Sunday, November 6, 2016

Day in the Life: Third Month (November) Refection #DITLife

Sunday, 6 November 2016
Third Monthly Post/Reflection
Trudging through the trenches...

Woo-hoo! It's a weekend post. It was also Daylight Savings and we gained an hour of sleep. I had to manually adjust a couple clocks this morning. Today is a day to relax mostly since Saturday was pretty busy as was Friday.

Friday was our first Cadet Promotion & First Quarter Award Ceremony. There was no morning formation; cadets were sent directly from the cafeteria or gym to their homerooms. Classes are shorten by ten minutes so I finally saw my first period for its whole 40 minutes! Here's the parade schedule:
  • Homeroom (7th Grade Girls)
  • 1st Period - 6th Grade Honor (boys/girls)
  • 2nd Period - 7th Grade (all boys)
  • 3rd Period - 7th Grade (all boys)
  • Lunch
  • Planning
  • 6th Period - 7th Grade (boys/girls)
  • 7th Period - 6th Grade (all boys)
  • 8th Period - 7th Grade (all girls)
  • Parade (at conclusion of parade - students will be dismissed)
First period went over distance between points and reflecting points over the x- or y-axis on a coordinate plane. Students continued using their graphs from this post activity. We also reviewed how to order rational numbers on a number line. Second, third, and sixth periods (all seventh grade math classes) were uneventful as we continued a lesson that was started on Thursday talking about simplifying algebraic expressions. Their homework was to answer the focus question of the lesson to turn in on Monday. Seventh period was okay. A few students returned from being in ISS (In School Suspension) all week. The class dynamic was a bit off as the returning students had not done their assigned work I had sent to them and opted instead to try to take the class off task by not coming with their proper materials (mainly pencils and math journal).

The class was unexpectedly shortened by five minutes as the Commandant came on the PA to announce he needed all student leaders and JROTC command staff in the gym. Band students were also told to go to homeroom to get their belongings and report to the band room in preparation for the award ceremony. As students started filling the halls, another announcement was made for all students to return to homeroom. We all thought it was a mistake because we had our eighth period on our schedule and told the students to ignore the announcement. I started my eighth period and we had class for about 10 minutes. The Commandant was back on the PA to state that the high school needed to begin moving all homerooms to the gym and that the middle school should get ready to move next. I opened my door to see other teachers coming into the hall as well. I saw our tactical officer and asked her why we weren't following the schedule. She didn't know either as she had a class and was trying to get an administrator on a radio - with no luck. Since students were switching from other classes and running around the halls, we had to end eighth period. One student was irate. She loves my class and says it's the one class she looks forward to most. A couple other girls agreed with her and I said they needed to complain to the administration as they are the ones who put together the assembly schedules.

Normally we have the ceremony outside. The students form up behind the school by grade level than march around to a side entryway. Our marching band leads the way followed by middle school grades sixth through eighth then high school seniors down to freshman. Teachers march in behind our respective grade levels. We stand behind the groups and assist our military tactical officers.

Unfortunately the decision was made to hold the ceremony in the gym. The gym was not designed for the almost 600 students we have this year. Many middle school students had to sit on the floor. The sound system had not been checked so every speaker sounded muffled. Also there was only 100 chairs set out for parents and guests. We had about 130 or so people show up! Parents were justifiably upset. Not many middle school students were given rank for this quarter due in part to behavior issues and failing grades.

After school, our boys cross country team had a pasta party in prep for the next day's state meet. They also watched the movie, "The 4-Minute Mile." I left early because I had to pick my daughter up from college then make it to the 6:30 pm showing of "Marvel's Doctor Strange." Won't spoil anything - but I feel it's the best Marvel movie to date. Absolutely loved it!!!

On Saturday, I arrived at school at 9:50 am. Only two of our seven athletes were there. My other coach arrived a little after 10 am. We had wanted to leave by 10:15 am. It takes around an hour and a half to get up to Columbia. The students had been instructed to be at the school by 9:45 am. We wanted to be up there by noon. Our division didn't run until 2 pm but we wanted to give the athletes time to warm up and stretch properly. Unfortunately, we had one athlete that didn't get to school until close to 10:45 am - he is our fastest runner so we couldn't leave him behind. We arrived at the meet at 1pm. We set up our tent, picked up our information packet, went over last minute strategy with the athletes, and made sure they were all wearing the proper uniform items. It was our best showing at a state meet. This is my fifth year as a cross country coach along with my co-coach. Every year we get better. This year we finally had a runner place in the Top 15 for our division. He placed 7th overall with a time of 19:13. We were ranked 12th as a team last year; this year we ranked 7th as a team. The athletes all gave their best perform of the season. They were a bit disappointment that they didn't finish closer to the top but they were happy with their improved times. We treated them to a nice dinner on our way home. Many of the athletes will be running track and field too so they are eager to get started. However, my co-coach and I have deemed next week an off-week as we figure out how we're going to work the schedule for conditioning activities.


1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about Friday, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

I almost took a personal day on Friday. It was tempting. And I thought a parade schedule would be easy on a substitute since classes are shorten. But I'm glad I didn't. We have several long-term subs already on our floor and it would have been chaos! Well it was a little more chaotic than usual but nothing we couldn't handle. I'm glad I had my eighth period even for 10 minutes. They were able to get the homework at least.

