Rookie Year: Day 31 Or Making Bets

I’m not going to get this post published before midnight because we had friends from church over to roast coffee (Happy National Coffee Day!) and to watch the Bengals beat the Dolphins (Who Dey!).

I made a bet with 3/4 block today that if ALL of them pass the course I would shave my beard and my hair. I’ll look like a total baby face but if it motivates them it will be worth it. I don’t think this will really be enough to get them through the whole semester and instead I am relying on daily encouragement with small successes and reminders to continue to work hard.

I also danced and sang for them today. I asked 6/7 block to make me a snapchat star because I kept doing a little dance I made up to help them remember how to graph solutions of inequalities.

“Open circle, closed circle, left or the right”

I’ll post a video sometime.

That’s all I will write for now because it is late and I am tired.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 30 Or Fire Alarm

I got interrupted by a the fire alarm twice this afternoon while trying to write this post in my room.

Happy One Month Teaching To Me!

My 6/7 block almost made me tear up a little bit today. It was a good thing though, not a bad thing. I gave a “group quiz” in the last hour of the blocks. 25 questions, you may ask anyone in the room, but it was for a grade and the answers counted. Because of this 3/4 had left the desks in complete disarray. Normally I would have put the desks back during my planning 5th bell, but I had observed a colleague today during 5th and then went to discuss a student with a support teacher so I did not have a chance. Then between 5th and 6th I was talking in the hallway with an administrator.

When the bellrang and I walked into class, the students had put all the desks back into my usual setup of groups of three and most of them were seated working on the bellringer. I was so proud of them.

This feeling didn’t last long. None of the students in that class took the group quiz seriously. I had a few in the previous blocks who goofed around instead of taking the quiz, but I had a large amount who only answered 2-3 of the questions.

I was thinking in the shower this morning that part of this reluctance is once again my fault. Even though I have lowered the entry for them, I am still overwhelming them by telling them all the things they have to do at once. I am not chunking the tasks enough. And I feel even more silly because I already knew that I wasn’t doing this enough and I seem to have forgotten already.

But I think also that many of my students are not taking the class seriously and right now there’s nothing I can do to change that expect keep giving them chances to take it seriously. I’m putting in the grades for the group quiz tonight. Tomorrow I am going to talk to all of my classes about how today went and how they need to reflect on whether the scores they got on the quiz were because they did not know how to do the questions or because they are not taking their responsibility in this class seriously. I will probably have them math journal about it.



Rookie Year: Day 29

Very busy day today so I find myself writing on my phone in my bed.

To my amazement today, yesterday’s adminition to a class that I was “super disappointed” in how they did worked. They were much better today.

I need to find another way to help them practice in class though. All of my blocks are struggling with working through the whole block. But then they are struggling with just getting started. I truly believe this is a focus and motivation thing rather than a “I can’t do it” thing. I have purposefully been starting assignments with problems I know they can do. It’s just not clicking for them that the reason they have been failing quizzes and tests is that they do not practice in class and ask me questions. I’m very frustrated with this. I’m frustrated with them. Another teacher told me today that you have to recognize and accept that frustration and I agree. I can’t get burned out. I know I’m not yet, but the last two days have been hard for me.

Other stuff happened today with two students leaving class and simply shutting down but it’s late and I’m tired and there’s something wrong with my phone keyboard so I’m gonna stop writing so I don’t get frustrated with this too.

Thanks for reading.




Rookie Year: Day 28

I may have been premature in declaring the “make it through the day” phase to be over.

We continued the basics of inequalities that we started on Friday. Part of the struggle for my students is that it’s hard to identify if a value for x is a solution to an inequality or not when they cannot compute 5.5+2 in their heads. I do not withhold calculators if they ask for one, but I also do not pass them out at the beginning of every class either. To quote Paul, and hopefully without making light of his words, I am hard pressed between the two. I want students to engage with the higher level thinking and wrestle with the inequality problem and having an augmentation like a calculator can help if basic addition and subtraction skills are undeveloped. But those skills will remain undeveloped if I do not force them to practice them by making it so calculators are not always on hand.

The integer operations skills that my students lack are increasing what I think of as their cognitive load. They spend so much processing power on computing the sums that they lose sight of the inequality they are struggling through.

