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
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.
“Mathematics ability is not real, but the trauma associated with it is” – Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez
When you teach math, this is a normal conversation:
“Where do you work?”
“I’m a teacher.”
“What do you teach?”
“High school math.”
“Math!? Woah, I could never do that! I was horrible in math.”
With that there is usually involved a period of waiting. The person you are talking with feels you out to see if you care or want to talk about that aspect of their life at all. If you do want to, they will usually tell you something interesting. Something you can maybe use in your career, something that might make you better at what you do. At the very least, you will have connected to another human being, something that math teachers are not all that famous for. Continue reading
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
The following is taken out of context from a chapter taken out of a larger context from my book, which represents a piece of a life that I still don’t really understand. But whatever, it seems relevant right now.
When I was teaching in Northern California, I was driving to a beach to take a swim at around five thirty one morning in early fall, when the street was blocked off due to a fire. I had to turn around and head back because there was no way to get around it. As I did this, I turned on the radio and heard the news: in New York City, the sky was falling. I came home and turned on the television and saw buildings I had just seen for the first time a couple years ago falling to the ground. I went to school and discussed it with the students, listening to their questions and theories, but I had little to contribute. As time went on, we were told that it had been a plot hatched by Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and members of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Continue reading
This is what is left over at the end of the trimester. Every time I finish a big project there is a sort of crash. First I’m excited about everything that went right. For example, I had about 85 freshmen in the small gym presenting work they did about public art in our town, to judges who were art commissioners for the county, economic developers for our local performance art center, the leader for our Hispanic Heritage Foundation, other artists, teachers, parents, and a representative for a local non-profit arts foundation. But I also start to dwell a little bit on stuff I didn’t do. It’s hard not to shake the feeling that maybe you should have covered more stuff from the textbook. It’s kind of a sickness that math teachers have. We like the content, and so we think its somehow really important. It’s what we are supposed to be teaching, they can learn how to apply it later when they get enough skills right? Also, I could have gotten my kids to do better with their statistical analysis on their projects. I could have worked harder to engage that one kid, who never seems to be engaged. I could have not pissed off the janitor so much with all these messes we leave. Continue reading
I am teaching freshman algebra classes for kids who struggle with math, and one geometry class. I am running a PBL style trimester but got sidetracked by a math problem from illuminations. The idea is that you take a square with area = A, where A is not a perfect square and try to find stacks of smaller squares that are the same height as your large square. I gave the problem to my students and watched them go. It is a pure math problem with no real relationship to the project we are doing related to public art funding (I had planned on folding it into some kind of art assignment with the golden ratio but couldn’t really make it work). So these students who hate math tore into this thing like they were wolves on a fresh kill. Continue reading