Posts tagged: Cochran

What a Week

By , June 4, 2011 8:28 am

Oasis – Mucky Fingers

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We’re done with state testing. Conceivably, this should mean that things should be slowing down. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. A few anecdotes from the week.

  • Monday: Voluntarily subjecting myself to another morning of frustration, humiliation, and four-putts, I enjoyed another round of golf with representatives from the English and P.E. departments. On this beautiful morning we were treated to several fly-overs from a squadron of WWII-era aircraft, likely participating in one of the Memorial Day events occurring around the city. WIN
  • Wednesday: I must be crazy. I must be absolutely insane. On Wednesday, I interviewed for a 5-week summer fellowship with our district headquarters. It boiled down to three questions (unfortunately, not these three). First time I’d actually worn a tie in nearly a year. ???
  • Thursday: One of my students unwisely decides it’d be a good idea to imbibe a bit before arriving to class, then proceeds to vomit all over the classroom floor. Brilliant. Ironically, earlier in the week I had been wistfully remembering the days of carpeted classroom floors (unlike my tile); now, I consider myself lucky. More than being angry with this student, I was mostly sad because I’d seen her make so much progress in the year that I’d had her. FAIL
  • Friday (Part 1): Coachella tickets for next April went on sale today (yes – more than 10 MONTHS in advance). I sit in a waiting room for several hours but score 1 for each weekend. WIN
  • Friday (Part 2): Our drama teacher roped me into writing a 60-sec song for a TV commercial (for a doll) he’s doing with his drama students. It ended up being a pretty fun song, and he got a quintet of 7th graders to sing along. Very fun. However, in retrospect, I’m realizing that it sound fiendishly similar to this:

Hopefully, I’ll be able to avoid the George Harrison v. The Chiffons fiasco.

Temporary English Teacher

By , April 1, 2011 11:07 pm

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There are several reasons why I teach math, and not English.

#1: There’s always a “right” and a “wrong” (at least until your senior college math course at which point the whole system collapses).

#2: I can get away with terrible humor (“What’s ‘cinco’?”, I’ll ask to my predominantly Spanish-speaking students. Answer? “It’s what happens when you don’t know how to swim-o”).

#3: I don’t have to grade essays.

Unfortunately, I am experiencing a little bit of #3 this weekend as I am editing essays that several of my students are writing in hopes of winning a scholarship. Most of their writing seems fairly decent, with the biggest issues being spelling and punctuation. However, I’ve seen a few so far that desperately need some drastic revisions – something that my training in teaching mathematics unfortunately left out of the curriculum.

So I’m hoping that what I was able to learn in high school from my English teachers – Mrs. Malkus, Mrs. Bell, and Mrs. Charlton – will carry me through this process of helping students do something which is slightly out of my own league as well: writing good.

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Starf*****: Death as a Fetish

Wendy

By , March 24, 2011 4:55 pm

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I first heard Wendy Kopp speak nearly seven years ago in a crowded Long Beach convention center at the dawn of my career with Teach For America; a ceremony in which the phrase “…and that’s why I teach for America” was first christened as it began its steady overuse into new levels of hilarity (in the same way that Steve Carell’s “that’s what she said” has).

Last evening, seven years later, I got to hear Wendy speak again, only this time to a much smaller crowd filled with a few corps members, a few TFA alumni, an incoming superintendent, and a professional philanthropist whose building we were borrowing for the event. Interviewed by the golden voiced Warren Olney, Wendy expounded on her new book, but mostly advocated for continued TFA’s influence and development as a “leadership pipeline”, citing her (somewhat seemingly “new-ish”) epiphany that making transformation in students lives can only sustainably occur through “transformational schools”, i.e. schools with an amazing leader.

And while I am certain that Wendy and I would not see exactly eye to I on a number of pragmatic issues, I absolutely agree with her fundamental premise: school leadership matters. I’ve been lucky in the past seven years to work at a school where we have very competent leadership that has often times not only allowed, but encouraged teachers to “think outside the box” when it comes to working with and advocating our students here at Cochran. Yet, I think of my countless former TFA colleagues who worked at other schools who reported horror stories of incompetent principals, disorganized schools, and mismanaged communities and eventually left the classroom. Yikes. We clearly need good leadership in schools.

So how does one get this to happen? Let the debate begin.

Lost and Found

By , March 15, 2011 9:45 pm

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Walking around the campus of a public middle school on a daily basis presents its fair share of excitement as well as its fair share of found treasure, if, by treasure, one means things you wouldn’t want to touch with a fifty-foot pole.

“Not Even My Best Friends”

By , January 25, 2011 10:36 pm

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This week, our dean of discipline caught one of my students copying her math homework from another student of mine. While both are generally wonderful students, I think they’ve learned their lesson, as is evidenced by the following letter one of the copy artists wrote me afterward, giving a whole new meaning to the word “contrition”.

