Time to blog. In the midst of a year where I felt like I little productive to add to the education community, I am now in a position to do so.
I just got off a Zoom chat with my niece who teaches in China. Here is some valuable information from our conversation.
Glimpse into our future first:
Temperature checks are the norm. They happen as you enter a grocery store, your apartment complex and your school building. This is still occurring three months into the situation in China.
After two months of isolation, they are now seeing people moving about the community, though most wear masks of some sort.
They never had the shortages we are experiencing. Call it what you will.
They have been told multiple times that the school will reopen, only to have it delayed week after week.
Plan no more than a week ahead.
Now for school issues:
Many parents at first were concerned that education was not really taking place online, but most have now come to grips with the reality of the situation and see and support remote learning for their children. Expect resistance and pushback from parents at first. It might not be as bad in the states since parents will have the benefit of seeing how the rest of the world is coping with education already.
Keeping regular school hours is important. Even if you teach the same course multiple times during the day, combining classes does not work because students will be attending other classes. To avoid coordination issues, you must see your classes at your regularly scheduled times online.
See your classes face to face via Zoom or some other such medium at least once a week if not daily. Students need that. The learning must be real. Seeing faces makes it more real.
Some parents may opt their children out of this learning platform. That is administration’s issue to deal with. Report it, but spend your time with the students who are signed in to learn. Be there for them rather than chasing students you cannot catch. It’s the same group you were have trouble reaching in the regular classroom.
There will be pleasant surprises. Some students who were tuned out at school now have a parent supervisor making certain they attend to their schooling. It will be so nice to have them being part of the learning process.
Set up assignments no more than a week at a time. Some students will go ahead and it will be impossible for you to keep ahead, current and play catch up all at the same time.
If students do not begin when the classes begin, it will be nearly impossible for them to catch up. Make certain the start times are sent out loud and clear!
With all that said, stay positive and flexible. Embrace the learning you are doing and celebrate the initiative your learners are taking.
Students who did not take action during class will not likely take action under these new circumstances. Teach those who are there to learn.
Begin with as much structure as you can and maintain that structure. Try not to make changes along the way if you can help it.
Teaching a course at the same time as teaching a learning platform is nearly impossible. Get the platform in place first. That should be easy for my students as their science and language arts teachers have done such a good job running their classes through Canvas for the past couple years. I hope you are similarly situated. If you are not in that position, get the platform set first so students know how to communicate and retrieve information.
Thought you weren’t a technology teacher? Think again.
Day by day changes will happen. Week by week changes will happen. My niece has seen reopening dates announced, reschedule and then cancelled. They play it week by week, but they have a routine and classes are in session. We can and will do likewise.
Now, with all that said, be safe. Love yourself.
I don’t know about you, but I am feeling overwhelmed and a bit depressed. I think this is probably normal — whatever that means these days. What I do know for certain is that we need one another. I can’t high-five you or give you a hug (not that I’m big on that under normal circumstances) or shake your hand, but please know, I want to help you and I want to help my learners. Be safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Live, love, math — in that order!!
I listened to an old podcast (September 2017) the other day on the topic of appropriate teacher dress. (Hack Learning episode 101) I was happy to see this topic being addressed, as it is important for teachers to dress professionally.
This topic stirs up ire among some educators, but I’m not talking about suits, ties, stockings and pumps verses polos, jeans, bare legs and deck-shoes. I am talking about my self-imposed rules on teacher-dress. It includes items that never make it to any official policy. The majority of these rules evolved over time, though my daughter, Kari, imposes a couple rules. She was in the eighth grade when I began teaching so she had more experience than I observing teacher dress. I listen to her because she is observant and reasonable. Besides, as a princess, her rules are nonnegotiable.
Shoes: polished and no flip-flops ever. Sandals are ok if you feel safe in them, but not recommended. It is far better to have only one quality (probably expensive) pair of shoes that you wear everyday than it is to have several pairs of cheep shoes that hurt your feet.
