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#DITL – June 8th

This is my final monthly post for the Day in the Life series of the 2016-2017 school year. Enjoy.

Today is Thursday June 8th. Since May, I’ve accepted a new teaching position in a different district at a title 1 school in Scottsdale Arizona. Over two-thirds of the staff are new to the school for the next year, so they are having pre summer training and today is the last day for that pre-summer work.

5:30 – Wake up and read for 40 minutes. Summer is an amazing thing since I don’t have to rush to prepare anything for the morning. After, I got ready for work and left my house at 7:35.

7:50 – arrive at school and head to the meeting room. I’ve intentionally been sitting with new people every day to try to meet as many people as possible and today was no exception. I join a math teacher, even though I’m teaching a ninth-grade transition course instead of math.

8:15 PD Begins by some of the veteran staff in the building sharing the traditions and clubs of the school. Coronado High is the largest school I have taught in by at least 300 students and have traditions and school spirit unmatched. I really appreciated hearing about what happens on campus and what they have valued before. I know that with so many new faces finding ways to get all the teachers on the same page with the school culture will be essential in the coming year.

8:55 – Our next session begins on PLCs and setting norms for those. We started with another whole school ice breaker, since our facilitator was new to us for the day. I was hired after the first day of PD a week ago so this was a nice chance to hear a little bit about some of the staff while they heard a little about me. we got dove into setting norms. What I know could have taken 20 minutes tops took us over an hour – the most frustrating part of the week.

10:00 Technology training. My new district has numerous tech coaches and they came into give us training on various online resources to implement in our classes in the fall. Two big problems from my perspective: 1) No one has yet described the technology available and how frequent we’ll have access to it so I have no idea how much is feasible to plan with 2) I don’t have an employee ID because I was hired a week ago and haven’t yet talked to HR so I don’t have a laptop, access to any district websites or the ability to use the wifi at the school…so I followed along on my phone but that’s as much as I could interact.

 

11:30 PD Ends. I get my classroom keys and go check out my room. It has two whiteboards, a window, carpet, a half-circle table and a phone. Oh, the “luxuries” I’ve not had in forever/ever. In that never category, this will be my first year with a phone in my room and real whiteboardsIt’s the little things, y’all. I noticed that there’s a ton of storage too – which will be so nice instead of my last system of boxes on boxes in the back corner. However, there were only a dozen to twenty desks and my classes will certainly be larger than that. I’ll check in with maintenance after summer school and the year begins.

12:00 I stopped by the library because the staff had donated new shirts for new teachers to have and wear on spirit days (a super kind gesture). After finding one from a golf tournament 4 years ago, I checked in with the librarian who gave me the low down of the history of the school, what technology we have and the resources that were used in the transition class before. This conversation was super enlightening about the context I’l be entering, but wish everyone had heard AND that it was earlier in our week, instead of initiated by me on my own time.

I left campus and grabbed a quick snack for lunch (I was planning on heading home but instead talked to the librarian for a little too long to make that happen)

1:00 I met with my principal – who is also new to the school. He and I talked about the course and what curricula was used before, the vision for the transition course, and his long term vision for students. We think that in the past this course was not taught with fidelity and students weren’t helped as much as possible in their transition into high school. We’re hoping that my experience and work on this will push more students to be supported and successful in their first year in high school.

I headed home and took a nap, because it is summer.

4:00 I started mentoring with the local Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter and went to their office to pick up tickets for a baseball game on Sunday. I then headed to the mall, walked around in their glorious air-conditioning and watched Wonder Woman. I think it is one of the, if not the, best super hero movie out 🙂

7:45 I arrived at home, ate dinner and the next episode of The Handmaid’s Tale. I tried to coordinate an outing with a couple former students the next day – but planning with teenagers is like herding cats. When I went to bed we still didn’t have a strong plan but we’ll figure it out tomorrow morning.

9:30 Bed time 🙂

Reflection Questions:

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?

My proudest moment today is choosing to put myself out of my comfort zone by sitting with new people and chatting with the librarian so early in my tenure. I could have done the easy, comfortable thing and stuck by myself but I know that isn’t what is best for me at my new school.

 

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?

