First Day Back (well, on 8/7)… HOLY CHEEEZITS.

I wanna start this blog post with a request: STAY ON MY BEHIND if I don’t blog. I always say, “I’m gonna do better!” And then two weeks into school I just give up because it’s just too insane: coaching robotics (B.E.S.T. and F.I.R.S.T.), sponsoring Mu Alpha Theta, attending volleyball games (my son thinks the girls are hot… he’s nine… YEAH, pray for me), high school and college football season (#SECbaby), grading, etc. I can think of 1,000 excuses. Harass me. Yell at me. CURSE me if you have to. Just MAKE me blog. I will love you for it… eventually.

I should also warn you that my A.D.D. is in OVERDRIVE and I’m currently working on lesson plans, watching “How to Train Your Dragon”and “Restaurant: Impossible”, and blogging. So if I change tense or topics or tracks in mid-sentence… Surely if you’re reading this YOU KNOW ME and I don’t have to warn you what you’re getting into, right?

The first day back was crazy, but I got a “good luck!” text from my BFF @druinok to start my day (LOVE HER!!!). This wasn’t my first “First Day” rodeo (my 14th year), but when you switch administrators AND new ones come in, you just really don’t know what you’re gonna get. Our seniors were supposed to “parade” to school, eat breakfast as a group, then go to class. And we all know they follow directions, right?


They brought cowbells to school and RAN around school for at least 20 minutes. Wouldn’t be too bad if we had a senior class of 100 or 200… or even 300. But we have almost 400. It was CRAZY. How crazy? I ran out of band-aids from the blisters they had (I’m like “mom” to most of them) from ringing their cowbells. At one point, 15 of them burst into my classroom SWEATY and chased me around the room to hug me (I’ve known most of them since they were 12). I’m sure my sophomore Alg2 class was quite confused to see me running around them in heels trying to escape. But 10th graders are still kind of scared the first day, so that worked to my advantage.

Anyway, I have 2 classes of 10th grade Algebra 2 and one class of regular statistics. I know we’re “supposed” to teach rules and procedures on day one, but I’ve just never done that. If you do, I’m not judging you whatsoever. We all have our “jam” for what works for us, and “shocking their brains” works for me. I mean, let’s face it – I’m a shock to deal with on my own. I think the mix of that and being forced to think on the first day just works for me.

So Algebra 2 started class by filling out an index card that I store in a box on my desk. I keep their textbook checkout form, parent communication, and tardies in that box. On the card, I ask them for their 3 favorite songs – my way of creating their class playlist. I also like to shock them with my multiple-music-personality-disorder. They’re shocked at what lyrics I can quote.

Then we move to “the folders”.

Each folder is a different color, which represents the different groups in my classroom. Colors make sense for my brain, so that’s how I roll. The kids are in groups of 3-4 (desks are already in groups when they get there), introduce myself, the course (in case they’re in the wrong class – it happens), and we start. “I’m about to hand you a color folder that corresponds to your group. This is your group color for the rest of the 9-weeks. The first person from your group to get to class every day will come to the front of the room and grab the group folder, but there’s a catch: First rule about the folders? We DO NOT open them until Mrs. Hedge says so. Second rule about folders? We DO NOT open them until Ms. Hedge says so. And the third and FINAL rule about folders? WE DO NOT open them FOR ANY REASON until Ms. Hedge says so.” Yeah, it’s a throwback to “Fight Club“. (I love that movie – don’t judge me.)
So here’s the view once they do open the folder:

Left side of the folder comes first – I would love to say I know where I got this and I might figure it out eventually.

I did figure it out –>HERE they are. I’ve misplaced a page during the crazy, so all 20 aren’t there.

BUT basically it was a set of 20 relationships (ex: height of a candle vs. time, gas used vs. time, etc.). The trick was that the graph included 3 possible functions to represent the relationship.

In groups, students had to highlight the function that they felt best represented that relationship. The discussion in their groups was AHMAHZHANG!!

I don’t answer questions unless it’s with another question (drives them NUTS). They debated and I made sure I used @misscalcul8’s “Two Nice Things” (from #TMC12) as a baseline for being rude when you disagree. This only took about 20 minutes, and then I had pairs of groups debate their choices for functions. As a group, we talked about the “tricky” functions. The one that got them was choosing the function to represent the speed of a dog while it took a nap. They wanted to say that I messed up by not giving them enough information. I just ask, “What makes you think that?” Then they’d say, “Because you didn’t give us a constant function.” I’d ask, “What makes you think that?” “Because you didn’t give us a horizontal line.” “What’s YOUR speed when YOU are asleep?” “Duh, it’s ze… oooohhhhhhh…. I gotcha.” Wink and a fist bump when they figured it out.

So once we finished (i.e., I got bored) with that, we moved to the right side of the folder.

