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22 Oct

SIFE = Students with Interrupted Formal Education.

I’m not too thrilled about the title of this new class, but it is what it is, I suppose. This class is comprised of students who just recently immigrated to the country and who had significant gaps in their formal education from their home country. They are 9th through 12th graders, 14 to 18 years old.

Not quite sure if you can imagine this class, so here’s just a few things to paint the picture.

  • It started with 5 students, is now at 26 in 12 weeks, and it will continue to grow.
  • 100% of them hardly speak English. Only about 4 of them can understand limited English, the rest, this is their first exposure.
  • 1 is from China, 1 from Brazil, a few from El Salvador, the rest from Guatemala.
  • I teach it mostly in Spanish. My Chinese kid will probably learn Spanish faster than English… =/
  • Almost all of them never used a binder before, let alone dividers. They used to constantly open their binders backwards and then get confused and try to rearrange their dividers again. They would put in their lined paper with the large white margin on the bottom, then write on the back side of the page first with the 3-holes on the right.
  • I had two students not know their birthdays. (Apparently, some cultures celebrate their patron/ namesake saint’s day instead?)
  • I have one student, 15 years of age, who keeps taking out her Hello Kitty coloring book to color instead of doing the classwork.
  • They have never seen or used negative numbers until my class (except for the Brazilian student).
  • For a handful of them, they touched a computer for the very first time.

If you know this population of students and know me, you’ll know that I LOVE this class, both the students and the course. The students are incredibly sweet and respectful and so glad to be here. They were also pretty terrified when they first came in which makes me mother-hen them even more. As for the course, I have no curriculum that I have to comply to and finish in a certain amount of time. I’m teaching for the sake of teaching again!! I can make it as slow and applicable as I want. I haven’t been this excited to develop curriculum in years.

Everyday I can see them absorb a certain amount of knowledge. For some, they are ready for the math. They started never having seen a negative number and are now adding and subtracting them better than many of my Algebra kids. For others, their English is growing in leaps and bounds. They ask me daily how to say certain words and phrases in English and I can hear them repeating and saying them aloud to themselves. Some of them are just proud to be students. They come in showing off their new bags and binders and study their flashcards at every opportunity.

After 12 weeks since the beginning of the course, I’m constantly stumped at how to introduce concepts I’ve never introduced before (like a negative number for the very first time) and answering questions I never considered before (like what is Homecoming Queen/ King?). I’m also excited and terrified of introducing concepts for the very first timelike fractions and Algebra because I will have no screwed up prior knowledge to deal with! … 

(We’ll leave that last one at that for now. If you know, you know.)

Anyways, lastly, there really should be a list of things that ELD teachers deal with in math so that I don’t have to learn from scratch. Anyone have any ideas, tips, training to share?!?! Here’s just a few that I’m finding:

This says 21 - 17. (He got it wrong b/c it was a dictation quiz and I said 21 - 70).

This says 21 – 17. (He got it wrong because I said 21 – 70).

  • Most of them write their 1s like 7s. Their 7s they just cross with a dash. I debated whether or not it was ok to make them all just write 1s as a single vertical line or not and I decided it was necessary. If written anywhere outside of a math worksheet full of numbers, they can’t have $15 looking like $75.
  • They switch their decimals and their commas. If you’ve ever traveled in other countries before, you’ll have seen this. $2.000 for example or $20,99.

I’ll try to keep you posted on the progress of this class (I hope!)

10 Dec

2013-12-10 20.33.43

A book, I’m pretty sure, compiled by teachers. And perhaps I’ve been teaching too long when some things don’t make me laugh as much as they make me cringe… like this…


This next one made me laugh though. =) Instead of a banana car, I’ve gotten monsters, rainbow lands, and narwhals. Same plea though.

2013-12-10 20.55.45


20 Aug

The new school year has begun!!

While Common Core Geometry is consuming my time, a quick share:

In creating a floor plan for their “dream home,” not a single student included a laundry room. 

I found that amusing.


2012-13 Class set-up

15 Feb

2012-13 Class set-up

I swear it every year. No matter where I go, they change my classroom every year to make me clean it up and re-decorate it. It’s a conspiracy.

