Purpose of School

Defining the purpose of school and what it should be was another one of my writing across the curriculum assignments. I thought it was very interesting that the smartest, 'popular' students all answered the same way. They said school was to prepare you for college so you could get a good job, make money, and have cool stuff. They also didn't think the purpose should be changed. But of course not, because they are successful in school.

On the other hand, the not-so-top-performing students had a little bit different perspective:

"Schools purpose is to torture us and fill our heads with junk. It also sends us to college. It also gives us opportunities."

"The purpose of school is to learn how to have fun with friends and how to survive in jail. =) The purpose should be to teach us how to survive in the real world."

"The purpose is to get smart. The purpose should be to have fun and be happy. It should also be to play games and ride dirt bikes."

"The purpose of school is to get an education. The purpose of school be to learn but enjoy yourself while doing it."

"The purpose of school is to learn and get education for the future. I feel that the purpose should be to have fun and still learn at the same time."

"The purpose of school is to get educated and to learn new stuff and to meet the people in your community and around you."

"The purpose of school should be to learn and make close friends. The purpose shouldn't change instead the way to achieve the purpose should change. I think tests and finals shouldn't wreck a good grade."

"The purpose of school should be for us to learn how to work and to also figure out how to work through some problems. And also it would help us to experience life and get ready for life and also our jobs in the future."

"The purpose of school here to me feels like a prison, but college is more free, so it wouldn't be to prepare for college because it's nothing like it. The purpose of school is also to make us follow rules and laws. It won't happen because children don't follow rules. We aren't even well-behaved enough to stand in line. The purpose of school should be of learning and to be able to remember it years from now. You shouldn't be forced to learn something!"

"The purpose of school is to keep you out of trouble and the purpose of school should be to teach you how to deal with life situations and show you new things."


Finals: Week 18

Oh, finals week. I never want to meet you again.

I think I ranted and raved enough on Twitter to get my point across that I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to finals (and probably many other things too). But I would just like to pose one question to the universe: why is this not taught in college? Designing curriculum in general was not part of my education program. We talked about literacy and about out-of-date ways to use technology and diversity but we never learned how to design effective lessons, how to write your own assessments, how to use those assessments to improve instruction, or basically anything important. I did learn the useless format of a Madeline Hunter lesson plan, but that's the extent.

Anyway, things did not go well for finals week. We had evens on Thursday and odds on Friday. My plan was to review Monday-Wednesday, test on Thursday and Friday, week done. Not so easy. I had no idea how to create a final or how to write a review for said final. I am the only algebra and geometry teacher in my school so there is no such thing as a department final. So I did what I do best: stole it off the Internet. I then tried to modify it to more closely match what I've actually taught. This started out somewhat okay. Once I finished the Algebra Exam, I wrote out review questions that seemingly matched the test. Then, and here comes my mistake, I made the Geometry review based on our old tests. Sounds good, right? The thing is, the review was nothing like the test. Students were confident because the review was exactly what they had been doing all year but when it came to the test, they were nothing alike at all. I made the test multiple choice for all the wrong reasons. a. I thought it would be easier for them b. I knew it would be easier for me. c. That's what everyone else was doing. I have since learned my lesson.

My original thought was to make the test like all the past ones but have them show work on the test and write answers on a separate sheet. Then, I could easily grade the answers while simply glancing to make sure they showed their work. But alas, I succumbed to the many pressures.

I gave my first Geometry test on Thursday. It was a disaster. Apparently while I was doing my final edit the night before, I deleted a bunch of diagrams and drawings. I had to find the original tests I stole them from before I could then draw them on the chalkboard. The test was 50 questions and the students had 1 hour. Only one person even got close to being done. The rest didn't even make it to number 30. I didn't take into account how much work they would have to do to even be able to choose a, b, c, or d.

I edited the test for Friday. I cut out 13 questions completely and edited some of the remaining ones. That didn't work either. Students complained this test looked nothing like the ones we had been doing and they actually preferred working out the problems rather than multiple choice.

It went so badly that I was near tears and the students were the ones consoling me. They said, "It's alright Ms. Miller, it's only your first time." "We still like you." "It wasn't that bad." "We just needed more time." "Maybe we're just the slow kids."

Algebra exams went better. No real disasters or complaints. At least until I graded them. Why are grades so much lower? My usual students landed in the lower 80s and that trend seemed constant. I had to curve grades in every class and I did not like it. It felt very unfair and un-meaningful to try to pull their grades out of thin air. But as some of my twitter friends pointed out, it's more accurate to give a grade based on my professional judgement of their past grades than to assign a grade from one flawed test. I am just not happy with assessments in general.

How can we objectively measure something that isn't objective? I don't get assessed like this in real life. Sure, I get two formal evaluations a year. But most of my assessments come from results. Are my students test scores improving? How many students are failing my class? How many referrals have I written? How do I treat students? How much of a team player am I? Those are the things I am assessed on but what difference do those results make? I can be a bad teacher and get the same pay, just with different treatment from my colleagues. I can be an excellent teacher and get the same pay, and better treatment from (some) colleagues. Are these meaningful assessments of my abilities? What are meaningful assessments of my students abilities?

I always hear about you know you've learned something when you can teach it to others. I know that's true in myself, because I would never be able to create tests and lessons without truly knowing how to do the problems myself. The thought of having students create problems and such is very intriguing to me. What if my assessment was to give the students an answer and they had to create a problem that resulted in that answer? That prospect truly excites me. I know it has to jump at least 2 levels of Blooms compared to the questions I'm asking now. I love to create and design and it seems that's what the rest of us cell-phone-customizing-Youtube-watching-Myspace-layout-making-picture-editing-outfit-accessorizing people are about too. How can creative design become my assessment process? How do these assessments affect their lives or mine?



What if I taught every lesson wrong?

We start each lesson with a review to help scaffold for the new material we want to introduce. What if I taught it wrong until the point that students had no choice but to correct me? And as they start to explain why I'm wrong and they are right, I can begin to question. Their answers would help to reinforce the concepts in their minds and the questions would lead into the new material:

Will that always work? How do you know?
Can we predict when that won't work?
What do you do when that doesn't work?
How can we revise it so that it does work?
Where do we go from here?

