My One Word for 2018 is going to be "Purpose".
I need to start doing things ON "PURPOSE" and set myself up to be successful. The last few months have been an emotional and physical strain and I need to get out of survival mode and back into THRIVE-al mode.
At the end of October, our landlord told us we had 2 months to find a new place to live. We had to pack up the house that we had been living in for 8 years, the house that we brought home both of our daughters from the hospital into, and a house that had accumulated 8 years of stuff. My days turned into leaving school at random times to look at houses, and then usually going back to work to finish prepping. The perfect place fell into our lap at the perfect midnight hour, as we were making a decision on another house. Once we found a new place, we set a date to move, and my wife chose the morning after report cards were due. For two weeks every night it was a decision as to whether I was going to grade or pack, because I wouldn't have the time or energy to do both. And so everything was a slow grind of packing, de-cluttering, grading, cleaning, and moving. To top it off, we moved over Thanksgiving break, so instead of resting and recharging we were moving , cleaning, and unpacking. My nights went into survival mode: what can I do before I pass out? And so my life was rushing onto the next task, with no time to relax in between.
So in 2018, I want to set myself up with some good habits. Not just setting random resolutions or goals, that may last for a little bit, but some good habits that will train my mind to get back on an uphill track. The habits that I want to build are keeping a positive outlook (instead of worrying) and I want to get in the habit of reading or writing on a daily basis. And doing things ON PURPOSE to help me be successfully build those habits!
***Fast forward from January 18th to February 25th***
Soooooo, how are those habits coming along? Getting the reading in on non-work days is pretty easy. I will sit down with my coffee and read for a little bit before I make breakfast. But how do I get the reading in on school nights? I have downloaded an app to get some blogs on my I-pad, because reading is reading and I don't need to limit myself to reading the same thing every day. My daughter is in 1st grade and her homework is to read something for 15 minutes a day, so I should be able to do it too, right? You betcha!
Now writing is the hard part for me... Writing a blog is putting myself out there, and whether only one person reads it or not, it still feels like a chore for me and to be honest I rarely start working on one before 11 PM. To tie into the positive outlook I have started a journal at school to write down the positive things that happen during the day. Again, building any habit takes time, and I need to set myself up for success. I have found that leaving it open next to my desk is the best way to remember. If I leave school without doing it and just stick it in my bag to do at home, then chances are I won't do it and it will stay in my bag for a few days until I think about it. But just like the reading, there is the other side.... how do I write at home? Still need to work on that one. Maybe I need to buy some note pads and just stick them in strategic places around the house, or find a good voice to text app to help me out. I was watching X-Factor over Christmas Vacation and they had Ed Sheeran on and when asked for advice to writing a hit song he said, "Write a lot. You have to write a lot of bad songs before you can write a good one." That quote has stuck has stuck with me now for several weeks and I just need to get over myself and write a little every day until it is comfortable!
Being Positive! I enjoy my students and there's always a few moments of celebration every class where someone is happy about a good quiz, or someone "gets it", or someone wants to solve the problem on the board. Whether or not your lesson is amazing, or even if it bombs, someone will have reason to be happy and share with you. Someone will have a light bulb go off. Someone will make different choices today that will make your day go smoother. Someone will have good news that they want to share with you! Celebrate those bright spots and make mental notes of them. (Or get a notebook and write them down!) You will start to remember little things like digging through your clean laundry and finding a clean pair of matching socks in the morning, or sitting down at your desk after the bell rings, only to realize that your bags are still on your chair because you have spent the entire class period on your feed with your students and having discussions with them. Don't let something little drag down the rest of your day, or dominate your thinking. I like being able to write down my happy thoughts at the end of the day, reflecting on the good things that happened before I go home. But it does make it a little tougher to remember what a student said to you at 8:30, or how awesome the first period of the day went after you have been teaching from 8-2 with no prep. So now I am trying to get in the habit of writing things down during class!
