Friday, October 31, 2008


Well, the new math teacher starts on Monday. Which is really good for her and the kids, and in many ways it's good for me as well. I get to really start teaching English and the Mrs. W., who I will be working with has 30 years of knowledge and experience that I can learn from. Plus, we compliment each other well. She knows the content inside and out, not to mention the pedagogy etc., but she admits that she does not take risks with her lessons very often. I am pretty much the opposite. I know that my content knowledge does not match hers, nor can I match her time in the classroom. However, my lessons are nothing if not ambitious and I take huge risks with them knowing the potential payoff is worth the chance that the lesson crashes and burns. Finally, for whatever reason, the female students don't try to play me like they do with Mrs. W., in the classroom and I already have a reputation of being a real hard ass with the students. Boy are her 8th graders in for a shock!

But (you knew that was coming) there are a couple of negatives. First, I won't be teaching any of my old students. Even though I will still teach a section of math, it will be course I (6th grade) and not course II (7th grade) and the class I am picking up is seventh graders who are behind in math and some of them and I don't see eye to eye. Secondly, I am going to lose my laptop computer. The IT department does not have any spares and thus, the intern makes the sacrifice. So this weekend, I'll be removing all the personal things from the laptop and then next week I can give it to IT so that they can re image it for the new teacher. Hopefully I can access my grade book from the computer lab so I can enter grades, if not then I'll have to do that by hand as well.

I realize that as the person who's not even on the totem pole that this may happen, it's still gonna suck not have a laptop computer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thank you!

I want to thank everyone who commented on my last post about patriotism. I didn't use everything but I found it to be fun and educational to read about your views. I'll be turning the new article tonight in class and hopefully I'll get a better grade than what I started with.

On the teaching front it looks like they finally have a teacher to replace me for math (YAY!). This means that I can actually start teaching English for 6 periods and just have one math class to deal with. I kept one class for two reasons. First, it means that the principal can stop teaching one section of math and spend more time on his first job, and I'll still get paid more for teaching because they apprentice pay sucks. And I do like my students even when they drive me batty.

And I actually gave the kids a break today in class. We spent the last 25 minutes watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Tomorrow is parent teacher conference day and the 31st is Nevada Day, so there is no school. All the kids (even the 8th graders) enjoyed it and I think I'll do the same for Thanksgiving.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


So what is patriotism? Is it a bumper sticker? A flag in a cup? A lapel pin? The reason I am asking is that I need to rewrite a story for my journalism class and I need your thoughts. Let me know what you think when you see things like

1. A small flag in a pencil cup

2. An Obama/Biden sticker

3. A McCain/Palin sticker

4. Flag Lapel Pins

5. A support our troops magnet/sticker on a car.

6. The symbol for the GOP (Elephant)

7. The symbol for the democrats (donkey)

Be as brief or verbose as you wish.

Thanks to all 12.2 people who watch and read my blog...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

End O' Quarter

Well the quarter ends on Monday and the results are decidedly mixed. I have one class where 15 of the 16 kids are passing with a C minimum and then the other two are not doing so well. The 6th graders I can at least understand. They're doing 7th grade math and some of them still have not figured out that you have to spend more than 10 minutes on the homework and actually turn it in to get a good grade.

The 8th graders simply talk to much and work too little. It was so bad that the principal had to come in and tell them that if I send them to him that they get suspended. Not that it's going to help any, at this point I am going to have to sacrifice a couple of them so they get the point.

The one other thing I don't like is the fact that the district does not do any plus or minus. So an 80% is the same as an 89% when in fact they are two different things. I really wish they would do pluses and minuses for official grades.

The good news is that I am getting an A in two of my classes, the bad news is that I am getting a C in the other two. Looks like I better kick it up a notch.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2nd quarter letter

UPDATE #1... I found some errors and corrected them on my original and here...

This is the letter that is going to be sent to all the parents on Tuesday, which is the first day of the new quarter. I hope this will alleviate some of the problems that I am having with my students. Notice how many times I put my phone number on the letter to make sure they can get a hold of me with any questions. Feel free to carp, criticize, suggest or otherwise let me know what I can do to improve this. If you would like to borrow this for your own use, feel free.

Dear Parents,

Well, we have survived the first quarter and generally your children have done fairly well in my math classes. However, there are some things that need to be cleared up for the 2nd quarter so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the first nine weeks.

The first issue I need to address is one of coming to class prepared. For the last few weeks far too many students are not showing up with basic items such as pencils, paper, red correcting pens or even their math textbook. They must have the following supplies with them when they come to math class: 2-3 pencils, a red pen to correct with, their textbook, binder paper and a good attitude.

The next issue I need to address is the effort or lack thereof given by the students. If your child did not earn the kind of grade that you were expecting, it was probably due to one of the following things: not turning in homework, too much talking, not taking their time or a combination of the three. It’s imperative that your child give this class their best effort or their grade will not be where it should be.

The most likely cause of poor grades is that students decided not to turn in their homework. On average the students had 45 assignments that were either homework or class work that had to be completed at home. If a student misses one or two assignments it generally does not hurt their grade much, BUT when the number of missing assignments is more than five or six it can literally cost them one full grade, and if the student is missing more than ten assignments, it’s almost impossible to pass the quarter or semester. If your child tells you they have no homework from me, it’s probably not true. The ONLY time they would not have homework is the day of a test or quiz. This includes Fridays as well. In high school and in college, they will have homework nearly every day and they need to get used to doing homework on the weekends. If you have a question please call me at 555-1212.

