At the beginning of the school year, a lot of freshman classes are quiet. They are nervous about starting high school. They are scared of the scarry high school teachers that the middle school people warned them about. The freshman in your Algebra class are afraid of the older kids in the room who must be there because they didn’t make it out. So they are quiet, waiting to see if they can ever find their comfort zone again. For me as a teacher, this always seems to be true unless I am teaching a class of bilingual, Spanish-speaking kids. They all seem to know each other, even if they haven’t ever met. They sense somehow that I am not there to hurt them, that I care. So they start getting comfortable pretty fast. Continue reading →
My first day of school is Monday. My 21st first day as a teacher. I set my classroom up (mostly), organized my lessons in my mind, went to some meetings and did some minivan karaoke on the way there. I’ve been rewriting lessons and projects and a syllabus, I could stay up all night all weekend but I am going to just write this post and then go play some guitars. I am teaching three Algebra 1 classes and one Geometry class, students at all different levels, and I mean all different levels. Our district does trimesters and students switch teachers at the trimester (not all but most) which gets in the way of relationship building but I don’t design the schedules. Anyway, because of this I have been planning three big projects each year with some smaller projects along the way as well.
“In my opinion the immediate goal of even committed anarchists should be to defend some state institutions, while helping to pry them open to more meaningful public participation, and ultimately to dismantle them in a much more free society.” ― Noam Chomsky, On Anarchism
I can defend public schools to a point. I can defend some charter schools even more, depending on how well they are open to meaningful participation from their students and families. Especially those students and families who are traditionally underserved. You know who they are, students with special needs, students who grew up on the rez and are now in the city, students who live in ghettos and have a hard time seeing a way out, refugees who are learning their second or third or fourth language to participate in school and rise up, students who identify as a gender other than the one the school registrar says they should. All of these people are your people and they come to your classes. It’s summer now so in the fall, they will come with excitement, a blend of emotions ranging from thrill to terror. You will have their attention while they read you and decide. They will decide whether or not you take them seriously, whether you are there to guard the gates from the likes of them entering, or to supply them with keys, weapons, and wings.
I don’t know how I ever taught the distance formula inside a classroom. In fact, any lesson I can do that sends kids outside while I get to breathe some fresh air and relax is the best lesson. I taught this once to the only student teacher anyone has ever entrusted me with. I taught him that along with a bunch of other anarchist teaching principles. Maybe that is why I’ve never had another student teacher? Anyway, I did this lesson a while ago as a way to introduce the distance formula to my geometry class. It was adapted from this lesson by Pam Wilson if you want to do some more reading and create something that might fit your class better. Enjoy!
I started them off with this warm-up problem:
It was a great problem because kids actually know the restaurant and there was a big fight about how many walks due to the fact that there is more than one entrance to the parking lot, something that doesn’t show up on the map. After this, I showed them this map our our school: Continue reading →
I hear it in the copy room when the line is long and teachers care less and less about making it to class on time. I hear it in the teacher’s lounge passing by the stale donuts that turn me into Homer Simpson every time I see them. I hear it walking through the quad when I see any other teacher. It’s some version of, “15 days left!” or, “Man, I’m done.” or, “I’ve got nothing left.” I even do it myself. Just this week on Monday morning, I saw another teacher and said, “It’s almost Friday!” He laughed viscerally. Continue reading →
Today I lost control of my class and quit teaching. Well, I lost control of two of my classes. I teach 4 classes on 70 minute blocks. That part is boring and who cares? Today I had three students in my geometry class teach a lesson on the effects of altering dimension on the area of an object. So they talked about the effect of altering the height of a trapezoid, or altering the base and the height of a parallelogram. They did not go into solids. They did have a set of google slides ready that they showed, the class took notes on, and that they provided additional notes and examples on the whiteboard on the side. All three of them were teaching like crazy and they were prepared. In that same class last week, a group of students taught a lesson on finding the area of regular polygons showing simple examples as well as cases where students needed to find the apothem. They dissected the polygons into congruent triangles formed by the central angle, showed how to find the central angle, then showed how to use right triangle trigonometry to find the apothem and hence the area of a triangle and thus the whole figure. It was amazing. Each of these groups taught the entire class. They gave a warm-up, worked various examples, and gave an assignment. I sat in the back and took notes. Continue reading →
How do you write about this? I haven’t been writing anything here since before the election. Since before Betsy DeVos, before the great climate change denial, before we throw the sick out into the streets, before the refugee kids in our classrooms were denied any last hope of refuge, before it was ok to assault women as long as you are famous, before the majority of Evangelical believers sanctioned such behavior, before our proud and massive community of bombs finally lost their mother. Ok the last statement was a joke, one that didn’t come from me, but a good one. There have been a lot of good ones. They help, to a point. But what have I done? I’ve tried to do the same thing I have always done with my students, be open and listen, be professional and teach math. I look for ways to give them stuff to be curious about and challenged by and excited for.
I’m teaching three algebra 1 classes this year and I wanted to start the year off with some art projects to fill my classroom. I stumbled upon this idea developed by Paul Fishwick, while scouring the internet over the summer. It’s called aesthetic computing and it is a great way to turn math into art. Basically it works like this: You start with an algebraic expression or formula such as the iconic:
You then rewrite the formula in explicit notation, like you would for an excel spread sheet formula: E = m*c^2. Next, create an expression diagram: Continue reading →
On my bike ride to work today I was thinking about the quote by Bob Dylan, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” So then I asked myself, “What do I want to do today?” I decided that what I didn’t want was to spend all day inside. Continue reading →