Saturday, March 26, 2016

Almost April


Oy! As with every year, you wonder where the time has gone. This year has been quite different though because of Andrew dying at the start of the year, and then me muddling through the following 7 or so months, putting on my professional face, sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes phoning it in, most times somewhere in the middle.

I am so fortunate that at my school, the students roll with it and adjust and there aren't the extra added headaches of discipline and administration woes.  I am also fortunate that I do enjoy my students. They are funny and caring and entertaining and a great distraction for when I need them to be. 

I haven't had the energy or time to create many new activities. I have 6 preps and an over-addled mind, so I haven't been posting much. Yay Life!

But here are some things that I find successful this year. 

Last summer, I went to many workshops, and in a few I was always so frustrated when I or someone else asked a question and then the presenter answered, but they didn't really answer the intended question. The situation also then went on that either the asker didn't pursue it or the presenter quickly went on to something else. This stuck with me, so that now, this year, every time a student asks a question, I answer it, and then I immediately follow up with, "did I answer your question?". I then gauge the situation. There are times when I didn't answer it as intended, so then that gives me a chance to try again. 

The next thing I am loving is the increased use of peer editing/checking. I am using it in both CS classes and in DE and IED (the engineering classes). First of all, it lets students see how others are handling the problem. Second of all, it fixes the minor bugs so that when I grade something, it's more correct. My colleague and I did make an adjustment, though, with our freshmen IED class. We found that students were blindly signing off on something that may or may not have been correct. We added the extra incentive that if you sign off and it is not correct, 1% is taken of your grade. This seems to have an effect of more careful checking. 

Third thing is that I am trying harder to actually talk non-math/school topics with the students more often than comes up when they initiate (which was my MO before). Now I will start a conversation with a student if they are sitting in my class hanging out or doing corrections or whatever. I have had some great talks with students just because of this initiative. I have learned some funny and sad and exciting things. It helps school feel more close knit to me. 

I am curious what next year will bring and if my mind will be more in the game. I traveled solo to Barcelona this past spring break and it was all sorts of amazing and sad and exhilarating. I am going to PCMI this summer, so that should be exciting and recharging of my math brain. I have also bought a new smaller house and will be moving soon from the memory-laden house I lived in with my husband since June 2003. So this summer will be one for changes. 

Friday, January 01, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

What does one do when they're bored over Holiday Break? They make up new worksheets for students to do on that first day back to school. Our day on January 5 will have super short classes, so after looking at their finals, they won't have much time to do math. But I can't stand just sitting there, so this is what I've created. Don't know how it will work, and it hasn't been road tested yet. My inspiration was a brilliant.org thing on facebook. Here's a link to the file.



Saturday, October 31, 2015

Related Rates take 1,353,577

This is TOTALLY going to be the year that I teach Related Rates *so* well, that the students will wonder what all the fuss is about its difficulty. Right? At least it keeps me busy picking apart and analyzing what they are struggling with and trying to address all issues. 

I started with a flipped lesson just showing applets of related rates. The next class I had planned was walking through these notes:


Then we would do some back and forth translating between words and math expressions. We would also practice implicit differentiation of formulas that now do not involve x and y, but A and r and t and h and the like.

Mother Nature had her say on Friday in Texas, and our school was on Tornado Watch Lockdown and classes were shortened of time. We got through 1/2 this sheet. 

But I am keeping my fingers crossed. This. Is. My. Year.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Nine Weeks In....

Time (as always) flies and before you know it, there are only 2 weeks left in the 2nd 6 weeks. Thank goodness I've taught all of my preps in one form or the other before, so I can pull some dusty memories from my brain and then adjust what and how I do things instead of starting from scratch.

Here are some things I've changed and liked so far this year (or have done before and tweaked and am on the road to liking):

* Answer Banks! Heavens bless the answer banks. The students get immediate feedback and are willing to work harder on the problem. Of course, this is barring any teacher mistakes, ahem. They are used to the *few* mistakes I make, and my rationalization is that it makes them think a wee bit more carefully to justify their answers before they check with me. Then the NEXT year's class will think I'm SOOOO perfect (once I fix the mistakes) and .... who am I fooling, there will be new worksheets and fresh new exciting mistakes.

* Peer Checking! In my project-based classes, I have jumped on the peer checking band-wagon I observed in an English class once. For every step of their projects, they have to get another student to check the part and make sure it is correct before they get me to sign off on it. We have a discussion on why this job is important and how you don't want to let the check-ee down. It also gets kids to talk to each other and to see how others do things. I make it so that they can't ask the same person to check everything. I also like to break the projects down to little parts, and sometimes I grade the little parts, so that their WHOLE grade is not dependent on JUST the final product but on the process.

* Writing and Justification questions! Oh my was I in for a surprise when I asked some "gimme" questions on a calculus exam (or so I thought). What it "gimme"-ed to me was the fact that even though the kids MAY be able to get the right # answer, they did not have a deep understanding of the meaning of things or how things fit together. Oy. I have started the slow process of adding such questions to their homework assignments. This I hope will further their deep(er) understanding.

