Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Semester Wrap Up

I could be grading finals, but ... phawwwww, maybe I'll blog instead. You're supposed to take brain breaks, right? RIGHT?!?!

The Good:
 * Thank you to whoever (whomever?) I read who wrote about answering questions with, "that's a good question!" and walking away. It's my favorite technique, now, especially on tests. Of course, I gauge whether or not it's something I want/need them to figure out on their own first. 

* My Precal Teaching Buddy and I are working on a project to do with sine waves and their graphs and applications. We (I) usually don't like math "projects" that are "meaty" because they end up not seeming meaty and taking away too much time for the students to learn the basics. We structured it so that there is class time and explore time and lots of check points. It's not perfect yet, but here are some questions the students came up with as a result of the project:

1. Is there a relation between where a color is on the wavelength spectrum and how often it appears in nature?
2. Can gamma waves cause hallucinations? 
3. Can frequencies cure mental illnesses? 
4. Does manipulating your brain waves during the day affect your dreams?
5. Can other cellular components of our body be regulated by a sine function and is this information useful for doctors?

* I'm actually following through with my Marathon Training Schedule, and have been into it since school started. My long run/walks on the weekend are now up to 13 miles. Toot toot goes my horn!

* My Computer Science kids are happy, and the administration is now seeing that this is an good class to have at school, especially an all girls school, and they want to expand it somehow. 

* Our first-time-graduating-class kids have started to trickle back and visit. Even the ones I had trouble with were all smiles and happy to say hi. They are thriving at college, so that's a win.

The Bad:
 * What is UP with my right shoulder! Tendonitis? Bursitis? Pinched Nerve? Some stubborn person WON'T go to the doctor, but she may soon have to.

* There are STILL a smattering of kids choosing to fail. I don't know why I still am annoyed by this. It's a pattern and their choice and I see it every year, and it usually works out for the best because it puts a fire under their butts. But people, grow up already and figure it out, so I don't have to have these heated conversations with you inside and outside of my head, full of scrunched faces and wild gestures.

The Ugly:
* Lack of enough sleep. Crow's feet. Bad home situations for various students.

Okay. Break over. Calculus and DE finals ... here I come.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Bless Your Heart Award

My rookie FTC Robotics kids and I keep joking around that next weekend at our first qualifier, we do NOT want to get the "Bless Your Heart" award. We will go in and do our best and be happy with it, and if we make improvement from the scrimmage before, then we will consider it a success. We have learned a ton and will be way better next year. We actually have a working robot, but things are still in pieces and kids are busy and bla bla bla. So, we'll see. And, no, we don't need your pity, judges, thank you very much. We rock!

I don't know if they even give such awards, but I feel they do. You know, the "good job" and "you've come a long way considering ...." and "best looking design" and such. Maybe their hearts are in the right place, but in my mind, the subtext is, "oh, you poor things, here's something just for showing up with all you sad sack ways and don't feel bad for being such a loser".

Then that started me thinking about how I approach my students. I was JUST grading some IR quizzes for calculus (immediate recall quizzes ... things I want them to know like the alphabet .... thank you AP Summer Institute for the idea). One student has been struggling a ton with life things and managing her studying and such. I know she's smart, and I know she can do it, and I know she's been struggling. 

I THOUGHT I was grading her paper, and the person was doing really well, and they just missed a problem because they didn't hear it right. I started to write on the paper and finished writing: "you WOULD have gotten it right if that was the problem". Then I'm glancing at the name on the paper, and it's another kid, an uber smart kid, and I found myself thinking, "oh if I'd have known it was her, I would have just marked it wrong, and she would have figured out what happened." 

Ackh! Here I was handing out a "Bless Your Heart" Award. And I'm sure the recipients probably react just the same way I do. I'm basically patting the kid on the head and implying that she can't handle it.

Oy! Need to self monitor better and treat everyone like the rock stars I know they are and can be.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Computer Science MatchMaking Project

I did the Match Making Project again with my Computer Science 1 students this year, and I added a new component that just makes me giggle.

First I have them run this code to show them how a basic init/paint/action graphics program may work in Java. Then they get the task of creating a program to simulate "match making" HERE. They ask the user a series of questions about dating a boy/girl ... hair color .... and some questions of their choosing.

This lets them practice IF statements and nested IF statements, and it's fun.

Then after they are done with the program, we did a gallery walk around the various programs and ran them and left nice comments on a paper about the program for the coder.

Then here is the new component. They had to make an advertisement for their matchmaking services by copying some of the pictures of the "dates" and selling the company. Here are the specs.

And voila! Here are my creative students:


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I happened to be in the car at the right time a while ago, and heard an interview with Aisha Tyler. I don't remember if this was the interview, but it'll do. She seems like a kick-angle-side-side kind of person.

Anyway, she had this quote that resonated with me, and I wanted to share it with my students, so I went through many iterations of how that would happen, and I came upon the following idea.

I counted up the number and type of letters in the quote. It happened to have 68 - the EXACT same number as a total of 3 of my math classes. Sorry, people who have to cram more students in their classes. Anyway, 

* I cut into 4, enough colored 8.5" x 11" pieces of paper
* The students selected a paper
* I assigned each person a letter
* I had a discussion about wanting to put a quote up
* And, no, I won't tell you the quote until it's up
* And, no, I don't want slop and last minute jobs
* And, be artsy
* And it's due next class
* And they should be capital letters
* Facing Portrait, NOT Landscape

And then I hung it in the hallway ..... voila:


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jumping in the Pool Dogpaddling!

This year I am coaching an FTC Robotics team for the first time (for me and our school). Here are some of my students at our first scrimmage. We were so nervous and being all "girly" and judging ourselves harshly, me included.

Things going through our minds:
* We'll embarrass ourselves.
* Everyone else is better.
* We won't know what we're doing.
* We're nervous.
* We don't know the process and aren't ready.
* Our robot is not finished yet.

But that (obviously) is ridiculous, even though it still streams through our thoughts. STILL. If we stifle ourselves with self doubt and angst, we'll never try anything new, and we'll never improve, and we'll never have the thrill of learning and experiencing new things.

Thoughts that got us through:
* Everyone has to start somewhere.
* We're a rookie team. Other teams have had more years of experience.
* Let's give ourselves a break, we're WAY further than we were in September.
* People are here to help us.
* This is a learning experience. 
* We can do it.

Ultimately, we had a blast, though we were super tired from the adrenaline and stress and lack of sleep and worry. We learned a ton. We met nice people. We can make progress. We had cool t-shirts. We're on our way to more robotics challenges. Our pit area rocked:


Friday, November 08, 2013

Yay! End of the Six Weeks ... And We Know What That Means.

