Monday, February 27, 2017

A Typical Day (#DITLife Post 8)

Although today is Monday, this blog is about what happened on Friday.  I can barely remember what I eat for lunch some days.  So, you may wonder "How can you remember what happened on Friday?" I anticipated not being able to complete my blog on Friday and made a few short notes on my laptop.

I typically arrive at school by 7:30.  Today, I have two students that sent me emails requesting to meet with me for some help.  One is in PreCalculus and has fallen behind due to multiple absences.  The other student is in Geometry Honors.  He is working on an review assignment about quadratic functions and parabolas.  He says that although he has had Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, he can't recall things like how to identify the vertex of the parabola from its equation.  I tell him that it is good he started working on this assignment early, because it will probably take an hour or so to complete it.

AP Statistics is from 8:00 - 8:40 and we begin our work with hypothesis testing for a single proportion by looking at an example about winners on American Idol.  At this point, I realize my once pop culture-relevant example has become dated.   But our test results lead us to conclude that there is not an advantage to going last.

Next it is B period (8:45 - 9:25) and I work with a Geometry Honors student who meets with me every Monday and Friday.  We complete much of the quadratic functions and parabola worksheet together.

Period D is PreCalculus and we spend the first 15 minutes of class looking at an example involving logistic growth and carrying capacity.  Students are given 25 minutes to work on an assignment and I warn them about an error I made when solving a problem on that very assignment.  The problem stated that amounts were given in thousands.  Therefore, the value 350 needed to be used for 350 thousand.  If students used 350,000, they end up having to take a log of a negative value.  Since negative values are not in the domain of the log function, this is a problem.  I always work through the homework that my students are assigned to make sure I can anticipate the types of questions they will have.  It also helps me to know if an assignment is too long.

Next is our weekly chapel and students are speaking about Art and Identity.  Chapel starts at 10:15, but I arrive about 10 minutes late.  A colleague has stopped in to see me about setting up her Sign-Up Genius account for the Student-Led Conferences that will be happening on March 17th.  She thinks it will be quick for me to show her what to do, but the process involves seven different steps.

During chapel, one of my students speaks about her identity as it relates to her ability to draw.  She does a wonderful job of weaving short stories about her work as an artist with the broader meaning of identity.  I asked her to share her chapel talk with me, because there were some things she said that I felt were worthy of being quoted.  Here is something she said in her talk:

"We’re always going to go back and fix what we don’t like and keep what we do, and later change that as well because it's getting old. But we have to stay flexible. Even when applying it to real life, if say you feel as though your current group of friends is unbreakable or you know exactly what you want to do after college, keep in mind that you advance and morph and change as a person, even without trying, both physically and mentally."

Next it is on to period C and my second section of PreCalculus.  This day is our lab day and we have 35 minutes of class followed by lunch for 35 minutes and then 35 minutes more of class.  For the first 35 minutes, I randomly assign students a partner to play Kahoot. Students are told that they must create a name using "&" in it.  The students are fairly creative and the room is buzzing with discussions about the problems.  If you are interested in the kahoot I used, here is the link to it: Kahoot on Logarithms   After lunch we do the same lesson that was done in my Period D class and most of the students get the homework completed before class ends at 12:50. 

My last class of the day is here!  It is Geometry Honors and it starts at 12:55 and ends at 1:35.  We are working on compass constructions.  Students work individually to create constructions involving copying lines, copying angles and bisecting angles.  After about 20 minutes, we look at two new constructions - drawing a perpendicular bisector and drawing a line perpendicular to a line through a point on the line.  We discuss why they work in terms of isosceles triangles and congruent triangles.  When I first started doing this unit in 2010, I learned how to use the compass on the smartboard.  However, standing at the front of the room doing this meant that I couldn't easily check to see if students were doing the constructions correctly for themselves.  

Compass Constructions Playlist at
So, I created short screencasts and posted them to my YouTube Channel - mathteacher24.  The constructions we do can be found in the Compass Constructions playlist.  This playlist has also been helpful when students are absent or simply want to review all of the constructions before a test.

