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{ Monthly Archives } January 2011

Exercising the Quads

I needed to review the quadratic formula before addressing it in class, mostly to make sure I could work my way through it smoothly, but partially I must admit to be sure I could do it at all. Turns out I can. No sweat. Compared to some of the gyrations of differential equations or network […]

Tunis Envy

Watching the pro-democracy upheaval in the Middle East is an uplifting experience. When Tunisia alone was convulsed with populist protests, the story seemed quaint and remote. When the protestors succeeded in toppling the reigning despot, it was hard to suppress a little “Good for them!” cheer. When neighboring countries’ leaders, employing virtually identical systems for […]


We’ve been watching a series of made-for-TV movies based on C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower. The stories have a reputation as ripping good yarns, which are deserved. They also have a reputation for historical accuracy and capturing the flavor of naval life in the Napoleonic era, with which I have to quarrel—although it took me […]

Snow Day

To my surprise, today was declared a snow day at my school. Between NPR grossly underestimating last night’s snowfall and the fact that we had no snow day a week ago, with nearly as much snowfall, I expected snow warnings to prove a false alarm. So I missed the opportunity to sleep in. Not a […]

First Order Probability

I’m a strong believer in motivation when it comes to instruction. I do not mean here the importance of motivation as a general desire to learn; that is indeed critically important, and the techniques for instilling a desire to learn are discussed endlessly in education. Here I mean something much smaller: the importance of explaining […]

Training Wheels Off

Like virtually all schools, Barringer practices “tracking,” the segregation of students by speed and quality. Tracking is the subject of a lot of educational debate, and arguments can be made for and against it, but nearly every school in the country has an honors track, a standard track, and a remedial track by some name […]

Lost Innocence

My first week of student teaching just finished, and already the kids are testing my authority. One quite publicly announced my fly was open—I think I handled that one with aplomb, stage-whispering that none of the students should let Mr. LeBlanc, sitting at the back of the room, know, lest he consider me unprofessional. I’m […]

Breakfast in Shanghai

Before arriving in the Philippines, we were delayed overnight in Shanghai, having missed that day’s single connecting flight to Manila. Honestly, coming off the hell trip described earlier, I was glad of the chance for a rest and shower before boarding another jet. But the delay offered another benefit: the chance to see China, however […]

One Dollar Rum

One of the small delights of foreign travel is finding extraordinary bargains. Not necessarily what’s cheap, mind you. As Ella observed, some of the extremely cheap food available from Manila street vendors comes with a free case of Hep B. Even the sanitary street food sits out under the blanket of Manila’s thick, gray, choking […]

Getting to Know You

1/18/11 At one point in our trip to the Philippines, I had a chat with one of Eileene’s granduncles. He was eager to assure me that the Bautista clan—the maternal branch of Eileene’s family—was much larger than was in evidence that day. I knew it to be so; I’d seen far more assembled some ten […]