Thursday, March 31, 2005


In my precalculus preAP class, I have about 50% seniors, some of whom find it difficult to actually put in the effort to learn the material, and some of whom find it difficult to get to class on time after lunch. And since we have instituted the new policy of no late people admitted to class, these kids often skip. .... Okay, I'm thinking of one boy in particular. Smart (bookwise) kid, but he has a major case of senioritis.

So anyway, he's failing my class, and he's finally figured out that he has to actually put out an effort to pass, so that he can go to college. He's been diligently coming to class lately. Today we had a quiz, and HE WASN'T THERE. Ach. Then after school, he comes rushing into my room, out of breath, saying he wants to be sure to make up the quiz. Fine, I hand it to him and am busy grading other things.

He looks up about halfway through the quiz, and says, "man, this is easy if you actually go to class." To which I had to smile and reply, "do you think other people know about this secret?" I don't have a good enough take on him to know if he was poking gentle fun at himself, or if he was actually amazed at the coincidence.

I've gotta love these kids. It's never boring.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Now listening to KMTH, all math all the time

For a few years now I've been successfully using the quadratic formula song to make it stick in the students' minds, and sure enough it works if "they work it". I have students coming back to visit and saying, "you know, I needed the quadratic formula the other day, and I still remembered it because of the song!"

So. Even though I'm teaching high school, and even though they were supposed to become proficient with fractions (+, -, x, /) in elementary (middle?) school, there are STILL students (gasp!) that can't manipulate the little buggers.

I came up with a fraction song that incorporates +, x, / to the tune of "jingle bells", and they've been practicing it for the last 2 days. It's too funny to watch them .... and the way various classes go about singing it. Some just really get into it and boisterously sing. Others, it's like they're reciting a death pledge or something .... all monotone and quiet. Too funny. Whatever, as long as they learn to do what they need to do. I'm going for 100% accuracy in 100% of my classes. Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Still Breakin'...

Still loving Spring Break, but had to write about an epiphany I had .... or maybe I've had it before and I keep forgetting and then re-"having" it ..... so when does it stop being an epiphany? ... Or maybe since it's new to me each time, it still counts. Hmmmmm,

So earlier this year I had a horrendous time (the fall semester). It seemed that lots of demands and unreasonable expectations were being placed on me and the math department and there was a testing frenzy about the state test and "WHAT are we doing about it" and "how are you making sure the Algebra 2 team is in the same place" and "make sure they are all following the IPGs and are doing EXACTLY the lessons as prescribed in the IPGs (planning guides that are basically a script)" ... and I had poopy/rude kids .... and so on and so on. This semester is better. The kids have changed or I got some of them out of my class. I wrote a letter to our principal about how I felt, and that seemed to help. The jack*** lady who was supposed to be helping us with algebra 2 got replaced by someone else.

So what's the epiphany? Oooh. I forgot it again. Trick.

The epiphany is that I can be the calm in the center of the storm, and I don't have to buy into all the brouhaha that is swirling about me. I just have to concentrate on teaching the best I can and knowing I'm doing the right thing and just let everything else just wash over me and just be an observer and not make things worse for myself by taking on others' stress.

Deep breaths and "this too shall pass".

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Spring Break

How excited am I to be on spring break? A whole school week and 2 weekends of sleeping in and being able to go outside during daylight hours and taking afternoon naps and going to matinees and reading reading reading and practicing the harmonica (when the dog we're dogsitting doesn't howl every time I start .... very insulting) and finishing the next step of my quilt for my next quilting class and just generally being.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Inservice Extraveganza

Yesterday (Monday) was packed with meetings (what else?). We had the morning 1 hour meeting that gave the "rah rah" as to why we need smaller learning communities. Then we had the 2 hour meeting with our potential group of teachers we'll be working with in our "academy". Then a few lucky ones of us had a 1 hour working lunch to discuss the "rising 9th graders" parents/signup-for-classes meeting. Then there was the 2 hour math meeting of what are you going to do for TAKS variety. And then to top it all off there was the 1.25 hour meeting to give us all a review of science and math facts so that we can intelligently discuss these things during home- room. Whew.

Simultaneously I was trying to grade 110 papers and figure out how in the heck I could make Tuesday's introduction to logarithms exciting enough so that when the 8 learning walk people (from central office etc) walked through my room on Tuesday, then they'd be all "ooh aah .... not phony at all".

Things went okay on all fronts. My class that had the "learning walk" .... they're so cute. When the people left after about 15 minutes (15 minutes of great behavior and showmanship), we all heaved a collective sigh and joked that now we could get the food out and hang out and do all sorts of "against the rules" stuff ..... and to top it all off, after that little "ha ha" we all got back to work. It's moments like that that make me love teaching and returning to these little tykes every day.

