Friday, April 7, 2017

Day in the Life: April 2017 Edition (A bit late)

Thursday, 6 April 2017
Seventh Monthly Reflection Post
Spring break is only 1 more day away!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I figure I better do this during my planning or it may not get done. We had severe thunderstorms move through the Charleston, South Carolina area yesterday so it forced our county-wide track and field meet to be consolidated on today (it was supposed to be yesterday and today). This will not leave time for me to complete this later on tonight as the meet will go until at least 10:00 pm.

I do have to post the last reflection piece as it was partially completed - just never posted. But that has been a trend this year - not enough time to do other pursuits - and the fact that I take on a lot of projects without really looking at how much time they will entail.

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?

A teacher move that I am proud of is bringing real-world sampling/polls into my Statistic unit - especially for my group of 2nd period 7th grade boys. They have done a phenomenal job at asking questions and challenging the data that they see in these polls. There are 16 of them - 8 Hispanic, 7 African-American, and 1 Caucasian student. The big topic since November has been the election. On Five-Thirty-Eight website, they have a poll about "How Popular/Unpopular is Donald Trump?." It is interactive and allows the user to switch between several different viewpoints: likely or registered voters, all adults, and both. Since the topic was sampling methods and statistical questions, the students asked how the data was collected and how many people where surveyed. When you scroll down the page, there is a list of all the different polling sites that contributed to the data (i.e., Gallup, Pew Research, CNN/Opinion, ABC News, CBS News), how many people were surveyed and the percentages from each poll that made up the line graph on top. We discussed if only 1500 people were surveyed via phone interview was that enough to reflect the feelings of everyone in the US population. This lead to how would we find out more about these polling sites and their methods. One student who normally sleeps through class actually stayed awake the entire class period as we discussed more about random and non-random sampling methods. He even had one of the most interesting questions - "Do we know what questions were asked in the phone interviews?" When I asked him to clarify, he said that he felt maybe the results could have been influenced one way or another by the tone of the questions. For a 7th grader, I found that pretty deep.

I bring the above up because today we again looked at how Gallup conducted a poll about Americans' feelings on the Affordable Care Act and what type of sampling was used. We again discussed how "random" was the method Gallup used - why did they use both cellphone and landline, why did they offer Spanish translation, where did they get their population from? The students were really good about answering the questions and connecting it to what we had learned in class. They also had a few questions of their own and one that sticks out was "if they are using cell phones/landlines, would that be unfair to people who are homeless?" A few went to the bottom of the page and highlighted the part where it stated "question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls." This brought the discussion full circle about how statistics can be misleading and even random sampling can still be biased. The students all stated that they enjoyed the discussions and it helped them to better understand the various sampling methods we needed to learn.

As far as not ideal, I can't think of one at this moment. It's too late in the year for me to try to second guess any decisions I make. All my classes will be done with the standards by this Friday when we go on Spring Break. Thus when we come back on the 15th, we can begin two weeks of solid review so they can be ready for the SC Ready Math Assessment on the 3rd of May.

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?

What I'm most looking forward to is Spring Break. And the best news we received today is that state standardized end-of-year testing will be pushed back a week! So instead of testing the week of 24 April, we will test the first week in May. This gives me at least 10 days to do review activities. It also allows more time for student reflection on their weaknesses and where they need to concentrate their review time on.
On the school side, we've been tasked to come up with a block schedule for the middle school next year. This has been something us middle school teachers have been wanting for several years and it looks like the administration has finally decided to allow it. It would be a modified schedule so that ELA and Math would see our classes every day. I would have only 3 preps and would more than likely be 6th grade Honors/Accelerated, 7th grade Pre-Algebra and 8th grade Algebra 1. The best part is that instead of having only 45 minutes per class (with 6 classes to teach) I would have 85 minutes! The students are not happy but I remind them that we could really dig into the material more if we had that time. We could integrate science, art, and social studies and explore how our math concepts cross over into those disciplines. Definitely something to look forward to next year (if they can work out a schedule that fits).
The challenge is going be keeping students on task this next month or so as we finish out the year. Many have already checked out as we started fourth quarter. I have over 15 students with a zero for a grade because they haven't done anything. Today we are going to try to get some of that to change as I give them some class time to complete any missing work. Not sure if it will work but I can at least say that I gave them the opportunity to make up the work during school.

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 colleagues choose me as Teacher of the Month - which is not something that has every happened. It was a pleasant surprise at our faculty meeting and it was nice to read several of the comments my colleagues wrote. I will post the picture of my door where the signs are posted later today.

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?

My goal was creating a mathematical mindset environment and I think I've done a better job at least with my 2nd period group of students. They are fantastic in asking questions that make me stop and think as well. I wish we had more time in class to explore many of the questions they pose.

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

I plan to catch up with this blog over Spring Break so I will be posting pictures of several activities we did in class that produced some pretty results.