I have not really contributed much to this blog so far this school year. Since we are almost finished with first semester, I would like to share some thoughts and observations about Ingraham and Rainier Beach.
I can see why there was such outrage at Ingraham last year over the termination of Mr. Floe. He is a very good principal (and in case Mr. Floe reads this, I’m not just saying it because he is my evaluator!!!) He is a very strong leader, but at the same time gives the staff as much freedom as they need to do what is best to educate the students. He has assembled a very strong faculty who really knows what they are doing. This strength goes beyond the faculty and includes the other administrators and support staff. I am very impressed and I feel very supported. There is calmness to Ingraham that I feel that makes it easy to teach.
I have the same schedule that I had last year. I am teaching Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Algebra 2 Honors. My observation about Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 is that the students at Ingraham are no better or worse prepared for those classes than the students I had in those classes at Rainier Beach. Most of the freshman in Algebra 1 at Ingraham are in over their heads and should not be in Algebra 1. This is no different than Rainier Beach. I think it points directly to the lack of quality middle school and elementary school math preparation and the total failure of the discovery math curriculum. As I testified at a school board meeting during the high school math adoption, we are sentencing a whole generation of students to failure in math.
In Algebra 2, the quality of the students is no greater at Ingraham is no greater than that at RB. These are mostly kids who know how to do school, do their homework, and get by. There is a handful who truly understands Algebra 2 and they earn A’s, but that number is small, just like at RB.
The big difference is in the Algebra 2 Honors class. At Ingraham, this is the math class for many of the APP freshmen. It is a very interesting class. The students are 2 years ahead in math, but they (particularly the boys) still act like freshmen. It can make for really weird days for me. We will be doing a really interesting and challenging story problem involving logarithms, for example, the class will be working really hard and then out of the blue, one of the boys will chuck his eraser at someone across the room because that person made a face at them. Now the thing is, both of these students have totally solved the problem correctly and understand what we are doing. It is hard for me to be mad at them. I find myself saying this weekly, if not more, “Stop acting like freshmen and start acting like Algebra 2 students.” Yes, I understand the irony of that statement. That being said, I feel I have done a really good job in challenging these students and making sure they are not bored. The e-mails I receive from the parents tell me I am on the right track.
Ingraham and Rainier Beach played a basketball game at RB last Friday. I attended the game and it was great to see some of the remaining faculty and seeing some of my former students made me get misty eyed because I know they are not getting the same quality instruction that the students are getting in general at Ingraham. They replaced the departed math teachers with one veteran teacher (who I know is very strong), and 3 very inexperienced teachers. I was told by some of my former students it is not going as well as it should be. I knew that was going to be what happened and I feel terrible about this, but the commute was killing me and I needed to change my lifestyle or I was not going to make it to retirement age. I wish the new principal and administration all the best. I know they have taken on a very difficult job.
I feel honored to teach at Ingraham and I love what I do. I feel very lucky because I get out of bed in the morning feeling energized. I walk to work one day a week and on days when the light at 130th and Aurora is in my favor, it takes me longer to walk from my car to my room than it does to drive there.
I wish all of you nothing but the best in the New Year. I think we will be seeing some major, positive changes to the district over the next two years and I am excited to be a part of it.