Trying to Do Better

Good Man and I had 잡채, 파전, and the 총각김치 (chapjae, pa jeon/Korean pancakes, bachelor kimchi) tonight for dinner.

Good Man tried the kimchi. “Mmm! Wow, you are Korean!” he yelled, throwing a swear word in there somewhere. “Did you put soy sauce in this?” he asked, pointing to the chapjae.

“Just a little.”

“Oh, good. That is good for health!”

Good Man got a SSN today in the mail. About two weeks ago we got some mail from the bank claiming that they need him TPIN even though their own paperwork says if it’s a joint account they only need the TPIN of the first name and that should be me since I am the original account holder.

Anyhow, the letter from the bank says that you can call their number and provide the info over the phone. Well…surprise, surprise. Apparently that’s not true. I read the letter to person one over the phone and they transferred me. Person two said that the letter says you have to call only if you’re confused.

Um, no, lady, you’re confused. The letter clearly says you can call to provide the info.

I am getting sick of my bank. They don’t charge me many fees because I don’t bounce, I use their ATMs, etc. But they’re useless on the phone. Nobody seems to know what’s going on and their rates suck. I’m thinking of changing but but I’ve been with them for ten years and don’t even know how many accounts I have linked to them!

Still, I think Good Man and I are going to go to my credit union on Friday to see if they can do better for us. (I belong to two credit unions and four banks across two countries, three states, and the internet world. I really need to consolidate some of these.)


I realized yesterday that I need to do a better job for my students. I am teaching an advanced math class; my students are a year ahead in math. I think I’m doing a fine job with the curriculum. And I’m starting a semester-long class for teachers new to this curriculum next week. That’s not the problem.

Most of my math students are gifted, and I don’t think I’m meeting their needs in that area. Unfortunately, schools tend to concern themselves with the average student first, the special ed students next, and the gifted students last (even though gifted students usually also fall under special ed and there are double-exception students who are sped and gifted). ESL students? That depends on the population of the school.

Last year I taught the on-level, average-speed math class. Every week I gave them a math problem on the week. They worked on it each morning and we went over it on Friday. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as well as I thought it would. The level was slightly too high (it shouldn’t’ve been but I don’t want to go into why that was the case) and they weren’t very excited by it.

But this group of kids? I didn’t hand out a problem last week because the week was short (holiday, training day so I had a sub) and I didn’t hand out one this week because I thought we had too much to do.

Well, one of the students said, “Awww, I want a problem of the week.”

His friend responded, “I know, they’re hard but fun.”

And it hit me. I am treating these students like slightly-smarter-than-average kids. And they’re not.

When I was in seventh grade I was in an “honor” social studies class. The only special, honor-like thing we got was one essay question a week on our quiz and forced participation in the National History Day Project. (I did an awesome project on GPS and GIS and my social studies teacher wouldn’t send it to state because he said GPS would never be of use in any arena other than the military.) I can still tell you exactly what we did depending on the day of the week in that class. It was awful. It wasn’t challenging. It was boring. And the teacher did not care about any of us.

I care about these students and I need to do a better job of meeting their needs. These students are slightly competitive with each other in a good way. They’re excited about math. They compete to be the genius or half-genius of the day. (Yes, there’s a story behind that.) They ask questions. When presented with a question they haven’t “officially” been taught, they don’t say “I don’t know how to do that.” They try. And a lot of them get it right.

I don’t want to destroy that spark. I don’t want to be a mediocre student doing a mediocre job.

When Mark and I were in sixth grade, we were chosen to pilot a seventh grade math program. Our teacher in sixth grade was the math specialist but was really hard to get along with. One of the teachers in middle school was great, and the other was awful. Our ninth grade teacher was sometimes a confusing teacher but obviously cared about us. By 10th grade, when we got the football coach as the honors math teacher—and the stereotypes fit? Well, I think I was over it. I had to drop out of pre-calc my senior/sophomore year of high school/college. It was a professor my mother told me not to take, but it was the only class that fit in my schedule. I had a great professor the second time around and went from a D- to a B+. First semester of Calc, great teacher. Second semester, OK teacher.

My point? I liked math. And I was usually pretty good at it. But the teacher mattered. These students like math. And they’re usually pretty good at it. I want to encourage that and explore it and push it and keep their love for it going.

This morning I was sure to give them a problem of the week. And they all dug into it. And they enjoyed it.

Last night I found some resources for me. Books and the like. And I’ve started to rethink my role in the classroom…

Amanda Teacher, teaching affixes: OK, give me some more ‘sub’ examples.

Not-Average Student: Ooooh! Subatomic! Subcutaneous!

Other Students, blank stares

Amanda Teacher, in math class, trying to calm the students over a math problem with pigs named ‘Porky,’ ‘Bacon’ and the like: You know my mom and stepdad live on a farm and they have sheep. Well, they either sell the male sheep or… put them in the freezer. So they don’t name them or name them things like—

Another Not-Average Student: Dead meat?