Havin’ Fun

Red Ribbon week is celebrated about this time every year in honor of Kiki Camerena. Schools all across the country do a bunch of silly things each day during that week that show that you can have fun without drugs. Today the theme was “Put a lid on drugs” and we were invited to wear our favorite hats. I reached back into my bag of tricks and wore this one:

CA Police Hat

CA Police Hat

It created a lot of interest. The only negativity came from the guys who thought this looked like a Nazi hat and they tried to emphasize that. When I offered to let them do a report on the Nazis and the Russians during World War II they suddenly became quiet.

 

Something Hit the Fan….

Faculty meeting today. It began fifteen minutes early because there was so much to cover. Wow. After seeing the remains of two or three forests being passed out to those of us at the meeting; we were all staggered. You see, our school has had some issues in the past related to state testing. The state, not being happy with that, has sent out a … er … someone to help us do better. It seems that her solution involves paperwork. Lots of paperwork. Because the world needs teachers to spend far more time doing paperwork than they are already doing. Something really did hit the fan.

The rest of the day wasn’t too bad. Kids were on a field trip. That made the classes smaller and we had a chance to catch up on some things. No real problems with behavior. Kids came back towards the end of the day but without any problems. Got pulled from my class for a meeting that was supposed to be over before the end of the day. I had everything ready to go for chess club. Then, the meeting ran long. Then, while in the meeting, I was called to another meeting with a parent. The first meeting finished, I ran back to the room to say hello to the chess club and run back to the other meeting. Had a good meeting with the parent and ran back to the chess club to check on them. I wanted to talk with them about last Saturday’s chess tournament. As I started to talk with them, I got a phone call and needed to meet with another parent. By the time that meeting was finished, the chess club had left.

All the parent meetings were good. The kids enjoyed chess club even without me…maybe especially without me. In the meanwhile, we do have a big job in front of us. It’s gotta be all of us working together. Not only for the sake of the children, but also for the sake of the trees.

Teaching the Teacher

After last weekend’s meltdown, I assured my principal that I mentally compose 3 or 4 resignation letters a year. Don’t worry about them unless you see me making reservations to a country that doesn’t extradite to the US. (Really, just kidding about that!) Today I had a fun experience. One of my students taught me something.

I always tell my students that I expect to learn something from them each year. This year it came in an unexpected way. I have the kids solve various math problems at the end of each class. Today’s problem was to find out the next 5 numbers in this list: 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, __, __, __, __, __. Now, I hope you know this one, because if not, this is going to be a spoiler. (If you don’t know it – change your FB profile to a zebra and tell me if it’s black with white stripes or white with black stripes. Somebody already took the giraffes.) Now, my understanding was that you would get the next number by continuing to square the numbers in the sequence. 1^2 = 1; 2^2 = 4; 3^2 = 9, etc. That would make the next numbers 36, 49, 64, 81 and 100.

So I called on someone who said that they had the right solution in the one class that we had time to discuss this. They had it! When I asked them to explain, they said, “Well, you add 3 to 1 and get 4. You add 5 to 4 and get 9….and you just keep going” I replied “That’s not right what are your numbers?” And then I started figuring. It works. I told them that wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but it worked at least with these numbers and I had learned something.

So, when my planning time came along, I set it up in Excel…and it worked! As I told my wife about it, we figured out the formula, and then a visual for why it worked. The formula for the process is n^2 = (n-1)^2 + 2*n – 1. Does that make sense? Does that make sense? In words, if you want to find the square of the next number, take the square of the number you already know. Take the next number, multiply by 2, subtract 1 and then add it to the previous square. So why does this work?  Let’s see if I can make a text graphic. Let’s start with 7^2

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XXXXXXX   That’s 49. Now, according to the theory, add 2*8 and then subtract 1 for our answer. Here’s why. The green X’s are the 15 we add. We add 8 across and one less than 8 going down to make sure each row has 8 Xs.