What if the students taught?

What if I had every topic or lesson for that course in a hat? Each student draws topics until they are gone. The student is responsible for introducing that topic by explaining everything they currently know or don't know about said topic. Some students would do some extra work so they wouldn't look stupid in front of the class for not knowing anything. Some would do nothing because they always do nothing. Once the student has exhausted his/her knowledge, they could begin to question peers. When their knowledge as a whole is exhausted, I step in to contribute.

How can I make learning look more like real life?

I want to make homework into a real life assignment. Find an example of what we talked about today online, in a book, in the paper, in a magazine, at school, at home, in your family, etc. Could every concept be taught as word problems and messy situations that have to be interpreted? Could real life data, picture, video, proof be offered up for discussion and manipulation?

Could one first year teacher make this happen?

Nope. That's what the comment section is for. ;)


Week 17

I don't have much to say this week.

It was a confusing mixed up week with students grieving and services being held and things being canceled.

I should probably be saying some deep, meaningful things about life but I got nothing.

I tried one lesson with my geometry class about circumcenters but the whole thing failed. I couldn't even make a circumcenter on my own.

Algebra- still trying to wrap up graphing and finding slope and intercepts. I may be taking too long on this but I've decided if they don't learn anything else, they will learn linear functions. We've done the slope formula on every warm up for probably 4 weeks in a row now.

Then the week went downhill from there.

Today was our first home basketball game and so we had a pep rally/karaoke contest. It was super fun! The students weren't shy or timid and just sang their hearts out. Everyone needed a good laugh and it was just fun. At the end we sang Lean On Me and all the students stood up, leaning and singing, just like a movie. Then we did the Cupid Shuffle and it was like High School Musical 3.5 up in there. I gave up any semblance of sanity the rest of the afternoon and spent time karaoke-ing in my room, watching students have rap and dance battles, and the kids tried to teach me how to jerk.

Next week is finals. I'm a little nervous. I never took one in high school and so the idea of writing one is somewhat foreign. Other teachers do multiple choice in order to make it quick to grade. But I've been doing free response all year so it seems weird to change now. I'm thinking about doing some matching or multiple choice for vocab and then free response for actual problems. I will be spending the weekend creating that and a study guide. Another teacher said she gives a study guide with all the problems worked out by her. I think I will let the students work on the problems on their own and then give out the answers for final studying. How many questions do you put on your final? Do you pull problems straight off of earlier tests? Do you do any bonus/extra credit/anything different?


Where Are You?

Parents, what do you want to hear?

Do you want me to tell you that your child does drugs?
That he steals your beer and drinks while he's out hunting?
That she flirts with any boy who will give her attention?
That he acts out in class because nobody likes him?
That your son is a bully?

Parents, what do you see?

Do you see that your son has ADD?
Do you see that your daughter thinks she has to earn your love?
That she needs glasses but is too proud to admit it?
Do you see that your niece is just pushing the limits to see if they'll break?
Do you know why he goes to his room at 8:30 and stays there all night?

Parents, do you want to know?

Do you want to know what your child is really like?
Do you want to know that your child smells like a garbage dump?
Do you want to know what she really thinks about you?
Do you know she thinks her grandma was the only one to truly love her?
Do you want to know the words that come out of his mouth?

Parents, why do I know this?
Why do I know your child better than you?



Lost a student Monday night.

Not my student but in a school of 200, every student is 'my' student. My sister was close friends with the sister. Mom works in our middle school. Younger sister goes to our elementary school. Hard situation.

Students spent a lot of time confessing how mean they were and all the wrong things they did.

I cried more than a lot of teachers, and this wasn't even my student! I heard the sirens go by my house and the first thing I thought was, 'Dear God, don't let it be a studnet.' And then I didn't give it another thought. Couple hours later my mentor teacher texts me to call her asap. She answers the phone with 'I don't know know how to say this.' The thought that stuck with me all day was 'What if this was my student?' I honestly don't think I could handle it. I don't think I would have went to school. I am so attached to these kids. I would like them even if they weren't my students. They are just so darn likeable. I wanted to hug every one of them every time they entered and exited the room. Every time.

Some broke down just because this situation brought up other emotional memories.

Luckily, I had a few who did who have some funny memories and stories to share.

Others wanted to cry and some left because they didn't want to cry.

Students were given freedom to roam from teacher to teacher or to the gym to meet with counselors. At first we just sat around in awkward silence. Things got better as the day progressed. We decorated the room for Christmas, I printed out some Christmas coloring pages, we listened to music, and ended the day with a movie.

Visitation is tomorrow night and again Thursday morning. Funeral is also Thursday morning. What is the proper etiquette here? I told the principal I would go tomorrow night on my own. I don't feel like I should go to the funeral. We obviously have to get subs for the classes so I thought it would be more appropriate for me to stay and give the opportunity to those who actually taught the student.

Who really knows what to do in this situation.

Students held a candle light service tonight. A lot of them made signs they posted in the hallways and on his locker. We laid out paper in the gym so students can write memories but it mainly turned into a confessional.

Why couldn't we have said these things earlier?

I smiled at him in the lunch line if that means anything.

We just had a team of 9 girls go to a Lifesaves Training over the weekend on how to deal with situations just like this. And people made fun of it. Hopefully now they see that it's needed. Tonight they made ribbons to pass out too. I think the best comfort is in them being able to do somethign tangible, to contribute to a life.

My students suggested we use the money from our cussing jar and contrbitute to the family. I think that is a wonderful idea.

I'm just scared to think of how many students I let blend into the middle.

Who are you missing?



My first annual Edublog Awards Nomination Ballot:

And my nominees are:

Best individual blog:Dy/Dan

Best group blog: Sup Teach?

Best new blog: Sweeney Math

Best class blog: Collaboration Nation
Best resource sharing blog: I Love Math

Most influential blog post:
The Comprehensive Math Assessment Resource

Best teacher blog: f(t)

Best librarian / library blog: Educating Esme

Best educational use of a virtual world: EDTECH Retreat

Lifetime achievement: Paul Bogush

Step 1: Write a post on your blog linking to:

You can nominate for as many categories as you like, but only one nomination per category, and not yourself :) You can nominate a blog (or site) for more than one category)

Step 2: Email us the link to your nomination post

Use the form on the Edublog Awards page to contact them, please include a genuine email address (spam free, just to confirm identity) and the link to your nominations post.


