Monthly Archives: October 2010

I Made the Front Page of the School Newspaper


In more bow tie news, I made the front page of the school newspaper for the new trend that I have started on campus (full article below). I feel a little guilty because I happen to be the advisor to the school newspaper, but I swear they did it all on their own doing. I also happened to make the inside of the newspaper once too. We had a section called “separated at birth” where they put pictures of people at the school next to celebrities whom they resemble. I got placed next to Woody from Toy Story. I don’t think I get it but it provided a nice inspiration for a great Halloween costume for tonight…

Donut Points

I am not one of those teachers who doesn’t make mistakes on the board. I had this math professor in college  who never once made a single mistake on the board in one semester of teaching (MATH 354: Survey of Algebra, easily the best math class I took in college, still can’t really tell you what even the title of the class means). He was also very typical math professor – curly Russian fro, about 140 pounds, short sleeved button down shirts, thick eastern European Bond villian accent etc. I will never forget the first day of class when he couldn’t turn the projector off or get the screen to go up so he could use the chalkboard. It was like watching a sitcom, or Saturday Night Live, except that it was Tuesday morning, and the laugh track was really quiet because we weren’t sure what to do.

Anyway, I hope from my description of him (and the Venn Diagram from the last post) you gather that I am not like him. And I do make mistakes on the board, often. When you’re standing in front of 18 teenagers, the last thing you’re thinking about is double checking whether x actually should be negative or not (even though you just said out loud it should be). So I instituted something in my classes called “Donut Points,” thank you to the interwebs for the idea. Every time I make a mistake on the board and they correct it, the class earns a donut point. When we get up to 30, I buy donuts. Pretty simple, and strangely effective (many kids have told me it helps them pay attention better).

Well, in my Physics classes I’m still in the low teens, but Calculus was pretty quick – it only took about 5 weeks to gather up enough points for donuts, which we cashed in a few days ago. I got the donuts from the local donut joint, Donuts Factory, which in a land without copyright law is allowed to have the exact same logo as Dunkin’ Donuts. I arrived to class humbled by my mistakes, and then quickly forgot about them after a knock-off Boston Kreme. Now I’m okay that I’m not one of those teachers who never makes mistakes on the board.

Am I Really a Calculus Teacher?

I was looking in the mirror the other day during one of my twice daily 90 minute sessions, and I was trying my hardest to picture the person I saw staring back as a Calculus teacher. Though I am pretty sure I undoubtedly am one, or at least do a good job pretending to be one for hours and hours a week, I still can’t make it fit with my perception of who I am, especially because my perception of a Calculus teacher is completely overshadowed by my insane Calculus teacher from my high school days. I think my students agree too – I had two separate students today tell me about all the siblings they had that are older than me and somehow connect that to how weird they thought it was that their siblings could be their Calculus teacher.

I made this Venn diagram to help express my thoughts about this issue. Read, think, discuss.

Why I Love High Schoolers

It’s amazing how much better the start of this year has felt than last year. Though I am (literally) about twice as busy, and feel incredibly overwhelmed by everything, it was great coming in and picking up where in left off with all the relationships I developed last year. The insanity of teaching and coaching is tempered by the hilarious relationships I have with these mini-friends, which I did not have to keep me going last year. Some vignettes:

  • I have this ongoing contest with one student, who was in the group that I took to India this summer, whereby we try to catch the other person doing the teeth-baring monkey face. At a nature park, we found ourselves feeding monkeys potato chips at a little rest stop, and one daddy monkey took issue with me feeding his wife and baby potato chips and attacked me. Luckily, he was probably 12 pounds, so he didn’t do much damage, but spent the rest of the time standing about 10 yards away from us repeatedly opening his mouth as wide as he could, baring his teeth and then closing his mouth again. So if I see this student somewhere on campus looking vulnerable, I will make the monkey face until he looks, at which time I would receive a point. It’s 3-3 right now.
  • One guy insists on rolling up his sleeves, especially in the weight room, so I often ask him if he would like me to help him find his lost sleeves. This has turned into a fun running, muscle flexing gag.
  • I turned the corner and bumped into one of my students in the hallway, and when he realized it was me he says “Oh, I was just singing your name!”
  • A few students have decided to continue the trend I found last year of blurting out completely unrelated things during the middle of the class. One girl raised her hand in the middle of a calculus lesson and said “Mr. Bowman, you’re a really good teacher,” which was very sweet, but took me off guard, so I ended up responding with something about parabolas. A few classes later, a senior guy asked in the middle of class, “Mr. Bowman, how do you not have a girlfriend?”, which again took me off guard, and I ended up responding with something about limits.
  • And the bow tie following is growing. There were a good fifteen students sporting bow ties this past Thursday, which tells me that the number is only going to grow…

These might seem stupid, but it’s the little things like this that have really kept me powering through the busy workweeks. I guess I also had a senior girl tell me that I was “ruining her life” with Physics. You win some, you lose some

My Very Own Syrian Wedding

During Orientation for the school (now almost 3 weeks ago, it seems like it was just yesterday) we had a school-wide performance by a traditional Syrian group. This was the type of song and dance that they would do at a wedding, which means, naturally, they needed a groom. Well, my boss in the science department asked me if I would be the groom for the performance. I said “sure” because he had told me all I would have to do is stand there while the band sang and dance around me.


I got up in front of the school and stood center stage and the band formed around me in a V with me in the center facing the whole school (see picture above). And then they just played music – apparently the groom is the one who is supposed to dance. Well, I stood there for a good 4 minutes awkwardly shaking my shoulder waiting for the repetitive song to end. I guess they weren’t having that, because they kept on playing.


I danced like there was no tomorrow, throwing out all of my good old 7th grade white boy moves, often just settling back into what I call the “rodeo clown”. And then they gave me a stick, and the stick became my crazed dance partner. So, another 3 minutes passes (this was a looooong song) and I’m still up there dancing. FINALLY, students decided to do what happens at a real Syrian wedding and join in. A bunch  formed a dabka line (picture a slower, more rhytmic river dance – people with their arms over each other’s shoulders) came up, surrounded me, lifted me up and then started lifting each other up (at which point I kind of ducked behind the crowd and clapped for the rest of the time).

It was actually a pretty funny experience and I got a lot of compliments for my dancing skillz. The bad part though? I never even got to meet my bride.