Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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Trayvon Martin is all my kids have talked about for the past month. And with good reason. And with really amazing depth and intuition. My kids know everything. All of it. All the facts and allegations, all the conclusions both specific and societal, all the causes of this and thousands of other events just like…

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Mar 22 2012

Patience Like Tin Foil

I can’t give you problems basic enough. There is no question leading enough. “Doing Math” to you means you saying “I don’t get this” and me telling you the answers. You see math and everything it entails as a huge changing frictionless landscape with nothing to hang onto, and I can’t destroy enough of that…

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Last year, the failures were truth and i saw the “small successes” as just weak cop-out justifications. This year, I’ve learned the language of my students and this profession enough to listen to insults and feel for the smoky forms of people-change underneath. Today was the first day of the new semester–thus, the day reality…

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I don’t know why everything is so confusing for my juniors. I’m extremely careful–like paranoid careful–to always start back at the basics of basics, but I just don’t know why it seems like nothing is ever retained. I’m explaining things as conceptually as I can, making them do as much sense-making as I can fathom……

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Dec 05 2011

Packer Patience

My Packer makes me feel good at one part of my job. I’ve never seen anyone act the way this kid does. His outbursts seem involuntary—like he really needs the stimulation of making a noise or cracking a joke or swearing at someone. My Brat was manipulative and everything she did was on purpose. Webbie…

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I want to teach a math class with no numbers, no calculators, and no pencils or paper. 

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Oct 19 2011

Deja Vu

Yesterday, I got an email from a new teacher at our school who has my Brat in one of his classes. Apparently, she is refusing to do any work and insists that he doesn’t know how to teach in a way she can learn. … sound familiar? But get this. He emailed me because he…

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Sep 02 2011


Whole Brain Teaching or no, it still sucks when you put off planning your lesson to morning and then oversleep. … or maybe this feeling has more to do with my poor 2nd period. My babies are poisoned and I just want to heal them magically and make them know they can do this. I…

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May 16 2011

My Chance

My kid they call Dirty has been refusing to do any work for the past week or so, and I’ve been absolutely at a loss (as usual). I wrote him up one day for it, thinking maybe he just needed someone to coerce him into doing what’s best for himself… but it didn’t feel right…

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May 14 2011

Climate Change

Looking at the next three weeks… and given the last two weeks… I just can’t help but write about the love I feel for my creatures. A huge, huge part of me learning to teach them well was learning them. I didn’t realize this until recently—when I ended some days looking back on how I…

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Apr 21 2011

Delicious Cold Turkey

I know that my Brat and I, on average, are on better terms than we were in the fall. I know she does more work than she used to and leaves class less often. And I know I’ve gotten a lot better at not triggering her. But I was talking today with a woman who…

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Apr 09 2011

Three stories about bribing kids

On Tuesday, I gave my fake ESL kid a King Size Reese’s and a pack of fruity Trident gum (I was really proud I knew it was his favorite) because he did such great work the day before. I’m almost afraid to say it—but I think he really is making a turnaround. (And guess what?…

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Apr 08 2011


It’s crazy how this job teaches you the SAME things—over and over and over—but more effectively every time. If it were possible to organize all of these lessons and digest them in a logical sequence and at a sensible pace, I wouldn’t have to repeat so many of the lessons I learn. But I’m here…

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Feb 23 2011

Dear Brat:

I am so impressed with you today. This morning started out rocky in tutoring, but even though you came late, yelled at me, and told me I was explaining everything wrong and that’s why you were NEVER  going to understand it, I could tell you were getting it. You tried so hard to leave, but…

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I still get to see some of my kids who were switched into resource, because they’re only pulled out of core classes (not Math Intervention). Webbie and my Bass Drummer are two who would be doing pretty well in regular geometry if they hadn’t been thrown under the bus. I showed them this site, and…

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I’ve always believed in rigor and Bloom’s and teaching higher-order thinking. Of course! Of course I want to teach my kids to think at a level higher than the state tests require. But today, the Mirror of Teaching revealed some assumptions I can’t wait to shed. . This particular Thursday morning, I was feeling guilty…

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Jan 18 2011

Snapshot 1.18

Today’s lesson was not my best. It’s the first lesson in 2011 that has pretty much flopped, though, so I’m not too broken up about it. When my lessons flopped before, I could see it coming—I knew I’d planned it too hurriedly or carelessly, or I knew there was something involved that the kids wouldn’t…

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Jan 13 2011


I’ve always hated probability. It was my least favorite part of Stats, and I still had trouble with combinations and permutations, even at some math teacher training in November. Over the last two weeks, my intervention classes played with M&Ms, Skittles, dice, and”Trashketball” as they learned about probability. As usual, some kids got some parts…

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Jan 07 2011

Take Away

This afternoon, I had two goals for my hungry student: 1) find missing lengths of right triangles and 2) find various areas of composite figures. We were working on the latter, and came across an interesting problem; instead of being given the triangle’s lengths, you were given other measurements that could lead you to deduce…

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The following is a post by the lovely leader of the Upper Math community on TFAnet, and my reply to it. I’m interested to see what non-math teachers have to say about it, and she just said so many things exactly the way I feel them that I decided her words belong in my blog.…

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“…Well, the 14 here is the diameter. Remember, diameter? … Diameter is all the way across the middle of the circle. In our formula, there’s an r. What does r stand for?    …  What’s an r-word we’ve been talking about with circles?  …   Okay, well, R stands for radius. The diameter goes all the way…

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Dec 01 2010

Blind Leading the Blind

I literally feel this job gripping me behind my sternum. For forty minutes or so after I’m done teaching, even if I’m not really mulling on anything, I feel this dull, sick weight that doesn’t sigh off. Maybe I’m just tired.       So you’d think I’d try harder to get more sleep. That’s just the…

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Oct 27 2010

Dear Student:

 I have to say before I say anything else that I really, really do know you can do this. I know that if you were only given the chance, you could go for it and you would. You think you’re stupid, you think it’s your fault, you think you’re just not made for school. You…

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There I sat, trying to figure out how to make a 3 x 3 x 3 cube puzzle with five different pieces of no less than three and no more than six cubic units each, with no two pieces being the same shape. Naturally I wanted to be the first one to finish the task, and…

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