As some of you know, my wife and I will be adopting a baby from China sometime soon. We have been adopting a baby "soon" for quite a while now, but there's no longer much doubt that it really will be soon now. We will most likely travel to China to pick her up in January or February. In fact, I chose this year to write this teaching diary because I thought that reflections on a teacher becoming a father might spruce up the teaching observations.
So last week I told my students about the adoption. It affects them, of course, since I will be taking about three weeks off when we travel. I got very lucky with a substitute: one of my mentors who retired recently will be taking over my classes. While her style is different from mine, she might be the single person on the planet (literally) whom I most trust to be in front of my classes. I'm sure the students will be slightly disoriented by the change (although I have found our students to be remarkably resilient when they have to be), but they will probably learn almost as much from her as they would have from me, which is quite an accomplishment for any substitute.
My news was met with the high-pitched "oohhhhhhh" that you might expect from young teenaged girls, and when I let them ask questions (so they would come all at once and not in little uncontrollable dribbles over the course of months), they had some good ones: How do I know it will be a girl? Why did we choose China? Will you make her learn Chinese? Isn't it strange that she won't look like you?
I have blogged a little bit about these questions before, and the purpose of this blog for me includes some personal stuff, but I'm not going to go into detail about the answers to those questions right now. Maybe later when we're in the middle of the travel or the kid-raising phase. If I think too hard about how soon this is all happening (we might get a picture as early 2-3 weeks from now!), I tend to freak out a little.
But suffice it to say that the kids seem very happy and supportive, and so do their parents (from whom I've received 2 expressions of congratulations already).
Mathematically, I am becoming even more convinced that the idea of divisibility and prime factorization is simply not well understood by kids (see the previous diary post for more details on this). Even in my more advanced (in age and ability) classes, the weaker kids were very, very slow to grasp the ideas necessary to understand the main idea of one of the classes: that for any two positive integers a and b, ab=[GCF(a,b)][LCM(a,b)]. The strongest kids figured it out about 2 minutes before I got to the punchline, the majority of them got it when it was explained, and a few never really did, I think. So all of you grade school math teachers out there take heed: the kids aren't learning what it really means to divide or to factor or to have a remainder—they're only learning the mechanics of long division.
In geometry news, the students are finally able to understand more subtle proofs, including proofs by contradiction. I love telling them that they are convincing me that if I continue to believe the opposite of what we're proving, then I must be stupid.
And a final note, literally, to remind us all that despite all the maturity that I see from my students sometimes, they are still kids. The note is one that I found written on a blue sticky note paper on my floor. It was presumably passed between some students during class, escaping my eagle-eye attention. You might think it had some deep words of wisdom on it, or at least a giggly declaration of who likes whom. But no. It said, "I have gum."