Monday, June 25, 2012

Great Opportunity

These past few days, a colleague and I were at MIT for EurekaFest. You can read about it here. Holy Cow was it an inspiring few days. There were many high school teams that spent all last year inventing something. They presented their inventions in a variety of ways (talks and booths and discussions). There were "adult" and "college" inventors that were also happy to discuss their experience. There were MIT professors that actually taught invention classes where the whole class invented something throughout the year (semester?). There was this inspiring gentleman. There was this mind-blowing invention.

I'm mentioning it here because we only learned about it from one of our students doing research and asking us if we could do this. To a student at this event, the one thing we kept hearing was that they were changed by their experience of going through the process. I know my colleague and I were inspired. So, if it sounds intriguing, I think you should think about applying for NEXT year. The initial process/application is due in April, so there's plenty of time to get organized.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I had a conversation with friends the other day about writing in general (no mention of blogs). They asked if I liked to write or if I found it challenging. I thought about it and said that I did not find it painful. I usually just blurted stuff out on the paper in a stream of consciousness type of way and then went back and adjusted later. My thought is that you basically have an idea of what you want to say, and if you start out by nitpicking every sentence, then that whole picture is lost in the effort of perfection. Anyway, it works for me ... for writing anyway.

For the last 5 days I've been gathering site links and ideas and such to start mapping out my computer programming curriculum. I found many helpful people and ideas and opinions including my own. Then apparently, I found all my baggage about teaching the class. And ..... I have not put down one sentence of how I want the year to proceed. What works for me in writing apparently got lost in translation when I had to carry it over to mapping out a whole new class. My idea of being (nearly) perfect is getting in the way of me actually doing anything to make progress. I keep having these "but ... but ... but ..." thoughts taking up residence in my head.

So my epiphany is just that. BLURT IT DOWN to at least have a starting place with which to work! If you don't start, you can't finish. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Rah, rah, rah. Okay, that's my goal for this afternoon: get a broad brush stroke down on paper.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Summer Time...

Ahhhh, the joys of getting enough sleep. That's basically in the top 5 treats of summer vacation. That and the feeling that I have PLENTY of time to organize how I want to teach my 2 new preps next year. Hah! Knowing me, I'll put it off until the last minute and then scramble around wondering what happened to my carefree days.

I did pull out my old calculus bins, and I actually organized them chronologically. I recycled TONS of dated things from them. Now I'm pushing that topic to the back of my mind to gnaw on at odd moments. I'm still thinking of flipping that class daily, and am tossing around ideas to make it doable in the time frame I'll have. It makes me giddy to think I can actually assign problems for class practice (formerly known as homework) that involve "a" and "b" instead of actual numbers. You know, there's a piecewise function with, say, 3 pieces and instead of "3x + 7", one part has "3x + a", and the question is of the sort: find "a" so that the function is continuous. In the past, it's assigned, kids struggle, they come to class, then I walk through how to do it. Besides not being the best way for them, it also ate up class time. NOW I envision myself skipping through class with a goofy grin on my face and just feeding them little hints. POOF! More time in class and more challenging problems. We'll see what the reality really is like, but I'm willing to try it for one year.

This calculus class is also the class that will be through the ropes with me as a teacher for the 3rd time (geometry, precal, calc). To say we're like a dysfunctional family at this point basically sums it up.

My current project is the AP Computer Science class. I have 13 students that have signed up, and they have basically never programmed before. I've heard various theories about how I should use Alice or Scratch or something drag and droppy. I may be naive, and that will certainly come out as the school year happens, but I think that at the end of the day, the students still have to be able to write code and be careful with syntax and find their bugs and such. I think they're up to it. I'm forging ahead and introducing Java immediately. I feel that if I start with another type package then somewhere deep down I'm saying to the students: you can't handle Java. Here's a warm fuzzy puppy that bounces around the screen. Weeeeeee.

Saying that, I think I want to start immediately with the first class. In some form, I want them to write code that day (heavily scaffolded), possibly doing graphics. I have a long term first project in mind, but I have to work out the bugs.

Okay, that's me setting it down in stone. Let's see what happens as the year progresses.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Flipped AP Calculus Class

Curses on my principal! This year she's been on the "flipped classroom" train. She sends us e-mails. She "gently" suggests we just try it once. She sends more e-mails containing articles raving about flippin' flipping. I kept my head low. I had conversations with myself: What's she thinking! That's too much! I have other things that I'm juggling! I can't see how it would work with students that don't have computers. What if they don't watch at home? What if they come in and either didn't watch and say I didn't get it, or watch and say I didn't get it? Do I do it for every lesson? Every subject?

Then she sent a portion of an article by this teacher, who did this with AP Calculus, which I'm teaching next year. I've also been reflecting and brooding on all those students I had this year in precalculus who perfected the art of "playing school" by pretending to be taking notes and paying attention while they were just going through the motions. Passive "learning". I had no effective consequences for that, not in the "shame on you" way, but in the catch it and make them tune in way. By flipping, and some effective way I can give points or assess that they watched, then I can do the practice problems in class. I totally agreed with this teacher's statement that by the time the kids get home (and ours get home pretty late), their brains are fried, and they may not be giving their mental "all" to the math homework.

Anyway, I'm batting around the idea of doing this for next year for calculus. Teacher Tube? Other? There seem to be a ton of resources in the above link. .... I'll THINK about it.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Nice To Meet You...

When I started this blog in January of 2005, I didn't know the what's/how's/why's of how this would transpire. I wanted to keep most (all?) of my privacy just in case there were repercussions. Within the last year or so, I've only JUST started mentioning to people I know that I blog, and THAT took me 6 years. Now it feels kind of stilted and phony to me to just keep signing e-mails or blog responses as "Ms. Cookie". I completely understand the reasoning for everyone doing it, but it started to feel "un-right" somehow for me. By the way, why that name? I like cookies. Really logical.

I've also been mentioning blogs as a great resource to other teachers, and again if feels phony when I fail to mention mine. So what if they come upon it and recognize my picture. Do they mention it to me? Do they not? Do I mention it? ARGH!

So, hello, nice to meet you. I'm Shireen D. I never started out wanting to be a teacher. Now I can't think of anything else I would rather spend my time doing. Blogging and reading blogs have been such great experiences that allow me to get advice and resources and camaraderie and hear other teachers' ideas, and I'm able to think out loud on what has worked and not worked for me. I'm less in a teaching vacuum because of the generosity and availability of other teachers that are processing their work for the rest of us to share.

Case in point today. We have a new teacher that will be teaching AP Statistics next year, and we quickly went online with various search phrases and were able to find blogs, activities, syllabi, outlines, etc. Now this teacher will be affecting 15 or more kids and will have great resources to do so. The inevitable question: WHAT DID WE DO BEFORE THE INTERNET?!