Friday, September 23, 2016

Casual Friday, Comprehension, Polynomials, Common Core #IRLToday

As a adult employee for a corporation, I was "required" to wear company attire on casual Friday. On the contrary, I was recently told that my business writing style was too formal and lacked brevity. Contradictory, eh?

If I were to rewrite that paragraph in the language today's "adults" comprehend it would look something like this...

We had to wear company polo shirts on casual Friday. Why so formal? You just told me my writing was too formal and too long for business emails.

Yes, it's unfortunate that most "adults" these days can barely comprehend writing beyond the 8th grade level and from what I understand, most prefer to read at a 5th grade level. Some call it common English. I call it a downgrade in our expectations of society.

Of course, I have to play the devil's advocate here. I get the efforts of our educators to try and thwart this, but I think the verbiage in textbooks is a bit more wordy that it needs to be.

I'm looking in my 17-year old son's Algebra II e-book, so I can refresh my knowledge of polynomials. In other words, what the hell is a polynomial? It's been over 20 years since I've been in high school. I see the eight "goals" of the unit as described by The Common Core Georgia Performance Standards for Mathematical Practice and it's definitely not written in common English.

The language might make more sense to me if I was still in high school and only had a few month gap between Algebra I and Algebra II, but 20 years....C'MON. Some kids are better at math. For Algebra, many kids need help that they can't get in class. Teachers have to cater to tons of different learning styles, whereas the parent, who should know their child, does not (unless we're talking about Kate and her family 8 or that family of 19-ish).

So, here's my beef. If parental involvement and support is needed to cultivate our children's knowledge of topics like Polynomials (and Advanced Algebra on a broader scale), tell me the goals in common English and use real life examples in the textbook.

Instead of "Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them", you could say "Work through several steps to make sense of and solve problems". Maybe? I don't know. I have no idea what I'm reading.

The second goal is to "reason abstractly and quantitatively." What does this mean? I'm an intelligent person and there's a good chance I do this every day. I'm pretty sure that's not what I call it these days. (I'll delve into what abstract and quantitative reasoning is later, as soon as I figure it out, though I'm pretty sure quantitative has to do with numbers).

Just like learning phonics, after a while you just know how to do things. Assisting in teaching my child to understand phonics was one of the hardest tasks I was faced with. I can't tell you why certain letter combos make certain sounds. I just know that they do and I sure don't refer to it as phonics.

Another example is goal #5, which is to "Use appropriate tools strategically". This is starting to sound like a resume for a job-hopper seeking a position in a field they don't qualify. What are the tools? What is the appropriate use of these tools?

Can you please explain this so I move on from the table of contents for Unit 2 Module 3 of the Holt McDougal Advanced Algebra, Georgia Edition?

Why is there is a Georgia edition? Is Advanced Algebra different in other states? Even (way) before the introduction of "Common Core" I personally experienced differences in education when crossing state lines.

When I was eight years old, we moved from Michigan to Georgia. In Georgia, they were already teaching cursive in 3rd grade. That ought to tell you my age. Fortunately, I'm a quick learner.

Our future generations have the attention span of a squirrel thanks to technology. Quite frankly, technology also affects our current generations. I applaud the efforts of the primary and secondary education institutions, but what they have to understand is that, especially in the public school system, the parents may not be in a position where subjects like Physics and Algebra II are required in their day-to-day existence.

To the educators, the educational publishers and the legislators....if you want me to be involved, help me understand because this is all Greek to me. I use information I learned in primary and secondary education all the time, but not Polynomials. I'm not even sure what career paths use Polynomials. On the other hand, I know Physics in happening all around us, but when I drive a car, I'm just driving a car. I'm not analyzing the Physics all around me.

