Mr. Breland's Classroom 2017-2018

I'm Mr. Breland. I teach algebra at an embattled and underfunded, inner-city, public high school, in Memphis, Tennessee. Currently, I teach Algebra II and Advanced Algebra & Trigonometry. I work in a broken system, but I'm hell bent on making a difference anyway. One of the ways I do so is by ensuring my students have the material resources for learning, regardless of the adequacy of systemic resources. You can help, by funding my efforts. 

80% of our students are from families which bring in under $20k per year. My students suffer from socioeconomic disparities which put them at a severe disadvantage academically. With issues like homelessness and food insecurity affecting my pupils on a daily basis, it is no wonder that they lack for school supplies. Our school resources are also extremely limited due to district level budget restrictions. 

Long term solutions to problems like these are being discussed at higher levels, in an effort to improve conditions. Yet, these discussions and planning efforts lack the same sense of urgency felt by exhausted and hungry students or by teachers who struggle to put printed materials, or paper and pencils, in front of those pupils. My ability to respond to such problems in a timely fashion depends on a readily available source of funds. Monies received through GoFundMe allow me to respond to classroom and student needs as they arise.

I reject the short-sighted, dog-eat-dog worldview with its insistence that we have no responsibility to shoulder the burdens of strangers when they struggle.  If we want to live in a world in which all persons have the skills and abilities to provide for themselves, we need to provide adequate assistance right now. That means providing resources, today, even above and beyond what is reasonably expected. Accepting that burden, I try to make sure my students have resources no-one else has been able to provide; Resources like notebooks, pencils and erasers, rulers and protractors. I also maintain a supply of items just to keep students in the classroom: facial tissue, paper towels, and hand sanitizer . . . because they don't learn walking down the hallway. Beyond that, I build things and make displays to help them understand mathematical concepts, and I purchase most of my own classroom supplies, like dry erase markers, copy paper and toner for handouts and worksheets. I bear these expenses, when there is no expectation that I should do so, because my classroom is the one place I know I can affect my students and my community, today and for the future.

Among my goals for this year, I hope to incorporate daily journaling to deepen conceptual understanding by prompting students write and express their own thinking. I also want to have students review and track their own progress using their journals. My hope is that journaling will increase students’ metacognition, helping them to identify misconceptions in problem areas as well as increase self-confidence and self-efficacy. Obtaining journaling supplies and the required classroom storage is critical to my plan to add this to the curriculum. Few of my students will be able to provide dedicated notebooks for this program and the storage solution to keep 150+ notebooks organized will likely need to be hand built.

My 2016 school-year campaign provided a steady supply of toner and printer supplies, pencils and notebooks, tissues and hand sanitizer. It also allowed me to improve instruction by incorporating additional curriculum resources and trade books to engage students in reading and writing about topics beyond the standard curriculum, a technique proven to bolster student growth in mathematics. Manipulatives, rulers, protractors, compasses, crayons, colored pencils, markers, construction paper, scissors, glue, and poster board purchased with these funds helped engage my students in creative projects to bolster their conceptual understanding of math topics. Other items included a microphone for studying sound waves (via an open source oscilloscope application)—sound waves may be modeled with cosine functions and supplies for making chimes to further study sine waves and summation of cosine functions. Donated funds also purchased a classroom set of scientific calculators.

I am thankful that you are even considering supporting my cause.

Mr. Breland
Wooddale HS, Math Teacher 
and Chemist At-Large

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Duncan Breland 
Memphis, TN