Week 15/16

I was tempted to just skip week 15 but my love for order would not allow it. We only had school on Monday and Tuesday which was lovely.My geometry classes quizzed on Monday and I honestly have no idea what my Algebra students did. On Tuesday we watched a Thanksgiving video that I made myself. I just got on youtube and found funny Thanksgiving clips from commercials and clean tv shows like the Cosby Show, Friends, and even some from MadTV that weren't bad. I figured the students would make fun of me but I'm so over that at this point. They did seem to like it and they laughed and that was the point so yay. My mentor teacher always shows the Charlie Brown movie for every holiday which is a good idea. I'd steal the idea but we have the same students and that just wouldn't work out.

I planned to spend my Thanksgiving break catching up on things and starting to write my final exams. But alas, it was not meant to be. I attend an annual cookie swap at my church where we make cookies or candy and swap them with each other. We also make gifts to share too. Then we go and eat good food, play dirty Santa, bingo, price is right, and just have all kinds of fun. We win prizes for first people to arrive, who traveled the farthest, who commented the most on the Facebook page, who had the best tasting treat, best presentation, and so on. It is a ton of fun but a ton of work when you only give yourself a week to do it in. I made coasters out of curly ribbon and wow oh wow. The results are awesome but each one took 1 1/2 - 2 hours to create and I had to make 14. For my candy, I made red velvet truffles. I won best taste and I was super pumped! This is my fourth year participating in the swap and it was very stressful. But I won a lot of great prizes and it was worth it. I think. I know this has nothing to do with teaching but it was hard work and I want to show it off.

How could I incorporate this into math? Calculating the length of ribbon needed per coaster? Comparing the length of the ribbon to the circumference or area of the circular coaster? Symmetry? Rotations? There's got to be some thing.

So basically the whole week was planned on the fly. Which was....sort of refreshing. Results weren't what I wish they were but it felt kind of good. I did a lot of packets where students had to work together and that sort of thing. I like it but I don't know how well they do. I also am not sure how much they learn. I think I suck at assessments. I hate hate hate to put this out there but I try to be transparent and accept criticism. I tend to put things on assessments that we haven't actually done, but that I assume they should be able to do. It's like I know that's wrong but I don't know why. If I teach the 2 and 2, shouldn't they be able to put 2 and 2 together? Why doesn't that work? With each passing day, I see more and more the need for a concept-based assessment system. But I am afraid to see how many students wouldn't make it through. Also, I think @iMrsF (but I'm not sure) mentioned on Twitter the idea of students having the options of what items to complete in a unit and I think I love the idea. It would probably be a ton of work for me, I don't even know how I would go about developing that. But if students had a checklist of objectives for each unit, they could choose which activities to complete for each objective and still take the same assessment. Or different assessments too I suppose? If I could design that, I would design it in a way where students get immediate feedback and some type of creative outlet. They need to develop ownership and pride in their progress. I don't know a better way to do that than to have audience approval. Anyway the point of my story was that on Friday I gave a quiz that was the same type of questions as the packets we did in class and scores ranged from 97 down to 40. I blamed the multiple choice format but I'm sure the real culprit is not understanding the material with a dose of not having enough time to learn and apply it.

Geometry, eh I don't know what to say. My two top students recently got expelled and so now I am down to only 8 students who could care less and don't want to be there. As far as lessons go, I just don't know. I heard the comments that my quizzes are 'so easy' and I'm not sure how to take that. Is it a good thing because they match what we do in class? Or a bad thing because..well I don't know why. Material to learn should be challenging but if already learned then maybe assessment should be easy? Hmm.

I sort of got sick in the midst of this week but that was because I was getting very little sleep. So what probably was a simple sinus weather-changey thing turned into a 4-day-hoarse-voice-stopped-up-then-runny-nose-and-cough thingy. I survived with cute scarves and mint chocolate hot chocolate. ;) But this was just an exhausting week.

I remember so many teachers on twitter giving me the advice to get enough sleep and I didn't believe them. You're surprised I'm sure. But they were SO right! The week was stressful and exhausting. I've had less sleep then I've had since I graduated high school myself. It is such a relieft though that now school is my work instead of in addtion to my work. I would say at least I don't have homework but heck yes I work at home every night. And I'm pretty sure I've written more papers in the form of blog posts then in my entire college career. I wish I could do college over.


Week 14

Things definitely are looking up as Thanksgiving break gets closer and closer and then the ultimate...Christmas break! Then I will officially be halfway done with my first year! I also read somewhere that after winter things get better with the students and I so want to believe that. But I can't actually say that our weather here has been wintry. It will be in the 30s one night and 70s the next day. I never know if I should wear shorts or a parka. But ironically, the temperature in my classroom never changes. Hmm...

This week was full of adventures including a 12:00 dismissal on Wednesday,  a tornado/fire drill that lasted 45 minutes on Thursday, standardized testing on Friday morning, our faculty potluck dinner, and the opening day of shot gun season for deer hunting. Goodness, so many distractions and time out of class. But I'm not complaining.

In algebra, we are forging ahead with this whole slope concept. I've told them we are not going to leave it until they get it. I've presented it now three different ways: counting the rise over run, using the slope formula, and finding the change in y over the change in x from an x-y table. Now we are moving onto graphing in slope-intercept form. It's been a challenge but I think they're actually getting the hang of it. I'm pretty sure they have the slope formula down which is a plus. They took a practice ACT test type thing on Friday and a couple students mentioned they knew how to find the slope so if I've done nothing else right, I know I've at least taught them that one important concept.

In geometry, we practiced generating our own Pythagorean triples as well as learning the converse of the Pythagorean theorem. Actually, I think I taught this concept backwards so it's a good thing I didn't quiz them over it yet. Hey, I'm still learning here!

Classroom management has gotten somewhat better but fifth hour still makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out. One day this week, I literally had one student paying attention and taking notes. I gave a homework assignment that two people turned in. The other students were just sitting around having casual conversation as if I was not even in there. I literally had to face the SMART board with my back to the class while the tears burned in my eyes. How's that for emo? But again I gotta keep pushing through and not hold yesterday against them today.

