Monthly Archives: July 2013

megabus journey part deux

The original blog was already too long, so I’m going to recap journeys 3 & 4 in this post.

Day #3: Pittsburgh, PA – Philadelphia, PA
Our hotel was just over a mile from the MegaBus stop. BTW, in Pittsburgh, the MegaBus stop is on 10th street under the Convention Center. It’s a really central location and covered from the elements. So, we were just over a mile away. When we arrived in PIttsburgh, we just walked the 1.2 miles with our luggage because we had been on buses since Durham, NC. The exercise sounded good and it was.

Bus from Pittsburgh to Philly was 6:10am, before the hotel shuttle started. I called down at 5am to get a taxi at 5:20am. We got down at exactly 5:20 and the taxi driver came and left. What?! Hotel person calls them again and requests another taxi. At 5:40, no taxi. She calls again and they can’t give an estimate. At 5:45am we walked 1.2 miles with all of our luggage as fast as we could move. We got to the bus stop at 6:03 and they were in the middle of loading. We were truly the last people on. Whew – that was scary!  Very stressful start to the day.

Bus isn’t packed which makes it more quiet and roomier. We were able to sit at a table on the lower deck which is nice since I needed to do some work while we enjoy the Pennsylvania countryside. Unfortunately, wi-fi wouldn’t connect again. This will limit the work I can do as I need Google Docs (spreadsheet) and the internet. I can get the internet on my iPad and iPhone but not google docs properly. If I’m missing a good app that lets those work, help a girl out! iPad has the lowest data plan, so need to be careful on its usage.

I do like the bus for seeing parts of the country I’ve never visited. Plus we get the added bonus of no hassle of driving and parking. As I said before, I think I would use MegaBus again for journeys like today – no connection. I just need to be prepared to not have wifi. It’s those unmet expectations that will get you every time

Edited 8/4 to add: Day #4 – Philadelphia, PA to Washington, D.C.

The Philly MegaBus stop is near the 30th street station.  Convenient location, but out in the elements.  Not a stop I’d want to be at in the rain or snow.

We were one of the first in line, got on with no hassles, and grabbed one of the downstairs tables.  Love the tables! We both could work, have open laptops, iPads, etc, plus have room to stretch out.  And, we finally got a bus again with working wi-fi! Bus was clean. Bathroom was truly a porta-potty this time, but clean and lots of deodorized smelling air being pushed in, so no smell other than the deodorizer.  Easy, simple trip.

Final Thoughts:  

  • No frills transportation
  • Your experience is heavily dependent on your driver
  • MB needs to clarify their policies on their website better (I still can’t find 2 policies that drivers told me and I’ve searched the website)
  • MB should either time their schedule in such a way that someone can’t have less than a 2 hour window for connections (if that truly is their policy), or get rid of that policy and actually help their customers when they, MegaBus cause the delay for mechanical issues.
  • Leaving people in the rain with no more information should never be ok, especially when they caused the delay due to mechanical problems.  I know it’s lower cost than an airline, but this just isn’t an acceptable way to treat paying customers.  (And yes, we paid more than $1 for all of our trips.)
  • I wish they would up their fee by $1 per trip to pay for better wifi.  Don’t make wi-fi a main point of your advertising only to put in the small print that it doesn’t work well.
  • MB can be an inexpensive, easy way to get to places without taking your car & having the hassle of paying parking or driving in a big city.  Plus, you can sleep and/or work on the bus while seeing the countryside.
  • The temperature should be able to be controlled by the driver.  (Drivers said they can’t change it.)  It was REALLY cold, even with our blankets, on some of the buses.
  • I would take MegaBus again as long as it didn’t include a connection.
  • The tables on the bottom are the best seats if you want to do any work.

our megabus journey

I’m attending a math conference in DC so hubby and I decided to make it a bit of an extended trip by visiting an uncle, seeing 2 other cities, and going to 3 new to us ballparks.  Because of when I have to be back for pre-planning, we are flying back from DC.  We decided to take the Megabus for everything else.  I have 3 colleagues that have taken it with no problems.  This post will be my review of taking a journey on Megabus.  I’ll update as we go.

