Thursday, February 21, 2013

A night off?!?

Night off

This is the first evening all year when I haven't had grading or other work to do. On top of that, my room mate is away for a job interview in Wisconsin (good luck Melissa!). So I'm home alone with pretty much nothing to do but blog about how glorious this night is. So glorious. 

Quiz tomorrow

Tomorrow we're giving our first assessment for the quadrilaterals unit. I'm not totally in love with the assessment but it'll get the job done. I think some of my students will even do reasonably well on it. Actually, given data from past years (last year I witnessed it and the other geometry teachers have seen it year after year), this will probably be the lowest performance on any assessment we have given or will give this year. The unit, Properties of Quadrilaterals, requires students to memorize a lot of information about quadrilaterals. They just aren't interested in memorizing information. I have been telling them to study from their notes. I've given them pointers on how to study and what, specifically to study. You know what I haven't done, though? I haven't ever had them actually study in class. As I think about it, I bet nearly none of my students actually know how to study. And this would have been an awesome unit to teach then those skills. Maybe next time? 

Maybe tomorrow. The quizzes take about half the period. The curriculum that we're using says we're supposed to finish a matching activity in which students match properties of quadrilaterals with their names, shapes, and area formulae (I'd share the whole activity here except I didn't create it and I think it would be inappropriate to post on the internet someone else's work without their permission). But maybe I'll spend the first half of the period leading the students in a study session. What do you think? 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Follow up on quick 1st period student & Summative evaluation

It's President's Day. Days off are so great. I have a couple updates. 

The first is about my quick 1st period students. I've decided to get him some open ended things to work on in his spare time. I'm not going to grade it. It won't even really help him improve his performance on the quizzes we use in the class. It will, however, help develop his analytical thinking skills in ways that our curriculum doesn't come close to doing. I've pasted in a copy of the assignment below. I'm hoping to give him a series of them through the semester and I think I'll call them "Character Builders".

The second update I have is that I had my summative administrative evaluation on Friday. It's annoying being a new guy and having my summative assessment mid-year. I feel like I'm just getting things under control. First semester was very rough for me. I had a handful of very difficult students in each class. Now my classes are a little more controlled and I'm doing a much better job of keeping them focused. We're two weeks in and things haven't completely fallen apart. Still, my evaluation reads pretty poor. My admin focused, in his comments, on my failures more than on my growth. I put a comment on it describing what my admin and I have talked about and the progress I've made. Anyway, the whole thing doesn't matter too much because I was hired as a 1-year temp position on a grant that runs dry this year. My admin told me, truthfully, I'm sure, that he does not know if there will be a position for me here next year. So I'm going to start looking for new positions. Man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.... Anyway, if any of you know of any openings for math teachers in Oregon, leave a comment. 

Character Building Work: Properties of Quadrilaterals
Name: ___________________                  Date: _______________         Per:___

1) Make a list of your hobbies (anything you do for fun):
(e.g. biking, video games, hiking, dinner parties)


2) Pick one hobbie from your list: ______________________ (e.g. biking)

3) What items/objects/artifacts are required for you to do this hobbie?
(e.g. bike, helmet, bike light)

4) Look in your notebook (Quadrilaterals section page 5) at the quadrilaterals we have discussed. Which of these quadrilaterals can be found within your list of artifacts? Draw pictures, make a list:
(e.g. the basic frame of a bike follows the shape of a trapezoid)

5) How would this hobbie change if a different quadrilateral was used for each of the artifacts you listed in 4)? Be descriptive. Use the vocabulary words found on pages 2 and 3 in your notebook for the quadrilateral section. Consider whether you would still enjoy this hobbie. Consider whether it would change how expensive this hobbie is. Consider EVERYTHING! Be creative!
(e.g. One of the nice things about using the basic shape of a trapezoid for a bike frame is that it allows for the forks and seat stays to be non-congruent lengths. This allows for a wide variety of bike frame shapes to be made. Keeping the top tube parallel to the wheel brackets keeps the biker balanced on the bike. If the frame were made into a kite, say, the seat post would almost have to be on top of the handlebars. That would be very uncomfortable to ride. It could make for a more interesting challenge though….)

