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
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.