How many days/repetitions does it take to make something a habit? Keep in mind that anything worth while will require some struggle, and there is no such thing as an overnight success. Do your thing, reflect, focus on the positive, and help yourself to make the road as smooth as possible before you travel down it! So my focus and One Word for 2018 is PURPOSE. I am working on doing things on purpose to create good habits for myself. After all, before you run a marathon you have to be able to run for 1 mile, then 2, then 3. My family life has been putting that into perspective for me lately. [Future blog post, now where's that notepad...] Baby steps. Build habits. Set yourself up for success. Celebrate!
Hello? Is this still on? It has been a few months since I wrote one of these things...
When I started my blog last summer I didn't have a certain goal in mind other than to share and to try and keep a running diary of my growth.
I have had several instances over the last few months where I thought, "I totally should blog about this..." , but obviously, I didn't get around to writing one. I still need to get to the point where writing is not so much of a chore for me. I know that the only way to get better (or more comfortable) at something is through practice, practice, practice. If I'm applying this to teaching, I can't expect my students to not do something for 3-4 months and then pick up right from where ever we left off on that topic.
When the school year started 10 months ago I knew that I wanted to make some changes and so I tried some new things: for a day, for a module, for a unit... And so I felt like I had things to write about, and I felt like I was learning and growing. I had to do a semi-annual district evaluation and for the Fall semester I was able to make a slide show and list out everything that I had blogged about. However, when the time came in May to write a year end evaluation, I had a mild panic attack... what had I done? where would I get my evidence? And then I took a step back and thought about my class over the last few weeks. I was actually doing my "new" things on a consistent basis, so they weren't standing out to me. Does that make any sense? First semester I was all about trying new things and patting myself on the back. Towards the end of the year I realized that I wanted to make consistent changes that I could snowball into the fall of next year. And since I was using those "new" things on a regular basis, they weren't standing out to me until I took a step back.
There is no magic trick, secret video, website, or app that will turn a random class into your favorite of all time. I just need to keep making little shifts to get me to where I want to go. The last week of school I was talking to another teacher about what we wanted to work on over the summer. Her goal was to find more activities to engage her students using chromebooks. She made the remark that she had tried some new things, "but not as much as you have". And I told her, it's all about getting started and meeting your own personal goals/needs. Get the ball rolling and the rest will come as you gain momentum. At the end of last year I was excited about getting my hands on the chromebook cart once every 2-3 weeks. Now I have one in my class that I use at least once a week.
That being said, the biggest single, most influential thing that has helped me grow this year has not been a website, app, podcast, or book... it has been my PLN... my "Personal Learning Network". Going back and reading my first blog entry, I actually did it because of outside influences, and not because I felt completely confident in my ability to start sharing on an (ir)regular basis. However, those "outside influences" are people that I now talk to on a regular basis and they are some of the first people that I ask for advice. And it all started because I agreed to read a book and chat about it over the summer. Now I talk to people at other sites, at the district office, even in other school districts, more often than I talk to some of the teachers in my building. Twitter has definitely helped to "flatten the walls" of my class, but it has also opened me up to being more flexible and willing to take risks. My biggest take away from my 12th year of teaching has been my new network of friends. You have helped make me willing (and actually excited) to get up at 7 AM and drive 45 minutes on a Saturday morning, pick up a book to read instead of taking a nap, lead an after school training session, moderate a Twitter chat (or two) on my own, and practice my blogging at 2 in the morning, I'm sure that there are more things I can add to the list, but they all have one thing in common: they helped me to get out of my comfort zone and grow. Not just as a teacher, but as a person. So if you are one of the people that has given me advice, steered me in a new direction, modeled trying something new, been willing to share something with me when I asked, publicly cheered me on, let me know low-key that you have been watching me, or even if you just spent a couple minutes reading my blog posts... THANK YOU.
I read this chapter of Ditch That Textbook last Wednesday and attended a PD session on Saturday. When I saw someone else post their notes from the day I figured I would join the club...
