Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Local Artist Wins Honorable Mention at Her First Art Festival

The art that you see above and to the right belongs to a high school mathematics teacher turned artist, Kimberly Hansel. She is a local artist participating in her first art festival in Chicago and winning honorable mention in the emerging artists section. This talented artist never came from a lineage of artists, yet, developed her ability and love for art at the early age of nine. The beauty of her art did not come from studying art or taking painting class, she believes art is a natural talent and has only taken one art class in her life. During her junior year in high school she took a level one drawing course and for her first project she was paid fifty dollars to complete a life-size drawing of Mark Twain for an elementary school located in Illinois. Now she travels around the United States from art festival to art festival spewing out her passion onto the canvas. Her goal, as an artist, is to evoke emotion through the movement within her artwork.
Her parents told her she would never make any money in the art field and that she needed to get a ‘real job.’ She responded to that by saying, “Why get a job that you hate, when you can make a living doing what you love most?” She is on her way to doing just that and she described the theme for the two paintings shown (Above: acrylic, Right: watercolor), “Both paintings represent a path leading to a higher place (taking the higher road), but there are rough patches along the way that each of us encounter on a daily basis. Eventually, we must return to the path that will lead us into a spiritual awakening and, in turn, help us make noble, respectable decision pertaining to our lives.”

Art Festival Examiner

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Life of a Teacher Day 7

WARNING: This blog will contain curse words, so provide discretion when it comes to youngsters.

You may ask yourself, why does this blog contains curse words? The answer is simple, teenagers curse EVERY SINGLE DAY of their lives and when I or other teachers are walking through the hallways we have the distinct pleasure of hearing such profanity as "Fuck", "Shit", "Bitch"....etc. I am sure you can figure out the other words and/or combinations of words, but these are the three main words that spew out of the teenage mouth every day!

Whenever I hear such profanity I immediately turn to the student and say, "Watch your language!" and usually they respond with, "I'm sorry, my bad." However, it may be surprising to know (sarcastically) that not all teenagers respond in this sweet and forgiving fashion. For example, on Friday I was walking down the hall and behind me were two female students talking about meaningless things such as a description of a person they probably don't even know very well (because teenagers, especially females, like to gossip even if they really don't know whether the story is correct or not). I heard, "Shit" come out one girl's mouth and I turned to say my usual, "Watch your language" and as I was talking to the girl she looked at me, but continued to talk with her friend as I was speaking to her. Naturally, I repeated myself and she gave me eye contact, but still continued to talk with her friend. She completely disregarded me as if I were an infinitesimal bug flying around her unnoticed. Then, I turned back around and walked forward knowing that my statement registered in her mind. Seconds later, the other girl blurted out the same exact profanity that I just finished telling her friend not to say. Again, I turned around and repeated my same phrase that I had just repeated to her friend TWICE! At this point I was fuming! That is just pure disrespect and disregard for authority!!

Not only did I deal with the cursing females on this day, but I also had to deal with a student in my classroom who believed that he received a bad grade on his last two homework assignments because I did not like him. So, he spoke loudly in the classroom, "It's because she hates me!!", "My teacher hates me, and that is why I only got half-credit on my homework assignments!" Of course, it had nothing to do with the fact that this student did not follow directions for those two homework assignments, that would be too easy to figure out. So, I asked to see him after class to straighten out his thought process and it seemed to have worked. I informed him that his grade was a reflection of his effort.

To top it off, on that same day I had a student look me in the eye and plow into me with her elbow as she walked past me in the hallway and never said 'Excuse me' or 'Sorry'! Three strikes and you are out!!! Teenagers, please wake up and smell the coffee!!! The world does not revolve around you, it revolves around the sun! This combination of incidences really made me pretty angry by the end of the day! Then, my anger simply vanished because I thought about what horrible characters these young students demonstrated and I became sad.

