Friday, October 30, 2009

Best/Worst Assessment Ever

My roommate came up with a pretty ingenious costume for me this year. See if you can guess what it is (sorry, I didn't take any pictures):
I wore an outfit that was all pastel (green plain bermuda shorts and a pink sweater vest), my hair in pigtails with ribbons, and freckles on my face. On the front of my sweater was a big sideways "V". On the back I had a sign that said "<90degrees".

Get it? I was a cute angle! Hahahaha. Okay, not that funny, but appropriate for a geometry teacher. Nowhere near as good at the statistics teacher who came as a Mean Girl (entry in her Burn Book: "Didn't find y-hat"). As expected, some kids thought my costume was funny and most rolled their eyes. However, there was one reaction--that many had--that I didn't expect.

Kid: "Ms. L, what are you?"
Me: "Guess"
Kid: "Ummmm... a little kid? A nerd?"
Me: "What's on my shirt?"
Kid: "Tape?"
Me: "Yeah, what shape is it?"
Kid: "A 7?"
Me (turns around): "See if this helps?"
Kid: "Ninety... Oh! You're a right angle!"
Me (turns back around): "Does this look like a right angle? I am an angle, but what kind?"
Kid: "I don't know. It says 90 degrees on your sign"
Me: "Look again. It doesn't just say 90 degrees"
Kid: "Yes it does. You're a right angle."
Me (to myself): "I'm not a right angle, but apparently I am the worst geometry teacher ever."

So I learned that about half my kids do not know what an acute angle is and/or do not know how to read greater than/less than signs. This is a problem. I'm okay with them not getting the pun, but seriously, you think that's a right angle? Whatever it is that I think I'm teaching is clearly not sticking. Scariest Halloween ever. I will be forever haunted by the terror of our nation's poor math education.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Way with Words

First major writing assignment of the year: a "problem of the week" about angle relationships and a cheesy real-life context. The "problem" was that there's a billboard being built on the highway next to our school and given a diagram with a bunch of angles in it and limited information, they had to figure out if a certain angle was more or less than 30 degrees in order for the billboard to be "safe." I love writing assignments in math class because they provide a challenge for ALL students. Even those who are used to getting the right answer all easily are still challenged by actually writing about mathematics and giving a logical explanation backed up by mathematical viable reason.

Plus, I love reading the projects because of gems like these:

• “In order to know the answer you will need to be able to find all the angles. Also you will need to know how to find how many degrees are in a triangle. Other than that you should be fine.”
• "What I learned from this POW was how knowing how to find angles might be useful if I ditch my dreams of becoming an artist and become an architect."
• "I think I deserve to get somewhere between a B+-A- because I really busted my butt, staying up late to try and make sure my explanations made sense and more."
• This was one student's entire conclusion (I specified that the conclusion should be about one paragraph): "In conclusion, the answer is yes." Interestingly (or maybe unsurprisingly), he never stated a question anywhere in the project.
• "This problem shows how people actually have to do these things in everyday life. It opens my eyes and I can understand what certain people have to do to build buildings and homes. I appreciate these people a lot more because it is really hard to do and I am lucky to have been able to learn a bit of this."
• "If I were to do this problem again, I don't think I would have done this differently. I went about it logically and swiftly with the help of my mom."

I'm glad I'm not an English teacher.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Hopes & Fears

Okay, yes, this post is about six weeks late, but that should tell you how crazy this year has been that only now in October have I had the 10 minutes it took to transcribe this list onto my computer.

I wanted to kick off the school year by acknowledging for my ninth grade advisory the magnitude of the experience they were beginning. It's exciting, it's scary, it's overwhelming. And as a 14 year-old for whom image is everything, the last thing you want to do is publicly admit all these emotions. So on our second day of school, I had each student anonymously write down hopes and fears that they had for the new year (I contributed too) and then we read each other's aloud.

In general, the hopes and fears were about making new friends and getting good grades, but here are the ones that stood out to me the most:

I hope I can get rid of my stage fright
I hope when I’m a senior, I remember today (obviously, if I am still at this school in four years, this is going in the speech I make at graduation)
I hope I don’t hate this school (I didn't write this one, but it could have easily been mine)
I hope I leave next year
I hope that I pass in math class (this was interesting because it was the only hope or fear that referenced a specific class)

I fear that I will not graduate
I fear dying
I fear loneliness
I fear that my friends at another school will forget me
I’m fearful of messing up someone’s name
I fear I’m gonna like it here (another one that could have been mine)
I fear I could get in a fight with someone
I fear missing old friends or making new ones
I fear getting mounds of homework
I fear that I won’t make as close of friends as I did in middle school
I fear getting flunked (lots of kids had something like this one, but the stark-ness of the word "flunked" just broke my heart)
I fear that I’ll be made fun of because of how I dress

Pretty deep, huh?

I told them that we'd revisit these later in the year. I you have any ideas about a good structure for doing that, please let me know.

Monday, October 05, 2009


A: "Ms. L, you don't look like a math teacher today. You look like an English teacher."
Me: "Why? Because I'm wearing a scarf?"
A: "...yeah."