Mar 3, 2012

The Business Trip

The business seminar. A presenter from the Geoscience Research Institute presents  the morning  general session at the By  Design science curriculum training in Ontario, California.  February 13, 2012.

I always thought it would be cool to go on a buisness trip.  I know for true road warriors it probably gets old pretty quick.   The endless succession of airports, the overpriced fast food, the bland hotel rooms, being away from family for so long.  But for me, a teacher whose work typically requires me to stay pretty close to the "office", a trip for buisness reasons is a rare treat indeed.  As principal Babs had her share of trips when we were in Saipan:  recruiting trips to the states, meetings in Guam, conferences in the Philippines.  But except for our annual sojourn to Hawaii at the end of every summer, I always stayed behind.

So I was quite thrilled when I found out I'd been selected as my conference's representative to the By Design Science curriculum training in Ontario, California.  The North American Division is overhauling the science curriculum used by all Seventh-day Adventist Schools in North America, and the conference was designed to introduce us to the new materials and provide us with training in how to use them.  I in turn will be expected to train other teachers in my conference on what I learned.

This was a real business trip complete with airfare and lodging paid for by the division (no buisness class though--it's not that much of a buisness trip) and daily per diem.

On Sunday morning, February 12, Babs and the Feller dropped me off at the airport, and my adventure in business travel began.  It was so nice to travel alone for a change. I used to find flying strangely relaxing.  Not anymore. Usually I am the packhorse, lugging the car seat and three carry-on bags while Babs wrangles our boy.  There's not much relaxing on the plane either, keeping the Feller occupied for several hours on in-flight.  But on this trip, it was like the old days.  I relished zipping through the airport with just my laptop case and rollaboard--no checked bags for me!  Once on the airplane, I whipped through a couple back issues of TIME and Esquire, listened to some tunes on my ipod, and snoozed as the mood struck me.  On my layover in Houston I could wander the airport freely for a few hours, browsing the bookstores and eating a leisurely lunch at a Chilis.  I even enjoyed one of my favorite travel indulgences from pre-parenthood days--a shoe shine.

I arrived in southern California feeling energized and refreshed.  I spent the afternoon with old Saipan friends, Aaron and Joyce Knowlton and their kids, then checked into the Ontario Radisson.  That evening I skyped with the family, and even watched my son in bed via Skype while Babs stepped out for a few minutes to walk the dog.  It was a lot easier than doing it at home--after all, he couldn't ask me to get him a drink of water or take him to the potty.  I closed out the evening ordering up room service and simultaneously watching the Grammy awards on TV and  Dollhouse on Netflix on my Ipad.

Keeping an eye on the Feller with modern miracle of video-conferencing technology.    We forgot to  make arrangements for walking Kimo while I was gone.  In desperation, we decided that I would watch our son on Skype while Babs took Kimo out for a few minutes.  If something happened, I wouldn't be able to rush to his side, but at least I'd be able to call Babs.  Less than ideal, but better than any alternative we could think of.

On Monday, February 13, meetings began in earnest.  8 to 5:30.  After all it wouldn't be a buisness trip if there weren't business meetings.  As business meetings go, it was good stuff.  I'm very excited about the new direction the Adventist church is headed in science education.  The focus is on teaching using the method of inquiry--encouraging teachers to engage students in asking, questions, and conducting experiments to learn, rather than simply reading the book and memorizing terms.   "Every science concept can and should be taught through activity," opined Dan Wyrick, one of the key members of the curriculum development team.  One of the big concerns many of us science teachers had was over the rigorousness of the textbooks--many of us felt that the previous textbook series was rather lightweight.  But I'm finding that while the new textbooks are an improvement,  textbooks are almost incidental to this fresh approach to science education.  I see myself using the books mainly to get ideas for activities, experiments, and problems I can introduce to my class.

This sums up the approach to teaching science the Adventist school system will be pursuing.

