Our in-service was boring but I...

...came up with a fun idea!

*update*: What if I cut and pasted the blue facebook parts and laminated them? I could give them to each student and they could use poster board to write and draw and use the laminated parts as the headings and such.

I've wanted to do some projects but being that it's my first year, I don't really know what the heck I'm doing. Throughout college, we always had to write a paper about a famous mathematician.

What if I had them make a facebook page about a famous mathematician?

I have to admit, I stole this idea from a poster I saw in a magazine:

Seriously, please go look at this poster and how fun it is! It names relatives, work info, status updates, groups, friends, etc. How fun! It would definitely be entertaining and relate to their lives but the thing is...what does it have to do with real life? I so hate how everything I do is pointless. Yes, this would be more fun than a worksheet and I kind of love designing and arranging and organizing things but is this teaching them anything worthwhile? They are already experts at creating a facebook page so the only benefit I can see is learning what critical/important information to pull from different resources to present on the facebook page. Anybody else see anything? Is this project worth pursuing?

Today we had an inservice meeting about school improvement and we had a presentation done on a survey of enacted curriculum. The idea itself is that we all take this in-depth survey and it graphically compares what we do in class to what we are supposed to be doing (according to the state). It actually looks helpful and interesting, especially to me as a first year teacher. The thing I hated was, our presenter had a Powerpoint with screen shots of the survey...the ones where we fill in our name and school and all the obvious things. I figure if we aren't smart enough to read and fill out the form, we have no business here anyway. I was thinking to myself how much better the presentation would be if they would start by presenting the results and the changes it made in their teaching first, and then let us ask 'how' questions when needed. Start the presentation by answering these two questions:

  1. How will this help me become a better teacher?
  2. How do I go about implementing change in my classroom?
Once you have my attention and my interest, then let's talk about how to achieve the results.

Now I realize how my students feel. They are asking questions as well:

  1. How does this affect my life?
  2. How can I learn to do it myself?

I have no answers.

The next part of our in-service was about Professional Learning Communities. The presenter used (crooked) transparencies on an overhead projector and VHS tapes. Need I say more? Actually, he didn't show the tapes but I'm not sure what his point was. He basically said how hard it was to develop an authentic PLC and get everyone on board. Fortunately for us, he offered no suggestions on how to do it or any reasoning on why it's even important. My insides were busting: Twitter! Delicious! Blogging! Oh my!

But alas, I said nothing.


Week 21

In algebra, we reviewed point-slope form and went straight into standard form. I think they actually caught on pretty easily. I didn't do anything particularly exciting or magical but they liked standard form because it was only one step extra after they've found slope-intercept form. Fractions threw them for a loop, as usual. My eighth graders did much better with fractions than the older students, but they're advanced, so I guess that's expected.

I'm still mad that they have no clue what this had to do with real life. I know that's my fault though. They don't know how to predict things using linear equations or graphs. They might understand the whole slope and rate of change thing but that's the extent of it.

Geometry is just poopy and I dislike it very much. I'm about 75% more likely to give a free day in there than in any other class. I don't even want to type anything because then I would have to think about it and I just don't wanna.

This week I got fed up again with how boring my teaching is and just how blah school is in general. I guess it's just one of those weeks where it feels like nothing will ever change and even more than that, that there is no hope that things can change. I feel like change is just beyond me and it's too overwhelming too even consider.

I don't look forward to lesson planning or teaching this week.


January Blues

Why did I choose to teach math?

I don't even know how this stuff will ever be useful in life.

Do the little things like encouraging students, building relationship, supporting them, making class entertaining, etc outweigh the big things, i.e. being mathematical geniuses?

How many of my students will go to college, really? How many will be unprepared?

I am just filling time and handing out grades. Assignments are meaningless and just to keep students under control. Grades are attached so they will actually do them. I grade on completion only and I'm still behind in grading. Students could do every homework assignment and still fail the test. There is no self-assessment going on. The formative assessment is basically pointless.

I can tell a huge difference in the students since starting a new semester- they are more forgetful, less likely to participate, and harder to control. Say a big thank you to me being the nice, popular teacher. They now know there are basically no consequences to anything they do.

