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.