Saturday, March 28, 2009

And in this corner, my crystal ball . .

I love that part of my job description is supposed to be mind-reading. I refused to sign a bathroom pass for a student who had done no work, is failing most of his classes, was arguing with me about everything. Today, after 8 months of school, I get an email from his mother that he has a diagnosed bladder problem and a doctor's note was taken to the office yesterday.

OK, how am I supposed to know that and the kid didn't tell me that.

Had a parent conference this week where the parents told me their child comes home and tells them he doesn't understand what I teach. I ask every day, several different ways, if they understand and how can I help. I cannot get them to do work in class, so I cannot see what they do and do not know.

The next day, student sat in a different place, did work, asked questions, and said he understood. Eureka!

Communication is important, but it goes two ways.

On the bright side, a student from last year stopped by to say goodbye. She is moving to another school but wanted to come see me one last time. She told me she loved me and that I am the only person who ever believed in her. That isn't true, because I know some of her friends and the believe in her also - but I may be the only person she heard.

The parents in the conference asked me about my teaching style - and the teaching style of the other teachers in the room. And I told them the truth. I am not warm and cuddly. Several of the teachers in the room are warm and cuddly. But I am persistent. My student may not come away form my class thinking I am their favorite teacher but if they can say they learned math from me, I am happy.

I will explain things however often or however many ways I need to. Sometimes I have to take a break to think of another way. I don't give up often - (I have given up on a couple but they won't do even the minimum to help themselves. I cannot do 100% and have them learn anything.) - and I tell my students often I do not teach stupid students. I teach students who missed something somewhere along the way. My job is to help them find it and learn it.

My gift this week from last year's student helps me remember why I want to teach. And I wish her well.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sometimes, you just have to wonder about their thinking

I had a student today loudly announce that, because of his attendance (or lack thereof), they (the state) may refuse to let him get his learner's permit. (Actually, he said they'd take it away.) He also said, that if they did that, there was no reason to go to school. If he wasn't going to be able to drive until he was 18, to heck with it, he'd stay home.

I don't don't suppose you could guess what kind of student he is, on a good day.

I started to say something, then it occurred to me that this was similar to a temper tantrum. I believe he thinks he can threaten to not come to school if they give him his learner's, and they will fold. It's probably worked up til this point or at his house. Reminds me of a kid threatening to hold his breath until he turns blue.


They say that dreams tell you what you are thinking. One teacher yesterday was talking about how he'd had a dream that his wife drove him out into the desert and tried to shoot him. He go the gun away from her and didn't shoot her, but he was mulling over what it meant.

We talked about how, if his marriage wasn't in trouble, maybe it was his OTHER marriage (job) he was worried about, laughed, and went home.

My dream last night was that my spouse was driving erratically and I had no control. (Too close, too fast, etc.) Nothing I said changed anything. Next thing I know we've rear-ended a limo - one that contains Oprah. She won't talk with my spouse, but she does allow me to come apologize to her and spouse and I end up in a sleezy hotel. We have no car, our plans a changed (can't get where we were going), and I have no idea what I am to do.

Yeah, I can read that one too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Counting the Days - OOPS

I have a student who has done nothing, nada, zilch, bupkis this semester. He has been counting the days until he is old enough to drop out, stay home, sleep late. He has rudely told me my class is a waste of time and other opinions he has of me. I am so glad my opinion of me is independent of what I am called every day.

I passed out progress reports today, so that the kids know what they have and that they 8 days before report cards are printed, so they can raise there grade. Birthday boy laughed at his grade (it was a single digit). Turns out - he can't drop out because of his behavior, the court, probation, and what not.

We went out in the hall. (I have no indoor voice and some things are private) I told him that he been treating my class like a waystation while he was waiting to drop out. Now that he can't drop out, would he like to raise his grade by working? Yes. And he grinned at me!

