Auspicious Beginnings

On a break just 8  days into the Spring term (ironic as that denotation may be), I’m feeling more energized than my 7 a.m. start time would suggest. It’s a great relief after an angst-ridden fall term, and while I am not looking this gift horse too closely in the mouth, I am reflecting on how I managed to scale the wall that felt insurmountable just a few weeks ago.

IMG_4654In Algebra 2, the term begins with an introduction to Trigonometry, which makes me unspeakably happy. We started out by discovering radians with paper plates, exploring arc length and special right triangles (I am not sure why they are so special, Dan Meyer, but the universality of those ratios resonating throughout math and design is, in some literal way, awesome. Call me crazy, or nerdy, or both.)

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IMG_4670Proving the Pythagorean Identities was also a wondrous exercise, even eliciting applause from a student who clearly has a future as a math teacher.  I’ve got a better understanding of how to sequence the content this year while keeping pace with my department’s calendar, and I’m finding time to infuse class with discovery.  Thanks to the generous assistance of Audrey McLaren and the thoroughly spot on webinar by Crystal Kirch, I’ve begun some forays into the flipped classroom.  I started with a VoiceThread on reviewing the basic trigonometric functions, which met with a lot of student approval and enthusiasm.  I wish there were a few more hours in the day to incorporate all the ideas I’ve got, but I’m committed to starting to build my own library of flipping resources.  More to come.IMG_4671

1238962_10100612775140764_910897993_nWe’ve also gotten off to a great start in Geometry, due to several factors.  The programming office shuffled the students between the sections of the course, and the resulting rosters are more balanced, with some of the more toxic behavioral combinations disassembled. There has been a 4th section of the class created – I was teaching three of them in the fall –  and as a result, my BFF at work and I are planning together; he has been given one of the sections to teach solo, and we are co-teaching the ICT class (never mind that neither of us is a special educator – that’s a long story, and another blog post).   This is the first time in a long while that I have had the opportunity to engage in true common planning with a like-minded colleague, and it has made a huge difference in alleviating the stress and isolation involved in creating a new course single-handedly.  Mr. P and I have always shared ideas and experiences, but as c0-teachers, there is a true collaboration happening, which fosters more thoughtful planning.  In trying to be always on the same page in a busy classroom (aka the 3-ringed circus of math), we have debated classroom decisions, pushing back on each other’s thinking, and in the process, crafting more authentically reflective policies and procedures.

IMG_4674It was gratifying to see that the students who had been in the class last term, fell quickly back into the established routines of the Daily Quiz*, the Interactive Notebooks, and collaborative work at the tables.   Bringing the new students up to speed on the Interactive Notebooks has been more of a challenge; we spent a lot of time setting them up and working on the intent of the notebooks in the fall.  Again, the group at each table provides a support for the newbies.
We spent the first two weeks reviewing special quadrilaterals, completing a graphic organizer (link below), a chart in which the properties of the polygons were compared and sorted in a Venn diagram, and Lisa Bejarano’s Always, Sometimes, Never activity.  When we return from break, we will begin working on equations of lines as a lead-in to Coordinate Geometry.

When I go so long between posts, there’s always too much to say – some very, very dear friends of mine are relocating – one to California for graduate school, another to Shanghai for an amazing career opportunity.  This has, inevitably, got me reflecting and rethinking choices I’ve made, and continue to make.  But my own children continue to pursue their own unique interests and education with passion and talent, reminding me that every child deserves that chance – and brings me back, once again, to why I teach.

Speaking of my amazing children, which I can’t help myself from doing, my younger one is involved in a project to produce animated films in collaboration with NASA scientists working on the Fermi telescope – how completely cool is that?  Read about it here, on the Tumblr run by Geo.

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*The Daily Quiz is a low stakes formative assessment used as a warm-up for class which sparked an interesting twitter conversation last night, and which I may write a separate post about later this week.

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