Keep your finger on the pulse.

Posted by adrionna on Jun 22, 2016 in Information Station, Teaching

How do you get your students’ attention when they seem checked out before the bell even rings?
Why do students seem fine one period and then bonkers the next?
Do I really need to change my lesson if my students don’t seem “ready”? 

I remember the realization well, in my first few weeks of student teaching: what was exhausting about the new full-time teaching experience wasn’t that you’re on your feet most of the time, are expected to be in touch with each and every student, or even that you have poured your soul into this plan that doesn’t seem to be working. In fact, what made it exhausting was realizing that one class period would be the most amazing hour ever and the next hour, it seemed as though students couldn’t even lift their heads up – and I was teaching with the same enthusiasm! The mood swings are what got me – and they weren’t the consequence of my own hormones. I had to learn quickly how to be ready for (and accept – embrace, even) that classes literally changed within a 20 minute time frame. This is not something that was taught in my education courses.

Now, almost a full year into this experience, I have learned to put the mood swings in the following context. You must think of your classroom as a living organism. You are the heart and the head of the operation, but so many different things can affect your environment at any given time – besides the obvious germs your students bring into your metaphorical body, they also bring little stresses (like spats with friends and romantic interests) and serious traumas (the loss of family because of serious illness or violence). On any given day, the body you are trying to manage and teach can be weakened because of the broken wrist (student couldn’t do homework because his sibling was in the hospital all night) or the knee could be bruised (a student’s parent was angry and asked her daughter why she couldn’t be more like her sibling). On the other hand, we have students who are excited because the dance is right around the corner and finally – finally – all that studying paid off with an A on the World History exam.

We can have the BEST intentioned, BEST standards-aligned lesson on the planet, but if we don’t keep our fingers on the pulse of our classroom, that lesson could be null and void in five minutes. Don’t get me wrong — all the cuts and bruises and sprains are NO EXCUSE for not teaching your lesson. As growing human beings, we quickly learn that the world does not stop just because we have a cast around our ankle. Nor should teachers throw in the towel when they see a student struggling. On the contrary!! What does medical staff do even before the examination begins? They take our blood pressure – literally getting a reading of our pulse and how it could be affecting us. Similarly, it is important for teachers to get a read of their class’ pulse – whether it is before the bell rings or in a minute-long “check-in” with your students immediately after the bell signals the beginning of your adventure. The moment I see withdrawn faces and lethargic movements, I ask one of the students before the bell rings (or all of them after the bell has rung), “Aw, man, y’all look beat. What’s been going on today?” I very quickly learn that the tired eyes aren’t from laziness or a lack of desire to be in my English class. Instead, I learn that they’ve had 4 quizzes today (or they’re already feeling those ominous vibes from the quiz they’ll have to take in an hour). I now know that I might need to change my bell-ringer. Obviously they don’t need another deeply reflective question (they’ll have four of those in different content areas today. English loses for now. Oh well.) BUT they can handle a fun creative question that also gets at the heart of what I’m going to teach them (but they don’t have to know that).

Some examples:

My original plan – Bellringer asks students to recall as many literary devices discussed in class yesterday; students are also challenged to think of reasons why an author might use these devices in their writing.

My revised plan after I see blank stares – Students can turn to their partners (they need to be loud – they’ve been quiet in their seats all day!) and try to come up with as many literary devices as they can remember from what we discussed in class previously. Then, create examples of those literary devices that they could use in a funny fictional narrative (get those creative juices flowing!)

Instead of continuing the trend of being quiet, independent, and, frankly, brain-taxing, I make a quick decision to modify at least the beginning of the lesson to be more social, more loud, and engaging. After I get their attention this way, I can proceed to teaching them the way I had originally planned.

I took their blood pressure, did a quick diagnosis, came up with an action plan, and felt the change as the class’ pulse came back to normal. Now I’m able to proceed with my lesson – I just had to remember to check the pulse.

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Stress and Memory

Posted by adrionna on Nov 14, 2012 in Information Station

Finals week has begun! I’m studying for my Biology of Emotion class now, so it’s great that I find it absolutely fascinating. There are so many concepts we learn about (fear, love, personality) that are very applicable to daily life. The professor makes difficult ideas accessible and her extra effort motivates me to try and really learn — and remember — what she thinks is most important for us to know. Despite my fascination with the subject, the fact that the exam is tomorrow stresses me out a little. I will need to remember a lot of information. What does that mean about how I will perform on the exam? Doesn’t this situation directly connect to what I learned about stress and memory in class? One of the points on the study guide asks “Know in detail how stress affects memory, aiding it on some occasions and disrupting it in others?” To help put this stuff in my long-term memory, I need to rehearse it. What better way to talk about it than on a prettynerd blog? Seems like a match made in heaven.

Here’s the deal: stress can either help me remember my biology of emotion information, or it can absolutely sabotage my exam.

Timing is everything:

  • I have a better chance of recalling information if I stressed earlier in the week.
  • If I just started stressing out now, the night before the test (“late and chronic stress”), the stress will inhibit memory.