The joys of students scrambling to take care of business on the LAST minute of the LAST day of the LAST week of the grading term. What's that? You say ... why didn't they do things the other 4 to 5 weeks? Good Question.

I just had a math student literally wait until AFTER the last minute to try to turn things in. For any other student who I'd seen trying throughout the grading period, YES I would have accepted the work. For this student who has not turned in 7 of 10 homework assignments and has come in maybe 10% of the available time for help? Not so much.

Yes, I know it's for the student's own good. Yes, I know that they won't step it up until they don't get any free rides any more. But yes I also know that it scrambles up my insides and I'm having angry conversations with the kid in my mind.

To maybe detox, I just sent this e-mail to her and cc-ed the counselor and her mom. I am crossing my fingers that she figures things out.

Dear You,
I'm concerned about your work ethic this year in math. As it stands, there have been 10 homework assignments on the grade book. I see that you have not turned in 7 of them. That is part of the reason you are failing, but it is not the whole picture. Because you do not do the homework, you then do poorly on the Section Quizzes (based on homework). It also seems that you don't do the rote memorization skills necessary for the IR quizzes.

There have been 5 weeks of time for you to come in and reconcile your misunderstandings. I have barely seen you for tutoring. I am available every morning from 7am until 9:15. I am in my room at lunch every day. I am there after school M-Th. You have come in for a scattered amount of tutoring, but not enough to take care of business. I frequently see you in the halls talking with friends, and I have to bite my tongue when I want to ask you why you are not doing make up work. Yes, friends and socializing ARE important, and they are a vital part of life. However, there has to be a balance of taking care of business, and enjoying your free time.

In advisory, which is a prime time to seek help ... a FREE 30 minutes at least 3 times a week in MY advisory, with me willing to answer your questions, you have not been doing any calculus work.
It worries me that you scramble at the last minute and try to turn in extremely late work, and it is still not on time, and yet you say that it is.
More importantly, I see you being exposed to challenging work and then not stepping up to the plate. You say you don't want to turn in the homework because you don't understand it. Great. And yet I do not see you taking the necessary steps to make progress. I do not see you putting in the brain work and the hard work and the thinking work to make it happen.
I'm wondering how you are watching the flipped videos. Are you just going through the motions when you do watch them, or are you taking the required (at least) 40 minutes of time to absorb and think?

I have been filling out college recommendations this year for seniors, and these are some of the questions asked by the colleges (i.e. things they want to see in prospective students):
* How does this student behave when faced with challenges?
* How does this student react when confronted by setbacks?
* What are this student's "disciplined habits"?
* How is this student's initiative?
This is the 3rd math class I have had you in. I know you have a very capable brain. I am wondering if you will rise to the work necessary to comprehend topics that don't come easily to you.

I care about you and your school experience, and I hope you don't squander it away because it requires work you are not willing to do.
Ms. D

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Big Sighs

Just a reminder to myself and others about the various EXTRA things kids may be going through in addition to doing/not-doing my math homework (taken from separate things I've heard lately in my town/school, but I'm guessing could be just about anywhere):

* Parents just divorced last month. Student still angry at absent parent and not fully functioning yet.
* Thrown out of the house and now scrambling to keep it together.
* Single parent too poor to pay bills. Kid must find other means of functioning for studying purposes.
* Came out to parents. Got kicked out of the house.
* Temporary housing due to recent weather occurrence.
* Clinically depressed.
* Health issues due to poverty and lack of proper nutrition.

Lately, I think that we just need a big daily hug fest to let kids know we love them and are rooting for them.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Related Rates and Crowd Sourcing

Year Six of teaching this pickle of a topic in Calculus. I keep changing it up hoping I'll happen upon the magic elixir that will allow students to eagerly gobble up the problems and spit out the correct answers with joy and understanding oozing out of their pores.

* Finding problems that aren't the Wisconsin of all Cheese Balls.
* Reading and interpreting the problem.
* Being able to translate known information and subtly given information into Math Speak.
* Finding the right equation that links all the variables together.
* Navigating the Dangerous Path of Implicit Differentiation.
* Plugging back in at JUST the right time.
* Finishing things up with a tidy bow.

I have a good feeling about this year! And yes, I say and mean that every year, so I am allowing my bubble to remain floating blissfully in the air yet again.

First of all, cheesy problems: ladders sliding down walls, circles mysteriously expanding and contracting, lots of liquids being poured into and leaked out of cylinders/cones/prisms, cars passing in the night at some perpendicular intersection.

I started off this year's spiel with just a blathering of why this topic is important:

BP oil spill, how fast is it spreading? How will they know how much resources to devote to the problem?

The rain recently in Austin, TX, people's houses were ruined, water was rising at various rates, what could that mean for drainage capabilities and emergency personnel?

Fires in Bastrop, containment, speed of spreading vs speed of dousing ....

The amusement park problem on some previous AP exam about rates of people in park and number of employees needed ...

But then alas, we had to start on the cheeseball problems. But I prefaced it with, "no one really cares about a balloon being expanded or contracted, but as with all math modeling, we may have to start with a simplified version of reality just so we can gain understanding and maybe add difficulty and more accuracy later. Think about some real life things that could be modeled by a malleable sphere."

That was about as far as I got on that THEN. Wait for it .....

Also, I spent a class period JUST setting up problems with the students, and their homework was to differentiate and solve. I found Bowman's set up with the table for variables very nice and tidy and useful. I'm a convert. In the past, I just set the students on their merry ways to attempting each problem on their own. This year I was uber bossy and said I wanted things set up in a specific way - enter the drawing and table and something new I added: a highlighted box or equation that I labeled SUBTLE information. There are some things that are not specifically mentioned in the problem, but you can figure needed information out like a detective. I wanted the students to be on the lookout for such things and to know that they exist.

I think this is the NEW component I'm adding to the homework next time. They will get the goofy circle/square/car problems, but with EACH problem or maybe just one, they have to do extra. This is where my crowd surfing comes in. I want them to think of a NEW specific real life situation that (say) could be modeled by this simplified version or expanded upon, and discuss what rates are needed and why anyone would care.

I'm looking forward to seeing their responses.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

CS and Algorithms

Last year I knew I did a subpar job on teaching students how to write algorithms to prep their code. How do I know? Thanks for asking. I know because one of my top coding students mentioned after that year something about someone talking about this weird word, "algorithms", and she didn't know what it meant. Who was HER poopy teacher? ME!

