Dec 24, 2009

My Dream

I guess I just had my first nightmare about teaching.

But who can blame me? I went with my family to my dad's office Christmas party--complete with Christmas carols, the presents game where you draw a number, pick a present, and steal gifts from each other, and "graduating college, eh? What do you plan on doing with your life?" interrogation questions.

My life? I don't know. But I plan on teaching in the near future. The following are actual quotes:

-"Oh! ...Wow. That's... a noble endeavor."
-"Teach high school? ...but why?"
-"Teach for America! I had friends that tried Teach for America! ..They had a hard time.... Yeah.. a really a hard time... uhh... good luck."

And, a quote which I overheard from halfway across the room. They were talking about the woman who sent a death threat to Michelle Obama:

-"She looks completely harmless--like a high school teacher or something... someone that no one would ever take seriously!"

= = =

In my nightmare, I dreamt that the kids tore the classroom apart, tore me apart, and then tore each other apart. Then I dreamt that I time traveled (I'm currently reading The Time Traveler's Wife), visited the me of 2009 and told myself not to ever become a teacher. And then I dreamt that I went on to teach English in Japan to a group of robotic, uniformed schoolchildren.

= ==

I know that I really want to do this. I need to keep telling myself that because it seems that teachers and non-teachers alike are quick to share words of caution. In particular, non-teachers wonder why a soon-to-be college graduate would choose teaching as their first profession, let alone a last-resort profession.

= = =

I really want to do this.

Dec 18, 2009

Gotta love them kids

After being verbally harassed by the creator to post, I've decided to share my best conversation I've had with my kids this year. Mind you, not a single adult that I meet believes that I'm out of high school, let alone teach them yet in spite of my boyish looks, all my students believe I have a wife and several kids (neither which are true...yet).

Student A: Do you want to have kids?
Me: Uh...
Student B: No, Mr. Kwok don't have kids. He sees us and dont wanna have kids no more.

Student B later on: The only reason why I'd want to have kids is so I can whoop them.

Needless to say, I could not stop laughing. Made me also rethink if I do want to have kids and whether I'd whoop them...

Dec 17, 2009

"He's at least 30, yo"

Marcus's hand shot up a little bit too quickly and at too odd a time for his question to be about today's lesson. I was expecting "When do we get out of here?" or "Can I go to the bathroom?" Instead, he paused for a moment and smirked. "How old are you?"

I'm the world's worst liar, and I'm 22 years old. You can read my facial expressions like a book, so I had a lot of fear in that moment that my whole house of cards was going to come tumbling down in front of me. I wasn't having a particularly strong sales moment, so I cracked up for a second and continued teaching without answering. Of course, that invested every other student in the class in the answer to this question.

"42!" (I don't think that one was serious.) "34!" "25!"

"Nah, he's at least 30, yo."

Clearly I wasn't getting out of this without an answer. My internal random number generator landed on 27. "27 - now Marcus, remind me how to test if a relation on a graph is a function," I said.

They totally bought it. The grumblings I heard afterward were that I was lying and lowballing my age.


1) Continue wearing a tie. Backwards hats cut your age by 15%, and ties apparently inflate it by 30%.

2) Kids are pretty gullible. I'm on the lookout for strategies to positively exploit this more.

The Glorious Perks of the Job

Fellow Teachers,

We are all too familiar with the gripes we hold for this job. Overworked, under-appreciated & underpaid. Sleepless nights and days that feel like 5 periods worth of torture. Sometimes you're in the mood to be on stage, but sometimes you're not. One thing about this job: if you're not feeling it one day, those wondrous kids will be sure to make sure you feel worse. I've driven many days looking outside the window, longing to switch spots with the man walking to his comfortable, cushy, & safe office desk.

The perks that make this job unique are limited and sometimes downright invisible. But the one that's most obvious is this: BREAKS.

An opportunity to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate. Thanksgivings, Winters, Springs, & GLORIOUS Summers. In one year, we work 180 school days. This means we get 185 of 'em off. And, THAT means we have a unique opportunity to find a sort of balance in our lives that could elude peers in other professions.

It's upon us, fellow teachers. It is here. Enjoy.

Happy holidays,

Mr. G

Dec 15, 2009

Review Games - Math Basketball Turned Trashketball

Since subscribing to giants of the math edubloggosphere, my review tactics have grown tenfold. We've gone from review worksheets pre-quiz to whiteboard reviews & speed dating and the like.

Well, here's another to throw at you. My kid's LOVE math basketball as much as me, but I believe I've just met it's prettier older sister.

