Thursday 15 November 2012

Week as Math Educator - Day 4

My name is Tangent. I win by two votes. In an election where only two votes were cast. One of them calling me 'tan-tan'. >.<  Politics these days - I'm sure I wouldn't have won if my older sisters, Sine and Cosine, had run an ad campaign worth millions of dollars. But, they didn't, so I guess you're stuck with me blogging about Day 4 of "A Week in the Life of a Math Educator"!

I'll effectively be shadowing the actual blogger all day today. We should get some positive energy going to start, what do you readers think? I'm thinking lots of you are teachers, so how about a theme tune of "You Have Made A Difference", which you can listen to in English at this link, or alternatively in French at this link ("Vous Changez la Vie"). If nothing else, carry that with you into tomorrow, okay everybody?


On to the day... we know we need to be leaving earlier than usual, since the car is getting a tune-up, rustproofing and some snow tires; appointment was booked last week. We wake up before the 7am alarm (again!) and are out by just after 7:30pm. Drop the car off, pick up the free loaner (it's a wonderful garage, just ask for info if you're local!).

Root(64) am. (See what we did there?)  Leaving the place in the replacement car, need to reset the clock to daylight savings; lots of the radio presets are okay though, they've even got CBC. News: It's five weeks after Amanda Todd's suicide in BC. The 15-year-old was was cyber-bullied, so we get some press about Bullying Prevention Week at last, from her mother. Oh, and British Columbia's Education Minister told the mother not to attend an anti-bullying conference, after 'expert advice'. What is that I don't even. Moving on.

82*100 am.  We get to school - it's formal day, so we've got the pink bow tie, jacket, and cardboard top hat. The latter seems to be the big hit as we head to the office to empty our mailbox. We're back in the class fifteen minutes before the bell; students start arriving pretty soon, on account of the test (drawn up last night) and there still being questions.

One student verging on tears is wondering if she can do the test next week. Personal policy hasn't changed - if you can bring in a valid note from home indicating there's external issues, okay, otherwise, life goes on here. She elects to write. Another student is also looking miserable with similar hopes. Tell him that if work on the summative task next week is better than what he does here, we can reassess, but no note, we're proceeding.

Warning bell; the underlying theme of the "get to class" music is recognizable, it's Yankee Doodle, but this is the jazzed up instrumental version that we haven't located on the web after five minutes of searching, so you'll need to visualize. We're busy answering questions of students at this point anyway. Incidentally, a couple of the guys are also observing the formal day, looking nicely dressed.

DCCCXL am. PERIOD 1: Gr11 MIXED. Playing of the anthem, and morning announcements. From there into the test. Four absences, one we know about (death in the family, haven't seen her at all this week), the others will be getting calls. Once everyone's writing (some spent more time with their notes first), go to check mail on the computer. We get a little popup... Norton Antivirus is upset. Why? "Computer does not have all available operating system updates installed."

First, we don't have the authorization to install anything. Second, we're not even sure what the OS is, so we check... "Microsoft Windows XP Professional Version 2002: Service Pack 3". Yup, that seems about right, so what's the problem? Whatever, message is gone now. Forgetting our email, we scan back through the test, notice one of the questions could be seen as ambiguous, thus jot a clarification on the board.

A bit later, a student asks something - an answer seems wrong, but she can't spot her mistake. We tell her to keep doublechecking, even as we suffer a momentary panic attack because we don't immediately spot it either. Is it possible we created a question with a nonsense solution? No, we reassure ourselves... but at the same time, it's finance. So useful, yet we're probably as anxious about finance questions as other people are about trig identities. We don't broadcast this, obviously, but don't pretend we're an expert here either.

The period wraps up, some students will return to finish at lunch, a couple others think they'll be able to take ten minutes off their second period class if they check with their teacher. We allow them to do this. Then we suffer another little panic attack - we're missing one of the graphing calculators! Nope, it's on the desk. Okay, deep breath, need to get going with next period.

By the way, any of you out there started reading this like we're Gollum yet? We likesss the mathematicsss, the math is our precioussss... while we hatesss the finansssse. (Sorry, that was evil of me, now you probably won't be able to unsee that perspective for the rest of the post, huh? Hm. So is it wrong I find that funny?)

LOG (10^10) am. PERIOD 2: Gr12 DATA. We ask students if we should be taking up yesterday's sheet first, or saving that for after they have time to work today in class... in other words, no point taking up homework if it's not yet done. Vibe is, launch the new topic. That would be causation. So we present a silly scenario, discuss, then hit them with definitions, and fifteen to twenty minutes to work on either last night's stuff, or new stuff, while we circulate to answer questions.

As well as get Summative Topics from those who haven't come up with them yet. Secondary sources are due next Monday after all, plus we need to come up with groups before next Wednesday! Eventually we regroup to discuss the scenarios of today. Then a little discussion of the Placebo Effect, not strictly in the curriculum, but how can you not at least mention it when dealing with causation?

