Week 1: More silly faces and a look at the level tracker

If you’re not a math teacher, this probably won’t get you that excited, but if you are… BEHOLD! My brainchild!

Four kids on level two today! Hot-diggity-dog!

Four kids on level two today! Woo and yay!

The bulletin board behind me in the photo tracks students’ progress as they learn to simplify expressions with the order of operations and then, expressions mastered, to solve more and more challenging algebraic equations. It’s student-powered (they move their own stickies, which saves me work), it builds investment (overheard while waiting for the bus at summer school: “I’m on level three!” “Well I’ll beat you to level five!”), it differentiates assessments for me, and it provides me with useful data about which students and groups of students are where (The names on the sticky notes are color coded by class period).

Every few days at the beginning of school, then every week, I’ll give a level quiz. Each student knows his or her own level and asks for the appropriate quiz, which prevents a total organizational nightmare. As each student completes the quiz, I grade it. If the student answers three out of four problems correctly, he or she moves up a level immediately.

I’ve taught objectives that correspond to the levels for the last two days, so I’ve allowed students who have demonstrated mastery on their exit tickets to progress. Seventy-five of my students didn’t have a chance to take today’s level quiz/exit ticket, so the four kids who are on level two came from a sample of just twenty-five. All things considered, we’re doing well so far.

7th period was 45 minutes of the best class time of my life. During the lesson, I burst into happy laughter when a boy in the front row said “oh. Oooohhhhhh! I get it!” You can’t fake that lightbulb. It happened twice today! During practice, I had a girl stand up from her desk and shout “YES!” at the top of her lungs when she simplified an expression correctly. I got a bad case of the joy giggles, but my kids couldn’t hear me anyway over the roar of thirty 9th graders making purposeful MATH TALK. It felt like all I had to do was open the gate and let them stampede. They asked for time to work in groups to analyze their mistakes, so I let them. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAA? I had volunteers explain their errors, and doled out star stickers for courage and helping others learn, (I had to move on without calling on all of my volunteers!) then just turned them loose on another problem. I hardly said a word after the first twenty minutes of class. It was un-friggin-believably awesome.

They're brilliant! They're wonderful! I did it! I taught them something and they liked it!

They’re brilliant! They’re wonderful! I did it! I taught them something and they liked it!

I'll never be able to keep it up.

I’ll never be able to keep it up.

Bonus Kid Joke, courtesy of W.

one fifth, two fifths, red fifth, blue fifth

one fifth, two fifths, red fifth, blue fifth

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What Would Jeeves Do?

10th graders gave me ten good reasons we should go outside today.

  1. We could get bedsores from sitting all day!
  2. We need to get tan! (why do I care?) because you want us to have self confidence and feel beautiful!
  3. We get vitamins from the sun!
  4. Childhood obesity is a major problem, Ms, O.
  5. God made this beautiful day (it’s actually cold and icky out,  but whatever) for us to enjoy.

I forget their other reasons. They had just finished the End of Course Biology exam, so I said yes. While we were outside, I watched as they rolled a tractor tire around the schoolyard (yeah, we have those in our schoolyard). Eventually, they put one kid inside and boosted another on top and rolled it around while the kid inside clung to the edges and the kid on top walked as it rolled. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to make them stop, but it didn’t (Bad Supervisor!). It was pretty impressive and pretty country.

During lunch, I heard the following kid joke

A: “Tell the one about the bison!”
W: “What did the buffalo say to his son when he left for college?”
Ms O: …
W: “Bison. Oh dang it A, you spoiled it!”

During 6th, a mystery that had been plaguing me all day resolved itself. I had arrived at school to find my normally grubby classroom spotless. Who or what could have wrought this miracle? C came in after lunch and immediately asked where I wanted to keep a stack of old binders. When I asked why he cared, he explained that he’d “tried to tidy up” for me while I was out yesterday and thought he’d “better finish the job.”
Since a girl who’s recovering from surgery has been spending 6th with us, C and I wound up helping her with her sonnet instead of tidying, but it was a really thoughtful gesture, and I think I’ll make him a thank you card. He’s really enthusiastic about the poetry unit they’re doing in 9th grade English. Maybe I’ll ask him if he’d let me post one of his poems.

I’m reviewing point-slope form through piecewise functions right now in Algebra 1 and it is AGONY. They look at me all wide-eyed like they’ve never been through anything so excruciating before. WE SPENT TWO WEEKS ON IT THIS FALL. I need to kick it into high gear to get them ready for the test, and I thought this week of applying a variety of skills to piecewise functions would do the job, but it seems to be doing more harm than good. I’m so frustrated and angry with my students, and that’s terrible for morale. So many of them come to me for extra help outside of class, but can’t focus during lessons or work time. I know that this is my fault for not building their self-sufficiency, but LORD IN HEAVEN they are airheads. AIRHEADS. end rant. I will meditate upon the Jeevesiest course of action and reimagine for tomorrow. I hate review.

On a more cheerful note, this is happening 100% of the time in our yard. Rubbadubdub three pigs in a tub. IMG_1994 IMG_1993They have devised the best possible fattening system: sleep in your snacks! The little hoof sticking out of the tub is my favorite part of this photo.