Next week I’m headed home to see family and friends – and I coordinated to stay through Father’s day. It’ll be the first time our whole family is together in a long time for that 🙂

My biggest challenge was securing my new job. I found a lot of doors closed to me because I don’t have a masters and was looking to get out of the classroom. I know that I am capable of doing any of the jobs I applied for – but I’m not a competitive candidate on paper. Even though this next opportunity will be good, it isn’t perfect.

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.

I think my strongest moment was intentionally seeking out and listening to the librarian. Her stories and knowledge will definitely be a resource this coming year. I was so relieved that she was so helpful.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.

Now that the year is over let’s see what happened with these:

  1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    1. I did not survive well enough and feel good enough about my future work environment to stay at my previous school. Even though spring was better than fall, I checked out in an attempt to recover and take back the time I had lost.
      Grade: C I think it isn’t my fault because I’m not superman and you had to be to get something more than this.
  2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    1. I did this a little more over the final weeks of school, but still need to intentionally plan this daily.
      Grade: B- When I did it, closure helped students. It just didn’t happen enough or be routine enough to help students as much as possible.
  3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
    1. My evaluator thinks I do this well. I don’t see it but maybe I have much higher expectations for myself. Maybe if I were to see another classroom on a regular basis I would be able to give myself a better grade/performance evaluation
      Grade: B It happened according to the outsiders, but in my own eyes it could have been more.

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

I wrote this at the end of my March 8th post:

I keep debating if I’m meant to be in this profession much longer. I keep waffling, but I have recently decided I’ll be back for year six. Much beyond that is about finding a way to make this career sustainable because right now it is not.

I wrote this in May:

All the problems I had in this job were solvable and created by poor leadership decisions at a district level and a toxic political environment that has politicians believe that anyone can do this job and that we aren’t worth being paid a living wage. I wonder what would happen if we had well informed legislators making decisions…

Since then, I’ve come to the realization that I had in March – I don’t feel that this profession is best for me. As I decided not to return, I have applied to and enrolled in graduate school at Arizona State University for Education Policy. My bachelor’s degree is in Political Science and I’m passionate about education – this degree and future career path makes much more sense long term than what I’ve been doing. It combines both of my passions into something I think will be much more sustainable for me long term. Teaching is so important – you have the future in front of you every day and I take that call sometimes a little too seriously for my own good.

I think this year has been an incredibly challenging time professionally – which impacted me so much personally to the point that I was neither healthy or the person I wanted to be. Once I get my degree in two years, I’ll be leaving the classroom. My dreams for the past 11 years weren’t to be a teacher – they were to be a policy wonk. Time take my own advice – I’m beginning to follow my dreams and see where they lead.

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#DITLife: Monday, May 8th

You may have noticed that I didn’t write for April or about parent teacher conferences and that was an intentional choice – at that time I decided not to return to my school and most of what I would have had to say would have been raw and not appropriate to share in this forum. Bureaucracy has made me leave my school – and most likely the classroom.

Back to our regularly scheduled saga of what a day looks like.

We have less than 20 days left until the end of the year…and summer can’t come fast enough.

5:45 Wake up and get ready to roll time, by 6:40 I was out on the road and once at school I went to the copiers and made my worksheets for Algebra 1 and attempted to find my review packet for AP Calculus.

7:30 Today began teacher appreciation week and today we were treated with doughnuts and coffee. I shouldn’t have either (caffine makes me jittery) but I can’t resist free stuff :p

7:45: Precalculus begins. Students are working on projects researching the tax code, making piecewise functions and determining taxes for various incomes. Its a pretty intense project but I intentionally want them to dig into the IRS forms to show that they aren’t very scary and accessible (even though we don’t talk about taxes besides getting rid of the notion that moving up a bracket makes all your income taxed at the higher bracket). While most students were good to go on their own, one student was recently involved in a scooter accident and out of class for a week. I worked with him, caught him up and modified the assignment so he would be able to complete it in the time we had left to complete the task. Luckily, he’s a hard worker and was able to finish a majority of the modified task in the period.  Somewhere in class, I spilled my coffee and made the remark “That’s why I shouldn’t have coffee”…whoops.

8:51 My first algebra class began with working to review multiplying binomials to prepare on learning completing the square to solve quadratics. Since it was a review of one of the first skills we learned in August, I was monitoring student work and grading work as they finished. At the end of class, I gave an assessment to grade because so many students were rocking the task and I wanted to have something to put in the gradebook to reflect their knowledge from the day.