Last weekend I had the chance to make a 45 minute drive up the coast to attend Edcamp Ventura. Edcamps model the words in my booksnap: YOU decide what you want to talk about. If you are in a session that isn't lighting any sparks, go join another one. This was my second official Edcamp and I was able to join in some discussions about things that I have been working on.
In the first session we talked about coding, and I learned about Bootstrap , which incorporates Algebra with Computer Science. Something to check out when I get a little free time. Here are the notes from our session if you are looking for ideas. You can also check out my blog post about the Week of Code for some quick things you can try out.
In the second session we began talking about Jo Boaler's Mathematical Mindsets. My department read several chapters from the book and we had three meetings about them last year. I used some of the activities from the Week of Inspirational Math in my class last month to begin the new semester. After talking about the book and the course, I asked whether anyone was using Number Talks in their classes. I have seen some blogs about Number Talks here and there but haven't tried them in my class. This launched us into a whole different discussion about Counting Circles. Here is a few websites where you can read about them. The teacher leading the discussion said that it definitely helped his RTI students and he uses them on a regular basis. It is definitely something I want to start using in my classes, but I'm not sure about my 37 desks forming two circles...
I was a little lost for the third session. There wasn't anything that super interested me. I started in a tech discussion, which led into Green Screening, which led to using Apple products. I have looked into doing green screen prior to this and the other teacher was also using DoInk, which is not available for Android. So... I voted with my feet and walked over to a discussion on PBL. Again, nothing lighting fires for me, but it is good to hear about cross curricular projects where students are making their own creations.
The other cool thing about EdCamps is that they get lots of cool sponsors, which leads to excellent lunches and cool prizes/freebies. I ended up winning a set of 20 headphones that I can use in my class! So keep an eye out for any upcoming EdCamps in your area. They are a great chance to find out about things that you are interested in, and and an excellent opportunity to expand your PLN and meet people from your PLN in real life!
So last Thursday I am sitting in my class on my prep when I get a visit by a teacher and my coach (what I affectionately call our ELA TOSA). "Are you doing anything exciting in class today? Can we come back again later?" Nooooo... today we are just reviewing, quizzing, and moving on to the next section. Nothing exciting, no tech, nothing flashy. Then 5th period rolls around... "Mr.Carganilla, aren't we going to do a Kahoot!? We always have a review before our quizzes." Nooooo... not today. Their quiz was on mean, median, mode, and range. They require good old fashioned pencil work, and I have found that my students usually prefer speed over quality (ie. doing scratch work) when it comes to online reviews. So I just gave them a few practice problems without a timer to work them out, and then we moved onto the quiz.
So now that I have told two people in one day that my class will be "normal" (boring?) today, I started to reflect back to what we have done prior. We had done quite a few different things for 20-30 minutes each leading up to the quiz. I started by having them work on an Iron Chef Slide Activity. Students were in groups of four and each assigned to work on one slide: either Mean, Median, Mode, or Range. We did it at the end of class, but each student had to take ownership of at least one definition, hopefully creating a little bit of space in their memory. It also gave students a little preview of what we would be working on.
The next class period I had them work on a Nearpod lesson. Nearpod gives them an interactive slide presentation with embedded CFUs where students can draw, use multiple choice, or type an answer to show what they have learned. It was a brief overview of the four topics with definitions for students to write down as reference, and examples for students to try on their own.
At our next class meeting (after the weekend), I gave my students an activity where they had to count colors of cereal pieces. They had to complete a table, then look for a mean, mode, and range. You can google search "mean median mode" activities and find plenty for m&m's or skittles. I just changed it up so that I could use cereal bought from the dollar tree (much more cost effective!). Students worked together in pairs, and of course, no groups had the same answers. On a side note: I was a little surprised that in several bags of 40+ pieces of cereal there would only be 1 blue. I was also surprised at how many students wanted to EAT them afterwards, even after several warnings against it...
