Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Down in the Dumps

It's amazing how fragile my self-worth is.  I got called into the principal's office about "an incident".  I made a joking comment to students I really like, which, out of context, sounded bad.  In context, it was a joke scolding a student purposely being obnoxious.  But this post isn't about the incident.

Since this meeting, all of the happiness from my previous post has been sucked out of my body.  I get home and feel exhausted.  I get to school and feel unprepared.  In class, I feel just a little off.  My patience is low, my morale is low, and I feel mentally exhausted.

I wish that my hard work preparing good lessons, my knowledge of math and my ability to make it accessible, and the good feelings my students have toward me were what I was known for as a teacher.  Instead, it feels like I am being defined by the "naughty" letter in my HR file.  It makes it hard to bring work home.  I haven't been a pleasant mom or wife the last few days.  I'm pouty, tired, and distracted.

I'm angry that the outcome of my comment (that is, no outcome - the students knew it was a ridiculous joke) couldn't have been taken into consideration and the issue dropped.  The principal followed protocol, which I don't blame her for.  But I do wish that the protocol would take into account the effect this has had on my teaching and enthusiasm for teaching.

My hope is that by venting my frustration, I can move past this and see it for what it is.  My big mouth and the circumstances afterward becoming an issue that is probably much bigger in my mind than it is in anyone else's mind.  Who thinks about it the least?  The students who were there.  Next?  HR  Next?  The principal.  The most?  Me.

And why do I teach?  For the kids and because it makes me feel good.  So if I can somehow put the rest of this out of my head, I hope I can get back to happy Mrs. B - the one who smiled at every kid in the hall the first weeks of school. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

I am a Teacher

I just wanted to post about a major event in my life.  For the past 3 years, I really haven't enjoyed my job.  There were moments of success, but on a day-to-day basis, I wasn't excited to go to work.  I envied teachers that would rather have a teaching day than a workshop day.  I knew I used to have that spark.  I used to enjoy teaching.

The great-amazing-fantastic news I have to share is that I love teaching again!!!!  I have fun every day with my students.  I'm excited about my work.  It is again more fun to implement than to plan.  What changed?  I managed to break out of the bubble where sophomore Geometry was my advanced class of the day.  I gained two sections of Precalc that have revitalized me.  I use a graphing calculator again.  I use interval notation again.  I say f(x) and they know what I'm talking about.  They like math and they're good at it.

Yeah, I still teach Geometry and it's evil twin Informal Geometry.  (I had a group last year that soured me on the course... trying to recover.)  I think I go in with a different attitude each day, though.  Stress is lifted because I have taught two of my three preps before.  I have a smile on my face every day.  I'm not drained from being a disciplinarian on a block schedule - my two most challenging classes last year were on block.  I saw them as 1.5 hour torture sessions with the greatest reward being the bell at the end of class.

No, the job isn't all rainbows and Hershey Kisses.  I still put in many hours (contrary to the students who recently estimated I worked 26 hours a week).  I still have challenging students.  The copy machine, printer, my laptop, and Activboard cannot all work on the same day.  I battle the system to get the information I need to teach effectively.  But being in the classroom is once again the sunny side of the job.

I was so afraid I had lost it.  Lost my enthusiasm for teaching.  Lost my love of math.  Lost my love of kids.  What a relief that it was just hiding behind unfortunate circumstances.  I hope my story can inspire the ones that are trodding through overwhelming times.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Homework Solved?

Well, I must say that my new plan for homework is the best I've done so far!  A recap:

On Monday (ok, technical difficulties this week, but in theory...) they receive a cover sheet.
Each day, they score their own homework on completion.
The reverse side of the cover sheet is used for warm-up problems.
On Friday, the assignments for the week are stapled with the cover sheet and snapped into a binder for each class.

What I love:
How easy it is to enter scores - students have been honest so far.
I don't feel like I'm shuffling papers constantly!  Lowers my stress level.
Not as much keep-up with late work.  Some over the Friday-Monday transition, but during the week, it takes care of itself.
Students are getting into the routine fairly quickly.

Not so great:
If a student will be gone Friday, when should they turn in their packet?  If Thursday, they'll leave out the assignment assigned that day.  If Monday, it doesn't go in the Friday binder.  Not a big deal, just reality.
So many kids are missing already for sports and such, so I need to go over the procedure daily to catch the clueless ones.
I have to have weekly binders ready on Fridays!

