July Challenge – Family

Well, I missed blogging the past two days. Life got a little hectic, watching grandkids, my granddaughters 6th birthday, family stuff. If I have to miss blogging and keeping up, family is really the best reason for it. I love my family and love having time with them. I love the fact that my family likes to spend time with us, and that our grandkids are constantly asking for time with us, and to spend the night. We are very fortunate to have our family near us and that we get to spend a lot of time with them. 

Tomorrow we are going to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom with our granddaughters and our daughter. This is something they earned tickets for at school and they are very excited. I’m really hoping it’s not going to be 100 degrees, which wears me out very quickly. I haven’t been to an amusement park in a long time, probably since I lived in Southern California and went to Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. That would be about 14 years. I’m not sure how it will be tomorrow, but I am looking forward to spending the time with the girls. 

After this, I will do my best to stay on track with the blogging. I’m watching the tweets by Julie Reulbach and her working with the smart board, and anticipating my own difficulties as I tackle that task myself. I need to plan a day to go into the classroom and just mess around with it. I know that’s the only way I’m going to get any good at it. I guess I’m hoping she will figure out all the secrets and save me some time. I’m rooting for her. 


July Challenge – EdCampHome 3.0

I participated in the Edcamphome 3.0 google+ hangout ed camp this evening. This is the first ed camp I have ever attended and it was a great experience. I was a little frustrated for the first session, I received my invitation, replied to it, and ended up in a hangout by myself. I tried several times to re-enter the hangout and couldn’t get in. I ended up watching the discussion on the web page instead. The second session went much better and I was able to join a discussion about flipping the class. This is something I want to try this year, but after listening in to the discussion it sounds like it will take a lot of effort. I think I’m going to have to modify my choice to do this and do something more realistic, at least for this year. 

We have an echo program which is similar to edmodo, where we can post discussions, put links and documents for students and have them turn in work. I am going to play with this and work on utilizing it to decrease paper and make turning in work much more organized for students. I am hoping to put links to videos that are already created rather than attempt to create my own videos this year, and utilize other resources for students to research topics and come to class prepared. My hope is to have them come to class with some knowledge, then work together in class to apply the knowledge, solve problems or dig in deeper on topics with questions they have or I have prepared in advance. I am hoping this will be a good precursor for all of us to a flipped class and still utilize the class time much more effectively for problem-solving and collaborative learning. I have never been a big lecturer, but I know that there is more I can do to enhance an inquiry and student-focused learning environment than I have and am hoping to expand that much more this year. My students are all to bring devices, which is the one thing that has hampered my ability to do this in the past, lack of technology in student hands. 

I did get a couple of resources this evening to look at and hopefully this will help me to plan and work out how I might do this. I’ve already decided that the books will stay home, and we will utilize other resources in the classroom, just what and how I haven’t completely worked out yet. I’ll definitely add more here as I figure it out or make decisions on what I am going to try. 

Any suggestions or ideas that you are willing to share, things that you have tried and have worked or not would be most gratefully accepted. I’m not too proud to beg, borrow or steal. 

Looking forward to hearing from you. 

July Challenge – Standards Based Grading

I just participated in the Global Math Department’s presentation by Jessica Bogie and Matt Owen on standards based grading. They had some pretty good ideas and resources for this, and examples from their classrooms on how they use the grading and the resources. It was very informative and helpful. I would definitely look at both of their websites for more information, I have been through Jessica’s site and it is very useful and helpful. She is also a font pro. 😀 

I will be using the echo network which is a part of the New Tech Network grading system. It definitely does a better job of allowing standards based grading with topics, I still need to play with it during the summer to get a feel for how to enter things and to score. One of the side discussions was about grading homework, and I truly do not want to grade homework this year. The grading system I used previously did not allow me to put anything in the grade book that was not going to be graded. I want a way to “check off” homework, so there is a record when students are doing it, especially for re-testing or referring to later when questions arise, but do not want it to be a portion of the grade. I really hope that Echo allows this. 

