Rookie Year: Day 179

Things are really starting to wind down. My last class completed their final assignment today. I will see them again tomorrow but there won’t be any graded work and donuts.

I found out my course load for the fall already. I will be teaching Foundations of Algebra again, as well as some CP Geometry sections. I am excited to teach something that I have never taught before, but I am also nervous. I was hoping to teach all Algebra again for my second year so that I could refine lesson plans rather than come up with new ones. Well, at least it won’t be boring. Plenty to blog about in the fall.

I cleared out my room and got it ready for the summer. It didn’t take me that long to do, which tells me that I need to use more decorations next year. Seriously, it took me all of 10 minutes to put up everything and clear off my desk.

I remember thinking at the beginning of the year, around the 1st or 2nd week, how far away tomorrow felt. Day 180. I was so tired that first semester and I kept thinking about how miserable I was at the end of my student teaching, and I was afraid that this rookie year would be that again. It wasn’t.

It was difficult and I am glad to be almost done, but it wasn’t as bad as it was when I student taught. I’m not dreading the fall. In fact, I’m looking forward to it! Don’t get me wrong, I am not wishing away the summer. I fully intend to enjoy it to the full. But I am also excited to give this job another go.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 178

I moved the day number up so that on my last day this Thursday I hit 180. I had to account for missing days for reasons such as

  • Professional Days
  • Hurricanes
  • Falling Down Stairs
  • Fake Heart Attacks with Ambulance Trips
  • Having A Baby

So yeah, I’m a little short.

I am so very ready for the summer. My students are still working on their final projects, but many of them finished up today or will finish tomorrow. I will only see my last block for their scheduled exam time tomorrow. I was struggling with not letting my tiredness show and I wasn’t succeeding. One of my students said “Mr. Belcher, you need a Monster.” But what I really need is a nap.

On Thursday one of my classes is planning a potluck and I am going to bring donuts for all of my blocks. I figure I will print out a bunch of hexaflexagon patterns and let them explore (or not) if they want and say goodbyes.

Thanks for reading.



Rookie Year: Day 165

A 2-hour assembly ate up most of the morning today. It was the “Senior Assembly” and it was cool that we took time to honor the senior class, but you could tell the student body AND the staff was getting antsy near the end.

I was particularly frustrated with a lot of my students today. Most of them blew off the Desmos Art Project, even students who are typically engaged and motivated. It felt like none of them listened to me at all when I had explained the project outlines and when it was due. I have enjoyed teaching these students this year, but their attitudes gave me one of my own today. I felt grumpy. I think part of it was frustration at my own failure to bring them out of a mindset of “I’m just here to get a grade” but I was also frustrated with them and their choices about the project.

Normally I am never tired of answering questions about math, but I was beginning to get tired of explaining the project repeatedly, sometimes to the same students. They had very clearly not read the project description at all or listened when I had explained it earlier this week. Some of them complained that I hadn’t given them enough time even though this was essentially all we worked on in class every day since the EOC. (The same students who spent all this week goofing off in class rather than working.)

I have tried to avoid complaining about students on this blog and focus on my own journey to becoming a better teacher, but I was very discouraged with them today.

Only three more days and then I get to start fresh this fall.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 164

More Desmos Art Project today. The activities on transformations of functions from Desmos are so nice that I really wish I had used them the first time. Each time I think back to that unit I become less pleased with how I went about teaching the concept. I focused too heavily on transformations of quadratics rather than transformations of functions in general and the students ended up having a poor understanding of both.

But now I know what will try next time. I also want to do a better of job of teaching functions in general. Not only is function notation a fundamental concept that carried all the way into my master’s level mathematics courses, I just plain old think they’re cool. I would also like to incorporate some computer science concepts into that unit, but I am not sure what that will look like yet.

The first of my three blocks took a group test today in place of a final. It did not really go well and I was discouraged. The students were suddenly lost on concepts that we had just been working on a few weeks ago and that I KNOW were supposed to be on the EOC. Either I didn’t do a very good job of teaching those concepts or brain drain happened in less than a day. Maybe both.

Tomorrow there are no final exams scheduled because of senior assembly so I won’t have any of my classes for an extended period of time, but when we return after Memorial Day I will be giving the 2 hour group test to my other two classes.

There are only 4 days left in the school year and half of those are half days.