I don't even know what learning or teaching is anymore. WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIFE?

Sorry, had to get that out.

I don't know how to make it about them and not me.

I thought I could make them care and I can't.

I thought I could make them better and I haven't.

I knew I could make them like me and they do.

I hoped I was smarter than I thought, but I'm not.


Week 20

Spirit Week. Homecoming Coronation. This was the obsession of my life this week, I only had class on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday was spent putting our backdrop together and decorating the stage for our "Evening on the Nile". Friday morning was spent rehearsing for the coronation and Friday afternoon was our spirit assembly with competitions between the classes. Our dress up days this week were Stoplight Day (wear green if you're single, yellow if it's complicated, and red if you're taken), Character Day (movie/tv/book), Generation Day (baby, toddler, adult, or old), Decade Day(any decade), and Class Color Day. Each class gets points for certain activities throughout the year and this week such as can food drive, penny for patients drive, breast cancer awareness drive, dressing up each day, and for the first time in years, a wall decorating competition.  Winner gets 4 points, second place 3, then 2, then 1. 

On Friday some of our class competitions were the duct tape wall, peanut butter popcorn toss, tug of war, jello eating contest, balloon pop, banana pass, how many will fit, scavenger hunt, egg walk, and 3-legged race. I could not have done all this on my own and I am so glad that I have my co-sponsor. The competitions got hectic because each class would come yell at us and defend they're class if something went wrong. I wanted to disqualify them every time that happened but my co-sponsor said we would have to disqualify everyone every time because that's just how it is.  

I'm so tired of our answer being "This is the way we always do it" or "We're never going to do this again". Why is not changing always the option? Either we do it like we always have or we aren't doing it all. Why don't we ask how we can help, how we make it easier, how can we better organize, how can we fix or improve it, instead of how can I do the least amount of work with the best possible outcome?  When is it okay to not change?

(steps down from soapbox)

In other news, I taught point-slope form to my algebra students and it went over decently. We'll see how much sense it really made on Tuesday when we try it again after a week. I basically presented it as a shortcut to getting to slope-intercept form when you don't have the intercept a.k.a. you have two points. I still have some people who struggle to understand the slope formula, which I don't understand how that is possible. But I plan on wrapping up this linear equation thing this week if at all possible and moving on. I feel like I'm making good progress throughout the material in my curriculum but I don't know how much they're truly learning. I know they like me and enjoy the class which at least is making them a tiny bit more favorable toward math but I don't know how much I'm really preparing them for the future standardized tests and harder math courses.

I wish I could just teach life. That's what I know about. That's what I'm good at. That's where I could make a difference. This whole math thing just makes things complicated.

Let's just say this...I will be 100% better in my second year as compared to my first. Is it wrong to feel like I'm betraying my older students because they have me at my crappiest?

In geometry, still trying to get through SSS, ASA, SAS, and AAS. I'm just...really bored with geometry. I guess I just want to skip ahead to reflections, transformations, and such because I enjoy artistic, creative things. I think they would enjoy it too but I can never be sure. I wish that I could make everything fun to learn.

If I could combine Dan's WCYDWT with math games and puzzles, I wonder if every topic in math could be taught in a more entertaining way. I know life is not about being entertained but I figure life is hard enough, why can't high school math be fun?


Up the Down Staircase

Up the Down Staircase
Bel Kaufman

Are we then, none of us, allowed to touch wounds? What is the teacher's responsibility? And if it begins at all, where does it end? How much of the guilt is ours?

But we cannot remain intact if we teach, Bea said. And we must teach- against all odds, against all obstacles, in the best sense of the word.

I think the kids deserve a better deal than they're getting. So do the teachers.

Teachers should have a mirror in the back of the room so they can see how they look to us!

You made me feel I'm real.

Learning is a process of mutual discovery for teacher and pupil. Keep an open mind to their unexpected responses.

The important thing is the recognition and response, not an inch of print to be memorized.

I want to point the way to something that should forever lure them, when the TV set is broken and the movie is over and the school bell has rung for the last time.

I had used my sense of humor; I had called it proportion, perspective. But perspective is distance. And distance, for all my apparent involvement, is what I had kept between myself and my students.  Like Paul's lampoons, like Lou's ha-ha's, it insulated me; it kept me safe from feeling.

