i'm dying

under the onus of 5-week grade deadlines. kinda. not really.

im so busy. life is whizzing by. i am whizzing by.

i need a bath. a spa treatment.

Wednesday: Week 3

I am tired. It is early. I promise to write more later tonight, after the grocery store and a nap (hopefully).

don't let your child be a kangaroo!

this inspirational link is a bit cheesy but has a bunch of cute "awww" and "oh." moments.

your homework

. . . is to read this article from Scientific American. i hafta go to target and get some stuffs and a hard copy of SciAm and then ill report back. toodles.

back from my mini-vacation

.. and let me tell you, i needed it.

first off: more news on the cahsee front

second off: for everyone who says "but teaching in south LA must be so... dangerous!" i would like to remind everyone that death is a fact of life to teachers in all corners of the world.

i have scads of laundry and i am a bit sickly. *sniffle* the change in weather screwed me up.

thank you, colorado.

what a wonderful idea. i wish every school district would do this.

as many of you should know, summer vacation has begun and i am going to be out of town for a couple of weeks, but i should still be able to do a few posts. have fun, kids.

the perils of keeping it real

quickly, i havent much time before bed beckons me into its open arms.

i am done. as of today. i still have all the formalities of paperwork, but i am done, at least, for the moment. good timing, too, i feel that i have been going crazy. i need the next month as a vacation in a very serious way and hope to do a maximum amount of lounging. thats the good.

on the other side of that awful coin, today i had the dubious distinction of having a student beg to be passed, tears and all, for the first time today. a sobering experience. shes a senior who missed waaay too much class, never turned in homework and utterly failed the final exam. she came in pleading, "please pass me!" and i explained that due to the fact that her grade was at a 24% F, that there was simply no way. "J, you are not even at the borderline between a D and an F. you are so completely at an F that passing you would be literally unfair to everyone else." she wasnt happy about it, and she kept arguing about it. unfortunately for her, i was able to deconstruct all her arguments, which will not be included here due to their predictability.

my future posts will be less concerned with the students now, as we are done for the year. now i suppose they will focus on my misadventures navigating the lausd hiring process and the pitfalls of office politics. at least for the summer until the year starts again.

who would like to join me at the beach. i need to get brown again. my pale belly is sad.

another one

another student did the exact same thing as that young girl did yesterday. youd think word would spread or that theyd be smarter about it. this is going to affect the way i write the final, definitely.

your cheating heart will tell on you

ok, so a couple of weeks ago, i gave the chapter 12 test on permutations, combinations and probability. at the time, i made 4 forms: a, b, c, and d. altho' the problems were different, they were in essence the same, one having them evauate say, 10P2 and another 7P5. you get the idea. so when i grade the tests, i dont use the answer key, because i look for the correct process more than i look for the right answer, if they did everything right then forgot to carry the 1, well ill deduct a point, but im not gonna be a hard ass. anyway, there was this one question which was something like "how many 3 card hands can you deal from a standard 52 card deck?" ans = 52C3. anyway, while i was grading it i noticed that three boys who all had form C made the same two mistakes in the same exact way on the exact same problem. at one point, they had to divide 52 by 4 and they ALL put 12. on top of it all, they werent really supposed to divide by 4. in fact, i dont understand why they were trying to divide by 4 in the first place. but the fact that they all divided by 4, then all got 12 (not 13!) stunk like fish. so i spoke to them individually and i said, "what do you think this looks like to me? does this look like a statisical improbability? mind you, this is what we just finished studying, so answer carefully." well one denied it, and one lowered his head and said, "it looks like we cheated ma'am." the other was absent for about 2 weeks after that. anyways, since they all scored about 52%, i told them that since i couldnt prove that they cheated, that i hadnt caught them red-handed, that i would be happy to let their fails stand as is. i also told them: "if you are going to cheat in my class, i would appreciate it if you didnt insult my intelligence. either learn to cheat correctly, cheat from someone who knows what theyre doing, or, better yet, study hard and so your own work. i will be scrutinizing your work in the future so please do not give me any more reasons to be suspicious." they didnt really say anything, since they knew that if i *had* caught them red-handed that they would be suspended, possibly expelled if i felt like being a total bitch. anyway, this is the prologue.

so tomorrow is the last day to turn in any make-up work, and so a few students are trying to make up any quizzes and tests they missed. one girl needed to make up the chapter 12 test. now this was a hectic time for me, as i was in the throes of my PACT and had very little tme and was a mess. so when she asked me to make it up, i couldnt find the tests! so very quickly i made up a new test. even though it was still called form B, it had absolutely none of the same problems as the originial form B. can you see where this is going? so this girl didnt even bother looking at her test (i should mention that they are reviewing for their final, so they have a few options this week: a) work on make up homework (im nice like that), b) work on review problems as classwork (if they already turned everything in and need to review, i dunno, synthetic division, and c) take make up tests and quizzes. so anyway, what i think is that she had asked her frends in the class for their different forms and kept them handy. since its been hectic, i trust them on the honor system: here it is, go sit over there and take it. so she turned it in and i graded it today. well, as i said, i never use the answer key. so as im correcting it, she had a problem like 10C1 and it looked like she evaluated 9C7. so i thought i was losing my mind. evey problem was wrong, but i knew they were familiar. so i looked thru my stuffs and found a form B from another student. and eureka. caught. so i took her outside today and asked, "tell me, whose test did you copy?" and she gets this attitude and says, "why do you think i cheated just cos i got every question right?" and i said, "no, see, thats where you're wrong. you got every question right, save two of them: the one which happened to use the same numbers and the one which everyone had gotten wrong and you asked me to help you on." so i explained what had happened and how i knew. i also told her, "you got 4/30 points. im going to let you have those 4 points." i didnt tell her this part: i think she insulted me by cheating and i think its more insulting to give her those 4 points than if i gave her a big fat 0. i dont want to sound petty or anything, but cheating raises my bile to my throat.

so in conclusion, in the future, i am going to make several tests, label them randomly either A, B, or C and see who does their own work and who doesnt. how beautifully machiavellian.

i'm so stoked

because two other gurls from my tep program at ucla are going to be teaching at my current school and in the math department, no less! so aside from the two tep'ers at the magnet, we have the greatest math department in the history of ever. jealous? cos you should be. *gloats*

i have mixed feelings about this whole cahsee lawsuit thing.