My 3/4 block was very off task and so unwilling to work that I found myself thinking that “just one more block” thought again during planning in 5th. I still think what I wrote in general was true, I no longer feel that I am in survival mode, but I knew on Friday and I know today that there will still be rough days. In particular my students were really fighting me on group work. I gave an assignment that was three questions: Recall the symbols for absolute value, describe and graph an inequality with addition (x+2<10) and describe and graph an inequality with multiplication (3x<=9). I had done three examples of similar type on the board with the whole class right before. Some students were so reluctant to start that their groups had not even written down the 4 symbols, and others were trying but got lost in the difference between wanting x+2 to be less than 10 and needing x to be less than 8 so that x+2 was less than 10. They were so rough today that I tried talking to them in the middle of class to no great effect. At the end of the bell I told them I was “super disappointed” in their focus and performance today. I think that probably only affected the students who were doing what they were supposed to anyway. Blargh.

One of my fears coming into this year is what happens if I “lose” a class. When I student taught I felt that by the end of my time I had “lost” all of my classes except for my “advanced” one. The students no longer engaged with me. I haven’t come close to that point with my classes here yet, but I feel the edges of that fear creeping in some days. I don’t know how to regain a class once I lose them. It was so rough during student teaching that I didn’t return to secondary education for 4 years and that’s why my rookie year is this year in 2016 when I graduated with an education degree in 2012.

I’m a little discouraged today but I’ll be back at it tomorrow. I think part of the explanation for today was that I was just tired too. This morning before first block I just didn’t feel like teaching and I had to will the energy and the personality into my self to get started. That drains me and I don’t think I was able to sustain it throughout the day.

I feel like I always have to apologize for this, but I know this was a jumbled mess of rambling. I’m just brain dumping here.

Thanks for reading.




Rookie Year: Day 27

Day 27 and I think I’m starting to make a transition in this job. I no longer feel like I am simply making it through the day. At lunch I don’t think “I just have to survive the third block and I am done.” The nervousness that I was feeling in the morning has passed.

But I still have a long way to go (and I know I always will and it’s my first year so that’s normal, but I am aware of it all the same). For the most part when I give direct instruction (usually setting the stage for something new) all of my students are focused (or at least quiet and writing notes). Today they were a little antsy and I had to call them back to attention several times, but generally they have that down. But when I give group and individual tasks they struggle greatly. If they don’t know how to do something, their response is typically not to ask for help from me or a neighbor but to simply talk. Even when I remind them what they should be doing they say okay and then return to being off-task. The past few days I have been giving detention to the worst offenders for this. I do not know what else to do. I cannot make them do the work or try but I cannot have them continually distracting the others who are trying.

And in the complete opposite direction, when some of them are trying they are so reluctant to try anything alone or are so lost that I have the entire class asking for help at once and I am overwhelmed with requests and they are not a patient bunch. I have been attempting to teach them that when they need help they ask their neighbor and if their neighbor cannot help they should raise their hand and wait in their seat. We aren’t great at that yet, but luckily I have learned and built far more patience in my lifetime than they yet have. We will keep working on it.

I am very, very tired. I felt tired yesterday and I feel tired again today. I am grateful that it is the weekend not because I dislike my job or don’t want to be here but simply have worked very hard this week and deserve some rest.

At least until tomorrow. I have some papers to grade and some lessons to plan.

I can truly rest when I’m dead.

Or at least during next summer.


Rookie Year: Day 26

Today I gave my students extra time to complete their test from yesterday since we took so much time talking about policing and the recent shootings.

As soon as they had finished the test I had them begin their point recovery on the test. Here is the activity that I have them do for this.  I stress that what is valued here is the examining of their mistakes and correcting them (and as a bonus they improve their test score a little bit.) Point recovery is mandated for the department rather than a type of re-assessment system, and this is what I came up with for my class.

My students really struggle with following the directions in that document. They want to just tell me what the right answer is, but I gave them all the key so they already know what the correct letter choice is. I want them to figure out what they did wrong and correct it.

They really wore me down today and I don’t really want to write much more.

Oh but I did want to mention that the mistake that I made the other day by sending the new student away during lunch was not a permanent one. He has come and stood by me during lunch every day since then. I ask him if he is having a hard time making friends (he doesn’t seem like the type that would have a difficult time). He told me he is purposefully not making friends because then he would get in trouble because he would talk to them during class. That simultaneously made me laugh but also made me a bit sad. I told him it just took a little self control. I am wondering though if perhaps he is afraid that he will not be at our school long enough to be able to keep those friends. Either way I felt bad for him. In the meantime, I don’t mind talking to him while I corral kids in the lunch room.


Rookie Year: Day 25 Or Car Wreck

The way my day started out this morning turned out to be the theme all the way until 3:33 when school let out. I am hoping that the rest of the day does not continue the theme.

