Thursday, November 15, 2007

This is what happens...

... when you spend your days with teenagers.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's the little things in life

Last Christmas, my three-year-old, still-making-monthly-payments-on-it, out-of-warranty car decided not to start. Knight is experienced in car maintenance and parts and stuff, and he decided it needed a new starter. He found one and installed it himself.

A few months ago, it pulled the same stunt. The remedy this time? New battery.

A couple of weeks ago, it did it again -- twice in one week. My parents have an extra car, so I borrowed it to get back and forth to work. My dad and Knight took my car to a trusted mechanic. He kept it for a week, but couldn't figure it out. He couldn't get it NOT to start. Figures.

Finally, we decided to call the dealership. I detest dealerships. We bought our car from a GREAT dealership when we were living in Dallas. Then, we moved here, and I can't stand the local one. Fortunately, the next town over has one, too.

I called the service department and described the problem, keeping my fingers crossed that it wasn't something ridiculously expensive. The guy on the phone said he thought it was the ignition, that they've seen this problem before. He said that the part is $30, and the installation is one hour of labor at $100. I asked if it was something that Knight could install, but he said that it has to be programmed due to the security features on the car. Truthfully, I was dancing on the inside because $130??? Is nothing in the world of car repair. They were able to work me in for yesterday a.m.

I didn't really like the idea of spending my Saturday morning at the dealership, but... on the other hand, it was an hour of uninterrupted reading. :) So I drove the 45 minutes to the dealership, checked the car in, and headed to the waiting room. There was only one other man there, reading the newspaper, and the TV blaring Saturday morning cartoons.

I sat on the couch and cracked open my book, which, unfortunately, wasn't something I was looking forward to all that much. I also turned down the TV.

About 30 minutes later, the receptionist for the service department came over to me. "You'll never guess what it is," she says to me. She had a smile on her face, so my heart didn't drop into my stomach like it normally would have, had a mechanic fed me that same line.

"Your key."

Whaaa??? My key had somehow gotten twisted a bit, so it wasn't making contact every single time. This explains the randomness of the starting issues, as well as why Knight was able to start it every single time. Also, the mechanic that had been looking at my car had Knight's key the whole week.

The damage? $7.21. That dealership has a customer for life, because they could easily have ripped me off for $130.


No teacher is an island

There's an adage among teachers that says that we will beg, borrow, or steal to get good lessons that work for our students. Of course, there are a few old battle-axes out there who don't share, but those are the ones who get stolen from. I really don't understand the attitude that says that they are the ones who developed that lesson, so it's only theirs to use. I mean, aren't we all playing for the same team? In the end, it's not about us as teachers. It's about our students, learning to be successful young adults who can think on their own two feet, so to speak.

There are two sides to the coin that is my job. I am THE high school science teacher at my school. I teach five courses -- 8th grade standard physical science, 8th grade honors physical science, 9th grade biology, 10th grade environmental science, and 11th grade chemistry. There is a senior physics class that is taught by one of our math teachers. He loves it, and, honey, he can HAVE it. I've never been a phan of physics. (Couldn't resist.)

On the one hand, I have a certain autonomy. I can pretty much do whatever I please in the way of teaching the lessons, providing, of course, that it's ethical and blah, blah, blah. There isn't really anyone standing over my shoulder, telling me that this lesson should be used for that topic because it's just better.

On the other side of the coin (sorry for the mixed metaphors) is the isolation. I'm in my third year at my school, and this is my third year to teach four of the courses. My method of operation is one of continual self-improvement. I want each year to be better than the year before, both in my classroom procedures and course content. I feel like this is the first year that I've really had my feet under me, with regards to the curriculum, and can begin making it better, instead of just using whatever comes with the curriculum. I should be able to add my own special flair to it... great activities, better labs, etc.

So, along with not having anyone telling me how NOT to do things, I don't have anyone to bounce ideas off of. There isn't anyone with more experience, whom I can consult about a lesson. I'd love to have someone available all the time -- someone whose brain I can pick on a regular basis about each lesson in all five of my courses. Someone who can advise me on how to make it BETTER this year. Someone to waaaaatch overrrrr meeeeee.... Oh, wait. My apologies to Gershwin. (Life should break into song more, though, don't you think?)

Next week, though, I'm going to the CAST conference (Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching). There will be over 400 vendors, each with freebies to hand out. I'm taking about eight 1.5 hour workshops over various topics that I should be able to use in my classroom almost immediately. I'm also taking one four-hour course on hazardous materials issues. I think this one will be the most valuable, since there weren't ANY classes offered for my science education degree on how to handle, store, BE RESPONSIBLE FOR all of the chemicals that we science teachers use on a regular basis. I really don't understand how we're supposed to learn all of that sort of thing. Talk about on-the-job training.

(Side note: When I got the job at my school, the chemical storage was in a metal cabinet that had been EATEN THROUGH on one side by the fumes from the improperly-stored acids. There were mercuric compounds that someone had ordered years ago. There were about 20 bottles of unmarked solutions. Did I have any training on what to do with all of this? NO. I'm still not really sure how to handle all of this stuff. I mean, I know the basics, so I just use the chemicals that I'm comfortable with. I think my chemistry students are missing out on some great stuff, though. Again, it would be nice if there were someone available for consult about this stuff.)

Anyway, the conference is right here in Austin, which means I'll be able to sleep in my own bed every night. It also means I can afford to go to it. What with my school being a private school, they don't have much money to go toward stuff like this. My principal is paying for my substitute for the two days I'll be out, so I don't have to use my personal days, but I have to pay for the actual conference myself. (She did say, however, that she's lobbying the board to provide $500 per teacher next year to take care of things like this.) Fortunately, this one's rather cheap -- $120, which includes a year-long membership in the association that puts on the conference, as well as three smaller ones.

The conference is Thursday, Friday and Saturday next week. One other cool thing -- we have the entire week of Thanksgiving off, so it sort of extends my holiday. ;)

The BEST part is that I don't have to steal anything. They're giving it all away!



There are about eleventy things I could write about... Jet's fever this weekend, my upcoming science conference, Thanksgiving plans, Knight's new job, my car finally getting fixed, our plans to move next summer, things going on at school. I want to write about each one in witty, Mir-esque style, and I know that I could make an entire post out of each one.

I'm just stuck. Blogger's block, if you will. Or maybe it's pencil envy (Mir just writes so well) that keeps my fingers still.

What is this lack of self-confidence??? I'm really not used to it... in fact, I'm afraid I might come across in real life as exactly the opposite. Arrogant, sometimes, about my teaching especially, my parenting, sometimes even my wife-ing (is too a word. Yes, it is. Is, too. Is too. ISTOO!)

*sigh* Well, now that I have that off my chest, let's get on with it, shall we?