Pants, skirts, dresses and shirts: cleaned and ironed with no missing buttons and hemmed to the appropriate length. It is just as bad for something to be too long as it is for it to be too short. It is perfectly fine to wear black pants every single day. That way, you can wear the same pair two days in a row and nobody notices. That is a pro-tip from a former guidance counselor.
Avoid clothing with advertising or political statements or Santa or pumpkins or flags.
Choose clothing that fits you well, in which you feel confident. If you have a single doubt about an article of clothing as you get dressed, obey that doubt. Wear it and it will bother you all day.
Now for Kari’s rules:
Undergarments—ladies, wear padded-bras; gentlemen, wear undershirts. We all need a bit of smoothing from time to time. Also, visible panty lines (vpl) are to be avoided. And nobody wants to see your thong or panties peeking out over your waistband. Ever.
Absolutely NO sweater sets. I think this rule stems from a bad experience with a chronic sweater-set wearer, but I honor it.
That’s it. Hope this is helpful or at least made you laugh and think.
If you know me personally, you know I like to wear clothing made with printed fabrics with math designs. I know this is super-tacky, but it’s part of my signature. And, I don’t dress like that every day, unless I am at a math conference! I am certain my choice of attire is against somebody else’s list of rules. I’m ok with that.
Let’s start with my very favorite thing in case you check out before the end or the tour.
My husband and I visited Boston two weeks ago and we toured Fenway Park. He took some pictures during the tour and I didn’t think much of it because that’s just what he does. I headed for the beach two days after we got home for one last hurrah before school. When I got home he had a present for me. It was this photo mounted on a canvas. He said it was for my classroom, because I’m a little different. Isn’t that the most romantic thing you’ve ever heard? I’ve been teaching ten years and he now gets it. What a guy! BTW, if you don’t know the story, the red seat marks the spot in right field where Ted Williams hit the longest recorded home run in Fenway.
This is my front door. See my Varsity Math sticker? Bottom right: #ObserveMe Notice.
Look around and you’ll see lots of recycled items: jean pockets to hold calculators and whiteboard markers and odd socks as erasers; CDs to cover old filing cabinets that will hold commented and graded student work for return; carburetor lamp; type writers circa 1927 and 1941; rotary phone; old chair.
Can you spot #TMC16 inspirations? Birthday (function) wall; Varsity math badge;
MTBoS nods? Mind Set bulletin board; not yet; #ObserveMe feedback forms are on the clipboard on the middle bookcase
Vaughn originals: Pencil sharpener for the hallway secured with red duct tape; posters; bad artificial tree that says “Math, you can’t fake it”; shoulder partner buckets for supplies
Misc: Vertical work surfaces; standards for mathematical practice; 36 student desks (moving 4 more in tomorrow)
Well, that’s my first room tour ever. Hope you found it above average.
My tenth year has ended. It was the worst year I have EVER had. It lacked joy. I didn’t sleep most of the year because my mind would never rest. My mind was constantly churning and constantly beating me up. For ten or so days after school was out, I slept so hard. Like my mom. Like a kid coming home from a drive-in movie. No light, alarm, dog, husband, phone, touch or voice could wake me. I would get up mid morning. Get myself something to eat and change my clothes and then go take my morning nap. Sometimes I took an afternoon nap too. I‘m now normal. I’m up around six and don’t stop moving until 11 p.m. or so. I’m sleeping about four consecutive hours each night and then just sort of lying there. Thinking. Only now I’m thinking about next year. And that’s good.
Next year is going to be great. I’m a bit anxious because I am going to have one Math 2 class rather than two. I will then have either three Math 8’s or I will get to add a Math 1—which I have never taught—to make up my 4 classes. There will be 35 to 40 students in the one Math 2 class. As I packed up my room for the year, I was packing with next year in mind. I also packed thinking about what drove me crazy last year and what went well or at least ok that I want to keep and improve.