So this year in my CS1 class, for their programs they are writing, I have made 3 extra slots on the sheet under each code:

Algorithm (signed off by Ms. D) ____________________
Code (checked by another student) _________________
Code (checked by Ms. D) ________________________

I also had a discussion about the code-checking by someone. I mentioned that if I was ultimately asked to sign off on a code, and it wasn't working, then the "signer offer" would get the BIG FROWNY FACE OF DISAPPROVAL.

Their algorithms are getting better. They started out just regurgitating my words. This allowed for discussions of algorithms being like "steps in a recipe". You wouldn't say: walk to the fridge to get the eggs to crack 2 open into the mixture. You would say: beat in 2 eggs.

I also like the fact that their code has to be checked by someone else. They then get to talk with others and see others' code and practice the art of checking code for bugs and direction following.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Teacher Mistakes and Teacher Voice

I make a lot of my own materials, and though I check things, I am human and make mistakes on keys and answer banks and such. Now I'm not saying that it's 50 bazillion mistakes on every assignment, but still.

I've just realized this year that that could be thought of as a good thing. My kids now know to be skeptical if their answer doesn't match mine. I hope that lots of them stop and think and redo their work and then in their mind if they can convince themselves that they have done no wrong, then they ask me to check things. This way: they gain confidence in their abilities, they learn to trust themselves, they don't always take the printed word at face value, they practice polite conversation in the how they approach me. Sometimes I'm NOT wrong even if they've done all this, but I use this as an opportunity to thank them for checking and to say that THIS TIME I was not wrong.

In a related type of situation, at various times when I ask questions of kids in class, and they answer, and the answer is correct, I put on a scrunched, disbelieving face and ask if they're sure or if that seems like the right answer. I've done this often enough that they stop and redo their thinking in their heads, and MOST times they go against the "ADULT" voice and say YES, that is the correct answer. Again hopefully they're being trained to stand up for themselves and their thinking.

Okay, ending with a silly joke that made all of us laugh on a much needed stressful day last week:
Q: What's brown and sticky?
A: A stick.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Calculus Practice

I'm trying to incorporate more AP Calculus multiple choice style questions throughout the year this year. I've scanned for various released documents and then changed them up with different problems but same intent. I guess this is kosher. We are not supposed to publish secure documents or let the kids take them home. I have not done that, but then I still am feeling antsy because the kernel of the ideas came from secure documents. Anyone have an opinion on that?

Here is what we/they had for homework recently. I like my last question (not from another source). I realized that the students were still not clear on the distinction between the derivative being the GENERAL tangent slope equation for ANY x versus a SPECIFIC slope at a SPECIFIC x using the general equation.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Baby" Applications of Trig Functions

We just finished learning how to solve all sorts of basic trig equations (cos ___ = #, cos # = ____). We'll get to equations soon, but we wanted the students to see some applications right away. I didn't want the standard: Billy is standing 5 feet away from a tree and how tall is the tree problems from geometry.

I searched in my favorite precalculus textbooks for some ideas, and found some applications under the GRAPHING and TRANSFORMING of sine wave functions/equation section. With a bit of fiddling, I adjusted the problems, so that the students could just find the angle or plug in the angle.

We first had a discussion on the cyclic behavior of sine. Then we brainstormed as to what in real life gets bigger then smaller then bigger and on and on. Then I showed them this sheet. We made sure to discuss how in algebra when you are solving for a variable you have to isolate it by undoing what's being done to it. Then I mentioned that this is JUST like solving for "x" in algebra, but on "steroids".

Voila! New problems for the kidlets to tackle:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Trigonometry on the Calculator

I came up with a memory tool that I hope will help the kids remember which process to use when solving/evaluating on the calculator:

csc ____ = 5    versus     csc 25 =____

It all seems to get jumbled up together in their heads after they learn various equations on the calculator.

Entering either one on the calculator involves a reciprocal somehow, and they mix up when to reciprocate. For the first one:

 csc ____ = 5     you enter:   sin -1 (1/5)

For the second one:

 csc 25 =____     you enter:   1 / sin (25)

Here's what I hope will stick:

For the first one:

csc ____ = 5     the BLANK is in the MIDDLE,
so the RECIPROCAL is in the MIDDLE   sin -1 (1/5)

For the second one:

 csc 25 =____     the BLANK is on the OUTSIDE,
so the RECIPROCAL is on the OUTSIDE   1 / sin (25)

Many more ways to mess up, but maybe this will fix one problem.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Nice Reminder

For the past few years, I knew which semester the students were taking P.E. For several months, they would waddle slowly into class and groan as they tried to sit down. "My butt hurts" ... "Ow" ... "50 burpees!" ... "walking lunges!" They'd seemingly "complain" about the PE teacher, and in a wide-eyed manner, regale others with astonishment at what difficult physical feats they were required to perform. This would happen basically all semester, whichever kid, whichever semester they had P.E.

Fast forward to this year. That teacher is still around, but some of the students now have a new P.E. teacher. This is what one kid told me after a few weeks had passed: We've asked her to work us harder. We want her to be tough like Coach C. She DID ramp it up a bit, but it's still not as challenging.


Maybe what we hear as complaints is just a badge of honor that the kids are touting as they process in wonder at what hard things they can do when they are "forced" to. They are saying it out loud as sort of a "go me" type of conversational pat on the back. They complain, because they are humans and teens, but secretly they crave the challenge.

So maybe when we hear that they have SO much homework and the problems are SO hard, then we should reply, "yes, and look at how great you are doing by struggling and keeping at it". Work those brain muscles!

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Correcting HWK

I'm trying something new this year both in AP Calculus and in Precalculus when the students go over their homework, and I think it's a win for me/my class/my students.

For the past several years in precalculus, I would work out the homework, place the key on the document camera, and we would painfully and slowly go over the answers while the students corrected in a different colored pen. I grade on completion since I think homework should be a time to practice. I understand (obviously) there are different philosophies on this, but I feel this works in my situation. I do watch for kids sneakily copying things in pencil and passing it off as their own. I do look over the homework later to see if they attempted all problems.

Anyway, this always took way too much class time, and most likely, students were probably not looking as closely as possible to solutions, and everyone most likely had different problems they were confused about, so some were sitting around needlessly while they waited for their particular problem to be shown on the document camera.

This year, I take my key and make enough copies for 1 per 2 kids. They silently glance over the key and correct their work. This has gone MUCH faster than before. Also, kids can see how I lay out my work and have the time to concentrate on the particular problems they need to see and have good examples of process and thoroughness (or maybe I'm just being idealistic).

