Monthly Archives: January 2015

A friend shared this article from 2010 about a TFA alum’s opinion of the phrase “achievement gap”. It got me thinking…


“In New Mexico, Teach For America affiliates are called colonizers. In New Orleans, some refer to them and other reformers as carpetbaggers. In Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and other places around the nation where massive layoffs of veteran educators have occurred—only to have these same municipalities welcome Teach For America teachers shortly thereafter—corps members have been called scabs. Similar sentiments, different memory, different language”

Where I am, I’m not a carpetbagger or a scab. Teachers like me make up 3/4ths of our math department (without TFA our department would have 1 teacher and 7 vacancies. With TFA, we have 4 teachers and 4 vacancies). I believe each region TFA places in has a unique situation. Don’t criticize all of TFA because it isn’t possible to make a cohesive case. TFA may be scab workers in Chicago – but in Arkansas its TFA or no one. I’ll take a TFA teacher on loan over a sub any day.
“Instead of asking if how they performed is excellent, the inter-racially comparative nature of the “achievement gap” suggests that blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, special education students, and those receiving free and reduced-priced lunch should do whatever white students are doing.”

To me this is what our work as teachers in schools like mine comes down to. I believe the “achievement gap” has created by systematic racism. I believe that only huge, fundamental shifts in how we value education for EVERY child is the only way to close this “gap.” There clearly exists an element of race where all the white students in town go to private school, the black students to public school.  There clearly exists an element of racial bias when professionals express lower standards for students in our region (p.s. that’s bullshit). Every day, I teach students whose lives have been screwed over by systems older than you or I that we refuse to change. These traditions have created the “achievement gap” as we know it. Some traditions I’m for keeping – these need to be changed.

I work with a bit by bit to break down the Berlin Wall of our segregated past, knowing full well I can never bring it down alone. I work to inspire the next generation to make the change happen faster, because at the rate we’re going the “one day” where all children will receive an excellent education, regardless of their zip-code, is too far away.


Deriving Laws: Sine/Cosine

After our NCTM illuminations lab for the law of sines, we worked on practicing these. We spent one day solving for side lengths, the next reviewing finding angles. Then students somehow thought these were different procedures….I’m not sure how I could have made that clearer but having this entire course better mapped out & concise is probably the main cause.

Since the Illuminations inquiry lab went well for the law of Sines, I decided to try the lab for cosines. It didn’t work so well – it involved a lot more of me walking them through finding the law of cosines instead of them being able to find it on their own. I ditched it after one period and just gave a formula. While it isn’t the proudest moment, I’m definitely proud that all my students could use it correctly. We’re wrapping up this all tomorrow – then its on to other things 😀

Law of Sines: Investigation

I’ve recently gone on an Illuminations kick. NCTM provides solid resources for my Pre-Calculus kiddos and I’ve used them twice in the two weeks I’ve been at school.

Today we did this activity on investigating the law of sines.  I’m incredibly impressed with how well it went, and would recommend it. I strongly believe in inquiry in class and this was a wonderful scaffold for me and the students.

Every student in both periods was SILENTLY engaged working on finding the solutions to the second half of the packet. Students typically struggle  when proving general cases, but this scaffolding and being facilitated as a whole class for the first 6 questions was incredibly helpful.  It felt like a huge victory that students could manipulate and solve problems like these. I haven’t seen that much productive struggle in those classes in a while which was amazing.

One student asked why I had them do the activity instead of just being told the law. I explained that just writing something down won’t help her learn it or apply it correctly. I certainly have a better understanding of where the law of sines comes from after today than before.

Tomorrow we’ll be learning and practicing using our new discovery. I’m excited to see what happens. 🙂