Late work is a huge problem and in an effort to alleviate this, the following policy will be in place for the remainder of the semester. If a student does not turn in an assignment on time, they will receive a 10% penalty for every day it is late until the 5th day. At that point the best they can do is 50% on their assignment. Once we have finished a chapter, any missing assignments from that chapter will become and remain ZEROS in the grade book. If your child is absent for any reason it is their responsibility to get the assignment(s) and turn them in. They will have three days to turn it in or it will be considered late and the penalties will ensue. If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212.

The next most likely cause is that they have decided that math class is their time for socializing and not for learning the material they need to pass this class. I do not tolerate talking in my class and if your child decided to test me on this expect to get a phone call home letting you know your child is disrupting my class. If they get a phone call home they will also get detention during the morning break between 2nd and 3rd period for a minimum of two days. If they don’t show up expect another phone call home and more detention. If you never had a chance to give me your contact information please fill out the form attached to the letter and have your child return it to me. If you have questions please call me at 555-1212.

It may also be that your child is rushing through their homework in an effort to get as much play time as possible. It’s not possible to do my homework in only 10-15 minutes. At minimum, it should take my students 30-45 minutes to complete assignments at home. I do give them time (when possible) to complete their homework in class, so it may be that they have done most of the work already. If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212.

My students also have the opportunity to fix mistakes on their assignments and exams. They get full credit for homework or class work that they fix. If for example, they get a score of 10/20 on an assignment and then correctly redo seven of the ten questions, I will change their grade accordingly from a 10 to a 17. For multiplication sheets then can get one point back and on exams, they can get half of the missed points back. This is the best way for your student to improve their grade in my class. I do this because I want them to understand the material and doing it a second time will help them now and next year in their pre-algebra class. If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212.

Don’t forget that AACPA has free tutoring in the great room starting at 3:45pm and continuing until 5:15pm Monday through Thursday. It’s free and if your child has less than a 75% (C) in any class, I strongly encourage you to participate. You can have them come once a week or everyday. If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212.

By now I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned my phone number several times (555-1212). Please call me with any questions or concerns you have. If you get my voicemail please leave me a message with a call back number (or two) so I can return your call. I cannot be successful in the classroom without your support. If you prefer using e-mail, feel free You are also welcome to stop by my classroom at any time. The only day I cannot stay late is on Tuesdays because I have to be in downtown Henderson at 5pm. Most other days of the week I am here until at least 5pm and I would be happy to spend a few minutes chatting with you.

I would appreciate it if you would sign the form attached and return it to me. If you are not sure if I have your contact information OR if it’s changed, please fill out the contact information again. If the first page has a star on the front, I don’t have your contact information on file and need to have it so I can contact you regarding your child's progress in my math class.

If you have any questions, please call me at 555-1212 or e-mail me, I look forward to a new quarter and continued math success.

Obviously I changed the phone number to protect myself and I took out my email address for the same reason. I also attached in the real letter a signature/contact information sheet for the kids who didn't get the initial contact information signed. I am also going to make getting this new letter signed worth a large amount of points so that if they don't it's really going to hurt them, and conversely it will reward the students who do things the right way. 10 points don't seem to do the trick, so I was thinking of 25 points or more. I also hope that this will help with the late work issue all teachers face.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Burn out

That is what I am headed for right now. Four classes, full time teaching and the whole husband dad thing is really taking its toll on me right now. I'm once again behind in two of my classes and barely caught up in the other two. And on top of my regular teaching, I have to write all of the long range plans for last quarter, come up with the bank of questions for the NWEA tests and finish grading everything because the 1st quarter ends on October 20th.

My principal and I are hoping to get some of the sections I am teaching taken off of me so I can actually start teaching English. I will continue to teach one class and then go observe English teachers to see how they do things. I still have not found out about my student teaching or graduation yet, so hopefully those will go OK as well.

Back to the salt mines go I...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Lotion Bomb

That's what my car was a victim of this week. When I went to my car during my prep to get my things ready for my speech it was fine. I go back at 5pm and the back of my car was decorated with lotion, covering the right taillight and the wheel. I didn't have time to do anything more than clean off the worst of it and get to my speech class. I did email all three principals to let them know what happened. My principal told me to wash my car and give him the receipt and he'll pay me back. The facilities guy is also going to look at the security tape to see if they can find out who did it. I'm mad, but I'm even more disappointed. I would expect this at a school where the neighborhood is rough, but not at this school.

In other news my college classes are driving me nuts. It's getting harder and harder to keep all these balls in the air at one time. They still have not found a new math teacher yet either so I'm still doing full time teacher/full time student thing. I also had to call parents last night, lots of parents. Literally half my seventh graders, some eighth graders, and a couple of sixth graders are going to have a rough go of it with their parents. But there is no other way to get rid of the chatterbox virus that is racing through the middle school.

Anyway, back to the salt mines.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


And sore! That's what happens when your tree sheds a several hundred pound branch in a short but nasty storm. So instead of trying to get ahead with my grading and school and all that, I was chopping and cutting so that my wife and I could start cleaning up the mess. Mind you the branch was about 12 inches at its thickest and was probably 20 feet long, not to mention all the smaller branches so it took me about 45 minutes just to get the branch off the wall (not to mention the neighbor's yard) and into my yard. Then it took my wife and I another hour or so to clear about half the branches and bag them up. At least we had a good weekend before then. We saw 3:10 to Yuma, which was an excellent movie and then watched the new Knight Rider which has some potential.

Well back to researching anonymous medieval lyrics for my paper due Friday, rounding up supplies for my demonstration speech, and finishing my re-write for my COM-250 class.