Category Archives: collaboration

Take Aways from Green Lake

Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending the Wisconsin Math Council Conference for the first time, and it was a lovely experience.

I went with my colleague who is also a first year teacher, and we ended up in some really great sessions.

My favorite session was definitely Get Up and Move, which was exactly how it sounds. I learned some great new strategies for getting kids out of their seats and moving, including Bucket Sort, Musical Math, Relay Race, and Clue. I think my kids sit too much, and I want to get better at doing fewer, chunked activities rather than long work times, so doing a practice activity where they’re out of their seats and moving sounds like a win-win.

I also went to Jo Boaler’s keynote. I’ve been following Boaler’s work for awhile now, so I didn’t really learn anything new, but her presentation was so lovely and her message so true. I can’t agree with her more, and I hope to see a major shift in mathematics education soon that encompasses her ideas on mindset, mistakes, and success in the math classroom.

One session that I wish would have existed is lesson planning or unit planning. I feel like maybe I should have learned that in teacher school, but whatever. I want to get better at planning.

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Filed under collaboration, conversations, Uncategorized

Second semester

I’ve been enjoying second semester so far.

In geometry, we just finished up the unit on triangle congruence. I felt like it was kind of rushed, but progress was definitely made. We revisited proofs after a brief introduction back in October, and I enjoyed seeing kids reasoning again.

One practice that I used several times was having small groups write out proofs on the whiteboards and then sharing them with the rest of the class. I asked each person to contribute one thing to the board (the diagram, marking the diagram, writing the congruence statements, using cpctc, etc) which was a good way to make sure no one was dead weight. One thing I’d want to improve is what the kids in the. audience are doing while the other groups share. Too many were tuned out and I felt like I was the only one listening and asking questions. However I think everyone was listening when one student ended up saying FU is congruent to FU.

I’m now teaching stats in FST. The curriculum is… lacking to say the least. I feel like stats could be so cool, but these crappy worksheets with blurry images are pretty uninspiring. My mentor said she’d help me come up with some cool stats projects, so I have to remember to follow through on that.

Speaking of curriculum, during the last inservice, the math department met and had a pretty kickass discussion on equity in our curriculum. Nothing concrete came out of it, but it was refreshing to hear everyone’s ideas, and I was glad to learn that I’m not the only one who thinks much of our curriculum is really out-dated, non-rigorous, and inequitable. I really do feel like I’m teaching something that was written in the late 80s or early 90s. I can’t relate to it all, and I sympathsize with my students when they can’t either.

So there’s much work to be done, but so far second semester has been shaping up nicely. It’s frickin cold out and we won’t have any vacation until spring break, but I’ve been enjoying every day so what more could I ask for? I’ve been feeling pretty lucky lately.

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Filed under collaboration, Geometry, group work, productive struggle

A cold day, followed by a beautiful display of student initiative

Yesterday we had a cold day! It’s like a snow day, except it’s really cold out. With wind chill, temperatures around here were -35 F. The timing was good because somehow I ended up being really sick yesterday. So I didn’t particularly enjoy myself on my day off (in fact, I felt terrible), but thankfully I could nap by the fire, drink tea, and spend the day recuperating.

Anyway, I wanted to post about a proud moment from my FST class today. These kids are used to a lot of hand-holding and spoon-feeding, and many of them rarely do independent work (unless I really hound them). Most days, I’ll hear this from at least one FST student: “I’ll be honest, Ms. C, I’m not gonna do this.”

These kids are mostly seniors who’ve been placed in “lower track” math classes their whole life, so changing their mindset isn’t easy. But they did elect to take 4 years of math in high school, plus they’re all good kids, so I know it’s worth it to keep trying.

Today, I told them I would walk them through one example of each type of problem (unit circle stuff), but that was it. No more.

A few kids said, “Aw, can’t you keep going.”

“Nope. I said that was all I was going to do as a class.”

Here is where one kid said, “We can keep doing them as a class, I’ll just go up there.” And he did.

The awesome thing was this kid didn’t know how to solve the problems. But he was willing to go up there and try to figure it out. It probably helped that he’s in the drama club and is an anchor on the school announcements.

So he starts to play the role of the teacher. “Ok, so let’s do problem 2: 495 degrees. We need to find an equivalent rotation between 0 and 360 degrees. How do we do that?”

Miraculously, the rest of the kids played along.

“It’s 45 degrees.” “No, it’s 135 degrees.” “How’d you get that?”

The 135 degree kid explains his thinking, the kid at the board follows along, agrees, and writes down 135.

I quickly snap out of my state of shock and try to remember good techniques for facilitating student discussions.

So I ask, “S, could you please repeat how you got 135?”

So he does.

“Thank you. Can someone summarize or rephrase what S just said?”

Someone does.

And, oh man, it was beautiful. Students were participating without any prodding from me. I managed to remember to ask good questions (Who can rephrase that? Who did it differently?) and to occasionally ask for a collective pause to let something sink in for everyone before moving on. Most importantly, I remembered not to interrupt too much.

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Filed under classroom management, collaboration, culture, FST / Algebra 2

So Excited!

Ahhhh! I am so excited to start teaching!!!!!

I just can’t contain my excitement right now, so I had to post something.

I am at school right now (can finally start moving into my classroom!), where I just finished a 3 hour district training on building classroom community. It was so great. Most of the new teachers in the district were there, and I always really appreciate connecting with people who are at the same place as me.

The training was well organized and enjoyable. I didn’t really learn anything new, but it was wonderful to be able to discuss ideas with colleagues and process everything I’ve been thinking about over the summer. It was put on by the district’s teacher mentors, who were incredibly welcoming and enthusiastic. One of the mentors was previously (until this year) a math teacher at the high school, and she is just so lovely and helpful to have as a resource.

There are actually FOUR new math teachers at the high school this year, and three of us were at the training, so it was awesome to connect with those guys as well. I feel like we’re already bonding, and after the training the three of us went upstairs to the math department, checked out each other’s rooms, and continued to talk about the upcoming school year. Then they even helped me move my computer, which was oddly set up on a table in right in front of the whiteboard, on to my desk and made sure everything was functioning. Really great people. I am truly looking forward to collaborating with them this year.

In fact, all of the staff and administration I’ve met so far have been great, and the district seems very welcoming and supportive. How did I get so lucky?

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Filed under collaboration