I've also done this in calculus. I used to just collect the homework, then put the worked out key on the LMS site for them to check later. I'm guessing that by the time they got back the homework by the following class and had more homework to deal with, they never checked the old homework. This year in my flipped class, they have the key on their table and can carefully go over it and ask questions right when it is still fresh in their minds. Again I like the fact that they have constant reminders of how the work should look if it's thoroughly done.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brought to you by the letter, "V"

Apparently, for now, there are only 24 letters that are "safe" in the alphabet as it is used in a high school setting. I used to toss about all 26 freely as I broke my bonds from the variable "x". X is overdone, I thought! Who made "x" the boss? Let's start sprinkling the other 25 neglected letters, I blithely demanded.

Well, starting last year, the letter "D" brought some giggles. As in, "okay students, find the "d" in this equation." TEE HEE HEE! Ms. _____ is looking for "d"! Oh my word, REALLY. THAT'S a thing now? When did that become a thing?

So this year, I stepped lightly around the "d" landmine so far. Go me! Successfully navigating the other 25 letters. No problem. ... Update: Problem.

Today in Digital Electronics, we started talking about Ohm's Law ... V = I*R. There's a nice helping tool where you put the 3 letters in a triangle and cover up the letter you are solving for, and the remaining visual tells you whether to multiply or divide to find your solution.

First problem, let's solve for voltage. "Okay kidlets, cover up the V ..."


What?! Oh my God people! Okay, is there a sexual reference for I? For R? Are there other taboo letters no one has told me about yet? Should I assign that as a homework assignment: free association of making EACH letter a "thing"?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Precalculus Matching Game...

Today my precalculus students were starting their journey of being able to quickly visualize the "special triangle" standard angles by matching 3 sets of things: angles in radians, angles in degrees, and graphical representation of the angle in standard position.

About 7 years ago or so I first did this activity. And in my most-likely last-minute planning that year, I didn't have baggies to store the 36 cards, so I made up something like this:

Okay, exactly this, because this is the actual "envelope" where the students would store their cards. I folded up a piece of scratch paper and bent in the sides and shoved the 36 colored cards in the packet. That year and that school I thought that kids would try to be "funny" and maybe take out one of the cards, so that the next class would not have a matching set. Who's the jerk cynical teacher that doesn't trust their students? ME!

Anyway, then it became a thing year to year and class period to class period that they would sign their name to the envelope. It was kind of fun to read over the names each year and see if I remembered the students.

Anyway, flash forward to this year. Different school from that first year, and about 7 or so years later. One student when she was signing the envelope said, "hey, my step-aunt's name is on here". I asked if she went to that school I taught at (since maybe it was just a similar name), and she said she did. Fun Coincidence! Or a case of .... look how old you are, you taught my aunt!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reference Triangles

I had this idea to use string, masking tape, and dry erase markers so the students could explore reference triangles for the first time. I had a bunch of embroidery thread left over, so I gathered supplies:

I had my kids rip off a piece of masking tape and poke a hole through it to thread the string through then tape it to the desk. We discussed spacing issues and such, and they drew circles (eventually they were happy with them after a few erasings).

Then they drew the xy-plane with the origin at the center of the circle. (OCD note: do you SEEEEEE the pen with the cap off! It's drying out, people. CAP THE PEN!)

Then I had them get out their scientific calculators that I had them buy, and we explored sin(20), sin(380), sin(-340) and they noticed things. We then did (on the calculator) sin(160) and sin(-200). They discussed why the values were the same. Then they started moving the string around the circle.

We talked about how it didn't matter how you got there, you still got the same reference triangle (which I kept defining and bringing up) .... no notes yet. We talked about x, y, and r. We explored when the sine/cosine may be negative. I had them draw some more using their fingers and string and dropping of the perpendicular as references for their pens:

We explored when the sine value would get bigger and why.

THEN we went to notes:

I think they liked the novelty of drawing on the desks. Hopefully, the tactile aspect of creating the reference triangles will stick in their heads.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Oy! I've kept my thoughts to myself, but I've been conflicted EVERY TIME I "hear" this term come up in various posts and tweets and such. But today I just read a post claiming certain group think, and it has prompted me to post.

Maybe I'm not part of this MTBoS. Maybe I am. I don't even know. I blog. I teach math. I share resources. I find resources. I look at tweets. Here are the thoughts that go through my stubborn, ornery, contrary head every time I see those 5 letters:

* Don't tell me what to think.
* Don't speak for me.
* I don't feel that way.
* I feel excluded.
* Am I missing something.
* Am I not part of the cool kids skipping around enjoying their time on the Internet.
* No one invited me.
* Why is there a need to yell "YIPPEE" look at us so often.
* This is having the opposite effect I think it's intended to have.
* I want some chocolate.
* No. Wine. I want wine.

Maybe I'm in the minority. Maybe people didn't invite me to parties as a child, and these are the after effects. Maybe I feel awkward in a large group. Maybe I need to mull things over myself, and keep my mouth shut.

I guess mainly, I'm thrilled that there are so many teachers that are willing to allow me to peek into their classrooms and thinking and teaching journey. That's enough. Anything more, to me, is just drawing a line in the sand and potentially making people feel excluded whether that intention was there or not.

Or maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about, and I'm the only one that scrunches her face at such a "thing". Anyway, here's a sweet picture to calm me down.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Teaching Radians

Since I was testing in another class the other day and was BORED from not chatting with kids and teaching, I had some time to prepare more than an hour in advance for teaching precalculus. I tried 2 new things this year to teach radians, and I think they're keepers for me.

First I had compasses and protractors and had them make 3 different circles in their notebooks. Then they measured the radius of each and recorded it. Then they "carefully" used a ruler (my compasses are the orange cool ones with a ruler on them) to "wrap around the circle" one radius length. Then they measured the angles.

We talked about how we're human, and it will be off, but we noticed the numbers were similar. Here's the page of my notes.

The next thing that worked was a table. I made them create a table with 3 columns, angle in standard position, degree measure, radian measure. One row at a time, I would give them one of the values, and they had to figure out the other two, and then we'd discuss it and their strategies. The highlighted portion is what was given to them.

I liked this because it's all ordered in one table, and they can absorb it and see connections and such as opposed to my last year's notes where I sloppily just did a few around the page and put all the information on the graph.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CS First Assignment

This year I have a stacked class of CS1 (11 kids) and CS3 (4 kids) students. In CS1 I did the same first assignment as I did last year (a packet that walks them through graphics and has them create their own original picture). I basically only help them when they get stuck or when they want to do specific things NOT explored in my packet (like various colors or polygons).

This year, after being inspired by our art teacher who hangs up the kids' work around campus and most times has an "artist's statement" to go along with the picture, I decided to do the same thing. After my students finished their assignment, I asked them to type up an artist's statement about their experience and challenges and such. Loved their responses. Here are 3 samples.

