Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hot Glue Hot Hassle

Hmph! Way back in forever this year, I was so excited about finding something that finally worked to put things up on the walls - hot glue. I tested it out; I put some on the wall; I waited; it didn't fall down; the next day it peeled off easily. I was set to hot glue to my heart's content.

This week, the chickens have come home to roost ... or the eggs have hatched in the basket ... or the 2 bushes ... or hands ... or whatever.

It's TAKS week (tres exciting), and so everything that is mathy or school-y must come off the walls in my room and in the hallways. I had posters of Thomas Edison. I had smaller paper posters of logic problems. I had globs of hot glue that stuck to the stucco, and still remains long after the papers are gone.

It is now my daily meditation: I will chisel off at least 4 globs per day until they are all gone. Hmmmm, math problem, If Ms. D. put up ___ this many posters and used 4 globs per poster and there are about 5 weeks left of school and she wants to tackle 4 globs a day, will she be done by summer? Follow up question. For the love of all things scholastic, is there anything out there that will stay up and not peel off the paint and be easy to remove? Bonus points for a correct answer.

Ackh! I just realized I have WAY more globs than that. There are still tons of "artsy" things in my room that have been globbed on. Depressed. Must. Administer. Ice Cream. Therapy.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I told one of my classes today that I was going to put up a poster listing my additional fees for duties ON TOP OF MY teaching them math. Then I would send their parents the bill. We all laughed and moved on, but seriously people.

You can probably guess one of the myriad of situations that caused this statement.

Here's my idea:

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Circle Equation Exploration on GeoGebra

Tomorrow my students will learn how to graph circles on the coordinate plane. I was JUST about to do my usual "lecture/Socratic-questions/practice approach" when I stopped myself short and remembered GeoGebra. That was a close one. I haven't tested it out yet, but here's the first draft:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

New World Order

Students would start a question or a statement or an answer with one of the following:
* This is probably stupid, but ...
* I'm probably wrong, but ...
* This may be a dumb question, but ...
* I'm probably insane, but ...

And I would either inwardly roll my eyes or widen them and wait for them to continue.

Students start a question/statement with the same as above.

My new response: "start over".
(repeat as often as needed until the demeaning preface is omitted).

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Smaller Learning Communities...

Probably like many high schools around, we have a version of "smaller learning communities" where students choose a pathway and take a course or two along that pathway track in addition to their other core courses. In this way, possibly they travel to the same teachers (in some larger schools), and have a focus for their studies.

When I'd first heard of this, and young teens picking "majors" in high school, my impression was, "right! I didn't know what I really wanted to be until I was in my 30's. How are they going to decide?". Then when I heard testimonials from students that had been through such programs, I had a shift of thinking, "okay, they may not ultimately pick this as a career, but isn't it nice to test it out now in HS and know instead of paying time and money in college and THEN change your mind."

I had a conversation with one of my students who is in the engineering track at our school. She said something to the effect of, "they shoved this down our throats, and I don't want to be an engineer." She went on about the 'other' things she wanted to do, but her "shoving" comment stuck in my craw. Partially, I think she was just pushing buttons for effect, but partially, maybe she felt that way.

I had another way to explain it to her. Think about buying a dress. You can't just go home after picking it off the hanger and have it fit perfectly. You have to go in the dressing room and try it on first and look this way and that, and THEN make the decision. Maybe you buy it and maybe you don't. That's sort of what you're doing here. You're in the dressing room for your future career.

Saturday, April 09, 2011


Is anyone else panicking that there are less class days left than what you comfortably need to do a good job on all you have left (or want) to teach? Sometimes I'm going along, and then if I get up the nerve, I look at how many non-interrupted-by-other-things classes we have left and compare that to content time needed. SCARY.

Anyway, we started circles just the other day. In true girly fashion, I had them make a foldable that gives the notes in question form on the outside flap and answers (chord, tangent, minor arc, etc) on the inside of the flap.

Some Always, Sometimes, Never, True, False questions that came up:
1. All chords are congruent. (TF?)
2. A chord can contain a diameter. (ASN?)
3. A chord can contain a radius. (ASN?)
4. Concentric circles are similar. (ASN?)
5. If 2 segments are tangent to a circle, then they are congruent (TF?)

