Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fun Things We Will Do

The following is a list of fun things Tressa, Keaton, and I will be doing in Philadelphia when they come and visit me, if they want to do them because they don't have to if they don't want to. I will add to the list as I think of other things. The truth is, things have kept coming to me over the past few months, and I don't want to forget them. So we'll do this stuff:

  1. Visit Love Park and take a picture by the fountain
  2. Have a frosty lemonade (made by Magic Bullet) on my back porch, admiring my garden which has basil and tomatoes and stuff
  3. Have a frosty lemonade (or smoothie) on my deck
  4. Eat hot dogs we make ourselves on the roof at night, and be like, this is a cool view, because you can see the Philadelphia skyline really well from my roof; be careful getting back down because it's dangerous
  5. Buy one of those apple/pear hybrids at the Chinese Market
  6. Go running in the morning next to the Schuylkill River up to the museum and maybe even to the boathouses with bandanas on our heads and no shirts (except for Tressa)
  7. Watch a movie at the giant screen at Penn's Landing after dark some night with like thousands of other people, so it's like a big outdoor picnic with a movie
  8. Go to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where they are having a Renoir exhibit (don't know if it will still be there, but something will be -- and they have a really good modern art thing with sound and everything which I like)
  9. Buy enormous sandwiches at 4th Street Deli, where I buy lots of sandwiches lots of times and which is better than any other deli that there is, but it's kind of expensive
  10. Tell stories about what we did this year, like I will tell my funny stories about school that I didn't blog about (I didn't blog that often)
  11. The Friday before Keaton gets here, take the MegaBus up to New York and see a show since Tressa has never been to New York and MegaBus is cheap and I don't think Keaton really wanted to go to New York (he's already been there)
  12. Put Milk Duds and roasted peanuts in our mouths at the same time because that is delicious and I just invented it the other day
  13. Go to Church and finally I'll be the one with visitors
  14. Have a delicious Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich at Pat's or Geno's or Jim's or all three
  15. Have some water ice from Rita's, and hopefully I'll have found my punch-card by then and we'll get a free one
  16. Maybe see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall and stuff, if you want, or the Constitution Center which I hear is nice
  17. Go to Rittenhouse Square and see all the people there that are interesting to see, and the dogs there which own the place; I will explain how I walk through there every day
  18. Make our own frozen yogurt concoction at a yogurt place I know
  19. Go to a delicious BYOB or other eatery of which I know...maybe TRIA or that place with devils all over it
  20. Practice our French
  21. Et cetera

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Don't mean to DOG you about what you OTTER do, but it would be MICE if you commented

The title of this post is a hat-tip to the DADAANG family, who have (in all probability) recently added another first-rate punner to their ranks. Congratulations, guys!

In addition to four periods of physical science, I also teach one section of "corrective math." "Corrective math" is, as the name implies, a sort of remedial class for students whose math skills need to be brought up to speed. These courses are very remedial for high school. For instance, the first workbook they work through is addition. Then, after about a semester -- or potentially more -- they finally move on to do a whole workbook on subtraction. Then, multiplication, then division, then ratios and fractions.

When you teach corrective math, you are supposed to read a script (that's right, read a script) while the students do problems, which system is more than slightly insulting to teachers as professionals, but I digress. I don't read the script, because I actually don't teach a whole class. I teach a "pullout class." This means that I only teach about five or six students from another class that either were causing problems in the larger class, or were able to move much faster on their own than the script allowed.

There are just a few kids, so we can get to know each other pretty well. We can get into highly stimulating conversation. Like the other day, I was helping one of my students with a problem; he was writing it on one of my chalkboards so that I could watch and tell him where he made a mistake. He ended up getting it wrong by an order of ten because of an error. When I told him the right answer, he was like, "I was close." and I said, "that's not close, that's like if someone said you were 140 instead of 14. That's a big difference." And he responded, "that's not a big difference, a big difference is a cat and a dog stuck together." I asked, "what?" And he said, "A big difference is like a cat and a dog stuck together."

A big difference

I thought that was really great, and, as you might have suspected, this has all been a ruse to get it down for posterity.

Not amused? Well how about this question, from a recent group worksheet:

1. Increasing the AMPLITUDE of a LIGHT wave will change the light in what way?

a. The light will change colors

b. The light will get brighter

c. The light will get less bright

d. The light will change into an otter

Unless you are a teacher, perhaps you can not believe the immense satisfaction this question gave me. All day long, students would ask, "what's an otter?" and I would explain in my very most patient teacher tone what an otter was (where they lived, etc.), but I would prudently allow them to draw their own conclusions. This is called student-centered learning. They'd look at me, then look at their paper, and then haltingly consult their group-mates. Ultimately, most would conclude that changing the amplitude of a light wave could not possibly change light into an otter. See, they're really learning! Here's where I'd put that youtube video of otters, but I can't figure out how to post youtube videos. Anyone else want to tell me?

