Monthly Archives: May 2016

Why I Put Up With All of It

I was informed on the last day of school that my services would be better utilized teaching ACT Prep classes and overseeing distance learning students working on the computer.  This certainly led to many questions, including, “How do I pack up 13 years worth of stuff to move to a new classroom in 2 hours?” (good efficient friends), “Who am I if I’m not a math teacher?” (To be determined but at least I have been promised 1 semester of a problem solving elective so I can still claim some mathiness),  “Will I still be welcomed at TMC?” (yes), and “Seriously, why am I keeping handwritten worksheets from 10 years ago?” (because after the apocalypse I can’t boil all my own water and make new notes about factoring), and the biggest question:

Why do I put up with all of it?

Why do I continue to work in an environment that undervalues its employees? Why do I put up with all the politics and in-crowds? Why do I still want to do a good job even if this is the reward I get?

The flippant answer I give most people as to why I teach is “summers off,” which I think we can all agree is a very nice perk. Plus I get to buy and use school supplies every year. Flair pens! Notebooks that I get to decorate! Posters!!

An answer that may seem silly is I like feeling smart. I still get a little thrill when I work through a long homework problem and get the right answer. I love digging into a new topic and figuring out the best way to teach it. That “a-ha!” moment when a student asks a question or shares an insight that suddenly makes everything click into place? A treasure. When another teacher asks me for my advice on a topic and we work through it together, or when someone tweets me for suggestions or tells they used my worksheets, it makes me so happy inside.

Also, I like creating things. I can get into a zone of designing a lesson or a NoteTakerMaker and all of a sudden two hours have passed. Yes, when it’s Sunday night at 8 and I still have to make homework for tomorrow, I sometimes wish I had someone to share the load. But I like going into class and offering up something that I made to the students.

One of the biggest reasons is I like teaching and I’m good at it. I love being dramatic about holy cow, isn’t math awesome? I love guiding groups to discovering knowledge on their own. I love study guide days when students are sharing knowledge with each other. When we make Desmos art and everyone wants to show me what they created, it warms my heart. No, I’m not perfect. Yes, I make mistakes. But on the whole, based on the opinions of students, colleagues, and supervisors, I’m pretty damn good at what I do.

But the biggest reason, the reason I put on a happy face for first period after I stress-cried all morning, the reason I stay up past my bedtime trying to perfect the next day, the reason I put up with every single obstacle they create is this:

Capture Capture2 Capture3 Capture4 Capture6 Capture7 Capture8Capture5

Even with all of the above comments, I kept questioning, maybe the powers that be see something I don’t and teaching math isn’t what I should be doing? Then yesterday I checked out at the grocery store and a senior who just graduated that I had taught as a junior was my cashier. She started off by asking for my ID so already she’s on my good side. Then there was this exchange:

S: You excited about summer?
Me: Yes, but I bet you’re really excited.
S: Yes, but it will be weird not going back next year.
Me: Where are you going?
S: <college name>
Me: What are you majoring in?
S: Math
Me: What? That’s awesome. I bet it was because of your Algebra II teacher, right?
S: Yes it was!
Me: Ok, you don’t really have to say that. I was just joking.
S: No! Really! It was because of you!
Me: What are you planning to do with your major?
S: Be a teacher! Like you!
S: No, really, yours was my favorite! I mean, I liked my senior teacher, but I want to have a class just like yours with everyone in groups and learning. (She may have said more but I was now focused on keeping it together in the middle of the grocery store.)
Me: I’d come around and hug you if I didn’t think it would be frowned upon.
S: I think it might be.
Mr Craig: I don’t think you know how much she needed to hear that today!

That is why I put up with all of it. That is why I will continue to work at being the best teacher I can be no matter the outside circumstances. That is how I can sleep at night knowing that this is my calling.

Category: Uncategorized

#MTBoS30: Pet Peeves and Little Loves

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Tina recently wrote a post about one of her pet peeves, so I thought I’d take that idea and list 5 pet peeves, but end on a positive note with 5 “little loves” (that was the first phrase google came up with in response to “opposite of pet peeve”). Oh, and use lots of gifs.

Pet Peeves:
1) Improper use of Reply All.