One super duper trooper encouraging thing did happen this week. My third hour class went from 5 students to 2 and so they went to an online curriculum. My class sort of converted to a study hall and so one of my algebra students has been coming for extra help. She's more motivated than I expected and we literally work through problems for the entire hour. She knows when she needs one more time to practice and when she gets it, she gets it. That in itself is so valuable. Anyway, I preview the material with her a little but so that by the time seventh hour rolls around she is answering questions and participating more than ever. Her previous test scores have been in the 50-70 range but this week she pulled a 95%. She gets it! Hey Mikey, she gets it! I wish there was some way to give every student this kind of one-on-one instruction.

Speaking of third hour, how the heck do I give my students a grade in the gradebook when they do all their work online? Do I give them points for working every day, points for every module mastered, points for tests passed the first time, or what? This is new territory for me.

Also, how do you deal with amount of information shared with you by the students? I have a handful of students who come to me and share these things with me, and...what do you do with that? I try not to ask questions too much because I don't want to be perceived as the nosy teacher who gossips and gets in everyone's business. Do I confront students about things that I hear? Do I act like I know nothing? Do I give advice or just listen? I'm on drama overload right now.

I figured out this week that I need to put grades in on a daily basis for my warm ups and homework assignments. I've been doing them weekly, out of 20 points or whatever. But the thing is, if students are absent (and they are, for days at a time) then they don't do the warm ups. They can make up homework but not warm ups. If I was good about collecting and grading absentee work then I would just have them make up the warm up. But I'm not good about that. I've started grading in class assignments and that hurts the students that are absent. So I realized I need to start dating the work I leave for them to pick up so both of us know when it is due. Also, maybe I should save my SMART board presentations with my writing on them so students can use those to teach themselves. The problem with that is I don't write in a way that is so easy to follow, another thing I'm learning.

Am I the only person that feels like college professors are somehow more inspiring and life-changing than any other teacher? How do they get to be so profound and awesum? Do I need to get a Master's Degree to instantly become deep, mysterious, and all-around magnanimous? Inquiring minds want to know.


Week 13

I don't believe in superstitious things but this was my thirteenth week of teaching that ended on Friday the thirteenth and was decidedly the week of my first year slump. Last week ended badly and the trend continue this week. By Tuesday I was nearly in tears and was on the edge of disintegrating the entire day. All my students noticed and thought they were to blame. So I let them think it. I can't really even explain what happened. I felt lost and stuck at the same time. Although when you're lost, you have no idea where you are. And when you're stuck, you're absolutely sick of where you are. I was both.

Here is an excerpt from an email that I sent, begging for help.

"I have not been strict in my classroom management and now they get away with things. My problem is fairness. If a student I really like does something wrong I won't write them up. If a student I don't like as much does it, then I want to write them up. That's not fair so I don't write anyone up at all. It's more than one or two students though. It's the general consensus of the class- they decide when to pay attention, when to be quiet, when to participate. I'm not in control of any of it. The only reason the classroom isn't ridiculously crazy is that at least they like me. If they didn't, I know it could be even worse. I have already earned the friendship of my students, probably too much of it, so it's not that I'm worried about them liking me. It's that I want to be known as a fair teacher but I've become fair in such a way that no one gets into trouble. I made myself write up two kids on Monday but that didn't change much come Tuesday. It's a start I suppose. I spent all day Monday and Tuesday looking mad and just not talking very much. The kids knew I was mad but didn't know why and so just kind of left it alone. In my anger, I tend to clam up and say nothing. I don't yell but I start to make sarcastic comments and just cut people short. Immature, I know, and not a good way to teach. In addition to classroom management troubles, I don't like my teaching very much. My lectures and guided notes aren't getting through to the kids. Class is boring and I know it and so I don't blame their behavior. I'm tired of lecture, notes, homework. I've tried some group things and they participate better but they aren't learning, just copying the smart kid. Their recent quiz grades have been low and every Monday, it's like they've been brainwashed to everything they've ever known previously. I am just battling feelings of being ineffective. There are only 2 math teachers at my school. I teach algebra and geometry and he teaches the rest. I get so much support and encouragement on twitter but it's still not the same as having someone who knows my kids, my admin, my colleagues, my community, and me. I have complete freedom to do whatever I want but in that freedom is lack of critique and feedback. I have literally nothing to build on and I create (or steal) my own lessons every day and even I don't like them. lol There are such better ways and ideas and projects out there to do but I can't do them at this point. I don't have the time or support to plan and implement them on my own. I feel like I am in this cycle that won't end until next year and yet I can't possibly keep going this way for the rest of the year. And that is how I feel about that."

I got tons of support and advice from my co-workers and my Twitter friends. I think it was just a low that I had to reach. Thankfully, Wednesday was Veteran's Day and we were out of school. I definitely needed a day to sleep in, chill out, and get myself together. I have to be honest and hurt my pride a bit here. I didn't think it could happen to me. Teaching is my destiny, all I've ever wanted to do, everything I've dreamed of and no one as good as me would ever have to deal with failure. Right? Now get off the pedestal and deal with reality. This crap is hard. You can't do it alone. Some of the best advice I got was to not let the bad students bring me down. But when I do get down, I have my twitter friends to pull me back up. That made me realize that I've got to keep trying every day. Not that I was ever going to quit or give up but I slowed down and let my thoughts get the best of me. I let perfection get the best of me. Life doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful and I don't have to be perfect to be effective. I'm here and I'm doing this, which is more than I can say for a lot of people. I've already achieved my life goal and I'm almost halfway through the hardest year of my career. It should be peachy from here on out, right? ;)

So Thursday comes. I taught a great lesson in Algebra on finding slope from a table. Even though I made it up in less than 20 minutes the night before, it turned out even better than I expected. The students made connections on their own and it was one of the first times I literally saw the lightbulb come on. That rocked. My day got off to a great start! I felt like I could do this again, that I was where I'm meant to be and hey, I'm pretty dang cute too! |(Sorry, just wanted to keep the ball rolling with all this positive thinking.)

