Friday, August 19, 2016

Email Inbox

My inbox brings me the entire range of emotions.   I open my device (any one of 3 three things I cannot seem to detach myself from for longer than 20 minutes) and impatiently wait for the little number to appear.  How many will it be today?  I have three accounts.  A general one and two work accounts.  Depending on how long I have ignored the growing inboxes, I can have a handful of emails or nearly a hundred by the end of business.

My general account has basically become an onslaught of notifications sprinkled with business's begging for my money.  Rarely is there a good find in the general account.  I keep promising myself I will unsubscribe to the numerous websites I no longer want to hear from again.  I keep telling myself to change my Facebook settings.  However, neither gets done.  I will forever see Jo-Ann trying to craft her way back into my life with enticing coupons I will never use.  My general mailbox is now a game of fast can I swipe and delete all these unnecessary distractions without deleting the Amazon tracking your package emails.  On a good day, I clean out my general inbox in under 15 seconds. I will unsubscribe. One. Day.  Just not today.

My community college email account usually only holds a dozen gems a week.  Notifications from the department chair or a few questions by a student here and there.  Again, though, I need to unsubscribe to news feed the community college sends on a daily basis.  A few minutes of my time, a few clicks here, a few setting changes there and I would have an efficient inbox once again.  But, just in case I might want to know the last time the school updated their internet sourcing or when the parking lot on the campus on the other side of town might be paved, I have not changed my settings.  So, it too, like my general email inbox is just a daily practice of deleting as fast as I can.

It is my third email account that keeps me hopping.  This email is for my main job.  The one that is attached to me teaching high school math, principaling the summer school program, and coaching teachers through technology.  The one that can have 45 emails added to it daily.  Very little junk mail in this one.  It is stream lined.  No, Red Robin, you can't offer me 1/2 off lunch in this account.  I have daily posts from the bloggers I follow in secret and admire for their ability to blog nearly every day.  I have posts from teachers, attendance, students, parents, district announcements, etc.  Some emails bring me great joy.  My former student is now teaching math with me!  Joyous occasion!!!!  Some bring sad news.  A coworker of mine who has had a family member pass away.  Some bring me great pride in my job.  A thank you from a former student/parent.  And some simply break my heart.  I'm sorry I am missing your class today.  My mom is too drunk to drive me to school.

That last one was in my inbox today.  I had to hold back my tears.  I just want to hug the student and slap the parent.  I am thankful the student is safe, and disgusted and angry at the parent.

Some days it's good to have lots of emails to balance out the good from bad.  And in the time it took to write this post, I have received 27 emails in my three inboxes.  Starbucks is teasing me with a new bonus game while there has been yet another internet update at the college.  I await my student's next reply.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


It's been a long first semester.  It's not even over yet.  But I sit here in my empty classroom during my prep and realize how good it's been.  I'm thankful to find the joy in teaching, again.  My students are extremely awesome this year.  My joy is from their joy of being in my class (even when they don't want to be).  I have students in the past who have made into my hall of fame book for special classes.  I have been blessed they have chosen to forge a friendship after graduation.  And the former students always ask, "How are your classes this year?  Anything like our class?"  It's been a dry spell in the classroom, but this year my answer can be "Oh, yeah!  Not as good as yours, but right up there!"

I laugh with my students.  I cry with them.  I celebrate with them.  And will genuinely miss them school year when they have moved on to the next teacher.  They care for each other.  They work in groups and take care of one another.  They get on each other's case for not finishing homework.  And a few have called me "Mom".  It's a badge I wear proudly.  My classes feel like home instead of the 53 minute torture chamber.

So I have lots to be thankful for this season.  I hope you do as well!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kids love doing math on Saturdays

Today, I held my first Saturday Study Session of the year.  Yup, 2.5 weeks into the school year.  And you know what?  I had 13 kids show up to talk about math in a meaningful way.  We talked about their need to improve upon their skills of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.  But then I forced them to do it on the calculator.  I know there are teachers out there who are screaming because I allowed them the use of the technology.  BUT, I am getting them to think at a higher level because I am not holding them back on previous skills.  And, they are buying into it. <evil laughter here... muhahaha>  They are tired of getting bad grades when they know the concepts, but their skills are weak.  Don't worry, I still do work on improving their skills at arithmetic.  We will keep shooting for higher understanding and improve their foundation at the same time.

