Geek Love: Pi-Shaped Golf Course

Two weeks into my Senior Math ABQ.

Only three days left of class!

A lot has happened the past week that is worth blogging, but I haven’t even had the time to do it. Came home late and now working on my culminating activity, which is to create a mini golf course given a specific budget. This is a sample solution; we decided to create a pi-shaped course.

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On top of that, I am also proud that I managed to crank out this geometric proof. It took me nearly an hour and a half to do it, but hey … it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve touched this stuff!

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Oof … off to bed.

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Reflections on the School Year

My first year as a full-year, classroom teacher is coming to a close. It’s been a good year.

While I loved my last job as a science and math tutor, managing a classroom is completely different. In the last job, I got to work with a choice pick of kids – the ones that wanted to attend, wanted to work and had a strong drive. In the classroom, you’re managing everyone. You have to try to motivate even those hanging at the lowest rung and are doing everything in their power to make you miserable.

While it’s hard to summarize the entire year, I thought I’d throw down a few thoughts about each grade I’ve worked with:

  • Secondary 1 Science: This was my Achille’s Heel. It took the whole year to get a handle on this class of 18. I was constantly researching different class management strategies. I eventually settled on ClassDojo, which they enjoyed. ClassDojo worked moderately well, but the effect wore off towards the end of the year. Unfortunately, there are still a few kids who constantly derail anything and everything. The class stressed me out that I ended up deprioritizing follow-up after class (i.e. detention, punishment, etc.); this hurt me in the long run and only encouraged misbehaviour. Another factor that makes this class difficult is that there are several students with extremely low literacy skills; they struggle to follow along, read or write. I had to cut out the units on astronomy and structures, due to the interruptions and the slow pace of this class. The last day of class was actually a complete disaster, but the way I handled difficult situations made me realize I had come a long way and that it had been a few months since I had such a stressful afternoon. Next year however, I will not be teaching this course (phew) but will have to approach the students in secondary two with a better plan.
  • Secondary 2 Science: Term 1 was the hardest, but by second term, it started to smooth out. There were lots of bullying issues amongst the boys, who couldn’t seem to get their hands off each other. I still remember the day the principal had to walk and warn the students that even playfighting was going to result in an automatic suspension. I was lucky that the homeroom teacher, I., communicated with me regularly, as she was right across the hallway from me. I. also guided me a lot and made me realize how important it is to give parents a call right away; the impact of two teachers contacting a parent meant that we saw changes a lot more quickly in a student’s (mis)behaviour. Also, having the cellphone ban start in February actually helped give me some power and control. All I had to do was give the stinkeye, then press the intercom button, so that an administrative staff would come upstairs to take away a cellphone or an electronic device. The class responded well with rules, as long as I stayed consistent. This was actually one of my favourite classes, because the students were academically one of the strongest, hardest-working groups; they also had strong literacy skills and language acquisition skills that put them ahead. As well, they were verbal and often let me know when they needed help (a trait lacking in a lot of students here). I look forward to teaching them in secondary 3.
  • Secondary 3 Science: There were two separate groups of secondary 3 and they were practically night and day. One class was large, boisterous and full of energy; the second could have been in a contest to see who spoke the least. In terms of the course, I had 6 classes per cycle, giving me lots of time to get the class moving together despite the inconsistent attendance. I liked this course, but had to cut out some major components, such as meiosis, sound waves and ray diagrams on concave/convex mirrors (didn’t have the equipment, but ordered it for next year). I hope to get more in depth with the curriculum next year.
  • Secondary 4 Science: I was very serious when I ran this course and very firm with my class management. Since I had specialized in the curriculum for the previous 2 years prior to joining the school board, this was my baby. I made it very clear from the beginning of the year that students needed to work hard to pass the course (many kids across the board drop out of high school altogether because of this course). I worked them hard and got a lot of work done; they knew that the expectations in the class ran very high. Generally, I felt this course went very well, but made the mistake of not having incorporated enough hands-on labwork. It could have been more fun and I would have loved to do more chemistry, explore climate change in more exciting ways and build neat circuit projects with the students. I also wish I had more time to incorporate study strategies. Four periods a week with the students did not seem like it was enough.
  • Secondary 4 Science with Secondary 5 Students: I didn’t have a strong relationship with the seven students that started. And since these were students that had failed the course before, I should have put more time to set up a very warm, inclusive environment right off the bat. The attendance, however, was amongst the worst. There were days where no one showed up, even if I knew they were somewhere in the building. We had some good, productive days together, but how do you not feel disappointed when a student disappears for weeks or months at a time? I’m hoping that there will not be a separate class next year; it would be beneficial for all the students to be together.

