Friday, March 11, 2011

Best. Day. Ever.

So you want to hear about the best day ever? Okay, okay I'll tell you.

6:00 - Wake up, wake Lewis up, then go back to sleep for an hour because I can!

7:00 - Wake up for real, eat Pop Tarts for breakfast. This isn't an unusual thing for me, but I love them and it happened.

9:00 - Pick up my class from the playground. Like seven students were absent - a whole third of the class. What the what? Too bad for them; I've got a great day plan

9:10 - I ordered some boxes of Girl Scout cookies a few weeks ago from a fourth grader and she delivered them today. As I was filling out the check, her mom told her to, "Tell her." I looked up and the scout said to me, very shyly, "Since I brought you Girl Scout cookies, will you let me be in your class next year?" Aww... Too bad I won't be teaching next year. Warm fuzzy moment, though.

9:30 - Spelling test. My student who consistently gets really low scores got her first 100%. Ya-hoo!

9:45 - Science. We made baking soda cannons. Take a little bit of baking soda, fold it up in a toilet paper square, pour some vinegar into a test tube, wedge the TP into the tube, cork it, and shake shake shake. The vinegar dissolves the toilet paper and reacts with the baking soda to create carbon dioxide which builds up until it pops the cork off. Awesome.

10:15 - My Art Moms came to teach art. They normally come on Wednesdays, but they couldn't this week at that time so they came now. I spent the hour correcting tests and chatting with one of the moms. She brought her baby and I got to hold him. He's adorable.

11:55 - Lunch. I buy school lunch on Fridays and the cafeteria was serving their horrible-for-you mozzarella breadsticks, which I love. I decided to eat with my students and that was fun because they love me.

12:45 - I get an hour of prep time every two weeks when my class is at computers. Today I got that hour. Glorious.

1:45 - I go to pick up my students from computers. As they are lining up outside the computer lab, a pair of rather tall young men in BYU athletics shirts saunter past. I smile politely then do a double take. My jaw drops. One of my students, the biggest BYU fan in my class (second only to me) says, just as I realize it, "That's Jake Heaps!" And it was indeed. Plus Kyle Van Noy. They had gone into a classroom, but came back out upon hearing my student's shriek of delight. I walked over nervously with the student and say hello.

1:55 - Five minutes before recess. My entire class his huddled around the window because we see that Jake and Kyle have gone outside, during the younger grades' recess. My students are scrambling around, trying to find things for them to sign. I let them go outside early. They run outside and immediately swarm Jake Heaps. I go outside too (hey! It's a beautiful day!), but I hang back. I'm a grown woman. I had to set an example of maturity for my class. Right? Right?

Yeah, right. My students saw how I reacted when saw them in the hallway. And how I'm a humongo BYU/football/BYU football fan. And how I said I wish I had had my camera with me so I could get a picture. About half of my class tells Jake Heaps about their teacher who is "such a fan," and then run over to get me and drag me over to him. I talk to the teacher with whom they came. She said they came to teach the sixth graders PE and that they would be coming again and that she could get them to teach my class too in a few weeks. Sa-weet. Then she takes a picture of Jake and me with my phone.

2:30 - Reading. My class is quietly doing their reading assignments, and I'm looking longingly outside at the beautiful day (the football players had left by now). So I really quick make up a math facts kick ball game and we go out and play it for the rest of the afternoon.

Yeah. I love my job. Sorry students who were absent today. You missed out.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Surprise Fire

In science right now, we are studying physical and chemical changes. Today we did a lab to introduce a lot of the concepts we will be talking about, as well as to review lab safety procedures. Like a good little teacher, I decided it prudent to test out the lab prior to the students coming in to make sure it, you know, worked.

This experiment is called, "Surprise Fire." If you mix these two chemicals together (potassium permanganate and glycerine) they are supposed to react and spontaneously combust. Key word: supposed.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get into the room where the chemicals are stored until about 15 minutes before school started. I wasn't worried, though, because the reaction was supposed to occur within 20-60 seconds. So I donned my safety goggles, poured out a silver dollar size pile of potassium permanganate, dabbled in a bit of glycerine, and waited. And waited. Nothing happened.

Another teacher came by to ask me a question. I went to talk to her while keeping the corner of my eye on the table where the chemicals were sitting. Nothing happened.

The vice principal came in to see how I was doing and if I needed any help with anything. I told him I was fine unless he knew how to make a couple of dangerous chemicals react with each other and catch on fire. Meanwhile, another teacher from my team came by. Apparently she had also had trouble with this lab when she did it. It also would not combust while for her, so she tried to wipe it up with a paper towel, giving it up as a bad job. Her students were disappointed (this was during class), but whatevs. But then! The paper towel caught on fire! And she dropped it on the ground.

So now all three of us were at a loss. We didn't know what to do. We didn't want to just throw it out, cause what if it caught fire in the trash can. Joe (the VP) tried to wipe it up with a damp paper towel, thinking maybe the friction would get things going. No luck. By now the bell has long since rung and I am supposed to have picked up my students from outside. But I didn't want to just leave it there. What if it burned down my classroom?!

Deciding that since it had been almost twenty minutes since I had started this experiment, I deemed it allowable to get my class. A couple of students were waiting outside my door, hoping to go in before everyone else showed up. I told them, rather forcefully, to "Wait. There." and "Do NOT go in the classroom." Then I hightailed it to the outside and get the rest of my kids.

When we got back to my door, I gave them the following instructions: "When I open this door, you are to go straight to your desks, pull out your journals, and start writing. Do NOT touch ANYTHING."

Of course none of them listened to me and they all immediately gathered 'round the back table where the experiment was set up. No respect. How a pie tin containing a small pile of wet purpleish flakes attracts some much attention from 10-year-olds, I'll never know. I successfully shooed some of them away and then sat down to tackle the problem at hand.

I figured the best problem would be to get the chemicals to react so that I didn't have to worry about it catching on fire in the garbage. This is an elementary school. There's lots of paper in there. Poking it with a wet paper towel didn't work, but I certainly didn't want to prod it with a dry one. What if my hand caught fire?!

Well, hows about a half wet half dry paper towel? I carefully scooped up a bit of the mixture with the towel, dropped it on the tin, and hightailed it out of there. Well, to the other side of the classroom, anyway. Then... it happened. The towel started smoking and then - BAM - a two-inch flame licked it's way up the towel. Sure, it wasn't the foot-high flame the lab book promised me, but it was fire! The chemicals reacted!

Like to smartie that I am, I decided to go ahead with the lab as planned. The main point was about safety, right? I could still teach that, right? Right.

So I set it all up to the T. I thought that maybe I was too generous with the glycerine and that it overwhelmed the potassium permanganate or something. The set up was absolutely perfect. But... nothing happened. My students were all disappointed, of course. Most of them caught the tail end of the paper towel burning earlier and were ready for more action. While they all sat there staring at the boring pile of non-combusting chemicals, I explained what was supposed to happen and why.

Then I said, "Now. We will be doing a lot of experiments throughout this unit. Some of them are dangerous. So you must follow the procedure EXACTLY. If I see ANY of you doing ANYthing that is not in your lab book, you will not do ANY more labs in my classroom. Ever. EVER. That being said, I am going to do something that would be an absolute no no if any of you were to do it. But I can. Because I'm the teacher." And I picked up a pencil and poked the chemicals with the eraser.

They started smoking. And then they caught fire. The class all cheered and then gagged cause it was stinky. I sent them all to fill out their lab sheets, cleaned up the ashes, and we were done.

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