Thursday, September 18, 2008

Phone call #4

I call my parents after school daily.

It's something I started last year. I need to process the day with someone from outside the system and they're great for it.

They had a meeting this evening, so I called a friend instead. I had stories from tutoring that I wanted to share.

Because I talk to my parents so often, I forget how sensational my stories can be. I remembered somewhere in the midst of telling my friend--a friend who's on the phone with me weekly; who has other teacher friends--because I didn't want to paint too negative a picture.

The theme of today's stories was one of hope. The lightbulb moment when a student saw the connection between repeated multiplication and addition. The awe that I've become a person that students can tell me some of the problems they're dealing with. And the way that students face their challenges.

These are the moments that remind me both that I have improved since last year and of the power of being a consistent presence here. These stories hold the promise of the coming year. My friend was able to catch the hopeful rays, but there's still the shadow reminding me how different the world my students experience is from my own.

After all, I can call my parents every day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mathmagic Video

So far as I know, we haven't set up a forum for discussion of Dan Meyer's amazing Geometry resources. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, for freeing up hours of my nights for sleep.)

My addition, comment to save when something gets going somewhere. If you want to show the Donald in Mathmagic Land video on billards, the Youtube link is here.

(And yes. We're a month into school, but I'm only in Week One of lessons. It's been a slow start of the year... Those stories that I try not to post often.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Yesterday's warm-up

It's based in fact. I don't know how much the elementary school really has, but I'm bracing for a sugar high as we let the classes have their candy. Time to go decorate floats.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I like statistics.

I love playing with data.

I believe that testing can be a good thing.

But, yet again, good in theory comes off as horrible in reality. I’m sitting with students as they take our in-house standardized test. They’re bored.

For the seniors it’s the 10th time they’ve taken it. It being this exact version of the test. Same questions. Same choices. Same order. Don’t write in the booklet, because we need to use it next time sameness.

If the data was useful, maybe it’d be worth it.

You already know it's not.

The math version has as many questions on it about Roman Numerals as questions about variables. We have one evaluate the expression, one single-step solve the equation, two plot the points, nothing about actually graphing lines. The Roman Numerals are ones I’d have to take my best guess on, though my mom could answer them.

But this is what the school board uses to judge the teachers. (Students saw their scores only once last year.) Hopefully we’ll have enough practice with fractions and decimals to “show improvement.” Because this year I’m saying, “You’re in Algebra/Geometry/Algebra II. We don’t have time to go over fractions for a month. You need to be able to use them. They’re in our problems. If you need help, ask!”*

I could teach to the test. It might impress school officials. Or I can keep looking at what we’re supposed to teach (even our vague standards are beyond what we’re testing) and pushing beyond.**

*I am working through some examples on the board. Trying to remind students of rules they never learned. And then enough walk me through it examples where we should do something.
**At least this time we're giving it during homecoming week. So instead of losing two weeks of instruction to whatever, we're only losing one?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Song for Labor Day Dinner

We started school last Tuesday. Classes went well overall. I can tell I'm much less high-strung than a year ago--though I still wouldn't call myself low-key--and I'm connecting with students much more easily. They're good at reminding me why I'm back.

Still, I think I'd blocked how exhausting teaching here is and how difficult it can be to motivate myself somedays. This week we're actually getting into content*, but creating all my lessons for the week has not been what I've wanted to do over the long weekend.  I know people say year two is easier, but I'm less than convinced. Last year, I just tried to get something done. This year, I'm much more critical of my lessons. I hope some of what's coming will be decent, but 

The song in this video captures my mood this weekend. I've played it repeatedly while driving, cooking, and just relaxing. Ignore the video--I'm too lazy to try to go around Blogger's aversion to audio--kick off your shoes and dance** the last bits of summer away.

* Last week we were advised not to teach content, which makes sense because student schedules were still being shuffled. I still don't have rosters for my classes...

** Carolina shag preferred.