I also came up with a new classroom management technique. I hate the cussing. I don't cuss and I absolutely detest it and think it is the epitome of ignorance. So I started the gift jar. Now if you cuss in my room, it's going to cost you. $.25 per word. If they can't pay today, their name goes up on the IOU list on the chalkboard. If they don't pay it the next day, it's a referral to the office for them. I told them that the gift jar money would go to the assistant principal who deals with discipline. Obviously no student wants that. lol Actually, my principal recommended I not do this because parents would get mad at me taking money from the students. My view, albeit a wrong one, is this: don't cuss. It's a rule. You're breaking it. I'm giving the students a second chance. It's their choice. Quarter or two hours of after school detention. Better yet, watch your mouth. They can't argue (although they do) because I should write them up the first time and so I'm doing them a favor. It has been 100% easier to enforce because I am offering them a second chance. If they refuse it, I'm off the hook for feeling guilty. Plus, it's fun because the students catch each other and make each other pay when I don't even hear. I just go along with it. The students asked if I would use the money to give them a party but I pointed out that I did not want to reward them for dirty language. So then they decided I should keep it for myself. :) Hey, a girl's got to keep her options open!

In other news, I'm getting to the point of geometry where my students are learning stuff they haven't previously known. Which makes it interesting and frustrating at the same time. They get frustrated with the struggle and shut down while I want to prolong the struggle and get them interested in thinking. Baby steps.

That'll do week 13, that'll do.


Week 12

So I decided that I tried to cram entirely too much material into last week, and a short week at that. Absolute value equations, inequalities, and solving functions for a variable? A little bit crazy. The test was so complex that it took me a week to grade them. And I had to force myself through each one. Note to self: never do that again!

I was looking forward to this week, a new topic and only one: slope. I started out by just teaching rise over run. We used shapes drawn on a coordinate plane in geogebra and counted the squares to find the rise over run for each piece. I gave a creative (yet stolen) assignment for homework that worked out pretty well. The next day we transitioned into finding slope using the slope formula. I had an awesome lesson thanks to @sweenwsweens! I, Elissa Miller, rapped in front of my class. You literally would have to see it to believe it. But since you can't, you just need to check out his version or just steal the lesson and do it your self. It was empowering to say the least. I explained to the students that my point was that to make the slope formula memorable because it is something they will use over and over again. And after hearing my rapping ability (or lack thereof) I think they truly believed that could be my only possible reasoning.

Next, I tried one of my fellow blogging buddy's methods. Her math department recently redid their entire math curriculum based on packets called skill activities. It starts out with review activities which lead into the main focus skills and ends with secondary skills. While it looks like students are just filling out worksheets, these teachers are truly following Dan Meyer's mantra to "be less helpful" and further to "create crisis". Students work in groups or partners and teachers literally don't help until they have struggled to work things out or if the entire class is struggling. Teachers circle around to remediate and guide and students present problems at the end of class. I attempted this method and the students reacted strongly to the fact that I wouldn't help them. I surveyed the class and they all knew why I did it, they just didn't like it. We compromised and decided I would lecture less and they could do partner/group work more with more help from me. A little bit more anyway. I was disappointed with one class- I gave them one full class period and even went over the answers and they couldn't even bring themselves to write down the answers.

In geometry I tried a couple different worksheets dealing with triangles and proving that the formula for area of a triangle is derived from the formula for area of a rectangle. But due to extenuating circumstances, that was an epic fail. We worked on measuring with rulers and protractors and finding perimeter and area as well as classifying types of triangles. I decided to do something I've been wanting to try for a while: individual assessment (for lack of a better name). I had each student come to my desk and work out a quiz individually. They had to show me they knew how to use a ruler, protractor, perimeter formula, area formula, Pythagorean Theorem, and classification names. It taught me a lot because students were more cautious but more dependent on my reaction to their work as a way of deciding what they really knew. I doubt I will ever do this again, it took me 3 days to get through a class of 10 students. Maybe next time just one question, quick and dirty?


Week 11

Monday in Algebra we did absolute value inequalities. Tuesday was solving formulas and functions for a variable. Wednesday was a short day and I only saw 3 classes so we played @ddmeyer's Estimating Age game which was super fun and mathematical. (His version, my version) Back to work on Thursday with Review Bingo for Friday's quiz. For some reason, missing that Wednesday just made all my students lose their minds. The review Bingo game went decently but that's mainly because I phrased it as vocabulary. There were problems to solve and they did okay, but come Friday, they completely lost their minds. We always review before a quiz and this week was no different. But for each type of problem, a large group of the class would claim having no idea how to even start the problem or what on earth they should do. It was a Friday, they were frustrated, I was frustrated, and we both kind of pushed each other to make it through and get it done. Some classes did not even finish by the end of the hour. After making the key, this 'quiz' ended up being worth 70 points when the biggest one previously was 40 points. I wrote myself a note on the quiz to NEVER USE THIS AGAIN IN LIFE.

I didn't realize until I attempted to grade these quizzes that I just tried to cram entirely too much difficult material in the space of a few days with an early dismissal thrown in the mix. I did not give the students enough time to for the concepts to sink in and make sense before moving to a new topic, related or not. I just left it where it was and didn't worry about remediation because we will be hitting these again in chapter 6 when we are solving and graphing systems of equations and inequalities. I thought the solving functions for a variable would be a great intro into linear equations and slope and whatnot. Which it would have been, considering I hadn't previously made their brains implode.

Geometry this week has kind of just been an epic fail and I don't really want to remember it or talk about it.

That's all I have to say about that.


Too Far

I have lost control.

Inconsistency has beat me.

Do I let the year continue this way or try to gain it back?

Am I strong enough to make a stand and keep standing firm?


Educating Esme

(I originally started putting quotation marks and page numbers but that's just silly. All these quotes came word for word from Esme Raji Cordell's book. I really doubt you will get the book and search out the quotes I liked so that's pretty pointless.)

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.

The goal is not necessarily to succeed but to keep trying, to be the kind of person who has ideas and see them through.

I thought of Ismene's warnings: "You are a very gifted teacher. Don't teach. Be an actress instead."  (This one puzzles and intrigues me.)

