Friday, December 21, 2007

You're Welcome

The e-mail one father should have sent me:
Thank you:
-for coming in practically every day at 7:30am and leaving at 5:00pm and tutoring and teaching my child,
-for giving her retest opportunities throughout the fall to improve her grade,
-for curving the finals grade so that even though she missed 21 out of 40 questions, she had an opportunity to pass for the semester,
-for allowing a notecard on the final to relieve added stress of a big stakes test,
-for only putting 40 multiple choice questions on the final with an ample 2 hours to complete it.

The one he sent instead:
"K. indicated that she was not allowed to finish her final, was there some reason why? Usually they have been allowed to finish in the past, please advise..."

(translation: you ripped the test out of her hands while she lay sobbing and laughed maniacally while you informed her she could not finish)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Finals Shminals

My favorite note ever was handed to me today by a student before her finals: please allow W_____ to check on her chickens after her math final.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Last Week of the Fall

As usual it just seems to zip by. Last period of the last day of last week - antsy chomping-at-the-bit squirmy students. I jokingly told them they'd drive me to drink, and then in my mind I was thinking about the glass of wine I'd have later.

I also had a student leave class and not come back 30 minutes into our 1.5 hour block. Oh my was I furious. I debated referrals, calls home, e-mail to the kid. I ended up calling his mom and describing the incident and venting. She said she'd talk to him. I see now that I have an e-mail from him on my school account titled "apologies", but I'm not ready to read it yet.

He's a funny, good-natured kid who's struggling with the math, and his way of dealing with it is to not come in for help, and to turn in work late and to apologize after the fact and swear up and down that he'll change his ways, and then continue on in his fashion. Let's see if a miracle occurs, and he figures things out next semester.

On a positive note, we started our optimization unit in calculus, and I created an activity that I think will aid them in their understanding. I cut up colored paper/cards with 6 problem statements. Then in a different color I cut up pictures related to the problems. In a 3rd color I cut up main equations and "helper" equations. They were to match up all scenarios, then write them down on a prepared sheet. The last part was to use the "helper" equation to reduce the main equation down to 1 variable, and then to finally graph the main equation with their calculator and draw a good sketch of it on the sheet. No solving yet. They worked in groups and eventually (we didn't finish), I think we'll have a good discussion about the domain of the variable and then the "solving" will be work they've done before. We'll see after break.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


This past Saturday we had an AP Calculus and Statistics prep session at our school for 7 area high schools. There were 4 simultaneous sessions going on, with 3 different time slots for a total of 12 sessions. As students were deciding which sessions to go to, one boy from another school was by me and mentioned that everyone seemed to be sticking with kids from their own school, and then he mentioned that everyone at his school hated him, so he wanted to be in another session. I don't remember what I said. I didn't know the student, so I probably made some light remark and got him on his way.

Later on, in one of the sessions I sat in on, this boy was in there, along with, apparently, at least 4 other students from his school. This boy would listen to the teacher, and frequently make remarks or contribute to the discussion or ask questions to clarify. It was clear he was not up to speed with the topics, and was just trying really hard. Every time he made a comment, the 2 students near him would look at each other and semi-silently laugh. Every time. And 2 other thuggy looking boys that sat farther away would make louder comments, but not loud enough to warrent a comment from the presenter. I finally couldn't stand it any more, and when I didn't think the other students would hear me, I turned to the 2 laughers from my back seat post and warned harshly, "stop it". I gave the one of the other boys a dirty look, but that was about it.

This poor kid. Yes, he was annoying. But imagine going through the whole day, and maybe the whole school year with a wrought up gut knowing others are laughing at you all day. ... I sat in on another session, and the laughers didn't seem to be laughing at him any more, but maybe I'm just seeing what I want to see. Sheesh, I hope I'm not blind to this in my classroom as I'm up front with a million other things on my mind. I try to make an all inclusive class, and I do have a similarly challenged kid in my class. I need to be more diligent with how others are potentially making under-breath comments.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


I felt a cold coming on last week at the start of the week, and then, wham, on Thursday and Friday, I guess my tonsils were so swollen, they constricted my throat, and I basically had no voice. I don't like to take days off, so I plowed through and sounded throaty and squeaky and husky and not as loud as I wanted to be. My kids were great, though, and they shushed each other, and we got through it. But oh my goodness, it's Sunday right now, and I still speak funny.

I tried something different in all my classes. After we went over homework, I handed out a 1/4 sheet of scratch paper, and put a 1 question "homework quiz" on the overhead (cough cough ... document camera, that is ... I'm so lucky). They couldn't use their notes or talk with people. I walked around and checked their progress, and made suggestions as needed. After a wee bit, I asked them to write down their status "yes I got it", "I needed to look at my notes", "I got help from ____ and then got it", etc. We discussed answers, and I collected them. This will give me a better sense of who needs help, and it will also allow me to make comments on the "quizzes" that they can read when I hand them back tomorrow.