Does It Work? Wednesday

I sent this as an e-mail to a group of teachers but I would also like to pose it to you my friends!

What do you know about College Preparatory Math?

I am the only algebra and geometry teacher at a small school and I am only in my second year of teaching. I have been creating my lessons every night on my own, loosely based on common core standards and the textbook. Except I hate textbooks. I am working with an instructional coach for the first time and so I feel like other parts of my teaching are improving and I'd like to improve my curriculum as well. I'm intrigued by CPM, College Preparatory Math, and I just have some questions that I would love to have answered by teachers that are using this curriculum already. Thank you in advance for answering any of these questions and any feedback at all is much appreciated!

  • What were your first impressions with CPM and how have they changed over time?
  • How complicated was CPM to implement?
  • What changes did you see in your classroom dynamic and student behavior after starting CPM? What has the student response been to CPM?
  • Is CPM recommended for a range of ability levels, from remedial  to gifted?
  • Does it seem strange to you that CPM homework assignments are based on past concepts instead of current concepts? How does that work for you?
  • When assessing, do your tests include questions from the lesson and the homework? Did you or do you implement team testing and individual tests?
  • In your opinion, do students stay actively engaged? Is the material appropriately challenging?
  • Do students learn to better think, problem solve, and reason?
  • Do students take notes in addition to the work they do in class, as a team, with partners, or on their own?
  • Have you seen an improvement in state/benchmark test scores in a single year or over time? (I hate to ask this but it is something my administration is very focused on this year and while I do not want to teach only 'to the test', I would be doing a disservice to my students to ignore it.)
  • Are students learning and retaining information any more/better with CPM than with a previous curriculum?
  • Overall, what do you think about CPM and what else do I need to know?


    This, My Friend, Is Learning

    I really do attribute the frustration I felt in my last post to the change in weather. I felt a lot better the next day. Also, I was put on another team. Yay another meeting! (insert pom poms and back flips). We've now started student support teams. I am on the freshman/sophomore team since I mostly teach underclassmen. It actually turned out to be the most productive team I've been on yet and we've only had one meeting.

    We look at data to see which students have 5 or more absences and who are failing. Then, as a team made up of teachers, administrators, guidance counselor, coaches, and social worker, we brainstorm. We compare student behaviors in different classrooms and collaborate on ways to connect with the student, get them involved and engaged, and hopefully create some new positive experiences at school. I felt hopeful because we talked about some of the students I was so frustrated with previously.

    I recommend you go back and read the comments from my last post. What I took from them is to focus on the positive and that will change my outlook which will influence the classroom culture. Also, I know that I have improved 100% in my teaching since last year and I am offering my students the very best of me.  It is their choice to learn. I will do my best to influence that choice while accepting that I can't make it for them. And when they are ready to learn, I will still be teaching at a 100% better level than before.

    Another positive thing that I did was to have a discussion with the class that I dread the most. We talked about other teachers they like and learn from and what I gathered is that I need to do a better job of breaking things down step by step. I also need to give students more chances to do examples in front of me during class so I can correct and redirect. (I threw that in just to rhyme. My flow is getting rusty.)  I have not been assigning homework. We decided that if I assign 2-5 problems a day, I still will not letter grade them but I will check for completion. We will go over the problems in class so students can correct their mistakes. If you get 3 zero's which is basically 3 missing assignments, you get a written office referral. This is a rule that other teachers enforce which I'm not sure I was aware of, but that seems to work for the students. They agreed that the amount of problems was low enough that there really was no reason not to do it. And once again, the consistency monster roared it's head. They liked classes where the teacher did what they said they would do and enforced the rule at 3 missing assignments- no more, no less.

    What I am learning from all of this productive frustration is that, I need these feelings. Enduring these feelings is helping me get to the place I need to be in order to really implement classroom management. It is helping me to distance myself from taking every hit personally. I can now be more objective and stay firm.

    This is the way we are doing things. Each choice has a consequence. You decide. You live with the consequence. You suck it up and take it like a big kid.

    If you don't like it, make another choice. If you do like it, then keep making the same choice.

