Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Last Day Reflections

Like something that still doesn't feel quite done, THE SCHOOL YEAR IS OVER! I gave my last 2 finals. I marveled that my Digital Electronics students actually learned something. I turned in my last grades with literally seconds to spare (over the ceiling intercom, "Ms. ____ are you done yet?"). I contemplated packing up my room and decided to do it later. I went to a last shindig with our juniors who were thanking industry partners for their week-long internship. I celebrated with a dinner out and a reading of a funny book. And now blogging. Woot!

Things I learned or was reminded of again this year:
* people before paper (if someone is vying for your time and you're trapped in your busy work, stop and talk with them; paper can usually wait).
* like all people, kids remember how you make them feel, not how stellar your knowledge was of a particular topic.
* being physically around a group of negative people too much is not healthy for anyone; it feeds on itself.
* change is inevitable.
* kids are still kids, and no matter how mature they act; there are still things they don't know and may appreciate hearing a different perspective on.
* people usually aren't doing the things they do to annoy you; everyone is mostly trying to get by the best way they currently know how; react accordingly.
* no school is perfect; warts happen; you have to know what your deal-breakers are and how to work healthily around things/situations if you can.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Final Exams......

This morning I happened to read some teacher suggestions (a union teacher journal) on writing in the classroom. One teacher mentioned that as she handed out tests to her class, she instructed the students to write an inspiring message on their test. She mentions that they would roll their eyes but do it anyway. Then if she forgot to mention the message on later, future tests, the students reminded her.

I gave some geometry finals today, and as they got ready, I told them to write inspiring messages on their scratch paper. I mentioned that they'd do great, and they have to free up their brain cells from stressing, so they can concentrate on doing math.

I read through their messages after the test:

* Don't overthink it! Relax and everything will be okay.
* Kick butt!
* You are the smartest person in the world!
* You know things .... just try your hardest.
* I'm proud of you.

Feet Cubed....

As every high school student OBVIOUSLY knows, "3 feet cubed" is "3x12 inches cubed". Duh! You know, you just multiply by 12 because there are 12 inches in a foot.

Like everyone else, I've tried various ways to dispel this rumor: we've drawn models, we've used models, we've discussed. Seemingly to no avail. This year, I tried yet again with a different tactic.

We started out with a rectangular prism 3' x 2' x 4'. They found the volume in feet cubed. Then I asked them to find the volume in inches cubed, and to a person, they all wrote the wrong answer (24 x 12 = 288). Then without saying they were wrong I had them go back and redraw the prism into the inches equivalent and recalculate the volume, and OH NO, they were wrong with their first "288". Hmmmmm. So, this is stuff I've tried before. Now for the "new" attempt that MAYBE will work.

I had them write: 5 ft^3
Then change to: 5 * ft * ft * ft
Then EACH foot had to be converted to inches, so

= 5 * ft * ft * ft
= 5 * 12in * 12in * 12in
= 8640 in*in*in
= 8640 in^3

Let's see if this one sticks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Solar Eclipse Video

Over at this site I found cool information about tonight's solar eclipse.

There was also a NASA video ...

Goal: do more planetary topics in precalculus next year.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Slow Learner

Today in discussing Surface Area and Volume of 3D figures, I found out why textbooks choose to flatten out a cylinder in this way:

as opposed to this way:

I was "not on the ball" when I was talking while simultaneously drawing it the "bad" way.


Second, I think I've jumped on the "be bossy in how you accept homework" wagon. I strongly suggested in the past that students show work neatly when they do their homework or tests. I never went further than that. I've seen too many instances now where they or I can't follow their work and when there's a mistake, you have to do extra work to track it down.

Because we're doing SA and LA and V of 3D figures today, and because I've seen so many mistakes in the past (and made them!) just from sloppiness, I laid down the law today. I had a small discussion about how they're not just doing a problem, but they're communicating a process. If the reader has to question you about what you're doing, then you've failed as a communicator. If you have to track down your work later on, and it takes you longer because you're jumping around all the work and can't follow the thought process, then you've failed as a communicator.

I'm making them write things DOWN IN COLUMNS and drawing and labeling neat pictures and indicating what they're finding for each step. With lots of (good-natured) grumbling (see, I'm in denial), they got to work and the beginnings of things looked promising.

I think I want to start off next year as BOSSY PANTS in this manner.

Also, SO excited! I found out what I'm teaching next year (95% sure):
Precalculus preAP
AP Calculus AB
AP Computer Science
Digital Electronics

Woot! Who's going to be busy this summer? I'm going to miss the enthusiastic 8th and 9th graders, but I'll be excited to challenge my brain in a different way.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Stacks & Queues

In Computer Programming we learned something about various data structures, two being "stacks" and "queues".