9:56 In AP Calculus I’ve had my class of 15 tiered into two groups for almost a month. The four students taking the AP Calculus Exam the next day worked on customized review questions based on what they wanted to review. I was able to give each personal feedback and get them some personal love before the test. This split class has been a great way to address individual misconceptions and prepare the few students taking the exam more adequately than working whole class with the time left. I ended with a confidence pep talk about how hard they’ve worked and that they’ll be fine.  While we haven’t had much success in the past, this group of students is the best prepared yet so I think we’ll have better scores than last year. Other students worked on their final projects – creating a children’s book that taught a Calculus.

Lunch time: I chatted with my lunch buddy in the work room about planning  a teacher camping trip in the coming weeks. Then, we moved our conversation to the 9th graders – we both have noticed an unparalleled measure of apathy and laziness that dramatically impacts our classes. We haven’t found anything all year to make students consistently produce work – and with just 3 weeks left both the students and teachers are tired.

Advisory: For each individual 10th grade boy, I made a “grade predictor” that showed what grades they have and what they need to score on their final to get the desired final grade in the course. Some conversations were awesome – you only need a 70% to get an A in 4 of your classes YAY YOU! Other conversations were more challenging – you cannot pass two of your classes no matter what….so what are we going to do? Those conversations were rough, but I think necessary to try to adjust focus where passing is still possible.

12:00 4th Hour: Algebra 1. This class has a large group of students with IEPs in it. My coteacher and I finally figured out their special sauce – split them up into two smaller groups as much as possible. After doing a quick review, my coteacher took 5 of our 18 kids to another room and I worked with the rest by walking around, playing jams and checking work as students finished. It was a really productive day since more people were able to be focused in class instead of being distracted by each other.

1:01  On my planning period, I worked to find a worksheet on an introduction to limits for Precalculus and I wrote a worksheet to introduce the first steps to competing the square since I couldn’t find anything scaffolded to help students like I wanted. After school today, I had an interview for a position as a Coach with the Arizona Charter School Association and had to present a 12 minute PD session in it. I miscalculated how much time I needed to practice for the interview and just wrapped up a few minutes before my last class began.

2:06 Algebra 1: This is my smallest class and today they were crazy squirrely. I had two students show up late (for no reason) and students kept talking and chatting with each other during our brief review. I gave out lots of consequences to students – which wasn’t ideal and clearly negative but I’ve gotta teach. Like my other algebra sections, I let students handle most of the work while I walked around with my dinosaur stamp and checked for accuracy. However, unlike in my other classes, I had a few students that were not making any progress by choice – even with reminders to get on task (reminding me of the conversation I had at lunch about apathy).

3:10 After school I clean up my room from nerves then hang out with the counselor and the Principal at the front desk to make sure everything is ready for AP testing tomorrow. They know their stuff so of course everything is ready. I made some final copies for my interview and then left for my interview at 3:45.

Traffic sucks and I’m spoiled by avoiding highways on the way to work.

4:30 My interview for the coaching positon begins with my PD session, followed by a feedback session for a lesson we saw. I think I did the best I could and left confident that there was nothing I could have done differently, so regardless of if I’m offered the job I’m satisified with my performance.

5:30 On the road, and happy with my work, I stopped by one of my favorite local places in Phoenix to eat – a fast-casual eatery like Chipotle but serves enchiladas instead. Once at home at 7, I chatted with some folks about my interview and how it went. I spent some time on the couch mindlessly watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.

8:50 I remember I planned on baking muffins for my Calculus kiddos for their test…so I begin baking banana muffins.

10:00 Muffins done. I’m done. Bed time.

 

Reflection Questions:

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?

 

My “best” teacher move of the day was working to modify the student’s work who was absent for a week from class. Chatting with him and not making the assignment an extra burden was the least I could do for his situation.

My worst teacher move was clearly how I handled my rowdy end of day class – it wasn’t what I want my classroom to be. But today…that’s what it was.

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?

 

The greatest challenge has been working with my advisory and sharing amazing moments with them over the past weeks while knowing I’m leaving and they don’t yet. Its hard to bear that, but its probably best.

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.