California Supreme Court Revives CAHSEE
Appeals Court Asked for Quick Decision in CAHSEE Case

one the one hand (μεν) i think that standardized testing in general is bullshit. i thank goodness that i went to a college that placed more emphasis on writing ability that sat act or gpa. fuck that. at the same time, have a clear writing presupposes a clarity of mind. the more i think about it, im sure everyone at st johns would have done fairly well to very well on any number of standardized tests. anyway, so the part of me that knows standardized tests are bunk, the part of me that knows they are written for white middle america and not for my poor kids in south LA makes me want to do away with the cahsee.

on the other hand (δε) i think that if these kids are to compete against their richer, whiter, nore priveledged peers, being unable to pass a standardized test only places them at a disadvantage. as much as i want to break down this oppressive system, i will always believe that infiltration and bringing it down from the inside shall be more effective (and more satisfying) than litigation and enabling. part of me says that we do not need to relax standards but to strengthen them; then demand the resources to make everyone pass sopme stupid fucking test.

i dunno, i guess i too am conflicted about this. i just wish everyone knew how to do binomial expansions using pascals triangle and knew how to develop a profit-loss analysis and how to build a table. math! ah if only everyone 5pok3 1n num63r5.

ok still busy.

lets see. i am:

1) finishing my PACT.
2) i just took subtests I and III of the goddamned CSET.
3) i am in the process of getting officially employed by lausd.
4) i am in the process of getting officially employed at a wonderful, well-known school in South LA.
5) i had to make time for my brother coming to visit, as well as my BFF, la isla.
6) my dog needed a walk earlier; that took precedence over the blog.
7) my boyfriend jon stewart is in reruns right now, so im stealing a moment to share my list of crazy shit im doing which is why i have been unable to keep up my posts.

i just want to say that i am very happy at my school. when i compare my experiences to those of my peers at other ucla partner schools, i thank goodness for my good fortune. and to think: if i hadnt had such a hard time finding a bclad teacher, i may never have wound up there at all. wow. but yes i am happy. all of you should apply and join me. it would be lovely.

ok i have a quick minute.

well lets see. this week is cat9 testing at school, but i guess these days its called cst or some other such thing. anyhow, ive been able to go in late because of this. today i have to be in at 11am, so i have a few more moments of dicking around on the internets.

I made a very difficult decision last week. J, the kid whose dad i've talked to about a million times, simply refuses to behave himself. i feel i have tried everything. i offered tutoring; he came twice. i told his father that he was not keeping it up; nothing happened. his behaviour will improve for a few days after these calls, or if i speak to his counselor, but two days later, he is at it again. his counselor told him that if i came to speak to her once more then there would be enough documentation to keep him out of the classroom. so the next time he disturbed the class (and by this i mean not just a single outburst, but a series of remarks with no heed) i waited patiently until class was oveer and told Ms. F, his counselor, that i had had enough. there are simply too many other kids who need the attention and *benefit from it*. so yeah. its sad and unfortunate. but *shrug* c'est la vie, i guess. you can lead a horse to school, but you cant make him learn. i dunno. maybe one day, years from now, when this kid is (a) mopping floors or (b) in prison, he can think back to the opportunities he squandered. at this point, thats all i can hope for him: that he one day recognize the error of his ways.

part of the reason i chose high school is because the kids are older. they are able to make their own decisions at this point. if an elementary school teacher encounters a problematic child, it is quite likely that the child has no fault in the matter: a learning disability, a broken family, poor living conditions. but as that child matures, they gain the gift of free will—key word being WILL. the desire, drive and determination to achieve (and yes, i know: achievement is not the same for everyone; for one it could be getting straight As, for another passing algebra by the skin of their teeth: the point is that in each case, the student works their ass off and they reap the benefits of that hard work). but if instead they shrug and say "fuck it!" … well theres not much i can do. i can try to explain that their attitude is exactly what keeps them down, not their ability (or as they believe, lack of ability).... but many of them just shrug and say, "fuck it!" ... then it gets into a societal issue, and man, i certainly dont have time to soapbox about that.

i'm off. in the meantime, please peruse my new favorite magazine, seed.

shit ive been busy. sorry.

not as bad as the death of feynman, but close.

"Life is good for only two things, discovering mathematics and teaching mathematics." - Siméon Poisson

i shall be leaving town tomorrow morning, as my older brother shall be graduating from college. he is getting his bachelors. he said he would be damned if i got my masters before he got his bachelors! hey! at least im motivating someone!

in the hopes that the words of others can motivate, perhaps move you, i now present:

math quotes which should make you feel warm and fuzzy like a baby chick and which you could find on the wikipedia math portal but i know that not all of you go trolling through the wiki math portal so im going to copy and paste them here, (besides im a bit bored in class and dont worry, im aware of the irony).

"Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty —a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry." - Bertrand Russel <3<3<3<3

"Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable sub-human who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house." - Robert Heinlein <3<3 (and you scifific freaks better not attack me for the fact he only gets 2 hearts)

"The good Christian should beware of mathematicians, and all those who make empty prophesies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of Hell." - St. Augustine (<3 ... and thats a courtesy heart)

"He who can properly define and divide is to be considered a god." - Plato <3<3<3<3 (+ <3 for being my luva')

may the third

After more than three years of combat and nearly 2,400 U.S. military deaths in Iraq, nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 18 to 24 still cannot find Iraq on a map. this reads like a word problem.

you are in a military convoy going northwest from baghdad at 65 mph. an insurgent army is travelling south from mosul at 50 mph. how long until democracy is spread throughout iraq? show all your work; there will be partial credit.

may day

summary: in the morning, my guiding teacher called and told me she would be unable to be there today. she asked if i could cover her 5th period which is at the same stage as the 4th period. sure. period one: no one was there; all gone for la marcha.
period two: conference period; went with my wonderful cameraman to eat.
period 3: shared the articles from yesterday with the kids, asked them to summarize for the class as well as give their opinion. for the most part, they participated and were insterested. at some point, i told them that in order to know what kinds of things go on in the world, they need to speak to their parents, that they underestimate their knowledge. *nervous giggles all around* one girl said, "i've asked but she doesn't want to talk about it." another girl said, "yeah my dad's the same way." so i said, "sometimes, the things that immigrants go through and experience are hard and painful, and they don't want to tell to their kids. tell me: does your mom ask you to clean your room just once, or does she have to tell you a million times before you do anything?" the girls giggled, a clear indicator that it's the latter. i continued, "you need to be the same way. ask her at dinner. ask her in the car when she picks you up. ask your aunts and uncles about it. ask your brothers and sisters to help you. at some point, she will tell you her story. your history starts at home." and you know, i didnt get the blank stares from the class one would expect. all in all, 8/10.
period four: pact filming. fundamental counting principle, the building block of statistics. cooperative for the most part. one girl, J is very confrontational about everything. you could ask this girl for the time and she would take it as a personal affront. she is very angry. i am worried about her. also, due to AP testing, they put the morning announcements smack dab in the middle of the period. uh how about THATS STOOPID? better? skip announcements all together or make them at the end of the period. it disrupted the entire flow of the lesson, broke the kids attention and made it more troublesome to get them back on task. who the hell are these administrators, anyway? havent they ever taught a day EVAR? 6.5-7/10.
period five: same lesson as period four. here's what i learned, via direct experience: giving a lesson is more effective, more streamlined, more concise, and more clear the second time around. i also take into account the lack of a giant inturruption in the middle of class. 9/10.
period six: algebra 1a. never met them before ever. in fact, i wasnt even gonna stick around since i had work for tomorrow, and was all anxious about dealing with the clusterfuck of traffic (going from school to my apartment takes me across wilshire, through the center of la marcha). same thing as period three. these kids were asking more questions than third period and were really affected by the story from the toronto star. we talked about ther fears more. at some point, our discussion was about how minority groups turn on each other (there was one african american boy and one asian girl in this period, making it a different dynamic than period three, where all the kids are latino). we did the exercise i participated in with the BCLAD compas where we bring 10 chairs to the front to symbolize wealth, then force people out accordingly. it was really effective with the kids. they really got into it. they are bright kids. they made my day. and all this for kids i wasnt gonna see today. 10/10.

so yeah, i feel good about going to school today. i wish more educators taught them about the history they dont learn in school, read subversive literature in english class. i gave them a little bit, but tomorrow is more graphing and more statistics. the truth is in the numbers; power is in the truth.

may day eve

i will be going to school tomorrow. just letting you know.

i will be there in the hopes that some of the latino kids show up, and when they do we will discuss hr4437 and i will share these articles:

canadian immigration siezes girls

so who hires day laborers outside home depot, anyway?

fears of immigration roundups affecting businesses

yo no soy capitan, yo soy marinero

also, since (i think) only two kids in fourth period algebra 2 are latino, i am showing up to instruct them in the fundamental counting principle. i am excited! as much as i hate probability, i really love it. does that make sense? uh, no. love/hate relationships rarely make sense, i guess. also, i am starting to film for the PACT event. fun. :-|

i am not looking forward to traffic tomorrow. we're out of dog food, too, so i will need to make purchases at such white establishments as petco. oh! which reminds me of another story (via fark): illegal alien puppy gets US amnesty, now doesnt that just warm the cockles of your heart? these minute men will show more heart to a dog that to a human being. you know what i call that? i call that being a dick. not that im surprised. *le sigh*

i feel really good about everything today.

i am pleased to announce that today went extraordinarily well. the kids were cooperative, engaged and interested.

J, the kid who gives me the most headaches (on average) has made a 180° turn. he is eager to go to the smart board and graph lines. he lives for plotting points. this is not the J from 3 weeks ago. anyway, so today, he was acting up at during the first few minutes of class. i sent him outside. 3 minutes later, he knocks on the door and says, "ok miss, im ready to come in now." after that, he was perfect. he volunteers for a problem. "ok: go to the board," i say. in a beautiful moment of twilight zone-esque situation comedy, he starts by making a t-bar chart to find the x and y values. as hes describing his steps, the other kids in class start talking and not paying attention to him. he says, "hey everyone, im trying to do a problem here!" pause. ... the light bulb literally went on over his head, and he looked at me, sheepishly. and he said, "oh." and he said, "miss, it sucks when i'm up here and they dont pay attention." ms. vasquez smiled behind her desk. i smiled at J. i said, "how does it make you feel?" he said, "it hurts my feelings." but he realized the irony: when the kids did it again a little later, he imitated me, sat down in the chair next to the smart board and said, "i can wait all day too, guys." classic.

do i think this will change Js behaviour forever and ever, always and constantly? uh, no. but that glimmer of empathy is a star! ah, faint ray of hope! beam of reason and bright light of knowledge ! could it be? ah, yes! perhaps J has exited the cave, been blinded by the dazzling light! now, is he ready to go back in and share his discoveries? will the shadows on the cave wall be denounced as frauds? what a long way we have still.

unrelated to all this: enough is enough; please just change the subject.

