Monday, August 31, 2009

How in the world do I reach them?

I know the 2 most important things I can teach in Algebra 1 are solving equations and graphing. But I can't even start there because their math is so low.

Today, one kid checked himself out before my class started because he's 18 and he can.

One boy said he dropped out last year and only came back because it was boring at home with everyone at school - but he's dropping out again at Christmas.

Two boys talked non-stop. Bear in mind I am preparing for a test.

One boy slept.

And another boy just copped attitude the whole hour.

The girls tried or were quiet.

I am resigned to failing 2/3 and I know that they act like this because they don't know it but I don't know how to make it simpler.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Graded my first test. The senior course, average grade was a 75 - curved, but not majorly.

Easy assignment (listen, copy this off the board, turn it in) has an average of 65 - mostly because of the kids who were sitting in class and couldn't be bothered to turn it in.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

team teaching

I hate team teaching.

Not a fair statement. At this point I have team taught with 6 teachers (varying lengths of time) - one was awesome. Two are with me this year. One looks promising, one looks like something to be survived - by me and the students.

She will not plan with me. We do not have common planning, but she stops by my room in the morning to drop stuff off but never says anything. And then wants to plan while the kids are there (not going to happen).

I gave a quiz this week. She talked (low voice, but talking) to a student the whole time - and this kids is not on her roll. She will only work with 2 of the kids (one on her roll, one not) in a large class. She says she will only help those who want to work. (Gee, can I only teach those kids?) Then she started talking to me - until I reminded her that there were still people talking the quiz. (Wouldn't you think my saying "stop talking = there are still tests out" to the class would apply to her as well?)

I don't want to go to her department chair but this teacher is real into what she will and will not do. (It's like having someone clean your house, except they don't vacuum, do windows, do laundry or pick up. And no, I don't see her as my assistant.)

If she really pushes it, I will put my certificate on the bulletin board, as she is not certified in this subject. Other teacher is.

She argues with me about how to do the math. In class. Across the room. (I am right - not because I have to be right, because I have been known to make mistakes and admit it when I do, but because I know this material. I would never do this to her - even she makes basic errors. I correct her after the kids leave.) I have noticed that the brighter kids are avoiding asking her problems. You would think she would notice that as well.


Last year I had an older woman teaching with me. Had never taught before and kept saying she couldn't do math. (So why did they hire her - I have no clue.) She again wouldn't plan with me - but we had common planning. Instead she would just start helping and screw the kids up so badly I had to reteach often. I spoke with the department chair who gave the two of us lectures about working together.

I finally reached a point that I would see that she was misteaching and address the whole class with the correct way to do this. I don't want to do this again - I look like a difficult person and I don't think that I am. Maybe I'll talk with teacher 2. We seem to have a better rapport.

And document this up the whazoo.

Or say to heck with it and teach around her as I have been doing.

With the economy the way it is, who wants to rock the boat? They have move 2 teachers from other departments because of enrollments. Who wants to be complainer?

Head down, no noise, work hard - I can overcome this.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Good Day

They will only change schedules if you need something to graduate, have failed THAT class for THAT teacher, or - nope, that's it.

Had a boy come to me today, wanting out of beginning basket weaving because "it's lame" - I explained that "it's lame" would never fly as a reason, so he started to sit down. Wait, I said - what do you want to take instead? Don't know - OK, what do you plan to do after graduation? Go into the military. OK, go tell them that this course won't help you pursue my dreams after graduation. And they might change the course. Keep an open mind - if they give you home ec - well, girls are in home ec and you will live someplace that you are responsible for.

They changed his course, he's happy, and he got home ec.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Trying new things

My repeater class continues to give me problems. I tried teaching out of a different book, using more activities, and only about 1/3 were engaged. Yesterday I tried something different and no one would respond to me, so I got out gum and tossed it at whoever would give me a right answer.

Today, I started at the beginning of the book, using the overhead, and worked the problems alongside them. Better response - for about 30 minutes then downhill.

