Archive for October, 2010

The 3-Day

18 October 2010

Over the past three days I walked 55 miles.  Yeah, not 60.  But that is OK with me.  My feet still hurt.  But it was amazing and I’m glad I did it!  I might even do it again!


At Willow Grove Mall, ready to start walking and warm up!


On Friday morning, my teammate Stacy and I met at the Willow Grove Mall, which is where the walk started.  It was dark and cold out, but thank goodness not raining!  (It poured on Thursday.)  We were given the day off by our principal (so we didn’t have to use up any personal or sick days) and our classes were covered by fellow teachers who volunteered their time (i.e they didn’t “blue card” the time so our principal didn’t have to pay for coverage out of the building budget).  Thanks, everyone who helped out!

At the opening ceremony, we got pumped up by the music and cheered on by the crew and volunteers, and Stacy and I were on TV as we walked past the TV cameras.  That was really nice because Stacy’s kids got to see her on the news!


One family supported us with a huge bra display!


The first day took us through the northeastern suburbs before entering Philadelphia and arriving at Fairmount Park.  We passed through Abington and Springfield (MontCo), walking through residential neighborhoods who had been warned ahead of time of our passage.  There were families cheering for us from their porches; people offering water bottles, baked goods, and candy; homes decorated in pink—we felt great!  In addition, there were designated “cheering zones” where families and friends had gathered, and there were volunteers who cheered at other places along the way.  As we passed through Manayunk and were walking down “the wall” (bicyclists ride up it in the annual bike race), for example, we passed by our favorite cheer team, “high five,” “woo,” and “hooray.”  Wearing matching green t-shirts and striped black-and-green socks, these three gave personal high fives (and high tens), woo!’s, and hoorays to EACH walker and kept us going!  We walked past them twice each day, and they gave us something to look forward to as we approached the end of each day’s course.


Stacy and "high five"


We arrived at our original camping spot (Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park) at the ends of days 1 and 2 to be loaded on buses to our indoor (and therefore warmer) campsite: the Pennsylvania Convention Center.  We camped on the ground floor and had meals on the upper floor.  Thank goodness for escalators!  Also thanks to the Temple University football team for carrying our baggage from the upper floor where it was stacked to the lower floor where we camped!

Breakfasts and dinners were served by women in costumes (bathrobes, fuzzy slippers, hair rollers at breakfast!) and when our hands were full of plates and cutlery, boy scouts and girl scouts carried our drinks to the table for us.  Country singer Candy Coburn serenaded us (well, it was a lot louder than a serenade, I guess) and sang her song Pink Warrior, which is the theme song for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  It makes me tear up, though I am not really a fan of her music.  There were areas for medical help, for buying NewBalance or Susan G. Komen merchandise, getting a mechanical foot-and-back massage from Energizer, and signing up for the 2011 walk (I didn’t sign up…yet).  Showers were provided in trucks parked out in back of the convention center.  If you got to the showers at the right time, there was no line!


In the bus line on Day 3


In the morning, there was no need for an alarm clock.  The room we camped in started getting noisy before 5:30 am, though the buses didn’t leave until later to get us back to Fairmount Park, where we began walking on both Day 2 and Day 3.  There was plenty of time for breakfast, and Stacy had the people at medical wrap her feet since her arches were bothering her.

On Day 2 we walked through the Main Line, passing through Narberth, Ardmore, Lower Merion, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Havertown.  We were cheered on at Suburban Square and lunched by the duck pond at Haverford College.  It was very familiar territory for me, as I have lived in both Narberth and Ardmore and I’ve driven on Lancaster Avenue and Montgomery Avenue more times than I can count!


By the giraffe enclosure at the zoo


Day 3 was all in the city, starting with the zoo!  Very cool!  We also walked right by our Convention Center “home” and by many tourist sites including City Hall,  the National Constitution Center, Elfreth’s Alley, Headhouse Square (where the farmer’s market was in full swing), South Street, and Geno’s Steaks and Pat’s Steaks!  We saw many of our fellow walkers stopping at the local eateries and pubs (including both Geno’s and Pat’s) and I have to admit Stacy and I did stop into a South Street bar for a beer!  Some other walkers came in for shots while we were finishing our drinks.  A slightly premature celebration, but we felt we deserved it!

We finally arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, to be greeted by hundreds of cheering families and of course “high five,” “woo,” and “hooray!”  After walking through the throngs of people who had walked in before us and who had lined up to continue the high-five’s, we were given our victory shirts and long-stemmed roses.  Wow.  It was an amazing experience, and Philadelphia’s walkers raised $5.7 million for the cause.  A Susan G. Komen official announced it, along with the fact that even in these tough financial times the foundation has been able to award over $59 million in research grants this year!  Thank you to all of you who donated!  You rock!

PS you can see the rest of my photos on flickr:

Grading/Being Busy

10 October 2010

The thing I hate most about teaching is grading.  I know some people are trying out Standards Based Grading (SBG) but I have not make that leap yet.  I anticipate it will take some substantial reading/summer work in order to get myself ready to try that.  In the meantime, I check homework for completion, grade lab reports with a rubric, and score various other assignments according to various criteria depending on what it is.

