Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Day before break

We were informed yesterday that today's first and second periods would be mentor groups. This is the third time we've met this year and we were free to come up with our own plans. I'm the cutesy-crafty type, so I figured we could make Christmas cards, write Christmas letters to reflect on the year, or cut out snowflakes. It reminded me of Dan's snowflake math last year (and Jason's redux.) I'm not pulling it out today, but might try it on a half-day next semester. 

We're watching movies instead. The principal just came around, "Candy. Why wants candy?" I don't know what's happening for the rest of the day. Guess we'll figure it out as we go along.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This week's schedule

Planned (for most classes): 
Wednesday--Return quizzes, free day for the dozen students in the school

Monday--Late Start
Tuesday--I leave in the afternoon for eye doctor (current glasses are five years old), afterschool basketball teams, knowledge bowl teams, cheerleaders, and other students leave for Lakota Nation Invitational
Wednesday--Half-day for the dozen students in the school, still waiting for announcement on the school-wide freeday

The question:
My afternoon classes should be okay with the review/quiz schedule. 

My morning classes all fell behind schedule by at least two days last week. (Late start, testing, lockdown, assembly...) My tendency is to try to teach so we can be at a decent pause point as we begin the 2.5 week break. But I'm nervous about how many students won't be there. Know that I'll have to reteach anything after break anyway. Is it less wasteful of our classtime to give them the chance on previous concepts they haven't mastered?

Thursday, December 11, 2008


It's not easy being a hard teacher* and recently I've been feeling worn down.

This morning my lunch buddy, who informally serves as my mentor teacher, reassured me that I am doing a good job. "No matter what you see in the classroom now, no matter how often they blow up at you, how much they hate you, they're learning something. They'll appreciate it eventually. The students who give you the hardest time now will be the most grateful later."

I've heard the platitudes before. I want to believe them. But sometimes I wonder how much this is just what we tell ourselves to make it through the day.

And then, as I was walking out the hall to the bus circle after school, D sauntered down the hall. I didn't notice him until he called, "Miss Cannon."

He gave me hell last year. Starting with the testing on day one. Only somehow I never passed. (And I'm not sure he did either.) I was relieved when he was absent and dreaded his class on mornings when I saw him at school. 

So it was strange to greet him in the hallway. He's home for break. Hanging out on the rez. Somehow, despite missing most of second semester last year, he is the student who is making it at college. I asked how his classes were. What's your favorite? 


He's in Intermediate Algebra. They started this year with material he learned in my class, so that helped him. He wanted to apologize for his behavior. He thanked me for what I did. 

He blew my mind.

I asked if he'd write a letter to students about college. Or come in and talk to a class. He said that he's telling his friends. He think word will get around. I didn't push more. 

The rest of the conversation was a bit awkward for both of us. Our relationship is fraught with tension, being friendly was almost unsettling.

As I walked away, I realized the platitudes are rooted in truth. And for once, it came years sooner than I expected.

* Expecting students to learn. Consistently holding them to a standard. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

PSA from my sister

Much as I hate it, sometimes drill practice is what students need to internalize a concept. I'd rather have the computer generate and check problems than do it myself. I'm excited that FreeRice subjects now includes "Basic Math/Prealgebra." I don't know that I'll pull it out in class, but I will use it during tutoring. 

Sharing here in hopes that someone will be as excited as I was when my sister told me about it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

World Aids Day Word Problem

It is estimated that 8 out of every 10 deaths caused by AIDS occurs in sub-Saharan Africa. If 2 million people die from AIDS this year, how many are from sub-Saharan Africa?

Showing this cartograph from Worldmapper was the highlight of my day. I didn't emphasize the connection between the numbers from the problem and the map as much as I could have--we worked the problem above and then I put this on the board with a "What do you notice?" Even without spinning a whole lesson out of it, we had a decent discussion. While it's not something that shows as learning on standardized tests, it felt like this was the lesson that might stick with a few students.