It is disheartening to know that we live in the type of world where young people show no respect or appreciation for the people that provide them with opportunities to build their character and knowledge while exercising their minds. I believe an education is the single most important factor to providing all types of people with an overall better life. An education awakens you and strips you of the ignorance you had in the past; it brings people to a higher level! It is sad to know that some of these students will grow up to have children of their own and teach them the same mannerless disrespect that they have used throughout their lives!


Monday, February 15, 2010

The Life of a Teacher Day 6

Just a little history for you: Prior to teaching at a suburban school I taught at an inner-city school; to be exact, a near-west side (of Chicago) charter school for students who had been kicked out of C.P.S (Chicago Public Schools) or who left C.P.S for one reason or another. Within the last seven months or so, many of the students that I taught at this inner-city school have contacted me on facebook and have given me compliments about the things that I taught them. Basically, they have thanked me for teaching them more than just mathematics.

As a teacher, I really never know how much I affect the lives of the students; sometimes I may never know. To be honest, I know I have not affected all of my students in a positive way because I have expectations for my students and I get frustrated when those expectations are not fulfilled. I expect them to be neat, follow directions, attempt everything, pay attention, come prepared for class, take notes, ask questions, participate, and communicate. If they draw a picture on their homework assignment I expect the picture to be drawn with a ruler and/or a mathematical compass. My goal is to get my students to produce quality work as well as attempt to understand the concepts and how to apply them. And as I always tell my students, "If you don't try, you will never learn."

Throughout my teaching career I have tried to teach my students that everyone learns at a different pace. There are some students that can sit in a mathematics classroom, take notes, pay attention, and participate in class and earn an "A." But, there are other students that can follow these same strategies and never understand a single concept. What does that tell you? I know what that tells me. It tells me that the second type of student will need to put in more effort and time into getting a good grade in mathematics because they do not have the natural talent of the first student. It's okay, because students learn at different paces.

Let me give an example, pertaining to myself, about learning at different paces. It is my understanding that I have dyslexia, which means I have a difficulty with reading and it takes me much longer to read 10 pages than the average person. In addition, I don't spell very well (thank God for spellcheck). During my college years this caused some problems. However, instead of getting down on myself and calling myself stupid, I made a conscientious effort to allocate extra time to a reading assignment. I worked around my reading disability so that I could be successful in college (This will lead into my next blog which will discuss special education in American schools). I believe all students have the ability and responsibility to meet their full potential.

However, what I want you to remember the most from this blog is that if someone touches your life in a positive way, be verbal and tell that person. I guarantee they will want to hear it and feel like they have made a difference in someone's life !!!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Life of a Teacher Day 5

Well, here I am again and let me tell you what has happened. I have spent most nights grading and preparing for class. I am creating a new project for our exponential growth and decay unit. The project involves bacterial growth, compounding interest on home loans, student loans, credit cards and certificates of deposit. In addition, I will be creating radioactive decay problems for the radioactive isotope, Carbon-14. The students will learn such things as the procedures used by geologists and archaeologists when dating rocks and how much interest would be paid for a thirty-year mortgage loan (interest compounded monthly in the U.S. while in Canada it is compounded semi-annually....Canadian always get it right....health care and home loans!).

Now, for the bad part. Let me tell you what some of my students did the day of the exam. I had some students show up to the mathematics office with a third of their chapter review packet completed and told me that they didn't know how to complete or even start the blank problems. I responded, "Oh really, could you please take out your notes?" and I proceeded to show them similar problems from their notes to problems from their review packets. Surprisingly (sarcastically), my students were able to complete their problems by looking back at their notes!! So, I ask myself, where is the disconnect in the brain of an adolescent? Do they not understand that there is a reason we take notes in class? Apparently, in their minds we just take notes so they have something to put in their mathematics folder to show their parents! OMG children, GET ON THE BALL!! Use your brains!! By now, students in their adolescent years should be able to put two and two together and get four!