Also, here is a disclaimer about my school. I teach at a public school. We are roughly 60% F.and.RL, 60% Hisp (not necessarily from the same pool). There is a strong culture of working hard and doing your best. It is a small school, so no one is invisible (for the most part). I teach girls. I mention all this so that when I show samples of my students' work you can understand what background they have that allows them to do things.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You Know You Need More Sleep When ...

... you think of something you MUST do and CAN'T forget, so you decided to send yourself an e-mail to remind you to do this tomorrow. As you are writing the e-mail (and list some other things to do), ..... you forget the original thing you needed to remember to write down so you could remember to do it later!

Oy!Okay, I finally remembered after I walked around, but seriously folks.

In other news, I'm coaching an FTC team this year for the 1st time (for me). Woot! Do I know anything about robots? Not yet. We had our "sort of 3rd" meeting today, and the students are eager, so I'm thrilled about our upcoming adventure. There is a nice, seasoned coach from another school that's being very generous with tips and guidance and such, so that will be of great help.

In other, other news. I actually signed up to run a February Marathon. Have I mentioned that? Well, I have to people at school. Several Times. Hah! I've caused them to take up running ... away from me when they see me walking towards them to mention THE MARATHON I am training for. Sounds all fancy and such ... but really, I'm only still doing a 5k and building up my time so I can do a 10minute run / 1 minute rest. I'm currently at 5:1. I guess you have to start somewhere.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

First Day Report

In my Precalculus class, I did end up using the activity mentioned here. I decided to have 2 different pictures for my 2 different periods, the ISS and another cool one of a bridge. I had them spend some time wondering and such, and then I had them write one of their comments on a sticky note and we posted them in the hallway around the pictures.

Some of their comments were goofy, but I did hear some intelligent ones. If I do this again, I'll give them more time and mention at the outset that once they start thinking more and more about the pictures, they may develop more intricate wonderings. As it is, I don't think I gave them enough time or direction to get to the potentially cool thinking.

Here are some sample responses for the ISS picture:
* The ISS is a place where astronauts of different nationalities collaborate and study in space together.
* The ISS was engineered using math.
* On the ISS, astronauts suffer severe weight and muscle loss.
* Has anyone died in attempting to live out in space?
* I know that astronauts line in the ISS.
* Do you have to stay in your jumpsuit throughout your stay at the ISS?
* There are clouds.
* How many mathematicians were involved in creating the ISS?
* How much energy is required to run the ISS?
* How often do they see the sunrise or sunset?
* How exactly was this assembled?
* Does the ISS orbit Earth in a circle or ellipse?
* What happens if someone dies while they are in the ISS?
* Will they build more?

Okay, now that I read them again, there are some cool questions and wonderings. I guess if I did this again, I may on the SECOND pass have the class explore their thinking on some of the questions and get MORE questions from them.

Here are some sample responses for the BRIDGE picture:
* What is the bridge's purpose being under water?
* Does the highway ever flood? What happens then?
* What prevents water from overflowing onto the road?
* How much math was used to make this bridge to keep back the water?
* Underpass slants down towards middle of bridge. Water needs to be level to stay in one place, but bridge looks higher than grass and trees.
* How did they hold the water back when building the bridge?
* Why is the white structure almond-shaped? Why not rectangular?
* Did the builders drain the water in order to build this?
* Is there animal and water life safety nets under water in a safe distance from the bridge?
* How did the idea of the bridge start and what was the first step to build it?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Piecewise Functions...

Hello School! We meet again!

I did the first day activity previously mentioned, and I will blog about it, but I'm more excited about how we did piecewise functions today in precalculus. During the previous class we walked through an IRS example and discussed how taxes were calculated and what the graph may look like, and we did a simplified version of it and ended up with a step function for the rates. I went online to find current information.

Today, we learned 3 skills, and I think the color coding went really well. I could refer back to it for each skill, and they could see what parts went where.

Here's what the notes looked like.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Calculus Day 1

Last year in calculus on day one, my students explored local linearity on the calculator. The NEW fancy schmancy TI-nspire calculators that THAT class had experience with. This year's group is used to TI-84's, so they need some prep work. But since I wanted to start with Calculus and not Calculator-us, I'm switching what we're doing:

As I'm taking care of administrative things, they will be working on this. They know nothing about derivatives and integrals and calculus. I will not help them.

I want them to see the difference in difficulty from the left pictures and the right ones. I want them to see the possibilities that exist. I want them to struggle with strategies. I want them to remember some geometry. I want them to think about reading graphs. I want them to be intrigued.

Afterward, we will discuss the "words" that define calculus: a study of rates of change, instantaneous values, ...

And the Award Goes to.....

ME - for "Continual False Expectations in the Face of Reality"!

Thank you everyone who made this possible. I couldn't have continued my fantasy of thinking I'd be TOTALLY Friday-ready for the Monday-arriving students if you hadn't smiled and nodded and pretended right along with my dream world. There should be doctoral research on that part of my brain that flies against the force of 16 years of contradictory evidence, that THIS year, REALLY, I'll totally get everything done by Friday. Yes. Yes I will. Copies would be made. Details would be hammered out. Room would be Fun! Kicky! Inviting! All. By. Friday.

In other news: I'll be spending the weekend at school actually finishing these things.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Arts and Crafts

I made my new planner for the year. I found various funny and inspiring images on the computer and cut and paste and printed. Then I put them on the front and back and inside covers, and I mapped out the calendar. I also covered it with packing tape.

Do you see that in February? What's that, you say? Why yes, I did register for my first marathon, thank you for asking! I plan on being very obnoxious and mentioning it often. I figure if I'm enough of a jerk about it and talk about it ad infinitum (ooh, $10 words!), then I will be forced to follow through.

I was inspired by a student who ran the marathon last year, AND by this blog entry from The Blog of Impossible Things. I keep running across the word "epic" lately, so I'm taking that as a sign to try and have an EPIC year.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wrapping It Up

Just back from a last-minute trip to DC and Canada. Didn't know if I was going to go this year because of jury duty, but I risked it (the probability was low due to being called in in late July) .... see! Math in action!

I had fun touring DC while my husband did work stuff. I saw my oldest friend - funny story: I've known her one year longer than I've known my husband. In fact, I was with my friend when my "future husband" walked up to us at a "welcome back grad students" shindig and tipsily started chatting us up. In fact, come to find out YEARS later in a "how did you two meet" conversation, my husband mentions that, "yeah, you were both okay, I would have dated either one of you." Hmmmmm. Anyway. Saw my oldest friend and went to the Newseum. Awesome. It costs $$, but it was still fascinating. Here is the 9/11 section with random people caught in the shot.