Stacks can be thought of like a pile of plates. You keep adding to your list (or plates that are stacked on a table), and when you want to remove one, you remove the top-most one (or the last thing you put on). You can liken it to "last on first out".

Queues are like movie lines - first one in is the first one out. So you can add to the end of a list, and then when things are removed, they peel off from the start of the list.

I thought about that today when I was teaching for two reasons. There are all these "extra" things we have to remember in addition to teaching our content:
* put kids on "mandatorials" if they fail for a grading period
* check in and make sure they're coming to tutorials
* don't forget to update your money log if you're a sponsor of a club
* check in with kids emotionally to see if anyone is acting "off" from their normal selves
* if you're a team leader, check in with other people teaching in your grade level
* do your 5? 6? observations of other teachers throughout the year
* have you planned for an interdisciplinary unit?
* what about a flipped class?
* check in before every test you give to make sure kids know how to study for tests or need extra help
* kids stressed? don't forget that extra activity you did that was short and sweet and was a temporary relief for them
* make sure you connect with the students
* there are no stupid questions, so get that look off your face and answer patiently (it's the FIRST time this kid is asking)


So this came to light today when I realized that I'd totally forgotten to do one of those things (more?) that should have been ingrained in my mind - the "check that they know how to set up a study schedule for learning" .... (because most of them have never learned how to study for math tests before). Then I thought, I'm like a "queue". I have so many more things popping onto my to-do list, that the old/first stuff falls off my radar while I'm concentrating on the "new fires".

Maybe I need a bunch of charts hanging around my room or somewhere I can see them and the kids can't. That way I can take a quick glance and see if anything needs to be addressed currently. ..... But then I'm thinking, the list would probably be SO long I wouldn't have space to hang it :).

Sunday, May 06, 2012

EOY Wrap Up

Only 3 weeks and 2 extra days of teaching this year. Oy! As always when I come to this part of the year, I shake my head at how fast it went and what all I still have to do and how there's not enough time and too many testing interruptions to finish up strongly and and and ....Then I also start to get excited about next year. I think about the potential classes I'll teach (not 100% sure yet) and then I don't want to jinx anything, so I make myself THINK it'll be okay if I don't teach a particular course (you know, lie to myself). Then I get nervous because it seems 99.9% sure I will be teaching certain courses, then I wonder how it will all work out. Maybe all this mental gymnastics is just a smoke screen to bend my mind away from the fact that THERE'S HARDLY ENOUGH TIME LEFT THIS YEAR.

Anyway, I was out doing chores today and was at Barnes & Noble and picked up Ron Clark's new book. I did not know he started a new academy. I find his enthusiasm and energy and good thoughts and "can do" attitude and belief and vision so inspiring. Just the jolt I need to end the year. I think his school is 5th-8th, and I teach mostly high schoolers, but I still found many things I want to think on and mold and implement.

Next year, we'll have our 1st senior class. This will be the class that were freshmen when I started teaching at my "new" school. This is the class that in my first year caused me much grief and stress and joy and frustration and laughter. It will be sad and exciting to see them graduate, and it will feel like a different school without them in 2 years.

Fun things this past year:
1. Digital Electronics. At the start of the year, I had my students write on index cards what they were worried about for the coming year in DE. I clipped them together and put them away. Just recently, I found them and as a class we had a giggle reading them. We were all "I hope I don't get electrocuted!" ... "I hope it's not too hard!" ... "I won't know what to do!" And now for the most part, we're bread boarding geniuses, we can work with our BoeBot and circuits and K-Mapping and State Machines and such.

2. My online AP Computer Science class from Mizzou. I took it to "help" one of our students that wanted to take the course but didn't want to take it alone. I ended up learning a lot about the student's point of view in an AP class and trying to balance the work load all the while juggling the ton of other things that make up life. It was also interesting to take an AP class from a college course perspective.

3. Overloading of Duties/Happenings. Okay, not so fun in the stress department, but it's always fun to tackle new challenges. I: was NHS cosponsor, one of 3 HS team leaders, agreed to cosponsor an "inventing team" for next year (that started this year), sat in on TONS of interviews and learned TONS, taught a 1/2 hour weekly yoga class to our sometimes-unwilling students, tried a cross-country geometry project, had several guest speakers in DE (a mix of successful and not).

I'm eager for summer to start for the longer periods of R&R that I'll get and also for the workshops and such I'll get to attend and the planning for 2 new courses I'll be teaching (most likely) and the vow to myself not to sit so much and to get up and move.