Got My Back

On Monday, I had to send a kid to the office for the first time ever. That did not go as well as planned; when he came back, he managed to convey that the principal thought what he’d done was no big deal.

Because of the PSAT, this is the first time class has met since Monday. Earlier this week, I talked to the principal. He assured me that he did think it was a big deal, apologized for giving the kid the freedom to convey that, listened to my concerns, and bent over backwards to assure me that he had my back.

Today, he stopped by the beginning of class and explained to the class that yes, it was a big deal, and that the faculty and administration is a united front. He made the kid apologize to him, to me, and to the class.

The situation that brought this on was not a good thing, but to have my authority reinforced and to be supported in such a public way was a really good thing.

An Impossible Triangle

This is my one good thing for Tuesday, because I forgot to write one, I didn’t get home until after 9pm, and I couldn’t think of anything good from the day. But I just remembered one.

I was doing “sign out duty” (where I sit in the front hall and have kids sign out if they are leaving the building). One of my current precalculus students (who I also taught two years ago in geometry) came up to me SO excited. He was — in front of three of his friends — telling me about a math problem that his brother was working on. That he got interested in figuring out. And that he couldn’t solve. But he was obsessed with solving it.

The problem was from his brother’s geometry problem sets. (I wrote the problem sets the following year so my current precalculus student never got to do the problem. I had seen this problem before, but I cribbed the version from the Park School of Baltimore’s problem solving materials.)


In geometry, when we went over this problem in class, I showed them this youtube video first:


In any case, my one good thing is my student who got obsessed with his brother’s math problem. And that he got obsessed enough to tell me. And ask for a hint because he wanted to solve it. And when I told him he might want to cut the figures out of paper, he told me he already did that! Which shows me how obsessed he was with this problem. And yeah, I know, why shouldn’t he be — because if there wasn’t an explanation, all of math is a lie!

I gave him another hint, and he went on his way.

Bubble Buster

Today was the PSAT. On Wednesdays, 7-12 grades meet; we require 8-11 grades to take the PSAT or some other standardized test. 7th graders go off on a history field trip. 12th graders go on a Bubble Buster tour.

Our students tend to come from very privileged, fairly sheltered backgrounds. Most of them are upper middle class. Almost all of them come from stable, loving homes. While many of them have part-time jobs, none of them are helping support their families; they’re earning money for gas and cars and movie tickets and college.

We live in a city that is a major national hub for human trafficking. Our school is in a very nice part of town, and we are 10 minutes from some areas that are dense with brothels and strip clubs. Today, we partnered with a local ministry group that is working to end human trafficking. We took our seniors to hear about their work, tour their small museum (in a former brothel), and take a bus tour of one of the nicest parts of the city where our tour guide pointed out brothel after brothel after strip club after brothel and told us what they’re doing to help the victims.

This was not an easy day. I and the other adult chaperone felt sick for most of the morning because of what we were hearing – sick that this happens, sick that people find it acceptable to buy and sell other people’s bodies, sick that young girls and women are forced into and kept in this, sick that other people create an economic demand for it.

Watching our students, though, was good. Some of them didn’t know how to handle it and engaged intellectually but not emotionally. They weren’t disrespectful, though. Many of them, however, walked through the museum alone or in pairs, reading silently or quietly talking about what they were seeing, taking it very seriously. There were a lot of damp eyes, wide eyes, upset eyes – upset about things that are by their very nature upset.

Some bubbles were busted today, mine included.


Freshmen FTW

Today was the best parent teacher conference night of my 8-year career!

  • Every slot was full for the first time ever. All but two were freshmen parents.
  • One parent said she didn’t need to see any other teachers but she came just to tell me thank you. At this point last year her daughter had a D and she currently has an A. She’s spent three years thinking she sucked at math and now she’s been saying she’s pretty good at math. She thanked me for teaching her daughter.
  • Another mom cried and actually hugged me and told me thank you for teaching her kid.
  • A set of parents told me how they had their son late in life and he was their pride and joy. They love all his friends and classmates and bragged on what a good group of kids the ninth graders are. They take big groups of them skating and out to eat and love spending time with them.
  • A dad thanked me for the work I give because they’re previous school was at a much lower level and he breezed through without applying himself or learning much. He told me how him and his wife and their siblings all have college degrees. That is SO rare in our community.
  • More than one parent told me that I’m their child’s favorite teacher and favorite class and they love my teaching style.
  • A parent said she loved me because I update my grades right away.  {I don’t know who doesn’t….why would you grade a bunch of papers and then wait to put the grades in the grade book? That’s the easy part! P.S. I hate grading.}
  • I feel like the parents just came out in full force to pour out love for their kids and I learned so much! They assured me they would be at every event and that they love being involved.
  • I laughed and smiled all night until my throats was dry and my teeth were sore. I was hyper from so many positive interactions. What a year! I’m so excited to watch these students grow over the next four years!
  • I was so reminded of the Father’s love tonight and how he cherishes every student and adult in the same way. I am so thankful for the teaching gifts he has grown in me, his favor throughout my career, and His timing. He is a good good Father!

Fall Break

One good thing: it’s Fall Break, ya’ll. 

Also, I’m caught up on grading even though calc turned in like fifty million things the last four days. 

I’m celebration, I have officially declared tomorrow Rebecka Day

It’s going to be a good day. 

High School Musical

In multivariable calculus, we had our second book club. But it was the first one led by students. The leaders were amazing and the discussion was rocking. Lots of good questions, lots of good thinking. Kids were drawing connections between our reading (of Abbott’s Flatland) and things they had been reading/watching for other classes (documentaries, Crime and Punishment). One kid even mentioned “Attend to your Configuration” was like:

which made me chuckle.


In Advanced Precalculus, kids saw Pascal’s Triangle for the first time, and they were SO IMPRESSED with all the things hidden within it. So many cool observations/insights!!!

pascal triangle.PNG


I had my standard Precalculus kids work on a combinatorics problem. And I thought many students would solve the problem in one way — and use pattern recognition but without a full understanding of why. Instead, I saw so much perseverance in what kids did. And almost all of them solved it a different way (involving combinations) after getting frustrated with listing everything out. The realized that listing was not efficient, and needed to have a better way to approach things. So they switched. I loved that.


I got to hang out briefly with my friend Lisa S. after school. She and I work late together, and so we did some of that working, and grabbed a super quick dinner together.




Tomorrow is the last day of the quarter! What?!

As such, my calc kids have to prepare their “Quarter Folder,” with their quiz and test corrections, among other things. I heard one young man say that he’s been keeping up with corrections as we’ve gone along. Each night after a test or quiz was returned, he’d correct it immediately, while it was fresh in his mind. 

To this, a student replied, “I’m actually looking forward to going through my corrections tonight.”

This reminded me of something another student said last week. She said she always leaves her calculus for last because “Math is like dessert.”

*Drops mic.*