At our fourth class meeting we added in IQR and I had them do some independent practice that included some critical thinking about defending answers. I was very impressed by how hard my students were working (even though it was a worksheet) and how any questions were being answered by the students around them.
So in our four class meetings prior to the assessment I had covered all of the 4 C's: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and some Critical Thinking; and also used tech, hands on manipulatives, and good old fashioned pencil & paper. And even though I gave them a "regular" review prior to the quiz, my students answered the call, and again they impressed me. In order to get 100% students had to use critical thinking and defend a choice using the answers from the quiz. I had almost twice as many students get 100% against the number of students that got a D or an F (and I'm talking about 5 classes of 36+).
As a teacher we are always looking for that "Perfect Recipe", whether it pertains to our mix of students, variety of assignments, blocks of time, question prompts, or assessment methods. And while it isn't good to always be second guessing yourself, it is good to feel confident in your mix and still look for new ways to tweek it. We start to lose our effectiveness when we think that we've done it all with no room for improvement.
So here are my questions for moving ahead: How can I get a few more of those D & F's to click over? (The eternal question). And how can I keep my variety as I move ahead? Statistics is a topic that is very applicable to real life and students have seen it before. I am sure all of that played a small part in their learning. How can I make Linear Systems just as approachable? This is one of the tougher units all year and I tend to handle it just like that. How can I take off the kid gloves and get them to dig in and find success? I am already thinking about new things I can do when we get to quadratics and parabolas, but what can I try tomorrow? I want to take advantage of the positive momentum that we've built and ride that wave.
In case you didn't hear, last week was the Hour of Code. At our school we did a Week of Code at lunch. There were 5 sessions that took place at lunch. I had never coded before or previously tried any activities. I saw an ad for the week, and saw that my department chair was running it in his class, so I made my decision to take part every day. Here is a brief list of what we did!
I must admit, I had a lot of fun with each of these. On three of them I spent an extra hour or so after school to perfect my creations. I am planning on using the Code Monkey game next year to go along with some Growth Mindset material. My approach to that one was that I would only try to finish each puzzle one piece at a time... get the first portion right, then try the second, then try the third. Of course I would really hope that I could magically get it right on the first time... but that was not the expectation. Take a shot, figure out what needs to be re-worked and fix it. This is the mindset that I need to instill in my students. Don't assume that your first try will always be perfect. Don't expect to solve every problem on the first or second try. Talk about it, reflect, and make adjustments. Isn't that how our approach to teaching (or life) should be?
Of course the best part of all this is that my department chair has now joined the Twitter-verse! He saw my tweets on the school website and he saw the Assistant Superintendent tweeting about his classrooom visits. This inspired him to start up his own twitter account and post pictures of the progress that he has made towards his 50 classroom visititations. So give him a follow!( twitter.com/SimiCodeSquad ) And if you are a Simi Elementary Teacher, send him a request to visit your class!
So there you have it! Last week I learned a lot about coding, and by writing this blog I got a bunch of practice with Snagit, Youtube, and embedding videos into a blog! The learning never stops. Check out Code.org for plenty more coding games and applications.
Have you tried Coding in your class? Let me know in the comments about what you did!
If Santa could bring me something to make my classroom better, what would I ask for?
After the last week, I would LOVE to have a seperate A/C unit that I could control myself! I would also LOVE to have an extra four or five feet added to the sides of my classroom. However, while those things would definitely make myself more comfortable and (maybe) help the learning environment, they wouldn't necessarily help me accomplish my long term goals...
Going into this year, my primary goal was to start integrating the regular use of technology in my class. My second goal was to increase writing and discussion. Thanks to my PLN I have a gameplan to get my students writing. However, discussion and debate is "out of my comfort zone", and not something I feel confident instilling in others when it is a source of discomfort for myself. So what I would like to ask Santa for is A Golden Soapbox ! A magical platform that I could put at the front of my classroom, where students would feel comfortable sharing their process and could offer others constructive criticism and would freely offer reasons why they agree or disagree. I know that progress is a long and windy road. And I know it takes a while to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing. But if I could wake up on the first day of class next year, and instantly have 38 students ready, willing, and comfortable sharing, it would be UH-mazing!