She urged me to forgive myself at the end of each day, that no single thing I could say would break a child...or make a child. Still, she taught me not to be too flippant, that, as a doctor cures what ails the body, I must strive to diagnose the roadblocks to learning.

Ismene taught me basics: Ignoring bad behavior as long as you can stand it. Maintaining quiet lines. How a soft voice can be more effective than a loud voice. Starting out with positive comments to parents before lowering the boom. Waiting patiently for children to answer questions.

I'm confident because I'm prepared.

I have to be consistent with my threat, or they will never believe me again. I'll have no discipline. I won't be able to teach anything.

It's nice to have helping hands.

But certain people just think it's their job to freak out. As long as they're freaking out, they feel busy, like they must be doing work. Getting upset is force, but no motion. Unless we are moving the children forward, we aren't doing work. (Sometimes I feel that my motion is up and down or all around without actually moving forward.)

Oh, well, you can't have everything...just everything that counts.

It's not that I'm so great or that they love me so much. It's just that I'm consistent, and they know if they do not follow my guidelines, I will be a dragon lady.

They know I would never let them fail. That's why they do what I ask, no matter how much they complain.

I laughed to myself, vowing to roll with the punches, to enjoy all catastrophes upon their arrival either in reality or in my imagination.

I want to take credit for getting them there, and they can have the credit for being there.

It's that I try and they're trying, that's the bottom line.

If you let people walk over you while you're young, you should get used to wearing feet marks across your face for the rest of your life.

Compromise isn't always something you do for somebody else.

So much of teaching is sharing. Learning results in sharing, sharing results in change, change is learning. The only other job with so much sharing is parenting. That's probably why the two are so often confused. You can't test what sort of teacher someone will be, because testing what someone knows isn't the same as what someone is able to share.

A little song is sweet to hear, even if an orchestra is more accomplished.

Isme once told me: "The difference between a beginning teacher and an experienced one is the beginning teacher asks, 'How am I doing?' and the experienced teacher asks, 'How are the children doing?' "



Week 10

This week has flown by with as little teaching as possible.

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.


Week 9

This week I taught solving inequalities and it was actually pretty fun! I taught solving, then graphing, and then determining the interval. We do a whole unit on this later in the year but I thought it when along well with solving linear equations and word problems. Also, it's an intro to graphing lines, sort of. Plus, when we get to the later unit, this part will be a good review into graphing systems of inequalities. And I feel a wee bit proud of myself because teaching intervals isn't usually done until Algebra 2 (my sister is doing it in Trig right now)  and my students actually understood it and thought it was pretty easy.

I explained it like this: students were taught previously that < is like Pac Man eating the bigger number. So I ran with that thought and explained that < and > are Pac Mans without food and so the circle is empty (open). The ≤ and ≥ are Pac Mans with a tray of food underneath and so the circle is full (closed). No food means empty stomach which means sad so the interval will have parentheses (). The tray of food means full stomach which means happy so the interval will have [] brackets like a turned up smiley face. It seemed to work really well. The concept of positive and negative infinity threw some of them but mostly they just confused the order of the interval, whether the number or the infinity went on the left or right. I spent one day just solving and explaining how signs flip when multiplying by a positive or negative. The next day we did graphing the number line and brackets. I thought that might be a stretch for one class period but they were all familiar with number line graphing. From there I had them draw the bracket/parentheses directly on the empty or full dot on their number line. The inequality sign points which way to shade and the bracket/parentheses will face the same way. Looking at it like that helps them know which way to write the interval. The next day we did compound inequalities separated by and or or. I quizzed over the material on Friday and it went well for the most part.

In geometry, we did this city design project and they really enjoyed it. Once I get them graded and hung up, I'll post some pictures. Of course some students put in way more effort than others but I was pleased with them for the most part and I thought it was a unique way to assess angles formed by a transversal.

On Friday, I gave students a first quarter survey about the class, their learning, and how I'm doing so far. (I adapted this survey from Mr. D at I Want To Teach Forever) I got a ton of positive feedback but nothing to improve or fix. Almost 100% of students said they want more group work, less individual work, more posters/drawing, more reviewing for major tests, and more review games. I haven't done any posters or drawing in algebra but I'm thinking about using this idea for the steps to PEMDAS or to solving equations or solving absolute value equations. I also haven't done any group work that I can think of, which needs to change. I've had nine weeks of experience and I'm so tired of lecture, notes, homework already. So, now it's time to start incorporating some of those things and changing it up a bit. Ideas welcome!

In sad news, one of my students dropped out of school this week after already missing approximately 15 days out of about 40 days. Another two got expelled. *sigh* Two out of the three had good grades in my class and were working well. All 3 have been in and out of trouble for years but I just feel like we failed them.

Parent/Teacher Conferences are coming up but I don't know which parents are coming to see me yet. I know it is usually the parents of the top achieving students coming to make sure they stay top achieving, but I'm hopeful some people may come out of curiosity to meet the new teacher?? Also, I'm trying to think of something to do differently than what's been done in the past. What would be most helpful to parents? My only idea so far is to create a sheet that lists some positive characteristic traits about the student as well as some things they could improve on. Also, I could "advertise" our after school tutoring program and let them know other ways to get help. I don't want it to be a boring lecture so I'm trying to think of things to make it interesting and useful for everyone involved.

I've had quite a few different students stay for tutoring and it seems like they do so much better with no distractions and one-on-one help. I wonder what schools would look like if students could make appointments to meet for 20 minutes with each teacher to explain and get their assignment...more like an office setting. Students could get individual help, work on their own, network with other students, and manage their time appropriately.

I received a complimentary (you can totally tell I'm a geometry teacher, I just spelled that 'complementary') teacher's edition of the new 2010 edition of Glencoe's geometry and algebra book. I like the set up. There is a chapter 0 which reviews prerequisite skills before moving on to the first chapter. This set has vertical alignment all the way from elementary to high school as well. There were technology tips, instructions for foldables, better graphics, and I like the order of the topics better. But, it's still a textbook as opposed to engaging, questioning material...


Identity and Integrity in Teaching

The Courage To Teach
-Parker J. Palmer

Now I become myself, It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces...
-May Sarton, "Now I Become Myself"

Excerpts from Chapter 1...

