All posts by Heather

Ok, here I go…. again

blaugust

My goal for Blaugust…. BLOG

This is the time of year I attempt to start again. I am sitting here in my house thinking about all of the things I need to do rather than sitting here and writing. However, I know that if I can commit to blogging at least occasionally this year then I will be a better teacher because of it.

I looked over my 2 (count them..2) posts from last year. One simply and quickly mentioned that my life turned upside down 2 years ago. TMC14 was my first TMC and I had so many great ideas to implement in my classroom. I started the year with an amazing amount of energy. Then….. August 8th, 2014 was a Friday and the 5th school day of the year; the end of my first week with students. I received a phone call as I was preparing for my day – I had to leave and get home right away. I can’t tell the entire story here because it is part of a larger story that is not mine to tell. However, the way it effected my job as a teacher is my story to tell. I am a different teacher than I was two years ago.

At the forefront of my mind I am always wondering what is happening in my students lives outside of school that may be effecting them in school. It is the paradigm that surrounds every interaction with my students. I make them work hard but I am extremely flexible with them. Yes, at times this flexibility creates more work for me. I’m okay with that. I have had students with eating disorders, depression, crippling anxiety, cutting disorders, etc. They also have major events that happen in their lives – parents divorce, family members or friends pass away, someone close to them is sick, etc. It is my job to teach them math but not regardless of what is happening outside of my four walls. I will create a safe place for them. If what they need is math to help take their mind off of something that is going on, great. If what they need is a place to eat lunch and decompress in quiet, great. If what they need is an extension on the upcoming project, great. If they are not healthy – mentally and physically – whether or not they know the quadratic formula is inconsequential.

The students who are in our high school classrooms right now were born the few years before and the few years after 9/11. They came into this world during a very tumultuous time in our country. I believe this collective anxiety has had an underlying effect on them. They have also completely grown up in the age of the internet and social media. My generation, the parents of these children, didn’t know how to deal with any of this either. (By the way, my children are this age so I include myself in this population) We didn’t have to grow up in a time when everything we did was broadcast for the world to see. We had toddlers and some random people flew some planes into a building and the world wasn’t safe.

I can only hope to create a safe place for them to simply be them.

TMC15 What were we talking about again?

TMC2015-solid

I arrived back in Arizona on Saturday night. I still had a 90 minute drive home so I decided to call a friend of mine who also happens to be a math teacher. She wanted to attend TMC15 with me but she was given the opportunity to take place in a study and the PD for it (which was paid) was at the same time.  Here is how part of our conversation went:

Her: So, how was the conference?

Me: It was great. It is seriously the best PD on the planet. It’s actually more than PD. It’s hard to explain but it is truly amazing!

Her: What are some of the things you talked about?

Me: The morning session I went to was about talking circles and debate in the math classroom.

I went on to explain a little bit about both of those ideas, not doing either one of them justice. Then I couldn’t recall anything else. My mind was blank. I’m sure she was thinking I was crazy. I know some of it had to do with the fact that it was late and I had been traveling after a full day at TMC, but really, my mind was drawing  blank! It was truly baffling.

I guess my first clue that my brain had become mush should have come that morning when Bob and I were trying to create talking points on transformations in Geometry. We were working and my computer kept glitching out; the monitor just goes blank randomly. Then I noticed the highlighted square on my spreadsheet kept moving randomly on it’s own. Then I noticed that it was moving randomly in accord with Bob pressing the arrow keys on his keyboard. I somehow thought maybe his keyboard had blue toothed with my crazy laptop until he said, “Um, no, we are working on a google doc.”  Yeah, that happened…… This should have been my clue that my brain was on overload and I really just needed to stop talking for the day.

Needless to say, I will be processing over the next couple of days and blogging about the things I need to bring back to memory – my favorites of the “my favorites,” better questions, transformations without tears, linking algebra and geometry, and many others.

Every year I hear a few people say, “Just pick one or two things and implement those.” I think this is good advice but I’m not going to follow it. There are just too many good things to pick one or two. I can pick one or two big things (like talking points and debate) and then add in the smaller ones. Adding a my favorites project like Chris Shore presented,  adding 3D printing to my already existing graphing project (presented by Heather Kohn), and using a window to teach sin and cos transformations like Meg Craig are all pretty easy add ons. They don’t require a new classroom structure or even a new structure for a unit. They are great ideas and I will be using all of them, but adding things like Elizabeth’s talking points and Chris’s debate are classroom culture items. They will take a more concerted effort to implement. I’m so excited because they will be well worth the effort.  Now I’m off to by a gong…..

