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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Andy's LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
10:51 pm
Saturday, March 24th, 2012
11:23 pm
Damn, have I not posted since August?
I guess real life gets in the way of all this online stuff. At least I remembered my password.

Ironically, not much has been happening. Robotics came to an end last semester; administration switched me to a section of pre-calculus, which I'm perfectly happy to teach. After five years doing the same thing, it's nice to stretch a bit.
Saturday, August 20th, 2011
9:08 pm
Summer ticks down.
I've done a lot. Three weeks on the west coast, including a cruise to Alaska. Two one-week AP and pre-AP classes, positioning myself to be senior math teacher in year-after-next. (Rumor has it that senior teacher will be retiring after this year). About a week on the beach, if you add up days. And now I'm doing random web surfing. Here's something that caught my eye, from the land of "somebody's just clicking the first thing on their list without really paying attention..."

Part of http://pleated-jeans.com/2010/11/04/24-more-hilarious-daytime-tv-screen-grabs/
Saturday, January 29th, 2011
9:46 pm
Here's where I'm pissed off at my students.
It sure looks like students have been messing around in my briefcase.
A "missing" packet of work has appeared in it, my teacher guide to the current chapter has vanished, and I now am in the possession of four copies of the city grade 9-10 math assessment as well as two copies of the city exam for English, grade 10.
Saturday, January 22nd, 2011
1:41 pm
Halfway through the year, positioning myself for next ...
Hard to believe! Jan 28th will mark the end of second quarter, and halfway through the school year! The rest will just fly by now, with Feb break knocking a hunk out of second quarter, and spring break similarly disrupting third quarter. And after spring break anyway, it's just downhill until summer and we really don't expect much of the kids.

Classes are the usual hodgepodge. Robotics in particular seems to be a dumping ground again. As an elective with no prerequisites, I get students just sent in to fill a space in their schedule. Many students really don't care at all. On the other hand, I have a few who work diligently all block on the robot kits and almost refuse to leave at the end of class, and two who really seemed to take a shine to my new experimental unit on discrete math. After explaining a simplified version of Dijkstra's algorithm, they really were delighted to find out what was going on under the covers as their GPS navigators announce "Recalculating!"

For next year, my school's being merged with the school downstairs, and I'm assuming I have a job. Robotics may be seeing its last semester, but there's always a need for math teachers. To increase my flexibility, I'm taking a pre-calculus class at Harvard Extension School, in their "Masters for teaching mathematics" program. I really don't need another master's degree, but it's good for me to be stretching! Not too much of a stretch, actually ... looking at the textbook, I know everything in it, although my trig is rusty. And if I pick up a calculus class over the summer, I'll be positioned to teach any part of the high school curriculum next year.
Monday, November 22nd, 2010
7:44 pm
What's happening on Wednesday?
It would be really nice if our principal would inform us about the schedule for Wednesday. Monday's all gone now. Happily, I assumed that nothing meaningful would happen on the early-release day before Thanksgiving, so I planned for a regular lesson today and tests on Tuesday. I'm Xeroxed and ready to go. On Wednesday, maybe we'll have regular classes. There was talk -- but no decision -- about a school-wide makeup day on Wednesday. Could be an assembly. Maybe I'll show movies. What's happening 68 hours from now? Nobody knows.

Given that he expects us to have our full week of lessons planned in when we walk into school at 7:10 AM on Monday morning, it's a little frustrating that now ... at 8:00 PM on Monday night ... I still don't know if I'll be holding classes on Wednesday.
Monday, October 25th, 2010
8:09 pm
Refinance time!
Hurray! I've just closed on a refinance for the house ... 4% fixed, for 15 years. Between lowering the interest rate and extending the time of the loan, this means a couple hundred dollars in our collective pockets which can go to a hypothetical House 2 as Eva gets bigger ... and we consider school systems. :-/
Saturday, October 9th, 2010
5:13 pm
More last-minute time-wasting mandates.
So I've just discovered that our school will be giving the PSAT to all sophomores and juniors on Wednesday morning, and freshmen will be attending an assembly. This clobbers three-quarters of the school for three out of five periods on Wednesday. Adding to the confusion of what was already a shortened week due to Columbus day, the Wednesday and Friday schedules will be switched.

