Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ulcers all around!

Dear student,

You are not only giving me an ulcer, but you are giving yourself an ulcer. You have a freaking A in my advanced math class. You are doing WELL. Exceptionally so.

Just because you don't have an A+ doesn't mean you have to freak out.

Just because you are working your butt off, doesn't mean you can't relax too.

Yes, math is difficult. It isn't called ADVANCED MATH for nothing.

But you are doing well anyway.

Did I mention that you have an A? A high A, which will turn into an A+ once I've gotten the boat load of extra credit that you turned in today graded and recorded. So chill out. Please.

Ms. B

P.S. I think I'll name my ulcer after you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving brain-drain

After today, the three weeks until winter break seems like an eternity.

Apparently, 9 days of Thanksgiving break makes me forget that I've ever taught before.

I was so indecisive today, I couldn't believe it! And then, after school ended, I changed my mind as to when and how the Algebra 1 students are going to take their chapter test. I was driving myself insane. My students remembered more about what we were doing in school than I did.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I read this article today. It's a really interesting idea. Apparently, it works for African American students and their general studies too.

Hm. I want to try it with my Algebra Readiness students.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Of frivolity and fun

It's that time of year when the weather turns colder and the long-sleeves come out. Did a little shopping over the past month for some winter worthy teacher wear.

First up: houndstooth sweater with faux button up. 

It's not a terribly warm sweater, after wearing it several times. But It gets pretty warm in my classroom already, so it works.

Second up: the most HK-inspired style top I've ever seen on this side of the Pacific.

Seriously. Also faux-tank with sleeves. It's really comfortable. I wear it even when I'm not teaching. Which means it'll get worn out quickly. Hm. Maybe I can go back to the store and find another one. Or three.

Third, and last, up: London Fog baby!

I've wanted one of their trenches for such a long time. It's the perfect winter coat for those foggy Bay Area mornings. Not too bulky, but still warm. Water resistant, of course. HUGE pockets. Cool buttons and belt attached. One of my students complimented me on this coat one day. Good kid, you know your quality investment pieces.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Inherit the wind

The teacher who was in my classroom - and had my job - previously left a boatload of worksheets, notes, and lesson plans behind upon her exit from the school. Several rumors swirl around her - including the one about her hating the school about as much as I hate ants. Which is to say, a lot. It sounds like she wasn't that fond of the teaching profession anyway, and I guess it was best for all parties involved that she left it.

In any case, I've been trying to make heads or tails out of the crap she left behind. Most of it is, seriously, crap. Her lesson notes are presented in a way that I don't like (small, dense print, many words, few visuals). She made WAY too many copies for some reason, and had kept all the leftovers. And it was all jumbled together pretty messily.

I spent the first two weeks after I got the keys to my classroom sifting through all the papers. Managed to get through the first two chapters' worth of material for both Algebra 1 and Algebra Readiness, but since then I've basically done nothing about it except have students punch holes in the remaining papers and put them in binders.

Thus, I took home all the binders yesterday when I locked up my classroom and happily waved good-bye to the school for an entire nine days. So far, in my 28th hour of this week-long freedom, I've spent four of them trying to make sense of the contents of these binders. The other 24 were spent doing one of three things: sleeping, eating, and watching tv online. I've whittled through them quite quickly, considering the volume, and remembering how long it took to organize those two chapters at the beginning of the school year. But by this time, I had figured out already what I wanted to keep and what looked like kindling for fireplaces.

It also helps that the other Algebra Readiness teacher gave me a complete digital copy of her Algebra Readiness notes spanning the entire book - and then some. She even has CST review all set up. She is awesome.

I was thinking of lugging the binders back home-home with me too but decided against it. If I really feel like working on them, I can just go back to my apartment and spend a day there. I don't want to lug something home-home only to lug it back out again later. Really a waste of time and energy.

Long story short: I like inheriting stuff from other teachers only when it's useful to me. When it's just a load of crap, I would prefer that you didn't bother. 'k? Thanks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lunch with the teachers

Today was the second and last day of parent/teacher/student conferences. Overall, it was pretty fun. Fun as in getting to hang out with all the other teachers all in the same room as we waited for our conference appointments. Not really fun with the bad conferences - but there were only two bad conferences for my own students. And one bad conference for as a translator.