I also finished the 3 dolls I made for little kidlets (niece and niece-in-laws????). I thought I would do a montage of the dolls along the trip, but they were so wobbly, that it ended up looking like they were drunk the whole time. I like it. There is a margarita picture for good measure.

Whoa! What a night! Let's revive with some java!

And what do we have here? Let the games begin!

Who ARE those crazy girls? I'm just here to look cute and innocent.

Clothes? What is this archaic nonsense?!

Relaxing location of the in-laws cottage.

Their leaves are already starting to turn! It was a high of high 60's the whole time we were there. WAY different than Central Texas.

School starts with PD this coming Monday. I was SO going to go in early and unpack and get settled. But then the crabby, perimenopausal me said, "No!". The cranky me said, "Go out and enjoy the rest of the summer with a bang!". So, that's what I am going to do for the next few days. I wonder who's going to pay for it next week. Any guesses?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

First Day Homework

For the past 5,000 years I've been using the same Math Autobiography as the first day homework assignment. Though I've enjoyed it, I've A.D.D.-ed out of it and decided to mix it up. This is my first draft of what I'll be expecting of my students this year in math: (the worksheet). I'm curious to see what they come up with. I think I'll tell them (and follow through) that I'm doing the assignment also. Really not a sports person at all, so that's going to be a stretch for me.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

First Day Precalculus

Who stole summer? Why do I keep getting sucked into the vortex of puzzles and naps and such? I want answers!

I mulled around some things, and came up with my preliminary First Day Activity for Precalculus. I could still change things, and I don't know the timing of it, so maybe I'll add more "mathy" things just in case the kids end up having a vast amount of time at the end. I'm excited about it because I'm nosy and curious and want to see how they answer the various quesitons.

Here it is:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Musings...

We got our AP results back, and WOOT! for AP Calculus AB and APCS. I had a higher percentage of students pass the APCalc test than before. I'm chalking it up to a combination of the flipped lessons, and the daily quizzes on basic facts, and the fact that our school culture is that MOST of the students buy into doing their homework and taking care of business. There were STILL a handful of seniors that I know would have totally passed if they had put in the effort during the year. These were the flaky attenders of class, the flaky homework doers, the "oh, I didn't watch the video" kids, the starers off into spacers. There were about 6 of them. I want to reflect on ways of getting THESE types of kids to learn and retain in spite of themselves. Somehow I think writing and reflecting on their parts (of what they're learning) has to be part of the solution. If they can verbalize or think through concepts, that has to go far in their retention. Right? I don't know, this will be my goal for next year. Ooh! maybe I won't check their notes for if they watched the video and took notes, but periodically I can check their notebooks on reflections, and make that some BIG grade, with some specific guidelines on what they write. Need to think about this.

APCS? I actually didn't think I'd get ANY of my students to pass. It was my first year teaching. It was their first programming class ever. BUT. There were students that passed, AND some 5's and 4's. Exciting. Miracle of miracles. I am not teaching the AP course next year, and I have mixed feelings. I think it's a good thing because now I can focus on a variety of other things that I didn't feel I had time for in the AP curriculum. But there also seems to be something cool about my girl students being able to say that they took / are taking APCS. It's unexpected.

Racism / Institutionalized Racism / Zimmerman / Communication .... I'm trying to wrap my head around what and why and how to help fix .... here are scattered thoughts:

Each side of the various arguments thinks they are right and justified and I don't know that people actually LISTEN to other points of view effectively. It's a charged conversation, and it's uncomfortable, and it's not something you can bring up in casual social interactions, and it's emotional and people feel misunderstood, and people think, "well I'M not racist, so don't pick on me", and others think, "well, I had *this* experience with *this* race, and so that must mean that EVERYONE of *that* race is "that" way.

Also, people are inundated with all sorts of problems in the world and all sorts of information, and it's basically overload, and things don't DIRECTLY affect them and their lifestyle, so it's easy to be incensed in the short run and then just as easy to forget about the problem later on and so nothing changes.

People need to separate behaviors and problems due to poverty vs perceptions of various people of various races.

I have strong beliefs on say, abortion or education, so I don't know how willing I'd be to listen to and think about other sides of the topic. Maybe that's the same way with people who hold racist beliefs. I think this also comes back to effective communication.

One of the topics that came up in all this current hoopla was something to the effect of, "well, _____ race commits most of the crimes, so it's not really racial profiling, it's just the way it is." So I tried to use various search words/phrases to see if the statistics backed this up. Not a fruitful search. Maybe I used the wrong words? Then I'm thinking, where did THOSE people get their information? I'm guessing that some commentator just made that statement, and these people trust THAT news outlet (whatever it is), and then take the words as fact without thinking about it or studying it. ... I know I'm guilty of that for other things. I guess this comes down to critical thinking and forming of your own opinions. That takes too much work in our current information-overload life, and it's way easier to passively internalize what someone else says if it fits with your world view.

Okay, I have not solved the world problems just yet ..... and this is too deep and troubling and requires more pondering. But I want to leave you with something funny.

There was a topic on about "what fake names do you give at Starbucks for your order" and it evolved to names you give when you go out to dinner. Someone had the funny idea of, "Donner". So then the waitress would call, "Donner, Party of 5" ...... then I thought a funnier ending would be that when the family goes up, they can say, "oh, it's a party of 4 now".

Monday, July 15, 2013

Federal Jury Duty

I got called last fall to jury duty and grumbled internally and externally about having to miss school and make up sub plans and stuff for the 2 months required to serve. On the off chance it would work, I put in a request for a deferral for the summer. Magically, I got the deferment, and now from July 1st - August 23rd I'm required to call in every week to see if I will serve.

The first 2 weeks this summer I again got a pass, and then I found out I'd be serving this week for a potential 3 week trial. Being nosy, I went online to see what cases were pending in our district, since I wanted to be prepared if it was some gory murder trial, and I'd have to be subjected to graphic pictures. Nope. The only potential case was a civil one. Still grumbled, like probably most people who are called.

I got there this morning, and it was very interesting. First of all, they show you a video featuring Sandra Day O'Connor and John Roberts. They made 2 good points that I hadn't thought about in all my grumbling. First was that they wanted a representative sample of the population (hello Statistics!), so that's why they didn't just call retired people or housewives. Second, they mentioned that if the potential juror was ever in a court case, they would most likely want a fair trial and a jury of their peers, not just a select segment of the population. I was convinced.

