Feet.

*the following is completely based on a scenario by my favorite brother-from-another-mother,  TechSmith’s @troystein. Also, you may not understand the reason for this post and there’s a reason for that. I promise I’m ok and I haven’t lost my mind. But those of you who know, KNOW. Y’know? 😉
Good. Here we go: 

Suppose I have a piece of land and would like to build a house. I look at the layout of the property and, using MY feet (I’m 5’1.5″ and wear a size 4 in kids shoes), I walk heel-to-toe to measure off the house I want. And based on my feet, I want a house that is 30 feet by 50 feet. And when I say “feet”, I mean MY feet. This is a measurement of length I understand and with which I am familiar.

I tell my contractor (who wears a size 11 mens shoe) the dimensions of the house I want. He goes to my property and, using HIS feet, walks heel-to-toe to measure out 30 feet by 50 feet. He then builds my house based on the length of his feet because that is a measurement of length he understands and is familiar with.
He builds a house bigger than I anticipate and I can’t afford to finish it. Why? Materials were purchased  based on HIS understanding of “feet”. That’s a different length than I understood for “feet”.
Obviously, we need a common length so that when we say “feet”, we BOTH know how long that is and can clearly communicate about measurements.
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A Day in The (A.D.D.) Life…

5:00 a.m. – alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

5:05 a.m. – alarm goes off again. Hit snooze.

5:10 a.m. – alarm goes off. Curse alarm, but finally try to get up. Every night I get in bed and the covers are “normal”. When I wake up, I’m always stuck in this burrito of sheets. Apparently in my dreams I’m all “Chuck Norris” on somebody, but I think I’m just kicking my own butt all night long.

5:15 a.m. – stumble around the house trying to wake up and get to kitchen to nuke breakfast

5:30 a.m. – 25 push ups, 25 sit ups. Why? I have no idea.

5:45 a.m. – try to eat breakfast (2 eggs, protein shake). I’m not a breakfast person, so I’m usually cursing in my mind as I eat. I’m sure the fact that I’ve been swearing since I got up is no shocker to anyone who knows me.

5:55 a.m. – pull son out of bed by feet, hair, ears, whatever – then fix the little monster some breakfast, hahaha. It usually takes him a few seconds to wake up, but then he is just the coolest thing ever. I swear, I couldn’t have gotten a kid more perfectly made for me if he were custom designed. He sleepily tells me he loves me about 4 times (not remembering the times before). Every time he hugs me, it’s a bit of a shock – I now have to stand on my tip toes to rest my chin on the top of his head. *sigh* They grow up way too fast.

6:00 – 7:00 a.m. – plug in the MP3 player in the bathroom and get ready for work, attempting to look professional… and like a girl (hahaha). Playlist for this time has to wake me up. Beastie Boys and Linkin Park are a must. Eminem and Pitbull make it in there sometimes. Sick Puppies has a few tunes that usually make the daily run. Fuel and Faith No More (throwback) will sometimes make the cut. But I have to have Stone Temple Pilots and Foo Fighters. Since petite pants aren’t truly petite, I have to arrange the wardrobe around some major heels so my pants don’t drag the ground (boots, now that it’s cold). But don’t worry – I buy shoes based on comfort, not fashion. I can wear these all day or sneakers all day and not know the difference. I usually spend at least 5 minutes trying to calm the savage beast that is now my “Fraggle Rock” hair. These kids are killing me at school – turning me into an old lady – so now there are half a dozen grey hairs peeking out of the brown. Here comes my inner Chuck Norris again – the grey hair must die.

7:05 a.m. – hang out with the kid and talk about today’s expectations. We’ve had some bad years at school, but now we have one of the best teachers in the whole district. I walk him to the garage and watch him get on the bus. I always say a little prayer that he has a good day – he’s been bullied a bit this year. Breaks my damn heart.

7:10 a.m. – packing up all my school crap from the night before. Tests, Mac, books, papers, etc. Basically everything that went to bed with me and didn’t get caught in the blanket vortex of doom is shoved in a backpack. I don’t do the briefcase thing. And, of course, there’s the gym bag to remind me I’m gonna get my butt kicked at 5:15 p.m. It’s good but it’s bad. Head out the door.

