Friday, March 31, 2006

Red Vis-a-Vis Pens

Oh my. There I am expounding on ellipses on the overhead and switching pens to make various components of the ellipse stand out, when a big blob of red blood-looking stuff plops out of the pen and onto the slide. Ew. Toss the pen. Continue talk. Expound expound expound. Another red pen. Another big plop of red oozes from the seams of the red pen. Another toss.

This has happened before. And only with the red pens. What's the deal? ... And another thing. Wouldn't it be nice to buy colors individually or to mix and match to make your own set: purple, black, brown, dark green, darker red (bloodless), blue, fuschia, ...

Did I mention that we looked up the phrase "vis-a-vis" one time in class and it means "face-to-face"? How appropriate.

Footnote: when I looked at my piling up slides later, the red blob was transformed into a Rorschach test sample.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chatty Cathies

I've had some (most) of the kids in my precalculus class for either 1 or 2 previous years, so they know each other. They've been in every seating arrangement possible, so they know each other. They're all friends, so they know each other. Therefore, yap yap yap yap. Sheesh were they chatty yesterday.

We've started ellipses, and I was having them create them yesterday with string and two pencils as "foci" and scratch paper. I started having them tie the string to the "foci" and work it that way, BUT a student showed me what she learned on Bill Nye the Science Guy (sp?) .... (love him). You make a loop with the string and put the foci inside and keep the string taut, and you get the same, neater result. Yay for learning new things.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Preparing for AP Exam

We've (they've) started preparing for the May 3rd AP Calculus exam. I'm taking old tests and having them do problems at home and then discussing them in class. The ringing in my ears is from the whining about how long it took and how hard it was and how tricky the test makers were trying to be. Oh my. ... I'm donning my, "... AND?" attitude to hopefully get across that I expect them to do it anyway and that they CAN do it and that their score is now a reflection of how much they're willing to put into it.

Now of course there are those that are doing everything they're supposed to do. Go them. I just have to get the others the step up to the plate.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Last week was crazy with kids wanting to stay after school for make ups and tutoring and such. Also, as seems to happen frequently, as the week went on, I got less and less sleep. I'd mentioned earlier in the week to one student that I'd be able to stay REALLY late on Friday (6pm? 8pm? jokingly 10pm). Well, as the week went on, I got more burnt out and tired and just wanted to leave at 5pm on Friday to visit with my friend over a cup of tea.

As the kid starts to stay after school on Friday at 4:15, I mention this. He gets this hang dog look on his face, "but you said you could stay until 6 or 8 or 10". I didn't cave. I just said plans had changed and I could only stay until 5. It was like kicking a puppy dog. I felt like a heel, but I still was firm and practically pulled the makeup exam out of his hands at 5pm and rushed off and felt bad about it.

Then on Monday, I had to leave about 5pm to get to yoga on time (again, that gives them 45 minutes). But one kids comment was, "yes, she has to go to tap". Blach! Guilt, or was he just being funny?

I don't think I should feel bad. I get to work at 7:30 in the morning, and usually help kids at 8 if they ask and I don't have meetings. So I leave at 5 or 6. I think I'm just being my own worst critic. Yes. That's it. My own worst critic.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Differentiating Instruction

I've known for a while now that there are some kids in my class that think/know I'm going too slow for them or too easy or whatnot. It's only my 2nd year teaching the precalculus at this school (so still tweaking things) and my 1st year teaching calculus (so still treading water), so I never seem to have enough time to cater to all levels in my classes.

Well, yesterday (Thursday) was a semi-success story. In precalculus I have 2 boys (at least) that basically quickly do what we're doing in class, then spend the rest of the period amusing themselves with various math things they come up with on their own ... or they do other work, but they REALLY like math. So, while the rest of the class was reviewing for a logarithms/exponents quiz, I gave them 3 "hard" problems. Well, wouldn't you know it, they worked on them and worked on them yesterday, then kept coming back after class and between classes all yesterday and today to see if they were close or to clear up some misunderstanding or to tell me that they finally got the answer to one of the problems. They're STILL working on 2 of the other problems (Friday). Yay.

I also handed out a "killer" sudoku puzzle for them to work on after the quiz if they all prefered (today), and that caught some kids' fancy. ... So all in all a good way to end the week. (except for the mouse poop I found in what I thought was a mouse proof container full of cookies and crackers for my UIL students).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Nice Visuals

We were chatting in the copy room while a science teacher was lamenting the fact that his students didn't "do for themselves" in the learning department. He said, "I'm spoon feeding and spoon feeding them, but it's still dribbling down their faces". We got a good chuckle out of that truism.

I'm also listening to a funny book-on-tape in which the author is recalling his childhood and describing how much he hated canned peas and carrots that his mother served him while growing up. He described the peas as having the color of monkey vomit, and the cubed carrots as being so ashamed to being called carrots that they shrunk in at the sides.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Sheesh. I can't seem to get out from under heaps of paperwork since I've come back from break. Just the usual - a ton of papers to grade, progress reports to go out, 3 different classes to prep for each day, AVID tasks to complete, friends' birthdays I want to acknowledge .... I think that MAYBE today I saw the sunlight through all the pulp.

