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 :)