I shudder for anybody who doesn't read their school email in the middle of a three-day weekend and will only discover this on Tuesday.
Monday, September 6th, 2010
7:35 pm
Setting the alarm clock for 5:30 AM.
And here we go, for the first day of school. Sort of. One teacher planning day, then students on Wednesday, for what will probably be mostly an extended homeroom and paperwork. Two "real" potential days of school on Thursday and Friday; I'll do introductions and group activities on Thursday and a diagnostic test on Friday. I'm teaching the same classes again ... two sections of Algebra 2, two robotics classes. I have no idea who's going to be in them, but at least all the material is familiar.

I feel like I'm in the groove now. A few years out, that groove will become a rut, I'm sure, but for now I'm very happy to be in a comfortable place.

180 5:30 AM wakeups until next summer!
Sunday, August 22nd, 2010
8:11 pm
Language development in a 2-year-old
I've just heard my daughter say, "I wanna see the monkeys fly outta daddy's butt!"
Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
7:22 pm
So this is what it's like to have a "real" job!
How pleasant. I haven't really been a "teacher" for the last few days. I still get up at an obscene hour every day (5:30) and go in to work, but when I go home, my time is my own and work doesn't follow me. Last week, you see, was finals week. All I had to do was grade the open-response part of the algebra test, which I got done on Monday. I proctored other finals for Tuesday and Wednesday. Then an oddball Boston-only holiday on Thursday, and makeup day on Friday. And with finals done, almost no students are coming into school any more. So I'm just cleaning up my classroom.

The school has acknowledged this .. tomorrow and Thursday we're taking two days of full-day training for teaching to ELL students. But then we still have Friday and Monday the 28th (!!) looming ahead. What a waste of time. I have one personal day left; I'll try to deploy it for Monday.

How come the BPS schedules final exams for over a week before the end of school? What do they expect us to do with the time? It happens every year but the gap is especially egregious this year, because of the two snow days we need to "make up."

And after next week, hurray, we're on vacation!
Sunday, June 6th, 2010
3:43 pm
Counting down the last few days
Our last day of school is nominally Monday, June 28th, but students will stop showing up at least a week before that. Those snow days pushed our last day from the 24th to the 28th...And WHO, students and teachers alike, will be showing up for a half-day on a Monday when we were already supposed to be on vacation??

I'm giving my senior final tomorrow for Algebra, and my full-class city final next Monday, a week later. It's going to be administered online, for the first time ever, and the teachers won't have a chance to look at it beforehand. I suppose that's part of the "keeping teachers accountable", or some such buzzphrase. And with the juniors taking the "Accu-Placer" test on Friday, I really only have three teaching days remaining this year. I'll cover arithmetic and geometric series; students typically like discovering that they can add all the numbers from 1 to 100 in their heads!

But, you might ask, with the final on June 14th, and the last day of school on the 28th, what do we do with the students for the extra two weeks?? Well, finals for science, humanities, and electives will occupy three more days. Bunker Hill day clobbers a fourth. Make-up work and extra credit posters will take a few days. And movies.

Wow. Really, I only have three more lessons to plan, a few dozen tests to grade, and then I can wander through the last of the year in a zombie-like daze.

Much as the students are already doing...
Sunday, May 16th, 2010
3:41 pm
Three weeks?? YIKES!
We have word from downtown on when we should do finals. The city math final will be administered on-line for the first time this year, and it needs to be between the dates of June 7th to the 15th. That means ... YIKES! ... that I have three weeks (at most, four) to go between now and the city final. And I have three chapters still to cover! One per week? I'll do my best....

I was keeping up with last year's pace until spring break, which I thought was impressive given that last year's periods were an hour-and-twenty, and this year's are roughly an hour. But following break, we started going way off schedule. Is there something in chapter 8 which causes problems? Seems like that one went really slowly.