I’m back….

Well, when I looked back at my site I noticed my last post was August 7 of last year.  It was pretty telling because on August 8th my world turned upside down.  It has been one crazy year. The turmoil hasn’t stopped yet but I’m in a better place and really want to get back to writing about my teaching practice.  I will post some stuff from last school year but probably not much.  I will be better served by blogging about what is currently happening then trying to catch up.

Ok, well, here we go….images-2

My First Week Back

I have been officially back to work for a full week.  My students started on Monday and I think this was the most unorganized I have been starting the year.  I usually will go into my classroom at least two weeks before school starts and get it ready.  However, this year I attended Twitter Math Camp in the week prior to returning.  It was worth the disorganization to the beginning of the school year!! I will write more about that at a later time (I hope).

Now, when I say I have started the year a little disorganized I do not mean as far as lessons and students go.  My room is a different story; I don’t have my agenda board done, I still have posters that I created that are waiting to be hung up, and I still need to pick up a toilet plunger for a bathroom pass. (I had to find something that they didn’t want to wander around campus with!)

To add to my chaotic beginning I have just over 180 students right now.  Ugh.  At my school we have 6 periods so we each teach 5.  Yes, that’s right, 180 students in 5 classes!!  Here is how it breaks down – 2 classes of Honors Alg 2 with 44 students each, an Alg 1 class with 45 students, A co-taught TAG Alg 1 (all students with an IEP) with 16, and a Co-taught Alg 1 (a mix of gen ed and IEP students) with 33. Now, these numbers are especially large and the school is trying to do something about it.  The problem is that they need to wait until we are 10 days in to make a final determination about hiring another FTE or not.  I will say that all but 1 or 2 of my students have been showing up!

Here is what we have done our first 3 days:

Our first unit is on Statistics.  I decided that we would spend our first week gathering data.  I wanted to find a way to gather data that they would care about. What do they care about? Themselves!  We started with categorical data.  Each student took a version of the MBTI and a Multiple Intelligences quiz.  We are now starting to put the class data into graphs that we can analyze.  Here is how my regular Alg 1 class broke down on the multiple intelligences quiz. We only used their top score to create the following dot plot  (notice there are 44 dots).

photo

Looks like I am going to need to try to incorporate some music into math this year! They love learning about themselves and I love that I can tie it into my curriculum.  We will be starting our interactive notebooks today – wish me luck!

 

“I hate math!”

lake powell math universe quote

As I sit here in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, Lake Powell, I am in awe of creation. The lake changes constantly because the water level is always going up and down. There are always new rock formations to discover and places to see. I am blessed enough to get to spend a good deal of time here every summer and it doesn’t matter how many times I have been here, I am amazed at the beauty and wonder of this place each and every time. Beauty and wonder draw us in.

We have taken everything beautiful out of math in our education system. It’s no wonder that people say, “I hate math.” In the current teach for a test mentality we don’t have time to explore how math applies to everything around us.  Math is the most disconnected discipline we teach yet it is in everything around us.  We can predict the weather because of the patterns that exist. We watch satellite TV because math has made it possible to track an object in space to exact precision and that object sends a signal to a small dish on our house. We play video games that are created using mathematical algorithms.  We know how much Lake Powell is going to come up because we can calculate how many acre feet of water per minute is flowing into the lake, how much the lake is using to create electricity, and what elevation the lake is at currently. We maximize our profit and minimize our loss in business.

The problem is that everyone who is teaching math, including me, has been taught it using a “this is how you do it” approach.  We fall back into the pattern of teaching things the way we were taught ourselves.  I want to teach differently.  I want to think differently.

I am making it my mission to bring beauty and wonder back in my mathematics classroom!

Summer Math Thoughts 1

All educators know that if you want to learn something completely new you must do it in the summer.  During the school year life is so busy that there isn’t time to begin from nothing, on anything! I am working on incorporating more social media and meaningful technology into my classroom.  I am also very interested in interactive notebooks.  I came across this idea for notebooks on two different blogs – Math Equals Love and Everybody is a Genius.

interactive notebook image

I was on the waiting list for TMC14 and a spot has opened up!! I am so excited. My friends think I’m crazy for wanting to go to something called “Twitter Math Camp.”  There will be a session on the interactive notebooks.  It will be great to have insights from other teachers before implementing these in my classroom.