Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Musings...

We got our AP results back, and WOOT! for AP Calculus AB and APCS. I had a higher percentage of students pass the APCalc test than before. I'm chalking it up to a combination of the flipped lessons, and the daily quizzes on basic facts, and the fact that our school culture is that MOST of the students buy into doing their homework and taking care of business. There were STILL a handful of seniors that I know would have totally passed if they had put in the effort during the year. These were the flaky attenders of class, the flaky homework doers, the "oh, I didn't watch the video" kids, the starers off into spacers. There were about 6 of them. I want to reflect on ways of getting THESE types of kids to learn and retain in spite of themselves. Somehow I think writing and reflecting on their parts (of what they're learning) has to be part of the solution. If they can verbalize or think through concepts, that has to go far in their retention. Right? I don't know, this will be my goal for next year. Ooh! maybe I won't check their notes for if they watched the video and took notes, but periodically I can check their notebooks on reflections, and make that some BIG grade, with some specific guidelines on what they write. Need to think about this.

APCS? I actually didn't think I'd get ANY of my students to pass. It was my first year teaching. It was their first programming class ever. BUT. There were students that passed, AND some 5's and 4's. Exciting. Miracle of miracles. I am not teaching the AP course next year, and I have mixed feelings. I think it's a good thing because now I can focus on a variety of other things that I didn't feel I had time for in the AP curriculum. But there also seems to be something cool about my girl students being able to say that they took / are taking APCS. It's unexpected.

Racism / Institutionalized Racism / Zimmerman / Communication .... I'm trying to wrap my head around what and why and how to help fix .... here are scattered thoughts:

Each side of the various arguments thinks they are right and justified and I don't know that people actually LISTEN to other points of view effectively. It's a charged conversation, and it's uncomfortable, and it's not something you can bring up in casual social interactions, and it's emotional and people feel misunderstood, and people think, "well I'M not racist, so don't pick on me", and others think, "well, I had *this* experience with *this* race, and so that must mean that EVERYONE of *that* race is "that" way.

Also, people are inundated with all sorts of problems in the world and all sorts of information, and it's basically overload, and things don't DIRECTLY affect them and their lifestyle, so it's easy to be incensed in the short run and then just as easy to forget about the problem later on and so nothing changes.

People need to separate behaviors and problems due to poverty vs perceptions of various people of various races.

I have strong beliefs on say, abortion or education, so I don't know how willing I'd be to listen to and think about other sides of the topic. Maybe that's the same way with people who hold racist beliefs. I think this also comes back to effective communication.

One of the topics that came up in all this current hoopla was something to the effect of, "well, _____ race commits most of the crimes, so it's not really racial profiling, it's just the way it is." So I tried to use various search words/phrases to see if the statistics backed this up. Not a fruitful search. Maybe I used the wrong words? Then I'm thinking, where did THOSE people get their information? I'm guessing that some commentator just made that statement, and these people trust THAT news outlet (whatever it is), and then take the words as fact without thinking about it or studying it. ... I know I'm guilty of that for other things. I guess this comes down to critical thinking and forming of your own opinions. That takes too much work in our current information-overload life, and it's way easier to passively internalize what someone else says if it fits with your world view.

Okay, I have not solved the world problems just yet ..... and this is too deep and troubling and requires more pondering. But I want to leave you with something funny.

There was a topic on about "what fake names do you give at Starbucks for your order" and it evolved to names you give when you go out to dinner. Someone had the funny idea of, "Donner". So then the waitress would call, "Donner, Party of 5" ...... then I thought a funnier ending would be that when the family goes up, they can say, "oh, it's a party of 4 now".


  1. Congrats on the good results! This is amazing. I teach AP Calc as well and I can assure you that it is not an easy task. One thing that I found helpful is to use technology in my classroom. For example, I stumbled upon a tool called ClassroomIQ ( It’s a very efficient grading tool. It helps me grade homework and exams more quickly and easily. A very handy and convenient gadget, it allows me to return feedback quicker and students to see their mistakes sooner so that they can make corrections and improve more. Anyway, congrats and keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks, Joe. I haven't heard of ClassroomIQ, so I'll check it out.

  3. tI'm new to your blog and see that you attributed "daily quizzes on basic facts" as part of your students' success. Do you mind elaborating on what that looks like in your classroom?

    I tried searching around to see if you had a post on it, but wasn't able to find one [if you have one!] :)


  4. Hi Rachel. I went to an AP Summer Training with Dixie Ross (highly recommended if you are in the TX area). She mentioned that she gave daily, 10 question, oral quizzes on basic facts. She drops the 3 lowest every 6 weeks. I call them my IR quizzes (immediate response) and tell the kids these facts should be as expediently known as the alphabet: trig, some basic derivatives, some basic integrals, ... You only say each question twice and don't repeat. You keep moving on for them to work on speed. .... There are more details, so you can e-mail me if you have questions.