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I was born, I'm currently living, and will eventually die. After that I face my judgment, and we'll talk then.


Monday, May 31, 2010

I don't care if you don't care

Here's another fun teaching story. Hope you guys like it.


“I Don’t Care If You Don’t Care”

One time, when I was (Assistant) teaching 7th grade Science, there was a sort of tiny, quiet confrontation between a student and me. It involved both of us in the hallway talking, but it did teach me to watch what I say.

Science is one of those school subjects that a student either loves or hates. Some may claim they are on the fence about science, but when you really press them, they will admit they love or hate the subject. I personally love science. I had wanted to study Zoology when I was younger, even into high school. I had wanted to be one of those cool guys on those nature shows who jumped in after animals in swamps or got to play with lizards and snakes or stuff like that. That was my dream. . . until I found out about the math. Apparently, to get a degree in science at most universities, you need college-level math.

I hate math.

With such sighs, I abandoned my dream of studying science, although I always have a place in my heart for zoology.

On the other hand, I understand how students can get bored during Science class. It’s not all explosions and animals. Science involves processes, equations, chemical formulas, and detailed diagrams. Blech. Even science-lovers like me can’t get too excited about some of the formulas and diagrams. We want meat.

On this particular day, class was slow. The students were reading about photosynthesis in class. Not the most exciting topic in science, but something they needed to know. At this point, the class was looking at a picture containing the “equation” for photosynthesis (water + carbon dioxide + sunlight = sugar + oxygen). Riveting, page-turner stuff. So obviously some students were bored and stopped paying attention. One student in particular was obviously not paying attention, so of course the teacher’s focus flew to him. He never saw it coming.

What are the raw materials for photosynthesis, Roger? It was an east question if he had been paying attention. She had just said the answer (about 30 seconds before she called on him).

He had no answer. He attempted to get by with the classic shoulder shrug. Ah the shrug. Such a motion reveals so much about the student. It’s not so much that the shrug shows that the student doesn’t know the answer, but more that he or she just doesn’t care. The teacher could burp, and explode all over the student, and the student would just keep looking away. Parents, you probably recognize this in your children. It’s the “can we please move on” shrug, the “dear God, get me the hell out of here” shrug. It’s pretty effective too, because sometimes the fed up teacher just says “ok, well, pay attention,” and moves on, with the student not actually sure what just happened. A sort of unconsciousness is the result, with the student later getting in more trouble later for not paying attention again. The student does not remember being told earlier to pay attention, and thus there is arguments, attitude, and before you know it the student is in the office, staring at his hands, shrugging in response to questions from the principal.

Brick walls are more responsive.

Roger had probably shrugged his shoulders as he had just done more times than he could count. He had probably done it at least 30 times that day (an impressive feat, since it was not even 10:30 in the morning). In this class, however, Roger would not get away with the shrug. The teacher was determined to teach him the lesson, whether he wanted to learn it or not.

She pressed on, urging him to look at the picture in the book that had the answer. He literally had the answer in front of him. He wasn’t looking at it, of course, more looking away at the next page. Do you see the picture, she said. He shrugged. Its right there on the page. Huh, he said. She went over and pointed to it. He shrugged again. By this time, I had walked from one end of the room over to where they were, and could see clearly that he was not trying to look at the picture. It was almost like he was avoiding looking at the picture.

But his efforts were paying off. The teacher shook her head, explained what she was looking for, and said Pay attention.

I don’t care, he muttered under his breath. It was a good volume level, not loud enough for the teacher, who was already to the front of the room before he said it, to hear. He should have gotten away with it. On any other day he would have. Today, however, I was standing nearby.

I heard him.

I got a little pissed.

I reacted.

I don’t care if you don’t care, I said, emphasizing the first “care.” It was quick. I acted almost instinctively, as if that was what I naturally did.

I don’t know whether the student was really paying attention to me when I said this, but he very likely wasn’t. I assume he thought either I was farther away, or that I wouldn’t get mad at him for talking back. Maybe the latter, since I’m well known as a softie teacher.

I don’t care if you don’t care, he mocked, emphasizing the “you.”

Oh no he di-n’t, I thought.

Get up, I said. Groaning and reluctance oozed out of his face, and I repeated the command. He got up, and rolled his eyes.

Get your book and come with me.

Yes sir, he said, a slight mockery in his words.

With eyes rolling, we left the room for the wider hallway. We sat on the floor together, and I tried to look him in the eye. He wouldn’t, of course, because who wants to look someone else in the eye.

First I wanted to see if he understood the lesson (hence the Science book). I asked him if he knew the raw materials for photosynthesis, that is, the question the teacher had asked him in class.