Teaching Beyond Technique

"Good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher."

"The more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be."

Teaching and True Self

"Identity is a moving intersection of the inner and outer forces that make me who I am, converging in the irreducible mystery of being human."

"Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am. "

"The divided self will always distance itself from others, and may even try to destroy them, to defend its fragile identity."

When Teachers Lose Heart

"Teaching is a daily exercise in vulnerability."

"As we try to connect ourselves and our subjects with our students, we make ourselves, as well as our subjects, vulnerable to indifference, judgment, ridicule."

"Distance makes life more dangerous still by isolating the self."

"Re-membering involves putting ourselves back together, recovering identity and integrity, reclaiming the wholeness of our lives. When we forget who we are we do not merely drop some data. We dis-member ourselves, with unhappy consequences for our politics, our work, our hearts."

Mentors Who Evoked Us

"Not only are the qualities of the mentor revealed, but the qualities of the student are drawn out in a way that is equally revealing."

"What mattered was that he generously opened the life of his mind to me, giving full voice to the gift of thought." (My favorite quote of all! So far)

"The key to my mentor's power was the coherence between his method and himself."

"Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching's great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn."

Subjects That Chose Us

"Why do people want to adopt another culture? Because there's something in their own they don't like, that doesn't name them."

The Teacher Within

"If a work is mine to do, it will make me glad over the long haul, despite the difficult days. Even the difficult days will ultimately gladden me, because they pose the kinds of problems that can help me grow in a work if it is truly mine."


My Perfect School: Meet Principal Flava Flav

About a month ago, I did a writing across the curriculum exercise where students described what their perfect school would be like. Some of the students had really good insights and I thought I would share my student quotes with you.

"I learn better in places I like."

"The world is your textbook."

"For math, we have Miss Miller, because she is awesome like that. Duh."

"There is a couple of hours for leaving and getting something to eat."

"My perfect school would be a night time school."

"Classrooms would be pimped out. We could bring our phones in class and text…ipods too."

"No classrooms- just free roaming."

"Teachers would be laid back, but still be in control."

"I would make sure that at breakfast time that we had chocolate pancakes and blueberry muffins…you could eat chocolate all day long."

"All the teachers would be in good moods and nice." (Implying that this isn't the norm.)

"I would focus on the social side and still make them do work. Cheerleaders would have cheery attitudes and good minds."

"Kids will be given a laptop to do their homework, projects, and tests on." (Yes, I love technology)

"Teachers would discipline but at the same time educate and have fun doing it."

"Everywhere you walked to, you would see words of wisdom."

"The kids would be of every race. No discrimination. Nobody would be left out."

"Transportation in school would be in helicopters and the teachers would be driving them."

"The hours will be from 10:00AM to 3:00 P.M. The teachers have to be from 18 to 26 and they got to look good. Before we hire you, we got to go to the gym and the kids will judge you and see if you’re good enough."

"The school would have good teachers, ones that want to actually teach and that would explain to the students when they don’t understand."

"The only time you get wrote up would be for fighting or back talking a teacher."

"There would be no violence in my school except for the boxing and wrestling classes."

"We’d go outside and do more things, when it felt nice, and go on more trips and learn about fun things."

"Students wouldn’t be so rude all the time."

"They should have sports everybody likes but not just the old basic stuff like basketball."

"I wish Subway could cater the school!"

"My perfect school would only have better students and not immature animals running around like idiots in the hallway."

"I think the whole student body shouldn’t suffer because one kid is stupid enough to screw stuff up."

"Your classes will be classes that prepare you for the career you’d follow in after school." (As opposed to...?)

"The principal of my class would be Flavor Flav; just because he would be really hype and always go around saying “Yeah Boy” to everyone."

"My school would be mainly worried and focused on helping the kids succeed and make it through school, and we would always be willing to help the kids." (What are we focused on then?)

"I think students need to care about their education." (Owned!)

"School would make people forget their problems at home and would make them feel peace and tranquility."

It made me sad to see how many of these things listed are things we say we are doing. All in all, if you look at these requests, almost all of them are perfectly reasonable and easily possible. They are asking for so little. Ok, so maybe I won't be driving to school in my helicopter to meet with Mr. Flav, but you get the idea. Why don't we ask the kids what will help them and then do it?

If we aren't going to change anything, then why do we ask?


Ha Ha to A-Ha

Today's keynote address was called "The Sense of Humor". It wasn't as funny as I hoped it would be, but it made me feel like I'm doing something right. If nothing else, I do know how to make my students laugh.

One point made was that students come into every situation and subconsciously decide if it's a safe place or not. If it seems threatening, that's when the fight or flight response comes into place. Humor, especially making fun of yourself creates fun and welcoming environment. Also, by making the class a fun place to be, students are more likely to show up. A simple concept. Looks like I'm not the only one who hates to miss out.

Some research of humor's effectiveness showed that:
  • Humor facilitates learning.
  • Humor helps change people’s behavior.
  • Humor promotes an increase in creativity.
  • Humor reduces stress.
He also talked about having an arsenal of funny things always ready to use. In my class, I am that arsenal. He mentioned including humor on tests and worksheets. Also, to include visual humor and acting, not just telling jokes. Teachers are the greatest improvisers of all time. Especially if you don't make lesson plans. ;)

One idea I liked was making funny name tags. I don't know how I would incorporate this but it could be good for a beginning of the year icebreaker. Or maybe at the end of the year to remind students of how they changed over the year. It sounds like fun anyway.

Although we had to do a lame ha-ha-he-he-ho-ho chant and make weird faces, the lecture was good.

The breakout session I chose was called "Math Games to Build Math Skills and Thinking". My first impression of the educational consultant was that she was condescending and rude. She made us feel stupid for teaching the way we teach; as if her way was the only correct way of teaching. Which, I just realized, means I need to be careful about making students feel stupid for not thinking the same way as me, or what I deem as "correct".

We didn't really learn a whole lot about games but one thing I did like was the idea of using a game to teach the concept and then the assessment is that they have to teach someone else how to play the game. We all know learning is done best by teaching others and I think it would be something students would understand and appreciate more. And you can't really cheat.