Amount of stress:

  • Mild, acute stress enhances memory. [Fun fact: Yerkes-Dodson Law states that moderate arousal will aid memory in accomplishing difficult tasks (like taking an exam or parallel parking). For simple tasks (like picking up an apple from the ground or ducking from a projectile coming towards you), increased arousal helps memory.]
  • Severe, chronic stress disrupts memory. It disrupts explicit memory (your conscious, intentional recollection of previous experiences and information) and long-term potentiation (the process of strengthening neurons, and thus connections). It literally degenerates your dendrites (“dendritic atrophy”), which help connect your neural synapses to each other. Furthermore, chronic or high stress can be toxic to neurons located in your hippocampus (which is responsible for learning in memory) so then you have a smaller hippocampus. This loss of neurons results in poor memory. Not a pretty picture of chronic stress, I’d say.

So there you have it, folks: stress early and not too much; moderate arousal is a-okay for difficult tasks. Increased arousal is better for simpler tasks, but chronic stress starts deteriorating your brain and limits what you’ll be able to learn in the future (because of a smaller hippocampus).
Thanks for helping me study!


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Apartment Scam

Posted by adrionna on Aug 5, 2012 in Information Station

I was almost the victim of an apartment scam today. I always say that it’s important to keep in perspective the innate goodness that can be found in your fellow human being. Like, for every “bad guy,” there are hundreds of kindhearted Samaritans ready to outshine any darkness. Unfortunately, it’s also imperative never to forget that those bad guys do exist and will take advantage of you if you don’t know some things that would alert you to defend yourself. I’m so grateful that my boyfriend, Cody, has done the apartment search plenty of times before, so when my friend and I found an apartment that sounded almost too good to be true, he verified that yes, it is too good to be true. To those who are apartment searching on their own, read up! This might help prevent you from being a victim of an apartment scam.

The three-bedroom home we looked to rent was being offered for $1,000 in a really great neighborhood in Chicago. We got so excited and e-mailed the contact immediately. Upon introduction, Will Fork (I changed his name) seemed like a stand-up guy: a civil engineer who moved to a different country and couldn’t handle our lease personally. He told us that he has left the home fully furnished and needed to know that we could be trusted with his possessions. So far so good, I thought. Next, however, he needed to know a lot of personal information, including an attached picture of each of the potential tenants. This is when Cody started feeling that something was off. Why does he need a picture of us? Why does he need to know our addresses and what our occupation is? I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but Cody pointed out his flawed grammar and sloppy correspondence, calling it the “trademark of a scammer.”

When we asked to see pictures of the apartment, he attached files that, when opened, were barely bigger than a thumbnail. The pictures also looked very modeled – a move that would have made sense, had he not failed to have someone ready who would have been able to give us a walk-through of the apartment. What would he have done? Mailed us the keys?

Cody looked up his account on LinkedIn, and it didn’t quite match up with the description he gave of himself. He was also in another country. So far, according to hotpads.com, this situation matched two of the warning signs provided by the site:

  • “Unable to show the home- if the property manager will not allow you to see the home, it could be a scam. Never sign anything or send money without first seeing the property.
  • In a foreign land- if they are unable to meet with you, show you the home, and/or must be reached electronicallybecause they are in a foreign land (often England or Africa) doing something (often “missionary work”), it is very likely that it is a scam.” —I actually got a response to another listing from someone who was doing missionary work in Africa and couldn’t meet with me!

The last thing that really convinced us that this was a scam was the amazing price offered for the quality of the home. On other sites, the average rent per month was $5,300!! He was offering it to us for only $1,000. Indeed, hotspots.com warns of this as well:

  • Unreasonably Low Rent for the Area- if rents are hundreds or thousands of dollars below the average for the area, it is very likely that it is a scam.”

After looking over his e-mail one more time, I realize that I have a perfectly set-up e-mail that wreaks of spam:

“NOTE : I’m 50 years old and as I told you, I’m a project manager and my job even if is paid very well, requires that I move a lot and without notice. You can move in the House in the same day that you will receive the keys. The only problem is that I’m already in Manila, Philippines because we started the work, but you don’t need to worry because I’ve made all arrangements to rent the House from here. i would like to know a little something about you. Don’t be offended but i must know to who i will rent my House. Kindly get back to me with the Below information..

( Private and Confidential )

Fill below information correctly…

1)Your Full Name ?
2)Present Address(where you reside now) & Phone ?
3)How old are you ?
4)Are you married ?
5)Occupation ?
6)Current rent payment ?
7)Reason for moving out ?
8)How many people will be living in the House ?
9)The rent fee available now ?
10)How long are you willing to stay ?
11)When do you intend to move in ?
12)Do you have a pet ?
13)Do you smoke ?
14)How many Month or Year Do you want to Stay?
15)Deposit : One or Two month Deposit are required?
16)Occupant Picture?
17)Reference Details?”

If you scroll down to the bottom of this HotPads site, you’ll notice that the questions I was asked are exactly the questions under “Real Example 4.” Crazy stuff, to think I was about to be taken advantage of for being a brand new apartment hunter! I definitely learned that, “if it seems too good to be true.. it (unfortunately) is!!”

