Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stupid Math

The question on the eighth grade test asked something like this.  Sarah's class is building a  model town.  If a car that measures 15 feet is represented with a 3 inch model, how large would the model of  building that is 35 feet tall, be?"

Pearl added 3 to 35 and wrote 38 (not inches or feet since I guess it was some combination of the both).
I said nothing
Hey!  It was the state exam- I didn't want to lose my hard earned  pension.  

Last week during final test week preparation, Pearl put her pencil down, sighed, and said,  "I hate this, I can't do it! I hate stupid math!"

Hardworking, pretty and the most good-natured of the eighth grade inclusion group, my first thought  was Pearl doesn't deserve this.  She comes into school everyday with a book bag full of supplies, an open mind and a desire to do well.

And what does she get.

Stupid math questions.

Not the one above.  The one above is good math question.  I want to build a model town in the classroom. I want students to figure out the scale of the model cars and the model buildings.  I want them to figure out where the buildings should go and how the town could be designed for less cars and more energy efficiency.  I want them to make decisions on where to build schools and theaters and sport stadiums.

Pearl would ponder all those things.  It would be hard for her. The world doesn't scale up or down easily in her mind.   To her reflecting an image means labeling it with backward letters.  If the shape reverses the letters should too!

She's a good girl.  And she wants to do the right thing.  She would work very hard at a good model town. She would work very hard at making good decisions for the model town.  And she might grow up to make good decisions about a real town.

But we don't really make model towns.  We factor polynomials and reflect irregular quadrilaterals around a coordinate grid, and  solve for x in a multi-term inequality.

Because all those things are rigorous tasks.

We don't build scale model towns in the back of our classrooms.  We build piles of test prep workbooks.

Pearl hates stupid math.
I hate stupid math tests.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Talking Pineapples and random thoughts.

I have a bunch of random thoughts tonight
My brain is  fried from the testing.

American Idol is on in the background and this fresh faced contestant is rocking out Fat Bottomed Girls, it's Queen Night on Idol.  Thank goodness the new school aide was replaced by a newer school aide.  Every time I passed the old, new school aide,  the above mentioned song stormed into my brain- it was only a matter of time until the sensors were overwhelmed- and it would burst out in the hallway.
The only good thing you can say about our hallway is the acoustics makes even my voice sound good.

From the Those who live in glass houses file:
I was verbally, shall we say encouraging, Pablo down the hall.  I walked behind him.  I walked next to him.  I walked in front of him.  And then I heard from behind me the refrain:
I like big butts and I cannot lie....

The New York Times featured our neighborhood in its real estate section.  It mentioned that some of the famous jazz greats once lived there.  I taught summer school one summer.  We read Master Harold and the Boys,  a play by the South African playwright Athol Fugard.  In the first act two characters discuss playing a Sarah Vaughn tune on the jukebox in a rainy tea room in Capetown. "Oh," said the assistant assigned to the room, I used to double date with Sarah Vaughn.  She lived in the neighborhood.  And then she brought us tapes of her songs. We played them in a rainy classroom in Queens.

We gave the English Language Arts Test last week.  The principal asked me what I thought, as I tried to get them packaged up and sent to the collection site.

"Okay," I guessed, "but there were some answers I didn't know."  Because I guess I am not smarter than an eighth grader.
And then the  Hare and the Pineapple story hit the paper
I was not alone.
Read it here.  Its a funny story.
Just unanswerable.
The very sad part.  Many teacher, including both Teacher Guppies  reported the students complained the story made no sense.

Not my students.  To them the whole test didn't make much sense.
I hate testing week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Back from Vacation

We're back.

Uriah reported on his trip to the Bahamas.
I bought a new bronzer- that's some blush related powder targeted for a community of darker skins than mine.(There is a 24 hour drugstore between the morning bus stop and the school and I have the need to spend my money before 7:30 am)
Everyone told me how tan I looked- I took the compliment and attributed it to lying around my deck (why give away my beauty secrets?)