PS: let's all move to bellingham, washington

all my symptoms have disappeared.

having gotten home, showered, and having just now eaten a peanut butter sammich with a tall glass of malk (hey i drink plenty of... malk?) i can write while i watch svu. i went back to teaching today, feeling fresh as pure snow. first period was well, we went over graphing using the intercepts, and i am pleased to discover that the kids are THRILLED TO PIECES about cartsian graphing. ok, so they're still shaky on the pemdas process, but they love coordinate points! so theyre doing great. homework? still a dream i have at night. but participation is at an all-time high: the smart board and the white board are fought over! the kids are tripping over themselves to go up to it. "miss, i wanna do this one!" oh goodness, i never thought id hear this from the first period group.

so for the "exceptional students" class i take on tuesdays, we had to fill out a "student support team" survey, where we ask the sst leader all sorts of questions about which framework is set up. anyway, so afterbeing bounced from one office to another, i finally land in the cunselors office. as i am waiting to speak to the friendly receptionist, this student walks in, full of sound and fury, spitting attitude to aforementioned receptionist. she calms him down, explaining she needs to understand his problem because she wants to help. she succeeds. anyway, i was thinking, "why was he so rude to the nice lady?" so she asks me what i need and tells me to wait for the person i needed to see, one of the counselors. so, wearing my 'faculty" badge proudly, i go in to ask this man whether he can help me answer the questions. he says indeed he is the man i need to speak to but that he is busy at the moment. fair enough. i ask him if there is a time when i could come back and get the information i need, whether this week or the next. and HE SNAPS AT ME and says, "look, i dont have time to answer your ridiculous questions!" ... so at this point, i think, no wonder that kid came in spitting attitude. if this is the kind of response he gives to his peers, i shudder to think how he treats the students he "counsels." and no wonder so many kids dont want to seek advice. look i know: yes they are overworked; yes they are short-staffed: but fuck SO ARE TEACHERS. and there is no way in hell i could speak to ANYONE in the school like that without getting reprimanded. bottom line: what a dick.

so that took up so much time, i didnt really work with fourth period today, but today my guiding teacher was still in running the class, since i was still taking it easy. today was the first symptom-less day, so i needed to be careful and not over-exert myself. anyway. im excited about tomorrow.

oh yeah

and what the fuck is wrong with omaha?

today is sunday and most of my symptoms have disappeared

i am still stuffy and my throat is still scratchy and sore, but other than that, im ok. i find it difficult to concentrate on anything for a prolonged period of time... which reminds me, i have laundry... BRB... (hahahah, as if you, gentle reader, can read this in real time) ... i am planning on going to teach tomorrow, but i do not think i will be able to lead the class. just thinking about talking like that makes me start coughing!

i would like to share some links that the honorable stephen "stinger" orsinger mailed to me.

the first is absolutely beautiful, and is the epitome of spirals everywhere. the golden ratio? no! archimedes' spiral? no! the number spiral!

the second is supremely sublime, and is better than beethoven, bach, chopin or shostakovich. heresy, you say? but you don't have to take my word for it!

and finally, i know that steve-o sent me this page because of the city of los angeles high school mathematics proficiency exam. having navigated around, i can assure you that the home page of this dood leads to all sorts of wonderful and amazing math stuffs.

c'est tout!

my flu relapsed

when i woke up yesterday, i started feeling ill again. i powered through it, thinking it was no big deal, but by the time i drove home to catch the #20 into campus, i felt terrible. i sleepwalked (sleptwalked?) through the classes that day. the bf picked me up, since we had planned on going to this art opening but since i felt so terrible, we just went home and i slept. my fever broke at about 3am but its been coming back. dayquil tastes terrible, but is still better than nyquil. anyway. i didnt go in to school today but i am feeling better. i dunno if ill make i tomorrow. i think the illness i had previously never really went away but was just in remission. gah. i had to miss class at ucla too. could it be stress? the bf found a bald spot the size of a nickel. omg, maybe im just getting old and busted.

first day back

first period: my guiding teacher gave a test on the day before spring break let out. she let the kids take it home to work on during the break. three turned it in that day: we corrected them and told them to work on it during class and that it was homework. she had reviewed for a whole week and told them that the test would be given: still, today we had to hand out 10 tests to kids who were mysteriously absent that day. ... i want to be able to say that i am the failure: that somehow my inexperience is to blame for their poor performance. yet, given the facts, i cannot. i am certain that these kids are the very ones who will wind up as drop-out statistics. they have made up their minds to give up, and i dont know if my endeavors can triumph over strong-willed teenagers. i can only focus my attention on the kids who have not entirely given up: there are too many kids in these high schools who do need the attention.

which brings us to fourth period: talk about a difference! like night and day. first period is alg 1, and fourth is alg 2. i think the difference in attitude can be attributed mainly to two things: (1) that these kids are older, mostly 11th graders, so they have a better sense of their academic obligations. they have developed a sense of self-discipline: they have goals established. they want to graduate high school, get an academic scholarship, go to college. they are at worst simply resigned to math as a necessary prerequisite to reaching these goals. (2) all the kids that are like period 1 either never make it to alg 2 or have dropped out by now. sad to put it like that, huh? but thats the truth of the matter.

anway, chew on these mathematical contradictions. i remember mr. bremer got me a shirt of the 1=2 problem at some math conference. chris howe borrowed it once sophomore year at sjc and i never saw it again. man, i loved that shirt. id wear it to bed and have escher dreams.