Every evening I will ask myself the nightly question, "What am I going to get done tonight?" and if there is nothing pertinent, then I will think to myself, "Ooh! I really need to write a blog about the Iron Chef thingy. Maybe tonight?" But there is always papers to grade, dishes to wash, toys to clean up, and a couch to fall asleep on. Yet I keep thinking, man, I really need to write that blog. Especially when I already have a second blog post ready to go in my mind.
Unfortunately, trying new things and trying to create new habits does not create more hours in the day. Despite the fact that I cannot train the clock to create a few extra minutes (although there was one night where I got an extra sixty...), I CAN train my brain to think about taking extra time to write a reflection on what I've been through. And whether I do it immediately (which, don't kid yourself... has not happened yet) or whether I start a blog and then don't bother to finish it for 21 days... it WILL get done. Not because I have an eleven o'clock deadline on the third Thursday of the month, but because I have made it important to myself.
I think part of what makes the idea of blog posting so ominous for me is the amount of time I spend pouring over and re-reading it. I need to remember that this is for me, and I am not being graded on it... But that surely won't stop me from typing and editing the thing until 3 in the morning! I need to put less pressure (or preferably NO pressure) on myself to try and be a good writer, and more pressure on myself to freely write about the creative process and the productive struggle. I need to have the mindset that no one will actually read my blog. That it is there for me and me alone.
We are currently chatting on Twitter about thankful stuff, and yesterday's question was about an experience (success or failure) that you were thankful for, and what lesson did it teach you. Some teachers wrote about their school experiences. I thought a lot about mine, but in the end I took the easy way out, posting about my daughter. The reality of it is that writing in school was a productive struggle in every sense of the word for me. I cruised through high school with the exception of the two AP classes I took senior year. So when I got to college I had a rough learning curve about actually studying and writing college level essays. It took me two years to write something that I was proud of, and I finished it just in time to catch the end of a lecture and turn it in before class officially ended. Maybe that's why I dread writing anything lengthy.
So why does it sound like I am torturing myself? Because at the end of the day, I have managed to find myself involved in a group of educators that are pushing the envelope in the name of their students. They are actively trying to create better experiences than we might of had in school, in order to inspire the next generation. And in the process, they are inspiring me. Sure I had THOUGHT about blogging last year... but would I have actually put pressure on myself to DO IT? Or would I just shrug it off until the next week, the next month, the next semester, the next year? Who knows... What I do know is that I see others blogging, and I read their blogs, and it probably is rubbing off on me more than just "a little". [Click here to check them out]
I know that the road to success is messy and difficult. And I know the old saying: No pain, No gain. So here I am... being messy and being a little bit pained. My last blog took three weeks from start to publishing. The next blog will get written three weeks after the actual experience. But I know it'll be worth it. And I know deep down that even though it might be three weeks late, eventually I will do it because I want to.
So hopefully by writing this blog about blogging in order to avoid the topic I was supposed to be blogging about... maybe it will make the next one a little bit easier. A little bit quicker. A little less "struggle-ier". After all, the more I write the easier it will get, right? All I know is that I look forward to the process and the learning that will come with it.
Last week our district opened up access to a new online program. This caused me to spend a few too many hours searching through lessons after the kids went to bed. I have found that I am no longer intimidated by new things, but a little too excited to try them.
These days is it hard for me not to get excited by new, sparkly toys with loud bells and whistles. There are websites that I can use to start class, to review concepts, quiz, graph, and even have students show their work and share it with me instantaneously. I have a tendency to over prepare, and this caused a student to exclaim, "ANOTHER WEBSITE?". Yes, another website, and I already have more websites planned for the next unit! I have technology overload. I also tend to spend too much time overthinking them. I stress about where is the perfect section/unit to use this? Jumping in might be scary if the conditions are not ideal. However, you'll never know unless you try! The main thing to keep in mind is not WHERE we should use them, but WHY we should use them...