Also this period, we remember to give a notice to a student about an event happening Monday, the recycling for the room is brought by a couple students down to the loading bay when the announcement is called, and of note, about the same percentage of students as first period going in on the Formal Day, including one female.

DATE am. (11/15) LUNCH. First dealing with students returning to finish their tests. Gives us time to deal with attendance, checking mail, and saving files to upload to the course websites. One of the missing students from this morning turns up! Said she slept in, wondering about writing now. Lunch is shorter than a period though, so we offer them same rules as always - if she can get a note, Monday will be okay, otherwise both now and after school. She goes to phone her mom. Comes back - she'll have a note Monday.

Once students are finished, to the prep room to phone those still missing! We reach one parent, child wasn't feeling well, for the other we leave a message. Also check our voicemail, but the garage hasn't phoned back yet about our car. Our heart soars a little now at the discussion going on here... colleague is saying how it's so satisfying "When they [students] see trig and are getting it, realizing how x is cosine...". (We ask to quote her here, she's good with that.)

Question comes up: What gives OTHER people job satisfaction? Coding something really nice? Making money for a company? For us, it's students. For you? Comment below, maybe?

Conversation shifts to introducing quadratics; suggested to do it by throwing things around the room. Better suggestion is raised - attach a streamer to the things you're throwing. Hah! Have to head back to class after less than ten minutes though... we have students arriving early for next class, regarding the task they didn't write Tuesday. We do compliment another teacher on her formal dress in passing though. Which she says she's supplementing with a shawl to conform to the dress code.  (Yeah, so my midriff baring top would not work out here... anyway, that's a whole other identity.)

We get to the classroom, answer some student questions prior to class, then we're immediately on again. Had time for a mouthful or two of food in there.


Time: The amicable number pair of 1184
(1184's divisors: 592, 296, 148, 74, 37, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1)

PERIOD 3: Gr11 U. More students dressed in formal attire this period! We compliment one guy on the sweater vest, and ask one female student how she got her hair pinned that way. Notably one student spilled his drink in the hall as he hurried to class from lunch. But in the chaos it was handled by a VP and care staff member nearby, before we could suggest to said student that he get some paper towels.

Start this period by doing a Seat Switch - finally, we remembered to do this again after the success of two weeks ago! (Forgot this morning, and blogged about that back here.) Then flashing up yesterday's notes for the five people who'd been legitimately absent, and address any questions based on yesterday's work on exponents. Very few questions, and most of them are working in new groups now discussing the unit. Well, this is awesome.

Some of them ask for the quiz early; we make sure all of them have it with 40 minutes left in the period, to allow for ten minutes to take it up at the end. The level four question, solving an exponential equation, is engaging a number of them. We like this. Many are now seeing they need the same base, but aren't sure how to proceed from there. (Logarithms is Grade 12.)

Bit of a hiccup as one student gets a spontaneous nosebleed. The math is that exciting. He goes to the washroom, the person sitting behind him is a bit perturbed by the sight of a couple blood spots on the desk. We go to wipe them up, problem solved. A little thereafter, we take the quiz up, they seem to follow the logic of setting exponents equal! Collect in quizzes to have a look, remind them of test next week.

(11^2)+(3^2) pm: PERIOD 4 aka PREP PERIOD. Before we can get going here, there's commotion in the halls. Long story short, someone has sprayed odour of foxglove around (it's not a good scent), so we phone the office while another teacher asks students about this. Principal comes, we learn this also happened upstairs, and identity of person is likely known.

This seemingly dealt with, we go back to the prep room. Phone is in use, so we double back to class to respond to an email that connects to the math contests we're coordinating next Tuesday. (A student asked about them at some point today too, forget when.) Another student arrives at this point about writing the test which he couldn't do after school yesterday. Right, he has a spare now.  Got confused as to when he was coming by.

We give him the test, then double back to the prep room. Phone is free, we check our voicemail, one message... the parent of the absent student from this morning? No, the garage about our car. We phone back, talk for a bit, even sit down briefly; the tech is going to check on the availability of a cheaper brand of winter tires, we'll phone him back later.

That's one thing about teaching - no one can reach you during the day, unless it's an emergency. Car tuneup, dinner plans, online chats, all of that isn't emergency, therefore impossible during the day. (But those sorts of things don't happen much in other jobs either, do they...?)

Double back to check on student, organize desk, talk with him, he's done all he can. Back to phone the garage. Again long story short, no cheaper tires but other minor savings, and won't be picking the car up until tomorrow. This changes things! We won't need to be leaving the school before 5pm. So we take a half hour to finish our lunch and do a quick Twitter scan. (Haven't checked Facebook since Wednesday morning as it's blocked at work...) Respond to an @mpershan tweet.

Now 490/2 pm. End of school day. Student comes by to write task, as we prepare the next day of teaching (which would be Monday, given the Professional Development day tomorrow). She finishes after 4pm, about the same time we finish getting everything arranged. We go to photocopy necessary handouts. No one else in prep room when we return, but then a couple coaches come through after practice. Chat briefly.