A decision that wasn't ideal was putting off the test for the sixth graders I have seventh period. I've delayed their test twice now. It's not their fault - many of them are ready to test on ratios, rates, and unit rates. Our classroom printers are no longer serviced by the district so we can't get ink for them. I have requested ink be ordered from our department funds but it hasn't arrived yet. So I have to print the test off at home (well, remember to print it off that is) then run off copies at school. It's a pain.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately?

This sounds horrible: I'm looking forward to our week-long Thanksgiving Break (21 - 25 November). I'm counting down the days. I'm glad to have Tuesday off this week as well. It's not that I'm unprepared - I have my lesson plans done through the end of the month. I have lots of activities to do in the classroom; I can fill 45 to 50 minutes of class time. I want some time for me.

As prepared as I am, the challenge is fitting everything I want into my 45 to 50 minutes. Many times I prepare the Weekly Bell Work slides, but we never get to use them. I've been waiting for them to get themselves in order before they enter or they take too much time getting settled once they are in the room. My goal this week is to just bring them into the room, seat them quickly, and have them submit their Bell Work via an iPad app.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

My cross country athletes. As described above, I've known many of these young men since they were sixth and seventh graders. They are now seniors and juniors in high school. It's been an amazing journey to watch. For three of them, it was their last cross country meet with our school. One is a senior and will be out for track and field (he's our star 400-meter hurdler - placing third at state last year). But for the other two, they'll be going to a different school next year. And I've contemplated not coming back next year as well, so this just might be my last time training with them.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What is a goal you have for the year?

Working towards a mathematical mindset. I'm getting more work shown on assessments, during class work, and on homework assignments. Especially with the sixth grade honor students. I'm doing more visual modeling and challenging them to go above their grade level.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

The seventh season of Walking Dead began a few weeks ago and answered the question everyone had wondered: Who was bludgeoned by Lucille? I read the graphic novel which the show doesn't always follow but is good source for most stories. I predicted that Glen would die (like in the comics) because it offers up the most drama for the other characters. Abraham was a close second as his character in the graphic novel had died long before Negan was even introduced. Now I never predicted them to kill both in the same show - that was bold!

Speaking of shows, I finished season two of Daredevil and almost done with Luke Cage both on Netflix (and both Marvel comic related). Both were well done and looking forward to seeing them team up in The Defenders series with Iron Fist and Jessica Jones.

On the home front, we survived Hurricane Matthew with minimal damage. We still lost most of our kitchen appliances and will be out of our townhouse for a couple months, but it was nowhere near the loss we had over a year ago. The flooding was only about 14 inches this time instead of well over 48 inches last year. We do have flood insurance so that's a good thing.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Graphing & Playing Cards - An experiment! #MTBoS

I've been trying since last week to get my sixth graders to understand what ordered pairs are and how to graph them. I've tried using Geogebra app which has worked for my Pre-Algebra students, but didn't really reach the students who were having problems. So yesterday we tried to play Kahoot to help students with the process. Didn't work too well - many focused too much on the points and what place they were and became discouraged.

After looking across the many math blogs, I decided to go with playing cards and a grid. Student will work in groups of three with 18 playing cards. They will take turns drawing two cards - the first card will be the x-coordinate, the second card will be the y-coordinate. They will write the numbers and the ordered pair on a chart than graph the point on a coordinate plane. Lastly they have to state which quadrant that point is in.

CONCLUSION: They LOVED the activity! The students, especially the girls, stated they enjoyed using the cards for an activity. I said we could use them to play a version of WAR using integer operations. They were excited! A couple of the boy groups had difficulty following directions due to talking while I was going over the procedures. Today we're going to further their knowledge by asking them to find the distance between two points on the graph. I've already discussed with some of the accelerated students about the distance formula (and Pythagorean Theorem) so it's going to be interesting to see what they do. We're also going to talk about reflection of points over the x- and y-axis. Can't wait!

Here's a few examples of their work:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fun With Homework 2: Numbered Mini Packets - The Conclusion

I meant to post this over the weekend but got wrapped up in trying to finish Quarter 1 grades. The presentations and discussion went well. The students did a good job explaining concepts that are above grade level for many of them. As I walked around to the different groups, most of the students were engaged with the activity. They were listening to each other, talking about the math, challenging each other with vocabulary, and finding resolutions on their own if there was a conflict. The big concepts they were discussing were adding and subtracting integers, using additive inverse property, and evaluating absolute value. Here are a few finished products:

To follow up: Today we had an extremely shorten period due to it being an early release day. So we discussed how to compare integers. We talked about the symbols they already knew: greater than (>), less than (<), and equal to (=). I asked them to explain how they are used and provided several examples for them to evaluate. Of course, some one had to bring up that their elementary school teacher told them to think of the symbols as alligators and the 'mouth' opens up to the larger number. The student quickly added he knew the correct names of each symbol; he just found his elementary school teacher's explanation amusing.

When I asked them to compare -8 and -10, the students didn't take long to state that -8 was greater than -10 because as you approach zero on the negative side of the number line the value of the integer increases and as you get further away from zero on the negative side the value of the integer decreases. They referred back to the number lines we did with integer operations. They also were quick to stated that |-8| was equal to the |8| because they are the same distance from zero on a number line. Likewise they knew that -7 was less than |-7| because the absolute value of -7 was 7 and a positive value is greater than a negative value. Just as the class was ending, they were coming up with their own comparisons.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fun With Homework 2: Numbered Mini Packets - Work Samples

Unfortunately, 1st period again got a late start due to circumstances beyond my control. Thursday mornings are Company Commander Time, or CCT. This means students have an hour (8:15am to 9:15am) to practice military drills. All grade levels - 6th through 12th - participate together, usually in preparation for upcoming parades where they need to march in formation and student leaders practice their roles during different ceremonies. Teachers are exempt from this as we use the time to have professional development, meet in content area departments, and/or update our grade books and correct papers. CCT ran longer yesterday than it should have so 1st period was shorten by 20 minutes.

