Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Like a Kettle, But Not of Fish

Fair warning, these may become less frequent.  It hppens for many reasons, but I still plan to write.  It's a nice outlet for what happens and how it makes me feel.

Right now, thinking about two things: one, planning my first activity all by myself, which I will lead 3 times, and two, I got upset yesterday.  The students came in from lunch riled up and talking over me, and so I kind of yelled to be heard over them.  I gave them a talk, trying to remain in the restorative justice theme, about my feelings and how I know they can do better and I want to see them do better.  For the most part, it seemed to work.  I don't know how much they understood, so the impact may have been tiny.  My demo teacher said I did the right thing, as did another teacher I spoke with.  I really hope I did.  The language thing can be so tough, and students love to play around with science, and it can be fun, when it's safe and directions are being followed.

Part two of my current anxiety is the activity I planned.  It's the first one I'm doing all on my own, and here's hoping it works.  I tried to focus on making it relevant to their lives and a phenonmenon that they can all relate to, which is moving furniture.  They move the chairs beneath them every single day, they push tables and desks arounds rooms.  I think it may work, and I'm hopeful.  But anxious.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another Magical Binder Check

Today was a day of more binder organization.  Apparently across the board, teachers have been having issues with students not being organized.  Just like me at that age.  Binders never worked for me.  College suited me so much better with online homework and no worksheets or digital copies of it.  Anyway, it went better because they only really had like 8 assignments for this unit thus far.  Also, we got our planning together a lot better and were more organized, so it went faster in the later periods.   

Getting Visual

So my job was to mod yesterday's lesson plan to suit me.  I turned the page into a worksheet, which we shall call part 1.  I also made large visual aides about distance and displacement, which we shall call part 2.  Or part a and part b.  Reminds me of a good joke.  "What comes before part b...?" "PART-AAAAY."  I digress.  

Anyway, part a/1 was beneficial because it made it so they didn't have to copy everything down and have misunderstandings.  The was nice for all of us involved.  Part 2/b was awesome because I got to draw something and it eactly helped them understand easier.  And I got to talk about Superman and how he follows displacement vectors when he's trying to save people and it kind of made my day, even if it didn't resonate with some students.  Overall, it felt good.

A Walk to the Park

Today's activity was using vectors on maps and talking about distance and displacement.  Honestly, I feel like this would have been a stronger activity earlier, but what are you going to do.  It makes vectors more relevant to their lives, especially when you add a story to it.  Which I always do.  I spent most of  the day with one student in particular.  She's having a difficult time with the language and so taking directions for her is hard.  Giving directions to her is no picnic either.  But little by little, we got her there.  Overall this class has a lot of bright students, some with more drive than others.  The GATE identified boy just could not care less.  His work is becoming sloppier, and I know it's because he needs more of a challenge, but what can we do to challenge him without giving him significantly more work than the other students?  I suppose we could modify it so it's more challenging, but I don't know exactly how that would work with the language thing.  

I feel like half of my dreams are in Spanish now.  Or the Chinese I hear every day on the bus about exiting through the rear doors.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Adding Even More Vectors

Powerpoint is a weird animal.  Sometimes it's useful, sometimes it's a tease.  Today, it was fairly helpful for me.  I love in my class doing chorus responses.  They love to tell me when I'm being ridiculous, and I love when they do that.  It adds to the interaction between us.  So we did the whiteboard vector adding activity, and I must say I was impressed.  I love how they talk to each other and get help from one another, often in their home language or across cultural lines.  For the most part, they seemed to understand what was going on with adding vectors.  I think almost all of them got about 70% of the problems right on the worksheet.  The things I kept repeating were "nose and tail."  "Every vector has a nose."  "Where's the nose?"  I think I tapped my nose so many times, it may have turned reddish.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Adding it all together...vectors I mean

And the vectors go on.

My role for the day was dealing with students talking out of turn, which everyone knows is my favorite thing to do.  The students were not engaging so much with direct instruction.  I have been trying to think about it in the ZPD mindset, and I think what didn't quite get them there was relevance.  I never realized what a huge component of strong education relevance is, but it feels like a "DUH" moment.  How many times when I was a teen did I go "I just don't care?"  More than I'm willing to admit. 