Trashketball brought to you by Dan Greene over at Exponential Curve. Enjoy.

Dec 14, 2009

pride & joy

I am so proud and happy for one of my students that I must share her story.

A is a senior in my Regents Chemistry class. She has an infectious smile and is wholeheartedly devoted to her education. Needless to say I really enjoy her presence in my class and I pretty much love her to pieces.

For the past couple weeks A, like all seniors in high school, stressed about turning in her college applications on time, searched tirelessly for scholarships, and juggled her everyday coursework.

Today all of A's hard work paid off. Today A was awarded a Posse scholarship, which means this amazing young woman earned four years of full tuition to Wheaton College! A's smile was shining the entire day; she spread joy everywhere she went.

My heart is so full right now because I have faith that A will take this award and use it to its full potential. A will take this opportunity to make her mark in higher education and I cannot wait to see what she is capable of.

I have high hopes for the future; you should, too!

Edublog Awards - Show Us Some Love

First, we rejoiced in the props respected bloggers hooked us up with (here and here), and then we decided to take a peek at the edublog awards site. And then, we underwent a collective "Wait, WHAT!? We're actually on the ballot!?" Thus, here we are unabashedly soliciting your votes!

JK, all good if y'all don't vote. But, imagine how happy the day you'd make for this group of teachers if we somehow were actually awarded this thing (picture confetti and champagne).

So, if you're a true fan of this blog, vote vote VOTE here.


I enjoy singing, but nothing gets me shakin' in my boots more than a room full of expectant audience members.

This is a list of reminders that I use when I am overcome with stage fright. Perhaps it can dually serve as a list of suggestions for nervous teachers.
  • Have good posture. Give your diaphragm the space that it needs.
  • Relax your shoulders and fingers.
  • Don't lock your knees.
  • Project your voice. Aim for the back of the room.
  • Listen.
  • Keep your eyes expressive.
  • Breathe.

Dec 13, 2009

In over my head?

The Principal Selection Committee
I have avoided this committee for 3 years now. It comes up every year and I keep finding better things to do with my time. But this time I inadvertently agreed to join the committee while I wasn’t listening very carefully to my colleague’s question. An absent-minded yes turned into a serious commitment. I had a brief moment of panic when I realized what I’d done. While I let the dread momentarily wash over me, I felt the numbness start. After a drawn out moment of emotional hypothermia, I snapped out of it.

I have a chance to make a lasting impact on my community; so long as the principal stays longer than a year. My school actually has worse principal retention than teacher retention. I pray that the applicant pool is competitive. I hope to find this process rejuvenating instead of exhausting. Missing out on summer vacation and the past three tumultuous years (in the administration) really set me up for a jaded semester. It’s that time of year though, where I find rejuvenation in the comfort of my family and a little bit of time off. Maybe this is just the pick me up I need. Or maybe it will be another reminder of my dissatisfaction of with the bureaucracy of my school district. Either way, I’ll try to keep a cheery disposition and hopefully some good will come out of this.

Dec 10, 2009

Vocabulary Test

This post is a long time coming. A term that comes up a lot in my Diversity in Higher Ed class is "deficit thinking." Deficit-minded thinking attributes blame to those experiencing the problems. The term is often used in our class discussions in reference to differential treatment, whether by race, gender, class, religious/faith practice, etc. For the purposes of this blog, let's say an English learner student is having a hard time comprehending a lesson. This frame of mind would result in comments such as, "this kid isn't working hard enough," or "it's not a value for that student/family/racial group."

I feel that deficit thinking is best contrasted by equity minded thinking, which examines institutional or structural issues that could attribute to the shortfalls. Equity minded thinking might point to teacher bias, faulty curriculum or insufficient resources at the school for English learners.

With this in mind, I try not to use the term "achievement gap," opting for "opportunity gap" instead. Inequality of achievement looks past the structures that create inherent inequality in the first place: inequalities in wealth, differences in schools, parents educational attainment, social and cultural capital. These are social realities that make it difficult for underserved students to achieve at the same level as their better-resourced counterparts. I know people sometimes point to the instances where people have "pulled themselves up from their bootstraps" in order to dash the image of inequality. The truth remains though - you can't pull yourself up from the bootstraps without boots (wish I had a citation for that quote, it ain't mine). You just can't have equality of opportunity without equality of condition.