A simple graphic shows that only changing the
frequency of light waves can get you an otter

I might as well put a video of a the double-mouse catch here too. I realize this entry is a disaster, but let's face it, Declan's about to hit the internet and all else will be swallowed up in a wake of total obscurity, so this is a good time for some indulgent for-posterity note-taking. Did you watch the video? Two for one! In case you were wondering, Victor mouse traps are the best. Remember when we were going to make coats out of mouse skins, Gregan? Well, I could totally do that these days.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Bullet: Magical!

Most of us have been fortunate enough to have come across the wonderful world of the magic bullet on Saturday afternoon infomercials. We love the playful interaction of all the folks who happen to congregate at the home of a non-threatening Englishman: Berman the lovable drunk, the young couple dressed for a cocktail party, the busy mother, and of course, the ever-entertaining Hazel, a frumpy old woman who dangles a rubber cigarette from her mouth as she offers pithy commentary on the goings-on.

"Chopping garlic! Stinky, nasty garlic!"

Either by some incredibly fortuitous coincidence -- or more likely, by the dizzying versatility of the amazing machine in front of him -- we witness the Englishman find a way to solve all of their problems with one incredible tool: the Magic Bullet!

Fade back into the relative grayness of our lives. Here, we chop with a tool. We puree with another. Our minutes (minutes!) are filled, occupied incessantly with myriad appliances. Our backs sting from the whip of these time-consuming demands, but here and there we steal a moment or two to ponder longingly on the legend of our youth, that beautiful tale of convenience and ease that washed over us like a warm bath after morning cartoons...

Still, in this vain, cruel world, we find ourselves in doubt...

Is the Magic Bullet just a dream? A psychological placebo? The final sprite left in Pandora's box that keeps us trudging onward, but ultimately too fine a thing for this vale of tears? "Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear"?

Well, my friends! I fell through the looking glass yesterday when I chanced upon the hallowed thing in a Costco in New Jersey! Prometheus-like, I brought it to the mortal realm, and gathered my friends round. With faith abundant, I began a smoothie party not unlike that demonstrated by the infomercial:

Each of my several guests enjoyed their own color-coded mugs, filled to the brim with their individualized smoothies, each made in ten seconds or less!

I beg your patience with the relative gap in enthusiasm of this next group. Surely, they did not understand the awesome significance of what they were experiencing!
(especially Bert in the middle there)

My friends, I am happy to report that the Magic Bullet is every bit as magical as you had hoped in your wildest dreams! All is well with the world!

As I sign off, I see one chronic upstager's floating cat and raise him a cat on a keyboard in space!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Internet! Keeping Us Connected!

Am I the only one that feels a resurgence of blog activity!?! I just want to keep the ball rolling here, you know what I mean?

And if you're all going to be all like, oh, Von Grinner, why don't he write? Maybe you should keep in mind that I have a very high stress job!

Which reminds me, I teach Physical Science at John Bartram High, to sophomores and freshmen. If that is news to you, you are not really my friend, because everyone knows that except for people that only get their news from my blog (who know who you are, my cheeto-dusted ham-faced pickle-sweat lurkers).

Teaching is fun and challenging. Every day, it is up to me to find ways to get people to learn without them knowing it, or without it feeling like work, which nobody likes. Right now I'm in the middle of Physics:

That's my favorite slide I've used so far. I stole it from a web site, but I won't say which one. I want to see how long it takes him to take it off of my blog. Monkeys are fun! One thing about this monkey is, irrespective of the x-component velocity (or acceleration) of a projectile subject to gravity, its y-component acceleration is constant: -9.8 (m/s)/s. That's what I like about this monkey.

-smirks knowingly-

The district has muchos problems, like this and this and this. No bueno, right Dev? But no teacher recently got arrested for a DUI, unlike SOME district I could name! No, actually I feel bad about that (which is why I'm not linking to it). We gave her a hard time in that class; we were nutz like Renee on the hit television series, 24. NuTz!

Lots to say about my job, if I were so inclined... Like when the lights went out and the generator also failed, so it was pitch black in the halls -- in between classes! Some people got jumped (one had to leave in an ambulance) and our front hall was thrashed. It was crazy like when Renee stabbed that guy in the eyeball, and then over and over, and then Jack in the belly (Jack was all right).

But, like the above, most of what ya'll would like to hear would pretty much be gossip. The good things happening would be more responsible to blog about, but not as fun to read. We'll try: recently, one of my students -- who had threatened me to the point of suspension last month -- has turned in all his work and is pulling a solid B. I called his mom to say positive things!