He patted me on the shoulder later walking by in the hall. I live for these small but valuable moments. Hallaleluljah!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

article from the Atlanta Journal and Constitution

Schools' assembly line mentality is a recipe for disaster
By Scott Allen
For the Journal-Constitution
Monday, March 16, 2009
A final assembler at the end of an auto assembly line keeps noticing cracked frames, misaligned doors and missing steering wheels and brake lights on many vehicles. The inspection record shows passing marks ("A," "B," "C") for most of these cars, but the cars clearly aren't ready for final assembly. Management tells the worker that the cars cannot be sent back up the line.
It doesn't make sense, does it? Yet, this is how education works.
Today's high school teacher is often asked to fix years of underachievement. Nowhere is the public school system's flawed process more obvious than in Georgia's new, ambitious math curriculum. High standards with inconsistent accountability can lead to quite a mess.
Despite pleas to "teach the students what they are supposed to know, or keep them until you do," the state's middle schools unleashed a new class of unprepared students into ninth grade this year. Nothing, it seems, could hold them back from high school. Not failure rates approaching 40 percent on the state math exam. Not even a failure to attend so-called "mandatory" summer school.
High school has become a dumping ground for students, regardless of whether they know anything. Yes, we have many fine, successful, high-achieving high school students, but that doesn't excuse setting up their underskilled peers for failure. At one high school, 100 students who didn't pass eighth grade moved to high school anyway. All but one failed every class they took their first semester.
Is this a surprise? Despite the best efforts of many elementary and middle school teachers, the system ignored these students' shortcomings. Rather than having Georgia Performance Standards, promotion process seems to be based on Georgia Performance Suggestions.
And then high schools are expected to do miracles with students who are multiple grade levels behind.
Because of a lack of accountability in grades k-8, students hardly feel responsible for achieving in high school. Many students feel entitled to advance to a new grade by virtue of being a year older. Social promotion is nothing new. But our new math curriculum was designed around a surprisingly dangerous and unrealistic assumption -- that our students have learned most of the requisite prior concepts.
This approach seems reasonable enough until high school teachers realize that many students can't solve basic decimals and fraction problems -- a fifth- and sixth-grade standard -- or even understand the instructions.
At our high school's recent open house, a local middle school teacher confided that the only way she can get her students to pass math tests is to strip all fractions and decimals from the problems and do everything with small whole numbers. Maybe this is why Georgia students struggle on the SAT.
While all students have strengths and weaknesses, too many middle school students earn passing grades for substandard work. When students enter high school deficient in the standards, high schools understandably struggle with low morale, low passing rates and low achievement scores.
These schools are totally disrupted each March as state graduation testing approaches. Teachers hold cram sessions and scramble to finish repairing long-standing gaps rather than just assembling the final pieces to prepare these students for college and work.
Like the car assembler, only high schools seem to be held accountable for producing acceptable test results.
> Scott Allen of Smyrna has taught high school mathematics in Cobb County for seven years.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I got my evaluation. No needs improvements - all satisfactory or not observed. I feel like I can breathe!!

Lots of ways I can get better - but I can breathe.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

To write up or not to write up - that is the question

Spring break is still weeks away - and the kids have gone loony tunes. They are stealing from each other left and right. I wrote about my binder (which has now become the most wonderful binder ever, in my eyes, but that is neither here nor there). This week they have stolen a phone, an ipod, and someone's fundraiser - just because.

But my larger delimma is their behavior. Big Boy2 is still crowding the girls and grabbing their arms. Curtis is still talking all of the time or not showing up. Angry Girl is still waltzing in late and wanting me to verify that she was late - as opposed to her bringing a note. Soljah Boy still interrupts my last class.

Angry Girl really topped it this week. I gave them their last test to fix.
AG: Why are you always doing this?
me (puzzled): Allowing you to recover?
AG: Giving us work to do. Why don't you do this when it's convenient for us?
me: You're in my class. It's convenient for you.
AG: Why are you being sarcastic?
me: So don't do it. (to the class) Do you want to recover or leave the grade the way it is? (chorus: recover)

Soljah Boy leaves his gear in my room and picks it up the end of the last class. I have told him he will lose that privilege if he disrupts my class. So Friday, he picks up his gear and grabs a girl's notebook on his way out the door. She chases him - I chewed him out. If I write him up, because of HIS prior behavior, it'll be several days out of school. I am torn.