7:25 a.m. – plug in the MP3 player, back out of the garage (I try to beat our neighbor every morning – he’s a friend of ours, but he drives like an old lady).
CAR DANCE TIME!!! I mean, um, commute to work. I am a very aggressive driver. I don’t have time for B.S. on the road. Having said that, I can be aggressive and get my groove on at the same time. This is probably one of my favorite times of the day because I don’t have to think. I can just DRIVE. I usually mix up the boyfran’s new stuff (“Sweeter” and “Radiation”) with some Def Leppard (“Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Photograph”), and The Killers (“Somebody Told Me”). A lot of the early morning jam gets thrown in there. If it’s a ballgame day (volleyball, football, soccer, basketball, baseball, whatever), I’ll usually throw in the “Wop” or “Wobble”.

7:40 a.m. – pull into the faculty parking lot and wait for the same lady to try and park her big freakin’ van every day. She’s had that van since I’ve worked here (over 5 years) and she still can’t figure out how to maneuver into a parking spot without backing up/pulling in about half a dozen times. I mumble a curse word (or three) when I realize that ONCE AGAIN she cannot park between the lines. Why is this such a challenge? I find a parking spot and try to chill as my song comes to and end.

7:45 a.m. – get to my door to find about 3 students who need me to tutor Algebra 2 or stats. I usually get a few Google texts the night before asking for morning help. I appreciate kids who care enough to take ownership.

8:10 a.m. – Homeroom. Take attendance, check for dress code, write up violators, talk about upcoming activities this week. One kid is habitually absent – I’m starting to worry. Another kid has some major racial issues over the election and is just trying to start a fight – I’m going to have to write him up again. I do not understand this mentality at all.

8:20 a.m. – First block (Algebra 2). Review polynomial functions – finding zeros, factoring, graphing, etc. Kids are amazing in this class, but kinda sleepy. When they get that way, we stop and whiteboard something. Perks them right up. As usual, the class shifts from me being in charge to them doing the work. This class doesn’t mind working problems on the Promethean board in front of the class. They have such a good classroom rapport and are completely supportive so that they ALL succeed on my tests. I’m not about to take credit for that, though – I just have an amazing crew of kids that look out for each other. I really hope they stay this way for the duration of high school. Wrap up with questions and spend the last few minutes watching a Kid’s Snippets video.

10:05 a.m. – hall duty standing outside my door. So insane. Six minutes of: “Tuck in your shirt.” “You’re stopping traffic in my hallways, ladies – let’s move it.” “Stop running, junior.” “Hey – don’t grab her like that! Be a gentleman!” “You guys, please stop making out by my door.” “HEY!! DON’T STEP ON ME!! GEEEEEZZZZZZZ!!!” Sprinkle in several hugs and high-fives from students I’m no longer teaching and only get to see between classes.

10:12 a.m. – Second block (Stats). This class is usually truly amazing or truly heartbreaking. Today it was the former. (thankfully). We started Chi-Squared Goodness of Fit tests. Everyone knows that I love stats, but I cannot begin to explain how truly fascinating I find hypothesis tests (of any kind). I guess that enthusiasm shows when I teach it, because my kids get really into it. We’ve done HT’s on means and proportions, but THIS is where they really get some major “buy in” to the course itself. They see the usefulness of statistics and where all the “weird” bits and pieces of everything begin to fit together. Even got a “this is cool!” remark here and there. Some of my kids have started talking about being statisticians and I get chills. This isn’t my AP class, either and I’m thrilled. We talk about some real-life applications and they do a few FBI-related examples before the bell rings.

11:45 a.m. – hall duty again. Once that’s over, time to make a decision. I have another duty coming up in a few minutes – should I work on the quizzes coming up this week? Or take papers to grade? Hurry up and decide because I’m about to have to haul butt out the door. Run into the athletic director on the way to my duty post – double check that my seat in the press box for baseball season is still reserved if I want it.

11:52 a.m. – different hall duty – in a student desk outside of the boys’ bathroom close to the cafeteria. This is just as exciting as it sounds. Any male students who need to use the restroom during lunch must get my “permission” – I can only allow two males in at a time and I must check the restroom after each pair leaves. Why? Because administration isn’t sure which male students are spitting tobacco all over the walls, toilets, floor, mirrors, etc. Probably the only time of the day I wonder, “I got a masters’ degree in mathematics for THIS???” I decided to work on quizzes because I can type faster than I can grade and was able to knock one of the quizzes out in that short amount of time. I can finish the other quiz tonight. Got an e-mail from the girls’ basketball coach that one of the games next week was cancelled and replaced with another home game, so I fixed the schedule on the school website for them. I think the basketball team gets the short end of the stick of all the sports in our school, and I absolutely love the game. I really want the coaches to focus on my kids to give them a better season than last year (long story – it’ll make me mad, so I’m not gonna go into it), so I don’t mind helping out where I can. I e-mail him back to remind him that we’re having round 2 of “locker room remodel” after school Tuesday and to get me a list of the girls who are staying.

