Calendar Filling Up

[Year 12, Day 7 #180blog post]

I use Google Calendar to track my schedule, including meetings, deadlines, clubs, field trips, trainings, etc.

Most years, I also use a paper copy of a blank calendar, for one of several purposes:

  • Plotting out weeks of lessons and units for each class
  • A visual record of our engineering/CS team’s hard work (how much we do)

Today also I shared a PHS Cyber google calendar with our cybersecurity club (a subset of our coding club).

Here’s a look at my next month:


Due to factors discussed in my last post, plus thoughts running through my head last night that delayed sleep, I was not early enough to school this morning to prepare an online, nor a typed quiz for my first period class today. So I went old-school on them, and wrote the questions on the chalkboard!


Performed bad and good pecha kuchas today for my CS Principles class (lesson), then started the students off on research toward making their own!

CIM students worked on writing programs for their CNC initials using G/M codes.

Met with one precalculus student today to review incorrect answers on her diagnostic test, and gave a quiz to my other precalculus student, which she aced!

Had our coding club kickoff meeting today, with pizza, apps, and cybersecurity competition planning.

Then saw these beautiful views of the sunset on my way home:





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[Year 12, Days 4-6 #180blog post]

I procrastinate. I leave things until the last minute.

Last Friday, Day 4, was a particularly bad day in that regard. I got to school at 8:30, only 5 minutes before the required time and only 15 minutes before students begin first period. I basically winged period 1 (AP CSA), guiding students step-by-step through planning out an object-oriented Java class and then beginning to code it on my screen while they worked on theirs:


UML-style class diagram for theoretical eBook class, brainstormed by students

Second period, my planning period, I had a visit from an industry partner dropping off a donated printer, met with my department/team, and barely had time to write a quiz for my 3rd period AP CSP class before it began. Then I was completely unprepared for 4th period CIM, writing a warm-up activity on the board (usually I type and put on the daily agenda or a PowerPoint), and printing out worksheets the students needed during class instead of having them in advance. I only got by based on the fact that this is the 11th year in a row I’ve taught CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing), so I could teach it in my sleep – figuratively 🙂 I had the students sketch their initials and plot the coordinates, that this week we are using to turn into G&M code to eventually be milled out on the CNC machine. I do think the CIM students could tell it was an off-day and I was unprepared, but it still went OK. And then last period I covered another teacher’s class, so no time to catch up then either.

Now I can blame some of this on scheduling: this year I am teaching 3.5 preps [the 0.5 is Precalculus, since I am advising some students on an independent study, it doesn’t take up as much time & effort as if I were teaching them as a full separate class, but it does still take some time/work]. Baltimore City’s teacher contract says teachers should not teach more than two preps (i.e. two different subjects for which to prepare lessons) except in usual/extreme circumstances. I’ve agreed to 3 each of the last two years so that we can grow our computer science program (while still maintaining our engineering program and helping it thrive). But that does mean less time to fully plan for each of my 3.5 classes.

But I also have to blame myself. I agreed to those 3 preps. And I agreed to teach/advise the two students precalculus because if I didn’t we might not have had any precalculus at my school this year (senior students are scheduled for College Readiness Math if they do not pass the Algebra II PARCC exam). And I don’t plan far enough ahead (e.g. plan the whole next week’s worth of lessons over the weekend). I do some of this because I can: I am capable of looking at the big picture, scheduling out weekly topics and units, and widening/narrowing focus based on my knowledge of the curriculum and the students’ needs. And I use the 3 preps as an excuse, plus that I spend 10-11 hours each day at work, so I don’t want to take work home. But I often feel I would be a better teacher if I did plan more ahead.

I’ve procrastinated throughout my life, including pulling all-nighters before science fair projects were due in high school and before essays were due in college. It continues to this day: this Saturday I logged on to check on a project for my Artificial Intelligence course (at Georgia Tech) that was due Sunday and that we’d had two weeks to work on. I saw the deadline was pushed back a week due to Hurricane Irma, and I promptly logged back off and did zero work on that the rest of the weekend. I’ll be moving on to that AI project now tonight, once I’m done with this blog post. 😛

By the way, Tim Urban a great series of blog posts on procrastination, starting here, and also a TED talk. He gets inside the mindset of procrastinators and why it can sometimes be a dangerous spiral.

