School is in session

We are all back in school now and settling into the routine that guides the larger part of our lives. It’s an old routine, but also new. New for me with my new position as a STEM Coach instead of a classroom teacher and new for the kids as they move up a grade to different teachers and classes (and in my son’s case to a new school – junior high). We are still struggling with getting to bed on time and up so early in the morning; sleeping in is an aspect of summer we all enjoy. It’s commonly in the high 80s and low 90s with dripping humidity which makes it even more pleasant to escape to the air conditioned schools!

Summer ended (the vacation, not the season) with an unexpected event. The weekend before I returned to school my oldest daughter had to have emergency surgery. She was volunteering at a camp for kids when she started having a sharp pain in her side. Ever the stoic, she ignored it for a day, taking ibuprofen and hoping it would get better. The camp didn’t have a nurse on staff so she finally texted me to come get her. We went straight to urgent care and after waiting there for 2 hours they sent us to the emergency room.

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Where we waited some more until in the wee hours of Sunday morning, after blood tests and a CAT Scan, we were told she had acute appendicitis and needed surgery. Luckily she came through with flying colors and was released Monday. She then had a bit of a relapse due to an infection but fought that off and is on the mend.

My new job has gotten off to a slow start as the week before school started the assistant superintendent (who oversees the STEM program) resigned to take a new job! The new assistant superintendent is my old principal. These two men, while friends, have diametrically opposite ways of thinking and doing things. The first is a strategic, long-term planning sort, the latter a jump in and get it done fellow. Even so he hasn’t wanted to jump in on someone else’s planned path but to blaze his own. So we are backing up to go forward and if you have to do that it’s best done before you really get started!

I’m working in both the Junior High and High School and have a small office in the former and a large classroom in the latter. I’m teaching one class – computer science in science class- at the Junior High and consulting with teachers on ways they can bring collaborative, hands-on STEM projects into their classroom. For instance a social studies teacher who has a unit on Africa coming up wants to do a STEM project on drought. The 7th grade science teachers have a unit on soil so we are looking at some projects on what sorts of soil retain water. And the PE teacher at the high school does a cardboard boat regatta that’s hands on and lots of fun but wants to make it more academic so we’re getting with the physics teacher to add some math and physics to it.

I think this job will be a good fit. It’s very creative and requires a lot of research which is my forte. I’m enjoying teaching one class and the kids are very engaged. We have covered the basics of Code.org’s programming system (StarLogo Nova) and are about to program a computer model of an epidemic. I’m co-teaching so next year the science teacher can take over the class (and maybe I’ll co-teach something new). I have a lot more freedom (no more first lunch at 10:14 AM, or hall duty) and I’m feeling like I can breathe again. I’m hopeful that this year, and the STEM program will be a success.

Posted in 2nd Career, back to school, education, school, science, STEM | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Back to School

Wow. Where did the summer go? This afternoon I caught myself thinking that it was back to school next Wednesday and then I realized that I’m going in tomorrow to help with the chrome book distribution, and on Friday to finish moving things out of my classroom to my new space. Then Monday and Tuesday I have meetings relating to the STEM program. Wednesday is the first teacher day. So really summer is already over for me.

It was a short, busy, hot summer – and regular air conditioned days will certainly be one of the perks of going back to school. It really has been miserably hot here (as in much of the country) so very little got accomplished out of doors. The patio was not enlarged, nor was the porch reattached to the house. The driveway is still a muddy (when it rains) mess of dirt ruts. I skipped the garden this year except for some container plants on the patio table, strawberries that never really produced, cherry tomatoes, peppers and basil. Not exactly the self sustaining farmstead I had once pictured! I so admire our ancestors who not only did not have air conditioning and had to haul water, but did so in heavy, bulky dresses and petticoats. Needs must, I suppose.