Here are also a few things that stood out in my mind:

  • After-School Detention: This was a new set-up in our school. In previous years, there was no such system in place. Teachers write names down for those who showed up late or were skipping more than 2 times. I wasn’t quite as consistent towards the end of the year, but it would get the attention of a few kids and cause them to turn around. When I had detention duty, it also gave me the opportunity to bond with the students and give them one-on-one time. It was beneficial as it allowed me to develop trust in a more intimate setting, away from the distraction of the student’s peers. It gave me an opportune chance to discuss why they were in the room in the first place.
  • Taking initiative: I feel that I made a good impression with the administration. I have shown initiative here and there (i.e. setting up the Smartboard sales meeting). I’m a nerd; I’m far more interested in curriculum and professional development, than I am in community projects or field trips. I would also love to do training for other teachers.

Areas of improvement that I should work on:

  • Long-range Planning: I didn’t have a strong long-range plan, which caused me to fall behind on different courses. Big project for August. Perhaps I’ll reach out to other teachers to see what works well for them.
  • Lab Safety: I did not start off with a strong lab safety component at the beginning of the year. I definitely need to do this next school year.
  • Timing: Down south, most teachers would be at school an hour before the bell rang. There were many days where I was running in 10 minutes prior. I need to nip that bad habit in the bud. 8:15 am would be a good time to be in school to make photocopies, prepping and pulling out lab equipment.

 

Book Fair

One of the teachers, T., set up a Scholastic Book Fair at our school!

I love book fairs. It also made me think back to my days as an elementary student, flipping through the latest Scholastic flyer and bringing my order form (and sparse cash) to order the latest books!

Up here, it’s not often you see a kid carry a book and read for fun; there are a few, but there aren’t many. I’ve yet to see Cree adults carrying books around with them, so book reading does not have a strong presence here. All the more important to make sure there’s lots of excitement about the fair!

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While none of the books really caught my eye – I’m already reading Divergenton my iBooks – I decided to buy something just to support the fair.

I ended up picking this one – a quick, fun read.

*I can’t wait to see the movie down south!

OAME 2013

I took a day off from training at the office. Instead, I had a great day at the OAME conference at Seneca College. I attended four workshops back to back and just felt re-inspired to make math fun. It was also great to see other teachers using the same techniques for teaching integers and algebra with manipulatives.

What I was most impressed with was Wendy Hill, who showed us that, who refuses to use the times table, she can get kids learning their number facts by running around on a carpet! Here’s a clip that I took at her workshop:

 

I didn’t do as much networking as I had intended. However, I’ve realized that I am better at giving a good impression in a professional setting. Two years ago, at the last teaching conference I had attended, I remember feeling very shy and withdrawn. On Friday, I carried myself with confidence and openness; other attendees were interested in my work and offering me networking advice with professors and researchers who study with First Nations communities. As I’d mentioned in the recap of my April goals, I’m definitely going to try connecting with some of the speakers I saw at the conference.

I definitely love teaching math, much more than I do science. Perhaps if I get more involved, I will find myself running a workshop at OAME years from now. Either way, I hope I will get to go again next year.

Keeping the Ball Rolling

Interviews: On Tuesday, I did my interview in front of the principal, CEA and a parent committee. The following day, I was told that I have been recommended for the position of secondary science teacher and of course, immediately gave my acceptance. I will be teaching all the secondary courses from Secondary I to Secondary IV.

