Dear Students: No. I’m Not Sorry.

Picture from:

I read a very moving blog post in which a teacher apologizes to her students for the problems plaguing our education system and hold students back.  While I agree with Lizanne Foster’s view on the way schools are structured, I felt she was taking blame for elements of students’ experiences over which she has no control.  I wanted to follow her blog up with a reminder that students don’t need teachers to feel sorry for them; they need teachers to empower, inspire, and motivate them to do better when they leave the classroom than they did when they entered.

Although you have to be at school so early each morning, I promise to make those early morning minutes worth getting out of bed for.

Even though you have to ask permission to use the restroom, I promise to respect your good judgement for appropriate times to leave the classroom.

I promise to create opportunities for you to get out of your seat and move about.

I promise that even though you are pre-grouped by age, I will provide you with problems that engage all levels of intellect:  problems that stretch you as well as provide scaffolding as needed.

I promise to create an environment where you feel safe in making mistakes.

I promise to allow you to solve problems collaboratively because I know “together” is where the best solutions come from.

I promise to work hard to provide the support you need to further your learning.

I promise to do my best to help open your mind to subjects and ideas that may have once seemed boring.

I promise that you will have my respect at all times and do not have to earn it.

I promise to never make you compete for grades.

I promise to give you opportunities to apply mathematics to solving our world’s economic, environmental, and political problems.

I promise to encourage curiosity throughout your learning experiences.

I promise to always let you examine, explore, experiment and experience.

I will try every day to re-ignite your passion for learning you had when you were young.

I will attempt to bring out your inner-scientist/writer/architect/artist whenever I am able.

I accept and understand that you were born to learn and that memorizing is not learning.

I promise to never make you feel that the only learning that matters is learning happening in a classroom and I promise to never focus your learning on just what will be covered on the test.

I promise to facilitate as much “out of the box” thinking as I can and will always present problems that allow for multiple solution paths.

I am mostly powerless over these powers-that-be that determine funding for your education, but I will do anything I can within my control to make learning in my classroom a positive experience for you and your classmates.


Your Teacher


Des-Man Does Double-Time

If you work at a high school, you probably don’t need a reminder that it’s Friday the 13th, and it’s the day before Valentine’s day.  When it comes to adolescents, the mood is a mixture of giddiness and angst.  A student asked his girlfriend to prom by filling her locker with ping-pong balls.  No doubt every student in my 3rd hour was able to snag one of those little white balls of sound-joy and test their durability all over my classroom.  Good times.

Regardless, I was determined to make an attempt at engaging them mathematically.  Enter Sandman (oops.  DES-man).  I had read on twitter about teachers using this activity as a platform for having students share graphs.

I posted a Daily Desmos graph on the projector and then watched them attempt to create it using the Des-man Dashboard on my tablet.  It was delightfully challenging for them to get the graph through the correct points and restrict the domain perfectly.

Because this was our first time formally restricting domains and ranges for piece-wise functions, I kept to the basic challenges.  Here’s one that stumped a few of them:


(Thank you @marybourassa)

Here was their attempt:


I’m pretty sure I got so excited about the possibilities in my other classes that I took my tablet and raced down the hall to share the awesomesauce with my colleagues.  Not sure they were as geeked out as I was but they humored me regardless.