This past November marked the beginning of an Eastside Catholic club that attracted a shocking number of students: Crusader Mathletes. Eastside Catholic’s Danielle Maletta, co-advisor to the Crusader Mathletes club along with Mrs. Judith Petersen, said that she expects to receive 50-60 applications by the end of the deadline.
Of those applicants, there are indeed students who have embraced their inner geek and joined Crusader Mathletes out of their love for mathematics. Senior Miles Linde said, “I’m doing mathletes because I enjoy doing math and want to be around other people who also like math.” Senior Christianna Mueller, who shares Miles’ passion for math, said, “I’m doing Mathletes because I love numbers and the logical nature of math. Why not be a part of a group of math lovers as well?” This sort of passion for math will certainly be welcomed in the club.
Surprisingly, though, it seems that all of the 50-plus applicants may not necessarily fit the mathlete stereotype. Maletta remarked, “I thought it would be a nerd convention, but there were cool people at the meeting too!”
What, then, could be attracting such a diverse group of students to a typically all-“geek” club?
A survey of the applicants suggests that students were motivated to join the club for a variety of reasons. Among these, the main motivations seemed to be the scholarship opportunities involved as well as the honors cord mathletes receive at graduation, the official t-shirt, and the time spent with fellow mathletes. In fact, senior Ian Davis said that he joined the club because “everybody’s doing it!”
Yet despite these compelling motivations to join the Crusader Mathletes club, there are still those who feel that they have had their fill of math. Senior Megan Drews remarked, “I’m not doing Mathletes because AP Calc’ gives me enough math already!” However, for those who can appreciate a little extra math on top of their courses, becoming a mathlete seems to be a great opportunity.
Beyond the motivators above, mathletics participants will be expected to have completed at least two math classes at Eastside Catholic, be currently enrolled in a math class, maintain a B average in all math classes, volunteer as math tutors, and attend three meetings throughout the year. Meetings should mainly involve scholarship discussions, actual scholarship qualification tests, as well as fun math puzzle-solving. As quoted from the National Chapter of Mu Alpha Theta, the club will be “dedicated to inspiring keen interest, strong scholarship, and enjoyment in mathematics.”
So it sounds like the Crusader Mathletes club is off to a great start. Mrs. Maletta teasingly remarked, “What a slogan: ‘Come to Eastside Catholic, we have one of the biggest mathletics clubs around!’ ”
Students adjusting to the third floor Eastside Catholic High School this fall are, for the most part, enjoying having classes on their floor. Middle school and high school classrooms had been separated by wing last year, but in an effort to respond to feedback that the high school and middle school should be separated as much as possible, the EC administration decided to try this new separation by floor.
In the past two years, the middle school operated on a different bell schedule from the high school’s. While this worked well in preventing traffic jams in passing periods, it was understandably difficult for middle school teachers to manage their different class schedule and for parents with both middle school and high school students to have their students getting out of school at different times.
So this year, the high school and middle school bell schedules –albeit with different breaks and lunches –are more in sync, which means that middle schoolers and high schoolers do share some passing periods. However, the middle school and high school classrooms are now predominantly on the second and third floors, respectively. Therefore, students can remain on their respective floors throughout the majority of the school day, right?
Well, not quite. High school students still have classes in the courtyard classrooms, and a few students have one or two classes in the second-floor science wing or in the first-floor library and computer labs. Additionally, high school and middle school teachers share the first floor art classrooms.
Thus, many high school students find themselves wading through throngs of middle schoolers on their way to second and first-floor classes, especially in the stairwells. Senior Cami Silverman remarked, “It’s not just that we have to put up with sharing our hallways with younger and at times loud and obnoxious students. It would be tolerable if they could at least walk on the right-hand side of the hallway, but they don’t.” Senior Miles Linde added, “I really think the middle schoolers need recess. They probably have P.E. classes, but if they have to run through the hallways to get their energy out, they’re obviously not getting enough exercise.”
Other high schoolers find themselves sprinting from the courtyard classrooms to their next classes on the third floor. And as a student with a first period class in a courtyard classroom and a second period class in the third floor C wing, I know the feeling.
Still, some high school students appreciate these physically taxing changes. When asked how she feels about having classes almost exclusively on the third floor, senior Kelly McCann exclaimed, “I feel like I’m getting good exercise!”
But others are less excited about the exercise. Senior Anna Caldwell remarked, “I have to say I don’t like it because we still have classes in the art rooms and the courtyard classrooms so it’s very spread out and a lot of walking.” Senior Alana Foster also said, “It’s frustrating because I feel like the middle schoolers are more sprightly. Their youthful legs could carry them all the way to the third floor with ease.” Indeed, having the high school on the second floor could eliminate such problems. As senior Ian Davis said, “I personally don’t like it because it didn’t do anything to isolate us from the middle schoolers and now I have to get more exercise. Having the middle schoolers on the third floor would have been better.”
However, the EC administration had to consider the fact that the third floor has all the C wing classrooms, whereas the second floor C wing is occupied by the campus ministry office and the staff lounge. The high school needs the additional classrooms. Not to mention the fact that in the future the middle school will have its own building altogether. But for now, the school is working to find the best way to handle the current situation.
