I wanted to go AAAARGH!

Disclaimer: I don’t intend this blog to be centered about whining. I want this blog to be about practice, about ideas, about improvement and reflection and archiving my first years of teaching. That being said, this post is written by someone (me) who is temporarily frustrated. The good thing about me is that after frustration, I usually come out on the other side stronger. I try to turn my frustration into something productive. That all said, onto the whining!

Here I am, about halfway through our fourth and final quarter, and I’m teaching a gaggle of tenth and eleventh graders about trigonometry. And we’ve been working with radians and reference angles for a long time now. They should be second nature.

They aren’t. I am so fed up with trying to use this book to teach trigonometry that I might just scrap it and design my own homework, and organize it my own way [1]. Heck, I’ll just write my own little book on trigonometry for my students, focusing on the skills that I need them to know.

It’s clear that the students have lost the big picture for trying to memorize procedures without knowing the concepts behind these procedures.

The hard part about being a teacher is that even though I may sometimes decry my students in a moment of panic, I blame myself. I assume every student is working hard at home (if they tell me they are) and then I have no one else to look at, except in a mirror. And I know, I know what you’re going to say: “Thinking in terms of blame doesn’t do anyone any good.”

But it’s my way of keeping myself on my toes, always trying to do better, and figure out what I did wrong. It’s also highly depressing, and leads me to periodically question if I’m a good teacher. Ahhh, to be blessed with the endemic uncertainties that comprise a first year teacher…

It gets hard, though, when I feel like I am on an uphill battle, given a Sisyphean task.

The catalyst for this post? All of this stems from a whole bunch of students in my Algebra II class who asked today why I claimed \pi + \frac{\pi}{3}=\frac{4\pi}{3}. And then a whole bunch of others who didn’t realize \frac{1}{4}\pi is the same as \frac{\pi}{4}.

The really frustrating thing about this is that I saw fractions were a problem when we started trig, so I gave a review worksheet on fractions early on in our trig unit. Clearly, I am going to have to start earlier and come up with a different plan of attack than just a worksheet.

Did I mention that I wanted to go “AAAARGH!”?

[1] I did a bit of rearranging and lo and behold, my students did extremely well on that assessment. It could be that the topic is easy for them, but I don’t think that’s it.



  1. I’m joining you in the AAARGH. I too am dealing with the fractions in trig. AAARGH.

    I’d love a copy of that book you’re writing. Heck, I’ll even help.

  2. Ha! Thanks Jackie. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

    But I seriously think if I have extra time this summer, I’m going to do it — come up with a list of skills I need them to take away, and then write a whole unit on it.

    And if I do it, I’ve decided I’m going to give it a fancy red cover, call it “The Little Red Trig Book” and have it authored by Chairman Shah.

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