Anyway, there are a couple students who have been picked as being gifted, and so they do not care.  It's finding a way to engage them in work that they feel is below them without compounding their workload but still challenging them.

Blast from the Past

I love that as the blog has gone on, I have seriously lost count of how many days of school there have been.  Like, I have no clue.  I could go back through and check, but what would the point of that be?  

Anyway day of the field trip.  I waited for the seniors in the gym at my most recent alma mater and as one rounded the corner, she yelled out my name.  Here's what I really love about highschoolers above all else:  they don't hug me.  I love that they are happy to see me, but I love even more that they don't hug me.  This was a field trip for a college fair, which was neat for me to see at my old college.  However, at this point most seniors know where they are going to apply, so this felt a little late.  But it was a great way to transition into my long weekend.

A Fade into a Long Weekend

So Friday is a field trip for both groups of students, and so we couldn't let the periods get out of order. Therefore, today's class engaged in the age old time spender:  a video!  To be exact, Mythbusters.  Not sure what they got out of it, and I'm guessing we'll find out when we read the homework.  Overall, because there wasn't a whole lot of teaching going on, not much to report.

My Turn

There is nothing more awkward than standing up in front of a classroom when students are unresponsive.  How does it feel, you ask?  Like standing in front of a group of unresponsive people.  Let's not get too terribly poetic about it.  Anyway, my ability to relate language to the students has become stronger, so I felt understood and I used wait time, which is powerful.  Students need time to think, but man do you feel your time get eaten away rather quickly.  

Anyway, the activity overal went over well, but they had less time in the classroom to do the vector worksheet, so we shall see next week who finished it and who didn't.  They may have time then to finish it if it wasn't done, but I doubt it.  It's up to them to finish it.  I'm trying to decide if I'm doing right by them sometimes.  I have a lot of growing to do, and I don't want to drag down my students because of it.  

On a lighter note, my boy with some of the weakest language just absolutely loves math and so this portion is ringing true with him.  It's amazing how universal a language math can be sometimes.  As a literacy, it's one of my favorite to have.  I don't know what I personally would do without mathematics.

On to My Favorite Things

Here they come!

The moment every physics teacher loves and hates...


Why do we love them, you ask?  When understood, there is nothing more useful in the world.  Why do we hate them?  Understanding vectors takes a ton of time that most classes don't have.  The activity we did today felt pretty good though.  We walked different steps in the vector process, and the students seemed pretty engaged in it.  I don't know how well it was related to them that what we did today was look at components to vectors and drawing based on that.  I'm hoping in this class we will be looking mostly at vectors in the cardinal direction, but we shall see.  The students in this class (second period) seem to react well to direct instruction.  Their language is a bit higher than the other class, so things in general seem to go faster.  Most even finished the worksheet by the end of the period.  They were also pretty quick to give directions to each other, which was part of the in class activity that was very heavily language based.

My Least Favorites

I get binder checks.  I mean I really do.  Helps kids stay organized, lets me communicate work they've gotten back, allows them to understand their grade in the class.  I didn't like them as a student, I don't love them now because it just eats Mondays.  Om. Nom. Nom.  

So the kids got their tests back today.  Most of them were not entirely pleased, understandably so.  One student asked me what the percentage meant in terms of her letter grade.  I had an odd flashback to when I was her age and needing to get  the grade I felt I deserved.  I saw that she became less confident, but that's not what I want.  This girl is driven and brilliant, and I wish she truly, truly knew that.  And some students I wish became more driven by their low grades, but they won't.  Some of their responses on their homework so how little they might understand or how little this information means to them.  Either way, I need to figure something out.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Feeling Doctory

For Friday, I did rounds, and so I wasn't directly with my students that day.  I got to observe different classes around my school.  Always fun, and it reminded of how much I love love love calculus.  Which is a lot.  I also got to connect more with some of the classmates I see less often, so that was amusing. I know this is a short response, but it's due to the fact that I wasn't in the classroom too much this day.  If you're worried about my students, it was the second day of unit exam, so they didn't miss me much.

