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Do Not Solve

Sunday, 02 May 2021, 18:22 GMT-0600

Sometimes I give the students problems which are not problems at all. They only need to demonstrate that they know how to get started. In situations like these, their instructions will say something like, Set up a synthetic division problem for the following dividend and divisor. DO NOT SOLVE IT.

Inevitably someone will ask, “So Mr. Hasan, in problem #2, are we supposed to solve it?” Sadly, this would be the astute student who senses something is amiss. Most don’t read the instructions, and for them this kind of problem is a tricky trap.

I need to fix this. Or maybe I don’t.


Sunday, 02 May 2021, 07:21 GMT-0600

On Friday I wore a sea green STS-125 short-sleeved shirt from when I worked in Houston. It’s one of my favorites, and I don’t wear it often, since I don’t want to wear it out. It dates me, but no one really knows that.

Alicia sits in the front row, and we often have mini-conversations when they are working on practice problems. 

“Mr. Hasan, you look good in green.” 

She didn’t ask about the embroidered Hubble emblem, but it made me happy, anyway.

“Thank you, Alicia.”

Victoria sits in the back row. She often has mini-conversations with Roberto when he comes back to sit with her when they are working on practice problems. She looked up when Alicia spoke.

“You have style Mr. Hasan,” she said.

I laughed. 

“But I don’t wear a tie.” 

“It doesn’t matter,” Victoria said. “You make it work.” 

And now I really laughed.

“You need to tell my wife that!” 

Sea Queen

Sunday, 02 May 2021, 06:48 GMT-0600

“Do you want me to do your nails?” I heard her ask him.

They sit in the front row. I can hear the front row conversations.

“No,” he said. 

“Last year you let me,” she said.

He didn’t reply. 

“It is a nice color,” I said, looking over at the two of them.

“Sea Queen,” she said.

“No,” he said.

You Should Hear It

Tuesday, 27 Apr 2021, 19:26 GMT-0600

They came in before sixth period. Robert was holding a box with a cupcake. Daniela had something in a glass. Stephen, who came in last, was tagging along.

Daniela held up the glass. “Do you have a spoon, Mr. Hasan?” 

“I do!” I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a plastic spoon. 

Robert stepped forward, and for a moment it appeared as if I was going to have to decline a cupcake.

“Mr. Hasan, what does après un rêve mean?” 

“After a dream.” 

“You are right!” he said.

“Were you testing me?” 

“You should hear the song,” he said as he and Daniela turned to leave. Stephen followed close behind. 

“It’s opera,” Robert shouted from the hallway. “You really should hear it.” And he broke into song.


Sunday, 25 Apr 2021, 21:29 GMT-0600

They were working together in a group on the other side of the room.

“Do you know how to FOIL?” I heard one of the students ask another.

“No,” she said.

Well, that’s not true. She knew how to FOIL once upon a time, since she passed Algebra 1. Nevertheless, that was two years ago, right?

“So,” he began to explain. “FOIL is…” 

At this point I got distracted by a question from someone else, and the group’s conversation faded away. Then I heard her speak up.

“Oh my god, I did it!” she said. “I did FOIL. Mister, I know FOIL!”

Of course, this was only the first part of solving the problem, since this is Algebra 2 not Algebra 1. I heard the other student continue to teach her… 

“Ok, now after FOIL, what you do is…”

Sweet, sweet music.

I Turned It In

Sunday, 25 Apr 2021, 08:10 GMT-0600

“Mister,” the email said. “I turned in my assignment yesterday, but your gradebook still says zero.” 

To be honest, I rely on students doing this. With assignments for remote students coming into Google Classroom and assignments for in-person kids coming in on paper, I sometimes mess up.

So I went to the gradebook. Sure enough her grade was a zero. And since she’s a remote student, I also checked Google Classroom. Sure enough she had turned it in. My mess up, right?