  It's virtually guaranteed that if you go to a gathering of Seventh-day Adventists you're going to run into someone you know.  I recognized this woman, Rita Green, from my childhood.  She was a good friend of our family who I remember visiting our home on several occasions when I was a kid.   She wasn't the only familiar face I encountered while in California. I also ran into Linda Fuchs, my supervising teacher during my student teaching stint at Ruth Murdoch Elementary School way back in 1997.  I also met James Martz, who was principal at Ruth Murdoch at the time, Lori Busch, who went to the same elementary school as I did,.  And of course Vero Perez our Saipan colleague was there too.

Of course with this approach to science teaching, we were pretty active ourselves.  The division provided each teacher with a kit full of "science goodies" and each seminar and breakout session we were provided with an opportunity to use items from our kits to conduct simple but powerful experiments and demonstrations.

Seminar attendees (including the Allegheny West Conference education superintendent Yvette Cooper and 5-8  science teacher at Ramah Junior Academy Janvierre Lavender (2nd and 3rd from left) and our principal Brenda Arthurs (seventh from left) help demonstrate the diameter of the sun.  Each golf ball they are holding represents the size of the earth.

Monday night we had dinner with  all the other teachers from our Union, the Columbia Union, which includes schools from West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Ohio.  I was amazed by how many teachers at the conference taught in one room schools.  One teacher-principal I met from Seattle had a grand total of four students in her entire school!  I was reminded that larger schools like Columbus Adventist Academy are still the exception rather than the rule in Adventist Education, and the multi-grade small school remains the backbone of our school system.

  I left the dinner early to meet up with another group of teachers (or former teachers rather, for the most part), a passel of Saipan pals--Britni Gleason Rampton and her husband Darin, Jessica Lee, Riki Unterseher, and Veronyka Perez (who was also attending the conference).  It was hard to believe it had been almost five years since I'd seen Britni, and four years for the others.  It felt like no time at all had passed.

Tuesday, February 14, the meetings continued in the morning and then in the afternoon members of the Geoscience Research Institute took us on a field trip to the San Andreas Fault.  It was a fascinating trip.  What on first glance appeared to be plain old rocks were in fact hidden treasures, each telling their own intriguing  story from millenia ago.  We got to take a closer look at the ongoing struggle to reconcile the Genesis account of creation (and the flood, which I'm coming to believe is almost a seperate point of debate) with prevailing evolutionary theory that is roiling much of Christendom at the moment, and Adventism in particular.  The trip was thought provoking, and left me feeling more certain of my Creator, if maybe a little less certain of exactly how He created.

A field trip stop at site along the San Andreas fault.
This pond has no outside source feeding it.  It sits directly atop the San Andreas  fault and  is fed through a fissure  leading to an underground aquifer.

A monolith near the fault.  The banded appearance of this rock might suggest  a sedimentary rock, but it's actually metamorphic rock and the bands are indicators of the tremendous stress and pressure the rock was under at one time.

By Tuesday night, the novelty of the business trip had worn off.  I was lonely.  It was Valentines Day after all.  The other people in my conference--my principal, the conference suprintendent, and the teacher from Ramah Junior Academy took off for the mall, but I missed the shuttle because I was on the phone.  I eventually took the hotel shuttle over to Ontario Mills, but it was a waste of time.  Virtually everything in the food court was closed for refurbishing and I had to settle from some bland chicken parmesan from Sbarros.  After eating alone on the fringes of the food court, Iandered the mall, searching in vain for something I could take back for my kids in my class and my kid at home.  Malls are depressing places, especially when you are alone.  Eventually went home empty handed and returned to an empty room.  I missed my family.

Wednesday morning, I flew home, my business concluded.  While the buisness trip was exciting for awhile, I'm glad it wasn't any longer. I found the business that matters most to me is the business of being a husband and father, and even with all the added stress, trips in that capacity are the ones I think I enjoy the most.

I've got business trip coming up in April--this one to Washington D.C., for training in the new math curriculum we'll be using--but that's only for a day.

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