My sixth graders only met for 30 minutes. I had them count off and as they passed each of the card numbers, I handed them their card. I had to fix it a bit since one group got two cards. I informed them that they not only had to evaluate their expression and justify their response, but they also needed to create a word problem to fit the expression. Many of them were excited and already had a word problem in mind for their card. The best part was overhearing students helping other students understand the material. This is an Honor class so most of the students are above grade level and enjoy a challenge. These problems are based off a 7th grade assessment on Integer Operations. The students understand integers, opposites, and absolute value at their 6th grade level. This is a way to advance their understanding of the content. Here's a quick look at a few of them:

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Fun with Homework 2: Numbered Mini Packets #MTBoS

Trying to get a little creative with my activities. Probably been done before but I didn't want to do the same ol' thing with paper airplanes this week. So - numbered mini packets that have the homework (plus a few review problems) inside.
The students will count off and whoever says the number they will have do present.

There will be one catch: they will have to create a word problem to go with their expressions. It's not enough to show me how to do the problems - you need to apply it.

For the word problem: they can ask for assistance from their group.

I am toying with using their Google Classroom accounts for them to post their final products.
They can take a photo, share it, and present. I will post the results of the activity later today (or tomorrow).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Fun with Homework: "Paper Airplane" Method #MTBOS

This was inspired by a 'snowball' activity I have done previous years. I had assigned 5 short integer expressions for students to evaluate using either counters or number line method. Normally with homework I post the answers and students check their responses and we discuss any misconceptions. I don't have a lot of time with my 1st period class for a variety of reasons that are out of my control. I wanted a way to engage the students quickly and get them talking about the problems. So I put each one of the expressions on an index card.

The expressions were:
1) -10 + (-5) + 3
2) -12 + (-6)
3) 20 + (-20) + 10
4) 8 + 3 + (-1)
5) 9 + (-8) + (-1)

 Yes, these are simple expressions but the purpose was to have them justify their answers using visual models and to understand how positive and negative numbers are combined. I also wanted them to use the vocabulary: zero pairs, combine, opposites, and additive inverse.

Once I put the expressions on index cards, the next step was how to effectively 'hand out' the cards:
a) Did I want to do it by asking for volunteers?
b) Did I want to use a systematic method - every sixth person that enters class gets a card?
c) Create a unique method for delivering the cards so students weren't aware of what was going on?

a) Asking for volunteers always gives me the same four to five people and is not an effective way to assess my students. I wanted to get students off guard. I didn't care if they had done the homework or not but I wanted to see if they understood the concepts.

 b) Systematic method would be nice if my students showed up at the same time. However, that's been another issue in the morning is not all homeroom release their students at the same time because not everyone gets released from morning formation at the same time.

 c) The above two questions led me to thinking about the 'snowball' activity. Instead of having the students write down an expression and throw it, I would create paper airplanes with the index cards. I would throw the paper airplanes towards the middle of the classroom and who ever picks it up has to come to the board and explain it. Sounded great! So how did it go....

1) The students were caught off guard. I didn't tell them what was on the cards in advance. Out of the five students that picked them up, two of them had not done the homework and are not active participants in daily discussion. This gave me an opportunity to assess their understanding. I allowed other students to come up and present a different visual aid if they wanted. The students got into it and I didn't have to say much.
2) A great way to begin looking at the mathematical 'rules' for adding integers. A few students were not into the visual aids and were able to explain to the group about when you add a negative and a positive that's really just subtraction and the sign for the sum will be determined by the whichever addend has the higher absolute value.
 3) As students were leaving class, a few came up to me and said they had enjoyed the class for the first time all year. They want to do more activities like this. :)

1) My paper airplane skills are not great. Need to work on that - the airplanes didn't fly as far as I wanted.
2) One student refused to come to the board to work out his problem. He handed it off the card and his homework paper to another student to present to the class. I was okay with this - I was the shy kid in math class when I was in middle school and I understand why some students don't like to get up in front of others. However, a few very vocal students did not like it and thought it wasn't fair. So that issue needs to be address before we do another activity of this type.

NEXT UP: Today we will be reading a few pages from Alex Bellos's "The Grapes of Math" (pages 169 - 175; Chapter 7: The Positive Power of Negative Thinking). Will be using the Jigsaw collaboration method. Each group will read a couple paragraphs, summarize, then read/present to class. I'm going to try to get some pics to post for this one.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Day in the Life: Second Month (October) Reflection #DITL

Thursday, 6 October 2016
Second Monthly Post/Reflection
How's it going??

Currently, my family and I are at a hotel in the Midlands area of South Carolina. We left Charleston yesterday before the evacuation orders were given to avoid the traffic. Our housing area is near a major waterway so it was advised that we leave and go to higher ground regardless. All the schools in Charleston and surrounding counties have closed due to the impending arrival of Hurricane Matthew. You should have heard the students when our principal announced mid-morning on Tuesday that schools might be closing on Wednesday. It was deafening! The official word came by Tuesday afternoon that we would close on Wednesday through Friday then take next week on a day-to-day basis. It's been a busy, overwhelming month and these few days off do give me a chance to catch up on grading papers and inputting grades. Now onward to the reflection...