Testing 1-2-3

Not a great deal to report today.  We had the first unit exam, and it went overall well.  We did have a bit of a snafu with someone copying someone else's test and talking, so he received a zero.  How do I know he copied?  Every single answer was identical to the boy sitting next to him for the multiple choice, which is all he answered.  We try to have a collaborative classroom culture, but tests are individual affairs.  It's the weird nature of tests, and while I was a good test-taker, that's not a common trait in students.  I think a test is ok, but you have to understand what you're assessing and how to communicate that to your students.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rolling Dice, Not in the Alley

Another day of the board game, but this time, as we say in poker, the students were all in (See what I did there.  Clever?)  In this class, the students tend to work together better and followed most directions better.  While they were louder, it was a good louder.  There was a great deal less catcalling and putdowns and it was really wonderful to watch.  I didn't mind talking over them actually, because their discussions were based on answers to the questions.  Some students had some issues with understanding and lost a bit of focus during the game, but we started a sub game for him where he would roll the dice for me and guess how much he would roll.  I think the next step to this activity would be to keep track of how many times each number was rolled and how many times he was correct, and use that to do math stuff later.

The last period, of course, was faster moving.  We even got to watch some Mythbusters.  So much less stressful.  For the most part they're so mellow and it's very relaxing.  Good way to end my long day.    

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Duck Above Water

I understand how the government is supposed to function.  I took civics courses in high school and college, I get it.  I know the history, I know the meaning of our laws and why they are the way they are. However, this fact doesn't make it any easier when the government is shut down for the day and it actually affects the way class runs.  The aide we were supposed to use was on a goverment website, which of course was down.  So I ran around like a crazy person for my own health, after waking up late and being a tad stressed and tired.  I woke up when I'm usually supposed to catch my bus, so I had to drive.  Knocked me off kilter more than I thought it would.  And then I messed up my breakfast and spilled my juice for lunch.  I just feel like nothing was going right.  Luckily, there was a back up video, that a good portion of the class slept through.  At least a back up plan existed at all.  

Second period was a classwide game, and my kindergartener was at his best.  I have never in my life had to tell a student about the age of 8 multiple times "Take that out of your mouth.  It's yucky and dirty."  Seriously, he's mentally 5.   And he was gloating with his team all the time, and mouthing off so he perpetually lost points for his team, which his competitive teammates did not appreciate.  He wore me out.  I wish there were activities that I loved as much as the students.  This game grew on me, but I think it was the personalities in the class that just wore me down.  And not even all of them!  Just those boys in that group.  I dedicate my nap later to them.  

A Treatise in How to Stay Sane

It's interesting to see my perspective shift as I go from student to teacher.  The biggest shift: birthday cake.  It was a student's birthday today, and she brought in a tres leches cake.  It was my first tres leches cake, and it was pretty good.  If you haven't had the priviledge to try one, it's like a sponge cake that is soaked in sweetened and codensed milk and topped with whipped cream frosting.  Pretty tasty.  Anyway, it would be an understatemet to say that students were distracted by the cake.  They lost all concentration on their unit review for the most part.  The focused students remained focused, the non-focused became even more excitable.  Most students had to take the worksheet home to finish it on their own time, but that's ok.  When I was their age, I loved the easier days when cake came in.  Now, I'm a little depressed about it because I know work won't get done, even if it makes the kids happier.

The next class, my primary, was more focused.  They also have a better community for learning.  They tend to help each other more, and there's more cross-cultural friendships.  I sat a Latino boy next to a Chinese boy, and they were so happy to be next to each other.  So the title was how to stay sane: find joy in the small things.  I love watching my students work together and I love when they teach me their language and I can teach them mine.  It's not exactly what I would assume to be culturally conscious teaching, but I feel like we're making more connections, which seems to help them work together better.  

Teaching is so much about feeling for your students.  It's like  being a raw nerve a lot of the time, feeling exactly what's going on with your kids and yourself.  I now understad my father a lot better.  Both of us feeling things deeply, but don't show it to others often out of survival.  I care, I just can't show it often, and that is both a strength and a weakness.
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