It is time to write some up for classroom disruption.


Girl fight in the hall - two little girls who had to have three coaches EACH haul them off of each other.

Had a girl in my repeater class cry. She's afraid she won't pass again and most of the class refuses to pay attention. I told her as long as she does what I ask, she will pass - and the others may not, depending on choices they make. She told me several only sit next to her so they can cheat. I told her let them. I usually make different versions and apparently have to make a point.

One of these who talks over my lecture and does no math asked for a paper clip. I told her I didn't have one. "You're lying." Ok, I said, let me reword it. I do not have one that I will give to you.

"You have to. You're the teacher."

Actually, no, I said.

With the cut in pay, no supplies, more students, I refuse to be the supply store.

Going to be an interesting year.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I love a good laugh

Last year I had a student who would do NOTHING and told me, almost daily, how he'd rather be suspended than be in my class.

Today he stopped buy my room to ask me what grade I was teaching this year (nothing he can take). He told this year's teacher he'd rather be in my class.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

the purpose of bullying is to gain power through fear

I saw this in the paper today and thought about the administration in the school.

Carolyn Hax: Being a bully is not the same as being funny
Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Writers Group
Posted: 08/15/2009 12:10:00 AM PDT

Q: I've just had a conversation with my husband, asking him not to make fun of me when I forget something. His reply was: "Poking fun is the basis of all humor. That's my sense of humor. Comedians do it all the time." I said comedians are not in relationships with the people they are making jokes about. He said again that's his sense of humor, and I should get used to it. What do you think?

A: Comedians poke fun all the time, yes, but so do bullies.

The purpose of comedy is to amuse and enlighten; the purpose of bullying is to gain power through fear. Bullies find your weak spots and press until you fall in line.

Comedians poke fun at themselves as well as others. Bullies pick only on others, and only on people they regard as unlikely to strike back.

So how is your husband usually — amusing, or cruel? People of integrity won't dismiss a loved one's pain, or defend their right to cause it.

If, on the other hand, context says you married a bully, and you're just waking up to it, then please talk to a trained professional about emotional abuse. A call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 800-799-SAFE, can get that process started.

strategies for presenting material they've already had (repeaters)

1. Learning Style Inventory
2. Begin review the first day. I do startups daily (quiz grade once a month) so I will use the state test problems as the daily starter.
3. Tutoring before school, during school, after school, Saturdays - whatever you can get the kids to attend and can fund. The person suggesting this had grants to pay for during school and Saturdays.
4. Pre-tests, differentiation, teacher collaboration. (I am collaborating by blogging and emailing).
5, Intensive review for the state test the 2 weeks before the test.
6. Teaching students how to take a test.
7. Using a different approach. I intend to use Discovering Algebra and focusing on what I consider to be the 2 main concepts: solving equations and graphing.
8. Teaching for mastery - either continuing to offer them retests as long as they redo the work or offering to bump the grade to a 90, 95, or 100 if they can earn an 85 (keeping them from settling for the just-passing score, which dooms them when they fail something. I don't know how to approach the brass with this but I can see that it might work.

OK - other suggestions?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Learning Styles

If you are looking for a learning styles test to give your students (and don't want one of the many, fantastic interactive ones) try

I find that most of my students are kinesthetic learnersm which surprised me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Free calendar from Nestles

Contains coupons worth $20.

Unrealistic expectations

As a teacher, I understand that I have to set the bar high to get students to give the most (and grow) - but you cannot set it impossibly high. I encourage my students - but I cannot have the same expectations for each of them as they are not clones.

So why do administrators that we can give them the same results for each class, regardless of who is in the class?

Mr. Hulk called a math meeting yesterday to talk about the results of the state test scores. He singled out Basketweaving, the course I will be teaching this year. Basketweaving has been replaced with a standards based class (Gourd Water Carrier) last year, so there were no new Basketweaving students last year - and the class I have this year have already failed it twice.

