Saturday, April 30, 2005

Field Trip

It was so nice to have a break from the little kiddies yesterday ... I helped chaperone a day trip to a local college for our AVID kids. They all behaved so wonderfully that it was a refreshing treat to be reminded how good some of our kids are. They were polite and thoughtful and well behaved. Yea. Then, since I had an all day sub and we got back at about 2pm (and school ends at 4:15), I "snuck" away to do some "chores". I went to my quilt shop and had a great time looking over all sorts of gorgeous materials and daydreaming and planning my "starter" quilt .... that will help me learn this technique I'm enamored with. I also bought blocks to make a "practice" quilt on which I will learn to machine quilt. Ka-ching ka-ching. This is getting pricey if I stop and think about how much I'm spending. Eh. Life's short.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Communication Breakdown

Remember how I'm making all my algebra 2 PAP (!) students learn how to manipulate fractions (simple adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing) ... and if they don't get all 4 problems correct on the quiz, they have to keep retaking it (new version) until they do? Well, today was one of those days where it was convenient for the kids, one at a time, to step right outside the classroom and take the short quiz while everyone else was working on other practice (simplifying rational expressions, yea). Of my 3 periods, I had numerous retakes for the first 2 periods, so to make it fair, I tore up paper into about 1.5" x 1.5" square pieces (size IS important in this story :) ), and write their names on it and fold really small and then I would pick names one at a time to determine order of quiz taking. .... The quiz is on a 1/2 sheet of paper (8.5" x 5.5").

Well. During my 3rd session of doing this, I went into my spiel about how they should raise their hands if they want to retake the quiz, and I proceeded to pass out the small "name" strips and as I'm doing this, I realize that there are only 2 people who want to take the quiz. So I forgo collecting the little bits of "name" paper, and I just call this one girl out to the hall and give her the quiz.

She's out there for a while and finally she knocks on the door to indicate she's done. She hands me back the BLANK quiz, and she has all her (4) answers and work shown on that 1.5" x 1.5" of paper. I looked at her in question, and she said she thought I wanted her to do her quiz on that paper and that's why I gave it to her. Boy did we both have a laugh. (She's ESL and polite, by the way).

That was a nice comic relief to the day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Way Around It?

I think I hit upon a way around the crappy thing our admin is trying to do to this one teacher. This teacher and 2 others of us teach "upper level" courses, and an e-mail was to be sent around that we will also pick up a freshman class that guides the kids who are doing poorly in algebra 1. Their intent was to make this person quit without actually firing them (this is my 2nd hand information and is most likely true). So the 3 of us are going to meet and come up with constructive suggestions about this class (that was not necessarily successful this year). We'll (hopefully) come across as team players and if we have to teach such a class, maybe it will be a good one and not another canned, half-baked attempt at a solution. (the e-mail was sent around later that morning ...)

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Not Again

TAKS week is finally over, and all in all it went well. I'm tired, but it seemed the kids really put out an effort. But then my crappy "after lunch" period had to happen, and then I got 2nd hand news about another crap ass situation brewing that put a pall (sp?) on the whole week.

First of all I have this freaky bizarro kid in my afternoon class. He's immature and a "rebel" and it's always something with him. Fine, I can deal. Then I have this other senior in class, who sometimes comes and sometimes doesn't. Bad attitude and general bad ethics. I'm back at the computer checking grades on some kids and all of a sudden I hear this senior get up and walk across the room and basically threaten this other freak kid. Jerk(s). I dealt with it after class, but what an ass.

Then on my afternoon prep period, another teacher comes in to tell me of how the admin is trying to get rid of this math teacher in an underhanded sort of way. They've in no way ever told this teacher that there's a problem. There's probably no paper trail. There've been no attempts to help this teacher out of whatever problem they think there is. But now it seems they want to brew up this scenario to make this teacher resign without them having to fire the person. What a load of crap crap crap. That's one of the reasons I left my old school because of just such a situation with another teacher. I'm in an ethical (moral?) bind now, because the particular teacher just the other day asked me if I'd heard anything about next year and how they didn't know from year to year if they'd be rehired because kids are dropping out of this persons class and there've been complaints. .... Now that I know information, I feel I should in some way share it with this person, or else I'm also contributing to this devious crap.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

5 weeks and counting

What does it say that I am SO counting the days until summer. .... Probably just that I'm a modern teacher and am tired tired tired. Yesterday was the first day of TAKS, and it went pretty well. Of course my afternoon classes were shocked. SHOCKED I tell you that we were actually doing anything. Of course some of them didn't bring their supplies. Whatever. We muddled through the day. ... I'm still struggling with a few students, but nothing major. .... I looked back on some stuff I'd written about last year's class, and I guess I forgot how trying they could be. It must be that way every year, and I forget, and maybe that's a good (bad?) thing because I can start fresh. Who knows.

In other news, I'm totally enthralled with all my new-ish hobbies that actually give me a life outside of school. Tap dancing once a week is great. My occasional quilting classes add to the mix. Then top that off with learning Spanish, doing yoga, and honking on my harmonica, and you have a teacher that can tune out of the school stress into other fun stuff.

Monday, April 18, 2005

fractions are your friends...

