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Archive for the ‘Beginnings’ Category

When I was in college, the end of the semester always dragged.  I couldn’t wait for it to just be over so I could start the new semester, take the new classes, and just move forward.  I hated the wrapping up of the current semester: turning in the last papers, taking the last exam, and realizing I only used a quarter of the spiral notebook for a class.  Before the semester actually ended, I was already thinking about the new classes.  I would pour over my new schedule and happily shop for new notebooks and supplies.

Apparently I still have this character flaw.  I just want to be done with this year.  I hate the end of year wrap up, but I do get excited about next year.  I want to start planning now!

Today we got our (hopefully final) master schedule, so we know what we will be teaching. Mine doesn’t have any surprises, but I do have some new classes.  Next year I will be teaching Marine Pathways Algebra 1 and Marine Pathways Basic Math.  The level of math is not new, but the marine focus is.  The classes are also supposed to be project based as much as possible.  I can’t wait to throw out the textbook (so to speak) and find ways to make the classes both marine and student centered.

My other new class is 7th grade math.  Although I am not excited about traveling to the elementary school (half mile) every day, I think it will be interesting to work in a different environment.   Our elementary school is leaping into proficiency based and project based learning, and combined grade levels, all at once.  I think the teachers will be a little stressed out as they work out the kinks in their new systems.  My 7th graders will be the ones who are struggling with math, so again it will need to be hands on and project based.  Since I am not as familiar with the 7th grade standards, I will have to do a lot of work this summer to get ready.

I have already started to make lists of things I need to do.  One of the big ideas I need to reflect on is how skills, fluency, and process need to be balanced in a math class.  That one is going to take some time, research, and deep thought.  I also want to reconsider classroom routines; mine could certainly use some reflection and updating.  I hope to get as many summative assessments as possible done this summer which means being very clear on what students need to know.  And I need to develop ideas for projects and tasks, including identifying the standards they meet and the standards that can’t be met that way.

Of course, there’s always homework.  This is the end of my 5th year and I still haven’t found a good way to manage homework, especially for students who struggle with getting it done.  I really need to dig in to what I want homework to accomplish.  Is it practice, a chance to extend learning, review, preview, or just spiraling work?  I think once I pin down what I want to accomplish it will be easier to decide how.

I also need to start thinking about how to interface with the elementary school.  How many of their meetings should I attend?  Who will be my go to person there?  What supplies will I have access to?  Can I get a copy of their textbook (even though I probably won’t use it)?

I can really feel next year tugging me forward and the end of this year anchoring me in place.  Meh.  Only 13 days until I can pull the anchor and go.

 

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changing it up

In Fall 2014, I will have a new class, Geometry 1A.  I’m a excited to have the chance to teach something besides basic math and pre-algebra.  It’s a small group, only 6 kids.  They’re in the 1A version because it lets them take things at a slower pace.  Which means I have lots of time to do task instead of chapters.  I do still have the constraint of following the text content, since they will take the second half of Geometry in a text based class.  But I will have the freedom to change it up a little.

I laid out a scope and sequence and then started working on the content.  To help keep it straight, I have made a spreadsheet that’s color coded to my scope & sequence.  Geometry 1A Content and Geometry 1A Scope & Sequence.  Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 10.27.51 PM

I was just on twitter looking for a task that I heard of or read about somewhere.  It has students in pairs with some type of screen between them.  One student has an image they have to describe.  The other student has to reproduce the image based on the description of the first student.  Hedge (@approx_normal) sent me this (see 3rd page), but it isn’t quite what I wanted.  However, I do like the idea of having students build 3 dimensional objects and then describing them to their partner for replication. Hmmm.  I think I may have to build this task myself, but I will search a little longer, first.

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It’s Thursday and first semester is almost done.  All that’s left is the make up exams and grading. Then we start the new semester on Monday.  I have been really stressed about the new Marine Studies class, but now I also have concerns about my other class.  Sigh.

I teach a special ed science class that alternates between physical science and life science year to year.  I have tried to have it follow the content of the regular ed classes in the past.  But the new physical science teacher is throwing in a lot of chemistry this year.  Yet another topic about which I know little.

My motivation to become a teacher had a lot to do with my preference for a high learning curve, but I didn’t expect it to be near vertical. Between chemistry, SBG, PBL, co-teaching, and marine studies I feel like I’m in an 18 credit semester while carrying an outside job. I don’t know when I will have time to breath.

And I am still. not. ready. for the marine studies pathway beginning on Monday.

(Forgot to post this, so I will now, even though the semester started a week ago Monday).

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Marine Studies Spring 2014 starts on the 27th. I am not ready. We are not ready.  We are insane.  Three of us will be teaching a two block class.  In two consecutive blocks, students need to learn content for Ecology, for ½ of their grade level language arts (the writing half), math, and marine industry standards.  I am in charge of math for 16 students whose levels range from pre-algebra to post-algebra 2 and share responsibility for writing standards for four grade levels.