But Edison- he went to church, the dentist and his imagination.
And he showed us some pretty neat drawings.  It was a great vacation apparently.

And probably cheaper than my bronzer.

PS- after all that has been written recently about the awful consequences of accusations of verbal abuse bad the suffering it causes teachers,  I responded to Uriah's late afternoon boisterousness with the line
"I'm gonna kick you back to the Bahamas!"

Uriah's mouth dropped and then, "I would love for you to do that Ms. Teacherfish."

We're back.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

View from the Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn New York
Differentiated verticals:
pine trees
and a distant Empire State building.

Spring Break in New York City-

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Spring Break

Here is my Oprah moment,
Things for my gratitude journal.

  • Holiday dinners that include people I worked with in 1978 as well as people I worked with hours before dinner is served. (This despite the fact that I thought I had invited one colleague for another day.  Note to self- when inviting people for Friday- state which Friday)
  • The sun streaming  through stained glass windows at the elevated subwaystation.  (an oxymoron if there ever was one)  Check out the "Redbird' subway cars- like the ones from my childhood, long since replaced with boring metal -colored ones.
I had thought about reporting a discussion from one of the holiday dinners discussing the role of parents in education- but I am just relaxing too seriously for that 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


One result of Open School night.
More students in the after school tutoring section.

I was surrounded by my ninth graders from the inclusion class. Two ninth graders sat down at the next table.  I didn't know them- they are not in the inclusion class and my foray into the sixth grade makes me less able to meet the other ninth grade students.

"So what kind of teacher are you?" one asked.

I was contemplating the answer when Uriah answered.

"She helps us- she just teaches you whatever you ask her to do.'

Good answer, Uriah, like the Passover song, it would have been enough, but then Uriah added.,

"And she helps the other teachers too, they go to her when they need help."

Not sure how Uriah knows this, but it made me think of the old song from Fiddler on the  Roof.

The husband asks his wife (who he met on his wedding day) if she loves him.  And when she answers affirmatively, his response::
It doesn't mean a thing, but even so
After 25 years
It's nice to know.

Love Actually

I have panic attacks before open school night.  I wrote about it here (and another place too, that I currently can't find).  More than thirty years have passed since a parent accused me of being a terrible teacher. I have more confidence now.  But I still worry.

There is a Hugh Grant  movie, that I think was titled Love Actually.   I don't remember much more about the movie than the opening scene.  I paraphrase here.  Hugh Grant's character says if you want to see love, then go to Heathrow Airport.  And what follows is a collage of reunions, some romantic- most not- joyous moments when the getter off the plane is received by the waiter for the getter off the plane with all sorts of smooches and embraces.

To me if you want to see love, go to open school night.  Yeah, I have heard comments about wanting to kill that kid, more than once (at least once from my own mouth and I don't mean from the teacher end either) but even then I know that it would be purely a crime a passion.

Our little support services office got real crowded Thursday night.  I, being the most distractable of  its residents was on the lookout for a quieter corner to meet with parents.  So  I was squirreled away in the computer room when Kaya's mom came storming in.

Did I recognize her daughter? (I thought I did, but she had new weaves, and her hair was much longer than it had been four hours before .I am still having a hard time getting used to the fact that a trip to the beauty salon could make hair longer, I grew up at a time where being dragged to the beauty parlor resulted in my hair getting much shorter.  It was the sixties- the pixie cut was in fashion).

Did I know how to teach social studies? (Possibly not-see above for my crisis of confidence, especially on Open School Night).

Could I explain why her daughter had a failing grade in social studies on the report card?

I could. But Kaya explained it for me, no project, no work and missing hw. 

So her mother was deflated.  She told Kaya her excuses were unacceptable. 

She told me - she wants so much for her, She would give her the world if she could. 

None of the Mega Million jackpot tickets were sold in New York this week so she just is going to have to settle for making sure the social studies projects get done.

Maybe you don't see a lot of smooches and embraces on Open School Night.
But you see love-