A Day In The Life Of Scott

If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion

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Too much to do, and I love it.

So, it turns out that I haven’t got enough hours in my days to be completely satisfied. Somehow I have to find time to work, play, and sleep.

Since my last post, I have been heavily into the work and much less into the play and sleep.  The science fair at school took a lot of time and preparation in January and February. The committee and I organized everything and completely re-vamped the fair from previous years to include projects from all students in the school. Elementary students prepared class projects, which in my opinion turned out awesome for the first time having done projects. Grade 6’s up to high school prepared projects that qualified them to go the regional First Nations science fair in Saskatoon. I took two teams on to the regional fair earlier this week. They never placed 1st or 2nd over all to make it to the national science fair in Fredericton, NB, but they did both place 2nd in their categories. They did awesome.  This was basically a 2-night and 2-day field trip that I chaperoned.  I love taking kids on field trips, but it is so draining, and I was drained to start with.

At the end of February we got a call from one of James’ surgeon’s office. His March 5th appointments with the neurosurgeons and his specialist had all been cancelled and fast-tracked to February 26th.  Everything was rushed so that they could get him in for surgery on Monday, March 9th.  While all this was great, it also meant that I was booking more days off work than I had expected in a very short time.  All these days off meant more planning and busy work that needed to be corrected…. (blah… while I love my job, I quite dislike the chore of correcting)

So, anyway, the doctors all felt James would be best with the surgery, which they changed. Originally he was supposed to have a section of brain tissue removed to reduce the number of seizures. His previous surgery back in January revealed some interesting findings. They were able to precisely locate the seizure loci (or places where seizures begin) in his brain.  This was pretty cool in itself because even with the electrodes and sensors in his brain back in January it was not really expected to get this information.  This was all well and great, but they could not safely remove the brain tissue from this new location without risking paralysis in his left leg and arm. Though this might not be so bad for some, James is left-handed.

The new plan of action was Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery.  Basically they placed two electrodes into his brain using a sophisticated computer and a robot. Each electrode placed next to each of the two seizure loci in the brain. These electrodes are then hooked up to a battery that was implanted and programmed with a specific pulse and electrical current. The current pulses stimulate the brain cells in the area, basically preventing them from entering a refractory state, stopping them from firing. In essence, it makes them too tired to work. A neuron that is too tired to fire, will not fire, and thus will not be able to cause a seizure.

The odds were that over the next 24 months there is a 15% chance of being seizure-free.  Not a lot, but better than the 0% that the doctors in St. John’s, NL told him back several years ago. At worst, there will be up to 80% improvement in his quality of life, as long as he continues to take his meds. Gradually the specialist would like to wean him off a couple meds, so that even though he has to continue to take them, he will not have to take so many.

We are two weeks post-surgery and there have been seizures, but honestly, they have been tiny. His battery pack has a computer and remote control for recording seizures during the event, but by the time we get the remote out the seizure is over.  Interestingly enough last weekend he messed up his meds and missed 3 doses. Normally this would result in BIG seizures and maybe a trip to the ER if he was really lucky.  With the device installed, he still had four seizures, but they were less than 3 seconds each – long enough to witness, but too short to be a problem, and he was not left groggy afterwards.


Back to my schedule issues for a moment.   I had to book 2 days off for James. One for the new appointment dates, which meant that at the very last moment I had to cancel my already-booked day off from March 5th. On March 9th I had to book the surgery date off too.  Somehow I still had to cram time in to finish 2 math courses that I was nowhere near finishing on time by last Thursday, but there was little I could do. I planned for a sub for that Monday and went on to Saskatoon.

I left James at the hospital until I was told to pick him up. I had kids in till late in the evenings prepping for their exams and working to bring their marks up. By the time I got home most evenings I was dead in the head. Somewhere between meetings, classes and tutoring I had to make 2 math exams and get all my correcting done before the term was over.  Thursday morning, March 12th, I get a call from the hospital while I was at work – James was being discharged.  Argh…. I now had to go to Saskatoon after school – 2 hrs in, 2 hrs out.  Waste of an evening. Upon returning home I had to make 2 math exams that I never had time to make all week. They were done and they were beautiful exams, but they were not done till 5:30 in the morning.  Oops, and I had to get up at 7:30 for work.