Then, another student says to me during the exam, "I was not present when we did this particular section, so I do not know how to do these problems." Now, let me just say before I go any further that this is one of the most frequently used excuses in my eleven years of teaching. It is a horrible excuse. One of the worst excuses of all times next to the old "my dog ate my homework" excuse. So, here is how it works. The student misses a day of class and never retrieves the notes for the section that they missed (which, by the way, are posted on my website along with a daily schedule of events, homework, and sections completed in class) and then they wait all the way until exam day to let me know that they never understood the day they missed two weeks ago. Moreover, the students expect me to sympathize with their situation. But, guess what?, I do not sympathize with them. I tell them that they have had plenty of time to come in for help and now they must pay the consequences of their poor choices. That is life! Everyone pays for their actions or lack there of.

Now, I am sure you can clearly see why I have grey hair and am getting more.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Life of a Teacher Day 4

As you can see, this is not actually Day 4 of my blog. My blogging days are based on the days that I manage to find enough time to blog. For me, this was a weekend filled with at least ten hours of grading. I had to grade homework, quizzes, and I started grading the murder mystery group projects that I mentioned in a previous blog. Most of the time I try to solicit the help of others so that I am not spending the entire weekend grading. But, even though I was able to solicit help this weekend, I am still exhausted! I am listening to some relaxing jazz and trying to regroup from this work-filled weekend before I start another work-filled week.

What is my complaint today? (You may ask yourself). Well, I will tell you. Why are teachers always blamed for the lack of success of their students? As you know, I have been teaching for eleven years and work very hard to supply my students with the recipe for achievement in my class, but we all know the old saying, "You can lead a dear to the water, but you cannot make it drink." This is how I feel about my students too. If I am doing my job by providing my students with the best possible opportunity to learn and they choose not to, then whose fault is that? The teacher's fault? I don't believe so.

Education is a fifty-fifty scenario. I, the teacher, put in my half of the job by providing opportunities and great learning experiences for my students and the students put in their half by working hard to learn and taking advantage of those opportunities provided. Now, as any good teacher would say, students usually fail or get poor grades because they are not fulfilling their part of the unspoken educational agreement (fifty-fifty agreement). Sometimes their part is not fulfilled because they have a busy schedule, sometimes their part is not fulfilled because they lack confidence to do what is needed to get the job done, and sometimes their part is not fulfilled because they are lazy. It's as pure and simple as that!

You remember being a teenager, right? If you ever failed a class in high school or got a C in a class when you believed you should have earned a better grade, who is the first person you blamed? Yourself?.....ha ha...don't make me laugh! No, of course you did not blame yourself. Instead, you blamed your teacher. You would say things like, "Oh, that teacher sucks, that is why I got a bad grade" or "That teacher has something against me and doesn't like me".....I can go on and on with excuses, but that is all that those words are, excuses. There are teachers that are not very good and there are teachers that are lazy and sometimes a student's complaint is legitimate, but never is it an excuse to fail or perform poorly! Get a grip! Take responsibility for your education. Do you think that Einstein had a bad teacher at one point in his life? Of course he did, but did that stop him from finding answers to complicated questions? Not at all!! And it should not stop you either.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Life of a Teacher Day 3

I just wanted to recap for a moment about what happened on Friday 1/15/2010. I gave a quiz on Trigonometry (BTW, one of my favorite subject areas). I told my first period class to choose two out of the three problems on the front of the quiz and two out of four problems on the back. The front of the quiz had three problems that were fairly equal in difficulty, but there were two problems on the back that were particularly easier than the other two. Just take a wild guess as to which two problems the majority of the class completed on the back of the quiz? You guessed it! They completed the easier problems. There were only about two students that selected one of the harder problems and then one of the two easier ones.

Where is the self-challenge in these students? When one challenges oneself to go beyond the easy way out, it feels better in the end and one begins to believe in oneself. Do students know and understand this philosophy? Should we always strive to go beyond what is the easiest thing to complete? Do we do this in our daily lives? I can truly tell you that I do NOT look for the easy way out or simpliest thing to do! I strive for bigger and better as often as I can! We need to instill this into our childrens' minds!!! Otherwise we will have a world filled with people who are Get-Byers with no intellectual depth, no inspiration to do more or be more; we will be like robots just doing what we are told. When our children grow up, how will they solve the world problems with a planet full of Get-Byers???