Oh, Microsoft, why did you set this as the default in Outlook 365? Read here how to change the setting.

2) Wasteful paper usage., one-inch margins and 14 point font? No wonder you need 3 pages for that 10-question worksheet. And of course I’m behind you at the copier.

3) “I don’t know how to do this because I was absent that day.”

4) Announcements.
Maybe if we didn’t have them 17 times a day they wouldn’t make the list, but we do so they did.

5) “When will you have this graded by?”

tumblr_o4d9xed1OJ1s2wio8o1_500Are you taking the test the day it’s given? Then it will be returned the next day like I do every single time. Are you making up this test 4 months after it was given (true story!)? Then I’ll grade it when I feel like it. And I’m not sure when that will be.

Little Loves:
1) “Hey, it’s almost time to go! Class went by so quickly today!”


2) “I went ahead and printed off the notes from when I was gone, can I just ask you a few question I had on the homework?”
3) When the janitor who opens the trash bag and puts it in the bin gets assigned to my room for a day.jackpot
4) A well-made Note Taker Maker…especially if it’s made by someone else and I get to use it!

5) “Did you even look at your notes? They’ll tell you what you need to know!” (Said from one student to another) tumblr_inline_myop5e57TW1qm5fq8

So what are your pet peeves or little loves?

Category: Reflections | Tags:

#MTBoS30 And the question is…

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In my last post I shared some interesting responses to my student survey and was asked in the comments to share my questions. Here are ones that I use or have used:

Rating Scale Questions (Ranked on 1(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) or some other similar ranking (like too easy to too hard):

  • I understood the material as it was being taught.
  • The tests were appropriate for a PreAP level course (too easy to too hard)
  • The amount of homework was… (too little to too much)
  • I feel better about math than I did before precal.
  • I understand math more than I did before Algebra II

Multiple Choice Questions

  • Which seating arrangement help you learn best? (rows, groups, partners)
  • What did you do outside of classtime to help you improve? (complete some/all homework, came for extra help, got help from friend, got help from tutor/watch videos/other resources)

Free response Questions

  • What are some things you’ve learned really well (and why do you think you did)?
  • What are some topics you struggled with (and why)
  • Did you take advantage of retakes? why or why not?
  • Did you feel prepared for the ACT? What suggestions do you have to improve this part of the class?
  • What changes to the class do you recommend (**note: you get much more “constructive cristicism” versus “teenagers being jerks” responses with this question versus when you phrase it as “What should Ms Craig change”)
  • If you could give yourself advice to do better next year in math, what would it be?
  • One thing I would like Ms Craig to know is…

That last one is usually the most insightful!

Category: Reflections | Tags: ,

#MTBoS30 Survey Says….

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Friday was the last day for many of my PreAP Precal seniors (senior finals start Tuesday but 98% of them are exempt) so I had the students do a SurveyMonkey about the class. I was actually debating whether I should do it this year or not–this year has been a real struggle for me and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear negative feedback, but I went ahead and did it anyway and I’m glad I did.

(Sidenote: I like SurveyMonkey because it’s free, easy to use, and makes pretty charts and such for you. I also like the fact that you can look at an individual response and I will admit I deleted two responses because sometimes teenagers are jerks. One word of warning: you can only have 100 responses per survey unless you pay for it.)

Here are some of my favorite responses with my response to the responses in parentheses.

What are some things you feel you’ve learned really well?
how to apply concepts rather than simply plug a number into an equation (Insert 1,000 heart emojis here 😉