It was a fascinating morning. We were numbered, and I was in the 3rd wave of people that would be questioned to serve, and they eventually picked the 7 people from the 1st wave, so I was never questioned, and I was excused. The judge was funny and Texas-y and the questions were interesting. It was also fascinating to hear the background of the 16 people that were in the 1st wave. They DID come from all parts of society. One woman immediately was excused since she owned stock in one of the companies in the case. There was a manual laborer, a PhD, some tech-y people, housewives, retired people, educators, business people. There were White, Hispanic, Black, Asian people. There were old/young, women/men. They mentioned that they put the names into a "bingo lottery" type machine to see who was in what wave. I'm wondering if it was totally random or if there were some parameters to decided what batches to choose when.

Anyway, ironically, now I'm hoping I get called again this summer ... nothing bloody, though!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Seven Stages of Groupwork

I'm at a great CS teachers workshop for the next few days, and there are a ton of generously given ideas and resources bandied about.

But then the ax came down with the statement, "We have put you all in groups of four, and you will be completing various tasks with your group the next few days." Then I think I went through something like the 7 stages of grief with my mixed emotions.

Stage 1: Shock & Denial ... What? They cannot be serious! I am just here to quietly absorb information!  I can't be expected to perform. I don't know what I'm doing!

Stage 2: Pain & Guilt ... I hate group work. I will be the loser in the group. Everyone will shun me and expose me for the know nothing that I am. There will be pushy people in the group.

Stage 3: Anger & Bargaining ... $&?&:@/(&(/@(&?!, Okay, if I can just get through this, then I can treat myself to chocolate, or wine OR BOTH!

Stage 4: Depression & Loneliness ... Sigh there's always Group work. This is payback for when I make the kids do group work. I'm just going to go in this corner by myself and eat worms.

Stage 5: The Upward Turn ... Hey! My group mates aren't so bad! Hey! I actually contributed something! Hey, and I even learned something, and it wasn't so bad!

Stage 6: Working Through ... This is valuable! Everyone should do group work! Three cheers for group work!

Stage 7: Acceptance and Hope ... Whew! It's over! I accept that I made it through and am now banishing the experience from my memory bank!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

College Student Jobs

Our school just had our first graduating class, and now we're sending off our little kidlets into college. Many of the kids are the first in their families to go to college, and many are not made of money (sass, they're made of sass, though, I wonder if that pays well). So that got me to thinking that there must be many jobs college students can do that are not well known but that pay better than the minimum wage jobs they could find at a fast food place.

I'd love to start a list of lesser-known, well-paying jobs and then have some links for resources. I'm wondering if y'all have any ideas about such secret jobs. I did see some sites with some ideas, like here, for example, but I'm thinking of the ones that pay better than you'd expect and that need maybe a little extra pre-training (something they could get either their senior year of HS or during the summer before college).

My examples so far:

1. Bartending. You don't have to be 21 apparently, and you could work weddings or hotels or such.
2. Yoga Instructor. A neighbor just mentioned that her friend's HS senior now teaches yoga at business sites.
3. Soldering. Okay, I don't know the official title, but when I went to a local community college, they mentioned that their current engineering students had offers of flexible 20hrs/week jobs doing tasks such as this.
4. Tutoring neighborhood HS kids

I know there have to be more out there.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Summer: Forty Percent Over

Yeesh! What lazy teacher is napping the summer away? To be fair, I am doing some CS things and house chores and friend visiting, but mostly I'm doing puzzles. I have a book of these, and these, and an app of these, and ... I'd better stop, though there are more. I'm not what I consider a "gamer" whatever that is, but I can see how someone could get chair sores from stagnant sitting all day and .... whoops! It's 4:30pm time for a drink and a think about dinner and nothing has gotten done about curriculum planning or anything tangible other than I had fun doing puzzles.

There are some positive things I've done. I switched over to from my Google Reader. I'd tried others and browsed yet some others, but I'm liking this one. It's like a nice streaming roll of the current posts of each blog, and once you click on an entry, a new window pops up. There are also suggestions of other blogs you may like (sheesh, how many style blogs ARE there?), and it's easy to add and delete blogs.

I've also started my annual summer crocheting fest of toys/dolls for 2 little kids I see once a year. I got the idea from here. I adjusted some things, and am eager to get the clothes made and the 2nd doll made, but here's what I have so far:

I think she's super cute.

Also, I'm having fun looking into teaching a unit on "ethical hacking". Has anyone done such a thing? I have qualms, but I'll put safeguards in place. I've found some websites that seem to have labs the kids can do. I'm also thinking of doing the unit as a "college type" course where they sort of make up the curriculum and resources as they go with some guidance on topics from me. I don't know how that would be structured yet, but there are a ton of YouTube videos and sites and resources. We'll see.

I'm also taking an online course to learn about AppInventor from MIT. That's going to be another unit in the CS3 class.

I also want to work through the Objects First with Java (BlueJ) to see if that is a viable way to teach my CS1 class this year.

Hmmmmm, no math PD over the summer. I guess that's natural since my CS classes will be my new preps.

Okay, the nap and the puzzles are calling ... or I may be thirsty, if you know what I mean.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

How Do You Not Know That?

A few things have made me think of the following this past week - the fact that students leave their 13 years of public schooling and don't know things people (some? most?) think should be basic. Then the people are shocked or upset or start thinking "the education system is broken!" "teachers are bad!" "what are they thinking!" "in my day, we learned these things!".

Some examples that I came across:
* Many teens can't read an analog clock.
* There are teens that still don't know their multiplication tables easily.
* There are teens/people that can't distinguish between (pick your favorite): your/you're, there/their/they're, lose/loose, its/it's, etc.
* Teens can't read or write cursive.
* Teens can't easily manipulate fractions.

I see these things in my students. I teach students in high school. I feel like I'm rushed to cover particular curriculum that is relevant to the course. I am guilty of shaking my head at their non-knowledge, but then not doing anything consistently to remedy the fact.

I can totally see how all this could come about. Let's take fractions, for example, but you could replace "fractions" with any of the other basic skills. These are taught in middle school (elementary?). It is very believable, from a teacher's perspective of knowing how things go, that, OH! It's time for the fractions unit. Let's spend our designated amount of time on fractions. Some students get it, and some don't. Oh no, we have to move on to our next topic for a variety of reasons. Too bad so sad that some students never mastered the fractions. Maybe we can practice them piecemeal within the next concepts. May or may not be enough. Flash forward all the remaining years of schooling. Fractions are either assumed to be mastered, or slightly reviewed, and maybe or maybe not mastered by the unknowing. Graduation day. There are students that don't know their fractions.

Then there are people that think, "oh, just use your calculator", or "no one ever REALLY needs to know that", or "I don't get it either! High five!".  Or, people don't say anything, but think less of them. But that just adds to the problem.

