Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hello Summer

A most excellent start to the summer: 6 rented movies (5 were great), 1 matinee, sleeping at least 8 hours a night, a math party, a dinner party, starting in on my stack of novels, time, time, and more free time. I also get to go visit friends in the northeast, AND go to London, Brussels, Amsterdam, AND go to a BC Calculus workshop, AND make a wedding cake with my husband for his sister's August wedding in Texas. Yea. Let the fun begin (continue)

Things I've learned so far:
1. Royal icing tastes terrible
2. Your secret design based on your sister-in-law's profession, is not that secret
3. Butter flavored crisco in a buttercream frosting is not as bad as I thought it'd be (I HATE margarine)
4. People make fun of a fruitcake for a wedding ... even though it's a Canadian tradition and even though we really do have a great recipe handed down from a grandmother (I'm a picky American eater, and I think it's delicious) .... but whatever.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Guilt Tactics

Today was the last day of school for teachers, to finish up administrative chores and check out. Usually it ends with a faculty meeting where the principal gets up and gives a "go us" speech and says goodbye to any faculty that's leaving. Today there was an extra 1.5 hours devoted to something else.

We had 217 juniors (out of about 400 or so .... dang, that's a LARGE %) who did not pass at least one of the 4 subject areas of our exit exam. Oh my. Our principal thought she'd try something new this summer (I started getting a bad feeling) where she'd dole out the names to the 150 or so faculty to be mentors - mentors that called the kids at least a couple of times to remind them of tutoring available over the summer and of tests dates. She "knew" not every faculty would step up to the plate, so maybe those who knew the kids and had already formed a relationship with them would take 3 or so kids.

Well, she started calling out names of students and teachers raised their hands to mentor them. And on and on and on. Intermittently, she would interject with comments like "our school is made up of people / individuals", "this test is what we're about", "our kids have to pass this test". I kept waiting for names of kids I knew. None came. Then I started obsessing that I wasn't choosing anyone. Then I started to feel resentful that I should be manipulated into picking someone. Then I started not actively choosing students.

After the last name was called, here was her zinger, "and for the people who didn't choose a student, I want to thank you, because we don't want anyone to volunteer and not have their heart in it and to drop the ball and not call the student". Is it just me or was that saying one thing and meaning another? I HATE that kind of manipulation. It's so offensive. We bust our butts all year coming in early in the morning, leaving late at night, tutoring practically every day after school. Tons of people were volunteering. Why not honor that and end it on a good note instead of calling to fact that there were people who did not volunteer for this ONE task. It's like I see her panning the room and committing to memory the nonvolunteers .... okay HERE are the people on my poop-list for next year. Great. Have a terrific summer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yearly Ritual

I just want to document what I did today (2nd annual), so that if and when I come back to read this a year from now (minus a week), I won't go wa wa wa and not go to the matinees on the last week of school for a fill-in-the-blank reason.

I got off my fanny and made sure I finished all my last-day chores at school today and high tailed it out of there at 1:15 pm to make lunch and a 2:30 showing of "Kinky Boots". This year I wasn't the only one in the theater (good. more people enjoying life), but I still had a great time. Even though I have/had 6 rental movies waiting for me at home, there's still something about going out to the movies. Every time I go by myself, I wonder why I don't do it more often. How ridiculous that we get so bogged down in the chores of life that we don't stop and do plain simple fun things more often.

Great movie, by the way. I love shows where the underdog "wins" and wise things are said and you laugh and lose yourself in the film. ... Of course, now I just finished one of my rentals, and oh my, guess I have to go watch a third before it gets too late. A triple feature. How decadent.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Even though we have one more "student" day of school on Thursday (ice day make up), tonight (Wednesday) was graduation which I worked. The kids were so cute - hugs galore and all dressed up and mostly serious. Our principal makes it a big deal about decorum and such, and our funny head AP models the hug-em-and-ooh-and-aah-while-you-pat-them-down-for-contraband moves that we're to perform to make sure no beach balls and silly string and tortillas (?) make it through. Oh, and they're supposed to arrive withOUT their robes on, so that there is no repeat flashing incidents during their walk across the stage. Ahem. All in all you just wanted to pinch their cheeks.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Learning Attitude

What if all students approached school and class challenges like yoga. Your teacher shows you something difficult, and then you try it and don't get it the first time, but you take a deep breath and every subsequent time you try it you get closer and closer and MAYBE eventually you get it, but you are persistent and don't get (too) frustrated and know the struggle is in itself a learning experience because it teaches you a wee bit something new about the situation, and eventually you can meld all the pieces together to figure the whole thing out.

