Curriculum Writing

Since I have been in my district, I have been involved in some type of curriculum writing committee each year…8th grade math, Algebra 1, 7th grade math and this year, Geometry.  I love it.  Sometimes I dislike the format we need to fit things into, but I love organizing units, seeing how it all fits together (or how it should fit together) and finding activities and resources to hit those topics the best.  I spend my summers going through my files, tossing, keeping and replacing to better reach my students.  I use the internet, Twitter and my Blog reader to find new methods, activities and ideas.  It excites me and I love watching it play out in the classroom.  I love the ability to improve a lesson for 8th and 9th period if it fell flat during 7th.  I love being able to change it all again for the following year to make it even better.  I think I am crazy to enjoy it.  Are there others out there like me?

With the changes to what I am doing next year, I won’t be teaching Geometry so I can’t fix what I didn’t like this year.  And because I won’t have my own classes, I won’t really have much planning to do over the summer.  It’s like a whole new world for me and it’s scary, but it will be a good learning experience, a challenge and a change. Being an Interventionist will be quite a change from the daily grind of teaching, but I want to go into it with an open mind because it’s a situation that I can gain a lot from, the students I will work with will be able to teach me a lot and I look forward to helping them learn and learning along with them. 🙂

 

4/30

 

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US History tied to Math

Being in the middle school, I have taught US History for 12 years and while I initially was not thrilled to teach it, it has become a subject that I love.  I love the discussions that my students can have because they feel that sharing an opinion is “safe”. They challenge each other, add to what someone else said and bring up good questions that make all of us think. They all want to participate and discussion tend to go longer than planned.  Why can’t this be a math classroom?  Why are students so afraid to do all of this in math? I see it even more now because I have the same group of students for History that I do for Geometry.  In History while evaluating primary sources, they toss out questions, ideas and opinions, but in Geometry when we look at different ways to solve a problem, they take it as it is and rarely challenge.  I have found they do much better in small groups, at their tables, sharing with each other.  I love using cooperative grouping in my classroom, but can’t they reach a point where sharing to a large group is okay?  I want them to treat math the same way…without fear of what they say, without judgment by their peers for the answer they share, because that is the math classroom I desire and they deserve.  Now how can I improve on this for the future?

 

3/30

Being Honest with Students

I am currently in our unit on Coordinate Geometry and feel like I’ve had some good activities and some not so good activities.  My students struggled a bit through identifying a missing coordinate when given variables and not numbers.  But because of their formative assessment I was able to identify the errors made and who still needed assistance.  This allowed me to back up, address general concerns to the group and then clarify specific misconceptions with those who needed it.  This is one of my favorite parts of teaching…trying something new and realizing  that maybe it didn’t work, but being honest with the students and provide another opportunity to understand and master the concept. Students need to know that learning is a journey and mistakes will continue to be made because that is the CORE of learning.  I feel that by showing them that I am still trying and failing, they will see that it is okay.  I found that my gifted students this year disliked sharing an answer or even a guess if they weren’t 100% sure they will be right.  I’ve been working hard to foster a growth mindset and allow them to be comfortable struggling, yet they aren’t quite where I want them to be.  We still have over a month to go…there’s still time!

 

2/30

#MTBoS30 – Day 1 – My “Secret” Passion

I enjoy blogging but usually need a little push to sit down and write a blog post…so when @sophgermain (Anne Schwartz) blogged about blogging for 30 days, I figured I could do that.  I WANTED to do a 180 blog, but that’s crazy…I couldn’t keep up, so I figure this has to be doable…right?

I have a secret passion that has grown immensely in the last 4 years when I bought a house and needed furniture and things for it.  My parents are antique dealers and I grew up going to estate sales, auctions, garage sales, toy shows, etc.  I enjoyed it then, but as a child couldn’t do much about it.  I like clean line well made furniture, stained glass, unique architectural items and unique art pieces.  I have a collection of Bill Olendorf prints of Chicago and some unique perspective state map prints of Wisconsin that are quite funny.  Recently I have enjoyed picking up poor sad pieces of furniture from the thrift store and painting them and/or turning them into something else.  I currently have 3 small projects in my garage and just this weekend picked up another one.  I can’t wait for the weather to get nicer so I can work on them in the garage!

My newest project is an old oak vanity missing the back piece and the mirror, which was fine with me.  I am going to cut the middle part out to separate the ends and create two bedside tables. They are the perfect height, the drawers all work and I love the clean lines! There are only three original handles, so I’m either going to use 3 different pairs of handles (each drawer pair will have a different handle) or I am going to use all glass knobs (which I love the look of).  My bedroom doesn’t have this dark wood…so it’s possible that I will be painting the oak white (Gasp!) or this will give me a reason to start changing up my bedroom colors.  I found this at a barn sale, bargained down the price to $45 and as you can see, was pretty determined to get it home.  Years of moving furniture with my dad, I know how to protect a car and tie down a trunk with my eyes closed. I didn’t have to go far and only on back country roads, so I was okay with this method of transportation. Side note: I may need to think about getting a bigger car to help fuel this passion of mine.