6) Return this page (w/ any addition pages used) to Mr. Laxton as soon as it is completed. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Two New Thoughts

It occurred to me the other day, during my 1st period class, that one of my students moves much more quickly than the others through the material. I'm trying to think about what I ought to do about that. It hasn't been too bad thus far because I've had enough put together that I can just give him the next thing to work on. I can always have him work on the homework but I'm worried that he'll finish that too quickly. I need to get something put together for students like this. Maybe I should get some geometry puzzles. Did I mention that I'm only teaching geometry this semester (I'm not counting the Academic Support course that I teach 7th period because it has always gone pretty smoothly)? Well, I am. Puzzles are good for developing 3D perspective, which will help my students when we get into volume & surface area. 

The second thought that I've had is that I need to get a better sub binder put together. I should try to do that today at some point. This came to my attention because I needed to get a sub to come in for me today as I'm here at the hospital with my dad. I'm not going to go into the details here because that's not what I want the focus of this blog to be. Suffice to say, I'm out of my classroom today and it seems that it might be nice for my sub if I have a good folder with stuff in it. I'm thinking this is what ought to be in there:

  1. Class seating charts
  2. Notes for each class on what to watch out for with specific students
  3. Notes about the lesson plan for the day
    1. step-by-step guide for what needs to be done
    2. what I expect the students to get out of the class
    3. what formative assessments I would like done
  4. Notes about my classroom rules & expectations
  5. Who to call if things are confusing
  6. Who to call if things go wrong
What I have right now is a letter written out with the lesson plan and some random notes on it about things that may or may not be useful. I've been thinking that I need a good sub plan more recently thanks to my friend's substitute blog, "Substitution Please". His posts are enlightening, I think. Anyway, substitutes. I need to be better to them. That's what I'm sayin'. 

Nothing to Report

I didn't post anything Thursday or Friday last week because there really wasn't anything to say. The behavior in my classroom has been very good. That's been my main concern this past week. I'm going to continue to worry about this next week but I'm happy that this good behavior will give me the opportunity to start focusing more on curriculum. So look for that some next week. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Discipline working: So Far, So Victory

I had my first classroom expectations/behavior test today. Two students in one of my classes were not following my only rule: Learning Comes First. One of them was asleep and the other was drawing. I did just what I told them I would do when I set up my classroom expectations on day one. I gave them a warning. I went on with the lesson. Other directions were given, group work was to be done. Still sleeping, still drawing, still not putting forth any effort toward the lesson. I did as I told them I would do, I gave them a second warning. No change. I did, again, what I told them I would do. I asked them to step outside. At this point there were only a few minutes left in class. But I held my ground. I wrote both of them up for not complying with my requests on multiple occasions. They watched me write them up. I explained to them calmly and matter of factly why I was disappointed in their behavior and what I expect from them in the future. 

I'm really liking this 2-warning thing. It gives students the opportunity to comply without my having to get into any sort of argument with them. It's very simple, it takes very little class time from me. I really like it. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Day 1: Victory

Well, That was a pretty great day. Seriously, it was pretty great. There was only one error: I was anticipating only teaching Geometry today. When I got to my classroom this morning I learned that I had a 1st period class that was not geometry. Oooh, exciting, you say. I say, um, wait, what? I have nothing prepared for not Geometry. 

Off to the office. 

Yup, I do actually have a class that is not geometry to teach in 30 minutes. I tell them that that wasn't supposed to happen. They tell me that it did happen, so teach them something. 

I talk to a colleague (I have colleagues; this is weird to me) who is teaching the class that I now apparently have in 25 minutes. He gives me the prepackaged lesson for the day via e-mail. 

I go back to my room and check it out. It's an easy first day of the semester lesson. 

Class starts and the students come in. I give them my spiel and start the lesson. Our math coach comes in and lets us all know that there's been an error and nobody should be in the class, that I should be teaching geometry. So hopefully that will be all fixed by tomorrow morning. 

That class ended and I'm back in the day that I thought I was supposed to have. 

And then the day was simply excellent. I felt in control of the lesson I gave. I felt that I was fair and honest with my students. I felt that I had their respect. I felt like a successful teacher. Today was a great day. 

P.S. Totally unrelated, I came home and chopped some broccoli for dinner. Thank you Dana Carvey for making broccoli like the greatest vegetable to chop. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My 1st 2nd Semester

Tomorrow marks the first day of semester 2. My schedule is a lot better now (I'm only teaching two courses instead of three). 

I'm going to try to do a better job of journaling my day on this blog from here on out. The posts will hopefully be short, reflective, & meaningful. We'll see. I'll try to post relevant documents as well. I don't know how that'll go, though, so maybe they'll just be embedded and if you want a document from me you can post a comment and I'll e-mail it to you. We'll see.