Monday, August 31, 2009

First Day! So sleepy!

I promised myself that I would post today (and more frequently) but I am just so. darn. exhausted. that I don't know how much this will make sense. Or if I will spell words correctly. Bare (bear?) with me please.

Why am I exhausted? Why thank you for asking! I will tell you:

Reason #1. It was the first day of school. My body is not used to standing and moving and having my brain work nonstop from about 7:15 am to 4:30. My feet kill even though I changed out of my completely adorable peep toe pumps into my super ugly "teacher flats" within 1 hour.

Reason #2. I am overloaded. I am teaching 3 different classes: AP Statistics, Honors Geometry, and Geometry. This means 3 lesson plans each day, 15 per week. Also, I volunteered to do this so can't really complain. I DON'T CARE. I AM HAVING A PITY PARTY. SHUT UP.

Reason #3. I have two other non-teacher duties: the coordinator of our AP grant and mentor teacher of the math department. I actually will not at all complain about either of those things because I really want to and like doing them. But they are another reason for exhaustion when I also have 3 preps.

Gah. I give up for today. I'm too tired and I need to watch the newest episode Mad Men, which just finished downloading.

I will write about actual teaching/students tomorrow (maybe).

Funniest thing said today:

Me: So, I've color coded everything about this class. Your folders are green, your objectives and topics are written in green on the whiteboard, the agenda for this class is written under the green geometry sign, when you leave class you return your green folders in the green crate, and of course, anything written in green on the calendar pertains to you. Oh, also, turn in work under the green Geometry sign.

Student: Dang miss. I can't even imagine what your house looks like.

This is mostly funny because my house is a MESS. A gigantic tornado of papers/clothes I try on and then don't wear. Also, within about 2 days these students will realize that I'm not actually organized (when I can't find their classwork... or my keys... or my pen which I just had... or my phone..or my brain). Fake it til you make it.

I'm sorry this doesn't make sense. Sleepy time now.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Teacher Appreciation

The Internet inexplicably stopped working at my house last week and won't be fixed until next week, so I haven't posted much. So here's a quick update before I run off to Hopkins.

Tonight is my last graduate school class! I graduate on May 21st. This is very exciting.

This week is teacher appreciation week. This means that students fill out "certificates of appreciation" and give them to teachers. My favorite "Thanks you for..." notes include:

Thank you for . . .

"Being the best AP Statistics teacher ever. You taught me so many great lessons, plus you restored my faith in all white people." HA!

"Never quitting like Mr. ___ did and always inspiring us with [SmallestTwinelicious] and your incredible swagger . . . its contagious. LOL."

"Trying to be funny and teaching us the value of math!" (I love the "trying" to be funny)

And, get ready for the tears:

"Just being yourself when you teach me. You show me that you really care about me going to college. You are by far the best teacher that I have ever had."

Needless to say, I feel appreciated.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Caesar Cipher Search (five times fast...)

I've been getting a lot of hits from people google-ing "Caesar cipher." For that reason, and also because it's so cool, I'd like to direct you to the University of Southampton's National Cipher Challenge. The "teacher's pack" is full of lesson plans, worksheets, and a printable cipher wheel.

Check it out:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Caesar Cipher

There were three days left before Spring Break and I had just finished a unit in geometry, so rather than start anything new, I decided to teach my geometry kids some cryptography.

Of course this went well, since every kid (and most adults, I would assume) think basic cryptography is cool. We made cipher wheels and talked about the enigma machine and I got the most rapt attention I have EVER received while teaching.

After teaching simple Caesar ciphers (where you basically just shift the alphabet), I challenged the kids to write sentences and told them that I could break any of their codes (there are only 25 possibilities for Caesar ciphers - they're really easy to break - and I told them this, but the kids think I am AWESOME). Messages included:

-Yay! Spring Break is almost here!