* Taking time to just enjoy the kids and all their goofiness. My 9th grade IED class during the last block of the day is basically a room full of little wriggly puppies that bounce around and have joy in their eyes and just want to be scratched behind the ears. I love them. They are a salve to my hurting heart. I make sure to keep a nice voice and humor when I redirect them for the 9,999th time each class to get back to work. They do get their work done, but I am so used to the 11th and 12th graders who are just so much more low energy and quiet. It's a nice mix of kids of all kinds in all my classes.

* Focusing on being present. With 6 preps to plan and 31 recommendations to write and yoga to teach and NHS duties and PLTW duties and after-school duties and spanish class homework and ...... well, you've been there. I just put my blinders on and for the most part just concentrate on this day or this block or this span of time. So far I haven't dropped too many balls. I'm also nicely distracted during the week. I also remember that in all the previous years, everything always seems to get done one way or the other, and I will not stress too much about it. Deep breathes and just doing my best.

* Time for fun. I make sure I have things to look forward to outside of school. I am loving my Spanish class, and one day will be fluent and travel to all sorts of Spanish-speaking countries. My art class is awesome. I get to work on what I want and the time flies. I am also doing the Kayla Itsines exercise program and am on week 20 and LOVE it and am seeing some body changes. I also binge shop for books and see movies and LOVE all of the sudoku books by djape. Then there are the puzzle and game apps on my iPad. ...

Okay, super proud of my art class so far, here are two exercises I did:

(copied from a pinterest picture)



(unfinished 1/2 my face copied from a black and white iPad selfie)


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Life Update...

(Wedding Day, New Jersey, 11/4/94)


Periodically, I realize that I haven't been blogging much. I am participating in the #teach180 tags on twitter, and that seems to be as much as I can handle for the moment.

The school year started out semi-great on August 24th. Sure I had 6 preps, but I had an awesome teacher friend that was teaching 2 of the preps with me (precalculus and Intro. to Engineering Design) and keeping me on track with planning and resources. Life was good. Then came Friday, 8/28/15. I was getting ready for my last class of the day and just starting them up, when our security officer came to my room to mention that I was needed in the office. Life has not been the same since. 




I was informed that my husband had died in a plane crash when he was practicing for the New York Air Show. He loved flying. He was great at flying. He was an awesome person. His plane broke while he was doing aerobatics. That weekend is still surreal. People came over off and on. A dear friend from DC came down to stay with me in TX for 9 days. His brother and family came from Canada as did my dad from California. I continued working that next week, so that I would have a break from the overwhelming nature of everything. Also, as teachers know, it is more work to be absent and make sub plans and copies and such than just to go in and dive in. Plus, did I mention the distractions and wonderful people I get to hang out with?

The time since then has been a blur and a balance of processing the horror and sadness and mixed emotions of how nice and compassionate and giving and loving everyone has been to me. And in addition, balancing school and doing right by my students. I'm so thankful I love my job and have people looking out for me and students being extra gentle and loving. I'm also thankful for friends that check in and let me ramble about the latest detail that I have to take care of to transfer things out of his name to my name.

I imagine it will be a long journey of getting used to this new reality. Maybe you never get used to it, you just live it. Andrew, I miss you.

Our trip to San Malo last spring break.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Trig Match Up Activity

My awesome coworker and I made up a trig matching activity. I know it's not a novel idea, but here is another resource for precalculus teachers to solidify angles in standard position. You can find the file HERE


 Via our internet math community, I learned that it's easier to leave one of the pages uncut (the pink sheet here), and then the students can place the matching cut up green and gold cards on the page. Before, I used to cut up all three, and then that took up too much space on the student tables. Thank you virtual PD friends for the great tip.

My buddy and I also decided to break up the teaching into 2 class periods with degrees one day and the dreaded radians along with their devilish friends, FRACTIONS (duhn DUHN duhhhhhhn) for the next day. Hopefully, this will allow the fraction/radian goodness to seep into their resisting minds more readily.

I didn't share the word document because it seems to mess up when you download it via box.net (or maybe I'm wrong). If you want the word document to play around with, send e-mail. 

Another thing I like about this is that we didn't use all special angles. We also didn't indicate which was up or down on the pink sheet, so that stumped some kids and they had to think and justify the direction. Yay math.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

SOC Life Lessons

I saw "Straight Outta Compton" last night as a pre-HS-kids-are-coming-monday-so-soak-up-the-end-of-summer treat, and I can say it's the best movie I've seen all summer year. 

Disclaimer, hope you are sitting down for this shocking piece of information, but I'm a 50 year old whitey and I don't know my rap music history/musicians/themes. And yet, still the best movie.

Here are some life skills that were phenomenally shown in SOC:

  • Just because someone seems like they know what's good for you and how you should live your life, that doesn't mean they are right, even if they love you.
  • Friends are important. If they screw up and hurt you, be willing to get past it and keep them close.
  • People in power that don't do the work are so tricky in finding ways to make money off of your hard work.
  • If you have a passion and talent, pursue it in some form, not just to make money, but to live your life fully.
  • Movies are teaching tools and don't have to be preachy to teach(y). (like I said, I knew nothing going in, but I can discuss Dr. Dre and NWA and such with you now without a deer in the headlights look.)
  •  Be willing to stick to your guns about what's right and wrong.
  • Even potty mouths (long live potty mouths) have something important to say.
  • The path you are on now is not necessarily your path for the rest of your life.
  • There are many ways of changing the world.