June 3, 2012

A Simple Visit

What re-energizes you when your energy is lagging? For me it's students who come back to visit. When I taught in Lawrence I had an awesome calculus class and several of them would stop by my classroom sporadically during the year, even after they graduated. Most things that interrupt my teaching flow annoy me, but past students are definitely an exception. Most of the time these visits don't include any explicit statement of "you made a difference in my life, thank you" but just the fact that they want to stop by implicitly states "you are important to me" Sometimes, though, past students would talk to my present students (freshmen usually) to say something along the lines of "Ms. Cardone is the best, you better be good to her!" which always put a huge smile on my face.

Since moving to Salem I don't get to see those students, and I have had very few students graduate since I'm teaching mostly sophomores. But, past students do still visit.

Last week I was feeling unmotivated during my prep so I decided to clean my classroom and do all the little things that didn't really need to get done. But then, one of my students from geometry last year appeared at the door! At first I thought she was just checking in to see if I'd successfully built the fan I was putting together last time she walked by (which I did, it creates a wonderful breeze); but instead she asked if I could help her with Algebra 2. This isn't the first time she's come to me for homework help this year and I love that a former student is comfortable enough to show up and ask for help in a class I'm not even teaching. This student does an awesome job of verbalizing her thought process so I was able to finish cleaning while she worked out problems. She interspersed the tutoring session with random comments- how she misses my class and wished there was a geometry 2* so she could take that. When she expressed concern over taking pre calculus next year, I shared that I will be teaching a section of the course- she was so excited about the possibility of being in my class!

This encounter was exactly what I needed to jump start my day. Most students don't share their appreciation for what you've taught them (both mathematically and otherwise), in fact many won't come to realize it until much later, or may not trace that understanding or character trait back to you at all. But, those few instances when students do display trust, gratitude, or even a genuine smile remind me of all the reasons I love to teach (my original typo "live to teach" may be just as true!) and that even in June, when I had to buy a fan for my classroom because with 3 weeks left the heat is already stifling, everything I do has meaning and value. I can't wait to do it all again tomorrow, and next year, and for many more to come!

*I am actually developing a proposal for geometry 2 to start running fall of 2013 since we increased the math graduation requirement. I'd love ideas on what to include in the course: it should be accessible to most but include topics beyond the traditional high school curriculum.


  1. This is what I've missed out on with my school-hopping.

    And it's one of the things I'm looking forward to the most about returning to the school I taught at last year!

  2. Agree 100%. I do love it when kids come back...and I really wish I had the ability to STOP worrying about trivial matters and appreciate them as much as I should. Whenever I decide to push that button - and blow off whatever busy work I have in favor of working/visiting with a student - I feel re-energized and ready to go!

    Regarding Geometry 2, I suggest pulling some topics from Geo-1 that aren't required and also throwing in some alternate geometries (hyperbolic/spherical). Might even sneak in some combinatorics under the guise of graph theory! Sounds like fun!!!

  3. agree that random former student visits are about as close to a "thank you for making a difference" as you'll often get ... Geometry 2 thoughts: yes to non-Euclidean geometry (also consider Projective via constructions approach) and Graph Theory (that's what I was going to post about until I saw that I was beaten to it), set theory could provide more logic to help with both of the above ... though so far this is starting to look more like 'welcome to real math' than Geometry 2 ... now I'll try to list a few things I'm not always able to do in Geometry but some people certainly do or that I try to squeeze in and some don't or are often included in Alg2/PreCal - Conic Sections, Unit Circle Trig, Transformations/Tessellations art-related projects (MC Escher style drawings for example), vectors, more 3-D geometry including 3-D coordinate geometry, ... so um now for an outline that kind of mirrors a traditional geometry outline but bigger and badder ... Review, Transformation-related artsy stuff, Coordinate Geometry & Extnesions (Conic Sections, 3-D), Trigonometry & Extensions (Vectors, Unit Circle Trig, Polar Eqns), Platonic Solids & other 3-D, Logic & Extnesions (Intro to advanced math like Set Theory & Graph Theory), Parallel Lines & Intro non-Euclidean Geometry (Projective/Spherical/Hyperbolic), ... you can also dabble in number theory like Euclid did which gets you to modular arithmetic which gets you to algebraic groups which gets you back to symmetry if you really do want to cram in as much introduction to advanced math as you can ... I'd try to stick the useful sneak previews of Alg 2/PreCal near the beginning and then just go crazy as you can with exploring stuff I didn't see until undergrad college level courses that is vaguely like high school geometry ... sorry that this was a bit of a ramble

  4. Thanks so much for all the Geometry 2 ideas! I'll be asking again over the summer once I have a more coherent idea of what I might like to do. This is a great springboard for my brainstorm.

  5. I wonder if you could use some parts of _Geometry Revisited_ by Coxeter and Greitzer for a Geometry 2 course. It's a great book for you, in any case, even if you don't use much of it with your students.