Monday, May 05, 2014

Day 10: It's 5 - 5 (Revenge of the Fifth?)

The date is 5/5, and you know what that means! That's right! It's Day 10 of my 30-day writing challenge.

Oh, and it's something called cinco de mayo, literally, the Fifth of May, the day after May the Fourth.

I know it's late and the day is almost over. On the other hand, for those who are celebrating, it's probably only beginning!

With this limited space and shortness of time, allow me to briefly split an infini-- er, I mean, to briefly explain the story behind the story of this old cinco de mayo classic from 2008.

First of all, let me state for the record that this comic is NOT based on a true story.

Oh, no. It most certainly IS the True Story.

It was early in 2008, not May, when I taught a double-period class of Integrated Algebra students. Actually, given that it was 2008, it was still called Math A back then, which combined Algebra and Geometry in a two-year cycle. Given that it was a double-period class, I could take my time with the explanations and allow plenty of time for student activity. The strange thing about this class was that it was a team-teaching class. The stranger thing was that the other teacher was not a Special Ed teacher, but someone else from the general ed Math department. The strangest part was that I didn't actually have one co-teaching, but, in fact, had two co-teachers: one in each of the two periods.

This last thing becomes less strange when you realize that one of the two was the Assistant Principal who was obligated to teach one claas. So he picked half a class. And then most of the time he was a no-show because of "meetings" and "observations" and "bears, oh my!". If you knew him, this wasn't strange at all. Uh-uh. At times, he could have been the A.P. from the comic.

The other co-teacher, Mr. Prato, loved the class, and it was a shame that he had to leave halfway through it. He could relate to the students and work with the individuals while I worked with the entire class. (There are at least six ways to co-teach, and this one generally worked for us, although on some days/topics, we'd switch roles and he'd take the lead.)

Anyway, this one day, Mr. Prato came in, apologized to me about being swamped with work and asked if I minded if he sat in the back and caught up with paperwork. Well, everyone needs a break, and it wasn't like he was ditching (like some A.P.s I could name!). So, sure, go ahead.

Back to the class. I went a long introduction to parabolas without much technology to speak of in the room. We plotted these things out. I showed them the standard form for the equation and went through what happens to the parabola when a is positive, what happens to the parabola when a is negative, what happens to the parabola when a is a big number, what happens to the parabola when a is a fraction, what happens to the parabola when b isn't there, what happens to the parabola when b is negative, what happens to the parabola, parabola, parabola, parabola.

After so many iterations and over a half hour, I asked some question (I can't recall exactly what) of the students about how changing something or other would affect the parabola.

A student sitting near me, two seats from the front, cautiously raised his hand with a slightly puzzled look, and asked, "What's a parabola?"

Seriously, I am not kidding. His head hadn't been down. He hadn't been talking or doodling or been otherwise engaged. He'd been staring at the board -- or at least in the general area of the front board. All I could figure after the fact was that he'd been sleeping with his eyes open. But none of that had occurred to me then.

I responded EXACTLY as I did in the comic. I even flubbed it: I meant to say it was a "drink", not a "dessert", but it's just as well. I wouldn't want to promote alcohol use among minors anyway, right?

Mr. Prato stopped dead and looked up at me. "Mr. Burke, I almost fell out of my chair."

The funny thing was I don't think anyone laughed. The student was puzzled. I was annoyed. And I don't think anyone else knew what to make of what I'd said.

I realized then, yeah, maybe I'd have to work on the sarcasm.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wish I knew how to fall asleep with my eyes open. But seriously, that's a pretty sad story.