Author Archives: blueshirtkhakipants

Rational Expressions – On Good Terms


Rational Expressions – Fair and Squared

Blue Shirt Khaki Pants – It’s a Thing: Jan Bourg

Jan Bourg has been teaching Calculus brilliantly for many years, and it’s only recently that I’ve been invited to be her teammate. And what a team we make!

Our personal lives and interests are as different as can be – she’s a proud grandma who coaches the Golf Team and stays in excellent shape, and I’m a middle-aged dad who coaches the Math Club and watches TV – but each time we meet to create meaningful learning experiences for the kids in our classes, our minds are very much in sync as we come up with incredible activities that neither of us could create by ourselves.

I rely on Jan heavily for her knowledge of the curriculum. After all, she has taught Calculus BC for many years, and has graded the AP Calculus exams, so she knows all of the nuances and specifics of what will be tested and graded each year. She also has a library of resources from other Calculus teachers across the country that can inspire us to create something original. In return, I provide some technological know-how when it comes to modernizing instruction, by creating online resources and activities, with our own website to house all of it. I also create higher-level intuitive questions beyond what the AP exam would ask. It’s that combination of give and take between Jan and me that makes it a true pleasure to work with her for my second year in Calculus BC.

Jan and I share a philosophy that a college-level course like Calculus should be challenging for students, but the experience of learning it in high school should be fun and forgiving. Whenever one of us wants to take a risk in changing the assessment style, the lesson order, or the grading method – even if it’s a last-minute decision – the other is always on board, and that’s the kind of trust and respect that should come with every team. And even though we take our role as educator seriously, we also know how to laugh at ourselves, each other, and the silly things that our students do year after year.

I am truly honored to be working with Jan for a second year, and have nothing but admiration for her as a teammate and friend. She is one of the reasons I am excited to come to work every day.

Rational Expressions – Rounding Error

Rational Expressions – Truth Be Told

Blue Shirt Khaki Pants – It’s a Thing: Sean Bagley … again!

The new school year has begun, and who should I see wearing a blue shirt and khaki pants (again) but the irreplaceable Sean Bagley. Sean is an Associate Principal at Coppell High School, and it’s a proven fact that the building would simply crumble without him. He is a rock, a pillar, a constant entity of dedication and joy. He never fails to greet me, and everyone else, with a smile and a witty comment. With every action, he exemplifies our role as educators to be there for the kids, building them up when the do right, and correcting them when they do wrong, helping them become the best possible version of themselves.

I look forward to yet another year working with Sean. And I hope this isn’t the last time I see him exercising his impeccable sense of fashion. See you in the halls, Sean!

Flipped Classroom – IB Graduates Advising IB Seniors 2019

Again this year, I asked graduates of the IB Diploma program to visit with this year’s seniors – either in person or by video chat – to give advice on how to complete their high school careers without putting undue stress on themselves.

It’s a lot to deal with – extended essays, internal assessments, college applications, the onslaught of exams at the end of the year, finding and applying for scholarships – and to every senior who hasn’t been through it, it can seem overwhelming!

This year, the visiting graduates outdid themselves, providing a variety of answers to common questions, depending on each graduate’s experiences. And yet, there was consistency in most of their answers, so that the overall wisdom gained by the seniors was helpful moving into this year.

Some of the advice that I heard most frequently was:

  • Schedule time every day to work on something, and prioritize the work so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
  • IB truly prepares you for college, especially when it comes to writing. You will hate all of the writing you do as a senior, but when you get to college, you’ll find it’s easier to pump out a 2,000-word essay in a day.
  • College feels easier than high school, because while you have the same amount of work to do outside of class, you only spend about 3 hours a day in class, so you have more time outside of class to complete your work.
  • When applying to schools, find the school with the right program, not the right name. And if you can, visit the campuses of those colleges, so you can see if you’ll like being there.
  • Ask multiple people to edit your essays: college students, friends, anyone whose feedback you respect.
  • If possible, get things done early. That way, it’s not hanging over your head.
  • Don’t simply rely on counselors for scholarship information. Do your own research, especially what’s offered by each college.
  • Don’t just apply locally. International schools have programs just as good as those in your home state. Take a risk.
  • Don’t fill your resume with a lot of activities. Focus on what you enjoy.
  • Overall, to stand out in a college application, you have to have done something completely different from others. So look at your life, and figure out what makes your life experience different. Then articulate that in your application essay.

Hopefully, the seniors saw the same patterns I did with the advice, and will take it to heart. I know they will all be successful, even though their plans don’t work out the way they originally thought they would.

I just wish the seniors had as much faith in themselves as the graduates and I have in them. For now, all we can hope is that their minds are a little more at ease.

I wish I could say that all of this effort was completely selfless on my part, but honestly, it warms my heart to see all of these graduates again, even for a brief time. I sincerely enjoy seeing them grown up and full of true joy in the lives they are creating for themselves.

Thank you so much to the graduates who helped out this year:

Lea, Shreya, V, Jonathan, Karvi, Anita, BP, Alex, Amogh, Sahana, Michael, Saman, Edward, Veronica, Michelle, Jess, Natasha, Christina, Shivam, Shruti, Sarah, Kevin, Sophia, Kelly, Holden, Sravika, Apurva, Lauren, Angie, Laila, Adi, Ryan, Mehul, Daniel, and Sat.

Your advice helped so much more than mine would. It’s nice to know I can still count on you even when we’re miles apart.

Rational Expressions – Numb and Number

Rational Expressions – I for One

Rational Expressions – Easy Breezy


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