Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 111: Mouse Funeral and Facial Shrinkage

The 2-hour delay this morning led me to have a prolonged and interesting conversation with the art teacher about cross-curricular projects, pedagogy and student interaction.  I've been spending so much time making connections with educators outside of my circle that I have been neglecting the experts in my building.  I should talk to them more.

I went to speak to him to see if he had any insight to offer about my plan for pre-algebra today.  The conversation was refreshing and helped to remind me that, while they may be worn down and tired, the teachers in my building do care deeply about students and student learning.  I'm ashamed to admit that I often forget this fact.

In geometry, the students were given class time to correct their Solution Guide test from chapter 4, finish and submit their Solution Guide test from chapter 5 or work on their guided notes.  I am disappointed with what many of them have turned in (or not) and I think they will be a little upset when their progress reports show that they are failing.

I've been having conversations with my "team" teachers recently about how the geometry students' work has dropped off dramatically in the last few months.  I attribute it to the way our system is set up to separate students.  The majority of the students in geometry are there not because they are smarter, but because they grasp concepts much faster.  Many of them have parents who stay on them constantly to achieve.

While neither of these is a bad thing, it does create an interesting situation around middle school.  Up to this point, many of these students have been able to get A's through minimal effort because the concepts came to them faster.  Once they get to my class, I start pushing them and they are simply unaccustomed to it.  Many of my students don't know how to correct their work because they simply haven't had to before.

Edit: At this point, I know my mom and any of my teachers reading this are probably screaming at their computers.  This is exactly the same complaint that was made about me through most of my school career.

I have full faith in every student in my class and I will do everything I can to get them where they need to be.   Due to my willingness to allow students to make up work, demonstrating mastery of material whenever it happens, none of the current grades are static.  I expect that many VERY upset parents will either ask the students or myself what happened and how it can be corrected.

Near the end of period, it was discovered that a baby mouse was loose in the room.  The kids (who fancy themselves hardened thugs) screamed and jumped on desks.  After a bit of time trying to trap him, we managed to get him into a cardboard box where he died mysteriously.  So we did the only sensible thing to do.

We held a mouse funeral.  I gave the eulogy in which I claimed that he was a vicious killing machine who had to be stopped.

My pre-algebra classes started, what turned out to be, a two day project.  I am having them measure various parts of their faces and draw a scale picture based on a conversation factor.  Since the Park Project flopped so mightily, but proportion and scale factors are so important, I am revisiting the topic using a more basic approach.

I began by talking about growing and shrinking rectangles based on a given scale factor.  I had the student figure out from context what a scale factor was.  Then, using their definition, I gave them two similar rectangles, had them find the scale factor and the missing side.

They did VERY well with this, coming up with practical definitions of scale factor in their own words, giving them more ownership over the process.

The extended time that I've been taking to draw out the explanations that I want, coupled with the two-hour delay, meant that we only just started measuring faces when the period ended.  Their homework was the finish measuring (to the nearest quarter inch) and convert the measurements using the scale factors.

If I'm honest with myself, I will be stunned if any of them do it.  As hard as they may work in class, the number of total students in pre-algebra who do work outside of class can be counted on one hand.  I'm not overly upset by this, merely annoyed at how the progress is stymied by the lack of practice.  How much further we could be, how much more we could do if they would be willing to do some outside work.

But this is the hand we are dealt.  Maybe I'll ask around on Twitter and see if anyone has suggestions on how to encourage homework.


  1. Did you put this question out there and get any good feedback? My Math 2 students will do homework. But my Conceptual students will rarely do it (maybe one student out of an entire class). I hate the idea that I'm allowing them to fall even further behind by not requiring homework of them, but I also hate what starts to happen to their grades if I require it. Catch 22.

    1. I haven't been grading it for exactly that reason. My geometry kids will do it, but not the pre-algebra who need it MUCH more. They don't do it whether or not I grade it, so grading only erodes their grades.

  2. Mr. Aion you did not give the mouse incident the credit it deserved! We spent 20 minutes chasing that mouse and Juliette and I were NOT scared.

    1. You're very right. I apologize for selling it short. I wanted to at least pretend as though I teach you guys at some point.

      The mouse funeral was a long affair and, as you say, you and Juliette were not scared. I believe she was bored and annoyed with the reactions of your classmates.

    2. I know you were. Have I mentioned that you should start a blog to keep track of your thoughts?


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