Jan 29, 2010

Students Helping Students

I haven't had a chance to blog much because of school starting, but now that I have some time, I'd like to share a cool story. Last week, the weather in the Bay Area was horrendous. In San Mateo we had high wind advisories and hail. Needless to say, it was pretty damn wet and cold.

I was working in the administration building which houses many of our student services programs such as admissions, counseling, and transfer. In the late morning, I noticed a woman in a wheel chair being helped into the building by a young man--both were pretty wet from the storm. As they passed me, she said: "This gentleman walked me all the way over here from the bus stop (about 350 yards away from the building)." That was really neat to see. Our security office does have a golf cart to drive students with disabilities but the young man who helped the woman in the wheel chair realized that by the time they got there she would have been late for her appointment. He wheeled her to the elevator and upstairs for her counseling appointment--on time. Good people are awesome.

She shoots. She scores.

First game of trashketball happened with 2 out of 3 of my classes this past Tuesday. One class is a pain in the behind, so we did the test review for that class in true test mode (aka, quiet individual work time). Hey, if they're gonna be punk students, I'm gonna be a punk teacher back!

This ain't just any school in the Bronx.

Anyway, they looooved it! I can't believe I pulled this off in an English Language Arts classroom. So for all you non-math teachers, have valiant faith that this game will surely have students furiously thinking and working in order to beat your amazing score, no matter what class you teach.

However, I found that you actually have to be decent if you want to play class vs. teacher. In addition, more often than not, you may be accused of cheating if you're wearing high heels while playing this game. I had to take my heels off and switch into my flats, and then they accused me of cheating because I was wearing flats (?!).

Fortunately, with my 9-in-a-row 3-pointers, I have now been dubbed "Ms. Kobe" by my students. Seriously. It was unwarranted, but I secretly love it.

I also discovered that a few of my students who were born and raised in NYC are actually big fans of the Lakers. I asked them if they were band-wagoners (a term we learned during our persuasive writing unit), loving the team only after their 2008-2009 championship. Jose said, "No! I've loved them my whole life!" Makes me shed a tear of happiness and pride.

Jan 20, 2010

Math + Sports = RAAAAAAD

First, props where props are due: Dan Meyer, the creator (for all intents and purposes) of Math Basketball, a versatile masterpiece applicable for all teacher needs, whether it be formative and summative, or if you are just feelin' lazy and need to kill some time without resorting to a worksheet.
It is the teacher's dream: lively competition and ACTUAL practice, good and real, working in concert to make something as dreary as the properties of special quadrilaterals seem like an on-the-edge-of-your-seat NBA thriller... yes, dramatic, I know.
But if there is anything at which the Youth of America excel, it's getting bored of even the most riveting of academic games.
So to feed the insatiable beast: Welcome to Math Football, Math Soccer, and today's newly minted gem, Math Tennis.
Understand that I am not that creative:
Step 1: Use Math Basketball rules... I like to play teacher vs. class.
Step 2: Replace shooting points with juggles on a soccer ball, football through a hula hoop, or rallies against the wall.
Step 3: Be prepared to get a pretty solid proportion of math practice to youthful energy and enthusiasm.
I will be the first to admit that you can and will lose some time to off-task endeavors... accusing the teacher of cheating (most common), maybe even a tennis ball inappropriately directed towards you.
However, I ask you, in those times, to pay attention to the quality of work and dedication during those two minutes of focus, as well as the palpable joy that grows from building a loving and fun community during those moments of chaos.
Sure beats a worksheet.

Jan 19, 2010

Teacher Wit

When the mood's right, I sometimes talk to myself. Students are on point behaviorally but the mood needs some lightening up. We go through an example. Students try it. Then I dialogue w/ myself: "Geez, Mr. G. This stuff seems so easy cus you explain things SO clearly." "Aw, thanks. I appreciate that." Kids roll their eyes.

Anyway, I decided to include a weather update during our daily dose of randimosity today. Immediately, negative responses were abound similar to the type we hear at the news of an upcoming test, almost as if I controlled the weather. So, to counter:

"Hey, Mr. G. You're such a great teacher for giving us weather updates IN class!"
"Thanks class. I'm just trying to look out."

Stay dry, California!

I Love My Job

It's that time of the year--the start of the spring semester. As an outreach coordinator, I work all year long. The first couple weeks of each semester (fall, spring, summer) usually mean 12 hour work days. A friend asked me this morning, "Don't you get tired of it?" HELL NO!

