Sunday, October 30, 2011


Eesh. I had to go to a PLTW meeting last week and had a substitute for the whole day. First of all was the planning and me being a last-minute person. I was at school from 6pm - 9pm the night before getting ready ... THEN had dinner. STARVING. Anyway, that told me a couple of things I didn't realize or never stopped to count. I guess it takes about 3 hours every day to plan for the day and make it happen. Then when I added it up, it wasn't too far off.

I get to school at about 7:15 and plan and prep until 9:15. Then in my early off period I do more prep. Of course there are interruptions and such, but sheesh, I never counted it all up before.

But, I really wanted to process the substitute experience, and how you can't plan for EVERYTHING, or maybe it's just me who can't remember everything. I am patting myself on the back because I remembered to tell him my bathroom policy, so there would be no issues. I DIDN'T remember to tell him about my food policy because it's not something on my mind .... and that's kind of ironic because the whole time I was at school that night I was STARVING (in case I haven't mentioned that yet).

I don't mind kids discretely eating snacks in my class as long as it's not distracting, and they clean up after themselves, and they're tuned into me, and it's healthy-ish. If it ever is a problem, I speak with the student and deal with it (which rarely happens). Well, I forgot to put this on my plans, and the substitute had a "no eating in class policy" apparently, and my students were not used to it, and he made some students throw out their food and put away the other food.

Next, I put something in my plans about either him going over the homework key or having students come up and explain. Again, silly me, since I'm such a control freak and always present the key (mostly for time sake), it didn't occur to me he might choose the OTHER option of students doing it. Well, apparently, this took 2 or 3 times as long, and then they didn't have enough class time to do the lesson. The reason I put that in the plans was in case there was a problem that someone needed an explanation for, then the students could elaborate. Of course this was all in my head, and apparently, the substitute is not a mind reader.

Anyway, I heard ALL about this from my students when I got back, and we commiserated. But. I had to tell them that being a substitute is SUPER hard, and they're not treated very nice, and YES, when they're in the room, it IS their classroom.

On an AWESOME note. My 10th grade (on level) geometry class kept informing me via e-mail or after I got back that they had a BIG argument about one of my truth table problem solutions. They were convinced I was wrong and had a big discussion about it in class. YAY! They were actually right, and I love it that they were confident enough in the topic to recognize my mistake as opposed to quietly assuming they were wrong and passively writing down my answer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sine Curve Application...

Today in precalculus we worked on a "real life" application of the sine curve. Sure I could have done this without a worksheet, and put the data on the overhead, but I like the sheet because it's a different way of differentiating instruction. Everyone can work at their own pace, and I'm free to wander around helping and hinting instead of being trapped up front talking at the class.

This took about an hour. I basically said, "go" and let them struggle. They had various issues:

*amplitude, how do I find that? (I showed them something more familiar to them, and they then figured it out ... say a sine graph shifted up with max of 10 and min of 6).

* period? what? 360? (no ... think about how long the yearly cycle would be)

* vertical shift? now wait a minute lady (think .... look at old work we've done)

* horizontal shift? what the?!?!?!? how? (think .... )

They finally got through enough of the answers, so we talked it through, and then the final what?????? hey, it doesn't go through EVERY point! That bothers me! Make it stop! (calm down. real life is messy. It's a MODEL. We make assumptions...)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week from H.E.Double.Hockey.Sticks.....

Phew! I'm still alive, and I didn't damage kids too much, and I'm still reasonably sane. This week was filled with drama and lack of sleep and midterms and bell schedule changes and teacher (me) melt downs and ....

Too predictable to mention, because I'm sure we've ALL had such weeks, and I'm sure there'll be others like it. On the plus side, I'm glad it happened (now that it's over), because I was getting a wee bit worried with so many positive days happening in a row. It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you start getting paranoid because you KNOW it's coming, so you want it to come (sort of) to get this cycle over with.

On the funny side .... and it TOTALLY doesn't apply to me since I love my job, but I found this funny quote:

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.”
(Drew Carey)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Questions

In my mind I believe I keep a neutral face when I answer student questions. Most of the time it's okay, but I'm thinking of those times when you JUST answered something 2 seconds ago, and then 5 more students ask in a row the same question. I know, I know, it's human nature, and you're multitasking, and you may have been concentrating on something else when it was answered, etc, but still, MY human-ness makes me roll my eyes (on the inside) and say to myself (on the inside), "for the love of G**, I JUST answered that" all the while .... blank face ..... or to vary it up a bit, a wry smile ... and answer the same question again.