You want to hear about the threat, right?

Well, mom also reads this blog, and she is proud of me, and loves me very much. She wants to know how wonderful I am, and not how things are -- despite my wonderfulness -- crazy like Renee when she sawed off that guy's thumb, just because she wanted his bracelet.

Anyways, that'll do for now. I have contributed. Ball's in your court, Jaron! Or Tressa!

I don't want Gregan to upstage me right away. It is common knowledge that he has the best blog. I think, though, I am making some inroads into his secrets. Like ending with ytmnd flair, such as this gem, which shows the ever-versatile Gary Oldman hitting a high note.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The VonGrinny Philly Skinny...

"Cause I know everything free!!!
Yes I can see you girl see me?!?"

As I sit here listening to Wolfmother, enjoying my first free evening in many moons with my newly installed internets, I find myself just a little bit distracted for having neglected that most sacrosanct of responsibilities, that of chronicling my every move for my family. What will they do if they don't know, for example, that I just finished my second-to-last packet of craisins (thanks, mom!)? Or that I have finally purchased my first mini-fridge?

These things are as important to them as they are to me.

And then there are the kudos which have not been doled as they ought to have been. Amy, for birthing a human child. Merin, for being born like a champ. Kindy and Marty, for having a honeymoon they both liked. Marty, for mowing down the competition and landing that job. Mom, for having three things in a row that are fun for her. Tressa, for whipping multiple sclerosis' sorry derriere. Keaton, for that trippy eye thing. And on and on and on!! All, please do consider this my belated kudos doling.

There really is too much to say about the last month and a half to even try. So I will probably write what comes to mind, and leave the rest for when you come and visit me.

Visit me? Yes, in Philadelphia! All of the Teach For America folks that came here for training (we taught summer school for the past five weeks) were always like, "oof! we can't wait to get out of this stinking city!" (so that they could return to such utopias as Baltimore, presumably).

It's true the subway looks and smells like a rotting carcass, I do concede. But overall, I have been surprised at how easy it has been for me to love Philly. It is my kind of city. It has a lot of great character, architecture, and cool city stuff, without being all full of itself like NY or DC.

It is a great place to have been teaching. But teaching was killer, and I mean killer, killer, killer. Maybe the hardest part was the sleep deprivation, staying up until the wee hours writing lesson plans. But it was happy work, and good for me. I have concluded that to be a healthy person, you need to be accountable to other people in a meaningful way, which you people with your own families probably take for granted more than you should. Anyway, teaching has that in spades, and I really dig it.

During summer school, I taught eighth-grade science (mostly matter, physical/chemical changes, etc.) at South Philadelphia High School (pictured above). It is a school/neighborhood with a lot of challenges. The school is really too hot for class (no AC), and in disrepair in quite a few ways. The school has a tense feel to it, with metal detectors and bars on the windows and doors; the toilets have no stalls around them in order to prevent drug-dealing. They are things for which I can see the rationale, but which must take their toll on the morale of the students. Also, we had a really rough time right in the middle of the session when a student attending summer school was killed in a shooting, whom some of my kids knew.

All that considered, it has been really impressive to meet some of the teachers, administrators, and students who don't make excuses in the pursuit of a good education. "YES WE CAN!" reminds a huge mural of Obama in one hallway. "No excuses" will be one of the keys to making this teaching thing work, I think: not letting my bleeding heart make excuses for my students, and not letting my own inadequacies make excuses for my initial failures as a teacher.

So, during teaching they had us in the Temple University dorms, roomed in alphabetical order. Alex Alton was placed with me in the same room because of his last name, but it is a heck of a coincidence, because he was one of only a handful BYU alums.

On August 1st teaching ended, and I moved into my South Philly rowhouse with him and two other guys after much ado and many deadends, apartment hunting. But it is a great place. I have a deck! We have a cool little neighborhood place across the street that sells funnel cake, ice cream and water ice (this last a true Philly classic).

You all need to come see me. Even with four guys here, there is plenty of space for all of you to come and stay at once, if you wanted. Really! I would post my address, but that seems like one of those things only stupid people do. But it is a little south of South Street and west of Broad Street, near Center City.

Now we will start our certification process with the University of Pennsylvania next week (college courses, basically), and then start teaching at the beginning of September. I still don't know where I will be teaching, which is very frustrating.

I will leave you with a satisfying "what the...?" moment from my classroom this last summer:

VonGrinner, trying to set up a conceptual help to reading a phase diagram: "Does anyone know what a goblet is?.....yes, Kareem?"

Kareem, one my best students: "It's an animal that flies through the air and eats dead possums."

[short pause]

VonGrinner: "uh........."