 

Since deciding to no longer work at my current school, my principal has been gracious and amazing as I figure out what my next steps are. I truly appreciate the kindness she’s had during this transition and know how much she values me as a person and as an employee.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  

  1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    1. That first part I’m good with. Do a good job? I don’t think it is possible to do the best job given the resources I have and what I’m asked to do. And that’s a main reason I’m leaving – when I asked for help and explicit actions nothing was done to ease the burden and make sure next year was better than this one.
  2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    1. This hasn’t happened in awhile…and I’ve started to notice that it is being detrimental to student learning. However, this does reaffirm the need for closing out lessons for students in my future classroom.
  3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
    1. Overall this year, I think it has professionally been a wash. While occasionally I made progress, I couldn’t personally sustain the energy to implement a new tool with fidelity long enough to make it a part of my practice. This career isn’t easy – and anyone who thinks so is sorely misinformed.

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

I wrote this at the end of my March 8th post:

I keep debating if I’m meant to be in this profession much longer. I keep waffling, but I have recently decided I’ll be back for year six. Much beyond that is about finding a way to make this career sustainable because right now it is not.

All the problems I had in this job were solvable and created by poor leadership decisions at a district level and a toxic political environment that has politicians believe that anyone can do this job and that we aren’t worth being paid a living wage. I wonder what would happen if we had well informed legislators making decisions…

Math in the Mountains: Twitter, Teaching & Growth – Session Resources

Hey y’all:
Below are links to information I talked about in the session Twitter, Teaching & Growth: The Math-Twitter-Blog-O-Sphere at the Math in the Mountains Conference in Flagstaff on May 6, 2017. If you’d like a copy of the slides let me know and I can post that as well. Easiest way to contact me with questions, shout-outs or ways to improve is on twitter (@JakeWinfield)

An Intro into the MTBoS:

ExploreMTBOS: Missions & Blog prompts to become acquainted with the MTBoS
Twitter Math Camp: The home page for the best math PD on the planet, Twitter Math Camp
Global Math Department: A group of teachers who meet weekly online to attend PD together and learn from one another

My favorite MTBoS Resources:

Estimation 180: Pictures of various estimations to build number sense.
Which one doesn’t belong: Groups of four images and students answer the seemingly simple question: Which one does not belong?
The MTBoS Search Engine: A quick way to dig in and find resources or ideas from the entire math blog’osphere.
Table Talk Math: A book about discussing math with your little ones that I mentioned in our session today.
3 Act Math: Spreadsheet of 3 act math lessons (Background & “facilitation guide” here)
Desmos: The online graphing calculator (Teacher site with activities)
Visual Patterns: Oodles of beautiful patterns for students to dive into and explore. (We didn’t talk about this in our session today)

Dive in, enjoy and everyone will be glad to help you out if you have questions. Just reach out with #MTBoS on twitter  🙂

What’s Next?

Today, as usual on a Sunday, I went to a coffee shop to do work and plan for the week ahead. Three hours later and I have 0 out of 15 lessons planned for this week.
 
Instead, I’ve been reading about the president’s most recent actions to create a ban on Muslims entering the USA. I decided that I will not go down on the wrong side of history and I must act – it is what is right. Instead of planning lessons, I’ve reached out to volunteer my time to support undocumented youth with a local organization, like some of those I’ll teach tomorrow morning. I have made a list of talking points to talk to my Senator tomorrow morning and will challenge him to do more. (Want to make a call? Here’s a list of contact information). If that call goes into class time, so be it – I will be heard. My students will then clearly know where I stand, if they didn’t already. 
I teach more than math. I work so that every child can have an excellent education and future in the USA. Everyone is welcome in my classroom, regardless of gender, race, religion or immigration status. There is no hate allowed though, only love for each other. If only the people in the Oval Office had the same philosophy…

My question

A few weeks ago I couldn’t sleep because I had a cup of coffee the day before, so I watched the CMCNorth Keynote from Dan Meyer, Shira Helft, Juana de Anda and Fawn Nguyen. Their main call to action was: What is your question that keeps you working in education? What are you striving to be an expert at?

At 4 am, I didn’t have a great answer or immediate answer, but later it wasn’t just in the early hours of the morning – I didn’t have a guiding question for my growth this year. My first years in the classroom, most of my questions were about the day to day functionality of the work, but now I’ve passed that as a measurement of growth. I’ve selected goals that seem important (increasing engagement and closure in lessons) but I couldn’t tell you why those fit into a bigger picture of my work. I flipped my classroom with a purpose of having more time in class…but what would that time be used for? I didn’t have a clear answer.

