Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Back to Business

So, personal stuff aside, I've had some things brewing that I wanted to address.

1.  I offered my precalc kids extra credit to write their own trig identities - had quite a few take me up on it! (Shocking.)  Some really went for it, some basically wrote down an identity and thought it would suffice.  Definitely something I need to include as an actual assignment next year!  I was also thinking about doing a gallery-type walk with identities... you write a step to simplify then move on to the next one.  Still pondering that one.  (Here are the identities!  Take 'em as you will.)

2. Algebra 2 is a major bore right now... and I'm definitely the culprit.  We're finally hitting some of what I would consider the "real" stuff and I feel like the kids are in major resistance mode.  My plan is to throw in a little project (probably this one that I like to do in precalc) but the class has taken on a whole new tone. It used to be fun and lighthearted.  Now it's quiet and BORING.  Heck, even I'm bored!  But I so want them to get the basics down - we're just talking about graphing polynomials (which includes factoring & finding zeros).

One of my problems in that class is that I have 5 new students that I'm still trying to figure out.  There are 3 in particular that have posed some challenges.
1.  A move-in from Florida who has passed Alg2 and is auditing this semester because she obviously has no idea.  She's very cute and likes to talk and flirt. Awesome.  We had a little chat yesterday when I informed her that if she doesn't keep a passing grade and complete all of her assignments I can get her removed from our class. She was shocked.
2.  A transfer from the other high school in my district. He seems like a nice, hard-working kid, but his teacher over there was in chapter 3... and I'm in chapter 6.  (Don't ask what they've been doing all year, because I don't know.)  He told me that he knows how to factor but doesn't know how to solve quadratics.  Hopefully we can fix this before it gets too overwhelming - he admitted that what we've been doing in class has been a jumble of numbers.
3.  A transfer from our local vocational school.  She seems very sweet and hard-working but has a lot of personal issues going on and is only in school for 2 classes a day.  After solving some polys today I stopped by her to check how she was doing and she started crying. Says she has no idea what's going on. When I started offering help and suggestions she totally shut down and said "I don't want to talk about it."  I tried again, she repeated.  Ouch.  I stopped by the counselor's office to let him know; he's planning an informal chat tomorrow with her - I'm hoping that she'll be more receptive then.

So these 3 + boring me + hard stuff = a tough going.

Just gotta keep trying to make things better!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saved by twitter

I know I've said it before, but if you're not on twitter (or don't appreciate it), then you really need to try it out. Not only have I gotten so much more for my teaching career through the community I've become a part of, but I've made *friends*.  These are people who I've never met, have never spoken to, yet when I tweeted about a personal crisis I was having last night, they stepped up and offered all kinds of support.  I'm happy to say that the crisis has passed and I think things will be ok, but having all of those kind words and thoughts offered was invaluable.

From the bottom of my heart, I say thank you.  You all know who you are.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trig Identities!

Three precalc classes is too many.  Know how I know?  Because I'm getting a little tired of trig identities. It's admittedly my favorite part of the year.... but by the third time each day that I have to show/talk about/help with identities, I'm over them.

I was trying to think about something I could do to make them a little more fun... a puzzle?  Some sort of interaction? (Like I have, You have)  But I didn't get anything together for it.  So I guess we'll just finish 'em up in the next day or two (I'm going to a conference on Weds and will be out) and then move on.

C'est la vie.  (Did I spell that right?  I took German in high school.)

I hate to complain about my favorite class and my favorite topic. So I'll move on.

Just scored some brownie points with my principal - and I like to store them up for the future when I might get myself in trouble. :)  I was checking out the county ed website that lists all of their seminars (of which I'm attending on Weds) and noticed one called Performance-based Assessments for Mathematics that is being offered in April. I sent her an email asking if it would be possible to attend; just got a response saying that my department head is going to talk about it today.  

