Yesterday was my 5th opening day here at my current school and my 28th overall as a teacher. I was speaking with a senior who was a little melancholy that this was her last first day of high school. I let her know it was my 32nd first day of high school so she might have more ahead if she chooses.
There are quite a few changes this year for me. Last year our parents association agreed to help fund an AppleTV cart for my room. I now have an iPad that I am trying to learn to navigate and I have a lovely color TV to project GeoGebra, TED Talks, my new Geometry book, class notes and activities, etc. I rearranged my room for maximum viewing space, got rid of two clunky old file cabinets, and I fully intend to get rid of at least one bookshelf soon to create more space. I rearranged my AP Stats curriculum based on helpful suggestions by Josh Tabor and @majorfstats. I have never been much of a room design guy but the fantastic @mathymeg07 designed some fantastic posters for me so my room is adorned with messages for my students. The biggest change and challenge for me by far will be my Geometry course. I blogged about this recently. I wrote a text for our school’s students to use. This summer was taken up with trying to blend years of thoughts about Geometry with recent advances in my own understanding of GeoGebra. Thanks to the help of some twitter pals (especially @jensilvermath, @mathhombre, @mathbutler, and @a_mcsquared) I’ve been making some progress in my mastery of GeoGebra. I hope that my flashy new AppleTV, my PDF text with link outs to applets on GeoGebraTube and to blogs with great activities, and my enthusiastic younger students will lead to a great year in this course. I already have my first piece of editing advice from a student about one of my diagrams. I’m going to work hard at not being thin skinned and looking at all suggestions as ways to make this a terrific text.
So, we’re only two days in but I already have had a number of really terrific conversations with my students. A couple of Calculus BC kids have especially wowed me already. I hand out a problem set on the first day and ask them to work in small groups. I’m not a fan of going over a syllabus on day one. It bores me to tears and I suspect it saps a good deal of enthusiasm from my students as well. This problem set is designed simply as a way to shake off some rust and give me an opportunity to eavesdrop and begin to understand how my Calculus students think. I wrote last year about how I had one VERY quiet class and one interactive class. This year I only have one group of BC students and I think that they’ll be willing to share. I did two of the ten problems on the board and students did the other eight. I was thrilled to see some students use old precalculus knowledge on the ellipse problem and I saw a couple of different approaches to the logarithm problem. My favorite work that I saw from them today involved a minimization problem and a square root curve. I had a student solve this minimum distance question with no calculus at all. He wrote the appropriate distance formula and made a substitution so it was a square root with a quadratic function inside. He then completed the square to factor the quadratic and said ‘I know that this square expression is never smaller than zero, so the distance is smallest when the square quantity equals zero.’ Lovely, lovely work and I appreciate that approach rather than the automatic reaction of differentiating. Don’t get me wrong, I want my students to remember their calculus from last year, but this kind of analysis really makes me happy.
I start my day with my younger Geometry students and they too seem more than willing to engage in conversations so far. It is fun to teach a class that doesn’t feel quite as serious and important as the AP classes can sometimes feel. I’m especially excited to think about the fact that I’ll et to spend time with them watching them develop into better thinkers and then I may get to see them on the other side as they prepare to graduate. I have not had that opportunity as often recently as I want to.
So, nothing major here (yet) but I am certainly happy to be done with meetings and get back to the classroom.