Not that I’m counting or anything…

35 school days (for teachers) left for the year. Not that I’m counting down or anything… I am ready for the semester to be over, mostly because I still have to do extra work for certification classes. I am also looking forward to having my own classroom, and making my own decisions about what we cover and when. My cooperating teachers are wonderful – I can’t imagine a better placement, but I’m still teaching classes that aren’t “mine.”

Right now we’re doing the “phylum march,” so-called because we cover an invertebrate phylum nearly every day for a couple of weeks. Throw a few dissections in there, and we have blasted through another unit. Four weeks to cover nine phyla is tough, and I feel like I’m just breezing through information without much of it sinking in for the kids. There are so many really beautiful and interesting organisms that I would love to share with them, but there isn’t time. Despite the fact that I think they’re cool, most of the students don’t really care, no matter how beautiful the organisms are. Like nudibranchs!  They are amazing!!

Nudibranch from

Hard to believe that guy’s common name is “sea slug,” isn’t it? If it wasn’t obvious before, you now have a pretty good idea of why I am a biology teacher. Of course, if I was independently wealthy, I would just go back to school and get a variety of degrees: Ph.D.s in marine biology, ornithology, botany, zoology, and so on. Or maybe I’d just skip the degrees and study everything at once. Not that it matters, since I am not wealthy, nor am I likely to suddenly come into a large sum of money. Most people dream of the big house, the fancy car, the vacations… I dream of school and traveling to study biology. What a geek…

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How I know it was a good ride

I went out for the first ride with my new shoes and pedals yesterday. They were awesome, and I was amazed at the difference in efficiency. I had been using SPD shoes with dual use pedals: you can clip in to one side, but the other side is flat, in case you ride with street shoes. I discovered that I never ride without my bike shoes, so that was what prompted the purchase of my Sidis. Dedicated road shoes meant new pedals, too, of course. After a bit of research and consultation with my bike expert (Andy), I decided to buy Speedplay pedals. These have a small lollipop-shaped pedal, with a larger cleat on the shoe. When clipping in, the motion is straight down, instead of the slide and clip motion I had used before.

I actually had the wherewithal to try clipping in and out a few times before I went out, which turned out to be a very smart choice. The Speedplays have a different feel, for one, and I had to learn the new motion of clipping in. A few tries did it, so that was no biggie. Clipping out was interesting… the same motion as I had used before, but the Speedplays require a stronger movement. I banged my left ankle a few times over the course of clipping in and out, but otherwise it was an easy adjustment. I did feel a little ridiculous a few times, when my left foot slipped when trying to clip back in after stopping. I have come to the conclusion that you’re not a real cyclist if you don’t regularly feel a little ridiculous!

All this to preface the ways I know I have had a good ride:

At the end of the ride:

  • my legs alternate between feeling like jello and feeling unnaturally stiff
  • I am sweaty and gritty from road dust
  • I feel like I couldn’t ride any further, even if I wanted to
  • I look like something the cat dragged in

I managed all of these yesterday, even though the ride wasn’t very long. It was awesome!

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Gross (but interesting) science

I wrote in an earlier post that I had tadpoles from my zoology class, but I don’t remember if I have updated anything about the frogs. Only one tadpole made it to frog-hood, but he seems to be doing very well. He is about 2-3 inches long, and swims happily around the tank. Algae was building up on the tank walls, so I got the frog a friend- a plecostomus that’s about three inches long. I also picked up some water plants to decorate and aerate the tank a little.

One of the very odd things about African clawed frogs is that they have no webs on their front feet, and their forelimbs seem very short: they can barely touch the tips together in front of their faces. Here’s a photo of him (or her, as the case may be) today:And another:So here’s the gross (but interesting) part… These frogs shed their skin as they mature, and if you’re lucky you get to see it. It happens very quickly, and the frog contorts itself to remove the skin, almost like he’s fighting to remove a straightjacket. The gross part (to some people) is that they often immediately eat the skin. I don’t think it’s gross, but if I did, even gross science is cool: the skin is a perfect source of protein for the growing frog.

A friend sent me the following comic in appreciation for science weirdness…


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The beauty of nature

I did a lab with my general biology students this week, looking at protists under the microscopes. It’s one of my favorite labs, no doubt about it! Protists are single-celled, either plant-like or animal-like, but not actually classified with either plants or animals. Some of them are remarkably beautiful. Spending time gazing under a microscope always gives me a renewed sense of wonder at the beauty of creation. Fortunately, this sense of wonder generally lasts much longer than the time spent looking under the scope, and I feel a greater appreciation of beauty in nature.

On my drive home one afternoon, I saw a flock of birds whirling and diving through the sky. Seeing a group of animals so in sync with each other that they move as one is amazing to me. Watch a group of cyclists (peloton in the racing world), and they tend to do the same, but not without occasional crashes or bumps and bangs against each other. I have never seen, nor even heard of birds crashing into each other in flight. It probably happens, but not on a regular basis. If only we humans could be so in tune with each other!

