Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nothing to do with math

I couldn't resist:

Monday, October 22, 2007


I am really not too huge on advertising. I've ever only worn one shirt ever (well, two, but one is really warm and fuzzy and free and unfortunately has word MICHIGAN on it, I guess you could think state, not the university, although highly unlikely) that had any sort of writing or picture on it that is larger that half a centimeter by 2 centimeters. Anyhow, I have put up two Stop vouchers signs on Friday, and taken one For vouchers sign down, not personally of course, so I was pretty proud of my accomplishments. I also explained the whole thing to a person who claimed not to have known much about it and he said he was going to vote against them, but it could be that was said only because he thought his tip depended on it (he was cutting my hair). Anyway, for those of you who do not know, the voters will be deciding on vouchers for private schools: will the parents who decide to send their children to private schools be allowed to receive up to $3000 towards tuition from state education funds? Anyway, you can see the whole bill here, but some my favorite parts are (italics was added by me):

Eligible private schools:
(g) employ or contract with teachers who:
(i) hold baccalaureate or higher degrees; or
(ii) have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in the subjects taught;
(h) provide to parents the teaching credentials of the school's teachers; and
(i) provide, upon request to any person, a statement indicating which, if any,
organizations have accredited the private school.

The scholarship application form shall contain the following statement:
"I acknowledge that:

(1) A private school may not provide the same level of services that are provided in a public school.
(2) The private school in which I have chosen to enroll my child has disclosed to me
the teaching credentials of the school's teachers and the school's accreditation status.
(3) I will assume full financial responsibility for the education of my scholarship
student if I accept this scholarship.
(4) Acceptance of this scholarship has the same effect as a parental refusal to consent to services pursuant to Section 614(a)(1) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1400 et seq."

The polls seem to be saying that the vouchers will be voted down. I hope they are right.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Further development with unsatisfied students

I had just written a whole paragraph that got lost. I do not like when that happens.

I was going to tell you more about these two students. We have a 2 hour class, so I usually try to give them a break half way through, so we can all take a breather. Well, on Monday these two students left during the break, without telling me that they would, what is what most students do if they need to leave. So I sent them a message that said something like "I noticed you left, I hope everything is ok, and that you'll be able to catch up. Let me know if I can do anything." Only one of them bothered to respond, and said something to the effect that she doesn't feel comfortable in the classroom, that assigned groups make her feel irresponsible and she already has issues with group work. "The main reason I left was simply becuase of this discomfort. I know you are trying to get us to work with other people, but there are more effective ways to achieve this goal." Of course I emailed back and said that I feel saddened by this and that we should meet in person and talk. I also asked about these more effective ways. She responded only to tell me that she can't make it before class because she had another class right before and not a word about the more effective ways. I responded that she should name any time and I'll meet with her. Hadn't heard back.

Anyway, it appears that they since emailed the chair of the department to say that nothing has been done about this and to complain some more. The chair politely directed them back to the associate chair whom they had spoken to already. The thing is that it is not clear what it is that they would like to happen. Would they like me fired? Would they like to get a new instructor? Would they like me to let them do whatever they want? What is it that I am supposed to do? There are 2 students who are fuming, out of 43. Do I ignore them? What would you do?

Funny thing: Another student came by to talk to me and told me that a while back some sort of petition had been written, and that he had signed, but under pressure, and that if anybody ever mentions it he would gladly go talk to them on my behalf. I have no idea what they asked for in the petition. The funny thing is that the student who started the petition apparently decided to take the sequel of this course next semester. From me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

First time for everything

We were on fall break for a week. After spending a week with the in-laws (just to clarify: that is not a great thing), I have come to school to the first official complaint about me ever. The associate chair came to speak to me because 2(!) of my (elementary) students came to talk to him about me. Granted, one of them said things were getting better, but that is hardly making me happy. I don't feel terrible though. Well, I won't cry this time :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Opposite of recruiting?

Jonathan over at JD2718 is asking how we retain teachers. Although a very good question (I think he probably means how we retain good teachers) to which I would love to get an answer, I have a slightly different question: how do we prevent some people from going into the teaching profession? Some of the students I see who are studying to be teachers are mysteriously passing their courses and will get a degree, but from what I can tell though they are not ready mathematically to teach, and I am not convinced that they enjoy mathematics. I have had conversations about this and the argument I most often hear is that we need to let them pass if they are not totally bad. Because if we don't then we will have such a shortage of teachers that the people who will end up in the classroom will have even less training (read: they'll be much worse) than the ones I'm worried about. However, this problem feeds into the one Jonathan is talking about (well one version of it anyway, the one that encompasses all teachers). If people who come out of our teachers' programs are not ready to be teachers or should not be teachers at all, then they are likely to quit pretty quickly. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, once again, I do not have a solution.