12:20 p.m. – eat lunch with my friend Gunns. She teaches English, is wicked smart, has a great sense of humor and for some reason tolerates my presence. We talk about the craziness of my trip to TN the previous weekend – I had several stories to tell her. This is my only “down time” during the day where my brain doesn’t have to go 90-to-nothing.

12:45 p.m. – dive into grading the tests I left my students on Thurs/Fri while I went to TN. Concentration is difficult, my mind wanders a lot and I hate sitting still. I take a walk to grab a Coke Zero (my first in about a month) and I have to crank up the music again. But I got one full set graded and half of another. I have to get as much graded at school as possible because if I don’t, my next opportunity won’t be until after 9:00 p.m. Grades for progress reports are due at noon tomorrow. That just adds to the stress.

1:30 p.m. – get a call from “Roger”, a history teacher down the hall. His mom passed away this morning and he wanted to know if I could watch his class for about 30 minutes while he copied stuff for the sub for the rest of the week. OF COURSE I’m going to drop everything and help him out – I’m honored he asked me. I absolutely love and respect this guy so much. His wife was an English teacher at our school and, although she’s relatively young, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. She’s gotten progressively worse lately, and I really don’t know how Roger can keep it together sometimes and maintain his humor. I rush down the hall and he apologizes for taking away my planning time. I tell him to think nothing of it.

2:00 p.m. – Fourth block (Algebra 2). I lurve this crew. They frustrate the crap out of me sometimes, but they are the funniest group I have ever had in my life. Y’know the intros to your favorite TV shows that are the same every week? This class is kinda like that – basically starts the same way every day. “Dan” comes in my room saying, “Hedge… Hedge… Heeeedddddggggggeeee….” Me: “Yes, Dan?” Dan: “Hedge… how you doin’, girl?” Me: “I’m doing good, how you doin’ Dan?” Dan: “Ooooooooooweeeeee. I’ve had a CARAAAAZY day. You ain’t killed anybody yet, didja girl?” Me:”…. Not yet.” Dan: “Oooooowwweeeeeee. Hedge. You go, girl.” I don’t have a clue how we got to this routine, but I’m going to miss it next semester. Unlike 1st block, this group is NOT sleepy. We start polynomial review, but unlike 1st block, they actually argue over who will go to the board to work. It’s a race sometimes to see who can get to the board first and there are usually “excessive celebration” penalties when they go a little too far with their dancing. “Hedge, PUHLEEEEASE play ‘Big and Chunky’” Every day these kids want that song when they’re doing individual work. I know I’m probably making this class sound like a hot mess, and they are, but they work so hard for me and are not afraid of a challenge.

3:40 p.m.– school’s over. I walk to the cafeteria where the afterschool care resides for teachers’ kids. My kid is (no surprise) jumping from table to table like he’s Spiderman. We walk back to my classroom and he gives me a laundry list of homework he’s got to do and I get him situated in a space where he can’t get too distracted. Afternoon tutoring starts. I have a girl (“Kathryn”) from my 4th block crew who has no mathematical self esteem at all. The main problem is she’s been friends with a crew of the boys in that class since she was about 4 years old and she thinks they’re all smarter than her. And they give her crap (because she’s cute and they like her) about being dumb (because boys are stupid and consider that flirting) and this increases her complex about her mathematical ability. And, of course, I can tell she has a crush on one guy in particular who can be excessively mean (WHY do girls always all for THAT GUY?). She’s a smart kid who just has math anxiety during tests. So my “therapy” is to throw random problems at her as difficult as I can come up with and make her walk me through them outloud as a timer is counting down. Believe it or not, this has worked wonders over the last few weeks. Increasing her stress in these tutoring sessions makes her able to handle stress during actual tests a lot easier. This doesn’t work for every kid, but it works for her. I only tutor her for about 30 minutes because too much of this can freak her out.

4:30 p.m. – change clothes for athletic training (AT) but then try to get a little more grading done before I leave at 5:00. I always get knots in my stomach prior to AT. It’s different every time and sometimes it’s pretty brutal, so being able to grade is great and takes my mind off of it.

