Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Directions

(Do you love Glee like I do?)

A few weeks ago the Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for our district sent me an email asking me to call her.  So I did.

She talked for several minutes about a position that they were going to add at the other high school in my district (our rivals). I figured she was going to ask me to help out or get ideas or something of that nature.

But then she said, "So, are you interested?"

She told me she didn't know if I'd thought about leaving the classroom or had been looking to make changes, but she thought I would be a good fit for this position.  It's almost like she had read my blog or something! :)

I met with her in person that week to talk a little more, then sent the Human Resources Director with my resume and a letter of interest. The principal emailed me the next week asking when I could meet up for an interview.  Last Wednesday I met with her and the two assistant principals.  On Tuesday of this week I talked to that principal, who offered me the job.

So.  I am no longer going to be a math teacher, which I feel like has defined my life for the past 16 years.  I am now a technology/instructional coach.  I'll be working with a building full of people (all subjects) in helping them integrate technology into their classroom. I'll offer support, resources, ideas, and whatever else they need.

I'm excited!  And scared.  And sad.  And eager to start. And ready for time to try and figure this all out.

Today is my last day of school. My closet and file cabinets are cleaned out, my posters are off the walls. Basically, my room looks boring again.  It's really weird to know that this could be the last time I say goodbye to a class of students (and I've really enjoyed my classes this year). I didn't enjoy saying goodbye to all of my friends that I've worked with for the past 12 years; although I'm in the same district it's just not going to be the same.

A new adventure awaits. My fingers are crossed.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Diigo Tags (weekly)

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Thursday, May 23, 2013


Today is our seniors' last full day (although they get out at noon for a cook-out).  And boy, are they ready to go!

I was out yesterday for my little girl's kindergarten recognition program. Apparently the seniors in my Math Intervention class ordered pizza.  I have to admit that we'd talked about doing it sometime but they actually followed through.  Know what I'm upset about?  They didn't save me a piece.

I've gotten hugs, thank you cards, pictures, invites to grad parties, and a handshake. :)  But the note that this kid left on his last assignment was the best, I think.

At my school the seniors apply for the opportunity to give a speech at graduation (we don't have valedictorian/salutatorian speeches).  One of my precalc kids tried out and was chosen to speak. She told me today that she's going to refer to the Fibonacci sequence and expects me to give a fist pump; she'll be looking for me in the crowd.  :)

You never know what they'll remember!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Diigo Tags (weekly)

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Finals! (almost)

I didn't know when this year started how much I'd be able to get through in my Integrated (think General) Algebra 1 course.

I think we all realize that every year (heck, every class!) is different.  When I last taught the course (2 years ago) I had several boys who had failed CP Algebra 1 because they were self-admittedly lazy. Smart, but didn't do their homework.  They helped me push the rest of the class because they would've been bored otherwise.  Overall, my group was bright but majorly under-achieving.

This group has been different. We've been a slower-moving, needing-more-help class. Basic skills are a biiiig issue. But after practicing things over and over and over they get it, mostly. Does it stick?  About as much as it sticks with other classes.

I had planned to start my exam review today with these guys. We officially have 6 school days until exams start and we had our last quiz yesterday. I checked out our list of topics for the past semester and decided I was going to re-think what I included on the exam.

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Don't sweat the small stuff" and that's what I have decided to do. I'm not going to ask them to solve systems of equations. I'm not going to ask them to find the distance between two points. I'm going to stick to what I consider the basics of Algebra 1.
1.  Solving equations (and inequalities)
2.  Writing and graphing linear inequalities
3.  Simplifying with exponents
4. Adding, subtracting, and multiplying polynomials
5. Factoring and solving quadratics

And, just to maybe help them feel more comfortable next year in Geometry,
6. Simplifying radicals
7. Pythagorean Theorem

I made reviews for each topic (the geometry stuff still needs to be put together) and copied them on bright orange paper. My hopes are that the color will remind them that these papers are important.  But I'm sure I'll be picking these papers up off the floor after class...

There's only so much you can do.

(Totally off topic: We're celebrating the retirement of a fellow math teacher today after school.  I'm totally envious.)

Thursday, May 16, 2013


One of my senior students has decided that he isn't going to worry too much about precalc anymore (not that he was ever too concerned with it).  I've enjoyed giving him quizzes lately, though, because he's very imaginative and makes me laugh.

#1. The banana car

#2. Great Scott

#3. Extremes

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Just call me Gumby (I'm flexible like that)

I did something today that I don't do very often.

I let my 1st period class talk me into postponing their quiz until tomorrow.  Here are the pros and cons that I quickly thought through:

1.  We were missing 10 out of our 28 members for AP Tests or field trips.
2. Several of the kids present were taking an AP exam this afternoon and were thankful for the extra time to review.
3. I'd already decided that our schedule was going to have to change because of a semester exam scheduled earlier than I'd anticipated (next Friday!).
4. We'll still get through all of what I'd hoped (we're finishing up with limits at infinity next) and won't have time for more.
5. It gave me time this morning to get my random stack of papers graded (I abhor that stack. It taunts me until I actually sit and attack. I'd rather have 3 classes of quizzes to grade than 10 random papers.).
6. No major make-ups to schedule in the next few days.



The only thing I can think of is that it's giving the kids a "day off". I don't like to do that very often because then they expect them... but at this point in the year with them taking multiple AP tests, I think I can sacrifice.

I've had an awesome year with these guys.... I think I can handle being a little more flexible with 10 days to go.

