Thursday, April 14, 2016

Keep on Knocking!

This week has been an emotional week for me. I have a former softball player who is battling drug addiction to the point that she failed a drug test IN REHAB. She called me this past Tuesday and I tried to encourage her but I felt very ineffective. There are times that I feel like an ineffective teacher too. And I don't mean just trying to get them to learn the math! I mean getting them to be serious about setting goals and working to reach them. I mean getting them to be concerned about being people of character who can go out into our community and can encourage and have an impact. I mean motivating them to take pride in our school and most importantly themselves!!

I told one of my classes this week that I HAVE to believe that my words of encouragement (sometimes it may seem more like admonishment than encouragement to them!) will make a difference...but to be honest I really wasn't feeling very positive about my ability to make a difference. I spent 4 years with my former player encouraging and even pleading with her to break the cycle of addiction in her family by making wise choices. She even reminded me of a time that I printed her off some information about how heredity effects the likelihood of a person being an addict and literally begged her to completely abstain from alcohol and drugs. She told me that she thought I was CRAZY because she would never go that far. So...if I couldn't stop her how will I effect change in the attitudes and minds of the students I only have for 1 year. How can I get them to take their academic and social lives seriously and make wise choices that line up with the goals they have (or should have!!)?

I am thankful that God sent Siran Stacy to our school to speak on Wednesday. In part of his speech he shared with us how he literally kept knocking on the door of his coach's office and asked him over and over again to give him another chance to play football. Then he encouraged us all to keep knocking. I know that I can not effect change but I KNOW A MAN WHO CAN. I hope that God allows me to be a small part of planting seeds of hope and encouragement in the hearts and minds of my students. I pray He sends others to water and further grow and develop those seeds to move these students into a bright and promising future. I will not be discouraged. I will keep on knocking. As Siran Stacy put it: The best of me is the rest of me!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

What not to do in algebra if you want to laugh!

I think that I decided to write this blog post because I feel that the last 2 days I am a shining example of what NOT to do when you are teaching a problem-based curriculum. I think that everyone should have the ability to laugh at yourself so here I go...

So...I was in the middle of a discussion with my algebra class about the unit problem for IMP Fireworks which involves a celebration where a rocket is shot off of a building and the fireworks need to be set on a timer that allows the fireworks to "go off" when the rocket is at it's highest height. The problem is GREAT because some smart student (who obviously was an ace at physics) has already determined the equation for the height of the rocket with respect to time. My students have to find the answers to the following questions:

  • How long will the rocket be in the air?
  • When will it reach it's highest point?
  • What is the height of the rocket when it is at its highest point?
  • ...there are a few more but these are the ones we were mainly discussing...
So...I am supposed to be letting them determine how they might use the equation to answer these questions and I was getting this from my students:
  • How are we supposed to know, Mrs. Owens?
  • But...we don't know how high the rocket goes...
  • So...why don't they just shoot the fireworks off the top of the building instead?
  • I plugged in 3 seconds and got _____ for my answer. So, that's the highest point.
  • ***I can't even remember what all this one student kept asking me...he was so bothered by the situation and the way they were doing it. He was also bothered by the fact that "quad" means 4 but for an equation to be quadratic the variable has a power of 2. I had another student to help me out and say that the power of 2 means that it is squared and a square has 4 sides. response was finally something like this:
O. My. Goodness!!!!!!  Just do the math!! You have the equation so the hard part is already done for you. JUST SUBSTITUTE TIMES IN FOR T AND MAKE A TABLE!! Quit getting so bogged down in the context that you forget how to be a math student!!!! You can use the table to estimate the highest height and the time that the rocket hits the ground!! Just be quiet and DO IT!! Use your algebra skills!!

I am laughing as I write this. I had one student to say, "No Mrs. Owens. We are learning how to apply this math in the real world!"  It is funny to reflect back on this because I was so frustrated trying to move them forward. We had worked on introducing the unit for way longer than we were supposed to and I was just trying to motivate the need to find the exact values...which we will learn how to do as we study the unit. I did have a good conversation with them about how the ACT and other standardized tests have portions (especially science reasoning on the ACT) where you are sometimes given a formula and even told what each variable stands for and all you have to do is plug in the values and simplify!! OR that they are given charts and graphs where the information is right in front of them and they have to just interpret what it means. You can sometimes get too bogged down into trying to "figure something out" when you can just read the chart/graph and find the answer!!