Keeping Doors Open: I also resubmitted my application to stay in the Native-speaking English Teacher (NET) program in Hong Kong. I’d applied back in 2010, long before I knew I’d be working in Quebec. While I have no plans to go to Asia anytime soon, it make sense to keep some doors open and remain in the applicant pool year after year without having to do anything other than reply ‘yes’ to the emails that the Hong Kong School Board sends out on an annual basis. If I decline, it will be a long hectic process to get back into the pool.

MOOCs: J. encouraged me to sign up for a MOOC through the University of Pennsylvania. Not exactly a topic I would have choosen myself, but Gamification, taught by Kevin Werbach, might actually have some practical uses in my teaching career. I’m about a week behind on the course, but hope to do a lot of catching up on the weekend. So far, I’m enjoying it, as I like it’s based around video lectures, rather than an extensive reading list.

Getting Organized: I’ve been on the road a lot the last two weeks. I was feeling rather disorganized as multiple to-do lists, on pieces of paper, started pilling up in my pockets. I decided to go back to using my planner on the iPad and paid another one-year subscription to the app ($15) through the App Store. I feel more motivated when I know what I’m doing day-to-day.

Taxes: I got $2,788.22 back for tax refunds. It is definitely a lot higher than last year; when my mom sent my taxes in, she also reported the donations I’d been making and my tuition fees.

Pass!

My first day back up north. I am in Waskaganish, Quebec for two weeks.

This morning, I logged into my university account and found that my results have been posted. I actually scored 75% on my final! Including my four homework assignments – the last which I flunked as I started to cram for the exam instead – my mark overall is 72%.

I’m not particularly proud that I left my studying until the last minute. And it’s not the first time it’s happened. This is what we gifted kids tend to do, in my experience – procrastinate, wait until the last minute, then still come out with a decent grade because you’ve got a knack at processing information well in a short period of time.

It’s just many, many, many years after high school now.

(More) Lifestyle Inflation

Math course: I finished my exam yesterday! It cost me $100 to use Seneca College as my inviligator, but it was much more convenient in terms of travel and time, since the campus was only a 10-minute drive away.

However, I totally flunked my last assignment and scored 28%; I didn’t have time to cover all the topics and decided to focus more time on focusing the core concepts instead.

Business math is not something I would teach in the future, but it was useful to learn about how compound interest, mortgage payments and bonds work. Even though I moaned and groaned the last 5 months, I am glad I took the course. Now I wait, results will probably take a couple of weeks … I hope I passed!

Credit cards: I read about the Choice Card from American Express on Boomer and Echo this morning and decided to switch over. My mom and I went over the list of retailers and she helped me choose my ‘5 Choices’; since I’m still mostly working in Quebec, it makes sense to bank on places I regularly make purchases at (i.e. gas stations). My final list  is below:

  1. Esso
  2. Shell
  3. Metro
  4. Koodo
  5. Apple

Then I look at this list and wonder, should I switch one to LCBO or SAQ instead?

Sports gear: Oh, I blew a lot of money after my exam! Stopped in to MEC for a new harness ($54), climbing shoes ($99), chalk ($5) and chalk bag ($11). In the evening, I went to Sail and picked up a new pair of snowshoes. I got a 30% discount at Sail, so I paid $120 + tax instead of $170 + tax!

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Hitting a Wall (And Jumping Over It)

I came back to Toronto on Thursday night, taking a day off work to study for my exam on Tuesday. This was going to be a long-winded post about all the reasons why my studying has been agonizingly slow and unproductive.

Instead, I’m going to shut my trap, put on some make-up, go out with my sister to a vegan baking competition at the Jewish Cultural Centre, have some laughs with some friends and come back refreshed (often, we have more time than we perceive). Then I can refocus and pass my math exam!

By the way, if you’re wondering what I’ve been learning, Salman Khan can explain to you how bond prices are related to interest rates.


(And if anyone wants to teach me about yield-to-maturity (YTM), that would be great)