The inimitable Tina C (@crstn85) of Nix the Tricks fame threw out a challenge on Sunday to blog the life of a single class every day this week. I like the idea of being externally motivated to blog, because my internal inspirations come sporadically. I also tend to wax poetic about my emotional process rather than the classroom action, so this challenge is a good one for me to refocus my writing. Thanks, Tina!
I’m going to be brave here and write about the class where I have my greatest struggles – the inclusion Geometry class that I am co-teaching with a teacher new to our school as of February 1. This class, which I have written about before, is a slower track class filled with juniors and seniors whose mathematical abilities span a wide range. I am trying to address their many needs, challenge those students who are ready for it and support those students who need more success, all while learning how to work with another teacher with a different style than mine. A challenge for me as well as them.
We are two days into a unit on Transformations. I have created guided notesheets to accompany the SmartBoard files which are a big help to those students whose note-taking skills are not well developed. I do this with trepidation, because I know that these can lead to a slippery co-dependent slope. But given what I know about these students and the classroom dynamic, I have decided the notesheet will help them focus on the content rather than each other, and create a written product to which they can refer later. Some students prefer to take their own notes, which is wonderful. As the students entered the room on Monday, my co-teacher greeted them at the door with the guided notesheet (which has their Do Now pre-printed on it) in an effort to get them to work quickly. The class was only about 5/8 full when the bell rang; getting them into the room on time and settled requires a lot of corraling. But finally everyone was looking at their worksheet, and we began to review it on the board.
My co-teacher and I have not had a lot of time to plan together; in fact, I have done all the planning thus far, and have shared the work with him at the beginning of each week. Being moved to our school midyear, and assigned a full Special Ed program (he is a math teacher), he was quite overwhelmed when the term began. The plan for Monday was a fairly direct lesson on translations on the coordinate plane (we covered reflections on Friday). He took the lead on the lesson on Friday while I ‘worked the room’, so on Monday I began the lesson. We had not explicitly discussed how we would share direct teaching (for the most part, I had been leading the room while he provided support for the first few weeks), but so far we had worked fairly well together. So I was a little surprised when he interrupted me while I was teaching and re-introduced the material differently. This happened a few times; I tried to keep things smooth (even though the control freak in me was jumping up and down and screaming, “My flow, my flow, you’re interrupting my flow!”) because he needs to establish more authority in the room. Unfortunately he leaves class a few minutes early in order to get to his next class in the basement, so we had no time to check in. The students were focused on the lesson throughout the class, however, so I am glad that my gut reaction was well managed, knowing that it came from a place in me that needs to do some constructive communicating.
The lesson took most of the period, leaving next to no time for practice; I assigned the classwork problems for homework. I realized that we had run out of practice time on Friday as well, after the lesson on reflections so I decided that today (Tuesday) would be a day of practicing what we had covered so far.
My co-teacher popped in to visit me this morning before classes began; I shared with him my idea of spending class today with the students practicing in their homogeneous groups. (We have ‘A’ groups (homogeneous) and ‘B’ groups (heterogeneous, and created with student preferences accounted for.) He thought it would be helpful for some of the students to have a cut-out shape to use in practicing their transformations – a good idea for concrete learners – but seemed reluctant to prepare the materials for this. Mental note #2 regarding constructive communication requirement (more on this later).
When the students came in today, they were given Quadrantal Quiz #2. These quizzes, which will be given weekly, assess mastery at 4 different levels. I have several goals with these quizzes – the first to assess more frequently in order to gather relevant data and adapt instruction, the second to give the students more ownership over their own progress (we will be tracking the standards they have mastered in individual folders kept in the classroom), and finally help students overcome quiz and test anxiety by making it more routine. The brevity of the quizzes keeps them accessible to everyone, and I really like having fresh information on how they are processing the lessons.
After the quiz, I directed the students to move into their A groups to begin practicing transformations. I had prepared two different packets – one which contained straightforward exercises in translations and reflections, and a second packet comprised completely of Regents questions – both multiple choice and open-ended. The students got right to work. We circulated among the groups checking and correcting homework, and providing support for the classwork. I was very proud of how diligently everyone worked, and also that several students working on Regents packets felt safe enough to ask for the more introductory work. While this wasn’t the most exciting work, it was time well-invested in creating a uniform level of competency with which we can move forward to more conceptual material. And tomorrow we will spend the period doing some Patty Paper explorations of transformations – I can’t wait! – it’s my favorite manipulative.
A final note for the day regarding my co-teaching situation: I realize that this is an area in which I need to open more clear and explicit channels of communication for the good of the students, my co-teacher and myself. I think of myself as someone who collaborates well with others, but I may [definitely] suffer from the ‘don’t worry – I’ll take care of it’ syndrome that many competent people have. I have been working with a mentor at my school on the overall plan for this class, and asked her for some guidance here; she offered to sit down with the two of us later this week to establish some planning, preparation and teaching routines. I am looking forward to this; my mentor is similar to me in temperament, but has been observing the class and has a good feel for my co-teacher’s balancing strengths.
Whew! And it’s only Day 2 of #DITLife!
One final lovely thing that happened – my younger child who is a student at MICA, created a logo for our math team t-shirts, based on requests from the team members. Ze emailed it to me Monday night – and I can’t WAIT to wear this hoodie!