Haven't implemented highlighting selected problems yet.  I figure I'm throwing enough procedure at them right now and I can start that later.  Overall, I'm really happy with the system.  Only a couple of complaints that students have to keep track of their homework until Friday, but more so because of the change in habit.  BRAINwork is to come once I can get my own routine in order.  I'm still excited about the preview concept.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Status Update

From my big idea accountability list... after 3 days:

Teach Integrity - a big task, but I'd like to make it an overarching theme. I hope to make them want to have integrity but to be able to take ownership when they stumble. Lofty. One of my parenting goals too. Heck, they're all my kids anyway.
I really don't know how to get through to them.  They know right from wrong in most cases.  It's hard to teach them to want integrity for themselves.

Integrate previewing upcoming lessons. Like I've said, it will make instruction so much clearer for everyone.
I did this with precalc.  Once.  Need to get into the swing of things.

Homework handling - turning in end-of-week packets, self-scored for completion, teacher checks a selection for correctness/method.
Tomorrow's Friday - we'll see!

Modify interesting book problems to be less formula driven (example) and put together a sheet of 4-8 unconventional but doable problems to let students loose with... i.e. not give hints, direction, etc. Make them do their own thinking
Not many interesting applications yet - still getting the basics down.

Use graphing videos in Precalculus (weekly?) Sweeney and Meyer
Oh yeah!  Love my blog... I would have forgotten about these.  Maybe I'll get it ready for Monday.  If I put it on my lesson plan template, I'll always remember.  :)

Keeping up with my reflection blog
Not bad!  And helpful!

Communicating learning objectives clearly
I have the objectives typed up for each class for the first chapter.  Traveling to 4 different rooms makes it hard to get a habit/system started, but I've done okay.

Greeting students at the door, asking about their lives - will begin to actually care. :) Meyer and others
I'll try to start this once things settle down!

Use the Rule of 4 - representing topics verbally, algebraically, numerically, and graphically
Will keep in mind.  Still doing pretty basic stuff.

Use "clock partners" - each student has a clock with 12 possible partners - I tell them what hour for quick pairing
Would be great for Informal Geometry.  I'll try to fit it in.

Keep reading blogs for inspiration and motivation
Has died down significantly.  Maybe weekends...

Have a chapter outline ready at the beginning of each chapter for each class
Done!  The kids take notes on them.  :)

Including questions from previous tests on new tests
Must remember this one!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back to School Update

So I did the cup exploration the first day of school with my Geometries and Precalcs.  I didn't do the theatric hangman intro that I had dreamed up.  It didn't seem like me

Kids wrote down great "I wonder" statements.
-I wonder why the cup rolls in a circle.
-I wonder how the shape of the cup affects the way it rolls.
-I wonder if bigger cups roll in bigger circles.
Some kids thought of cones and cylinders (extreme cases) right away.
One kid came up with the idea of his cup being a truncated cone.
Kids worked together.
Kids had good intuition about how oddly shaped cups would roll.
Kids thought about what was important to measure at the end when I was about to collect the cups.
Kids came up with ideas of slant affecting the roll and the difference/ratio of the size of the top circle to the bottom circle.
Kids wanted to "do this all year".  (Maybe because it's low-pressure?)

Even after I explained why we were doing a "pointless" exploration (foster curiosity, researching theories, growing the creative part of our brain) some kids complained.
Some kids were off task unless I was with them asking probing questions.
Toward the end of the day, I responded to apathy with entirely too much help and prodding.  Not sure how to avoid this - most of my questions got bored looks in response.

I wish I had a greater variety of cups.  I found some bowls which really promoted some ideas.  More variety might make kids more curious too.

Happy Dance:
-A girl brought in some plastic martini/wine glass style cups the second day.  The kids predicted which would roll a bigger circle.  And they were right!  And it made the biggest circle of any cup I had - they even knew why.  :)
-I got pretty excited when I started to wonder what the square bottom/circle top cups I left at Walmart would do.  I wonder if they'd roll a polygon.  If so, I wonder if I could figure out what type.

I'm glad I was given permission from the online community to end class without having a nice tidy answer to all of our wonderings.  I'll bring it back with similar triangles when the time comes in geometry.  With precalc, who knows.  I tried to drive home the point with the kids that it's the thinking process, not necessarily the solution, that is valuable.

Letting them work freely and cooperatively gave me a quick look at which classes would benefit from a seating chart.  Day 2 went pretty darn smoothly because of this!