5:15 p.m. – AT starts late – one of the members of our group is getting yelled at for her food journal. Never seen the trainer get that pissed before – he’s usually such a nice guy, but he hates excuses/complaining. Kinda scary. Hoping that doesn’t make him take it out on us later. Gunns is in AT with me, which is awesome to have someone hold you accountable during the day. Warm Up Part 1: Run 400 meters → 50 jumping jacks → 20 squats → 20 lunges/leg → 20 pushups (down and hold until we’re allowed to release) → 10 burpees → 2 min planks. Warm Up Part 2 (activity for 5 car lengths, then jog 5 car lengths, turn around and repeat): high knees → butt kicks → punters’ kicks → karaoke runs → run 400 meters. Challenge –30 minute limit: Run 1/3 mile. 10 pushups w/ 12 lb weight pulls per arm, 10 squat thrusts per arm w/ same weight. 9 pushups w/ 12 lb weight pulls, 9 squat thrusts per arm w/ same weight. Continue down to 1 pushup and 1 squat thrust per arm. Finish w/ 1/3 mile run. My time – finished 2nd at 17: 17 behind our strongest guy who beat me by 8 seconds. Next time he tries to pass me on the run, I’m gonna trip him. The girl who got chewed out was the last one to run the 1/3 mile – I felt bad watching her do it by herself, so I ran it with her. Two other women joined us. We’re a very supportive group.

6:45 p.m. – get home and jump right into cooking dinner and helping the kid with homework. I have to do both at the same time so I don’t get too frustrated with him. I know that sounds mean, but his language/spelling/writing ability is probably a grade level below where it should be. I do what I can, but I don’t know how to help him with this.

7:30 p.m. – eat dinner and talk about what happened at school today. He’s just as interested about what my students did/said than I am about what he did at school. He always wants to know if he has to teach any of them a lesson. “I’m gonna come up there and stand on a chair and tell them they do NOT mess with my momma.” Which is funny because I rarely have issues with my students, but he’s very protective. I love it.

7:50 p.m. – spelling homework… the bane of my parental duties. This will last at least an hour.

9:00 p.m. – put the kid to bed. Start grading papers again.

10:30 p.m. – I’m sick of grading – my AD.D. is kicking in. Put the papers away and start working on the quiz I didn’t finish today. Whoops – I just remembered I’m giving a test Thursday. Frack. I need to start working on it today – the rest of the week is nuts.

11:30 p.m. – Crap, I need to finish grading. Grades are due at noon and there’s no way I can grade during class. Frack frack frack. Ok – time to focus and try to finish.

12:20 a.m. – I cannot keep my eyes open any longer, but I’m not finished… I don’t even put the papers on the floor. I put them next to me, set my alarm for 4:30 a.m. so I can get some extra grading in, and turn off the light.

…… and now I’m wide awake again……

FRACK.

2011-12 Goals for Algebra 2 (i.e. Stuff I SAY I’m gonna do but I know I’ll forget about later)

Thanks to @druinok who has agreed to harass me to blog. She’s doing her job and even busted me while I was at the pool and SUPPOSED to be bloggin’. I luvs her for being tough on me because if she DOESN’T make me do it, I’ll just be a lazy bum again this year.

Soooo to the topic at hand (sing with me like Pablo Cruise): WHATCHA GONNA DO FOR NEXT SEMESTER? Sorry, I tried to make it work to Beastie Boys, but I’m not that cool.

I teach two different classes of Algebra 2 – one for 11th/12th graders and an “honors” version for 10th graders that are gonna cruise right into AP Calculus. But I teach the same WAY, just a faster rate to that younger group. Both groups have their own individual issues, but for the most part I have the same goals for both:

1. Fix the pacing!
I have less than a week to figure this sucker out. Our school does math pacing like so: Algebra 1 –> Geometry –> Algebra 2. Yours might as well and that’s fine, but there’s a problem with it here. They remember NOTHING about Algebra 1 when they get to me. And Algebra 1 is usually all year (made of two smaller courses) and they don’t do much review of those skills in geometry. Plus, our state SUUUCCCKS by cramming too much into the Algebra 1 curriculum and then testing on it. That’s a blog post for another time. (I say that A LOT). Anyway, most of the Algebra 2 curriculum here is Algebra 1 review. We teach about 6 chapters and 3.5 of them are things they “learned” in Algebra 1. I say it like that because they are expected to learn so MUCH in Algebra 1 that they don’t learn anything very WELL. They don’t learn enough of the Algebra 2 curriculum because we’re busy reviewing. So how do I fix this? I have NO IDEA! I would like to do a “boot camp” of sorts and condense it, but then I might be skipping skills that they didn’t learn very well in Algebra 1 and that will screw me over later in my course. I’m open for ideas and suggestions. I’m on block schedule, too, so keep that in mind.