That same weekend, as if it wasn’t enough to be swamped with exams and stuff, Science fair in Saskatoon was March 16 – 17th. We were leaving on Sunday, returning on Tuesday.  I had to prep for 3 courses I had not even started teaching yet. I managed to get all of my exams corrected, marks and comments into the computer. I even managed to get all my planning done for two days. Needless to say, by the time I got home from Saskatoon on Tuesday after being “on” for 2 days with the kids, I was basically dead on my feet and my head.

I started back to class on Wednesday, and my new classes seem like they are going to be awesome.  I am teaching computer science and Math 10 and 20 Workplace & Apprenticeship (basically trade school math). All three classes seem like they are going to be awesome.  I love when things work out nicely like this.

Oh, I nearly forgot, Thursday evening I had a math night at school to help out with. That was interesting, I planned for helping junior high kids with adding and subtracting fractions, but ended up working with grade 5-6 kids instead.

Last night I spent 4 hours after school cleaning all the computers in the computer lab. They were so messed up it was driving me nuts and I don’t even use them. Didn’t get home til nearly 8 PM on a Friday night.  I tried helping a friend with some coding on his website, and I fell asleep on the keyboard… oops.   When I woke up all James said to me was  “having a nap were we?”  As if it is normal to fall asleep on the keyboard.  haha

The fun does not stop there.  I had staff meetings in North Battleford all day Monday and parent-teacher meetings on Tuesday evening.

I think that is almost everything done after that.   And so it should be, I had been swamped since February.

As a final note, as busy as I have been, and as sleepy has I have been while trying to get everything done in limited time, I am not at all complaining. I am a teacher, and working with the kids and enjoying every minute of it is exactly what I signed up for. Busy as it has been, I have been loving every minute of it.

I even signed up for more. I am planning to be returning to Little Pine School in the fall as the primary math/ science teacher for junior and senior high.  Not sure how that will work yet, since I am only one person, but I am sure it will be fun to figure out.

That has been my last 2 months in a nutshell. Too busy having to much fun to have time to type.

Until next time.


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Bullying @ School Part 1


This will be the first of a series of posts discussing bullying. Unfortunately for the victims bullying often goes unnoticed until it is too late. It is a nearly silent crime against another person.  Children who bully are not generally doing it where they will get caught, and when there is an adult present they do it in a sneaky way that prevents them from getting identified as the bully.

Having been the victim of bullying for many years when I was in school, I vowed that when I became a teacher I would not put up with it in my classroom. Now, after hearing about recent bullying incidents at schools, I have decided to try and take a stand. I have heard too many stories about kids who get tormented and called names simply because they are not with the so-called “in crowd” or have some type of disability that isolates them from the rest of their peers.

In the last three months, there have been two teens commit suicide because they were bullied. Back in September 2011, 14 year old Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, New York was one of these teens. His death, resulted in CNN and other news agencies across North America to do special reports on the problem of bullying among teens. In October 2011, CNN did yet another ped,a one-month long series on bullying to address the issue. Not that it helped because just last week, 15 year old Chantal Larose of Quebec also committed suicide because she too was tormented and harassed in the schoolyard. These two kids did not even get a chance to experience life and all it has to offer, and should not have had to end their lives prematurely simply because they were bullied.

Clearly, there is something that needs to be done. When I heard these kids’ stories and how they could not go on any further because of the pain of getting up every morning only to be put down constantly by their peers, my heart wanted to reach out. I can feel their pain. I was in their shoes many times over, and also had moments where I could not bear to get up in the morning and go to school, because I knew the day was going to be miserable, and I was going be ridiculed and insulted from the time I got on the bus in the morning till the time I got off the bus in the evening. I completely understand what they are going through, and how they could consider suicide an option. There came a point when I was in junior high that I also tried to end it all in the way that they did.