When they left an hour later, they all thanked me.  I even had a parent come in to personally thank me and another email me.  I secretly hope that math has now become their favorite course this year.

Now... I need to figure out how to help the other 20 that really should have been here too.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

So, a Polish exchange student walks into a math class...

First and foremost, I am having the time of my life in my math classroom right now.  I am teaching 4 sections of Algebra 2, one section of AP Calculus, and one section of AP Stats.  I am being spoiled with having nearly all juniors and seniors, which make for much more mature discussions.  It's not all easy, though.  There is still the undercurrent of students who trip daily over understanding that going from -1 on the number line to 8 is 9, not 7.

  This is not going to stop me from being overjoyed with what is happening in my room.

I am a few days ahead of some of the other teachers and needed to slow down and needed to catch some students up.  We just finished a lesson yesterday on writing an equation of a line in a slight variation of the point slope form (y = m(x - x1) +y1).  Some kids have fallen through the cracks and needed attention.  Today, instead of pressing forward into our next lesson, we stayed put and focused on the homework that I was collecting.  Today, they presented the problems in groups from the front of the room with the document camera.  The students had the first 10 minutes of class to work in their groups to look over the entire worksheet and fill in the gaps with each other.  In the past, this has been a classroom management nightmare for me.  The kids, in the past, would just copy the one person's paper and zero to little conversation extended past, "hey, let me copy what you have for number 6."  Today, that was NOT the case.

In one class, Jimmy says to his group, "I just started and I am behind.  I don't remember any of this, but I am willing to try.  Can anyone explain the first one to me and let me try the next to see if I get it correct?"  One of his groupmates responded, "Sure, we will all help you.  It wasn't easy at first for any of us, but we are finally getting it when we work together."  HOLY FREAKING COW!!!!

In another hour, a group that sat in the back noticed a girl in the front was alone today due to the absences of her groupmates.  They asked if for today, they could have the other girl with them so she could have someone to discuss the math with.  BAM!!

Other things I heard from allowing them to work together:

  • You mean, that is all I have to do?  Oh, man this is easy now.  Thanks for helping me.
  • Dude, look!  The constant rate of change is always delta y over delta x.  You know, the change in y divided by the change in x?
  • So, if we want to find the length of the candle at 5 hours, plug 5 into the x spot here and do the numbers.

Then, came time for them to explain it to the class.  After first class's miserable experience, I adjusted the rules for the remainder of the day.
1.  All group members go to the front and everyone must share an explanation.
2.  Mistakes are okay.  In fact, I am praying for some mistakes to be made so we can talk about them.
3.  All explanations must be of quality.  I don't want, "I took this and put it here and got that" (arm motions involved).  Use complete thoughts.  I took the constant rate of change and plugged into the formula for m...

I was floored by the kids!!!  They were awesome.  We celebrated the easy right answers and found mistakes and shared how to fix them.  We even helped a group get through a problem on which they didn't have a clue.  The struggling students starting catching on to the content.  The middle of the road kids gained confidence.  And the eagle readers of the group shared their knowledge with the others.   They left a little bit more confident in their understandings of a linear function.

But the best part.... during the last class of the day... I inherited a foreign exchange student from Poland who was finding the Honors Algebra 2 class too difficult with the language barrier and joined me sometime last week. Allie pulled me aside and said, "Mrs. Berg, I know I know how to do this problem and that it is right.  I just don't know if I can explain it all in English."  My response, "Well, do you want to say it all in Polish?  I think that would be REALLY cool!!"  Allie, "Really?  Okay.  I will.  Thank you."

Even though I could barely understand exactly what she was saying (let's be honest... I only understand when she said 'delta'), her explanation with pointing and her work was dead on!  And the kids were so involved with what she was saying, they too understood what she was doing!!  So, a polish exchange student walks into a math class and teaches the problem in her native tongue and students could still understand it!

Is it Friday?!?!?!  Because it sure feels like my weekend arrived early!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Statistically speaking...

Ever teach a class blind?