Or those times, when someone asks a bizarre math question (or at least it seems bizarre to me) .... blank face.

So anyway. Today in precalculus, someone was asking a math-related question, and then, I don't know, for some reason, I felt all the other students' eyes on me to see my reaction as I answered the question. It sort of felt like, "let's see how she handles this potentially silly question ... (but I don't know if it's silly because I sort of want to know it, too .... but maybe it's silly ... let me see), so that I know in the future if it will be safe to ask MY question or will she make me feel bad, so I'll just be quiet."

It just hit me again, that the judging of "playing school" goes both ways. We judge constantly how the students are being students, and they judge in all situations if it's okay to learn however they need to learn, or if they have to be on guard about things around you.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it, and they were just staring at me because I looked so tired or it was just a place to rest their eyes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Real Life Logic

Before I started my logic unit in geometry, I told my students that in their lives lots of people are going to try to sell them things: products, ideas, candidates, positions/views.... and they can choose to be passive receivers of information or they can be critical thinkers with the information and make their own decisions.

Recently, there was a newspaper article that lit a fire under my students, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to put this into action. I copied the article and put line numbers on it, and gave them this sheet:

After our discussion on all things logic, I gave them some quiet time in class to start the article and highlight and think for a bit, and then discuss with each other, and then toss around some thoughts on what the author was trying to sell them. Then they had the rest for homework.

Today, when they got back to class, I took them out into the hall and paired them off facing each other with directions on what to discuss. Then we rotated around (like a rubber band I told them) and got a new partner and discussed the next question and so on. LOVED IT. They were on fire and got a chance to interact with different people than they usually work with and they got to defend their choices and such.

The actual article is not that important to y'all, but I think it helps if it's a wee bit controversial. Before they handed it in, I had them jot down some of their comments about the actual homework:

"long" ..... (I may shorten it to only 4 "conditionals" or so if I did it again)
"I don't see how it relates to geometry" ... so I guess I have to reiterate why we did this and how it's an application of logic
"it made logic have more sense to me"
"it makes the conditionals make sense because we had something to apply it to"
"it helped me actually have to think deeply about the article"
"I think it took too long, but helped with conditionals" (again, I do think 6 is too many)

Thursday, October 13, 2011


You know, in all my spare time, I had to fill the vacuum, so now I'm obsessed with making these:

Which I heard about from (another obsession) and ultimately from this blog.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stick a Fork In It

I had a nice reminder yesterday that (obviously) our students are not finished products.

I don't know about you, but it's too easy for me to get some idea about a student (heck, let's just say a person), and then in my mind, BOING, that's my perception of them. So any time I see them in the future, that's a label or whatever that comes along for the ride while I'm having my interaction with the student/person.

News Flash. People change. Shocking! Right? And students change constantly. And students are influenced by people and events and occurrences around them. So this person/student that was a noodge or mean or ran with the "wrong crowd" or _________, may not be that person today. Or they may be, but that doesn't mean that your interactions with them or other people's dealings with them won't have a positive, cumulative effect for a future date. I shouldn't "write people off" or (sub)consciously treat them in a certain way because of something I know about them or heard about them because .... they are not finished products.

So that was a nice gentle wake up call to me (along with the good news about a student that WAS running with the wrong crowd but is now making visible steps to break free). See! I'm not a finished product either. Woot!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Extras That Are Saving Me This Year...

You know how you gather tons of teaching advice throughout your career. Some sticks, some doesn't seem to (but who knows, maybe the fact of filtering through the information allows you to take a stand on things valuable to you).

Here is one that always stuck with me, "find pockets of time and use them wisely". This was given in the sense of, "yes you have to grade that huge stack of papers, and yes it will take you maybe 2 hours, and no you probably will never consistently have 2 hours in one shot, BUT, if you find 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there, then the work gets done, and it's ALMOST painless .... because everyone can stand most ANYTHING for 15 minutes." In this way (unless you're using your 15 minutes to rejuvenate), instead of sitting around chatting or surfing or whatnot, then use that 15 minutes to chip away at work that you'll have to do.

