Thursday, June 30, 2011

Amidst the Storm

Taken during the Vancouver riots after game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sometimes They Let You Know

This year I had over 130 kids, some twice. It is hard to reach them all. I will admit I often question if I am doing enough. So many kids today are rude, lazy, and unappreciative. Often we, as teachers, do not see the fruit of our labor. At the end of year the kids leave us and we don’t know how the story plays out. But sometimes I get a chance to realize that I’ve truly impacted the lives of few kids. And sometimes I get a chance to realize that it is way more than a just a few.

At the end of each school year I have my students write me a letter to say good-bye. Every year they touch my heart. Below I included excerpts from their letters, but then also several entire letters. I admit that I corrected some of the spelling errors, but I tried to maintain the integrity of the letters (even the poor grammar and confused sentence structure). I changed their full names to just initials. If this column is too long for you feel free to just skip to the end and read a couple at the bottom.

Sometimes I wonder if I encouraged them enough, if I pushed them enough, if I taught them enough. It was nice of some of them to let me know that I did. Here are their letters:

This year with you has been quite something. You actually made me look forward to 1st period! I have to admit, I knew nothing about algebra, and didn’t think this class would actually make an impact, but man was I wrong… You’re one of those teachers every student is lucky to have.

The lessons made sense and there wasn’t much homework. I enjoy doing the 10-star notes. The reason why, because we talk about numerous things while actually learning. While being here, I definitely learned some ways to do math. I’ve always hated learning things which you know you’ll never use in life. But after you told us about the “muscle” story I finally understood. You are an awesome teacher, don’t change.

I used an analogy comparing learning algebra to lifting weights. I was stressing that we were learning how to increase our critical thinking and growing our brain muscles. Also, that I don’t pretend the majority of people will have to know how to graph a parabola for their vocation.

I have the feeling that I’m gonna go far. And keep in touch with you every step of the way. When you’re old and your hair starts to fall out I’m going to be on my high horse, remembering everything you taught me. And I’m going to be thankful for that each and every day. I’m going to miss you and your class so much next year!... Well I love this class. It was the best. I’m going to be great next year, just like you told me to. Just encourage me and keep in touch.

Ever since I was put in your class I understood math. Not only do I realize you care about our math grades, but you care about our lives and other grades. Having you for AVID made me actually think about what I need to do to make my life easier. I never really believed in myself, but now I do.

I also learned about trying my hardest and to keep working hard to reach my goal in life. All I can say is thank you so much. Just keep doing what you have been doing.

You are one of my favorite teachers because no matter what student you have you always make them work harder.

Awesomest, most amazing, brilliant, coolest, weirdest (in a good way), lovable, parentive, teacher ever.

I didn’t think I was good at math because of last year and in the 6th grade, but now I’m actually really good with numbers.

Thank you for helping me discover that hard work can get you places in life.

This has been my favorite class all year. Not just because we have commercial breaks, parties, and dances to the Eagle Eye, but because this was the first year I’ve gotten grades to be proud of in math. I’ll admit I was scared in the beginning of the year because I thought the other kids would laugh at me like last year. But they didn’t.

Dear Mr. Burrill,

This class was great. It was fun and challenging. I learned a lot of new ways to solve certain problems, such as, factoring, completing the square, and the quadratic formula, which for my opinion is the toughest of the three. I think that you’re a great math teacher, but you also know a lot about other things such as, life and how it is, how to not let anybody put you down or say you can’t do something. I have learned a lot from you and your class, and I want to thank you for it, so thank you very very very much for everything you have taught me Mr. Burrill.



Dear Mr. Burrill,

I am glad that you taught me math my 8th grade year, because you’re a teacher. You encourage all your students to do the best. I think that’s the reason why you’re such a good teacher. I felt that 3rd period math was one of my best and favorite classes this year. Last year in 7th grade my teacher taught very slow, and it was hard for me to understand. But when you teach it’s just at the right speed.



Dear Mr. Burrell,

Coming from 7th grade I didn’t know much about math. I just sorta slacked off and didn’t pay attention much at all last year. So knowing that I thought this year and math would be especially difficult. However, I found myself paying attention and doing the work with ease. I just mainly wanted to thank you and acknowledge how much you’ve helped me. The things in math I thought I’d never understand were made easy when you explained them. If you haven’t already noticed, I’m not exactly the smartest kid around. And I truly believe math wouldn’t have been fun for me if I didn’t have you as a teacher. Thank you Mr. Burrell.


Maybe if I have her for another year I’ll teach her how to spell my name.

Dear Mr. Burrill,

You are a great teacher and a better encourager. Whenever you would come out to the soccer field I would try harder. You taught me a lot of things like the quadratic formula and Pythagorean Theorem. Your class was always fun and every school day I would look forward to going to your class. I’ve learned many life lessons from you. And many funny jokes. The Superman one was my favorite. I’m really glad to have been in your class.