something i should have done over the break, but didn't

i pretty much ignored my obligations for that period of time, and i think my mental health thanks me. tomorrow begins again, nay, continues following a brief hiatus, my commitment to education. the illness i had the week before really kicked my ass and i was feeling it well into spring break itself, so i don't really feel i had an "actual" break, also considering i still had class at ucla. anyway, i enjoyed playing video games for a few days and going to the lakers game today.

as far as something i should have mentioned during the break, but didnt, and now feels like old news is that a comment i made on bOINGbOING got posted. some of you have visited this humble little blog as a result, which is nice. please share this blog with other educators; i welcome feedback of all kinds (english teachers, plz refrain from pointing out i dont capitalize and that my punctuation is inconsistent. at least my spelling is impeccable). for those of you who know me and are reading this because i urge you to, thanks to you too. ive been getting all sorts of encouragement from youse guyse, and believe me when i tell you that it makes me feel better about what i'm dealing with and going through. awwww. hugs all around.

also, i just bought a copy of and still we rise: the trials and triumphs of 12 gifted inner-city students which was written about kids at Crenshaw. i dont want to mention any schools by name, especially not mine, but then I fucked up and mentioned mine in the boingboing post. oops. so yeah, its [redacted]. anwyay. regular posting begins again tomorrow. stay tuned: same bat-time, same bat-channel.

more spring break. still ill.

this past week, beginning april 2, i fell ill. i havent been in all week. i feel better today (friday) but i still feel like butt. next week is lausd's spring break, so posting here will be irregular. also, my internet was down, which is now back up. pardon me, im going to go lie in bed and play with my DS and cuddle with the dog. *cough cough wheeze*

agenda for today: go over test

if you were in my math class this morning, you would have heard the following exchange:
good morning class. nice to see that 5 of you decided to show up to class today.

"miss, are we going to discuss the march that happened on saturday? i think it's important."

you know D, you know what i think is more important? the fact that every single one of you failed my test.

"but the situation with the immigrants is fucked up, miss!"

you know K, you know what i think is more fucked up? that you all SAY you are so concerned with immigrant rights and the future that they are being denied, but somehow, you guys can't manage to study for my math test; that you all are systematically denying yourselves what so many immigrants are being denied by others. that immigrants fight for so many things – things like education and health care – and yet you all squander the opportunites being given to you. that's what i think is fucked up.

so no, D, we are not going to discuss what happened. because as far as i am concerned, you all are talking the talk but not walking the walk: you all say you want equal access and equal opportunity for everyone, but when a teacher stands at the front of the classroom in order to provide it for you, you all decide that doing your homework is not a priorty; that studying for a test is not something you need to do. that's what's fucked up.

after this exchange i asked the kids which problems on the test they wanted me to go over. D, who suggested we talk about the immigrant issues, said, "i don't care about math" and proceeded to put his head down. K asked why i couldn't have given him help when he asked for it during the test. after explaining that he had 6 weeks to ask questions, and that a test is the time to show they are capable of independent thought and action, he said, "well fuck, i'm not going to give up my lunch or time after school to get tutoring. why can't studying at home be enough?" so i asked, "o? and how much time do you spend studying math at home?" he replied, "10 minutes." so i said, "assume you get home at 5 o'clock. when do you go to bed? at 10? so 5 hours, which is 300 minutes. 10 minutes is 3% of your time. a test is worth 30% of your grade. if you only dedicate 3% of your time to my class, your grade will reflect that: and it does. 30% of your time is equal to 90 minutes, or an hour and a half. if you spent that much time on my class, i can guarantee you your grade would not be sad amount it currently is." at that, K did not have anything to say. E asked to see a problem. after walking him through it, i noticed that E has problems not with the algebra, but with adding and subtracting poitive and negative numbers. i said, "E, you are always 100% sure that you know exactly what you are doing. but you keep screwing up when you have to add and subtract. it appears *that* is what you need to practice." after hemming and hawing about it, E said, "i was absent, that's why i didn't know. i can do it now." so i put another problem on the board. and said, "o? get to it then." he then proceeded to get the algebra right, but was unable to add -173 + 63. he said it was -236. when K pointed out his mistake, E got upset and said, "fuck this anyway. the questions on the test were hard and not like the ones on the homework." imagine the look on their faces when i told him that all the problems were taked straight from the homework assignments, and that they were running out of excuses.

K said, "Ms. Vasquez would have helped us during the test!" to which Ms. Vasquez replied, "then why didn't you pass my class last semester, K?" to which, again, K was struck silent.
it is worth pointing out that the kids who walked out, the good majority have no idea why they are walking out. to them it is a free day. so to all the organizers of the walk-out for immigrant rights, i say: fuck you. you are not making my job any easier. you are not organizing the kids. you are not educating or informing them. you are creating a photo opp: in the end, superficial and meaningless.

better yet, why not a school walk-in? how is losing a day of instruction beneficial to them? what about all the kids who have to miss school to help put food on their families' table? what about all the kids who are dropping out? during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, black folk all across the south walked into lunch counters and sat down. they were demanding equal access. equal opportunity.

get these kids to come in to class, not out of it. to sit down and listen, not stand up and yell. in the end, an education is more valuable than grandstanding. i'm sure their immigrant parents would appreciate that far more.

i love a good joke.

my guiding teacher shared this with me last week, and it has just been sitting in my laptop. since i hardly use my laptop at the moment, i keep forgetting to share. what with the march in downtown that happened yesterday, i think this joke is a propos at the moment. so here, with no further ado is a joke only math teachers truly appreciate.

