Friday, September 17, 2010

Pop Goes the Teacher

Today my morning started off great. Things went smoothly in my first class and I got a lot of work done during my prep period. It all went sour after lunch today.

After a 3rd block fiasco where the power went out and all planning for a computer based lesson went out the window, how could 4th hour get any worse? The answer starts with a girl who walked in late with a note and some cupcakes. Knowing that I would forget to un-mark her absence on the computer, I sat down on my exercise ball that I use as a desk chair (for I've found that at the end of the day, my back feels great) and fixed her attendance. I then sat up straight waiting for the possibility that I was going to get my hands on one of those cupcakes that she strolled in with. It was my lucky day, for she started walking over to my desk, and right when she started to extend her arm with the goods, "BLAM," my exercise ball popped.

I wasn't bouncing, there weren't any sharp objects underneath, and my jeans didn't have anything just popped. As I lay on the ground not moving, but just thinking about what happened, I heard comments from the kids "The teacher's Balloon just popped" and "Where did the teacher go" and of course all of this was either accompanied or followed by laughter, I can't remember how it went.

Finally, I got up and the students asked if I was OK, in which I replied that I was. I then pulled up my original desk chair and sat looking at the class. In a very serious tone, I told them "Now nobody is to hear about this." Of course everyone started cracking up, even the girl that never says anything or has no reaction to anything. I then picked up one of the pieces (of which there were 3), stretching it out, then commented that "now my bigger, taller, older brother finally has a swim cap to wear". Again, more laughter.

This continued on for about half an hour in which the kids recapped what had happened and told jokes about the situation. I, of course, found the situation to be funny as well, so I laughed along with them. As you may have guessed, we didn't do very much in class today.

At 2:45 there were 28 students that knew the story of my ball popping. Now, an hour after, I'm guessing that this number has multiplied so that about half the school knows about it...fantastic.

Bling Bling One Dollar Rings

Today we had seminar and I had the kids bring in one dollar bills, so that we could make Bling Bling One Dollar Rings. Some kids obviously forgot and had to work with other dollar bills (which seemed to work out ok, for the most part) and some kids didn't have any money with them, so they worked with someone that did bring a dollar and helped them follow the steps. Even though seminar is only 20 minutes long and some of that is announcements, we were able to finish, although we did have to leave a few people behind that were having some serious struggles. If I hadn't left them behind, then there would have been no way to see the finished product.

I like the idea of doing something interactive and fun with these kids. During today's activity everyone was enjoying themselves and participating, even if they didn't have their own dollar bill.

After sharing my success with a neighboring teacher, she revealed that they celebrate birthdays in their class with cookies and milk. They then sing to the person and have a great time celebrating their special day. After our conversation I went onto my computer and looked to see who has birthdays, and next Tuesday will be our first. I've had this girl in my class before and we have a pretty good relationship, so I think I might surprise her and the class by bringing in cookies and milk.

Also, next week, I need something fun to do with my seminar kids so that they don't look down upon this time and think that seminar is boring and a waste of time. One mission of seminar is to build relationships, and by finding entertaining and bonding experiences, I can do just that. So, I've decided that it would be fun and relationship forming to play a game of "Never have I." Since this game is popular at alcolhol related parties, I will have to set a few ground rules first:
  • All questions are to be school appropriate. If someone (the teacher included) feels that this is an inappropriate comment, that person can say "stranger danger" which means that a new question needs to be asked due to inappropriateness. 
  • The class will form a huge circle in the room, leaving an empty space and a container to shoot for in the middle. Each person will go around the circle and share something that they have never done, "I've never gotten a speeding ticket," and then all those that have had this happen to them will throw a chip into the middle while trying to aim for the container (this will hopefully avoid crazy tosses).
  • All students will be given the same number of pennies, chips, beans, etc (I haven't really decided which will work best) and the person with the most at the end will win a prize.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mystery Lights

Earlier this summer with my parents, I got to talking about the Mystery Lights that can be seen in the Silver Cliff Cemetery. Amazingly, both of them had not only heard of the lights, but they were very interested in checking them out. So, early this week I emailed them and asked if they would like to come down for the weekend to check out the cemetery on Saturday night. Even though one of their dogs was having trouble with a dislocated hip, they managed to make the trek down to my part of the state.

When we arrived in Silver Cliff, the moon was dropping below the horizon, and the stars blanketed the sky. Our first stop of the night was the Silver Cliff cemetery, as this is the first cemetery that you encounter as you head down the dirt road. We drove through the lot and parked, facing the entrance, so that we could see the entire piece of land. We stayed here for about an hour, checking out different quadrants from the car. One quadrant was difficult to see into because of two bright lights that were shining from the nearby town of Westcliffe, which we later found out was a small horse arena. In the rest of the cemetery we thought we saw some lights, but quickly realized that they were cars in the distance, reflections on gravestones or the reflectors that frequent the graveyard, or the lights from nearby houses.

After the hour of non-excitement, we decided to check out the other cemetery down the road: The Assumption. Not only is the name scary, but the huge cross that stands in the middle of the tombstones is even scarier. We sat in the this plot of land for a good hour with nothing out of the ordinary, when in the distance I noticed lights coming from the other cemetery. After watching through a tree, I exited the car and went in for a better look. After watching the lights move around, I called for my dad and he came over to get a better look. After a few minutes, I suggested that we shine our flashlight at the lights. While shining our lights in that direction we noticed that the lights seemed to mimic our own lights. Since this was the most excitement of the night, I suggested that we head back to the other cemetery and check it out. So we jumped in the car and headed over to the other site. 