In part, I’ve been looking for quick success like I’ve had before, but these goals don’t yield quick changes in my classroom – and I hadn’t realized that until after a conversation with our CEO/superintendent. Flipping my class is a long term solution and shift  – but I need something more immediate to push myself forward.

Still, even after I realized what I was working on was more ambitious than a 6 to 12 month time frame, I hadn’t figured out my question. I thought about listing all of the ones in my head, but that didn’t happen during finals week. This week on my time off I met up with an old friend and through our conversation about student performance I saw on exams I realized the question I’ve been unconsciously thinking of and working towards:

How do students best communicate their knowledge with others?

In the past, I’ve focused on this a little and I feel like it is important to me – I keep coming back to variations of it every year but don’t make great gains. It is also something I don’t see a simple MTBoS search finding strong solutions to. I don’t see represented in student work I ask for or receive when I clearly ask for it. A piece of paper with an equation solved and answer boxed isn’t useful outside of my room, but I get it all too often. I had my seniors write short essays as part of their final…and most showed a lack of understanding of non-fiction writing. I ask students what they are thinking or why and they cannot share that with me – out loud or in writing. The crux of my question is based in Math Practice 3 (Critiquing the reasoning of others), but it goes beyond that to not only arguments but thinking and knowledge as well.

I think this encompasses all my “baby goals” of the past. I flip my classroom to give students more time with me – so I need to use that time to work on these skills. I want to use closure activities that share what they know with me and others – and have the benefit of improving student learning. I want a cognitive busy classroom that includes creating arguments – in a variety of ways so all students are show the progress they have made. (I think this question also dabbles into adapting work for students with disabilities – how would be best for those students to communicate what they know with me and others?)

I want the answer to the infamous “When am I going to use this?” to not necessarily be answered by an application of math content, but instead by the importance of communication skills that are clearly transferable without doing mental gymnastics.

Day in the Life: September 8

This year, I’m part of an #MTBoS community recording the stories of our day throughout the year. Follow us throughout our journey at #DITLife.

Earlier this week I was pretty sick and went to work Tuesday even though I probably shouldn’t have. I was super happy that I woke up this morning at 4:45 and stayed up – which is moving in the right direction. Hopefully I’ll be able to start going to the gym again because I really liked those slow mornings and working out. But, I’ve been sick and before then my class schedule went insane :/

After lounging, showering and prepping, I left for school at 6:15 and was the first person to arrive 15 minutes later. I unlocked the building and gates to get ready for the day. While coming into the teacher work area (we have a communal space with desks for all of us by the copiers) I graded assessments from Precalculus from the day before. Once I finished inputting those grades and making sure I had copies for the day, I grabbed a laptop cart and rolled it down the hall to my room.

First hour began at 7:40. We’ve been working in precalculus with increasing, decreasing and positive and negative intervals. There’s been a challenge getting students to understand that increasing does not always mean positive so we focused today on using Desmos to see that visual relationship and color-coding graphs to represent our increasing/decreasing/positive/negative intervals.

8:46 Second hour Algebra 1 was focused on applying information we learned about parent functions earlier in the week by creating a graphs that met different criteria and then practicing using the different properties of functions we know. The english-language-learners in class have definitely struggled, even with a bilingual co-teacher, since it is such a vocabulary heavy unit. I’m still trying to find the best ways to support them and be successful as they learn both English and mathematics.

9:50 My AP Calculus class has finally got to the point where I introduced the power rule for differentiation to make their lives a million times easier. I left class because I had to go to the bathroom and told them to “Fill up the board with as many problems like the ones you’ve been doing. When I get back I’ll find their derivatives in 2 minutes.” Not only did students give me insane functions with exponents of 100, but by leaving up my mental work they were able to see how I was taking derivatives. Definitely increased the excitement in class and we’ve had much more understanding than last years. Even though this isn’t a rigorous proof, we’ve got it down and can apply it.

10:51: Right after this class come announcements every day. Recently, half a dozen heard back from Arizona State University and were accepted – and a ton of them were already in my class. I taught all those who were accepted last year – and most were in my room for Calculus and I’m so proud of all the hard work they’ve done.

Thursdays are special days, where all students go to lunch together followed by a 30 minute tutoring block. Students self select a class they need additional help in or are requested by a teacher. Instead of my normal set of 13 10th grade boys, I had a group of 8 students working on make up work for Algebra 1. One of the students in my tutoring block was T – a new student. I got him caught up on our work for Algebra 1 by giving him a notebook and having him take notes from the week so he’d be ready for class Friday. I also had a chance to check in with him one-on-one before he came to my class later in the day.

