Saturday, February 26, 2005

Thank You Note-ettes

Thank you to my 10-year old car with great gas mileage for choosing to die on a relatively safe spot, 10 minutes from my home on my 35 minute commute to work on Friday and allowing me to pull over to the side of the road before I was hit by other cars.

Thank you to the gas-station lady who let me, a non-cell-phone-owner, use her phone to call my husband after I couldn't successfully use the pay phone and my CVS calling card to complete the call (I was so SURE someone was jerking me around when the card numbers were accepted (twice) but my phone number wasn't). Note to self: memorize your 2-year old area code, do not use a random 1st digit from states past.

Thanks to the polite, helpful Texas cowboy who took time out of his morning to gently bump my car with his truck into an even safer parking lot nearby.

Thanks to my sleepy husband for coming to rescue me (twice. as he thought I solved the problem the first time and returned back home when he couldn't find me at the gas station that he thought I was at).

Thanks to my work friends for making me laugh and regaling me with their stories and suggestions and generally making the rest of my harried day pleasant.

Thanks to my students for listening to my car story and acting interested. And even thanks to E. who offered to buy my car for $500, for the smile that gave me.

Thanks to our friends at home who on Saturday took time out of their day to help tow my car back home.

Thanks to my general station in life where I have the resources (friends, family, money...) to be able to deal with such a situation and not have it snowball into an even greater catastrophe.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Parallel Universe

I'm experiencing both sides of the same situation. Through my work I have to interact with a person that I really don't like very much. This person has great skills, but keeps interjecting random statements everywhere that all basically boil down to, "gee look how great I think I am." Blach. So I feel hypocritical being polite to this person because inside I'm thinking, shut up already. But maybe that's just part of "civilized society". On the flip side of the coin, I have this student who I've had trouble with from day 1. (not being biased or anything), but this is not a nice person. Anyhoo, I believe this student is me in the previous scenario ..... I'm not sure (and GOD I hope not) that I go around giving off "I'm great" vibes, but I just don't think this child likes me. .... not that it's a requirement as a teacher, but it sure makes things go more smoothly. This child being a teenager doesn't hide his/her feelings as well as he/she could. So it's interesting to try to come to terms with my feelings in these 2 situations and to try to rise above it all ... not that I'm always successful.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Second Thoughts

So grades were due on Monday (2 days ago), and the last day of the 6 week grading period was the Friday before. Well, on Tuesday a student asked me if I had her grades and if she passed. This after her last minute (post last minute, as she turned things in on Monday) flurry of turning in late work for partial credit .... anyhoo, she did not pass (68%) .... [in Texas, the lowest passing grade apparently is a 70%]. Then she starts in on the, "is there anything I can do? I have to pass?" spiel. Oh my .... it wouldn't be so sad if it didn't happen every 6 weeks (this last minute flurry). Regardless to say, she did not pass.

Then (and here's where my 2nd thoughts come in). On that Friday (or was it Monday), I had another kid who's as smart as a whip bookwise, but a real a**hole otherwise. After doing his grades, he was squeeeeeeking by with a 68 or 69%. He happened to be in the room at the time and I had him redo this one particular assignment that he had turned in, and that boosted him up to a 70%. ..... So come today in class, I'm on one side of the room, and 1/2 way across the room I see him swaggering with a jerky bravado and bragging to one of his friends that he had passed all his classes .... the friend asked, "even this one?", and the jerky kid leans over and whispers something to the friend and they both chuckle. Hmph. Did I do the kid any favors, or did I just do him a disservice by helping pass by forcing him to redo an assignment? Back and forth and back and forth I'm wondering.

Full Moon Coming

Is it a teacher thing that I looked at the misty moon tonight, saw that it was *almost* full, and was dismayed and thought, "crap, they're going to be gamey soon, those little cherubs?"