Here's how it's helped me this year:
I'm doing lesson plans this year, and I'm keeping up with the online homework calendar and the GradeSpeed updating of homework.

Old Me: oh, I'll do those 3 things after school, or I'll do them on the weekend, or I'll do them LATER. And this was hit or miss successful, and when it was successful, it amounted to a ton of time playing catch up.

New Me (for now .... work in progress): Boom, I just wrote the homework on the whiteboard, let me quickly use 1 minute to put it on the homework calendar and then it's done. ... oh let me SIT for 15 minutes after school and actually write my lesson plans instead of just taking them home for a round trip. .... oh, the students are correcting their homework from the overhead, let me put the new homework on GradeSpeed.

So that's one consistent improvement this year. Here's another one.

Old Me: oh, something unusual is coming up soon or not so soon. Let me write a sticky note, and that will remind me of it when it comes to disrupt my schedule (meeting, e-mail I have to send, conference I have to sign up for). And maybe I'll see the sticky note in time or not.

New Me: Let me put it on my Google Calendar and add several e-mail reminders that will shoot me e-mail periodically to keep it fresh in my mind.

Old Me: wow! look at the pile of p** that is my desk.

New Me: let me put away just 7 things right now. (oh look a smaller pile of p** ... for now).

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Calculator Precalculus

Geometry. Geometry. Geometry. It's almost like I don't teach another class. BUT. I totally teach precalculus, and it's fun to get back to it after a 2 year break.

We're currently learning how to solve "simple" trig equations on the calculator. I make the students purchase a scientific calculator, so that they have one at home and so that when we have "graphing" tests, they can still use this calculator.

Here's what we're currently working on, and I just have to say, still LOVE the answer banks. [note: added later .... eek! error in answer bank on front side. "5.6034" should be "3.8214"]

I'm also going to start the 100% or 0% quizzes soon. I want them to have quick and accurate access in their heads to the sine, cosine, and tangent of all the special angles given in radians (including on the axes). I give them a 10 question (14?) quiz and I take it with them the 1st time. I tell them that I'll give them twice as much time as it takes me, and they have to get 100% or it's a 0%. They can take it as many times as they want throughout the 6 weeks. This forces them to have a super fast grasp of it.

Monday, October 03, 2011


As my husband and I were pulling out of the "membership only big store" parking lot, we passed a Wendy's. There was an advertisement for job openings, both cashier and manager. The manager's position said, "make up to $55,000 per year".

Then I had to pause. That's more than I make after 14+ years of teaching as a Texas teacher. Eeesh!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Pizza & Circles

We were at one of those membership-huge-quantities types of stores today, and I saw this. I made my husband go back and film it with his cell phone (as I don't have one). Bla bla bla, dark ages, bla bla bla. Anyway, Geometry! Circles! Engineering! Pizza! Woot! (* this seems to work with Internet Explorer, but not with Mozilla hmmmmmm)

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Truth Tables

We're well into our journey of logic in geometry, and we just started truth tables. In the past, I walked them through the 5 basics (conjunction, disjunction, conditional, biconditional, and double negation). We make up funny statements and see how things work. Then IN THE PAST I have immediately stepped into building a large truth table such as: (p or q) --> (~p and q) or some such thing. Shockingly, it was too fast of a leap into the deep end.

I had tried various things such as cutting out each column on pretty paper and moving things around, or working examples with them, or whatever. Not completely successfully. And then this year, I think I got it (after my 10th or 11th year teaching the topic!).

This year, right at the end of class for the basics, I set up a 3 column truth table, where I gave them weird columns for the 1st 2, and I gave them various "T"s and "F"s for the first 2 columns. Then I had them think about what the new action was on the 3rd column.

Example (of 3 column headers):
1st column: (p -->q)
2nd column: ~r and w
3rd column: (p-->q) OR (~r and w)

At first they were all, "what?", but I kept silent and eventually would dole out little clues if they were stuck (like boxing in one color the 1st column header and that same thing in same color in the 3rd column). They FINALLY got, "oh! you're just "ORing" 2 things. Voila! They went to the appropriate basic table and filled in appropriately.

Here's a piece of their homework for that night:

Then, when I started class the next day, we did a "fill in 2 columns" one, and they were okay. THEN I just started truth tables, and it seemed more successful than before. Woot!