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Vacation Day I (doesn’t feel like vacation, but )

April 13, 2020 pm30 7:21 pm

Today felt like a full day, almost. Not much prep. No grading. But I’ve opted to run some discussions.

My school advised us (we were all part of the discussion) to create a much reduced work load for the kids for this week. I also advised us (as part of the general discussion) to create a much reduced work load for ourselves. The two pieces of advice aligned nicely. Of course, advice is advice, and there were a variety of interpretations.

Most teachers just made this a super light week.  Fewer assignments.

Me?  I promised the kids no assignments, but asked for attendance. Sessions with no outside work. We discussed it last week – I got no objections.

So I created a rotating set of activities:  discussions, games, problems solving, extra help. My job – be there. Their job – be there. (I’ll be on for 1/2 hour blocks – they show up to three over the course of the week).

Today we had a “check in” first thing. Highlight: a politics junkie student said that he liked the juvenile behavior of our Mayor and our Governor, because it was distracting him from the real news.

I did a review of logarithms the second half hour. OK, basic. A couple of questions.

The third we solved a neat logic puzzle, and then played anagrams for the last few minutes. The logic puzzle involves three prisoners and five hats. Do you know it? For anagrams, the second name we chose rearranged into “Logical Links” which was just too cool.

And the fourth we played with graphs that were not functions on Desmos. I like x^2+y^2+x^2y^2=1 – but that only got minimal conversation. I got more out of y^2 +x^2y = 1 which allowed some exploration of symmetry. Then we changed coefficients and tried to explain the results.

Midday I met with my Set Theory seminar. It’s only a few kids. We are reading an MAA Set Theory project, and they are struggling to learn more advanced mathematical language. Today we encountered “image” and “codomain” and the prepositions that go with mappings. The big idea was “what is a discussion of functions doing in an intro to set theory?” – and I think that worked. The big rethink was to consider functions without necessarily thinking about their graphical representations. Fun.

Finally, I am one of the advisors for our Local Outreach Tutoring Program. Some of our seniors and juniors run an afterschool with kids from nearby middle schools. Here’s a New York Teacher article describing it. That’s from last year – this year we almost doubled the program. And then Corona.

Anyhow, a junior approached me – “Hope quarantine is going alright for you and you’re staying healthy! I have some questions about LOT and I was hoping you’d be able to answer them. I totally understand why the program was canceled, obviously there’s no way to do it now, but I was wondering if thee’s any way we could continue some of our lessons or teach something virtually?…”

My answer, of course, was “highly unlikely” – but I heard her out and then heard them out – and eventually they proposed doing narration/voice over while a power point or worksheet was on the screen – and the one of the 7 middle schools I contacted was interested, and me and my co-advisor were clear that the quality had to be so high that we would not need to play a major role.

Today they screened for me their first lesson. OK, it was poetry, so I am not certain how good it was. But it looked good. And the other teacher had read and approved their script. And I’m working hard? Yes, yes I am. But the kids somehow found time to continue to do local outreach, and produced high quality work, while adjusting to all of the other demands on them, and keeping up with the pretty heavy workload (it should be getting easier) that my school assigns? I am working hard. They are working harder.

Yup, I worked a lot today, but I ended the day pretty pleased. And tomorrow is lighter…

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