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!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

FYI: Seniors are SO Over School

I know that will be a shocker to many of you, but this is the vibe going around our school. We have another 3 weeks left, so I am giving this assignment to my seniors. Hopefully, it can perk them up, or WAY more important, not bring ME down.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Digital Electronics Boe-Bots

We're ending our year of DE with the Boe-Bot unit. Practically none of my students have experience with putting together things or with programming, so I'm happy with this unit. I'm not much following the PLTW curriculum due to time constraints and interest, but due to a conversation I had with the kids, we're ALL excited about what direction things took.

Last year I had my kids learn to program and use subroutines and then put them to use in running through a unique maze (one per group). This had varying degrees of success. I could have made it better with having more scaffolding and intermittent grades instead of at the very end. Live and learn.

This year, I mentioned the maze idea to my current students, and then, I don't know who, but we mentioned a group choreographed dance with the 7 Boe-Bots (I'm building one, too). We all suddenly got excited, and I scrapped the maze idea and now we keep joking that we MUST. GO. VIRAL. Isn't that all the rage these days. Are you anything if you're not viral on the Internet at least once? Will our lives mean nothing?

I created a short "dance". There are solos. There's a chorus. There's a "wave". There's an entrance and exit. The students have all done the subroutines (12 of them: move forward 1 tile, move forward one rotation, turn right 90 degrees, pivot...., etc). See what I did there? I learned from last year and made those all a grade with a due date. Go me (for now). Now on Tuesday we will code up the choreography and work out the bugs and video tape (is that even the term anymore?) and Hello Bacteria or Virus. Here we come. 

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Exam Stress

The AP Calculus AB exam is in a few days, and of course we are hard-core reviewing and mock testing and discussing the whole year in preparation. One of my students asked me to make them inspirational messages, and my first thought was that I would video various teachers around campus rooting for them and post it on Haiku. That didn't happen. Instead, I've been finding funny pictures and writing some goofy message related to studying and/or math and/or testing, etc and sending them out daily. They seem to like this.

But this post is really about how much brain space you use when you are stressed or focusing on things OTHER than the question you are answering on a timed test and then stressing while you are watching the time tick down and knowing you SHOULDN'T be thinking about the "other" thing and then stressing more because you are wasting time and then trying to refocus on the problem and then stressing because it's not IMMEDIATELY on the tip of your brain, and then the whole cycle repeats itself.

Oy! Who hasn't been there. I forgot about this AGAIN, and haven't really had a discussion with my class about it. And I don't know if there is a solution. But here's what brought it to my mind this week.

My class was doing a timed Free Response question, and I gave them 15 minutes, and put the timer on the document camera, so we could gauge our time (I was doing the problem with them). A couple of things you need to know. This year, I checked out TI-nspire calculators to my 22 students. I've also been providing batteries (well, our department has). They absorb and go through the batteries FAST. I've since mentioned that we are out of money, and the students have to buy a fresh pack of batteries before Wednesday for the test. So, back to test day this past week. One student (who I have an up and down history with in terms of attitude) right before the test mentioned that her batteries were out, and could she borrow another TI-nspire for the FRQ in class. Yes.

So the test starts, and I start the timer, and I start taking the test with them. A few minutes into it, I hear this noisiness at that student's table. I look over, and she's transferring the batteries from "my" calculator to her calculator, and then proceeds to use her calculator. Then I start seething and thinking the worst. Then I start not concentrating on the question. Then I start looking at the timer and stressing because I'm not focusing and I'm not making progress on the problem. Then I start cursing her in my mind and thinking about all sorts of reasons she's doing this. Bla bla bla. Then I start thinking about how this is what the students must be feeling when they're in a timed stressful test situation and "WELCOME TO THEIR WORLD".

Anyway, the timer went off. NO I did not finish. I waited to see what the student would do. Would she just hand back my calculator with the bad batteries? Class was ending. She didn't say anything. I didn't want to be too accusatory, but I asked for the calculator back and asked her if it was her dead batteries or mine in there. She mentioned that the glide pad wasn't working on "mine", so that's why she transferred batteries .... (but then she didn't retransfer, hmmmmm).

Long post longer. I need to have a discussion on Monday with (half) my class (others are in the APES exam) (hah! APES .... AP Environmental Science) about stress and brain space and such during a timed test. Any suggestions on what could make me/them/anyone refocus on the problem at hand instead of other non-test brain activity? Thanks in advance.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Sequences & Series

Ahhhhh! It's that time of year when you hear RUMORS of students actually being enrolled in your classes, but you have scattered evidence. If it's not sickness, it's field trips or EOC exams or fill-in-the-blank reasons. Or if they ARE in class, some of them are NOT in class. If you know what I mean.

Welcome to my Precalculus preAP experience. Because of this, I was trying to give this recently-absent child a run down of all things Sequences and Series. I sketched the following roughly on paper (don't I write perdy?), and then decided that it'd would be a great Graphical Organizer for everyone else. And VOILA, guess what early Christmas present they're getting today. THIS.