Friday, December 28, 2012

*THAT* School.....

Are you "that" school? When people ask you where you work, and you tell them, do they get a knowing look in their eye as if, "oh yes, I know ALL about your school". They know what they've heard and what they assume and what conclusions they draw without ever having stepped inside your school.

I work at "that" school. In fact, all 3 of the schools I've taught at have been "that" school in some way or the other. In fact, I'm now coming to realize that maybe ALL schools are "that" school. Just like everyone (it seems) knows exactly what it means to be a teacher (those lounging summers off and that too-much pay and the paltry knowledge we hold in our heads). It seems everyone has a bead on just exactly what your work environment must be like.

In fact, I think I'm guilty of thinking "that" school when I hear of other teachers at other schools in our area. Maybe it's human nature. "Oh!" we think, "they must have it so _______ over there" .... or "Oh! THAT'S the rich/poor/smart/entitled/ethnic..... type of school it is." When in reality, I'm guessing that all schools have their problems. All schools most likely have drugs and fights and bullying and parents who _____ and parents who don't ______ and depressed kids and happy kids and excelling kids and struggling kids and just plain kids. I need to be more aware of my jumping to conclusions about other situations.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Warm Fuzzy...

A long while ago, the students (that happened to be) in my calculus class were all up in a tizzy and stressed out and flustered and frazzled with school. It seemed daily that there were melt downs. I tried to think of things that would be helpful and not take too much time that would ease their situation. I did few things, including this activity.

I didn't know if the following thing would work (and it actually took some time), but since that day, I've seen the students file this sheet in the plastic sheet on their binders, so they can look at it when they need to. I just saw one the other day, and it reminded me about it.

Now, I'm guessing it will only work with students who know each other well and have some history with each other. My students, for example, have been in math classes together for at least 4 years. They're the epitome of the dysfunctional siblings ... in a good way ... mostly.

I copied this sheet onto pretty paper:

Then each kid wrote their name in the box at the top. Then each kid had to write something nice about themselves (a memory or a compliment) on the first line.

Then we rotated the papers in one direction, and then each kid had to write something nice (memory/compliment/...) about the named kid at the top of the paper. Then we kept rotating in this fashion until the paper made it back to the original student.

Now this is something the student can keep forever and look back on when they need a boost.

Of course, I had to preface the activity with some time where each person had to scan the room and reflect on memories. They were also reminded about "bad" "mundane" sentences: (you are very nice) versus awesome statements (I love that you helped me with ____ when I was feeling ____).

I have 22 kids in class, and it probably took that long. So I'm guessing it has to be on a day when you can afford that time. Don't know if/when I'll do it for another class, but at the time, it seemed needed for my little stress buckets.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finals Week

It's Here! It's Here! I'm sure the kids are super thrilled to last-minute cram a whole semester's worth of knowledge into their heads. I know I'M THRILLED to see how they fare (fingers crossed). I also know it's time to sit back and reflect on the semester and what I can do to improve and encourage for the next round.

The student surveys for each class revealed some good tips for me. Some of them were of the hit myself on the forehead for the "why didn't I think of that" variety. For example, we've been using Haiku as a school to post our flipped lessons and such. We also have a separate homework calendar. I also have a third website where I sometimes post links to helpful websites. Hmmmmmm, combine them all on particular Haiku pages so the students only have to look in one place. Of course!

They also clamored for more examples, more examples. Haiku to the rescue. I always run out of time in class and only get in one or 2 examples. I could scan and post extras on the site.

They (AP Calculus AB) also reminded me to keep up with the pep talks. A large part of their success is just knowing they can do it and them keeping the faith that they are capable. I know they can do it ... I just have to keep reminding myself that they need reminders that THEY can do it. DO IT! It's easy to forget sometimes that they're little kids (and humans) and their insecurities cram into their brains and mess with them and make them more susceptible to giving up and not pushing through. Sheesh! Humans!

I also need to revamp my attitude. The five preps and extra school related activities and insomnia and life have been messing with my mind and personality. I found I'm more apt to blurt out a sarcastic comment or suggestion instead of a helpful one to students. Who put the crabby into my pants? Hmmmm, not a nice visual. I have to fake the nice until I make the nice attitude. I. Can. Do. It. Go Me! Viva La Math!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Trig Graph Project

This Fall our math department went to the Dallas Regional NCTM conference, and there was a pair of precalculus teachers discussing various projects they did. Great talk, and I took one of their projects and altered it to this:

I only wanted them to use ONE EACH of the 6 trig functions; they could restrict the domain; they were NOT supposed to restrict the range; they couldn't use any other functions; and then the were to color it. Here are some students that followed the directions.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Calculus & Calculators

I realized I've been remiss on practicing calculator skills with my AP Calculus AB students, so on my flipped lesson video, I walked through finding a numerical derivative, and through solving an equation. Their assignment was then this sheet:

I've been away at college field trips for 3 days, so we'll see how it works out when classes resume on Monday.

And on that note, can I just gripe a little? Of course I can, you'll be too late to stop me. Almost to a person, every guide we had on the 4 colleges we visited had this answer, "oh, I don't know about that, I'm a business major."

What's with that? Here were some of the questions that stumped them:
Do you have a _____ engineering program?
Do you have ______ degree program?
Can you tell me about classes offered in ______?

I understand that they're just college students that are earning extra money shuttling high school students around the campus, but I would think that would be part of the training. What about an answer such as:

Great question! I don't know that answer, but here's a website link, and I think you can find the answer. (or for the case of the guide near a computer, maybe they could look up the answer).

Also, the guides should have a test on projecting their voices past 10 feet, so the students in the back can hear them.

Also, most HS students are not interested in "here's this building, and here's that building". What about comments from the guides such as:
* here is what I love about my school
* here are some fun memories
* here is how I made friends
* here are the cool classes I took at my school
* here are great things I love about my professors or major or ______

Okay, griping done.