Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dear Teenager...

Dear Teenager Cashiering at the Grocery Store,

First of all, congratulations on being responsible and earning some money while you are going to school. Yay you! Second of all, you are doing a pretty good job, mostly. 

But, you are making me sad for the state of things on two counts, okay, three ... probably more, but I will stop at three. First sadness, when you are talking to the other teen that is bagging the groceries while you are "helping" me, I feel like a non-person. I am in the way of your fun chatting event with my pesky food that is sliding along and being summed up and packed. There is enough anonymity and struggles in the world without having to feel invisible during everyday chores.

Second sadness, you are giving the group that is "teens in America" a bad name or a "kids these days!" moniker. I know you're probably pretty awesome since I teach others in your group, and I enjoy them immensely. You on the other hand are not attending to your job properly, and are helping add another item to the secret adult list of "why teens are poos". 

Final sadness, for now, most of you don't know how to make change. Math! Money! Please, please, PLEASE don't look at the register screen to make change on a $16.80 bill when I give you a $20 and a nickel. Maybe my sadness is more for the managers that have (not) trained you than you. You can do it! I know you can! 


Former Teen Grocery Cashier,  Former Movie Theater Cashier, and Current Adult/Teacher 

p.s. Thank you Ms. Dora at AMC all those years ago for teaching me how to make change.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Giving Ourselves a Break

Have you ever watched a performance, music / dance / theater / gymnastics , as a non-expert in that area and just been impressed with what was appealing to you whether or not it was "hard"? Then you think about someone with lots of knowledge in that arena watching the same performance, and they are probably having a different experience. They may be thinking, "Wow! Look at that difficult move they just executed! Amazing!". You may have missed the impressiveness of it, but you knew what resonated with you. And the performer has a third version of the events thinking, "ooooh, I hope I pull off that triple-quadruple-back-slide doohicky perfectly!" and you may not even have known to be impressed with the challenge of the doohicky.

I'm thinking it's the same with our kids. We may be all impressed with our various ways of presenting/teaching a topic, but it may be hit or miss whether it works or not with the students. I'm thinking that they mostly only care about knowing that you care and that you have their backs and that if they are struggling with the learning, you will be there for them. They are not sitting back and thinking, "hmmmm, look at that student-centered stunt she just pulled off!" ... or, "wow, that's master teaching skills right there!".

So I'm thinking that, yes, we should strive to do our best with all our teaching skills, but maybe the most important thing that trumps the whizbang lessons is the fact that the kids see you caring about their learning and pausing enough and waiting for them to process and keeping your questioning and explaining processes churning to make sure they know you have a safety net for them in their learning journey.

I guess this is all to say that it's okay if I don't kill myself all the time worrying about presenting a lesson "just right" because as long as I honestly care during the lesson and am tuned in to what and how the students are learning, then I am doing fine.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Inverse Trig Graphing

Teaching Inverse Trig Functions, Take 10 (??). Okay, patty paper to the rescue*. I'm hoping THIS year, since we are taking time to construct and ask questions and have a physical thing in our hands that we can flip over and analyze that the students will more readily be able to reconstruct their knowledge of inverse trig graphs.

We started by making an envelope for their notebooks.

 Then we SLOWLY with lots of back and forth questioning created this sheet for sine:

We had to refresh our memory on Inverse Functions in general from previous knowledge. Then we flipped the paper over (after we discussed the "x and y switch roles") by keeping our thumb (positive x) and index finger (positive y) attached to the paper:

And we had a discussion on what part we should restrict the domain of the sine graph to to make this inverse function a function. THEN we shaded the right graph part with a sharpie. 

We did the same with the cosine graph the next day. Then because of a discussion with some students AND the fact that even though we stress that ONLY ONE output is possible, they still are confused with a problem such as:

Without a calculator, find  arccos ( cos ( 200 °) ). 

So after the patty paper, I had them explore with this sheet:

 Let's see if THIS is the year the information better sticks to their brain cells.

* Funny note: when we were making the graphs and free-style drawing, a student said, "hey, they should make patty paper lined with a graph/grid". I flipped the patty paper box over and showed her that it really was paper meant to be put between meat patties or some such food.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Clip Art and Thoughts as a Whitey

I periodically like to put clip art on the worksheets I create for my students. I've never thought much about it, I just Google Search for "free clip art _____" where the blank is replaced by my topic of choice. Then I pick the cutest or most appropriate picture. Most times it's an animal or inanimate object, but sometimes the clip art is a person. 

With all the dialog going around about "white privilege" and "what kinds of images do you see" and "what types of people are chosen to be actors in various shows" and "how are people being represented" and "do you ever see a ______ computer scientist", etc., I started to notice my clip art. 

When I scan the images, I look for "girl student" for example, and then pick from some of the choices. I guess either all/most of the images are of "white" cartoons, ..... I just stopped typing and did that search. Out of the first 22 pictures, 1 was a black student. Then I kept counting to 56 - maybe 1 or 2 more non-white kids. Also, no Asian, Hispanic .....

Sheesh. Being a harried, time-strapped teacher, I guess then most frequently I would just go with "white". Lately, (okay, last couple of worksheets), I deliberately kept searching until I found a non-white clip. I then mentioned this to a co-worker, and she asked about "Indian" clip art kids .... Nope, haven't seen them.

Then I started to think, well, if I have ___% of various ethnicities in my class, do I keep a tally of what type of images I project? Am I overthinking? Is this situation just part of the invisible problem that I was not aware of as a whitey? Do my students even notice? Some kids? All kids? Are they desensitized, too, because that's how it's been?

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Two Truths and a Lie

I remember when I taught in NJ years and years ago, we had 41 minute classes and saw every one of our 8 classes every day*. Now that I have block schedule and see only 4 classes a day for 90 minutes each, I marvel at how much we used to get accomplished.

I am thinking back on this because tomorrow when we go back to school, we will have a "C" day, and see all our 8 classes for 45 minutes each. Scandalous! And, as a connoisseur (thank you spell check) of last minute creating, but intermittent (again, thanks) thinking, here is what I will do with my calculus class (link):

Side Note: The year I left NJ, they were planning on having a rotating schedule the following year: 8 classes, but only 6 met each day, something to the tune of:

M - 1,2,3 ... 5,6,7
T - 2,3,4 ...  6,7,8
W - 3,4,1 ... 7,8,5
Th- 4,1,2 ... 8,5,6

Or something to that effect. Yeesh, how do you wrap your mind around that schedule. On the plus side, you would see kids in different situations, so they wouldn't all be sleepy or whatever all the time.