Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Outside my Window

While I was grading papers today after school, there was a maintenance guy coming in an out of my room trying to get my wireless connection set up. I had my back to the window, so when Maintenance Guy and exclaimed, "What is going on?!" I had no idea what he was talking about. I turned around and there, about 20 feet outside my window was a police officer standing behind a tree, pointing a gun at a car. He wasn't the only one. There were a whole bunch of officers in various places, with at least four pointing guns toward this car. A guy got out of the car with his hands up, and slowly walked backward toward the group of police, where they handcuffed him and put him in the back of one of cop cars. Guns never flinching, this repeated with the other two passengers. Then the police, still pointing their guns, searched the car, but appeared to find nothing of interest. There was a lot of discussion by the police, an ID check of at least one guy, and a lot of car searching (although no dogs involved). After about 30 minutes, the police opened up the cop cars, uncuffed at least two of the guys (I'd gone back to grading by this point, so I'm not sure if the third was released), who got back in their car and drove away.

I don't really know how to feel about all of this. I'm pretty sure that the guys who were driving the car were not our students (they looked too old, and our principal stayed out of it), but there's no reason to think that they're not connected to the school in some way, whether as alumni, through a sibling, etc. Even if they have no direct connection, having guns drawn on campus--at a time when a lot of students were still around--doesn't help the already hostile environment we're feeling on our campus this year (more on that later). All I can really feel right now is unfairness. Unfairness that some students couldn't walk home today because there were guns pointed as they walked out the door. Unfairness that this probably wouldn't be an unfamiliar sight to many of my students. Unfairness that everyone who drove past saw a slew of police cars in front of a school that already has a reputation for being "ghetto" and unsafe. Unfairness that these were three Latino guys being pulled over by 10+ white police. Unfairness that this is something I even have to think about when I'm trying to focus on my students' learning. Even more unfairness that this is something my students have to think about when they're trying to focus on just being teenagers.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Adventures in Phonetics

Right now we're working on big proportional reasoning projects. One option is about figuring out how many pennies a giant cockroach could carry if it were human-sized. (Yes, we do have live cockroaches that we lasso and attach to a cup full of pennies, but that's another story). The project is pretty writing-intensive, which can be a challenge especially for my ELL students. One piece of this is spelling. Although I don't mark students down for spelling mistakes, sometimes they can lead to misunderstandings of what idea the student was trying to convey.

A., who is nothing but a sweetheart, was working on the cockroach problem by making a t-table. We talked about how she should label the columns, and decided that one should say "pennies." But the combination of her poor spelling and her rushing to finish the problem led her to leave out an 'n' and the second 'e'.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Disproportionately Awesome

Right now in Algebra we're working on proportional reasoning and the various strategies one can use to solve a proportional reasoning problem. On Friday and Monday, groups wrote their own proportional reasoning problem and then displayed the different ways they could solve it. Here are the highlights:

This group was having trouble coming up with a problem, so I asked them what kinds of things they're interested in. One kid said "shopping." That's easy--there are lots of things you can do with proportions and shopping. "Okay, so what about shopping?" I asked. "Like how much something might cost?" They chose another approach.

In this group, they didn't have much trouble coming up with their problem, but they started out with a given that Yesenia has three boyfriends in one month. I encouraged them to pick more difficult numbers than one. They said three months, so I asked, "So how many boyfriends would she have in three months? Five maybe?" "Oh, no!" one girl responded. "That's definitely not enough boyfriends in three months." My favorite part of this poster is that the points on the graph aren't just points, but hearts. "Because it's about my boyfriends."

Sometimes Good Things Happen

On Tuesday, there were two good teaching moments:

1. E., one of my geometry students stopped by after school to get work that she was missing. I can't remember what led to her comment, but out of nowhere she said, "Ms. L., you're my kind of teacher."

2. I., an algebra student, was sick on Friday when we took our first test. She took it on Monday after school and I made her stay until she'd answered every single question. When I gave it back to her on Tuesday, she broke into a huge smile--she got a 74/75. Unfortunately I wouldn't let her take it home, but she took a picture with her phone to send to her dad. So cute. Even better, as she was walking out, another teacher overheard her saying, "That's the highest grade I've ever gotten on a test!"

Of course this all happened on the same day that kids were stuffing each other into a giant backpack and screaming about cockroaches, but I'll take what I can get.