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today the past month, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

A pencil. It's a simple item, almost every class requires you have one. I still don't understand how you can show up to class without one and think it's okay. However, this past month, I finally decided to just accept it as a natural thing for many of my middle schoolers and worked on a way to handle it without too much disruption to my class. I read on a blog (I wish I could remember which one) that students that don't have a pencil can sign one out in a log then return it at the end of class. I modified this by writing their name on the board when I give it to them and erasing it when they bring it back. It has cut down on students forgetting pencils as many don't like to see their name written on the board. We've incorporated this procedure into the opening routine of each class - along with asking to sharpen pencils.

iPads. In an effort to find a way to motivate my large class of 23 boys to follow rules/procedures, I decided to offer up the iPads for individuals who every day came prepared and followed rules/procedures during class. Those individuals got to use the Nearpod app along with a stylus to showcase their work while the others had to use paper/pencil. It worked okay but it didn't have the effect I thought it would. My non-iPad group spent most of their time still wandering around the room and distracting others who had the iPads. One student even gave up his iPad to one of the non-iPad students in hopes that it would get the the non-iPad student to stop bothering him. Again too much time was spent policing the disruptive students instead of focusing on the lesson of complex fractions and unit rates. What I don't like doing but does work to bring the class to order is to send these three (and it is only three) students to another classroom to work on the assignments. Unfortunately they are not doing any of the assignments I send them either. I know that one of the students is being sent to an alternative school next week and another one of the students I have asked for a list of interventions to try with him so this might help.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately?

Looking forward: In a previous post, I criticized the new curriculum guides from my district. Well...I am now on the new math curriculum writing team for our district. We discussed the feedback from the August meetings, but it was a very broad range of feedback. Some absolutely loved the guides and were thrilled with them. Others had issues with the sequence of units or standards. Some didn't care for them at all and stated they were going to follow the curriculum guide from the South Carolina Department of Education. I had a chance to talk with our district math head about mathematical/growth mindset. She's read Jo Boaler's book too; she said that when they wrote the curriculum guides this summer they wanted to stay away from instructional strategies, that those were up to individual teachers. So it was good to get insight into how the district views the guides and I look forward to having input into later units of the curriculum.

Challenges: This has been a tough year and we're not even through the first quarter. We had another teacher quit (that's 4 since August) and at least two more have expressed a desire to be elsewhere by the end of December. Morale is the lowest I've ever seen (and I've been here for over 6 years). Each day I remind myself that I need to stay positive for my own sanity and so I don't spread any of my negativity to the students.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

To get my all-boys class through MAP testing, I had to take five students back to my room. Instead of doing a lesson, we arrange the desks and discussed their behavior. One student who was highly agitated had just come from a verbal exchange with another teacher. The exchange as the student claimed began when the teacher stated his parents had not raised him properly. The student's mother had died several years ago, his dad was not in his life due to drugs, and he currently lived with his grandmother. He said that his grandmother was doing her best with him and his siblings and that it hurt him when people brought up his mom in the way the teacher supposedly did. I thanked him for sharing and offered him a pass to guidance if he needed. He said he'd be okay. Another student shared that his dad wasn't around a lot either - it was mainly his mom and aunts. He stated his mom was better good in math and tried to help him at home as much as she could. A week later, his mom and aunts did shadow him for a few class periods (including math).

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What is a goal you have for the year?

Working towards a mathematical/growth mindset. My students are coming around. I'm seeing more work when I spot check homework and on the last assessment. When doing Bell Work, they are writing down their justifications without being reminded. I've had several students say they understand math better now that they have to explain it (a few even went as far as to say they are enjoying math for the first time).

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

A big initiative for this year from the South Carolina Department of Education is Read to Succeed (Literacy in All Content Areas). I was selected to be part of our school's Literacy Team. One of the main reasons was the math journals my students did last year. I also have a Word Wall that is growing weekly and refer often to it during instruction. Additionally I weave in the SAT Word of the Day whenever possible and write them down on my front white board. This Friday (had we not closed for the hurricane) was supposed to be my first attempt this year at weaving informational text (excerpts from "The Grapes of Math" by Alex Bellos) into the instruction. We were going to use the Jigsaw method - assigning each group a page to read and summarize than present their summary to the class for discussion.

For the first time in years, I have student work to put outside in the hallway. My 6th grade Honor students did a performance task where they had to show (visually as well as in words) how to solve a candy bar problem involving fractions. Many students did a wonderful job of drawing bar diagrams to represent the candy bars then dividing them up in 3/4 pieces. They even wrote down their answers in sentences.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Day in the Life: First Month Reflection #DITL

Tuesday, 6 September 2016
First Monthly Post/Reflection (6th day of the month)
How's it going??

Can't believe it's already the FOURTH week of school for us! Administratively, our school is still trying to find its balance. But I can't worry about that - I feel for our office staff as they have been working late nights and on the weekend to process all the new students and their paperwork.

I received my textbooks last week but Tropical Storm Hermine cancelled school on Friday (2 September) so they are still sitting in the back of the classroom. I'm not in a big hurry to get them out. My students use interactive notebooks to record their notes/discussions and any homework.

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today the past month, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

I'm most proud of getting a parent welcome letter out within the first week of school. In past years, it has not been as timely as it should have been (and one year my classes were reorganized so many times I forgot to send one out at all). This year I just printed it off and handed it out regardless of whether the student stayed in my class or not. Luckily, only a few were switched out to another class.