While driving to work I stopped quickly for an ambulance that was coming up the wrong side of the road in order to pass some traffic at a light. When I did that, I was rear ended by a BMW. I pulled into the nearest driveway, cursing the suspected damage to my car and cursing that I was going to be late while waiting for the state trooper because I was planning to give a test today and I really needed to get to work and get started on that.

Luckily I had not been hit hard enough to even mark the bumper. The woman who hit me was of course eager to call it no biggie and drive off and we wished each other a Happy Wednesday. But oh-my-goodness was car wreck the theme of the day.

Every Wednesday in our district the students have a late start. The first hour we have either school-wide meetings, department meetings, team-teaching meetings, or just some extra planning time. I love it. It’s a great model and extremely helpful to me. The only downside is that on days when there are school-wide meetings you have even less time than you would normally in the morning to get your classroom prepared. So I really needed to get to school and print the test.

Well, the printer was out of staples. Our printer is one of those amazing machines that will tell you exactly how to repair it, but it wasn’t so state-of-the-art like one I’ve worked before that displayed images. It only said “replace stapler cartridge in the R1 door”.


Where the junk are the stapler cartidges?

And where the double junk is door R1?

So after some help from the secretary and another teacher I had the printer running again. But now I have to run off to schoolwide PEP. I made a mistake while fixing the printer but I didn’t find out until first bell when I tried to give the test. More on that in a second. During PEP, our principal spoke to us at the end about an issue that has been on the minds of a lot of Americans lately: the Pledge of Allegiance. He told us that while the students have to be quiet during the pledge and respect those who are participating, we cannot force them to stand up. I agree with this whole-heartedly. I always felt a little weird about forcing students to stand or recite something even if I do love MURICA. (And I really do.) And I especially would feel uncomfortable making someone stand who had a philosophical objection. After all, this is America.

But this announcement made me think: Why had I not had this issue in my class yet?

Because, knucklehead that I am, I had completely forgotten about the school announcements for 23 days. Yeah. I’m the worst. And none of my students in 3rd bell (when they run announcements) had said a SINGLE THING to me all year so far. So I needed to do that. More on THIS in a minute. For now, my printer mistake and first bell.

In first bell I found out that while replacing staples I had neglected to select “2 sided to 2 sided” and therefore none of my tests had a page 2.

Of course.

So I had to ask my neighbor FOR THE SECOND DAY IN A ROW (who was also giving a quiz, poor woman) to keep an eye on my class while I ran somewhere. Blargh.

So I printed page 2 and came back. They completed their tests and we moved on to 3/4 block. Not only did I need to run announcements for the first time, but I wanted to talk to the kids about the pledge BEFORE it happened. I didn’t quite accomplish this. The bell rang what felt like sooner than it ever had. We watched the announcements. No one at all stood for the pledge but that’s because it caught us all by surprise. It was just me standing.

So after the announcements I wanted to give my students a chance to talk about the pledge and express any thoughts they had on the most recent shooting of a black man by the police. The students talked for so long that I didn’t leave enough time for them to finish their tests. Oops. I am going to give them more time tomorrow.

I didn’t want to cut them off because some good discussion was happening student-to-student and student-to-teacher. I was embarrassed to lead this discussion. I am a white guy and my classes are people of color by a vast majority. There are only a handful, 2-3, white students in a classroom of over 20. I have never lead a discussion like this. I messaged my friend Justin Aion later and complained about how emotionally draining it is to facilitate that kind of discussion. I had two students say “We should just shoot all cops.” I tried to respond to this by saying “No, more killing and shooting is not the answer” but I was inexperienced at leading and engaging students with this stuff. (WHY didn’t I just give the test?? Haha. In seriousness, I don’t regret taking the time.) But I stopped by the office of one our school resource officers and asked him to come talk to that block tomorrow about it. We will see.

I braved this discussion again in my 6/7 block, but the reaction was not as engaging. Only 4-5 of my students talked and most of them stared at their desks. One student said “I have thoughts but I’m not going to share them in here.” I plan to ask them tomorrow if they simply did not want to talk in large group or if something about my class made them feel as though it was not safe to express their viewpoint. I had stressed at both the beginning and the end of the discussion that I will never retaliate or punish someone for having a different viewpoint from me in both non-math and math matters. (I have been trying to get them to feel safe to make math mistakes, but I know there is more that I could do in that area.)

So overall today was very emotionally exhausting and I still need to enter grades tonight and prepare for new material tomorrow. At least I have the first part of class planned. We’re finishing a test, haha.

Thanks for reading.