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Wisdom Teeth

Wednesday, 03 Feb 2021, 22:05 GMT-0600

She let me know in advance. She was having her wisdom teeth removed. She was going to miss class. Did she return the next day? I think she did. She’s often the first one in the room, and we get to talk.

“Welcome back!” I said when I saw her. “How’d it go?” 

She explained how her sister told her that as she was coming out from under the anesthetic, she was in tears.

“I wasn’t in pain,” she told me. “But my sister told me that I was distraught and that I kept telling her that I had to do my algebra homework.”

How about that?

Scratch Paper

Wednesday, 03 Feb 2021, 00:05 GMT-0600

The students have about 20 minutes at the end of the period. Most are working on homework.

Henry gets up and walks to my desk. Then he walks around and reaches for a sheet of paper from the scratch paper pile.

“Need more room, eh?” 

He laughs and points to the my notes still sitting under the document camera — two pages of notes from one problem.

“Mr. Hasan, just look at how much room you used!”

“So true,” I say, thrilled that he’s emulating the teacher.

I just wish he’d turn in his work more often. 

Multicolored Jumbo Paperclips

Monday, 01 Feb 2021, 22:48 GMT-0600

1. The Paperclips

It was a door prize of sorts. Four years ago, during a alternative certification night class, I won a door prize. My name was drawn out of a basket, and (presto!) I was the proud possessor of a bin of multicolored jumbo paperclips.

“How nice,” I remember thinking at the time. 

But halfway through my first year of teaching, I began to grow attached to them. I had stacks of student work fastened together by period, and I hung onto them through the end of each semester. The paperclips kept the piles organized.

“Pam,” I emailed our certification instructor during my second year. “I am loving those paperclips!” 

This year, I have begun using the colors to differentiate between assignments and periods and classes. Surviving as a teacher depends on your ability to shave seconds of time here and there, and being able to quickly reach for assignments from the correct period of the correct class has … shaved seconds of time here and there. 

2. Missing Clips

I recently noticed that my supply of multicolored jumbo paperclips was decreasing. Sure, I was using them to hold together graded homework and tests, but not that many. Where are the paperclips going? One day during fifth period I found out.

Daniel came into the room.


“Mr. Hassssan.”

He walked past me. He walked to the table behind my desk. And he reached into the bin of multicolored jumbo paperclips.

“Daniel,” I said. “What are you doing?”

He was hooking them together in a chain.

“What do you mean, Mr. Hasan?” 

“What are you doing with my precious paperclips?” 

“Mr. Hassssan. You have plenty.” 

As it happened, when he left class that day, he left his chain of multicolored jumbo paperclips behind, allowing me to rescue those few. 

Then, as I reached for my mouse, ready to shave a few moments off of some other task in the two minutes remaining before the next period, I noticed for the first time that there was a chain of multicolored jumbo paperclips hanging from a hook above the whiteboard. Who knows how long they had been there.

It’s time to put those paperclips behind a locked door.

Bert’s Clock

Saturday, 30 Jan 2021, 22:25 GMT-0600

“You know, I really like that…” she said to the boy sitting next to her.

Her voice was muffled from her mask. I couldn’t tell what she was talking about, but she was pointing at the front of the room.

I looked at the monitor on the wall to see what it was about the math that she was talking about. But in fact, she was not pointing at the monitor. She was pointing to the clock hanging on the wall nearby — the clock that Trudy’s brother gave me. 

the math clock

It wasn’t the math she liked. It was Bert’s math clock.

Crumpled Evidence

Wednesday, 27 Jan 2021, 19:09 GMT-0600

She posted her homework in the early afternoon. I opened it late in the day. 

Since we are remote, everyone posts to Google Classroom. A few print out the assignment and write on it. Most write on separate sheets of paper. They all submit photos of their work.

She writes on sheets of paper. Meticulously. Copying the questions in green. Writing her work in purple. And she always puts a box around her answers.

It’s a joy to grade work like this. Except…

Except today the pictures of her green and purple showed evidence of struggle. The pages were crumpled. They looked as if they’d been tossed in the garbage — every single one of the four pages.

“Ok, I’ll ask,” I wrote in a comment. “What on earth happened?”

“OMG LOL it’s my little devil sister,” she replied. You could almost hear her laughing. “She grabs my work and crunches it up and runs away with it. I have to chase her around the house to get it back.”

OMG LOL. Can’t you just picture it?

A Question

Tuesday, 26 Jan 2021, 20:05 GMT-0600

“Do you know what a rotary dial phone is? Have you ever used one?” 

That was the attendance question for the day. Silly questions, these attendance questions. Just little nothings. All the kids need to do is respond. No right. No wrong. Just the equivalent of raising your hand and saying, “Here.” 

Yet what a humbling question to ask. For example (punctuation and capitalization added):

“Isn’t it like a back-in-the-day phone with like a circle and you rotate it to the number you need? My mom says that my grandma had one.” 


Taking A Quiz On Zoom

Tuesday, 26 Jan 2021, 09:50 GMT-0600

They sit at home in front of their computers in their rooms taking a quiz on Zoom.

a view of the quiz from Zoom

Write It Down

Monday, 25 Jan 2021, 20:47 GMT-0600

She came into my room to ask a question. I forget what it was, but let’s say it was something about an incorrect grade — a not uncommon event but one that can easily be fixed.

I told her I’d fix it. 

She smiled and said, “Thank you.” She always smiles. And she always says thank you.

As she left the room, she turned around and said, “Write it down, Mr. Hasan.”

They so know.

Doing Things The Hard Way

Monday, 25 Jan 2021, 08:27 GMT-0600

Two students were working on an assignment. They hovered over the handout, holding yellow pencils and talking in hushed voices.

“See, you divide by a fraction right here,” one said.

“But that’s the hard way,” the other replied after a moment’s delay.

You see, fractions are a mystery to most of them. Their understanding of numbers consists of three categories: integers, decimals, and fractions, and they seem to think these are distinct concepts.

The sight of fractions causes many of them give up. And division by fractions is a flagrant abomination.

“That really is the hard way,” the second student repeated.

“Yes,” the first conceded, “but I like to do things the hard way.”

Correction: division by fractions is an abomination to most of them.

Amanda Gorman

Saturday, 23 Jan 2021, 12:38 GMT-0600


How amazing was that?

Amanda Gorman recites a poem during the inauguration of Joe Biden
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (via: Times of San Diego)