Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Update on yesterday's query

The boy who basically told me yesterday that he hadn't done a whole lot of homework this year (as in, he copied it all) just came in my room and asked if there was anything "extra" he could do to bring up his grade.


(If you're wondering, I gave him a big fat NO.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

You know it's (almost) summer when. . .

I'm started my annual pondering on how to treat homework in class.

A few years ago I changed my policy of giving 25 - 30 problems a night to 10 - 12. Kids were happy and I didn't feel like I was wasting their time doing a bunch of the same type of problem.  All was good in the world.  I'm still happy with the amount of homework I give a night.

But I've run into my regular dissatisfaction with what to do with those assignments in class. Here's where I am:
1.  If I don't count it for something it doesn't get done (generally).
2.  I feel like shouldn't have to count it (I get so tired of the grade grubbers) as it's an opportunity for the kids to practice what I expect them to know how to do.  But then I get a little frustrated at home with the time my son spends on assignments that don't translate into a grade for him.  (I wonder if there are kids in his class that don't do their homework and if there's any "penalty" for it.  It's so tempting to skip on those nights when we have soccer/baseball/whatever practice!)
3.  I typically wander around the room checking for completion. I'm pretty good (I think) at catching the kids who write random stuff, show me the wrong assignment (oops! they say) or just write down the answers from the back (in precalc I only assign odds).
4.  I like collecting to check randomly to see where they're at in understanding.  But with over 90 kids in precalc this year (plus my other two classes) that didn't happen often.

My big issue is at right now the copying that I know is happening. One boy (who I know has copied all year but it never happened in class) stopped in my room after school to turn in some assignments that he hadn't gotten in because of some days he'd missed.  I told him point blank that I knew he'd copied a lot of assignments throughout the year. He started off by trying to deny it, but I kept at him. Said I couldn't prove anything but I was pretty sure he hadn't done a lot of his own work.  I told him that it would catch up with him and I hoped it would burn him enough to teach him a lesson before it really hurt him.  Did he deny after that?  Nope.  On his way out of my room he threw out a "No comment".  I'll take that as an affirmative.

So who has a system that they like?  That they feel like keeps the kids accountable for the assignments, takes away the gift points for copying?  And doesn't mean that I have to collect and grade every single assignment?

Rock my world.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What's a derivative?

I'm finishing up grading some of the limit/derivative quizzes I gave my precalc kids last week.  The last question said this:
What's a derivative?  (Where does it come from and what is it used for?)

(aka my way of seeing if they're paying attention in class or just using a formula)

This girl's answer:
A derivative is a simplified form of an equation that can be derived from the original and can be used to find the answers for different equations.

Um, no.

She had a lot more issues than this... every single one of her difference quotient expressions had x -> 0.

This girl also cried after my first semester exam. Apparently she didn't learn a lot from that experience.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Warning: I'm grumpy.

So, yesterday was Mother's Day. We're not big into celebrating holidays like that - all I asked for was to sleep in and then go to King's Island (a local amusement park at which we have season passes).

I slept until 10 (ahhhh) with only a few "Mommy, when are you going to get up?" interruptions.  Unfortunately it was a rainy gross day so KI was out of the picture, but I ended up taking the kids to see a movie while hubby changed the brakes on my car.  I actually spilled my son's candy and he got mad at me, but other than that we had a good time.

The problem came last night when it was 11:00 and I was lying in bed wide awake.  I got up to play on the computer (hoping it would tire me out) and made a comment on facebook about how I knew I would regret it in the morning for my early wake-up.  A friend commented back about how she was still awake and "At least you're done at 3:30." Um, what?  Never mind the hours of work that I could (and often do) bring home every day?  Really?  The only thing I can say is that she's young and dumb.  But I was annoyed.

I saw a link from @coolcatteacher on twitter today saying something about the number of hours teachers work (we do 99% of the work in 75% of the time) and a link to a cool infographic that I'm thinking I might share with my friend.  Or I might just let it drop and not let her get to me.

Today's been a good day at school, but I'm getting tired and the kids are doing stuff that's making me mad.  A few things:
1.  In first period, there's a boy who missed Mon - Weds last week because he was chaperoning some of the younger students in the district at an outdoor-ed type thing.  There were bunches of my kids gone.  We took a quiz in class on Friday with the expectation that they would take the quiz on Monday.  Everyone was good with it.  Today, this boy told me that he wasn't ready to take the quiz because he didn't have any notes (even though they're on the class blog and he knows that) and asked if he could stay after school TOMORROW for a STUDY SESSION.  I (not so politely) told him no.  I said he could get help today and take the quiz tomorrow.  Know what he did?  Put his head down and went to sleep. I have no pity.

2.  There are APs going on like crazy around here nowadays, so my kids are in and out a lot.  I've given up trying to keep track of who's supposed to be gone when and just let them ask me for work when they know they won't be here.  Today, almost halfway through our class, two girls came in from an AP test. I was fine with that and they sat down as we discussed limits at positive and negative infinity.  What I wasn't fine with was them sitting with no notebooks open, with their phones out, and the constant chatter they had with each other. They'd been in class about 3 minutes and I'd already told them to be quiet, put their phones up, and stop being rude.  Then the bell rang that marks the beginning of the next lunch period (ours are staggered a bit) and they got up to go to lunch. Because they'd been taking the test and hadn't had lunch they were sent back to class (for 10 minutes) and told to go to last lunch.  So basically they interrupted when they walked in, continued that interruption while I was speaking, and then interrupted on their way out. All in 10 minutes. I was so annoyed that I didn't show this class the clip from Mean Girls that I was going to show.  Phoey on them.

On a different note:
I've been keeping track of thoughts I've had while getting ready to think about next year.  Here's my list so far.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My new favorite post

I saw on twitter this morning a conversation between Fawn Nguyen and Matt Vaudrey about Barbie Bungee (one of my favorite linear equation activities).  I saw a reference to a mullet activity and did a little bit of searching.

What did I find?  My new favorite activity that I can't wait to do next fall. It's absolutely hysterical.  And genius.

You HAVE to go check it out if you teach anything with ratios.

Go now.  Seriously.

(And he posted all of his resources to download.  Bonus.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I'm famous! (ha)

I received a random email last month from Laura McMullen, an education reporter for US News and World Report.  She said she'd found my blog via twitter and wanted to ask me some questions about what I thought was important in choosing a high school.  I emailed her back with some times good to call me and waited nervously for her to call.

I spoke with her the next afternoon and very quickly lost (most of my) anxiety. She was very nice and I was comfortable answering her questions. We chatted for about 20 minutes and the conversation (because it really felt like a conversation as opposed to an "interview") ended with her promising to email me a link to the article when it came out.

I actually heard from Laura again a week or so later because she was looking for someone else to talk to for a different story (I referred her to a friend at my school... I'm not sure if they were able to speak in time for her deadline).

I didn't get any other news from Laura until today when she sent a link to the story.  I have to say that it's the most well-written article I've read in a long, long time. :)

And without further ado....

The story.