The letter below is from a kid I never thought worked real hard, and sometimes I wondered if I was too hard on him. I didn’t really know how he felt about me or the class until this letter.

Dear Mr. Burrill,

I have always struggled in math until I came to your class. You always encouraged me and I kept getting better and better in math. I wish you did every subject so I could be in your class only. You are like no other teacher. You are the best teacher I have ever had. This year in your class I have learned so much. When I was confused, you always explained it well. When I was down, you always encouraged me. All I want you to know is that you made my life easier.

Your favorite student,


Dear Mr. Burrill,

I LOVE your class! I’m very happy that I got to switch classes. You are my favorite teacher. Your class was fun, funny, and the best class to be in. Even though I already knew a lot, being in your class helped me better understand things. I’ve really learned a lot from your class, not just about math, but about life in general. You helped me and inspired me to do things. Even though you probably don’t know it. My life is pretty bad right now. Since January, things haven’t been going well, but some things you’ve said in class helped me through things. This is probably new to you, but that’s because I don’t show it. I really appreciate everything you do. Even if I don’t show it, you’ve been a big help! So I wanted to say thank you for being the BEST math teacher and in a way a friend to me. You make my day better because when you’re in a good mood you’re fun and when you’re in a bad mood you’re funny. I have a lot of great memories from this class and I don’t have not one bad memory. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you and the work you do. I love the way you teach, and I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. You’re more than my math teacher, you’re a friend. I hope I didn’t leave any bad impression of me, because I know I wasn’t always the best student. You love your students and that’s one of the reasons I think you’re so great at what you do. Your class is the best class I’ve had at Albert Einstein Middle School. I hope we can keep in touch. I’ll miss your class. I’ll miss you and I’ll miss everything about the way you teach. THANK YOU! Oh, and one more thing… I will say “what” way more than one more time!

--K.R.A 2010-2011

Dear Mr. Burrill,

Thank you for working with me after school and taking time to help me understand math. You helped me bring up my grade and pushed me to do better. You have become my favorite teacher. You made me like math and coming to school which I never thought was possible. Thanks for proving to me that I could do it.



Dear Mr. Burrill,

It’s cool being in AVID. You’re a great teacher for it. Being in AVID was great. I learned a lot from here. I learned how to take notes, study, and pass all my classes. In high school I plan to keep a GPA 3.0 or higher and persevere through the hard/difficult times. I won’t be mediocre I will be more than great. Thanks for everything.



Dear Mr. Burrill,

I wanted to say thank you for changing my life and helping me succeed in life. Every day I learned something new and never forgot it. I would make my parents proud when they would try to do a problem, get it wrong, and I would show them how to do it. When I would make my parents proud, I would feel proud to strive and do better. Everything that you’ve taught me I would tell myself that I can do anything in life as long as I try and do my best. All of the life lessons you gave us, the new words you taught us, and the fun times we spent as your favorite 1st period class has always put me in a better mood because I know that you’re not only my teacher, but my friend. I have realized as the year goes by that the more I learn the easier high school will be. So thank you for being that person in my life that helped and is still helping me succeed and be a better person in life.


H. G.

Pic of the Week

Thought of the Week

A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.
--Groucho Marx

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Negative Graffiti

Artists used selective cleaning to produce their pictures.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Thoughts from my 14-year-olds

At the end of every school year I have my students write me letters to say good-bye. Here are some words directly from my kids:

This class has always been fun even though it is only math.

This class is theee funnest class next to Mr. Kennedy and Mr. McKenna.

When you teach us math you make sure we understand it so that we’ll pass our tests, and if we don’t understand it you sometimes yell, pretty LOUD, or hit us with your paper! Anyway, it was fun in your class. I had a good time.

I also learned that I am bad at algebra, but mostly cause I spent most of my time day-dreaming, not to say your class was boring but when we were just talkin about math it wasn’t exactly fun, but really what math class is.

High school’s gunna be tough without you tutering me (or however you spell tutering).

It’s not that you’re a bad teacher I was just lazy and immature.

p.s. I’ll try not to be late for class next year.

Since being in your class I have learned many things. These things have been about math and about life. You are the best teacher ever. Some things I have learned are completing the square, you have also taught me to not let anyone bring you down about something. Whatever I do when I get older I will remember that so I won’t fuck up my life or my dream.

I just wanted to say you’re the best Algebra teacher ever and class this year has been very good. This year I learned more stuff from your class, like poker tips, tips on girls, and a lot about math!