In tutoring block I also this interaction with a student
Student: “Is that a hickie on your face?”
Me: “No, I have a skin condition….not a hickie. See, it makes my elbows look funky too” [shows elbows]
Student: “I have kidney stones”
Me: “I hear those are painful”
Student: “Just kidding, I just know someone who has kidney stones”
Me:”Let’s get back to work…”

After that interesting conversation, my day normalized with my next course starting at 12:00. This class is for struggling learners and we always begin with a number talk. We’ve been focused on composing and decomposing numbers to multiply…and haven’t made much progress. I’m keeping the faith and being explicit about thinking…hoping that it helps long term.

We worked on solving mobile puzzles from EDC. One problem required a student to split 24 into two equal groups. I asked her to do that and she started giving me random numbers. I handed her 24 rulers and asked her to split them into two equal groups. She still looked at me like I wasn’t making sense, so I modeled what “two equal groups” meant. After giving her some time working, I circulated back through and worked through the problem with her, using rulers as manipulatives because it was what was handy. I didn’t walk into class today expecting that struggle, but we worked through it together.

Finally, my planning period at 1:00. Since I missed my check-in meeting with my Principal earlier in the week on Tuesday (it was the day after Labor Day and I forgot) I met with her and chatted about the need for manipulatives and more SPED support from our contractor in my fourth hour class.

I checked in with our Dean because earlier in the day I saw and took a paper in a backpack hat had the following written on it:
“Drink hot bleach”
“Go eat dog shit”
“But what if I don’t?”
“Then too bad”
“K…?”
I didn’t know why those comments were written, but they don’t belong on another person’s work. The Dean said she’d follow up with the student whose paper it was and let her know she was concerned….we’ll see what happens there.

I had a student hunt me down and ask for make up work. I got him extra copies and then made my next video for AP Calculus so I could post it for homework.

2:10: sixth period arrived. Or, 22 rambunctious students came into my class. In 60 minutes, students earned 26 consequences. Everything from juggling glue sticks, to walking around the room instead of heading back to a seat to continuing conversations which prevented us from learning new content. The work we were doing was just a new way of looking at previous learning, but it took us so long to get through it we barely finished the content. I left class frustrated and overwhelmed – what I’m doing isn’t working and consequences don’t seem to make a difference.

After school, our counselor and I forced a student who wants to apply to MIT to actually make progress on his application since he hasn’t on his own for weeks. (It isn’t that hard to email someone to set up an interview….). I stopped by our principal’s office again to share my exasperation with my sixth period – we decided to try snacks as another incentive to see if that will help us change behavior. I met with the coordinator of MAES from ASU to see how they could partner with us this year. We decided if it would be awesome if they could come and help us build robots since we plan on competing this year. When that concluded, I went back to my room where a couple boys were continuing to build our future robot. At five I sent everyone home so I could go home too.

At home at 5:30, I cooked dinner, relaxed and did absolutely nothing else. Long days do that to you.

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?

While I’m not proud I had to do this, I am proud of how I took the note from a student’s backpack. I saw the paper hanging out of  a student’s backpack, noticed it had a different name on it who wasn’t in class and had those disturbing comments on it. I slid over, silently, grabbed it and put it on my workstation to look at closer later. I don’t think she even noticed. I kept the incident itself completely uninteresting instead of blowing up or questioning her in the middle of class. I think if I had less experience that could have ended in lots of eyes hearing a conversation that none of us needed to have during Algebra.

My sixth period can quickly turn toxic….and I haven’t found a way to make that passion and energy productive. Every time I give 20+ consequences in a class of 22 it concerns me that I set a negative tone for the class that could have dramatic ramifications for their future since this is a ninth grade course. So much depends on this year and their futures shouldn’t be determined exclusively by not facing forward or listening to directions and right now that is what it feels like.

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?

I think teaching while being sick is one of the hardest possible things – you just want to be able to turn off a little part of your brain but when you do crazy happens. I’m looking forward to the weekend to recover fully.

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.