Monday, February 21, 2005

Decadent Day

How much do I love the days when no students are staying after school, and I don't have to stay late to prepare for the next day (TAKS test all morning), and I can "sneak out" exactly when the bell rings and not have to stay until 6pm to wait for traffic to die down AND I get to indulge myself at the bookstore because I have a gift card AND some coupons? A lot (is the answer). And I even got home before dark AND I have time to surf the web before I get down to the serious business of exercising (treadmill and yoga) before making dinner. ..... Now if all Mondays could be like this, I think they'd stop having the bad rap they do.

On a side note ... someone gave me the brilliant idea of asking my snottiest (though extremely bright) student if she wanted to go on independent study .... so then I wouldn't have to look at her sourpuss face for the whole period or have to walk by her desk as she's doodling "I'm SOOOOO bored" in her notebook. .... I'm ironing out the details and will ask her soon. Just the thought of it put me in a good mood. ... But the evil side of me is whispering over my shoulder (no, keep her in class and make her suffer her boredom for all the grief she (you let her) put(s) you through ....). Hopefully, good will triumph over evil.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Rollercoaster week

Part of my coping strategies with this teaching thing seems to be to remember that every day is a fresh start, and even though you had a crappy day one day, the next could be terrific. So to catalog my week MtWthF (tuesday and thursday were crap days). Again can I say how much I love the first period that I teach ..... out of their mouths on Friday, "I have to say Ms. Cookie, you make math fun" .... (granted this from a student that I wanted to strangle earlier on in the year ... which is another lesson, wait until after Christmas to make your final "assessment" of students; you just may grow to appreciate them). ..... that caused me to say (unprofessionally, I might add), "hmph, come to my ___ period class" (the class with my snottiest, rudest, sleepiest students).

It was nice to commiserate with other teachers during lunch, if only to hear their tales of kids they did NOT get along with ..... AND after lunch, blessings of blessings, my most dreaded kid did not show up for class, and that made things run much smoother ..... AND they were actually awake for most of it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Pissy Day

Okay, so maybe later the "expletive" will seem extreme, but REALLY, what a horid day today was. First of all, I find out that money was stolen from my classroom. (footnote: do not send an ever-so-helpful e-mail upon hearing about this that maybe I shouldn't be keeping valuables in my room. not conducive to warm fuzzy feelings towards you.) Then my rollercoaster success with one particular period of the day reached one of its lows. (do they sell bargain dartboards at the teacher store all ready for photos of particular surly/snotty/bitchy/crappy students?) Then I had to sit through 3 (not 1. not 2. but 3) meetings today feeling like crap and not engaged at all and having to pretend that I'm completely intrigued with the topics at hand while all the while I'm thinking, shut UP already.

On a bright note. It's time for bed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Quiet Ones...

So there's this SUPER quiet boy in my geometry preAP class, and he never talks with anyone, and he works alone when most others are helping each other out on problems and he NEVER comes in for help and he NEVER turns in his test corrections and he skips some homework and he was FAILING and failing and near failing for the last 4 sets of report cards. And I keep battling back and forth with myself wondering if he's appropriately placed and whether he would be better served in a "regular" class, but then I think, no, even if it's challenging for him, it's still good to get the exposure ..... and then I go to the other side of the pendulum, and in the last-period-of-the-day needy class of "squeeky wheels" that demand my attention in helping them solve various problems, he never raises his hand to ask for help, and he never solicits help from others and ..... on and on and on. ..... So I've made sure that I go over and help him when I can and I keep asking him to come after school for help and he never takes me up on it.


He was absent for a couple of days last week, a couple of crucial days, and he missed turning in a "quiz" that was worth a lot and he didn't do his quiz corrections, and SURPRISE he's failing. So. I basically (nicely) demanded that he stay after school yesterday (and today), and SURPRISE he did. And it was one of those freak times when no one else stayed after, and he could be as quiet as he wanted and I could concentrate solely on him, and sheesh, the boy does math. ..... He worked through all the hard word problems that the kids were struggling with .... and after we ironed out a few minor (unit changing) details, he got every single answer correct. Imagine that. And THEN, he stayed after today and did his corrections with me, and SURPRISE, he's passing.