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XXXXXXXYou now have 8 rows of 8 or 8^2 that gives you 64 Xs. If you count the green Xs, you will find 15. You are creating the new row and then adding one more X to the already present rows. My wife came up with this explanation. That being said, I was grateful to that student for the challenge! We’ll go over it in class tomorrow. I really do love it when my kids teach me something!. Makes me so proud!

Overcoming

Let’s face it. We all have those days. You know, those days when you mentally compose your resignation letter and perhaps plot your last day’s revenge? Last Friday was one for me. I have been working with kids to get work turned in to avoid getting progress reports. Very slow stuff happening. I gave what I thought was a simple quiz so that it could be used as a grade raiser. Turns out it wasn’t so simple. I do have an out, though: I made a mistake setting up the quiz – online of course – and forgot to leave a place for kids to put their name. Good thing I’m the smart tech teacher, eh? I was shaking me head at that mistake when I ran the grading program to see how kids were doing. Grades were not looking good.

If one or two grades are not good, then I’m upset, but not too worried. When almost everyone fails the test there is only one place to look. I had to ask myself what I did wrong in teaching it. So, since the basic concept is important, guess who gets to re-teach…or perhaps I should say, teach it right this next week.

So already feeling bad about myself, I ended up with issues with kids and their behavior. I work hard not to write kids up. I’ll be honest. If I have to write a kid up, I feel like I’m signing my own failure notice. A referral means that I have failed to reach that kid. Many kids needing referrals means that I have really failed. It was suggested by someone I respect greatly, my principal, that I need to write more people up because they need to learn consequences. Yes, I know that…so it looks like I’ll be signing more of my own failure notices this next week.

I was thinking, “you know, this IS my possible retirement year. I can retire.” I wasn’t plotting my revenge, but I was trying to figure out how to tell my principal that I was going to retire. I promised her I wouldn’t. It wasn’t going to be easy.

Then I got home and was trying to set up Saturday’s chess tournament. (Thus, no posting Friday night) After doing a little bit of  work, I told my wife that we were going to try out the new Sam’s club because they HAD to have some Boston Cream Pie, and a place that large had to carry it. We went. THERE WAS NO BOSTON CREAM PIE!!!! REALLY??? No one in Corpus Christi can carry Boston Cream Pie? That’s my favorite comfort food and no one has it. Yep, I was NOT happy.

Then, I went back to work on the tournament. Computer hardware problems galore. Computer software problems galore. What should have taken 10 or 15 minutes to set up and import names into the computer didn’t work. So, I had to enter every one individually. Fortunately the tournament was smaller than normal and it only took me a couple of hours once I finally gave up trying to do it the easy way. (And my wife even tried to help, too.)

Late night work. I finally got finished and went to sleep. Somehow, the sleep refreshed me enough that I woke up reinvigorated. Don’t worry fearless leader. I’m not ready to retire anymore. I have kids to reach. I am going to redesign. I am going to change how things happen. I will overcome..and in the process I will see my students succeed. I have never been a quitter and I’m not ready to quit now. It’s not going to be easy, of course, but I refuse to give in. I refuse to fail. That doesn’t mean we won’t have small failures along the way. It means that eventually the kids will win because they will learn from a teacher they helped make better.

Recovering….

Three busy days. Late hours trying to get grading up to date and phone calls made. A night at a fundraiser banquet and then late night last preparing for a presentation for our school for today.  But…let’s take this one step at a time.

It’s time for grades to go in for progress reports and I want to make sure that kids had a chance to check their grades. So, I was up late grading Sunday night. Then, I needed to contact parents of students who were not passing. I called as late as I felt comfortable and then spent much of the rest of the night emailing parents. Which left no time to update the blog.

Then Tuesday night I had a dinner to go to with my wife. She is involved with a local board of a non-profit agency that works with the deaf and hard of hearing. It was their big fundraiser night and we were scheduled for a dinner and a night with Josh Sundquist. Josh is a motivational speaker who has quite a history as a cancer survivor and a paralympian. He does have a leg to stand on….but only one. (Yes, he would appreciate that line.) He is well known for his halloween costumes. This year, he’s going as a flamingo…but you’ll have to search for that picture yourself.  Anyway, it was a great evening and those who have been around say that this was the best event in the 18 year history. He is a great guy. Got home too late and too tired to post.