I have been focusing my efforts in recent weeks to researching bulling and why it happens. What causes kids like Jamey and Chantel decide to end their life? In the coming posts I will be presenting the facts about bullying in hopes that I can make a difference.

My work here will be in conjunction with a few of my students who have agreed to help develop a campaign on anti-bullying.

To learn more about Chantal Larose’s story click here.

To learn more about Jamey Rodemeyer’s story click here.

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Homework causes stress in students… and parents

According to Canadian researchers giving students homework is not particularly effective, especially for kids in kindergarten to grade 6. Apparently homework causes a great deal of stress and burnout among children On average Canadian students spend approximately 33 minutes per night doing homework. Of course, the actual time spend ranges from 10 minutes to over 45 minutes.

While there is some evidence to suggest that getting some homework in junior and senior high school is beneficial, this is not the case for elementary school children. It does not seem to help students in younger grades. What they recommend is that younger children spend time reading each night with their parents so that they can hone this essential skill, rather than trying to use their time to “learn” new concepts at home.

Parents who were surveys say that they agree with the work ethic homework promotes, but it seriously cuts into valuable family time for many families, as parents are left to help their children with the “evil deed” that their teachers assigned.

Read the article as it was written in the Calgary Sun on Feb. 10, 2008

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Evolution, a theory? Who’d have thought?

The following is based on a long-running debate in the US about teaching evolution in public schools. This is the link to a Routers article discussing a recent decision in Florida.

According to Routers the state of Florida will now be teaching Evolution in public schools. But, just wait, they are teaching it “as a theory” because Charles Darwin’s ideas have yet to be proven. Go figure. As a biologist with some background in evolutionary biology, I had no idea it was actually proven in the first place. I know there seems to be more evidence to support this “theory” being discovered, be it genetic similarities between organisms or something as simple as common bone structures.

I have been confused about the whole debate going on in the United State with regard to teaching evolution in school. Why is it such a problem? I was taught about evolution in high school, I took courses in university, and now as a biology teacher I teach it to my students as part of the curriculum. Never once are we told, or do I have to tell my students “evolution is how it happened” or “this is the only way.” I think our curriculum in Atlantic Canada is designed to inform students of evolutionary theory, how it works, and about the other scientists who have contributed to the theory as it is known today. Clearly there is still a lot of research taking place in this area of biology, so we do our part to teach students about the research and the mechanisms behind the theory of evolution.

I should point out that in Newfoundland, up until the late 1990’s the entire school system was denominational and schools districts were guided by principles of the church. Today, the school system is remodeled and non-denominational, but many of the schools are still grouped by religion in the sense that the communities are small, so most of the population would all belong to local churches. I happen to teach in a Roman Catholic school, the science curriculum tells me I need to teach my students about evolution, there is no dispute in any school that I am aware of. Religion classes teach students about creationism in junior high. So, by the time students reach their senior year they already know about creationism, and are more or less informed about evolutionary theory from other sources. When they reach grade 12 they are able to put their own beliefs together, be it creationism or evolution.

I should point out, that I do sort of lean towards evolution as the explanation to how we got where we are today, but that is because I am a skeptic scientist, and I don’t have much faith in creationism in the first place. While, this is my opinion, I don’t think it is my job as a teacher to say “hey kids, you must believe this and drop all your other beliefs from this point forward.” I think is more my job to inform them so they can decide for themselves.

Quite frankly, I think not teaching an important scientific idea in public schools is silly. It is called the “theory of evolution” because it is just that, A THEORY! Thus far there are so many gaps in the fossil record, and unanswered questions about the pin-point-perfect mutations and such, that it cannot be called anything more than a theory. While, personally I think it is the most likely explanation for our present existence on earth today, it is only a THEORY about how we came to be. It is one of the most important scientific theories to date, and to teach it as “just a theory” as they propose to do in Florida, seems a bit harsh, because it will likely not get the attention it so deserves. I find it disconcerting that science teachers in America would stand for such nonsense.

I have one piece of advice…. Leave science in the science classroom. Leave religion for church or the religion classroom. Given that politicians probably have no scientific (or religious) background and qualifications to teach, leave the educating to the teachers.