Posts Tagged ‘Goals’

We did it!!!! Okay, now I am going to take a little more credit here and go ahead and say that I did it – and you all helped!! After 5 interviews at various schools in Chicago and Philly, I was offered a full-time position with a charter high school in northeast Philadelphia.

The school has block scheduling so at the semester point (January 23rd) students start new courses. This is a huge advantage for me as a new mid-year teacher because although I will be new to the school in January, I will be starting my classes from day one.

I have two blocks of track two 11th grade precalculus and two half blocks of 12th grade remediation/consumer math. I am extremely excited to have both of these courses because I get to have college bound students and most likely non-college bound students. I student taught a section of Business Math for the lowest track of seniors and had a lot of trouble and fun getting to know and work with these students. I also had a lot of disciplinary trouble – but hey, what’s the fun in working in an urban environment if the students won’t keep you on your toes? I am also pumped to work with precalculus students because I want to push myself at challenging students more often and making sure I am contributing to them becoming college successful.

So now, I enter my plea. What do I need to bring to my new classroom? I mean that both physically and emotionally/mentally. What types of things should be on the wall, on my desk? What should be around to keep me organized? What should be photocopied and what types of procedures and routines should we do everyday – at least consistently in the beginning to start (i.e. warm-up/bell work sheets, exit ticket sheets)? What do I say on the first day? Should I have an icebreaker – I saved this post from Kate Nowak a while ago and really enjoyed her idea. What type of paper gradebook system should I use (my friend prints an excel file for the week and uses a clipboard, I was using a floppy binder with a month of grades and filling in…)? Mathy McMatherson offered this link about getting organized with a lot of feedback on these questions as well.

What questions am I forgetting to ask?

And most importantly (obviously).. do I need to change the scope of my blog from a pre-service, cuz folks… I’m a teacher now!

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After some thought I’ve decided to do quiz corrections during 5th period tomorrow instead of teaching something new. Someone told me about setting up groups of same ability level instead of putting higher abilities with lower abilities. This will prevent that one student who is doing better than the others from dominating or getting bored. I was debating creating groups based on the questions they got wrong and student attitudes/participation.

I’m going to use the form below, adapted (but mostly stolen) from Tina C (the original can be found here).

Depending on how well that goes during 5th period I may do the same in 7th period also. However two students did receive A’s in 7th period, so hopefully I can use them to go around and help their peers (or should I put them in a group…?). Unfortunately, both of those students are extremely quiet and might not want to do that so we’ll just have to see.

During 8th period (honors) we will move on and quiz corrections will be an optional out of class assignment. I will start the “unit” on estimation. As I explained this is mainly teaching students how to handle standardized test questions that look like this: Estimate 824,123 x 124 = 800,00 x 100. As suggested I think I will research some population facts/number figures about Philadelphia, our school, iPhone/texting, sneakers, etc.  That will lead to basic estimation and then we will move onto operations with estimation.

One way I am going try to bring grades up for those failing students is a lot more practice. Since students tend to not do H.W. at my school I need to figure out a way to incorporate more practice into the classroom. I thought I was doing this but apparently not enough. I am also going to look into some puzzle/joke worksheets, although they are corny maybe students are more likely to do those then just a bunch of random problems and word problems. I found this which I prefer over something like this  and then Wednesday (or Thursday) we will do the Pi/Circumference Project which will lead us into our next “unit” of area/perimeter/circumference (yes, thank you test prep book for making that one little section – oy).

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I need a new plan for Monday

There are so many little things that matter in teaching that I knew but didn’t really know. One of those things is homework; assignment, collection, grading, and answer checking. Another is warm-ups/do-nows because for some reason in my mind they go hand in hand.

At my school students are not used to having homework. They have become accustomed to 5-10 extra minutes at the end of class that is optional time to do homework (or hell it’s just not assigned at all). All last week when I was passing out worksheets (remember they don’t have textbooks to take home) the moaning and groaning was louder than any participation or disrespectful name calling I’d heard all day! But here’s the issue with homework – they copy, they cheat or they don’t do it. I realize none of this is in my control exactly but I’m wondering if I can provide meaningful incentive to complete this (hey, like knowledge?! no, bad – that’s bitter).

Since Monday is a new week I was hoping that I could start with new routines, expectations and goals since this past week I’ve been throwing together random routine ideas and seeing what works. I observed another teacher who collects homework, grades for completeness and returns the next day. She also has 4 problems very similar to the assignment on the board as a warm-up. Students complete the warm-up each day, go over the answers as a class and on Friday turn in their sheet with all their days work for credit, “Easy points to earn, easy points to lose.”