For the purpose of Monday's lesson I wanted students to be able to identify functions using one of two methods. I used Nearpod, which gives an interactive powerpoint style presentation. Students enjoyed the fact that they could use their touchscreens to write on the slides. I liked the fact that the lesson included examples asking them to explain and defend answers. After the first couple periods I began using a feature that allows you to project anonymous student answers on the board. It allows for a perfect learning opportunity to discuss whether or not the answers are correct. Some students were even requesting me to put their work on the board! Ever have that happen while students are copying notes off the overhead? I mean OUTSIDE of the three or four students that always raise their hand!? Didn't think so...
Back to my four "WHY" questions, after the activity I had students fill out an exit card. I asked them to explain what the learning objective was. I had them explain what methods they could use to accomplish the learning objective. And then I asked for their opinion! Probably a first for me... hey kids, how did you like the lesson? The funny part was that most of the answers I received could be applied to any other lesson on any other day: You moved too fast and didn't give us enough time to finish the examples. You moved too slow and the examples were easy. And of course, "I didn't like that we had to take notes". I even had students complain that the website didn't give them instant feedback on their answer! One student even suggested using a review website after the lesson to go over the material. By asking students what they didn't like about the website, I got some insight as to what they like about others.
The best thing about the entire experience was the prep time. Even though I was using a website for the first time, there were already pre-made lessons. I searched the topic, found one that worked and just had to spend a few minutes figuring out how to launch it in class. I didn't have to worry about making slides or importing examples. All of it was already done. Typing up an exit ticket with 7 questions was also quick & easy. I even tweeted the lesson's creator and she gave me some helpful tips about how to present it to the class. Everything students completed was online. No extra papers to carry home, and the work is all accessible on the internet whenever I want to go back to it.
In closing, don't be afraid to try something new. Don't be afraid to ask your students what they thought. And don't be afraid to reflect on it yourself, either publicly or privately. It's like we always ask our 5 year old about trying new foods, "How do you know you don't like it if you haven't tried it yet?". And if you are sensitive to criticism you can always use someone else's prepared lesson! Use it as a learning opportunity for you AND your students. Use it as your baby step to change. Use it as an excuse to get out of your routine. Use it to grow.
Where has the time gone?
I can't believe that we are already in week SEVEN of the new school year.
The point of me blogging is to share and reflect on trying new things. To this point I have been sprinkling in new things here and there. I can honestly say that I haven't dug into anything yet. Part of the reason is that I don't feel like I've hit that teaching groove yet. I have NOT had a FULL FIVE DAY WEEK of teaching yet (fingers crossed that I don't get sick in the next three days). We started on a Wednesday, we had a holiday, a day of Cyber Citizenship, a day of PD, a day of department PD, and I took a day off to meet with my daughter's team of doctors of CHLA. So I haven't taken the time to write a new blog post yet because I haven't felt like I've had much to report... YET. So here's a few notes from this year...
1) I MISS MY CARPOOL BUDDY! I used to have my daughter in the back seat with me three days a week. I was fortunate enough to have a preschool on our school site, so I would park my car in the staff lot, drop her off at preschool, grab my stuff from my car and head to my class. She has now started Kindergarten and she loves it! I'm finally on the other side of the school experience. SHE HAS HOMEWORK! And surprisingly, she enjoys it! Her preschool teacher would give us homework to work on, but it wasn't mandatory (but it proved to be great preparation). We would work on it here and there on the weekends and always reward her if she finished all of the pages. Now Sierra comes home from school, eats a snack, and then gets her homework done. The funny part is that I'm not so concerned about how much she is learning as much as I am how much she is growing up. She runs into class without even giving her mom a kiss goodbye, and she is making friends, seems to like her teacher, and has adjusted to school being 8-2, five days a week.
2) One thing I have tried this year is using activities to introduce lessons...
