Sunday, March 26, 2017

So Glad It Was Friday (#DITLife Post 9)

I knew Friday was going to be a challenge when I heard that one of the teachers in my department, Lia, would not be in school that day.  There was a voicemail left by her husband on my phone and a text and email from another teacher, Jane, about planning for Lia's classes.  I arrived at school around 7:20 AM to speak with Jane about the plans for class.  In two of the classes, a test was planned and since I happened to be giving that same test, I had the original to make copies.  Jane copied the test while I attended a student-led conference with one of my advisees.  At this conference, we discussed classes, academic challenges and college visits.  The student-led conference ended about 5 minutes before my 8 o'clock class.

8:00 - 8:40  AP Statistics
We began class with a quiz on chi-square goodness of fit tests. The quiz was designed to take 10-15 minutes, but some students needed 20 minutes.  I don't like rushing my students on assessments, because then I feel like I am assessing students ability to handle stress more than I am assessing their understanding of course content.  Timing of assessments is frequently challenging.

Next we worked through an old AP free-response question to understand how to do a chi-square test of association.  We had worked through chi-square tests of homogeneity the previous day and this test was very similar.  The only difference was in how the data was collected.  Prior to teaching AP Statistics, I did not even realize that there was a subtle difference in these two tests.

8:45 - 9:25  Substituting for Geometry Honors
Before I rush off to give the test in Geometry Honors, I send an email to a student that I was scheduled to meet with.  The email states that there was an emergency situation and that I won't be able to meet with her, because I will be filling in for another teacher.  While the students take the test, I look over the quizzes I just gave in AP Statistics.  Everyone gets an A on the quiz and shows their work in a detailed and organized way. (I have a great group of students this year - they all ask questions and do what is expected of them.  So, I am not surprised by these quiz results.)

Part way through the test, I notice that some of the pages of the test are missing!  Only the front pages of the test had been copied and not the back pages of the test.  Luckily there is another teacher in the room to proctor the students during the test.  I run down the hall to make the necessary copies and run back to class to distribute the pages.

9:30 - 10:10  PreCalculus
In this class we are doing our first trigonometry unit and some students are still confused by the unit circle.  We go over some questions from the homework, like "what is cosecant of 7 pi over 6" and "if cosine of an angle is equal to 1/2, what is the angle".  Next, I give them a blank unit circle to have them practice completing it.  This gives them a sense of how well they actually know the values of sin and cos around the unit circle.  Finally, we play a round of Kahoot in pairs to practice more with the six trig ratios around the unit circle.

10:15 - 11:10 Chapel
Chapel today was an invited speaker, a storyteller and author. Although the speaker was entertaining, I personally prefer when students or faculty give talks in chapel.  Getting to know other aspects of a student's life or a faculty member's life gives me a better understanding of who the person is, what they enjoy and what they value.

11:15 - 11:50 PreCalculus
Class starts late by about 10 minutes, because the junior class was detained in the auditorium.  There was a discussion about making a student an honorary class president so that he could speak at graduation.  When class begins we work through problems on the homework and the students complete a blank unit circle.

11:50 - 12:25  Lunch
I head to lunch after checking a few emails.  The faculty at my school eat in the dining room with the students.  We don't have lunch duty or hall duty, like in public schools.  The round tables in the dining room seat about 8 and we generally have 2 or 3 faculty tables in the room of 30 tables.  I had some sort of vegan rice dish that I thought was good, but a colleague at my table enthusiastically declared it "bleh".

12:25 - 1:00  PreCalculus
Students return to class and we do a Kahoot in pairs.  Students are doing well on most of the problems.  There are a few of them in this class (and in my other class) that were commonly missed. Luckily, I can look at past results in Kahoot and save the results to google drive or download them. The test on this unit is on Tuesday and I will be working over the weekend to make revisions to the test.  With 4 sections of PreCalculus, we will need 4 versions of the test and a make-up version.

