Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ten Weeks of Summer: The AP Stat Reading (Week 1)

During the school year, I did a teach 180 blog and I will be spending some time next week reviewing my successes and failures of the previous school year.  If you are a new teacher and you are reading this, you may be thinking, "Wait. You have taught since 1992. You still fail in your teaching?" Fail, fall short, learn and succeed.  If I want to continue to be the best teacher I can be for my students, I will need to try new things to keep them engaged and help them learn.  I think I may have even said in a previous blog post that once I stop learning and growing as a teacher it will be time for me to leave teaching.  But I am nowhere near ready for that yet.

This summer I will be blogging once each week to reflect on things I am doing over the summer relative to teaching.  I might blog about something I learned from a participant at a workshop.  Or I might blog about one of my summer goals, learning the computational layer in Desmos.  Or I might blog about a book I am reading related to teaching.

Let's begin.  Week 1: The AP Statistics Reading.  Today is Day 7 - a.k.a. the last day of the AP Statistics Reading.  It is one of the best professional development experiences of the year and this is my 9th year as an AP Reader.  Each year I learn more about how to help my students become better statistical communicators and better statistical thinkers.  I pick up teaching ideas, book recommendations and share stories with old friends and new friends.  This year I was able to escape from my third Escape Room in Kansas City and a bunch of us tried ax throwing. (It's ok to throw axes in statistics, but you don't forget to label them.)

This year at Best Practices night I presented about a teaching technique called "Stand and Talk".  It was based off of Sara VanDerWerf's blog and talk that I saw at NCTM.  (My blog posts about this technique can be found at Day 150 and Day 151 in my blog from the 2017-2018 school year.)  I also picked up some ideas from other teachers at that session.  Specifically, I want to try Kelly M. Spoon's (@kellymspoon) Desmos card sort activities.  (As I was writing this blog, I tried to search for it and could not find it online.)  So, I sent her a tweet and will modify my blog with the link once she sends it to me.

Stay tuned for week 2 - prepping for some workshops and looking ahead to teaching at my new school.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Teach 180: The Last Day (Day 178)

Today was the last day for all faculty.  It was sad to think that this was my last time to be with this particular group of teachers and friends.  I took pictures of my empty classroom to remind me of where I have taught for the past 12 years.  I also took a picture of this one special frame I have hanging on my wall.

My classroom has no real windows and has served as "the detention room" for many years.  About a year or two after being at Moravian Academy, the photography teacher, Nancy, asked me "If you could look out a window, what would you see?" 

"A beach scene," I told her.  "It doesn't need to be tropical, but it needs to be a beach scene." 

It was right before spring break and many of her photo students would soon be spending their days relaxing at a beach.  So, Nancy held a contest for her students.  The winning photo would be enlarged and framed behind this window that had been salvaged from Illick (a building on campus).  Thank you Lauren Comes (class of 2009?) for giving me something beautiful and relaxing to look at each day.  Thank you colleagues and friends; I will miss you greatly.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Teach 180: Write About a Time... (Day 176 & 177)

Yesterday I proctored a chemistry exam, prepared sixteen different midterm and final exams for summer acceleration, wrote three letters to parents about summer acceleration, attended a faculty luncheon honoring about 15 people (of whom 8 were retiring) and took some time for a singing "jam" session with two colleagues.  At the end of the day, I left feeling like three or four days had elapsed.  In fact, I even forgot where I had parked my car.  It was parked safely down by the science labs, where my day had started!

Today we have a final meeting as an Upper School faculty and we have been asked to take ten minutes to journal about one of the following topics.  (We subsequently had to write for two additional seven minute bursts.) We are to write about at time this year when:

  • you were empowered to make a choice.
  • the power of choice was taken from you.
  • you felt heard.
  • you felt dismissed.

After this school year, I could write on each of these topics, but the two that I could write the most about are the power of choice being taken from me and feeling dismissed.  Based on many of my friends being in states where they have gone on strike, I feel like being dismissed and having choice taken away are happening way to often, especially in public education.  

This blog entry will focus on the feeling of being dismissed.  (It is partly because of this feeling that I chose to leave Moravian and took a job at Kent Place School.)  At the beginning of the year, I suggested two major curriculum changes, one was a re-ordering of courses.  Another was lengthening courses to accommodate the decreased instructional time that was happening relative to the schedule change this year.  Both of those ideas where shot down.  The middle school math department did not want to consider the change in the ordering of courses and the Headmaster (by way of the Upper School Director) told me that we could not lengthen courses.  In essence, we needed to work within the structure we were given.  The Headmaster suggested that new ways of teaching should be used, but in reality, the curriculum itself needed to be restructured first.  (In hindsight, we also should have been given two full days at the start of the school year to meet as a department to consider the impending changes.)  After my meeting with him to discuss the impact of the schedule on the math curriculum, I walked away feeling like I was dismissed and not heard.  

So, the math department worked with what we were given.  We had less review before tests and covered topics in less depth and we created a three page document to show what has been removed or reduced in the curriculum.  The "surfacy" treatment of topics led to decreased student understanding in many areas.  We didn't have time to look at more nuanced problems than we had in the past and students said that they wished they had more practice with math on a daily basis.  I am sad that there is a mess that is being left behind in mathematics and that the new department chair will have to figure out how to clean up the mess.  I am also sad to be leaving many wonderful colleagues.  Keep fighting the good fight, LC and LG!  (If you are reading this MR, don't worry.  I am a phone call away and will gladly help you in any way I can.)