Not by choice.
I totally forgot about a 2-day PLATO training I had on Tuesday and Wednesday so that definitely interrupted my plan for the week! Monday in Algebra I taught on solving absolute value equations. I was encouraged when another teacher sent me their PowerPoint presentation and it was nearly identical to mine! At least I'm not alone in my thinking here. The students seem to understand but of course I wasn't in there the whole week to know for sure. Luckily, I did find some good worksheets to leave with the sub that reviewed the topic but we'll see what happens Monday. P.S. My subs had no problems and my students actually behaved! A++++
In geometry on Monday my students made Foldables for theorems about parallel lines and their converse. This was really just a diversion tactic because I do not know where to go with them. I know we need to prove that lines are parallel but I'm truly at a loss for how to teach proofs and how to move forward. I just skipped it all with my applied geometry and went straight to triangles. I'm tempted to do the same for this class but I won't. Oh one thing I did think of, when teaching how to classify angles there are two names. One is based on its sides and the other is based on the angle measures. If you think of it as a first name and last name then you can explain to the students that the last name is based on the outside, just like our last names are based not on who we are but on our parents names, 'outside' circumstances if you will. And the first name is based on the inside. So, we are literally giving triangles their first and last names. Just an idea.
Now about my PLATO training...PLATO is a good concept but I'm not 100% sold. The idea is that it's an online learning environment where students can work at their own pace and the material is differentiated according to their needs. They take a pre-test at the beginning and they are exempted from concepts that they mastered. The modules start off where they did poorly and progress throughout the course. There is animation, graphics, color, etc. It's a good concept, in theory. We use the program at our school for our alternative education students as well as for credit recovery. I used it over the summer for Freshman Academy and my students hated it. They thought it was boring and I had to bribe them with being able to listen to music just to get them to do it. I explained this nicely to our consultant. She had us then log on as a student and go through a module. I agreed with the students. The material presented was dry and boring and I like math! Concepts were just given as statements...this means this. The application was multiple choice questions...what does this mean? It was literally the same statements presented in a different order repeatedly. The consultant said the students would follow my lead if I showed them that it was interesting. I informed her that it wasn't. She tried talking to us about how to motivate students to use PLATO and how to integrate it into what my current curriculum. The thing is, why would I want them to use PLATO? I'm no master teacher but I know I present material more effectively than that. I don't see the use for PLATO if it isn't any better than what I'm currently offering. On a positive note, I was able to use the program to print out relevant worksheets to leave with my sub. Also, each module has an offline activity that can be printed and most of them would be a great reteaching tool for students who are absent. Another way I plan to use this is in our after school tutoring program. I have several students who come for remediation but I have one 7th grader who is determined to be in my 8th grade algebra class next year. She has me check all her work, help study for tests, and make up extra problems for her so she can practice. It's hard to manage both types of students and I think the PLATO can really help both. For the students who need remediation, I can assign them specific modules pertaining to what is going on in class. For the advanced student, I can put her in an algebra course and she can review what she is doing in pre-algebra as well as learn new things for algebra.. My point is, PLATO is great for extra help and remediation but nowhere near the level needed to replace, or even strongly supplement my classroom instruction. At this point.
It made me think about my students (shocking, I know) and how they may feel when I am taking things at too slow of a pace. I wish there was a way to assess how students learn best. Some students would thrive at individual time on the computer, some need the class environment, some need direct instruction, some need time to freely explore and figure things out on their own. How can I differentiate that in my class? I have 4 student computers in my classroom. I could send a couple back there to work on PLATO. I give out guided notes for lectures. I could give the students a few minutes to just dive in and see if they can handle it. They can either come to me with questions or wait until whole group instruction starts. I have one class in mind where this could work but I'm not sure how it would work across the board. I'm also not sure I'm at a stage where I could handle all of that at the same time either.
Yesterday and today were parent-teacher conferences. I met with about 20 parents. Out of 64 students that's not so bad (I have to say it: approximately 30%) . Unfortunately, I met with only 3-4 that I actually needed to talk to. But I had no scary or intimidating experiences, all of them really cared about their children and how they were doing. Quite a few asked how they could help and were super excited about being able to see grades online this quarter. I wasn't nervous at all and things went smoothly.
I just finished reading Educating Esme by Esme Raji Cordell. Oh my. This woman has balls, and consistently. Is she on twitter? Does she have a blog? I am definitely a follower. It was hilarious and insightful. I wish I could be that consistent and bold. I also wish I was an elementary teacher. lol It seems like they get to do such cool things and explore so much. I love my students so what I really mean here is that I wish I could do and create cool things with my students. I feel like I fail at ideas. I'm good at being organized, building relationship with students, working with colleagues, arranging the classroom, etc. But I'm failing at ideas. My students are not creating and that is the one thing I love most. I see it in the way they can't sit down, the way they wander around the room, in the way they make jokes during class. They are practically begging to be engaged, to have something to think about, to be challenged...and I'm failing them. I'm giving them notes and a lecture. I did not think this would be my biggest battle as a first year teacher but it's the one that haunts me most.
Our student council is collecting candy to prepare treat bags for all the teachers on Halloween. Er, October 30th. Also, we have been selling baby pumpkins and have sold almost 225. In a high school with less than 200 students, I'm impressed. We will be having Pumpkin Mania on Wednesday after school trying to paint, curl, glitter, glue and beautify those 225 babies. Good times.
And now for my weekly self-reflection:
1. I suck with consistency. I feel like I've lost the whole year because I am full of threats and no action. I think the only reason I don't have total chaos in my room is because the students like me. And it is because I'm so hung up on the students liking me that I'm not consistent. Or rather it's that I know they like me, I know that's where any ounce of control I have is, and so I do what I can to avoid losing that.
2. I fail at ideas. Aforementioned.
3. They like me and they enjoy my class but the course is not rigorous by far. So far we've covered minimal new material, if any, and I'm pretty sure a snail could run marathons over my pacing guide.
4. My homework and daily warm-ups aren't enough self-assessment for the students to be sure they will perform well on the weekly quizzes. Not sure how to remedy that.
And don't get the idea that I'm being too hard on myself. I'm cocky inside my head, I'd just rather share my failures so I can improve them.
My goal for the next indefinite space of time is influenced by this quote from Esme's book:
"If you give people an idea these days, they just think you are sharing it with them so they can critique it, play devil's advocate, and so on. It doesn't occur to them that they might help or get enthused or at least have the courtesy to get out of your way."
My goal is to help and be enthusiastic about any ideas that I can. I refuse to stand in the way of an idea.
One more thing. I've been doing celebrity baby trivia, where they have to guess what celebrity it is based on their baby picture. Yesterday I put up baby pictures of my two younger sisters and me and they had to decide who was who. They became instant detectives. "The one with the oldest looking clothes has to be Ms. Miller." "The picture that looks that oldest is her." "But what if they used different cameras that make the pictures look different?" "That one has her ears." "Look at the mouth on that one." (lol) I stood in amazement at their teamwork, their deductive reasoning, their analyzing, and their questioning.
That is the kind of learning I want to inspire.