Chaperoning was eye-opening. You couldn't ask for a nicer group of kids. They were very polite, and we never had to worry about them getting into trouble. The "worst" thing that happened was when they started getting goofy at a semi-upscale restaurant where they dipped their fingers into the water glass and then swirled them around the rim to make a piercing sound. I almost disowned them, but if that was the worst, then, whew.

We visited Columbia, NYU, Princeton, UPenn, Swarthmore, Goucher, & Johns Hopkins. The kids got to sit in on classes, take a tour, listen to information sessions, talk to current students and generally get a sense of what was "needed" to get into and be successful in college. I was thoroughly wowed by Swarthmore. Everyone was so involved in life and passionate about everything. They were very ecologically and politically and socially conscious. The campus was gorgeous. Everyone was friendly and helpful AND (the best part), the food was great (they even had daily vegetarian selections). They had very active internship and externship and study abroad programs. What more could you want in a college?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Chaperoning Trip

Well, all 12 of us (2 adults, 10 students) are off to the northeast for our whirlwind, 7 day, 5 college visit tour. Sub plans are ready, I'm packed and sleep-deprived. Hopefully, I can sleep on the planes without snoring or drooling too much. I have 5 of the traveling students in class, so they'll be happy to know that I brought their Thursday & Friday homework with me :).

The kids are excited, but I guess I'm too much of a (nonmom) "mom" because I'm worrying about a pack of 12 of us walking around NYC. And can you imagine Times Square? There's no moving room as it is, how are we going to all stick together? Oh well, deep breaths and optimism.

I tried to pack light, as per Rick Steve's suggestion for traveling. I think I was successful, but I haven't measured the bag I used to see if it was a 9"x14"x22" carry on like he suggested for ANY trip.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fraction Song

Okay, since I'm sooooo proud of it, and it does seem to work and it DOES stick in your head and bubble up at odd moments, here is my fraction song. The song is in bold, and the "tune" is in parentheses

(Jingle bells* jingle bells*jingle all the way)
Adding fractions*get a common*denominator

(Oh what fun*it is to ride)
Add the top*the fun won’t stop

(In a one horse open sleigh*hey)
The bottom stays the same*hey

(Dashing through the snow*in a one horse open sleigh)
Fractions are your friends*Loyal to the end

(Over the fields we go*laughing all the way*ha ha ha)
If you treat them right*No math jail tonight*ha ha ha

(Bells on bob tails ring*making spirits bright)
When you multiply*Here is what you do

(What fun it is*to laugh and sing)
Times the top*Times the bottom too

(A sleighing song tonight*oh!)
Now you are a pro*oh!

(Jingle bells*jingle bells*jingle all the way)
When you divide*Flip the second*Then you multiply

(Oh what fun*it is to ride)
When you divide*Flip the second

(In a*one horse*open*sleigh)
Then You*Mul*Ti*Ply (sung badly and off key with flair)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cutting (mid) Outcome

I quizzed all day Friday.

First period: 12 out of 21 were present, many, if not all seniors. We mentioned how disappointed we were with the "cutters" and what their consequences would be.

Second period: I had some 5th period students ask if they could come take the quiz early (3rd) ... I guess so they could skip out early. No.

Third period: 12 out of 21 were present. Most of the 9 absent were on legitimate outings (track, baseball, business contest...). Some that were there .... I knew were there partly because I was all stern about consequences that week. One girl had earlier begged me to take the quiz early (1st period) at one point and at another point had said she was spending the day with her mother. Hmmmm. Anyway, she showed up.

Fifth period: 100% attendance. Woo Hoo. 8 out of 8 :).

Last 2 periods? Most kiddies there. I know for a fact that some of the absentees were NOT on legitimate outings. I've been pondering consequences. Usually they have retests on all assessments (I know, but .... that's the culture). This time I'm leaning towards the following. Handing out a note when they return that says that if they can prove to me they were not cutting, then they can make up the quiz at no consequence. Otherwise, they've earned a zero, and can take the quiz (harder version?) and I'll average the 2 grades. I want to be fair to the students that did the right thing and showed up.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Senior Cut Day

Apparently, tomorrow (Friday) is "senior cut day". Hmph. And I only found out about it because I announced a test in all my classes last week, and a kiddy said, "but it's ...... ".

I don't want to condone cutting, so I'm probably shooting myself in the foot and making it harder to get all kids ultimately tested, but I'm going through with it. .... And I guess it doesn't help that tons of OTHER kids will also be out for tennis, track, baseball, business club contests, .... . ... But it's too late now. Hmmmm, wonder how I'll deal in the morning. I did give them the big scary lecture about how if you cut during a test, you get a zero. bla bla bla. Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Tim Bits*

*(doughnut holes from Tim Hortons in Ontario)

* The girl who hasn't been showing up in my first period class for the last 2 months? Her father is dying, she's not living at home, money's tight, she's just trying to get by. I finally saw her today, and she's as good as can be expected and is on the right track to graduate. Her counselor nicely dropped her from my class so she won't suffer the GPA nosedive.

* If you're listing 3 things to your class, and you hold up your index, middle, and ring fingers. Make sure not to check off the 1st and last items by bringing down the corresponding fingers.

* Sometimes all a student needs is a wee bit more one-on-one attention, and they FINALLY get how to add fractions.

* Even seniors like to sing goofy songs about fractions (to the jingle bells tune) in class.