I’d turn his trucks into just one truck

Ms. O: What would you do if you knew you wouldn’t get caught?
E: probably burn down the school
C: yeah, that. Or actually, get in here with a bulldozer and a fork lift. Actually, maybe just mess up some people’s vehicles.
E: I’d get us a new superintendent, actually…
C: I was thinking of him. I’d smash his two trucks together so he had just one. Smashed up.
E: Did you ever see that movie where they make all illegal things legal for one night every year? The Purge?
C: I might murder someone.

I kind of like it when they says things like that, because I can laugh and tell them that they never would, and let them know I think they’re wonderful.
Our conversation changed direction a few minutes later.

C: I think we actually could feed the world, but the economy is all messed up. We can’t distribute the food right.
Ms. O: you might be right. We grow all kinds of crops around here, but most of that goes to feeding cows and stuff. I know some people who are vegetarians because they think there’ll be more food for people that way.
E: I heard this one: A vegetarian says to a meat-eater, “Cow farts are dissolving the ozone! I’m a vegetarian. What are you doing about it?” and the meat eater says “Eating the cow”
C: Ms. O, this might sound weird, but since we’re kinda close in age, do you ever think about, like, having kids? I’m kinda scared to. What kind of world will they have?
Ms O: All the time. It’s scary!
E: I kinda wonder why we, like, kids, don’t get to vote. The president makes decisions that effect our future too.
Ms. O: I think maybe it’s because, even though you’re smart and informed, you aren’t living in the real world yet
C: that kinda makes sense. Like, we don’t really understand how complicated some things are. We don’t work or pay bills or anything. I think people should have food stamps though, but only if you can’t work. There are a lot of people in Forrest city who could work but they don’t. They just get that check.
Ms. O: But where are they supposed to work? There’s no jobs and they don’t have a great education or skills. Their whole family is here. Where are they supposed to go?
C: it sucks that there’s no businesses here. It’s, like, the tire shop and Love’s are the only things that bring money to Palestine, and the rest of the community don’t see it, ’cause the guy at the tire shop don’t have any place to spend it.
Ms. O: what kind of business do you think could succeed here? Like, a restaurant?
E: I heard that this guy my parents know wanted to open a Red Lobster, but the company said a town the size of Forrest City couldn’t sustain one.
Ms. O: what about, like, an ice cream shop in the summer? The only thing around here is Baskin Robbins at the gas station.

We all agreed that Baskin Robbins sucks.

Juggling Young Adults

My fourth period Algebra today was incredible: They were having these discussions where I could cold-call on anyone to “agree/disagree and why” and they would run with it. They were doing gymnastic contortions to look like they were still sitting in their desks when they were actually jumping up to raise their hands as high as possible. It was awesome. They earned a record 8 class points, and they can really get their FOIL on.
Fifth period was an unmitigated disaster. I wasn’t well-prepared and I have a table-group that thinks they’re all that. I needed their patience, and they weren’t feeling it. It became a spitting contest, and nobody wins a spitting contest. Everyone just gets spit on.
Mood swings are a way of life at school. I went into my lunch break blue from fifth period and came out juggling oranges. I went in to my 7th period optimistic and came out pensive. Teaching is unpredictable and it takes all of my energy to maintain my equilibrium.

Positive Dailies:

  • I got this email from a mom today

I just wanted to touch base with you, T was excited about some new math that yall are doing.  She came home saying she understood it.  She worked with her brother on math last night. I love to see her excited about learning something new.”

  • C got out of ISS and came back to our one-on-one class with just as much enthusiasm as he had before he got in trouble. I mostly let him do his own thing, but when I looked up and saw him looking sideways at his paper, I said “Talk to me, C”
    “It’s nothing. I just caught myself making a mistake” He talked me through it and explained how he could fix it. That was a dream come true. Every day with C is a dream come true.
  • Some of my goofy boys were playing charades in my room during lunch. My favorite was the rock-climbing mime.  They were mostly ninjas.
  • “Ms. O, we imagined the ideal top predator today: a flying turtle-cheetah with a lion’s roar and the intelligence of a human!”
  • “I’ll try to remember my yoga britches for yoga club tomorrow”
  • I had Algebra grading their own work.
    Ms O: What do I expect you to do while you grade your own work?
    Students: Not cheat! Be truthful!
    Ms. O: That’s the second most important thing, but what’s even more important than that?
    Students: …
    Ms. O: Where are we right now?
    Students: math class?
    Ms. O: bigger picture.
    Students: School.
    Ms. O: What happens at school?
    Students: We Sit? Work hard? Be bored?
    Ms. O: Uhhh.. In an ideal world?
    Students: We learn.
    Ms O: yeah. So what should you be doing while you’re grading your work?
    Students: Learning?
    Ms. O: Yeah! Learn from your own mistakes!
    Cue lightbulb. Facepalm. We talked about this yesterday.

Yesterday’s Jokes:

Why don’t you play cards in the jungle?
It’s full of cheetahs!

A lion and a cheetah were having a race.
The lion says to the cheetah “I don’t wanna race you, you’re a cheetah”
The cheetah says to the lion “You lion!”