It’s July!!!! ????

Seriously, I can’t believe it’s after July 4th already.  Since my school year typically ends at the beginning of June and we start in the middle of August, July 4th is about the halfway point that starts the slippery slope to the school year.

This year I have SO much to look forward to…I am no longer the Math Specialist/Interventionist and will be teaching 7th grade this year with a fantastic team of teachers.  I have never taught 7th grade before, but I did co-teach it a few years ago, so the content isn’t foreign to me.  I took time the last few days of the school year to print new signs/posters for my classroom, get them laminated and cut so they are all ready to go for the new year. I then spent the first two days of my summer going through all my classroom stuff that was in my garage the last three years, tossing, keeping, donating and getting excited to start a new adventure in the fall.  (WHY do teachers keep SO MUCH STUFF?!?!)

I gave myself June to relax, travel, focus on my grad classes (getting my Administration degree/certification) and “think” about school…but to try and not take much action.  A lot of that was due to waiting patiently for the Illustrative Math Open Resources curriculum to come out…I am still waiting…but it will be out this month.  I didn’t want to plan a bunch of stuff and then see the IM stuff and want to redo it all, so I decided to wait. I spent a lot of June sending myself links, saving things to look at later, creating posters (that’s another post), reading all the edu books I have picked up in the last few months and enjoying the fact that it was summer.

But now…it’s July and it’s time for me to hunker down and start figuring out what kind of classroom I want to have, what kind of teacher I want to be and what kind of difference I want to make.  I love a new school year because it’s always a fresh start, I can change the things I didn’t like from previous years, try something new and raise the bar for my students. I think that’s something I love about being a teacher….I can always be better, do better and help my students be better…there isn’t an end to my learning and trying to be the best I can be for my students.  That’s also what I like about teaching middle school, by 3rd period my lesson for the day is solid and all the errors or issues made earlier in the day are worked out and noted for the next year.

I am already a little overwhelmed with where to start and how I want to kick off my school year because I don’t want to mess it up and I do want my students to know from day 1 that we think, do, create and challenge ourselves in my classroom.  I also want them to know I care and trust them to be good students.  I have done Jo Boaler’s iMath to help with growth mindset in the past, but our 6th grade teachers have used it before, so I am trying to avoid hearing “we did this before”.  There should be a new week of iMath out before the year starts, so that will be something I will definitely check out.

So I decided to take to Twitter, my favorite PLN, to find out how others start their school year.  The responses have been awesome and helpful.  Why do I forget about Sara VanDerWerf’s stuff??? I have now saved the links shared and will use it this year too.

The best part about Twitter is being able to ask a question and get helpful responses within minutes AND get helpful responses over the course of time because people see the tweet at different times and will respond on their own time.

So…it’s official…I have started planning for the school year and I couldn’t be more excited!

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.

Day 3 – I have students!

Yippee! Today was like Christmas! I finally get to meet my 6th grade math class of 16 students.  The day started with a whole school Advisory lesson on CHAMPS, which are the school wide expectations.  There were 8th grade student leaders presenting to the 7th grade students.  It was great to see and there was good conversation about  a few of the items.

7th grade co-taught – We started their ISN’s today.  The teacher I co-teach with took my ISN professional development class last year and implemented them last year and loved them.  She has mentioned a few times how excited she is that I can help with foldables and ISN stuff, that will definitely be fun!  So they started with their author page (it was assigned for homework) and then we glued in the TOC.  We had a good discussion about what an ISN is and how we plan for them to use it.  They were either really sleepy or are great kids because they worked quietly to accomplish the task.  This will be a fun group to work with!

I worked with a couple of teachers today to assist them with the new Pearson digits product the district adopted last year.  We had to work through some bugs, but I think we figured it all out.  It’s a great program and resource for teachers to use and it’s all digital, which is fantastic. Our students do not receive any math textbooks and have not for a few years.