Now, there are those select few students that do stand out and go above and beyond what is asked of them, but sometimes two students out of 120 might not be enough. As a teacher, I will strive to instill a better thought process in my students' minds and I can only hope that parents will do the same!


Saturday, January 16, 2010

The life of a teacher Day 2

Today I graded papers for 3 hours and then entered grades into our school's online grading system. Some people seem to believe that a teacher's job is easy and they say things like, "Oh, you get to leave every day at 3:30pm," or "You are off for the entire summer, how easier can your job be?" or "You are off for winter break, Spring break, and many other major holidays, that must be nice." Well, let me inform all of those people who believe a teacher's job is easy.

I work about 60 hours or more a week (Five-day week). Then, when I come home for the weekend I spend another 3 to 10 hours working depending upon how much preparation work I have to do and how many papers I have to grade. This weekend happened to be a light one. I try to make my lessons creative and fun, but creativity and fun comes with a price, that price is my time. For example, my advanced algebra students are currently working on a murder mystery group project. The students' job is to determine who killed the victim given a set of parameters. They must use trigonometry and other mathematical concepts to determine the height of the murderer. Then, they select the killer from the list of suspects that I provide. They love it! And I love that they love it! It makes me feel as if the total preparation time was time well spent.

Besides the numerous hours of work that most teachers have, we also have to deal with attitudes and behavioral problems. Do you think your teenagers are bad at home and give you attitude? Well, try three thousand teenagers!! In my classes I have a total of about 120 students.....try that on for size! What I wouldn't give to have smaller classes!

Now, I could be a lazy teacher. I could have a no homework policy. I could give worksheets every day and only have to prepare copies and never create any fun activities for my students. I could give shortened versions of tests and quizzes so that I have less to grade. I could leave every day at 3:30p.m. and not care about my students needing help after school or care about preparing for classes. I could come in every morning right before the bell rings and never be available for morning help. I could quit my after school tutoring hours. Then, my job would be much easier and I could see why people would say it was easy. But, I am not like that. Neither are most of my colleagues. So, let me just inform you non-believers.....a teacher's job is NOT easy! I would like you to try my job for three months, I guarantee you will not think that it is easy!


Friday, January 15, 2010

The life of a teacher Day 1

I have been teaching for 11 years; high school of all places. I teach mathematics, the favorite subject of many people. Recently, I thought about my high school times and have always remembered that I, nor anyone else, ever thought to talk back to a teacher. We looked up to teachers, we cared about learning (or at least I did) and we loved to learn (even if some concepts and ideas were never used again, we still wanted to know and understand them). I still remember reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" which happened to be the book I adored most as a youngster. I remember my Geometry class and the thousands of proofs that we did throughout the semester. My Geometry teacher in high school said to me, "You should be a Geometry teacher".....really, she did say that to me. I responded, "Teachers do not make enough money." Now, lo and behold, here I am teaching Geometry! WOW! I never thought that would happen.

But, high school is so different now. Students talk back to teachers. Students don't want to learn unless they earn points for it! They won't even complete a task unless it is worth something. I asked a student last semester, "Could you please erase the board for me," and they respond, "Do I get extra credit points for doing that." I said, "Why?, why would you get extra credit points for doing your teacher a favor?"

What happened to the love of learning? It has left our society. Students ask, "If I am never going to use this again, why do I have to learn it?" Because, you knucklehead, it will expand your knowledge beyond the blinders of information that are the only things you believe you need to know. Let me give you an example. If you wanted to be a doctor, is it best to just learn about the human body and only the human body? Would you need other knowledge? Would you need math? Hell no! You would not need math to be a doctor, you only need to know about the human body. Would you need to know how to research the latest medical techniques? Hell no! You would only need to learn about the human body. If every doctor thought this way, then I would be scared to go to the doctor!