One thing I would like Mrs Craig to know is…
you always dress better than so many people (it’s nice to know my sartorial efforts are appreciated)
I’m glad we stopped doing the folder notecards, they just became a chore to complete (I noticed the same thing, which is why I stopped, but I’d like some way for students to reflect/organize the material in the chapter other than the graphic organizers I give them. Suggestions welcome.)
…you have more attention given to kids who automatically understand the work (Whoa. That is a very observant and deep insight. Definitely something I need to work on next year. I go into triage mode sometimes: should I help 5 people who are missing 10% of what they need or 1 person who is missing 50%? I wish our study hall was set up so that I could just give a pass to a student that said “Looks like you need some one-on-one help. This is your pass to come to my study hall today.” Maybe I’ll make some of those for next year! Suggestions welcome for this as well.)
she’s so passionate about math that you can tell she actually loves being a math teacher (I do!)
One major takeaway from this question is that students super-puffy-heart-love the study guide videos. From all the other comments I get through the year about them, they are well worth the investment of time and money. Now thinking if I should start doing mini lesson videos for kids that are absent or need to listen to something again? Or–wait for it–start a document that has links to Mrs-Craig-Recommended Videos for each topic? Hm, that seems doable. And crowd-sourceable. Tweet me if you’re interested in maybe collaborating on this over the summer. 🙂
I had about five responses (out of 50) that had the general idea that I am intimidating to ask for help. This has always been an issue I’ve struggled to work on, and I thought I was doing better–I like going around on my creeper stool and helping students as they work through a study guide. But maybe I need to work on helping during discovery or group activities more–I’ve been trying to “be less helpful” but maybe that is not helpful? These were probably also students in the 16% of replies that said they feel worse about math than before Precal.
On the other hand, 57% of them said they feel better about math than before Precal (25% no change) and there were also about 10 comments that said something about great positive attitude/ being helpful/ making them like math more so at least I know I’ve reached some students this year, which makes all the other stress and work worth it. Right?

Category: Reflections | Tags: ,

#MTBoS30 #TBT Easier Exams!

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Ok, so I blogged this in late December, but you may have slept since then and therefore forgotten these 2 ways to make creating exams easier! I’m in no way trying to cheat at #MTBoS30 by reblogging old content. (And since I’ve done about 3 of the 30, I’m not sure why I would be cheating.)

Plus since we’re all busy right now I’ll cliffnote it for you:

1) Use questions from old tests and use actual student-generated wrong answers for the distracters. I keep all their old tests, so it took just a few minutes to go through, pick out some good questions, and then look at their work to find “good” wrong answers.  (additional crazy thought: what if you actually typed up 4-5 questions immediately after each test and then at the end of the semester your exam would be almost finished before you even started?)

2) For the study guide, copy and paste the title of the study guide and leave the numbering the same as the original study guide. 

For example, here’s how the start of the Alg II one looked:

Alg II SG Example

The cleverness lies in the fact that I’ve already posted all the keys and video keys* online, so students could just consult those if they were stuck. No new key to make! Or video key!  Woot woot!

*Wondering about those video keys? I make them on my ipad using Showme. It’s $50 a year but money well spent-they upload and process and host all your videos for you. Here are all the ones I’ve made. I probably should be better at adding subject in titles/tags but that’s not one of my life goals right now. Also, based on the captured screenshots it shows, do you think I have an issue with overuse of happy faces? You may notice I have this same issue on my blog. And in tweets. But I’m ok with that. 🙂

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

#MTBoS30 (ish): Derivatives, AROC, and IROC

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Permission: If you don’t teach Precal or Cal and (like me a scant three years ago), you have no idea what AROC or IROC means, feel free to skip this post and watch this award-winning animated short film about a dog instead. 🙂

The joy of teaching a mixed senior and junior class is that you miss half of them for all the junior AP tests and the other half for the senior ones, so I’m having to spread out my derivatives unit and come up with some activities that we can do on our own or in groups but still maybe learn something.

So here’s my take on using AROC vs IROC, page 1:

Driving Deriving 1 Driving Deriving 2

(File here) (feel free to steal this joke from my students: “Why did Penny and Nicholas turn around for sunscreen?” “Because they didn’t have enough sense!”)  I now understand why textbook companies make the big bucks…it is hard to come up with a graph and derivative that make sense but still do-able mathwise! Looking at the derivative, Penny is pulling out of the driveway at 90mph then doesn’t get above 70 for the rest of the trip.  BUT putting aside that little quibble, there’s actually lots of good stuff!  Like the entire AROC for the trip is 9 mph. WAIT, what?  Oh, look at all that time she wasted…basically from 1 hour to 8.5 she could have stayed parked at a gas station and accomplished the same thing. (Which made a light bulb go off in my head because it always hurt my head that AROC would be zero for that section but she can be MOVING with making PROGRESS!!)  Also the negative AROC led to some good discussions.