For love is growth. It is the ultimate commitment. It imposes obligations; it risks pain. Love is what I wanted from all.

The penalty for touching is too great.

The heart has its reasons; it's the mind that's suspect.


Week 19

Today is a snow day and I should be doing lesson plans for tomorrow and next week. So I am blogging.

It's official, I'm halfway through my first year. My first Christmas break! I did nothing. Less than nothing. I stayed up all night and slept in all day. And...that's about it. I had big plans for wanting to redo the way I did...everything. And yet I still did nothing.

Wanting to do nothing has continued in to this week. I have algebra and geometry classes that are ahead of each other so letting one class catch up to the other means I get to use lesson plans I've already made. Score! It also means I have to make plans for the classes that are ahead. So only two preps and yet I can't even bring myself to do that. What is this sluggishness?

In geometry, we are starting to do congruent triangles. That seemed to go well and we just did SSS and SAS yesterday. I don't want to do proofs. We haven't really done any and I honestly don't see the point. On standardized tests, they're not going to have to write a proof and to me, if they know what the theorems mean and how to use that, then that's what is important. Also, I have just always hated proofs and I only used them in two classes in college and  I was pursuing math. To me, it's just not as important as getting through new material that we would normally miss out on.

In algebra, we are still doing slope and linear equations. I think I have drawn this out for so long that now they totally hate slope and we haven't even done point slope or standard form. Ouch. My real mistake is that I didn't set up the reason why slopes and lines are important. They have no idea how this pertains to real life. I was thinking about doing this spaghetti/penny lab but we haven't done line of best fit. And speaking of that, I thought it would make sense to do that at the end of everything but should that have been my intro into linear functions?

Next week is Spirit Week. I'm the Student Council sponsor so that means I will be spending all day Thursday and Friday constructing our background and decorating the stage for the coronation ceremony. Friday morning I will have coronation and rehearsal and Friday afternoon is our class competition assembly. So basically I only have Monday and Tuesday to actually have class. Spirit week is crazy in general because everyone is dressed up and excited and forget that this is school and we still have to do work. But it's even more hectic being the sponsor. Anything that is undecided or that goes wrong, I have to deal with. Oh nevermind, that's just a regular day at work. I say all that to say this...I will still not plan anything, especially ahead of time. And then we get out of school the 18th for MLKing day. This is just fueling my dispassion for planning right now. Oh lesson plans, I love that I hate you so.

I wanted to do a new seating arrangement and pondered many suggestions. I finally decided to the double E, which I will demonstrate here with x's.

x     x     x                    x     x     x

x                                              x

x     x     x                    x     x     x

x                                              x

x     x     x                    x     x     x

The idea is it is convenient for group work while at the same time giving me room to weave in and out easily between desks.

Mine turned into this:

x     x     x                   x     x     x     x

x     x                          
                                 x     x     x     x
x     x     x

x     x     x      

I just don't have enough room to do what I want to do. I have a stage in my room and a long honkin desk and my classroom is the end of an octagon so it's not square or rectangle, it's trapezoidalish.

Sometimes I think I would rather have tables than desks but I don't know if that would work out well either.

I have no desire to do lesson plans but there is no shortage of time for me to rearrange my room.

Ah, priorities.


New Year's Goals

My January - May Goals

  1. Put in my lesson plans for each day (even if it's not on that exact day).
  2. Put in 0's when students don't do make up work while absent.
  3. Write better assignments: emphasize thinking process rather than right answer
  4. Be stricter on discipline: I already know they like me, let's move on to respect
  5. Incorporate group work and projects: I haven't really done any yet

My January Goals:
  1. Live through Homecoming.
  2. Write my semester B final exams.
  3. Organize the folders in my desk drawer.
  4. Incorporate more multiple choice questions: students have no idea how to eliminate wrong answers
  5. Use colored index cards as 'clickers' for multiple choice and true/false questions
Monday Goals:
  1. Rearrange desks
  2. Finish posting grades
  3. Pass back and discuss grades
  4. Take down Christmas paraphernalia 
  5. Get StuCo stuff together