Yesterday I spent the morning at a 'bar code party' at Bullard wherein I and other teachers commiserated with each other about the highs and lows of our just-completed year of teaching while bar coding textbooks. The district has finally purchased a software program that allows each school site's libraries to handle textbook maintenance, which will save us a great deal of hassle throughout the year....if all the textbooks are properly bar-coded.
Well, that takes some doing, and so our librarian Liz Dodds gave us an inducement to spend part of Friday at her digs, by offering us lunch. Who can pass that up, especially since Liz is so cheerful and tireless in her efforts to support us and the students? So I and two other science types managed to make our way over there, and lend our thews to the cause. This goes against my basic nature, because as the late Steve Gerber once remarked, "when I lend my thews out, they tend to come back damaged."
And it was so. Two hours and nearly 300 Biology texts later (which is only about 40 percent of those books, by the way), I called it quits, in part because I had to get back to working on cleaning out my own classroom. I have until Monday evening, really...gulp! But also, by the time I quit, my arms and lower back were sore from repeatedly lifting, cradling and labeling the texts, then moving stacks aside. Like many texts, the 'Dragonfly' books that we were labeling fit E.O. Wilson's definition of a magnum opus: that, if dropped from third-floor window, could conceivably kill a person if struck in the head.
And, as I worked on them, it occurred to me that Miller and Levine's text was no doubt a bit dangerous in another sense, it that it has repeatedly been the subject of 'sticker shock' and other creationist-motivated shenanigans to undermine the teaching of evolution in the public schools:
Now, a person might reasonably wonder how often this stuff comes up, or whether it's just southern states in which this silliness goes down, wherein local or state school boards attempt to either water down the definition of science or single out evolution for special attention with respect to its ontological status.
Well, it comes up routinely, throughout the United States. It came up in a very big way recently on the high school campus where I'm employed, over the unanimous objection of our science faculty, in a school district that is not dominated by conservative Christians, in a state that has excellent science standards where evolution is concerned, and in a school community that is committed to offering a high level college prep curriculum, with more students enrolled in AP courses than most other high schools. If it can happen at Bullard High School, it can happen anywhere.
That is doubtless why Ken Miller offers workshops on evolution education to address the misconceptions and (sadly) occasional falsehoods offered by advocates for various strains of creationism. The workshops come with resources, available here. But perhaps the best resource these days for giving a full-blown treatment of evolution as it should be taught in the public schools can be found here, at the University of California Museum of Paleontology's "Understanding Evolution" web site. This site must be effective, inasmuch as they have inspired litigation claiming that the UCMP site violates the Establishment Clause. Timothy Sandefur deconstructs those claims here.
Still, I wonder: suppose Sandefur and UCMP and Ken Miller and the National Center for Science Education are all judged to be wrong by some future court jam-packed with the best legal minds of a conservative bent available? Then, would my usage of Miller's text, not to mention my promotion of it on this blog and bar-coding for district use, wouldn't that make me somehow part of some grand attempt to violate the Establishment Clause? In fact, wouldn't that make science itself as practiced run afoul of the Constitution? I think that it would, if certain types had their way in the courts. Who knew that science could be so....subversive?
Yesterday was the last day of finals.
Today is a 'makeup' day, and a short day at that.
97 percent of my grades are in the books, but there's still a nagging feeling that this last 3 percent will mean a marathon morning for yours truly. It always does, because I'm the kind of teacher who is always a sap for last-minute drama. "Yes, Julia, even though you've had three weeks to complete this assignment, I will take it on the last day of school since your computer blew up today." That kind of thing.
Well, it will all be over soon and then I can just focus on getting my room cleaned up, because I have to be completely disassembled by Monday morning: everything either taken away or labeled for removal and storage by district personnel.
It was truly thrilling to watch them come back and knock off perennial powerhouse (and #3 seed nationally) Arizona State in the rubber match of their best-of-three super regional final at the home of the Sun Devils.
Unsung heroes like 2B Eric Wetzel and CF Gavin Hedstrom played a key role in the Bulldogs' improbable finish, more so than the big names of ASU first-rounders Brett Wallace and Ike Davis, who actually came to blows over something or other right before the final game. Hedstrom, of course, hit a grand slam to key the Game 2 in and it was Wetzel's double with the bases loaded that was the centerpiece of the 7-run 6th that propelled the Dogs in Game 3.
It brought back fond memories of the Dogs in the early 90's, when they had three first-rounders, including Tommy Goodwin, who had a nice little major-leaguer career as a CF and leadoff man.
This last few weeks has been a real grind. Teaching, of course: finals, and the inevitable senior 'will they graduate?' crisis. And, seemingly every other day, more paperwork, more unexpected (and often unpleasant) details to resolve before the school year where 'modernization' of our rooms is concerned. Most drainingly, I've had a course that I simply had to complete for my Clear Credential.
Well, I didn't just complete the course. I did my best to bury it. Granted that is was an education course rather than, say, developmental biology, but there was a test every day, a graduate-level paper to write and hours of classroom observations to document in just a three-week time frame. In fact, I was behind from square one because they wanted 20 documented hours of special ed classes in action, and there was no way I was going to be able to give up 6-8 hours a week. So right off the back I knew I would not be able to earn those points. I still finished with 402 points, quite a bit more than I needed, as it turned out. I wish I could say that I knew that I would do that all along, but since there was quite a bit of subjectivity in the grading, I couldn't even be sure of my 'A' after the last day of instruction.....so it's actually a bit of a rush to see that I ended up where I did.
It's kind of funny, really. When I went through college the first time grades weren't that important to me. Now that I've had to do things the hard way, now that I've seen so many 'students' who think the world owes them a living.....let's just say that, now, the grade is really, really, really important to me.