Day 49: The One with General Sherman


October is a wonky month. I vaguely recall one planning period 2 years ago where I spent a lot of time googling General Sherman, a giant tree. We wrote a reading guide about it to illustrate the idea of the y-intercept. As it turns out, I rather enjoy it 2 years later, especially the part where I got to draw trees on everyone’s paper and underline and annotate answers. 

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Day 48: The One Where We Explain Slope to Each Other


We’re heavily borrowing structures and curriculum from the last time we taught this course 2 years ago and I’m totally OK with that. One of those structures is the Explain to Each Other where students try to solve a problem and then explain it to a group with a different problem. The emphasis today is on finding the slope in a linear equation, given an equation and the option to make a table and a graph.img_20161024_084234What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Day 47: The One with the Slope Triangles


We rotate the kiddos through stations, where they take different linear graphs and calculate the slope. We are challenged at every turn by trouble reading graphs – are we counting numbers or squares? We start to make connections between different-sized slope triangles on the same line.

img_20161021_083712What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Day 46: The One with the Waterfall


Curriculum Partner and I try to think of a classroom structure where kiddos can work together, but have some control over their pacing while dealing with a subject (slope and slope triangles) that some have seen and know well while some others just need to practice. We decide on homogenous groups where kiddos can move at their own pace and where sometimes skip students on to more challenging problems.

When We Patent* Our Curriculum, we will refer to this as “the Waterfall”. It will make us millions.

Photo: Slope calculations, thinking and an artistic pencil sharpening.2016-10-20-09-10-08What do you notice? What do you wonder?

*We will never patent a curriculum. But if we did…

Day 45: The One with the PSAT


Logistical changes lead to my room being needed for PSAT proctoring, so I arrive at school beore 7:30 for the 3rd day in a row, put all the desks into rows and cover up the academic sentence frames on the walls (and frantically clear off the tables and try to make it look like I have some sembance of cleanliness, which I clearly don’t).

I spend the rest of the day as the rotating proctor. I have the unique (but maybe not unique) privilege of watching as one of my kiddos spends the whole time frantically writing (literally from the time I say “go” until I say stop and almost have to pry the pencil out of his hands) while simulteneously watching another one of my kiddos, 2 rows up, who can’t sit still the whole time.

I question whether or not the PSAT is appropriate for 10th grade emerging multilinguals. I want our kiddos to have this chance and I understand why the District wants all 10th graders to take it, but the language demands are high and most of our kiddos won’t take it until senior year.


Photo: View from my window upon arrival. Not shown: the messes on the desks.2016-10-19-07-12-54

Day 44: The One With Slope Triangles


Fresh off the college trip, we come back to a reading guide on slope and slope triangles. It really hits me this time that slope triangles are a more visual way to see slope, a way to break down what growth means, and to look at unit slope in order to compare slopes.

Photo: the reading guide on slope and slope triangles.2016-10-18-15-12-49

What do you notice? What do you wonder?

Day 43: The One With the College Trip

Field trips are simultaneously awesome and complicated.

Every year, we take the kiddos to a local college. For many of them, it’s their first time actually spending time on a college campus. This year, it feels like the first time I’m actually asking them if and what they are thinking about college.


Miguel (who opts to go by “Mike” these days, presumably to keep things easier at his work) and Pedro miss the field trip departure, which is not entirely surprising, especially since Miguel works a lot, has late hours, and has stated that he wants to work full-time after high school instead of going to college. As we bus towards College, I notice Alex, another advisee, texting. This is also not entirely surprising.

“OK, who are you texting?” I ask as we near the College.

“Miguel,” he replies.

We wait around the student center prior to our tour. I am not entirely surprised when Miguel and Pedro run up to us, having taken unknown buses for at least half an hour to meet us. I’ve lost kiddos on field trips before, but this is the first time I’ve gained them.


Probably the most interesting part of the College Tour (other than the food court and the video arcade, sigh) is the part where the college students actually talk in small groups to our kiddos. These students are part of a program through the College and come from similar backgrounds to our students (first generation college students, often Spanish-speaking, often low-income).

The chaperones circulate throughout the room and I find myself in Mike’s group. Our kiddos are quiet, probably because it’s such a new place. The student they are talking to presses them for questions.

“Some of our students are thinking about working full-time after college. They have debts to pay and families to support,” I say (I think in Spanish). “Why should they go to college?” I shoot a pointed glance at Mike.

“That’s a good question,” says the student (also in Spanish). “If you work after high school, you’ll be making money sooner. But you’ll always be working for less money.” (This is a horrible, horrible paraphrase of what he actually said, which was much more thoughtful and eloquent. And in Spanish. But he said it in front of Mike, which was what I was hoping for)


The bus we’re supposed to take back to school doesn’t come, so we walk to another bus. Alex leaves to go to a dentist appointment, but we’re far away and he doesn’t really know the buses, so he texts Mike and comes back. As we wait, I notice Mike, deep in thought, standing apart from the group. I pull him back and make him board the bus.


Ultimately, I don’t care if Mike goes to college (this is a lie; I want Mike to go to college, but I also understand that I only know the surface level version of his circumstances and that he will make the choice that is right for him). But I want him (and the rest of the kiddos) to understand the benefits of going to college and I want him to keep that door open for as long as possible.

Photo: Going up to the lookout during the College tour.