Understanding Others #Election2016

This morning as students were walking in, I glanced at my Facebook feed.

Many of my students are Trump supporters. The most vocal among them are definitely Trump supporters. A number of them were happy. Not all, of course – some were upset, many were surprised, most were just tired.

My Facebook friends are a thorough mix – Clinton supporters, Trump supporters, people who deeply dislike both candidates. (I appreciate the mix – it’s important to me that I’m not in an echo chamber and hear many points of view.) The Trump supporters were pretty quiet this morning. My feed was a mix of “I’m glad that God is sovereign,” and “I’m deeply sad and frightened and how could we have elected this bigoted person?”

The disconnect between what I was reading and what I was hearing was a bit surreal.

In first period, there were a couple of instances of graffiti on the property of the one vocal Clinton supporter among my students. (Probably not the only Clinton supporter; just the only vocal one.) One student, who has repeatedly said he’s just glad he’s not 18 yet and can’t vote, pointed out that the losers were being more gracious than the winners.

I spent most of the day telling my students how other people feel. Yes, you’re happy because your candidate won – and that’s not bad. You can be happy. But you need to understand that a lot of people are very scared right now. You need to understand that, whether or not you think it’s fair, your candidate’s campaign is associated with xenophobia. You need to remember that, and understand how your glee comes across to people who are afraid for their safety. You need to be gracious in victory and raise the level of political discourse. Fine, you can’t change the nation – start with yourself.

I also spent a lot of time telling people to take off their “Make America Great Again” hats. You can be happy that your candidate won – but you still have to follow the dress code. No hats! I probably came across as trying to crush their joy; actually, I’m just a stickler for the rules.

At least one student left today with a greater understanding of how other people are feeling. Probably two. That’s a worthwhile day. And even if none of them had, I spent the day thinking about where other people are coming from and how other people are feeling, and that’s worth doing.



L’Hospital’s Rule

I was out the day we went over L’Hopital’s rule in Calc II, and my sub covered it. (Yay for subs who can teach Calc II!)

When I came back, my student asked me, “So, why does L’Hospital’s Rule work?” So we proved it – at least the 0/0 case, which was all I had in my notes.

“Ok, so why does the infinity/infinity case work?” (I love that she asks these questions!)

“Hmm…” I answered as I stared at it. “Maybe because…uhm….hmmm. I’m not sure. Can I think about that and get back to you?”

I had to look it up, but today I got back and proved it. And she still wanted to know!

Next time, hopefully, I’ll be there, and we’ll prove both that day. But I should add these to my notes.

In Praise of Algebra II Teachers

We started angles today – yay! I love trig, and the beginning of it is purty.

We’ve had four different Algebra II teachers in four different years, so I’m never entirely sure what students will know walking into my class. They all cover the same material, but every teacher has their stronger topics and their weaker topics.

Last year’s teacher was thorough. These kids have seen things. She also worked with a curriculum development specialist to overhaul the curriculum and get it into really good shape. At the end of last year, she asked me what I’d like her to cover with an extra couple of days. I mentioned the unit circle, handed her all my lesson plans and card sorts and games, and let her do her thing.

Apparently, she did an awesome job. The students know about radians! And are halfway comfortable with them! And voluntarily produced the words “unit circle!” I’m excited.

We even had time at the end of class today to do a card sort activity (that someone in the mtbos posted, but I can’t remember who…sorry!) where the kids had a sheet of angles, and a bunch of cards with radian measures and degree measures, and they had to match them. They did great. Also, I was proud of them for going at it with basically no directions except “Pick up a blue, yellow, and orange pack from my desk and match them. The blue sheet should be vertical.”

So, to last year’s Algebra II teacher: thank you. You rock. You served your students very well, and I am blessed to get to enjoy the fruit of your labor. Bless you.

Small Bites

How do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

Throughout the year, I tweak my curriculum a bit – move a day here or there because of calendar changes, add or rework or remove problems. This means I’m rewriting the keys as the year goes on.

But I do a lot of other things during the school year, also, so this job is never done as fully as it deserves. I don’t get to sit down and rework whole units, add Desmos activities, or the like. I’ve seen some really creative ideas over the last few years, and I can drip in a few of them, but not flood them in like I want to. Now, I think what I have is good. I just think it could be better.

So, one of my goals this summer is to rework everything and really get it hammered into shape. Incorporate Desmos, reverse the question, raise the ceiling, lower the floor, notice and wonder more. For my entire curriculum. And have the keys written. And do all the other things on my summer list, like STEM improvement and have coffee with friends and get some sleep and sew a lot. Oh, and figure out what I’m doing for Computer Science next year, because I’m teaching Computer Science next year, too.

And, of course, that means that I’m looking for resources. Reading new blogs, digging through Desmos teacher activities, looking at 3-Acts, hopping around Underground Mathematics and NRich.

What the online mathematical community has created is amazing. There are a million resources that are just. so. good. Guys, you rock. I don’t have to create new things; I’m looking to modify and adapt and incorporate your awesome things into what I’ve already created. But it’s also a little overwhelming. I feel like I’ve sat down in front of an elephant.

So, one bite at a time. Triage: Precal first (because it’s more students and needs more work), then Calculus. Rewrite assignments and lesson plans, then tests. Work on the units that need the most help first. Save the keys for later. Curriculum map last.

And if I don’t finish the whole thing…well, there’s always Christmas break.

Book Recommendations

On one of my whiteboards today, I asked my students to write recommendations for what I should read next. They came up with the following, in no particular order.

Also, to my students that read this – please feel free to add more or email me more.

  • This Side of Paradise by Scott Fitzgerald
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  • Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  • Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis
  • The Preist’s Graveyard by Ted Dekker
  • The Sanctuary
  • The Left Behind Series
  • Consolation of Philosopy
  • The Oath by Frank E Peretti
  • The Alex Rider Series by Anthony Horowitz
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanegan
  • The Brotherbane Chronicles by John Flanegan
  • The Magic Tree House
  • To Give a Pig a Pancake
  • Shutter Island
  • The Ishbane Conspiracy by Randy Alcorn
  • A Girl of the Limberlost by Jean Stratton Porter
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Wizards, Aliens, and Starships by Charles Adler
  • Sam I Am
  • The Last Thing I remember series by Andrew (illegible)
  • If We Survive by Andrew (illegible)
  • Mysterious Benedict Society by Treton Lee Stewart
  • The Roar by Emma Clayton
  • Ella Minnow Pea
  • The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
  • Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Harry Potter
  • East of Eden
  • Dante’s Inferno
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • Proslogion by Anselm
  • The Martian Chronicles
  • Jane Eyre
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  • The Dark Life by Falls
  • Eragon
  • Hedda Gabler by Ibsen
  • Life as We Knew It by Susn Beth Pfeffer
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • Hate List by Jennifer Brown
  • Partials by Dan Wells
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Chronicles of Narnia

So many to choose from…time to hit the library!

Ok, I’ll buy that

So, students read my blog. After last week’s post on blank stares, several of them explained their feelings about me being present to not-answer questions.

Student 1, on Friday: “It’s not that you answer the question. But when look at me, I see in your eyes that you know I can do this. That makes me believe that I can do it.”

Student 2, with help from Student 1, today: “It’s not really you. It’s just helpful to talk it out.”

Me: “So, it’s just the external processing? Could you just write down your thinking?”

“No, it has to be talking. And we can’t talk during a test, but if you’re here, and we’re asking you a question, then we can.”

Those are both things that make sense to me. Confidence, and external processing. Of course, most of their college professors are not going to indulge them on this, so what we need here is a way for them to meet those needs without my involvement.

Still, those are  both good explanations that make sense.



Blank Stares

I’m giving tests in a lot of classes on Friday. I’m also going to be out, so a sub will actually be giving them. (This means that some of my students will have subs in all of their classes on Friday, leading to speculation that the junior teachers are all going to Astroworld together.) This has happened several times this year. If I’m going to be out, I try to make sure it’s on test day because it’s so much easier to find a sub.

Some of my students have no problem with this. “Oh, you’ll be out? Ok. Who’s the sub? Is it someone I like? Oh, you should get Mrs. X!” Others…not so much. I get looks of pure distress. I’m also starting to get accusations. “Again? You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you?” (Well, yes, because of the sub thing.) “You just don’t want to answer our questions during the test!”

It’s that last statement that baffles me. I don’t answer questions during tests. It doesn’t matter whether or not I’m there – I’m not going to tell them how to work the problem. If there’s a typo or something, or if the instructions don’t make sense, that’s different, but a good sub can handle that. “Oh, the problem doesn’t work? Ok, well, write her a note telling her why, or how to fix it, or what you think she meant and then work that problem.” Or sometimes a sub will text me with a question. But I don’t answer student questions on how to work the problem. I just stare at them blankly. Sometimes I say, “Ok…”

I do have a lot of them who like to come up and ask me questions during tests. I don’t get it. They know by now that I’m not going to tell them anything.

They claim that it helps. That me just looking at them helps them understand. In class, students will call me over, and say, “Ok, I’m stuck here. I think I should do this next. And then I’ll do that. And then I do this…but now I’m stuck!” I look at them blankly. “Oh, wait, do I do this? I totally get it! Thanks!”

Literally, I stare at them blankly. I mean, of course, there are times that I help, but there are times when they claim that me looking at them helps them. I think that them talking themselves through their thinking got them unstuck, but they don’t agree.

Does anyone else have students who believe this? I’m considering printing out a picture of me staring at them blankly and taping it to the board on Friday so that they can just look up and see it.

Read my students’ explanations here.