 

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My newest project

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A few previous projects:

This is a bookcase that now sits in my master bath and hold towels and baskets.

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This is my FAVORITE recent project. My dad helped immensely with this one, but I’m a quick learner and had a lot of fun. I found it at a local estate sale in the barn being used as a tool bench and a mouse haven. The top even had laminate glued down with a metal edge…ick!

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My second favorite project. I found the door at a barn sale for $4, asked the lady to keep it for a week until I could get my parent’s van to pick it up (no way my car could get that home). I knew I wanted it for a headboard and it was perfect because it had symmetrical panels (that’s the math teacher in me). It was also an old swinging door, so it didn’t have a door handle hole that needed to be filled or that would be visible.  The sides are from an old newel post that my parents had just laying around…we cut it in half to make the sides and added some oak around the bottom to bring it to the floor.  We left the wood as we found it, no sanding or painting of this.  Dad anchored it to the wall, should there be a tornado and the house gets leveled…I swear this would still be standing. (Notice the stained glass in the window…)

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So that’s a little bit about me and my passion outside of school, my classroom and my students.  Again, my goal is to blog everyday…something about the day, something new about me, whatever comes to mind.

1/30

#MTBoS30

Change

Forced change is never easy…you don’t know it’s coming and likely aren’t very prepared. It throws you off your normal day to day routine and leaves you in a mess of jumbled thoughts of what ifs.  Last week I found out that I was being involuntarily transferred to another school in my district to be a Math Interventionist. This wasn’t a job I applied for, or even wanted, but yet there it was and it’s now mine. I don’t even know what the job entails or what this position does at the middle school level, but I hope to find out soon! This happened while I was at NCTM in NOLA, which helped to keep the reality at bay for a bit (Thank you Twitter friends for your distraction!). One of my best friends was texting me, checking in on me and stated a few times that I was going through the grieving process. That made me think and you know what? I was and thus this post was born.

Stage 1 – Denial & Isolation

  • See the story ACTUALLY starts with me being assigned to teach Spanish and Math at a completely different middle school in my district, which drove me straight to denial.  I do happen to have a decent amount of credits in Spanish from college, but I haven’t spoken Spanish since around 1998.  There is NO way anyone wants me to teach Spanish and it isn’t listed on my teaching certificate.  The denial part comes in because I emailed my principal and told him I couldn’t teach Spanish and that kind of put me in a holding pattern while he checked it out.  I was hoping this was a bad dream and by telling them this info…it would all go back to normal.  That was not the case, they just made a spot for me in another middle school as an interventionist. Being in NOLA kept me isolated from my colleagues and hashing the whole situation out, that might have been a blessing in disguise.

Stage 2 – Anger

  • Anyone who saw me when I found out all of this…you deserve a huge hug from me.  I was a mess…12+ years in the same school, with the same people, my best friends and now I was being moved? I was devastated and so angry, honestly I am not even sure that describes it. I am still upset because I love what I am teaching this year and really wanted a crack at it next year to improve my teaching and the learning of my students.

Stage 3 – Bargaining

  • My desire to regain control of my situation drove me (& my friends) to the “If only” and “What ifs”. Oh the wild and crazy things we have come up with! It’s nice to dream and wish things would go back to the only reality I’ve known for 12+ years.

Stage 4 – Depression

  • Honestly, I’ve skipped this step for now, but I know it’s coming in full force in the future.  I am sad every day as I pull into the parking lot and being in front of my classroom, I have to stop myself from continuously thinking “This is my last quarter with my own students.”. If I don’t stop myself, I will go crazy!

Stage 5 – Acceptance

  • I think I hit this stage when I called my parents to tell them and then asked my dad to help me build shelves in my garage for all of my teaching stuff. From what I do know about the position, I do not have a classroom or my own students, so I won’t need 95% of the things I have.  This will afford me the opportunity to purge items which will be nice.  I have also accepted that I won’t be back at my current school regardless of what happens from here on out.  I am so afraid of leaving my friends, two of my very best friends and losing touch.  I do know it’s within my control, but all teachers know we lose ourselves in the middle of the year and it’s so hard to keep up with what you are doing, let alone what your friends are doing.

Change…it’s not easy, but I am going to put myself out there and try and take control of my change.  There is an amazing opportunity to teach at a new STEM partnership school in my district, so I am applying for that.  In addition there is a position at the district office that I will applying to as well.  Now that I have accepted change, I am excited about the opportunities that exist and where I will end up.