I used this Cup Stacking 3-Act Math problem to introduce solving equations with variables on both sides. I think it helped students a few different ways: 1) They were able to solve it by making a tables and not just solving it "the correct way" by setting up an equations and using inverse operations. 2) The cups never actually have the same height, so there was conversation about where they matched. 3) I started with a difficult "word problem" to set up the topic. I followed up the activity with three more word problems, using the same set-up that we established with the cups. Then I gave them problems that were already set up as equations.
To start the next section, I used a Blind Kahoot to introduce the topic. I used it for a lesson on Literal Equations, which take most of the numbers out of the problems and replace them with variables. I went back and forth between regular equations and literal equations, showing them that the solving process was still the same. After we completed the Kahoot we went through the textbook's notes and then I followed that with a Google Forms Quiz and a review on Quizizz. Using the Google Forms Quiz was AWESOME because I could see immediate results as to how my students were performing, plus I didn't have to grade a single paper! Everything is graded for you automatically and you can scroll through the results without printing anything or opening a spreadsheet. I felt really good about the entire process. I introduced the the topic by mirroring it with what they already knew, instead of throwing up a bunch of intimidating examples. By doing this I avoided the whole "WHY IS THERE MORE THAN ONE LETTER?" discussion. I was also able to poll students at the end of my Form and ask them how they were feeling. Most said that they at least felt "confident" at the end of the lesson.
3) I have been more cognizant of the discussions we have had in class.
I kept seeing an article about Attendance Questions in my Twitter feed, so for one day I let them choose their own groups and took attendance using the question "What color is the number four?" In first period I wrote the question on the board in black and the majority of students answered black. So for the rest of the day I wrote each letter in a different color and that seemed to create a variance in answers. Some students had fun with it, giving me random colors (like flesh or burnt sienna), and others (seriously) wanted to know what the right answer was. It kind of blew my mind to find that there were students that thought there was an actual right answer. I told them afterwards to imagine what kind of medal they would give in the Olympics for fourth place. The next time I do group work in class I will definitely need another good question. When I searched "attendance question" on twitter to find the article I came across some pretty good ones that students were tweeting about.
Last week I used a quick 3 Act Math problem about nail polish to open class. Students have to estimate how long it will take a girl to paint her nails and then let them dry. She has 20 minutes to complete the painting and drying. It takes her 42 seconds to paint her first three fingers and students should use that rate to make a time estimate. [ We have a block schedule with 3 classes per day ] When I went through it with my first two classes the big question at the outset was "Why doesn't she paint them in the car?". I could only laugh. Of course the girls were more savvy to the process of painting their nails, but the boys were involved in figuring out times and freely shared their answers. The activity on the first day went well and I was happy. While we were working on it in first period, one of my students told me that she really liked doing them because she was able to apply proportions and ratios in real life! WOO HOO! That was obviously the best start that I could ask for.
The second day went a little differently... In 2nd period the girls again took the lead, mirroring what happened in periods 1 & 5. However in 4th period, the girls were totally quiet! I had one girl get me through the questioning process, but no girls wanted to share their time estimates... it was only guys. This class is my quietest, and it will obviously need a little more work feeling comfortable. Then there was my 6th period... in that class the biggest question of activity was "Is that a guy's hand?". They were more concerned about whether the hands in the video were of a female or a male... And that pretty much gives you the gist of that class on a regular basis. At the end of the day I was very surprised because in 3 periods, nobody brought up the whole painting in the car idea. I started with a simple prompt, "Can the girl in the video paint and dry her nails in under 20 minutes?", and much to my surprise I had several very different experiences.
Looking forward to the next few weeks, we have two more school holidays, so maybe I won't find the "groove" that I want for a while. But maybe not getting comfortable will be a good thing... I titled my blog "Out of My Comfort Zone", didn't I???