Last day of school is June 24th; no word on what downtown wants us to do with students in the week-and-a-half between the final and the end of the year. Probably show a lot of movies!

But for today, I'm going over the last three years worth of final exams, seeing what they consider important, and picking-and-choosing presentations from previous years which will cover the material. That much at least I can get done in three weeks. And I'd better toss another test in there, too, in addition to the senior final. (Senior finals are June 3-8 and for the most part, I can't wait to be rid of them!)
Saturday, May 1st, 2010
9:48 pm
Our caffinated baby
This was cute. We were getting drinks at Dunkin Donuts for Open Studios ... a fruit coolada for me and a coffee with milk for Spedgrad. Eva evidently heard her order, because she suddenly (and loudly and clearly) shouted "Milk!"

So we got her a bottle of milk, and a styrofoam Dunkin Donuts cup with a travel top to drink it from, which made a dandy improvised sippy cup. And let me tell you, she got a few double-takes as she toured Open Studios apparently drinking a cup of coffee!
Saturday, April 17th, 2010
7:55 am
On vacation now!
Hurray! And I actually had good turnout,and motivated students, for my last day of classes, which is surprising! Considering that it was 1) the last day before vacation, 2) it was rainy, and 3) our students appear to be made out of sugar, and melt in the rain.

I can't be rid of my seniors soon enough. The ones in algebra aren't too bad, because they know they need the class to graduate, but mine in robotics are horrid. They celebrate any excuse for failure.

"Mister, I can't do the project because I don't know my password and can't log in."
"You've been here four years and don't know your password? Go find Mr. X and get it".
(Time passes)
"Mister, I couldn't find him. And now class is over."
(The next day)
"Mister, I can't do the project because I came late and the laptop carts were closed".
"Use this freshman laptop"
"But then I'll lose all the work I did on my laptop. Can't I do it tomorrow?"

And their behavior wouldn't be accepted in an elementary classroom. Two girls get into top-of-their-lungs screaming matches, and one periodically gets angry enough to throw and break things. (Like one of my 6, now 5, robots) Two boys got into a wrestling match, and one actually picked the other one up. One sings lyrics like "Face down, ass up, that's the way we like to fuck". I send them out of the room, with a writeup ... they're back the next class for Algebra. Instead of gone for the day and suspended.

The freshmen, on the other hand, are bright-eyed and honestly excited about using laptops to program the robots. They scored 10 points higher on the last quiz, and the vast majority completed the programming project and the lab report on time.

There's something about this school which demotivates students. Our principal is resigning; maybe the new one will rule with an iron fist instead of an empty velvet glove.
Saturday, April 10th, 2010
5:31 am
One week to go before spring vacation. I've just charted out what I'm doing, day-by-day, in each of my classes. And then, after vacation, it's just coasting to summer. With the distractions of prom, graduation, field trips and the sundry other activities, the last quarter of the year is only about two-thirds the length of any other quarter.

I have a number of students who, mathematically, cannot pass the class for the year. If their average isn't too horrible, I can at least entice them with summer school, which requires a 55% for the year. But for those who have been consistently such screwups for the previous three-quarters of the year that they can't make it up to 55%, I have a problem. They've been disruptive all year long, and they'll get worse now. They recognize they're going down, and they want to bring the rest of the class with them. Yes, I can spend five or ten minutes each day dealing with their behavior, and getting them out of the class, but wouldn't it be better if they just didn't show up at all? Sadly, yes.

And, although I know it's against everything I've been trained for as an urban teacher, I find myself giving a little internal cheer every day one of these bozos decides to cut class.
Tuesday, March 9th, 2010
10:21 am
Discipline problems at the school.
It develops that our students' lack of discipline is leaking over into the other schools in the building. Our students skip class with impunity, wander where they're not supposed to be, linger in the halls and disrupt other schools.

