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.

[ 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.

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.
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.