Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rationalization for an absence

It's been so long since I've last blogged that my sign-in screen, which automatically remembers my username and password, didn't automatically load. My goodness, how time flies when you're up to your elbows in tasks that require your constant attention. Aside from "Guitar Hero" not being able to play itself, I've been typing frenetically the last three weeks, albeit, not exclusively with letters. In fact, I've been typing xs and ys and all kinds of mathematical symbols, which takes much, much longer and requires a patient pertinacity. The reason: I'm behind in my classes.

Yep, I pride myself on my natural aversion to procrastination and my innate abilities to meet deadlines with ease, but this academic year has been a formidable, and unsuspecting, challenge to my usual predictable efficiency. I anticipated that this year would be more time-consuming for me than usual, since all three of my math classes have brand new textbooks. This means new tests, new quizzes, new homework sets, new sequence, new authors, and a new pace. It's the last one that caught me off guard, and specifically in one class: BC calculus.

I didn't anticipate the workload this year to be any more onerous than it was several years ago when I had BC Calculus (YES, Calculus IS capitalized) AND AP Statistics for the first time. It seemed like I was constantly creating new source documents, having little time for the usual diversions to a dedicated profession. . . . such as sleeping. But I never thought that I would allow myself to fall behind the requisite pace for covering all my required material for the typically early May 7th deadlinde for the annual College Board AP Examination. For someone who thinks constantly, I'm sad to say I didn't think it out well enough . . . or maybe I out-thunk myself?

With only 14 class periods to go before test day, I realized that I had 1.536 major units left to cover. I had relied so hubrisly on my abilities to be where I needed in the end that I never realized until recently that I was WAY off my target. Consequently, I've resorted to methods that any decent teacher with their students' best interests in mind would do--Panic! I've decided to not only pick up the pace, but to deviate from the book, and to resort to the Dragnet method of instruction: Just the facts. I've been cutting out all the extra examples, the superflous material that can only lead to deeper understanding and complaining students, and unfortunately the majority of the corny jokes, to deliver a more succinct, cogent curriculum that will get us back on track.

To accomplish this, I've been creating notes where students merely work examples with me and augment with an occasional comment. I've been creating worksheets that contain only AP-type questions, which means students only get the "harder, multi-stepped" questions. I've been delivering the new accelerated curriculum almost faster than I can produce the documents, which means that I'm still behind, and still very stressed.

The stress has only been accentuated by the schedule of our UIL math calendar, as my "mathletes" have been preparing and competing in district and regional competitions. In fact, today alone I spent 14 and 1/2 hours with my mathletes and others at the regional event at UTSA. Although I was able to get a little bit of work done, most of the time was spent coaching the competitors on last-minute tips and 11th hour strategies. Unfortunately I not only didn't get to do the work I had planned, but my teams did not advance to state. We comfort our grief by shifting gears towards preparation for the rapidly approaching (increasing, concave up) AP exams.

If my new internal calibrations are correct, at the new accelerated pace of instruction, I will have finished all the information my students will need for their BC examination, precisely 2 days, 12 hours, and 22 minutes AFTER they take the exam. As with any curve with negative first and second derivative values, we are converging on our target all too rapidly, I just hope we don't end up at the same place those curves are heading! Let's pray for an inflection point.


Anonymous said...

Save the corny jokes for lunch. We love 'em!! Glad to see your blog today. LC

Anonymous said...

Just a thought on the taking forever to type math symbols, I would recommend LaTeX (la-tech). It may be something to look into for next year because it is similar to learning a new language (programming wise) but is very useful for writing up documents with mathematical symbols and the like.

Don't worry you got me through BC Calculus, I'm sure these kids will be fine too!!

kwkorpi said...

Cool, I check into LaTeX. Anything that can be done exclusively with the keyboard would be much faster, if only eventually.

Thanks anonymous previous BC student!