Two years ago, the last time this was a new course, the pass rate was 32% (not good at all). Last year, with repeaters, the pass rate was 23%. Mr. Hulk announced that the scores need to improve this year. The people who pass the test are passing the course. I have the ones who cannot do either.

I am not going into this with a defeatist attitude. But I do not think it is unrealistic to realize I will fail more this year than I ever have. I hate that and am looking for ways to make them successful. How does it help me to have him tell my whole department that I have to increase the pass rate on a state test?

OK: the plan. I will be integrating activities from a hands on Basketweaving text. I am going to encourage them to take notes daily (the notes will be graded for a test grade which can replace their lowest test grade). I will model the note taking (using Cornell notes) daily and keep a copy in the room. I plan to do pretests for each unit (which will be similar to the unit test) and teach the portions they don't know. I am also going to put more focus on the main concepts and less on the minor ones. I also teach a lot of test taking strategies.

I was talking to a teacher in another area. He suggested looking for grants and running Saturday school to supplement their knowledge. (any ideas?)

Did I mention that it is a state requirement that they pass Basketweaving (or Gourd Water Carrier - which is harder) in order to graduate?

Any other ideas? Teaching strategies I should look into.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Now is the time

It is definitely a nervous tic. He said "now is the time" (well, not really, but his favorite phrase) 61 times in the course of out 6 hour meeting. He can go long stretches without saying it then - boom - 3 or 4 in a row.

Definitely made the meeting more interesting.

I had people around me counting as well!!

No surprises.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow

My car is loaded - but I don't know if I'll be able to put stuff in my room.

I'm sitting here thinking about setting up a Bingo game for tomorrow's meeting. I did that one trip to visit my parents - and my mom didn't disappoint. She hit every square we'd set up.

My principal has a pet phrase. At the last meeting I attended I started keeping track and he said the same phrase 10 times. (And I started keeping track during the meeting. It is a nervous tic.)

I can't say the phrase (he might even recognize that he says it but there is no way he is aware how often he says it) but I think I will at minimum count that. I wonder what else I can predict that he'll do.

I just want my keys and access to my room.

Ears pierced while you wait (as if you have a choice)

I heard a sermon a couple of weeks ago about being busy. How Americans say that as if it's a good thing. "I can't help you right now, dear, I'm busy."

But, the minister pointed out, that interferes with our ability to see the big picture and to enjoy our time on this world.

I am horribly guilty about this. I am always busy. When I go to the beach, I can't just lay in the sun - it drives me crazy to do nothing. And yet I find that, over time, I am getting less accomplished than I would if I weren't so busy.

I let important people slip by the wayside in my busy-ness. Phone calls and letters I didn't write and now can't.

I took family time yesterday to do something with the family - and we are all out of practice.

My busy time starts up tomorrow: meetings, lessons, teaching, calling home, etc. I want to keep my eye on the important parts of my life and skip being too busy.

Google too busy - it's discouraging!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer is ALMOST over

Tomorrow we'll go on a last-day-out - last fling before school.

Hubby fixed the bed - it is awesome!! Daughter is happy with her new mattress.

I didn't get everything done that I needed to so Sunday will be catch up.

I am ready to be back.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

More on furloughs - you value what you pay for.

It's interesting. As I read the different ways the various counties around here are dealing with the required 3-day furlough, I am learning a lot about how teachers view themselves and how others view teachers.

The state superintendent went on tv to assure the general population that they didn't need to worry about their children's education: the teachers would do the work needed to get school up and running even without pay.

A local school board member said that teachers need to learn to be conservative in the classroom. I think she meant that we needed to turn off the light when we weren't there.

On the one hand, I know things are tough all over and I am more than willing to think smart and do my part. On the other hand, I resent the state telling me that of course, I will work for free.

"They" say that there will be more furloughs after the first of the year. We have 10 non-student days. Only 3 are after Christmas. If they need more than 3 more, they will have to cut into student days.

