return to “Big J in Greater New Orleans” index

previous entry .......... next entry


written Sunday, 11/2/2008

Alleviating Anxiety

I’m starting to feel like a real teacher. Now in my fourth year the role seems almost natural. Finally.

Sometime over the summer the nervousness I used to feel at the start of each school day almost entirely disappeared. Greeting several different young audiences every day and running the show is no longer such an uncomfortable act.

That’s not to say there isn’t still much room to grow. Far too many students still fall short of success in my class and I have no clue how to reach some of them. I still aspire to learn how to keep everyone on task without threatening students with consequences. I still hope to learn how to track each student’s progress better without creating unbearable paperwork for myself.

The frustrations of the job still preoccupy too much of my evenings and weekends, but at least it’s finally getting better.

Algebra 2 and Above

I’ve taught far more sections of Algebra 2 in my 3+ years than any other math subject. The challenge of finding more effective and engaging ways to teach the material keeps it interesting even though I’m beginning to tire of the content itself. My lessons this year are significantly different than my lessons of the last two years (and presumably better!) The Algebra 2 content, however, only provides the building blocks for more intriguing studies.

Calculus is by far the most fascinating subject I’ve taught. When I took calculus many years ago, it was the first high school math class in which I felt the frustration of not thoroughly understanding everything that I was learning. Other Calculus teachers I’ve talked to agree that teaching the subject provides so much more insight that was typically missed as a student. Deepening my own learning has made this class very exciting for me.

Last year most of the AP Calculus AB scores for my class were quite disappointing. This year I think I’m doing a better job of communicating the difficult concepts. After a slow start, most of my students in my two sections are finally giving the class at least the minimal amount of attention it needs. I’m hopeful although not yet entirely convinced that this year’s scores will be better.

Alternate Activities

I wish I had more time to fit in my favorite mathematical diversions in addition to the required curriculum. Each year I show my classes some of the math games that I used to enjoy as a kid, such as the Word Arithmetic that appears in monthly puzzle magazines. Some students get intrigued, yet I don’t have enough time to foster that interest. Ironically, it’s sometimes the weaker math-hating students who enjoy them the most. Rather than trying to force-feed them the finer points of logarithms, imaginary numbers, and other abstract concepts, I wonder if I might be warranted in using more of our class hours on puzzles that generate interest in math.
Flash versions of math games I used to play as a kid, including division and multiplication Word Arithmetic and a dice game I originally posted in entry #87.
Several Word Arithmetic puzzles I made over the summer, in which the dividend, divisor, and quotient are actual words. The final letters corresponding to digits 0-9 also form a word or phrase. A cryptogram game I made over the summer in which a word or phrase is encrypted. I've intended to use this in my classroom, but keep forgetting. A simple Flash animation I made recently to discuss the basics of programming with my classes. Students were challenged to figure out how the Actionscript code (included) works.

Amazing Adonis


Appealing. Astonishing. Addictive. Almighty.

Upon seeing my “J.A.W.” initials on my computer art projects, people occasionally ask, “What is your middle name, Mr. Jerome A. White?”

Well, after receiving the school photos that were taken at the start of the school year, I think the answer is quite apparent: “Adorable.” If my previous years’ descriptions of my own school photos have come across as narcissistic, let the evidence show that I am completely justified.

Attractive. Approachable. Affectionate. Affable.

Seriously ladies, what are you waiting for? How are you managing to resist my amiable allure year after year? It’s got to be a statistical anomaly that women aren’t beating down my door.

Above-Average. Affordable. Anthropoid. Anatomically-Adequate.

Dude, why am I not married yet? C’mon dear ____, don’t make me beg!

Academic Advancement

Election day is finally just around the corner. As the fate of our entire country hangs in the balance, I ponder the direction of my own future. Drawn to the theme of uncertain days ahead, I flipped a coin to determine which presidential candidate to impersonate for Halloween.
At a Halloween gathering, TGNO friend Michelle and I demonstrate how rival politicians ought to get along.

A few weeks ago I completed my Comprehensive Exam for my Masters in Education at University of New Orleans. On Monday October 20 I emailed in my 22-page essay reflecting on what I’d learned through my 3+ years of graduate classes and how I’d applied the teachings. I proceeded to spend the next few days boasting that I would never set foot on the UNO campus again, except to receive my diploma.

On Friday of that week I received an email from one of the UNO math education professors asking if I’d be interested in some adjunct teaching opportunities this year. The most appealing option involves a night course that I took myself just last year, teaching practitioners in the TGNO program about using technology in mathematics education.

I had long been looking forward to finishing my M.Ed. and finally easing my workload. My day job keeps me plenty busy enough. However, the TGNO program is in its last year of existence and I don’t know when another college teaching opportunity might arise.

I’m content teaching high school for now, but in the interest of widening my options for the future, I’ll most likely accept this offer and see where it takes me.


Our Lusher High School theater, dance, music, and media arts departments collaborated for a grand musical production of Fame. In addition to dozens of acting/singing/dancing roles for students, two male and two female adult roles needed to be filled by faculty. The honor of being selected to play acting teacher Mr. Myers was tempered by the fact that only one other male faculty member auditioned besides me. He then dropped out upon realizing the rehearsal schedule, and the role of Mr. Shienkopf had to be adapted to Ms. Shienkopf.

At times I resented the time commitment of Fame, but I did appreciate the insight into the demands placed upon our “Certificate of Artistry” students. The arts vs. academics storyline reflects a real conflict we face at Lusher, where we expect students to balance their obligations in both areas of study. I still don’t excuse my artsy students who neglect their math education, but they now have slightly more pity from me (for whatever that’s worth!)

I also appreciated the chance to see some kids in their element. More than any math topic, I want students to learn life lessons of perseverance and balancing priorities in my class. Some kids never seemed to get the message from me though. At least I was able to see them learn such lessons in the theater environment. At least I was able to see them thrive in arts when my content area had perhaps not provided as pleasant an experience. Our school definitely does foster some tremendous artistic talent.

After countless hours of rehearsal, we finally performed the four shows at the theater on the nearby Tulane University campus on October 17 and 18. I believe the total audience count was over two thousand.

Recalling the petrifying fear I used to feel standing in front of an audience, my participation in Fame also represented a personal triumph. Every time I’ve had to speak in front of groups I think back to my D in high school speech class and reflect on how far I’ve come. Upon switching careers I expected that teaching would help me overcome this long-time weakness, and it certainly has.

I kept waiting for the nervousness to come during Fame. Instead, just like my nervousness had disappeared from my classroom, I felt completely at ease on the stage.

I felt self-assured. Finally!
All Fame photos courtesy of Mr. Robert Logan

Another Awesome Anthem

Several students and even two of the faculty cast members showcased their impressive singing talents during the Fame production. I enjoyed my role as acting teacher Mr. Myers, but I believe the producers missed a golden opportunity to take advantage of my vocal stylings. Accordingly, I found a few hours before quarter exams last month and… (continued)