Today the power is out on campus which is why I'm blogging. I knew there was an 80% chance that classes would be canceled because my co-worker, who lives in campus housing, called around 5:45 am and told me that there was no power in his building. He even took the time to drive the perimeter to check on the college (there was no power in most buildings either). Despite this, our small community relations staff, from our director to our student assistants, were working from 6:00 am on to communicate with each other and provide our students, faculty, and staff with updates. As I made my way up to campus today at 6:30 am, the police department and public safety were there to inform students who did not get the emergency e-mail or text about the closure. A couple of our students who work in outreach were also out and about trying to help fellow students out--talk about dedication. As their supervisor, I had to send them home (if you saw the weather conditions, you would too).

As of early Tuesday morning, it looks like the first day of class will be postponed until tomorrow. Until then, I'll work from home. I can't wait to be back bright and early, rain or shine--surrounded by individuals who are passionate about serving students. I love my job.

Jan 15, 2010

This keeps me going :)

Financial Literacy

I think that kids who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds are the ones who need the most exposure to new technologies and entrepreneurial skills so that they have an equal opportunity in competing with those from more affluent backgrounds in the future.

Although my school does not offer computer or technology classes (this REALLY saddens me), I've been working with an amazing friend and curriculum writer to bring financial literacy within the four walls of my English Language Arts classroom. Let me tell you. I knew my kids were bright, creative, motivated, and passionate. BUT MAN. I've now got to the gumption to say, "My kids are brighter, more creative, more motivated, more passionate, smarter, and will be more successful than yours." Hmph, take that prep school punks.

Allow me to bring you some very cute anecdotes from this week:
N: "Ms. S, what happens if I get hurt before I'm 65? Do I get my Medicare money?"
me: "No."
N: "Aww that's MESSED UP! I'm going to college so I can get a job that covers my health insurance."

Z: "I like gross pay."

E: "That was fun! I'd rather be an employer, even if I have to hand out paychecks and make sure all the bills are paid on time. I'd rather call the shots."

J: "It's important to know the components of your paycheck so you know where all your money is going. What if they did a miscalculation?! They'd be stealing all your hard-earned money!"

L: "Net pay is the money you get to keep after all the deductions are made. So if you originally had $2800, then your net pay would be about $2000, because you have to pay federal income tax, social security, state tax and medicare."

Now tell me, could you give me all that at the age of 11? Highly. Doubt. It.

When people work together, we can make Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream fly even further than he ever could have imagined. People who came from the projects, with parents working 2 or 3 jobs, English barely spoken at home, and no hot water until 3 in the morning, working alongside or even above people who came from 6-figure household incomes, private schools, and fancy zip codes. That's my dream. It feels good to make it come true a little.

Have a happy weekend in memory of our dear hero, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his dreams :)

Jan 6, 2010

What Keeps YOU Going?

I know my practice is evolutionary. I know my lessons undergo a gradual development process. Unlike my first year, where I blindly moved forward with the planning process, I now have years to look back on. Time to teach slope? I got an activity for that AND I can anticipate where my students will have trouble. Let's make things better this time around.

The trouble now is committing myself to that process of evolution. I admit, there are days where I don't think about teaching AT ALL the moment I step off campus until I step back on. All that's required is opening up those digital files I toiled over in years past and, BAM, a lesson plan is in my hands.

It's a beautiful thing, I know. But, it's a trap. The last thing I want is to become a robot teacher who rehashes the same ol' plan year after year. I want evolution.

It happens, it does. (The x & y-intercept lesson I taught last year pales in comparison to the one I did this time around.) But, not all the time. The process is fueled by motivation, and it's difficult to maintain that motivation when you tend to your non-teacher self's non-teacher needs. Why spend any time at all on my planning when I don't need to? Why better myself when I don't need to?

How do I stay motivated?

Thus, I wonder what other teachers do to keep up their process of evolution, hop on supteach, and blog about. What do y'all do? How do you stay motivated?

Jan 4, 2010

The First Day After a Break

I tell 'em...

I understand this is the first day after a long break, and on the first day after a long break, we gotta re-adjust. We're not used to sitting in class for 6 hours a day listening to teachers, doing work, studying. We're not used to waking up early. We forget how to enter class the right way or how to just raise your hand. But as your teacher, it's my duty to remind you what we need to do. You know what I expect. So be patient with the process. We'll get back in the routine before you know it.

I tell 'em...

I also understand we can forget a lot over 2 weeks time. But, re-learning something is always easier than learning it the first time around. So, you might look at this problem and be angry with yourself b/c you know you know how to do it, but you forgot the steps. It'll come back. Trust me. But you gotta put in the effort, you gotta put in the work, and you can't get frustrated. So be patient with the process. It'll all come back before you know it.

But really...

More than anything, I say these things for myself.

Welcome back, Teachers.