Monday (Day 5) was a little better, though still felt rushed. The main difference was I had a little more time to myself during second period (planning). I make a goal to provide grade printouts to my students each week on Monday, so they can track their progress and remediate sooner rather than later if needed, and I only met that goal for 1/3 classes. But I was able to prepare the lessons with a little more time to spare.

Today (Day 6) was a lot better; got the rest of the grading done, lessons were prepared and ready, all went well. Seven students again for tutoring / coach class after school today as well.

But while some days go better than others, and some days are more well-planned than others (which often though not always correlates), it is a constant struggle with procrastination. I am juggling too many things (3.5 preps, plus growing two programs, plus working with two new teachers at my school, plus collaborating with engineering and CS teachers across the city, plus my Georgia Tech masters coursework, plus Coding Club, plus Cyber Club, plus MESA club, plus coordinating with a variety of industry and higher education partners, plus applying for grants to help fund our programs, plus working as treasurer for our Baltimore City Engineering Alliance nonprofit charity organization, plus …). At the same time, I like juggling all that to some degree. As the other extreme, I don’t think I’d ever want to teach only one prep, three-four times a day: I would get bored! I like learning and teaching new things! So it may be somewhat personality-driven, but the overload does encourage procrastination, and I do often wonder, if I had fewer things to focus on, I could do each of them better.

Anyway, here I am, having procrastinated writing days 4 and 5 blog posts and trying to get away with rolling three days into one (and rambling on, at that, too…). And I’m using my blog post as a way to procrastinate my Artificial Intelligence work even more too! So let me wrap that up, and get on to that (unless something else comes up!).



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Day 3

Today was a fun day in every class!

AP CSA – Students had turned in a simple Java class (program) yesterday with five print-line commands, in which they print out the traditional “Hello, World!” statement, then their name, then 2 truths and 1 lie about themselves. Today they stood up at the front of the room, read their 2 truths and 1 lie, and we had to guess which was the lie. 🙂 A fun get-to-know-each-other type of activity based on the new programming language we’re using. [Thanks to Jerry, our master teacher this summer at training, for sharing this idea/activity!]

AP CSP – We did the “intelligent paper” activity from the CS Matters in Maryland curriculum, in which I make extravagant claims about a piece of paper being more intelligent than any of the humans in the room, because it will never lose a game of noughts and crosses. We get to discuss algorithms and artificial intelligence, and what intelligence even means!

CIM – As a team-building exercise that also connects to manufacturing, students work together in an assembly line fashion to mass-produce origami balloons. Here are a few of them in action:


After school – Seven students showed up for after-school tutoring / coach class! On the third day of school!! I think that’s a record in my time teaching. Maybe I make the class too difficult… or maybe I’m just an awesome teacher who inspires his students to really care about learning… (the truth is probably somewhere between those two extremes). This is the first year I assigned summer homework, for both of the two AP compsci classes, and I’m giving students a couple days/weeks to make sure they are caught up with the summer homework, while also basing the first few weeks’ quizzes on those topics, so that probably has something to do with it.


I got home and cooked a good meal for supper, so all in all, a great day!

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Daily Agendas on Google Docs

I’ve been doing this with a few classes for the past two years, but this year made the move to all: I keep a Google Doc with the day’s agenda for each class. This is useful as a central location from which all of the day’s activities can progress, with links to assignment documents, links to online quizzes, links to videos, and links to resources all embedded in there. In review surveys at the end of each class, this has consistently been a highlight and something they really appreciate. For example: “The links on the agenda and the directions that gave us to do what we had to do”, and “Somenthing that I really liked about this class was the agenda because if by any reason you was absent you just have to go to the online agenda and you can make up from your home.”

Because of these reviews, this year I’m moving to all classes having an online agenda. Combined with the fact that I’m a fan of the website for shortening and choosing your own url, I was laughing with a few of my students this afternoon that today I had my students use 5 different tinyurls for these agendas (and of course have to keep them straight in my head):


[Year 12, Day 2 post]


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Year 12, Day 1

First day went well, got to see many students I know already, plus a few new ones (teaching in a pathway means I get to know the same students over 3-4 years).

