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Monday, July 31, 2006

Brainiac Thermite and Liquid Nitrogen

This is an interesting demonstration for my science students to view.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

My Sunday Morning "Laptop Rant"

If you are reading this you must have lots of time for thinking, early on Sunday morning. In rural North Carolina, the birds are making their morning noises, and the traffic on old 74 Highway, outside my home, is peaceful. With gas at $2.98 per gallon, one would expect only those with a nicotine habit or the baby needing diapers, or a fool would be on the roads unless it was an emergency. The AC is running and the ceiling fan is on high. As I sit here reflecting on how much difference 24 hours makes, it was 97 degrees yesterday. Going to be hot as heck again today. With a nice breeze blowing and the shade of an old loblolly pine, it was almost pleasant. I convinced myself, with some loving help from my wife, to use my new Black and Decker hedge trimmer to trim four over grown Red Tips in the yard. (product placement time- wink) The hedge trimmer model I bought was battery powered. That tool must have been designed by my clone, because it has a limited run time. The moment both my arms were about to fall off, the battery began to die. Halleluiah Brother! I just smiled at my wife and said this dang battery is about dead. That was all it took. She has known me log enough to know I was so darn happy that be battery was dead. She said it would be ok to stop. My Saturday of yard work was almost finished; Black and Decker battery powered hedge trimmer-- my new best friend. I put the trimmed branches in the bed of my F150, filling it to capacity, and drove them to a brush pile on our property for composting. It was time for a cold shower and a power-nap.

My family deliberately sleeps late on Sunday. I got up early to take the dog for a walk. My arms are still weak from running that hedger the morning before. They will be sore on Monday. I need to get back in the gym. This hot weather saps my energy and I just can’t stand burning four dollars worth of gas to drive round-trip to Whiteville. It might be worth it, but for now, the heat is my excuse.

I really think watching TV depresses me way too much. All I see on TV is death and destruction on the news, violence and sassy-talk on the networks, and sex and drugs on FX, and the rest of satellite TV. If junk food can make one fat, then a diet of junk TV can make your brain fat...hum could this be is a good analogy? Basically, this is one of the issues education is in such a bad state in the US. No one has the guts to really stick there necks out and say, ok, our kids watch way to much brain junk food, they are eating to much crap and developing diabetes and other weight related maladies and we are way to spoiled. Take for example, borrowing from the words of an AP writer concerning the 10-day power outage in the Queens, New York:

City Council hearings on the blackout are scheduled for Monday, while a state Assembly hearing is scheduled for Thursday. On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, demanded an investigation of the utility's power grid capacity and infrastructure.

"It's clear we need an independent assessment of what ails the power grid before we have another blackout," the senator said in a statement.

On Friday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-NY, toured the affected Queens streets and called the outage "a classic case of blunder after blunder."

Clinton asked the president to declare the neighborhood a disaster area, a step that could trigger federal aid.

Officials working for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who resisted taking that move, said they don't believe the aftermath of the blackout meets federal criteria for a disaster.

New York Gov. George Pataki asked the federal government to offer low-interest disaster loans to Queens residents who suffered heavy losses.


By watching and listening to news from that region, you would have thought they had been hit by a terrorist attack. Special news bulletins, speeches from the mayor, hello, the flipping power grid broke and it takes time to fix it. Federal Disaster? PLEASE, it's a potential scam artist epidemic.

When North Carolina citizens were hit by hurricanes, and the power was off for nearly 15 days, folks just shook their heads and said thank God we are alive. I was appalled by the way folks that were interviewed in the Queens area and were asked how much business they lost during the power outage and one restaurant owner had the gall to try to say he lost $40,000 in business. Ah, from the looks of the diner, he would be lucky to have $40,000 of business in a whole year. Well it isn't a New Yorker thing, do not misunderstand what I am trying to say. Just look at all the reports of those Katrina scams. They are enough to make a taxpayer throw their hands up and demand that the next natural disaster, just let the victims fend for themselves. What is wrong with PEOPLE? This same mentality spills over into our schools.

