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.


Week 7

So thanks to my Twitter bff, my week started out more organized than the previous ones. I pulled out my planner, wrote in it, and actually looked at it. I know right! On one side, I wrote who was absent in each class. On the other side, I wrote the homework assignment for each class. This works especially well with the class whose behavior determines how many homework problems they have each night. That way I knew who needed to make up quizzes and I actually knew what homework problems we were doing.

I found that this week with my algebra classes, I tended to use less paper and did more class discussion and using the whiteboards, which hopefully means students were more engaged. That makes me happy. =) I taught solving equations and I really enjoyed it. I know now that I did not set it up well at all but I liked a lot of the things I did. Next year, I will do it better. I really liked this slide:

I had students come up and move the pieces around and put them in the correct order. In one of my smaller classes, we even did boys against girls. This was easy for the students but strangely enough, I put this exact problem on the test and they struggled with it. Then we did the steps to solving an equation:

As a homework assignment, I gave them each a piece of construction paper. They had to solve their own problem, write it out in steps, and then cut it apart. The next day they took turns solving each other's problems. I have to be honest, I only did this with one class and it got pushed to the side in my other classes. Something else to work on. But, I liked the idea. I also used an idea from @druinok to do partner problems. The worksheet has two columns of problems. One partner does the left column and the other partner does the right column. The problems are different, but the answers are the same. If they don't get the same answer, they know they made a mistake and they help each other find where they went wrong. Another thing I did, was to write a couple of problems out the wrong way and each student had to sit down with me individually and tell me if the problem was right or wrong and then how to correctly solve it. This helped me to better diagnose who was 'getting it', who wasn't and what the common mistakes were.

Then on Thursday, thanks again to the help of my twitter bff, I made my own webquest! I actually did make one during college but I can't even remember where it's at or how to get to it. I made this one from PowerPoint. I uploaded my PowerPoint to box.net and gave that link to the students. From there, they each downloaded the PowerPoint and completed the tasks. First, students had to solve 5 problems and show their work on paper. Then they input their answers to the website which showed them the solution and how to work it. I found two really cool games for solving equations. The first they timed you to see how many problems you could correctly solve in 1 minute. My requirement was that they reach 80% accuracy. (They quickly figured out if they did one problem correctly, it would give them 100% accuracy.) The other game was battleship but each time you hit a ship, you had to solve an equation. The students really liked this one. The Webquest went over pretty well but I tried to accomplish way too much in 50 minutes and so they didn't even get close to taking the final quiz which I wanted to count as a grade. On the plus side, they were actively engaged the whole time and were solving problems, which is always a bonus.

Friday's quiz, I broke down very simply, or so I thought. I did one-step problems, then two-step problems, then decimal equations, then multi-step. Again, I made it too long. One class didn't even get finished and others barely made it before the bell rang. I may have spent too much time reviewing beforehand.

My applied geometry class was a fail this week. I spent the whole week on one section, parallel and perpendicular lines. I didn't even teach slope or theorems or anything. Just determining which lines are parallel, perpendicular, or skew. It wasn't even that the students were struggling...I really don't know what happened. I came up with a cool assignment to make a collage of geometric figures found in real world objects. I thought students could do this when I had a meeting. When I came back, only one student could get the website to work.

My regular geometry class went better. We started the week out learning about the converse. I came up with this idea during student teaching and I still love it:

The converse is flippin cool so we flip the if-then statement around. Also, for my examples, I tried to use as many of my students names as possible. They absolutely love to hear their name in a positive light and see it in print. It truly does make a difference.

Then to teach properties of congruence (reflexive, symmetric, and transitive) I broke students up into 3 groups and had them act out or explain each property. This was a good way to break up the routine of my lecture and to give them a more active role in the learning.

From there, I skipped to parallel and perpendicular lines, and had students write their own notes to teach themselves and then do the homework.I had this class also attempt the collage project which went over better but still, for some reason, the site wouldn't work for all students.

My geometry quiz (I actually call them quests because I can never decide if they are quizzes or tests) turned out to be super easy. I had tons of 100's and students in finished in about 10 minutes or so. I guess eventually I will figure out the right balance.

I'm also doing much better at tentatively planning what I'm doing for the week and putting thins in my binder as soon as I copy it. I bought hanging folders for my chaotic desk drawer but haven't had time to put them in yet.

My geometry classes are starting to branch off and become more differentiated.  It's hard for me to decide which theorems or postulates to teach if we aren't doing proofs. My main focus is to prepare them for the ACT and for college entrance exams.

I'm still horrible at getting things done over the weekend. I usually work til 6 or so on Fridays amd for some reason, my Saturday always slips through my fingers. Then on Sunday nights, I am glued to the computer trying to get everything done at once. Not good. If it wasn't for my beloved Sunday nap, I could get a lot more work done. ;)

And my closing reflection for the week...interesting conversation on Twitter resulted in @stoppedupmath changing my whole outlook on what school really is:

stoppedupmath @misscalcul8 I redefine the purpose of high school 4 kids the first week of school. I remind them that it's not job training, but exposure. That way, when students ask the "when" question, I get to tell them, "I don't know, and neither do you. Remember: exposure." Yes, exposure to everything possible. When we start exposing them to diverse topics, they will find SOMETHING they enjoy enough to possibly choose a career path/college major. That's totally different from job training which is teaching students the exact skills they are going to need for a job they have already taken.

stoppedupmath @misscalcul8 Telling HS kids in Alg. we're preparing them for a career is no more true than if we told that to elem. kids during spelling. We're still teaching basic skills. Real job skills come either in college or in trade school, or actually on the job.
What? School ISN'T job training?? Now I have to redefine the purpose of high school for myself. I love thinking about this. How are you working to expose more and more of life to your students?