P.S. Gotta remember that, for every bad guy out there, there’s a whole website of people who want to make sure something bad doesn’t happen to you! So grateful for that website!


In case the deal was real, I asked the guy if he wanted to talk on Skype so we could get to know each other better. No can do, apparently. I got a response this morning saying “Thank you for your reply. Please respond to the following questions….” and asked the same questions as before!!

See ya, creeper.


Fairy Tales and Adversity

Posted by adrionna on Aug 2, 2012 in Information Station, Wisdom and Life

Falling in love feels like perfection: everything falls into place, smiles are on every corner, and you listen to the sad song on the radio for the beauty of it, not because every word holds the pieces of your heart together.  When you fall in love, you countdown the days for the smile you get as a result of the smile you see. He (or she) reminds you that it’s possible to feel the giddiness and hopefulness and happiness that comes from just thinking about him, let alone having a conversation – even if that conversation doesn’t happen for days at a time.

Some people are lucky and feel that way for years. I think it’s because they never take for granted that it’s a gift and privilege that they are able to call the person they fell in love with as “mine.” Regardless of how much they might disagree with each other sometimes, or what temptations might come along the way, they never forget that what they want NOW, will never be able to fully replace what they ALREADY have. It’s this relentless determination to never back down, or fall down, in the face of adversity, that keeps people together, especially since adversity is what normally breaks up couples who should have remained together. Let me explain:

1. Instead of womenwho she should have been able to count on the most, Cinderella had the meanest bitches around. Not only did her step-crew want to prevent her from love, but once she fell in love, they tried to keep her from her guy. Good for us (and ‘relly herself, I suppose), the prince persevered and made sure to find the woman who made his heart pound like no other had before. Both could have given up and said, “Aw, screw it” but the chemistry they felt the night of the Ball was too strong to be ignored.

Fast forward:

Cinderella is a flippin’ princess and so she’s entitled to pretty much whatever her little heart desires. But if the prince was so stubborn about his woman, what makes you think he’s not so stubborn about other things, like her leaving the portcullis open after she came back from the market and forgot to have it closed, and the prince won’t drop the conversation when it could have been resolved yesterday? Stubbornness and ego get in the way of an important conversation that, in many case, you need to have to mature the relationship. We could talk about compromise all day, but if the prince won’t drop it, and Cinderella won’t lock it (portcullis), the happy marriage is gonna go down the tubes.

2. Love took Belle, of Beauty and the Beast,  completely by surprise. She was able to look beyond the exterior of the beast and see instead someone with a gentle heart – a “misiu” heart.

Fast forward:

You could tell me the Beast realized the error of his ways and is a better “man/beast,” but I will tell you that those temper tantrums are going to come out even if Belle didn’t do anything wrong, because it’s the Beast’s way of handling his anger. He takes it out on something else – someone else – that’s fragile. How does Belle even begin to react? Well, she can shut herself up in her tower and cry all day, or she can say, “Suck it up, Beast. Here’s what happened, and you can’t change it. Think about it this way…” and offer him a new perspective. If she does it long enough, he’ll eventually learn how to do it on his own later, which will hopefully help curb future temper tantrums.

3. Let’s talk about real, human love. We overcome the initial adversity – it might be a big deal, like letting fear get in the way of telling the person you care about the truth (she probably feels the same way you do), or it might be the normal dating experience, whatever that means to you. Point is, it means “getting over” something, turning a problem into a solution, and realizing that a fairy tale can be compared to reality, if you delve into the reality of the fairy tale, and know that neither will ever be perfect and free-flowing all the time.

Fast forward: Unlike the fairy tales we see on the big screen, adversity is relentless. It seems to never get tired of trying to pull the same two people apart, that it had brought together. Unfortunately, a lot of people see that as a sign that it won’t work out, or that it wasn’t meant to be. I call bologna and say that adversity is to be seen as a learning, growing opportunity instead of a hurdle in the track that can’t be leaped over. Of course there’s a limit to how much difficulty should be in a relationship – if it’s sucking the happiness out of you, it’s not healthy. But if you’re going through a week when things aren’t as giddy as before, that’s NOT an indication that the love has died. Simply spend more time with the one you fell in love with, pay more attention to their needs and focus on the little stuff, like leaving notes in their e-mail inbox or texting them what you were never able to get out of your mind in the first place, when you met your sig fig.

No, adversity isn’t the sign of doom. Think about it: when it comes up, it seems like it’s pulling you apart, but really? Really, adversity is the thing that brought you together in the first place.


Think you Know Your History?

Posted by adrionna on Aug 4, 2010 in Information Station

Think you know what this is?

Hint: This picture was taken in 1956.


Okay… What happened in the 50s?

Cold War..

an atom bomb?


It’s a hard disk drive back in 1956… With 5 MB of storage. 

In September 1956 IBM launched the 305 RAMAC, the first ‘SUPER’ computer with a hard disk drive (HDD). The HDD weighed over a ton and stored a ‘whopping’ 5 MB of data.  


Do you appreciate your 8 GB memory stick a little more now? =)

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