I don't know a fix. I guess if it was easy, it would be solved by now. I know I try to address fractions in ALL my classes, but I don't know if I give it enough justice to get EVERYONE 100% proficient. There always seems to be a laundry list of other things to teach.

It would be nice if there were passive ways of fixing this problem once it comes down the pipeline. For example, posters on the wall that you really don't refer to, but they're there for their perusal (see what I did there :) ). Maybe, just maybe the posters are engaging enough, like eye candy, that the students look at them periodically, and then absorb the knowledge eventually. I know you can't do this for everything, but maybe there are other such things to help.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Inventing. Innovation. Inspiration.

We just got back from our MIT field trip, and I'm still head shaking about how inspiring it is to hear talks from people that are so passionate about their work and about their world-changing ideas.

Here is a link to 2 Rice professors that have an engineering class that focuses on inventions to help people around the world. I still tear up when I watch it. My impression is that it is the students that think up the inventions. These professors will donate their winnings to establishing a new hospital in the African region they work with.

Here is a link to an MIT professor that uses the knowledge that organisms have to create digital solutions. One of the inspiring about her is that many times established journals thought her ideas were ridiculous and undo-able.Another inspiring thing about her is that she created her own undergraduate major that combined several disciplines. She also started her PhD program in a subject she had had no previous experience in, but had the confidence and grit and determination and curiosity to push through.

Here is  lab we visited. Students again think up and create solutions to problems plaguing developing countries. Some examples we saw were bike powered washing machines, ways of using corn cobs to create charcoal, wheel chairs that can maneuver around rough terrain.

Here is a link to the inventor of Fenugreen. She had the germ of her idea as a middle school or high school student and kept thinking about it but not pursuing it. She then tried to pursue it once with bad results. Then she put it away again. Then finally things slowly took off and she is currently working full time on her product.

The collegiate student winners were also inspiring. Some messages I hope the HS students listening to them took away:

1. Be curious, be open, be persistent,  have a team.
2. Just because you are "average" in high school, does not mean you can't go on to do amazing things later.
3. Be passionate about what you do, and work hard.
4. Do things not because it will just look good on your resume, but because you are genuinely interested in them.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

When am I Ever Going to Use This?

After 16 years of teaching, I know this question comes up at various times throughout EVERY year. I gauge the intention of the asker. Do they just want to waste time, so they can sit and zone out? Are they being ornery? Do they really want to know? I also have changed every year I teach, and as I ponder the question myself throughout the years.

The subject came up again during the last days of school when my seniors in calculus were going over good and bad things throughout their HS lives. One student mentioned the fact that she learned things she would never use again, and was maybe wondering what the point of it all was. My response to her was many fold but brief since others wanted to have their say on their HS experiences. I responded that even though I haven't directly used biology, for example, EVER after HS, I'm glad I learned it because now when news stories come up or research advances, I can be part of the conversation and have a semi-inkling of what's being discussed and what's at stake, and more importantly, I know enough to go find more information if I so choose. I also mentioned that learning a wide variety of things makes you a well-rounded person and it would be a shame if everyone only knew limited things because then their lives would be more constrained.

But in math class when students ask (and maybe I'm naive, but I think they truly want to know most of the time), I start out with, "you may never directly use this, but here is how it is used by others ....." and I make sure to have an example, or mention that I'll find one and get back to them.

I think a broader answer could be, "future employers want to know that you can learn challenging things that you're maybe not so interested in and then be able to apply them successfully in your work situation." Another answer could be, " learning and mastering and struggling through difficult-for-you concepts makes you smarter and more confident in learning in general." I guess we could also add, that when you stop learning or trying to learn things, then your brain starts to get flabby and liquidy and ooze out of your ears. That's not going to be good for anyone.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Changing Perspectives

Through a random conversation during the meetings held the last day of school, I was made aware of THIS. Or visually, this:

Whoa! Was I the only one that didn't know about this? I guess whoever was "first" in creating maps had a lead on others and decided the "normal" way for world maps to be drawn. Now it's convention (or maybe only in various northern hemisphere countries), and this way of seeing the world is unsettling.

Maybe we need to see more unsettling things in our lives to get us out of our rut, and maybe we need to interact with people who don't think and live like we do - even if it is unsettling, or maybe especially if it is unsettling.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Let the Summer Games Begin

NOW summer officially starts! Yesterday we had our commencement for our first graduating class. The day before we had rehearsals. The night after we had our end of the year party. Done.

Of course I use the term "summer" loosely, since I still get to go to Boston to finish up our inventing project. Then I have an online course to learn to create Apps on Androids. Then I have First Bytes summer camp to learn new things at. Then I have to figure out FTC to coach it next year. Then I am on call for 2 months for Federal Jury Duty. Then I have to create CS1 and a CS3 curriculum. But other than that, it's lazy days. And by lazy, I of course mean getting enough sleep and sneaking in puzzles and reading and web surfing and movies and time with friends and the popular and fun game of stay-away-from-the-refrigerator/cupboards.

Maybe like everyone else, I'll have this grandiose list of things I want to accomplish this summer (fun and work), and then as it most often happens, I'll panic when there are only 2 weeks left of summer and there are not enough crossings off of the list. Another fun summer game.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Or maybe that's just the wine talking through my fingers. You know how some people drunk dial? Well, maybe there's something called blotto blogging (if one glass of wine classifies as blotto).

And you know how just sometimes practically EVERYTHING goes right in your school day? Yeah, me neither. But today was one of those twice-every-2-years days, so I just wanted to rethink it on my late night drive home and capture it to absorb all the good feelings out of it before it's back to stressful business as usual.

It started out with treating myself to a Starbucks latte for the morning. Then I treated myself to buying a tasty salad for lunch to look forward to (hellooooooo ripe avocado and tons of balsamic vinegar, doing anything for lunch?).

Then for calculus everyone had brought in a shirt to decorate, and we all got woozy with all the sharpie fumes as we signed each others shirts.

Then in Digital Electronics, we perfected our choreography of the BoeBots and filmed it. Their homework is to make the video go viral (otherwise, "F for you my kidlets!").

Then in APCS, we did a "gallery walk" and played each others graphics games we made. Then I had some random kids staying after school, and we had fun conversations while they were working on things.

Then I stayed for our First Annual Media Tech Movie Showcase and got to see animated films and short films and documentaries our seniors/juniors had made in their 3-4 years in that pathway. THEN as if that's not fun enough, I got to go to my favorite TexMex place for the best nachos EVER (and said glass of wine). CabSav, thank you for asking.

Whew! What can top this? Oh. All that grading I've put off and the finals I have to tweak and copy and grade and the pigsty some teacher keeps INSISTING on leaving on my desk and in my room in general. Who's the jerk!