Another teacher move I'm proud of is the Bell Work Schedule. Students have enjoyed the routine; a few hold outs still don't like the Which One Doesn't Belong? and are confused that there is no right or wrong answer as long as you can logically state your reason. Students are starting to ask questions during instruction that relate to the content but are not yes-no type questions. They are beginning to question how the content relates to the world around them. Like absolute value - they were curious about what the lowest temperature in South Carolina was and where the lowest temperature on Earth was. The lowest temperature in South Carolina was -22-degrees Fahrenheit on 21 January 1985 at Hogback Mountain. I'm originally from Wisconsin so we have South Carolina beat with the lowest temperature being -55-degrees Fahrenheit on 4 February 1996 at Couderay. I can recall it getting down around -30-degrees when I was in high school in the mid-1980s. The students asked what it felt like and I said no one really went outside to check. There was no school those days and people were advised to stay indoors.

A decision I worry about is the behavior intervention I am currently using with one of my all male classes. It is a class of 23 boys, the majority of whom are African-American and developmentally are below grade level in mathematics. The intervention centers around a achieving a goal for the week. The class started with zero points and points are added every 5 minutes they are compliant with the rules: 40 minutes of class = 8 points. They can also earn additional points for asking a relevant question or answering another student's question or coming to the board to work a problem. However, if they begin to break from the rules, they can lose a point for each 5 minutes they are off task. This worked for about a week and they got close to their goal but didn't quite make it. I have tried rearranging seat assignment. I have tried having students write a discipline essay about their behavior and ways to correct it. I have called or texted parents; I have submitted teacher-managed incident referrals to the office. It's only a few that are causing the disruptions every day; and it's not just my class - it's every class. Usually this point system has worked at least for a few months and a few rewards. I'm seeing with this group - I'm probably going to have to go with individual points/rewards or split the group into two and offer a competition between groups. I might eliminate the taking away of points so to focus more on the positive and less on the negative. Any suggestions??

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately?

Looking forward: Using iPads for MAP testing, which means we don't have to waste time walking down to the computer lab. The iPads will be locked by the district so the only app accessible to students will be the MAP testing app. Students are excited about it as well. Also looking forward to our first Cross Country Meet is tomorrow (Wednesday, 7 September). We have several veteran runners (high school juniors) who are looking to run under 20 minutes and a high school freshman who could potential run under 17 minutes.

Challenges: See above question about behavior interventions. That's the big challenge - how can I get these three to four students back on track? When these individuals are not in the room, the rest are fine.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

The three parents who called me back to discuss their student's behavior in class. Two of the calls were just acknowledging the voicemail and that the students would face consequences at home for their actions. The third was more than I expected emotionally. The student in question was not a behavior issue but rather the opposite - he/she has not been participating at all (notebook is barely written in, appears withdrawn, attempted to engage him/her in conversation unsuccessfully, etc). I talked to the student's sibling at first before the father called back. The student's home life has been upended lately. The student is being bullied by other students. I consulted our guidance counselor who stated the home situation was rough but did not know about the bullying - stated it was something we did need to watch and sent an email to the assistant principal about it.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What is a goal you have for the year?

My main goal is to use the growth/mathematical mindset more in class. This was the stated goal in my first post. It's rough getting students to think more independently - that there sometimes is more than one logical way to solve a problem and my way is not always the only way. That still blows their minds. They still want me to tell them how to do each concept instead of trying to work through problems themselves first and active prior knowledge. Although I am seeing more progress with my Honor 6th graders - many have embraced the multiple method approach and look for creative ways to approach different problems. As for Google Classroom - I have had to drop that for the moment. I have ordered 30 styluses from Amazon (a coworker told me about them) so that they can use those to write with instead of their fingers or trying to type out math solutions.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

I discovered "Narcos" on Netflix, binged on season 1 over our extended holiday weekend and working slowly on season 2. I really need to stay off of Netflix. And, of course, "Halt and Catch Fire" is back for it's third season on AMC!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

#MTBOSBlaugust Post #5: First Week Reflections

Weekly Bell Work Schedule
Which One Doesn't BelongVisual Patterns
WitzzleFind the Flub
Reflection and A Question

We only got to the first four this week; next week we will do a reflection piece. Last year we did Which One Doesn't Belong?, Witzzle, KenKen, and SC Ready Review. Students didn't like KENKEN as much as I had hoped. I will introduce it later as a choice when they have some free time. The big hit was Witzzle. They liked that one a lot!!

As for this year, the one that caused a lot of issues was Which One Doesn't Belong?. I had several students become very upset when I stated there was no unique answer. They said that there had to be a 'correct' answer because in math all problems had one answer that was the right one. They didn't like it when I informed them that a problem could have different solutions depending on how you looked at it. They then told me that I obviously wasn't a very good math teacher if I couldn't tell them what number didn't truly belong. Wow - like I haven't heard that line before from a 7th grader (though, usually never on the second day of the school year). I let it go and moved on. The majority of the students enjoyed the activity since they decide which number didn't belong based on their reasoning.

