Tuesday, January 9, 2018

#MTBoS12Days: What are you looking forward to in 2018?

This winter break @druinok organized a blog challenge.  I think it was meant to be completed during winter break, but I'll likely be finishing long after that.  That said, I do love good prompts, so I'll stick with it.  You can find more info here if you'd like to join in the fun.

So, what am I looking forward to most in 2018? 

Well, I love the start of a new school year.  One of the great things about teaching is that it is filled with new beginnings.  You can try a new grading system, you can try a new warm-up routine, you can try a new tech tool.  Sure, you can do some of these things in the middle of the school year, but many of the routines are best changed at the start of a year.  This year, I'm switching schools in the middle of the year.  Sometimes when I think about it, I get super overwhelmed.  I can hardly wrap my mind around the idea that I'll be teaching a lesson at my current school one day.  Then I'll need to pack up my room overnight and move into  new classroom across town to teach a lesson there the next day.  On top of that, I have never taught the courses that I am picking up before (statistics and business/consumer math) and I've never taught on a block schedule.  I wonder when I will learn things like how to take attendance on a new LMS.  How will I find out about school rules, policies, and traditions?  How will I know what the sub covered during the first few weeks of the semester before I arrive.  Of course, these things will eventually work themselves out, so I remind myself to focus on all the good that comes along with a fresh start.  Here are two things that I'm considering trying in my new classroom:

First, I would like to focus on building a strong classroom community.  This has been a goal of mine for the last few years, but I've never found the magic bullet.  Most of my students remain unaware of how their actions affect other people.  I'd love to foster a culture where every student is not only responsible for their own learning but where they also care about the learning of their classmates.  I've bought a ton of Kagan books lately and I think that I'll incorporate some teambuilding and classbuilding activities a few times per week.  With the block schedule, I think it would offer a perfect brain break to spend 5 minutes in the middle of class to work on building culture.

The second thing that I'd like to do is build employability skills into class.  @cheesemonkeysf  mentioned at some point that she gives a professionalism grade in here classes.  I see this as a good way to encourage students to be responsible.  They can earn points for showing skills and behaviors that employers would look for.  For example, do they come to [work] class on time?  Do they stay on task or do they engage in personal business "on the clock?"  Do they treat their [coworkers] classmates with respect?  How about their [boss] teacher?  Do they turn in work on time?  Do they work well on a team?  Can they work without being micro-managed?  Can they communicate well?  Can they solve problems on their own and seek help when they need it?  Are they technologically literate?  Do they have leadership skills?  Can they follow directions?  Are they self-starters?

I have not thought about the logistics of this yet.  I think I'd like to create a grade where students earn 1-5 points per day being professional and employable.  I'm concerned about the impact on grades though, so I might make this a weighted grade, possibly 5-10%.  I'd love your feedback on this goal if you have some :)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

#SundayFunday: New Year’s Resolutions!

The #SundayFunday challenge has become more of a monthly prompt than a weekly one recently.  Which is ok with me because I was having trouble keeping up :)  This post is actually a week early!!  Here is more info if you'd like to join in the fun.

This month's prompt it to write about our New Year's resolutions.  I rarely make resolutions.  I don't need to really because I make goals for myself all the time.  Before I share my new goals, I should mention that I have recently accepted a new job.  My current employer will likely be holding me for close to 60 days (a state requirement so that classroom are not left empty).  This means I'll probably be starting my new position in early February.

First, I want to be clear that I've had a good run with my current employer.  I have received many opportunities and I have grown tremendously during my 12.5+ year tenure.  I met many people and was given the opportunity to speak at conferences and attend professional development sessions.  However, I've started to outgrow my current school.  One of the many great opportunities that I was given at my current school was to implement a rotation based blended model of instruction.  I've written tons about it in the past 4-5 years.  However, I was the only teacher in my building to fall in love with the model.  I like the small group instruction piece for remediation and acceleration the most.  I also like the fact that students build both independence, responsibility, and collaboration skills every day.  The tech coach that was in my room for most of the first 2 weeks was amazed that my students experienced at least 3 of the 4 Cs everyday.  My students even earned the highest passing rates on our state test in our building (by about 20%).  Unfortunately, none of that carried enough weight for my current employer to buy-into the instructional model and I was forced to teaching using only a lecture and worksheet cycle.  Needless to say, I have been very unhappy for the last 4 months.