And, I made up a new quiz. (Obviously, you can just enter a fake name. I have this so that elsewhere I can know which of my students have taken the quiz.):

Friday, April 01, 2011

What If You're Awesome, And You Don't Know It?

At my 1st teaching gig in central New Jersey, I taught at a newly opened school in a great district. We started out as only a 9th grade campus in 1997 where the kids fed into the "other" high school. Then the 2nd year, we were 9th and 10th, and again the kids fed into the "other" high school. Eventually, we were a full 9-12 school and fed ourselves.

In those 6 years I taught there, we started out with 6 or 7 math teachers and became pretty close. They showed me daily/monthly/yearly examples of what an awesome teacher and an awesome/sharing math department looked like. I'm still really good friends with 2 of them (hey! let's visit each other once a year or two) (even though none of us are at that school or in NJ any more) and keep in Christmas/birthday card contact with 3 of the other teachers.

Anyway, what does this have to do with this post? Eh .... only indirectly because one of the HS teachers shared this story with me one time about one year when she was teaching 4th grade, and she described it as a "magical year". She clicked with the kids, they did cool projects, they gelled, the kids loved her, she loved them, and amazing learning went on, etc. (FYI she told me this story because at that time, I taught a 9th grader that had been in her 4th grade class). Anyway, this is one phrase I always remember: "magical year".

Side note: maybe some people right now are making a goofy face and and saying, "yeah! I got your magical year, lady." because you're at a struggling school or have non-cooperating-in-some-way students or whatever. Feel your pain. Been there at other times. Sorry. Hugs. Enough about you.

Back to me.

So, you see where I'm going with this. This year. In my IED (engineering class). I'm having a magical year. Have I mentioned this before? I yap about it all the time in "real life". The kids in there are smart. They work hard. They ask great "what if" questions. They push me to be better and deliver better. We go beyond the curriculum and explore, just because we want to learn and do and be. They're MUCH smarter and harder working and savvy than I was at that age. In my mind they are rock stars.

And so I think that's obvious to them. Let's see. 14 years of teaching. Approximately 120 (rough rough rough) kids per year. Ish. 120 x 14 = 1680 kids. Yeah, I can get a general feel for average and above average students. It's a no-brainer to me that they are above average. I think of them as poised and self-confident and bla bla bla.

Well. I don't think they think so or know so. Which has altered my reality. Note that these are freshmen. Fourteen to fifteen years old. I have such a high opinion of them that it doesn't always register with me that they've had a limited view of the world. Here are 2 things that have happened lately.

First: a few of them were having trouble with another teacher. Long story short, they felt intimidated in class and stupid and not worthy for various reasons. .... What?! This is SO not the population I thought would feel "unsmart".

Second: today in IED we were having a visit to get nationally certified as a PLTW program. That means that a gentleman came for the day and put us under the microscope and asked questions and probed adults and students and counselors, etc. So. He was in my 9th grade class and talked with various students, and I saw him talking to one of my amazing girls and didn't think anything of it. Come to find out later. She told the other PLTW teacher that she was so nervous and intimidated when he was asking her questions about her classwork and such. Hah! In my mind, I was all, "Score! He's talking to one of my superstars. We'll look great! She'll be great!". And here all this time she's probably thinking, "oh no! Big scary adult talking to me. Nervous!"

She's awesome and doesn't know it. How does that slip past you? But then when I ask that question, the answer is obvious. As a person, you only have your point of view and how you act and how you think things should be done. You just think it's business as usual. There's probably other people around you going, "WHOOOOOOO! Superstar!", but they don't mention that to the person because they think it's a no brainer, and the Superstar MUST know they're great ..... so maybe no one ever TELLS them they're great ..... it's like if a person has brown hair, no one ever goes around and thinks to mention, "hey! Do you know you have brown hair?". They think it's SO obvious it doesn't bear mentioning.

And then there's that OTHER problem where HOW you complement someone affects the outcome. They may just discount your praise with a "yeah, but...." in their heads and not absorb the information.

Anyway, ramble ramble ramble. P.S. we got certified. Yay! And I'm having a magical year with my cute 9th grade IED kidlets. And I have to think of a way to get them to know they're phenomenal.