In which I am successful and I don't like it

Objectively speaking, today was a good day. Unfortunately, I apparently have no idea how to react to good news, so my brain is melting and I’m looking around for ways to mistrust what I should be treating as evidence that I have some idea how to do my job.

My first two classes of the day are seventh graders, and they are working on volume this week. We started with cubes and rectangular solids, moved on to triangular solids, and then started working on cylinders today. Now, in some ways, all of these are fairly simple– there is a reason that “follow the formula” is literally one of my classroom rules, and I allow calculator use any time that the calculation is not the point, and in this case I don’t want an inability to multiply fluently interfering with understanding what three pieces of information you need to calculate the volume of a prism.

Cubes and rectangles and triangles went fine, but in sixteen years I’ve never had a class of math kids that didn’t struggle with cylinders. Once pi comes into the mix, and especially once not only pi is in the mix but radius squared becomes a thing, they start having trouble. They get over it, but kids always need to be monitored carefully while they’re doing cylinder volume for the first time. They screw it up. I’m used to it. It’s okay.

Nope. Both classes sailed through the assignment I gave them, and from watching the class I could tell that damn near all of them understood what they were doing. Just like they’ve sailed through basically every assignment I’ve given them this week. They just aren’t having trouble with this, in a way that I haven’t seen with my previous math classes. And how did I react, to evidence that my students have learned what I have tried to teach them, a fact that in a sane world would make a math teacher happy?

Tomorrow’s assignment is going to include a mix of shapes, because I’m paranoid that what I actually have is an age cohort that has learned to push buttons in the right order but can’t actually figure out which formula they should use if I don’t hand it directly to them. I’m still going to make sure they have access to the formulas they need; I don’t need them to have anything memorized yet– but it’s not going to be a situation where they can use the same formula every time. And we will see if they crater or if they finish this assignment with the same ease that they’ve completed everything else I’ve thrown at them this week.

“But Luther,” you may be thinking, “you used an image related to graphing equations up there! That doesn’t have anything to do with volume! Why would you choose such a misleading graphic?”

Because my 8th graders pulled the exact same shit with working on slope and graphing linear equations this week. Now, I’ve talked about teaching slope on here before— be sure to read the comments, which feature the single most entertaining fight I ever got into in my comments section in the entire history of the blog, including the utterly priceless “you’re lucky you’re Canadian” final comment– and it is something that middle school kids tend to struggle with. The whole thing is weird, really; they’re just getting used to one letter being in their math, and now there are two, and somehow there’s not one right answer but a whole bunch of right answers, and you’re telling me that this equation and this line are the same thing, somehow? Okay, boomer. Sure.

Thing is, my kids have got this this year. In a way that previous groups never have. And part of the reason is definitely that because of the way that the scope and sequence was set up this year I was able to take my time and go piece by piece with it in a way that I haven’t in previous years, but it’s still stunning how well they seem to have absorbed this particular material.

So, again, I don’t trust it a bit, and I expect to go into work tomorrow and discover that they now think you use your feet to add numbers. We shall see. One way or another, Winter Break is six teaching days away, and that means they will forget everything I’ve ever told them in six teaching days plus one minute. But for now? It’s nice to feel like I know what I’m doing.

In which I miss out

There were apparently something on the order of fifteen thousand teachers protesting at the Statehouse in Indianapolis today. Most of the public districts across the state, including mine, cancelled school today when it became clear that it would be utterly impossible to staff the buildings given the number of people taking personal days to attend the protest. I was not personally among them; I know a bunch of people who went, obviously, but given that my mother is currently back in the hospital and the only viable transportation to the protest was by bus (I am not about to fight fifteen thousand extra out-of-towners for parking in downtown Indianapolis) I was deeply leery of being three hours away from home and not actually personally in charge of when I could come back.

So I didn’t go. Which, honestly, is probably for the best; I have Twitter and my blog when I want to talk and/or think about politics, the governor wasn’t there anyway, and I really didn’t need to spend the day in a simmering rage. If I could have had a guarantee that no one would try to talk to me while I was there it might have worked out okay, but that seems unlikely. Instead I stayed home and played with cats and also played the new Star Wars game on my PS4, which is not the most productive use of my day but possibly the most sane.

The new cat’s name might be Dr. Doofenschmirtz, by the way.

In which I am unkilled

I’m in my typical Monday semi-coma, reclining in my recliner (that’s what it’s for) and trying to motivate myself to, like, eat dinner or clean something or read something or do anything but stare at my computer, but the following is still true, and I’d like to take a moment to celebrate it: tomorrow is the last day of the first quarter, meaning I have survived the first quarter of my return to teaching.

If I can make it through the first quarter, I can make it through the first semester. And if I can do that, I can finish the year.

I’m still not sure if I want to do this next year again. I don’t know if this is a “permanent” return or just a single-year thing; we’ll see. But the first quarter didn’t kill me. And right now, I’ll take that.

Proof of life post

In all honesty, the last two days have gone as well as I could possibly have hoped. Better, even, since I never imagined “as well as I’d hoped” to actually be a possibility and therefore they exceeded that impossible barrier.

But I’ve been home for about four and a half hours and I’ve been staring mindlessly at my phone for about 90% of that time, so I may be too tired to string thoughts together coherently at the moment. I’ll try harder tomorrow, I promise.

Final classroom update

… seeing as how school starts tomorrow, for shit’s sake:

The room is basically done, at least on the decor front; there will probably be some more math-related stuff scattered about as the year goes on but what I’ve got is more than enough to get started with. I got the round table I wanted and brought in a single carrel desk, so I feel like the kids have plenty of options for where to sit. We’ll see how it goes; first teacher day is tomorrow and first day with the kids is Thursday. I plan on spending the first two days at least on procedures and getting-to-know-you stuff so no need to worry too much about lesson planning yet.

In other news, this is happening, and are you as excited as I am? Or as excited as I would be, if all of my available emotional energy wasn’t being sidetracked into other things right now? Because I totally feel like if I had any spoons left I’d be burning them on being super excited about this: