Saturday, February 5, 2011

The title of this blog is a misnomer

…because I do not teach using a blackboard.  I use a digital, interactive whiteboard known as a SmartBoard.  I can project notes onto the board, draw with digital markers, and even draw over youtube videos, like a sports reporter.  According to the website, a full SmartBoard setup costs between 3 and 5 thousand dollars.
            Why I have this is completely inexplicable because I have barely any other resources.  I do not have a sink in my room for labs, nor test tubes, nor chemicals, nor scales, nor anything else one would associate with a science class (except, again somewhat inexplicably: 20 microscopes).
            Before working at my school, I had almost literally no experience of scarcity.  The high school I attended offered summer trips to Ecuador and boasted a multimillion dollar theater building.  My current school doesn’t even have any sports teams, save an intramural-style basketball team, nor, for that matter, do we seem to have tape and pens.  The gleaming digital whiteboard in my room is like a shrine to the poor business sense of my school’s previous leadership, and I look at it and think, My fancy, electronic kingdom for a set of scalpels.
            As part of my credentialing program, I get observed by a retired veteran teacher who comes to my classroom and offers feedback.  The last time she visited my classroom she took my lack of resources as a sign of my personal failure, helpfully suggesting that I march down to the front office and demand more money in the name of science.
            Instead of doing that, I signed up for a website called DonorsChoose, which allows teachers to make small requests for classroom projects and receive funding from philanthropists; in exchange, I give them a warm fuzzy feeling in the form of thank-you notes from my students and pictures of us using the materials.  My very first donation is in the mail right now: a classroom set of dissecting kits, and seven preserved goat brains.
            My students are absolutely desperate to dissect something, and once the pressure of passing the state tests is lifted, we’ll finally have the time to do it.  I still remember the first time I held a brain, in a college course, and how struck I was by how much less squishy it was than I expected. 
Of course, I want to prepare for this before I do it in class, which explains why I have several pounds of lamb brain sitting in the bottom of my fridge at present, to the chagrin of my girlfriend.


  1. yeah, so, that brain has been in the fridge for over two weeks...

  2. I had a smart board in my middle school Geometry class. Those were the good days!