And on his way out, he thanked me sincerely for the help. Then I thought to myself, sheesh, come in more often, buddy and you could be getting better than a C.

Warm fuzzy feeling :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Pop Quiz:

1. Which is a more effective, peaceful, and pleasant method of silencing your class and getting them to work?
a. All right you crazy kiddies (smiling), did you take chatty pills today? Let's get to work. Stop laughing and start working! Math isn't funny (again with the smile) , .....

b. Oh my GOD! Be QUIET!!!!! (deep breath with wide disbelieving eyes)

Hmmmm, even though I always theoretically know the answer, I still (today) in some periods (7th) revert to "b" when I'm not "consciously" teaching, and I'm just reacting.

On a happy note, tomorrow's another chance for a fresh start.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


Okay, for the first time in my 40 years, I got a surprise birthday party :). Boy did my husband know how to keep a secret. I thought we were having 2 couples over for dinner, and on some ruse
(sp?) he got me to go over to one of the couples' houses and stay there for about 1/2 an hour. When I came back, there were cars parked near our house, and a big surprise as I walked in the door. Tres exciting. I don't like being in the center of the attention thing, but it sure was fun cherishing that these people either drove a LONG way and took time out to spend it with us this past weekend. That's what makes a nice life .... friends and laughter and all the good memories that come with it. ... That's one for the memory bank.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Being a Student

So yesterday, one of our (3!) ILTs set up for a math textbook author to come talk to us about the approach in his book and work through some activities with us. She was in the room with us, and 3 teachers took her up on the offer of coming to hear this guy speak. I went for one period, though he was scheduled for the whole morning .... but, I'm sorry, it's toooooo much work being out and making sub plans and "fixing" things once you get back, and besides that, you lose a day of teaching.

So in all fairness, he had some intriguing activities, and I'd like to investigate his book(s). BUT. ... So there we were working through this geometry investigation, and we're supposed to be working on it as "students" and he's giving us time to work on it, and he. won't. shut. up. and he. won't. stop. giving. guidance. and he. won't. stop. discussing. his. teaching. strategy. and our ILT (instructional lead teacher) has some sort of bug up her butt about always having to make some comments that "show" how much she knows or how "witty/savvy/smart" she is. Is it just me? or is that annoying and obvious? here are some highlights

"I find that when I am solving these problems, pictures are very useful" (said to maybe prompt some of us from just sitting there .... even though maybe we are thinking and analyzing strategies mentally)

"Go on, work on it. See what you can do." (said SEVERAL times in short intervals to the point that you couldn't think because there was TOO MUCH TALKING GOING ON)

So, anyhoo, at this point, I just shut down and go into observation mode and clock watch until I can leave to teach my class. And all the while I'm thinking back on when I teach similar activities, and do I do the same thing? God, I hope not.

Thursday, February 10, 2005


I have this stud earring I sometimes wear and it's a yin and yang type of symbol, and whenever I think I need "balance" in my day ... balancing school and "other" life and just being aware that I am more than the "all consuming teacher" (though I love my job) .... then I wear the stud and say "balance" to myself .... (okay, freak habits revealed here right before your very eyes). So even though I had a great day at school today, and the kids were nice and on task and the lessons went well ..... I still just need to say that I LOVE MY WEDNESDAY NIGHT TAP CLASS. I looked forward to it all day, and it lived up to its expectations and I'm still finding my self tippy tapping out the routine we learned today.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Balancing Out

Did I mention that I LOVE my 2nd period class? And though I'd never mention it to them or make comparisons to any of my classes, I love, love, LOVE them. Could it be because they are most always unfailingly polite, they make funny jokes, they do their work (mostly), and they laugh at all my corny jokes. We have a good groove/vibe going. It's a nice way to start my day.

Then there are my OTHER periods. For the most part they are lovable, but BOY do they try my patience and push my buttons and test me and make me work. Sometimes they can be such noodges (sp?). .... I need a "flip sign" that I can just refer to that includes the following statements:
"put your cell phone away"
"keep your head up"
"stop talking when I'm talking"
"yes, you have homework on a Friday"
"it may be hard, but you can do it" ....

