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!

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