Many high school students are actually enjoying this new arrangement. Senior Hunter Zahn, finding that he personally hasn’t had to compete as much with middle schoolers for hallway space, said, “It beats having to wade through middle schoolers.” Senior Anna Vertner also said, “I really like the high school being on the third floor! It makes walking to classes feel like more of a high school experience and less like a middle school-infused chaos.” Senior Laura Shellooe remarked, “Having all the high school students on one floor really helps in making the high school feel like a close-knit community.”
So it seems that acceptance of the new high school-middle school arrangement depends on who you ask. Perhaps those who are happier with the current arrangement have fewer classes to walk to on different floors, but of those interviewed, this didn’t seem to necessarily be the case. After all, having classes all over the school isn’t that big of a change from last year. But aside from those looking for exercise, most generally agree that less interactions with middle schoolers, more opportunities to be in the same area as their peers, and that less frantic sprints –especially from one corner of the school to the other –would be ideal if possible. Students do understand, however, that getting the schedule they want, whatever the effects it has on which rooms their teachers are assigned to, should always take priority.
“I like the layout now more than last year. It’s nice having most of my classes in the same general area,” said senior Tessie LaMourea. Hopefully as new solutions to the middle school-high school situation are tested, more and more students will share her opinion.
What Eastside Catholic High School teacher has attended six colleges to date, lives a mile away from Eastside’s campus, is blind in her left eye but still watches Fringe and Battle Star Galactica in her spare time, and starred in a random movie titled Get to Know Your Yo? Mrs. Maletta, Eastside’s beloved high school math and SAT prep teacher as well as last year’s recipient of the Teacher of the Year award is well-known for her enthusiasm, affability, humor, and engaging and effective teaching style. But perhaps she is less well-known for such things as having almost majored in physics instead of math and having been “painfully quiet and shy” through most of her high school experience.
Danielle Maletta was born on the 26th of January, 1977, in Kirkland, Washington and raised in what is now Klahanie. Growing up, Mrs. Maletta attended Issaquah High School, where she did, in fact, “turn bright red” out of bashfulness whenever someone talked to her. Yet considering that she is now so admired for her constant enthusiasm, one would wonder what triggered this complete change in her personality.
At age 17, Mrs. Maletta’s mother died, leaving herself, her father, and her two little brothers. To say the least, her mother’s death was devastating and extremely challenging for herself and her whole family. Yet as she related this life-altering event, Mrs. Maletta seemed to be remarkably at peace with the subject. She said, “It made me realize life was too short to worry about how people thought of me.” Rather than retreating further into herself as many people in her situation would do, she had the strength to move past such a hardship early in her life, becoming the enthusiastic, self-giving person she is admired for today.
Mrs. Maletta went on to eventually major in math at Houghton College in New York. She later received her teaching certificate at Western Washington University, and is currently studying for her masters in math education at Evergreen College to “be the best teacher possible.” When asked what she loves about math, Mrs. Maletta responded, “Math is beautiful, logical, and has one answer.” In stating her reason for going into teaching, Mrs. Maletta said, “As corny as this sounds, I wanted to impact the world.”
“I want students to feel like math class is relevant, fun, and thoroughly prepares them for college,” said Mrs. Maletta. Now, at Eastside, she seems to be doing just that. Cami Silverman, a senior at Eastside who has now had Mrs. Maletta for two math classes, described Mrs. Maletta as being approachable, personable, positive, very funny, and passionate about what she does. She also mentioned that Mrs. Maletta is accommodating yet challenging, articulate in her explanations, and extremely knowledgeable not just in math itself, but in various ways to help students learn it. In response to Mrs. Maletta’s Teacher of the Year award, Cami said, “She totally deserved it. She puts in so many extra hours out of her own time to help students learn the material.”
There is no doubt that Mrs. Maletta’s coworkers think just as highly of her, though some are less apt to articulate their admiration. Mrs. Judith Petersen has worked closely with Mrs. Maletta for three years now, and her own sense of humor and friendly competition is certainly comparable Mrs. Maletta’s. In sarcastic jest, Mrs. Petersen said the following of Mrs. Maletta: “Mrs. Maletta is a lot of trouble; she’s had a big head ever since she won teacher of the year. When I first met her, I suspected that she was a hell’s angel; now I know she is. I’ve heard more profanities in her class than I have ever heard in my life! Her class seems much too easy, way too gentle; she doesn’t give nearly enough homework.” When asked to choose three words that describe her, Mrs. Petersen said, “Irreverent, nasty, and easy.” In fact, when asked if there is anything she would like to know about Mrs. Maletta, Mrs. Petersen responded, “I’m much too scared to know anything more; I don’t think I want to open that can of worms.”
