Monthly Archives: August 2012

Counting to 50


Our contract says no more than 29 students per class.

School starts on Tuesday. At 5pm today I heard that some teachers have over 50 students in a class. We only have 300 students in the school, and we have way more than 7 teachers. It seems a tad unreasonable to have one teacher take \frac {1} {6} of the school body every hour.

I am constantly amazed that people seem unable to count to 29. We would even let 30 slide. I don’t think we have a room big enough for 50. The cafeteria?

I blame nature for the lack of sufficient fingers.



Last year we had the organized binder guy come in, at enormous expense. I was down in the naughty room last year, trying to help kids learn math from E2020… so I did not use it.

We’re having a go this year. But we can’t afford binders. We’re trying it with duo-tang paper folders. So we’re trying to think of everything in advance, the kids can put everything in the binder on day one (well, day 2 for me), and minimize the number of bendings of the tangs.

The objective is to have each student have a binder in each classroom, so they never leave their work at home/in the locker/on the bus. In practice, the math teachers who tried it last year decided that they could not return graded work, as it was nicely filed for other students to steal or copy, and they also found that kids kept taking the binders home and losing them…?

We’re trying again. How do you do standards-based grading if the only feedback students get is a grade? I’m trying to make a rubric for everything, so students can get a rubric back, and store it in their binder. I also plan to revisit the checklist every week, so that students can check their own progress.

Oh yeah, we can’t afford binders because we paid the organized binder guy a small fortune to come and tell us this for a day.

I blame the organized binder guy for sure.

Room ready


First of all, appreciate the room. Isn’t it fabulous? I’m told it was once the Board of Ed meeting room. This is the oldest high school in the state. AFAIK, the fireplace doesn’t work.

The worst feature is the tin ceiling, which makes the room very echoey. I bought some cheap beanbags from Walmart, which I hope will be sound absorbers. I also have the sheep.

Look at this crime! Deskchairs, I

still hate you.

Notice the wall of remediation, and the TABLES. I got all kinds of grief after beg/borrow/stealing them, but I don’t care. I have them. Also notice that I have tables over the whole room, not just the half that is opposite from the whiteboard.

Here’s the fireplace end. You can see the beanbag chairs and the sheep. I had dropped off a couple of logic/math games earlier, which are on the top of the cupboards in both pictures. The room is set up for marshmallow challenge on day 1. My desk is on the left, and I have ousted the old slow desktop: I will use a faster laptop. I have speakers connected, now, too.

Look at this piece of fabulous – the stage! They had filled it with the hated deskchairs because they had to get 40 into the room. There are 40 seats at tables “my way.” The two tables set apart for marshmallow challenge can be put together later, depending on the number of divas I have. I moved the long table from the front of the steps up to the stage right.

Notice there’s a screen. There’s a ceiling-mounted projector, but someone took away all the hardware. I’m trying to get it back into working state. However, we did notice 2 years ago, when they installed it, that a  screen right in front of the mirror is not the best optical planning.

I have had 2 years of rooms with zero storage. I am positively wagging my tail.

I blame the builders from 100 years ago. Weren’t they great?

450 pieces of spaghetti on the wall…


Getting prepped for marshmallow challenge on day 1 (next Tuesday). They tell me we might have 40 kids in each class period – please, no. However, I had to make up enough bags. I see they each need 20 pieces of spaghetti, but  my local grocery store does not sell spaghetti strands by the piece. Nowhere could I find how many pounds of spaghetti I needed.

There are about 450 pieces of spaghetti in a Muellers one pound spaghetti box (it was on sale). Says the owner of 3 lbs of extra spaghetti. Okay, it’s not extra if we can use it for something else before the mice eat it.

(now if only I can find 18 minutes of music already prepared for the event… what is this with me having to do my own work, blogosphere?)

I blame the FDA for not requiring spaghetti portions by the piece.

elementary, my dear


I have one more week before school starts. Making sure that everyone in the State of Michigan understood the priorities, several years ago the legislature decided that it would be illegal for regular public schools to begin before Labor Day, so that anyone left with a job could still go and spend some vacation money before they went back to school.

Next week  is therefore teacher-back-to-PD week. Sigh.

I have an idea for students to work on “review as project.” As a mom who has reached her expiration date, I have a lot of kids’ books left. I bought more from better world books. I’m going to require 5 book reviews of these mathy books ( e.g. 12 snails to one lizard, the grapes of math…) from each student. The reviews will be directed at parents and teachers of elementary age students, so they can decide whether the books are worth the investment.

Students who are struggling with the concepts in the elementary books might then be directed to the wall of remediation that’s going up.

My plan is to culminate the project with students creating their own books.

I  blame the adult offspring for this – they left me the valuable books.

How much is too much?


Yesterday was the last day of our intro week for the students who showed up. I noticed that, even though they are the “good students,” the volunteers, those interested in learning, they hit a wall at about 3 hours. 3 hours is about half a school day. So they can only do “new stuff” about half the school day.

This sounds about reasonable to me. My first job was with a scientific tool manufacturing company, where the owned ran a 4 day week, 10 hours a day. He folded the experiment after a year, because he said he got exactly same production from 8 hours than from 6 hours. He did in fact look at data and concluded that he got 6 hours of work from people in either an 8 or or a 10 hour day. While he understood that the nature of the work meant that people could not be productive every minute, he was not able to afford the loss of the extra 8 hours a week.

So, I need to make sure that I build in 50% down time for my students. One new thing, one old thing? If only I could reliably know that the old things were easy “down time” and were not just as challenging to my students. How to do “down time” without being boring/irrelevant/repetitive…? Back to the wall of redemption? (It is on its way, in process right now.)

I blame unreasonable expectations.

Biking uphill.


I developed this during the summer course for Michigan Tech. I plan on trying it with algebra 1 students this semester.

The translation is from  The kids seem to tolerate it.

I hope it’s a relevant question, with no “correct” answer. Plus, the students can check it by getting on their bikes and trying it.

Really this was learning to embed from Scribd.

Blaming the new blogger team for this one.