-Ms. Twine is crazy

-First period is the best math class

-Math is my favorite subject

And then, I found an anonymous note left on my desk.


Which is, decoded: I decided to take stats.

I have no idea who wrote it, but someone in my fifth period geometry class has decided to take my AP Stats class next year. AND THEY TOLD ME IN CODE. I don’t think it gets cuter than that.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Get Off My Lawn!

Though it’s spring break this week, I just can’t get myself to calm down and take time off.

For example, on Saturday I went out to dinner at my favorite restaurant, Alexander’s Tavern (Tip: Order the Macaroni and Cheese from the kids menu – that plus a gin and tonic = absolute heaven). I walked past Max’s on the way home and saw what looked to be a fight brewing outside and I almost ALMOST walked right over there to tell those people to stop fighting and I was ready to break it up. And then I became sane again and remembered that I was not in school. And also that the last time I broke up a fight I ended up on the ground.

I also almost ALMOST told a kid at the mall yesterday to take off his hat.

Someday soon sanity is not going to prevail and I’m going to get myself in trouble.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Seven Reasons Why Today Sucked

1. I woke up really early to drive a friend to the airport before work. Before leaving, I printed out some worksheets and my lesson plans for today, since I am out of ink at school. I forgot the worksheets at home.

2. Realized I had forgotten worksheets at home when I arrived at school an hour after leaving my house. Drove home to get them. When I got home, I remembered to take out the recycling. But then I forgot the worksheets at home for a second time.

3. Got to school and made this realization. Shook the ink cartridge and got the last dregs of ink out of it. Printed out my worksheet and saw that I had only 9% of my battery power left on my laptop. Went to get my laptop charger from my bag and realized I had left it at home.

4. During my planning period, I went home (again) to get the charger. Also went to CVS to get ink. Got a parking ticket.

5. Lunch period. As usual I have about 10 kids in my classroom hanging out because they don’t want to go to the cafeteria. Two boys get in a fight, and I see boys punching each other for the first time at school (also, maybe in my life?) I break it up and get knocked down in the process.

6. Another crappy thing happens during 6th period that I can’t write about because it would be TMI, even for an anonymous blog.

7. At the end of the day I’m called down to the office. I had forgotten to go to my pre-observation meeting.

So yeah, today sucked. I drove home completely ready to get in an accident. I mean, the day isn’t over. There’s plenty of time for this to be an eight or nine reasons why today sucked post.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Quality Control

Please check out the newest post at the Challenge to Care blog. A friend of mine is very, very angry about her situation at Mervo and has expressed that better than I can summarize. She doesn't pull any punches.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Cell Phone Results

Sara over at Inside Ed just wrote about students texting in class, so I figured I should tell you all the results of my texting experiment. In a word: meh.

Results varied by class. First period was not so into texting their answers. This makes sense since a lot of the students don’t have phones (so why would it be fun?) A few kids seemed into it and asked to do it again, but if not everyone can participate, it’s not worth doing.

In fifth period I had more student interest. Unfortunately, I was almost foiled by a girl who first tried to claim that as soon as they took out their phones I was going to confiscate them (really? Am I that evil?) When that was unsuccessful, she told everyone that I was trying to get their phone numbers (to do what with? Prank call?)

It was pretty cool that as soon as a student voted for an answer choice the bar graph adjusted to show their vote. But, the kids were too into the texting, and not enough into the math part. It ended up being a huge distraction, and pretty much just took up too much time.

When we use technology in the classroom it can’t just be for the sake of using technology (which is what this was). Instead, I have to make sure that either students are learning how to learn technology or the technology actually enhances the lesson in some way. The texting experiment probably took away from the lesson.

One unexpected result was that cell phone usage in class actually DECREASED. When we were done texting, I told them that they’d met their cell phone in the class quota for the day, and that they needed to be put away. And they were.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rigorous Classes and Blob's Park - These subjects are not related.