Day 1: Atlanta – Charlotte & Charlotte – Durham

The Atlanta Megabus stop is outside of the Civic Center MARTA station.  Don’t be a fool and accidentally get off at Midtown, which what I told my husband we needed to do.  Thankfully I had planned a 30 minute cushion.  We got to the line about 7:20 and we were WAY back in line. Found out at 7:30 that the bus would be delayed about 30 minutes.  This created a bit of panic as we only had a 15 minute layover in Charlotte for our next bus. BTW – there is NO covering to stand under in line here.  You may want to bring an umbrella.

Let me explain why this would be stressful.  Megabus doesn’t let you book straight from ATL to Durham. I had to do 2 different transactions.  My concern was that, unlike an airline where they know your layovers because of booking as one transaction, they would leave without us!

I called the toll-free # while were in line and was told that it was my fault for not leaving 2 hours between each bus trip and that if we missed our connection in Charlotte WE WOULD HAVE TO BUY ANOTHER TICKET FOR THE NEXT BUS! Are you kidding me?? I was not a happy camper and we hadn’t even gotten on the bus! First of all, ATL – Charlotte was supposed to arrive at 11:45am.  Who would seriously buy the 10pm ticket out of Charlotte instead of the 12pm ticket? I know who.  A moron. That’s who. (edited to add, this is what their website says about connections, etc. – nothing about 2 hours)

Bus arrives, we tell driver our dilemma, he thinks we’ll make it.  Once on bus, he makes an announcement as there are apparently a lot of us in the same predicament.  He has called dispatch and they will hold the other bus for us. Yay! I love Megabus again.

I had to sit in a row with a stranger.  He was using the charger for our row – so I found out only 1 charger per row.  I forgot to test the wifi as I used my phone the whole time and it was on 3G.

We get to Charlotte at 12:15pm & the other bus is GONE! Our driver called dispatch again and was told they were trying to reach the other driver to get him to turn back for us.  About 30 of us were left on a street and it started to pour rain.  We ran in to the burger king on the corner and all started calling megabus. We all were told initially that we were out of luck and would have to buy new tickets and wait for the 10pm bus.  Thankfully, they finally decided to have the driver come back and get us. New driver was cranky and made us all stand in the rain while he took his time checking people’s papers and yelling at us while taking our luggage.  I hate megabus again.

We get in the bus and I can’t get on wifi and the charger in my row doesn’t work. GREAT.  I hate megabus more. We arrived to Durham 2 hours late because driver had to take a mandatory 30 minute break (due to not waiting initially and having to turn around and come back).

Thankfully we had a great time with our Uncle which helped to erase some of the travel memories and stress.

Thoughts after day 1: We are calling it megadeath instead of megabus.  We are hoping the rest of our trip isn’t like this and that we have more drivers like the first one and not the second one.  I did feel safe on both buses.

Day 2: Durham – Washington D.C. & Washington D.C. – PIttsburgh, PA

We are on the megabus now on the first part of the journey.  Bus is different, not a double decker and no Megabus on the side.  2 chargers per row and they work! Wi-fi is SUPER slow, couldn’t ever get my iPad connected.   Bus left on time.  Two drivers, both courteous.  I like megabus again. I’m too cautious to “love” them again quite yet – I don’t give my heart away that easily the second time.

We have a 1 hour layover in DC and unless there is some major issue, we should not have a connection problem.  We’ll be doing the “red-eye” bus. Hopefully it isn’t packed and we’ll be able to stretch out for sleeping.

P.S. Internet kept disconnecting as I was trying to post this.

edited 7/29/13 to finish day 2’s journey. 

So the rest of our trip to DC was uneventful.  It was nice getting to play cribbage and not worry about the driving.  Difficult without a tray table like on an airplane, but we made it work and it kept us awake like we wanted. Something to note: in Durham we were never asked for our reservation number. The driver did a head count and we left. Also, we’ve never been asked for our ID when getting on any bus, including getting back on after a pitstop.

We arrived to DC on time. The megabus stop for DC is actually at Union Station.  This is surprising because the other stops we’ve been at are literally on the side of the road.  They may be near or next to a transit station, but megabus doesn’t pay the fees to use those stations and just does pick-up/drop-off on a street corner.  I’m guessing that’s part of how they stay cheaper more frugal.

