Birthdays and quizzes 

While I was out in the hallway this morning greeting kids, before first hour even started, one of my students came back outside to tell me something. “It’s S’s birthday today!”

“I know,” I replied. 

“It’s not on the board!”

“What? Yes, it is. How else would I have known it’s her birthday?”

“Well it’s not up there, and she’s a little hurt by it.”

No kid is going to be hurt on my watch! I stormed back in there and, lo and behold, my student was right. His friend’s name was not on the board. I had looked at the wrong week when I wrote the upcoming week’s birthdays on Friday before I left school. I quickly fixed my mistake right in time for the bell. 

I love (1) that my kids take care of each of other like this and (2) that they even look at all the things I put on the board. Sometimes I wonder if anyone notices–if it’s worth my time. And then this happens and tells me, yes, it’s definitely worth my time. 


When my calc kids took their mock two weekends ago, it was clear they still didn’t know all their derivatives of  the basic trig functions. For those who don’t know, I’m talking about six basic rules. And there’s a pretty evident pattern which boils the memorization down to just three rules. It’s so not a big deal. They should have memorized these months ago. But nope. 

So we quizzed on them today. 

I looked through first hour’s answers quickly (easy to do as this is seriously so short to memorize!), and they were terrible. I was so unpleased. I never really yell at my class. Actually, yeah, I’m certain that’s never happened. I’m not a yeller. But I still let them know when I’m dissatisfied. 

I told first hour that I decided not to grade it as a six-question quiz but as a one-question quiz. “You either get a 100% or a 0%.”

The class gasped!

“I will let you try again. And again. Until you’ve got these down. But it’s a zero until you’ve got them all.”

Well, first hour must have spread the word,  because in fourth and fifth hour I only had a 3-4 students in each class not know them perfectly (which tells you they literally only needed to spend a few minutes on this).

My good thing is that I’m still thinking of ways to light the fire under my students. I’m still learning and getting better and changing my lesson plans. Every year I’ve taught calc I’ve implemented both big and small changes, and that’s what keeps me excited about teaching and learning about teaching. 

Next year they’re going to get this all-or-nothing quiz a lot earlier. 


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