I Love Lucy, Grease, and The Simpson’s

Today was filled with TV-episodic moments with a touch of cinematic chorus thrown in for good measure.  Soon after I arrived this morning, my CT set me in motion photocopying, cutting, folding, and stapling material for her two Algebra I classes: 2nd period and 4th period.  My adventure began at the photocopier.

After picking up the printouts from the math department office, I sauntered over to the copy room, quickly punching in the access code and “70” for the number of copies.  The massive copier started right away and after the first set or two of copies flew out of the machine, I realized I left the fourth page in the stack, when I only wanted the first three pages copied.  Unfortunately, hitting “C” for clear did not stop the machine, neither did “CE”, and I was not sure how to bring up the print queue screen.  So, in a mild panic, I watched as the copies kept coming when it when from bad to worse, as the color of the paper changed from orange to green to blue, almost after the spectrum of colors in a rainbow, however, there was no pot of gold waiting for me.  At this moment, a scene from an “I Love Lucy” episode flashed into my mind, where Lucy is working at a candy manufacturer on a packaging assembly line when the candies start flying past her so fast she starts eating them to keep up.  I did not eat the excess papers, but chuckled a bit at mu situation.  Normally, I would not have mattered the mistake too much, but my CT is extremely conscious about wasting paper, and using up her allocation of print jobs on the copier, so my minor mishap made me worry about how she might respond, if she found out.  To reduce that possibility, I quickly as possible, removed all 70 “page 4″s from the collated stack, which took longer than I had hoped.  Snatching the multi-colored stack, I exited and headed back to our classroom.

Once I entered, my CT asked me to cut up each page into 10-12 rectangular strips, each containing one problem or key point from the past unit on linear equations, for a total of 35 strips from each set of three pages.  That number becomes important later in my story.  As she asked me, she mentioned a student group took her scissors last night and forgot to bring them back so she handed me a pair of scissors more typical of those used in an elementary school; I could barely fit my fingers in them, and they cut a whopping one inch or so at a time.  As I started to cut each page, one at a time, I quickly realized that cutting 70*3+70*3*12, or 2730 cuts was not going to go too well with the approach in use.

The paper shear in the copy room popped into my head as I mentioned to my CT that as my destination; she seemed apprehensive at first then said cut one page at a time since the shear did not work well.  “Oh, great,” I thought to myself as I left the classroom to a “Sit Down!” command emanating from the adjacent classroom who has a long-term sub just starting his six-week assignment since that teacher just left for maternity leave.

Moments later, I’m sitting at the shear cutting the first page or two realizing I needed to cut more or this would take too long, too.  Just as I finished my thought, the door to the copy room flew open and my CT snatched a handful of copies from my stack and starting cutting them in two lengthwise.  She did this for a moment or two then disappeared as fast as she came.  I sat stunned for a moment, watching her cut way more than one at a time, wondering why she told me to cut one at a time in the first place.  Then I leaped into action, cutting handfuls of papers into two lengthwise, wondering how I was going to make the other cuts since each of the three pages, which were already collated into 70 sets, need to be cut sideways.  Boy, this was way more fun than I anticipated for this morning.  I was wondering if it was punishment for yesterday’s folly at the board.

Since my CT told me to stay cutting for 15 minutes, then head back to class, I left the copy room with a large stack of 4.25″ x 11″ colored paper, each with 5-6 problems or math notes on them.  Arriving back in class, my CT handed me adult-sized scissors, whence they came I do not know, but they surely were better than the kinder-scissors I used moments earlier.  Sitting down at my student teacher desk, I furiously started cutting into the papers in the stack only to realize I had collated papers, half from one side of a page, and another half from the other side, none of which lined up for instant cutting.  I wondered at that moment, how such a seemingly simple task turned into such a headache.  Twenty minutes later, with both of us snipping sections of paper pieces, we arrived at enough for the class, which just finished taking their quiz of the week, during which my CT needed to leave for some reason, leaving me in charge.

All went well for a minute or two when I noticed a few students starting to get a bit fidgety in their seats which prompted me to keep a closer eye on things.  Soon enough, Raul turned around to another student with quiz in hand, looking for help.  However, this was not a group quiz, but an individual one so I had no choice but to call Raul out, and tell him to turn around since he could not see my gestures to get him to turn around.  Others required a wave or two to keep them facing forward, too.  Man, was this fun! 🙂

Once my CT returned, she handed me a ream of copy paper saying to count out 9 sheets, then fold the batch into a booklet lengthwise, and staple twice close to the spine.  We had a mini-production line going with time running out, and students getting fidgety.  The phone rang and my CT ended up speaking with someone for a couple of minutes, very long in classroom time, answering what seemed like very specific questions about a female student.  She then said “Oh, the parents are here, now?” and said that she could meet with them.  With that, she was off again, with me asking her what the students needed to do next.  She almost did not answer when she blurted out “have them number the pages in the booklet starting from one on the inside cover page to 35 on the last page.  Then she was gone.

As time ticked on, I dispensed stacks of 9 sheets to students asking them to fold them.  With time still moving along, I grabbed a large stack, handed it to another student and said “count these off in stacks of nine sheets and hand them out for others to fold.”   Someone then asked where they needed to mark the page numbers and I momentarily forgot whether it was the back of the cover sheet or the opposite page.  I said something out like “Oops, I forgot where to start with number one, so said, hmm, we have nine sheets folded in two, so that’s four pages times nine or 36 pages, so we have to start on the inside of the cover sheet.”  While I said this, an outspoken student chimed up that I was the math teacher so I should be able to figure out where to start numbering; I thanked him profusely in my mind, for his mini-heckling session which some students do so naturally, and at just the right moment.  Things settled down mostly from there with me going from student to student stapling booklets, handing out packets of 35 review problems, and wondering to myself how this could have been done better.  Another great experience for my annals of student teaching.

After second period finished, I headed out for my normal restroom run, then headed into the quad since the “Spirit Week” cheering was quite loud.  Turns out, the seniors were up today, and putting on a skit from a compendium of scenes from “Grease.”  They did quiet well, and it was great watching their excitement, and creativity.  While watching, I noticed that the majority of participants were Vietnamese, with few Hispanic students around.  I wondered if it was the same the earlier two days for the freshman and sophomore spirit crews.

Heading back to class, I passed by a group of Hispanic boys, one of whom shouted out “Guero,” Spanish for “blonde-haired person or light-skinned person” then said “Salute,” in English this time, followed by a saluting-like gesture with his left-hand.  Turns out, the sun was blinding me so I had my left hand up to block the sun.  I knew that they were speaking about, and imitating, me, so I whipped around, walked over to them and said if you were going to do a proper salute, you used your right hand, as I demonstrated a proper salute, for a U.S. Army soldier.  They laughed, said “like this?” and used their right hands, to which I said “yes,” smiled and walked away.

As soon as 3rd period started, the last episode for the day started.  The lesson for the day centered on “Simpson’s Paradox,” which was an informative lesson for the students, while I kept cutting papers for 4th period Algebra 1; the fun continued for me all morning.  Since my CT has a decent sense of humor, on the back side of the worksheet, she compared Homer and Bart (Simpson) to further illustrate Simpson’s Paradox for students.  I loved it, as it served as a truly enjoyable end to one that started out too stressful for my preferences.  Let’s hope tomorrow goes more smoothly!

About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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