The great part about the new things I've been trying is that I just had to FIND them. I didn't have to create anything, type up anything, or cut anything out. I saw the Cup Stacking in a tweet over the weekend and used it in class on Thursday. Okay, I take that back, I did create my Blind Kahoot and a corresponding form, but the great part was that I didn't have to spend any time grading them. And now, as I go to try and find the link to the Kahoot! , I have discovered that it's been favorited by 13 people in the week that it has been up! HOLY GARBAGE! Sharing is the best! I literally JUST went to find the link to it and noticed that it has been played in a bunch of classes. AWESOME. My day has been made. Wow.....
Okay, I am very proud of myself right now, but I need to wrap this up. I am looking forward to the upcoming month, as we are starting a new unit on graphing and functions. Which means that now I can start using Desmos in my classes. I have everyone enrolled in my Google Classrooms and the 3 that couldn't have now been fixed by the IT department. The internet upgrades at my school have been completed and I am ready to go.
Have you heard that Daya song, "Sit still, Look pretty"? I have had that stuck in my head today and I figured out that it's how I've been feeling. If I spend more than 20 minutes in front of my class, just going through notes in the book, I am starting to feel restless. I don't want to be a sage on the stage and sit still, look pretty. I can feel the shift in my brain to get me away from the things that I have always done. I am getting out of my comfort zone and it is working and I am enjoying it.
While I feel like this post will read like a brag sheet, I need to remember that the purpose of my blog is to document my journey: where I have been and where I am going. So here it goes...
The last three summers have led into major changes in my teaching routine: 3 years ago my school agreed to change to a block schedule and double the length of our class periods; 2 years ago I agreed to pilot a new textbook, and at the end of the pilot, the textbook I used did not get adopted; so last year I had to implement another new curriculum in another new textbook. This year the major change won't be time or textbooks, it will be with me, as our district has agreed to give teachers a classroom set of chromebooks.
I jumped at the chance to have my very own class chromebook cart, even though it meant signing up for a workshop at the beginning of my summer. I even agreed to join in a summer book study, even though I hadn't finished a book in over two years. [Another post for another day] Let me just say that my youngest daughter was born five weeks early, spent her first six weeks of her life in the NICU and quickly turned my priorities and schedule upside down. I do have a very nice bookcase full of books that I have read over the last twenty years, but since Makena was born I hadn't read a book cover to cover until this month.
After completing the summer workshop and finishing Part One of The Innovator's Mindset (our choice for the book study), I agreed to start blogging. This was a big thing for me, as I am the shy and quiet guy, but I wanted to make an online journal (or digital portfolio) for the upcoming year. After crossing blogging off of my summer checklist I decided to go after my Google Certification. I was able to make use of a quiet week by locking myself in the bedroom for an hour here and an hour there, until I had completed all of the training modules. I used 97% of the allotted test time, and I re-did a few tasks, but I passed the test on the first try. After that I purchased the book The Classroom Chef and promptly read (or devoured) THE ENTIRE BOOK [Woohoo!]. Two days ago I attended the #CATeachersSummit. And earlier today I finished reading The Innovator's Mindset. I have already finished half of a third book and several chapters of a fourth. I can say that I have made the most of my summer by attempting to learn, to read, to discuss, and to GROW.
The Teachers Summit concluded with Kelly Gallagher talking about "The 5% Teacher", the teachers that try to get five percent better every year. My goal for this summer has been to make myself better and I can honestly say that I have been actively working towards that goal. Despite the fact that I am ten years into my teaching career, I am still very much a student. In true student fashion, I am finishing this post at 2 AM Sunday night (or is it morning now?). And to make matters worse, I was almost done with it, so I decided to finally click to save my draft, only to find that my session had decided to "time out" and lose everything I had written...
So if you are reading this (thank you!) I am going to wrap this up by encouraging you to set aside time during your day (or night) to better yourself: open a book and read a chapter or two, join a twitter chat, expand your PLN, try out a new app or website that you may want to use in your class, write a blog post, or take the time to find and read other blogs that will inspire you (what I was doing at 2 AM yesterday). Start adding towards YOUR extra five percent!