Saturday, December 04, 2010

Catching up on some things I wanted to comment on:

I clicked on this story link because I thought "B" stood for Bishop, and I wondered why anyone would send her a nasty letter. Then I read that "B" stood for Benjamin, and I thought, "well, duh."

Why the Record is worth every penny of its price. This actually made me LOL. 

I finally read this post and remembered that I had been meaning to write something sparked by this story.

On the tenure issue, I can only say that I don't have tenure, and won't ever have it in my current position. I am not complaining about that, I have plenty of protections and do not see all that much firing even of the nontenured (although in the current environment that is very likely going to change). I quit my job at System once I achieved tenure so you might say that it isn't an issue for which I would go to the mat.

About hassles with tranferring into different classes due to the teacher, I can sympathize. When I was in eighth grade, I was put in a class called Math 8E. It was basically honors math. I was also permitted to take high school level art classes instead of eighth grade art. My school was a centralized 7-12. (It still is, although now the junior high kids are somewhat more separated from the students in grades 9-12.) All of my other classes were regular eighth grade level, the upper track intended for students who would eventually be taking the Regents in high school.

There was not a big AP or honors program at my school, although I believe there were some courses. I did not take any AP or honors in high school, but I remember that a few social studies teachers were considered to be teaching classes that were not labeled that way, but I believe had kids in them who did eventually take the AP exam. I did not have any of those teachers. Even though the social studies classes I was placed in were not labeled any differently, the atmosphere was often bedlam, kids throwing stuff, swinging on the door and jumping out the windows of the classroom, and otherwise acting out. I didn't care or agitate to be moved, instead I just did my homework for other classes during social studies.

When I was in eleventh grade, I entered a contest that had to do with writing an essay on American history. I entered on my own, without direction from anyone in the school. It turned out that I was chosen as my high school's winner, and had to compete at the county level. I went to meet with the teacher who would be my mentor for the county competition. He was one of the social studies teachers who taught the kids who eventually took the AP exam. I recall his surprise at meeting me; although I knew who he was, he did not know me. He said, "why aren't you in my class?"

Back to the real reason for this anecdote, I'd always done well in and liked math, so the placement wasn't a surprise. Unfortunately the teacher was terrible, possibly the worst teacher I ever had in K-12.  I remember when we were learning pre-algebra, he would write an equation on the board (you know, of the 10x + 4y = ? or labeling triangles and other shapes variety), but the letters he chose were always drawn from his own initials and a boy's in the class. They were scrambled, so that the equation was not just a string of his and the boy's initials in order, but once we worked it out, the result was always his three initials plus the boy's.

He never used a girl's, not that any of us would have liked this better. Most of the boys targeted were extremely uncomfortable over it, too. He was a very strange guy, and had a reputation for having inappropriate relationships with the male students, that sometimes continued until they were alumni. The graduates would come to visit him during our class, and he would dismiss us immediately whenever that happened. But then questionable involvement with students was not uncommon, and it didn't result in headlines, jail terms and lawsuits as it does today.

I suffered through his class, making so-so grades, never failing, just not doing well for me. I think I wound up with a low B in the class, rather than my usual A. The weird initials in the equations wasn't the sole reason, the overall atmosphere was unpleasant, I just didn't "click" with the teacher or how he taught, did not do well on homework or exams in his class, and I started to dislike math.

Imagine my horror when the following year (which in those days meant Algebra), I landed the same teacher. I immediately made an appointment with my guidance counselor, asked to be switched to another class. You'd think she would have compared my math grade in seventh and eighth grades, been alarmed, and figured out that I had a point. Maybe she thought 8E was just too hard for me, and that was the source of my decline in grades, but she refused to change my placement and I was stuck with the creep for another year.

The result was essentially the same, I did not like math and did not do well in the class. At the end of the year, I believe I again had a B- or C+. Then I took the Algebra Regents exam, and scored a 96. Which I guess says either that the Regents wasn't very difficult, the teacher actually did teach me something although I did not demonstrate it in class, I taught myself Algebra, or someone at the school doctored the Regents results.

I had much more competent math teachers for the rest of high school, but it isn't a surprise that I did not pursue math in college. I drifted to the social sciences, and landed on history...guess the bedlam was better than the romantic strings in equations.

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