Queen of the Quadratic

Monday, September 06, 2010

Running Start

Two weeks down, 34 to go. My students seem to be pretty motivated this year so far. I am a little concerned about the lack of background knowledge a great many of them have, but I plan to push them hard until they either buckle down and learn the basics or decide that they are in over their heads and select another course to take instead.

I've already caught a couple of students who are perfectly willing to cheat their way through, which is really not okay with me, so their grades will be taking a hit in this first marking period. It will be well worth it if they learn that they must learn the math to earn a credit with me.

Private tutoring is picking up also. A former student contacted me on Friday and asked if I'd be available to help him with a refresher for the first portion of College Algebra. We met and I worked with him and he was so impressed with the service, he asked for a few extra cards to hand out to his classmates at the college. I hope I'll hear from a few more. College students are often much more motivated than high school kids. It's amazing what an effective motivator money is.

The math team met on Friday for the first time this year. We have quite a good group so far, and the other coach says she has several good prospects in her classes. She has access to the cream of the crop incoming freshmen whereas I only deal with the average older kids en masse. I do get a couple of "diamonds" in my group, but they are often the laziest diamonds and not much interested in doing math for fun even if they are really good at it.

The principal and I have begun to see somewhat eye-to-eye now. I'm beginning to see the benefits that his influence has had on our student body despite the great deal of stress that it put us all under and he has begun to recognize that my goal is to continually improve my *game* in the classroom to the effect that my students will leave with enough confidence in their abilities to chase their dreams despite whatever math requirement might be attached to it. Since I can now understand his point of view, I've actually found myself rationalizing what's happening in our school to other teachers who were carrying ill-feelings about it. Essentially, I've become his ally. Strange how human/working relationships evolve.

...And now, to get back to enjoying Labor Day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Testing Week

The only benefit I see in state testing week is that I can actually spend a couple days over the weekend reading a novel. It has been a lovely treat.

It will also afford me some time in the evenings to read and play games with my children.

I just realized there is another benefit! Once this week is over, I can go back to teaching real math again! I hate this little annual reprieve from educating that I have to endure.

Here's what really bothers me about this testing... The material they are being tested on is what they were to have learned 2 to 3 years prior to taking my course. The format in which it is presented is such that the reading of the test is more difficult than the mathematics. Due to this, I can't say that the data collected really reflects whether or not a student knows mathematics or if they just can't read but really have a gift with numbers and couldn't show it. (I am not claiming that illiteracy is tolerable, but why should that be such a major player on a "math" test).

Then, they take this data and use it to "measure" my worth as a teacher. SO, test my students on material that I am not directly responsible for teaching them in a format that masks whether or not they can perform any mathematics and then determine whether or not I'm a proficient teacher on this measure... Sounds reasonable, right?

In addition to this, the fact that the students' education is disrupted mid-stream so that we can re-address these topics for whatever time period the administration sees fit (the time we were to spend on it was mandated to increase by 50% this year over last year). When this week closes, I'll have to spend another couple days to refresh the new information that I was teaching just before the upset so I can finish the unit that I started (which is a crucial topic for the subsequent courses).

Why do I keep teaching in public school? I really wonder....

Saturday, September 05, 2009


We have a new principal. He started with us in the middle of last year because someone in central office decided February was a fine time to retire, and this set off a chain reaction for promotions, one of which was our previous principal, and our new one.

This one is a young man and this is his first principalship which means his leadership skills are a little unpolished. He is not abrasive in nature, is actually very likable, but is also full of ideas and theory and making changes occur.

Now, with that said, I'd like to mention that I am not opposed to trying new things. What I think is going on though is that we are being mandated to enact too many changes at once. It is causing a great deal of stress for the staff (and myself).

One of his new requirements is that we meet with our 'teams' weekly to discuss curriculum, instruction, successes/failures, how we taught this, how we're gonna teach that, etc. The 'team' consist of all individuals who teach the same course, and it sounds like a wonderful idea.

Here's the problem we're finding in my team. There are three 'levels' of the course that we teach and there are only 5 teachers who teach it. One teacher exclusively handles the lowest level, two handle the average group, and two handle the honors group (one of these two is also our department coordinator which means that she has to attend some of the other meetings occasionally too). At our last meeting, the dept. coordinator was not in attendance, which left the other honors teacher sitting as the minority while the regular and low-level teachers tried to discuss what needed to happen. It turned into a non-productive session very quickly were we started talking about how we need the freedom to make professional decisions regarding our students needs without also catering to the other teachers' students.