Okay, I'm looking skyward for those flying piggies.

Next year's (lofty) goals:
1. more differentiated MATH instruction for the weakest to the super strong
2. stay more on top of students who are struggling in calculus and don't let the year slip away with them being totally clueless
3. a stricter late work policy and homework policy (now I just check for "mostly" done. I want to check for "all" attempted and no fakers)
4. create a parent e-mail group and send out a mass mailing about upcoming tests/projects/...
5. have students keep track of their own grades (and that will be for a grade) ... maybe have their parents sign off on it periodically (ownership of their learning)
6. incorporate "some" games into the learning (saw some cool precal ones at an AP Central / college board workshop that I want to try)
7. more: chocolate / movies / laughing / crocs / visits with friends / sleep

Saturday, May 20, 2006

End of Year Happy Dance

Can't stop the big smile on my face as I think that within a week I'll be able to sleep more than 6 hours a night, go to matinees, go to yoga every day if I choose, be a book reading glutton, ... Ahhhhh summer.

I was also "mean teacher" on Friday to my calculus classes (last Friday of their last full week). I was tired of handing out bonus points if they did the daily activities we did (with their hideous attitudes), and I certainly did not want them sitting around doing nothing for 50 minutes, so I taught them about the binomial theorem (which for this particular class is something they did not learn last year) and how it can be used to multiply out binomials to any integer power. Then I gave them a 1 question quiz at the end of the period. Sheesh, you should have heard the whining (only from a select rude few). But there I was with the grin on my face. As my fellow lunch duty teacher said later, "it's pay back time". Oh well, it's good for them, and it's useful information. And I had baked them cookies the night before.

In other news, if anyone wants a copy of the cross section project I did with my students, send me e-mail at math_mambo@yahoo.com (that's math_mambo ... in case it doesn't show up), and I'll send you a copy. It's basically what I handed out with some extra things I learned this first pass through. I certainly did not create the project, but I had fun doing it.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Funny Ha Ha

We had a staff development during one of our prep periods on Thursday, and we broke into little groups to discuss collaboration of teachers and how to hold teachers accountable for various tasks/duties (we have a LOT of teachers that just don't show up for their duties). Well, in our little group of 5, as we're talking about these 2 things, one guy is reading the school newspaper, and the other is working a math worksheet. I don't think they got it.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Parting Gifts

Usually I don't like receiving gifts from students. I feel awkward (they shouldn't have), and I'd rather they wrote me a nice card or note (those I save). But. Yesterday a senior I've had for 3 years gave me a plant and a great note. Apparently, the plant is an offspring from one of his plants he's had for 11 years, so he writes that he's leaving a legacy of himself with me. He also decorated the pot with funny things he remembered from class. I'm tearing up just thinking about it. What a sweet and memorable thing to do.

It's going to be hard to say goodbye to the ones I've known for that long (most of them :) ). AND. After next year, there'll be kids I've had for 4 years. That will be harder. I don't know that that will ever happen again because I don't seem to be teaching geometry and algebra 2 next year. I love teaching calculus and precalculus, but I'll miss the goofiness of some of the younger kids from geometry. Maybe that's a blurred memory talking there.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sticky Notes

What have I been thinking all these years? Usually when I go around helping kids, I ask first, then I write on their papers any hints or math steps they need, or I find a piece of scrap paper and do the same. Well, yesterday after school I just happened to be carrying around one of my many pads of sticky notes (girly colors, about 3" x 3"), and I proceeded to write on it and then stick it to their papers. I got so excited, I rushed around and gave more help and more sticky notes, "oh here, let me show you the steps on my hot pink paper and then let me stick it to your review sheet."

Who forgot to tell me of this idea?

On a side note, after I told my husband of my "new" discovery, the CostCo "maniac" said that then we'd better buy them in bulk there, so that we don't deplete our retirement money. .... only if they have cool colors is my thought.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Finals Review

On Monday my precalculus students turned in their packets for finals review. I asked them to make a study schedule, a list of topics we'd covered, a list of book sections covered, and to gather together tests and homeworks. I graded it on the spot while they reviewed and handed it back that period.