Every spring I look forward to seeing the first crocuses poking their pretty heads through last fall’s debris. The wave of warm weather we had a couple of weeks ago brought them out, and I took a quick photo with my iPhone:A few days later, we had a drizzly day that was cold. Everything was coated with a layer of ice, and my poor crocuses looked like this instead:

The beauty of it is that they were still gorgeous, despite their icy coating.

I hope I never lose my appreciation of beauty in unexpected places…


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Pathetic, just pathetic

I believe I have pretty well established that I am a dork. Today’s accomplishment was absolute proof of that.

I went to the store and picked up the usual groceries. Came home, started to put them away, and discovered that I didn’t have enough room in the fridge.

I did the normal thing, and pulled out stuff that needed to be thrown away. Since I was sick for several days, there was some pretty nasty stuff left in there. Ick. I don’t know what possessed me, exactly, but suddenly I was overwhelmingly disgusted with my refrigerator’s contents and state of cleanliness.

I started to clean it, and ended up cleaning the entire interior. It is much emptier now (I will never, ever buy another side-by-side: too much gets lost in the back that you can’t see). What exactly is the connection between being a dork and cleaning the fridge, you ask?

I was so proud of myself that I considered taking a picture of it. I even considered sending my friends the photo, because my refrigerator never looks this good. 

What a dork.

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Sick days… the irony

Let’s face it, sick days are no fun. At least not if you’re really sick.

Which I was. Ugh. I wasn’t feeling well Tuesday morning, but it wasn’t anything horrible. My stomach felt a little off, but the feeling came and went, so I made it through my classes. After school was an entirely different matter, however.

Ick. My stomach suddenly felt really awful, and I knew what was coming eventually. Patty said I looked as white as a sheet, and I felt that way, too. Blech. I left school right after classes ended. I made it about halfway home, and had to pull over. That is all the detail I am going to give…

I made it home and fell into bed for a few hours. Then the fever started. Sheesh! I ended up having to take a sick day yesterday, because I was still feeling pretty nauseous and  running a fever. I was supposed to be observed by my university supervisor yesterday, but I called him Tuesday night and let him know I was sick. Thankfully, he was flexible enough to reschedule for Monday. Being observed at the best of times is harrowing, and I did not want to experience it while I was under the weather.

Last night I tried to figure out how to re-balance my classes, because my cooperating teachers had covered slightly different material while I was out. They are both awesome, but it is really hard to work with two teachers who are so different and feel like I can truly have my own individual style. I have heard, and I agree, that student teaching is one of the most difficult and awkward situations for a teacher. Stepping into someone’s class and trying to make it yours just feels wrong somehow. The cooperating teachers already have a good rapport with the students, and I am entering the situation not knowing the students, what we have for supplies, or when lab materials are arriving. If that sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not – it’s just a tough situation, and one I have to survive. Today was the first day I have thought that I will be glad when student teaching is over.

Aaron woke me around 1 AM to tell me he was sick, too. Poor guy. He really hates to miss school, and he was disappointed when I told him he needed to stay home today. He’s old enough to be home by himself, so I got up this morning and got ready for work. I still wasn’t feeling great, but figured I’d suck it up and get through the day. That seemed like a good idea until I was driving to work. I didn’t even want to listen to music on the drive, which is unheard of for me. By the time I got to school, I decided to ask Patty and Judy to cover for me again, and I picked up my stuff and came back home. When I got home, Aaron was sleeping, so I went back to bed, too. I slept for almost four hours, and feel better now.

No more sick days. A day off is great, but not when you have to juggle lesson plans and observation.

The irony of it all is that I missed teaching about viruses, because I had one…

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Signs of Spring

Most people in northern states consider the return of robins a harbinger of spring. I know I’m always excited when I see the first robin in March, but over the years I have discovered other signs of spring that I enjoy just as much. Don’t get me wrong; I love snow and skiing, but once it starts to warm up to the point that the snow is no good for skiing, I’m ready for it to go.

I saw/heard a few of my favorite signs of spring the other day. First was the rusty-gate song of the red-winged blackbirds. It’s not a particularly pretty song, but it makes me smile when I hear it.

Another sign is the sound of water trickling down the gutters of the house, and the drip, drip, drip off the eaves of the house. The sound of water burbling as it makes its journey is such a happy sound in the spring!

In Maine and other parts of New England, people call spring mud season, because as the snow melts, gravel driveways and lawns are a squishy, muddy mess. The smell of mud is another of my favorite signs of spring. Not the sour, pungent smell of a swamp, but the clean, sweet smell of moist clay. The smell transports me back to my elementary school days, when we would use the remaining snow to create pathways for the water running off the playground. I was a tomboy, so I was often the only girl in the group, but the boys didn’t care.

On my drive home from work last week, I saw pussywillows. I have been fascinated by them for as long as I can remember. Technically, the downy gray puffs are flowers of a sort, or catkins as botanists call them. I’m not sure if the plant got the name pussywillow because of the “cat”kins, or if it’s because they are soft and fluffy like a kitten’s fur. Whatever the reason, someday I want to live in a house that has pussywillows in the yard. Too bad the tree doesn’t look like much for the rest of the year.