I will never ever let anyone copy again. Why because it is bad and I know it will disappoint my teacher and my Mom & Dad. I am verrrrrrrry sooooooorrrrrrrryyyyyy. I know I am not supose to let somone copy I don’t know what came to my head. Sometimes I am Dumb so I don’t think straight and do actions that I am not sopose to do. I am sorry (once again). I will never ever ever do it again I promise. Sorry sorry I am so so so verry very verry sorrry. Please forgive me me I have no idea what I was thinking. Please accept my forgiveness and I promise I will never do again. I won’t let anyone copy not my friends not even my best friends. It was wrong because whoever is copying is not learning. Also, it is wrong because I might get in trouble. I am very sorry Please forgive me and accept my forgiveness! :( :(

Now if only all my kids were this contrite when they messed up.


Paul McCartney – Uncle Albert

Solving Systems with Bon Jovi

By , December 14, 2010 9:57 pm

Bon Jovi – Livin’ On a Prayer

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The following is yet another example (as if you needed any more) of how painful it is to be enrolled in Mr. Hunsberger’s 7th grade Algebra class.

Today’s objective was that students would be able to solve systems of equations by elimination. Rather than boring my non-mathematical readers with the gritty details, suffice it to say, that you are solving for two variables (usually x and y).

Now teaching my students the method of elimination to solve for one variable usually takes quite a bit of time, and there is not a little bit of satisfaction when a correct value is finally identified.

x = -3” they will correctly tell me, with quite some definitiveness. Yet, as their teacher it is my job to remind my students that, although we’ve solved for x, in actuality, we’re half-way there

(…groan…, some of you immediately see where I’m going with this…)

“Whoooooa-oooah!”, I call out. Looks of astonished silence from 26 faces. Again.

Whoooooa-oooah! We’re halfway there!”, pausing to ask them about why we’re only halfway there.

While the correct answer is that we’ve still got to solve for the variable y, I tell them I would also accept as correct, the sung phrase “Whoooooa-oooah! Livin’ on a prayer!” (Interesting enough, they all know this 1986 song. Thank you Guitar Hero).

Ah, the pain of being subjugated to the awful humor of an algebra teacher. Hopefully these kids won’t be scarred for life.

Science Aesthetics

By , December 7, 2010 8:05 pm

Final Fantasy – The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead

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image“Mr. Hunsberger, can I keep my science project in your classroom until my science class this afternoon?”, one of my students asked me early this morning.

I quickly replied that she could, and, walking into my classroom, she proceeded to hand me a brilliantly and melodramatically titled project on the quite depressing subject of “lung cancer”. Although I didn’t suspect that this particular juxtaposition of content and style was intentionally created with irony in mind, I did get quite a good chuckle out of the oft-displayed sheer absurdity of middle-schoolers. The perfect way to start my morning.

We can graph that? Really?

By , October 24, 2010 11:13 am

Spoon – My Mathematical Mind

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One of the greatest side-effects of the internet revolution of the last decade is that it has democratized and validated strange combinations of characteristics, such as “geekiness” and “humor”, which have now been inexorably linked by some extraordinary websites. Tomorrow, I’ll be using a graph from GraphJam to review an algebraic conversation about independent and dependent variables. Additionally, the webcomic XKCD often provides a fantastic starter to our math department meetings with its darkly cynical take on math, life, and love.

Once again, the internet has utterly transformed our lives into something much, much better.

Excited about College

By , October 21, 2010 2:08 pm

Vampire Weekend – I Stand Corrected

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image“What’s our class goal?”, I shouted at my 4th period class today.

Proficient on the CST!, C—– called back.

“Why?”, I respond.

To get into great colleges!, S—- called back.

“Like what?”, I skeptically ask."

“Wheaton!!!!” shouts D—–, one of my “more active” students, much to my utter delight.

A few weeks ago, I had the idea of displaying college pennants in my classroom with the hope of getting kids into the rhythm of actually considering what it might take to get into grade colleges and universities (even if that does not happen until 2016).

So far, as we have closely examined two such colleges, with many more to come (I’m thinking that presenting a new one every two weeks or so), the kids really have gotten excited about the possibility of going to a college, even if the actual steps it will take many of them to get there are many and difficult.

 

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One of the helpful aides I’ve had in actually giving kids an actual sense of what college is like (i.e. much more than simply “additional school that you now have to pay for”). TheU.com actually provides videos of campuses, interviews with students, and overviews of academic programs. The kids get a sense of the campus, food, nearby cities, and the general environment, as well as the academic performance required to be admitted. So far, we’ve covered two schools, with many more to go (including those submitted by many gracious donors of pennants!). It’s pretty fun, and gives the class a positive energy when otherwise (continuing the painful steps of adding fractions with unlike denominators) it might be a little bit lacking.

You Win Because You Suck

By , October 15, 2010 2:08 pm

The Beatles – I’m a Loser

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This weekend, I plan on un-winning this trophy for the weekly last place finisher in our football pool!

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