Yeah, he mumbled.

Well then what was it, I asked.

He shrugged.

I wanted to scream. How the hell could you know and not know, I said. Either you know this or you don’t. AHHHHHH.

But I didn’t scream. I sighed, as I would do a lot through my years of teaching, and looked at him in the book. I pointed to the picture, explained what she asked, and had him answer the question. He did, and started to rise, as if that was all I had to say to him.

I had him sit back down, and then we had a frank chat about his behavior. I told him all the things I had been thinking. I told him that I didn’t like being made fun of or talked back to, or any of that. I asked him every time I said something to repeat back what I had said. At first he was nowhere near what I had said (I had said something like, “Don’t talk back to me,” and he said I said “Don’t talk in class”). It was slow going, but I eventually got him to pay attention.

Then I asked for his help. I’m a baby teacher, I said, and I need your help. If I do something that doesn’t help your learning, please let me know.

He said ok, but it was a kind of reluctant ok. I felt that he wouldn’t keep up his end of the bargain.

We’ll see what happens.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I helped this.

I finally feel as though I've been a part of something big. I was one of the 500 million.

Here's the article, thanks to Peachy.

Google's PacMan Game Cost the World $120 Million

MAY 25 2010, 4:10 PM

On Friday, Google celebrated the 30th anniversary of Pac-man by embedding a playable Pac-man video game into the Google name on its homepage. I played it. It was fun! Little did I know I was contributing to an epic global heist.

The site RescueTime concluded that the average Google user spent 36 seconds more on Google.com on Friday than most days. Multiplied by the 500 million unique visitors on May 23 (Wolfram Alpha estimates), and you get 4,819,352 hours of time consumed by the embedded Pac-man game. RescueTime goes on:
  • Google Pac-Man consumed 4,819,352 hours of time (beyond the 33.6m daily man hours of attention that Google Search gets in a given day)
  • $120,483,800 is the dollar tally, If the average Google user has a COST of $25/hr (note that cost is 1.3 - 2.0 X pay rate).
  • For that same cost, you could hire all 19,835 google employees, from Larry and Sergey down to their janitors, and get 6 weeks of their time. Imagine what you could build with that army of man power.
  • $298,803,988 is the dollar tally if all of the Pac-Man players had an approximate cost of the average Google employee.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

One Time, When I was Teaching. . . "I Hate Canada."

Sorry its been so long. I've been a busy bee. With school and job hunting finally paying off, I have a lot to talk about.

But I won't.

I will just say that I have a job for the Fall (!) and it is a teaching job (!!).

In the meantime, I have decided to start recording my teaching adventures. Maybe I'll write a book some day.

So here's the first story. Its not finished, as the "investigation" is ongoing. It may never go anywhere. But here is what happened.

I Hate Canada

One time, when I was (Assistant) Teaching 6th grade Science, back before I was a full time teacher again, something funny happened. It probably wasn’t too funny for the students involved, but reflecting back, it was pretty darn funny. Funny is funny, and this was funny.

The incident involved two boy students, Freddy and John. Freddy and John had had a feud for the entire year. The other teachers didn’t know what started it. I definitely didn’t know what started it (I had only come in the last quarter as a sub first, then teacher assistant later), but we all agreed that there was something between them. Magical, you might say, if by magical you mean evil magic rather than some happy fairy tale, clap-your-hands-to-make-Tinkerbell-come-back-to-life magic. They were enemies, pure and simple. Other junior high boys tease and try to get each other in trouble not because they hate the other, but rather because it is fun (I never said it made sense, just that they think its fun). Occasionally, however, one encounters a pair that consists of two boys who truly wish the worst for the other.

This was the case with Freddy and John.

This particular incident happened, as I said, in their Science class, the last period of the day. John had already had problems with the Math teacher earlier that day (he had colored his fingers with a pen and then tried to leave marks on the classroom wall), and I had spoken to him as well. That was my job: walk around the classroom and tell kids to stop talking/pay attention/read/stop rocking the chair, etc. The lesson for the day in Science was erosion. Ice, as everybody who’s out of grade school knows, erodes rocks. Glaciers erode even more. This was the topic of discussion that period. We have glaciers in the United States, the teacher explained. Canada has a lot too. Glaciers form lakes. . .

The lesson on glaciers continued, and I walked around the classroom to make sure everyone was paying attention, etc. As I approached Freddy and John (they sat next to each other for some reason), Freddy turned to me and said Mr. Rose, John keeps saying “I hate Canada,” and he knows I’m part Canadian.

I didn’t say that, John snapped back.