I've stopped writing students up; there's no followthrough on any complaints. And this isn't just me; many other teachers are complaining about the same thing. We don't have any consequences for misbehavior; our "disciplinarian"s office is a fun place to hang out, with snacks, and there are no detentions unless we (the teachers) individually stay in our classrooms after school or during lunch.

Exam schools are looking better and better, except that I've gotten myself into a groove here, and can essentially just keep hitting the space bar on my Algebra 2 powerpoints. It's not too demanding, and it's stable.
Sunday, January 31st, 2010
12:51 pm
Checkpoint, midway through the year
Wow! Hard to believe that we're halfway through the school year! Grades closed on Friday. And what with feb break, spring break, prom and the zillion other distractions of the end of the school year, it's all downhill from here to June.


Big change this year, going to five blocks instead of four. All classes shrank from 1:20 to about an hour. But, not surprisingly, I'm ahead of where I was this time last year with algebra, and test scores are matching last year's scores. That extra 0:20 was clearly wasted time anyway ... beyond the attention span of high school students ... and just led to student behavior problems. So everybody's teaching four classes instead of three, and extra paperwork and grading comes with that. But I've been doing this long enough that it's not really a problem.

I've done okay with the two robotics classes. It's been a challenge, because I only had enough VEX kits for one class, so I had to stagger projects and rearrange material for the two classes so that they took turns with the kits. But now that I'm switching into software for the second half of the year, I can start running the same lesson for both classes ... provided I get their laptops all set up with MinGW and the programming software for the Creates. Which I should be doing right about now.

Culture of the school ...

We have discipline problems. The students randomly mill around in the hallways, don't go to class, and don't go to detention. There's no school-wide policy enforced about behavior, and no followthrough for student mis-behavior, unless the teachers do it themselves. Evidently ... and this is complete rumor at this point ... subs coming to the building most dislike doing their time in our quadrant, because the students have the most behavior problems. Other schools have, for example, a staffed detention block after school, with a list of who's supposed to be there, and calls home if they don't show up. Do we? No.

My eventual goal is to get myself into one of the exam schools. The O'Bryant math-and-science school would be the most likely, I expect. It's "low man" on the three-school totem pole, but the students would be a world ahead of the ones here. I consider my time in West Roxbury to be plugging in my hours and sharpening my skills until I'm ready for an exam school. I'm not likely to switch to the suburbs; I can retire after ten years in the BPS, and I'm already a third of the way there. Damn!
Monday, December 21st, 2009
3:14 pm
From freshmen to seniors, and then to ... who knows!
Remember four years ago, when I was trying to get some students into the MIT SEED program? http://hauntmeister.livejournal.com/258743.html

One of them got in, and he's kept with it for the last four years. I'm now writing his college recommendation letter; he's one of the top students I've ever met, and he's shooting for the top ... Harvard is on his application list. (It would be nice if Yale were in there, but I won't be disappointed with Harvard. :-)

Four years in one school is nice. The students I first met as freshmen are now starting to look at the end of their senior year, and of high school. Who knows where they will wind up? Some, I'm sure, in jail. Some are already there. Many working honest if unexciting jobs, a few as managers of Dunkin Donuts or a Burger King, and maybe one at Harvard or MIT, and then to change the world. Starting from food stamps and free lunches.

If you watched "So you think you can dance?", you would have seen Russell take the prize of "America's favorite dancer". He went through BAA, the Boston Arts Academy, my internship school. I didn't know him, but I know the teachers and classes he would have taken. And he was a street dancer in Roxbury.

It's nice to see that the American public education system can have its share of successes, and on occasion provide talented young people, no matter how rough or impoverished their situation, the opportunity to rise to the level of their true ability.
Monday, December 7th, 2009
7:25 pm
Counting down to Christmas break...
So we're done with the longest single stretch of school ... now we just hopscotch from one vacation to another until school is over for the summer! This will be a particularly gratifying year for me; the students I first met as freshmen are now graduating. There's so much potential in these young people ... if only it were fully realized instead of being dissipated or disrupted.
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