Education fail

No, not the school, me.

My son has lost 4% on a recent maths test because of me.

The question read something like this:

Sam went to a restaurant, he had the choice of two entrees, three main courses and two desserts.  Pate and pumpkin soup for the entrees, steak, chicken and beef for main course and icecream and chocolate cake for the desserts.  What is the probability that Sam would choose soup and chocolate cake?

The correct answer is 1 in 4 but unfortunately my son had no idea what pate was (see image on the right if you are unsure… no, not the bread).

He thought “pate” might be “some kind of random gourmet product you might turn into soup”.

In other words he thought BOTH entrees were soup.


Knew I should have made him eat pate!

This is why feeding expensive, overpriced gourmet foods to your children from an early age is important if you want them to do well at school.

Bless him, he’s asked the teacher to restore his marks on the basis that the question was ambiguous.

Note:  Hugamuga would like to point out that their was no illustrative photograph with the words “Pate de Foie” on the test.

GFP – a story of bacterial magic

Expression of GFP in E. coli. The bacteria on the right side of the figure have the GFP expression plasmid. Cells were photographed during irradiation with a hand-held long-wave UV source (Photo courtesy Marty Chalfie from the original 1994 Science article and GFP).

You know that saying about parents living through their children.

Well today I was that parent.

Today my son got to do some genetic engineering.

He’s 14.

They hadn’t got much past Mendel when I was 14.

When I was doing microbiology at university, the same university where he was today, we didn’t go much past gram stains.

And here he is at 14 inserting plasmids with Green Flourescent Protein into Escherichia coli.

How cool is that?

(it is very cool… in a geeky-I-wish-I’d-been-a-genetic-engineer kind of way… I mean lets face it usually “glow in the dark” refers to those stars you stick on the ceiling)

Last month I was listening to my NFP* about this cool bunch of genetic engineering students at MIT who had got sick of working with stinky E. coli (it smells like poo) and so engineered in wintergreen so that it would smell nice.

I played it in the car to my son on the way to school to inspire him to pay attention in science this term.

Little did I know then that a few weeks later he’d be doing it himself.

Damn I wish I was at school again!

Unfortunately, when they get to high-school they don’t seem to want their parents to volunteer as parent helpers on excursions… and the teachers don’t seem to want you either – or at least are very slow at picking up the hint so I offered Hugamuga my video camera to film the lab so I could “be there”.

Strangely he wasn’t keen.

But my boy is a nice kid.

Taking pity on his geeky saddo mother he filmed a bit of it for me on his mate’s phone.


Still, when he boasted over dinner tonight that today he had “made life”, I gently brought him back down with the reminder that I had already done it.


And they also sometimes smelled like poo.

*NFP = New Favourite Podcast.

Personal Excellence

This is the book my daughter wonMy daughter was awarded a prize for “Personal Excellence” at this year’s “Celebration of Learning”.

She has had a great year and it seems that the move to the new school has really worked out for her.

I’m so proud of her my heart might burst.

I had to laugh though at the terms they use.  What happened to duxes and speech nights?  

I guess there weren’t many speeches come to think of it.  The principal of course and the head of Junior School gave a little speech but that was about it.  

The rest of the evening was dancing, acting and displaying artwork.  I guess it really is better described as a celebration of learning… not that I saw much in the way of maths and science – does Jack Johnson’s song “3 R’s” count?

As we mingled about afterwards I saw a girl I used to hang out with at uni.  She was the girlfriend of my boyfriend’s friend.  She hadn’t changed a bit.

Still immaculately turned out.  Full make-up.  Coifed hair.  Her cream suit spotless.

I felt like dumpy Dora. 

Not much changed there then.

Groover earned his wedding ring as we walked away that night.

“She’s got too thin,” he said, his arm around my waist.

Ohhhh gotta love that man! 

(did I mention my Dippity won a personal excellence prize?)

How can you be angry with a boy like mine?

Me and my boy

I received an email from Hugamuga’s maths teacher today:

Hugamuga did not do very well on his algebra test on Monday, partly due to being away. I told him that some work from him was necessary and I did give him some revision sheets and did tell him to come and see me at lunch time so I could help him, but he never did.

So this modern mother sent her son the email with a please explain request.

I laughed out loud when I got this reply:

errr i will tell the truth 🙁

i thought it would be boring and none of my friends were doing it also in fact nobody and i thought i knew pretty much most of it. 🙁

and with the computing i had alot of interuptions on fridays so i barely got 60% of the lessons

i finished the last assignment just need to send it.

i know its not good enough and your going to be very grumpy when you get home :(!!!

very scared

hugamuga curls up in to a little ball behind the book i won for geography at the assembly and the certificate for getting in the top 5% out of 1.7million who did the science comp.

Cute.  But he still has to go and do a catch up lesson!

And the smallest planet is?

Out of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune?

Yes like me you knew it was Neptune. You probably also knew it was Tasman who discovered a number of Pacific islands in the 1600s – unlike me.

In the end it didn’t matter – WE WON!

Oh you’ve guessed we’ve just come back from a quiz nite where I swear our table drank more than any other. Luckily we won a voucher to a wine bar.

This is Groover shortly before he had to sit down for getting the true/false answer wrong:

At the Quiz Nite

It was an electronic quiz. Multiple choice. You buzzed in your answers. Here’s the leader board.

At the Quiz Nite

It was fun having the instant scores. It increased the anticipation each round – especially towards the end. We drew first in the first round, won outright in the second, and came second in the last round due to not knowing about Tasman. Doh! Still overall first and that’s what matters… doesn’t it?