We have promised project based learning, which I have never done before this year. We have promised standards based grading (whew, I tried that last year, so it’s not completely new.)  We have the first project planned, sort of. Last summer we talked about other projects, but it is feeling very nebulous at this point.  We have weekly meetings, but otherwise only talk when we catch each other in the hallway.  There is a facilitator to help, thank god, but we just haven’t put enough time in.

I have my algebra 1 standards.  Kids at pre-algebra will get supplements to catch them up.  I have my algebra 2 standards.  Kids who might have taken geometry will get algebra 2.  Geometry can come next year.  But I don’t know what to do for my one post-algebra 2 kid.  It looks like stats.  Stats would be a good fit, since every project we do will involve looking at data. But I don’t have a scope and sequence for stats; and my text is not core aligned; and I have never taught stats.  Twitterverse, I hope you respond to the plea I posted.

I have until the 27th to wrap my head around the stats and generate a list of standards for the student (and me). Or maybe the 28th, since the first class is a planned field day. I really don’t want to have to make it up as I go along, but I can’t just follow the text either. Not in a project based setting. Did I say we were insane?

I hope to document this semester of insanity.  I’m afraid the load is going to be too heavy to allow time for reflection, but I think the reflection is going to be critical to keeping the course moving forward. At the least, I will be able to look back and say hey, remember when we tried that crazy course?

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Outside my comfort zone

Everyone is posting First Day blogs, but I can’t since our kids don’t start until next week.  I did, however, get to work with the new science teacher on our new class.  That we are co-teaching.

Neither one of us has co-taught a class before.   It is a Marine Studies elective; a new class in our new Marine Studies Pathway.  Firsts for me include co-teaching, project based learning, marine science, and full-time teaching.  Throw in SBG which I have been working on but am still not really there.  Also new this year… peer coaching with teachers visiting teachers and giving feedback.  And next semester I get to teach pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, algebra 2, and  some trig.  In a two block class with a different science teacher.

I have definitely stepped out of my comfort zone; I think I’m entering the twilight zone.

It is my hope to document this strange trip I’m taking this year.  Surely I will learn along the way.  I expect there will be tears and anger and joy and every other emotion a person can feel.  Because the good stuff only happens when you take a chance.

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Happy New Year.  New school year, that is.  The beginning of  a new school year feels like New Year’s Day to me.  It is a time to reflect on the past year and to make resolutions for improvement in the new year.  Just like the calendar new year.

Over the years, I have learned a few things about making resolutions.  They should be specific and attainable.  The list should not be too long or it will be overwhelming.  Difficult tasks should be chunked into manageable steps.  So I have only made a few.

1.  Try using Interactive Notebooks.  I am actually pretty excited about doing this.  I hope the excitement continues and it doesn’t fizzle out.

2.  Improve the timeliness of paperwork.  This one isn’t as exciting, but still necessary.

3.  Call parents – Every year I have made this vow, and every year I have failed miserably.  I hate phones.  Can’t I just email parents?  No, it must be the call.  So to make it achievable (baby steps), I will make one parent call each week for four weeks, then step it up to two calls per week, and so on.  Thinking about it makes my stomach clench and my palms sweaty, even though school hasn’t even started yet.

Deep breath.  That’s not so bad.  I can do that.

And finally,

4. Find balance between work and home.  All work and no play is not a good thing and makes me a dull teacher.

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Since this blog is going to be (hopefully) a public record of my growth as a teacher, it seems logical to explain where I am right now.  In about two weeks (omg, only two weeks) classes begin at the small, rural high school where I teach.  This will be my second year as a part-time math and special ed teacher.   Officially, it is one quarter special and two quarters math; however, it never really splits on those lines.  Since it is a small school, we only have three (well, two and half) math teachers.

I am coming late into teaching, but that has been the pattern of my  life.  I didn’t go to college until after I had four kids; I was 28 when I started.  I graduated with a degree in Math and English (after six years), then I worked in the insurance industry for too many years.  Great people in my department, but I just didn’t like the corporate world.  I quit insurance, found a job in a school’s central office and started taking education courses and subbing at the local high school.   Late.  I have been late for everything!  Except for having a family.

I finally had everything I needed for certification except student teaching.  It is really hard to arrange student teaching if you are not enrolled in some college’s teaching program.  No one wants to talk to you unless you have spent all your education dollars at their school and been indoctrinated into their way of doing things.  Bah!  I did finally find a school and a professor who would manage my student teaching and had it all set up for last year.  Of course then a position opened up and I was hired!  In Maine, they will waive the student teaching requirement if you teach for a full year.  So I started my first year with no student teaching experience, no summer planning time, and no clue of what I was getting into.

Last year, I taught Pre-algebra, the second half of Algebra I (the slowed down version), the first half of Geometry (for students who failed first semester), physical science for special ed students, and contemporary issues as a co-teacher.  My largest class was seven, but they were a very needy seven.  Classroom management and differentiation were the biggest part of my first year learning curve.  I was overwhelmed by paperwork, frequently changed my homework policy, and never did find a good way to deal with one particular student.  I only cried a few times.  And I loved every minute of it.

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