If you want our future generations to grasp this information, make it relevant. Tell them WHY and do it in a language they can understand (excluding Language Arts which is not meant to be altered despite the fact that we've already butchered it by altering comma rules and adding "words" like LOL and OMG to the Oxford-English dictionary).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

When Why Is Not a Question of Dissent

Forget the who, what, when, where and how. The only question that needs to be asked is why. If you're not asking it, you're doing something wrong. Before I share my the Miller-WHY Theory© (self-dubbed), let me give you some background.

The Background Story and MY Thoughts on WHY
I bet a lot of folks were taught that why is a question of dissent. It may go back as far as "Why do I have to eat this?", "Why do I have to clean my room?", or "Why do I have to do my homework?".

Don't even try to pull the "Why do I have to work?" question on me. We all know why we have to work. It's simple: food, shelter, clothing.

On the way home from work today, I took the great big list of my teenage son's "whys" and related it to the "why do I have to work hard?" question that I'm seeing is an issue with working adults in various industries and capacities.

My version of "WHY" is totally different, though I'm sure it was simply a question of dissent in my younger days.

Parents and WHY?
When I asked "Why do I have to eat this?", my parents would tell me about all the impoverished and underprivileged children in the world. I don't know if that really did the trick, though I'd like to think it had some effect on me. I cry during television commercials for goodness sake. I've always been a caring person, but I just might have been too young to understand the full scope of things.

That's when parents get crafty. When you're young, it's easy for parents to make a game out of things. We had the "Clean the Plate Club", but there was no way that was working for calf liver, so they told me it was something else.

My parent's response to "WHY" as it relates to cleaning was limited to "because I said so" or holding the loss of some privilege over my head. That works for children. An in-depth response is not necessary. Parents have the power then, for the most part.

As far as homework went, there was no question in my mind. I was always raised to do homework right when I got home from school. I wouldn't dare turn on the TV for fear it would explode or send some secret signal to my parents. A "C" grade was unacceptable.

When WHY Meant More
WHY really started clicking when I became a parent myself. I was 19 when I gave birth to my son and anytime he asked me why, I tried to give him a literal, relative response.

Somewhere between late elementary school and middle school things got hard for my now 17-year old, but only on occasion. I worked closely with him on schoolwork when he had trouble, but it was frustrating beyond belief. Things are being taught differently than they were when I was that age.

After a while, things calmed down a bit and my son no longer "needed" my assistance. His grades were just okay. Now that he's in 11th grade, the topics are becoming more difficult. He's challenged by Algebra II and Physics Honors.

His excuses to me were "everyone is failing Algebra II" and "WHY do I need to know this" (for both Algebra II and physics). He couldn't understand how he could possibly need either in real life. At first thought, I couldn't understand WHY myself.

As a budding young adult, my son deserves to know WHY, so I sought out reasons. Now, you may ask, WHY I think he deserves to know WHY?

The Miller-WHY Theory
This is where my Miller-WHY Theory comes in. When (most of us) become adults, why is no longer a question of dissent, but rather a question in an effort to gain a better understanding. Even before adulthood, you can see this in our toddlers and young children, when WHY is more of a "how stuff works" question.

We may not be able to answer "WHY" the grass is green or "where do birds go when it rains" off the top of our heads, but we've got this wonderful-ish thing called Google. For a while, I was anti-Google, but they're bringing so much innovation to the World, I had to latch on.

As adults, just because we understand the "how stuff works" thing, doesn't mean every working adult does. Most are just looking to put food on the table and cover basic needs. That doesn't mean they don't aspire for more.

For adult "WHY" questions, including teenagers and young adults, the key to motivation is answering the question for them in a way that relates to the individual.

WHY and Education
When it comes to educating my young adult, it is my responsibility, as a parent, to answer my son's WHY questions. His teachers have to cater to so many different personalities and learning styles. It is NOT solely their responsibility. Since I know my son best, I know what motivates him and I can find a way to relate things like Physics to him.