For Visual Patterns, I discovered a student in my 6th grade Honor class that I needed to look at his test scores. The student easily identified the pattern and calculated both responses, providing detailed explanations. I found the student was truly Gifted & Talented - his test scores were phenomenal. His most recent MAP score, he tested in the 97th percentile (high school level) - his scores before that were 99th percentiles. I recommended that he move to Pre-Algebra (7th grade). He will still be with his 6th grade peers for other classes. I asked him how he felt about being moved and he was ecstatic - he said he wanted a more challenging class but never thought it was possible. Getting back to the Visual Patterns, no other class could figure it out - without a few addition hints.

The Witzzle again was the big hit once we went over a few examples together. Most classes wanted to use the whole time to list their expressions. I go around the room one time and ask for an expression from each student (if they want), then open it up to any one who wants to share a few more. It's good practice for order of operations and mathematical properties. Find the Flub was also a hit. The one we used was centered around the definition of an integer, which we had discussed the day before. I'm glad for the #MTBOSBlaugust as well because I would never have discovered Math Mistakes or Visual Patterns.

I can't believe one week of school is already over. It was hectic with several days that had extended homeroom periods at the beginning and the end. I like my homeroom students but there was nothing for them to do - just sit and wait to be dismissed. I know they were giving teachers time to collect fees, assign lockers, and hand out packets to go home. However, the parent packets never were given to us to hand out so there was nothing to collect. Most students have a permanent schedule now so for the most part this upcoming week should have less chaos. All my classes are under 30 students; two classes have 27 students and the rest are between 11 to 15 students. Next week I will be trying out Google Classroom with my 6th grade Honor kids and using Nearpod app with the rest. Til next time!

Monday, August 15, 2016

#MTBOSBlaugust Post #4: First Day Chaos...What I've Come to Expect (& A Reflection #DITLife )

Almost slept through alarm (only hit Snooze twice).
No coffee made (had to make some quick!).
Missed morning crossword (in a bit of a rush).
Bumper to bumper traffic until I reach the highway (luckily no accidents).
New school open next to our school (new traffic patterns to get use to).
Welcome back to 2016 - 2017 school year (day already has seemed long and class has yet to begun!)
I started my day with an email informing me that all classroom printers will no longer be serviced - meaning the ink cartridge I requested a week ago will not be coming. We will have to use the computer lab printers (we only have two for our building) from now on. That would have been great to know over the weekend when I was in and had time to print over 100 copies of my Welcome Letter/Syllabus. I also could have printed a copy off at home and ran it through the new copiers (again, if I had known). Great way to kick off the morning. But I love my colleagues - many of us have become 'First Day Chaos' pros. We know a bunch of stuff that we didn't plan for will happen and we're ready to step up and assist anyone we see that needs it.

We started the day like we do most days - with a morning formation in our quad. We are a military-styled school so the cadets are grouped by grade level and gender (middle school) and JROTC LET levels (high school). The teachers stand behind their respective homerooms and monitor the cadets along with grade-level tactical officers. The school administration and JROTC regimental leadership are in front of the formation along with the school band. The regimental commander (a senior JROTC cadet) will call the groups to attention and the band plays the national anthem as the flag is raised for the day. Afterwards, we say the Pledge of Allegiance followed by a moment of silence. The groups are than brought to parade rest. Morning announcement kick off with the principal, assistant principal, and guidance director each taking a turn to welcome cadets back and issuing any instructions students/staff needed to know for today. Cadets were dismissed from formation and lined up according to homerooms (posters were in the cafeteria informing cadets of homeroom teachers).

I have 22 seventh grade girls for homeroom this year. Same as last year. Only one minor issue when we first went into the room but that was cleared up by talking to the cadet in the hall (I had her in class last year and she can get an atiitude real quick - and I just wanted to let her know that it was not the way to start off the day - all was fine afterwards). I did roll call and jotted down only the names of cadets present on our blue cards then handed out their individual schedules. Next up was activity/locker fee collection - most did not have their money today. Not a problem, they just put their bags along the back wall in a single row. We went over a few rules I have with homeroom cadets: No food/drinks in classroom, change books only before lunch/after last period, and keep the noise level down so I can hear my music. They were fantastic! Onward to first period...

My first period is Math 6 (Gifted & Talented/Honor). They were 27 boys and girls - I was expecting only 25. The first of many scheduling issues of the day. After a brief introduction, I had them ask questions they wanted to know about the class and rules/procedures. We even did a little problem solving about how many cadets I teach in a day. It was a shorter class than usual so we didn't get to the iPads. Tomorrow. Definitely tomorrow.

Second period is Math 7. There was supposed to be 15 boys - I got 13 boys that were on my schedule and 2 new add ons. I did the same thing I did with first period. Introduced myself and conducted a Q & A, but they needed prompting on a few items. Several times I had to stop and address minor behavior issues. We almost got to iPads, but ran out of time.

Third period is also Math 7. This was the worst. I had 26 boys and girls on my list - and 29 showed up. But not all at once. I also had a student who should have been in 2nd period decide he wanted to be in 3rd period instead. Luckily our guidance counselor was passing by and steered him to his correct class. She also saw that the three girls probably needed to be taken out of the class (they were not fitting well with the boys and vice versa). We had to practice entering the classroom three times. I then had to discuss the rules/consequences for breaking them. We couldn't use the iPads any ways due to the large size of the class - only have 26 working ones. If the class gets smaller tomorrow, then we will.

Fourth period was Lunch. The air conditioner in the cafeteria was broke so it was a bit warm during lunch. Teachers sit together and it gave us time to commiserate over the schedule - the ELA teachers have it far worse than I do. Some of their classes have up to 40 cadets!! Our tactical officer has no partner at the moment so we are helping her out with getting the cadets to their Special Area class after lunch.

