Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 15: Slow Down, You're Moving Too Fast...

In order to make sure that the geometry students fully understood the concepts of distance and midpoint, I let them work on the open-ended section of the quiz in small groups in class.  I made sure to circulate and look at where students were having difficulty.

They are beginning to grasp that I am not going to give them answers when they ask, but rather will ask them more directed questions, or point them to examples that we covered in class.  I want them to become more reliant on their resources so that if they have questions when I'm not around, they will know what to do.

I gave them 15 minutes to work on it, but it ended up being closer to 30.  Normally this would bother me, but I'm getting used to changing my expectations with this group.  It took longer than I had hoped, but almost everyone was on task and working hard.  For the most part, I need to adjust my expectations, but only in terms of the amount of time required to complete some of these tasks.  I keep my academic expectations high and they are clearly rising to that challenge.

The pre-algebra students are lacking in numeracy skills in a way that I'm having trouble coping with.  They are willing to practice whatever I give them, which is helping somewhat, but their ability to grasp how numbers work is bordering on distressing.  The more and more I look into standards-based grading, the more I realize that our current system of letter grades is not only a farce, but can often be detrimental to student development.

What's the purpose of having a "fail" grade if students are moved on to the next level of coursework anyway?  Maybe my next "Weekend Thought" will be my philosophy on school should be organized, but this isn't the place for it.

I've been doing much more hand-holding in the pre-algebra than I am used to, but it seems to be paying off.  I called two parents on Friday just to say that I enjoyed having their kids in class but I was becoming concerned because they were developing attitudes where previously none existed.  I was worried that something was going on outside of class that I should know about.  Both sets of parents were very happy to hear from me, which also was a nice change.

A few years ago, I made a similar call and the response I got shocked me.

Me: "Hi! This is Mr. Aion and I'm your daughter's math teacher.  I wanted to give you a call because **student** started out the year very strongly.  She's a very bright young woman and I see wonderful things in her future.  Lately, however, she seems to have started developing a bit of an attitude with me where she hadn't before.  I had thought we had good report, but she's also stopped doing her assignments and is growing increasingly belligerent.  I'm calling because I want to nip this in the bud before it gets out of hand.  I'd like for everyone to have a good year!"

Parent: "She's a little girl and there are people in your school who are pays millions of dollars to help you.  If you can't control a little girl, I think you should talk to one of them and maybe think about what you do there.  In fact, I'm going to call the principal and tell him that you, a grown man, can't control a little girl and maybe you should find a job elsewhere.  Don't call here again ever unless she's dead."  **click**

Now, several years later, I find the opposite response equally shocking.  Did she just THANK me for caring about her child??  As pleased as I am about how receptive the mother was to my call, I am equally disturbed by how out of place it felt.

I will continue reaching out and hoping for similar positive responses.  Even negative ones will be met cordiality.

In a way to bring up something that I like bringing up, I've been thinking about how to impress upon the students that mathematical success will not happen over night.  If they wish to be successful, they will have to work hard over a long period of time.  I'm not sure how to do this by using the following picture and NOT have it seem like I'm inventing an excuse to show it.

Did I mention that I ran a half marathon this past weekend?  No?  Oh.  No big deal.  I just ran a half marathon this weekend.



  1. I enjoyed reading your post...wish I would have had a math teacher that would have worked with me like this....did I mention how proud of you that you ran a half marathon last weekend??
    And no....nothing happens overnight, but viewing the pictures have certainly worked your tail off...did I mention how proud of you I am???? You scream encouragement...way to go!!

  2. Hooray for the 'you might also like' feature of your blog, which took me here. "Don't call me unless she's dead," from the files of successful parenting.

    Was the title of this post an illusion to the poem by the same name ... Is it a poem, or an essay ... There is an Alan Watts thing on the internets that ... well, Alan Watts probably predates the Internet, but that's where I stumbled upon it, and I don't want to pretend knowledge of what it is / who he is that I don't possess.

    1. It was from the Simon & Garfunkle song.

      Dude, I could tell you stories of parent interactions that you would not believe.


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