i love math

i love math
I hope you get it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can you name all 52 states?

I usually teach math. However, due to recent budget cuts (I'm not about to rant about the state of education, don't stress) I have had the pleasure of teaching geography as well. Yes, that's correct. GEOGRAPHY.

The last time I took a geography class was in 5th grade. Albeit, I do know a decent amount of geography without the use of google, or an atlas (you know, an atlas, it's like a book of maps), but that does not mean I am qualified to teach geography in any way shape or form, even if it was to 5th graders.

Well, thank god for google, and for an atlas (yes, i recently used an actual atlas). When was the last time a teenager asked you where lake Okeechobee was? Bet you wish you had an atlas right now huh?

This is the last week my geography kids are required to attend class, as long as they complete the requirements (coloring maps, and labeling countries, and it's harder for them than it should be). Because it's the last week, kids that finished coloring got to start the 175 question final, where they GET TO USE THEIR MAPS. . . should I say that again? They get to use their maps. They also get to work together . . .and use their smart phones.

So, you can imagine my enjoyment concern when I read answers like the ones that follow. Keep in mind that the underlined words are actually underlined on the exam. . .

Q: How many STATES are there in the USA, total?

A: 52

Are you kidding me? FIFTY TWO? And don't try to make this a discussion about English language learners either, this kid speaks English, was born in the U.S. and has lived here his entire life.

Q: What sea separates China and Japan?

A: Russia

Reeeeaaalllly? What SEA separates China and Japan? And you said RUSSIA? RUSSIA?
And the best part of this question, because the kids worked together, more than one student said Russia. Russia must be the SEA that separates China and Japan. Duh.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Rules for the Rulers (and gluesticks apparently)

I consider myself pretty hip. Maybe because I just used the word hip means I'm not really hip, but whatever. I am around teenagers all day, and in some respect that keeps me aware of whatever ridiculous trend is trending, and allows me to decide relatively early how stupid I think it is, like if I'm going to start wearing feathers in my hair on a daily basis, rather than just on Halloween.

Now, I have a decent amount of piercings for someone that has a full time career. I have my nose pierced, and my belly button pierced, and a few in each ear, and I wear jewelry in all of them. I remember begging my parents to let me get a second hole in each ear, and I remember also begging to get my cartilage pierced. I got my belly button done when I was 16, because I called my mom from Europe and said "I'm getting my belly button pierced!" and she begged me to wait until I got home so she could take me someplace "clean". I've watched my friends shove safety pins through their belly buttons, stick shared jewelry in their body piercings, and I even pierced my husbands ear in the kitchen of my first apartment before we were even dating.

I guess you can say I am not against, opposed or judgemental of anyone that chooses to get a piercing. But, today I learned I have a limit. I have seen kids stretch their ear lobes so large they will never go back to a traditional earlobe, but again, to each their own. My student teacher last year had very large gauged earrings and the kids called her "the woman with the gauges".

I've seen kids stick their fingers though their earlobes, and pencils are a common item, but today, during my lecture, I turned around and saw a kid with his hand over his ear. At first I thought he was on the phone, so I'm sure a look of shock came over my face, because, lets face it, my kids should know at this point not to be on the phone in class. But then he moved his hand.

Let me preface this next part with some back story. I have bags of supplies on each table. Two kids to a table, two kids to a bag. There are supplies that my kids need on a daily basis in the bags, like rulers, scissors, gluesticks, a calculator and a bag of colored pencils. This saves me the time it takes to pass them out and collect them all. Kids know they are responsible for their table bag. Whenever I tell the kids they need the rulers, I go through the rules:

1. Don't bend the rulers, they'll break.
2. DON'T bend the rulers, they WILL break.
3. Don't put the rulers in your eyes, nose, ears or mouth
4. Don't play the drums, hit yourself or other people

These rules have been developed over the years, because, enough situations arise involving the rulers, that saying them EVERY time we use them is actually a time saving technique. They are pretty straight forward, and I have said them enough times this semester that the kids actually laugh and say them with me now.

So, back to my kid. He moves his hand, and low and behold, he has a gluestick in his earlobe.