I had to update my resume and I wanted to jazz it up while keeping it clean and detailed. A big thank you to someone who shared their recent cover letter and resume with me, I don’t want to share names because I am not sure it was a public thing…but seeing someone’s wording for recent contributions made it easier for me to update my stuff.  Last time it was updated was 2009 and it was stark and boring. So I used powerpoint to create the file below.  I have obviously removed personal information, but wanted to share anyways.  🙂

Design your Dream Home Project

As I began to approach the next units in the Geometry curriculum that covered area, surface area and volume, topics that my students had plenty of prior knowledge of, I wanted to try something different.  I didn’t want to review topics they knew through mini-lessons, activities and practice.  I wanted to take their prior knowledge and extend it.  Then I remembered Sarah’s (http://everybodyisageniusblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/apartment-remodel-project.html) blog post about her Apartment Remodel project and I knew what I was going to do.  I got in touch with Sarah, asking tons of questions and getting a lot of assistance (She’s awesome by the way). I shared my thoughts with another teacher in my district and she wanted to do this with her students too.  I shared all of Sarah’s links and answers to questions with her and she jumped in with both feet.  It was so nice to have another teacher in the district to collaborate with AND she was just about to leave on her pregnancy leave and she still went all in.  She was a bit ahead of me and I started looking at files I had of other things and that’s when I went crazy.

I kid you not…I wanted to do more, to make my students stretch more and to really see how this could be used in real life.  Sarah’s project was awesome but with a few things I was dealing with at the Admin evaluation level, I felt like it wasn’t enough.

So, I went and changed EVERYTHING I was doing.  I used Sarah’s flooring and painting as part of my project, but nothing else was the same.  Why have them each change the same floor plan? It was definitely easier on the teacher for grading, but after conversations with my principal about student choice (that’s an entirely different blog post), I wanted to give them more freedom within some real life constraints. Plus I wanted to include area, surface area and volume within the project.

Thus the Design your Dream Home project was born, but I had a lot of help from a teacher who I had found YEARS ago, I think the original file that I had for this project was from 2004 or 2005.  Here is a link to his classroom website, where he shares all files and explanations of the project.  http://manghammath.com/architecturedaybyday.html He also has tons of other awesome project he does within his classroom.

This was a 5 week project, with 11 in class work days and each week had one mini-lesson day covering certain skills along with a skill quiz on earlier skills.  (There were a handful of short weeks within the time frame we did this.) I still wanted to keep up with SBG as we went through the project.  The students were to build their dream home to fit on a specific lot size, meet a certain square footage and fall within a certain cost.  They had to meet local building codes, include certain rooms, but have freedom for layout, landscaping, etc.  Students worked in groups of 2, 3, or 4 and split up their jobs at the start of the project.  In the future, I would prefer groups of 3 and remind them more of their specific jobs they signed up for…budgeting time is NOT a strong suit of middle school students and while they could have each been working on their individual to do lists, the groups tended to work on one thing together.

We decided as a group that we wanted to have an open house, we picked the date and I had the students organize it, create the wording for the flyers (but they wanted me to create it with fun fonts, they know me well), figure out how to best set up the area for the open house and who to invite.  The evening was a HUGE success, even though the week of I was freaking out because my students procrastination level was SO much higher than I wanted and we had this hard fast deadline we couldn’t change. We had architects, realtors, home builders, parents, siblings, teachers and even our new superintendent in attendance. My students were so excited!

This project brought together more than I originally intended in a great way, heck it even had students IN SCHOOL on their days off.  We had a few institute days during this time and I told students they could come work, if they wanted to…on a day off.  That was pretty neat.

If I am teaching Geometry again next year, I will do this, but change a handful of things.

  • Add a job completion checklist for each job to help keep students on track daily. I had a daily to do list, but maybe more specific to each job would be helpful…I’m not sure.
  • Remove the video part of the project, seemed like it was tossed in and cause more issues than we needed. Plue they weren’t easily viewable during our Open House.
  • Add an Award for Best Sales Pitch. We never discussed the specifics of what the Open House would look like, but I told them they needed to be ready to answer questions and explain why they did what they did in their house. They ended up trying to “sell” the house to the adults as they walked by, a lot of it was to pitch what they were trying to get an award for, but it was awesome.
  • Find a way to keep better track of the architecture & landscaping templates. They are EXPENSIVE and I am still missing some.
  • Reorganize the packet I gave them. It needs to be easier to find the information they need, I think some of their issues were how I organized the information.

This was by far my favorite thing so far this year. What I learned is that my students still struggle with reading directions, they are afraid to take risks unless they get confirmation from me and they need to do things like this more often.