The kids, who start school a week after I do, are also looking forward to returning to the cool school routine and seeing their friends. We were out of school but didn’t have a vacation per se aside from a few days of camping at the beginning of June (before it became too hot for such pleasures) with an old grad school buddy of mine and her daughter. Each year I think, this will be the year we take a family trip but it never happens.  I did get away – I went to a total of 10 days of teacher workshops – rocks and minerals, climate dynamics, reading, and computer science as well as attending online webinars and classes. I believe I logged enough professional development hours to fulfill the next two years of required training!

My new job, STEM Coach, is at this point not well defined due to the resignation of the assistant superintendent a week after I was hired. His replacement is my old boss/principal and since we are  pretty much at the very beginning of the program he prefers to back up to start over so he can be sure we’re headed in the direction he wants the program to go. I have a big ex-computer lab at the High School and a warning that some of the teachers will be resistant to any suggestions that they change their teaching methods and a small cubbyhole at the Junior High but more teachers on board with the idea of incorporating STEM.  I will also co-teach one class at the Junior High with the new 7th grade science teacher- computer science in science. Should be interesting since I’ll be only a step or two ahead of the students in this one! I am feeling a bit at loose ends in my new job but plan to start with research (one of my favorite things) and lots discussions with teachers of all subjects. I suspect it will be a bit slow going to begin with.

August will be a challenging month with the new position, kids returning to school and only one paycheck for the entire month. The weather will no doubt continue to be hot and humid as well. Once September rolls around we should be settled into the school routine and the days will hopefully be cooler.

Posted in back to school, heat wave, Job, new job, school | Tagged | 2 Comments

It’s heating up around here

Have you heard? Have you noticed? It’s heating up around here. I notice – it’s hard not to when you drive a car with no air conditioning and live in a metal house with only a small AC unit to ameliorate the oppressive heat.

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The temperature today when I left my workshop.

Today we, like many of you, are under a heat advisory as a heat dome blankets the middle of the country bringing triple digit heat indices. The thermometer might say 95° F but the humidity makes it feel as though it’s over 100°F! It is recommended that we stay indoors in air conditioned rooms, drink plenty of water and be careful not to leave pets or children in vehicles (something that happens all too often; the number of hot car deaths (children) in the first half of 2016 has already doubled over last year’s total).

2016 is setting up to break records. It is the hottest year on record:

Each of the first six months of 2016 set a record as the warmest respective month globally in the modern temperature record, which dates to 1880, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York.

Additionally 2016 is setting the record for the smallest extent of Arctic sea ice. This is important because the less ice there is the more radiation from the sun is absorbed instead of reflected out to space. That means the ocean becomes warmer. A warmer ocean melts more ice (icebergs are melting from underneath as well as from above), leading to a feedback loop of worsening conditions. The oceans are currently warmer now than at any time in the past 50 years. Warmer oceans also lead to more severe storms- tropical storms and hurricanes. This article, “Warmer Oceans, Stronger Hurricanes” is a good explanation of the phenomena.

Climate change is real. This is not in dispute in the global scientific community. It is happening now and it will affect you, your children and grandchildren.It is not somebody else’s problem. Yes, it is a huge and daunting problem but it won’t go away if we stick our heads in the sand or say ‘What can I do? I’m just one person.’ We all have a responsibility to educate ourselves on this topic. Here are a few good places to start:

Climate Interactive. Try out their climate model – see how changing the way we conduct our lives might help keep our grandchildren safer. Read about the many global initiatives that are underway – it will make you feel less alone in tackling the problem.

NASA Global Climate Change. This website is full of up to date data, studies, news and resources. You’ll be proud of the work our great space agency is doing in this area.

NOAA. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA works to keep citizens informed about the changing environment.

All three of these organizations rely on good science and cutting edge resources and technology. They are a good place to find information. I intend to do my part to inform the students, teachers and parents with whom I work.  I hope you’ll check these and other reputable websites out and stay informed about this challenge that confronts all of us.

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Quick note – I’m blogging while out of town at a workshop. Our internet has gone out at home and I can’t afford the fee for the technician to come out so once I’m home I will not be able to respond as quickly to comments. Be patient – I’m sure we’ll go to the library to get out of the heat and I can log on there!

Posted in climate change | Tagged , , | 2 Comments