Chirper in one class HAS to blurt out things (Move your ugly butt! Why are you talking?) Generally this is when I am teaching and it is directed at another young man, but it is terribly distracting and he won't stop.

Curtis - wants the rewards and just can't bring himself to stay put or follow the rules. Have to love it.

Tom Thumb accused me of not teaching the material. He said I just tested them on material and people were failing my class and passing what was supposed to be a harder class. I pointed out that my class average pretty much tied to the other class (because I had calculated it 2 weeks before. And that the material he didn't test well on I had taught 3 different ways (lecture, hands on, and group) , tested (where they couldn't reproduce it), retaught by lecture, group, and graphing. And that was why they were reworking the test with a graphing calculator to help them with the material. My option had been to give the test again.

The day before - he'd been talking instead of doing the work. Yep, I can see how I am not teaching him.

How do I get them to accept the responsibility? When they do - they soar. When they wait for handouts, they drown. Daily Grind talks about teaching to where they are, forget the past. I still need to see the kids acknowledge that I can be a brilliant teacher - and I don't think I am - but they won't retain it without work on their part.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Binder update - and nothing stuck.

My 6th period class found the pages from my binder - granted this is the most expensive part. The binder is gone. I emailed the parents because the student who took it still stole it.

I gave the test on transformations - the area I felt I had taught so thoroughly. They don't know any of it - the parent graphs, how to graph, what a transformation is. So I will reteach and retest.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I was teaching transformations of graphs last week and tried something a little different. I taught a standard lesson first (graphs with various equations showing how the changes in the equations change the graphs). Then I did the same thing, with the students copying the parent graphs onto patty paper (the waxed papers grocery stores put between hamburger patties - a cheap manipulative). Then, I did the SAME thing, with the kids in groups and each group was given an overhead sheet printed with a parent graph. The overhead sheet had 2 equations written on it [like a parent graph of f(x) = x and the two changes would be g(x) = 2x and h(x) = 2x + 3]. They had to show a t-chart with 5 points and then graph each equation - and explain it to the class.

I give a test next week and we will see what they learned.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Make your decisions good ones

Sassy Chick came in for help today. She didn't know anything that I'd taught for the last month - but she was willing to learn today and asked good questions. She was willing to participate while I covered and recovered and recovered the material and I think she knows it.

The girl I suspected took my notebook swears she didn't do it. I told her I believe her (and I will believe that down to my toes) so I assume it is gone. She also came for tutoring, so life is good.

This was also a day for lousy decisions. One student was caught with drugs on his person. Since he is on probation, I assume he will not be returning to my class. Another student, also on probation, has been told he cannot be disciplined again without going to jail - and can't bring himself to follow the rules. Another student has started the steps to drop out. And in a nearby county, three boys took guns to school or had them hidden at home.Ma

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

you have days that test your faith

I have the kids do a notebook, where they have to copy definitions and examples in a composition notebook. Since attendance is not 100% all of the time, I keep a master notebook, where I keep copies of what I have had them write, since their notebook is a test grade.

Yesterday someone took my notebook, a 2 inch binder, so it wasn't an accident.

Today, the grapevine informed me who did it and that she destroyed it. I think I was told why, but I honestly don't care why. I am deeply disappointed that she would destroy something for no reason other than she can.

I am not going to create a new one. Well, not exactly. I have it all on disk. I will print out this semester's pages that they had to write. For the pages they had to glue in, I am changing format.

I will have them write something different for each of those pages. Right now, today, I am leaning toward questions related to people to destroy things that aren't theirs as in:

  • Write a 4 line poem "ode to a thief"
  • Write how you feel about people who take things that aren't theirs {my notebook, your composition notebook, your education}
  • etc.
I may change, but it will all change to things they can write.

I did email the parents to tell them what I heard and that I had no proof, but I did ask them to check her room.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

It's snowing!

Probably won't stick but it's more than we've seen in ten years. It is accumulating in Birmingham, Columbus, Atlanta - and sticking to the raods. Let's all cheer together: no school tomorrow!! No school tomorrow!!

You know the kids are chanting that. They may even drown out the teachers!

Think nice warm inside thoughts!