Tuesday, May 29, 2007


This past Saturday we had our last full-day National Board Cohort meeting before the summer. Again I learned things about learning and teaching since I was in the student mode. For one activity we were to learn about 3 of the 4 portfolio entries we were to submit. There are 3 HS math teachers going through the program, so we each learned one and then "jigsaw" taught each other. There was a sheet of paper we were to fill out with prompts for information we needed to focus on. I liked this scaffolding and want to adapt it next year to help the students get used to reading math textbooks. I did a bit of it last year, but I think with our new textbook adoption, the new books will be more readable.

I learned that I hesitate to ask questions when the others seemed to be working so efficiently. There was one prompt I couldn't find an answer to, and instead of "looking dumb" and asking the others, I floundered around for a while. Sheesh, it gives me empathy for students not wanting to ask questions and such.

I also learned that I didn't like the jigsawing too much. Maybe I'm too much of a control freak, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, "well, I can go over this more carefully myself later". Or maybe I'm missing the point. Maybe each person concentrates really well on one topic and learns it to teach it to the others and then when the others are teaching their topic, you're to go along and skim the pages while they're teaching and ask good questions and learn that way.

We also did this brainstorming activity where we were to write down all our teaching duties and accomplishments and how we contribute to the profession. The leader gave us sticky note pads, put us in a group of 2 or 3, and we were to write one accomplishment per note. Then we were to share with each other and combine the notes and organize them into categories. At the beginning of the activity (come to find out afterwards) we were all thinking that we didn't do much and how could we think of anything. Then through the discussion with our group mates, things one person noted prompted us to remember more than we could if we were by ourselves. And then the organizing of it all made it all stick in my mind more effectively. So, I don't know how I can use this as a teacher, but I know there has to be some learning task which lends itself to this in math. Not just remembering of facts or processes, but something.

Friday, May 25, 2007

It's REALLY the last day

We just have to go in today to check out and pack up and celebrate our successes. Also, our school is named after a still-living phenomenal educator, so this person will come to our last luncheon. Good times.

Ultimately, I can say that I had good kids this year. Translation: no mean-spirited, nasty-in-class, drag-down-the-atmosphere students. Whew. I even ended up liking my pain-in-the-butt will-you-stop-TALKING students.

I had a student leave an interesting comment in my "year book". Now this kid basically stopped working in AP Calculus. He did not turn in one shred of homework the last 6 weeks. I was constantly on him, but not effectively. Anyway, in my book he wrote, "thanks for caring enough to bug me about my homework". Hmmm, that gives me incentive to keep it up.

I also worked graduation. This year, I was not in charge of a row of students, but got to stand in the back. At first I felt like an extra, but then I saw the great advantage here. As the kids filed back to their seats from walking the stage, I was in a prime hugging spot. And boy were there lots of hugs and tears. I've known a ton of these students for 3 to 4 years. I lost it a couple of times just thinking about not seeing them again.

I also snuck out "early" one day this week after finals for my 4th annual end-of-the-year matinee (Waitress). I'm usually either the only one in the theater or there's at most 2 other people. This year, there were about 10-14 people. What I want to know is, why aren't you at work people? Did you all just get done giving finals? Maybe today I'll start my 1st annual 2nd matinee during finals week tradition (Namesake).

Saturday, May 19, 2007

End of the Year

Yippee! One more week of school, and it basically is all finals. Love. It. On Friday I gave my AP calculus students an in-class "final" of writing either a "Dear John" or a love letter to calculus. I handed out colored paper because for some reason, things are just more fun to do on nonwhite paper. Shockingly :), most of the letters were of the "we're breaking up" variety. I gave them specs that they had to have at least 2 compliments with explanations and at least 2 faults with justification and that they had to add something extra to "wow me" and that it had to be a page long.

Boy are they creative. Some highlights:

"I like you sister, precalculus, better"
"Things were fine until I met your crazy relatives - related rates"
"You're too complicated for me. I need a simple relationship"
"How dare you cheat on me with Physics"
"p.s. you're following me to college, not the other way around"
"thank you for making me feel special. You made me feel like I could do any problem that was thrown at me"
"I love how you make me think all the time, even though sometimes you hurt me"
"It's not you. It's me. You're cutting into my personal time"
"We had our problems and had to get counseling from Ms. Cookie. Then things got better"
"You pushed me to the limit"
"I know I won't miss your related rates, which relate to my painful headaches"

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Doing Your Best

There's a girl in my precalculus class, a junior, who has spotty attendance, and by that I mean that there have been weeks at a time when she would show up maybe 3 total times. I had her 2 years ago in geometry, so I know her. I also asked her algebra 2 teacher from last year if she had any problems with her, and she mentioned her multiple absences.

When she came back from her last absences, I asked her what the deal was in a nice teacherly way, and she just shrugged. I asked her if everything was okay, and she said it was, not too convincingly. I asked her if she had someone to talk to, and she nodded. She said she was trying. So I basically left it at that, and said that if she needed help to please come in, and to make sure she got caught up.

Well, she keeps saying lately that she has a ton of work to turn in to me, and that she keeps forgetting it. She also came in after school today and got tutoring. And I don't mean the fake tutoring where the student makes a show of getting help, but just wants to quickly complete the assignment just to get the grade. She was asking good questions and actually getting it. I have a good feeling that she will turn in all her work that she's missing.

... I've started this new exercise program with these videos of weight lifting and cardio, and the trainer has all these goofy sayings, but one keeps running through my mind: do your best, and forget the rest. What a great thing to live by. As long as you're putting out your best effort, it doesn't matter what others are doing, it doesn't matter if it's not "good enough". If you can honestly say you've done your best, then that's what it's about. Now I don't know if it's this girl's best effort, but maybe it's what she can do right now. At least she's coming back and not just shrugging her shoulders and giving up because it's too much to make up. Go her.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Recent Reminders

* Sometimes students are happy when you change their seats away from their friends. Now they can concentrate on the lesson.

* Students don't always make the right choice about how they choose to study for the AP exam. No, it's not a good idea to just let them work problems without turning them in. It's too easy to let it slide.

* Just because 7th period made you grumpy, it's no reason to start 8th period in a bad mood.

* Snacks are always appreciated and may even make some students work more effectively.

* Learning is hard work. Humor helps.