Here’s page 2:

Driving Deriving 3 Driving Deriving 4

We don’t know the shortcut to derivatives yet, which is why they had such big space to work on that problem.  I really liked #13 and #14 (ahem, the first 13 and 14) but I’m not sure if I should have scaffolded them more. I wanted them to create the equation of the tangent line and then use it, but that was difficult to get across. Most people just did speed x 10 hours. But the neat thing was, when I told a group they had to take into account that we were already at a certain distance at 1, they said, oh, so add that distance to the speed x 9, which tied in SO nicely to y=m(x-h)+k point-slope form of the equation!

As an added bonus, when they were done (it took about 1 full day + 15 minutes to finish, then 15-20 minutes to talk about everything including a preview of the power rule for derivatives), I copied this idea from Dylan and made it into a no-tech worksheet:

derivative graphs

(file here)

Making these reminded me how much I love making activities like this; I just wish I had more time to do so and that I was as clever as some of y’all at making great questions and graphs!

(so if any of you Precal or Calculus teachers have a great treasury of distance/velocity graphs or some hints on making pretty ones that are also somewhat realistic, please let me know! 🙂

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#MTBoS30 (ish): Teacher Appreciation Day

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Today I got a phone call from the US Department of Education thanking me for my teaching. One of my best teacher friends nominated me for their teacher appreciation, isn’t that super nice? So I thought I’d join the #MTBoS30 and show appreciation for some very special teachers.

Ms Smith, who taught me Honors Precal and never got mad no matter how many times she had to say, “Meghan, turn around.” Not only that, but she also accepted my invitation to participate in the teacher portion of our local FFA livestock show, which meant she had to pretend to guide my pig around in the ring for ten minutes. Ask yourself: are you that dedicated to student relationships? Also, I need to buy a plant for my room and have it get kind of droopy, then when the kids get some bad test scores, pretend to “just notice” that the plant needs some water and care and attention, but then it will spring back. Talk about a pro move.

Dr Foreman, my Cal I (and many other classes) prof, or I like to say, The Reason I Became a Math Teacher.  Even though I had already had Cal BC in high school (but didn’t take the AP test), it was like I was learning calculus for the first time, or should I say, understanding calculus for the first time. He was also my adviser and just a general all-around great person. He had the best deadpan delivery of anyone I’ve ever known; I try to imitate it but never quite pull it off (the trick is to keep on going like you didn’t even make a joke and wait for the laughs to come 20 seconds later). This is how nice he was: his daughter attended the high school where I first taught and he told her to say hello to me on the first day so I would know a friendly face. How sad for his life to be cut short by cancer, but he definitely touched many students’ lives during his career.

Dr Atkinson, my other math prof, who LOVED math. And always (like I tend to do) got super excited at that moment in a middle of a proof when you realize HOLY COW GUYS THIS IS GOING TO WORK OUT (even if you’ve already done the proof 10 times before). He was also so patient during his office hours; I wish I had that kind of patience when someone asks me how to multiply matrices for 168th time.

Susan S, with whom I taught with for multiple years but not long enough before she retired. She had taught everything under the sun and could explain anything to anyone without making you feel dumb. She taught me how to graph functions! She was also great about determining This Is Important versus This Is Required. She was such a good teacher that every time you mention her name, someone in the room will always say, “Oh, I miss Susan.”

Suzanne C, my classroom neighbor and friend. You know the whole “teach people math” versus “teach math to people” thing? Suzanne has got that down. She is always making connections to kids that some people think are unreachable and teaching kids that some people think are unteachable.  In her crazy way she is always an ever-present reminder of putting kids first.

Beth R, my school BFF.  What would I do without her? (Answer: Quit. Seriously, I was debating a job change recently and one of the major cons was “no Beth.”) She has taken on AP Cal all by her herself and rocked it. She is great to collaborate with or just bounce ideas off of. Her students know they’re going to work and learn in her class but it will also be enjoyable. Oh, and yes, we are so on the same wavelength that we once wore the exact same outfit on back-to-school PD day.  Also, if you have a super-rough day at school, she will bring you a bagel the next day. I mean, you can’t ask for more than that from a friend, can you?

My fellow MTBoS teachers…this post is already too long without going into why I appreciate all of you, but I hope you already know I do.

Thanks to all of these teachers for being so awesome.