At 1:40 I go to find a student in the freshmen lounge.  I have great news for him; he qualified for the AIME (American Invitational Mathematics Exam) by a large margin. (The qualifying score was 112.5 and he earned a score of 121.5.)  I also find two other students to remind them about the Muhlenberg College math competition that will be held the next day.  After about ten minutes, I return to my classroom to work with a student who is in Geometry.  He is not in my class, but his mom sent me an email asking if I could help her son with his math.  Since I was free during this time and his teacher was not, I gladly agreed to help.

After working with this student for about twenty minutes, the class period is over and he needs to go to his next class.  During the last period of the day (2:25 - 3:05), I make some copies for next week and begin on an answer key for a review assignment.  Then I post some math competition results on the bulletin board and go to visit our school chaplain.  She and I discuss items related to chapel and school life. 

I return to my classroom when the day is over to work with another student until about 3:50.  At this point, I have been at school over 8 hours, but I head out to have a slight break and spend time with some friends. I return to school around 5:45 for another 3+ hours of chaperoning an evening dinner and guest speaker event for a club called "Women's Awareness".  Around 7:45 my head started to nod off as I listen to the discussion of about 30 students.  The event was good and fairly well attended, but I leave school even more exhausted than my typical Friday afternoon.

And now for the #DITLife 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?

Having students work with a partner for the Kahoot activity was something that went well.  When students work by themselves, they are often overwhelmed by how quickly (and accurately) some of their peers can answer the questions.  This leaves them feeling defeated.  When students worked with a partner, everyone (including those who usually groan about Kahoot activities) was excited and worked on learning together.

A few weeks ago, I made a decision that was less than ideal.  I had created an activity in Desoms Activity Builder the previous year on asymptotes.  It was a big hit with my Calculus students.  I thought, "Great!  I can use that activity again!"  But it was a big flop.  In fact, the day after the Desmos lesson about 15 minutes into the lesson, a student raised her hand and asked, "What is an asymptote?"  You could immediately see the relief on the faces of the other students who had been too afraid to ask the question themselves.  I had to back up and reteach some ideas that I thought students understood.  So why did the lesson flop with that group?  I realized that the students in Calculus had seen the concept of asymptotes earlier.  The Desmos lesson reinforced what they already knew and allowed them to make connections among ideas.  The lesson contained too many concepts (vertical, horizontal and oblique) for an introduction to asymptotes and many students didn't quite finish the activity.

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?

Right now I am looking forward to two presentations that I will be giving - one is on prime numbers, RSA cryptography and programming the TI-84 to look for prime numbers.  This is not a talk I have given before and I will need to do some research to put it altogether.  The presentation date is March 16th.  The second presentation is about reflecting on teaching practice, specifically revoicing student responses in class.  I have made videos of several lessons and plan to have teachers identify the ideal and less than ideal teacher moves in the videos.  This presentation will happen at the NCTM conference in San Antonio at the beginning of April.

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.

Recently I applied for a job as the Director of my school.  Faculty were very supportive of my decision to apply for the role and several of them arrived at the conference room on the day of my interview to wish me well with a handshake or a hug.  

I found out about a week ago that I was not offered a second interview and my main concern was over the reaction of my colleagues.  So many of them wanted me to be hired in the new role.  My current hope is that they will support whoever ends up ultimately being hired for that position.

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 finally read much of the book that I am referencing for my talk at NCTM in April.  The book is called "Promoting Purposeful Discourse" and I have about two chapters remaining.  Purposeful discourse in any classroom is important and I plan organizing Lunch Talks around topics related to teaching with my colleagues three times before the end of the school year.  (Be on the lookout for items related to the Lunch Talks in my next blog entry.)

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

My daughter and I did a college visit over President's Day weekend.  She is ready for college, but I am not so sure if I am ready for her to go to college.  She will be taking her driving test later this week.  She is ready to take the test, but I am not so sure I am ready for her to take the test.  Perhaps I need to remind myself of the words of my student's chapel talk - "keep in mind that you advance and morph and change as a person, even without trying".  Growing up and changing happened without my daughter trying.

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