Saturday, August 25, 2018

First Impressions

First Impressions

Week one D-O-N-E.  While it was a little difficult getting back on a schedule, seeing some of my favorite colleagues and eventually new and old students alike made the adjustment easier.  We start off with two "work" days, which are fairly packed with meetings and whatnot.  I have learned over time to just try to be as ready as I can over the summer, knowing that the first two days are really limited for productivity.  My goals for the workdays were getting our pre-assessment ready and approved, pacing our Algebra 1 calendar, gradebook setup (***Vomit***), and just a few other odds and ends.  I wait for rosters as long as possible, because they always are in flux until mid-September.  

Wednesday kids arrived and I was nervous and excited.  I had planned for the first day to get them on Google Classroom, my website, do a Desmos Math Survey Activity, then do the SuperStairs 3-Act task with a biography assignment for homework.  After cramming my first hour kids with the whole slate of tasks, I removed the 3-Act for time considerations, and the rest of the day went smoothly.  My feet hurt, but otherwise things went well.

On Thursday, we built norms.  I decided to go a little more by the book with Capturing Kids Hearts training, but added an activity where students brainstormed attitudes and actions to ensure success in the class.  I then complied them together and will print to have kids sign the social contracts in my room.  That activity got better as the day progressed.  Kids did an EDPuzzle for the syllabus as their homework.  

On Friday, I got kids on to DeltaMath, introduced the Bootcamp Unit, and then had them take the Algebra Pre-Test.  I hate that I have to give it at all because students freak out a bit, but I did my best to communicate that it was just a snapshot, they would likely not know most of the material now, and that they would all rock the post-test.  Still, it is bad for math mindset.  I could possibly delay giving it, but I'd be then aiding their pre-test abilities as I have to start instructing math (kinda my job)... so from the standpoint of evaluation, that is dumb.  SORRY KIDS!  

My schedule is a little challenging, having 6 straight class periods.  While I can eat during Peer Leadership, it is at the other side of the school and goes really fast.  I do like ending my day with 2 preps, but I have to be more disciplined in getting stuff done.  Friday I was like ... um... no... I am just sitting here.  Ultimately, I think my schedule will be awesome, but I need to acclimate myself. 

The other challenges now are getting to know my kids in an expedited manner and how to get my Algebra Intervention class running smooth, particularly with my timing.  In regard to the former, I have never been a fan of a seating chart right off the bat.  First, I think it it comes off a little authoritarian, and when building quality relationships with kids is a goal, I think it is an obstacle.  That said, I learn names the best when it is a face, to a place, to a name.  So I am going to go to seating charts on the second day next year, as my spirit animal intros worked well to get kids to introduce themselves (which is a sneaky way to have the kids take their own attendance while saying their own names correctly).  I went with sticky tabs for my seating chart and am using Team Shake again for seating chart generation.  

In regard to the latter, I am having some difficulty with pacing the end of my Intervention class.  It lasts a period and a half, so I am constantly trying to decide the minutia of continuing or terminating activities, giving movement or brain breaks, or giving work time.  With time, I am sure it will be okay, but I gotta get that figured out sooner than later.  The Intervention kids seem excited (most of them) so that is a good start. 

I made a positive phone call home already.  One of my students had been awfully polite, focused, and was enrolling into DeltaMath and other things early (which I allowed, but figured no one would).  On the end of the second day, I had to get sticky notes from my office right outside my room, so I told this young man "You're in charge."  In the 15 seconds it took to leave and return, I came in to see him up and walking around the room, making sure that students were staying on task.  It made my week, so a positive call home was warranted.  

Keep grinding, 

Friday, August 17, 2018

3, 2, 1, Launch

I head back to school at the conclusion of this weekend, having spent a significant amount of time this summer thinking about teaching and learning and just doing some planning and developing for this year.  I have been teaching PD, learning Desmos Computation Layer, creating content for a Blended Learning version of Algebra 1, researching relationship-building with math students, exploring DeltaMath, continuing my research in grading practices, and subsequently becoming angry about archaic grading practices that are present in my district.  Mind you, I did these all by choice.  It was not at all inspired by those Twitter posts that say:

"Good teachers don't have summers off."

I have always been the type to love to explore and learn in the summers because there is just more time and less pressure.  But that's my jam.  I wholeheartedly agree that if a teacher wants to leave every thought of academia behind when they drive away in June, that is totally acceptable and understandable.  Teaching is a grind.  It is exhausting.  

But to each, their own.  See truth is, I really like my job, and the better I get at it, the more I like it.  When I was an engineer, I never spent extra time doing calcs or making models.  But teaching... man... it is a little bit of an addiction.  

My wife says that I am a workaholic.  That is probably true.  Combining that trait with being a control-freak, perfectionist and well... it is easy to spend a lot of time in the rabbit hole of education.  I have been getting better about finding the balance, but like any great athlete, the more skilled I have become, the more I am capable of, and more importantly, the more that I feel I need to be a teacher leader.  

In regard to my education career, this summer was perhaps my greatest metamorphosis thus far.  I was selected in the 3rd Cohort of Desmos Fellows.  I learned a lot in San Francisco during Fellowship Weekend in July.  I sat with 40 or so of some of the greatest minds in mathematics education.  I talked pedagogy, technology, philosophy, sandwich-characteristics, and so much more.  I learned Activity strategies with Dan Meyer.  I worked one-on-one with Michael Fenton as we enhanced an already pretty-decent Desmos Activity that I created.  I hung out with Jay Chow, (a.k.a. Mr. Computation Layer), and learned that he is as awesome of a dude as he is a Desmos Fellow.  I also met several #mtbos colleagues like Bob Lochel and Julie Reulbach, who I had followed for years on Twitter, as well as several new friends (way too many to name) that I now regularly communicate with.

That first night, I felt lucky to have been selected.  More truthfully, I felt almost as if I really didn't belong.  So many people had such a breadth and depth of talent.  Turns out, I was beginning to learn an awful lot about myself and my place in all this.

As the weekend went on, I found myself contributing significantly in conversations, adding impactful perspective, helping others, and receiving compliments and praise from numerous people.  On the last day, one of the previous Desmos Fellows (who I won't identify specifically) told me that he and some others were really impressed with my contributions and insight over the weekend.

Fellowship Weekend justified to me that I am a force in mathematics education.

Turns out, that is what I really needed.  Though at times, I felt my numerous contributions and leadership opportunities within my district justified that I was a teacher leader, it was a very limited world.  I had no influence beyond my district.  

Adding to the problem is that entry into the world of #mtbos is hard.  You throw yourself out there, and it can at times be a lonely world. *crickets*  I will say that #mtbos has done a much better job being proactive about greeting new members, but it was and still remains a little bit of an exclusive club.  And for those like me that cannot make it to a Twitter Math Camp, it is awfully difficult to get your foot in the door.  

But poof, become a Desmos Fellow and you get a Fast Pass to #mtbos.  Well... mostly... but I'll take it.  The interactions I have had with teachers on Twitter since mid-July have been amazing, so a big shout out to Desmos.  

I wasted little time using my enhanced Twitter network.  A few weeks back I decided to make a Desmos Activities Template and accompanying tutorial video to show how people could make their own graphing stories using Computation Layer.  

As of this post, that tweet had over 13000 views and over 500 engagements.  Holy crap!  To put it in perspective, I only have about 20 math teachers in my building.  To be able to reach out has made me feel great about giving back to the #mtbos community that has been so foundational in what I do day to day in my classroom.  I look forward to similar future contributions on Twitter.  More importantly, I look forward to continuing to expand my professional learning network with so many talented and amazing individuals.  

- Keep Grinding