School has been a madhouse lately. Baseball and softball regionals were in Palestine starting on Friday and running through today. My ninth grade students were preparing for their big state test, and I had to kick up a fuss to keep them from getting pulled out of class to work on the field. Teachers were assigned to work at the ballgames during school hours, which left the kids feeling, fairly, that they were kept in school for no good reason.

P was playing with sketchup in my classroom during my prep on Friday while everything was crazy because of regionals. He made this awesome tractor!

P was playing with sketchup in my classroom during my prep on Friday while everything was crazy because of regionals. He made this awesome tractor!

I’m cautiously optimistic about the Algebra test. I had been feeling really discouraged after my mock EOC returned disappointing results, but I’ve remediated a lot since then, and I think that, though the percent of students who score proficient might be lower, I’ll have more of my students score advanced. It starts tomorrow. The main obstacle keeping my students from blowing it out of the park is morale, so I plan to write them individualized encouragement cards tonight. I already hung some posters.
I wasn’t this concerned about scores last year, and I haven’t been thinking about them this year until recently. I guess I’m afraid that if my students don’t top the charts again I’ll lose any leverage I may have with the district. On the other hand, my “leverage” hasn’t earned me any favors this year: I first submitted a request for a new projector bulb last May, and when Sean came to observe my class last week he was surprised to find that I haven’t been exaggerating about teaching in the dark all year. On top of that, I found out today that the 8th grade Algebra class I wanted to create next year has been nixed. I’m pretty crushed. I had hoped to leave my mark on the district by kickstarting a group of students who could realistically pass an AP test, but, apparently, 8th grade Algebra would make our scores look bad. There are a lot of things wrong with this rationale, but let me just acknowledge the obvious (scores are more important than educating kids!? WTF?!) and ask the burning question HOW ON EARTH COULD THIS MAKE US LOOK BAD? Our scores for next year are going to be incomprehensible anyway, since we’re switching to common core, so this is a great opportunity to try something new. I’m hoping to have a chat with the Great Naysayer sometime soon to have my concerns heard. I am convinced that I will not be able to make a difference with the GN, since he’s the one who laid down the No Fieldtrips mandate (because they take away from learning time, apparently in contrast to baseball pullouts), approved the purchase of classroom printers but won’t approve ink, referred to sanctioned student murals as “graffiti”, and attacked a colleague’s personal values during a conversation in his office about a school-related conflict. I like my job and I love my kids, but I need to stop being compliant when I feel that people, myself included, are being abused. If this guy makes my life a nightmare, I’ll just take my mad math teacher skillz elsewhere and bite my thumb on the way out the door.

This weekend was rad. We gardened and gardened and gardened.

There was all this lettuce

There was all this lettuce

Sean made a glorious Sunday brunch. Everything was home grown: a fried egg on salad, English peas sautéed in buttah, and pork sausage.

Sean made a glorious Sunday brunch. Everything was home grown: a fried egg on salad, English peas sautéed in buttah, and Pinkie’s pork sausage.

On Saturday, we went to Palestine to help the Spanish Club with their bake sale. I’m planning to accompany them on their trip to Costa Rica next summer, so I like to help out when I can. Here’s a link to the gofundme page if you’re interested in what the kids are up to. If you want to make a donation, do so here so that 100% of your donation goes to the trip. Gofundme takes a cut.

The Spanish Club couldn’t set up at the baseball field, which was a bummer, but they parked themselves at an intersection nearby and did some business. It was hot and sunny, but the kids are always hilarious and people were generous with us. Sean, Roma and I walked down to the field and watched a very little bit of the boys’ game, but missed the girls’ game entirely. As we were walking back to the bake sale, Roma and I and two of our friends stepped right over a baby copperhead without seeing it. What good is a dog that’s oblivious to snakes? Sean had his foot poised over it when he spotted the little bugger and launched himself balletically into the stratosphere, wailing “Weeeaaaah! Snaaake! Snaaaaaaake!” Sean doesn’t care for snakes.

We had dinner in town (mmmm fried pickles) with Mallory and went to the square for Arts in The Park on Saturday night. We sat on the grass listening to the band, visited with friends we don’t see often and shared a lonely waltz.


Easily the best part of the weekend was visiting our friends Butch and Linda on Sunday evening. Butch helped us slaughter our barbeque hog last spring; he’s an expert on all things critter. Linda is the lady behind Arts in the Park. We chatted for a couple of hours and made plans to get together for dinner and a tour of their farm sometime soon. I can’t wait! One of our summer goals is to spend more time with our neighbors.

kind of a sonnet to a pig

Hey, this What Would Jeeves Do stuff really works! My kids were killin’ it today. Here’s what I did:

  1. I rearranged seating so that my kids are now in groups of three instead of five. This cut down enormously on unwanted chatter.
  2. I gave a really fun bellringer: I drew a piecewise graph with axes distance and time and the title “Sally’s Adventure” and directed the students to write the story of the graph (including speeds) within the three minutes after the bell. My favorite had Sally running from the Mafia. My second favorite had her walking her pet fish to the lake.
  3. I explained my expectations for them clearly and told them what they could expect from me.
  4. I skipped the whole-class lesson and worked with each group of three as they needed me. Their retention was waaay up, and so was my energy. I think I spent 8.5 hours at a sprint today, less the forty-five minutes of C-time. We’ll chalk the energy up to endorphins. My 3rd period commented on it, saying they’re going to see to it that the 9th graders act right from now on, since I’m so much nicer when they’ve been good.
  5. I had another mathematically literate adult in the classroom! Our math consultant is hanging with me one day a week now because Algebra is the only tested subject left. YESSSS!
  6. I came up with a badass new way of teaching the logic version of finding slope between two points.slope between two pointsThis is just a modified slope-formula, but I think it really brings home the meaning of slope and the thinking behind the formula. Instead of relying on identifying x one and x two, my kids are thinking about the change in the x coordinate from one point to the other. Sean was extremely unimpressed by my innovation, but it has allowed me to bypass big sources of confusion in my class, which is critical right now.

Freckles’ family is doing well. They’re all snuggling in a nest-box at night. The babies have no problem getting up to it, which I assume means they’re flying significant distances already. I love this zero-maintenance chicken-motherhood business. No stinky brooder to clean out, just little cuties to love on. IMG_2031

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Here’s my Pinkie sonnet from yesterday:

a chill cracked the air
and a gunpowder smell
that caught in my hair
as the massive beast fell
no silence, no still
for the great fallen hog
just the knife and the kill
and the gathering fog
in the trust in the eyes
never trembles or shakes
as the animal dies
and the heart in me breaks
though the blood’s on my hands and not on my breast
my compassion is stuck like a blade in my chest

Farming and teaching both use and abuse my compassion. I wonder whether compassion eventually runs dry or is strengthened by strain. I’m sure it withers if it is never exercised.