Rookie Year: Day 47

I’ve been having my students work on what I considered a small biography project for quite a while now.

I gave them Annie Perkin’s list of mathematicians and asked them to choose one. I allotted an entire week just to choose a name. A whole week to pick a name. Most of them didn’t do it.

I gave them another week after that to find sources. Most of them didn’t do it.

I gave them another week to write their rough draft. It was a one-page, double spaced paper. That’s barely a few paragraphs. Most of them didn’t do it.

A week from now when the final project is due, I expect most of them will not have done it.

Bah. It’s not like I’ve been that lenient. I had deadlines with grades. If you chose a name, you got 10 points. If you had your sources, you got 10 points. If you had your rough draft, 25 points. I put zeros on for those who turned nothing in. I set it up so that they were held accountable (the zeros) but they still had to do the work if they missed deadlines (the next part of the assignment which required you to do the first part).

This is really something bewildering to me. I thought that one whole month to write a one page paper would be more than enough time. I was wrong. We’ll see what next Mathematician Monday brings. Argh.

On a brighter note, the class that I have been having trouble with, the one that I took on Friday and had a small conference with each individual student was much better today. There’s still some growth to do even back to where we were before. But it was far better today.

I spoke with an administrator after school and was very encouraged by her words to me about how I am doing and what the school expects of me. Although I like to think that I am good at introspection, it helps tremendously to hear from people outside of myself.

In unrelated news, our school desperately needs a math teacher certified in South Carolina as of yesterday, so if you are looking or know someone who is looking, please let me know.

Thanks for reading.


Sunday Blues

I’m concerned because today and the past few Sundays I have been dreading going back in to work. I feel fine once I get there, but I feel really down on Sunday afternoon. More than a usual, “Oh work is tomorrow” but a “I don’t know if I really want to do this” feeling.

I really like my school and I have good students. My one block has been wearing on me lately but I have been experiencing success.

I would like to be teaching some upper level classes in the future but I’d also like to keep teaching a course like Foundations in Algebra, just not all day. I’m tired.


Rookie Year: Day 46

Today my plan for class went like this:


Graphing Stories Review (Get with a partner. You tell them a story and they graph it. Then trade roles. We will share stories as a class afterwards.)

Domain and Range Review (I had 5 graphs prepared. In goformative I had empty questions ready. I threw a Desmos graph up on the screen. I asked them to identify the domain and enter in goformative. Then the range. They I asked them to tell me if the relation was a function and to justify their answer. I asked questions to help them remember the definition of domain, range, relation, and function.)

Representing Relations Review. (I was going to give them different representations of the relation and they had to give the other ones. So if I gave a graph, they give a mapping, a table, etc.)

Group Quiz. (I do these sometimes using an EMRF grading rubric. They can work with anyone in the class but me. No notes or chromebooks allowed. I also do individual quizzes.)

In none of my classes did I get to the Representing Relations, but that was simply because I had overplanned. I was going for more transitions in a block, but the activities that came before were going well and we just ran out of time because I wanted to leave 30 minutes for the group quiz. 1st and 3rd block did really well with the Domain and Range Review. 2nd block, what has lately been my problem block, did not. I continued to have people talking and yelling and just…argh. It’s hard to explain what the are doing. We can’t get anything done quickly because many of them go off task or continually talk. I had gone in today trying to steel myself.

First warning. Then detention. Then ISS.

I gave lots of warnings. I only gave 2 detentions. I sent one kid to ISS.

It’s very frustrating because my 2nd block used to be my most engaged class and somehow I lost them and I’m not sure exactly what happened. Maybe it was always bubbling underneath the surface, I don’t know. Luckily I have seen great improvement in 1st and 3rd blocks so it is only 2nd block dragging me down. We only got through 2 of the 5 graphs I had prepared and it took us a LOOOONG time just to get through partner graphing stories with lots of interruptions and problems.

Once we (finally) made it to the group quiz, I had an individual conference in the hallway with every single student in the class. Most of them were responsive. I know it’s not going to be magically better on Monday, but I’m trying everything I can to get that class back to where it needs to be.

I’m really behind on some grading and I’m dreading doing it all this weekend. I already know my whole Saturday is shot, which is discouraging. I try not to work too much on the weekends, but the reality is that I have to do some work then because of the position I am in. Can’t be helped. Have to do it. I will get some rest on Sunday though and hopefully be refreshed and ready to get back to work.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 45

I only had to teach a half-day today. District paid professional development allowed me time to go and observe some other teachers at a different school in our district. I really appreciated this opportunity. I was able to go with some other Induction Teachers and our content specialist for the district and then talk about what we observed. My only wish is that we could do something more regular. I’d love if there was enough time in my schedule to teach, plan, and observe every day. But this would mean hiring more teachers so that all of us could have 2 periods off a day rather than just 1 for planning and unfortunately there isn’t enough money put into schools to make this a reality. I get it. I wish it was different.

But I am grateful for the chance to observe when I can.

I felt a little better after observing because I saw a class of juniors who did and said some of the same things that my freshman say and so I didn’t feel like my classes were as out of control as I thought the were. And I also got to watch a math department head teach the same class that I teach (Foundations of Algebra) and that was encouraging as well.