This Tuesday I missed school to attend the College Board Middle States Regional Forum. It was pretty nice outside so I decided to walk from Fells Point to the Renaissance Hotel, which made me wish that I could walk to work every day. The morning workshop/lecture was called "Rigor without Rigor Mortis," and the speaker made some pretty good points about making classes more rigorous (which is one of the education world's favorite words of the moment). The big thing that she talked about was providing support when you amp up how challenging your courses are.

What she didn't talk about -- which is my biggest problem, is motivating students to take advantage of the support.

Case in point: On Monday my geometry students took a quiz. Only 10 students achieved more than an 80%. Bad. So I reviewed the answers to the quiz on Wednesday and I am offering a "retake" of the quiz tomorrow during lunch. I told students that I would be available every day during lunch and after school to answer any questions. When I asked students how many students would come to these sessions, about 2/3 of the class's hands shot up. And how many students have actually shown up for help?



I talked to my fifth period class today about aspiration vs. perspiration. They all aspire to do well, but so few of them are actually willing to put in the effort to achieve their goals. It seemed like students were listening (really! I swear!) But still, no one showed up after school. We'll see how many show up to retake the quiz tomorrow. I have high hopes, though I know I shouldn't.

In other recent news, a few weeks ago I had a great time at a polka/beer hall in Jessup. You can read all about Blob's Park (I'm not even kidding, that is actually the name of the place) here at my friend's totally cool food and wine blog. The best part of Blob's Park (seriously, that name is so weird) is that elderly gentlemen ask the ladies to dance. I danced with two such gentlemen and had a great time. So all you Baltimorons should check it out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Urban Reform + The Office = Awesome

My first year of teaching was a study in classroom management, culture shock, becoming comfortable in an authoritative role, and the act of desperately throwing things at the proverbial wall to see if they stuck. Certainly, during the first half of the year, my day-to-day focus was survival.

In my second year, my focus has been the curriculum of my new AP Stats class, as well as improving (greatly, I hope) upon my skills as a geometry teacher. While I cannot say that my classroom management skills are perfect, “controlling” my classes is no longer something that I think about during every waking moment – or often at all. I no longer feel the need to vent for hours to my boyfriend, my parents, or, let’s face it, anyone who would even pretend to listen, about the stresses of my day.

I’ve even branched out beyond my classroom – thinking a lot about the math department as a whole – successfully pushing to change Geometry and Algebra II to full year, rather than semester long classes, and spending a lot of time brainstorming ways to improve my school’s new AP program.

Up to now though, my department has really been the extent of my educational thoughts. Of course, I read the Baltimore Sun and the NYTimes and Detention Slip (ahem), for updates about education as a whole, and I greatly enjoy reading other blogger’s input about major issues going on in Baltimore. But, for the most part, I’ve never felt informed enough about these issues to express my own opinions.

Which is part of the reason why I am so, so glad to be taking an urban school reform course this semester. Now I'll get to go all Hermione Granger on everyone and tell you all what is RIGHT!

I think I may have just officially announced what a nerd I am -- full disclosure: I love Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Star Trek, the Dune novels, His Dark Materials, regularly wear a math t-shirt, Shakespeare t-shirt, and evolution t-shirt, majored in chemistry, play kakuro fairly obsessively, and calculate how to get more pizza at Iggie's when on a date (split the 14 inch pizza rather than getting individual 8 incher. This is not to be more romantic but rather to eat more delicious pizza. Also, order the Alice).

Now, enough about nerdiness. Let's get back to the important topic of Urban Reform. I am very excited that not only will I be learning about reform in urban schools, I will also get to blog about it -- and not just here! I’m sure a lot of you already know about The Challenge to Care in Charm City blog, and will be happy to know that it’s starting up again for the spring semester. I think the first post is supposed to be up next Monday.

So, Thursday is shaping up to be my favorite day of the week this spring. My Urban Reform class is on Thursday nights and so is The Office. Enough said.