Year 5: Week 1

This week was our first week of school – but before it even began I wrote this email to my principal on Sunday afternoon as I was move furniture:

As you know, I’ve worked pretty consistently over the summer to prepare for the school year knowing that I’d have [four preps]. However, this weekend has made me realize that we don’t have enough ready for me teach four preps adequately and I am already overwhelmed. 

This work isn’t easy – but doing it from scratch and meeting my high expectations for what I can do and what my students deserve for four different courses feels impossible. Plus, the responsibility to simply become a better teacher by changing 10% of my practice as recommended by Steven Leinwand (PDF). Unless that 10% is creating everything from scratch but that feels more like changing 70+% of what I’ve got….

As a department of two, with a supportive and former math teacher as Principal, we decided to eliminate one section I had with 8 students and split up our section of Algebra II into two classes of about 15 (it took us a week to figure out the logistics for the schedule and what course to split).
Good news: the other teacher in my department is experienced in Alg. 2 and I’m not. I also taught almost all of the students coming into my class on Monday. I also think that this decision helps the most students possible be successful this year.
Bad news: I still have four preps and might still feel overwhelmed.

While I predicted being overwhelmed and getting crazy confused with an intense schedule, I didn’t struggle this week as much as I thought. It might have been because after two days we knew that my first hour would be dissolved so I wasn’t nearly as concerned about it being perfect as other courses.

Algebra 1 in Summary: I spent two days building culture and routines. Students in my last period of the day were exhausted and I could not get them to talk to each other – until we got to content where I heard some whispers. The room was finally buzzing with conversations when we pulled out Desmos and worked with Function Carnival on Friday. Finally – mathematical conversations were happening! Hopefully these conversatiosn continue in less “exciting” tasks we work on.

My biggest concern in Algebra 1: I noticed by Thursday that almost all or at least a majority of the students who are participating/volunteering in class are the boys (a majority of both sections are boys). Spending the summer working with girls in the CompuGirls program with ASU has made me acutely aware of gender gaps in STEM education. I need to put structures in place to make sure their voices are heard and they feel supported to share. Secondary concern: Continuing to piecemeal a curriculum together from the interwebz – cause it isn’t what is best for students long term – I’ll reflect on that down that road later.

Statistics in Summary: After building culture and reading a syllabus, and introducing accountability structures about graduation, I had students create visual representations from our class survey and work on a simple M&M task. I mostly had these planned as “first week filler” in case schedules changed – which they did. However, I got to use it as a formative assessment of student understanding of statistics and how they chose to represent data. I got questions like “How do you make a percent again?” and I saw graphs with wacky scales. Super useful information on where to begin my work with them – and super useful graphs and experiences to reference later in the year.

My biggest concern in Statistics: Uh…this is a new course so what concerns me is finding a balance to make it work and not be boring. And, implementing technology that I’m barely familiar with is, as always, a concern and we’ll be using it a lot.

AP Calculus in Summary:   I’m fortunate to have taught these 20 kids last spring, but we didn’t spend any time building culture and getting to know each other. So, we spent three days doing that this week. It was enjoyable, fun and nice to ease into the course during the week. I’ve also implemented an accountability system.

Evidence: As we reviewed our syllabus I got these pictures as part of our summary that could only include 5 words and pictures:

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My biggest concern in Calculus: Flipping my class is off to a pretty strong start – but it will be time consuming. I believe this is what is best (saving the fun investigating for class of course) and class thus far has been much more engaging than in the past and focused exclusively on math instead of notes.

Algebra 2: Oh boy….we’ll think about this again next week.

On the bloggy side of life: I’ll be blogging more this year as a push to reflect more and add to our #MTBoS community. I’ve also pushed myself to become a part of the “Day in the Life” book team to help give myself and teachers a voice about what its like to be an educator. I’m hoping that the project forces me to not only be a better teacher, but by making days of my life completely public to make my life a little better and much more balanced – which needs to be a priority this year or I fear it could be my last in the classroom.


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