Breakfast Club, Literally

Two weeks ago, I served my third session supervising Saturday school detention.  When I arrived, the other two teachers and I separated students into three groups.  In my past two sessions, my group consisted primarily of juniors, both male and female.  This time, one group of freshman, sophomores, and juniors filled up one teacher’s classroom leaving sixty plus seniors between the other teacher and myself.  He asked me if I was OK splitting the remaining students along gender lines, to which I replied yes.  For some reason, I requested the boys, and a testosterone laden morning followed.

Upon arriving in my classroom, taking role, and queuing up a DVD movie: Narnia, boys started asking if they could order food for delivery to the school.  When teaching, I never allow something as absurd as students ordering food to eat in class, except for Pizza Pi Day recently, or when offering after-school SAT prep, or similar late, into the evening; brains need fuel.  However, supervising Saturday school provided the opportunity to explore student behavior on the edge of standard expectations, for students and for me.

Hence, Mr. Math Teacher proceeded where he never ventured before, and perhaps few other teachers.  I permitted students to phone in orders for breakfast skillets, pancakes, and scrambles from local eateries.  Fortunately, I knew a few of the more popular and influential athletes, which helped keep behavior in check much of the morning while food deliveries started flowing into my classroom.  In some ways, I am not sure who was more surprised I consented to their requests, the boys or me!

As Ferris Bueller opined: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Bueller - Life moves pretty fast...

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8 Tips for Arguing about Education

Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher:

Excellent essay!

Originally posted on Filling the pail:

Have you ever been involved in a disagreement on social media about education? If so, good for you. There is a large amount of education discourse out there that centres around the amplification of views. Quotes are shared that are misattributed to Einstein or W B Yeats and everyone retweets them. It’s a bit like the education version of sharing cat photos.

So you’ve moved on from that. You are a critical thinker who wants to learn. I am a learner too. I have been involved in this for a while and have prompted some disagreement. So I offer some advice.

1. Just because someone disagrees with you it doesn’t mean they are evil

I know that this is an obvious point but this acts as an unconscious bias. I think that it is particularly acute in education. Most teachers are in this business because we care deeply about what we do…

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Earning One’s Stripes As a Teacher

Is it passe to expect new teacher’s today to earn their stripes before they receive their preferred course assignments?  Am I small-minded for expecting a new, probationary teacher to do so before they are rewarded with choice course assignments? In my specific situation, are there other factors behind how I feel about this matter?

My quick answers:  I do not think so; perhaps; and, yes, in that order.

First, some background.

As some of my readers may know, I am a second-career mathematics teacher approaching the end of my fourth year.

In my first year, I taught three “preps:” algebra 1 (three sections), AP Calculus AB (one section), and a non-AP calculus course (one section); there is a huge back-story regarding the non-AP calculus course.

In my second year, I had three preps once again: algebra intervention (one section), algebra 1 (two sections), and AP Calculus AB (two sections).

In my third year, I had two preps to begin the year: algebra 1 (three sections) and AP Calculus AB (two sections); however, halfway I split each of my algebra 1 sections into two sections, one algebra 1 (see results) and the other algebra intervention (see results), which gave me three preps, and eight sections total.

This year, I have two preps: honors precalculus (three sections) and AP Calculus AB (two sections).

I end each year nearly fully depleted, as I put my heart and soul and every ounce of energy I possess into teaching; it drains me.

In these past four years, I believe I earned my stripes.  And then some.

A first year teacher may have earned a single stripe.  I earned one, maybe two my first year, but nowhere near enough to claim the right to teach a course of my preference.  Heck, for that matter, I do not think I was even asked what I wanted to teach…

Now, a first year teacher, still probationary for another year wishes to teach higher level courses: accelerated algebra 2 and precalculus, without having earned their stripes, much less permanent status.  As someone who spent most of his early life in and around the military, I view institutions as having rank structures, even education: witness assistant professor, associate professor, and professor in higher education.  While high school does not distinguish between their faculty in such a fashion, they do have the probationary versus permanent bifurcation.  And, the traditionalist in me cries out for the probationary person to hold their official wishes in abeyance, until they cross the threshold into permanent status, having earned their stripes.

Adding insult to injury, this specific individual ended up being selected by the API over me to teach the summer course I taught last year.  What the API does not know is his ruse of an interview process fell apart after I learned from the new teacher that the API, in essence, anointed the new teacher a priori.  Oh, well.  As I mentioned in a recent post, the API views me with disdain, as I rocked the boat while improving our department’s instruction for honors precalculus to a level where my AP Calculus AB students next year will struggle less than my prior four year’s cohorts; of this, I am sure.  However, it was too high of a price to pay for the API, so I am on his naughty list.

I guess that is the price to pay when you earn your stripes.  It is a shame, however, that someone who improves the outcomes for students, but ruffled a few feathers doing so, is held in such low regard.  I need to find a “how to be politically correct” supplement on the vitamin shelves. Or, stop whining and embrace the suck as many of my classmates needed to do for their time serving our country overseas.

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