Day 6 – Sadness

Today started with a great staff meeting about Cooperative Grouping structures and sharing and answering questions in small groups with other teachers.  I love the district I am in and the amazing teachers I have worked with for 14 years. Just sitting around the table this morning talking with teachers of all disciplines who are interested in trying something new in order to best reach their students, it’s a refreshing conversation and makes me excited.  I enjoy using cooperative groups in my classroom and have seen the benefits it brings to accountability for all students.

Overall today was a fine day, but it was overshadowed by my feelings of sadness.  I miss my friends, the people I have taught with for so many years who just get me.  Because of my position, I don’t really have lunch with anyone, so I’ve been eating by myself which obviously doesn’t help my feelings of sadness.  Lunch used to be fun, relaxing and a time to relax before heading off to teach, now I just sit at my desk and work through my lunch because I don’t know what else to do.  I know all of the math teachers in my new school because I have worked with many on committees over the years, but I don’t have the same lunch as any grade level really, so I can’t really crash their lunch and join in.

I am sad because I really miss the ins and outs of teaching, the planning, the organizing, the brainstorming with other teachers, making connections with students, etc.  Sure I have one class of 6th grade students  and I am co-teaching a 7th and 8th grade class, but this is sadly turning out to be the job that I was afraid it would be.  I don’t feel like I am doing any good or even really working much and it’s driving me insane.  I have another meeting on Friday along the topic about instructional coaching, which is something I am interested in…I used to think I wanted to teach teachers, but now I don’t even really know about that.  I’ve been offering my services and help to the math teachers, with the new technology program, to assist with grouping students, really anything…and no one is biting.  I can’t force them to want to allow me into their classroom, but what else am I supposed to do?  I keep decorating my classroom and my poor 6th grade students already thought there were enough posters on the walls! 🙂

With everything else going SO well in my personal life, this is really giving me a reality check.  I don’t have my Admin certificate because I knew a while back that I didn’t ever want to leave the classroom and this is just putting that into a clearer focus.  I need to be around teachers, students and interacting about math and teaching. I can’t figure out how to get that in my current position. I would love to be a district level PD person or math coach even, but I looked for those jobs this spring and couldn’t find anything. I am so afraid that I am going to wilt away and be this forgotten teacher who once taught math pretty well.

Yes, I am aware that these are all crazy thoughts, but it really consumed me today and here it is 9pm and I still haven’t gotten over it.  I know it will all be okay, at some point…but right now I am struggling to see the light, to see how I can continue to make a difference in the lives of my students and to help teachers in this new position of Math Specialist (also called Math Interventionist).  I wish there was more direction, like this is the job we want you to do and do it this way.  All of this freedom and do what you feel is best doesn’t work for me.  It’s my type A kicking in. 🙂

So I will breathe slowly, take a deep breath and try again tomorrow.  It’s a new day and can only get better.

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Day 5 – Readiness Assessment

After a nice long three day weekend, I wasn’t quite ready to get back into the swing of things, but it ended up being a great day!

There are so many things I want to do in this new position of mine, but it is hard to know what is okay and what isn’t.  There are times that I like the lack of direction, but others where the type A in me needs a little more organization to follow.  I want to put together a newsletter of sorts for the math teachers in my building sharing apps, programs, blogs, activities that I find online.  It’s easy for me to find it all, just need to compile it in a useful manner that will effectively reach three different grade levels.  I also want to make sure teachers know that I am there to help them and their students, I think when you start the school year you get into a mode and forget to reach out for assistance or even ask for it.  Some have been coming to me on their own, which is great, but I need to do a better job of being out there and approaching them too.

I started a blog for my classroom and I am hoping to write a reflective post each day, for myself and for parents & students.  It’s on the Blogger platform and I’ve figured out how to add a Google Presentation (where I keep my daily agenda), a gallery for my ISN pages and a page for my Remind Announcements.  It’s been fun to mess around and figure it all out.

Today in 7th grade the students were in the lab completing a readiness assessment for the first unit.  It covers the necessary skills from previous grades that will be called upon in the first unit. The program will automatically assign them intervention lessons based upon the questions they miss.  The teacher can then assign them to complete those lessons or they will be completed during their time with me once the year and unit gets underway.

In 8th grade we are starting to get into the first unit and started with a vocabulary activity.  In groups of 3-4 the students had to use multiple resources (BYOT (google) and two different textbooks) to compare the definitions and come to a consensus on the wording they wanted to use.  I was amazied for Irrational Number there were three “different” definitions, different to the students, but not really different in meaning.  Once said “Any real number that cannot be expressed as a ratio”, another said “Any real number that cannot be expressed as a quotient of two numbers” and the last said “Any real number that cannot be expressed as a fraction.” This opened up a great conversation between group members about which one would be best to use and why.  And why were they worded different any way?  It was a fun activity, but it was hard for the four of us adults to keep the students on task. This will be a rowdy group this year.