Dear God, I thought. Maybe if I tell them to stop talking and walk away, they’ll drop the issue.

Stop talking. Pay attention. Read along.

That settles that, I thought, walking away from the two of them.

A few minutes went by, containing in it much walking and correcting, and eventually I found myself standing by my desk in the front of the room. Suddenly, John appears next to me.

Mr. Rose, he said, Freddy wrote “I hate Canada” on a piece of paper and is gonna say that I wrote it.

Seriously, I thought. Go sit down, I said.

So John returned to his seat. I continued my tour of the room (stop talking. Pay attention. . .). When I arrived at Freddy and John’s desks, Freddy turned to me, and holding a piece of paper said, Mr. Rose, John wrote this and gave it to me.

Told ya he’d do it, John replied.


I took the anti-Canadian paper, as well as a piece of paper that each of them had been working on, and returned to my desk.

Now I don’t claim to be a handwriting expert. A half-hearted forgery could probably get past my grasp. What I do claim, however, is that I can recognize people’s handwriting, especially if I have another copy of that person’s handwriting for comparison. I had planned, foolish me, to compare the writing on the anti-Canadian sheet with the handwriting of the two students. Good idea in theory, horribly wrong in practice.

Right away, I noticed a problem. The anti-Canadian sign was written in print, in big letters. The two writing samples were written in cursive. Cursive and print look very different, even when written by the same person.

Great, I thought. Handwriting’s out.

I stared at those three sheets of paper for almost the rest of the period, trying to figure out what I could use to prove one of the two boys wrote it. Either way, someone was framing the other. If Freddy had done it, it was a pretty standard revenge inspired framing, simple enough. If John had done it, the framing was more elaborate, since it required him telling me ahead of time, almost warning me, that some sort of trick was coming. All I had were doubts. I didn’t trust either of them.

But then, what’s this? Hope? A silver lining? It appeared that both the anti-Canadian paper and Freddy’s paper were similar, as if they had come from the same pack. The one John used was very different. That’s it, I thought. I have him. Freddy framed John.

I waited until the end of class, as they were dismissing at the end of the day, to tell the two what I had found. I proudly told them what I had decided, and told them to sit down. Freddy started crying, emphasizing that it wasn’t him.

I told you it wasn’t me, John said.

It was the paper Freddy. It was the same.

It wasn’t me, Freddy said.

Robert likewise denied it, and I said, quite slyly, I thought, that neither would go to class until someone admitted what was done.

Ok, I did it, Robert said. Can we go now?

Why did you do it, I asked.

I don’t know.

Have you ever been to Canada?


Do you plan on every going to Canada?


Do you know any Canadians.


Yes you do. I’m Canadian, Freddy whined.

You are? I didn’t know that.

Dear God, I said. God heard a lot from me that day.

So can we go now, John asked.

No. John, you know I can have you suspended for this, right?


Why did you do it?

I don’t know.

What about the paper? I told them about my thought about the paper, it being the same as Freddy’s. . .

I got it from ____ [a girl who sits near them], Freddy said, referring to the work I had taken from him.

Yeah, I got the sheet from her too, John said, referring to the anti-Canadian paper.


Fine, you know what? I said, ripping the anti-Canadian paper in half. Write “I hate Canada” in print on these sheets. Why do we need to do that, Freddy said, his voice reflecitn a sort of horror. I need to see how you write. They did so, both taking a long time.

A very long time.

Almost a full minute to write the three words.

I haven’t written print in a long time, John said.

Bull, I thought.


I sent them on their way, keeping the printed “I hate Canada.” When I started looking at the three phrases, I realized that letting them write it slowly was a bad idea. The handwriting in the three phrases was very different. Whoever it was probably realized why he was writing and was careful to avoid revealing himself. Great, I thought.

So I talked with some teachers, the Math/Science and the 6th grade homeroom teacher, and they explained that a) the two boys had been at each other’s throats all year, and b) that it could be either one, handwriting wise. Nothing new there. I was still working with nothing but a suspicious confession and dubious writing.

I told the principal the next day, and she thought it was hilarious.

Like I said, funny.

The principal wasn’t there the day after that, so I couldn’t talk with her about the situation. Lucky students, since neither were getting in trouble. It was the end of the day, and I was packing up, when in walked John and his mother. They were there to talk to the Math/Science teacher about grades and behavior. At first I was tempted to leave, but then realized my opportunity. Before they left, I called John over and had him write on a piece of paper “I have a dream,” a phrase that I figured would not set off any alarm bells. John did as he was asked, and I kept the paper, waiting for the principal to return.

She didn’t come back before the following Monday.