Wrapping up With Some Social Justice

After doing our project on the X Games, and then doing some statistics lessons like our paper airplane competition, I had my students do a final project on whatever they wanted. I asked them to pick a topic and create a survey. We talked about topics related to social issues, topics for changing the school, fun topics, whatever. But giving freedom to algebra students isn’t always easy. My students have had a hard time with math, and school in general and when they are given the chance to say what they really think, it can get a little unruly. Many of them wanted to talk about immigration issues and I had to listen to some loud rants about racism, which is not normal ground for classroom discussions in math, and can be pretty dicey. Continue reading

Everybody’s Got Their Limits, Nobody’s Found Mine

As the year winds down and I have some time to reflect, I’m thinking about my soundtrack. Particularly during the past 5 months of teaching. I can tell a lot about how a year went, just by reflecting on my soundtracks. Normally they are a weird mixtape of old stuff I listen to, new music I learn about, and music I create. This year though, only one album comes to mind, “Beat the Champ” by the Mountain Goats. Continue reading

On Being Where You Don’t Belong

“¿Qué quiere (What do you want)?”

“¿Lo que ellos están comiendo (what everyone else is eating)?” I said, as I nodded my head in the direction of several beautifully colored plates of yellow rice and black bean sofrito with slow-cooked pork shoulder and fried plantains.

The waitress let out a sigh, rolled her eyes, and walked away. I had had to aggressively flag her down in order to get her to come to my table and I was now thinking that she wouldn’t come back with any food. She whispered to someone behind the counter while looking at me, the person she was talking to also rolled her eyes and gave a disapproving look in my direction before disappearing into the kitchen. Others also looked at me strangely, wondering why I just wouldn’t get the message, “You don’t belong here.” Continue reading

Belly of the Beast

I woke up to an early alarm on a Saturday a few weeks ago, fumbled around in the dark for jeans, a t-shirt, and my Giants hat to cover my raging bed-head. I drove over to Starbucks and treated myself to a coffee and chocolate croissant, which I gobbled down on my way to the city of Alameda. I passed by the spot talked about in that excellent independent education documentary Defies Measurement, then drove to the water and stopped and finished my coffee before heading to where I was really supposed to be going.

Where was that? I was supposed to be at a high school with hundreds of other teachers or soon-to-be teachers who were to line up to sit in classrooms to take various standardized tests written by Pearson. Continue reading

The Death of Math Class

One of my principals asked me once what I thought we should do about the math department and how we could improve math education at the school. My response was pretty quick and seemed to make him leery of taking me seriously, but I wasn’t joking. My two cents? “Get rid of math class.” He didn’t ask why I thought that, nor do most people when I say it. Sometimes I tell them anyway. Now I’m telling you. Continue reading

Why I Always Fail at Everything

As I have mentioned before, I took a year off of teaching to move to California and be a stay-at-home dad. It has been great and now I am starting to apply for jobs for next school year. It’s causing me to think about all the things that I would like to accomplish as a teacher. Basically, I want to work at a local public school, start doing some crazy projects, and eventually change the whole entire system. Continue reading

Accidental Radical

“Hi, Mr. Thayer. Come have a seat. I called you in to talk about some complaints I have received from some of the parents. Do you know what they are about?” I did know, or at least had an idea, but I have always hated this guessing game that principals and teachers liked to play with me throughout the years, always trying to get me to tell them why I was in trouble so that they could avoid initiating the confrontation. That if I could just spell out for them why it was that their authority even mattered, they might be saved from some kind of embarrassment, or arrive at some revelation that would justify the role they were now unconvincingly playing. But yes, I knew after back to school night that parents were mad because they sat glaring at me while I gave my speech about the class, and then refused to shake my hand when they left, apparently to march straight to the principal’s office. Continue reading

God Doesn’t Care if You Eat Your Vegetables

Last night at dinner, my son was just pushing around the food on his plate. I had made stuffed potatoes. They were stuffed with beans, cheese, avocado, salsa, and roasted broccoli, which I put on the side. Kind of like nachos in a potato. I absent-mindedly made some comment to him about how he shouldn’t waste his food because there are other kids who don’t have a lot of food and he should be thankful. I couldn’t really believe I said that. It was the kind of thing I told myself I wouldn’t say as a parent. This appeal to some mass of people who aren’t eating because, why? Because my kid won’t eat his broccoli? But there are people not eating, some of them are probably kids in his kindergarten class. So how do we handle it as parents or teachers? Continue reading