Teacher’s Log: On the First Day of School, Make Them Show You What the Class is About

My first day of teaching today. I’m teaching 3 freshman algebra classes and a geometry class. The algebra classes are doing a project this trimester all about public art. I gave each group hundreds of paper clips and asked them to create a sculpture that represents some aspect or place in the city. They struggled all period trying to find techniques for working with paperclips and with an idea that was feasible. I walked around and helped without really being too helpful. I told them to make multimedia sculptures and to bring in other materials tomorrow to finish. That they will need to write descriptions and present. One of the students commented,  “This is like kindergarten!” That made my day. Continue reading

We Have Work to Do – A Classroom Cell Phone Policy

We have work to do this trimester in our Geometry class. I can understand that your brain is wired to care so much more about your friends than anything else on earth right now. It’s natural and I remember it well. In fact I’m still a little like that, just more balanced and mellow in my old age. We didn’t have cell phones though in my day, we hung out on roof tops and abandoned barns and jumped off cliffs into the lake and skated all over town without supervision and generally were outdoors as much as humanly possible.

But I can see you don’t want to hear this. I remember not wanting to hear when adults gave me the “back in my day” talk. I can see your entire body aching to grab your smart phone and flip it open — wait, that doesn’t even happen anymore — how time flies. Continue reading

Democracy and Playgrounds

Why do some playgrounds look like infinite possibility and others look like cages? This is one of the questions I will be exploring with my geometry class this trimester which starts in two weeks. I have the 12 weeks planned out, though these “plans” usually change a lot. Here is my official planning document:


I have spent a lot of time this past year thinking about playgrounds as a stay-at-home dad. Now that I am headed back into the classroom, this is the result of that. Continue reading

Art City


This is my official planning form for the project I started describing in my last post. Kids are going to spend twelve weeks answering the question, “How do we fund art for a healthy democracy?” They will start with their own models of sculptures, learn some stuff about numbers and equations, use that to generate a painting, then learn some basics of quadratic modeling with technology and do some cool lessons about Angry Birds and bridges (the first is a tangent from the theme but relevant because of the content, the second is going to take a look at some public art done by a New Mexican artist on the SF Bay bridge a couple of years ago and the subsequent phase out of the old Bay Bridge and using the material for public art). Continue reading

Democracy and Public Art

I’m going back to work in the suburbs of the SF Bay after having taught 11 school years in Albuquerque. At my last school, we collaborated and built 12-week long projects together in teams of two or three teachers for struggling students. Now I will be back to having my own classroom, but I can’t leave the projects behind. I’m not even sure I’d know what to do with a textbook anymore, and think that they should be thought of as artifacts for a museum instead of tools for authentic or relevant curriculum. I was just given my teaching schedule, and in the first trimester I am teaching 3 classes called “intro to algebra 1” and one called “intro to geometry.” This post is my basic plan for the algebra classes. Continue reading