For the part of the day where I was teaching, I had my students practicing relations and functions and then we played Quizlet Live for a review. I was really pleased with first block who have been doing a great job of working together and talking to one another about the math lately. My second block, who have been my problem class lately, had some major problems today, but I also had students saying “Ohh, I get this” and “Oh this is actually really easy”. Which was encouraging in a bright spot.

I’m really struggling with that class right now. I’m going to keep trying different ideas. I will rearrange seating assignments tomorrow. I had to talk to three separate kids in the hallway. Only 1 out of 3 went well.

Pulling back to a broader view, I’m concerned that I’m not giving the students enough activities in class. I need to vary what I do more and decrease the length of the activities. Right now if I don’t count Bellringer and Homework Check, I’m only averaging 2-3 transitions over the length of the block and I think I need to be aiming for 4-5 with roughly 20 minute activities.

I fear this because my classroom management is often weakest at transitions. I’ve been unconsciously limiting them. Also it’s been easier for me to plan only a few activities.

On the flip side, if you’ll allow me to brag, I have been able to get my students to work harder and do more than what is typically expected of the group that I have. Students who have been tracked into Foundations. Yeah they complain. Yeah some of them don’t do their work. But they take notes for me. They work for 30-40 minutes for me. Not every time. Not without some off-task behavior. But they’ve gotten better. I’m proud of them.

I’m also concerned that sometimes I’m not being rigorous enough with them on some of their answers. While talking with a colleague at lunch she showed me some graphing stories assignments that her students did and I realized that I did not follow up my original activity on that topic with questions that really pushed the kids to be specific about their graphs and explicitly explain how the parts of the graph matched their description. Part of that is inexperience on my part and part of it is my own time crunch. I feel so harried with time that sometimes I don’t plan well enough or I’m reluctant to grade problems that are time consuming so I don’t ask too time consuming questions. I’m still trying to find the balance between rigor and not overworking myself. In some ways I think I have been doing great with that and in others I think I suck at it right now.

Another thing that I thought about while observing today is my tendency to be hyper-critical and confident in my own abilities. I try to come across as humble but sometimes that just me preening an image I want to project. If I’m honest my inner voice can be an arrogant butt-hole.

Am I allowed to say butt-hole on a teacher blog?

I’m working on it.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year Day 43

I had a rough day Sunday and wasn’t feeling well. I took Monday off. Today I let my students work on a mathematician biography in class that I assigned and thought wouldn’t be a big dea but apparently was a huge deal because they couldn’t even find 2 sources for a one page bio. The librarian was kind enough to come to every block and give the finding sources spiel. My registration for my car expires tomorrow (well, now today) so I absolutely had to change registration to South Carolina today.  I immediately drove to the DMV after school. Church small group was also tonight. I didn’t get home until 930. I was tired. I needed to plan for Wednesday but I just couldn’t. Too busy and too tired and blargh. Forgot to write this until just now. Today’s my birthday. I should have been asleep 3 hours ago. I hope I don’t have to teach all freshman next year.


Rookie Year: Day 42 Or Hey! 42

I suppose my 42nd Day Post should link to this.

My instructional plans were pretty much shot this week. We had a pep rally today so we were on a shortened schedule. Between that, the PSAT, and the internet outage I was only able to get through half of the material I had planned to do. Oh well.

Ever since I learned about Go Formative last week I’ve been using it heavily every day. It really has made keeping track of my class a lot easier and I have found students working more. Some of the activities I have been having them do aren’t fundamentally changed. I can just easily check where they are and they get instant feedback on some of their answers. Of course, I can’t do instant feedback for all of the problems and I did run into an issue yesterday with graphing stories where kids kept coming up to my desk. “Can you check my graph for 6? Can you check my graph for 9?” Etc, etc.

But at least they were trying to the problems and asking me for help and feedback!

Today they practiced function notation and then we took a group quiz.

For the function notation they were able to mechanically apply to evaluate functions fairly well, but I can tell that they have no conceptual understanding at all of what a function is. I have some Python and other activities planned for next week to help them with this.

For the group quiz, I was really hoping that the entire class would all work together, but they broke up into groups of 3-4 or singletons. Oh well. I will try again next week. I am planning a new routine to help them. I am hoping regular schedule will help them self-regulate if they know what to expect. I have 90 minute block classes or two “skinnies” all day. 3 blocks. My weekly schedule plan is the following:

Monday: New Topic and then Learning Activities. (This will usually include notes to introduce a new idea and them some tasks I have chosen for them to try.)

Tuesday: Practice and More Learning Activities

Wednesday: Group Quiz and then New Topic.

Thursday: Learning Activities and Practice

Friday: Review from the week and then Individual Concept Quizzes (Which are on a EMRF system with SBG hybrid grading.)

And occasionally on Fridays it will be a Unit Test instead of a Quiz.

This way students will know to expect new material and be mentally prepared for it on Mondays and Wednesdays and then I will give them plenty of time to practice, ask questions, and learn in between new material and more summative type assessments.

We’ll see how it goes. Thanks for reading.