I wish I could have a cool game, song, video, or idea to go with every concept I teach. I can handle the warm up and the assessment and all the housekeeping crap, but I need engaging, meaningful content and I need it now!!

Some of the games mentioned in the handout were Pig, Math Dice, Roll Two Dice, Two Dice Sums, How Long, How Many?, Capture, Who's the Greatest (version of Capture), Card Countdown, Is It 10?, Number Club: A Game of Place Value, Pigs and Chickens, Twenty-Five: A Math Card Game, Number Thief, Fact-O!, Math Bingo, and Contig. If you've played any of these or want to know more, you can e-mail me for more instructions.

She had some games available for us to play for including Equate, Smath, Set Game, 24 (Fraction-Percent-Decimal) and some others I don't remember. But they did have a pegboard that was the coordinate plane. It came with pegs and rubber bands. It looked really fun to use for graphing, reflections, and transformations.

Thanks to todays sessions and a Geico commerical, I learned that we need to let kids be themselves. They learn more when they play and enjoy themselves. We should quit trying to place limits on who they are and instead make who they are better and better. Plus I don't plan to spend all day, every day not having fun.

Nothing is quite as funny as the unintended humor in reality. -Steve Allen


Week 8

I'm tired just thinking about the past week.

It started out good and I had high hopes.

I've been doing a lot of intro to proof activities this week including 20 questions and this robot activity, which was so fun. I think the students have been learning just how specific and precise they need to be and that steps can't be left out. The down side is that I think I did all of this too early. We haven't learned enough theorems or postulates to really do any proofs other than algebraic ones. I feel like I've built up all this momentum just to stop the train until a later date.

In algebra, we spent all week working 3 types of word problems: age, perimeter, and consecutive integers. Consecutive integers is loved the most by far, as many students can guess and check. Students are having trouble remembering to substitute values in to the length and width for the perimeter formula. I suppose this is something I need to review and scaffold beforehand. With the age, sometimes they get it, sometimes they don't. Today I gave a 6 problem quiz- 2 of each type and let them use their notes. I'm still surprised that they aren't getting the hang of it more. They seem to understand when we do examples on the board though. I've realized that I don't think I do enough for students to assess themselves. I check homework for completion only even though we go over all the answers, so they're really only assessed for accuracy on our weekly quizzes. Is that not often enough? Do I need to do a mid-week homework quiz or something similar?

On the positive side, I'm happy that my applied algebra classes are moving along at the same pace as my regular algebra classes. Still feel like I am cheating the students by not making it more applied but not 100% sure how to go about that. Plus, there is the rest of the school year to work on that.

I've been slacking on my writing across the curriculum assignments and I realize that I miss them. I truly enjoy reading them and the students give me so much information about themselves without even realizing it. I feel like each week I continue to understand them more and more.

I have to say, I really really enjoy my students. After reading Paul's post, I realized how thankful I am for the relationship and environment that I share with my students. I am constantly bombarded by students in the hallway and between classes and I absolutely love it. We have a great time; lots and lots of laughs. I am not as strict as I should be but so far it hasn't kicked me in the butt too bad. I've learned how to effectively use that as my weapon: "As many times as I could have gotten you intro trouble and didn't and this is how you return the favor?" Yup, got that one in my back pocket. =)

In my after school tutoring program, I've been having steady numbers of 4-8 each day which is really good. There are a range of students with a range of needs which sometimes gets hectic but definitely keeps things fast paced. They've asked me to incorporate an hour of technology which is exciting, but could take away from the math help. Math is my first priority, obviously. But I'm looking for any and all ideas for technology. I am looking for things that can be done in under 1 hour or else done in 1 hour increments as well as being interesting and useful to their lives in some manner.

I'm being officially observed for the first time next week. I'm not nervous at all but I am having trouble deciding which class I would like to have them sit in on. My best class is my advanced eighth graders in Algebra I, but that feels like cheating because of course they're great, they're advanced! I thought about choosing some of my lower students because I would like to show that they can learn and do participate in class. I'd also like to prove that I can handle taking on a challenge. The complicated thing is, I don't plan more than one or two days ahead at the most so I don't even know what I'll be teaching at that point. I asked for a copy of the rubric that they'll be scoring me on and there are definitely things on there that I'm not currently doing. But won't it be too obvious if I start throwing those in there all of a sudden? I can just see me adding something different and the students asking why we've never done that before. lol

That reminds me, I tried this in my mouthy, hyperactive seventh hour class and it worked beautifully. I told them they were each getting a grade for that day's class period. They all started out with 100%- ten out of ten points. Each time they talked without being called on, they lost a point. I told them it was possible to get negative points if they couldn't control themselves. It was literally pin drop silent. It got kind of hairy when we were doing examples because they are used to speaking their answers out randomly. After a couple times though, they got the hang of it. By the end of the class, I think my lowest was 6 out of 10 points left. I gave them 5 minutes to talk at the end and they were all saying things like, "Hey I actually paid attention." "I knew what was going on." "We were actually quiet." Raising your hand to speak. Revolutionary. I am considering using that class for my observation, if nothing else than to show off my new technique. =)

Tomorrow is our regional teacher's institute. The region's teachers come together and we listen to a performance by the bands from all the high school's put together. I played in this band as a high school student and now I get to sit and listen as my two younger sisters play in it. And this time, I get to stay for the meetings. Young and new as I am, I enjoy meetings. Learning is always a priority for me, even if it's learning how to not have a boring meeting. I'm always looking for opportunities to be exposed to more knowledge, more learning, more people, more life. The keynote session is on "The Sense of Humor". (Hmm. That Paul Bogush may be on to something.) The session I'm going to is a 2-hour session on "Mathematical Games to Build Mathematical Thinking." What could be better than playing math games for two hours that I can also use in my lessons? Bingo! Ha ha, pun intended. There was a tech trends session but I'm always leery of those. Pretty sure I get introduced to more tech trends in one night on twitter than they could teach me in two hours. Not being cocky, just going on past experience. Anyway, I hope at the least, I come home with some good quotes and good ideas, and at the most, new friendships with area teachers, great resources, inspiration, motivation, creativity, and new perspective.

Did I mention it's a 4 day weekend and my grading is already done?

So fun.