On arrival, we noticed that a car that was not there before, was parked outside of the gate. We quickly came to realize that the lights we had seem were the flashlights from other paranormal enthusiasts. Not knowing where they were in the cemetery, we drove our truck in and stopped just inside the gate, not really considering that we were blocking the entrance. After a few moments, we saw the flashlight beams of the other adventurers. My dad, careful not to get himself killed, was worried that it might be a group of thugs looking for a fight; or even worse, that it was a group of paranoids that carried firearms with them. 

So with only a flashlight in my hand, I exited the car. As the group approached I yelled, "Are you guys looking for the mystery lights too?" A response came back, "Sir, we can't hear you. We'll be there in a second." As they approached I greeted them, not able to see their faces, when one of the apparitions, replied with "Hey, It's Witkowsky!" Within seconds, I realized that I had encountered about eight former students from the high school in which I teach. About an hour from our town, we ran into each other and gave one another a fright. They too, first became started when they saw our flashlights in the distance, and then became even more afraid as I drove from one cemetery to the other, fearing that I was a murderous psycho killer that had come to hunt them down, after all, I had trapped them inside the cemetery. One of the guys even admitted to dropping to the ground and making himself invisible to the cemetery's interlopers, when we had entered a dimmed our headlights. They then talked about the different ways that they had envisioned their demise within the place of death...all ideas we laughed about whole heartily. While I talked with my former students, my parents remained in the car, laughing about the whole situation and the conversations we endured. 
Apparently, they went out to the cemetery looking not for the lights, but for a gravestone with American flags attached. The story that they had heard involved three flags on the grave, as one flag was rumored to wave with the wind, the one on the opposite end would fly in the opposite direction, and the one in the middle would remain motionless. After talking with one of the guys on Facebook, they claim to have found what they were looking for and apparently, they will be posting pictures to their page sometime soon. (Picture posted to blog on 9-25-2010. Photo by Devon AfroThunder)

Even though we didn't see the ghost lights, we did enjoy our time together. We spent much of the time telling old stories and getting caught up with our current lives, which can be difficult to do when you live hours apart. Even though I wish my wife would have partook in the night's adventure, I'm happy that she didn't, for I would not have enjoyed her complaints and tiredness that she has with the paranormal. For those of us who did attend the investigation, we enjoyed spending time together, seeing a few shooting stars, and most enjoyable, running into the unexpected.

Friday, September 10, 2010


This year our school has introduced a 20 minute period of the day called seminar. The purpose of seminar is to allow time for announcements, the pledge of allegiance, and then a short lesson or activity to help them in their school endeavors.

With the second week of school complete, I've found that the lessons that we are suppose to teach can be kind of dull when you explain to them. Also, many of the lessons are short and don't require much time to implement. In fact, today, my seminar students asked if we would be doing anything fun during this time rather than me lecturing to them. I asked for their ideas, but didn't really get to many answers. Therefore, after class I went onto Google and looked for some ideas. Here are a few of the sites and ideas that I found.

  • Even though I teach in a public high school, this Christian Bible Study Page has some great icebreakers. I obviously wouldn't use the ones that involve religion, but I do like some of the ideas presented on this page. There is also a game, which I'm familiar with in other contexts outside of school, that would be fun as long as it was kept school appropriate. The game "I've Never" can be found here.
  • I think it would be good to have on the overhead each day a fun question to which it might start a conversation with the class. One site I found for this is a form of Would You Rather?.
  • If students could remember to bring in a $1 bill then I think it would be fun to do some origami with them. One that I've done and that usually doesn't take very long is the $1 Bill Ring.
  • In order for the students to feel a connection with their seminar group, which will be the same throughout their four years at the high school, I think it would be fun to adopt a Seminar Mascot. And what better way to show our Seminar pride then to have a flag which displays our mascot. Obviously, for students to take part in this, it would be necessary for the students to suggest ideas and then vote on designs and ideas that they like the most.
  • One thing that I would like to incorporate from my Capturing Kids Hearts training is to add words of encouragement at the end of each session. Since I struggle to be the most affectionate guy, I'm going to have to find encouraging words and stories in books and on websites.
So, on Monday I'm going to prompt my students to choose a mascot and to design a flag in which we can then vote on. Hopefully, after getting things off to a more energetic start, I will be able to find additional things to do that are entertaining for the students.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Smart at Math is the Turtle, For Each One will Love Figuring out a Wordle

The other day for my statistics class I gave a warm-up, which actually worked out to be a really good lesson on its own. Before I get into exactly what I did, it is important to know what a little bit about wordles. From, a "Wordle is a toy for generating 'word clouds' from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends."

At the beginning of the semester, I gave a survey to all my students. One of the questions asked the students to list one word that they feel best represents math. I then took these words, compiled them, and copied and pasted (since they were originally in a Google Document) them into the Wordle website.

I then created another document that included a table. In the first column, I included every word that was included on the Wordle and if some were on the list multiple times, I made sure to only include it once. The second column was labeled "Number of People" and the third column was labeled "Percentage"; both of these columns were then left blank, so that the students could fill them in.

Each student was given a sheet of paper, where on one side they were given the Wordle and on the other side they were given the table. Using only the fact that 72 students were polled, their job was to figure out the percentage of people that gave each word.

At first, some students pulled the lazy card and made comments like, "This is too hard," "Can you give us any hints," or "Are you trying to make us feel stupid, because you're doing a good job at it." As I walked around, I saw a few kids writing 1% for the smallest words, so at this point I brought everybody together and asked them if it would be possible for the smallest words to be considered 1%. I had to show them that x/72=0.01 would give them a fraction of a person.

After this, most of the students were able to figure it out on their own, although a few students still needed an additional hint. The hint that I gave was for them to use the entire table when trying to figure out the percentage of students, and not just the column marked for "percentage."

Overall, I loved using this website for my class. It provided an activity that made them think and helped them to grasp the idea of percentages on tables and graphs.