Jessica also has some forms she uses to help her and students keep track of where they are on standards and topics and has incorporated the ISN (Interactive Notebook) pages into this to help students organize and find information. I really like these ideas and for Math II next year may once again try some sort of organization like this. My students are to have a device with them, and I’m sure that some of them will want to take notes here, so I’m thinking that a composition notebook for homework and organization may be an idea for this. I’ll have to come up with an idea and be willing to be flexible as the year starts and I see how it all works. I know that I can put all my assignments into Echo for students and not have to give any handouts or anything, so I’ll be playing with this the next couple of weeks to decide how to use it. 

There is a chat on Wednesdays, at 6pm PST, #sblchat, for ideas on standards based grading and other associated topics. This is not a math only chat, but I hear it is very useful. Some great and helpful ideas to begin with this evening. 

July Challenge – Motivation

I am finding myself on a motivation slide. After the past month at school, many interviews for different positions, helping my sister-in-law, I’m finding myself lacking the energy to want to do much of anything. I’m disappointed about not hearing on a couple of the interviews I had, and two of them i was told I was “edged out” by someone else. I guess at 53 yrs of age, being edged out is having quite an impact on me. 

This is my second career, so while I have been in the work world for quite a bit, in this profession I have only 11 years under my belt. It seems like the perfect time for a step up into leadership, and yet, I’m feeling like maybe my age is causing me to lose out on some forward motion. It’s a difficult thing to face, because I still have a lot of energy and ideas of things I want to contribute and do. 

I was asked by leaders in my district to apply for several of the positions, so after interviewing and then not getting them I’m doubly disappointed. I don’t think I would have applied for all of them. At this point I am trying to just focus on the job I know I have, teaching HS Integrated Math II and Pre-Calculus next year with PBL and inquiry and integrated technology. That seems like it should be enough, doesn’t it? Am I nuts wanting more? 

I really love teaching. I know I am a great classroom teacher, that I do some things very effectively, and being at a new school gives me the opportunity to be a model for different teachers, while stretching and learning some new things myself. So why does this almost feel like I lost? Maybe I’m just tired and need a little rest. I really did bite off a lot last year, working both at my school site and at the district level to help make the transition to Common Core and Integrated Math easier for our teachers. 

It’s all a matter of perspective, and I need to find my way out of this motivation slump and back on track. 

July Challenge – Five Things I Need in my Classroom

I am truly enjoying this blogging challenge, and getting to know some new MTBoS members as a result. I truly appreciate the good teaching that is out there, and am glad to be a part of the discussions and encouragement to continually strive to be the best teacher I can be. 

I decided to think about the five things for my classroom because I am changing schools this year and have some new challenges awaiting me. 

1. Technology knowledge. I have transferred to a New Tech Network school and focus is on PBL, technology and inquiry based learning. The technology is my challenge, in my previous school I did not have a lot of access to technology in my classroom and the ability to use the computer lab was hampered by access, size, working computers and programs to name a few. I need to think about how to change this and how to change my teaching since each of my students is now required to have a device with them each day. I am excited about this, just know that I have some work to do. 

2. Love the document camera. There is nothing like being able to have students walk up and share their work, or have immediate overhead access to something written. 

3. Group collaboration. I need students working together, talking, sharing and teaching each other. They learn better this way, understand better this way, and create relationships. I love Roxy’s idea about changing groups weekly and randomly and am thinking about how to use this in my class.  

4. Wisdom. I love to have sayings and wise words displayed on the walls at all times. I want students to be thinking, reflecting and challenging themselves, and try to find words of wisdom to get them thinking about all things life, not just mathematics. 

5. My PLN. I could not be the teacher I am without a strong PLN and am grateful for the colleagues with whom I share ideas, write activities and lesson plans, talk over lessons and challenge me to really look at my practice and teaching. 

There is so much we can do in our classrooms. I plan to use this challenge and summer to look at my part in each of my student’s learning and lives this year and refocus my energy to this next year. 

