Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I Don't Trust Past History Enough

Every year when I get a new crop of students, we go through an adjustment phase. With some students and classes, it's immediate. With others it takes a while, and with the few rare others, summer comes, and we still haven't adjusted to each other. But like clockwork, every year about this time in mid to late February, we seem to hit our stride, and even though I may have liked or not liked so much various classes, then BY NOW, I really like them all the majority of the time. Yet every year I say, "no this year it's different. I'm not going to click with this class." And most every year I've been proven wrong (slow learner). I've started clicking this year.

A funny moment today: my last period class was trying to sway me to have some free time or something or another today, and they all start chiming in. I interrupted with, "this is not a democracy. It's a monarchy." And then someone piped up with, "yea, but aren't monarchs basically powerless?". We got back to our lesson.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Promoting Smart

Today I was out doing chores, wearing my PCMI t-shirt that says "Computational Complexity Theory" with an intricate Turing Machine picture. The teenage girl cashier at Target kept glancing at my shirt off and on while she was scanning my items. ... I choose to believe she was thinking, "gee it's okay to be smart" (instead of, "who's this geek I'm helping, and why is she advertising her geekiness").

In the current culture of idolizing celebrities and materialistic behavior with gucci this and prada that and who got botox here and who's divorcing what actor there, I want to start promoting smartness - not in the obnoxious "I'm smarter than you" way, but in the "hey, being smart and working hard is something good to strive for" way.

My list of t-shirt logos I want to make/buy:

Fractions Are Your Friends
Math Rules
Nerdy Girl
I *heart* Math

.... maybe I'll be crafty and make some with my school name on the back so that I can wear them on "spirit" days.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What Do Mathematicians Do?

I've had this inkling of an idea for a while now, but I never seem to have the time or umph to put it into action, and here comes a student after school today who reminds me. She wanted to know what you could do with a math degree and what sorts of jobs there were and what did the people actually do all day and did they interact with others or did they just sit and do math at a desk for hours and hours.

My idea was to interview different people who had jobs heavy with math duties and make posters to hang up either in my room or around the hallways. The posters would have a picture of the person, their job title, their degree, and various specifics about their job and how they got it and such. That's just the bare bones of the idea.

This student really wanted to know because she was testing out different versions of her future to see what would fit. After we talked for a bit, she said that maybe the students should do this for credit (or extra credit). Hmmmmm, I'd have to come up with the specifics and such, but it just may work .... or at least be worth trying.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Teaching in a Vacuum

Most times I get so caught up and busy in preparing and teaching and such, that I forget to talk to other teachers about teaching things or things that happen during teaching. Last Friday I had the chance to chat for about 10 minutes with another teacher, and now I have to remind myself to do it more often.

The day before had been horrendous. A kid had MAJORLY back-talked me in class, and wasn't even sorry about it. I found out my calculus answer manual had been stolen earlier in the week. I had the audit hanging over my shoulders feeling guilty because I hadn't finished it yet. And finally, I needed to finish the National Board Certification application.

So here I was having a pity party in my head and not feeling very chipper. I started telling her about the one thing (poopy kid), and she related a similar incident with "entitled" girls in her last period. I mentioned the theft over the weekend, and she said her room was in disarray (drinks spilled and not cleaned up), too, from some unannounced use of our rooms. I started feeling better, so then I mentioned the other 2 things, and she was also struggling to finish the tasks.

Whew! It didn't make my grief go away, but it sure lessened it to hear sympathetic noises from someone else. I must share more often and maybe find I'm not alone in these minor and major annoyances of the school day.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Tough School

A senior was telling me today of her recent college interviews with alumni.

A little background here. Our school apparently has a reputation as a "tough" school (translation: people think that because most students aren't white that maybe there are more fights and drugs and gang activity here as opposed to the wealthier whiter schools around). I don't know what people imagine, but I'm guessing they think they wouldn't feel safe at our school. Who knows. I am a perfectly safe whitey, and I teach great kids. The only "poopy" ones are the few bad teenage attitudes in the halls when I (heaven-forbid) ask them to comply with various rules (hats, music, cell phones, wandering...), and I get that from a nice variety of races.

So anyway, this one alumni to interview her lives here, and one of her first questions was: "So is ____ a tough school?". My student replied, "yes, all the classes I'm taking are pretty challenging." (not knowing her implication). The lady asked again, apparently, in another way, and my student defended our school. Woot woot.

We then proceeded to be verbally angry with this woman. But I guess we're guilty of the same thing as she was at times. When we hear of ______ down the street, our wealthier/whiter counterpart, we conjure up all sorts of stereotypes about their monied existence. Whose misjudgment is worse?

Friday, February 02, 2007

National Board Certification

I've been thinking about applying for a while, and this week I went to an informational session for national board certification. It sounds like a TON of work and time, but it seems like it will be something that will force me to actively think about teaching and have the incentive to reflect more effectively. (and it's a ton of work and time). Our district is all gung ho about it, and will basically pay the ~$3000 it costs (youch) if a teacher sticks with the process. There's also the $2000 extra a year in the paycheck that doesn't hurt. ... Well, I have until mid February to decide.