That is how I feel I am teaching AP Stats this year.  It is a new prep for me, as well as a new class at our school.  I am the only one teaching it at my school.  There are only 10 students in the class.  I love it and I hate it.  I feel like I am just keeping up with the material.  This is not unexpected.  I knew going into this, it would be difficult.  I just never imagined the material would make any sense until I had to teach the Stats Unit for Algebra 1.
I am truly in awe of how the mathematics connect.  There are lessons I teach that teach me something more about the beauty behind the math.  I count on it every year.  It's a perk of teaching.  Well, last week it hit me while driving home.  Algebra to AP Stats.  Who knew?  I look forward to seeing what else I can connect this year.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why do I blog? Why haven't I for almost a year?

Okay.  I have been motivated as previously posted to start blogging again.  Here is an excerpt from Kate Nowak's blog that has been rolling around in my brain since she posted it.  Damn you, Kate.  Well, okay, it should be more like "THANK YOU, KATE"!

From Kate's blog:
Ahem. If you would, comment on this post and share with me some things:
1. What hooked you on reading the blogs? Was it a particular post or person? Was it an initiative by the nice MTBoS folks? A colleague in your building got you into it? Desperation?
2. What keeps you coming back? What's the biggest thing you get out of reading and/or commenting?
3. If you write, why do you write? What's the biggest thing you get out of it?
4. If you chose to enter a room where I was going to talk about blogging for an hour (or however long you could stand it), what would you hope to be hearing from me? MTBoS cheerleading and/or tourism? How-to's? Stories?

1.  I started reading other people's blogs about math two summers ago right before they had their Twitter Math Camp.  I was jealous I couldn't go.  They seemed like so much fun and full of great ideas.  It really started with getting a twitter account and following Dan Meyer.  I saw who followed him and followed his followers.  That's where and when it all started.  Then, I was inspired to start a blog.  I had no intention of anyone reading it.  I still don't.  It is really for my own thoughts.  I hope to encourage myself with my successes and revamp my teaching through my failures.  Then there was the initiative to post on my blog once a week.  I made some good connections with others.

2.  Humor keeps me coming back.  Frankness of others keeps me coming back.  Success of others ideas and just reading what others are doing (because I am nosy like that) keep my eyes glued to the email box for when new posts are available to read.  I don't usually comment because usually has said it much better than I could and posted the comment 30 seconds before I could.  I know it's not a race to comment.  My 4 favorite bloggers in no particular order:  Kate Nowak, Dan Meyer, Matt Vaudrey, and Sarah Hagan.  By the way... Sarah Hagan rocks it!!!  She's a brand new freakin' teacher and has it going ON!!!  I would like to hire her for my school.  I would like to hire all the above people to teach at my school.  It would be my teaching fantasy line up!!!

3.  The biggest thing I get from blogging is relief.  I can empty my thoughts onto paper, well okay screen, and not have to have swirling around in my mind any longer.  The biggest reason I haven't continued blogging is time.  I am so freakin' busy.  That is not a valid excuse anymore.

4.  I would go into a room just to hear Kate read from the phone book.  I am not a stalker, I swear.  I might have a little math crush going on with her though.  Mostly because she reminds me of a dear teacher friend of mine who was so influential to me and my teaching.  I aspire to be a teacher like her.  I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee or tea or a beer with her.  I have lots to still learn and lots I can still learn from her and her blog.

I have lots more to do tonight.  I at least have this done.  My evaluation by my new principal is tomorrow.  I am sure I will have some reflections to share.

Almost a year

I would like to blame my lack of blogging on lots of things.  But, the blame is all on me.  I need to carve out the time.  And being inspired by Kate Nowak about just needing to get back to blogging.  I have been on the perimeter of the MboS looking in and wondering what it would be like to jump in feet first... Much like a little kid being prodded by their parents to jump into the pool.  Here I am again, testing the temperature with my toe.

Three, two, one...

And it's time to load up my children into the car, get them to school, and then get myself to school.  And alas, the firewall at school does not allow me to write there.  I shall continue this tonight.  I need to answer some questions that Kate posted on her website almost a week ago... but they keep spiraling in my mind.  And this is my first clue I need to start writing and get them out.