Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Teacher Town Hall

For those of you who missed the Teacher Town Hall on Sunday (hosted by Brian Williams), here's a complete and unedited version. Some excellent points were brought up by teachers, parents and third-parties. It seems education is finally getting some attention in this country.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quote of the Week: 9/27-10/1

Okay, look. I know the week isn't over. In fact, it's just getting started, but I heard some funny ass shit yesterday and I thought it deserved it's own post.

Kareem and Antonio are bright students at my school. I've written posts about them here and here. They passed their Geometry Regents Exam last June. My school doesn't offer mathematics beyond Geometry yet, so they're enrolled in Algebra 2 at another school in the same building during first period.

During one of my free periods yesterday, they both strolled in as they needed a space to study for a make up test. Antonio took over my SMART Board (note: this image is not of Antonio and Kareem, although that would be quite funny). He began putting up some Algebra 2 practice problems. Then he put up more problems. And then he put up even more problems:
"Kareem, focus. Let's this synthetic division problem. What happens to the x?"
Kareem grabbed his head; he was not happy with this situation:
"Antonio, stop. I need some time to let it sink. My brain hurts.Arrggh! God dammit! This is why I can't be an engineer. Too much fucking math. I can't do this for fun!"
In response, Antonio looks down at the ground and shaking his head. Kareem turns to me:
"Come on! Mista, don't lie. Don't it hurt your brain sometimes to think so much?"
Too funny... keep it up, boys.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Homework Poison

Holy definite integral, Batman! My students are actually doing their homework; and they're actually showing effort and doing them properly! WTF, mate?

Last year, I had pretty simple homework policy: there was no homework. I had tried giving homework at the beginning of the year and the return rate was pretty pathetic. To be fair, transfer high school students have lives beyond the life of a stereotypical high school suburbanite. They work to support their households. Some of them have kids of their own to take care of. As an alternative to homework, I gave a mini quiz at the end of class everyday (yes, very Teach for America-like), which was supposed to pressure students to focus in class. It did work (well, sort of): I had an ~80% average for daily quiz grades.

Unfortunately, no homework also meant no retention. So by the time the Regents exams came along in January and June, the students who weren't letting the material sink in properly ended up failing. Miserably. Seriously, I could have easily submitted some of their answers here. Only the students who truly absorbed the material and studied on their own time passed.
Note: To be fair, there were also some lucky idiots who did not take class seriously, but also passed. Apparently, the Algebra Regents exam isn't rocket science (shhh!). Guessing a whopping 13 out of 30 questions correctly on the multiple choice guarantees you a passing score of 65. We have high standards in the state of New York.
This year has been different. Not only do we have quizzes everyday, but I've also been dishing out homework nearly everyday and the return rate has been beyond my expectations
FYI: my expectations were zero.
I try to keep the number of homework problems to five. My logic is that they should be able to complete homework assignments on a subway ride back home. The goal is to get them to think about what they learned in class, outside of class. Now, I have students who come in late and the first thing they want to do is interrupt my class and show me their homework. Students who were absent are coming to class, finding their homework from the days they missed and desperately trying to get my attention when they finish.
"Yo Mista, can I turn this in late?"
At this point, I really want to thank the New York City Water Sanitation Department for putting whatever they have been putting into the water supply this year. Some "get-your-homework-poison" no doubt...

Things weren't like this last year. Or maybe I hadn't set the homework expectation properly at the beginning of the year. Whatever it is now, I'll run with it. Literally. I've been waking up every other day at 5 AM to work out, do pull ups and push ups. Things running smoothly had put me in a good mood. Here's to a good start so far.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quote of the Week: 9/13-9/17

We have new students. Here's a memorable quote from one of them during Algebra as I was explaining the difference between rational and irrational numbers:
"Yo Mista, are you Jewish? You look like that Jewish comedian on the TV. Your hair is mad fro-y."
I explained where I was from, but had to turn to my handy dandy class globe to give a mini-geography lesson on where Pakistan and Iran are. You'd think they would know based on world news: it's fair to say I come from the two most popular countries in the world right now...

We will be accepting approximately 10-20 new students every week until mid-October or so. Look for more gems like these over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Night Before Year #2

Tomorrow is the first day of school for my students. I spent the better part of today getting my classroom ready. I was super tempted to buy this poster for my class, but I'm pretty sure promoting someone who moonlights as a serial killer would be inappropriate for school. Too bad, it's a great show.

I'm having a hard time trying to figure out how I feel about tomorrow. I'm excited, yet scared. Unfortunately, I can't seem to wrap my head around how I feel. I will write a more thorough post on this when I can properly express myself.

For now, enjoy this video (Thanks Alpha Za).

The Onion