Saturday, February 28, 2009

Didn't See that Coming

As I may or may not have mentioned, my school is on a 4x4 semester schedule, which means that kids have four 90-minute classes each semester, but each class covers a year's worth of material because of the doubled amount of time. It also means that at the semester change in January, I got a whole new set of students. Toward the end of the first week of the new semester, I got a message from a counselor about one of my new geometry students. Her mother had just passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. Wow, what a way to start the new semester. This student wasn't close to her mother, she said, and only lives with her father, but it still hit her hard. Naturally, she spent most of the next week out of class, attending the funeral and wake, talking with her counselor, etc.

One of the downsides of the 4x4 block schedule is that missing a week of class is in many ways like missing two weeks of class under a regular schedule. By the time this student was back in class on a regular basis, we were pretty much done with our first unit and she ended up bombing our first test. So her counselor and I began to work with her about how she could catch up in my class. I cut a deal with her that I would let her retake the test and excuse her from most of that work in the first unit if she would come after school and work with me until she felt comfortable with the material. She came in a coupe days over the next few weeks and I felt like we were making progress and that she'd be ready to retake the test this week (now the fifth week of the semester) or next.

Up until now, this is just a tragic story that makes me feel like wow, life can be unfair. Here's this poor girl, who just transferred here partway through the first semester and could have used the new semester as a fresh start, but it gets interrupted from the get-go by a completely unfair tragedy. So here's where the story takes a new turn:

On Thursday, this student's English teacher called home and mentioned to her father about how we really want to support her through this difficult time. The father was confused--what difficult time? It turns out that this student's mother did not die of a heart attack at the beginning of the semester, and in fact is not dead at all. Everything was made up. Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. I mean, it's one thing to come up with a lie that your grandmother or aunt or something died, but your mother? How did she think that nobody was going to find out? How did she create such an intricate lie that she missed school for the "funeral" and everything?

Updates to follow on what happens with this situation. There is definitely going to be a meeting with the student, her father, and all of the teachers next week. I'm not really sure how one assigns consequences for a lie like this. There's clearly something going on that this girl needs help with, but I am clueless as to how to get that help to her.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Algebra Kids are Funny Too

Our most recent project was a "Problem of the Day" where teams were given two ropes of different length and thickness and they had to figure out how many knots they'd have to tie in each rope so that the ropes had the same amount of knots and were also the same length.

I haven't actually read their write-ups yet but part of me feels ready to give out the grades right now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

If It Walks Like a Duck...

In geometry we work a lot on helping students draw pictures from word problems. Here's an example from the very beginning of the course: "Draw a rectangle DUCK with sides UC=5 and CK=6. (Hint: Drawing the picture is the hard part. The rest is easy). (a) Find the area of DUCK. (b) Find the perimeter of DUCK."

And here is why I love my new group of geometry kids:

If It Walks Like a Kumara...

About a year and a half ago, you may remember I found a magical surprise at one of the local markets: golden kiwifruit. For that treat I had to make an exception in my attempt to at locivore-ism. Also in that post, I made a list of other food products that I would gladly give up some food miles to taste once again. Amazingly, I've actually been able to find some of those food items. I found Tim Tams at Cost Plus and then Target carried them for awhile (although only in limited flavors not including my beloved dark chocolate or latte). I also discovered that they sell Spy Valley sauvingnon blanc just down the street at BevMo and that a restaurant in SF run by "Two Aussies & a Kiwi" has Monteith's available now and then. For some more challenging items, I received a lovely holiday care package from the cousins containing Vegemite (um, thanks?) and some delicious feijoa lollies (actually thanks!).

Most of the foods on my list are processed, so they're not that difficult to get if I really put my mind to it. However, there is one elusive vegetable that I figured I'd just have to wait on until I can make it back South. Then by some miracle I noticed something out of the ordinary at the Asian grocery store where we get our produce. There it was, kind of reddish skin with the lumpy shape.

And a sign that said "Japanese sweet yam." Obviously I have no idea what a Japanese sweet yam is, but of course I bought one. Upon cutting and roasting, I don't think I can 100% say for sure that it's a kumara, but it definitely tasted delicious and kumara-like. The only answer is to continue buying them and using my Edmond's cookbook to make sure I'm eating real Kiwi fare.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Student: "Ms. L., have you ever read Of Mice and Men?" [the freshmen English classes just started it]
Me: "Yeah, I read it when I was in ninth grade too."
Student: "Really? When you were in ninth grade?"
Me: "Yup"
Student: "Wow, that book is really old."

(Note: I used the moniker "student" in this exchange because it played out approximately three times today, all with different students.)