Math teachers should KNOW better about measuring twice

There is an article in today's paper that the Port of Seattle is going to lose $1 Million because they mismeasured a trench.

The trench is 2.5" wide where it should be 2.52" and the cables that need to go into the trench do not fit.

My oldest wanted a new mattress. She sleeps on futons on our old (double) bed. The futons are Queen size, so a Queen mattress will fit, right? No.

The new mattress came today and is 5" too long for the frame. I assured the delivery man that it was my fault and we would fix it and we were pleased with the mattress. I'm sure he isn't sure I was telling the truth.

My husband is annoyed because he asked if I was sure before they bought the mattress (note: he could have measured the frame). I was (and I was wrong). Daughter is upset because she is having to undo her room so we can fix the length of the frame. Hubby is also upset because he has to do it.

Guess I should have measured and remembered what ASSUME means.

On the other hand, this is fixable with minor inconvenience and daughter has a much better bed (well, mattress) as soon as we are finished.

Monday, August 3, 2009

School in ten - nine . . . .

Next week is approaching too quickly. I don't know what day I'll start. I don't know how many copies I'll be able to do. I don't even know what my pay will be. (There is a meeting in the near future to discuss furloughs and pay cuts).

The class rolls are being entered but there a big problems (kids with no home room or no classes or they have the same class twice during the day). Or they haven't finished the prerequisites for the classes they are enrolled in.

The school had construction over the summer that isn't close to done.

Oy, vey!

Good news - I both know the subjects I will be teaching and know the material like my own children. Heck, maybe better than I know my own children.

I will take things to the office store tomorrow to get some copies made (since I don't know if I will be able to do that before the first day). These aren't freshman, so I intend to hit the ground running.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

College Grad Can't Find Job, Wants $$$ Back

College Grad Can't Find Job, Wants $$$ Back
Updated 10:59 AM EDT, Sun, Aug 2, 2009

She went to college to boost her chances of finding a great job once she got out of school, but now that that hasn't happened, Trina Thompson wants her money back.

Thompson, a graduate of Monroe College, is suing her school for the $70,000 she spent on tuition because she hasn't found solid employment since receiving her bachelor's degree in April, according to a published report.

The business-oriented school in the Bronx didn't do enough to help her find a job, Thompson alleges, so she wants a refund. The college says it does plenty for grads.

The 27-year-old information-technology student accuses the school's Office of Career Advancement for not living up to its end of the deal and offering her the leads and employment advice it promised, according to The New York Post.

"They have not tried hard enough to help me," the beleaguered Bronx resident wrote in her lawsuit, filed July 24 in Bronx Supreme Court.

Thompson's mother is proud of her daughter for completing her college education, but acknowledges Trina is upset that all her high hopes haven't panned out.

The mother and daughter live together, but Trina's mother, Carol, is a substitute teacher and the only one of the two who makes any money. They're barely scraping enough together to get by, reports the Post.

On top of her unemployment woes, Trina now faces mounting debt from student loans.

"This is not the way we want to live our life," her mom told the paper. "This is not what we planned."

Monroe defends its career-advice programs and is adamant that its staff assists young professionals in their careers.

"The lawsuit is completely without merit," school spokesman Gary Axelbank told the Post. "The college prides itself on the excellent career-development support that we provide to each of our students, and this case does not deserve further consideration."

On the school's Web site, the career program boasts that it provides free services for graduates at any point in their lives.
First Published: Aug 2, 2009 8:05 AM EDT

How long before students sue because we didn't teach them (even though they take no responsibility for their own education)?

supplies - still

I am getting a very different perspective on shopping for school supplies this year. I have shopped for my own (collage), for my children in elementary school through high school, for my students.... Now I am shopping for a child going off to collage. WAY more expensive but somehow exciting.

Spent another $15 yesterday (filler paper and colored pencils and rulers).