Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reading your mind

Field Trip
For reasons that involve the convoluted organization/ reorganization of  a turn-around, closed, no wait- not closed, still opened, New York  City high school, I ended up on a field trip to the Bio-engineering Labs at City College.

CCNY as well as our school were built in the days when educational institutions were "cathedrals of learning."

Even though there weren't actually students from within the special education department on the trip I got to go. 

I got on the bus at 9:30 am.
I got off the bus with the student who was using a variety of the seven words you can't use on the radio, at  9:31am.

I had a discussion about "professional language." (as well as the acuity and accuracy of my hearing). with the trip leader and said student at 9:32am.

The bus pulled away from the curb at 9:35 (all agrieved and non-a grieved parties -boarded)

We spent the morning touring three labs in the Grove School of Engineering, learning first hand about state-of -the- art research.

I still have a hard time making teenagers look enthusiastic, but it was fascinating.

In the neuro-engineering lab we looked and heard about all sorts of devices that measure the human (or sometimes rat's) response to electrical stimulation. The Phd student assured us, the research was on the path to  being able to decode human thinking inside the brain.

"Can you read my thought?" Roger asked.

Our guide, responded, they weren't quite there yet.

"I can, " I told Roger.

"What I am thinking?"  he asked.

"You're thinking- when do we get to eat lunch?"

Roger nodded.  We moved on.

PS  We had a very good lunch in the Student Union cafeteria

Sunday, April 21, 2013


If I teach logic, then I will get. it.
That's an if/ then statement.
In math its called a conditional.

I know that 'cause I teach logic.  Then there is the truth value thing.

If the first part is true then you look at the second part and if that is also true then you reverse it, and then you do the hokey pokey and your turn yourself around.  And that's what its all about.

If you're too young to remember the hokey pokey and then  we'll go with the Missy Elliot quote- if  its worth it than work it - put your thing down flip and reverse it.

The point?  The truth value  is false.
I teach it- but I don't get it.

Here's another conditional

If you love to teach then you teach.

Let's look what the converse of this one is.

If you teach then you love to teach.

Anyone who has been around schools and- kids, and - teachers, for more than a little while- has to question the truth value of that one. I had a friend  who has a job working with teachers who are in jeopardy of losing their jobs due to terrible reviews.  Sometimes she  finds , the reviews are due to something other than actual teaching skills , sometimes she's successfully makes them better teachers and sometimes she finds that people who actually teach hate  to teach.

And now for the negation.
Those who don't love to teach, don't teach.
They find ways to make those who do -miserable.

By making educational policy-
By deciding people who can't determine the difference between odd and even numbers should take college preparatory math courses.
By thinking that if you make everything harder, then everyone will learn harder things.
Then developing  tests to  determine that students can't do the stuff that you decided to put on the hard  test ,  but you didn't tell anyone in advance how hard it would be since you didn't know exactly what was going to be on it.

In fact you were so confused about what hard stuff to put on the exam that you used passages from the textbooks you were also selling the people to prepare for the hard exam.
(That will show people who love to teach- not to buy anything but your textbooks.)

And of course if it all goes awry - you just blame the teachers.

Is anything I wrote logical?
Does it make sense?

Who knows?  I already admitted I don't get it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Basic Construction- This is hard

I teach geometry 1, self contained, tenth period.

In a school where remnants of an old special education system exist, even if the form in which they currently exist no longer makes sense,  I am assigned students who "successfully tested" past the first high school mathematics course, but are considered in need of separate (but equal) instruction in a separate classroom. (Okay- the educationally cool word, is parallel-talk about your geometry vocabulary!)

That's the remnants part.  There are no more courses for adolescents with no literacy skills, no programs for students who can't handle a compass, let alone a geometry proof.  Everyone is placed in college-preparatory programs

So I try to teach college preparatory  geometry.
This is hard.
That's Bartholomew's favorite line.  Bartholomew who wear's diamond (or cut glass- I'm not a jeweler) studs in both ears, talks in a squeaky voice and hides under the desk in social studies. (I don't know how or why, but the social studies teacher came in one day to offer him pizza if he wouldn't hide under the desk anymore- He didn't - We shared the pizza).

This is hard.
This being whatever I ask him to do, solve for x, find the area of a four by four rectangle drawn on graph paper, or  basic geometric constructions- which is what we were doing last week.

Thursday afternoon, I worked with him constructing the angle bisector using a compass and a straightedge.  It involved sequencing six steps and manipulating a compass.
This is hard.
Yeah?  You think?- try teaching someone who insists picking up the compass is hard- to construct an angle bisector.  Forty minutes later, I have no idea who was more frustrated Bartholomew or me.  Bell rang- we went  home-frustrated.

I would just pass him.  It was ridiculous to keep harping on it.  We weren't getting anywhere - and he didn't deserve to fail, because the skills were out of his functioning range.

Then I got to thinking- what would Bartholomew really need to know in his post secondary (as the IEP calls it) life?  Would he have to solve for x  or would he have to use tools in some prescribed series of steps?

Friday we tried again.  I changed the task to copying an angle, four steps instead of six. I drew a big angle on blank white sheet. I asked him to touch his nose, bend his elbow, clap his hands in order.
This is weird.
Yeah, weird.  But - he could follow three directions in the appropriate sequence. So I guess weird is better than hard.

We worked all period on copying that angle,

With limited success.

But some limited success is better than frustration.

We both went home happy. It was the weekend.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Decisions and whistle blowing

Should I  (a) retire -or(b) hope there's a big contract in our future? (Most likely b)

Are the five miles between my house and the school more quickly covered on (a) the traffic light laden side streets- or (b)the highways? (My husband picked b, making me late for the first time in a decade.-)

Math office or special office,  for last minute preparations in my now reduced planning time before classes begin.  (This is a large city high school problem, in the small high school there was only one office for last minute preps- and  I could never get to the copy machine.)

I got called into the special office.  Decision made for me.  I needed to sign a state mandated paper stating that I would have access to students IEPs.  Okay so it's April.  But you know the better late than never thing. (Of course, unless its the IEP you are writing that's late- then its a big deal.)

I stood in the outer office with the secretary, two school aides and a para-professional, when Chip came in.  Chip, whose name is spoken with fear and terror in the Teacher's center (oh- I forgot, another place for last minute preparation- but not particularly useful for lack of copy machines).

Chip placed a large whistle in his mouth and blew a series of ear-splitting blasts.

We ignored him. (Hard to believe, but individually- we all silently reviewed the most appropriate responses, wait, I mean effective, no I mean, not choosing the option to shove the whistle down his throat which might greatly effect my retirement choices listed above) and said NOTHING.

From the inner office, not in anyone's sight-line,
 The voice of the Assistant Principal:  Secretary's name - what is that noise?

Secretary: Its Chip blowing a whistle.

Alas, Chip had his desired- reaction. He walked through the four of us, into the inner-office and blew one long blast.

The Assistant Principal's response:  ---------------------------------------------------------

Chip left.

Another whistle-blower ignored.

I went to work in the math office.

PS- By noon Chip had left the school in handcuffs.  According to the secretary it had nothing to do with the whistle.