The thing is, grading takes a lot of time.  Right now I have a stack of lab reports, a stack of mini-quizzes, and a pack of 10 AP lab reports on my grading pile.  I also need to plan next week’s lessons and beyond, with an eye toward the quarterly assessment coming up at the end of the month.  I need to type up last weeks lesson plans, which I somehow never did last weekend (I got a lot of lab reports graded though!) and write plans for a substitute to follow for both this coming Friday (I’m walking in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in Philadelphia, which starts Friday) and a week from Monday, in case I don’t make it in the morning after walking 60 miles in 3 days.  I count myself lucky that I am not writing college recommendations, since my conceptual-level students rarely decide a recommendation from me would help them get into college (physics not being their best subject).

I need to make sure I keep some other things on my agenda this week also:

  • getting in touch with the maintenance person who will be on duty a week from Saturday, when my school is hosting Physics Olympics, to touch base and make sure we’ll have unlocked doors and bleachers in the gym
  • having a meeting with my teammate for the 3-day walk about packing and tenting
  • keeping my Physics Olympics team focused on getting all the events practiced and devices built, since we are now less than two weeks away from the meet and I will lose Friday’s (and possibly Monday’s) practice – unless I can persuade another teacher to step in on Friday after school
  • Attending a graduate class on literacy Tuesday night (I believe I have an assignment to complete for that) and a department meeting Wednesday
  • Taking account for this week’s fire drill in my lesson plans

There are probably things I am not thinking of right now, but will get reminded of right before they happen…typical.

So how do I find time for grading?  I usually don’t, and wind up scandalously behind, with students not getting feedback in time for it to make a difference.  I am working on this much harder this year, and I am dong better.  The average number of days between students handing in a lab report and getting it back is shrinking.  I rode hard on my kids who missed the unit 2 test, and was able to get all of the tests taken and graded within a week.  Overall, it is going well.  But of course it is at the expense of other things in my life.  I have fallen behind in training for the 3-Day, and I probably won’t walk today at all though by the official training schedule I should go 8 miles (I did get in my 10 miles yesterday).  I’d say I’ll do it tomorrow, but by the time I get home I’ll be tired, there will be only an hour of daylight left (walking 8 miles will take me more than 2 hours), and someone has to cook dinner.

My friends used to wonder why I didn’t come out for an evening – just take a nap after work, they would say.  If I lay down upon getting home, I am OUT.  It just doesn’t work.  I told a friend I might make it to her party last night…but I wound up in bed by 9 PM.  I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  Sorry, Joanna!  I know this is why my friends don’t invite me out much.  I’m just unlikely to make it there!

So….back to grading.  With a lesson-planning break sometime mid-afternoon.


1 October 2010

Here I am, on Friday night, awake at 9 PM.  I am waiting to watch Teach: Tony Danza, a reality show starring Tony Danza, which starts at 10 PM on A&E.  In it, Tony Danza (former boxer, sitcom actor, and sometime talk show host) teaches 10th-grade English at Northeast Philadelphia High School (Home of the Vikings), a huge comprehensive high school in the Northeast section of Philadelphia (go figure).

After teaching part time for a semester at an Orthodox Jewish school and full time for a semester at a high school in Southeast Philadelphia (simultaneously), I was once a new (and still very inexperienced) teacher at a huge comprehensive high school in Philadelphia’s Northeast section.  I walked into a classroom as a white chick from someplace else with an ideal of making the world a better place.  I got back suspicion, attitude, and eventually respect.  And I now teach at a large comprehensive high school named after a compass point and with sports teams called the Vikings (though two counties West of Northeast Philadelphia High School.)

I want to watch it happen to Tony Danza.  Because I was him, only younger and female.  Because I feel like I know those kids, despite being separated by fifteen years and thirty miles.  Because even though he’s at a different school than I was (there are nearly 30 high schools in Philadelphia) and I was never an actor and never won an Emmy, I remember the feeling of responsibility, of terror, and eventually of triumph.

I’m curious about what they will show outside of the classroom.  Mornings sitting in the bathroom feeling sick?  Crying at night?  Mountains of papers to grade, piles of IEP’s to read and obey,  administrators quick to criticize?

Will they show disobedient kids mouthing off or threatening Danza?  Will anyone scream in Danza’s face that he’s an f***ing nut?  Will all the kids even show up to class?  Will they make fun of him behind his back and mimic him in mocking tones?  Or will the cameras change the behavior of the kids (and administrators)?

I have to stay awake!


Wow.  Right off the bat, first day, Danza gets scolded by an administrator for not signing in on time.  When I taught in Philadelphia some administrators were notorious for watching the clock and checking the sign-in sheets.

I liked that he had a “Do Now” on the board when the kids came into class.  It didn’t look like anyone did the “Do Now,” however.

Good job with “the bell doesn’t dismiss you, I dismiss you.”

I love that a kid predicts that Danza will wind up “flipping out.”

I hope that he didn’t bump out some other teacher as assistant football coach.  That seems unfair.

I’m recognizing the self-doubt.  “I don’t know if I can do this.”  “You think you know so much and then you find out you don’t know nothin’.”

I was sorry for the teacher stuck in there observing Danza.  According to state law there must be a certificated teacher in a classroom, which is why student teachers can’t be alone in a classroom and why sometimes I’ve been assigned “coverage” in my school’s testing room for kids with IEPs…while there is a full-time aide, she doesn’t have a teaching certificate.

“This is the hardest job I’ve ever had.”

I could really feel it when Danza commented on the pressure: from parents, kids, administrators, and himself.

They still use chalk at Northeast High School as of last year.