For all the brave parents out there who are helping their children with high school math:
After a Day Spent Teaching Math
Function notation of a linear equation
Integer, whole, irrational, and real –
What would it cost to buy this meal?
Multiplying this, and factoring that –
How many cats would fit on that mat?
Parallel and perpendicular lines in a plane
When you subtract you lessen,
When you add you gain.
Exponents and polynomials and parabolas and lines
Angles and triangles, tangents and sines
Distributive, reflexive, transitive props
Substitution really just means doing a swap.
Slope intercept form and Pythagorean theorem
how many people would fill the museum?
The minimum’s the low point, the maximum’s the high
Mathematical equations are as easy as pi.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, twitchy-eyed sometime math teacher
Pop made the front page of the Skagit Valley Herald today for winning the Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement Award.
And I want to take a moment here to share some of the many reasons I feel blessed to have this man for my father. I was born before Title IX: “Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that states: ‘No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.'” (www.ncaa.org) It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school that my school finally got a girls’ track team and I was able to high jump on my school’s team. But my dad introduced me to high jumping long before that. He built a little high jump for me when I was a youngster, and rooted for me as we had our own track meet in the backyard. He also taught me how to ski; led me up Mount Rainier, Baker, Adams, and Hood; took me on my first little rock scramble (Pinnacle Peak) when I was four years old; supported me in my university education and wrote me encouraging notes throughout my teaching career – he was always proud of me as a teacher, and he’s proud of me now for running for school board. He’s never in any way limited me because I was a female.
And this was a man who was born in 1918 – two years before women even had the right to vote!
Some wise guy turned around my campaign sign at the espresso stand so’s all you could see was the blank back of it. And I found myself cracking up. I could just picture it: I pictured a man with a baseball cap on his head, a cup of drip coffee in one hand and a rascally grin on his face – slyly reaching out and pulling my sign out of the dirt, giving it a stealthy 180 turn, and re-planting it. And – maybe it’s my background as a middle school teacher – but the idea of that just cracked me up.
It reminds me of my first day teaching eighth graders at Allen School: My partner, Teresa, and I both started in the B-E school district at Allen Elementary School the same year. Teresa taught science and math to the youngsters and I taught social studies and English. We were both dazzled by our students right from the start – I remember half-way through the day we both popped out of our classrooms at the same time, looked down the hall at each other, big grins on our faces, and said simultaneously, “I love these kids!”
At the end of the day we were outside the building, waving good bye to our new students as they loaded onto the buses, and we suddenly – again, both at the same time – looked at each other and said, “Where’s ____?!” We realized we were missing one of our students.
Without needing to say anything more to each other (and this is probably when I recognized my new partner and I had some special cosmic connection) we both hauled off in the same direction – towards the side of the school – rounded the corner and found our missing 8th grader in the process of lighting up a cigarette. Simultaneously, we yelled, “Busted!” He grinned at us and we grinned back. And that was the end of that. We established right from the get-go who he was dealing with that year, and we also established that we genuinely cared about him and he wasn’t invisible to us.
Finding the sign turned around this morning made me flashback to that scene at the side of the school all those years ago.
Ahem. And no – I did not leave the sign turned with its backside to the road. Good try, though.
I retire from teaching this week. I’ve been clearing out my space at school and came upon some notes and messages from my days as a teacher at Allen and Edison and West View that have brought tears to my eyes – I’m getting all choked up here. I have been blessed with such wonderful students in my career – kind and courageous and dear. I want to share some of what I’ve found this week – I want my students to know that their notes and kind words and art have stayed with me and meant a lot to me. I’ll never forget you.
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”
– Dr. Seuss
This week I’ve found myself being conscious of all the “lasts” – the last time I’ll ever do an algebra problem with a student; the last time I’ll do symmetrical art with a student; the last time I’ll teach a student how to recognize when a paragraph can be split into two; the last time I’ll talk about trench warfare, and the drummer boys in the Civil War, and why civilizations start around rivers; the last time I’ll say good-bye to my students at the end of a school year…
So what happened was… one day during lunch I walked down to the courthouse in the drizzle, squeeked my way across the lobby (my shoes decided to show off to the long line of people waiting to get their vehicles registered), and announced to the ladies behind the election counter that I was going to run for office. They smiled and pointed to the next office over, and there I was greeted by the mother of one of my former students who asked me (and how did she know?!) if I was going to run for school board. She set me up in front of a little computer, I typed in my name and pushed a couple buttons, and – just like that! – I was a candidate!
Here’s my statement for the voter’s pamphlet:
I’ve been a teacher in Skagit County’s schools since my husband and I moved here 34 years ago. I taught in the Burlington-Edison School District from 1992-2012. For the last seven years I’ve taught at Emerson, a nonprofit alternative high school in Mount Vernon. Recently, I wrote a health supplement on teen drug abuse for an educational publishing company. Working for the publishing company gave me an opportunity to recognize the challenges students and teachers face today in education.
As an educator my mission has been to help my students build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills they can bring with them into the future; and to help them see the power they have to make the world a better place. I retired from teaching in spring of 2019. I’d like to bring my teaching experience with me to the Burlington-Edison school board.
Our sons are Burlington-Edison graduates. I appreciate the dedication of the teachers who gave them the skills they need to achieve their goals in life. I’d like the opportunity to give back to the teachers of Burlington-Edison now, and to support our young people, by serving on the school board.
So here’s a cool thing: I’m sitting at my table at school, working with one of my favorite students, when my cellphone rings. It is my fifth grade teacher, Peravena! Last night I’d found her phone number and called her and left a message – and now she’s calling me back!
I hadn’t heard from Peravena, nor seen her, for probably 30 years – it was amazing to hear her voice again! As I’m telling her what having her as a teacher meant to me – and the impact she had on my life – I’m looking at my student’s face and I find myself tearing up. I feel suspended in time between my teacher and my student.
It was cosmic.
That is all. Carry on then..
I’m a teacher. I’m not a Marine. I do not want to have to make the choice to shoot one child to save another. I don’t want to be put in a position where I might be responsible for “collateral damage” that might include my own students. I don’t want to have to walk around my class with an assault rifle slung over my shoulder while I’m teaching a lesson on cosines and tangents, or Shakespeare, or the geography of Asia – a gun might be kind of a distraction to my students, you know? Do not think that you are solving the problem of school shootings by arming teachers. Frankly, that is one of the most ludicrous, insane, nonsensical propositions I have ever heard.
“The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother’s need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another’s good. ”
– Mary Baker Eddy
Message to the esteemed Senators from Washington State, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell:
Regarding the proposed budgets for Education and Health Care –
I know you will stand, as you always have, with the poor, sick, disenfranchised, and struggling. I know you will do what you need to do to help our young people receive the education that will make their lives, and our world, better. I know you will do what you need to do to ensure that health care is affordable and accessible to all our citizens.
And I thank you for that. I am grateful to live in Washington State and to be represented by you in Washington, DC.
Karen Molenaar Terrell
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
– James 1: 27