For physics, I found ways to answer his question of WHY. I hit the nail on the head by starting with the car that he was just licensed to drive. After I studied a bit more and went throughout the course of my days following, I realized Physics is all around us from running water from a faucet to doing laundry, leaves falling from trees, snacks and gravity, surface tension in cereal and more. Now, if I can just focus on cars/driving, computers/gaming and video game design (his career aspiration), I'll be set. I've got some research to do, but I'll get there and I'll be sure to share it with you along the way.

WHY and Adults in the Workplace
How does this relate to adults in the workplace? I've heard lack of motivation due to pay hundreds of times, but I strongly believe that can be overcome. The role of a supervisor/manager involves both "parental" (aka guidance) and "teacher" (aka education) aspects.

You could sum both up with the word leadership. Get to know your employees, maintaining professionalism, of course. Once you find out your employee's interests and motivation, outside of monetary compensation, you'll then gain an understanding of how to lead (guide and motivate) them.

Tell Them WHY Before They Ask
Going back to the "Why do I have to work?" question, the next questions are "Why do I have to work harder?", "Why do I have to work harder than him/her? We are paid the same.", and so on. To answer these questions, even when they're not explicitly asked, you should focus on the end result.

A great response to these questions is "what do you want out of life?". Of course, that's just my opinion and bold at that. If you only want to provide food, shelter and clothing than being "average" will generally get you where you need to be, but where do you want to be?

Let's say you're an independent contractor. You accept a job, you complete it and then you're paid. As an employee of a company, there's usually a delay in pay of about 1-2 weeks. Same thing. You do the work first, then you're paid.

As an independent contractor, if you do a good job, you get more work. If you do a great job, you get more referrals/recognition. More referrals/recognition means you may have the opportunity to increase your rates.

As an employee, you can do a good job and work overtime to get more pay. If you do a GREAT JOB, you get recognition (assuming their is a witness). That recognition may not always be in monetary compensation, but by doing a great job, you have a much better chance, even if someone tells you it's IMPOSSIBLE.

Can I Get A Witness?
A common rebuttal is that you're doing a great job, but there's no one around to see it. Are you really doing a "great" job? DEFINE a "great job". To me, a great job is understanding the company ideals, philosophies and goals and exceeding them by making a difference. If you're not doing something differently because you don't feel it will be allowed, you're afraid or you have questions, step it up and ask the questions.

Think outside of your "role", "department", "branch". There is so much more connectivity than the average worker who is just trying to put food on the table may realize. As Newton says "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction". This doesn't ONLY apply to Physics. It applies to LIFE.

The Art of Why
The thing about asking why, is that you can't always just ask why. You have to phrase the question in a way that tells the listener that you really want to understand more about the subject.

Phrases like "what is the reasoning behind that?", "what is the desired end result?", "can you tell me more about the process?", "how does this affect X", etc. At the end of the day, the Miller-WHY Theory© is simply the art of understanding in an effort to keep moving forward in life.

The Miller-WHY Theory©
The Miller-WHY Theory© is not limited to school or work. It's a theory that is all-encompassing with a focus on personal, educational and professional growth. It's about wanting more. By more, I don't mean wanting more "things", but by wanting more out of life, you can get more "things" if that is what you desire.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to this....

The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. - Vince Lombardi

Monday, September 19, 2016

Physics in Real Life #IRL

Yesterday was a challenging day. Raised voices, teenage tears, parental frustration.

We accomplished a bit after the voice of reason, my future hubby, stepped in. He shed light on both of our points of view and how to meet in the middle, even though I still think I'm right.

I already went to high school. Alright, alright...things have changed. I should know that from the way my son calculated simple math yesterday.

I often look back to my primary and secondary education (aka elementary, middle and high school) and wonder what the purpose was. Why did I spend 13 years learning all that "stuff"? When do I even use it?

That was my 17-year old's challenge yesterday. He could NOT fathom how he could possibly need physics. To the best of my knowledge, I didn't take a physics course in high school, and I didn't attend college. (It's sad that I don't even remember).

When I finally got my son to LISTEN and take a look at the resource I found on school's website, we learned about 2D Motion, which is also called projectile motion and is classified under Kinetics, neither of which he knew. Paying attention in class much, eh?