When all I could do was shake my head, the kid next to him looked over and says "Man, that's dope."
I went into the lecture about sanitation, sharing supplies, general grossness, and the fact that I didn't know I needed to include gluesticks in the rules of the rulers. I told him this was the first time I realized maybe there needs to be rules for the gluesticks too. He looked embarassed, said he got the message. He wiped off the gluestick and attempted to put it back in the bag. When I told him he could keep it because there was no way it was going back in the bag he said. .  "Dope."

At this point I'm feeling less hip. Especially because I didn't know we were really saying "dope" again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Would You Describe Me as "Fragile"?

So, education is in a pretty disastrous place right now. California is a budgetary mess and we seem to think our kids won't notice that they no longer have chairs to sit in (really it's that a large proportion of our California students come from families that don't know it's ok to speak up about injustice, so although the kids notice shit ain't right, their parents keep their lips tight). We might have kids sitting on upside down garbage cans, but our political leaders still have catered meetings. Sorry, I got distracted (angry).

Although California is a sink hole, the rest of the country isn't faring much better. Pennsylvania just had a city claim bankruptcy, tiny towns all over our great nation are boarding up their windows and moving out all the while we have "leaders" on both sides of the red and blue fence that are so concerned with destroying their next chance to run for office they too keep their lips tight about the destruction to our educational system.

Well, I know I have been described as "bitchy" and "loud" and "out of line" as well as "headstrong", "opinionated" and "demanding" and damn right I'm all of those things. I'm also a great teacher because of it. But I don't know that I've ever been described as "fragile" and that's probably a good thing.

Check out this article about a math teacher in France. Makes me think we aren't the only ones that have it rough.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I hate missing a day of work.

I don't hate missing a day simply because I need to plan on being sick. Planning on being sick involves staying a few hours late, or coming in a few hours early, or giving up one of my prep periods that are normally dedicated to planning / grading / organizing  and tutoring just so I can write explicit plans for an adult that has probably never been in my room, worked with my routines or taught math before. Every minute of our hour and a half long periods needs to be planned, because downtime = substitute death. Kids get crazy if they are given a minute to get crazy. Activities need to be smooth, easy to understand, no more than three steps and the students need to be able to work together because it keeps them happier. Planning to be sick is work, more work that just going to work sick.

I don't hate missing a day because I'm instantly a few days behind. One day of class is equal to two days of lessons. This means missing one day, puts one group of kids two days behind the other. That means I need to teach FOUR lessons in one class period just to get them caught up. Try explaining to a group of 40 teenagers you are teaching 100 pages in the book today (meaning they have a ridiculous amount of homework) because you had a cold/cramps/teeth pulled. They grow horns and start foaming at the mouth. They get angry, really, really angry. This is avoiding the fact that I missed meetings for my special education students (meetings general education teachers legally need to attend), I missed tutoring sessions, I missed grading time, planning time, follow up time, discussions with my administration, chats with other teachers about focus students, and I generally missed what the heck was going on in my classroom when I wasn't there. The only time I've had stuff stolen from my classroom is when I've had a sub (the rubber rat and garbage can shaped stress ball are still MIA. . . let me know if you find them). Imagine letting 110 people hang out in your house for 8 hours while someone you don't know is in charge. Are you kidding?

The real reason I hate missing a day of work? I worry about my kids, the entire time. I worry about whether the sub can handle their behavior, whether they are being respectful of each other (I had a student with special needs get things thrown at him while I was gone once) which is a constant bee buzzing in my ear, whether they are getting the material presented when I'm not there and whether or not  they feel safe. I constantly worry "What if they need me?" What if they need a grade check? What if they're going out of town and need a list of assignments for their trip? What if they didn't get number 23 on the homework and came in early (for once) for help? What if a kid has something they need to talk about, but I'm not there to listen? What if. . .what if . .  . what if. UGH!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Small But Mighty

I don't have any biological children of my own. But I do have my own kids. I have a LOT of my own kids. I share these kids with the community, but do I consider them my family? Hell yes. Would I do or give almost anything for all of them (even the not so awesome ones)? Hell yes.  Am I in constant contact with their parents/siblings/significant others/other teachers/counselors/therapists/probation officers/pastors and friends? Hell yes. And do I worry about them as if they were of my own flesh and blood? Without a doubt.

