Saturday, January 31, 2009

Current events

Every student I teach knows who the president is - and that is it.

We were going over permutations and combinations (order matters in the first but not in the second) and I read the question :"How many ways can you select a president and vice-president out of 20 people? Permutation or combination?" They all responded COMBINATION!

I said "Order doesn't matter? You might want to ask Joe Biden."

Who's Joe Biden?

Gotta love it.


WOW!! I just learned I can correct the spelling after I post. Hope this reads easier now!

Silliness and grumpiness

I have been way too grumpy this year. We have a new curriculum that has me scrambling daily trying to find the target I am teaching toward. There is no textbook. You don't teach to the book, but it sure helps to provide structure and problems. So, I have to find or create worksheets everyday, because the don't want to copy anything off the board - and my students don't do that very well anyway.

I did say they were in high school, didn't I?

I have 2-5 in every class who do not want to be in school and really don't care what they do to interfere with everything. So they talk loudly. They throw things. They wander around the room. And I get louder. And grumpier.

I had an epiphany this week. I am doing all of the work, except for the few who want to learn. And I decided, for the ones I mentioned above who don't care, I will worry about their grade the first day of preplanning.

We have time set aside every week to recover their grade. To relearn, not do grade recovery. And then to recover the grade. I have made it too easy - in effect grade recovery. So, I have told them that this is how we are recovering this semester.
  • Starters. I didn't let them recover these, just gave them a 60. This is a quiz grade every 2 weeks to raise their grade. Should be an easy 100 as it is on the board, but as I said above, they don't copy well. Recovery is now "Here's a sheet with the 10 things we did for starters - work them on your own sheet of paper and turn them in."
  • I have one young man who will write down NOTHING. I have told him I will not sign a bathroom pass unless he writes down the day's starter. Friday's was 5 numbers. Not working them out, just 5 numbers. (2*5*29*31 and 7!) and he wouldn't do it. Documentation time.
  • Recovery for a test or quiz is this: go back to your notebook (I gave them one and write notes on the board that they have to copy. I keep 2 notebooks of these notes that they can copy as well, because this is a test grade at the end of the semester. And I write the notes as I would have as a student - probably a college student not a high school freshman, but still.)
  • I had them glue cool pages in their books 1st semester - we are doing more writing, less gluing this semester.
I am writing more up and shipping them out. In this endeavor, their vocabulary never lets me down.

And there have been some instant rewards. One student can be a pain, but she makes me laugh, and I have been returning the favor. I had a rash of desks being turned over. I'd turn around, and 1 or 2 desks would be flipped. I thought one particular boy was doing it but I couldn't catch him. The one day, while I was working with him at the board, I turned around and 4 desks were flipped over and only 2 girls could have done it - and I KNEW which one it was - she had just left for the bathroom. I straightened the desks - and flipped hers - rather than doing a write up. She came back - and laughed!! And no more desk have gone on their side.

Yesterday, during a test, while I was watching the kids, I look up to see her holding a notebook in front of her, peering at me over the top, just her eyes visible. I reached behind me and got a bathroom pass(about an eighth of a sheet of recycled paper for them to write on as a pass), held it in front of my face, and peered at her over the top. (OK, juvenile and distracting). She laughed - and no one else got it.

A boy who has been a pain - bright but disruptive - asked me earlier this week if he could spend his class time in another class - he had said he was moving this week (and he did) so I agreed. He came in his last day, walked across the room, and hugged me.

A boy from last year - my first student from the earliest posts - came to see me this week and I chewed him out for the behavior that I hear about in his other classes - and he hugged me.

But the kicker is a girl who argues and talks constantly in my class. I have an upcoming meeting with her mother, and I could hear her saying she couldn't wait (she keeps telling me her mother will take care of me - ok). I asked her how she'd done on another teacher's test the day before - she hadn't finished it. Did she have any questions, so we worked a page of problems. She still had 20 minutes after my test (which tells me how she did on mine) so she went to ask the teacher if she could finish the test. Teacher had already graded them, students had to come in that morning to finish. "I couldn't hear because there was too much talking and I missed it - now I have to recover and it'll be hard" This is my point about her talking - she causes other people to miss things. Life is all about payback, but I think I am done with grumpy.

Friday, January 30, 2009

More on Woof

Woof (or so I will think of him for a while) stores his gear in my room and picks it up during 6th period. A month ago he got into a fight with another boy - who is in 6th period. It hasn't been a problem.

Today, Woof came to get his stuff and stopped in the doorway (I do not know what he saw - but Other Boy - or Obi - was in a mood today). Woof asked a girl to get his stuff - she said no.

I started to tell him to get his own stuff when I glanced at Obi and got it myself. I then wrote notes to several people telling them that Woof is showing signs of maturity - not starting another fight is a plus.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gotta love them

I have a student who barks. I don't know why. Other than he wants attention and thinks this is cool. He does this when I am writing on the board. I do believe it is time to go back to the overhead projector - and move him to the seat in front of me.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


My horoscope today: Someone in the background is secretly rooting for you. Expect help from behind the scenes.

Had to call several parents about their children talking. They cannot hear what I say. The are not learning. And they need to change.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Calling Parents

I am getting ready to call parents about their children's tardies. I love the ones who tell me they are coming from gym - when they are really coming from the same room they have come from for the past semester (yes, I am incapable of checking their schedule and figuring this out) or the ones who are consistently late coming from next door.