Christmas lights were kept up to brighten up my window-less dungeon. White boards designs are now transferable for my next classroom. Newly installed Smartboard… is still a glorified white board/monitor. Students were in charge of doing one problem from their homework on solving systems by elimination and then checking their solution. They then walked around checking their answers for the rest.

Bad Math!

17 Dec

Bad Math

Bad math! Bad math! Bad math! 

I really hate this workbook! I tutor middle school kids once a week and this is what they came in with. They pace themselves so this is what was supposed to be teaching them? This shouldn’t even get onto paper!!

Bad math! Bad math! Bad math!

And you wonder why this kid was confused!

For all you non-mathy folks, let me tell you what to watch out for when your kid ends up in middle school…

  1. First and foremost, and what trips up the students when they get to Algebra: wrong usage of that dangnabit EQUAL SIGN! (<– Oh, Xanga days! How I miss thee). 0.05 x 100 does NOT equal to 0.05. This is why they have SUCH  a hard time remembering that you NEVER add 6 to one side twice…
    Shoot me now.
  2. A rule w/out any kind of explanation will not stick.  “To multiply by 100, move the decimal two places to the right” is no explanation at all.
    Bah. Humbug.

Publishing companies are the devil.  To math. I’m sure of it. Draw a happy pencil and math does not magically get easier.


12 Dec

Must. Date. As many things. As possible. TODAY.



7 Dec


One of my Algebra kids changed my “current mood” to this today.

I yelled at them to hurry and leave when the bell rang. And, “thank goodness I have two days w/out you guys!”

I smiled in love. They’re the most annoying adorable kids ever.


Proper Grievance

26 Nov

A student from our school passed away this morning due to brain cancer. I didn’t know her personally, only that she was a cheerleader in Leadership, with an eclectic group of friends. She had already thrice defeated the cancer in her lifetime but this summer she was diagnosed with a brain tumor deemed inoperable.  It had only been a matter of time after that.

About a month ago, the admin, with the permission of the parents, called a faculty meeting and let everyone know. We were given time to  ask questions, find out who else knew her, discuss how students might react, know where to send grieving students to and to prepare ourselves for the grief as well.

As I sat there in that meeting though, I felt… conflicted. Part of me just couldn’t understand why they were letting everyone know, why they were making such a big deal out of it. The other part of me wondered, what the hell is wrong with me?! 

Proper GrievanceI was desensitized is what it was. The school that I was at down in LA had over 4,000 students, and we lost at least one or two students per year. In the six years that I worked there, I personally knew two that died, one in a car accident and another in a shooting. I would hear about it over the PA system, “If you want to give to the ‘Garcia family fund,’ there will be  a student walking around to all the classes.” That’s how I would find out. Just like that.

The first student I had lost was actually in my first year of teaching. In the sea of Garcias in a 97% Latino school, he was that Garcia in that announcement that year, and I didn’t find out it was him until almost a year later. I was so sad but didn’t know anyone else who knew him to talk to. He was a student from my very first Twilight class who had gotten away with doing nothing in class his whole life by learning how to stay quiet. He once got mad at me for bothering him when he “wasn’t doing anything”. That was exactly my point. By the end of the year though, I remember he yelled out, “Hey, I think I’m getting it!” and actually started doing his work.

He still failed the class =/, but I remember being so proud of him and wanting to encourage him to keep at it. I didn’t get a chance to tell him though because I was so busy being a Nazi-teacher. I told myself I would tell him when I got back from vacation… Needless to say, lesson learned.

Anyways, the sad part is that I actually do understand the need to desensitize. I don’t know that anyone can grieve over so many losses and still remain healthy. Today though, having stepped away from that school for several years now, not only am I  saddened by the loss of this a student I did not know, but also for that school that had to harden itself to such losses.


31 Oct


Sometimes… they make me so infuriated and so hopeless that I need to take a mental health day in the middle of the week. 

Sometimes… they make me so proud and happy by finally completing one assignment thoroughly or simply saying “sorry.”

Sometimes… I wonder if they do the first on purpose to lower the expectations of giving me a day like the second. =/



11 Oct

My students sang me happy birthday today. Loud. And proud. It wasn’t my birthday and I couldn’t get them to stop. The theme in that class today seemed to have been “how rumors start”. 🙂

At the end of many a days, I can say that I had FUN at work. There’s just not a lot of jobs where you can say that.

I’m still having fun AND getting paid. (Most days.) #blessed