We found the line for the Pittsburgh bus and there were only 4 people in line before us – SCORE! Megabus is like Southwest in the old days, no assigned seats and first in line gets on the bus first.  (Side note: I love that Southwest now does the A,B,C thing when you check-in online.) We were excited because we were learning the spots with more legroom were up top in the very front, next to the stairs, and in the very back. My hubby is 6’3″ and struggles to sleep on a plane. We wanted maximum leg room for him to have any possibility of sleeping on our “red eye” bus.  We have an hour to wait so we decide to tag team using the restroom and getting snacks.  Hubby goes first.

When the hubster arrives back, our bus has arrived, but we are still 45 minutes from departure.  I go over to ask driver #1 when bus will start loading, he tells me departure time. I ask again for loading time, again I am given departure time. I explain that I’m asking because I didn’t know if I should wait to use the ladies room if loading would be soon. He again tells me departure time and that I have plenty of time to make it before we depart.  I explain that I want a good seat, that’s why I don’t want to leave my spot in line if loading will be soon. He then tells me that he can’t guarantee me a good seat (which I never asked) and he doesn’t know when loading will be and walks away. Ok. That was weird.

I run downstairs and just as I’m heading back up, hubby calls to see get up here, they won’t let me on because you aren’t with me, EVEN THOUGH MY HUBBY HAD HIS RESERVATION NUMBER. Why? Because there were two people on the reservation and it was against policy to allow one on without the other.  Seriously. Weird because in Durham, no one even asked for our reservation number.  The first question on their FAQ page says all you need is your reservation number, and nothing about the whole party being there to board the bus.  Now all these people in line behind us were boarding the bus first. If it weren’t an overnight trip, I probably wouldn’t have been that annoyed, but man was I annoyed.

This is where I admit something embarrassing.  I became one of those people.  I walked up to driver #2 and told him it was ridiculous that they didn’t let my husband on and required him to wait for me. Yes, I argued with the driver. Ugh. I’m mortified. Meanwhile, driver #1 is still letting others on, even though I’m there.  I ask if we can just get on the bus or do we have to now wait until everyone else is on.  Driver #1 (from my earlier conversation) comes over and tells me that I wanted special treatment and wanted to be let on the bus early and he couldn’t do that. Um, no, I never said that nor did I want that. I solely wanted to know when the bus would load. That’s it. I didn’t want hubby to have to carry both of our luggage without me. And, I think their “policy” to not allow my husband to load until I got their is dumber than dumb. Though I don’t really think its a policy at all.

Reflection moment. I realized that driver #1 answered every question I asked because he assumed my motive.  I’m sure that came from many, many other interactions where people’s motives were special treatment or to board early. He treated me as if that was what I was asking when I wasn’t.  How many times have I wrongly assumed motive from a parent’s questions about their child because it was similar to what someone else had asked? I was not expecting that self-reflection.

Back to the megabus. Horrible ride. Neither of us could sleep though we tried for hours.  It was freezing and we had blankets.  I can’t blame the non-sleep on megabus. Power plug in our row worked. No wifi. I checked since I was awake all night.  Driver #2 was friendly, driver #1 was not.  Side note: driver #2 announced we might be late and not to worry as “of course” they would hold any connection buses. haha. Of course they would. We ended up 45 minutes late.  I have no idea if any buses were held as it was where we were ending our ride.

Final thoughts after day 2: We both would ride megabus again, but for shorter trips.  I would never ride it if we had to do a connection because their customer service about it stinks. We are cheap frugal and know what type of expectations to have now. I wouldn’t do a “red-eye” because I think those just don’t work for us, we are too old for that now. That’s not on megabus, that’s our own issue.  We have 2 more trips, but thankfully without connections!

My history and iterations of SBG, Standards (Skills) Based Grading

Back in early 2011, I was home sick from school one day.  What does a teacher home sick do? Well, they read education blogs of course! (at least that’s what I do).  I spent the day in bed reading Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer), Shawn Cornally (@ThinkThankThunk), and Frank Noschese (@fnoschese).  I went back to school energized to try SBG out.  My awesome administrator from  CCCS, Grant Padmos, helped me to re-word what I got from Frank Noschese’s site and I implemented it immediately.  I decided to call it “Skills” Based Grading instead of “Standards”.  I didn’t like that the word standards implies that they would be school or state standards.