8th grade co-taught – They came down to my room (The MALL) to log into Digits and take the first Unit’s Readiness assessment.  The readiness assessment is a pre-assessment on skills necessary to be successful in the coming unit.  When the students are finished, the program automatically assigns them intervention lessons on the topics & skills they need the most work.  I plan to use those readiness assessments with all teachers in all grades to help identify students who will need more assistance with math this year.  The students didn’t really have issues logging in, but the assessment was a little harder than they thought.  Many said they were happy it wasn’t going to be for a grade.  This is a rowdier group of students, beside myself and the classroom teacher, there are two other aides in the room for 28 students.

My 6th grade math class is coming! I had planned a day of fun math problem solving, no rules for me…they heard them from every other teacher.  I basically told them the same rules apply to my classroom and that we would discuss them as needed.  I greeted them at the door, told them to choose any seat and follow the directions on the daily agenda.  I LOVE Rachel Rosales’s Name Plate activity (& have used it before), so they were working on putting their name on the front along with 4-5 pictures to help me get to know them.  I will say having 16 students is going to be nice and easy to get to know!  They had the length of two songs to complete that part before we moved on.  Then I introduced myself again, told them a little bit about me and asked them to open the flap on their name plate for Thursday and complete the “I Notice” (from Drexel University & Max Ray) before we did anything else.

Then I explained the Pentominoes Activity they were going to work on in their groups, handed out the materials and let them play.  I wanted an activity that had a low entry point, where their previous experience and understanding of math didn’t stop them from participating.  I also wanted a good cooperative group beginning activity and when I saw it on that blog, I knew it was the perfect activity.  They worked really hard and there was great conversation, frustration and perseverance.  After about 15 minutes I did provide them with a few hints, but none of the groups were successful in solving the puzzle this time around.

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A great question from one of the students was, “What does this have to do with Math?”. We took a break to discuss and the students came up with answers such as “Area, perimeter, shapes, Geometry, problem solving, working together, etc.” I mentioned that this was a math activity, but the main focus was to work together to accomplish a task. I really liked being able to walk around and observe the students while they work to start learning about who they are as mathematicians.

At the end of the class, with no solutions found, I clarified that in this class sometimes we will be frustrated and unable to solve a problem within our class time and that is OKAY! The most important part is how we problem solve and go about trying to figure out the solution. We closed with having them complete their “I Wonder” for Thursday and turned in their name plates and grabbed a Who Am I flag pennant to complete for homework. I used her free template, but changed what I wanted them to write in each box.  I will use those to decorate the classroom or maybe one of the bulletin boards!

I found an online version of Pentominoes for students to play and sent them the link via Remind. The HARD level in this game is what we were working on in class. http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/games/pentominoes_game.htm.

It was nice to finally meet my students today. Keep in mind I haven’t taught 6th grade since my first year of teaching…I’ve been 8th grade since then.  They are definitely smaller and less edgy than the 8th graders are. I am not a convert yet…I love my 8th graders, but I think it’s going to be a great  year!

Conference presentation

Day 2 of the Wisconsin Math Conference started out with my Cooperative Groups presentation.  I had a great group of attendees and learned a few things from them (my favorite part of presenting!!) Apparently CPM, College Preparatory Math, has strong emphasis/basis in cooperative grouping…I plan to check it out more.  I do wish the conference center had good wifi, so when I was talking about Kahoot I could have shared the site with them.  I had put together a fun intro game to kick off my presentation, but was unable to use it for that reason.  I hope in the future the wifi improves so teachers can share and interact with each other.  I’m thinking #Edcamp style, where there is a google doc that all can take notes on during the presentation and have access to at any time afterwards.

I also attended a few presentations, one on Standards Based Grading and picked up a few new ideas. And another on Interventions.  I took good notes for both and will share when I actually have them in front of me. 🙂

I ended the day with the last possible time slot, 2:30-4:00 and my Interactive Notebook presentation.  I had a dozen or so people there, I was surprised, especially since there were already two presentations on them from other people on Thursday.  We had a good time, I walked away with a few new ideas as well.

It was nice to meet a few teachers from Chicago on Friday, though there weren’t many from out of state.  All in all it was a great conference, on a beautiful site right on the lake with all locations convenient and easy to get to.  I look forward to presenting and attending in the future!

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