2. I suck at bell/closure activities.
It’s a part of class that is necessary and helpful and I SHOULD do it better than I’ve done it in the past. I think that’s where I lose a lot of time in class because they’re not really focused and tardies are an issue (again MY FAULT). If I would prep better, I could have these ready to go and not waste time making them on the fly. Kids don’t usually take bell activities seriously so there’s gotta be a way to make it relevant but hold them accountable to make SURE they’re doing it. I hate paper, but I’m ok with notecards, so I’m going to try that. We complain that kids are too dependent on calculators, but don’t really challenge kids to stay away from them, so I think that’s part of how I will do my bell activities this year. They start right when the bell rings and will just be a “fast and furious five” minutes of middle school skills with NO CALCULATOR. This is similar to 8falls Math Party (where did that guy go, anyway?). For example, in week one I will challenge the kids to see how many integer operations they can do (out of about 50 problems) in 5 minutes and we will raise the bar every day. Why integer operations? Students need to be familiar with them for the next few sections we’ll do in Algebra 2. So the bell activity preps their skills before we really need them. Haven’t decided if these will be self-graded or peer graded yet, but they will be turned in immediately after. That way there’s no possibility for students to copy or pretend to do it. I usually give my students 5-8 minutes to peer review homework and help each other so I am hoping to quickly review the bell activity cards during this time. I won’t put them in the gradebook, but it will allow me to make notes of any issues or really low scores (so I can pull those kids in for tutoring). At the end of class, they get their notecard back to do the closure problems on the back. I have a few ideas for closure, but nothing concrete. Part of me wants them to do 2 or 3 basic problems to make sure they’ve got it, part of me wants them to do one basic and one moderately difficult problem, and part of me wants them just to do a journal type “I get…. But I DON’T get….”. But doing bell activity on one side and closure on the other will eliminate some paper (which I HATE) but also try not to waste the notecards the kids buy.

3. I have got to get away from “fast food” tutoring.
My old tutoring policy was, “I will stay after any day or come early any morning – just let me know in advance”. So kids got tutoring when they wanted it (just like Taco Bell.. mmmm. Hungry… Sorry. Distracted). I can’t allow that “on call” tutoring to go on this year. Now before you get all offended, please understand that my son almost failed 2nd grade this past year. I think it was MAINLY because I put more time into my students than him – grading for 2 hours and getting frustrated trying to do my job and make sure he was doing his own school work. Most days I just wanted him to get it done and I didn’t really care if it was right and I didn’t spend time working on skills to help him. I was that parent that never went over vocabulary words or listened to my child read 20 minutes a night like I was supposed to. I completely wronged my child because my priorities were totally out of wack. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m trying to be honest. Anyway, I was tutoring my students more than paying attention to my son and I can’t do that this year. He probably only got 15 minutes of “mom time” a day and that’s just negligence. He HAS to come first or the effects on his education are going to be exponentially devastating. And it will totally be my fault. So I need to find a way to tutor on one afternoon and two or three mornings a week. Hopefully I’ll still have that 30 minutes of tutoring time still built into our school schedule for “advisors”. I’ll need to set up a way of peer tutoring using my higher level kids (having 30 students show up for tutoring is overwhelming!!).

4. Algebra 2 is boring. That’s got to stop.
Stats is so cool because you are bombarded by it every day. Algebra 2 – not as obvious and sometimes not at all. Honestly, when’s the last time you had to find the possible rational zeros of a function? Anyway, @druinok and I are working on that and she’s busting her butt to get some activities to put into class to make kids like it. The physics and chem teachers are around the corner from me. I need to take my list of Alg 2 topics to them and see what they use and if we can do some cross-curricular stuff.

5. Do not allow “No Child Left Behind” to kick my behind.
I suck at paperwork. Too many freakin forms to prove I am doing everything I possibly can to give each child the best education possible. Too little time to write up the documentation, make copies of all samples, and dig through our school records vault to search through all the paperwork on the kid. My state (which shall remain nameless) and district (same respect) has unrealistic expectations for DOCUMENTATION of the help we give for the kids. But I don’t know how to battle it. Neither do the teachers that I work with. We all do so much, but we get in trouble for the documentation because the district doesn’t want to get sued. And the forms we have to fill out are INSANE. I’m not complaining just to complain. I mean it – INSANE. But like it or not, I gotta do it.