I haven't had my iPad usable since October (don't remember if I mentioned that or not) and have some new news on it...  Here's what's happened so far.
1.  Dropped a bowl on it while cooking in mid-October.  Oops. Got a pretty pattern on the glass but the iPad itself worked fine, thank goodness.
2.  Took it to an Apple store because I'd heard that sometimes they just swap 'em out. No dice.
3.  Just before Halloween I took it over to the Tech person for the district so she could take a look at it.
4.  Emailed her in early December because I hadn't heard anything... she responded by saying that it wasn't something they could fix at the district level (no duh) and it would be $350 (that I would have to pay) to send to apple to fix.  I asked if I could have it back so I could try and find a cheaper fix. She agreed.
5.  Got the iPad back our first week back after break.  They'd sent it off somewhere and the glass is entirely off the front.  Found a replacement glass on ebay that I ordered... hoping that a $41 fix will work!
6.  That week I plugged the iPad in to charge it. No reaction. Tried a different charger, same result. My guess is that when whoever removed the glass took it off they did something to the electrical component.
7.  Emailed tech lady again about the lack of charge almost two weeks ago. Nothing heard back.
8.  Forwarded that email to her again and very nicely said that maybe it had snuck past her.  She replied today (and she's been very good about responding to my multiple problems!) and said that if I get a quote to get the repair done to forward it to her and they'll issue a PO.

So here's where I am. They want me to find a fix for the part of the iPad I didn't break. Where do I start?

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I'm cleaning out my desk today.

The results:
1.  5 rolls of tape (masking and scotch)
2.  5 containers of white-out (I'm assuming they're all dried out)
3.  various school ids
4. a multitude of rubber bands, paperclips, and rulers
5. pages of stickers
6. old thank you notes from students
7. senior pictures of kids (many of whom I can't remember names... feel bad about that!)
8.  several years of evaluations
9. a water gun
10. 2 decks of cards
11. a timer (which I'll take home for my boy! need it for that nightly 15-minute reading time!)
12. various cd's and dvd's of who-knows-what

And all of this would be in addition to the stuff that I actually knew was there!
Want to do know what I'm doing the rest of the day?

(I'm not a total slacker - I've spent the previous 3 days grading, planning for the next couple of weeks,  and getting copies made.)

I <3 exam week!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Looking ahead

Today's our first day of semester exams. We always have exams the second week back after our winter break - I really wish we could do them before going on break, but it's always been this way and probably always will. My first class of precalc kids are currently working on it (I just finished up the answers and was pleased to only find one easily-corrected mistake on the test itself.... probably a record for me!).  This is the first time I've split an exam into calculator and non-calculator portions even though my tests normally are. I'm happy with the non-calculator part but think the calculator part is too easy.  Oh well - that can be fixed for next year!

In the next month or so we'll start scheduling next year's classes.  I've already started thinking about this a bit because for the first time this year we have an AP Calc BC course available. It was a last-minute thing last year so I didn't have time to really think about who should be in it; a handful of my precalc kids really stood out and wanted to take it. This year, though, it's constantly been in the back of my mind who I think is ready and able.

There are still some obvious choices. The kids who fly through everything with straight 98+ grades and love to actually think about math are definitely in.  There are two types of students in particular that I'm going to struggle with.

Type 1.  The under-achievers.  I have a few students this year who are obviously very very smart.
Two problems:  
1.  They're more of the "out of the box" type learner. They look beyond the typical problem to the "what if" type situation. It's an awesome thing to see, but when going to such a straight-forward-prepare-for-an-AP-exam type class (with a teacher who is very by-the-book, notation-is-key (because she has to be to get them ready for the test)) I don't know how that would work.
2.  These kids are under-achieving. They're not my highest-scoring students. In fact, one of the smartest thinkers has gotten B's both quarters because he doesn't really pay attention to the details.  That could be a problem.

Type 2.  The sophomores.  I have 2 sophomores in my classes (out of 94 total kids).  One does ok and I'll definitely recommend him for Calc AB but not BC.  The other does great but I don't think she's really learned anything since being with me.  She does a lot of outside work with math and was involved in some sort of college summer program.  She was moved into my class a month or so into school after starting out in our college prep precalc and blowing everyone else out of the water.  She's done really well in my class (A average on tests and quizzes) but doesn't work. Most days in class she sits with her head down (sleeping?) and homework completion is iffy. It's really hard for me to see what's going to happen when she hits something that she hasn't learned previously.  (She just asked me what multiplicity means in terms of zeros and didn't know why the zeros don't matter when talking increasing/decreasing/constant.) I feel like she's just relying on what she already knows.

My plan is to give the kids the opportunity to tell me what class they're interested in before I start giving my input. I'm going to give them this document to help them get an idea of what's involved and them get their feedback.  Hopefully some things will shake out from there!