Saturday, April 29, 2017

Another Very Busy Day (#DITLife Post 10)

(Note: Today is Friday, April 28th and the day I am blogging about happened on Tuesday,
April 25th. Although I wanted to write this blog entry sooner, I did not have a full hour to do so until 5:45 PM on Friday.)

I arrive at school at 7:30 AM to help two students.  One needs to review for a quiz that took place on Friday, April 7th (before spring break). The other has questions on a homework assignment.  They leave the room a few minutes before first period is scheduled to start.

Here is an abridged version of my day.  The items that are bold I will discuss in more detail.

8:00 - 8:40 AP Statistics - discuss two investigative tasks from previous AP exams

8:40 - 9:00 Make copies needed for the afternoon and respond to emails

9:05 - 9:50 Visit a 9th grade World History I class

9:55 - 10:35 PreCalculus lesson on graphs of cos, sec, tan and cot

10:40 - 11:00 Work with student on course registration for following year

11:05 - 11:15 Speak with Academic Dean about student concerns

11:15 - 11:40 Interview with three Lafayette students for their college education course

11:40 - 12:15 Give make-up quiz to a student, answer questions about AP review for another student

12:15 - 12:25 Answer emails and make copies of trig graphs for PreCalculus

12:25 - 12:50 Eat lunch

12:55 - 1:35 PreCalculus lesson on graphs of cos, sec, tan and cot with Lafayette students observing

1:40 - 2:20 Work with 2 students with questions on Geometry, talk to colleague about letter of recommendation

2:25 - 3:05 Geometry Honors lesson on volume of sphere involving world's largest twine ball

3:05 - 3:30 Talk to a student about summer acceleration plans and gather items to create a test

3:30 - 4:30 Spanish class

4:30 - 6:00 Write test for Geometry Honors

Visit a 9th grade World History I class

This year I have been trying to visit many teacher's classrooms to observe their teaching.  It's not part of my job description to do this, but I decided to do this at the beginning of the school year for several reasons.  First, I want to have a broader perspective of the student experience at my school - the courses they take, the interactions with their peers in other classes, the teachers they have.  Knowing about my students' experiences helps me to see them as more than just "math students".  Second, I want to get ideas on how to teach and manage classrooms from my teaching peers.  Third, I want to provide the teachers I visit with constructive feedback - feedback that I feel has been poor or missing for many of my colleagues over the past several years.

On this day, I visited Mrs. Burd's World History I class and the students are discussing concepts around the development of Islam.  Students answer questions and ask questions with some students more engaged than others.

Morning PreCalculus Lesson on Graphs of Cos, Sec, Tan and Cot

We are a little behind in this class and I have to finish the graphs of cos and secant from the previous day.  As we complete the graphs together, I have the students discuss the properties of the graphs at their table.  (Note: It takes a while into the school year for students to realize that I actually want them to talk to each other during class and work together to learn from each other.) The graphs of sin and csc look ok together on the same graph.  You can distinguish each of them and determine their properties. The graphs of cos and sec look ok together on the same graph. You can distinguish each of them and determine their properties. But...the tan and cot tan graphs...You decide.

We were getting near the end of the period and as I added the cot graph to the tan graph, I could tell that the students were thinking the same thing I was thinking.  Brain overload!! There is too much here!!  What do I focus on?  Which asymptotes go with which function.  Immediately after class I did a google search and found this nice graph of All Six Trig Functions and their properties. You can click on the link to download it for yourself, but here is a screenshot of it.

Because class was over, I emailed the PDF to the students in this class.  But I also made copies to give them the next day and to give to my other class later in the day.  I always feel bad for the first class I have when teaching a lesson to multiple sections.  When something doesn't go as planned, it happens in the first section of that class and then the second section gets the benefit of my reflection on the lesson and subsequent improvement upon it.

Afternoon Spanish Class
Last fall it was announced that there would be conversational Spanish classes offered for 8 weeks by two of my colleagues.  I chose the Tuesday class to fit my schedule, but it has been a challenge to budget my time to get to class.  The class is actually a break in my day.  It gives me a chance understand what it is like to be a student again - to be confused and then feel success - to be tired and work to focus - to interact in a learning setting with my peers.  An added benefit is I get to observe another colleague in action and gain some more ideas relative to the art of teaching.

Write Test for Geometry Honors
It is now 4:30 and I am spent and want to go home.  However, I need to write a test for Geometry Honors.  Although the test is scheduled for Monday of next week and I had planned on writing it over Thursday and Friday, there is a student that wants to take it on Wednesday morning.  Every year I write new tests for my classes.  This allows me to make sure that my test accurately reflects what has happened in class.  In addition, I let students keep their tests after I have graded them.  If I used the same test from year to year, it would be very easy for students to get copies of the test from their siblings and friends who had me the previous year.  

I make some copies of some pages from a teacher resource and use what I find to craft a four page test which covers the concepts of volume and surface area for prisms, pyramids, cylinders, cones and spheres.  I'll work on making a second version of the test later in the week. (I distribute different versions to students seated next to each other.  This has allowed me to catch students who cheat by copying off of their neighbor's paper.) After I make the test, I take the test.  It takes me about 10 minutes to create the answer key.  This is a sign that the test can be completed by all students in 40 minutes.  If it took 13 or 14 minutes, the test would be too long and I would need to revise it.  As I take the test, I notice a typo and fix it.  Finally, I print off one copy of the test for the student.

It is now 6 PM and I can get my daughter from the baseball game (she is the team manager this year) and go home.

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?

Today I met with six different students when I wasn't teaching.  Although I focused on each student while they were with me, I was feeling rushed.  When I am rushed, I talk more and students talk less.  I do more explaining and less asking of questions.  When I ask at the end of our meeting if they understand the material, students always say "Yes".  But on a day like today, when I had no time to breathe, I am uncertain.

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?

Last month I spoke at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference.  My presentation was called "Revoicing: What Do Your Students Know" and the focus was on classroom discourse.  Unfortunately, I was up against a well known speaker for that time slot and only had 5 people in attendance at my session.  However, they seemed to enjoy my session and we had a lively discussion on the topic of classroom discourse based on the video clips we viewed from my classroom.

Since the end of March one of the teachers in my department has been on extended leave.  This has been a challenge for many reasons - finding a qualified substitute, grading student assessments and ensuring continuity of the curriculum.  I have been fortunate to have very supportive colleagues within my department who have helped to make the transition to the extended leave smoother.  I am especially grateful for Jane Cook and the work she has done with the long-term substitute teacher.

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.

Over the past several years, I have become known as a "go to" person for advice.  Some people seek me out, but other times I know a person is in need of a friendly sounding board and I approach them.  The end of spring break was one of those times.  I had a two-hour conversation with a colleague and I hope listening and discussing ideas related to the situation was helpful.

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? 

One of my goals for this year was to visit classrooms of my colleagues.  Although I have not been in as many classrooms as I would have liked, I have visited thirteen classrooms to date.  In addition, I have worked on building a classroom to encourage more discourse.  This has been challenging at times with sports dismissals and 40-minute classes.  I look forward to having longer classes next year to be able to teach the way I should be teaching more often, using more student discourse and hands-on activities.

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

During spring break, I was able to take my daughter to visit four colleges in Texas. (Note: We live in Pennsylvania.)  She and I shared many of the same views about the schools we visited and we were able to cross some off the list.  Driving across Texas with limited cell phone reception and no GPS to guide us reminded me of the days of traveling with my parents.  

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