Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Negative x A Negative = A Positive

What do you do when your flight is delayed 2 hours because your President happens to live in the town right next to yours? Blog. It's been a while.

It's been a crazy few months. A few weeks ago, I went to my uncle's funeral - the second funeral in the same family within a few months. Due to the funeral, I missed a culminating event/fundraiser that I worked really hard on and did not get to see it through. Of course, I was happy to be with my family in our time of need. But the timing was rough. Well, there never is a good time.

Today, I was flying to NJ for a fundraiser for my best friend Debbie who has been diagnosed with ALS. Not only is she going through some of the hardest moments of her life, but other friends of mine seem to be going through very difficult times as well. And for whatever reason, I truly, deeply feel their pain. And my aunt's pain, who lost her mother and husband within a few months. It feels like everything is hitting at once.

And it's February. Which in the teaching world, means it's the Longest, Shortest month. Kind of like a full moon.

Little, stupid things, too are making me crazy. My font now must be humongous because I can't see small print anymore. And in the bathroom at the airport, I noticed a huge smattering of gray hair--where did that come from??? The voice in my head asks, "Are my pants too tight from the excessive tortilla chips I ate last night?" And like Nora Ephron, I feel bad about my neck. 

OK. I must stop. I HAVE to write about some feel goods...some things that are going well so I can focus on the positives. Here we go. First, the math.

1. I love my problem-solving class. It is flexible enough that I can decide last minute to add the algebra of set theory and truth tables and take out probability because it will better serve the students in the class (who have had exposure to probability before or will soon.) So far this semester, we have studied sequences such as triangular and oblong numbers as well as the method of finite differences, the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio, the tower of Hanoi and its relationship to fractals and binary numbers, set theory, several puzzles and problem sets. Below are the interlocked Mobius Strip hearts we made for Valentine's Day. These kids jump into whatever I give them. They are a small class, but they are a mighty class, and they are smiling often. Takeaway: Teaching students math that they would not have been exposed to in the normal math curriculum is EXTREMELY rewarding! Solving problems in life is a hard thing to learn, but it's doable.
2. My Algebra 2 Honors class is so strong. They are cute and active, and boy they want to do well. We have been working on conics, and this year, I gave them this Desmos Conics Project I am excited to see their masterpieces! I think it took me 3 hours to make up a test that was challenging enough and not just regurgitation, and yet not too challenging. Here is their conics test, and here is their review sheetTakeaway: Challenging students is important, and making them think rather than just practice exercises can foster deeper learning. Tackling challenges in life is no easy task. But if you break it down one step at a time, it becomes more manageable. 
3. My Pre-Calculus students did exceptionally well on their trig unit. This year, I had them cooperatively unwrap the unit circle and create the sine and cosine graphs using spaghetti. A student said it really made sense of graphing for him (Goal!) I will definitely use this every year. We also created a human Unit Circle, and I played music as students walked around the spots on the floor marked by tape. When the music stopped, students froze and as I gave them directives (Give your x-value! Give your radian!), they tried very hard to each name them correctly. It was also a nice way for them to see which student was their "reflection point." These visuals, I believe, helped them to make concrete of the abstract. Finally, they also created unit circle projects, which I have been doing for many years now. Takeaway: Making math come alive for students definitely works. Life has its ups and downs, like a sine curve, and you have to know that where there are downs, there also are ups, and you have to create a healthy balance.  

4. It's our season for math club (Mu Alpha Theta), and we have been practicing every Friday after school since September. I probably get about 16 students who regularly dedicate their time to Algebra 2 practice, and 4 other math coaches simultaneously work with their teams. As I mentioned, this is a very strong Algebra 2 group, and at our last competition, they placed, and we had a student place as well. We are in our 6th year in the club with about 85 members, though honestly, I would say that 70 have truly been active...still, that's over 10% of the school who enjoy math enough to be working on it on a Friday afternoon! We came up with our shirt theme this year, POKEMAO, a play on Pokemon, of course, where MAO stands for "mu alpha theta" our math honor society. Takeaway: This club started with probably 15 people its first year and has grown so big. Take risks and try big things. Surround yourself with likeminded people and you will always feel good about yourself. 
5. I just got back from a school immersion trip to Greece. We traveled all around Athens and Delphi and more and studied math, history, and architecture. We took 13 students. It was amazing. Kalemera!! #sograteful Here is the Athens Math Treasure Hunt from and the Answer KeyTakeaway: You learn more traveling that you do anywhere else. Sometimes when you feel like your life is in ruins, take the road less traveled. 