Here are the various iterations of what I’ve done.

2010-2011: original version

2012-2013: I had 2 versions.  In both I’ve moved from the 0-4 scale to use a scale that matches grades, 0-100.  Version 1 said quizzes would be unannounced, which was inaccurate, because I announced all quizzes.  Also, version 1 had 95 as max score on 1st time and need to repeat perfection twice to get 100.  I changed that in version 2 so that students could get 100 the first time. The other big change in version 2 (for second semester) was a limit to 10 retakes total for the semester.  I wasn’t counting on the enormous amounts of students who got 80’s, 85’s, and 90’s, wanting to do retakes.  This was my first year at a new school and that was a different experience from my former school. It became a time issue for me and I couldn’t keep up, hence the limit to 10 per semester.

version 1:


2013-2014: still working on it

Grading, Assessments, and Bloom’s

I know I’m supposed to do the obligatory “this is my first post, yada, yada” but that stuff is in my About page if anyone is interested.

For the last couple of years, I’ve done both the flipped classroom and SBG quizzes (still have summative tests). I don’t flip every lesson, but I like the time it frees up in the classroom and students not having long homework problem sets.

Based on reading and conferences, I want to also do self-paced and mastery learning.  I like a lot of how Graham Johnson (@math_johnson) sets up his courses and this document definitely impacted me.

Here are my thoughts for 2013-2014:

1. No grades on assignments/practice.  I used to grade for completion. Kids would just make stuff up to have it “done”.

2. Students will have a complete by date for each unit.  We will go through as a class at a typical rate, but faster & slower students can have a different pace if needed.

3. For any skill on an SBG quiz under 70, a student must retake until they get at least a 70 on all skills for that unit before they can take the Unit Test.  This helps with the issue of “I allow students to do retakes, but the ones who need it most never do it.”   I’m thinking for my Honors classes, I may move that to 75 or 80.  If Honors student regularly get below 80, then I tend to think they are in the wrong class.

4. The tricky part and where I have the most questions.  I’ve been wanting to tie everything to Bloom’s (thinking of the original taxonomy).  Originally my thought was C = Knowledge & Comprehension, B = Apply & Analyze, A = Synthesize & Create.  For example, when we do practice out of the textbook, students would be told which are A, B, & C problems and to do enough of each to make sure they understand the material at the corresponding level. Then, on SBG quizzes and Unit tests, there would also be A, B, & C type problems.  (I already do 3 levels of problems on my SBG quizzes). So, if you can do basic recall and calculation, you earn a C.  If you can apply to more challenging situations & analyze, you earn a B. If you can synthesize and create, you earn an A. I think this also differentiates instruction and assessment for various learners, but maybe I’m wrong or missing something.

  • a. Tests for on-level classes would start at a 50 (no one can get below that) & there would be about 25 points of C problems, 10-15 points of B problems, 10-15 points of A problems.  (side note: Our school doesn’t have D’s, 70 and above is passing.)  Not sure if I would start honors classes at 50, or just make the C level problems worth massive points each so they have to earn every point.
  • b. When I read Bloom’s, it seems like much of what we do in our classes have the nouns & verbs of Apply & Analyze.  For math, I think that Comprehension could be the basic calculations with very few steps. So, C level would be recall of formulas, definitions, matching, and basic calculations.  However, I recognize I might be stretching it to try and make it fit what I want.
  • c.  Where does graphing fit? It seems like even basic graphing might be at the B level. Or, could plotting a graph with points be Comprehension (C level), then analysis of that graph would be B? Being given a graph and creating a story for it or analyzing what it could describe – A or B level?
  • d. Should I just stick with C = recall of formulas, definitions, matching, and basic calculations, B = calculations with more steps, simple application problems, A = advanced application problems?  Those were my initial thoughts, but wasn’t sure that lined up to Bloom’s properly.
  • e. Does anyone have a Bloom’s list of nouns/verbs that is math specific? I searched google and found little.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far! I really am looking for feedback and would appreciate the thoughts of others. 🙂