The first task for my first period computer science students was to set up all the computers:


Then we reviewed multimedia versions of the course syllabi:


Links for syllabi for AP Computer Science A (shown above), AP Computer Science Principles, and Computer Integrated Manufacturing.

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Year 12, Day 0

This week teachers headed into school to prepare for next week and students’ return. This will be my twelfth year!

My teaching this year will include more computer science than ever before:

  • AP Computer Science Principles (full year)
  • AP Computer Science A (full year)
  • Foundations of Computer Science  (spring)
  • Computer Integrated Manufacturing (fall)
  • Precalculus independent study (fall, three students, three separate periods)

I’ll also be working with our new engineering teacher and our librarian+new-computer-science-teacher to help them with their lessons, and collaborating with two geometry teachers around standards-based-grading.

Extracurricular activities and competitions:

  • Coding Club (app development, cybersecurity, & more)
  • Women’s Transportation Seminar’s “Transportation You!” Mentoring Program
  • TRAC bridge builder competition
  • CyberPatriot competition
  • STEM Competition
  • possible (in my mind, I want to do each of these this year): Cyber Movie Mondays, Saturday AP & PLTW study groups, Girls Who Code club
  • probably several others…

Ongoing projects that will occupy some of my time this year include:

  • Comp Hydro (teaching hydrology and flooding through computational simulations & modeling, in partnership with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study)
  • MyDesign (engineering design process app and learning management system, in partnership with NSF & the University of Maryland)
  • Internet of Things project to measure air quality and other environmental factors in schools (in partnership with Cool Green Schools, Johns Hopkins University, and Morgan State University)
  • Continuing work toward my Master’s Degree in Computer Science (taking “Artificial Intelligence ” course this semester)
  • Baltimore City Engineering Alliance, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) we created to provide opportunities to Baltimore City students to further their engineering education, and for which I am treasurer

School starts for students on Tuesday, after Labor Day for the first time in my twelve years here teaching in Baltimore. Wish us luck!

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Pythagorean Triple Answers

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here are some answers and steps toward figuring out the scarcity (or frequency) of Pythagorean triple days (like yesterday 8/15/17) in a century:

I will mention I did not get the answer right away but needed some prompting (from a math-teacher colleague on Twitter), so I’ll take you through my thought processes.

  1. I have certain primitive Pythagorean triples memorized (like 9/40/41) — perhaps from several years of teaching geometry, or from studying number theory in college where integer (or rational) values for algebraic relations are important (cf. Euclid’s formula for Pythagorean triples, Diophantine Equations, & Fermat’s Last Theorem), or perhaps even a few recalled from taking high school geometry. In my head I tried these, saw several had occurred already in the past (5/12/13), while others were not interpretable as months days and years, like 9/40/41 (since there are max 31 days in a month). To go beyond the primitive triples, I tried multiplying each times 2, times 3, etc. In this way I discovered yet to come this century: 10/24/26 (twice 5/12/13) and 12/16/20 (quadruple 3/4/5).
  2. I thought I had them all, but had forgotten some primitive triples, like 7/24/25! At this point, referring to this list of primitive Pythagorean triples, I tried to systematically enumerate all with a≤12, then go through multiples of those until all values were larger than 12 (and therefore none could fill the month slot). I did this in Excel, color coding as blue dates already past, yellow yet to come, and red invalid date formats:excel1
  3. In creating that chart I did mentally transpose months and dates to see for example, that 12/5/13 could also work as a Pythagorean triple date in addition to 5/12/13. But this only yielded more in the past so I didn’t bother to write them out. My fatal flaw, though, was not permutating with the years also, so I neglected to find two more future dates: 7/25/24 and 10/26/24. After realizing this, I did add more to my Excel chart, going through each permutation that yielded a valid date in rows below the main ones:excel2
  4. I do believe this is now a complete list of past, present, and future Pythagorean triple days, written month/day/year. By my count there will be a total of 28 this century, 23 now past and 5 still in the future. Let me know if I missed any!


By the way, here’s an awesome interactive generator of Pythagorean triples by Vincent Pantaloni (shared on twitter).





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