After my PreCalc students worked through a set of problems I was about to put up the solutions when a student asked if he could write his answers on the board. It was a perfect opportunity to give the other students another minute to finish so I gladly accepted. But he didn’t just put his answers up and sit back down. He wrote his name on the board as Mr. (his last name). He asked who had questions. He explained clearly. He showed all the steps. He checked back in with the student who had asked the question. He wondered aloud if he might want to become a math teacher. All I had to do was search for a unit circle for him to annotate and paste it into the slides. It was awesome!
This week has been rough, my co-teacher has been out (and will be for at least another month) which has been a much bigger adjustment than I expected. But my PreCalc class went splendidly today. My algebra classes were much smoother than they had been all week. I got a brief chance to chat with the sub who has been in for my co-teacher and to tell the admin in charge of sub schedules that I need time to talk to her if we’re going to be working together (especially because all my kids are unique and I need to fill her in on some of their accommodations and quirks). I’m so thankful I got to end this week on a high note. If I drop off here again please hold me accountable, I need to focus on the positives, even more so when things aren’t going great.
My algebra support class started with an engaging debate on the parity of zero. Most of the room had reached consensus that it was even but one student was holding firm to “zero is nothing so your argument is invalid.” Kids were coming up to the board and asking each other if they could try to convince him. It was awesome but then got a bit boisterous as the one kid decided to dig his heels in. I had the class move on and they demanded to know what the answer was. I smiled and replied, “What do you think?”
The rest of class went fine but they were still pretty chatty. At the end of class one student came up to me and patted me on the shoulder saying, “It was a tough class but we did okay.” It was adorable and I’m still not entirely sure if he meant that I did okay (balancing control and freedom) or they did okay (getting work done despite getting sidetracked) or both. But either way he was right, half the times I had to stop a discussion to get everyone to listen they were talking about the problem (just not sharing with the whole class). There was great math happening today, even if it was exhausting to manage.
A student stopped by this afternoon to ask if I’d help her with calculus. She said she understands the way I explain things. 😀 I’m excited for the opportunity to practice my calc skills. And she gave me a high five when I said yes!
I had my second student stay after for help with PreCalc homework today. Tomorrow will mark one week of school, usually no one stays after the first week! While I was overwhelmed and behind this afternoon I was still so excited to have a kid be responsible enough to come for extra help. I would love to have another group where they just stay after all the time to do their homework in my room. I miss that atmosphere I had a few years ago!
On Mondays we start class with a puzzle. When I read Sarah’s post on James Tanton’s math salute over the weekend I decided it would be a great puzzle to use! My students were willing to follow along (gotta love freshmen) and totally baffled when they got stuck at the end. (If you haven’t watched the video yet go do that now. Really.) Students tried. Declared it impossible. Tried again. Claimed they got it (by releasing their hands). Asked to watch the video again. Announced they never wanted to watch the video again. Claimed they got it (by going backwards from the ending position). Bingo! Everyone watch what that kid did! What a great idea to work backwards! The same student who said they never wanted to watch the video again asked if I could play it one more time. A few kids figured it out. They showed their neighbors. Everyone was engaged. It was great fun!
More than being fun, kids thought they were cheating by working backwards and I got to catch them being good. What a lovely way to introduce a powerful problem solving strategy early on in the year.
We did it! The first week of school! Yay!
Oh, you want more good than that? Okay. I’m going to be covering a class for my co-worker when she’s out on leave because her wife is having a baby. The baby was due the first day of school so we’ve been co-teaching the class until this baby gets around to arriving. Today we had the kids playing integer war in pairs and rotating partners every ten minutes. There are six kids in the class and for the first three rotations the same kids stayed in their seat each time. For the fourth rotation we wanted them to mix up and find a new partner but they were having trouble finding a way for everyone to have a new partner. We discussed (all six kids and two adults) for several minutes, collecting information and eventually even recording options on the board. I thought it was impossible but couldn’t articulate why until we had written everything out. My co-worker had a great summarizing statement: this is just like algebra! There are times when there is no solution, but you have to show evidence, not just assume that because you can’t find it it doesn’t exist.
Oh, and they ended up playing the last round in groups of three so every kid got to play with every other kid today!
When I checked my mailbox yesterday this most adorable thing was in there:
It was cute yesterday, but it was fantastic today. I was working after school and my computer was agonizingly slow. I clicked, had a Rolo, scrolled up Twitter and repeated for far too long. But chocolate and Twitter made it bearable.
My PreCalc class was great fun today. A shy student participated. I survived without my co-teacher (but I missed her). One full cycle of classes down!
On the first day the upperclassmen have a two hour delay so the freshmen can practice finding all their classes. It’s great for them to have the school to themselves but it’s an awkward morning for the teachers. They’re only in your room for five minutes which is enough time to have awkward silence after I hear all their names and confirm they’re in the right class, but not enough time to do much of anything. Extra awkward because my 9th grade classes are double block, so I had them for five minutes twice. Which isn’t the same as having ten minutes. Point being, there was one kid in particular I set off on the wrong foot with (she was talking about switching out of the class by the end of the second five minutes) and a bit of kids staring at me when I said “any questions?” But this afternoon when we had 45 minutes of class? So much better! We did a getting to know you survey and I shared my answers with the class, then asked “any questions?” not expecting much. But then someone asked my favorite color. And that set off a slew of questions, including why I chose teaching from the kid I had a rough start with. Apparently my answer was satisfactory because when we started the four fours activity she was willing to engage. And when she didn’t want to write she was excited about my alternative of using a white board. It’s only day one and I already salvaged a relationship! I’m feeling good.
Today was the science expo (not the science fair, the expo- no idea of the difference but apparently it’s important) so I only had three students in my PreCalc class. I asked if they wanted to do the SET puzzle of the day and they did. One student took over at the board and I got to play. When she misheard one set because two of us spoke at once she wrote down the correct version below it. I told her she could cross out the incorrect one now and she said, “No, you have to wait.” This is exactly what I do! When we were checking the list later, I had forgotten one of them was written wrong so I just said, “yes, yes, yes…” The student at the board stopped and looked at us and we all remembered that was the wrong one. She wouldn’t cross it out until we said “No, because ____.” It was awesome to sit on the other side and have all my techniques turned back on me.
The rest of class was really productive because all three of them had make up work to do and for once I could answer their questions promptly. We were going to go to the science expo but they were working right up until 10 minutes before class ended. By the time we got down there everything was cleaned up! Seeing kids with their projects is fun, but focused attention on a few kids who needed it was definitely worse missing that for.
Some of my Algebra 1 students are turning into interesting people! I haven’t taught ninth graders in a while so I’d forgotten how much they grow up (in both height and maturity). Most of them still have a lot of growing to do, but I enjoy the glimpses of individual personalities. Today I had a conversation with a few of them about foster care and adoption. They had questions, listened to answers and shared opinions. Another reason I like June!