Tutoring block today had a couple moments I hope that can build into something more. First, I tried to be really intentional and personal with our new student. I know how hard it can be to transfer and that he didn’t have an easy freshmen year last year. I’m hoping that by being kind, gentle and a human being right off the bat will help him get adjusted and be more successful. Second, I was intentionally vulnerable with the student who asked about my “hickies.”He’s a student that has been struggling to stay on task and I want to build a relationship to work with him to make class work for him and his needs. I’m hoping that by me being honest and open he’ll feel comfortable doing the same and share anything as it becomes relevant.

I’m also reminded of working after school in the office, pushing a student to make the next steps on his MIT application.

What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?

  1. Survive with four preps, and do a good job for our students.
    1. New course load that is more reasonable. Still surviving. Adopted a new curricula so I could better serve students.
  2. Close lessons to summarize student thinking
    1. This is still a low priority in planning – it just takes time but I definitely feel like I’m making progress on this front slowly.
  3. Continue to increase student engagement and cognitive workload
    1. Currently no progress has been made…and I don’t that. Sixth period needs more engaging work but I’m overwhelmed so I plan quickly, which isn’t always the most engaging tasks. Hopefully I’ll be better balanced this next month.

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

Well….my schedule changed for the third time in 5 weeks so I now teach 4 preps in 5 sections – but I teach Precalc instead of statistics which I’ve done before so I can do it much quicker and know what I want students to know. I also told my principal if we didn’t make changes to make it more sustainable I’d quit – going into week 3 of school I had a meltdown where I was working. We’ve made changes for the better – now were looking at long term, more sustainable solutions. #smallschoolproblems

 

Love and #BlackLivesMatter

This week Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott were shot and killed by cops. I read about Keith’s death in bed and was upset – I couldn’t sleep. I realized I could stay silent, or I could tell my students, who are almost all Hispanic or Black, how upset I was. I decided I could no longer be silent. I remembered Jose Luis Vilson’s saying that he told his students he loved and cared for them the first day of school and realized it was the least I could do. So that’s what I did.

With my  juniors and seniors we started off class as normal with 5 ACT questions. After checking our answers, I had them direct their attention to these graphs – looking at ACT performance, broken down by race/ethnicity from the 2015 ACT Report (PDF).

act-race-2015

I asked “What do you notice? What do you Wonder?” After a minute of think time we shared out. A couple of things that stood out:
– Students noticed how well Asians performed in comparison to others
– Students noticed that Hispanics and African Americans underperformed nationally
– One student pointed out systematic racism and wondered what the impact that has on their performance.
– “What resources do they have that we don’t? How can we get them?” was the most disheartening wonder…because sometimes it feels that we have so little and I can’t get them everything they deserve.

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-6-59-20-pm

Calculus’ Discussion

Here my classes diverged. With my precalculus class, I talked about why we work hard (to combat systematic racism, to make gains and improve our community). I told them I cared for and loved them. But, I didn’t have the guts to tell them why I told them today.

Calculus started the same way – then I asked”Why do you think we are looking at this today?” Students said things like “To motivate us” “To show us where people like us score.” While I validated them, I then told them the real reason.

I’m tired of black men being shot at rates that exceed that of whites.

I told my students that it feels like there is so little I can do so far away, especially as a white male. I told them how we, right now, might not be able to make the change we need, but we can make an impact on these ACT statistics by working hard. Then they, as well rounded, educated people from the community can make an impact and make much more significant change within their community than I can.

Then I said: “In case you haven’t heard recently, you should know that I love you, I appreciate you”  Then I started crying so no one could understand me. I tried again:”I love you, I appreciate you. Even if no one else says it at school, we all care about you. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t.”

I tried not to make too much eye contact cause I was crying, many of them were too.

I didn’t make too much of my conversation, since after we went back to finding implicit derivatives. I didn’t know if it made a difference to them, but it made a difference to me.

After school, I checked in with our secretary and two of my students were chatting with her. She said that students had already told her what happened in class that morning.  One of the students said “I’ve never made a teacher cry” I said with a smile “Not until today” As I left, the secretary said “But that was a good cry.” She was right.

Then, two days later at our whole staff meeting another teacher well respected by students mentioned that Juniors and Seniors were touched and moved by our discussion of both data and Black Lives Matter.  Once again, I was and am surprised that our ten minute divergence from math was that impactful enough to share with another person my students respect.

Was our conversation perfect? No. Has it made a bigger impact than I could possibly imagine? Yes.