|We switched to online learning very rapidly in March of 2020. Classes were in person on a Friday and moved online on a Monday. Murphy's Law came into play - it turned out that I was to give one of my exams of the semeter on that Monday. I pushed the exam off by one class day to give me time to get the exam put on Canvas. Unfortuantely, it isn't as easy as it looks. My images did not show within the exam and students still had to do part of their exam on paper and scan and upload it. The exam was in two places and grading became a nightmare. For consistency, I like grading the same question across all student papers at the same time. I can see common errors and score student papers in a similar way for those errors. Canvas does not let me do that, which is a major drawback. Plus, most students uploaded their work in 4 - 6 image files. Grading took about three times as long as it did before and my feedback was limited since I could not type in math formatting.|
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Note: I haven't blogged recently and these thoughts are a culmination of ideas that have been bouncing around in my head over the past few weeks.When I first saw the rules posted online for a local high school back in July, I shook my head in disbelief. The rules have changed somewhat (masks always required in class), but initially it said something like this:
Students can take off their masks when seated as long as they were facing the front of the room. If they get up to move around the room, they must have their mask on. And teachers were told: Students will not to sit in groups during class in order to maintain social distancing.
What many school administrators, department of education leaders and school board members don't realize is that high school teachers have advanced their teaching methods beyond the 1950's. Classrooms are configured with tables or desks in pods. Learning is social and we want our students to work together. Even after teaching the same content for ten years, my students make new observations or connections and amaze me with what they are able to conclude. This would NOT happen, if students worked by themselves. Or at the very least, only the student that thought of the new idea would benefit from it.
Even within my synchrounous virtual classroom this fall, I use breakout rooms on a daily basis and students work together for 10-15 minutes on course content. They post in a common Google doc or move things on a Google slide or write on a common Google Jamboard. And then we debrief as a class after they return from their breakout rooms. Learning together is really that important for my students. Learning is social and teachers need to be given the tools to help their students learn together while being socially and often physically distanced.
Even as teachers work to modify their lessons, they get new restrictions being thrown at them almost daily. An AP Statistics colleague of mine said he will have 2 days of face-to-face instruction and 2 days of asynchrounous virtual instruction per week. That doesn't sound bad, right? But then he has also been told that new content cannot be taught on the asynchronus days. That could make it a bit challenging to teach the entire curriculum. But it could be done, maybe. But wait...there's more. He will only have half of his students in front of him on the face-to-face instruction days. The other half of his students will be working virtual on those days. This means each day, he needs to prepare 2 different lessons for the same class. And because of social distancing, he will need to create or find new ways to do things that would normally have students do while working beside each other. This is the stuff of teacher nightmares.
Will teachers survive teaching in the pandemic? Maybe some will resign, as happened in a district near Buffalo, leaving nearly 80 virtual teacher vacancies. Those who wish to survive will work with their colleagues. Some will reach out via social media or email or by attending free webinars, like this one offered by The Global Math Department on using Delta Math for Distance Learning: https://www.bigmarker.com/GlobalMathDept/Using-DeltaMath-for-Distance-Learning.
I recently shared a pacing guide for AP Statistics with a teacher who made a plea for help over an AP Statistics Teacher Facebook group. This led to an email exchange, where I offered the following advice for starting the school year strong.
- Be up front with your students - teaching this way will be very different than what you or they are used to. If something is unclear or is going wrong (I can't tell you how many times I was talking for 15-30 seconds before a student would unmute themselves and tell me I was muted), they need to tell you and you thank them for sharing.
- Let your students know, even with 28 years of experience, this is your first time teaching AP Stats. Tell them to think about something they learned for the first time (like riding a bike or learning to dive) and the fact that it did not go well. They had friends to help them learn and you have friends to turn to for help with teaching AP Statistics.
- Tell them that your goal is for them to succeed, and that you will work along side them, in a physically-distanced sort of way, for this to happen.
Although my students work together in breakout rooms and I can pop in their room to check on them, I miss the collective buzz and energy of math conversations. When I am in the same physical space as my students, I can quickly assess if I need to clarify an idea or if there is a pre-requisite idea that needs to be addressed. I can walk by 8 groups in less than 5 minutes and gather real-time data. I yearn for the day when I can be with my students again.
BONUS NOTE: If you want to experience how I use breakout rooms and teach with Desmos, join me for the virtual PD session offered by BER called, "Making Best Use of Desmos to Strengthen Math Instruction (Grades 6-12)" Depending on which session you choose and the time zone you live in, you might not miss a full day of school. Dates in November, but there will also be virtual sessions in the spring. Feel free to ping me on twitter @mathteacher24, if you need more information.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
The year was 1995 and I was teaching math at Ames High School in Ames, Iowa. It was my
|first year as a full-time teacher. I didn't make it a habit of checking my desks for student writing. Perhaps that particular day there was a pencil on the floor or a piece of paper and I went to pick it up near the desk. I can't recall those details. However, I do recall seeing something written on the desk and I bent over to read it. The words I read were burned into my memory. It said, "Mrs. Nataro is a n***** lover."|
I was shocked by the words I saw, naievely thinking my community was safe and free of racism. It has taken me until now to realize that what I did next contributed to the underlying racism that was in present in my classroom.
Image from pixnio.com
A flood of thoughts raced through my mind, "What do I do? How long had this been written on the desk? How many students had seen it? Was it written on other desks?" I recall quickly walking around the room and checking each desk. After I saw it was only on the one desk, my thoughts changed to "I can't let other students see this. I need to remove this vandalism from the desk immediately."
I can't recall where I found the products I used to clean the desk, but I do remember scrubbing vigorously and checking several times to make sure the words could no longer be seen. I had erased the words and thought I had solved the problem. The desk was clean, but the problem was still there. I had removed the vandalism, but I did not address what had led to that vandalism.
At the time, I thought I had done the right thing. I was protecting my black students from being exposed to that vile language and I was preventing those words from being viewed and used by my white students. I now understand that by not saying anything to administrators or my students, I contributed to the racist undercurrent in the school and my classroom. And if you were a black student or black teacher at Ames High School in 1995 and you are reading this post, I am sorry that I did not speak up. I am sorry I did not recognize what my silence meant.
So, what can we do as educators? I am not an expert on this, but offer a few thoughts.
1) Train educators with what to do and say in response to racism and intolerance. Train us to listen and train us on the ways we can support marginalized students. Posting platitudes around the school like "we care for our students" and "your education matters to us" is meaningless without the tools teachers need to promote change and have difficult conversations.
2) Find groups that work to actively support anti-racists practices in education and share your experiences and expertise within those groups. If you are looking for some ideas, check out the link to the recent statement posted at The Global Math Department.
3) Don't relegate teaching of black history or marginalized groups to one month of the year or a specific week or a single assembly to check off a box. Doing that is like saying, "Look here. We didn't forget about you. Problem solved." This doesn't come close to doing the hard work that needs to be done.