Humor aside, Mrs. Maletta’s outgoing and unique personality as well as her various tattoos might strike someone as being slightly hell’s angels-esque –that is, until you ask her their significance. She indeed is notorious for her borderline-crude but always classroom-appropriate humor, which engages her students all the more. With a family comprising of “one little brother who’s a red neck, another little brother who’s metro-sexual married to a broncos cheerleader,” a father who is a national mountain biker, and a step mother with whom she hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye, Mrs. Maletta said that “I feel like the Eastside Catholic community is the supportive family that I don’t have in my immediate family.” Her involvement in various school functions like Destiny and the Math lab clearly show her commitment, and she said that the Esperanza mission trip was “one of the best experiences that I got to share with my husband as well as the students at Eastside.” Though she is convinced that the “bro mafia” played a role in her nomination for the Teacher of the Year award, she was flattered albeit embarrassed, felt “rewarded for all her hard work,” and was pleased that so many students, like Cami Silverman, have recognized it.
Later in life, Mrs. Maletta may go into education politics or even to teaching teachers how to teach, “as pompous as that sounds.” But for now, Mrs. Maletta is loving her career at Eastside, wants to continue to be happy in her life, and is committed to being “the best wife, friend, and teacher” she can be.
Additionally, the hours of homework that result from this false sense of obligation in some teachers leads to another negative effect on learning: less actual thought put into assignments. National school reform leader Deborah Meier, also in an article titled “The homework load: Is it time for reform?” said, “A lot of homework just isn’t done. And of those who are doing it, a lot of them are doing it half-asleep and lazily, just completing the work without giving it a lot of heed.” Thus, teachers should let go of the notion that more homework necessarily corresponds to more learning.
Education should occur outside of school as well; students need to exercise, unwind, socialize, and spend time with family. Educator Alfie Kohn writes, “The negative effects of homework… include children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning. Many parents lament the impact of homework on their relationship with their children; they may also resent having to play the role of enforcer and worry that they will be criticized either for not being involved enough with the homework or for becoming too involved.” Homework should never be seen as the most valuable use of student’s time outside of school.
Lastly, according to Kohn, “At the high school level, the correlation [between whether children do homework and any meaningful measure of achievement] is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied.” So aside from the negative effects of homework, the actual benefits may not be as meaningful as some educators believe. Kohn’s argument is indeed radically different from traditional views of education, but it seems clear that the positive effects of homework are worth reconsidering.
So perhaps the old saying “practice makes perfect” has been taken to an extreme in our schools. But this begs the question: What, if anything at all, should homework be?
Meier argues that homework should only be assigned to “to extend learning in ways best suited for outside the classroom.” Occasional extensions of learned material do seem reasonable, and as a student myself, I would add that homework as a means of preparing for class lessons and doing class readings, solidifying learned concepts, and perhaps even simultaneously preparing for real-world work loads can certainly be valuable as well.
As Eastside Catholic’s math teacher Danielle Maletta put it, “Most learning can and should involve understanding of concepts rather than repetition of processes. If you can do a math problem five times, you can do it 30 times. And doing something five times in class with instructor help is far better than doing it 30 times incorrectly at home.” Indeed, level of homework and level of learning do not go hand in hand.
Could students’ whiny complaints about homework levels be justified? Excessive homework loads, even those that require thought, may in fact have little effect or even negative effects on learning.
Although homework loads vary, students almost unanimously begrudge homework for the effort and time it demands of them. Student responses to the question “What would you consider a reasonable nightly homework load?” ranged from 30 minutes to 3 hours, including the response, “An hour seems reasonable, but none whatsoever is preferable.” Homework can make learning seem tedious or burdensome, especially when homework fails to contribute to learning. In fact, student responses to a survey posing the question, “How much of your homework load contributes to your learning” averaged a mere 50%! One student remarked, “The earlier I think back to, the more busy work I remember.”
Part of the problem may be that some teachers use homework as a means of covering class material. Learning specialist Susan Schwartz from New York University, in an article titled “The Homework Load: Is it time for reform?” described a “frequent scenario” in which “a teacher knows [he or she is] not going to get to something in class and thinks… ‘I’m not going to be able to teach them this, so I’ll give them some extra homework and they’ll figure it out, because they have to know it for the standardized test coming up.’ ” But students should rarely have to spend extra time at home doing work for a class because of poor teaching, poor planning, or poor class time management.
Some teachers also assign homework out of a perceived obligation rather than an actual intent to extend or solidify concepts learned in class. Schwartz remarked, “Homework in most schools isn’t limited to those occasions when it seems appropriate and important. Rather, the point of departure seems to be: ‘We’ve decided ahead of time that children will have to do something every night (or several times a week). Later on we’ll figure out what to make them do.’ ” Rethinking Homework author Alfie Kohn adds that “teachers who have long harbored doubts about the value of homework feel pressured by those parents who mistakenly believe that a lack of after-school assignments reflects an insufficient commitment to academic achievement.” These points are worth emphasizing to educators. Homework should not be assigned out of some perceived obligation to put something into the grade book, but rather when assignments are actually worth students’ time and contribute to their learning. This perceived obligation may in part contribute the piles of busy work assignment that many students feel burdened with. Teachers should make sure they feel obligated to help their students learn, not to use up their time.
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