Actually second place got a few bottles of wine which also looked attractive…


Privacy at school

The new classroom at CCGS

I drove past the new buildings at Christchurch Grammar School the other day and took this photo – quickly because of course the lights turned green as I was getting my camera out.

I hadn’t really looked too closely before but the lights were on in the upstairs classroom and I could see a student wandering around.

It occurred to me that I’m not sure I’d be too comfortable as a teacher or a student in a classroom that could be seen from the road. By people picking their noses at traffic lights. Not that I was but you know what I mean…

Oh c’mon! I was scratching it!

I also wouldn’t feel that great if the general public could see me at my desk at work. It would feel like an invasion of privacy.

And that’s a bit odd because we have regular tours through our offices – I guess they don’t go near my desk.

Do you work in an office where the great unwashed can walk by and watch you?

I’ve seen a few banks in New York who have desks right up against the window – just a pane of glass separating them from the shoppers, office workers, tourists and homeless.

I don’t think I would like that.

And I certainly wouldn’t have like my parents seeing me misbehave at the back of the classroom when I was at school… not that I did Mum…. that was a joke! Really.

Using Web 2.0 as a tool for teaching English

Elephant Stamp with a Gold StarI’m really impressed with my son’s English teacher.

This term the kids are discussing Anne Frank Diary of a Young Girl and Animal Farm by George Orwell.

To connect to her 13-14 year old students she trialled using an online forum to discuss the books. She set up a series of seven topics in the forum per book – six discussion questions and one where they could just give their opinion of the books. She made participating in the forum compulsory. Which I’ve always found to help increase the number of comments myself. 🙂

Hugamuga let me read his comments and I was impressed (not only by his) but also the general level of academic thought these kids had. Not all of them had commented by that time but really some of the comments were advanced.

I emailed the teacher to tell her how blown away I was and she told me that she felt the level of engagement was far higher than that she’d achieved off-line: “In general, I think the students have been more motivated about the content due to its online component, and certainly several students have been more assertive in voicing their opinions than they might have been in class.”

The assessment part is a homework assignment where the kids now have to write their answers and conclusions – using the forums and the books to formulate their thoughts. The homework itself quotes some of the comments the kids made on the forums and then asks a related question.

Hugamuga was one of the students quoted and I think it’s fair to say he was pretty pleased with himself.

But just to prove he’s not a complete suck-up-swot I get an email from his teacher today to ask me to check on his assignment progress as she can’t see much in class.

Miss he’s sitting next to me right now doing his homework – where I can see him!

And a gold star and an elephant stamp for you!

The Grumpy Sherpa

Do you have a Grumpy Sherpa living with you?

We do.

The phrase was coined by Groover watching Dippity stomp off to school one day.

She was carrying her backpack, a sportsbag and a third bag carrying her laptop.

At least these days kids get backpacks. When I were a young lass it was a gaping stretched bag with one handle over the shoulder and the other about a foot to the side, stretched by more lever arched files than I knew what to do with. Plus lunch. Plus sports gear and all those heavy books. It can’t have been good for us yet I don’t have a back problem. Touchwood.

I used to walk along reading my favourite novel trying not to poleaxe myself on bustops – which were just at the height that made them difficult to notice with my peripheral vision.

I try to be sympathetic, I really do but often I find myself waving cheerily goodbye.

“Ta ta darling! Have a lovely day…” As I snigger at our newly minted description – our little grumpy sherpa.


Creative Commons License photo credit: Boo Boo Bumpy Bear

Making friends

Key WestIt’s not easy making friends at a new school, even if you know some of the girls already.

My daughter has recently moved from a small school with just five girls to a big girls’ school with 56 girls in her year, and she’s finding it surprisingly hard to make friends.

She’s generally a confident little soul but I think all the “newness” is a bit overwhelming. Also I imagine she had the idea that the gang of 5 would stick together. That hasn’t been the case. The other girls seem to have hooked up faster than she has and she feels left out, and a little lost, maybe even betrayed.

But what can you do as a parent?

One night last week she was inconsolable. 🙁

I offered to have new friends (or old) over for a play. I suggested she listen more to new acquaintences to see if they had some things in common. I even asked her to consider chatting to her teacher – also new – who might have some ideas.

On the train to work I met a colleague who had had a daughter go to the same school. She suggested I contact the principal of the junior school and see if she had any ideas but I hesitated.

I don’t want to necessarily rescue Dippity – I mean, this could be an important life lesson for her – but I don’t want her to be miserable at school either! (She of course wants me to rescue her)

Today she came home with the crumbs of new friendships. One girl had mentioned that she liked Avatar – Dippity LOVES Avatar, and she had fun with another girl during sport. She seemed happier and more like my darling Dippity.

So what’s your advice?

Hang back and be there for cuddles at the end of a disappointing day? Or is there something proactive I can do?

Petrichorically speaking…

A withered leafIt’s hot in Perth today. Sticky, muggy, please will you just rain and get it over with, kind of hot. And we don’t have air-conditioning except for the bedroom and my computer where I have been working from home at is not in the bedroom.

I’m at home because my daughter, due to start school today at a brand new school, is sick. Was sick. Was sick with fear I think and worked herself into a knot creating a fever, headache and vomiting. She didn’t sleep last night with these symptoms and so today, reluctantly, I let her stay home.

Now that she’s better, she agrees that she probably was a little nervous.

Of course missing the first day makes it even harder for herself – but what could I do? She was fast asleep after a long night of feeling sick. And what if she really had a virus? The parents would not have thanked me.

Anyway she’s going tomorrow and in bed early tonight.

Ah thunderstorms! But they are not making things any cooler. A few spots of rain have fallen and dried before they hit the ground, baking hot after a week of stinking +35C days. (hence my title – thanks to Loz)