So, imagine now that you have your own kids. Your own breathing, running, spitting mini version of you. And imagine that somewhere, out there, someone does something that is not in your kids best interest. They do something that might actually harm your mini-me. And lets also imagine that this person has a role of responsibility, someone that has a caregivers stance. How would you react?

Pause here for reflection. . . .

Hopefully your mind didn't wander too crazy.

If you are anything like me, the sweet, polite, caring person most people see on a daily basis goes out the window. There is nothing sweet about me when I think you have messed with my kids. Whether you are a playground bully, an absentee parent, an asshole power tripping teacher or (in my case) a completely oblivious uncaring scared "superior", you are going to see a side of me you didn't know existed.

There was a "discussion" recently, where I told a certain someone in a position of power, lets call him Gerald, that I didn't agree with the way he was responding to my kids. Now, Gerald doesn't respond well to confrontation and I'm aware that he instantly becomes defensive. Most people would take the high road and avoid making him agitated. But, he messed with my kids.

When a student is crying because she is being picked on, or when a kid is repeatedly stoned at school, or when a student is assaulted at a school function, a teachers role is somewhat limited. Gerald then takes over. But when Gerald doesn't take over, I get angry. And when I get angry, the result is an hour long "discussion" of "Me Talk, You Listen". At the end of our "conversation", when I said at last "I haven't heard you say one thing you are going to do for my kids" right before I left, the look on his face was as though I told him he couldn't keep his puppy. He was very, very confused. I don't think he knew how angry I could get. Let alone how loud.

Later, he was speaking to one of the office ladies and he said "But she looks so cute and sweet, why can't she just be cute and sweet?" (Please ignore the sexual harassment happening here, that is the least of my worries) The office lady replied "She's quite a little firecracker" to which Gerald said "She's a time bomb."

*Note- I realize that berating a superior is never a good choice in the workplace. But when I feel as though my students are not being heard, supported or respected, I have little options. I also have a major issue when I feel as though my students are not being housed in a safe and welcoming atmosphere, when school should be one of the safest, most welcoming atmospheres they have. Gerald now knows where I stand on both of these issues.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I LOVE (love love love) to sleep.

I have a student in my room. He's chatting with me about how he needs to get his math done. Then he says he would rather be doing math homework than be in the pool right now. Turns out they have a 3 hour swim practice today. Thanks for boosting my ego.

He's probably 15. Sophomore. Still relatively small. He says he got nine hours of sleep last night but he's still SOOOO exhausted. I say that's probably because you're a teenager. You're probably growing. He does some more math. He's quiet for a bit, and he tricks me into thinking I might get some work done.

He asks how much sleep I get each night. I say between 5 and 8 hours, 8 if I'm lucky (lucky meaning I go to bed when all the 85 year old people go to bed, not twenty-something newlyweds). He's quiet again.

He's looking at me confused. He asks how long I'm going to do this. Do what?

"How long are you going to get only 5 hours of sleep? The rest of your life?"
I have never thought about that.

How long am I going to do this? How long can I do this? And please, I'm not just talking about getting 5 hours of sleep. That's probably at the top of my list of gripes, but it isn't the most stressing. How long can I realistically give as much of myself as I am currently giving?

I have 217 students. I pick them up, drop them off, call home, text parents, text kids, email, grade, plan, prep, console, counsel, discipline, reinforce, tease (lovingly), support, develop and nurture. I also cry, lose sleep, yell (in my car when I'm all alone) and put my head on my desk.

I often think of what else I could do as a career. I often fantasize about having a "regular" job. A job where I punch in, punch out, maybe wear a uniform (so I don't need to worry about teenagers oogling my cleavage or dropping pencils on purpose so I pick them up), where the roughest part of my day is deciding where to go for lunch, on my HOUR long lunch break. A job where I could have conversations with adults about adult things like orthopedic shoes, gas mileage, and Sears. A job where I would feel adequately paid for my work, where I might even say "I have the better end of this deal!". A job where a teenager wouldn't rub it in my face that I am going to be sleep deprived for the REST OF MY LIFE.

But if I had that job, I would probably dream about being a teacher. That means I would miss hearing the same kid, the one that reminded me I go to bed when his grandparents do, say "I should have just done my homework the first time". I think I can go home now.