Since we had the luxury of something more than a 20 minute lunch today, some of the other teachers went out to lunch. It was so much fun! I work with some really great teachers, and great people too.

I'm sick once again. This time, I feel way more sore and achy - last time it was all sinus. I'm so glad I have a week off.

I'm also glad I stayed at school until 5:30 today. Cleaned up and did all the back up grading that had piled up over the past two days because I was so busy running around from conference to conference  and didn't really get a chance to sit down and do anything productive. The room is in order for Monday after the break. My mind, and my lesson plan ideas however, are not.

Ah~ I guess I have some homework to do over the break.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A series of one-liners

I'm beginning to hate my 4th period class.

Mainly because of one student.

He has ADD and Tourette's.

Which I suppose is not his fault.

But it's not his excuse either.

One of the students from 4th period wrote, "Ms. B sucks" on one of my desks.

I can say the same to you.

But I won't.

Not only because I'm the teacher, but personally, I'm just above all that.

It wasn't the ADD/Tourette's kid who wrote it.

Because he was outside the door at the time.

But I've narrowed it down to two suspects.

They will be taken care of.

I don't know how yet.

I don't know when, either.

But it will be taken care of.

And when it does, I will win.

I will win.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It's the time of year for deep reflection

Beat up, but not broken.

In the midst of the four-day weekend (yay to four-day weekends!) crammed full of cleaning, laundry, grading, lesson planning, eating, sleeping, shopping, and generally being as lazy as humanly possible, I went back and re-read some of my posts from around this time last year.

Around this time last year, I had my first heart attack teaching day (yep, had many more since then), learned about the only surviving WWI vet (wonder if he's still alive?), was intellectually challenged in the MA course (those who can't teach, just do - still feel that way), and griping about having to work with bad teachers (thank goodness all my colleagues are awesome!).

Lots of things have changed. Some things have not. Just like this time last year, I am prepping for parent/student/teacher conferences. I am up to my eyeballs in paperwork. I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks with my whole heart. I'm so glad my school has more non-school days in the first semester than my student teaching schools. Mr. B took three mental health days between Labor Day and Veteran's Day last year - and who could blame him?

It's getting rougher as the kids get tired - and I get worn out. But I'm still enjoying teaching. It's fun, above all the stress and frustration and nervousness and heart attack days. I've been told more than once that teachers should quit once they believe they have nothing new to learn, and that philosophy has its own value. But I think teachers should quit when they don't see teaching as fun anymore. You've got to enjoy it - ESPECIALLY during the times when:

- You get into an hour long argument with parents about why an ADVANCED LEVEL math course is so difficult. Come on now, folks. If it was easy, it wouldn't be called advanced!

- Your proper desks finally arrive - three months after they were "supposed" to get here, so you had to make do with the 6th grade desks, which meant half my 8th grade students' could touch the underside of their tables with their knees, without lifting their legs up - and because the maintenance crew is understaffed as it is, they end up switching out the old ones for the new ones IN THE MIDDLE OF 4TH PERIOD. Can anyone say chaos? I'm surprised the students even finished the lesson that day.

- You get chewed out by your department chair for giving out extra credit. Only to find her much more amiable about it the next day. My head is still spinning from this mood change.

- You almost get run over by overly-aggressive minivans during afternoon yard duty. TWICE. IN ONE DAY. And when yard duty is over, and you think you are all clear, you get swiped in the head with the side mirror of a passing bus. Seriously. Tennis reflexes saves lives.

- You end up in a yelling argument with a 13-year-old child because he always gets in trouble in class for: a) being nosy about other people's business, b) allowing that nosiness to distract him from his tasks, c) not taking the hint and continuing the distraction when I give him a warning, d) whining and complaining about the consequences I give him for sticking his nose in other people's business and distracting himself as well as anyone within a 2-seat vicinity of him. And he thinks this is unfair, because he sees that I give other students a chance to self-correct. And I tell him that I give everyone a chance to self-correct - it's when they DON'T self-correct *ahem*EXHIBITA*ahem* that I hand out consequences, and this is totally fair and correct and right. But of course the kid is not really listening because 13-year-olds can be hot-headed like that, and I'm not really listening either because I'm tired and I just want him to sit in his stupid seat and be quiet for once. Nope, didn't handle THAT very maturely, did I? ::sigh:: Gotta make this right on Monday.

