Saturday, October 1, 2016

Damage Control: The Day After a Sub (#DITLIfe Post 5)

Although I was officially supposed to post on Sunday, September 25th, I thought it made much more sense to talk about a school day than a day off from school.  This post will be about Monday, September 26th, or as I like to call the day after being out, "Damage Control Day".  Experience has taught me that sometimes only a portion of what is listed is done.  Creating plans based on the assumption that the sub would know math is usually not a good idea.

I arrive at school at 7:30 and quickly review the notes left by my sub.  Damage control averted!  My sub was a retired math teacher from my school and she wrote notes for me like "Great class!" and "Wonderful group of young people!" and "I am fascinated by this blue pen that writes in pink ink!!"  Everything was done according to the plans I had left.

Next I make copies for my first period class and copies of a test for later in the day.  I also quickly check my school email.

A Period - Probability and Statistics (40 minutes)
This class consists of ten seniors and we are beginning a unit on data analysis.  We already completed a unit on how to gather data from observational studies, surveys and experiments.  We create a dotplot for sleep times of my students in my Geometry Honors class.  (One of the survey questions I ask my students on the first day of school is "How many hours of sleep did you get last night?")
Here is a dotplot from Fathom for all of my students.  Whenever possible, I use data gathered from my students or data in the news that is relevant to my students.

We also watch an Against All Odds Insides Statistics video on displaying quantitative data with stemplots.

As the class ends, one student asks me for a letter of recommendation. This is my 5th such request.  I give students this list of questions to students to answer prior to writing their letter.  I have done this several times now and it works well.  The idea is not my own, but based on the recommendation of an AP Statistics teacher I know. (I am a part of an email group of 30+ other Statistics teachers, but I can't recall who I stole this idea from. Carl, perhaps??)

B Period - Planning Period (40 minutes)
I spend the next 40 minutes organizing papers, emailing a student, trying to fix the grades that are entered in my online gradebook.  I also have a few minutes to speak to a colleague about presentations we are giving at the PAIS biennial conference in two weeks.
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C Period - PreCalculus (40 minutes)
Today is the first test of the year in PreCalculus.  There are 4 sections of PreCalc and we have created 4 versions of the test.  As I write my answer key as the students take the test, I notice that there is an error on one of the 4 versions of the test!  The problem can still be solved, but it isn't a comparable question in terms of difficulty.  Ugh!  Even working together with a colleague on the test over a period of two days, we didn't catch this glitch.

Assembly Period (40 minutes)
Every Monday we have an assembly period where students, teachers or outside faculty give presentations.  The speaker today is Mr. Eckman, a history teacher.  Last year he and his family lived in Argentina, where his wife did research related to a book she is writing.  His talk is informative and entertaining.

F period (70 minutes) (Our class periods are never in alphabetical order. Long story.)
Today is the lab period day for this class.  That means we have 35 minutes of class and then lunch for 35 minutes and then another 35 minutes of class.  Usually we have a quiz on Monday in this class, but we are preparing for a test that will be given on Wednesday.  This will be the first test for the Honors Geometry students and their first work with proofs on a test.  Before we go to lunch we work on a proof that has two main methods of solution - a shorter way using more recently learned theorems and a longer way with a more algebraic approach.

I tell students that either approach is acceptable and give the analogy of driving from home to school.  They can get to school multiple ways - a more efficient way or a scenic way.  Right now, I just care that they take an appropriate route to get to their final destination - what we want to prove.  Eventually, they will find the more efficient routes when writing solutions to proofs.

When we return from lunch, we work on an activity to help students realize that they can't assume certain things are true when they are given a diagram.  Students work individually and then in groups to make a list of what they notice (know is true) and wonder (think may be true) about the diagram I have on the board.  We then gather the ideas and make a class list of what has been noticed and wondered.  Here, you can the initial diagram.  We are only given that lines AB and BE are perpendicular.

This second diagram shows our class list.  You will notice that some things are circled in red in the "Wonder" list and arrows are drawn to the "Notice" list. These are the items that we decided could be moved to the "Notice" list after I told them that BD was perpendicular to BF and angle 2 was congruent to angle 3.  One of the things I really like about this activity is that all students can create the initial lists.  Plus this activity helps me to figure out which students are likely to make assumptions and jump to conclusions without supporting evidence.

D Period - PreCalculus (40 minutes)
This is my other class of test-takers today.  While they take the test, I organize some papers on my desk and then walk around answering questions.  Most students are fine, but a few ask questions out of a need for reassurance that they are doing things right.  When one of those students asks me a question, I usually say something like, "It's always a good idea to go back and check your work", or "If you are stuck, skip it and move on".

E Period - Planning Period (40 minutes)
During this time, I work with PreCalc teacher to discuss a project we are going to give in PreCalculus.  Then, I begin to grade a homework set for Prob/Stat over google docs.  I also check my email, deleting old ones to get my inbox down to under 30 active emails!!

G Period - Planning Period (40 minutes)
I enter grades for two classes for a report that is due tomorrow at 9 AM. I begin to grade the PreCalculus tests, because I want to include that grade in their reports.  At the end of the period, the other Geometry teacher comes to my classroom.  I forgot to go meet with her during the second half of the period.  We have a test we are giving in 2 days!!

Later that evening, I work for 2.5 hours on grading and finishing the grade reports that are due the next day.

(Note: The rest of my week was extremely busy and today - Saturday - is the first opportunity I have had to reflect and finish this blog post.)

And now for the reflection questions:

1)    Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day. Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming. When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of? What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?

The decision I was most proud of today was using the Notice/Wonder activity as a way to think about assumptions and proving ideas to be true.  Time will tell if this will help them on the upcoming test. The teacher decision that was not ideal was forgetting to meet with my colleague.  I should have worked on the test over the weekend, but I had spent the time at the Jersey shore with my family in celebration of my mother's 70th birthday.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows. Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher. What are you looking forward to? What has been a challenge for you lately?

I am looking forward to developing my presentation on questioning and discourse for my presentation at the NCTM conference in April.  This week I was able to get a hotel for \$179/night.  That's very reasonable for 4 teachers sharing the same hotel room for 3 nights!

My challenge lately is that there are a few students in my PreCalculus class that don't seem to be getting some concepts.  I need to spend time to work with them individually outside of class. (I looked at my notebook for student help on Friday and I have had 29 individual meetings with students so far this school year.  Those have ranged from 10 minutes in length to 40 minutes.)

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is. As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students. Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.

Students are willing to put more effort into their work, if you show you care about them.  Prior to working with one of my students recently, I asked him which colleges he would be visiting in the south and what he was planning on studying.  He also told me he was excited about seeing some relatives he had not seen in a long time.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year. What is a goal you have for the year?

I had my goal meeting on Friday.  Every faculty member is to write two goals - one related to curriculum/teaching and one related to technology.  Here are my goals: 1) Work on improving questioning strategies to encourage more classroom discourse and higher-order thinking.  2) Help other colleagues to develop technology skills, specifically Plickers.

5) What else happened this month that you would like to share?

I gave back tests to my Geometry Honors students on Friday (September 30).  Often the first test grade is lower than what these students typically get.  One such student sent me an email on Friday evening.  He said that he was disappointed in how he did and that he expects more from himself.  He asked if I could help him understand the material better so he doesn't get another grade like the first one.  This is the type of request I would like to see from all of my students when they don't quite get something.  Of course the grade on a test matters.  But if it was only the grade that mattered to this student, he would have asked, "Is there any way I can do some extra credit to bring my grade up?"