We have a soft opening at my school. Due to the number of students on our rosters (4,100), it takes 1/3 of a day to distribute MetroCards, Lunch Forms and other school correspondence. Student arrival times are staggered on this first day, alternating grade level assemblies with ‘homeroom’. [‘Homeroom’ meets three times each year – at the start of each term, and at the very end of the year, for aforementioned document distribution and final reports cards.] At 10:00 AM (this is a third of the way through the normal school day, which starts at 7:10), shortened classes began (but not all periods met) – 25 minutes to introduce myself, gather some preliminary information from kiddies, and begin to establish my classroom. To add just another bit of chaos to this mix, the first period – 3rd – was 50 minutes long, which is 5 minutes longer than usual. As an aside, only 1/3 of the classrooms are air conditioned, so this was great fun on a close to 90˚ day. Things ran smoothly, although, as usual, I overestimated what could get done in 25
minutes (complete index cards, make name tents, play Ms. Menard in Numbers, and distribute contracts – was I kidding?). The students in my 7th period Discrete Math class looked like I felt – hot and wrung out. Tomorrow, Friday, is a full, regular day – our hard opening, as it were.
Ms. Menard in Numbers (document shared below) is always a hoot. My students all think I wear a size 7 shoe (I think I wore that in 6th grade!), and have 10 Twitter followers. First ‘whoa!’ moment of the year! In keeping with my goal of getting to know my students, I read through each index card they submitted, paying special attention to the answer to the question, “What one thing should I know about you as a teacher?” I was able to address some of the patterns I observed in the students‘ answers during the ‘hard opening’ day. I think I am more in tune this year with taking care of my students as people; their comments evince a desire to be heard, to be helped, to be seen. I also spent some time looking at the transcripts, report cards, and exam histories of each of my Discrete Math students. They are placed in that class for a range of reasons – failed Geometry Regents but good course grades, failed the Algebra 2/Trig class last year, have way below grade level math credits – each student is different, and will thus need something different from this class. I fought the feeling of drowning in a sea of data by remembering their faces, and that my goal is to move each student further to the right on this picture:
Hard Opening: Friday
I’m not going to talk about how disgustingly humid and warm my classroom was after this. But it was. Very.
One of my Algebra 2 classes didn’t meet yesterday, and I had to fight with myself to give them the same lesson as the others had, remembering that time spent creating classroom culture and norms reaps dividends all term long. In the other two sections of Algebra 2, however, I borrowed Sara Vanderwerf’s Top 10 Things About Your Calculator lesson, my only regret being that I could have used another 30 minutes in the period to review both the TI-84 and Desmos portions of the worksheet. We probably ran out of time because we began the period by talking about mindset and self-advocacy, but again, this was time well spent. I won’t elaborate on all the misconceptions that this activity uncovered (and hopefully straightened out), or the high level of engagement and cooperation I witnessed. I had that delicious sense of ‘boredom’ (not) that a teacher may get when their students are doing all the work, and helping each other, and all they have to do is eavesdrop. We probably ran out of time because we began the period by talking about mindset and self-advocacy, but again, this was time well spent. I have to reiterate my total gratitude and admiration of Sara’s generous sharing of her well-developed and on-target intentional planning.
In my Discrete Math classes, we made the name tents we didn’t have time for yesterday, and did the wonderful 100 Number activity. The kids, who were wilting, brightened up
considerably during this activity, and were energized enough to begin to engage in our first Number Talk (and by our, I mean me!) I was very anxious about introducing a number talk with this class, but in the few minutes we had to begin (I ran out of time), the students began to share the different patterns they saw in the dot card I provided. I can’t wait to try it again, with an appropriate amount of time.
I thought about why I wasn’t doing the Top Ten Calculator Things Activity with my Discrete Math classes, and I couldn’t come up with a reason other than the embarrassing knee-jerk reaction “they don’t need this.” Then I realized all my students need these skills – and to be honest, I am relieved that I saw this, because I’m not sure I did before. So we’ll be working on that on Tuesday. And it will be 10˚ cooler.
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?
The discussions about self-advocacy in the classroom and in life were uneven. I was pleased with how I facilitated the ones that went well, although I would be happier if the students had answered each other rather than me. I could have modeled that better. Still, in all five classes, the students were definitely listening during that portion of the lesson. And I love the chuckles during the Stuck on the Escalator video.
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?
Truthfully, the most negative aspect of my day was no relief for me or my students during this humid heat wave. I try not to dwell on the weather (and certainly don’t when I am teaching), but boy, it’s a challenge to motivate kids under these circumstances. That said, I was pleased with the engagement level in all of the activities during the day; my efforts to be ‘intentional’ paid off well today.
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.
Two former students of mine (Algebra 2 from last fall) were in my office yesterday and today as if no time had passed. I love these kids – they are open, and hopeful, and helpful. I am looking forward to spending the year with them – not as their teacher, but as a concerned adult in their lives. And their willingness to step up whenever I ask is something I am always thankful for.
4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.
I am working on getting to know my students better this year, and am investing a lot of time and effort toward that end – name tents, combing through their histories – working hard to see them. My realization that the calculator activity was appropriate for all of my classes was a positive step in my growth as well – I uncovered a bias of my own, and am working to rectify it and provide more opportunity for all of my students, particularly those who have been marginalized by being programmed for a math elective rather than a core class.
5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?
I’m still getting my head in the game, but the positive results I have had in the soft/hard opening days this year are encouraging. I don’t feel as overwhelmed as I did a week ago, and I’m ready to try more Number Talks and Contemplate then Calculate.