New Beginnings, New Opportunities

I have just completed my eleventh year of teaching. I have taught for all of them at the same school. When I first graduated from my credential program, I had two interviews. I had decided not to teach until I finished my master’s degree, but was encouraged to apply for a position that had come up to get “practice” at the interview process. I agreed this would be a good idea, and did so. I did not get the job, and didn’t feel comfortable at all at the interview. A day later another school in the same district called me and asked me to come in for an interview. I had not applied at this school, they said they received my information on-line from the first application I submitted. The administration asked me to come in on the day of our graduation, and I told them “no”. I had not walked for my graduation for my undergraduate program and had gone through a difficult year with my daughter, and felt I owed myself this celebration. They set the interview for a different day for me. I went to the campus early, to walk around, pray, and just find a comfort zone after the last interview. The moment I stepped on the campus, I was peaceful. After meeting the retiring principal, I knew I was supposed to be here. Sure enough, as I was walking through the door on returning home, I received a call offering me the position. I finished my master’s degree my first year of teaching here. That was a difficult but exhilarating year.

We have had three principals since then. The first two I found easy to work with, although many did not like the second one. The third one has been difficult for me. Last year we had some disagreements, and after a challenging year in which I had many successes, I was given a very undesirable assignment in what seemed like a punishment. I accepted this, was unable to find another position, so I persevered through another difficult year. This time I covered my bases, and was offered a transfer to another site in our district.

The school I have transferred to is a New Tech Network school. I have been attempting to find ways to teach in this manner at my current school site and have been experiencing difficulty in getting administrative support and understanding. Another difficulty occurred in attempting to share a cart of chrome books with another teacher in the department, and after quite a bit of stress, unresponsive administration, and frustrating interactions, I am so excited to be here. I believe that God honored my attempts to persevere in the midst of quite a bit of struggle and adversity, and has given me the opportunity to work with students in the manner I have desired. I knew immediately after the interview with this principal and vice principal that this was the place I was meant to be, and again, received a call as soon as I returned from the interview with the transfer offer. I have some things to learn and become acquainted with, I have not ever had the ability to do everything with technology as this was limited at my previous site. I’m excited about the opportunity to plan lessons this way, and awed at the difference in creating lessons this way.

I’m so grateful to my PLN, MTBoS, Christian Educators, and others I have met on Twitter and through blogging this year. I know that this will be challenging, but also feel I have the support to step up and meet the challenges head on. I’m reorganizing, and preparing for my new beginnings and new opportunities to grow.

Technology as an Entry Point

Thursday my algebra students had an introduction to playing some math games on the computers and exploring Math Munch. They were having fun competing on the games and showing each other the games they had found. They also made their way over to Cool Math Games on a link from Math Munch. They were having quite a bit of fun and enjoying the competition which is very unusual for this group. They usually keep to themselves and and don’t let on about what they can and can’t do so they don’t loose their “cool.”

Friday we had the computers again, and while I didn’t want to suddenly tell them exactly what they were going to do, I did want some focus on the learning. I found some reflective worksheets here, on math munch and decided to use this and allow them to find something of interest and utilizing the worksheet, share their find with the rest of the class, or at least another student in the class. (They don’t always like to share out in the full group as described above). I needn’t have worried. They couldn’t wait to share what they were finding, and were awed at the things they were reading and learning from the site. Several students never made it back to the games, they were so busy reading, watching videos, and following links to further information. I’ve never seen these students so engaged in something. The room was fairly silent again for quite a while, but for very different reasons than usual. They were truly interested in what they were doing.

Several of the students would call me over, “Have you ever heard of this?”, “Do you know anything about this?”, “Where can I find more information about this?” They were slapping each other on the shoulders trying to get the student next to them to look at what they were looking at. I had so much fun watching them. Better yet, in the pictures of student work you will see what I mean. These are students who rarely write more than a word or two when describing mathematical processes or writing explanations. But, look for yourself.