Fifth period (Special Area for cadets) is my planning. Time to relax a bit and take care of some paperwork. The money I had collected in the morning from activity fees had to be turned in to the front office. I stopped by guidance to discuss the schedule issues and inquiry about moving the 3 female cadets from 3rd period. I than got a quick chance to run to the restroom and check email before I heard cadets returning to the hall for their next period. Too short of break!
Sixth period is Math 7. It was an all boys class with most cadets I had over the summer. The class size was 17 - no add ons. Since we know each other already, this was a more laid back group. We talked about their expectations and what they wanted to get out of the class. They asked me some questions about myself - if I had struggled in math in 7th grade (I had) and how did I overcome it (hard work and patience teachers).

Seventh Period is Math 6. This was a really small group of students. The smallest group I have all day - not that will last but it was nice. There was 11 boys. We introduced ourselves and ran through the list of rules/expectations and discussed Safety/Emergency Procedures. We discussed iPad procedures and handed them out. Unfortunately they did not have time to log in to Google Classroom as it was time to go.

Eight Period is Math 7. This my only all girl group and had about 15 cadets - with only 1 add on (which replaced an absent cadet who was listed). I think this is where the 3 girls from my morning class will go, but I'm not sure. Many of the cadets I had over the summer so we jumped right in to rules/expectations/Safety & Emergency Procedures. That was really easy. We discussed iPad procedures and handed them out. After a few issues with a couple iPads missing software updates, all the cadets got into Google Classroom and we were able to get the sign in to their section. It was great to see cadets stepping up to assist others when I couldn't. Once in their section, they began to post their class comments to the page. We wrapped up 5 minutes from the end of class. We discussed logging out procedures and I reminded them that the iPads were used by all my classes so it was important that they not stay signed in. They were very proud of themselves that they were the only class to have gotten that far today!!

Lastly, cadets returned to their homerooms for dismissal and afternoon announcements by the principal and commandant. I had Emergency Cards to give them from the school nurse; they needed to be filled out by a parent/guardian and returned - they can't go on field trips unless this card is on file. Once announcements were finished, I lined up the bus riders first and sent them into the hallway to wait then lined up the car riders/walkers next and sent them in the opposite direction down the hall. I waited with the bus riders as we take all of them down at one time. It doesn't take long - once they get to the bottom of the stairs and out the doors, we're done. *WHEW*

I checked email, sent a brief update to guidance, then packed up and left. I walked out with my co-coach for Cross Country (who's also the 8th grade Social Studies teacher) and we talked briefly about tomorrow's Cross Country team meeting after school tomorrow. He won't be there (doctor's appointment) but he gave the names of a few more runners that had turned in physicals to him. His classes weren't too bad - except a minor glitch in times for his high school class that conflict with a middle school class. We also want to know if we're ever going to hear bells again to signal start/end time for classes - supposedly the rumor is next week. Why we have to wait until next week, I have no idea. We didn't have them last year either (well, we did for about two weeks near the beginning of the year but then they disappeared without explanation). But that was the first day of the year! Looking forward to tomorrow!!


1) When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn't ideal?

I am proud of the fact that I got at least one class using iPads and signed into Google Classroom. I have never used Google Classroom as a teacher and it was a learning experience. I was afraid they would not handle the iPads properly but they followed most of the directions I gave them (and when they didn't, it didn't take much to redirect them back to the task at hand).

One decision/teacher move I made that I worry wasn't ideal...Um, none that I can think of.

For vets: What is one teacher move you made today that you wouldn't have made your first year?

Easy - just being relaxed around the cadets, being able to juggle the shifting schedules/the students showing up and not being on the list. We adjust and adapt. I had multiple items planned (more than I could get through) so if something wasn't working, I could do something else instead. That was not how I was my first year. Teaching summer school also is a plus - cadets I didn't have last year, I had or meet over the summer if they were in school. It makes it a bit easier in class to know a few of them right away.

When you close your eyes and picture yourself in five years, what part of today's lesson would be same/different?

First I don't think I'll be at this school next year - let alone in five years unless there is a change in the administration. I don't think I would change anything - it was the first day. I just wish my cadet lists were more accurate and we were not adding cadets (creating 'fake' schedules) into classes that were already at capacity.

2) Every person's life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? what has been a challenge for you lately?

Looking forward to: Working more with iPads/technology this year. I want cadets to get out of their fixed mindsets about math and embrace a growth mindset attitude. I want cadets to value mistakes/errors and learn from them. I have a good group of cadets and I think this is doable.

Challenges: I had been promised last year that if I finished by Gifted & Talented endorsement I would teach the Gifted & Talented cadets (6th, 7th, and 8th graders). It was hard when that's not what happened - and no one told me. I planned over the summer - spent months redoing lesson plans and units - so I was a bit disappointed. But I'm over it - I realize that's just the way our administrators work. I have a great bunch of cadets and they will all be treated like Gifted & Talented - even if they were not labeled as such.

What has kept me going lately when it's gotten tough? My colleagues - we're all in this together.

What was the most negative/positive part of your day?

Positve: Using the iPads/setting up Google Classroom, reconnecting with cadets I taught last year between classes. Negative: Lack of bells, incorrect class lists, no air conditioning in parts of the building.

What part(s) of your dady were abnormal? For a first day, this was a bit off - but what we have come to expect and plan for. Tomorrow will be the same.

3) We area reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with some recently.