In my 6th grade class we started our Weekly Warm-ups with Tough Patterns Tuesday. The patterns come from Fawn Nguyen (@fawnpnguyen) and her amazing site, http://www.visualpatterns.org.   Surprisingly, they had ZERO clue how to solve a pattern…I think I may have forgotten they were 6th graders and not the gifted 8th grade students who I had last year. So we walked through the steps in solving the pattern and I made notes on what I want to change on my Weekly Warm-up sheet in order to assist them and make it more clear.  I secretly thought about how much easier it would be to do Estimation180 each day instead of a different warm-up focus each day, but then what am I really teaching them?  Obviously since they struggled with identifying and finding a pattern, they need to work on it.  I am thinking of rearranging the days again so Friday only includes the reflection of their week and one good thing from the week, instead of a warm-up AND the reflection.  I just really like the idea of writing about their week in math and overall and sharing one good thing.  That Friday reflection was one of my favorite things from last year.  I learned about my students in a different way and had fun commenting on their questions and reflections.

Today was their last “I Notice/I Wonder” of the beginning of the school year.  I only use it for the first three days they are with me. Here are some of their comments from today:

I Notice

We were kind of working with exponents (This was Pattern #1 for the warm-up and we identified counting the squares, so it was exponents.)
How forgetful I am being (Ah, the joys of being in 6th grade and trying to figure out how to organize everything.)
That I am so COLD. (Yep, when the computers aren’t being used in my classroom the air is cold. When they are being used throughout the day, it gets quite warm. Dress in layers is my suggestion!)
That there is a quote of the week (YES! My school is a CHAMP school and has a quarterly theme with words and quotes of the week.  It’s a great way to connect the school together!)
That this year will be a challenge (Not if we can all work together!)
It’s hard to find patterns (Next Tuesday I want to do a better job of walking them through to find patterns, any suggestions?)
That we will have warm-ups everyday, I like that (I am glad she likes it, I just want to make sure they are useful and fun.)
That you have a lot of posters (Surprisingly less than in the past, but I like things to be colorful!)

I Wonder 
If my day will get any worse (This was the same student as the forgetful comment, but this makes me sad. It’s 8th period out of 9 and he’s had a rough day. I hope he has a better day tomorrow and I hope to make sure he does!)
What I will get on the test (They took a pre-assessment today that isn’t for a grade. There were many students who wondered about their performance on the pre-assessment.)
Why it’s colder than Friday (It was chilly!)
What hard things we will be doing later in the year (I like that they are wondering, but want to change the mindset that it will be hard.)
Do you give us tough patterns on purpose? (Hmmm…maybe I need to change the name?)
If we will have worksheets (With the change to most homework on the computers, this is a good question.  If it is useful and serves a purpose, I have no problem with worksheets to accomplish a task)

After the warm-up and a conversation about the Readiness Assessment for their first unit, they got on the computers (it’s SO cool having a classroom in a lab) and plugged away.  I had three gentlemen in the back that couldn’t stop talking to each other.  In the future I think I will spread them out. I only have 16 students and 29 computers, I can spread them out A LOT! It is funny how the squirrely kiddos stick out when you only have 16.  I think back to last year having multiple classes of 38 and how I probably wouldn’t have noticed so much. 🙂

@chrisrime mentioned to me the other day that after reading my blog post and links to others about music in the classroom, he decided to try his hand at creating a Chrome Extension to make the music play at certain times.  While I love all things technology, creating something like that on my own…well that just isn’t going to happen.  Today Chris sent a tweet with the link to his extension for Chrome.  Think of all the things you can use it for…his way for passing periods and warm-ups or on parent night to indicate when parents should switch classes.  What about for a station rotation activity to indicate when students should move?  All of the things I do through an IOS app  can be done through his extension.  He did post it knowing it might be a little rough, so check it out and let him know what you think! I am pretty impressed and hope it will work in my school where Pandora is blocked.  https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/musical-timer/heaadgfcmokbmoiepokjcjpabjkhcogf

This interaction with Chris just reminds me of the vast depth of knowledge, friendliness and sharing that exists out there “in the internet”.  Asking for help will get you a tons of responses and suggestions, asking a question does the same…there is always someone there to help or who is willing to help.  Being a part of this online community has enriched my teaching, changed my views on many things and made me love what I do even more.