Check out the blog at - I not only have to do all of these, I have to call on tardies. Let's not mention behavior.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I hate group work

It is hard enough as a teacher to get students to work effectively in a group, and to have everyone work with no hitchhikers. I am doing some professional development classes that require two people doing a project together. Hey, we're teachers, everyone knows the rules, right?

I thought the powerpoint was due in early January and emailed my pal Sally a dozen times over the break to get some feedback, never heard from her, so I did it all myself.

Found out that it wasn't due til this week, so I explicitly told her that I expected her to read some articles on the topic and add to the powerpoint. When did she call me? After 9 pm the day before it was due - and not to add anything to the presentation.

I heard through a friend that she thinks I'm upset with her (really?) and that I should make up. No problem. I will never work on anything with her again.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Reality Check

Today the students got their report cards for the first semester. I overheard several in a class talking about how "He didn't give her a point!!!" so I walked up behind them. Apparently one girl had a 69 in a class and was incensed that the teacher hadn't passed her.

I reminded them that this is high school and we don't give points. I reminded them that I've told them since day 1 that high school teachers have no problem letting you repeat a class as many times as you want to take it.

I was told that wasn't fair.

Just so you know.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I failed 10%

I should say they failed themselves. Even with a ridiculous recovery policy, even nagging and calling, 10% refused to do the minimum and pass. I know they don't believe me when I tell them they will be repeating. Some have to learn by doing.

Good news, I had that many As as well - so some are listening.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It is sooooo cold!

Ok, it's the south - we don't like ice. My room was 50 degrees today - the heater broke!!

He didn't pass.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Let's reward those who do nothing

I have a student who hasn't done anything since October. He does write his name on the paper - but that's it. Since I grade hard - and know that I do - I have built in grades that allow the students to copy off the board and come close to passing, so they don't give up. Had this student done that, he'd be passing going into the final.

Instead, he sits there and tells me he hates school, his teachers wouldn't teach him, he doesn't understand - but he won't even copy the answers off the board.

I just told his mother that if he passes my exam tomorrow, I will pass him for the semester. I will even put that in writing and hand it to him when he comes in. What I didn't tell her is I am already planning on curving the grades (49 problems, 1 point each). All he has to do is answer 19 problems correctly - and we have done 24 of them in class this week.

We'll see what he gets. Guess I have to do this for about a half dozen others. But if I know (and I do) that I will be recovering the grades anyway, I may as well.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

education value has an interesting discussion on the value we place on education in this country.

I spent the week reviewing for midterm exams. My students will have 2 exams over the material - my class and their other math class. And they act as if they have never seen the material before. And yet, kids were checked out early, stayed home because they didn't want to come to school, and even asked me what happens if they don't take their exam (You have to make it up at some point or take a 0 on 15% of your grade.)

Just Say Yes week

Exams are next week. This should prove to be educational (and revealing) for my students. We have allowed them to recover everything - the district policy is that exams are not recoverable. My next unit is on probability. Does anyone want to give me the odds that I will be recovering my exams?

I ran into the mother of one of my children's elementary school friends - haven't seen her in 15 years. At that point, she was talking about starting a school, because she wasn't happy about the school our children attended (neither was I). Since I am certified to teach a lot of subjects now (and wasn't certified for anything then) I mentioned it - the funding is there, she just couldn't figure out how to do it. You never know.

Overheard in my classroom this week:
1) I need to raise my grade in your class (says a student that I have tried to do recovery for 3 months) but I want to do it other than doing math. My response: no. Do the math or keep the grade.

2) (student who is failing my class and does NOTHING except write his name on the paper) Sign my form to exempt your final. My response: no.

And this was Just Say Yes week.....

Sunday, January 4, 2009


I graded their journals. Because my students don't really know how to take notes, I write the notes for them to copy. I provided the notebooks. I told them it was for a grade (should have been an easy one - they just had to copy from the board). Sixteen per cent didn't even have it available for me to grade - and they aren't supposed to take this out of the room.

I reminded them for a week that I would be grading them - and 16% weren't even there to grade.

I don't know how to make it easier for them to pass.

The average grade (I took 2 points off if a written page wasn't there and 1 point off if they hadn't glued a page in) was 71. There is no calculation. It's just copying.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The soft bigotry of lowered expectations

Half of the students I teach should not be in high school: they failed enough classes in middle school AND failed the standardized test that is required for high school - but here they are.

Add the misuse of the recovery policy (the district's policy requires reteaching, a time limit [like 2 weeks], an honest attempt the first time, an one recovery - that is NOT how it is envisioned by the administration and they insist that we implement it the way they see it not the district) - and the students don't see any real deadlines or necessity to follow instructions. I keep telling them (as do the other high school teachers) that the free ride is over. We have students who are taking Algebra I for the 4th time. They aren't going to be given a pity pass.

So, I'm trying to figure out how to make a final exam that is valid yet easy enough they can pass. They struggle with negative numbers - so this isn't easy to do.

I want them to succeed - in high school, in my class, but more importantly in life. They cannot see that what appears to be helping them (the recovery policy and lowered expectations) is really hurting the,