New York, NY

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Many students new to a school bring their norms with them.
That norm may not fit the new environment.

Marl Boromann was in the classroom first period Algebra before the rest of the students. I gave him a class orientation folder and desk near the front so he could stretch his long legs and left for the office to pick up some paperwork.

When I got back to the room, Marl was sitting in the back of the row nearest the window with the desk moved back and his legs stretched. “Thought I could open a window,” he said.

I told him about our circulation system and went back to my paperwork. I looked up and he took something out of his backpack and put it on his desk. I continued to busy myself. I smelled cigarette smoke and what I saw was breath catching. Marl was tapping the ash from a freshly lit cigarette into a small ash try on the desk.

By the time I was at his desk side, he was allowing the circulating system to draw the smoke away from the cigarette held between his fingers. He seemed to be confused when I said, “smoking isn’t allowed in classrooms!”

His reply was something like, “I didn’t know. I brought my ash tray, but I’ll go out to the hallway.”

“No,” I said, “smoking isn’t allowed in school at all.”

I’d had conversations about smoking with other students and wondered why he was so brazen. His explanation was easy enough to understand, but I wasn’t immediately sure he wasn’t lying. He said, “in my New York City school, we could smoke in the hallway, but had to bring our own ash tray if we did in the classroom.”

I wrote a referral and sent him to the vice principal. Later in the day, the VP told me that Marl Boromann’s father confirmed his story. A formal warning was the boy’s only consequence.

Marl earned an A in my class.


Flag Pole

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One of the years I was at the junior high school, I taught a section of basic algebra.

Measurement using similar tringles was and is a practical application for algebra. Measuring the height of a tree on a sunny day is a good exercise of the application. Stand a yardstick vertically and measure its shadow. Measure the shadow of the other object and you have all the data you need. The rest of the steps for solution of the equal ratio problem (equivalent fractions) are in any math book or on the internet.

I assigned each team of three a vertical object in various locations on the school grounds to determine its height by the similar triangles method. Sim Triangles I had the principal’s permission to allow the teams to be out of the classroom for the problem solving assignment.

Teams assigned to determine the height of the football goal post, the shop building gable peak, the one-story cafeteria part of the main building, the main building itself, and a tree returned quickly. The flagpole team returned last but had no data.

The team recorder said something like, “Mr. B., we couldn’t get any data. The janitor had it on some sawhorses for painting1The pole itself was hinged at the bottom for that purpose or maintaining the top pully mechanism.. You wanted us to work out the height, not the length.”

I’m sure they knew I’d be asking them to show their math work for the solution and weren’t ready to fake it. 🙂


And I’m fairly certain they didn’t see my eye roll as I assigned them another object.

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