I revised my opener procedure mid-year for the better. It is going to be even better this coming year. I will have a weekly sheet that students will use to record their openers that I won’t have to customize each week. Last year I varied each day among Which One Doesn’t Belong (www.wodb.com), solvememobiles (http://solveme.edc.org ), Estimation 180 (http://www.estimation180.com), Would You Rather (http://www.wouldyourathermath.com ), student error analysis, blast from the past, pre-view to testing, Visual Patterns (http://www.visualpatterns.org) and do it another way. The students noticed and wondered though some wandered. I thought I would set a certain day for certain openers and I just couldn’t keep up with the schedule. Mid-year I compiled the openers for the entire next week Friday afternoon or Sunday (like a normal teacher). I also began with a different opener for my Math 8 kids from my Math 2 kids. That was stupid. My Math 8 kids could do Math 2 prompts and Math 2s needed some Math 8 prompts as well. By spring break I was down to one opener for all four classes. I’ll generi-size my opener recording sheet and continue with the Friday harvesting of opener prompts next year.
First day of school….wish…The first day of school we will practice getting to and from the whiteboards quickly, quietly and neatly. Last year I tried having individual what boards in sacs which were on the backs of student seats. Seemed brilliant, but it was a mess. Markers would go missing. The socks I have students use as erasers would get lost. Trash piled up in the bags. The custodian would throw my dirty socks away. I’m changing (I actually changed before Christmas). I want the kids standing anyway. We just need to practice so they know what I expect. I envision doing the white board routine at least three times for each class this first day and at least once a day for the first week and every Monday and then another day per week for the first month. As soon as we get the lap-tops/tablets we will incorporate desmos activities as well as desmos calculator. I will introduce them to desmos at the same time as they are getting to know their devices since that will be our main use for the devices.The third day, Wednesday, I am definitely doing Sara Vanderwerf’s 100 challenge for design group work as well as partner work norms for the classes. If you haven’t seen that, go here, but come back because I’m not finished.
See what I just did? I got so excited I just interrupted myself. That happens in the classroom too. There’re enough interruptions without me interrupting myself. I may need to have someone monitor me with the “um can.” I learned about the um can in 1992 in a Dale Carnegie class I was taking through work (pension business back then.) We would prepare and give short talks to our class. If the speaker said “um” more than twice in the speech the leader would shake a can of pennies at you after each additional um. This cured the ums in a hurry.
That first week I absolutely need to see who these new students are and let the kids figure out a bit of who I am. I love high energy and adore math dialogue among students. Non-math talk however makes my hair stand up. It also raises my blood pressure, my heart and breathing rates and my voice. The only thing that is lowered is my ability to think. I just freak out in chaos. (It’s not only in class, but also while shopping, at parties and in NYC… I need to get this figured out because…well just because.) So, I need clear expectations for my students.
I am definitely adding Number Talks on a regular basis. Daily at first, probably starting Thursday or earlier if there is time. I know I am not doing Interactive Notebooks (INB). I tried last year and that was part of my misery. It was awful. It seemed to be all craft and no math and that drove me nuts. It was also harder to plan for than I expected. The math didn’t have a chance to ramp up at a good clip and it just stunk. I really tried. What a disaster! Kudos to those who do it successfully and make it look so easy. I will never forgive you, however, for fooling me into thinking I could pull it off.
Because of the INBs I made the smooth move of putting together shoulder partner buckets so they weren’t a total loss. I’m going to stock the buckets better this year. Besides glue, crayons, highlighters, rulers aka straight edges, and scissors I’m going to add index cards (I use them for formative assessment almost daily). I’m going to have 4 quadrant buckets that contain tape and staplers for each of the four quadrants of the room to share.
If I graphed the neatness of my classroom throughout the year it would look like this:
I want it to look line this:
See all the students making a mess while learning? Isn’t it great?
