Queen of the Quadratic

Monday, October 23, 2006


In my email today, I received a message from a parent who was steamed about the way I graded a group project. I had each student complete the requirements for the project (for individual learning) and then the self-selected group decided on which project would be scored for their group. Her daughter (and group) earned a 95, choosing her work as the "best" and the one they wanted scored. She felt that the others in the group didn't put forth near the effort her daughter did, and therefore didn't deserve the same grade. Then she suggested that I add a few points to her daughter's grade for carrying the brunt of the weight. =0

She went on to cite the fact that she is a college student and familiar with group work. She said that the professors take into consideration if a member of the group didn't pull their weight and their grade was adjusted accordingly. I should do the same, says she. I am sending a message to my students that they can slack off and let others carry them and if they put forth their best effort, they will only get used.

Perhaps I should paint a rosy picture of "life" for my students and tell them fairy tales about how every person is moral and wouldn't dream of taking advantage of a sucker. At what point do we let them learn those lessons?

I would perhaps be able to understand her frustration if I had assigned the groups and forced her daughter to work with known lazy kids. I let the kids choose their groups. Her groupmates chose wisely, and she apparently didn't.

Why is it that everyone knows how to do my job but me? From legislators to parents to the micromanagers at central office, there are no decisions left up to me, the trained professional. I am beginning to wonder why I needed that college degree to do this "job". Obviously, any person on the street could do better.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bumper sticker

On my way to school this morning, a car in front of me had on display the following message:

"My Chihuahua is smarter than your Honor Student."

Sadly, for some it is true.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I'm finally feeling like my Geometry students might be learning something. The curriculum is still a complete mess, but I feel like I might have worked a little of my magic in engaging them. Perhaps it is just that we have arrived at a more favorable topic.

Today was magical day in Algebra 2. I was teaching factoring out the GCF from polynomial expressions. The students seemed really "into" the topic and they were asking the really good questions. I am excited about continuing with all the various faces of factoring that we are approaching.

Today was a cold day (by the standards down here). The high was only 70 degrees and I wore a sweater and scarf ensemble. My juniors commented that my outfit was "festive" while the sophomores simply asked (and this was at least one per period) if it was really cold enough for a scarf!

Down here, it never gets "cold enough" for those accessories, so I have to wear them when it dips into the 60s.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Teachable moment

Today was our homecoming game, so nearly every student was walking around jingling and tinkling and tripping over their mums. I had planned to give a quiz (since the quiz I gave two days ago showed they hadn't learned the material). While grading the papers, one student had written a note on the top that said, "We are going to loose."

At first I just shook my head and continued grading. Then, like a bolt of lightening, the appropriate response hit me. I wrote in, "Oh! Thank goodness! I was afraid we might lose." Who says I have to teach ONLY math?

Thursday, October 12, 2006


My phone rang between 2nd and 3rd period and I noticed it was the attendance office. I thought it would be a request to send a particular student down during my next class, so I answered.

As it turned out, she wanted to speak with me about the enrollment audit that we had just done that day and asked that I come down there to discuss it with her. I informed her that if she was looking for me to come down that day, I wouldn't be able to make it. She said I could come down the next day during my conference. I was a bit annoyed, but agreed to go.

Later in the day, I had to remove a few electronic items from a few of my students and had to deliver them to the office anyway, so I thought I'd just stop in the attendance office and find out what they needed me to do.

The woman then proceeded to tell me that I had written down that a student had enrolled in my class on such and such a date, when in fact said student hadn't enrolled until about 2 days later. Neither of the dates in question effected the audit in any way, shape, or form. I assured her that the date I had entered in my computer was the first day she stepped foot in my class and she told me again that I was wrong. This exchange (coupled with many pregnant pauses on my part) continued for about 10 minutes during which time she showed me something irrelevant on the computer and told me all about some bug they'd found in their system. Finally, I asked, "What do I need to do?" to cut the bs so I could get to tutoring my students. Can you imagine my surprise when she said, "Oh, nothing. It doesn't effect..." and she started carrying on again.

After witnessing this whole exchange, the other attendance secretary (who's daughter is enrolled in my class) decided that would be an opportune time to ask me about her daughter's progress. I informed her that I was already 15 minutes late for tutoring and there were students waiting for me. As I walked down the hall, I had to do some deep breathing before greeting the students who really needed my help.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Night and Day

I am teaching 4 sections of Algebra 2 where my students are mainly juniors and 2 sections of Geometry where my students are mainly sophomores. The difference between the two types of students is incredible.

My Algebra 2 students work hard, ask questions, do their homework, and succeed on the tests. My Geometry students want to be spoonfed, they NEVER think about what was taught outside of my room, and don't believe that they have any responsibility in their own education. How is it possible for these kids to be only 1 year apart?

After a horrible yesterday with one of my Geometry classes, I've resolved that they need every moment of my class period planned out for them. They cannot be allowed any "choice" in which activity they will engage in. It makes me sad that I have to do this, but they must be taught to learn!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Textbook adoption

We are in the midst of selecting new mathematics texts for the next adoption period. I've been gleefully perusing all of the books that have been offered so far. I decided to really crack the cover and delve into one that I just got my hands on last Thursday from Key Curriculum Press. The books are all titled "Discovering ..." with the course title afterwards. I was looking through the Advanced Algebra book and with every turn of the page, I am making exclamations such as "WOW!" and "COOL!" and "Finally, a textbook that teaches the way I do!"

It might seem that I work for this company (but I don't). I just found every section to be so engaging and it really deeply addresses all of our standards here in Texas.

Now I'm just a little peeved that I am not the "chosen one" who gets to vote on which book we'll adopt. I'm also a little disheartened knowing that so many of the "others" will probably not like the book at all because it isn't "normal". I guess if I'm going to get it adopted, I'll really have to advocate with the elite who get to choose.

What's really annoying about it is those who have been selected will be retiring in the next year or two, so whatever they choose will far outlast their remaining time in the profession. I understand the logic of choosing experienced teachers, but I can't quite understand why the ones who's professional lives will be directly effected are totally excluded. Perhaps I am naive to think that my degree in pure mathematics is worth anything over those who studied "education".

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Requests from educators who are no longer in the classroom...

I received an email yesterday from my department coordinator asking that I compile EVERYTHING that we did during the first six weeks. I know this request came from central office, so I'm not terribly peeved with my department chair, but I wonder if these people at central office realize that I have a zillion other things to do? What really iced the cake was that they needed it TODAY.

I think these people need to get their hands dirty in a classroom again and realize what it's like to be personally responsible for the intellectual growth of 170 hormone driven teenagers.