Thanks Mr. Burrill you actually got me to like math lol. But the reason I was messing up at the end of the school was… Idk maybe I just got lazy or probably cuz Charisse broke up with me. Haha. Oh, well I didn’t really like her anyways. So yea thanks for everything you did to help me. H.A.K.A.S.
p.s. I get to walk, woohoo!
Another p.s. H.A.K.A.S. means have a kick ass summer

This year being in your class I actually learned something.

Don’t retire because you’re tired of all us 8th graders. When I have kids, you better be here to teach them because I recommend each and every student to bet taught by you.

I learned hardly anything this year, but your class was one of my favorites.

I told the sevies to be excited about you, but don’t get on your bad side. Not that I’ve seen your bad side nor do I want to! I’m so happy you’ve been my math teacher because you’re great at teaching and being funny! You need to teach Mr. McKenna how to be funny because he is not funny at all! He really isn’t. Well math is very hard and not fun, but you made it easy and fun.

You are an amazing teacher, scary at times, but amazing.

And even though I did not pay that much attention in class, I still enjoyed the class.

You are probably the loudest and funniest teacher I have.

Dear Mr. Burrill,
When I go to high school next year I am going to be a freshman. So that means I will need a senior girlfriend so people know I’m cool.

I loved being in AVID. It was what I looked forward to every other day.

Dear Mr. Burrill,
Your one bamf. You make math fun. Your class has always been my favorite class this year. You’re an awesome sauce teacher and you better stay ninja! Thanks to you I finally understand algebra better than I did. You give really good life lessons and Its cool to me how you actually want to change a students lives somehow. You dress like your secreatly gay (: Its kind of amusing saying that. Stay an awesome teacher because you are the bee’s knees.

You’re much more than just a teacher Mr. Burrill. And I’m glad I taught you how to delete you’re ex-girlfriend from your contacts, so you would stop buttdialing her.

Memba dat time wan you sent me to room 1 k’uz I didn’t hav ma notebook out. I was hella Mad at chu, I was like wow blood why he do dis shit to me. I was mad but, I got ova it b’kuz I realized dat I was wrong n’ not chu. So days’ past and the school w. yough is great you taught me how to do the quadratic fourmula it was light-weight hard fo me but is goodthie thou. All I got say is thank you for the wonderfull year, you’re the best math teacher. Love ya…

When you’re old and you hair starts to fall out I’m going to be on my high horse, remembering everything you taught me.

You make my day better because when you’re in a good mood you’re fun, and when you’re in a bad mood you’re funny.

Pic of the Week

With three of my 1st period kids the morning of the promotion ceremony.

Thought of the Week

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
--William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I heard a U-verse commercial on the radio similar to this:

On the radio ad the dad says to the daughter: "In the diary you speak of a Seth character. He didn't graduate high school; he must be a real entrepreneur.

And the wife says to the husband, "Then let's talk about your fantasy football team for an hour."

Sunday, June 12, 2011


At the end of the year I had each of my AVID students write a letter to other students that may be considering AVID in the future. The letter below was written by one my students. What a wonderful, organized, and succinct argument supporting AVID. Beautiful.

Dear prospective AVID student,

If you have already decided to join AVID then you are one step closer to achieving your goals. This class isn't for any one type of student. It is for everyone who wants to succeed in life. That is one of the things I love about AVID, the diversity. As long as you want to succeed, you will fit in.

The AVID class teaches you how to write better, how to work with your peers, how to be organized, and how to have fun while doing it. Some things I personally enjoyed were working in groups, doing some educational art projects (like our college posters) and having parties during certain parts of the year (winter break, achieving AR goal, multicultural, end of year, etc.).

Some reasons to be part of AVID are the important life lessons you can learn, the insight to life in high school and college, and the fact that it is fun and enjoyable. We have guest speakers that talk about higher education and their current jobs, and we take field trips to some local colleges. The last reason you should join AVID is because it is a great experience and really can help you create a better future for yourself.

To help document the activities and the fun described in the letter above I hired my sister to produce this scrapbook video showing our AVID class this year. Enjoy.

Pic of the Week

Alex doesn't know I shot this picture of him at the top of Feather Falls.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thought of the Week

Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Negative Spin

The other day I looked up the word "marital" on Above the definition were some advertisements. The top ad was from

And the dictionary example phrase was "marital discord."

The next word I looked up was harmony, and it didn't even mention marriage.

Pic of the Week: Reno

I was in Reno today and walking back to our car after the Aces game I was thinking about picking up some earings, bracelets, rings, and stun guns.

Thought of the Week

When I meet a guy, the first question I ask myself is: is this the man I want my children to spend their weekends with?
--Rita Rudner

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kevin Hart

I quoted a few comedians to my kids, but they are 14 and didn't get all the humor. They suggested this guy:

Kevin Hart

What do you guys think?