6. Parent communication.
I need to do a better job with documentation of parent communication. I know we have e-mail, but a lot of our parents do not have access and we have to resort to phone calls. I need to find a better way of keeping up with this because I’ve tried a lot of different things and none of them really work for my A.D.D. brain. Notecards, folders, notebooks, etc. But if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

7. Just say no.
Say no to clubs that I don’t know anything about, say no to heading committees that eat into time after school with my child, say no to teachers who know I can’t say no so they ask me to do crap they could do but won’t… Ugh.

Well, this is all I’ve got right now… this blog will be a work in progress… I think…
Oh, did I mention that my computer crashed and I lost everything for Algebra 2? yeah.
So I gotta work on that as well.

11 out of 19 ain’t bad… but it ain’t good enough for me.

If you’re new to my blog, WELCOME and I’m SORRY! You need to understand that my blog is a brain dump. It is not meant to be inspiring or thoughtful or even normal. I’m just a regular teacher that screws up like everybody else, but I bust my butt to help kids because that’s my job and I LOVE IT. I am at school an hour early and 2 hours late most days to help any kid that bothers to stop by and I’m HAPPY and THANKFUL when they do. Once I get home, I make quick video tutorials for any kid that tweets/e-mails a detailed question to me. If you know me at all, this isn’t new. But for you newbies to my rampant attention-deficit-disorder, you need to know the kind of teacher I am before I really get started.

I have to say that I am very proud of my pass rate on the AP Stats exam – it’s my highest rate to date. BUT, it wasn’t as high as I wanted and the fault (as usual) lies mainly with me. Since I punked out on my blog this past semester (don’t judge me – you knew I was gonna do it), I need to recap what happened:

The class started out amazing. The kids were interested and intrigued and excited about the class. HOWEVER, somewhere in all of that they assumed that effort wouldn’t be necessary for the course. I don’t know how/why/when I led them to that assumption, but I am taking responsibility for it. BUT this assumption didn’t become evident to me until later in the semester. The kids had been told from previous students that stats was cool and interesting and (I guess this is the problem) easy. The math in stats isn’t nearly as complex as AP Calculus, but that doesn’t make it easy (this problem will come up again later in this post, be ready). Also, I went with the “here are suggested problems to use to study for tests, quizzes, but I’m not requiring homework” attitude. It’s worked for other math courses I’ve taught and I knew I had mostly seniors (SENIOR PROJECT-AUUUGH!), so I just went with it.

I soon realized I had a problem – students were confused. Well, that’s not unusual, but it was WHY they were confused. I often heard, “This isn’t math!!” and “I don’t like this!” and “I should have taken Calculus – at least I’d know it was MATH!” Yeah, those hurt pretty bad.

I started the course with HOW we collect the data – through sampling and experimental design. I think this is a good place to start because it IS different. So many times we start a course with review (I’m guilty of this in Alg 2) and students soon get the impression that they should already know how to do the material the first few weeks of the class. This didn’t happen for them and it caused a riot of sorts – especially with the kids in the top 1% of their class and kids with whom I’ve always had great relationships. They were caught off guard with the amount of new vocabulary and how quickly they were expected to apply the terms. They felt betrayed and lied to about what the class was (remember that “easy” comement?). They thought they’d been tricked into taking the class and they were PISSED. Not just angry or upset. I’m talking UBER-PISSED. Pissed at ME, pissed at former students (called them LIARS), pissed at counselors, etc. And so my awesome semester went TO HELL pretty fast. And these weren’t small classes – we’re talking 30 kids crammed in a small area that are all now wanting to take my head off or tape me to a wall (ok, that DID happen – much later).

The grades for the first few assessments for most of my students were not A’s, so obviously that didn’t help my case. I don’t know about your school, but here some students think “No A” equals “something must be wrong with my teacher and she SUCKS because I DESERVE an A regardless of what I do”. (Did that come off spiteful?? Really?? My bad. NOT.) And it doesn’t help that we have counselors who suggest to teachers that they “fluff” the grades (see very upsetting blog post here).

Anyway, I’m going to be 100% honest right now: I didn’t change a THING from the way I had taught stats the previous year. I was so close to my previous stats kids and they loved the class. Granted, I only had SIX in the class, but the way I taught them (labs, discussions, activities, tests, free response questions, ALL OF IT!!!) was the exact same way I tried to teach this past semester. But because stats wasn’t coming easy to some of my new stats kids, AND it was a little different than what they usually got in math, AND that the A’s weren’t flowing like milk and honey, the rumors started. These are my replies to those rumors that I kept to myself but will now say aloud (my apologies in advance to Seiler cuz I’m gonna cuss):

1) You’ve made the class harder than you made it last year.
A: Why the HELL would I do that?