I have been putting warm-ups on the board but they do not always lend to the previous nights lesson (for example, does my text message count as a warm-up?).  Also, I have not been asking students to complete these for credit and I’m wondering if that would increase the number of students actually doing it. I don’t want to impose points on the warm-up to set these kids up to fail or to threaten them and I’m not sure if credit is enough incentive anyway (But maybe worth a shot!).

The procedure I’ve been implementing is taken directly from Mr. M. I have students do whatever I have up on the board while I go around and check the homework for completeness, not correctness. The problem with this is I do not get to see the common mistakes, I do not get to see what is tripping up every single student and I’m wasting time by going around to each student and marking done or not done. Plus, the last kid I check always gets more time to scribble some stuff down and make it look like he’s done his homework (I watch them do this). Then I’ll go over the warm-up or ask about homework questions. This whole procedure seems like a time-killer and ineffective. I read this post by square root of negative one about homework and providing solution banks to students and I think she’s onto something.

So basically this is what I want:

  • Meaningful homework assignments that are used as practice and assigned almost every night (Do you give homework on Fridays?)
  • A fair way to grade homework that allows students to get credit for effort and allows me to identify common misconceptions
  • A meaningful warm-up – NOT busy work so that I can finish checking homework. I don’t know if I want it graded or not.

One thing I was thinking for a “warm-up”  for this upcoming week is a challenging root/irrational problem to put on Monday’s do now and have the kids work on it every day for the first 5 minutes and get further and further as we move along in the unit. They would use what we’re doing in class each day to help them get closer on the warm-up the next morning. But to grade it, not to grade it… oy vey…

Most importantly I would love to outline my routines and expectations on Mondays so these kids can kvetch when I hand out homework but already know it’s coming. I don’t want to surprise them with challenging do-nows and I don’t want to collect homework one day and not the next. I really want to provide them with structure.

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I took on 3 classes yesterday and… I survived!!!!! Now if you follow me on twitter you do know I made the small error of writing in sharpie on the white board but beside that things went really well. I used this exponent lesson from misscalcul8 (which was adapted from this by Sean Sweeney). It went great except for a few hiccups.

Students really resisted the “guess your answer” part of the worksheet. I knew students would probably not remember the properties but I assumed that after guessing and working with the numbers they might recall a few things  from their Algebra 1 days (last year!).  However they felt uncomfortable using any prior knowledge, number sense, or general guessing to come up with an answer. Many times as I was walking around the room I heard “I’m stuck” on that part – which was bananas because kids could literally put BANANAS and not be wrong. It makes me really sad that kids are SO scared of math that they won’t even put pen to paper in fear of failure (or maybe I’m reading too much into it).  This really opened my eyes to some general goals I want to have with these students.

  • Become a critical thinker – learn how to be creative, take advantage of things you know, write down what you’re given, make the problem simpler, find an alternative way to solve something, construct the solution before knowing the formula/rule and general strategies to solving more challenging problems
  • Have more fun with math! Most of the students seemed so hesitant about guessing; usually when I won’t guess it’s because I’m scared to be wrong. I really want to show them that great success can come out of failure.
  • Provide meaningful work. So many handouts, homework assignments and lectures are based on busy work. I want to make math relevant and meaningful not just in the classroom but at home. I want these kids to find value in math and notice it around them.

I asked my co-op about the inability to guess/link prior knowledge and he explained that, “The students here only do well if  they completely understand what they are doing.” Let me dissect this a little bit for you all; “Do well” means work quietly and efficiently on what’s assigned and “completely understand” translates to replicate the example problems left on the board. I’m sorry – but that’s not thinking, hell that’s not even doing math. When I was having a conversation with the department head about the scary seniors (a post for another time) he responded the exact same way. The only way to “control” them is to give them something they understand. They don’t like to struggle, they don’t want to be wrong, they only regurgitate information which is why they don’t retain it. And that is exactly why we have spent 6 days covering chapter 1 sec 1 and 2.

It’s going to be important for me to walk the fine line between struggle and frustration with these kids and I know that’s going to take a lot of trial and error as a new teacher. I read these posts  by @delta_dc on gradual release of responsibility and I think this is the type of model I may want to begin with to get them more comfortable with individual discovery. He wrote about students constantly seeking help from the teacher and backing off and noticing the frustration on the kids face. Let’s just say this – I’m known for being the bitch tutor who won’t give you the answer when you ask the first time, I will always say TRY SOMETHING. But, I need to be careful not to frustrate them so much that they turn off, shut down and put their heads on their desks. I also don’t want to remove all the struggle (hey, that’s using the brain!) so like I said, trial and error. I’m going to aim for engagement, strong worksheets/supplementary material, and reading up on GRR and other methods some more!