Most kids did a great job. The funny thing is that the 2 students that were complaining the loudest did not turn in anything. It was also interesting to look at their study schedules. They ranged from "I will study every night", to a breakdown of "M 20 minutes, T 1 hour, W none ...", to "M 20 minutes: limits, T 30 minutes: polynomial zeroes, quadratic formula".

Oh my. One student budgeted herself about 5 minutes each night for a week of studying. I had a talk with her in disbelief and asked if that was all she was going to have to study. She said yes.

Anyway, I'm proud of them for rising to the task. Hopefully, they'll now use the stuff. I'll have to keep it fresh in their minds and/or keep hounding them and/or have another assignment that guages whether or not they're studying.

In other news, I've had requests for the cross section project write up. I've started it. I'm guessing I could e-mail it to people unless someone has a better idea on how to make it available. ... My kids turned in more projects on Monday. Oh my are they creative. Another kid had a tornado, and then drew lots of cute animals on foam, and then stuck them all over the cross section.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Calculus Project

Here are a few of the finished (and almost finished) projects from my math class. The kids surprised me and themselves with their creativity. The "rocket" boy still claims he is not creative. I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect when I assigned the "turn them into something" aspect of the project (that I got from a summer workshop), and I'm pleasantly surprised with the outcome. Note the tornado picture and the guy flying through the air. What you don't see is the cow flying through the air on the other side. Mine is the green and purple one. Someone suggested that it looks like the wicked witch's hat, so that's what I'll turn it into (especially appropriate since I'm listening to the "Wicked" book on CD to and from work).

artsy test picture

artsy test picture
Originally uploaded by math_mambo.
I'm expanding my blog knowledge and posting my first picture - taken while on vacation. Hopefully, soon I can post the calculus project pictures.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My New Friends

This is my LAST week this year of TMC duty during one of my prep periods (for kids late to class .... who get to sit in the cafeteria instead of wandering the halls or disrupting class to show up late). It's been the usual week of being cussed out, being disobeyed, and being snarled at on my duty. BUT, it made my job easier because zip zip I write a referral, and POOF! they disappear to ISS and out of my hair, "bye bye surly children. thanks for visiting."

Anyway, today it was a light load (only 8 children / 6 per row) and they were all polite. I started talking with one girl, and she proceeded to tell me all about the piercings she wants to get: 10 on her tongue, 2 rows down her back (so she can lace ribbon through them), several around her mouth, and then one in her ear so she can hang a chain from ear to mouth, .... I forget the others. Then (and I hope she was joking) she said she wanted to split her tongue so that she'd have more edges with which to line rings. Ew.

Then the boy next to her started to show me his tongue stud, and we had a lively discussion about foods that get stuck there and how it was a proven fact (he said) that every tongue piercing you get knocks off 5 years from your life (so being a math teacher, I then calculate that the girl would be dead ..... yesterday ... or really soon anyway).

Super goofiness.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Passive Learners

Finals are starting soon. During the last week before finals, here's the usual scenario:

I debate how much class time to spend reviewing (too little and I can't be sure they review at home, too much and they get antsy in class)
I make a list of topics we've covered
I make review sheets
I monitor class to make sure they are all reviewing.

Hmmmmm. I guess I must be part of the problem of creating passive learners. On Tuesday I had many interesting conversations with various students: "when are you going to give us review sheets, so we can study?" ... "I can't study yet, my teacher hasn't given me review topics/sheets." ... "how will I know what's on the final by myself?" ... "it's the teacher's job to give us review materials." ... Ew.

I had a little discussion with my advisory about how THEY might take ownership of their learning and study on their own. I think I'll take my own advice and give the following assignment on Friday, due Monday:

1. go over your notes from January to present and make a list of topics we've covered
2. for each unit find a relevant quiz/test and at least 3 homework assignments covering that unit.
3. make a list of the textbook sections that cover the topics.
4. make a list of the days available until finals and map out a realistic amount of time you can devote to studying for your math final every day.
5. gather everything together in a paperclip and hand in. NO LATE WORK WILL BE ACCEPTED ... (worth 2 homework assignments).