Math Pedagogy throught the Years: 1950 – Present Day

Last week I purchased a burger at Burger King for $1.58. The counter girl took my $2 and as she went for my change, I pulled 8¢ from my pocket and gave it to her. She stood there, holding the nickel and three pennies, while looking from her screen to the register. I sensed her discomfort and tried to tell her to just give me two quarters, but she hailed the manager for help. While he tried to explain the transaction to her, she stood there and cried. Why do I tell you this? because of the evolution in teaching math from the 1950s to the present day.

Teaching math in 1950.
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching math in 1960
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching math in 1970
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

Teaching math in 1980
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Underline the number 20.

Teaching math in 1990
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. Topic for class discussion: What do you think of this way of making a living? How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? There are no wrong answers.

Teaching math in 2005
Un hachero vende una carretera de madera por $100. El costo de producción es $80. Cuanto hizo de ganancias?

this is only a test.

woooo hoooo boy! test day! yikes! 10 questions, show all work.

what was the highest score? ... 2 out of 10. i shit you not.

i stayed after to grade the tests. i showed them to my guiding teacher. she shook her head and said, "look, i know that the desire to stop and go over it again is overpowering. but think about it. did they do their homework? did they show up to tutoring when both you *and* i are available? did they pay attention in class? the answer to all these questions is a resounding NO. you held up your end. you taught the material. if they decided to make no attempt to learn it, then that's on their end." and it's true. once i gave the exam, the kids were a chorus of questions: "help me, i don't get it! how do i distribute? does this become a negative?" she said, "did they ask you yesterday? you gave a practice set of questions, and what did they do? nothing. they didn't take advantage of the opportunity. and that's what you are supposed to do: provide equal access and equal opportunity. you did that. but you can't force them. ultimately, they make the decision to learn or not."

yeh, but i probably won't sleep any better. my guiding teacher and i talked about the culture that surrounds these kids: why do they think it's ok to be stoopid? they don't have learning disabilities, just self-imposed handicaps: "i don't need to learn this, my parents are going to take care of me for the rest of my life" -- ha ha ha ha. "i don't need to know this, i'm going to deal drugs!" -- ha ha. "i already know this! i don't need to do my homework!" -- ha.

anyway, we also know that there are no "educated" role models in these kids' lives. i'm going to talk to my field supervisor next week about trying to get a field trip for my kids to get up to ucla. maybe if we dangle the carrot in front of them, it might motivate them, even a little bit.

does anyone who reads this know anyone at caltech? it is a math class, after all. i imagine caltech has a lot more fun math and astronomy stuff.


i came across this article while on fark. interesting, to say the least. i'm not exactly sure what to think of this "dyscalculia" business. i am not very keen on finding what may eventually amount to psychological (or even physiological) excuses. i want to believe that the human will can overcome just about anything, including dyscalcula. also, i don't see how this is any different from dyslexia, ultimately. it may make learning math more difficult, but certainly not impossible.

anyway, today we had test review. it seems that half of the kids are ready for the test. these are the kids that have been doing homework and participating in class. the kids who have not been doing these things are certaily not ready. Dq and E came into class during lunch today. they are my ELL students. Dq can read well in spanish, not as well in english. E can hardly read at all. after working with them, what i have found out is that the algebraic concepts are not beyond them: they have an excellent understanding of the PEMDAS process. Dq was never taught his multiplication tables. he has never seen long division. he didn't know that you were supposed to line up the place values of numbers when you add. he didn't know that multiplication and division are opposite operations. E is better at his tables, but admittedly, not that much better.

the test is tomorrow and i already told them that i will help them. i am worried that the other kids will raise their voices in loud cries of "that's not fair!" ... i don't know how i would respond to that. i wonder if i should say, "we'll they never had the opportunity," because for all i know, perhaps they didn't either. aye! there's there's the rub! "for all i know"! Dq and E came in during lunch. the others did not. i must reward ganas, the desire to learn. "teach me, for i want to learn."

one day for spring break

there was no one at knott's berry farm today. i had funnel cake with boysenberry jam and a frozen lemonade. thank goodness for boyfriends.

tomorrow, i have review planned. friday is the test.

happy spring break to... uh, me, i guess.

yesterday was the vernal equinox, or for those of you who do not speak in astronomical terms, it was the first day of spring. in fact, it was the first day of spring break for me, qua UCLA student. however, i did have to go to my humble high school. i had to go today. there was CAHSEE testing, the english portion. yipes.

today, the absolute value stuff went seamlessly. so i too have improved. step by step, little by little. K finally turned in his graffiti assignment (vid 3.15.2006). he had difficulty with the questions dealing with BC and AD. i don't blame him. if society as a whole didn't know that the new millenium began in 2001 and *NOT* 2000, i probably wouldn't have let him slide. face it: our culture seems to think it's ok to be innumerate. i can only do so much. K is asking for more algebra work, though. i guess i'll let his history teacher teach him there was no year 0.

my parent conference went well. Dq does not speak english too well, and the math vocabulary stumps him. i'm going to run off my bilingual math vocab book and hope it makes a difference, but frankly, the vocab in spanish is just as obtuse. his uncle said he would push him harder at home. i can only hope.

the kids saw my euclid tattoo today. i had to explain it. as soon as i said it was math related half of them tuned out. one kid was sure i was a lesbian since it has a triangle. one kid was smart enough to retort, "but it's not upside down." then someone asked why the upside down triangle was a symbol of "gays," and we made a brief tangent into wwii and nazi germany. none of them were aware of the fact that it was not only jews who were singled out by the nazis. they then proceeded to ask me, "what about the rainbow?" being ignorant as to why this is a gay pride symbol, it was at this point that i decided it was time to get back to the classwork.

please read why you should choose math in high school. CHOOSE MATH BECAUSE IT IS COOL.