2) You made the class harder because you have more students.
A: Well, granted I did have an easy time grading with six, but do you REALLY think I would make the class HARDER??? As in more work for me???? I have 60 stats kids right now – why would I make MORE work for myself??? I spend 10 hours a day at school when I’m NOT teaching stats, 12 hours a day when I am teaching stats and now you think I want to add MORE hours to that? I barely see my kid every day because I’m prepping for your class or tutoring!! So I say to you that’s just stupid talk!!

3) You made the class harder because you want to have the same reputation as the AP Calculus teacher.
A: Look, she’s freakin’ amazing. If anyone EVER compared me to her in a positive way, I would kiss them (well, not really). But you don’t like the fact that she makes you THINK. God forbid that an educator make YOU think for yourself. What were we thinking? Is she tough? Yes. Do I admire her? Yes. But I’m ME, like it or not. It’s taken me 30 years to be ok with ME and I’m not cool enough to be anybody else.

4) You’re a bitch.
A: ehhh… you got me on that one. But that’s your opinion and opinions are like noses and you get the idea.

Now that I think of it, I did do something different for this class. I put together a wiki!! OMG! I put everything I had on the wiki (including notes for class they could print out ahead of time and study guides and vocabulary reviews – OH THE HORROR!!) for them to download if needed. But I made it private to track the usage just in case I got called for not doing enough to help. Which I did. A LOT.

Anyway, the time to sign up for the AP test came around and of my 60, only 19 signed up. Of the 19 that signed up, at least half were taking it because it was free/reduced rate for them. The others were being forced by parents. I was bummed.
So when I would teach and say, “On the AP test…” I would get rants of , “I’m not TAKING the AP test so WHY are we doing this???” So I’m teaching a method to 19 students that 41 don’t give a crap about and they don’t put any effort into it. This was so annoying and depressing when I would give free resonse questions as assignments. My tests model the exam (some MC some FR) and kids would complain about that, too. I felt so frustrated and depressed almost every day. My Honors Algebra 2 class (last block) could tell and were SO great to elevate me out of that crappy mood at the end of every day. Loved them!

By this time in stats, we’d moved into the beginning stages of 2-variable data. Then we went to probability (too painful to talk about). I was frustrated to the point that I actually got into an argument with a student after a test – a student that I LOVED and had known for six years!! It was awful. After class, he was griping about the class and how he didn’t get it and didn’t know how he should be expected to and it set me off. I said, “SOOOO what could I have done to help you that I apparently did NOT do?” After about 15 minutes of hearing each of his excuses to which I had a valid rebuttle, he angrily conceeded that his failure was his fault and stormed off. Worst day that semester by far.

But something happened after spring break – about half of my kids had an “aha”. They started to catch on because they began to see how all of the material tied together. They started DOING the suggested homework and reading the book ahead of class and that group started rocking the class. So in each of my two classes, there became an obvious division – those students who were putting in some effort and those that were just going to bitch and complain. Those that were trying began getting those A’s and making connections and having a blast in class. The other group still bombed. The ones that were doing well even offered to help the others, but began to get frustrated with their apathy. One kid said, “Is THAT how I acted at the beginning of the class? Geeez!”

Senior-itis had bitten that lazy half and most of them were beginning to be honest and admit that. “Um, I just want you to know this class requires WAY more effort that I really wanted to spend. So, I still love ya and all, but don’t take my grades personally. I’m so ready to be out of school it’s not funny.” I appreciated the honesty. And so many kids from the engaged group were kicking themselves in the butt for not signing up for the AP test. “UUGGH! If I’d known that it would be this easy, I’d have taken the test!” I wanted to scream, “DON’T SAY THE E-WORD!!!” But I just nodded and smiled. By the end of the course, I had a small handfull that didn’t give a rip and the rest were on board.

And I finally reconciled with the student that I loved. The day yearbooks were distributed, he asked me to sign his. And he apologized and so did I. We hugged it out, I waited until he left to cry.

So what did I learn?
1. Do NOT use “easy” in the marketing strategy for this course. EVER AGAIN. I gave the impression that the course was simple and obviously it’s not.

2. The kids who did the homework got it. But at the beginning they didn’t do it (because I didn’t require it) and they ALL told me next year to DEMAND that students do it. Go figure.

3. Make 2 stats classes – AP and regular. I’ll have one of each this year – we’ll see how that goes.

4. Stop taking it personally when they get frustrated. They’re hormonal and immature and say stupid things sometimes. I have been teaching 13 years and I still have trouble with this.