So, in our meeting notes, I included some snippets from this discussion and suggested that the 'team' be fragmented by level, as the courses do not mirror one another for a majority of the year. I'm not certain that anyone is reading our meeting notes, but we shall see.

Yesterday, I had a bit of an altercation with a kid as well. As he was leaving my classroom (he is enrolled in a floating teacher's class that occurs in my room daily), he was blatantly breaking one of the school policies regarding cell phone use during the school day. I took the phone out of his hands and directed him to follow me to my desk. He immediately started telling me that I had disrespected him by snatching the phone out of his hands like that. I ignored the comment and instructed him to write down his information with instruction to make it legible so they could return his phone to him in the office. He then tries to take the phone out of my hand, so I move it away from him and invite him again to write down his information. He tries to bargain with me (all the while I have a new class filing in and they have a test scheduled for this day) asking me to write him up INSTEAD of taking his phone, and I informed him that there was no option on the consequences and the phone was going to the office and I asked him yet again to write down his information. I put his phone in my desk drawer (he watched) and then he reached across me to try to get it out all the while talking and telling me that "they" can't take his phone because he bought it with his own money (precisely how this was supposed to influence me, I am unsure).

At this point, my class was filing in, a couple new students arrived, and I was tired of dealing with this guy, so I told him he needed to leave now and I would obtain his information from his teacher and turn the phone in. He wouldn't leave. I gave him at least three opportunities to leave with my blessing, and he wouldn't leave, so I told him I was going to call an escort for him and he could go to the office, and he still didn't leave. I made the call.

Another new student arrived, I got the three new people situated, the bell rang to begin class and I had to get my kids started on their tests, so I took the phone out of my desk and held it in my hand while I instructed my kids in the preparation for the exam session and handed out the test and formula chart. It took about 10 minutes total for the escort to arrive. They had sent a campus police officer to collect him, so I stepped out into the hall for a moment and briefly explained the situation to him. The kid followed me out and interrupted my sentence to say that I had "disrespected him when I just took the phone out of his hands". The officer, clearly annoyed with the kid, took the phone from me and told the kid that they could discuss it in the office, and off they went.

I am a little worried about what after-effects there might be from this altercation. The kid will be in my classroom with another teacher for the duration of the year unless he gets in enough trouble to get sent to alternative school. I fear that he might want to get me back for this.

I'm going to follow up with the officer and see what the outcome of the situation was, and then I may try to have a little conference with the kid during the only class that I know he is in (during which time I don't have a class) to talk with him about the rules and my function as an employee of the school, so he understands that my motive had nothing to do with 'getting' him, but rather maintaining the school rules, as is my job.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

UIL Mathematics

Had a meet today at a local high school. Two of my kids placed in mathematics (5th and 4th place). One placed third in number sense. I expected another to place in number sense as well, but he is out of practice apparently so he made careless mistakes.

We had a good time between tests playing games. I always enjoy spending time with those young men and women. They are so bright, and inquisitive. I wish they were all like my math team.

It would be a dream come true

Friday, December 12, 2008

Like a little cheese with that....


I have a kid who whines about everything. He didn't do well on either of the tests this marking period. I gave an extra credit opportunity last week and he didn't turn one in. He came to me today (progress reports went out) and asked what he could do to bring his grade up. I asked if he had done the extra credit and he said, "I didn't know how to do it." I asked what he had done to try to understand and he said that he was too busy for that. I told him to go ahead and do it and turn it in to which he reiterated that he didn't know how. I informed him that he needed to learn how to do it. He then got a little snotty and asked if I could just give him something else to do!

My response, "I refuse to work harder so you don't have to. I've made an offer. You can either take it or leave it."

He huffed and walked away, then later in the period asked me to help him understand it.

This kid has whined about everything all year long. He is bordering on being kicked from my class as he is apparently not happy and making me equally unhappy. He has an excuse for everything and apparently feels like everyone else should do everything for him.

To make matters worse, he is in the class period that I have with the most dead-beats and slackers I've ever seen compiled in a single room. That class always leaves me in a rotten mood. Lucky for me, the next two classes are delightful bunches with great work ethics and melodious personalities. If that class were my last of the day, I'd never have a pleasant evening.