Archive | July, 2012

Test Anxiety

20 Jul

I’m a performer. I routinely do insane things on stage, that most people would be terrified of doing. And secretly, I’m terrified, too, but I go on stage and dance or speak or improvise and I LOVE IT. And I always know beforehand that I’m going to love it.
Taking tests, though – I hate them. I don’t know why, I’ve always been a decent student. I freaked out before taking the PSAT and the SAT and the ACT, and I did really well on all of them. I panicked before taking the WEST B and the WEST E for Elementary Education, which are two tests required to teach elementary school in Washington. I passed them both.

Tomorrow I’m taking the WEST E for middle school Humanities and Math, and I am more nervous than I have been for anything, in a very long time.

I know the material – I can do middle school math. And I’m not worried about social studies and language arts.
I already talked to the program adviser and he told me that I was NOT going to be kicked out of the program if I don’t pass this time – I just have to re-test in September. So it’s not like it’s the end of the world if I do poorly.
However, that doesn’t make me feel any better.

Math, math, math.

I used to love it. And this is exactly why I WANT to teach middle school math – in middle school, I didn’t understand geometry and my teacher didn’t explain it and for the first time in my life I wasn’t a high achiever. I tried and I tried, but I couldn’t figure out the math.

I can do geometry. I do geometry on a regular basis. I build things and sew things and garden and do all these things that require geometry. But I got a bad grade (I didn’t even fail, I think I got a C) in one class and it changed my whole outlook on math.

I want to be a better math teacher than that.

But first I have to (wo)man up and pass this test.

On the plus side – I will never dismiss my students who have test anxiety. It’s real, and it’s crippling.

Letter to the editor, 5th grade style

12 Jul


This image was Tweeted by the Washington Post’s Ron Charles. He said: “Our favorite correction letter ever, from 5th graders @ Burning Tree E.S. in Bethesda MD.


People actually do read letters your class sends out! And they like them!

Food Journal Reflection

10 Jul

Remember the food journal we had to keep? Well, I did it, even though I was not excited about it. I knew it was a good exercise and completely saw the point, I just hate focusing on what I eat.

I didn’t learn a lot. I could stand to eat more vegetables, but we all do. When I have to be somewhere in the morning I can’t eat before I go, so I generally grab something – yogurt, a cornbread muffin, etc, to go with. When I’m not heading out the door I try to make a veggie omelet or fritatta. I drink a lot of coffee. I should drink more water. I should get more exercise and more sleep.

To make matters worse, I got sick in the middle of my journal-keeping, so there are about three days of “chicken soup, tea, water, ginger ale, water, tea, chicken broth, 2 hour nap,” etc… Not exactly demonstrative of my actual life.

In the long run, though, I feel like I am a healthy eater. I don’t eat processed food – because for the most part, I can’t. I don’t eat white bread and pasta – because I can’t. I cook a lot because I love it and because I have to. I eat more vegetables than the average American – according to many studies people eat three or less servings of fruit or veg a day. I eat whole grains like quinoa and brown rice. I don’t drink soda.

After the first week, one thing was apparent – I wasn’t getting much exercise. I have gone from: walking to  work (45 minutes each way); standing, walking, and lifting books and boxes for 8 hours while at work; then walking home, to: walking about 5 minutes; catching a bus; sitting on a bus; sitting in a classroom; sitting on a bus; walking home; sitting and doing homework. Suddenly I am VERY sedentary. Not good for my body or my psyche.

So I resolved to eat more vegetables and get more exercise. I signed up for Hot Yoga with a friend and have actually gone! Three times! Hot Yoga is HARD. But awesome. I got up early enough to make myself a spinach scramble… but then I felt sick because I don’t like eating that early – so I’m going to have to come up with some better way to transport a healthy breakfast to school with me.

I could have gotten more exercise if I wasn’t sick, and today I started a running program that I hope to continue… forever, I guess. I got my bike from my parents house and have started tuning it so I can ride with my manfriend. Am I doing all of this because of my food and activity log? I don’t know. I was already planning on running. Manfriend loves to bike so I already wanted to get started doing that. But maybe this activity brought it to the front of my mind. Maybe it gave me the little push I needed to really get going.

I think having students keep food an activity logs could be a great teaching tool – you don’t have to tell them what they are eating is good or bad, but you can teach them what foods are healthy (and why!) and let them draw their own conclusions about their diets. You can incorporate math and science by counting calories, discovering portion size, and even cooking. A nutrition unit could include creating a school or class garden (another passion of mine). There are a lot of really cool things you could do with a food and activity journal, depending on age.


What did you do last Thursday?

10 Jul

I held a human brain.

I also got to see samples of liver, lung, and two hearts. Some of the organs were cancerous or otherwise damaged (one of the hearts was enlarged – probably because of chronic high blood pressure) but the brains were normal. And cool. And heavy!

Our last day of our health teaching methods, we met in the science building and first heard a lesson about the human brain, complete with edible Jell-O models. I always knew that fish was “brain food” but never really knew why – it’s because most fish (like salmon) contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids, which help your brain function. Other brain foods: berries, nuts, eggs, broccoli, lean meats, and whole grains (for me that means brown rice and quinoa, for you non-glutards it also includes whole wheat and barley).

Then we moved to the lab. Some cool brain activities were done, but the main event was human organs. I was excited, then I got queasy and had to leave the room for a while, but I rallied and held a human brain in my (gloved) hands. I got to see the different parts, and feel how heavy it is – it’s much heavier than you would think!

What did you do Thursday? I’ll bet you didn’t do anything cooler than that!

Lets talk about sex, baby.

5 Jul

I honestly don’t remember having the “sex talk” with my parents. I’m sure we did, but I must have been so embarrassed I blocked it out. The thought of teaching Sex Ed to my students is… intimidating.

I read an article the other day about a study that found 1 in 3 eleven-year-olds have been in a “girlfriend/boyfriend relationship.”  Teens are also having sexual contact at young ages. It’s important for us as teachers to be resources for our students who may not feel comfortable talking to their parents about sex.

One of my classmates pointed out to me the difference in attitudes about age-appropriate sex-ed between parents and non-parents in our class. It seemed that those of us who have children thought that sixth grade was too young to talk about certain aspects, while those of us without children thought that we should talk about everything kids ask about.

It’s a protection thing, I know – humans are hard-wired to protect their children, and sex is a risky behavior – physically and emotionally. I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, and my views may change when I am one – but for now, I think it’s important to give children information, or they may attempt to discover things on their own, which could be worse.

I have a cousin with two beautiful children – but she’s younger than me, and had to drop out of her pre-med program because she didn’t know that antibiotics could interfere with her birth control pills. She grew up in Texas, with abstinence-only sex ed, and absolutely no talk of birth control in schools. She is lucky because she has a beautiful family, loving husband, and is now continuing her education. But her life could have been different with a little education.

Even if we don’t want to think about young teens having sex, they might be. Even if it is uncomfortable for us to teach young teens about birth control, they will most likely need it – if not now, then when they are older.

Isn’t it better to start a conversation, to let kids know it’s not bad or embarrassing to talk about sexual health, then to discover later that you could have helped?


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