Thursday, 17 July 2014

Buy A Yearbook

It can be easy to focus on the negative. I read somewhere that this is because long ago, if you missed a negative thing, you'd be dead. Attacked by a tiger or whatnot. However, if you missed positive things, this would not impact your life - only your enjoyment of such. Along those lines, the other day I posted about how the previous school year kicked my ass.

Let's pretend the last episode never happened.

Time to talk about what went right... and how sometimes you have to go a little out of your way to generate it.


I've mentioned how I like to make these. In the end, I recorded all the PD I attended. Four events in Semester 1. Later, two conferences plus a network initiative. Also, Triangleman's Decimal Institute. Also, every single one of the ExploreMTBoS missions. Writing the posts forced me to reflect on elements of teaching more than simply "in the moment". I also had some commentary - and support - on the posts. Not always from where I expected it.

I've come away with a bit of a noisy head. But there's some elements in there I can use personally and professionally. And while I'll be the first to protest that all this is not strictly connected to the day-to-day teaching, neither is all the extra-curricular stuff I do. So it counts.


I taught MAP 4C for the first time, and I don't think I totally mangled it. (Props to JP Brichta, Mary Bourassa, and Michael Lieff for materials.) I also tried doing more with the "Spiraled Curriculum". In particular, since blogging in January, I revamped the 3U order again: Functions w/Exponents, Equivalence w/ Rationals, Periodic, Exponentials, Parabolas w/ Inverses, Sequences, Triangles, Finance.

I feel like the order wasn't bad, but the execution was garbled. Even so, a student who lost out on a lot of the last month and half of the course... had already seen most of the big stuff. So that was a benefit. (The other person teaching the course took a different tack too, starting with a few weeks on Sequences - ones that cycled through all main functions.) So I think I have a sense of how to TEACH even though I still have little sense on how to EVALUATE.


Small things. Important things. Like when students give you anime suggestions. Or suggestions for the date (which I write mathematically different every day). Or links to statistics articles. Or when a senior drops by to talk about how they're doing in math, with a fish. Or how:
-One guy in my math club (of two people) solved one of the CMEC "Problem of the Week" in an interesting way. I submitted it. The folks over there were so impressed that they included his solution in the writeup.
-There's a trig identity I haven't proved, but I include it on the handout every year anyway. One student solved it this year, writing up a solution for me to keep. (Guy also got the highest mark in that course that I think I've ever given...)
-The MDM statistics course I do has one unit with lots of definitions. One student created a set of cue cards, terms on one side, definitions on the other. I thought that was brilliant, asked her if I could have them when the course was done. She made me my own set of 25. Used it 2nd semester.
-When I sang "O Factor Tree" at the Christmas assembly, a number of students joined in on the chorus. (I love a good chorus.) I don't think I was totally aware of the scope, being up there, but other teachers commented on it to me after.
-I help with the student play/musical every year. In the background, which I find is where I prefer to work. Last year, there were mumbles of some card for me "lost backstage". This year, I got one, with an illustrated image on the front, signatures inside, a Tim Horton's card and some chocolates. Whoa. There may have been tears. (Though not at the time.)


It's the title of my post for a reason. If I were only able to give one piece of advice for someone starting to teach in a high school, it would be this: Buy a Yearbook. I now own 12. (Not including any from when I was in school.) It's not only good for the memories, it makes for a handy place to toss cards or paper keepsakes.

Use the book for the good stuff.

In the beginning, I never got tons of signatures. Last year, instead of only having it in class, I put the book out into the hallway so that students could write in it after they finished their exam. If they wanted to. I did the same thing this year. Optional. Granted, there are always some people I seek out - students I didn't have in Semester 2, or who I only knew through extra curriculars, or teacher colleagues who were retiring. I usually get 20-30 signatures.

This year I got 40.

I don't even know how that happened.

Most mention the songs. That seems to be my thing now. So even if the web serial is done with, I guess I should spend time this summer getting together new material. I'm also going to share just a few snippets of remarks now, with the names filed off. Hopefully the students won't mind.
-"Thanks for a good time and relative dimension in space." (Math is bigger on the inside.)
-"Thanks for becoming a teacher, you are pretty good at it." (I keep hoping.)
-"You're a great teacher, teachin high school ain't easy." (Truth.)
-"Well you didn't teach me any classes this year, but I definitely learned lots from you this year!" (The play's the thing.)
-"I figured you may enjoy my data pres. You did I think cuz you smiled!" (I'm sure I did; the cover page for his stats report was also amazing.)
-"You are honestly so much fun! I'm so glad I got to know you my last 2 years of high school!" (Hoping I left a good impression of math along with myself.)
-"You truly made math interesting and I was looking forward to your class every day. Never stop teaching. :)" (Apparently the people have spoken...)

So. Despite the time away, the late assignments, and my inability to grade tests in anything less than a week... one could argue that's not what stays for the long term. As perhaps it should be.


I'm still taking a year off. I want to write more. I want to READ more. I want to see if someone else can come up with better stuff for teaching Data Management (statistics), as I worry I'm getting stale. And as it turns out, I'll be teaching seniors (Gr 11 & 12) again next year, so when I'm away for 2016-2017, they'll be heading off too.

The year kicked my ass. But it also kicked my heart. As such, I'm going to conclude this post with a belated soundtrack to sum things up. If you don't understand my metaphors, don't worry - you're not alone. Still, buy a yearbook.


  1. What wonderful comments they left you! I'm so glad to hear about all these positives. I should probably write one of these posts myself.

    I think that some people, like you and me, just take longer for others to get. Or like. Or both. There are folks out there who I swear never ever feel like an outsider, because their appeal is, for some reason, universal. What's nice about social media, though, is that it gives the world more time to let your colours soak in.

    It sounds like your students are finally starting to see you, and get you, and be grateful to know you, just like I am!

    1. Thanks - and yes, go for it! Even if it turns out to be a post you don't make public, it's nice to have something to go back to when you're down.

      As to appeal, I'm not sure I even get myself, so I'm probably with you there... maybe I'll figure myself out. The other thing about social media is I tend to put myself out there more, because you can always just unfollow me, whereas if you're in the same room with me you may have less of a choice. I've no idea if that makes a connection easier or harder. Ah well. Glad you're coming away with feelings of gratefulness at least! Reciprocated!