Several cadets I taught last year stopped by to ask why I wasn't teaching 8th grade Algebra I and a few stopped by to say that the 8th grade math teacher taught math like I did and that they were relieved.

How did someone help me today? Too busy helping everyone else out :)

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. First post: What is a goal you have for the year?

My main goal is to use the growth/mathematical mindset more in class. I want cadets to have a deeper understanding of mathematics and to be able to use problem solving strategies effectively. I want to use Google Classroom in an effort to reduce paper consumption and get cadets use to using technology appropriately in class. Today was a good start on both!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

#MTBOSBlaugust Post #2 / Take 1: The Last Week of Summer Revisited

To recap: I set a few goals that I wanted to accomplish over the last week of summer break. It was an ambitious list!! So how did I do????

Things I Want to Do Before 8 August:
  • Finishing watching Daredevil (Season 2/Netflix).
  • Catch up on watching current seasons of Mr. Robot (USA),KillJoys (SyFy), and Vice Principals (HBO).
  • Get haircut - lots of split ends and a bit longer than I like.
  • Get to the beach - thinking maybe on Wednesday or Thursday.
  • Return to my fitness routine (4 - 5 days minimum) - I can easily run a 5K but I need to be in better shape to run with my cross country athletes in a couple weeks. 
  • Update: Did do 2 days so I did do more than I have been doing. So partial progress.
  • Finish reading Craig Johnson's "Death Without Company" (Longmire #2) - loved the show but the books are far more entertaining!
  • Update: Almost done. I'm down to the last 50 pages. In my defense, I got this great other new book called "Mathematical Mindset" by Jo Boaler and have been consumed by trying to incorporate that mindset into my upcoming year. But more on that in my next post.
  • Sample a few more local restaurants - Cane (Jamaican cuisine), Taco Boy (Mexican), Callie's Hot Little Biscuits(Southern). At least I got to one!
  • Go to the South Carolina Aquarium (haven't been in a while)
  • Take a stroll through the renovated Gibbes Museum of Art
  • Organize all my notes from the workshops I attended at the High Schools That Work conference onto Google Slides so I can present during one of our PD days next week.
  • Begin to set the alarm to acclimate body to waking up on a schedule again.
  • Schedule a time to finish watching Concussion, Cardiac Arrest and Heat Illness videos prior to starting Cross Country practice.
In summary, I did okay. Not as good as I would have liked. The weather on Wednesday and Thursday was looking overcast and cooler than I like for the beach. The local destinations aren't going anywhere and always accessible. Actually the Gibbes Museum has an exhibition of Solomon Guggenheim Collection starting in late October that I do want to check out.
And I did do one thing that was not on the list: I took my daughter to see the "Suicide Squad" movie. Critics didn't seem too overwhelmed by it; but I thought it was good fantasy fun. The soundtrack is fantastic! All in all, I did enjoy my last week of being lazy and avoiding any 'real' work. 
TO BE CONTINUED....(cue apocalyptic music) 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Giving #MTBOSBlaugust a try!

Here's me...jumping into the 'professional' blogging waters

Not sure I will be posting every day since this is the last 'free' week I have before I head back. As usual, I'm not sure what classes I will actually be teaching. Last year I taught 6th Grade Honor Math, 7th Grade Pre-Algebra, and 7th Grade Math (Glencoe/Course2). 

When I checked in two weeks ago, I was told to prepare for at least two 6th grade classes (one regular Course 1 and one Honor Math) and the rest would be 7th grade Math Course 2. However, I was told that this was not set in stone and to be flexible for the first two weeks of school - just like last year. (*sigh*) So I could have a Pre-Algebra class or I might even get an 8th grade Algebra 1 group. But I will worry about that when I need to - which is not now. 

Things I Want to Do Before 8 August:
  • Finishing watching Daredevil (Season 2/Netflix).
  • Catch up on watching current seasons of Mr. Robot (USA), KillJoys (SyFy), and Vice Principals (HBO).
  • Get haircut - lots of split ends and a bit longer than I like.
  • Get to the beach - thinking maybe on Wednesday or Thursday.
  • Return to my fitness routine (4 - 5 days minimum) - I can easily run a 5K but I need to be in better shape to run with my cross country athletes in a couple weeks. 
  • Finish reading Craig Johnson's "Death Without Company" (Longmire #2) - loved the show but the books are far more entertaining!
  • Sample a few more local restaurants - Cane (Jamaican cuisine), Taco Boy (Mexican), Callie's Hot Little Biscuits (Southern).
  • Go to the South Carolina Aquarium (haven't been in a while)
  • Take a stroll through the renovated Gibbes Museum of Art
  • Organize all my notes from the workshops I attended at the High Schools That Work conference onto Google Slides so I can present during one of our PD days next week.
  • Begin to set the alarm to acclimate body to waking up on a schedule again.
  • Schedule a time to finish watching Concussion, Cardiac Arrest and Heat Illness videos prior to starting Cross Country practice.
*whew* Didn't think it was a lot until I started putting it all down. Well, that's all for now. Not bad for a first #MTBOSBlaugust post :)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Welcome to my classroom blog! 

The new school year kicks off on Monday, 15 August! And I am looking forward to the journey we will undertake together. The summer has been productive. I have reflected on last year's units, attended the High Schools That Work conference in Kentucky, and participated in the Google Summit 2016 at Stall High School. Our class will be utilizing iPads (hopefully) every day as we will have our own class set this year. :)