I put out the word with my contacts at local schools that I was in the market for a new teaching job at a school that would support me in my journey to provide a more engaging classroom environment.  The funny part is that most of the local districts have embraced this model widely and have seen growth.  I'm fortunate to have found a position at a school that started using this blended model even before I did.  When asked, my new principal stated that one of the goals at his school was to create an educational experience that meets the needs of students by offering flexibility.  The district is incorporating more blended and online classes as a result.  I'm hoping that this will be a better  fit for me.

So, here are a few of my upcoming goals.  First, I know very little about my new school.  I hope to spend some of my holiday break learning what I can through the school's website and social media accounts.  Second, I know nothing about my new department's policies and procedures.  Thankfully, the lead teacher has been helpful so far.  I'm planning to stop by the school tomorrow to pick up some instructional resources that she left for me in the office.  I hope to use these resources to learn a bit about the two new courses I'll be teaching: statistics and consumer math.  I've never taught either course but I'm excited by the idea of teaching the two most applicable math classes ever :)  Third, I know very little about teaching on a block schedule.  I think my experience in using stations will help tremendously to keep my students engaged for a much longer period of time.  I'm hoping to connect with some other teachers in the building who have been using the model to learn about how they have used it in a block setting.

I plan on taking full advantage of my fresh start.  I'm hoping that I may actually be able to start on the first day of the new semester (January 26), but I know that it will likely be a few weeks later.  I'm excited by the idea of teaching at a much smaller school (literally half the size).  I hope that the teachers have closer relationships with each other and that students are more welcoming to newbies :)

Wish me luck!  It will be a very challenging few weeks as I pack-up my old classroom and move into my new one.  I'm sure I'll struggle with the fast paced transition but I know that I'll be in a much better place soon enough.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

#MTBoS12Days: What worked (and what didn't) in 2017?

This winter break @druinok is organizing a blog challenge.  I'll likely be finishing long after break, but I do love good prompts, so I'll stick with it.  You can find more info here if you'd like to join in the fun.

The next prompt that seemed like a good fit for me was: What worked (and what didn't) in 2017?

I'm fortunate to be starting a new job in the next few weeks.  I have the opportunity to start fresh with my goals for the year and I intend to take advantage of that unusual benefit.  Some of my goals going into this year was to improve the process of going over homework, to increase active student participation, in encourage a sense of community between students, and to improve my work-life balance.

I was able to improve the process of going over homework.   I'll need to modify this as my new school is 1-1, but not with iPads.  I'm not sure if the student laptops have cameras, but I'm considering having students create one Google Slides document per chapter to insert pictures of each homework assignment.  Then students would turn in a sharing link on Schoology so that I could see the homework each day.  This would also allow me to share images of certain problems with the entire class.  I've not yet worked out all the details, but I love the student ownership that comes with showing student solutions versus providing a copy of my work.

I was not as successful as I had hoped to be with improving student participation.  I'm hoping to try Alice Keeler's suggestions from Teaching Math with Google Apps: 50 G Suite Activities.   I'm hoping to use some of her ideas to get students working both collaboratively and independently so that I can work with small groups of students more often for remediation and enrichment.

I am also still working towards improving student interactions with one another.  My  goal is for students to be equally concerned with the success and well-being of their teammates as with their own.  I've recently purchased some more Kagan books for additional ideas about classbuilding and teambuilding.  My plan for the new semester is to try one of each of these structures every week.

My final goal involved eating lunch with colleagues rather than working through lunch.  I've failed pretty miserably at this.  When I start my new job, I'm planning to make a sincere effort on this.  I  definitely need  the opportunity to meet my new co-workers and build those new relationships.

Overall, it looks like I still have quite a bit to improve on this year to meet my goals.  Luckily, we are only half-way through the school year, so I still have lots of time :)  Good luck with your goals too!