At this point, we would phone some parents of students who have outstanding assignments, but job action is such that we're not communicating outside of school hours. It can wait until tomorrow anyway. Check voicemail once more though - good thing, garage wanted clarification on something, phone them back before they close. Then, a knock at the door - a student is wondering if one of the coaches is still here. No, they left... which is bad, because he left his cell phone in a room that is now locked. However, we may have that key.

We go and rescue his cell phone, asking to be reasonably certain it is his. We have now "saved his life"... oh, good for us! After 5pm now. Would start marking, but since nothing can be handed back tomorrow, typing up minutes for the math meeting last Monday takes priority. Also brief distractions online again. As well as taking a moment to set up the following photograph in our room, since we're blogging about it... remember, Formal Day.
Actually my classroom. Rare photo!

Verging on 6:30pm, one of our students chances by in the hall (back from some event, presumably). He's surprised we're still here, asks how long we normally stay. We say this is about right. He's... impressed? We hope that's the emotion. He moves on, Meeting Minutes done, about time to get going in order to get to the drycleaners before they close at 7pm.


Home a little after the aforementioned 999999/142857 pm. We chat with our wife (our wife? Oooh, okay, the first person plural is failing us a bit on THAT remark... maybe we'll drop that now), and she was able to hear a radio broadcast related to a friend of ours and NaNoWriMo. He may well be reading this now too, all the best to him in his efforts! There's a bit more chatting about the day, decide that for dinner to just toss a pizza in the oven.

A bit of final work is necessary on the Math-Tans membership card at the top of this post, not having entirely anticipated the Tangent result back on Sunday... yeah, bad enough that the students forget me as soon as they learn Triangle Laws, now even my own creator is handling me after Sine and Cosine. But it's okay. I have Lyn to hang out with whenever I'm neglected on the Trigonometry side. :)

Continued blogging through 'Elementary' and 'Daily Show' which brings us to 11:30pm and time to post up. In fact, think this day was the most typical of any of the days blogged so far!! Glad I could share it with you! Remember, "You Have Made a Difference"... and perhaps I have too.

Tina's roundup of other educator posts at her site, Drawing on Math: Day in the Life, Part 3
She'll also be posting her day today, if memory serves.
We'll be back tomorrow... or will we?


  1. Four days in a row you’re up before the bell. Is this usual or just happening this week?

    The student crying, math anxiety perhaps? The CBC had an article about ( how math anxiety can cause physical pain just from worrying in advance but not while actually working with math. Good on her for writing, though. I hope she did well.

    The Norton popup... oy... What I’m thinking is that there was a failed update pushed to the computer. That, or Norton expects every PC to get every update on the day it’s released, and XP Pro is still supported (though MS recommends switching to Windows 7 now instead of waiting until XP support expires in 2014). Otherwise, if it pops up again, email your tech people to let them know the computer’s being annoying. Someone there might be seeing a pattern.

    Being reached during the day – technically, in IT, at a busy site or during a busy period, it’s difficult to be reached. Professionally, we either won’t have our cell phones on the floor or won’t answer (or even hear – phones should be quiet on the work floor) while working on another client’s problems. So, messages go to voice mail and emails remain unread until we have time to check, which seems to be more often than teachers still.

    I see not much really has changed about classrooms since I graduated high school. You still have the chalkboard, though the smartboard looks far more useful. (And is that Tangent on the board in a top hat?) The desks look like they haven’t been changed since when I was in high school, and they were old even then.

    And the author should’ve realized that the underdog becomes the most popular characters with the fans. Thus, Tangent (and apologies for the Tan-tan remark). Though, would Tangent ever cosplay as an intrepid reporter with a small white dog?

    Job satisfaction, hmmm… Getting things fixed and working gives some immediate satisfaction on the job, especially for tricksie problems that come and go weirdly. Finding the bizarre problem and getting it solved really is a nice boost. Other days, not killing anyone is an accomplishment, but those days are rare. =)

    I do hope to see what a PD Day looks like from the teacher’s side. Too many people don’t know what happens and make poor assumptions based on the lack of knowledge.

  2. Impressed you're still going! My full day was posted last week as a reminder/preview/model: but I also did some stats on yesterday since it ran from 7 am to 8:30 pm (parent conferences). You're much better than me at phoning home, I hate the phone and I admire your diligence making it to the phone so many times.

  3. @ScottD: Highly unusual, no freaking idea why I can't sleep longer. I think it was more lack of study anxiety, though have seen that article. Smartboard looks useful though orientation is off (and yes, good eye! ;). Also other classes in the school have other desks.

    The author will try to take that into account, and maybe work it into students appreciating Tangent more versus the Sine Law. Thanks for the thoughts on Job satisfaction!

    @TinaC: Thanks! Yeah, those days always run long, don't they. I also loathe the phone with a passion... the only thing I dislike more is the feeling I get when a parent says "I wish you'd told me sooner", so I use that as a motivator. Oh, well, and marking - I dislike that more too. ^_-