before i start watching the daily show i will share what happened today.

well, jonny is in the background now, in the warm glowing glow of the television's warm glowing glow, so i'll make this quick. *oops, waits 'til commercial*

so i was having difficulty teaching absolute value, and after going over it thoroughly, i realized that i was making it too difficult! stoopid "expert blind spot"! so hopefully tomorrow will be more successful. tomorrow will be a "block" period, since everyone but the ninth graders are having a go at the CAlifornia High School Exit Exam, or CAHSEE (kA-see). i will not have class at all on wednesday.

i will have a good time making up the test for friday. all the questions are coming directly from the homework assignments. which would be a gimme, if they did their homework. tsk.

i shouldn;t sound so .... fatalistic. i should keep reminding you, dear reader, that they are starting to turn work in. slowly, little by little. so progress is being made, but it is glacial.

also, J2 came back today, after having been in texas for a few weeks. his grandmother was ailing. i am unsure whether she is ok now. he missed a lot of work. i have a parent conference, rescheduled from today, since i had to go to the district 4 meeting. which, by the way, was an utter waste of time. only belmont high school is a partner school, and while the superintendent of dist. 4 was there, there was no representative from bhs. hmm. this does not bode well for district 4.

a moment to reflect on yesterday and today.

so i was tired yesterday and didnt get around to posting anything valuable. sorry.

anyhoo, yesterday i starteda lesson on absoute value. i was going along at a good clip when as i was about to introduce a problem, i realize i hadnt scaffolded properly. this is pedagogical jargon for saying "i fucked up the lesson." the concept of absolute value is so quote-unquote easy for me that i forgot who to explain a part of it properly. anyway, i guess what matters is that i caught my mistake. i explained to the class that i messed up, and they were like, "you did?" .... how would they know? they don't know absolute value!
i also gave K his graff assignment yesterday.

today, K showed me what he had. all the short answer questions were filled in, for the most part. the math questions were filled in with answers like "a million." it's funny: these kids are like cartoon characters sometimes.

i called Ds parents today. he hasnt given me any homework. scratch: he gave me opne assignment, which he copied from F. i made examples of them today and tore up both assignments in front of the class. how else can i emphasize that i am looking for original thought? i warned them of next week's test and how they need to study for it. i already warned them that copying will result in a big fat ZERO. talking to a neighbor will result in a big fat ZERO. gotta put some fear of god into em, i do. scratch: its gotta be a fear of me.

i must submit something for today.

i'm fucking exhausted. and i'm full of ceviche.

more of the same, with a focus on decimals and the concept of the metric system

so today V and D were the only ones with the homework. J hadsome homework, but not the newest stuff, still just makeup work. since i spoke to his father, i'm giving him leeway as long as his behaviour improves, which it has. so that's golden.

K asked me if he could have his graffiti magazine back. i explained i was creating a lesson just for him about it. i told him he would have to complete the lesson on top of his actual homework and then, and only then, could he get his magazine back. it's this mag called brain damage, which is published in poland. it's very nice actually, and will pain me a little to have to give it back 9assuming, of course, he finishes the assignment). otherwise, it shall be mine forever mwahaha. this is ok, i think, because it's not "valuable." if it were a blackberry (yes, they have blackberries) or a rokr or a razr or a psp, a parent/guardian would have to come get it back. i think K likes this, though. he, like many of these kids, are crying out for attention. he always stays after to talk to me. im trying to transform his negative behaviour into a positive one. i made his lesson up today. i'll post it, once i figure out where i can host pdf files.

part 1 of assignment in PDF
part 2 of assignment in PDF

the quarter is almost over. bclad class tomorrow and then i can focus on my kids for a while, exclusively. that will be nice. spring break at my unnamed high school and at ucla do not overlap, so i get fuxxored like that, but apparently, the neighborhood team is trying to plan a trip to joshua tree. i'll take kahlua – should be wonderful.

3.14.06 happi π day! happi birthday mr. einstein!

another day. again, two homeowork assignments were turned in. i was unsure as to what i should do. i decided that i would go over some of the hw questions and leave the same assignment for hw again. fractions and decimals confuse the fuck out of my kids. the algebra bit (the order of operations bit, anyway), they're pretty ok with. im not very worried about that. we'll see how many i get in tomorrow.

i had to confiscate this polish graffiti magazine from K today. he's a bright kid. he's cocksure, cnfident he "knows this already." i hardly ever see hm from him, though. the magazine is wonderful. it's a polish (like, from poland) rag. its very interesting. i'd hate to disclose my complicity in such a crime as vandalism. i suppose i can tell him i appreciate it and that won't be such a big deal. maybe i'll give him a problem like:

a can of spray paint will cover 100 sq. ft. the dimensions of a subway car are 50x12 ft. how many subway cars could you bomb with one can?

what's the maximum number of cans you need to buy if yr going to do an elaborate throw on the wall on the side of the school, if you only have $30? assume each can costs $3.75.

no? unwise? i think that would be fun. ideas?

anyway. thank god i never have to go to language acquisition class EVAR AGAIN OMG!!!!11!! finally, the metaphorical thumb screws have been released! i can't imagine anyone wrote a positive evaluation. i will say it again, say it with me: praxis, not theory. i can't belive i'm paying this much money for this shit.

my dog needs a bath. excuse me.

agenda for 03.13.06: collect homework, lesson: clearing an equation of fractions or decimals, homework: pg 140 # 1-28

ok so now that the introduction is over, i think i can share a little bit about what happened today.