[Disclaimer: I'm going to sound really cynical here] I've joked (kind of) with friends about my plan to provide equity (crap...equality versus equity is a whole new post) of opportunities. Bear in mind, this is a plan that is not thought out and isn't really a plan. So here goes: hold back privileged students and provide little to no resources to them. For those who are still reading, my reasoning goes like this: we need to provide the same resources for all students but if we do so all students are only moving at the same pace. The thing is, the starting point wasn't the same. Inequalities would still exist, but I guess it's nice that they also won't grow. SCORE!

Or maybe not. The truth is that we (teachers, administrators, policymakers, parents, allies) need to find a way to provide resources to communities in need that are above and beyond what privileged students receive now. Students who are already good can keep their good schools but we need to have EXEMPLARY schools (you teachers like that huh? I know my English teachers used that word a lot, I think it means "good"). This needs to happen, and will probably happen before any critical mass even mentions something like what I proposed without breaking into laughter or calling me out to be a commie. I've come across amazing people who work at various levels of education. I'm encouraged to know that people have the goal of eliminating inequity.

In posting this though, I want to pose these questions - can we eliminate this gap by only focusing on one side of the gap? Do my ideas of social redistribution have merit? (Hell, even I'm not sure on this) Do they scare you? (They should) Do I use too many parenthetical statements? (Yes I do). What makes you confident that there will be change?

Feeling Green

Everyone else in the 10th grade Algebra II class seemed to have finished the math problem. They listened patiently to S, who was called upon by the teacher.
I have a bag of 3 red apples, 1 green apple, a lime, 4 tomatoes, and an orange. What is the probability that if I pull out 3 fruits, 2 of them will be green?
Finally, the teacher walked through the problem with her.
T: "How many fruits are there total? How many fruits do you want? How many green fruits are there?'
S: "10...3....... 1."
T: "Is there only one green fruit?"
S: "Yes. An apple." *The class laughs*
T: "S, what color are limes?"
*"Green!" her neighbor whispers'*
S: "OHH..." She proceeds to get the question correct.
As it turned out, I got the question wrong myself. I can never remember if limes are yellow or green: in my family, our citrus consist of lemons, calamansi, and dalandan. Over-sized calamansi with green insides are called limónes.
English can be tricky sometimes -- even in a math class.

Question for Mac-Wielding Geometry Teachers

I can do the British £, the retail ™, and even John Mayer's tiny ∞, but I can't seem to find this anywhere...

Anyone know how to easily access the congruency sign from the keyboard?

I'm tired of doing this:

Dec 8, 2009

when will that be an option?

"Should I bring work home tonight?" asks E, my co-coach, before we pack up for volleyball practice. I shrug. E (who is in her fourth year of teaching) decides against a night of grading, I grab the volleyballs, and we head to the gym to meet our team of eager but inexperienced volleyballers.
Fellow teachers, faithful readers, and friends I am about to fold. Christmas is 17 days away, (yes, I have a countdown widget) which means only 11 more teaching days. I am tired. I want to go home. I am ready for a break.

When will bringing work home be an option for me? Because right now it is a given: a day at school is followed by a night of work.

Dec 7, 2009

I Am Not Superhuman

It's been a good minute or so since my last "why I dislike teaching" post. A relaxing summer living a make-believe European life for 7 weeks did good for my teaching soul. Since August, positive vibes towards teaching can be likened to a snowball rolling down a snowy mountain. Grows and grows as it rolls and rolls. Except this snowball no longer has it's snowy mountain. It's withering now. Each day. And it's to a point where I must let loose.

I attended Asilomar this past Saturday. One day trip. 2 hours down, 2 hours back. I was sick too. But hype surrounding this math conference made it impossible to pass up. I don't regret it either. But attending Saturday made the weekend feel short, now it's Sunday night way past my teacher bedtime, and I'm still sick. Verdict says 'take a sick day.'

Someone tell me why it feels so difficult to throw in the towel now. During this conference, I was inspired by all the beautiful things being done in math classrooms. I am motivated to increase my students curiousity for math the same way I am inspired to improve my own practice. I hung out with teachers all day, exchanged war stories, and laughed at jokes only math teachers would understand. It was fun.

Throwing in the towel tomorrow means we lose a day (cus, really, I don't get much done w/ subs... ever), which means we fall behind on a curriculum already not as good as those teachers I heard present/interacted with this Saturday.


I want to be the superhuman teacher I know I can be, but I am not superhuman. And it's especially difficult to be superhuman when you combat against 100 mini-superhumans daily and have your own normal human life to develop.


Lastly, a photo, b/c the last I saw the sun hit the horizon was in Alicante, Spain. (And we need more pictures on this blog, anyway). Attending Asilomar was not all math and games, it was a lil bit of this too...