Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I think I've learned to perfect the, "what do you MEAN you're not going to do the thing I've asked you to do?" look/attitude.
The, "of course you'll do it" look.
The, "there's no other option" look.
The, "I'm amazed you'd even think to ask such a question" look.
The, "don't be silly" look.

I got to use it Monday when I prepped my AP Calculus kids on the fact that they had homework that was due Tuesday even though I wouldn't see them due to the state test, and they'd better walk their butts over to school from whatever vacation they think they're getting and hand in the no-lates-accepted AP-exam--multiple-choice corrections to me.

Of course I'm semi-bluffing and know I'm asking a lot of them, but I think the "look" gets them to get off their duffs, and maybe I'll have a higher turning-in rate because of "the look". I also reminded them of the fact that the AP exam is coming up next week, and don't give up now, and you can do it, and it would be a shame to work so hard all year and flake out now and miss the opportunity to pass, and rah-rah-rah ...

Plus I get to practice being a bad-a** when I think I'm a softy inside ... but maybe I'm fooling myself, and I've become mean and cranky with high expectations. Oh well, they usually rise to the challenge - and I guess it's our job to push them to do their best, even though it's their job to resist and try to get away with what they can. Our little teaching tug-o-war.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Idea for post AP exam calculus

The last 2 years I've done different things after the AP exams in my calculus classes. One year we did a rubber foam volumes of cross sections project. One year we discussed "multiple" integrals and (non calculus) counting and adding and multiplying in different-than-10 bases.

I just had a thought I haven't fleshed out for what to do this year. I'm thinking of getting a list of topics that span the calculus year, and having the students make short videos that teach or showcase the topic. That way I can post the useful ones on my website for the next year's students to have a different perspective on things they may struggle with. Also, the students are creative, and I think they may come up with good stuff.

Grading? I'm thinking there has to be a time limit (less than 4 or so minutes), effective (to be judged by other students), creative (again judged by students), done on time, ....

One issue may be various student access to video equipment. Another issue is size of groups working on one video. We'll see ...

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I was at an AP Calculus prep session for the students most of the day today. There were 3 sessions running in parallel, and 4 different time slots throughout the day. I sat in on the sessions and worked along with the students. One teacher had great problems, and he'd keep talking and talking and say, "okay now you work the problems", and then he'd only give us 1 second (or so it seemed) before he started talking again - either about something else, or to start working the problem.

It made me reflect and wonder if I do this more than I should. I know I try to shush up with enough time for the kids to work, but at the same time I'm clock watching and stressing about finishing in time and getting everything in and then maybe rushing the kids.

I also tried something different in BC calculus on Friday. I handed them my notes from "math camp" on parametrics, and then also handed them a separate packet of problems with answers provided in the back. On each of my "camp" notes, after each problem that had been worked out, I had written on their copies, "now work problem so-and-so". I barely talked to them at all, and only monitored to see if there was any clarification needed. They worked like champs all period, and were doing all the problems. Hopefully, they'll continue over the weekend, as I told them there'd be a "free response" quiz the next time they came to class.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Testing Testing

Okay. It finally got to me. All year when I've announced tests and given tests, there's ALWAYS some students absent. Then it becomes a game of, "when are you going to make up the test". Then days and literally weeks would go by before some students made up the test. They all eventually do, but really! It usually didn't annoy me TOO much, but now during this last test about 1/5 of my class was gone from each period during the test.

In the past I was diligent about mentioning and then checking up on whether the students were cutting or not, and then they had zero chance of making up the test. This year, I had other things on my plate.

I'm giving a test this week on Wednesday and Thursday (block scheduling). I mentioned ahead of time, "if you are absent the day of the test, the next time you are in class, I will put you out in the hall, and you will make up the test during class time and miss the current lesson." Hopefully, this will make it less appealing to the students to all of a sudden feel really ill on the day of the test and use that as an excuse to drag it out.

I heard another teacher at the beginning of the year announces: every time everyone is here for a test, everyone gets a bonus point(s). She found that then the students were policing each other to make sure they were there.

I guess my method will work (I hope), because either way, the students will finish the test within a week (unless they're super skipping class).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Getting In Trouble

We recently had an incident in our school regarding relations between a teacher and a student. Phew! The repercussions of that. Part of me thinks: WHAT was the teacher thinking. There goes the career, the chance to earn a living, the student's psyche, ...

We had to all go to "harrassment" training for 1.5 hours. All the way up to the meeting I was grumbling to myself: I didn't do anything wrong. I have classes to prep for during my prep periods. I know right from wrong. Grumble. Grumble. Then as these things sometimes go, I learned some things.

1. Even if the student is 18 or over, it's still cause for dismissal.
2. If you hear any rumors about other teacher/student goings-on, and you don't say anything to the authorities, and it's later found out that you knew/suspected, you are in the wrong and could face .... whatever.
3. Even if your relationship is innocent (and later proven so) with a student, if others perceive it as fishy and the rumors start to fly, you could lose your job because the public has "lost faith" in your ability to be effective in the classroom (hmmmmm)
4. If students get too friendly with you and develop a crush, and you don't nip it in the bud or make sure you're never alone with one student, etc. one of them could become jealous and start spreading rumors about you (creepy) that may cause you to lose your job.

There's probably more, but that's depressing enough as it is.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Two weeks ago I was scrambling and rushed for time, so I did not complete the official "progress report" sending via the school (every student who is failing or within 3% of failing receives a progress report). So. Within the next couple of days, I printed up IGPro grades, 4 to a page, chopped them up, attached them to a 1/2 sheet stating that parents should discuss this with their child and write me a note and sign it that they've done so. I made it a SMALL quiz grade to guarantee I'd get them back, docking off 10% per day late.

I have one awesome kid that is always in for tutoring, asks questions in class, does all his homework, scores very well on tests, takes "retests" (bane of my existence) every time if he does not get a perfect score, has a 99.63% average at the time of the reports. His mom writes back: I know he can do better. I will make sure he comes in for tutoring so he can improve.

Compare this with another student who has a 93% with the parent comment of: my son is so great!

Compare this with another student who has a 3% and who scratched out his mom's comment to call her.