Wednesday night – a parent meeting that lasted til almost 5:00 when I usually need to leave by 4:45 at the latest. Then church. When my late bible study was cancelled, I headed BACK to school to prepare for our school’s display at a different fundraiser for The Corpus Christi Education Foundation. These people fund grants for local schools and have really helped us at my school. We always want things to look just right. We, being the whole school in general, but also our principal and Jennifer Welch, my partner in grants. We got to put the display together for our school this year. In real life English that means I got a few things together, Jenn got a bunch of things together. I got the technology ready then I followed her instructions.

But I get ahead of myself. We both arrived about the same time and brought things into the show area. We put the display together. (Read previous commentary.) This year was different. Our district is focusing on teaching the whole child. So rather than pinpointing one subject or area of instruction we had work from many different subject areas and integrated it in the display. To be honest, this display should really catapult Jenn into stardom. [Inside joke…but to demonstrate Newton’s laws of motion, 8th grade science students built catapults and we displayed them.] After the demonstration, we tore down the display, brought things back to school and I had robotics and a parent conference. Parent conference ran into the time I was supposed to be at another, non-school meeting so I missed that. Ultimately, job and the kids come first.

It’s been nice to relax tonight. Then after a good night’s sleep, we’ll finish a project tomorrow and hopefully see a lot of kids caught up with late projects. And after that…to prepare for a chess tournament on Saturday! The fun just never stops!

Homecoming Dance

Today was the homecoming dance. I always like to be there for the kids. One of the drawbacks, for an old guy like me, is listening to the music. I hear the lyrics and wonder what our kids are learning these days. The kids claim that they don’t really listen to the lyrics, but I see them mouthing the words right along with them. It’s sad what music has become. Dancing is an issue too. Our kids didn’t get really bad overall, but there were a few engaging in “inappropriate dance moves.”

That being said, if you are as old as I am, one of the things that amazes me about dances these days is that every song has its own dance moves. When a song come on, the kids immediately begin the steps that go with that song. Old as I am, I was mystified as to why that was. Suddenly I realized why. They were playing the video along with the song and I began to realize that the kids were imitating the moves of the artists. They weren’t looking at the video, I was. They knew the video by heart and their moves synched up perfectly to the moves I saw on screen.

So how is it that kids, who can’t figure out what to write about the vocabulary word that we have been talking about and working with all week and sometimes can’t even figure out that we are writing about that word, even though we follow the same pattern every week can learn intricate dance steps and do them from memory. I can’t imagine being able to do those steps. (And no, favorite daughter, it’s not just because I’m old! I actually used to be able to dance.) I know the music plays a large part in this. Repetition is also important. They see and copy again and again. The challenge is there to make things look just like the video. If they can copy those steps – they can learn a few academic things as well. So how do I tap into that knowledge?

Half Day

Today was a half day. This is an especially good thing since I was losing my voice. I had a doctor’s appointment today. I lined up the sub a couple of weeks ago. Was improvising and re-doing things on the fly. Then yesterday I got a phone call. My appointment with the specialist was cancelled. I would need to reschedule. When I called today I was told that I could get an appointment in January. Seriously. No, I’m not kidding. I told them to forget it.

Since I already had the sub, I decided to keep her and take the afternoon off to go see a doctor anyway. My doctor was booked up – I can’t be mad about that since I was asking him on the same day I needed something. So I went to a minor emergency clinic. Fortunately it didn’t take too long and I think that today I get the best treatment and the most concern about this illness since I started having problems last year.

So….I get to see what the sub says tomorrow about the kids today. The classes have gotten a little more difficult recently, but we are working through that. I just hope they were good for the sub. Anyway, feeling a little better, although the meds are making me sleepy. Got to get to bed early and be ready for tomorrow!