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10 July, 2012



I Couldn’t Ask For More

1 May, 2012

I don’t have any children of my own, but I cannot imagine being more proud of any individuals than I am of my students right now.  My smile is at least a fourth of an inch wider because of a student in particular, we’ll call Edgar.  Edgar and I got off to a rough start.  He informed me at the beginning of the year that he was going to be a mechanic and drop out of high school as soon as he turned 16, so he did not need math.  Since my dad was a mechanic, I went home and asked about that theory.  I returned loaded with scenarios in which he would need basic algebra as a mechanic, but I’m sure I didn’t convince him.

Pretty early in the year I noticed someone was tagging my room with a sharpie.  They tagged my electrical outlets, bulletin boards, door frame, walls, walls, walls, desks, and even windowsill.  Although I teach math, I was relatively certain by the handwriting and the time blocks in which it happened that the artist was Edgar.  As a first year teacher, I’ve learned quite a few tough lessons in this one stretch. One of those is:  don’t accuse students of something unless you’ve seen it in action.

I was really afraid I had ruined this relationship for good, and he’d never listen to or learn from me again.  I know that he is in a gang, and that fact with the handwriting resemblance seemed to me to be reasonable suspicion.  I had not considered that asking Edgar if he wrote on my walls was such an unforgiveable injustice.  For about a month he barely spoke to me.  I will not make that mistake again.  The tagging did stop, though.*

As the school year progressed, I called his mom numerous times to inform her that Edgar was on the verge of failing or that he wasn’t doing much work.  He almost failed my first semester until I called and had her bring him for a parent conference with principals present.  I gave him a packet of makeup work, and she made sure that he completed it.  He squeaked by with a 59.52.

During Christmas break I called Edgar’s mom to insist that he attend intersession for Algebra 1 help.  She brought him, but he went to English instead of math.  When I found him in the hallway and reminded him to come to math, he nodded then ran out the side doors at lunch.

This semester, something finally fell into place.  Maybe I got better at classroom management.  Maybe Edgar realized I just wanted him to succeed.  Maybe he matured a little.  I’m not sure what changed, but I’m really thankful I hadn’t done irreparable harm to that all-important teacher-student relationship.

I called his mom again a few weeks ago, and somehow managed to communicate in my sadly lacking español that Edgar needed to stay after school if he wanted to have a shot at passing his Algebra 1 End of Instruction exam (the all-important, must-pass-or-you-don’t-graduate test).  He stayed after school every day last week, and did more work than I’ve seen him do all year combined.

Yesterday, when my students had finished the first half of the test, he walked up to me and said, “Hey Miss, you know how you told us you wanted us to be able to look you in the eye and say we tried on every single problem?”  He grabbed my hand, looked me in the eye, and said, “I tried on every single problem.”

Today, when he clicked submit on the second part of that test, his score popped up—solidly passing.

I got to call his mom after school, and had a sibling translate how incredibly proud she should be.  He came by my room after school, with a few other students… not for tutoring, but just to hang out.

I just hope this pushes him one step closer to graduation rather than dropping out.


*Months later, he admitted to the tagging, and apologized.

I’d Rather Be Taking Out the Garbage

29 April, 2012

This seems worthwhile.  

I wish I had the time or the know-how to create interesting questions like they seem to be working on.  

61% of students say they’d rather take out the garbage than do math?  



On an unrelated note, my students take their End Of Instruction test tomorrow, so I’ll find out if I’ve taught them anything.  Look out, world.  US Grant is going to blow your mind.

Not What I Meant

21 April, 2012

I thought I was being funny about how my students were going to dominate the EOI, so I put this slide up while I passed out the assignment.  I waited for the laughter and appreciation that 1st-3rd hour had displayed.  Instead, I heard a yell:  “So the EOI’s gonna be all stuck up inside us??”


All I could say was, “that is NOT what I meant!”

True Grit

14 January, 2012

If you want to become a good teacher, if you want your students to go on to great things, here is some inspiration.

intelligence is not a fixed entity

“Mexican can go to college”

8 January, 2012

When we took some of our “bubble” students on a field trip to OU, I had no idea how profound the learning experience would be.  We were trying to encourage those on the cusp of math success that maths can be fun.  OU’s K20 center put on an excellent set of algebra-related activities.  We toured the engineering building, where the engineering students told us about the Latino Engineering Club.  If the students learned nothing else, this summary makes it worth every hour of late-night planning.

We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?
-Nelson Mandela

facebook infographic

26 October, 2011

Just so that numbers and their graphs hold interest, we may browse this infographic in math enhancement.