October 12, 2000

Curriculum Night


This is what used to be known as "Meet the Teachers", an annual fall ritual for parents of school-age children.

I've probably been attending these events for the last sixteen years (if you count nursery school) but this should have been my last. My youngest child is in senior year of high school.

The evening began with a short assembly in the auditorium. The Vice Principal greeted the parents and relayed the (new) Principal's regrets.. in her words, "He just had a baby last night." And I didn't even know he was pregnant..

Next, the parents were treated to a sampling of the school day. Their child was supposed to fill in his schedule for "day 1" of the rotation and the parents were to follow it, for ten minute presentations by the teachers. The aim is to give an overview of the curriculum and the grading procedures.

The school is fairly large, in a capital "I" shape. It's very easy to get lost, so some of the older students (mostly girls) were sent into the crowd to conduct traffic. Students were also there to conduct a bake sale for the benefit of the yearbook committee. Rob seems to have taken on the role of chief consultant and general nuisance for most of the student committees. He hasn't joined any of them (except maybe one for an alternate talent show) but seems to be participating anyway, when and where he chooses. The (mostly) girls who run everything tolerate him.

The first class was chemistry. This is an option usually taken by university-bound students. Rob kicked up quite a fuss about taking chemistry and physics but once the classes began, quickly shut up. I still don't think he wants a career in science but he must find it passably challenging. (Or else there's a sufficient supply of "hot girls" in the class to keep him mentally occupied.)

Hubby took a look at the periodic table of the elements posted on the wall and commented that there didn't used to be that many of them when he was in school. The teacher giggled nervously.

Next was advanced math. I took lots of math and was good at it, back in the dark ages; I must have forgotten it because most of the course description (below) sounds like Sanskrit to me:

The functions studied will include:

1. The Real functions which include the absolute value, step, square root, rational, exponential, logarithmic and trigonometric functions.   (so far I can relate, sort of..)
2. Problems that use systems of inequalities to optimize the constraints of a given situation.   (huh?)
3. Geometric loci associated with first and second degree relations in the Cartesian Plane.   (I must have been absent that day..)

After class, Hubby engaged the math teacher in a lively discussion about whether the kids should be taught about logarithms (as a calculation aide) and slide rules. Short answer: no.

Next, English. This is also an advanced class. The teacher is new to the school and is in the process of figuring out what these kids have already read, and what books are available as texts.

Then, Economics. This teacher is a character. Probably mid-50's, probably an ex-hippie. He's somewhat rumpled and has a scruffy beard. His classroom was plastered with posters: all the punk rock bands (those could have come out of Rob's room); also skateboarding stuff; a poster on the horrors of tongue piercing; and the odd political statement (Free Mumia!). A week or two ago, this teacher came to school dressed in a skirt. When asked why, he replied, if the women teachers can wear pants, I can wear a skirt.

The kids hang on his every word, and while he's a great speaker, Rob isn't sure whether he's actually covering the material he's supposed to. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Break for coffee and the bake sale; then Physics, which is taught by a youngish-looking woman. Rob had reported, and she admits, that most of the class is failing so far. (Rob isn't so I'm not personally concerned.) She is giving extra help at lunch time and after school, but I have to wonder about her teaching skills. This group of kids is used to 90's, not 50's.

Last, French. Again, advanced. These kids actually finished their high school French requirements last year, but by law have to take a French course. They won't have to bother with a stressful final exam but they do have to "produce something" as the teacher put it. Good luck to her in motivating them.

Once again I'm generally pleased with the batch of teachers, quirkiness notwithstanding. They all seem to have one element that I find crucial - they love their subject, and several of them said that in so many words. They also seem to have a genuine affection for the students.

So, the year of lasts has begun.

Linque Du Jour:  Swedish moose hunting on the web

I couldn't resist..

This is an offshoot of this Swedish site, which looks like either a portal or a newspaper web page.

They've set up a webcam "somewhere in the depth of the Swedish forest". It's set to refresh every minute, and there's a moose-spotting contest of sorts:

If you spot a moose in the photo, fill in the form below, giving the date and the time. The first viewers to spot a moose will win a fresh moose-steak or other game delicacy.

Second prize, er, two moose steaks??????

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