    This, my friend, is learning.


    Every Day for the Rest of My Life?

    Very frustrated.

    I don't know why this is getting to me so bad today, but it just is.

    What do you do with kids that just do not care and will not try and only put forth the smallest amount of work possible?

    We've been doing some partner work on a slope worksheet that I stole borrowed from Mimi. It's a great activity and the kids handled it pretty well. For the most part. But I had a few in each class that just copied off their partners and have no idea how to do any part of it. They don't care, they just want to be done. But I explained to them, I don't grade classwork. What is the point in copying? I told them if they plan on copying to just save their ink and do nothing because it's pointless. I explained that what we do in class is practice for the test.  I told them they can choose to do nothing but the consequence to doing nothing is a bad grade. And they stare at me.

    I keep thinking that once they start failing, they will wake up and realize that they have to put forth some effort. But alas, it is not the case! They are okay with failing as long as they don't have to do anything. I don't know how to deal with this. How do I teach the rest of the class knowing these few are falling farther and farther and behind. How do I look them in the eye when I know they are not learning and I am not doing anything about it? I am supposed to care. I am supposed to remediate. I am supposed to engage them. I am supposed to create individualized interventions. But what is the point if they aren't going to do anything? Is this a classroom management problem that I am not handling correctly? That is totally possible so you can tell me if that's true.

    I thought not grading class work and homework would help but I don't think it has. I don't really give homework, I never have, I just can't rationalize it in my head. But if we assess what we value, am I implying class work and homework are not important?

    How am I supposed to do this every day for the rest of my life? How do I face these students that are failing? And I am letting them. And then we are supposed to do RTI interventions and I am thinking, I cannot possibly face these students a minute more than I already do. If they aren't learning in my class, maybe I am the problem? But in a small school, there really is no other options.

    I do not want to lesson plan. I do not want to spend every night thinking of creative ideas and activities that they are not going to care about. I do not want to rearrange my room and put tape on the floor and set up fun stations and play games and so on when it makes no difference. THEY WON'T CARE ANYWAY.

    And a few of these kids are so far behind that I just no there is no way to catch them up. I can't do it and stay alive. How can we go back and teach so much and still move forward?

    Again, I don't know why I am so irritated today but I just can't shake it. I took a nap, watched tv, ate dinner, ate chocolate...and it still is just weighing on me.

    Is this a frustration I have to learn to live with?


    7 Country Wisdoms of Teaching

    Catchy right? These are some notes I took at our Regional Teacher's Institute.

    Although I'm not an English teacher, I do like hugging and mushy stuff. If you are allergic to that, click away. But every once in a while, some simply practical mush is good for all of us.

    If the notes seem random, it's because they are. Take what you will and chew on the rest.


    Students want to please the teacher. Often, they don't know how or lack the skills.

    If you want a behavior, teach it.

    Students desperately need to like each other and you.

    1. Slow Down

    Figure out what you must teach and teach it well.

    Every kid needs a smile. They need to feel encouraged.

    Kids need to have their physical needs met, a sense of power, freedom, fun, and belonging in order to come to school and keep coming.

    It is not the job of the teacher to fill the cup but to light the fire.

    Create memories and belonging.

    You can care about kids and still be in control.

    Know your students.

    2. Keep It Simple

    Students control their attendance, attitude, and how hard they work.

    Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Say you're sorry. Clean up your own mess. Be aware of wonder.

    Kids want to do stuff. If I'm not having fun neither are they! We need to want to be there.

    Just because we identify misbehavior doesn't mean they will change. But if we don't identify it, they'll never change.

    3. Choose a Positive Attitude

    Attitudes are more easily caught than taught. The kids are watching.

    4. Choose Your Words

    Eliminate the words 'I can't' and 'try'. Do or do not, there is no try. Try is a cue word that we use when we aren't going to do something but we won't come out and day it.

    I can't is an excuse to give up and blame someone else.

    5. Use Humor

    Have fun and laugh every day!

    6. Tell More Stories

    Using stories teaches kids about responsibilities and behaviors without making anyone feel bad.

    7. Challenge Others to Accept Responsibility