Monday, May 08, 2006


I love Crocs. They're so comfortable, and I can wash them, and they're ventilated. Goodbye tired smelly shoes, hello Crocs. I started out with 1 pair (pale yellow), then fell in love and instead of wearing the same pair of shoes every day (to be alternated with birkenstocks), I bought another pair (light blue). Then (and I do NOT have a shoe problem) I felt I needed a "formal" pair to go with my darker clothes, thus I bought a brown pair (for when I cough cough dress up while teaching) .

So then I started getting the bug. I HAD to HAD to HAD to have a purple pair. And this was no impulse purchase. I thought about it long and hard and searched and searched, but alas, it was not meant to be. Then, while in St. Louis at the math conference we went to the mall one evening (to be true, ahem, Americans you have to go shopping at a mall while in new cities) my eyes grew wide and my breath caught, and I saw a kiosk full of Crocs. And, yes, you guessed it, they had purple in my size. So now I have 4 pair. So far.

Now it's a given that students may not remember math formulas or recall facts they learned from yesterday, but they will notice when you are wearing new attire. When yet another student mentioned my new purple Crocs and asked where I got them, I mentioned that I bought them in St. Louis. Then I said, "you know like a souvenir". Ar ar, I thought I was being funny. Well, another student topped that by saying, "don't you mean a shoe-venir?"

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Horrendous Days

After a horrible day like Friday, I want to go back in time to my morning self, innocently getting ready for work, and either hug me or warn me somehow (Run! Run while you can!). .... Or sometimes, when I'm getting ready for work in the morning, I'll look me in the eyes and wonder, "is this going to be one of those days ... how will I know ... when will it happen ... oh no ... dun DUN dunnnnnn (cue in the creepy/eerie music)?".

And then there's the obsessing about "the incident" for the rest of the day. What kind of human goofiness makes you take just one small chunk of your day and replay it over and over and over and let it consume you for much more of your time than it's worth?

Creepy/whiny/calculus girl was in a prime state today choosing to use her time not to actually work, but to loudly proclaim how selfish and inconsiderate I am to assign a project that's due next week when she has 2 more AP exams to take (they work on the project in class. there's no outside work. it should look really cool when done). I had to send her outside and have a discussion with her. Oh, I'm sorry, not a discussion, but a whining session on one side and a disbelief and frustration on the other. Ew.

It helps (mostly) to remember that I've had other "painful" students in the past I've obsessed about in the moment, and now I give them barely a thought. This too shall pass. Deeeeeeeeeeep breaths.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Good Looking

What is it about good looking people that makes others gravitate towards them? Or makes people give them special favors or thinks their opinions are "all that" - like they occupy a higher plane of being? Is it just human nature that people want to be around or look at pleasant things? I mean, I think most people know deep down that just because you're good looking, it doesn't mean you are smarter or more apt than others. I've also seen situations where people try to impress good looking people, as in, if this "looker" thinks I'm special, then I really must be worthy. ... I just find it a curious phenomenon.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Play Pool

It worked! During 1st period, we had time to test out the elliptical pool table, so we set up the "shelf" cut out on a table and used their calculated values of a, b, & c to locate the foci. We had a rubber "jax" ball (super bouncy ball), and poof "most" of the time the ball traveled from 1 foci to the other after it bounced off the wall .... no matter where we bounced it from. We did a little yelp of excitement and kept testing it out.

I had to share the thrill with my calculus class the next period. After I finished describing it, Miss Snotty Girl sneered, "oh. I thought you were going to say something cool like it went back to its original spot." ..... (you're whiny and your shirts are cut too low) ... BUT, theoretically, that should be what happens since it went through the 2nd foci. I'll have to test it out.

In other nail-biting news, the AP Calculus exam is Wednesday at 8am (today!). Oh man, they'd better pass. I'll be crossing my fingers all day.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


A college counselor at our school reminded me today to concentrate on / recognize / praise the "good students". She said that at the beginning of the year she made a conscious decision to celebrate the kids that are doing what they need to be doing and furthering their applications and such. She felt that so often we drain our energies correcting and noticing and obsessing about the students that are goofing off, not turning in their work, skipping class, ...

I'm guilty of this. I'm guessing the kids that are always quiet and doing the right thing are easy to ignore because they make no noise/trouble. Something is seriously wrong with that scenario.