5. I talk to much. This blog post is too long. And next time I need to FINISH the blog post after I start it. I had to stop in the middle of it last week and I can tell I totally lost my train of thought. But thanks to druinok for making me finish it. 🙂

Holy crap, I’m exhausted… But happy!

I wish I’d had time to blog about this earlier, but there was NO time. It’s about 10:35 p.m. and I’m watching the Cotton Bowl. I just got home from a basketball game where the ref warned me he was about to give me a technical foul – evidently he didn’t hear me say, “Bite Me” after that (and THANK GOD my son didn’t either).

We started a new semester, so I finally got what I always wanted – MORE AP STATS!
My stats scores always sucked in the past because I taught it in the fall and apparently I don’t review well in the spring. I know the kids understood it in the fall, no doubt. So my school moved stats to spring – it’s now time to “put up or shut up” with my scores. But there’s more time pressure than before, too and my classes are almost full (27 in one class, 28 in the other).

So I wanted to really hook kids the first day and get them excited about stats. Most people I talk to hated statistics in college. But stats is so amazing – I wanted my students to feel that same “wow” factor. So what do you do on the first day to hook them? This is only my 3rd year of teaching, so I had NO idea. These are the biggest classes I’ve ever had AND I’ve got TWO!

My first thought was that I was going to drown in paper work if I did not get them to help me. I decided to put the students into groups and call them “research teams” (RTs). The idea is to teach them to peer edit each other and hopefully, in the process, it would help them become better writers on free response questions.

I already stole the idea from @druinok to give free response problems every week to be due Friday. Then the thought of grading almost 60 FRs a weekend gave me the shivers. So I’ve already set aside one day each week that they will peer edit their free response problems for 15 minutes in their RTs. The goal is so that when I get it on Friday, it should be their best possible work (and hopefully will be very close to correct). This may bomb, but we’ll see.

Anyway, back to the first day. I didn’t want to bore them with syllabus or classroom procedure talk (I know, I know – that’s what you’re supposed to do). But by the end of the class Friday/today (I won’t bore you with the details), they figured out the following ideas:
1) When we’re in a group, we understand better.
2) Our group has a pocket folder in the back of the room – the first person in class needs to get it.
3) We don’t pull anything out of the folder until she tells us to get it (and no peeking).
4) When we finish things as a group, those materials go back in the pocket folder on the other side.
5) Before class is over, someone puts the folder in the class bin back in the back of the room.

That’s not much, but they figured all that out without me listing off the procedures.
I know at least half of these kids already, so I pre-assigned them into their RTs. A lot of my kids are in forensics/debate/drama and will get off topic at the drop of a hat, so I wanted to try and fix that on the front end. I may let them change groups at the end of the 9-weeks, I’m not sure.

I showed the students the original version of “Did You Know/Shift Happens“. I wasn’t sure which version to go with, but this one worked great (thanks @mrhodotnet!). I told the students that most of the stats were from 2006, so we talked about how extrapolation can be wrong sometimes.

To kick off stats, I did the case of Kristen Gilbert. I started by trying to make the kids think it was a case of false imprisonment. I used a lot of the graphs from where the story appeared in “The Numbers Behind NUMB3RS”. I think all teachers have to posess some acting skills, don’t you? I put mine into use that day and tried my best to be as convincing as possible to make the kids think Gilbert was sitting in prison rotting over this horrible crime that she did not commit. By the end, they were arguing with me that there’s NO WAY she was innocent. Without technical vocabulary or getting into the “meat” of the class, they used what they aready knew to figure out I was completely full of crap. It was “wicked awesome” to see them shout with delight when I told them that they were all right – Gilbert was guilty. And when the bell rang, I said, “Welcome to Statistics.” (If you want a copy of my PPT, just let me know – it’s not great, but I’ll share.)

On their way out the door, I had them write their first impressions of the class and any concerns/questions they may have had. Overwhelmingly, the general response was “I’m so excited about this class and I have NEVER said that about math before.”

So it was amazing, but now I’ve realized that although this type of teaching works, it comes with a LOT of planning on my part. And I’m going to have my timing down to the minute if I’m going to teach this way for the AP test and hope that they do well. (If you have any suggestions, hit me up because I’m freaking the BLEEP out over it.)

My formal evaluation is Monday and I don’t do the “dog and pony show” for my administration. I want them to see me for exactly what I am so that if I’m screwing something up or could make an improvement in my daily plan, they can help me. But what my administrator DOESN’T know is that I’m putting him in one of my research teams and he’s going to be a student for the day. Maybe it won’t get me fired. 🙂