I decided to combine Algebra 1 Bootcamp with @rdkpickle’s “sum of the squares” idea from #TMC12. I set up 3 sets for the next few days: (A) evaluate numeric expressions, (B) simplify algebraic expressions and (C) solve equations in one variable. If you haven’t seen her idea, basically you have 4 problems in 4 blocks and students write the sum of their answers in the circle in the middle. Here’s a VERY BASIC template. I gave those goofy cheap foil stars for awards for groups that finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. They freaked out and fought over them (YES, high school kids LUV stickers!).

After they all finished sets A and B, I assigned each group a different problem and we talked about whiteboarding (shout out some love to my buddy, @fnoschese). They couldn’t process the idea at first. Them: “So you WANT us to work it WRONG?” Me: “Yes.” Them: “And it has to be a GOOD mistake?” Me: “I prefer GREAT ones, but we can start with good ones.” Them: “Is this a trick?” Me: “…..what makes you say that?” Them: “Geeeeez, Ms.Hedge… OK! OK! OK!” –>insert evil grin here<– They did a great job at creating the mistakes.

They were AWESOME presenting their work to the class as a collective group. However, the “audience” STRUGGLED at asking leading questions to get the presenters to discover their mistake. So many wanted to immediately point it out. Them: “So isn’t it true that negative three times negative three is POSITIVE nine?” Me: “Rephrase – you pointed out the mistake.” Them: “So when you learned to multiply negatives, did you not understand that squaring a negative makes a positive?” Me: “Nope – that was kinda rude. Rephrase.” Them: sigh. “Sooo, where you have negative three squared, can you help me understand how you got negative nine?” Me: “Sweet! Ok team – answer his question.”

Stats rocked it as usual (not ME, the kids). I love showing the Kristen Gilbert court case and going through that as a full class discussion, but I thought I’d change it up a little bit. I wanted more discussion. I treated it like a real court case and revealed a little of the evidence (or data) at a time to lead them into questioning her innocence. They really liked it (DUH – it’s an awesome case to do in stats if you haven’t ever tried it). Afterwards, we looked at Did You Know 3.0 – kids usually love watching that. Afterwards, I make them write down (in groups) the 3 stats that stood out to them. Not long after that, the bell rang. What’s good about this is that it’s my 3rd time to do this for stats (I do it in A.P. as well) and the kids always respond positively to it. So if you’re teaching stats for the first time, this will get them hooked. I will send you what I’ve got if you want it – just holla.

Tried to recover during my planning block. Let me say that wearing flip flops (if anything) all summer and then starting school in stiletto-heeled boots was NOT very smart. I get a call from the school secretary asking me to come to her office. I thought, “Dang it – WHAT have I done now?” No idea – I was cursing all the way to the office trying to figure out what the crap I’d possibly done to piss somebody off before noon on the first freakin’ day. Me: “Yes?” Secretary: “These are for you.”

OH. MY. GOSH. Flowers??? What the heck? Me: “Are you sure?” Secretary: “Yep – read the card.”

Ok – I shamefully admit that her desk is REALLY tall and those flowers were VERY high and I couldn’t reach, so I took her word for it and went back to my room. Thought they’d be from my mom or my son (via the hubs), but no.


Apparently she’d been scheming behind my back with @mesimmons5, but I can’t be mad because it was just so awesome and appreciated.

My 4th block Algebra 2 KICKS BUTT. I don’t know if it’s the end of the day or the fact that there are almost 30 of them in there or what, but I usually click best with my last class. They were SO into everything and just….. amazing.

I was EXHAUSTED at the end of the day and THANK GOD I had the next day off (weird scheduling, I know).

Hope your first day is awesome, too!

Here are some random shots of my classroom – I’m not finished “decorating” but it’s a start:

Here’s the front wall of my classroom right by the door:

I have a box for each block to turn things in and pick up their folders for the day. I’m going to do @mgolding’s organization outline on the little table for spaces for stapler, hole punch, tape, etc.

This is MY motivation board. It reminds me why I do what I do. It’s not finished (I have to put TMC12 pics up), but it’s behind my desk. Things on it: buttons from TechSmith, an encouraging card from @troystein, pictures of students who have overcome A LOT and are inspirations to me, a postcard from a former student who now lives in Turkey who I am helping apply to colleges in the U.S. so she can come back, a newspaper pic of my kid, a newspaper pic of me and a student, my Harvard banner I got when I attended Project Zero, and a picture of me and my math BFF4EVA who passed away in 2007. If he were still alive, he’d be one of the most followed tweeps and bloggers around. Tragic end to someone I miss every day. Thankfully I teach his son, so I kind of get to see a glimpse of him.

This is my “score” board for kids to help me remember what games/events/performances they’re in every day. If they’re playing or performing, they write it on the board along with the time and location. Most days, I’ll take the kid and go watch. Means a lot to the kids to see you show up.

Going to try this little sucker I got from Target for kids to sign up for tutoring:

We’ll see how it goes.

And YES, it took me a whole WEEK to get the time to finish this blog. Arrrrrgggghhh.


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. 🙂