Saturday, August 22, 2009

Week 2 in Review

“To teach is to learn twice.”
-Joseph Joubert

This week was full of quizzes and worksheets, tissues and cough drops. It was a rough week. Mostly because I wasn't feeling at my best. I was giving everything I had, plus some, but with a weak immune system and the first cold of the season--that probably wasn't exactly 100%.

The Middle School is piloting a new program to encourage students to turn their work in on time--they basically receive a lunch detention, or with a positive spin: a "working lunch-- until they turn the assignment in. The first day our team had thirty kids stay for "Lunch and Learn." While good in theory, it just adds one more thing I have to keep track of and one more thing I have to organize at the end of the day. And, I haven't quite figured out how to do it efficiently yet.

I gave my first quiz on Monday, and I was quite disappointed with the results. Although the percentages weren't terrible--most of the students could have (and should have) done better. For goodness' sakes this is a review chapter--things they should have learned and used for two years--and stuff that's really not scheduled in the curriculum. I would need triple the time to actually teach the concepts from scratch. The unit test will be on Monday, so everybody keep your fingers crossed.

I have one class, in particular, that is much slower than the others. Their math foundational skills just simply aren't there, and they're too immature to listen as I explain new (or old) concepts. I admit, I'm lost with them. How much do I stop to review? Is it ok to skip the "fun" activities because I simply need the time to explain and practice with them? We're always running out of time. I want them to do the hands-on activities, but they won't listen to the instructions enough to understand what I want them to do. We've had three activities totally bomb so far--activities that the other classes could do without any trouble. I'm pulling my hair out by the end of each class. Thank goodness the rest of my classes go relatively smoothly.

We've had several students get their schedules changed and be pulled out of our team this week. Some because they need the resources from a Collab team (we don't have any inclusion teachers assigned to our team), but (I heard it through the grapevine) some because of one of the other teachers on our team. That's really a shame. And, I hate it for my kids--that they have to sit through a class where the teacher has no relationship with the students and hardly a commitment to her job.

We started pulling permanent records for students this week to see what skeletons they have hidden (or not so hidden) in their proverbial closets. It's awfully eye-opening to hear about students who no longer live with their parents, whose parents ignore recommendations for assistance, or who spent half of last year out of school because his family was homeless. Makes me thankful for my relatively stable family. And makes me hope that perhaps I can be that source of stability and dare I say it... love... that so many of my students long for.

I lost my classroom key on Thursday morning. Sometime between 8:00 and 8:30 am. Somewhere between the Red Hall, the Yellow Hall, and the Activity Room. For someone who usually has it "together" pretty well, I often do stupid things like this. However, the next day someone found it in the Activity Room, where I had my first school picture as a teacher taken. Hooray!

That leads me to the highlight of my week... on Friday when I took my homeroom class to get their photos made, one of the PTA mothers introduced herself as Jasmyne's mom. After confirming which Jasmyne she was talking about (I teach 2 Jasmynes, 2 Ashleys, 2 Brians, 2 Jennys, 3 Briannas, and 6 Joshuas), she told me that Jasmyne loves my class! Apparently she has had a string of bad math teachers, and this year she comes home each day talking about the cool things we did in math. Although my body and soul are tired this weekend, that's just the prescription I needed to get pumped up for the week to come.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Take a peek...

"A sketch is generally more spirited than a picture... it is the artist's work when he is full of inspiration and ardour, when reflection has toned down nothing; it is the artist's soul expressing itself freely."
-Denis Diderot

Wanna see what i been inspired by lately....

from Curly Girl Design

from gemma correll's photostream

from art as life

from Missed Connections

from r's adventure

I guess you could say that I'm envious of these fanciful, doodle-y, and anything-but-uptight illustrations. I wish I could sketch like that!

And, it was good

“The teacher who is indeed wise does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”
-Khalil Gibran

Yesterday was my best day of teaching ever. Granted, I haven't been teaching very long... but if I had to pick a best day, it would have to be yesterday. I finally had my class rosters (and a seating chart!!) and I was still trying to learn names. (Sidenote: I was amazed to find that I knew the names of most of my homeroom kids after only meeting them for a few minutes at orientation last week! The others are taking a bit longer.)

I had created my own bellringer activity (which I learned yesterday, at The Middle School, bellringers are supposed to be called "Target Time"); the activity was called "Math About Me." The students were supposed to use numbers that represent things in their personal lives as the input into various equations. I think they enjoyed it, and it was a great way to gauge what skill level they are entering 8th grade with. I'm actually surprised (and thrilled!) how sharp many of the students are.

In two of my classes I taught my first real math lesson--"Variables and Expressions" if you just really wanted to know. I had a handy dandy graphic organizer (aka chart) for the kids to fill out as we talked about how to translate from algebra to words, and then we did a lot of practice problems. I let the kids make mistakes, and then we discussed why those answers were incorrect, all the while guiding them towards the right answer. Textbook teaching, it was. And, I've never even read a teaching textbook!

And, in the other two classes, the students worked on a problem solving assignment with a system of equations. In my opinion, it is the best assignment in the world for a new teacher to give, for the extremely selfish reason that it totally bewilders the student when they read through it the first time. But eventually, after a couple of read-throughs (and probably more in-depth instructions from the teacher), they finally have the "Aha" moment. And, there's nothing more rewarding for a teacher than watching the lightbulb come on in her student's head. I watched students' faces brighten exponentially (have to use those mathematical words, now that I'm a teacher!), and I heard them exclaim, "Oh, I get it!" It was priceless!

Today, however, was not so noteworthy. Most of the afternoon was absorbed by a discipline talk with the assistant principal, and now I'm left scrambling to squeeze the lessons in before the quiz on Monday.

Monday, August 10, 2009

I teach 8th graders

"I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework."
-Lily Tomlin as "Edith Ann"

As of today, when someone asks me what I do for a living, I can finally answer them in one sentence (no explanations needed!). I just say, "I'm an 8th grade Math teacher." Most will ask me if I'm crazy, and I'll just laugh.
This is the image I used to illustrate my career history in my "Welcome to Algebra!" powerpoint today. Then, I looked down and realized that I couldn't have matched this illustration any better than I did today. Puffy sleeves, pencil skirt, and all! Although hopefully, fingers crossed, I'm a little bit more stylish than Ms. Teacher here.
The first day of school flew by. And, that's despite the fact that as of 5pm this afternoon (after class!!), I still had not received the class rosters. Hopefully by tomorrow morning!!

My students sat relatively attentatively as we ran through the class expectations, and actually seemed to enjoy the "Would You Rather..." game that we played. I'm sure the little devils' horns will show soon, but today went delightfully smoothly. Tomorrow we hit the ground running with actual math!

Riding the whitewater waves

"If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water."
-Loren Eiseley

To celebrate Jordan's birthday, and just to relax before school started, we headed up to the Ocoee River to go whitewater rafting this weekend. We spent about two hours on the river, and thankfully had no spills into the rapids. It was a great day in the sun and a great distraction from lesson plans and seating charts.
As I paddled through the water, I couldn't help but be amazed by the dynamic forces of the waves. How organic it looked--despite the fact, that the water is not alive. I could have watched the white caps all day long.

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