Saturday, November 6, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things

I was teaching Law of Sines in Core Geometry on Friday and was pointing out to the students the importance of leaving sinA in that form as long as possible to avoid rounding errors. I very often use the term "messy" to describe long irrational decimals, so I pointed out to the students that the by just putting everything into their calculator right away that they would end up with something "big, hard and messy"... suddenly I heard from the back of the room a small voice say "that's what she said"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is Application Artificial?

I was observed today. Normally on observation days, teachers whip out their very best interactive lessons. I however decided not to create an artificial lesson and to teach the lesson I planned to teach all along. This lesson covered the properties of isosceles triangles (and using them to find missing angles and sides) and area of a triangle.

My block 3 class (observation class) ran smoothly, as is typical of that group. I wonder if the students would have better understood/learned the material had I included "real-world" examples. But are there "real-world" examples of the properties of isosceles triangles? In what context would you use congruent angles to tell you the sides are congruent?

I can see some artificial contexts for area of a triangle. You could propose that a room is trianglular--but really, how many of us have ever seen a room shaped as a triangle? Is it better to just cover the material with basic examples or create artificial context?

I propose this question in light of what has been discussed recently on other math teacher blogs. I get the feeling that artificial context doesn't really help students learn the material.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Talking, talking... talking

I hate being frustrated with my students. I know they are kids and I know they screw up sometimes, and yet, I still can't help but hope that they will be angels every day. Fourth block is my biggest challenge. My Trimester kiddo-s. 5/8's of those kids I had last year, so starting over with them is next to impossible. And yet I try every day. All I want is for class to run smoothly... for them to raise their hands when they want to talk and not to hold side conversations constantly throughout class. And I lost it today... I yelled at them to stop talking. I always feel terrible when I do that... I just don't know how else to get them to stop. I try to be nice about it, but when I can't hear an actual legitimate question from a student less than 10 feet away from me... I just snap.

I wonder... if I give them either the first 5 minutes or last 5 minutes of class to hang out... would I get more done? Could I give up that instructional time every day ? (within a week, I'd lose about 15 minutes... in a month, I'd be losing about an hour!!) But would that extra 5 minutes of relaxation lead to more time in actual focused work? Studies show that employees are more productive at work when they are happier... so would my students be more productive? Maybe I should try this next week... or even Friday as an experiment.


On a positive note... I was told by a parent the other day that his son raves about having me as a teacher and absolutely loves me. He also thinks that if he had me last year or the year before, that he would have been a much better/stronger student. What a great compliment!! :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Parallel Lines, Skewed Thoughts?

Today's classes were a challenge to my patience. Both my Core classes finished their lessons on parallel lines, and they really seemed to struggle with the terminology. Block 1 seemed half asleep, which considering that today was Monday is not to be surprising. Block 3 came in (after 3 starts) and seemed to have it totally together. The first 10 minutes the students were participating, getting answers, etc. And then... they seemed to fall apart on me.

I try very hard to call on every student at least once a class. I was taught that this is an important way to check for understanding, and that in doing this, I need to allow an adequate amount of wait time. Since my Block 3 class is so large, the students do not have to respond to a lot of questions, and some of the students can "hide" for a while in the class. I found today that some of them are not paying any attention whatsoever. We did one example where the angles were all (all 3 of them) were consecutive interior angles. The second example had the SAME kinds of angles in it and the students just stared at me like I was speaking a foreign language. Even while prompting certain students through, it was like pulling teeth and I kept getting "I don't know" for answers. I do not accept "I don't know" as an answer, and try to lead the students to the answers.

I don't know what I'm doing wrong in the course/in teaching that I am getting responses like this. I am a little frustrated with the lesson.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Back to School Night

My second ever Back to School night is over. It is such a whirlwind and I don't feel like I really get to "meet" parents, especially in my larger classes. There are certainly some parents who I get to talk with a lot, as they stay late to discuss their child, but for the most part, it's a chance to see some faces once.

This year I found myself sitting on top of a student desk when talking with most of my groups of parents. Probably not the most professional of practices... however, it made me feel more like I was having a conversation with the parents instead of talking at them. I also found myself "um"ing a lot--and a lot more than I think I do in class. Talking to those parents (all of which are significantly older than me) is totally intimidating.

One thing I would like to do next year is to stand at the door and shake each parent's hand when they come in and find out which child is theirs. In my Geometry classes, I only know the parents who made a point to come talk to me. I hope that gives me a little more of the personal connection I am looking for.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Frustration

Friday... the last day of the week and the most infuriating when trying to teach 4th block. My class of 16 (yes, every teacher's dream size small class) has an interesting dynamic to it. Last year, my first year, I taught 10 out of those 16 students. This has made things interesting as I have tried to be more strict and on top of things in the classroom. In addition to that I have at least one student who may drive me insane before January with his incessant talking and refusal to do anything productive.

