Friday, January 6, 2017

Day in the Life: Expanded Version (December 2016 & January 2017)

Wednesday, 6 December 2016 & Friday, 6 January 2017
Fourth & Fifth Monthly Post/Reflection
Extended Version

I had started a post last month, saved it, and planned on completing it to post before the end of the month when I was on winter break. Unfortunately, I ended up taking the two weeks totally off from anything school related. Usually I try to grade some papers, update grades, and put together upcoming lesson plans. In the past, I can get at least two units together. In past years, I have even stayed late the day before the break to tidy up my room or catch up with other colleagues I don't see regularly who are also staying late.

This year, every one was ready to go the minute the last cadet departed the building. It was a rough couple of weeks. We didn't even have our usual Kick-off To Winter Break Pep Rally for cadets to unwind the last hour before they departed. Actually we have had no pep rallies of any kind this year and as far as I know none have been scheduled for this year. Unfortunately this is not fair to our high school cadets since I remember pep rallies being a fun part of my high school experience. Sadly, our administration feels that all events during the school day must include both the middle and high school sections.

For my two week down-time, I spent it doing the following activities:

  1. Turning off my alarm and sleeping in until 8am most days. Few days I did get up at 7am because I went to the gym or I needed to run an errand.
  2. Reading! I completed several books - “Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond” by Sonia Shah, “Death without Company: Walt Longmire Mystery #2″ and "Kindness Goes Unpunished: Walt Longmire Mystery #3" by Craig Johnson; and “The Adventure of the Six Napoleans” by Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. TV Binge watch: This is Us (ABC), Lethal Weapon (FOX), The OA (Netflix), How to Get Away With Murder (ABC), Miranda (BBC via Hulu), Shut Eye (Hulu), Chance (Hulu), and Top Chef: Charleston (which was filmed right here in town over the summer)(Bravo)
  4. Finally made it to the Gibbes Art Museum downtown to see the Guggenheim Exhibit. And it did not disappoint! It centered around Non-objective artwork from Kandinsky, Bauer, Picasso, Chagall, Seurat, Leger, Modigliani, and Delaunay. Also discovered the Gibbes has a fantastic permanent collection. Will be going back for more exhibits later this year. 
  5. Saw "Star Wars: Rogue One" opening night. I'm an old school Star Wars geek (being 46 and having seen the original trilogy first run and in its original format not with the later enhancements). It was amazing and had many call-backs to the original Star Wars movie. 
We came back to school on Monday, 2 January 2017. Over the past 5 days, we've had two different schedules. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we were on our normal operating schedule; each class I had was 50 minutes plus a lunch period of 35 minutes and a 45 minute planning. 

The last two days we have had an Semester 1 Exam Schedule so the high school semester classes can have extended classes for exams. I had 1st, 2nd, 3rd periods for 50 minutes then 6th period came to me for a whooping 30 minutes followed by my 50 minute planning period and an extended 7th grade lunch period of 50 minutes then my final two class periods of the day (7th and 8th period) for 50 minutes. I asked the assistant principal if she could possibly take some time off of the lunch period so that 7th graders could have a 50 minute 6th period. The cadets only take about 10 minutes to eat and use the rest of the time to play on their phones or horseplay around the cafeteria. All the other middle school grades had 50 minutes per academic class. But I was informed that while I may feel my class period is important, she (the assistant principal) had to meet the needs of the whole school first and that it just was not going to be possible to fix. So my 6th period will lose 100 minutes of instruction. Thankfully they are an adaptable group and we've been able to cover the objective in an abbreviated lesson format. So needless to say, 2017 is continuing the chaos from 2016. 

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. 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? 

December 2016: Whenever I need to try something out on the iPads, I use my second period all boys 7th grade class. They have a mix of ability levels and I can use their feedback to tweak the activity for other class periods. We've been using Kahoot a lot and I've been looking for something different to shake things up. It was suggested by one of my Digital Learning Instructors to try the Space Race option on the Socrative app (part of Mastery Connect). I put together the quiz this morning, mixing in homework problems and vocabulary. At first, they were disappointed that it wasn't Kahoot. Once they got started, it was a different story. They LOVED it! We discussed what they liked (competing against others/not knowing who was on your team) and what needed improvement (eliminate short answer questions/stick to multiple choice and true/false). They want to do another one tomorrow.

Today 2017: The whole day was not ideal. I spent most of the day dealing with behavior issues in every class period including those that are not normally an issue. And, yes, I did raise my voice more than normal. We even stopped class to review class rules and where to find them (on the front wall of the room) and what rewards/consequences for various actions. I even stated I'd move our test days next week from Wednesday/Thursday to Monday/Tuesday (for two periods this actually did succeed in calming them down enough to get through the material). I really do hate doing that and only use it as a last resort when all other persuasive measures fail.

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?

December 2016: Based on how well cadets responded to the Socrative app, I incorporated that into unit assessment. They took a 10 multiple-choice response quiz on the iPads one day, then I gave them a paper test the next day. The paper test was a collection of nine word problems and several bonus problems. The cadets selected three word problems they felt they could complete the best for credit. The bonus problems were optional but highly encouraged. I also let them use their notebooks as a reference if they got stuck on anything. This method actually worked well for their assessment on Two-Step Equations. The cadets said they liked having a choice in what word problems to complete and that the iPad test provided them with an immediate final score. Depending on their overall scores we might use this method regularly.

Today 2017: We are going to use the above testing method next week for their Two-Step Inequae lity assessment. I did see an improvement in their test scores last time. I also saw an increase in their retention of the material from equations. It was nice to see. They were able to apply their understanding of the two-step process of equations to solve two-step inequalities. Of course, they struggled a bit with negative coefficients and reversing the inequality symbol for the solution. But most remembered how to graph inequality solution sets (when to use an open or closed circle and which way to draw the arrow from the circle on a number line). So I'm definitely looking forward to this assessment again.

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.

December 2016: A few days before break one of our middle school teachers went in for minor out-patient surgery and left packets of work to be completed by his students in his absence. The teacher and I are close friends and live in the same neighborhood. He asked me to collect all the student work from the sub before I departed for break and he (or his wife) would come by my house to pick it up over break. He has done the same for me so it felt good to return the favor.

Today 2017: We have two new teachers on our team. Over the past few days I have enjoyed assisting them in a variety of ways - from assisting in technology setup to discussing behavior intervention strategies for individual cadets to sharing bits of personal/professional stories. Both are fantastic additions to our team and hope they will be with us for many years to come.

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

Goal: Working towards a mathematical mindset. 
I feel like I am not making progress on this goal. However, that should change in a few weeks. On the 17th of January, we have a teacher workday for district professional development. I have signed up for a half day course on "Creating a Growth Mindset in Middle School Math Classrooms (7th Grade)." Next time I should have more to put here :)

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
Already shared in the opening paragraphs before my reflections.

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