Year One

Harry

I don’t have favorite students, because I’ve been told I’m not allowed, but if I did, which I definitely don’t, it would be this kid.

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Year One

YouTube

Because it was the last week of school, and the youths argue when I make them do math this late in the year, I recently had a class session that was 100% devoted to us watching a series of YouTube videos I think are great. ENJOY!

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Year One

Adulting

Evidence that I might actually be an adult:

  1. I did my own taxes, including the ones I had to ~mail~ to DC.
  2. I floss regularly (because my teeth are decaying but whatevs).
  3. I listen to AND LOVE podcasts.

…more to come maybe hopefully…

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Year One

A Brief Rant

I am frustrated. Testing season just ended, and we’re making plans for next year, and, well, I just think everyone’s priorities are in the wrong places. I know that we have made mistakes in the past (like sticking juniors in algebra I), but I see and believe that the future is an incredible opportunity for change to be made. Please allow to rant about this now, and please read the (boring) previous post that gives some context to why I’m freaking out.

When it comes to decisions at my school, the critical factor considered is, “how will this impact EOC scores?”. EOC stands for end of course test, and there are four given in high school: Algebra I, English I, Biology, and U.S. History. I don’t know all the facts, but I’m assuming that EOC pass rates somehow turn into the basis of state/district funding.

This year, we had a block schedule, meaning four 90-minute blocks per day, and all your classes change at the semester. You might have history, English, music, and driver’s ed in the fall, and then math, science, Spanish, and P.E., in the spring. OH – except for the EOC classes. EOC >>>> everything else. Therefore, EOC classes are year-round. Calculus is a semester class, but Algebra I is year-round. All of chemistry is covered in a semester, but they get a year for biology.

This is particularly problem-creating at a small school like mine, where there are only two history teachers. If we’re sticking all of the junior class in U.S. history year-round, that takes up all possible class offerings for one history teacher. The other three grades are left to the other teacher. Therefore, as you can expect, most freshmen/sophomores take only one semester of history prior to their all-important-history-EOC-year. Therefore, as you can expect, they don’t do so hot on the history EOC. The average score last year was a 66 (uh, out of 100). How can you do well on the U.S. history EOC in 11th grade if the last time you talked about WWII or the Civil War was in 8th grade?

OK: so this problem that I’ve outlined above with history, it’s not just a problem for the history department. It hits hard in science and math. That critical emphasis on STEM? No. You can’t take physics. If in 7th grade someone decides that you’re not smart enough, you can’t take calculus or precalculus when you get to be in 11th or 12th grade. You go from geometry to algebra 2 to probability and statistics. Your chances of doing well on the ACT drop significantly because of a decision that was made for you (probably by someone who doesn’t even teach at the school anymore) when you were 13.

This is something I want to fix. I want everyone to graduate having taken and passed calculus. If you make it the expectation, they’ll meet you there. There’s tons of evidence that proves that it’s not that they can’t do the work academically, it’s that no one makes it an option. My solution is to have regular-tracked students double up on math their sophomore year, taking geometry one semester, and algebra 2 the next.

This gets tricky because, just like with history, we have one math teacher dedicated to teaching *just* algebra I. Therefore, between the other math teacher and myself, we teach every other math course. This just barely worked out this year – we both had 5 preps. I had three last semester, and two this semester. Normal is 1 prep. Tolerable is 2 preps. Death is 3 preps. We only survived because our 5 total preps were spread out over two semesters.

Next year? Oh, we’re switching to an AB schedule. Oh, we’ll have a 50%+ teacher turnover rate. Oh, there’s also talk that in 2016-2017 the high school is closing to become an elementary school. Oh, IT’S A HOT MESS.

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Year One

HBD

I do not know what I expected of my students on my birthday. I was just hoping it meant that they wouldn’t argue with me for the day. I put a countdown on my board, because I’d heard of another teacher doing something similar and I thought it was a cute idea. I did not, in a million years, expect this:

Nobody likes you when you're 23.

A post shared by Rachael Abram (@rsabram) on

They planned a surprise party for me in my pretend-boyfriend’s (another story for another day) classroom. They had a smorgasbord of sweets, centered around a giant cake that said, “Happy Birthday Ms. Abram.” When I walked in, they yelled surprise, and hit play on a playlist that covered all the hits from Stacy’s Mom to What Makes You Beautiful. After I cut the cake, and turned to enjoy it, two of my favorites slammed their slices all over me. I couldn’t even be mad at them, because they had organized the whole party. They swear it’s a tradition, but I hope they know that just that means that I’ll be shoving cake into their faces when their birthdays roll around next year.

I have the best (or maybe worst?) students in the whole world.

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Year One

Math & Your Future

Real quick: two important facts about math and student outcomes.  

  • “The students taking the core plus Trigonometry outscored the core-curriculum takers by 2.6 points; the students taking core, Trigonometry, and an upper-level mathematics course outscored the core-takers by 4.4 points; and the students taking the core plus Trigonometry and Calculus outscored the core-takers by 6.9 points.” [on the ACT, which is scored out of 36]
  • “Our statistical analyses predict that taking a richer math curriculum in high school does indeed increase both the probability of graduating from college and earnings about a decade after the end of high school.”

Sources: ACT Crisis at the Core Report & Math Matters: The Link Between High School Curriculum, College Graduation and Earnings

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Year One

We Like Sportz

Sports are not my thing. I ran/walked a half-marathon once, but that’s the only time I’ve demonstrated some kind of athletic skill. As a child, I remember asking my dad if I could bring a book into the Jags game (98% sure he said no), and the only times I was excited to go to one of my brother’s baseball games was when I got to work the concession stand.

However, sports are (basically) the only extracurricular offered at my school. So if I want to show my kids that I love them and that I care about their non-academic lives, my options are church or a basketball game. In the fall, I attended almost every football game (primarily because it was an excuse to stay after-school on a Friday and lesson plan). I hit up a good portion of the basketball games, but they were long (JV and varsity often played on the same night), and boring (imho), and it was difficult to grade papers in the stands.

CUE baseball/softball season. It was the first year we’ve had softball team, and the fourth year for our zero-win-streak baseball team. Between the two teams, it covered my top three bff/favorite teachers and also a handful of my favorite students. Obviously, I was going to attend all the games.

The games were fantastic/hysterical. Example A: two boys literally crashed into each other in the outfield trying to make a catch. I never been more proud than when they made it to the end of game, instead of getting cut off by the mercy rule.

At the end of the season, the baseball team had a celebratory dinner at Pizza Hut. Myself, along with the softball coach (also TFA and also my source of sanity this year), were invited. I brought paper and markers, and the coaches and I sat at the back table coming up with awards/superlatives for each of the boys – “most likely to complain through the whole game, “most likely to Instagram from the outfield,” “dazed and confused,” etc. I also wrote awards for the coaches (most likely to curse out a ref) for the captains to present to them. It was beautiful.

Afterwards, the boys turn to me and the softball coach, knowing we wrote all the awards, and asked why we didn’t give ourselves an award for most supportive. “Really? You want me to sit here and write myself an award!?” “Oh! No, here give us some paper we’ll make them.” Five minutes pass, and this is what they return with-

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“He wrote Ms. Abram’s first, and she had #1 Fan, so I couldn’t give you #1 Fan too.”


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