AND, shockingly, after my e-mail home to pregnant-surly-girl's mom about her not being in class since whenever, she was there today AND made eye contact and interacted in class. My my ..... how long will that last? Who knows, I'll revel in the small victories/successes.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Having Company

Tomorrow the superintendent and about a bazillion other people are taking a "learning walk" through 6 different math classrooms, and guess whose is one of the classrooms. (no cheating). So first I think, hmmmm I'm just introducing logarithms, hmmmmm could I get it more boring? I can't just state it and have them practice converting between log form and exponent form and that's that, can I? Then I think, well, I don't want to be (too) phony and "put on a show" of look how fun this is and how we incorporate games and alternate styles of learning and bla bla bla in our math classrooms. ... I think I've decided on a happy medium. If I just think of it as "company is coming over", and it's not phony to put your party dress on and be on your best behavior and mind your manners consciously instead of burping and picking up food with your fingers, then I think I can make peace with doing something a wee bit different from how I may approach this "normally". We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Quilting Teacher

Once again, it's extremely interesting to be on the "student" side of a learning situation. I had my 3rd of 4 quilting classes yesterday, and maybe it's a teacher thing, but I keep analizing the way she's teaching or the way she's interacting with us, her 4 quilting students. First of all let me say right off the bat that she has great skills and is imparting us will cool knowledge that will allow us, the beginner quilters to complete our project and be proud of the results. However.

Anytime someone has a question that does not fit with the current class, she seems a bit snippy or impatient and says with a humph in her voice, "we'll get to that next time. It'll ALL be explained next time." .... or when the owner of the quilting store walks through our "classroom" and makes a comment about the quilt tops, our teacher says (is it me or does it sound phony with that sing song quality of her voice), "they're doing such a good job. they turned out great." .....

I guess it's easy to be a critic. .... but it also gives me pause for thought on how I may come across to my students.

Sidenote: is it a bad sign that after 8 years of teaching, I'm more frequently having fantasies of retirement?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A midweek/midwinter break

How nice it was for the last couple of days to attend an SAT prep workshop and have a wee bit of a break from teaching. I apparently have gotten over my control freak behavior of HAVING to be at school all the time because it'll just be utter mayhem in my class and they won't learn and things could go wrong and ...... In fact, in my 8 years of teaching, before last year, the only times I was absent was for workshops. Last year I had a family emergency, so I was out an additional 3 days of the year. Now I'm like, eh, the break will be good for the kids and for me. I still don't think I'll ever take a sick day or mental health day .... mostly because I like my record (freak) and also because it seems that once you take it the day will probably go by quickly and maybe you'll feel robbed that it should have been much more exciting or fulfilling than it probably ends up being. ..... Also, when I feel in need of such a mental health vacation, I plan to leave school early on that day (translation: before 6 pm which is 1.75 hours after school gets out) and do something fun just for myself. That usually sustains me through the day .... the anticipation of the event and the event itself.

These last 2 days at the workshop have been great because:
1. We learned valuable things that I think will be immediately put to good use.
2. I got to go out to lunch 2 (2!) days in a row.
3. And breakfast :)
4. I had more of a chance to talk with a coworker and we had great conversations.
5. I met another colleague that I'd probably never have a chance to meet.
6. We got out of the workshop early both days, so I beat traffic and felt decadent.
7. We visited another H.S. and I saw how cool ours was (biased, totally)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Today started out great because I got an e-mail from an old student who's now in college. I taught this student in the other school I was at in the northeast, and he just wanted to let me know that he enjoyed my class and all the things we learned and talked about. What a great kid :).

Then there's a girl I currently have who started out the year great, but became chatty and quiet and actually pulled a first on me a while ago (yes, the knitter!). So periodically for the last several weeks (months?), when I'm trying to teach and she starts (keeps) chatting, there's another girl in class that loudly tells her to be quiet .... now granted there are other people talking in class, but. So any way, I've just changed their seating arrangement, and without thinking about, the 2 girls are semi-next-to each other. Well, knitter-girl comes to me before class and asks if she can move her seat because she's having issues with this other girl and she doesn't think the other girl likes her and why do I always "praise" the other girl when she "rudely" shushes the knitter (perception is weird). Then this other kid who's hearing our conversation, pipes up with, "maybe she doesn't like us because we're smart." .... Oh please, please, please get over yourself. I tried to nicely say that it was rude to talk while I'm talking and even though they are smart, it's disturbing to others that are trying to pay attention to further explanations, etc. Not sure if it filtered through their ever so smart egotistical brains.

Then there's sweetie that always comes to visit my class before school starts. I've never had her as a student, but struck up a conversation with her last year when I had lunch duty. Anyway, I can always make her laugh, and she's good for a chuckle or two from me. So she reminded me today of her visit last week or so when she BEANED ME IN THE NOSE from across the room by throwing a chocolate peanutbutter cup at me. POW in the schnoz. Ouch. Of course it was an accident, and we had a good laugh over it, but ouch.

Then there's my sullen pregnant snotty girl who I think I've seen maybe twice in the last 6 school days. Heaven forbid she should make eye contact with me. Blach.

Then there's my puppy-dog last period class of younger 9th/10th graders who are so giggly and fun to be around for the most part. Today one girl had a picture of some current teen idol, and asked me if I wanted to date him .... and then proceeded to leave the printed out picture near my computer for me to ogle at :).