1:05 - 1:45  Geometry Honors
This class takes the test that I gave earlier in the day.  While students take the test, I enter quiz and homework grades and respond to some more emails, including a survey about student-led conferences.  A few students finish early, but most wait to had in the test a minute or two after the bell rings to end class.  I'll be grading these tests over the weekend and writing a paragraph on each of my students in all of my classes.

At my school each teacher writes comments twice a year about their students.  This includes information about grades, homework completion, behavior in class, etc.  I only have 45 of them to write, but it will probably take me just under 4 hours to complete this task.  This is how I will spend some of my Sunday afternoon/evening.

1:45 - 3:30 Collaborating and Planning Although I am not usually in the mood to get work done on a Friday afternoon, I push through.  During period E, I work with another teacher on our test for PreCalculus.  We decide what types of problems to put on the test, how many problems to put on the test and point values.  We also look at what portion of the test will be calculator and what portion will be non-calculator.  (I took the test on Sunday and it took me about 13 minutes.  This means that it is probably too long for students to complete in 40 minutes.  This means I will spend time on Monday revising the test before working on the other versions of the test.)

The last period of the day I work on writing a problem to submit to Math Madness.  This submission is part of a contest and the idea for the problem came to me after a student suggested a generalization to a problem we were solving in class.  I wasn't sure if the generalization would always work.  So, initially we called it the generalization "Noel's conjecture".  The next day I went into class to show that I proved "Noel's conjecture" and that it was now "Noel's theorem".  This is an example of one of my favorite things about my job at Moravian Academy.  Students are always being creative and coming up with alternative strategies to solve problems.  Many of them get that this creativity is what it means to really do mathematics.

Although I did not get my tests graded, I know that I have the weekend to get them completed.  A typical weekend for me includes 4-6 hours of school-related work, sometimes more.

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?

I made the decision to quickly copy the other pages of the test.  Not all students completed all the questions.  Maybe I should have had them take the remainder of the test on Monday.  I will need to wait until the teacher grades the tests to see if we need to make some sort of adjustment or not.

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?

My presentation on prime numbers, RSA cryptography and programming the TI-84 went very well at the ATMOPAV (Association of Mathematics Teachers of Philadelphia and Vicinity) spring conference.  Although there were only 4 people in attendance (it was a small conference ), one of the participants sent me two emails including attachments related to the work he did that was inspired by my presentation.

My next presentation will be in San Antonio on April 6 at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference.  I have the presentation ready to go except for the video clip that I would like us to discuss.  I had recorded some classes early this year using a swivl.  Unfortunately, the video quality was poor - you could not see what was written in the front of the room and you could only hear me and not my students.  Since the presentation is called "Revoicing: What Do Your Students Know", hearing the students is necessary.  I recorded some more last week and I hope I can find a 5-10 minute clip to use from those videos.

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.

Today I must have looked tired and worn out.  And to be honest, I am a bit tired and worn out. (Luckily spring break will be soon.)  A colleague asked me how I was doing, noting that I looked super tired.  I said that I was fine, but that I could use a hug.  She gave me a hug.  I am truly blessed to have teachers in my school who look out for each other and care for each other.

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 have really been working on trying to improve classroom discourse.  Lately, I have been asking questions of students and when no one seems to know the answer, I tell the students to talk about it at their tables.  At first I am met with strange looks, until I say, "Go ahead and talk."  Then I walk around the room to listen in on the conversations and see what answers the groups get.  If not all the tables have the same answer, I invite them to defend their answer.  At this point, students are more confident and ready to talk about the question.  Although it takes more time to teach in this manner, more students are involved and more students get to contribute to class discussion without the feeling of being put on the spot.

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

We had three consecutive snow days and it was BLISS!  I got to read a book for enjoyment, get ahead on schoolwork, do some consulting work, prep for a conference, sleep more and I got some extra housework done!  It was incredible!!!