Referring to the e-version of the textbook, it didn't make enough sense to me as to how 2D motion relates to real life, but after playing around with some of the resources provided and searching the web I get it.

What I don't get is how a teenager with a smartphone cannot find a way to connect the dots. Hello, YouTube!! If the teacher doesn't correlate physics (or whatever the topic may be) to real life, then the student has no desire to search for more info.

As a parent, I have to do this. I hit the nail on the head when I brought up how physics directly relates to driving a car (a privilege my son just earned).

If your teenager doesn't understand Physics (or if you just want to learn about Physics), here are a few resources I've found to help.

I'll be adding to this page as my junior year high school student progresses through Physics Honors. I've asked him to hang in there before he calls it quits and requests College Prep Physics. There's a reason you're in Honors classes, my dear.

  1. sparknotes
  2. Khan Academy
  3. the Physics Classroom
  4. PhET Interactive Simulations for Physics
So, how exactly does physics relate to real life? This link really helped me. I had no idea.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Parenting a High-School Student #IRL

As of today, I'm 37 with a 17-year old son. Over the years, I've been challenged by elementary, middle school, and high school education of a NOW teenager.

I never would have thought it would be so hard. From remembering why words sound a certain way (phonics) in the early years to "new math", and explaining how things like physics relate to "real life" as an adult, I have never felt so challenged.

I graduated high school at 17, just months before my 18th birthday. My grades were "okay". They weren't scholarship quality, but my parents approved. Boy were my parents rigorous.

I was literally afraid to come home and do anything but homework. I thought if I turned on the TV, my parents would somehow get a signal and I would be in deep doo-doo.

In the 80's and 90's, the possibility of this actually happening was slim, unless your parents were loaded. Technology advancements make it more possible for the middle-class family to monitor their teen's every waking moment.

On Friday I received an email from my son's language arts teacher. Apparently, he hadn't turned in a critical assignment. This one assignment brought his "A" grade down to "F". My son was at his FIRST high school football game: homecoming, at that.

What to do? I forwarded him the email, not thinking he would see it so soon. As connected as I am, I should have known better. I gave him too much time to think as I logged on to the parent portal and reviewed his other grades.

In short, what I saw was majorly disappointing. My son is smarter than this. We had brief discussions on the phone Friday with what I felt were excuses. On Saturday morning I walked to defeat ALS, while he slept in and then went to work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. Basically, I didn't feel like there was a need to discipline yet.

When Sunday rolled around, my son told me that he was going out to eat with his friends. Nope!

Then the arguments began. There should have been no arguments, but my son insisted that he was trying as hard as he could. He acted like I was attacking him. I guess that's to be expected as the parent of a 17-year old.

I stood my ground. Eventually, I was able to coerce my son to use the resources that are available, kinda. The kid is smart. He knows that people have different learning styles. He knows that he has a more visual learning style. With all the tech today, what teenager doesn't have a visual learning style?

Alright, I'm sure some teenagers still read paper books with words, some like hands-on experiments, etc. What we have before us is the way his teachers teach for a group of public school children. As a parent, I have to learn how to take that information and turn it in to something my son understands.

Today I'm faced with the challenges of Algebra II and Honors Physics. We did a bit of physics work together today. Algebra II is another story, especially after hearing my son's method of calculating cook time for dinner tonight.

We made chicken wings and fries for dinner. The wings took 35 minutes. The fries took 18 minutes. Since I knew that 18 x 2 = 36, I just subtracted 1 to find out when we needed to put the fries in.  He used "new math". In other words, his steps to calculate the time was several more steps. For the first time in years, I understood the steps, but it just didn't make sense. Why do that when you can use "simple math"....the math I learned.

At the end of the day, things have changed. I have to adapt so I can learn how to teach my son the relevance of everything he's learning in school. We'll be focusing on physics in real life and algebra in real life.

How do you use physics in real life?