IMHO, we are in deep poop and not a whole heck of a lot we can do to dig out of it in a hurry...PEACE

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The 100 science fiction books you just have to read!

Looking for something to do before school starts back? Tired of watching the crap on TV- re-runs and talk about a possible WWIII and the junk on YouTube?
READ!!!
Here is good place to start.
"Take my word for it; all science fiction books are not created equal. Many of these novels are award winners, and most have inspired profound trends in science fiction."

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Jellyfish swam N.C. shoreline

My daughter is visiting friends at the beach.  I hope she does not get stung. 

Here is what to watch for: (I know she is not reading this but, it makes me feel better)


CAROLINA BEACH -- Biologists at the Fort Fisher Aquarium say the recent tropical storm may be to blame for an over-abundance of jellyfish in local waters.

Several people are recovering Thursday from painful stings they got at Carolina Beach.

They're fun to see all lit up in an aquarium tank, but you don't want to run into jellyfish out in open water. Unfortunately our shore is seeing a spike in jellyfish numbers.

Fort Fisher aquarist Sandra Johnson said, "The recent tropical storm and other storms we might have during the summer just increases the wind speed, and jellies are dependent on winds and currents, so that pushes them ashore."  Source: WWAYTV3.com webpage.


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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Informal Mentoring- Writing Your First Pacing Guide

Time is flying by during this summer break from teaching.

This week, a second year 6th grade science teacher asked an interesting question of me. How do I know what to teach so I can cover our standard course of study? That was an easy one of me to handle. Pacing Guides are what teacher calls them. My brother is an engineer and tells me they call it project management. I do not think this 6th grade teacher would want to devote the energy create a spreadsheet or database to track progress in his class. He knows how to check his email, make a CD play music on a computer, and how to search the web to find out who to call to book a goose hunting trip half way across the US. I do not mean anything ugly by this, he just does not have time to sit in front of a computer and click a bunch of boxes to keep up with data. Heck, there are not very many teachers that want to spend that kind of time on progress reporting. Electronic grade books are nice when it comes to printing out progress reports and averaging columns of grades. But it takes hours to set the preferences and enter assignments and then go back in and update the grades...

Personally, I hate electronic grade book programs. We are required to put numerical values on student assignments, heck it is the law. But, the law does not say you have to use electronic grade books- yet. I prefer portfolio assessments, but back to the pacing guide. I told him to get his teacher's edition and drop by the house and we would do some planning.

Over the past 20 years, I have made many many pacing guides. There are a few tricks that I have learned about hacking out these roadmaps to success. Now, these tips are not the only way to attempt them, they are straight from my thoughts. No, I not a PhD and do not play one on TV.

Materials needed for creating your own pacing guide for your 6th grade science class:
Computer, word processing program, printer and paper, photocopy machine, plastic tape and scissors, School Calendar, and testing schedule, length of class period devoted to science. This is important. If your school teaches science all year, which is best in humble opinion, or like some schools that teach science half the school year and social studies the rest of the year, this means you have to compress or layer the curriculum. Photocopy of National Standards and State Standard (in North Carolina, we call it our Standard Course of Study), If you have access to different colors of photocopy paper, copy the National Standards in a different color from you State or local standards. Teacher's Ancillaries- Textbook, lab manuals and test banks. Get a large 2 liter Diet Sundrop and some ice. Oh, get a couple of cups, clear off a big table, and adjust the AC to make sure the room is comfy. Turn off the darn cell phones and turn on some classical music. I don't care if you do like Country; it is not the time for that. Make sure your chair is comfortable not too comfortable- no napping allowed. I like to use a large flip chart and easel with chart markers. I take the flip chart sheet and fold it in to six equally sized columns. If your school uses 9 week grading periods, you can figure out how many columns you will need...anyway, now the environmental conditions are ready, lets looks at some steps to create our pacing guide.

Step 1: Rough Draft - Calendar/Dates Framework
Using the calendar, write in the dates that the grading periods begin and end on your flip chart. Now, use the teacher’s edition. Most textbook publishers, include a number of days it takes to cover specific chapters in your text. This is not a "written in stone" number. It is only a guide. Seasoned science teachers can tell you that you cannot teach rocks and minerals to 6th graders in a week. But if you spend six weeks on them, you will never cover the curriculum. Use a pencil and write in the number of days the teacher's edition recommends devoting to the chapters on rock, motion, etc.


Step 2: Correlation of Curriculum and textbook
Now, if you do not have a correlation between your textbook and your standard course of study, you have several avenues to try. Contact the textbook coordinator (your assistant principal if he/she is working in the summer, most are 10 month employees and you will not find them). Contact the principal of your school. If you can find the email address or website for your textbook see if they have free ones for your state. You could ask the teacher down the hall (but they are working at Wal-Mart or home working in their garden or in school getting certified). Don't panic, do what I do, just google it! Use enough keywords to narrow your search, like include words like 6th grade, science curriculum, and pacing guide, North Carolina. It worked great to find a Word document in just a few seconds. Dang, I love the Internet. Remember, it is only a "guide". You could make your own, but believe me, this is going to take hours and hours to complete.

Step 3: Cut and Paste
Cut your standard course of study into strips and lay them on the chart paper. Basically, it is time to cut and paste the curriculum on the chart paper to give you an idea of what it will look like at a glance. Using the correlation document, and the textbook's suggested amount of time it takes to instruct and access specific goals and objectives decide where it could fit. Write in the page and Chapter numbers on the chart paper next to the objectives.

Step 4: Tape it to the chart paper
So you can fold it up, tape everything down. Put up you work and let it rest a couple of days.

Step 5: Revision Time
Use the chart paper and the info you have (rough draft) and create a document from your work so far. If you have access to a digital document of the curriculum, you are going to be ahead of the game. Copy and paste it into your document. Be sure to include the National standards too. If you have a fellow science teacher that is teaching the same grade level, this is when you could email them a copy of what you have done and ask them to edit the number of days (keep an original). Again, this is something that you will be changing as you write your lesson plans and access student's mastery of the topics. You need time to reteach some lessons. Check to make sure you have included all the objectives and not left anything out! If you can not find an objective that is in your standard course of study in your textbook, you have to find lesson and activities that correlate with them. North Carolina has a site called LEARNNC.org that has correlated lesson plans.

Step 6: Publish it
Ok, after you have gone through all the goals and objectives, recorded the number of days to spend of them, and even pages numbers and chapters, and it has been checked by a couple of teachers that have experience teaching the subject and grade level, you may want to print out a copy and insert it in a three ring binder. Keep this notebook near your lesson planner. Revise, rewrite and revise again. One thing you might try is to set up a free wiki page at somewhere like Pbwiki or Wikispace. Then envite teachers that you know to contribute to the version during the school year. Posting links to online resources right in a pacing guide would be a great resource.

Well, time to sign off. This is a tough job, but teachers only work from 8-3 and have "all summer off". Yeah right.

John Edwards is Using Bittorrent

John Edwards, one of the democratic Presidential candidates in 2004, and likely to run for President again in 2008, is using bittorrent to spread his campaign stuff. Now this is an interesting use of the technology that has been blocked by many school districts to prevent the illegal swapping of all types of videos and MP3 (music) files.

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Friday, July 07, 2006

N.C. lawmakers approve $18.9 billion budget


07-06-06 NCAE "HOTLINE" for Thursday, July 6, 2006

Take Action!
BUDGET ENACTED!

NCAE “HOTLINE” for Thursday, July 6, 2006

The House and Senate passed the conference report for the state budget this afternoon on third reading. The House passed the budget bill on a vote of 82-31, while in the Senate the vote was 31-15.

Some of the highlights of the budget bill are as follows:
Teacher Salary Schedules

The budget provides all teachers with an additional salary increase of $2,250 per step. As a result of these step increases, teachers will receive on average an 8.23% pay increase in 2006-07. Salary increase ranges from 6.45% for teachers moving from 28 to 29 years of service to 14.05% for teachers moving from 2 to 3 years of service. Salary schedules will be posted on the web at www.ncae.org early next week.