I am so ready.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 163

Now that the final exam is over but we still have 5 days of school left I found myself scrambling to come up with some good activities. I had some big plans before the EOC for this time, but I’m so tired that it has ended up looking a little different. I settled on a three part final project that consists of:

  1. The Desmos Art Project I linked to yesterday
  2. A group “test’ over calculator skills and some function concepts. Nothing advanced or difficult. They already took at 56 question state final exam, I don’t want to kill their brains
  3. A math reflection post

I have already gotten a few submissions for the math reflection that I was encouraged by. Here are the questions I asked in the math reflection:

    1. Did you enjoy this class? Why or why not?
    2. List at least one thing that you LIKED about this class. Explain.
    3. List at least one thing that you did NOT like about this class. Explain.
    4. Describe what you think mathematics is. (DON’T look up the definition of math. That isn’t what I want. You should explain what you think it means to do math. It’s a philosophical question, not a “figure out the correct answer” question.
    5. What does it mean to be a mathematician?
    6. Do you consider yourself to be a mathematician? Explain why or why not.
    7. If you could go back and take this class again, what would you do differently? Explain.
    8. What advice do you have for future students who are about to take Intermediate Algebra for the first time?

Here is a bit of a response from a student that I found very encouraging:


  1. I really enjoyed this class because you had a lot of patience with us and you made sure before we moved on we understand the concept. I felt that you really cared about us and that’s all that mattered to me.
  2. There was two things that I enjoyed the most, your teaching skills and you. You always cared for are education more than anything and that’s all any student can ask from a teacher. Just to make sure that you do your part so we can do ours. You EXCEEDED that and I thank you so much for that.

Unfortunately I was not able to convince this student that they were good at math:

5. A person who is really great at math.

6. No I do not consider myself because I dislike math with a passion and I do not have the work ethic to do that.

Although it may be from the answer that they have confused liking it with being good at it. They never believed me but they actually were a very good student.  I had a few other students who also told me that they were not good at math when they actually were. Next year I want to work on how I can build that confidence and self-image to help students see themselves as mathematicians and not just “a person who is really great at math” or “Someone smart and doing every math problem in the entire world. Also you can solve any mat problem in the world.”

I think I will incorporate this from day 1 and go from there. I was trying to work on building a culture of mathematics in my classroom during the first semester and I think I got tired and fell off the boat in second semester. Hopefully I have the endurance to last the whole year next time.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 162 Or Five Years

Today marks the 5th anniversary of this blog. I’ve been blogging ever since the last few weeks of my undergraduate degree, covering my time in a community college learning center as a tutor, a community college adjunct (in-person and online), a graduate student and teacher, and finally as a 1st year high school teacher.

EDIT: After I originally published this post WordPress also told me it was number 200 so how about that! 5 years and 200 posts.

This first year teaching high school was really the year I buckled down and starting taking this blog seriously. I don’t think I will do a daily journal next year, but I do plan to be consistent and regular with posts as I wrap up my Rookie Year. If you have been with me since 2012 or joined this past fall or a few weeks ago, thanks for reading!

Anyway, don’t go back and read my old posts. They’re embarrassing.

EOC scores came back from the state already. On one hand I was very excited because 75% of my students passed the exam. On the other hand, a 60 is considered passing so if you were to look at my DF rate they got slaughtered. But a majority will be able to go on to geometry. Whether a majority will leave this class with a solid education and understanding of algebra is a different matter and one that concerns me. I usually talk about how my classroom management needs to improve, but another thing I want to work on is how well my students are understanding math beyond just passing scores on tests and quizzes. I don’t know if I am making any sense here.

But I was encouraged by the results after my brief worry session on Monday and I am hoping that my students enjoy the final projects I have for them, including this fantastic one from Jon Lind.

I would really like to get some nice classroom decorations out of that art project, so I am looking forward to seeing what the students come up with.

Kinda underwhelming for a 5 year anniversary slash 200th post isn’t it?

Ah. Well.



Rookie Year: Day 161

I proctored the state EOC for Algebra 1 to all of my students yesterday and then I forgot to write my post. A few thoughts:

  • Some of my students were really zoned out during the test and I don’t know if it was anxiety or apathy or not understanding the material or just plain old lack of sleep. But I was worried about them.
  • I haven’t felt guilty or concerned about how good of a job I was doing until yesterday watching them take the test. Suddenly I felt like how they did was all on me and I was criticizing every choice I have made this year.
  • Legally I cannot share information about the test items but after proctoring it yesterday I have a higher opinion of it than I did last week. It was a rigorous test with good questions.

Patrick Honner said on Twitter recently that you can tell a lot about a teacher by what they do in class after the AP test. I didn’t give an AP test but I feel the same principle applies here. I  have also seen some others (my apologies I cannot remember who) tweet that if teaching stops after the test then we reinforce that it is the test and not learning that matters.

So I plan to teach these last few crazy days, but right now I have no idea what.

Thanks for reading.