I wasn’t going to post an edusolidarity post until I read this one by msgregson and became inspired. I want to say in advance, I’m sorry if this offends you, but I felt obliged to post. I offer a unique perspective and I often feel as if I do not understand exactly what is happening in the other states with my fellow teachers. I teach in a right to work state. We do not have forced unions. There is still a NEA affiliate here, but I am not required to be a member. If a teacher does choose to be a member, it costs $35 a month. This provides me with limited representation and insurance. The School Board has elected officials and they set my salary and benefits. It is based upon years of experience and number of higher degrees. I have a unique perspective on unions. I also taught in Ohio, which is not a right to work state. I was required to give over $1000 of my salary every year to the organization. Every year I wrote a letter to the Ohio NEA expressing my desire to only pay my fair share for bargaining rights and asked that I not be forced to contribute to their political works due to differing opinions. They did always comply, but only after several letters and requests. I did appreciate them for respecting this.
I now teach in TN and my salary is very comparable. I have similar benefits and I must say, a better working environment. At my school in TN, I am often asked to do extra tasks, but am always thanked and appreciated. In OH, I was often told to do something extra because it was in my contract. Maybe it was just the school I was teaching at, but it often felt like a battle between the administration and the teachers. I’m sure there was more behind the scenes that the union did for me, and I’m sure if I stayed longer, I might have seen the benefits, but I really don’t see the difference my $1000 a year made in my teaching environment.
I do feel bad for the teachers in Wisconsin and NY who may be experiencing job changes. I can relate. My husband lost his job two months ago. He worked in the Insurance industry handling claims. He has a college degree and is certified in several states. He has many advanced endorsements. He was an excellent employee with outstanding customer service reviews. He was let go with no prior notice. Needless to say, we were upset, but had little recourse. We are now learning that the job market is tough. It is happening everywhere. It is not just rough for teachers. I know my husband will find another job, but at this point, I am not sure if it will be at his previous level.
I guess what I’m saying is the economy is rough right now. Jobs are getting harder and harder to come by. Why should anyone be protected because they are a member of a union? What makes teaching any different from any other professional career? Personally, I know that my fellow blog community works hard everyday to earn and keep their jobs. They do not require the protection of a union. Their passion and love for their jobs are reflected in their students.
If your classroom is anything like mine, then the week before spring break is a nightmare. The kids are antsy and several parents pull their students out early to get a jump-start on their vacations. My first year teaching I gave a major test on the day before spring break: Big Mistake. It was awful trying to get students to make it up when they returned and of course, they didn’t remember anything.
So, for the last few years I have taken a new approach to the week before spring break, at least in my Geometry classes. I make it construction week. No, not building, but compass and straightedge constructions. I decided years ago not to teach them as I went because the students can’t remember to bring their compasses to class and I’ve never invested in a classroom set. So I put all the basic constructions in one week.
On Monday, I introduce the idea of constructions and let them play with the compass to get used to it. I’m always amazed with how much practice it takes to get a smooth circle. I let the students be creative and I teach them how to make a flower with the compass. They love it.
On Tuesday, I introduce them to this Math Open Reference Website. I print off copies of the worksheets that accompany the website and hand them out to each student. The students are put in groups of 2 or 3 and given one laptop per group. They use the website to complete each construction. There is a java applet that shows them how to do each construction step by step. There is also a list of the steps with pictures below the applet. This allows students to go back and repeat the steps as often as they need to so they can master the constructions. I assign 8 different basic constructions involving line segments and angles. At the end of the week, I give them a quiz on constructions.
For the students that are absent during construction week, I assign them a project when they return. They have to use the website to create a book explaining the constructions and provide step by step directions. I also allow them to use YouTube for this assignment.
At the end of the week with the laptops, I was surprised and a little disturbed with the number of students that had a difficult time following written, step by step directions. I explained to them that this is not just a math skill, but a real life skill. There have been and will be many Christmas Eves’ spent in tears and frustration trying to interpret directions on how to assemble a bike or toy for my children. And don’t get me started on Ikea’s picture directions…
I know it has been a while since my last post. I am teaching without textbooks this semester, and it is more work than I imagined. In class, we don’t seem to have a problem. I never assigned a lot of homework in the past and I very seldom referenced the book in class. My real problem is the logistics of absent students and students who don’t pay attention in class and all of a sudden realize they want to master the past three weeks of Geometry at home on weekend, so of course they need resources. I would send a book home, but our school has no extra books, thus the teaching without books this semester. I have posted a ton of online resources on my class webpage, but I still have several students without internet access. I’m learning being textfree is liberating for my classroom and limiting to students who need to work alone.
On another topic, my Geometry class completed their city projects. Every semester, I let my students choose groups and design a city based upon the idea of parallel lines and transversals. Several groups get very creative and develop 3D monstrosities. Most groups of students stick to a drawing on poster board. Either way, the ideas behind the cities are always fun. I’ve had students design Candyland, Legoland, Classic Rock City, and even Afghanistan.
This is not an orginal project and I need to give credit. I use a rubric based upon this one I found on the internet. The rubric and instructions do a great job of reinforcing the relationships of angles using parallel lines and transversals. I normally give the students two class days (we are on a block schedule) to complete the project. I am always pleased when they realize our city, Cleveland, is based upon parallel streets and they identify important buildings in town and their angle relationships.