Well here’s the thing… Her email arrived in just after lunch on Monday. So she was pointing out that she had turned in the assignment on Sunday and that I hadn’t updated her grade before the end of the school day.

And here’s a further thing… Google Classroom showed that she had turned in the assignment at 11:00pm Sunday night. So she was pointing out that between just before midnight on Sunday and the middle of the next school day that I hadn’t updated her grade. 

I took my hands off the keyboard and breathed in and out. Fair enough. Everything she told me was correct.

“You are right,” I replied. “You did turn it in. And I see that you still have a zero.” 

Hands off the keyboard again.

“I do grade assignments over the weekend,” I added. “But not usually late at night on Sunday. Don’t worry. I’ll update your grade this afternoon.” 

Friday Free Time

Saturday, 24 Apr 2021, 17:29 GMT-0600

It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while our algebra classes end with nothing else for the students to do. 

“It’s Friday,” I said to them yesterday. “Let’s end with five minutes of free time.”

And with that, the students (every single one of them) took out their phones and the classroom settled into absolute unbroken silence. For five minutes, there was not a peep.

Much Better

Saturday, 24 Apr 2021, 16:05 GMT-0600

Like so many others, being remote didn’t work for him. He had been an online student for many weeks, but this cycle he had returned to school with others who had recognized (or whose parents had decided) that being at home was a disaster.

Now that he was back, things were going better. He would ask questions quietly when he was working on problems, just as he used to do. And he would check his work against the answers posted on the board to see if he was doing it right.

On this particular day, the students had the whole period to review for an upcoming quiz. There were eight problems — not many, but half of them required (horrors!) factoring. He walked to the board several times, looking at the answers and then returning to his seat.

“How’d you do?” I asked each time. He would turn towards me and nod with a slight smile on his face. He got the right answer every time.

Yes, things were going much better.

Asking For Advice

Saturday, 17 Apr 2021, 11:17 GMT-0600

Two girls giggle at their desk in the middle of the room. I look up. They are staring at me.

“Mr. Hasan,” one of them says as the other laughs. “Look at this.” She holds up her phone with a picture of a hand holding a spoon to a boy who’s about to put it in his mouth. 

“I gave him a spoonful of crushed tortilla chips,” she says.

“And he ate them!” the other one says.

They then proceeded to explain who this boy is and how one of them is trying to figure out how to ask him to prom. (Although he’s their age, he’s not a student at our school.) 

Ok fine. Except that they are asking me for advice. Not a good plan. For various reasons, prom is a blot on my memory. Whatever. I think to myself how I’ve wished someone had given me advice to just make sure your date has fun. Why was that not obvious? So I give them my answer.

“Here’s what I think,” I say. “Just tell him, Hey! I know something fun we could do…” 

The two of them immediately erupt into uncontrolled laughter.

Super Surreal

Saturday, 17 Apr 2021, 09:37 GMT-0600

Four students walked into the classroom. I recognized three of them.

“Mr. Hasan, meet Andrew.”

Andrew stepped from behind the others. He smiled and waved.

“Andrew!” I said.

“He’s just here today for the test,” one of the other boys explained. (That day the sophomores were all taking their English II standardized test.)

Andrew looked around the room as if he had never seen it, which in fact he had not. You see, he is a remote student so his view of the room is only what he sees in Zoom.

The boys picked up the handouts from the table by the door. (We have a red/blue color scheme to distinguish honors and regular classes. There are two credenzas by the door: a crimson one for the regular students and a cobalt blue one for honors. The first three boys taught him the difference between the two.) Then they walked to the back.

Andrew chose a seat recently vacated by a student who has transitioned back to being remote. They quietly talked and looked at the handouts. Then I heard chuckling and shuffling of papers.

I looked up.

Andrew was holding the handouts with one hand extended into the air and looking at them in mock contemplation as he rubbed his chin with his other hand. As a remote student, to him the notes and homework are always digital PDF files. So this was something new.

“Now this is super surreal to see these in physical form!”