Oh, and there were 5 kids in my last class who were going to "die" if I didn't give the quiz today, so they're taking it now. I considered making them sign a non-disclosure statement before they started but thought that might be a bit extreme.  Of course, I did tell them that I wasn't going to grade them any earlier, and after some pouting they were ok with that. :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Diigo Tags (weekly)

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Boxing it up!

On the second (or third?) day of school my Precalc kids are tasked with making a box. I cut up different colors of card stock into various sizes and they have to determine how much to cut out of each corner to create an open box. (I wrote more about it here.)

It's a good reminder of a lot of function stuff - graphing, domain, max and min, zeros. And it gets them to start thinking out of the box. (Ha!)

Once they're done, I have them write up a sheet that I call the Summary Sheet. It has their original paper dimensions, the formula they used to find the optimum height (l x w x h) and their simplified version V(x) = 4x^3 + . . .

I keep it. I pitch the boxes. (Who has room for 70+ open paper boxes?!)

Today we were finally ready to follow up on the boxes. I gave them what I called the "Box Project Follow-Up"  (I know... what an imaginative title!)

I was out this morning because I had to take a little girl to the doctor, but I made it back for my 3rd precalc class. They tend to struggle a little more with ideas, so it was nice to be here.

The gist was to find the derivative of their volume formula (although we haven't named that the derivative yet, but we've talked about how it's the slope of the function when given a point x) and then set that equal to 0. (Why?  I'll ask tomorrow and see if anyone thought about that....)

Several kids wanted to try and factor the nasty quadratic that they ended up with, but most went straight to the quadratic formula. It works out so that of the two answers you get, one is too big (more than width/2) and one of them is the value that they cut out as their height.

It was fun to see the lightbulbs go on when the kids realized that the value they found from graphing in August is the same as the value they found using a limit in May!

We've learned so much since then. :)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Busy days!

I was out Thursday and Friday of last week; Thursday was spent working on our new CCSS Math 1 course. Man, is there a lot of work still to be done!

We have a basic outline of what is going to be included in each unit and when it's going to be taught during the year. We saw a list of the topics to be covered on both the MYA (mid-year assessment) and the EOY Assessment (end-of-year assessment). It looks like once we integrate the geometry into the algebra - our original reason for choosing the integrated path - we'll be in good shape timewise.

This, of course, assumes that we'll be able to teach what is intended and the kids are ready to move on. BIG assumptions there.

My next task is to populate a livebinder with resources, links, and ideas. I need somewhere to start.  Then I think I can come up with some more concrete plans.  And to think that a couple of months ago I was determined not to work this summer.  Ha!  (It wouldn't have happened anyway. I can't unplug.)

On Friday our seniors were out for the first half of the day for what we call Senior Life Skills Day. They attend a series of sessions covering Sex, Breast/Testicular Cancer, Social Media, Self-Defense, and Financial Literacy. I haven't attended for quite a few years but because I have a senior homeroom this year I stuck with them. It was pretty interesting, and I think the kids enjoyed it... I did hear one kid comment after a few sessions that both the Sexpertise and Social Media sessions scared the crap out of him.  I think it's a nice chance for the kids to get out of the "bubble" they live in!

I left Friday around lunch time; a friend and I traveled to Indianapolis to run in a half marathon on Saturday morning. I'm not quite sure what to think about the race; I actually enjoyed the run and felt comfortable, but wish I'd had a better time. Yet if I'd gone faster I wouldn't have felt as good and enjoyed it as much.  Plus, I had to stop around mile 3 at a port-a-potty.  Have you seen/heard/read about Dan Meyer's grocery lane query? That was me when standing in line. Should I have picked the longer line of mostly guys or the shorter line with mostly women?

I chose poorly. And we won't even talk about the woman in front of me who let a friend jump in.

So I made it back to school today met by 3 classes of Precalc quizzes to grade and 1 section of Algebra 1 quizzes to grade. At least one person in each class asked me if I had them graded yet. (Seriously?!) I even had to make a list of all the stuff I had to do just to make it more manageable.  Then during 6th period, one of our study hall monitors/building subs brought me 18 shiny presents... Chromebooks to use with my Algebra classes!  So much for grading!

I'm starting some probability here soon (started today in my Algebra 1 class) and would love to do some interactive lessons with them, but now I'm struggling trying to find some non-java based programs.  Today I found this but I'm not super happy with it. I'll definitely pull out some deal-or-no-deal and maybe a lottery simulator. I'll definitely be on the lookout for some better options.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Diigo Tags (weekly)

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Online assignments (again)

I just passed back a couple of quizzes to my 1st period class. (Note: is everyone as bad at passing back papers as I am? I get stuff graded pretty promptly, but then they sit for weeks until someone asks.)

One of the boys who normally does ok totally killed the quizzes. And I mean like both were 100%. A girl setting next to him was like, "Wow! You did awesome!" I agreed with her. His response was amazing to me.

"It was the MathXL."

He went on to say that he really liked the program; he liked how he got the instant feedback on whether something was right or wrong. This is a kid who (when I assign bookwork) tries to finish it as we're starting class... and obviously doesn't check his answers in the back of the book.

I decided for this last unit (limits) that we weren't going to use the MathXL program. There are too many kids in and out for various reasons and may not have computer access. I'd actually been considering whether I wanted to use it next year or not... and had been leaning towards no.

This may change things.

PS - It's May!!!