Um, wait, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, something about enjoying teaching. I think.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

PTA and hacked

Like a $3 afternoon tea set at a seedy HK-style cafe in seedier downtown Oakland.

Apparently, Google thought my account was doing some "suspicious activity" and closed it for a while today. Boo. Now I have to go through all my stuff and reset everything.

Tonight was also my first PTA meeting. I read out names and handed out certificates of students with 600s on math and/or science CSTs. I saw parents freak out over something the math department presentation said. It triggered much stress over college admissions. It was kind of fun and kind of irritating at the same time.

Tomorrow is my Friday for the week. I say this with the deepest sincerity my heart can muster: w00t!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Can't help but smile

Student: Hey Ms. B!

Me: Yes?

Student: You're my favorite math teacher this year!

Me: I'm your ONLY math teacher this year.

Student: But you're my favorite!

Friday, November 5, 2010

I have no idea what I'm doing

Oh yeah, I've started BTSA. Except my school district doesn't call it BTSA. And there's a whole boat load of paperwork. And I'm still not quite sure exactly what's going on, or what is expected out of me from the program.

Although it does look all too much alike with the Teacher Performance Expectations that I was graded on at UTEC.

And once again, I'm being told that I'm a good teacher AND not a good teacher at the same time.

Thus, the confusion. Eh.

So far, all that I've done with BTSA is watch a couple videos on differentiation, fill out a few papers, get observed a few times, and have hours long discussions on what went wrong in my lesson. I would like to talk more about how to fix what went wrong instead. I would also like to go observe some teaching in action. That would be helpful.

But the school doesn't have the money to pay for a sub for me to go watch other teachers during the school day.

Thus, the round-a-bout cycle of inaction.

Screw it. I'm going to do something about that, whether they like it or not. Rule breaker! Yeah!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Evals and whatnot

Why are there photos of food on this blog about teaching??

My principal has walked into my room at least once every week for the past three weeks now. He has given me no feedback as of yet - probably because it's not a formal observation.

But it makes me a little jittery anyway. Am I going to have a job next year?

Last week I was so stressed out. To the point of breaking down and crying in front of me BTSA mentor.

And then this thought hit me: Dude. Letting these students have a structured "failure" of not getting it right away is a valuable learning process too. Thus, I stopped with the hand-holding. Life was so much better after that.

I've also been leaving school earlier. Sometimes. Especially when I'm feeling totally unproductive in front of the massive to-do list before me. That's when I know it's time to go home. I would rather be unproductive at home, and get some proper rest, rather than be unproductive in my classroom in a very unrestful way.

Just so that it's out there: it's a very freeing feeling to not care about work after work is over. It's the key to my sanity this year.

I also have a boat load of papers to grade. Again. But I'm not going to worry if I don't finish grading them by tomorrow. Oh well, students, you'll just have to wait one more day. It won't kill you to practice some patience.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Last week, in grading land...

I really should be glad my students are mostly making these types of errors:

But by the time I finished grading what seemed like the 300th paper with a subtraction error on it, I was pretty teed off.

The good thing is that many more of my students made fewer careless mistakes on their most recent test. Of course, they had to compensate that for making actual algebra mistakes. Doh.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


This year is my first year officially signing up and attempting this thing. It's going to be fun!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The non-equality of inequality

Black and brown and completely different in different ways.

One of the other Algebra 1 teachers at my school teaches graphing of inequalities this way:

"Make the inequality so that the variable appears on the left. Then graph according to which way the 'arrow' points."

True, this procedural method allows some students to get the correct answer more consistently. But I don't like it because understanding the meaning of the inequality is lost. How do you really know what the variable is greater/less than? And what the hell: an inequality sign is NOT an 'arrow.'

This method of teaching graphing of inequalities is So. Very. Grating. To. My. Soul. The beauty of knowing what those math symbols mean is gone. There is no thinking involved - it's all robotic work.

This is the same teacher with whom I got into a little spat with on Friday - in front of my students no less - with the way I give grades. I allow homework redos and extra credit assignments, but I don't allow test re-takes for a better grade. She allows test re-takes, but no homework redos and no extra credit assignments.

She thinks my way of grading is too easy.

I think the way she teaches is not accurate, nor rigorous enough.

That evens us out, right?

I, frankly, don't give a damn what kind of grades my students get. My priority is to have them think critically - and grades are not necessarily a good measure of how well students can think.