Monday, January 13, 2014

Siri Takes a Midterm

Siri was doing pretty well on the midterm review.
Yeah the Iphone Siri.
True- we’re still not supposed to allow students to use their cell phones in class. Hey- the city discipline code says they’re not even allowed to have them in school. 
I read in a blog this weekend, that a teacher, I like to follow, had decided she was going to confiscate them when she saw them.  I am not sure about her reality, but I live in one where the sentence “Let me have your cell phone,” works about as well as, “Scotty beam me up.”
So most of the time I just beg students to put them away before the roving assistant principal comes around and then student and me are both in trouble.  But the assistant principal’s 97 year old mother  died, and Friday morning was the funeral- so she and the other administrators were otherwise occupied.
I had not planned to give a mid-term to the self- contained class. Of course -that is in direct contradiction to everything I’ve heard in this week’s professional development about rigor and parallel curriculum - but so what?   I figured I had to give a test at some point, but I hadn’t actually gotten around writing one when I opened my email on Monday and saw a note from the assistant principal of the special education department,  that we needed to bring our midterms to her office to be filed.   I planned to ignore it, but by Wednesday I decided I would cobble one together.  Then as long as I was writing a midterm, I would write a midterm review sheet. 
Friday morning I gave out the review. Most of the students, I am happy to report, went through our attempt at an interactive notebook and  perused their foldables for the answers.  But not Darian.  Darian joined the class late and doesn’t come to school that often.  It interferes with his selling marijuana business.  Darian often tells me he makes more in week than I do in a month.  I have no way  knowing but he does have a much better phone than me.  Siri was most cooperative, and generally faster than even the most complete of the interactive notebooks.
“Siri, what is a complementary angle pair?”  Siri responded immediately that it was a pair of angles that added to 90 degrees, and threw in a picture for good measure?
“Siri, how do you find the slope of a line when given two coordinate points?”  Siri returned  the slope formula with instructions on how to implement it within seconds?”
Darian did encounter difficulties when he asked for the definition  of a linear pair?  He couldn’t get Siri to understand his pronunciation of linear.  Siri kept coming back with some information about ears.
Okay- so I understand that what a good teacher would have done – would have been to tell him to put his cell phone away and use the resources in the room, but I was caught up in the efficacy of his plan.

“Why don’t you ask, what’s the meaning of life?”  I suggested. 
Darian did.  Siri told us that was a good question, maybe the ultimate question, but didn’t get more detailed than that.
Back to the worksheet.
By the end of the period, Darian had completed the sheet. Pretty accurately I might add. 
The other self-contained geometry teacher stopped by my room later in the day.  She had administered the exam and was depressed by the outcome.
“I don’t know what the point is?” she asked.  I go over the same thing over and over and over and over again, and they still don’t remember it.”
I know how she feels.  I feel the same way. I’m frustrated too, why do we teach geometry to people who can’t tell time on an analog clock?  If you can’t manipulate a ruler and a compass do you really need to know the triangle sum theorem?
We are told that with the right amount of rigor, high expectations and multiple entry points we should be great geometry teachers.
But can that really be true?
I don’t know---maybe I should just go ask Siri.

(or maybe we should just be replaced by Siri, she never got frustrated even, when Darien  could not pronounce linear!)

We’ll see how Darian does on the exam tomorrow.  The assistant principal is back from the mourning period. He’ll have to put the cell phone away.

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