Ice Cream Man



It’s The Day Before The Day Before. There is no doubt in my mind that Thanksgiving is the most eagerly awaited holiday on the school calendar. Labor Day was a lifetime ago. Fall Break was really a three-day weekend. Christmas and its two weeks of jammie-wearing, sleeping-in gloriousness is a month away. We’re hanging on by a thread here.

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So of course, we are deep into a quadratics unit right now. Of course we are, when nobody wants to do anything. I reminded my Track 3 Algebra II students that we’ve pretty much just finished all of Algebra I. In 12 weeks. They’ve done this stuff before. But still.

Quadratics goes from easy –> challenging. Factoring. Square Rooting. And then: We Need A New Tool. Because what we got, ain’t working.

I told them I was gonna break their brains yesterday, then chill a bit today. Completing the square was on tap. They hate it. TBH, I don’t really even like teaching it all that much because of how much they hate it. But, SIUP and JFT, pal.

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But it gets better. Next up? Quadratic formula. Oh Dear God.

Half a sheet of paper to do one problem. As my students say: “that’s too much, Mister.”

On November 22. Really. Really? Play it straight and super-serious? Or be a little silly on the day before break?

Do you really need to ask?

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You’re damn right we sang the quadratic formula today.

Now, after we played and laughed and sang today, am I gonna be that jerk teacher that sends my kids out the door with homework over Thanksgiving Break? Nah.  “Your only homework is to teach your new earworm to your family members around the table on Thursday. And to be ready to sing it for a quiz grade on Monday”. That’s easy enough, right?

I left them with one final thought:

Here we are, at Thanksgiving Break. Three and a half weeks till Christmas Break. Two weeks off. Then, a couple weeks til MLK Day. A month til Mid-Winter Break. Another six weeks til Spring Break. And a sprint to the finish. (Not That We’re Counting). There will be a day, late June, say. The sweet spot of summer. School’s done, not worried about going back yet, just chillin’. Those beautiful, long, late spring/early summer evenings when it’s light out forever.

And they’ll hear it. Faintly at first, from a couple of blocks away. Then, louder:

And all the kids in the neighborhood will be losing their whole mind, just like in that Eddie Murphy bit (NSFW). Asking mom for money, running down the street after the Ice Cream Man. But my kids will hear that song, and in their head they’ll remember what we did today: “x equals negative b, plus or minus the square root, of b squared minus 4ac, all over 2a.”

Dammit. That stupid math teacher made me think of math, and it’s summer!

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And when it happens, I won’t be there. But I’ll know, in my heart.

And I’ll smile.

Happy Thanksgiving, you people.


Each One Teach One

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Year One of the EPIC PLTW Reboot continues at my school. My Intro to Engineering Design kids are designing and documenting and creating, learning Autodesk Inventor and the value of planning the work and working the plan. All told, we’ve got 4 sections of IED, somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 students. Which is good. One of the foundational things we talked about in the interview was keeping the pipeline full – making sure we had a steady flow of kids into Principles of Engineering and beyond.

But my POE right now?

Two students.

Under ordinary circumstances, we’d dissolve that class and try again next year when we can fill out a roster. But I think it’s important that we offer it this year, both from a visibility standpoint and because Rust Never Sleeps.

We didn’t offer POE at my old school last year, and the year before we dissolved the class after one term because it had dwindled to an enrollment of just 5.  I get it. I really do. POE is more “mathy” than IED, and that scares a lot of people away. (Unlike IED, which gets treated like “just another elective” sometimes). But that also means I haven’t taught the second semester of the course for three years.

So here we are, halfway through the year (almost). Ready to start the machine control/mobile robotics unit in POE. Should be an easy sell. No student goes, “gee, when am I ever gonna use this?” about programming. Instant engagement, right?

And I’m terrified.

PLTW offers robust training before a teacher can be assigned to teach a course  – an intense, two-week session where we do all the projects the students do in a year, in 10 days.

Yeah, I built a robot and programmed it to platoon with my fellow teachers’ bots. Teamed up to build a marble sorter and custom designed some pieces for it in Inventor. But: its been a while.


Took C++ back in the day at UNLV. But: it’s been a while.

I’m about to get exposed again.

Except, I’ve been hanging out with a risk-taking group of teachers online who are more than wiling to admit they don’t know every damn thing, and are happy to learn. From anyone. Especially if it means learning along with their students. That spirit rubs off on the rest of the PLN.

I tried to size up where I stood the other day. We were close to finishing up a unit, getting ready to do the unit project which involves virtual bridge design. So I’m mentally looking ahead. Just as an icebreaker, I asked my students “what’s your background in programming?”

One guy, quietly confident, says, “I’ve been programming for 10 years.”

That’s almost as long as I’ve been teaching. Holy crap.

Well then. Learning is a two-way street. Guess I’m gonna learn right along side these guys, huh?

Ain’t too proud. Let’s go.