To help me reach that goal all the while making myself a better teacher for students I am doing some amazing professional development this summer. I truly believe each of them will be game changers for me.My first PD is Twitter Math Camp aka TMathC16, TMC16, TMC, etc. It’s being held at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. I got in. They filled registration in 8 hours and I got in! I can’t even believe it. I’m not worthy, but I’m going anyway. I want to learn from the best so I am going to the best. TMC is put together by teachers for teachers—a group of teachers who are collectively known as MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere.) I didn’t get into the Desmos session that precedes it, but I’m on the waiting list. I really want to go to that. Hopefully enough people will share what they learn there with me so I don’t miss anything. Or, maybe, they will Periscope it like they did TMC last year. I was a super-stalker last year once I found the Periscope link. I will get more ideas than I am even imagining and I’m imagining lots!
I am also part of the second cohort of PTec. It is a professional development opportunity funded through a grant partnership with PTEC (Piedmont Triad Education Consortium) and MAPSS (Math and Problem Based Learning for Student Success). This is a group of teachers from certain counties in NC who are going on a multifaceted quest for better teaching and therefore better student learning. There is a leadership component where I will learn about myself and how who I am is affecting my classroom. There is also problem based learning incorporated, but not PBL in the normal sense and not PBL exclusively. We will be together at Wake Forest University for two consecutive weeks learning, planning and even test-driving what we learn on real kids! With this PD comes classroom support. They will actually come and observe me in action at my school and give me feedback. I’ve been waiting for substantial feedback in my classroom for more than 10 years if you count student teaching. There are also two retreats (fall and spring) where we will tweak and plan our classes. If someone would have to put a price tag on this PD would be well over $15,000, but it’s free to me because of a multi-county grant! Are you kidding??? (I even get paid to attend! That will pay for TMC!)
I know, too many exclamation points. Sorry. I’m just excited.OK, well if you’ve stuck with me congratulations!. You have earned the Vlog-merit Badge!
I have always been a fan of students working at the board ever since I was in high school. I can still hear Mr. Wolfram say, “Sara! Take your row to the board!” In my own classroom, 35+ years later, I knew I needed to get kids up and working.
When students are up, they take advantage of the opportunity to learn from one another. They also practice critiquing the work of others; they learn from watching and doing with others in a way that doesn’t happen when seated. Students also see that there really are multiple ways to solve the same problem. I needed to get all 31 students up at the same time–fast–and for little or no money.
I started thinking of surfaces that students could write on with dry erase markers. I thought of pieces of vinyl, but I couldn’t find anything that was shiny at a reasonable price. I decided to try a shower curtain from Dollar General. It wiped off…if wiped off right away, but it was a bear to get clean without fluid once the ink fully dried. That was strike two. I found some old laminated posters. The backsides of those worked. They were easy to attach to the walls, doors and bulletin boards with fancy duct tape and they didn’t take up a huge amount of space. They were also free. I also decided to use the window in the back of my room as a writing surface. That is absolutely the best surface of all!
With the surfaces up, it was time for logistics. I recently added seat numbers to my student desks to help with the seating chart. (That’s the green and blue thing in the upper right corner of the panoramic pic. I like to change seats at least quarterly, seating students who need the most support and supervision closest to where I can see them at all times.) I also have calculators assigned to students that correspond with their seat numbers. Hit by a rare stroke of genius, I decided to assign students to white board space so I am using my numbering system for that too. By assigning spaces, I make sure I have students who need the most support in the prime board spots. I also make sure to stagger my students by ability so they can support one another in a positive way. Students are also more productive when I decide where they stand.
The classes are now in the process of training to get to and from the board spots efficiently and quietly. There are still individual white boards available at the desks when we want to work with shoulder partners or if a student needs to be seated for some other reason.
Now every day, students come into my room and ask, “Can we do white boards today?” Highly engaged, enthusiastic students? In eighth grade? Yes.