This particular student was not here today, leading me to believe that class would run smoothly and efficiently; I would have time to review homework in depth, give a quiz, notes and hand out homework. Ahhh but the best laid plans are always destroyed. 40 minutes later, we were still reviewing homework with students adding in side comments on every question they got wrong! My 11th grade students cannot solve an equation for y!!! I am happy to say that most of them got the concept I was teaching... how to use the information they were given, but they couldn't complete the problems properly. Solving equations is taught in about 7th or 8th grade, done again in 9th grade, and used again in 10th. How am I supposed to move on to things like parabolas with squared variables if my students can't solve 2x-4y=8 for y? This is so very infuriating. Consequently, the quiz took about 30 minutes and I didn't have time to do the notes justice and give the students all the examples they should have seen for their homework.

On my drive home, I have decided to try to tackle this problem. Most of the students in this class refuse to stay after school for additional help. So, I will provide them with notes and they will be given weekly take-home quizzes on solving equations and solving for a variable. In addition, to cut down on the constant chatter amongst the students, I will be increasing their weekly quizzes to daily quizzes. These ideas are still formulating, so I have yet to totally develop them. All I can hope is that this works--that it helps the students be stronger in math and that it helps me in my classroom management.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

First week... nearly over

Our first full week of class is nearly over. It's been a whirlwind, and I kind of feel like a first year teacher again. By the end of last year, I had a good rhythm going and an organization that I was happy with. Taking 2 months off in the summer throws everything to the wind and I no longer have that rhythm. I know it will come back eventually, but for now, it feels sort of like I'm continually treading water and going no where.

I am starting a new organization system for notes/homeworks for myself. Last year, I used a binder for each class. Each day's materials were in a page protector, which included notes, answer keys and occasionally an actual written lesson. This worked, however, I am finding that I want to re-do some worksheets to use for this year, but am not ready to throw out the answer keys of the old ones. Thus, a dilemma. My page protector method was great, but it doesn't allow for the flexibility and movement I really need. So I am in the process (this will take all year) of switching everything to manilla folders. A green hanging folder holds each "unit" and within that are 2-3 manila folders: one for notes, one for worksheets, and one for tests and quizzes. Most of my department uses this technique, so I'm going to try it. Who knows, next year I might switch back to the binder/page protector method. Either way, I am still keeping a separate binder for each class of originals--makes photocopying (and stealing from my other classes) way easier!

Despite taking a cell phone from a student on Monday... and a second one (complete with being cursed at) on Wednesday, this week is shaping up to boost my self-esteem. Many of my students from last year have made a point of coming to see me and chat about their classes and summers. As my first class ever, they will forever hold a special place in my heart. In addition, a co-worker gave me a wonderful compliment: telling me yesterday that she was so impressed with what I did last year and that she couldn't believe how well I handled my first year! This was an awesome compliment coming from someone who has taught for nearly 20 years.

To top all of these warm fuzzies off, was today. I had a student last year who has had some true hardships in her life. I have told her story to my friends and family, putting most of them in tears. I was lucky enough to earn her trust last year, and she would come to me with various problems/concerns/joys/etc. Near the end of the year, she had to transfer to another school district. I was so disappointed to see her leave, but made sure she knew my door was always open. I received a couple emails before school ended, but hadn't heard from her all summer. Today, her boyfriend stopped into my room at the end of the day. She told him to ask me if I would come to her soccer game, which was at my school! I couldn't believe it... one of my former students remembered me, of all her teachers, and wanted me to be at her game. This was the best thing I could have asked for! It made me believe that I can and am making a difference to my students and that even if they don't learn any math from me, that I have mattered to them. And that... that is the kind of stuff they can't test for and the stuff that is even more important than what the Pythagorean Theorem is or how to do a two-column proof.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Year Number Two

Year two of teaching is about to start. I can't wait to get back in the classroom! I have missed my students this summer and am looking forward to revamping some of my lessons.

With the changes to our first day of school (40 minute periods instead of 80 minute blocks), I need to redo my first couple of days for most of my classes. Part of me doesn't want to bother teaching at all, since I only have 40 minutes and I already had 80 minutes worth of notes/homework printed off. However, it's a waste of instructional time to not teach anything that first day. Oh, what to do??? Perhaps I will do a review of solving equations and order of operations for 4 out of my 5 classes--get in some math, but then I don't have to rework my lessons.

After seeing my class lists, I'm a little anxious. I had one of my students in study hall last year, and he put GIANT spitballs on my blackboard. Needless to say... I'm a little nervous about him being in my class. Hopefully if I start off the year right, he won't be a problem.

After last year, I know I need to start the year of strictly. Put my foot down and be hard on the kids to start with--then I can let up later in the year. The problem is is that I don't do mean well. I need to practice what I'm going to say to them and make sure I come across as strict and that I won't put up with any crap in my room.

Here's to hoping for another great year!