And not math...

6. I didn't take a picture, but my friend and I took up Pam's idea and did our 30-day happy teacher challenge in our faculty workroom, where we printed out positive challenges to do and hung up stickers for teachers to use as they accomplished them. It did not take off as much as I had hoped, but those who liked it really liked it and used it. Takeaway: you don't have to make everyone happy. Making a few people happier is still an awesome goal. It's easy to say the glass is half-empty and spread negativity. But it's more of a challenge to say it's half-full, and more rewarding, too. 
7. I have not had enough time to work on my Ted-Ed project, #StudentsTeachingStudents, but I been thinking about it. I've had students in my math club make short videos to teach other students. Over spring break, I will be creating a guide for students so they know how to make the videos. I also found an interesting app called Groupboard that I want students to use if they remotely peer tutor. Takeaway: Kids love to teach other kids! And I learn more from them every day than they do, me, I am convinced. 

8. I am SO excited to see and celebrate my friend Debbie tomorrow! Over 200 people are going to her fundraiser, and some are friends I have not seen in years and years. Our friends from California and France are coming as well as several from NJ. My sister is coming. My aunt (the one who just lost her mother and husband) will be there. Friends of mine that I worked with when I was a public school teacher will be there (I've been teaching in private school for the last 23 years). And tons and tons of Debbie's friends from work and community will be there to support her. Takeaway: Through the most awful things in the world, you can find good and hope. Friendship is a gift and should not be taken for granted.
A picture from 6 years ago
9. Next week, I am going to a Spark Women's Retreat, which is a branch of JWRP, which I've blogged about here. I've done more with these strong women in a year than I've done with any other group. When I am with them, I feel lighter, stronger, smarter. This event is at a spa so I will be learning, soul searching, and relaxing at the same time. Takeaway: As my son has posted on his wall at school, "Happiness is something that must be shared." Rest is necessary to strengthen one's soul. 

10. I have friends and family that I can rely on. I have a mother-in-law, a brother-in-law and a sister-in-law and brother-in-law that are all within a mile of me if I need anything (less actually.) My work friends are my lifeline. I speak to my sister every Saturday. Although I have lost some cherished loved ones in the last few years, I still have a large extended family that constantly support me. Takeaway: Although I lost my parents early in life, I have a large network of family and friends. Be thankful for your people and for those who nourish your soul.

11. My son is halfway through his freshman year in college, and I took a bus and saw him last week. We spent the whole weekend together, and it was wonderful for me to see what a hardworking, dedicated, and mature man he is. His smile fills my soul with joy. On the other hand, anything he gets even remotely upset about, I end up getting upset about. Ah to be a parent. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I am so grateful for our talks and texts. Takeaway: A mother's love is like no other. Take in every moment with your children. They grow up way too fast. 

12. And least but certainly not last, my husband is always there for me and puts me first. After 23 years of living in the same place, we have upgraded our vanity area in our master bathroom. Not that exciting, but you know how it is. My husband has dedicated so much time completing this for me even though it was really not a priority for him (truth be known, he really did not want to do it.) He knew it would make me happy, and we haven't done much around the house in a while. It's amazing to me that he is so reliable and completely dedicated to both me and our son. If I need anything, he jumps. Well, he would, except that he has a bad back. He cooks dinner for me every night. He takes care of me. I can do and be so much because he will do all the little things I ask of him. Except for getting me a puppy. Haha I know he's reading this, because he does that, too--supports me in my endeavors. He's underappreciated, and I need him to know how much I do appreciate him and love him. Takeaway: I am thankful and grateful to have such a support system. When there bumpiness in life, don't lose sight of the things that are in front of your face. 
24 (?) years ago

No backsplash yet!
So, I was 2 hours late landing. The rental car lost our reservation. I had plans to have dinner with my friend who flew in from California for Debbie's event tonight, and we won't get there till super late. What do they say, G-d watches you make plans and then laughs. It's OK. I was inconvenienced. But what I now realize, after writing this, is that there is so much good. So maybe it's a good thing Trump came in today. Because I might not have realized how good I have it.

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