School Based Administrator Salary Schedules

The budget also provides assistant principals and principals with a recurring salary increase, which, when combined with a step increase provides on average a 7% overall pay increase in 2006-07. The proposed salary schedule can be found on the DPI web site at the following location: www.ncpublicschools.org/fbs/ under “What’s New.”

Non-certified Personnel Salaries
The budget provides a salary increase of 5.5% and guarantees that no 12-month State paid non-certified employee will be paid less than $20,112 per year.

Bonuses for Certified Personnel at Top of Range
Provides one-time lump sum bonus of 2% to school based administrators at the top of their respective pay schedules.


Another victory for NCAE was the transfer of the North Carolina Teacher Academy to auspices of the State Board of Education. The transfer means the Teacher Academy will retain its autonomous, teacher-led board of trustees. NCAE would like to applaud Governor Mike Easley, for his continued leadership on getting North Carolina on track toward the “national average” in teacher salaries.

NCAE will post the Roll Call vote on the budget early next week. We would like to encourage our membership to send thank you emails to their member of the House or Senate for supporting a budget that really addresses the needs of recruiting and retaining teachers.


This is good news for our hard working teachers and state employees. A fellow educator

While surfing the net, I ran across this in Teacher Magazine and found it a striking reason why teacher's pay is important even if folks somehow play it down as a reason for leaving education. All I can say is that I had a similar experience during my student teaching and vowed never to teach...that was a decission I regret now as many of my fellow college and high school friends are reaching the time they can retire and I still have 9 more years. Katie...get a grip on reality. Do not fight the urge. Just do it! Read on...Katie from Tiny Nose. Big Heart. revels in her decision to leave teaching. But, much as she is enjoying her new life, teaching apparently hasn't entirely left her.

I miss having the identity and moment-to-moment thought processes of being a teacher. I find myself reading while at the gym and thinking, "Oh, I ought to share this passage with my students. It offers a perfect illlustration of literary allusion," or "Wow, this song contains great examples of well chosen adverbs." I definitely get a little bummed out when I think that I'll never get to share these tiny wonders with my very own students again.

Why is it always the good ones who leave?

Curiously, Katie finds her ability to remember dreams has returned. Like this one:

In my dream, I received a memo informing me and the rest of the school staff that teachers who did not drive HUMMERS or at least Lincoln Navigators were no longer allowed to park in the school parking lot.

Dreams. The stuff nightmares are made of.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

'Morning After' Sunburn Cream Could Prevent Cancer


The "morning after" lotion is called Dimericine. Dimericine is basically an enzyme cream that repairs the skin's damaged DNA. The body does this process naturally, but this cream would significantly speed it up. My family is heading for a day at the lake. July 4th, if it does not pour down rain, usually means time on the pier and a sun burn. Mowing grass in the summer is another time I expose my ashy white skin to the cancer causing rays from the Sun. May stories about how sunscreens do not protect us from the damage of too much Sun have been written these past few months. Maybe I need to check into some of this 'Morning After' cream. Chances are that the cost of it may be prohibitive on a school teachers salary. Wonder if our State Teacher's health insurance would cover the costs. Probably would cost full price since it may not have "generic" brand available. Makes me want to keep the laptop running inside with the AC on. But, it is the Fourth of July and time to party. Life is short. Time to have a little fun. Just got to remember to sit in the shade.

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Microsoft demos Vista on a MacBook Pro

"No, this isn't some marketing goof up, where Windows is superimposed over a piece of Apple hardware with the logo removed. Microsoft actully loaded Windows Vista on a piece of Mac hardware and presented with it."
Ok, I know this may not seem revolutionary to educational readers at first glance. However, I would love to have Apple computers that would run on our Novell network for our students to use. It will be interesting to see how schools react to this "blending" of operating systems. I have x dollars budgeted for technology, and probably will not ever have enough money to buy a new computers to replace our old desktop PCs. I hope Apple comes out with a new eMac that will run XP or Vista.

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