I finished my first semester as the Honors Chemistry teacher at Salpointe Catholic High School. This blog post is a small window into my world. It’s long, so feel free to browse through and read only the interesting parts!
I have four classes of Honors Chem with a total of 87 students -mostly sophomores with a few freshman, juniors and seniors. I also have one Environmental Science class which is a junior/senior science class, which gives me a grand total of 113 students.
My chemistry classes are on the same schedule, so I plan one lesson and teach the same thing four times over. I’ve been amazed how much better I understand the concepts myself, after teaching it the fourth time in one day. Many times mid-sentence (with 28 pairs of eyes looking at me), I’ve paused in my lecture. On the outside it appears I’m just trying to find a better way to phrase the last point I made. But on the inside there is a light bulb that just went on as I finally understood something about chemistry I somehow missed throughout my own schooling. In my head I grin and dance a jig, as I plunge ahead rephrasing the concepts for the kids according to how I newly understand it.
I’ve always loved learning, and seriously, being a teacher is the best way to keep on learning!
With my chemistry kids we did a lab experiment where they had to find out how many molecules are in one bite of cookie, and one swallow of Kool-Aid. Yes, they loved that one because they got to eat in lab, which is usually a HUGE no-no. I scared them into not letting their cookie touch anything but the napkin or their own hand and also scared them into asking for a new cookie if one did touch something else. You know, all the horrible things that could happen if you ingest any chemical from a lab… insides turning out, spontaneous combustion… Don’t know how many of them believed me, but it did the trick. We were safe during that lab activity. 🙂
The Environmental Science class is a bit of a chore for me. I don’t know the content at all, other than the first half of the text book I scrambled to read over the summer. Thankfully, there are two other teachers who teach the same class that help me immensely with the lesson planning. They advised me to be 1 week behind them so they could tell me what they did, pass on their lesson plans, lab materials, and tell me what worked and what didn’t work. That has helped me a lot. The Salpointe Catholic community is amazing, and this is just one of many examples.
In the ES class we did a project about water capacity of different soils. We also did a radish seed lab where we planted radish seeds and tested different soil stresses and then did some data analysis to compare with the control group of radish plants. The students know I’m new at this content and we have a good time learning together. We’ve learned about succession, growth of populations in an ecosystem, trophic levels and keystone species in an ecosystem, environmental development and much more.
Once a year at Salpointe Catholic, the entire school (students, teachers, staff) takes a break from our regular schedule and spends two days doing community service. We call these two days Impact. Over 1400 people spread out all over Tucson, covering over 50 different places, doing work in our community. I spent the first day at Iskashitaa with 2 dozen students where we worked along side refugees processing pumpkins, beans and figs. The kids worked hard and we enjoyed asking the refugees questions about their journey and learning from them.
The second Impact day I spent with another large hand full of students working in the Santra Cruz River, cleaning up garbage, clearing out invasive species, planting other species to help the dwindling population of monarch butterflies, and learning about the Tucson environment and how we can care for it. These two days were a lot of hard work, I was more exhausted after Impact than two regular days of school/learning/lesson planning/grading. I’m very glad Salpointe Catholic continues to do Impact as it helps all of us keep in perspective the important things of life.
Too often, for both students and teachers, academics is all we think about, how we can get better grades, how many more topics we can cram in before the end of the month/semester. Impact was a great way to change our focus, remind us of other things in life that are worth our time, and of course, a great way to give back to our community, and teach and model many good habits to our students that only come outside the classroom.
At Salpointe Catholic we pray at the beginning of each class period. This also helps us put things into perspective, calms the class down, and paves the way for the lesson we have at hand. Many times before the prayer, students ask if there are any special intentions (prayer requests) and though no one goes in depth, this is a good way to remind me that the students have busy and often stressful lives outside the four walls of my classroom. I’m not a teacher for the money. I’m not a teacher for any fame or power. I’m a teacher for the influence I can have over students. I’m a teacher for the times I can encourage a student, give a smile where one is needed most, offer a listening ear. The students have much to offer me as well. The moments when a student says I look nice, or that I look happy, or is a “good teacher”, are the moments that fuel my day and sometimes my whole week.
I can honestly say that the students are both the best and the worst parts about teaching. They are both inspiring and draining at the same time.
Over this winter break I’ve enjoyed some extra sleep, some good books, lots of relaxing, and spending time with my family, and of course, my favorite person and best friend, my boyfriend Jacob.
I received an amaryllis bulb at the beginning of December from Salpointe’s campus ministry department. It’s an advent flower that grows during Advent, and blooms during Christmas time. I kept it on my desk at school as a constant reminder of the season, preparing for the coming of the Savoir of the World, Jesus Christ. I brought it home for the break and am now enjoying a beautiful flower.
This week I’ll begin some lesson planning, preparing for school to start up again on January 8th. We’ll be diving into some electrochemistry, acids and bases, periodic table trends, geometric shapes of molecules, thermochemistry, and maybe even a bit of organic chemistry.
I hope you all have a wonderful New Year, I know I will!