I thought it would be a pitiful shame if my 9th-12th grade students graduated from H.S. and could not add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions without a calculator. For this reason, I made up a fraction song and we practiced, and before the end of this last 6 weeks of grading, they have to get 100% on a fraction quiz ... or keep retaking it until they do ..... even one smidgeon of a problem wrong or if they do not reduce properly, they get a 0% and they need to make it up. ..... Well, the first round of quizzed were graded, and I have to say I'm pleased. Most all of them knew what to do, and the majority of mistakes were not concept ones, but careless ones .... hopefully, they'll get it eventually.

Also, I think my goal for my last period class of the day (9th and 10th graders) is teaching them good manners. We've started already with the "sit up straight" and "don't sass" awareness talks. Let's see how that goes.

On another note. Sheesh. These kids can't for the life of them follow directions. It was fascinating last Friday to watch. I wouldn't have thought it. I had this tesselation activity for them to do. It was a rotational tesselation that they had to create. The instructions were all layed out on the sheet, and they simply had to read it. Some of them just started in doing what they thought they should do without verifying it with the instructions, so of course that didn't work. Some tried to read one sentence or so of the instructions, and then gave up and did what the first group did (above). Others just immediately raised their hands and wanted me to hand hold them through everything. Blach. I haven't processed yet how to teach this "following instructions" thingie, but I think that's next on my agenda.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I'm tired. We've been ordered from up on high to stop teaching our content now and ONLY prepare for the TAKS test that's to be given in 2 weeks. Blach. Can I tell you how excited the kids are to be reviewing for a whole 2 weeks for this state exam? .... I'm trying to make it palatable by doing probability and hands-on types of activities, but it's only been 4 days, and I'm tired ..... or maybe I'm tired because I haven't been getting my normal 8 hours of sleep a night. Hmmmmm, correlation/coincidence?

A funny thing: One of the days, I had the kids do something with a partner, and they were to turn in only one paper for the 2 of them. We did the activity and then it was over and we were milling around, and one of my students comes up to me to ask an English-type question: "Miss, is it 'perpare'?" ... "No," I say, "it's prepare: p.r.e.p.a.r.e.". ...... "No, miss, is it perpare?" .... "no it's spelled p.r.e". .... this went on for a bit, and we are both looking at each other like the other person is slow. Then it dawns on me, and I start laughing and answer, "yes, it's per pair".

Friday, April 01, 2005

Differentiating Instruction-ish

In the old school I taught at, the kids were tracked to death in basically 5-6 different math levels. We had the (not the appropriate names, of course) sub level, average kid, regular kid, honors kid, gifted & talented kid. Like it or not, each class was pretty homogenous in ability, so you could feel comfortable teaching at a certain pace/level/speed. At this school, we do have 2 different levels - regular and preAP, and supposedly, the kids are (or maybe I'm wrong) supposed to be grouped according to ability. Well. In my preAP classes I run the gamut from kids that shouldn't be in there (work ethic issues), kids with great work ethic but need extra time digesting things, kids appropriately placed, and kids that should really be in a faster paced more challenging class because they're bored and finish all tests in 1/4 the time it takes other kids and they still have a 100% in class.

So. I've never successfully figured out how to differentiate my instruction. Because what these kids really need is a separate class all together where I can teach at their speed. I haven't figured out how to teach the other 30 kids (at their varying levels) and then concurrently/on the side teach these 3 brainiacs at their level while still running around and helping everyone.

I had a brainstorm about an upcoming (now passed) quiz that I would give these kids a different version of the quiz (logs, ln, e ...) that is more challenging. So the test time comes around, and I pass out the different versions on the sly and on the tops of their quiz (the hard version) I put that they'll get 100% if they attempt all problems and check their answers and explain explicitly what they're confused about if they were confused.

I didn't know what to expect back from them. I didn't know if it would be too long, or too easy, or too hard, or if they'd even step up to the plate ..... we're talking a total of 11 kids from 3 classes totaling about 87 kids. I haven't graded the quizzes yet, but I'm so excited. They worked bell to bell (all but one), and seemed to be thrilled to be challenged like that. I prodded some along with hints. I reassured one that she'd get 100% no matter what, that I just wanted to see what they'd do. I had one kid say to me afterwards, "that was fun". I had a revelation that in my 1st class, I only handed it out to 2 boys. Then when one (smartie) girl finished her "regular" quiz in 10 minutes .... I gave her the other one. Then in my next class, to 2 boys again (on hindsight, I could have tried it with maybe 2 girls there) .... but I was going by memory and by their average in class .... THEN by my 3rd class, I actually looked at their class averages and gave it to all the kids that have over 100% in my class (plus to surly pregnant girl even though she doesn't but she could) .... that was 5 girls (woo hoo) and 1 boy.

Funny side note. By my 3rd class, before I handed out the quizzes, I had one girl say to me, "I heard the quiz was hard and that the smartest kid in class didn't finish" (talking about the regular quiz). I had to smile and then I told her that there were different versions of the quiz. Who knows if I'll have to have some explanation to the whole class or if they can figure it out.

Let's see how it turns out ..... should have done this sooner .... oh well, at least it's a new tool in my tool box.