But I guess that's their/my job .... their job is to test limits, and my job is to set limits.

So I guess it all evens out ..... I can fondly think of my 2nd period class when things are not going right in my other classes .....

On another note, .... I guess I have to make sure that I don't set the tone for a "dismal" class. Most of the times, I don't think I do, but maybe I should tape myself or keep it in the forefront of my consciousness when I'm teaching. Maybe I start the class with a "bitter" tone some times because I expect them to be "hard" and then maybe that just plays out .... who knows. I do know that when I went to my first quilting class this past weekend (tres fun), I started noticing how the teacher started things and presented herself and answered questions, etc.

I guess it's good to keep these things in mind (amongst the 50 million other things) while you aer teaching, to make sure that you are not a scrooge to be "gotten through", but you act/are/fake that you are happy to be there 100% of the time. Not phony, but genuinely or close to it .... or if you are not 100% thrilled, then at least put on a pleasant persona.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Blue Whales...

I love when a spur of the moment idea on a class exercise turns up many questions and a spark of interest in other topics from the students. We were working on "powers and roots" last week .... you know fractional exponents and negative exponents and such, and to answer the age old query of "who uses this stuff?" .... (or more often put "when am I ever going to use this?"), I scanned through my resources and found a problem that I expanded upon to take all period. It had to do with an equation relating the mass of a mammal to the circulation time of the blood. ... and as part of the problem, they used the given equation to calculate the circulation times of various mammals. One of the mammals was the blue whale, and that just fascinated everyone (me included). There are tons of cool sites on the blue whale.

Things I've learned: they can weigh up to 200,000 lbs, and span 100 feet (10 family size cars one site said). If they were out of water by chance, they would crush under their own weight. They are the larges animal (mammal?) and the loudest. ...

Anyhoo, here's to finding more problems like this that have extra goodies for all to savor.

Friday, February 04, 2005


I'm learning various new things currently and it's always so interesting to me to step back and analyze how and at what pace I'm learning and what works and how I process information and such .... and then relate it back to teaching. For example, I'm taking tap dance lessons. I took them as a kid, and maybe once or twice more as an adult, and now I'm in a "I / II " level class, and some things I get immediately and some things I need repeated and some things the teacher does and everybody (or so it seems) just goes with it, and she might as well have been speaking swahili or such for all I understood. ... Then I step back and say, "ah ha" this is how some of my math students feel ... and they need the repetition and they need the "spiraling" back to a topic, and they need to see things broken down step by step.

I guess being a learner of something totally new to you while you are teaching, keeps you "honest" or at least aware of the feeling of being a student.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I know "in my head" that all numbers keep coming up randomly and no particular number shows up more than others, ..... but NOTE TO SELF: please actually work through all problems you assign or make up for quizzes to make sure the answer is NOT the high-school-giggle-inspiring "69". Tee hee hee hee. Oh brother. Oh well, I'll just file it under, "still learning and still improving my teaching".

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Crabbiness? or Fedupness?

You know those teachers who complain about just about EVERYTHING? No matter what is being discussed, they have something negative to say.

Regular Joe: "How do you think geometry teaching should be changed for next year?"
Crabbypuss: "It doesn't matter what I think. I didn't want to teach geometry THIS year, and now that I am, you see how much my opinion counts for."

Regular Joe: "I changed my teaching strategy to engage more learners in the following way."
Crabbypuss: "They don't want to learn any way. It doesn't matter what I do."

Regular Joe: "What about this person and this idea? Wasn't that good/something/great/cool?"
Crabbypuss: "Crab crab crab crab crab CRAB. Crab cRab cRAb crab. Crab!"

I just turned 40 today (yea!), and I'm wondering at what age it will be okay for me to be a crotchety old lady that responds to these crankpots that they need to just GET A CLUE .... (of course said in a more witty and bon mot and appropriately crotchety sort of effective way).