So, I’m here in Indiana at a family reunion. First of all, I love these people. I only see them at weddings or funerals and there haven’t been many of those. My cousins are quite a bit younger than I and live quite far away so I only know them superficially. Many of these Baumgardners have been or are educators, with the have “beens” far outweighing the “nows” especially by those in attendance. So I’ve been thinking about all of them this morning. I’ve also been thinking about going back to school and being around teachers whom I also love and haven’t seen in a while. My biggest dread being around either group is the one-ups-manship that is played out fairly constantly.
With family, someone asks you what you are up to and you tell her or him or at least you start. Not too far into the conversation the focus shifts off you and onto the person inquiring since she or he has done or seen something far worse or far better. With family, unless it’s a medical condition, they tend to favor the far better. And to be fair, it usually has to do with bragging about offspring rather than her or his self. By contrast, teachers one-ups are almost always downers. This makes talking to teachers rather depressing. So, what’s going on here? Why do teachers do this? Most importantly, what can I do to not be “that” teacher?
Multiple choice question:
I talk with a teacher about a situation that ends up being one-upped I am actually
A) venting so I don’t explode on a kid/parent/administrator/colleague
B) seeking support in the form of advice about how to handle a situation
C) trying to impress them with my mad skills
D) feeling sorry for myself and having a pity party
E) all of the above
Answer for yourself, but I choose E, if I am being totally honest. When I talk to another teacher I just want to talk to someone who speaks my language and understands.
I taught my husband to just listen and maybe get me a drink if I was sharing something particularly painful. Things at school, he cannot fix for me. I don’t want him to fix them. It’s not his world. I just want him to listen and know I had a rough day. I don’t usually want his advice either and if I do, I ask for it. Now, these behaviors, just listening and asking, did not come naturally for either of us. We have to think about what we are doing and “react intentionally.” Sounds like an oxymoron but it’s not.
Imagine if an administrator or counselor or pastor one-upped each thing I shared with them. I’d quit going to these people. Venting would never turn into conversation that would lead to solution or simply a shoulder on which to cry. These people had to learn how to react and so can teachers. Teachers need to be there for one another. So in 8.6 days when I go back to school, I want to be a better colleague. I want to be a supportive listener. I want to help where I can and lead the positive charge by example. I want to react intentionally.
As I go onto the very loud, highly competitive stage of the Baumgardner reunion today, I hope to also react with intension. I pray for inner calm and keen listening for myself. I will make certain the conversation is centered appropriately. I am going to do my very best not to interrupt. That’s just really hard when you have something funny to sprinkle onto the conversation. But I will try.
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 am about to begin my 10th year of teaching. I was thinking today about what that will look like. Each year a theme or something peculiar happens that helps define the year to make it memorable for students. The two best were the year of Jesus and the year of Jello. The year of Jesus came about because the kids just could not get the hang of or meaning of slope in my Math 8 classes. Seriously. I was so desperate, one day we did a whole series of questions to which each answer was “slope.” Some kids still didn’t get it. I told them it was like a children’s sermon. Whenever the pastor asks the kids a question and the kids don’t know the answer, the answer is always “Jesus” except here the answer is “slope.” This turned into whenever a student did not know the answer to a question they said “Jesus.” It became an immediate clue that I had to go back and reteach, so it was very useful, but a little awkward to explain to administration. Another year became the year of Jello. I tell the kids every year about the Vaughn Theory of Math and Jello. It goes like this: math concepts are like Jello. They both start out runny, without form. It takes time and chilling out for concepts to set up just like it takes Jello time and chilling to set up and take form. When we tackled a particularly difficult concept for kids, like domain and range or completing the square, it took a while for the concepts to set up, then they had them for life. For the kid who would start to stress out and wail, “I don’t get it” I would tell the student, it’s going to be ok, your Jello just hasn’t set up yet. Now of course, I tuned into that student and gradually removed the Jello mold. To show the students how much confidence I had in them I made Jello Jigglers as a surprise the day of their final. All their Jello was set up by then.
One year I sang all the time and I had math songs for everything. Songs are fun, but they don’t take student learning very far. Last year was the year of entry points. Finding a way into a problem and then finding another way in. This helped both my Math II kids as well as my standard Math 8 kids. It is especially rewarding when kids find a way I hadn’t thought of. I’m simply giddy when my Math 8 kids do that. Gosh. Last year doesn’t sound like much fun for students, but at least they learned to persevere and find ways into problems.
This year I am going to use student tablets more. I read about some cool Math 8 tasks with Desmos and I keep thinking of more as I cut the grass and clean out closets and other normal teacher summer tasks. This just might be the year of Desmos. It is one of the very few apps that work on our low budget tablets. I need to figure out how kids can save their work and practice that myself. I also want them to be able to send their work to my cloud. I’ve got a couple weeks to figure that out.
I have no idea what the kookie thing of the year will be. Those things just happen spontaneously. When it reveals itself, I’ll post about it. I don’t expect Jesus will make a comeback, no pun intended.
Oh, and it’s ok if nobody reads this. I’m just practicing my blogging. My goal is a minimum of once per quarter. But I’ve got to practice being brave.