem to know what I know. You must know, then, that scientists are trained to be skeptical. Everything has to have evidence to support it. In science, there is no higher authority than experiment.”
“I understand that, grandpa. We knew you would need evidence, so I do have a gift for you. It’s a t-shirt. You like t-shirts, after all.” Xiaohong smiled, and removed a small capsule from her pocket, no larger than a quarter. She opened it, and — somehow — pulled a full-size t-shirt from that impossibly small place.
I took the t-shirt from my descendant. Touching it was, well, real! I turned it over. It said “Go Bears!” on the back. Even if I believed her, though, I knew I would need more than just a t-shirt to convince anyone else. After all, time travel to the past was considered impossible by every scientist I had studied. Quickly, I did the arithmetic, using the year on the shirt. “That’s the year I would turn 300 years old, if I could live that long!” I was now catching Xiaohong’s excitement. “Clearly, Arthur C. Clarke’s Three Laws apply here, as does the Sagan Standard, Feynman’s First Principle, the grandfather paradox, and — and — and — the entire scientific method!”
“You’re absolutely correct, and it will be important for your students to understand all those things as well.” She was right; these are all things I talked about in science class, every year. This year, though, I can try to explain them differently, or perhaps have my students research them, and then have the students explain them to my class. Correction: my classes. My students. All of them.
Something fell into place in my mind at that moment, and I finally understood what was going on. It wasn’t my own accomplishments that had brought my descendant back in time to visit me, but the unknown creations of a student of mine — from the school year about to begin. Xiaohong smiled.
“You’ve figured it out, haven’t you?” She was asking a question, and, this time, I had the answer.
“Yes. You came back through time to refocus my attention to my own true purpose in the classroom. My job is to help my students learn to do great things. It’s not about me. It’s about them!” Xiaohong’s smile grew larger. I continued. “This school year is critical. This is true of all school years, in fact. Each year is both important, and urgent. In every school, and for every student, we must always do our best to learn — together.”
Xiaohong extended her hand, and received a firm handshake from me. “Now that you know the truth, grandpa, our work here is finished. You’ll wake up in the morning, in bed with your sleeping wife, and after that, you’ll find your t-shirt, in the dryer, at home. I have to go, though; I’m needed back in the 23rd Century. After all, I have my own classes to teach, quite soon, at our Time Travel Academy, where I got your t-shirt. Goodbye, and have a great school year! I know I will, as I continue my training to become a teacher myself.”
“I will do that,” I replied. “Thank you so much! As for this evidence you’ve given me, I know how I’ll handle that. I will let the students evaluate it, with help from me, on an ‘as needed’ basis.”
“Exactly,” Xiaohong said, and then she spoke to the ceiling of her time travel cube. “Send us both back to where we were — now.” A humming sound started, then became louder. The lights began to dim. After a few minutes, everything faded to darkness, and silence, once more.
When I awoke, home again, I checked the dryer, and found it — my t-shirt from the future — waiting for me. This school year will be amazing!
On Taxation, and Representation, in Public Education
The last few years have been rough for education in central Arkansas. The Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD) suffered for years under state control, but local control has now been restored there. The neighboring Little Rock School District (LRSD) was more recently taken over by our state’s Department of Education, and is still in that unpleasant, and unhelpful, state.
When the state government takes over a school district, the people’s representatives (the local school board) are simply dismissed, and the Commissioner of our Department of Education functions as a one-man, unelected “school board.” It’s a situation which robs taxpayers (also known as voters) of any voice in how their schools are run. It doesn’t help instruction at all, which I know because I’ve observed it myself, as a teacher. In my opinion, all laws allowing state takeovers of school districts, nationwide, should be repealed.
During this tumultuous period, there have been three elections about school millages: two in the PCSSD, and one in the LRSD. In the PCSSD, one vote (which failed) happened with that district still under state control. The second in the PCSSD happened yesterday, and this time, the measure passed by a 2-1 margin. What’s the key difference? Simple: when faced with a “taxation without representation” situation, the voters said no. Once local control was restored, the voters said yes.
In the neighboring LRSD, only one millage-related election has taken place recently, and it happened under state control, just like the first of the recent two in the PCSSD. In the LRSD, with their right to representation still denied to them, this ballot measure failed.
The lesson to be learned here is simple: to get support from voters, local control of public school districts must be maintained. We’re Americans; “no taxation without representation” was one of the primary reasons we fought for independence in the first place. Nationwide, it’s part of our story, as a people. Taxation without representation does not work here — specifically because it is un-American. That should be the lesson learned from these three elections.
The PCSSD is free from state control, and things are now improving there. Hopefully, the LRSD will enjoy the same benefit — soon — along with other school districts in the same situation, in our state, and nationwide.