Anyway, I literally went to bed at 7pm last night but it’s worth it – I’M FINALLY TEACHING!

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So what did I want to do so far and what have I actually done?

What I’ve set out to do (thanks to my school’s orientation and  Jason for setting my expectations really high for my co-op. I really thought we’d be doing icebreakers and learning where I’d get an opportunity to do these things):

  • Introduce myself, preferably actually doing this myself instead of having Mr. M introduce me to each class. This was recommended during orientation to help students see that as a student teacher I still have my own voice in the classroom.
  • Start to learn names. I am EXTREMELY good at names so I figured by Friday I could have all the kids names down.
  • Do teacher-like things. Another recommendation given i.e. hand out papers, write on the whiteboard, etc. Don’t let myself just sit at the back of the room and then one day start appearing at the front of the room as their new teacher
  • Look the part – dress professionally and look like a teacher!
  • Start meeting other people in the building. I’ve been working at this school for a year but really only know a few teachers and administrators, I really want to get used to introducing myself to staff around the building.
  • Be teachable. My co-op is retiring (have I mentioned this enough?), he’s taught for about 37 years and is DONE. He doesn’t plan lessons, he isn’t student centered/creative *anymore*, and he’s really just getting by. He’s really nice, warm and funny but he’s also super lax on rules, management, and overall everything. But what does he have that I don’t – a SHITLOAD OF EXPERIENCE. I may not be able to learn the best do-nows and activities from this dude but I need to remain teachable.

What I’ve actually done:

  • I introduced myself to the 5 out of 6 classes – pretty good! I actually know about 20-30 of the students spread out over the 6 periods so it’s nice to see familiar faces. Although those students do call me Ms. Molly from being their after school tutor and I’m not sure if I should be correcting them to call me Ms. P now.
  • I really only started to learn names in the first period class. This is really unfortunate for several reasons – one being I’m going to start teaching classes on Monday and I don’t have a good grasp on more than 5 names a class period. Since my co-op has had them all already he does not call roll and just checks their names off silently so it’s been really hard to learn those students names . PLUS these kids friggin mumble. In the first period we had an extra long class the first day so I went around and asked each of them their names and voila – I learned them all already. My new plan (and all suggestions welcome from here) is to photocopy the new seating chart and just memorize the names/faces/seats tomorrow and Friday. I’ve also been asking students who arrive early (like 2, these kids are late for every period its wild) what their names are and that helps also.
  • Now.. teacher-like things did not happen for me today. Aim for tomorrow? It’s really hard actually since I am observing right now to stay busy and look teacherly. I think it will help once Mr.M actually starts teaching material – maybe he’ll have students working out of the book and I can go around and answer questions. Like I said, he’s very teacher-centered so I’m excited to get my hands on his senior courses it’s all “practical math” – salaries, checking, taxes, etc. Suggestions?
  • Dressing up? check check check. A student even said today “Hell, she looks more professional than Mr. M” Score.
  • I’ve been forcing myself to shake hands with other people in the elevator and then if I don’t know their subject make sure I ask Mr.M what they teach and so on. I even asked Mr. M if he wouldn’t mind introducing me to other teachers if the opportunity arose – and then later than afternoon the fire alarm went off (not a drill, this is gonna be a fun school year) and SHABAM he introduced me to a ton of other teachers around the building. I also met a few other math teachers and the dept head who said I am welcome to come and observe their classes next week.
  • And finally… being teachable. I really wanted my first class to be one of the seniors since I think the math their doing could be so much fun and they look so bored and disruptive like they’re just itching for some activities and hands-on math. But almost all of them have IEPS and Mr.M classifys them as “trouble” and “bad” and blah blah and really wanted me to take his Honors juniors test prep so that I would have “Good” first experience. So that was my remaining teachable moment for the day – I listened.

Scariest moment of the day? Winding down a fire escape built in the 1800s with 630 students from the 9th floor – I really did see my life flash before my eyes. Happiest moment of the day? A student called out to me “Ms. P!” during the fire fiasco, at first I didn’t turn, and then I did, and it was cool. I also made a pretty good turkey, hummus, cheese, lettuce and dijon mustard sandwich so that was definitely a plus for the day.

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