As I was driving to work one morning last week, I saw a sight that made my jaw drop: a Sandhill crane in a field. They migrate through this area on their way to the shores of Lake Michigan and points north, but they don’t usually come through here until the snow is gone. This one was standing in the snow, presumably scavenging for seeds left over from the corn harvest. I felt a certain sympathy for the bird: I have often felt a bit out of place and on my own, standing in a field all by myself.

Finally, I did see a robin a few days ago. I was alone, but I still said, “Oooooh, the first robin!” aloud. Still a kid at heart, I guess!




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You might as well laugh

Today started out just fine. I hauled myself out of bed and got going quickly enough that I had time to send a couple of quick emails before I left for work.

I listen to my iPod on the drive, and caught all my favorite songs on the drive to work, thanks to shake to shuffle and Wisconsin potholes. Got to hear all of Glitter in the Air just before I got to work (it’s still my favorite song).

I arrived at work, picked up the papers I was going to grade during first hour, and went to the sink to wash my water bottle before refilling it. (One of the super amazing things about Patty, my cooperating teacher, is that she takes care of us all. She keeps the refrigerator stocked with filtered water for the whole science department.) We were out of dish soap at the office sink, so I got out a new container. Too much detail for such a mundane morning? Wait for it…

The top of the soap container was really tight, so I had to pull really hard to get it open. Except the whole top came off instead. There was a big Sploosh of soap…

…down the front of my turtleneck and sweater. Fortunately it was a pale colored liquid, and I was wearing a dark red sweater with a pattern, so it didn’t show on the sweater. The turtleneck didn’t fare as well, so I had to keep my sweater zipped all day. I did have to laugh though, since there was nothing I could do about it.

And I still smell lemony fresh!

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Adventures with Teenagers

Between school and home, I have numerous adventures with teenagers these days. Today’s best adventure was thanks to Caleb.

We had tacos for dinner. Caleb likes spicy food.

Super spicy, as in burn-your-tonsils-out spicy. He used to eat Redhot, but has graduated to Tabasco. I love Redhot and jalapenos, but not as much as Caleb does. We have two jars of jalapenos going- one is regular, and the other is really hot for some reason.

Tonight Caleb had the hot jalapenos out for his tacos. I was cleaning up after dinner, when I turned around to see him wiping the jar rim of the jalapenos.

Aaron said, “Why are you wiping the jar?” at the same time I saw Caleb drool down his front.

Caleb said, “I thought it was my drink.”

He had picked it up and taken a couple of swallows.

Aaron and I enjoyed it hugely 😀

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I have nothing interesting to say. But I have plenty to say…

Really. I have tried several times this week to write a post, and each time I got a couple of sentences down, but then don’t have more to say. It’s been a very long week, too.

On Thursday, I got to school at 6 AM to help with an extra credit project the students were doing. Students who wanted to complete the project got their thumbs taped to their hands for the day, so they could experience what it is like without opposable thumbs. They had to last the entire day, then come back for a signature and to have the wrapping cut off (we used pre-wrap underneath the tape so their skin wouldn’t be ripped off). The students have to write a short paper about the experience to receive their extra credit. I have received a couple of papers so far, and they are giving me some interesting insight into the students’ lives.

That night we had parent-teacher conferences, which was interesting. So maybe I do have something interesting to say after all! I met some parents, mostly of students who do not need to worry about their grades. There weren’t any nasty parents, although there were a few who were borderline. It was interesting to be on the other side of the table for a change. I am amazed at how some parents treat the teachers, though: perhaps because I was raised by teachers, I always assume that if my child is not doing his work, it is his fault, not the teacher’s. Not everyone sees it that way!

By the time conferences were over, it was 8 PM. A fourteen hour day. I got home and relaxed for a few minutes before bed. I chatted with Andy for a couple minutes on Facebook, then got ready for bed. He had made a comment that suddenly struck me as funny. You know how it is when you are very tired, and things are suddenly hilarious? It reminded me of A Better Pain Scale, and I giggled all the way through brushing my teeth. I crawled into bed, but was cold (another side effect of being overtired for me), so ended up chuckling a few times before I finally fell asleep.

5:30 came way too soon the next morning. I was already tired enough, but then had a few difficult students, which just made me ready for the week to be over. I had one who is just plain manipulative and witchy, and another who got nasty with me because I told him to remove his earbud. He told me to stop staring at him, because I was giving him “the look” for not doing what he was told. He said this during a quiz, when he should have been silent anyway. He escalated it from there, so I sent him to the office. Several teachers have had exactly the same problem with him, but it’s pretty sad that I’m getting used to having to send kids to the office.

I don’t even get anxious or angry anymore. I’m just resigned about it.

Further confirmation that summer vacation is for the teachers as much as it is for the students. Without it, teachers would burn out much faster.

Or go crazy.

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