having met with the school psychologist last friday, he suggested that while my desire to foster intrinsic motivation within my students is admirable, that i nonetheless underestimate the power of behaviourism. he said "candy works wonders." so over the weekend, i went to smart & final and bought a box of air-heads and a box of bazooka joe gum (i also bought a box of apple-heads, but that was for the bf, and therefore, neither here nor there). i decided that starting today, i would use positive reinforcement. the part of me that wants to treat these kids like people recoiled at the thought of training them.

anyway, i only received two assignments, so my opportunity to dole out candy was limited. the one girl, V, always gives me her homework, so there is hardly a motivtional need for her. the other girl, A, turned in her very first homework assignment ever. she saw her grades last week, on friday, and i think the realization that her failing grade was due to her lack of completed homework has motivated her. so, another small step towards a psychic victory.

in fact, the more i push and prod, the more improvement i see. one boy in particular, R, really worries me, since he is not at all social. he speaks really softly when he speaks at all. he does not participate in class. in fact, he doesn't even socialize with the other kids. i referred his case to the school psychiatrist. i hope he gets around to him. as for my end, i am making a concerted effort to call on him more. he's bright, just introverted. hopefully i can coax him out of his cave. the other boy, J, who has given me the most grief is also making improvements. after having missed a solid week and a half of my class, i spoke to his father, with suggestions that he sit down with him and make sure he is completing his assignments and that he get to school on time. since last week, he is now attending (which he hadn't been doing), arriving prepared (also hadn't been doing), and participating in class (where before he had been at best distracted and aloof and at worst distracting and disruptive). i have still not seen a single homework assignment, but he insists, "i'll give it to you tomorrow, miss." i called his father today, and his father corroborated his story. i instructed his father to have his son turn in assignments as he completes them. i am giving this boy, J, a chance to make up his work. there's a lot of it. he's taking algebra 1A for the fourth time now. i hope he does not need to take it a fifth time.

also, i should point out that the school psychologst told me that in his short tenure at the school, i was the first teacher to express concern over one of their students, who came into the office personally and who actually asked, "what can *I* do to help?" …depressing.

the replies i get when i accuse you all of not reading my blog.

[cathodexray@gmail.com to everyone on my contacts list]
SUBJ: do you ppl even read this? ok maybe you do. surely you do.

so i came up with a brilliant idea. me? of course.

so iv'e decided that instead of inundating yr inboxes with all of my mundane updates, instead i'll just send ya'll a link to a blog which details all my mundane goings-on. i think, it will be a good psychological purging. teaching is hard. writing is easy. http://cathoderay.blogspot.com/

i posted my first installment today. i was avoiding hw. what else is new?

austin "hump" hall replies:
for someone who can't seem to shut up, I'm surprised it's taken you this
long... but seriously... i'll read it. http://newyorkhack.blogspot.com
is pretty good, too (as long as we're on the subject of blogs).

If I were you, I would take that last email you sent and make that your
next entry. it was a pretty good read.

i reply to austin:
you'll notice that i did as you suggested and posted it.

you'll also notice that my mouth runs faster than my fingers. i think my hands get impatient.

mike "sweet honey mustard" bybee replies:
Now, that's unfair! Surely we read them. I read them. I respond to them. I even forward them, sometimes, to other people who are St. John's graduates in the midst of teaching.
But oh, no, now you're making me go to blogs!? Me! The delight of your senior year. Okay, maybe that's pushing it, but nevertheless, I say, "Yikes!"
And you accuse me of--! Ah, the perfidity! The unfairness! The pain! The shame. . . . Sweet honey mustard!! How shall I ever dry my tears?!

i reply to SHM:
ok. here's a tissue. use it when you read my blog.

lizzie "the lizard-chicken" coe replies:
SUBJ: death to links!!
Look Cath, you know me- I'm lazy. I like getting your "mundane emails".
Believe me, I have to follow bloody links to photos, links to my space,
links to links!!!! I'm bloody sick of it!! I think you should still send me
updates, or else. Or else...........I guess I'll have to add another link to
my life!!!!
i reply to slizzard:
i don't think that telling a high school teacher "i'm lazy" is a very good idea.
for homework tonight, your task shall be to write "i will be thoughtful and productive" over and over again, until your scaly wing falls off. i will continue to write mundane emails, tho' because i will do whatever it takes for my pupils to succeed.

welcome to my blog. this is my first post.

i will admit that i have been reluctant, thus far, to join the cacophony of voices on the internet. truth is, i always felt that blogs were an indication of a person's vanity, where they could share mundane and vainglorious events in their lives. sure.

i will also admit that i have always felt journals of any kind were meant to be kept private, preferably in books with gilded page edges and full of tight, sloppy ink lines. it is rare when i have wanted to read into someone's personal life. usually, autobiography is the most inaccurate description of a person's life. especially nowadays. and an in depth biography should be saved for the notorious and the genius. that will be for posterity to decide.

anyhow, i changed my mind recently.

now that i've been student teaching, i find my thoughts full of anxieties, questions and ideas. i need to get them out of me, for fear of being crushed under this onerous weight! *swoons in melodramatic manner* i also find that sharing this information with others may help me in many ways. first, people in the teaching profession may be able to share ideas, should this modest chronicle ever reach their eyes; second, that my friends and loved ones could stay up to date on my goings-on, having now relinquished a sizeable chunk of my spare time.

i realize, having re-read this post that it says nothing about my experiences so far. allow this prologue to merely explain my intentions.

i have homework to do. it's due on tuesday for my bullshit language acquisition class. it's not that i think language acquisition theory isnt't fascinating. it's that the professors are inept eductors (at a teacher ed. program, no less. i <3 irony). my task: "take a position on some issue related to policy impacting immigrant students." so basically, i have to write a paper on anything. i hate ambiguity. i also hate the fact that all policies impacting immigrant students are abhorrent to my sense of human decency. this should make for a very vitriolic paper.

more as this story develops.